Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Congress Critters need to become Roadkill

Posted by hyperpat on October 14, 2013

Congress is still working at making assholes out of themselves. At the present moment, they have a simple job: fund the current government day-to-day operation, and increase the debt limit enough to cover what has already been passed for appropriations. This takes a very simple bill, and an even simpler up-or-down vote. There’s absolutely no need to try and drag other issues into this bill; the Tea Party members who insist that this bill must also de-fund the Affordable Care Act are quite simply completely out of touch with reality.

In fact, since if the government does default on its debt because they can’t get their act together, then I think it’s time for impeachment proceedings against these idiots, as it is clear that their actions will be causing real harm to this nation, which should qualify as flat out treason.

There are problems with the Affordable Care Act, and Congress certainly has the both the right and the duty to discuss and amend this act. But trying to shoehorn this discussion into something totally unrelated is doing exactly what the President has characterized it as: holding a gun to the country’s head to try an implement changes that these Tea Party wackos so desperately seem to want that they can’t get any other way.

Posted in Daily Happenings, Politics | Leave a Comment »

A Warmer World

Posted by hyperpat on August 31, 2009

The UN is holding another conference this week about strategies to ameliorate the possible consequences of global warming, from floods and droughts to more severe tropical storms. Pointedly, they are not addressing anything having to do with CO2 emission caps or reductions in fossil fuel consumptions. And for a very good reason: agreements about such matters are almost assuredly not going to happen in the near future, or perhaps ever. What’s not being discussed is just how difficult such caps will be to implement, or what their true economic cost would be.

A quick look at the current state of energy production in the world would show that the overwhelming percentage of such production is fueled by fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas. Water, wind, and solar represent only a tiny fraction of the total. Nuclear has a fair percentage, but it faces a very large uphill battle against greatly expanding its use.

A fair question is, can the so-called ‘green’ methods of water, wind, and solar actually be expanded to sizes great enough to significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels in a reasonable time frame and with a reasonable economic cost? And even if they can be, what effect(s) will they have in their own right on the world’s ecology?

Let’s look at wind power, to start. The UK actually has a plan to deploy about 3000 wind turbines in the ocean over the next ten years (I picked on this set as they do have a fairly comprehensive plan, unlike many other developed countries). But the numbers are daunting: to achieve their stated goal would require the erection of a turbine almost every single day in that next ten years. The result of actually doing this would increase their total wind power generation from less than 1% of the total electricity generation to about 5%. Not a bad start, you might say, but look at the cost: about $1M per turbine, or a total of $3B for just the UK effort. And this does not count the equipment needed for distribution and load balancing. But you argue that surely wind power is the most ecologically friendly way to produce power? Perhaps, but it does have at least four impacts: large wind turbines are not the most sightly things to have cluttering up the horizon, they do produce a fair amount of noise, there are impacts on bird populations, and a final impact that I don’t think anyone has modeled, that of ‘stealing’ energy from the world total of wind production. What effect that might have, if these turbines were installed in significant numbers around the world, on things like cloud formation, storm generation, or rainfall patterns is a complete unknown.

Dramatic increases in solar and water power have similar costs and problems associated with them. Nuclear can be increased from its current level, and can make a significant dent in the need for fossil fuel generation, but it is also a very high cost solution, with its own ecological problems of waste generation and possibilities of both significant accidents and of being terrorist targets.

Now, just for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the current targets that have been agreed to by most countries actually happens. What’s the end result? Do we suddenly have a world where the total CO2 level is stable or even declining? Not by a long shot. Even with the 20% reductions being aimed for, this only gets us back to about 1988 levels of CO2 production. Which means that while the rate of increase of this stuff in the atmosphere might decline, the absolute level will continue to climb. To actually stabilize this level calls for far more draconian measures of 50% reductions along with strategies to increase sequestration of CO2. And the only foreseeable way to achieve anything close to this is for the developed world to drastically reduce their total energy consumption, while at the same time forcing the undeveloped world to stay where they are (the quickest route to developing is to employ the cheapest method of increased energy production, and that implies the dirtiest method, burning coal). How would we go about reducing our energy consumption, especially considering that any reasonable projection shows we will continue to increase that consumption? Conservation only goes so far, there is only so much that is wasted, and is a self-limiting strategy. We could go back to horse and buggy days, if we were willing to somehow get rid of 4/5 of our population – people forget that the current world population is only made possible at all by high-tech and energy-intensive farming methods. I don’t think this is a solution that many will sign up for. The basic answer is that it’s not going to happen.

So what do we do? We learn to live with a world that is going to get a little warmer. Whether CO2 is actually the driver for the observed increase in temperatures since about 1850 is still highly debatable. Another theory states that almost all of the observed increase is due to variations in the sun’s output, and such variations happen over a 1500 year cycle. In support of this theory are the known historical data of the Dark Ages warm period of about 900-1300AD (which, by the way, was apparently about 2 degrees warmer than today’s world, and saw the Viking colonization of Greenland, which really was green, then), the ‘Little Ice Age’ from 1300-1800, and our current warming trend; much longer data points obtained from ice cores, sedimentation data, tree ring growth; astronomical and satellite observations, and a host of other points. But regardless of which theory you subscribe to, both point to this world heating up about another 2 degrees C in next century. Given that it doesn’t look at all feasible to make significant changes to the CO2 generation or overall level, and we obviously can’t do anything about the sun’s output level, it looks to me, at least, that much more effort should be going into developing methods to live in a warmer world. And this probably means more energy generation will be needed, not less.

Generating more power via alternative sources from fossil fuels does make sense, but not because of all the scare tactics that are being tossed around by the advocates of the CO2 warming theory. It makes sense for the simple reason that those fossil fuels are a very finite resource. When they’re gone, and if we don’t have good alternatives in place, then we really will be up the creek minus paddles. But crash programs to switch over, even if you could get everyone to agree to them, driven by unrealistic fears, will do nothing but at the least cause a global depression that will make the current economic crisis look trifling, or cause resource wars that make the current set of brush conflicts seem puny.

Posted in Economics, Politics, Science & Engineering | Leave a Comment »

Positive Feedback Cycles

Posted by hyperpat on March 3, 2009

The latest news on the economic front is all bad. Housing starts down, resales of homes down, unemployment up, reduced profits or losses being reported by company after company, more bank bailout money required just to keep the tottering ship afloat, etc.

