22 February 2007

But wait, there's more

  • Feb 22, 2007

But wait, there's more

These ones are from my bookmarks...

(I wrote this!)

(if only I had a spare $1000!)

(My total footprint is 4-5, or .8 to 1.2 earths)

(I don't really know why I have this bookmarked, I just find it interesting)

(possibly the coolest thing ever!)

(so that when spring comes, we can all learn to do that stuff!)

21 February 2007

Not a real (we)b-log

  • Feb 21, 2007

Not a real (we)b-log

Personally, I am always disappointed to open a new blog installment from one of my subscriptions, and find that it is someone else's work, just copy-and-pasted in, or just a link to something they found interesting.  I often read it anyway, but I am interested in you, in your thoughts and experiences and stories.


Considering I have had a peak of 4 subscribers (one of which canceled fairly quick!), there aren't all that many people to annoy.

A few things I stumbled upon on the web, mostly while looking for other things.  Some funny, some interesting, some scary.

(who would have guessed it was so easy? must resist temptation...)

(I feel this describes nearly everyone I know around our age)

(Dawkins is my God.)

(remember to pull that battery, and tell you co-conspirators to too)

(There's a lot here.  Browse a little.  On the brainsex quiz, I got a perfect 0 - neither masculine nor feminine.  Best of both worlds, I suppose.  I am very happy about that.  Body wise, however, I assure you I am 100% man!)

18 February 2007

Organized protest: Civil obedience

  • Feb 18, 2007

Organized protest: Civil obedience

Ever seen those fundamentalist evangelical christian fanatics gathered at gay parades and abortion clinics?
They gather up a good group of like minded people, they have signs, slogans, chants.

Has seeing them ever made you think maybe gays really are going to hell, or that abortion really is worse than murder? Even a little bit? Even for a moment?

My guess is no. You look at them, and think they are idiots, you are disturbed that they feel something so disgusting with enough conviction to even be there. You wonder why they care so much about issues which don't even directly affect them.

And yet, so many of us feel that, when it is ourselves holding the signs, saying the chants, that we are somehow influencing people, changing peoples minds, raising awareness perhaps.
Anyone who is still unaware, doesn't care. Anyone who is on the other side, just thinks poorly of the protesters, they aren't going to have a change of heart based on a chant or a slogan. Perhaps a long, in depth dialog, showing facts they may have been unaware of, demonstrating the logical fallacies of their assumptions, on so on, but not a chant.
Those people who do things like "honk" a horn in support, they were already on our side to begin with.

Then there is the idea that it will somehow influence politicians.
An elected official either gets your vote, or they don't. If you approve of them 51%, they have no reason to care if that increases to 99%, because you will already vote for them. That increase would cause a corresponding drop in some other demographics' vote. Like wise, if you like them 49%, they just as well may alienate you all the way, as they have already lost you.
(Hence "non-binding resolutions", get just enough support, without any political backlash)
Unless you have a city wide general strike, chances are any protest, however large, is actually composed of a fairly small subset of the population.
Outside of actual voting, why should they be concerned with the will of the citizens? Because they get there power from the fact that we choose to give it to them. They make the laws, but if the entire society, or a significant portion of it, doesn't follow one of them, it becomes meaningless. It is extremely unlikely at this particular point in time in this country, but the possibility of a coop always exists.

So the question becomes, how strongly do the citizens object to the actions of their leaders? What are they willing to risk, or sacrifice?

In the case of a protest, basically nothing. The individuals involved have very little risk from being there. It costs only a few hours of time, and having to stand or walk.
And, it seems most protests, anything short of the majority of a population, has little or no real effect.

Compare to those actions which have had the intended effect.

Ghandi taught not only to be peaceful, but also civil DISobedience. The negotiations began only after he led hundreds of people to publicly break one of the laws they objected to (that being a law against making your own salt direct from the sea, instead of buying it)
The protests against segregation included Rosa Parks' riding in the white section of a bus, and dozens of people sitting at white only lunch counters.
People were protesting Vietnam for years, but much of the country supported it - the protests became a good deal more meaningful, more relevant to the government, when people began publicly burning their draft cards.
There are only so many people who can be arrested. If enough people start breaking the law - risking jail, police beatings, a permanent record - the government gets closer and closer to losing control.
That power is by our consent; breaking the laws they impose is a withdrawal of that consent. So that scares them.

The writers of the constitution built support from citizens by building in freedoms and safe guards. But like any leader, they wanted to remain in power, and ensure that mostly elites held that power in the future. So, saying bad things about the government is legal, but words which might encourage (even implicitly) revolution or law braking have been outlawed by congress and upheld by the supreme court throughout American history, especially during war time ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_ConstitutionSedition ). There may be a reason why they don't mind peaceful, law abiding protests. Even the military, which is largely exempt from the constitution and the bill of rights, (no right to jury trial, for example), allows civil protests.


Not that it does any harm either. But we are deluding ourselves if we tell ourselves that we are really accomplishing something significant. If we really feel strong, we need to start breaking some laws. Interrupting the smooth running of business in America. Rile the people and scare the government. If we are not quite ready for that, I at least, choose to use my free time doing something fun.

When MoveOn is circulating methods of guerrilla warfare, someone let me know; of course, they can't really do that, because they would get shut down in an hour if they did. I'm not really blaming them. I just wonder where the spirit I hear about from 50 years ago went to.

10 February 2007

English VS Metric; damn Americans are dumb

  • Feb 10, 2007

English VS Metric; damn Americans are dumb

I bought a folding hex wrench set from the discount bin.

English sizes on one side, Metric on the other.

Here are the sizes, in order:

Metric -  1.5,    2,     2.5,   3,     4,       5,     6
English- 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32

It should be obvious why even the British no longer use the English system.
The government once tried to have the
U.S. catch up with the rest of the world, but gave up after massive citizen outcry.
I once worked with a guy who complained that the metric system was "too complicated".
I pointed out the example of
32/32 - 12 - 3 - 1760  VS  10 - 100 - 1000

(fraction of in. - in. in ft. - ft. in yard - yards in mile VS mm in cm - cm in meter - meters in kilometer)

He conceded that the latter was by far the simpler - but still had a strong objection to the metric system on the grounds that "they would have to change the game of football".

I can't help but to imagine this was the reasoning of most of the protestors. 
Interesting that, what ever the reason, an entire country would be unwilling to put a little effort into getting used to a new standard in order to make everything substantially easier for the rest of time.

I can't think of a reason, nor have I yet to hear one, why exactly one country, out of all the many that there are, should be collectively dumber than every other.

01 February 2007

Free Market VS. Democracy: (1-0)

  • Feb 1, 2007

Free Market VS. Democracy: (1-0)

We are not exactly taught that they go hand in hand.
It is taken as so self-evident that it does not even need to be said.

Because of that, it tends not to occur to anyone to question it; not even a lot of people who question just about everything else.

It is assumed also that it is impossible to have one without the other.

Hence, Americans for generations think that Communism and Democracy are opposites.
One is a political system, one is an economic system.
The opposite of Communism is Capitalism, and the opposite of Democracy is Dictatorship (or Anarchy).
I shouldn't have to bother to point out that distinction, but like I say, the assumption is pretty wide-spread.

It fools otherwise intelligent people, who believe in individual rights and freedoms - such as the entire Libertarian Party.

Many realize that some socialist and communist countries have been/are democratic, and that countries with individual ownership and stock markets can have a dictatorial government.

But it actually goes a lot further than that.

An open market makes democracy impossible.