EUReKA

I've managed to catch most of the episodes of this new offering from SciFi so far. I've found it quite the most enjoyable bit of television viewing that I've stumbled across in a long time. It's also one of the few shows that I feel comfortable letting the kids watch with me.

I liked the approach of the show introduced in the pilot, and they've stuck with it in the episodes I've watched. The lead character (Jack Carter, played by Colin Ferguson) is an average Joe who is presented with unbelievable events that he has to make sense of as the episode progresses. You see this never normal town of Eureka, inhabited by geniuses and inventors, through his eyes, allowing you to make the journey from disbelief to understanding with him. Colin Ferguson's delivery as the straight man in a comedy sketch seems to work perfectly as his character attempts to make sense of the apparently chaotic mess that Eureka is always threatening to become.

Mixed in with the usual SciFi fare is the occasional tidbit of hard science and philosophy. I recommend it. In fact, I mention my interest in the show now, because SciFi will be re-airing the episodes that they've shown to date, next Wednesday starting at 4:00 pm. Just in case you want to catch up on the ones you've missed.



Additional: SciFi has been airing the episodes out of order. Check the episode numbers for the correct watching sequence. You'd think they'd learn from the mistakes of other networks (Fox and Firefly springs immediately to mind) but perhaps not.

Wrestling isn't SciFi

All my life, I have had nothing but contempt for professional wrestling and the fans who watch it. Unlike the other pro sports, which have some semblance of realism and rules and are based on amatuer sports that have existed down through the ages, professional wrestling is a complete farce of a sport that takes nothing from the real sport of wrestling, and simply grandstands on the outrageousness of the actors who make thier living engaging in it.

From the implausibilty of appearing to crush someones windpipe, and not killing them, to the appearance of bashing your opponents with objects from outside the ring (a behavior that doesn't disqualify the atheletes from continuing the exhibition) I find the entire realm of professional wrestling to be unbelievable. A surprising admission for a SciFi fan?

There is nothing scientific about professional wrestling. There is nothing futuristic about it. If anything there is more backwater 'middle of last century' stupidity involved in the sport than anything that might qualify it as 'forward looking'.

So why is professional wrestling on the SciFi channel? Because SciFi was bought out by USA networks several years ago, and USA networks is convinced that everyone loves wrestling. I beg to differ. The only Star Trek series ever to be canceled, Enterprise, was scheduled with wrestling following it. Not only did the geniuses over at UPN schedule these two mismatched genres together, they actively promoted wrestling during the airing of Enterprise. If the show hadn't have been so poorly conceived in the first place, the intellectually insulting ads for wrestling would have been sure to drive off most viewers.

...As the ads for ECW wrestling, and it's adjacent scheduling on SciFi with Eureka is probably hurting viewership of that show. Which is too bad. I hate to see a good program like Eureka damaged by programming geniuses at USA who just don't get it. Don't get that Science Fiction is an intellectual pursuit (or should be) while Professional Wrestling is anti-intellectual.

UPN's fascination with teenage boys and their boob babes spelled the end of Enterprise. Here's hoping that SciFi has some better brains behind it.

And Then There Were Eight

After the last Blog entry on the subject of planets, I got quite a bit of feedback on my opinion; most of it negative. How to define what a planet was, based on conformance to the ecliptic plane, or on any determination other than 'roundness' turned out to be more problematic than I at first thought. I finally came to the conclusion that what was needed was a distinction between belt objects that were round (I suggested the name 'planetoid' several times) and planets, rather than the other way around.

This is a lot like trying to define the word table, and coming up with a definition that fits what most people think of when they hear the word 'table'. When I think planet, I can see virtually airless Mercury with no satellites on one end of the scale, and Jupiter the gas giant with it's many moons on the other end. But what do they all have in common other than roundness? Gravitational dominance of their region of space, that is the other property that makes them planets. It's what originally disqualified Ceres and her sisters in the asteroid belt. It's why Pluto isn't a planet way out in the Kuiper belt. The objects trapped in the Lagrange points defined by the planets just confirms this.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the news from the IAU. Pluto is no longer a planet, and the qualification for the IAU to consider a round stellar object a planet is that it must have “cleared it's neighborhood”. I don't care much for the wording used, but it seems to communicate the intent reasonably well. I'm on the winning side, for once.

Which makes me uneasy. I generally adhere to the observation “If you find yourself holding a majority opinion, check your assumptions”. Majorities are very rarely right, contrary to popular opinion. I was a little mollified when I discovered that the voting was limited to 424 out of a possible 10,000 members, so the majority that carried the vote is anything but. Still, it's no different than the average city council race where more than half the population doesn't even know it's election day, much less bothers to vote. They still call it a win, why shouldn't I?

Does any of this have any effect on the newly dubbed dwarf planet Pluto? No, it's still spinning out in space, with it's (at last count) three satellites. You wouldn't think so to hear some of the arguments coming from the dissenters to the decision. Words like 'farce'. Why shouldn't a professional community be allowed to determine the definitions for the words that they will use within their profession? Definitions in common use will remain calmly oblivious to whatever the ultimate outcome of the current astronomical dust-up is. The same majority usage that assigns definitions to words like 'table' will dominate the literary landscape, no matter what those of higher learning would prefer in the end.

Here's hoping that some future child peering out a porthole in his parents' family owned business/home (which also happens to be a spacecraft) will learn the correct usage of the word from a more knowledgeable parent.

“Hey, dad! Is that the planet Ceres?”

“Sorry son, Ceres isn't really a planet. That's why we have to dodge all these other rocks out here...”

Non-Libertarian Politics

Been going back and forth with a self-identified libertarian ever since posting this entry to the blog. Going back and forth enough that I think I could write a novel on the subject of misguided libertarianism alone.

If you want to follow the thread, go here: www.privacyfinance.com/forum

I just can't wrap my head around why, as a libertarian, you would want to claim kinship to proposals that have failed so miserably. And yet, this particular libertarian does so, repeatedly.

So, I'll run through the argument again, see if I can make a dent.

None of the proposals were made by 'Libertarians'. All of them were proposed by average politicians, most of whom had an agenda at odds with the notions of 'freedom'. Ergo, libertarian only in name, and that name applied by a man intent on weilding a hatchet.

In order for the proposals that are being referred to as 'libertarian', to actually be libertarian, they would have had to produce some net gain of liberty and freedom.

Let's look at the failed programs in question. Assess the amount of libertarian thought that goes into them.

Gov't retained control of Bush's 'privatized' social security accounts. So you could 'invest' a part of your portion of the Ponzi scheme however you wanted, but you still had to go through the same bureaucrats to gain access to it, and I dare say that your benefits would not have been changed just because your portion of the fund did better than the next guys.

Calling it 'privatization' was a complete misnomer anyway. No control of current payroll deductions was offered in the plan. The proposal amounted to no more than a gov't controlled 401K plan. All funds for these 401K's would come from additional voluntary deductions from the employee's paycheck (check the facts) additional funds that would go into gov't coffers, be subjected to bureaucratic control at outlay, and yeild not one iota of freedom or liberty over the long haul.

That isn't privatizing social security; it's a meaningless little shell game with no net benefit to the individual. What would have been most likely to occur was the further takeover of the stock markets, inflating already overpriced stocks, yielding a net windfall in taxes for the gov't to fund further adventures in empire building by the sitting president.

