If you need another reason to turn on the auto password lock timer on your phone, this is it! The California Supreme court determined through a majority 5-2 decision today that if you are arrested a cop can search the entire contents of your cell phone without a warrant. Justices Kathryn Mickle Werdegar and Carlos Moreno wrote in dissent,

“The potential intrusion on informational privacy involved in a police search of a person‟s mobile phone, smartphone or handheld computer is unique among searches of an arrestee’s person and effects.”

I have to agree with the fact that a cell phone can contain as much information as a full filing cabinet that you would keep in your home. If you need a warrant to open a filing cabinet, then I would argue that you need a warrant to see the contents of the cell phone. And you just know that cops will abuse this and search cell phones before making the decision to arrest you.

The best protection is to turn on encryption and the auto lock timer feature so that your phone locks automatically when not in use. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to put in your password every single time, but your privacy is worth it in the long run should you ever be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The pilot of the plane that crashed into the IRS building in Austin, Texas earlier today, Joseph Andrew Stack, left an online suicide note. Since I have no idea how long the website will be up, I have reprinted the suicide note here in its entirety. It’s a fascinating look at some loser who just gives into the crazy in his head.

Page Title: Well Mr. Big Brother IRS man… take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, “Why did this have to happen?”  The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time.  The writing process, started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken.  Needless to say, this rant could fill volumes with example after example if I would let it.  I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious, and probably pointless… especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head.  Exactly what is therapeutic about that I’m not sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

We are all taught as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy.  Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, our government stands for justice for all.  We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place, and that we should be ready to lay our lives down for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers.  Remember? One of these was “no taxation without representation”.  I have spent the total years of my adulthood unlearning that crap from only a few years of my childhood.  These days anyone who really stands up for that principal is promptly labeled a “crackpot”, traitor and worse.

While very few working people would say they haven’t had their fair share of taxes (as can I), in my lifetime I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind.  Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.

Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?  Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies.  Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”.  It’s clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don’t get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.

And justice? You’ve got to be kidding!

How can any rational individual explain that white elephant conundrum in the middle of our tax system and, indeed, our entire legal system?  Here we have a system that is, by far, too complicated for the brightest of the master scholars to understand.  Yet, it mercilessly “holds accountable” its victims, claiming that they’re responsible for fully complying with laws not even the experts understand.  The law “requires” a signature on the bottom of a tax filing; yet no one can say truthfully that they understand what they are signing; if that’s not “duress” than what is.  If this is not the measure of a totalitarian regime, nothing is.

How did I get here?

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s.  Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English.  Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions.  In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy.  We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God).  We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living.  However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0.  It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie.  It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

Before even having to make a shaky recovery from the sting of the first lesson on what justice really means in this country (around 1984 after making my way through engineering school and still another five years of “paying my dues”), I felt I finally had to take a chance of launching my dream of becoming an independent engineer.

On the subjects of engineers and dreams of independence, I should digress somewhat to say that I’m sure that I inherited the fascination for creative problem solving from my father.  I realized this at a very young age.

The significance of independence, however, came much later during my early years of college; at the age of 18 or 19 when I was living on my own as student in an apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  My neighbor was an elderly retired woman (80+ seemed ancient to me at that age) who was the widowed wife of a retired steel worker.  Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.  Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement.  All she had was social security to live on.

In retrospect, the situation was laughable because here I was living on peanut butter and bread (or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge) for months at a time.  When I got to know this poor figure and heard her story I felt worse for her plight than for my own (I, after all, I thought I had everything to in front of me).  I was genuinely appalled at one point, as we exchanged stories and commiserated with each other over our situations, when she in her grandmotherly fashion tried to convince me that I would be “healthier” eating cat food (like her) rather than trying to get all my substance from peanut butter and bread.  I couldn’t quite go there, but the impression was made.  I decided that I didn’t trust big business to take care of me, and that I would take responsibility for my own future and myself.

Return to the early ‘80s, and here I was off to a terrifying start as a ‘wet-behind-the-ears’ contract software engineer… and two years later, thanks to the fine backroom, midnight effort by the sleazy executives of Arthur Andersen (the very same folks who later brought us Enron and other such calamities) and an equally sleazy New York Senator (Patrick Moynihan), we saw the passage of 1986 tax reform act with its section 1706.

