Saturday, April 30, 2005

Making the leap to Firefox

Well folks, I've discovered the joy of that "third option" again.

More than a decade ago I made the full-blown leap to the Libertarian Party, America's largest and longest-running third party in recent history. Before that, I was a disillusioned Reagan Republican, pissed off at the party's turn towards the hardcore right, and at folks like Rush Limbaugh who were telling people there were no such things as moderates.

This past week, I took another "third option". This time with browsers.

Specifically, I've started using Mozilla's Firefox browser. Okay, so Firefox isn't fresh from the box, but I do have to give the folks at Mozilla credit for coming up with a kick-ass free program!

Key pluses here are the themes and the ability to customize the browser how you see fit. The built-in pop-up blocker works wonders, as does the built-in search field which you can also customize to work with several specialty searches. Of course there's the biggest plus, which is the fact that it does not work with ActiveX controls, which has been the source of many a spyware or virus download. As a matter of fact, it doesn't even work with Microsoft's Java VM program (if you're so lucky to still have on your system).

So people, if you don't like Internet Explorer, you DO have a choice! I've seen it, I've worked with it, and it's a pretty good alternative to IE.

By the way, Mozilla also came up with a FREE e-mail program that is supposed to be on par with Eudora or Outlook. It's something for you folks to consider, especially given some of the rumors I heard about what Microsoft would like to do with Outlook and Outlook Express in the future.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

From bases to refineries?

So apparently SOMEONE in the Bush Junior White House has been listening and reading to what folks like yours truly has been saying about rising oil and gas prices... they're now floating this idea to convert retired military bases into oil refineries. Well it's about time that they at least did SOMETHING to address the matter of refineries in America!

They're also pushing for more nuclear power plants and they want tax credits for fuel efficient vehicles. Again, someone's been paying attention to what I've been talking about!

Of course they're saying that this isn't a "quick fix"... well no, it's not, but it will help in the long run.

So when will they fix those BS refining rules over at the EPA? Or am I still asking WAY too much from a bunch of career politicians?

Regular Guys going back to 96Rock!

The big news: after spending a little over a month on "dorky 640" AM radio, the Regular Guys will be going home!

Apparently this brutally honest commentator wasn't the only one who wrote off 96Rock after the Clear Channel Decency Gestapo suspended and fired Larry and Eric for something their engineer did. People just weren't listening to the syndicated morning claptrap that took their place. In fact, I believe that right now the only ones who are listening to 96Rock in the mornings are three members of the anti-freedom group Parents Without Taste, who are eager to fire off another round of fax complaints to the FCC if they hear the word "cleavage" on the air.

At the same time Larry and Eric's resurrection tour on WGST has been frustrating all around. WGST is a news channel, used to taking breaks every six minutes to give the weather and traffic. It takes Larry five minutes to get to his point, and then they have to take another break. That and WGST picked up coverage of the Atlanta Braves, and they were sending the Regular Guys over to Turner Stadium to broadcast to an empty field. What the hell were those suits smoking when they came up with that loser of an idea? The last time they had an idea that sucked that badly, it was called "Planet Radio".

So the word is out: The Regular Guys, Clear Channel's cheap version of Howard Stern, will be going back to 96Rock.

But before you make the jump (and I start listening to them again), here are a few suggestions:

1 - FIRE THAT ENGINEER! This is the guy who kept his job while Larry and Eric got fired, when he was the one who made the screw-up in the first place. If you can't fire him, then at least use him for target practice instead of Southside Steve.

2 - Tell Martha Zoller to read the US Constitution and to shut the hell up! She's the one that helped get the Regular Guys fired the first time around. She's got her own show over on AM550, and that's where she should have focused her concerns on. She's got the venue to vent about other radio stations, so she has no business whatsoever trying to dictate how other radio stations should operate!

And 3 - Larry and Eric, hedge your bets and have the folks at XM Radio on the speed dial. Stern picked up a sweet deal with Sirius, so I'm sure XM wouldn't mind a little friendly competition.

Nice quote, and very true!

