Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Supreme Court to Hear Incorporation Case

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear McDonald v. Chicago to decide if the Second Amendment is incorporated against the states via the 14th Amendment. The case challenges Chicago’s ban on handguns, which is very similar to the District of Columbia’s ban that was struck down as unconstitutional last year. This case also bears watching for its approach to incorporation, which could finally put an end to this long bit of legalistic fiction.

Meanwhile, all pending right-to-arms litigation in California is on hold.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

En Banc Hearing for Nordyke v. King

The en banc hearing for Nordyke v. King was today. The judges didn’t pull any punches, but late in the day, the court vacated the submission pending the disposition of several Second Amendment incorporation cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Sadly, this decision will deny the honor of incorporation to California and delay progress on civil-rights litigation here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U.S. Health Care

Okay! Let’s talk about health care. First, I must confess that I haven’t been following the heated public debate on the matter very closely, since it seems to be long on emotion and short on information. In the end, of course, only the actual legislation will matter.

Meanwhile, though, the propaganda has been extra hot and spicy. Death panels? Tens of millions of uninsured Americans? Seriously? What’s the big deal?

Health care is expensive. The practice of medicine is a complex and sensitive skill, so mistakes can lead to death. It costs a small fortune to properly train a physician and costs another to protect him from the attorneys waiting to capitalize on his mistakes.

Consumers don’t really want to pay these costs, so they gamble instead. Turning to insurance companies, they put down their money and bet that they won’t get sick. The insurance companies want to make profits (preferably big profits), so they do their best to pay out as little as possible when the consumers do need medical care. However, rates steadily creep upward as insurers, physicians, attorneys, and consumers all try to squeeze more and more out of this flawed system.

Take my household as an example. Each month, my wife and I pay about $100 for health insurance. Our employers kick in another $1,300! Imagine what we could have done with that money over the last 10 years if it had been part of our actual salaries. Even conservative investments would have put $170,000 in our bank account by now, far more than enough to cover the few thousand dollars of health care that we’ve actually consumed.

So, yeah, health care (or rather health insurance) is too expensive. A non-profit “public option” could help introduce more freedom to the market, but not if it comes with so much bureaucratic and regulatory overhead that any potential savings are lost—especially if these “hidden” costs are foisted off on the taxpayers. Legal reform is also needed to limit the inflation of medical costs, but simply tweaking the existing health-care system may never be enough.

However, government involvement helped to create the problems we currently face. Therefore, even more government involvement in health care may not be the best solution. I’ll leave it to brighter minds than mine to come up with a system that doesn’t promote gambling or rely on reciprocal marketing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nefarious Organizations

My father recently confessed that he had looked me up on Google and remarked that I belong to several “nefarious organizations.” Indeed, I have made no secret of my various memberships and affiliations, but I also rarely go out of my way to talk about them. Today, though, I think I will discuss some of my more nefarious connections and activities.

I am a card-carrying* member of the oft reviled American Civil Liberties Union. Yes, this organization frequently stands up for some real unsavory characters, but while the ACLU is defending the dregs of society from persecution, the rest of us are much less likely to find ourselves among those dregs. In other words, the ACLU helps keep normal people from becoming direct combatants and possible casualties in the war on civil rights.

I am also a member of the equally reviled National Rifle Association. This may seem at odds with my ACLU membership, since that organization’s national leadership fundamentally misunderstands the firearms issue for reasons that are as irrational as they are forgivable, but the NRA and the ACLU do complement each other, even though their actual collaboration may be rare. Of course, the NRA promotes and defends gun ownership and the right to arms.

Based on many of my posts here at Loyal Sedition, you can tell that this last point is very important to me. I have been increasingly active in the right-to-arms movement for several years now, in my own small way at least. This is not because I think that the right to arms is our most important civil right—it isn’t—but because it is the one with the best opportunity for real progress at the moment. The most dramatic progress is currently happening in the courts, so I am a financial contributor to the Calguns Foundation.

