Monthly Archives: August 2002

Movementarian.com is LIVE!

The project that has been keeping me busy for the last three weeks, Movementarian.com has gone live! It’s our third day since the big opening, and our hits have already passed 5600.
I have not had time to write too much for it yet, but check out my piece titled Sexual Frustration Caused by Porn Industry
More to come soon!

Leave a Comment

Filed under General

A Policy Proposal for Economic Reform in Russia

 

Despite making a recovery after the 1998 market crash, Russia remains weighted with numerous holdovers from the Communist era that keep its economy from taking advantage of free-market reforms. In short, Russia has not prospered under capitalism because it has not yet discovered it. In order to do so, the Russian government must engage in extensive reform in several key areas: improving the rule of law, creating stable monetary policy, and ending a policy of favoritism to particular businesses. Engaging in these reforms would lower the extremely high transaction costs of doing business legally, stimulating a wave of new investment and wealth creation within Russia, as well as encouraging investment from abroad.

While the causes of Russia’s economic problems are numerous, the absence of a rule of law causes enormous unpredictability and uncertainty that is the primary barrier to economic growth. The regulatory mess caused by presidential decrees, legislative changes and numerous bureaucracies putting out contradictory rulings is just one aspect of this problem. The court system, which is supposed to be a neutral arbitrator of private disputes, is highly politicized, and even worse, it is used by the governments to silence critics and unfavorable companies.

One of the major challenges to reform is the uncooperative nature of the bureaucratic apparatus in carrying out laws and policies enacted by the executive. While Yeltsin and Putin have generally been in favor of free-market reforms, the bureaucrats meant to carry out their policies are often rich oligarchs who stand to lose financially or politically from reform. To combat this, Putin has replaced most of the Yeltsin-era ruling cabinet with his own men, but it is unclear whether they will be any better than their predecessors.

The lack of clearly defined and enforced property rights is another major problem. The communist-era criminal code has only been partially replaced, and each contract must be carefully examined to check whether it contradicts an ever shifting mess of regulations. In addition, it is unclear what success the communists will have in the next election, so long term planning is very difficult because the future is so unpredictable.

Despite an ambitions privatization program, many of the large factories remain state owned, partly because of the fact that their outdated and inefficient production would immediately and properly put them out of business under a free market. However, because the government has so much influence over the banks, it keeps funding these inefficient enterprises to earn the support of the many workers they hire. Many of the factories that were privatized, simply signed ownership to their communist bosses, and because of their pull with the government, stay alive by government aid.

Despite all the issues mentioned above, the biggest challenge to Russian economic growth is probably its monetary policy. The Russian central bank is a direct holdover from Soviet times and needs to change its policy drastically to adapt to a free-market economy. In a capitalist economy, private banks serve to store money and provide investment to business. Because banks lose their investment when a debtor defaults, they are careful to insure that entrepreneurs large and small have sound business plans and refuse to loan to companies whose profits are dubious. The central bank functions independently of private banks (ideally) serving only to manage the size of the monetary supply indirectly by open market operations, varying the discount rate, and setting reserve requirements.

In a socialist economy, the function of the banking system is entirely different. All banks are part of a single system to distribute funds from the central government to individual business and factories. Branch banks don’t care whether any business is profitable or not because the credit risk of any investment is zero, since the government simply sends more money to an unprofitable factory instead of letting it go under. Private savings accounts are small or nonexistent because there is nothing to invest in, and no interest to earn from the investment, and event if there was money to be saved, there is usually nothing to spend it on in the stores. Instead of being independent, the central bank is simply an accounting organ of the state to determine which industry receives what funds. Inflation however is kept low because all large purchases require permission from the state, exchanging rubles into other currencies is illegal, and outside the black market, there is nothing to spend money on anyway.

When the USSR collapsed, the banking system was officially privatized on some levels, but remained much the same in function. Most banks remained either partially state owned or state controlled, even if officially privatized. These banks fund inefficient public and private enterprises with funding from the central bank, which simply prints new money to cover the expense. State workers receive new rubles for doing little or nothing. Of course, basic economic theory dictates that printing money without a corresponding increase in wealth is going to create huge inflation, which it did on a grand scale, with the ruble falling more than 20% in value on some days.1 One of the insidious effects of inflation is to transfer money from the money making companies to the recipients of new government money, diminishing the incentive of workers to get jobs in the private sector. In an attempt to protect the value of the currency, the government made it illegal to exchange rubles for dollars, making them even more worthless because there was so little to spend the rubles on. In effect, the government was printing enormous amounts of money to keep inefficient state enterprises alive, but not allowing workers to spend any of the money so as not to devalue the currency.

