March 2006

News & Culture & Politics31 Mar 2006 12:10 pm

This week I heard Senator Bill Frist, Rep. Tom Tancredo, Pat Buchannan, and other Republicans suggesting that we should round up and deport the estimated 11 million “illegals” in the US and deport them back to Mexico.

Forgetting for a moment that our economy can’t cope with removing 11 million people from the workforce, and neither can our tax revenues, and setting aside that they’re not all *FROM* Mexico in the first place… How do you handle the logistics of corralling and deporting 11 million people?

As I listened to one news commentator say what a colossal logistical nightmare such a task would be, it occured to me that the answer is simple enough: Godwin’s Law.

Roughly stated, Godwin’s Law says that the longer an argument continues, the chances of somebody invoking Hitler or Nazis approaches 100%. Unfortunately, for too many of this administration’s activities, the parallels to the Third Reich don’t have to wait to the end of the debate — they start there!

So, luckily for Frist, Tancredo, and Buchannan, many of the blueprints, train tables, and staffing projections for handling that process are in the evidence files for the Nuremburg Tribunals. Who’d have guessed those would come in handy again!

It’s not “illegals” that threaten America, it’s stupidity.

News & Culture & Punditry30 Mar 2006 07:06 pm

Bumped from my usual Tuesday night, I’m finally getting to talk about the following privacy news items on tonight’s The David Lawrence Show:

Internet Firm Sued Over Sale of Email Addresses

IRS Wants to Let Tax Prep Firms Sell Your Data

Google’s Wi-Fi Privacy Ploy

Tech30 Mar 2006 11:50 am

My Sweetie bought me a new alarm clock for my birthday this week: The RCA RP3720 Clock Radio, pictured here.

The feature list is awesome:

First, it has huge numbers whose soft glowing blue color — a welcome change from red LEDs — can be read without glasses.

Second, the time sets automagically, syncing itself to the Matrix via the atomic clock signals broadcast from the cold dead heart of Dick Cheney.

Third, the AM/FM radio uses the digital read-out, allowing you to accurately tune stations. I’ve missed meetings because the alarm was set to Radio and apparently the breeze of a passing gnat shifted the analog radio dial a nanometer off the station, leaving only a faint whisper of white noise to wake me up.

Fourth, there’s a nifty rotating wheel, a la the iPod, for setting time and other features — no more mashing your finger into a hard plastic button for 20 minutes while you wait for your target time to… Damn!… passed it! Have to go around again!

Fifth, YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR OWN SNOOZE DURATION! How cool is that? From 1 minutes to 30 minutes.

Sixth, you don’t have to remember to turn your alarm on before bed… when you turn the alarm off in the morning, the alarm stays active and will go off again the next day unless you press the key sequence that completely shuts off the alarm.

Seventh, did I mention you can CHOOSE YOUR OWN SNOOZE DURATION?!?!

Eighth, there’s a “Nap” button that lets you set an alarm to go off in a range from 10 minutes to 2 hours, without screwing with your existing alarm settings.

These features are on top of things you come to expect, like auto-dimming of the LEDs, a sleep function that turns off the radio after a period of time, and battery backup (batteries included, of course), intuitive buttons that are easy to find with sleepy-eyes, well-designed switches that won’t screw up the time or alarm settings when you are button-mashing at 0-dark-hundred, dual alarms that start very softly and then get louder (if you’re really attuned to it, you can wake up before it gets loud enough to wake up your mate)… the list goes on.

The RCA RP3720‘s features read like the wish list I’ve had in my head for, oh maybe the 25 years that I’ve been using clock radios! Their elegant integration make my bedside alarm clock more user-friendly and dependable than just about any other device I use on a daily basis.

Thank you RCA, and thank you to my Sweetie…

News & Culture & Personal28 Mar 2006 06:31 pm

It’s interesting to see all the news programs focusing on my undergrad alma mater, George Mason University. Finally, I will no longer get quizzical looks when I tell people where I went to college. Well, unless their basketball team goes back to sucking, then I’ll only have a few years’ reprieve.

My time at GMU had its ups and downs. I had a stormy tenure as the first openly gay editor of the student-run newspaper, The Broadside, at a time when Virginia was as conservative and closed-minded as it has ever been. I was Mason’s first-ever finalist for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarships. I co-founded Mason’s gay and lesbian student association, which I understand is still chugging along. On the academic front, I had to scramble around to find a new major when the utter incompetence of the Department of Communications left me unable to make any academic progress towards my intended degree. Thankfully, I found a home, and a degree, elsewhere.

