Thursday, March 29, 2007

The End of The Slave Trade

The problem with listening to podcasts and network statistics for one's primary news source is that I end up missing out on the events themselves.

March 25, 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. It was not that long ago that Britain and America held large number of people in chains. It took another half century and a brutal civil war to end the practice of slavery in the United States and another century for the government to really start protecting the civil rights of the descendants of the slaves.

The slave trade was one of the most disgusting businesses in human history.

Commemorating events like this is important because it helps us remember that we humans are capable of doing wicked and horrible things to each-other. While it all but impossible for people to detach themselves from the wicked and cruel things that we are doing today, I think there is some hope that seeing events of the past might help people she what is right and wrong in our society.

The fact that so many businesses were eager to engage in slave trade emphasizes that business is not the natural ally of freedom. Businesses are more than willing to enslave people, pay bribes, form monopolies and undermine markets in the grub for profit and power. In the regulated economy, one finds that businesses support or oppose particular regulations simply on the effect that the regulations have on their business.

It is people, not businesses that benefit from freedom. I think too many Libertarians get got up in the idea that businesses are somehow the central point of freedom, when the ideal is about the individual and not the corporation.

Apparently, the British Slave Trade really got going in 1672 when the British Crown granted a monopoly on slave trade to The Royal Africa Company. The slave trade was not simply business run amok. It involved government approval (with governments deciding who could and who could not be a slave). The trade even involved government incentives in the form of a chartered monopoly.

The slave traders were among the most villainous people in history. It is very easy to discount them. The very fact that we recognize slave traders as villains makes it possible to discuss how the interplay of political ideas lead to bad conclusions.

I suspect that the first slave traders saw themselves as progressive. Ancient Greece and Rome both condoned slavery. Re-instituting slavery would allow the west to relive the glories of ancient Rome. Having a large dedicated slave work force would allow the development of a highly educated intellectual elite who would wow the world with their wonderfulness. People were willing to engage in slave trade because they saw it as the path to progress.

As slavery became institutionalized and people started seeing the horrible results of their short cut to progress, ideas began to shift. So, toward the end of the slavery debacle, Conservatives wanting to preserve social order argued for slavery. Eventually we arrived at the point where forcing the end of slavery became a progressive cause.

People wonder why "progressive ideology" drives me up the wall. It does so because it has no meaning. Progressives want to force social change on us without a real notion of where that social change will lead. Stuck in the mud Conservatives are also a challenge. They want to preserve social order at all cost. Using these definitions we see:

Conservatives opposed the start of slavery (although not loudly enough). They opposed the end of slavery.

Progressive supported the start of slavery, the supported the end of slavery.

Progressives lead us into traps and Conservatives get us stuck there.

The great shrill "progressive/conservative" dichotomy that dominates politics simply moves us from trap to trap.

After the emancipation of slavery, the establishment of Jim Crow laws was seen as a new path that would allow blacks to progress on a separate but equal path in the South. The idiotic Jim Crow laws were finally recognized as an evil, and truly progressive civil rights movement emerged to get us out of that trap.

The civil rights movement shows that there are cases of real progress.

I applaud true progress.

The interesting thing about true progress is that after society makes true progress, people need to change from a progressive mode to a conservative mode to preserve that progress.

In the cases of slavery and racial prejudice, we see that the evils we need to fight are slavery and racial prejudice. The enemy is not the progressives or the conservatives, the enemy was slavery. "Progressive" and "conservative" are these fluffy terms that get redefined with each mix of issues on the table.

In the 1980s, Conservatism in America was a strange mix of people who wanted to preserve the social order, and those who are trying to preserve the classical liberal progress at the foundation of the American system. In the Bush era, the classical liberals have pretty much been driven from the Republican Party. The definitions of the terms change.

David Horowitz's experience with the Black Panthers is quite interesting. Horowitz was an avowed Communist working for social progress in Berkeley. His group wanted to develop the Black Panthers into a band of brown shirts for the next stage of the people's revolution. Horowitz seems to have realized that the supposedly progressive step to socialism was actually regressive.

Real progressives should listen to Horowitz. The far left wants to take the progressive movement into some deep dark places.

Real progress occurs when a society makes an advance then preserves that advance. It is a combination of forward movements and stabilization. It is not a process of continual revolution (as Marxists would assume) nor is it the establishment of a perfect social order.

The fact that there is a good idea that was progressive when it was stated doesn't necessarily mean that you should declare yourself a progressive. What you want to do is preserve the good idea, which kind of makes you conservative. The words "progressive" and "conservative" only have meaning in relation to the time in which an idea was spoken.

Speaking of ideas changing. Religious Tolerance has an interesting time line on religious views about slavery. Of course it is extremely difficult to say which ideas are progressive or conservative. Often what you do in the world of politics is make a statement that nudges the world in a direction that you would like to see it go.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Diverse Societies

Rephrasing the long post. I think we are better off having a diversity of character sets than to pretend that we have one character set that encompasses the diversity of all possible languages.

What programmers need is a multidimensional system that allows for a short readable character set for interfacing with the computer. We can they use translation tables for communicating with other cultures.

There is a place for efforts like UTF8 that incorporate a translation table at the character level itself; However, I think that there is more fundamental diversity when we allow people to develop systems optimized for their culture than we are when we try to create monolythic systems that try to encapsulate the full diversity of all human language.

Diversity of Characters

It looks like I will be spending the day trying to coordinate character sets for my database conversion. Both programmers (and computer users for that matter) should be aware of the encoding that they use for their writing. The ecoding is the process that maps the characters that you see on your computer screen into the bits stored on the computer.

