Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Shifting Away From Party Ties

A growing number of voters are going independent, especially in the Southwest, a trend that could lead to more competitive races. If the trend toward independent voters continues - and there is no sign of faltering - experts say it will lead to more competitive races not only on local and statewide levels but also in the presidential election.

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I wanted to call attention to 1) this NYT story about the 'surgency' of independents, 2) Polimom's blog entry about how how folks are getting tired of having to vote 'against' rather than 'for' candidates anymore, and 3) my comment on Polimom's blog, in which I coined what is sure to become a riotously popular new political force: Road-Kill Democrats (i.e., people who used to be in the middle of the road but have been run roughshod by the big, mean Republican 18-wheeler machine).

There. Now, start the meme. I want to sell a lot of T-shirts and bumper stickers.... ;)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Atlanta teen kills woman while text-messaging her suicide by car

A 16-year-old girl counted down her suicide attempt through text messages to a female classmate who had rebuffed her sexual advances before crashing her vehicle into an oncoming car, killing a mother of three and injuring the victim's 6-year-old daughter.

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Poor little rich girl doesn't get her way: "Waaah, poor me. My life is so full of angst! No one can know the endless sorrow I must endure every day as I go to a nice, sheltered private school and drive myself around in a stupid Mercedes instead of a (sob) Ferrari like the popular girls." So she takes the Mercedes out & texts her pals with suicide threats. She even 'attempts suicide' by driving headlong into oncoming traffic. Failing that, she does manage to kill some poor woman just driving along, minding her own business.

OK, teen-agers do stupid things. Some teen-agers have killed themselves and others by getting drunk and accidentally smacking some poor schmuck who is just driving along, minding his business. heck, adults even do that.

But it takes a truly special kind of self-centered, unthinking, uncaring and monstrous little brat to intentionally drive into another person, knowing full well and even hoping that someone would die in the crash. I don't even want to hear some lawyer claim, in coming weeks, that "Well, the truth is she didn't intend to hit the other car but simply lost control because she was busy fussing with the phone instead of driving. So really it's just sort of a misdemeanor oopsie."

No. I won't hear it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Apple to release two iPhone models, one with WiFi

Apple Computer plans to introduce two iPod-based cell phone models in the first quarter of 2007. One model will be a smart phone, including integrated keyboard, video and music capability, while the other model will be a slimmer phone with just music functionality.

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Why does it not surprise me that this news is coming out within a week after I just got a new cell phone?? GAAAAH! I may have to take it back and use the boring old phone 'til January....

Politicians caught on Internet candid cameras

Political campaigns for the Nov. 7 congressional elections have sent out mass e-mails with links to videos of opponents in unscripted, often embarrassing, situations. Some campaigns have even dispatched young staffers known as "trackers" armed with video cameras. Their sole job is to track a rival candidate's every move.

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And people wonder why it's so hard to find qualified candidates to run for elected office?

We are stuck with the bozos we have because no sane person would ever subject themselves & their families to this sort of intrusive nonsense. Political campaigns should be about actual issues, not whether somebody talks trash, picks his/her nose, trips occasionally when walking downstairs, or uses naughty words.

Next time you wonder why we are stuck with drawling, intolerant, illiterate, arrogant leaders instead of well-spoken, intelligent, logical, confident leaders, just turn to YouTube. If big corporate shareholders subjected their CEOs to as much scrutiny as we do the leaders who run our governmental bodies, nobody would ever do anything useful.

Similarly, the Houston Chronicle's Geek Speak blog notes that some wag has started a Web site to chase down any compromising video of Houston's police chief, who advocates using video surveillance because "if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?"

I don't object to video surveillance catching naughty people doing naughty things, but I don't believe the Houston Police department (or any other agency) has adequate privacy protections to prevent employees or contractors from using such videos to hold someone up for public ridicule. I do object stridently to publicly embarrassing people doing things people do: scratching their butts, checking out a hottie, tripping over something, stepping in a dog poop, etc. That seems to be what YouTube is all about. It's all funny until it's your butt.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Teaching kids to fight back against classroom invaders

"Youngsters in a suburban Fort Worth, Texas, school district are being taught not to sit there like good boys and girls with their hands folded if a gunman invades the classroom, but to rush him and hit him with everything they've got -- books, pencils, legs and arms."