Came across this really nice quote today from the good people over at the First Amendment Center:

''Americans have an extraordinary love-hate relationship with the rich culture they’ve created. They buy, watch and read it even as they ban, block and condemn it.'' - Jon Katz, journalist/author, 1997

The crazy thing is that Jon's right on the money with this. This is pretty much the sentiment of both liberals AND conservatives.

Your thoughts?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Gas prices are going down... no... up... no... down... no.....

So the big story over the weekend is the supposed "drop" in oil and gas prices. "The worst is over," is the magic word from the same people who were earlier speculating gas hitting $3 a gallon nationwide by the summer.

If that's so, then why is the price of gas going up again?

Gas prices were at $2.00-$2.04 a gallon in my neck of the GA woods on Thursday, depending on where you go, with some places even hitting under the $2 mark.

Today, gas prices were back up to $2.10-$2.14.

What's up with that, gas-gougers? Last-minute price spasm? A little subtle dig of the gouging knife? Trying to cash in on a few more billion before Congress passes that energy bill that they've done nothing with for four years?

All this commentator knows is that gas prices are STILL in the gouging range, and there's STILL a lot that needs to be done to fix this problem besides trying to curb consumer largesse. Even the Saudis know what our key problem is, and hopefully they'll convince Bush Junior of the real problem when they meet over in Crawford, TX, this week. Okay, so it's a long shot, but at least it beats the current tactic of sticking Bush Junior's head in the sand until after Labor Day.

Update (4/25 11pm): Did I say $2.14? Well that may have been the price at one gas station at 8am, but by 6pm, that same station had it for $2.19! It went up a nickel in ten hours time!

This is just GREED, folks. There's no excuse for this at all! We are all being criminally gouged!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hail, Hail, B16!

So the College of Cardinals have spoken, and the man who called himself "God's Rottweiler" is the new pope!

Cardinal Ratzinger was Pope John Paul II's right hand man as well as the "dean" for the College of Cardinals. Now he has taken the name "Benedict XVI" for his duties as pope. So, hey, take your pick... it's either "Benny 16" or "B16". I'm a bit partial to the latter.

B16 said that he was a "humble worker in the service of the Lord"... but he really isn't that humble. This is the guy who said in the 1980's that rock and roll was evil. He's the one who told priests in 2004 that they should refuse to give communion to any politician who doesn't support their anti-abortion stance. Not exactly something that a humble person would come up with.

And of course all of those in the Catholic Church who were praying for more doctoral change are no doubt upset over this election... but as I pointed out in my column the past week, there really was no chance whatsoever to getting the kinds of changes they want in place! Sorry, but if you want those changes, you have to purge the Church of all of the influences of Saint Paul the Zealot, and that will NEVER happen! You guys have no say in this. You never have and you never will! That's the nature of the Church.

But, hey, take comfort in that "God's Rottweiler" is 79 years old. He's basically a short-term guy, so in a few more years we'll be playing this game all over again.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Blame it on the Ditz?

So the Republicans in the US House of Representatives have voted to permanently end the Estate Tax, otherwise known as the "death tax". This is the federal government's final twist of the knife in the backs of Americans, by slapping a final tax on the estates of those who died.

By calling it an "Estate Tax", Democrats have been able to invoke the typical class warfare rhetoric, since most people don't think of having "estates" unless they're filthy rich like Donald Trump. I mean, do you consider your home an "estate"? Probably not! A "castle" maybe. Some of you might even call it a "money pit". But definitely not an "estate"!

But when Republicans began calling it for what it is, a "death tax", it put the tax in a totally new perspective. Now it's seen as the government screwing over widows and orphans. Grandma Beth has died and now the government wants her family home and the old station wagon. The grandkids are screwed out of a college fund because Uncle Security wants to buy another gold-plated toilet seat for the Pentagon.

So now the Reps are in charge of the game and they have decided to kill the "death tax". Do you think that the Dems are going to sit back and simply let it happen? Of course not! They've decided to racket up the rhetoric a bit more for the Senate battle and they've picked an unusual mascot for their cause... Paris Hilton!

You see, when the "death tax" is permanently repealed, Paris Hilton would get 100% of the Hilton family fortune upon Daddy Hilton's eventual departure. Dems think that this is wrong, and they want her to pay what they call "her fair share".

