Tag Archives: Politics

Government Insecurity

Attempting to contact my representative in congress via the House of Representatives’ web site, the browser displayed a security warning, “The security certificate is not from a trusted source.” Well no, of course it’s not a trusted source. Like I said, I’m trying to contact my representative in Congress….
I wasn’t even trying to be silly; silly found me on its own!

Executive Order

From the Office of the President
September 15, 2009

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, effective immediately, there is to be no use of Twitter in the Press Briefing Room.
September 15, 2009

OK, seriously, I don’t believe for a moment that President Obama will ever issue an executive order like that one. I likewise hope there won’t be an unofficial equivalent, but… Wowsers. You just know there’s gotta be a temptation….
If you’ve somehow missed the uproar, sometime on Monday, during an “off the record” moment before a television interview, President Obama called Kanye West “a jackass.”
It’s been a bad couple of months for civility and politeness in this country. A summer full of “town hall meetings” being disrupted by people who instead of answers only wanted to cause a scene. Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouting at the President of the United States during a formal address. Rapper Kanye West grabbing the microphone away from Taylor Swift to protest BeyoncĂ© not winning the award that went to Taylor (Yay to BeyoncĂ© for putting Taylor back in the spotlight). And now the President of the United States referring to someone as a Jackass.
There is one important distinction though. The first three took place in public settings where the people involved should have been mature enough to realize in advance that their actions were wildly inappropriate. They should have restrained themselves and made their protests in a more appropriate manner.
In the case of President Obama, I’m a bit less certain. There are undoubtedly parents and teachers out there who now have to explain to the kids that just because President Obama used a word doesn’t mean it’s OK for them to use it too.
But although President Obama’s choice of words was unfortunate (it certainly could have been worse), was he wrong to say it? That’s where I’m not sure. Somebody made an audio recording of the President’s remarks, and from the context, it’s clear that the remarks were “off the record.” It was a private, informal conversation. (And hey, what’s up with recording a private conversation?)
The reporter, Terry Moran of ABC News, posted the report on Twitter and then realized it wasn’t something he should have been reporting. He then removed the Twitter post. Both Moran and ABC seem to believe that this was something which shouldn’t have been reported on, but with more than 1,000,000 followers, by the time Moran moved to delete it, the post had already been forwarded on.
Whatever else this may be, it’s most certainly a vivid reminder that when you’re talking to the media, you’re never completely off the record and you need to watch what you say (particularly with “instant news” as with Twitter). In general, the reporter has no way of separating personal musings from an official statement and may very well report the parts of the conversation that you least wanted. (This is a lesson I learned the hard way a few years back.)
And maybe now would be a good time for everyone, whether they’re in the limelight or out, to take a deep breath, look up the definitions of “civility” and “politeness”, and use them to start making the world a better place.
(Updated 9-16-2009, 8pm — Corrected Terry Moran’s News Organization.)

E-ZPass is Too Much Trouble

I got a letter from E-ZPass a few days ago which says that starting July 1, 2009 they’re adding a few new charges. I’d heard that the Maryland legislature had told them they could add fees, but I (rather naively) hoped smarter people would prevail.
I’m a casual user of the E-ZPass system. I use it a half-dozen or so times each year. For most of the year the Maryland Transportation Authority just kicks back and collects interest on my account balance.
The letter doesn’t spell out all the new fees, but visiting the Maryland E-ZPass web site, details of the new fees (PDF file) were only a few clicks away.

  • Monthly Account Charge.
    A monthly account charge of $1.50 will be deducted from all E-ZPass Maryland accounts.

    WTF*? The system saves them money (the E-ZPass lane has no toll collector), means fewer cars in the backups at the toll plazas, and also means fewer cars in that backup idling their engines and contributing their tailpipe emissions to the atmosphere. So because it’s good, they’re going to add a fee to discourage me from using it? WTF?

  • E-ZPass Transponders.
    All new or replacement devices must be purchased.

    If I have to buy the transponder, does that mean it’s now legally mine? (Previously, I believe it had to be returned.) And if I’m buying the transponder, what does that monthly fee cover? Executive compensation?

  • Commuter Discount Program.
    The duration of E-ZPass Maryland commuter discount plans will be reduced from 60 days to 45 days.

    Doesn’t affect me personally, but it still sounds like the people who use it are getting screwed. Shouldn’t they be encouraging people to use something that saves the Maryland Transportation Authority money?

  • E-ZPass Shoppers Plan for the Bay Bridge.
    A new Bay Bridge plan will be offered for Bay Bridge customers. The Shoppers Plan costs $10 and is good for 10 trips that may be used Sunday through Thursday only and expires after six months.

    Again, doesn’t affect me personally, but this may be the only positive in the thing

  • Notice of Toll Due.
    Traveling through any lane in the toll facility without providing sufficient payment for the toll due will cost $3 + toll due. The notice will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

    I don’t have a huge problem with the intention on this one; essentially it’s a penalty for not keeping your account in good shape. Similar to a bounced check fee in some ways. The problem is, this gives the people running the system an incentive to “forget” to replenish your account, or “accidentally” charge you in hopes that you won’t notice. Of course, as we all know, public officials are completely above that sort of behav… Damn. I couldn’t even hold a straight face while typing that.

  • Toll Violation Charge.
    Failure to pay the toll due by the deadline will result in a $25 fee in addition to the $3 + toll due.

