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February 13, 2006

Spotsylvania 911

The deputies assigned to the vice squad in Spotsylvania, VA have a special reason to look forward to work each morning.  Every time they arrest a prostitute they get to sample the services.  Seems the standards of evidence in rural Virginia are somewhat more stringent than those in other local jurisdictions.  Either that or the cops are just real serious about sweeping the streets of whores and want to build an iron-clad body of evidence.  Or maybe Spotsylvania just has horny cops.  All we know is that they're not complaining.

Do We Have To Put The Cuffs On First?

The Wash Post has the scoop exposing an anti-prostitute campaign launched by the sheriff's office in which "detectives have been receiving sexual services from 'masseuses.'" Give the cops credit though, they're not cheap;  they left a $350 tip the last time they dropped in - right after the act was consummated, but, presumably, just before the cuffs were slapped on.  The Post doesn't give us these details, so I guess it's not unreasonable to speculate that the cuffs could have been applied prior to the sex act - maybe this explains the $350.

I saw this kind of thing happen on Reno 911 once (or maybe twice).  It didn't end well for the cops on TV.  One guy reached down to unfasten his drawers and his companion grabbed the nearest lamp, knocked him cold, robbed him and left him for dead.  I don't remember what happened to the other guy, but his lust was left similarly unfulfilled.
The sheriff assures us that only unmarried detectives are assigned this hard duty, as they say in Spotsylvania. So while no real families are being torn apart, perhaps some potential families are being disrupted and otherwise challenged.  The sheriff didn't seem to see anything wrong with the practice, which has been going on for awhile.  Prostitutes are apparently good at avoiding incriminating conversation so sexual contact is necessary to close the case.  And the cops have been describing the lurid details of their encounters in open court.

"If I thought we could get the conviction without that, we wouldn't allow it," Sheriff Smith said. "If you want to make them, this has to be done."

Spoken like a trooper.

The Post handled the story in an interesting way, interspersing snippets like that from Smith and his colleagues in rural Virginia with quotes from more enlightened law enforcement personnel upstate.  The contrast reveals much about the culture clash that divides the region.  For example:

"It's insane," said Charles J. Key Sr., a retired Baltimore police lieutenant who trains police officers and federal agents across the country. "If you allow officers to go through with the act, they've violated the law. You don't get an exception for participating in a violation of law."

But it can't be a crime if it's committed by those entrusted to uphold the law.  Isn't that what we're learning now from the Bush administration?  Those wielding executive authority emit a kind of strange neutralizing aura that immunizes them from criminal culpability.  These cops in Spotsylvania are just taking Alberto Gonzalez's argument and applying it to local policing.

And besides - Key shouldn't be quite so judgmental - they were doing this in Maryland until the prosecutor found out and told them to knock it off.

Once Key gets done positioning the DC metro area as a beacon of reason, the Post returns to Smith, who argues that they have lots of Asian whores in Spotsylvania who don't speak such good English.  The only language they understand is explicit sexual contact, followed by the customary application of cuffs.  He digs himself in deeper when he tries to compare the prostitution sting to a drug bust in which the arresting officer must buy the drugs to make the bust.  

Smith didn't think the analogy all the way through, though, a fact that was swiftly pointed out to him by his peers in Northern Virginia who reminded him that the cops aren't supposed to actually use the drugs.  Kind of makes you wonder what else the cops in Spotsylvania are up to, doesn't it?  

I've already checked - they aren't accepting applications.

February 16, 2006

Timing is Everything

I told you a couple of weeks ago that I was in Maui.  Looks like I timed that trip just right.  A week or two later and there may have been no glorious beaches to enjoy.  The Associated Press reports that Maui's sand is disappearing at a rate of 318,000 tons per year (that's 5.5 million tons over the past twenty years for those of you with long memories).  At this rate they're going to run out in six years.  Where is all this sand going?  Who would want it?  More important, are they still serving Waileia Itches at the Renaissance?
Don't Get Too Comfortable
The usual suspects don't apply here.  No, this is not global warming showing its face in yet another twisted grimace.  Nor can we blame beachfront erosion due to overdevelopment.  Turns out this is a simple balance of trade issue.  You know how the Chinese government has been subsidizing our multi-year spending spree?  Well, it looks like Maui has been subsidizing Oahu's sand deficit.  They're actually mining the stuff in Maui and hauling it to feed "Oahu's hungry construction industry."  I knew there'd be a corporate evildoer in here somewhere. 

