Archive for 'grrr' Category

2012.04.09

Welcome to the New DotCom Explosion

The last time around, towards the end of the 90s, we saw companies build out the DotCom era on such flimsy business plans as shipping dog food for free with no actual profit margin. Investors poured billions of dollars into these companies seeking magical revenues. Of course the whole thing exploded because it was magic, not real.

Now we’re seeing it again. Facebook is about to go public and folks are saying it is worth billions and billions of dollars. That’s fine, though I’m skeptical. But now Facebook is buying a little photo sharing app called Instagram for about a billion dollars. So now the company that is probably over valued is buying another little company for far more than it is probably worth. Seriously, buying a photo sharing application for a billion dollars is ridiculous.

I’m seeing the next DotCom explosion, and this time it looks like it is at least partially self-funding. This seems far more dangerous to me than the last time around.

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2012.03.13

Preaching to the Choir

ХудожникThis weekend I went for a walk with Ainara along Valencia Street. There were several Greenpeace folks canvasing for signatures. I blew them off in my usual way: spoke bad English in a foreign accent. Afterwards, though, I wondered why they bothered trying to get signatures in San Francisco.

San Francisco has a reputation for being liberal. While it is in many ways, we aren’t nearly as liberal as people outside of the city think. Sure, a lot of people smoke pot and we have a lot of crazy people here, the hippie history and all that rot but… We’re more libertarian in many things than liberal. You live your life how you want and so long as you don’t bother me then, well, have fun.

Still, trying to get signatures for a liberal cause here is like a Mormon going to Utah to try and convert people. Most are just going to ignore you or find you a bit ignorant for your misdirection. What you aren’t going to do is find many converts. It reminds me of what my friend, Sean, said about when the Prop8 opponents were doing. They were all along the coast in the more liberal areas trying to get people to oppose the passage of a law that would deny civil liberties. What they should have been doing was going to the heavily conservative center of California and trying to get signatures there.

These Greenpeace folks were doing the same thing. Why are you here in San Francisco? Go to Fresno. There you will have people to actually convert to your cause. And if they reject your position and give you good reasons why you just might have to think about what you’re doing.

1 Comment | Catergorized: grrr  political  thoughts

2011.08.16

Guns in Britain

One Texan in the London office of MSNBC asks, would it be so bad to issue guns to the bobbies to quell the rioting and looting that happened there recently?

Yes, there’s an argument for unarmed police, and yes the British police do have an armed unit, but I’m not going to get into the minutiae. I just want to know, what’s so bad about a show of force in the form of a gun?

I mean, you don’t see anything like this kicking off in Texas, do you?

There are so many things wrong with this premise.

First of all, you don’t see things like this in Texas because, while it’s true the police in America are armed, so is the citizenry. The Second Amendment was put in place partly so that if our government turned to despotism the citizens could rise up effectively. I believe, morally, that if you’re going to allow your police forces to have guns, you must allow your citizens to have them, too. Not that people need them, but there is good reason to allow it. Bear in mind I’m not even pro-gun; I think too many people here in America get them for no reason at all. I see no reason to have one myself, though I will say I would like to learn how to use one someday (though at four decades of age this is a low, low priority).

In the meantime, in what looks like data from 2004, 1364 were murdered in Texas by handguns. That puts Texas alone in 14th place in murders per capita for States. England and Wales, in 2008/2009 had 651 homicides (I assume that’s all homicides, not just with guns). Maybe it’s a good thing for the British not to run around willy-nilly with guns (whether the police or the citizenry).

There could be completely different reasons for the lack of riots and looting in Texas, as well. In America, unfortunately, we are a bit jaded by police killing someone (deliberately or accidentally, whether the person was innocent or guilty). Also, our rate of unemployment is much lower than in England, especially for young people. This was a vector contributing to the incidents in London recently.

