Archive for October 2013

Yet Another Victim of a Lie: Me

Like many others I’ve recently been notified that my current health insurance policy will be cancelled and I will have to find another.

Thank you President Obama and his Democratic Party.

 

 

Hat tip: Snoop the Goon

Council Nominations: October 30, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


You’ll Know the Obama Presidency Is Over…

When Valerie Jarrett falls on her sword.

Jarrett, an old Chicago friend of both Barack and Michelle Obama, appears to exercise such extraordinary influence she is sometimes quietly referred to as “Rasputin” on Capitol Hill, a reference to the mystical monk who held sway over Russia’s Czar Nicholas as he increasingly lost touch with reality during World War I.

All close advisers eventually exit before their presidents do. The Bush presidency was over when Karl Rove exited the stage. For Clinton it was the exit of Lean Panetta followed a year later by Erskine Bowles. Eventually the mob will demand blood from the White House, and when that call can no longer be ignored Jarrett will do what is expected to protect her president. But when that happens, he will be completely lost and his presidency effectively over. So for those of us looking forward to this event, the sharpening of knives and increased frequency of the name “Jarrett” in the news bode well for the future.

The Council Has Spoken: October 25, 2013

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


Sending Legislators To the Unemployment Line

Ever since the government shutdown I have been thinking long and hard about the very nature of government. Are we doomed to become slaves to an increasingly bureaucratic centralized state? The complexity of our society suggests to me that we cannot have no government at all. Although I consider myself a libertarian, I like well-maintained roads and since I live on a river and derive my water source from a well I value clean air and water. Does this mean that I have to give up my freedom to some bureaucrat hundreds or even thousands of miles away?

I have started reading up on the Swiss. One doesn’t hear much about them unless you are in the banking business or are a World War 2 historian, but the more I learn about their government, the more I like. The Swiss pride themselves on having a weak central government with most power residing at the local level. The Swiss also directly participate more in government than any other people. But as the Greeks discovered, direct democracy has limits when government becomes so large and complex that citizens would spend all their time managing the affairs of state and doing nothing else.

As an IT geek it’s easy for me to imagine a technical solution for this situation.

Software vote proxies.

Imagine: Each citizen fills out a questionnaire, quizzing him or her about their attitudes towards topics of the day. The survey would be amendable at any time, and surveys would expire every four years. These surveys would act to create a rules-based engine that would act on behalf of the citizen on existing legislation. Legislation could be proposed by the citizen at any time, and would have to garner support from other proxies before being considered by the entire group. Once reaching that threshold, the legislation would be put to all voters, and the proxies would vote on it based on the rules built from the questionnaire answered by the citizen it represents.

Legislation would have to be simplified. There would be no ““But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it…” excuses from Nancy Pelosi. Legislation would have to be simplified and formatted in a way that would help the proxies act on it.

Algorithms already control  73% of trading volume in the US. This means that software is making the vast majority of the day-t0-day decisions that impact the health of your company and your 401k. One could argue – and many do – that computers already control Wall Street and therefore our economic lives, so why shouldn’t we trust them to manage our political lives? The difference is that each one of us would have our own algorithm – making split-second decisions in favor of us, not Goldman Sachs or a hedge fund.

Would there be problems? Of course, just as there are with using algorithms to manage our economic destiny. Yet these problems haven’t curbed their uses by banks and other financial firms. Additionally it will be much harder for lobbyists to influence policy. Instead of treating a congressman to an all-expenses paid “fact-finding” junket to Aruba, the firm would have to try to sway thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions. It wouldn’t be feasible for all but the largest interest groups to pull off.

Judicial oversight would remain, and perhaps judges could develop their own proxies eventually.

The biggest problem with this system isn’t technological or even political; it’s social. We have outsourced our political responsibilities to a ruling class, one that we believed was more intelligent and savvy than we are. The problem with this is that this class now acts in its own best interests and not in the interests of those who elected it. By doing away with this ruling class each citizen would have an increased responsibility to become more knowledgeable and aware of the world around him or her. That’s a lot to expect at a time when “sheeple” has entered the lexicon of public discourse to describe the supporters of one’s opponents, and when Americans are shown to be statistically as dumb as a box of blocks compared to the citizens of other nations. And it’s also ironic, I suppose to be discussing a software solution to a problem at the same time the government can’t design software to enroll people in health insurance.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. If Americans aren’t willing to pay attention to what’s happening around them in their communities, then we deserve to lose our freedom. Software vote proxies are the means to gain it back.

 

 

How to Sink a Company in 45 Minutes

There are so many “teachable moments” in the Knight Capital’s software role out that nearly sank the firm in 45 minutes for those of us in software development. Note also successive failures also known as the “alignment of the stars” any of which could have been avoided and saved the firm from the disaster. Everyone who knows what SDLC means should study this disaster.

