What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

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Saturday, August 30, 2003

If the initial response to the discovery of Jeffrey Lee Parson’s role in the spread of the Blaster worm is indicative of how law enforcement intends to pursue him, there will be no message sent to the criminals who think it’s a fun game to infect computers around the world with their worms, viruses and other sick cyber-creations.

This six foot four inch, 330 pound, eighteen year old Minnesota high school student, who has been described as a "loner:" and also as "a nice guy with a sense of humor who sometimes lost his temper and spent a lot of time on his computer, " didn’t create Blaster, but he thought it was big fun to modify and pass it on to thousands of other computers.

The news reports say that he could get up to 10 years in jail for his mischief, but after being arrested, he was told to stay home (home confinement), and stay off the Internet.

In other words, so far - a time out!!

Maybe he’ll get more than a slap on the wrist. I sure hope so. I made my feelings about these cyber terrorists clear in my August 13, 2003 comments - Hang All The Hackers!!!

Some people have described Parson as "just a kid." I watched someone on a television news show pretty much excuse his actions as typical of what bright young computer nerds do at that age and then they grow up to be serious programmers for Microsoft or other companies.

When I was eighteen, I was just getting out of the army. I had signed up for a long hitch at age 15 but got out after serving 3 years and 77 days. It’s a long story and this isn’t the place to tell it. And I can’t compare my life to that of Jeffrey Lee Parson.

But I said today’s thoughts were about comparisons, so here’s a comparison. The names of some other teenagers.

Pablo Manzano - 19, Daniel Parker - 18, Duane Longstreth, -19, Jonathan Cheatham - 19. Corey Ryan - 18.

You’ll find these and others here

Someone else in the news is Bill Janklow, the congressman from South Dakota who likes to drive fast and get away with it.

Now his reckless driving has resulted in the death of a motor cyclist and he’s facing charges that may send him to jail for a long time. From what I have read about his driving record, that’s where he belongs.

But this comment isn’t about the congressman’s criminal behavior.

It’s about what we are reminded of when we read about him. That he is the lone congressman from the state of South Dakota. A delegation of one.

The same as in Alaska and Delaware and Montana and North Dakota and Vermont and Wyoming.

Seven states and seven congressmen at large.

And fourteen senators.

Including the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle. From a state with one congressman.

No particular comment here. Insert your own.

As the title says, this is just a blog of thoughts about comparisons.

Friday, August 29, 2003

There are many reasons why individuals have blogs and I’m not about to try to list them here. Frankly, I don’t know all the reasons.

But I am going to list one of the reasons why I have a blog.

There was a time when I wrote letters to newspapers on a regular basis, mostly to the local paper I read daily, which is the Chicago Tribune, but also to other papers and occasionally to some other branches of the communications media.

I don’t do it as much any more, partially because the Chicago Tribune, which used to publish just about anything I sent them, stopped doing it, but lately, because I have a blog in which to voice my opinions - albeit not to as wide an audience, but without the need for someone to approve what I say before it gets published.

And now, even though I don’t have the advantage of reaching the several hundred thousand people who read the Chicago Tribune, I can nonetheless correct their bad judgment by doing what I’m about to do - and that is, reproduce here letters that the Tribune declined to publish.

Here are two from last year - both in response to letters that were published, one about suicide bombing in Israel and the other about why the 9/11 tragedy occurred , which also includes a response to comments on this topic by Tribune columnist Salim Muwakkil.

On 3/31/02 I wrote:

Perhaps the saddest part of the insane violence taking place in the middle east is the age of the Palestinian suicide bombers. They are all young people. Some of them are little more than children.

Most parents would sacrifice their own lives to save their children. The Palestinians proudly send them off to die. I watched one gray bearded father of a suicide bomber being interviewed on television saying how proud he was that his son had sacrificed his life to kill the enemy and that he had other sons that HE was willing to sacrifice in the same way. One has to wonder why HE doesn't go and let his sons live to enjoy the future they say they are fighting for.

Golda Meier once said that peace would come to the area when the Palestinians learned to love their children more than they hate the Israelis.

Letter writer James Ally (letters March 30) says that Arafat need not educate his people to hate Israelis. The invasion of Palestinian lands, the leveling of homes etc is what has caused the hatred.

If that is so, why were Palestinian Jews massacred in Hebron and elsewhere in Palestine in 1929?

If that is so, why did the Arab nations go to war to destroy the fledgling state of Israel in 1948?

If that is so, why did the PLO, which was formed in 1964, long before Israel had control of the west bank and Gaza, create it's infamous charter calling for the destruction of Israel?

I could go on and on but there is no room here to recount a history that Mr. Ally is either unaware of or unwilling to study. Suffice to say the hatred and vile accusations against Jews began long before Israel had any control over the disputed territories and is being taught and published in newspapers throughout the Arab world day after day.

There is some small hope in the Arab League proposal for peace - the first such offer in 54 years. Both sides in the conflict need to seize the opportunity and try and get past what is now mutual hatred. But it cannot be done until the insane violence stops and that is not something that Israel can bring about with it's military responses. It is entirely up to the Palestinians.

And on May 27, 2002 I wrote:

Harold Taggart (letters May 25th) asserts that only George Bush and people with a third grade mentality would believe that the suicide murderers of September 11th were motivated by hatred of our prosperity and freedom.

He then couples this assertion with a litany of American foreign and domestic policy "wrongs" that makes one wonder about the grade level of his mentality.

The clear implication of the Taggart theory, which is shared by far too many people, and echoed by Salim Muwakkil in his May 27th column, is that it is because of our "wrongs" that millions of people around the globe hate us and some hate us enough to commit suicide in a manner that will kill as many of us as possible. And Mr. Taggart labels such acts as "sending us a message!!"

What utter nonsense. These suicide murderers are not people with grievances trying to send us a message. They are madmen. They are irrational beings. They believe that they are doing God's work and that they will be rewarded with eternal life in paradise.

Of course we are far from perfect and of course there are aspects of our foreign and domestic policies that have created hatred for the US in many parts of the world. There is lots of room for improvement. But to suggest that the way to stop suicide attacks, or as Salim Muwakkil puts it, to make America truly safe, is to mend our ways to the Muslim world's satisfaction, is to think as irrationally as the suicide murderers.

Hatred of America and everything we stand for has become a way of life for the Islamic extremists of the world, and to the most extreme of them, mass murder of Americans through suicidal martyrdom is the ultimate goal of that way of life. There is no way such people can be stopped through policy changes.

The "mea culpa" approach proposed by Taggart and Muwakkil will get us nowhere and will bring us as much safety as the battered wife who stays with her abuser because she believes she must be doing something to deserve the abuse. Our foreign and domestic policies should always be the subject for discussion and self examination and the views of the rest of the world should be listened to and given serious consideration. And sometimes, as circumstances dictate, our policies should be changed. But never should it be done because of or as a response to acts of irrational terrorism.

