23 September 2008

one man, one vote

or not. while most americans want to see 3rd party candidates in the presidential "debates," the people who apparently run our election process do their own thang, as the advocates for self-government point out.
Few Americans realize that the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation which controls the debates, was actually created by the Republican and Democratic parties themselves, in order to control the debates for their own advantage.

In 1988 the Republican and Democratic National Committees took over the presidential debates from the non-partisan League of Women Voters. Both parties were angry that the League refused to operate the debates the way the parties demanded, including keeping out viable third party candidates.

Upon withdrawing, the League of Women Voters declared: "...the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."

History has proven the League correct.

Since its founding, the Commission on Presidential Debates has been chaired by former Republican Party chair Frank Fahrenkopf and former Democratic Party
chair Paul Kirk.

Yes, that's right. The former heads of the two dominant parties set the rules for who gets to be in the presidential debates, who the panelists will be, and what questions are asked.

entertainment

the makers of orphan feast and viva caligula now offer five minutes to kill (yourself) 2. it's tougher than you think.

environmentally clean lawn management

it may be a bit expensive for a weekly suburban lawn mowing, but i hope competition will drive prices down.

(HT: +1)

the special interest orgy has begun

the times spins a tale of curs gone wild, looking for ways to get rich off the bazillion dollar bailout of capitalist pigs that took on too much risk.

Financial firms were lobbying to have all manner of troubled investments covered, not just those related to mortgages.

At the same time, investment firms were jockeying to oversee all the assets that Treasury plans to take off the books of financial institutions, a role that could earn them hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fees.

Nobody wants to be left out of Treasury’s proposal to buy up bad assets of financial institutions.

by pandering to special interests and jiggering with prices, there is a hope that we will all be able to get back to holding hands and singing songs by the campfire.
“The trick for the Treasury and American people is to make sure that the price exacts enough of a toll on the originators and holders of these securities, but not enough to destroy lending,” said Mr. Gross of Pimco, who has argued in recent weeks that the government must buy distressed debt to deal with a “financial tsunami.”
with Government protecting us, we need never fear.

22 September 2008

you will never convince me...

to send my kids to public school.
"The 'E' is to be recorded no lower than a 50 percent, regardless of the actual percent earned. For example, if the student earns a 20 percent on a class assignment, the grade is recorded as a 50 percent," said the memo from Jerri Lippert, the district's executive director of curriculum, instruction and professional development, and Mary VanHorn, a PFT vice president.
(HT: scavinger)

21 September 2008

quote of the day-or-so

Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Hermann Goering

take that, immigrants! gays! rich people! home schoolers! and anyone else who doesn't believe what i do!

(HT: nin)

data that resists analytical distortion

(HT: p2l, via FlowingData)

what is a free market?

i am always baffled by the willful ignorance some people have of history. gubmint has always sought to control the flow of capital in deference to one or more special interest, and this mortgage mess is no exception. while skepticism of a pro-business utopia full of happy high-fructose-corn-syrup-swilling children should be applauded, coming down in blind favor of 'more regulation' is equally ignorant.

many have used the US health care system as a poster child of the wrongness of free markets. i'm not sure in what sense that claim is made, since it is given as a simple Truth without any backing facts. what is never really addressed in all the webs-wide diatribes are price controls. under a universal coverage scheme, there would still be limits placed on health care, perhaps different from the ones we have today, especially limited access to procedures such as those being seen in the UK. the only difference would be who gets shafted. the flaw is in the semantic packaging of health care as "insurance" when it is actually a group payment plan. by removing the consumer from the cost of the service, we are distorting consumption decisions. prices are free to rise, unchecked by the people who should care the most.

in a free market, prices are free to fluctuate as necessary, without any artificial ceilings or floors imposed by external forces, especially central planners. if pollution has a cost, why is it not reflected in the price of the polluting fuel? granted, there are great arguments to be had on how to determine and apportion these costs, but the fundamental problem remains: once a price becomes mired in political influence, decision-making necessarily becomes distorted. the same politicians who spout pro-alternative energy rhetoric are the same people that demand lower oil prices, necessarily driving people to ignore their consumption habits.

i would argue that the gubmint's role in a market is to provide non-proscriptive regulations that promote transparency and seek to prevent fraud, even including watchdog groups in the fray (since they aren't as susceptible to political influence pedling). i would consider this approach to be a breech of the levy that is the regulatory monopoly gubmint holds over the market.

i invite folks to give up on the Government Control Fairy that is the true cause of all of our current woes. free markets are not good or evil, but the embodiment of voluntary, non-coercive exchange of property between participants. gubmint does have a role in protecting people in this environment, but should recuse itself from presuming to know how to implement these exchanges.

the folly of central planning

as if Kelo-style takings weren't enough, KipEsquire points out the further absurdity of 'historic preservation' run amok. by making a blanket statement that 57 blocks and 197 additional properties are somehow collectively historic is simply assinine.
Kip’s Law: Every advocate of central planning always — always — envisions himself as the central planner.
this fits nicely into my theme around election time that people are perfectly willing to give away other people's rights, so long as their desires are acheived.


