Counterproductive Security Measures

The base computer network seemingly doesn’t trust any security certificates from any signing authority other than Verisign. This means that every web site that uses any other registrar (which is to say, a truly stupendous number of sites) gets an error message that the site’s security certificate cannot be verified to a trusted issuer. This happens with my company timecard system, as one rather important example. Since the network doesn’t trust Entrust or others, this means there is no way to be sure that the sites I connect to which are not Verisign-approved are real sites or phishing expeditions. This means that every site which is not Verisign-approved is a giant red beacon of “ignore this security warning because it’s really not a problem after all.” Every non-Verisign site adds one more item to the list of things to ignore which good security practices tell you NOT to ignore.

Although the Air Force has decided (for reasons which escape me) to allow Youtube and Facebook access on-base (but not Google Plus or even Google Calendar), this week Flash is broken. This is a security configuration issue, as the flashing error bar on the top of the page says the addon has been disabled, not that Flash is literally broken. So, one more flashing error bar to add to the list.

Again, this just encourages users to assume that every error message is, in fact, in error itself. If we get inundated with false positives, we are being trained to ignore actual positives. This also applies to the wave of “helpful” messages which greet us whenever we log in; I challenge any user here at Goodbuddy to honestly claim they read those every time they log into the network. Just more noise to ignore, and train people to ignore all messages because most of them are trivia or wrong.

Email is not foolproof

The USAF continues to rely far too much on email for communication, and continues to trust that sending an email is the perfect all-encompassing method of disseminating info with no possibility of failure.

Many years ago, when I was in the Army on this same Air Force base, a zoomie LT thought that a lack of getting a “reply receipt” from an email she sent was insubordinate and got very angry that I was, “deleting without reading” her emails. Of course, I was doing no such thing; Outlook at the time didn’t send a return receipt for previewing a message, and that’s how I read her missives (which didn’t apply to me in the Army anyway, but so much for logic).

Fast forward to 2011. The refrigerator is down the hall from my office, and I keep my sodas there. The fridge is in a common area, and there is a bulletin board right next to it. Imagine my surprise when my sodas were thrown away today. A sane person would have put the sodas aside, if cleaning out the fridge. They aren’t likely to spoil, after all. When I inquired, I was told that “everyone” was informed about the coming fridge purge, so wah (or something equivalent).

Obviously, I was not informed. The building manager sends an email to the squadron secretary, who sends it to everyone in the squadron. I am not in the squadron, but I had myself added to the squadron email list last year due to the necessity to stay abreast of issues in this building, and there is no email list for residents of the building. I apparently got booted out of the squadron email list sometime in the past (who knows how long ago, as I rarely care about USAF business and maybe I was just relieved at the lack of spam I didn’t care about). So, no notice for me, but complete notification to everyone in the building in the mind of the manager.

So…am I a crazy person for thinking, in addition to an email, a sign or note or post-it on the fridge or near it would have been a normal thing to do? I’m simple, apparently.

Time-shifting and place-shifting

The demise of soap operas (of which I was never a huge fan anyway) prompted me to write a rather long-winded piece recently, wherein I decided that DVRs were the final nail in the coffin of long-form serialized daytime dramatic television. Since then, I’ve been thinking a bit more about the disruptive technologies of the recent past and how my childhood differed from my son’s. I was interrupted in this reverie by a phone call, which ended up serving as a perfect example of the major differences.

Caller ID (didn’t exist for my childhood) showed me that The Boy was calling from a friend’s phone. The Boy requested that I bring him a particular toy from his bedroom. I wandered down the hall on my cordless phone (didn’t have that when I was a kid), and found the toy. I said to the child, “You’re at Friend’s house then?” Oh, no – they were at the park. And there went another piece of the implied landscape of my youth – a phone belonged to a location, not a person, when I was a kid.

