June 18, 2013

Report On Federal Anti-Medical Marijuana Efforts

Americans For Safe Access runs the numbers and includes patient's stories in this 56-page PDF (6.7 MB). Highlights of the highlights: 34% of the American population lives in a state with legal medical marijuana. There are a million medical marijuana users patients in the U.S. Over the last 17 years there have been 528 federal raids on medical marijuana; 270 (a little more than half) have taken place under the Obama administration. The Bush administration spent $200 million "on enforcement efforts in medical marijuana states." Notice that this careful phrasing does not say that the $200 million was all used against medical marijuana. The Obama administration has spent $300 million "on enforcement efforts in medical marijuana states." That's 4% of DEA's budget.

permalink | June 18, 2013 at 01:17 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2013

Google's Response To The NSA Story

Last Friday CEO Larry Page and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond published a blog post saying this:

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a "back door" to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don't follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users' data are false, period. Until this week's reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users' call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users' Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

Yesterday they published another post that is a copy of a letter to Attorney General Holder asking him and FBI Director Mueller to "help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures."

On this page Google publishes aggregate data on the number of requests they receive from governments and courts for user data. Here is the data for only American requests. In 2012 they began to break them out by source of request: search warrant, subpoena and "other." Subpoenas make up the great majority of requests. "Other" is the smallest. These data reports cannot show even aggregate numbers of requests that Google is not allowed to make public at all, so there's some invisible dark matter there that we have no way of measuring.

permalink | June 12, 2013 at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 9, 2013

Good Question

Farhad Manjoo asks, in this Slate article, how can we trust the NSA to respect our privacy when it made its most sensitive documents available to Edward Snowden?

According to the Guardian, Snowden is a 29-year-old high-school dropout who trained for the Army Special Forces before an injury forced him to leave the military. His IT credentials are apparently limited to a few "computer" classes he took at a community college in order to get his high-school equivalency degree—courses that he did not complete. His first job at the NSA was as a security guard. Then, amazingly, he moved up the ranks of the United States' national security infrastructure: The CIA gave him a job in IT security. He was given diplomatic cover in Geneva. He was hired by Booz Allen Hamilton, the government contractor, which paid him $200,000 a year to work on the NSA's computer systems.

permalink | June 9, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2013

Who Will Be John Galt?

Chances are, you are not one of the seven people who watched both Atlas Shrugged: Part II, but if you were you noticed that there was a complete change of cast. Dagny Taggart went from lightweight Taylor Schilling to Samantha Mathis who at least looks like she's done some work in her life. John Galt, who won't take front stage until "Part III," was played by Paul Johansson in "Part I" and by D.B. Sweeney in "Part II."

And now the people making "Part III" are asking the public for their input on who should play John Galt this time. You will recall that this is the part of the novel where John Galt gets his sex scenes AND delivers the undramatically gargantuan "Galt's Speech." They pose the question this way:

A. As long as the actor looks and acts like John Galt, I don't care what his personal beliefs are.
B. The actor needs to possess a deep understanding of, and passion for, Ayn Rand's ideas first and foremost.

Obviously, choice B will lead to a laughable failure of a movie, but commenters on the page are ignoring the question and simply suggesting actors. Lets see who they want:

