Oh! the Humanity

NSA Spied on Prominent Muslim Americans“!

Well yeah, but then the NSA also spied on obscure Baptist Americans, famous Journalist Americans, infamous Nigerian witchdoctors, reclusive Italo-German lexicographers, the College of Cardinals, and people who read BoingBoing. But hey, if spying on Muslims is what it takes to get people’s attention, then preach it.

Windows 8.1

Initial impressions

For a while Alt-F4 was getting a real workout; I couldn’t find any other way to quit some programs. One of the updates seems to have fixed this, and most everything again has an X at the top right. There’s no Start menu, but I never used it much. The menu that comes up from WindowsKey-X is good enough. Most of the keyboard shortcuts still work. WindowsKey toggles back and forth between the desktop and that useless Start screen. Speaking of useless, Bing weather is that.

Powershell is good.

The computer is a generic Dell, bought off the shelf. So far I haven’t been able to get it to boot from anything but the hard drive, even though other options are there. They really don’t want you booting anything but Windows. It looks like it can be done if I turn off SecureBoot, but there are dire warnings. I want to read a bit more. Windows 8 Hacks by Preston Gralla has been helpful, though nothing there about SecureBoot; not that there needs to be, since that isn’t unique to Windows 8.

The whole environment does feel very intrusive and pushy. Give us your phone number; buy this; link that with your email account; is that your cellphone I’m detecting? You’ll want to link that to your email, right?

They’ve managed to screw up solitaire, which is now an over-animated mess that wants me to buy an X-box and subscribe to something.

But overall, it’s mostly harmless. Read a less favorable impression here. I understand if you pay more you can have Windows 7.

UPDATE: An update added window controls to “apps” like solitaire, mail, and the Kindle reader so they can be closed with the mouse by clicking on the X in the upper right corner of the window. But it turns out that clicking the X makes it disappear, but it’s still running according to the task manager. Alt-f4 does kill it. I don’t care for this. The computer belongs to me, not to Microsoft, or some consortium of corporate partners. If close a program, I want it to stop running, not to go hide behind a curtain. So, back to Alt-f4.

Having it all

So the government is getting banks to suspend the accounts of pornographers, and that might be okay with me, though probably it would be simpler for the government to just make pornography illegal, or at least stop subsidizing its production with tax breaks for Hollywood. But anyway, today the Department of Justice is going after some pornographers. Who will these laws and precedents be used against in twenty years? Or after the next election?

If the government is given power to do good, it will first use that power to get more power, then use it to do some good, and then use it to do a lot of evil. What it will not do, ever, is willingly give up any power. So power given to the government to stop discrimination – to keep people from refusing to rent hotel rooms or sell food to African-Americans – That power is now being used so sustain a system of racial preferences, to punish thoughtcrime, and to force people to decorate cakes for “gay marriage ceremonies.” Because this is America! The debate is over. Cake is a public accommodation, and bigotry equals hate, you hateful bigot!

One might think, “on the other hand, if the government can’t act against vice, or terrorism, or payday lenders, what’s the point of having a government?” But this is America in the twenty-first century! We can injure ourselves with both too much and too little government. We can have a government that is both repressive and unable to solve any significant problems.

Chesterton wrote in the early twentieth century that the ruling class had looked at socialism and capitalism, and then given the people of England the worst of both: all the intrusive state control of every aspect of life, with all the insecurity of dog-eat-dog economics.

“In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad. All that official discipline, about which the Socialists themselves were in doubt or at least on the defensive, was taken over bodily by the Capitalists. They have now added all the bureaucratic tyrannies of a Socialist state to the old plutocratic tyrannies of a Capitalist State. For the vital point is that it did not in the smallest degree diminish the inequalities of a Capitalist State. It simply destroyed such individual liberties as remained among its victims. It did not enable any man to build a better house; it only limited the houses he might live in – or how he might manage to live there; forbidding him to keep pigs or poultry or to sell beer or cider. It did not even add anything to a man’s wages; it only took away something from a man’s wages and locked it up, whether he liked it or not, in a sort of money-box which was regarded as a medicine-chest. It does not send food into the house to feed the children; it only sends an inspector into the house to punish the parents for having no food to feed them. It does not see that they have got a fire; it only punishes them for not having a fireguard. It does not even occur to it to provide the fireguard.” Eugenics and Other Evils, by G.K. Chesterton, 1917

But somehow, it doesn’t bother me that much. Look at the Jumblies. They went to sea in a seive:

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.