For you who are unfamiliar, here is the core text of the IRS Section 1706, defining the treatment of workers (such as contract engineers) for tax purposes. Visit this link for a conference committee report (http://www.synergistech.com/1706.shtml#ConferenceCommitteeReport) regarding the intended interpretation of Section 1706 and the relevant parts of Section 530, as amended. For information on how these laws affect technical services workers and their clients, read our discussion here (http://www.synergistech.com/ic-taxlaw.shtml).

SEC. 1706. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN TECHNICAL PERSONNEL.

(a) IN GENERAL – Section 530 of the Revenue Act of 1978 is amended by adding at the end thereof the following new subsection:

(d) EXCEPTION. – This section shall not apply in the case of an individual who pursuant to an arrangement between the taxpayer and another person, provides services for such other person as an engineer, designer, drafter, computer programmer, systems analyst, or other similarly skilled worker engaged in a similar line of work.

(b) EFFECTIVE DATE. – The amendment made by this section shall apply to remuneration paid and services rendered after December 31, 1986.

Note:

  • “another person” is the client in the traditional job-shop relationship.
  • “taxpayer” is the recruiter, broker, agency, or job shop.
  • “individual”, “employee”, or “worker” is you.


Admittedly, you need to read the treatment to understand what it is saying but it’s not very complicated.  The bottom line is that they may as well have put my name right in the text of section (d).  Moreover, they could only have been more blunt if they would have came out and directly declared me a criminal and non-citizen slave.  Twenty years later, I still can’t believe my eyes.

During 1987, I spent close to $5000 of my ‘pocket change’, and at least 1000 hours of my time writing, printing, and mailing to any senator, congressman, governor, or slug that might listen; none did, and they universally treated me as if I was wasting their time.  I spent countless hours on the L.A. freeways driving to meetings and any and all of the disorganized professional groups who were attempting to mount a campaign against this atrocity.  This, only to discover that our efforts were being easily derailed by a few moles from the brokers who were just beginning to enjoy the windfall from the new declaration of their “freedom”.  Oh, and don’t forget, for all of the time I was spending on this, I was loosing income that I couldn’t bill clients.

After months of struggling it had clearly gotten to be a futile exercise.  The best we could get for all of our trouble is a pronouncement from an IRS mouthpiece that they weren’t going to enforce that provision (read harass engineers and scientists).  This immediately proved to be a lie, and the mere existence of the regulation began to have its impact on my bottom line; this, of course, was the intended effect.

Again, rewind my retirement plans back to 0 and shift them into idle.  If I had any sense, I clearly should have left abandoned engineering and never looked back.

Instead I got busy working 100-hour workweeks.  Then came the L.A. depression of the early 1990s.  Our leaders decided that they didn’t need the all of those extra Air Force bases they had in Southern California, so they were closed; just like that.  The result was economic devastation in the region that rivaled the widely publicized Texas S&L fiasco.  However, because the government caused it, no one gave a shit about all of the young families who lost their homes or street after street of boarded up houses abandoned to the wealthy loan companies who received government funds to “shore up” their windfall.  Again, I lost my retirement.

Years later, after weathering a divorce and the constant struggle trying to build some momentum with my business, I find myself once again beginning to finally pick up some speed.  Then came the .COM bust and the 911 nightmare.  Our leaders decided that all aircraft were grounded for what seemed like an eternity; and long after that, ‘special’ facilities like San Francisco were on security alert for months.  This made access to my customers prohibitively expensive.  Ironically, after what they had done the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!  After these events, there went my business but not quite yet all of my retirement and savings.

By this time, I’m thinking that it might be good for a change.  Bye to California, I’ll try Austin for a while.  So I moved, only to find out that this is a place with a highly inflated sense of self-importance and where damn little real engineering work is done.  I’ve never experienced such a hard time finding work.  The rates are 1/3 of what I was earning before the crash, because pay rates here are fixed by the three or four large companies in the area who are in collusion to drive down prices and wages… and this happens because the justice department is all on the take and doesn’t give a fuck about serving anyone or anything but themselves and their rich buddies.

To survive, I was forced to cannibalize my savings and retirement, the last of which was a small IRA.  This came in a year with mammoth expenses and not a single dollar of income.  I filed no return that year thinking that because I didn’t have any income there was no need.  The sleazy government decided that they disagreed.  But they didn’t notify me in time for me to launch a legal objection so when I attempted to get a protest filed with the court I was told I was no longer entitled to due process because the time to file ran out.  Bend over for another $10,000 helping of justice.

