August 2009 Archives

LCE070 Barbie Nation

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Cover of the song by Randy Stonehill. One of his many classics. Chad reminded me of it the other night.

On Meet the Press this morning, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said:

[The public option] doesn't have to make a profit or merchandise as much, so its costs are probably 20 percent lower. But then, on a level playing field, it competes with private insurance.

Pudge's Picks 2009

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Please, if you wish, go to join Pudge's Picks for 2009, hosted on

After logging in (create a new login if you don't have one), create an entry (each user can have one to three entries).

Then for each entry, click Join a Group. Type in "Pudge's Picks" in the search field, then click on Pudge's Picks when it shows up in the list. You can also go directly to the group page, instead.

The password to join is "longhorn."

Invite others, if you wish.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), my former congressman, was in a town hall meeting shouting down as irrational some LaRouchers who showed up and compared the health care legislation to Nazism.

The video I saw showed mostly Frank, and not all of what he was responding to, but what I did see from the citizen in attendance warranted his response: such a comparison is irrational. If you're going to make such a comparison, it is only for the purpose of undermining rational argument by raising the spectre of the Holocaust and other atrocities. You could compare it to Sweden or Britain or Canada, and get some use out of the comparison, but bringing up the Nazis only serves to undermine legitimate argument.

Maybe he should have responded using different words and tone -- he serves the people, and he was treating them like pundits or politicians instead of concerned citizens -- but the gist of his comments in response to the Nazi comparison was just fine.

Then there's this woman, who calls herself a conservative Republican who follows biblical values. She apparently considers yelling "Heil Hitler" to an Israeli Jew who supports the Democrats' reform, in order to highlight her opinion that Obama is as bad as Hitler, to be a "biblical value." (Psssst: it's not.)

Finally we have Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), who said, "I will vote adamantly against the interests of my district, if I actually think what I'm doing is going to help them. ... I will vote against their opinion if I actually believe it will help them."

I am told this is arrogant; that he is saying he knows what is best. But I always thought it was liberals that wanted their congressman to rule by opinion poll, and that it was conservatives who respected the words of their British godfather, Edmund Burke: "Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion." It seems to me that Massa was just expressing, with less eloquence, what Burke said 250 years ago.

However, with all this criticism of Republicans and conservatives and defense of Democrats, I should balance things out by mentioning the latest from Brian Baird, who recently apologized for calling health insurance reform protestors Nazi "brownshirts" and comparing their rhetoric to that which drove Timothy McVeigh to become a terrorist. He has done it again.

iPhone Hacking

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I got me a used iPhone. In playing with it, I installed PCalc Lite, as I am a longtime fan of PCalc (and DragThing, by the same author, James Thomson). I liked it and so I got the full PCalc, which has a lot more features, including a bunch of different themes.

Getting into hacking the iPhone, I thought I'd try to make a theme. You can't do this, I suppose, for now, unless you jailbreak the iPhone, as the themes are stored in the app and that breaks Apple's code signature stuff. But the same themes work on PCalc for the Mac, too. So I gave it a shot. Without further ado, my Slashdot theme for PCalc. You can also download the theme archive itself. Not sure why you'd want to, unless you're me, though.

Slashdot theme for PCalc

I also have been playing a lot of Quordy and Muddled, two word games from Lonely Star Software. A friend of mine from college wrote Muddled. And I wrote a Perl program that solves both games. Both use a dictionary (I grabbed 'words.sql', a DBLite file, from the Quordy bundle, after uncompressing the ZIP file with the .ipa extension). You just enter the letters you have available to you (in order from left to right, top to bottom for Quordy), pick the dictionary options and the game you're playing, and run it.

Retarded People

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I saw on the news that disabled people convened at the Monroe County legislature in Rochester, NY to protest someone's use of the word "retard."

It made me think of this video. The video is not safe for work, despite being comprised entirely of audio samples from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Barack Obama. That's just how they roll.

LCE069 Tale O The Twister

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Cover of the song by the short-lived superband Chagall Guevara. Used a Les Paul Standard bridge model on the Variax in honor of the late great man himself.

Some of you may have read the other day Steve Pearlstein's idiotic assault on people who disagree with him as "terrorists."

He started off just fine, saying, in effect, it is wrong to lie and misrepresent the health care program. I can't disagree with that. Lies are bad. But then he insanely says, "... there is no credible way to look at what has been proposed by the president or any congressional committee and conclude that these will result in a government takeover of the health-care system. That is a flat-out lie whose only purpose is to scare the public and stop political conversation."

Tell me, how is it a lie to call a "takeover" a system where the government would force all individual health insurance plans into an exchange that would dictate profits and prices and benefits and services and doctor networks and more?

Sounds like a takeover to me. You can disagree with the characterization, but calling it a "terrorist" "lie"? If he had focused on actual lies, that would be one thing, but this is mere political disagreement, by any logical standard. (I could pick apart much of the rest of his column, but he's not worth my time.)