Joel on Programming has an interesting read on unicode. Joel seems to have an extremely low opinion of American programmers in general and of PHP in particular. (PHP is maintained by the Zend corporation in Isreal.)

I happen to have a positive view of both PHP and American programmers.

If anything, I am more apt to question the people trying to stuff Unicode down our throat, than to question the people who are in the trenches trying to make programs work.

Back to to Unicode. In the early days of computer programming, processing and storage capacity was expensive. Programmers encoded data in CAPSLOCK because computer space was too valuable to waste on inconsequential details like case.

In the early days, computers were so expensive that if a county wanted to have a computer for their own character set, the natural choice would be to design machines and software from the ground up. It was really not until the '80s that the price of computer capacity dropped to the point where people could start thinking of cheap machines that had the capacity to process the complexity of different languages.

The natural impulse of computer science was to handle the diversity of languages through parallel evolution of different operating systems and character sets. This was accompanied by the coevolution of technologies to translate between the different operating systems.

As a student of languages and linguistics, I was actually hoping that different language groups in the world would end up developing their own approaches to software. I was hoping that the parallel evolution of computer science in different language groups would lead to a diversity of operating systems.

Of course, there were powerful interests who wanted to see one operating system dominate the entire world.

Since the existence of different character sets was leading to parallel evolution of operating systems in different cultures. Powerful multinationals wanting to dominate the world had to act. They did so by stuffing down our collective gullet a new standard called unicode.

The goal of the Unicode effort was to stomp out this natural evolution of computer science by encoding the diversity of the known languages of the world into a single character set. The first hope was that we could do this with a 16bit number. That was too small to encode all of the subtleties of Chinese and other symbolic languages. There was some hope that use 32 bits would suffice. Each character you typed on the screen would be a number between 1 and 4294967296. With a 32bit character set, each character that an English writer used would be 33818640 times larger than what is actually needed to record the character.

A good writing application doesn’t just record the written word. An application might also record revision history, etc.. An implementation of a universal character set means a great deal of wasted space for English writers.

A 32bit character set is so overbearing, that no-one really wants to use it. The current group think is to push an idea called UTF8.

UTF8 uses 8bit characters for Latin languages and a point set scheme for other languages. You can directly translate ASCII to UTF8. Letters from other alphabets would just be bigger.

Unfortunately, the existence of variable length characters is problematic for many languages and database applications that assume that the binary representation of all characters is the same size. By adopting UTF8, you actually end up precluding the use of primitive fix length databases. Which is sad because primitive fixed length databases are fast and easy to program.

Since UTF8 gives precedence to English by making our letters the smaller at the top of the chart; I actually see UTF8 is more imperialistic than the paradigm where Americans used ASCII and allowed other linguistic groups to evolve their own character sets.

In some ways, I see the debate over character sets as a reflection of the overall debate between the classical liberal world view and progressive world view. The classical liberal view would have Americans continuing to pursue the development of operating systems and character sets that best allow the expression of what Americans want to accomplish while people in other linguistic traditions develop character sets and operating systems that best express their desires.

Parallel evolution leads to greater diversity.

Since we are interested in communicating with the world, there would be a natural coevolution of schemas for translating ideas between cultures.

The classical liberal approach to the diversity of languages would be to allow for the parallel evolution of different ideas and character sets. The progressive approach is to try to create a single universal character set and to force everyone to use that one universal character set.

BTW, you may notice that writers favoring Unicode often take a very condescending attitude to traditional coding techniques.

My thoughts on this issue are that programmers should store information at a cardinality that best matches the data. For example, if you are making shoes, you might have 5 colors, 10 sizes and 4 widths. There are only 200 permutations of this shoe description. Ideally, the character set in your shoe database would not require too much more wasted space than what is needed to express these 200 permutations. The wasted space may not look like a lot when you are talking about 1 or 2 shoe orders. But when you are talking about a database recording on millions of shoes, the inefficiencies add up.

Storing this data in ASCII format is already inefficient. Storing data on shoe orders in Unicode multiplies that inefficiency by 4. When ordering one pair of shoes, the fact that you wasted some space doesn't really matter. When you start talking about hundreds of millions of shoes, the space starts to matter.

I am not completely dimissive of unicode. The shoe company may want to sell its shoes in every country. The sales department is likely to want to have a database that contains the name of their shoes (along with sales text) in every language (including Klingon for the big push at the Star Trek convention). A database might encode the attributes of the shoe in ASCII, and the names of the shoes in Unicode.

Having a mix of character sets is both more efficient and allows for greater diversity than trying to force one universal character set at the operating system level.

In most cases, the cardinality of the information you are collecting is quite low, while the quatity of items that you are recording is large. For example in DNA analysis, you might have 20 or so nucleotides. Human chromozone #1 has 220 base pairs of nucleotides. If you are doing DNA analysis, you will want to encode the nucleotides with the smallest symbol possible so that you can analyze the complexity of the DNA string.

Analysis of things like protein folding, you add the complexity of space and time to your analysis. Much of the really interesting computer science these days pushes the limits of information theory.

Even though I've been condemned in life to work on less interesting programs, my sentiments lie with those programmers pushing computer science to its limits. The design of data should be driven by the structure of the data under analysis and not by the anti-American sentiments of the "progressives" in the sociology department of the university.

IMHO, real diversity comes by allowing the free evolution of different approaches to the problems of the world. The grand schemes that are supposed to force diversity upon us tend to be inefficient and become overbearing. Forced conformity does not create real diversity.

