Monday, December 28, 2009

Dead Kennedies

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bring Great Glory To Odin

So in celebration of the mighty warlord Odin's holiday the Dan meme is now in the Legendary Tier.

Alternate Ending To Terminator 2

So I had a dream about Terminator 2 the other day.  Actually it involved both movies to some degree, but mostly seemed to be about T2.  Unfortunately I can't remember much, but I do remember the ending.  Which I think you'll agree is a vast improvement.  More or less everything is going the same until they get to Cyberdyne.  When they get there that black guy reveals himself to be an advanced terminator.  His body opens up and expands and physically captures the main characters.  Similar to Cartman in the Trapper Keeper episode (which I didn't realize until now had a Terminator theme itself).  Anyway, I can remember that Kyle Reese from the first movie was there and still free, but the dream pretty much ended there when one of you inconsiderately IMd me in the middle of the night (3pm) and woke me up.

However, one could say that my waking up at the end of the movie could actually be a good ending itself.  And in fact that you by reading this now are taking part in the still on going ending to the movie.  Congratulations, you've finally made it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beyond Security Theater

"Terrorism is rare, far rarer than many people think. It's rare because very few people want to commit acts of terrorism, and executing a terrorist plot is much harder than television makes it appear. The best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response. But even these are less effective at keeping us safe than our social and political policies, both at home and abroad. However, our elected leaders don't think this way: they are far more likely to implement security theater against movie-plot threats."

Why you shouldn't be afraid of terrorists.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ask me about being a Traffic Engineer!

"Have you ever wondered how roads are designed? Ever questioned why the traffic signal down the road needs two sets of signal heads? Have you ever stared in disgust at a road and wondered, what kind of idiot designed this, and how does he remember to breathe?

That idiot is me! I'm a traffic engineer, and I design roads for a living. Well, that’s not entirely true… I mostly fix other engineers' 50-year-old mistakes. I've gone through years of schooling in the field, and worked in both the public and private sectors in 2 countries: the USA and France. I'm quite willing to share my insights and industry insider knowledge with those of you bold enough to ask. I'm rather knowledgeable in the fields of traffic (including signs, stripes, and signals), highway design, and urban design."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UK Government Seeks New Web Censorship Powers

"Given the recent coverage and controversy over Australia's forthcoming web censorship system, it is somewhat surprising (and worrying) that Clause 11 of the UK's proposed Digital Economy Bill seems to have gone by largely unnoticed. It amends the Communications Act 2003 to insert a new section 124H that could give the Secretary of State powers to order ISPs to block pretty much any website for pretty much any reason. Such orders would not require the scrutiny of parliament, or anyone else for that matter, because the Secretary of State would not be required to publish them."

"Secret government censorship lists = freedom."
- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Former Congressman Learns About Streisand Effect

"Ted Alvin Klaudt, a former South Dakota lawmaker convicted of raping his two foster daughters, has sent news organizations what he claims is a copyright notice that seeks to prevent the use of his name without his consent." The story says Klaudt maintains "no one can use his name without his consent, and anyone who does would owe him $500,000."

 This is a wonderful example of the Streisand Effect.  When you get some bad publicity the best thing to do is ignore it, or flood good news about yourself.  If you attempt to cover it up, especially with legal threats, it'll backfire.  Then people will not only make sure to spread the original news, but also the news that you are trying to hide it.  For example, 10 minutes ago we didn't know about this dude raping his adopted daughters, but since he tried to bully that news away now we do.

Also for the sake of principle, this is the orginal picture of her house that Streisand tried to sue to get censored.

230 Protesters Arrested Trying to Breach Climate Summit’s Perimeter Fence

"Several hundred others were detained before even reaching the centre using a new law of pre-emptive arrest, brought in before the conference, which enables police to hold for up to 12 hours those they suspect may break the law. Patrick Gillett, 25, from London, spoke to The Times from Copenhagen’s temporary Climate Jail, a requisitioned warehouse on the city outskirts designed to process hundreds of arrests a day."

I can't imagine any way in which this law could be abused.

The problem with these international conferences is that cities want to host them, and don't want any possible embarrassment ruining any future chances.  So they are willing to ignore basic rights to ensure there aren't any problems.  I'd argue there isn't even any point to international conferences.  This isn't 1900, people don't need to meet face to face to come to agreements.  What's wrong with a digital teleconference?  I guess it wouldn't bring any city revenue and politicians couldn't show off like they are doing something without actually doing anything.

This is how I feel about any of these international conferences.  However, in this case it is particularly ironic with it being a pollution conference.  I'd like to see a comparison of the reduction in pollution that won't be agreed upon or followed through on vs the amount of pollution the actual conference is producing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

South Pole Foucault Pendulum

It is stinkin’ cold at the South Pole and the air is very thin. After hiking up 5 flights of stairs at 11,000 feet we had to stop and rest. While we were resting we got cold soaked from the extreme temperature so we had to go back down and warm up. While the "beer can" is enclosed it is not heated and its ambient temperature is the same as the outside temperature. For our second attempt we walked up the stairs a bit more slowly and rested for a shorter period of time and were able to begin construction on the pendulum. After several trips up and down five flights of stairs the pendulum wire was finally suspended and the rest of the construction could be performed at floor level. Even then we had to go in and warm up approximately every 10 minutes. On average, it takes 6 times longer to do things at the South Pole than it does anywhere else in the world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

CRIA Faces $60 Billion Lawsuit

"The Canadian Recording Industry Association faces a lawsuit for 60 billion dollars over willful infringement. These numbers may sound outrageous, yet they are based on the same rules that led the recording industry to claim a single file sharer is liable for millions in damages. Since these exact same companies are currently in the middle of trying to force the Canadian government to bring in a DMCA for Canada, it will be interesting to see how they try to spin this."

Ohio And The Tenth Amendment

To claim sovereignty over certain powers pursuant to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, to notify Congress to limit and end certain mandates, and to insist that federal legislation contravening the Tenth Amendment be prohibited or repealed.

Copenhagen Climate Summit

Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges. Copenhagen is preparing for the climate change summit that will produce as much carbon dioxide as a town the size of Middlesbrough (pop 142,000).

Fear and Public Perception

This 1996 interview with psychiatrist Robert DuPont was part of a Frontline program called "Nuclear Reaction."
He's talking about the role fear plays in the perception of nuclear power. It's a lot of the sorts of things I say, but particularly interesting is this bit on familiarity and how it reduces fear:
You see, we sited these plants away from metropolitan areas to "protect the public" from the dangers of nuclear power. What we did when we did that was move the plants away from the people, so they became unfamiliar. The major health effect, adverse health effect of nuclear power is not radiation. It's fear. And by siting them away from the people, we insured that that would be maximized. If we're serious about health in relationship to nuclear power, we would put them in downtown, big cities, so people would see them all the time. That is really important, in terms of reducing the fear. Familiarity is the way fear is reduced. No question. It's not done intellectually. It's not done by reading a book. It's done by being there and seeing it and talking to the people who work there.
So, among other reasons, terrorism is scary because it's so rare. When it's more common -- England during the Troubles, Israel today -- people have a more rational reaction to it.
My recent essay on fear and overreaction.

