6 september 2009


More tasteful clips and excellent programs + healthcare

This is a bit more of the same as yesterday, with some more detail and a brief remark about healthcare. Here are the sections to click and jump to:

1. More of Glenn Beck on TYT (and lots more too)
2. More on programming and Firefox: Firebug is great
3. Firebug is great!
4. Healthcare, corporations and bureaucratization
5. An outline of an explanation

1. More of Glenn Beck on TYT (and lots more too)

Here is a single link that contains a lot of links:

A playlist is a collection of clips, in this case from TYT, and there are lots of them for TYT on Youtube. The link gives the first one, of which the third from the top on the list- assuming by now you are a Glenn Beck aficionado (if that's the appropriate term) - with 198 videos of which three are listed that all name the Geert Wilders of the USA (except that Glenn is obviously more honest and less permed and painted) is the one you want.

That is, if you like to see more of the Glenn Beck phenomenon. But I find him interesting and revealing, and he taught me a lot about the USA of today, and he sure is good for some laughs when squeezed and served by some young Turks, and for some lessons, of which I wil consider one briefly below when considering healthcare briefly.

In any case, also if you are not interested in Glenn Beck, or in case he makes you puke, the above link provides a lot of playlists with a lot of clips of TYT, and I like them a lot, and nearly always find them informative or funny, and usually both.

2. More on programming and Firefox: Firebug is great

Yesterday I mentioned JavaScript and ended with a mentioning of Firebug, both of which work best with Firefox, though there are versions for MS Explorer.

Let me say a little more - and even if you don't care about programming, you should be interested, for you rely on a browser to surf the web.

Well, Firefox is much better than MS Ex and it seems to be very rapidly developed: Whereas in March 2006 I mentioned Firefox 1.5 and in April of this year 3.0.10, at present I am running 3.5.2 (updating is really easy and fast, by the way).

There are lots of reasons why Firefox is better than MS Ex but I'll only mention three here with a few comments following

  • it is open source
  • it is really well-documented
  • it is the browser for the more intelligent segment
  • it has great add-ons

Open source: This means essentially that you can get the source code and also (though not inevitably) that it is free. Open source is possible because there are smart people willing to work for free, and there are sensible companies who help with funding, all with the combined purpose of making something better than MS does and have it open source so that everybody (who knows how to program in the language the source has been written) can see the code, and find out what's wrong with it, or how it works, or what and where they might add some code.

This idea has been around for quite a long time - since the eighties at least, I think - and one important reason for that is that much of the software on which PCs and indeed the internet run (in the last cases, for example: the TCP/IP stuff that connects your computer to the internet, and the html that enables webpages as they are now) was made for by private individuals and distributed for free.

Indeed, I arrived at the idea independently, which I mention not because that was so hard, but because I still look at it more or less as described in that last link, which is not quite like most open source lovers.

In any case, the idea has been around for a long time in some form, probably for the most part because it comes, in some form, natural to academics, especially in the real sciences, because they tend to work and think so anyway: you share good ideas if you get the credit fairly, for you can't do real science when everything you invent must be patented first - and real science would stop if, say, mathematicians would start patenting their discoveries, and ask money for it for the next 78 years.

It has been touted much between 1998 and 2003, when much was promised for it, notably by Eric S. Raymond, but didn't quite succeed as promised, for MS is still there and still going strong, though there also is Linux and lots of open source for Windows and other OSs, such as Apple's. (*)

But it seems to me that by now, next to Linux, and on Windows and other OSs, Firefox must be the flagship of open source development, that shows what is possible, and that shows it very well indeed.

Really well-documented: One of the axioms about programs and programming that I have arrived at are these two:

  • There are no good programs without good documentation, and:
  • There is no good source code without comments.

This is a slight overstatement when the program is all of two lines and doesn't do anything fancy or difficult,  but else it is close to an understatement. The reason is that programs may do, and often do do, LOTS of things, and to understand what they do, could do, should not do, and how to fix it or tweak it so that it works best for you, you need to get good clear explanations (if you want to retain your sanity and find out things).

Without these you may still learn how to work with the program (if it is not awfully bugged), eventually, but it will take you much more time to learn, to solve problems, or to tweak it to your own needs, and it will cost you oodles of time to find out even the simplest of things.