  • Ben Affleck
  • Richard Armitage
  • Kevin Bacon
  • Scott Baio
  • Simon Baker
  • Adam Baldwin
  • Stephen Baldwin
  • Christian Bale
  • Eric Bana
  • Antonio Banderas
  • Glenn Beck (two votes)
  • Graham Beckel (age 63 - played Ellis Wyatt in "Part I")
  • Tom Berenger (age 63)
  • Paul Bettany
  • Justin Beiber (age 19)
  • Neil Boortz (age 68)
  • Bruce Boxleitner (age 63)
  • Pierce Brosnan (age 60)
  • Billy Burke
  • Steve Buscemi
  • George W. Bush (age 66)
  • Gerard Butler
  • James Caan (age 73)
  • Nicolas Cage
  • Dean Cain
  • James Callis
  • Kirk Cameron
  • Dr. Ben Carson (age 61)
  • Jim Caviezel
  • George Clooney
  • Sean Connery (age 82)
  • John Corbett
  • Kevin Costner
  • Simon Cowell
  • Daniel Craig
  • Russell Crowe
  • Tom Cruise
  • Brett Cullen
  • Benedict Cumberbatch
  • John Cusack
  • Matt Damon
  • Eric Dane
  • Charlie Daniels (age 76)
  • Leo DeCaprio
  • Johnny Depp
  • William De Vane (age 75)
  • Jeffrey Donovan
  • Robert Downey Jr.
  • Sean Doyle
  • Jerry Doyle
  • Robert Duvall (age 82)
  • Clint Eastwood (age 82)
  • Aaron Eckhart
  • Sam Elliott (age 68)
  • Giancarlo Esposito
  • Chris Evans
  • Ralph Fiennes
  • Nathan Fillion
  • Joe Flanigan
  • Harrison Ford (age 70)
  • Tim Getman
  • Mel Gibson ("although he sometimes leans left" the commenter warns)
  • Scott Glenn (age 72)
  • Ryan Gosling
  • Kelsey Grammer
  • Joel Gretsch
  • Jake Gyllenhaal
  • Michael C. Hall
  • Jon Hamm
  • Mark Harmon (age 61)
  • Ed Harris (age 62)
  • Neil Patrick Harris
  • Terence Hill (age 74)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • Josh Holloway
  • Salman Khan
  • Matt Kibbe
  • Michael Kitchen (age 64)
  • Hugh Jackman
  • Jonathan Jackson
  • Paul Johansson
  • Dwayne Johnson
  • Tommy Lee Jones (age 66)
  • Phil LaMarr
  • Rob Lowe
  • Joseph-Gordon Levitt
  • William Levy
  • Damian Lewis
  • Daniel Day Lewis
  • Rush Limbaugh (age 62)
  • David Lyons
  • Seth MacFarlane
  • Tobey Maguire
  • Carl Marino
  • James McAvoy
  • Matthew McConaughey
  • Bruce McGill (age 62)
  • Dennis Miller
  • Jeffrey Dean Morgan
  • Viggo Mortensen
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Chuck Norris (age 73)
  • Edward Norton
  • Ted Nugent (age 64)
  • Timothy Olyphant
  • Jason O'Mara
  • Bill O'Reilly (age 63)
  • John O'Hurley
  • Clive Owen
  • Patrick Page
  • Alan Partridge (do they mean Steve Coogan?)
  • Rand Paul (no, really, three people wrote that)
  • Neal Peart (age 60)
  • Chris Pine
  • Brad Pitt
  • Zachary Quinto
  • Robert Redford (age 76)
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Jeremy Renner
  • Mickey Rourke
  • Mark Ruffalo
  • Liev Schreiber
  • Ricky Schroder
  • Dougray Scott
  • Tom Selleck (age 68)
  • Michael Shanks
  • Charlie Sheen
  • Gary Sinise
  • Kevin Sorbo
  • Kevin Spacey
  • Eric Stoltz
  • D. B. Sweeney
  • Channing Tatum
  • Fred Thompson (age 70)
  • Alan Tudyk
  • Donald Trump (age 66)
  • Karl Urban
  • Vince Vaughn
  • Jon Voigt (age 74)
  • Christoph Waltz
  • Denzel Washington
  • Bruce Willis
  • James Woods (age 66)
  • Anyone who has not publicly supported Obama

Plus this comment: "It's a movie. These are actors. 99% of actors are socialists. You could cast an Objectivist, but he probably would have zero acting ability."

