Inalienable Rights Defined

(Originally posted here)

I had a request the other day to elaborate on how I would define inalienable rights without including god as the architect. This is a summation of what I've posted before on the subject.



Simply put, You exist. You exist as a individual, capable of sustaining your own life. The requirements for you life to continue can be conceptualized into 'rights' that you possess as a living, thinking being. You have the right to continue in your life, since you are capable of sustaining it barring intervention by others. This right is secured by the rational capacity of the individual, linked to the corporeal existence/free will of the individual, which manifests as actions in 'self defense'.

Your 'right to life' leads to corollary rights. Existence is measured in time, and time (spent wisely) yields game/crops/shelter or 'property'. You have a right to (justly acquired) property because your continued existence (your 'right to life') depends on being able to dispose of your property (the manifestation of productive life) as you see fit. Following this type of chain, you can produce several 'rights' that a person should reasonably expect to be 'allowed' to exercise. Liberty is the corollary right that 'allowing' falls under, since there would be no question of the free exercise of your rights if you did not have others with equal rights to contend with.

Since we all equally exist, we should all have 'equal' rights. The rights are inseparable because they stem from what we are. A prisoner has rights. Not because we 'allow' them; but because his free will enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights *in spite of* the full force of gov't and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. The unjustified killing of a person is therefore a destruction of a value equal to your own, and should be dealt with harshly by those who value the rights they possess.

That's about as far as I've taken it. Much more to be written...



Mea culpa review, 2017. I haven't updated the page recently, but if you go to Emergent Principles of Human Nature you will discover that my mental obsession with this topic has produced some fruit. Fruit of questionable value probably, but something at least. 

The Abortion 'Issue'

(Originally posted here)

I see this subject pop up at every election cycle. I doubt this time around will be any different.

I'm so tired of this argument; I've been involved in online debates on this issue for more than 10 years. I'm tired of it because 'I' know the right answer; but neither of the entrenched sides of the discussion care to recognize it, no matter how many times I re-explain it.
Abortion wastes potential life (not a 'life' itself. That requires brain function and breath; facts which the 'pro-lifers' gloss over in the quest to 'save' the unborn. Question: how do you save children from their own parents? Even the born ones?) and so should not be used casually; especially medical abortion. Waste of potential, of any kind, is repugnant; but there is more than one potential at risk here.

A woman has the right to use and abuse her own body as she sees fit. Dictating to her the 'sacred' nature of the potentials she is faced with is an invasion of her privacy. (Question: why isn't male masturbation illegal? It too wastes potential 'life') If 'she' has no privacy, does 'he' deserve it? If individuals have no privacy, then neither do businesses. Can you imagine corporations opening the inner workings of their board rooms to public scrutiny? Can you imagine why Roe v. Wade remains; and will continue as a decision?

The right answer is that gov't has no business being involved in abortion; it shouldn't be banning it, and it shouldn't be paying for it. It is wholly a decision of the individual involved; she does not
have a 'right' to expensive medical procedures, nor does the husband have a 'right' force his will on her (Don't like it? Don't plant seeds where they aren't wanted) It is a private matter; and the right to privacy exists whether you will it or not.

There is a need to determine, as a measure of justice, when life can be proven to exist (without destroying privacy) so that those who are in fact taking life meet with the justice they deserve. I haven't heard a logical answer, other than the one handed down by Wade, from anybody to date. I would resist any statement, by any group I was affiliated with, other than one that encompasses this simple fact; a declaration of what life is; and the need to hold it as a supreme value.
Anything else is a waste of time, and violation of rights which I hold sacred.



Mea culpa review, 2017. Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside of my deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I'll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

This is the second of two articles with the exact same title. Two completely different articles. I'm not even sure how I did that. The last article I wrote on this subject was this one, in which I come out unambiguously on the side of choice, science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I'm sure they'll jump at the chance to pay for that. 

DRM: Moderate?

I'm apparently a moderate on the subject. According to this Information Week story:
Calling themselves freedom fighters, members of the Free Software Foundation are engaging in a campaign against Digital Rights Management, which they emphatically refer to as Digital Restrictions Management.
Everytime I hear the phrase freedom fighter, I think of the old Robin Williams joke "What do you call people who fight fires? Fire fighters. So, what does a freedom fighter do?" Aside from that, I wish them luck.

DRM is the most Ill-conceived technological nightmare to come along in a long time. I'd like nothing more than to see the entire concept flushed along with the rest of the waste...

DRM: Who's Rights are They?

The announcement from Universal last week brought up the subject of DRM, a sore spot for me and most of the people who listen to online music. But you would think that it had been smooth sailing for all these online years, if you believed the arguments that I've seen over the last week.

Napster and it's overseas descendants aren't and never were a problem, MP3.com wasn't virtually hounded off the 'net for daring to exercise fair use, DRM is a completely logical exercise of the rights holders over copyrighted material, which presents no problems to the end users who purchase the material.

...And if you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

First off, let's get a few definitions straight. The term piracy, as it is used in software circles these days, is a completely unworkable definition. Piracy involves profiting through theft, not copying files. While it can be argued that the end user 'profits' from copying files that he has not paid for, that sort of profiting is in a whole different league from the person who sells CDs and DVDs (and even the computer files themselves) that he's made without license from the copyright holder. However, there is no distinction between the two in the eyes of Microsoft (and the other corporate software vendors) the RIAA and the MPAA; a completely ridiculous proposition on the face of it.