We had a phone for the family, not for each member of it. We called people at home, and expected the person answering the phone to not necessarily be the person we were going to converse with. This seems to affect telephone etiquette, or my son’s peers are all just clueless gits. I presume the former, out of generosity. When I answer the phone when one of The Boy’s friends calls, it is almost painful to get out of them anything like a coherent statement. You know the kind we were taught to use as kids; something along the lines of, “Hello, this is Gary, I’m calling for James.” What I get now is some sputtering where, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to pick out the name of the child calling me. More often, it’s incomprehensible or a demand to speak to The Boy, with nothing like an introductory preamble. I’m convinced that all of his friends have their own personal phones now, so they just know to start talking when they answer. *Ring Ring* Look at phone, see it is James. Hey, James, what’s up?  That sort of thing is so completely foreign to us old geezers, even if we are cell phone users. Think about it, how many times do you know who is calling you, and yet the person still goes through the (now old-fashioned) introduction? I predict that the “Hello” when answering the phone may eventually die out entirely, as nobody needs to just answer as if they don’t know who is calling them.

Meanwhile, people talk on the phone an awful lot more than we did. If you were lucky enough to not have siblings screaming at you for their turn, you might be able to have a half-hour conversation on the phone in the 1980s. That was probably all you’d get for a day or more. It’s not that we didn’t have more to say, we just got tired of sitting in the one room where we had a phone for so long. Now that phones are completely untethered from a wall, much less the house itself, why ever stop talking? And so we have people who stick their phones to their heads the moment they are no longer prohibited from doing so. Hey lady, just do the grocery shopping, stop discussing your latest sexual conquest at HEB, huh?

As everyone from Ogg the Caveman until the end of humanity notes, Things Are Different Now. Listening to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe recently, the youngest member of the crew had no idea what “F Troop” was. Nearly everyone from my generation and before knew the same television (and radio prior to TV) shows as everyone else in their generation. After all, we only had three channels. Shoot, even PBS has only existed since 1970, and for most of its early existence was consigned to the UHF dead zone.

So, we all watched Gilligan’s Island when we came home from school, oblivious to the fact that the show had been cancelled before we were even born. We knew all the characters in the Addams Family, which also ended four years before my birth. Such was the nature of the highly-syndicated rerun system of 1970s afternoon television, in the days before cable.

In pursuit of the desire for more options in entertainment and technology, we seem to have lost most of our generational shared experiences. Just about the only thing that seems to remain is popular music. Whether you like the songs or not, if you’re remotely aware of the outside world, you’ve probably heard Cee-Lo’s F You, or Pink’s F-ing Perfect, or Enrique Iglesias’s Tonight (I’m F-ing You). Yeah, I chose those examples because of my amusement at how far we’ve come in pop music. Not that any of those three actually has the F word in the radio version of the song, but what the heck?

If you ask someone born around 1940 what they remember from their childhood, many of them would reference “Fibber McGee and Molly” on the radio, listening to Bo Diddley and Elvis, and the films of Hitchock or stars like Cary Grant, and of course Sputnik and Apollo. When you ask someone born around 1970 what they remember from their childhood, you’ll get references to “The Brady Bunch;” listening to Joan Jett,  Johnny Cougar (neé Mellencamp), Madonna, and Michael Jackson; movies like Star Wars, ET, and the Breakfast Club; and the space shuttle (first launch and the first explosion). When kids today look back in nostalgia at the early 21st Century, will any significant percentage be thinking of the same things? Will the customized nature of modern society mean the end of common experiences? And is that even a bad thing anyway?

Did DVRs kill Soaps?

Last year, Guiding Light and As the World Turns got canceled. This year, All My Children and One Life to Live are getting canceled. It seems impossible to comprehend, but is this the last gasp of soap operas as a genre?

When I was a little kid, my mom was a housewife who watched Days of Our Lives daily. She joked about how one of the characters was born near the same time as my older brother, but by the time my brother had graduated high school, his Dayscounterpart had grandchildren who were in middle school. Meanwhile, that character’s grandparents remained middle-aged. Such is the magic of soap opera time. Although my mother, like most in her generation, eventually joined the workforce fulltime, soaps continued to survive.

During my teen years, soap operas had followed the changing schedules of women (their target, but hardly exclusive, audience) and infiltrated prime time. In the 1980s, we had Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, and I’m sure some others. In time, the viewers grew weary of the recycled melodrama with the same characters, and by 1992 all of them were gone. But somehow, the daytime soap operas continued to survive.