This is interesting.  It goes along with why people are more afraid of swine flu (about 3,000 US deaths) than the regular flu (about 30,000 annual US deaths).

"Lawful Spying" Price Lists Leaked

"Wired has a story about how the site leaked the price lists for 'lawful spying' activities of Yahoo and other companies, and subsequently received a DMCA takedown notice from Yahoo. The documents, however, are still posted online, and in them you can learn, for instance, that IP logs last for one year, but the original IPs used to create accounts have been kept since 1999. The contents of your Yahoo account are bought for $30 to $40 by law enforcement agencies."

I'll be picking on Yahoo here as an example, but there are also guides for Yahoo, Cox, SBC-Ameritech, Cingular, Cricket, Nextel, Pacific Telesis, ATT, Sprint, and GTE. I'd like to point out that upon reading the guide it seems like they are more compiling with laws. I couldn't find anything in the guide that proved they offer information without a warrant.  That's certainly not proof that they don't though.  However, they did issue a DMCA takedown notice about the guide, which inherently makes them evil. This info was orginally attempted via a FOIA request. However Yahoo objected to it, and said, "Therefore, release of Yahoo!’s information is reasonably likely to lead to impairment of its reputation for protection of user privacy and security, which is a competitive disadvantage for technology companies,".  In other words the public knowing the truth would hurt Yahoo.

Excerpts from the PDF guide:

What Information Can Yahoo! Provide?
  • Subscriber Information

    • Subscriber information supplied by the user at the time of registration, including name, location, date account created, and services used.
    • IP addresses associated with log-ins to a user account are available for up to one year.
    • Registration IP address data available for IDs registered since 1999.
  • Yahoo! Mail (including email associated with specific properties such as Personals, Small Business, Domains, and Flickr)

    • Any email available in the user’s mail account, including IP address of computer used to send email.
    • Yahoo! is not able to search for or produce deleted emails.
    • Note that Yahoo! now hosts two new email domains: and
  • Yahoo! Chat/Messenger

    • Friends List for Yahoo! Messenger.
    • Time, date, and IP address logs for Chat and Messenger use within the prior 45-60 days.
    • Archives of Messenger communications may be available on the user’s computer if the user has chosen to archive communications.
    • Archives of Web Messenger communications may be stored on Yahoo! servers if at least one party to the communication chose to archive communications. 

Basic subscriber records: approx. $20 for the first ID, $10 per ID thereafter
Basic Group Information (including information about moderators): approx. $20 for a group with a single moderator
Contents of subscriber accounts, including email: approx. $30-$40 per user
Contents of Groups: approx. $40 - $80 per group

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sprint Revealed Customer GPS Data 8 Million Times

An anonymous reader sends along Chris Soghoian's blog entry revealing that Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers' GPS location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. The data point comes from a closed industry conference that Soghoian attended, at which Paul Taylor, Electronic Surveillance Manager at Sprint Nextel, said: "[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that's just scratching the surface. One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement. They also love that it is extremely inexpensive to operate and easy, so, just the sheer volume of requests they anticipate us automating other features, and I just don't know how we'll handle the millions and millions of requests that are going to come in." Soghoian's post details the laws around disclosure of wiretap and other interception data — one of which the Department of Justice has been violating since 2004 — and calls for more disclosure of the levels of all forms of surveillance.

Somali Pirates Open Up a "Stock Exchange"

'Four months ago, during the monsoon rains, we decided to set up this stock exchange. We started with 15 "maritime companies" and now we are hosting 72. Ten of them have so far been successful at hijacking,' Mohammed [a wealthy former pirate who took a Reuters reporter to the facility] said. ... Piracy investor Sahra Ibrahim, a 22-year-old divorcee, was lined up with others waiting for her cut of a ransom pay-out after one of the gangs freed a Spanish tuna fishing vessel. 'I am waiting for my share after I contributed a rocket-propelled grenade for the operation,' she said, adding that she got the weapon from her ex-husband in alimony. 'I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the "company."

SETI@Home Install Leads To School Tech Supervisor's Resignation

"Apparently the most prolific of users in the SETI@Home community has resigned his job as a school technology supervisor after it was revealed he had the software installed on some 5000 school machines. The school claims to have lost $1 million in upkeep on the affected machines."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Senators Call For ACTA Transparency

"Two US senators have asked President Barack Obama's administration to allow the public to review and comment on a controversial international copyright treaty being negotiated largely in secret. The public has a right to know what's being negotiated in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Senators Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, and Bernard Sanders, a Vermont Independent, argue in the letter."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kim Jong-Il, The World's Funniest Guy

3. In 2004, a former chef for Kim revealed that the North Korean leader employs staff to make sure that the grains of his rice served to him are absolutely uniform in size and colour.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Please design a logo for me. With pie charts

In case you don't know what a yaght is.

This is the guy's site.
Everything he writes is quite funny.  Read it and be amused.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Tenth Amendment

I'm a strong supporter of the Constitution and State's rights.  The Constitution is a framework for the Federal government.   The People created the Federal government to handle issues they felt we better handled uniformly throughout the Union.  As always I highly recommend you read the Constitution as it's rather brief and easy to read, at least for a legal document.  You will see that it quite clearly lists the powers of the Federal government, and then states that any power not given to the Federal government is retained by the States and the People.  The exact quote is from the 10th amendment:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Pretty simple.  If the Constitution doesn't say the Federal government can do something then it can't.  Around this time you may be bringing up the point that the Federal government does in fact do whatever it wants, with little regard for the limited list of powers it legally has.  The reason is simply because it can.  Without question the Federal government is the most powerful and wealthy entity that has every existed.  Every year it spends a few trillion dollars (this is what $1 trillion in hundred dollar bills looks like).

I won't go into more detail as to why the States should have more power than the Federal government.  I've already written about it in great detail.  It's a moot point though, because regardless of what you think, the fact remains that legally the States do retain all powers not given to the Federal government.

If you think the Federal government should have a power which it currently does not then the correct procedure would be proposing a Constitutional amendment to grant it that power.  The easy way though would be for the Federal government to just do it since no one can stop them.

One classic example of the Federal government regulating something it has no authority to do so is the regulation of drugs.  In 1919 the 18th amendment banned alcohol in the US.  The Federal government knew it had no power to outlaw alcohol so an amendment was passed giving it that power (actually the amendment just outlawed it outright).  The 18th amendment was latter repealed with the 21st amendment.  When an amendment is passed it becomes part of the Constitution, and the only thing that can overrule the Constitution is a new amendment.

