cover photo

Mike Macgirvin

Bush's Bailout Speech

  from Diary and Other Rantings
According to Bush -

"The government is the only institution patient enough to buy these assets at their current low prices and hold them until their prices return to normal".

Hmmm. I have to question this plan then. There are a lot of investors out there who would gladly buy assets guaranteeing a return in ten or even twenty years - sometimes thirty.

What this says is that the downturn is likely to have negative effects for the next thirty years or more - and/or that there's a high probability these 'assets' will never return to normal. Otherwise investors would be jumping all over them. Several banking institutions are bankrupt for good reason.

I also question the U.S. government buying public stock after announcing their intention to do so. Right. The smart inverstors will have bought these stocks for a nickel on the dollar and wait for the government to buy in and bid up the price - and then quickly exit the market at a huge profit and leaving the taxpayer holding the loss. That's the way the market works my friend.

Better to just sit this one out folks.
Well wouldja? Huh?

  last edited: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 14:29:19 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
So would you buy a used car from this woman?

Now with a face like that I can understand why Monica was found attractive!
Benazir Bhutto - R.I.P.

  last edited: Sat, 29 Dec 2007 10:34:38 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
I found the news of Ms. Bhutto's assassination a bit troublesome. Where does Pakistan go from here?


I think it's time for Musharref to go away. Did he have something to do with the assassination? They're currently rounding up the 'usual suspects' and doing their best to paint this as an al-Qaeda operation. It is the Musharref regime however, which by virtue of being so virulently anti-democratic - lies at the root of the incident. I seem to recall that it was a military government that first deposed and later murdered Benadir's father as his populism was a threat to their hold on power.

Deja vu?
Lakota Nation

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Apologies, but there just doesn't seem to be any news over here (or anywhere that I'm plugged into) about the recent Lakota Nation dissolution of peace treaties with the U.S. Can anybody on the other side of the pond find something more informative? Reactions? Anything?

You would think that the north-central U.S. reverting to Indian ownership and cancellation of land treaties which means the loss/secession of both Dakotas and most of a couple more states; and the issuing of Lakota passports - might cause a bit of a stir. The land title issues alone could be tied up in court for another twenty years. If you've got a house or business in Lakota territory and you're not Indian, it's no longer yours; unless you're willing to take up arms to defend it.  

But no - nothing. Not even chatter. That's a bit odd. Don't you think?
So far as I know, most of the Lakota are not behind this move. It seems to center on the activist Russell Means.
Shred early, shred often

  last edited: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 08:52:11 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Seems the US scandal du jour is the waterboarding/torturing of prisoners at Guantanamo, and then having the gall to delete the videos before somebody leaked them to YouTube.

Believe I talked about what was taking place at Guantanamo almost 6 years ago.  It's taken this long for them to admit what we already knew was happening. The only reason they're whining about the videos now is because it's coming up on an election year and they'd really like to use the footage on the campaign trail.

But I got to thinking... The only reason why we can hold all these guys in violation of Geneva Convention is because we claim that technically they aren't part of an army. They're 'illegal combatants' in Cheney-speak. If Al-queda wanted to prevent us from doing things like this going forward, all they would have to do is declare themselves to be a political party operating under a government in exile from somewhere. Then they would legally be soldiers and we couldn't torture the poor buggers. In fact I'd have to say that Iraqi-born insurgents are probably legal combatants and completely entitled to POW status today. Defending one's homeland from foreign invaders is the noblest of military pursuits.

Any Syrian or Iranian combatants are on their own.
The US battle

  last edited: Tue, 27 Nov 2007 23:41:58 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
The Australian election came and went in about six weeks. Rudd took office the next day. It's over. In America, they're still duking it out over an election a year away.

The latest squabble is between Clinton and Obama -  who's health care plan is better? Pardon me, I'm now just a curious outsider - but as it turns out I can still vote.

Hillary, you need Barack. Whether you like it or not, he's your vice president. Deal with it - or get out of the race. You can't win without him.

In any event, you'll never get to battle Republicans if you're stuck in the mud fighting your own party.  If you want to differentiate yourself from other candidates, the best way is to go for the jugular of the other party - not your own.  

Screw health care. Didn't you learn that when your hubby was the president? Nobody wants your health care initiative. They didn't want it then, they don't want it now. You aren't strong enough (today) to fight the health care lobby. It's the economy, stupid. It's the war, stupid. Health care? It's just stupid, stupid. Pardon me Hillary - because this is sexist, but you just don't have the balls to socialize the American medical system. It's a nasty fight that will probably destroy whatever president tries to pull it off. Save it for another day, like a second term - if you get that far. That's a good time to go down swinging. The way things are going, you'll never get the first term.
And the winner is -

  last edited: Sun, 25 Nov 2007 07:51:37 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Looks like we've got a new prime minister. That would be Kevin Rudd - although I learned from the last couple of elections in the states not to call a winner until the court has spoken. Last night the Liberal Party spokespersons were taking care not to admit defeat or make concession speeches - holding out for every last vote to be counted.

