Friday, June 19, 2015

On South Carolina, violence, power, and a flag.

Today is Juneteenth, and on the heels of a racially motivated massacre, we are forced to ask ourselves once again -- when can we end this violence?  When shall we know peace with our brothers?  When will we achieve the dream that we all judge each other by the content of our character?  How can we end the hate?

The traditional thinking is that prior to the civil war, the North was enlightened and the South was filled with bigots.  Of course the truth is never so absolute.  We know that Thomas Jefferson was in fact a slave owner.  We know that he also wrote the following passage, that was later removed from the Declaration of Independence:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another. -
See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/primary/declaration-independence-and-debate-over-slavery#sthash.qhLieB7x.dpuf

Jefferson later in life blamed the removal of the passage on Delegates from Georgia and South Carolina, but also on Northern Delegates who profited from the slave trade.  The famous Triangle Trade depended on Yankee ships as much as it did southern slave markets.  This debate is famously depicted in the Musical 1776 (which if I think every American should see), though they cut the critical song from the movie.



And the song:




So what?


Well, one of the things you hear people railing about is how the South Carolina flag is still contains Confederate Battle flag, which is widely (though falsely) believed to be the flag of the Confederacy.  In most southern states the Rebel Battle Flag has been removed from the state flag. It's been taken because those states viewed their past connection with slavery to be shameful

But the northern states should not be exempted from that opinion.

The first recorded New England slave voyage sailed from the city of Boston, Massachusetts in 1644. By the 1670s, Massachusetts traders were regularly carrying slaves between Africa and the Caribbean. Rhode Islanders entered the trade in about 1700. By the middle of the eighteenth century, upwards of twenty ships per year sailed for Africa from the tiny colony, most of them from the city of Newport. Two-thirds of Rhode Island’s fleet was engaged in the slave trade...By the 1760s, the Rhode Island city of Newport alone boasted nearly two dozen distilleries, transforming Caribbean molasses into rum.  This reading is excerpted from A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in NewEngland. Copyright - Choices Program, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. All rights reserved.
And in fact protection for the slave trade was written into the US Constitution in Article 1 Section 9 of the United States Constitution.

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
So why don't we ask for a new flag for the state of Rhode Island, which profited so much from slavery? New Jersey's state flag was created when New Jersey was still a slave state.  Should they be ashamed of their slaver past?   Texas was a slave state, but no one has asked Texas to change it's flag.

But doesn't the Confederate Battle flag stands for slavery?


The First Confederate Flag aka the Stars and Bars
The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
Not intentionally. As I pointed out, Texas was a slave state and never incorporated the Confederate Battle Flag. Virginia and Maryland too never had anything about the Confederacy in their state flags.. Georgia's current flag (that over 70% of the voters approved of in a recent election) includes 13 stars in a circle to commemorate the Confederacy.

But Rednecks use the Confederate Battle flag as a rallying symbol? And the Klan displays it prominently at their rallies?

Yup. And that has tainted it forever in my opinion.

Is there anything in southern culture worth celebrating?

I think so. I'm biased having grown up in Texas, but ask people from Florida or Alabama or Virginia, and regardless of race, religion or gender -- they'll tell you the same thing. But saying the flag has become a symbol of hate doesn't end Southern Culture.

So what should happen to the South Carolina flag?

If it were my decision, I'd take it down and replace it with a Palmetto.  Yet as much as I dislike the flag, I wouldn't tell anyone that I thought they had to take it down.  Me telling them what to do would be an exercise of power.  And power is what kills.

Tolerance is me tolerating you doing stuff that I don't agree with.  I don't agree with displaying the Rebel Battle flag, and certainly not as the official flag of a state!  I don't agree that the flag is just a symbol of Southern Culture.  I agree with most people, that the flag is now and forever associated with the Peculiar Institution, and as such it is a symbol of the worst in our nation's history.

And while we may mull over the nuances of the motivations behind the tragedy in Charleston, the one thing we know is that the shooter was an intolerant person.  If we taught more tolerance in our society, we would have less tragedy.  Too often people think that they do not have to stand for things that offend them, and they are within their rights to use the power of government to set things right.

We set too many examples of people being able to use power to force others to live the way they see fit.   The power of government is available to some.  The power of wealth is available to others.  Some use legal power to get their way.  And to some desperate few, power comes from violence.

When we use power to suppress the liberty of others, we set an example.  Most parents no longer spank their children, because we've come to realize that the only thing a child learns from being spanked is that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems.  And that it's ok to wield power to end disputes.

