Friday, February 29, 2008

I Applaud the British Press

I applaud the British press for keeping Prince Harry's service in Afghanistan a secret. I am angry with the slimy internet sites that let the cat out of the bag and forced Prince Harry to return from his tour of duty early.

The press lambasts people because their children do not serve in the military, but then want to give Al Qaeda detailed information on when and where the sons of are serving when they do.

I applaud Prince Harry for his tour of duty.

This piece on Yahoo! says the fact the press kept this information underwraps has eroded confidence in the press.

Personally, I am more dismayed to find web sites willing to endanger British troops more troubling.

I would agree that backroom deals to hush information are not good. However, the question here isn't about suppressing information. It is about when information actually becomes news.

We see a parallel in business news. A company calculates and audits its financial statement. This statement is not news until the press release. People who come in contact with the information have both a legal and moral duty to keep that information under wraps prior to the press release. IMHO, anyone (press or investor) who gets that information and acts on it before the scheduled release is behaving unethically.

I am more troubled when the press scoops information with a scheduled release date than I am on hearing of the press's failure to inform al Qaeda on the schedule of a high target prize.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Changing the Style

I am happy to see McCain disavowing a shock jock. I am sad to hear of William F. Buckley, jr's passing.

Buckley's generation of conservative was a contemplative group that had some depth to their arguments. For that matter, I contend that civility had been a Hallmark of Republican discourse prior to the Rush Limbaugh era.

It has been horrible to watch the real thinkers of the Republican party pushed aside by the blowhards.

Conservatives are left with the task of pointing out the large number of holes in the grand theories of the Marxist tradition. There is a place for humor in that job. However, these games where shock jocks think they are going to move the country simply through personal attacks is stupid. BTW, there are good people and bad people who have the name "Hussein". For example, the royal Hussein family of Jordan is often a moderating force on Islam.

Speaking of blowhards, apparently some of the blowhards (Coulter and this Cunningham whacko) sound as if are in the Hillary camp at the moment. Which is funny, because many of the right wing shock jocks built their empires by attacking Bill.

The really interesting question, of course, is why there are conservative shock jocks who've been able to build such massive broadcast empires.

It is really strange. Traditionally, civility is a cornerstone of conservatism. Voltaire style attacks on tradition are a hallmark of the left. The number of people who start out to make a living as a left-wing satirist way out numbers those on the right ... however, there is a group of right wing satirists who've achieved phenomenal fame.

Unfortunately, it would take a thesis size post for me to state why this is so.

Both parties have a challenge to figure out how to keep the loud mouth reactionary elements of the party from dominating the message.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Urban Iditarod

Apparently, in the urban version of the iditarod you put a dog in a shopping cart and run for 4 miles, then end up at a bar.

I love it when people add clever events to the Salt Lake Calendar. This event is on March 1, 2008.

CORRECTION: okay, you don't put a dog in the cart. That was just my imagination ... I am just into the idea of a world where dogs rule and people drool

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Reaching for Bad Medicine

Reach Upwards penned a post about how the health care system came close to failing his father. When his father was in the hospital for a stroke, the specialists and nurses seemed were so wrapped up in filling out all of the forms and following procedure that they almost killed the patient.

The implication of the post is that this gaffaw was somehow a failure of the free markekt. I think it is actually a better example of the failure of employer funded health care.

The health care practicianers were attentive to the needs of the buyer ... the insurance company.

It neglected the needs of the patient.

The product of insurance dominated health care, after all, is a transaction between the hospital bureaucracy and insurance bureaucracy.

The free market is doing what the free market does. The sellers of the product were attentive and optimized for the buyer's need.

If fewer people had insurance, and bought health care directly, then the system would be optimized for the needs of the people.

Unfortunately, since humans aren't part of the equation, we, the people don't get the care we deserve.

Mr. Hinrichs' health care experience would be completely different if people were the buyers.

I slammed a smarmy little retort on the blog entry: In a system where bureaucracies pay bureaucracies, the patients come out dead last.

After writing this post, I learned that one of my neighbors died a few days ago after back surgery. I have no doubt the paperwork was handled in a very professional manner. We are being processed through the machine quite efficiently.

Crass Commercial

I decide to port all of my unfinished projects to the domain (that domain has a dash. This one does not. I bought both domains because I realized many people would fail to type in the dash if I just told them the name.)