The excavators, true to their role, are primarily concerned about finding new sources of sand once Maui is reduced to the first 21st century Atlantis.  Eric Yoshizawa, vice president of one of the bad guys, says "when we run out of sand . . . the only alternative will be to ship it in from another source."  A word to the wise - if you live near a beach and Mr. Yoshizawa pulls up in a backhoe, it might pay to ask a question or two.

Yoshizawa goes on to argue that conserving sand wouldn't do any good because it doesn't keep well.  Yeah, once you dig it up and store it maybe not.  But it was keeping pretty good right where it was.  So why not leave it there and avoid the conservation issue?  Oh, I forgot about Oahu.  They're paying $40/ton for sand in Honolulu and it's only $20 in Maui.  

The folks in a position to do something about this in Maui seem to be missing the point.  They observe that there's really plenty of sand in Maui.  It just happens to be under resorts and homes and other structures.  According to Howard Hanzawa, who has studied the problem for the Maui County Department of Public Works, "Maui has had this valuable resource for a long time.  But with development over the dunes, we kind of locked up the resource in many areas."  I've got a solution.  Tear down the resorts and let the backhoes roll!     
Avian Flu Update

Since we last checked in here avian flu has jumped the gap into Nigeria and Western Europe.  On February 13 the Agence France Presse reported that "health officials
on three continents went into emergency high gear as suspected and confirmed cases of the
H5N1 strain of bird flu in both humans and fowl continued to accumulate around the world."  Nigeria, in an open defiance to the outbreak, reacted last Sunday by keeping poultry markets open.  I'm prepared to accept that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are big, but I'm betting that we're going to start getting sick chickens over here pretty damn soon.  
February 23, 2006

Get The &*#$% Over Here!

A month or so ago I told you about New Jersey's optimistic search for a new handle with which to attract folks who would otherwise choose deliberately to leave the Garden State out of their vacation plans.  Australia's got a fresh new solution to the problem.  Simply curse, swear and abuse your potential guests until they relent and decide to visit, if only to stop the ranting.  Aussies can be pretty good cussers, too.  An oil can of Fosters does wonders for the vocabulary.
Get Down 'ere 'r Else
The ad campaign was launched by Australia's Tourism Minister, Fran Bailey, and leads with the welcoming greeting "Where the bloody hell are you?"?  The Australian public is a little sensitive, though, and objects to the vile use of the term "bloody", not to mention the gratuitous "hell".  Shame.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, felt compelled to mop up behind the marketing faux pas.  "It's a colloquialism, it's not a word that is seen quite in the same category as other words that nobody ought to use in public or on the media or in advertisements."  Last month Howard was on a tear about the degeneration of Australian manners, blaming indecency on television.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Prime Minister seems to be speaking with forked tongue here.  How can you square the need for additional civility in Australian society with a threatening, uncivilized invitation to the world community?

Ms. Bailey did make sure the promotional campaign was fully vetted.  She said it had been test marketed successfully in some of "Australia's key markets."  Marketing 101 says you test market on the target market.  Since this is an ad campaign aimed at potential foreign visitors, the Tourism Ministry may have gotten more useful information by test marketing on some Japanese or Americans or the occasional European.  Since the Australians are used to insulting one another, it's not surprising that they would react favorably to the new campaign.

Of course we all know that Aussies can be far more vulgar, and they were probably tempted to test the limits in this very promo.  Even Paul Hogan can do better than "bloody hell".  And nothing short of violent, intimidating threats will drag my ass down there.  Not when Maui is at the halfway point.

