Congress is Upset?

This morning, the Washington Post reported:

Some lawmakers, including top Democrats, express frustration that the U.N. Security Council gets the chance to vote on the deal this week, signaling the international community’s intention to dismantle the sanctions against Iran before Congress votes on it.NYTimes

I read this once, then I read it again. Then I forced myself to read it yet a third time. At some point, I thought the author was kidding. But no, if you read the New York Times article, you begin to understand something very important. That is that the United Nations Security Council, part of a a huge, multi-national organization is more responsive and flexible the the United States Congress.

The document in question is the Iran Nuclear Deal. About 180 pages in length. The United Nations Security Council members, apparently, has had sufficient time to read the deal and decided it knows enough to schedule a vote. The United States Congress, on the other hand, is getting ready to leave Washington for their summer recess, and therefore, will take the next sixty days to review the agreement, and then ponder whether it will vote. As a voting constituent, I ask two questions:

  • If this is such an important agreement, shouldn’t Congress delay their vacation to deal with the work in front of them?
  • If this is not so important, then why are they upset that the United Nations Security Council is voting before them?

Me thinks Congress doth protest too much. Either that, or they really are less interested in their doing their job, than they are keeping their job.

Rand Paul and the Patriot Act

Passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act was a rush to grant law enforcement sweeping powers that they had not had prior to its passage.  Most of the act is classified, and it it rumored that just talking about it is a felony.  Over the weekend, the Patriot Act was on the chopping block, with numerous politicians scrambling to save it, and the authorizations that it grants.  The most sweeping of those being the bulk collection of meta-data by the NSA. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stood alone against its renewal. In fact, Senator John McCain (R-Az.) said:

He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.” (as heard on CBS World News Roundup – 1Jn2015).

Despite Senator McCain’s opinion, many people would disagree, both in the United States and abroad.

That being said, it is clear that Rand Paul is not naive, admitting that the bill will eventually pass and the wiretapping will go on.

What surprises me is that Senator McCain even thinks something like a filibuster could or would have any effect on the bulk collection of data. As if the expiration of a law could stop it? And before you get on your soapbox and rant that “It is a law, it is no longer in force, therefore it is illegal,” allow me to point out a few facts.

The federal bureaucracy moves with glacial inertia. It is very hard to get things moving but once you do, it is almost impossible to make them stop. This is even more so in the intelligence community with is not subject to any sort of real oversight. The bulk collection of data is a huge industry. There are building springing up like mushrooms to support the effort. Contracts worth billions of dollars have been let by the government and the companies that hold those contracts will do everything in their power to keep those contracts active.

Short of an international delegation overseeing the complete shutdown of the collection process (much like under the SALT agreements for nuclear disarmament) the bulk collection of data is here to stay.  Legally, or not.

The Corner Pharmacy

Is the corner pharmacy a relic of the past? Oh, sure, if you want a quart of milk and some baby wipes at 3AM, it might be a convenient place to drop in. But if you are in need of medications, specifically, acute medications, they have to order them, and they will be available in two to four weeks. Maybe we should let Amazon know there is an untapped market here.

I am not talking about maintenance medicines. Those medicines you order 30 at a time to keep your blood pressure or your diabetes under control. Not the medicine that you know you need and that you can plan on when you pick them up. I am talking about those medicines that are meant to stave off something and you need them now. Pain medications, antibiotics. Those medications that, if ordered, are valueless by the time they arrive two to four weeks later. At best, the infection has been fought off. At worst, you will be dead (or in hospital).

Now, I am not saying that they need to stock all combinations of the medications that are on the market today. But one would think that basic pain medications, antibiotics, and other acute requirement medications would be on the shelf.  You would also expect that, if you were a regular customer, they would have your needs on file and since their automated systems can call you and tell you when your prescriptions are due for a refill, they could at least have those medicines on the shelf and ready for you to pick up. Even this seems to be too much of a challenge for most local pharmacies.

