Blatant False Advertising and Dereliction of Schedule

Feedback letter for Discovery Science;

I want to start this off by saying, I watch Science Channel quite a bit. I like a lot of the programming on the channel; Wormhole, Prophets, Futurescape, Firefly, How it's Made, etc. Idiot Abroad and it's spin-offs are interesting from a cultural perspective, if not actually science.

There are also several programs on the channel that I avoid like the plague; Punkin, Oddities, etc; programs that I would not qualify as Science, and if it were up to me I wouldn't be airing these programs on a channel that I owned and was identified as Science Channel.

Then there is crap like what aired Friday. Earlier this week I was enticed into setting up the recorder for a marathon of Strip the City, it was even advertised on the channel as being featured. Friday morning I tuned in for the re-airs of Prophets and noticed a quiet little banner in the corner suggesting that there was a bible marathon being featured instead of Strip the City. When I checked the schedule, Strip the City was still listed, so I did not cancel the recording.

When I got back home this evening from a rare pleasant outing with the family, what do I find? Four hours of bible myths on my recorder, mislabeled as a program that I found vaguely interesting from architectural perspective; bible myths that not only am I not even vaguely interested in, but aren't even vaguely science related.

Why is this crap on the Science Channel? Why was the schedule not updated to show that the programming had been changed? In a sales environment, this type of behavior is called a bait a switch and is illegal. Since viewing is tracked through the cable boxes, Science Channel gets to claim that everyone who tuned in to watch Strip the City were actually interested in watching 4 hours of bible myths instead.

Next time please be more conscientious about altering the guides and schedules to accurately reflect what you are airing at any given time. I will be forwarding this message to my cable provider and the FCC. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely

Much Ado About NSA

Dan Carlin chose to make his latest Common Sense episode all about the historic outrage that is the NSA spying on us, likening it to the kind of outrage that Lawrence O'Donnell pokes holes in during the attached video segment.




Approaching this idea from the perspective of 'Vampiric Memories' (memories of several centuries) as Dan does, what would be most striking was not that governments do what governments have always done; but that the people who run this government are more varied in race and sex than at any time previously in history.

Now, this observation can lead to other insights such as how white men aren't nearly as bad as we've been lead to believe since we don't run everything anymore and it all still sucks, or that inclusiveness in government hasn't gone far enough because the suckage of government hasn't been alleviated yet.

But what you cannot say is that this is an outrage as has never been seen before, and it's only our relative blindness to change (for various reasons) that allow this outrage to continue.  Should the NSA programs be brought down?  Certainly, and it appears that they will be.  But can we tone down the histrionics, please?



Edited to add the following;

Seriously Dan?  Another podcast on the same subject? Only this time to attack the false premise that NSA spying isn't a big deal?  I've been trying to tell people that privacy was dead for a decade or more.  I use my real name on the internet and yell from the rooftops repeatedly that there is no such thing on the internet as privacy, precisely because I suspected the NSA was doing exactly what it's been shown to be doing over the last year.

Just because I'm ready for a new subject to discuss, has nothing at all to do with the assumed importance of the NSA spying problem.  The real problem is, most people who object to the spying aren't willing to fight the hard fight it's going to take to get the laws changed to forbid the government from engaging in this kind of data collection; largely because most of them think like you and don't want to dirty themselves by getting into political fights, joining parties, and changing the system.

When you're ready to seriously get involved, let me know.  I have some pointers on that score.

Newtown & TOK on Facebook

The question was asked on TOK, Newtown massacre, one year later: have gun laws made us safer?

My initial response was,
What gun laws? There hasn't been a single national law passed that deals with restricting gun access to people who have demonstrated proficiency and mental stability. It's too early, and the areas too limited, for there to be any demonstrable effect from the various state laws passed.
This was the only reply I received,
When guns are highly regulated it won't help. When mostly only government has guns you WILL have tyranny and dictators. And when only government and criminals have guns you have private citizens as victims (because cops can't get there til after you have been violated and sometimes the cops do the violating like you are seeing all over the news.
 Now, I don't know about you, but reading that comment made me think that someone needed a bit of counseling. I mean, open parens, no close, no sentence structure, no relation to the subject matter?
I really wish the gunnuts could stop sounding like actual nuts and present reasoned arguments for why a well-trained well-armed populace is a benefit. That would, of course, predicate the idea that training and screening would be required in order to have guns, which is probably why they don't make those kinds of arguments.  
...training and screening would exclude them. Because they are nuts.
My next comment had to defend the use of gunnuts,
Ad hominem? I call a spade a spade. Gunnuts are what you are; and there was a time when gunnuts were happy to wear that label. Now that you have real gun nuts suggesting that the unborn be issued weapons to prevent abortions, or the certifiable Wayne La Pierre insisting that the answer to gun violence is more guns (as examples) I'm sure the label does rankle. 
One solution is required training in the storage and handling of weapons, something that would have saved the children of Newtown. Registration of all weapons so that owners who do not secure their guns can be held accountable for their use in crimes, etc. These are the specific common sense kinds of measures, though, that send gunnuts through the roof. 
...So I'll counter with the equally sensible but even more drastic measure of simply re-instating the draft. Everyone will go through military training, since the Wayne La Pierre's of the world think we all need more and better guns. If you are deemed incapable of responsibly owning and using a weapon by the military, it should be a simple thing to get that exclusion represented by law on a national basis. I'm sure you gunnuts will love that proposal. 
ANYONE who thinks that a shrug of their shoulders is the appropriate response to Newtown doesn't understand the situation that lead to Newtown. There were plenty of warning signs which the mother SHOULD HAVE taken seriously. That his doctors and teachers SHOULD HAVE taken seriously. The mother should never have had guns in the house, should never have encouraged him to use firearms. The result achieved was an absolute failure of the mental health profession, teaching profession, and his parents. Shrugging and saying "he never bought a gun" is to ignore those other failures, as well as the multiple and damning incidents of other mass shootings where the shooter was mentally ill and did go out and buy guns to conduct their mass murders. Someone should be held accountable for putting weapons in those peoples hands, as well as holding the mother accountable for giving her (demonstrably) dangerous son access to weapons.
If additional sensible restrictions are not agreed to, and soon, there will be more mass shootings, which will end in even more draconian and less sensible restrictions on guns. Mark my words, this will occur.
Lost in the flood was a comment relevant to the Newtown shooter, if not where he got his guns from,
The Newtown shooter was actually diagnosed with an issue, one that clearly should have kept him from having guns. Gunnuts are convinced that no laws are needed, and yet it's perfectly clear that additional laws are needed in order to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. 
Your arguments are demonstrably fallacious. Every act that is illegal is still committed; yet we wouldn't want murder to be legal simply because murders are still committed. Weapons by definition should be restricted to the people who have demonstrated proficiency and mental stability. Anyone who argues differently simply doesn't or doesn't want to understand the problem.
I wasn't prepared to call them all ammosexuals at that point. I've since decided that ammosexual was the correct name for them. Sexually aroused by weapons and ammo. The intial commentor was joined by another, thankfully.  He blew his wad over the next few dozen replies and then satisfied with his mess he fucked-off wherever it was he really should have been in the first place.