Other than the label, no obvious libertarian content.

Reagan used the bubble created by the Savings and Loan shell game to pay for his increased military budget, and to stave off the recession that eventually did occur during Bush the first. None of his talk about reducing gov't ever amounted to action. Gov't increased in size during his term in office, just as it has for every other president in the modern era. No net gain for the individual, no real libertarian content, in spite of the fact that the administration at that time gave credit to CATO's plan to deregulate Savings and Loans.

But what about voucher systems. Surely vouchers and their defeat is a blow to the libertarian cause? The problem here is, the record doesn't actually show that vouchers have been defeated in all cases. While the privatization of schools (complete laugh there. Tax funded schooling, even when those funds are handed to the parents of students, isn't privatization) was fought at the local and state political level; the teachers unions and other groups that rely on gov't school money are national organizations, with vast resources at their disposal. The wonder is that even with the brute force of the NEA opposed to every change in the gov't school system, the public school facade has crumbled a bit in the last 10 years. There are charter schools that are excused from most of the controls applied to gov't schools, and in some places real voucher systems working. There are more and more private school options, and home schooling is in vogue.

Some of the voucher programs deserved to go down to defeat. The structure of these systems contained no benefit to the average person in terms of liberty and freedom, either because of restrictions placed upon use of the tax money, or because of the use of tax money in and of itself. I spoke to several owners of private schools in past years about this subject. Most of them would not have taken vouchers even if they had been offered. The cost of taking them would have far exceeded the benefit of access to a larger student body.

A similar fate lay in wait for medical savings accounts. The insurance lobby dealt with the threat to their profits quite handily. They did this by making themselves the arbiters of what is or isn't a tax deductible medical savings account, and structuring those programs that offer them in such a way that there is no cost benefit to the individual to participate in one. Hardly a libertarian defeat.

But surely foreign policy is...? Don't even get me started on that subject. I've had a message from a friend concerning this issue sitting in my inbox for over a year now. I'm still working up the rant on the subject. I think it will be a novel when I'm done. Calling the gov'ts continued infatuation with armies and things that go 'boom' a failure of libertarianism is about the lamest excuse for journalism I've seen in a long time. Libertarians are far from being "of one mind" on the subject; we are neither isolationist nor pacifist. To make these assumptions is to purposefully mislead the reader into thinking libertarians cannot cope with the challenges facing us today.

The conquest of the Middle East that Bush has embarked on has only just begun. How that's going to turn out is anyone's guess. Libertarians were warning people for years that something like 9/11 was bound to occur if we kept meddling in the affairs of other countries. Now that it has occurred, we have every right to eliminate the threat to us. I don't know when (or if) the gov't will ever get around to that.

The big picture, like the forest lost in the trees, looks very different from the portrait being offered. Some idiot with a hatchet and penchant for word play writes a book and an article and talks about how libertarian politics has failed; don't just shrug and go along with it.

It was nearly a hundred years from Marx and his manifesto to popular support for socialism; and that being based on the juxtaposition of altruist principles in agreement with socialist principles. Objectivism and Libertarianism emerged, what, 50 years ago? Throwing in the towel already, are we? I'm not willing to call the game 'over'. It continues as long as I draw breath.

If your response to all this is still "Uh huh, what you're saying is: it is not libertarian enough for you to call it libertarian." Then I'd like to suggest the following; "put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers". Leave the thinking to those of us more suited to the task.

Civics 101

When I heard the story of the Flag Burning Teacher my first thought was, every lesson on free speech should start that way. Maybe it would finally get the point across, what "...no law abridging the freedom of speech" really means.

Why gov't school and private school attempts to limit the freedom of speech of their students, even at home, by banning any participation on social sites like Myspace, should be rabidly opposed for the abuse of power that it is.

To really drive the point home, perhaps the lesson should include some book burnings as well. The Bible and the Qur'an, for instance. Perhaps a well known work of Einstein. Let's show what stupidity it is to think it proves anything by burning something. The stupidity of the wasted effort to ban the burning of symbols as well.

These same people who get so outraged about flag burning have most likely attended a church that has engaged in book burning at some time or other. Personally, I find much more to be outraged at when it comes to the willful destruction of thought and knowledge, than I do when the subject of destruction is nothing more than a flag.

The Roasting Of Bill Shatner

While the trivia on the Comedy Central site was fun...

When it comes to the roast itself, I have to say, I think I've been out of circulation too long. I remember roasts back when they were on 'regular' television. I don't remember the raunch level being that high. Actually, it couldn't have been. The censors would never have let it on the air. Why they bothered to bleep out the little they did is a wonder to me.

Editing for content is generally a mystery to me anyway. If I tune in to watch The Terminator, I'm expecting to watch The Terminator, not some whitewashed film in which the killing machine doesn't unload a full clip into his victims just to make sure they are dead. A film in which the (low) classic line "Fuck you, Asshole!" gets bleeped or changed. What's the point in watching a film that has been modified like that? If you're a bible thumper who gets upset at that kind of language and graphic violence, I daresay that a nicer version of the killing machine is not going to win you over. Why would they even tune in at all, other than to make sure the rest of us aren't watching the filth that they object to?

Editing for content pretty much sums up why I don't watch films on 'regular' television in the first place. Time was, I could watch movies and shows on cable channels and see them unedited; well, at least unedited except for the asinine pan and scan process, that is. But at least the content wasn't modified to suit the squeamish. Highlander chops off heads, Terminator uses full clips, the horror films are in full gore mode, and people talk like average people rather than the cardboard cutouts in Mayberry. Apparently, this is no longer the case.

So I'm sitting there last night, watching without a doubt the raunchiest roast I've ever seen, and they're bleeping the fucks and shits and whatever. Betty White can tell a joke about a cock ring (Not her best bit. When I watched the show through a second time I would have sworn that she was consciously imitating Don Rickles and Phyllis Diller, or Perhaps Ruth Buzzi, at different points in her routine, as sort of a salute to the old Dean Martin Roasts. Pretty funny) but she can't say the word 'cock', you have to bleep it? On Comedy Central, a cable channel I have to pay for, part of a service I requested? After midnight, no less? I don't get it.

I hate to break it to you people, I'm a pretty good lip reader these days. Partial deafness forces that on you (a condition Bill and I share) I saw her say the word. If I wanted to get offended, the joke itself would have been offensive, hearing the word would have made no difference. As it is, the fact that the content was edited at all is offensive to me.

Here's the point I'm getting at. If something offends me, I don't turn it on. I generally don't watch Comedy Central because the raunch level is too high. Nothing at all to do with the amount of 'cursing' that goes on, and everything to do with the continuous blatant sexual references. I have a pre-teen in the house, he doesn't need that kind of exposure, so I don't watch it (the daughter stumbled in on The Succubus episode of South Park when she was about the son's age now. She had nightmares about it afterwards. I've just steered clear of the channel since) I also don't watch many of my favorite films with the kids in the room, and for much the same reason.

[The children generally don't want to watch what I watch anyway (Discovery Channels, mostly) They want to watch Cartoon Network, which I have to turn off after Adult Swim starts. Something else I don't get. A network that caters to children, that has pretty graphic adult content after 10 pm. Futurama is great. Family Guy, I just don't get. It just gets lamer from that point on, until you hit the Anime at two in the morning. What's with that? Why all on the same channel?]