So what does this have to do with drug laws?  Well there is no amendment giving the Federal government the power to regulate drugs.  The reason is that by the time the US got around to seriously regulating drugs the Federal government had usurped enough power to pass the unconstitutional laws.  Still the Federal government doesn't openly admit it disregards the Constitution, so it claimed that drug laws were justified by the infamous commerce clause.

The commerce clause is a power granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8, which states:
"The Congress shall have Power To... regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;"

The key here is that Congress can regulate commerce among the several States.  How in the world does that grant it the power to regulate anything which is produced, sold, and used entirly within one state?  Well I'm glad you asked.

"Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942), was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that dramatically increased the power of the federal government to regulate economic activity. A farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat to feed his chickens. The U.S. government had imposed limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to drive up wheat prices during the Great Depression, and Filburn was growing more than the government's scheme permitted. Filburn was ordered to destroy his crops and pay a fine to the government for being too productive.

The Supreme Court, interpreting the United States Constitution's Commerce Clause (which permits the United States Congress to "regulate Commerce . . . among the several States") decided that, because Filburn's wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for chicken feed on the open market, and because wheat was traded nationally, Filburn's production of more wheat than he was allotted was affecting interstate commerce, and so could be regulated by the federal government.

This was a dramatic reversal of over 150 years of prior decisions ("precedent") restricting the federal government's power to regulate commerce, which previously had been limited to such areas as transportation across state boundaries on roads and rivers, actual movement of goods between states, and prohibition of punitive taxes imposed by a state on goods from another."

To summarize the Federal governments said it could regulate something that you produce for personal use because by producing it yourself and not buying it via interstate commerce you are affecting interstate commerce.

If this is the first time you have ever heard this I feel you really need to let it sink in.  I recommend rereading the quote from Wikipedia.

A good question to ask now is, if this is a valid argument, what can't the Federal government regulate?  If the answer is nothing, then why is there even a list of powers given to the Federal government at all?  As this is the argument used to justify drug laws another good question is, how you can affect interstate drug commerce when there is no such thing as legal interstate drug commerce?

There has been a recent trend by States to reclaim some of their power from the Federal government.  Which is surprising given the general apathy of everyone to this.  The recent Real ID act is a good example of this.

Another recent trend has been Firearms Freedom Acts which have passed in a couple states.

These state laws say that any firearm manufactured and sold in state is exempt from Federal regulations.  They are carefully worded as they are intended to go to a long legal battle.  When Tennassee passed one of these laws the assistant director of the ATF wrote an open letter in which he wrote:
"The Act purports to exempt personal firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition manufactured in the State, and which remain in the State, from most Federal firearms laws and regulations. However, because the Act conflicts with Federal firearms laws and regulations, Federal law supersedes the Act, and all provisions of the Gun Control Act and the National Firearms Act, and their corresponding regulations, continue to apply."

It's fun that he brings up laws superseding other laws.  Someone should make him aware of the fact that the Constitution supersedes Federal laws, thus the Federal law is null and void.

I'd like to point out that I purposely choose two topics that many people feel differently about (drug laws and gun laws).  The point is that regardless if you like drugs or guns the Federal government has no right regulating them.  One of the reasons the Federal government has been able to get away with so much is that the people who support the laws are willing to ignore the fact that they are illegal if it gets them what they want.

The fact is that in the short term allowing the Federal government to regulate something it has no right to, but that the population as a whole wants it to, may seem like a harmless way to by pass the difficult process of an amendment or getting 50 separate state laws passed.  The problem is that this slowly gives the Federal government more and more power.  Even if you believe the current Federal government has the People's best interest at heart, history shows that no government remains good forever.  The threat of a government gone bad that has too much power is a greater threat than any of the things that the Federal government gets away with regulating.

Insane Rant On State's Right

I'm working on reposting the massive archive of old emails I have to this blog so that everyone (read me) can read them.  Usually I've been back dating them to whenever they were originally posted, but when I see one I think is particularity important I'll post it on the front page with a note.

This is the first such email.  It's an attempt to argue for strong States vs a strong Federal government.  I wrote it on Tuesday, May 29, 2007.

I've now shifted focus to further trying to convince you in favor of State's rights.

Your main objection seems to be that arbitrary districts have different (arbitrary) differences in the laws that govern them.  This creates confusion.

My counter to this is what I've already said, you will always have these arbitrary differences at some level.  Whether it be country, state, county, city, or individual.  The US is a bigger country than most, most countries are comparable to our states.  Most people don't leave their state often.  Even with a relatively small state like NJ we rarely go outside (please ignore your daily commute outside NJ [actually this ties in to my other idea that NJ should be split and given to PA and NY, the whole state thing works much better if the states are true representations of the culture in it.]).  I don't see a whole lot of confusion about the differences in laws between state borders now.  Most people understand that stuff is different between states, but the major stuff is the same.  You know that if you kill some one in Philly that's probably not going to fly.  The "well I'm from NJ, I don't know your laws" defense isn't going to work.  The only real laws that differ from state to state are stuff that's obvious (speed limits), or stuff that only really effects residents, not visitors.

There is always going to be confusion over laws, at least as long as they are written by lawyers (our other topic).  No one knows the laws, and the laws they do know are just the urban legend version of them.  If you want to find out the law you are going to have to do research, and that research will simply be in your state law.  If there was one federal law you'd still need to look it up/consult a lawyer.  You could argue that it would be easier to look up, but that's just not true.  The states are perfectly capable of making a website with digital version of every law, as is the federal government.  Try to find any law today, federal or state, you probably won't be able to.  It has nothing to do with federal vs. state, and everything to do with the people in government being old cooks with no concept of the modern world.

It seems to me that your desire for one set of laws to rule them all, is more of a subconscious organization thing.  Despite the fact that in practice it would yield little benefit, and certainly less benefit than the protection offered by the state system.

You also argued that 1 main debate over something is better than 50 small ones.  I think this is also false.  1 debate across the whole country, over anything of any importance will likely result in stalemate.  The only way to get around the stalemate is massive compromises by both sides.  This results in neither side being happy, and for no reason.  If things had been settled at the more local state level there would be much less compromise needed, since there'd be much more agreement within the state.

As an example look at abortion.  At the federal level there will always be a debate, and 50% of the country will always be unhappy.  If it were left to the states to decide there'd be a large number of states where the side was pretty much unquestionable (on both sides of the issue).  There would be no need for the debate there, and most the people in the state would be happy.  A few states would be mixed, but the debates would be a much smaller scale, and you'd have less people who were diehard on either side, there'd be more chance of coming to an honest resolution.