The newcomer decided to throw facts and figures around, which required me to go in search of a few facts of my own,
You are seriously mistaken.  The number of mass shootings has been at an all-time high http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/17/mass-shootings-us_n_3935978.html the government was warned (more than once) that Bin Laden was planning to fly planes into government buildings http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-warned-of-suicide-hijackings/ so your comparison of preventing 9/11 to preventing any given mass shooting falls flat.  Law enforcement would give anything to have the kind of warnings that the Bush administration ignored prior to 9/11.  Similarly, Lanza being an adult has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he should have be exposed to weapons, his mental health problems should have kept him from ever touching a firearm http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303281504579220383570598944 reaching adulthood doesn't necessarily entitle you to access to firearms.  His mother should not have been allowed to keep firearms in the house, at all.  She should have had the sense to know this herself, since he killed her with her own weapons, and she should have known he was capable of this action.
...again.  Failing passing laws restricting access to firearms on a national level, to people demonstrating proficiency and self-control, I'm 100% in favor of reinstating the general draft for the specific purpose of determining who should and shouldn't have access to them.   I'm done (and most Americans are as well) arguing with people who simply don't want to address the subject, or accuses anyone who suggests common-sense reforms of being 'gun grabbers'.   Some people are going to loose access to weapons.  The crazier the gunnuts get, the more of them will be in that group.

If you actually endorse training prior to allowing people to purchase guns, you are a gun-grabber according to Wayne La Pierre, Ted Nugent, and any number of other nuts out there.  That's how crazy it has gotten on the subject.
The problem that has arisen since the Newtown massacre is that there are no official statistics on gun deaths in the way that the federal government maintains statistics on every other manufactured device on the market in the US. There aren't any official statistics because the House of Representatives has specifically forbidden their collection. Consequently what happens when you start talking gun statistics you get a battle of the statistics which then proceeds to occur,
[Your] Author denies an upward trend, but if you smooth out the dataset, you still end up with more incidents recently than you had in the past; although that can be attributed to increased population as easily as anything else. What is left out of that picture is that while mass murder rates have only slightly increased, crime in general has dropped dramatically.  
Even the author, correcting Mother Jones' data set, comments that the common beliefs that mass murders are on the increase "...have encouraged healthy debate concerning causes and solutions."  
He proposes that there would be fewer mass shootings in 2013 than in 2012 based on statistical projection. He was wrong. There have been 30 shootings in 2013 by the time of this compilation http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/16/mass-killings-data-map/2820423/ and there were only 20 in 2012. So the number of shootings continues to rise. Statistically it should flatten off, but will we all wait to see if that happens? Or should we engage in what your cited author agrees is "healthy debate" about causes and solutions?
The link to the original research is broken, just FYI. That is how much veracity there was in the statics from Professor Fox. Not enough for him (or the Daily Beast) to maintain a link to them.
 The citation was for James Allan Fox, if anyone was interested. His article is at http://www.boston.com/community/blogs/crime_punishment/2013/01/mass_shootings_not_trending.html not the Daily Beast article that copied his data and left out his feelings that debate about gun policy was something we should engage in.
Oh, yeah. imagine that, the professor who took issue with the facts I cited actually thinks we need more gun laws. Go figure?
[T]he author you cite himself says that additional laws may be needed, and debate is warranted.  
FOX news is BY FAR the worst transgressor factually when it comes to reporting the news and having it be absorbed by it's viewers; http://www.mediaite.com/online/yet-another-survey-fox-news-viewers-worst-informed-npr-listeners-best-informed/ I wouldn't take anything reported by a TV news source as factual, no matter the source. ...On the same day that the Sandy Hook Massacre took place, a rampage took place in China, the assailant used only a knife; 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chenpeng_Village_Primary_School_stabbing all of those children survived. Tell the grieving mothers of Sandy Hook how we are better off with easy access to guns. 
The Designated Combatant continues to prevaricate and offer defenses for why the Newtown Shooter wouldn't have been stopped by more gun laws, but frankly reinstating the draft (while draconian) would have kept him from having access to weapons since he would have been bounced out of the military or killed during training.  The last comment worth posting is this one,
You consistently make excuses for the murderer, and you consistently DO insist that no new laws are needed. You've done this repeatedly over the course of this entire thread, make excuse, backtrack, suggest that it's not weapons at fault. Make excuse, sidestep, suggest that we all need family counseling.  
...Add that to your insistence that FOX is better than NBC (which at least has a track record of owning up to errors, rather than pretending they never made them as FOX does) and I have to conclude that you are not an honest actor here. You simply post here to waste my time in endless replies to you inane assertions that what you say isn't what you said.  
Admit it. It's the guns and easy access to guns that have put weapons in the hands of killers all over the US. Now the solution is either to require licensing and training before purchasing weapons, tracking of weapons so that their owners can be held accountable for crimes committed with those weapons; or meeting resistance to these common sense approaches to the problem instating the draft I mentioned earlier in order to make sure we know who can and can't handle firearms.  
On further thought, I'll add this third option. The endless repetition of the charge "take our guns" that you echo makes me think it's actually time to embrace that position. Yes, we'll simply ban all guns unless the gunnuts come to the table and talk straight about common sense approaches to the gun problem.
I have since given up on TOK for Facebook. Too much stupid, too little time, like most of the internet. This was added to the blog archive on the date I originally wrote the comments, and the context is currently preserved at the TOK links above the comments.

