Thursday, January 27, 2011

I want to... a store catering to people like me.

Partly because I've noticed a tendency that anything I want that is impossible to find comes into fashion and is easy to find six months later.

Partly because I think a store called "The Unrepentant Capitalist" selling items such as tophats and monocles, not to mention straight-edge razors or even the old-fashioned safety razors (which you can buy blades for in stores, but not the razor unit itself, which you have to find in specialty upscale barber shops or online) would be hilarious.

The only problem I can foresee is that people like me don't actually like buying into ideologies with our products.  Coffee should be coffee, fair trade coffee is just irritating, and so would "Guaranteed Non-Fair Trade" coffee be.

You Should...

...never use the word "should" in political discussions, unless you mean that, if you don't, government should do something about it.

Because that is what everybody understands you to mean.

One of many reasons libertarians regard concepts like "People should reduce the amount of vitriol in political discussions, the violent rhetoric leads to violent actions" as deeply suspicious, and the party treated as offending this sensibility - be it the Democrats or the Republicans at the time - reacts so heavily against the sentiment.

"Should" is a loaded word.  Fire it only with great discretion.

My Credit Rating Sucks

Yeah, it does.

This is largely because I have a habit of waiting two or three months to pay bills, and paying them all at once.

But something I've noticed in doing this?

Whenever it's government, I save money.

Now, I do not use checks.  I use my debit card, and I use it exclusively as a credit card.  There are several reasons for this, but chief among them, it offers a hell of a lot better legal protection for me in the case of fraud.

I don't like using cash, either.  Yes, I fail as a libertarian.  But really, cash is just a fiat currency anyways, so it's not like, if everything goes to shit, cash will protect me anyways.  (A dishonest bank executive might use my purchasing information against me?  What's he going to do, tell everyone I buy sex toys online?  Like I even give a fuck?  Shit, better me than some fool who gives a damn, I'll just sue, I don't care who knows.)

So ordering checks is a waste of money for me, and a loss of legal security to boot.

The short of it is, I pay all bills electronically, via credit card.  -Most- businesses prefer this - this, even after the credit card company takes its percentage, saves them money, because handling cash and checks is actually kind of expensive.

Government, however, doesn't track costs the way other entities do.  The government-run local utilities outsource electronic bill payment, which results in a fee for me every time I pay that way.

Now what's interesting in this is that the government-run utilities are also the ones which -don't- levy late fees.

It is in my financial best interest to pay two or three months off at a time instead of paying it when it comes due.

Now it is important to note that I do not care about my credit rating, because I do not believe in debt.  As a rule.  No, not even on a house or car.

Further Ruminations as TJIC

So there seem to be some people, on both the Left and Right, insisting that TJIC was planning the assassinations of congress.

Other bloggers have done a good job of detailing precisely why any charges would go absolutely nowhere; short of it is, the Supreme Court has ruled a standard of "credible threat" which TJIC doesn't meet.  (Actually, TJIC's comments don't even constitute a legal threat, much less a credible one, as a legal threat requires specificity.)

But in the midst of an argument with somebody about it, I came to a realization.  This isn't a revolt, clearly - it doesn't satisfy the definition of a revolt.  But if government chooses to treat it at one, if government decides this is a revolt - it's a justified one.

If TJIC's comments -can- be treated as an attack on the government, that attack would be well-deserved.

A second thought, strict adherence to the Constitution holds that prohibiting threats is an abridgment to free speech; there are some things you cannot say.

The Supreme Court has thrown this out, however, and interpreted threats as not being a form of speech.  Okay, fine.  But the Supreme Court has also ruled that this has very limited application - that threats must meet very strict criteria in order to constitute threats.

Those arguing against TJIC are arguing for a selective reinterpretation of precedence.  Some things the Supreme Court have gone with are okay, others are not.

But until he gets before a court, none of that matters.  His rights are abridged on the basis of an -investigation-, no trial necessary.

This is the problem with Judicial Review.  You have to get dragged before the courts before it means anything.  It occluded the concept of Executive Review, Legislative Review - I've had people insist to me that the concept of Executive Review was wrong, that the president has no right to declare legislation unconstitutional and order it not be executed.

I have to wonder if the Federalist judge responsible for Judicial Review, angry over Jefferson's effective firing of most judges in that time, did this deliberately to produce workload for judges to justify a reexpansion of the judiciary.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

More on Ads

I like advertisements.

I find new stuff.  For example, I found Newegg through banner ads on chat software I used to use; now it's my go-to site for buying electronics.

I love when a site comes up with a banner ad that is relevant to my interests.  "Oh!  Cool!  New game just came out!"  And I go check it out.

Douglas Adams once related that he usually hated adverts in magazines, but that once, looking for a product, he bought magazines specifically for the adverts.

Advertisements serve a useful function, and customers sometimes want them.

Advertisers?  I look at your banner ads.  I do so by default.  I might find something I want.

But some tips:

First, I look at your advertisements -last-.  If you -have- to have an ad that changes over time, for the love of Bob, make it loop.  Going through a list of features and saying at the end "All for $49.99!" - and leaving it there - doesn't get my interest at all.  The features -might- have, if I had been watching the ad from the beginning.

Second, DO NOT FUCKING PUT VOICES IN IT.  No audio.  None.  Audio just pisses customers like me off.  I hit "Reload" if a voice comes on on a page I want to look at - and bam, your ad?  It's gone.  Replaced by somebody more polite.  If you -must- have audio, make it on-demand only; add a button to your ad to play it.

Third, for the love of Bob, tell me what your goddamn product is.

