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.

[ 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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another Day, Another Blog Post

If you've been following my blog (you two know who you are), then you'll have noticed I stopped posting. I started work on a new blog project, but it fizzled because I lost hope in humanity. So now I'm just going to poke fun at the catastrophic cluster-fuck that our nation has become, and laugh all the way down.

Because, really, what else is a boy to do? I've considered sniper assassination of those who I feel hurt America the most (politicians, lobbyists, CEO's of evil corps, etc), but realizing how stupid most of America is, they would probably lionize these dead corrupt power players, turn them into martyrs and start praising them for the great things they did for America. So that plan is out.

The current plan is to simply nuke Washington, D.C. I have no nukes, nor access to nukes, nor access to people with access to nukes. But if someone came to me with a large red button, and said, "Congress is in session, press this button to send a nuclear warhead directly to the Capitol Building," I would press it without hesitation. I hate our system that much.

And it wouldn't be an attack against America. I love America. Which is why I hate seeing these assholes in power destroy this country, take our freedoms, and then leave office for a $2.4 million-a-year lobbyist job. These people are attacking America, and it's up to a patriot to stop them.

And I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some Fed wearing a black windbreaker and sunglasses knocks on my door and escorts me to Guantanamo Bay. To protect America. Ha.