Would arming the police have made a difference? Possibly. The Texan wonders what would be wrong with a “show of force” but this implies that the police would be willing to pull the trigger. Personally, while I deplore the violence that ensued, I think the police showing up with guns would have made the matter worse. London is not Texas, even if there is a London, TX. This guy might as well ask if the murder rate in Texas would go down if everyone in Texas gave up their guns; it’s just not culturally conceivable so don’t be an idiot and wonder about it.

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2011.08.12

Wealth Entitlement

A lot is said over and over again about entitlements in America. From Medicaid and Social Security to public schools and libraries. Conservatives want to axe entitlement benefits for unemployment, feeding children in poverty, a clean environment and scientific research that could save lives and better everyone. If they could they would even deny you the “entitlement” of freedom of religion; after all, they are all Christian and that’s good enough for them so it should be good enough for you. Do I need to make links for all of these issues or are we basically on the same page?

The one entitlement they will defend with their dying breath is wealth for the already rich. Partly this is because they are already rich and their Congress members make $174,000 a year minimum (in the private sector many of them make loads more). Wow, I’d like to make that much! Another reason they defend the rich is because the wealthy pay for their campaigns, whether individually, as PACs or as groups (lobbyists, corporations, etc). And what do the wealthy want? Aside from a very few who get it, they want to keep their money and grow it at all costs. Wall Street creates a financial disaster and cries, “We’re too big to fail!” So they get bailed out with tax money, grow their business with that tax money and give themselves fat bonuses. Yay money!

As America approached debt default in recent weeks, it’s notable that tax increases were off the table. The rich don’t feel obligated to contribute to the society that allowed them to make their money. They don’t want to help anyone else make money when it could be theirs. What money normal Americans do earn we are encouraged to spend. Seriously? Isn’t government spending exactly what they are railing against? Well, so long as we buy their shit they won’t complain. After all; yay money!

Kill the country already. Bankrupt us. Convince some minority like the Tea Party to keep fighting for your rights. Make us tear our throats out, distracting us from your gluttony and greed, and keep making your money. The Tea Party, most Republicans and not a few Democrats are going to fight anything that will actually save this country till they are dead.

Sadly, it seems no one has the balls to fight this wealth entitlement. There hasn’t been a fighting Democrat in my living memory. Libertarians lack the moral compass to guide their financial system (where amorality is beneficial). Republicans long ago bent over to the wealthy. I hope it feels good for them; it sure hurts the rest of us.

Sadly, the bulk of America is apathetic, ignorant, zealous, or too busy living paycheck to paycheck. So someone put me on that wealth train already (vote me in to Congress!) so when the time comes I can cry that I deserved my wealth rather than earned it and can pass it on to my kids who absolutely deserve to not earn anything but still be outstandingly rich.

Yay money! I deserve it! More than you! Give it to me! You love me, you really do! Yay money!

PS: What’s sad is it isn’t any better anywhere else it seems, at least right now. Better the fracked up system you know than learn a new one?

1 Comment | Catergorized: grrr  political  rights

2011.07.22

LA’s New Bicycle Law is a Bad Idea

I’ve grumbled plenty about bicycle riders in the past. That’s why the news that LA has passed new bicycle laws without regulating bicyclists as well is a very bad idea.

The ordinance, which backers described as the toughest of its kind in the nation, makes it a crime for drivers to threaten cyclists verbally or physically, and allows victims of harassment to sue in civil court without waiting for the city to press criminal charges.

This takes into no consideration the sometimes dangerous riding habits of bicyclists, nor their sometimes verbal abuse or threatening habits. In fact, it encourages this behavior because any sort of defense by a driver, whether guilty or not, is now instantly cause for a lawsuit. Critical (M)ass must be creaming their spandex pants.

It is my opinion that bicyclists should obey the rule and law of the road, just as drivers must. Drivers have to stop at stop signs and red lights; so must bicycles. Vehicles are not allowed to weave out of control through traffic; bicycles should have the same restriction. Drunk drivers are rightfully punished by law; so should bicycle riders. Drivers must have a valid drivers license, issued after passing written and practical tests; so should bicycle riders.