Obviously some of those are jokes (Donald Trump?!), but most seemed to be sincere. John Galt is supposed to be in his 30s, so I've indicated the ages of those who are 60 or older, plus the one teenager. I don't know if these commenters have a blind faith in the ability of an unlimited makeup budget, or if they've never noticed that actors age at the same rate all of us do. Also, the film is supposed to be fairly low budget. Some of these top rank actors would wipe out the whole budget.

permalink | May 29, 2013 at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)

California Senate Approves Rational Bill To Regulate Privacy From Unmanned Drones

Nothing radical, crazy or wildly mistaken in SB 15 that I can see. It was passed by the Senate yesterday, 38 to 1. (The No vote came from Senator Anderson.) Basically, all they've done is amend the existing privacy laws to also make it clear that they extend to unmanned drones. It is, for instance, against the law to peep in your neighbor's bathroom window. It will also be against the law to fly an unmanned drone with a camera up to your neighbor's bathroom window. As for law enforcement, if they would have had to get a search warrant to look where they want to look, they still have to get a search warrant if they want to look there with an unmanned drone.

14352. (a) A law enforcement agency shall obtain a search warrant when using an unmanned aircraft system under circumstances where a search warrant is required.

(b) A search warrant is not required for the use of an unmanned aircraft system under circumstances where there is an exception to the search warrant requirement, or under exigent circumstances.

The search warrant will have to specify if an unmanned drone is to be used.

The only completely new thing in the bill is that it forbids installing weapons on unmanned drones. No exceptions. The fine for that is $1,000 (or three months in jail).

Here's the core rule about privacy:

1708.8. (a) A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the defendant knowingly enters onto the land of another person without permission or otherwise committed a trespass in order to physically invade the privacy of the plaintiff with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a personal or familial activity and the physical invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.

But there is an exception in (g):

1708.8. (g) This section shall not be construed to impair or limit any otherwise lawful activities of law enforcement personnel or employees of governmental agencies or other entities, either public or private who, in the course and scope of their employment, and supported by an articulable suspicion, attempt to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of a person during an investigation, surveillance, or monitoring of any conduct to obtain evidence of suspected illegal activity or other misconduct, the suspected violation of any administrative rule or regulation, a suspected fraudulent conduct, or any activity involving a violation of law or business practices or conduct of public officials adversely affecting the public welfare, health, or safety.

I don't think this is new. But it means that if you think you can use an unmanned drone to capture a video of some government official lounging around his backyard pool on a weekday when he's supposed to be working at his desk, then go right ahead. No law against that! I only ask you to consider if you really want that guy working at his desk, or is he doing less harm at the pool.

permalink | May 29, 2013 at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2013

"Misusing the right of free expression"

In Bahrain "misusing the right of free expression" includes insulting King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (1 year imprisonment), "insulting members of the majority Sunni community," and "insulting the security forces." One wonders what the "right of free expression" is for in Bahrain.

"Bahrain is home base to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and is also a major offshore financial and services centre for its Arab neighbours in the oil-rich Gulf."

Wikipedia article about Bahrain. An interesting history of being tossed back and forth between regional and global powers, during which there was never any real "right of free expression." The article says human rights improved from 1999 to 2007, and then things went back to normal.

permalink | May 15, 2013 at 09:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2013

The Bill Of Rights As Deconstructed By Fox News

Turns out there's only one amendment in the Bill Of Rights that actually has to be respected. But you knew that already, didn't you?

permalink | April 27, 2013 at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2013

John Waters

John Waters talks about filth, obscenity, Fred Phelps and crackpot evangelists.
Pasolini's grave
Pasoloni's grave. John Waters says he wants his gravestone to look like Pasolini's. Is this really what he has in mind?

Mr. Waters recommends Salò and Irreversible. I don't know about Irreversible, but you should not go out and rent Salò without doing a little training first. Were you able to watch Pink Flamingos without turning away from the screen - ever? Did you find Caligula entertaining? Do you consider Sebastiane a must-see? If you answered yes to all three, then go ahead, you may be ready to watch Salò.

permalink | April 22, 2013 at 08:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2013

Goldwater Quotes

Recently, I've seen some quotes from Barry Goldwater tossed out on Facebook. I'm always a bit suspicious of quotes from the deceased that seem to almost magically match today's hot political issues, especially when there are small variations in the quotes. Here's one example:
Goldwater quote photo Goldwater_zpsfca0c91b.jpg