I tuned in to Comedy Central after putting the kids to bed, because I suspected what I was going to be watching would be off the charts on the raunch scale. It was. I don't even know if the wife will be able to sit through it. I don't know why I bothered. The lame-ass 'bleeping' every few minutes in the middle of jokes that wouldn't make the uncensored list in the first place just ruins the whole effect. What a waste.

Periodically, when watching network television, I catch the occasional promo for "the Network Premiere of (insert sex and gore fest film name here)" and I turn to the wife and say, "How are they going to make that film conform to network censor standards?" I never find out, because I either have the film on disk, or I can rent it. When it comes to Comedy Central's offerings, I'll probably never see the uncensored versions. I paid for it once already, and they shafted me on content. Why would I bother to pay for it again?

Mandatory Voting

Given a choice, I go to the polls. Not because there is a social contract, and not because "voting fixes everything"; but because it should be in my best interest to participate in the political process.

Like everything else in the world these days, there are some people who seem to think that we shouldn't be given that choice. Stumbled across a three year old article from Nixon associate John Dean concerning the appalling voter turn out at recent elections. The obvious solution to a Nixonite is (Nixon being known for his fondness of price controls and other top down gov't interference) mandatory voting. Well, we are talking about John Dean, and it was three years ago. What about today?

Doing a bit of sniffing around, I turned up another more recent article from Norman J. Ornstein. He's concerned about the polarization in congress. In his opinion, the cause of this is low voter turnout. His solution? Mandatory voting.

Personally, I think that congress isn't polarized enough. They still seem to pass way too many laws in any given term; laws that, in most cases, are probably beyond the authority of the US Congress. In any case, I very seriously doubt that mandatory voting will affect the makeup of congress. Opinion polling being what it is, it seems to me that even if you forced everyone to vote, blue states would remain blue, and red states would remain red. Could be wrong, but let's not go there anyway.

Ornstein bemoans the defeat of 'centrist' Joe Lieberman in the most recent primaries in Massachusetts by Ned Lamont, "a darling of the left"; with an anemic primary turnout of 46%. Shocking, isn't it? That the Democrat party would nominate a left/liberal candidate rather than a centrist? Here's a thought; why is the public expected to fund and participate in party primaries at all? Where is it written that there are only two parties, and participation in their nomination process should be mandatory for the public?

I think it's great that the Democrats should nominate candidates that agree with their platform. That was my major complaint against John Kerry; he wasn't a Democrat. If having to choose between the lessor of two evils is distasteful to Mr. Ornstein, perhaps the solution is to open up the political process, not attempt to control it more with mandatory voting.

It's not the first time I've heard this suggestion. It seems to roll out with nearly every election cycle; pundits bemoaning the lack of interest in the general population for the political process. As usual, most of the pundits simply have it backwards. People aren't interested because there aren't any real choices to be made. The average citizen knows that no matter what the candidates say in order to get elected, their votes in congress are bought and sold by the backers who get them there.

Why bother voting, when the real decisions are made by others? My answer is to vote in protest. Cast a ballot for any candidate that isn't an incumbent. Vote no on all bond proposals. Let them know we aren't happy with the way things are going. Vote third party (Go LP!) if it's available to you.

But now, turn it around. Voting is mandatory. What's a self-respecting protest voter to do in that instance? Don't vote. Imagine the headache that would cause. They'd have to hire every other citizen as a cop just to have enough people to enforce the law. Or, if you wish to avoid a costly legal penalty, cast a blank ballot. Nobody wins the election, does that mean the gov't has to close up shop? What a nice dream that is.

It's mandatory to vote in Australia, and many other places. In Australia, they have actually attempted to enforce the law, which has given rise to the "donkey vote"; pinning the tail on the donkey, pulling the lever for whoever because you are required to. The gov't estimates that this is a rather low percentage of the population (1 or 2 percent) but I'd be willing to bet that half the people who show up to vote simply pull the lever next to the name they recognize. Voila, instant incumbent re-election, at very low cost.

Which is, I think, the real reason that mandatory voting is even discussed. To artificially prop up the legitimacy of the sitting gov't, and to insure that it continues to sit for as long as it wishes. After all, if they aren't seen as legitimate, what's to stop them from going the way of the USSR?

...And if the population is really that apathetic, who's to say they shouldn't?




This is another one of those subjects that look different when thinking clearly; when your thinking isn't muddied with the duplicity of trying to arrange a society without force when there is force being applied around us all the time by the very constraints of physical existence as a living creature.

Try not eating, not breathing, not sleeping if you think you aren't forced to engage in these behaviors. Let me know how that works out.

Voting should be mandatory with a minimal fine for failing to vote. The funds can go into a coffer that is dedicated towards elections and campaigning. We need to stop this delusion that you can abstain from society while living in it. If you want to live like Robinson Caruso, I suggest you find an an island and get to it. The rest of us like the benefits of society. Things like computers, automobiles and smartphones. Things that take a society to build.

Primaries should be partiless. All candidates running for an office go on a single ballot, and the top two vote getters then go on to the general election regardless of party. Faction is the problem here and removing the factions from the process is the cure.

I'm compiling notes for the Politics 101 that I've been threatening to write for quite some time now. It's starting to take shape, finally.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Sort of a follow on to The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions. (and, apparently, I'm still trying to teach people to think) If, in fact, your actions amount to more than (feel) good intent, there's bound to be some whiner out there who isn't happy about it. Rest assured, they'll do everything they can to make sure that you never try that again.

So, today I get a private message from the Austin_Browncoats moderator about my negative wit, as currently displayed on her list, and a reference to a total buffoon that picked a fight with me a year ago on the list because I dared to suggest that Firefly was dead.

It is dead. The show was cancelled. It might be revived, but it won't be the same show. Star Trek never came back from it's cancellation. Oh, they made movies, and they made spin off series, but the Original Series (TOS, for the Trekkers out there) remains as the same 79 episodes. It effectively died when NBC pulled the plug in 1969. For the fans it 'lives on', but considering what they've done to the Star Trek universe of late, it looks more undead than alive. Perhaps 14 episodes and a movie, coda (fade out) would be a kinder fate for Firefly than the fate that befell Star Trek.

Back to the buffoon. She ranted and raved for a few days, then packed up and left the list in a huff because "she had better things to do elsewhere". Fine by me. Hadn't heard anything of significance from her before the meltdown, didn't see that it was much of a loss. I made my apologies to the list, and went on.

Only to have it thrown back in my face today. Well, that's just fine and dandy. Yes, I tend to speak my mind, and I don't generally give much thought to the impact this might have. I try to be concise and to the point, colorful yet clear, but I don't really care if it ruffles feathers. It's the way I talk (when I say anything at all) and it's the way I write. Honesty is the best policy, and I follow that policy to the letter.

Like the latest dust up. Someone who probably should know better forwards that old Cough CPR post to the list. Now, most lists (including mine) have notices about forwarding this type of junk to the list. It generally amounts to "don't". Being aware that this is a bogus bit of netlore that could be potentially fatal, I immediately zipped off a rebuttal. Very shortly afterward, I get a response from the original author defending her post as being sent with "the best of intentions" along with some companion sympathy shoulder rubbing posts from another member.

So here's another tempest in a teapot starting to boil. And who's fault is it? Mine!

