May 12, 2009
Wanted: A New Conservative Party
OK, we know that the Republican party has become the party of religious conservatives, corporate pandering and bellicose foreign relations. No longer fiscally responsible, they say "No" to any spending or tax cut for the middle class, and "Yes" to any and all spending and tax cuts for huge corporations and the wealthy. They want to get all up in people's private business, and push their pseudo-religious agenda onto everyone by force of law, but don't want a single regulation to touch their precious corporations and how they do business with the public.
That's not a true conservative, IMO. It's a parody owned and operated by corporate and religious interests (that are often in bed together, too.)
What's a true conservative? They believe in:
- The constitution, including the Bills of Rights. Also protecting citizens from excesses in government power overruling those rights. This includes the First *and* Second Amendments. They oppose government involvement in religion as a threat to religion, and would rather see religion stripped completely from the public square than forced down anyone's throat.
- Personal responsibility and personal freedom. They don't care what you believe, or who you do things with, as long as you don't force anyone else to do it too. Want to marry someone of your own gender? Whatever, as long as you don't ban heterosexual marriage. Want to post a copy of the Ten Commandments or the words of Buddha? It'll look fine over your mantle, not in a government building.
- Fair dealing. They want to engage in honest commerce, without the deck stacked in favor of large corporations versus small companies and individuals. To have a competitive advantage, you have to have real competition. They oppose letting companies screw over individuals. They also oppose monopolies and oligarchies as being bad for business and innovation. They hate fraudulent dealing and artificial assets, and know that corporations aren't people and don't have the same rights. True success is earned, not gained by lying, cheating, and confidence games.
- Limiting government. They want the government to do what it should - handle matters that are a) in the general public interest and b) are too big or critical to be completely entrusted to private firms. Infrastructure, civic services (police, fire, ambulance), defense, education, courts, health, pensions, regulation of public lands (including air, ground and water) and regulation of public services in the public interest. For things that can be privatized, they believe in oversight, keeping the trust of the public.
- A strong defense and good foreign relations. They know that good relations and honorable actions mean that fewer of our soldiers and dollars need to be spent on war. While not shirking from battle, they don't want to start it, and would rather finish it decisively and quickly.
- A respect for the rule of law, and a distaste for personal regulation. How can you expect someone to respect the law when it doesn't respect them? They are willing to undo petty laws that create victimless crimes. They also understand that prohibition just doesn't work. Better to regulate it and tax it than let crime gangs run rampant.
- Public policy based on sound science. No relying on "studies" published by companies or interest with an agenda, but real, peer reviewed and repeatable science. They also oppose publicly funding any education based on religion or superstition. They encourage innovation as the engine of economic growth, yet understand that inhibiting cross fertilization of ideas with excessive patents, copyrights and DRM ultimately are detrimental to the evolution of new businesses.
- Rational immigration policies. They know that this nation was built by immigrants, and that an overhaul of our system needs to judge based onm merit, not color of skin or ration by country of origin. They also oppose "guest workers" of any sort because guest workers have no investment in the country. They would rather a level playing field and true competition for jobs, with the workers having as much choice as employers do.
- Environmental stewardship. They know that we didn't just inherit the Earth, we are taking care of it for our children and grandchildren. They wish to conserve our natural resources, and make the most efficient use of them.
Needless to say, this isn't the Libertarian party, which is in the process of being hijacked by the religious nuts, just like the GOP has. The Democrats, while living up to some of this, are also beholden to big business, and like to regulate personal behavior as well. Plus, they have just as selective a reading of the Bill of Rights as the Republicans do, they just omit of twist different amendments. The other third parties are either ultra leftist, are religious cults, are racists, are one trick ponies, or are just plain not based in reality.
How about calling the new conservative/moderate party the Foundation Party, because they respect the principles that were involved in the nation's founding (equality, freedom of religion and the press, opportunity, public stewardship, independence, and rebellion against corporate power backed by government arms.)
Too bad no one reads this blog...
May 11, 2009
Amazon Should Implement Granular "Safe Search"
Amazon recently got hammered over someone assigning any and all books with positive outlooks on homosexuality to the "adult" category, effectively stripping their page ranks. This was very scattershot, and seemed to have been happening "quietly" for a while. Needless to say, it hit both Twitter (#amazonfail) and various blogs and exploded.