It’s probably difficult for most kids today to imagine a house where mom got them up in the morning and was awaiting their arrival from school in the afternoon. Accompanying those hours in between direct childcare, mothers got to hang out with their neighbors and buy Avon from door-to-door salesladies (sometimes the same people), and watch soap operas while folding the never-ending laundry. Personally, I couldn’t figure out how soaps stayed around after the 1980s, since the stay-at-home mom era seemed over by 1990. But the soaps were still there, with the same characters (frequently played by an array of actors but other times by very well-preserved surgically-altered actors). And now they’re almost all gone.

What changed in the last 20 years? Cable TV, some would say. Ah, but we had cable in the 1980s and we saw a boom in soaps, not a bust. I think it’s the DVR. While we had VCRs in the 1980s (I was in charge of programming our first model, which consisted of an array of wheels and buttons on the face of the strange device), very few people time-shifted many programs. Sure, you’d record some special episode you were interested in, but nothing routine. I knew a family whose mother couldn’t be dissuaded from her belief that the television had to be on for the VCR to work, but didn’t want to see any spoilers from the free movies she was recording off the air, so she covered the screen with a cloth. VCRs were magic. In later years, when I was attempting to replace a nice VCR that had died with a similar quality recorder, I was told that so few people every actually recordedanything on their video cassette recorders that most of the features I liked were discontinued. So, at least anecdotally, it seems VCRs were only disruptive to movie watching, not to television viewing.

In 1999, Tivo and ReplayTV were introduced. Although ReplayTV had the better product by most technical measures (automatic commercial skip for one), today they’re almost completely lost down the memory hole. Still, Tivo survived and thrived and grew from a hipster bragging right to a default home electronics device. There are DVRs in cable boxes, satellite boxes, even in some televisions. In the five years since I built my Mythbox, it has changed the way I think of television schedules profoundly. What time something comes on, what day it is shown, even what channel it is on – all are irrelevant now. I tell the magic box to record the shows I’m interested in when it finds them and I walk away. When I’ve got time, I flip through my personalized library of video entertainment. Twilight Zone is one whenever I want now, and not just during some late night hour or holiday marathon. There’s no need to be concerned that I might miss a show because I’m busy or running late on some errand – the magic box will have it waiting for me whenever it’s convenient for me.

This, I think, is what finally killed the soap opera – easy access to all the other hours of the day. When our mothers and grandmothers were staying at home, baking pies and doing laundry and all the other things we imagined they were doing, they were held hostage by Proctor & Gamble. There were three channels, and all of them had serialized programming that was intended to appeal to women. Now that those women (and men, to be fair) who remain at home during the day have the easy ability to watch 50 channels of programming, from any time of the day or night or week, it turns out they don’t actually want to watch Luke and Laura do whatever it is they do.

No need to be too wistful for the fading of an entire genre. From Guiding Light’s radio debut in 1937 until whenever the final soaps wither away, it’s been a pretty good run. And meanwhile, the networks do occasionally let a show have a long-form serial plot in the background. Sometimes it even stays on the air more than one season.

Free-ish Speech

Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham agree that the United States government must Do Something to address Terry Jones’ burning of a Quran. Several days after Jones burned a book in Florida, the duly elected (stop laughing) president of Afghanistan fomented some dissent about it, and some clerics in Afghanistan called on the USA to arrest Jones and prosecute him to the full extent of the law. And then they rioted and killed some completely unconnected civilians, just to prove how reasonable their demands were.

Terry Jones is an asshole. Fred Phelps is also an asshole. I don’t ever want to hear what those people, or others like them, have to say about anything. Their voices are irrelevant to my life and counterproductive to the causes of acceptance and tolerance and peace. However, they have the right to be assholes and say shitty horrible things and even burn a book (assuming the book is not stolen and they abide by fire regulations for the local municipality, of course). Popular speech, by definition, does not need to be protected; only unpopular speech needs such security.