Yepper. How dare I speak in such a condescending fashion. Well, excuse me for trying to keep people from killing themselves with CPR tips that won't work as advertised, and hurting someone else's feelings in the process. I should remember the good intentions the post was sent with and not worry about those people who might actually kill themselves with the advice contained in the post.

However, the tempest never gets to a full boil. Why? Not because the moderator put a lid on it, deleting posts on the subject (Attn: Ms. moderator. Firefly fans should have more balls than to go whining to the authorities when the other kids in the sandbox don't play nice. It just seems a bit counter to the whole "livin' on the raggedy edge" kind of mindset) no, it never came to a boil because I resisted saying the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The last post in the thread shows up, tearing at the hair and bewailing my lack of common decency for daring to take this poor woman to task for something she posted with the best of intentions...

...and I let it slide.

So, in the For What It's Worth department I have this response:

No. Good intentions are not required as a prerequisite for doing good. Knowing the difference between the good and the bad is. Good intentions that yield bad results might as well be bad intentions. Common decency compelled me to set the record straight in the first place. Otherwise I'd have been more than happy to let the boat float along undisturbed, just like the rest of the sheep who can watch someone being mugged in an alleyway and do nothing about it.

You can feel good about the fact that my good deed has not gone unpunished.

The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics

Read a rather amusing hatchet job the other day "The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics". The poster who forwarded it didn't include a source for the article. I am always suspicious of articles that are posted without source reference, It makes fact-checking that much harder. So I decided to take the time to look up the source for this one.

As for the content of the article, the author takes many liberties with the label "Libertarian". Most of them erroneous. While his examples are indeed libertarian positions (ending Social Security was one of them) the people who are promoting them are far from libertarian in belief. Most of them tout the ideas a conservative, and the politicians promoting these ideas would never admit to having any libertarian leanings.

In browsing the write up on his book, It looks as if Ronald Reagan is one of his heroes. Reagan too promoted libertarian ideas cloaked as conservative ones. One of them was the the foundation of the Savings and Loan debacle. Just like his current peer in office, Reagan's attempt at 'free market' corrections to the Savings and Loan mess were only free market in name, and left the industry wide open for the type of theft that eventually brought Savings and Loans to an end.

So too the 'privatization' of Social Security proposed by 'W' wasn't privatization at all; and the voucher systems intended to correct the failing public schools were not rejected by the citizenry but were in fact shot down by teacher's unions nearly everywhere they were proposed. Some limited voucher systems have taken hold. Find the info here.

The foundation that the author is part of also leaves me cold. New America? What's wrong with the old one? How about we just discover Real America, and leave it at that, eh? Like the New Deal, I don't think there's very much American over at New America. Maybe it's just me.

As it is, the Libertarian Party is still alive and kicking (albeit hampered by a core constituency that seems to think not voting is some form of effective protest movement) Mark Twain's quote sprang immediately to mind when I read the article title.

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated"

What has come stumbling to it's ineffectual end is the illusion that we have two parties in the US today. Anyone who has been paying attention should have a hard time determining the difference between Liberal and Conservative right now; trying to separate the Socialists who are only looking out for our best interests, from the Fascists who are only doing what's right for the rest of us. Personally, I don't think it's worth the effort.



You know, once you pull your head out of your big, fat ass the world tends to look completely different. What amuses me about posts like this these days is how convinced I was that everybody else was clueless and I was the only one thinking clearly. Now I'm just happy to still be thinking, muddled as it all seems to be. Saner but sadder, from a philosophical standpoint. 

Once again, I cite the Big Bowl of Crow I ate awhile back. Still trying to digest some of that. 

So, How Many Planets are There, Anyway?

I started this entry several months ago, when the latest planet-sized object beyond Pluto's orbit was located. At that time the astronomers were hemming and hawing over whether they were going to call it a planet; but since they called Pluto a planet, they pretty much had to call this discovery a planet as well. I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. It appears that event has now taken place.

'The other shoe' is the IAU definition of 'planet'. They recently formed a committee to come up with a definition that could be applied to all solar systems, and now they are floating that definition amongst their peers, looking for acceptance.

This new definition would yield 12 planets for this solar system, based on current knowledge. Some astronomers think this number could go as high as 24.

Personally, I think the astronomers are missing a key point in defining what is or isn't a planet. Anyone who looks at the orbit of Pluto (or the Plutons, as the new definition refers to them) and contrasts it with the orbits of the 'classical' 8 inner planets, can probably get the point I'm trying to make here. Pluto is clearly not of the same nature as the rest of the planets. It's orbit describes a body that is more akin to a comet than to a planet. The definition of planet should reflect this.

A planet should first and foremost be formed from the original accretion disk of the star that it orbits, or follow the same orbital pathway that the star's gravity and spin dictates. Anything of planet size that doesn't conform to this plane should be referred to as a 'planetoid'; of planet size, but not truly a planet.

Of course, this kind of level-headed thinking on the subject would yield no new planets for current and future astronomers to hang their names on, so I'm not looking for any of them to notice the argument at all, human nature being what it is.

Call me old fashioned, but I really think these types of defining moments should reflect the need for clarity, not the desire for self-aggrandizement.

Spamming with Good Intentions

Somewhere in cyberspace...

Someone unboxes their spiffy new machine with the go-fast stripes and fumbles their way onto the Internet. They get their e-mail set up, and join a list. A few days later something shows up in the inbox, and it looks like it might be something "Everyone Should Know". Why does this newbie think that? Because it says so right there in the text "Everyone Must Know This". Why would someone send something titled "Everyone Must Know This" if it wasn't something everyone should know? The newbie promptly forwards the message, because it's "better safe than sorry".

This same newb is then outraged when the next oldtimer who gets his helpful message dares to call him on the carpet for cluttering up his inbox. After all, he had the best of intentions at heart. What's one message, after all?

All I have to say to that is, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions"; and there are a million more newbies on the web everytime you turn around, every one of them forwarding messages "just in case". It all adds up to more than "just one message", it turns sorting e-mail into the hell I just mentioned.

The first clue to the quality of the content in the message can be found in the all important "Everyone Must Know This". Any post that contains this sentence can be safely roundfiled, As can any post that claims to be looking for lost children, any post that promises a reward if you forward it, and any post from a barrister representing a wealthy potential relative who is recently deceased. It is guaranteed to be garbage.

I've quoted from Break the Chain before. They are far from the only source for this type of information. Might I suggest that if you would rather be safe than sorry, Use my Rollyo Debunk search before hitting forward the next time. It is definitely safer to check sources than to forward blindly. If you have only the best intentions at heart, then perhaps you don't want to forward advice that could actually kill someone if followed.

Trust me when I say, I post this response with "the best of intentions". If my post makes someone think before hitting 'forward' the next time some chain letter hits their inbox, then I have actually done some good, rather than just intended it.

Voting vs. Abstaining

I keep running across well intentioned individuals who seem to think they are achieving something by abstaining from the political process. Other Peoples Politics and Madness of Voting are two of the more recent examples of articles that I've read; however, there is a long standing tradition of not voting amongst anarchist and hard-core libertarian types that dates back to the days of Lysander Spooner. Just wander by the Voluntaryist some time, and have a look at the amount of work that's been put into justifying non-participation in the current political process.

