Monday, October 30, 2006

Trading freedom for security

We all know that Benjamin Franklyn is credited with saying,
People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.
But who said this?
There's only an up or down -- [up] man's old -- old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course.
This is from a 1964 speech, "A Time for Choosing." Click here to see whose speech it was.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Another reason disallowing gay marriage is foolish.

In "The GOP's Bad Bet," I quoted from a column by conservative writer Charles Murray, who wrote that "society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid." This applies especially to so-called moral laws, such as the law that prevents gays from participating in the legal status of marriage. A significant number of reasonable, responsible citizens think that such a law is stupid. This reduces the general respect for the law among all citizens. As Murray said, "law-abidingness is reinforced when the laws are limited to core objectives that enjoy consensus support." It is harmed when laws are passed simply to satisfy the parochial inclinations of some of a country's citizens.

It is illegal to whistle for a lost canary before 7:00 A.M.

I just came across this website of "wacky laws." Here's the page on California. No citations were given.
  • It is against the law for women to drive while wearing a bathrobe.
  • It is against the law for animals to mate publicly within 1,500 feet of a tavern, school, or place of worship.
  • Apple Valley - it is illegal for ducks to quack after 10:00 PM within the city limits.
  • Bellflower - the law states that 'a drunken man has as much right to a sidewalk as a sober man since he needs it a great deal more.'
  • Bonsall - it is against the law to read the Sunday paper while sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch while church services are in session.
  • Berkeley - it is illegal to whistle for a lost canary before 7:00 A.M.
  • Beverly Hills - the law states that 'no male person shall make remarks to or concerning, or cough or whistle at, or do any other act to attract the attention of any woman upon or traveling along any of the sidewalks.'
  • Buena Park - the law prohibits males from 'turning and looking at a woman in that way' on the Sabbath. If a second offense occurs, the assailant is required to 'wear horse blinders for a 24-hour period in public.'
  • Camirillo - it is illegal for any man to purchase liquor without the written consent of his wife.
  • Carmel - it is against the law to eat ice cream while standing on the sidewalk.
  • Castaic - the law states that if a dentist accidentally pulls the wrong tooth, then the patient has the right to pull one of the dentist's teeth.
  • Compton - it is against the law to have hip pockets in pants "since that is a good place to hide liquor."
  • Costa Mesa - it is illegal to enter a movie theatre within four hours of eating garlic.
  • Covina - according to this local law, a husband is not guilty of desertion if his wife rents his room to a boarder and "crowds him out of his house."
  • El Monte - it is against the law for a horse to fall asleep in a bathtub unless the rider is sleeping with the horse.
  • Gardena - it is illegal for any woman to chew tobacco without having the permission of her husband.
  • Glendale - the law allows horror films to be shown only on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
  • Hesperia - the law states that "no one is allowed to duel if the opponent selects water pistols as weapons."
  • Inglewood - it is unlawful "for any male person, within the corporate limits of the city of Inglewood, to wink at any female person with whom he is unacquainted."
  • Long Beach - any female attending a dance "must be found wearing a corset. A physician is required to inspect each female at the dance."
  • Los Angeles - it is against the law to bathe two babies in the same bathtub at the same time.
  • Los Angeles - a man can legally beat his wife with a leather belt or strap, as long as the strap is no wider than 2 inches. The wife must give her consent in order for him to legally beat her with a wider strap.
  • Los Angeles - it is illegal for the customer of a meat market to poke turkey to see how tender it is.
  • Malibu - it is against the law to laugh out loud in a movie theatre.
  • Monrovia - the law states that in order to get married, a man must "prove his manhood" by shooting six blackbirds or three crows and bringing them to his prospective father-in-law.
  • Ojai - it is against the law for a woman to stand within five feet of a bar when she takes a drink in any public establishment serving alcoholic beverages.
  • Ontario - rooster crowing is outlawed within the city limits.
  • Pacific Grove - bothering the butterflies carries a $500 fine.
  • Pico River - it is against the law for women weighing over 200 pounds that are attired in shorts to ride a horse.
  • Pomona - the law states that "no person shall hallo, shout, bawl, scream, use profane language, dance, sing, whoop, quarrel, or make any unusual noise or sound in any house in such a manner as to disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood."
  • Prunedale - it is illegal to have two indoor bathtubs in your house.
  • Rosemead - it is against the law to eat ice cream in public with a fork.
  • Riverside - it is illegal to carry a lunchbucket on the street.
  • Riverside - it is illegal to stick your tongue out "in the direction of" a dog.
  • San Francisco - there is a law that guarantees sunshine for the people.
  • Santa Ana - it is illegal to swim on dry land.
  • Santa Ana - it is against the law for a horse to sleep in a bakery.
  • Santa Monica - the law states that "any person who shall in the city of Santa Monica use or carry a concealed or unconcealed any bean snapper or like article, shall, upon conviction, be fined."
  • Temecula - it is illegal to play cards with children or pregnant women on the curb of a street.
  • Upland - it is unlawful for the owner or keeper of horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs to "run at large."
  • Ventura - it is illegal to make "ugly faces" at dogs that are found "freely roaming the community".
  • Victorville - it is against the law to shoot open canned goods with a revolver.
  • Whittier - the law states "two vehicles which are passing each other in opposite directions shall have the right of way."
  • In some small community, a law was passed that forbid anyone from trying to stop a child from playfully jumping over water puddles.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Which diploma mill paid off Schwarzenegger?

