House panel backs ban on all wine shipments

Just remember, some guy in Brighton thinks he knows better than you. Invoking the “For the Children” mantra, Representative Chris Ward of Brighton introduced a bill to ban shipments of wine both in-state and into the state. All shipments would be banned unless, of course, you pay for a distributorship. Good luck getting one though.

Oh, and if you’re a small winery who depends on not being under the predatory pricing that distributors use as standard operating procedure, now would be a very good time to start explaining to your customers what this bill would mean; the State is not your friend.

Pam Byrnes, the MI House representative for Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and much of Washtenaw country, co-sponsored the bill, House Bill 4959. You can contact Rep. Barnes at:

Phone: 517-373-0828

Fax: 517-373-5783

Her website is here.

Happy Luddites day!

So, it was a banner day for the legal process here in the States. Our Supreme Court managed to tell everyone in the world that, in the most uncertain terms, they’re pretty sure that, maybe, file sharing is bad, unless you meet an “intent” test, after which you might be sued. Ernest Miller has a good round up and opinion. What the Court didn’t manage to do was draw the line from the famous Sony decision up through, say, 1990, so that computers can find a place in that ruling.

Further missing the point, the Court also handed down a mind-bogglingly stupid decision on line sharing for cable providers. You know, like DSL is forced to do. Oh, and if you think the Grokster decision was scary, this one will make you crap your pants. Brand X basically allows the FCC to control all internet protocols via cable by classifying any and all communications as either telecommunication service or information service. By classifying cable modems and the internet service they provide as an information service, the FCC retains control over any protocol used via cable modem. All. Of. Them. IM, email, http, ftp, gopher, telnet… they all now fall under the control and regulation of the FCC. Happy dreams.

In yet another ruling (non-tech related but just as ass-backwards as the rest), the Court legitimized all of our fears that the court system only works for those with the money to help themselves by stating that local law enforcement cannot be sued in Federal court for failing to protect people with restraining orders. This quote, from the NY Times, says it all: “Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order against her husband, the court said in a 7-2 opinion.” Brilliant, that should make all the battered wives and threatened families feel much better. Why didn’t they just make restraining orders illegal and get it over with?

And just to round out the day by stepping on someone else, the Court refused to rule on whether reporters can use anonymous sources for stories. Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine will face up to 18 months in prison for contempt of court charges stemming from a twisty path around WMDs, Iraq, and CIA operative. Robert Novak, who coughed up Valerie Plame as a CIA spook, walked.

Firefox extensions – the downside

I’m a huge fan of Firefox extensions; it’s high on the list of reasons to never stop using the browser. But there’s always a downside, and my paranoid side has found it.

I love the Greasemonkey extension; try it and you’ll find so many uses you’ll wonder how you can write your own. Greasemonkey has one weakness, however; it runs on Javascript.

After installing the NoScript extension, which blocks all Javascript on a page, I found this weakness. You can’t run Greasemonkey scripts on pages that you don’t allow Javascript to run on. I noticed it when I went to BoingBoing’s home page. There’s a Greasemonkey script that strips out all the non-content on BoingBoing. NoScript blocks it.

If there were a way to allow Greasemonkey scripts, that would be ideal. However, that requires two independent developers to collaborate and continue to work together as features change or are added, a likelihood that’s pretty low.

I’ll be getting rid of NoScript; it was an experiment anyway. It’s just disappointing to see good ideas step on each other.

Screw Theocracy, We Have Real Problems

In the continuing assault on your rights, SCOTUS ruled today that local governments can seize private land (read: your home) for private development.

I love this little tidbit.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

The test was whether city officials know better than federal judges? What about community members? Where’s the input of the community?

This decision is just begging for abuse and puts the jack boot of self-serving local governments on the throat of anyone they deem a problem. Don’t like that a-hole who is causing an increase in calls from his neighbors for doing really annoying, but completely legal, activities (like having a workshop)? Just seize his land and put up anything else. Problem solved.

Or, in this case, when businesses throw enough money at a city government, they can tear down any neighborhood they want. I’m sure no money made its way into the city council members’ pockets in this case.

What a sick, shameful decision.


Good Ideas vs. Conflict of Interest

This is an interesting dilemma. If I subscribed to the a magazine with an ethics column, I’d suggest this as a topic.

Joe Welinske (who, in full disclosure, I am not a big fan), has started a Yahoo! Group called Reform STC. The group is a place where STC members past and present can discuss how STC should reform itself to appeal to people better. Joe, as a member of STC, has an interest in seeing STC continue to succeed. STC is hemorrhaging members faster than the Titanic and they certainly could use the reform. In this light, I applaud Joe for giving a central location for people to come together for meaningful discussion (hopefully) about an organization many feel very passionately about. I was to be a President of one of their chapter less than a year ago, and now I’m no longer a member. Net effect to my career? Zero. Obviously, a discussion needs to happen.

However, there’s a little wrinkle. Joe is President of WritersUA, who’s highest profile income generators are their conferences. Given that the technical writing community is fairly small in number, and most writers don’t have funds they can use indiscriminately to attend any and all conferences they want, Joe has a vested interest in seeing STC falter or lessen, if not fail, in order for more people to attend his conference. The shadow of a conflict of interest starts to creep into the picture.

No one seems to have raised this on the list, and I’m loath to do it for nothing other than the flame war it would start on the list. But I know a few of you reading are STC members. What do you think?