If the monetary policy of the Russian government is not bad enough, the International Monetary Fund directly supported it by funding the government with billions of dollars in loans. Because more and more money was necessary to support the old state enterprises, the foreign aid went directly into dilapidated old factories, which often were not producing anything at all, with most workers employed elsewhere, but registered as working at the factory for the state salary. As Russian reformer Grigory Yavlinsky said in 1993, “It has become clear that new Western credits are no longer a remedy for Russia, but a drug helping to maintain an unfit system.”10

Inevitably, the ability of the Russian government to pay back loans steadily declined until it was forced to default in its debt in 1998. The IMF failed to learn its lesson however, as it continues to fund inefficient and government favored enterprises all over the world, notably in South America, creating a false sense of economic stability that politicians use to stay in power and the IMF uses to prove its relevance until the country is no longer able to pretend to be able to pay back loans and engages in the familiar scenario of funding payments with inflation while trying to limit citizens ability to spend the new money. At no time is any investment in new, economically efficient infrastructure actually made, something Russians would do well to mind when asking for international loans.

Historically, the inflationary policy of the new Russian government is typical of both Soviet and tsarist era central banking. 3 The nature of printing money to cover losses from inefficient state enterprises means that high inflation will be inevitable unless the government either confiscates private savings accounts or limits the ability to withdraw money from the savings accounts to drastically decrease the real money supply. The former has happened several times during the Soviet era, most recently in 1991, when Gorbachev allowed only a small amount of rubles to be converted into smaller bills, wiping out private savings of millions, and not surprisingly leading to the familiar sight of pensioners begging on the street, which the western media blamed on the effects of privatization rather than irresponsible monetary policy. The 1991 savings confiscation destroyed any remaining confidence in the ruble or the banking system, leading to a mass conversion of rubles into dollars, or dollarization. Today, Russians illegally hold over 40 billion in dollars, five times more than they hold in rubles, 1 and this despite ruble to dollar conversion being against the law. The difficulty in converting dollars to rubles combined with the inflationary instability of the ruble and the socialist era banking system is perhaps the primary factor in the huge underground economy.

The solution to Russia monetary crisis is simple: the ruble must be made sound by making it convertible and establishing an independent central bank which is not a puppet of the government and aims to maintain a stable monetary supply (as opposed to supporting state industry) as its primary goal. This action would free up many billions of dollars by giving Russians confidence in the ruble. It would also force the government to pay for state industries through taxation, not inflation. In the immediate short run, the government would be force to cut loose thousands of state enterprises – which is why this policy is so difficult to implement, but in the long run Russia would benefit enormously from the increased investment. Lenin correctly pointed out that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency — and vice versa, the best way to inspire confidence in capitalism is to establish a sound and secure currency.

One way of making the ruble convertible is to make the dollarization of the currency official by creating a currency board to establish a fixed rate of conversion between rubles and dollars. 5 This board must be limited to maintaining the exchange rate it set, so it would be unable to support state firms by inflationary policy, since that would drain its reserve of dollars. Such a board would greatly reduce the size of the black market and enjoy popular support by following earlier dual currency policies employed both by the left and right, only it would be much more orthodox in its ability to control the monetary supply. 3

Whatever policy Russia employs to stabilize its currency, if it wishes to partake of the advantages of capitalism, it has to somehow let go of inefficient state enterprises which keeps millions of workers idle and sink a large chunk of the economy every years. As many as 40% of industries in Russia are still unprofitable, a situation that could never be tolerated for long in any capitalist economy. 7 The classic argument that a maintaining a losing enterprise is “for the good of the workers” ignores the fact that the rest of the nation must pay for the idle workers, something nations all over the world would do well to mind. While critics argue that cutting lose millions of workers will lead to economic depression and a popular revolt, this argument ignores the fact that these industries are not producing anything worthwhile anyway, and that many of the workers already have other jobs to supplement the small and often tardy incomes they receive from the state.

