Archive for the ‘politics’ category

Best. Quotation. Ever.

September 1st, 2011

Or at least that I’ve seen recently. From FEE‘s Facebook page:

“Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as well as Prohibition did, in five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on Earth” — Will Rogers

Does Ron Paul support legalizing Heroin?

May 11th, 2011

Coverage of the first GOP presidential debate of the ’12 election is replete with stories pointing out that “Ron Paul wants to legalize Heroin.” Here is an example.

This is classic simple-mindedness though.  Ron Paul did not state that he wants to see heroin legalized.  If you follow what he says at all, then you’ll know that he believes 1) the federal government has no authority to conduct the so-called War on Drugs or regulate drug use, and therefore 2) issues of drug regulation or criminalization are properly decided at the state level.  Ron Paul supports federal decriminalization of drugs.  That is not the same as legalization.

Before we get started, let me disclose where I stand on drugs.  I think they’re horrible substances and that anyone using them for non-medical reasons is an idiot.  We have a beautiful world around us, so full of interesting things to learn and do.  Escaping that world is such a shame.  And I’m Christian, so furthermore I think it’s kind of slap in God’s face to choose substances like drugs over the wonder of creation.  However, God gave us all free will, so just don’t harm others with your idiotic choices.

Anyway, revenons à nos moutons.

Congressman Paul was a doctor before being a congressman, so I’m guessing that at some point in his education and career he learned about the effects of drug use.  That is to say that he gets that they’re terrible substances to put into one’s body.  But let’s get into a little Bastiat here and think about “that which is seen and that which is unseen.”

Drugs are bad, plain and simple.  So at the surface saying, “we’ll make them illegal,” sounds like a good idea.  Some kids will not smoke pot as a result.  That is that which is seen.  We tried this once with alcohol.  It actually took a constitutional amendment to do so.

What is unseen in this?  What are the side effects of criminalizing anything?  Does said something cease to be?  Or does it just become more profitable to trade in said thing?

Those of us in southern border states in particular are acutely aware of the so-called “Mexican drug cartels.”  These are scary groups.  They hire mercenaries that are as well trained as our special ops units.  That takes some serious cash to do (anyone looking at US military spending knows that).  Where do they get that kind of cash?  The increased value of selling drugs as a result of the so-called War on Drugs.  Also, have you heard of the “Mexican Alcohol Cartels” or the “Mexican French Fry Cartels?”  I haven’t either.

And there’s the tradeoff.  Would some people who don’t currently use heroin give it a shot if it were legal?  Probably, and that would be an increase of “bad.”  But, and this is a big but, is that increase of “bad” less than, equal to, or greater than the amount of “bad” we’ve created in the unseen consequences of the War on Drugs.

Secondly, as Gary Johnson pointed out during the debate, look at our criminalization statistics in this country.  Look at who is most punished by criminalization of drugs.  Would you have inner-city youth running drugs if you could pick up your crack legally?  Would you have the countless lives destroyed by the violence?  What if instead of making this a legal issue it were a medical issue, as he suggests?

So to the original point, Ron Paul’s argument against federal criminalization of drugs goes thusly:  1) It is not Congress’s concern what any individual consumes, and 2) federal efforts to stem drug use have created side effects that are worse than whatever drug use they may or may not have stopped.

Ron Paul argued that states should decide this matter.  And what a wonderful idea that would be!  I don’t know how the tradeoffs work; that is to say, I don’t know if the drug cartels are better or worse than whatever the potential increased drug usage would be.  No one knows what that increased usage would be.  We do have the example of alcohol and prohibition to go off of, so let that inform the voter.

Imagine if we could actually find out though by letting the laboratories of democracy do their job!  We could actually really find out, instead of just having the grandstanding of politicians appealing to our human desire to see someone do “something” about any and every problem (but of course only the problems that are en vogue).  We know for a fact that the so-called War on Drugs has given us a great measure of “bad.”  What we need to find out is if that measure is more or less than what we’d have without it.

Obviously, I think that is a perfectly reasonable stance, so I find it absurd when people call Ron Paul a loon because he “wants to legalize heroin.”  1) He doesn’t, and 2) what he actually does support is quite compelling.

 

Convenience fees and the nature of government

October 22nd, 2009

I cannot understand how government entities operate. Actually, I can– deficits.