So now we come to the present.  After my experience with the CPA world, following the business crash I swore that I’d never enter another accountant’s office again.  But here I am with a new marriage and a boatload of undocumented income, not to mention an expensive new business asset, a piano, which I had no idea how to handle.  After considerable thought I decided that it would be irresponsible NOT to get professional help; a very big mistake.

When we received the forms back I was very optimistic that they were in order.  I had taken all of the years information to Bill Ross, and he came back with results very similar to what I was expecting.  Except that he had neglected to include the contents of Sheryl’s unreported income; $12,700 worth of it. To make matters worse, Ross knew all along this was missing and I didn’t have a clue until he pointed it out in the middle of the audit.  By that time it had become brutally evident that he was representing himself and not me.

This left me stuck in the middle of this disaster trying to defend transactions that have no relationship to anything tax-related (at least the tax-related transactions were poorly documented).  Things I never knew anything about and things my wife had no clue would ever matter to anyone.  The end result is… well, just look around.

I remember reading about the stock market crash before the “great” depression and how there were wealthy bankers and businessmen jumping out of windows when they realized they screwed up and lost everything.  Isn’t it ironic how far we’ve come in 60 years in this country that they now know how to fix that little economic problem; they just steal from the middle class (who doesn’t have any say in it, elections are a joke) to cover their asses and it’s “business-as-usual”.  Now when the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die for the mistakes… isn’t that a clever, tidy solution.

As government agencies go, the FAA is often justifiably referred to as a tombstone agency, though they are hardly alone.  The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government.  Nothing changes unless there is a body count (unless it is in the interest of the wealthy sows at the government trough).  In a government full of hypocrites from top to bottom, life is as cheap as their lies and their self-serving laws.

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand.  It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants.  I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after.  But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change.  I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less.  I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are.  Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.  The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of shit at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different.  I am finally ready to stop this insanity.  Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.


The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.


Joe Stack (1956-2010)

02/18/2010

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has been deemed the “testicle bomber” or “ball bomber” due to this Reuters article quote:

…the device consisted of a six-inch (15.25 cm) packet of powder and a syringe containing a liquid, which were sewn into the suspect’s underwear so they would be near his testicles and unlikely to be detected.

I mean this guy literally tried to blow his balls off! “Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!!!”

You would think that terrorists around the world know that after United 93 if you try and act a fool on a plane, your fellow passengers will beat your ass first and ask questions later. Especially American passengers. We have a lot of pent up rage in this country and peeps are just looking for an excuse to kick some ass, and to do it with a legitimate reason is just icing on the proverbial cake.

First, Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, tried to light his kicks on fire just a few months after 9/11 and got his ass beat which is termed “subdued” in news reports. Subdued means you got your ass beat. In 2007, a passenger tried to open a plane’s cockpit door and he got his ass beat and duct taped to a seat. But these incidents are ancient history, here are some that happened just this year. In January, a guy yelled “I’ve got a bomb” as a plane was landing at LAX and got his ass beat before the plane even touched the ground. In April, another guy tried to open a cockpit door on a flight to Israel (!) and he got his ass beat. In August, this guy punched a woman in the face then took off all his clothes on a flight from Oakland to (not returning from) Las Vegas. Needless to say he got his ass beat.

Basically, if you even remotely look like you are going to act up on a plane you are getting your ass beat, Fight Club style.

There was an apparent ninja attack in Gilroy early this morning. You have been warned.

San Francisco bought Treasure Island from the U.S. government for a $55 million guaranteed payment. However, the deal could be worth as much as $105 million should the development of the island prove to be highly profitable for the city.

A man who thought he was a ninja scaled a metal fence, but alas he wasn’t a ninja and was impaled by said fence. We have all been there, right!? Anyone!?

A drunk-off-her-ass Boston woman fell on the train tracks as the subway train was approaching, and lived, barely. Wow! Luckiest drunk ever!

Last month, somebody tried to assassinate a Saudi prince by exploding a bomb stuffed in his ass. He pretended to be a repentant militant, when in fact he was more like a “propellant” militant.  The suicide ass bomber exploded and just shocked the hell out of the Saudi Prince who escaped with only had minor injuries. (Via Bruce Schneier, really funny comments there).