How in the world do two United States Senators of no little seniority decide to promulgate a view that the rioters are not to blame for a riot, the murderers are not to blame for murders? Instead, in twisted “we’re at war” land, the person burning a book in Florida is responsible for the deaths of UN members in Afghanistan. Considering that the Undeclared War On A Specific Tactic is impossible to define in time or space, claiming that free speech must be curtailed because the USA has soldiers in harm’s way means that free speech is curtailed for all time. The UWOAST is a war (never declared so therefore not really but “police action” or “military excursion” doesn’t have the right ring to it) without end, and these two men, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, think that same Constitution doesn’t apply unless they want it to? Fuck them too.

Shining City on the Hill

President Obama this week:

We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Mizrata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

Unless, of course, those people live in Sudan, Darfur, Somalia, Congo…

Glenn Beck’s Site Takes on O’Keefe Video Accuracy

In some sort of strange reversal of normality, the first group that seems to have really dug into the NPR “sting” video in any detail appears to be The Blaze. The Blaze is a conservative website, which you can tell because every headline is in all-caps (seriously, Righties, why do this?). Although not agreeing with Ron Schiller’s statements, the writer of this piece shows very clearly that some of the statements are taken so far out of context that it boggles the mind. One example -he replies to a statement that isn’t shown in the edited video, but it makes it look as though he’s countering a completely different statement.

It’s really quite interesting and a good piece of investigative journalism. Schiller was still obviously unwise in making some of the statements he did to these near-strangers, but in context it appears to be yet another James O’Keefe cut-and-paste mess. That guy makes Mike Moore look like an honest videographer.

Fun with Filters

I’m always amused and somewhat aghast at the random nature of the web filtering on-base. My personal homepage is accessible, but not my wife’s (both on the exact same server). I can get to Google Mail, but not Google Calendar. Facebook is accessible, which is obviously official use. And, of course, the messages on the Access Denied pages are of no help or just stupid. My personal favorite is when the “reason” line has something like “Blocked Because: Reference/Education.” We definitely want to discourage that sort of thing.

Although I can get to NPR’s website, I can’t get to my local NPR affiliate (Reason: News/Media). Of course, whenever I run into a nonsensical block, I always try to get to two of my favorite notorious crank sites: Rush Limbaugh and G Gordon Liddy. As always whenever I’ve tried this experiment, both of those sites loaded just fine on the military network (with no conceivable official use, as well as questionable value to human beings in general). Odd.

Dating Shenanigans

There are many pitfalls associated with dating. The possibility of wasting hours of your life while your date complains about his/her ex is one that I recall vividly from many years ago. Some of the pitfalls only occur with online dating. Those photos on the site may be from some years ago, as you only discover when you get to the restaurant and wonder how someone could age so rapidly. And then there are the more extreme frauds.

A woman in Britain met a great US soldier on a dating site, and he was so smitten with her he talked about moving to the UK when he got out, and using his severance pay to repay her for the ten thousand Pounds of loans he’d asked from her over the months of their courtship. First red flag – who gets a giant severance package from the Army, and why didn’t anyone offer me one? Second red flag – loan what now?

A man in Illinois was dating a girl online for two years. He stopped hearing from her recently and asked the police to investigate the potential kidnapping of his girlfriend in London. He knew she was a very well-traveled woman, because he’d sent money to her in Nigeria, Malaysia, the US and UK. Needless to say, his $200,000 is gone for good.

It’s so hard to understand how someone could be hoodwinked to this degree. Both of these people are in their mid-40s, and apparently desperation and loneliness beat out suspicion pretty heavily. I’m glad the only unexpected result from dating Kat was the transition of my underused dining room into some sort of mammal sanctuary. 🙂

Mix Tapes

Inspired by this post from Gizmodo, I began to think of mix tapes this morning. I actually have converted some of my old mix tapes to MP3 playlists in the past, although a combination of a lack of decent backup discipline and misplaced cassettes have rendered them lost to time. Has anyone else gone through that sort of effort, or did you just move from tapes to digital audio with a clean break? For that matter, how many people actually create curated playlists, and how many hit shuffle and hope for the best? Or are you one of those album people who listen to complete albums by one artist? Some combination?