BUT, point is, renewing car registration costs an extra dollar if you mail it instead of going in person. That used to be a 20 mile drive, but is now only 10 or 15. If you do it online, $3 extra. So, it’s worth $1 to avoid all that driving for myriad reasons. That would be a kick below the belt for the planet too–  40 miles just to buy a sticker.

City water/trash utility, $1.95/month to pay online instead of mailing it. They call it a “convenience fee.” They don’t call it, “cover our costs of operating online payments.” It’s a fee because online payments are convenient. What if I punch myself in the face while paying online? Will that wave the fee?

I don’t get this. It does cost money to operate payment servers, but a fact of the tech world is that people cost a lot more than hardware. It is cheaper to do online payments. Not only that, but “online” allows for “automatic recurring,” which has been embraced by every entity that actually has to operate in the black, probably because it 1) cuts costs and 2) increases the likelihood of payment occurring on time. It’s an opportunity for a classic win-win.

But that is not the nature of government.

Re: Watching From the Sidelines

November 4th, 2008

I read a blog post today.

I applaud the young man for caring enough about the democratic process.  I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with him politically, but the fact that we can disagree without killing one another is 1 reason why I love America.

I do NOT, however, applaud all who were posting comments.  They want to dramatically LOWER the voting age.  1 poster even went so far as to see that the age should be lowered to when children enter 9th grade.

Now, I know that comments on blogs are not, how shall I say, flames to the moths we call good ideas.  Yet, I feel compelled to engage such an argument on my un-read blog.  Because this is the venue from which Change will flow.

It is not a ploy of Conservatives or the ultra-right, but rather it is a documented medical fact that the long-term consequence processing centers (the, uh, technical term for it) do not develop until around age 21 or so.  I read this in the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, M.D.  This is why STDs run rampant among youth, as does teen pregnancy.  No logical thought process leads a teen to engage in the sorts of risky behaviors that teens are drawn to.

And that commenter wants to hand the keys of the nation’s future over to children of that age.  Good thinking.

The 2nd argument against it that I’ll present is more of a question.  Why stop at 9th grade?  I mean, 5-year-olds are affected by the political process, so why can’t they vote?  What about the unborn?  It’s legal to murder them, and they don’t really have a voice.

Children are children for a reason.  It is a time to observe and learn and make little failures to prepare for adulthood.  Children can’t even support themselves, so they should not be allowed to vote.  If one doesn’t have a stake in the system, they should not be able to cast a ballot.

Another poster suggested RAISING the age to 21 unless the person is in the military.  I kind of like that.  Folks in the military understand what it means to not have freedom over one’s day to day life.

Perhaps that might influence the sort of candidate they vote for.

conservative !-> not helping people

September 18th, 2008

Yesterday I was listening to Bill O’Reilly.  I like to listen to/read a variety of opinions– part of being informed.  And yes, I realize radio is superficial.  I don’t really have the time to read articles during my work hours.

I digress.  Anyway, a few weeks ago O’Reilly proposed that the Oil Companies donate 2% of their net profits to a fund that they manage to help people who are having trouble paying for energy.  I think that’s a great idea.

A caller posed a a question along the lines of, “How is that any different than windfall profit taxes and redistribution?”  O’Reilly’s answer was, “Because it’s voluntary.”

And therein lies everything!  O’Reilly doesn’t bill (ha) himself as a “conservative.”  Yet what he says sums up my attitude towards charitable giving.  I’m a staunch supporter, nigh unto religious-zealot-adherent, of individual liberty.  I interpret my faith in such a way that this is a theological issue.  Forcing someone to do the right thing really doesn’t have a place in my view of the world.

But something that DOES have a place in my view of the world is people helping people.  That is a right thing to do, and I consider myself conservative.

I was speaking with my grandmother a few months ago, and she quoted part of Atlas Shrugged in which John Galt (sp?) delivers a monologue about how he won’t help another or expect another to let him live of off them.  The vibe I get from the staunch libertarians that I’ve spoken to is basically “screw you,” if you’re on hard times.  As much as I disagree with that viewpoint, holding it is a right given by the free society in which we live.

It’s completely based on faulty logic though.  Hardcore libertarianism (again, as I’ve observed it) seems to forget that a person can of their own free will be inclined towards charity.  And doing so in no way denies individual freedom, either of the giver or the receiver.  While I’d never force another person to do the right thing, I would labor day and night to persuade them to believe that the right thing is the right thing, motivating them to then make the same choice.  I call that sort of thing debate and letting the market place of ideas have its place.