For years, I have made the joke about Richard Reid: “Just be glad that he wasn’t the underwear bomber.” Now, sadly, we have an example of one. Lewis Page, an “improvised-device disposal operator tasked in support of the UK mainland police from 2001-2004,” pointed out that this isn’t much of a threat for three reasons: 1) you can’t stuff a lot of explosives into a body cavity, 2) detonation is, um, problematic, and 3) the human body can stifle an explosion pretty effectively (think of someone throwing himself on a grenade to save his friends).

We should all buy stock in latex glove companies because I can just see the TSA reacting to news of this attack with rectal exams U.S.  fliers. Er, we are looking for asshole bombs, sir! I guess it’s all in the messaging, maybe it will be touted as “free colon cancer screenings by trained professionals.”

Update: Below is a news story about the ass bomber that is bordering on hysteria.

A couple in Arizona takes bath time photos of their kids to a local Wal-Mart.  An obviously highly trained Wal-Mart employee decides that the photos are porn and notifies police.  The local police agree and investigate; child protective services take away kids for a month; the parents lose their jobs and are placed in the Arizona sex offenders registry; and the parents spend $75k in legal bills.  At the end of the day, the the couple were cleared of charges and now, they are suing Wal-Mart.

If you ask me, they should probably sue the local police department detectives that agreed with a Wal-Mart employee and launched an investigation.  Realistically, this should have stopped after the first phone call instead of snowballing into arrests, investigations, and criminal charges.

Should parents fear printing bath time photos from now on?

A student in Baltimore was burglarized.  The burglar returned later the same evening and instead of calling police, the student confronted the burglar with what is being described as a Samurai sword. It could have been a ninja sword. The burglar lunged and the student killed the burglar, damn near hacked the burglar’s hand off with the sword. Moral of the story: don’t steal from a ninja.

Bat-Shit-Crazy Phillip Garrido wrote and recorded love songs to young girls that he gave to a business acquaintance.  The business acquaintance claims that Garrido wrote these while in prison for a kidnap and rape conviction and believes “some of the lyrics could reflect a predilection for young girls.”  Some of the sick lyrics are:

“For every little girl in the world, they want to be in love, yeah…Please tell me that you want me…The way she walks, yeah, subtle, sexy. What can I do? I fall victim too. A little child, yeah, look what you do.”

What a sick fuck this guy is!  I can’t believe it took this long to catch this bastard.  The fact that he had a chance to record a 2-disc, 20 song album to little girls is proof positive that this guy thought he was untouchable by law enforcement. Life in prison with no possibility of parole is the only sentence for this crazy mofo.

The L.A. wildfires are coming “Straight Outta Mordor.” Via BoingBoing.

By now you have heard the story of how Phillip Craig Garrido kidnapped an 11-year-old girl in Lake Tahoe 18 years ago and fathered two kids with her (ew!).  He kept the kidnap victim and her offspring in his backyard compound with makeshift building and tents (double ew!).  Many of his neighbors didn’t even know there were kids living on his property.

He was already known as an oddball by many who knew him, based on interviews of people that knew him in the last couple of days. Well, he wasn’t going to be happy just be a kidnapping rapist, he wanted to be the voice of God.  This psycho mofo kept a blog! A scary effing blog called Voices Revealed where he claims that God has given him the ability to talk in tongues, links to an UCLA study that supposedly prove he’s not crazy for “hearing voices” in his head, and a “package of information” addressed to attorneys, universities, and law enforcement.

In the information package he claims to have “new insight that has the potential of helping people who hear voices to possibly stop and reexamine their thinking before committing a violent act on themselves and/or others”  by including  notarized and signed affidavits from six people that he knows (whom he probably scared the shit out of to sign them).

Uh, sure I’ll sign it Phillip as long as you leave my store!

This guy is crazy-as-bat-shit!

Garrido’s quote from jail, “In the end, this is going to be a powerful, heartwarming story…my life has been straightened out. Wait till you hear the story of what took place at this house. You’re going to be absolutely impressed. It’s a disgusting thing that took place with me at the beginning, but I turned my life completely around.”

Uh, yeah it will warm *your* heart when the lethal injection hits it.  We’re waiting to hear the story from the victim!  When are we going to hear her speak about her ordeal?

