Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oh, great. The idiot is running again.

While the spotlight has been shining on Hillary Rodham Clinton and her remarkable lack of Democratic contenders, Republicans have been quietly walking up to the Goblet of Fire and slipping their names into it.

The latest Republican to announce his candidacy for the presidency was our own Billionaire Clown, Donald Trump. He can't stand it when the news isn't about him. And he just can't stand to stay out of his own spotlight. I guess that's his right. He bought the spotlight, and paid for it, so he might as well shine it on himself. It's a pity he couldn't spend the money on a better hairpiece.

Clearly, he didn't learn his lesson from the "birther" beating he inflicted upon himself in 2011.

Anyway, in the latest installment in the comedy-cum-soap-opera that is his life, Trump invoked God Himself in promising:
I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
I remind you that in 2011, all of the Republican candidates, except for Mitt Romney, announced that God had told them to run for President. This statement sounds like Trump is telling God what to do, and not the other way around. Ladies and gentlemen, the Clown is back, and he's about to eat his clown shoes.

Reuters reporter Alana Wise wasn't too impressed with his announcement, as she makes clear in this report of the press conference announcing his candidacy.

Everytime I read or hear about Donald Trump saying something, I get this mental image of a donkey in a pasture, braying loudly because he loves to hear the sound of his voice, while all of the other animals grazing in the field ignore him or silently wish he would be abducted by aliens.

UPDATE, JUNE 17: Most of the news media didn't take Trump's announcement very seriously. One of them even accused him of "throwing his rubber nose into the GOP ring." This jesting at his expense, and lack of respect, hasn't sat well with Trump, who fired back in a fit of petulance: "Well, I'm rich and you're not, so nyah. Jerks." Now we can really take him seriously.

Friday, June 5, 2015

A road rage incident

Preface: This isn't very readable. I dictated it into my telephone while I was driving to work, and only superficially edited it once I got to work. Recording it here is important, because I've seen this guy before. I should have reported him the first time, but I didn't. 

Colorado takes road rage very seriously. The cellular phone number *277 (or "star C S P") is a shorthand number to report an aggressive driver to a Colorado State Patrol dispatcher. After three complaints, the vehicle's owner gets a letter. After more complaints, they get a visit from the CSP, often with more drastic results.

I called *CSP at 9:13 a.m. The dispatcher spent a couple of minutes with me on the phone getting all of the relevant information. I'm glad that this state takes road rage seriously.

Again, while this may not make very interesting reading, it's important to have it in a publicly searchable area of the Internet.

Notes on the aggressive driver, June 6, 2015

These notes are related to a call I placed to *CSP at 9:13 AM on Friday, June 6, 2015, regarding an aggressive driver.

The vehicle was a white Oldsmobile Bravada SUV, license plate was a Colorado "Pioneer" design, with last three letters YBA. The first three numbers might have been 236 or 238. I no longer recall the numbers, but I reported them to the CSP dispatcher as I was reading them off the license plate. The driver appeared to be in his sixties, Caucasian, white hair, no facial hair, wearing a baseball cap and his left arm wrapped in an athletic bandage - not a cast, but a wrap, with the thumb and fingers sticking out.

During and after this incident, I was calm and mellow. I never felt any tension or anger. I never feared for my life or my safety, although now I think that maybe I should have.

I was in the passing lane on 287, just south of Hwy 56 in Berthoud, southbound and passing slower traffic. The Bravada came up behind me and rode my bumper, less than a car length away, and as soon as traffic in front of me cleared and I could pull into the right lane, he rocketed past me. He was doing at least 80. I observed him driving aggressively for a few more miles, tailgating drivers, cutting drivers off, and changing both lanes and speed suddenly and erratically.

Further down the road, I pulled into the left lane to pass slower traffic and found myself behind him. I kept a safe following distance. He was on the rear bumper of a grey Honda Civic that was going about 60 in the left lane. When the right lane was clear he passed the Civic on the right, rolled down his window, and gave the Civic driver the bird. The Civic didn't move, so I also passed him on the right, more politely. The Bravada driver was watching me and the Civic in his side view mirror the whole time, and actually slowed down to match the Civic's speed, so that I was abreast of the Civic and the Bravada was in front of me.

When there was a large enough gap between the Bravada and the Civic, I pulled into the left lane to pass him. I was about 3 car lengths ahead of him when he finally decided to speed up. he stomped on his gas pedal, accelerated quickly, passed me on the right and shot a dangerously narrow gap between me and a truck in front of him. He shot the gap aggressively enough that the Bravada rocked wildly as he yanked the wheel first left, and then right, while still accelerating. He proceeded to flip me off, both in the rear view mirror and out the driver side window. After a half mile still in the left lane, he slowed down again to 65 or possibly to 60 miles an hour. As I came up behind him, I slowed down as well, and the Civic almost caught up to us.