Not so long ago, everything was booming. Then a little fly started to appear in the ointment: the default rate on sub-prime mortgages started to climb. No biggie, right? After all, how many of these types of mortgages were there compared to the normal, ‘safe’ mortgages? What people forgot about, or didn’t understand, was the huge multiplier effect that occurs in what’s known as the derivative market. Lots of sub-prime mortgages were packaged up together and sold as a security that paid handsome interest rates. Lots of people bought these securities, and many banks did too. With the uptick in default rates, all of a sudden it became somewhat problematical whether it could continue to pay out that interest. Their ‘risk’ factor was now higher, so to compensate for the increased risk, the base value of these funds went down. Now comes the multiplier effect: most of these securities were purchased effectively on margin: often only 10% of the real price was being paid upfront, with the rest borrowed. At this kind of margin, a 5% drop in the base price translated to a 50% drop in the net value to the securities holder, a 10% drop basically wiped its value out. All of a sudden, large banks found that they had huge losses piling up in these securities. These heavy losses ate up the bank’s working capital, leaving them with little or no money to lend out, and a requirement to replenish their capital to meet Federal regulations which are designed to protect those who have put money into a bank. Where can that new capital come from? Investors. But if they are putting money into these banks, they are not putting it elsewhere in other types of companies, so the overall effect is a drop in the entire stock market.

With reduced stock prices and banks not willing or able to lend money, many companies put on hold or canceled plans to expand. Other companies that supplied these companies suddenly saw projected orders disappear, and they cut back expenditures, salaries, and employees to compensate. As more and more employees found themselves out of job, more and more mortgages, even of the ‘prime’ type, fell into default, making a glut on the housing market of properties the banks needed to unload at any price just to salvage something on their investment, driving housing prices down, which made it near impossible for many people to re-finance or be willing to do home improvements and also affected their outlook about any other type of large outlay, such as buying a new car. Fewer people buying fewer things = less profit for the companies that make such things = lower stock prices = more cutbacks and layoffs = more mortgages in default = still lower housing prices = still lower consumer confidence = fewer people buying fewer things. This is what’s known as a positive feedback cycle.

The question is, where does it end? What is needed to break this cycle? The last truly major recession took the impetus of WWII to really break the cycle. All the public work programs, bank credit fixes, and deficit spending that was implemented between 1933 and 1939 didn’t break this cycle – at most these items prevented the economy from complete collapse here in the US (Germany did experience that complete meltdown, but it had other special factors that made things worse there).

Breaking a cycle like this can be attacked at any of the points within it. Any action that improves consumer confidence, makes companies more likely to expand and hire new people, puts more spendable cash in people’s pockets, increases sales and/or prices of homes or consumer goods, gives people and companies a positive road-map to the future where planning to do and get new things has a high probability of becoming true, all could work.

The current actions by the government are trying to attack exactly these items. The only real question is, are they putting enough money into all of these fronts to make a significant difference? The lesson from the Great Depression is that it really takes a lot more ‘stimulus’ than most people and politicians can even begin to imagine, and I’m afraid that the current amounts being bandied about are going to amount to too little, doled out over too long a time frame. Current US GDP is estimated at about 14 trillion/year. The stimulus package is currently touted as somewhere around 800 billion to 1 trillion, with a lot of that not being available immediately, but only in future years. Only perhaps 300 billion is going to seen immediately (in the next three months). Which means we’re trying to influence the movement of the entire US economy by spending about 2% of its total size. Worse, part of that stimulus is going to be offset by tax and fee hikes by various state governments desperately trying to balance their own budgets in the face of declining income.

I’m afraid, given the current planned course of action, that this current nasty feedback cycle is going to continue for quite some time, and get a lot worse, before the appropriate amount and kinds of stimulus are voted through that can really break this spiral.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Leave a Comment »

The Gaza Mess

Posted by hyperpat on January 6, 2009

The current press reports about the conflict in the Gaza strip have got me upset. Everyone is complaining about civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli forces. Now certainly, there really are some of these. But it seems that no one wants to point out why Israel is taking these steps.

If the USA had been subjected to over 3000 rockets fired into its territory in last two years by an organization that had specifically stated that they wish to kill every person in the country, the response would have been dramatic. I seriously doubt that anyone in the US would be calling for negotiations; rather we would have seen an outpouring of ‘wipe these rascals out’ – and do it now, and to hell with ‘collateral damage’.

The Hamas have been in control of the Gaza strip since the elections of 2006. Since that time they have waged an internal civil war to wipe out all their political opponents, removing all members of the Fatah from political positions, enforcing censorship on newspapers, denying any public assembly of Fatah supporters, and have used hospitals and universities as staging grounds for carrying out attacks on the Fatah. They are known to be smuggling in weapons through vast tunnel complexes, something that the Israelis have consistently targeted. They have refused to honor any agreements with any of the other governments involved, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority. It appears that much of their current funding and training comes from Iran. And all during their internal conflict with the Fatah, they have kept a continuous stream of rocket attacks into southern Israel.

No matter how I look at it, the Hamas appear to me to be a militant, religiously fanatic and intolerant bunch of terrorists. The are not deserving of my sympathy. Non-Hamas who are being injured or killed by this conflict are certainly regrettable, but to my way of thinking the best way these civilians can protect themselves is to get rid of these Hamas hooligans themselves. The Hamas cannot remain in power if the population of the area refuses to support them. As long as they do, they must bear the consequences of that support, as they themselves are at least partially culpable for the current mess.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

One Very Wrong Choice

Posted by hyperpat on November 5, 2008

At this point in time (9AM PST), with 95+% of precincts reporting and with a current 400,000 vote margin, it looks like Proposition 8 banning gay marriages will pass. I am very sorry to see this. A break down of the votes by county shows a very predictable pattern: the urban areas of the state are almost totally against this proposition, while the rural areas are heavily in favor of it, a split that matches up with normal labels of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’.

It shouldn’t be this way. Regardless of a person’s general political leanings, this proposition is on its face a direct endorsement of discrimination, a statement that some people are less equal than others. As it is a constitutional amendment, it will be very difficult to fight this in the state court system, and it is unlikely the U. S. Supreme court will take any action, as lacking jurisdiction over state law in the absence of any clear point in the U. S. constitution that would prohibit such a law – although they did take action on interracial marriages in 1967, and it can at least be hoped that this proposition can be attacked on the same grounds.

