31 March 2009

Living well, not spitefully, is the best revenge

I can understand someone deciding that he’s going to drop out of organized religion, but this kind of effort seems bizarre to me. If religion and / or the church isn’t important to you anymore, well it’s not important — get on with what ever it is that you do consider important.

It reminds me quite a bit of Satan worship, rather than atheism, because it still accords religion and God a central place, just inverted. It’s also why I never viewed heavy metal music as anti-religous, either, because it is frequently an affirmation of Christian theology. It’s also one of the few things I ever convinced Orrin Judd of, making him re-assess his disdain for the heavy metal group Black Sabbath.

Don't feed the animals

Transtrerrestial Musings complains about the poor geography in the TV series “24”. Personally I think that if I were writing such a show, I would deliberately refer to non-existent locations for the same reason I would use a “555” telephone number. It’s hardly critical to the story and it avoids possible unpleasantness for anyone who might work or reside at some location that becomes inadvertently famous via the show.

30 March 2009

Words have meaning

President Obama fires General Motors CEO — how is that not literally fascism?

The Professionalism of Modern Journalism

Mickey Kaus reveals the deep secrets of JournoList and I now understand why it was kept secret. Not because it’s the inner cabal that drives news coverage in the USA, but because it’s so pathetic. I participate in a number of professional mailing lists and those are the kind of people who get filtered. It is the kind of thing I saw when I hung out with journalists back in high school and college, but I presumed that professionals would mature and become, well, professional. Silly me!

24 March 2009

Strategic pausing

Some clip from a President Obama speech was on the radio this morning and I was too tired to turn it off. As he droned on, I finally realized why I find his vocal style so grating — it’s the teleprompter. Obama doesn’t read a chunk of the text, internalize it, and then speak it. He just reads the text as it goes by so you get all these unnatural pauses based on the line breaking by the text layout code rather than those a human would insert. If Obama were replaced by an Japanese robot, who could tell? Except it would probably be more human sounding.

23 March 2009

It seems all so long ago …

I saw this article about yet another failure by the Obama Administration — this time setting up a blue ribbon economics advisory council that, after six weeks of crisis, has yet to have a public meeting and doesn’t seem to have one scheduled any time in the near future.

I was reminded that I had intended to keep track of that sort of gaffe but dang! — the gaffes have come so fast and furious that the concept is now obsolete. There’s no need for carefully gathered evidence of fire when everything in sight is burning. Obama is not even former President Carter — as Mark Steyn points out at this point in Carter’s term he was still years from being a well acknowledged political joke. Obama is just must faster.

Which brings me around to this post about who’s the bigger socialist, former President Bush or Obama. Is there any dispute left on that subject?

Note to self

I need to remember this next time I get hit with the “evil plutocrat loots business” argument. The main difference is that there’s little chance of firing their boss.

That invaluable local coverage

Here is yet another example of why so many see no loss from the collapse of Old Media. Completely fake event with paid protestors vs. actual citizens? It’s all about The Narrative and you don’t need to actually subscribe to know what that is.

22 March 2009

Life imitates Art

Has any one else noticed the similarity between President Obama’s commonly used phrase “as I have always said” and “we have always been at war with East Asia”?

17 March 2009

A little triumph in these dark times

A ruling has finally been issued in the long running case of the model rocketry community vs. the BATFE and the BATFE lost, badly. If you read the article, “APCP” is “ammonium perchlorate composite propellant” which is the standard solid fuel used in larger model rockets. The BATFE claimed it was an explosive and regulated it as such, despite it being, in fact, not an explosive1. The judge basically acknowledges this in his ruling, along with the BATFE being jerks about the entire matter in taking the attitude “we’re the BATFE — we don’t have to explain anything, even to a judge”.

The model rocketry community is in favor of reasonable regulation, i.e. we don’t think being able to store hundreds of pounds of APCP in your basement is a good idea. But the idea that 62.5 grams of it in one grain is a hazard on the order of dynamite, but two 50 gram grains have no need of regulation, was just ludicrous. As far as I know, under the current regulations, you can in fact store hundreds of pounds of APCP anywhere you like as long as you do it in chunks of 62.5 grams or less. I favor a “total mass” regulation with some reasonable value (say, 25-50 kg). Under the limit, do what you like. Above the limit, you need to start taking standard precautions appropriate to high energy flammables. But I don’t expect the BATFE to see it that way.


1 For the hard core geeks, an explosive is defined as a substance with a rate of chemical reaction that is faster than the speed of sound in that substance. If the rate is rapid but slower than the speed of sound then it “deflagrates”. APCP deflagrates, it does not explode.

Don't arm the deer

This article about the decline of Old Media has been passed around a lot, but I will basically ignore the content and use it as a bait and switch for my own thought, which concerns the question “Why wasn’t Old Media successful at harnessing the Internet?”.

