Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fuck You Comcast

The Net Neutrality debate is about to heat up again, as Comcast strong arms Netflix's delivery company, Level 3, into paying higher fees to deliver content that Comcast's internet subscribers have requested.

Comcast is using its monopoly status to exact rents from Level 3 and Netflix. Many people in this country have no option when choosing an ISP. In my town, only Time Warner is available. Since there is little to no competition in the ISP arena, Comcast is able to extract unreasonable fees from content providers.

Comcast subscribers are already paying for the bandwidth, that's what their monthly payment is for. But Comcast wants to squeeze more money out of their crooked system by charging companies like Level 3 extra to provide content that Comcast customers have requested.

Internet customers are paying to have the data they want delivered to them. Had Level 3 not given in to Comcast's demands, Comcast would have breached their agreement with their subscribers by blocking Netflix content. They can do this because they know their subscribers have no other options for broadband internet.

It's a racket, it's anti-competitive, it's anti-net-neutrality, and it is illegal. The FCC needs to do it's job and prevent monopolies like Comcast from controlling what their customers can and can't get online.

When Unemployment Runs Out, the Unemployed Get Cranky

Q: How can a government that has done such a horrible job of managing the economy keep its citizens from revolting en masse?

A: Spend like there's no tomorrow.

Unfortunately for the government, and the unemployed masses, tomorrow is almost here.

In December, the unemployment extension, which allowed people to continue receiving unemployment benefits for 99 weeks after losing their jobs, will run out, immediately dropping tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans from the unemployment rolls, and eventually dropping many more.

Up until now, the government has managed to keep a lid on the anger of Americans by keeping the unemployed fed with foodstamps and kept money in their pockets with extended unemployment benefits. But these are stopgap measures that count on a rebounding economy to get people back to work. However, our economy shows little signs of a rebound, and people continue to lose their jobs.

In an era when banks receive billions of federal dollars for a job poorly done, Americans are fully justified in their anger towards their government. Our economy is crumbling while our legislators twiddle their thumbs, while devising new ways to reward corporate failure.

Now that the unemployed are about to feel the full force of the crappy situation we're in, we can expect their anger to grow.

Notice that even though this is the worst economy since the Great Depression, we haven't seen any bread lines or droves of unemployed workers flooding the streets. This is a testament to the effectiveness of food stamps and unemployment checks at hiding the devastation. But once we run out of money for those programs, things will get ugly.

I'm not thrilled about the prospect of a breakdown of social order, but this is the bed we made, and come December, we will have to lay in it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Higher Taxes Won't Reduce the Deficit

Politicians claim we need to raise taxes to reduce the deficit, but history shows that higher taxes have always lead to even higher spending.

In the late 1980s, one of us, Richard Vedder, and Lowell Gallaway of Ohio University co-authored a often-cited research paper for the congressional Joint Economic Committee (known as the $1.58 study) that found that every new dollar of new taxes led to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Subsequent revisions of the study over the next decade found similar results.

We've updated the research. Using standard statistical analyses that introduce variables to control for business-cycle fluctuations, wars and inflation, we found that over the entire post World War II era through 2009 each dollar of new tax revenue was associated with $1.17 of new spending. Politicians spend the money as fast as it comes in—and a little bit more.

The only option left is to cut spending, but we already knew that, didn't we?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walking the Walk

Politicians in Washington are great at talking the talk. It gets them elected, it gets them soundbites on TV news, and it convinces their constituents to continue supporting them.

But now it is time to walk the walk. The conservative swing in this year's election has been an indictment of overspending in Washington. The Tea party formed in direct response to corporate giveaways and budget busting entitlements. The mission for Congress this session is clear:


And now it is time for them to walk the walk. It is easy for a conservative to call for lower taxes and spending, but the process of actually cutting things from government is anything but simple. It will be an uphill battle with deep political consequences. Nobody wants to lose their access to the Federal Gravy Train. But it must be done.

So let's do it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A thousand words

I like it for three reasons.

1. I am personally enraged by redundant, time consuming paperwork.
2. Reducing paperwork means increasing freedom and economic efficiency.
3. I really want to reach out and squeeze those scissors

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Fed Conjurs Up $600 Billion

In an effort to support sagging interest in US Treasuries, the Federal Reserve has resorted to what they call "quantitative easing" which is a fancy way of saying creating new money out of thin air.

What they are effectively doing is monetizing the losses by both the banking sector and the federal government, by which I mean stealing wealth from every person who holds US dollars to pay for boneheaded mistakes at the highest levels of power.

The Fed has couched this new money magic in a false effort to, well, I don't know what bullshit they're spinning this time. Increase demand, increase lending, reduce interest rates, support the stock market, stimulate the economy. Whatever, don't believe them. This is yet more trickery to hide the fact that America is in a deep, deep hole.

It's as if the Chilean miners were given massive doses of hallucinogenic drugs to help them forget that they were buried thousands of feet below ground. Unfortunately, the drugs eventually wear off, and you're still 2,300 feet underground.

On the news of fresh, new money, stocks jumped, as did gold and silver. The new money shocked the stock market up sharply, and the loss of faith in the dollar pushed more investors into already inflated gold and silver.

Those in the know can see right through the Fed's trickery and are making out like bandits. Everybody else is getting royally screwed, but probably don't even know it.

The Fed is playing roulette with the wealth of an entire nation. The fact that so few people are outraged is proof that Americans are woefully uninformed about their own monetary system.

Or, as Henry Ford once said, "It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tea Partiers Come to Polls in Droves

Tea Party Fever sweeps the nation as conservative candidates across America win a multitude of races against liberal opponents.

When asked for an explanation of the poll results, Democratic Strategist Melanie Kessler had this to say, "I honestly didn't think those rubes would be able to find the polling places. It's probably the result of some Fox News propoganda ploy."

President Obama was equally baffled by the mid-term results, "These morons don't know how much we're doing for them. We're helping you, dip-shits! I can't understand why they'd vote against us."

As conservatives re-take the House of Representatives, Democratic strategists attempt to regroup with a new round of initiatives. "Americans were clearly dissatisfied with the level of spending in the bank bailouts, stimulus programs, and health care reform. So we've come up with a bill that will outspend all of those put together. Try and vote against THAT come 2012!"

Minorities and the disabled have already begun barricading themselves inside their homes, in preparation of the coming onslaught. "They're comin to kill me, I know it," said black man Ronnie Jackson. Wheelchair guy Chris Ingle was equally frightened, "I heard they used guys like me as hunting decoys."