I agree that vehicle drivers need to be more aware of bicycle riders. I believe there should be more bike lanes in cities. I think there should even be bicycle-only arterial roads through cities. It is my opinion that these things could actually help everyone, drivers and riders.

However, this new law in LA doesn’t help anyone. Enforced niceness isn’t nice at all. Bike riders may think it helps them and their cause, but I can see it making drivers nothing but more aggravated and hostile. Don’t make the situation worse. LA already has a reputation for hostile drivers shooting each other on the highways when someone cuts them off. Get rid of this ill-thought law and put something in place that might actually work.

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2011.07.07

National Debt is a Cancer

Dear Mr. President and members of Congress,

Our national debt is a cancer.

If a person had cancer then any doctor would recommend treating it immediately. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other treatments are not comfortable. They are painful. Yet they must be done. Cutting our national debt, even stopping it from growing, will be painful. Mr. John McCain thinks Americans voted Republicans into office to prevent tax increases. You are wrong, Mr. McCain. You were voted in to create solutions. Now quit fucking around with the future of America and DO THE HARD WORK. DO THE PAINFUL BUT NECESSARY THINGS. Get off your asses and do the right thing.

Our national debt is a disgrace and it will herald problems you can’t even imagine. The debate has turned into negative polemic and no one is putting forth realistic solutions. While the Republicans are rightly saying spending must be curtailed (though only against things they don’t like which is wrong) they are also against any sort of tax increases.

Spending decreases and tax increases must go hand in hand. Cuts must be made across the board, including sacred doves like the military. Consider a simple 20% cut across all levels and in all government sectors. That would reduce our $3.82 trillion spending to right around $3 trillion. Meanwhile increase revenue through taxes and other means by 20% and the $2.17 trillion in government income goes up to $2.6 trillion. Those base numbers are from here.

A $400 billion deficit is much more manageable than the estimated $1.48 trillion. It could be reduced further if the upper echelons of government took a voluntary pay cut, such as to the national individual average (maybe that will motivate you to improve American’s lives a bit). It could be reduced even further by canceling waste, selling hard assets (heck, selling a dozen F-16s at $10 million a pop to our allies would cover a huge portion of it!) and create legislation to stop your pork spending.

If I were diagnosed with cancer I wouldn’t sit around and hope the cancer just went away. I wouldn’t slap a bandage on it. I would go after it, aggressively. I would hate my doctor if only because I hate surgery and all the rest, but I would do it to save my life; in the end I would appreciate that doctor, more than I would be able to express in words. I want to live so I can see my daughter grow up, to help her through life and teach her the values that matter.

America is that patient, and America has been diagnosed with the cancer of national debt. Now be good doctors and do the right thing.

Thank you,
-doug.

4 Comments | Catergorized: grrr  political  thoughts

2011.05.25

Magical Conservatism

After reading this article I can’t help but wonder how America would develop if the Republican agenda were to succeed.

Our education system would be in shambles as we cut more and more funding to public education, at least for the majority of students; the rich ones would be able to afford to go to private schools.

The government would shut down as Republicans continue to cut taxes, especially for the rich. The rich will become the phenomenally rich, the middle class will whither and vanish, and the poor will become the majority. Further, following the recent Bush legacy, they would probably increase spending in key areas like the military and private industry subsidies. Meanwhile the so-called entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, programs for unemployment and poverty would be cut entirely. This would have the effect that our deficit wouldn’t grow as quickly as it could, but would still grow.

Religion, at least conservative Christian religion, would flourish. Especially as it, too, would get tacit support from the pathetic government (does anyone remember Bush’s faith based initiatives?). It would further grow as the vanishing middle class joins the abject poor in praying for a solution to their ills. People will no longer ask how they can better themselves and society, they will simply pray to a silent god, “Why?”

