Archive for category Things that are Busted

On Civil Disobedience

Today, the Guardian published remarks by Michael Hayden, former director of the US National Security Agency, with regard to Edward Snowden’s actions in revealing our government’s immoral actions against its own citizens. Here’s what Hayden said:

If Snowden really claims that his actions amounted to genuine civil disobedience, he should go to some English language bookstore in Moscow and get a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. Thoreau points out clearly that civil disobedience gets its moral authority by the willingness to suffer the penalties from disobeying a law, even if you think that law is unjust.

Here’s the problem with the whole “it’s the law and must be obeyed or suffered” paradigm:

The law said slavery was okay and provided for punishment for trying to escape slavery. The law said repressing women’s right to vote was okay, and provided punishment for women who tried to vote. The law said informed, consensual personal choice of sexuality was not okay, and punished people for such choices in the bedroom and elsewhere.

First, none of those things are actually okay. Those laws were (and remain) immoral and wrong; and more to the point, anyone who charged anyone under those laws was immoral and wrong, anyone who advocated punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong, and of course, anyone who applied punishment under those laws was immoral and wrong.

Second, with regard to Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, which (essentially) says that the moral authority for civil disobedience comes only from being willing to suffer the slings and arrows of an unjust law’s unjust punishment, not only no, but hell no.

The moral authority for civil disobedience comes directly and inevitably from the fact that the law is morally wrong.

There is no moral authority in advocating, creating, obeying or enforcing a law that is wrong, nor in simply declaring “it’s the law.” Only moral failure.

For instance, when you make a law that says (or supports the idea that) slavery is ok, there is nothing that can make that law moral. There is nothing that can make obeying that law moral. There is nothing that can make disobeying that law immoral. The only moral path available to you is to outright disobey the law. Anything else is immoral.

If you want the law to have moral authority, the only way you can achieve that is to create moral laws.

Our central problem in this regard is that our politicians and a very large number of the people they have appointed are, in fact, immoral individuals acting contrary to the interest of the public at large and every individual they are supposed to be working in service of. Not to mention breakers of the oaths they took that give them the moral right to hold the offices they sit. They don’t deserve to be supported in any such undertaking. They deserve to be kicked in the shin. Hard.

Now, yes, it is true that in fighting immoral government acts, you may indeed suffer at its hands. That is the core nature of immorality; it does others wrong. But that is a far cry from any legitimacy for the conception that says you should so suffer. Thoreau was flat-out wrong. So is Hayden, acting as an echo chamber for Thoreau. And just so we’re perfectly clear on the issue of the day: Snowden was, and remains, right.

If you would like to take away a money quote about law that is moral in its characterization of law, rather than the sophist nonsense Thoreau was (and Hayden is) peddling, I’m delighted to oblige (emphasis within the quote mine):

…in so far as [law] deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.

Thomas Aquinas

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Good Idea, Bad Idea

If the country wants to infringe on the citizen’s right — not just the citizens who have been perfect, but also citizens who have done wrong — to keep and carry arms, then we should amend the constitution. As it stands now, an accurate reading of the second amendment clearly forbids infringement by the government on the citizen’s right to keep and carry. Yes, sophist (and often ridiculous) reasoning has resulted in a wide variety of constitutionally unauthorized legislation along the lines many are suggesting, but again, as these laws are in fact unauthorized, there is no salient reason — outside of fear of unauthorized, coercive violence on the part of the government — for any citizen to respect them, much less obey them.

I am not — repeat, not — in favor of the second amendment as it stands today. But I am even less in favor of allowing or encouraging the government to ignore the constitution under any circumstances. That has led directly to torture; complete inversion of the commerce clause; surveillance, search and seizure without a warrant or even probable cause; repression of speech; direct government support and fostering of religion; ex post facto law; de facto double jeopardy; the taking of land for commercial purposes; and much, much more along the same lines.
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aa_counter.py — pre- and post-increment and decrement in python

Screen shot 2015-05-24 at 3.36.42 PMI like Python. A lot. But it has its limits, and short of forking a new version of Python for myself, sometimes it is just best to implement some kind of work-around. In this case, for pre- and post increment and decrement operations on counters, which Python regrettably lacks.
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Let’s talk about on-hold music

If your company uses, or is considering using, on-hold music, please… just stop. Immediately. If for no other reason than that the digital compression now almost universally employed by the telecommunications companies for cellphones dependably turns what was — or what may have been, it’s often debatable — actual music at the time when it was recorded into a phase-shifted, reduced information nightmare of excruciating abuse for the listener.

