Archive for August 7th, 2010
Businesses exist solely to make a profit, and to that end they will do anything.
It has long been noted that technologically backward companies become extremely advanced technologically overnight, in terms of their infrastructure. For example, having no phone service at all means having no out-of-date infrastructure to maintain and milk, so the country moves immediately to the leading edge of mobile phone technology, with all the bells and whistles—far beyond what the "advanced" nations have.
Here’s an example: Read this story on how telecoms are cooperating on enabling smartphones to make charges, which would be billed as part of your mobile phone bill. Interesting idea, and it made me suddenly realize that of course a major core competency of any telecom is efficiently billing and processing monthly payments: they are experts in that area and know how to get the job done, even if portions are contracted out. That’s obviously true, but I never really thought of telecoms as being primarily (in terms of labor effort?) billing and payment-processing machines.
At any rate, people are excited by the idea. The first comment:
Aug 6, 2010 5:47 PM GMT
Yawn…we’ve had mobile phone cash transactions in Kenya (East Africa) since March 2007. That was the first of its kind in the world. Google Safaricom M-PESA (mobile-money)
That put a new spin on this bit earlier in the issue:
"If you have to create a new company in an old industry, you want to reexamine what people have taken for granted. Why would you want to inherit the mistakes of the past?"
– Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla Motors, on why he didn’t adopt Detroit’s business model to make and market his new Model S electric-powered car.
What Musk realized is that there is no residual value in ideas (such as organizational structure and approach): phone companies in the US couldn’t just toss out the existing technological infrastructure to leapfrog into new technology—they’re still writing off the cost, and dumping it would cause a massive writedown, if I understand it correctly.
But Musk, in creating a new company in an existing industry, could (and did) dump the old, existing organizational infrastructure in a heartbeat—he could act as if he is starting up a company in a totally new country, called "from now on".
It hurts, dag nab it. But I’m putting ice-packs on it: those plastic fake ice bags you get when you order perishable food on-line. I save them in my freezer to keep the freezer full (and thus more energy-efficient). They’re finding a good use now: leave it on for a while, then off for a while. (I also use them to chill the big bowl of water when I make boiled eggs.)
I have tried and tried to figure out the thinking behind the idea that allowing gay marriage harms heterosexual marriage. People say that it will, but they are amazingly unspecific about exactly how.
I believe I have figure out what they’re thinking: they apparently think that there are only so many marriages possible, and every gay marriage takes up a marriage that would otherwise go to a heterosexual couple, and eventually we’ll run out of marriages and heterosexual couples will be left holding the bag.
Or maybe that’s not it. Any ideas?
Seriously: watch the video. If you watch it, you will understand why the GOP lacks standing (moral, intellectual, ethical—you name it). The GOP is truly not worth a pail of piss.
Steve Benen does a lot of good writing and blogging on politics:
The wisdom of a liberated Republican – a look at Rep. Inglis’s recent statements
Leaving tolerance in a museum – on the ADL’s sudden display of bigotry
Why Peter Diamond’s nomination matters more than you think – just what it says
Killing the Pigford settlement (over and over again) – GOP racism on full display
Each of those is really worth reading.
I do like Luc Besson. Some reason:
District 13: Ultimatum (2009)
Transporter 2 (2005)
District B13 (2004)
The Transporter (2002)
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Professional (1994)
… aka Leon: The Professional – USA
La Femme Nikita (1990)
The new one, now available from Netflix: From Paris With Love.
I think the signs are increasingly evident, and not just in the unhinged behavior of a substantial number of voters: states no longer can pay for basic services (and even are grinding paved roads back to gravel), while the country spends trillions on unneeded foreign wars and one party is determined to cut government revenue even more and thus cut more government services to the most needy and least powerful.
Of course, the continuation of global warming will add increasing stress to all governments as crops fail due to weather changes. Russia will now not export grain due to crop losses, and terrible flooding is happening in Pakistan.
Greenwald takes a look at the situation:
As we enter our ninth year of the War in Afghanistan with an escalated force, and continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and feed an endlessly growing Surveillance State, reports are emerging of the Deficit Commission hard at work planning how to cut Social Security, Medicare, and now even to freeze military pay. But a new New York Times article today illustrates as vividly as anything else what a collapsing empire looks like, as it profiles just a few of the budget cuts which cities around the country are being forced to make. This is a sampling of what one finds:
Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.
Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.
Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.
There are some lovely photos accompanying the article, including one showing what a darkened street in Colorado looks like as a result of not being able to afford street lights. Read the article to revel in the details of this widespread misery. Meanwhile, the tiniest sliver of the wealthiest — the ones who caused these problems in the first place — continues to thrive. Let’s recall what former IMF Chief Economist Simon Johnson said last year in The Atlantic about what happens in under-developed and developing countries when an elite-caused financial crises ensues:
Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or — here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique — the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk — at least until the riots grow too large.
The real question is whether the American public is too apathetic and trained into submission for that to ever happen.
UPDATE: It’s probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month — with a subhead line warning: "Back to Stone Age" — which describes how "paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue." Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional. And it was announced this week that "Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free."
Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights — or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State — that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability? Anyway, I just wanted to leave everyone with some light and cheerful thoughts as we head into the weekend.
I just discovered Corner Gas, a sit-com set in a tiny town in the middle of Saskatchewan. If your sense of humor is anything like mine: DO NOT MISS! It’s absolutely terrific. Unlike the majority of sit-coms that I’ve seen, it does not move in a little clatter of wisecracks and one-liners. Instead, it takes its time to set up a real honest laugh-out-loud belly laugh, several in each episode. Some misfire, but most are right on the mark. True a great series. I’m finishing the first season (just two DVDs), and have three more seasons to watch, by which time I hope Season 5 is out on DVD.
