Jan 25 2012

Why Youtube Must Survive

Tag: computers & internet,humor,legislation,musicDonna B. @ 6:25 am


Jan 20 2012

Why Is SOPA or PIPA Needed?

Tag: economics,legislation,stupidity,technologyDonna B. @ 5:41 am

Instapundit links this story: US government hits Megaupload with mega piracy indictment.

Since that action was possible under existing criminal laws, why is legislation that layers obscuring civil penalties against entities not engaged in criminal activities needed to protect intellectual property?

One might be forgiven for wondering if the push for such legislation stems from something other than the desire to prevent theft of intellectual property. Maybe these Harvard Business Review bloggers have it right: it’s a legislative attempt by big companies with vested interests to protect their downside.

On the surface, SOPA and PIPA aim to make it difficult to steal intellectual property by making it difficult to use legal tools like the internet to “fence” their loot. I’ve got no problem with that idea.

I’ve not read SOPA, but I did read PIPA yesterday and cannot find where it makes it more difficult for the criminals. It makes it more difficult only on those producing the tools by shifting the burden of law enforcement to businesses.

It makes just about as much sense to charge International Paper with the responsibility of making sure that none of the paper it produces is ever used in a ransom note. Or regulating the sale of paper to only registered users.

UPDATE: Another reason why SOPA and PIPA are not needed is that the purveyors of intellectual property most often stolen — music and movies — are not hurting economically from piracy as much as you’d think from the publicity.

…bleeding revenue to piracy is going to be a problem to the extent that your product is a hit… (rtwt)

In short, piracy is certainly one problem in a world filled with problems. But politicians and journalists seem to have been persuaded to take it largely on faith that it’s a uniquely dire and pressing problem that demands dramatic remedies with little time for deliberation.  On the data available so far, though, reports of the death of the industry seem much exaggerated.


May 08 2011

Here’s What I’ve Read Online This Week

Best Mothers of the Animal Kingdom - I’m really glad I’m not an octopus.

The Beauty and the Bartender - a dating service tale with a heart-warming twist.

How to make cheap wine taste better  – knowledge is free.

A lost girl remembered - an excerpt and follow-up from The Poisoner’s Handbook.

The Costs of Not Vaccinating - the story of a 2008 measles outbreak in Tucson.  

Parasites, boogers, and garlic - oh, and don’t scratch.

Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air - Yes, mostly. The literature review beginning on p. 5 of the pdf names a book I now want to read – Expert Political Judgment. The best part of the study begins on page 17 with descriptions of the 26 columnists and types of predictions they made. While the numbers make some of them look good, the descriptions lead me right back to the hot air conclusion.

Ten Peeves About Greenies


Aug 16 2009

Complexity For Complexity’s Sake

Tag: health,health care/insurance reform,legislationDonna B. @ 6:40 pm

It is designed for ambiguity.

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood…” – The Federalist #62, James Madison (a founding father, the primary author of the Constitution, and a founder of the Democratic Party)

The topic is HR 3200, the proposed health care/insurance reform bill under discussion at numerous locations across the nation.

Dr. Rich’s explanation is better than any I can come up with and it illustrates my concerns accurately. Read it, please.


Mar 15 2009

Constitutional Originalism And… Whatever

Tag: guns,legalities,legislationDonna B. @ 3:25 am

There is nothing important I disagree with in Comrade PhysioProf’s essay — Constitutional Originalism, Natural Law, and the Ninth Amendment, except an apparent inability (or unwillingness) to discern whose ox is being gored.

He is arguing that “textual originalism” is a convenient tool for conservatives:

This provides a theoretical basis for conservative claims that there is no Constitutionally protected right to many things they despise: gay marriage, abortion, health care, housing, food, etc.

As far as marriage is concerned, the government should be involved only so far as it is a contract between two people. The states have defined this contract differently, some are community property states, some are not. Divorce is the legal dissolution of that contract. That’s as far as the government has any say in marriage as far as I’m concerned. It should in no way be involved in defining who can get married beyond setting an age limit, as it already does, of who can legally be a party to a contract.

That some people wish to have their marriage recognized by their church and are willing to accept further constraints due to religion are outside the realm of government. Government should not enforce a doctrine of religion. I believe that’s covered in the 1st Amendment.

Abortion is a bit different because it involves death of living tissue and pits the rights of one against another. Some will argue that it is only the death of a living tissue which, if such life were protected would mean it would be illegal to kill a mosquito. Others argue that because the tissue is human it has special status and protection. Government, especially the federal government should not be involved in defining where life begins.

I see a role for government only after the fetus is capable of survival outside the mother’s body. After that point, to me at least, it is obviously murder of a helpless individual and the government should and must protect that individual. This is not representative of my personal moral preference (no abortion ever unless the mother will die because of the pregnancy) but my view of where government has the authority to intervene.

Now I address whether there is a protected right to health care under the 9th Amendment. The idea that government cannot make a law denying health care to any group or individual is certainly protected. Does this mean that government has a duty to make laws mandating health care for every individual? Frankly, can anyone define what health care actually is?

Is it possible that mandating health care of certain types violates some of the enumerated rights? Why, yes it is. While I personally advocate for mandated vaccinations to increase herd immunity, I do not think that government should be able to force anyone to inject something into their body that they do not wish to. On the other hand, I can see where government has a right to refuse some services to people who wish to exercise this right.