So now as summary of the benefits of state rights.  I've come to the conclusion that the best realistic government to have in power is the ineffective one.  The less laws they pass the better.  Whatever party controls congress I want the other to have the presidency (like now).  When things are like this they are able to pass less stuff that we don't want.  When one group controls them both they will all vote the same, no matter how terrible the law is in their personal eyes.  However, before you claim that my argument is silly since I'm basically arguing for an anarchist government by default, but with lot's of waste spending canceling itself out.  The two opposing party setup works because they still are there to handle crisis, or pass legit laws.  Realistically any modern civ can't function without government.

A government is an entity, just like a business or any other group.  Any entity will have money, and control over certain things, and will form a chain of command (who's in charge).  Any entity will try to use its resources to further aid its self preservation.  Since it's also made up by individuals the people in it will also exploit it for their own good.  This all leads to corruption (along with distance from capital and number of cities, but we can at least counter that with the Forbidden Palace).  Summed up well with the old "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".  The more power any entity has the more corrupt it will be, and the more able it will be to further grab power.  It's a self fueling problem (aka positive feedback loop).  I think this paragraph has been really key.  It may be obvious, but really it's an important fact.

The beauty of the original constitution was the protection against this.  The "checks and balances" (TM) we all learned about in civics class are a great way of slowing the process.  The problem is that unforeseen events will happen, and these allow the government to grab a bit more power.  One classic example of this was the Civil war.  You may or may not know that I'm pretty anti Lincoln.  He took one of the largest and earliest (although certainly not the first, no point in going into things like the Whiskey Rebellion), steps from our states which use a federal government for their common good, to a federal government which has administrative state districts.  Now how he should of handled a pretty crazy situation I won't pretend to know, and if he purposely (and evilly) made the federal government stronger I won't guess.  The point is he did it.  I guess a question is whether there are things that are so obviously morally wrong (slavery) that they justify a loss of protection from corruption of government.  I'd personally have to say no.  Slavery is pretty shitty, but it's been happening for thousands of years, and around that time it was pretty much doomed.  Slavery could probably have been peacefully abolished by 1900.  Maybe not, but the Civil war was about a lot more than slavery, and if that really had been Lincoln's sole concern (it wasn't, many examples including the fact that he only "freed" the slaves in any state which had succeeded from the Union, and obviously any state that had seceded wasn't listening to him, so he freed no one.), he could have probably settled it without any of the south seceding.

Anyway I went to lunch and came back, so excuse me if this seems a bit disjointed here.  The fact that the federal government will try to gain power and then abuse it for more power is a fact.  It doesn't require any "evil" people, or really any sort of conscious effort to happen.  It's just a result of how things work.  The solution is to slow this down as much as possible (to believe it could be stopped from happening forever would be na├»ve), by putting as many road blocks in the way as possible.  It takes 75% to amend the constitution, which is nuts, and frankly I'm surprised it's ever been done.  There are 3 branches of government, and they are (should be) all equally powerful, any 2 has the power to override the other.  Those are the 2 main road blocks to an over grown federal government.

Since this is a federation of states all federal power derives from willing states.  The federal government is a voluntary government allowed by the states for the betterment of them all.  There are some things which can be done better by it, than by the states independently.  You argued that laws in general are one of these things, but I hope my above rebutted that (I know it didn't).

You may now be saying, ok so the federal government will tend to become corrupt if left unchecked, well what about the states, won't they just become corrupt as well?  Well yes, however they will also tend to become less corrupt simply because there is less money and power.  The main difference however is that there are 50 states, all with approximately equal power.  If one state started to become too powerful, the others would be there to stop it.  It'd be much too difficult for any state (even a super state like CA which is more powerful than most countries) to pose a legit threat to the others.

The benefit of states with different versions of laws all being member of a common nation is that if your state starts go in a direction you don't like you can vote with your wallet and move.  It's funny because despite the fact that you can actually vote to elect people I think that people would actually be more inclined to move out of the state than try to vote in people to change it.  The less people you have in your state the less taxes you collect.

Some laws make more sense in different areas of the country.  Our country has vast differences both in the geography and the demographics.  NY, CA, Montana, Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa are all in the same country, yet think about how different they are.  What works in one may not be best for the other.  Some states border water, some have rivers, some are plains, some mountains, some warm, some cold, some border other countries, some have tiny mostly rural populations, some large urban populations, different types of industry.  As an example a national speed limit of 55 makes sense in NJ (well not really, but more sense than other places) where it's super high population density, and traffic density, but makes no sense in New Mexico, where it's just flat open land.  Let whatever towns or cities in NM make a lower max speed, but NM as a whole should decide its own max speed (which presumably would be much higher than 55).

Thus if you don't like NJ's stance on whatever you can move to PA.  PA gets more tax money, NJ less, and if enough people feel the way you do NJ will start to notice the trend.  If there are plenty of people with the opposite view to you who will stay in NJ, so what, you still get to live in PA where things are the way you think they should be.  After a while the different ways of doing things will start show as the better ways of doing things.  After PA gets rid of any laws on possessing less than x amount of drugs they will either fall into a drug crazed anarchy or they will have tons less people in their prisons, and more money for other stuff, with no noticeable effect on the population due to the increased drugs.  Other reasonable states will see the light and change as well.  Sure crazy diehard states will hang on to whatever they believe in, but the people there will want to, and they will be happy.  After a while it will be obvious that one way is superior and all the states will have to come around to it.

In summary, giving the states the ability to make their own laws gives the people living in the US a choice as to which state feels closest to the way they feel on the things that matter to them.  The added complication of 50 different version in practice will be slight.  Major things will be uniform, and the things that aren't won't matter to people just traveling through the state or visiting.  People will move to where the laws reflect how they feel, and those states will see the benefit of having sensible laws.  Crazy states that base their laws on fiction written 2000 years ago will see that perhaps fairy tales aren't the best base for a system of laws.  Taking power from the federal government and giving it to the states will prevent the federal government from getting too strong, while the other states check each other.

Here are some Slashdot posts which I feel are relevant:

After all, it defeats the point if one can't move away from states with bad policies and into states with good policies.

It also removes a useful remedial effect: States with bad policies would see a population (and revenue) drop, while states with good policies would see gains. This would tend to send a wake up call to the worse states, which would act, based on economic pressure, to adjust the bad policies to be more in line with what people actually want. The more homogenous the states are, the less leverage the citizens have. Voting with your wallet (and your feet) is a great way to say "no thanks, buddy" to politicians that are out of control. With the feds running everything (and they pretty much are trying to), the differences erode and the citizen's power to force change with their feet/wallet erodes at the same time.


Most people aren't going to change states because of their state's policies. Also, environmental issues of one state effect the environment in other states.

Taking this idea even further, would you be pissed if you were a landowner and your next door neighbor decided to build a power plant and a toxic waste dump on his property? Clearly anyone who doesn't like it should leave his property. But you are on a different property.

