Author Archives: tarran

The own goal of Okcupid

The ousting of Brendan Eich from his post as CEO of the Mozilla Foundation is seen by many as a blow against intolerance. It is in fact the opposite, and if gay rights groups expand such ‘outings’ as a tool to suppress opposition, they risk deepening the antagonism and resistance by people who view them as a threat to our culture.

Let us start by examining Eich.  Eich is a well regarded software developer, one of the numerous people whose brilliant inventions have made the Internet the powerful, revolutionary tool it is.  In 1995, he was hired by Netscape to produce a tool for an upcoming release.  Rather than producing the limited implementation that his bosses had envisioned, Eich invented a new scripting language, now known as Javascript.  Javascript allowed local browsers to execute code to control browser behavior.  It revolutionized the Internet; rather than browsing through static web pages served by an overworked server, it allowed a website to push logic such as form validation to a user’s computer, allowing web pages to become dynamic entities that interacted with a user.  Javascript continues to be actively developed and is used universally to this day. Anyone who spends more than a few hours on the Internet a week is almost certain to benefit from it, and thus is the beneficiary of Eich’s wonderful invention.

Given his nearly two decades of experience in maintaining and improving a critical piece of the Internet infrastructure, Eich was a logical choice to lead the Mozilla foundation.  The flagship product of this non-profit is the Firefox browser, which traces its lineage to the Netscape browser, and Eich had been one of the people who had shepherded the project as it grew like a phoenix from the ashes of a defunct company.

Now let us turn to the OKcupid complaint that was served to people using Firefox.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.

Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid.

Now, let us be clear: the complaint against Eich had nothing to do with his job. Firefox was not an anti-gay software platform.  In fact, I doubt that it’s codebase contains any logic pertaining to sexual orientation.

The Mozzilla Foundation produces open source tools that allow people to publish informsation and communicate with each other via the Internet.  If anything the Mozilla Foundation has and will continue to help members of marginalized groups or groups that are discriminated against to connect with and support each other.

That wasn’t going to change with Eich at the helm.

So, OKCupid wasn’t upset at the way Eich was doing his job, they wanted to fire him because they hated that he had once supported a political movement they hated. They wanted nothing but failure for him.

But what was his crime?  The political movement he had given $1,000 to that lost in the courts.  Proposition 8 cratered.  Completely.  And with changing demographics, it will be decades before something like it has a chance of winning at the polls and being upheld by the courts.

In short what the senior officers of OKCupid were hoping to do was to intimidate the opponents of gay marriage into silence.  Rather than being gracious victors who foster peace, they wished to continue fighting.  And in doing so, they will only embolden their opponents in the culture war to fight harder.

Most of the opponents of gay marriage fear the cultural upheaval that would result from such a massive change to an institution that they see as the foundation of society.  The way to get them to accept the change is by showing them that the inclusion of homosexual relationships in the set of legally sanctioned unions will not destroy society, that their lives will continue, their communities prosper, and their children will be allowed to grow to realize their potential.

Attempting to destroy their livelihoods and drive them out of civil society will go against that goal.  Persecuting them will only harden their hearts against those who persecute them.   OK Cupid did not strike a blow for tolerance.  Rather, they flamed the fires of intolerance, and who knows what those flames will consume should those fires burn out of control.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

On The Empire State Building Shooting

The news that all the wounded bystanders were injured as a result of police gun-fire will prompt many to condemn the officers who confronted Mr Jeffrey Johnson yesterday morning on a sidewalk in Manhattan. I write in their defence.

As facts dribble out, we have an increasingly complete picture of what actually occurred.  Mr Johnson had a grudge against Mr Steven Ercolino – a manager at a company he had worked at in the past –  and had decided to lie in wait with a hand-gun and to murder him in an ambush as Mr Ercolino walked to work. As Mr. Ercolino walked towards his office from purchasing some food at a coffee shop, Mr Johnson shot him in the head from behind, and fired two more rounds into his torso, killing him.

Mr Johnson then walked away and tried to escape by blending into the crowd of similarly attired people on their way to work.  However, he was trailed by a construction worker.  Mr Johnson’s escape route took him past a police detail, and the construction worker trailing him alerted the officers on that detail that Mr Johnson had just murdered someone and was armed.

