Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Role Of Beards In The Cuban Revolution

"Most regular armies in fact, command their men to shave closely...In the Sierra, hair beat the smooth chins, and military art was made to look ridiculous.

'Batista's soldiers," a companion of Fidel told me, 'found us so incorrect, so improper, that it gave them the willies. The beard according to them meant ambush, the law of the jungle, and extermination...Toward the end, when they saw, in a narrow mountain pass, a beard behind a shining rifle barrel, they broke ranks."

- Jean Paul Sartre in "Sartre on Cuba" 1961

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The Revolution: A Manifesto

This book looks great: The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul. It is available for pre-order.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Losing Touch With Historical References

There's no question that young people have recently been losing touch with the past. The decline in reading probably has quite a bit to do with this. We live in a sound-byte era that can't tolerate a train of thought longer than 5 seconds.

USA Today has an interesting article which speaks of how teens are losing touch with historical references.

Here's the opening section:

"Big Brother. McCarthyism. The patience of Job.

Don't count on your typical teenager to nod knowingly the next time you drop a reference to any of these. A study out today finds that about half of 17-year-olds can't identify the books or historical events associated with them."

The article goes on to show that just over half of 1,200 17 year olds could identify the theme of 1984 and less than half knew that the Civil War occurred between 1850 and 1900.

This is sad! Alas, the dumbing down of the masses..

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Said Communism Was Dead?

Communism seems to be experiencing a bit of a revival in Cyprus. Some bad ideas never seem to die.


Fidel in 1959 - Enigmatic Pragmatist

"The weeks which followed the Liberation, at the beginning of 1959, were weeks of gaiety and of unanimity. Although in that period, for reasons which we shall see, Castro was not in the government, he appeared in the eyes of all as the man of unity. He wanted it so and did nothing to dissipate the mystery which surrounded his intentions. The right, the left, the parties, the unions, asked themselves about him. What was he going to do?

One thing is sure. He reacted forcefully against those who threatened the unity of Cuban society.

This was noticed from the first days, apropos of the Good Lord. They had put back into effect the Constitution of 1940. God was mentioned in the preamble. The ministers thought it wise to remove Him.

When Castro learned of this, he fell into a violent anger. No matter what the convictions of the members of the government were, they couldn't touch this venerable word which had had figured in the fundamental text for twenty years and which everyone could read without offending the priests and their faithful worshipers and consequently without breaking the unity of the country.

The word "God" makes a body with constitutional law. It doesn't get in the way. In taking it up, the revolution doesn't declare itself Christian. In suppressing it, it proclaims itself Athiest.

In brief, during this short respite, all measures were taken with the view of consolidating the union."

- Jean Paul Sartre in "Sartre on Cuba", 1961


Friday, February 22, 2008

Bush Demands Immunity for Spying Companies

George Bush is insisting that communications companies who partake in the invasion of American citizen's privacy on behalf of the government be immune from lawsuits.

His contention is that if communications firms were held liable for their activities, they would be less willing to help the war on U.S. citizen's privacy. That is probably true, but I can't see how that would be a bad thing. What does Bush have to hide? If his effort to spy on people's phone conversations is just, why is he worried about the people he's working with (the communications companies) being sued over it? (this "why do you care if you don't have anything to hide?" line is used so often to justify invasion of privacy, so I figured it might be nice to reverse it on the people perpetrating such things)

The reasoning goes like so: if citizens have their privacy, there surely will be terrorist attacks. So please check your privacy at the door. The idea is "just give up a little privacy and liberty and you'll be safe" and it is so contrary to what the founding father's of America advocated. But the real place to look for solutions to the terrorist problem is NOT in monitoring phone calls from within the U.S.A., but rather a re-evaluation of foreign policy.

Bush said "The American people understand we need to be listening to the enemy". One then is led to wonder who exactly is the enemy? If it is merely terrorists, then why are these broad changes, such as the "PATRIOT act" affecting average citizens also? And why are there no limitations on these surveillance powers?

Terrorism is a threat. But as it has been often pointed out, local tyranny is always harder to put up with than terrorists. It is easier to deal with foreign terrorists than a government dead set on violating its citizens liberties.

Notice how there is a pattern. Whether it is Bush or Clinton, or whoever else, every time they want to increase the power of the state to spy on and enslave their citizens, they plead good intentions.