I think that’s a good question, if for no other reason than back in the 1970s when I first heard discussions on this subject, the concensus was that the key “value add” feature of the coming Information Age was editorial. That is, filtering the flood of information and picking out the good bits. Old Media seemed in an excellent position to make the most of that, being information companies and having skilled editors. But it didn’t work out.

One reason is (as for the music industry) the Internet disintermediates, which in turn means that organizations in the middle must become far more efficient and lean to survive. This is very hard for any instutition to do and Old Media proved no exception. I have plenty of personal anecdotes related to me by people in the industry of the sort of padding that was and to some extent still is present.

But I think that more importantly, the rise of social media meant that consumers could become participants at the same time journalism became much more proscriptive. In other words, just as journalists were becoming more like deer hunters, the deer were building their own guns. Hunters don’t like that and would certainly shy away from anything that would upgrade their prey’s capabilities. There was the Narrative and nothing detracts from the Narrative like dissenting voices (as many of us know from personal experience). I think that Old Media missed out on the Internet to no small extent because they were unwilling or unable to handle debating their Narrative. You can still see this happen on a regular basis, some Old Media Person of Importance lashing out at the idea that the peasantry might dispute his version of events or even throw contrary facts at him. It won’t matter in the long run — we are swinging back from the era of mass propaganda in which Old Media was forged to a far more fractious style similar to the coffee houses of early Industrial Age Europe and purveyors of information will just have to adapt or go under.

Healthy taxes

One of the big issues floating around at the moment is the possible plan by the Obama Administration to tax health benefits, or more accurately, remove tax deductions for them.

Of course, one should slam President Obama on the basis that he excortiated Senator McCain on that very point during the campaign, but if we mocked Obama for every such blatant act of mendacity we wouldn’t do anything else.

Still, I could actually support this plan. It is not so much that I support higher taxes, but I strongly oppose the differential tax treatment of health expenses depending on who pays. It is an economic absuridity that causes many problems. For instance, the portability issue and all of exceedingly complex regulations (e.g., CORBA) that follow from that. All of that exists only because of the tax differential. Remove it and the entire portability issue evaporates. In this particular case, I think the benefits of removing that distortion outweight the costs of the increased taxes.

14 March 2009

Dealing with a faceted persona

I don’t normally care much for James Lilek, but this column was reasonable. It did bring back to me an issue with Twitter and other such social technology, which is that I am a multi-faceted person and there is very little overlap of interest between those facets.

For instance, I am a father and my kids are utterly fascinating to my family and SWIPAIW’s family, but really of no interest to anyone else. My political opions, which are of interest to at least you wierdos, find no willing audience among those families. However, I could probably stun most of you in to near catatonia in minutes if I got rolling on the glories of some new trick I figured out involving the optimization of internet protocol handling libraries in C++, even though I do have acquaintences who find that fascinating.

Consider how this applies to something like Twitter. What would I tweet about? My kids? My politics? My template meta-programming? I suppose I could have multiple avatars but then I have to keep them straight and monitor all of them. It rapidly becomes more trouble than it’s worth and I haven’t seen anything that really addresses this issue.

Elections don't matter

I have been saving this post from InstaPundit. It has a video clip from Saturday Night Live making fun of Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The interesting bit to me was that it referred to the last “eight years” of GOP control, even though the Democratic Party achieved majorities in both Houses of Congress in 2006. Not only do many Obama voters not know who had won the previous mid term elections, but neither do the SNL writers. Then today I saw this

House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told me [emphasis added]

Clyburn is, however, the House Majority Whip. The writer still doesn’t know which party has a majority in Congress after two elections. I wonder sometimes if many people simply look at the state of the nation and if it’s going badly, just assume it must mean the GOP is running the government. Just another depressory.

13 March 2009

Language parsing

Here’s a quote

Wh[o] would need one of these guns? Susan was right yesterday. Nobody needs guns like these, especially with grenade launchers.

Now, is this

  1. a standard “guns are evil!@!” mush from a MAList?
  2. a funny sarcastic comment?

I originally read it as (2), but now I think it might be (1). Ah the joys on interacting on the InterTubes!

Ideological Clash

I have watched with amusement the clash between feminism and multi-culturalism. I could see decades ago that these were fundamentally incompatible — feminism is a universalist ideology, holding that certain social rules are right or wrong every where at all times. Multiculturalism is, in contrast, defined around the exact opposite concept. It was fun to watch but I think it clear that multiculturalism won, that the feminist part has largely surrendered its universalism and retreated to finding every more mote like spots on Western culture. There are, of course, hold outs who still fight on but in the big stream of things feminism is a spent force while multiculturalism is still vibrant.