I am also a member of the Libertarian Party mostly as a statement of my political support for social and economic freedoms, which are really the same thing—but it’s considered greedy and insensitive to be concerned about money unless you don’t have any. I might call myself a communist, if communism didn’t violate the second law of thermodynamics and the first law of human laziness. However, I don’t limit my political defeat to one party. I was registered as a Republican during the last two elections, and I sometimes even vote for losers from the Democratic Party.

Finally, some interesting stereotypes can be derived from my on-line activity. I am a frequent poster at Calguns (dangerous gun owner), an occasional poster at Libertarian Undergound (heartless libertarian communist) and Cool Mini or Not (freakish gamer geek), and a formerly active poster at Sword Forum International (scary blade lover). I also write this blog and make comments on other people’s blogs from time to time (lonely Internet nerd). Oh, and I recently joined Facebook (unskilled Internet plebeian).

Next year, I may even register to vote as a Democrat.

*I don’t like to have a lot of cards in my pocket, so I don’t actually carry my ACLU or NRA cards, but I do have them.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Setback

As reported at the Volokh Conspiracy, the U.S. Court of Appeals has ordered Nordyke v. King to be reviewed by the court en banc. This unexpected move means that, temporarily at least, the Second Amendment has been snatched back from California and the rest of the Ninth Circuit. However, the news may not be all bad.

While the rehearing may void incorporation, it is also possible that the court may instead correct some of the problems with the original ruling, which held that the Second Amendment applied to state and local governments but that the county ordinance in question did not violate it. Even if incorporation is voided in the Ninth Circuit, the U.S. Supreme Court is still likely to hear one of the other incorporation cases currently on appeal. In any event, pending civil-rights actions in California may face a longer, more difficult course.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Victory in Defeat

Lest it appear that I ignore setbacks and defeats …

As the New York Times reported today, the U.S. Senate failed to pass an amendment to a defense-spending bill that would have mandated nationwide recognition of concealed-weapons permits—which, technically, Article IV of the U.S. Constitution already requires. Actually, the amendment was approved 58 to 37, but procedural rules required 60 votes. Of course, even if the amendment had eventually passed into law, it would have done little for California … other than to further demonstrate that most other Americans enjoy more freedom than we do in this area.

However, this minor defeat illustrates how far we have come since the zenith of the gun-control movement in A.D. 1994. Over half the Senate voted in favor of a provision that would have benefited law-abiding gun owners. That is progress in itself.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Climatic Change and Human History

As we traveled through the tortured landscape of the Great Basin on our way to and from Utah, I was reminded of the long history of climatic change in this region. Millions of years ago, it was seabed. Thousands of years ago, it was largely filled with lakes and rivers fed by melting glaciers. Even after the glaciers began their abrupt but long retreat, the region remained wet and lush long enough for ancient humans to survive and prosper.

Ice Age Lakes
That prosperity didn’t last. The climate continued to change. Lakes and rivers shrank, and some disappeared altogether. Rainfall also declined. The Great Basin dried out. Crops failed. People died. The first inhabitants had all but vanished by the time more adaptable tribes arrived from the east to dig wells, divert rivers, and build cities.

Despite all the recent concern over climatic change, it is simply not a new phenomenon. In the broadest sense, human history has been defined by our response to this ongoing process. Legendary civilizations arose and thrived on the low-lying temperate plains, only to be washed away by the rising seas that heralded the beginning of a warmer, interglacial period. As the ice retreated, the survivors of the great floods migrated into the new lands, where they planted the seeds that grew into the nations we know today.

Humans have always adapted to such change or paid the price for failing to do so. Now, though, we talk of controlling the climate by our own hand and of spending the wealth of nations to do so. Assuming this ability is within our grasp and not another fiction of our own arrogance, how will we select the ideal global climate?