But windfall profit taxes?  Redistribution of wealth?  Tithes and “offerings” as practiced in the Middle Ages?  No, no, and no.

Present reality vs. future possibility

August 14th, 2008

I’m listening to the radio this morning, and in a news segment there was a little blurb about John McCain choosing a so-called pro-choice running mate.  The announcer then made a mention of abortion “rights.”

Being one who chooses to err on the side of life, I have a big issue when someone talks about abortion “rights.”  America has a duty to protect her citizens, and the unborn certainly don’t have the capability to speak up for themselves.  Just as I feel we should reinstitute usury laws to help protect the financially weak (the lack of such laws unfairly harming minorities), I feel we should protect a child who happens to reside within his/her mother’s womb.  Where do their rights factor into abortion “rights?”  But that really isn’t the issue of this post.

I’ve read so-called pro-choice advocates argument that a mother is here now, and a child is only a possiblity in the future, so society must err on the mother’s side when making this choice.  That is certainly a sound argument (sound = the conclusion follows the premise, regardless of whether or not the premise is flawed;  it’s a logically consistent position).

So let’s take that sound argument to another issue of the day.  Global Warming.  The proselytes of the Church of Global Warming warn us of a Vengeful God that will strike at us if we don’t do “something.”  They propose policies that would bankrupt our nation and cost lives now all for the sake of some future possibility.

So which is it?  Does a certain present automatically override possible futures?  Or is just that progressive folk have chosen certain issues about which they feel passionate?

Look, as a conservative, I actually do respect the sound arguments of others.  I’m just asking for some consistency here.

Happy…

July 5th, 2008

4th of July Holiday!  Culture be d***ed.  I don’t want to offend anyone.  So I wish you all a happy early July day.

Actually, Happy Independence Day everyone.  America is a pretty special place, despite her problems, and it’s worth celebrating her birth.

I also wanted to have moment of solidarity with all new parents (or old parents) who are trying to sleep-train their child(ren).  Nothing is as heart-wrenching as hearing the distress cries of one’s child.  So, hang in there moms and dads!

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference

June 29th, 2008

So yesterday Apple had its Worldwide Developer Conference 2008, or whatever. You may have guessed something like that from the title of this post.

I’m pretty new to Apple computers. I mean, I’ve used the 2e, but I did say “computers,” so I don’t know if that counts. I’ve used PCs my entire life, and never really had a problem with them. At my present job we use Macs, though I did have a choice to use a PC when I first started. I went with the Mac because I found the PC world to be severely lacking in Ruby on Rails development tools. Turns out the Mac only has TextMate, but that will be the subject of another rant.

Apple should be tax-exempt, as it is more of a religion than serious company. I had heard my whole life from Mac zealots how wonderful the machines are– you’ll never want to go back. Now that Microsoft released Vista that’s true, but it does (incorrectly) make the assertion that I would stay with Mac.

Where PCs are severely lacking in Rails tools, I find the Mac severely lacking in usability. I quit my last job because of usability concerns, so this is a touchy subject. I almost wonder if the same drunken monkeys that work as interns for IBM/Lotus making Lotus Notes get hired by Apple when they graduate from monkey school. Let me provide some examples:

  • Closing the lid on my mac overrides a shutdown sequence, but only enough so that when I open the machine back up expecting to boot it up and do work, I then have to wait for it to shut down. “Don’t shut the Mac down,” you say? I have yet to see the promise that Mac makes about never having to shut the machine down fulfilled. Performance degrades as time since reboot increases, just as with Windows. And even if that weren’t the case, I thought Macs were so usable that I could do what I want with them.
  • I can’t interact with application menus via my keyboard, apart from ENTER. Perhaps most users aren’t “power users” who would want to use the keyboard. FINE! But some are. You can provide keyboard support without shutting down the pure mouse support.
  • I can’t tab into drop-down boxes (to Apple’s defense, this may be an application problem).
  • My DVD drive can only sometimes read a disc if the machine is perfectly flat and not moving. It’s like the accelerometer inside is turned on and if it detects any deviation from the horizontal, it shuts the drive down, causes it to make weird noises and claim that it is “Skipping over damaged” areas. My face. No other drive seems to find problems with the same discs. What’s so bad about a tray and locking the disc into it. That’s how DVDs are shipped, for crying out loud.
  • The DVD application is garbage. When it is busy “Skipping over [a] damaged area,” it completely freezes, becoming unresponsive to all user input (including Apple-Q). I’ve learned the force quit shortcut on a Mac as a result of this one machine, and I’ve basically performed DoS attacks on Apple’s servers submitting error reports. Though, I must admit I’d be surprised if those reports actually did leave my computer and Apple didn’t just put together a neat-looking interface to make me think they were getting those reports.
  • Speaking of the DVD player, screen captures are completely shut down while that application is even loaded. Copyright issues? Fine, I can cope–even though I get upset when I’m automatically treated like a criminal (which Mac does at every possible opportunity). I like to play DVDs in the background while I work, and sometimes I have to take screenshots for my work. Well, then I have to bring the player back into focus and shut it down. Then I can take my screenshot(s). Then I have to load the player back up and pray to the DVD gods (or maybe I should pray to Steve Jobs, or at least have the Leader get me in contact with the DVD gods?) that it will resume reading the disc it just was (or perhaps closing the DVD reader really does scratch my disc? Perhaps Apple in its quest to expand DRM detects that I wanted to take a screen shot while the DVD player happened to be loaded, assumes I am, in fact, a pirate, and says, “Y’argh!” proceeding to scratch my disc so I can’t watch it anymore.) Alternative solution if copyright is the issue– do what Windows does! Take the freaking screenshot and replace the DVD playback window with black pixels. And if you feel notifying me is important (which I think is a good thing), DON’T USE A MODAL DIALOG BOX, ESPECIALLY ONE THAT JUST HAS AN OKAY BUTTON! Why did you have to interrupt everything I was doing with a box that doesn’t even present me with any options? Do a nice, unobtrusive pop-up that goes away after a few seconds like, *ahem* Microsoft figured out how to do.

So this post is already too long. I realize that software is hard (I write it for a living) and usability is such a personal thing that no one can get it right for everyone. The only deal is that Windows users seem to understand that, and Mac users don’t. It’s like how when a Republican congressman gets busted in an airport stall– that’s news. But a Democrat has an affair with his campaign manager’s wife (a triple betrayal of the worst kind given what campaign managers give up for the candidate), no one cares. Republicans claim to be all about family values and depict the Democrats as godless anarchists, or whatever.

So “underwhelmed” is the word I use to describe the Mac. No Substance is the Bad Religion album I’d use to describe the hype surrounding Mac products, or the promises that emanate from the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field as The Mac Sucks! puts it.

I never got into Linux because of the snootiness of the average Linux user that I met. Mac seems to be like that, only add in a persecution complex as well.

Say what I will about Apple’s products, there is one area where they certainly can’t be beat– marketing.

rm -what-is-it-again?

June 6th, 2008

I’ve been mostly a Windows user my whole life up to this point. That was due mostly to fate. My parents had only PCs (unless you count the TI-99/4A), so not being of much economic independence at the age of 5, those are what I used too. I suppose there were computer days at elementary school too, where we used Apple 2es, but all we really learned on those was how to boot up Oregon Trail.

At university I got exposure to Linux. I had grown used to graphical interfaces by that point, so harkening back to command-line days was odd. I never caught Linux myself though, being turned off to the OS because I couldn’t stand that average Linux user that I met. Their arrogance and support for Linux seemed to stem from the simple fact that it isn’t Windows, so it must be better. That’s like saying that puke isn’t feces, so it’s good to eat. Or like saying that voting for Obama is good, because he isn’t Bush.

Anyway, the Linuzealots would extol the command line and how much easier it was to get things done. Maybe they enjoy sifting through man pages. Now don’t get me wrong, I like technical challenges– that’s why I’m a programmer. I don’t like figuring out how to use cryptic and poorly-documented tools though. I like accomplishing things.

If the command line is so great, why is it so hard to remove (or delete if you’re a Windows user) a non-empty directory from the command line? I can NEVER remember the switch for doing so. I just googled it a second ago, and thought I got somewhere, but when I typed -r in (what the result claimed the switch was) it started prompting me on every file. Grrr! So I just typed “open .” and deleted it graphically.

When you consider the time it took to do that and then come rant about it here, well, I just don’t think the command line is all that more efficient/productivity enhancing.

Of course, if I ever get a technical reader who could tell me what the blooming flag is, feel free to post it! That is fact what I was really hoping to do– figure it out and then post it here so I would know where to look the next time.

Edit: I have since found out that it’s rm -Rf that I wanted.