Labor unions are still big here, and the Labor Party is big with the unions. So even though Mr. Rudd won the election on platforms such as global warming which appeal to all voters, deep down, you can hear the Labor Party leaders talking about how they've now got a 'mandate' to rewrite all the workplace agreement laws. This is no different than the states, where a republican victory is usually declared a mandate to change abortion or school prayer laws.

When I took my current job, I was offered a choice - either an individual contract or a collective contract. Taking the collective contract pretty much makes you a union member. I chose the individual contract. This choice is at the heart of the workplace agreement reform Labor's talking about. They really don't like the fact that individual contracts are offered as a choice and want to make joining the union more opt-out than opt-in.


There was a big sign out front of the hardware store yesterday. Chook manure. Translated: chicken shit.
Happy Turkey Day

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Thanksgiving came and went here yesterday without much fanfare. Just another work day. We had a ham dinner at the pub - which is the only place in town that serves food after 8PM. We'll probably have something a bit more traditional tonight (Friday) to go along with the U.S. holiday.

But all eyes here are on the Australian election tomorrow. Kevin Rudd seems to have a strong lead. He's Labor Party or what those in the states would call a 'democrat'. The Liberal Party here is John Howard and would be what would be called a 'republican' in America.

Howard has made some pretty bold moves in the last month, but 80% of it is pure financial bribery to get re-elected. Most people are genuinely tired of him. If he comes out on top, it's going to be expensive to make good on all the financial promises he  has made. His main argument for staying in power sounds reminiscent of Bush in 2004. Stay the course - you are a fool if you want to change horses in the middle of a stream.

Well, yes - valid point. But I personally think it's OK to jump off a horse in the middle of a stream if in fact you had no intention of being in the stream in the first place, and the durn fool horse just decided (against all better judgement) to go swimming in flood currents.
Campaign season

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The U.S. presidential campaign - boring.

The Australian Prime minister race? Yawn.

If you want an interesting election, looks like you have to go to Argentina.
And they're off...

  from Diary and Other Rantings
And I thought American politics was amusing. Australia does things a bit different, and with even more transparency and hilarity. Seems that there isn't a fixed day for when elections are held. The sitting prime minister gets to pick the day within some range. The range was starting to run out, and Mr. Howard has been promising for weeks that he's going to set an election 'soon'. Yesterday was the day he called it. For November 24 - or about five weeks from now. Contrast this to the U.S. where they're fighting over an election that's a year away.

So although we know the opposition is Kevin Rudd - a guy who looks a lot like John Denver, and have known it for some time, the campaign has only just begun - and in five weeks it will be over.

Now John Howard has been taking a beating in the polls, mostly for not standing up to and disagreeing with 'the idiot'. So day one of the campaign starts off with a (drum roll please....) tax cut. If you can't beat 'em in the polls, and don't have a credible strategy, bribe the voters. You may laugh, but this tactic has been working for thousands of years.

I can hardly wait for day two. This promises to be quite an interesting election.
and how's your wrist? I broke mine decades ago, it was not fun. It's a good thing I was (and still am) ambidexterous. I actually broke it two days before the only real snowfall in Silicon Valley in the last fifty years....the biggest drag of the the whole broken wrist experience was not being able to throw snowballs at folks that had stopped their cars (like me) on the freeway to play in the snow at 8 am that day (the snow only stuck for 20 minutes).
There's still some question of whether it's bone or nerve (e.g. RSD). It is unlike any RSD I've had before and more like a minor fracture (which I've also had before).

Left hand, Gail :-(

As long as I keep from twisting it, putting weight on it, etc. - it doesn't bother me so I'm just playing wait and see right now. Within reason I can still type, play guitar, and hold a beer without pain. So life goes on, but I'm 90% convinced at this point that it's not just a pinched nerve.
Well, as long as you can still hold onto a pint, you'll be okay. ;-) I'd rather have the fractured wrist as opposed to RSD any day. Hope it gets better soon.

Haven't broken any bones in the upper body, with the exception of one knuckle, only fractured an ankle, shinbone, and broken a femur.
Localized news

  last edited: Sat, 06 Oct 2007 00:12:27 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
There are occasions when having IP location checking is a good thing. For instance Google notices that I'm in Australia (by mapping my IP address), and gives me the option to search for something in 'Australia only', or 'Search the web'.