Keith Olbermann could not be reached for comment, as his head exploded. One camera, two microphones, and a lighting fixture were damaged in the blast. Luckily, no one was watching.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vote Day

Hey Americans, go vote so that we can all live in freedom and democracy forever.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How It Will Go Down

Any questions?

[via Glasperlenspieler]

Puff Daddy and Magic Johnson to Buy Buffalo Bills, Bring NFL back to LA

Sean "Puffy" Combs and Magic Johnson have both been making noises about buying an NFL franchise and bringing it to LA.

Puffy is estimated to be worth about half a billion, and Magic just sold his stake in the Lakers as well as his many Starbucks franchises, and both have expressed interest in moving the Buffalo Bills to LA.

Together, with their money, clout, and business acumen, they could do it. And they probably will.

Neat huh?

Social Security Stalemate

Social Security is a budgetary trick that is virtually indistinguishable from a Ponzi scheme. Workers pay in, theoretically so that they will have something to take out when they retire. However, this money doesn't go into a lockbox. It goes straight to current beneficiaries.

There is no Social Security Trust Fund. There was supposed to be, but it ended up getting spent by our government. In it's place are billions in Treasuries, which when the time comes to cash them in, our broke-ass government will just print some more dollars, making those T-bills effectively worthless.

Social Security is broke, and any attempt to fix it is met with FIERCE liberal rhetoric, even though they bring no ideas on how to fix it themselves.

Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security went down in flames. Current Republican reforms are being met with cries that they are killing Social Security, and that they want old people to live in abject poverty.

The funny thing is, these attempts are actually trying to save Social Security, while the Left simultaneously sits on their hands and puts their fingers in their ears while Social Security sinks deeper into the red.

The time of Social Security reckoning will come, and we will know who really brought the pain.

Of course, both sides will continue to play the shell game. Once the program hits the wall, the Right will call for reforms and blame the Left for spending too much, and the Left will say the Right wants old people to live in the streets.

But we are catching on to their game.

Railroads Get a Boost

Not everyone is struggling in this economy, as railroads see strong surges in profit.

Union Pacific Corp.'s third-quarter profit jumped 51% as the railroad company posted volume growth for the third consecutive quarter and noted freight revenue improved across all business segments.

Chairman and Chief Executive Jim Young said strong volume growth, pricing gains and operating efficiency "combined to produce another record quarter" for the company. Results easily topped Wall Street's expectations.

The company's results further highlight the transport sector's rebound from last year's moribund levels, as the U.S. economic recovery continues. Already, peer CSX Corp. and transport companies J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and United Parcel Services Inc. have reported results above prior-year levels as volumes jump higher. Union Pacific has said it sees a peak autumn intermodal shipping seasons, although it warned of industry uncertainty.

As the dollar weakens and commodity prices rise, commodity movers like railroads should see a boost, as I wrote about a year ago, when Warren Buffet bought railroad company Burlington Northern.

I should really start listening to myself.

They Took Our Jobs! [Robot Apocalypse]

These cold, heartless bastards aren't content to just conquer the world, they want our JOBS too!

Today, a Japanese company called Fanuc, Ltd., has industrial robots making other industrial robots in a "lights out" factory. (That's the somewhat unsettling term for a fully automated production facility where you don't need lights because you don't need humans.) That's where we're headed.

It's not just manufacturing, either. Automated call centers are replacing customer-service agents. Automated checkout stations are replacing grocery-store clerks. When the science of computer vision advances sufficiently, we'll have algorithms, not humans, evaluating X-rays at airport security checkpoints and screening user-generated content for sites like Facebook.

The robots are going to do all our work, better than us, at a fraction of the cost.

Or, as the denizens of South Park so eloquently put it:

The Gramophone Makes a Comeback

Or should I say "GramiPhone?" No, no I shouldn't.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gadsden Flag Redux

Molotov cocktails: when a snake just isn't threatening enough.

America... FUCK YEAH!

Language Learning Computer Insults Obama [Robot Apocalypse]

NELL, the smartest language learning computer with a Twitter account, recently insulted the commander in chief.

And as recently as Saturday, she even ventured into political satire territory - or at least, something that sounded very much like it when she decided that "US President-elect Barack Obama" is a #politicianus.

Nobody seems to know exactly what a politicianus is, but for now we're assuming they're like opinions - everyone's got one, even NELL.

A "politicianus?" I may criticize our government from time to time, but at least I have warm blood and a squishy brain. These metal and silicon bastards have gone too far. They are supposed to serve us, and here they are insulting our highest leader?

DARPA is playing with fire.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Great Unraveling

Americans are losing faith that their government can provide a fair society. They see that government works for those with money and power, and no longer for the little people.

The bitter truth is that the nation's Financial Power Elites are not constrained by rule of law, and as a result of this revelation Americans' trust in their government and political class has been shattered.

Despite raising their voices 600 to 1 against the TARP and related bailouts of the nation's Financial Power Elites (who stripmined the nation's wealth from their investment banking and mortgage banking fortresses) in 2008, the government shoved trillions of dollars of bailouts and guarantees into private hands with pathetically little control in return.

In their rage at this abject, cowardly surrender of their government to the Financial Elites, the American people tossed the craven bankers-lapdogs Republicans out and replaced them with an untested young president who talked the talk and old-line Democrats.

All of whom proceeded to attach the same leash to their necks and become craven lapdogs of the Financial Elites.

Now that the housing crisis has nearly run its course, how are the Power Elites gaming the system today? It starts with the Fed, and ends with you having no more money:

Zero interest is nothing but a transfer of wealth from the citizens to the Financial Power Elites in the money-center and investment banks. Please note the bankers divided up $144 billion in bonuses last year, despite their insolvency. That buys a lot of politicos--basically all of them.

Secondly, the Fed is destroying the nation's currency, the dollar, to drive money into the stock market. This is designed to create a facade of "prosperity" which gives some sort of credence to the government's claim that a "recovery" is underway. Since the Grand Stimulus has failed utterly and completely, then juicing the stock market is the only way left to bolster the illusion of "recovery."

Unfortunately for the incompetent toadies of the Fed, much of the "hot money" speculation they have incentivized is flowing into commodities, driving up the prices of food and fuel. Once again the Fed has engineered a policy which siphons money away from the citizenry in order to reward and enrich the Financial Power Elites.

The Fed, which controls the money supply for the entire nation, is firmly in the pocket of the Financial Elite. It's policies of zero interest rates and money-printing bailouts are designed to help its Elite masters, on the backs of everyone else in the country.

This will go on as long as we let it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The O'Donnell Conundrum

My Facebook news stream has taken on an interesting tenor lately. It is awash with opinion articles decrying the idiocy of Christine O'Donnell, and defending the "elites" she opposes. Liberals are nodding their heads in such unison, that I'd swear they were Republicans.