That is the question that still remains unanswered and, for that matter, largely unasked. Why should the predominant climate of the 20th century A.D. be our ideal? It was but one point on the climatic spectrum—and perhaps an unstable one at that. Should we forgo adaptation in our pursuit of control? Our civilization will pay a high price if our quest for control fails—or perhaps even if it succeeds.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

California Asks for Nationwide Incorporation of the Second Amendment

On July 6th, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on two pending Second Amendment incorporation appeals out of Chicago. Citing the protection of Constitutional rights in California, AG Brown encouraged the high court to hear these cases and to affirm the applicability of the Second Amendment to the states. He also asked the court for guidance on what kinds of firearms regulations are permissible.

The momentum for reform is clearly mounting now. The Supreme Court will doubtlessly rule in favor of nationwide incorporation, which will make sweeping advances for the legal right to arms almost inevitable. Furthermore, AG Brown’s brief also focused attention on California’s particular plight, which is shared by a handful of other states (such as Illinois and New York). Together, we suffer under a tangled, ineffective mass of gun-control laws that are becoming ever more clearly unconstitutional.

It seems that the question I asked just two months ago has been answered. A quiet but well-placed ally has indeed found the political cover needed to move toward a more reasonable interpretation of the right to arms in California.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cultural Movements and Social Trends

Recently, I have been reflecting upon my role in several recent cultural movements. To be more precise, I have noted that my involvement seems to signal the relative success of the particular movement. I recognize that this is a heavily anthropic observation, but then the beauty of the anthropic principle is that it requires self-reflection by definition.

I won’t make a detailed history of this, but here are the broad strokes. As a gamer, I have enjoyed the ongoing development and mainstream acceptance of role-playing games. I participated in the popularization of Japanese animation in the West and thus the renewed interest in all forms of cinematic animation. In a small way, I also helped bring about the current renaissance in Western swordsmanship and sword making. Most recently, I have become an active participant in the right-to-arms movement, now entering a revolutionary stage in the United States.

While none of these movements have attained complete cultural normalization, all have made great strides in that direction. I also cannot definitively say that my participation has been a factor in their successes. However, I can say that, so far, my involvement is indicative of impending success, which brings us back to the anthropic principle.

Speaking more broadly, I also find myself part of various social trends. These differ from cultural movements in that they generally lack group cohesion and internal organization, but they can be very significant nonetheless. I’ve written about some of these in the past, including the ongoing information revolution and the new baby boom. Another example is the increasing numbers of interracial marriages and families. Here, I have my Chinese-Indonesian wife and our beautifully mixed daughter, and there are at least three other similar families in our small neighborhood.

My Daughter and Me
All of this leads me to wonder about the future. In this era of rapid social and cultural change, what will happen next? Will my wandering attention predict success or failure?

Well, that’s enough self-aggrandizement for one day.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I said that I would try to be less stubborn about new information technology, so I’ve finally joined a social-networking site. That is Facebook in this case, since some folks have been pestering me with invitations, and I see that many of my friends and family have already joined.

What’s this all about? The idea is to make finding and connecting with friends and associates easier. Of course, anyone looking for me can find me with any search engine.

Nevertheless, I’ll give this social-networking business a try, though I can’t imagine using Facebook as much more than a pointer to my more formal on-line endeavors. Time will tell.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Fighting for the Right to Arms in California

Scarcely two weeks have passed since the historic ruling in Nordyke v. King incorporated the Second Amendment in California, but unconstitutional gun-control laws and regulations are already being challenged. The Second Amendment Foundation and the Calguns Foundation have filed two lawsuits in federal court. Peña, et al. v. Cid attacks California’s roster of approved handguns as a de facto ban on common defensive weapons, while Sykes, et al. v. McGinness, et al. challenges the outdated and arbitrary application of the state’s discretionary handgun-licensing system.

The constitutional questions raised in both cases were addressed by last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in D.C. v. Heller, so positive outcomes seem likely. The real question may only be how long it takes for the litigation to be resolved. I don’t expect victory to take more than 10 years, but it could come much more quickly than that.

It has been suggested that the right-to-arms movement in California has allies in high places. I have to wonder if these lawsuits wouldn’t provide the political cover for such allies to issue new, more reasonable interpretations of our current laws … in light of Second Amendment incorporation. Why not spare the state, counties, and municipalities from costly litigation?