I do not understand why they are taking on supermarkets. Or rather, maybe I do understand better. Since they do not seem to stock medicines, as is their primary function, they have to make their money somehow.

November is almost over

Winner-2014-Square-ButtonI did not tout National Novel Writing Month this year because, frankly, I did not think I had the time to participate, and if I did, I was pretty sure I would not have the time to finish successfully. After several years of not making it, I just did not want to get my hopes up. And if I had reported out a week ago, I would be telling you that it was not looking good. I had lost almost a week of writing, which, when you have to crank out more than 1600 words a day to be successful, means a loss of almost 10,000 words. That is a huge margin to make up when you are shooting for 50,000. So I was not hopeful that my story would make the word count. But a couple of lucky breaks and a burst of imagination and I have not only passed the 50K word count to be successful, but I have still some story to write, and should be able to actually complete the story too.

So if you think you cannot write a novel, I am here to assure you that you can. And if you are still struggling to get to the end, keep pushing. It is not over, until it is over!

Enough With The False Anger Over Stores Opening On Thanksgiving

There is a current upset over stores opening on Thanksgiving here in the United States. Being born in Canada, I don’t care either way – Thanksgiving is not a sacred cow. But what I find amazing is the same people that are ranting about the stores being open on Thanksgiving seem to not care that these same stores maintain almost normal hours on Memorial Day, Labor Day, even Independence Day.  Nary a whimper about this.

In an article in the BBC, an article about “Life in a no-vacation nation,” it documents the, well shock, of an American now working in Australia where vacations are essentially mandatory. I have been making it my personal project to get the federal holidays repealed.  Why? Because no one, outside the federal government and a few select individuals get them. So why have a calendar full of them if you are going to have to work them anyway. I used to refer to the little four and the big five.  The big five were those sacred holidays – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  The little four were New Years, Columbus, President, and Veterans Day. In most real, non-retail companies, the little four were either forgotten entirely, or were shuffled around to make things easier, like the Friday after Thanksgiving, or the week between Christmas and New Year.

Lately though (since the turn of the 2000), even the big five seem to be pretty much ignored, especially if you work for a global company. The holidays are dates on the calendar and mean about as much as Saturday or Sunday do, or essentially, they are just days of the week that may or may not require you to be working. So why do we bother pretending that these days are “holidays.”

If we were serious, we would close everything on these days, much like what happens on Easter Sunday. Wait, what? Yes, until recently, Easter Sunday was the only day of the year when everything from retail to restaurants was closed. I mean signs on the door, we will not be open closed. And this was as recently as the middle of this century. Now things have changed and it is considerably less stringent than it used to be, but it does beg the question – if we can be closed for a non-holiday, why can we not close for such important days as the birth of the nation or Thanksgiving? Such false complaining really makes the rest of the world laugh at us more than they otherwise do. And by the way, why is the Friday also not a holiday?  Oh, that’s right, because we are all too busy shopping….

Reservations required

Walt Disney World is the childhood milestone of many as the first “happiest day of their life” — or at least half of your day at the park is. During the other half of a trip to Walt Disney World, you’re waiting in line. But a new ride is demoing a system that Walt Disney World wants to try out in the future to evade the obnoxiously long wait times — allowing guests to make a reservation in advance to assure they will land a ride. (Inquisitr)

Now, I will be the first to say that on crowded days, the wait for some rides, especially the Toy Story ride where they are going to try this, can be hideous.  I have waited in that line exactly once and the ride was fun, but as pointed out in the article, not fun enough to wait in an hour (or considerably longer).

That being said, I am not sure I like the idea of making a reservation. DisneyWorld is supposed to be a vacation, and yet as I spend more time there, I feel less like I am resting and more like I am back in the office, only with more deadlines, time constraints, and you have to be here now. Makes the whole idea of a vacation kind of moot.