Assembly Bill 2069 (Maze) from this past legislative year would have provided that
if a requirement for a position with a public agency … is the possession of a particular degree, then that degree must be from an accredited or approved institution.
The bill passed both houses of the legislature unanimously. Bill Maze, the bill's sponsor (and a Republican), bragged about it on his website. Yet Schwarzenegger vetoed it!

Which diploma mill paid him off? Or is Schwarzenegger just adopting the traditional strategy of bullies and demagogues that the less well educated the population, the easier it is to fool them. Is this the man we want for governor?

For the legislative history of the bill go to Bill Information and search for 2069.

Schwarzenegger's argument, by the way, was that the state should not be setting standards of honest dealing for local public agencies. He apparently believes that if a local public agency says it requires a degree for a particular job but accepts a diploma mill degree, the state should close its eyes and ignore it. I wonder what responsibility Schwarzenegger thinks the state has with respect to how local public agencies act.
  • If a local public agency requires an MD for a particular job, shouldn't the state insist that it hire someone with a real MD? Are our lives and our health so unimportant that a phony MD is just fine for government work?

  • If a local public agency requires an accounting degree for a particular job, shouldn't the state insist that it hire someone with a real accounting degree? Is public money so unimportant that a phony accounting degree is just fine for government work?

  • If a local public agency requires a civil engineering degree for a particular job, shouldn't the state insist that it hire someone with a real civil engineering degree? Is public safety so unimportant that a phony civil engineering degree is just fine for government work?
On the other hand, if a local public agency doesn't require a real degree for a job, then it shouldn't say it does. We should be able to expect a basic level of honesty and integrity in how our public agencies operate. But then Schwarzenegger's record with respect to honesty and integrity is not all that strong. It's probably foolish to expect him to require a fundamental level of intellectual honesty in public agencies when he doesn't behave that way himself.

Still, one has to wonder about his motivation. This was a bill that was approved unanimously. Every Republican and every Democrat voted for it. This was not a controversial issue. And even if Schwarzenegger doesn't understand the importance of intellectual honesty in public life, I doubt that he vetoed the bill simply as a way of thumbing his nose at that principle. I suspect there was a payoff somewhere. I wonder where.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

FuturePhone and the 712 Area Code

Alec Saunders explains how FuturePhone makes money.
Ever wonder why it is that FuturePhone, Radio Handi, FreeConferenceCall, and PartyLine Connect all have access numbers in the 712 area code? These services all provide “free” services to you. There’s “no catch”. You just have to make a long distance call to get them.