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Financial Crisis Simplified

Here is a visualization that explains the current financial crisis clearly and concisely.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

However, I also have to point out that the private sector is not solely responsible for the mess. The government did its part to set the stage by artificially inflating housing prices through poor but well-intentioned regulations.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Small Victory for Privacy Rights

Amid all the other excitement this week, I almost overlooked another civil-rights victory. In Arizona v. Gant, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police need a warrant to search the vehicle of someone they have arrested, if that person poses no threat to officers. While this decision doesn’t moot searches for “officer safety” permitted under Terry v. Ohio, it is a small step forward for Fourth Amendment protection of privacy rights.

Watch where you park.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Information Revolution

By now, it should be clear that an information revolution is in progress. Just 15 years ago, information was still a relatively scarce and well-controlled commodity. The economic and legal barriers to reaching a wide audience were substantial, and access to information and other intellectual capital required persistence or money or both.

That has all changed. Now, information is abundant and often available at little or no cost to the user. The institutional barriers that once controlled the flow of information have been largely circumvented. The information economy is rapidly adjusting, and the value of intellectual capital is falling—but that is a topic for another post.

The mainstream media are struggling to adapt to the new paradigm. Where once the publishers controlled the supply of information and thus the architecture of any related public debate, the consumers have now freed the market. Web logs and on-line discussion forums now rapidly spread the news that some traditional media outlets still try to conceal, minimize, or distort due to their own political agendas.

Yesterday’s historic court decision in Nordyke v. King is a perfect example. This morning, there is nothing in the Los Angeles Times on the story, but there is an article about the 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School and the drive for tougher gun-control laws. In contrast, the right-to-arms community on the Internet knew about the decision within minutes of its announcement, and we had known that it was coming for months.

Similarly, ABC’s recent gun-control propaganda piece was a traditionally massive exercise in broadcast “journalism.” It might have stood on its own, but on-line communities mounted an immediate challenge. Discussion forums and web logs quickly and effectively refuted ABC’s deceptive, politically motivated reporting.

And who can forget that it was bloggers who took down CBS’s Dan Rather? A distinguished journalist ended his career in disgrace, because he let his political agenda get in the way of his objectivity … and because he failed to realize that his powerful television network no longer controlled the information.

This then is the true power and promise of the Web 2.0 paradigm. Information wants to be free.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Second Amendment Comes to California

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that “the Fourteenth Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it to the states and local governments.” While 14th Amendment incorporation is a profanely legalistic concept, the way has now been opened to challenge unconstitutional gun-control statutes and regulations in California and beyond. The case in question was Nordyke v. King.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In a clever bit of jurisprudence, the court ruled against the plaintiffs (gun-show organizers) while settling the incorporation matter. Alameda County was the “winner,” so it cannot appeal the decision. The right to arms is now the law of the land, at least for much of the western United States.

This is wonderful news for the civil-rights movement, but the fight is really only just beginning. Prepare for an onslaught of litigation over the next few years.

Baby Boom

The United States saw a record number of births in A.D. 2007. That bit of news confirmed my own hypothesis that we are in the midst of a new baby boom. At Sea World this past weekend, I certainly saw quite a few women who were already working on their second or third contributions to the trend.

I grew up in the so-called baby bust of the 1970s. Besides my brother and me and our friends down the street, there were very few younger children in my neighborhood. Now residential streets are alive with the voices of children at play—my own daughter’s among them.

I’m not yet sure what to make of this demographic surprise—and i think that it is a surprise, coming as it does from my own scarce generation. On one hand, those of us who thought we would probably never see a dime of Social Security income may be able to rest a little bit easier. On the other hand, population growth will probably continue to strain global economic development.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

“If I Only Had a Gun”

I suspected that I would regret it, but I did it anyway. I watched Diane Sawyer’s report, “If I Only Had a Gun,” on ABC’s 20/20 last night. I was expecting bias that would lean away from gun ownership and the right to arms, but what I saw was an hour of shamefully unadulterated propaganda.

