Tuesday, April 08, 2014

My Open Letter to Mozilla

Mozilla offers a feedback page for Firefox. You are given two choices: "Firefox made me happy" and "Firefox made me sad". I chose "Firefox made me happy". Here is what I wrote:

Firefox makes me happy. I've been using it since around Phoenix 0.4. I stuck with it through the bad years when it was big, bloated and slow. I've been running Nightly for about 5 years now because the Firefox Nightly alphas are as stable as most production software. I love using Firefox and have always recommended it to friends.

However, Mozilla the company has made me very sad. Your recent behavior with Brendan Eich is appalling. But the straw that broke this camel's back was when the new CEO came out and said that Mozilla is committed to diversity, free speech and employees being open about their beliefs. This is pure Orwellian hogwash, and is utterly contradicted by your behavior.

I love this browser and switching away from it will be an enormous hassle to me, but I cannot support a company that behaves in this manner, especially when it then touts its behavior as being exactly the opposite of what it truly is.

You'll probably hear the word "liar" a lot. Get used to it. You've earned it.

This is a watershed event Mozilla. You might not be significant in the large picture, but you have precipitated a tipping point in the culture war. That war has been building slowly for decades, but you and your supporters have made it very hot.

You have now politicized your browser, and that is incredibly unfortunate, because it will no longer stand or fall solely on its technology or merits, and it has a lot of merit. But you had to force your politics into the equation, so I must reluctantly choose a different product, because I don't agree with forcing morals down people's throats.

I could tolerate your advocacy of same-sex "marriage", even though I do not support the concept. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and that alone would not have caused me to stop supporting your products, but since you will not tolerate Brendan Eich as your CEO, I can no longer tolerate supporting your company. I'm just doing the same thing you are. It's only fair and appropriate.

By making his beliefs your enemy, rather than just your opposition, you have made me your enemy, and it's really, really tragic that you have chosen to do this and makes me very sad. But to excuse this behavior because I really like your product would only encourage more of it.

I could support you while disagreeing with you, but that wasn't enough for you. You had to declare war in order to force your beliefs on others. The ironic thing about all of this is that the kinds of people who would most often quote the criticism of not forcing morality on others are often the most guilty of it. Welcome to the club.

You'll probably hear the word "hypocrite" a lot. Get used to it. You've earned it.

You've turned a perfectly fine product into an ideology that is entirely orthogonal to what the product is. I wouldn't like that if it were an ideology I agree with, because there is too much politicizing going on already. However, I definitely can't support it when it's an ideology I don't agree with and you have handled yourselves in such a, for lack of a better word, fascist manner.

It's a brave new world you are opening up here, and not the one you think you are creating. This is a genie that isn't going back into the bottle and your punishment of Brendan Eich for his thoughtcrime was a very evil act, totally out of proportion with his minor support of a state referendum that passed by a majority of voters. This isn't about the whole gay "marriage" issue any more. It is now much more sinister.

You've established a precedent. You and your supporters must seek out and attack anyone in public life who doesn't agree with your politics and try to hound them out of their positions if you don't want to be accused of holding a double standard.

You'll probably hear the words "witch hunt" a lot. Get used to it. You've earned it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A "right" to health care?

There's a reason the Founding Fathers enumerated very few "inalienable" rights, because there are only a few, no matter how fundamental they are to our society, and civilization in general.

More specifically, no material right can be inalienable by definition. This is something very few people seem to understand and yet the foundation of "liberal" policy assumes the very opposite. You cannot have an inalienable right to a finite resource, because it's always possible for there to simply not be enough of that resource.

So, do you have a right to have access to health care? Sure.

Reasonably priced health care? Yes, whenever possible. You have the right in general not to be extorted. Therefore you have the right to be charged a fair amount for services and products. What's fair? That's another can of worms, but let's move on.

Free health care? Absolutely not. This is not a right and cannot be a right, even a non-inalienable right. It's literally impossible to provide it so how could it be considered a "right", especially given the extremely vague nature of the concept of "health care", which today is considered to comprise a much broader range of products and services than what is literally needed to cure sickness (as opposed to maintain health... it's an important distinction).

If you do have some form of health care that you do not pay for directly, it's a privilege. It's arguable that to grant everyone this privilege is a good idea and an attainable goal (although I don't think it is), but we are not talking about rights.

We are decades too far into this debate to still have this much trouble defining our terms.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Half-mast, but a full joke

So I read that Gov. Christie is defending the fact that he flew the flags in New Jersey at half-mast for Whitney Houston.

This is a travesty. Period.