Joel on programming smuggly notes at the end of his article that his company stores everything in two byte UCS-2. I think that the better approach is store data in the most compressed format possible and to have translation tables that let you expand as needed. Joel's programming style may be appropriate for small web publishing firms that are trying to reach a universal audience. However, it is not appropriate for the interesting program questions that involve tons of data and computer capacity.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Twitter Me Timbers

People have been raving about Twitter; so I set up an account. This site limits posts to 140 letters, but expects people to do a large number of posts. The limit on size is good for people like me who suffer from keyboard diarrhea when given a blog.

I actually think the ideal self publishing mechanism would have both a mechanism for short "what's up entries" and longer posts. (all longer posts would have a short intro blurb). I think what I will do after I move the community sites is to create an open sourced self publishing mechanism, that allows people to publish their ideas is greater detail. I started this with The y-intercept was a project I started back in the 1980s for aiding in historical research. My next step was to combine the two and beef them up to make the ultimate blogging machine.

BTW, hear are some pictures I took last week. I added small galleries for Saint Ann School and Fairmont Park in the Sugarhouse Area. I want to go down south. I just have to get motivated on moving the community directories. I've lost the ability to force myself to complete projects.

Grape HyacinthSaint Ann SchoolLDS Church in Sugarhouse

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chela chis-chela

While moving stacks of books around, we found a small poem from my Great Aunt Susie Kerin called The Firemaker. According to a note attached to the poem, this was written in memory of a young Souix girl who died at the Lower Brule Agency in 1926. I uploaded it to a site containing her other published poems.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Negative Liberty

The Cato Daily Podcast has two interesting shows (March 20 and March 22) on negative v. positive liberty. One of the primary reasons that people reject the classical liberal ideals is that classical liberals tend to introduce their ideas on freedom in negatives. Libertarians are always talking about limits on government, etc.. People like to hear things stated in the positive. A negative liberty is a “freedom from”. A positive liberty is a “freedom to.”

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution thinks Libertarians should spend more time discussing positive liberty. Tom G. Palmer says that it is because modern liberals started trying to create a positive spin on liberty that they ended up with such a convoluted oppressive ideology.

Personally, I think both speakers missed the point.

The reason that you would talk about the restrictions on liberty is because it is easier and cleaner to describe the limits of the negative space (what you can’t do) than to describe all of the possibilities of what you could do.

A Libertarian thinks the government should say (in the negative): “Don’t hurt other people. Don’t go around taking other people’s stuff. Have Fun.”

The above statement is negative. However, the statement is extemely enabling. Other than hurting other people and taking their stuff, you have a wide open world of possibilities.”

The converse of this is the progressive who states things positively. For example, they might look at your records and say: “Comrade, we’ve judged you academically, and we have judged you politically. The politburo has determined that you can have a two bedroom apartment that you will share with a family from Trinidad, and you can have a job as a janitor. Here is your mop. Have fun.”

The above statement is stated positively. I suspect that people from Trinidad make wonderful roommates, and janitorial work is kind of fun. You can mop with abandon.

From an intellectual or political standpoint, stating things positively is extremely pleasing, but life of the person who just got the dictate is probably going to be less pleasing than the person who was left to their own devices to figure out what to do.

Tyler Cowen is right that Libertarians should try to move away from negative speak to positive speak. Perhaps the wisest way of going about this task is to include statements of the positive things individuals can do with liberty after talking about the negative restrictions the Libertarian wants on government.

This leads into a very strange part of the two podcasts.

Much of the push for classical liberalism came from the school of Adam Smith. Smith discussed the counterintuitive notion that by giving people the freedom optimize their own resources, they end up optimizing the resources of the country in which they reside.

Economists of the classical liberal tradition have shown time and time again that freedom leads to greater wealth.

Since the wealth produce is demonstrable, classical liberals tend to spend a great deal of time prattling on about wealth production. The mantra of the classical liberal is that a government should allow the greatest amount of freedom possible (negative freedom) because allowing this freedom produces and astoundingly large amount of wealth.

This emphasis on wealth and power tweaks the interest of political leaders; however it falls flat on the individual who is often more interested in the well being of the people around them than simply in the number of baubles on the mantle place.

The overemphasis on the relation between freedom and wealth production is, in my opinion, the greatest short falling of most classical liberal pundits.

The central concept of the classical liberal ideal is freedom, not wealth production.

When people are allowed freedom (negative restrictions on government) they end up being in a position to better help the people around them.

When people are free, they invariably end up running around doing good things for the people around them.

Yes, Progressives have an extremely compelling argument when they state that they will jack up tax rates from 50% to 70% and spend the proceeds from the tax on social justice. The glorious progressive leader gets ego boost after ego boost as he buys popularity by being altruistic with other people’s money.

The Progressive ideology is so compelling because they state their totalitarian ideology in positive terms; however, when you go beyond the words into actions you find the positively stated ideology impoverishes a society by limiting the actions of the people that the progressives claim to support.

A very small number of people even start realize that the clowns shouting out slogans about social justice have traditionally been the leading source of social injustice.

Although positive speak is often more effective, It seems to me that classical liberals are best to continue their tradition of negative speak and hope that someday the masses someday realize that the process of defining a negative space in which one can act allows individuals the best opportunity to achieve their desires to all of their desires including material, altruistic and spiritual desires.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Like Dog Food

First the important stuff. Everything has been very traumatic these past few days. A company called Menu Foods recalled Coco's dog food. These four cans were tried and found guilty.

Found Guilty

The whole thing was very dramatic. There was the printing out the recall list and the methodical scrutiny of each can from the pantry. The can that was open was among the guilty cans. I hope Coco doesn't get sick. Her typical meal involves a mix of kibbles, canned food and table scraps. Hopefully the mix diluted any contaminents sufficiently. This next picture shows what Coco will be eating for the foreseeable future:

Homemade Dog Food

The lucky dog!!!!! Cans of homemade dog food are so much better.

