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Echoes and Mirrors » scare tactics

Archive for the ‘scare tactics’ Category

In Which I End Up Sounding Like a Conspiracy Theorist

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

I’m not big on conspiracy theories. Some are more entertaining than others, sure. And some are right in pointing out that something isn’t right in re whatever it is they’re theorizing conspiracies about. And I have one of my own.

I’m really concerned that I haven’t heard much really about this:

Artificial Leaf Could Be More Efficient Than the Real Thing
Speaking at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in California, MIT professor Daniel Nocera claims to have created an artificial leaf made from stable and inexpensive materials that mimics nature’s photosynthesis process.

The device is an advanced solar cell, no bigger than a typical playing card, which is left floating in a pool of water. Then, much like a natural leaf, it uses sunlight to split the water into its two core components, oxygen and hydrogen, which are stored in a fuel cell to be used when producing electricity.

Nocera’s leaf is stable — operating continuously for at least 45 hours without a drop in activity in preliminary tests — and made of widely available, inexpensive materials — like silicon, electronics and chemical catalysts. It’s also powerful, as much as 10 times more efficient at carrying out photosynthesis than a natural leaf.

With a single gallon of water, Nocera says, the chip could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Provide every house on the planet with an artificial leaf and we could satisfy our 14-terrawatt need with just one gallon of water a day.

And it’s ready for production use. A gallon of water per day (probably more like 3-4 for American households, but really, that’s still not very much). In fact, they’re going to make them. And sell them in third-world countries that lack centralized power grids.

Couple it with a little wind turbine and a solar panel, and you’ll never pay for electricity again.

But we will never see this in America. Except as a niche market sold to eco-warriors and survivalists. (Not that anyone seems to have much of a problem with either group, but most of those who claim association are readily identified in some way as a nut.) Now here’s my crazy bit: it’s okay to lower your power use, but it’s impossible to cut yourself off from the power grid. I think it’s even illegal in most places (I could be wrong about that, but it seems like something a housing code would include for making a house livable).

And it’s not about electricity. It’s not about people being lazy. It’s not about economics. Or the environment.

It’s about power. Not the electrical kind. But big-industry, centralized power. As long as there is a very small number of places generating everyone’s electricity, they have America by the nutsack.

Oh, and according to the Japanese, Nuclear Power plants can get really dangerous sometimes. We have a pretty good track-record here in the US, sure. I guess that will last forever. We will never have a problem like that, right?

So it’s like this: they have figured out a way to dispose of a multi-billion dollar industry that, when faced with a natural disaster or a drunk engineer or a crack in some concrete, could irradiate huge sections of the planet. And that industry will instead continue building nuclear reactors really close to me.

And it’s not just in electricity or utilities industries – the federal government has been continually centralizing law enforcement and other things for decades. Everyone wants to do away with distributed computing that doesn’t have a centralized host (this new Cloud Computing thing is the solution to decentralized internet gibberish). There is a war against anarchism. They powers that be are insisting that for everything, somebody has to be in charge. And to that I say, no. No there doesn’t. Fuck off.

You wanted to see my crazy: there it is. I think that corporatism is going to destroy what’s left of humanity with e-books and fucking cloud computing. We’ll all be hooked up to the same power, internet, and ‘distributed’ systems. All traffic will be monitored or be pay-per-view/use and being outside of its grasp will make you an outsider in the truest sense. It’s going to taxonomize and categorize everything until we can’t fucking breath. And we’re going to shell out cash to the big centralized machines that give us our little happiness. And don’t forget to update your fucking facebook status either, to let the marketing drones watching that you’re upset or happy.

Yes, I’m on the power grid. That doesn’t make me hypocritical. If I shunned the power grid I wouldn’t be able to do anything. There is a line between being ideological and being stupid. We can still choose quite a bit right now. And we can still be anonymous (I don’t mean Anonymous, but you can be that too, if you like) for the moment. And when that changes, I’ll be in Peru, with a leaf-powered home, drinking Ayahuasca and laughing at everyone. I hope.

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I got yer distopian future right here, ya jerks.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I have pretty much lost all hope of trying to highlight the fact that things are getting worse. It’s simply become so pervasive and so common place.  People I talk to seem think one of a few things:

  • I have a tin-foil hat hidden somewhere out of sight.
  • The current status quo is ‘fine’ because “they aren’t doing anything wrong.”
  • That free-market economics is synonymous with pr0-corporate economics, and that what we have right now is the former.
  • Education will get them a job. Because, you know, all that school earned it for them.

And you know, for a good majority, they won’t ever encounter any serious problems resulting from an extra speeding ticket. Sure, they’ll be out a couple hundred bucks, but that’s no big deal. And when their children go to school, they can expect that they’ll be held to the same standards as all the other kids.

