Taking it in the Back Door

Serious people are using the events of Paris to whine about how The Authorities don’t have enough authority to suspend your right to have a completely private conversation on your cell phone. Their excuse is that Bad Guys might be having conversations about doing Bad Things — a concept that should stink to high heaven of Pre-Crime. The Authorities want to make it impossible for your phone to be completely secure, in the name of catching Bad Guys, never mind that history shows it doesn’t work that way.

I have said this before but let me say it again: A back door that Good Guys can use is a back door Bad Guys can use. It’s a back door that can be used to empty your bank account, steal your identity, stalk you, obtain information useful for blackmail and/or extortion, or otherwise make your life miserable.

Oh, and a couple of last words: Secretary Kerry says there were 12 “problematic” people out of 785,000 Syrian refugees, and that sounds like good odds to me (I wonder how many criminals you’d find if you investigated 785,000 random Americans); and I too will stop using variants of ISIS in favor of the more accurate Daesh, for they do indeed sow discord; and some of my online friends have pointed out that the White House didn’t turn into the Bleu, Blanche, et Rouge house? Please note CONGRESS in the picture above and stop making up things to be upset about.

In Closing: it concerns me that the IRS is baffled; I wonder who looks at that information; “great“; scientific weasel words; perfect except for the errors; manufactured outrage.

France: Je Suis Désolé.

Translation: I am sorry.

Today Paris was rocked by explosions and gunfire. At least 40 are dead so far. Oops, make that at least 60. Nobody yet knows who is responsible, or why. Of course that is subject to change at any moment. Not even the American media dares call it “terrorism” just yet — although it is surely on the minds of many people.

Think your happiest thoughts for France.

Looks like USA Today scored 60% again.

EDIT: The hostages are free, over 150 are dead, and now the word “terrorists” is in play. The attacks were well organized, except for the pesky issue of what they were trying to accomplish.

Music Monday: Courthouse Edition

I spent the morning on jury duty. The first group to get called back was about 40 people. The next group was about 80, and I was in it. I was thinking to myself “Oh nuts, this has got to be a big trial!” Suddenly, we were all dismissed! When I got home, I watched the news to see if just maybe I could figure out what trial it might have been. Well, this case of a cop killer was dismissed this morning. I will never know if this was the actual court case, of course.

I am so sorry I have to say this, but killing a cop just because he happens to be hanging out in his garage — as the accused allegedly did — is extremely uncool.


Also: have some items about American cops. Here, have some bonus items on racism, terrorism, and harassment.

In Closing: The Alamo’s Cat.

In honor of flu season…

Ok, so by now everyone knows that this year’s flu vaccine isn’t quite as effective as would be desirable. By the way, that’s because the flu virus changes (read: evolves!) quickly. There’s still a few things you can do to reduce your chance of getting the flu. One of the biggest things is almost free and you won’t even need a doctor: wash your hands regularly.

Hand washing — a controversial yet effective technique since 1846. I wish I didn’t have to point out that it’s a good habit.

In Closing: a few items about terror, the internet, and security; point, partially refuted.


Happy NSAmas!

The Feds took advantage of the fact that nobody was expecting anything newsworthy to happen on Christmas Eve to quietly release a treasure trove of documents (links to source material here!) showing that they have been very very bad stewards of our private information.

And all of you who bought the Elf on the Shelf? You’re teaching your kids to submit to constant surveillance. Hope you’re proud.

In Closing: A few items on the police; air travel; on screwing the nonrich; because clearly the race of fictional characters is newsworthy; what if the terror threats were in fact a brilliant publicity stunt to puff up what is by all accounts a not-very-good comedy?; and wolves are better at math than dogs.

Put the Outrage where it Belongs

So, this story has been making the rounds: a worker at a Subway sandwich shop was allegedly fired because she left sick. More specifically, she went outside to puke some more and a worker at a nearby Pizza Hut noticed her, calling an ambulance on her behalf. Cue the outrage and petitions saying she should get her job back. As the article points out, Subway has a history of labor violations, so the story is plausible but not confirmed. Remember that the overwhelming majority of these shops are franchised.

Let’s assume that the allegations are true.

Sure, be outraged that this worker was fired for leaving her shift sick. Be outraged that American workers can’t afford to be sick, even on so-called days off.

But remember to be really outraged at the manager. Oh, not for firing a sick employee. Be outraged that he was willing to endanger the health of every employee and every customer of that store.

Justice would not simply be hiring that employee back. Justice would not even be firing that manager. Justice would be random weekly inspections by the local health department every freaking week until they are absolutely sure there will be no more problems. This would, by the way, send a message to every restaurant and fast food joint in town: don’t play games with customer safety.

In Closing: Aw no it’s time for some more NSA and terror related links; more reasons not to like that sportswear company with the three L’s in the name; the DEA somehow thinks FedEx can be responsible for knowing whether or not a package contains prescription medication for which there is no prescription; pretty much the conclusion I reached; funny how the news media refers to Hamas as “militants” when in fact they are the democratically elected government (and shame on the media that a freaking CARTOONIST has to point that out); but it makes a pretty scatterpoint graph; a couple Affordable Care Act links; and LEGO Beach.