I've noticed more and more software that is location aware. For instance a lot of the large electronic manufacturers do this to quickly point you to products for your local supply voltage and also to direct you to the nearest retailer that stocks their products. Software download sites often use it to choose 'mirrors' of the software that you can download without your data packets traversing multiple continents and oceans.  

Technically, it's not hard. I've done it myself. You just need to link to a Geo <-> IP database.

Sometime in the last 48 hours, it looks as if CNN became location aware. This is enough to make me protest. I'm presented with a new header bar that gives me Sydney weather info, so I know what's going on.  What I fear, is that I'll no longer be able to get U.S. news - which is my only reason for visiting CNN. Not that CNN is the best distributor of information. But it's the principal of the thing. Now that I know that they know where I am in the world, I cannot shake the feeling that I'll never know if the news page that I'm presented with represents actual US news, or some localized version of the news that was molded and massaged to suit the political and social leanings of the local population. You know why they do this of course. China. Now they can honor the Chinese government requests to subdue information that is ultimately going to China. So I feel like a Chinese dissident. In order to get American news - from America; I'm going to have to connect anonymously via a proxy server somewhere in the continental U.S.
CHiPs - California's new tech police

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Late last week the L.A. Times reported that the California Highway Patrol had cleared the failed Angelides campaign of wrong-doing in accessing some derogatory sound bites from one of our governator's websites.

You can access the original article here.

Seems that Angelides aides found a way to troll the website and find some files that didn't have public links. Not a crime, just not very good website security.  

But I'm not writing this to regurgitate political news.  

I'm writing to draw attention to the fact that we now have the California Highway Patrol investigating software security and political issues. They seem to have received this mandate as a result of being somehow responsible for investigating California property issues; and this has somehow been extended to cover intellectual property.

This might make sense if you consider that unlike many states, we Californians do not have a so-called 'state police'. There is a big black void between local law enforcement and federal investigators.  The CHP are the closest thing we have to a statewide police agency.

I'm not saying this is wrong, just saying that this event exposed some little known workings and otherwise invisible chains of authority in our state government.
Hillary for prez

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Hillary Clinton announced that she's in the running. Wow! That's like so totally unexpected!


Unfortunately, that pretty much wraps the race. The only thing that stands in the way of a Clinton victory is if a) she self destructs, or b) a real leader is found that is willing to run against her. I wouldn't put money on either of those probabilities.
I should NEVER comment on politics, it is all too complicated for me to grock it fully. BUTT I have to say that the prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female president of the United States, frankly, scares me.  I wanted Ann Richards or Barbara Jordan to be the one - but THEY had to up and die! I have to admit for the longest time I wanted Linda Ellerbee, and kinda still do.

I agree with the mindset that career politicians are a large part of today's political woes and HC seems to me to be a great example of just that.
Any female president is going to face the same problem. They have to be tough, so they lose their femininity. We've seen it in Hillary, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, and now Nancy Pelosi. They are all destined to turn into bad cliches of Maggie Thatcher given enough time.

Which is about what I expect from a Ms. Clinton white house... It will be really interesting to see who in the old boy's club thinks they can whup her.

  last edited: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 07:03:31 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Something isn't adding up. Bush is expected tonight to request an additional 20-30 thousand soldiers for Iraq. And to meet this goal there are going to be more callups of the reserves and extensions of current duty tours - which also seem to be made up in large part by reserve troops.

But if you check the reference sources, the US military is supposed to have about 1.4 million active duty personnel - today. If these competent and trained soldiers aren't available to be put to work on the largest military task at hand, where are they? What are they doing?

I for one question the logic of adding an arbitrary number of troops to a situation that is tenuous at best. But a larger question emerges. If we're adding 20-30 thousand weekend warriors to a staff comprised largely of weekend warriors, why not just put a half million active duty folks over there tomorrow and act like we mean business? That would still leave us close to a million folks to handle any other world crises which might demand attention. Surely we don't have any immediate crises requiring close to a million active duty personnel.

It makes me wonder if we really have 1.4 million active duty soldiers. Maybe we don't.... Which brings up the question - how many do we really have? Given the gyrations the military is going through to keep 150,000 or so in Iraq (our most demanding campaign at the moment), it leads me to believe that the total active force must in fact be somewhat less than 300,000 (50% on standby for immediate national defense); and nobody is talking about this because it might point out how badly the volunteer army has failed and how vulnerable we really are.
He's dead, Jim

  last edited: Thu, 04 Jan 2007 02:47:53 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
It's a strange and peculiar media tyranny we live under. We've got hours to discuss the lame presidency of Gerald Ford - spread over a week or two. OK, the Vietnam War did end under his watch, 30 some odd years ago. So I won't dis the guy completely. And then we spend countless hours contemplating the demise of one James Brown, who wrote a few hit songs 30+ some odd years ago. Yawn.