The AVMA disagrees, they think making petfood is too complex for the public

It is interesting that they recalled the chunky products. The problem was something in the wheat gluten thickening agent used in the gravy. When I shopped for the dog food, I would always get the pureed stuff as the sauce on chunky stuff looks too artificial for my tastes.

I wish food companies concentrated on the quality of the ingredients and spent less time adding thickening agents and colors which simply deceived people about what the product really contains.

Speaking of finding things guilty, I happened to catch part of a Bill O'Reilly shout down of Rocky Anderson. Rocky Anderson is on a personal crusade to impeach President Bush. I didn't see which of the two clowns started the shouting. The part of the circus that I saw had Anderson smiling smuggly and looking reasonable while O'Reilly shouted and came off as unreasonable.

Quite frankly, I see Mayor Anderson impeachment tour as the unreasonable action. Apparently, Rocky Anderson's view of the "Living Constitution", Bush's "high crime and misdameanor" is that he does things that are against the Democratic spirit of the nation. Of course, all Republicans are guilty of not being Democratic. I don't like what either of the set of kooks do.

I wish that O'Reilly had come off better in this dual of clowns. I suspect that O'Reilly would have won the nondebate if he didn't play the that yelling over game that seems to be in vogue in the Jerry Springer world of news-entertainment. Of course, I did not see what started the yelling. Rocky Anderson is very good at tweaking people. I may have clicked on the station just after the tweak. After all, when Rocky Anderson gets his righteous indignation thing going, it is an ugly ugly sight.

Perhaps O'Reilly was trying to pull and instant karma thing. Rocky Anderson is on a crusade to try and convict his hated enemy George Bush; So O'Reilly wants to try and convict Anderson. The instand karma thing makes sense. However, it seemed to come of poorly. The public court is a thing of the French Revolution and of the Stasi. I wish we could rise about the game of trying our enemies in public.

I said previously, we may be in a culture war, but we are not going to win it when our self appointed "culture warriors" adopt the methods of the left. It is fun to try and convict people in public kangaroo courts. The shrill nondebate that follows always gets too negative for my tastes. I really don't like this ultra partisan thing going on between the far left and right, where we all start treating each other like dog food.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

PSA: Eat Away at Landmines

This is just a quick public service announcement. The 2007 Salt Lake Night of 1000 Dinners will take place March 27 at the Calvary Babtist Church (details). This event raises funds for landmine removal.

If you can't make it to the Salt Lake event, you can host your own dinner. Go to If you sign up a group, you will get a kit with stuff about landmines.

You can also just dine out with friends; Talk about how lousy war is and how much damage landmines do to civilians; Collect some money and send it to Adopt a Minefield.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More Salt Lake Photos

Downtown Salt Lake CityDue to global warming, we've had some unexpectedly pleasant days this past week. Being a crass capitalist, I decided to exploit the unseasonable weather to take a few more pictures of downtown. (I know, I should have spent the day weeping and poking my Bush voodoo doll with pins).

I already have a ton of Salt Lake Photos. Most of them were from my older camera; So I figure that there would be no harm in adding new photos.

BrainshareThe Salt Palace featured some funky interior building drapes for the Novell Brainshare event. This is a leading event for open source and networking software. I also added pictures Salt Lake Gallery, and South Temple. I also added a few more pictures of Temple Square (which was in full bloom).

Adding labels to the pictures takes longer than taking the pictures. To make matters worse, in my first iteration of, the program added all new pictures to the end of the gallery. I changed the program so I could chose to add photos to both the front and back of the gallery. The next step is to make a page that lets me reorganize a full gallery.

BTW, the intention of was quite modest. A few years ago, I was working with someone to create a visual directory for towns ( The basic ideas was that we would make two directories. The main directory would be a pay for inclusion visual representation of a town. There would also be a graphics free, all inclusive directory of everyone in town. A town has to have a free directory, because there's a ton of great sites that don't have an advertising budget.

Anyway, since I was trying to create a visual respresentation of an area, I needed photos; so I figure I would drop the photos in a gallery.

The funny thing, of course, is that the photo gallery gets about the same amount of traffic as the community directories. Protophoto has two types of pages. Each photo gets a page. I then group the photos into subjects, a picture can be on more than one subject page. The site has 534 subjects (some of these are empty) and 9364 pictures. I decided to split the subjects into groups that I called Context. Since I have all these pictures, I am slowly creating a visual database that shows how things are connected in the mountain west.

I did not have a grand plan for It just feeds traffic into other stats. Last July, I decide to track what the site does; so I added a hit counter on the photo page. This counter just went over the 1,000,000 hit mark a few minutes ago; So, the picture page had a million views since 6/26/06. That is average of 3,790 times a day. The subject pages get viewed 1,580 times a day. In comparison, this blog logs 24 hits a day.

Sacred Heart StatueI don't put ads on the picture pages because there are enough ads in world. I do put ads on the subject pages. I currently get a dollar for every 1000 page views. Protophoto makes about $1.5 per day ($550 a year). It costs $100 in web hosting; So, I get $350 to spend on camera equipment. Whenever you have a process that makes a tiny amount of income it is worthwhile to ask if there is a way to turn it into a real source or income.

It is impossible to say from the statistics if there is any interest in this system of interlinked galleries, or if hits are all accidents or from people who really didn't find what they wanted in the site. BTW, the most popular picture on the site is of the Sacred Heart Statue on I70 outside Denver.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Best Practices

The reason I am being so weird at the moment (see last post) is the nature of the project I am working on. I am currently moving a collection of community web sites from one host to another. The sites average from 20,000 - 30,000 page views a day. At currently market rates, the site would have to have about 300,000 page views per day to generate enough revenue for one minimum wage job. IMHO, The sites are still valuable as they provide a community service. The sites provide people in the community who would otherwise not be heard a venue to list their site.