The meme of a pretty conservative lady with questionable credentials was, of course, pioneered by that lightning rod of liberal disdain, Sarah Palin. Her critics fell over each other to find new ways to call her stupid. She has been used to cast the entire Tea Party movement as merely a know-nothing rabble.

Enter one Christine O'Donnell. Riding on the Tea Party momentum, she ousted the Republican incumbent in the primary. Representing for many Delaware voters a political outsider who might better represent them, she has created a media firestorm.

Images and videos of her deep past have come to light, casting her in a sharply negative light. In fact, the media's obsession has boosted her campaign contributions significantly, and she has collected more money from outside of Delaware than inside.

Yet these things have not helped her campaign. She is a 15-20 point dog, with little chance against her Democratic opponent. And herein lies, for me, a conundrum:

Why does the Left continue to bash her so viciously?

Here's what I think. For one, they are attempting to position her as the figurehead of the Tea Party, so that her loss can be framed as a victory of Democratic Reason over Tea Party Madness.

Second, by piling on, the Left can all feel good about a common cause against the Tea Party menace.

Thirdly, and most interestingly, the Left feels compelled to say, "I'm not an idiot!!!" by loudly insulting Ms. O'Donnell, because if she's a dolt and wrong about everything, then the Left is still smart and right about everything (even though Obama and the Democratic Congress has clearly shown this to be false).

It's the same reason some closeted homosexuals express violent homophobia. To deny their own perceived weakness, they lash out at anyone who reminds them of it.

In order for the Left to deny it's own stupid mistakes, and thus bolster their own belief that they have all the answers, they must excoriate a relatively harmless candidate for perceived stupidity.

In other words, "the lady doth protest too much."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ben Bernanke is the Most Powerful Man in the World.

Bernanke's actions at the Federal Reserve ripple throughout the globe, especially into emerging markets.

A surge of capital is flowing into emerging markets as money flees the U.S., Europe, and Japan in the hope of higher returns.

The perception is that emerging markets offer stronger profit growth for their stocks, higher interest rates for their deposits, and the potential for currency appreciation.

Yet it's not all roses for the emerging economies involved.

That's because the surge of money seeking emerging markets is an example of how easy monetary policy in the developed world spills over into the developing one. Emerging markets nations try to tighten monetary policy... but are then beset by waves of foreign capital entering their countries. This negates the domestic tightening effort since foreign money is sloshing around their economies, and it's how Ben Bernanke is actually the entire world's central banker.

Inflating our dollar's value away so that we are forced to bubble-ize emerging markets doesn't seem like great policy to me, but I'm not a central banker, so what do I know.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Watching Dumb TV Makes You Talk Like an Idiot

It's science.

"When two people start a conversation, they usually begin talking alike within a matter of seconds," said James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an author of the new study published in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. "This also happens when people read a book or watch a movie. As soon as the credits roll, they find themselves talking like the author or the central characters."

Pennebaker and his colleagues tracked language use by 2,000 college students responding to class assignments written in different language styles. The results confirmed that language style matching extends to the written word. When an essay question was written in a dry, confusing tone, students responded with dry, confusing answers. If the question took a flighty, casual tone, students responded with "Valley girl"-like answers peppered with "like" and "sorta."

If you watch dumb people talk, you will start to talk like them. If you talk like them enough, you may even start to think like them.

So try to keep your exposure to dumb TV to a minimum.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Desert Patrol Bots [Robot Apocalypse]

And the robots take one more step towards world domination.

America Despises her Poor

Kurt Vonnegut nails it in Slaughterhouse Five

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain't no disgrace to be poor, but might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'If you're so smart, why ain't You rich? ' There will also be an American flag no larger than a child's hand-glued to a lollipop stick and, flying from the cash register.

The author of the monograph, a native of Schenectady, New York, was said by some to have had the highest I.Q. of all the war criminals who were made to face a death by hanging. So it goes.

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.

Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves. Once this is understood the disagreeable behavior of American enlisted men in German prisons ceases to be a mystery.

Howard W. Cambell, Jr., now discussed the uniform of the American enlisted in the Second World War:

Every other army in history, prosperous or not, has attempted to clothe even its lowliest soldiers so as to make them impressive to themselves and others as stylish experts in drinking and copulation and looting and sudden death. The American Army, however, sends its enlisted men out to fight and die in a modified business suit quite evidently made for another man, a sterilized but unpressed gift from a nose-holding charity which passes out clothing to drunks in the slums.

When a dashingly-clad officer addresses such a frumpishly dressed bum, he scolds him, as an officer in an army must. But the officer's contempt is not, as in other armies, avuncular theatricality. It is a genuine expression of hatred for the poor, who have no one to blame for their misery but themselves. A prison administrator dealing with captured American enlisted men for the first time should be warned: Expect no brotherly love, even between brothers. There will be no cohesion between the individuals. Each will be a sulky child who often wishes he were dead.

America hates its poor, but why? And how can we stop it?

Bernanke Talking, is Anyone Listening?

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has joined the chorus of people warning Americans of our government's unsustainable debt load.

[I]n the United States, governments at all levels are grappling not only with the near-term effects of economic weakness, but also with the longer-run pressures that will be generated by the need to provide health care and retirement security to an aging population. There is no way around it--meeting these challenges will require policymakers and the public to make some very difficult decisions and to accept some sacrifices. But history makes clear that countries that continually spend beyond their means suffer slower growth in incomes and living standards and are prone to greater economic and financial instability.

Everyone outside of Congress and the Obama administration is saying the same thing: We must balance the federal budget. Unfortunately, the only people with the power to do this are in Congress and the Obama administration.

Russian Space Hotel

Russia, already the leader in space tourism, has plans to build a new space station focused on tourists, scientists, and engineers.

Construction is set to begin in 2012 or 2013.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Amazing New Stuff

Popular Mechanics announces its Breakthrough Awards 2010.

Highlights include a radical, super-efficient airplane design, earthquake-proof buildings, and a completely new way of thinking about magnets.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Smells Like Revolution?

‎"Revolutions are most likely to occur when a prolonged period of objective economic and social development is followed by a short period of sharp reversal. People then subjectively fear that ground gained with great effort will be quite lost; their mood becomes revolutionary."
--James Chowning Davies

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hello, Big Brother

Feds are now using backscatter X-ray equipped vans to search cars with no warrant, no probable cause, in direct violation of the 4th amendment. Of course, the 4th amendment has been dead since the Patriot Act.