My memory was primed to go looking for comments I had made at the time by Jim Wright's memorial to Newtown titled Bang Bang Crazy Part Two which he reposted to Facebook earlier in the week. I remember I had said a few things somewhere on Facebook at the time (turns out it was a year later) but I couldn't quite remember where it was. A hat/tip to Facebook's native memory app On This Day without which I would generally be clueless about "what did I do today for the last 8 years or so?"

Objectivity Apparently Devoid of Honesty

The Atlas Society sent me a link to this video a few days ago.  I get these periodically, and have never been impressed with them.



The title alone set me off  How Obamacare Betrays Young Adults.  Really?  We're going to take that angle?  First off, health insurance has never been 'insurance', and healthcare 'insurance' policies have always capitalized on sharing the costs amongst the payers in any group. The ACA simply sets the default group size as "the entirety of the US". 

My opinions have shifted over the years I've been watching this subject. Read back through the articles listed under "health care" and you might just get a feel for what it means to "change positions" (for one, I'm not even on speaking terms with the people who run Downsize DC anymore, and don't get me started on my disappointment with CATO) Especially in light of what I'm about to write here.

There is no reason to speak of Obamacare as anything ground breaking or particularly threatening.  It might or might not work as intended, but with the insurance companies forced to accept everyone and not allowed to take a greater than 15% profit from premiums, my objections to the system are effectively eliminated.

Yes, young people will pay more for insurance than they might pay out of pocket for their well-care visits (most of which will be skipped by them for reasons of economy if they are anything like I was back then) if they live long enough to reach middle age, they'll be thankful that they paid into the healthcare infrastructure all those years.

After watching the video I was depressed to realize that the arguments I would craft if making the case against Obamacare were better than the ones presented. Combine that with the crappy cinematography, poor sound quality and bad acting and you have something that's only watchable by people who already agree with you.

IF you buy insurance of any kind, you are by definition subsidizing the behaviors of others who buy the same policy. The only way to avoid this is to not buy insurance. The lie that is presented here is that Obamacare is different in effect; when the only difference is that Americans are all compelled to buy it. It is effectively a tax, one that I (and most intelligent people) can craft arguments for and against almost at will.

I wouldn't be opposed to means testing the system so that those more able to pay are not unequally profited from the availability of healthcare (as was mentioned in one of the other comments) I would be opposed to telling contributing members of society that they must simply die because they cannot afford to pay, which is what anyone who says "I don't want to contribute to that" means, whether they understand that is the ultimate result of their actions or not.

It's also worth noting that we already subsidize the healthcare of the poor.  This is done through the mechanism of providing charitable relief at emergency rooms, where the ability to pay is not used (for humane reasons) to screen the sick from access to doctors.  This is also the most expensive way to provide healthcare, not only because emergency rooms are expensive to run and maintain, but because waiting until illness is severe is the least effective and most expensive way to treat illness.

While I'm not fond of Obamacare, I'm also not fond of the idea of leaving the poor and sick to their own devices; and I'm quite fond of the idea of having emergence services available when I need them. Consequently some form of tax is necessary to pay for these services. How about we have that honest discussion instead?

Ayn Rand, Objectivism & the Confusion of Harry Binswanger

She's easy to hate on. So easy, in fact, that people completely ignorant of her ideas or real life find it quite easy to do.  I would suggest, if you want to be more informed in your hatred, watching The Passion of Ayn Rand (movie) or reading The Passion of Ayn Rand (book).

But it might actually be more illuminating to watch; Sense of Life or perhaps read We the Living with the understanding that the central character in that novel is her, including the ending. That is how she saw her journey from Russia. If you would prefer to understand were she came from and what she was driving for.

Her ideas are also quite easy to capture and use for truly harmful purposes, as a good number of people are doing right now. That DOES NOT negate the value of what she said when she said it, which was a different time and place than now.

I've read most of her work; I don't have any of the newsletters. Current thought in Objectivist circles has gone so far off track that Harry Binswanger has recently been writing about how the rich should live tax-free (still buying-in to trickle-down economics?) and the rest of us should worship them.

Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)
Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” That’s for the sin of successful investing, channeling savings to their most productive uses, instead of wasting them on government boondoggles like Solyndra and bridges to nowhere.
http://donotlink.com/forbes.com/sites/harrybinswanger/2013/09/17/give-back-yes-its-time-for-the-99-to-give-back-to-the-1/
Conveniently skipping over how the currently wealthy Wall Street bankers are only wealthy because we bailed them all out.  

I offer this in response, this is more heroic and deserving of praise.


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



PZ Myers tweeted this today;
Read the story of Ayn Rand’s life. She was not a nice person…
…and it’s hard to feel much sympathy when her ideology collides with reality, and she gets her comeuppance.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/10/01/ayn-rand-illustrated
I actually found the comic interesting http://activatecomix.com/162-1-1.comic I deem it "The Passion of Ayn Rand" in comic book form. The movie was better.

However, none of her personal flaws or the cult she created of "the collective" http://2think.org/02_2_she.shtml (BTW, the same man who wrote that piece wrote this one too http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/10/23/why-ayn-rand-wont-go-away/ so go figure) actually invalidate her ideas about what was good in life, what was worth striving for, and what was heroic.