I’m not naive when it comes to journalism. I’ve had my share of experience being misquoted, plagiarized, and editorially marginalized, but this was mainstream media bias in rare form. There were omissions, lies, and even fabricated evidence.

The broadcast sought to make four main points. Firearms are ineffective weapons for self-defense. Children are in grave danger of being killed by improperly stored firearms. “Gun violence” plagues a small town in Florida. Weapons can be obtained too easily through the “gun-show loophole.”

Can You Defend Yourself with a Gun?

The first segment dealt with carrying handguns for self-defense. To demonstrate that armed civilians are doomed to failure, ABC contrived a scenario designed to almost guarantee such failure. Posing as a deranged gunman, a well-trained police firearms instructor bursts into a small classroom and begins shooting simulated bullets. A barely trained college student wearing an awkwardly long shirt, bulky gloves, and cumbersome headgear is expected to engage this threat with his own mock handgun. Naturally, none of ABC’s handpicked subjects were able to make any quickly incapacitating shots. However, though this fact was minimized, one young woman did manage to deliver a probably fatal wound to the assailant’s femoral artery, which would have mitigated the casualties from his rampage as he rapidly bled to death on the classroom floor.

One hapless test subject scores a fatal hit.

Indeed, if someone walks up and immediately begins shooting you at close range, your chance to successfully defend yourself is already over, regardless of how well you may be armed. This applies even to well-trained police officers, who are far less common than ABC implied. Throughout the segment, video of intensive tactical training suggested that the average cop is a firearms expert. Unfortunately, standard police and even military firearms training is actually very basic. My own marksmanship skills are minimal, but even I have outperformed federal law-enforcement officers at the shooting range.

However, any honest right-to-arms advocate will tell you that a firearm is not a magic talisman that will guarantee your survival in a violent confrontation. Having a gun merely gives you a fighting chance, but that chance can be very small. I know that I would rather risk injury in defense of my loved ones than do nothing only to see them brutally murdered.

Extrapolating from this worst-case scenario that carrying a handgun can never help you in a violent encounter would be unwise at best, but this is exactly what ABC did. As further evidence, Diane Sawyer herself stepped up to a police simulator and failed to draw her sidearm quickly enough. Of course, that was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but don’t let her cover you in a potential firefight.

Diane Sawyer plays with guns.

In the end, ABC and Diane Sawyer were making a case that no one should be armed, not even the police. Of course, total disarmament is the ultimate goal of the gun-control movement. Despite their wishful thinking for a non-violent society, if the prohibitionists ever succeed, they would only turn the whole world back into Pahokee, Florida, as we will see in a moment.

When Older Kids Find Guns

The second segment explored the attraction guns hold for both younger and older kids. In another poorly constructed experiment, children were shown handling and playing with firearms placed where the kids would find them. Why this should surprise anyone is unclear.

A parent is shocked that her child would play with something.

Children are naturally curious. When adults try to hide something from them, they become even more eager to explore. The lure of forbidden fruit is a well-known phenomenon.

As usual, the answer is proper education. In the show, only the young man with gun-safety training resisted the temptation to improperly handle a found gun. The others all demonstrated their profound ignorance, though this occasionally had to be encouraged by ABC collaborators. Education saves lives.

Fortunately, accidental shooting deaths are actually very rare.

Damon Weaver’s Plea to Obama

Pahokee is a town of 6,000 souls, few jobs, and an “infinity of guns.” When darkness falls, the violence begins. Gangs rule this place, and by the light of day, the law-abiding residents are too frightened to help the police. Young, would-be journalist Damon Weaver asks what President Barack H. Obama will do to help his town.

Should a boy determine your civil rights?

Criminal gangs are the problem here. Criminals are already prohibited from having firearms, but one gang member boasts that he can get an illegal handgun for $60. When I legally purchased a police-surplus pistol for $350, I thought that was a smoking-hot deal.