Then there is the term contract, in which the software industry claims their EULAs and online contracts are no different than a printed, signed and witnessed contract of a truly legal nature. However, if you trotted out the verbiage contained in the average EULA, I doubt you'd find many people willing to commit to the agreement, since the agreement invariably holds the software company innocent of any possible wrongdoing, while setting up a legal fence around the user so as to tightly constrain what uses the material can be put to.

Here is a piece of timely advice; never sign a contract that has been written by an attorney other than one in your employ without first having an attorney who is in your employ look it over. Contracts are always negotiable by both parties if they are to be considered valid. When you sign your name to a contract you agree to the terms, thereby waiving your right to negotiate terms in advance. A EULA does not allow for physical signatures and so consequently are not really contracts at all.

Additionally any contract that you have to accept without negotiation is a contract that no one should hold themselves constrained by, since they had no say in what the exact contents of the contract would be.

Now when it comes to EULA's I have to ask; Do you support the dishonest business practice of attempting to hold a customer to a contract that isn't presented until after the transaction has taken place, or are you an honest businessman who presents the contract before any other business occurs? Anyone who thinks that it is commonplace and acceptable to withhold conditions of a sale until after the transaction has taken place is by definition a dishonest businessman. Honesty requires full disclosure before the sale. Restrictions that are revealed after the sale is finalized are not enforceable, as they are generally held to be outside of current law, and are a violation of the standard of full disclosure. In a nutshell, it is a dishonest and/or fraudulent business practice to withhold this type of information.

With the above as the generally understood standard of doing business, that contracts which I have not explicitly agreed to in writing are not binding, and that contracts that are not revealed until after the sale is finalized are not enforceable...

...Should I be faulted for holding the opinion that "All sales are final. The files are mine. Anything they have to say about my treatment of my files after that point is a claim. There is no agreement, other than cash for music files. There was no other legal contract presented." and stripping the DRM from files that I had paid for and wished to listen to on a device of my choosing?

Apparently I am to be faulted. At least in the eyes of the people who plan on making money off of the legally clueless out there.

Fair use allows the user to make copies of copyrighted material for his own use. My own use requires that I strip the DRM from music files sold on most popular websites. If the websites attempted to enforce the contract terms, they would only alienate their customer base; ergo, it is nothing more than a paper tiger, never to be enforced except to remove individual user accounts.

...And if I can't actually make the files usable, I don't know why I would need an account in the first place.

The last definition that needs clarification: DRM, Digital Rights Management. The corporations that own the content have rights (which DRM manages) but you the user don't. You have privileges that they can take away if they please. Welcome to the digital millennium.

My experience with the difficulty of using iTunes (and other DRM restricted services) has convinced me that DRM regimes are soon to be a thing of the past. It's also convinced me that I will spend money on sites that don't add DRM to the files. Sites like Sound Click for example. I don't need to go to full out piracy sites (I find real pirates and their practices quite distasteful) I have no problem going down to the used CD store and getting the music I'm looking for at less than the dollar a song most sites are charging. I might download songs from Universal's announced site, but only if I can remove the DRM.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. The only way to make DRM enforceable is to appoint an ultimate Sys-Admin, a company that has the power to open back doors on all the computers currently in operation, and snoop through the files to make sure that no one is using files that they haven't paid for. A job that Microsoft desperately wants to be given, as they quite eagerly pointed out when they announced the rollout of Longhorn (now Vista) two or three years ago. A big brother situation that I shudder to contemplate.

Otherwise DRM is an unworkable solution in the long term. As more content becomes available on the 'net, more and more of it will appear shortly after it's initial release with DRM, sans it's protective wrapper, ready to be copied by anybody who doesn't have an aversion to dealing with pirates.

Might as well just come up with a different solution now, save us all the hassle.

Where's Flash?

Here's a prime example of a film that needs to be re-issued. Couldn't even find it to rent:



The DVD is only available used, and only at twice the original sales price. On laserdisc format it's available used at a third the original sales price. Obviously less demand there.

I've got part of the soundtrack as a Queen collection, and the children want to see the movie. I have to admit, I saw it once as a teenager, and I think I was too hard on it.

Surely it couldn't have been that bad?



The film is actually available now on instant video from Amazon. We managed to get a DVD of it (UK region 2) a few years back (I think it was 5 bucks with shipping) Of course, the regionless DVD player has since crapped out necessitating a potential repurchase of films that I really don't want to admit purchasing the first time. I guess we all have skeletons in our closets.

Constitution Day

Constitution Day is today (Sunday, the 17th of September) not that the average citizen would know this. If you look on the average calendar, you probably won't find a mention of the day, which is a sad state of affairs when it comes to honoring one of the most important documents in American history.

When you ask a couple of jaded professors to write something about Constitution day, you get something like what appeared in The Chronicle a few days back; a rather biting attempt at humor from people who have come to revile the founding fathers for creating the document that can't be made to do what they want, when they want it.