(I've included this one to be fair, and as devils advocate, and you.  To this I say, perhaps environmental issues would be a federal issue, it does effect all states, so it makes sense.  That said whenever a power is given to the federal government you must be careful to limit it, and restrict it.  You must try to prevent them from using it to force their will on the states.  As for the claim that people wouldn't move, I think they would.  It's just a matter of how strongly they feel about the issue.  If NJ makes a law that you don't like, but you don't really care about you won't move.  But if NJ mandates that everyone wear ID badges at all times you'd probably move [or at least it'd be one more factor {note I know your stance on mandatory wearing of ID badges}])


"Don't you think the duplication of bureaucracy among the states is a waste of taxpayer money?"

No. For instance, what works for New York State, a verdant, wet and well populated region, will not work for Montana; we have other environmental issues. Socially, we're also different: Actions taken legally in Connecticut (for instance, that the state can steal your property under eminent domain for the basically evil purpose of getting more tax revenue out of it), are 100% illegal in Montana for the specific reason that we have our own bureaucracy and they aren't quite as batshit insane as those legislators abusing the citizens of Connecticut. Texans can't sell sex toys (poor bastards), but we can. In some states, atheists can't hold public office. Unbelievable, but 100% true. Please keep both the feds and your own state's ideas far, far, away - really, if you want these laws, by all means, but keep them to yourselves. I'm sure you don't want our idea of what is good law forced on you, either. People significantly differ in outlook by region for both social and practical geographical reasons.

State's rights are critically important, likewise it is important that we stop the feds from illegitimately taking over everything they put their nasty little fingers on. Take a look at what they've done with the commerce clause if you want to see just how out of their tiny little minds they are.


Those laws are on the books, but I doubt they'd pass constitutional muster. Of course, that provision won't be tested anytime soon because of this poll:

Gallup. 2/9-11. Adults. MoE 3% (no trend lines)
If your party nominated a well-qualified Candidate For WH '08 who was _, would you vote for that person?

Yes No
Catholic 95% 4%
Black 94 5
Jewish 92 7
A woman 88 11
Hispanic 87 12
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42
A homosexual 55 43
An atheist 45 53

Remember, even if you're well qualified, if you don't believe in the man in the sky, you aren't going to win an election.

(Off topic, and I think I've sent this poll to you before, but it is nuts.  Over half the country wouldn't vote for someone who didn't believe in god, more than a gay guy or a 72 year old, insane.)


Actually, there's both view on both sides of the political spectrum. Some conservatives want big government (as the current administration does), while other conservatives want small government (libertarians). Effectively, big government = federal rule, and small government = states rights.

Liberals are the same way - there are those who want the federal government to stay out of their lives and primarily be involved in regulating businesses, dealing with other countries, etc. Then there are the liberals who want the "mommy society", as a previous poster put it - i.e. the federal government regulating everything that could conceivably be considered harmful in any way.


Sure, every democrat has to sell his sole during primaries.

They sell the bottom of their feet? I thought most Democrat candidates were a bit off, but that's just weird.


Ron Paul is different. Check his congressional voting record. Go on. I dare you. It doesn't even slightly resemble any Demopublican or Republicrat you could possibly name. Then check his web site for his stated positions, and compare them to his voting record. You're in for a heck of a surprise. The man isn't evil at all. I don't agree with every position he holds, but the vast majority, I do. Furthermore, they actually are his positions and he actually votes his positions. It'd be a total mindf*ck to have a politician in the white house who made every effort to be reasonable, honest, and true to the constitutional basis of their job. Go on, check him out. I know you haven't, because even if you completely disagreed with the man, you'd never compare him to the run of the mill candidate. You'd have to disagree with him for entirely new reasons. :)


I agree completely, even though I'm supporting Ron Paul.

I'm not a libertarian at the state level. I'm a pretty radical socialist. If Ron Paul was running for my state rep or governor, I wouldn't give him the time of day. I'd be looking for someone to the left of Kucinich (if there is such a thing).

I'm a libertarian at the federal level because forcing my ideas on to the people of all 50 states is a bad way to get things done. You and I could be happy in our liberal paradise with our socialized medicine, $10/hr minimum wage, decent public schools, etc. The fine people in Utah wouldn't.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, the "red states" are a net negative on the treasury (they take in more federal money than they dole out in taxes). They're always trying to shove religion down our throat as well. Cut them loose and let them turn their population into a bunch of idiot hicks that can't get a job. We'll do just fine without them TYVM.

Let the politicians in the shitty states screw up their own states AND NOTHING MORE


A thing to note on Ron Paul, too, is that he is one of the few who voted against the Patriot Act and against Internet regulation. A few other nice things about him:

Paul unites opposition to the war and the police state at home across the entire political spectrum...

Brief Overview of Congressman Paul's Record
He has never voted to raise taxes.
He has never voted for an unbalanced budget.
He has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership.
He has never voted to raise congressional pay.
He has never taken a government-paid junket.
He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch.
He voted against the Patriot Act.
He voted against regulating the Internet.
He voted against the Iraq war.

He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program.
He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.


If Elected I promise:
1) Decriminalize most crimes except for the really bad ones (Murder, rape, robbery, etc) and institute a policy of impaling for the rest of them. Worked for Vlad. I'd be Greyfox the impaler.

2) Mandatory reversible sterilization for all children at puberty.
3) Breeding license. It's harder to buy a gun or a car than it is to have a child. We'll have a test to insure that the Wrong Sorts don't breed.

4) Forced breeding but
5) Child rearing is a very difficult task and parents are far too busy these days. Therefore all children will be confiscated at birth and raised in sanitary state run facilities.

6) Not only will gay marriage be legal, it will be mandatory for all people who don't hold breeding licenses.
7) All organized religion will be abolished and a mandatory state run one involving Smurfs will be put into place.
8) Mandatory Samurai honor code for corporate executives and public officials. Bring shame to your office, commit sepuku.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Shockwave traffic jams recreated for first time

A pretty clear example of why traffic jams happen where there is no reason.


OkTrends is a blog where they analyze the data from dating site OkCupid.  It's pretty interesting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Georgia Tech PD Adds SWAT Team

Should non government entities have police forces?  Probably not.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Mouse Song

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Glenn Beck Loses Dispute Over Parody Domain

"Glenn Beck fought the law and the law won. Parody website attacked Beck using the same straw man arguments Beck himself is famous for: 'We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 — in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder ... Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?' Beck didn't see the humour and tried to have the site shut down. He sued the creator on the grounds the site 'violated his name as a trademark.' But in a sudden outbreak of common sense, WIPO rejected Beck's complaint finding the site 'can be said to be making a political statement,' which is a 'legitimate non-commercial use' of Beck's name. But after winning, the owner voluntarily handed Beck the domain anyway. Still, it's comforting to know that satire — the only weapon politicians and talking heads fear — is still safely in the hands of the public where it belongs."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Overpopulation Isn't That Bad

3 Inches of Blood - Goatriders Horde

This is probably the most metal thing to ever exist on the Earth.

