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Volume 12 Number 01 Jan. 27th, 2014 @ 03:51 pm
What would happen to our economy if worldwide, 90% of the income from American software, computer hardware and all of the “smart” things that contain them should disappear?

Hello there friends! I’ve been thinking about writing this since the Snowden leaks began to appear. NSA’s Prism project (and any other similar work that leads to comprehensive databases of personal information) is a monumental and dangerous disaster. There are five categories of great potential danger inherent in the existence of these databases. But first let me point out that the Snowden incident, itself, demonstrates that access to that data, once collected, can be accessed by all kinds of people, including people outside the organization that owns or is assigned or hired to manage and/or provide the security that protects the data from unauthorized access.

Data security for data that can be remotely accessed―especially by large numbers of authorized users― will never be totally secure. Like economists who work hard to predict the past (and assume that those predictions will predict the future), software developers of data security methods, techniques and programs all develop software to detect and stop software intrusions that had been used successfully in the past. New attacks must be detected after they have been deployed, then characterized so as to develop effective defenses against their future use. That’s why malware detection programs have to be updated every couple of days.

Breaking News 1/26/2014: “NSA’s own inspector general found at least 12 instances in which NSA employees abused surveillance programs.”―CBS News

So, we should all just assume that no stored data is safe from unauthorized access. 
The five categories of danger that I alluded to above are:

  1. Blackmailing

  2. 4th Amendment Violations

  3. Suppression of countercultural expression

  4. A Police State

  5. Great economic damage to our high tech industry

Blackmailing
Many of you have probably forgotten and even more may not have known about J. Edgar Hoover’s database (old fashioned paper) of indiscretions. Using the great surveillance and information gathering resources of his agency, the FBI, for 37 years, he built and maintained his database. The result was that basically anyone in the US who held much power or influence, could probably be coerced by Hoover to do or stop doing almost anything Hoover wanted. We will never know everything  Hoover accomplished or influenced using that information.

Skilled hackers should be assumed to be able to find ways to penetrate Prism. Is there anything in your past or current life that you really don’t want published on Facebook or your hometown newspaper?

What power does Prism provide to the NSA itself? The answer is much more than J Edgar got with his database. Do you think that someone in the NSA might blackmail key legislators or even judges to protect the organization from losing Prism itself? Can you concoct other nefarious ideas?

The Fourth Amendment
A peculiar thing has happened. Prism contains or has access to incredibly detailed information about individuals going back more than 20 years into the past (and will indefinitely into the future). We have learned that NSA has been feeding information, e.g. about alleged illegal drug crimes, to local law enforcement agencies that it uncovers looking for terrorists. [Thank you again, Edward Snowden] According to recent reports, local officers of the law then stop a “suspect” for a broken tail light or some made up violation in order to then claim they smelled marijuana or alcohol so they can search the car. The information given to local law enforcement is accompanied by instructions from the NSA telling them not to save, store, use in court, etc. the information they have sent them―because they knew it was illegal. [By the way, after you have been arrested and before the “stash” they found is determined to be oregano, they can confiscate any of your personal property they want.  They can sell that property and you have no recourse under law to recover your property.]

Thanks to the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, email, etc., incredibly detailed information, e.g. where you were, who you called, what you bought, and even who you were with at some selected time in the last 20 or so years, is available in Prism. So law enforcement can essentially travel backward in time to virtually follow and see where you went, who you were with, what electronic communications you had with anyone, etc. That information can then be used to obtain search warrants to search office, home, car, etc.

Under the original PATRIOT Act, we lost habeas corpus. All that was required to send you away to Gitmo or a federal prison for the rest of your life, was that the President had approve your designation as a terrorist or supporter of a terrorist or terrorist organization. I think that is still the case, because I haven’t heard of any important change in the PATRIOT Act.
So blackmailers and law enforcement can travel back in time and space to follow you around, listen to your conversations and record all of your electronic communications.

And, to think that not so long ago, we were concerned about attempts to impose “identity cards” on Americans.

Inhibition of Countercultural Expression
In 1971, a group of peace activists, pried open the door of an FBI office in Media, PA (oh, the irony of it all), found and removed the files documenting the illegal surveillance of anti-war and civil rights activists by the FBI. Hoover had especially targeted Martin Luther King, Jr. and used some of that information to intimidate and attempt to control him.