[what do you expect from the author of askphilosophers.org, a rather transparent attempt to make todays philosophy and it's philosophers relevant to the average person. I don't think he's succeeding. Post-modernists have nothing going for them but contempt for everything else that exists]

Which is precisely the problem with gov't in the US today. Too many people with too little understanding of gov't and it's place in society, demanding more from gov't and never asking where the funds to meet their demands will come from.

Jay Leno said it best:

As you may have heard, the US is putting together a constitution for
Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? Think about it — it was
written by very smart people, it's served us well for over two hundred
years, and besides, we're not using it anymore.
Anyone who is seriously interested in learning about the Constitution, and how it came to be, should visit Constitution.org. If you write an e-mail message to Cato, they'll send you a copy of the constitution, as discussed in this Cato Daily Podcast.

The flag I fly on Constitution day? The Gadsden. It expresses everything one needs to understand about the founders and their intent in forming this 'new nation'.



I really don't even know where to begin. I don't fly the Gadsden any longer, although I still have one. The Tea Party stole that icon from me. Flying it now ties one to their lunacy and I really don't need more confusion in my messaging.

I'm planning on writing an update to this post in 2017. Let's see if that happens.

Constitutional Money

Every time I get into a discussion of money, someone brings up the Constitutional limitations on states, including the limitations of what can be accepted as money, which is found in Art I, Sec. 10, Clause 1, it reads:
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
They always point to the Federal Reserve and say "see, the FRN isn't constitutional money!" Which is patently obvious, given the facts.

They never reverse it, which is something I find quite curious; why the several states don't abide by the constitution themselves? Why don't they refuse payment in fiat notes (the standard FRN baseless paper bills) and demand payment in gold and silver coin, as is required by law? Why do they continue the self-destructive delusion that there is real value in the US dollar? Value other than "the full faith and credit of"...? Whatever that's worth.

Can you imagine what the results of that would be?

"No, I'm sorry Mr. President, but I have to abide by the rule of law, and the law states that gold and silver coin is the only thing we can accept as payment for the federal gov'ts debts. If we don't receive your payment in gold and silver, I'm afraid we will have to put a stop to payments of our citizens tax monies into the federal treasury..."
To be present in the Oval Office to get a picture of that event. Priceless.




My only reaction to this article for the mea culpa review process in 2017? Coded language. I hate coded language. FRN is Federal Reserve Notes. FRN is newspeak of the sovereign movement and its wrong-headed ideas about currency and value. I really can't broach my current thoughts on money as a mere addendum to this post. They warrant a much longer piece which I truthfully haven't started writing yet.

A decade and more of listening to economist podcasts and reading economic books (as well as others) has radically altered my understanding of money in ways that are hard to describe without digging into the meat of philosophy and economics. Suffice it to say that my thoughts on money at this point in 2006 were truly infantile.

Which is sad, because I've always thought I had a pretty good idea what money was and what trade for value meant. I've been a hard bargainer at the negotiating table and have generally secured better than average compensation for my work, lower than average outlay for the goods I need. I understood it better than most people around me seemed to then, and I understand so much more about it now that it makes reading these old posts quite painful.

Still, I never did get an answer beyond the obvious one as to why the states have not made a fuss about the federal government subverting the Constitution with its current money not based on gold and silver as the document demands. Obviously they want the carnival ride to continue, that is why they haven't. But the question still needs an answer, and the deviation from code should be corrected by updating the code itself.

Which is why the longer post about the nature of money is something I really should take the time to write.

US Mint vs. ALD: Story Spreads

Is the warning shot story growing legs? It's got 4 mentions today, USA Today, Free Market News Network, Asheville Citizen-Times and the original Rocky Mountain News story.

Check this link to see if the number increases.

Only the USA Today story mentions a rebuttal from NORFED and the Liberty Dollar. In fact, not even the home site for the Liberty Dollar, libertydollar.org, has a mention of the tempest in a teapot that the mint announcement seems to have stirred up. I had to go to a third party site to read the entire press release.

They seem to have addressed all the points, at least.

Shot across the bow: ALD usage is a crime?

This is a troubling development: Liberty Dollars Not Legal Tender, United States Mint Warns Consumers But the troubling part isn't in the headline, it's at the end of the press release:
NORFED’s "Liberty Dollar" medallions are specifically marketed to be used as current money in order to limit reliance on, and to compete with the circulating coinage of the United States. Consequently, prosecutors with the United States Department of Justice have concluded that the use of NORFED’s "Liberty Dollar" medallions violates 18 U.S.C. § 486, and is a crime.
This represents a reversal from previous rulings from the gov't; which has, up to this point, given the alternative currency movement a pass. Referencing the code, this appears to be the pertinent section:
TITLE 18
PART I -CRIMES
CHAPTER 25 - COUNTERFEITING AND FORGERY
§ 486. Uttering coins of gold, silver or other metal
Whoever, except as authorized by law, makes or utters or passes, or attempts to utter or pass, any coins of gold or silver or other metal, or alloys of metals, intended for use as current money, whether in the resemblance of coins of the United States or of foreign countries, or of original design, shall be fined under this title [1] or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
But, I would like to know, how do they plan to enforce this? If I want to accept silver for my services, I'm not sure that they have any grounds for prosecution, short of a sting operation.