Which you are probably exacerbating by feeding into your phone system at too high a volume. But don’t reach for any knobs or sliders; you absolutely cannot fix this by changing the volume or the equalization. It is a fundamental and unavoidable problem inherent to the communications systems between your facilities and the customer.

Having on-hold music enabled makes music haters hate it more, and hate you for inflicting this horror upon them; and it makes music lovers hate you for being responsible for doing such miserable things to the music. The people who made the music are likely driven into deep depression if they happen to hear their work so abused.

To put it simply, on-hold music makes everyone hate you.

So please. Don’t enable on-hold music, or if already enabled, turn it off.

While I’m at it, try having an actual human being answer your phones. You’d be amazed what a positive first (and follow-on) impression that leaves. As opposed to…

 

Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.

Press one if you’d like to be driven insane by something that might have been on-hold music before it was turned into horrific, distorted mush on its way to your phone.

Press two if you’d like to listen to another menu full of options that have nothing to do with why you called.

Press three if you would like to be summarily disconnected after a random interval while waiting for “the next available representative.”

Press four if you would like us to kill your cellphone battery with an indefinite hold, regularly punctuated by wholly false assurances that “we really care about you and will be with you soon.”

Press five if you’d like to be directed to our website. Please be aware that our website is only partly functional and was designed by poorly paid foreigners who have neither language skills appropriate to the regions we sell our products in, or any understanding that websites should only take action, such as drop menus or pop up windows, when people actually click on buttons and links clearly intended to initiate such action.

Pulse seis si desea escuchar a estos menús en mal hablado español.

Press eight to give us your credit card information so we can charge you for sitting on hold waiting for “premium support” from our script-reading, non-technical employees.

Press zero to hear these options again. Thank you for calling StupidCorp, and we look forward to taking your money and under-serving you in the future. Remember: StupidCorp. We were the ones that drove you to regular doses of Wellbutrin. Now you can up your dose!

…all with underlying noise that makes (what used to be) music seem as if it had been pushed through an outhouse. From deep below. Backwards.

Median net worth of congressmembers: 1m. Wonder Why?

Congress, under pressure from their constituents, after continuously taking advantage of insider trading law exceptions to enrich its members, made insider trading by its members illegal in 2012 (this was known as the STOCK act, bill S.2038) The mechanism to enforce this was public access to the records of the members of congress.

Then, the 113th congress quietly passed bill S.716.ES into law (how quietly? Unanimously, no debate, no recorded vote, total voting time: 14 seconds), which eliminated public access to the records of the president, vice president, any member of congress, and any candidate for congress.

Naturally, members of congress are in the perfect position to know about many advances and changes with regard to corporate value fluctuations. They make the laws that cause many of those value fluctuations, and then of course there are the lobbyists.

If I had access to this information for several years, as do congress members, I’m sure my net worth would be quite different from what it is now too.

But hey, no one cares. ‘Murica, right? Let’s get those tech jobs sent overseas while we stop the Terrible Threat Of Immigrants. Perhaps then I’ll be able to utilize my extensive programming skills doing… yard work. Thanks, congress. Thanks, corporations.

Congress: 14% approval rate, 94% re-election rate. You explain it. I can’t.

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Defy Invalid Social Norms

disnxThe elders have their noses in the air and a stick where only their proctologists can find it. You know it. I know it. Even they probably know it. You can say something about it!

Definitely not a laydown, yet not so directly offensive as to put everyone off the moment you show up.

This is one of my t-shirts (you can also get it put on a hoodie or quite a range of other wearables), which I would be obliged if you would look at and perhaps consider adding to your wardrobe, which in turn will kick a few (very few, sadly) dollars my way. It’s one of my best tees, in my not-so-humble opinion. I wear this one more often than any other.

Some good news is that as I write this, the tee vendor, Zazzle, is having a decent sale, with discounts on both products and shipping costs.

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What’s that Smell?

As they train to become a doctor, new interns are taught about many different diseases that produce various sets of otherwise similar symptoms. In conjunction with this new and complex knowledge, they are also taught this truism: “When you hear hoofprints, you must not initially assume a zebra is in the vicinity.” This pithy remark is meant to impart that, for instance, if a patient comes in bleeding from an orifice, one must not immediately assume that Ebola is in the building; more likely something much more common is in play, such as hemorrhoids or perhaps an unfortunate excess of enthusiasm coupled with a new, ahem, toy.

One of the clearer signs that I was becoming a competent programmer was that the problems in my code began, more and more often, to in fact, be zebras. Instead of a misplaced character or a missing clause or some kind of blatant conceptual error, the abject weirdnesses that were most often populating the realm of my final, demonstrably accurate diagnoses came to be things like operating system bugs, broken libraries, incomplete emulations and exotic compiler bugs. Zebras.
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