Hopefully, I can shame myself into finishing the projects.

The first thing I will port to the new site is the collection of essays that I, tongue in cheek called Crass Commercial. I penned these articles in a three day writing blitz. I did not finish them as I realized that I needed to rework the writings I did on transfinite theory to make a point about paradox.

There were several important points I wanted to make with the money. The article I just put up was a little piece called "The Source of Money. Perhaps I will get time tomorrow for a quick edit.

You could read the piece, or I will summarize below.


The source of money isn't gold, the power of the state, or banks. The source of money is people. Money simply reflects the values that people put into money.

The profound tidbit to take from the article is that the best way for a society to prosper is to develop the people. By education, I am not simply referring to technical education. Contrary to modern education, I hold with the classical liberal ideals where the goal isn't simply to turn people into productive cogs in a machine. The goal of education should be to develop the student as a being. Education should both hone a student's skills, and it should help develop their values, for it is the values that students hold that most enrich a society.

Anyway, I will try to get some editing in on the project tomorrow. I've cracked opened some articles on OpenID. If I can figure out how to implement OpenId, I will open a comment section on the y-intercept site. (Open comment sections get inundated with spam.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conditional Pride

It's sad, but I think there is a large number of people who can only feel pride in America when their partisan group is in power.

I can remember the professors in College who wanted students to run out an burn American flags to show hatred for a country that could elect Reagan. The message of the professoriat was that we should hate the United States, except when their partisan group was in power.

The progressive message is that one should turn on and off patriotism depending on how well the society is moving toward one's partisan cause. In the case of the professoriat, the partisan cause is socialism.

Anyone who holds a partisan cause above all else ends up with a conditional pride.

There may be evangelicals and Mormons who feel slighted by the United States because their candidate did not win the Republican nomination. When you get down to it, campagins are simply political games. Often candidates win and lose simply based on the timing of the message, or the make up of the contenders in the race, and not on the message or candidate.

There is a random nature to campaigns. Pegging one's sense of pride on such things is silly.

BTW, I don't mind when people show pride or shame in particular actions. I am proud of the tech boom that created these wonderful little computers. I am ashamed of the Jim Crow laws that oppressed blacks for 150 years.

I was ashamed by the invasion of Iraq, but proud of the surge.

I am proud of the support our nation gives education. I am deeply ashamed of the way they left leaning professoriate misuses the educational establishment.

The process of enumerating the things that make you feel pride or shame is different from conditional pride where one's entire sentiment is based on some arbitrary partisan power play.

I am not suprised that a person who stayed in that stifling atmosphere of the professoriat implying that she has felt no pride in America in the last several decades. Most of the people I know in the professoriat hold such conditional pride.

I suspect that the next pressident will do things that make me feel pride and others that make me feel shame. I also suspect that many of my feelings will continue to be out of sync with others. It is possible for the United States to things that I find shamefull. However, I think anyone who has fallen into the trap where the pride the feel is based entirely on partisan winds has a pride which is more of a vice than a virtue.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Unsticking Cars

I learned a really cool trick for helping cars stuck in the snow.

What you do is pull out the floor mats, stick them under the drive wheels. Once up on the floor mat, the car has about two feet of clear driving ... which is generally enough to get the car out of most stuck situations.

I've used the technique twice this year. In both cases, the cars where able to get out without making any noticeable wear on the floor mats.

In the past, I would put a loose set of tire chains in the snow below the tires. The chains would often go flying when the driver hit the gas. There is also a possibility of chains getting wrapped around the axle. The heavy duty floor mats on today's cars seem to stay flat.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Part One

For the last several years, I've burned the midnight oil creating a collection of directories called Community Color. The goal of this project is to explore the way that local communities are reflected on the web. I am from the Mountain West. I was born in Denver and have lived in a variety of towns in the Mountain West. So the effort concentrates on communities Mountain West. In this project I've indexed a variety of towns that I consider to be cultural centers of the area.

The goal is to show the diversity of things that exist in a community. The directories are inclusive. I list any site I find from or about a community (well, except porn or hate sites). These community directory are my primary statement about the direction we should be taking on the web.

In 2003, I decided to start a blogspot blog. I had spent so much time on the local community (with absolutely no reward for the effort) that I decided to just do a mind fart blog on whatever.

As with most mind fart blogs, whatever often turns out to rants about national politics.

