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Journal: On voting

Journal by MikeURL
One of the measures of intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing viewpoints in your head at the same time. By this measure I'd have to estimate that most people are not very bright. The argument that "my scumbags are far superior to your scumbags" is only possibly where a switch has been turned off. The ability to critically analyze the behavior of ANY political group will yield inescapable conclusions. However, you do have to be able to divorce yourself from an emotional attachment to a "side" while still acknowledging that attachment.

Call it American Pragmatism, I do.

Right now the only thing that is obvious is that one party control of government is a Bad Thing. As a strategic voter I'd vote Democrat in the midterm election purely to address this issue. If the democrats held the same position I'd vote republican. Vote without affliliation, it is the only way to save America.
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Journal: On social networking

Journal by MikeURL
heh heh. I happen to think that if you step up a few thousand feet and look down what you see is an online landscape that is forming itself around the (needs/rules/requirements/pressures/right word?) of social community.

Before long I think it will be quite common to be as recognizable as a real person online as it is in meatspace. This won't happen overnight because many services and accounts (and etc) must be linked together first. The privacy nuts will scream and yell the entire way and generally make what is obvious become a painful ordeal.

One site I saw recently that takes a tiny babystep in this direction is http://grou.ps. They are still trying to focus this at the level of discreet groups rather than letting individuals form an identity via account linking FIRST and then use matching algorithms to form the groups. See where I'm going here? Scary, yeah I won't deny that but it is the future of human interaction.
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Journal: On the politics of economics

Journal by MikeURL
For a moment there I thought you were talking about the United States (but you kept saying China). Nation-states have learned, over time, that some element of capitalism must exist in an economy for mega-societies to survive/thrive. However, the lesson so far has been that oppressive governments can use capitalism as effectively as non-oppressive ones.

Some may argue that the inevitable result of this is that most nation-states will tend toward a blended model with more repressive governments that rely more on a "free" market for distribution. Where the oligarchs feel like skimming they will skim and where they feel the "invisible hand" needed they will let that operate. The lesson of failed communism was learned well not only by the Chinese but by other nations as well. Slowly, quietly, insidiously I think you'll see personal and political freedoms erode even as economic freedoms expand. I also think it will happen slowly enough that most won't even notice it happening.

One open question is whether the nation-states in the Middle East have learned this lesson as a way to develop advanced economies WITH religious fundamentalists in charge of the government. With that as an open question it makes one wonder exactly what the US is trying to spread to Iraq. Also, under this particular lens, the recent victory of Hamas makes more sense. Will they enable a free market while still oppressing political freedom and human rights? China has shown the way to doing exactly that AND how to get the support of the West in the process.

Interesting times.
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Journal: On Google Blocking search results in China

Journal by MikeURL
I went into this at length when the same thing came up WRT MS and China. I'm going to defend Google the same way I defended Microsoft. Corporations are not here to be champions of human rights. Google has an obligation to its shareholders to make money.

The chain of responsibility here remains The Chinese people>Chinese Government>Pacific Rim nations>The Western world

For the Western world the majority of the obligation falls to elected leaders to use government policy to attempt to implement change around the world. Corporations have an obligation to follow the law as set by governments and the people have the obligation to select the right government. Corporations WILL do buisness in whatever enviroment they are placed in. That is, in fact, one of the strengths of the corporation and why they can be so heartless and ruthless. If you want change in China here is what you do:

A) search for the political party or politicians who support taking actions to promote human rights in China.
B) Dig out your wallet and donate money to said party or individual.
C) Get ass to polls to vote.
D) If that person wins make sure you stay in contact with them on the issue.

There you have a real, and workable plan to implement change in the world. Now, you had better bear in mind that any intrusive actions or offensive actions on the part of our government may piss off the Chinese. This can cause them to sell our bonds, pop the real estate bubble, and make you wish you were never born. But hey, at least the Chinese people would have...well I'm not sure what they'd have--a pissed off government for sure. What does NOT work is bitching about corporations that you think should unilaterally either cut off the Chinese people or flagrantly offend the Chinese government. Yes it feels good because there don't seem to be consequences but the harsh reality is that real change that is faster than the people in a country want comes with very real consequences (koff Iraq koff koff).
User Journal

Journal: USDA Organic 1

Journal by MikeURL
I don't have a problem with GM foods. I DO like to be able to avoid eating them if I so choose and I usually do so choose. I'm a lot like your "other half" in that I'll pay the premium for the USDA organic label on the front of a package. However, there have been efforts to weaken the USDA Organic standard in recent times. Part of the problem is that the organic foods business is now a multi-billion dollar a year industry and those industry leaders want to maintain their 20% growth rate. To do so I think they have calculated that USDA Organic and "all-natural" have to get a lot closer...meaning that organic move a lot closer to "all-natural". With "all-natural" being a throw away label that means almost nothing you can imagine a lot of people are pissed off.