I was going to finish this blog entry by saying something silly, like "put those in your letter rejection pipe and smoke ‘em Chicago Tribune."

But instead I’ll finish with the sad comment that nothing much seems to have changed since March and May of last year.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

I filled my car with gas the other day and I was truly surprised.

Not at the price. I had been well prepared for that by all the pronouncements on newscasts and reports in the newspapers about the dramatic increase in gas prices that had taken place over a very short period of time. Something along the lines of 20 cents a gallon in a week or two.

No, what surprised me was the ease with which I was able to pull into my local station and fill up.

It was quiet. There was no waiting to fill up . No lines of cars. And certainly no limit on the amount of gas anyone could pump.

The only thing that had changed between this and my last fill up was the 20 cent increase in price.

I often have wondered about why gas prices fluctuate. I can understand why they would move in lockstep with the price of crude oil. That’s obvious. Equally obvious is why the price at the pump changes on the very day there’s an increase in crude. The gas companies/stations just do a little retroactive manipulation and suddenly recalculate what they paid for the gas already stored in their underground tanks to conform to the price that they anticipate they will be paying for future deliveries.

In other words, they see an opportunity to gouge us and they do it.

What’s going on now sure looks and feels like more of the same.. The oil companies would have us believe that the reasons for today’s sudden surge in prices is complicated , but quite understandable if we would only listen.

Well, I listened and what I heard was that

1. Crude prices were up. (Well, they’ve been up for some time).
2. Northeast US and Canada electric blackout had caused several refineries to shut down.
3. There was high demand and low inventories, the latter presumably made even worse by the shutdowns.

I have no particular expertise in economics and zero expertise in the business of supplying the nation’s gasoline needs, but it seems to me that we arrive at this same point about this same time every year. Just before a major summer holiday when a lot of people will be driving, gas prices go up and we hear about heavy demand and low inventories, and of the difficulties caused by special gas treatment requirements in some parts of the country which makes that area’s gasoline production more costly - and a few other explanations. Quite often there are demands from politicians for hearings about the price increases so that we can find out if we are being gouged by the oil companies and this leads to the oil companies putting out even more explanations, none of which I am able to understand.

And usually nothing happens. We pay the high prices. The holiday passes and the prices drop, just as we are now being told that prices will drop after Labor Day, maybe by quite a lot - and just as politicians are now saying we need hearings to find out if the public is being gouged.

Which brings me back to my visit to fill up the other day. No Lines. No waiting. No gas station is placing a limit on the amount of gasoline anyone can purchase.

Whatever the nature of the demand, it’s pretty obvious that there is ample supply, gloomy pronouncement about "low inventories" notwithstanding.

There was a temporary shortage of Gasoline in Phoenix the other day but that was due to a broken pipeline not to a shortage of gasoline.

Usually, when there is an ample supply of a commodity to meet the demand, its cost will remain pretty stable or maybe even go down, but gasoline seems to operate with its own set of economic rules that experts in that field seem to understand, but few others.

I suppose we should be grateful that we aren’t being charged the kind of prices Europeans have to pay for their gasoline, but it’s still frustrating when you decide to wait until tomorrow to fill up because you’re late getting home for dinner - only to find that tomorrow, the price is ten cents a gallon more than it was yesterday.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be quite as frustrating if the oil companies would tell us why they’ve raised the price as much as they have in language we could all understand.

Like "because we can" for example!!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

For centuries, the question of who or what is a Jew has plagued learned Jewish scholars.

Is a Jew someone who practices the Jewish faith?

Is a Jew a member of an ethnic group?

Is one automatically Jewish because one's parents are Jewish, or, under orthodox Jewish law, because one's mother is Jewish?

Is one Jewish because of any Jewish ancestry, religious or ethnic?

To quote Tevye from Fiddler On The Roof, these are "questions that would cross a Rabbi’s eyes."

But at last, a definitive answer may be at hand.

Dr. Nabil Hilmi, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Al Zaqaziq (don’t you just love that name?) has joined with a group of Egyptian expatriates living in Switzerland to prepare a law suit against All The Jews Of The World, seeking reparations for the gold, silver, cooking utensils and other goodies that the Jews grabbed and took with them when Moses led them out of Egypt.

I’m not sure of all the details. I don’t know where the suit will be filed and I assume the plaintiff will be Egypt.

But my interest is less in the details than in the contribution the suit can make toward solving the ancient question posed above.

You may not know who or what you are, but you have to assume that this learned Dean of a Law School knows what he's doing, that he’s hired the world’s greatest detectives, historians, anthropologists, cosmologists and astrologers, and has his defendants identified.

So when you get that summons in your mailbox, you no longer need to ask the question. You sir, madam or kiddo, are a Jew.

A couple of words of advice to Dr. Hilmi.

First, stay away from the Alabama courts. The chief justice there is a big fan of Moses. Maybe not so much for leading the Jews out of Egyptian slavery or knocking off gold, silver, pots, pans, plates and platters, but for the well known Ten Commandments that Mo stopped to pick up while he and the rest of the Jews were wandering around in the desert on their way to Israel. You won’t get to first base in that court.

Second, don’t call any Palestinians as witnesses, specially that guy Arafat. He’ll just testify that there’s no evidence of Jews settling in Israel, building temples and other structures and that all those artifacts that the Jews claim are part of their history and that you probably want to present as evidence of grand theft, are really ARAB artifacts, including gold and silver and pots, pans, plates and platters.

And here I lamented yesterday that the Monty Pythons were no longer functioning as a group.

Who needs Monty Python as long as we have the never ending circus??

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

It’s a pity that the Monty Python cast members are no longer functioning as a group.

Think of what they could do with some of the ridiculous stories of today that fill the pages of our newspapers and precious air time on broadcast news shows.

What do you imagine they would have done with this Alabama nut case who doubles as the state’s chief justice?

Would they have him dashing into a phone booth to change into his robes and become JUSTICEMOOREMAN? Or maybe they’d just resurrect the Spanish Inquisition crew and haul him off for some serious tickling until he confesses to the sin of congenital idiocy.

The Pythons would probably do something like that for emphasis, and maybe even throw in a few ghostly comments from the late Graham Chapman, speaking from the confines of a pine box ..

But of course in real life, this Moore fellow doesn’t need any help to make him look foolish. From what I’ve seen and read, he has a natural ability in that area of behavior. He also has a wonderful crew of fellow nuts as a supporting cast. The last I saw, some of them were camping out around the clock to protect this ten commandments monument from being removed from courthouse property.

This is the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who has been ordered by the courts to remove the monument and who says no way. Obeying the law would make him guilty of treason!!!