I had a progressive education. In my progressive education, I was taught a propaganda technique called "Critical Thinking." The idea behind critical thinking is to criticize American culture, the free market and people on the right. Being hypercritical of America is supposed to somehow lead to social justice and progress.

I finally realized that critical thinking and progressivism are both dead ends. But I have yet to learn a new writing style.

The reason I mention this is that my blog and community sites have completely different bents. The blog concentrates more on national issues and universal thought and is often negative. The community sites focus on the community and are of a more positive nature.

There actually is a message in this. It is my belief that the best way to affect change is to think locally and act locally.

Unfortunately, the message of the two efforts get in the way of each other. Most people who read my blog simply think I am a jerk.

Part Two

IMHO, the primary value of a blog is in the field of social networking.

For that matter, if I were to give a single message about blogging, i would say the best approach to the art form would be to concentrate one's effort on blogging about the local community. There is very little need for people to blog about national politics. Contrary to our education. Critical thinking posts generally just lead to partisanship.

I think there is a greater value in blogs about the good things in the local community.

IMHO a great blog would have links to all of the little hidden treasures in a community, and should have a blog role with other local sites. I am not doing that with this blog because I do so with the directories. Capiche?

Blog Role

Anyway, this "why" post is to explain why I am not doing this blog the way I think blogs should be done.

The reason, of course, is that the community directories are my community effort. I do not have a blog role on this site because the community directories list well over three hundred blogs. I really didn't want to waste time doubling up the effort and listing all the blogs twice.

I just created a blogs page which is a master index to the blogs to which I link. The total is currently 350. Yes, I've read a large number of posts in all of them.

Next: The answer as to why I don't have a blog role is that the community directories are my blog role.

Next: Why is this blog so icky? Well, it is just a mind fart blog.

Finally: Why did I just write this post: Well, I wrote this post so that I could link to it from my blog index.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Salt Lake Blogs

The Salt Lake Blog directory had 125 entries. It was too big.

So, I split the page into four baby pages:

  • Business Blogs includes blogs by Utah business, or about business, technology, marketing.
  • Personal Blogs include personal online journals, or musings on religion and culture.
  • Political Blogs shows blogs that are following local or national political events.
  • Finally, my favorite is the Photo Blog section where photographers (and other artists) show their works with photo essays and links to art sites.

I really don't like this game of classifying sites. Multidimensional people have posts on all sorts of topics.

However, I think the change will drive more traffic to the blogs as this change allows me to more fully integrate the blogs into the rest of the directories. For example, I am able to put a link from the Photography Page to the photography blogs.

NOTE, I just changed the name of personal blogs to 'blogs - cultural.'

Monday, February 11, 2008

Balancing Ideals

I've noticed that people who favor the free market and the classical liberal style of discourse are often labeled as absolutist ideologues.

This happens because the people who hold to the Aristotelian tradition prefer to speak in clear statements.

People of the modern Hegelian tradition like to speak in paradox and with nebulous statements, for example a broad call for change. They also seem to relish nebulous conflicts like the culture war conflict between "conservative" and "liberal," when no-one really has a clear idea of what "conservative" or "liberal" means.

It is easy to fall in the trap and decide that those people who speak in clear statements are absolutist because their statements are clear, while those people who speak in new speak are open minded because their words have double meanings.

I think the reverse is true. When people speak clearly, their ideas stand out separately from the speaker. This allows the ideas to be analyzed and acted on or rejected based on the merit of the ideals. Meanwhile people who adopt a feely yet meaningless new speak often become compelled to dictate action.

When ideas are separated from the personality, we are in a better position to determine how the ideas interact.

So, one thing I've noticed is that thinkers who tend toward affirmative rationality also tend toward balance.

The Aristotelian tradition recognizes that for every virtue there is a corresponding vice. The vice generally occurs when a virtue is pushed to an extreme. Thinkers in this tradition value clear statements, but are always wary of absolutist policy.

I know that, for myself, I am against the death penalty, torture, abortion, and war. But I never take an absolutist stance against these negative policies. For example, I am not upset that President Bush authorized the waterboarding of three terrorist suspects in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack. There was, after all, every reason to believe that 9/11 and the anthrax attacks would be followed by a string of such actions.

I think it is possible that the fact there is a policy where coercive techniques can be elevated to the highest authority and approved reduces the likelihood that US agents engage in torture on their own.