I confess to being one of those wishy-washy “combination” people. I have almost completed my KROQ Top List recreation project. Although some of the playlists from the 1980s are a bit difficult to rebuild, due to the one-hit-wonder nature of some tracks, I’ve done a pretty good job of building year-specific playlists of KROQ tunage. I also have every Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, and Cake album on my MP3 player, plus some dynamically-generated playlists (Top-rated tunes, tunes from the 1980s, etc.) and a few curated playlists I’ve built for my darling bride over the past few years.

I’m still inordinately happy that I kept the LA Megamix tape long enough to rip that to MP3, though. And if anyone has the Madhouse album “16” I’d appreciate a hookup.

Gay Security Risk

In the military intelligence community, everyone is given training annually to spot and deal with security risks.  The major espionage cases I’ve seen over the years (Ames, Hanssen, Walkers, etc.) have been committed primarily for personal enrichment.  I don’t think any of those I listed were actually Soviet sympathizers – they just liked money.  There are other, smaller, cases where someone has illegally revealed classified material to unauthorized personnel.  Some of these have been considered espionage, others a mere security violation or classified compromise.  A recent letter to the editor for the Stars & Stripes states a common belief that Bradley Manning is one of those.  I tend to agree, pending actually seeing the evidence, because of Manning’s own statements to the quasi-journalist and hacker Adrian Lamo.

I do question Manning’s motives.  Many of the most right-wing commentators have assumed that Manning was hiding homosexuality and that caused him to get crazy in some ill-defined way and leak massive amounts of information that was probably not being protected appropriately to begin with (why would a lower-enlisted military analyst have access to State Dept cables unless he was working on something for which he had need to know, unless the State Dept cables were woefully over-released within the IC?).  Of course, that leads the conservative mind to say that homosexuals are a security risk, as they were deemed for many years.

But, here’s the thing about gays being security risks – it only applies if they can be blackmailed about it.  If being gay weren’t liable to get someone booted from the military, they couldn’t be blackmailed for it and therefore would not be a security risk because of it.  There is a long-standing understanding in securityland that people are vulnerable to espionage recruiters for many reasons, financial gain being the largest, but the potential for blackmail is brought up as well.  If there’s something in your past you’d rather nobody know, you may do something extreme and shady to prevent it from coming to light.  This is also the plot of some movies, but it happens to be true to some extent in reality.  Some people will leak a tiny insignificant detail to prevent a devastating revelation, and then they have a bigger problem down the road – they’re now blackmailable because of the initial leak and so can be brought into leaking more and more information down the road.

I’m not going to comment much on Manning’s case, as we know very little verifiable truth about it, but the idea that he leaked a bunch of classified and sensitive material because he was gay is just goofy.  From his own statements, he was an idealist who found out that governments are not always perfectly honest with their own citizens and then he decided to help the USA with its truth problem by divulging what he (in his infinite wisdom) deemed fit to release.  As anyone with a clearance would tell you, that boy was doing something he knew could get him put in prison for a long time.  He’s no innocent, no matter what Glenn Greenwald may portray (not that it justifies 8 months in solitary confinement pre-trial by any stretch).

It seems to me that, once DADT is repealed, gays will be much less prone to blackmail than they were in the 1980s, and therefore no longer a security risk.  This will bring the military in line with every other part of the federal government, which stopped considering gays as security risks long ago.

Predictions from 2010

Last year, I made a set of predictions for 2010. Let’s see how badly I did this year.

