Thursday, August 30, 2007

'The Man Is Burnt'

The news from the playa is sad. Someone burned burning man before burning man was supposed to be burned. That burns.

But the reactions are pretty amusing:

"I am disturbed that the Man is burnt. As I looked at it, I was going, 'This can't be happening,' " said Bob Harms of South Lake Tahoe, a seven-time burner.

"Some people were chanting, 'Let him burn, let him burn!' and some were chanting, 'Save the Man, save the Man!' " said Kyle Marx of Eugene, Ore.

"Someone went to a great extent to interfere with everyone else's burn. I think, frankly, an attention whore has made a plea for attention," said a Burning Man volunteer who goes by the name Ranger Sasquatch. "In three days, we will have this rebuilt."
Like the temple? Wait, is this a Jesus thing? Crap, didn't Nostradamus say the end times would start with a dude from the desert? Is the burning man the second coming? Whoa, trippy.

Seriously, though - this year's theme is "The Green Man," so let's make sure we use more wood to rebuild and reburn the green burning man. An act which is not green.

As if trucking out to a desert was a green endeavor to start.

Oh No, Somone's Been Changing Stuff In My Free, Public Forum Source For Shortcut Research

Um, seriously, dudes, it's Wikipedia. Relying on it for more than anecdotal or quick-reference info is dumb. Shock at the manipulation of history, however, is dumber.

May I remind you all of Jack Pitney's first rule of research: Consider The Source.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Any Ideas Welcome

Despite years of formal and informal education and experience in government work, I've yet to understand why it is that those who work for the government should make the bare minimum and forfeit the same privacy rights private employees would enjoy.

Is it because people "get to" work for public entities? Should they be grateful? More altruistic? Happy to work at cut rates and more openly than anyone else?

Does it come down to the fundamental paradox that is the American experience? We hold fast to the American dream that all can be rich and privileged - better than their parents - yet the moment someone achieves that, we hate them, distrust them, and seek to get their pay slashed?

Just for the record, speaking as a taxpayer, I do not request any public employees to work at cut-rates just 'cause. And since, public or private, we're market-driven by our wholesome American nature, I'd rather NOT have the bargain basement employee - the ones we can get cheap.

'US Attorney General Gonzales Resigns'

The lede:

Alberto Gonzales, the nation's first Hispanic attorney general, announced his resignation Monday, driven from office after a wrenching standoff with congressional critics over his honesty and competence.
If the lede contains the most important information in an article - the essential news, all you really need to know, then what does this lede mean? How do the terms relate? Is his status as the first Hispanic attorney General the most important thing about the story? Is it important at all?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Hate Missing The Best Week In The City

That would be Burning Man. Because the Burners are gone.

Chron columnist and SF Metroblogger Violet Blue offers her take on Burning Man and some of the less cool things to pick up while you're there. It's a wonderfully crafted piece full of useful advice. Check it out if you're a Burner. If you're not, check it out to remind yourself why you aren't. Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can Someone Mentor The Mentors

... on language?

While it's foolish to quantify English into its precise number of words, the OED contains entries for 171,476 current and 47,156 "obsolete" words, I think it fair to assert that an adequate number of words exists such that the invention of new words is unnecessary. Especially when new words are incorrectly created to stand-in for words ignored by, uh, ignorant people.

I'll explain.

If you want to get the inner-linguist in me hopping mad, simply use the word "mentee." I've ranted about this before. The word "mentee" is predicated on ignorance. It assumes the word "mentor" parallels words like contractor or nominator. It does not. A mentor's student is not a "mentee." A mentor's student is a protege - or, if you must enslave yourself to the law student hoppy of slapping an "ee" on everything printed on a page, a "mentoree."

A mentor's student is not a mentee. Just. not.

I accept, hell, I sometimes celebrate, that language evolves. I like that we can turn most anything into a verb these days and get a laugh out of someone by doing it.

But the losing the word "protege" really irks me - perhaps because it is a word that should be used by educated people - the kind of people who'd have benefited from being a protege or could do good by mentoring.

Please, save the endangered protege. And eradicate the dangerous mentee, before it's too late.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Can Judicial Hands Truly Be Tied In A Common Law System?

It's enough to make me go Napoleonic: 'Court says it's unjust but deports man who lived with underage girl'

So, explain this to me, a court case which defined a particular felony as inherently abusive - to be clear, from my reading of this article, we're talking about case law as applied to statutory interpretation - requires a 26-year-old legal immigrant be removed to Mexico?

How's that?

The headlines about sex with an underage girl are a bit mislead. This was a consenual relationship between a 20 year old and a 16 year old - hardly an uncommon difference in age, nor uncommon in the particular ages generally.

Um, change it? No? Anyone?

Estrada entered the United States in 1992 at age 12 and became a legal permanent resident six years later. He said his girlfriend and her friends told him she was 18 when they met in June 2001, and he did not learn her true age until six months later. The court said she was either 15 or 16 when they met, but Ahmad said the case record showed that she was 16.

They started living together at his parents' home, then found a place of their own, where Estrada supported her and their newborn son by working as many as 60 hours a week at grocery stores, Ahmad said. He said the couple broke up after Estrada was prosecuted, and the child lives with Estrada's parents.

After being charged by local prosecutors in June 2004, Estrada pleaded guilty to four counts of illegal sexual activity with a minor and was sentenced to a year in jail. The federal government moved to deport him after his release.

In upholding his deportation, the appeals court cited a federal law that requires deportation for any noncitizen convicted of an aggravated felony, a category that includes sexual abuse of a minor.

