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User Journal

Journal Journal: My principles

These are the principles I stand for and live by.

1. Equal opportunity, fairness, and meritocracy

All people should have equal opportunity, regardless of any factors (race, religion, opinions, economic situation, etc). Period. This is the only policy that is fair to everyone. This isn't to say that people should be guaranteed special treatment or handouts. This is to say that people should all have the same opportunities to earn their own way based purely on their own merits.

2. Accountability and justice

All people should be held fully accountable for their actions. The severity of punishment should always match the severity of the damage caused by the action, without being excessive. This is the only policy that offers any form of fairness and justice to both wrongdoers and victims.

3. Guaranteed protection of natural rights

There are several naturally occuring human rights which should never be infringed upon by any person, organization, or law. These should be explicitly codified into the U.S. Constitution as permanent, irreversible ammendments, never to be infringed upon again in the future.

The natural rights include:

  • The right of every person and/or organization to be left alone.

  • The right of every person and/or organization to say whatever they want, whenever they want to, however they want to, regardless of the content.

  • The right of every person and/or organization to independently learn, discover, and figure out how things work, and to create new things based on that fairly acquired knowledge.

  • The right of every person and/or organization to immediately defend itself against attack (physical or otherwise).

  • The right of every woman to choose to have an abortion.

  • The right of every person of sound mind to choose to live or die and to obtain the assistance necessary in carrying out such a decision.

  • The right of every person and/or organization to copy and/or share informational content (including music, video, and other media).

  • The right of every person to live and to be in good health.

  • The right of next-of-kin or a legal guardian to make a decision on behalf of a person who is incapable of making or communicating their own decision.

  • The right of every person to expect, demand, and receive honesty from others.

  • The right of every individual person to be equally represented in and heard by their system of government

  • The right of every person and/or organization to received whatever information they request from their government

  • The right of every individual person to their physical privacy.

Principles lead to specific stances

These principles give rise to my stances on various specific issues:

  • I am against race-based quotas of any kind.

  • I am for the awarding of financial assistance based on proven financial need (but I am against the awarding of financial assistance based on any other factor).

  • I am for government tuition assistance that guarantees every citizen the ability to attend any school of their choosing to which they have qualified.

  • I am for legalizing gay marriages.

  • I am for complete separation of church and state, meaning that no one set of religion beliefs (even if held by the majority of citizens) shall be endorsed or validated in any way by the government

  • I am for requiring indisputable hard evidence (not merely circumstantial) for any "guilty" verdict in any court case, civil or criminal.

  • I am for the death penalty when the convicted has been proven guilty via indisputable hard evidence.

  • I am for a loser-pays-all judicial system (both civil and criminal) so that the guilty must fully compensate the innocent for court costs and losses

  • I am for a complete removal of money from the country's political process. All qualified candidates, regardless of how much money they have, should receive equal opportunity to utilize the various media to communicate to the citizenry. And all lobbying and any other form of bribery should be immediately outlawed.

  • I am for active government prosecution of the heads of organizations (such as CEOs of corporations) for anticompetitive behavior or for abusive treatment of their personnel, other organizations, or individual consumers.

  • I am for punishments that fit the crime, meaning a complete reevaluation of the punishments that are commonly associated with or mandated by certain laws, such as individual drug possession, computer network intrusion, or small-scale copyright violation.

  • I am against declaration of bankrupcy or any other form of letting people off the hook for their debts.

  • Companies and stores should be required to clearly show the full, before-rebate price of all items they sell and should be prohibited from making the after-rebate price larger or otherwise visually emphasizing the after-rebate price over the full price.

  • The entire notion of "confidentiality" should be completely outlawed. The government should have no secrets from the people it serves.

  • Intrusive advertising and solicitation via any means should be entirely outlawed.

  • We need to completely overhaul all intellectual property laws to reinstate and forever forward protect the natural rights of all people to learn, obtain, copy, and distribute informational content

  • The "data brokerage" and "credit reporting" industries should be required by law to give individuals free, complete, anytime access to and control over their own information.

  • The possession and usage of all illegal drugs should be legalized, but the distribution and sale of such drugs should be legislated by the government just like any other industry.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Good at bitching, bad at doing

If I could sum up the personality of the modern-day USA in a single description, it would be this: "Good at bitching, bad at doing."

