I was so much more interesting 7 years ago

Google, for their 10th anniversary, has dug into their archive and opened up their earliest existing index, from 2001. And when searching for myself, I’m amused to find my 2001 homepage, which was far more interesting than the current one. Shows how much busier I am in 2008.

Lucky at lunch

I stood at the Lucky deli counter perusing the menu board at lunchtime, alone but for the counter attendants who outnumbered me 2 to 1.
The Zuma Chicken looked good, chicken with lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, and pepper jack on a baguette.
“We don’t have baguettes.”
Okay, I thought, I’ll have it on a sourdough roll. With no tomatoes.
I stood around, and 3 minutes later: “We don’t have any chicken.”
Okay. I’ll have turkey. “What kind?” Whatever’s already open.
She begin laboriously building a sandwich, slicing everything off huge cylinders of cheese and whole turkeys. I wandered away to buy some vodka.
Almost 10 minutes later my sandwich was done.
Despite the initial list of ingredients, it had pickles on it.
I thanked her and wandered away to pay for a sandwich that bore no resemblance whatsoever to what I ordered.

How not to design for mobile

I already complained to the SF Chronicle about the mobile version of their website, SF Gate. That was because the content on the mobile site doesn’t replicate the content on the regular site — it’s usually a day behind, which really makes the site completely pointless.
Generally speaking, if one is going to present a mobile version of a website, it should simply be the same site with a different style sheet or a re-render of the same content with extraneous stuff left off.
Unfortunately, SF Gate manages to screw this up as well. Take a look at this page. Now, take a look at the mobile version. Nuff ‘said.

Things that make you go ew

Dear Target:

I know this “Christmas Creep” phenomenon has been going on for many years now, but I am getting worried. We live in an era where jokes are increasingly becoming real, satire about the Bush administration suddenly turns into reality and things are being taken to their ridiculous extremes every day. But still, Christmas in September? At this rate, you’ll be selling Easter candy before the Halloween candy is even stale.

And putting a countdown on display just makes it all the more absurd. “Shop now! Time’s running out! You only have THREE MONTHS!”

Speaking of Halloween candy, I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around this one.

Seriously. Zac Efron may be thought of as candy, but I’m not sure I want him all gummy and stuck to my back teeth. Still, it is rather spooky.

Our Buddhist Wheel of Politics

Here’s how I think it will work out:

1) The Republicans, since the 1990s, have worked steadily to remove regulations and allow banks and lending companies to rape and pillage — simple usury. Republicans have no idea what fiscal responsibility is.

2) The ensuing boom, which took place during Clinton’s administration, is credited to Clinton although he seemingly had little to do with it other than to ride along and cheer.

3) Bush’s policies, including pre-emptive war bolstered by falsified intelligence, inadvisable tax cuts, and huge government spending leads us into a new depression and the collapse of the bubble. He goes from record surplus to record deficit almost immediately.

4) Bush’s bail out plan for his rich, greedy banker pals costs $700 billion dollars. He exits the office leaving behind an incredible $1.2 trillion deficit. ($470b + $700b)

5) Obama is elected president by a populace tired of Republican shenanigans for the rich. Left with an all-time record deficit and the looming cost of the $700 billion bail out, his tax cut for the middle class is canceled and toward the end of his administration he is forced to raise taxes to pay for the Bush years. It’s the responsible thing to do but not the politically popular thing to do — politics has no bearing on reality.

6) Republicans are swept back into office with the promise of tax cuts. The cycle of greed begins again.

Don’t be evil

Google has much to answer for over the last few years, including their policy of cooperating with Chinese totalitarianism; still, this statement from Sergey Brin is a step in the right direction. Well done.

Our position on California’s No on 8 campaign
As an Internet company, Google is an active participant in policy debates surrounding information access, technology and energy. Because our company has a great diversity of people and opinions — Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, all religions and no religion, straight and gay — we do not generally take a position on issues outside of our field, especially not social issues. So when Proposition 8 appeared on the California ballot, it was an unlikely question for Google to take an official company position on.

However, while there are many objections to this proposition — further government encroachment on personal lives, ambiguously written text — it is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.

Posted by Sergey Brin, Co-founder & President, Technology

Morning Preemption

KQED public radio here in the San Francisco Bay area likes to tell us, during their pledge drives, of the millions of dollars they spend to bring us NPR programming. Well, in the last half hour, between pledge breaks and the local “California Report,” they didn’t actually play ANY “Morning Edition” at all.

Palin’s Experience in Just 12 Minutes

From Lawrence Lessig: “In response to Palin’s suggesting that he experience was somehow normal, an exhaustive comparison (and exhausting, to me and to you!) of Governor Palin’s experience as compared with every other Vice President in U.S. history. Twelve minutes of exhaustion.”