I must refer to a couple of quotes that are quite applicable:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, 1759

"'Emergencies' have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded." -- F.A. Hayek

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master" -- George Washington

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More On Kosovo

The U.S. embassy in Serbia ordered the departure of support staff and dependents of diplomats.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Serbians Not Happy About Kosovo Independence

Not surprisingly, Serbians are not taking kindly to the declaration of Kosovo as an independent state. In Belgrade protestors broke into the U.S. embassy and 200,000 Serbians gathered to protest Kosovo's secession.

Russia and Spain have not recognized the secession, and as far as I am aware Canada is delaying an answer also. The Russians have called the move illegal and immoral and threatened to use force. These countries recognize the ramifications that this could have on their own populations. Sure, secession sounds good to the powers that be when the issue is across an ocean. But what if an ethnic majority decided to separate California from the Union? Or what if Quebec wants its independence? How would the federal governments respond to that? Nato has been imposing solutions in the Balkans that most of its member states would be no means tolerate for their populace. Nato has outlived its usefulness and should be eliminated. It has spent a lot of money at best doing nothing or at worst causing destruction.

This is a prime example of how interventionism causes tensions. Rather than let a country deal with a civil war on its own, stakes are raised and tensions escalate. Policing the world is a dirty job. Nuances of the issues involved get the "jack hammer" treatment and the result is a mish-mash of mayhem. Of course, once the "blowback" starts raising its ugly head, there will be innocent-sounding yelps of, "Why do they hate us? They must hate us for our freedom!". Well, in a way it is true. "They" do hate us for our freedom. Our freedom to intervene in their affairs.

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Trade Not Aid

The African nation of Liberia is sending George Bush a message: "more trade, less aid".

That statement contains a truth that would greatly improve American foreign policy. As a world superpower, America should ideally aim to be neither an aggressor (wars, invasions) nor an overt paternal figure (handing out lots of aid). Instead, it should focus on maintaining friendly relations with other nations, focusing on trade and commerce carried out in a spirit of honest friendship with no coercion.

The brief reference to "Africom" in the article has me wondering what "Africon" is up to.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Kosovo Back In The News

The world is nervously watching the latest happenings in Kosovo.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Libertarian Party's Sense of Humor

In this press release, the U.S. Libertarian Party announces that they've sent Republican headquarters "a funeral wreath marking the death of limited-government values within the Republican Party". They did this in light of the dominance of John McCain in the primaries.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Interesting Endorsements for Ron Paul

I was reviewing a list of people that have endorsed Ron Paul's presidential campaign and I found it interesting. Here are names which I found most interesting:
  • Co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, Peter Thiel
  • Blues Guitarist Jimmie Lee Vaughan
  • Singer/Songwriter Derrick Webb
  • Folksinger Arlo Guthrie
  • Actor Emma Caulfield (Anya on Buffy Vampire Slayer)
  • Blogger Andrew Sullivan
I found Arlo Guthrie's comments to be among the most interesting: "I love this guy. Dr. Paul is the only candidate I know of who would have signed the Constitution of The United States had he been there."

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Critiquing Bill Gates' "Creative Capitalism"

Here are some links critiquing the concept of "creative capitalism" promoted by Bill Gates:

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Putin Hits A Reporter Below The Belt

Way back in 2002, a reporter asked Russian dictator Vladimir Putin a critical question regarding his government's activities in Chechnya (whether their attempts to eradicate terrorism in Chechnya would eradicate the civilian population). Vladimir Putin responded as follows:

(there are at least two variant interpretations of what he said)


"If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow, I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back afterward"


"If you want to become a complete Islamic radical and are ready to undergo circumcision, then I invite you to Moscow. We are a multidenominational country. We have specialists in this question as well. I will recommend that he carry out the operation in such a way that after it nothing else will grow."

Wow! This Putin dude makes John McCain look like a pacifist!


Andrey Illarionov

Many people don't realize the extent to which Vladimir Putin's government is a dictatorship. When we think of dictatorships, we tend to think of states in Africa or Asia, or perhaps the old Soviet states. However, Russia is very much so a totalitarian state right now. This is evidenced by the large amount of recent exiles. Putin tolerates very little opposition, and has essentially taken over the press. There is very little freedom of speech.

An interesting individual you may want to look into is Andrey Illarionov (see his Wikipedia page).

