Friday, December 25, 2009

Why I say Merry Christmas

I say it because I mean it. I hope you have a Merry Christmas, in whatever form that takes for you. Maybe it just means a day off. That's fine.

I do not say it as a show of defiance against Happy Holidays. I don't think there's a war on Christmas, so I feel no need to defend it. I celebrate Christmas and I think it is a great holiday.

If you think Happy Holidays is better, than say that. Freedom of speech goes in many directions.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Irony in the Senate

What's the ideally ironic way to prevent a vote on health care reform? Pray they get sick. "'What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can't make the vote tonight,' Coburn said Sunday ahead of the vote." Then backpedal and claim that no, you weren't trying to invoke the wrath of God to sicken opponents to promote your own partisan agenda.

Of course he merely wanted them to be too tired to get to the vote. Of course!

Doesn't much matter either way. Sleep, sick, it's bullshit either way. If this was a joking side comment I'd laugh. But no, it was a serious suggestion. If this nation has any sense it will run him straight out of the Senate and keep going until he drowns somewhere in the Atlantic.

Is this what politics has sunk to? Praying for God to hurt your opponents? Well I pray that every hypocrite and traitor and liar in the Senate wakes up tomorrow with a brand on their foreheads. Oh but then we'd need emergency elections as they all call in sick!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fat is the new fag

Thesis: Hatred for fat people has the same basic reasoning as hatred for gay people.

To start out, let's ignore the argument that hatred is derived from some sort of natural xenophobia or other arguments of that sort. I'm not saying they're not true, but in this case, they're boring. They cover all hatred. I'm more interested in these two particular forms because they're 'fashionable.'

So let's get to the fun stuff: how they are alike. By they I mean the targets. In the minds of those who hate, how would gay people and fat people be the same? Please remember when I set these up that I am giving stereotypes and perceptions. Some of what I say will be objectively true, some is true but rare, and some is 99% in the mind of the beholder (hater). If I say something blatantly wrong, I probably know it, but wouldn't it ruin the fun if I pointed out every specific flaw?

They look funny
Fat people often have a sort of waddle and generally slow movements. They may have difficulty moving both due to weight and size, depending on the situation. They're easy to identify, easy to point and say: "That person's fat."

Gay people, at least by stereotypes, are much the same. Over the years they've varied, but limp wrists and certain styles of dress, or perhaps more accurately, any style, are stereotypical. They may more with a bit of a flourish, an expression of energy that you won't usually find in everyday interaction.

In short, they're identifiable, noticeable for not looking right.

Science says they're wrong
Fat people are a burden on all of us. They get sick and wreck our healthcare system. They're not natural they way they eat and eat and eat and never exercise. They're a disease.

Gay people spread AIDs. They spread disease with their unrestricted and unnatural sex practices. They're unnatural because no species can survive without having sex with the opposite sex.

They're immoral
The Bible speaks against gluttony. It's one of the seven deadly sins. They're slothful and gluttonous and selfish with no self-control.

The Bible tells us that homosexuality is an abomination and God specifically made a man and a woman and told them to go forth and multiply. Gay people don't multiply well.

That's all, folks
Using everything from misuse of science to misuse of religion, an army of hateful people are spreading their message across the world. They want you to think what they think, they want you to hate who they hate, and they're too small-minded to even think of new and interesting ways and reasons to hate, so they dig up the same reason they used last year and slap a new picture on their ads.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pro-choice, anti-abortion

A classmate of mine founded a pro-life group a year or so ago. She's friendly and willing to put up with my habit of saying whatever I disagree with. It's gotten so bad that the first thing to come to mind is almost the exact opposite of what I truly believe. But that's not the point.

I asked her if she's heard of a "pro-choice, anti-abortion" group before. She had not, observing that groups tend to be at the extremes. This saddened me.

I would like to see a group which respects choice, but tries to make the choice easier. They'd work to prevent abortion rather than banning it. So they'd promote contraceptives, and abstinence.

No those are not exclusive! I bet you're not having sex right now and I bet you have at some point used a condom or birth control, so they are clearly not exclusive. Abstinence has been found to be pretty useless for sex ed. Not only does it fail to stop sex, it also tends to leave the students woefully undereducated, so then when they do have sex, it's is incredibly stupid sex, so unwanted pregnancy rates go up. Perhaps abstinence wasn't the right word; more careful sex?

Mothers-to-be would be better informed about adoption options as well.

The overall goal is to make it so no one wants an abortion. Imagine if no woman had an unwanted pregnancy. Even aside from abortion, that would be great, because it would mean they would have control; to choose to not get pregnant and also to only make the choice to get pregnant when it is absolutely what they want. If a few babies slip through (to put it lightly: stuff happens), adoption could take over.

This group would avoid moralistic language. That gets nowhere. Instead it would focus on practical solutions and treatments instead of Bible-waving and screaming.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The problem witha science education

I keep wanting proof.

This isn't so bad when I'm trying to prove someone wrong. But it's terribly inconvenient when I want to open my mouth. I get an idea and am about to say it when my brain kicks in "Do you have any evidence for that?" Shit. Well maybe, but certainly nothing statistically valid.

It is unfortunate that those who have the greatest inhibition on speech are those who try to avoid making shit up.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm glad I'm not gay

"What a fag."

When was the last time you heard this or some variation? If I had to guess: too recently. Language is in a transition period and it's one which I don'timagine does much good for the self-esteem of gays.

Fag, gay, queer, etc: these used to mean stick, happy, and strange. Somehow they became words to refer to gay people. I suppose queer makes sense. Gay is a stretch. Fag doesn't make much sense, but that's beside the point. They all refer to homosexuality.

Now they're becoming multipurpose synonyms for "bad." People you don't like are fags. Events you don't like are gay. Items you don't like are gay. This makes some sense if you consider that homophobia is the new racism: taken for granted and unquestioned by most people. It's just part of the language and it makes sense that a word for a type of bad person would become a word for a general bad person.

The transition would not seem to be fun for gay people. Their words are being throw around as generic negatives. What other meaning can be drawn besides: "Everyone thinks you're bad." Or even worse: "You are indistinguishable from bad people."

I'm noticing this as a trend, more and more words don't mean anything special anymore. A few days ago I saw someone use the n word in WoW to refer to a Horde ganker. It made no sense. What does ganking have to do with a word which historically referred to black people in an extremely negative manner and to this day is even used in a strange dichotomy as a word of brotherhood between but also a disparaging word for someone who acts badly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recent Onion Articles

I love the Onion. Why? Because it adds humor to what would otherwise be a horrifying news.

Like Hell I'm Going To Let Some Black President Help Me Pay For Dialysis
Freud would have a field day with the healthcare debate and all things related to defending or attacking Obama. Then again, he'd have a field day with his mom. Zing? But anyway, it's interesting to ponder how much racism indirectly fuels opposition. I say indirect because I doubt that any significant group is actually thinking "I must oppose him because he's black." But having a slight distrust of black people would lower the threshold at which people would accept attacks on him. On the other hand, how many people defend him, perhaps consciously, because he's black and are afraid to appear racist.

Then again, the entire concept of the subconscious as some sort of active driver of behavior is quite unscientific due to the inherent impossibility of directly measuring it.

If only Obama were white and then we could viciously attack him for purely partisan reasons rather than there being possibilities of racism. Then again: "Bush doesn't care about black people." *sigh*

Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be
It is unfortunate that what is the most important document in America is practically unknown to most people. Or perhaps worse than that. If they were purely ignorant, they might recognize and try to fix that. When they're misinformed, then they see nothing to fix.

While I recognize that the Onion is not factual news, they don't usually make things up entirely out of nowhere. Instead they bring together various tendencies and exaggerate them for comedic effect.

Afghan Presidential Election A Celebration Of All Forms Of Government
I take back what I said about the Onion exaggerating.

American Muslims To Fort Hood Shooter: 'Thanks A Lot, Asshole'
Until this, I couldn't really remember the last time I saw or heard Muslims being portrayed as the bad guys. Maybe some bits during the fighting in Pakistan and of course the ever-present Taliban. The Obama administration had been working to reduce words like jihad and that sort of religious language to reduce the impression that we are at war with Islam. I guess it was working, until this.

Maybe Muslims wouldn't get the false impression that we're their enemy if our douchebag talking heads could stop saying Muslims are our enemy.

To run with that, the coverage of the story annoyed me. The initial story was just the constant every minute crap about Terrible Things, Horror, Massacre, and Oh Noes! That's the total wrong way to portray this. It is an event. It is not a football game where we need a play by play. Bring it up a few times a day as more is known, but we benefit in no way from the heartbreaking painful story of a family member watching and worrying. That reduces it to a generic Bad Things Happened to People. But since no one is ever content to actually analyze and solve a problem, now the Right has turned it into an opportunity to point fingers while the Left gets hyper-defensive. Meanwhile moderates are yelled at to pick sides.

Maybe I should form the Moderate Party. We won't have a political stance. We won't support any agenda. Instead we will be neutral on all issues with one exception: We viciously attack biased media.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Desperate Illegitimacy

I want to start out with a few disclaimers. First off, I was raised a moderate Catholic. I am not practicing anymore, but I would be lying if I said it had no effect on my views. Second, I am basing this post on impressions, bits and pieces here and there, not a total picture. With that out of the way, on with the show.