Fascinating little computer animation from 1976, done on the Tektronics 4051 Graphics Terminal. Take a look. (Geometry students will enjoy: Older Grandson alert!)
Excellent book review in The New York Review of Books by Frank Rich:
The Promise: President Obama, Year One
by Jonathan Alter
Simon and Schuster, 458 pp., $28.00
Of course Barack Obama was too hot not to cool down. He was the one so many were waiting for—not only the first African-American president but also the nation’s long-awaited liberator after eight years of Bush-Cheney, the golden-tongued evangelist who could at long last revive and sell the old liberal faith, the first American president in memory to speak to voters as if they might be thinking adults, the first national politician in years to electrify the young. He was even, of all implausible oddities, a contemporary politician- author who actually wrote his own books.
The Obama of Hope and Change was too tough an act for Obama, a mere chief executive, to follow. Only Hollywood might have the power to create a superhero who could fulfill the messianic dreams kindled by his presence and rhetoric, maintain the riveting drama of his unlikely ascent, and sustain the national mood of deliverance that greeted his victory. As soon as Inauguration Day turned to night, the real Obama was destined to depreciate like the shiny new luxury car that starts to lose its book value the moment it’s driven off the lot.
But still: How did we get to the nadir so fast? The BP oil spill, for weeks a constant fixture on the country’s television and computer screens, became a presidential quagmire even before Afghanistan could fulfill its manifest destiny to play that role. The 24/7 gushing crude was ready-made to serve as the Beltway’s bipartisan metaphorical indicator for a presidency that was verging on disaster to some of Obama’s natural supporters, let alone his many enemies. “I don’t see how the president’s position and popularity can survive the oil spill,” wrote Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal on Memorial Day weekend without apparent fear of contradiction.
Pressed by critics to push back against BP with visible anger and kick-ass authority, Obama chose to devote the first Oval Office address of his presidency to the crisis in the gulf—on June 15, nearly sixty days after the Deep- water Horizon rig had exploded. His tardy prescriptions were panned even by the liberal Matthews-Olbermann-Maddow bloc at MSNBC. To many progressives, Obama’s too-cool handling of the disaster was a confirmation of a fatal character flaw—a professorial passivity that induced him to prematurely surrender the sacred “public option” in the health care debate and to keep too many of his predecessor’s constitutional abridgements in place at home and at Gitmo. When, a day after his prime-time address, he jawboned BP into setting up a $20 billion escrow fund for the spill’s victims, the Obama-hating tag team of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and its Tea Party auxiliaries attacked him for not being passive enough. To them, the President’s aggressive show of action was merely further confirmation that a rank incompetent and closet socialist (or is it National Socialist?) had illegitimately seized the White House to subvert America and the free-enterprise system.
Though the specifics may have differed from left to right, such was the political culture’s consensus on Obama’s presidency in June 2010: doomed. Even the near-universal praise that greeted his firing of the Afghanistan commander, General Stanley McChrystal, came with asterisks from both ends of the political spectrum. To many liberals, McChrystal’s demise accomplished little but to prolong the inevitable catastrophe of a futile policy in Afghanistan. To hawks, cashiering McChrystal did nothing to alter their conviction that Obama was a weak-kneed commander in chief whose vow to start withdrawing troops in July 2011 was a timeline for defeat. They gave the President a bye on the McChrystal firing only because of their long-time crush on his irreproachable successor, General David Petraeus.
here was, however, one contradictory footnote to the many provisional Obama obituaries of late spring and early summer 2010. For all the President’s travails, his approval rating, somewhere between 45 and 50 percent depending on the poll, still made him the most popular national politician in the country. By contrast, Congress’s popularity was in Bernie Madoff territory, with Republicans even more despised than Democrats. Perhaps some of the Obama faithful had a take on his still-young presidency that, in defiance of (and perhaps ignorance of) the Beltway consensus, paralleled a report card cited by Jonathan Alter in The Promise, his account of Obama’s first year in office: . . .
After yesterday’s brisk 22-minute walk in my New Balance walking shoes (regular sole, not the “rolling” sole of the MBTs), my right knee is sore as can be, right at the same tendon insertion point. My left knee is fine.
Lessons learned: Long brisk walks are probably not for me due to having a bad right knee (old injury?). The shoes have nothing to do with it, or my left knee would be hurting similarly. (I wear the same type of shoe on my left foot as on my right.)
But: I tried the Nordic Track Cross-Country Ski exerciser for a while this morning. I think my knee can take that. I’ll do a real workout later today. And The Wife has an electromagnetic exercise bike I might borrow. I’ll get the exercise. (And I am down another pound.)
I’ll give walking another try 10 lbs from now..
UPDATE: Man, my knee is hurting. May have to see the doc for another steroid shot right into the knee…
I’d just like to quickly sum up what we now know about conservative Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future”:
- It raises taxes on 90% of Americans.
- It doesn’t explain what spending it would cut.
- It doesn’t eliminate the deficit.
And remember, this comes from the guy who’s pretty much the best the GOP has to offer. Pretty impressive, no?
I wrap up the comparison of brushes with Vintage Blades LLC shaving soap (a triple-milled tallow-based shaving soap) by using the Rooney 2 Finest, as promised. And I have to say that I don’t think the Rooney was much better than the synthetic-bristle brushes. So it goes. (Could badgers be funding research into improving artificial bristles?)
Still: great lather and lots of it. After I fully load the brush with soap and apply the first pass, I add just a driblet of water to the center of the brush and lather up again for that first pass and I get much more (and better) lather. Just a little more water makes a big difference in the lather.
Then the curiously comfortable iKohn open-comb razor with a Swedish Gillette blade: three passes, no problems or nicks, and a completely smooth visage, which then enjoyed a splash of Stetson Sierra.