Violent gangs are a problem older than human civilization. In fact, they are the problem that led us to form governments and states. We can no longer apply the historical military solutions, but until we put an end to the institutionalized poverty that encourages modern gangs and to the black markets that finance them, the problem will persist.

Firearms prohibitionists would unintentionally—or so I assume—return the whole world to the conditions of Pahokee, Florida. When the good people are disarmed, it will once again be the ruthless, violent gangs that dictate social policy. Violence as a means of conflict resolution is most effectively neutralized only when all sides are equally equipped to do violence.

I will answer little Damon’s question with my usual cynicism. President Obama will do nothing to help Pahokee. Doing so would be to reject the institutionalized poverty and paternalistic racism that is his party’s source of political power.

10 Guns in One Hour

The next myth that ABC promoted was the “gun-show loophole.” I have already written an article on this topic, but let me reiterate that there is no loophole. All federal, state, and local laws continue to apply at gun shows.

They worry about your private-property rights.

To illustrate their point, ABC gave $5,000 to the grieving brother of a Virginia Tech victim and sent him to a gun show in Richmond. Within an hour, the young man was able to buy 10 firearms (mostly old rifles and shotguns) from private parties at the show. He found some pretty good deals but nothing approaching the $60 stolen handguns in Pahokee.

Shooting Under Fire

The final segment wrapped up the rigged experiment that opened the broadcast. Diane Sawyer closed with this blatantly false statement: “… if you’re wondering where’re all the studies about the effectiveness of guns used by ordinary Americans for self-defense, well keep searching. We could not find one reliable study.…” Apparently, Ms. Sawyer and her “research” staff have never heard of libraries or even Google Scholar, where the ongoing academic discussion on the subject can be uncovered in less than five seconds … or maybe the facts didn’t support their predetermined conclusions.

Diane Sawyer lies on national television.

About the only thing that ABC and Diane Sawyer got right in this report is the fact that you are unlikely to be shot and even less likely to be shot fatally. A gunfight is one of the last places anyone should want to be, but having a gun does improve your odds of survival, according to federal crime data. That fact was nowhere to be seen in last night’s broadcast.

Firearms aren’t for everyone, but we have an inalienable right to arms. The U.S. Supreme Court has now recognized that fact. Nevertheless, the prohibitionists in the mainstream media clearly aren’t ready to abandon their propaganda campaign.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fun with Widgets

Internet widgets (or gadgets, as Google prefers to call them) are little bits of code that allow users to add features to their websites, search engines, and whatnot. For example, I’ve added an instant messenger to my homepage, a financial widget to my customized Google interface, and a simple text editor to this web log. There are already thousands of ready-made widgets to choose from.

These widgets are another example of Web 2.0 technology. In many cases, the user doesn’t have to know a thing about programming to incorporate a widget. Some programming ability certainly won’t hurt, though, as it allows the user to modify widgets as needed. A savvy user can also copy the source code for an interesting widget he may discover while browsing the web.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome to Loyal Sedition

As I mentioned in my previous post, I created this web log to replace my sidebar commentary at the Dancing Giant Inn. That site will continue to host my more in-depth articles, while this space will provide immediacy and the opportunity for participation from my “readership.” Never mind that in the last 10 years I have received exactly one piece of fan mail, one piece of “hate mail,” and one citation.

I wanted an engaging name that would also summarize my intent with a fair amount of accuracy. This is how I arrived at Loyal Sedition.

To a libertarian, sedition is one of the most chilling words in any language. Though defined as conduct or speech meant to incite rebellion, sedition has often been charged against any criticism of the state, its leaders, or its agents. I am here to raise my voice in dissent to the powers that be whenever necessary.

That said, I love my country and my nation. Despite our many flaws, the United States was founded on the principle of human freedom and remains the most successful embodiment of that ideal in known history. This is something I have sworn to support and defend.

To be honest, I don’t really want any attention. I would rather go about my business and pursue my interests in anonymity and privacy, but the stakes are too high. I cannot condone with silence the many forces that would trample human freedom and extinguish the American Revolution through ignorance, greed, or ambition.