Scientific advancement of all sorts would grind to a halt. In fact, it might actually reverse considering the fact that many conservatives deny evolution, that 18% of Americans still believe the sun revolves around the Earth and a good percentage still believe in magic, ESP and ghosts. We’re already shockingly behind in comparison to many other countries. It’s already started with deniers of climate change and the creationism museum. You’ll know science is in trouble when the book burnings begin.

Under a Republican run America, after several decades, the country will be bankrupt. There will be a wealthy elite running things and the rest of us will be grateful for any job that prevents us from starving. Many of these jobs will be in the military, and much of the military action will be policing other Americans. We will be far more religious than at any other time in history, but we will be essentially ignorant of our own religion. As the rest of the world advances in science and technology we will fall way behind, to the point where we won’t even understand how things work and, if you could even afford to travel, visiting a foreign country and seeing how they live would literally be like visiting a magical fairy land. We will be poor, be ruled by the rich, and yet we will still believe in the American myth that we, too, could be rich simply because this is America.

I would have to write another one of these for how America would look if the Democrats vision worked out. It’s different, but also bad. Better than the Republican’s vision, but not by much.

We need a revolution.

1 Comment | Catergorized: grrr  political

2011.05.19

Bicycle Drivers License

I’m getting pretty sick of bicycle riders disobeying the rules (and law) of the road. If they were driving in a car as they ride their bikes there would be pandaemonium on the pavement. I’m tired of their excuses. I’ve read that they run red lights and stop signs because it keeps their momentum, no one else can go anyways (at a red light with no current cross traffic) and, in some cases, just because they are on a bike and setting an example for drivers of those terrible automobiles. I understand wanting to ease the burden of oil dependency, to exercise and all that rot. I get it, but that’s not an excuse.

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s make anyone wanting to ride a bike get a drivers license. Let’s make them get insurance, too. Let’s start enforcing the rules of the road. Hell, even pedestrians are supposed to cross at crosswalks and this is why there are jaywalking laws. “But think of the children,” some weepy granola hippie might say. OK, let’s think of the children who might want to ride bikes. Make them get licenses, too.

I will make one single compromise to my desire to see bicycle riders forced to obey the rules of the road. If the road is less than a city block (definitions will vary from city to city, I suppose, but let’s just say 80 meters) and is bounded exclusively by two stop signs (not lights and no breaks in between) then people may ride on that street without a license. The block will be marked by the city to indicate to vehicles and other bicyclists that the block could have unlicensed bicyclists on it. This is my pandering to the “think of the children” issue. Now go play, kids.

Dear Bicyclists,
Do not blame me (or anyone else) when it is my turn to go through an intersection and you get run over because you didn’t even slow down, let alone stop. Get a license, get insurance, obey the rules. Then when you run the intersection and you are injured you can argue with your insurance about how unfair it is you were injured while breaking the law (meanwhile the insurer can pay to have the dents and scratches fixed that you caused) and you can pay for the moving violation and deal with the cops.

5 Comments | Catergorized: grrr  rights  san francisco

2011.04.27

Hemp Oil Versus Gasoline

This morning started with an interesting discussion about replacing all energy consumption with hemp oil. What this has to do with IT, manga or anime I don’t know but there it is. The debate got heated (we failed to follow the rules) and eventually the other fellow walked away in a huff. He said, in essence, that hemp oil could essentially fix all our energy problems. I disagreed saying hemp oil couldn’t resolve even one energy problem. Later he came and apologized for his overreaction and I’ve since sent him an email with most of what appears below to give him some insight. I thought it worth sharing.

With best estimates, hemp can produce about 100 gallons per acre.

Using outdated information from 2004, America consumes about 140,000,000,000 gallons of gas per year.

Hemp can be harvested every 120 days, which gives about 3 harvests a year in an idealized world (which we do not have).

