Wednesday, April 26, 2006

United Nations - Disarmament - Iran

On Tuesday, the United Nations Commission on Disarmament elected America, Canada, Australia, Iran as deputy for Asian nations.

This is nothing but the United Nations taking a swipe at us. Iran is actively developing a nuclear weapons program and they're going to sit on a disarmament commission? It reminds me of the time in 2004 when Sudan chaired the U.N. Commission on Human Rights during a time of ethnic cleansing in that region. The fox guarding the hen house?

The Islamic Republic News Agency report is a little scarce and doesn't offer any criticism of the vote for reasons that should be obvious.

Cybercast News Service offers a more in depth look at the issue.

Why are we participating in the UN anymore? At it's best it's incompetent, corrupt and useless. At it's worst it protects terrorists, actively works to reduce our liberties and is essentially trying to be the de facto world government.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Robot

Apparently, I write like a robot. Slashdot reports that researchers at Indiana University have written a program designed to detect whether a given piece of text was written by a human or the result of a bot, designed to write for you.

For those that don't know, there are several bots that will write papers for you on various subjects. There is the Computer Science Paper generator, and the Post Modern Generator which is hilarious (just hit refresh to get a new paper). There are probably others but you can google for them yourselves.

The Inauthentic Paper Detector, which assumes that anything rated over 50% is authentic thinks I am a computer program. I ran my previous two blog posts and one old post through the detector and here are the results:
  1. What Else Won't Work? - The detector gave me a 23% chance that it was written by a human.
  2. Apple And Free Speech - This rated only 22.5%. I'm starting to feel dehumanized.
  3. On Liberty - This is one of my favorite posts so I thought I'd try it. It only rated this post as having a 12.1% chance of being authentic. Can you believe that?
To be completely fair, the detector is supposed to be analyzing scientific text. From the site:
is intended for detecting whether a technical document is human written and authentic or not. Predictions may work for documents intended for entertainment (novels, news articles etc.). The main purpose of this software is to detect whether a technical document conforms to the statistical standards of an expository text. You can easily take a human written technical document and add some nonsense text somewhere in the middle, or paste a document generated by an automatic paper generator. We are trying to detect new, machine written texts that are simply generated not to have any meaning, yet appear to have meaning on the surface.

It's just funny that it thinks that my posts make sense on the surface but are otherwise devoid of real meaning. I've been told exactly the opposite.

Run your own blog post through the detector and post the results in the comments.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What Else Won't Work?

Jorge Bush was out here Irvine, CA today. Unfortunately, I couldn't go see him and probably wouldn't have made it through the door anyway. I would have like to heckle him a bit but getting arrested by the Secret Service isn't high on my agenda either.

Referring to the deportation of illegal immigrants, Bush said:
"I know this is an emotional debate," Bush said. "But the one thing we cannot lose sight of is we're talking about human beings, decent human beings. Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's not going to work."
Did you catch that last part? "Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's not going to work."

That to me is language for "We're not even going to bother to try." Oh, sure, there is an occasional show of force where a couple of hundred people get caught and deported in an employer raid but if only 1/2 of one percent of the conservative estimated of 12,000,000 were deported, that would be 600,000 people. Would that really be difficult? No, I don't think so. Would it be difficult to round up one percent of the illegals? No. That wouldn't be difficult either. And it would be a heck of a deterrent to other illegals coming in to this country.

Ok, so let's take Bush at his word that mass deportations won't work. What else won't work?

  • Let's not even attempt to arrest pedophiles. They're going to keep doing it anyway.
  • Don't bother inspecting cargo at the major ports. There's really no way to stop a nuke from getting in to this country.
  • Why worry about exporting military tech to China? They're going to steal it anyway.
  • Who cares about welfare fraud? Everyone needs money; enforcing those laws is prejudicial.
  • And lastly, let's just forget about border guards or a wall. Don't even worry about stopping people from coming here, they're going to do it anyway.
What a defeatist, crappy attitude to have. Well, we can't stop it all so we'll only make a little noise and pretend we're doing something! What a great idea.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Apple And Free Speech

Apparently Apple doesn't think that bloggers and 'independent news sites' deserve the same protections of the press that more established press outlets enjoy.

It seems that there have been a few websites that are focused on news and events coming out of Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA. Apple can't control the information flow from these sites like it can with CNET or ZDNet that depends on the company feeding information to them so it wants to put them out of business. You can read the complete story here.

The larger point here is that Apple along with most other corporate entities and individuals don't hesitate to utilize the government to shut down those opposed to their interests. Never mind that such a thing does violence to the basic tenants of free speech, they are only interested in themselves.