With very little effort I found out this comes from Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean, published in 2006. Dean based it on notes from a phone conversation in November 1994. Here's the quote from the book, plus a little context:

When I called Senator Goldwater I had only recently learned more about Chuck Colson's involvement with Silent Coup. I asked the senator for his thoughts on Christian conservatives like Colson, and their increasing presence in Republican politics, and he minced no words. "Goddamn it, John," he began, with a combination of anger, frustration, and sorrow, "the Republicans are selling their soul to win elections." He saw trouble coming. "Mark my word," he said, "if and when these preachers get control of the party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. The government won't work without it. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

Sometimes in the hubbub of Facebook you'll see that expanded with another couple of paragraphs of Goldwater observations on religion in politics. Those extra paragraphs, I found, come from a speech he delivered in the U.S. Senate on September 15, 1981. Most sources say it was the 16th of September, but I found it in the Congressional Record on the 15th, pages 20589-20590 (or page 660 in the PDF). Here's the entire speech:

• Mr. GOLDWATER. Mr. President, it is a wonderful feeling to be a conservative these days. When I ran for President 17 years ago I was told I was behind the times. Now everybody tells me I was ahead of my time. All I can say is that time certainly is an elusive companion. But those reactions illustrate how far the ideological pendulum has swung in recent years. The American people have expressed their desire for a new course in our public policy in this country — a conservative course.

President Reagan's triumphs at the polls and in Congress during the past year are, of course, great tributes to his skill as a politician. But they also resulted, I believe, from the long-developing shift of public opinion to traditional Amarican values.

As far as I am concerned, that shift had to come. Government had been intruding more and more into every aspect of our lives. The people just would not stand for it anymore.

I have seen it coming for a long time. Throughout my political career, since the day I took my seat in the U.S. Senate, I have preached one basic theme: The bigger Government gets, the more it threatens our freedom.

I am certain those who contributed to the growth of Goverrunent had all the best intentions. As they started one Federal program after another through the years, their motives always sounded good and the intent of the programs always seemed admirable.

Almost 150 years ago a young Frenchman came to this country and marveled at the success of the American experiment in democracy. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote after visiting this country that:

The advantage of democracy does not consist ... In favoring the prosperity of all, but simply in contributing to the well-being of the greatest number.

And the foundation for our form of government is not in the principle of prosperity for all but in freedom for all. That is what has attracted all those who have migrated to this country. That is what has made America the symbol of hope and prosperity for all the world. Freedom: That is what true conservatism is all about.

Being a conservative in America traditionally has meant that one holds a deep, abiding respect for the Constitution. We conservatives believe sincerely in the integrity of the Constitution. We treasure the freedom that document protects.

We believe, as the Founding Fathers did, that we "are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

And for 205 years this Nation, based on those principles, has endured. Through foreign wars and civil wars, through political scandals and economic disasters, through civil disorders and Presidential assassinations, our flag has flown high. Through it all we have survived every possible attack on our freedom.

But where the guns of war and the breadlines of the depression failed, another force could succeed in dividing our country. The specter of single issue religious groups is growing over our land. In all honesty, I must admit that the birth of the so-called "new right" is a direct reaction to years of increasing social activism bv the liberal side of the religious house. Within that development lies a very serious threat to our liberty.

One of the great strengths of our political system always has been our tendency to keep religious issues in the background. By maintaining the separation of church and state the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars. Throughout our 200-plus years, public policy debate has focused on political and economic issues, on which there can be compromise.

James Madison, once wrote that "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

Well, Madison certainly recognized that humans are not angels. He realized that they tend to group together in narrow interest groups, which he called factions. And he wrote extensively in the federalist papers about how the Constitution should protect us from the abuses of various factions.

Madison saw this as the great paradox of our system: How do you control the factions without violating the people's basic freedoms?

Madison wrote:

In framing a government which Is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

And in a well-constructed representative government like ours, Madison said, one of our greatest strengths is our ability to "break and control the violence of faction."