And they can be safe knowing that the police are free to do their jobs, enforcing the laws that keep them safe, without interference from the unwashed masses and the rabble-rousers:

In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

And good for them – they get a clean, standardized, safe America where:

  • They are forking up unnecessary speeding tickets to generate revenue to pay for unnecessary enforcement of silly ordinances and vice laws. And pensions for people that still work in the public sector.
  • Their kids are being drilled to only do rote memorization instead of learning critical thinking skills, turning them into vapid robots.
  • The police can act with impunity because civil rights only get in the way of law enforcement.

For that, America, fuck you.

Yours truly,

The idealist

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Canaries in the coalmine

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

To borrow the analogy from John Robb over at Global Guerillas, who sees the recent Joe Stack incident as such a marker.

In addition to that, I’d point out the guy who bulldozed his own house in retaliation of forclosure:

As well as the ridiculousness of the Tea Party. These people don’t know what they want, but they are determined to get it. And I’m not sure the GOP can use Sarah Palin to destroy the Tea Party the same way they did Pat Buchanan to destroy the Reform Party. These people aren’t just pissed off – they’re desperately clinging to The American Way.

If we start seeing uncontrollable road gangs killing people and stealing gasoline ala Mad Max, we’ll really know we’re in trouble.

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Gotta admire those brass balls

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A (unconfirmed?) Mossad hit-squad caught after assassinating al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’ military wing.

I’ll give the Israelis one thing: they just don’t give a fuck, and I can admire that. But flat-out ignoring (and often times, in very racist ways) diplomacy only makes me think that they really don’t respect other countries or care what they think. More to the point, they don’t care what non-Israelis think.  Which is troubling.

But how does one politely deride Israel without looking like an anti-semite these days, though?

Also, I’ve heard that Tel Aviv has a large population of smokin’ hot girls, so I don’t want to get myself into trouble with them (or end up on any sort of watch list and barred from the country).

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The skirmishes have begun

Monday, February 15th, 2010

From Class War by Steven Greenhut over at Reason:

There was a time when government work offered lower salaries than comparable jobs in the private sector but more security and somewhat better benefits. These days, government workers fare better than private-sector workers in almost every area—pay, benefits, time off, and job security. And not just in California.

According to a 2007 analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Asbury Park Press, “the average federal worker made $59,864 in 2005, compared with the average salary of $40,505 in the private sector.” Across comparable jobs, the federal government paid higher salaries than the private sector three times out of four, the paper found. As Heritage Foundation legal analyst James Sherk explained to the Press, “The government doesn’t have to worry about going bankrupt, and there isn’t much competition.”

And the sentiments are felt all over:

“Seems like the city … is overpaying its workers,” Shirlee Kelley says. “I think the salaries have to come down to be more even with what the private sector is paying.”

Small argues that wages are comparable to other municipalities. But that doesn’t satisfy critics, who don’t like the cuts the city is choosing to make.

The solution was to, of course, cut the power to the streetlights and auction off police helicopters instead of issuing pay decreases.

In a similar case of the people vs. the government, when the people fought for a property tax reduction in court, the government proposed an increased property tax to cover the legal costs… to keep the property taxes up. Money quote:

“If our voters want us to continue defending our land use policies and fair taxation, they’re going to have to let us know by voting for this millage,” Trustee Chris Roerig said.

I suspect situations like this are going to be on the rise, and some of it could get ugly. I don’t have the link handy, but only something like 8% of Americans want to keep their current representatives. I suspect that Americans are just as pissed at, if not even more so, with public officials that don’t run for election and can’t be voted out.

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Nothing fishy here. Move along.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Here’s an article that basically spells out why privately contracted probation is wrong:

She described the case of Hills McGee, a man who was originally charged with public drunkenness and obstruction of a law enforcement officer back in October 2008.

After spending the night in jail after his arrest, McGee appeared in state court to face the charges. Although McGee was indigent, he signed a form that waived his rights to an attorney and entered a guilty plea.

McGee was sentenced to 12 months on each count to run consecutively and was ordered to pay a fine of $270 and a monthly probation supervision fee of $30 per month plus a $9 monthly fee for the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Program.

Even though McGee completed 41 hours of community service in lieu of the $270 fine, because he was indigent, his probation wasrevoked because he couldn’t pay the $186 in fees he owed Sentinel, according to Long’s petition filed in Richmond County Superior Court.

As a result, McGee was thrown into jail.

And here’s another tasty bit from the same article. I found this one out myself several months ago first-hand and was appalled. Anytime it comes up in discussion, I make it my civic duty to inform them that there is no such thing as a free defense attorney in these parts:

“I am asking, is it constitutional to come in and tell people that there is a $50 application fee for a court-appointed attorney when the Constitution says, if you are indigent and a judge has the power to put you in jail, you are entitled to have a lawyer at no charge,” Long said, adding a judge can waive the $50 fee if the defendant is indigent. “It disturbs me that people are being treated that way.”