    OK, so first off, you have a non-law enforcement authority issuing fines. That’s troublesome in and of itself, but nothing new. But in addition to the fine, there’s a fee for collecting the fine… That just seems stupid.

Screw it. This isn’t worth the added costs. I’m going to cancel my account.
* As you know, the ‘F’ in WTF means “Frak.” As in “What The Frak? Do they think I’m not going to notice a huge spike in what this thing costs?” If you prefer Farscape over Battlestar Galactica, you may substitute “Frell” for “Frak.”

Swine Flu

As a public service, I’d like to present the following list of Swine Flu symptoms (aka H1N1). The CDC provides a far more comprehensive repository of Swine Flu information.

Swine Flu Symptoms

  • High fever (100 degrees).
  • Body aches.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Strong urge to roll in the mud.*

*The urge to roll in mud may also be a sign that you’re overly involved in politics. Medical supervision is strongly recommended.

Exclusive Coverage: Obama Eats Lunch!!!

OK, I haven’t seen that headline yet, but when I was taking a break on Monday afternoon, I did see this one:
President Obama bumps his head
It seems that as the president was boarding Marine One, he paused to wave to people on the ground and didn’t duck low enough to clear the helicopter’s doorway. And with everything else that’s going on the world right now, CNN decided to put that story on their home page. (They also hastened to assure us that Mister Obama wasn’t harmed in the incident.)
Y’know, there’s a fine line between enthusiastic media coverage and stalking. CNN didn’t step over that line so much as they pole-vaulted.

Fiscal Policy

I lived off-campus during my senior year of college. I don’t recall whether it was me, or a friend who lived across the hall, but one of us glued a nickel to the floor in the hallway. For the next six months, every Friday and Saturday night you could hear drunks tripping as they tried to pick it up.
This random memory brought to you by Elmer’s, manufacturer of Crazy Glue and many other high quality adhesives.

What are the overdraft fees are for a bounced reality check?

Madness takes its toll. Please have exact change.

  • According to a statistic I heard on the radio during my drive home this evening, approximately 9,000 people per day are losing their jobs.
  • Also according to various news sources, the median pay for members of Congress is approximately $200,000 per year.
  • A couple months ago, members of Congress received a pay increase. (This was an automatic raise, not one they had to vote for.)
  • The Senate has 100 members, the House of Representatives has 435.
  • Hey! I just came up with a way to trim the Federal budget by $110,600,000!!!


When I mess something up, generally only a few people know about it.
When Barack Obama messes up the oath of office, pretty much the entire civilized world sees it on live TV.
So in the big picture, I guess my goofs aren’t really all that important. And hopefully any further mistakes from either of us will be just as inconsequential and just as quickly forgotten.

The Obama Stimulus Package

A month or so back, some of the predictions for Tuesday’s Presidential Inauguration had as many as 5 million people crowding onto the National Mall to watch the swearing in followed by the inaugural parade. Various officials have since imposed a number of security restrictions, closed a number of bridges that empty onto the mall (starting sometime between now and Tuesday morning, it will become impossible to enter DC from Virginia, you’ll have to go into Maryland first) and so on with the final result that it won’t be possible to attend the inauguration unless you actually live along the parade route.
OK, maybe it’s not quite that severe, but the news reports in recent weeks really have been filled with a growing number of road closures and quite a few area residents have decided to avoid DC altogether until Wednesday. Now officials are concerned they may have scared people away from the area and the latest estimates for crowd size are “only” 2.5 million. (For comparison, the previous record crowd size on the National Mall was 1 million in 1976 for the Bicentennial celebration.)
One side effect of all this activity is a bit of economic stimulus for the DC-area economy. Not just the surge in hotel occupancy, sales of Obama bobblehead dolls, and various inaugural memorabilia, but also some less obvious money makers.
The Washington Post reports that local companies are benefiting from the need to construct “The Great Wall of Privies” with 7,000 porta-potties on the National Mall.
One result of all the security restrictions is that there aren’t many places to park. The Washington Nationals are offering parking spots at Nationals Park for $20/day ($35 if you leave the car overnight).
Not to be left out, The Washington Post is offering you the chance to place a personal message to President Obama in the Inauguration Day edition of the paper. (Your guess is as good as mine as to whether he’ll read them.)
Likewise, if you’re a Washington Post subscriber (and possibly if you’re not), you can also pre-order the special commemorative edition of the paper, buy a special commemorative picture book, or if you’re really into newspaper memorabilia, you can even buy a replica of the press plate for printing the commemorative edition of the paper.
And finally, in a move that seems to have folks around here evenly divided over whether to laugh or cry, the District of Calamity’s City Council decided to cash in on the influx of visitors by passing emergency legislation to allow bars to continue serving until 4:00 AM.

Yet Another Bailout

I did a definite doubletake when I spotted this headline on the CNN web site a little while ago:
Porn industry seeks federal bailout
So then, the idea is that the government would be paying people to keep their clothes on? (I thought the National Endowment for the Arts was responsible for that sort of thing.) It can’t be any less effective than some of the other programs that have been tried lately.
OK, all kidding aside, I can’t help thinking the “request” for a bailout is meant more as a statement about the way bailouts are suddenly being thrown all wily-nilly. But I definitely got a laugh out of it.