Let Them Go

This is chilling and pretty much exposes the ethical reality of the Daesh cutthroats. At the end of the day, it's all about young pussy.



"As the radicals see it, “a 15-year-old makes a good wife,” he said. “A 14-year-old male is less useful as a combatant.”"

That said, I don't really understand the uproar. This is not some pedophile snatching the girls from a mall. They had enough adult agency to get airplane tickets, passports and a taxi to the airport.

"Had the security services really been concerned about Aqsa Mahmood’s welfare, they would have moved heaven and earth to get her back in November 2013"

I don't see why anyone outside their families (for whom I have deep, deep sympathy) would move heaven or earth to stop them. They are people with bad motivations who are no longer hanging around the neighborhood. That's a good thing.

(I know, they were lovely, well-liked, well-motivated, blah, blah -- they left their families and broke their parents' hearts to support terrorists. They are bad people, end of story.)

To me, it seems that instead of preventing people from going, we should focus our efforts on preventing them from coming back. Welcoming back a fully effective terrorist is a danger to our society, not losing a few thousand assholes.

Let's use the Middle East as a dumping ground for psychopath girls who want to play house with terrorists, and for psychopath boys to go and play with guns. Just don't let them back.

http://tqwhite.org?41D55B



Fifty Shades of WTF?

It is fascinating to try to figure out what's happening in the zeitgeist that causes us to have a national interest in bondage.

I start to think that people who really do bondage must be making up for a weak father, either trying to be like him and dominate or wanting him to have been more protective and in control. But, the only person I have known who actually did bondage had a perfectly good father.

I can understand a general interest in a new sexual practice. Maybe that's it. People are simply bored by the old in-and-out and this book finally came along with something new. But, everybody watches porn, so everybody has run into some bondage stuff on the internet. Maybe this movie provides a pretext.

It's worth note that that we had a national opportunity to endorse bondage in the nineties. Ronald Reagan's estranged daughter, Patti Davis, wrote a book in 1994 called Bondage. It was a best-seller. A more literary take on the topic, it was pretty good and, if whatever was in our current zeitgeist had happened back then, we could already be twenty years into America's bondage era.

You have to wonder how many women are going to get tied up and blindfolded for Valentines Day. It's kind of weird to think. Look in any direction this weekend, if the houses were transparent, you'd probably see a woman getting spanked - in the name of loooove.

On the Demise of Radio Shack

Radio Shack is not gone because America doesn't need resistors and capacitors any more. The management of Radio  lost their way and it was their outlook that went bad. When they started blister packing their parts, it was all over. There are plenty of things they could have done to adapt and survice.

Arduino has been around plenty long enough for them to have joined up with it. Also, the whole smart home movement. In addition to Arduino and Raspberry Pi, they should have had X10 stuff all over their stores in the nineties, then Insteon and all kinds of bluetooth components and now Intel Edison. 

They could have been selling 3D printers for years now. When they were robust, they sold stuff that cost real money and only a few people used it (you don't think that everyone was a radio engineer in the fifties, do you).

No, Radio Shack lost faith in their customers and their idea. They thought that their mission was technology and sold all kinds of iPhone accessories. Their mission really was to be the center of the Maker Movement. Imagine how cool it would have been if, instead of seeing all kinds of glossy point of purchase stuff in their stores, they had a greasy haired hippy working a Cube 3D printer, the place smelling of hot plastic. Someplace else in the store, were kits for making an auto winder for your window blinds out of an Edison and every other kind of home network and hobby computing widget. Big parties and events during MakerFaire. Style themselves like a comic book nerdland or gaming store for people that like to make things.

They could have done this, https://www.sparkfun.com/ ...



Some suggest that they didn't react quickly enough to market changes. Not so. They need to be dead because they lost their spirit long ago. It's tragic because it is lost to us forever.



Boycotting Israel. Anti-Semitism, Not Quite, but Close

I am no fan of Israeli policies toward Palestinian people. I want to love Israel but, I think the settlement policy is a travesty. I am very concerned that the civil rights of Palestinian people are more limited than they should be. Israel is turning to the right in almost every way and I do not like that. With other countries that do similar things, I have thought, "They should be coerced. We must do all we can to stop this injustice. Boycott!" That is, I am sympathetic to the impulse to seek greater justice.