What he said is that the aim of the framers of the Constitution was to allow freedom of religion and freedom of speech for everyone, not just those who follow one religious faction.

Madison said:

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion has occasionally divided mankind . . and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppose each other than to cooperate for the common good.

Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage of Iran, the bloodshed in Northern Ireland, or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?

Our political process involves a constant give and take, a continuous series of trade-offs. From this system of compromise, we get legislation that reflects input from many sectors of our society and addresses many needs and interests. Obviously, not everyone can be pleased, but at least all sides are considered.

However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ. Or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls his supreme being.

But, like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly.

The religious factors that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their positions 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on any particular moral issue, they cajole, they complain, they threaten you with loss of money or votes or both.

In the past couple years. I have seen many news items that referred to the moral majority, pro-life and other religious groups as "the new right," and the "new conservatism." Well. I have spent quite a number of years carrying the flag of the "old conservatism." And I can say with conviction that the religious issues of these groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics.

The uncompromising position of these groups is a divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system, if they gain sufficient strength.

As it is, they are diverting us away from the vital issues that our Government needs to address. We are facing serious economic and military dangers in this country today, and we need to make a concerted effort to correct our problems in these areas.

But far too much of the time of Members of Congress and officials in the executive branch is used up dealing with special interest groups on issues like abortion, school busing, ERA, prayer in the schools, and pornography. While these are important moral issues, they are secondary right now to our national security and economic survival.

I must make it clear that I do not condemn these groups for what they believe. I happen to share many of the values emphasized by these organizations.

I, too, believe that we Americans should return to our traditional values concerning morality, family closeness, self-reliance, and a dav's work for a day's pay. These are the values our forebears clung to as they built this Nation into the citadel of freedom it is today.

And I, too, have been pleased with the swing of the pendulum for in recent years to the conservative, moral end of the spectrum.

But I object to certain groups jumping on that pendulum and then claiming that they caused it to swing in the first place.

And, while I'm dishing out Goldwater quotes for free, here's an interesting one from September 17, 1981, (page 21025 in that same Congressional Record) where he gives us some opinons on prohibition:

Mr. GOLDWATER. Mr. President. will the Senator yield?

Mr. HOLLINGS. I will be happy to yield to the distinguished Senator from Arizona.

Mr. GOLDWATER. I want to speak for just a moment in support of the arguments my friend has been making.

I have listened to the arguments made by the distinguished Senator from Oregon, and I find myself in complete sympathy with him.

I have never smoked in my life. I nearly lost my wife from smoking. I have lost many friends from smoking, but I never considered myself a Carrie Nation as against the tobacco industry.

People have been smoking as long as men have been around, and women, too. and I agree with my friend from South Carolina that no matter what we do people will continue to smoke. They will grow the little patch out in the backyard and roll it up and smoke it.

I lived through prohibition, which was a wonderful idea, but that generation turned out more drunks than any generation in the history of the United States. Unfortunately, that was my generation.

I would hate to see the same efforts being made against the liquid we drink that cheers us up and saddens us and makes the world a worthy place to live in.

I am afraid it might succeed, and once again we will have to go back to the old days of the 1920's and 1930's.

So while I have, frankly, no use for tobacco. I think it is dangerous, I think the people of the United States know it is dangerous, and so is liquor, so is marihuana, but you are not going to stop people from doing what they want to do merely by passing laws.

So I am going to stick with my tobacco-growing friends even though I have a personal dislike for the practice. I have a regard for the great Industry this has established in the South, an industry that I do not think has ever done a really good job in promoting or telling the American people how much It amounts to. So you can count on me.

permalink | April 10, 2013 at 06:43 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2013

Senator Leno Proposes To Give Prosecutors A Choice

California Senator Leno has submitted a bill that would allow possession of controlled substances (cocaine, heroin, etc. - not marijuana) as either a felony or misdemeanor. Here's the text of the bill. The Times reports this as Leno's reasoning:

"If we want safer communities, our collective goal for low-level drug offenders should be helping to ensure that they get the rehabilitation they need to successfully reenter their communities," Leno said. "Instead, we sentence them to long terms, offer them no treatment while incarcerated and release them back into our communities with few job prospects."