There is also the issue of use of the term "current money", which is essentially defined as "legal tender". Not a term used to describe Liberty Dollars.

If they wish to broadly interpret current money to include ALD, then it also applies to any token used in any business that substitutes for a fixed amount of cash; car wash tokens, bus tokens, arcade tokens, etc.

Maybe the mint and the justice department should have read the disclaimer on the Libertydollar.org website. They might have realised that this issue has been researched already.

"Gold and Silver Libertys are neither legal tender, money, "current money" nor coins; they do not resemble nor appear to be coinage minted, issued, authorized, or approved by any government agency; and do not relate to taxation or avoidance of taxation. They are privately minted one-ounce gold and silver examples of the goods on deposit for the warehouse receipts distributed by NORFED."

Henceforth, all Gold and Silver Libertys will be provided with the clear understanding that it is NORFED's intent that all Gold and Silver Libetys are provided as examples of the goods on deposit for the warehouse receipts distributed by NORFED. Of course, what you and thousands of other freedom loving, consenting adults choose to do in response to the government's fiat money is beyond NORFED's ability or duty to police.

The International Libertarian has an entry on the subject, as well as several pertinant quotes from Federal Reserve spokesmen (and others) who reviewed the currency and found nothing illegal about it.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see if this amounts to anything more than sabre-rattling.

Mcmansions follow-up

I posted on the furor over Mcmansions several months back, and neglected to mention that I was on the wrong side of the issue (surprise!) once again. Yep, the all-knowing city council has handed down the decision that no houses greater than 2000 square feet in size will be approved for construction in central city neighborhoods.

So, all you developers and new property owners can just forget about your property rights. You don't have any.

Milam County Dog Attack: Dog owner still awaiting trial

Going through the archive, I realised that the story about the dog attack had been moved on the Statesman site. I added it to my blog entry on the subject, as well as the story concerning charges being brought against the dog owner.

He's still sitting around awaiting a trial, which has been rescheduled for January 16, 2007.

I'm beginning to wonder if he'll ever face trial, myself. The gov't in Milam county clearly doesn't think that it's important enough, or they have sympathy with the dog owner rather than the victim who was innocently minding her own business when she was attacked.



Reading back through the early blog articles I was stunned to realize I never followed up on this story. Sadly, the jury was unwilling to convict the dog owner. I found a legal opinion on the subject here which I will repost. There is more information at the link if you are interested.
Like the prosecutors in the Diane Whipple case, the district attorney here found the existing laws to be inadequate. There was and is no state law that specifically addresses canine-inflicted homicides (i.e., deaths of humans, caused by dogs). (For proposed changes to the dog bite law of Texas, see Texas on this web site.)
Texas law addresses a different situation, namely the consequences of having a dog that previously was adjudicated as being "dangerous." Heath & Safety Code §822.041 provides that a court may declare a dog "dangerous" basically if it causes injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class C misdemeanor if the owner violates the provisions of the dangerous dog law or the dog causes serious injury in an unprovoked attack. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the dangerous dog causes a death of a person in an unprovoked attack. A $10,000 penalty may also be imposed on the owner whose dangerous dog causes serious injury or kills someone. Texas Heath & Safety Code §§822.044, 822.045. (See generally Dangerous and Vicious Dogs for discussion of the legal meaning of "dangerous" and the issues pertaining to legal "dangerousness.")
If a dog has not been previously declared "dangerous," however, there is a "loophole" in the law, in that there is no law that addresses the situation. Given the savageness of this killing, prosecutors attempted to apply the general law. To make the punishment fit the crime, the grand jury indicted Jose Hernandez for criminally negligent homicide. His trial took place in March 2007.
The conviction of this dog owner depended upon overcoming the bane of dog bite victims, namely the one-bite rule. Under this ancient British legal doctrine, the owner of any domestic animal is not held responsible for the first bite, the first mauling, or the first killing by each and every one of his animals. (See The One Bite Rule.) Texas is in a minority of states that continues to salute the flag of Great Britain when it comes to dog bite laws. (For lists of states that follow or have abrogated the one bite rule, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)
Hernandez testified that he had no idea his animals were capable of such brutality. He admitted none of his animals had ever been seen by a veterinarian and hadn't been vaccinated. Several other witnesses for the defense testified that Hernandez' dogs were not aggressive and were not trained to be aggressive.
The jury found Hernandez not guilty.
I had never heard of the one bite rule before in my life. I'm actually horrified that this is law in this state. They did actually update the laws after the verdict in this case, but the laws remain woefully lax when it comes to holding dog owners responsible for the behavior of their animals.  

Retailing Widgets

Ran across this entry over at the Digital Money Blog. It seems that Internet retailing over in Britain is taking off faster than it is here in the US. His reason seems plausible:
In the US, if you want to buy a widget then you stop off at the widget shop, park right outside, nip in and get your widget from someone who wants to sell you one and then go. In the UK, if you want to buy a widget then you've got to find somewhere to park (and get charged a fortune for it), walk miles to the widget shop and then be ignored by the bored teenage assistant who, in any case, knows nothing about widgets.
While I agree about the ease of the process of shopping in the US, the "bored teenage assistant" in the US is generally just as clueless (albeit nicer about it) as the ones in the UK, I'm certain.