He was formerly an economic policy adviser to Vladimir Putin in Russia. In 2005, he resigned from his post and said that "This year Russia has become a different country. It is no longer a democratic country. It is no longer a free country".

He continued to say that "It is one thing to work in a country that is partly free. It is another thing when the political system has changed, and the country has stopped being free and democratic".

In October of 2006, Illarionov was appointed senior researcher for the Cato Institute while remaining in Russia. He has been an outspoken critic of the Russian government and on April 14, 2007, and June 9, 2007, he took a part in Dissenters' Marches.

The Cato Institute calls him "one of Russia's most forceful and articulate advocates of an open society and democratic capitalism". You can find his Cato Institute Profile here.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Slim Tyranny

I can't believe I'm actually writing this. I can't find words to describe a bill recently introduced into the Mississippi legislature. It was introduced by Republican Ted Mayhall Jr and it has got to be one of the most absurd things I've ever read. Its known as House Bill 282.



"A food establishment shall be entitled to rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person."

Am I just weird, or is this spooky? It is proposed to take effect in July 1, 2008 and establishments that would violate this could have their permit revoked. Probably it will be struck down, I hope!

This is a prime example of the INSANITY of having a government that thinks that it is our nanny.

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Fox News Has The Blues has an opinion piece which outlines a number of things which are currently currently causing Fox News to feel some considerable discomfort. Now, I'm not a big fan of, but I think they are really making some interesting points, especially when they list these two things that are extremely frustrating to Fox News:

1. Their favorite Republican, Rudy Giuliani', has ended his campaign.

2. Their "nemesis" Ron Paul is still standing.

Besides these, the piece lists a number of other things that are not really going in Fox's favor. Quite frankly, after seeing how they treated Ron Paul, I feel no sympathy for them.

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Python 3.0 Compatability

I just tried out a beta version of Python 3.0. It looks pretty good so far. I read on Slashdot how it isn't backward compatible, so I figured I'd give it a spin.

I tried a 200 line script I had built with 2.3.4, and the results weren't all that bad, really. don't get me wrong, some work is required to get code to work in 3.0, but I think some people are getting a little too worked up about this.

Minor problems I experienced:

1. It complained a number times about my indentation, namely the mixing of spaces and tabs. This isn't a big deal, because this is a thing that has been long known as being an issue within the development community. Python was just less strict about it in the past.

2. The "print" statement has been changed to be a method (ie. print()). This requires the changing of some code. But then again, a well-designed project shouldn't have print statements liberally scattered all over the place anyways.

3. I've noticed that the way floating point results are presented (in relation to division operations) has changed. Some printed results that formerly were nicely rounded to two decimal points, now have 10 digits to the right of the decimal point.

I also tried running some other code, and I found in my anagram generator that some code related to maps and lambdas isn't working anymore. A good guide to evaluating what changes are present in 3.0 is this.

That's it! I'm pretty impressed. I had low expectations because of all the people potificating over this. But the result is pretty good.

Sure, these issues will be compounded on a big project, but I don't think this is nearly as bad as it sounds. With good development tools, the cost of these changes can be minimized.

My advise is still conservative: If you have a somewhat larger project (over 1000 lines), just stick with 2.x, as it will still be maintained. However, if your project is smaller, or if you are starting a new project, I'd consider using 3.0 instead (once a stable version is released, of course, which should happen towards the end of 2008)

All you Python developers out there, have you made any attempts to run code in 3.0 beta?

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John McCain's Style

This fake dialog between Jay Leno and a few of the presidential candidates is hilarious, especially the way it precisely portrays John McCain's personality!

Here's a sample:

"LENO: So what are your thoughts on making Rudy your vice president?

MCCAIN: Well let me tell you something about that Jay, when I was serving my country in Vietnam I was entrusted with the responsibility to make tough decisions. That means I am the best man for the job.

LENO: I don’t follow. You are running for president, not vice president. I am wondering about Rudy.

MCCAIN: I am proud to say I was a foot soldier in the Reagan years as one who pushed for lower taxes, an aggressive foreign policy, and hope for America.

LENO: Dammit, I just want you to answer my question!

MCCAIN: I have the experience, the know-how, and the leadership to get things done.

LENO: I give up. "

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Microsoft Yahoo: Microsoft vs. Google Round 2?

Microsoft recently offered $44.6 billion to buy Yahoo, which would be its largest acquisition. Approval by the U.S. and the E.U. authorities will be required.