Regarding one of things discovered in that “burglary”, John Raines, one of activists, said: "I think most striking in the Media files at first was a statement that had to do with the philosophy, the policy of the FBI … And it was a document that instructed agents to enhance paranoia, to make people feel there's an FBI agent behind every mailbox." Well, now they’re inside every Inbox and more. Every one of my Curmudgeon Letters and email surrounding them is there to use to declare me to be a “terrorist supporter.” [This very edition could Gitmo me]

Police State
General Keith B. Alexander is the Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command,
Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service. How much real power do you guess he has (or his successor, Alexander has resigned effective March 14, 2014)?


Nuff said?

Great Economic Damage to the High Tech Industry
We know that hackers can get into your home, listen to everything that can be picked up on any smart device with a microphone, turn on your computer camera and watch what’s going on at your house and god knows what else they can do if you have one of those “home management” systems in your house. And, without you knowing it, bad guys may have been using your refrigerator along with maybe 100,000 other refrigerators, home TV’s, home network routers and other “smart” devices (as a “botnet”) to send 750,000 malicious emails. And, we have also just learned that the NSA has developed the hardware and procedures necessary to install monitors on computers, after they are built but before they have been installed, so that your computer can be monitored and the information sent to NSA. It includes a chip surreptitiously installed in new computers that are not connected to the Internet, to broadcast the information.

There have been various concerns regarding the personal information gathered, maintained and maybe sold by the search engines and social media systems. But of course, NSA’s Prism is in a class by itself.

Breaking News 1/26/2014: “In text released ahead of a lengthy interview to be broadcast on Sunday [Jan. 26, 2014], ARD TV quoted Snowden saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target.”

Now, what effect on sales might emanate from the knowledge that American made software, computers and all of the products that contain them can be spying on you, and committing crimes that you are not even aware of, e.g. using your computer as a server to distribute child pornography. And thanks to Prism, the information about you and all of those child pornography pedophiles who access your “server” will be stored and accessible to anyone smart enough to hack it or, more likely, turned over to law enforcement agencies.

What would happen to our economy if worldwide, 90% of the income from American software, computer hardware and all of the “smart” things that contain them should disappear?

And, you probably thought that Orwell’s 1984 was just about as bad as the future could get.

Volume 10 Number 3 May. 26th, 2012 @ 06:18 pm
Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA)

Now they’ve gone too far and I have converted! I supported “gay marriage” long before California’s Proposition 8 insanity.  But I’ve come across some information that has convinced me that we must pass a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as “a legal agreement between two or more people that also may be celebrated by a religious ceremony* or a partywhere ‘people’ does not include corporations (they can still ‘merge’ in the privacy of their own board rooms)”.

Lucky is Wendy Diamond’s** dog. Wendy just spent $15,000 for chemo and radiation therapy for Lucky’s spleen cancer. Wendy chose to do that rather than donate $15,000 to the Humane Society or someone who feeds starving children, because she loves animals sooooo much. So Lucky is lucky, she’s a cancer survivor! Watch for news about nationwide Susan Gee Come-in-when-you’re-called 7-Day Walk-your-dog-athons.

Now I understand the opposition! I thought that their silliest argument was the “slippery slope” crap. But, now I can see the problem. We have to draw the line at canines! Otherwise, felines will be having weddings. And, we all know how they cat around and how that will cause the average number of divorces and separations to sky rocket as a result!

*Any church or religious organization can of course refuse service to anyone, including those without shoes or a shirt.

**Don’t ask. I don’t have any idea who Wendy Diamond is, or why her name reminds me that I haven’t heard anything about Tuesday Weld in a long time.



Volume 10 Number 2 Apr. 3rd, 2012 @ 02:16 pm

Can We Make Our Democracy Work?

In the last TCL I said that I was considering building on the material in that TCL to produce a book. First I want to thank all of you who took the time to read that ‘tome’ and much bigger thanks to those of you that replied or commented on it. You guys are great!

In fact those comments, in spite of many of them that encouraged me to go on, have persuaded me to drop the book project. Basically it comes down to the fact my prescriptions for fixing our Democracy, is a list of several broad and deep issues that, under any approach, will take a long, long time to make any headway on.

So, thanks anyway.

But, What About November 2012?