Americans seem particularly afraid of taking meaningful stands on anything. Oh, we complain a lot -- just look at all the bumper stickers the next time you're on the road. But rarely do we do anything to actually fix the problems we see with the world around us.

Example: Obesity is a huge problem in the US. Most Americans are fat, but they would rather file lawsuits against McDonalds than accept responsibility for (and change) their own eating habits.

Example: After the 9/11 attacks on the WTC towers, Americans demanded that the government do something to improve the safety of airline travel. And yet Americans refuse to be patted-down one-by-one upon boarding their airplanes or to have every piece of baggage opened and visually inspected, even though those are the only ways to truly ensure safety, because it might make them feel uncomfortable or inconvenienced.

Example: Americans complain about the rise in gas prices affecting their pocketbooks, but they keep driving and buying gargantuan SUVs that get terrible mileage and they refuse to ease demand by driving the speed limit because (again) it might inconvenience them a little.

Example: Most Americans complain about the pretentious naming convention of Starbucks' coffee sizes ("Tall, Grande, Venti") and the mass-proliferation of Starbucks, and yet those same people keep buying Starbucks every morning on their way to work.

Example: Most Americans complain about the 40 minutes of advertisements and previews that precede a movie at the theater, and yet they all keep showing up punctually 40 minutes before the real showtime, causing everyone else to have to get there that early also in order to get a good seat.

Example: Most Americans complain that US students consistently rank weak in math and science compared to students in other countries, and yet they refuse to support raising taxes so that better public teachers can be highered, and they refuse to force their children to stay home and study and work hard.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Nonsense alert: "Information wants to be free!"

Many FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software) zealots like to spout off the old mantra, "Information wants to be free." Nonsense. Information doesn't want anything; people do. "People want information to be free" would be a slightly more accurate statement.

Still, that's not even close to accurate. Not all people want all information to be free. Most people want at least some information to be controlled or restricted. (Think about people's desire for privacy, for example).

So the statement needs to be further refined: "A minority of people want all information to be free, while most people want some information to be non-free." Sure, it doesn't have a nice ring to it, but at least it's actually true.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Being "open-minded"

Popular culture has abused the term "open-minded" and turned it into what is, in my opinion, a bad thing rather than a good one.

People who call themselves "open-minded" these days are generally referring to their unwillingness to take any side of any issue. These people are fearful and stupid. In their case, "open-minded" is just a polticially-correct way of saying "I'm too stupid and/or apathetic and/or scared of offending others to form or state any well-reasoned, firm opinion on any issue".

On the other hand, the real meaning of "open-minded" is that a person, despite having a firm and strong opinion, is at least willing to listen to other well-reasoned arguments contrary to their own on the issue, and is even willing to modify their position in light of new facts or logical arguments.

Unfortunately, in common usage these days, whenever you state a strong opinion on any issue, no matter how well-founded your argument for it is, and no matter how many other well-reasoned arguments you have evaluated, you'll inevitably be incorrectly branded as being "closed-minded".

Nonsense. If that's how people want to define "open-minded" versus "closed-minded", then I'll wear the term "closed-minded" like a badge of honor. At least I have the courage and the intelligence to reason through issues, evaluate all the evidence, and form a solid opinion.

User Journal

Journal Journal: How to provide decent customer support

1. Have a real human being answer your phone immediately, instead of making me navigate an automated phone menu and sit on hold for 30 minutes or longer.

2. Do not under any circumstances assume that I'm an idiot, or treat me like one by default, and make me go through a series of asinine basic scripted troubleshooting steps. I wouldn't be calling tech support if I hadn't already tried all those things first.

3. Admit known flaws with your products. Instead of trying to pretend that design flaw with your hardware or bug in your driver doesn't exist, try being forthcoming and apologetic about it. Add my name to a "to be notified" list for that particular issue so that when a BIOS update or driver fix becomes available I'll be the first to know. That way I can go on about my life instead of wasting even more evenings away trying to get your product to behave in a stable manner when it would be impossible for me to do so due to a flaw in its design.

4. Issue lifetime warranties for all of your products, or at least be more reasonable with your warranty periods. If you make a product, and it dies 30 days after the warranty expired, and I call technical support, from an ethical point of view, I still expect you to stand behind your product and provide me with a free replacement. The fact that it died 30 days beyond the warranty period is a minor technicality that you shouldn't be using as an excuse to not stand behind the quality of your products.