I've concluded that this, like other marketing slogans, can have many different meanings depending on where you put the emphasis:

Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

This amounts to a personalized invitation to come on down under and is the most customer-focused, least insulting interpretation.   It ignites a spark of anxiety as the reader ponders all the fun their missing by not being at the party down there.   Nobody likes to feel left out of something or, worse yet, that they've been left out of something.
Yer Missing All The Fun!
Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

If you can't lure them over by making them feel like their missing out, make them feel guilty by implying that they're holding up the festivities for everybody else. This interpretation leads to the panicky conclusion that you missed an important invitation.  
We're Waitin' on Ya
Where the Bloody Hell Are You?

If appeal to their insecurities and self-doubts, give them a full-throated, double-barrel blast of rant.  
Now Wer Pissed.
March 3, 2006

usquebaugh baul


No, it's not a misprint.  It's the name of a reborn, singularly potent Scottish dram.  184-proof, quadruple-distilled potent, which is nearly as powerful as the grain punch I remember from my college days.  This particular punch was blended in a manner that sharpened the memory - blended with kool-aid as it was one could consume rather large quantities without being aware of it, so you often got to experience it going down and coming back up.  At least I did.  It tastes better the first time.  
Sleep Tight My Darlings
Usquebaugh-baul does not suffer from this deceptive quality.  A mere sip of the stuff is said to take your breath away (more on that later).  The name itself is Gaelic for "perilous water of life".  How wonderfully tempting.  Regrettably the first batch won't be ready for ten years, but you can watch the aging process live on a number of strategically placed webcams.  I knew there was something to live for.

The distillery, Bruichladdich (B for short), was resurrected after being purchased by Jim Beam and left for dead in the nineties.  As an aside, if we're going to go stomping around over in Scotland trashing those things they hold most dear, is it too much to ask that it be done by a better producer of bourbon than Beam?  It's like Anheiser Busch buying Guinness and shutting the doors.  Would it be so hard to get Maker's Mark, Wild Turkey or Knob Creek to do the dirty work?  At least we would look like we have a little class.  No wonder the world despises us.

Thank heavens for Mark Reynier, who came along in 2000 to return B to its former glory.  Reynier does seem to be enjoying his new hobby.  When asked why he would inflict such a dangerous spirit  on an unsuspecting world he glibly replied "We are only doing this because we have this ancient recipe and because we can.  Our team can only get involved in the fun of recreating truly historic malts because we are independent - and we can."  (emphasis added).  Mr. Reynier seems like a fun sort, but perhaps drifting a little toward the cocky end of the confidence scale.  One "because we can" conveys a healthy self-esteem.  Two in one passage conveys an Icarus-like hubris.

Well, Reynier can deal with Zeus later.  I'm perfectly happy to forgive him so long as he lets that dram perk for another ten years.  I'm told their taking orders now, though.  And it's best to order ahead since they're only making 5000 bottles.  Pity.

Let me give you a sense of what will be waiting for you at the end of ten years.  The last time this dram was distilled was 300 years ago.  Perhaps it killed or maimed a generation of Scots, which would account for the long lapse.  We're fortunate, however, to have a firsthand account by a seventeenth century traveler, Martin Martin.  Martin (Martin) described that Scotch thusly:

". . . the first taste affects all the members of the body:  two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose;  and if any man should exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life."

The strength of the dram also seems to impair grammatical ability.  Either way, that's a pretty compelling list of consequences.  When a mere teaspoon of the stuff causes the taster to move straight from sufficiency to paralysis of central nervous system functionality the line between blissful enjoyment and catatonic stupor is perilously thin.  Well, you can't say they didn't warn you.  Remember, usquebaugh baul refers to "perilous water of life"  Or death.