Let me write it here once again. This guy is the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Now some people might be upset by this, but readers of this blog know that I have some politically incorrect views about religion and how it affects human behavior and to me, some of the commentary and discussion of this ridiculous affair has been equally Monty Pythonish.

People with high sounding credentials, professors of this or that branch of this or that kind of theology, have been weighing in with opinions about religious rights and duties and interpretations and lord knows what else, all in a serious vein and all with absolutely straight faces.

There is perhaps one issue that can be discussed seriously by serious thinking people and that is the question of separation of church and state. If the courts interpret the placement of this edifice on state property as a violation of that principle, then it needs to be moved to some private location. End of discussion.

How far removed is equating compliance with the laws on separation of church and state as committing treason from the madman who blows himself up on a bus in Jerusalem screaming "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) while visualizing the 70 virgins waiting to attend him in paradise?

And "experts" on theology along with legal experts and politicians are devoting serious discussion time to this nut’s religious beliefs and views. And those of people like him.

I’m no fan of ABC correspondent John Stossel, but if he hasn’t copyrighted the phrase yet (ya never know, look what Fox tried to do with "Fair and Balanced") Give me a Break!!!

Monday, August 25, 2003

On 4/17/03, writing about the potential dangers of the ill named Patriot Act, I said that I didn’t think a Joseph McCarthy could ever again rise to a position of power by scaring us into believing that our friends and neighbors , even family members, might really be our enemies, bent on our destruction..

I said I didn’t think we could ever again have a HUAC - a House Un-American Activities Committee , smearing and ruining lives of American citizens by questioning their patriotism and loyalty in something approaching a star chamber setting.

I said I didn’t think we would ever again subject ourselves to these kinds of horrors because we had matured as a nation.

Now I’m not so sure that we have matured.

I’m not so sure that we haven’t regressed.

The newspapers and television news programs over the week end were full of the horror stories of what is being done to citizens and resident aliens with the "wrong" kind of ancestry and ethnicity, all in the name of defending us from acts of terrorism.

People being taken from their families without warning, jailed for months in solitary confinement, unable to be represented by counsel, unable to contact family members - in one case reported on a week end news program - deported without the knowledge of his spouse - and in case after case, no charges of terrorist activity ever being filed.

John Ashcroft says all this is necessary and it’s working because there have been no more 9/11 types of terrorist attacks in the continental US.

Well my house and person reek of garlic, but the odor is worth bearing because it’s working!! There hasn’t been a single vampire attack since I instigated this necessary precaution.

No elephant attacks either. I hang the elephant gun in the front window and I guess just the sight of it must scare them away.

Our courts have been reluctant to question the assault on basic freedoms that has been launched under the cover of the Patriot Act, but I note that some members of congress, including a few prominent Republican supporters of just about everything Mr. Bush has done in the war against terrorism, are having second thoughts about the powers granted to Mr. Ashcroft.

It’s a pity they didn’t give enough first thoughts to it, before they voted it into law.

Friday, August 22, 2003

As one can see from the dates of my archives, I am relatively new to blogging.

My first blog entry was on April 2, 2003 and at that time I had selected what I thought would be an amusing if erudite URL of civis-bellator (Latin for citizen warrior), and a blog title of IF I WERE KING.

It didn’t take too long before I decided that neither was really appropriate.

In my blog naiveté, I thought that just creating a URL with the name of civis-bellator would bring scholars flocking to the site to see who this creative intellectual was and what he was saying.

It did evoke some kind of reaction.

People whose opinions I respected greeted the civis-bellator part with furrowed brow and "huh?" And their reaction to my expressed desire to become royal wasn’t much different.

I’ve learned since that titles, erudite or not, aren’t enough to attract attention, but still I’m happy to say that a few people are finding the site without any special effort on my part to publicize it. I’m not sure if any of them are scholars, but they’re all welcome.

And though on May 20, 2003, I wrote tongue in cheek about a Google Internet conspiracy, I’m pleased to report that if some of the titles of my blog entries are typed into the Google search engine, my blog site will pop up. Sometimes, if you put the title or phrase in quotes, it will pop up in a very prominent position.

For example. type in "What Paul Harvey Does" in Google and only TWO sites come up. I accept no responsibility for the other site that pops up and for the life of me I can’t understand why it would be listed ahead of mine, but who can fathom the Google mind?

It’s kind of interesting that only two sites would pop up in response to that particular phrase, considering the large number of sites that are identified if one simply types in "Paul Harvey." But again, who can fathom the Google mind?

As anyone familiar with blogging knows, many blogs list permanent links to other blogs. Sometimes the links are because the linkees (if there isn’t such a word, there most certainly should be) are obviously already connected in some way - classmates at college for example. Other links are obviously between sites of mutual interest. And some, like our old friend Google, are unfathomable.

Eric Zorn, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who I read regularly, has just started a blog and I was a little surprised to see more than 20 such links listed on his very first blog entry. I guess he must have been blog viewing - or is that reading - for some time and was ready with his links from the get go.

Incidentally, I may have a comment or two about Eric’s blog at some future date. I did once say that I would be reviewing blogs from time to time, and I plan to start doing that fairly soon.

But for today - and yes, I know it’s been a circuitous trip to get here, I’m announcing that I’m inserting my first link to a site that I visit quite frequently. Not every day, but often enough. It’s the site of Gil Shterzer who calls himself and his blog Israeli Guy.

Gil is an Israeli, living in Israel and it appears from his site that it is well read.

Readers of my blog know of my strong interest in Israel and my strong views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

I don’t always agree with what Gil has to say, but I usually find his views interesting and sometimes instructive.

By all means click on the link and take a look.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

If there was ever a time when I wanted to be wrong about something, it was on April 30, 2003, when I wrote that, for a variety of reasons, I held little hope for success of the Israeli/Palestinian roadmap to peace

Then on July 23, 2003, I expressed my opinion that the roadmap would go nowhere as long as newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas refused to disarm or arrest any members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigade, Hizballah and any other terrorists groups as called for in the roadmap. I believe he said it was a non-starter, or Arabic phraseology to that effect.

So it really wasn’t a surprise when the Israeli authorities continued to go after those militants that intelligence reports identified as "ticking bombs," and it was not surprising that attempts to arrest such individuals were met by armed resistance and that deaths resulted on both sides.

And in the madness that is the Middle East, I guess it was not surprising that the suicide bombings would resume as acts of "revenge" for the deaths of terrorist leaders.

Now, after the horses have left the barn through the gaping door left by the Abbas approach to confronting terrorism by conducting "dialogue" with the terrorists, he finally announces that he is breaking off contact with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and that those responsible for the latest horrific murderous attack against innocent civilians in Israel, would be "investigated" and arrested - maybe. And then probably released, repeating tired patterns of the past.

But even then, only if ARAFAT approves!!!