As a Jew by choice, it's far from obvious that I am Jewish and, so, I do not suffer antisemitism. My children do. Their Mother does. My more obviously Jewish friends all have stories. And, all Jews have relatives who have died or been brutalized by antisemites. Antisemitism is real. And, it is again on the rise.

Israel was founded mainly to provide a piece of land where Jews could be sure to survive. A place where they would not and could not ever be subject to the depredations of evil, bigoted people. For most Jews, a significant part of their sense of self and safety comes from the knowledge that Israel is there, that, when the black boots come, they could send their children to Israel where they would be safe.

Before I had children, I might have said, "People, the Holocaust is decades in the past. These are modern times. Hitler can never rise from the dead." But, having spent my adult life in, around and then becoming one of the Jews, I see that this is a completely wrong thing. You never get over genocide. A thousand years from now, Jews will be worried when some Senator makes a coded accusation – and it will happen. Jews are a distinct and distinguishable culture. Antisemitism is real.

Israel is not just a country that happens to have Jews in it. It is an essential component of Jewish psychology. It's safety. Of the healing of the wounds of genocide. It is true that being anti-Israel is not the same as being anti-Jew. It is also true that being anti-my-child is not the same as being anti-me. However, in both cases, it feels like it is. Which is to say, whatever is intended, an attack on Israel is an attack on Jewish well-being. At the thought of Israel being harmed or driven out of existence, Jews feel attacked and unsafe.

Boycott proponents claim that this is not an antisemitic thing. They are, justifiably upset by the problems of Palestinians and want to change the situation. Yet, they are also upset by the plight of workers in China. By the plight of gay people in Russia. By the dozens of countries that are listed on the Amnesty International website. Yet, for some reason, I've not run into anyone agitating for boycotts or other punishments for these places.

But, I believe them. I have dialog with some people who advocate boycott of Israel. They are not interested in this problem because Jews are involved. But, they also would not be interested in this problem if Jews were not involved. How can you otherwise explain the fact that this, of all the civil rights violations in the world, is the one that gets focus.

I suppose that most people would say that we can't do everything all at once and I agree. The choice of Israel as the one to work on today, however, puts on into common cause with Hamas, Iran, and many other vicious antisemites. Though I accept the assertion that choosing the plight of Palestinians as the first goal, instead of others, is not motivated by antisemitism, working toward the same goal as Hamas makes it close.

I add, as a postscript, the observation that no boycott advocate I've seen or heard has an actual solution to the Palestinian problem. No path or process that would make both Israelis and Palestinians safe. I have not heard any that felt like it was OK to create a blockade against the Palestinians for shooting rockets at the Israelis. That is, in addition to the curious fact that Israel, not China, not Russia, not Ecuador, not any of the other counties deserve boycott, the proponents of Israel boycott have no real goal. They want to punish Israel but, have no idea how to cause the Palestinians to cooperate, to admit that Israel has a right to exist, to stop their side of the hostilities.


Airlines Screwing Us by Suing Jetlagged

Airlines appear to have a main goal of making our lives worse and worse. Service, fees, cramped seats, they are greedy, awful companies.

Now a guy has made a site that lets you search for flights by *layover* city. Often, it is cheaper to buy a ticket to somewhere you don't want to go and get off at the layover city that is your real destination.

THESE AWFUL ANTI-COMPETITION, SCUMBAG AIRLINE CORPORATIONS, ARE SUING THE GUY FOR PROVIDING THIS INFORMATION.

I gave some money to fund his legal fees. I hope you will, too.

Overlords

A very significant change occurred in my thinking a few years ago. During the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Chicago, my daughter went to Grant Park, the main public space in downtown Chicago. She sent me pictures of *thousands* of armored police troops. It was out of the question for protest to be effective. A demonstration could be crushed like a bug in a minute.

I was young during the civil disobedience era that was the civil rights movement and, separately, caused America to get out of Vietnam. People got hurt, but it was possible for people to confront the government. The police had the advantage but, public opinion kept a rough parity. Police were allowed to use nightsticks but not guns. Abusing a protester was dangerous for the police.