[I got a kick out of their statement of purpose; "Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society" Politics is the process by which groups make decisions; apparently they advocate a society that makes no decisions, which is an oxymoron. A society that makes no decisions is not a society]

This approach amounts to nothing more than sour grapes; I'm not playing until the rules are the way I want them to be. In the world the way I think it should be, a simple majority would be a meaningless political concept. Rights would stand inviolable by ignorant voters, who simply believe what the school board tells them and raises taxes for everyone because "The schools need more money". In a properly set up gov't, every citizen would be pre-qualified to hold office. At election time, a name is drawn for each office that needs a new occupant, and the person attached to that name gets that job for the duration. None of these popularity contests, no owing favors to your backers once you gain office. The only thing binding you is your oath to uphold the constitution.

Unfortunately that isn't the world we currently live in. The process outlined above is another form of democracy known as sortition; a process we should have adopted from the Greeks (rather than going with the beauty pageant, the essence of election) but did not.

I'm no devote' of elections (as the above should show) but the game stands as it was set by the people who preceded us here. Either you play the game before you, or you don't play at all. You can pick and choose which parts of the game you will take part in; but the game will be played the same way it always has been.

When the major parties pay lip service to getting out the vote, while all their ads are clearly slanted towards convincing their opponents core constituency to stay away from the polls, it seems foolish in the extreme for the average libertarian to hand them precisely what they are asking for. The protest non-voters are simply lost in the shuffle, 10% (at most) of the roughly 50% to 60% who simply don't vote in any given election.

However, if that 10% voted Libertarian, someone would notice. And imagine what would happen if the other half of the country showed up and voted LP at the same time...

...Might actually make some changes around here.



Jim Davidson (of Indomitus, linked above) has other things to say on the subject of voting. Like this bit of amusement that he titled "Head Shots" over at The Libertarian Enterprise. Other than his confederate sympathizers reference to Lincoln, I think it's an excellent proposal. Perhaps I should get in a bit more silhouette practice.

Unfortunately a good many of his arguments refer back to the issue he has with Lincoln and the War Between the States (I use that title instead of "Civil War", because I just want to avoid the whole argument of what to call that war) as his objections to this blog entry also make reference to the behavior of Lincoln in relation to the Constitution (I'll leave the graphic descriptions to the readers imagination) and what a proper society looks like.

I'll leave the discussion of what a proper society is to another blog entry (as well as the subject of confederate folly) and address the points on voting that this entry is about.

I'll beg Jim's leave to reprint the salient points here:
I'm not a libertarian, RAnthony. I have signed the covenant of universal consent, so I am not average. I'm a propertarian and a free marketeer. Which is precisely why I cannot consent to a process that defrauds many and imposes force on all.

Those who choose to vote have given their consent to be governed by whomever has been chosen in the polls. As George Carlin explains, if you vote, you shouldn't complain. The guys who counted the votes told you who won. You agreed that whoever the guys who counted the votes said was the winner would govern you. Carlin also noted that he doesn't vote because he doesn't consent to be governed.
Except for Carlin's comment, granted on the above. I take the opposite tack from Carlin. Those who govern do so whether you consent to it or not. We had a discussion not so long ago concerning the nature of property (also a subject to be discussed elsewhere) where Jim took me to task for holding positions, and how that behavior was self-defeating. I submit that standing on the idea that you are refusing to consent to be governed, and so do not vote, you are in fact defeating yourself by holding an indefensible position. Those who govern will exert their authority whether you will it or not.

There is nothing that is right about this, it simply is.

I maintain that those who do not vote have no room to bitch about gov't; they have forfeited that right by refusing to participate in the process (rigged as it is) and should simply accept whatever raw deal is handed to them in consequence. Since Genghis didn't even bother with the trouble of a popularity contest before doing as he wished, I'm inclined to accept the (ridiculously) limited avenues of political expression available to me in exchange for my intention to rant on incessantly about every little thing that pisses me off in the current state of affairs.

The majority of people who don't vote (and yes I know, the true majority voices no opinion at each and every election. It's one of the things I find amusing when pundits talk about how "the majority has spoken". Clearly they don't get it) don't bother to get active in the political process, and take no interest in politics, are the ones who enable the charade that we call government in the US to continue.

[While the above description probably doesn't apply to Jim and other activists that I correspond with, it definitely does apply to 90% or more of the non-voting public; the apathetic as the media refers to them]

Will voting change anything? I sincerely doubt it. But it beats sitting around doing nothing while the the current gov't destroys what little is left of the country.

Who's birthday is it, again?

I like to experience my birthdays in a low-key fashion. No party, no celebration, just some quiet time at home. It took years to convince the wife that I really didn't need a surprise party on my birthday (I've since found out that she does, so I dutifully attempt to plan one each year) it was just too unnerving, wondering when I was going to be ambushed. It's been several years since the last party, and I haven't missed it.

This year we went to Schlitterbahn for my birthday. How's that for low-key? Well the kids loved it, and they are what is important to me these days.

So, I'm finally sitting at home enjoying my well earned quiet time, and the phone rings. It's my mom. My mom who is in California with her mom, on my birthday. Not here with me (not that it's surprising, but the next part is) on my birthday, but in the even more distant (from Mom's locus operandi) California, for her mom's birthday. This is when I find out, for the first time, that Grandma's birthday is the day after mine. You'd think someone would have mentioned it, wouldn't you?

Not if you knew my Grandmother. This is the woman who was lovingly referred to as "The Wicked Witch of the West" for most of my childhood years. This is the woman who, when informed of the wife and I's impending wedding plans said "I wouldn't bother". The grandmother who doesn't even know that she has grandchildren living in my house. The only reason I ever had kind words for her was because she was married to my sweet old Grandfather. Him I'd take time to talk to, or go out of my way to visit (it was on one of those visits when the wife earned the animosity of the rest of the family by putting the wicked witch in her place. It's funny how family can be endlessly cruel to each other, but can't abide it when it comes from the figurative outside) he's been gone for several years now.

I generally keep track of birthdays. Whether or not someone celebrates their birthday it remains an important day in a person's life and I like to know when to pass on birthday wishes if I'm presented with an opportunity. Consequently I was a little surprised that I didn't have Grandma's birthday noted in my calendar even with the past relationship that we have had. A fact that I laughingly related to my mom, along with the fact that I didn't even have contact information for her to append the birthday to because I couldn't imagine why I would ever need to talk to her.

Mom's response? "Well here she is wish her a happy birthday". I could hear my mental fabric ripping at that point. My side of the conversation went like this;
Hi, Grandma. Happy Birthday!"
"Yes, today is my birthday, and yours is tomorrow, isn't that funny?"
"You didn't know that today was my birthday?"
"Yes, I'm getting forgetful these days, too. Well, talk to you later."
My mother calls me on my birthday so that I can wish a happy birthday to a relative that I literally, mercifully have not thought of for years. A grandparent that hadn't bothered to remember or mark the birthday of a child of her only daughter. Ever. As in; never called, sent gifts, nothing. Not for any of the grandchildren in my immediate family, ever. That is how I will remember her, and I'm reminded of this fact on my birthday.

Thanks Mom. I think I'll surprise her with a suitably equivalent gift next year. A car repossession, or perhaps an IRS audit. Something that reflects the thoughtfulness of the gift. From now on, on my birthday, I will be reminded that the WWW's birthday is the very next day. Something to truly look forward to.