Hitchens poses the question here;


Which I answer rhetorically, "because of the altruists who would demonize self-interest" Without the dictatorship of Stalin, the Russian revolution, the works of Karl Marx derived from the ethics of Kant, the creation of the myth of selflessness. Without this chain of events we would have no objectivism created as a reaction. No need to confirm to the average person that it's OK to concern yourself with your interests first, in the face of all these people who tell you that you should give more. Because in spite of Hitch's protestations, there are real philosophical forces at work attempting to grind down individuality and to pound down the exceptional like an offending nail. To convince the average person that they must submit.

Hitchens being who he was would never have noticed this; or if he did would have deemed it powerless. Perhaps it is powerless to most people. Still, there were clearly a lot of people glad to hear that they weren't evil people simply for thinking of themselves first. That they didn't need to give more and more to the needy, to those who's hands are always outstretched for more. That her words are now used to defend actions she would not agree with is just a testament to the popularity of her work.

I'm sure Nietzsche would be weirded out by most of his fans as well.

The Final Patch for Mists of Pandaria

Blizzard is promoting the new 5.4 patch to the four corners of the world. I have a response to this.

Things I love about 5.4. 

Timeless Isle. In fact, I've loved all of Pandaria game play with the exception of the lunkheads that I'm forced to play with because there still aren't any community policing tools in the game. Pet battles, quests, collectables. It's a feast. If I could play it by myself. But this is about what I like, and I really do like Pandaria. It's unqualified beautifully imagined. The landscape is breathtaking. The fights are challenging, if not a bit over-long in places. There are more ways to play the game now than there have been in any version prior to this one. Pet-battling may be demonstrably derivative, but it's a great way to spend some time in the game, and a welcome addition to the melange of methods available to leveling characters.

Leveling has been sped up, and is so short through classic game that level 'dings' occur faster than you can clear quests in an area, if you are the kind of player that bothers to quest.   The re-mapped areas introduced in Cataclysm wear better than the original game quests where they have been changed (my objections to continuity issues aside) with the dungeons and PvP battlegrounds thrown into the mix, there really isn't enough time to experience the full breadth of the game before you move off to the next area.

Things I hate about 5.4.

New currencies introduced to hobble long-time players.Why do that? Why punish players who have stuck through to the end of this XP who now have to throw away the work done with previous currencies, since those currencies are now worthless? (well we didn't...) Really? The currency for speeding up research products has been spirit of harmony for the entire XP. Now it's the same token that you use for extra rolls in the new raid. [It is actually an entirely new mat acquired through disenchanting. The previous mats acquired this way have never been seen by yours truly, although I have it on good authority that they do exist. Consequently the limit for the average player will be significantly lower than 3 a week] Don't even get me started on the problems with raid looting.  Besides, I've already blogged on that subject.

However, and I don't think I can stress this enough in an MMO game, the biggest downside of the game remains the stunning lack of tools for dealing with bad actors. I really can't understand Blizzard's unwillingness to introduce a ratings system into the game; and because of  this group play remains hit and miss based on the luck of the draw.  With the fights more difficult than anytime previously in the game this presents a real problem for the average player just trying to get through the content.

I personally would welcome the challenge, if there was a way to remove the idiots.

Doctors DO NOT recommend Sudafed PE


I just sent this note to the Sudafed site review;
"Just saw an advertisement on MSNBC for Sudafed PE. Frankly, it was a mistake for Sudafed to offer a version of their medication with Phenylephrine in the first place, because PE clinically has no demonstrable positive effects. However, the ad was completely false, in that it linked Dr. recommendations for Pseudoephedrine the active ingredient in original Sudafed, with the OTC version of Sudafed PE which is not doctor recommended. If this isn't a violation of FCC and FDA rules, it ought to be. McNEIL would be better served by promoting thier products on capitol hill, getting the rules against Pseudoephedrine and other drugs relaxed in ways that make it easier to treat medical problems, engage in harmless mind altering recreation, etc. So that the desire to misuse medication like Sudafed is diverted into legal recreational drugs. Do us all a favor, discontinue the PE and the ads to promote the drug that doesn't work, and channel that money into helping to fix broken US drug policy."
http://www.sudafed.com/products

The OTC version of Sudafed is useless, do not believe the ads to the contrary. DO NOT BUY THIS DRUG. Go to the pharmacist and ask for the real Sudafed. Write McNeil and demand they engage in activism to fix US drug policy.

The Gun Argument

"An armed society is a polite society." ~ Robert Heinlein
We are an 'armed society'; I'll let you be the judge of whether our conduct even approaches politeness. From my perspective, we could use a lot more of it.

Most people will never have cause to use a weapon in self-defense. When I tell someone that I've twice had cause to need a weapon, much more use it, most of the time the listener is shocked. Gunnuts (pro-gunners) as a rule are convinced they always need more and better weapons, most of which remain unfired in any setting other than the range where it becomes a matter of pride to have the coolest weapon with the best gizmos to go with it.

That is where the AR-15 is used, not as a self-defensive weapon. A self-defensive weapon is a pistol, or a shotgun. A woman would be better served with a can of pepper spray (also a weapon) as she is more likely to be killed with her own gun, statistically, than she is to use it.

Which is the another point that gunnuts fail to notice; that a 'weapon' is anything you can use against another person. That 'self-defense' is anything you might do to defend yourself. That, in fact, you cannot have a right to something that you cannot make yourself (if the converse is true, then I can definitely have a right to health care) which means you don't have a right to firearms in any fashion beyond what the Constitution guarantees.

The worst offenders of the right to Self-Defense, places like Chicago and D.C., are what is held up as examples of commonality across the US. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most places (8 of the 10 cities on this list) in the US have very lax gun laws. We have LOTS of measures on the books, and almost none of them are actively enforced, even if they were effective. There is no mandate that someone demonstrate proficiency with a weapon before being sold one. There is no certification of sound mind required before someone can go and buy a handgun.

'Anyone' can go to virtually any gun show or private seller and purchase a weapon more lethal than any gun available at the time of the drafting of the Constitution. If that fact doesn't scare you, then you aren't a thinking person. 