On March 18, 1963, in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S.Supreme Court established the right to alawyer for any poor criminal defendant charged in felony cases, stating “lawyers in criminal cases are necessities, not luxuries.”

That’s right: you have to pay $50 to be represented… or prove that you can’t scrape up $50. Depending on the charges, most people might find it less frustrating (albeit more expensive) to just pony up the fine money and carry on with their lives.

I should probably just keep my mouth shut if I don’t want the the sheriff’s department knocking on my door anytime soon, so I’ll just quickly mention how the Augusta-Richmond County Commission just decided not to install parking meters downtown in an attempt to raise revenue. The plan would have called for a private contractor to provide the meter maids. Whose paychecks (and likely, bonuses) would be provided by a portion of the revenue raised by parking tickets. Thankfully the citizens of Richmond County were vocal enough to stop that from happening.

Law enforcement is probably the only thing I can think of that the government should have a monopoly on. As a lefty-libertarian, I actually support public education (although it certainly needs a reboot). The rest of it… no.

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In which I ponder the meaning of conservativism, reject rationalism and wander into the desert in search of something more fun.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Dear Conservative Movement:  Stop Ruining My Life, by Michael Brendan Dougherty

You go so far as to encourage people to fabricate their entire identity from the Republican platform. Look at S.E. Cupp. She used to be a person! Now, under your influence, she is one of the lamer Rush Limbaugh monologues from the Clinton era. She’s a copy of a copy of Xerox of a rejected P.J. O’Rourke riff. How can you live with yourself, conservative movement?

You may not know this. But all the smartest people on the Right are basically ashamed to be associated with you. Your “success” in building a set of near-permanent institutions, think-tanks, and magazines to promote your ideals in an uncontaminated environment leaves us with two choices[…]

It’s not only entertaining, it is very on point.

The truth? The size of the government is still an issue, regardless if the left would prefer to ask about the effectiveness instead. The dems are in trouble because they aren’t recognizing what the people want – they’re being paternalistic douches. But as noted above, the GOP is only doing marginally better. Libertarianism, however you define it, is becoming more and more important. But it needs its own platform – not space on the coattails of another party. Which is my big problem with Eric Dondero; I find many of his opinions worthwhile and refreshing – but I would prefer that he didn’t try to claim that so many GOP candidates are libertarian when they aren’t. Of course, that being said, a libertarian is just a Republican who takes drugs, right?

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This should be common sense

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Cracked has a humourous little piece up called 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies), but I find myself knowing better for all of them (in part from interactions with the judicial system, sadly).

In regards to #5 — not talking to the police is obstruction of justice — you don’t have to and, more importantly, you should never, ever talk to the police. Under any circumstance. If they are questioning you, there is a good chance you’ve gotten yourself into a YOU vs. THEM situation.

Of course, in regards to a DUI, they cannot punish you judicially, but the state’s DMV can take administrative actions like suspending your license. Keep that in mind.

As far as being forced to identify yourself or be arrested, in Georgia you have to be loitering or prowling or otherwise up to no good. They require that you be “in a place at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity” Ga. Code Ann. §16-11-36(b) (loitering statute). Because there are so many states, Your Mileage May Vary. This is how they harass many of the homeless (whom don’t have ID) here in Augusta – they threaten them with arrest because they are obviously not in the area for legitimate business. It is an unofficial policy, of course.

#3 (Tracing a Call Takes a Long Time) is amusing because with a few tricks, you can change the number it appears you are calling from (which is very easy with a VOIP phone). Tracking a call through a poorly secured PBX isn’t impossible, but probably beyond the means of a most police departments.

Remember, everyone breaks the law at least once a day and (normally) it is unintentional. It is important to be informed.

Also, in addition to watching the “Never talk to police video” you should watch this.

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Sad times

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Just to put things into perspective: the world doesn’t stop being shitty just because it’s the holidays.  A couple of local things and one from afar.

He was tough as nails.  Watching him recover from the stroke he had last year was inspiring.  He will certainly be missed.

Parking meters in Augusta is a bullshit idea.  I live downtown and I don’t always work before 9 until after 6.  Fuck paying monthly to park.  There isn’t convenient parking anywhere except on Broad street.  The only upside is that if this passes, it won’t happen until a couple of weeks before my lease is up – which will convince me not to renew it.  I’m sure the realtors downtown will appreciate this move.  A 30-day ticket free period simply means I will continue to park for free until I move out. (Also, I’ve never seen one person get a parking ticket ever the whole time I’ve been here and my roomie leaves his car for days at a time.)

I’m surprised there is in’t anything up at dosenation.com or synchronium.net yet.  The guys at Synchronium run an online store that sells a lot of this stuff.  It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that they’ve been arrested without the chance to lawfully dispose of their recently made-illegal products.

