March 31, 2005
Alan is railing against a recent judicial ruling that found the state cannot regulate hard-core pornography that depicts such abhorrent practices as rape or murder. While I personally think any video of that nature is sick, perverse, and the same holds true for those who would watch it, I don’t see the justification for the state to intervene here. Alan, of course, disagrees. Quoting the ruling:
Judge Lancaster opined that the Lawrence ruling could â€œbe reasonably interpreted as holding that public morality is not a legitimate state interest sufficient to justify infringing on adult, private, consensual sexual conduct even if that conduct is deemed offensive to the general publicâ€™s sense of morality.â€
Which sounds like a pretty reasonable thought to me. Alan seems to think, however, that the public’s sense of morality is perfectly able to override free speech.
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects free speech, the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fourteenth Amendment promises due process and equal protection under the law. No author of the Bill of Rights could have conceived it would be stretched and reshaped to protect obscenity. One after another, activist court interpretations have eroded the original intent of these amendments to the present case, in which Judge Lancaster ruled that privacy rights created out of thin air trump â€œthe general publicâ€™s sense of morality.â€
Regardless of the language or rationalizations employed, the courts are overstepping the bounds set for them by the very Constitution they claim to uphold. These judges are legislating from the bench despite the fact that creating law and new rights is not the job of judges. The Constitution endowed Congress and the states with the powers to make laws, including obscenity laws. The job of the courts is to interpret the laws impartially in accordance with the Constitution, not to forward agendas that undermine the public good.
Alan asks whether the founders envisioned a state where such pornographic materials existed? Truthfully, I suspect they would consider such materials just as disgusting as I do. But the question is better stated as, “Did the founders of this country believe that the Constitution protects government or the individual?” The answer to that question is clear.
Alan Sears believes that the state has the right to restrict individual behavior, and that individuals have to prove a Constitutional basis for the right to be left alone. This is opposed to what the founders intended. The founders believed that all rights are held by the individual, and that the state has to show a compelling reason and jump through a lot of hoops to do anything that restricts the liberty of the individual. Those hoops were a hell of a lot more restrictive than simply a law by Congress.
I don’t believe that the sort of hard-core porn mentioned is something that anyone should watch. But I am not going to substitute my morality for something they do that does not affect me. The “right” to privacy may not be explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution. Does the public’s sense of morality entail that private actions between consenting adults can be restricted by Congress? I don’t see that in the Constitution either. In fact, I would maintain that the First and Fifth Amendments provide a much stronger legal case for the right to privacy than anything in the Constitution justifying restrictions upon it.
March 30, 2005
Everyone always cheers for the underdog and hopes that Goliath is slain, right?
That’s why we have all delighted in the trials and tribulations of Microsoft over the past year – Service Pack 2, Countless security holes, IE losing market share (to Firefox) for the first time since the interweb became popular, and Longhorn has been postponed until 2038.
We love to see the behemoth getting raked over the coals. Like March Madness – everyone cheers against Duke. Heck, it is the tagline for all sports stories on Fark.com, “Duke sucks”. We all wish that we had a viable alternative to using Windows, but it just isn’t there. Mac you say?
How many people own Macs? Like 50? Seriously, given the market share that Mr. Jobs and his little cult have, how can they be so pretentious? Maybe it’s me, but for some reason I think that Jobs believes it is good enough to simply have a better product. Not so, Stevie, you need to have more than 18 people buying Macs each year. Yeah, yeah, I know, the iPod is the greatest thing in the world. Despite the fact that you are cornered into their little cult. They’re no better than Microsoft, just a lot less successful.
Anyway, the real reason for this post relates to the EU forcing MS to remove Windows Media player from XP. And here is the best part – one of the rejected names that MS tried to use for the EU version was “Windows XP, reduced Media version”. Obviously, the EU wasn’t fond of that. But I thought it was funny. Yeah, Microsoft sticking it to the man.
So since I was rooting for Microsoft here, does this mean that we’re starting to feel sorry for them, and they are no longer the (Duke Blue) Devil(s)?
