Archive for February, 2007

Portable Emacs on a USB drive

February 28, 2007

Ahhhh… [sigh of satisfaction]. I like Emacs; I really do. It’s arcane, difficult to master, the province of super geeks, one of the subjects of the *nix holy editor wars. I am not a master by any means; I have no lisp fu; I couldn’t write an expression to save my life.

But, I don’t have to because there are so many other super geeks out there. I have looked for a long time to be able to find a way to run Emacs from my USB drive, and found instructions in this article: Portable Emacs 22.0.50 on USB. Very cool!

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Planning ahead…

February 9, 2007

Perhaps the human race can look past the present and contemplate the future. Not only that, but it can do it in a constructive way.

The Norwegian government will build the Svalbard International Seed Vault “to safeguard the world’s agriculture from future catastrophes….” The collection will be maintained by the Global Crop Diversity Trust. See the story at the BBC.

The balance of power, or my legislature can beat up your executive

February 8, 2007

Administrative rulemaking is an admittedly dry part of government. Its dryness doesn’t make it any less important. Rulemaking comes about because, among other things, the executive branch has expertise. Legislatures, especially part-time legislatures, simply don’t have the time or the expertise necessary to craft laws of requisite detail and depth; nor should they be expected to.

Yet sometimes the legislature desires to assert authority over the executive. Expertise is no substitute for being the people’s representatives. (There is a certain degree of truth to this, but I don’t want to get into a philosophical discussion of which branch amongst the three branches is the most equal; at least not right now.) In New Mexico, the state legislature is proposing an amendment to the state constitution to allow the legislature to prohibit “regulatory rules” (a redundant statement here in Utah) from taking effect until reviewed and approved by the appropriate legislative committee. The legislature would need to do this by law if it so desired (for the text of proposed amendment, see Senate Joint Resolution 14 at the New Mexico State Legislature.

New Mexico has done it right, in one sense. If the legislature is going to assert this type of control over the executive, then it must be done via a constitutional amendment. Any statutory attempt would be subject to a separation of powers attack, or so I suppose. By amending the constitution, that attack is sidestepped. The governing document of the state will allow this incursion into the executive. Is this a good thing?

When we tout the values of limited government, are we only talking about limiting the executive? I don’t think so. All branches of government must have some limits, even the legislature. But here we have a state legislature essentially doing an end run around the principle of separation of powers, around the principle of limited government, in an attempt to arrogate power. I think that this is wrong.