From an article in The New American:

Phyllis Dintenfass is an unassuming, 62-year-old retired teacher from Appleton, Wisconsin. She has never committed a crime against persons or property, but faces a year in prison and $100,000 in fines as a result of her collision with a federal official.

Last September, Mrs. Dintenfass and her husband were passing through security prior to a flight at Appleton’s Outagamie County Regional Airport. Since something she wore repeatedly triggered metal detectors, Mrs. Dintenfass was taken to a “secondary screening area” by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supervisor named Anita Gostisha. The would-be passenger complied as Gostisha used an electronic “wand” to scan for metal objects.

Gostisha then used the back of her hands to check the area beneath Dintenfass’s breasts, provoking her to “lash out.” According to Dintenfass, her reaction was to reciprocate the unwanted and uninvited physical contact while saying, “How would you like it if I did that to you?” Gostisha claims that the middle-aged woman – uniformly described as mild-mannered and inoffensive – also “slammed her against the wall,” which would certainly be a proportionate response to what reasonable people would consider a sexual assault.

Dintenfass flatly denies shoving the TSA official. In any case, she was arrested and charged with “assaulting” a federal official. A federal jury found her guilty of that supposed crime on July 26. Sentencing will occur on November 1.

Dintenfass “punished Anita Gostisha for doing her job,” complained federal Prosecutor Tim Funnell. U.S. Attorney Steven Bispukic added that TSA officers, who perform a “vital function” are “entitled to protection from assault.”

Perhaps the only positive aspect of this case is that we now have an official acknowledgment from federal attorneys that the invasive, degrading physical contact regularly inflicted on air travelers by TSA drones is a form of “punishment” and “assault.” But this implicit admission is bundled with the assumption that federal officials, who belong to a specially privileged and protected class, are entitled to assault common citizens – in the name of “homeland security,” naturally.


Now that Microsoft has renamed Longhorn to Vista, they have an interesting task ahead: convince consumers that upgrading to the new version of Windows next year is a good thing to do. Most people don’t want to mess with the hassle of an upgrade, especially if they have everything working “just right”. Witness the number of people (and companies!) still running Windows 98 if you don’t believe that.

Anyway, I found a list of features that will be included in Vista. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • new search mechanism
  • parental controls
  • “better” home networking
  • translucent windows
  • IPv6 network support
  • encryption of entire disks
  • automatic hard drive optimization (read “defragmentation”)
  • secure boot
  • There are a few other eye-candy sorts of things, I’m sure. In the end, though, the list is completely laughable because– you guessed it– both Apple’s OS X and Linux KDE and Gnome desktops already support all of these features. Microsoft should consider changing “Vista” to something more apropos like “Yesterday” to represent the fact that their fancy new features have been around for (in some cases) years on alternative operating systems.

    Innovation. Hmph.


If anyone still wonders whether the U.S. patent system is broken, or whether people and companies will step up to ever-higher levels of idiocy, stop wondering. Microsoft has patented the emoticon.

That’s right, the little smiley in your e-mail message or on your instant-messaging client is now under the jurisdiction of Microsoft. Technically they don’t own the characters themselves (although heaven knows if they’re working on that too) but rather the transmission and reconstruction of the smiley face graphic. Wow, that’s sure innovative!

Mark Taylor, executive director of the Open Source Consortium, says:

“I would have expected to see something like this suggested by one of our more immature community members as a joke on Slashdot, and probably would have chuckled at the absurdity of the notion. We now appear to be living in a world where even the most laughable paranoid fantasies about commercially controlling simple social concepts are being outdone in the real world by well-funded armies of lawyers on behalf of some of the most powerful companies on the planet.”



The recent flip-flop flap at the White House has me standing and cheering. After the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team won the national championship, they were invited to a photo op with President Bush. Many of the team members wore flip-flop sandals in the photo, prompting some kind of otherworldly outrage from people who think the attire was much too casual for such a prestigious (hah!) visit.

As someone who goes everywhere barefoot, wearing sandals only if I must go into a store or restaurant, and in fact not even wearing socks to church, I applaud their sense of fashion and wish more people would follow their lead. Shoes are highly overrated.


Of course most parents think their kids are geniuses, but I have to say I’m impressed with Alex. Yesterday he read almost the entire first Harry Potter book. I don’t know how many other eight-year-olds read 280+ pages in a single day…


Happy 60th birthday, Trinity.

If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky,
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One…
I am become Death,
The shatterer of Worlds.”

— From the Baghavad-Gita, and attributed to Robert Oppenheimer after he saw the Trinity explosion


Anyone who doubts that Hollywood has finally, completely, and utterly run out of ideas would do well to consider that Paramount Pictures has now acquired the film rights to the Smurfs. They are planning to make a computer-generated trilogy (yes, trilogy) to be released in 2008.

Oh. My. Word.

And I have no idea what “let’s Smurf!” means, but the mind boggles.


The sheer stupidity value of the story below is so high that I can’t even think of a good joke to go with it.

From the Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“An American Airlines flight returned to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shortly after taking off Monday because a threatening note was found on board, federal authorities said. Flight 605 departed from the airport for San Juan at 6:53 p.m. It turned back when a passenger discovered a napkin with a bomb threat written on it, FBI Spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said.

A passenger found the note when they flipped down their tray table, Orihuela said. The note said “bomb” repeatedly and had “meet the parents” written in parentheses.”

You’ve got to hand it to the TSA: they’re always looking for new and innovative ways to keep America’s skies safer. Sheesh.