The same holds for programming code, simply because this encodes a lot of complexity in a mathematical way, and even if the source code is completely correct (as it rarely is), it does not explain itself, and even if it seems to do, namely if the terms of the language and the variables a.s.o. named by the programmer have been chosen sensibly, a program cannot possibly convey what its maker intended it to do, nor why he wrote it as he did, and not in one of a zillion other possible ways.

Anyway... the short of it is that Firefox has good to very good documentation; that it is also much better written than the corporate talk of Microsoft, and easy to find once you know whence to download Firefox, which can be done from the link above. (I provide English-language links, i.a. because I have come to hate Dutch translations of computertechtalk.)

For intelligent folks: Note first that I did not write: "for intellectual folks" - and that is not what I mean either. It is simply that Firefox was written by intelligent folks, and they do not also have to market it to - say - the many millions of Americans who think Glenn Beck is a genius, and who also don't know how to count or spell, but have a bankaccount to pay the ads they click on from.

This means that the overall design of Firefox is much better, and the help addresses you as if you might be a moron who gets addressed by another one. And this holds both for the designs of the browsers and, especially, for the available help, which tends to be unreadable when it is in Dutch, for the Microsoft help probably gets translated by professional copywriters who know only how to do impression-management, and cannot translate slightly technical English.

So, if you have any wit at all, you're probably better off with Firefox, and so are your children, because it is much more intuitively laid out, and your children have not yet been stupefied by too much bad education.

Great add-ons: An add-on for browsers is a program you can download and add to the browser, that gives it additional capacities. MS Ex and Firefox both tout a lot of add-ons, but the few I saw for MS Ex - before I turned away from it in disgust, especially because of its colorschemes, its awful documentation in that awful MS computerese-Dutch (**) - seemed useless or commercial or both.

The last may be not so, or not quite so, since MS Ex 8 horrified me so much that I wanted to get rid of it almost immediately that I saw it, and indeed there are commercial add-ons also for Firefox (such as QuickView Pro, though QuickView is free and good), but most are not commercial, and quite a few are or seem really useful and good.

I haven't seen or checked out most of them, but I run 6 of them, all very useful, including AdBlock Plus (which contributes to my equanimity as it saves LOTS of irritation: I want an internet without ads, on the principle of the BBC, which is to say I am willing to pay some so as to get good programs in open source and NO GODDAMN ADS allover the place winking and blinking at me, at some places even if I look for pure mathematics and source code - it's just obscene, and a thief of my time and attention) and some others, and now also Firebug. What is Firebug?

3. Firebug is great!

Firebug is a very cleverly designed, very powerful, very flexible sort of programming environment to edit webpages and write and debug JavaScript code for these.

This very much increases the power of one's browser, also apart from the internet, because in fact it allows you to program very many things as if they are part of a webpage or set of webpages, and that is in fact a very good background of facilities for a program to function in anyway.

This is great stuff; it is very well done and wel documented; and if you know what html is and are not afraid to program in JavaScript, which is a fine, clean and clear language, quite unlike Java (***).

I will certainly use Firebug for my site - indeed I have done so already, but not so that you see it - and it's a great thing that puts a lot of new possibilities for webpages and html in one's hands (especially if, like me, you are not a Java-lover).

4. Healthcare, corporations and bureaucratization

Having seen rather a lot of clips of TYT, of which many were about healthcare in the US, I have learned a lot about the state of healthcare in the US, which is awful - mediaeval - and also some abot the the state of healthcare in Holland, which used to be good, but is no longer what folks in the US with little knowledge of Holland believe or hope it is.

In brief, it was exemplary; all and more than the Public Option in US Healthcare was meant to be; everybody had it and could afford it - but since a few years ago the premiums have tripled or quadrupled, the service decreased, and now at least a 100.000 Dutchmen are without health-insurance, even though this is mandatory, because they can no longer afford it.

What happened? Essentially three things happened:

  • (A) In the nineteeneighties, many Dutch citizens, many Dutch firms and very many Dutch bureaucrats started to abuse it, since that possibility existed, and it was the me-age, in which anything was allowed, except criticizing another.
  • (B) Since then successive totally incompetent governments have "reformed" it so as to destroy it, and brought back the insurance-companies, much increased the premiums, decreased the help, service and possibilities, which all was done - dot.com age; economic affluence till the end of time - In The Name Of The Free Market.
  • (C) By and large politicians loved it, for that was the faith of the period, and probably they were lobbied as well, and the public bought it, again because The Free Market Will Set You Free, and permanent affluence and wellness were a 1000% secure and guaranteed, because all was honorably handled by the Powerful Dutch Labour Politician I call Quim Cock, because he sounds just like it, and his clever American whizzkids from the FED. 