And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, ‘How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!’

from The Jumblies, by Edward Lear

And you know, it worked out okay for the Jumblies in the end.

Lines in haste

  • People are looking for other browsers, since the Mozilla board reportedly forced out their CEO because he opposed gay
    marriage
    . The left are enthusiastic for tolerance and diversity, until they get the upper hand. Then, everybody must conform. If Firefox is the PC browser, I’ll find a different browser.
  • I’ll get to this when I can, because I just switched to Windows 8, and (in no way related) the BBC says everyone should change all their passwords right now. It sounds serious.
  • The White House is in trouble because they pay the women on staff less than the men, after having made a huge deal about how bad it is when other people do this. What I don’t get is why? It’s not their money; nobody there has any sense of fiscal responsibility. Why don’t they just give all the women raises?

No-guns-allowed signs

They don’t work. Moreover, some people find pictures of guns disturbing, even with a red slashed circle over them. So we’re scaring school officials to no purpose.

Now, neither do laws against murder work; not entirely. But laws against murder, and the prospect of punishment, discourage some would-be murderers. No-guns-allowed signs disproportionately discourage not would-be murderers, but the law-abiding. Those law-abiding people are the ones who should have guns. If a significant number of the adults at the school find a picture of a gun scary, I’m not sure they’re entirely prepared to respond to an actual threat to the children’s safety. We should be paying a stipend to people who carry, to help defray their costs.

When I say “we,” I don’t mean the government should give us a tax credit. Leave the government out of it. The United Methodist Church, and the YMCA, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, should pay stipends to people to carry concealed weapons. Harvard should pay their alumni to carry. Pope Francis should grant indulgences to people who legally carry a concealed weapon. Maybe there could be a religious order of armed knights.

But that’s crazy talk, and none of that will happen. We’ll just go with the no-guns-allowed signs, non-functional and disturbing though they be.

Tin-foil tent

The president has one. Should you?

“When Cabinet secretaries and top national security officials take up their new jobs, the government retrofits their homes with special secure rooms for top-secret conversations and computer use.

Following a several-hundred-page classified manual, the rooms are lined with foil and soundproofed. An interior location, preferably with no windows, is recommended.” — Barack Obama’s portable secrecy tent (some assembly required), seen here.

So it’s true! It’s all true!

Or is it? Why are they letting the tin-foil truth come out now, just when we’re finding out about the Nazi art hoard? Or is it “hoards,” eh Mister Mugabe?

They won’t fool me that easily. I refuse to be panicked into taking measures the state’s attorney can then point to as evidence of clinical paranoia.

A scandal and a mystery

Google, Yahoo, …

“…PRISM is really just insurance: a way for the NSA to get legal cover for information it already has. My guess is that the NSA collects the vast majority of its data surreptitiously, using programs such as these. Then, when it has to share the information with the FBI or other organizations, it gets it again through a more public program like PRISM.” — NSA Eavesdropping on Google and Yahoo Networks

and the Pope

The US ‘spied on future Pope Francis during Vatican conclave’. It seems like there’s something really clever to say about this, but I don’t know what that might be.

Snake “removal”?

The M-1 Series Snake Tongs provide “safe and humane rattlesnake removal.” Uh huh. If I want to remove rattlesnakes I’ll use the M-1 garden hoe, and that only if I can’t use a shotgun.

Seriously, how can there be a market for snake tongs? The zookeeper should already have a pair, and maybe the wildlife ecologist, and the one guy who catches live snakes to support anti-venom production. Who else has any business catching rattlesnakes alive, Doctor Evil’s snake pit supervisor? For everyone else – Hey, it’s a rattlesnake. Kill it.