In addition to cutting lose failing industries, the government must stop playing favorites with business. Both the central and regional government regularly favor certain companies for lower taxation, less regulation and outright subsidies. Oftentimes, the businesses show their appreciation by practically enrolling various bureaucrats on their payrolls. At other times, bureaucrats are owners or stockholders of the industries they regulate, as conflict-of-interest laws are practically non-existent. Additionally, much of the foreign aid that Russia receives is funneled directly to these favored businesses, which then “thank” the officials who provided the aid. Obviously, this is not an especially good situation for encouraging the most efficient companies to grow, but the ones with the most pull with the government. This is also a leading cause of corruption in Russia as well as in many other developing countries that receive foreign aid.

A similar problem exists with both the central and regional government using economic pressure to bend business to their will. Recently, the last independent television station in Russia was shut down when a minority shareholder (controlled almost entirely by the government) sued it and had the court declare bankruptcy and shut down the network despite the fact that in was one of the few profitable companies among a government controlled industry. 9 Not surprisingly, the station had been critical of the Putin government. Such political favoritism is common and does little to inspire investors’ confidence in impartial courts, further depressing both domestic and foreign investment.

Despite failing to adopt an active program of reform, Russia has shown several promising signs since Putin took power. Putin has taken actions to consolidate control and establish oversight over the regional provinces, helping him carry out policies that were previously resisted in distant provinces, some of which have remained de facto communist and ignored many of the central government’s rulings. Another significant new measure to improve the economy has been a 13 percent flat tax that has helped the economy grow at 5% last year and boosted tax revenues 28%. (The new tax rate doesn’t guarantee a responsible fiscal or monetary policy however, as Russia has used seignorage rather then taxes as the primary source of income, imposing much greater costs on the citizens in the process.) A new generation of entrepreneurs is becoming proficient at managing private enterprises and learning the principles of individualism and self sufficiency, as well as pushing for a radical deregulation of the economy. These entrepreneurs have cooperated, with help from the government and western advisers, to establish a stock market and worked together to push for reforms. Nevertheless, Russia’s economy remains mired in regulation, bad monetary policy, unsound and corrupt banks, and an other vestiges of communism that drag it down.

In conclusion, despite several positive reforms under the Putin administration, Russians needs to take major steps to embrace capitalism if they want to partake in its benefits. The most important reforms are:

* A radical reduction in federal and local government regulation. Simple, clear, well publicized, standardized, and long term regulations and laws to establish a clear and predictable rule of law. Increased transparency on both the central and local levels, centrally published regulations, standard forms, and well published government statistics would also help in this area.

* A complete privatization of the banking industry. This would stop the hidden flow of money to failing industries and increase access to credit for private entrepreneurs.

* Establishment of an independent central bank and a dollar convertible currency to stop inflation, allow people to invest their dollar savings, and secure confidence in the stability ruble.

* The IMF and other foreign lenders should exercise much more caution in the policies they promote, by focusing on funding promising private ventures, not corrupt government officials who funnel foreign aid into their own private accounts.

Some of these changes will not be easy, especially in the short run, but unless and until Russia bites the bullet and jumps head first into capitalism, it will continue to experience economic instability, corruption, and mass poverty like all other socialist and pseudo-socialist regimes.