I have come to believe that this next presidential election just might be the most important in the last 50 years or more. And, even though the Republican party has lost its mind, alienating women, the men who have sex with women, Latinos, and union supporters, I think they have a chance to win. Even though, the majority of the American people appear to be firmly behind Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans in state houses all over the country have redistricted, and passed voter registration laws that disenfranchise mostly Democratic voters. Remember the American people did not elect George W. Bush in 2000.

Republicans Are In the Process of Overthrowing Our Government

And I am terrified! Does that make them a "Terrorist organization" and their donors "terrorism supporters" under the PATRIOT Act?

The “Tea Party” has taken control of the Republican Party. Any Republican who is not an extremist is opposed and driven out during the primaries.  

Republicans have changed the Supreme Court.  The politicization of the Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency in 2000. They have cemented the concept of corporations as people. They just invalidated the 4th Amendment. They ruled, 5 to 4 of course, that a man who was arrested for a crime, for which he was innocent, taken to jail, strip searched and shuffled off to another jail, strip searched again and not released for 6 days.  Not only was he innocent, at the time of his arrest, he showed the arresting officers a letter from the state asserting his innocence (which was only a misdemeanor offense not punishable by confinement had he been guilty).

We have lost the right of habeas corpus to the PATRIOT Act, and even Democrats are unwilling to rescind it, because they know that if they protect us from indeterminate incarceration, they will vilified for “ being soft on Terrorism.”

Michigan

Benton Harbor and several other cities in Michigan have been taken over by a new law allowing the Governor to invalidate any and all elections of local government and turning full autocratic, dictatorial power to a “Manager” appointed by the Governor. Detroit may the next city in Michigan to go under to this usurpation of power.

Other states have passed similar dictatorship laws and others may follow.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has essentially begun the destruction of labor unions. I believe that a very convincing argument can be made that the amazing development of the US during the 25 years from 1945 to 1970, can largely be attributed to the maturation of the labor movement in this country. Unions raised the income of what we now call the 99%. That not only helps 99% of us, but also the top 1%. This is bubble-up economics. It has been proven to work and trickle-down has failed miserably.

What to Do?

The items I cited above are just a small but representative sample of the intentions of the Tea Party dominated Republican Party. Imagine, if you will, a Supreme Court with 8 or even 9 extreme conservatives.

We must not get overconfident. The Republicans may have chased independents and even moderate Republicans away, but we must recognize that they probably will have disenfranchised millions of voters who would have voted against them.

We must get out the vote! We must register as many new voters as we can. We must vote!


Volume 10 Number 1 Jan. 27th, 2012 @ 06:12 pm

Political Science from a Curmudgeon?

I know that this is a looooong TCL, but I would appreciate it if you would read as much as you can and give me any criticism or comments you have.

I am considering building on the material in this TCL to produce a book. And, that’s why I would greatly appreciate any comments you might have on that topic.

Can We Make Our Democracy Work?

Everyone seems to agree that our political system is “broken” but I haven’t seen anything that I believe would fix it. Part of the problem is that it is a very complex and complicated system of interdependent subsystems and the solution(s) will not be simple.

Uninformed Voters
I think that the foundation for a genuinely successful democracy is a well-informed electorate. And we get an informed electorate only to the extent that we educate our populace. And I mean ‘educate’ not ‘train’, e.g. teaching physics rather than phys-ed, communication instead of English, how to think clearly rather than how to do arithmetic and problem solving rather than test-passing.

We are spending less (per student) and falling further and further down the ranking of how well-educated we are among nations. We have seen a decades long attack on teachers and our education system.

“A recent study (included in the Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Vol. 2, edited by Susan Neuman and David Dickinson) shows that while in middle-income US neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children. … Over 80% of preschool and after-school programs serving children from low-income families have no age-appropriate books for their children.” – the Hunger Site

We must recognize that there are more low-income voters than upper-income voters. Politicians and advertisers don’t have to fool all of the people even some of the time. Politicians just need to fool enough people once every 2 to 6 years to tip the scales to their candidates/positions/petitions.

We also need to change our societal view of the value of teachers, education and intelligence. Sayings like “High intelligence is very close to insanity” or “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach”, are quoted by those who don’t know and never learn! Young people hide their intelligence because it makes them unpopular.

In today’s society, those who can’t or won’t read cannot be informed voters.

Respect for Government
Since Ronald Reagan, the American people have steadily bought in to the nonsense that “government is the problem!” A few weeks ago, when Rick Perry and Ron Paul were shouting that they would eliminate the Department of Energy, Rachel Maddow presented a list of things that are done by DoE. It included many important things, e.g. managing the destruction of nuclear weapons!