When the wife and I walk into the local electronics stores to buy boards for the computers or whatever 'widget' we need this week, she inevitably ends up correcting a salesman who is trying to make a sale to another customer. If I didn't have her with me, I wouldn't trust a one of them to be able to help me find what I wanted.

The reason I still make the trek to the local "Power Center"...

[Shopping malls and strip centers are so last century. Power Centers are even dated now. The latest thing? Multi-use shopping/office/residential complexes. When those start taking over the landscape, I think I'll stay home]

Is that age old need to touch whatever it is I'm looking for, before I buy it; and that I generally need whatever it is right now, not a week from now. I buy a lot of stuff online, when I've planned ahead and I'm making purchases in advance.

When planning fails, or the widget just breaks, the ease of the process gets me out in the car. That, and getting to watch the wife make some teenage assistant's life a momentary hell.

Board Art


Been hanging out with a local artist lately, trying to help her get her latest art project ready to display. She submitted a proposal to Austin GuitarTown, and was overjoyed when they accepted it.

...and then the scope of the work to be done looms overhead, just like any deadline in any business with deadlines (are there any without?) but, with the last minute efforts finally completed, it's time to relax.

Modern art really isn't my thing; but I have to say, the boards create an interesting effect on the body of the guitar. I'm hoping the rest of the viewing public agrees.

S.C. Essai is "not just another scuzzi artist"

Star Trek is 40

I didn't start watching Star Trek until it was in it's third season, though. I remember being upset and telling my mom (I was 5 or 6 at the time) that my favorite show wasn't on TV anymore. I turned on the set, changed the channel (we had two, being out in the boonies of Western Kansas at the time) and something else was on in it's timeslot. She asked me which show it was, could I describe it?
"One of them has pointy ears and they fly around in a spaceship."
I"m pretty sure she thought I was story-ing or hallucinating (she never watched TV with us) but I remember being quite devastated that I couldn't watch the show anymore.

[As an aside, the animated series is out on DVD now. I remember those quite fondly from my Saturday morning cartoon childhood. I'm almost afraid to watch them now...]

It wasn't until I met the wife, more than 20 years later, that I found out there were Trek fans all over the place, and that they were in part responsible for the Resurrection of Star Trek as a movie and then a series. To them and to Gene Roddenberry, I will be eternally grateful.

While the franchise owned by Paramount seems to have taken a turn for the worse of late (not to mention what the makeover will do to it) I still consider myself a trekkie. Here's hoping the next movie salvages something instead of destroying what's left of Star Trek.

Jail Time for Taking Food From Trash

Ran across this story while surfing a local news radio site. Two guys who hopped a fence and dug through a grocery stores' refuse bins have been charged with trespass and theft.

The DA wanted to charge them with felonies, but they plea bargained the charge down to a misdemeanor, even though they had to do 6 months of time behind bars (instead of the few days the DA offered for accepting the felony charge) for the lessor charge. I guess they knew that a felony conviction marks you as a criminal for life these days; and is frequently used to deny work, licenses, and any number of other things that government busybodies can think of to take away from those horrible criminals that clog the system.

I worked my way through high school and technical school at various grocery stores. Every night I worked it was my job to take the out of date food to the bins. When the food wasn't damaged, but was just out of date, I frequently would set it aside for someone to pick up; that someone generally being me. As the eldest in a single parent family of five, I felt it was my job to help provide for the family. We never went hungry, in part because of the supplemental food that I diverted from being wasted in the city landfill.

My manager, on the other hand, took a pretty dim view of my theft of store goods. Never mind that they were going to throw it away, it was the principle of the thing. They said it was garbage, and it was going to be thrown away, not eaten by somebody who hadn't paid for it. The few times he caught me setting food aside for later, he stayed behind to make sure I destroyed it before throwing it in the dumpster. If I refused, he would do it himself.

[this was the same idiot who locked me out of the store during a tornado because I was out in the parking lot when he decided to take shelter in the walk-in. He told me "I didn't want anyone to be able to steal something while we were hiding. Stealing food in the middle of a tornado. Riiiiiight.]Are these guys criminals? Not to me. To me, they're just a couple of hungry people who should have known better than to jump a fence. Now, to my manager on the other hand...

...I'm sure he would want those felons to pay for what they've done. I never knew that he had a sex change and became a DA in another state. There can't be two people that stupid on the planet.

Keeping the political colors straight

Getting dizzy listening to the major party politics these days?

Are you ready for the ramp up to election day, just a few short months away?

I don't know about you, but the pointlessness of 9/10ths of all political arguments reminds me of a scene from an episode of Babylon 5 "Geometry of Shadows". The following is from a synopsis of it:

Ivanova is meeting with a representative group of Drazi. Five Drazi with purple kerchiefs sit in the gallery to her left, and five of the greens to the right. A leader stands in front of each group.

Ivanova: As you all know, we're having a bit of a problem here right now --- the aforementioned problem being that you keep trying to beat each other senseless with blunt instruments, banging up against the bulkhead, pounding, mugging, jumping, and generally carrying on cranky. Now, while some of the other species wouldn't mind if you wiped each other out, even they would prefer that you did so quietly. But --- this station is dedicated to the goal of finding peaceful solutions to our problems. And we would like to find one here. [This causes quite some murmuring among her audience.] Now you can start by helping me to understand the precise nature of the conflict between the two sides that you've set up.