If Apple succeeds and convinces the government that bloggers and other sites don't deserve the same protections the press enjoys then we're all in trouble. But it's not just free speech, this problem spreads across the entire spectrum of the liberties we are supposed to have.

Despite the title of this post and a rant against Apple, I don't blame them for trying. We ourselves are to blame for continually calling on the government to solve all of our problems. We call for new legislation whenever people are doing things we don't like. We want restrictions placed on unfavorable behavior of others. And it's always more government we want, never less.

Rarely does a law get repealed. Rarely is legislation passed specifically to remove restrictions. You can't get a bill through Congress to eliminate government agencies, cut their funding, take laws off the books or deregulate an industry. The little deregulation that has happened over the years has been big news and vehemently opposed by the those that think we should be controlled. Deregulating the airlines was clearly a positive step. Deregulating energy in California wasn't really deregulation but it was billed that way and has clearly been a failure.

The answer is simply to strip the government of the power necessary to do the bidding of private interests. If someone is violating your rights, there is already good laws in place to protect you. If some one steals your intellectual property, you can rightly sue for damages. Libel and slander are already actionable as they should be. Lacking principle and integrity, people don't care about unintended consequences of their actions. The sad thing is, as soon as those consequences are no longer advantageous to them, they want even more stuff piled on top if to get them out.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tech Threat

Slashdot posted an article from New Scientist Tech about the development of paint on lasers.

If you want the technical details, see the article, but the short version is that this technology will be used to make even faster and cheaper computers than we have now. The technology will also be suitable for cheap sensors for biomedical and mechanical applications.

How is this a threat? The current political climate seems to be focused on 'security'. The government's idea of security is far different than mine; in fact, they are quite at loggerheads with each other. If you haven't already figured it out, the government doesn't care about your security. The government only cares about its own security. Where your security and government security conflict, you lose. As government is wont to do, they will continue to find new and interesting ways to increase their sense of security, which is to say, decrease yours.

The technology mentioned in the article will simply provide the government with very cheap ways to monitor us more closely. Cheap, fast computers will process collected data on the fly and analyze it for potential threats. As I mentioned in the previous post, all of that data can be easily twisted to provide incriminating 'evidence' against you if you become politically unfavorable.

Is it possible that insurance companies will begin demanding that we wear monitoring devices to track vital functions? Why not have a sensor in your stomach that will keep a record of what you eat and how often? Hey, it's in your best interest and you'll get a break on your insurance. The insurance industry is already in bed with the government enough as it is, a national healthcare program would simply be another method of data collection open to government abuse.

The scary thing is, there isn't really a good solution to this problem. It will get harder and harder to resist monitoring technology; it will become ubiquitous. It's not realistic to think that we can stem the tide of technology simply to prevent ourselves being monitored. Becoming a Luddite is futile. The only viable solution to the problem is to restrict government.

This must be done on at least two fronts:
  1. Restrict the power of government. Take control. Scale it back to the point where the only effective power of government is enforcement of law. Crime prevention policies only lead to tyranny.
  2. Remove the ability of the corporate infrastructure to use the state as an instrument of coercion. I'm open to suggestions on how to do this. At the very least, we need to do away with the corporate entity having personhood. The officers of the corporation should always have direct accountability.
It's really not technology that is the threat, it is government abuse of that technology. I'm not even terribly worried about individual abuse of the technology since individuals tend not to have the ability to pull disparate sources of information together to pose any significant threat.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Asking For Bullet

I am not advocating the destruction of government property. I am not going to incite anyone to commit a crime. It just seems to me that the citizens of New York City just might get a little ticked off at such blatant police surveillance.

It would not surprise me in the least if someone were to take up arms and start taking out these boxes with a high powered rifle. Vigilante justice at its finest. No one actually gets hurt and the people would be a little safer from government intrusion.

New York City is planning to install 500 of these units. Why do the police think that it is their duty to PREVENT crime? As it is, the police have no duty to protect you, that has been proven in the courts over and over again in cases where the police have been sued for delayed 911 calls and not enforcing restraining orders.

How long will it be before software is available that can scan the images produced by the cameras for evidence of a crime not even spotted by a person? How many innocent people will get caught up in abuse by the system?

While it is true that we have relatively little privacy in public, I am very uneasy with the concept of the government recording and storing my whereabouts. Face recognition technology will be used to store records of movement which can be retrieved by a simple query. Eventually, these images will, in the name of national security, end up in the hands of FedGov along with the images from every other city camera across the nation. One does not have to be doing something wrong to be come a target of malicious prosecution by a district attorney or Federal prosecutor. One merely needs to be politically unfavorable.

The question that supporters of this type of monitoring always ask is, "If you're not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?"