We must find a way to promote the understanding of the federal government and its proper roles in our country. It’s interesting that the public has also been persuaded to believe that state governments are a part of the solution (states rights, 10th Amendment, etc.).

I think that we must include this kind of “understanding” of the federal government in our public education system. Do we still have “social studies” or “political science” classes in our schools?

A User’s Manual for Owners of a Human Brain – A Guide to Clear-thinking
I have only researched it briefly, but from what I have found, I don’t mean a text book for a course in “Critical Thinking” as taught almost exclusively today in the US. Primarily, I mean understanding language, not understanding something written in a language, but how language works in a human brain.  Creative advertising professionals and political campaign professionals are skilled users of language to obscure, persuade, confused and befuddle customers and voters. For example, consider the difference between  “sharing the pain” as an argument for increasing the tax rate on the 1 percent, rather than talking about how the “take home pay” for the 99 percent compares with the 1 percent. “Sharing the pain” makes people think that we are causing pain, while “take home pay” emphasizes the how little pain would be caused to the 1%. Mitt Romney and his wife in 2011 had a taxable income (i.e. after deductions) of $2.73 million, and are paying 13% in taxes. His “take home pay” was $18.27 million. If we increased his tax rate to 30%, he would pay $6.3 million and be left with only $14.7 million. A couple who earned (by actually working for it) $32,000 will be taxed at 15% ($4,800) and their take home pay would have been $27,200. That would be about $83/month above the 2011 Federal Poverty Level.

Clear-thinking, informed voters never cast a protest vote. Actually, if they are very confident that the best candidate will be elected anyway, they may cast a protest vote. Richard Nixon was elected in 1968 because of protest voting and if George W. Bush was elected (not appointed by the Supreme Court) in 2000, he was elected because of protest voting. Those are probably the two worst US Presidents in the last 100 years, and the damage done to our country by the Supreme Court justices that those two Presidents appointed is immeasurable. As a result, we now live in a country in which the expressed (not necessarily actual) suspicion of sympathy with, or “support” of a terrorist is all that is required to imprison an American citizen forever without charges or a trial. I think that is a useful definition of a totalitarian dictatorship.

If we want a government “of, by and for the people”, then the people―each of us―must come to relish our responsibility to study, research and think clearly about the issues, carefully and thoroughly evaluate the candidates (or propositions) and vote. We should strive to reach the point that the expected turnout for an election is the literacy rate―and then we should increase the literacy rate.

Capitalism and Money In Politics
Corporate management, in the US, is required by law to do everything they can to increase profits and, even worse, to limit long-range planning to one fiscal year.

Corporate managers cannot be “job creators.” In fact, every corporate manager is supposed to be striving to develop, produce, distribute and sell their products with $0 spent on labor. They call this high “productivity”.  They are professional job-eliminators. They are also motivated to strive for near, but not zero production costs with a finite but insanely large profit margin, e.g. $0.01 for labor,  materials and distribution costs and 5,000,000% profit margin (sale price $500). Note that internet information products can approach this ideal!

It’s a fact, trickle down economics been tried more than once and has never worked! “Under Democratic presidents since 1930 who have emphasized people programs and resisted tax breaks for the richest, annual growth in GDP has averaged 5.4 percent, according to Commerce Department and Office of Management and Budget statistics.

Under Republican presidents who enacted tax cuts for the rich, paralleling the policies being put forth by the current crop of Republicans, GDP has only grown by 1.6 percent.” See End Trickle-Down Economics to Pay Off Debt

Actually, trickle-down economics is just one of several deceits that maintain the power, position and wealth of the 1% and their domination of the 99%. But 99% is a majority! If we can become a clear-thinking, well-informed electorate, we can manifest our majority.

Religion in Politics
Clear-thinking does not allow arguments based solely on religious beliefs. We must as a society come to understand that religious beliefs―e.g. every human life from its beginning to its natural end is sacred―are non-factual and must not be enshrined in law. Note that this belief includes the belief that “beginning” and “natural end” are factual, i.e. that we can define a scientifically measurable and meaningful event for those terms.

