Jan 202009
 

Today the Torch of TyrannyTM will be passed from George Bush to Barack Obama. There will be many parties, plenty of speeches and far too much pointless news coverage of both. There will also, most likely, be many questions asked.  But I have only one question: why do we need a President, anyway?

This question most typically arises after I’ve been told that “someone has to be President”.  Unfortunately, despite posing the question to dozens of people over decades I have yet to receive a decent answer.  The vast majority of the answers come down to: well, who would handle the duties of The Office if we did not have a President.  Of course, few of these people can actually list these duties.  So I’ve returned to the beginning: The United States Constitution.

Article Two of the Constitution covers the Executive Branch.  Sections one and four deal with putting people into the office and removing them from it, so all of the President’s duties are covered in sections two and three-

  • The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States…
    • In other words, the President is in charge of the military.  Since the United States military has not been used to actually defend the United States since the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, and there  are no countries that are both capable and interested in invading the United States, I don’t see why we need a military leader.
  • …he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices…
    • Since these “executive Departments” are not listed in the Constitution I don’t see why it’s vital that they all report to one person.  Why not simply let their current heads be the final word.  Besides, this clause doesn’t give him any real power over these Departments.  It only declares that they must submit a report to him whenever he so desires.
  • …and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States , except in Cases of Impeachment.
    • Why must the President be the final arbiter of pardons?  It seems the judges themselves could do this job just as easily, or some form of independent panel.  The power to pardon is, after all, widely judged to be the most abused power of the Executive branch.
  • He shall have Power, … to make Treaties, … and he shall nominate, and … shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for…
    • Considering each of the “powers” granted in this clause must be approved by Congress it certainly seems such things could be handled by an individual or committee chosen by Congress as well.
  • The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate
    • Modern communication has made this a pointless power.  Since such Vacancies would occur doing Recess there would be plenty of time for the states represented to fill these seats on their own.
  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…
    • Refer above to the section on “executive Departments”. We can dissolve two “duties” with one action by having these department heads report directly to Congress.
  • …he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers;
    • So, he can call Congress into session and tell them when they can go home (assuming they can’t decide for themselves). Seems like a pretty pointless and largely ceremonial power to me.
    • And he’s the guy who “receives” foreign leaders. Ditto the ‘ceremonial power’ portion above.
  • he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
    • I’m not even sure what this means. Doesn’t the Judicial Branch decide if laws are “faithfully executed”?
    • And since the phrase “Officers of the United States” is not used in any other article of the Constitution it seems fairly meaningless as well.

So, there you have it.  The President of the United States has a grand total of 11 duties or job responsibilities, none of which actually seem very vital.  So would anyone care to defend this “highest of offices”?  What, exactly, makes the President of the United  States the “most powerful man in the world:?

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Jan 192009
 

Welcome to the second edition of Weekly WordPress Roundup!

Sorry for the late posting!  I was busy making lemonade from life’s lemons…

What Is It?

Weekly WordPress Roundup is a hybrid between a blog carnival and a weblog.  Every Monday morning the editor of that week’s roundup makes a single post linking to the “best” WordPress articles they’ve come across that week.  The choices are made from their own web surfing and from articles submitted via the Roundup’s blogcarnival.com page.  If you’re interested in hosting the Weekly WordPress Roundup, just drop an email to: philaahzophy@gmail.com

On To The Entries…

General WordPress News-

Our first entry comes from Jackie at Internet Marketing Strategy For Moms and even though it was posted last October, it’s still very relevant today.  The title pretty much tells the story: WordPress.com Deleted All Of My Blogs.  Apparetnly the folks at WordPress.com decided she was a splogger simply because she linked out to her other blogs.  Not good news.  And it’s not a problem that’s going away.  It was a full year ago that I posted Isn’t Freedom Of Expression Worth $5 Per Month? right here at Philaahzophy.

Looking for work?  Well, according to the WordPress Publisher Blog, oDesk Reports “WordPress” Fastest Growing In-Demand Skill in 2008!  So it seems like your blogging skills can pay off in the “real world” as well.

WordPress Plugins-

Madeline Begun Kane submitted her brief article on the wonders of the WP-SpamFree plugin titled Life-Saving, Spam-Fighting WordPress Plugin.  I didn’t investigate WP-SpamFree during my own recent search for a comment spam solution, because it’s listed as only being compatible up to WordPress 2.6.2.  If you know that it’s been upgraded for (or is compatible with) 2.7 then I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!

WordPress Tips-

As I’ve started exploring the limits of what can be done with WordPress I’ve found myself coming closer and closer to altering the core WordPress files.  Since any changes to the core will have to be redone manually whenever a new update comes out, this is a very bad thing.  Luckily, the folx over at Cats Who Code have an elegant solution in their How To: Overwrite Core WordPress Functions.

Mike Mueller recently posted a great overview on Setting Up Your WP Blog at his Mike’s Minute Real Estate Blog.

WordPress Themes-

Ever wish you could use more widgets without your blog looking overcrowded?  Well check out last week’s Thursday Themeday review of the Quadruple Blue four column WordPress theme!  Considering many people (myself included much of the time) feel that three column themes are, by their very nature, cluttered, the concept of a four column theme may seem preposterous.  But, somehow, this one pulls it off.