Council Submissions: October 23, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


The Council Has Spoken: October 18, 2013

Council Winners


 

Non-Council Winners


Council Nominations: October 16, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


Sunday Drive-By – Random Shots

After spending the weekend troubleshooting my own tech gear I’m not sure things have gotten better since my first PC purchase in 1988. That computer lasted until 1997 and could have survived longer if I had access to spare parts in Japan.  The 4 year old PC that I put together using quality enthusiast parts will be lucky to make it another year. And if someone had told me in ‘88 that I would be troubleshooting system interrupts a quarter century later, I think I would have become a Mac fanboi in an instant. I’ve noticed that many of my tech friends have given up on the Wintel platform because of issues like this, and I’m wondering if I should too. Then I look at the cost of a new Mac vs an upgrade to my existing rig and well it looks like I’ll be troubleshooting my kit for another 25 years. Not only am I penny-wise, pound-foolish but I have boxes upon boxes of cables, software and other wintel gear that I’d have to recycle if I ditched the b***h and made the switch.

If I send you a lengthy email, chances are it’s important and chances are even better that it involves tech. I don’t spam people, and if I need to reach out it won’t take more than a line or two. When I send a multi-paragraph email rest assured that I have spent at least 45-60 minutes writing it and another 15-30 reading and rewriting it, condensing it down to the barest amount of information that is necessary to convey my point. When it’s a reply to your email, it means the answer you are expecting is quite complex. I will do my best to explain that complexity to you in a straightforward manner, but it will take time. The least you can do is read what I’ve written before penning a reply that shows you haven’t read my email at all. There’s a circle in hell awaiting developers who do this to analysts.

What’s in my wallet? Not a Capital One credit card. Alec Baldwin has made a career shilling for these jackals yet sympathizes with the Occupy Wall Street crowd, even penning an article in Huffington Post in support of the anti-capitalism movement. Capital One feeds off the subprime crowd and was sanctioned as recently as last year to the tune of $165 million for deceptive marketing practices. No word if Baldwin’s poor acting skills were part of those practices (I much prefer the Vikings; the goat is particularly a better actor than Baldwin). So I appreciate the delicious irony of Baldwin’s MSNBC show where right out of the gate he deep-throated RCP candidate for NYC mayor, Bill de Blasio. The cognitive dissonance required by Baldwin to hold such leftist positions while being the face of everything they hate should cause his head to explode – but it hasn’t, likely because Alec is not the Baldwin with cognitive functions.

So McCain and McConnell are in negotiation with the President over the debt ceiling and federal government closure. Seems to me it’s the moderate wing of the Democratic Party negotiating with the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party. It just makes me wonder how the Obama administration could be so vicious in domestic politics and such pussies in foreign policy. Either Obama is Machiavellian at least when it comes to domestic politics or the GOP house leadership are the pussies; I’m starting to think its the latter.

That reminds me. Liberals like to talk about the Tea Party “extremists” in the Republican Party, but make no mention of the extremists in the Democratic Party. I hear this everyday from my liberal friends, as does the Wife. With Obamacare the Democrats lead by President Obama subverted the legislative process, using reconciliation, a procedural gimmick used to reconcile bills between House and Senate, to push through it through without a single Republican vote. Had Bush done this I’m sure he would have been impeached, yet this doesn’t strike any Democrats as being even the slightest bit extremist? Then there’s the unprecedented  usage of the IRS to attack administration opponents. Even Nixon avoided using this tactic, but not Obama. Using the IRS as one’s personal assassin isn’t an extremist act? Let’s also remember that prior to the 2010 there were no Tea Partiers in Congress. They didn’t exist until Obamacare became legislation and began to be rammed through Congress. It seems that it’s easy to be an extremist these days: all you have to do is question authority. It wasn’t that long ago when dissent was the highest form of patriotism. Now that a liberal is in the White House, dissidents are extremists.

Speaking of idiots, the survey I received from the RNC is in the mail. In it I ask why Reince Priebus and the other geniuses in the RNC haven’t committed seppuku after their continued failures starting in last year’s election. Amount enclosed? $0. The money that would have gone to support the RNC went to this candidate instead.

Finally, China is calling for a de-Americanized world. Fine with me and most Americans. Isolationism is in our DNA, and we’re not keen on being the world’s policeman. But I find it hard to take a government seriously that gets its knickers in a twist over this guy and this guy and this bunch. Don’t you have some islands to invade, or cheap Chinese crap to send our way filled with these bugs in the packaging?

 

PBS Frontline: League of Denial Seals The Deal For This NFL Fan

I love American football. As a kid I loved playing pick-up games of it in our suburban backyards and touch versions in the street. Our city was cursed with the St. Louis Football Cardinals who eventually took their stinking-on-ice team to Arizona where they still suck, and most of my friends were from outside the area so I took to supporting their teams. My friend Ron H. was from Philadelphia, so I started rooting for the Eagles. But this was the era of the Steel Curtain, so I found myself cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers as well. In fact I liked almost all the football teams except for my hometown disappointments.