A Seattle woman has sued magician David Copperfield, contending he sexually assaulted and threatened her while she was a guest on his private island in the Bahamas.  I don’t know what is more shocking, the accusation or the fact that this mofo can make enough money to buy an effing island in the Bahamas!  An island!? Craziness.

Some mofo is lighting cars on the streets of San Francisco on fire in the middle of the night!  Last night 4 cars were torched, and authorities say that the count is up to a dozen cars.  People that park on the street are not scared, they are pissed.  I feel sorry for the bloodshed that will take place when someone catches this guy around their car.  This case is ripe for some sweet vigilante justice.  Stay tuned.

Babies 'R' Us Closed

I knew from the moment I walked into the Babies ‘R’ Us store near Serramonte that I hated that store.  The coin-operated kid ride at the front of the store with the loud and obnoxious music, the fake smiling employees, the dim fluorescent lights, the blandness of a box-shaped store.  And a creepy feeling on the back of my neck as I browsed through a row of over 40 strollers.  Really!?  Over 40 different strollers!?  I knew something was afoot.  It is the reason why we registered for baby gifts on Amazon.com instead of using Babies ‘R’ Us.  And their prices sucked!

Well, my apprehension was well founded.  Babies ‘R’ Us has been caught price fixing.  It seems they have ripped off parents for years and years by forcing manufacturers to not discount their crap through other online channels.  I hope they lose their ass on the pending class-action suit.  Bastards!

Belgian prison inmates escaped today with the assistance of a hijacked helicopter that landed right in the middle of the prison yard.  The helicopter flew to a field 12 miles away where the mofos got into some sinister looking Mercedes sedans and vanished.  I want to see this movie!

Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years and eternal hellfire.  Adios mofo!  I know that this Bernie devil doll will not do much to restore wealth to his victims, but it sure is fun to smack around.

I know I talked a lot of smack about Jacko over the years, but I am sad that he died so young.  TMZ is the first to report that MJ died today after suffering cardiac arrest and being rushed to the UCLA Medical Center.  He is survived by three children: Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr., Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince “Blanket” Michael Jackson II.

A New Zealand couple found an extra NZ$10 million (or $6 million U.S. dollars). They had asked the bank to cover an overdraft of about NZ$10,900, but their bank deposited 1,000 times that amount. They couldn’t believe their luck, so they wired the bulk of the money offshore and fled the country. Local reports speculated they may have fled to China or South Korea after transferring as much as NZ$6 million to an offshore account. Now they are on Interpol’s most wanted list. Wow.

In China, a sewer snake came came up from a toilet and bit a man’s penis.  Crazy.

No, I am not referring to the “N Judah” or the BART trains.  A man named Muni Bart Perzov from San Jose is missing.  I thought this was a total joke when I heard about it, but it’s true.  I wonder if his mom actually named him after the trains beneath Market Street.  Here’s hoping they find him.

WHO raises swine flu to pandemic level 11.  Cough, cough!  Ahrm, it is only a matter of time before “El Swine” gets us all.  Cough, cough!

Swine flu prevention technique: full exposure to build resistance

Seasonal flu, the regular influenza virus, has killed more than 13,000 people since the beginning of the year and swine flu has killed only one.  Although you wouldn’t know it by the mass media hysteria surrounding this flu of swine.  All of the news networks are tracking the “outbreak” by reporting the number of cases as they increase, which by the way, (insert sarcasm here) is REALLY exciting to watch 24 hours a day.  Just yesterday a couple of people were reported to have swine flu in Marin and everyone in San Francisco started to panic as if Godzilla was swimming around The Bay ready to pounce on us Tokyo-style.

Almost immediately after the Marin “outbreak,” The Governator declared a state of emergency in the best press conference ever by saying, “there is no need for alarm.”  Well, isn’t that what “declaring an emergency” is all about!? You are sounding a freakin’ alarm so that people take notice, right!?  Uh, really!?

Let’s keep things in perspective people!

You are no more likely to die from swine flu as you are from regular seasonal flu.  The same rules apply.  People should be a lot more worried about getting the AIDS virus, since that has a much higher mortality rate.  But understandably it is a lot easier to get the swine flu virus than the AIDS virus.  Use the same precautions that you would to avoid getting the flu and you will be fine.  I am not saying we should all go out and start kissing pigs, but there is definitely no need to panic.