Feeling the march of the fury unleashed
Impaling the soldiers of God
Smell of sulphur hot on the wind
Left by the Goatrider's Horde
The thundering roar
Of the cloven hoof
The Goatrider's Horde
Descends with the storm
I am eternal
I walk the night
I am the reaper of souls
Cold iron blades
They cannot stop me
Where I am from no one knows
I am in command
Impervious to fire
Impervious to steel
Merciless vengeance
Dealt by their strike
Treachery stalking
Evil command
Cloven hoofed steed I ride
Armies of horns descend on the gates
Hatred burns their eyes
Impervious to fire
Impervious to steel
Merciless vengeance
Dealt by their strike
Impervious to fire
Impervious to steel
Walls of stone cannot stop them
Too weak are the spells of old
At the sound of their banshee cry
The hearts of all grow cold
Impervious to fire
Impervious to steel
Merciless vengeance
Dealt by their strike
Impervious to fire
Impervious to steel
Merciless vengeance
Dealt by their strike
Fueled by the fears of man
To slake the unquenchable thirst
I'm in command
I'm in command
The Goatrider's Horde

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pandora Internet Radio

So a few months ago I heard about Pandora internet radio for the first time.  I mostly ignored it because I have a pretty good music collection and didn't really have much interest in it.  However, recently I decided to try it out for no real reason.  I like it quite a bit.  It is pretty easy to set up and then does a good job of playing music you'll like.

In case you haven't heard of it, Pandora is a pretty simple website where you can enter bands or songs you like and it'll play those bands and other music it thinks you'll like.  You don't even have to sign up, just go there and enter a band name and it starts.  I registered because it was painless and I wanted to be able to save my preferences.  It did want to know my birth year and zip code, but luckily it had no way of knowing if I was telling the truth.  After that I just had to start entering bands.  You only have to enter a single band, but I wanted variety.  I entered about 50 bands that have the highest play counts in my media player.  It's a pretty wide spectrum of music, from prog rock to hardcore, but I generally like a variety in genres of music while I'm listening to it.  If you want to hear my station you can at this link:

However, I recommend you just make your own station with bands you like.  Once you create a station there's a link to add variety... If you click that it lets you type in a band name and within a few letters usually knows who you want.  It's pretty easy, although there didn't seem to be any way to mass import a list of bands.  I just put them in a spreadsheet and copy and pasted the names.

As for how the playback works, it very good.  It has played some pretty obscure stuff like Math The Band and Defiance, Ohio.  Most of what it plays though is not the bands you enter, but similar bands.  Even with 50 bands entered only about 1 out of 5 will be a band I've ever heard of.  That's good though as finding new bands is the main reason I'm using it.  Already I've heard quite a few bands that were really good.  It apparently analyzes songs based on a few hundred criteria and then finds songs that are similar to ones you like to play.  When you hear a song you like you can click a thumbs up, and if you don't like it you can click thumbs down.  If you click on a song that played there is an option called 'why was this song selected?'  If you click that it tells you the criteria that match your preferences.  For example here are some songs it's played and why:
Hot Water Music - The Bitter End
punk roots, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, mixed minor & major key tonaility and a vocal-centric aesthetic

Apocalyptica - Path
hard rock roots, minor key tonality, melodic string accompaniment, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and mallet percussion

Metallica - Jump In The Fire
hard rock roots, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, repetive melodic phrasing and minor key tonality

As far as genres goes it clearly tends to play similar songs in a row, but still plays very different stuff.  Generally it has played 4 or 5 songs that fit into one category then jumps to a new one.  Again this is exactly what I would want it to do.  If you only wanted to listen to one type of music at a time you could make different radio stations for the different types.

It does have some negatives though.  First despite what I was told it does have audio ads.  They are quite reasonable though.  There is only ever one ad played at a time, and they are about 10-30 seconds long.  It seems to go about 6 songs between ads.  I'm sure this will increase as it become more popular, but even one 30 second ad per song would be fine with me.  My biggest problem with the ads now is that I've only heard about 5 different ads, and they are just repeated.  I don't see any visual ads on the page itself, although I'm using Adblock+.

The next two limitations I've not experienced first hand yet, but read them on Wikipedia.  First off you only get 12 skips per 24 hours.  So you can't be super picky about what it plays.  If you want to hear one specific band or song you should just be listening to your media play anyway.  The next limit though is a big downfall.  Wikipedia claims you only get 40 hours per month for free.  40 hours is ridiculous short for a month.  I'll listen to 40 hours of music in 3 days easily.  I suppose for someone with less free time than me (read: everyone) this would last longer, still I'm sure most people will reach this limit before the end of the month.  I'll have to see if I actually reach this limit.  If so I guess I'll still use it just to find some new bands every month.

Secret Copyright Treaty Leaks. It's Bad. Very Bad.

Jamie found a Boing Boing story that will probably get your blood to at least a simmer. It says "The internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a secret copyright treaty whose text Obama's administration refused to disclose due to 'national security' concerns, has leaked. It's bad." You can read the original leaked document or the summary. If passed, the internet will never be the same. Thank goodness it's hidden from public scrutiny for National Security

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Someone Else Is Using My Oracal Program

Clearly someone else is using my oracal program.

In case you were wondering here is what Oracal has to say about this:
Should an 8 year old be playing Halo 3?

actually ive played both, they r both actually really good games. ;)Even then the gameplay looks so-so I like other 3rd persons better. When I don't feel like I have hard deadlines, I try to participate. But goodness, can people be pricks. Remember when they used to make a Halo game with a single player campaign that lasted at least 20 hours, and everybody that owned an X-Box had a copy? Now it appears the single player is a pee-on now. halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo halo. if you like to play online its worth it but if u just want the sigleplayer campaign its not worth it, jus give it a rent. CP: I generally play to have fun and attempt to do stupid action hero style moves that generally result in spectacular deaths. Always look for help and resources. you can take the gore and strong language of of gears 2. I'm just saying...I don't play games on Xbox Live because I hate most of the random players I get put into games with, I rarely have a problem with random people on the Playstation Network.

Monday, November 2, 2009


The only true indicator of success in life is a briefcase full of tacos and a frisbee.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

State Budgets By Capita

State budget data was harder to find than I expected.  As in I expected there to be a Wikipedia article for it.  After some searching I found it on the census web page (this link claims to not work, but the URL is right).  It is for the 2006-2007 year.  The population data is the 2008 estimates from Wikipedia.  The GDP per capita I've included just for fun is also from Wikipedia.

I have no idea how the census people qualify revenue and expenditures, but I'd guess they are the most comprehensive definitions possible.  Note that not a single state has greater expenditures than revenue (which isn't true).  Because of this I decided to go with expenditures, as I think they are probably more realistic.  Revenue probably includes things like federal aid.  I guess in theory they have to spend less than they take in, it would be impossible to spend money they didn't have.  It is just that they borrow the money to spend, and that would increase their revenue.

