Archive for April, 2012

Words Mean Things

This past weekend, I went up to my hometown in Central Minnesota to visit some friends. This being Central Minnesota (also known as Michele Bachmann’s district), all sorts of fun political signs were in abundance. There were the old standbys, like hand-painted anti-abortion signs on farms and “U.S. out of the U.N.” graffiti so old it’s possible that it had been there since the U.N. itself was formed. This time, though, I noticed a new sign on I-94, stating “Fed up with Socialism? Undo it in November”. This caused me to cringe and fear for the future of this country just a little bit more than usual.

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Privacy Around Me

There has been a lot of ink spilled about the Girls Around Me app that was introduced, and then pulled from the iPhone App Store. For those who are unaware, the app used the geolocation aspects of existing websites, such as Foursquare and Facebook, to show the user where women were located close to them. This was widely decried as creepy and stalker-y, and after Foursquare cut off access to their data, the app was essentially useless. The developer does, however, hope to bring it back sometime soon.

Was the app gross and juvenile? Perhaps. But it’s important to remember that this app was using data that was publicly available. The users who showed up were sharing, knowingly or unknowingly, their location data with everybody in the world. The whole point of Foursquare, and Facebook location tagging, is to tell people where you are: this issue here was that this data was being used in a way that people may not have agreed to, but they were making it public all the same. Plus, let’s imagine that the app wasn’t looking simply for women located close by: let’s imagine that it was looking for mothers with at least two children that have a household income of $70,000 per year. Now we’ve described a micro-targeting app that your favorite retailer of choice is most likely feverishly working on, again using public data to find what is of interest to them. Is that also creepy? Maybe, but it is the future of marketing.

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On Mandates

Part of the argument against Obamacare is how terrible and freedom-hating and un-American the insurance mandate is. I mean, being forced to pay for something you don’t want, or don’t need? Being forced to enter into a contract? Ridiculous! Inconceivable! If the government can mandate paying for that, what can’t they mandate paying for? Ad nauseum. It’s as if people don’t realize that the health care market is already full of mandates.

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The Fundamental Role of Reality

If you listen to the pundits, the 2012 election represents a referendum on “the fundamental role of government” (see this from one of my more favorite conservative publications, for example; Google the phrase itself and you will get thousands of hits). On one side, we have the Obama administration, which wants more taxes, more spending, more regulation, and more government interference in every aspect of your life. On the other side, we have Republicans who espouse less government, less taxes, less spending, fewer regulations, and a return to the good old days of what made America great. It’s a neat little narrative, all tied up in a bow, that’s easy for people to understand.

Except that’s not quite how would put it. This election is important (every one is, of course), but I wouldn’t say that it represents competing visions of the government’s role in our lives. Instead, this election is about different views of reality. On one side, we have a team that tries to work within the framework of the possible and the realistic, making hard decisions that sometimes make people mad, but have some greater goal in mind. On the other side, we have a team that sells empty platitudes that have little bearing on reality, that simply endeavor to tell voters what they think they want to hear without having a plan to back it up. Truly, we have a difference not based on the fundamental role of government, but the fundamental role of reality.

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