The two leaders react with pained longsuffering expressions. They have to explain something that is so obvious it needs no explanation. They're dealing with a complete moron.

Purple leader [gesturing at the Green leader]: Green!

Green leader [returning the compliment]: Purple!

Ivanova: No, I understand that there are two factions, but what is your point of contention? Where do you disagree with each other?

Green leader [pointing and speaking more emphatically]: Purple!

Purple leader: Green!

Ivanova: Yes, but who gets to wear the purple sash and who gets to wear the green sash? I mean, is it based on income, or caste, or rank, or...

Green leader: We put green and purple in great barrel! Equal to numbers of Drazi. Then we reach in, we take! Where there was one Drazi people, now there are two! The two fight until there are one!

Ivanova [open-mouthed in astonishment]: That's it? It's totally random? Arbitrary? Well then, how do you choose a leader for either side?

Purple leader: One purple and one green carries mark of leadership. He who takes leader cloth is leader. He who takes green is Green, and follows Green leader. He who takes purple is Purple, and follows Purple leader. [Ivanova catches on sufficiently to lip-sync most of the last sentence.]

Ivanova: Okay, so in other words ---- [She steps between the leaders and points out the two nearest Purple and Green followers.] Would you two please step forward for a moment --- please? [They're a bit confused, but they comply.] Okay, so what you're trying to tell me is that if I take this purple sash off of him, [she takes the sash --- much to the consternation of the remaining Purples] and put it onto him, [she puts it onto the Green --- agitating all the Drazi, but she's a bit too wrapped up in her question to notice as she turns to face the leaders] that this one thing alone is enough to start a...

...Bedlam ensues.

Full synopsis
Lurker's guide episode entry

So, when you hear people yelling about 'war records' or 'tax cuts' or anything else political (which involves most everything these days, what with the expansion of gov't) Just remember: "Who takes green, is green, follows green leader." It's just that simple.

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child

Been having a "bit of a tiff" with a poster on a list of late.

(Yes, I know, You Are Shocked)

Arguing with a professed christian about the origin of the phrase Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child and the nature of the proper disciplining of children.

As for the first part, the phrase originates in a satirical poem concerning the Puritans by Samuel Butler. The poem, Hudibras goes like this:
If matrimony and hanging go
By dest'ny, why not whipping too?
What med'cine else can cure the fits
Of lovers when they lose their wits?
Love is a boy by poets stil'd;
Then spare the rod and spoil the child.
I doubt that the average fundamentalist would be comfortable repeating the phrase if they knew that it's origin was in a poem that lampoon's their ideological forbears.

On the subject of corporal punishment, I'll say this; I don't do it. It never taught me anything as a child, other than to mask my behavior so as to avoid punishment, and to spend hours trying to figure out how to get back at those who punished me.

I was taken out in the hallway on a daily basis in first grade, and given 'licks' (application of the paddle to the posterior) because my teacher was convinced that it would make me work faster. According to my mother, what it got her was fired. I never noticed any motivational improvement, myself. I'm reasonably certain that it made me more of an introvert than I already was, and insured that I would never draw attention to myself during class time for the rest of my term of imprisonment in gov't school.

It probably has something to do with my complete unwillingness to conform to any imposed standard as well. But I digress.

The few times that I have ever attempted to use corporal punishment on my children, it has backfired, with one exception. Both of them, as toddlers, attempted to wander out of the yard and into the street near our home. A quick smack on the behind was all it took to keep them from ever trying that again. The unfamiliarity of the pain is the key. If I had smacked them every time some little transgression had occurred, they wouldn't even have noticed when I was trying to warn them away from a life-threatening action. Every other time I've given in to the urge, I've regretted it. It just doesn't work.

Rather than punish, the wife and I attempt to impress the consequences of the improper action upon the child (Faber and Mazlish have a bit to say on the subject) It's not always easy, and it's not always effective. But I've never regretted taking the time to try something other than lashing out at the offending child, which is more than I can say for the alternative.

Of course, I said something a little more inflammatory to my opponent. Something like this:

I'm glad they aren't allowed to beat my children. I don't beat my children, and I'm the only one who should be allowed to beat my children. I was the target of choice in school for bullies (students and teachers alike) for most of my school life. My children are in school because I want them to learn rather than be forced to dodge bullies on a daily or hourly basis. You have to earn respect, not beat the students into submission in order to get it.

...and it's a knee slapper, the idea that beating children is something Jesus was in favor of. I pity your children. Hopefully they'll find good recreational drugs to ease the pain of their existence.
In hindsight, I think I was too easy on him.

AISD: Spending Real Money

This is True #624 Mentioned a newspaper article in the local rag, the Austin American Statesman, concerning Kealing Middle School getting a $9 million facelift. The facelift includes new student lockers, even though the current student lockers have been sitting empty for 10 years. The principal of the school banned their use due to 'contraband' and other excuses. The new lockers will cost $60,000, and they will also sit unused.

Citizen appeals to re-allocate the money had fallen on deaf ears. Which doesn't surprise me, having dealt with AISD and their construction staff several times in the past. Logic isn't something that they seem to have an abundance of over there.