  1. I assumed tablet PCs would remain a niche nobody had heard of. Assuming you count the iPad as a tablet PC (I don’t), this is obviously false. Less obviously, everyone has at this point at least considered a tablet PC. I’m counting this as a miss, but with the caveat that tablet PCs are probably never going to catch on – what we’ll have are tablet devices (which are not PCs).
  2. President Obama has, if anything, grown even larger horns in the eyes of the right-wing media and punditocracy. Considering that he’s also become something of a punching bag on the left for not actually having a spine or delivering on many of his promises (States Secrets, Gitmo, whatever), it’s almost painful to watch. Definitely got this one, although it was kind of a no-brainer.
  3. I heard the GOP did ok in the midterms, so I suppose this one is a hit as well. Again, not really a tough call – the non-Presidential party almost always gains midterm seats.
  4. The economy is improving, by some measures, but most people will still look at their bank accounts and pay stubs and have a hard time believing it. I missed this one, and it makes me very sad.
  5. Yeah, still no crypto that anyone uses, and boy are the leaks popping up everywhere!
  6. The ebook readers continue the trend of walled gardens – stupid move, in my opinion, but a hit for my prediction ability!
  7. Sarah Palin is the worst game of whakamole ever. Please someone make her go away.
  8. TSA flight restrictions pissed people off and made headlines, but somehow the airlines look to actually be profitable this year. Miss, but barely (In May, the IATA predicted losing billions).
  9. The weather was indeed remarkable, and the denialists continued to pretend that there was nothing wrong anywhere ever. Another sad hit.
  10. Another year without any substantive disagreements between my lovely bride and myself. Yay!

My hit rate this year was less than impressive. I got 7 of 10, slightly worse than last year (and it’s 8/10 if you don’t consider an ipad a PC – neener).  Somehow, we’ve made it over one decade into the 21st century, and we haven’t seen flying cars, jetpacks, or even aquatic aliens on Jovian moons.  *sigh*

Never Served in the Military

John McCain mentioned this weekend that most of the people on talk shows have never served in the military.  He said this in the context of condemning them for being out of touch with the needs of the military vis a vis Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.  It made me curious.  What talk show hosts, if any, have served in the military?  I wandered through a truly stupendous number of reference articles and was completely unsurprised to find that the only current talk show host veteran is Regis Philbin, who was in the Navy.  Montel Williams, although not currently on television, had the most interesting military career – he was an enlisted Marine and went to Annapolis to become a Navy officer, eventually learning Russian at DLI and serving on submarines.  The only other surprise (because I was not at all surprised that Rush Limbaugh got a draft deferrment from Vietnam) was that Anderson Cooper spent a couple summers as an intern at the CIA.  Not military service, but did you know that Anderson Cooper worked for the intelligence community, even part-time?  Weird.

Senator McCain is correct that the talk shows are populated by people who have never served in the military.  But, they don’t make decisions about the military – Congress does.  I find it much more illustrative that 75% of the members of both houses are non-veterans.  Chickenhawks and bleeding hearts alike – odds are that they didn’t serve a day before spouting about what is best for the military.  As someone who generally finds the current GOP reprehensible, it annoys me further that only one of the freshman class of Democratic Senators is a vet, and none of the freshman Representatives.  Have liberal veterans simply given up on elected office?  One more data point added to my tally of “Reasons the Democratic Party is Spineless.”

Old Songs

I’ve been slowly building every KROQ “Top 106.7 Songs” playlist for the years they did them, and recently finished 1985. It’s interesting to see how many of the songs that were considerd the biggest of the year (for that station) are completely forgotten today. For instance, the John Palumbo song “Blowing up Detroit” – I don’t remember that song at all, nor the singer, nor the band he’s still in today (Crack the Sky). Other songs are an interesting piece of history. There’s the obvious John Hughes reference – Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.” And there’s also the social commentary – Artists United Against Apartheid’s song “Sun City” was big in 1985. It took 5 more years for De Klerk to begin negotiating an end to apartheid, and it wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid ended with multi-racial elections in South Africa. But, the song is a part of many people’s memories of the era when (after 40 years) we in the USA finally noticed apartheid was part of the society of a country where our rich people went to party.

As Kat points out, the list also includes a very obvious LA-centric slant.  Three Oingo Boingo songs are on the 1985 list, and yet most folks outside of SoCal have heard of exactly one OB track – Weird Science. Amusingly, there’s also a Danny Elfman song, “Gratitude,” on the list, which was recorded with the entire Oingo Boingo band on an Elfman solo album (So-Lo) – the ridiculous nature of recording an album with the exact same people but calling it solo instead of Boingo is due to some dispute with their record company. So, “Gratitude” is considered to be both an Elfman solo track and a Boingo band track – it appeared on the Best O’ Boingo compilation album years later, adding some credence to the Boingo provenance. Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since Oingo Boingo performed their farewell Halloween concert.