My orginal market plan for Community Color was to pound out a quick prototype site hosted on a discount web server, get market feedback, then write a "real" application in Java. PHP is the ideal prototyping language. It is quick, dirty and easy to support. Now, the first iteration of the program was a quick and dirty prototype. For a variety of reasons, I wrote the prototype as a collection of procedures, and not with object oriented programming techniques. I can feel people trembling ... the horror, the horror.

Writing Object Oriented style code is considered best practices.

I feel the intellectual elite of the programming world snubbing up their collective noses at the idea of someone intentionally designing a web site with old style programming techniques. The horror, the horror.

Anyway, during my current move, I am upgrading from PHP 4 to PHP 5. During the move, I thought I would upgrade from procedures to objects.

Guess what? I am finding that I like the procedural style code better.

Best practices dictates that all computer programs must be written in object form.

I find myself wanting to tell the world why I don't think object oriented programming is the right solution for all applications. In my opinion, oop is not the right solution for web based programs written in a scripted language.

IMHO, the sentiment that object oriented programming is the best solution for all programming problems is an unwarranted absolutist statement. For that matter, as I look back on the evolution of programming, I think that the overemphasis of object oriented design is a cause for many buggy programs that exist today.

I believe that the programming world is best served by a diversity of programming lanugages and programming styles.

Since programming techniques have an affect on society at large, I think that this is a topic that people outside the programming world would find interesting.

I am being weird because I am thinking about how one would make my case to the world.

PHP is a programming language that is immediately available to new programmers. A run of the mill, internet savy computer user can learn PHP 5 and start using it to add functionality to a web site within hours. It is a programming language that I would encourage casual internet.

I think it would be fun to present the case for procedural v. oo programming in a structure that encourages internet users to learn PHP and HTML.

Several years ago, I pounded out a quick and dirty syllabus for a class on PHP. This was a quick seven part tutorial for a general audience. The course was written for HTML 2.0 (old style HTML). I was thinking of writing a new tutorial for PHP 5 and DHTML.

Tech Writing

While most of the yammering in the world is about politics, my experience is that most of the profound ideas of our day come from science and industry. We yammer about politics because it is a cheap, easy and provocative thing to do.

In the last half century, a very large number of powerful ideas have come from the field of computer programming and systems design.

Sadly, the great ideas from science and engineering rarely get good coverage in the mainstream media.

Ideas from science and industry show up on store shelves, in medicine and in services. We often see advertisements for products created by industry, but the actual doings of industry and science rarely make it into broader cultural discourse.

When science does break the news, it often does so couched in fluff pieces like articles on global warming or intelligent design.

Yes, I was actually happy last year when people were debating intelligent design because it got people talking about biology, geology and other hard core science.

Unfortunately, the thrust of mainstream debates on science involve political actions. The ID debate was not presented as an invitation to explore ideas, but positioned as a method to quash science. The intelligent design debate was a golden opportunity to discuss the wonders of science. Unfortunately, the debate was dominated by loud mouth jerks like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who wanted to use the debate as a pulpit from which to proclaim their hatred of Christianity.

BTW, it seemed obvious to me that ID posed absolutely no threat to science. Science always benefits from open discourse. The effect of a good open debate about the origins of man will have the affect of drawing people into the sciences.

As for global warming, I find discussions about climate fascinating. Sadly, the main thrust of the global warming debate seems to be that global effects on temperature demand micromanagement of individual activity.

What irks me is that science in the MSM (a term which includes Fox News) tends to present science in the context of conflict and not as discovery.

I’ve read a great deal of classical literature. It seems that, at the height of the enlightenment, that there was more of unified amazement of the discoveries of science. With Hegel and Darwin, you started seeing an uber-politicalization of science which turned public discourse of scientific from discovery to shrill political battles.

In the classical world, science and logic were central to the pursuit of truth. In the progressive world, science is seen as a series of conflicts. The modern view holds the scientist is a Romantic hero in a culture war against the evil conservative. This idea of the scientist as a Romantic hero fighting against a moribund regressive society is sensational, but it ends up masking the beauty of the ideas behind science.

The idea of the scientist as romantic hero also seems to have the affect of splitting scientists into non-communicative camps who are more interested in supporting the myths behind their romantic heroes, rather than pursuing truth. A good example of this is linguistics which is more appropriately called the worship of Chomsky than an science.

While scientists and technologists are often people of great virtue, I am not certain that they are well served as being presented as Romantic heroes. The reality is that scientists, industrialists and technologists end up spending long days and nights on rather boring tasks. IHMO, the best scientists are those driven by the love of ideas with an eye toward truth.

In my view, the greatest heroes of scientists are those that spend the thousands of hours necessary to investigate the many facets of a science. The people who get their name associated with an idea are often posers.

There are really tough questions about how one goes about presenting the ideas behind science and technology. The things publicists do to make ideas popular often have the effect of denigrating the ideas that they promote.

My education was in liberal arts. (My actual dream in College was to become a calculus teacher and write math books for high school students). Although I was extremely liberal at the time, I committed the cardinal sin of exploring both sides of a political issue, and got tossed out on my arse.

Since school, I’ve worked as a second rate computer hack who does jobs that no-one-else company wants to do. I’ve been on several Death Marches and have a solid 100% fail rate with the programs I’ve designed.

Despite the fact that I don’t have a good record with my career, and lack qualifications, I love to talk about ideas.