I sorted the chart by expenditures per capita.  Number one is Alaska at $13,393.32 per person. Last is Texas at $3,725.24 per person.

StatePopulationGDP/CapitaTotal RevenueTotal ExpenditureRev/CapitaExp/Capita
New York19,490,297$48,076.00$178,908,359,000.00$151,338,991,000.00$9,179.36$7,764.84
New Mexico1,984,356$32,091.00$16,781,588,000.00$14,907,060,000.00$8,456.94$7,512.29
Rhode Island1,050,788$41,008.00$8,417,797,000.00$7,071,396,000.00$8,010.94$6,729.61
New Jersey8,682,661$50,919.00$65,495,222,000.00$56,076,165,000.00$7,543.22$6,458.41
North Dakota641,481$39,321.00$4,786,348,000.00$3,777,523,000.00$7,461.40$5,888.75
South Carolina4,479,800$31,884.00$27,530,567,000.00$24,824,628,000.00$6,145.49$5,541.46
West Virginia1,814,468$30,831.00$11,945,313,000.00$9,766,972,000.00$6,583.37$5,382.83
United States304,059,724$39,751.00$1,992,826,296,000.00$1,634,801,176,000.00$6,554.06$5,376.58
North Carolina9,222,414$34,439.00$51,841,493,000.00$44,009,293,000.00$5,621.25$4,771.99
New Hampshire1,315,809$42,830.00$7,171,927,000.00$6,226,121,000.00$5,450.58$4,731.78
South Dakota804,194$37,375.00$4,920,193,000.00$3,571,741,000.00$6,118.17$4,441.39

Here's what the census people had to say about all this:
No ranking table was produced for 2005 and onward. Ranking tables for previous years should be interpreted with caution. An analysis based on rankings or per capita statistics can be misleading and misinterpreted because of subtle yet important differences in state government organization and economic structure. For example, using total taxes or per capita taxes as a measure of tax burden on the citizens of that state can be misleading because different states use different approaches to taxation, comparing only the total taxes collected by each state is not enough to understand the economic impact of those states’ taxes – one must also understand how those taxes are collected. Comparing taxes across states can be difficult. The Census Bureau’s statistics on tax revenue reflect taxes a state collects from activity within the state, not necessarily from its people within a state. Alaska, for instance, does not have general sale taxes or individual income taxes, but it does collect severance taxes from companies that extract oil and natural gas. Like Alaska, Florida also does not collect individual income taxes, but unlike Alaska, Florida instead relies heavily on a general sales tax, which, because of its tourist industry, is partially supported by visitors from outside Florida. In that sense, both Alaska and Florida use “exported taxes” – taxes collected from people or organizations that may reside outside their state.

Similarly, ranking expenditures totals or comparing per capita expenditures are equally challenging since some states directly administer activities that, in other states, are undertaken by local governments, with or without state fiscal aid. The share of government sector financial totals contributed by a state government, therefore, differs materially from one state to another. For example, comparing a state’s direct expenditures on Cash Assistance Payments to Individuals in New York to Oregon may lead to an inaccurate conclusions since all cash assistance payments to individuals in New York State are made by local governments while in Oregon they are made by the state government only. Thus a strict ranking or per capita analysis that does not take into account these structural relationships between the state government and the local governments within each state can lead to an invalid analysis and incorrect conclusion.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

They Don't Know What Good Music Is

This whole site is great.

"Three Strikes" To Go Ahead In Britain

"Lord Peter Mandelson has carefully ignored the Gowers Report and the Carter Report, instead taking the advice of his good friend David Geffen and announcing that 'three strikes and you're out' will become law in Britain. The Open Rights Group has, of course, hit the roof. Oh, and never mind MI5 and the police pointing out that widespread encryption will become normal, hampering their efforts to keep up with little things like impending terrorist atrocities. Still, worth it to stop a few Lily Allen tracks being shared, right?"

EFF Launches "Takedown Hall of Shame"

"Recognizing that public shame is a potent weapon, the Electronic Frontier Foundation today launched a new Web site — its Takedown Hall of Shame — that will shine an unflattering spotlight on those corporations and individuals who abuse copyright claims to stifle free speech. Among the early inductees are NPR, NBC, CBS, and Diebold."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Over 100%

The curtains produce their own light, and then block that too.

Save the Planet, Eat Your Dog

"New Zealand's Dominion Post reports on a new book just released, Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living. In this book, they compare the environmental footprint of our housepets to other things that we own. Like that German Shepherd? It consumes more resources than two Toyota SUVs. Cats are a little less than a Volkswagen Golf. Two hamsters are about the same as a plasma TV. Their suggestions? Chickens, rabbits, and pigs. But only if you eat them."

Fake Birds

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This Is Why We Have The Internet

In case you don't realize you can add whatever text you want in the boxes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Track Three Is The Best Song On The Album

On Math The Band's well known Imaginary Everything album they have a song called "The Very Best Song On The Whole Entire Album", which is track 3. The song is about how track 3 is often the best song on any album. In it he says, "Have you ever really actually taken a look at the songs you like on certain CDs? Look at the track numbers that they are, and usually, almost always, track number 3 is the best song on the album. Closely followed by 2, 7, and sometimes 12.".

The first time I heard this I wondered if this was true or not. I somewhat doubted it, as I thought of some of my favorite songs and what track they were. But I could never really be sure. I decided to take my playback statistics and find out. My statistics only cover about 6 months since the last time I reformatted. Out of 8268 songs there are 26,516 plays, an average of 3.2. There are 2350 songs which haven't been played, and 776 I don't have track numbers for, which are being discarded for this, raising the average to 4.83. 

The cutoff point was a problem.  In the chart I decided to cut off at track 26, since I have less than 10 songs with any track number above that.  There is a clear favoring for tracks above 12.  I think there are a number of reason for this.  First high track numbers are often from best of CDs.  Next they are indicative of short songs, which are more likely to be able to play enough to get counted.

There is another problem with using play counts as indicator of goodness.   In my media player (Foobar2000) when one album is done playing the next album starts playing.  The next album is usually the next album released by that band, but if it was their last album it'll be the first album by the next band in alphabetical order.  Thus if an album has a strong lead in album it'll get unrealistically high track counts, particularly the first couple tracks.  On the other hand, if an album is equally good throughout, the later track will be favored.  This is because I often hit random track to find good music, when a good song comes on I let it play in normal order until I want to hear something different.  This means that if an early track comes on in a CD that is good I'll likely listen to the whole thing, thus the later tracks will also get a play.  On the other hand, if a late track comes on the early tracks won't get played.

Let's look at what the data tells us.  There is more to be learned though from the lower track numbers.  First off track 3 is not in fact the best song on the album.  Even if we ignore the higher tracks, track 2 is solidly better.  Then there is a clear drop off for the middle of the album, and it picks up somewhat towards the end.