Fourth, the ad is an ad for the -product-.  If you need sexy, make the -product- sexy.  You aren't advertising your ability to make ads.  A boring informative ad is more likely to make me click than an ad with rotating spotlights and dancing ducks.  (Although I might watch your ad, this isn't revenue stream for you.)

Fifth, do not use teasers.  Your goal is -interested- customers - you pay for every clickthrough, remember.  Your ad should send uninterested non-customers on their way.

There's no winning when it comes to cookies.  I -like- personalized ads.  Weeds out shit I don't want to look at.  Some people despise them.  No advice for anybody there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

First and Second Amendment Rights

I could say more, but really, the best of what can be said, has been said.

I'm waiting, with everybody else. Perhaps unlike everybody else, I half hope the police will make the wrong decision. It'd be hell on TJIC, and I wouldn't want to be in his shoes, but if I were, that would be one a -hell- of an opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of MA's gun laws more broadly.

First, there are the constitutional problems inherent in the law itself.

But perhaps just as important, this -application- of the law would demonstrate that the law is inconsistently and arbitrarily imposed. (Indeed, just the investigation might demonstrate that, regardless of the findings of the police.)

The Supreme Court has overturned laws with no inherent fault on the basis of inconsistent and arbitrary imposition. In this case that's just icing on the cake.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

On Ads...

Okay, some simple advice for you morons:  Your goal is not to maximize the number of clicks, but the number of -interested- clicks.  Ads which suddenly get bigger for no reason cost you money.  Same with giant random popups in the middle of a screen two seconds after you've started reading it.  You end up having to pay the hosting site for a clickthrough which is immediately closed.

Thank you and good night.

The Ultimate Choice

A minimal government gradually grows into a larger government, which takes on more and more a social respect for solving problems, as problems are brought before it.

The problem with a social approach to problem solving is this: It ignores what economics is there for, which is to say, to distribute limited resources.

But government can distribute resources, you insist!

Well, yes it can.  That's exactly the problem.  There are more potential uses for resources than there are resources.  Drivers want well-maintained roads, sick people want good hospitals and advanced drug research, religious people want churches, biologists and climatalogists and economists want bigger and faster computers, gamers want fast consoles and new games once a week, on and on and on and on.

When it is their own money they are spending to acquire these things, they accept moderation; the limitation is their own.  When government provides these things, however, expectations change.

The gamer sees a still-drivable road being replaced while he's playing old games and thinks that's a waste.  The driver sees a church going up while the highway is too small for the traffic and thinks that's waste.  The religious person sees money going in to research a cure for a disease only gay people get and thinks that's waste.  The sick person sees games being developed while they can't get treatment and thinks that's waste.

Suddenly money spent on what other people want is waste; you don't mind them buying these things for yourself when it's your money and skimping a little bit, but when that money is coming out of a limited pool that you all share, everybody else suddenly looks like a selfish moron.

Resentment gradually grows, as government constantly fails to fix the problems people think need fixing - would fail to do so even under the most competent and well-directed hands simple because it will never have the resources to do so.  And there comes a point when society - which is hopelessly divided on what it wants - comes to see the legislative bodies as being hopelessly divided on what it intends to do.

And then it has a choice.

Accept that government cannot do what it wants it to do.  Or push for somebody to take power who has the resolve to achieve these goals.

That is how socialism turns to fascism.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Political Capital

I have a model for how I think about politics, in terms of the Democrats and Republicans: When elected, the parties have a certain amount of what I will call political capital, sort of an idea of tolerance of change from the general public.

If they come in under budget on political capital - if they don't spend it all - they get re-elected.  If they do spend it all, they'll face tough re-elections.  And if they overspend, they'll get thrown out.

It doesn't matter whether the public approves of an idea or not, actually implementing it will consume capital; some events outside a politician's control can also consume capital.

Random events can create capital.  Also, achieving popular non-political goals creates capital.  Creating goals, political or non-political, creates capital, but only achieving non-political goals does; achieving a political goal consumes it, and usually consumes more than the creation of the goal created.  This is because the price tag for political goals is much more obvious to the public, and the achievement is at best going to satisfy those demanding it, rather than making them happy, and make everybody else irate.

So creating the goal of getting a man to the moon creates a chunk of political capital to work with; achieving that goal also creates a chunk of political capital.

Declaring that you'll reform the healthcare system creates political capital - but actually doing so consumes it.

Triumphalism is thus a politically expedient methodology; by continually creating and achieving goals, you can maintain political capital for other ends.

This is why regulations prohibiting gay and lesbian discrimination in private enterprise long preceded regulations prohibiting gay and lesbian discrimination in public enterprise.

This is the basic model I work with, when considering politics.  The reason political goals are messier than non-political goals is more complicated than this - Hayek actually did a brilliant job describing it in The Road to Serfdom, albeit not in these terms - but overall this methodology has been incredibly successful for me in predicting not only how events will transpire, but in what order.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Atheism and Community

There's only one serious problem with atheism - it lacks the vital element of "community."

I think this to a great extent explains why people who are raised atheistic - of which I am one, by the way - tend towards socialistic principles; raised absent any community save those forced upon them by the government - schools, primarily - they come to see government -as- community; to such an individual, it makes perfect sense to have government provide welfare and services, because there is no alternative - there is no community outside government.

Which is why religion is increasingly becoming opposed to government involvement in society, a position nobody would have expected two hundred years ago - the religious -see- the alternative, they live it.  They go to churches where collection plates are passed around, when pleas for help are made for unfortunate members of the congregation.  And it's a real community; the people know each other.

This is another thing which the internet is changing; community is finally catching up to the changes in social structures.  Pleas for assistance are made and responded to.  And things evolve.