Who’s afraid of a big bad trial?

John Gruber created a new site collecting statements/links about whether or not certain politicians are “afraid of the terrorists.” That got me thinking about what might threaten the US of A…

Here’s a simple question:

How is moving the trial of an Islamic terrorist to NYC more of a threat to America than the invasion of a nation under false pretenses?

A Clunky Idea

So both chambers of Congress have approved of a “Cash for Clunkers” program through which consumers receive subsidies for replacing their older fuel-guzzling vehicles with new fuel-efficient vehicles.

I think this idea, on the surface, sounds great. Get those exhaust-spewing dirty inefficient cars off the road! Everybody buy a LEV or Prius or something! And of course, you benefit the struggling auto industry! YAY!

Except…there’s no guarantee that you’re helping the environment here. Sure, the old vehicle has terrible fuel economy, but building new cars requires incredible amounts of energy as well. There’s ore extraction, chemical treatments, electricity for all the machinery, etc. Does that balance against the pollution from extraction, refining, and combustion of more fuel? Was that even considered by the folks who sold this bill? I suspect this was pushed by the automotive industry to spur new car sales, but I haven’t seen anything about a provision limiting the credit to purchases of American cars, so it may end up benefiting Toyota and Honda more than Ford and GM. Maybe it’s all about saving money for the consumer? Perhaps, but for drivers that currently owe nothing on their cars, it’s highly unlikely that the monthly gas savings will come close to a monthly payment.

Eh…I don’t mean to sound so dismissive, but I feel like this is another band-aid idea that makes people think Congress and the White House are doing something helpful when it might only result in a further waste of money without helping that many people.

Following the Situation in Iran

The amount of real-time information on what’s happening in Iran following the disputed presidential election from last Friday is encouraging if not a bit overwhelming. Who knows how an event like this would have played out ten years ago without the eyes of the world watching?

If you want to make some sense of what’s going on, I recommend the New York Times Lede Blog, where you can refresh the page every so often for plenty of current information. If you want to partake in the deluge of information, unconfirmed and all, you could always take a look at Twitter as well, or at least while people inside Iran are still able to relay information about the situation on the ground.

My heart goes out to those people trying to voice their dissent. The rallies, by most accounts, started and remained largely peaceful until Ahmadinejad supporters around the country started interfering. And now all foreign press are getting shut out of direct reporting even while state-run media outlets sow lies and propaganda in an attempt to paint the opposition as the real problem.

Let’s see what happens after this apparent re-count…

On Photography And Seething With Rage

This is one of the biggest myths with the law of taking photographs,” explains Bert Krages, a Portland, OR-based copyright attorney who has written books on photographers’ rights and techniques. “There is no general prohibition against photographing federal buildings. There are statutes that prohibit photographing areas of military and nuclear facilities. But there are no laws against photographing other federal facilities, other than the right of all property owners to restrict activities that take place on their property. A federal office building manager cannot restrict photography when the photographer is situated outside the federal property boundary.

from “The War on Photographers” found on PopPhoto.com (published July 19th, 2006)

On Sunday evening Jake and I went downtown to take some night photographs (as evidenced by my previous post) and had a little run-in with a Federal Reserve police officer. We were standing on a public sidewalk at the river-bank side of the footbridge to Brown’s Island, and I set down my tripod with my camera pointing up 7th street. Within a minute or so, a Federal Reserve police car came out of the gate, circled the fountain, and stopped with his lights on.

He stepped out of the car and asked us (politely) what we were doing. We indicated, essentially, that we were amateur photographers just taking pictures. My reminder that we were on public property was met by a stone wall, and we were told that we couldn’t take pictures that included the building. You know, the building that’s visible around the entire city of Richmond. Jake offered to show the officer what he’d already photographed, and I did the same. When Jake asked for a reason why we couldn’t take pictures, the officer (still polite) said, simply, “Ben Bernanke.” Wow.

I tried to calm Jake and myself down after leaving the scene because I thought there might be some justification in what the officer said. After all, the Richmond branch of the Fed is pretty important, and you never know whether the chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States might be on site. But this has been nagging at me since that night.

Now I feel feeble and ashamed at giving in so easily. Jake and I were basically intimidated into taking our cameras elsewhere. Our Constitutional rights were violated by an overeager security staff that didn’t understand the law. Part of me wants to go back there and take pictures directly of the building from the public sidewalk, just to make a point. Maybe I can even get pictures of the officer who comes out to politely harass and terrorize me.

And the other part of me doesn’t want to cause Valerie the trouble and risk losing/damaging our new camera. But the truth is that I’m sitting here in my cubicle wanting nothing more than to go to some place where I can scream in anger at the top of my lungs.

It seems a Flickr user recently wrote to the Fed and received a vindicating response.

Smoke Out

WOOHOO!!! The smoking bill now heads to Governor Kaine’s desk for his signature! And the dopey exclusion for times when minors weren’t present has been removed. The original exclusions for private clubs and physically separate smoking areas with independent ventilation have remained, but those are fine by me.

After it’s signed, the law will take effect December 1st of this year!


Holy Smokes, the ban on smoking in restaurants in Virginia passed today.

I’m getting mixed signals from the news, though – the Times Dispatch article to which I linked says there’s more voting to be done. NBC 12, on the other hand, reported on the 6:00 news that the bill “now heads to Gov. Tim Kaine for approval, where it is expected to be signed into law.” I’m guessing NBC is a little further ahead than the Times Dispatch (I hope so), but either way there’s sure to be more detail as time passes. The main thing I’m trying to hear now is when the measure is to take effect. Some sources say October 1st while others say January 1, 2010. I’m hoping for the former 🙂

UPDATE: Okay, so NBC 12 updated their story and removed the portion stating that it’s moving to Kaine’s desk. Regardless, it seems that at the latest VA restaurants could be smoke-free by the end of this year. I’m pumped!

UPDATE 2: Final word for now…so some of the bill’s teeth were pulled. The delay is indeed ’till January 1, 2010. So it won’t take effect this year. At least it will sometime, though. Additionally, the Times Dispatch reports that another more craptaculous exception was included to “allow smoking whenever minors are not allowed.” Oh well. It’s a start. It’s a good thing that our state government was able to do anything here in the land of tobacco.

Virginia Restaurants May Go Smoke Free

Today is a glorious day in Virginia. Smoking looks like it could be completely banned from Virginia restaurants soon. Some private clubs are exempt, and so are restaurants with physically separated smoking rooms with independent ventilation, but over all this is fantastic! The will of the people will finally be represented on this issue!

Okay, so it’s not law yet, it’s just a bill, but it’s apparently the strongest one yet crafted on the issue. There’s support from both sides, and it’s on it’s way to the House Laws Committee. It sure would be nice if this was all settled in the next month or so…
(via RVANews)