Most importantly, I learned some of my first hard lessons about braindead governmental bureaucracies. I learned about spineless academics and administrator-collaborators who stall, prevaricate, and otherwise conspire to confound progress, biding their time waiting for trouble-making students to get frustrated and move on.

Occasionally over the last decade I have looked in on my alma mater, seeing how they’ve grown and changed over the years. George Mason University was building a sound reputation as a decent state school while I was there, and seems to have continued to flourish.

Unfortunately, when I finally washed my hands of the place, I was so disgusted by my experiences there that I felt compelled to explain to an administrator that they’d turned me from someone filled with pride and strong school spirit — the kind of school spirit which was not exactly in over-abundance at what was in the early 90s (and to some extent still is, so I’ve heard) a soulless commuter school — into someone who didn’t even want to publicly wear a cap and gown for graduation and preferred to receive his diploma by mail.

To this day, I toss every communique from GMU into the garbage can. I rarely acknowledge my time there except as an entry in my stock bio. My diploma does hang on my office wall, but that’s just to make my “Me Wall” look more impressive.

I’m not sure what they could do to redeem themselves in my eyes. If anybody from GMU alumni relations reads this, be advised: you’re not likely to see a penny of my considerable wealth until several of the more annoying professors and administrators of my era are deceased, retired, or jailed.

In the meantime, I continue to be involved with, and a supporter of, my law school alma mater, George Washington University. Instead of encouraging the door to hit me on the keister on my way out of Dodge, the folks at GW recognized a good supporter when they saw one and begged me to become an advisor to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, where I had been involved during law school with several of their Internet-related policy programs and collaborative activities.

Regardless, congrats to the GMU basketball team! You’ve come a long way. Indeed, when I was in school, they made their very first appearance in the NCAA basketball championship. Unfortunately, as I recall they drew Bobby Knight’s Indiana in the first round and got whipped in the first round.

Great to see them going farther, and maybe they’ll go all the way!

Politics & Privacy20 Mar 2006 03:11 am

Arianna Huffington’s new article highlighted something fascinating. Apparently privacy problem-child ChoicePoint has hired John Ashcroft’s new firm to lobby for the company.

The same John Ashcroft who awarded them a $67 Million no-bid citizen profiling contract when he was Attorney General.

According to Arianna:

ChoicePoint, a company that sells consumer data, recently hired Ashcroft to help it add to the mega-buck, war-on-terror-related contracts the firm had landed from the Justice Department while Ashcroft was still in charge. According to a ChoicePoint spokesman: “The Ashcroft Group contacted us and we initiated a relationship.” How cozy.

The quote comes from a New York Times article which notes:

One of Mr. Ashcroft’s newest clients is ChoicePoint, a broker of consumer data that is increasingly being used by the government to keep tabs on people within the United States. The company received millions of dollars in contracts from the Justice Department under Mr. Ashcroft as part of the war on terror and has now hired him to find more.

“The Ashcroft Group contacted us and we initiated a relationship,” said Chuck Jones, a ChoicePoint spokesman. “He’s got a lot of knowledge that could benefit ChoicePoint.”

It’s nice that Ashcroft has found work… he has to find some way to pay for all that Holy Oil with which he anoints himself before big occasions.

News & Culture & Punditry14 Mar 2006 04:32 pm

Here are links to the news items that I will be talking about tonight (if I can get a word in edgewise… ;) ) on The David Lawrence Show:

Federal Judge Inclined to Let Government Have Google Data

Fifth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Anti Sex Toy Law Challenge

Million-Dollar Payout in Email Privacy Case

Data Mining of CIA Employee Info is Easy

UPDATE: Whoops! No show tonight! The minions of anti-privacy have won this battle… but not the war! ;-)

News & Culture & Punditry07 Mar 2006 04:10 pm

Here are links to the news items that I will be talking about tonight (if I can get a word in edgewise… ;) ) on The David Lawrence Show:

USA PATRIOT Act Passes Senate, House

Thin-Skinned NJ Politician Wants to Ban Anonymous Postings

Javelin Report: ID Theft Not As Bad As Our Earlier Hyped Report Said