At least mom called. I guess.

It's the Environment, Again?

There is a recurring cyclical argument in politics that is due for another ressurection. Every election cycle some variation of Clinton's "It's the environment, Stupid" is trotted out by desperate Democrats, and it generally plays well.

Global warming is just another variation on the theme, as Al Gore and his film An Inconvenient Truth readily prove.

The real Inconvenient Truth is; politicians lie, and Al Gore is just another politician. As Thomas Sowell points out in his latest column over at The Atlasphere, "Studies Show" is a phrase you should immediately discount:

More recently, the National Academy of Sciences came out with a study that supposedly proved beyond a doubt that human activities were responsible for “"global warming".” A chorus of voices in the media, in politics and in academia proclaimed that this was no longer an issue but a scientific fact, proven with hard data.

The NAS report not only had statistics, it had an impressive list of scientists, which supposedly put the icing on the cake.
The only problem was that the scientists had not written the report and in fact had not even seen it before it was published, even though they had some affiliation with the National Academy of Sciences.
At least one of those scientists, meteorologist Richard S. Lindzen of M.I.T., publicly opposed the conclusion and has continued to do so. But that fact was largely lost in the midst of the media hoopla.
Besides, what is a mere meteorologist at M.I.T. compared to Al Gore and his movie. The environment is the Democrat's terror war; and it has even less substance. The answer to the problem of the environment is to get the gov't out of other peoples business...

[In other words, allow individuals to pursue polluters instead of placing the EPA in the way of progress on the issue. Which is what the EPA's purpose is. Don't beleive me? Explain superfund sites, then. Government forgiveness for polluting businesses. Taxpayer funded cleanup of corporate pollution.]

...And let the concerned private citizens handle the issues. As the world's biggest polluter, the US gov't doesn't have any business pretending to care about the environment.



I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects.  This is from my last post on climate change;
I was slow to buy in to the idea that climate change was a thing because of this, and for a brief time was in the same camp as several of my friends (and the late author Michael Crichton as another example) that climate change was some kind of conspiracy. It wasn't until I ran across this argument presented on 350.org that I realized just how demonstrable AGW was
The EPA is necessary. In fact, the EPA isn't powerful enough which is its major flaw. Superfund? That is a bought congress weakening the EPA from outside. The corrupting effect of money on the government. What we need is a global authority on the environment. I just hope we're smart enough to craft an organization that will do the job it needs to do without becoming a totalitarian regime all by its lonesome. Able to protect natural resources without crushing human ability to use them. That task will redefine the phrase balancing act

Boiling Frogs

DC City Council Approves Temporary Expansion of Video Surveillance was posted to a list I belong to today with the body of message being "And so it begins".

Begins? This is just the latest phase here in the US. In Britain and in many other places across the world, this type of technology is already in place, being used by gov't to keep track of it's population on a day to day basis.

This is not a beginning, it's an ending. The beginning is lost to history. Perhaps it occurred following the Civil War; when the gov't that succeed Lincoln's, fused what was a collection of independent states into a federal conglomerate that would be henceforth declared "indivisible". Perhaps it goes all the way back to the time of the founders, when Alexander Hamilton got in bed with the bankers of his time and created the first central bank in the US.

Whenever the 'beginning' was, it makes very little difference now. The current (and growing) police state has very little to do with the free nation that existed before it. As the old adage goes, frogs will jump out of hot water, but will stay put until it's too late if the temperature is slowly raised.

...It's getting very hot around here.



The entirety of this post is a slippery slope fallacy.  As much as any one of us can see 1984 in the surveillance technologies in use today, there is also no denying that crime is averted or solved, lives are saved, with this technology.  The real question is, where do we draw the limits? That is the conversation that (still) needs to occur.

The title is a reference to a myth, as is the closing statement. As this article points out;
First, a frog cannot jump out of boiling water. Remember the last time you dropped some egg white into boiling water: the proteins coagulated into a mess of thin, white strands. Unfortunately, the proteins in the frog’s skinny legs would do the same thing. So the frog in boiling water could not jump anywhere. It would die a nasty death.
Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”

No Fluids Now

I'm just not buying this latest wind up. What commonly available household fluids could be taken on board a plane (in sufficient quantities) and when mixed, would yield a high enough explosive result to bring down a plane?

Lots of talk about TATP, Acetone Peroxide, as the culprit. However, that explosive is a powder. How much fluid would be required in order to yield enough powder to create an explosion of sufficient size? (found this page on a possible detector)

I can't help but think how convenient the timing of this all is. Senator Lieberman, the only pro-war Democrat in congress looses his parties nomination. Blair, Bush, et al are looking more and more like idiots these days; Iraq is a morass, the Middle East is in full melt down mode, and the UN is trying to stop Israel from cleaning house in Lebanon.

...What better way to motivate the populace to get back on the "Terror War bandwagon" than a good ol' foiled terror plot?

Get out of Hell Free

Given my attitude, I'm sure no one would be shocked that I carry a wallet full of these cards around with me: http://www.goohf.com. I hand them out to anyone who's having "one of those days". Apparently, I'm not the only one: http://www.goohf.com/million.html.

I've never gotten a negative response. I've always received at least a smile in return, which can be quite an achievement, depending on how bad the day is. Finding something funny even in the worst situations is one sure way to alleviate stress (and as someone who's Meniere's trigger is stress, it's important to know how to get rid of it) so I follow Saltheart Foamfollower's advice and laugh, for "Joy is in the ears that hear".

I've gotten some pretty strange looks over the years, laughing when there isn't anything to laugh about. After twenty years experience in the architectural industry, when the boss once again shaves 30% off of all your estimations of time and money, and expects you to complete the project with no errors anyway, truly "it is to laugh". Getting angry just makes the time pass more slowly.

...And who needs that?

Codes and Jesus the Superstar

I was reading a review of the Da Vinci Code movie over at the Atlasphere (The Da Vinci Code: Fighting Faith and Force) the other day, and noticed one of the links at the bottom of the page labeled "the U.S. Catholic Bishops Brown-bashing site" I found the link intriguing, so I clicked on it.

The actual title of the page was the funny part. "Jesus decoded", it proclaims.

That's a great idea. Maybe they can explain the trick with the fishes and the loaves of bread, or perhaps the walking on water. That would be good to know. The most important trick, of course, would be the changing of water into wine. Very popular at parties, I would imagine.

Too bad this sort of insight wasn't available to Judas 'back in the day'. Might have saved him a lot of missteps. "Who are you, what have you sacrificed?" One of the most memorable lines of lyrics from Jesus Christ Superstar. Judas, as one of the disciples, should have known how to 'decode' Jesus. Obviously it isn't as easy as the Catholic Bishops would have us believe.

A fondness for Jesus Christ Superstar is
one of the few things that remains constant from my days as a 'born again' to my current ascribed atheism. I picked up the DVD recently and watched the movie for the first time. Alamo Drafthouse aired snippets of the movie between showings of The Da Vinci Code (I have written about the movie and the book before) and it intrigued me. I've listened to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack since the early eighties, but I've never had the occasion to watch the film made from the play. Little did I know that the soundtrack was in fact the original version, created before the play even took shape.

That makes it all the more interesting to me that they chose to alter some of the lyrics from the soundtrack in making the play and the film. One of the most telling lines, for me, has always been Jesus' despairing declaration to the lepers "Heal yourselves!" which is the last line in that song on the soundtrack. The movie uses a much more ambiguous "Leave me alone!" to end the song.