But to understand these really well, one has to know rather a lot about Holland, so here I will only remark that at present Dutch healthcare is not what liberals in the US with little knowledge of current Dutch affairs say it is - though it still is better than what the US has to offer the majority of its poor and not well-off people.

5. An outline of an explanation

Finally, to explain the last section to some extent, I now translate two hypotheses I formulated in March in Dutch in this section of my site, that to some extent supplements and to some extent corrects TYT on the subject of the imminent collapse of a chance of decent health-care in the US, for they blame it on what they claim to be a fact (which it probably is, more than not), namely that corporate America owns nearly all the politicians, since they pay nearly all of them (****)

  • H1: In t he past twenty years the managers, both in enterprises and in politics and also in education, have taken over most of the real power in the institutions they work in, formally as salary-men, and have also succeeded in getting the power over the money made by or spend on the institutions they work in, and have succeeded in getting rid of (1) all effective control of their commissions and ommissions and of (2) any personal responsibility (except pro forma, in the guise of "control" by their own colleagues). Thus they have succeeded in twisting all financial rewards to fit their own greed and pretensions, and to be free from any independent controls or sanctions.

  • H2: This handover of power, income and control to the actual bureaucrats at the top of institutions, whether NGOs, civil servants (so-called: uncivil masters tends to be the truth), CEOs, or commissioners, was - after a somewhat hesitant beginning - an intentional project, that was consciously aimed for by these NGOs, civil servants, CEOs, commissioners and politicians, simply because they saw
    (1) that the majority of the democratic electorate has been moronified meanwhile to such an extent by a combination of daily media-bullshit and years, possibly decades, of very bad education, that they can be misled by stupid arbirary lies (in the case of the decline of Dutch healthcare, this was destroyed so as to be able to enjoy The Blessings Of The Free Market), so long as they are promised some shortterm financial benefit
    (2) that their own kind (that is: of leading politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, and commissioners) could expect enormous benefits from these changes, for themselves and their families, possibly for generations, for it enabled them to become a kind of directive nobility
    (3) that this class (that is: leading politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, and commissioners, aided and abetted by wellpaid Media-Personalities and journalists) at the same time succeeded in redividing power in such a wat that the the group of leading politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, and commissioners has become one large exchangeable class of caretakers, that controls itself, pays itself, gives jobs to itself and - democratically / lets itself be reelected periodically.

This is what it seems to come down to, and one of my criticisms of

"it is the evil corporations that did it..."

is that this is only part of the truth, because the least one needs to add to explain what in fact happened is

"...and they could do it because the vast majority of the people was too blind, too stupid, to ignorant, too lazy, too much afraid, or too busy watching TV to prevent it".

And that is a huge problem, for stupidity is in various ways, one of the important 'unacknowledged legislators of  mankind' and an important force of history.

Anyway... four  relevant items in my Philosophical Dictionary that apply in this and similar contexts are Bureaucracy, Bureaucracy plan, Democracy and Democracy Plan.

P.S. More on this theme later, probably in English, for as it is I wrote more than I intended, since I spent most of what little energy I have on Firebug. So if you want more of this, you must read Dutch or wait till tomorrow - at least - which is also when this file will be corrected.

(*) One of the sideeffects of open source Raymond was not explicit about is that because of open source many small programming companies couldn't survive financially. Possibly this was also not so easy to predict, but it happened.

(**) For lovers of neo-germanese: "add-on" = "invoegtoepassingsuitbreiding = inputapplicationextension", at one point in MS documentation, rather like "bread" = "caloricsupplementationlifeextension.

(***) And indeed I don't like Java. Then why is Javascript called "Javascript"? Essentially because Sun, that owns Java, insisted upon it at a time that it could do so, when both Java and what's now called Javascript were just created, and Sun funded Java's development and distribution, including the distribution of what had to be called Javascript for reasons of marketing.

(****) I don't disagree so much as that I think that is too vaguely grandiose and not clear enough, and also - for my tastes - too close to the mythologies of anti-globalists and the intellectual wouldbe marxist left of the sixties and seventies (that I know so well and respect so little).

Maarten Maartensz

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