What to watch next? The anti-prohibitionists and the greens. Subject? Marijuana legalization. Cause? That much marijauna is smoked. What, then, will be the dominant position on second hand marijuana smoke? Will not the greens fight to make marijuana de facto illegal again in exactly the same manner as they have attacked tobacco? Perhaps those opposed to recreational pharmaceuticals might, in a moment of Machiavellian brillance, give in on de jure legalization while cranking up the tax and environmental attacks in alliance with the puritanical greens.

11 March 2009

My economic recovery plan

Make it illegal for anyone with an MBA from an Ivy League school to a corporate officer or member of the board of directors of a publically traded company. That would be far better and more effective than any additional banking or security regulations.

Dogs and Ponies

Off to a trade show tomorrow.

The Curse of the Classifieds

I read yet another ‘Death of Old Media’ article recently and I thought — “were classified advertisements for Old Media the equivalent of petroleum deposits for third world nations?”. That is, a dependable revenue stream that bore little or no relation to product / government quality. There is much talk of the “Oil Curse’:http://www.danielpipes.org/163/the-curse-of-oil-wealth, why not the “Classified Curse”?

Market Syndrome.

Maybe I will turn this weblog in to rants on geek literature. For this post, I will defend the vision of Syndrome from The Incredibles who is, in my view, unfairly maligned. For example, Melissa Clouthier rips in to him for the following —

Oh, I’m real. Real enough to defeat you! And I did it without your precious gifts, your oh-so-special powers. I’ll give them heroics. I’ll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that everyone can have powers. Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super — [chuckles evilly] –- *no one will be.”

This is presented as if self-evidently bad, but why? It sounds extremely American to me. The fundamental concept in this quote is that if you’re not as cool / rich / powerful as someone else, improve yourself. Syndrome isn’t advocating stifling anyone else, or holding them back. And once he’s done that, he’s going to share his improvements with his fellow citizens through the market. So, in essence, Syndrome’s “evil” plan here is to make himself and everyone else effectively have super powers and make a lot of money doing it. I don’t see the problem.

Is that because no one will be special because of super powers? Isn’t that like objecting to eliminating income inequality by making everyone rich? Hey, if some one offers me a plan to completely eliminate differences in income by giving everybody Bill Gates’ life style, I am onboard with that.

P.S. Yes, yes, I know, Syndrome is in fact a bad guy, but because of his use of murder, kidnapping, and wholesale reckless endangerment, not because he invented super power technology.

What we're all watching

I need to go see the Watchmen movie. I bought the comic book graphic novel back in the late 80s and quite liked it. I never believed the ending but hey — artistic license. I do have to agree that none of the characters are really likeable, although I disliked Rorscharch and Dr. Manhattan the least, with my preference going to the latter. I do think it’s funny that Rorscharch is generally the favorite, given how clearly Moore tried to make him unpleasant. Unfortunately, Moore made the other chacters (except the Dr. - he’s cool) even more unlikeable.

Well, I did kind of like The Comedian. He may have been scum, but he was forthrightly scum. He was a nihilist but he knew he was and accepted it, unlike so many of the modern day nihilists who try to pass as liberals.

It's a depression

I haven’t been writing much lately because it’s all such a depressing subject. The ongoing farce of the Obama Administration and the current economic problems are bad enough. But what’s actually depressing me is that there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

As I noted elsewhere, Obama is the problem, he’s the symptom. And the aspect of that strikes me most is the incredible amount of deference I see toward government and its actions. Our own Mr. Eagar, when confronted with the abomination that was the “stimulus” bill, basically responded with “Bush sucks!”. Well, perhaps, but that’s hardly a defense of the legislation in question. It came down to Eagar condemning (rightly) a CEO who looted a company just before bankruptcy. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looting hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on her pet causes in the name of “stimulus” raises not a hair of an eyebrow of concern.

If it were just Eagar, it would be merely amusing. But he’s actually far more rational and knowledgeable than most, which makes the situation rather a bit more concerning. I am completely lost as to how to get people to think “stealing $100M is bad” rather than “a private interest stealing $100M is bad”. You’ll never convince someone of the benefits of privitization and limited government if the cost of government never registers.

So we plunge on in to the abyss, our Congress spending money like drunken monkeys fling poop and there’s very little outrage or even disapproval. For example, here’s Representative Charlie Rangel explaining in crude terms how it’s not a citizen’s business to be concerned with a Representative’s corruption. But he’ll be re-elected, just like Representative John Murtha was after calling his constituents rednecks and racists. If voters will do that, why shouldn’t they consider themselves a ruling class?

P.S. I have a bunch of clippings for this, I’ll add them as I encounter them again.

Samizdata.

Jammie Wearing Fool

Hot Air on the PMA scandal. Here we have a lobbying group “buying” money from the government, literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth. The House has already voted down any investigation and I predic that will suffice to keep the scandal effectively unknown and unpunished.