“The history of the Devil is all screwed up”

The UCLA alumni magazine this month features an interview with English Professor Henry Ansgar Kelly regarding his latest book, Satan: A Biography. Based on the interview, the book sounds fascinating. I’d like to at least skim it if I ever can find the time.

The Devil You Don’t Know – Departments – UCLA Magazine Online

Q. So there is no Original Sin?

A. Jesus never talks about Original Sin. He talks about the sinfulness of the world, which is pretty evident. But the Fathers [of the Church] came up with the whole business that people are damned to begin with unless they get baptized. The Church is pushing itself into a corner now by saying that every fertilized egg has an immortal soul tainted with Original Sin, and all these miscarried embryos and fetuses, they’re not going to get to Heaven, the most they can get to is Limbo. And once they get rid of Limboâ?Š

He then notes that the church is about to get rid of limbo.

Verizon Wireless, Privacy, and new Customer Agreement

I received a notice from Verizon that it is changing the Customer Agreement Terms and Agreement for my wireless account. Most specifically, it is changing its privacy policy to share my customer information with its “affiliates, agents, and parent companies (including Vodafone) and their subsidiaries.” Amorphous if you ask me. I’m fine with agents since those companies work on behalf of Verizon. But I wonder how they define affiliates. How many companies are included? And does that include all companies affiliated in any way with Verizon, including parties to huge marketing deals? I’d prefer it post a list to its web site, updated once or twice a year, identifying all its ‘affiliates.’

Not knowing what affiliates means, I did what any sane customer interested in limiting spam does — I opted out by calling the number provided: 800-333-9956. It was simple. It asked for my phone number, zip code, and the last four digits of my social security number. It even let me enter multiple phone numbers.

If you’re a Verizon customer, I suggest you also opt-out. That is, unless you want more snail mail to shred. 😉

U.S. Senate slams free speech

It seems to me that some elected representatives to the Federal government don’t respect the free speech rights of citizens to criticize government officials. Sadly, one of those is my elected representative, Dianne Feinstein.

Senate Approves Resolution Denouncing MoveOn.org Ad – New York Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 â?? The Senate approved a resolution on Thursday denouncing the liberal antiwar group MoveOn.org over an advertisement that questioned the credibility of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq.

At a White House news conference, President Bush called the advertisement disgusting and said it was an attack not only on General Petraeus but also on the entire American military.

General Petraeus is a government official. As such, he is valid subject of criticism. Here, MoveOn felt it necessary to pay for an advertisement pointing out that the General has not been forthcoming to the American people in his evaluations of the war and, as policy, waters down essential statistics used to evaluate the war so things appear more rosy.

I disagree with President Bush that this is an attack on the American military. First, he’s overused and abused the “attack on the military” rhetoric. It seems that the Bush Administration categorizes every criticism of the war as an attack on the military and each soldier. Time to turn off the broken record that cries wolf. Second, criticism of the war itself and the officials leading the war does not equal an attack on the soldiers fighting the war. The attack here is levied at the policies of the military brass, particularly its leader General Petraeus, who make the decisions about how to wage this unpopular war. The ad brings up several good points regarding statements the General has made, his role in the war, and his policies that understate how many people have died. Nothing in the ad appears to criticize the ground troops. Third, the only reason the President finds the ad disgusting is because he’s directly responsible for the policies the ad criticizes the General for.

With that in mind, the Senate resolution is a travesty and violates the spirit of our Constitution, if not the actual text. It is irresponsible for the Senate to consider rebuking any critique of how the government operates, no matter how crude, rude, indecent, or obnoxious it gets. The First Amendment was enacted specifically to give citizens the freedom to criticize the government. The Founding Fathers themselves had a nasty habit of criticizing the English Crown when it was their government and felt it prudent to explicitly provide free speech rights to all when creating their fledgling government.

I am not a member of MoveOn, have never given it money, and don’t really like its tactics. That said, it is the right of the MoveOn membership to criticize our military leaders for their policies and statements.

Also covered in: The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times.

Suggested reading: Animal Farm

USC Enforces Guidelines for Vendors

I’m proud of USC (my alma mater) for taking steps to help ensure companies working on behalf of the school creating USC branded products are socially responsible. I hope that other universities follow SC’s lead.

USC Enforces Guidelines for Vendors

USC has implemented a strict new requirement of vendors supplying USC licensed products for retail: Conduct an audit or lose your contract with the university.The guidelines â?? among the strongest in the nation for higher education â?? are meant to ensure that companies with which the university does business are socially responsible in regards to workersâ?? rights.

Prior to implementing this new initiative, USC had about 250 vendors on its licensed retail product rolls â?? creating everything from USC-branded mustard (for tail-gate parties) to clothing at the USC bookstore. This past summer, the university dropped 88 vendors after the firms failed to sign agreements to produce independent audits to ensure decent conditions for workers creating the products.

Top CalState execs get raises from 9 to 18 percent

Cal State University executives are fleecing us while underpaying the faculty and staff. No wonder why tuition and fees are so high.