Even so, when Abbas was quick to condemn the attack, I was hoping that Israel would hold back on any response for a few days to see if indeed he would grasp this seminal moment in Israeli/Palestinian history and turn the tide in a different direction by actually doing something dramatic, one his own and quickly, defying Arafat.

But again, it was no big surprise when they didn’t . And more suicide bombings will follow as acts of "revenge."

Where will it go from here?

Nowhere I’m afraid, until all parties, including the international community, accept the reality that there is no way to achieve the goals of the roadmap unless and until the freelance militant groups have been thoroughly dismantled - weapons confiscated, bomb factories shut down or razed, offices closed, funding cut off and defiant murderers arrested, tried, convicted and jailed.

If we persist in our grandiose idea that the so called "peace process" can continue while these madmen run rampant, then we will have joined with them in the fantasy world in which they live, and there’s no way the road of this roadmap will ever turn into a yellow brick road with a happy ending just the other side of Oz.

I enjoy writing blogs, but for damned sure, not this kind.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

A recurring theme in science fiction is the ascent of the robots.

In Isaac Asimov’s wonderful works, robots are controlled by the Three Laws of Robotics.

But in many other stories, those laws are ignored or subverted and we find the robots taking over the world and stamping out humans or at least making us subservient to them.

There are times, when dealing with the Internet, when I feel that the final battle between man and machine has begun and that we are losing.

One can easily get such an impression when trying to communicate with certain Internet sites. You send the "site" a message which is straightforward, logical and entirely inoffensive, perhaps asking an innocent question about something, and you get back gobbledygook that you swear is the output of a robotic mind suffering from multiple system failures.

But after a while, you discover, to your horror, that this is not the case at all. It is not the robots we need to fear. It is the stultified minds of humanoids who have lived among the robots too long and have become corrupted by them.

The best example of this incredible mind corruption is contained in a narrative of mine about my early days as a subscriber to ATTBI Internet cable connection - now Comcast. It was a series of on line "chats" with ATTBI operatives which is far too long to reproduce here, but you can read the introduction to the story by clicking here and imagine what kind of "chats" took place as the story unfolded.

But it is a more recent encounter that prompts this particular blog entry.

I had been a member of MSN CONSUMER ADVOCATES group, which I joined because I am seeking material for a book described in my other blog. It wasn’t a very active group. Very few consumer problems were discussed, but those that were were all legitimate, and members tried to help each other with suggestions and information.

But then, after a lull when no discussions were taking place, porn messages started being sent to the membership. After a couple of such messages, I complained. The "site" responded and here’s the back and forth exchange that took place. Only the basic message of each e-mail is reproduced here.

7/30/03 From me….

Receiving porn spam mail through this group. This is the second, maybe the third. No point trying to "block sender." The address changes with every message. Details below: (And I sent what I had received)

8/2/03 From them….

Thank you for writing to MSN Groups.

We're sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused you. For us to be able to investigate and take appropriate action, please try to verify if you previously joined the said group. Please provide also your e-mail address where you are receiving the unsolicited mails. Thank you for your patience, and we hope to hear from you soon.

8/2/03 From me….

I don't understand your questions. The e-mail I sent you, which appears below, conveys all the information that there is. The porn offer came to members of Consumer Advocates and mine obviously came to my e-mail address.

Please tell me that you understand this and that you are not a temporary employee from Mars....

8/15/03 From me, after more porn arrived….

Can you not stop this? If not, I would suggest that you close down CONSUMER ADVOCATES. For sure, one more of these and I'm off your list......

8/17/03 From me….

Subject: More porn

This is one of two such messages received this morning and I have
canceled my membership in CONSUMER ADVOCATES. Porn peddlers have taken over the group and you don't seem able to stop them.

8/19/03 From them…

Hello gazink,
Thank you for writing to MSN Groups.
I appreciate your report of any unacceptable activity in MSN Groups. We will follow up on your report and will take appropriate action regarding this issue.
Thank you for your support and patience.

MSN Groups Customer Support

8/19/03 Still more from them…

Hello gazink,

Thank you for writing to MSN Groups.

We appreciate your letting us know about inappropriate behavior on our service.

We suggest you first contact the group manager. Because that manager is responsible for overseeing the group, the manager can enforce appropriate behavior--including banning members who do not participate within desired bounds.

If the situation is outside the manager's control, or you have not received a satisfactory response, please reply to this message with as many details as possible so that we may investigate. Please include the following details in your response:

- Another concise description of the situation.
- The response from the group manager.
- The URL that links to the misconduct, such as link to a discussion or photo.

We'll do what is possible to make your Groups experience more enjoyable.

Thank you for using MSN Groups.


MSN Groups Customer Support

8/19/03 From me….

I have withdrawn from Consumer Advocates membership because of this garbage, but I am willing to try to help you resolve this problem if you will tell me which e-mail address will reach the "group manager." There's no indication of such a person on the site and I have sent e-mails to the addresses listed, which is why you sent me the response below.......

Later on 8/19/03 From me….

This is the second time I have sent you a request to be removed from the Consumer Advocates list and as of today I am still getting porn mail through this site. PLEASE remove me and stop allowing the site to be used to advertise garbage.

8/20//03 From them…

Hello gazink,

Thank you for writing to MSN Groups.

I would like to ask for more details regarding your concern. Please e-mail us back and give the exact URL of evidence from the group you have mentioned where we can find the violation that you are reporting to. In this way we can investigate easily and can take appropriate action regarding this matter.

Thank you for your support and patience.


MSN Groups Customer Support

8/20/03 From me….

Are you nuts or trying to drive me nuts?

I have sent several messages, each containing the sender's address, which changes all the time of course, and the offending URL that is attached. Your request below INCLUDED the information you asked for. You sent my complaining e-mail back to me!!

Here it is one last time. The sender. The message. The attached porn site URL. One of several such pieces of garbage that have been sent to this group. I have withdrawn from the group so I don't need to hear from you about this. I might send the whole ball of wax to Bill Gates though.

Now scroll down PAST your message....

That was as of this morning. Who knows how many more times "they" will send me an e-mail containing the e-mail address of the porn peddler and the URL’s he/she/it is peddling and asking for those self same items of information.

I don’t think we have to worry about the robots. But watch out for those corrupted humanoid minds at the other end of a computer connection. At least until Norton or McAfee or Bill Gates comes up with a patch or a fix to protect us……

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

In a way, I feel almost sorry for President Bush.

I’m only an armchair observer, but from where I sit, it seems to me that he is being overwhelmed by the rush of history but doesn’t seem to know it.

But my sympathy only extends so far.

I swear if I hear him respond to one more act of violence in Iraq or anywhere else with the same tired cliché about hunting down the criminals responsible and bringing them to justice, I’ll move to California and organize a proposition for secession from the Union. That way I’ll be surrounded by fantasy as reality and Dubya will sound like a latter day philosopher instead of a cowboy whose brain has been addled by too many falls off his rocking horse.

