March 24, 2012

Busted. Broke. Broken.

I have explained my outlook on life to a friend as cynical optimism. By which I mean I always look for the ray of hope, the silver lining. I just don't always expect to find it and I'm not terribly shocked when I don't. I always give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they prove they don't deserve it (though I will will admit that anyone with the title Congressman, Senator, Governor, President, Secretary of etc is usually regarded with significant skepticism). These days I find it difficult  to maintain any degree of optimism when looking at things from a big picture i.e. the future existence of the United States as a semi-free country perspective.


I suppose it would be easier if I just didn't pay attention and took more of an ignorance is bliss approach but that's just not my nature. Nor am I capable of waltzing through life on wishes and good intentions - which would make me a Liberal - which is not in my nature either.

We have devolved from a nation of free people with a government that derived its just powers to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness from the consent of the governed to a land of subjects commanded do as we are told regardless of our consent.

The federal government now exercises virtually total control over the healthcare industry. They are dictating what insurance we can buy and and that we must buy the insurance of their design. We do not have the freedom of consenting. We must obey or pay a penalty.

The federal government now dictates to churches that they must provide services in direct contravention of their beliefs.

The federal government has decided what we will be allowed to use for energy. They hamper and block the production of efficient and effective energy sources and pay subsidies to favored companies backed by campaign donors.

The federal government funneled billions of dollars to well connected banks to protect wealthy campaign contributors from suffering the consequences of their poor and corrupt decisions.

In ways large and small the federal government increasingly makes more of our decisions for us, regardless of our consent. Every decision the government makes for you means that you are that much less free to decide for yourself.

The nation is $15 trillion in debt and there is no sign that the growth of debt is going slow.

There is no one in the government who seems either able or willing to do anything about it. In 2000 we elected a Republican President, a Republican Senate and a Republican House. What did we get? Expansion of government dependency and control in Medicare part D and expansion of federal control of education with No Child Left Behind.

We have come as a nation to a fork in the road, a metaphor I prefer to "Tipping Point" as it implies that there is still a choice. And do believe there still is a choice. That there still is a chance. Thats the optimist speaking.

The cynic notes that while there is a choice to be made it is not my choice. It is not your choice. It is a choice that will be made by the nine justices of the Supreme Court. The Court begins to hear arguments on ObamaCare next week.

9 people or more precisely 5 people will decide if the wishes of those who believe that it is the role of the government to make our individual decisions for us trump the limits placed on government by the Constitution.

The optimist on one shoulder notes that just last week this Court slapped down the EPA for trampling the rights of property owners. The pessimist on the other shoulder whispers in my ear "Kelough v New London" to remind me that the Court is not always going to rule in favor of limited government.

I am hoping. But I will not be surprised.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:41 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


March 17, 2012

Hacked

I have been hacked!


Friday morning, along with the usual assortment of SPAM, my inbox had three payment receipts for iTunes In-App purchases and three alert messages from iTunes Customer Support. The three transactions totaled about $120.00 one at 1:53 a.m. and two at 1:54 a.m.

At 1:53 a.m. I was in bed sound asleep and not up making In-App purchases from a company called Giant Mobile.

 The alert from Apple read:

Your Apple ID, [redacted (duh!)], was just used to make a purchase in 江湖行2 from the App Store on a computer or device that had not previously been associated with that Apple ID.

The app in question is a Chinese Language game that Google translates into: Rivers and lakes line 2. I do not speak or read Chinese.

At 11:00 p.m. on Friday (less than 24 hours after the hack and about 16 hours after I reported it) I received the following communication from iTunes Customer Support:

We have issued a refund for the items purchased without your permission. The decision to issue a refund was made after a careful review of your case.  Please note that this refund is an exception to the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions, which state that all sales are final. A refund in the amount of $119.07 has been issued to the payment method(s) that were used to pay for the items.

I have no answer to the question of whether the problem mine or Apple's. Given the speed and ease with which they were willing to issue a refund in exception to their Terms and Conditions I'm inclined to think that it was not I who was hacked but iTunes. 