I have nothing against Ms. Houston, and I know she has provided a lot of entertainment and joy to her many fans, and I am saddened by her sudden (but sadly predictable) death. However, even if I were a resident of New Jersey, I could not care less about this incident, except for the sadness I would feel for any person who succumbs to drugs or other evils.

It was a tragedy on a human level. That Ms. Houston was an extremely talented and popular entertainer adds no solemnity nor moral significance to her untimely passing. Her death was not heroic. Her life was not given in the service to others, nor for reasons that were most likely anything but selfish. Her story is repeated by tens of thousands of people every year.

Regardless, the half-mast treatment is wholly inappropriate. Flying flags at half-mast has become so common as to be a complete joke. It seems I see some flags, certainly not all at any given time, at half-mast at least once a month and generally have no idea why, nor could I.

Our flags stand for America and our unity as citizens of this great Republic and of the great States that comprise it, and their lowering for anything less than a real and significant tragedy of national scope cheapens our symbols of unity.

There are more appropriate ways to express our condolences for people like Ms. Houston, and I'm sure those will be exercised appropriately in the coming weeks and months. I would add that Sony's raising the price on electronic versions of her great hits compilation within 30 minutes of the news breaking of her passing is most assuredly not appropriate, but I guess it shows where their true sympathies lie.

If you ask me the American Flag should be flown at half-mast for nothing less than the death of a President, another national symbol of our national unity, or a significant national tragedy like 9/11, where we as a nation were truly united in mourning. A State flag should be flown at half mast, for the same reason, and perhaps the death of a chief executive. Anything more makes a mockery of the flags and what they stand for.

At this rate, how long will be it until we become a nation that is perpetually in mourning, and what does this say about us and our country?

On second thought, perhaps it's actually appropriate.

An open letter to Muslims

Dear Muslim friends:

You know, I'm getting a little tired of your co-religionists constantly complaining about people desecrating the Koran. I'm tired of hearing about it because it doesn't need to happen. It's kind of a vicious circle. Some Muslims keep saying if people desecrate your book they're going to get very, very angry. So, people desecrate your book. And they get very, very angry. It's a shame, and it shouldn't happen. But let's be honest. They're kind of asking for it. Pavlov couldn't get a more predictable response with his bell, if you know what I mean.

Anyone who's ever known a rebellious teenager knows that the worst thing you can say to them is "If you do X, I'm going to get very, very angry." I know that many of you are familiar with rebellious teenagers, as am I. Making someone lose his temper is a good show that's a lot cheaper than cable. Some people have nothing better to do than try to cheese others off. The mature and effective response is to ignore them and not give them the satisfaction.

Look, I think it's a shame that people desecrate your holy book. Maybe it has something to do with the whole "kill everyone who doesn't submit to Allah" bits, or maybe it's the whole "women are chattel" thing. Or maybe they just don't like the color green. Needless to say, people shouldn't do it because it's unnecessarily disrespectful.

I would never do it. I would much rather see people read the Koran instead of burning it. And we should try to settle our differences with logic, rhetoric, tolerance and understanding, not by burning books, or worse, being violent to each other. Jesus didn't burn books or murder people, nor did He condone these behaviors, and a lot of us find Him to be very persuasive. We all can gain a lot from following His example.

The thing is, people desecrate the Bible all the time. We hold our Scripture in very high regard, as do you for yours. But we also know that it's a waste of time trying to get stupid people to stop doing stupid things by constantly goading them into doing it. We simply don't throw tantrums about it, and it ends up not being a big deal.

Just sayin'.

Your Christian friend, Rick

Monday, July 26, 2010

Oppression by the Army

Alexander Hamilton asked in Federalist 26:

It has been said that the provision which limits the appropriation of money for the support of an army to the period of two years would be unavailing, because the Executive, when once possessed of a force large enough to awe the people into submission, would find resources in that very force sufficient to enable him to dispense with supplies from the acts of the legislature. But the question again recurs, upon what pretense could he be put in possession of a force of that magnitude in time of peace?

Although he couldn't have conceived of it at the time, because he couldn't have conceived of the utter erosion of the Constitution and its sharply-defined limits on Federal power, Mr. Hamilton missed the point. The army that the Executive is using to "awe the people into submission" is not the military army, but the army of bureaucrats and regulators that has been mustered by the Executive Branch over the past several decades, an army which has grown massively, by leaps and bounds, in the past 18 months. Thus, the Executive, aided and abetted by a compliant Congress, seeks to and is achieving its submission of the populace.

Even when they could not foresee the future, the Founding Fathers' wisdom and prescience was formidable.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Democrats Simply Cannot Govern

Can we all agree, whatever the merits or not of this health care bill, the Democrats simply cannot govern? I mean, the Republicans screwed up pretty bad from 2000-2006, but the Democrats since then have utterly failed. They had a filibuster-proof majority for a year and couldn't pass their President's signature legislative goal. They can get the mandate and the power but are so corrupt, unrestrained, and let's face it, stupid, that they can't try for something that is not so overreaching that the majority of the country doesn't recoil in disgust.