Last year's precedent-setting ruling, which involved a 32-year-old man who picked up a 17-year-old girl and paid her for sex, defined the felony for which Estrada was sentenced as inherently abusive, the court said.
'Cause these situations are totally analogous. I'd like to know *why* he was prosecuted, but either way . . . I guess if this guy stays in the U.S., the terrorists win.

But, rest easier, the court might convene a larger panel to reconsider the issue! Yeah! Let's have a panel. With some experts. Too bad for this dude, though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Things My Foreign Fiance Finds Funny

We can't travel to Cuba and people who do go there, or enable others to go there, can be fined.

I remember literally rubbing my eyes in disbelief while watching a cab drive by in London with an ad for Sandals Cuba plastered to the side.

There's a Sandals resort in Cuba? Cuba cuba? With the scary dictator and the communism?

So my fiance can go to Cuba, but I can't. Funny, that.

As far as I know, though, China is still A-Okay!

Stupid Comment Of The Day Winner

From an article about potential congesstion tolls in SF to replace a dangerous entry to the GG Bridge:

"Doyle Drive needs to be taken care of by the city, not the taxpayers," said Dan LaFever, who regularly uses it to get from Nob Hill to visit the Outer Richmond District. "It's not a bridge. It's not an extension of the bridge. It's not even part of the highway system. It's a road like any other road. A toll on a regular street to pay for its repairs? I think not."
Yes, the City and County of San Francisco should print up extra money to pay for the upgrade. Where does Mr. LaFever think the city gets its money? If he uses it regularly, then he SHOULD be the one paying a bit extra. Or they can spread the costs around all residents and visitors via a local tax increase. Sound better? Oh wait, that's "taxpayers" again too.

What a moron.

'Edwards Moving Staff Out of Nevada'

A good friend has fallen victim to the primary/caucus schedule-juggling that's caused campaigns to quickly reallocate people and funds:

Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid of Nevada responded with a warning: "Any candidate who chooses to ignore Nevada and its rich diversity does so at their own peril."

The Democratic National Committee gave Nevada a new early role in the presidential nominating process, allowing it to schedule its caucus on Jan. 19, between the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. But New Hampshire has said it may go earlier than the Jan. 22 date set by the DNC to maintain its historic role in choosing the nominee, possibly moving Nevada back in the voting order.
Yeah, woe to those ignoring Nevada. I shouldn't snark - it truly sucks that people are losing jobs over this calendar swapping crap. New Hampshire, I'm lookin' at you.

To back-track on my previous post: it wouldn't even be SO bad if New Hampshire stayed primary among primaries, but that only works if everyone else - California, I'm looking at you - stays put and gives up the race for a moving finish, or start, line.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dear Cali: You Don't Matter Like That, So Please Stop Trying

Congratulations, State of California! Your efforts to make your presidential primary "matter" again have contributed to a recent calendar shuffling that's given us a 2007 caucus date! High-five! Bet you're proud. I mean, it was, like, soooo smart to move your date up so candidates would need to visit the state to nab precious votes and even more important dollars.

But wait, what's this? OTHER states moved theirs too???/?? I'd have never seen that coming. Bet you didn't either. That's a shame. Really it is. I mean, it's almost like mainstream media has determined to bow to the will of Iowa and New Hampshire and allow them to set the pace by buying their narratives whole cloth rather than challenging that either great, yet small, state should be able to select the leader for the ENTIRE country without that leader needing to address the needs of any interests aside from (subsidized) corn farmers and (price-controlled) dairy farmers. Almost!

But wait again, maybe we can make ourselves matter again this way. What if, stick with me now, we award our electoral votes based not on the winner of the popular vote, but on the winner of the congressional race? Then the Reeps gets some votes! That'd be super fair. Your vote will count again! Phew, finally. And, I should add, it's a relief to know yet another reason why it isn't my fault that things never change. And if I don't vote regularly, here's another reason not to until this change is adopted. (How do you say "Not My Fault" in Latin, and can we get that printed on money?)

Other states are trying this too, so you're only kinda leading-edge right now, Cali. That's so unlike you!

At least in North Carolina it's clearly constitutional. Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the selection of electors is up to state legislatures "in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct." When power is delegated to the electorate in referenda, the legal authority gets fuzzy; the Constitution, of course, supersedes state law. In any event, the Hiltachk referendum will face a challenge in court.
Ah, the initiative process. What would we do without it? Besides adhere to traditional ideas of representative government, I mean.

Oh - and a side note, dear California: while I agree with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter that this idea is stupider than stupid (or cleverer than clever, depending on the party in power, I suppose), he's not totally correct because he also forwards the popular vote plan as a sound alternative:

Is there a better way to make every vote count? Yes, and it doesn't require a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College. All it would take is some good mischief in state legislatures. In February, a bipartisan coalition of former senators led by Birch Bayh, Jake Garn and Dave Durenberger unveiled a campaign for a national popular vote. Under the plan, state legislatures would pass bills that pledged to award their state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. It's not clear which party this would help, but if adopted by as few as 11 states, it would guarantee that the candidate with the most votes actually won the election. Anybody got a problem with that?
Me! I have a problem with that! Hello! Over here!

Two times - just two times - in the history of this country the electoral votes failed to match the popular vote. Unfortunately, the second time was during the era of the Twenty-four Hour News Cycle. I was on the losing side (hell, weren't we all?) in 2000 and I STILL don't think it's a broken system.

Giving less populous states a protected voice in selecting the president is important and right. Giving two less populous states ALL of the say, however, is wrong. Don't confuse bad coverage of the process with the process being bad.