Sunday, October 28, 2012

Year Without A Halloween Redux

I'm gearing up for the second year in a row where I celebrated Halloween by tossing out the food in my fridge and freezer after a multi-day power outage made it all rot. I've been a lose-electricity bad-weather magnet these past thirteen months: Hurricane Irene and the pre-Halloween snowstorm in Connecticut, then I moved to northern Virginia a week before the derecho hit it this June, and now Hurricane Sandy is slated to rendezvous with a Midwestern storm and an Arctic cold-air mass to create another "Perfect Storm" like the one which inspired that movie I never bothered to watch.

After last year's Halloween storm I went for six days (and six below-freezing nights) without electricity, but heated my apartment by making space heaters out of empty steel coffee cans and metal-cup tealight candles. This year, I'm even better prepared than last time: my emergency kit includes seven empty coffee cans and over 1,500 tealight candles (most in hundred-count boxes bought for four bucks apiece). I've also topped off my car's gas tank, and have all my emergency supplies plus the batteries to power them grouped on or under the patio table, which is now in the living room. My neighborhood will most likely be well to the southwest of Sandy's eye, which I'm pretty sure is where the weakest winds of a storm blow, and my neighborhood appears to be high elevation compared to its surroundings, thus not particularly prone to flooding. But I'll probably lose power and Internet for at least a day or two, if not longer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Debate Schmebate

Turns out ignorance truly is bliss (albeit the type of bliss likely to result in unpleasant long-term consequences; the hangover following an ignorance binge is a lot worse than the hangover after an alcoholic one).

I personally have paid little attention to the news these past couple of weeks -- not due to any deliberate news blackout, it's just that job-related stuff kept me busier than usual, and since I decided months ago to vote for Gary Johnson, I ignored the Robama/Obamney debates completely. And I feel great, same way I feel great when I get dressed in the morning without dumping half a can of itching powder into my underwear first.

Of course, this analogy fails because neither Obama nor Romney have any interest in forcing me to pour itching powder in my undies; they only demand I accept skeevy TSAgents rooting around down there, whichever one gets elected.

There's another presidential debate being held in Chicago tonight (Larry King's hosting a discussion between Johnson and three other third-party candidates) which I wrote about for the Daily Dot, so to write the followup I might end up watching a presidential debate after all. But only because I'm getting paid, dammit.

Tonight's debate is being streamed live on the YouTube channels of various foreign news services, including Al Jazeera English and Russia Today. As its name suggests, Russia Today is staffed primarily by Russians, many of whom are old enough to remember when their country was the Soviet Union, famed for its distinct lack of political freedom or real choice in government. I wonder if they appreciated the irony, those Russia Today staffers, when they wrote about the debate on their English-language website:
In response to widespread blackout from both the mainstream media and political establishment alike, RT is honored to be presenting a platform for the major third-party candidates also vying for the White House this election year to debate.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Every Cop's A Criminal

(Warning: if your boss is the picky type then this post is Not Safe For Work, because it includes a certain obscene word mentioned multiple times. But that rude, potentially NSFW language doesn't come from Your Humble Writer Here; no, YHWH is merely quoting verbatim transcripts from New York police officers at work and interacting with law-abiding members of their own community. If you find disturbing the thought "So if we're an ostensibly free country, yet can't even quote our own police officers at work without risking our own livelihoods, then what if anything are the implications of compatibility between such police behavior and 'free country' status," well, me too.)

One of the great things about my no longer living in Connecticut is, I'm no longer tempted to take day trips into New York City. Too dangerous. And, as with my reluctance to go on airplanes so long as TSA still diddles everyone who flies: it's not the Official Criminals I'm afraid of, but the law-enforcement extensions of my government. If an OC attacks me, at least I have the legal right to try to either escape, fight back or at the very least yell at him to get the hell away from me; do any of this with a cop flexing his authority muscles and you're under arrest.

Over at the Daily Dot, I give an introductory explanation of New York City's longtime "stop and frisk" program while discussing the latest police-abuse story: an audiorecording of New York's finest accosting an unarmed black teenager, threatening to "break [his] fucking arm" and "punch [his] fucking face" and arrest him for "being a fucking mutt." Such police behavior in a stop-and-frisk is not atypical but having a recording of it is; the New York Civil Liberties Union has released a free phone app so future stop-and-frisk victims will be able to record their experiences, too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Will the Supremes Outlaw the Secondhand Market?

Back in 2009, I wrote about the CPSIA, a so-called consumer protection law that, if taken literally, would effectively outlaw any secondhand or small-scale sales of children's toys, books or clothing. I admitted to being an inveterate thrift-store shopper myself -- there's surely symbolic meaning in the fact that almost all of my books, clothes and home furnishings started out as someone else's unwanted discards -- but a ban on flea markets, thrift shops, used bookstores, eBay and other secondhand markets would probably hurt my standard of living even more than would cutting my household income in half.

And a ban on secondhand markets might just be coming to America, depending on how the Supreme Court rules in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley. I discussed the case and its legal and financial implications today at the Daily Dot:
Even if you don’t usually monitor political news, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the upcoming Supreme Court case Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons; the court will start hearing oral arguments on Oct. 29. Depending how the court rules, it’s possible almost the entire U.S. secondhand market will be outlawed: no more buying or selling used stuff on eBay or Craigslist, at yard sales or thrift stores – and maybe no more lending or borrowing in public libraries, either.

Read the rest here.
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