Every day, the news from Iraq sends out the same message in ever increasing intensity, and that is that we have made a colossal error in thinking that we could change the face of that country and the entire region with military force and our ideas of democracy.

Almost none of the pre-war and early war predictions have come true.

We have not been welcomed with open arms by people falling over themselves in gratitude at being "freed" - pictures of falling statues of Saddam Hussein notwithstanding.

The major fighting that Mr. Bush declared at an end last May, seems to be heating up and getting more violent day by day.

Iraqis do not appear to be enthusiastic about creating a democratic society - something entirely foreign to their experience.

There is no hint of any major "domino effect" changes taking place in other countries in the middle east.

The major reason we invaded Iraq - because of the threat it posed to us and the world, has so far turned out to be non existent. No weapons of mass destruction. No advanced nuclear program.

Since the major fighting "ended," Secretary Rumsfeld, he of the "stuff happens" philosophy, has been telling us that the almost daily killing of Americans was the work of "small bands" in "isolated areas" but in recent days, as the killings and acts of sabotage have grown in number and intensity, he has shown the good grace to shut up.

Since the major fighting "ended," we no longer get daily military briefings with movie trailer type videos to show how well we’re doing. Just as well. They wouldn’t exactly dovetail well with the daily pictures we are getting of collapsed buildings, burning oil wells and burst water pipes.

We are in a mess in Iraq and getting out of it will be painful and costly.

Meanwhile, we should expect and demand a lot more from Mr. Bush than these ridiculous cowboy pronouncements of "bring ‘em on" and "we’ll get those criminals and bring ‘em to justice."

I don’t know what, but then I’m not the one who pounded the war drums and led us (from his armchair) into battle to change and save the world .

He needs to tell us something.

Where are we going with this mess Mr. Bush???

No clichés please.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Although I don’t travel much nowadays, I like to keep abreast of air fares, particularly international fares.

Every couple of years or so I try to make a trip over to the UK, and not being a person of great wealth, I naturally look for the best fares I can get.

Although my next potential overseas trip is still several months away, I’ve already started to pay close attention to airline ads that are jam packed with special offerings. It’s been my experience that for international flights, I can do just as well dealing with an airline as I can with one of the online discount travel services.

Nonetheless, discovering what the best fare is can be a Herculean task and the last place to get accurate information is in those self same airline ads jam packed with special offerings.

United Airlines, which happens to be the airline I last took from Chicago to London, is in bankruptcy and hemorrhaging money, but they’re doing everything they can to lure passengers back to their flights and are running huge newspapers ads with all kinds of bargain fares to all kinds of places.

Except that the fares they quote for overseas flights aren’t available. Not the figure you can read. Not the one in bold print.

Way down at the bottom of the page, there’s a whole bunch of print, set in type created by Lilliputian Typesetters Limited and Incorporated, which, if reproduced in something along the lines of 12 point Times New Roman, would take up several pages of an average American metropolitan newspaper.

Here, if you have a magnifying glass or two of sufficient magnification, you will find such mysteries as the additional cost of taking off and landing, of airport and export fees, of arrival and departure, of coming and going, of security and insecurity, and of taxes, surtaxes and misstaxes

You’ll also learn that the fares may not be available on the flight you want to take, that you have to leave between 1 a.m. on an odd numbered Tuesday during the last week of Septober or the first week of Octember and 3.30 a.m. on the following Thursday if it doesn’t rain before Wednesday afternoon and that you must stay over at least one Saturday or return at least 24 hours before you leave and if you make any changes in your schedule, it will cost an additional $300 in each direction.

I exaggerate of course. And I josh.

But the fares you can read are not the fares you pay and there is no reason on earth why the TRUE fare can’t be printed in the ads in a type size that can be read without having to rent time on the Hubble telescope.

The airlines will tell you that they can’t do that because there are so many variables in the extra charges.

But if you call United to book a flight based on the parameters listed in their ad - time of year, days of travel, times of departure, advance booking etc, the operator at the other end of your connection will punch a few numbers into his or her computer and give you a price lickety split. There’s no calculating of all the variables. The gross price of the particular flight that’s in the big ad is a known price. It’s in the computer. You shouldn’t have to call the airline to find out what the price is. It should be in the ad.

Those of us who have flown commercial airlines extensively, know about the wide range of prices for the same seats on the same flights and that can be enough to drive you to distraction when you discover that you’re sitting next to someone who paid half the fare that you had to cough up.

Advertising a fare in the paper that you know isn’t the total price is almost as annoying and I wish they would stop it.

Most of the commercial airlines in this country are in trouble and trying to recover. A little more truth in advertising might help them along the way.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

One of the ways I try to keep abreast of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to read whatever Israeli . pro-Israeli, Palestinian and pro-Palestinian publications are available on line in English.

It’s both interesting and instructive to see how the two sides interpret the same events and the same sets of circumstances. Shibboleths are easily brought to mind. Glasses half full and half empty. One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. And so on.

Not surprisingly, the general theme of the publications is strongly supportive of the population of it’s core readership.

But in reading such Israeli publications as The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz and Palestinian publications, such as The Palestinian Chronicle and The Electronic Intifada, one notices one obvious difference.

Call it a difference in philosophy or editorial policy, but in the Israeli press, one finds editorial after editorial critical of the government and of its policies, particularly with regard to the Palestinians.

It is not unusual for editorial writers to accuse individual ministers, from Sharon on down, along with the government in general, of being shortsighted, ignorant, wrongheaded and a whole bunch of other colorful characterizations.

Where the official Israeli government view of the causes of continuing violence place the blame on the PA or on individuals within the PA or on Hamas or other splinter groups, the Israeli press frequently places the blame on the actions of the Israeli authorities, or at least suggest that there is blame to be shared by both sides.

The difference between what one reads in the Israeli and Palestinian press is that similar self examinations and self criticisms are hard to find in the Palestinian press. They may be there, but I’ve yet to find a Palestinian editorial calling Arafat a blind fool who has made one mistake after another and caused his people more harm than good.

The same can be said of the Arab press in general. You’re certainly not going to find opinion pieces in the Egyptian or Syrian or Lebanese or Iraqi papers saying that maybe our approach to Israel is wrong and maybe the genesis of the ongoing conflict is our initial refusal to accept Israel as a state and the wars that flowed from that position, and maybe our leaders are leading us in the wrong direction.

Of course, one might argue that criticisms of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians that appear in the Israeli press, simply confirm that the Palestinian press, which is always critical of Israel,, has the correct editorial approach in reporting and discussing Israeli/Palestinian relations.. Israel is wrong. Palestinians are right. There is no need for self examination and self criticism.