So how do these services get paid, and why are the access numbers all in Iowa?
The short answer is tax subsidies. The 712 model, as I refer to it, is really a variation on the 900 number model, but financed by taxpayers. Take a low cost call, terminate on a high cost carrier, and pocket the difference. …

Most Iowa telephone companies (and there are a lot!) participate in the NECA Access Fee Pool [about 3 cents/minute]. [To make an international call using FuturePhone, all] you have to do is call 712 858 8883 (a number provided by the tiny Superior Telephone Coop in Estherville, Iowa), and then enter the international call you want to make using the standard 011 prefix. …

So how [does FuturePhone] make money? Since we don’t know know what FuturePhone’s actual termination costs are, let’s make an estimate. We do know that Jajah provides services to the same 50 odd countries for a retail rate of 2.5 cents per minute. So, let’s assume a 50% cost, and say that FuturePhone’s cost to terminate the call is 1.25 cents. That leaves 1.75 cents per minute to split with the folks at Superior Telephone Coop. Give them half, which leaves you 0.875 cents per minute, and you’ve got a pretty attractive proposition! It’s certainly a lot more profitable than SipPhone, charging 1 cent per minute, and probably about as profitable as Skype at 2 cents per minute. It’ll definitely keep bread on the table.

The G.O.P.’s Bad Bet

In an article criticizing the recent law attempting to ban Internet gambling, Charles Murray of the (conservative) American Enterprise Institute writes
If a free society is to work, the vast majority of citizens must reflexively obey the law not because they fear punishment, but because they accept that the rule of law makes society possible. That reflexive law-abidingness is reinforced when the laws are limited to core objectives that enjoy consensus support, even though people may disagree on means.

Thus society is weakened every time a law is passed that large numbers of reasonable, responsible citizens think is stupid. Such laws invite good citizens to choose knowingly to break the law, confident that they are doing nothing morally wrong.
George Will, the conservative Newsweek columnist, had similar thoughts this week — although he found a way to blame the Democrats.

Will Republican extremism finally boomerang on itself?

From the Washington Post
Paul Morrison, a career prosecutor who specializes in putting killers behind bars, has the bulletproof résumé and the rugged looks of a law-and-order Republican, which is what he was until last year. That was when he announced he would run for attorney general -- as a Democrat.

He is now running neck-and-neck with Republican Phill Kline, an iconic social conservative who made headlines by seeking the names of abortion-clinic patients and vowing to defend science-teaching standards that challenge Darwinian evolution. What's more, Morrison is raising money faster than Kline and pulling more cash from Republicans than Democrats.

Nor is Morrison alone. In a state that voted nearly 2 to 1 for President Bush in 2004, nine former Republicans will be on the November ballot as Democrats. Among them is Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, who changed parties to run for lieutenant governor with the popular Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

"I'd reached a breaking point," Parkinson said, preparing for a rally in Wichita alongside Sebelius. "I want to work on relevant issues and not on a lot of things that don't matter." …

"So what in the world has happened?" [Johnson County Sun] publisher Steve Rose asked in a recent column. "The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally. You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore."

Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil

Two long articles about Iraq and oil from AlterNet.
Iraq is sitting on a mother lode of some of the lightest, sweetest, most profitable crude oil on earth, and the rules that will determine who will control it and on what terms are about to be set. …

Iraq's energy reserves are an incredibly rich prize. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "Iraq contains 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, the second largest in the world (behind Saudi Arabia), along with roughly 220 billion barrels of probable and possible resources. Iraq's true potential may be far greater than this, however, as the country is relatively unexplored due to years of war and sanctions." For perspective, the Saudis have 260 billion barrels of proven reserves.

Iraqi oil is close to the surface and easy to extract, making it all the more profitable. James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, points out that oil companies "can produce a barrel of Iraqi oil for less than $1.50 and possibly as little as $1, including all exploration, oilfield development and production costs." Contrast that with other areas where oil is considered cheap to produce at $5 per barrel or the North Sea, where production costs are $12-16 per barrel.