A look at the bill will show you no plans to increase the available rehabilitation services for drug users, nor are there any provisions to create more job prospects for prisoners upon release.

The bill also includes no guidelines for which possession cases are to be prosecuted as misdemeanors and which as felonies. It seems to me this has the potential of leading to inconsistent prosecution from one jurisdiction to another. Nonetheless, the bill seems to have the support of the ACLU and NAACP. The ACLU says the bill could save counties money, by reducing the cost of prosecution. And when did the ACLU become the budget watchdog?

permalink | February 28, 2013 at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2013

FBI Stingray

Well, of course, the FBI has technology that scoops up cellphone data so that they can track persons of interest, but also grabs the data of innocent people. Here are two workarounds if you want to maintain your privacy:

  • Don't carry a cellphone, or
  • Take the battery out of your cellphone - there's no particular reason that you should assume that a cellphone that appears to be "off" can't be tracked by the FBI.

permalink | February 16, 2013 at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2013

Mystery Explained

If your web browsing is like most Americans, you know that you can't read a news article online, check out a discussion forum on any subject, or open Facebook without seeing the warnings the great communist/Muslim/atheist/Jewish/gay/leftist/secular humanist/welfare Mom conspiracy will soon strip away all of our rights, especially the right to die with our cold fingers still wrapped around our guns. And, if you're like me, you've becoming a bit impatient. They've been predicting this longer than the end of the world and I, for one, want to know when it's going to happen. Bring it on, I say, because we need to get it over and done with before Burning Man, so that we can all get our tickets.

Well, I found the reason for the unseemly delay: Earl Bailey in Virginia. But the government is working to solve this logjam.

permalink | January 23, 2013 at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2013

Economic Freedom

The Heritage Foundation has released its 2013 index of economic freedom where it ranks the nations of the world according to economic freedom. This is where the conservatives and libertarians part ways. Considering only economic freedom is like going to a track meet where the winners are to be judged based solely on the speed of their right leg. Freedom, unlike the Heritage Foundation track meet, requires two legs to race on: economic freedom and civil liberties.

Heritage Foundation's grand and glorious winner of the economic freedom index ranking? Hong Kong, where the legitimacy of the government is ultimately backed up by the communist government in Beijing. Hong Kong has a government operated and financed health system. Treatment at an outpatient facility costs $45 (US$5.81) per visit and that includes medicine, X-rays, and lab tests. Specialists cost $100 (US$12.90) for the first visit, $60 (US$7.74) for subsequent visits, plus $10 (US$1.29) for each prescription. Tuberculosis, leprosy and STDs are treated at no charge. "Maternity and child health guidance, including antenatal and postnatal care of the mother and the entire immunisation programme for the child, is also free." Emergency room visits are $100 (US$12.90). Hospitalization costs $100/day (or $68/day (US$8.77) for a non-acute stay) plus a $50 (US$6.45) admission charge. Family planning visits cost $1 (13¢ U.S.)per visit.

Private doctors and hospitals as well as Chinese medicine are also available at a higher cost.

The health system costs about 3% of GDP. Hong Kong corporations are free of the expense of providing health insurance for their employees.

permalink | January 13, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2012

Ayn Rand in the news

First, Atlas Shrugged Part II whose official title appears to be Atlas Shrugged: Everything Has A Breaking Point [if only] is in theaters now. Locally, it's playing at The River. The makers of the movie are proud of this video which features the music of Michael "Nomad" Ripoll. (His website).

I'm impressed by the part where they take Ayn Rand's Russian accented voice and distort it so it sounds like she's talking over a telephone and then play music over it so that it is completely incomprehensible. You'll be asking yourself why some old Russian was mumbling in the recording studio.

Second, I'm sure this election campaign has set a new record for distortions and quotes out of context by all sides, even the non-aligned. Therefore, here is the context and here is the full quote:

Have you ever read Ayn Rand?

