Your Tax Dollars at Work

Submitted by Bill St. Clair on Thu, 05 Feb 2004 13:00:00 GMT
From "Sunbeams" in the February 2004 issue of The Sun:
"During my second year of nursing school, our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: 'What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?' Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. 'Absolutely,' the professor said. 'In you careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.' I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy." -- Joann C. Jones

Jim Borgman at The Cincinatti Enquirer - Surprise Package - cartoon commentary on Bushnev's disappearing WMDs. Hehe.

# Eric Frank Russell - And Then There Were None - glorious sci-fi short story from way back in 1951. If you haven't read this yet, ignore the rest of my posts today until you have. Or not. And MYOB. [misanthropes]

# Your tax dollars at work. I found in my referer logs yesterday 16 search engine hits from .gov and .mil domains for "janet's breast" or similar:

  1. - - [04/Feb/2004:02:02:20 -0500] ""
  2. - - [04/Feb/2004:04:23:21 -0500] "
  3. - - [04/Feb/2004:06:08:28 -0500] " +at+super+bowl
  4. - - [04/Feb/2004:09:10:29 -0500] "
  5. - - [04/Feb/2004:09:20:16 -0500] "
  6. - - [04/Feb/2004:12:28:13 -0500] "
  7. - - [04/Feb/2004:12:52:03 -0500] ""
  8. - - [04/Feb/2004:12:53:44 -0500] ""
  9. - - [04/Feb/2004:09:06:53 -0500] ""
  10. - - [04/Feb/2004:09:10:46 -0500] "
  11. - - [04/Feb/2004:09:17:59 -0500] ""
  12. - - [04/Feb/2004:09:29:59 -0500] ""
  13. - - [04/Feb/2004:10:20:27 -0500] "
  14. - - [04/Feb/2004:10:30:49 -0500] ""
  15. - - [04/Feb/2004:12:48:57 -0500] "
  16. - - [04/Feb/2004:13:16:52 -0500] "

# Bruce Schneier at The San Francisco Chronicle - How We Are Fighting the War on Terrorism: IDs and the illusion of security - Identification checks don't work, no matter how technologically advanced the ID. And checking IDs harms innocent people. So stop it already. [picks]

Profiling has two very dangerous failure modes. The first one is obvious. Profiling's intent is to divide people into two categories: people who may be evildoers and need to be screened more carefully, and people who are less likely to be evildoers and can be screened less carefully.

But any such system will create a third, and very dangerous, category: evildoers who don't fit the profile. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Washington-area sniper John Allen Muhammed and many of the Sept. 11 terrorists had no previous links to terrorism. The Unabomber taught mathematics at UC Berkeley. The Palestinians have demonstrated that they can recruit suicide bombers with no previous record of anti-Israeli activities. Even the Sept. 11 hijackers went out of their way to establish a normal-looking profile; frequent-flier numbers, a history of first-class travel and so on. Evildoers can also engage in identity theft, and steal the identity -- and profile -- of an honest person. Profiling can result in less security by giving certain people an easy way to skirt security.

There's another, even more dangerous, failure mode for these systems: honest people who fit the evildoer profile. Because evildoers are so rare, almost everyone who fits the profile will turn out to be a false alarm. This not only wastes investigative resources that might be better spent elsewhere, but it causes grave harm to those innocents who fit the profile. Whether it's something as simple as "driving while black" or "flying while Arab," or something more complicated such as taking scuba lessons or protesting the Bush administration, profiling harms society because it causes us all to live in fear...not from the evildoers, but from the police.

# Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - Congress Cannot Be Appointed - an elected Congress is bad enough. Allowing a Constitutional amendment that would appoint new idiots in case of an emergency would be even worse, if you can imagine that.

In the months following the September 11th terrorist attacks, questions arose about whether Congress could continue to function if many of its members were killed or injured in a future terrorist attack. These concerns resulted in the creation of a commission that advocated a first in American history, namely the appointment of individuals to the U.S. House. A constitutional amendment has been proposed that would provide the method for such appointments following a catastrophe that killed or disabled a majority of the people in Congress.

I strongly oppose this constitutional amendment, because I believe an appointed Congress would become an unaccountable, tyrannical Congress. Over the past year I met with top scholars, attorneys, and colleagues who reject the idea of an appointed House of Representatives. Fortunately, we had success in turning many members of Congress against the proposal through a series of public lectures, meetings, and published articles. Legislation I cosponsored, recently passed by the House Judiciary committee, will enable congressional districts around the nation to hold emergency elections without resorting to political appointments. The bill has the support of congressional leadership, and should reach the House floor in coming months.

# Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - Spending and Lying - the U.S. government is over $7 trillion in debt, and will accumulate over $2.4 trillion more debt by the end of the decade. And the used-to-claim-to-support-limited-government republicans are worse than the tax-and-spend democrats.

Faced with a severe budget crisis, the federal government should do what any family or business would do in similar circumstances: drastically reduce spending and sell off assets. It is preposterous that the federal budget has more than doubled just since 1990, and surely the republic would survive a return to 1995 or 2000 spending levels. Furthermore, the government owns trillions of dollars worth of land and other assets, assets that should be sold to pay off the mounting national debt. Why should additional debt and new taxes be forced upon the American people to pay for government sins, especially when the spendthrift politicians have substantial assets at their disposal?

Government is incapable of austerity measures for a very simple reason: the money it spends belongs to others. Unless and until federal politicians are voted out of office for their sins, we can only expect the spending, borrowing, taxing, and printing of fiat money to continue.

# Gnome - "Dwarf is a set of Java classes which form a modular framework for developing network server applications. The primary goal of Dwarf is to support development of network servers based on the Internet standards. However, its architecture is quite universal and it is not limited to this kind of applications only. The first available Dwarf-based application is the Dwarf HTTP Server - a full-featured web server with servlet and JSP support." Free download for evaluation purposes. €125 runtime license or €960 for unlimited use. Gnome is in Slovakia. [javalobby]

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