As I see it, Catholicism is a moderate branch of Christianity. On average and in leadership, I mean. Individuals vary of course. It has its stance on birth control and abortion (against them). In this regard it appears somewhat similar to many of the Protestant branches, especially the fundementalists. Catholics hold rallies and protests and try to change those around them.

However I see a major difference: They're not so angry and hateful. If you're read some of the writings from the Vatican, they're not about people burning in Hell for homosexuality. They instead say that people are happier when they live in accordance with [their interpretation of] God's will. They want to help. In contrast so many fundemendalists appear to have no interest in their fellow humans. They threaten lives and disrupt funerals and attack the men and women who defend their right to spew their shit.

I wonder if it has to do with legitimacy. The Catholic Church claims continuity with the Jewish and early Christian faiths. In this regard it is legitimate. If it has been corrupt at times, it has reformed itself and never broken away. It has never given up.

In contrast the fundementalists come from a tradition of breaking away at the slightest disagreement. There is no coming together to resolve disputes, there is no mediation, just leave the moment you disagree. Sure, early groups were excommunicated, but even after that they splintered. As a result, they may feel (as I think many should) that they lack authority. After all, who can respect a group which cannot resolve its differences without taking its ball and going somewhere else? In addition to that, they are not part of continuity. As much as they might wish to be part of tradition, they can only honestly claim to be new and struggling to get back to the source.

They cannot claim moral authority (for they have none) and they have no tradition of discussion or mediation. As a result, they have nothing to rely on but their own anger and hatred. New information is not something which they can handle, so they react as they always have: fighting it, ignoring it, breaking away. And so we have those who cannot even comprehend evolution and in their attempts to shut it out, they close out all of science as well. They leave themselves ignorant, shunning all knowledge which might further demonstrate the shoddiness of their beliefs.

In contrast the Catholic Church has a tradition of taking on conflicting information. It is not perfect. Not at all. Ask Galileo. Okay fine, that wouldn't help much, but you get my point. It can handle the idea of evolution. It can handle science. It can handle climate change. It can handle these because it is sure of its authority and legitimacy, so it has nothing to fear.

Throughout this I have likely made Catholicism sound better than it is. That was not intentional, but perhaps inevitable. I regard it as a powerful social force which should be listened to, even if not agreed with. I want to be sure that people understand that I do not mean to attack Protestantism. While its origins may make it seem illegitimate, the early breaks were for pure reasons: the Church was incredibly corrupt. Ideally they'd have worked more for reform, but perhaps at the time they did not see it as possible or it would have been too slow. We can still see how long it has taken for the Church to revoke many of its corrupt practices and acknowledge them.

My criticism is directed instead at Christian fundementalists. These are a sort who believe they are the only ones reading the Bible correctly. They see no room for interpretation or doubt, regarding those as sins to be punished. They see no room for knowledge because it reveals their flawed nature. In reality they are not much different than the Islamic fundementalists who murdered thousands of Americans and have committed uncountable acts of violence against everyone who might possibly disagree with them.

P.S. In retrospect I realized that this is from an American perspective of American religious groups. I know that Europe has a much different history with the various forms of Christianity. What little validity my argument may have is limited to the US.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emotion and Reason are not exclusive

Too often I see people try to be rational, logical, use reason; they use all sorts of terms for it, by removing emotion. I understand the attempt; too often it appears that emotion ruins logic and leads to terrible decisions. But removing logic is not going to work.

The attempt to remove emotion from argument is itself emotional, or at least irrational; a backlash against a variable which is difficult to manage. It is the result of giving up, of surrendering to complexity and accepting partial solutions. It is deceiving oneself into thinking that a solution based on half the variables is correct when it cannot possibly correct since it is based on well, half the variables.

I must clarify: emotion should not dominate. It should only play it's proper role. That role is to assign values. Without emotion, what value is there in anything? At best we're left with base instinct for creating values. By pure, emotionless logic, there is no objective value in anything, there is only that which we assign to it and the value which we assign was at some point emotional.

Emotion should not be used as a substitute for logic or reason. To use a mathematical analogy; emotion is a value but it is not an equation or a solution.

Rational emotion is not an oxymoron.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Being better than them, How to

From The New York Times

Mr. Hoekstra said he feared that Mr. Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators would try to make the trial “a circus” and “use it as a platform to push their ideology.” Why, he asked, should Mr. Mohammed and the other suspects be given “the extraordinary protections that you and I have as American citizens?”

Why? Because this is what makes us better than the terrorists.

It is our protection of legal rights, our offering of fair trials, our sense of justice and fairness which makes us better than the terrorists.

It is this coddling, this being soft on terrorism, this excess kindness which gives us the moral authority to say that terrorists are wrong. If we stoop to their level even the slightest bit, we are surrendering to them. We won't say it, but when we become as indiscriminate, as unjust as them, we become them. We can wave flags and preach a different faith, but we won't be different enough just by that.

Being better than the terrorists isn't about having better technology or more money, it's about being morally superior. I don't mean by choosing the right old book to read from. I mean innately superior, the superiority that comes from a fair system of legal justice that does not rush to conclusions or harm the innocent. It is the superiority of just actions, of broadly applied just actions.

We cannot afford to set aside justice and fairness for even a moment, no matter how much people decry it as coddling. Let them throw away their values out of fear. Let them betray the moral superiority of America. Call them the cowards, and move on along the high road.

There is no dichotomy of freedom and security; instead it is freedom which brings security. I'll talk more about that in a later post.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to destroy America

Step one: Destroy the Constitution bit by bit.
Step two: You're done.
For bonus points: Fuck over business as the same time.

I present to you the dishonorable and treasonous moron in judge's clothing: Judge Hubel

Here's the short version: You are not safe from warrant-less search and seizure of your private data if it us stored on a third-party server.
His justification: You're leaving it outside your house so protection no longer applies. The third party host can read it and give it out to advertisers, so you've thrown away the fourth amendment protection.

This is a direct attack on the freedom and privacy of every single American. Yes, all of us. Or 99%. Who has zero data stored in third-party locations? Pretty much no one, so we're all affected. In one poorly thought-out opinion, the judge took a huge step towards destroying freedom.

I've said it before that the Internet is the new free place; the most free place of all. By wiping out the fourth amendment almost across the board, this judge has ruined that.

"This feature of the Internet has profound implications for how the Fourth Amendment protects Internet communications-if it protects them at all."
This shouldn't even be a question. Unless we're talking about something like suspect terrorist plots or child porn, something of very clear security or legal concern, it's protected unless we run around the streets shouting it and handing out copies. The question shouldn't be if a freedom applies, but whether it doesn't apply. We have freedom first, then we lose it; we shouldn't need his permission to be free. Apparently we don't have his permission anyway.

Where is the line? When do we recognize that no one has removed any of our freedom except other Americans?

He is eager to destroy freedom rather than protect it. When someone eagerly and intentionally destroys freedom, he is attacking America. Ideally that would mean the legal system taking him down. It has repeatedly shown that it either cannot or will not take down those who corrupt American from within.

By so eagerly attacking freedom he has ceased to be a legitimate legal authority. He's no better than the Supreme Court which ruled that black men are property and should be shipped back when they seek freedom. If America had respected freedom then, it would have removed them from power for so aggressively attacking it. We should learn from the past. How long did it take to correct that wrong? It's time we stopped bowing down to illegitimate authorities.

Oh but let's finish on a high note: This isn't like the attacks on net neutrality that hurt people in favor of massive corporations. If it's any consolation, this ruling fucks over businesses just as much. Yep, this judge is fair it that he ruins two aspects of America: free people and free business, in one single move.

P.S. I wish I didn't self-censor so much. Am I a hypocrite? I say people should stand up in defiance of power and consequence when freedom is at stake. And yet here I sit doing next to nothing. I even rewrote much of this to take out the parts which are potentially illegal. I'm the worst patriot ever, too afraid to even say something. Perhaps freedom of speech is already dead because we kill it ourselves with every word we don't say because we're afraid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to be a worthless organization

Step one: Attack anyone is the same field.
Step two: Distort everything to suit your agenda.
Step three: You're done.

FOX gets bonus points for throwing in some religious sniping for good measure.

Fine, I'll admit it, they're right: his faith probably did motivate his actions. However FOX doesn't say exactly that. Instead they talk about being a Muslim.

The man in question was not a Muslim at the time of the shooting. Muslims don't randomly kill what were effectively innocent people. What I mean is that he may have called himself a Muslim, but his shooting was not him following the teachings of Islam. His shooting was him being something else, something wrong.

So to bring up Islam would be the same as to point at the Westborro Baptists as examples of how Christianity is bad. They call themselves Christians, but their true selves, what motivates them, is being intolerant, small-minded, and all-in-all cruel.

They claim in the article, criticizing another news commenter: "I think he's knee-deep in political correctness, as so many people are, including now, as we know, the United States military. Political correctness is turning out to be the death of this country."


Lies, deception, and half-truths are what kill our country. It was a lie that sent our troops to Iraq. It was deception that corrupted that soldiers faith. It is half-truths that spur paranoia and bigotry.

In the interest of being fully truthful, I must accept that FOX is not worthless. To be worthless it would have to have no worth, no value; zero. It is not zero though. It is negative. FOX is a blight upon the world media.