Anthony Delgado’s Free WordPress Themes may not be what you expect.  Instead of listing more free themes he actually discusses how to make a theme “your own” with only minor modifications.

Want to use WordPress as a CMS?  Then you absolutely have to check out the WordPress ReMix Theme I reviewed last week!

—–

That’s wraps up this week’s WordPress Roundup!  Look for next week’s edition over at Gilroy Review on Monday, January 26th!  Submit your WordPress-related article (or someone else’s that you find worthwhile!) to the next edition of Weekly WordPress Roundup using our carnival submission form or by emailing it to philaahzophy@gmail.com.  Future hosts can be found on the Weekly WordPress Roundup homepage.  If you’d like to be added to the list, just drop an email!

As always, comments, links and social bookmarks are very much appreciated!

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Jan 142009
 

I’ve been meaning to discuss the WP Remix WordPress Theme in either my Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series here on Philaahzophy or my Thursday Themesday series over at Gilroy Review for about six weeks now but just wasn’t exactly sure where it fit.  You see, both of those series are dedicated to using WordPress as a blog, while WP Remix is all about using WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System).  Of course, you can still use WPRemix for a more traditional blog, but that’s a little like using a sledgehammer to crack open a peanut.

WPRemix is one of the few “premium” (read: you must purchase a license) WordPress themes that I’ve actually considered purchasing.  When I first discovered WordPress I actually purchased two premium themes and was sorely disappointed both with the coding itself (with a little searching I could have found all of the features I liked for free) and with the level of support (essentially none).  WPRemix solves both of these problems, offering a huge amount of features (smart drop menu, over 50 pre-structured page templates, seven color schemes, theme admin options, it’s pre-configured for such famous plugins as Contact-Form, Page Navi, Gravatar, Flickrss, Post Rating, and Author Highlight, and so mouch more) and having an excellent support forum available 24 hours a day to assist with whatever your WPRemix needs are.

There are literally far too many features and possibilities with WP Remix for me to go into them all here.  But if you’re looking to use WordPress as a CMS and are more interested in operating your business ro storefront than in tweaking your website, you absolutely need to spend a little time exploring the website dedicated to this premium wordpress theme.

For those of you astute enough to realize that this post is filed not only under “Blogging”, but also under “Affiliates”, here’s the kicker.  Just this week the affiliate program payout for sales of WP Remix has increased from an already generous 20% to an amazing 50%.  That means that if someone purchases a single site license for this incredible WordPress theme through yuor link you’ll receive $37.50 and if they purchase a multi-site license you’ll earn a sweet $137.50!

Now, before you think I’m only recommending WP Remix in order to earn those commissions, double check the links in this post.  Both go directly to their website without any sort of tracking.  They aren’t affiliate links! I just think this is an awesome product with a great affiliate program.

Jan 142009
 
Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series         

Welcome to the twelfth installment of my Wonderful WordPress Wednesday series.

With more than 20 blogs to watch over, comment spam has become quite the annoying time killer of late.  With more than 200 Akismet entries to sort through each day it became clear that something else had to be done, so I had a quick consult with friends who do managed IT services in Calgary and headed into the ether to find a solution.

My first stop was, of course, the WordPress plugin directory.  Unfortunately, searching on “spam” returns 117 of the 3,870 plugins currently listed there.  Not exactly a bullseye solution to the problem.  So I headed into the WordPress Codex ehere I found their Combating Comment Spam page with the following suggestions-

  • Akismet – Akismet was already keeping the majority o fthe spam off my blog, but I was still forced to sort through it in search of false positive.
  • Settings > Discussion –
    • Here there are multiple options to automatically detect spam: number of links, spam keywords, blacklist.  Alas, when detected, it was just dumped into the Akismet area for me to sort through later.
    • Moderate All Comments – This would create even more work for me, essentially labeling everything as spam.  Not exactly a timesaver and not really user friendly, either, IMO.
    • Pre-approve only “old” commenters- Since I don’t have many ‘regular’ commenters this would still require far too much moderation time.
    • Restrict Comments To Registered Users – not only user-unfriendly, but I really have no desire to have dozens or even hundreds of people with user accounts on my blog(s).
  • Delete wp-comments-post.php and/or wp-trackback.php -Again, not exactly user friendly.  I’m trying to encourage more comments, not remove them all.  Besides isn’t this just giving in to the spammers?  I’d rather let them run rampant than shut out my actual readers.
  • Use rel=”nofollow” – this has never actually been effective in stopping comment spam.  The bots simply don’t care.
  • Deny access with .htaccess – Now that seems interesting!
    • Deny Access to Spammer IPs/Referrer Spammers – Again, too labor intensive what with the need to collate and enter individual IP addresses and referrers.
    • Deny Access to No Referrer Requests – I think we have a winner!

Here’s the relevant section of The Codex-

When your readers comment, the wp-comments-post.php file is accessed, does its thing, and creates the post. The user’s browser will send a “referral” line about this.