In an election that saw the first Afro-American president elected, a very nice indication that long held biases and attitudes about race have been overcome to at least some degree, this result indicates that there is still a long way to go to change attitudes about sexual preferences. And the advertising that went on in favor of this proposition was, to my mind at least, absolutely despicable, with their false-to-fact statements and pandering to fear and religious bigotry.

Today, at least, I’m not proud of being a resident of California.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

Big Brother is Alive and Well

Posted by hyperpat on May 27, 2008

I just finished reading Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother over the weekend. As a book, I thought it was great, harkening back to some of the best YA books of the fifties (my review is posted here). But the book paints a very disturbing picture of the current political climate, most especially the concept that the government has the right to monitor everything you do or say, as empowered by the Patriot Act.

Now perhaps the scenario painted in this book goes a little too far, but it points out a very real danger that the US might fall into becoming a police state as bad as that of the Stalinist regime merely because people are frightening by the possibility of a terrorist attack, and want something done about it. The trouble is, the methods used to fight this terrorist possibility are effectively exactly what the terrorists want: a nation so in fear that it will give up the item that so distinguishes the US from other government models, as embodied most directly and plainly in the 1st Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Patriot Act give specific powers to various agencies to monitor things like email, phone calls, credit card charges, and even what library books you’ve checked out, merely by presenting a ‘National Security Letter’ to the holder of the information, without recourse to a warrant. Now at the very least, this violates the 4th Amendment provision against ‘unreasonable search and seizure’, and at least one judge has ruled against this practice on 1st Amendment grounds (7 Sept 2007):

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York said the FBI’s use of secret “national security letters” to demand such data violates the First Amendment and constitutional provisions on the separation of powers, because the FBI can impose indefinite gag orders on the companies and the courts have little opportunity to review the letters.

Freedom of speech has also been curtailed by the Digital Millennium Act of 1998, which specifically criminalizes publishing information that might lead to ways to ‘unlock’ DRM codes on copyrighted materials. This provision is highly relevant to whether or not John Q. Public can do anything to prevent the government from snooping on his emails or other net postings, as it attempts to suffocate publication of research work on truly secure cryptography. With the Patriot Act authorizing such snooping, and this act attempting to limit the average person’s access to technology that would prevent such snooping, effectively your entire on-line history becomes available to the government whenever they decide they want to look at it.

Now Americans are used to having a certain amount of privacy in their lives, and take it as a given that this is a right that is protected from government abuses. However, the Constitution itself does not enumerate this as a ‘right’, and can only be inferred from the 4th Amendment’s provision against unreasonable search and seizure. Unless our courts remain vigilant, this ‘right’ will disappear, all in the name of providing better security against a threat that has to date killed fewer Americans than lightning strikes. You may say that you have nothing to hide, and government monitoring won’t bother you, but think about just how much information about you might be derived just from from your net activities, and think about whether you really want Big Brother knowing all of it.

It’s time to really dismantle the Patriot Act, and not just by the mild reforms that were passed in 2006. In its place perhaps we need to pass a new Amendment to the Constitution, one that specifically enumerates the right to privacy and just when and under what justifications and oversights the government can invade it.

Posted in Books, Politics, science fiction, SF | Leave a Comment »

West Virginia – Almost Heaven?

Posted by hyperpat on May 15, 2008

The West Virginia primary results have evoked quite a bit of commentary. Many were somewhat surprised at Hillary’s large majority, which was even more pronounced in places like Mingo County (about 88% voted for her). As Mingo County was where I was born, this has influenced me to do a little web research on what the area is currently like.

This first item that really struck me is the decline in population of some of the old mining towns. Delbarton, where I spent the first couple years of my life, has gone from a population of about 1,300 in 1948 to today’s 474. The reason for this is pretty obvious, namely the decline in coal mining jobs available, although this occupation is still one of the largest in the county.

Delbarton is located about 50 miles southeast of Huntington, about six miles from the Kentucky border, and about five miles from Matewan. Matewan is famous as the area where the Hatfield-McCoy feud was waged, though the actual events were scattered more generally over the entire area, from South Williamson  and Pikeville in Kentucky through what is now Matewan to points north. As a side note, I may be distantly related to some of the participants in this feud via the Mounts family line. This entire area is quite mountainous and not really well suited for farming except in some of the valley bottoms.

The demographics of this area are telling: average income of about $21,000, 30% with incomes below the poverty line, 40% without a high school diploma, an unemployment rate around 7% (this last has been improving lately), with exactly one black person currently residing in Delbarton, and only about 400 in the entire county. This last item I think is significant in terms of the political landscape; West Virginia in general and this area of state in particular has always been very heavily white in composition, with most of its inhabitants originally hailing from Ireland or Germany. While the portrait is not quite the bare-footed hillbilly of the stereotype, the general picture is uncomfortably close, and Hillary’s message of aid for the poor must resonate much more with this population than when contrasted with a black candidate whose very articulateness may be a point against him.

No matter how you cut it, or how much we might wish it to not be true, race is playing a part in this presidential campaign.

Now Hillary’s victory in West Virginia will not materially affect the final results at the Democratic Convention, unless she pulls off some kind of miracle coupled with some back-room deals. But it should be a reminder that the racial problems and prejudicial attitudes of some in this country have not gone away and still need to be addressed. Obama will almost certainly end up as the Democratic candidate, and if he should win the general election, perhaps he will be able to really do something about a thorn that has festered in the American way of life for far too long. If instead McCain should win, I think he also will be driven to pay some real attention to the race problem, as Obama obviously has too many supporters to ignore.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Venturing into the Big, Wide World

Posted by hyperpat on May 7, 2008

My son, as part of a school project for his class in government, had to attend a city council meeting last night. His comment about this three hour meeting: “I don’t speak politic”. He found much of the discussion totally opaque, and about as interesting as watching mud drying. This is not too surprising for a couple of reasons: local politics, even in a large city, most often deals with minuscule issues, normally of interest only to those directly affected, and discussions about same are almost necessarily couched in bureaucratese, a totally mind-numbing language seemingly designed expressly to obfuscate just what is being discussed and confuse any normal person. Heated interesting arguments and world-changing consequences are just not part of this picture.