My mind reels on the question of how to present technical discussions in ways that invigorate an understanding of an industry, market or technology.

My activist training in school says that compelling writing emphasizes conflict and ends with a call for action. For that matter, there is a whole body of literature on becoming an activist math teacher, or an activist science teacher. A progressive science teacher will explain that when a scientist makes measurements, they should be cognoscente of how the measurements affect social justice. Does recording the temperate as 32.1˚ serve social justice or should you round it up to 32.2˚?

A progressive math book would include word problems that make ad hominen attacks on George Bush. A progressive math book might have a question like: "If 92 babies die a day because of free market-capitalism, how many babies will die in a month because of freemarket capitalism?" Do enough of that, and you produce a brainwashed mass (a little like what the current educational establishment produces.)

Anyway, while the idea of discussing technical issues in the context of activism makes for compelling writing, I think it overpowers and ultimately detracts from the real science. Unfortunately, I've systematically convinced myself that it is the only way to write. The fact that global warming and ID got interesting ideas into the public. Since so much of the tech writing in the press contain little poltiical barbs, perhaps the way to write is to toss in a few blatant culture warrish barbs for spice.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Moving a Domain

I am currently in the process of moving the Community Color web sites to a new host. When I started a community directory, my idea was simply to pound out a quick and dirty prototype in PHP. If the program tapped into a good market, I would have redesigned the program in C++ or Java and moved to a dedicated server. So, moving the site to a new discount webhost is an admission that the idea was a failure.

I should note, I started this set of programs up in Missoula. People in Missoula are so supportive of their community. I also really liked the University of Montana. It appears to be a good school with level headed people. The experiment I started with Missoula.WS was a success. I moved back to Salt Lake to watch the Olympics, and the fact someone else I know wanted to do a Missoula. The general reaction to the Salt Lake directory is simply: "You aren't Mormon. LEAVE!"

Utah has a strong counter culture. I am just not that good of a counter-culture type person. I actually see all of the groups in Utah as part of the Utah culture.

My little idealistic world view is that everyone who lives in an area is part of that community. We should develop the good parts of the community and find ways to overcome the bad things. No group should be dominating everything. When one group starts dominating, a community devolves into action/reaction mode, and the worst of people surfaces.

The goal of Community Color is to include everyone. In a community like Missoula where most people simply love being in Missoula, the idea of a community directory flies. In a fractured community, like Salt Lake, the idea falls flat. Of course, a community that is fractured by ideology is in greater need of things that encourage communication between the factions.

When you analyze the link structure of blogs and web sites in Utah, you will generally find that people only link to their group.

Just today, Natalie R. Collins put up a post about how she is excluded from Mormon link lists. Her site, of course, is part of a nexus of ex-Mormon and anti-polygamy sites. If you put up an intentionally pro-Mormon or an intentionally anti-Mormon site, you will get a very large number of links. Bemoaning the fact that you don't get all links is ludicrous.

The community color directories have several intentional biases. There is a bias toward small independent organizations that are within defined cultural centers of the state.

A business in Salt Lake City would get a higher slot than one in WVC. I allow that bias because I believe that the established cultural centers are important, and that sprawl is one of the major problems facing the Mountain West. The primary reason that I have not moved to Moab is that I don't want to be part of the sprawl that is consuming that little piece of paradise.

The small town is something very near and dear to the Western heart. The problem is that we can't all live in such places. When we try to, the small town we love sprawls.

I tried to figure out how to move to Grand Junction. My sights are currently set on moving the Denver. Although I've lived in Utah most of my life, enough people in my lineage were born in Denver to claim that I am a third generation Coloradan.

After moving from Missoula, I never received any feedback on what people want in a community site. This moving to a new discount host is an admission that the project failed. Most ideas fail. That's the way science and the free market work.

I am not really upset at failure. It is the fact that I haven't received the feedback on a better direction to follow that's got me feeling gloomy.

Anyway, one of the reasons I've been pounding out mindfarting "anti-progressive" posts is that I've been trying to avoid the fact that I need to get this domain moving project completed before the end of March. I started the project in December. So, I will write about PHP programming for the next several blog posts.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Perhaps Cato is Wrong

Daniel J. Mitchell asserts "If Bush is a Conservative the Word Has No Meaning." The sad truth about the statement is that Mitchell just might be the one in error on this statement.

My view of modern politics is that the US was founded on a set of principles that might best be described as "classical liberal." The founders developed a refinement of classical discourse that placed a high value on individual freedoms.

The modern era spawned a large number of clowns who with an inverted philosophy where they concluded that freedom is slavery and slavery freedom. The modern liberal (progressive) decided that the next stage of social evolution would be a massive government that saves the proletariat from the perceived excesses of the free market. This new modern philosophy essentially rebranded the term liberal.

The Reagan Revolution occurred when classical liberals and conservatives formed an alliance against the modern liberal. Just as progressives were able to infiltrate and rebrand the term "liberal" (transforming its term into its opposite), classical liberals probably thought that they could infiltrate the conservative camp and feed into conservative mouths the language of liberty. While the left is extremely adept at rebranding terms (they control both the media and university), classical liberals fail at such efforts.

Rather than build on some vague assumption that somehow classical liberals and conservatives, the classical liberal would do better to admit that the Republican Party is a mix of people with different points of view.

Living here in Utah, I see that Republican politicians are well trained in reciting speeches about freedom. However, when you get down to the brass tacks of Mormonism, you find a philosophy that is exceedingly paternalistic and that favors big government controlling business and personal lives.

The deal you have to watch out for in politics is that there are groups that seek control by infiltrating and rebranding a movement. It happens time and time again that people will be supporting a cause, then at the last minute they find that a group has muscled its way into the center and changed the meaning of the cause.

