Archive for the ‘opinion’ Category

vote george

I’m still getting used to having a camera on my phone. Eventually I will get enough used to having a camera always at hand that I will capture pictures of signs like the one I saw this afternoon in the Costco parking lot. The part that was legible against the red, white, and blue background read

Vote George

I couldn’t read the small print at the bottom of the sign that explained who George was and what office s/he was running for.

I understand that a person can’t choose the name s/he is born with, but personally, if I were seeking public office this year, I would consider it spectacularly bad luck to have the name “George”. It would almost be worth seeking a name change in court, I would think.


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Back in 1999, a lot of people already had George W. Bush figured out. Back when the press was going on about “compassionate conservatism”, we knew that Bush was really just a cowardly, ignorant, dishonest, incompetent, alcoholic, run-of-the-mill schoolyard bully. (Anybody who’s watched “Li’l Bush” on Comedy Central will know exactly what I mean.)

He wasn’t a conservative; he wasn’t compassionate; he wasn’t particularly well-qualified to do any of the things a head of state needs to be able to do. Lots of us already had that figured out, but apparently enough people fell for the act not just once, but twice (well, just once, actually, but that’s beside the point).

Some of us knew that Bush couldn’t possibly be a conservative as far back as 1991 or 1992, because his father certainly wasn’t. I was still voting Republican back in 1992, and I was so thoroughly disgusted by G. H. W. Bush that I swore I would never again vote for anyone named Bush.

So pay attention: I’m about to give you the benefit of that prodigious insight.

Republicans: Either McCain or Ron Paul is your man. They’re the only legitimate conservatives in the race who aren’t embarrassing flat-earth ignorami (Sam Brownback? Duncan Hunter? Mike Huckabee? TOM TANCREDO??? Come on, you’ve got to be kidding).

Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson are just trying to shake you down, the way Bush did.

But since the GOP is pretty much already doomed, here’s another pearl of wisdom: Don’t worry, Republicans. Hillary is your friend.

Yeah, she’s promising to do the things that uptight, cheapskate, mean-spirited Republicans have refused to do for decades now. But she’s going to do them in a Republican-friendly way. She’s not talking about single-payer national health care; she’s not talking about immediately pulling out of Iraq; she’s not talking about throwing the borders open. I don’t know why she’s not doing these things; many of us wish she would. But she isn’t.

I’m somewhat dismayed that Clinton seems inevitably destined to get the Democratic nomination. I prefer the policy positions of Edwards, Richardson, and Kucinich – even Obama, although he’s starting to look more and more like Hillary Lite. But it really doesn’t matter, because whoever the Democratic nominee is, the Republican will be worse, and so I’m going to vote for whoever gets the Democratic nomination, even though I might very well not be excited about it.

So, Republicans, here’s your free tip: Just like George W. Bush is not really a conservative, Hillary Clinton is not really a liberal. Get comfortable with the idea of another President Clinton. Hell, you might even see some fiscal responsibility (and a budget surplus or two) before it’s all over, which would be better than the Republicans have been able to do since at least Eisenhower.

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For the last few days I have back-burnered the problem of automatically generating a weblog-style HTML page from RSS. There are existing ways to do this on the server side, and it’s not a hard problem in any case (I’m thinking I could crank out the XSLT to do it in a couple of hours), but I’m not at all sure yet that I want to spend money and time on hosting in order to get it done.

Anyway, as I ponder the problem this afternoon, the more I realize that, fifteen years on, the World Wide Web has not added all that much in the way of information access to the internet infrastructure that preceded it.

The blogosphere amounts to a huge, disorganized, massively redundant, incompletely connected, badly indexed clone of Usenet. Web-based electronic commerce is essentially an elaboration of what was available on Minitel, only less secure. As a community-oriented bulletin board service, Craigslist and its legion of ilk were long anticipated by Fidonet, Gopher, and local Usenet hierarchies. The Webworld has still not come up with a better implementation of chatrooms than IRC (which, incidentally, is where I met my wife).

You’ll note that there are a lot of links to Wikipedia in the last paragraph. Wikipedia is one of the relatively few web applications that would have fit well into the old internet; well-organized, unified, non-redundant, well-maintained.

The blogosphere is a mess. In the old days, you could be sure that your post to Usenet would get plenty of exposure to eyeballs, most of whom were at least peripherally interested in what you had to say. If they didn’t want to read your post, they would have to take action in order to “killfile” you – filter your identity or your article’s topic out of the stream of posts. By contrast, it’s quite possible (probable, in fact) that this post will never be read by anyone but me.

These days, information consumers have to actively scour the web for information. Every website you use has functional equivalents which differ in only minor ways and serve to split off some of the audience you wish to interact with. Beyond that, there are yet more websites that do some or all of what the one you use does, and more besides (for example, I’ve yet to figure out what the difference is between Technorati and Feedburner, or even exactly what either is good for). Sorting useful, non-redundant functionality out of the forest of .coms is a full-time proposition.

digg and reddit.

youtube and tmz.

del.icio.us and ma.gnolia and furl and spurl.

expedia and travelocity and orbitz, and if they’re too pricey for you, hotwire and priceline.

orkut and friendster and myspace and facebook.

monster and hotjobs and dice (and, God help us, gadball).

match and eharmony and true and dodgeball.

wordpress and blogger and typepad and livejournal.

Google and Yahoo and Live Search and ask.com and altavista and dogpile and…

I miss the old internet.

(Gah. ‘proceeded’ where I meant ‘preceded’. stoopid.)

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When we paid off our mortgage last year, I briefly wondered whether it was really a good idea. I knew that most people were running around with as much mortgage as they could service with their paychecks, and quite a bit of credit card debt to boot.

I knew that when the shit hit the fan, there would be a lot of pressure on government to orchestrate some form of massive debt forgiveness, and that we, as non-debtors, would be relatively disadvantaged under such circumstances.

Now, don’t get me wrong; life is good. We’re debt-free, and we have about three times as much house as we need. We both drive low-end, car-style SUVs that are paid for.

But we don’t have everything we’d like to have. I’d like a new MacBook. I’d like a big HDTV. I’d like a 7-foot Steinway for the living room. My wife would like an iPhone, a hot tub, and probably a swimming pool. I can easily come up with a list of things I’d like to have that add up to the average household’s consumer debt.

Why shouldn’t I have an even bigger house? Why shouldn’t I be driving a Mercedes? Especially if the government is going to bail us all out?

I’m sure there will be a hue and cry for some sort of consumer bailout. I’m sure that those of us who aren’t in debt will wind up getting screwed. On balance, though, I’ll sleep a lot better between now and then than someone who’s ducking phone calls from collection agencies.

Barry Ritholtz presents a moral argument on behalf of the debt-free:

The Big Picture | Quote of the day: Moral Hazard

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Domain Naming Tragedy

I just got a “welcome email” from GadBall.com. Scanning the job boards, and firing off resumes as seems appropriate, attracts a lot of solicitations from (sometimes literally) no-name recruiting websites, but this one stands out.

What could these people possibly have been thinking? GadBall? Where did “GadBall” come from? It sounds like some sort of Sumerian or Canaanite recreational activity. How does it connote “find a new job” for the user?

When people have to resort to names like “GadBall.com”, it’s clear that there are serious shortcomings in the domain name system.

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