The Closet Moderate: December 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Google better back up off me!

Slate is reporting that Google's new prototype laptop keyboard lacks the internet's favorite key: CAPS LOCK.  Don't get me wrong: it's an idea whose time has come.  Caps Lock hasn't been useful in most internet users' lifetimes.  So good riddance.  But click through to that Slate article, and see what they've replaced it with: a search key.  I have one of these keys on my Android phone and, let me tell you, it's good for one thing and one thing only: accidentally hitting it while trying to push another button.  That's the only way this button gets any use on my phone, and the only way it ever will be used on computers.

But here's my bigger concern: the bright young men who run Google are starting to think they can fix everything.  In the field of advertizing and search engines, I support their efforts.  Even this Caps Lock think, as far as it goes, is not terrible.  But they should watch how they fool around with the rest of the keyboard.  These guys have a fin-de-siècle optimism and faith in humanity's willingness to accept rational change.  At the fin of the last siècle, this feeling as applied to language manifested itself in spelling reform.  Theodore Roosevelt was a big fan of this, and even tried to get the federal government to spell words like thru and thoro in new-fangled ways.  Thankfully, the inertia of the bureaucracy was too much even for TR to overcome.

Google, I implore you: Learn from Teddy's mistakes.  Keep your search-optimizing hands off my irregular spelling!


Monday, December 06, 2010

You wanted bi-partisanship? Here is is:

I don't claim to speak for all of by co-bloggards here, but I think we'll all agree that this bi-partisan compromise out of Washington is a dumbfuck idea.  Alone among the Closet Moderates, I thought there would never be a tax cut I didn't like, but I was wrong.  Listen to the details of this purposed compromise:

  • Extend all Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels for two years,
  • Extend unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks, and 
  • Reduce the employee's contribution to Social Security from 6.2% to 4.2% for one year (the employer's contribution would, it appears, remain at 6.2%)
These arrangements strike me as, in order, half-assed, bad, and what-the-fuck.  Extending tax cuts for two years is, I suppose, a victory, but it just delays resolution of the uncertainty that has been a part of the tax code since 2001.  Businesses are not going to invest based on a tax clause unless they know that the clause will be in effect for the foreseeable future.  Congress may not think past their next election, but the owner of a business must consider long-term effects of policy on his bottom line before investing.  This extension just delays the inevitable decision.

Stretching the unemployment benefits into a third year of indolence offers a host of other problems, but this is a compromise, after all, and if Obama wants to get something for his non-working-class base, so be it.

The third part, however, if what really gets my goat.  Through all my life, and the lives of my co-bloggards, I heard the tale of how Social Security is going bankrupt.  And it is.  But at a time when cooler heads are talking about pushing back the retirement age or decreasing the growth in benefits, President Obama would rather decrease the amount being paid into the trust fund without decreasing the amount being paid out!  In this political age when everyone is supposed to be concerned about deficits, when we see Greece and Ireland falling under the weight of their own fantastical interest payments, the bi-partisan solution out of Washington is to spend more, tax less, and call it progress.  This extremely temporary tax cut isn't going to magically "grow" jobs, as though the government could sow handouts and reap employment. 

It's a phantasm; it's a charade; it's bullshit.


Nanny-Statism We Can Believe In

The Denver Post Reports:
Schaetzle and a number of his similarly shocked patrons pointed out that both waistlines and blood-alcohol levels could suffer as a result of banning low-alcohol — read, low-calorie — beers from taverns and restaurants.

The Celtic could carry another stout—Guinness teeters right at the cutoff point between the low- and high-alcohol label—but Schaetzle won't be happy about giving up a brew he feels is more authentically Irish.

"It's ridiculous," he said, grabbing for a bottle of wine under the bar. "I don't understand why the nanny state would (ban beers) when the other stuff is three, four and five times more alcohol by volume. It's going to hurt a lot of places."
Bars that sell bottles of 3.2 beer are an offense to all creatures great and small.