So why do we continue to spank our society with trivial laws that we must use power to enforce.  Mandatory recycling.  Laws against gambling.  The War on Drugs.   The Affordable Care Act.  All examples of using power to forbid or require people to behave in a certain way, because some majority once thought their way was best.

When we use the power of government in this way -- to suppress the liberty of people -- we make a society that covets power.  We teach people that acquiring power and using power against others is the proper way to resolve disputes.

Where does a mass murderer come from?  A place of evil surely.  And a place of intolerance.  Imagine if we lived in a culture of "live and let live," where we actively taught people that they were required to learn to live with each other.  Imagine a society where your recourse to being unhappy with your neighbor was not to use power to resolve your dispute, but to accept your differences.

One evil man in Charleston could not accept differences and he tried to resolve them with the only power he perceived to be at his disposal.  Was he a racist?  Yes.  Was he intolerant?  Yes.  And he was terrible.

I don't want to practice intolerance.

I don't want that to be the legacy of this tragedy.

So I tell you South Carolina I find that flag offensive.  I view it as a symbol of the worst of the South, and when I see it flown it taints every thought I have about the best of the South.  When you fly that flag you are doing so deliberately to cause pain and suffering to others because you don't care.  When you fly that flag you reveal yourselves to be ignorant of the realities of our shared history.  And when you fly that flag you tacitly support the idea that there is a place for racism.

So I ask you South Carolina -- please change your flag.  But I'm not telling you.  I want to persuade you -- but I don't want to use force against you.  I want to live by the non-aggression policy and will live my life to the ideal that it is never ok to use force against another person, except in self defense.

And I hope that in living a life to that standard, I can do a small bit to reduce the violence and lust for power in our society today.

I wish us all peace.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Free Chuck Hobbs

My friend Chuck Hobbs, a frequent and eloquent writer to places like The Hill posted a photo on facebook which included a naked breast to make a point.  Facebook responded by suspending his account and silencing an eloquent voice.

In particular Mr Hobbs is a voice of reason regarding the state of race relations in our country and a proponent of peaceful interaction.  Because he refuses to preach hatred he is an enemy of those who wish for us ti implode.  I suspect that someone like this complained about his post.

Facebook!  Give up the censorship!  You're making a mistake in this specific case as well as in general.  Trying to censor the web is a ridiculous idea -- people will always be able to get around whatever guardianship you try to implement.  You are making an admirable attempt to curtail hate speech, and I appreciate your motive -- but the greatest gift Facebook has given to us is the ability for diverse people to come together for sophisticated conversations.

Don't take back your greatest gift by trying to censor these conversations.  It's better to let us converse freely.

Read more about Chuck

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things that are free have no value

When something is free, it has no value and people treat it as such. When I worked at a great hospital in Boston, we used to offer free printing to everyone in our small division -- 1000 people were generating printing costs of $100,000 per year.

So we put a program in place so that when people sent a job to the printer, they had to go to the printer to release the job with their username/password (this was also important for HIPPA reasons -- can't leave patient records on the printer tray). This allowed us to see how much people were printing.

After one year we had some pretty good stats on how much everyone printed, so we told people that we were going to start charging $0.01 per page for back and white prints and $0.07 for color. We also gave everyone an "allowance" of $50 a year, and we displayed their balance on the screen when they released their print jobs.

Out printing dropped by 75%.    It wasn't that anyone was deprived -- no one ended up having to pay us for more printing -- but because we assigned a value to something that was previously free -- people treated it like a precious resource.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New public key

I attended the Massachusetts Libertarian Party state committee meeting last Saturday, and as always I left thinking:  "I know I'm being paranoid, but am I being paranoid enough?"

To that end, I have generated a new 4096 bit public key.  Scroll down further for my 2048 key.

If you want to know how to use it, check out Mailvelope


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2048 key below

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Balls lose pressure in the cold

Regarding deflate-gate

Amounton's Law says

"The pressure of a gas of fixed mass and fixed volume is directly proportional to the gas's absolute temperature."

So P/T = Constant

For comparing the same substance under two different sets of conditions, the law can be written as:

P1/T1 = P2/T2

I'm also going to do this in metric to avoid other potential errors. And I apologize that I am 30 years from doing this sort of work


12.5 psi = 86.18 kPa ( kiloPascals)
75F=23.89C = 297.04K
30F=-1.11C = 272.04K


So

86.18/297.04 = P2/272.04
0.29= P2/272.04
P2=78.93kPa
78.93kPa= 11.45PSI


Temperature change from 75F to 30F degrees would result in a football ball losing ~1 pound of pressure per square inch.

