Observations on the News: Smoking in Prisons

According to CNN:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who set up a tent outside his smoke-free state office to accommodate his taste for a good cigar, signed a bill Monday barring tobacco from state prisons. The measure amends the state’s penal code to bar tobacco products from prisons and youth correctional facilities. Violators are subject to a fine.

Got that. A fine.

I guess we couldn’t put them in jail for it. Of course, where are they going to get the money to pay a fine. If they don’t pay, what happens? Jail, I guess. Guess it isn’t a maximum security penalty either.

Hmmm, I’m a felon on death row. Smoke a cig. Go to minimum security because I couldn’t pay the fine.

Seems like our priorities are misplaced here.


Observations on the News: September 22, 2004

Another of my periodic “Observations on the News”:

Albertsons Moves Upscale With Bristol Farms Purchase. The Los Angeles Times (registration required). Sigh. And another one bites the dust. At least we still have Gelsons. We’ve given up on the major markets in Los Angeles: We actually find Ralphs and Vons to be higher priced than Gelsons, and Lucky’s (oops) Albertsons, well, we’ve never liked them. More business for Trader Joes.

Twinkies’ maker files bankruptcy. CNN/Money is reporting that Interstate Bakeries, the makers of  Twinkies, Wonder Bread, and numerous Hostess, Dolly Madison, and bread brands is filing Chapter 11. Guess Atkins did them in. I remember touring a Wonder Bread plant when I was a little boy.

Clandestine Filming Ban Broadened. The Los Angeles Times (registration required) is reporting that the Governator has signed legislation making it a misdemeanor to secretly videotape people in their bedrooms, whether or not they are clothed. Violators face punishment of up to a year in county jail, a $1,000 fine or both.  Now, I agree with the surface intent of this bill, which would relate to the same problems as hidden cameras in bathrooms. But now, think about the effect on “Nanny Cams” that montor child-care workings in a child’s bedroom (not to mention Private Investigators getting the goods on cheating spouses). For all the places the government is placing cameras, individuals can’t monitor their own homes. Yet again, if you think about it, this is an attack on civil liberties, cleverly disguised. Aren’t you glad now you didn’t fly in June

… and I’m not even going to express my disgust at how well our government is protecting our civilians who are working to reconstruct Iraq.  After all, according to our President, our policy in Iraq is a “catastrophic success”. Better to spend our energies considering Cat Stevens to be a threat. Just an odd question to the President: What would prevent the kidnap squads in Iraq from doing the same in America? Not one bomb is required, and knives and swords are easily available.



Observations on the News: September 17, 2004

Another installment of my periodic Observations on the News:

You Can’t Make This Up: Mary-Kate Hawking Happy Meals. CNN is reporting that our favorite barely-legals have been hired to promote “Freedom Fries” in France, shilling for Mickey D’s. This comes on the heels of Mary-Kate’s release from a hospital for treatment of an eating disorder. No, folks, I don’t make this up.

What Did Does Bush Know? Not much, it seems. CNN is reporting that a U.S. intelligence forecast painted a pessimistic picture for the future of Iraq, predicting the best case for Iraq was “tenuous stability” and the worst case was civil war. Of course, the Bush administration is insisting that it knew that ahead of time, and it wasn’t a surprise. Funny, I seem to recall them saying that the toppling of the Iraqi government would make things better for the people of Iraq and the people of the US, and bring stability to the region. But, I guess if the instability wasn’t a surprise, they mean it is in the best interest of the US to have civil war in Iraq. But, then again, we went into Iraq because Hussein had WMD. But wait, according to Reuters, a draft report by the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq concludes no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were found, but there was evidence Saddam Hussein intended to resurrect weapons programs. Why that is more of a risk than North Korea, which we know has such programs, is beyond me. [As an aside, why is it Iraqi, Israeli, but Iranian, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, and sometimes -ish (British)]

Like your Hotel Room? Buy One. The Los Angeles Times (registration required) is reporting that one can now by pre-fab hotel decor, for those travelers for whom home is defined by a rock-hard bed, an alarm clock, a writing desk, and a love-seat, with generic artwork on the wall. Seriously, evidently, hotels have started selling their furniture. Guess anything can be a profit center. Although they aren’t selling them, the Sondheim song “Everyone Needs A Maid” comes to mind.

You Will Be Assimilated. We’re all aware of Microsoft of Borg, and those in the gaming community know Hasborg. We now have Symantec of Borg in the Computer Security community, as the Los Angeles Times (registration required) Symantec will be acquiring @Stake Digitial Security (those who attended ACSAC know @Stake well from its former employee, Dan Geer). This is part of Symantec’s quest to acquire all Computer Security products.

You may now return to work.


Vertical Evacuation? If I Was In One, I’d Evacuate

According to CNN, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, has said:

“The city basically sits like a bowl and most of the city is under sea level … so if we get a storm like Ivan to hit us directly” there could be 12 to 18 feet of water in the city. If people can’t get out of New Orleans, the mayor said, they should do a “vertical evacuation.”

By this, he means that residents that can’t get out of the city should “Basically, go to hotels and high-rise buildings in the city”

Now, I’ve been to New Orleans. I’ve been in the Sheraton New Orleans. Yeah, I’d really want to ride out a Cat 4 Hurricane on the 44th floor of a high-rise, likely with no power and no way to get out when the French Quarter floods.

That would certainly cause me to evacuate. As ellipticcurve said when I told her about this, “hurq”.