America needs a real conservative news organization, not this shit. They should be ashamed of themselves, but what's the profit in that?

Monday, November 9, 2009

If you say "tall poppy syndrome"

You need to stop whining. Oh boo hoo, society is putting pressure on you to conform. Other people are jealous; they don't want you to be better than them. So what? Stop crying about it.

If you're so god damn special, then just be special. You don't have to be special in spite of them. That's giving credit to the exact people who you are supposed to be defying.

I get it, it can be tough. There may be a million people all around you pulling you down. Is the solution to cry about it? No. That's what they would do, cry about things. Something gets in their way, they give up. If you want to be a 'tall poppy' then you have to stand up and not hunch down in their pity parties. Yes, you are a part of their pity party even if you won't admit it.

Sorry that I just sounded like a total asshole. It happens when I get annoyed. Oops.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Religion is a funny thing to me

It's so inspiring.

Some are inspired to hate those whom aren't inspired. Others are inspired to hate those whom are inspired. Still others are inspired to hate those whom aren't inspired the right way.

Some are inspired to start wars. Others to start peace.

Some make art and literature and some make censorship.

When it comes up everything changes. You can feel it, hear it, see it. Some people get nervous. They're afraid someone, maybe themselves, will say something wrong. They are afraid to offend and afraid to say nothing and afraid to run into the wrong sort of person and that wrong sort is likely to think that the first person is the wrong sort.

Personally I get a little bit excited when religion comes up. I grew up Catholic but sadly, never got to talk about it all that much. We had religion class in school (it was a private Catholic school) but it was pretty much useless shit. By that I mean, technical details like what you call the stuff the priest wears. We never really had any understanding of the Bible and certainly no discussion. To some extent it made sense since you're not likely to get much use out of a bunch of ignorant and immature younguns.

I do remember when we were one told to write a sort of diary for one of the holy periods; perhaps Advent. They were to be private, the teacher only checking to make sure we had written, not to actually read it. Can you guess the result? Oh yes, exactly: I don't trust adults. Despite being 22 I don't really consider myself adult because once I am, I am no longer to be trusted. Perhaps they're not all rotten liars, but when you're betrayed at a young age it tends to stick.

I wrote about how the classes were stupid. Pointless wastes of time. I said we should talk with the priest and pastor and actually learn something worth learning. Enlighten ourselves if you will; though I doubt I used the word at the time. Clearly this was critical of quite a bit. But what should a person do, lie and hide? This was probably intended to be a message to God or something of that sort; not really the place for pushing aside one's true thoughts.

I was sent to the principal. There I explained to her that my teacher had lied. I don't know if anything happened, and I might have been able to find out. The little bit of good news was that I don't recall being in any trouble with the principal. Even then I knew she was a reasonable person and my opinion of her has only become more positive since I graduated from there.

Getting back to the point: Catholicism is a strange thing in my heart. I can't say I believe it. But I respond to it. It is something I recognize and remember. A little piece of my childhood as familiar to me as legos or soccer. Perhaps I could call it nostalgia. I must admit that this is almost certainly due to rose-colored glasses, for I distinctly remember at the time being bored out of my mind by Mass. It was boring. I didn't like singing and I didn't want to inflict my terrible voice on others, though before puberty took its full toll I was told I had a decent voice and excellent tone (or is it pitch?). Sermons were boring. Kneeling hurt my knees. Sometimes in the summer I'd get dizzy and have to sit outside.

Which reminds me of a time when the same happened to a friend of mine. I insisted that he be let outside for air. Instead the previously mention idiot teacher made him stay inside sitting and covered him with a coat because... well I don't know why. She seemed to think he had a fever. Looking back I wish I'd hurt her for refusing to listen; she was endangering my friend and refusing to listen to my own experience just to sate her pitiful ego.

With all the political correctness these days, religion almost seems risque. It's dangerous and unusual. I like to see it, hear it, discuss it. I want to see it not shoved under the table as some frightening thing.

And yet, I despise fundamentalists. They would put religion front and center and everywhere. They would make it only their own distorted, hateful beliefs. When they speak of religion I feel no sense of remembering or familiarity, only of hatred and ignorance radiating from them. It saddens me and sickens me. They are the cause of people calling Christians hypocrites. They are the cause of religious war. To be truthful, they are not Christians. They identify as all sorts of religions, but they are all the same sickening sort just with different, equally incorrect labels.

I believe firmly in the separation of Church and State. And yet, I think our schools shouldn't have to be so afraid of religion. Talk about it as history and philosophy and sociology and myth and all the many things that it is. There's no need to say it is right or wrong or needed or unneeded. But it is too much of our society and world to just ignore, to do so is to leave students woefully ignorant. It is a dangerous thing to discuss with public funds, but it should be done as long as it is done with great care.

Sadly, zealots on all sides would likely ruin the attempts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Or does that violate free speech?

Earlier I advocated 'virtual execution.' Basically if you commit virtual crimes, you should virtually die. In the original case I stand by what I said.

But I also extended it to another blogger named Gevlon. Since then I've realized that this was stupid of me. He commits no crimes. Should his hateful speech be a crime? I'm tempted to say yes because it would shut him up. But that's mostly an emotional reaction. I can see that it would be the first step in erosion of freedom of speech online.

Are there times to curtail freedom of speech? Maybe. But, I suspect all instances are paternalistic, the government telling us what to do or not do for our own good. Shouting fire in a crowded theater is illegal because it would cause undue panic. But isn't that just government protecting us from our own irrational reaction?

We can extend this to hate speech. I'd prefer that people not call Obama Hitler and that the KKK didn't have downtown rallies in nearby suburbs. But why should we not let them? If we don't like their ideas it should be on a rational ground. We should be immune to them. If we try to shield others from them it can only mean that we don't think they are immune, that they cannot make good decisions about what to think or not.

Idealism says that I should let the hateful keep screaming. Self-interest is more divided.

If they keep their screaming, they just might convince someone. Or many people. next thing I have a mob of their drones knocking on my door asking why I don't support them. By that I mean they burnt down my house and tried to kill me. Perhaps shutting down some speech is only a preventive measure, containing the madness before it gets dangerous.

But if someone else can be silenced, that means I can as well. Offensive speech is in the ear of the listener. I can say nothing wrong and still end up in the same category. Self-interest dictates that I not get someone else shut down to ensure that the same does not happen to me.

Getting back to the internet as free speech, it's more than that. It's freedom of all sorts. Assembly and religion and market. Yes, market. The internet is the closest thing to a free market that we will ever see, excluding Web 9.0 which will be telepathy-based. The internet the be the new land of the free and it is everywhere. This means that any attack on internet freedom is an attack on freedom everywhere. It is the new Bill of Rights, the new Constitution, the new Magna Carta and whatever other listing of rights that you can think of, all rolled into one. With this in mind, if Comcast (or anyone else) keeps trying to fuck with net neutrality, I suggest getting out your second amendment rights and explaining that our freedom is worth more than their profits.

Next time I plan to talk about security and freedom. Sneak preview: if someone tries to trade some of your freedom for some of your security, listen carefully and ignore everything, because in the long term people like him will completely fuck over you and everyone you know.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is advertising the solution to useless people?

When I say useless people, I do not mean those who are incapable of being productive, but are instead unnecessary.

Let's start with the idea that technology has made humanity more productive. We are so productive that we do not need to work an average of 40 hours a week. Much less would be sufficient for survival or even for a moderate standard of living. We could work 20 hour weeks instead. Or have 50% of the employable population not working and redistribute their wages and production to the unemployed 50%. The latter would clearly cause major social problems.

What about 20 hour weeks? Those would be less efficient. Why educate and train people just as much as currently when each works only half as much? It would be more efficient to go with 50% unemployed and not working.

Neither of these happen.

Instead we have persuasive advertising. This causes people to buy products which cause only marginal increases in happiness. In fact, studies have found that there are very rapid diminishing returns on happiness such that there comes a point when more work for more pay for more material goods results in lower happiness.

Someone makes these products: The excess 50%. That's right, 50% of people are actively employed doing little more than burning oil and making you less happy. BTW, you work more hours to buy their crap.

This leads to the inevitable happiness economics:
1) Work the same amount and get half hour effort taken away. Be angry about this.
2) Work the same amount and waste half your money. Be less happy due to the extra work.
Which of these is worse? And no, 3) kill 50% is not an option because that still leaves an excess 50%. Percentages don't play nicely with mass-murder.
There is always 4) Everyone works 40 hours and we burn off the excess by bombing each other.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Who are you?

Strange as it may sound, this name, Klepsacovic, is the one I identify with most. My first name in real life sounds strange to me. I suspect it's because I didn't choose it, it was given to me. It's a common, boring sort of name. I don't blame my parents for it; they picked a good Catholic name, and another for my middle name, and then I took a third at confirmation. But none of these are truly independent creations by me. This is a name I've used for years. At least eight years, probably closer to nine or ten.

In real life I am 22. I go to an engineering school though I major in psychology. I have red hair which I have grown very long and plan to donate. My friends are all nerds. Sometimes we play D&D together and talk about nerdy stuff. I grew up near Chicago, IL. So what?