This morning he was on Morning Joe and he said something even dumber, though. He said that what separates political discourse from political terrorism is that the former tries to improve a bill, while the latter tries to kill the bill.

So now we are "terrorists" if we think a bill is so terrible it should be killed, rather than improved.

Seriously? Yep, seriously.

Note for the record that all the tactics Pearlstein identified were used by patriotic writers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. I am sure this isn't the first time they were called terrorists (Franklin's son, also a journalist, was jailed -- and died there -- due to the enforcement of the Sedition Act), but I find the characterization more than a bit irrational.

I feel like Susan Powter here. How is it that Pearlstein is engaging in rhetoric that proponents of anti-sedition laws would be comfortable with? Granted, he is not endorsing laws to keep people quiet, but he is villifying them just as much.

Pearlstein said he is loathe to "question the motives of people with whom I don't agree," but that in this case he would do so. Allow me to return the favor: Pearlstein is so much in the tank for the Democrats and Obama that he will do and say anything to undermine the people who oppose the health care plan, in order to avoid having to respond to their actual arguments.

When the Democrats said years ago that dissent was patriotic, I agreed with them. I never once attacked anyone for dissenting. I disagreed with some of their dissent, I thought some of them were jerks, I argued with many of them. But I did not say or imply, "you should not dissent," "you should go along with the program," "it is wrong for you to try to kill bills you dislike," or anything else of the sort. On the contrary, I explicitly stated the opposite, and even criticized Republicans for saying they should keep quiet.

And how am I repaid for standing up for the Democrats' right to dissent? I am now called a terrorist for engaging in the same sort of dissent they engaged in under Bush.

That, friends, is true "political terrorism."

I agree with President Obama. You should not believe wild misrepresentations.

The health care bill does not mandate end-of-life counseling. Don't believe it when people say it does. The bill only allows Medicare to cover the same sort of end-of-life counseling that most people get already in one form or another, and it's entirely voluntary.

But there are other misrepresentations, too ... mostly from Obama and the Democrats.

Even though Obama insists otherwise, the health care bill does give government control over many peoples' insurance. It gives the government total control -- through the health insurance exchange -- over what individual health insurance options are available, as well as control over any services provided by the new "public option."

The health care bill MAY, in fact, force people to give up insurance they like, despite Obama's claim to the contrary. It's true that no existing health insurance coverage is explicitly killed by the plan, but significant changes (other than adding dependents) cannot be made to existing individual plans, such as to keep the coverage current with modern practices and treatments. And, of course, the public option and the exchange may force existing plans -- maybe one that you like -- out of business.

Therefore, further, it is also a misrepresentation for him to say that the public option will "hold down rates." It can only do so if it forces companies to lower their services to compete, or lower their rates and keep the same services ... and probably go out of business. Either the public option will cost as much as (or more than) existing plans, or it will undercut those plans and hurt them. There's no other two possibilities.

It is also a misrepresentation that if this bill does not pass, we are "doing nothing." If that's true, it's only because the Democrats want it to be true, since they could pass bipartisan health care reform that includes modest insurance regulations (like ending rescission), cost-cutting measures, tort reform, and so on. But they refuse to do it if it is not part of a far-left liberal takeover of a huge part of the health insurance sector.

Governor Christine Gregoire issues an executive order on climate change earlier this year. The Evergreen Freedom Foundation wanted to know the "backstory" for the order, and so they filed a public records request for documents related to the order's drafting and implementation.

Pretty straightforward.

Unfortunately -- for at least the second time -- Gregoire's office claimed the documents are protected under "deliberative process" and "executive privilege."

One problem is that "deliberative process" exemption is for protecting the process of forming policy, not after the policy has been formed (such as here, now that the order has been made and released by the Governor). The Court has held that "once the agency implements the policies or recommendations such records are no longer exempt under the deliberative process."

But even worse is that "executive privilege" simply does not exist in Washington public records law. It is a completely made-up notion by our governor, who is taking it upon herself to invent law as she goes along. As the EFF notes, a public records request may only be denied according to a specific statutory exemption, and none exists for "executive privilege."

The EFF has sent a letter asking for reconsideration.

I went to the health care town hall meeting in Mount Vernon today. It's hard to tell how many people were for or against H.R. 3200 ... all I know is there were a ton of people. The facilities held about 150 people, I was told; outside on the lawn, with a speaker so people could hear, were several hundred more. Here's my quick two-minute video of the event (from the outside ... if you are going to the Everett meeting next week, get there at least two or three hours early, if you want to get inside).