Two officers hustled to catch up with Mr Johnson.  They challenged him.  He drew (but did not fire) his weapon, and the police fired 16 rounds in quick succession into him. Bystanders were struck by police bullets, the fragments of the bullets, and fragments of masonry turned into shrapnel by the police bullets.

We at The Liberty Papers are often critical of the government and its agents, but in this case, the police appear to have handled the matter properly. The officers were approached by a citizen and made aware of a serious felony and were pointed to a suspect.

The first choice the officers faced was the question of whether or not to confront Mr. Johnson.  I believe the police did the right thing in confronting him, for several reasons:

First, when people commit murders – especially when they ambush people on their way to work – it is often part of a spree killing – where a person goes to multiple locations, killing all the people they have grudges against in one go.  Had police failed to confront him, who knows what would have happened, who else he might have killed?  After all, Mr Jefferson had several clips on his person – despite clearly planning to fire only a few shots into his victim.

Secondly, had they tried to tail Mr Johnson, they ran the risk of losing him in the crowd. They would have had to abandon their posts to do so.

Thirdly, what if Mr Johnson was innocent and the construction worker was mistaken? In that case tailing him would have distracted police from finding the real killer.

In confronting Mr Johnson immediately after the allegations against him were communicated to them, the police officers were doing good police work.

When Mr Johnson pulled the gun out of his bag, and attempted to point it at the men confronting him, the dynamic then changed.  In effect, he was committing an act of assault on people who happen to be police officers.

In shooting him, the police were defending their lives as any citizen should be able to do in a free society. In shooting that many rounds the police were not guilty of excess – people are rarely killed or incapacitated instantly by a bullet from a handgun and the police appear to stop firing almost instantly after Mr Johnson dropped his gun and flopped down to the pavement. I judge what I see in the video to be a legitimate act of self-defence by the officers.

The person guilty of depraved indifference in this affair is Mr Johnson, who chose to ambush and murder someone on a crowded sidewalk and to initiate a gun-fight on another crowded side-walk. We will never know what Mr Johnson intended to accomplish when he set out to murder Mr. Ercolino, whether he had other people in his sights, or what made him snap.  Those secrets died with him as he lay hand-cuffed, face down, on the pavement. In the end, though, the responsibility for the carnage falls squarely on his shoulders.

In all likelihood, this case will be picked over for what people could have done differently.  Certainly, the accuracy of the police fire, their training, and their doctrine for confronting people like Mr Johnson should be reexamined for possible improvements.  But, at this point, it appears that the police made the correct decisions to confront and then shoot Mr Johnson, despite how awfully everything turned out.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Reinventing Newspeak – The Fatal Error at the Heart of The Little Blue Book

Most people who are passionate about politics wish to convince others to see things their way. To that end, the world-famous linguist and partisan Democrat George Lakoff has written the Little Blue Book:

Voters cast their ballots for what they believe is right, for the things that make moral sense. Yet Democrats have too often failed to use language linking their moral values with their policies. The Little Blue Book demonstrates how to make that connection clearly and forcefully, with hands-on advice for discussing the most pressing issues of our time: the economy, health care, women’s issues, energy and environmental policy, education, food policy, and more. Dissecting the ways that extreme conservative positions have permeated political discourse, Lakoff and Wehling show how to fight back on moral grounds and in concrete terms. Revelatory, passionate, and deeply practical, The Little Blue Book will forever alter the way Democrats and progressives think and talk about politics.

from publisher’s description.

At first blush this seems like a great idea to the passionate person – they’re sure to win all the arguments if they follow the books recipe! But the book’s recipe is not a recipe for winning arguments, but rather a recipe for preventing the reader from losing arguments – from being convinced by the person they are arguing with. How? By preventing them from actually being able to consider the opponents’ arguments by removing the opponents’ language from the reader’s brain.

The book starts off from a profound starting point, that people make decisions based on their moral frames of reference. But then it goes in a very unexpected direction. It instructs the reader to completely ignore the interlocutor’s own moral frames.

  • Use your own language; never use your opponent’s language
  • Be aware of what you believe and repeat it out loud over and over; never repeat ideas that you don’t believe in, even if you are arguing against them.