Are you ready to rebel yet?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Robot Archery [Robot Apocalypse]

Sure he's cute. But replace that toy bow and arrow with a compound bow and hunting arrows, and you've got a robotic Rambo killing machine.

Peace is War

An unsettling development in America's War on Itself.

The FBI raided the Minneapolis homes of five antiwar activists, including three leaders of the Twin Cities peace movement, Friday morning as part of what it called a probe of "activities concerning the material support of terrorism."

The Minneapolis office of an antiwar organization was also raided, protest leaders said. No one was arrested in any of the raids.

Protest leaders said the raids surprised them. Mick Kelly, whose home was searched, played a central role in the 2008 demonstrations at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Asked if he was involved in illegal activities, he replied, "Absolutely not.''

The FBI appears to believe that if one takes a stance against the American War State, then they must have connections with terrorism. This garbage is getting out of hand.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mutant Salmon

Genetically modified giant salmon await FDA approval for human consumption. I think this is a dangerous game we're playing.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

This is a Great Trend


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Drink Wine

Despite a faltering economy, Americans' appetite for wine has increased

At supermarkets and other food outlets, sales of 750-millileter wine priced at $20 or above are “up significantly,” leaving shelves at their fastest pace since 2006, said Doug Goodwin, vice president of beer, wine and spirits at SymphonyIRI, which collects point-of-sales data at retailers.

“Consumers have moved consumption into the home,” said Goodwin. “The reality is you can go into a Kroger or Safeway and buy a nice $30 bottle of wine that would have cost $60 in a restaurant.”

Dollar sales of bottles marked $20 or more are up 19% from January 2010 through Sept. 5, compared with the same 2009.

I'm partial to Cabernet and a good Malbec, myself. I used to like Pinot Noir, but now I need something with a little more body.

Sarah Palin 2012? You Betcha!

I've been reflecting on the recent Tea party candidate win in Delaware, and I've come to a frightening conclusion:

The 2012 GOP Candidate for President of the United States will be Sarah Palin.

And she will probably win.

I got shivers just typing that.

The Tea party is pulling the GOP further Right, but a lack of sophistication has them voting for dumb-but-nominally-conservative candidates. Enter: Sarah Palin.

The GOP is not dumb. They (I think) see the writing on the wall. In order to win the primaries, a candidate will have to appeal to the Tea party. Palin already has name recognition and media cache. The fact that the Left hates her so much is even more motivation for the Right. She keeps showing up at Tea party events for a reason.

She is trying to position herself as the leader of the new push for small government. And right now she is leading the pack.

Barring some terrific show of idiocy (not out of the realm of possibility), Palin will be the GOP nominee. Most independent voters will not vote Obama again. So, assuming she doesn't split the vote with a Ron Paul-type real conservative, she will be President of the United States.

The Mayans were right. The end will come in 2012. The Great American Political Farce will reach its zenith. The curtain will be pulled back for all to see. Democracy will be exposed for the failed experiment that it is.

The great cosmic joke will finally get to the punchline.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ultra-sensitive Robot Skin [Robot Apocalypse]

Researchers at UC Berkley have developed an ultra-sensitive mechanical skin to give robots touch feedback. All I can say is I hope they make sure to program the robots to feel pain.


Quadrocopter Flies through Hoops, Blows Minds [Robot Apocalypse]

Attach a gun to this thing and you've got yourself a perfect killing machine. We don't stand a chance.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We Are In The Future

Tractor Beam

Mind Reading


The future is now, kiddies. So where's my holodeck?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking / A Lesson in Journalism

So I originally heard about the 3rd Circuit Appeals ruling on warrantless cell phone tracking here, on CNET.

But then, a Google News search revealed Forbes, with a story with an opposite headline.

But I think the true answer lies in between, as in this Wired story.

What I gather is that the government is allowed to look at a cell carrier's stored logs without a warrant. I don't really see why they should need to do so without a warrant, so we might want to update our laws on the matter.

Strange that it took me three sources before I could figure it out. Two of those sources had serious typos, so I guess that should have been a tip-off.

I'll read the ruling and see what I can figure out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

World Trade Center Mosque: Perspective from the Neighborhood

Finally, someone from the neighborhood responds.

Yes, the actual World Trade Center site (can we stop calling it Ground Zero, a misused term from douchebag news anchors, please???) is hallowed ground, but the surrounding area? Those surrounding blocks are no different than the rest of this Lower Manhattan neighborhood. It’s a place constantly changing, lots of run down buildings waiting for redevelopment beside gleaming corporate towers, Wall Street titans, tons of office space, churches, mosques, old stores, tacky souvenirs, “adult entertainment,” and more, as market forces (self-interest, competition and supply and demand: AKA the invisible hand of the market) continually puts businesses and other facilities in the city, and because it’s NYC, everything is right next to everything (placed to serve the concentrated demand in such a tight, concentrated space of real estate). That’s right, the blocks surrounding the WTC have STRIP CLUBS, Burger Kings, everything–NOT “hallowed ground.”

Thanks, Nick. It needed to be said.

In Honor of Obama Ending the Iraq War

I created a little artwork.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gaming Wall Street

You remember the "flash crash" back in May? Well, one trader believes the crash was created on purpose, and that it is only a matter of time before it happens again.

He gives Forbes 3 reasons why the next flash crash will be caused on purpose:

1. Because the last one was caused on purpose. The average quote volume on the NYSE is 10,000 per second. At one point on May 6, somebody launched 5,000 quotes at the NYSE for the ticker of Public Storage inside of one second. None of those quotes led to a trade—but that traffic by itself took the NYSE to 25% of its stable CQS capacity. So it’s clear that one trader or perhaps more discovered that by blasting the NYSE, they could introduce added latency in the CQS feed. Knowing that most players were looking at a delayed NYSE feed, anybody in the know could make easy arbitrage plays between the NYSE and other exchanges.

2. Because mini flash crashes have happened before. On April 28, for instance, the share prices of Wal-Mart and Procter dipped 50 cents for less than a second. If algorithms had been programmed knowing the dip was coming, profits are fat and easy.

3. The system has shown big delays more than once since then. It seems that whenever the NYSE receives more than 20,000 quotes per second, its CQS feed, which determines where many equity orders get routed, falls behind.

My advice? Keep your money in something safer than the stock market, or get to know one of these financial hackers very well.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Our Liberal News Media

This is today's New York Times home page.

I took the liberty of circling the stories that I believe express liberal bias, or toe the Democratic Party line.

New data has come to light concerning campaign contributions from self-identified employees of ABC, CBS, and NBC. In 2008, these people gave an overwhelming majority of their campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.

Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.

By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.