When a spam-bot comes in, it hits the file directly and usually does not leave a referrer. This allows for some nifty detection and action direct from the server. If you are not familiar with Apache directives, then write the following in your root directory .htaccess file::

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_METHOD} POST
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} .wp-comments-post\.php*
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*yourdomain.com.* [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^$
RewriteRule (.*) ^http://%{REMOTE_ADDR}/$ [R=301,L]

This will:
1. Detect when a POST is being made
2. Check to see if the post is on wp-comments-post.php
3. Check if the referrer is in your domain or if no referrer
4. Send the spam-bot BACK to its originating server’s IP address.

After reading that over it seemed to make perfect sense to me.  A simple but elegant solution t ospambots.  Five minutes later I had added the relevant code to my .htaccess file and expected to never hear from comment spammers again.

However, the next morning, my Akismet spam queue was full of over 100 messages again.  The only thing different was that not a single one of them was a false positive or even questionable.  Every single one of them had been left by a spambot.  Clearly this simple but elegant solution wasn’t working.  So I headed off to find another solution.  The worst part, however, was something I didn’t realize until a full two days later: the .htaccess changes were blocking regular comments!  I think this was because I don’t use the normal comments.php, instead using a custom one from a comment plugin, but regardless, it wasn’t helping block the spambots anyway, so I just wiped it clean out and immediately was able to receive comments again.

My next “great find” was Yet Another WordPress Anti Spam Plugin (YAWASP).  Unlike the vast majority of anti-spam plugins out there, YAWASP did not require Javascript or cookies (which many of my visitors have disabled) or a CAPTCHA (which I and many of my visitors hate), but instead, was entirely transparent to the regular user.  Its primary means of spam detecting is to add a “hidden” field that the bots will see (and complete) but is invisible to the human eye on the rendered page.  I use this same type of anti-apam system to keep spammers from registering on the various forums I’ve over the years and it works great.  So I was exited to see it available for WordPress as well. Unfortunately, i couldn’t get it to work.  No matter what I did it kept insisting that every comment was spam because it’s author had somehow entered data into the “hidden” field.  Exceedingly frustrated at this point I removed it and took a nice long break.

Finally I decided to see what other long term bloggers were doing and with a little poking aruond in Google Blog Search I finally came across several positive article about the Bad Behavior WordPress Plugin.  Like Akismet and YAWASP, Bad Behavior is transparent to my actual readers.  However, unlike them it was as simple as install and activate.  I haven’t received a spambot comment since!  Regular comments still seem to be getting through and spam that is manually left still shows up (though it tends to get caught by Akismet).  Best of all, in the last 24 hours I’ve only had to clear less than a dozen comments from my various Akismet queues.  Now that is protection.

Yeah, I know that was a long way to go for what could have been a simple single paragraph post.  But I wanted y’all to understand that I share your frustrations.  Now, hopefully, you can avoid all of my pitfalls and wasted time and simply install Bad behavior to begin with.  The only question remaining is why is Akismet distributed with WordPress when Bad Behavior is not?

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Part of the Wonderful WordPress Wednesdays Series - Previous in series        
Jan 122009
 

Had he lived, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 80 years old this coming Thursday.

If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

That is, by far, my favorite Martin Luther King quote.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite quotes of all time, by anyone.  And it is that philosophy that I honor on the third Monday of January each year. Martin Luther King clearly inspired millions (of all backgrounds) and had a massive impact on not only the United States, but on the world.  But I’m left wondering what he would have to say about the America of today.  As I wrote in honor of MLK’s birthday last year, 40 years after his assassination, Americans are still slaves.  This year, I’d like to focus on the issues that made Martin Luther King famous: civil rights and the advancement of blacks in American culture.

In 1939 Martin Luther King was a 10 year old Atlanta resident who had already traveled to Europe and had sung with his church choir at the opening of Gone With The Wind.  Meanwhile, roughly 87 percent of blacks in America were living in poverty. By the time Measure of Man was published in 1959 (still years before the Albany movement, Birmingham, and the March on Washington), poverty amongst black families had dropped a full 40 points to 47 percent and the incomes of blacks relative to whites had more than doubled.

1963 brought the March on Washington and the famous “I Have A Dream speech which will be quoted with such abandon in the next couple of weeks, 1964 was, of course, the Civil Rights Act, 1965 saw “Bloody Sundy” in Montgomery, AL (often cited as the turning point for the civil rights movemement in the United States – King was notably absent, BTW), this was followed numerous failures and cancelled marches in Chicago and then, in March 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN.  The following year the poverty rate amongst blacks in America had fallen to roughly 32 percent (where it remained well in to the 1990s).

Which all leads me to question just why there’s a national holiday for this man.  Of course, we have a strange way of celebrating it…

In 1990 President George Bush (the first) invaded Iraq on Martin Luther King’s birthday.The day after America observes MLK’s 80th birthday the first black President will be inaugurated. King would, no doubt, be proud. But let us not forget that Barack Obama will not only continue the current invasion of Iraq, but has also come out in support of National Slavery!

Is this what Martin Luther King was fighting for?  Is this what you are honoring on this national holiday devoted to him?  Honestly, I think next Monday will just be another day of my distancing myself from as much of the celebration as possible.

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