Of more interest is the fact that the school course has such projects at all. And the city council is only one part of what my son has to do – he also is required to put some time in actually working for a political party office (of his choice – anywhere from Democrats to GreenPeace). And of course do a write up of his experiences and what he learned from them. These outings into the real world will at least provide him with a much better picture of what government is all about and how it really works than I got from school.

Back when I was his age (an incredibly long time ago), the classes I took in U. S. government and civics were pure lectures, and almost totally divorced from any current events or the practicalities of the political world. Now these classes gave me a good grounding in the Constitution and my civil rights and responsibilities, but they did not provide any type of picture of why or how I should get involved in politics. The high schools of my day pretty much left this up to the colleges and real-life experience after graduation, when suddenly the effect of a change in, say, zoning laws could have a real and very visible impact on your daily life, and made you realize that all these talking heads spouting esoteric mumble-mumble were important.

This is one change in modern education that I think is worthwhile. More practical, real-life things are very helpful in making the kids realize that what the teachers are trying to instill in them is useful – especially as far too many schools have discontinued the classes in shop, home economics, auto mechanics, and other such classes that used to provide at least a small taste of reality. Robert Heinlein, in Tunnel in the Sky, proposed a much harsher taste of reality, a school course in survival, where the final exam was to be dropped into some unknown land and forced to really survive for some time period. It’s doubtful this would ever become a reality, with its real risk of fatalities, and parents simply wouldn’t be willing to take that risk. Though in today’s world, their kids sometimes enlist in the military very shortly after graduation and are really placed in harm’s way – but most people wouldn’t be able to see the equivalency of these risks.

The real world is neither safe nor comfortable, and young people do need to learn how to navigate its reefs and shoals. Schools that don’t provide at least a small taste of what the big, wide world is all about are doing their students no favors.

Posted in Books, Daily Happenings, Politics | 2 Comments »

The ‘Whine’ Signal

Posted by hyperpat on April 28, 2008

Whine, whine, whine. Seems like that’s all we hear today when people are talking about the economy. Everyone seems to think that if we’re not in a recession already, we soon will be, and that it’s not going to turn around anytime soon. There are bank problems, housing problems, oil price problems, consumer confidence issues, inflation worries, the dollar valuation effects, the lingering occupation of Iraq,  and whatever other perceived problems you want to add to the kitchen sink.

Now is all this whining about nothing? No, the problems are real, as far too many people can attest who have had their house foreclosed, or those living on minimum wage who are finding it even tougher to keep it together, or everyone finding their wallets all too light after filling up at the gas station.

So what can we do about it? I think most of the necessary actions have already been taken: the Fed has very aggressively cut interest rates, which has already had a definite effect on mortgage rates which will eventually translate into less pressure on current homeowners and make new purchases more affordable. The Fed has also effectively injected a large amount of money into the system so that banks will be more willing to make loans and keep creditor confidence up. New laws and regulations are on the table to provide better oversight of the banking industry so they don’t continue to make loans that are very shaky, while making sure that prospective loan applicants have a better understanding of just what they are signing up to pay. The dollar’s fall has been so severe that it has once again made American made goods very competitive in the global market, and that effect is already showing up in some companies financial statements. The steep price of oil is having multiple effects: more people are opting for fuel-efficient cars, people are driving less and taking other conservation measures, solar cell energy generation is becoming a real force, other alternative energy generation methods are receiving more attention and more research dollars. Now all these things won’t produce any instant cures for the current mess, but looking forward it’s clear that we are now establishing a solid base for future growth.

My take on all of this: it’s time to start aggressively buying stocks. This follows a well known rule about stock market strategy – when everyone is yelling ‘sell’, it’s time to buy, and vice versa. All this whining is precisely the signal that if we aren’t at the bottom yet, it’s not far away.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Leave a Comment »

People Helping People – Something that Works

Posted by hyperpat on March 3, 2008

Scalzi is, once more, on his soapbox over on his Whatever blog about what being poor is like and what should be done about it. His original essay on this subject appeared way back in 2005, and has been reprinted, linked to , and discussed in numerous forums, including my own here at Being Poor is Not a Crime. This is one soapbox I hope he never gets off of (and feel pretty sure he won’t), because it’s a real problem here in America that most people blithely ignore and would just rather not hear about.

His latest post makes a strong argument that shaming those who are poor merely because they are poor is not going to help: the great majority of those in that situation don’t need that kind of motivation to get out of their fix (they get more than enough of that as it is, thank you very much, merely from the stupid bureaucratic rules we have imposed for people to receive government aid). Rather, what they need is real help in terms of doing things that allow them to get more education, or ways to allow them to work while their kids are properly cared for (without having the child care cost more than what they can earn), or real help with medical conditions (universal medical insurance would help greatly in this regard) – this list goes on and on. Getting this type of aid to those who need it doesn’t just mean dropping a check in mail (though this helps too) – it means you personally doing things to help: babysitting those kids, driving the person to their medical appointment, helping them fill out some of those nightmare government forms, or giving them some private tutoring. The point of all these types of aid, though, is that they are of the nature of something that Robert Heinlein advocated as ‘Paying it Forward’. Help those who need it, not because you think you might get something back, but merely because it’s the right thing to do, and gain satisfaction in knowing that once those you’ve helped can afford it, they, in their own turn, will help someone else.

The net result of this type of aid (as opposed to those forms which stigmatize and otherwise denigrate the poor merely because they’re poor) will be a stronger, more robust America – the type of place that the whole world can look up to.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Let’s Find the Real Choice of the People

Posted by hyperpat on February 10, 2008

The current political election process for President is a mess. Starting with the primaries, each state has different rules for how to count votes, and even within each state there are often different rules for each political party. In some states it’s ‘winner take all’. In others delegates are split proportional to the vote. In still others, delegates are won on a county-by-county basis. On top of this are what’s known as ‘super-delegates’, who are not bound to follow the popular vote, but can vote for whomever they wish in the final party nomination convention – a sure recipe for back-room deals. When we get to the final election in November, once again we find that things don’t necessarily go according to the overall popular vote, but instead ‘x’ number of electoral voters are assigned by the individual state votes, mainly on ‘winner take all’ basis, and off we go to the Electoral College. And because of the ‘winner take all’ bias, third party candidates stand almost no chance of being elected, even though a significant portion of the voting populace may like a particular third party candidate.

