Check Your Textbooks

One of the problems with government schooling is the textbooks, particularly the history texts, which tend to become little more than a combination of puff piece and indoctrination manual after the various interests get done fighting over what goes in them. One thing they should avoid, but don’t, are current events.

I just ran across this excerpt from People, Places and Change: An Introduction to World Studies (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2005).

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, terrorism became a major threat to world peace. In 2003, U.S. military forces invaded Iraq. They were sent to prevent Iraq from using chemical and biological weapons. … The United States has protected innocent civilians or helped bring peace to a war-torn region.

A bit premature, don’t you think?

Are you now, or have you ever been, a [BLANK]

Because so many people have such trouble with logic — and do not understand that though A is a member of B, all B are not A — let me point out the following.

The perpetrators of the terrorist attack on the U.S. on April 19, 1995, were Christian.

By far the greater number of assaults on the United States or on people within the United States, with the intent of causing terror, were perpetrated by individuals or groups identifying themselves as Christian.

While the perpetrators of the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, were Muslim, the fact that they were Muslim does not make all Muslims terrorists.

(The hijackers were mostly Saudi Arabian, but we didn’t invade Saudi Arabia, did we? But that’s beside the point.)

Counterdisintermediation, in an attempt to remain relevant

A famous character once opined, Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. The executives at ABC are determined to prove that axiom by launching a video-on-demand product that does not include the ability to skip the commercials.

But those of us who think that we, the viewers, are ABC’s customers are sadly mistaken. We are not. The advertisers are. Our interests and those of the advertisers conflict, or appear to. We want to watch a 20 minute show in 20 minutes, not 30. The advertisers want us to buy their products. The broadcasters want us to watch the commercials, since that’s time they sold to the advertisers. The means which ABC, and other broadcasters, tend to take to resolve this ostensible conflict demonstrate that they are entirely concerned with the desires of their advertising customers — and not with those of the audience.

They have not realized that there is no conflict between our desires and those of the advertisers, merely that the broadcast product being sold to the advertisers is no longer as valuable.

Cuba

I was watching Thursday’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama this morning, but came up with some more important things to do shortly after they discussed Cuba. Mrs. Clinton’s comments were insubstantial. Mr. Obama’s were on target. (The debate transcript is behind that link, so I’m only including excerpts.)

CLINTON: I would not meet with him until there was evidence that change was happening, because I think it’s important that they demonstrate clearly that they are committed to change the direction. Then I think, you know, something like diplomatic encounters and negotiations over specifics could take place.

OBAMA: Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba after over half a century.

….

And it’s absolutely true that I think our policy has been a failure. I mean, the fact is, is that during my entire lifetime, and Senator Clinton’s entire lifetime, you essentially have seen a Cuba that has been isolated, but has not made progress when it comes to the issues of political rights and personal freedoms that are so important to the people of Cuba. [emphasis mine]

Why should Raúl Castro, or whoever will be the next president of Cuba, want to meet with us? Dictatorships are not like republics: they are not as much under the sway of popular opinion. Since 1961, we’ve restricted commerce with Cuba, in an attempt to remove Fidel Castro from power. It has failed. Death, not the United States, will remove Castro. And death will remove his successors as well. The embargo will not. They prefer death over defeat.

Cuba is playing a game of endurance chicken. Will they run out of money, or friends, first, or shall we? Will they blink first, or shall we? Meanwhile, we pretend that an embargo is an effective means of coercion. It is not. Like a cartel, the participants in an embargo have an incentive to cheat.

Whom do we harm with this embargo?

(In other news, the Cato Institute has analyzed Congressional votes on trade since 1999, and provided a tool for viewing the results online: Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating Congress. Here’s how the current crop of presidential candidates fare: Clinton, McCain, Obama, Paul. Gov. Huckabee has no record.)

Lowering My Health Care Costs

If Mrs. Clinton, or Messrs. McCain or Obama would like to lower health care costs, then perhaps they could encourage Congress to start by requiring that all insurance companies, doctors (and anybody else who conducts inter-state commerce) have a real live human being answer the [EXPLETIVES DELETED] PHONE ON THE FIRST [MORE EXPLETIVES] RING. Any company using a [EXPLETIVES FOLLOWED BY MORE EXPLETIVES] INTERACTIVE [EXPLETIVE] VOICE [EXPLETIVE] RESPONSE system should be fined their market capitalization, have their CEO ground into small little bits, their offices razed to the ground, and their fields sown with salt.

Computers should NEVER answer the phone.

What My Amazon Wishlist Wants

I have 180 or so items on my wishlist at Amazon. There are a couple of things that would come in handy. The obvious one would be the ability to search through it for a particular book, or genre. For example, I’ve just decided that I’m not at all interested in books on computing topics, so the book on Network Intrusion Detection is no longer wanted. Also helpful would be for the Amazon Associates wishlist widget to randomize selections from the list, instead of displaying them by date added.

Wanted: Party Loyalty

By way of Rick Klau‘s shared items in Google Reader, I learned that They — and by “They” I mean Patrick Ruffini — have it in for Ron Paul. The candidate whom Mr. Ruffini suggests would be the more “traditional conservative Republican” choice is Chris Peden, who states, I’m running for Congress to fight for our traditional values in Washington, D.C. In essence, we need Republicans to vote like Republicans again.

Ah, so by “Republican” he means like sheep.

Against the Dragnet

Dear Senator Clinton:

You should be ashamed.


Dear Senator Schumer:

Thank you for voting to remove the telecom immunity provision from the contemptible bill recently before the Senate.


Dear Representative Hall:

I am very concerned about the direction this country is taking under President Bush and a Congress which seems willing to abandon our essential liberties at the slightest shadow. We are not small children scared of the wind in the trees at night.

In 2006, I voted for you to replace Sue Kelly because she had abandoned us. Will you stand for the citizens of this great nation against invasive searches? Will you allow the citizens to sue if they are somehow caught in an overly aggressive dragnet?

I am not only a citizen of the United States, but also an employee of AT&T. I am ashamed of my employer. Do not let them escape justice.

I am not only a citizen of the United States, but a Republican. I am ashamed of my party. Do not let them destroy our liberties for the illusion of security.

Do not allow the Congress to grant immunity, either retroactive or otherwise, to the telecommunications firms assisting the Executive in illegal searches. Do not let the Executive search or seize our private communications without a warrant. Follow the demands not only of your heart, but of our Constitution, and do not let this wonderful country become a police state.

I trust you will do what is right.

On the Superdelegate Question

Taegan Goddard quotes Todd Purdum, It would mean that Clinton’s only hope of winning would be some kind of backroom deal….

Might I suggest that perhaps the candidate who can win through the use of such tactics might be the one best suited to Get Things Done? That candidate is not necessarily Senator Clinton, though for some reason that’s assumed. Most writers and talking heads also assumed that she would easily win the nomination. (Note that this does leave open the question of whether the Federal government should be doing anything in the first place.)

Who’s bringing the cigars?

Snow Days at Google

Avinash Kaushik posted a list of ten things to envy about working at Google, which are, oddly enough, similar to the reasons Joel Spolsky says I would love being a sysadmin at Fog Creek. Both companies place a lot of emphasis on working together, that is, in the same place. One works at, not for, Google.

It’s a wet, slushy day out today. I can understand that such weather might be unfamiliar at Google headquarters, though Google London might have some experience of it. I’m working at home today. What I’d like to know is what Google does in situations where the people can’t come to the Googleplex to work. I have no doubt that they have no software limitations on where they work, but it seems that locality is essential to the nature of Google.

Do y’all take a snow day?