My answer is simply that what is legal today, may be illegal or unpopular tomorrow. The other answer is that a trail of my movements which are stored and retrievable in a database could easily be twisted to form a very misleading picture of my activities and associations. That information in the hands of a political enemy could be devastating.

Imagine having to answer lawyers questions about what you were doing 10 years ago eating in a restaurant run by known criminals. Then maybe a year or two later you were known to frequent another establishment controlled by the same criminals. Even if no evidence stuck, you could be falsely painted as cavorting with criminals even though you had no knowledge that these establishments were connected, much less run by criminals.

If I had any trust or confidence in my government that this information would not be abused for political and other reasons, I might actually support it. Unfortunately, the government is run by people and frequently, those people are the type that seeks positions of power and influence and will use any method at their disposal for advancement. Some even think that it is 'best for the country' to abuse some to further their agenda because of the greater good.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Step In The Right Direction

A new law is going in to effect on July 1st that says that every recipient of Medicaid will have to provide proof of United States citizenship. Anyone who applies for coverage after June 30th will also have to provide documentation of citizenship.

There are currently about 50 million Medicaid recipients. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that 35,000 people will lose coverate by 21015. Only 35,000? I'm willing to bet that the number of illegal aliens getting coverage is far higher than that. I can't prove it, but with 12,000,000 illegal aliens in this country, only having 35,000 on Medicaid sounds very low. Perhaps they are just trying to say that the new rules will be difficult to enforece or the citizenship checks won't be terribly thorough.

The usual suspects are of course screaming that it will cause hardships for too many people. What these people don't want to acknowlege is that governemnt funded health care is one of the primary reasons that insurance and health care costs are so expensive anyway.

As it is, prices are high because of lousy insurance policies and people visit the doctor for unecessary reasons simply because it is so cheap for them to do so. If they were paying for it out of their own pocket, people wouldn't go to the doctor every time they get a sniffle and insurance costs would be lower.

At least an attempt is being made to clean out some of the ineligible medicaid recipients. Call me a pessimist though, I don't think it's going to make much of a difference and exception after exception will be added back until it ends up just like the current system.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Give A Hoot, You Must Pollute

My good buddy Joel over at Thanks For All The Fish demonstrates the absurdity of the global warming theory and our efforts to combat it. Apparently the more we clean up the air, the warmer the planet gets.

Do your part and pollute the planet today!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Deconstructing Polygamy

Before I begin, I will state categorically that I am NOT a supporter of polygamy. I am not going to discuss the pro's and con's of polygamy itself. If you'd like to see that discussion, read Vox Day's blog for that. You can find that discussion which started with his article here and continued on his blog here, here, here, here, and here. Yes, he does prattle on a bit but it's highly entertaining.

I want to take apart an article by Jonathan Rauch of Reason Magazine. He published an article entitled, One Man, Many Wives, Big Problems. There are many problems with the reasoning in his article but they all stem from one specific point.

Rauch says:
Because a marriage license is a state grant, polygamy is a matter of public policy, not just of personal preference.
What Rauch doesn't do, is challenge the authority of the state to regulate and define marriage. Why should the state be given any control over the relationship between two people and how they define it? As it is, competent adults can already legally enter in to contracts of all sorts without government licensure and marriage is, from a legal perspective, nothing more than a contract with a nebulous set of regulations attached to it. A standard legal contract tends to be more specific and less subject to arbitrary rulings.

Democrats and Republicans both have a tendency to only question the state when it inconveniences them but rarely take the opportunity to look at the big picture when it comes to 'accepted' government policy. Currently we simply accept that a marriage is not legitimate until it is blessed by the state. We need to challenge that notion (and many others).

I don't want to venture too far in to the 'gay marriage' debate but logic follows that if you allow two people of the same sex to get married, then any number of people should be allowed to marry any other number of people as long as all parties consent to the arrangement. If the state took no interest at all, then we have no problem, people simply enter in to contracts and take any disputes to court or, preferably, private mediation.

Since the state insists on having a say in the marriage issue, gay marriage and polygamous marriage becomes an issue of the state. But the issue will get muddled. Picture this:

John marries Betty and Lucy. Their marriage is blessed by the state and they have a marriage contract that carries all of the common rights and privileges that we are all familiar with. If John is married to Betty and Lucy, doesn't that technically mean that Betty and Lucy are also married to each other since all of their affairs are encumbered by law? In a community property state, two people that are married share all property. If all property is now shared between three people then Betty and Lucy must also be married to each other. Confused? Good. So is the state. After a couple of years of this arrangement, John grows bored with Betty and decides he only wants to be married to Lucy. John files for divorce against Lucy. Hold on though. Betty, who is also legally married to Lucy does NOT want a divorce. Since they are all married in common, who gets to choose? The state has a problem now. How does it decide who gets to do what in the legal sense?