It appears that most of the worst atrocities happen when people develop a complex thought process that forgives them the atrocity.

So, it seems to me the best situation is one where we strongly hold the ideal that torture should never be used, but that policy allows waterboarding to be used if elevated to the highest authority. When you allow policy to fall short of the ideal, you have a mechanism that accepts the imperfection of the human condition.

The alternative is this thing going on in Cuba where the progressive leader Castro claims that Cuba has never engaged in torture while there appears to be reason to think that Cuba has engaged in the practice.

IMHO, this process where we accept policy to be looser than ideals is the best approach to making things like torture, abortion rare, while attempts to make policy match ideals leads to intellectual dishonesty.

The process where one accepts a gap between policy and ideals also leads to a more vibrant debate where we are able to talk about the direction and how to get as close to our ideal as possible.

In many ways, I believe that this balanced idealism is the heart of the Republican Party. The prattling in the media about which Republican candidate is the most "conservative" is antithetical to the traditional principals of the Party of Lincoln.

I think Mitt Romney did a great thing by bowing out of the race early to avoid further fracturing of the Republican Party.

The very fact that John McCain has a long history of compromising ideals to create bipartisan policy is actually a very good thing.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Venue for Compassion

In my last post, I stated that the reason you want stricter enforcement of immigration laws is so that you can have a more liberal quota of visas and legal immigration.

Although this position is compassionate at its core, it is very easy to frame the position as harsh. People who hold my position are wrongfully labeled xenophobic.

In reality, what is going on is an argument about the correct venue for compassion.

IMHO the Federal Government is the correct venue for compassion in immigration. Immigration is a national concern. You cannot leave immigration to a city or even a state government. If a city had the right to grant citizenship status, you are guaranteed to see a corrupt system with one city selling green cards for people who would then move throughout the nation.

One of the primary reasons that immigration has become such a mess is that progressive groups have played the game of trying to make a national issue a local issue. Gathering a group of people together to oppose a deportation is a very sensational action that makes the people involved in the protest as compassionate activists against an evil system.

The problem, of course, is that, as these local efforts become more organized and vocal, the national government starts becoming stricter. The loud local actions on behalf of the illegal immigrants seem to be taken as call for more illegal immigrants to violate the terms of their visa or to cross a border illegally.

Eventually, what happens, is the system becomes swamped. Even worse, the broken system actually starts leading to real xenophobia.

This is one of those ironic twists of reality. The actions of the loud progressive activists who pretend to altruistic compassion by undermining immigration laws end up creating a society with more real xenophobia than the people who were labeled xenophobes because they believe the national government is the proper venue for compassion in immigration.

Of course, the national government is not the proper venue for compassion in all aspects of life.

In my opinion, the proper venue for compassion in health care is as close to the patient as possible. That is the proper venue for compassion would be the family and the local community.

Once again I find myself at odds with modern progressive thought which seems to think that the Federal Government is the proper venue for compassion.

The Federal Government is distant from the patient and is not in a good position to actually apply compassion. Yet people who favor transferring control over health care decisions to Washington are labeled as "compassionate" and those who favor funding health care through local foundations and charities are labeled as "uncompassionate."

Ironically, again, as the role of the Federal government expands and taxes increase, health care costs have skyrocketed.

Independent doctors, who are incapable of dealing with the complexity of the Federal Goverment system, have all but disappeared in favor of extremely corrupt HMOs.

Anyway, I think this question of the correct venue for compassion is interesting.

The progressive community wants immigration (which appears to me to be a national issue) to be addressed at the local level. Then they want health care (which appears to me to be primarily a local issue) to be handled by a nationalized health authority.

Because I want immigration handled by the national government and individual health care handled by the individual, family and local community, I have earned the label of being a heartless bastard. While the people who routining choose the wrong venue for compassion seem to get lauded as caring.

It is a great puzzlement why the progressive mind seeks to address issues in the wrong forum.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Reason for Deportation

We have to pay attention to the reasons behind an issue, otherwise we end up undermining our society.

I was listening to a debate where Hillary Clinton was giving her position on immigration. In this debate she ridiculed the Republicans for wanting to "round up" and "deport" illegal immigrants.

Deportation sounds harsh, until one understands the reasons behind the need for deportation.

Deportation is a necessary part of the Visa law. A visa is a contract that allows a person to visit a country for a fixed period of time. If a person violates the terms of the contract then they get deported.

