Pay no attention to the short-timer

Just the other day I was thinking to myself that we have all but forgotten about George W. Bush — a blissful thought, to be sure, but a scary one. ‘Cos while our attention is elsewhere, that vile administration is still in office, doing who knows what with impunity. Remember the made-up stories about the havoc wrought by an outgoing Clinton staff? How much you wanna bet that it will happen for real on January 20?
Meanwhile, they’re working overtime to leave behind a dubious legacy. In today’s Washington Post:

The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.

“They want these rules to continue to have an impact long after they leave office,” said Matthew Madia, a regulatory expert at OMB Watch, a nonprofit group critical of what it calls the Bush administration’s penchant for deregulating in areas where industry wants more freedom. He called the coming deluge “a last-minute assault on the public . . . happening on multiple fronts.”

I can’t imagine why anyone wants to be president following Bush. Assuming re-election, the next president will spend 8 years cleaning up the mess and won’t be able to actually make much progress on his own priorities.

Time Shakes

Time really zips by since I’ve moved to California. It’s been more than three years since I made this move but it doesn’t seem that long.
It’s been three years since I bought this house (which is now worth 1/5 less than when I bought it in 2005).
And it’s been one year — to the minute — since I experienced my first big earthquake, the 5.6 Alum Rock quake that happened just as I was sitting down to watch The Great Pumpkin. Funny, it doesn’t seen as bad now, but at the time it was pretty freaky.

8 Minutes on Prop 8

Constitutional genius Lawrence Lessig weighs in on the absurdity and insanity of California’s Proposition 8, in a clear and logical way.

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click to play

Unfortunately, a reasoned and logical argument has no impact at all on people who rail against same-sex marriage — or gay people in general — because their prejudices are not based on any logic or reason. They cannot be swayed because they base their bigotry on what they believe magical, powerful beings want and ridiculous superstition; on an irrational hatred of people who are different than them. Talking to a wall won’t make the wall move.

The Customer as Criminal, continued

Some executive with his necktie too tight decided that wi-fi is a commodity that people are desperate for and will pay to use. Thus, when there’s a promotion offering free wi-fi, they have to create convoluted ways to provide it that put up as many roadblocks as possible.

86 101

Since February, I’ve been commuting daily on US 101, possibly the most famous — or notorious — highway in California. In terms of time spent it’s a no-brainer to use 101, since unlike back in DC, there’s still an “against traffic” direction here. My commute against traffic takes about 15 minutes, going the same distance that used to take me 45 minutes in DC. Great, right?
No so much. 101 is a pretty crappy road, aging rapidly and falling apart, and after my accident back in August I’ve been skittish driving this route every day. There are three problems:

  1. Road condition. 101 here in the Bay Area (also known as the Bayshore Highway) is a crumbling mess, with varying road surfaces from asphalt to concrete to cracked rubble. In the mornings when the sun shines right at your windshield, all you can see is the shiny tar patches in a blaze of random shapes — like the blaze camouflage once used on warships. Don’t even try to see any debris on the road, it’s impossible. And there is plenty of debris, on the roadway and flying through the air. My brand new car has less than 1500 miles on it, and already the windshield is pitted from gravel, rocks, and other debris flying out of truck beds.
  2. Traffic. There doesn’t seem to be any law or etiquette that gets trucks out of the way of cars. Trucks routinely block the road by occupying all the lanes, three or four abreast, gumming up the works and enticing people in cars to take silly risks. Pickups and vans heading off to work in the morning tend to go about 50 mph and ride in the left lane. Cars seem to automatically become either speed demons or road boulders upon entering the highway, and they zip in and out at every opportunity, risking themselves and everyone around them.
  3. Interchanges. 101 has perhaps the worst highway interchanges I have ever seen. Cloverleafs are rare, instead there are very short ramps, poorly signed, that leave no room for acceleration. On the ramp I use every morning, from northbound 880 to southbound 101, the acceleration lane is only a couple hundred feet and is shared as the deceleration lane for the next exit! This means one has about 2 seconds to safely merge to the left into incoming traffic while simultaneously watching for vehicles trying to move over to exit. It was at this point that I hit the debris in the road, because I don’t have 15 pairs of eyes.

Anyway. This morning I tried a new commute, avoiding the more direct 101 route altogether and opting for newer roads: Highway 87 south through downtown and then east on 85. It took something like 10 minutes longer, which really sucks, but the cost on my nerves was far less.

Truth and Consequences

This morning, listening to John McCain speaking at a rally, I was incensed by what I perceived as lie after lie issuing forth from his Bush-like twang. How many lies? And how many lies is Obama telling at his rallies? I decided to quantify it. Taking a look at various fact checking sites, this is how truthful the two candidates were in their October 23 speeches.