But the real gem -- what one oil consultant called the "Holy Grail" of the industry -- lies in Iraq's vast western desert. It's one of the last "virgin" fields on the planet, and it has the potential to catapult Iraq to No. 1 in the world in oil reserves. Sparsely populated, the western fields are less prone to sabotage than the country's current centers of production in the north, near Kirkuk, and in the south near Basra. The Nation's Aram Roston predicts Iraq's western desert will yield "untold riches."

Iraq also may have large natural gas deposits that so far remain virtually unexplored.

But even "untold riches" don't tell the whole story. Depending on how Iraq's petroleum law shakes out, the country's enormous reserves could break the back of OPEC, a wet dream in Western capitals for three decades. James Paul predicted that "even before Iraq had reached its full production potential of 8 million barrels or more per day, the companies would gain huge leverage over the international oil system. OPEC would be weakened by the withdrawal of one of its key producers from the OPEC quota system." Depending on how things shape up in the next few months, Western oil companies could end up controlling the country's output levels, or the government, heavily influenced by the United States, could even pull out of the cartel entirely.

Both independent analysts and officials within Iraq's Oil Ministry anticipate that when all is said and done, the big winners in Iraq will be the Big Four -- the American firms Exxon-Mobile and Chevron, the British BP-Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell -- that dominate the world oil market. Ibrahim Mohammed, an industry consultant with close contacts in the Iraqi Oil Ministry, told the Associated Press that there's a universal belief among ministry staff that the major U.S. companies will win the lion's share of contracts. "The feeling is that the new government is going to be influenced by the United States," he said.

The articles make the case (which was made before) that the real reason we are in Iraq is for its oil. Although oil probably doesn't justify the war, the article does raise the issue of what is going to happen to those resources — and whether we care.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Free calls

once you connect to Iowa. Future Phone. David Pogue has an article about this.

It seems so much more real when it's about a single person

I just got this email from one of the people supporting Radio Almahaba. Of course this sort of thing happens every day in Baghdad. Even though the victim is someone I don't know, it seems that much more real because the attack affected someone else enough to write about it.

Hi, everyone! I am sorry to send you this terrible news, but the security guard for Radio Almahaba was kidnapped and harmed on Monday. Fortunately, he was released and his life is not in danger despite serious injuries, but he was released with a death threat as you see below in the email received from the RA station manager.

One of our supporter suggested that if we could all send emails of get-well wishes to Mr. J and support for Radio Almahaba, it may be most appreciated by these people who are literally risking their lives going to work everyday to help the people in Iraq. Please address your email to

Also, there was an attack on a TV station our time last night and 11 staff members there were killed, and this was the second attacks with fatal consequences on Iraqi TV stations in a short time.

We would appreciate your emails of support to our injured security guard and dedicated and brave RA staff members.

Thank you for your support!

Akiko Y Swabb

Acting Executive Director

Opportunities for Kids International

(during Ms. Bowers’ leave of absence)

Yestarday morning and as he was going to his place of work in our radio station Mr. J (the daytime guard in our station and in addition to his original work he is the resposible on the receptions and taking care about the electrical generator ), he subjected to kidnapping process by armed people driving two black OPELS and he subjected to hard beating from them by their hands, legs and steel sticks that cause fracture of his right leg with sever injuries in different parts of his body in a way that he couldn't talk with us in the cellular phone after they relaese him in one of the streets of Al Sadr city where he was kidnapped, so temperarily he moved to live with one of his relatives whom one member of the BOD of our station that he asked us to give him 10 days vacation and I think it's one of his legal right in such situation, I agree personally on the vacation, but I want just to tell you about it, although the real motives and reasons not clear till know, also the kidnappers who they are members of known sectarian militia took the SEM card of his cellular phone, and they told him that this is just warning and if he stay in his job so they will kill him.

As we can release the danegerousness of the security situation that the whole country live now we want to ensure you that this accident and anything like it will not bend our determination the stuff of the station from being continue the work and creation.



Sunday, October 08, 2006

God's Test

It's worth reading: God's Test.