5. Hire tech support reps who are actually experts on your own products and who actually know more about them than I do.

6. If your tech support rep says they will have to call me back, and they go to the trouble of taking down my name and telephone number and they say they will call me back tomorrow with more information regarding my case, then make sure they actually call me back by the time they say they are going to.

7. If the only method you provide for customers to contact your company is e-mail, then that address had better not bounce or issue "mailbox is full" errors, you'd better answer the e-mail promptly (say, within 12 hours), and you'd better not just send an unhelpful form letter. Do not under any circumstances treat e-mail as a way to route customer contact straight to /dev/null.

8. Provide 24/7/365 customer service. If you can't afford to do that, and your products or services are directed at home consumers, then provide customer service during the hours when people are typically NOT at work. It's totally unhelpful to me if your customer service is only open 9-5 Mon-Fri, because I'm at work during those hours and don't have time to hassle with you.

9. I should never have to figure out time zones. Don't just say, "we are open 8am-6pm Pacific Time" and make me figure out what that is in my time zone. Do the math for me and list hours for all time zones. Make it convenient for me.

10. You should pick up all costs associated with flaws or problems with your products or services. If you provide phone support, it should be a toll-free number. If you need me to ship a product back to you, you should reimburse me for ALL my shipping costs.

11. Minimize my hassle and downtime by sending out a replacement unit first, and then let me ship the defective one back to you in the same packaging with shipping pre-paid. Some hard drive manufacturers have taken this approach for years now, and it works really well. All companies should offer the same level of support.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ten Commandments, "In God We Trust", etc

The Ten Commandments should never be displayed on government premises or displayed in government buildings, period. They are a chunk of religious dogma specifically tied to Judeo-Christian religions and they therefore have no business being displayed by the government which is supposed to equally protect and respect the views of all citizens.

Likewise, the phrase "In God We Trust" should be stricken from all currency or other government signage (emblems, seals, etc). Again, the phrase is specifically tied to Judeo-Christian religions and it therefore has no business being promoted by the government which is supposed to respect the views of all citizens.

Are these really important issues? No, they are trivialities. Do they offend me greatly or cause me great hassle or strife? No, of course not, they are just mild annoyances. But are they violations of the basic principles of civil rights and equality? Absolutely.

"But our country was founded on Judeo-Christian value and religion!", I can already hear some moron crying. Well, not only is that not an indisputable fact (it is entirely debatable via a variety of well-reasoned arguments and proven facts), but even if it were an indisputable fact, it would still not be an excuse for persisting government-endorsed discrimination and prejudice.


Journal Journal: Public Education

The real problem with public education in the U.S. is that the students are given free reign to define their own culture within the school, and that culture rarely (if ever) naturally values education.

The most effective educational reform I have seen is the recent implementation of anti-bullying programs around the nation, but even this is just an attack on a symptom rather than the root cause.

We need to dismantle the cultures naturally formed by students within our public schools, and replace them with an enforced social structure that causes the students themselves to value education.

This means positively rewarding students for academic performance with rewards that are not only meaningful to the achievers but desirable to the underachievers. One such obvious reward would be paying students cash for achievement, funded by public tax dollars.

It also means improved enforcement of school rules by hiring people whose exclusive job is to police the students, rather than expecting teachers to police the students when they already have their hands full just trying to teach.

This is why private (typically religious) schools tend to produce more better-educated students. It's not the fact that these schools are religiously-based that makes them better; it's the fact that they are typically run with a high level of discipline and enforcement (strict school dress codes or uniforms, assigned seating, etc) relative to public schools.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Constitutional Ammendments

These are the changes I would make to the U.S. Constitution.

NATURAL RIGHT TO RELIGIOUS CHOICE: A person's lack of religious or spiritual beliefs constitutes a set of beliefs, and those beliefs are to be treated equally under the law alongside any other set of religious beliefs. Furthermore, all branches of government, and all state governments, are to treat all religious beliefs as opinions, not facts, with no more or less weight given to any specific set of beliefs. The federal Government and state governments shall be strictly secular institutions, neither endorsing nor discriminating against any set of religious beliefs. Furthermore, the federal Government and state governments shall actively protect a person's right to hold and practice any set of religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs and practices do not infringe upon the rights of others.