What do you think Paul Ryan's obsession with her work would mean if he were vice president?
Well, you'd have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

Of course, that's not the Republican tradition. I made this point in the first debate. You look at Abraham Lincoln: He very much believed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance. He embodied it – that you work hard and you make it, that your efforts should take you as far as your dreams can take you. But he also understood that there's some things we do better together. That we make investments in our infrastructure and railroads and canals and land-grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences, because that provides us all with an opportunity to fulfill our potential, and we'll all be better off as a consequence. He also had a sense of deep, profound empathy, a sense of the intrinsic worth of every individual, which led him to his opposition to slavery and ultimately to signing the Emancipation Proclamation. That view of life – as one in which we're all connected, as opposed to all isolated and looking out only for ourselves – that's a view that has made America great and allowed us to stitch together a sense of national identity out of all these different immigrant groups who have come here in waves throughout our history.

permalink | October 31, 2012 at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2012

Naked Ladies With A Message

This was probably intended as a pro-choice message, but they've unintentionally made it a broad libertarian message. Why should I trust anyone who wants to tell me what I can do with my body? If I want to put marijuana or a penis into my body, whose business is that but mine - and that guy on the other end of that penis?

permalink | October 12, 2012 at 04:03 PM | Comments (0)

July 4, 2012

ACLU Police Apps

The New Jersey ACLU is offering an Android app (iPhone version coming soon) that helps you to record police interactions more discreetly. A little more information is here, but not all the information you'd want. User reviews suggest that it is a bit buggy on some phones. The resulting video is stored in some less than likely spot on your phone, it seems, which is designed to frustrate the police, but frustrates some users too.

The New York Civil Liberties Union offers a similar app, but it works in NYC only. One wonders if it uses GPS so precisely that it shuts down if you leave the five boroughs, or what. You can stop the NYC video by shaking the phone. This seems to be a design flaw, since all a cop has to do to stop it would be to knock the phone out of your hand.

OTOH, it's got a social feature that will alert you if someone else in your vicinity has started to use the app. In version 2, you will be able to filter those alerts so that you get them only if the person recording meets your criteria: single female, hunky gay, whatever. "Hey, babe, I see you're fighting injustice too! Wanna get a coffee?"

A look at the ACLUs of Southern California and Northern California suggests that we here must still rely on quick fingers and possibly quicker feet.

permalink | July 4, 2012 at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2012

Defending the Constitution

The Onion didn't even have to get creative for this one, they just pulled statements from a few current news stories.

Mortensen said his admiration for the loose assemblage of vague half-notions he calls the Constitution has only grown over time. He believes that each detail he has pulled from thin air—from prohibitions on sodomy and flag-burning, to mandatory crackdowns on immigrants, to the right of citizens not to have their hard-earned income confiscated in the form of taxes—has contributed to making it the best framework for governance "since the Ten Commandments."

"And let's not forget that when the Constitution was ratified it brought freedom to every single American," Mortensen said.

permalink | June 29, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

April 2, 2012

Another Reason To Wear Clean Underwear

Albert Florence was arrested because state records indicated he was wanted on an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine. There was no such warrant. In New Jersey, an unpaid fine is not a crime. Mr. Florence was held in jail for a week, required to shower with delousing soap and underwent strip searches. Mr. Florence sued, arguing that unless they have reason to believe the person is carrying a weapon or drugs, a strip search is unconstitutional.

"Pish-posh," the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. Reminding people that the Constitution was written to imprison the guilty and to protect the police, not to keep innocent people free and safe, Justice Kennedy writing for the majority pointed out that Timothy McVeigh was arrested initially for not having a license plate on his car. And did his strip search uncover drugs or weapons? One of the 9/11 terrorists was stopped and ticketed for speeding just two days before highjacking flight 93. And did the police strip search him and discover the plot? The logic is inescapable. All must be strip searched. I suggest 5 Supreme Court Justices volunteer to be first in line.

permalink | April 2, 2012 at 08:48 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2012

Failure Of Judgement By Berkeley Police Chief

Chronologically, this is how it went down: On Saturday, February 18, Peter Cukor found Daniel DeWitt trespassing at his home in Berkeley. Cukor ordered him to leave twice and DeWitt did so. Cukor called the police non-emergency number. Then Cukor walked to a nearby fire station to get help, but the fire fighters were out on a call. When Cukor got back to his house, DeWitt bludgeoned him to death.