Now this does not account for ALL of the claimed 2lbs PSI that was measued as having been lost -- but we don't know that the ball began at 12.5 -- what if they began at 12? What if they were inflated in a 78 degree room?

I think early calls dismissing temperature as a force are hasty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay-Lussac%27s_law#Pressure-temperature_law


UPDATE
Someone pointed out that

Pressure gauge= Pressure absolute - Pressure atmosphere
which means I need to do my calculations with absolute pressure to use the Ideal Gas Law

Atmospheric pressure is 14.7 psi

12.5 + 14.7 = 27.2psi = 187.54 kPA

187.54/297.04 = P2/272.04
0.29= P2/272.04
P2=171.76kPa
171.76kPa= 24.91psi
subtract atmospheric pressure and
24.91-14.7= 10.21psi

!!!!

A ball inflated at 75 degrees to 12.5 psi will be 10.2 psi at 30 degrees!!!  This matches the readings by the NFL Officials!!

UPDATE REDUX

Temperature at game time was 50F, which is 282K

187.54/297.04 = P2/272.04
P2=178.07kPa
171.76kPa= 25.82psi
subtract atmospheric pressure and
25.82-14.7= 11.15psi

A ball inflated at 75 degrees to 12.5 psi will be 11.15 psi at 50 degrees!!!  





Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Crony Capitalism of Common Core

When people talk about having standards, it’s with the shared assumption that standards are a “good thing.”  When we talk about minimum standard for something, we’re talking about a baseline, below which is considered unacceptable.  When we use the phrase  “a standard of excellence” we associate the word standard with an ideal that we should all strive for.

It’s not accidental then that the Federal government, in a well intentioned attempt to direct the path of education in the country, used that word to introduce the Common Core State Standards.   Common Core is a set of standards for elementary and secondary education that are meant to provide a guide to educators and parents as to what should be taught in schools.

According to the Common Core website,

“Building on the excellent foundation of standards states have laid, the Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education. It should be clear to every student, parent, and teacher what the standards of success are in every school.”

The statement alone makes it clear that the goal is to provide young people with a high quality education.  And this is a laudable goal.  Who would not want to provide students with a quality education?  When is anyone ever against education?  Education is another word, much like “standards” that has become loaded.

In America, we are the greatest bastion of capitalism -- and that’s a good thing.  We use market forces to drive many of the decisions in our economy.  We understand the benefits and efficiencies of “economies of scale.”  We understand that if you buy a truckload full of pencils, you get a better price per pencil than if you are just buying one.

Taken to the extreme, we see Wal-Mart as a model of efficiency.  They have a database that connects every warehouse to every cash register.  Every day they analyze what sold in a store and based on sales and inventory they send price adjustments to the store to move things that they need to sell, and they send trucks to replace the items that the store is running low on.  Managers don’t order what they need -- they open the trucks from the warehouse and find exactly what they need in them.

It’s a model of efficiency, and it has made Wal-Mart the most successful retailer in the history of money.  Yet inspite of this success, when Wal-Mart comes to a town it is often faced with opposition from locals who know that Wal-Mart can sell bread cheaper than the local baker.  Wal-Mart can sell paint cheaper than the local hardware store.  Wal-Mart can sell clothes cheaper than they local dress shop.  All these businesses will be forced to adapt to a Wal-Mart in their midst.  And as a result, some may have to change the way they do business.  Some will be forced to lower their standards to provide a cheaper product.

And in business, that’s an appropriate adjustment to make.  

Mark Twain famously wrote “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.”  Education has become BIG business here in the United States.  We have a Higher Education industry fueled by government loans that has been increasing tuition and profits steadily.  According the Department of Education the average cost of a 4 year degree has doubled over the last 10 years.

And Elementary and Secondary education are no different.  Textbook contracts are worth millions.  School spending is typically are HALF of a city’s budget.  Massachusetts spends ~$14,000 per student per year.  It would be a huge boon to business to be able to apply economies of scale to that money.  The Wal-Marts of education are champing at the bit for the application a single purchasing directive to schools.

But Walmart clothing, though cheap and sufficient, is meant for for the lowest common denominator.  And it’s not built to a standard of quality, but to a standard of immediacy.  While consumers are welcome to satisfy immediate needs, when paying for our childrens’ education we should be concerned with quality.