Regardless, I have taken the following steps and suggest that if you are an iTunes user you do as well. I have changed my password and security questions. I have gone into my iTunes account settings and de-linked all forms of payment so that a purchase cannot be made without entering additional third party information.

The username and password for iTunes is also the password for my Apple ID. Apple helpfully uses one name and password for everything. So when a hacker gets one thing they get everything. Which means it was also the password for iCloud. Which means that whomever had my credentials had access to email, calendar, bookmarks, contacts. They wouldn't have had direct access to my system through Back to My Mac without the system password, but those passwords are changed as well just in case. And an extremely close eye will be kept on all financial resources.

There are bad people out there. Have fun on the internet, but stay safe.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:01 AM | No Comments | Add Comment


March 10, 2012

Rush Breitbart

In the early days of this site, two or three different hosts ago, there was a little widget in the sidebar I called "Calendar Thingie." At the start of a month all of the numbers were grey and any day I posted something the numbers turned blue. In those heady days I made it to the end of a lot of months with nothing but blue days. I'll grant that some of it was utter tripe just to get something posted, but I wrote EVERY day. Now I'm that much older and much wiser (?) or just more tired I seem to have settled into writing something once a week.


That's OK because in general it means I spend more time thinking before I start typing. Before I sit down at the keyboard the central idea of a post has been through several mental drafts. The result, I like to think, is a clearer more cogent presentation of the point I want to make. And also that I more often actually have a point to make rather than just spouting off. It also gives me the opportunity to question my own thinking and my own assumptions.

At the beginning of this week I had begun to mentally construct an argument that Rush Limbaugh was an idiot. That the left dangled some bait and he swallowed it hook, line and sinker. The premise of the post was going to be that the left played him like a fiddle and it was disappointing that he allowed it to happen.

I couldn't care less about Sandra Fluke and I couldn't possibly care less that Limbaugh called her a prostitute and a slut. I understand the use of absurdity and hyperbole in trying to make a point. In the post below, I suggested that if Ms. Fluke's recreational pleasures were going to be paid for by someone else through the provision of free contraception, then my choice of recreational pleasure should be paid for by someone else as well. I tried to frame it as a mental health issue, but I think my chances are rather slim!

"Rush blew it" was Monday's conclusion. 

By midweek that conclusion was beginning to soften. I still thought that it was stupid for Limbaugh to walk into such an obvious trap but conservative efforts to use the Left's faux outrage to shine a little sunlight on Liberal hypocrisy were starting to become effective. What at first sounded like a five-year-old's justification for calling his sister names had begun to change the focus of the issue. And it was the President's turn take the bait and give the other side a quote to use as a weapon.

The reason I called Ms. Fluke is because I thought about Malia and Sasha. One of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on. I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way. I don’t want them attacked and called horrible names because they are being good citizens.

Given the propensity of many on the left to do just that, Obama helped conservatives transform the issue into one about Liberal double standards. I'm not going to bother with yet another recounting of what an Obama SuperPac million dollar donor has said about Sarah Palin, you can google that for yourself if you haven't read it already, but Obama accepting a million dollars of support from someone famous for calling people horrible names because they spoke their mind on issues, effectively removed the focus from Limbaugh and put it on Bill Maher.

By Thursday I was thinking that Limbaugh, with a lot of help from other conservatives, and an unexpected assist from The One, had managed to turn a stupid mistake into a positive. And with the news that Louis C.K. was not going to host the Radio and Television Correspondent's Dinner after conservatives shined the light of liberal civility standards on some of his past comments, it seemed that Limbaugh's stupid mistake was turning into a win for the right.

Then I started to think. Did Limbaugh just Breitbart everyone? Did he do this on purpose? Did he take one for the team knowing that the howls of self-righteous outrage by the left could be turned against them? Operation Chaos 2.0? He seems to have played them equally as well as I originally thought they had played him.

One thing is tragically missing in all of this back and forth over who insulted whom the most and even in the above analysis of who played whom like fiddle. It's all fiddling while Rome burns.