But one could also argue that the fundamental difference between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the Arabs in general that is reflected in their media, is that Israelis live their lives in the real world and the Arabs live much of their lives in a fantasy world.

For example, in the Arab media, Israelis are being slaughtered and are on the verge of defeat as they approach the outskirts of Cairo. (Pay no attention to the tank outside your window).

In the Arab media, the American forces are nowhere near Baghdad - as they secure the Baghdad Airport just a hop, skip and jump from where Baghdad Bob is announcing their defeat.

The Arab media, seeking sympathy, asks "who sends tanks into refugee camps?" No Arab media asks "why the hell do we have 50 year old refugee camps? Where else in the world do you find 50 year old refugee camps?"

In the Arab press, the Jewish history of Palestine and ancient Israel is a lie - Zionist propaganda - just like the so called holocaust.

And on and on. Irrationality as rationality. Fantasy as reality.

If the Arab media is a true reflection of how the Arab people view the world, peace and sanity in the Middle East will be a long time coming.

Still, I’ll keep checking as many Arab publications as I can in the hope that I’ll spot some signs of change in their view of the conflict - and more important, of themselves.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I don’t know where the ancient conundrum about whether the sound of a tree falling in the forest can be heard if nobody’s there originated, but I was reminded of it as I listened to and read about the attempted sale of surface to air missiles to terrorists who wanted to bring down a commercial jet - maybe even air force one.

The spin on the story from government spokespersons - all the way up to the president, was that in arresting Hemant Lakhani , a 68 year old British arms dealer of Indian descent, we had thwarted some evil plot to attack our nation, or at the very least struck a blow in the war on terrorism.

The reports all said that Lakhani had worked diligently over a 20 month period to buy as many as 50 Russian made surface to air missiles and sell them to a well financed group of terrorists.

Except that the "terrorists" were American and Russian government agents running an elaborate sting operation.

There was no threat. We were not saved from anything.

It isn’t totally clear from the way the story is unfolding, just how it got started, but it seems to be the case that the Russians approached Lakhani with an offer of a missile deal and not the other way round.

Obviously, he was in the market for such a deal. His actions are ample proof of that. But if he didn’t make the initial approach with an initial offer to buy - and frankly, even if it turns out that he did, everything that flowed from the first contact between him and Russian agents was pure theater - a play being performed for a limited audience of American and Russian security personnel.

To what end?

Surely not to prove that there are terrorists who would love to get their hands on such missiles.

Surely not to lead our security people directly to a band of terrorists. The potential buyers of the missiles that Lakhani would be supplying was us. The sting team.

So what was this all about?

20 months of effort by an unknown number of agents from two countries and expenditures of unknown dollar amounts to be able to announce that we knew of this one nasty guy who didn’t like us very much and was willing to try to supply deadly weapons to other people who didn’t like us very much in return for some healthy dollar payoff.

And oh yes. We grabbed a couple of other guys who were helping Lakhani move his payoff to wherever it was bound for - presumably in exchange for a healthy cut. I doubt they were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts and mutually shared hatred of Americans.

There isn’t any doubt that huge damage could be caused by terrorists who got their hands on surface to air missiles, and the news reports are saying that there may be a half a million of them in existence today.

But as far as I can tell, we are not one whit safer because we were able to sting this one small potatoes arms dealer. And we’ve spent a lot of money stringing out a charade that could have ended the moment Mr. Lakhani said yes to the Russians who offered to sell him missiles or to the Americans who offered to buy them.

At the end of the day it seems there never was a falling tree to be heard in the first place..

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

In King Henry the Sixth, Part Two, Shakespeare has Dick the Butcher say, "The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers."

If he were writing today, the play might be The Gates of Microsoft, the character, Susie the Secretary and the line, "somebody needs to lock up these hackers and throw away the key."

I haven’t been affected by MSBlast or Lovesan or whatever other name is being attached to this latest worm that’s shutting down computers all over the world, but I sympathize and empathize with those who have, and just hearing about it makes me mad as hell and not wanting to take it any more.

I listened to the problem being discussed on the radio this morning and one person who had been affected, jokingly suggested that the culprit might be a thirteen year old kid!!

If that turns out to be the case, my hope is that he’s prevented from getting his hands on another computer until he’s 33. After he’s finished a twenty year sentence. No time off for good behavior!!

Up to now, we haven’t really treated criminal hackers as the true criminals they are.

In 1999, a sixteen years old got six months in a juvenile institution for hacking into a Department of Defense computer.

Paul Gregory was 20 when he was caught after stealing credit card numbers and setting up telephone conferences costing thousands of dollars. He was sentenced to 26 months in jail and had to cough up more than $154,000 in restitution.

Jason Diekman was another 20 year old who was arrested for hacking while out on bond for hacking into a NASA computer. He got 21 months in the can plus three years probation and had to cough up 87 grand.

The longest sentence ever given to a hacker was a total of 68 months, which was a combination of two sentences by two different judges, given to career computer criminal Kevin Mitnick.

It wasn’t enough. It isn’t enough.

We are living in a world where almost all essential services are run by, or are connected in some way to computers.

A hacker who breaks into any of these computers and computer networks, whether it be with criminal motives, to commit some kind of financial fraud, or as a lark, just to see if it can be done, is a terrorist and should be treated as such.

Some people have already learned the hard way that it isn’t funny to stand in line at an airport and joke about sneaking a bomb aboard a plane. Now they need to learn that it isn’t a joke to break into a Pentagon computer system and see if you can get them to believe that an attack is about to be launched against us by some foreign power.

The potential harm that can be done by computer hackers is as large as can be dreamed up in your worst nightmare. They have to be stopped.

The sentences handed down to hackers to date have done little to deter this modern form of terrorism. Mitnick had already been convicted of computer crimes before the 22 plus 44 months sentences were handed down, and if you go to a search engine and type in his name, you’d see that some people consider him a celebrity.

It’s time to label all computer hacking as acts of terrorism and come up with appropriate sentences for those who get caught and convicted. It’s no excuse to say that you broke into the bank just to see if you could do it and to leave a funny message at the teller’s cage. You’re as much of a criminal as the guy who broke in just to steal money.

I’m not suggesting hanging.

How about 20 years for a first offense? Life for a second conviction.

Do you think hacking would slow down?

You betcha!!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

I was going to comment on the most recent column by the super hawkish Israel supporter, Charles Krauthammer, in which he defended the building of the part wall, part fence that is being erected to keep out or at least make entry to Israel from the west bank very difficult for suicide bombers. He makes the obvious point that the fence is a result of three years of unrelenting attacks upon civilian Israeli targets, all carried out by terrorists from the west bank. None have come from Gaza where a protective fence already exists.

His arguments are not unreasonable, including those where he takes to task the State Department’s proposal to withhold loan guarantees as a way of exerting pressure on Israel to stop the construction. Krauthammer says that in adopting this attitude, State has joined the latest Palestinian propaganda ploy of making the fence the contentious issue rather than the reason the fence is needed.