References

  1. Kurt Schuler and George A. Selgin, Cato Policy Analysis No. 348: “Replacing Potemkin Capitalism: Russia’s Need for a Free-Market Financial System”. June 7, 1999.
  2. The Heritage Foundation: 2002 Index of Economic Freedom – Russia. http://cf.heritage.org/index/country.cfm?ID=122
  3. Steve H. Hanke, “Create a Currency-Board Law for Russia.” September 14, 1998. http://www.cato.org/dailys/9-14-98.html
  4. Central Bank of Russia: http://www.cbr.ru
  5. Steve H. Hanke, “The Case for a Russian Currency Board System”. October 14, 1998 http://www.cato.org/pubs/fpbriefs/fpb-049.pdf
  6. Kurt Schuler and Robert Stein, “The Mack Dollarization Plan: An Analysis” Paper for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas conference “Dollarization: A Common Currency for the Americas?” March 6, 2000 http://www.dallasfed.org/htm/dallas/pdfs/schuler.pdf
  7. Clifford G. Gaddy and Barry W. Ickes, Russia‘s Virtual Economy, Brookings Institute, 2002. Excerpt at http://www.brookings.org/dybdocroot/press/books/chapter_1/russiasvirtualeconomy.pdf
  8. Gary T. Dempsey, “Mafia Capitalism or Red Legacy?” January 7, 1998 http://www.cato.org/dailys/1-07-98.html
  9. Dmitry Pinsker, “TV6 saga nears final episode.” The Russia Journal http://www.trj.ru/index.htm?obj=5321
  10. James A. Dorn and Ian Vasquez. Ending Russia‘s Chaos, September 9, 1998 http://www.cato.org/dailys/9-9-98.html
  11. Daniel J. Mitchell, “Tax Reform: Russia, 1; United States, 0,” March 21, 2002 http://www.heritage.org/views/2002/ed032102.html
  12. Rose Brady, Kapitalizm : Russia‘s Struggle to Free Its Economy, New Haven, Conn. Yale University Press, 1999.
  13. Martha De Melo, and Gur Ofer, “Private Service Firms in a Transitional Economy: Findings of a Survey in St. Petersburg
    Studies of Economies in Transformation, 1014-997X ; Paper No. 11: 1994.
  14. William C.Gruben, “Dollarization: The Greenback Goes Global,” Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Expand Your Insight, March 1, 2000 http://www.dallasfed.org/eyi/money/0003.html

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Listserv: The Virtues of our Time: Collectivism, Nihilism and Pragmatism

 

August 11, 2002

The Virtues of our Time: Collectivism, Nihilism and Pragmatism

By David Veksler

American politicians today generally act on the dominant philosophy of the day, which can be described by three main values: collectivism, nihilism, and pragmatism. These values directly contradict those held by the founders of the United States: individualism, moral objectivism, and principled action. While both conservatives and liberals accuse each other of immorality, the loss of traditional, rational values in favor of a bankrupt “postmodern” philosophy has lead to a contradictory, inconsistent, and ad hoc policy that is the primary cause of most of the problems America faces today.

Collectivism is the idea that groups, not individual people, are the only proper beneficiaries of values. It states that your identity as a human being comes from involuntary or voluntary membership in various groups – such as society, race, “culture” or even sexual orientation. It then states that the only or the primary recipient of one’s labor should be this group, rather than yourself. In politics, this means that “serving your country” is more important than the services your government is supposed to provide you, namely protection from the criminal elements of the world. This view was summarized by JFK as “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask what you can do for your country.”

Both conservative and liberal presidents frequently espouse this ideal. For example, in promoting volunteerism, President George Bush said: “Citizen service is the very American idea that we meet our challenges not as isolated individuals but as members of a true community, with all of us working together. Our mission is nothing less than to spark a renewed sense of obligation, a new sense of duty, a new season of service…”

The basis of this view is that a collective of individuals is more than the sum of its parts, and that by belonging to a collective, a person can acquire special rights and obligations he would not have otherwise. The clear implication of collectivism is that the individual becomes secondary to the group, and in fact becomes its tool rather than an end in himself. Implicit in collectivism is the idea that collectives can think, benefit, and obtain rights just as individuals can. Collectives are even attributed personalities called “culture” that everyone within it is expected to embrace. Each member of a collective is responsible for its failures, and everyone is to be praised if any one person in it accomplishes something. Anyone who pursues his own “selfish” interests, or has goals that differ from the “collective’s” is deemed a traitor to his society, country, race, and so on and usually faces dire consequences. Reality is rejected in favor of the consensus, and truth becomes relative to the purposes of the collective.

The opposite of collectivism is individualism. Individualism declares that each and every man may live his own life for his own happiness, as an end to himself, neither sacrificing himself to others, nor others to himself. It rejects the view that a group of men has special rights and that a “public good” exists by declaring that there is no collective stomach or a collective mind because only individuals can benefit from any good, and only individuals can think. Individualism is the idea that groups are simply a collection of individuals, and any rights claimed by them derive directly from the rights of the individuals composing such a group. As Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of Independence, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The only associations that an individualist values are those voluntarily chosen, not born or drafted into.