Much of real life is given to us. A great deal of it is not earned or wanted. It's just there. Race, name, age, location of birth are all just there. These can constrain us, pushing us into identities which we don't much care for.

A friend of mine is a girl. She claims to be male. In other words, physical sex and identified gender do not match in her mind. Her solution is to become male. This strikes me as rather stupid. She a dozen other problems to worry about. In other words, if this was an experiment, there are a whole hell of a lot of confounding variables. Maybe identity isn't the problem and very likely a physical change isn't the solution.

But perhaps I am a hypocrite to say this. We all try to change ourselves, to remake ourselves into something we want to be. I've made an online self which doesn't quite match my real life self. There's a lot of overlap, but I suspect much of that is from my online self moving into real life. It's almost as if it were a testing ground for selves and if I find one I like, I implement it.

I believe it is different though. We will naturally be different online. It is a freer place. People are fluid and will match the container they are in. It shouldn't be surprising that people would make other selves. We do it in real life too, changing who we are to fit the circumstance.

All this changing, shifting, adapting, it brings back the question: who are you? Are you your physical self, your mental self in the physical self, or possibly are you most yourself when unbounded by reality? Or maybe that's just being delusional.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bush was the new Hitler

If you bring him up in an argument it means you lost. Obama has taken up the mantle now.

Or to generalize it, just because someone bad did something doesn't mean it is also bad. Bush did some good stuff. I can't think of much off the top of my head, but it's pretty dumb to pretend "Bush did it" is an accurate test for if something is a bad idea.

To take it even further, it's a bad idea to take some words or ideas to be innately bad. A few things are. I can't think of any good circumstances for torturing infants. But words get thrown around too much. People call Obama a socialist, as if that is a bad word, when it's not even a particularly descriptive word. Or people called Bush a fascist (other say the same about Obama, and pretty much every president ever). Was that an accurate label? Nope. But it's something that we take to be innately evil. We associate it with the Holocaust and mass murder. But is fascism innately evil? Did Italians in the 30s and 40s rally around evil? This isn't a fantasy universe where death cults have political parties.

Now Obama is the new Hitler. People are being Hitlerized constantly these days. It's a useful tactic for crushing someone, but for productive debate? It's useless.

Once Obama is Hitler you can't reason with him anymore; who would try to reason with Hitler? But he's still President. It's not as if he vanishes once he's had a mustache photoshopped onto his upper lip. The only result is the disabling of government and the inability to make any progress.

I wish we could have a time when bringing up Hitler wasn't an automatic loss. Imagine if we said things like "This seems like a good idea, but it does have some fascist tendencies, so we should be very cautious in how we apply it." That would be good. We should do that more often: look at worst case scenarios and take steps to avoid them. But this doesn't happen. Instead the slightest step in any unwanted direction is thrown to the extreme and debate is made impossible.

I tried to explain this to the LaRouchians last week. They didn't seem to understand. I explained that the mustache isn't easy to take off once its been put on. I don't think they cared.

The irony is that Hitlerizing wrecks democracy, it wrecks freedom of expression, it shoots down any dissenting opinion. Hitlerizing is something Hitler would do. Oh damn, I just did it too.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Today I ran into some an Obama Hitler. This is my term for people who put Hitler mustaches on Obama pictures. To be fair, I really should have been talking about Bush Hitlers years ago as well, but hindsight does not allow us to travel through time.

My initial reaction to the Obama Hitler was racism. I yelled at the woman at the booth for misusing the image of a man who was trying to save her (and my) race. I said he was trying to save us from *points at Jewish friend* but she disgraces his memory by associating Hitler with him *points at friend of ambiguous race but clearly not Caucasian*. She said I wasn't be serious and had no interest in talking to me. In reality, I was being quite serious, I just had different methods. I intended to demonstrate the absurdity by acting a mirror for it. Sadly, it was only after the fact that I thought of calling her close-minded for not giving Hitler a chance.

My trolling complete, I moved on to logic, or at least tried given the circumstances. I attempted to figure out exactly what she was trying to say. I still am not quite sure. I did pick up a few things though.

She was pushing the beliefs of an American named LaRouche and kept calling him an economist. The last time I heard of him was in 2000 when a van of supporters drove around and indirectly called my aunt a whore.

The general idea was this: The British Empire is destroying America, put Hilter in power to destroy Germany, and also Obama. He is a Nazi who wants to kill humanity to save the environment. He wrote the healthcare 'reform' to kill old people. His Nazi friends write books about killing old people and will be on the death panel. Nazis either started or destroyed space exploration. We can only save the economy and develop fusion desalinization by going to Mars. From what I heard from other people, the British killed Lincoln so they could put Teddy Roosevelt in office as a Confederate spy. And Hitler Obama.

There were two groups on campus. The first group was rude and condescending, talking only when people agreed and ignored even suggestions. I tried to explain that their message appeared convoluted to people passing by; they said they didn't care about popular opinion. I tried to explain the problem with Hitler Obama; they said they don't care about advertising, they care about reality. One of them also said she doesn't care about truth.

The second group was much more polite. We talked for a while, getting nowhere. I was a skeptic, trying to figure out their positions and maybe get some sense from them. Though I did manage to get one to support rationing healthcare, right after I said Hitler rationed healthcare, but I don't think he noticed. Overall they were polite, but seemingly immune to facts and with strange logical skills (or lack thereof). At the end I thanked them for being able to talk with those with whom they disagree.

Also one claimed the the Kennedys only supported the space program because Eleanor Roosevelt called Robert Kennedy a Nazi. This was not an unusual statement for the group.

I got a bit off track I guess. I'll cover Hitlerizing some other day, which was my original intention.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is advertising really free?

Why do companies pay for advertising? Assuming they are rational, it is because they think that they can generate enough profit to at least offset the cost of advertising. Where does this profit come from? Us of course. It comes from us buying more of their product.

This can be a good thing, a win-win situation. There may be a new product that we don't know about, but which we'd love to have. For example, I am glad to know of the existence of an upcoming Star Wars MMO. By advertising it to me, the company is increasing its profits and helping me to, eventually, find an awesome new game*.

On the other hand, it can be a win-lose. Or actually a win-win-lose. The first winner is the seller who gets more business. The second is the credit card company. The loser is the person who is caught up in a whirlwind of advertising, consumerism, and disregard for the idea that credit runs out eventually.

This actually works quite well for me. I get a lot of online content for free because of advertising. For me it is free since I either see something I want or it's some consumerist shit that I ignore. My free content is subsidized by those who are more apt to spend their money, and that of someone else as well. Oh sure, sometimes I don't like seeing ads, but that's what NoScript and ad blockers are for. It's great: I get free stuff without seeing many adds. Other people who I don't know wreck their lives. To top it off, their interest payments are what make it possible for credit card companies to offer things like airline miles or cash back.

So I suppose to answer the question: yes, no, no. For me it is free. For someone else it is not. For society overall, it is not. Or to be more accurate: no, no, no. I don't benefit much when people go on credit binges and support a wasteful economy, which then crashes when the card companies realize they can't milk much more and dump the person.

* This sounds like viral advertising, doesn't it? Oops. TBH, I couldn't think of many good examples. Maybe a surprise 8th Harry Potter? Or a remake of Episodes 1-3 that don't make me want to cry? I'm out of ideas.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Young Social Conservatives Ruin America

To start off, I must clarify and explain that young is relative. Go back 100 years and I'm not going to be talking about 18-25 year old people. I'll be more looking at 30-40 with 60+ being the old ones. It's only recently (as far as history goes) that us younguns became active voters and started smoking pot and dropping acid and yelling about peace while listening to what to sober ears is terrible music. Also I must confess that I don't use any drugs, I'm not a fan of yelling. Maybe this means I'm actually a young social conservative destroying America.

I must also emphasize the social part. Fiscal conservatives are badly needed at all age levels, since it seems that currently there are none.

As we all know, today's revolutionary is tomorrow's conservative. He's made the world into what he wants and now he wants to keep it that way. This applies to society as well. It creates a cycle of discontent and change, moderated by yesterday's revolutionaries, which has made the Western world way better than everywhere else.

Here's how it goes: Young person matures enough to start seeing that the world can be different than it current is and therefore it can be better. He then plays a part in changing society and law. Meanwhile people 40 years older yell at him and block everything he does. After 40 years they die and he takes their place. The result is gradual improvement of society.

Demographics are critical to this process. The old people cannot be reform-minded, or else society will move too fast and destabilize. Just as importantly, the young cannot be conservative or there will be no progress.

Fortunately the old are unlikely to be progressives. They know the world they're in, for the most part they have made it into what they want, and they're not eager to change everything and confuse themselves.

But the young, they can be conservatives. Sometimes they are. And when they are, the country goes to shit, both at the time and inevitably, 40 years down the line.

In light of this, I urge you to explain to any young conservatives you meet that they are unpatriotic and un-American and should feel bad.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stop using oil to generate 'renewables'

No this isn't about using oil to fuel tractors to generate ethanol. Why would I complain about that? There are plenty of other people to complain about that.

Instead I bring forth a different 'renewable' resource which is being generated with oil. Expensive oil. Increasingly expensive oil. And rare. If we don't control our excessive use of oil for this resource, we'll have none left.