I was endeavoring to maintain a speed of 69 or 70 mph, using cruise control as much as possible. So once again, I pulled into the right lane, and stayed there on cruise control. The right lane was clear ahead of me and behind me. The left lane was clear in front of the Bravada. The Bravada once again accelerated rapidly in the left lane and pulled several car lengths ahead of me. Then he changed his mind and slowed down to match my speed, about a car length ahead of me but in the left lane. This is when I called *CSP to report him as an aggressive driver.

By this time we were two miles north of Highway 66, still on 287 southbound. The Bravada slowed down further, falling back to get almost abreast of me. The driver rolled down both right side windows, and started video recording me, using his phone. He had an angry look on his face. He was in the left lane, & I was in the right lane, behind a brown pickup who was slowing down as we all approached the highway 66 intersection. Since I was behind the pickup, I slowed down also, and the Bravada slowed further in order to stay abreast of me and continued video taping me, while I was on the phone with CSP. At the highway 66 intersection, the Bravada stopped at the red light in the left lane. The pickup truck stopped in the right lane. I turned right onto westbound 66. At this point I lost contact with the Bravada, but I told the CSP dispatcher that I would be willing to sign a complaint.

As I write this report, it occurs to me that I have had a previous encounter with an aggressive driver in a white Oldsmobile Bravada. This was about a year ago, on 17th Street in Longmont, between Airport Road and Hover Road. Now I'm wondering if it was the same guy.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hello, Booz Allen Hamilton?

In my new position at work, I want to try out some software from a company called Booz Allen Hamilton. Using their own webpage, I've submitted two requests for either a trial copy of the software or a price quote. The first request was over a week ago; the second was this Monday, I think.

I've heard nothing. In the same time period, I have received and installed two competing software packages, and I've been contacted by a friendly and eager sales rep from one of the competitors.

Today I got junk mail from Booz Allen Hamilton. This is funny: they can't be bothered to set me up with a trial version of their software, but they've already harvested my address from my online RFQs so they can spam my mailbox.

Booz Allen Hamilton is a big company with big customers, and a gripe from one engineer in a medium-sized company won't make any difference to them. So I'm sure it won't bother them for a moment that I won't be giving their software any further consideration.

But at least I got this off my chest.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hey, that's me!

"The truth is, part of me is every age. I'm a three-year-old, I'm a five-year-old, I'm a thirty-seven-year-old, I'm a fifty-year-old. I've been through all of them, and I know what it's like. I delight in being a child when it's appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it's appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own."

That's from Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. It describes me perfectly: not my attitude, not my philosophy on life, but how I am programmed — how my brain is hardwired. I cannot be any other way, for this is who I am.

It is who I have always been, and it is who I always will be.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The IRS: No credibility at all, part 2

Yesterday, in my article The IRS: No Credibility At All, I said:

"The IRS expected the public to believe that the agency did not have a regular data backup plan in place, and that backup tapes of Lerner's hard drive did not exist. I find that impossible to believe."

and, speaking of all IRS email, not just Lerner's email:

"To suggest that the IRS did not have a backup policy for their mailserver is way, way beyond stupid. It's unbelievable. Inconceivable. Asinine."

It turns out that the mailserver backup tapes were safe in a storage building in West Virginia. Last July, a lawyer went to court to get hold of those tapes and look at them. The Department of Justice basically shut down that request. It took until mid-February this year to finally get the tapes. Everything I said in my previous article was true.

You know what's funny? Actually, it would be funny if it weren't so pathetic. The IRS treated everyone else like chumps - as if everyone else were stupid. But the IRS comes out of this looking ... well, looking stupid, idiotic, immoral, and any number of other adjectives you would use for a bunch of twelve-year-old boys who tried to start a fire on the gym floor, then cover it up and think they could get away with it. That is what the IRS, collectively, looks like right now.

Now I'll let somebody else do the talking. This is Patrick Howley, political reporter for The Daily Caller. The original article is at http://dailycaller.com/2015/03/02/exposed-department-of-justice-shut-down-search-for-lois-lerners-emails/. (I try not to copy entire articles like this, but they have a nasty habit of disappearing if I only post the links, and I don't want that to happen. I will remove the article and just write a summary of it if Patrick or the DC ask me to, but it's important enough that I'd rather leave the verbatim copy here.)

Here's the story about how the IRS and the DOJ tried to keep the backup tapes of Lois Lerner's emails from going public.