I filled up my gas tank this morning, and ended up paying $44. Gas is sitting at $2.50 a gallon for the ‘cheap’ stuff in Newport Beach, and I was getting close to empty. A complete refill would have probably pushed almost to $50. I hadn’t thought about it specifically this morning, but I am certainly looking forward to a nice reduction in fuel prices when I head back east.
The real problem is that California is a closed gas market. Because of environmentalists, it is illegal to import the nationwide blend of gas, known as Federal Reformulated Gas, or FRG. Instead, Californians are forced to deal with whatever amount of California Reformulated Gas, or CRG, that the refineries feel like producing.
The first problem here is that the refineries here in California, which theoretically have enough capacity to keep the state awash in CRG use their excess capacity to produce FRG, which can then be sold to the other 49 states. Why would they do this? So they can make more money. It is not in their interest to flood Californiaâ€™s gas market, nor is it in their interest to let their excess capacity sit idle, so they use that capacity to make another profitable product.
Of course, that wouldn’t be that big of a problem, if someone could prove that CRG is actually more environmentally friendly than FRG. While I don’t necessarily believe that legislation and coercion is the best way to protect the environment, I haven’t studied the issue enough to have come up with a better solution. And considering air quality here in Southern California (another nail in the coffin of why I’m leaving), I can understand that something needs to be done. But this proves once again that the worst actor in most situations is the government:
Oh, but thatâ€™s not all. Do you remember the whole underground tank bugaboo? The reason they started suspecting leaking tanks was because MTBE was turning up in ground water. MTBE is dangerous stuff. When itâ€™s being transported to a refinery, it has to be treated as a hazardous material. Itâ€™s a carcinogen. Worst of all, it leeches into water very quickly.
So, weâ€™ve been paying 50 cents more a gallon for what? No improvement in air quality and poisoned ground water. Californians have shown themselves to be a powerful bunch when angered. Well, we should be angry about this, damn it! We have been fleeced for billions of dollars over the last 9 years. Now that gas prices are hovering around $2.50 a gallon, we should say we arenâ€™t going to take it anymore. We can’t afford to take it anymore.
So, we’re paying higher prices while damaging the environment? Sounds wonderful. These simple truths should be enough to get someone to realize that the environmentalists were wrong on this, and we should go back to FRG. But, the environmentalists love the fact that gas is so expensive, because they think it means that we’ll stop driving so much, and thus they won’t admit one shred of fallibility here.
I suggest you run over to Quincy’s site and read the whole thing. He is confident that people can actually force some change here in the People’s Republic of California. I’ve said before that I have cut my losses and I’m getting the hell out of here, so I wish the rest of you fruits, flakes, and nuts the best of luck.
March 29, 2005
My apologies for Blogger’s problems. According to their Status Blog, they’re working on it and should have it fixed today. I think it has hampered commenting pretty fiercely.
In the long term, I am thinking of moving to one of the other, paid services, but I’m not to that point yet. Hopefully this discussion at Jacqueline Passey’s blog will give me all the information I need to make the right choice, but I don’t have the readership yet to support paying $150 a year or so to keep this up.
Now this is an interesting research project. Take some pigs, zap them with a taser, see if they die. Give them some cocaine, see if they die. Give them some cocaine and then zap them with a taser, see if they die. Not as cool as trauma pods, but interesting nonetheless. And if the research is able to determine whether we can reduce the number of humans dying from being tased by the cops, a few pigs are worth it.
But someone doesn’t see it that way:
“Shocking more pigs is only going to add their numbers to the Taser-related death statistics,” Patti Gilman, whose brother died after being shot with a Taser in British Columbia in June 2004, wrote in a letter to the school. “Robert’s death never should have happened. And neither should these experiments.”
That’s a worthy goal, but researchers should instead study humans who have survived Taser shocks and autopsy reports of those who died, said Laura Yanne of PETA. She promised an “unprecedented” protest on Tuesday, but would not release details.