On a related note – things that suck – I recently stopped having insomnia and got my sleep cycle back to something more normal. That’s actually good, but the suck comes from the sudden re-realization that the daytime is really long and full of assholes. I didn’t have to deal with this kind of BS when I was up until 6 am and slept at most 3 hours. Now, even when I lounge around in my robe and slippers drinking coffee for four hours after waking up, it’s still only 10 AM! I am questioning how most people function like this. I certainly did it for six years straight and I don’t remember liking it then – only it seems worse now, somehow.

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Social Conservatives: Liberty is not just for You.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

I had originally planned on posting some really kickass video from Reason TV, but I was blindsided by PajamasMedia.  This is truly demoralizing and defies any sense of reason or liberty: Libertarians Need to Rethink Support for Drug Legalization. Why? Here’s what happened:

  • guy was getting arrested, freaked out because he was carrying a bag of marijuana and didn’t want to get caught with it.
  • He eats it.
  • He chokes on the bag.

Obviously the libertarian argument is that if marijuana wasn’t illegal, this would never have happened.  Which is logical.

The problem with this Pajamas Media blog post is that they are trying to join social conservativism into libertarianism and distance themselves from the GOP.

The position on the legalization of marijuana provides the point of departure from the traditional libertarianism of Barry Goldwater. In abandoning the duty to enforce social order, today’s libertarians have made a devil’s pact with the pro-drug forces of George Soros and company.

Traditional libertarianism holds individual property rights, especially those of one’s own person to be the first and foremost concern. If the state were to prevent you from doing things because they were “unsafe” then they might as well be telling you that you don’t have the liberty to control your own person.

They forget that the moral order they have inherited is put at even further risk as laws change to allow more destructive behavior.

That’s right because as individuals we are allowed to choose self-destructive behavior if we see fit. Morality and justice have nothing to do with whether it is pretty, nice or gives you the warm and fuzzies.

There is too much stupid to nit-pick. Get your religion away from libertarianism, go read Anarchy, State and Utopia and drink yourselves to death.

The comment thread itself is a fucking goldmine (hint: they tear the blogger a new one). PajamasMedia needs to reel its bloggers like Mary Grabar in a bit.  This one pretty much nails it (commenter ‘spindok’):

The author simply does not understand Libertarianism. Her entire argument is collectivist and intent on preserving “our way of life”, “foundations of society” and “judeo-christian heritage”.

These things are not meaningful in the Libertarian context. It is like arguing against Capitalism because it would destroy the obviously desirable goal of “state control of the means of production”.

To the Libertarian way of thinking pot may very well be bad for you and legalizing it may not produce the best results for society as a whole, but that is beside the point.

Libertarianism is not utopian. It accepts that social outcomes may or may not be “better” if we respect individual liberties. It is a principled moral argument, not an empirical one. Society and government cannot have rights, only people can and yours stop at my nose.

A Libetarian can either cringe or laugh when the author says that Pot, or something else, needs to be illegal to preserve “our” culture, but would only take that as evidence for the dangers of collectivist thinking.

Watch what happens if I propose that I dont care what “our” culture says, but “my” culture says differently. She will tell me to pack my bags and go elsewhere and if I dont follow the rules “we” will be happy to lock “me” up because although I have done no harm to anyone except perhaps myself I have not done my share in preserving our culture, our biblical values, or something else of ours.

Well said. I don’t give a crap about “Judeo-Christian values” because I am neither Jewish nor a Christian. Let’s talk reason.

85. gs:

Pajamas commenter Kazooskibum puts it well. Remember: The issue is never the issue. The issue is control.

Bravo! Then this guy comes in, and he pretty much gets ripped apart. I’ll quote the part that I can disagree with personally:

86. archer52
Most libertarians I know that like the free drug argument have two common traits. One- they usually use weed or something along that line. Not the hardcore crack/meth/oxy drugs that kill people. Just weed, or as one of the comments said- a vegetable. Two- The active libertarian does not work or live or suffer dealing with the hardcore drug user. Their argument is a classroom argument, not a real world argument. I’ve seen the end result of hardcore drug use. Meth, crack, prescription pills. I’ve actually seen it kill the user and more often kill an innocent. Legalizing anything with that kind of power and put it in the hands of people who can’t control it is stupid and dangerous. We do live in a society where our right to screw up ends at the nose of the guy next to us. There has to be controls on behavior.

I work with crackheads every day, and you know what? There would be a fraction of the crime there is in this town if drugs were for sale in a guarded liquor store. The argument is not about the drugs themselves, but about the criminology associated with drug use, dealing and trafficking. Major drug companies don’t shoot each other up or rob each other or accept stolen televisions for payment.

The post goes on to decry porn, stripping and other assorted fun activities. It’s a fucking mess. I quit.

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