But the man of the hour, the butcher of Baghdad - whom we've spent trillions of dollars to hunt down and capture, and whose country is even now sapping the lives of thousands of our youngest and brightest; gets less than 30 seconds on the evening news when his life passes in an execution filled with the same sectarian politics that is causing our soldiers untold grief.

Some will say that he doesn't deserve as much respect as Gerald Ford. I'm not going to argue that point, though I'm not convinced. I would argue that his life has more direct impact on the average American than James Brown, and the circumstances surrounding his death warrant more than a 30 second sound bite.

The world is now safe for the new Iraq. By this I do not mean democracy and a world free from terrorism. We didn't kill Saddam. Al-Sadr killed Saddam. We facilitated it.

Meet the new boss.
Presidential tag cloud

  from Diary and Other Rantings
This scrolled by the other day on a slashdot link. I highly recommend having a look...
Future of Online Gambling(?)

  last edited: Mon, 16 Oct 2006 05:26:45 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
You may or may not be aware of the law which was signed by Bush a couple of days ago. It basically makes it illegal to take money from Americans in offshore gambling websites. This has resulted in chaos in the gaming industry (which is huge, 6 billion a year by industry estimates). Companies which were changing hands for hundreds of millions of dollars a couple of weeks ago suddenly went on the block and sold for a buck.

But it is interesting that the sites didn't actually close, and the companies actually did sell to somebody rather than close entirely (like my music store last year). This means that they will continue to operate.

The first big change is that many of them are now refusing to take money from Americans - and will just take their money from anywhere else in the world. This is temporary while the lawyers work on the problem. Turns out the big money in online poker comes from - you guessed it... Americans.

Maybe you remember all the assault weapons bans of ten-fifteen years ago. These likewise were huge money making ventures that suddenly were faced with no revenue stream. This is where the lawyers make their money. Every law has a loophole. The job of the lawyers is to find all the loopholes. You can buy pretty much any assault rifle today that you could've fifteen years ago. The only difference is that you might not get a flash suppresor or a pistol grip; which you would then buy from somebody else if you really wanted one.  

In a few months we'll come back and see that online poker is thriving, just as it always was - and they'll be taking money from Americans, just as they always have. We've found time and time again that you can't outlaw easy money. If the laws are unbeatable, the money will just go underground. It will always flow. But relax, we're nowhere close to underground gambling. You might have to wire your money to an insurance fund in Madagascar, but rest assured that the lawyers will find a completely legal way to take all that easy money off your hands.
I wouldn't want to be a Hezbollah member right now

  last edited: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 04:54:14 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Actually, I don't think I'd like to be anywhere between Turkey and India at the moment...

I know I've been unusually quiet about world events lately. The entire situation has grown somewhat tenuous as you can see if you've been watching the Security Watchtower feed.

Israel is pounding Hezbollah. The U.S. is maintaining a hands off policy and letting them do so, because you may or may not recall - the U.S. and Hezbollah have some history, and it isn't a pleasant reminder. They were behind some of the most notorious terrorist acts in the '70s and early '80s such as blowing up the marine barracks of our peace-keeping force in Lebanon, hijacking cruise ships, and other stuff like that. Sending rockets across the Israel border and kidnapping folks only tends to reinforce that image.

But what everybody seems to be overlooking is that Hezbollah has two sides. There's a political side which does some nasty stuff, and a social side; which generally tries to do good stuff. This social side is what makes it a messy situation. Across the arab world, Hezbollah is often revered for doing good deeds. They run hospitals, maintain welfare programs, and other stuff which makes them quite popular, and are known as the people to side with if you're down on your luck. Apart from a small minority of folks who have ties to big oil, a lot of arab folks are down on their luck.

This is creating a very nasty paradox. There doesn't appear to be any easy way of separating these two faces of Hezbollah into distinct entities - they are one. By attacking the rocket launchers and kidnappers, Israel is also attacking the entire social safety net of the impoverished and creating entirely new vengeances and allegiances of sworn enemies.

As if they didn't have enough enemies already...
Congress targets social networking sites

  last edited: Sat, 01 Jul 2006 05:16:15 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
C|net reports:

[As you read this, be reminded that this website is a social networking site]

The concept of forcing companies to record information about their users' Internet activities to aid in future criminal prosecutions took another twist this week.

Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, originally proposed legislation (click here for PDF) in April that would require Internet service providers to retain activity logs to aid in criminal investigations, including ones involving child abuse.

Now DeGette and some of her colleagues in the House of Representatives are suggesting that social-networking sites should be required to do the same thing.

"How much would it cost your company to preserve those IP addresses?" DeGette asked at a hearing on Wednesday that included representatives from Facebook, Xanga and Fox Interactive Media, the parent company of MySpace. "You're going to store the data indefinitely?"

An IP address is a unique four-byte address used to communicate with a device on a computer network that relies on the Internet Protocol. An IP address associated with, for instance, is

Michael Angus, executive vice president of Fox Interactive Media, said he agrees with the idea of data retention for MySpace. "As a media company, Fox is very committed to data retention," Angus said. "It helps us police piracy."

Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, added: "Why can't data that links IP addresses to physical addresses be stored longer?"

The concept of mandatory data retention was pioneered by the European Union, which approved such a requirement for Internet, telephone and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers last December. A few months later, the Bush administration endorsed the idea, with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calling it "an issue that must be addressed" and--as first reported by CNET up in private meetings with Internet providers.

In those meetings, Justice Department representatives went beyond the argument that data retention was necessary to protect children--and claimed it would aid in terrorism investigations as well.

During Wednesday's hearing, politicians also claimed that social-networking sites were not doing enough to verify that their users who claimed to be a certain age were telling the truth. (Recent news reports have said that sex predators are using MySpace and similar sites to meet up with teens.)

"There is more you can do," DeGette said. "You can do algorithms that will go beyond just the date of birth that they register, to start to weed out some of the underage users." She also called for the companies to participate in a "national public service program" to distribute an educational video.

Two paths for data retention
Data retention legislation could follow one of two approaches, and it's not entirely clear which one U.S. politicians will choose.

One form could require Internet providers and social-networking sites to record for a fixed time, perhaps one or two years, which IP address is assigned to which user. The other would be far broader, requiring companies to record data such as the identities of e-mail correspondents, logs of who sent and received instant messages (but not the content of those communications), and the addresses of Web pages visited.

Earlier in the week, Internet companies tried to forestall potentially intrusive new federal laws by launching a campaign against child pornography designed to tip off police to illegal images. Participants include AOL, EarthLink, Microsoft, United Online and Yahoo.

In addition, Comcast announced that it will begin to retain logs that map IP addresses to user identities for 180 days, up from its current policy of 31 days. (The company stressed that it does not record information such as "Internet use or Web surfing habits.")

But Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee, said even after hearing the news, that he still wanted to enact "a comprehensive anti-child-pornography" law. "I think the Congress is tired of talking about it," Barton said, adding that it was time to "protect our children against these despicable child predators that are on the loose right now in our land."

Barton has not released details about his legislation.

This isn't the first time that MySpace and social-networking sites have faced criticism from politicians--and the threat of new federal laws.

A bill introduced last month by Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, would cordon off access to commercial Web sites that let users create public "Web pages or profiles" and also offer a discussion board, chat room or e-mail service. It would affect most schools and libraries, which would be required to render those Web sites inaccessible to minors, an age group that includes some of the category's most ardent users.

In addition, politicians proposed a slew of related measures this week, including blocking access to off-color Web sites for all Americans, dispatching "search and destroy" bots that would seek out illegal content, regulating search engines and targeting peer-to-peer networks.
The Chicks

  last edited: Sat, 10 Jun 2006 10:04:00 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
The Dixie Chicks are learning some hard lessons about marketing.  The current tour isn't selling many tickets. Their target market was the country music scene until those unfortunate political quotes a few years back. Country music isn't very political. Actually it is, but not in ways you think. Country music is very republican, and extremely patriotic. If you want to dis the president, you need to be in a different market - for instance the pop or rock-n-roll markets; which were born of rebellion. There, you can criticize most anybody or anything and get away with it.

They've actually got the right idea - they are more or less abandoning country radio - which won't play them anyhow, and trying to re-invent themselves as pop stars. But now their name is a liability. 'Dixie' isn't a very good rock-n-roll name. It still reeks of country. So the best way forward is to drop the twang, learn how to dance ala Madonna and Brittney, and just become the Chicks.

They might just stand a chance.
Just like when Jason and the Nashville Scorchers became just Jason and the Scorchers. Everybody remembers _that_. Right?

The political statements don't matter. A friend of mine bought the latest CD and doesn't like the music, and I don't either.
I just had a listen on Amazon... and I have to agree.