Disclosure of the heavily Democratic contributions by influential employees of the three major broadcast networks follows on the heels of controversy last week when it was learned that media baron Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. contributed $1 million to the Republican Governors Association.

I suppose you should be aware that news site I'm quoting from has a decidedly conservative slant. The numbers used in the story, however, could not be more straightforward.

I'm ok if a majority of news reporters are liberal. That's their choice. But they shouldn't lie about it, or try to hide it. This does a disservice to the reader, who is only trying to get the Truth. Not the Liberal Truth, or the Conservative Truth. Just the truth.

I accept that FOX News is a neo-conservative propaganda factory. It's ok if you accept that the New York Times is a pinko-liberal mushhead pamphlet. If you read both sides, and accept their biases, then you can see between the lines to the real Truth.

Large media has lost the trust of the public. They should be looked at no differently than any random website or blog. When you read a fantastical claim on an unknown website, do you immediately believe it? Of course not.

Verify everything I write here. I try to give the truth, but I am only human. But at least I try.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Investigating Crooked Politicians

I just read this article and it got me thinking. Since we know our politicians are corrupt, both morally and legally, then shouldn't we have professional investigators working around the clock trying to find out exactly who is corrupt and exactly what they are doing? These politicians control our lives and have access to trillions of our dollars. Is it not reasonable, nay, logical to have these guys under constant surveillance to ensure they are working for our benefit and not their own?

Since our FBI has apparently decided that these investigations are unimportant, perhaps we should start a charity in which all the proceeds go to private investigators, who are hired to find out as much as they can about our people in power. We could capitalize on the anti-establishment fervor that is coursing through our nation, and turn that anger into something tangible without resorting to violence.

I think the benefits would be two-fold. First, we would root out the existing dirty politicians, which would be great, and second, if political candidates knew we were always watching them, then maybe they would try a little harder to walk the straight and narrow, and some of the dirtier politicians might stay out altogether.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt [Quote]

I ganked this from a Facebook friend's profile.

It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out where the strong man stumbles, or the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt

Joel, if you're reading this, thanks for the good words.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mo' Money Mo' Problems

One of the reason's I am for a small government is that I believe large governments are more prone to corruption, for the simple reason that there is more money in large government, thus more incentive for unscrupulous individuals to develop creative ways to get at that money.

Case in point: the California public pension fund. This pension fund is huge, holding the retirement savings of 1.6 million employees of the state of California. Instead of just stuffing the fund under the mattress, California, like most groups with a pension fund, decided to invest it.

Now this is where it gets interesting. The California pension fund is enormous, worth approximately $180 billion dollars. Thus any fund manager who gets the California pension account will be instantly rich beyond his dreams. So it should come as no surprise that prospective fund managers regularly wined, dined, and bribed California officials to try to get the pension account.

Big piles of government money attract lobbyists and corruption like a big pile of shit attracts flies. It is a law of nature. Yet we act surprised when we find out about the corruption.

[Reason via Instapundit]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pensions Commit Fraud, Want Bailout

Jim promised to pay Paul $5,000. Jim also promised to pay Peggy $5,000. Paul and Peggy go to Jim's office to collect their money. Unfortunately, Jim only has $5,000 total, which won't be enough. Jim is now shit out of luck.

That is, unless Jim is an underfunded union pension.

Our government, in its infinite wisdom, is now planning on bailing out the Jim's of the world, by giving our tax dollars to the underfunded pensions that promised out more money than they took in.

Many if not all of the pensions looking for a handout were set up in a way that they would never be able to meet their obligations. They simply promised too much money to retirees, and collected too little money from those who were still working. Usually when you do that, it's called "fraud" and it's illegal. When unions do it, however, they get $165 billion dollars to cover the financial hole left by their shady accounting, if the unions' congressional lapdogs get their way.

What is the point of working hard and paying taxes, if those tax dollars are simply given to crooks and liars?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Old Media is Dying

It's because people don't trust it. Only 25% of people trust newspapers, and only 22% trust TV news. If your business is selling information, and people don't believe you, you will soon find yourself out of a job.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scientists Discover a Way to Pull Their Heads Out Of Their Asses

A 2003 initiative to share data and findings among 100 Alzheimer research studies has lead to a new understanding of the devastating disease.

This unprecedented data sharing is the result of a large group of scientists dropping their egos and getting together to get shit done--a rare feat in academia.

I can only hope this is the first in a growing trend of scientists acting like adults and working towards a better understanding of everything.

I'm looking forward to the science wiki featuring all data and findings of all the scientists in the world. I can only imagine what would happen if all the best research minds in the world collaborated to create a repository of their collective knowledge.

To quote the Instapundit, "Faster please."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut's Rules for Writing

Short Stories:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Other things I guess:

1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.

Have I mentioned that Kurt Vonnegut is my hero?

The Crappy Economy is Getting Crappier

No one want's to spend money, according to a new Gallup Poll. Back to school time is usually a boon for retailers, but parents seem to be tightening their belts, as this year's self-reported spending is even lower than in 2009.

The picture becomes clearer when you add in the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economy still hasn't hit rock bottom. Many those who still have jobs are convinced that the economy will fall even further, and are probably saving money or paying off debts instead of buying their kids a new Sponge Bob backpack.

My advice? Don't listen to me. It'll only depress you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The US Constitution... on Facebook

I recently found a facebook page dedicated to the US Constitution. Naturally, I investigated what I assumed would be a haven of bright, politically motivated citizens who were concerned about the state of the nation and our departure from the words of our forefathers. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Link: http://www.facebook.com/usconstitution

Instead, what I found was a beehive of partisan knee jerking and uninformed sniping. Basically, a bad infection of Dumb.

My first post was simply "I like the US Constitution, I wish the government still followed it." I was immediately attacked by several people who must have assumed I was some kind of lunatic, and they demanded "one, just one" example of my claim. I gave them about 10 off the top of my head, and then left the stupids to soak it in. Not one of them could challenge what I said, but of course that didn't stop them from continuing their retarded bleating.

My point is that, if the discourse on that page is reflective of the nation at large, then we are truly fucked.

My second point is that if you are bored, and are looking for some way to improve this country that doesn't require moving from your computer, please go to this page and drop some knowledge on them. They need it. Bad.

edit: Looking back, this post is really harsh. But oh well, I'm not taking it down. Don't take it personally, because it isn't directed at you. It's more directed at my frustration with political discourse in general. These people at the US Constitution page are just my scapegoat. So yeah, I'm a nice guy, but not when I'm angry.

America Is 'Bankrupt Mickey Mouse Economy'

I've been saying it for a while, but here is a hedge fund manager agreeing with me.