Guantánamo defense lawyer forced out of Navy

From The Seattle Times
The Navy lawyer who took the Guantánamo case of Osama bin Laden's driver to the U.S. Supreme Court — and won — has been passed over for promotion by the Pentagon and must soon leave the military.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, said last week he received word he had been denied a promotion to full-blown commander this summer, "about two weeks after" the Supreme Court sided against the White House and with his client, a Yemeni captive at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

Under the military's "up-or-out" promotion system, Swift will retire in March or April, closing a 20-year career of military service. …

In the opinion of Washington, D.C., attorney Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, Swift was "a no-brainer for promotion," given his devotion to the Navy, the law and his client.

But, he said, Swift is part of a long line of Navy defense lawyers "of tremendous distinction" who were not made full commander and "had their careers terminated prematurely."

"He brought real credit to the Navy," said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."

Swift's supervisor, the Pentagon's chief defense counsel for Military Commissions, said the career Navy officer had served with distinction.

"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, calling it "quite a coincidence" that the Navy promotion board passed on promoting Swift "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."

In June, the prestigious National Law Journal listed Swift among the nation's top 100 lawyers, with such legal luminaries as former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson, 66; Stanford Law constitutional-law expert Kathleen Sullivan, 50; and former Bush campaign recount attorney Fred Bartlit, 73.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A good way to support peace in Iraq

I just got this email from Radio Almahaba
Dear Supporters of Radio Almahaba (Voice of Iraqi Women):

Finally we can announce the several miracles which have come to Radio Almahaba, because today they have been made public through a press release and a pubic announcement from the Satellite Sisters.

In June I was contacted by Harris Corporation with an offer to build and donate a 5kw transmitter for Radio Almahaba to replace the one they lost almost a year ago by terrorists’ bombing. After RA lost their transmitter, they rented an old transmitter, but due to the dramatic shrinkage in the broadcasting area, they lost all advertisers and the revenue from them. So the salary of the staff was cut to half and they have been surviving with the income given from some of their founders themselves and donations from the people in this country and other countries.

The first miracle came because Ms. D. McAdams, the managing editor of TV Technology magazine, heard an April NPR interview of Ms. Bushra Jamil, the spokeswoman of Radio Almahaba. Ms. McAdams was very moved listening about this independent secular radio station in Iraq which was not only informing and educating the women and their families in Iraq, but also was providing talk shows through which people could share their views and experiences with other people. So Ms. McAdams appealed to the industry she worked in and Mr. E. Klein relayed the appeal to Harris Corporation.

Harris Corporation not only built the transmitter for Radio Almahaba, they air shipped it to Baghdad. Ms. McAdams again helped by contacting her dear friend in Iraq and made a special arrangement for its safe delivery to the station about a month ago. Since the arrival of this miracle transmitter, RA management has been comparison shopping for necessary auxiliary parts despite the difficult security situation and sky-rocketing prices.

Today, they finally got the needed parts and brought them back safely to the station, but with a nerve racking and yet funny incident. On the way back to the station, the manager was stopped by police at a check point. They wanted to confiscate all the equipment on the truck. Luckily, someone intervened and the manager was allowed to leave with all the just bought equipment. When the manager was leaving, he realized that the policemen were listening to Radio Almahaba! So he told them to call the radio station to gain benefit from their program! They hope to start broadcasting using this new state of the art transmitter later this week.

The second miracle came in a form of a big fund raising effort by the syndicated radio talk show in this country, the Satellite Sisters. They interviewed Bushra while she was visiting us this April and they announced their $100,000 campaign for Radio Almahaba on the day they received the National Gracie Award in NYC in June. Since then this campaign has raised over $30,000 cash plus $10,000 pledge and the campaign is still continuing. They have received donation not only from this country but from Europe and Japan.

The third miracle came from University of Illinois Department of Journalism. Their Academic Programs Coordinator, Professor L Holley offered to help Radio Almahaba. She and her friends donated a laptop computer as well as five digital audio recorders. Now she has invited Bushra to come to Chicago on November 1st for an interview with WGN and possibly some other media stations, and then to U of I for a panel discussion and reception.