Mitchell's assertion: "If Bush is a 'conservative' the word has no meaning" might better be understood as "The attempts of classical liberals to rebrand conservatism have failed." The neocons attempts to dominate have succeeded.

BTW, one of the reasons that I keep associating the terms "progressive" with "Marxism" is not that I think that all people who call themselves progressive are Marxists, but that there is a cadre of Marxist thinkers ready to step in and rebrand the term.

The classical liberals have been effectively driven out of the Republican Party. We now have two parties that support big government, but with differing opinions on what the big government should do. The classical liberal is not caught in the middle. They are squeezed out. As classical liberals are not welcome in the Democratic Party and are ineffective in the Republican Party, it makes one wonder if the US can continue the classical liberal tradition that made the country a superpower.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Get Taxed

One good thing about the new interest in biofuels is that many of the movers and shakers in this movement are getting to experience for themselves the idiocies of government regulation. Tech Dirt reports on the plight of a couple who were [gasp] converting used cooking oil from restaurants to run in their vehicle. They were visited by helpful men from the government expecting them to pay thousands in special licensing fees ... the fees set by progressives of the past to raise the bar of entering into the alternative fuel market.

Now that we are in a phase that biofuels are politically correct, I suspect that the bureaucrats will try to find ways to back away from the licensing fees.

BTW, the $2500 licensing fee that the Yehuda Berlinger must pay to convert used cooking oil to motor fuel is exactly the type of fees that progressives hope to impose on all industries. The effect of such fees is generally to wipe out the diversity of the market. A buniness has to be big to navigate the world of big government.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Curly cup gumweed

This one floored me.

The USU Weed Web (See Letter E) lists Grindelia squarrosa as an invasive weed, but does not include Euphorbia myrsinites. I am simply bowled over by this.

Curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa) is a native plant that grows well in the dry soils of the mountain west. The plant is used in some medicines, but it really is not good for the kidney. Livestock don't eat it. Since lifestock avoid the plant, the plant displaces desirable feed in overgrazed areas.

Yes, the BLM and other landowners are wise to take measures to cut back curlycup gumweed, but it doesn't belong on a list of invasive weeds of the Mountain West. As the plant is native and is not noxious like poison ivy, there should not be a concerted government action to irradicate it.

Donkey Spurge, on the other hand, is noxious and invasive in every way. The plant was imported from Turkey. The white sap of the plant is both harmful to humans and livestock. It is flourishing in the Wasatch, and appears to be displacing native species. It also appears to be extremely harmful to native animals. (I assume that native animals are adapted to curlycup gumweed.)

The USU Weed Web includes the statement:

Of the 6,741 plant species that are recognized as weeds in the world, 2,063 are currently present in the United States.

This implies that USU is determining that a plant is invasive based on a global list. This is bad science. It seems to me that a plant is not invasive in its native ecosystem. It still might be a weed, but not invasive. Yes, there are ecosystems where gumweed should be considered an invasive weed ... just not in Utah. Conversely, I believe that we should actively work to irradicate Donkey Spurge in Utah. Turkey, the native habitat of donkey spurge, should not irradicate the plant.

Curly cup gumweed is a really cool plant. I think it is an ideal plant for native rock gardens as it blooms later in the year. I actually gathered seeds and planted them last year. Damn, I am now in violation of Utah's invasive species law for planting a native plant.

Stansbury Island

Stansbury IslandStansbury Island near the south shore of the Great Salt Lake is a popular place to mountain bike in the winter. The mountains, of course, are covered with snow in the winter. Although most of the island is private property, the island does sport a 9.8 mile mountain bike trail. The Wasatch Rock Garden Society generally does an April trip out to Stansbury Island as it is one of the first places to bloom each year. The trip is popular since it gets people geared up for gardening in the months to come.

Unfortunately the area is also popular with people who like to go out in the the desert to shoot guns. Over the weekend we decided to take Coco on a walk out in the desert. Unfortunately, all the side canyons were occupied up by people doing target practice. We tried hiking up the ridge. We found ourselves on a ridge with a joker shooting a high powered rifle on the right and some clown with an automatic weapon shooting off rounds to the left. It really wasn't shaping up as pleasant hike. So we decided to hike on one of the muddy roads near Grantsville.

Wounded SkeetThe picture shows a skeet that was sitting on the Mack Canyon Road. What someone was doing shooting skeet on a public road is anyone's guess. Counting the beer bottles near the pile of empty casings makes me think that the shooter was getting a bit loopy by the time it got around to shooting this particular skeet.

Anyway, I need to get back to the truck for another beer and some more ammo; so I will just cut this post short.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Effective Discourse

Democracy_Lover dropped the following note in my last post:

You are certainly correct that civility and dialog are essential to achieving any political result in a democracy ...

DL's statement hits on one of the most long standing debates in Western history: What is effective discourse? If you hold that effective discourse is that which progresses your cause, then the sentence is false. The ridicule that we see flying from the mouths of Ann Coulter, Steve Colbert or Al Franken is extremely effective. So to is the hate speech. Plato and Aristotle were both against democracy because they saw that uncivil discourse was better at moving the sentiment of the masses than civil deliberation.

(NOTE: open ridicule often backfires. Generally subtle ridicule such as the use of praise words and snarl words as practiced by Chomsky, politically correct universities or by the main stream media are more effective than open ridicule).

My observation is that the classical liberal tradition held a different view. This view seems to hold that effective discourse is discourse that leads to optimal results. In the classical liberal tradition, DL's statement is true. Civil discourse allows you to bring the debate from the subliminal to an overt level were you can better see cause and effects, and make better decisions.