Observations On The News – September 9, 2004

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so it’s time for some commentary on the news.

TSA needs a plan, 9/11 commission says. According to CNN, the 9/11 commission is indicating that TSA needs to spend more time focusing on other forms of transportion than aviation. The TSA has indicated it is working on a plan, and appears to be focusing on mass transportation, depots, ports, and terminals. That’s all well and good, but it misses some of our major vulnerabilities. And what’s worse, due to the size of this country, it is impossible to protect those vulnerabilities. I don’t really want to go into detail about what I’m thinking about it, but think about what the effect was on commerce when a truck took out a bridge on I-40 in Oklahoma. Now think about similar structures that would be difficult to rebuild… and how many of them there are. This again emphasizes the importance of border security, for if the folks can’t get in here…

Nokia Launches Three New Camera Phones. I really wish some cell phone manufactures would stop putting the cameras and other such features in their phones. More and more places are limiting the ability to bring in camera-phones (and it is not just government installations, but theatres, concerts, etc.). We’re making it easier for folks to be able to spy, make black-market copies, or do other illicit activities (camera phones in bathrooms-ick!). Why can’t we focus on improving reception, making the phone books easier to use, etc. The cameras are useless toys.

Dog Wiggles Paw Free to Shoot Florida Man. This goes into the “What Goes Around Comes Around” category. It appears a man was trying to shoot some puppies (awww, puppies) that he didn’t want. He’s holding the dogs in his hand, when one moves his paw over, moves the trigger, and shoots the guy. He drops the gun and the puppies, and a majority of the puppies survived.

From the “where’s the mohel when you need him” department (or this guy watched too much of the first season of Nip/Tuck): Dad Allegedly Attempts Son’s Circumcision. A man, after reading the bible, decided that God commanded him to circumcize his 8 year-old son, so he went and got a knife, and tried. After he couldn’t stop the bleeding, he called 911. He has been charged with first-degree assault of a child; the boy required stitches (ouch!). What’s worse is this fellow has 9 children, has been arrested in the past for domestic violence and not enrolling his children in school. Sigh. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to breed.

Schools, offices button down dress codes. Evidently, schools are beginning to crack down on dress. Doesn’t bother my; my daughter is in a uniform school and I’m glad. Makes the mornings easier, and makes the competition for her less. The For Better or For Worse Comic Strip has also been addressing this subject: look at the daily strips starting August 30 and continuing through September 7 (except the Sunday strip). What’s funny, though, is some of the lines in the CNN article: A memo from G.S. Schwartz & Co., a New York investor and public relations firm, included the admonishion: “”Shaving regularly also is a good idea for either sex.” That sounds like a Markov Chaney line to me. The report does note that modest attire is coming back into style: just showing how the style pendulm swings, and like the legendary Pit and the Pendulum, cuts those that don’t pay attention.


What TV Programs Do You Watch?

According to this article at CNN Money, political parties are targeting advertising based on what shows they believe their audience is watching. Supposedly, undecided voters like Everyone Loves Raymond. Will & Grace, My Wife and Kids, CSI: Miami, and JAG. They also like Fear Factor, Who Wants to Marry My Dad?, and For Love & Money. Republicans, on the other hand, like Raymond, 8 Simple Rules, 2 1/2 Men, JAG, and Amazing Race. Democrats like W&G, Judging Amy, and Extreme Makeover.

Can you spell “Targeted Buys”? I knew you could.

So what does it mean that I don’t like any of these shows. I’m much happier watching Trading Spaces, What Not To Wear, and While You Were Out.

What are you watching?


Observations: Bullet-Proofing Overkill

We’ve heard of bullet-proof glass. We’ve (hopefully) bullet-proofed our systems. But I think the following takes the cake.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (mumblefrotz subscription required), the Ford Motor Company has announced the Lincoln Town Car BPS (Ballistic Protection Series). The $145,000 vehicle can reportedly withstand, get this, .308-caliber rounds, 5.56-millimeter-by-45-millimeter “armor-piercing” rounds, and small antipersonnel mines and grenades.

Specs? The windows are 40-millimeter-thick ballistic transparent armor, comprising layers of glass and polycarbonate… and only open 6 inches. Ballistic steel (Brinell hardness rating over 600) wraps the roof, engine compartment, door seals and firewall. The doors have ballistic ceramics, backed with steel and aramid blankets, and weigh around 300 lbs each. The fuel tank is surrounded with a self-sealing compound to reduce leakage. It weighs in at just over 3 tons. However, it only has a stock 4.6-liter, 239-horsepower V8 producing 287 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm. You think Ford could have used the Jaguar V-12. Cheapskates! The website doesn’t state its MPG numbers.

And to top it all off, I can buy it at my local Ford dealer: Galpin!

And its not the only such car. In November 2003, Cadillac announced that it was partnering with Scaletta Moloney Armoring to build a ballistic series Cadillac DeVille. Scaletta already builds a number of Sedan DeVille motorcade vehicles for the GSA, including the presidential limousine. Mercedes-Benz makes the S500 Guard, meeting the European B4 ballistic standard. Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW sell cars capable of taking a hit from a 7.62 armor-piercing round (B6/B7-level protection). However, neither company imports the B6/B7-grade cars into the United States.

I think I’ll just stick with my Honda Civic. Then again, an armored car might be just the thing for Los Angeles Traffic and the 405.