 I've had arguments with gunnuts that think that Zimmerman was right to stalk Treyvon Martin, that think teachers should be mandatorily armed (as if weapons proficiency is a good skill in a teacher) that think not just semi-auto 'mock-ups' of military arms, but full auto military arms and weapons systems (like tanks) should be available for private purchase. They never seem to get the disconnect between a defensive action (removing a threat to you personally) and military actions, requiring the killing of multiple targets simultaneously, indiscriminate of the safety of onlookers, neighbors, people caught in the crossfire. That is a loosing argument.

I'm on record saying "I'd accept that training and background checks should be mandatory, if those who want to ban guns would accept that the right to carry common weapons for defensive purposes is guaranteed." but truthfully when I start having to argue with gunnuts about their weapons fetish I'm to the point where I simply endorse the reinstatement of the general draft. That is how we fix the problems in this country. Reconstitute the militia as intended in the Constitution. Two years of service, military or civil, with mandatory weapons training for all. Gets the kids off the streets, gets people work to do, gets the gunnuts were we can find them and disarm them before they hurt someone.

...or we can fall back on the first sentiment. Take your pick.

The Latest Snake-Oil

The story about the GyroStim and the sports writer promoting it struck a chord with me.  As a long time Meniere's sufferer, I've seen a ton of these kind of devices promoted to me as a 'cure' for what ails me.  The people who do this kind of thing, the "Chiropractic-Neurologist" in this story, are amongst the cruelest predators you will ever meet, because when you have a disease for which there is no cure, you will do almost anything, pay for almost anything, to make the suffering stop.  They bank on the victims desperation, KNOWING that if they have money, they'll buy the fakery, just to experience that moment of hope that things will get better.

It's almost enough to make one wish that hell existed, just so these types of people will be punished for their trickery in a proper fashion. I know that the courts are no remedy for this, unfortunately.  I offer a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Steve Novella for fighting the good fight on this subject. 

Lincoln & Slavery; What are the Nay-Sayers Really Saying?

 Was on Facebook the other day (months ago, actually) after having just watched the movie Lincoln (now available streaming from Amazon! lol) and stumbled across an image posted on the wall of Free Talk Live a libertarian syndicated radio show / podcast that I've always considered a bit of a train wreck, unfortunately I don't have time to sit around listening to train wrecks these days.
  
Someone had taken one of Lincoln's quotes out of context and edited it.  It ran like this;
I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.
But that quote was a part of a larger speech; and even the partial quote is internally edited. I won't reprint it all here, but it's available at the National Parks Service website; Lincoln-Douglas Ottawa Debate.  The paragraph the partial quote comes from runs like this;
Now, gentlemen, I don't want to read at any greater length, but this is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the institution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it, and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. [Laughter.] I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. [Loud cheers.] I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects-certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man. [Great applause.]
As is shown in the pasted complete paragraph, the contextual relationship of offered quote changes the meaning of the quote, completely.  The anti-Lincoln types (and most critics of historical figures) rely on the average person's lack of context for the words, so that the people they are trying to convert to their negative views will be outraged by the statements alone, and never look to see the bigger picture, let alone read a book or several of them on the subject, just to get a feel for the perspective in which this debate was held.  

Yes, he said those things; that blacks and whites were too different, that he had no intention of ending slavery in the South; and yet he worked to make these things so. Could it be that he was disseminating in order to put at ease those who would never have allowed negro equality before the law had they believed that it would lead to full equality? Maybe the naysayers, and those who would be persuaded by them, should study history with an eye for the real truths rather than parse it for statements that can be used to indict men whose actions have proven to be just in spite of their words.

The truth is, it was not Lincoln's war. The South started the war because they could not abide the presence of Northern force on their territory. Had they not been ready and willing to exert force themselves, the tally would have come up differently.

Had the abolitionists admitted at the time that they were for black suffrage (let alone the ad absurdum of women's suffrage) or any other form of political equality no progress towards ending slavery would have been achieved, and we would probably still have legally enforced ownership of people today.

Libertarians often talk about how "Lincoln ended black slavery, only to enslave all of us".  The enslavement that libertarians like that suffer under is ideological in nature. They are enslaved to their own ideology more than they are enslaved to some external force. It forces them to denounce actions that conflict with their espoused beliefs, even when those actions can be shown to benefit all of us. The ending of legal slavery set up the possibility for average people to make a living being employed by another.

The question we should be asking today is not whether the actions of the first Republican President were just; but exactly how the last involuntary servitude, prison labor, is different from what was abolished in 1865? How are free men to compete with this, when the full cost of 'maintaining' this workforce is not present in the purchase price of the goods made with their labor? How are we to compete, as a labor force, against entire national populations that are kept almost as prisoners in their own countries? Why do we as a people not rise up and demand that the laws be changed? Will we spend precious time fighting over past ills, rather than prevent our own demise in the near future?


When you object and say we are all slaves, you offer the unstated observation that we should return to the preferable state of owning other people in order to save ourselves. When you trumpet the virtue of JW Booth, you place back-shooting conspiracy as a higher value than diplomacy and negotiation.

JW Booth did a disservice to the South with his bullet. Reconstruction under Lincoln would have looked nothing like it did at the hands of his inheritors.


I consider it the height of hubris to hold historical figures to modern standards as if they could be anything other than a product of their times. Such is human nature and the human condition. As goes Lincoln, so go we all, in a nutshell. Either we choose to participate in the world around us, or we withdraw and demand the world meet us on our terms. I don't consider the latter to be much of a life.  

No Seriously; Fix the Reward System, and Stop Making Excuses for Sloppy Programming

After a rather lengthy session of 'assistance' with a GM in World of Warcraft, it was stated that if I actually wanted something fixed, I'd have to submit a suggestion. Well, I know a bug when I see one, and if I have to submit a suggestion on that subject, it reads like this;

"The work order quests are bugged. Yes, I know there is a forum post on the subject, but I know a bug when I see one. The crops at Sunsong Ranch mature before the part II quest recognizes them as being mature. Contrary to the forum post handwaving, this is clearly a programming bug, because no one would consciously work to frustrate their player base and require them to needlessly duplicate work; when all that is actually needed is to sync up the times of quest proc and crop harvest. So fix it."