If a country wants to have liberal visa laws, then the country has to deport people who violate the contract of the visa; otherwise the contract of the visa is meaningless. If the contract of the visa is meaningless, then we are forced into be draconian in issuing visas.

Strictly enforcing the expiration of visas by deportations allows us to have a liberal visa law. If we do not enforce the expiration of visas, then we have to have strict visa laws.

It is possible that Ms. Clinton's objective in the speech was to frame the Republican party as xenophobic, and to frame her party as the friend of the Latino.

The problem with this position is that having draconian restrictions on Visas and a big ugly fence on the border is worse for the Latino population as a whole than the deportations that would be necessary to enforce the contract of the visa.

If Ms. Clinton's position was politically motivated, then this is an example of a politician adopting a position for partisan reasons that actually undermines the constituency she hopes to attract.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Popular Positioning

I would love to have my name associated with all of the sexy and popular issues of the day.

It would be great to have a magical thinking method that would let me poll the universe to find the popular positions and to jump to the forefront of the fray with some sort of thought provoking statement or catch phrase.

Come to think of it. Such magical thinking methods exist.

Unfortunately, legions of politicians (left and right) try using such techniques to throw themselves in front of any issues that poll well.

As it turns out. It is a breeze to spew forth with meaningless slogans about change or deep-sounding paradoxes. Read Mao's Little Red Book and you will have a life time of meaningless phrases for a fruitful political career.

The problem, of course, is that while our politicians sit by the polls and measure the effects of magic language, the actual issues that we need resolved fail to receive adequate consideration.

I think our country is desparate to find a way out of the malaise caused by the magic speak ... which is the rave in the political and media class.

One way to break the lure of magic speak is for people to make a mental effort to separate reasons for a position and the actuall position held by the politician.

In our current election, we see two great examples of the relations of reasons v. positions. John McCain voted against the Bush tax cut becuase the tax cut did not have corresponding spending cuts. This is a more fiscally conservative view than supporting tax cuts. Hillary Clinton says she voted to authorize use of force against Iraq because she thought George Bush would use the declaration in diplomatic efforts and not actually invade Iraq.

When drafting the US Constitution, the groups opposed to slavery insisted on counting blacks at 3/5th a person. Slaves were not allowed to vote; the anti-slavery groups sought to reduce the power weilded by the slave owners.

There are millions of cases where the reason behind a position is counter to one's first impression of the issue.

Anyway, I wanted to get back to the magical language.

Current politics seems to be driven by the desire for magical language. The moment we say the right magical words, we will have a social utopia.

The problem with the magical language (you know the thing where politics is driven by polls on the issues) is that the process ends up polluting the reasons behind our politicies.

When the reasons for our policies boil down to the image we want to project to the world, then we end up adopting a system of extremely weak reasons.

When we have poor reasoning behind our well intentioned (and well polled) positions on policy, we often find the poor reasoning ends up undermining our society.

This is why I went through the brain damange on the posts about the death penalty. My personal self image is that I am a wonderful person who is against the death penalty. However, I find that when I simply argue myself image, my arguments for my position come up weak. When I use weak reasons for my position, I find I actually create opportunities for abuse.

If the reason behind the abolition of the death penalty is simply the way the populace feels at the moment. Then we suffer the danger of abuses when public sentiment turns sour.

If the reason behind the abolition of the death penalty is because the high profile death penalty cases show our court system is corrupt, then abolishing the death is really an effort to hide the corruption of the court.

To make a truly substantial change, we have to make sure the reasoning behind our position is strong and well understood.

This type of effort is becoming increasingly difficult in a world where political hacks throw themselves infront of any popular issue.

For example, Libertarians have a very strong case that we should really only apply the force of government in specific areas. In the areas where we apply the government, the government should be the government. Unfortunately, this case is diluted by wanks who jump in the front of the line and start wanting to privatize necessary government functions.

The people who are best at poisitioning themselves in the political arena dominate the discourse, but these people fail to understand the reasons behind a position. We get people like George Bush who lowers taxes without lowering spending, and who jeopardize the future of the nation with absurd deficits. We have a peace movement where the loudest players in the movement are more interested in how the appear in the protest lines than in the real struggle to lay a working foundation for peace.

When our reasons are poorly founded, our efforts are ineffective and we end up undermining our society.