Let's muddy the waters a little more. John, Betty and Lucy are fairly happy with their arrangement but Betty and Lucy want to spice it up a little bit. Betty and Lucy get together and decide they want to marry George. But suppose John doesn't want to be a party to the marriage with George? Since, according to the state, they all share common property and Betty and Lucy want the marriage is George obligated? I don't have the answer to those questions. I haven't even discussed the issue of children and custody. That would be another can of worms. Certainly there could be contracts specified ahead of time that would prevent such arrangements from occurring and that is precisely my point.

If people were simply free to make the legal arrangements that they specified then the state simply has to enforce any breach of that contract and not pile convoluted ruling on top of convoluted ruling. Without any state interest in marriage, John, Betty and Lucy could specify in their marriage contract that no other parties could be brought in to the arrangement without unanimous consent. Any party could opt out of the arrangement and provisions could be made ahead of time for the division of assets. Custody issues could be dealt with easily enough in contract as well. The point is, we do not need the state to tell us what our legal obligations should be in regards to marriage, we should be free to decide that for ourselves according to our moral and religious convictions. Marriage is an extra-legal covenant. The legalities of such a relationship can be dealt with according to property law and private contract. The state can't possibly anticipate all of the potential ramifications of such arrangements.

Back to Rauch. Rauch calls polygamy "a profoundly hazardous policy." I agree, but there shouldn't be any policy. He also says:
As far as I've been able to determine, no polygamous society has ever been a true liberal democracy, in anything like the modern sense. As societies move away from hierarchy and toward equal opportunity, they leave polygamy behind. They monogamize as they modernize. That may be a coincidence, but it seems more likely to be a logical outgrowth of the arithmetic of polygamy.
Rauch might be right but it makes no difference. Democracy is not appropriate for everyone. Liberty is appropriate for everyone, but liberty and democracy (or republicanism) should not be linked in your mind as being the same. Is it so hard to conceive of a free monarchy? Even the kings of old were bound by their own laws in many cases. Free people are highly unlikely to overthrow their king.

Now, Rauch begins to border on the absurd:
when one man marries two women, some other man marries no woman. When one man marries three women, two other men don't marry. When one man marries four women, three other men don't marry. Monogamy gives everyone a shot at marriage. Polygyny, by contrast, is a zero-sum game that skews the marriage market so that some men marry at the expense of others.
In the strict sense he is correct. Where he begins to go wrong is where he states that "monogamy gives everyone a shot at marriage." If a woman chooses not to get married at all, she is also denying some man the chance to marry her. Why is that a problem? We are free to choose our spouses. That some woman would choose a man who already has one or more wives does not deny any other man a shot at marriage, just the reality of it. The reasons that the woman chose a polygamous arrangement are hers alone and should not be presumed upon by legislators in the interest of fairness to other men. Rauch digs himself in deeper by saying that "...some men marry at the expense of others." Technically, he's quite right but things are that way now. When a woman I would want to marry chooses another, that other man has married at my expense. From a legal and social policy perspective it's a ludicrous argument to make against polygamy.

But it gets worse, Rauch continues by saying:
For the individuals affected, losing the opportunity to marry is a grave, even devastating, deprivation.
By my estimation, a person loses the opportunity to get married based on merit. Lisa likes Alan more than Ted so Ted looses the opportunity to get married to Lisa. Rauch doesn't seem to realize that many and probably most people will remain monogamous. In many cultures that practiced polygamy, the women have not had much of a choice in the matter. Arrangements were made the women (or girls) simply had to accept it. In a free society, that is not a problem and Rauch's arguments are tossed out the window. One is only denied the opportunity to marry based on individual merit and not the existence of other potential spouses. No one has the right to be married if someone else doesn't wish to enter in to that type of relationship with them. To argue against polygamy based on how men who don't get married are going to feel about it is just wrong headed if not intellectually dishonest.

Rauch goes on to quote a book which essentially says that large groups of men that don't have marriage prospects will simply turn in to criminals. That's what prisons are for. Married men are less likely to be criminals but choosing a life of crime is still the responsibility of the individual and he should be punished according the laws he breaks. The rest of Rauch's article is that society would simply fall apart if polygamy is legal. Since social engineers have been mostly wrong about 'what would happen if...' I'm not willing to take his word for it either.

In the interest of individual liberty, get the state out of the business of marriage altogether and let us decide the terms of our own marriages.


I don't usually post this sort of thing, but this maze is really cool when you get to the fourth level.

More posts soon folks, I promise.