As an example, my last job...

...The architect I was working for came up in rotation for a couple of schools that were going to be renovated. As I had experience with AISD renovation projects before, I was asked to lead these projects as well. My employer stressed to me that I needed to take the initiative here, that I needed to make sure and handle everything that needed to be done, because "that's how you keep the AISD project manager happy, making sure that he doesn't have anything to do".

Which I found quite interesting, at the time. I happen to know that architects who work for AISD make well above market average for the experience that they require, having applied for some openings at AISD in the past (openings for which, I'm quite certain, my politics excluded me from consideration for) so the concept of doing all the work for a better compensated (twice as much as I was making) government employee, just so he would be happy, didn't sit well with me.

After all, the whole basis of public schools comes from the concept of Kantian-Fichtian selfless service; i.e. school district employees should be doing their jobs for the good of the community, and not be expecting any compensation in return, much less compensation at a higher rate than their privately employed peers. However, reality works in line with the Objectivist-Capitalist rewards system, and nobody is easier to fleece than a willing, tax-paying public; therefore public servants generally do get paid better than any other group.

So I go out with my employer to visit the sites and discuss project scope with the AISD representatives. As I'm walking through the schools with this Gucci & silk shirt wearing reprobate, I notice the extremely dilapidated condition of several of the portable buildings that the children will be housed in. A good portion of the schools in Texas have entire little shanty towns of these buildings parked behind the brick and glass permanent facilities that front the streets; putting their best face forward, literally. They hide these buildings from view like the eyesores that they are, and I doubt that most parents realise that their children are even in them. As a professional who is tasked with public safety as a part of licensing, I can't get away from the fact that children are housed in them day in and day out.

So I mention the state of the portables to this Gucci & silk shirt wearing reprobate, this public servant that is nothing of the kind, and suggest that perhaps the renovation money should be used to build additional buildings, rather than be used to do cosmetic upgrades to the existing brick and mortar structures (which housed less than half the children at the schools in question) and the landscaping that is also visible from the fronting street.

His reply? Can't do that, it would take real money to build new buildings. His exact words; real money. Now, I have to admit that it would have taken more than the million or so dollars that they had set aside for these little cosmetic upgrades that they were doing. However, you spend a million here and a million there, and pretty soon all the real money is spent on things that aren't important to the big picture. That big picture being the education of Texas' children.

Needless to say, I didn't get the pleasure of working on those projects. Actually, I was fired not too long after that walk through. Coincidence? Most likely. All I know is, I'd rather be an unemployed architect than a knee-crawling toady for a public servant that doesn't know the meaning of the term.

Universal is Having a Fire Sale; or it would be, except for DRM

Universal is going to offer it's entire music catalog on Spiralfrog with ad supported free downloads. Free, except that the content will be protected with MicroSoft's DRM regime. I only have one question; how long before the DRM stripper program shows up? It's probably already being written, and then patched, and then re-written.

I've yet to figure out how a file is mine when I purchase it, if I can't play it when and where I like. That's the stumbling block for me signing on to any of these new sites that are being touted. Hell, I don't even own an iPod, why would I pay for songs that only play on one?

Here's some news for you, Universal; You should have signed on when MP3.com was the powerhouse it started out to be, instead of thumbing your noses at the upstart site that dared to exercise fair use, and offer streaming content for people who could prove they owned copies of the music. There might have been some significant ad revenue to compensate the artists then.

I know several independent artists that are still nostalgic for those bygone days when they actually received checks for song play at MP3.com. Nothing has come along since that even remotely compares to it.

Ad revenues being what they are these days on the Internet, can a new entry like Spiralfrog generate enough revenue to compensate artists for their work? Or will this be the usual corporate media arrangement, where only the suits in offices get paid?

There aren't any sites that can compete with the traffic that MP3.com could generate, and now the corporate types finally get it. "Oh, it's like radio!" Yeah, I think we said that a few years back.

What a waste.

Classic Trek Gets a Makeover

This could amount to sacrilege. They are updating the special effects for all 79 of the Classic Star Trek episodes, giving them all new computer generated effects shots.

I'm withholding judgment on this until I see the finished product. But I'm not holding my breath, either. The primitive effects are just fine with me. I don't need my classic Enterprise to have 'go fast' stripes.

I've never seen the revised versions of the first two seasons of Red Dwarf. They went through a similar process of updating. Like Doctor Who and its ships on strings, there is something appropriate about old campy SciFi having visibly dated special effects, especially if there is an air of humor to the program.

On the other hand, I liked the revised versions of Star Wars, with the exception of the Whussification of Han Solo. So updated effects might be OK with me...

...and then there is the urge to tinker with the show. The episode "The Enterprise Incident" for example. Here's a chance to finally put the Romulans in Romulan ships instead of the Klingon ships that were originally used. After all, why not? The Klingon Bird of Prey that is used for most of the movies and all of Next Gen owes it's existence to the mythology that was built up around that one little slip up in Classic Trek. If the updates fix that problem, then why...?

Like I said, I'll wait for the premiere. I'm just not holding my breath.