Let's recap.

The issue started when the Secretary of Health and Human Services issued an ObamaCare Edict that all employers - even religious organizations outside of actual churches - would be required to provide insurance coverage for birth control. (I am using "birth control" to cover both contraceptives and pregnancy terminating drugs.)

There was a lot of push-back on this as a violation of religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment. The administration then revised their edict by decreeing that religious based organizations would not be required to pay for such coverage but that insurance companies would be forced to include it in coverage for free.

Many people, myself among them, noted that this was really a difference without a distinction. Myself and many others argued also that the core of the issue was not birth control, nor was it religious freedom. The core of the issue was individual liberty and the desire of the Obama Administration to be free of the constraints of the Constitution.

The left then worked hard to portray opposition to the birth control mandate as a war against birth control, a distraction which was effectively countered by those of us who argued that they do not oppose birth control, they just don't want to pay for someone else's.

The left raised the distraction stakes by trying to position opposition to the administration's assault on individual liberty as a "War on Women." They trotted out a political activist student who chose to go to a Catholic run university precisely to agitate on this issue. They held a press conference staged to look like a congressional hearing and the woman argued that she and her fellow Georgetown Law School students were going broke paying for birth control because the Catholic run university they chose to attend did not provide it for free.

Then Rush Limbaugh either stepped in it or pulled a masterful prank and the issue was transformed once again. This time as a battle of incivility. As it stands now, conservatives may actually be winning that battle. But it begs the question have they forgotten about the war?

The dictate of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services that is an affront to the First Amendment and an assault on individual liberty still stands.

Conservatives may yet succeed in forcing the Obama SuperPac to give back or give to charity the million dollars they got from Bill Maher. And if they do it will be a win for the cause of civility and at least for a while there might actually be less of a double standard.

But as long as the HHS edict that started it all still stands we are all less free. That is something about which we should be very much less than civil.

UPDATE: Fixed a couple of typos thanks to an Army of Proof Readers.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:08 AM | Comments (26) | Add Comment


March 02, 2012

My Right to Mental Health

Mental health is just as important as physical health and if healthcare is a right that must mean mental health is a right. Therefore I can claim that my mental health must be maintained and that because securing my mental health is costly, I could go broke paying for it, it should be provided to me for free.


Here's what it would take to secure my peace of mind and make me happy.

Standard J/24 Base Boat
Faired Keel and Rudder finished in Epoxy Primer
Topsides in White Gelcoat
Single Axle Galvanized Trailer, Lift off
Choice of North or Quantum class sails
$49,900.00

Faired Epoxy Bottom $3,500.00
Tiller Upgrade to Karl's Boat Shop $375.00
Spinnaker Pole Upgrade to Carbon Pole $390.00
Spinnaker Launching Bag (installed) $150.00
Tacktick Race Master Compass $999.00
Outboard Motor, Mecury 4hp, 4 stroke, long shaft $1,085.00
J24 Equipment Package $450.00
Rudder Cover $170.00
Keel Cover $220.00
Tiller Cover $62.00
Mast Bag with cutouts and zipper $340.00
Deck cover with skirt $1,330.00
Rachet Straps (pair) $45.00
Lifting Strap $52.00
Tandem Axle Upgrade $570.00
Bow Stop and Ladder $190.00
Forward mast Carrier $85.00
Rear Stabilizing Jack (each) $75.00
Front Coupler Anti-Theft Lock $30.00
LED Light Package $90.00
Tire upgrade to Goodyear Marathon $170.00
Spare Tire Upgrade and Mount $215.00
Float Off Upgrade with Brakes $1,275.00


Total
$60,868

Club membership and regatta fees will be another additional $5,000 per year. I will also require a vehicle with adequate towing capacity that's another $30,000. Associated taxes and insurances probably another $10,000 per year.

If it's not too much trouble, I'd like the hull to be blue.

Thank you.

P.S. Do this for me and I promise to name the boat Fluke.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:18 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment


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