I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into the hospital.
She calmed down, and at the end of the conversation happened to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to kill the ants. I told her that she better bring her daughter into the Emergency room right away.
With all the Harry Potter spoiler making the rounds, I guess it’s time for this one:
A couple of weeks ago, the local paper printed names of El Pasoans with outstanding arrest warrants. 78,000 El Pasoans made the paper! When we compared Austin, same story: 11% of Austin has outstanding arrest warrants. How did that happen?
In 2003, on the House floor, Rep. Diane Delisi told Texans that the “Driver Responsibility” bill was needed “to improve driver’s behavior.” Everyone in Austin knew that the real story was money. After 9/11, Texans quit buying. Sales tax revenues dropped so much that Texas now had a $10 billion budget deficit. Rather than raise taxes, Republicans cut taxes on the wealthiest Texans, cut programs like CHIP, then shifted fees, tuition and tickets to low and middle income Texans.
During debate, a study of the bill based on New Jersey’s Act showed exactly who would pay the freight—low-income citizens. To make the bill more popular, ticket revenue was tied to trauma care.
At the time, Senator John Whitmire and others said, “Watch out—here comes the ‘chain gang.’” For the first time, fees, tickets and tuition paid for sizable chunk of the Texas budget. Under the bill, fees escalate dramatically. Theoretically, after three tickets, a driver can owe $3,000 and more, depending on the offense.
And if you can’t pay, you go to jail.
And that is exactly what happened. Nearly one in ten Texans can’t pay: students, single mothers, working families, essentially low and even middle income Texans whose income can’t keep up with gas, insurance, taxes and tickets too.
They may never know it, but U.S. air travelers and others set off silent terrorist warning alarms nearly 20,000 times in 2006 when their names matched against the government’s centralized terrorist watch list, according to a statistic buried in a Department of Justice document.
The number represents a 27 percent jump over 2005, and points to the growth in the federal Terrorist Screening Center, a joint FBI and DHS operation that controls the government’s master list of suspected terrorists. Agencies from the FBI to the NSA nominate names to the database and assign threat level codes to each name. The criteria for inclusion is considered classified.
How do I know they’re all false alarms? Because this administration makes a press splash with every arrest, no matter how scant the evidence is. Do you really think they would pass up a chance to tout how good the watch list is?
It’s all just Theater
Be careful what you say and whom you help — especially when it comes to the Iraq war and the Iraqi government.
President Bush issued an executive order last week titled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.” In the extreme, it could be interpreted as targeting the financial assets of any American who directly or indirectly aids someone who has committed or “poses a significant risk of committing” violent acts “threatening the peace or stability of Iraq” or who undermines “efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform” in the war-torn country.
However, the text of the order, if interpreted broadly, could cast a far bigger net to include not just those who commit violent acts or pose the risk of doing so in Iraq, but also third parties — such as U.S. citizens in this country — who knowingly or unknowingly aid or encourage such people.
Under the order, the Treasury secretary — in consultation with the secretaries of defense and state — creates the list of those whose assets are to be frozen. However, the targeting of not just those who support perpetrators of violence but also those who support individuals who “pose a significant risk” of committing violence goes far beyond normal legal language related to intent and could be applied in a highly arbitrary manner, said Bruce Fein, a senior Justice Department official in the Reagan administration and a frequent Bush administration critic.
Fein also questioned the executive order’s inclusion of third parties, such as U.S. citizens who assist, sponsor or make “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services” to assist people on the Treasury list. “What about a lawyer hired to get someone off the list?” Fein asked.
Wouldn’t paying American taxes fall into the category of paying for ‘destabilizing Iraq’?
The order is viral: “to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order”.
Note the recursion right at the end.
So if A might be a threat to stabilization, he can have his property taken. If B is A’s webmaster, *her* property can be taken. If C is B’s business partner, *his* property can be taken.
The phrase in question is so general, it’d apply to almost any relationship you had with a person. If D is C’s landlord, it does seem to me that D has “provided goods and services in support of” C and therefore can have his property blocked (i.e. stolen by the government.)
Of course, no court would upheld this — but the trouble is that this was an executive order — they just press a button and all your stuff is taken — then you have to sue them to get it back, or some of it back.
“You see,” my colleague went on, “one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.
“Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’
“And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have….
“But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
“And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
– Windows Vista’s share of online users has increased every month this year, while rival Mac OS X — to which Vista has often been compared — has shown little, if any, growth, a metrics company reports.
According to Net Applications, in June Windows Vista accounted for 4.52% of all systems that browsed the Web, up from January’s 0.18%. Vista has grown its usage share each month since its release to consumers Jan. 30, hitting 0.93% in February, 2.04% in March, 3.02% in April and 3.74% in May. Apple Inc.’s Mac OS X, meanwhile, accounted for 6.22% in January and hit its high point of 6.46% in May, but it slipped back to 6% in June.
If Vista’s uptake trend continues, it should pass Mac OS X in Web usage share by the end of August.
So a predatory monopolist who has been cramming Vista down vendor’s throats for over half a year is finally beating OS X’s 6% market share. If the average PC owner buys a machine every 4 years (and it’s argued it’s more like 3 years) they should have been at 11% right now.
Over at the #iphone channel at irc.osx86.hu, the thoroughly awesome NerveGas has figured out how to enable ssh on the iPhone without using restore mode. The secret lies in overwriting an existing binary and plist to trick the iPhone into calling chmod on the Dropbear ssh server and making it executable.
At this time, NerveGas has used Nightwatch’s compiler to create iPhone-compatible versions of curl and ps as well as a number of other useful Unix utilities. (He’s working on grep, as I write).
So what does this mean? Well, once you’ve got ssh installed on your iPhone and active, you can access your iPhone from a shell on your Mac. You can send and retrieve files using scp or sftp. And you can use the compilation toolchain to build other Unix utils or even your own software. It’s just a short matter of time until perl and other command-line utilities are iPhone-ready.
Can the same techniques used to sell corn flakes, ketchup and power drills be used to sell the Iraq policy to the public and extend the U.S. occupation long into the future? The Bush administration and the Pentagon think so.
As more Americans called for an end to the U.S. occupation, the Pentagon secretly ordered a report on ways to extend it long long into the future with the help of “Madison Avenue” marketing techniques–the same techniques used to sell breakfast cereal and hardware products to the American public.
Now available for the public to read, (Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation, PDF File 1.37 MB), the report was prepared by the Rand Corporation and cost the American taxpayer $400,000 dollars.
A group of prominent technology bloggers last month found themselves in hot water after they agreed to lend their words and names to Microsoft’s “People Ready” marketing campaign. The bloggers, all associated with the Federated Media advertising network, wrote brief statements describing how their own businesses became “people ready”. The statements appeared in Microsoft ads on their blogs and were also collected on a site promoting the software company.
In Silicon Valley, shilling for Microsoft falls somewhere between worshipping Satan and torturing small animals on the scale of human depravity, so the bloggers came in for some heavy criticism. Some of them quickly disassociated themselves from the campaign. Om Malik on GigaOM (gigaom.com), apologised and ordered Federated Media to stop running the controversial ads on his site. Paul Kedrosky, of the blog Infectious Greed (paul.kedrosky.com), wrote: “I wish I hadn’t been sucked in by the silly idea.”
But some of the other writers defended their participation. TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington, perhaps the most influential of today’s technology bloggers, dismissed the fuss as inconsequential. “We do these all the time,” he wrote of the advertisements, explaining that Federated Media typically “suggests some language and we approve or tweak it to make it less lame. The ads go up, we get paid. This has been going on for months.”