So despite the suicide bombing occurring just outside their building last month, losing their two former colleagues just recently by bombing at a market, the brave and dedicated staff members of this courageous first women’s radio station for Iraqi women and families even go to work on foot despite the curfew. They do so because they know that

the majority of the Iraqi people want to have peace and true democracy, freedom and justice based on human rights for everyone regardless of religion and beliefs. They do so also because they know that there are those in far away countries, from the USA, UK,. Europe, Fiji Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan who are supporting them and praying for their success.

Could you please help spread the news of these miracles to your friends? In the face on the daily atrocities and tragedies, Radio Almahaba will be heard again by many people in Iraq. Soon no one in the area has to risk their lives by going up to their roof to string a wire to catch the station’s broadcast signal!

On behalf of Radio Almahaba, I would like to thank from bottom of our hearts each one of you for your support for Radio Almahaba, for the Iraqi women and their families. In fact, as you read above, even Iraqi policemen are listening to Radio Almahaba which also receives calls daily from many women and men, young and old. Please continue to keep them in your prayers and positive thoughts. Each one of the RA staff members read your name and is encouraged by your support. I am attaching a photo of some of the RA staff members at their station.

With deepest gratitude,

Akiko Y. Swabb

Schwarzenegger vetos plan to reform electoral college system

Schwarzenegger is still a Republican. I thought he had reformed himself.

From the New York Times
Saying it ran “counter to the tradition of our great nation,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill on Saturday that would have automatically allocated all the state’s 55 electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate received the national popular vote.

The bill, which passed the state’s Legislature this summer, was devised by John R. Koza, a computer scientist who envisioned a system in which a series of states holding the number of electoral votes needed to elect a president — 270 — would commit their electors to casting ballots for the winner of the popular vote, regardless of how their individual electorates voted.

Mr. Koza said the goal was to force presidential candidates to campaign nationwide, rather than concentrating on a small number of battleground states — like Ohio or Florida — that have a lot of electors. California, while having more electors and voters than any other state, is considered reliably Democratic, and thus not often a part of the presidential campaign.

Thomas J. Umberg, the bill’s sponsor in the California Assembly, said that he was disappointed by the governor’s decision “to maintain the status quo” and that he would consider taking the proposition to a ballot measure.
See previous post.

Man Sues Secret Service Agent Over Arrest After Approaching Cheney and Denouncing War

From the New York Times

Steven Howards, right, of Colorado with his lawyer, David A. Lane.
[Steven] Howards, 54, said at a news conference [in Denver] that he was taking his 8-year-old son to a piano lesson on June 16 at the Beaver Creek Resort about two hours west of Denver when he saw Mr. Cheney at an outdoor mall. Mr. Howards said he approached within two feet of Mr. Cheney and said in a calm voice, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible,” or as the lawsuit itself describes the encounter, “words to that effect.”

Mr. Howards said he then went on his way. About 10 minutes later, he said, he was walking back through the area when [Secret Service agent Virgil D. Reichle Jr.] handcuffed him and said he would be charged with assaulting the vice president. Local police officers, acting on information from the Secret Service, according to the suit, ultimately filed misdemeanor harassment charges that could have resulted in up to a year in jail.

A June 16 article in The Vail Daily quoted a spokesman for the Secret Service, Eric Zahren, as saying that Mr. Howards “wasn’t acting like other folks in the area,” and that he became “argumentative and combative” when agents tried to question him. Mr. Howards said Tuesday that he was never threatening and did not become upset until his arrest.

“This was not about anything I did — this is about what I said,” he said.

Mr. Zahren declined to comment on the suit or on his original description of the event.

Mr. Howards said he was released on $500 bond after about three hours in jail. A state judge dismissed the charge about three weeks later at the request of the Eagle County district attorney, Mark Hurlbert.

“It was our understanding that the vice president did not want to prosecute,” Mr. Hurlbert said in a telephone interview. “The original indication was that he had pushed the vice president. Later it looked to be that he had just spoken to him.”