Top CSU execs handed raises of as much as 18 percent

The governing Board of Trustees of California State University gave approval Wednesday for executive pay increases ranging from 9 percent to 18 percent for Chancellor Charles Reed, his four top deputies and 23 campus presidents.Reed, whose salary will go from $377,000 a year to $421,500 (plus a $30,000-a-year retirement bonus), said the latest salary increases are needed to begin to bridge a salary gap with other comparable institutions, public and private.

As of now, Reed’s salary is more than double that paid to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who earns $206,500 annually. The governor’s pay will go to $212,174 in December.

An indecent Fox in the hen house

By now, you’ve probably heard that Fox’s censors were kept busy during the Emmy awards, though they were a little too trigger happy. It appears to me that Fox making a big fat statement that it intends to over-censor if the indecency laws aren’t changed. I’ll bet Fox conveniently chose to take its stand during a show without an audience since Family Guy and The Simpsons have each undoubtedly made similar statements in the past.

First is Sally Field who said: “Let’s face it, if mothers ruled the world there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.”
Here is the censored version from Fox – Watch at 1:50.

Here is the uncensored version from elsewhere – watch at: 1:25

Second is Ray Romano who said: “Frasier is screwing my wife.” I could only find a copy of the censored video. The quote is found in quite a few places including SF Gate.

The Fed is owned by Wall St.

If it wasn’t clear before that Wall Street owns the Federal Reserve Bank, it was made clear today.

Stocks Soar After Fed’s Big Rate Cut: Financial News – Yahoo! Finance

A jubilant Wall Street barreled higher Wednesday after the Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate by a larger-than-expected half a percentage point.

I consider this move the result of the short-sighted approach that Wall Street favors in spite of its detrimental effects to the economy’s long-term health. In reality, a cut was probably needed to show everyone that the Fed will take action when required to prevent a complete economic meltdown, such as another Great Depression. However, I think this big cut may prove to be very short-sighted because the already weak and flailing dollar is now worth less than it had been. This rate cut should be slightly helpful for ARM mortgage holders whose rates reset next month, but I doubt the cuts will improve the overall economy in the long-run and, despite the Fed’s efforts, many ARM holders will not be helped in the long-run because home prices are already decreasing.

In the long-run, a strong and healthy dollar is better for the US economy than avoiding a cyclical trend called a recession. Avoiding a recession now may only make the next one worse. The Fed should bite the bullet and tell Congress what it is probably thinking, that account deficits and high amounts of US currency held by other countries’ central banks (in the trillions of dollars) are a bigger problem in the future. It is time to either raise taxes or cut services, or both, to pay off the national debt. Otherwise, the Great Depression may recur and we’ll be stuck play the role of the Weimar Republic with absolutely worthless currency.

Today’s move also reminds me of M.B.A.’s telling a friend of mine that revenue was more important than profit, even in a product with profit margins over 80%. Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t see how revenue is a better or more important statistic than profit margin that puts money in the bank and that can be re-invested back into the company. But then again, that’s part of the attitude that prevails in Wall Street and runs our federal monetary policies.

the [low] value of red bull

Walking through campus today, I was offered free Red Bull by marketers looking to get college kids hooked (today was the first day of the quarter for the undergrads). I wasn’t impressed. Red Bull tastes like a mix between cough syrup and Faygo Rock ‘n Rye soda. It even left the same unremarkable aftertaste.

The caffeine buzz is nice, but I can easily get that from tea, coffee, yerba mate, and a number of better tasting sodas. Hopefully I don’t crash during class.

Drunken Spammers beware …

I have a rare email address with one of the original big free email providers and I still use it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it gets a few hundred spam emails per day and, worse, it is frequently spoofed by spammers. Needless to say, I hate spammers more than most people because of the double whammy.

It was only with great pleasure that I got a chance to talk to a spammer directly, one-on-one, to threaten legal action. For whatever reason, a spammer decided to include a toll-free number (877-208-5642) in its spam email messages. The guy picked up the phone like this: “Hello, are you interested in a business loan?” As much as I wanted to unleash several years of pent up anger, I didn’t. I told the guy on the other end that he was spoofing my email address in his spam emails and if he continued, I would take legal action. He told me he would stop.

Needless to say, my next call will be to AT&T to track down who supplies the toll-free number. I will send that company a happy letter asking them to disconnect it and telling them if they don’t and he continues to spoof my email address that I will include their deeper pockets in any lawsuit I file. 🙂 Not to mention, it will be on notice and anyone else who might read this may choose to demonstrate those deeper pockets had notice one of its customers was an evil spammer and refused to take action.

Note: I’m not advocating that you call the spammer. For all you know, by the time you read this, he’s moved on to another toll free number. That said, should you choose to call up the spammer (877-208-5642), do so from pay or other public phone. Toll-free calls have a caller ID system that shows all incoming phone numbers, regardless of whether you told the phone company to block your number or not.

I received several dozen bounced messages with that toll-free number. Here is one such message. For sanity’s sake, I removed email addresses.