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Once upon a time, potential victims learned that the best way to survive an incident of violence was to comply with the evil person's wishes. We were taught that a rapist would say, "If you scream, I'm going to kill you," and as long as we went along quietly, we would probably survive the ordeal. We were further taught that if a hijacker took over our plane, we should just stay in our seats, be calm and wait until the bad, bad people told us we could move. And again, we had a good shot at surviving.

The world has changed. Rape is still a crime of violence, but rapists just don't get enough jollies from just an ordinary emotionless rape anymore; now they need to maim, torture and/or kill, partly to assuage some violent need and partly to protect themselves (they think) from prosecution. I lost my innocense about the 'lie there and let it happen' school of victimhood when a rapist killed one of my college sorority sisters just off campus. I am no hero, but I will not be a passive victim, either.

And 9/11 taught us that hijackers often have their own violent death wishes, so although fighting back may still end up in a violent end, at least we have an opportunity to control it.

And so now we have school shootings. Violent loons wander into schools, tell a classroom full of kids that if they follow instructions nobody will get hurt, then kill 'em anyway. In one Texas school system, at least, the kids are not going to take the statement at face value. It's sad that kids have to lose their innocence in this way, that we live in a world where people commit this kind of violence. But we do, and burying our heads in the sand won't make these violent loons go away.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Foley Checks Into Clinic for Alcoholism

Former Rep. Mark Foley, under FBI investigation for e-mail exchanges with teenage congressional pages, has checked himself into rehabilitation facility for alcoholism treatment and accepts responsibility for his actions, his attorney acknowledged Monday.

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The whole story is a great puzzle. When it started to hit the fan on Friday, I thought it was no big deal, as his staff asserted. That initial e-mail just didn't look all that weird. But then he abruptly resigned, and I said to my mom Friday night, "I can't imagine a situation where you would resign if there were no smoking gun...."

Since then we have seen the smoking gun (his IMs to at least one kid are just sick) and also reports that the Republican leadership was aware that Foley might be a chicken-hawk, and now we see that the poor guy has checked himself into alcohol rehab.

This whole alcohol rehab thing makes me madder than a wet hen (to continue the poultry theme). Seems like if you are famous and you do something stupid, somehow you think you can check into rehab & *poof* all your problem disappear. Worse yet, seems like they often *do* disappear.

I am aware of a situation in which a person has been accused of having arranged to meet an underage girl (who turned out to be an undercover cop). Cops aver that the person was planning to have illicit sex with a minor; the person avers that he was going to try to talk the girl out of doing what was discussed in the IMs or e-mails or whatever it was. The facts are in there somewhere, but that's not my point. Regardless of guilt or innocense here, this person is IN PRISON. Locked up. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Ex-Rep. Foley, on the other hand, is in 'rehab,' and I'm guessing he did not select a nasty, gray lock-down rehab with stale meatloaf and a scary cellmate. OK, I haven't seen any active solicitation of a young person (I was too sickened by the first page of the IMs to keep reading), so maybe it's not an offense of the same level as in the other story noted above. However, as a Congressman, I'd suggest that Mr. Foley should be held to a much higher standard than some average Joe who never went out on the campaign trail & said out one side of his face that pedophiles are scary, dangerous people while out the other side he was typing to a 16-year-old boy about being 'horny.'

I am inclined to suggest that we pull his slimy, scary, skanky, weird self out of rehab and let him have access to the same rehab/counseling/medical treatments that everybody else in his situation has access to behind bars.

And shame on anybody who knew about this and did nothing -- double shame on them if they are now complaining that somebody would dare make this into 'a political issue.' You had all the time in the world to avoid having it become any issue other than one for the criminal court system, and you did nothing. Shame on YOU!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Say Aloha to Long Life

Residents of Hawaii have the longest life expectancy of any state, and D.C. denizens the shortest, according to a new Harvard study.