We used to use coal. This wasn't as bad, since there's much more coal. And the furnaces powered by coal could have also used wood. But no, now we're high-tech and insist on the use of oil.

Can you imagine that we used to produce with pure manual labor? Hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, and strength; those used to be valued in the industry. No more.

It is time we stopped wasting oil to fuel tanks and planes and helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't even need coal or wood-burning factories. Instead we should return to the old days, when we butchered parents by hand with the perfectly renewable resource of anger.

In the industrial ages they were a renewable source of energy. Grown from surplus moldy bread, they powered our mines and factories and the remarkable thing was, building more factories and mines created more of them. It is time we returned to physical violence and unsafe factories, only then can we return to the orphan-based economy which made the world as prosperous as it is.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I've never before heard of Jante's Law

So thank you, Larisa.

  1. Don't think that you are special.
  2. Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
  3. Don't think that you are smarter than us.
  4. Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
  5. Don't think that you know more than us.
  6. Don't think that you are more important than us.
  7. Don't think that you are good at anything.
  8. Don't laugh at us.
  9. Don't think that anyone of us cares about you.
  10. Don't think that you can teach us anything.

As I interpret her interpretation, this is a negative law. It destroys creativity and individualism and any sense of initiative. Taken as a whole, I agree.

However the individual pieces, and how they are interpreted, are much more mixed.

Don't think that you are special.
I see this in two ways. First, don't think you're a unique and beautiful flower, God's gift to mankind, so special that you get a category to yourself. However I also see how it is wrong, that we should think we are special in the sense that we are all different and only by acknowledging our differences can we achieve our full potential.

Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
This I just disagree with. This is the arrogance of a society. It is exclusion and elitism and the creation of an other for the sole purpose of raising up the self.

Don't think that you are smarter than us.
Is this shooting someone down or teaching humility? Is it "you are not above average" or is it "don't assume you are a above average."

Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
Well this is just a good rule in general. Many people need an ego check. The fact that I try to write as if I know this better than you doesn't automatically mean that I qualify, for I could be saying this with a sense of humbleness. Alas, I am not and so I, like most people, need a dose of this rule.

Don't think that you know more than us.
This is just a good rule to have. Humility again.

Don't think that you are more important than us.
Odds are, this is true.

Don't think that you are good at anything.
That's just a downer without the possibility of being a source of humbleness.

Don't laugh at us.
Unless they deserve it.

Don't think that anyone of us cares about you.
Sounds terrible, but, to those who don't give a shit about their fellow humans (you know who you are), why should society care about them? It's a reciprocal relationship. I believe that those who don't care about society should be left entirely to their own devices. That means no government police protecting them for free, no justice system to punish those who hurt them, no one so much as raising a finger to save them from their inevitable and justified execution.

Don't think that you can teach us anything.
That's a dumb rule. Everyone has something to teach someone else.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

When the world is privatized

What will you own?

Let me start out by saying, I use iTunes. I use the store. I grew up using Macs and I have a little bit of the Apple cult in me. On a base level I like all of that. But then I ruin it all when I start thinking.

Let's look at those songs. 99 cents is pretty cheap, I think. Right? Well sure, it would be cheap if I owned the song, if it was my song. That would be a bargain. But I don't. I don't? Nope. It is limited. I can't use it anywhere, and not because of technological limitations, but because of technology used to limit it. I'm not complaining that some devices can't play it. I am complaining that my ability to use the music anywhere that it is technologically possible.

That isn't an absurd thing to want. Imagine reading a book. Sure you need enough light and you don't want to try reading it in a steel mill with sparks flying all over. But you are allowed to. And, you can read it anywhere else. It is your book. You can read it, use it as a paper weight, burn it, buy a hundred thousand and use them as bricks. It is your book.

You don't own the content. It's not your book to copy or plagiarize. It's not yours to reprint and resell for half the cost. But it is yours to resell or give away. In fact, you can even use the content for some purposes; sometimes without even having to pay anything extra.

iTunes songs aren't like that. Well, they can be, but you must pay 40 cents extra. Imagine if it cost 40% more to read your book anywhere. Actually... I ran into this not long ago.

Let's move on though, I don't want to waste time bashing particulars of Apple.

This is not abnormal. More and more you do not own what you buy. Software is not yours. Music I already mentioned. DVDs. If you play WoW, your account. Yep, not yours. You're only renting and they can take it back any time they want, because it's not yours. You can argue that in this case it is essential for the integrity of the game that accounts aren't being sold, and I'd agree with you. But as part of a larger trend of non-ownership, it is disturbing.

Publicly owned utilities are sold off. Privatized. The institutions which your parents (or got a few generations back) paid taxes so that you could have them, are not yours. Were they ever yours? Indirectly. You were essentially one of many owners as a citizen of the relevant area. Not any more.

Let's look at the effects of the mortgage crisis. Sure there were people spending more than they should have and they deserved to lose the homes which were never theirs to begin with and never would have been. But there were also people who were paying all they agreed to and then the economy went down (with a great deal of fault resting with the banks) and jobs were lost or unrelated medical expenses came up. Then the banks took the homes. Imagine that, you work to pay off a mortgage and fulfill all your obligations, then the banks wreck the economy, you lose your job, and the bank takes your house.

As time goes on people will own less and less. How long before people own nothing? Then who will own the world? Not people, but corporations, and they don't give a shit about you, your kids, your friends, or anyone. They aren't people. Strangely, corporations are considered people: "The law treats a corporation as a legal 'person' that has standing to sue and be sued, distinct from its stockholders," But they are not taxed or held to the legal standards of people: "corporate profits are taxed at a lower rate than the rates for individuals." Oh sure, corporations make vastly higher profits than any individual, so it would be absurd to use the same scaling, right? Maybe. But why should an idea, that's what a corporation truly is, make any money?

I don't have a quote there for the second part about legal standards. Let's just look at common sense. If I dumped benzene in your house and I was caught, what would happen? I'd likely go to prison, probably have some sort of fine, and maybe you'd move or I'd be forced to stay far away from you. Now let's imagine that I also pumped sulfur dioxide into your house and it killed your family. Would I not be charged with murder? Likely found guilty and imprisoned or even killed? Corporations do this all the time, yet despite being 'people', they pay insignificant fines and carry on exactly as they were.

You don't own the air you breath. You own the water, but before you buy it, some corporation does and they'll charge whatever they feel like and you'll pay it because price-gouging is less deadly than dehydration. You used to own the water, back when it was on public land, but then they pumped it out and resold it. Did you know farmers don't truly own their seeds? Normal seeds can be saved and replanted and allow self-sufficiency, a very American ideal. There are seeds designed to last for one harvest, then you must buy again. They aren't owned, they are rented. The farmer rents his ability to survive, as do you.

It's funny how so many stories are written about robots taking over the world. We would be enslaved by our own emotionless creations. It's happening.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


There is a rough correlation to be found in the world. This is an important one to see and to respect, to take advantage of.

Let us start with something obvious: The United Stated of America are awesome. Fucking awesome. Best ever? That's debatable, but what reasonable and informed person can denial that we are awesome?

Sub-Saharan Africa is less awesome.

Even less awesome is a place like Afghanistan under the Taliban.

What am I getting at? Let's look at another trend.

How many rights, freedoms, and opportunities do women have in the US? Tons. Discrimination still exists, sexism exists, but it is low; at least as compared to history and other countries. It should be lower, but it is low.

Sub-Saharan women are less free. Less safe. The culture simply is less respectful. They do not control their own bodies even.

And then under the Taliban they were second class citizens, at best. Property, a necessary evil for the continuation of the bloodline, but temptresses and whores.

What does this add up to? Simple: The awesomeness of a country is directly proportional to the freedom and respect allowed to women. Want to improve your country? Free your women. They won't bite, but they will make your country a hundred times better than it could be otherwise.

This isn't feminism. This is practicality.

Larisa seems to think that sexism persists because we think it persists. "We reinforce the prejudices and injustices there may be by constantly bringing them into light." This isn't a terrible idea. But it is not yet true. I say not yet, because I believe we are close. Within a generation or less. But this is not true everywhere. In most of the world, sexism exists because it exists, not just because we think it exists.

I hope that the rest of the world gets up to speed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Melting Steel

Everything produces conspiracy theories. 9/11 was no exception; there are some who claim that the towers couldn't have collapsed just by the plane crashes and fires because it wasn't hot enough to melt the steel. They think explosives were used to assist the collapse.

It might be true that the steel didn't melt, in fact I doubt it did. But it didn't have to melt. Just heating it enough will weaken it, taking it below the strength the building was designed with. Once one structural member stops supporting weight (such as by getting destroyed by a plane cutting it in half) it puts more stress on others. Combine that with heat, the impact, and the very suddenly uneven load; and you're going to have a very unstable building.

As for the picture-perfect pancaking, that's just how it happens when you progressively stack greater and greater weights. Why didn't it tip? Because there was no reason for it to tip. Things don't just tip over; they get pushed over or the structures below is uneven.

Just because 9/11 was very convenient for some people in America doesn't mean they made it happen.

On a lighter, and late note, Happy 9/11. Yes, happy. Why should we not be happy? I don't mean barbecue and cheering happy, but perhaps content, going about our normal days. Not sad. Terrorists would prefer that you be sad and scared and haunted by what they did. Well fuck them.