Now do we really want to continue with these current methods? The final result of current methods is to effectively disenfranchise a large portion of the populace: Candidate A wins 51% of the vote in a state, while Candidate be gets 49%, but all the delegates go to Candidate A, and all the votes for Candidate B don’t count! On top of this is a secondary effect: because people know that votes for marginal or third party candidates are unlikely to be effective, they conclude that voting for such candidates is tantamount to ‘wasting’ their vote, and therefore only vote for one of the major candidates. Once again, the real ‘voice of the people’ is not heard.

There is a possible fix for this. It’s called a modified rank-preferential ballot system. In this system, voters do not vote for just one candidate, but rather rank their choices among the contenders from first to last choice (and ‘NONE’ should be a choice for those voters who don’t like any of the candidates). When votes are tallied, on the first pass only the #1 choices are tallied, and the candidates then ranked by the total votes they have received. If the #1 choice at this point has less than 50% of all votes cast (which has been true for most modern Presidential elections), then the candidate with the fewest votes is then eliminated, and all those ballots that had that candidate marked as #1 will now be recounted, this time picking their #2 choice. These new votes will be added to those candidates that are left, and once again they will ranked from first to last in order of total votes. This process is repeated, each time eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes and recounting the ballots for that individual, until there is a candidate with more than 50% of the vote. Note that it would be possible under this system for NONE to win – at which point I think we would need to start over with new candidates, as clearly all the politicians are completely out of touch with what the people want.

Besides using this voting system, we should get rid of the Electoral College and its relative ‘weighting’ for each state, and standardize the primaries across all states and parties. For the primaries, it’s probably not possible to legislate how each party wants to count votes (or even if they want votes at all), as these are effectively private entities. But we can at least force a common date for them, avoiding the current protracted process. But the described system should be of advantageous use for the parties themselves to figure out which is really their best choice for candidate.

Making these changes in our voting would have several advantages:

1. There would be a direct correspondence between the ‘will of the people’ and who gets elected. No more cases of ‘minority’ Presidents, no more back room deals.

2. People will be more likely to vote for who they really want, regardless of how much of a ‘fringe’ candidate they are, as they know that even if their candidate is eliminated, their second (or third, or fourth) choice will still be counted and could make a difference in the final outcome.

3. More information is really gathered in this way, as a true ranking of just how popular a candidate and his positions are emerges from the multiple choice ranking. If candidate C not only is not the first choice of anyone, but is also not even their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th choice, it becomes clear that he really doesn’t represent the people’s choice. Alternatively, if candidate D doesn’t receive many first place votes, but shows up second on many ballots, he may either actually end up the winner, or if not, it will be clear that the views he espouses are liked by many people, and the winner will need to take that into account during his administration. Thus no voter will need to feel that his vote didn’t count or his feelings and opinions were ignored.

Of course, to make this a reality, it will take a Constitutional amendment, which unfortunately means that we would have to convince at least 38 state legislatures to vote for it – and in some states, there does not even have to be a popular vote taken on the issue, merely a vote by that state’s legislative body. But even in those states, people can make their voice heard by directly contacting their state representatives and voicing their feelings about this.

So if you’d really like to see a voting system that pays attention to everyone equally, perhaps now is the time to start lobbying for that amendment, before we end up with yet another President who represents the views of only a minority of people of this country.

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

Sex Ed in the Schools

Posted by hyperpat on November 13, 2007

My youngest son has a senior year project to write a research paper and a persuasive essay on a chosen subject. He has picked as his subject sex education in the schools, and this last weekend I went with him to the library to help him pick out some source material on this subject. Naturally, being me, I started reading some of this material, and what I gleaned from this is not pretty:

1. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen-aged pregnancy and STD infections of any developed country in the world, ten times higher than that of the Netherlands.

2. A huge amount of money is being funneled into ‘abstinence only’ programs, Mr. Bush’s pet favorite. But study after study has shown that this type of program does not work.  Teens subjected to such programs have the same pregnancy rate as those in other types of programs, and at least some studies have shown that they have higher rates of STD infections (not too surprising, as the whole concept of ‘safe sex’ is never even introduced).

3. Retention of information presented in these classes is ridiculously low, with some 40+ percent of students, after attending a ‘comprehensive’ sex ed class that covers STDs and all forms of contraception, still do not know what HIV is or how it can be contracted.

4. A great many teens do not class oral and anal sex in the category of ‘having sex’. They will still consider themselves virgins even if they engage in such activities.

5. A great many parents still object to having any form of sex ed in the schools. These are probably the same parents who wouldn’t let their little Johnny or Jane cross the street unattended, as such activity is obviously too dangerous. But they will blissfully let their children proceed into one of the most turbulent periods of their lives without access to information that can warn them of the dangers of the activities that their hormones are urging them towards.

6. Few programs cover homosexual activities. Many don’t even mention it, and those teens who may be so sexually inclined are still left feeling like they are pariahs.

7. Even in the best and most comprehensive programs, there is far too little emphasis on the social aspects of sex: how to form and maintain relationships, how to resist peer pressure, what morality can or should attach to this activity, what the benefits and problems of marriage are, what the economic and career cost is for having children early.

Study after study has shown that to be effective, sex education must:

1. Start early. This means at least some information presented as early as 4th grade. Parents may not want to believe this, but kids can become sexually active this early, and a great many will be by age twelve.

2. Be a continuous input. A single class doesn’t cut it; the child needs to be exposed to the information multiple times.

3. Have input from multiple sources. This means that just because the school has a class in sex ed, you, the parent, are not off the hook. There needs to be a steady dialogue between parent and child on this subject, not necessarily any long discussions, but a free interaction that gives answers to the child’s questions as they occur (and they will certainly have questions).

4. Sex ed classes must be both frank and complete. All aspects of this part of human life need to covered. Risks, benefits, cultural viewpoints, basic biology, relationships (‘love’ as well as ‘sex’), gender roles, etc.