Like Krauthammer, I am a strong supporter of Israel and I understand the need for the fence. Unlike Krauthammer, I am not a blind supporter of everything that Israel does, and I had planned to take him to task for failing to address what I think is the legitimate complaint that the route of the fence cuts through and cuts off Palestinian lands, punishing innocent Palestinians

But then came the news of a renewal of suicide bombings , something I hoped would not happen but had been expecting ever since the so called cease fire was declared at the end of June.

I still think Krauthammer is too hawkish and myopic when he writes about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In his view, the Palestinians can do nothing right and Israel can do nothing wrong. And when it does something obviously wrong, Krauthammer will find a way to excuse it.

But today more than yesterday, I can understand his despair and his cynicism and his hawkishness. And this is not a day to question the route of the fence or anything that Israel does to defend its citizens against the madmen of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigade, Hizballah and the rest of the splinter groups dedicated to perpetual conflict.

Friday, August 08, 2003

In a blog entry on June 5, 2003, I wrote the following:

"There are a million or so Israeli Arabs who are citizens of the democratic state of Israel, who live in Israel under Israeli law and who practice whatever religion they wish to practice without interference from Israeli authorities.

There are 200,000 or so Jews living in settlements on the west bank and in Gaza.

What is wrong with them staying there as citizens (or resident aliens) of a democratic Palestinian state, living under Palestinian laws and practicing whatever religion THEY want to practice without interference from Palestinian authorities?

How would that be an obstacle to achieving peace between the two peoples?"

Today, an article in the Israeli paper Haaretz, spoke of the conclusion, reach separately by two prominent Israeli leftists, that there is no viability to the two state solution proposed by President Bush and many others in the past.

These two gentlemen suggest that the only solution is a single, binational state, from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean, in which Jews would be a minority.

I don’t agree with their conclusions but I do agree that the simplicity of a "two state" solution holds little hope for success. There’s little viability in a state that would be made up of what is left of the west bank and the Gaza strip.

What MIGHT work - but will probably never be accepted by the extremists from both sides, is the binational concept - open borders, joint ventures, integrated economies - but with two separate electorates.

Under those conditions, the question that I posed on 6/5/03 would have an obvious - and logical - answer.

But then logic never has played a role in the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and I guess it would be naïve of us to expect it to enter the picture now….

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I was going to give the Arnold Shwarzenegger story a pass, figuring just about every news outlet in the country would be covering it in depth, and sure enough, even the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer has Arnold as the lead story tonight.

So why am I writing about it? It’s just too hard to resist making one small point.

For years now, one of the pillars of right wing punditry has been that actors are the lowest form of humanity and that their opinions, particularly their political opinions, are of no value and shouldn’t be listened to.

Actors with the wrong kind of political views, that is.

The likes of Martin Sheen, Susan Saranden, Mike Farrel,Tim Robbins and Matt Damon.

Every time a major issue arises in this country that evokes emotional responses from people up and down the political spectrum - the most recent one of course being the decision to invade Iraq - pundits from the far right of that political spectrum will descend upon any actor who voices an opinion that differs from theirs like a school of piranha that haven’t eaten for a week.

Wrong headed and stupid are the least of the invectives hurled against them. It usually gets a lot worse.

What the hell does any actor know about anything? What the hell gives some stupid, liberal actor the right to question the president of the United States? These people should stick to acting and stay out of things they don’t understand.

They should not be allowed to use their celebrity to make their opinions heard. They should be boycotted. No one should hire them to perform in a movie or on television or on stage. They are un-American. By golly, they’re not that far off from being TRAITORS!!

Unless of course they are of the RIGHT political persuasion, pun fully intended. Then the argument is put forth that they shouldn’t be penalized for being celebrities, and we should look beyond their screen or television or stage personae, to the wise and noble core of their true being.

We did it before in California and we watched with amusement and amazement as a B movie actor became a governor and then a president!!

And now we have Arnold Shwarzenegger at the center of this latest California nuttiness.

At least there’s no way he could end up being governor and THEN president. Unless his supporters can find some way to prove that Austria is really a sub division of Los Angeles.

Still, it should be fun to hear and read all of those right wing pundits as they try to explain why The Terminator has the vision and the qualifications to be the next governor of the great state of perpetual craziness.

The irony of it all is that anything they say will be absolutely right - NO pun intended. Considering what has become of the former great state of California, The Terminator is a perfect choice for governor - next to Larry Flynt and Gary Coleman that is……

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Imagine this scenario.

You have an idea for making money. Lots of money. Millions of dollars. Maybe billions.

There’s only one problem. It’s illegal. In fact, it’s downright criminal.

You’ve figured a way to cheat the federal government out of those millions or billions by manipulating the Medicare program. It’s a brilliant idea. The chances of it being uncovered are slim.

Still, there is a chance that you could be found out. And if you were, you know you’d be facing some serious jail time. You know because you know about others who’ve tried cheating Medicare and Medicaid programs. You know about a small drug store owner who figured out a way to cash in on phony prescriptions, and now he’s on his way up state (or down state), hoping that he won’t end up having to share a cell with a guy named Butch. And you know about others who shared the same fate.

So you don’t commit the crime.

Still, it gnaws at you. Millions to be scammed. Maybe billions.

And then it hits you. The brilliant solution. You’ll SELL the idea. To a major pharmaceutical company. The deal will be that they’ll have to hire you at some disgustingly inflated salary along with a raft of equally disgustingly inflated perks and a suitcase full of golden parachutes.

Then you and the major pharmaceutical company sit back and watch the dollars start to roll - no, cascade in.

And you don’t care whether you get caught or not, because you won’t be going up or down state to share a jail cell with anyone named Butch. And neither will the executive who hired you. Or anyone else at MegaBigBucks Pharmaceuticals Incorporated.

The worst that will happen when the Feds descend upon you is that you’ll throw up your hands, say "OOPS, you caught me," and pay a few million dollar fine.

Now I’m not saying that this sort of thing actually happens, but the imagination does tend to run wild when you read a news item like this:

"NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - Medical products maker Abbott Laboratories Inc. pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation into whether it encouraged a distributor to cheat the federal Medicare program, and agreed to pay $600 million in fines, prosecutors said on Wednesday."

If that sticks in your craw, welcome to the club.

Executives of large corporations DO go to jail from time to time for various crimes, but how many times do we read of corporations pleading guilty to some serious infraction and being punished by the imposition of a fine?

So who or what is being punished? The corporation’s bottom line? What kind of punishment is that?

A corporation isn’t a sentient being.. It’s a legal structure run by people and no corporation commits a crime unless some people dream it up. So why aren’t the people who committed the crime being punished?