Negative discourse is effective in either pushing a party or cause. Eventually, however, negative discourse leads to a fractured society or a fractured government that is incapable of doing anything.

BTW, some political humor is needed in the world. Come to think of it. Political leaders tend to be buffoons, and need to be knocked off their high horses on a routine basis. There needs to be at least one political cartoon with each editorial page. In the long run, to thrive as a society we need to support civility in discourse.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Dance of the Educrats

NOTE ONE: JibberJobber discovered that there are informal support networks both in the family and community which are extremely important for people laid off or otherwise hitting hard times. Unlike the government networks, these informal network have a unique ability to help getting people onto a path where they thrive. I believe that the informal networks do a more efficient job of getting people on a good path than the government or bureaucratic networks advocated by the left. Of course, I've many horrible situations where an alcoholic, drug user or manipulator takes out a social network. Overall, one of the reasons that I am such a fervent supporter of the free market, is that when people are allowed control of their resources, they tend to make social networks that are more effective at pulling people out of poverty.

NOTE TWO: Craig Johnson dropped an interesting note on ReachUpward's blog in reference to an article on the abuses of the educational establishment. ReachUpward was calling the establishment "educrats". Mr. Johnson: "The term 'educrat' is obnoxious, misleading, and flat out rude. Your use of terms such as this cheapens your message."

I had a progressive education. I learned that the way "a peoples" engages progresses society is by first defining the enemy, then creating a layer of scientific sounding insults to label the peoples' enemies. Politically correct speech is not about eliminating labels. It is about controlling the labels so that the groups denoted as a peoples' friend is praised and a peoples' enemies are hit with a subtle insult.

When I read ReachUpward's post, the little brain cells conditioned during my progressive education fired on seeing the word "educrat." Is it a good word for labeling the enemies of freedom who control education? Is this an effective insult worth propagating? In the progressive blogosphere, a good insult spreads like a virus.

I would like to thank Craig Johnson for pointing out that civility is one of the core strengths of the classical liberal tradition (American Conservativism). I love the way that ReachUpward's insult shoves the method down the throats of the progressives that have a strangle hold on education.

I was taught that to communicated effectively, you have to use reverse logic and to develop a massive trove of insults for heaping on your enemies and subtle praises for friends. When I finally realized that progressives were the primary enemy of freedom, I find myself wanting to hold up a mirror and reflect all of the nasty rhetorical devices that they use back on their ideology. This is what Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly do. They use the techniques taught in schools to counterattack the ideologies of modern schools.

Mentioned previously Culture Warrior Bill O'Reilly lost the culture war when he chose to adopt the methods of his enemies. Yes, occasionally the tits of the progressives should be responded with conservative tats. However, to win the war, Classical Liberals and Conservatives have to find the way back to civil discourse. (Civil discourse is something entirely different than politically correct speak).


I just threw Michael Tanner's Leviathan on The Right in to my wish list. This book details how the Republicans transitioned from the party of limited Government to a carbon copy of the Democrats.

An interesting free resource related to this question is the University Channel podcast titled: The 'Public Interest' and the Making of American Public Policy: 1965-2005. The multipart podcast is from a conference commemorating The Public Interest Managize. The Public Interest magazine defines a point of view that is self-described as "neoconservative."

The Public Interest was established by Democrats who saw that the wild-eyed utopian institutions of the progressives were failing. The desire of The Public Interest was to make programs that worked. The magazine championed ideas such as paternalism, school vouchers. Neocons are the ones who pushed the No Child Left Behind act along funky ideas like increasing taxes without decreasing spending.

They rejected that progressive notion that religion and family are enemies of progress. They seemed to realize that religioun and family are good institutions for building those informal networks that are ever so beneficial to society.

I happen to favor small government and individual freedoms. The neocons have a very good point that if are to have big government social programs, we should try our hardest to make the programs work.

We, as a society, need to figure out how to rise above the culture war between the progressive and coservative and relearn the techniques of civil discourse. The conversation between the neocons and classical liberals is actually more interesting than the incindiary comments that get lobbed between progressive and conservative culture warriors.

I wish the educrats who indoctrinated my mind with the politically correct new think of the modern age had taught me the process of civil discourse instead.

Friday, March 02, 2007

To Logan

FootprintsThis first picture shows the footprints and tire tracks left by the person who stole my 78-year-old parent's snowblower. There are two sets of tracks: big feet and small feet. Perhaps it is a father and son theft operation.

Yes, Mr. Gore, I know that snowblowers are evironmentally immoral as they emit greenhouse gasses. My folks often get 2 and 3 feet thick snows that they cannot shovel. They love walking up and down the driveway on heavy snow days blowing the snow away. I would like to get them a new snowblower. My experience is that theives come back to the same house because they like to steal the replacements items. Anyway, now that the nation has taken a leap to the left, we can all expect to be robbed more often. They are down two snow shovels and a snowblower this year. The last time they were robbed was the late 70s.

Eccles Mansion on Center Street LoganAnyway, yesterday, March 1st, I chauffered one of the folks up to Logan to meet a professor at USU. I took a small number of pictures of Logan, the Logan Temple and Historic Center Street. I was also hoping to get a few shots of USU, but it was too snowy and foggy. A guide at the Logan Visitor Center said that the Tony Grove Trail is the best place in the state to catch Spring wildflowers. So, I will plan a Spring Trip to Logan Canyon.

Cache County CourthouseOne of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Old Cache County Courthouse that was recently converted into a Visitor Center. Apparently, there was recently a move to tear the old Courthouse down as it is really not a good construction for an area prone to earthquakes. The people of Logan chose to restore the building in 2005, and did a great job.