These are two points on a continuum that illustrate the transition from a world where the transition from quaint old visions of limited intrusion and municipal power have transitioned from enough to make society work to enough to keep society under control.

Now we have new things that were reasonable when they started but are starting to show their teeth. EasyPass toll paying systems do not need to keep track of every time you pass a sensor, but they do. Automobiles don't need to record everything you do, but they do. Cellphone monitoring. Website super cookies. Cable tv reporting viewing habits. Facebook granting access to your friends list every time you use it to login.

If these things are on the more reasonable side of a transition resembles the changes in police policy over the last forty years, it is hard to imagine that we have a comfortable future ahead of us. The police, at least, are (slightly) constrained by the Constitution and law. Much of the potential in our future is at the hands of corporations that are constrained by neither.

Facebook can kick you out any time it wants. It can cut off what is probably the main way you communicate with most of the people you know. This is a disturbing possibility made real by the changes in technology. When Facebook was just for college students, nobody could have seen that it would be the intermediary that would connect you to your old auntie who you never get to otherwise see.

Those overlords need resisting. They are just getting started and the future they have in mind is not pretty.

Fighting Words for the Holidays

The problem is that I don't want a Merry Christmas. That has nothing to do with me. I'd be happy that you are saying something nice to me, except I know that Christians are on a campaign to make it so that saying anything other than Merry Christmas is offensive.

They are trying to force commercial organizations to standardize on Merry Christmas despite the fact that the business owners, the clerks and the customers are often of different faith.

Fox News and the Christian right wing who comprise the public voice of Christianity have turned "Merry Christmas" into a phrase of oppression. By declaring a war on Christmas and taking the offense by trying to drive out the phrase Happy Holidays, they have made Merry Christmas offensive to me.

Wishing me a Merry Christmas is like wishing that I have an easy, short labor when I deliver a baby. I'm a man. It's stupid to say that to me and it's stupid to wish me a Merry Christmas. I am Jewish.

When you lament that your seasons greeting is now a point of conflct, look to Fox News and the right-wing Christians that you have allowed to be your voice in this culture. They turned Happy Holidays into a fight. Wish me a Merry Christmas at your own risk. Say Happy Holidays and I will return your generosity with gratitude.


Debt Collection Defense Strategy and Experience

There is, in this world, a class of people whose goal it is to find a weakness in your past and find a way to confuse you and make you screw up enough that they can garnish your wages, drain your savings and take your money. These people are called collection companies.

What they do is buy paperwork from credit card and other financial companies and try to turn that into money. The paperwork is the record of an abandoned credit card balance or some other debt that has not been paid. The company buys the legal right to try to collect on that debt.

One could make a political point about this, but mainly, it is very often unfair and, even more often, simply abusive. While I am sure that there are some people who can pay for these things and simply choose not to, I am equally sure that most people who leave debt like this behind simply came upon bad times and can't cover the bill. Sucks to not be able to control all the economic events in one's life and these people are there to take advantage of that weakness.

In my case, it was an old credit card. My ex-wife is sure she paid it after our divorce but, she is not good at paperwork and had no records of any kind from that era. The debt was for a few thousand dollars and, even if I had believed the debt was legitimate, I had absolutely no way to pay it off. The economy has not been kind to me. I had to fight them. It turns out that this is easier than I ever would have thought.

STRATEGY

The salient point is this: They do not have a case. If it gets to a lawsuit, they will lose. The paperwork they buy from the previous creditor is mere decoration. It has, on it's own, no legal value. It is, if you watch tv legal dramas you will recognize this term: hearsay.

The company (in my case it was a nationwide company called Resurgent Legal Group) is there to produce dollars. The way they do this is to put you through a modestly complicated legal process and hope that you will fail to execute properly so they can go to the judge and get a "Summary Judgement". They will tell the judge that you have not made any claims that the facts are wrong and, therefore, they are entitled to garnish your wages, etc. If you have not done the paperwork correctly, that claim will be correct and the judge will give them your money.