“Subjecting pigs to cruel experiments is not the way to go on this. It’s so obvious,” she said. “This is a half-million dollar boondoggle.”
First of all, someone who is going to include pigs in the statistics for taser related deaths is crazy. It is the same sort of crazy that compares chicken farms to the holocaust. Anytime someone opens their mouth and starts spewing this nonsense, the only reason to keep listening is for comedic value.
But this goes to a larger point. The PETA folks care more about animals than they do about humans. To them, animals are on an equal moral footing as humans, and thus actions which cause pain to animals, no matter how much they improve our lives, are abhorrent. And again, in a big step away from the “reality-based community”, they don’t seem to understand that we can learn an incredible amount more from testing these hypotheses on animals than simply studying humans who have survived Taser shocks and autopsy reports from those who didn’t. Some things can only be proven by experiments and the scientific method, not searching for correlations in completely uncontrolled circumstances from months or years ago.
Thankfully cooler heads at the land of the Baaadgers are prevailing:
“I think this is an outstanding example of one of those questions that can only be answered using animals,” said Eric Sandgren, a UW-Madison professor who heads a committee that oversees animal research. “Boy, there’s been a lot of deaths from this. If the alternative is to go back to using bullets, let’s find out how to make this safe.”
Much has been made of the police starting to employ “less-than-lethal” methods to restrain criminals. The opponents of such technology like to point out that “less-than-lethal” is still occasionally lethal. But holding up perfection as the standard is unrealistic. If the alternative is real bullets, some imperfections are acceptable.
March 28, 2005
Letâ€™s get the introduction out of the way. Pretend you care:
Resident of Boston (Southie, Irish heaven)
31 years old
Republican-leaning (in MA?)
Hate going to movie theaters
Afraid of raw tomatoes (yes, deathly afraid)
My daily websites (courtesy of Firefox and my â€œstartupâ€ list)
- yahoo news
- google news
It is true, I was the former owner of the Dub Daily blog. Iâ€™m not even going to link to it here, since it has been eleventy nine months since I posted. A great effort on my part for several months, but just couldnâ€™t keep the motivation. At least I helped to get Brad into blogging so he can try to use some of that gray matter in that giant melon of his.
I recently spent 6 days in Costa Rica with 8 of my friends. It was the absolute craziest trip I have ever been on. Nothing but booze, gambling, deep sea fishing, zip lines, ATVâ€™s (cause for one trip to the hospital after one guy went over the edge and into a ravine on one), pool volleyball, and bad food. You know, the usual.
One of my favorite online writers is Bill Simmons. Doesnâ€™t really write about sports all that much, itâ€™s more pop culture. Any 25-35 year old male will read his articles and nod â€œuh-huh, I â€˜member thatâ€. Bill’s page 2 link on ESPN.com
Along the same vein, I was very disappointed to find out about Hunter S Thompsonâ€™s suicide. I thoroughly enjoyed his random articles on EPSN.com page 2. Rambling, incoherent stories about anything you can imagineâ€¦scratch thatâ€¦most people canâ€™t imagine a golf game that includes a shotgun. From a guy that started his days at 5:00 PM by eating jello topped with gin and gran marnier. Here is his last article. One that was odd enough for me to call my friend Hoover and say “read Hunter today? he’s getting really freaky”. Killed himself a couple days later.
That ought to sum me up pretty well. Looking forward to Warden Brad hawking me for the next month with “I want that article on my desk in 4 hours or your ass is on the street, Wilson.”
Oh yeah, almost forgot. I hate exclamation points. Never use them.
I typed one after the “Warden Brad” quote, but thought better of it. Because they suck.
But still better than tomatoes.
In my morning Yahoo! news reading, I came across a really cool story about the Pentagon starting research into “trauma pods”, a new unmanned mobile surgical unit that could eventually perform battlefield surgery on wounded soldiers, before evacuating them from the battle:
The Pentagon is awarding $12 million in grants on Monday to develop an unmanned “trauma pod” designed to use robots to perform full scalpel-and-stitch surgeries on wounded soldiers in battlefield conditions.