Any good stolen from a man for the sake of “society” cannot be shared with society as a while, but must be given to other individuals, benefiting some at the expensive of others. Likewise, an invention is not the result of “collective thought” but of innovation and originality on the part of its creator. He may have built on the ideas of others, but his invention represents his own original, independent thinking, from which he has a right to profit without having to share the values the inventor receives with others. Politically, the result of such as principle is capitalism: a social system where the individual does not live by permission of others, but by inalienable right. The inevitable result of collectivism on the other hand is socialism: a system where the individual is only a tool to serve the “social good” – and because there is no such thing a collective benefit, the profit of the politically well-connected looter at the expensive of the productive worker is the inevitable result of any collectivist system.

The second major trait of “post-modern” political thought is nihilism. Nihilism assumes that there are no objective values independent from one’s thought, but that values are derived solely from whatever means are necessary to achieve one’s immediate goals, whatever they may be. This means that there are no objective or universal standards which everyone must observe, but only the immediate actions needed to accomplish one’s passing whims and fancies. Embracing collectivism, nihilism states that any arbitrary values chosen by culture or individuals are an absolute, independent of the actual benefit or harm they may have on one’s life. In short, nihilism takes the stance that values are not physical, but mental entities – that they are not derived from reality but whatever random goal your mind comes up with.

The opposite of nihilism and subjectivism is moral objectivism – which states that values are in fact derived from reality, not random whims, and that the facts of reality, not culture or consensus determine right and wrong. Moral objectivism states that there are certain necessary values, such as food, shelter, and other material goods that man needs to obtain to survive. The rejection of objective, rational values is the primary cause of the rise of crime in America.

The state of public education is a perfect example of the natural consequence of collectivist, nihilist values. Educators correctly state that self-esteem is crucial to children’s development, but they take away the means to attain self-esteem by claiming that it comes from cultural and racial group association rather than individual achievement. They cripple the ability of children to set goals and motivate themselves by preaching that serving society through community service, rather than self-motivation and hard work, leads to success. They reward students for C’s as well as A’s and teach that all that is needed to be happy with oneself is to be oneself, whatever that means, rather than work at setting and reaching goals. Furthermore, by claiming that reality and morality is subjective and dependent on cultural, social or personal opinion, that logic is useless, and that confidence in one’s opinion is “close-minded” they cause kids to follow the inevitable consequences of such an ideology. When social approval rather than individual accomplishment is the only standard of value children have, peer approval becomes the ultimate goal, and kids seek it by open sexuality, drugs, or violence because it is the only means they perceive of being recognized in the collectivist system their schools put forth.

Pragmatism follows naturally from nihilism. It is the idea that men do not need to follow absolutes or principles, but should act only on the immediate needs of any situation. As president Bush recently said, “I’m so pleased that a member of my Cabinet came. I picked a good man when I picked the Secretary of Education. I didn’t pick somebody who dwelt on theory.” The rejection of “theory” is the rejection of the idea that any choice has any implications to consider other than the immediate consequences. Bill and Hillary Clinton are the typical products of such “post-modern,” unprincipled thinking. Both Clinton and Bush welcome the Arab dictators and urge compromise with PLO terrorists when they need to please the oil interests, just as warmly as they welcome Israeli leaders and the praise the cause of Zionism to please the Jewish lobby. That Bill Clinton would retaliate for terrorist attacks with one or two missiles fired into the desert so as not to offend world opinion, ignoring the kind of message it would give to terrorists, and then lobby and claim that he “would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch and fight and die” to protect Israel demonstrates this unprincipled and pragmatic mentality. In her campaign for Senate, Hillary Clinton solicited campaign contributions from racist, anti-Semitic Muslim groups right before speaking at Synagogues in front of welcoming crowds. President Bush is only a marginal improvement. Initially strong in his anti-environmentalist stance, and support of business, he wavered and conceded whenever he saw his poll number sag. Then, despite his lip service to free trade and free market, Bush supported steel tariffs, subsidies to farming interests, and a huge “economic aid package” that passed just as the economy was starting to recover from an overly controlling government that caused the depression in the first place. Recently, he has curbed efforts to pursue terrorists abroad as coalitions composed of less-than democratic nations have faltered – exemplifying the collectivist notion that a moral judgment can only be reached by a social consensus, and wavered in his support of Israel’s right to self defense to please European and domestic critics.