So, any bands or songs you remember from years past, but are completely lost to most of your friends’ memories?

Miss him yet?

Dubya’s autobiography is out this week, so he’s finally come out of hiding to discuss his legacy. I thought that was something he was going to let historians do, but he just couldn’t wait or something.  You’ll never guess what he considers the worst moment of his presidency.  Maybe when the towers fell? Nope. How about when the banking industry just about ate the economy? Not that either. When the entire world found out that Rumsfeld has been supervising torture of random foreigners? Not even close. Oh, how about when one of the oldest cities in the country was erased by a flood which could have been prevented by decent maintenance and the people were forced to stay in the city at gunpoint while mercenaries roamed the streets looting people of their own firearms? Not that either.

Amazingly, George W. Bush believes the worst moment in a presidency filled with bad moments is when Kanye said he didn’t care about black people. He’s not tormented in his post-President retirement by the things he might have done differently or the thousands of people who died while he was in nominal charge, but by the fact that someone said something mean about him on television. WTF?

MATT LAUER: You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And — it was a disgusting moment.

What an infantile and self-centered view of the most powerful office in the world.

Halloween Not Scary

Halloween is this weekend, and with it come all the various modern changes to the traditional Trick or Treat. We have “Trunk or Treat” where kids wander a parking lot. We have “Safe Trick or Treat” where kids make a lethargic loop of the mall, behind a veritable conga-line of hundreds of other children. We have a bunch of sanctioned, known-safe haunted houses. We don’t have the near-universal Trick-or-Treat participation that most of us adults remember from our own childhoods, though. Although to watch any evening news broadcast would lead you to believe we live in a ridiculously dangerous time, the opposite is really true.

The rate of violent crimes is the lowest it has been since 1973, the rate of property crimes the lowest since 1968. Children are almost never kidnapped by anyone, and when they are it’s almost always by a non-custodial parent (about evenly split between women and men). The only time a child has been poisoned by Halloween candy, it was his own father who gave it to him to collect the life insurance money (father of the year was executed in 1984).

If you’re avoiding taking your rugrats out to beg for candy because you think your neighbors are going to try to kill them, don’t worry.  Have fun, try not to eat so much sugar in one sitting, and have a great weekend!

TV Networks Hate You

If you’re a geek, you’ve thought of or maybe even built a home-theater PC – that strange device which is a full-fledged computer hooked up to your television. Most of the rest of the TV-watching public, however, is utterly uninterested in such geekery. They do want to see their Youtube videos and Netflix streams on the bigger screen, but they’re not interested in doing the hard work necessary to put them there.

Enter Google TV and Roku boxes and Apple TV. A simple, somewhat affordable (Logitech, why 300 bucks?) device, hooked up to your television and your internet connection, enter some passwords and usernames, BAM! Internet media on your television. That’s the dream, right?

Google TV has been blocked from streaming ABC, NBC, and CBS shows from the networks’ web sites. Think about this for a minute, and you may begin to see the point of view of Network Neutrality advocates. Google TV uses Chrome, the web browser, to access ABC’s website. The user on his couch sees the web site just as he would see it if he were using his regular PC to view that site. The same ads load. The same content is there. But, because the machine he’s using says (as it’s supposed to), “I’m a Google TV browser” – no soup for you.

Still here?  True, this is not an actual case of network neutrality being violated, because the ISP is not the one blocking content from flowing over their network. The content provider has the right, no matter how irrational, to prevent anyone from watching their content in any manner. They could capriciously decide that only certain blocks of IP addresses could view their shows online. They could browser sniff and decide that they don’t like Opera, even if Opera is perfectly capable technically of watching their content. They’ve decided they hate Google this week. By extension, their viewers, the ones who care enough about How I Met Your Mother to go to the CBS website and seek it out, the most avid viewers with the most brand loyalty – fuck them.

Interesting business decision.