The researchers who pitched the Defense Department on the idea have prepared a futuristic “concept video” that seems straight out of a teen fantasy game, showing with full color and sound effects the notion that robots in unmanned vehicles can operate on soldiers under enemy fire and then evacuate them.
My first reaction was, like Keanu Reaves in The Matrix, “Whoa.”
But then I realized something. The other direction the defense department is going is to try to involve robots in the fighting of wars, supplementing or replacing infantry where possible:
Ultimately, the vision is that the grunts themselves become geeks, or perhaps more likely, are transformed into callcentre grunts, sitting in a control room coordinating multiple fighting, scouting and UN peace-keeping (wonder if they’re doing these?) robots.
Billings refers to a US National Academy of Sciences report which defines four classes of robot: Searcher, which does reconnaissance; Donkey, which humps stuff (no, not like that); Wingman, which seems to be some kind of remote-controlled light tank; and Hunter-Killer, a platoon of ten unmanned vehicles which themselves contain up to five small observation vehicles apiece. Hunter-Killer’s ability to strike deep into enemy territory, no matter how dangerous, should allow the US military to dispense entirely with Europeans, except maybe for sweeping up afterwards.
Again, pretty darn cool. Anything that gets more of our soldiers out of harms way, and more of our enemies into harms way, is cool with me.
But I’m struck by an interesting thought with these two developments… If we’re moving to a robotic fighting force, won’t the trauma pods then be made obsolete?
Or are they to help the human soldiers when the robotic ones try to take over?
Okay, enough of my sob stories about not having high-speed internet. I have found out that we will have dial-up, so it could be worse.
But let me explain the “unfortunate” circumstances we’re in. My wife’s family owns a beach house in Newport Beach. Half a block in one direction, and you’re at the bay. A block the other direction, and you’re at the ocean. Life could be worse.
And it’s less than a block from Newport’s Coffee Bar. This is the Hooter’s of coffee houses. To say that rent in Newport is high is an understatement. Yet this places stays in business being open only 6:30 AM until noon. How? They’ve got some of the hottest girls in Newport Beach working there. If you’re in town, here’s a map to the coffee bar. It’s worth visiting.
March 27, 2005
It’s a sad day. I’m now taking the PC apart. The house we’re staying has no high-speed connection, and I found out last night they might have discontinued phone service as well. So I have a sudden feeling I’m going to be working long hours, lest I go into withdrawal…
March 26, 2005
Sorry for the lack of posting. As I mentioned, I’m going to be moving to Georgia into a new house. Since paying rent and mortgage (and my $3k tax bill) all at once is a significant problem, we’re going to be temporarily living with family and putting everything in storage. This is all fine, except for one thing: I won’t have any high-speed internet access at home!!!
That means that for a month and a half, my posting will drop somewhat. And I’ll have to explain to my wife why I spend so much more time at work. I will do my best to keep the output high, but it has given me a chance to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and bring in a guest-blogger.
Coworker and friend Wilson, of Dub Daily, will be helping to supply some posts during this time. It should also be helpful, because I tend to write pretty heavily about politics, and he should be able to bring in some new topics. Once we get the bugs worked out, you’ll be seeing some new stuff coming. Hopefully, if he enjoys this, we might see a return of Dub Daily, or perhaps a permanent place posting here.
March 24, 2005
Recently, Doctor Andy addressed the idea of pharmaceutical reps entertaining doctors, giving them freebies, etc to reward the doctors prescribing their drugs. He specifically mentioned that if the freebies are given as a quid pro quo for prescribing those medications, it would therefore be unethical:
Consider a similar scenario. Dr. Morrow sees a patient and appropriately prescribes a course of expensive medication. Dr. Morrow acts of pure intention, prescribing what he believes to be the most appropriate treatment. Two days later, a drug rep from the pharmaceutical company who makes the expensive treatment calls to offer an expensive gift, say dinner for two at a fancy restaurant, as a “thanks” for prescribing the treatment. Can Dr. Morrow accept?