I've already explained the late tracks being high.  Track 1 being low is likely due to intros which tend to get skipped.  The question is whether there is an actual tendency for better songs at the start of the album, or if it's due to what I wrote above about how songs get played?  In summary we didn't really learn much, except that statistics are fun.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

An Analysis Of Against Me! Lyrics With Respect To Their "Selling Out"

Let me preface this by saying I'm not really sure where I'm going to go with this. I have no real clear goal here. I've just been listening to a lot of Against Me! and want to rant about my thoughts on them. This won't be about whether or not Against Me! sold out, or what selling out really means. I may do a post later about that. "Selling out" here though represents the clear change in their music between The Disco Before the Breakdown, and Against Me! as the Eternal Cowboy. This will simply be about what the lyrics of The Disco Before the Breakdown say about this "selling out".

I've been listening to a lot of Against Me! lately, more than usual. I looked up the lyrics to all the songs and actually read them for the first time ever. They are quite interesting. I was most surprised by the 3 song EP The Disco Before the Breakdown. I've listened to this EP countless times, and despite the somewhat understandable lyrics never really payed much attention to them. If you haven't heard the EP then you don't know me and thus aren't reading this. If you've never really read the lyrics read them now.

Before we dive into what The Disco Before the Breakdown has to say about Against Me!'s change in direction we must first go over what their ideals were to begin with. I'll try to keep this brief.

Against Me! self identified as "anarchists". I'll be putting any references to "anarchy" in quotes because it was anarchy in name only. Anarchy is actually pretty simple. It is the absence of government, or in other words total freedom. However, people rarely use it in this way. To many it has come to be a synonym for chaos. To others it has, oddly enough, come to mean an idealized lifestyle in which everyone cooperates. I find it particularly odd that "anarchy" has come to be associated with communism, when the two are polar opposites. Communism is a very strong government which controls everything, and a lack of businesses. Anarchy is the lack of government, which would inevitably lead to very strong businesses.

"Anarchists" seem to be under the impression that if we got rid of governments and businesses that people would just live together in little communities and work together for a common good. There are numerous problems with this, not the least of which is simply human nature. Also the concept of small communities is unlikely, at least not while there are 6 billion people to go around.

Don't get me wrong, it is certainly possible for a small group of people to live together in a tight knit community and produce everything they need internally. However, expecting that it would work on a large scale for an indefinite amount of time is just foolish.

A fact that "anarchists" always seem to overlook is that you can live like that now, concurrently with government and corporations. Get a group of like minded people together, sell all your possessions, pool your money, buy some acres of cheap land, and produce all you need there. The fact that this lifestyle is available now to all yet is lived by almost no one, including those who advocate it, is indicative that people may actually enjoy having things. Not everyone likes to live the same life that you do. You can think those people are fools and ignorant, or you can just accept that different things make different people happy.

Now back to the lyrics of The Disco Before the Breakdown.

The lyrics of the title track is rather unrelated here (it's pretty much about a gay couple). However, the title itself is important. It is the only really upbeat song on the 3 song EP, making it the disco, before the breakdown. Likewise the EP as a whole is the disco, before the breakdown of the current era. Also I can't help but think the word disco is a metaphor for something deeper, due to its previous use in the opening line of Impact, "I'm the disco fucker of the new generation".

The next song is Tonight We're Going to Give it 35%. At first glance this song is just about being tired of touring, and not giving your all at every performance. But upon further inspection a deeper meaning reveals itself.
We drank bottled water together and talked business
I think I played the right moves
You were lookin' over my shoulder
As I went through the motions of another night
And it was alright
'Cause I thought I knew who everybody was just by lookin' at them
Right off the bat he starts with an interesting reference to bottle water. Interesting because of this line from the song Burn. "There are already businessmen who'll market bottled water, and purified aerosol solution, guess who's their target". Bottled water is a symbol for all that he viewed as wrong with the world, but now here he is drinking it, while discussing a business deal. The 'business' being discussed is a record deal, and the 'you' addressed is an executive. The right moves meaning the he hopes he signed a record deal without selling out. The executive is now there behind the scenes, but it's alright in his mind because he thinks he's judged him right. Knowing who everyone is just by looking at them could also be a reference to grouping people as "consumers or revolutionaries" in the past.
My heart is anywhere but here
And how tired I was from the past couple of weeks
From the past couple of years
Well, it hit me all at once
On a balcony overlooking nothing
With snow falling all around
This section is about the moment he decided there was going to be a change.
Well I, I called just to say "Goodnight"
And you hadn't done anything wrong
And know, really, really, it's me not you
I can't believe how naive I was to think things could ever be so simple
I don't think the 'you' here is an actual person. The 'you' is the ideals he used to live by, that he called "anarchism". He has decided to move away from them, but isn't faulting them as wrong. Rather it's him that is at fault for giving up the ideals.
And can you live with what you know about yourself
When you're all alone, behind closed doors?
The things we never said, but we always knew were right there
It's got me on my knees in a bathroom
Praying to a God that I don't even believe in
"Well, dear Jesus, are you listening?
If this is the one chance that really matters
Well, don't let me fuck this up"
If you'd told me about all this when I was fifteen
I never would have believed it
Thinking if he's making the right choice. The last two lines are about how he wouldn't accept this choice he's making when he was younger. Unrelated to the lyrics this is the best part of this EP.

The last song is Beginning in an Ending.
Every day has a beginning and ending
Just like every life has a start and finish
July is gone like the gasoline it took to make the circle again.
Florida to Florida by the way of America.
This song is about summing up the ending of an era. Here he is saying everything must come to an end. The circle is tours, starting and ending in Florida, where they're from.
Cocaine and soda, playing Tetris in our underwear
We take turns reading letters, I read the haiku
and you move your nails across my legs.
Not quite sure what this means, but I think it's just a reference to good times he's had in the past.
In your arms, I don't know who I am, taking all I know about nihilism
and trying to build it into a life.
With your thought in mind, I walk the streets down to the shore and I sink into the Pacific
This is everything up to now ending
It was nice to believe for a while
As before I think 'you' is the old ideals. I think nihilism here is what he's calling what he previously called "anarchism". He tried to build a life out of it, but is moving on. The Pacific could be an interesting reference. They are from FL so the Pacific would represent something foreign, or a change. However, I think the last two lines here say so much more than my entire post. "This is everything up to now ending. It was nice to believe for a while." I don't think you could be any more clear about the change in ideals.

These songs were recorded and released before they signed to Fat Wreck Chords. They aren't about regretting anything.  Rather they are about coming to terms with the fact that their politics weren't realistic, and now they are going to be changing. With this change of ideals comes a change in musical style starting with the next release. Thus The Disco Before the Breakdown marks the end of classic Against Me! much the same as ...And Justice For All marks the end of classic Metallica.