In fact, Arthur Harvey took the Secretary of Ag to court over this very topic and won! Of course Congress rushed to pass laws to mitigate the impact of the loss on the big "organic" producers who said that actually complying with the original 1990 act would put them out of business. HELLO! USDA Organic was never intended to be some catch-all label. It was meant to be a high standard with some pretty strict guidelines that must be followed and is why we pay such a high premium for it.

To see how one big producer reacted to this go to Organic Valley's website. They basically complain about being required to comply with the law and I think that sucks. I think the "democratic process" they refer to is the one they pay their lobbists to structure in Washington and how dare this guy win in the courts on the ACTUAL LAW. I was stunned by this and I've written Horizon for their opinion on whether they also think it sucks to obey the law.
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Journal: /. alternative 6

Journal by MikeURL
OK, I took the time to go through both of them. Interesting implementation on kuro5hin and less so on hulver. However, these are both robust blogs and not news filters. What I'm envisioning is really a heck of a lot like /. but without some of the more egregious drawbacks.

1) The sandbox I mentioned in this thread would be for news articles (not user written blog-esque articles). There would be some basic filtering at the level of the editor so that people can keep up (my main complaint with digg is there are just too damn many articles put in the sandbox). Aside from those two differences the decision on what to put on the mainpage would be a lot like kuro5hin.
2) "genetic mutations" in mod selection. Every so often a person would be given mod access at random. This would be used to prevent inbred points of view and to provide seed capital for new points of view. Perhaps as a steady state or in a punctuated equilibrium fashion.
3) No hidden slashvertisements. One unobtrusive text ad to the side of every article. If google can do it then so can I


Once per month there would be a user freeforall in the sandbox where what is submitted are not articles but suggestions for improvement. The mods would then vote on the improvements and the top one would be implemented as funds and availability of resources allow.
User Journal

Journal: On Politics

Journal by MikeURL
I vote that we all agree not to actually buy into the notion that there is anything but a very superficial difference between Republicans and Democrats. Further, I vote that we all agree they are primarily interested in keeping/expanding their power, raising money for campaigns, themselves and their friends.

Further, I put to a vote the resolution that We the Sheeple not engage in petty partisan squables that only serve the ensure the power of the TwoPartyMonolith. Be it resolved that we are too damed smart for this and moreover we find it damned insulting that a corporate media plays so nicely with this Republicrat domination that we were, even temporarily, fooled.

Finally, I move for a non-partisan drive to vote for ANYONE who does not have an R or D next to their name.
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Journal: The EFF needs your support

Journal by MikeURL
I received an email today from Shari Steele, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and apparently it is fundraising time. If you, like me, have watched the EFF lawsuits over the years and done a happy dance at your desk it is time to dig deep. In case you have forgotten how much EFF rocks please go to the EFF: Legal Victories to remind yourself. Then hie thee to the "Join EFF" tab and make it so.
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Journal: The shuttle may never land

Journal by MikeURL
Via CNN:
"The shuttle touchdown has been further delayed until 8/12, due to a decision by NASA that a pebble on the runway presented a danger to the landing gear. After the first two attempts to clear the runway of all debris, on 8/6 and 8/7, failed, NASA called off today's landing when it was discovered that there were a couple of 1,000 pollen spores littering the tarmac. Commenting at a NASA briefing, Bea Xavier, Safety and Security Chief, noted that the pollen posed a "metaphysical risk" to an already ill-fated mission. "After the discovery of loose pieces on the underside of Discovery, it makes sense to be as careful as possible and while you may need a microscope to see this pollen make no mistake--it still poses a danger. I've been advised that 1 in 1,345,956,285,993,933,012,490 landings could be adversely impacted by this level of pollen covering the landing strip." Still unclear is whether the shuttle can safely land at all due to photon contamination of the landing site that occurs as a result of an uncontrolled fusion reaction in the center of the Sun. "Some people call it sunlight but I call it a dangerous particle shower with an unpredictable wave component", said Xavier."
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Journal: Data DOES want to be free

Journal by MikeURL
Of course one can easily run into trouble when anthropomorphizing stuff. Data, as a creation of man's efforts, is free in the sense that it exists independent of its creator the moment it is created. After that moment all data is a function of the electric grid, electromagnetic forces, etc. In fact, data is as free as we are, which is to say not at all.

