March 29, 2009

On My Opposition to the Youth National Service Bill

Filed under: Politics — PolitiCalypso @ 4:30 pm

It’s uncommon for me to find myself in agreement with hard right-wing Republicans and opposed to moderate, mainstream conservative, and liberal members of Congress. However, with respect to the GIVE Act, the bill that restarts and revamps a national civilian service program for young people, this is indeed the case. (Here is a listing of the yea and nay votes from the Senate, just to prove exactly whose votes I agree with and whose I don’t.) I’m not going to let this bother me, though. I know what I think about it and I figure that you take what support you can get.

Some of the objections that have been raised to this bill are erroneous and relate to specific details of the legislation. My objection is of a different nature. I don’t (yet) fear any sort of authoritarian mandatory service policy. I don’t fear a conspiracy to produce a generation of kids who idolize Big Brother a la 1984. My opposition is not even based on a particular provision or provisions of this legislation, because that would imply that if those provisions were changed, it could make the bill palatable for me. Rather, my objection to this bill is philosophical and principled. I am philosophically against the idea that regular individuals, who have not done anything to parasitize or harm society, owe it any sort of debt of service, paid or unpaid. I am against this bill and the ideas underlying it because I object to the notion that there is any obligation or responsibility on the part of regular people to “give something back” to society if they have not done anything to take from it in a significant way, or that those who choose to do so on their own are entitled to special benefits and rewards for it. My opposition is based on a 180-degree disagreement in personal worldview, not a nitpick of detail.

“Well,” the reader might say, “that doesn’t sound very liberal to me! You call yourself a liberal and think such a thing?” Actually… no, I don’t call myself that. Not anymore. I don’t know how to define myself briefly, but I do know that I don’t seem to fit any current political label, and I am not going to waste time trying to fit one anymore. A couple of years ago, I might have jumped through all kinds of mental hoops to persuade my own mind that I could actually support this kind of bill rather than going with my true beliefs. However, I don’t work for any politician anymore, and I don’t have to do any sort of mind games with myself to support a given political orthodoxy or conform strongly with a political “tribe.” I’m still in favor of most liberal economic policy that involves large companies, and I am very strongly socially progressive, but on some points, I have found myself in rather strident opposition to the liberal viewpoint. My best friend might say that this means I am gradually returning to what I was as a teenager, a hardcore Objectivist Libertarian. I doubt that; I’m too much of an economic populist to return to laissez-faire support (at least while I remain out of the upper class), but I acknowledge that there are elements in the Objectivist philosophy that I was deeply attracted to at that age and have never truly given up, despite the mental contortions I performed in the intermediate years. One of them is the idea that there should be material rewards for a voluntary “good deed” or voluntary community service. (Read more…)

March 20, 2009

Our Privacy Wasn’t Taken. We Gave It Away.

Filed under: Other,Sci/Tech — PolitiCalypso @ 10:08 pm

For several years, the government and private businesses have been increasingly invasive of personal privacy, giving regular people fewer ways to avoid the eye of Big Brother without dropping off the grid entirely and living in a cabin a la the Unabomber and other hardcore Luddites. Things came to a head during the years of the Bush administration, which of course ran an illegal spying operation on the entire American public, conducted through the phone companies and Internet providers, most of which were all too happy to comply. The Democratic Congress later gave this repulsive program the official sanction of the law, effectively rewriting FISA to give the executive branch unparalleled authority to order such spying, and also giving immunity to the companies that broke the law. But at the time that massive domestic spying was being presented openly as anti-terrorism policy, polls revealed some astonishing—and utterly disgusting, in the opinion of this civil libertarian and First and Fourth Amendment near-absolutist—results. Substantial percentages of Americans actually thought that “the First Amendment went too far” and bore revision. A majority would rather have the government tell them they were secure from the terror threat (and such meaningless assurances are all that could ever be provided, of course, unless the government has developed time traveling technology and can see that no attacks occur in the future) than be assured by enforceable law that they could conduct private conversations with other people across any medium. This domestic spying policy was being debated when I was an undergraduate in college, and the college newspaper regularly ran op-eds by students—students!—apparently so terrified of the possibility that terrorists might decide to nuke the appropriately named Starkville, MS, that they said they were willing to let the government see their personal correspondences if it might prevent that. “I have nothing to hide from them, so they can see everything if they want to.” That was the phrase of the day, a statement that also contained a subtext of terrorism accusation towards those civil libertarians who opposed Big Brother.

Although technically among the very oldest members of Generation Y, I went to college mostly with members of Generation X, and that generation is much less libertarian than mine. I recognize that the era of irrational post-terrorism paranoia also influenced how many people thought. However, the seeds for this invasion of privacy were sown for years before, and they continue to be sown now. (Read more…)

March 3, 2009

Getting Down and Dirty with DHTML

Filed under: Sci/Tech — PolitiCalypso @ 4:57 pm

I began a new job on Monday, and during the day, the subject of website development came up—specifically, what my level of knowledge in that area was. To illustrate with a concrete example, I opened a browser window and pulled up this blog and my personal site. I got a nasty shock. No, the site had not been hacked by a lowlife sending out X-rated spam, nor did the site crash the browser or come up as a disjointed, disorganized mess. I have tendencies toward obsessive-compulsiveness when it comes to a project I have voluntarily undertaken, so what happened was an unpleasant surprise for me despite its minor nature.

I am a Firefox user. I avoid Internet Explorer like the plague, because it is a security threat and is hard to customize to one’s own needs. I love the Firefox add-on database. (Lately I am getting very fed up with some antics of Firefox 3, namely its incessant crashing for no apparent reason and its multi-version, multi-release problem of RSS feeds causing it to freeze at startup. When Google releases a customizable version of its Chrome browser, I may very well switch.) However, Internet Explorer was the only browser available to me on the work computer, and I was immediately faced with the horror of cross-browser incompatibilities. I vowed to do something about this as soon as I returned home. (Read more…)

Powered by WordPress. This theme is a heavy modification of the WordPress Classic theme planned to match the layout of Because of its very specific and personalized nature, it is not available for public download. Content copyright ©2005-2015.