(HT: MP)

20 September 2008

a double standard

Bob Barr, that such-n-such so-n-so from Georgia, has filed suit to remove the D and R candidates from the Texas ballot. McCain missed the filing deadline and O'Bama may not have been nominated in time, according to the lawsuit. i guarantee that the facts of the case won't change the outcome. third parties are subjected to the letter of the law in an effort to keep them off the ballot so they won't interfere with the big boys.

the major parties are not subject to laws the same way we are. they control every aspect of elections, including gerrymandered districting, ballot access, debate participation, election law, registration, etc. as with any cartel, their interest is in maintaining the current power structure. until The People give a shit and actually take change for themselves, we will be stuck with the same stupid load of crap that is the american political system.

if you read the comments on all the different articles on this subject, you'll see a lot of folks don't care, provided their guy is put in a better position. in this climate, we get what we deserve: more Bush-style antics. as long as we keep putting more and more power in the hands of the few, we'll be required to fight dirty to make sure the 'right' people are entrusted with that power. that's why american politics is so much more cutthroat these days: we're all pissed at each other and want to make sure They don't get to choose for us.

16 September 2008

the sound and the fury

recently i've been pwned by my system sound, which began ignoring my requests to hear music unless it was on certain webs pages, and even that was iffy most days. i've been a-googling for days looking for config files to tweak and pestering scavinger for tips. (he doesn't know anything.) the next step in its grand plan to annoy me into purchasing a mac before its time was to screw up the volume indicator window. now my mouse controls won't alter volume and the stupid thing won't paint correctly.


on a lark, i decided to change a sound setting even though i had never altered any such settings on this installation. turns out to work again if i change the device from mixer to playback. good enough for me.
somehow, i'm betting that if i try to turn this machine into a beatbox factory, i'ma hafta revisit this.

14 September 2008

the books i've never read

since the news that DFW killed himself, i've been thinking more about reading Infinite Jest. it's been on my shelf for about a decade since one of my friends recommended it to me. i never really got past the idea that it is over 1,000 pages, which, as a slow reader, i find daunting. the other book i've been meaning to read for twenty years or so, but never had the balls to crack open, is Gödel, Escher, Bach, which is more of an intellectual bugbear. maybe i should read them before i die.

what books have been following you for years?

11 September 2008

a measure of wordliness

Erin McKean a the Boston Globe applicates good thinkery in sunderizing the conceptification of english as a static language. what has caused our language to be so widely adopted is precisely its malleability in the face of a changing world. my History of the English Language prof taught me (and i actually accepted the idea!) that no native speaker of a language speaks incorrectly; they merely speak a different version ('dialect' being a judgmental word).

i used to scoff at those who dove or even those who couldn't appreciate the correctness of the oxford comma, but i learned that the evolution of the language is far more important than my being correct (which is still very important). heck, even well-edited magazines these days are splitting infinitives. so i agree with Ms. McKean:
[T]hose same writers [who preface their use of non-standard words] are giving up one of their inalienable rights as English speakers: the right to create new words as they see fit. Part of the joy and pleasure of English is its boundless creativity: I can describe a new machine as bicyclish, I can say that I'm vitamining myself to stave off a cold, I can complain that someone is the smilingest person I've ever seen, and I can decide, out of the blue, that fetch is now the word I want to use to mean "cool." By the same token, readers and listeners can decide to adopt or ignore any of these uses or forms.
my only caveat: 'fetch' is not to be used.

(HT: mikeh)

10 September 2008

my children are not your social experiment

Sandra Tsing Loh pops a gasket when she learns that O'Bama sends his kids to private school. rather than truly wondering why, she bites his rhetorical behind for letting so many people down. after all, it's his duty to bring up the scores of other kids by sending his own kids to mill about in their schools. she is nice enough to cite several studies, which of course does nothing to encourage people to gamble on their childrens' future. she states clearly that the schools available to the O'Bamas are horrible. yet it's his responsibility to improve them.

i have many times come across this type of person: someone so convinced that we should all throw our collective lots in with the local public schools. these are the folks who stridently support choice in other areas of life, but consider it a sin when it comes to schools. of course, rather than fixing them herself, she demands other people do it: a very common theme come novembers.

i applaud the O'Bamas choice to send their kids to a pricey private school. it is their choice, freely exercised for the betterment of their children. he has gained some respect from me for putting his children above the politics of government indoctrination centers.