Left out of Comrade PhysioProf’s list is whether there is a right to education. Most states (not necessarily the federal government) mandate education for their citizens to a great degree. Parents are punished for not sending their children to school or otherwise providing a state-sanctioned education. When public tax dollars are used to provide education, I see no problem with requiring vaccinations in order to partake of publically funded education.

Housing. Is there a natural right to housing? Further, is there a natural right to a certain standard of housing? What is this standard? Must this standard include ownership? Do SROs meet this standard? Damn, this is almost as sticky as abortion, is it not? Or… perhaps it is stickier. Should the federal government require the Amish have electricity? Some of my most idyllic memories of childhood are living in a place with no electricity and no running water. I realize now how much work my mother put into taking care of me in such circumstances, but in no way do I feel deprived for having experienced them. Rather, I feel privileged.

I once worked for a social service agency that perceived its continuing existence in providing housing. The working motto for the agency’s CEO was that any housing she would not be comfortable in was inacceptable for any of her clients. That is truly unrealistic, IMHO, although it is understandable. 

It is an unfortunate fact that federal government mandated housing has not been a success. I’m enough of an idealist to wish it had, but enough of a realist to realize it’s failed. There is no natural right to a defined standard of housing, however much I wish it to be so.

Food. Calories, to be exact. Should the federal government concern itself with providing a given number of calories to every citizen? Should the federal government concern itself with providing a certain quality of calories to every citizen? Should access to vitamins be a right? See above, where I  comment on the mandating of vaccinations, and then consider whether government is empowered by natural law to limit or mandate the consumption of any substance.

It should be obvious by now that I favor little intervention in our lives by government. It’s also imperative that I address the 2nd Amendment, which was not addressed by our dear Comrade, but was by one of the commenters,  Dr Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde:

(Ignore the social conservative agenda of gays and abortions here; I’m talking about guns, unemployment assistance, business regulations, etc.)

Let’s address this parenthetical comment in a backwards manner. I’m not adverse to business regulations. Multiple posts could be generated on how I think business should be regulated and these matters are not addressed by the first ten amendments. Secondly, I’m going to address unemployment assistance separately.

But… guns……. ah, the 2nd Amendment. I personally think it addresses the right of individuals acting collectively to prevent a tyrannical government – ie, one which espouses taxation without representation, one which imposes limits on personal freedoms, one which mandates behavior, etc. It hails the idea that government should not control violence. If government is the only wielder of violence, what recourse does the citizen have? None…?

What the 2nd Amendment does not explicitly cover is the right to self-defense. This is, IMHO, covered by the 9th Amendment. Between the two, guns and their cousins (knives, blunt objects, baseball bats, mace, and tasers) are implements that are covered by both.

It is, to me, obnoxious, that humans do not have a right to self-defense, either of their corporal body or their form of government.

Let us not forget that icon of privacy, the 3rd Amendment. This is, IMHO, along with the 4th Amendment that a man’s or woman’s… ie, a citizen’s house is their castle.

Unemployment assistance — is there a right to a job and/or an income? hmm… This is actually a question of insurance, because that is what unemployment assistance is. It is insurance against a downturn of business success. It does not guarantee assistance if the employee was fired because he stole from the business or failed to perform in a way that assisted the maintenance or growth of the business.

Businesses pay premiums, generally based on their unemployment claims statistics, to a state insurance fund. Where is there a right to a job or to unemployment compensation? It is a monetary decision on the part of both the state and the business, is it not?

Is there a right to employment? Can the federal government compel you to hire any given individual? If not, there is not federal mandate for unemployment assistance. It is strictly the business of insurance, is it not?

Now… really… don’t get me started on insurance. Really. It is, IMHO (as so much of this essay is) a protection racket. No… don’t encourage me!!

While I maintain that Comrade PhysioProf is not necessarily wrong, I also maintain that there is no evidence of a definitive answer in the essay. Progressive is a noun as meaningless as Conservative. Neither offers an answer that should be written in stone. Or law.

Dr. Isis pointed me to Comrade PhysioProf… and I suggest that everyone read Dr. Isis because she wears really hot shoes and does really hot science.


Feb 11 2009

Too Big Too Pass

Tag: legislation,stimulus,stupidityDonna B. @ 1:48 pm

Yesterday I downloaded the latest Senate revisions of the stimulus bill. It’s 778 pages long, costs $790 billion dollars — that’s only slightly less than $1 billion a page. And it covers almost every area of spending one can imagine.

I have not read the whole thing (duh!) and can’t help wondering if any of our Sens. or Reps. have. Or, if Pres. Obama has. How could any of them have had the time to do so? It took me an hour to read all the section titles!

This bill is too big not only in $$$ but in its sheer wordy bulk. I don’t think anybody has a clue as to how it will all work out, but it will take years for it to have any effect, IMHO. By then, I think the recession would be over anyway. I’m really disappointed in all our representation.

OH NO! I’ve just checked the latest version… it’s now 1434 pages! To be fair, this version includes all the deleted versions of each section. Page 678 is the first page with no strikethroughs. This version is labeled the “public print” version, but you’d have to a moron to print it.

The latest non-marked up Senate version is apparently this one: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Warning: large pdf file. But, it’s only 759 pages!!

Please feel free to apply any metaphor you wish to my post title.