For those parents who violently object to having their child instructed in such matters by the school, they have the option of instructing their children themselves (most schools now allow the parents to keep their children out of such classes).  Unhappily, far too many do a poor or no job at all in this area. But it is their prerogative in this country.

For the rest, let’s admit that ‘abstinence only’ programs are not worth the money being fed into them, and use that money to fund better, more comprehensive programs.  And perhaps we can cut down on that teen pregnancy rate.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

The Default Reader Attitude

Posted by hyperpat on October 22, 2007

John Scalzi, over on his Whatever blog, comments again about his lack of racial markers for his characters in his novels, a certain ‘color-blindness’ that no one really paid attention to, until the point was made that the average American reader, faced with a lack of such markers, defaults these characters to ‘white’. At this point, John has indicated that he knew what color his characters were, but didn’t find this characteristic germane to his work, focusing more on the character’s social, economic, and educational background. With J. K. Rowling’s announcement last week that Dumbledore is gay, this has led to more comments about ‘out-of-novel’ announcements by the authors about their works, which has upset a few people who have had their conceptions about these works suddenly modified.

Which brings to mind several things:

1. Racial bias is, in the main, both unconscious and pernicious. As the song ‘You’ve Got to be Taught’ in the musical South Pacific indicates, it really starts at a very early age, as children absorb the attitudes (often never directly stated to the children) of their parents, and is reinforced by their peer groups and the general culture in which they grow up. And almost always, ‘different’ is equated with ‘not as good as I am’. This attitude is very difficult to eliminate once it is in place. As the American general culture is ‘white’ biased (and has been almost since Columbus’s time), this does mean that the default picture most have when reading about fictional characters is also ‘white’, absent any overt markers that the character is ‘other’. Does this then mean that authors have a responsibility to sprinkle their works with characters who are clearly marked as ‘other’, just to avoid reinforcing the concept that only ‘whites’ are deserving of being protagonists? Certainly not. Loading up a book with such racial (or sexual orientation) material, when it is not germane to plot or theme of the book, is a bad mistake, as it means that now people will be looking for why such characters were given such characteristics, and how closely they conform to the reader’s stereotype of how such people should act and talk, which merely deprives from the focus on what the book is really about, whatever that is. It is not the author’s responsibility to correct the reader’s mindset, it is the reader’s.

John goes into some detail about his high school years and the influence it had on his attitudes, where the school he attended was very racially heterogeneous, but quite homogenous in terms of wealth and class, to where he says that ‘people like him’ pretty much conform to that school structure. I’m not sure if that really holds, as the attitudes about such things seemed to be formed at a much earlier age than high school (not that I’m saying that his attitudes about this are anything other than what he describes – merely that they they were actually formed much earlier).

Nor can I say that my own attitudes are color-blind. I spent a great proportion of my very early years in England, Australia, and then schools in Michigan, West Virginia, and Ohio, and all of these places were very strongly ‘white’ both in composition and attitude (especially so at the time I was there). These formative years have influenced me – in general, I find (if I think about it all), that when reading the characters do default to ‘white’ in my head (so that it came as something of a shock when I discovered at the end of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers that Juan Rico was not white). And it is also somewhat ironic, as in investigating my genealogy I’ve found that I’m part American Indian, along with Irish, English, Scottish, French, and German (during the Civil War some lines in my family could not fight in the regular regiments, but had to fight with the ‘colored/mixed breed’ ones, as we had too great a proportion of Indian blood). But this is my problem as a reader; the authors should not be tasked with crusading for racial equality.

2. Political correctness is still running rampant throughout the discourse about many things in this country. While it may be of benefit to not use derogatory terms to describe any class of people, it has reached the point that no matter what you say, someone will take you task for being insensitive and Neanderthal for your statements. I mean, ‘height-challenged’ in place of ‘short’?! That’s taking it a little too far.

3. You take from a book what you see in it. It may not be what the author had in mind, but that’s actually immaterial. If the average reader’s vision is far different from what the author intended, it may indicate a failure on the author’s part to make clear what he was trying to say, but if the points of difference between author and reader’s view differ only in things that are not the main focus of the work, then the author should not be under any obligation to ‘correct’ that view, though he/she (more PCness) may wish to, as Rowling has done.

Posted in Politics, Writing | 2 Comments »

Regulating the Net: A Bad Idea

Posted by hyperpat on August 31, 2007

The busybodies are at it again. Once more the clarion call to regulate the net is heard across the planet. Now they want YouTube to take down any videos showing extreme or callously violent actions. Now this idea has a little bit of merit: portrayals of violence may be more destructive and influential on young minds than all the pornographic material that’s just as readily accessible on the net. But, once again, the whole concept of censorship of the net is not only impossible in a technical sense (without emasculating the net to where it no longer qualifies for the name), it flies in the face of what the net is all about: the free interchange of thoughts, ideas, and images, whether they be good, bad, indifferent, or offensive to many. The net is perhaps the ultimate form of free speech, as anyone with access to a computer can post just about anything they want.

As soon as one group of people obtain the power to decide what can be printed, published, or posted, on that day the road to dictatorship is paved. When you can limit what information people can see or hear, you have the ability to control their minds. The Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984 is a fine example of just how controlling the information flow is tantamount to controlling the actions of the populace.

Rating and warning labels about the content of something are all well and good, as they can provide the prospective reader/viewer with advance information so he/she can better determine if he really wants to look at that particular item. And they provide parents with the ability to selectively control what their children can access – this is one form of dictatorship that is required for proper nurturing of young minds. But this level of control must remain at the family level, not something mandated or restricted by government, and government should never be in the business of telling a company that they must restrict what can be published on their site, other than those items that actually violate established laws, such as copyright violations.

But it seems that some people just can’t get away from trying to mandate things  for others, for ‘their own good’.

Posted in Books, Politics | 1 Comment »

Blindfolding the Populace

Posted by hyperpat on July 10, 2007

Closely related to my prior post about busy-bodies sticking their noses into what is clearly other people’s business are the long running attempts to ban certain books, as can be seen from this list, which includes some of the greatest literature written, such as Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. These attempts have ranged from trying to have it removed from every possible shelf and library, to burning, to issuing death threats (and sometimes more than just threats but actual acts) not only to author, but to those who were involved in publishing and distributing the book (see the writeup of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses).