A New, Generally Accepted, System of Ethics
It appears to me that essentially all of the ethical systems accepted in existing societies and cultures (but certainly in the US), are based largely on the religious belief I used as an example above―an individual life is sacred. However, we have entered a new phase in the history of our species, humans. We can now cause extinction of our own species. I think that it is unreasonable to take any risk of causing the demise of our species. We need a new ethical basis. We must make the survival of our species that basis. In my opinion the abortion question that has caused so much divisiveness in our society is moot. The question is not whether or not a fetus is or is not a “person.” It is about whether or not our world needs another person.

When someone argues that maybe global warming may not be happening or that we can’t do anything to stop it or that we shouldn’t do anything that would cause some people to lose their jobs or corporations to go bankrupt when it could lead to our extinction, they are arguing for unethical behavior. When someone argues that we should do anything to increase the birthrate (e.g. in vitro fertilization), they are arguing for unethical behavior. When someone argues that birth control and abortion should be prohibited, they are arguing for unethical behavior. All of these behaviors increase the risk of the extinction of the human species.

This raises the issue of why ethics is taught mostly by religions. Don’t we need substantial education in ethics taught in the public schools? Most people don’t even believe that “ethics” can be free of religious beliefs. And just because, essentially all religions contain the principle contained in the “Golden Rule” does not mean that it cannot be a principle in religion-free ethics. It’s a principle that makes our lives much more peaceful and pleasant―the essence of an ethical principle.


Unnumbered Note No. 19 Sep. 21st, 2011 @ 12:47 pm
Modern Republicans’ Plan to Overthrow Our Government
Truthout.org has published the best thing I’ve ever read about the Republican Party’s organized attack on our democratic system. It is fairly long, but I don’t think that it could be shorter and still cover all of the GOP’s genuinely un-American, organized anti-government strategies and plans to destroy our government. It’s written by a (recovering) Republican. Please read Goodbye to All That and pass it along to your friends.

Other entries
» Unnumbered Note Number 18

International Travel Is Now More Dangerous for Every American

Today a citizen of Mexico was executed in Texas. As a result if you get arrested in a foreign country, you probably will not be able to contact the US Consulate in order to try to get some help and even more unlikely to be told that under International Law, they have to tell you that you can, and allow you to do so, Why not? After all, we and essentially every other country in the world has signed a treaty that says they have do that for foreign nationals they have arrested.

Texas did not so inform the man they killed today. The Justice Department and the State Department fought all the way to the US Supreme Court to get them to reverse their decision to execute the Mexican today. It would not have meant that the man would have been set free. He could have been informed of his rights, allowed to contact the Mexican Consulate (who could not do more than provide better legal representation) and then retried him, convict him and kill him. Apparently those familiar with the case agree that there is practically no chance that he would not be convicted again.

This afternoon, the conservative majority, 5 to 4, of the US Supreme Court ruled that Texas (without seceding from the US) could cause us to violate an international treaty that we signed and was ratified in accordance with the US Constitution. Just another example of how conservatives are undermining the Constitution that they profess to love so much.

If you think it won’t cause you any problems because you won’t get arrested in foreign country, then you better stay home. Because you don’t have to actually commit a crime in order to get arrested (in this country as well or any other).

Rick Perry, the current Governor of Texas, could have stayed the execution and ordered the retrial, but of course he didn’t. And every American citizen, Texan or not, conservative or not, is a little less safe in the world now.

Meanwhile, we are waiting to see if the Republicans in Congress are going crush the middle class and drive us into a worse recession than 1929 in order to sabotage the reelection of Obama and destroy the idea that we are a country that cares about its less fortunate citizens. In spite of what they say, they love the idea of redistributing the wealth of this country! They just want to do it by shifting all wealth to the upper class. And what will that lead us to? History says violent revolution. I can only hope that it’s not in my lifetime.


» Unumbered Note Numbered 17

The Problem With Problems

Yesterday I ran across an absolutely beautiful quotation and just couldn’t wait to share it.

"There are no small problems. Problems that appear small are large problems that are not understood. Instead of tiny details unworthy of the intellectual, we have men whose tiny intellects cannot rise to penetrate the infinitesimal. Nature is a harmonious mechanism where all parts, including those appearing to play a secondary role, cooperate in the functional whole. In contemplating this mechanism, shallow men arbitrarily divide its parts into essential and secondary, whereas the insightful thinker is content with classifying them as understood and poorly understood, ignoring for the moment their size and immediately useful properties. No one can predict their importance in the future." From Advice for a Young Investigator by Santiago Ramon y Cajal

Just think about where it applies, e.g. abortion rights, flat-rate income tax, climate change, Social Security, Medicare, gun control, war on drugs, overpopulation, astronomy (dark matter and dark energy), physics (theory-of-everything, quantum entanglement, etc.), junk DNA, economics, climate and the weather, criminal justice & rehabilitation, psychology, … Need I go on?