Cukor's wife, Andrea, then called 911 and Berkeley Police showed up in 4 minutes. Berkeley PD have said that no one came in response to the first non-emergency call because officers were being kept on standby for an expected Occupy action.

Since then there have been questions about how the police handled it, so on Thursday evening, March 8, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan and other city and police officials came to a community meeting at Northbrae Community Church to discuss the matter. Reporter Doug Oakley of the Contra Costa Times/Oakland Tribune attended the meeting, which ended around 9:30 PM, after which he wrote and filed his story. Follow that link and you will see that the story was originally posted at 11:21:44 PM and updated at 01:31:26 PM the next day. (BTW, isn't that an amazing thing! A newspaper that documents when it posts and revises a news story! It makes me think they employ - oh, what's the word? - journalists! If only the Desert Sun would hire one of those journalist people. We can but dream.) The essential point to bear in mind is that we are now seeing the revised story.

But to go back to 11:21:44 PM on Thursday night when Mr. Oakley's story was put online. Mr. Oakley had gone to bed for a comfortable rest...for little more than an hour. At 12:45 AM Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley PD public information officer, came knocking at Mr. Oakley's door. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan had ordered her to go to Oakley's home. "'She didn't want to be here at all,' said Oakley. 'She was really apologetic. She was told to go.'" She told Oakley that the Chief had been unable to reach him by phone or email [well duh!] and he wanted errors in the story corrected before the Tribune hit the streets. Mr. Oakley explained that it would be impossible to change the story until 7 AM when real live people showed up for work at the Tribune.

The important error in the story was that Oakley had written that the Police Chief had apologized for not responding to Cukor's first call, when in fact the Chief had apologized only for not getting information out to the community quickly enough.

So, the story of the day on Friday was not about the community meeting, but about the Police Chief sending an officer to a reporter's home in the middle of the night.

The Chief has since apologized:

I sincerely apologize for my actions on Thursday night. The Berkeley Police Department has a good, productive working relationship with the Oakland Tribune and its reporters. I have apologized to the reporter personally and I take full responsibility for this error in judgment. I was frustrated with the Department's ability to get out timely information, but that is no excuse. My actions do not reflect the values of the Berkeley Police Department. I deeply appreciate the importance of an independent and thoroughly informed media, and how they assist us in making our community aware of important events and information. I am committed to ensuring that the Police Department continues to have a trusting and professional working relationship with the press and to make sure that happens, I am planning for an independent review of the Department's policies and practices regarding release of information to the media.

Also, Interim City Manager Christine Daniel has released a statement: "There was no justification for contacting the reporter in this way and the Chief understands that the more appropriate response to his concerns about inaccurate statements in the article should have been to wait until the following day and make contact by phone or email. The Chief has acknowledged his lapse in judgment and assured me that nothing like this will happen again."

Thus endeth the sideshow.

permalink | March 11, 2012 at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

February 3, 2012

Apparently there is still money to be lost...

...and people to lose it. Official press release that Atlas Shrugged 'Part 2' will be produced. Shooting will begin in April 2012. The press release doesn't mention anyone being beaten, beheaded or disappeared, so one is left to assume that those who perpetrated Part 1 are going to do it again: Paul Johansson, director; John Aglialoro, producer; and Brian Patrick O'Toole, screenplay. This time, however, they're adding Duncan Scott who seems not to have done anything since 1983 when he was the "additional second assistant director" on Zelig. Unless his responsibilities include firing everybody and starting over from scratch, I am not optimistic about chances for improvement.

permalink | February 3, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)