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OK, whoever submitted the original Digg for this one links to a BusinessWeek version instead of the actual Harvard study.

Anyway, these sorts of statistical examinations are interesting and generate good copy for local newspapers, but largely they don't account much for individuals: My grandparents are both 90+ and living in Michigan. I doubt very much that their longevity has anything to do with where they live; rather, it's those good, solid genes that I'm hoping I have in abundance.

The most important take-home from the study is right there on the front page, where it defines young as ages 15-44. Whew! I am young for another month and a half, and then I transition into middle age. Egads. I feel one foot slipping into the grave already.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dad kills man who molested his two year old daughter

A lawyer climbed through a neighbor's bedroom window and stabbed him to death after being told by a family member that the man had molested his 2-year-old daughter, authorities say.

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(I started to write more about this yesterday & had a problem crop up on the computer.) What strikes me in this story is the commentary, rather than the story itself. Feelings apparently run strongly that "this country is too soft on pedophiles" and vigilanteism is basically ok because the law just doesn't do the job.

What people forget is that in our free and democratic society, we do presume that people are innocent before convicting them based on the babble of a 2-year-old, translated by her mom to a dad who already thinks the neighbor is a pervert (see the story for details about previous complain of seeing too much of the neighbor's flesh). We also should presume innocence on the part of the dad. One could imagine any number of scenarios of how violence might have erupted between these two men, and who might have been worried about his own safety first. But there is no scenario that makes the dad a 'hero, ridding the world of a pervert." Every possible scenario makes him a hot-head, and most make him a likely killer.

I'm not a parent, but I can understand the parents who think they would like to take such a situation into their own hands.Unfortunately, I've also read too many books like "The Crucible," where people are convicted and killed or imprisoned by a mob mentality rather than evidence.

I know there are people out there who would like to see the death penalty for peoel who molest/torture/kill/maim children. And people who would like the see th death penalty for people who do that to women, men or anybody else. And as much as I do not wish to have my tax dollars fund their cable tv, air conditioning and good, nutritious food for a lifetime, I also don't want society to have the power to kill.

I have looked into the remorseless eyes of a serial killer, smelled his sweaty body as he stodd staring at me in a courtroom where I was covering his guilty plea. Because homicide detectives think it's very funny to haze young female reporters, I have seen murder scene photos that still give me nightmares. And yet, I still don't want society to have the power to kill. First, because it's all too easy to make mistakes in the name of 'closing a case" (think Jon Benet ramsey in the last few weeks). Second, and I've said this before somewhere, it's wrong to kill a helpless person, even if the only reason they're strapped to that gurney is that he's been found guilty by a jury of his peers.

In this case, the capital punishment was meted even before a jury had a chance to decide that circumstantial evidence pointed to guilt. It's a sad day for all involved. I have to say that I hope the killer -- whoever it may be -- spends a long time either in jail or in a suitable mental hospital.

Clutter kills. Clean your room.

Houston woman dies in a fire because there is so much clutter she can't get out & firefighters can't get in.

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I thought it was only fair to mention this story since earlier this week I had one that said messiness is not unlawful. So ok, it's legal, but mom was right: All that stuff *is* a fire hazard. Maybe I should go clean my garage.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Phone Thief? Not really

"My cell phone was stolen last Friday. I had it disconnected and arranged to get a replacement. It had been set up with the excellent service from ShoZu to automatically upload all pictures taken with the phone to Flickr. So today, completely surprisingly, I find pictures on my Flickr account of the family of the person who took the phone."

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This is a great story, and a fun one. Steal a phone; but get caught & abused in public because you use it. Fun enough that several other Diggers blogged it. Unfortunately, it's not true. Repeat after me: HOAX! Several commenters note that the photos are 'stock photos' from elsewhere on the Internet, uploaded to someone's Flickr account as a viral marketing ploy for this ShoZu service. Clever, but... BUSTED!

Question everything!!! You'll notice my comment in the Digg list, as questioning whether the photos are the thief, or just some poor schmuck that happened to buy a cheap phone. So I did question the story.... I just didn't question *deep* enough! Bad me!