I don't know who's the bigger ditz... the Dems who believe that there is such a thing as "fair", or Paris Hilton! At least Ms. Hilton has an excuse. Nobody's ever asked or expected her to be something more than she is.

Listen folks, I've said it before and I'll say it again.. there is no such thing as FAIR when it comes to taxes! The only people who pay their "fair" share are the ones who do not benefit from any deductions or exemptions.
  • If you make less than $26K a year, then you're not paying your "fair" share of taxes! That's the minimum limit by the federal government to start hitting you up on federal taxes.
  • If you claim any children as dependents, then you're not paying your "fair" share of taxes! In fact, you're actually getting more money from hard-working people like yours truly.
  • If you claim any kind of exemption (student, religious, non-profit), then you're not paying your "fair" share of taxes! All of you idealistic college students who love to wax politics when you're not waxing something else need to bear in mind that you're still being coddled from bearing the full burden of your adult responsibilities. And yes, I know this for a fact because I was that way too.
So before you start pointing fingers at people, you damn well better ask yourself if YOU are in the same situation! There are far more people who are NOT paying their "fair" share of the tax burden than those who do, and they're not all limousine-riding inheritors of daddy's hard earned work like Paris Hilton.

Look, I would rather support a tax system that is completely equitable, not one that is subject to some corrupt politician's definition of "fair". Either that would be a TRUE flat tax (no exemptions, no deductions, no excuses), or the Fair Tax program being proposed in Congress. That way EVERYBODY would be paying an EQUITABLE amount of the tax burden, no matter if you're heiress Paris Hilton or burger-flipping Paula Hilton.

Update (05/01): Right after I first posted this blog entry, I was informed that the "estate/death tax" only kicks in for those who have an estate valued at $1.2 million or higher. But as I point out in the comments section, that still does not justify slapping people with that after they're dead.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Pop-Tease Strikes Again!

So Britney Spears-Federline has decided to put the rumors and speculation to rest and announce with her baby-making hubby that the rumors were true and she indeed has a bun in the oven.

So what's up with the drama surrounding it? Why play this game of denying the speculation and trying to hide the growing belly (and other body parts) for the past few weeks? I mean, if Britney was REALLY pissed off about the media's focus on her personal life, then why let the rumors fester for the past few weeks? She should have just announced it and squash any and all speculation before it even got started.

Well we KNOW the real reason... because she's still a tease. She loves the publicity and the attention, and since she hasn't been on tour or done any more albums since her knee surgery, and trying to promote this reality TV show idea of hers, she needs the attention.

Okay, fine. Congrats on passing Biology 101, Britney.

Now here are two suggestions:

1) Come up with some new songs. You can't seriously sing "I'm not a girl yet not a woman" anymore. You're just a little bit past that level now. You've got that extra time on your hands while the little tax exemption grows, so you might as well go ahead and come up with some new material so that when you're ready, you can "reintroduce" yourself to the world. Hey, if it worked for Madonna, it could work for you. (Oh, wait a minute... it really didn't. Nevermind.)

2) Lowjack your husband! You better stick a GPS device under his skin while that tax exemption is just brewing away in your belly, because you married a guy who cut and ran from his girlfriend when she was preggers. Don't presume that he won't start hanging around with Lindsey Lohan or some other pop-tease while you're laid up with the "nine-month flu". Remember, if he could do that to someone else, he can do that to you.

Oh, and stop bellyaching about the media's obsession with your personal life. Right now that's all that you have to get and keep the public's attention on you. If you want that to change, then you better get back to your "job".

Monday, April 11, 2005

Gas Gouging - I Called It Again!

Okay boys and girls, if all you're getting from me is coming from this weblog site, then you're not getting everything!

This past Friday I uploaded the latest Brutally Honest audio rant, which talked about the high price of gas and the questions that are not being asked by people. The rant basically touches on two of the key causes of our high gas prices that I mentioned in the previous week's column, specifically the lack of refineries and the fuster-cluck of refining standards by the EPA.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan briefly touched on the lack of new refineries as being a cause for concern, but very few news services even mentioned it.

Now Newsweek has a quote from Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who came right out and said the very same things I said last week in my rant!

Here's what Newsweek said...