How many incremental reforms could they have enacted by now, so that we could have already seen whether or not they would help and then decide, based on empirical evidence, rather blind trust in empty platitudes, whether or not to let them continue? There's this old idea that you should be able to demonstrate in at least some way you can actually do the job you're trying to be hired for.

I mean, let's say your car was working pretty consistently, but was only getting half the gas mileage it was supposed to. Would you trust a novice mechanic who says, "Sure, I can fix your problem, but I'll have to completely rebuild the engine, replace the transmission and put on monster truck tires and fuzzy dice... and you have to start paying me now but you won't get your vehicle back until 2013?"

Of course not, but a good chunk of the country will seemingly accept an equivalently absurd claim about health care reform. Instead, of small but meaningful changes, we have a President over a year into his term who still has an empty resume, and members of Congress who could be chastised by Heidi Fleiss for giving her profession a bad name.

There's a reason Congress' approval rating has stayed pretty consistently under twenty percent for the last two years,and pretty consistently under thirty-five percent for the last five years. Too bad it doesn't seem to matter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another Letter to My Senators

Dear Senator Warner/Webb:

I feel I am once again compelled to write to demand an end to yet another insane and reckless plan about to be foisted upon us by Congress. Congress may not be competent, but you are not stupid:

YOU KNOW this so-called reform will cost literally trillions more than you claim. Just look at Medicare and Medicaid, and frankly, everything else Congress has done in the past half century. NOTHING costs what you people claim it will cost.

YOU KNOW this so-called reform will not do what it claims to do. NOTHING you people try to do ever works very well and it always costs an order of magnitude more than you claim it will. My favorite saying in the past several years has been, "If it weren't for unintended consequences, Congress would be of no consequence at all." You know there is much truth in that statement.

YOU KNOW that this system is promising to magically create "free" health care out of thin air. If Congress were able to do anything that wasn't totally laden with waste, fraud and abuse, then you would have demonstrated it by reforming Medicare and Medicaid as a demonstration that you have any justification whatsoever to tinker with such a huge fraction of the total U.S. economy.

YOU KNOW that this so-called "reform" is as much about grabbing power and further allowing yourselves to micromanage our lives in ways that are contrary in both spirit and letter to the Constitution of the United States.

YOU KNOW that the majority of the country does not want this bill. You know that should this bill pass, you will suffer tremendously at the polls and I, and millions of others, will work to do everything I can to make sure this happens.

YOU KNOW that it is totally irresponsible, to the point of being suicidal, to attempt such a radical transformation of America in the midst of an economic crisis that is largely the result of Congress in the first place.

YOU KNOW that real reform could be done with precise, targeted laws that could then be benchmarked and that information could be used to plan further corrections. You know you cannot try some crazy mad-scientist (excuse me, mad-legislator) type gamble and bet the well-being of our economy and even our very lives on a long shot just to score political points with the ignorant.

YOU KNOW that, I, and millions of others, consider in this age of terrorism and geopolitical uncertainty that the biggest dangers to this country are the CONGRESS and the WHITE HOUSE. And you know that it is largely only the radical or gullible or ignorant people who support what you are trying to do.

The free citizens of this great Republic, being familiar with and loyal to its history and the principles upon which it was founded, both of which you treat with disdain, or perhaps ignorance, demand that you start to return to these principles, and stop trying to dismantle the greatest and most successful experiment of governence on the face of this Earth:

WE REJECT your insane dabbling in radical socialist transformations to try to correct a system that largely works fine.

WE REJECT your claims that is necessary to demolish 100% of a system that is only a problem for less than 10% its participants.

WE REJECT your utter contempt for the founding principles of this country and the contempt with which you treat the majority of the electorate, whom you claim to serve.

WE REJECT your complete arrogance of setting yourselves us to be a group of elites who simultaneously insist on micromanaging every aspect of our lives while blatantly exempting yourselves from living under the odious morass of rules that you so blithely dump on everyone else.

WE REJECT being lorded over by a group of people who are overwhelmingly corrupt, a group of people who are overwhelmingly self-serving, a group of people who are overwhelmingly inexperienced in actually creating value and wealth in society, a group of people who are overwhelmingly the complete and diametric opposite of those brave and wise men who risked their very lives to create and secure this great Republic which you so are carelessly and callously trying to destroy.

WE REJECT this legislation and demand that you go back to the drawing board and attempt to fix actual problems instead of your usual modus operandus of creating more problems.