The Department of Justice blocked an attempt to force the Internal Revenue Service to search for Lois Lerner’s missing emails at off-site storage facilities, according to a lawyer pushing to obtain the emails.

The IRS never looked for Lerner’s backup email tapes at the West Virginia storage facility where they were being housed. Treasury deputy inspector general Timothy Camus told Congress that the IRS never asked IT professionals at the New Martinsville, W.V. storage site for the backup tapes. Camus only found the backup tape for Lerner’s missing 2011 emails about two weeks ago.

But the Obama administration knew that emails were stored at off-site facilities, and even shut down a legal request to send somebody to go look for them.

“We said in court that there are off-site servers where all IRS emails are stored,” lawyer Cleta Mitchell told The Daily Caller.

Mitchell represents the voter-ID group True the Vote in its lawsuit against the IRS over improper targeting. Shortly after it was revealed last summer that the IRS was missing Lerner’s emails, Mitchell petitioned U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton for an independent forensic examiner to be appointed to investigate the missing emails.

Mitchell referred to the IRS’ off-site storage facilities in West Virginia and Pittsburgh in court in July. But DOJ lawyers representing the IRS and the Treasury inspector general argued that Mitchell could not even discuss the existence of the storage facilities in her capacity as a lawyer.

“The Department of Justice lawyers objected to that and said I shouldn’t even be allowed to mention these off-site servers without sworn affidavits,” Mitchell told TheDC. “They meant that I was trying to testify to the judge without bringing in witnesses with sworn affidavits.”

Mitchell’s motion to get an independent forensic examiner was denied. The IRS’ internal investigation never headed to West Virginia, and the Treasury inspector general’s investigation managed to find a pertinent tape in West Virginia a mere two weeks before last Thursday’s House Oversight hearing. One of the IRS employees tasked with finding data on Lerner’s crashed hard drive was legally blind.

Mitchell’s statement about the off-site servers was clear as day, according to court transcripts obtained by TheDC.

“I’m advised that the IRS maintains servers that are in different states in different locations and that IRS employees are advised that their emails are never lost,” Mitchell said in court, according to the transcripts.

“That’s what I’ve been told as far as my emails here,” the court replied.

“And I have had individuals who worked with, for the IRS from all across the country who have communicated that to me,” Mitchell continued. “And they say — I hear from government employees, retired and active, who say what is being said is not possible. It is not plausible and it is contrary to what we are told as employees of the IRS.”

Mitchell requested “the opportunity to at least have some expert look at whether the perimeters of the investigation are complete and … will fully cover all of the potential ways or places in which this investigation should look or take into consideration.”

But the email tapes sat there in West Virginia, alone and unexamined.

DOJ did not return a request for comment for this report.

As TheDC reported, the IRS fired its email-storage contractor Sonasoft just weeks after Lerner’s email-deleting computer crash.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The IRS: No credibility at all

You know, it's really sad that we in the USA are all subject to the will, the caprices and the passions of the IRS.

In less than a day, the Internal Revenue Service can deprive us of our homes, our bank accounts, our credit ratings, our personal reputations, our livelihoods, and even our freedom (I mean, like locking us in jail), for what some IRS employee perceives as our breaking the law.

This is the tax law. You know, the Internal Revenue Code, or whatever it is called. A law so huge and complicated that even the IRS admits that they don't completely understand it. Heck, even the congressmen who voted for it don't understand it.

Yeah, and if the IRS even thinks you are cheating the government out of their rightful share of your hard-earned money, they can come down on you like a ton of bricks, and there is literally nothing you can do about it.

HOWEVER, if you work for the IRS and you do something that is blatantly illegal, and you do it over and over and over again, nothing happens to you. How does it feel to be both omnipotent and invincible, unaccountable to anyone even though it's obvious that you are the biggest jerk, collectively, in the entire country?

Does anybody who works at the IRS wonder why regular, everyday, ordinary, law-abiding Americans hold the taxman in such deep contempt?

In 2013, it was obvious to anybody who could read a newspaper that the IRS had unfairly targeted and bullied conservative action groups - especially those who chose to include the words "tea party" or "patriot" in the names of their groups. The IRS even issued a public apology for having done so.

The big question at the time was whether this was the work of a few rogue IRS agents, or whether the directive came all the way from the top. "Top" could be defined as the head of the IRS, Lois Lerner, or someone even higher, up to and including President Obama himself.

To answer this question, investigators ordered the IRS to turn over all of Lois Lerner's emails for the critical period of time. The IRS responded that the emails were lost because the hard drive on Lerner's computer had crashed and the contents could not be retrieved - the contents including the emails in question. They used all sorts of tech mumbo-jumbo to claim that the hard drive had been physically damaged and, consequently, physically destroyed. They claimed that this was per department policy, stupidly ignoring the fact that that same department policy had a "records retention clause" dictating that all electronic correspondence should be backed up and saved for several years.