I prefer the more empowering declaration, myself. More fitting in describing what is wrong in the world today. The vast majority of people seem to think that what they need to fix themselves is external to their selves; when, obviously, the answers lie within.

Judas fails to comprehend were the answers lie as well. The movie, album, etc. ends with Judas still asking questions of Jesus (which still plays quite well) when the real question is why Judas would turn in the man he professes to love. Jesus Decoded, indeed.

Classmates.com, just like being back in school

I've had a running battle with Classmates.com for years. I originally joined up in order to reconnect with fellow Government School survivors, see if any of them have managed to pull it all together and make something of themselves.

Little did I know that the website is run by the same quality of petty little modo that they hire to administrate the average Texas School District. I'm surprised that the world continues to exist with the weight of so many soul-less creatures living on it.

Yepper, being on the classmates site is almost exactly like being back in school. Customer service reps like the average teacher, happy as can be until you question their judgment. The bullies have changed a bit. Now the nerds who program the site are the bullies (it's probably revenge) setting up a confining little rats maze of questionnaires that are supposed to let everyone know who you are; but don't let you give answers that actually describe yourself. And, of course, it wouldn't be school without the in crowd. The in crowd is represented by the people so desperate to be loved that they pay the (over priced) subscription fee (revenge of the nerds!) so that they can hang out with all their in friends from yesteryear.

...if only there was a cafeteria stocked with greasy soyburgers and wrinkly green beans, I'd feel like I was back in that nightmare.

Luckily it's still possible to slip a note in secret to a friend, or I'd have no use for the place, at all.



From the archive:

----------
From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Saturday, December 21, 2002 01:42 AM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

The section on Politics is wholly inadequate.

It's pointless to include the questions at all, if a full range of answers is not allowed. Specifically, I am a Libertarian, I have been one for more than ten years. If I continue to participate in politics, I will continue as a Libertarian. As such I am not able to complete the first of the profiles, and I'm not interested in filling out the rest unless some modification of the first is possible.

http://www.self-gov.org/wspq.html

The structure of the answers also leaves out the possibility of truthfully stating your politics if you are a Green or any other minor party.

I sincerely suggest a re-vamping of the entire structure for questions of politics.

Thanks,
R. Anthony Steele
----------
Dear Classmates Member,

Thank you for contacting Classmates. Our members are at the heart of our business, and it's your involvement that helps us continue to grow and change to meet your needs. We appreciate and value your taking the time to provide feedback.

In response to your feedback, we will forward your message directly to a Product Manager for review. While Product Managers generally can't respond to all feedback directly (with millions of members we get a lot of feedback), please know that member comments were responsible for the current change and have been responsible for many improvements in the Classmates site.

Again, thank you for your suggestion. We appreciate your help in making Classmates a better Web site.

Sincerely,

Kelly
Member Care Team
----------

Sounded promising. A few months later, they sent me an invite back to check out the 'all new' bio questions.

----------
From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Saturday, January 25, 2003 01:42 PM
To: membercare@mc.classmates.com
Subject: Enter Profiles

I got an e-mail today claiming the profiles were "all new". However I still can't get past the first three questions, because 'Libertarian' is not an answer that I can give.

So I'll never know what the rest of the profile looks like.

-R Anthony Steele
----------
Dear Tony,

Thank you for contacting Classmates. You can only access the first 3 questions for a profile because you are a Basic member and not a Gold member.

If we may assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Kitty
Member Care Team
Classmates Online
http://www.classmates.com
----------

Kitty is clearly a rocket scientist. She has stumbled across the coincidental facts that:
  1. I am a 'free' member, and
  2. free members are restricted from viewing the bio's of other members past question three.
So she helpfully sends me a note. She has blithely ignored the obvious and relevant fact that don't want to see other peoples bio's, I simply wish to edit my own. She also calls me "Tony". A bit familiar, don't you think?

----------
From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Monday, January 27, 2003 09:24 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

I'm sorry, but you've missed the point.

I'll never get past question number two, because question number three's choices preclude an accurate answer. There is no dichotomy of politics; no left/right liberal/conservative contrasting of political views.

I am a libertarian and an objectivist. As such I am clearly not encouraged to participate at Classmates, since the questions are designed to exclude me.

Why would I want to pay a membership fee to a website designed to exclude me?

-RAnthony Steele

PS. Tony is a nickname I reserve for friends and family. I don't think ya'll have earned the right to refer to me by that name. Mr. Steele would be acceptable.
----------
From: Member Care
Sent: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 2:23 PM
To: R. ANTHONY STEELE
Subject: RE:Enter Profiles

Mr. Steele,

Thank you for getting back to Classmates. This is not a political forum here at Classmates. It is about fun and reconnecting with old friends. If you would like for us to remove your registration for you we would be more than happy to comply with that request.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have created for you. If we may assist you further, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Sincerely,

Kitty
Member Care Team
Classmates Online
http://www.classmates.com

----------

From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 04:58 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: RE: Enter Profiles

If it's not a political forum, then why am I REQUIRED to state what my politics are in the 'profile'? Also, who says politics isn't 'fun'?

It's a simple request. Make the question answerable by those who do not conform to mainstream politics, or remove the question all together. It makes no difference to me, as long as some action is taken.

To take no action at all is to state unequivocally that those who do not conform need not apply; and as I am quite active all over the web, you can be certain that I will let others who share my views know exactly where classmates stands on the issue.

You can consider this an escalation of the issue. Please forward this to someone in a management position; someone who cares more about the client base than the front line techs obviously do.

Sincerely,
-RAnthony Steele

----------

After that rant I got the "sending this to the product manager" canned answer again. Well that's just spiffy-dandy, idnit? The next time they sent me an invite to check out new content, I had a better one for them...

----------
From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Tuesday, September 07, 2004 07:44 PM
To: membercare@mc.classmates.com
Subject: Other

Ya'll 'spam' me with the latest "come visit us" message so I wander by to have a gander at who has joined. Oh, here's a name I don't know, who is it? Let's check the profile... Oh, I haven't completed my profile yet, because of the unresolved issue of the required answer to the unanswerable political question... Which still hasn't been changed (see below) can't complete the profile without the question, can't read up on who is new on the site.

Kind of reduces the usefulness of Classmates for me, don't cha think? Not being willing to include my political views kind of gives me an incentive to *not* be a paying member (something my wife has wanted to do for awhile) Feel free to snub me again, your customer NO-service types have done so before. (also see below)

More than willing to leave my name up for free at this point. Won't be paying for a thing until something changes in the profiles.

Sincerely,
-R. Anthony Steele
----------

I have sent that one each subsequent time that they have sent me a message to "check out" something on the Classmates site. 'Clarice' helpfully submitted my address for removal from the optional mailing list (apparently I missed that option. There's only about 8 pages of options to wade through) The removal didn't take, and I had a brief conversation with 'Sam'...

----------
Hi R. Anthony,

Thank you for contacting Classmates.
There is a selection for the political views question that says "I prefer not to answer".

In response to your feedback, we will forward your message directly to a Product Manager for review. While Product Managers generally can't respond to all feedback directly (with millions of members we get a lot of feedback), please know that member comments were responsible for the current change and have been responsible for many improvements in the Classmates site.