09 September 2008

news organization implelents electioneering policy

i sent this note to WRAL "5 on your side." notice that i was even nice enough to use caps.
I'd like to ask your help in convincing the WRAL management that they are willfully altering the outcome of this year's gubernatorial election by improperly excluding Michael Munger from their debate.

As a citizen, I believe the proper role of the press is to present me with unbiased information on *all* the candidates that appear on the ballot. (Ballot access is an issue with a different organization altogether.) By setting an arbitrarily high limit for participation, they are obviously attempting to quash the voice of a significant minority of citizens.

WRAL is a willing pawn in the blatant manipulation of elections in its viewing area. It has shamed the heritage it claims as a presumed member of the press.
+1 sent them an email complaining about this BS exclusion. she got a response (below). we'll see if i do.
Dear +1 -

Thank you for your feedback regarding the candidates participating in our Gubernatorial Debate tonight. Our threshold for inclusion in the debate is that a candidate should have 10% support among likely voters in a WRAL News poll or another poll conducted by an independent entity. Currently, Mr. Munger, the Libertarian candidate, does not meet that threshold and therefore, will not participate in the debate. However, Mr. Munger will be invited to participate in other platforms
which will give his views and positions exposure. He currently has a candidate profile on WRAL.com and he will be invited to record an issue-message for voters to view on demand on our website. Other coverage that will be broadcast on WRAL will be afforded as we draw closer to Election Day.
this threshold is obviously bullshit, given that munger is already on the ballot and thus should be included. of course, wral is free to exclude him, but i would go so far as to call for the revocation of their press credentials, given their blatant disregard for impartiality. (at least they look more impartial than fox news.)

notice, too, the fit-for-a-dog scrap thrown to munger: a basement cubicle on their webs site. he will also "be afforded" unspecified coverage at an unspecified later date.

we shake our heads and click our tongues over stories of the poor chinese who are ruled by a single party. but people here don't blink an eye when we are ruled (perhaps not as stringently) by only two parties that repeatedly rejigger the game as it's being played in an effort to keep themselves in power, controling redistricting, ballot access, debate participation, and other schemes.

as Dennis Kucinich says: Wake Up America!

07 September 2008

more munger

the n&o has a little q&a with munger, without resorting to denigrating copy, which may be attributable to his standing at duke university. it's obviously not in great depth, but it does hit upon some great points, also without expecting him to answer too many federal level policy questions. and it ends with a great line that i find especially pertinent, one i'm sure is canned, but offers a sense of purpose.
If you hear me, you hear my message or the message of other Libertarians, and decide not to vote for us, well, we've lost a vote. If we are not on the ballot, you've lost a choice.

06 September 2008

i am invincible!

turns out i will live forever. i need not worry about any ailment, because coffee will save me.
New research has added to a growing body of evidence that coffee has substantial health benefits. Among the latest findings: Caffeine prevents the development of multiple sclerosis-like symptoms in mice; higher coffee intake is inversely related to the risk of developing liver cancer and, best of all, coffee drinkers have a lower death rate than those who abstain.

05 September 2008

grass haters

i am apparently not alone in my dislike of the green resource drain. some sample messages on my neighborhood list regarding the application of chemicals to common areas:
I am vehemently opposed to chemicals being sprayed on the lawn directly in front of my home where my child plays to control weeds. There are many more pressing issues in this neighborhood that should be focused on rather than spreading chemicals in lawns to reduce weeds.
We are opposed to the idea because of the cost. If each homeowner does not follow through by watering the new seed and tending the weeds then this measure is simply a waste of homeowner's dues. It makes no sense to the treat weeds only to have them grow back. It would be nice if we all had a perfect lawn but we don't. As long as everyone's weeds and or grass is cut and edged- we believe our homeowner's dues could be better spent!
I completely agree with this! Some of our lawns do not even grow grass or weeds as the clay was not removed and soil put down when the sod was placed! We should spend the money something more practical.
sometimes it's nice to see people have well-placed priorities.

sudo nautilus

tricky little bugger, sudo nautilus crashes if there is a blank cd in your cd writer. huh. might should fix that.
dood@astrobase:~$ sudo nautilus
[sudo] password for dood:
seahorse nautilus module initialized
Initializing nautilus-share extension
Segmentation fault

04 September 2008

Assert.IsSlow(NHibernate.Cache)

i am working with my aged twin on optimizing the memory usage of a rather process that reads records out of several large files, makes sense of each record, and lobs each into a database (a very rough outline). each record has 4 ids that map to database entities. easy enough, nhibernate has an identity map (Fowler!) built in to handle duplicate references and presumably bypass unnecessary calls to the database.

turns out i'm not sure about all that. using the visual studio profiler, we noticed that an inordinate amount of time was spent in the nhibernate lookup. by simply switching to a custom dictionary (hashmap), we more than halved the lookup time. not sure how deeply i'll investergate this oddity, but if i need more performance, it may be one of the places i check first.