The opposite of pragmatism is principled action, the view that decisions must be made in accordance to established, universal principles, because ad hoc, pragmatic action will lead to contradicting and self-defeating policy. For example, while Alan Greenspan recognizes that setting interest rates to be too low will over-encourage investment, create economic instability and lead to recession in the long run, he still engages in short term “emergency” inflationary measures that caused the investment spree of the late 1990’s and consequently, the recent financial depression. This is equivalent to obtaining huge credit card balances to fulfill “immediate needs” –ignoring the need for long term saving and planning and the consequences of permanent debts. However, politicians claim to be immune from principles that apply to individuals as if policies that are bad for individuals can me made good by volume. Turning to foreign policy, in his campaign, President Bush claimed to follow a principled policy by claiming that “The first question is: What’s in the best interests of the United States? What’s in the best interests of our people? When it comes to foreign policy, that’ll be my guiding question: Is it in our nation’s interests?” However, Bush has acted otherwise, retaining an unnecessary military presence in Bosnia to please European allies, while mounting a weak and incomplete response in Afghanistan and trying to attain a “consensus” before taking any military action, sacrificing America’s security for to please the whims of both our allies and enemies. Most recently, faced with growing criticism of pursuing the countries that sponsor terrorism, the president and congress have endorsed a campaign against businessmen to distract the nation from their foreign policy and economic failures while giving traitors generous plea bargains. Interestingly, both democrats and republicans have been united in their condemnation of CEO’s as “greedy crooks”, requiring more and more government oversight so that they can better “serve their country” (and maybe keep a little bit of profit in the process) while debating if any response at all should be mounted against nations that sponsor terrorism.

Thus, the guiding philosophy for politicians on both sides of the spectrum is collectivism, nihilism, and pragmatism, while the classical liberal values that this country was founded on is sometimes given lip service, but largely forgotten. The resulting consequences have been clear – a faltering economy, emboldened and unchallenged enemies abroad, a failing educational system, and an increasingly invasive, controlling government. The only way out of the current mess is to once again embrace values that promote the individual’s “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” adopting an objective morality, and a policy that is based on principle, not momentary pragmatism.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Essays, Listserv

SPAM

I got spam from the Air Force Reserve today. Are they getting desperate or what? Maybe they should make a flight simulator game — hey, it worked for the Army.
Would it work so that you were always fighting the enemy, and if so, who would you go after? Is it open season on Iraq yet?
I think I am going to have to write a letter to the Air Force:
Dear Sirs,
Please take me of your subscription lists. I don’t wish to receive any more unsolicited mail or email from the Armed Force, so if you could remove me from the spamming list as well as the draft rolls, I’d much appreciate it.
Sincerely,
David V

(Check out a little article I wrote about dealing those spammers here.)

Leave a Comment

Filed under Sci/Tech

Technology, for better or worse.

Despote environmentalist and “post-modern” myths to the contrary, technology is a Good Thing. Many liberal profs will spread BS about how the 20th century demonstrated the “evils of technology” but I don’t buy any such thing. Technological progress is driven by the individual innovation and requires certain conditions to take place. While it is possible for technology to be used for evil purposes, as it was in Nazi Germany, only a society which rewards individual self-interest will progress technological in the long run, because only such a system will encourage men to take risks, devote years of their lives, and attract investment from other men who are free from control to invest in good ideas.
Both innovation and investment are key to progress. For example, Germany developed a nuclear and jet program much sooner than the US, but the totalitarian system did not deem nuclear research or fighter jets a high enough priority to do much damage to the allies. The United States on the other hand, provided the technology to mass produce conventional and nuclear weapons because it had a clear and proper moral purpose and the semi-free economy to support it, while Germany diverted vital resources to concentration camps and focused on the wrong technologies, losing the war.
Thus, technological progress, whether civilian or military, will only occur when some degree economic and political freedom exists to stimulate and direct innovation and development in the right direction.

Anyways, I was looking through my server logs, as I often do, and I found not only the usual traces of automated hacker attacks (which are logged in detail) but some disturbing search terms. It turns out that search term “+child +penis +img” in google, displays the Aggie Review website as the first search result! I realized that a satirical article someone wrote about the Vagina Monologues, was leading all sorts of unsavory people to my site. Now, I don’t plan to report them, or the random hacker to the FBI, but it is strange to how the net attracts all these people to my server, especially since it’s only been up one month.
A better example of the net at work, was the girl in Toronto who was searching for information in her hometown of Vinnitsa – which just happens to be the name of one of the photos in my photo collection, as I am from there as well. Because of Google’s amazing search technology (and my website skills) I was able to connect with another person, who randomly matched a word that that we shared, and as it turned out, a lot more as well.

