Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gregg Easterbrook: Constitutional genius?

Not only am I a political obsessive, I'm also a football obsessive. I check the sports sites such as ESPN every so often, and every Tuesday keep an eye out for Gregg Easterbrook's TMQ weekly rantings.

This week, he's working on the insanity and imbalances of the draft, but he also goes off on tangents and talks about other topics, sometimes politics. Halfway through his article for April 22nd, he goes off on the insanities of the Presidential campaign, and makes a pair of suggestions that once I read them made absolute perfect sense.

He points out how Presidential campaigners during the primary tend to be sitting elected officials (such as the current three survivors, McCain Obama and Clinton), who divide their time between campaigning and performing their elected duties. Easterbrook notes how they can't really campaign and work as Senators at the same time, and so suggests that in order to run for the office of Presidency you have to resign your current job and focus full-time on the campaign.

This makes truckloads of sense. Rather than stretching yourself thin juggling twenty things at once, you can now focus on just the campaign and juggle five things instead. Also, a resign-to-run law is honest, as you no longer get an income for a job you're not really doing (note the occasional dust-up in the press about who's absent during floor votes). Lemme quote from Easterbrook here:

States including Arizona, Florida and Georgia have in recent years passed "resign to run" laws that require an office-holder seeking higher office to resign from his or her present position. The time has come for a resign-to-run law at the federal level. Membership in the U.S. Congress should not be treated as a lifetime entitlement that pays whether you perform your sworn responsibilities or not. In 2007, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, then in the Democratic field, actually moved to Iowa and lived in the state -- yet was still taking his taxpayer-funded salary for serving the people of Connecticut, a job he was making no pretense of performing. It may be nonsense that the current political reality requires a year of round-the-clock campaigning to win a party's nomination, but taxpayers should not subsidize this nonsense.

As a back-up proposal, Easterbrook suggested that Congress goes back to a per diem salary: get paid for the days you show up to work. Given that Congress has been and will always be prone to paid vacation leaves up the wazoo, and given that members of Congress have a habit of not showing up half the time anyway, why pay them for the days they're not clocking in? Forcing a per diem salary encourages they show up and do their jobs and be held accountable. I love that idea.

Yo, Easterbrook, dude, why aren't you writing for the Washington Post or New York Times? Oh, right. They don't hire columnists who make sense.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New amendment proposal for hackers and virus spreaders

My home computer is on the fritz. Somehow, something got into my System32 folder and 'changed' the shell32, user32, and system32.dll files, as well as the ntsofldr (?sp?).exe file.

As such, I cannot log in to anything requiring ID and password. Other Internet pages, anything with PHP to them, I can't open well.

As such, I now have a wonderful new amendment proposal for those who create viruses, spyware and adware, worms, trojans, and any other form of computer malware:

  • Death to all f-ckers who mess with my computer.

Kill 'em. Kill all hackers. You have no redeeming social value, you bastards. Your viruses create chaos, havoc, they ruin people's lives, innocent people, some of you steal identities, and you steal money, and for what? To indulge yourselves at others' expenses. Screw you. You die for this. Die painfully.

You may notice I'm in a bit of a mood.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Why Mark Twain is still the greatest smartass ever

I must admit, I never knew Mark Twain wrote something like this, until a library patron came up and asked for a copy: an essay titled On the Decay of the Art of Lying. I found this via the Project Gutenberg website.

This was something he wrote for a meeting of the Historical and Antiquarian Club of Hartford back in... hm gotta find the year. Anyway, his opening paragraph alone should put the Ann Coulters and J-Pods of the world to shame:

Observe, I do not mean to suggest that the custom of lying has suffered any decay or interruption,--no, for the Lie, as a Virtue, a Principle, is eternal; the Lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend, is immortal, and cannot perish from the earth while this Club remains. My complaint simply concerns the decay of the art of lying. No high-minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted. In this veteran presence I naturally enter upon this theme with diffidence; it is like an old maid trying to teach nursery matters to the mothers in Israel. It would not become me to criticize you, gentlemen, who are nearly all my elders--and my superiors, in this thing--and so, if I should here and there seem to do it, I trust it will in most cases be more in a spirit of admiration than of fault-finding; indeed if this finest of the fine arts had everywhere received the attention, encouragement, and conscientious practice and development which this Club has devoted to it, I should not need to utter this lament, or shed a single tear. I do not say this to flatter: I say it in a spirit of just and appreciative recognition. [It had been my intention, at this point, to mention names and give illustrative specimens, but indications observable about me admonished me to beware of particulars and confine myself to generalities.]

A bit wordy, true, but I found it so hard to find a spot to paraphrase or edit down, as each word literally drips with sarcasm, truth (ironic uses of truth will abound regarding this), and best of all wit.

Above all, the value of Twain's essay was how Twain 'praises' the art of lying, all to highlight in Truth the sad little horror that everyone lies. The question then becomes ending the 'lazy' and 'faulty' practices of lying, those lies that do harm (the injurious lie, which to Twain was as harmful as the brutal truth), and in Twain's words that

...the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling. Then shall we be rid of the rank and pestilent truth that is rotting the land; then shall we be great and good and beautiful, and worthy dwellers in a world where even benign Nature habitually lies, except when she promises execrable weather. Then--But am I but a new and feeble student in this gracious art; I cannot instruct this club.

I personally, stated elsewhere, prefer that we not live in a world built on lies, that I would like to see punishments inflicted on those in office who would lie. I am, however, not a fool. I know the underlying fact that people lie, that everyone does. I do too. My great objection to lying is the thing I agree with most in Twain's essay: that there are lies and then there are injurious lies, lies that do harm, and it is those lies I would like ended. Twain, of course, was not a hypocrite (well, actually he was, but he was honest about it) and so could not argue against lying at all. The brilliance of his work here is that he highlights the aspects of lying, the causes and its usefulness, and makes the proper distinctions between the 'soft' or positive lie and the 'harsh' injurious lie. The kind of injurious lies, in fact, we keep getting from the Bush administration (about 9/11, about Iraq, about torture, about wiretapping, about cronyism and incompetence and... and about nearly every thing they do).

As someone who yearns to achieve the status of Recognized Smartass, I bow to the infinite jest and wisdom of the true Master, Mark Twain, who emphasized the Smart as well as the Ass. Huzzah, sir, huzzah.