March 9, 2006

Save Your Pennies

Guam is one of the farther-flung outposts of the 21st century US empire.  And we didn't even have to invade to get it!  The Spaniards ceded it to us in 1898.  Wait . . . wasn't there that unpleasantness with Spain right about that time?  Well, let's not let facts spoil the fun.  Guam is ours, fair and square.  Even if it is just a territory.  All is not well in this tropical paradise, though.  Word has it that the locals are ripping power lines off cables to scavenge the copper.  And they're not asking the electric company for permission, which makes this a particularly hazardous pastime.
It's A Goldmine!
According to the CIA Fact Sheet the local economy depends on military spending, tourism and fishing.  Well, we're distracted on our Iraq adventure, Maui beckons, and you can fish pretty much anywhere.  So that leaves Guam in a perilous macrobind, and the residents in a painful microbind.  The residents have set about a self-help strategy that involves cannibalizing the island of critical infrastructure in various forms, and that's where the power lines come in.  Metal commands a higher price than seafood.

This sort of high-end scavenging is not unheard of in other parts of the world or even here in the CONUS.  People have been tapping into CATV systems since they started rolling them out in the seventies - I remember doing it, but I was underage and not subject to prosecution (I hope).  The folks in South America, particularly Argentina, have made it into a legitimate career path.  I work in telecom and the kind of scavenging I remember is people amputating cable routes to mine the copper.  This practice was not without it's dangers.  Ringing voltage will will knock you on your ass, so if you set about mining telco copper it pays to prowl during the overnight hours when folks aren't as chatty.

The vandals on Guam have scaled entirely new peaks of desperation, stupidity or both.  In one incident "thieves cut the (power) wire mid-span...that means within the length of two poles cut mid-span left dangling and left hot with no regard to who might come in contact with these lines," according to Art Perez of the utility commission.  Most of us try to avoid intimacy with unbreakered AC power.  The Guam natives seem happy to regard it as an on-the-job hazard.

The local authorities are in hot pursuit of the vandals.  They shouldn't be hard to find.  This is where another telco analogy comes in handy.  In the old days, when telco repairmen got dispatched to find a trouble in the field they would drive down the cable route and search for dead squirrels.  You see, the rodents acquired a taste for the lead insulation used in old cables, which tastes good - for awhile.  When time's up the sorry pest takes a twenty foot dive to the pavement head first.  So these repairman could locate the trouble directly above the dearly departed, who may have knocked somebody's phone service out but sure paid a high price for it.

My recommendation to the local authorities is that they patrol around looking for dead vandals.  They'll know they're onto a guilty stiff (as opposed to a random dead guy by the side of the road) if there are whiffs of smoke rising from the corpse.  Oh, and one more thing.  It's not advisable to eat dead squirrels that you find under telephone lines.

Avian Flu Update

I've lost track of the number of countries that have been visited by the H5N1 virus, but that's why there's the BBC.  Check this out:

March 18, 2006

I'm negligent, so I thought I would compensate by getting caught up on a bunch of trivia that's been accumulating in my file.  There's more here than I can use, but I'll try and select only the truly trivial.
Check His Pockets
Mining for Copper in Indianapolis

Remember that problem they were having in Guam last week?  It's spreading.  Now the folks in Indianapolis are having spools of copper cable stolen right out from under their noses.  The criminals seem to have more to live for than their like-minded colleagues in Guam, but they're also more elusive.  In Guam, the thieves not only turned themselves in but also enforced their own twitchy version of capital punishment.  In Indianapolis they're speeding away in souped up getaway cars, leading local cops on 90 MPH chases.  

Can't you picture this on the Discovery Channel?  

Cut to a scene from a chopper of a cruiser in full-throttle pursuit of a dangerous felon.  Many an innocent bystander narrowly escapes the harrowing, white-knuckled chase.  Property is damaged indiscriminately.  After about 15 minutes of mayhem, the cops finally manage to bring the deranged maniac to justice.  In the precinct house, the dialog goes something like this (all the cop dialog came straight from the newspaper):

Discovery Channel anchordude:  "So, that was one helluva chase.  The guy must have committed wanton murder or some other soulless crime.  Whadhedo?"

Cop:  "Copper spool theft."

Discovery Channel anchordude:  Blank look

Cop:  "It was large spools of copper wire and they weighed 350 to 400 pounds a piece."  