It would have been nice if I could have found the blue post that was quoted to me. This is the only 'blue post' I could find on the subject http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/8178377823 the text is different.

This doesn't even begin to cover the problem that started the GM report. The problem with 16 bosses defeated, 32 rolls for gear, and only one coming up as gear I could use and two pieces of duplicate gear I had earned with rolls the previous week; most disappointingly spending hard-fought-for valor points on second rate valor gear to get into Throne of Thunder, only to get 0 gear for 6 rolls.  The problem is, I have submitted suggestions on the issue of being insulted with gold in exchange for days of work getting the Mogu runes.  Runes earned with daily questing should always give gear.  Gear is the lure used to get us to spend all that time in the game to start with.  For the reward rate to be less than 20 percent on those runes makes the time spent a total write-off.  Better to spend time doing anything else, because you will make more gold doing anything else.

I have submitted this suggestion countless times.  Rumor has it they'll fix it so you get gear eventually. How many runes will that take? Tired of the excuses, tired of being jerked around. I'll just keep leveling alts till I get bored and leave, or they take this game seriously enough to fix the problems with it. Anyone want to take bets?

World of Warcraft Dead Again?

The latest post on WoW over at Gamebreaker asks the question;
The WoW subscription numbers have taken yet another hit, with a 1.3 million subscriber drop between February and May, Kotaku reports. They add that the subscriber loss has mostly come from eastern markets, but even so, this is over a 25% total loss from the dizzying heights of the Wrath of the Lich King subscriber numbers. 
We’ve joked about WoW being dead here before on Gamebreaker, and we’re hoping it’s pretty clear that we’re not being wholly serious this time either. The game has not gone the way of the dodo, it is not pushing up the daisies, it is not an ex-MMORPG just yet. Even with this drop, the WoW subscriber numbers are very healthy compared to just about any other MMORPG on the market right now. And for a title of its age to be able to maintain such a large base, even in the face of some stiff competition is impressive indeed. 8.3 million people is not a small number. 
Nonetheless, this is the lowest WoW subscription number point since early in 2007. It is a natural low point in the expansion cycle, with the latest patch on its way, and an uptick could well appear. Mists of Pandaria has been a divisive expansion, heralded jointly as being the best the game has been, and one of the worst grinds of recent years. But is this drop in numbers due to the changes in WoW, or the changes in the gaming world around it? WoW has a very diverse appeal: with a subscriber base of this size it’s nigh on impossible to please everyone, and are the players who joined later on just too different to those who came in at the start.
While WoW is hardly dead in the water, one has to wonder: what’s causing the subscription losses? And will it ever regain them?
 The last time I was tempted to critique the game I was banned from Blizzard's forums; so this time, I'll simply put it somewhere they can't touch.

Having played all versions of the game except for pre-BC, I have to say I've never had to grind more for valor points and gear, or work harder to have food for raiding. If you are playing for raiding, the effort/reward is completely unbalanced, with weeks of work often resulting in little or no reward at all. This gripe should sound familiar if you've played WoW for any amount of time, or read my previous posts on the subject.

Casual players, on the other hand, have probably never had it better. With the addition of pet battles and the brawl-pub, not to mention a "Looking For Raid" system that provides access to a simplified version of end-game content makes casual play far more rewarding than it's ever been before. The changes that Blizzard introduced at the end of Cataclysm, along with some additional thought towards players who don't have days to waste in game, but simply want something quick to do in that 45 minutes before supper, has paid off well in my opinion.

As someone who plays to raid, I try to remind myself that I signed up to grind, even though I despise grinding. If the normal raid boss fights were simply as difficult as they are, but didn't require days of work prepping for them, it would be far less frustrating. Conversely, if you had to spend prep time, but could be given a better than average chance of success, the reward factor would be higher. Wasting time endlessly with almost no reward leads to an elevated level of rage-quitting. The problem for Blizzard is that they've painted themselves into a corner once again. If they change anything they will be accused of 'nerfing' the game, and that will also lead to players rage-quitting as they did when the Dragon Soul raid turned out to be too easy in the estimation of hardcore players. 

I have an idea of what an easy fight would be, but I've never seen it in game. The boss draws his weapon, then trips and falls on it. That would be easy. Might be a good humor moment 

I wish I could say I was sympathetic to Blizzard's plight, but the levels of frustration that I'm experiencing, as well as my history with them when it comes to trying to highlight problems in the game, appear to be clouding my judgement.

Multi-Level Marketing; No, It Doesn't Pay.

Still going through the back issues of Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. In addition to noting the passage of Perry DeAngeles (who's unique take on the subject of skepticism marked the early episodes so powerfully) and running across the odd bit of trivia, the interviews are the things that keep me listening.

In episode #135 the interviewee is Robert FitzPatrick.  I wish I had run across this guy and his invaluable information before I signed up for Amway way back when; I would have saved myself a lot of pain, worry and expense.  Luckily the Wife and I are pretty savvy when it comes to counting pennies (I only wish I was that savvy when it comes to sales pitches. I'm getting there) and it only took a few months before we realized that the cost of the goods from Amway and their online presence Quixtar, even at the 'discounted' rate, was more than equivalent quality products available from any big box retailer.

So many of the things that Mr. FitzPatrick related in the interview reminded me of my experiences with my 'upline' and Amway, that I kept getting chills thinking about how close I was to buying into the whole twisted mindset of selling people something that I needed them to buy, simply because I needed them to buy it. It really is a cult mentality; and they are hardly the only group I've gotten in with that, when looked at through the lens of hindsight, look suspect on that score.