By my count, Obama is more than twice as truthful as McCain, but just as untruthful. Where McCain really shines is in that careful parsing of words so that he’s not really lying, but is pulling quotes of out context or omitting important facts in order to mislead the audience. A whopping 63% of his statements were misleading in this way. For instance, his new hammer, “Obama is going to raise taxes!” is true but misleading because he is only planning to raise taxes on people making over $250,000 a year — in fact, his plan is to cut taxes on everyone making less than that. Is this statement by McCain a lie? Technically, no. But it’s not the whole story. The whole story would just gain votes for Obama.

Maybe his wig was in the shop

Shuttle Enterprise with cast of Star Trek, 1976. NASA’s prototype space shuttle was to have been named Constitution, but fans of the Star Trek TV show mounted a write-in campaign that led to it being named Enterprise. Here the show’s cast (minus William Shatner) poses with the test craft.

I’ll bet William Shatner never bothered to show up, then insisted that he wasn’t invited.

Hit and run

I really didn’t foresee the monumental disarray of the Republican party this year, the defections and dissent in the ranks of a party known for it’s tight control of the message and its members. But perhaps I should have known it was nearing disaster when I first saw this, something worth taking another look at months later: the logo of this year’s GOP convention, predictive of what’s happened to them now… a run-over, dead elephant.

Of Propositions and Proposals

Think about it. There’s really only one reason to vote for California’s Proposition 8 — to insert yourself into other people’s business. Which, of course, is the raison d’être of the fundamentalists out there.
Did you have any say in the marriage of your neighbors down the street? Did you get to vote on whether a couple on the other side of town got married?
In short, what the hell business is it of yours, pal?
We have some pretty good technology, but other than that we’re still cave dwellers at heart. And every time an election comes around, the xenophobia gets more and more pronounced. The idea that someone would vote to actively discriminate against another person because they are different — well, it makes me want to wretch. It is shocking how many people think that someone who isn’t like them is simply less of a human being.
I’ll tell you this: if Prop 8 passes, I’m gonna be putting together a petition for a new proposition: that all couples who want to get married must submit themselves to a public referendum. Their marriage can’t proceed until a majority of voters approve it. The fundamentalists — like the Mormons, who are substantially bankrolling this discriminatory proposition — should object to this idea, since they’re all about making sure marriage benefits society and brings forth children. We’ll vote based on whether or not the couple is fertile. And if they don’t bring forth children within, say, 1 year… well, their marriage is dissolved automatically. ‘Cos marriage is all about having children, right?
While we’re at it, I don’t see the Mormons supporting a proposition banning divorce or forcing absent fathers to help raise their children. Gosh, aren’t they serious about traditional marriage and it’s important role in society? It wasn’t so long ago that interracial marriage was verboten, and the racists then claimed that they were trying to save traditional marriage as designed by God.
Did God change Her mind?

The Fonz is Cool Again

We all knew that Ron Howard was gonna support Obama, but who would have guessed that Andy Griffith would? Looks like Manteo is going blue this year.

The mafia is Catholic, after all

The sad thing is that there’s seemingly no limit to how low the right wing will go. I just listened to John McCain spouting the most ridiculous line of bull I’ve heard from him yet, his face reddening as he called Barack Obama a socialist and insisted that he wants to “spread the wealth.” Every 4 or 5 days there’s a new talking point as his campaign desperately finds a message that will stick; so far, every message they’ve tried does nothing to increase his following but instead energizes his base into showing their true face — bigots, hypocrites, jingotastic freaks.
Here in California we’re watching fundamentalists from all over the country (the majority of them seem to be from the Church of Latter Day Saints) converge to demonize gay people. Jesus is weeping.
Their commercials have been disgusting, a festival of almost surreal stereotypes and claim that Our!Children! will be taught all about GAY SEX in school! Of course, everyone knows that if there’s anything likely to stop SEX it’s MARRIAGE.
Today they’ve sunk to yet another new low, and that’s saying something. Get this:

Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California are warning businesses that have given money to the state’s largest gay rights group they will be publicly identified as opponents of traditional unions unless they contribute to the gay marriage ban, too.

ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.

“Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error,” reads the letter. “Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. … The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.”

The letter was signed by four members of the group’s executive committee: campaign chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, the lawyer for ProtectMarriage.com. A donation form was attached. The letter did not say where the names would be published. [SF Gate]

Just so they know, my business — Cowan Creative — made a donation to fight this bigoted, anti-freedom, anti-American proposition. And I don’t mind at all if they want to “out” me. I hadn’t planned on mentioning that I’d donated, partly because it would kind of sully it and partly because I wish I could have given more; but hey. If these people think it’s something people should know then have at it.