THE OVERVIEW

If you execute properly, you will have established for the judge that there is a  disagreement about the facts and he or she will have to grant a trial to figure out the real truth. Since the collection company only has hearsay paperwork, they will not want a trial and will dismiss the suit.

If a miracle happens and they do show up for the trial, you would have to tell the judge that the paperwork is hearsay. You would, at the beginning of the trial, object to the paperwork being entered as evidence because it's hearsay. The collection company lawyer might say that records collected in the normal course of business are exempt from the hearsay rules.

That is true, but these records were not collected in the normal course of the collection company's business. These were supposedly collected in the course of the credit card company's business. Unless the credit card company is the one suing you, it is still hearsay. It means that the only evidence that the collection company has is not allowed. QED

THE PROCESS

More likely they will give up without a trial but, to get to that point, you have to pay close attention. In my case, in addition to the standard paperwork, they changed the date for the summary judgement hearing several times over the course of months. It would have been very easy for me to miss the real court date. You also have to do the paperwork correctly.

Let me hasten to preface: This is the story of how it went for me and it's only the parts I consider important. I got several letters that were announcements of this or that which were not important. More importantly, in your state/county/village, the details might differ. YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION AND ACT QUICKLY. Read carefully to figure out if you should do something. You should also TALK TO A LAWYER.

GETTING STARTED

One day, you get a letter offering to settle a debt. It says that it will take half the money and call it quits. It says that this is a collection effort and that anything you say can be used against you. As far as I can tell, you have no obligation to respond to this. Later you will get a letter saying that they have retained council. It is not mandatory that you reply (I didn't) but, now I think it would have been good to reply to this letter saying that you have no idea what they are talking about. Send it registered, return receipt requested.

(Someone also told me, when I got this, that it was a good idea to get set of credit reports to have a record of them at that time. I never found a use for them but, better safe than sorry.)

IT GETS REAL

Later, you will get a letter that says something "Complaint". It will be very formal and will have "Counts" and "Sections" and such. Do not tell them anything except that you deny everything and even then, refer to it by their paragraph, don't use your own words.  I admitted that I lived at an old address and they kept telling the judge that this was proof I owed the money. They will use anything you say against you. I went through it and denied each paragraph (they are numbered). "Paragraph #1, I know of no such account." "Paragraph #2, ...". Then I sent it to them, registered, return receipt. 


You should be better than me and go to the public legal help office (in my state, the civic center has a "Legal Self Help" office that will let you talk to a lawyer for fifteen minutes whenever you need to). Show him or her the paperwork and your response and do whatever your told, unless it's to settle. Don't do that.

REQUEST FOR ADMISSIONS

Eventually, you will get a more formal paper that makes a list of assertion questions. "Did you live at..." "Do you owe this money..." "Do you have such and such an account..." You can't lie but, you also probably don't really remember things that long ago. The less you tell them the better.

Here's the thing, these things MUST BE DONE PROMPTLY. There is a time period when you must respond. In my case, it was a couple of weeks.

What I said is "I do not admit that I have ..." for every single assertion. For the section called "Interrogatives", I said, "I choose not to discuss ...". And ended it by saying, I demand that you "cease and desist from bothering me further on this matter." Someone suggested that. It made me feel good but I'm not sure it mattered.



Once you figure out what to say, take your answers to the legal self-help guy and show them to him or her. Then file the answer in whatever way the lawyer says.

If you can't bring yourself to do that, I got away with mailing the answer to the collection company. I used registered mail with a return receipt so that I had a record. Were I to do it again, I would sign it and have it notarized but, I didn't and it still worked.

JERKED AROUND BY PROFESSIONALS

Eventually, I got a notice for a summary judgement hearing. Then I got a notice that it had been rescheduled. Then another and another. Clearly, they were trying to confuse me in the hope that, when the time came, I would not show up. Because I was very, very suspicious, I actually went to the courtroom  for every one of the dates– four or five times – just to make sure that nothing was going on behind my back.