To this day, every time I'm confronted with a direct-selling scheme, I cringe. There are far, far more of them out there now than there have ever been in the past, and the internet appears to be the vehicle allowing these 'businesses' to flourish.  We've come a long way from the days when the Amway guy could show up at your door, selling soap at a price where, in rural America, it seemed like a bargain since you didn't have to go out and get it.  Amazon may not pay me to buy products from them, but it's hard to argue that their prices are driven by anything other than fair market value.  More than I can say for most direct sell products.


I wanted to add a shameless plug for Mr. FitzPatrick's site Pyramid Scheme Alert.  It really is too bad that no one takes the subject of these schemes seriously.



John Oliver does his usual best take-down of MLM here.



Ever wonder what is in all those self-storage units? Think about it for a bit.

Delusional Downsize DC or Follow the Money

The founder of Downsize DC unfriended me because I dared to suggest that he should at least read this guy's book. Apparently hiding from contrary opinions means that they have no power over you,




But we cannot ignore this corruption anymore. We need a government that works. And not works for the left or the right, but works for the left and the right, the citizens of the left and right, because there is no sensible reform possible until we end this corruption. So I want you to take hold, to grab the issue you care the most about. Climate change is mine, but it might be financial reform or a simpler tax system or inequality. Grab that issue, sit it down in front of you, look straight in its eyes, and tell it there is no Christmas this year. There will never be a Christmas. We will never get your issue solved until we fix this issue first. So it's not that mine is the most important issue. It's not. Yours is the most important issue, but mine is the first issue, the issue we have to solve before we get to fix the issues you care about. No sensible reform, and we cannot afford a world, a future, with no sensible reform. 
Okay. So how do we do it? Turns out, the analytics here are easy, simple. If the problem is members spending an extraordinary amount of time fundraising from the tiniest slice of America, the solution is to have them spend less time fundraising but fundraise from a wider slice of Americans, to spread it out, to spread the funder influence so that we restore the idea of dependence upon the people alone. And to do this does not require a constitutional amendment, changing the First Amendment. To do this would require a single statute, a statute establishing what we think of as small dollar funded elections, a statute of citizen-funded campaigns, and there's any number of these proposals out there: Fair Elections Now Act, the American Anti-Corruption Act, an idea in my book that I call the Grant and Franklin Project to give vouchers to people to fund elections, an idea of John Sarbanes called the Grassroots Democracy Act. Each of these would fix this corruption by spreading out the influence of funders to all of us. 
TED2013 - Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
The reaction of  Jim Babka to this very reasonable counter-argument, the suggestion that government wasn't actually the problem it was business manipulation of government which is the problem was a classic illustration of confirmation bias blinding someone to relevant facts. It is just too bad that libertarians and other small government types cannot understand that big business is as much or more of a threat as big government. That they are pawns of big business ideologically. 

Dr. Who Christmas Special. My First Amazon Review. A Twofer.

Image courtesy BBC
& Dalekdom on Deviantart
available on Amazon.com
Posted here on Amazon.

Let me set something straight. I love Doctor Who. I have watched every episode available from the First Hartnell to the latest Matt Smith. My cable system and PVR let me down and didn't record this years Christmas Special, (wasn't marked "new" apparently) so kudos to Amazon for having it available to purchase and stream (can I get a round figure on what it would cost to own all of the Doctor this way? Less than 5 figures, please) Doctor Who remains Doctor Who whether we're talking about Hartnell's Captain Kangaroo delivery, Pertwee's 007 flamboyancy, Tom Baker's charming teeth and curls, or Matt Smith doing a fair impression of Troughton's second doctor. It's all British, it's all time traveling entertainment on a grand scale.

Watch this one, it's good.

However, I write this post because, once again, I'm sent a message by Amazon asking me "how many stars I would give this show". The same hook they use each time I purchase ANYTHING. From a song to a book to a movie that is 20 years old; to this film (which could probably benefit from a positive review) and each time I fall for the hook and wander over here, it's demanded of me that I wax verbose on the subject of whatever it is. If I've purchased a single song, I cannot leave a review without writing an essay about it! That is simply ridiculous.

Please. Please, I'm begging here. Remove the requirement that essays be written for each and every product that you purchase, just so you can give an 'attay boy' to something that deserves it, without having to struggle with wit and punctuation, and heaven forbid CAPS LOCK. Let us just give a star rating, please? At least quit pretending in your e-mails that a star rating is all you want.

Conspiracy Cults; Getting What's Coming to Them?

This is for Steven Vandervelde who, in his infinite wisdom, decided to unfriend me in the middle of a conversation on his wall (conversation appended) I was in the middle of real life, of watching movies with family, when this conversation started.

I should have resisted commenting on his post (that was how I started the comment I had to abandon because of his actions) I have no fondness for trolls, and despise myself when I catch myself trolling. Still, I have to wonder if the conspiracy theorists (see appended conversation) understand just how nutty their words appear, when seen from outside the realm of the conspiracy initiated; the people who simply "know" that the forces of government are arrayed against them. In yet another example of my inability to keep myself from arguing with the terrified weapons holder (a phrase that should give anyone pause) I attempted to explain that it was completely rational to limit weapons to people who are trained and licensed to use and carry firearms. That there is no conspiracy at the UN to steal all our guns.

The UN exists exactly as I described; it was created specifically to echo the will of the victors in World War Two, it does what we (our government) tells it to. Everyone who isn't part of the conspiracy knows this. No one is proposing that you should not be allowed to defend yourself. Even if they were, such a proposal would contravene centuries of US law and the founding documents of the government of the United States; not to mention the most recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States (District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570) which has reversed the presumption that you could render the population of the US defenseless, legally.

Can Not Be Done. Not without changing the precedent, something that is quite rare. Let that sink in for a moment.

Before I leave this subject, I'd like to highlight another point. Recently the world was treated to a breath of fresh air commonly referred to as the Arab Spring. Third World regions such as the Middle East (my apologies to anyone who takes offense to this characterization) are historically the most despotic. They have some of the worst records on human rights, freedoms; and most importantly gun ownership. Yet these people, officially unarmed by law, managed to overthrow several governments and change the course of the region, politically.  What does that mean when it comes to the necessity of arms and the need to make government responsive to the people? For me, it embroiders an opinion that I've long held; that revolution need not be violent in order to be effective.