The four system administrators of The Pirate Bay file sharing site have been convicted of copyright infringement, sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay $3.6 million in restitution to to a handful of entertainment companies.  Peter Sunde, one of the defendants and The Pirate Bay’s spokesman, announced the news over Twitter Friday morning before the verdict was official. He remained defiant, and offered comfort to supporters.

“Stay calm — Nothing will happen to TPB, us personally or file sharing whatsoever. This is just a theater for the media.  We see this as a film…this is a small setback for the heroes…In the end we know that the good guys will win, as in all movies.”

The defendants claim that there are mirrors of the site all over the world and the site will remain operational even if they were to go to prison.  The defendants are expected to appeal, and they remain free pending further proceedings.

It seems like everyone is talking about Keri Ferrell, the hipster grifter and criminal from Utah that continued scamming people in Brooklyn, New York.  One Observer post followed by several Gawker posts has several Internet observers looking for this crazy con girl.  According to Gawker, there are three reasons why following her exploits is becoming an Internet meme:

1. She is so much like you or your friends or someone you know. All us young urban cools relate, right? Yes! Just like your neighbor!

2. But yo she was seriously totally psycho. Come on, the frauds and ripoffs or the fake cancer or the fake pregnancies or the other assorted lies would pass for normal one at a time. But all in one place—she was the holy grail of the outwardly cool, inwardly crazy and dangerous person you met at a bar one night.

3. She had the misfortune to perpetrate her fraud in the midst of the most self-absorbed, writing-intensive demographic, and zip code, in all of America. Sucks for her.

Sucks for her indeed. There’s even a link to the Observer article from SFGate!  I cannot believe that modern day con artists think they can outrun the long arm of the Internet. They may be able to outrun the law, but not the Internet.  Fascinating.

A man in Texas passed gas in a motel room with a couple of his buddies.  Normally that does not make the news.  But, the ensuing olfactory assault from this particular fart was so severe that one of the buddies threw a knife at the farter and proceeded to stab him in the chest!  The farter was later treated for non-life thratening injuries and released.  This has to be the first time that a “fart fight” turned into a “knife fight” in the history of mankind.

A group of vandals and/or thieves cut a couple of fiber optic cable trunks on Thursday.  The cut cables knocked out 52,000 land lines, Internet connections and cell phones all over southern Santa Clara county.  People were really pissed.  Now police have increased their reward to $250,000 for information on this case.  I wonder if there were any large robberies (diamonds, large wads of cash, or something) while these lines were down.  Because this sounds like some Ocean’s 11 type shiznit.  You know, a distraction to commit a much bigger crime or to turn off an alarm or something.

GM and Segway introduced a new two-wheeled vehicle yesterday, a big ass two-person Segway.  According to news reports, this new vehicle is supposed to revolutionize urban travel. You know, like the original Segway did several years ago. What!? You don’t have a personal Segway for short trips around town? Well, clearly you do not work at Google. Anyway, the chances of people choosing this vehicle over walking, a gas powered scooter, or even a new electric scooter is ridiculous. It’s good to know that GM is spending stimulus money on publicity stunts.

Newspapers and magazines are laying off journalists left and right. Well, would be shocked to find out that journalism school applications are up by as much 38 percent at Columbia and 20 percent at Stanford. Should anyone trust your abilities to collect and summarize information if you pay exorbitant tuition to be trained in a dying profession? Think about it.  People with graduate degrees in journalism were paid like $40,000 before the great newspaper and magazine die-off.  So why pay $35,000 per year to get a journalism degree now!?  Just throw $100 bills into a bonfire or a fireplace or something.  Much easier.

“Pubs” in the title of the post refers to publications, not bars.  Ironically, that is where these new journalists will likely end up.  Sadly reevaluating their lives.

Above is a photo of an ATM card skimmer found on a WAMU ATM in NYC.  The guy noticed that the reader was right in front of the ATM card slot and misaligned and was able to rip it right off of the machine and take it inside the branch.  The reader consisted of a small chip for storage and a mini-USB connector.  Please make a note of this and examine ATMs before sticking your card in it.

A Yahoo! engineer went nuts and shot everyone in his house, including himself, on Sunday.  Authorities are trying to figure out why the guy would shoot his entire family, including his wife’s brother and the brother’s spouse, who were visiting from India.  If there is any good news about this mess is that his wife survived and is in critical condition.  Perhaps she will be able to shed light on what happened after her recovery.  Crazy.