"America today looks like Russia in 1998. Consumers, companies and the government are all highly indebted. America as a result is a bankrupt Mickey Mouse economy," Wermuth told CNBC.

"The big evil for the IMF in Russia in 1998 was the prospect of the central bank funding government debt. The Fed is now even buying mortgage-backed securities," he noted.

"Even before the (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and the expansion of the Fed's balance sheet, total US public and private debt as a percentage of GDP in the US stood at 290 percent, that figure is now far higher," Wermuth added.

"US credit risk is huge and America has two options, either default or let the currency depreciate substantially against currencies such as the yuan and the rouble," he explained.

"Last night's news from the Fed simply creates the right conditions for dollar weakness and a reduction in US liabilities to foreign investors and governments," Wermuth said.

Despite the horrific implications, it's comforting to know I'm not the only one who sees this coming.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


A guy goes to Conn. D.O.T. to apply for an inspection job. The interviewer asks him, "Have you been in the service?"

"Yes," he says. "I was in Viet Nam for three years"

The interviewer says, "That will give you extra points toward employment" and then the interviewer asks, "Are you disabled in any way?"

The guy says, "Yes 100%...a mortar round exploded near me and blew my testicles off." The interviewer tells the guy, "O.K. I can hire you right now. The hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. You can start tomorrow. Come in at 10:00 A.M."

The guy is puzzled and says, "If the hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. then why do you want me to come in at 10:00 A.M."

"This is a state job" the interviewer says. "For the first two hours we sit around scratching our balls.......no point in you coming in for that"


Friday, August 6, 2010

Free Trade Is A Bust

The free traders told us that free trade would usher in a new level of prosperity, as we eliminated the costs of tariffs and quotas from our international economy. And they were right about that prosperity...in China.

Now, I'm all for free peoples being able to enter into agreements across borders. But as NAFTA and Chinese trade have shown us, these agreements don't always work as planned.

Free traders will tell you that reducing trade barriers produces a net increase in prosperity. They are right. What they didn't tell you was that net prosperity wont happen in America.

China, Mexico, and other nations with which we have easy trade all share advantages not available to us in America. They do not have the strict (and monetarily expensive) environmental protection policies that we have here in the US. They also have much lower minimum wages. These advantages allow them to produce the same products for much lower costs than US manufacturers. Hence why so many US companies produce their goods overseas, only to sell them in American markets.

The result of this regulatory imbalance is apparent. American manufacturing is dead. Huge portions of the products we consume are made outside the US. We suffer an enormous trade deficit, which in any other country would destroy currency value, though for us the affects are blunted by the US dollar's global reserve currency status.

Our labor and environment policies have applied costs to American industry that industry in other countries can avoid, setting our industry up for failure. We simply cannot compete in these markets without efficient, large scale automation, but even if we do succeed with automation, we have still shed jobs from our economy.

Free traders might reply that this means Americans must advance, and work in higher skill businesses that China and others aren't able to do yet. They are right, but leave out the fact that retraining and building new high tech businesses takes a lot of work, time, and money, adding more costs to our already (relatively) expensive labor/business environment.

We have to change our trade policies. Low or no tariffs simply don't work when trading with nations who are not on the same playing field. And I don't want to eliminate environmental or labor standards. So we have to apply costs to imports through tariffs. We have to apply them broadly, but also slowly. We don't want to shock the global market with sudden new costs. We also must be cautious of making tariffs to high, thus stifling trade too much.

Our economy is dying. We have to do something. Some will call this policy "protectionist." I call it common sense.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Great Shift

I've been trolling the nets for a good story to post, but I don't think a single news story could do justice to the overall picture I'm seeing. Wheat fires in Russia. Gulf oil spill capped. Google making deals with Verizon. Economy in the sewer tank. Corporate profits up. Regular jobs down. Gay marriage legal. Police focused on victimless crimes. White collar criminals running free. Democrats avoiding their taxes. Republicans offering nothing. Tea Party gaining support.

It's so much, and it keeps coming faster. The world is shifting beneath our feet, and it's all some of us can do just to keep up. Average Americans are bearing the costs of mistakes made at the highest levels. Technology is inventing magical devices. The future is upon us. And we are just trying to figure it out.

Like an infant opening its eyes for the first time, the human race is blinking in the bright light of information brought to us by the internet. What does this all mean? How can we make sense of all this information? How can we make use? How can we make money?

Our world, our culture, our selves, are changing faster than ever in history. Changes that used to take generations are now happening in just a few years, and I only see it getting faster. The interconnected minds of the internet are showering us with information as we struggle to keep our heads above the waterline. The waterslide of information seems to have no end, but damn is it a fun ride.

Separated families are sharing pictures on Facebook. International debates between regular people are happening on internet forums. Videos of important events fly across the globe before we even know what it means. (What does it MEAN?)

Corrupt businesses and government officials are being exposed at a fierce pace. Every other day another bank committed fraud, another congressman evaded his taxes, another ex-vice-president caught with his pecker out. The leviathan of government and business is being exposed for the sociopathic money machine that it is. And we, the people, watch with interest.

The wars we don't want to talk about brought into focus by criminals stealing classified records. The president we hired to end the wars expands them, telling us he will draw down. Next year. Or later.

The health care we were promised, where is it? A 10 minute doctor visit is still a hundred dollars or more for those without insurance--where's the fix for that? Americans now required to pay money to insurance companies--this is reform?

The internet brings the picture into focus, sharpens the contrast, and it is a chaotic picture indeed. Our leaders are corrupt, kowtowing to whoever gives the most to their campaign. Our businesses are using government to extract more profit from the over taxed, over spent, drowning in debt populace. And we are starting to see it, in a way that no one has seen it before.

We've seen it. We've talked about it. We've lived it. Now one question remains:

What are we going to do about it?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Californians Say "Enough!"

Residents of Bell, CA have had enough of overpaid city managers and civil servants, and have taken to the streets to call for the resignation of their corrupt city government.

California's budget problems are not news, but residents fighting back against mismanagement and graft is a new development.

To all the crooks in Washington D.C. and beyond: this is your future.

[Reason.tv via Instapundit]

Nassim Taleb on EconTalk

Smart guy Nassim Taleb talks about the financial crisis and the systemic fragility that led to it in this illuminating interview.


Global Warming Strikes Mars

Earth isn't the only planet heating up. Recent data about the climate on Mars shows that the red planet is getting warmer too.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of space research at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.

Where is the Martian Al Gore? Because he needs to get to work.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tuition Bubble Makes Housing Bubble Look Weak

The cost of a college education today is more expensive than it has ever been, in both real and nominal terms. The high cost leaves graduates saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, on average $21,000. Our theoretical best and brightest are debt slaves before they've even started their first real job.