On the theme of civility, I had some pleasant discussions with people who clearly disagreed with me about health care. I think I was able to explain my views and how they come from my first principles, how liberty must be respected; and I told them I understood they just wanted health care for everyone, no matter how it happened. Once they understood that, it made it easier to see why I believed the current plan was bad news. I don't know how much they really understood, but at the very least, some of them didn't walk away thinking all people who oppose health care are evil, selfish, people. And that's progress.

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) handled himself well. He helped keep the tone of the meeting civil -- mostly -- and open to all views (except the view that Obama is a Nazi), despite the vast differences of opinions and high-running emotions. He was asked a lot of questions about the plan, and he gave specific and factual answers (he noted that he read the whole bill, which is believable; the question is whether he understood it all, and I doubt anyone does). He even gave his own views about some things, except for the view most people wanted to know: whether he would vote for this bill (assuming it didn't change). He said he hadn't decided, which, frankly, I don't believe.

Larsen spoke favorably of much in the bill, and expressed misgivings about some things, like the public option. He candidly said he had no answer for a question of how the government could possibly do the job of managing these programs efficiently. But, he said, he liked a lot of other things in the bill, such as fixing Medicare payments and ending the practice of rescission (except in demonstrated cases of fraud).

The crowd was mostly attentive to what Larsen and his questioners were saying, and only occasionally let out a cry of approval or disapproval. A bunch of different people had signs, for and against the public option, and single payer health care, and higher taxes and so on. A typical civil, and opinionated, Northwest crowd.

The most notable signs -- Larsen, as noted above, singled them out disapprovingly -- featured Obama wearing a Hitler moustache. The people with these signs also handed out pamphlets with Obama and Hitler together. Now, this wasn't from any Republican or conservative group, but from the PAC for Lyndon LaRouche, ex-con and professional kook.

There was also a great big sign featuring a full-color aborted fetus, with the words, "Democrats vote for abortion rights." And then a woman decided she disliked the sign enough to try to do something about it, and she stood in front of them with her own sign to block it. Her sign was much smaller, so I guess it was just the symbolism of obstructing someone else's freedom of speech that appealed to her. Her name is Catherine Chambers, she is a Democrat running for Bellingham City Council, and she says on her web site that she understands "that the council is a non-partisan position and as such I will bring forth all of my experience working with diverse people and ideas." Unless they are ideas that -- as an endorsee of NARAL, I suppose -- she dislikes.

Silencing Dissent

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I woke up this morning to a mass e-mail from Jen O'Malley Dillon of the Democratic Party, reading, "There's been a lot of media coverage about organized mobs intimidating lawmakers, disrupting town halls, and silencing real discussion about the need for real health insurance reform."

What? Now I am a little confused. I have seen videos of people showing up complaining about a bill they don't like, to their representatives. How is that silencing discussion? And if lawmakers are intimidated by constituents saying they are angry, isn't that a good thing? I call that democracy.

But it gets even worse. They say that citizens showing up at "town hall" meetings are being funded by "Washington special interests and insurance companies." Funny, I've never seen any communication from "special interests" about this, but I did get e-mail from a friend that simply gave me the dates and times for Congressman Rick Larsen's "town hall" meetings (Aug. 6, 6 p.m., Coupeville Rec Center; Aug. 8, 2 p.m., Mt. Vernon location TBA; Aug. 12, 5 p.m., Everett Station, Weyerhauser Room). And I hope to go. Isn't that good for democracy? Even if you disagree with my views?

The Democratic Party doesn't think so. They say that complaining about the bill is to intend to "disrupt and shut down legitimate conversation." Of course, that is precisely what the Democrats are trying to do: they are trying to shut down my legitimate conversation, to intimidate me into not speaking my mind.

Perhaps some of the disconnect here is that where I'm from, the Town Hall is not a metaphor, it's a real thing. All major town business for the year was done at the annual meeting, where every registered voter got a vote on every part of the budget, on capital spending, on bylaw changes, and so on. And sometimes things get heated. This is normal: people are angry. The solution is not to tell people to shut up as the Democrats are doing, the solution is to have an organized and ordered meeting where rules are explained and enforced. And if someone is continually out of order, you simply remove them.

As us tech nerds like to say, this is a solved problem.

Now, I do agree with some of the complaints of the Dems. Some of the information being spread about this bill is wrong, as I've noted before. But then again, the Democrats are lying about the bill, too: in this very e-mail they actually say, there is no "government takeover" in any part of any plan supported by the President or Congress. But we know that the government is creating a new insurance plan to take over a large segment of the insurance market; a health insurance exchange to control all individual insurance plans. Those are nothing but government takeovers.

And they also have a legitimate point about some of the discourse: I think it is low to compare Obama to Nazis, and to resort to yelling and so on. But the Democrats alternatively ignored and cheered when their own did the same thing to Republicans when the GOP was in control, so this is a nonsensical complaint coming from the DNC.

It's sad that on the only two legitimate points the Democrats have, they are hypocrites.

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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