The US is obsessed with guns. We have been since Lexington and Concord. In the 1700's, it was necessary to hold arms in order to be able to effect change. This adage was observed and utilized through numerous generations, and taken to heart by several successful dictators of the recent past, which the gunnuts (a term I use with the greatest of sympathy) have enumerated ad nauseum during the current debate about guns. But that doesn't mean that guns are ultimately of any use to those who hold them.  It bears noting that Adam Lanza's mother (who purchased the guns he used in his mass shooting) ultimately disapproved of the use he put her guns too after he killed her with them.

...and that really is the question before us. The people who are opposed to this discussion on the basis of the discussion itself want to frame the question completely differently; but the real question remains, "can we limit access to weapons and yet retain our ability to defend ourselves?" Experience and history seem to indicate that this is a viable possibility, despite the (nearly) insane rants of those who would have you believe that if the government keeps you from purchasing and owning an Abrams tank, they are restricting your right to defend yourself. That conversation continues, in spite of the insanity.

There is something about the arguments of the conspiracy minded, though, that inspired this entire rant. The paranoid, like a broken clock, is right at least once a day (twice a 24 hour cycle) and the paranoid among us are already onto the weapon that will be used against them.

It's been suggested in a few of the previous conversations I've had on this subject, that the government was going to restrict access to weapons based on a judgement of sanity; that they would deem us all insane and thereby take away all our guns. I'll give them partial credit here.  There are people who have guns today who are (to establish a clinical judgment) completely nuts. Those people really shouldn't have weapons, and I hereby approve of the government taking their weapons away from them, in furtherance of the safety of the rest of us.

You know who you are.

The rest of us, those of us who are quite sane, should probably welcome a discussion of what measures should be taken to limit access to weapons. After all, we've seen more mass shootings in the last few years than we've seen previously in history; if that knowledge doesn't give us pause, then I guess it's time to go buy those Bushmaster's with 30 round clips, as well as the fallout shelters, a year's worth of dry goods, a water purification plant and a good solar power system. Too bad there aren't enough electric cars available on the market to make a 'self-sufficient' system truly viable (the operation of a refinery being beyond the ability of a small group of determined individuals) much less there being no real investments to hold all those fake dollars we invented over the last few decades...

...But please, don't let me dissuade you.  They are coming for your guns. Go run and hide. We'll let you know when it's safe to come out.



Steven Vandervelde shared L Neil Smith's photo.

[Just say "NO" image removed by Facebook poster]

To Obama, Feinstein, Biden, Schumer, Reid, McCarthy, DeGette, and the rest of weird, sick, criminal anti-gun fetishests ...
  • R. Anthony Steele I am saying no. To the weapons merchants, the profiteers, and their defenders in government. 
  • L Neil Smith Anthony, were you _born_ a useful idiot, or did you have to take lessons? Go read some history. Victim disarmament is the all-important prelude to genocide -- in this case democide. Go look at Agenda 21 and see what this government and the UN have in mind for you. 9/10 of the human population must die, in their view, the view of every top-level gun-grabber in the world, to save their lovely Mother Gaia.
  • R. Anthony Steele I chose not to drink the conspiracy kool aid that appears to have infected the balance of libertarian thought.
  • L Neil Smith American Independence was the result of a conspiracy. So was the Federal Reserve System and the income tax. Look up "Jekyll Island". Not to mention the Manhattan Project. Or the dirty tricks that kept Ron Paul off the ballot. Are you ignorant of what Obama's death squads are starting to do? Better look that up, too. Holding your nose loftily in the air only make it easier for the badguys to cut your throat.

    And you never answered my question
  • R. Anthony Steele I did answer your question. The fact is the UN does what we want it to do; it was designed that way. If you don't understand that basic fact, there's no point in addressing the various other fallacies involved in the conspiracy theories you allude to.
  • Steven Vandervelde R. Anthony Steele, if you actually had a point you certainly failed to make it, minus the ad hominem attack. Are you really that incapable of carrying on an intelligent discussion? Are we to suppose that you don't support the right to self defense? Why do you call yourself a libertarian?
[I don't. Not anymore. Not a libertarian. Self defense? Self defense does not guarantee you a firearm, or else you'd emerge from the womb clutching one.]
  • L Neil Smith I deal with them every day. Usually they're cowards who simply don't want to think about the murder and mayhem going on all around them. Or they're too lazy to take charge of their own lives, which includes pulling their heads out and looking around. Natural-born Tories. Imagine one of them calling himself a libertarian!

    Wonder what this guy is going to tell himself when Obama's death squads become commoin knowledge.
[Again I repeat; Not a libertarian. Also, gotta love the total lack of ad hom's in their replies. So much more directly argumentative than my comments, not attacking the person at all. I really should try to emulate them I guess. Also, I've noticed a distinct lack of death squads since this back and forth occurred. Still waiting for them to appear.]
  • L Neil Smith Anthony, I'm not sure I'd use the word "we" as promiscuously as you do. I agree that the evil fascist sum presently troubling us is widely distributed. I can't tell which end is the dog and which end is the tail. The UN and the US government both approve Agenda 21. I'm not a part of the "we", are you? I've written of UN officials and presidential advisers who agree that 9/10 of the population must be gotten rid of. I'm not a part of that "we', either, are you?

    I know that this is painful -- it was for me -- but get it through your head: you don't live in Disneyland any more. You never did. The only way we're gonna have the America we thought we had is to_make_ it, starting now.

    Oh, and I don't drink Kool-Ade. I drink Jameson's.



I drink Kelt, myself.

What alcohol preference has to do with a known cult reference is a matter of conjecture. I don't think we should casually joke about the insanity of believing everyone is capable of handling firearms responsibly.  That they can and do hold these beliefs without question is one of the hallmarks of cult-like thought.

Oh, and Agenda 21?  Another baseless conspiracy theory.