"Information wants to be free", as a catchy phrase , is just a bubble-gum crack away from being followed up with "wanna go to the mall?" If we are talking about what it truly means to be free then we all have to wait until we die and see if our degrees of freedom for consciousness expand or not. While on earth it is really silly to discuss anything as being free. Nothing at all is free in the truest and most strict sense of the word--there are only degrees of enslavement.

To be slightly more practical about it I would say that while data cannot ever be made truly free it is possible to vary the degree with which it is shielded from the perception of other conscioussystems. Shielding data from the view of other conscioussystems hardly qualifies as enslaving the data, or information, but may qualify as helping the System enslave fellow conscioussystems.
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Journal: Orbitronics

Journal by MikeURL
Science Daily reports "For about 40 years, the semiconductor industry has been able to continually shrink the electronic components on silicon chips, packing ever more performance into computers. Now, fundamental physical limits to current technology have the industry scouring the research world for an alternative. In a paper published in the Aug. 1 online edition of Physical Review Letters (PRL), Stanford University physicists present ''orbitronics,'' an alternative to conventional electronics that could someday allow engineers to skirt a daunting limit while still using cheap, familiar silicon.
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Journal: Intelligent Design

Journal by MikeURL
I was reading the thread on slashdot and there are many good comments. Most of them are critical of ID as a scientific theory.

I think people who push ID know exactly who their audience is. They know that these are not people who have been trained in science. If you think about even your average undergraduate who has finished a natural science degree that person will have spent 100s and 100s of hours studying science. Once you get to the Ph.D. level the amount of time spent is so great that the chasm of understanding between a layperson and a scientist can't be bridged. ID folks know this and they use that difference as cover for their arguments, but why?

I think the main reason ID proponents have tried so hard to stamp their ideas with the imprimatur of science is because science has been so successful. As a human endeavor in this material world few things have been as successful as science has at helping humans get the things they want. Prayer, while useful to many, has not had nearly the same track record of proven successes. In this context, the desire of religious people to make inroads between science and their faith is pretty clear. "look, we are as good as scientists, pay attention to us".

The problem is that they aren't. Science works because it relys on what works. I really think that is what it boils down to. Over time the inexorable move in science is toward things that work and away from things that don't. The progression goes something like this:

"Gravity bends space? Are you insane?"
"No, I think it really does"
"BS, I don't believe you"
"Seriously, I'm pretty sure it does and if I'm right X will happen."
"Yeah yeah, when I see it I'll believe it"


Of course we all know how that one ended and Einstein was proven to be correct. I'm sure some people would have liked to argue but there was the proof. If they wanted to make a case they'd have to come up with better proof. And so it goes in science. The way things go in a debate in ID is something like this:

"Hey, I've got this nifty idea about our origins"
"Really? Neeto, pass the salt"
"Yeah, and guess what, it is based in science!"
"Holy crap! It is provable and makes predictions people can test???"
"Um, well, no but I have some cool thought experiments..."
"yeah yeah, in my thoughts I can fly like superman, I'll believe it when I see it"

Of course no proof or predictions are forthcoming from the ID crowd. I'd love to see something like ID that is provable and can make useful predictions. I think it would be a huge breakthrough in the world of science. However, until that day this is simply an attempt to call religion science.
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Journal: So Sorry Souter

Journal by MikeURL
The Supremes ruled on June 23, 2005 that it is indeed legal for local governments may seize people's homes and businesses -- even against their will -- for private economic development.

Reaction to this has been widespread and I think it is likely congress will step in to limit the impact of this ruling. Some people are alleging that this decision would make it possible for the government to take the property of any private party for pretty much any reason. Who is alleging this you ask? Some crazed nutcase sitting in his basement wearing a tinfoil hat? Hardly, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her dissent of Kelo v. New London:

"The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory. ...Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. "That alone is a just government," wrote James Madison, "which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.""

Almost on cue a news report surfaced after the ruling about a developer attempting to force Justice David Souter (one of the majority that voted for Kelo v. New London) to sell his home so that a hotel could be built in its place. The reasoning behind the attempted expropriation would seem to comport to the law that Souter signed on to with his vote.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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