Bush's aides like to say the problem is one of supply and demand: faced with rapidly growing economies in Asia, they say, suppliers cannot keep pace in the United States, not least because drilling is not allowed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But that view isn't entirely shared by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who will travel to the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, toward the end of this month. The Saudis believe there is plenty of supply in the world, not least their own, and blame the high gas prices in the United States on bottlenecks inside the country, especially the complex state-by-state regulations of gasoline blends and a lack of new refineries. (Bush's aides say the problems of refinery capacity will be addressed in the new energy bill.)

In the meantime, the president will look like he's addressing the problem simply by talking to the Saudi leader. "And come September," says one official planning for the meeting, "prices will inevitably drop when the driving season is over."

Now compare that to what I said last week... did I or didn't I call this one right on the money?

The part that pisses me off, though, is what the White House says about it.

First: Bush Junior's people are saying that the President's drop in the polls have everything to do with gas prices and nothing to do with the political BS that was played over Terri Schiavo. Sorry, Darth Rove, but you only got it PARTLY right. The low poll numbers came because you had your boy Junior get involved with the Schiavo case INSTEAD of dealing with gas prices.

Second: Bush Junior says that this COULD have been resolved if Congress passed their Energy Bill three years ago instead of playing THEIR BS games. True, but Congress could have ALSO spent their time on passing the energy bill instead of dicking around with local politics where they had no business getting involved with in the first place. If House Majority Leader Tom DeLay wasn't looking for an issue to divert attention from his scandals... IF Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wasn't trying to impersonate a nerve and brain specialist... and IF the GOP wasn't eager to pander to the bible-thumpers and freedom-haters... THEN maybe they could have spent some time to pass a new energy bill and make themselves look like they're up on current events.

Third: Bush Junior's people then turn around and say, "well come September this thing will blow over anyway and it won't be an issue."

THAT is what the Bush Junior White house thinks about the problem of high gas prices. First they say it's a problem, then they say it's the fault of Congress for not doing something about it, then they say it's just a phase and it'll go away. The first is an understatement, the second is a lame excuse, and the third is just inexcusable!

Memo to Darth Rove: Remember what brought down Bush Senior and the GOP in 1992! Remember what triggered the 2000 recession. Your empire is in danger of collapse because your people fail to deal with gas prices! Get your frigging heads out of the sand and DEAL with the matter instead of just passing the buck! You guys are supposed to be better than that!

Something to ponder..

Came across this little random quote of the day from the folks at the First Amendment Center:

''Everybody’s in favor of freedom of speech as long as it’s his own.''
- Suzanne Fields syndicated columnist, 2003

How very true! We all love to talk about being for free speech, but only when it involves our PERSONAL right to speak our mind. But when it comes to OTHER people trying to exercise THEIR PERSONAL right, that's when you hear about this talk of "hate speech" and "obscenity" and "indecency".

Yes, there are a lot of people who are guilty of being self-serving hypocritical bastards in this regard, and we have a name for the most despicable and vocal of these people... we call them politicians.

Your thoughts?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Breaking News: Terrorist To Plead Guilty!

Here's a story that is just coming in over the wire services....

Eric Robert Rudolph will be pleading GUILTY to the bombing of Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics! He'll also be pleading guilty to the bombing of an Atlanta nightclub, a women's clinic in Atlanta, and a women's clinic in Alabama. In return for the guilty pleas, Rudolph will be spared the death penalty. Instead he'll only get four life sentences, one for each location he bombed.

This information is supposedly coming in from a source close to the case, who also mentioned that Rudolph has told federal authorities to find even more explosive material hidden in his little hiding places in North Carolina, where he was ultimately found.

If this is true, this will put an end to nine years of pain and misery that he caused, including a black mark on the City of Atlanta during the Olympic Games. Yes, the games themselves were a fiasco... partly because of the shyster lawyers looking to make as much money as they could off of the event. But what Rudolph did was make a marginally tolerable situation even worse with his bombing of the spectators. Because of what Rudolph did, one man who should have been hailed as a hero was instead wrongly accused of carrying out the bombing!

