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Not Just Wrong

American tale, what if we march us to the grave?
What if we make reason an act of treason?
Fear tracks hope back to the cave

In November of 1980, I turned in a paper that got the only F of my college career.  I had written it on election night, and had trouble concentrating when the spectre of Reagan’s voodoo economics looked to be an enormous threat to the nation.  Never knew how much I’d miss those dream-filled days (Warren Haynes meant something else by that, but I hope he’d approve).

Sure, he (Reagan, not Haynes) doubled the public debt as a fraction of GDP, but at least then you could make the argument that maybe we were on the side of the Laffer curve with negative slope.  Today we have 30 years of data that says we weren’t.  At least he raised taxes when the shit hit the fan.  Today any talk of tax increases is met with a fusillade of rhetorical 16mm shells.

Why is that?  My tax rate is lower than it’s been since I started working, and unless you’re filthy rich so is yours.  Hell, I could easily pay a few points more in taxes, and I’m nowhere near the top rate.  We can’t afford all this spending, we keep hearing.  Well no, not if we don’t pony up and pay for it.  Yes, the gross public debt is ridiculously high right now.  And why is that?

Recent contributions to the deficit, from the NYT

Oh look, it’s the wars and the tax cuts.  Which, it seems, are permanent.  End those, and the problem almost goes away.

And what’s the buzz?

“Obama is addicted to deficits.”

“In 40 years Medicare costs will be over 100% of federal revenue, therefore we have to default on our existing debts.”

“If we raise taxes on the rich, they won’t have any money left to pay me.”

Oh yeah?  The data says otherwise.

Top tax rate and marginal growth

It took me 15 seconds of Googling to find that.  Top tax rate is un fucking correlated with GDP growth.  When did facts become unrelated to the discussion?  Even on NPR, it’s all about cutting, and nothing about significant tax increases.

The problem is simple.  We chose to fight not one but two utterly pointless and extremely expensive wars, and then wrote ourselves a big check of tax cuts.  And now we have to have a balanced budget amendment?  Doctor, I can’t afford it when I do this.  Fucking don’t do it then.

So here we are, seriously talking about voluntarily defaulting on our debt because we can’t be bothered to pay our bills.  Something seems wrong about that.

Not just wrong; stupidly wrong.


The Facts We Hate

I forgot to call last night.
Did it make a difference?
Could I have saved it?
I could have tried.

I must not think bad thoughts.
When is this world coming to?

How would Delegate Hubbard or Delegate Valentino-Smith have voted?  There was no vote. HB 175 was shelved until next year.

Next year?  Next year? How many people will have their rightful inheritance taken from them in that time because they weren’t married when their partner died? How many will be turned out of emergency rooms? How many excluded from their partners’ health plans, pension plans?

I’m guilty of murder
of innocent men,
innocent women, innocent children,
thousands of ’em.

Would my call have made any difference?

I give up,
why can’t they?

I called when the Senate was voting.
It passed.
I called when the House Judiciary Committee was voting.
It passed out to the House.
I didn’t call when the House was voting.

My planes, my guns,
my money, my soldiers,
my blood on my hands.
it’s all my fault

My call, my vote. Delegate Hubbard would have voted yes. Geraldine, no. I voted for a bigot, and I forgot to call and tell her that.

I must not think bad thoughts

12-bar Whine

This goes out to Brian Morton, aka Diego Natividad de la Estafa, aka Dinty the Moor.

Well I woke up this mornin’,
My lower back was in pain.
Well I woke up this mornin’,
My lower back was in pain.
I knocked my glasses off the counter,
Lost my contacts down the drain.

I went to have my breakfast,
My knees were creaking’ down the stairs.
Well I went down to have my breakfast,
My knees were creaking’ down the stairs.
I got a sunburn on top of my head
Right there in back where I used to have hair.

I did some magic at the street show,
A little dance, a little song.
I did some magic at the street show,
Juggled and danced and sang a song.
Went back home to take a nap and,
Damn kids were all over my lawn.

Well I woke up this mornin’,
A breakin’ ache all in my spine.
I woke up this mornin’,
A breakin’ ache up and down my spine.
I guess I better face it:
I got that 12-bar-blues whine.


Yes on Nate

Nate Silver predicts Prop. 1 will be defeated in Maine. I sure hope he’s right.  This is the same Nate Silver who predicted last November’s elections with pretty much 100% accuracy, at least for the president and senate.  I didn’t check the numbers for the house.  He’s giving 5 to 2 odds that 1 will be defeated.

I randomly picked 2020 as the year by which I predict same-sex marriage is a done deal. If 1 loses, I’m thinking it’ll be more like 2015.  C’mon, Maine!  Let’s get this stuff fixed!