We could have had it all

This graphic from the New York Times (January 2007) on costs of the Iraq war versus costs of other national priorities has even more relevance today in light of the proposed $700,000,000,000 bailout of greedy bankers.

Now, for a perspective relevant to today, here’s the cost of the financial bailout:

Some Straight Talk

With apologies to Mr. Keillor for knowingly “violating” copyright by reproducing his entire column, but this so neatly encapsulates what I want to say in Garrison’s particularly straight-forward and easy-to-understand style; his writing like his speaking, carefully deliberative and slowly unraveling, making one lean forward to listen. Well done.

Where is the outrage?
John McCain decries greed on Wall Street and suggests a commission be formed to look into the problem. This is like Casanova coming out for chastity.
By Garrison Keillor

Sep. 24, 2008 | It’s just human nature that some calamities register in the brain and others don’t. The train engineer texting at the throttle (“HOW R U? C U L8R”) and missing the red light and 25 people die in the crash — oh God, that is way too real. Everyone has had a moment of supreme stupidity that came close to killing somebody. Even atheists say a little prayer now and then: Dear God, I am an idiot, thank you for protecting my children.

On the other hand, the federal bailout of the financial market (YAWN) is a calamity that people accept as if it were just one more hurricane. An air of crisis, the secretary of the Treasury striding down a hall at the Capitol with minions in his wake, solemn-faced congressmen at the microphones. Something must be done, harrumph harrumph. The Current Occupant pops out of the cuckoo clock and reads a few lines off a piece of paper, pronouncing all the words correctly. And the newscaster looks into the camera and says, “Etaoin shrdlu qwertyuiop.” Where is the outrage?

Poor Larry Craig got a truckload of moral condemnation for tapping his wingtips in the men’s john, but his party proposes to spend 5 percent of the GDP to buy up bad loans made by men who walk away with their fortunes intact while retirees see their 401K go pffffffff like a defunct air mattress, and it’s business as usual. Mr. McCain is a lifelong deregulator and believer in letting brokers and bankers do as they please — remember Lincoln Savings and Loan and his intervention with federal regulators on behalf of his friend Charles Keating, who then went to prison? Remember Neil Bush, the brother of the C.O., who, as a director of Silverado S&L, bestowed enormous loans on his friends without telling fellow directors that the friends were friends and who, when the loans failed, paid a small fine and went skipping off to other things? Mr. McCain now decries greed on Wall Street and suggests a commission be formed to look into the problem. This is like Casanova coming out for chastity.

Confident men took leave of common sense and bet on the idea of perpetual profit in the real estate market and crashed. But it wasn’t their money. It was your money they were messing with. And that’s why you need government regulators. Gimlet-eyed men with steel-rim glasses and crepe-soled shoes who check the numbers and have the power to say, “This is a scam and a hustle and either you cease and desist or you spend a few years in a minimum-security federal facility playing backgammon.”

The Republican Party used to specialize in gimlet-eyed, steel-rim, crepe-soled common sense and then it was taken over by crooked preachers who demand we trust them because they’re packing a Bible and God sent them on a mission to enact lower taxes, less government. Except when things crash, and then government has to pick up the pieces.

Some say the tab might come to a trillion dollars. Nobody knows. And Mr. McCain has not one moment of doubt or regret. He switches from First Deregulation Church to Our Lady of Strict Vigilance like you might go from decaf to latte. Where is the straight talk? Does the man have no conscience?

It wasn’t their money they were playing with. It was yours. Where were the cops?

What we are seeing is the stuff of a novel, the public corruption of an American war hero. It is painful. First, there was his exploitation of a symbolic woman, an eager zealot who is so far out of her depth that it isn’t funny anymore. Anyone with a heart has to hurt for how Mr. McCain has made a fool of her. Never mind the persistent cheesiness of his attack ads. And now this chasm of debt and loss and the gentleman pretends to be shocked. He was there. He turned out the lights. He sent the regulators home.

Mr. McCain seems willing to say anything, do anything, to get to the White House so he can go to war with Iran. If he needs to recline naked in Macy’s window, he would do that, or eat live chickens, or claim to be a reformer. Obviously you can fool a lot of people for awhile and maybe he can stretch it out until mid-November. But the truth is marching on. A few true conservatives are leading a charge against the bailout. Good for them. But how about admitting that their cowboy economic philosophy was at fault here?

(Garrison Keillor is the author of a new Lake Wobegon novel, “Liberty,” published by Viking.)