After my bohemian period during which I thought American football was jejune and bourgeois, I had fallen in love with a woman who rekindled my interest in the Philadelphia Eagles after we moved into the area. I’ve rarely written about the sport because I have nothing to say beyond the usual “Go Birds” and the attendant “Cowboys Suck!” that comes with being a Philly fan. After moving south of the Mason Dixon, I have paid hundreds of dollars to watch the Eagles and other NFL teams play on DirecTV every season.

But every season the game seems to lose some of its appeal. Maybe there are too many penalties in an attempt to make the game safe. Maybe it’s because I’m growing older and have seen some pretty bad things happen to people. Maybe it’s because I’m just turning into a big pussy. But there’s only so many times I can see a player get hit and lay motionless on the ground while holding my breath before I begin to think something is wrong both with the sport and my enjoyment of it.

I love the sheer athleticism on display. I revel in the impossible plays just like any other fan. And yes these men are paid millions to destroy their bodies, but does the lucre they are paid free us fans from guilt? We are being entertained by men damaging their bodies in ways we would not do ourselves, or allow our children to do. I didn’t let my son play football even when he expressed interest in the sport. At the time I was more worried about a broken neck or ruined knees. That was before CTE, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease that destroys the brain and is specific to the sports boxing and football. Soccer players don’t exhibit it, nor do baseball players or lacrosse players. CTE does not wait until players are in their 70s or 80s to exhibit signs; it has been found in the brain of an 18 year old football player.

I am no nanny. If you want to kill yourself with drugs or whatever, fine – do so just not in front of me because I have a conscience and I will intervene to stop you. That is the way I was raised. For the past few years my conscience has been stirring when I watch American football, and seeing this program on PBS pretty much seals the deal. The NFL has denied the existence of CTE the exact same way the tobacco companies denied cancer caused by smoking. Recently the league has pushed the problem into the future by calling for “more study” just as the cigarette companies called for further research on lung cancer when the Science behind the causative link between smoking and lung cancer was unequivocal. What they’ve done is criminal but not surprising given the amount of money league owners have invested in the game.

Many of my friends have turned to European football known as soccer here in the States, and while watching the game seems about as exciting as watching a cat lick itself, at least I can watch it without my conscience stirring.

Perhaps technology can someday come to the rescue. Imagine: no penalties, no guilt, and as violent as we can make it. We could watch a true Steel Curtain descend on the opposing robot team and pulverize them, sending bits of plastic, steel and oil flying. Then, and only then will I be ready for some football.

The Council Has Spoken: October 11, 2013

Council Winners


Non-Council Winners


Council Nominations: October 9, 2013

Council Submissions


Honorable Mentions


Non-Council Submissions


What is this, Russia?

Link to original photograph on Instagram

Photo by lukewearechange - all rights reserved
H/t: Chad

Words cannot express the anger I feel viewing this photograph. It has been a long time since I’ve seen one that evoked such a strong emotional response. These men are likely Vietnam war veterans, and after what they’ve lived through in their youth I doubt a ride in the paddy wagon is going to bother them much. But it bothers me, and it should bother all Americans regardless of their politics.

Ask yourself: Are we free men and women served by the State or has the situation been reversed? The State has grown so disrespectful of its citizenry that it has shown no reticence in using them in a political game between itself and the lawfully elected representatives of that citizenry. If the State cannot be controlled by exercising control of its budget, then how is it to be controlled at all? If it cannot be controlled, why do we continue to live with the fiction that we are a free people compared to other states with oppressive governments like China and Russia? What is the difference between the Communist Party of China and the Federal Government? Is it that in 3 years the Republicans can take it over and use it against their enemies the way the Obama administration has the previous 5?

Is this what these men fought for in the death-infested jungles of Vietnam?

What happened to the nation that our ancestors came here for, worked for, and often died for? Why have we allowed ourselves to become enslaved by an entity that ignores the rules that built it, a colossus made up of millions of citizens who are now spying on and arresting their neighbors, for what? Visiting an open-air memorial in this case, and legally organizing to fight for change, as in the case of the IRS attacks on the Tea Party?

Life is like a wheel, is one of the great Truisms of philosophy. It all comes round. Today it’s Vietnam Vets in the back of the paddy wagon. Tomorrow it might be you or your father, wife, son or daughter.

Republican Leadership: Convert to Islam and Obama Will Negotiate with You

Maybe Republicans should convert to Islam and threaten to destroy America so that Barack Obama will negotiate with them. It would provide the common ground they need.

HT: IJReview