This clause had the force of law - which the IRS flouted. Destroying emails or hard drives containing them could be construed as destroying evidence.

The IRS expected the public to believe that the agency did not have a regular data backup plan in place, and that backup tapes of Lerner's hard drive did not exist. I find that impossible to believe.

The IRS also expected the public not to understand the concept of a mailserver - the electronic post office that handles all the mail in and out of an office or a company. Mailservers are regularly backed up as well, especially in a place like a government office, where a "paper trail" can be crucial to conducting everyday business and to enforcing both contracts and laws. To suggest that the IRS did not have a backup policy for their mailserver is way, way beyond stupid. It's unbelievable. Inconceivable. Asinine.

(SHORT EDIT, THE NEXT DAY: Oh, it gets worse than that. See my next article .)

In testifying before a congressional inquiry into the matter, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, adding, "I will not answer any questions or testify about the subject matter of this committee’s meeting." I can't think of an appropriate word to express my contempt for someone like that.

So Lerner's excuse was the equivalent of "My dog ate my homework," and the public was expected to believe her, in spite of the glaring evidence to the contrary.

President Obama even contributed to the deception, declaring in February 2014 that there was "not a smidgen of corruption" in the IRS or in their handling of the "tea party" paperwork. He expected us to believe him simply on the strength of his voice.

His earnestness reminded me of what Jean Girardoux once said: "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."

(Maybe Obama didn't realize that what he was saying was false. Maybe he thought he was telling the truth because he didn't know the truth yet.)

After Lerner resigned, other IRS officials said that (surprise!) backup tapes DO exist, but that retrieving the thousands of emails from the tapes would be "onerous."

So investigators tried other ways to retrieve the missing emails. In fact, trying to retrieve the missing emails by scouring thousands of other  users' email accounts for messages sent To or From Lois Lerner netted about 67,000 emails, at a cost to the taxpayer (yes, the TAXpayer. Catch the irony?) of about $14 million. It took over a year. This whole time, the backup tapes were staring them in the face, and any high school nerd with a PC and Python could have written a program to search and retrieve the missing emails from the tapes in much less time and at a much lower cost.

Well, finally somebody did just that - but not a high school kid. Investigators hired an outside company, who took the tapes and TWO WEEKS LATER retrieved ALL of the emails from them, including an additional 32,000 Lois Lerner emails. That is MUCH less "onerous" than the exercise that the IRS put us, the American public, through to find the first 67,000 emails.

There is no question in the public's mind that Lerner, and the IRS departments that bullied the conservative groups, were corrupt. And dishonest. AND thoroughly, completely, despairingly incompetent. The agency's credibility in the public eye is absolutely zero. And while they have spent the past two years  babbling about this to the press and to Congress, they have hoped that the public would buy their story and not see through the flimsy fabric it was written upon.

The game's up, you morons.

You freaking morons.

You all ought to be fired. I wouldn't give you a job as a greeter at WalMart.

I hesitate to be so bold in my pronouncements, all of which are taken from public news reports, because I have also heard that the IRS targets people who speak out against the agency. Nobody believes those "random" audits are completely random. But I'll give it a shot and we'll see what happens.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Spelling Bee: an Imagined Memory

There was an article in the paper this morning about the school district spelling bee. It reminded me of something that never happened. It might have been a dream I had, several years ago.

In my dream (if that's what it was), one of my daughters was in the spelling bee. She was standing on the stage, at the microphone, with her number hanging around her neck, and the black stage curtains behind her.

The moderator said "Calzone." BUT THE MODERATOR PRONOUNCED IT WRONG. She pronounced it American style, with the soft Z and the silent E. Stupid Americans. My daughter glanced at the moderator and then looked at me in the audience, a look of confusion distorting her face.

I shrugged my shoulders and cocked my head at her, with my hands in the classic Italian, "what do you expect me to do?" gesture. What else could I do, right?

She asked, "Definition, please."

The moderator said, "An Italian pastry made with pizza dough and stuffed with meats and cheeses."

My sweet daughter paused for a moment. Then she looked me in the eye and said confidently: "Call-TSO-nay. C-A-L-Z-O-N-E. Call-TSO-nay." SHE CORRECTED THE STINKIN' MODERATOR.

She nailed it. And, come to think of it, so did I. I raised 'em right.

You may now roll your eyes.

Endnote: It could have been any of my daughters. Or my sons. That's how cool they are.