P.S. Yay for old post dates screwing up order.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm glad I asked

The textbook was about $135 new, no used copies. But oh, it says here I could get an e-book. I'm sure that would be cheaper.

It was, about $40 cheaper. Sounds great!

I'm glad I asked about the restrictions on it. In my initial naivety I had assumed it would be something like a password-restricted PDF or maybe some sort of online format that I could access anywhere but couldn't copy or print. Ha.

Instead it was something like unlimited use on one computer, limited ability to print, temporary use on two other computers. Let's go over that again.

I pay $40 less. In return I save them the costs of printing, shipping, storage, just about all costs associated with the book minus the creativity cost (which admittedly is still a huge part) plus a penny for digital access. I guess that's not enough savings, so they create pretend savings: making the product worse at no benefit to themselves.

The physical book I could sell back for something like half the purchase price at the end of the semester. That would take the effective price from $135 to only about $70. I can afford to 'lose' the $40 now in order to get back the $70 later. I can't sell back the e-book, and if I interpreted what they said correctly, it expires after a year anyway. While I am unlikely to keep the physical book pasta year, there is some small chance and that has a dollar value (a small, vague dollar value), in addition to the dignity of actually owning the book.

So in the end I chose to pay more for a product that is mine to write on and resell and carry around anywhere and no one can take it away because I violated to terms of use. It is my property, not a rental to be stolen at the convenience of the vendor.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

On Christmas we go to Mass and celebrate Christ.
On the Fourth of July we set off fireworks and talk about how awesome American is.
On Thanksgiving we cook and eat.
On all these holidays we do what is relevant to them. But on Labor Day, we take the day off. Shouldn't we have work parties? Rallies for worker's rights? Celebration of jobs? Mourning for jobs lost?

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Is it okay to kill leaders? Let's not quibble over state vs. business vs. terrorist vs. religious; let's just say they are leaders of some force and leave it at that. Is that oversimplifying? Perhaps. But I do it because otherwise we get into "well it's okay to kill terrorist leaders but not state leaders" and then next thing we have to define terrorist vs. freedom fighter vs. a leader who is making practical decisions for his state, possibly at the cost of others. It's a mess best avoided, so let's just straight to the generic: leaders.

Is it okay to kill them? I see two good ways to look at this. There are many bad ways, but I won't waste time with them.

One way is to say that it is the ideal action. Would we rather kill millions in a vast war or assassinate Hitler? I'd go with the second option. The idea behind this is that people are generally not all that harmful, not to say they're nice, but the average German won't invade Poland and shoot a lot of Russians without someone convincing him to do so. So shooting the Germans is really just going after symptoms, like ice packs for a fever when you really need anti-viral drugs (or actually anything except ice packs, you get a fever because the extra heat helps fight the disease). Instead go for the root problem: the leader. It is direct and much less harmful.

But is the leader the root problem? Perhaps not. Hitler did not magically become the leader of Germany; he was elected and there were many points at which he could have been removed from power. Leaders are no more powerful than their followers. In fact, the entire reason that tyrannicide would seem to work well is that leaders are not special, they die just like the rest of us, they have no ability beyond that of anyone else except for that which is given to them. In other words, the leader is just the focus of a larger societal problem. Killing the leader would not solve the problem, it could actually make it worse by triggering a power struggle which in the short term it would weaken the threat to the outside world, but when it ends it is likely that the remaining leader is the more dangerous one.

To twist the social problem back in favor of assassination, perhaps the lack of assassination is the social problem. When the legal processes are subverted and freedoms are overthrown, there are points at which the leader can be eliminated. It is not as if a state goes instantly from free and open to a fascist state of enslaved citizens; there are times when the leader is clearly bad but does not yet have total control. The fairy tale myth of the popular leader who rises to power and then shows his true colors, is just that, a myth. The failure to recognize and eliminate such a leader is the social problem and so elimination solves that problem.

Or does it? The problem with pre-WWII Germany was much more than just "they didn't shoot Hitler." There were others who would have seized power, though they'd have taken Germany on much different paths. Would he have gained power if not for the Communist rise in Russia spreading communism but also anti-communist sentiments which would then form the basis for many power struggles in the decades to come? What if the German economy was not weak? What if Europe wasn't plagued throughout history with anti-Semitic crusades? What if there was less racism and beliefs in the superiority of this or that ethnicity? Hitler wasn't born a violent anti-Semite, he became one and Nazi ideology, though not called it, existed before him.

Nevertheless, leaders are focal points and without them, otherwise dangerous forces may be dispersed or at least set back temporarily as a new leader grows.

I realize now that I never really directly addressed the idea of right or wrong, but instead only of practicality. However I feel I touched on it indirectly; when dealing with evil the main question is one of the practicality of various ways to control evil. If tyrannicide is practical, then it is moral. Well, it is if we could agree on who is an evil leader. We can't, so I just invalidated my previous statements and in fact made this entire post worthless. Damn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why is not How

This has been a long-standing pet peeve of mine. On the forums I often see threads with titles like "Why Blizzard fails at X." With a title like why you should expect a post like "They don't care enough, so they don't bother to put effort into X." Instead the post is more of a set of subjective proofs that "Blizzard is bad at X." A better title would be "How I can tell that Blizzard fails at X."

Why is about purpose or reason, often with implied intellect behind the event. Why does humanity exist? That's a hard one. You'd have to ask God and he might say he was lonely or the world was incomplete. Or you'd have to say there is no why, that humanity is the product of chance and therefore purposeless and without a Why.

How is about the process. How does humanity exist? You could ask God which sort of hand-waving he used or read the Bible and it would describe the shaping of dust. Or you'd see if you could track a series of genetic mutations. Or some other method.

How is not Why. Sometimes in context they can have similar or overlapping meanings, but too often they are used almost interchangeably. I must admit that I probably do not use words perfectly, so it could be that officially Why and How are much more similar than I think; but fuck official!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do trolls believe what they say?

I bring this up because I'm trying to decide what to be scared of.

Let's take a famous troll: Rush Limbaugh. What, you think he's not a troll? He's a troll. No, he's not provoking discussion. He'd calm the fuck down and scream less if he was trying to provoke discussion. He's a troll. He's no different than the 50000th person making a post on the tanking forums saying DKs should be nerfed and giving half-ass reasons based on terrible logic and inaccurate information. Both should be banned from their areas of 'expertise.'

Imagine if they don't believe what they say. The implications are frightening. It means that someone out there is gaining a wide audience through lies. And we're not talking regurgitated lies which they might think are true. Oh no, these are original lies. They spend their time thinking up new lies to tell people. And they are believed. These aren't even convenient lies to get things done, such as fake terror warnings in order to prevent complacency. Oh no, these are just power-grabbing, greedy lies with not a hint of regard for a greater good.

But could it not be more frightening if they believed what they say? Imagine for a moment that, despite what we might assume, that the troll screaming for DK nerfs is not an agry child in his room who just got killed in an arena. What if he is instead a father who is just trying to enjoy his game more? He sits down calmly to write a post expressing his opinions, trying to remember the facts to back his arguments, certain that he can make some small difference if he can only say it just right. Or maybe he's being a bit more loose with the truth, but he believes that as long as the underlying fact is that DKs are overpowered, it doesn't matter if he gets some facts wrong or twists the truth. It's more important to rally the crowd, to get this fixed.

These trolls may be more frightening. The outraged troll is on a crusade and no amount of factual evidence will deter them. They know what they know, dammit! Maybe this is the troll screaming about death panels at a town hall.

The calm troll, oh now this is even more worrisome. This person has no excessive emotion to blame. They are not riding high on anger or grief. They are cool and collected and completely wrong. But it gets worse! Despite their cool heads, they are still not thinking clearly. And while their thoughts are bad, their presentation is worse. Maybe Rush thinks he really is laying out the issues in a clear and concise manner so that the American people can be informed. If that is indeed the case, then we must ask: why is such a terrible presenter so popular?

When Ahmadinejad asked if the Holocaust was a hoax, did he actually think it might have not happened? We have to ask, which is a more frightening leader of a rising power in the Middle East: one who intentionally asks stupid questions to offend his neighbors or one who is so oblivious to history that he cannot see what is obvious? I really want to think the best of him, I want to believe that he is a sensible guy who simply has a different set of base assumptions about the world, someone who we could negotiate with and make mutual progress with. But it's very hard to believe that.

I suppose I should end with a question I should have asked at the start: Is it a troll if they believe what they say? Technically, no. But in practical terms, yes. The though process is different, but the behavior is the same and the reactions to counter-arguments are the same. What is a 'troll who believes what he says?' It's an idiot. It is someone who is ignorant or stupid or both. Whether troll or idiot, logic and fact do not work against them. They want attention and acknowledgment that they are correct. The only way to correct the problem of their existence is to end their existence, to ban them from whatever medium they exploit to spread their rotten messages. This may be online forums, radio, TV, or the street corner at which some lunatic is shouting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hot Potato Homes

Rising home prices were stupid. Done.

Wtf do you mean I should explain? Fine.

Buy a house, and presumably the land under it. Five years later it's worth more. Makes sense, right? Well, let's run it through the two tests: added value and supply/demand.