Now, I am a former employee of an Amazon subsidiary. I can tell you straight up that a) Amazon is not a homophobic company - they offer DP benefits, and no one bats an eyelash about people bringing their same-sex partner to company family events - and b) they want people to actually be able to find and buy what they are looking for! The whole idea of providing the "long tail" of uncommon stuff is part of what makes Amazon work.
The problem comes in the somewhat naive way they handle the "adult" designation. Apparently some sales guy got a complaint about gay stuff, so he blithely marked a whole bunch of it as adult. Apparently that happens a lot - some group with an agenda complains, it gets shoved into the adult ghetto by customer service or an automatic complaint handling script.
Now, this pisses off gay activists and just ordinary readers, because all that was left when searching on "homosexual" was those abominable psuedoscience books on "ex-gay" and "de-gaying" that cause more harm than good. Also, it catches stuff that is merely reportage, not advocacy at all!
On the other side, you have the folks that don't want the search to turn up *anything* that *they* determine is not good for kids to see. These people abrogate their responsibility as parents to supervise their kids, or make judgments about what they see and just not look farther, and want Amazon to do it for them. Hence, the oversimplified "adult" pigeonhole and categorization.
Now, I can see an advantage to making the default, not logged-in search very vanilla. It makes it safe to allow in schools without causing parents with sheltered kids heart attacks. But these same parents should be able to control what their kid sees, not just all or boring. Hell, they may not want to see certain kinds of stuff themselves, or may be searching on an office computer and logged in.
So, I suggest (since I'm not working there, that's all I can do) a nice, granular "safe search" methodology for logged in users, with the default search having several of the categories left out. None of the page ranks would be touched, even for the raunchiest porn (hey, the makers need to know what the market wants).
Account holders would get a list of letter codes for stuff they *wanted* to allow in their results, with check boxes, and then could pick what they see. A future version could even have location browsing profiles (work vs home). Amazon would then apply the filters to the search results, and everyone is happy.
Propsed letter codes for what it contains:
S = Sex
X = Explicit
V = Violence
P = Profanity
G = Gay
H = Hate
C = Controversial
Let's take these one at a time. First, the no-brainers, the standard (even obvious) categories. These items would be applied to the default, not signed in, search. They substitute for the rather overbroad "adult" category:
Sex (S): Dildos, butt plugs, penis pills, pouch masturbators, the Kama Sutra, basic porn, nude calendars. This is the garden variety sex stuff, but a lot of people are still uncomfortable with it.
Explicit (X): This is the "over the top" graphic porn, fetish, bodily fluids, BDSM and other stuff. Think "Two Girls, One Cup" explicit. Very NSFW.
Violence (V): Slasher flicks, news archives, FPS video games would fall in here. Again, mostly an issue for parents, but also pacifists.
Profanity (P): Rock and rap with grown up lyrics, George Carlin's 7 Dirty Words, books and graphic novels with swearing, movies with swearing. There are still people who get their knickers in a twist over profanity and obscenity, and don't want their kids to see/hear it.
Now, here are the ones that the knee-jerk "protect the children from the world" would demand as well. These filters would *not* be part of the default filter set, but could be selected by those who felt they needed to be protected from the ideas.
Gay (G): Anything from children's literature, biographies and porn can fall in here. Some people want to be sheltered from the realities that exist, and want their kids kept away from it as well, so let them filter it out.
Hate (H): Stormfront, Mein Kampf, de-gaying ministries, anti-semitism, various forms of blatant bigotry. This is stuff that would outrage the SPLC and other hate-watch organization. Again, some folks don't want their kids exposed, and would rather not see it themselves, but the rest of us adults can cope (we just don't buy it). Besides, some of this stuff is actually illegal in places like France and Germany.
Controversial (C): This is for all the stuff that social conservatives consider unsafe for reading or seeing because it violates their worldview. Books on evolution, alternative religions and other stuff they want to put their blinders on for would go here.
So, even a children's book like "Heather Has Two Mommies" would be rated "G" and "C".
With this in place, people would be able to decide what types of thing they considered "adult" and didn't want to see. The page ranks would still be present, and people could still search for whatever they wanted to buy, even raunchy, violent gay porn filled with cussing and non-standard fluid exchanges. Amazon could have a sanitized default search, without cutting off its ability to sell what buyers want.
So think about it, Amazon. I know you have the talent to implement this, and it would eliminate some of the tug of war between conservatives, regionally restricted content, and people who don't just buy vanilla.
[P.S.: Hey Werner, do you still care about search and buying things, or is your head in the "cloud".]