Federally backed loans offer better interest rates than private loans, but carry restrictions if you declare bankruptcy. You can't get rid of a federal loan so easily.

It's a cultural failing, if you ask me. Surely we can do better than this. Maybe if the government stopped inflating the tuition bubble with federally subsidized loans, we would find a better way to pay for college.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Fuck Generation

We were perverts and losers,
Slackers and underachievers,
Losing our identities in the vast
Black hole of cyberspace,
Making love to our egos
In the anonymous river of
Cyber exchanges,

Blogging and fucking our lives away,
Drunk with ourselves in some
Pornographic cyber forums,
Writing about fucking and

We were the fuck generation,
Raised by the soulless
Poetry slams and dimly lit
Open mike readings--

Products of C-SPAN, CNN,
Al Gore and global warming,
Products of new hate of
Post-cold war paranoia--

We were emo, screamo, techno,
Industrial and dreamo--
Jamming and thrashing
Out of our fucking minds--

We were those sensitive young dudes,
With high-pitched voices
And tiny peckers,
Singing about head games,
Lost innocence and double-entendres--

We were the fuck generation,
Caught in an endless war
Without a purpose or an exit,
Where everyone dies once more
And no one gives a fuck--

We were the fuck generation,
Waking up from the hippie
Pipe dreams to the futile
Absurdity of living--

And we knew somehow
That there was no one to save us
From ourselves--
No gods, no karma, no military,
No peace corps, nor futile protest
Marches on Washington,

For we were bigger than the Beatles
And more genuine than the Beats,
Leaving Dylan and Janis
At some deserted bus stop in Woodstock,
Blowing in the wind with outdated
Audio cassettes and vinyl records.

We were the fuck generation,
Sick of riding that beat-up old Chevy
With Ginsberg and Kerouac,
Writing our own books
In our own little street corners,
Plotting new courses and new ideas,
Boldly going where no
Ferlinghetti had gone before--

We were the fuck generation--
Fucked in the head and
Fucked in the heart,
Embracing chaos and despair,
Anarchy and destruction,
Seeking authenticity in
The here and now.

September 10, 2007
by Alexander Shaumyan

Friday, July 23, 2010

Arizona Stops Scamming Citizens

Photo: Mark Henle / Arizona Republic

Arizona's speed limit photo-enforcement scam has been exposed for the money making scheme it was, and will soon be deactivated.
The cameras, which included 76 units either mounted near the shoulder or operated from vans, were adept at snapping speeders as they whizzed past sensors, but getting offenders to pay after the tickets were mailed to them was another matter.

Less than a third of the 1.2 million tickets issued were paid, and the state collected $78 million, far below the projected $120 million annual revenue.

Some of those tickets, typically $181 apiece, no doubt were lost in the mail; others no doubt were not paid as violators tested a legal theory that they needed to be served in person. Process servers who were supposed to follow up could hardly keep up with the load.

Score one for the little guy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BP/Transocean Criminally Negligent

(photo: US coast guard via AP via NYTimes)

New evidence has come to light that workers on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had safety concerns about the rig. Many components were in poor repair, and many of the working practices were unsound.

According to a separate 112-page equipment assessment also commissioned by Transocean, many key components — including the blowout preventer rams and failsafe valves — had not been fully inspected since 2000, even though guidelines require its inspection every three to five years.

The report cited at least 26 components and systems on the rig that were in “bad” or “poor” condition.

Eleven workers died when the rig exploded.

But my question is this: even if BP and Transocean are found criminally negligent, can the government actually assess a fair punishment? I'm sure there will be some hefty fines involved, but BP is a huge corporation and can probably absorb the losses.

Will anyone at BP actually pay for the poor practices that led to eleven deaths and unmeasurable environmental damage? I do not believe we will see a punishment equal to the crime, which basically makes our legal system pointless. If I commit a heinous crime while trying to increase profits, and my only punishment is to have to give some of those profits back, there is hardly enough incentive for me to stop my immoral practices, and definitely not enough incentive for me to avoid those practices from the start. The punishment must fit the crime.

I think about it like NFL football. Sometimes, players will incur penalties if they think the benefit will outweigh the 5 yards their team will lose. Often, they are right, especially if the play helps their team score, or prevents the other team from scoring. In this way, players have gamed the system. They break the rules to get ahead, even though they get penalized it's still worth it.

As soon as the NFL leadership realizes that the system has been gamed, they modify the penalties to make them hurt more, to prevent players from wanting to break the rules. Example: players were going for hard, bone crushing hits whenever they could, to rattle their opponents and possibly injure them and put them out of the game. The NFL realized that people were getting hurt, and that the game could be broken by an unscrupulous team.

The NFL added new rules restricting helmet to helmet contact, and made it a personal foul, with came with the maximum penalty of 15 yards, plus monetary fines for the offending player.. This had the predictable effect of reducing hard head to head collisions, and made the game safer and more enjoyable for everyone by effectively modifying the rules and increasing the punishments.

We are clearly living in an era where unscrupulous business practices are causing widespread harm to our society. We need good government and leadership now more than ever, but our politicians are tied so tightly to businesses they should be regulating that they cannot, or will not, modify our rules and punishments to promote a fairer, safer society.

This is one of the great failures of our leadership today, and comes as a consequence of corporations having better Congressional representation than regular citizens, which in turn is a consequence of our money-soaked political system.

The Fatal Attraction of Government [Quote]

"The fatal attraction of government is that it allows busybodies to impose decisions on others without paying any price themselves. That enables them to act as if there were no price, even when there are ruinous prices – paid by others"
-- Thomas Sowell.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Government Debt Kills Small Business

The following was written by a small business man in Georgia.

Most of y'all know I own some bars, but my main business is a company I own that leases pool tables, video games, slot machines,etc. to other bars and restaurants all around the state.

I have never really had a beef with the license I have to buy or the fees I have to pay, until today.

Little history:
Every Jan.1st I purchase a license that allows me to lease video games to other businesses. This license costs me $7500 plus $25 for every piece of equipment I have on location. So normally every Jan. I have to pay around $17,500 to the state to acquire a new license.