Read the interview over at Aint It Cool News with Mike Okuda and the rest of the crew that worked on the makeover. There's also a Q&A over at Startrek.com and the original announcement from Paramount as well as images of the CGI models they will be using. I have to say, the ship does look gorgeous. But then, she always did.

From the announcement:

The most noticeable change will be redoing many of the special effects, created with 1960s technology, with 21st century computer-generated imagery (CGI). Upgrades include:

  • Space ship exteriors – The Enterprise, as well as other starships, will be replaced with state of the art CGI-created ships. The new computer-generated Enterprise is based on the exact measurements of the original model, which now rests in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
  • Show opening – The Enterprise and planets seen in the main title sequence will be redone, giving them depth and dimension for the first time.
  • Galaxy shots – All the graphics of the galaxy, so frequently seen through the viewscreen on the Enterprise's bridge, will be redone.
  • Exteriors – The battle scenes, planets and ships from other cultures (notably the Romulan Bird of Prey and Klingon Battle Cruisers) will be updated.
  • Background scenes – Some of the iconic, yet flat, matte paintings used as backdrops for the strange, new worlds explored by the Enterprise crew will get a CGI face-lift, adding atmosphere and lighting.

The refurbished episodes also feature higher quality sound for the famous opening theme. The original score by Emmy Award-winning composer Alexander Courage, has been re-recorded in state-of-the-art digital stereo audio with an orchestra and a female singer belting out the famous vocals. A digitally remastered version of William Shatner's classic original recording of the 38-word "Space, the final frontier..." monologue continues to open each episode.

However, when you read between the lines, there is some admission on the part of those involved in the process that there are some digital 'fixes' going into the regular scenes, not just the inserted FX scenes and bridge viewscreen images. Text 'fixed' on library screens, some of the aliens will be given 'sparkle'...

...I'm still withholding judgement until I see it. Broadcast information can be found here. For Austin it will air on KNVA at 4:00 pm, Saturday, September 16th.

School Choice; the Way of the Future?

In the continuing saga of "The Libertarian Failure that Wasn't"; I offer further proof that Michael Lind, in his article "The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics", is engaged in nothing more than a hatchet job.

First, a short quote:
[T]he US public has rejected every element of the libertarian counter-revolution. The first proposal voters rejected was the privatisation of schooling. Because US education policy is dominated by states and cities, this issue was fought at the local level. It turned out that most conservative Republicans as well as Democrats were content with their suburban public schools. Again and again, voucher proposals went down to defeat.
I've dealt with the blanket accusation concerning the libertarian counter-revolution here; the subject of vouchers, however, deserves a more thorough rebuttal.

Cato recently released a damning review of the latest negative poll results concerning support for voucher systems. "What the Public Really Thinks of School Choice" reveals the fact that Americans support school vouchers at higher levels than ever in history, depending on how the question is asked. It's just that the people funding the polls don't want to ask the right questions.

When asked (in a separate Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation poll) "Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose any school, public or private, to attend using public funds?" 60% of Americans favored vouchers. This is one of the highest levels of support that vouchers have ever seen. And yet, when asked (in the more widely publicized PDK poll) "Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?" 36% favor vouchers. The difference in wording purposefully slants the results in the direction that PDK wishes. Why do I say that? Because PDK used different language on their earlier polls, until the results flipped in favor of vouchers. They've used the revised wording above ever since.

The group that funds the negative polls, PDK (Phi Delta Kappa) is a gov't school advocacy group interested in promoting the gov't monopoly on schooling. And what is being left out are the facts concerning cost, and access to superior schools.

Cost analysis of Washington DC's voucher system shows that it saves the district millions of dollars and would continue to do so if expanded to cover all the schools in the area.

Voucher programs would immediately provide access to better schools for parents who take an interest in their children's education. Sites like Great Schools rate your local schools based on performance (or whatever criteria you wish to sort by) providing the information a parent would need to make an informed decision.

[charter schools (the closest thing we have to vouchers in Texas) routinely outperform gov't schools located in the same areas of the city. Concerned parents should make the effort to find charter schools in their area and make a stand for their children's education. If you can't find a charter in your area, and/or you feel you are equipped to teach your own children (as someone quipped when I sent them this entry "Aren't most parents also conscripted teachers as soon as the infant kids realize they have the power to communicate?" Why, yes they are. Some of us just don't feel that we are knowledgeable in enough areas to do the job all by ourselves) you might prefer homeschooling as an option. Homeschooled children routinely outperform all other groups on standardized tests]

However, groups like Phi Delta Kappa and the NEA don't want parents to be able to make those types of informed choices. The official reaction to John Stossel's "Stupid in America: how lack of choice cheats our kids out of a good education" (his latest broadside on the problems in the US today) outlines the stark truth here; teachers and administrators alike are hostile to any criticism of them or the schools they operate.

It should be painfully clear to anyone who watches the program that the teacher's answer to your objections is the same one they give your children. "Sit down and shut up. We know what's best for you".

Personally, I was released from that kind of prison quite some time ago. I paid my debt to society for being born, graduated high school and was allowed to go on and do something with my life. I wouldn't willingly sentence my children to similar confinement.

No, Mr. Lind. Those of us who are informed on the subject of schools are not content with the current offering. We are looking for something better, and vouchers might just fit the bill.