_______________________________________________________

From Wikipedia: Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1 May 1852 – 17 October 1934) was a Spanish pathologist, histologist, neuroscientist, and Nobel laureate. His pioneering investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain were original: he is considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience. He was skilled at drawing, and hundreds of his illustrations of brain cells are still used for educational purposes today.


» Unnumbered Note No. 16

AARP, The Awful Association of Rip-off Professionals

OurFuture.org reported today: “The front page of today's Wall Street Journal features an article, ‘Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut,’ saying the organization ‘is dropping its longstanding opposition to cutting Social Security benefits.’ This is a big deal – not because AARP was ever such a strong force against proposed benefit cuts, but because the mainstream media is now full of headlines like this from Time Online: ‘Victory! The Grey Goliath Gives Way on Social Security.’”

I dropped my membership a few years ago when AARP endorsed the prescription drug bill that created the “donut hole” and prohibited Medicare from negotiating prescription drug prices. In my resignation letter I told them that I would not contribute to the support of pharmaceutical companies at the expense of their own membership.

Then I watched the insurance distributorship portion of AARP expand from automobile insurance to Medicare supplemental, to Part D insurance, Dental, Vision, etc. In other words expanding their ‘business’ into exploiting all of the weaknesses in our health care system. They never endorsed, supported or promoted single-payer health insurance and their endorsement of the Part D rip-off was very important if not critical in gaining the support it needed to be passed in Congress.

Have you noticed all of the TV advertising of AARP’s version of Medigap insurance? Have you noticed that their insurance is actually provided by United Health Care? So AARP basically buys it’s insurance form UHC, laying off its bets, and spends a ton of money advertising on TV.  When you pay your AARP insurance bills, you are paying for:

·        the underlying insurance company costs of covering any claims that they can’t deny (and the costs of trying to deny them all;

·        the profits (above their management costs, advertising costs, sales costs, and gambling losses in the stock market); and

·        all of AARP’s expensive national TV advertising, and a ‘profit’ for AARP!

When AARP’s ads say “the only health insurance endorsed by AARP” they mean “we made a deal with UHC that is the best financial deal we could find for reselling Medicare related insurance.” Why didn’t they support single-payer―because single-payer would drive them out of the health insurance selling business! Why didn’t they oppose the pharmaceutical welfare act—because they saw an opportunity to resell some more health insurance.

As I read their financial statement for 2010, almost $657 million of their $1,228 million, i.e. about 54%, over half of their revenue came from insurance premiums paid by their members. In other words AARP is an insurance company (that takes no risks).

All of this means that AARP profits when health costs rise and loses income when health costs are reduced. Of course when you are elderly and living on a fixed income, rising health care costs are almost always your most serious financial problem and AARP will continue to work against your best interests. So now they are supporting the reduction of your fixed income!

Can Republicans Learn to Compromise?

I doubt that Republicans can actually learn to play nice. I don’t think that their mothers taught them to share. But, optimist that I am, I see an opportunity for them to learn to compromise! The process of selecting their 2012 Presidential candidate won’t allow for selecting one person who supports all of the non-negotiable positions (e.g. a-zygote-is-a-person; let-them-eat-nothing; lock-them-all-up-forever; corporations-should-rule-the-world; I-know-what-GOD-wants, etc) held by the two or three major factions of the party. They are going to have to give up something they want for something they want more. If they don’t do some compromising, they will essentially decompose into a handful of special interest groups with nothing much in common. Even if they do get it together, I don’t know how that will get Republicans in Congress that are willing to compromise in order to pass legislation.
» Unumbered Note Numbered 15
About How the Oil Company Subsidies Affect Gasoline Prices

I keep hearing Republicans and Oil Companies screaming about how elimination of the $4 billion/year subsidies will cause gasoline prices to increase. It sounded unlikely, so I decided to take a look at it. It took me about 20 minutes to come up with the following:

42.0 Gallons of oil/ barrel

19.5 Gallons of gasoline from 1 barrel of oil*

46.43% Of gallon of oil becomes gasoline

10.00 Assumed number of years of subsidy

$40,000,000,000.00 Annual Subsidy

19,000,000.00 Barrels of oil consumed daily in US

374,400,0000.00 Gallons of gasoline consumed daily in US

$5,084,580.00 Daily cost of lost subsidy for 10 years

$0.014 Increased cost of 1 gallon of gas to replace the subsidy

$0.41 Increased cost to fill an empty 30 gallon tank

*42 gallons per barrel makes about 19½ gallons of gasoline, 9 gallons of fuel oil, 4 gallons of jet fuel, and 11 gallons of other products, including lubricants, kerosene, asphalt, and petrochemicals to make plastics. That adds up to more than 42 gallons because of something called "refinery gain" - the processing and chemical changes increase the volume.

So if the oil companies pass on every penny of their loss of the subsidies to the consumers, it will cost us about a penny and half per gallon of gas and we get $40 billion back to help improve our education system, or take better care of our elderly, our poor, our disabledin other words to do things that nice people do.

PS:
If you live in San Diego, you might get an invitation from from me in the next couple of days to come by on May 28th for a sort of yard sale (in my house) and fundraiser for Eveoke Dance Theatre. I apologize for using the Curmudgeon mailing list this way, but I swear that I need to get rid of a pile of stuff, and so I'm going share a bit with Eveoke. I am also selling a few signed and numbered art prints and a couple of Zimbabwe Shona stone sculptures in the $150 to $750 range. You may have seen them at my loft downtown, and I can send you pictures and provenance for all of them if you want.

If this ticks you off so badly that you never want to hear from the Curmudgeon again, I certainly will understand and remove you from my mailing list.

 


» Volume 8 Number 1

And Now For A Different Kind of Curmudgeonry

I think that the exciting things about the new Apple iPad are the touch screen User Interface (TScrUI) and it’s geographic/orientation awareness. Basically, Wired and all of the technology editors that are so excited about it are only talking about that, no new applications. All the reviews I’ve seen show the Periodic Table App, and although it’s available on the iPod Touch, that screen is so small that no one has made a fuss about it there.

The Wired review basically said that the iPad will change the world but I don't buy it (their position nor the iPad). The most interesting point they made is that it is a “window”, you can hold it up and look through the window to see the night sky, or when it has a camera, it can annotate what’s its showing on the screen. Personally I don’t yet see the portable window as a killer app.

It's the next step that I think is important. Adding the camera, usb/printer connections, etc will no doubt appear next. So how about a keyboard? And that's when I think that the User Interface, the design, i.e. mechanically and logically, integrating the touch Pad and a (virtual?) keyboard is really interesting. I think that step will have a lot to do with the ultimate success of touch screen tablets. And I’m not optimistic about it.

This note began as a result of an email conversation with a great friend of mine. In one of his messages he said: “I see cell phones, computers, and 3D converging into - what ?” I'm not sure that cell phones and computers will ‘merge.’ I think that at best, when you are home the cell phone will rest in a socket on your computer/3D TV/Entertainment Center—your Home Electronic Center (HEC). The HEC would provide a full size keyboard (for texting as well as word processing) and a large screen. There the phone will get its batteries charged and will synch the files, e.g. address book/phone book/local maps. And perhaps all of that except battery charging can be done wirelessly. The HEC will serve all of the things that a 2"x3" screen and a 2"x3" keyboard cannot do well, e.g. spreadsheets, documents, 3D movies. In other words trying to pack all that stuff into a gadget that will fit in a man's pocket or even a woman's purse just doesn't compute. I can see the cell phone providing the still/video/webcam camera input for the HEC along with phone/fax services. And that leaves us with the problem of the human factors of a large touch screen on the HEC.

Perhaps the touch screen tablet replaces the TV remote. Mechanical connection to the keyboard can provide the familiar laptop computer arrangement when you want that. It can show the entire  HEC screen, provide the touch screen facilities on your lap that control the same functionality you see on your 3D big screen. I think that essentially all of the user interaction with our cable box, selecting programs from a schedule, scheduling recordings, etc., can all be better served via a touch screen interface remote.

I think that the iPad release 1.0 is just a dandy information access device, i.e. Kindle Generation II. And, I'm not sure how successful it will be. Of course if they only sell 1.5 million of them at $500 a piece, that's probably around $375 million for Apple and that might mean $100 million they can devote to iPad Release 2.0.


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