Loyal Sedition is my voice (or at least part of it) in the ongoing struggle for human freedom.

But that doesn’t mean we can never have any fun here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Web 2.0 and Loyal Sedition

And so, with no small amount of reluctance, I have finally launched a web log (or “blog” in today’s vernacular). This is mostly in response to a Web 2.0 initiative by my employer. To be fair, though, my former Commentary section at the Dancing Giant Inn served a similar purpose and now provides a ready-made archive for this space. What’s next? A MySpace page or my own World of Warcraft account?

Web 2.0 is more than another empty bit of marketing, though the term has certainly been used in this manner. In a nutshell, the Web 2.0 concept represents the combination of web-based software and user-generated content. This contrasts with the traditional model of controlled content authoring and desktop software distribution.

I foresaw this trend at least a decade ago, when I created my first website. Back then, I described a time when software developers would simply provide the tools that would allow non-programmers to create useful electronic content. I saw programs like Netscape Composer and Microsoft FrontPage as early examples of this technology, but a web-based distribution model seemed more like science fiction at the time.

While I was clicking away at HTML on my dial-up connection, the Internet was quickly blooming with user-created content. What I was trying to accomplish with my monolithic website was being accomplished much more easily on web logs, photo-sharing sites, on-line auctions, discussion forums, and social-networking sites. To some extent, I was ignoring the very technology I had predicted and desired.

My late arrival to high-speed connectivity explains some of my reluctance to embrace these trends, but there is more to it than that. I wanted total control over the architecture of my content—or at least as much control as I could get. In pursuit of this goal, I built my own websites from the ground up, teaching myself HTML as I moved slowly forward. I’m sure that I even sneered at all those Internet plebeians who were quickly popping out so many MySpace pages.

I will have to let go of some more of my stubbornness in this respect. It won’t be easy, but I’ve been making progress. There is a wild and wonderful world out there on the Internet. It’s time for me to embrace all of it … maybe.

I will talk about Loyal Sedition and what that’s all about in a later post.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Question of Failure

Last night, during a political discussion fueled by a combination of alcohol and vitriol, we came to the subject of hoping that a certain President should fail. Irrational partisanship aside, the question was whether or not hoping for the failure of an administration is wrong. My position was and is that the answer depends on what one means by failure.

Is it purely a matter of partisan politics? I want the other party to fail, just because I don’t like the other party. Or is it a matter of policy? I want the other party’s policy to fail, because I think it dangerous and want a better policy to prevail. In fact, I fall into the latter category.

During the G. W. Bush administration, I wanted some policies (costly and unnecessary war in Iraq) to fail and other policies (Social Security reform) to succeed. President Bush got his war and suffered only a little disengenuous opposition for it, but he gave up on fixing the great American pyramid scheme as soon as the Democrats raised the slightest complaint.

Now, during the B. H. Obama administration, I will continue to hope for the success of the good and the failure of the bad. If he can disentangle us with honor from Iraq, then I hope that he succeeds. If he can prevent the current recession from turning into a depression, then I wish him success for the most part. If he can bring the efficiency, compassion, and quality of the typical Department of Motor Vehicles to the American health-care system, then I hope he fails.

Beyond that, though, I have to wonder why failure has become such an anathema in American society. We used to learn from our mistakes and failures. Now, we protect and bail out failing industries. We continue to pursue failing social policies. We pour more and more money into failing institutions. We reward failure and demand that American taxpayers foot the bill.

We must have the moral courage to let some fail … or risk ruin for all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama’s Inaugural Address

President Barack H. Obama was already well regarded as a public speaker (at least when his teleprompter works properly), but his inaugural address was certainly as masterful a speech as we have seen in recent decades. One passage near the middle of his address caught my attention immediately. It cut right to the heart of the American experience and the struggle for human freedom.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man—a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

As a confirmed cynic, I have to wonder if the President and his Congress will abide by these words. Given their collective political histories, that would be quite remarkable. For now, though, I’ll hope for change and accept the new President’s words on their face.