I think this was probably a waste of time. If this happens to you, I suggest that you call the judge's office. It's like a doctor. A clerk answers and, you can ask your question. In this case, instead of wasting my time going there, I would call and ask, "I got a reschedule notice for case #xxx [it's on the paperwork]. I want to make sure I have it right. I think I am supposed to show up on [whatever date]." The clerk, once I met her, was very nice and just wanted to make sure everything was smooth and easy for her judge.

In any case, do whatever you have to do to keep this organized. THEY ARE TRYING TO CONFUSE YOU. DON'T LET THEM.


WHERE I SCREWED UP

When I finally got to the hearing, I found out that I screwed up. It turns out that none of the stuff that I had mailed to thecollection company  made it to the judge in a form that could be used for my benefit. (My two letters were in their package but, for some reason, those did not constitute 'disagreement of facts'.)

What I had thought was that those two documents would be in the case already. The judge explained that I was wrong. They weren't. She also said, and this is really important, that I was to be held to the same procedural standards as an attorney. If you have this, or anything else adverse happen, ASK THE JUDGE FOR TIME TO MAKE IT RIGHT. Tell him or her that you will see the legal self-help, hire a lawyer, whatever, to get the paperwork right. Probably the time will be granted.

FILING A FORMAL ANSWER

Turns out that the response during the extra time I was granted also must be done promptly. I don't remember the exact number but, my paperwork had to be filed within a week and a half or something. This time I did meet with the legal self-help. I told him my objections and he told me to write them down, get it notarized and file it with the court office on the third floor.

I did this immediately but was horrified to find that there was a substantial fee for filling the paperwork, $324! However, legal self-help can give you paperwork to file with the judge to get the fee waived. I'm under the impression that they are fairly lenient about that, but I just paid it. I did not want to have any more interaction with the judge than necessary.

Remember though, THIS SHOULD BE DONE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER YOU GET THE FIRST NOTICE FOR THE HEARING.

The disagreement fact that I claimed is that I believed that I had paid all my debts and that I did not recall owing money to this company. I said other stuff but don't think it mattered. The important thing is that I had to formally say, "I do not owe that money," to get a trial.



In retrospect, I think that I could have simply used notarized copies of my first two letters. They made clear that I disagreed with the facts and did not agree that I owed money.

SUMMARY JUDGEMENT HEARING

At the second summary hearing (also at the first but that was moot), I asked the judge if I could make a statement. I said a bunch of things that I don't think mattered and one that did. I ASKED THE JUDGE FOR  A TRIAL. YOU HAVE TO ASK.



The collection company responded that I had waited too long to file, that I was implausible, that it was obvious I was lying, and several other things that she just made up on the spot. If there had been a kitchen sink nearby, that would have been thrown in.

The judge said that this was a hearing for summary judgement, not time to decide what was true and false. Then said that there was clearly a disagreement of fact and that she would grant my request for a trial.

She set a trial date about six weeks ahead. (Goal achieved.)

After the first hearing when I got the extension, the lawyer for the collection company was very confident. I told her that I thought this was a mistake and that I didn't remember owing any money. She insisted that I couldn't say that in court (I could and did) and that, if it went to trial, there would be no settlement. That last said with heavy emphasis and a hilarious attempt to be a powerful bully. If you are inclined to be intimidated by people, just tell the person you'll talk about it later and walk away. YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO OBLIGATION TO TALK TO OR BE NICE TO THE COLLECTION COMPANY LAWYER AND YOU SHOULD NOT. Anything you say will be used against you.

THE SUIT IS DISMISSED

About two weeks before the trial, an envelope shows up from the collection company. It is a request to dismiss the suit, "without prejudice". A couple of days later, a signed copy arrives where the judge says it's dismissed "with prejudice." "Without" means that they can raise the case again if they ever want to. "With" means that this judgement is to be considered final. That is, a new judge should consider this already to have been settled. That is better.



Before I got this, I did go to legal self-help after the hearing and before the trial (and before the dismissal) to ask if there is anything I should do to prepare and what I should say in court. He told me I should object to the collection company putting copies of old bills into evidence at the trial and that that should do it.

He also told me to lay low relative to the collection company. I had thought to do something like, ask for documentation about the old bills or something. He said not to telegraph my strategy. He said do not contact them at all.