Cali to Maryland to Florida to Maryland to...  It's not just a shipment, it's an adventure!

Cali to Maryland to Florida to Maryland to... where next?? It's not just a shipment, it's an adventure!

Oh looky!  It wasn’t enough that my footer forms made it all the way to Laurel (about 15 miles from here) and then went off to Florida.  It wasn’t enough that it took 5 days to get back from Florida (must have stopped for a long meal at every Cracker Barrel along the way).  No, now it gets back to Laurel and the status is…  (wait for it) … Exception. Your shipment is currently within the UPS network; however, an unforeseen event has occurred which could result in a change to the Scheduled Delivery Date.

And, and and!  It’s been forwarded to the facility in the destination city.  No, stupid, it’s already in the destination city! Well let’s see, maybe it has the wrong address.

Shipped To: GLENN DALE, MD, US

Oh crap, wrong address!  Now that “MD” has been changed to mean “Florida”.  Boy, I wish that hadn’t happened.

About Time

The British government has apologized for the appalling way it treated one of the men most responsible for winning WWII.

I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

It’s been a long time coming, and it’s good to finally hear something like this from 10 Downing St.

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

If you haven’t heard the story of Turing, it’s fairly well explained in the statement.  The whole thing is on the PM’s website.  Also you should read Cryptonomicon.

Oh, Now I Get It!

I’ve been very confused about some aspects of the health care “debate” recently.  Happily, Roy Zimmerman has explained it all in his latest newsletter:

I’ve been listening – really listening – to the good citizens who oppose health care reform, because I feel it would be easy to miss the subtlety of their reasoning amid the screaming and the booing and the finger-poking and the name-calling and the shoving and the cold-cocking and the Red-scaring and the race-bating. As I see it, their argument breaks down to seven well-considered points:

  1. We can’t have a Public Option because options limit Freedom.
  2. If we had a government-run health care plan, people would certainly choose it over their own plans because government can’t do anything right.
  3. We need “tort reform,” whatever that is.
  4. Socialism.
  5. Private insurers have an obligation to stockholders and government does not, so government-run health care would concern itself with health, not with profit, and Adam Smith wouldn’t like that.
  6. There’s no place for government in health care except when implanted in a woman’s womb.
  7. Barack Obama is a Marxist Nazi.
  8. And Black.

He forgot “Keep your government hands off my Medicare, you damn dirty ape!”, but otherwise that about sums it up.  Plus, someone can’t count, and I don’t think it’s Roy.

I hope that clarifies things.

Okay, Let’s Go

Excuse me, sir, can I see your receipt? No.  Thanks, I already paid.  But you have your receipt? Yes, it’s in my wallet, in my pocket.  I need to validate it. Yeah, I really don’t have time.  (I’ve been shopping for 3 hours, and I’m hot and sweaty and not interested in digging around in my pocket for the receipt I just put in there. and you’re stopping me why?)  I need to validate your receipt. No, you really don’t.

Chasing me down out of the store?  Seriously?  At least I am a sir, not some short-haired biker chick who you’ll really piss off.  And how many people walk out without getting validated while you’re following me around?

(No, I’m not going to show you my receipt.  How is it you don’t get that yet?  You gonna charge me with shoplifting, or you gonna let me go?  Or maybe neither, and try to detain me, and good luck with the lawsuit.  Did you really not see me 10 feet from you at the checkout stand?)

No, you don’t need to validate anything.  Well no need to be an asshole about it.

Okay, that’s it.  Were I not tired to death of shopping it was time for a little walk to ask your supervisor if it’s store policy to call customers assholes.  Shirley you know you can’t stop people.

Welcome to my almost-boycott list, Lowe’s.  Along with Home Depot, which leaves a lot of distant places to shop.  Which is why the almost-.  I need a real lumber yard that doesn’t chain across the country.  Hammond Lumber, why do you only live in Maine?

Yes.  Yes, I know ycycle does this better.  Tough.

Oh-oh Baby, Got to Roll Me

This is awesome!

When someone complains that the pseudorandom number generator you’re using is not random enough, what do you do?  Well you could grab a copy of Knuth, or do a literature search on pseudorandom algorithms, or try to incorporate some external randomness from a keyboard or mouse or network events or maybe the Johnson noise from a big resistor.


You could build a giant banglevator (quick show of hands, who remembers Bing-Bang-Boing?) to roll actual dice for you.  Crazy, yes, but enough so that it Just. Might. Work. There’s video at that link!

Introducing the Dice-O-Matic mark II, now generating the dice rolls on It is a 7 foot tall, 104 pound, dice-eating monster, capable of generating 1.3 million rolls a day.

As a professional geek, this kind of overkill gets my juices flowing.  IYKWIM.

Hat tip to Bruce Schneier.