30 July 2001
"It isn't every day that you learn how to promote the Constitution and trash it in one easy congressional hearing. But that's exactly what happened this week." So opens Wes Vernon's news report on a congressional session where a group of students put forth the idea of printing parts of the Constitution on U.S. currency, while an anti-privacy proposal to rig that same currency with a device for tracking it was presented.
24 July 2001
After a long-weekend trip to San Francisco, then to New York for Macworld Expo, I'm back. Updates, including pictures from both cities and the Expo, will follow.
Eudora Welty, 1909 - 2001
Eudora Welty, popular short story and novella writer, died yesterday at the age of 92. (use our NYT registration info: digitalpembroke/linus)
Ms. Welty is probably best known for her short story "Why I Live at the P.O.," which practically every American school child reads at one point or another. This story so inspired software developer Steven Dorner, that he named his email application after the author. Eudora survives today on the Mac OS, Windows, and Palm OS.
Except for brief stays in other places, such as New York City during World War II, Ms. Welty spent most of her life in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. She died from health complications in her home there.
11 July 2001
at 1:30 pm CST...
6 days, 18.5 hours until Steve Jobs's keynote at Macworld Expo in New York...
New Barnes & Noble promo
Order any two or more items, and the shipping is free, and this appears to now be the norm for Barnes & Noble on multiple item orders. Seeing as how I'm an $8.00 sale away from getting my first affiliate check from B&N, somebody go and buy something already!
8 July 2001
Big Brother Is Watching
The city of Tampa, Florida introduces Big Brother to America by becoming the first American city to have a permanent security camera system in its Ybor City nightlife district. The system uses 36 cameras with software to compare people's faces with mug shots in a database. Tampa has a brief history of engaging in public invasions of privacy, having used a similar system during the Super Bowl earlier this year. FYI: of the 19 possible wanted criminals identified at the Super Bowl, none were arrested due to the crowd size.
Of course, all of this is being done in the name of public safety. Loss of liberty has increasingly come in the name of the public good. Keep in mind these words from one of our Founding Fathers: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety are deserving of neither." —Benjamin Franklin (if you don't want to sign up for the free registration for the NY Times, feel free to use digitalpembroke.com's login: digitalpembroke/linus)
Microsoft control the Internet?
It may sound implausible, but Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury's SiliconValley.com doesn't think so. Gillmor plans to extricate himself from Microsoft's hold as much as possible. He plans to use Windows 2000 on the next PC he buys, instead of Windows XP, which it will likely ship with. Note that Gillmor also notes that Windows 2000 "is the first reliable Microsoft operating system I've ever used."
Gillmor is going to give Linux another try, though he's tied to Windows and Microsoft because of the email program his employer uses. He encourages the use of non-Microsoft web browsers. Both Gillmor and I agree that Opera is probably the best choice going.
Keeping in mind that Gillmor wrote this on Independence Day 2001, while in London: "The open-source community and others who care about stopping Microsoft from controlling the Net must organize an alternative authentication system -- preferably many such systems. This is the linchpin to the Net of tomorrow. If we let Microsoft capture it, Microsoft will control the choke points of commerce and communications for decades to come.
"Maybe it's inevitable. Maybe resistance is futile. But the odds also were long against American patriots who stood up to a greedy, power-hungry king in 1776."
6 July 2001
Your Tax Dollars At Work(?)
It is with great pleasure that I share with you Senator Fred Thompson's list of the 10 most egregious examples of the central government's fraudulent and wasteful use of your confiscated income.
"For some time now, our government has been mismanaged to an extent that the average American would find shocking. The federal government's core management problems have persisted for years, and, in fact, have grown worse." —Sen. Thompson
1. THE BIG DIG—Boston's Central Artery—is the most expensive federal infrastructure project in the nation's history. Its cost continues to rise and now is estimated at $13.6 billion, an almost 525 percent increase from the original $2.6 billion.
2. ABUSING THE TRUST OF AMERICAN INDIANS—The Department of the Interior does not know what happened to more than $3 billion it holds in trust for American Indians. A judge overseeing this case called it "fiscal and governmental irresponsibility in its purest form."
3. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT—There is widespread agreement that the Department of Defense finances are a shambles. It wastes billions of dollars each year, and cannot account for much of what it spends.
4. NASA MISMANAGEMENT CAUSES MISSION FAILURES—In spectacular example after example, NASA lost billions because of mismanagement of some of its biggest programs. The cause of the Mars Polar Lander failure, for example, was that one team used English measurements (inches, feet, and pounds) to design and program the vehicle, while another used metric measurements.
5. MEDICARE WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE—Medicare wastes almost $12 billion EVERY YEAR on improper payments. It misspent that $12 billion last year from the fee-for-service part of Medicare alone, which was about 7 percent of the total fee-for-service budget. The amounts wasted on improper Medicare payments would go a long way toward funding a prescription drug benefit or other program enhancements.
6. SECURITY VIOLATIONS AT THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY—The department does not adequately safeguard America's nuclear secrets. In just one case, an employee was dead for 11 months before department officials noticed that he still had four secret documents signed out.
7. IRS FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT—The IRS manages its finances worse than most Americans. The agency does not even know how much it collects in Social Security and Medicare taxes. GAO found significant delays—sometimes up to 12 years—in recording payments made by taxpayers.
8. VETERANS AFFAIRS PUTS PATIENT HEALTH AT RISK—The Department of Veterans Affairs' inspector general found that "[a hospital's food service] shares the loading dock with the Environmental Management Service's hazardous waste containers. Dirty Environmental Management Service and red biohazard carts were located next to the area where food is transported to the kitchen."
9. BILKING TAXPAYERS OUT OF STUDENT FINANCIAL AID—Federal student aid programs are rife with fraud and abuse. A cottage industry of criminals advise people on how to cheat to get federal loans and grants. In one case, scam artists passed off senior citizens taking crafts classes as "college students" who qualified for federal Pell grants.
10. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FRAUD—A Las Vegas, NV, man illegally collected at least $230,500 in fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits from four different states between September 1996 and November 1999. He set up 13 fake companies and submitted bogus claims based on false reported wages for 36 nonexistent claimants using the names and Social Security numbers of dead people, and then collected the claims by mail from California, Massachusetts, Texas and Nevada. —Thanks, Federalist!
Chris' Comment: Can you imagine if a Fortune 100 company was run this way, with this much gross negligence of finances? The entire Board of Directors would be voted out by the shareholders, and the CEO, CFO, et al would be fired immediately. So do your part, fellow Americans, as shareholders in our nation, in voting out the riff-raff when presented with the opportunity. Let us make accountability a requirement for public service.
June's news bits have been sent off to the archives.