Does anyone remember Microsoft’s CD-ROM encyclopedia called Encarta? Well, it’s shutting down. I read about its demise in a newspaper article and the update is already on Wikipedia.  Ha!  No wonder Encarta is adios amigos.

In today’s economy it’s it’s good to hear that someone is making money.  A cafe owner in Ohio is thriving by allowing customers to pay what they think is fair for a meal.  This is what they do in small towns in Europe and apparently it works here too!

The Daily Nugget is now banned in China!  Yes, it is a rite of passage for any reputable news organization to be banned in China, and now The Nug is too.  And it is just a crappy blog!  My friend Benson Tran, who lives in Beijing, says he can no longer access the site because the site, or me, angered a Chinese official.  Kick ass!

A Turkish man cheats death by escaping a collision between a train and a truck with only minor injuries.  Incredible!

A Nigerian 419 gang created official looking documents to trick Citibank into wiring $27 million to bank accounts all around the world.  They illegally accessed an account that the National Bank of Ethiopia held with Citibank.  When Citibank contacted the fraudsters to verify the wire transfers they went as far as impersonating Ethiopian bank officials.

They were ultimately caught because several of the banks that received the wire transfers could not complete the transactions (for one reason or another) and contacted Citibank.  At which point the real National Bank of Ethiopia was contacted and the FBI were involved.  They would have gotten away with too it if they had simply used only a single bank account to receive the wire transfer and emptied it immediately.

This is a highly sophisticated con pulled off by a few very talented people.  Nobody thought that these Nigerian guys could pull-off an Ocean’s 11 type heist.  Well, it wasn’t that complicated, but it yielded amazing results.  Crazy.

The chimp that attacked a woman in Connecticut reportedly had a closer relationship with its owner than those of some married couples. The chimp bathed, dined, and even slept with its crazy-as-bat-shit owner.

Needless to say, he was likely acting crazy becuase he was living with a crazy woman.  Never mind the fact that he is a wild animal.  According to animal experts, he likely thought he was protecting his mate when he attacked the owner’s friend.

Sad to think the chimp could have been free in the jungle somewhere instead of playing husband to a crazy widow.

The story today in SFGate about eagles reminded me of the best video report about eagles ever produced anywhere! It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Another jet crash lands in London–all survive.  How many more crashes!?

A Continental flight heading from Newark to Buffalo crashed last night killing 50 people.  Also just before Christmas, a Continental flight had mechanical problems with its landing gear (and possibly the engine) in Denver, Colorado, veered off a runway and injured three dozen passengers.  That’s two crashes in two months for one airline!  I think it is fair to say that the Continental fleet is not being maintained as well as it should.

I actually know a couple of people that grew up in Stockton, California, and they have no allegiance to the city.  They will be the first people to tell you it sucks and that’s why they now live in San Francisco.  Well, according to Forbes, Stockton is the most miserable city in America right now.  That isn’t easy to do in this economy.

This scary ass graph shows 3.6 million jobs lost in 13 months!

This scary ass graph shows 3.6 million jobs lost in 13 months!

Nancy Pelosi’s blog posted this scary jobs graph that shows what 3.6 million jobs lost in 13 months looks like.  The graph shows the job losses (from the peak job month) for each of the last two recessions as a comparison.  This really shows how much worse it is this time around. Because by all estimates there are more jobs that will be lost before it starts getting better.

This is bad! I cannot believe that there isn’t more public outrage at the Senate Republicans trying to hijack and/or obstruct the stimulus bill approved by the House and remove aid to the states that will help create an additional 600,000 jobs.

A man thought to be using a counterfeit phone and/or battery died last week after his cell phone exploded.  The man had reportedly just charged his phone and placed it in his breast pocket.  Holy crap!  The article gave some helpful hints to avoid a phone explosion as follows:

  • Always use original batteries (and phone)
  • Do not expose phone to high temperatures and sunlight
  • Avoid long phone conversations (likely because phone heats up)

The most shocking part of the story is that this is the 9th time this has happened in China!  Coincidentally, this incident was not reported by U.S. media at all, only by the U.K. press.  I am now only buying my cell batteries at the phone store and not online.  I think there’s a good reason why batteries are less than half the price online–they can explode!