140,000,000,000/100 = 1,400,000,000 acres required from a single hemp harvest to equal gasoline consumption. However, let’s go with the hypothetical three harvests a year:

1,400,000,000/3 = 466,666,666 acres needed if we can get three harvests a year.

466,666,666 acres = 729,166 square miles. America is 3,537,441 square miles, which seems like a lot. However, of that land only 635,038 square miles are usable (based on 406,424,909 acres of cropland).

635,038 is less than 729,166, so not only could we not grow enough hemp, but we wouldn’t be able to produce any crops and we would starve. Incidentally, hemp will not grow in some environments so usable acreage is actually smaller. Even more damning is the fact that gasoline is already processed for consumption; hemp oil would need to be processed as well, which would reduce the volume actually produced. There is also hemp’s lesser fuel efficiency to factor into the equation. Clearly hemp oil cannot replace gaoline on any sort of equal footing.

All of this only addresses automobiles gasoline consumption; it doesn’t touch upon electrical or natural gas consumption.

The problem with the whole argument isn’t necessarily that my coworker was wrong. It’s that he listens to and blindly agrees with pundits that say things like, “Hemp oil can replace gasoline!” The best thing for the world would be to stop believing people on the radio, television and in books who talk like they know what they are saying but possibly don’t. Look up the facts for yourself. Use a critical mind even -and maybe especially- with people you agree. Don’t get sucked into the belief, so prevalent today, that one way is absolutely correct and everything else is wrong. Remember wise Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

In this case The Suffering is our world and so many people on it. Our inability to find fact-based solutions to problems because so many people are blinded by ideas and beliefs has, and will continue to, give rise to too many evils.

1 Comment | Catergorized: grrr  science  technology  thoughts

2011.04.18

American Aristocracy

When we were taking the train to Sevilla for our honeymoon, Rosa had picked up a copy of ¡Hola!, one of the numerous Spanish gossip magazines, to pass the time. Like the junk we have here in the States it covered “the important” people, but one of the main differences I saw was that many pages were devoted to the comings, goings and doings of the Spanish aristocracy. Spain, like England, is a constitutional monarchy (kind of like the many other European countries at the link).

It struck me that there was so much coverage, and gossip, of royalty, a class I personally consider dated and extinct. It’s something we in America hear about but rarely experience directly except our multitude of celebrities and their often disasterous lives. In a sense, from the perspective of the scream sheets, celebrity is the American aristocracy. I had told this to Rosa, even, but lately I’m thinking I am wrong.

America did away with European nobility on our shores and replaced it with something new and publicly secret: the rich, or as most of them should be called, the overclass.

Take any of the old rich (Rockefellers, Du Ponts, Venderbilts, Astors, Hearsts, etc) and you’ll see they are still wealthy. Take any of the newer rich (Koshs, Hiltons, Bushes, Waltons, etc) and you’ll see they are blatantly passing wealth and power to their children, too. They have manipulated the system so that their wealth stays inside their families so that within a generation you have people who have known nothing but excessive money and have only grown more of it because the system as it exists now allows them. This sounds stikingly like noble families, who have also known nothing but their power and influence.

Take, for instance, the debate around inheritence taxes, which conservatives call a “death” tax. Statistically 91% of Americans inherit nothing (except, often, debt). Those that do inherit are already in the top 10% of wealth (which, generally speaking, are millionaires or better). While technically not a “noble” class with titles and “royal” blood, they are an effective oligarchy with the richest 400 families controlling $1.27 trillion, little of which “trickles down” to the rest of the nation. When power and wealth remains concentrated in the few and is handed down generation to generation within the family, then we no longer have anything akin to democracy in a republic; we have a plutarchy.

We do have our own form of aristocracy here in America. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is only increasing. When will we get back to our roots and have a revolution?

Unfortunately, not until we all realize the idea that any one of us could also join that upper class is as likely as any one of us being struck by lightning (~1/750,000) the exact same moment we learn we won the grand lottery (~1/120,000,000): statistically impossible.

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