Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Assembly Not Required

Salute to Mark Shea.

Behold the People's Rights Amendment:
Section 1.  We the people who ordain and establish this Constitution intend the rights protected by this Constitution to be the rights of natural persons.

Section 2.  People, person, or persons as used in this Constitution does not include corporations, limited liability companies or other corporate entities established by the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state, and such corporate entities are subject to such regulation as the people, through their elected state and federal representatives, deem reasonable and are otherwise consistent with the powers of Congress and the States under this Constitution.

Section 3.  Nothing contained herein shall be construed to limit the people's rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free exercise of religion, and such other rights of the people, which rights are inalienable.
Did any of you notice what was missing from Section 3?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievancesSource
Most forms of "peaceable assembly" are corporations.  What this amendment allows the government to do is to presume that once you're standing with others in any sort of legally organized body or structure (other than government, itself), you do not have the rights of people.  Here's the article.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

To Aid Pornchai Maximillian Moontri

If you do not read These Stone Walls, you should. Fr. Gordon Macrae is a very compelling writer.

This week, Fr. Gordon has a guest poster -- his cellmate, Pornchai Maximillian Moontri, a recent convert to Holy Mother Church. He may be released shortly from prison. When this happens, he will be immediately deported to Thailand, the land of his birth. He knows nobody there. Those who have said before that they would help him when he arrives there have not communicated recently.

I ask any of my readers who have any contact within Thailand to make use of them. See if you can find any help for Pornchai where he has to go. If you do, contact Fr. Gordon. Even if you can't, please spread this message. Somebody somewhere knows somebody who can extend to Pornchai the Christian charity he needs.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Paying to Starve the Poor, part II

I've used this post title before, and I urge you to go read it. Salute to Mark Shea (see his commentary), who brought the following to my attention:

Ethanol Policy Not Producing Desired Results

Some takeaways: Ethanol policy benefit? $24/yr for a family using about 1100 gallons (4164 liters) a year, about 2.2 cents per gallon. Expenses?
[T]he United Nations’ FAO Food Price Index which shows that between Jan. 2007 and Sept. 2011, after adjusting for inflation, corn prices increased by 68 percent, cereals by 69 percent and dairy products by 46 percent.

One study (Hayes et al, 2009) the researchers cite quantifies how a $1 per bushel increase in corn prices impacts a wide variety of food products. The study shows, for example, that between 2005 and 2011 corn prices rose by $5 per bushel, beef rose 18.5 percent, pork 16 percent, poultry 17.5 percent, eggs 27.5 percent, milk 10.5 percent, cheese 9 percent, sugar and sweets 3.5 percent.

The researchers claim that not all these price increases are due to U.S. ethanol policies. However, even “if only one-fourth of this additional expenditure is attributable to ethanol, this would imply a loss to American consumers of $40 billion over the last 4 years.”
In case you're wondering, "cereals" means all grain crops, which make up the primary source of protein for most of the world's poor, who in many cases spend 50% of income (or more) on food. When food prices rise 69%, that means they must now spend 84.5% of income on food to maintain the same food intake. This is usually not a tenable position for them; perforce, they starve.

Is the 0.08% reduction in world greenhouse gas emissions worth it?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Works In Computing

Salute to Jeff Hooglund, project lead for Bodhi Linux (and some other software).

So what doesn't linux do?

The desktop -- at least, not in the G7/ G20. Not that it can't do desktop, just that it's annoying to get some things to work, or there's no support for linux systems (Netflix, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, some games, read Microsoft Office files cleanly). Sometimes, people deliberately make stuff so it can't be made to work with linux (anything having to do with digital rights management). It is really good for surfing, email, word processing, photo management, and instant messaging, not to mention music production, Myth TV, reviving old machines, resisting malware, and almost anything else that the development community finds interesting.

You can try linux without installing it. Just don't expect it to be like windows. A Tesla Electric Roadster is going to be very different from a Lotus Elise, in spite of the similarity in appearance and function. Live CDs/DVDs are a long-standing way to try and often install linux. If your computer can boot from a thumb drive, you can copy a live cd/dvd ISO file to it (see the Pendrive Linux site). There are tons of distros that can be tried in this manner. Search for them on or and you'll find relevant links quickly.

Some distros are better suited to desktop use than others. Regardless, you will want to make sure important data is backed up and your hard disk is defragmented before you start. Search the web and read the forums when you have problems. For those coming from Windows with no knowledge of Linux, I'd recommend the following:

Geek Level 0:

Linux Mint (if you're a long-term Windows user, particularly the KDE edition)
Ubuntu (if you don't consider yourself much of a windows user, and/or the TaskBar and Start Menu don't make sense to you)
Lubuntu (if you don't like the Unity Interface; there will be changes to it come April 26 2012)
PCLinuxOS (the first distro I ever installed)
openSUSE (the oldest commercial distro)
Puppy (especially if you're using old hardware)
SimplyMEPIS 11 (some complain about installer design, but it's fast and stable once installed)

Geek Level I: Video drivers and/or wireless and/or printing may require research.

Scientific Linux (if you prize stability -- it's a clone of Red Hat from CERN)
SalixOS (again for stability -- it's the lazy man's Slackware)
Linux Mint Debian Edition
Archbang (speed, cutting edge)
Crunchbang (speed, stability)
Fedora (bleeding edge)
Sabayon (bleeding edge)
PC-BSD (not linux, but Unix.)

Geek Level II: Configuration will require knowlege and research.

Debian Linux (stability again)
Slackware (stability again)
Arch Linux (speed, bleeding edge, super-customizable -- regarded as the hot rod of linux)
Semplice (speed, bleeding edge -- this is a Debian Sid distro)
Siduction, Aptosid (bleeding edge -- these are 2 other Debian Sid distros)

Geek Level III: You're happy to compile everything from source.

Gentoo Linux
Linux From Scratch (this is a book of instructions, not a software compilation)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Toward More Open Government

I have just added to the "Other Links" section of the sidebar The Sunlight Foundation, which I found on Linux Today. They act to make government more transparent and accountable. Thus far I've only skimmed their site, but what I've seen I like. I recommend adding them to your bookmarks. I'd prefer to have a government I didn't have to fear, but since I don't, I'll take the tools I can get to make it a servant of the people, rather than our overlord.