I think not. Doing so would call into question his motives and could be seen as a sort of bribe. The drug company is rewarding him not for doing the right thing, but to encourage use, appropriate or not, of its product.
This article wouldn’t have piqued my interest, but I saw a similar idea put forth at TF Stern’s site. TF is a retired police officer, who now works as a locksmith. In order to keep his name in front of the people who are in a position to recommend locksmiths, he keeps a somewhat similar practice:
I get quite a few of my retail customers as referrals from many different sources. I have folks who work in service departments and parts departments of various car dealerships all over town. They give my name and phone number out when a locksmith is needed. Hopefully itâ€™s because they know that I will do my level best to satisfy their customerâ€™s locksmith need, based on the quality of work I have done in the past. There is another reason why they remember my name; I make sure to say, â€œThank you for the referralâ€.
Saying, â€œThank youâ€, doesnâ€™t cost me anything. It does require a conscious effort on my part to remember that these calls could just as easily been given to some other locksmith. Every once in a while I will take them a berry or apple pie that Lucy has set aside, or take them a half gallon of Blue Bell Ice Cream as a way of putting an exclamation mark on the meaning of â€œThank Youâ€. I know who likes blue berry pie, Oreo cookies, chocolate ice cream and make it a point to drop off that confectionary delight when the time is right. During Baseball season I will often hand out some tickets to an Astros game; mind you, these will be in the â€œnose bleedâ€ section; Iâ€™m not rich. The interesting thing is that none of these people expect these extra tokens of appreciation; they would have done the same thing without them.
The question is, what is the difference between what a pharmaceutical rep is doing, and what TF is doing? I submit that there is no difference in reality.
Those who consider the first situation unethical have made an additional assumption. They are assuming that the doctor is choosing that medication, to the detriment of the patient, or as a substitute to a better medication. I don’t believe that an ethical doctor will choose a medication for a patient that is unsuitable to treat their disease, he is only choosing the specific medication that he is most familiar with. A doctor is not there to push expensive medications on patients who don’t need them, and to assume that doctors are willing to sacrafice their own patients needs out of a sense of “duty” to a pharmaceutical rep is ludicrous. As Alan Alda said last night on The West Wing, “If you can’t drink their booze, take their money, and then vote against them, you don’t belong in this business.” Doctors understand that their responsibility is to patients, and an expensive dinner here or there doesn’t make them forget this.
For locksmiths like TF, there are a lot of good locksmiths out there. TF may believe that he has certain competitive advantages, a more professional personality, or even more technical skill than others in his profession, but many other locksmiths could also complete the jobs he is offered. But TF is in a business that is heavily based upon referrals. Rewarding those who refer you (sometimes in advance), and doing everything you can to keep your face in front of them is key to getting more work. To the automotive servicemen, one random locksmith is as good as another, but personal relationships with someone like TF are going to make him the first name offered to a customer.
Of course, the argument against this is that medicine is different. To that I say, how? Typically there are several medications available for any given malady. For example, cholesterol medications like Lipitor and Vytorin will both lower your cholesterol. For an average patient, they’ll work equally well. Small subsets of people will have problems with Lipitor, and small subsets will have problems with Vytorin, and usually a doctor cannot tell which is which. When the Lipitor rep comes to visit your doctor, with free samples and maybe a free lunch or dinner, all they’re doing is giving the doctor the impetus to choose Lipitor instead of Vytorin, next time he is faced with a patient who needs medication for high cholesterol. He won’t start prescribing Lipitor to people who don’t need it, and if there is a generic substitute available for Lipitor, he likely won’t tell the pharmacy not to substitute the generic. For this patient, he would choose between prescribing Lipitor or Vytorin anyway. So where is the ethical problem here?