Let's not forget what those other bombs did. The bombing at the women's clinic in Atlanta was specifically designed to first bring attention, and then kill whomever found the second bomb. In other words, it was designed to kill police officers! And it did just that. The bombing in a women's clinic in Alabama left one clinic worker with shrapnel in her head that cannot be completely removed. She will wear the scars of Rudolph's attack for the rest of her life. She lost an eye because of this! Rudolph won't lose an eye when he pleads guilty.

Let's get brutally honest here... if this story is true and Eric Robert Rudolph pleads guilty, he will be pleading guilty to carrying out acts of terrorism. He will essentially admit to being a DOMESTIC TERRORIST!

Of course that's not a word that the media likes to use. But that's what he'll be. If Eric Robert Rudolph pleads guilty, he will be admitting to being a TERRORIST, no different and no better than the Muslim terrorists who bombed the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and certainly no different or better than the Muslim terrorists who are killing innocent people in Iraq today.

But there's something else missing here as well... Rudolph may have acted alone, but it's crazy to believe that he was somehow able to elude numerous manhunts on his own and survive for several years on the run. He had help. He had people who agreed with his cause and in what he was trying to do.

Remember that all of the targets of Rudolph's attacks were controversial. The two women's clinics performed abortions. The nightclub catered to gays and lesbians. The Olympic Park was full of foreigners and catered to the international community. There are people in this country that passionately hate what went on at all four locations, and while they may not be willing to do what Rudolph did, they would not have any guilt about helping him hide so he could carry out even more acts of terrorism.

In pleading guilty, Rudolph would also protect the folks who helped him hide, and would potentially become either the next batch of domestic terrorists, or their willing accomplices. Now isn't that a comforting thought?

If the news report is true, Rudolph will be put away for the rest of his life - under our tax-paid care for many decades - unscared and unmolested... unlike his victims who will have to live with the pain that he caused.

Be a boob, get elected. Show a boob, go to prison?

Just when you think that the freedom-hating crusade to purge the broadcast medium of all things "offensive" has reached a peak... someone has to come along and do one better.

The freedom-hating members of Congress have continually played one-upsmanship in terms of punishing people for broadcasting "indecent" material. Now if you show a boob or drop the "F-bomb", you have to pay a $32,500 fine, but the freedom-haters think that it should go up to as high as THREE MILLION DOLLARS.

But now along comes Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner III. Sensenbrenner wants to do more than just FINE broadcasters. He thinks that just doen't work. He wants to put people who do "indecent" things in PRISON!

That's right, you heard me! PRISON! He would put Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake IN PRISON! He would put Howard Stern and Mancow and The Regular Guys IN PRISON! He would put Oprah Winfrey and her "rainbow party" talk IN PRISON!

Well you're probably thinking "so what? Who cares? He's just an old fart like Senator Ted Stevens is." Well not quite... you see, Sensenbrenner is the chairman of the House Judicial Committee! That means he has enough political stroke to get his ideas put to law!

And have I mentioned that F. James Sensenbrenner III is a REPUBLICAN??? That's right, he's another member of the party that CLAIMS to be the party of "more freedom" and of "less government". Of course we know that to be a bold-faced lie. The Republicans can claim anything they want to, but what they have become through their actions and their words are the party of LESS freedom and MORE government.

All of a sudden the fuss over the ABC affiliates airing "Saving Private Ryan" takes on a more serious note. If F. James Sensenbrenner has his way, ABC affiliates wouldn't just have to worry about expensive fines. They'd have to worry about PRISON TIME as well!

Now do you think I'm exaggerating when I say that moralists are a threat to society? When these people talk about waging a "culture war", they're not just being rhetorical. THEY REALLY SEE THIS AS A WAR! And now they aren't just creating victims, they're taking prisoners.

Friday, April 01, 2005

JP2, his final hours?

As I type this, Pope John Paul II is on what many people consider to be his final hours of life. His heart and kidneys have failed, his breathing is shallow, and he's already been given his last rites.

People around the world are praying that he should continue to live, but I have to wonder why.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't like Terri Schiavo's situation. JP2's brain hasn't been reduced to liquid. But his body has clearly been deteriorating in recent years. He suffers from Parkinson's Disease, his body shakes and his speech is slurred, and he's had to have a tracheotomy just to breathe and a feeding tube up his nose so he could get nutrition and water.