Most commonly, though, these attempts have occurred at the school level. It is understandable that some parents may find objectionable things in some books, such as discussions of certain subjects, offensive language, or depictions of certain actions that they don’t feel that their little Johnny is ready for. Schools need to be sensitive to parent’s perceptions; most are, and have procedures in place to handle such problems, such as the ability to have the child in question read something else when requested. But instead of requesting that their child not read a particular work for whatever reason that the parent’s find it objectionable, they place a demand to the school board that the work be expunged from all classes and removed from all library shelves. All too often, the school board caves in to these demands, until some other parent requests the book be re-instated, at which point the frequent result is that the work is placed in advancement placement only classes and shelved in the restricted area of the library. This is not an optimum solution. Schools exist in order to educate the child in all the things he will need to know about as an adult. Making access to literary works difficult or impossible is like putting blinders on the child, and then wondering why he’s not ready to function as an adult when that time comes.

But perhaps worse than this form of censorship, which at least has an understandable motive behind it, are those attempts to ban a book from everywhere. There is only one valid reason, at least in my opinion, why something should be suppressed, and its author’s right of free speech abrogated (along with the reader’s right to read what he wishes) and that is if it would cause physical harm to someone (the famous ‘you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater’). The current Supreme Court definition of obscenity, is, in my mind, incorrect and against what is stated in the First Amendment:

  • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Even if 99 out of 100 people in a community think something is obscene trash (thus creating a ‘community standard’) and this same group believes the work in question has no discernible literary or artistic merit, banning this work still deprives the one person in that community who doesn’t think so of his right of free speech in the form of being able to read what he wants. The problem here is that pornographic or obscene works do not physically harm anyone. Absent an overriding reason such as this, I can find no justification for this ‘abridgement of freedom of speech’.

And there is another aspect to this. An author, knowing his work may to subject to such censorship, may decide to alter or leave out certain things in his writings. This effectively constitutes ‘prior restraint’, and down this road lies “Ignorance is Strength” – from another of those books that people have tried to ban.

Posted in Books, Philosophy, Politics | 4 Comments »

Sticking Their Noses In

Posted by hyperpat on July 6, 2007

Why do people get so upset by the actions of others that don’t affect them? That man down the street has (gasp!) women coming to his door at all hours of the day! Sheila across the way is wearing a mini-skirt! Tommy in next block must be up to no good – he’s always taking flights to countries with unpronounceable names! Maybe he works for the (whisper) CIA?!

And it doesn’t stop at just the local level, as a quick perusal of nanny-ish state of our government can attest. The entire flap over same-sex marriage is a prime example – whatever others do in this regard, it doesn’t affect your marriage or your sense of what is right for you.

Laws should be the controlling rules for the interactions between people. You can’t rob or beat up others. You can’t pollute everything around you because that does affect the quality of life of others. You shouldn’t be able to cook the corporate books, because that does affect everyone who has invested in the company. These kinds of laws make sense. What doesn’t are those laws that attempt to regulate what are purely private actions. What you do in your bedroom is not the province of either law or busy-bodies. Who you live with, be it someone of different ethnicity,  color, or the same gender, is not the proper provenance of law.  If you wish to gamble away all your money, that’s your problem. The government should not be able to say that all gambling is illegal. If you wish to smoke marijuana, that should be your business (however, if, while under its influence, you go out and crash your car into someone else, that is the provenance of law).

There is a concept of the ‘public good’ that is often invoked when such laws are considered or passed. But this is a false attribution. The ‘public good’ applies to all people; only those things that actually (or at least potentially) affect all the people fall under its umbrella.  Private actions do not.

But I doubt if we’ll ever get rid of those who are so into ‘we’re just doing this for your own good’. Who think their morals are the only correct ones, and everyone needs to adhere to them. Or the religious fanatics who insist that everyone convert to their faith. Just how much of the world’s misery is caused by such attitudes? Far too much.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, religion | Leave a Comment »

Planning for the Future

Posted by hyperpat on July 2, 2007

I’m contemplating my upcoming birthday, when I’ll turn 59. Back when I was in my twenties, 50 seemed to be an impossibly long time away, and an age that I’d never reach. Now, it looks like I might actually reach retirement age, despite various medical problems and a lot aches, pains, and non-limberness. With such a milestone actually in sight, planning for it has moved center stage: just how much capital will I have at that point, what income will I have, where do I want to live, and perhaps most importantly, just what will I do when I don’t have to get up and go to work everyday.

Most of my free time right now is spent reading, watching TV or movies, bowling, or playing chess. These activities probably just won’t be enough to really keep me occupied when all my time is ‘free’, and the item that looks most likely to fill that extra time is real writing. Part of the problem I have right now trying to write is the lack of large blocks of uninterrupted time that I can devote to this, when I can concentrate on what I want to say, immerse myself in the logic of the story, and figure out all the myriad details, secure in the knowledge that I won’t have to put it aside to go figure out the latest hardware or software bug. Because when that does happen now, I find it very difficult to get back into the story’s ambiance and logic after the interruption. But to make this work will require some discipline, setting aside particular hours to ‘work’, and getting my wife to recognize that these hours are not the time to regale me with the latest family gossip. It also means that whenever possible, I should work till there is a clear closure to a least a part of the story.

Planning for the other aspects of retirement, most especially the monetary ones, makes me realize just why it is so difficult for young people to do any serious saving or planning for their retirement. When you are that age, retirement exists only in never-never land; the time-frame is just too far away to be ‘real’. This is one great service that Social Security does perform, as it’s basically an enforced savings plan. What would be better, though, is a plan that requires that a certain percentage of your income be set aside, unspendable, but that the individual could control how it is invested, and is actually owned by the individual (unlike the Social Security funds, which really go to pay current retirees, not put into any kind of savings, and which depend on a continuous stream of new, young workers to pay the benefits to those retiring – a rather dangerous form of a Ponzi scheme, given that demographics can change in unanticipated ways). While the last attempt at setting up something like this failed the Congressional test, it’s a concept that I hope will not go away, and will eventually be implemented, because, you know, retirement is just so far away, man, and I just can’t be bothered with something like that now.