Again, thank you for your suggestion. We appreciate your help in making Classmates a better Web site.


Sincerely,

Sam
Member Care Team
Classmates Online
http://www.classmates.com
----------
From: R. Anthony Steele
Date: Friday, September 10, 2004 01:15 PM
To: Member Care
Subject: Re: Other

See, that's the problem. I want to answer; I demand to be allowed to answer since ya'll put the political question on the bloody thing in the first place. But, I can't answer, because 'libertarian' isn't one of the pre-set answers you can give, and I can't just leave the question un-answered or I can't get to the next page.

-RAnthony
----------

...and I get sent to the "product manager for review" again. They've since fixed the problem as far as they are concerned. The political question is no longer mandatory, you can leave it unanswered; and they quit sending me messages. I still want to answer the question. I enjoy a good political debate. Apparently I'm not the kind of person they want hanging out on Classmates. Which suits me, I was never one of the in crowd anyway...

Liberty Dollar In the News: Big Bad Black Balloon Dramatizes Debt!

Bernard von NotHaus is staging a media event the day after Bernanke's next expected interest rate hike (August 9th):

The day after Ben Bernanke raises interest rates for the 18th time, Bernard von NotHaus, noted Monetary Architect, will present a $50 Gold Federal Reserve Note for redemption as specified on the Note and guaranteed by the Constitution, at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at 33 Liberty Street in lower Manhattan.

Anticipating rejection, von NotHaus will present the sorry outcome of a National Debt gone wild at the Press Conference, while a large black balloon with “NATIONAL DEBT” lettered on it inflates behind him until it bursts, just as von NotHaus predicts the US economy will burst.

The entire press release is located here.

I don't want to be too hard on 'Helicopter Ben'. He really is facing a no-win scenario. There isn't any way out of the current fiscal crisis. A hundred years of fiat paper is coming home to roost, most likely during his tenure in office. Yep, you can almost feel sorry for him, till you remember all the perks that come along with his job.
Oh, the pain, the PAIN.
The "for coverage by CBS" link at the bottom of the Press Release leads to a totally unrelated, yet interesting, news article about the Chambersburg "Chamberfest" that features Liberty Dollars being used to bolster local commerce. It also features a close up of the ALD vending machines that were rolled out last year at LDU. Don't know why they felt the need to include that...

Anyone taking bets on whether Bernard gets his gold from the Fed? Didn't think so. There hasn't been any gold backed currency since about 1933, and I doubt they left a clause in to cover all that old paper that still says Gold Certificate on it.



...Of course, it helps if the Fed chairman actually does what you say he's going to do. Who knows why Bernanke didn't raise interest rates today. The symptoms related to looming inflation are nothing if not stronger today than they were at the last Fed meeting, so why not raise the rates again? Perhaps interest rates really have nothing to do with inflation? Perhaps they actually make inflation worse?

Israel Should be Allowed to Kick Ass

I don't know, do you think the title is too ambiguous?

There have been a couple of columns from Thomas Sowell over at the Atlasphere on the subject of the latest Israeli conflict. One of them "Peacemongers and War" I couldn't agree more with. A good portion of our problems today comes from appeasers who are all too willing to talk to aggressors. You don't talk to aggressors, you destroy them before they have a chance to act.

The second one, however, I have a real problem with. "Is It Time for a Cease-Fire?" offers the same old tired argument that I've heard from overzealous hawks since the mid-70's, when I first started paying attention to politics. "We have to be united behind our leadership in times of crisis." I've heard it so many times I can quote it verbatim. Generally they include some wording like the following:
Back then, the president's defeated opponent in the 1940 election - Wendell Wilkie - not only supported the war, he became a personal envoy from President Roosevelt to Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Personally, I like to hear disagreement. It proves that we are indeed still a free country. The crazy thing is, no matter how many hawks recite history with a solidarity message, there was disagreement in the 1940 election on the subject of war. "Isolationism" was the rule of the day, and Wendell Wilkie and FDR both paid lip service to it. Wilkie flip-flopped on whether he was in favor of going to war or not, but FDR was "dedicated to keeping America out of the war".

[that he went on to get us into the war by baiting the Japanese with the Pacific fleet is still hotly contested, but I suggest that you pick up a copy of Day of Deceit and give it a read]

On the subject that is really on everyone's lips, whether or not Israel should be called to heel, I have to stand on defense; real defense, not this "holding some imaginary line" defense that lost us the Vietnam conflict. No, Hezbollah is the latest in a long line of aggressors that has sworn the destruction of Israel (and the US) and has made good on it's threats by taking hostages and violating borders. As far as I'm concerned Israel should be allowed to continue cleaning house until the last Hezbollah fighter stops breathing or surrenders. This is the only lesson that an aggressor will respect, application of superior force.

I think we should resurrect an old pre-WWII program and lend-lease Israel whatever weapons they need. The more house cleaning they do, the less we will have to do later.

Generating Power

Every time I hear someone lamenting "But what will we replace the oil with if we don't buy it from the Middle East?" I run across some other way that we can generate power without relying on imported oil.

Methods like this one http://www.oceanpowertechnologies.com A proprietary system that converts wave energy into electricity. Or maybe you just want fuel for the car? Check out Biodiesel. Want to heat your house? Vegetable oil can be used for that as well (Stumbled across this process just recently. Garbage into Oil. Another obvious process) Then there is always the sexy solar panels and wind turbines.

As an architect, I've always been fond of the earthshelter home, myself. Position your home correctly, with just the right amount of soil built up around it, and you have a home that stays cool in the summer and warm in winter, with little or no need for air conditioning. Combine that with rainwater harvesting and a decent photovoltaic system, and you've got a potentially self sufficient home.

As I stare at the electric bill that my standard builder home gifts me with each month during the typical Texas summer, I can't think of a more beautiful dream than to not have to write that check anymore...

Rebuild 'em

Stumbled across this group the other day http://www.twintowersalliance.com/

This was my first thought after watching the towers fall. We need to rebuild them, taller and stronger than they were before. Nothing will show our resolve more clearly, than to reconstruct what was taken from us on that day, as best we can.

No other construction or memorial on the 'ground zero' site will ever equal the statement that restoring the twin towers will make.

Travel Status

In the film I watched Sunday, they made some comment about "letting the airlines go broke" if you couldn't travel without proper ID (the soon to be rolled out National ID card) when the time comes. Well, I can do you one better.

I haven't flown since 9/11/2001, because the wife refuses to take me with her when she flies. Apparently she objects to my choice of flight apparel. What is that apparel, you might ask? Flip-flops, hand cuffs, and paper scrubs stenciled "Federal Airline Prisoner"... and nothing else.

I have carried a pocket knife, nail clippers and whatever else I felt was needed, every day of my life, pretty much since the day I first put on pants. I'm not about to give up my essentials just because some jack-booted thug tells me I "can't carry that in here".

...At least not without some sort of a show, anyway.

When I've said this to people in the past, they generally mouth some words to the effect that "they're only trying to make the airlines safer". Let me tell you how to make the airlines safer. The attendant who greets you at the door of the plane asks you a simple question "are you carrying a weapon?" If you answer no, she hands you one to carry (loaded with the proper rounds, of course) for the length of the flight.

...Do you honestly think there will ever be a hijacking under those circumstances? Didn't think so.