His body is shutting down, folks.

Sure he's been down this road before, and every year the Cardinals pack a bag and think that this will be it, and then he comes back and keeps pressing on. He's survived much, including an assasination attempt. He's the longest-living pope in recent history, replacing JP1, who was pope for all of one month.

But I don't think that he'll pull through this one.

I think that people will have to prepare for the fact that the Catholic Church will once again have to pick a new pope real soon. It sucks, but it's a fact of life.

Happy NINTH Anniversary!

Yes, it's April first, and no, it's no joke that today is the NINTH anniversary of the Brutally Honest website!

Nine years... damn, where did the time go?

Okay, few notes about the original website:

The original site was put up on AOL's server on 04/01/1996. At the time, the fastest way most people could connect was through a 28.8 kbaud modem. You had to pay extra (and through the nose) for an ISDN connection, or else fork over your life savings for a T1 or T3 line.

The main page of the original website was HAND-CODED through a Microsoft Notebook program and then checked with Netscape Navigator. Yes, I learned just enough about doing HTML to cobble together that page. A few weeks later, I picked up some free experimental templates from Microsoft that allowed me to create webpages through Word 95, and then soon after that I picked up Microsoft Front Page.

The original column was called "From the Cage", in reference to my nickname "The Beast". (Sorry, you'll have to go to the website's FAQ page to know how I got that one.) And the subjects back then were more towards general issues, not politics.

The very first article was actually a short story about censorship. One of the better stories on the subject was called "Defrag.Net". (At some point, I really have to fix the links and get the rest of 1996 sorted out so it can be easily accessed.)

The most oppressive law at the time was the Communications Decency Act, and it was quickly declared unconstitutional by the courts in 1996. Five years later, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act and outdid the CDA by leaps and bounds. By the way, there are still some segments of the CDA that remained intact and enforceable. It's the part that says that Internet providers cannot be held responsible for the actions of their subscribers. (You know that the RIAA hates it!)

In 1996, the Internet was still just a curiosity. There was no streaming audio and video, no file sharing, blogging, DOS attacks, phishing, spyware, zombie computers, pop-up or pop-under ads, and no SPAM. (Spam back then was pretty much kept to the newsgroups.)

In 1996, Microsoft's Internet Explorer was a joke and Netscape was the #1 browser. Today it's the other way around, and now there are several alternatives.

In 1996, you were lucky to get a computer for $3000. Today you can get one for under $500 that can outperform its 1996 counterpart even in sleep mode!

In 1996, Bill Clinton was running for re-election and the Republicans were scrambling to find someone that could beat him in November. Today, we just went through the re-election of George W. Bush, with the Democrats scrambling to find someone that could beat him.

In 1996, a nursing student named Jenni shocked people by putting a webcam in her dorm room so anyone could view what she does normally. Today her site no longer exists, but now parents are shocked when they find out that their kids are showing up on someone's "Spring Break Gone Wild" webcam website.

In 1996, there was no Fox News. MSNBC was just starting as the "bold experiment" between NBC and Microsoft. MTV was not overly infatuated with reality-style programming as they are today. People were still trying to fathom the idea of having the Olympic Games in Georgia and wondering if they would look like something out of "Deliverance". "E-Commerce" was still considered by many to be science fiction instead of science fact. And the most powerful man in the world at the time was Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. (By the way, if you want to see something neat, pick up his 1996 book "The Road Ahead" and check out the interactive CD-ROM that comes with it!)

Of course some things remain the same after nine years. Republicans are still the submissive slaves to the religious extremists. Democrats are still falling apart. Moralists are still trying to take over the world. The media still harps on whatever cause it can find in the name of ratings. Technology STILL trumps government legislation and regulation. Parents still try to fob their responsibilities to the government whenever possible. People are STILL trying to grasp the idea that Atlanta really did host the 1996 Olympics. Bill Gates is still the richest man in the world, but the title of "most powerful" goes back to the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And of course there's yours truly, still ranting away.

So I hope you will check out the old website... check the archives... see what I've been ranting about all of these years, and then let me know what you think about all of the fun stuff that's been going on.