NATURAL RIGHT TO EQUAL TREATMENT: Every human being possesses the natural right to be treated equally and respectfully (by both institutions and other individuals) regardless of his or her opinions or physical traits. No branch of Government, and no state government, shall enact any law or issue any verdict that either explicitly or consequentially grants or denies rights exclusively to a subset of citizens where that subset is defined by personal opinions (including, but not limited to, religious beliefs, political views, and sexual orientation) or physical characteristics (including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, physical appearance, gender, physical disability, and mental disability). Furthermore, the federal Government and state governments shall actively protect a person's right to not be denied rights or priveleges based on the person's opinions or physical characteristics.

NATURAL RIGHT TO CHOOSE LIFE OR DEATH: Every human being possesses the natural right to choose to live or to die and to solicit assistance in implementing such a choice. No branch of Government, and no state government, shall enact any law or issue any verdict that infriniges upon the natural rights of a person to terminate or protect his or her own life, or to assist in terminating or protecting the life of another person at that person's request. Furthermore, the federal Government and state governments shall actively protect a person's ability to exercise these natural rights, so long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others.

NATURAL RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE: No branch of Government, and no state government, shall enact any law or issue any verdict that infringes upon the natural right of a person to not be disturbed by others upon making such a request or posting such a notice. Furthermore, the federal and state governments shall actively protect a person's ability to exercise this natural right, so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

RIGHT TO PROPORTIONATE REPRESENTATION: The highest and primary goal of the Government, and of all state governments, shall be to fairly and accurately represent the will of the citizenry without disproportionately representing the interests of a powerful few. This shall be accomplished in two ways: (1) granting each person an equal voice in the electoral process, and (2) establishing rules that prevent public servants from being motivated to serve specific interests disproportionately. No branch of government, and no state government, shall deny a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's opinions or physical characteristics. Nor shall any branch of government, nor any state government, weigh votes differently based on individuals' opinions or physical characteristics. Nor shall any federal or state public servant, elected or appointed, accept a gift of any economic value while serving in office for any reason.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Privacy

Privacy can be broken into two forms: personal-space privacy and informational privacy. Personal-space privacy is a natural right. You should be able to go to the bathroom or change clothes without having anyone watch you. Informational privacy is an artificial notion, and it harms society. Information about how you have interacted with the world and choices you have made should always be completely accessible to anyone else in the world.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Individual responsibility

Every human being has a natural obligation to be responsible for him/herself. Nothing harms society more than people who dismiss responsibility for their own actions, or worse yet, try to pin that responsibility on others.

Since most people will not naturally take responsibility for themselves, the government's primary role should be to hold individuals responsible for their actions. The government can do this through a combination of fair legislation and consistent enforcement.

Most societal issues are easily solved by this approach. The only difficult cases occur when it is not clear with whom responsibility should lie, or when multiple parties hold conflicting responsibilities.


Journal Journal: Software

All software should be simple and painless to install and use. There's no good reason to make it more difficult to use than it has to be, even if your target users are smart. If your program cannot be easily used without having to invest longer than about 30 seconds reading something, then you haven't done your job right.

There's a huge difference between making a program try to outsmart its user and automating mundane tasks. Microsoft Word pisses people off by trying to guess what you want and getting it wrong. But Word also makes it painless to quickly search-and-replace all occurrences of a phrase throughout a document. Software should always automate, but it should never try to be smart.

All software should be responsive. There's no excuse for making a user sit and wait 30 seconds after they've clicked something for the software to finally come back and tell them anything useful. Adobe Photoshop is a great example of how to do this right: some processor-intensive operations will just have to take a while, so put up some kind of responsive and accurate status indicator to let the user know that the program is actually working on it and to give them an idea of how much has been done and how much is left to go. Don't just stick up an hourglass and then let your entire application UI appear hung while processing. Ditto for disk access or any other time-consuming operation.

Source code should be cleanly organized so that it's feasible for a human being to easily maintain it and visually verify its correctness. There are no validation tools in existence that can guarantee a program is bug-free, so we have to rely on human visual code inspection for quality. So make your code readable and understandable. If you have to do something clever or hacky to optimize performance, add comments liberally to explain it to a newcomer.

Form should follow function. This is true in all types of software development, from video games to web pages.

There's nothing wrong with demanding compensation for your hard work. But you should also always keep your users in mind, and give them every freedom that doesn't directly conflict with your right to be compensated. And if it really wasn't much trouble for you to write the software, or you did it sheerly for the love and learning of doing it, you should really release the source code and use some kind of GPL/BSD-styled open-source license to guarantee that your source code will remain available in the future for the benefit of humankind.

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