And as economies of scale take over, smaller competitors are driven out of the market.  There are currently THOUSANDS of small businesses that facilitate educational advancements (full disclosure, I work for one).  The plethora of options benefits school systems in that they are able to chose a system that fits them well, and then frequently is custom tailored to their specific needs.  The adoption of common core by most states threatens the ability of individual states to customize their education system.

Oversight from the Federal level is abstracted.  Oversight in your own neighborhood in personal.  What has made education work in the United States is the idea that a local School System has a better idea of what its population needs.  In Massachusetts, where 83% of graduating seniors take the SATs focus on college preparation makes a tremendous amount of sense.  In Illinois, where 5% of graduating seniors take the SAT, they might determine that more vocational training is a better implementation.

“The Common Core is about raising the bottom half,” says Common Core Development Team member Mark Bauerlein. “One problem is the broader issue of trying to equalize school situations. We need to do so, but we will never equalize home situations.”

I would argue that if this were true, there would be no need for standards for the states that are currently excelling.  Why then is there pressure on Massachusetts to adopt standards that are less than the current state standards?  If the standards are so good, why wouldn’t states voluntarily choose to adopt them?  Why the pressure for the Federal government?  The Race to the Top initiative awarded more than $4 billion in federal grants to 19 states that demonstrated a commitment to education reform and innovation. Race to the Top applicants who agreed to adopt the Common Core standards had points added to their score.

So the Federal government is collecting $5b in taxes from the people to return $4b (I’m assuming 20% waste as the money passes through the bureaucracy).  This coercion is subtle, but key to the way Federal oversight worms its way into local issues.

A school system that operates locally and is responsive to the parents operates best.  Absolving localities of responsibility for curriculum by presenting them with a “common core” will be detrimental to the quality of many local school systems.  Undoubtedly there are school systems for whom Common Core will be beneficial.  In states like Mississippi the emphasis on communication skills and math will certainly benefit many student.

But the fact that a curriculum will benefit some students -- even MOST students, does not mean it should be required.  And while common core adoption is not forced upon school districts, they are now disadvantaged in their ability to get Race To The Top money.  And as common core text books come out, the financial pressure to buy the cheapest books will also mount.  

Common core is an attempt to apply economies of scale to education.  Small business that cater to their customers are vanishing before the expansions of the megastores.  While we gain cheap products, we lose quality craftsmanship.  Is this the direction we want elementary and secondary education to take?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Rick Marciano for State Representative in Beverly, Massachusetts

In the 6th Essex race the Salem News editorialized: “... Parisella has certainly earned another two-year term...”  Apparently the editors have not been reading the excellent reporting of Paul Leighton who detailed the conflict of interest complaint filed against Parisella and his subsequent quitting of his job.

And though that weighs on my mind, I’m voting for Rick Marciano because of 3 votes Jerry made.  

24 Hour Review Time for Bills Vote # H2015.1

This was a vote on Amendment #1 to the Joint Rules for the years 2013 and 2014 (H2015). Supporters sought to require the budget to be posted online for 24 hours before a vote, after it emerges from the Conference Committee. -  Rep. Parisella voted against this

Requiring Committee Votes to be Published Online Vote # H2015.3  

This was a vote on Amendment #3 to the Joint Rules for the years 2013 and 2014 (H2015). Supporters sought to require committee votes be published online. Rep. Parisella voted against this

Require Six Public Hearings Before Raising Taxes Vote # H3700.234

This amendment would have required six public hearings before legislation containing new taxes or tax increases could be voted on.  Rep. Parisella voted against this.

These three votes I think would have improved accountability and transparency  in our state government.  These votes however indicate clearly that those in power do NOT want to be accountable or transparent.  

I don’t blame the Representative for voting as leadership instructed him -- this is how Massachusetts government has been played for many years now -- and Democrats who cross the speaker are in a dangerous position.

That is why I’m supporting Rick Marciano for State Representative.  Rick can be counted on to speak his mind and vote his conscience.  He will not “play ball” with the speaker to hide the things that they would prefer to sweep under the rug.  Scandal after scandal has tarnished our state government, with the probation department scandal having recently convicted 3 more government employees.

I’m voting for Rick because I want someone who owes nothing to the speaker or the governor or either party -- but instead is independent and works for Beverly. Rick won't have to quit a job because of a conflict of interest. Rick has committed to working ONLY the State Rep job and giving the people of Beverly full time representation.
Sincerely, Daniel Fishman