Let’s contrast these instructions with those of the late Dr Covey who has a great video that starts from the same premise – but argues that to communicate, you must adopt your interlocutor’s frame of reference and to try to understand where they are coming from.

As a method of convincing people, this book is a disaster; it purposes shouting down the non-progressive by denying them any legitimacy to their ideas. One the interlocutor figures out that what he is saying is being ignored, he will probably reciprocate by not listening to anything the reader has to say.

So what benefit is there to the reader to refuse to think like the person they are arguing with? George Orwell explained:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression  to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods.

The Principles of Newspeak – An Appendix to 1984 by George Orwell

The book is not a recipe on how to convince, but in fact is a recipe teaching the reader how to be intolerant and closed-minded.

Interestingly, this should not be a surprise. In a study of people’s ability to articulate political arguments, progressives had the worst performance when it comes to being able to articulate the ideas of people they disagree with. If you were to ask a Goldwater-conservative to provide you with the argument for Single-Payer Health-Care, he is far more likely to be able to do so than a progressive will be able to make the argument for a free market in health-care.

This book continues the trend, and if adopted by progressives will ensure the continued inability to attract new supporters to their movement… which is a very good thing.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Protecting and Serving Whom?

Today, I had the joy of observing an officer of the Newton Police force take a bad situation and make it worse.  The incident showed much that is wrong in the relationship between the common citizen and the government that is there to protect him or her. An elderly person had fallen and a police officer detained her, kept her on a brick side-walk so that EMT’s from an unwanted ambulance could check her out, an operation that blocked traffic and slowed it to a crawl on a major thoroughfare. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Rest in Peace: Siobhan Reynolds

On Saturday Dec 24th, an important voice in the cause of freedom was silenced. Siobhan Reynolds, founder of the Pain Relief Network, tireless foe of the monsters promoting the War on (Some) Drugs, and the financially ruined victim of secret court proceedings that outrage the conscience and will rightly be held in infamy in coming years, was killed in a plane crash.

I can think of no finer eulogy than the one given by Radley Balko on The Agitator:

There aren’t very many people who can claim that they personally changed the public debate about an issue. Reynolds could. Before her crusade, no one was really talking about the under-treatment of pain. The media was still wrapped up in scare stories about “accidental addiction” to prescription painkillers and telling dramatic (and sometimes false) tales about patients whose lazy doctors got them hooked on Oxycontin. Reynolds toured the country to point out that, in fact, the real problem is that pain patients are suffering, particularly chronic pain patients. After Reynolds, the major newsweeklies, the New York Times, and a number of other national media outlets were asking if the DEA’s war on pain doctors had gone too far. …

She was tireless. I often thought she was a bit too idealistic, or at least that she set her goals to high. She told me once that she wouldn’t consider her work done until the Supreme Court declared the Controlled Substances Act unconstitutional. …

Reynolds started winning. She deserves a good deal of the credit for getting Richard Paey out of prison. She got sentences overturned, and got other doctors acquitted. …

Of course, the government doesn’t like a rabble rouser. It becomes especially wary of rabble rousers who begin to have some success. And so as Reynolds’ advocacy began to move the ball and get real results, the government bit back. When Reynolds began a campaign on behalf of Kansas physician Stephen Schneider, who had been indicted for overprescribing painkillers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tonya Treadway launched a shameless and blatantly vindictive attack on free speech. Treadway opened a criminal investigation into Reynolds and her organization, likening Reynolds’ advocacy to obstruction of justice. Treadway then issued a sweeping subpoena for all email correspondence, phone records, and other documents that, had Reynolds complied, would have been the end of her organization. …

So Reynolds fought the subpoena, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And she lost. Not only did she lose, but the government, with compliance from the federal courts, kept the entire fight secret. The briefs for the case are secret. The judges’ rulings are secret. Reynolds was barred from sharing the briefs she filed with the press. Perversely, Treadway had used the very grand jury secrecy intended to protect the accused to not only take down Reynolds and her organization, but to protect herself from any public scrutiny for doing so. …

Despite all that, the last time I spoke with Reynolds, she working on plans to start a new advocacy group for pain patients. She was an unwearying, unwavering activist for personal freedom.

And she died fighting. Rest in peace.

Read the whole thing.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
1 2 3 25