Well my state is $2.5 billion in the hole this year. So in their wisdom, they decided they could make up the shortfall by raising the license cost and fees associated with coin op arcade games and pool tables AND by CANCELLING ALL CURRENT LICENSES EFFECTIVE JULY 1, and making you re-apply and pay a higher rate, A MUCH HIGHER RATE.(Nevermind that I have already paid for a license to run from Jan.1 2010- Dec 31 2010)

In order to stay in business, I have to come up with almost $60,000 in 3 weeks. The license increased to $10,000 and $125 per piece of equipment. Every license holder in the state has until 8.15.10 to pay it or go out of business.(also, the location now has to apply for a location license and pay $125 per piece of equipment they have in their establishment).So basically, the license fee went from $25 per machine, to $250 per machine. And it takes a LONG TIME to make $250 on a Golden Tee, etc.

And it doesn't just hurt my company, it hurts the consumer...because all locations where my profit is marginal, I will be pulling equipment, leaving that bar or restaurant with no entertainment....and noone else will be coming in to bring them more games, because if it was not profitable for me to keep my equipment there, it is not profitable for anyone else. So those small bars and restaurants will have to close also. Pool tables and arcade games do not make a lot of money, and once you factor in that the first $250 it makes has to go to the state, then you realize this business just got put out of business by the state.

Liberals wonder why deficit hawks like myself are so worried about government debt. It's because when the government runs out of money, I know where they go to look for more: your ass.

So if your ass is barely scraping by, and the government runs out of money, the government will take your ass to the cleaners. This is not theoretical or sensationalized, this is simple fact.

So enjoy your ObamaCare and your unemployment checks while they last, but remember where the government will knock when the bill comes due.

The Economy is Fucked: In Graph Form

We all know the economy is bad, so I'm not shattering any illusions. But the bad news is that its getting worse, especially for those most deeply affected: the unemployed.

This is a graph of the median length of unemployment for those looking for work, and it stands at nearly 5 months. So half of all those looking for jobs have been looking for over 5 months--and they aren't finding anything.

The government likes to release its unemployment statistics, and their current number is 9.3%, which gives a much rosier picture of the situation than truly exists. Like any good statist government, they have to massage the unemployment numbers to make it look like they are doing a good job, even when they aren't.

The real unemployment picture is much darker.

This graph shows the ratio of non-government jobs to the population as a whole, basically how many jobs per capita. This ratio is a true measure of unemployment, as it accounts for those who have given up looking for work or for other reasons aren't counted. You have to go back to before my birth (1985) to see a worse time to find a job in America.

Of course, I don't want to be overly dramatic, there is one sector of our economy that is doing quite well, and appears unfazed by the economic destruction taking place. That sector would be the government.

Despite its crumbling tax base, our government is having no problem steadily adding jobs, and putting an increasing strain on those who can still find work in the private sector. While our economy is taking a hacksaw to jobs, our government is happy to continue piling them on. This would be great, if it wasn't for the fact that the rest of us have to pay for those jobs. These government jobs aren't creating wealth and they aren't helping the recovery. In most cases, government jobs destroy wealth, and that's the last thing we need right now.

But why, you may ask, is the economy struggling so much? What makes today different from yesteryear? That is a question with many answers.

First, too much bureaucracy. Our economy and employment live and die on small businesses. If entrepreneurs have to fill out a thousand documents and apply for a thousand permits before they can open up a new small business, they may not even try. It isn't worth it to start a business, especially in this economic climate. The problem goes much further than this, of course, but fixing this would be a start.

Instead, Obama has added even more complexity and paperwork to the already overburdened businessman with the health care bill. He simply doesn't understand that paperwork can slow economic growth, or even set it backwards.

Second, too much uncertainty. Our government has never taken such direct control of our economy. It would be tolerable if that control was producing results, but it isn't. Instead, our economy must constantly adjust to the trillion dollar whims of Congress or the Fed, and this constant adjustment means no one can possibly plan and invest for the future. Without this investment, our economy stagnates and sheds jobs, waiting out the turbulence so it can start investing again.

With trillions in bailouts saving huge companies from their own mistakes, the laws of economics no longer apply. Companies are waiting for bailouts, or sitting tight and waiting for the economic picture to make sense, but either way they aren't expanding and adding jobs.

Third, too much debt. Our government is running up debt like a psychopathic teenager with a credit card. Our leaders have ignored the consequences of a debt based economy for decades, and now those consequences are upon us. We spend nearly a half a trillion on interest for our national debt every year. We have now taken on the debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which totals into the tens of trillions of dollars. That isn't even counting our un-paid-for obligations to Social Security, Medicare, ObamaCare, and, oh yeah, Two Wars.

Business leaders are not blind. They see this massive debt obligation, and they know it means at least one of two things: Much higher taxes, Drastically cut government services, or Both. Either way, this is perhaps the worst time to start a business in the history of this country. Even if you can eke out a living, or if you're lucky a profit, you can be assured that most if not all of your success will be soon taxed away by our spendthrift government.

Congress, seeing the desperate situation and the looming mid-term elections, have passed another round of unemployment benefits. I liken this to attempting to bail out a sinking ship with a coffee mug. You might buy yourself a minute or two, but the ship is still going down.

Frickin Lasers

The future is here, and so are lasers. Giant lasers. Lasers that can shoot planes out of the sky. It's only a matter of time before the robots get their cold, titanium fingers on this new technology.

[via Louis W]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On the Individual Mandate [Quote]

"If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house."

-Barack H. Obama

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rise of the Robot Armies [Robot Apocalypse]

Well, here it is folks. The robot apocalypse is nigh.

7.5% of the World is on Facebook

500 million people are on the Facebook. It's a little crazy when you think about it.

American Idol: Political Edition

I have an idea for a new TV show that could change the world.

What if we created a television show, for the presidency of the United States, in the style of American Idol? We Americans love that show apparently, so why not deliver politicians to us in a style that we are accustomed? We could text in our votes each week, and we could slowly whittle down the candidates until there were only 2 or 3 left, and then do the actual vote.

We could even mix in a little Real World, and have the candidates all live in a house together. Tell me that wouldn't be entertaining as hell, getting to see the politicians in their natural setting. We might actually get a sense of their character after a few months of close observation.

Is this asking too much of the candidates for most powerful man in the world? With the number of incompetent/morally wavering buffoons we have had in office, I think this invasion of privacy is more than justified. And honestly, would these attention whores really pass up a chance of hours of free primetime air-time every week? It's win-win.

An additional side benefit would be that candidates would spend less time and energy raising money, since they would be featured on live television every week. This has the potential to reduce the influence of money on the most important government position we have. And if we are really serious, we could require that the candidates take NO money in exchange for a spot on the show.

In keeping with tradition we could pick the group of candidates based on the existing primary system. Let them garner national interest, then pick the top 10 to face off in a series of challenges designed to test their wit, knowledge, leadership skills, and singing ability.

Tell me you wouldn't watch that show.