What do you think would happen if those people who caused the corporation to commit a crime, committed the same crime as individuals, not as employees of a corporation? Do you think they could get away with paying a fine and promising not to do it again?

Or would they be looking to buy a copy of "Coping With Butch For Dummies?"

Does the phrase "double standard" come to mind?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Even though the bill to legalize purchase of prescription drugs from outside the United States was approved in the House, final congressional approval still has major hurdles to overcome.

At the moment, the head count in the Senate does not look positive, and you may be sure that the pharmaceutical companies are continuing to wage war in every way they can to ward off any potential lowering of their profits that might result from American consumers being able to buy their drugs in Canada or England.

And it seems they are finding allies outside of government.

A lengthy editorial in today’s Chicago Tribune might well have been written by a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, echoing the time worn claim that drug prices have to be high to pay for all that wonderful research that produces all of the wonder drugs that world populations enjoy. And, says the Tribune, all the other countries that benefit from American research ought to get in line and raise their ridiculously low drug prices and pay their "fair share" of the cost of all this research.

If the Chicago Tribune bought this specious argument, there’s no telling how many other voices of influence the pharmaceutical industry is reaching.

Fortunately, there are voices of truth, such as this report on advertising vs research spending by the pharmaceutical industry.

It demonstrates the real reason why we are forced to pay the unconscionable amounts that these gouging pharmaceutical companies charge for products that they know we can’t live without. Well worth reading.

And I’ll have more to say on this subject. Stay tuned

Monday, August 04, 2003

In Ottumwa, Iowa, "It is unlawful for any male person, within the corporate limits of the city, to wink at any female person with whom he is unacquainted."

In Zion, Ill., it is illegal for anyone to give lighted cigars to dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals kept as pets.

In Baltimore, it's illegal to throw bales of hay from a second-story window within the city limits. It's also illegal to take a lion to the movies.

In Oxford, Ohio, it's illegal for a woman to strip off her clothing while standing in front of a man's picture.

These are just a handful of at least dozens, probably hundreds and maybe even thousands of nutty laws still on the books in towns, counties and states around the country.

And now we have a new one to add to the list, a new definition of rape which is spreading from state to state.

This is the law that says if two people are engaging in consensual sex and one wants to stop and says so, and the other party doesn’t stop, that sexual encounter that started out being consensual, can suddenly be considered to be an act of rape. It’s being called the "no means no" law.

Rape is a horrible crime and proven rapists should be subjected to the most severe penalties that the law provides.

But mutually desired sexual encounters turning into rape because one party suddenly says no?

Consider for a moment under what circumstances consensual sex takes place.

Between married couples of course.

Between unmarried couples who live together and for whom sex with each other on a regular basis is a part of their life style.

And couples who don’t live together but date regularly and have an intimate relationship.

It’s possible that under any of these circumstances, there could be a serious falling out and one partner could attempt to forcibly engage in a sex act with the other as an expression of their anger. Or it could happen because one partner was drunk or high on drugs and didn’t care what the other partner wanted or didn’t want. But that would be rape from the get go - not a consensual act that turns into this new definition of rape.

So when is it likely to occur and why am I adding it to the list of silly laws?

I think it would come into play mostly in a situation where two people come together who are not married or living together or in an ongoing intimate relationship that includes regular sex.

It would be in a situation where strong sexual feelings are aroused in both parties, maybe for the first time, but maybe even with people who have had a previous sexual encounter.

It would be in a situation where hormones are raging, where physical contact between the two individuals is becoming increasingly intimate, where clothing is being removed and where both individuals are showing every sign of wanting to proceed to one or more sexual acts.

It is after the mutually agreed and desired sex act is actually under way that the problem arises - and for the sake of simplicity let us assume that we are talking only about coitus. And let’s also assume that it would only be the female partner who would bring an accusation of rape.

If everything up to the moment where she first says stop, or no or whatever other word is meant to be a sudden withdrawal of consent, has indeed been completely consensual, the male is placed in a very difficult position.

His hormones are raging. He’s in the grip of passion. He may be close to ejaculation. He has to listen to and interpret the words that are being used. He has to be able to come to an instant understanding that the consensual sex act that has total control of his emotions and his senses has suddenly become non-consensual.

If he doesn’t immediately stop, is it then rape or just an out of control, passionate aggressive conclusion to a consensual sex act? Or does a time factor come into play? Is it rape if the male takes a few seconds to cease and desist? Has it become rape if he takes 3O seconds to conclude that the female really means it?

The opportunity for harmful mischief is written all over this law.

Men are less in control of their hormonal emotions than are women and could easily become victims of the kind of women who is sometimes referred to as a "teaser." Actually, it’s a two word phrase that is usually used to describe this type of woman but I’ve left one word off in deference to younger and more sensitive visitors to this page.

Rape is an act of violence - not sex.

No man should be accused of rape because he doesn’t immediately stop engaging in sex with his willing partner because she says she wants to stop. Her recourse should be to tell him she wants nothing more to do with him or to stop having any kind of consensual sex with him, not try to put him in jail.

You can’t call off a suicide because you change your mind half way down from jumping out of a twelfth floor window. And you can’t cry rape after you willingly accept a male penis into your vagina.

These new rape laws are silly and should be taken off the books.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

When Newton Minnow gave his famous "vast wasteland" speech in 1961, I doubt that he would have believed that every word he said would be even more applicable more than 40 years later..

On the other hand, I’m not sure that that’s a true statement. What has happened to television broadcasting has gone far beyond the vast wasteland stage. I really don’t know what words to use to describe it.

Just when you think that the limit of bad taste and utter stupidity has been reached, someone comes up with a new "can you top this" concept.

The latest is a GAY version of "The Bachelor."

I’ve never watched The Bachelor but I have a vague understanding of the concept. A group of women vying for a marriage proposal from a single male.

I’m not sure what the proposed end result is for the gay version. Maybe a free trip to Canada where gay marriage has been legalized. Or maybe just a shack up week end at a fancy resort. I won’t know by watching but I’ll probably read about it.

Could this possibly be the lowest of the low?

Are you kidding? A new nether surface has been scratched and beneath it lies layer upon layer of garbage skins.

I predict the next level will be The S&M Bachelor.

A group of single women battling to see who can inflict the most inventive pain, humiliation and sexual submission upon a masochistic male.

Each of the women would have an entire show to themselves to tease and torture the willing male. It would be filmed over a lengthy period of time with sufficient time between each filming or taping to allow the star to recuperate from whatever indignities had been visited upon his person.

At the end of the series, the S&M Bachelor would choose the women he would most like to serve permanently as a slave to her sadistic whims.

A note to all television writers and producers out there. This is MY idea and you have no permission to use it unless you cut me in on the profits. Or I’ll beat the shit out of you. With a cat-o’- nine-tails. Coast to Coast. In Prime time.