From Politics

Support NH HB 1417!

NH HB 1417 would allow ‘well-behaved’ dogs into restaurants if the owner of the restaurant approves. This law has been a long time coming, and it makes good common sense. Currently, the bill is before the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee–you can find a list of Senators on that committee here. Below is my letter to Senator Reynolds in support of this bill. Feel free to use it (or parts of it) if you would like to write to her (or your Senator).

Dear Senator Reynolds,

I am writing today to express my support of HB1417, ‘allowing companion animals in certain parts of restaurants.’ There are several reasons this bill would be beneficial to the economy of the state, as well as to its residents.

Firstly, as a resident of Plymouth, I frequently see dogs accompanying shoppers on Main Street, even sitting in outdoor areas such as in front of Chase Street Market. These people represent potential customers for the many Plymouth restaurants, but the lack of outdoor seating at all but two restaurants (and the frequently inclement weather) prevents dog owners from patronizing any of these establishments with their pets. I have personally spoken with restaurant owners who have expressed a desire to allow patrons to bring their dogs into their restaurants, but who cannot because of existing law. I suspect this situation is repeated across the state, from town to town.

Secondly, allowing dogs within an establishment would give restaurant owners the ability to easily avoid staff issues involving service animals. The current legislation surrounding service animals is often difficult for owners to explain to staff, with the result that many simply tell their staff to allow any dog into the restaurant if the dog’s owner claims it is a service animal. In reality, asking the dog’s owner any additional questions could result in legal action against the restaurant, and simply letting in any dog that a person claims is a ‘service dog’ is the easiest and safest course of action. HB 1417 would alleviate the awkwardness of this process, as owners could simply allow all dogs into the public areas of their restaurant and inform staff of that policy.

Finally, in response to the position that allowing dogs into a restaurant poses a health risk, I would offer two counter-arguments:

1) If dogs posed a significant health risk in the public areas of a restaurant, such risk should (and probably would) outweigh the benefits of allowing service dogs into an establishment. Clearly, this is not the case.

2) While there are numerous regulations pertaining to hygiene in non-public areas of a restaurant (e.g. ’employees must wash hands’), I am not familiar with any which govern the hygiene of an individual patron of such an establishment. In fact, I believe that BFOQ for positions in non-public areas of a restaurant are such that individuals requiring a service dog to perform their job may be refused employment, as that animal’s presence in food prep areas would violate health codes. Despite this, a restaurant’s patron may use the bathroom facilities, not wash their hands, and proceed to exchange money with their server. It is difficult to imagine how a dog’s presence could increase the risk of disease transmission when compared with this example, yet this behavior is perfectly legal.

Based on these reasons, I ask that you support HB 1417 as it is reviewed by the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. Thank you for your time and your service to our community.

Sincerely,

Vasken Hauri
Plymouth, NH

Big Brother is watching you in Lower Merion Township

Apparently, Lower Merion Township School District thought it would be ok for them to watch the students whom they provided laptops through those laptops’ webcams. While at home. A vice principal disciplined a student for actions viewed on a laptop webcam in the student’s home. Not surprisingly, parents are now suing the school district. Here are my thoughts on the subject:

A webcam does not show any part of what a person is doing on their computer. It does not show administration what is on the screen, or what software is being run — that can be accomplished via remote management software that is commonly employed by corporations and educational institutions for legitimate asset protection and workplace employee monitoring. What a webcam shows is the user, and perhaps their surrounding environment. That environment, in this case the home, is not school property. It is the domain of the individuals residing within it, and the fact that it is their home offers those individuals some very strong constitutional protections against prying eyes. The fact of the matter is that the school wanted to be able to watch its students, even outside the classroom. Equipment protection was merely an excuse, and any decent lawyer will be able to destroy that argument by more eloquently stating what I just said.

On a related note, as a former Lower Merion taxpayer who has recently moved away, I am glad that this mis-use of my tax money has been exposed, and I hope that all the guilty parties are punished to the fullest extent of the law, insomuch as such a thing is possible in a civil case.

Google AdSense now integrated with Google Analytics

When I signed in to my Google AdSense account today, I noticed a link up near the top of the page that invited me to integrate my AdSense with my Analytics account. I followed along through some simple steps to add the AdSense to existing sites, then chose one to be a primary. The primary site will automatically integrate with AdSense data. Any other sites you want to track require that a small snippet of JavaScript be inserted on any page you want to tie in between AdSense and Analytics.