Posted in Politics, Writing | 3 Comments »

Marriage

Posted by hyperpat on June 27, 2007

Just what is marriage? The ‘traditional’ definition is: the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family (Merriam Webster). Many people have taken this to mean one man and one woman. But it doesn’t have to be. Polygamy and polyandry have both been practiced by various groups even within American society, and the current move towards recognizing same-sex marriage shows that people are not monolithic in their choice of relationships.

In practical terms, a marriage really needs to perform two functions: provide a stable environment within which intimacy and caring for another can flourish, and provide enough emotional and economic stability that children can be safely raised. Any method that satisfies these can work.  The current legal and social insistence that only the union of one man and one woman constitutes a marriage has some very negative consequences, not the least of which is the phenomenon of serial polygamy/polyandry (marriage, divorce, marriage, divorce, rinse and repeat) which has a very profound effect on any children caught in middle of this.

People are naturally attracted to others, it’s hard-wired into our DNA. Monogamy is not.  But children need stability and security, an environment where they know what to expect come tomorrow and the next day. With the current setup, if mommy or daddy suddenly gets a yen for someone else, there is no legal or socially recognized alternative to the divorce and re-marriage route.  Regardless of how well this is handled, the children are net losers in this equation, as what they saw as eternally stable is turned upside down.

Instead, why not have the new person become part of the existing family? While obviously not all people have the emotional makeup to handle multiple partners in a marriage, for those that do, it would at least minimize the traumatic effect on the children as they wouldn’t ‘lose’ either parent, while at the same time probably provide a more secure economic basis for the family, with three (or more) breadwinners.  And if this scenario is extended in time a little bit, where current members can bring in new partners to the marriage, you just might end up with an immortal family. This was the kind of scenario that Heinlein envisaged in his line marriages of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or a little more formally, with written contracts, as his S-Groups of Friday.

I think our current laws need to be modified to allow the marriage of two or more people (gender irrelevant). While it’s most likely that only a small percentage of the population would take advantage of this, it would at least provide an alternative to the current mess, where some cannot be legally married, though they wish to be, and other marriages are split up unnecessarily.

Posted in Books, Politics, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF | 2 Comments »

Creationism and the Scalzi Challenge

Posted by hyperpat on June 11, 2007

Haven’t posted for a while due to another bout of 12 hour/7days a week workitus. I’m getting too old for this kind of schedule…

But reading over on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog, I discover that the Creation Museum has just opened. John, in his typical Scalzi snarky way, has managed to stir up his readership to get him to go visit said museum, if they will just contribute enough to make it worth his while (see here). Contributions towards this educational trip will go to the Americans United for Separation of Church and State organization. For another look at what this museum offers, the folks at Ars Technica have this.

Now, if those who believe in Creationism wish to educate their children in the privacy of their homes in the tenets of this ideology, that’s their business. If they wish to advertise it via this museum, which people can go and visit based strictly on their own personal wishes to do so, that’s their business. If they wish to get this stuff put into science textbooks that will be used at public schools, that’ s not their business, it’s yours and mine. Americans already have a tough time keeping up with the rest of world in terms of scientific knowledge and investigation, and confusing students with faith-based material certainly will not help in this regard. Separation of church and state (and in this case, ‘state’ very definitely includes public schools) is a very good idea, not the least of which is that when ‘faith’ takes control of a government, there can be no opposition, as obviously those of the faith will reject (in sometimes very bloody ways) any dissension as not coming from their deity, and they have the absolutely correct answers.

How science works is not perfect. It doesn’t always look objectively at new data and theories, and sometimes advocates of new ideas are ignored or pilloried. But it does eventually get around to looking at that new data, and old ideas will get tossed out to be replaced by better ideas that fit all the known facts a bit more closely. The closer the theories match how the world really works, the better for all of us, as these theories form the basis for all the fancy technological goodies that make our lives richer and more rewarding, with less of our time spent on the mundane problems of surviving. Science is basically about asking questions, and the mindset that asks and allows for questions helps to not only keep our government healthy, but allows all of us to live our lives in the way we wish.

So go visit Scalzi’s site, and contribute to his trip if you feel so inspired. If nothing else, the end result should be some entertaining reading.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, religion, Science & Engineering | Leave a Comment »

Private Memories?

Posted by hyperpat on May 22, 2007

Charles Stross, author of Acclerando and Glasshouse, has posted an interesting article on what he sees as the direction of the future. He notes the continuing acceleration of developments in memory storage and bandwidth, and takes a flyer from this to the idea of completely recording every single moment of your life. Now while such a thing may be technically achievable (and he presents a good case that it not only could be done, but done quite cheaply for every single human on the planet), the question I have is would people really want to do this?

Now everyone has some memorable moment(s) in their lives that they’d like to preserve – usually what are considered ‘life markers’, the weddings, graduations, births, etc. And there is some usage for this concept as a memory aid, especially for those suffering from (or who might be prone to) Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems. But record everything? Other than a few extreme exhibitionists, I don’t think so. Because once recorded, it’s subject to being viewed by others, and some of those others probably don’t have your best interests at heart: the police looking for whatever crimes you may have committed (and everyone has committed some crime in their lives, even if it’s as pedestrian as jay-walking), crooks looking for ways to relieve you of your wealth, or your spouse looking for lapses in your fidelity. As Stross notes, having this capability would mean the effective end to any privacy, given that to make it happen, recording devices would need to be everywhere.

What’s frightening about this is that the beginnings of this can be seen right here and now. Almost every store you enter has surveillance cameras, more and more stop lights are being equipped with picture-taking cameras, RFID tags are being embedding in more and more products, the mobile phone cameras that everyone seems to possess nowadays, GPS trackers in cars, every key stroke and mouse click you perform on the web can already be recorded (along with complete monitoring of your PC actions at your workplace), and it’s been possible to marry up medical, financial, purchase history, web browsing, and school records to get a pretty complete profile of someone for some time. As one of the commenters to Stross’ article indicated, the US Constitution is silent on the right to privacy – the Supreme Court has often held in its rulings that there is an implied right, but such is not spelled out in the master document. With the future barreling down upon us, and what privacy we have being nibbled away by more and more gadgets, perhaps we need to start lobbying for a constitutional amendment to make this right explicit. Unless you really want everything you do visible to the whole wide world.

Posted in Books, Philosophy, Politics, Science & Engineering, science fiction, SF | 2 Comments »