What TF is doing, and what the pharmaceutical companies are doing, is advertising and marketing. They do this because to do so alerts customers to their existence, and bringing in customers allow them to continue to operate. For TF, that means that he can take a vacation with his wife, buy the sports car, etc. For a pharmaceutical company, that means that they can continue the R&D efforts to design new drugs that will save us from countless other maladies down the road. To those on the left, whose modus operandi is to ascribe the worst motives to anyone associated with business or commerce, calling this “unethical” is par for the course. To those of us who understand that capitalism and competition will end up enriching us all, we understand a simple fact: Creating a product doesn’t mean squat unless people who need the product know about it. Free giveaways are nothing more than a means to that end.
Bullshit. I’m going to live forever.
Hat Tip: ethne
March 22, 2005
Two nights ago, I read the AnarchAngel’s post entitled Oaths. He quotes the oath he took when he was sworn in as an officer in the USAF. The point of the oath that he discusses focuses on the words “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The force and fury of his convictions are such that I cannot do much except quote him:
All enemies foreign and domestic…
That passage is there for a reason; The framers of our government, who first set forth this oath in 1778, knew that there would be challenges both from within, and from without.
I believe that in these days, we face a greater challenge from within, than we have faced since April, 1861.
The people who have become the establishment of the state, have taken upon themselves more and more of those powers, rights, and priviliges reserved for the states; and for the people; and they are reaching for more every single day.
They have taken upon themselves the power to limit, or to abrogate those rights protected by the constitution.
They have taken upon themselves the power to limit, or to abrogate those rights inherent to us as men.
And we have let them.
I’m not a military man. I’ve never taken the oath of which he speaks. But the words that Chris speaks, and the oath that stand as their pillar of support, ring true to my ears and my soul.
The United States of America was begun as a grand experiment. The founders of this nation saw not a nation of subjects, but a nation of free men. They had stood by as they were oppressed, belittled, scoffed at, and generally mistreated by the Crown across the Atlantic. And they said “No more.” America was to be a society based not on the rule of people, but on the rule of law. The nation was built as an extension of the sovereignty of the individual, not as the source of the same. America at its founding was, compared to other nations, super-literate. They had seen what happens when oppression came from without, and knew that it could just as easily come from within. The founders expected the 2nd Amendment not to allow some members of society to carry weapons, they wanted and hoped America to be armed to the teeth. Nothing less could ensure that America would be safe from all enemies, foreign and domestic.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
It seems to me that the founders of our nation knew what to do when faced with a government that no longer recognized its rightful purpose. They notice, especially, that we as humans tend to sit back and allow our chains to grow heavy before we act. We allow the abuses to mount and grow. We slumber.
It is time to wake up.
Chris said, in the comments section of his post, “I do not advocate a physical revolution, I advocate a personal revolution; a mental revolution; an emotional revolution; a revolution of honor.”
It is our right and our duty to throw off our government. The blogosphere has given us our voice, and our ability to organize. Battles of this sort are won and lost with the “hearts and minds”. Now that we have the ability to reach those hearts and minds, let’s win those battles.
I walked into the store, and this is what I saw. Finally, instead of those wussie light beers, a fine ale fitting my drinking style and my personality!
The Adam Smith Institute in the UK reports on the growing trend in Europe to move to flat tax systems. They note, correctly, that a low flat tax increases compliance, reduces barriers to investment and growth, while actually increasing government revenues. As we supply-siders would say, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
This, as is expected, has caused an uproar across the rest of Europe. The powers that be in the EU are horrendously upset that these upstart nations would dare compete with them by lowering taxes. They fight and fight, but it just doesn’t seem to be working:
Having tried initially to prevent low tax competition through â€˜harmonization,â€™ other EU members are now being forced to examine whether they might have to follow the low tax route in order to remain attractive to investment and industry.
To those of us who believe in free-market economics, this is a striking blow for our side. Members of the American left, who look to Europe as an example of the quasi-socialist nation they would like to form here, can now see that the quasi-socialist model isn’t working. Of course, past history will show that this is not likely to cause them to change their minds, but it is certainly ammunition for those of us arguing against them.
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