© 2008 by Garrison Keillor. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc. [via Salon.com]

So, now, the question for Mr. Obama is this: you do not have the long history implicating yourself in the current mess. What do you intend to do about it? What change will you bring other than a slogan? Tell me.

Welcome to Amerika

I saw this story yesterday on the SF Chronicle website. I expected to see it picked up in other papers, but I suppose I am naive because I’ve seen nothing. This isn’t surprising, because as a people we have abdicated our freedoms in an almost unprecedented way to the Bush administration; the next logical step is detaining and interning dark, dusky looking people who aren’t born-again Christians or who have political views contrary to those held by the Great Leader.
Under the Bush administration and his fellow faux-Republicans, we’ve become no better than the Soviet Union. Except that we have plenty of toilet paper and only stand in lines to buy slick new cellphones.

Feds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers’ documents
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

(09-23) 17:06 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit.

The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply.

“We’re concerned that people of South Asian or Muslim-looking background are being targeted inappropriately” for questioning and searches, said Asian Law Caucus attorney Shirin Sinnar.

Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the new policies reflect “the realities of the post-9/11 environment.”

Kudwa noted that courts have allowed federal agents more leeway in searches at borders and airports than elsewhere. She also said customs agents are entitled to ask questions that “may be relevant to admissibility determinations that relate to an alien’s purpose for entering the United States” under certain types of visas.

The Bay Area legal groups filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the government in February, seeking documents on the policies that govern searches and questioning of international travelers.

The organizations said they had received more than 20 complaints in the previous year, mostly from South Asians and Muslims. The travelers said customs agents regularly singled them out when they returned from abroad, looked at their papers and laptop computers, and asked them such questions as whom they had seen on their trips, whether they attended mosques and whether they hated the U.S. government.

Homeland Security’s customs and border protection division provided 661 pages of documents in response to the suit, but blacked out portions of many records and withheld others, Sinnar said. She said the legal groups would return to court to seek more documents.

In the meantime, the customs agency publicly released its policies on border searches in July, including a statement that agents are authorized to “read and analyze” any documents in a traveler’s possession and keep them for a reasonable time to make copies.

What the agency didn’t announce – but what the documents obtained in the lawsuits reveal – is that the current practices represent a substantial change from earlier government policies, Sinnar said.

She said those policies were first enacted by President Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1986, in response to lawsuits by U.S. citizens who were questioned and searched after returning from Nicaragua. President Bill Clinton’s administration refined the policies in 2000 but made no major changes, Sinnar said.

Those policies allowed customs agents to glance at travelers’ documents to see if they contained anything the agents were authorized to intercept – such as smuggled currency or obscene material – but required agents to have grounds for reasonable suspicion before taking and reading any documents, the legal groups said, quoting the newly released records.

The 1986 and 2000 policies required agents to meet a more-demanding standard – showing evidence that contained probable cause of smuggling or other wrongdoing – before copying documents, the lawyers’ groups said.

“For more than 20 years, the government implicitly recognized that reading and copying the letters, diaries, and personal papers of travelers without reason would chill Americans’ right to free speech and free expression,” Sinnar said. “But now customs officials can probe into the thoughts and lives of ordinary travelers without any suspicion at all.”

Read the documents
The government documents and the legal groups’ analysis of them are available at:

“This is fun,” says re-educated citizen

This story, when I heard it on the radio this afternoon, only made me more and more horrified about the world George Bush has engineered, which the common man has shrugged and allowed to happen:

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — First airport security, and now “Clear” cards with the fingerprint and other biometric information allow you to skip the lines at Candlestick Park.

They rolled it out for the 49ers-Lions game Sunday, people whose backgrounds have been given the all clear by the Transportation Security Administration simply flash their cards at the Stick and avoid security lines.

“This is the first Clear lane that has been opened at a football game for a stadium. It takes the fast past for airport security and applies it to stadium security. If you have a Clear card you can get in the fast lane here at Candlestick Park,” said Clear technology chief Jason Slibeck.

Football fan Candice Kagin of Tiburon spent all of 15 seconds getting through the gate. “This is great, it’s better than at the airport cause there’s usually a few people ahead of me there. This is fun,” said Slibeck.

Clear, with more than 200,000 users and 18 airports nationwide, costs $128 a year and doesn’t prevent security people from check you for things like bottles or weapons.

Clear is also starting up at Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons games.

“This is fun!”
People whose backgrounds have been given the all clear?!

Dear God, doesn’t anyone else see what I see? How did we allow this to happen, in America of all places? Why do we continue to allow our “free” society to become surveiled, our movements restricted, our right to assemble checked, and our every activity scrutinized? How did we let conservatives, of all people, turn us into a fascist, Iron Curtain state? When will this end, and how?