A WARNING ABOUT LEGAL SELF-HELP

This brings up another point about legal self-help. They are not strategists. Nobody brought up the idea of using hearsay as a way to defend this suit. When I suggested it (a lawyer friend of mine instructed me on the strategy of this entire experience), the self-help guy was amazed. I asked him if it fit the law hereabouts  and he said yes and that he thought it should work. He said that the judge would be surprised because it was rare for a civilian to defend this kind of thing on a "matter of law".

Which is to say, use legal self-help to help you with forms and paperwork and filing. Though the strategy I used seems to me to be universally applicable, talk to lawyer friends about it. If can afford it, get a lawyer and tell him or her about this experience. Tell the legal self-help person about it. Bring as many brains to bear on your issue as you can. For good measure, explaining it will get you ready to tell the judge if you have to.

The good news is that you probably won't.


Quit yer bitchin'. You have a job in retail.

No, you have a job in capitalism. That's a system whose main intent is to maximize the exploitation of resources. Capitalism is an idea, a tool, conceived to help societies become better.

The folks who invented capitalism, did not foresee the idea of humans as a simple resource to be exploited. The idea that humans should be exploited as fully as an iron mine, or a foreign market became known as 'laissez faire' capitalism and reached its pinnacle in something known as 'social darwinism' when the Duponts, Rockefellers, Ford, etc, opposed making factories safe for workers because they wouldn't evolve to be good workers if the consequence of death wasn't culling them to produce offspring that were better at factory life.

Most people considered this to be a horrible idea that was counterproductive to the development of a pleasant, prosperous society. Consequently, labor unions were made legal, the precursor to OSHA was created, weekends came into existence as holidays, etc. Which is to say that the open ended exploitation of workers was no longer considered to be legitimate.

Since then, it was assumed that families needed time when everyone had the day off. Otherwise, the odds that twenty or thirty family members would happen to have the day off were vanishingly small. Employers respected few holidays, but Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas were sacrosanct.

Now we find ourselves in a era of unemployment and economic stress. Corporations, both to improve their prospects and because workers are vulnerable, have decided that Thanksgiving is an optional holiday, subservient to the gods of profit.

It's a really bad thing. We used to have three days when you could schedule a family party and be confident that everyone was available. Easter has been left behind as Sunday is no longer a day of worship.

Now, the capitalists see Thanksgiving Day as a resource that is left unexploited. The thing is, we are the people for whom this society exists and this is bad for us. We have given over every other day of the year except Christmas to the unfettered pursuit of profit. It is time for us to tell them that enough is enough. For two days each year, they should not be allowed to active their greedy, capitalist motivation.

Which is to say, this tool has run amok. Like a robot that has started disassembling the factory it's supposed to be building, capitalism has gone too far. It seeks to profit from every moment of human life. But, it's a tool. We get to say what the capitalists are allowed to do. We no longer allow them to make the workplace dangerous. We require them to pay taxes and prevent them from dumping their garbage in our water supplies. Every corporation relies on society to enforce contracts, prevent theft, and supply roads to carry goods. In return fo those, we get to set the rules of commerce.

On Thanksgiving, having your job be involved in retail, or anything else, should be subservient to the needs of society. No one should have to work and no one should be enticed to buy. Capitalism has no place on Thanksgiving. Shut it off. Demand that your family be allowed to exist.

Holiday Greetings for the Self-Absorbed

When my birthday arrives, I will not wish you a Happy Birthday, because I know that just because the day is important to me, it is not necessarily important to you.

If your intention is mainly to talk about yourself, go ahead with "Merry Christmas." If your goal is not purely self-absorbed, then you might want to take into account the fact that I'm not Christian.

If want to wish something for me, "Happy Chanukah" is more appropriate. I will not be having a "Merry Christmas" regardless of what you say, but I will be celebrating Chanukah and appreciate the good wishes.

But, I like to share the general happiness and really do wish well for other people, so I don't walk around saying "Happy Chanukah" to everyone. I know that's not meaningful to many people. I say Happy Holidays because that applies to everyone who wants to celebrate this month and I want to offer them good wishes in a way that takes their needs into account.