Added value
Did you fix up the home? Was it enough to raise the price by whatever amount?
Maybe not. But maybe the neighborhood is better now; perhaps the schools have improved. That's added value, even if you aren't the one who added it. Either way, the home is truly worth more.

Let's look at the supply side of it. Obviously if the supply goes down, prices will go up. Makes sense. But we had a construction boom, not a mass destruction of homes.

Maybe it's on the demand side. Was there a population surge? Well it did go up, but hardly a surge, and it's always been going up.

Do we suddenly want houses more? I have no clue.

However I've noticed a trend in assumptions: we say "oh they do this or that because they want to" ignoring any other factor. For example, it was claimed that black people are irresponsible for so much conspicuous consumption (as a percentage of income it is unusually, and stupidly, high). Clear proof of poor values and maybe even justification of racism, right? Wrong. In fact high conspicuous consumption is high among the poor and those who are perceived as poor, as a way of demonstrating wealth. Poor white people do the same, though I think it was to a lesser extent, since white people have less 'need' to prove their wealth. So anyway, don't try to explain mass changes with "they wanted to do that."

What could have suddenly made people buy like that? Aha!

Cheap credit and poor understanding of anything relevant to the situation.
- Adjustable rate... that means it goes down, right?
- Why wouldn't home prices keep going up? It's not as if this is the 1920s stock market.
Oh, then there's easy credit: Why would someone give me a loan that I can't afford? Clearly I must be able to afford it.

In the end we had a pyramid. We'd buy overpriced houses because someone else would pay even more in a few years. Then it corrected itself and all that false value went away, resulting in mortgages for more than the home was worth. Here's the scary part: this isn't due to the crash in housing prices: those mortgages were always higher than the home was worth. It was only speculation and ignorance that pushed prices so high.

Short version: homes were not worth more because of reduced supply. They were not worth more because they were better. They were worth more because demand was inflated by terrible loan practices and equally terrible concepts of debt.

In totally unrelated news, after the fact I realized that I probably sounded critical of Governor Sanford. In reality I don't really care all that much. His conduct is his own. My only concern would be use of state funds. And hey, maybe he just had a change of heart and woke up one day thinking "You know, Clinton actually had a pretty good idea" and there you go.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hypocrisy and Health Care

Is it really that bad?

Well, yes. It is pretty bad. However misuse of it is just about as bad.

So, the friendly and 99% boring governor of South Carolina has been in the news a few weeks ago. He was having an affair. Earlier he'd attacked Clinton for his affairs. That makes him a hypocrite, right? Right.

But so what? Does him being a hypocrite negate his attacks on Clinton? Him being a hypocrite does not make Clinton's affairs no have happened or does it makes his affairs okay. The hypocrisy is an entirely separate issue, so your opinion on Clinton's conduct should be entirely independent of the hypocrisy of his accusers (he had many hypocritical accusers).

On the other hand, the hypocrisy should influence the perception of Sanford. If he simply had an affair then that's not good, but different people have different standards and who am I to judge? However his previous attacks on Clinton set a standard of affairs being bad, a standard which he then violated.

Or to give this a more recent context, let's look at the conflicts over health care reform. There is a huge outcry and some people are being very uncivilized, threatening their representatives and even the president. Many in favor of reform are calling them out on this and claiming that the opposition is noisy but small, or influenced by the health care industry, or perhaps just stupid. In response there are people pointing out that Democrats were hardly nice to Bush. Let's pretend for a moment that the situations are at all similar. This leads to an obvious result: Democrats were roudy, Republicans say Democrats can't criticize since they did it too. There's hypocrisy on both sides, but it does not eliminate the legitimacy of the call on both sides for more civility.

On the subject of health care debate, I want to point out two statements I heard recently.

-We don't want socialism like Russia.
Russia is not socialist and has been nothing socialist-like for almost two decades. When it was part of the Soviet Union it was not socialist either, it was a collapsing empire, which started somewhat poorly and was then absolute ruined by Stalin. It is hardly an example of socialism. Want better examples? Look at Sweden or Cuba: one is pretty good, the other not so much. There's the ultimate lesson: you can't just say an idea works or doesn't, the specific nation matters a great deal.

- Hitler would have liked this plan, he was a socialist.
Well sure, he was a member of the National Socialist party. It was originally a German socialist party, and not a particularly successful one. When Hitler took it over he pretty much eliminated any focus on socialism, instead focusing on the nationalism and actually pursued a strong anti-Communist agenda.

- So how about in honor of the American soldier, ya quit making things up?
Thank you. Oh wait...

-The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil
Never mind.

On a lighter note.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This is why I support the death penalty

But only online. Yes, I support the execution of some people. Their virtual lives are simply too terrible to be allowed to go on. Perhaps they spread hatred and preach violence. Perhaps they simply spread nothing but lies, but we all know the dangers of lies.

Hal Turner said on his blog that a few judges deserve to be killed due to their rulings on some gun laws in my area. He's in a little tiny bit of trouble due to that comment. I'm thinking he deserves the online death penalty.

Oh, what would online execution be? Basically a person is no longer allowed to live any virtual lives. They cannot use the internet for avocation of any opinions or for any social interaction beyond relationships which are first created in real life. They can pay bills and do other boring stuff like that. However they would be unable to blog, post on any forums, join chat rooms, or play any online games with any communication with others. They are dead online.

In this case the person displays not alone malice, but also stupidity. Obviously there's the bit of saying US judges should be killed, you know, potential death threats. I doubt it's something he'd have done himself. However ordering a murder isn't all that far from doing it oneself, maybe worse since you involve an extra person, ruining their lives as well. The stupid part is that he says this not over a law which will affect him. This isn't a ruling that federal agents can take his guns (if he has any) and ignore the third amendment, just for good measure. Yes, I did say third, why would I say second? That would be redundant (this isn't implying that local gun laws violate the second amendment). He's getting violent about something which has no effect on him and which those it does affect, they have ways to remove it which do not involve murder.

I also support the existence of lower penalties, such as temporary imprisonment from the internet. Short sentences would be excellent for team-killers and 3/4 of the people in trade chat. In related news, I decided to check out Gevlon's blog again, since he'd hinted that he was going to save Shadow Labyrinth. I wasted my time, he had nothing remotely worth reading on the first page, just his usual insulting of everyone except himself. In his case I'd support online torture, the slow removal of his blog, replacing it with a Hello Kitty blog written by poor mentally disabled adults who live on state support.

Just to clarify, as I attempted to indicate with the paying bills part, online execution is intended to have absolutely no effect on real life. So unlike the idiot blogger I mentioned (no the first one), I am not advocating murdering anyone. Murder is bad.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Elections have consequences"

This was the reasoning of Lindsey Graham, US senator from South Carolina for voting in favor of Sonya Sotomayor. I won't criticize his voting for her, or against her (if he had), but his logic here is terrible. He goes on to essentially say that Obama is president and it is the duty of the Senate to confirm the justices that he brings to them.


It is not the job of the Senate to bow down to the President. If anything it would be the opposite, to fight him, to make him justify everything he does and says. Remember checks and balances?

I'll make a small concession: if Obama had 100% of the vote (okay 99.99%, since I think some people have such flawed minds that their votes really should be counted as double for the other candidate), then I'd say that Congress should work with him very closely, almost to the point of doing everything he asks. In that improbably scenario he would have the mandate of the American people. But even still, it would not be right to do everything he asks.

Obama clearly won. We're not looking at a slim victory (if even that) like 2000. He won. However he did not carry the nation. There was still a very large block of voters who voted against him. In South Carolina there was a large block who voted against him. They would not want to see their representative betray them by blindly following the man they voted again. He should be representing them and their views, not to say he should blindly follow them, but nevertheless, they count.

Where was I? Oh right: Just because Obama won the election doesn't mean that his justices get in automatically. Obviously they must be qualified. Sotomayor is. They must also have the ability to be unbiased, or at least not blatantly biased like most people. I'd hardly expect anyone to be perfectly unbiased, that just isn't possible for humans. If you claim you're unbiased you're either lying or not human, either way, you should feel bad (advanced alien races excluded).

In related news, the NRA needs to shut the fuck up. A vote for her is counted as a vote against guns rights according to them. America would be much better off if the NRA and similar ideological organizations would all die in a fire.

In other related news, I suggest reading Where the Right Went Wrong. I don't agree with much of it, but it's still worth reading. Sadly, he misses the biggest part where the right went wrong: getting taken over by Christian fundamentalists. The conservative movement was subverted and destroyed just so the Republican Party could get more votes. Skip that chapter and I hope you'll find it to be a good read.

Efficiency of Crime

I have a terrible habit of agreeing that bad people are bad, but for the wrong reasons. An example I thought of a while back was Enron. Generally I see two lines of criticism: the illegal and the economically stupid. I've seen no combination of the two: the economics of the illegal. Numbers vary, but they cost California something in the billions. How much did they make from that? That is the efficiency. I'll go ahead and pretend to be brilliant by defining the efficiency of a crime as the ratio of money gained to money stolen or otherwise deprived from a victim.

A high efficiency crime is theft of money. Sneak into a house, open (don't break) a window, and grab a few dollars. The money gained is the same as the money lost.

Lower efficiency would be stealing an object, perhaps jewelry. Selling it will give less than the original cost of it. The money gained is lower than the money lost.