I am looking at this also from the position of someone that is part of the Disney Vacation Club. I own at Disney, so I do not have all the same issues as those that are coming for what might be that one magical weekend of their life. I can go back anytime, and in fact that is why I bought into the DVC was precisely so I do not have to commando the park from open to close, including magic hours when I am there. If I want to spend an hour, I spend an hour, if I want to spend a day, I spend a day. I have that option.

I learned long ago that you need to make reservations for dinner, especially if you want to eat in the parks or at busy times of the year (like Christmas). But I really don’t want to make reservations for rides. I want to walk up, get on, have fun, get off. And that might explain why I am going on fewer rides. I just do not want to wait an hour for a three-minute ride. Which I guess is the point. If you are only going once, you will make the reservation. But it sure is not much of a vacation.



Apparently I am an Extremist


Linux Journal Reader – Extremest Stamp

Apparently, not only me, but my fellow Linux Journal Readers (and one assumes, article writers, editors, artists, code monkeys, and celery flingers) are viewed by the United States National Security Agency as extremists. The first of many articles (from the Linux Journal’s Kyle Rankin) says:

“While that is troubling in itself, even more troubling to readers on this site is that has been flagged as a selector! has published the relevant XKEYSCORE source code, and if you look closely at the rule definitions, you will see* listed alongside Tails and Tor.” You can read the full article at the Linux Journal site (if you dare).

What bothers me is a number of things. First, what business does the NSA have monitoring traffic to and from a US based web site for a formerly US published magazine (LJ is now a digital only magazine)? The NSA is not supposed to have the authority to monitor the site under US law. But of course, since when do these agencies pay any attention to US law?

Secondly, numerous visitors to this (and other FOSS sites) are administrators and security cleared employees and contractors of the United States Government, including the very NSA that has flagged us. This is Orwellian on a number of levels (and my head explodes just trying to follow the mobius strip of that logic).

Finally, this announcement come a month after the US Secret Service put a Request for Proposal on the street for software to help them detect sarcasm in social media.  Why buy software, there are hundreds of 14 year-olds out there that can help you detect sarcasm and it will cost a lot less that automated software. Perhaps the NSA has been sucked in by the heavy focus the denizens in the LJ chatroom (#linuxjournal on put on celery and lube and do not have enough 14 year-olds to help them differentiate between sarcasm and serious discourse.

Let’s face it. This is a crock. Not that the NSA is watching us, but that there is anything extreme about the readers, contributors, and staff of the Linux Journal.  Are we passionate? Sure. Are we a bit goofy? What gathering of nerds is not?  Are we extreme? Sure, if we are talking vi vs EMACs, or what SHA value should be used. But we are no more hard core extreme than any other member of the NRA, the local Harley-Davidson motorcycle club, or your local PTA.  In fact, I would argue there are social groups out there that make LJ readers look like a knitting circle.

Pass the celery.

When a coup is not a coup?

In Thailand this morning:

(CNN) — It was 3 a.m. in Thailand. Presumably barely anyone was watching. But the country’s military chief chose that hour to appear on army-run Channel 5 television Tuesday to declare martial law across the country.

If there was ever a case of Orwellian doublespeak and Microsoft level spin, this is it. There have been several non-coups coups in the last couple of years, but this one is the most bizarre of all of them. When you listen to the spin, you hear phrases like “The caretaker government…” and “safety and security…” which really makes the small hairs stand up on the back of my neck. But it is not a coup?

From Wikipedia:

A coup d’état also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden and illegal seizure of a government, usually instigated by a small group of the existing state establishment to depose the established government and replace it with a new ruling body, civil or military.

OK, so maybe it is not a coup in the purest sense of the term, but based on some of the groups that the military is securing (read rounding up) sure smells like it is acting as a small group preparing to dispose the existing government. The social structure of Asian countries baffles me, so maybe it is all for the good.  But I am pretty sure it is a coup.