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe by ZeroOne

In Zimbabwe you can!  The country is suffering through hyper-inflation and they are *still* printing money.  Damn near worthless money anyway.  They have recently printed a $100 trillion Zimbabwean dollar note that is worth about $300 USD.  And by the time you are done reading this it could be worth about $280 USD.  Spend it while you can!  Bananas cost $5 billion six months ago! Local vegetable vendors prefer the U.S. dollar, South African rand or Botswanan pula, and most workers now demand their salaries in foreign currency.  It is likely that with the currency’s value dropping this fast the country could collapse. Crazy.

You can get paid to vacation for six months straight!  How!?  Australia offers a six-month island caretaker and resident blogger position on one of the islands on the Great Barrier Reef.  The position pays $105,000 and includes relocation expenses (airfare) to Hamilton Island and housing in a three-bedroom villa with a pool.  The “caretaker” is expected to stroll the white sands, snorkel the reef, take care of “a few minor tasks” — and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.

No other job pays equivalent of $210,000 per year and all expenses paid to chill and blog.  I could totally do this job!  Apply now, they will take applications until February.

The former BART officer that shot Oscar Grant at the Oakland Fruitvale BART Station on New Year’s Day was charged with murder.  The conclusion by Oakland police, contained in a legal filing made public Wednesday, contributed to Alameda County prosecutors’ decision to charge Mehserle, 27, with the murder of Oscar Grant.

“After careful analysis of the video, it is clear that both Grant’s hands were behind his back, a position hands are commonly placed in by police officers in order to handcuff individuals,” the police filing said. It concluded that “Grant had been restrained and unarmed when shot.”

It is highly likely that no charges would have been brought against the officer had the incident not been filmed by several BART passengers, posted on YouTube, and ultimately reported on the local news.  In other words, it is likely that this officer would have gotten away with murder as little as 5 years ago, before video capabilities were available on cell phones and digital cameras.

Several lawsuits have been filed against Yelp users that have posted bad reviews and featured in newspaper articles.  There may be many more lawsuits that have not been reported.  Additionally, some people are threatened with lawsuits that are sometimes never filed in order for companies to get negative information removed from the Yelp website.

A friend of mine used a cleaning service to clean her house, didn’t like the service and posted a bad review.  Months after, she was contacted by an attorney.  The cleaning company hired a lawyer to try and scare my friend into taking down the negative review.  She decided to take down the negative review but posted another review explaining that she was contacted by a lawyer after leaving a negative review.

What would these businesses do if the entire Yelp community decides to boycott businesses that sue, or threaten to sue, people that post negative reviews?  I think that those businesses would suffer much worse losses than those warranted by a bad review or two.  Can Yelp stay in business if people are afraid to post negative reviews?  It will be interesting to see what happens in the long run.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that a BART police officer shot a young man named Oscar Grant on New Year’s day at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station.  The event was videotaped by several witnesses with cell phone cameras and one clearly shows the police officer shooting Grant in the back while he is in a prone position almost “execution” style.  The video is pretty incriminating to say the least.  Last night, protests against the shooting turned violent with demonstrators smashing storefronts and cars, setting several cars ablaze and blocking streets in downtown Oakland.

It would be hyperbole to call what happened last night a riot, but this did remind me of the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles.  The scary thing is that the Oakland violence happened *before* the officer that shot the kid has been even investigated or brought to justice.  In contrast, the King riots occurred after the officers involved in the King beating were acquitted in a court of law.  I think that civil unrest in Oakland will go from bad to worse unless the city acts quickly to investigate and castigate the injustice.  Violence fills a vacuum.

The sad thing is that just like in Los Angeles, the protesters vandalized businesses that are part of the community, some of which were black owned, and have nothing to do with the BART police.  The BART police is ultimately the power structure responsible for the shooting and it is not associated with the Oakland Police or beholden to the city of Oakland in any way.  If protesters analyzed the situation carefully, they would have sought out BART police cars and burned them all to hell.  Unfortunately, the mob mentality is not that smart.  Sad.

Update: Here are Thomas Hawk’s photos of the violence in Oakland last night
Update: Story of the unrest reaches CNN front page, called a “riot” nationally

It seems that at a New York MTA hearing, another shoe almost dropped was almost thrown.  I wonder how many other copycat shoe throwers will make the news in the coming months.  Stay tuned.