Double Feature

I don’t normally talk about the so-called “rape culture”.

However, if what I am reading about what happens on our college campuses is even halfway true, we should all be outraged. All students — regardless of their gender — have a right to attend school without fear of assault, sexual or otherwise. The idea that some colleges want to cover up these assaults rather than make sure that criminals are prosecuted is absolutely outrageous. It is a travesty that some students feel that the only thing they can do is take matters into their own hands.

Of course, not all rapes happen on campus. It is a sad fact that all too many women have to deal with these issues, and sometimes little is actually done to help them.

More on the freaking NSA.

Glenn Greenwald has been been making the interview circuit, both bringing attention to how little has changed when it comes to the NSA and hyping his new book on the topic. Let’s not forget that he wouldn’t have the story without this guy. In the meantime, remember how we were told that it would be harder to catch terrorists with this information out there? That might not be quite true.

In Closing: on Net Neutrality; what a 10′ sea level rise means to the United States; on nutrition information; Oktoberfest was originally a wedding festival; and you are a great leader.

Go ahead, buy premium. You know you want it.


I realize this one is subtle. But if you look at the directions, the hand is pushing the middle button. The middle button on this pump just happens to be the expensive stuff.

In Closing: ok, you’ve done without your NSA, privacy, government spying, Ed Snowden, cover-ups, terrorism over-reach, and related stuff links for far too long; a nice collection of health, health care, health insurance, Affordable Care Act, and hospital issues links; the magic of adjusting portion sizes (did you notice that 2 Oreos is now a serving when it used to be 3?); race, school discipline, and getting arrested; it turns out most people work because they want to get paid; and burgers.


Alright, by now everybody and his or her dog has heard the latest about Angelina Jolie, right?

Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.

Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.

On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved.

Needless to say, this has sparked much online discussion. Here’s a featured item on BlogHer by a woman considering the same decision. Here’s one from a Professor of Pediatrics (is he also a doctor of medicine? probably?) who points out that this sort of surgery comes with risks and without promises of a cancer free life.

And do you know what I don’t see mentioned much? Time and money.

Most of us don’t have the ability to be in and out of surgery and recovery for three months — more if there are any sort of complications. Heck, many of us can’t really afford to take 2 days off from work (or school, or taking care of family…). Ms. Jolie is truly blessed that not only could she free up her busy schedule to do this, but also that her loving husband Mr. Pitt was able to be there by her side, and further that they were able to arrange adequate childcare for their six children — ranging in age from 5 to 12 — during this stressful time.

Another area where Ms. Jolie is truly blessed is money. Many women can’t justify spending the “approximately $3000” to see if she has the 1 in 100 chance of ridiculously higher breast cancer risk. In a time and country where it can be difficult to figure out exactly how much any given hospital service is going to cost, she didn’t have to worry about it. She knew that the money was in the bank. Perhaps she did get her insurance company to pay for it; after all, this has to be cheaper than cancer treatments followed by reconstructive surgery!

Some people simply have more options than others.

In Closing: transparency and accountability, and why big brother won’t work; it wouldn’t be a bad idea to retire these; austerity, unemployment, and job creation (for the record, I am currently not in the workforce and not officially “unemployed,” more on that later in the week); mobility; interesting point; the law of supply and demand (and why we desperately need a public option).

Diet Research? It must be January.

Yes indeed, it’s the first week of the year, and that means millions of Americans are trying to shed between 5 and 500 pounds. Some scientists were even willing to stick their necks out there and say fructose is a culprit in weight gain (a culprit not the culprit). Check the archives and you will find me many times saying that every weight loss diet that works requires drastically reducing if not altogether eliminating added sugars.

So Loyola University wants to help you out. They’ve got what they think are the top 4 reasons diets fail. Let me save you some reading:

  1. Underestimating calorie intake (e.g. eating too damn much)
  2. Overestimating activity and calories burned (e.g. imagining that an amble around the mall is just like a 5 mile run)
  3. Poor timing of meals (the dreaded “starvation mode“)
  4. Inadequate sleep (having a job and other responsibilities)

Really? I’m on board with reasons 1 and 2, although I see them as two sides of one coin. But do they really think that sleep is a bigger issue than unrealistic expectations in the first place, or diet plans that are for whatever reason unsustainable? Do they think that eating at the wrong time is truly a bigger issue than unsupportive friends and family who –subtly or openly — undermine the dieter’s efforts?

Want to lose weight without torturing yourself? Try eating reasonable portions of real food: plenty of veggies; adequate protein; no sweets, no crap that comes out of a box, no food-like chemistry sets. Hey, it’s no dumber than the other diets you’ve tried over the years.

In Closing: free classes; Downtown Vegas and F15; maybe now somebody will ask banks to follow the law pretty please?; Onnabugeisha; ha!; conform or be called a terrorist; Malala; why oh why did Texas give him a second term?; more employment data than you probably want; somebody inform Scalia that 24 is not a documentary; the estate tax is not a wealth tax, it’s a wealth moving into the hands of someone who didn’t actually earn it tax; it turns out you need facts before you can figure out what to think about them; well that’s gonna have conservative panties in a wad; the Romney Loophole; is anybody surprised by this?; and I think Brent may have been playing Black Ops 2.