Google says the service takes a few hours to set up and get running. I’m curious to see what I find tomorrow…

Dallas cop who detained Ryan Moats should’ve been fired 3 years ago

You’ve probably heard by now of the latest incident of law enforcement ‘gone wild’ down in Texas. Apparently abusing pets doesn’t go far enough towards ‘protecting and serving’ the citizens of the Lone Star State–now they’re doing it to people. The newswire is abuzz with the story of how Officer Robert Powell of the Dallas Police is shown on his own cruiser’s videotape detaining a man for almost 15 minutes while his mother-in-law dies in the hospital in whose parking lot the entire debacle took place. Powell acts pretty stupidly throughout, is verbally abusive, and can be seen touching his gun menacingly. He ignores hospital staff’s pleas to let the man go see his dying relative, and even brushes off another police officer who tries to intervene on the man’s behalf.

Now, unfortunately for Officer Powell, the man in question was NFL running back Ryan Moats, and this incident has quickly put Powell in the national spotlight and the Dallas PD in a very bad PR situation. Add to this that Moats is black, and the accusations of racism have begun.

Now, I will say I am normally very, very skeptical when I hear that racism is involved simply because someone of one ethnicity did something bad to someone of another. So I decided to investigate. Here’s the scary thing…it seems Officer Powell was smart enough to set up a blog on xanga.com, and one of the entries that allegedly was pruned from his blog reads as follows:

Saturday, October 21, 2006

You drink, You drive, You rear end another car, You dont speak english, You smell like alcohol, You cant stand up straight, You cant walk a straight line, You go to jail!!!

Now, this scares the living crap out of me. Look at this list. All of the things are clear, definable crimes in our legal codes, except one. Not speaking English is NOT a crime in this country. Now, I will admit that Officer Powell seems to have taken down his xanga site as well as his MySpace page. I am going on the word of briancuban.com that the site rip of Officer Powell’s site is legitimate. However, a Google cached page that I found of Powell’s site does include this:

Monday, August 28, 2006
The count downs begin:
18 days of work then the real work starts and I can shoot people

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
So this is the day after my first day as police. First night was full of waiting for a wrecker, meeting a he/she, taking a guy to jail, known as Lew Sterrett, 911 hang up, and some BS security guys calls that people arnt going home. All in all it was fun, and I have to ask: they are paying me to do this?

Now, this cache is of March 27th, and Powell has clearly removed a bunch of the later content that might get him in trouble. However, the two statements above display what a disgusting human being Powell seems to be. He seems transvestites as sub-humans, is thrilled with the power of his gun, and shows a general lack of comprehension for the basic rules of English grammar, itself a crime according to the alleged statements on his blog.

What I want to know is: why didn’t the Dallas Police pay more attention to what Officer Powell was writing back in 2006? This man shows clear lack of respect for others, or any of the attitudes necessary for a police officer. He shouldn’t just be fired now for what he did to a celebrity, he should’ve been fired years ago for displaying his lack of moral fiber on the Internet for the world to see. It doesn’t help that now NFL linebacker Zach Thomas is saying his Latina wife Maritza was a victim of a Powell power-trip recently as well…

Nazi Pope confirms Catholic Church is pro-AIDS, anti-human

Pope Benedict XVI, proud ex-Nazi leader of one of the world’s most corrupt religions, arrived in Africa this week and confirmed that the Catholic Church still supports the misery and death associated with overpopulation and AIDS in that continent, and cares not at all for human beings.

The pontiff reiterated the Vatican’s policy on condom use as he flew from Rome to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen said.

Pope Benedict has always made it clear he intends to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception — a “clear moral prohibition” — Allen said. But his remarks Tuesday were among the first times he stated the policy explicitly since he became pope nearly four years ago.

This is undoubtedly a proud moment for the Catholic faith, which has thankfully seen its numbers dwindle in the United States in the face of repeated instances of child abuse by priests and the systematic concealment of their crimes by the Church. After all, by keeping the population of Africa religious, diseased, starved, inaccessible to medical assistance or schooling, and therefore ignorant, the Catholic Church could actually gain some ground in the continent. It looks like their last hope: based on recent history, do we dare to dream that perhaps this ancient and terrible cult is finally outdated and obsolete?

Source: CNN.com

Ignorant TV commercial advertises mortgage scam – badly

In these shaky economic times, there are many TV ads for different schemes and plans offered to homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes because they can’t afford their current mortgage payments. Today, I saw a commercial for a company called “Federal Loan Modification,” which purported to be some sort of solution for those stuck in a variable rate mortgage with a recent rate hike, etc. Now, I have no idea if this is a scam or not–I simply don’t have the time to care about it. However, what ticked me off about the ad was that at the end, there’s an eviction notice on the screen, which is stamped “PAID” as reassuring voices tell you how Federal Loan Modification can help you keep your home.