The original message was received at Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700
from qmail2.iswest.net []

—– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
(reason: 554 5.4.6 Too many hops)

—– Transcript of session follows —–
554 5.4.6 Too many hops 28 (25 max): from <danny@…com> via localhost, to <mcd@….com>
Reporting-MTA: dns; canitscan3.iswest.net Arrival-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700 Final-Recipient: RFC822; mcd@….com Action: failed Status: 5.4.6 Diagnostic-Code: SMTP; 554 5.4.6 Too many hops Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 09:13:10 -0700

—–Inline Message Follows—–

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

UPDATE (9/13/07): The emails are still going out. AT&T was helpful and told me it isn’t the service provider for the number but the service provider code is ixc01, likely Excel Communications. Excel’s web site says that toll free calls from pay phones cost at least 35 cents each. It turns out ixc01 isn’t Excel’s provider code; however its staff was more helpful pointing me towards Broadwing Communications.

UPDATE (9/18/07): Broadwing is now Level3 which I contacted on the 14th. Their customer service folks seemed pretty cool. However, the spam email keeps going out and the toll-free number is still alive. I’ll need to call it again when I get a chance, likely Thursday afternoon. I understand it takes a while for things to wind through the corporatocracy but I figure a week should be plenty of time.

UPDATE (9/20/07): The number is still alive so I contacted Level3 again. I was redirected to someone in its Customer Service (I guess I wasn’t in contact with that department before). I also have been calling the toll-free number from the spam. I generally get an error telling me its voice mail is full. Today, I was able to get through and speak with two different people who both identified the company by name when answering. “Empire funding. Are you interested in a business loan?” Each person repeated the company name when asked. I also queried each person for the company’s address and was given an address on N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, AZ. One person gave me 201 as the street address and the other 205. No suite number. After a little research, I found out that 201 N. Central Ave. is the address of Chase Tower, tallest building in Arizona. JP Morgan Chase Bank has large offices there, along with the posh, private Arizona Club, Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and a number of other well known tenants. I was not able to find an online directory of tenants in Chase Tower, but I’m skeptical that a fly-by-night spamming loan company would be able to afford a high rent building. I also filed a complaint with the FTC.

Hasn’t the DNC learned yet?

The DNC is about to shoot itself in the foot with asinine policies meant to punish states that are protesting an inherently unfair primary process. And the major candidates are only too happy to suck money from those states without needing to zealously campaign there.

More candidates to skip rogue Dem states – Yahoo! News

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards on Saturday joined three other Democrats who say they will skip states that break party rules by holding early primaries.

Their decision is a major boost to the primacy of four early voting states â?? Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina â?? and a welcome development to the Democratic National Committee.

…. The DNC has tried to impose discipline on a handful of unruly states determined to vote before Feb. 5 and gain influence in the election cycle.

I disagree with the DNC policy to strip states of delegate representation at the convention if they vote earlier than Feb. 5, 2007. The DNC deserves a lot of the blame for the current spat by supporting an inherently unfair primary system for so many years.That unfairness has led most other states to move up so they get a piece of the pie and a say in who will be elected to run in the general election. The last presidential primary cycle ended by February, before most states had an opportunity to vote.

The DNC must absolutely provide a workable system and is within its right to set guidelines for who it elects in a primary and for a primary schedule. If they don’t, this tit for tat will continue indefinitely and primaries will be held in July 2011. But retaliating against Florida’s and Michigan’s Republican legislatures by denying delegate votes to the Democratic convention is not acceptable. That current path chosen by the DNC is the wrong one because it will shoot itself in the foot. The policy disenfranchises voters and will ultimately backfire against it for a couple reasons. One, the DNC is known to support voting rights and this move looks hypocritical, even if it is intended to restore order in the process. Two, primary elections are combined in several states with referendums and local elections. Imagine if the DNC needs to rally the troops in Florida or Michigan to hit the polls for a cause it deeply supports. Expect to feel the wrath of independently-minded voters come November ’08.

The better solution is either (1) all states hold primaries on the same day; or (2) all states participate in a round robin in which five primaries are held every Tuesday for ten weeks. The next election cycle will see the five that voted first voting last and the other groupings of states moving up a week.

Ultimately, New Hampshire and Iowa must recognize they are not better than any other state and will need to share the spotlight with other states.

The current system rewards candidates for only focusing on a few early states and ignoring the rest. I’m in California, most populous state in the union, and even I feel a lack of love here from candidates. I can only imagine how voters feel in Michigan, Florida, and 45 other states not named New Hampshire and Iowa. Here, candidates only come to town for high stakes fundraisers and are gone in a matter of hours. Normal people like me never get a chance to hear them speak like they do in Iowa or New Hampshire. That was until our primary was moved up early enough so that we couldn’t be ignored.

The reason the DNC lost the past two presidential elections is because it was out of touch with the regular, everyday person. A trend that I see is continuing as it intends to disenfranchise voters from its own party in two of the top ten most populous states and lose crucial credibility in others. And if it continues, the next trend will be states forcing the parties pay for their primary/caucus. Why should California or any other state host and pay for a primary if it doesn’t actually matter? After all, budgets are tight and why should any state pay for an election that doesn’t matter.

Locally, I’m not the only one frustrated with the primary process that ended by February last election and which has ruled the primary in California moot during the past three or four (if not more) presidential elections. That’s why our state is now voting Feb. 5.