Leave a Comment

Filed under General

Bureaucracy

(This is an update of an earlier post)
So I’ve already gotten in trouble once for publishing security exploits, but I think it’s worth chancing it again to make my point. I went by the Student Activities office today to get a subdomain name, and decided to ask for the SOFC # for the Libertarians. The nice girl at the desk promptly looked it up for me, and then when I asked her about the procedure for changing passwords, she wrote down the password for the group’s account as well. Since I had mentioned in passing my membership in another group, she wrote down their SOFC # and password as well. At no time did I actually say that I was an officer in any of these groups, show any identification or even ask for the password – I simply asked how to go about getting to it, and she provided passwords for two groups for me. Then I proceeded to the computer office to get a new subdomain for another group I’m webmaster of – again, no confirmation of my identity or membership status was necessary. Now I’d like to think that my trustworthy appearance and rugged good looks persuaded the girl at the info desk to be generous with the info, but somehow I doubt that’s the case, and that worries me because many groups keep significant sums of $ in their accounts, and this is less than stellar security, despite the huge bureaucratic mess than a group has to go through to get organized and maintain their mandatory bank account with SOFC.
This reminds me of the policy at Evans library to force changes to passwords every 90 days. As a result, many staff members write their passwords on sticky notes on their monitors, and one of the library admins advised me to amend a “02f” “O2s” and so on to a “base” password as a way of remembering it, which I suppose is the advice she gives to everyone else….kinda defeating the purpose?
But, hey, what do I know, maybe Aggies really don’t lie cheat or steal after all.
Ten days ago, I requested a room for the Libertarians. I had to get my advisor to sign a form where I picked my top preferences for meeting rooms because there was no way to look them up (or so the person at the registration desk said.) This means, that everyone who reserves rooms has to hope to not request the same day as any other group. Then today, I went to pick up the schedule, and they said they couldn’t find it. After about 30 minutes (not kidding) of looking, they found that it had been misfiled under the wrong file. Now it wouldn’t be too hard to put all this info online to eliminate security risks, calendar mix-ups, and several jobs, but this is a bureaucracy we’re talking about here. Government jobs contribute to “aggregate output” — right?

Leave a Comment

Filed under General

Zimbabwe

The thing I find the most outrageous about politics in today’s world is not that so many collectivist and authoritarian governments exist, but that it is the free nations of the world that support them. The U.S. is building North Korea a nuclear plant in exchange for it agreeing to not build more nukes, as millions of its citizens starve, kept alive by the millions in aid that the country gets every year, while North Korea diverts its entire industry (supported mostly by western aid) towards making more weapons and keeping a huge conscripted military force in the army instead of allowing their enslaved masses to raise any crops. As it sends aid and builds North Korea nuclear plans (which are illegal to build in the US thanks to the enviro-wakos), the U.S. military keeps several thousand troops stationed at the border between the Koreas to guard against North Korean aggression. More so than the dictators of these countries, who are common thugs, the “civilized” countries that support these dictatorships are responsible for their existence.

Recently, “thousands of tons of U.S. emergency food aid destined for crisis-stricken Zimbabwe has been diverted to other countries, and a new shipload may be diverted within days, because the donations include genetically modified corn that the Zimbabwean government does not want to accept.” Why not? They “don’t want to contaminate their soil with genetically modified crops”!
Even more outrageously, Mugabe has said he is being prudent. “We fight the present drought with our eyes clearly set on the future of the agricultural sector, which is the mainstay of our economy,” he told Zimbabwe’s parliament on July 23. “We dare not endanger its future through misplaced decisions based on acts of either desperation or expediency.”

What Mugabe does not mention is that in the last year, he has stolen the land of thousands of white farmers in a pathetic attempt to boost his own failing popularity by taking the role of a common looter. Since the farmers produce most of the country’s agricultural output and hire millions of workers, millions of people have gone starving (and unemployed) and the country’s economy has nosedived. And this punk claims he is “set on the future”? But it’s not Mugabe who makes me sick – it is the aid agencies, the governments, and the media that support these regimes by adopting and promoting the statist, collectivist, nihilist, and pragmatic attitudes that create these sad situations.
Excuse me while I barf.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Politics