Even lower efficiency is seen when property is damaged. This results in more loss with no gain.

In popular media the perceived brilliance of a plan is often related to the amount of money which is stolen. Enron looks like a smart crime because it got so much money. A guy that steals a wallet is shown as a bum. But the latter is much more efficient, getting what he's after with less proportional damage to the victim. For all the plotting and scheming of the folks at Enron, they wasted a lot of time being fancy when they could have been direct.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Theft is a strange thing

Or at least the way we punish it.

Imagine robbing enough homes to get a million dollars net profit. Let's make them upper middle class and you're really good at getting portable but valuable items. $10,000 per home sound good? I'd say that's a pretty good haul. Break into 100 homes. Imagine the sentence you'd get for being found guilty of breaking into 100 homes. Moving on...

A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Nacchio's lawyers that the $52 million figure was too high. Instead, the figure used should have been Nacchio's net profit resulting from illegal insider trading.

This is absurd. Break into those 100 homes and do you get a discount on your punishment for the side costs you had to pay? Do you get a reduced sentence because you had to bribe a cop to look the other way? Do you get a reduced sentence because you can't resell a $200 purse for the full $200? No, you don't get to write all that off. You stole the million, even if you didn't get a million in profit.

Nacchio was ordered to forfeit $52 million, but the court said that amount should be adjusted to reflect brokerage, commission fees and other direct costs of trading. The appellate court ruled that the lower court misapplied the law in order Nacchio to forfeit the gross proceeds of the trades.

Using the higher figure to calculate a sentence for Nacchio, the court wrote, "ignored the myriad of factors unrelated to his criminal fraud" that could've affected the value of the securities.

Just because crime can be expensive doesn't mean the courts should subsidize it. We're not talking about something with social value here.

Fraud and theft of this sort aren't just about the profits. They aren't just the money taken from others. They're also the damage they do to the system. They increase the cost of the system and that cost gets passed along eventually to consumers in higher prices, lower salaries especially at the high end where a huge portion of compensation comes from stocks and other non-cash assets, and lower profits for the companies, meaning less for investment. It all cycles around and around and hurts far more people to a greater extent than more direct theft.

I'll have more on this later, an older post I wrote about the efficiency of crime.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Part of why gun laws are such a problem

We're not all talking about the same thing, we should not be talking about the same thing, but we think we are. Huh?

I am highly in favor of gun control. Near where I live. It's a big city with a pretty high amount of gun crime. Innocent kids die far too often. It's terrible.

Now before you get up in arms about liberals taking your guns, let me ask you, where do you live and what sort of guns?

Do you live in Texas or one of the other 48 states which are not the one in which I live? If yes, then I don't care much about your laws.
Do you want a hunting rifle? Go for it.
Do you live in the southern part of my state which is more rural and therefore can make the case that the police are too far away? If so, you're effectively in a different state, so I have no interest in your guns.

Almost no one wants to take away your guns, they just don't want to die. But that's hard to get across in a nation filled with pundits and the god damn NRA. They don't like subtleties such as different laws in different places (since they have different needs and cultures). Those hurt their brains. Instead they like to scream about a handgun ban in Chicago restricting your rights in... let's say Kentucky. When someone talks like that, recognize them as either idiots or power-hungry and uncaring. They don't give a shit about you or your safety, only about tricking you into voting or them or sending them money.

Moving on...

There was a failed bill which would allow people to carry concealed weapons across state lines, making their permits valid in other states with permits. Correction: it was a bit tacked onto a military funding bill. Yes, someone is trying to sneak their own flawed ideas into the legislation that funds the soldiers that keep us safe. Shameless. Unfortunately those who added the piece and voted for it were not immediately removed from office (or at least reprimanded and less likely to be re-elected) for clearly putting pandering to special interests (remember the NRA?) ahead of their duty to keep our nation functioning and advancing. Here's the problem with the idea: it was stupid. Fine, I'll elaborate.

By making a permit from one state valid in all states, it would effectively make a national standard and that would be the lowest standard. Would you like it if the next state over gave permits to child molesters? I'd expect not. It's also not likely to happen, so let's set aside that bit of hyperbole, but retain the meaning: do you want permits given out by the lowest standard? It gets worse though.

This is a clear violation of states' rights. If your representatives, or possibly even a direct vote, sets certain standards, that is the choice of your state. Under this law your choice would be erased, replaced with the choice of some other state. The only exception being the state with the lowest standards; they'd get to replace the will of voters in every other state.

I understand the sentiment that a person's personal protection should not vanish for crossing state lines. I even support it. However this was not the way to do it. A better way would be to encourage states to create standards, maybe different ones within and between states so that suitable individuals can move freely and safely between states as needed. Streamline the process for getting a permit in another state if you already have one.

Cooperation between states will yield a much better process than a bloated national legislature selling their votes on a piece of legislation which tramples states' rights.

Guns will not go away in America and I don't want them to go away. Sadly, this is how the debate is framed, between gun nuts and sissy liberals who want us all defenseless. There is not only a middle ground, there is also room for each extreme in local and state laws. Don't be fooled into thinking that anyone is forcing you to do anything, or that they have the right.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why you should swear less. Warning: contains swearing

Fucking awesome! How much more awesome is that than say "totally awesome" or even just "awesome"? Did you add much meaning?

No. In fact you are destroying meaning. Profanity is useful. It conveys disrespect and offensiveness and sometimes anger. If I start dropped f-bombs, you can be sure something is wrong. Or can you? "Fucking awesome" would be a good thing. Or if I swear a lot around you, isn't that disrespectful? Probably not, I'm likely not trying to convey any disrespect and increasingly people are not perceiving any disrespect.

When you make profanity a common thing, it ceases to be profane. It loses meaning. But isn't it good to stop expressing disrespect and anger and offensiveness? It would be good if we were less offensive as a collective. However losing the capacity is not good. Loss of expression only weakens language. What if you need to shock someone or get their attention?

Keep swearing, but swear more carefully. Scold children for swearing. Get offended and indignant when someone swears a lot around you. Keep swearing dirty and offensive. It is your civic duty.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is fairness unfair?

Let's imagine a world with 6 resources and two factions fighting over it. The exact description of none of these matter.

In the first scenario the two factions fight. One is more skilled and ends up with 4 resources while the other gets only 1, and 1 resource is destroyed in the process. This is a merit-based system of distribution, though a rather violent and wasteful one.

Let's try something nicer.

In the second scenario they cooperate. They achieve full benefit of resources, ending up harvesting all 6. They are also fair and each faction gets 3 resources. This is rather unfair, isn't it? How?

The more capable faction went from 4 to 3, a loss of 25%. However the less capable faction went from 1 to 3, a 300% gain. Or is it 200%? I hate expressing numbers like this. There was greater overall prosperity, 20% more resources overall, and yet one faction lost resources. The other got all the benefits of the prosperity, plus more.

In this situation it makes no sense for the stronger faction to cooperate. Why should they give up what they earned? Fairness is nice, except for those on the losing end.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Digging ditches and Wall Street

Keynes advocated paying people to dig holes and fill them up again as a method of economic stimulus. Obviously this is nothing but busy work, a disguised form of welfare. It's clear that this would receive a lot of criticism. But something similar exists which is often praised and those who do it are called geniuses.

I am referring to speculating, playing the market, whatever you want to call it. These are certainly hard and can take a lot of time and effort. You need to find the trends and predict what will happen, get the capital, and generally spend a lot of time watching. And yet it produces nothing. It is digging holes and filling them up again while being paid for it.

The only difference is that digging holes relies on government while speculation relies of gaps in the market. Government takes your taxes. Does the market? Yes. Speculators close those gaps, passing on the difference to themselves. This difference would have otherwise taken the form of higher profits or consumers getting bargains. Speculators are taking and wasting your money just like government. Okay one other difference: paid digging of holes keeps people from starving and possibly getting violent, think of it as cheaper indirect security (I'll say more about this later if I remember). Speculators only fatten their own wallets.

To make it worse, speculators drive well, speculation. They inflate and burst bubbles.

It is important to not confuse speculation and investment. Investment is a wonderful thing. What's the difference? Investment drives production. Loan money to a business, they use it to buy computers or machinery or to hire more workers, that increases their profits and then some of those profits go to the lender. Investment does not directly produce anything, but it stimulates production. In contrast speculation puts in money and takes back more without any stimulation. While it could be argued that speculation could become investing given time, this is rarely the case, as seen by rapid buying and selling of stocks and bonds, especially on the secondary markets.

And then there's short selling. This practice is on par with kidnapping children and selling their blood to mad scientists for the moral depravity of it, though in defense of the kidnappers, they just might end up playing a role in advancing human knowledge.

Next time you see money taken from your pay for welfare, remember that it is keeping someone alive and housed. Look carefully and you might see the extra chunk taken out for cigars and cars for speculators.

To defend the ditch-digging, think of a side benefit which makes it more helpful and beneficial than welfare. By creating work it keeps people busy and in the habit of work. This has two big effects. The first is to reduce the potential for crimes caused by idleness such as vandalism or other activities which exist mostly out of boredom and lack of socially productive ties. The second, keeping people in the habit of work, will ensure that when the economy recovers they can make a smoother transition to a real job. It makes them more employable and that is good for workers and employers and will help to speed up recovery when it comes.