Discovery Channel anchordude:  Blank look

Cop:  "The motivation to steal is to sell it as scrap metal.  The price of copper is up pretty high right now."

Discovery Channel Anchordude:  Walking away.

Don't Drink the Water in Philly

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that two Bristol Township employees got busted for dumping raw sewage in the Delaware River.  Lots of it.  They allegedly violated the Clean Water Act, but I'd venture to say that the Clean Water Act doesn't come into play unless the said water is far cleaner than the Delaware.  That river, especially down Bristol way, hasn't seen a clear day since Washington's crossing up near Trenton.  I predict this case will be declared moot.

The EPA gratuitously declared that there is "no indication" that the water is unsafe to drink.  Easy for them to say from DC.  Wonder if any of them took the Accela up to Philly and dropped by Bristol for a tall, thick glass of  slimy Delaware goo?  I'll pay for the ticket!

This stuff all happened last summer.  Somehow EPA caught wind of it - maybe the the plume traveled all the way down the northeast corridor, but even thousands of gallons of raw sewage pales in comparison to the toxic cloud Newark emits, so I think EPA has more tools more sophisticated than the olfactory.  Anyway, EPA subpoenaed documents, got them last fall, and is just now realizing that it's not OK to dump raw sewage into a riven, even one that's seen better days.  In fact, it's poor sportsmanship.  The river's down.  Start the count already.

In typical fashion the supervisor, that watched all this happen, Steven McClain, has been getting full pay and benefits while on administrative leave since last summer.  Mr. McClain "has admitted that he has done wrong and has accepted full responsibility."  Well, maybe a wink shy of full responsibility.  Full responsibility would involve termination of employment and potential prison time.  Mr. McClain is still too sick to be fired or arrested.

Parse Those Geeks

As I mentioned last week, I'm in telecom.  What I didn't tell you is that I'm a geek.  Sometimes we get carried away with ourselves.  Like, for instance, last Monday when L-3 Communications launched  a new product with this wonderfully descriptive press release:

"N-CDL is the first wideband data link waveform to provide a self-forming, self-healing, jam resistant, adaptive data rate, internet protocol (IP)-compatible multiple-access network with an aggregate capacity of 137 Mbps (outbound) and 67 Mbps (inbound), while supporting 50 active nodes."


Let's parse that:

There's plenty more to mine here, but I think we've bashed the geeks enough for one day.

Avian Flu Update

Anybody catch that innocent little blurb on page 6 of the WashPo yesterday?  You've got a good excuse if you missed it since they buried it in the Washington in Brief section, which nobody reads since the damn paper covers Washington in proctoscopic detail.  By the time I get to Washington In Brief I've had so much Washington Writ Large that I'm ready for a few stories about Camden or Newark.  Well, I seem to be straying a little here so let me return to the point.  The headline was a mind number:  "Mutations Identified in Avian Flu Virus".  Uh oh.  Isn't that what they've been telling us we should be on the lookout for?  And every time the virus mutates with a velocity that puts routine natural selection to shame we are reminded by our friends in labcoats to stay calm.  I think they're just telling us that so they can get a head start on the Tamiflu.  Kind of like being on the Titanic sans chivalry.  Well, this very little article goes into detail about the latest twist - 

"Scientists said they have identified some of the mutations the H5N1 avian influenza virus needs to gain a permanent foothold in humans and potentially cause a greatly feared pandemic."

Huh?  What was that again?  Oh . . . that's what I thought.  OK folks, I'm headin' for the lifeboats and there better not be any women and children in the way.  Well, I'm just kidding about the women and children.

Oh, and they slipped this little gem in at the tail end:

"They (the labcoat crew) found (H5N1) hemagglutinin looked similar to the virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, which killed 50 million people." (emphasis added)

WHAT?  How's that for a good left hook?  Didn't even see it coming, did you?  If you're like me you'll be seeing stars for a day or so.  

Maybe EPA Did a Flyby
Pretty Geeky Stuff
Soon To Be The Least Of Our Problems