Ok, so maybe you’re desperate. Maybe you’re about to lose your house. But if you’re so stupid as to sign your home over to a company that doesn’t understand the difference between being evicted from a property you rent and being foreclosed on by a bank to which you owe money for a home you own, you deserve to lose everything.

The best part, though, is that we’ll be bailing these folks out in a few years.

toojb.com: Politics through the lens of philosophy

For those of you seeking a little more than the random assortment of content you’ll find here, you should check out toojb.com, otherwise known as The Opposite of Jim Bunning, a progressive political blog run by a good friend of mine.

toojb is not like neverblog, in that you’ll find at least one piece of content posted every day, if not sixteen. It’s also not like this site in that it has a semi-consistent theme of political commentary, with a smattering of sports insight thrown in for good measure.

If you’re wondering who Jim Bunning is, you can check out his Wikipedia page.

XM-Sirius merger approved; Sirius will announce earnings tomorrow

The long-awaited, oft-debated approval of the merger between satellite radio providers XM and Sirius has been granted by the FCC’s top brass in a 3-2 vote. This is another piece of good news for both companies, and comes recently after XM announced increased subscription acquisitions and lower acquisition costs. Of course, most analysts were down on Sirius and XM in recent months, predicting that subscriber churn would continue to rise as the economy takes a downturn. That didn’t happen for XM, and it probably won’t happen for Sirius when they announce earnings on July 28th.

Appeals court throws out CBS fine for Janet Jackson’s nipple

In a rare dose of common sense involving nudity on TV, a federal appeals court threw out the fine levied by the FCC against CBS back in 2004 for Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl ‘wardrobe malfunction.’ In addition to criticizing the fine for being excessively large and reactionary, the court noted that fleeting nudity has historically not been punished, making the ruling unprecedented (Jackson’s breast spent nine-sixteenths of a second on the screen). Here’s an excerpt from the CBC article:

A federal appeals court has overturned the record $550,000 fine for indecency against CBS Corp. for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl.

On Monday, a three-judge panel said the Federal Communications Commission “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in levying the fine.

The Philadelphia-based court also said the FCC had deviated from its previous standard of excluding fleeting images from fines for indecency.

About 90 million viewers saw a naked female breast for nine-sixteenths of a second during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2008/07/21/indecency-fine.html

Google being sued for selling trademarked AdWordsâ„¢

The Motley Fool is reporting that Google is being sued by American Airlines for selling sponsored ads targeted at the keyword ‘American Airlines,’ a trademark of the airline. Here’s an excerpt from the full article, located on Fool.com:

To understand the situation a little better, fire up Google and punch in “American Airlines.” Google’s AdWords program serves up sponsored results along with the organic search-engine results. Online advertising accounts for as much as 99% of Big G’s revenues — it’s clearly a big part of the Google model.

Your mileage may vary, but when I searched this morning for “American Airlines” (in quotes, but it works just as well without them), I saw several third-party ads. The most prominent ad, at the top of the page, is for AMR’s own AA.com website. However, the column on the right features rival airlines and portals that promise discounted airfares.

The ads themselves don’t feature the American Airlines brand. However, the ads wouldn’t be on the page if the sponsors hadn’t bid on the trademarked term. To be sure, I logged into AdWords and saw that I could bid on the term “American Airlines” for as little as $0.04 per click. (Minimum bids vary depending on ad quality, even within the same keywords.)

Is this right? Is this wrong? The only thing for sure is that a lot of money is weighing on the answer.

What will make this one really juicy for the lawyers is that, with most searches on the web being case-insensitive (as far as I can tell–if someone knows differently, please feel free to comment), the trademarked term ‘American Airlines’ and the perfectly reasonable search for ‘american airlines,’ aka airlines offering service in america, are one and the same in a search engine’s mind.

American Airlines

Obviously, the larger issue is whether or not things like ‘Disneyland’ can be bought as a search term when trademarked by a company, but it’s a little more interesting in the case of American, whose decades-old choice of a name designed to build brand recognition might actually confound an already complicated issue even more.

Another interesting point that the article makes is that, if trademarks are ruled off-limits in advertising media like Google, it will also allow the trademark holder to withhold advertising funds from Google for those particular terms, as there would be little reason to advertise for a search term when no competitor could:

It is easy to see that Google could lose a lot of money if it caves in on these cases. If no one else is allowed to bid on “American Airlines” and other AMR trademarks, AMR has no reason to bid on it, either. It is the top organic search-engine result.

Of course, on a more personal level, I will be interested to see how this case is resolved, and what effect, if any, it will have on the blogosphere, many of whom rely heavily on Google AdSenseâ„¢ for their blog’s revenue stream.

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