Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't worry, be happy! Wait, WTF...

Ending the week on [the exact opposite of] a high note, we get the March unemployment numbers. It's official...

...wait for it...


(Told ya so!)

Corn-fed Bumpkins Out-Progressive California

Just joshin'! No slight toward Iowa, but indeed a hat tip of admiration and appreciation!

Long live the Iowa State Supreme Court for having the courage and compassion to change state law to no longer limit marriage between one man, one woman.

I'm almost in tears.

Now if only California could pull its collective head out of its ass and do the same.

The Internationals

Animal Farm Friday: Wall St Pigs at the Trough

Not real animals, obviously, but rather than show video of pigs feeding at a trough, I'd go straight to the actual damning story.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Don't read this!

This article will make you want to pull your hair out!

AIG was a Ponzi scheme plain and simple, yet the Obama Administration still thinks of AIG as a real company that simply took excessive risks. No, to us what the fraud Bernard Madoff is to individual investors, AIG is to the global financial community.

Meanwhile, our tax dollars are going into a giant sink hole that will only make the rich richer, and sink the rest of us into lasting poverty.

Are the CDS Contracts of AIG Really Valid?

As I was saying just last night...

The key point is that neither the public, the Fed nor the Treasury seem to understand is that the CDS contracts written by AIG with these various non-insurers around the world were shams - with no correlation between “fees” paid and the risk assumed.

Read the full article.

Raisin of Reason: Them doing our work for us

This is spectacular! I wish all religious people would make videos like this!!!

Sullivan is confused over who are the Makers and who are the Takers

From a commenter taking Andrew Sullivan to task for saying something stupid which he attempts to "clarify", though not satisfactorily:

"It will be between the makers and the takers, the producers of wealth and the recipients of redistribution."

It's the phrase "producers of wealth" that traps many modern conservatives.  It's the Larry Kudlow view of the world, in which the debt-fueled paper profits of Wall Street were repeatedly lionized as "the greatest story never told."  Bernie Madoff, AIG, and the Saudi royal family are (or were) incredible producers of wealth.  The financial services industry got away with its destructive behavior for so long because it was driving GDP growth.  Clearly there is a difference between producing "wealth" and producing, as you write in your clarification "something of value."  To the extent that wealth production is decoupled from value production, capitalism is failing.  The scam artists that drove Wall Street into the ground are walking away insanely wealthy and largely unscathed, and future scam artists are surely taking note.

With that in mind, I'm curious as to how you propose we restore the association between wealth production and value creation.

Sullivan sees the Makers as the capitalists who make wealth, and the Takers as everyone else. This warped perspective is what has got us where we are today, and is what's fundamentally wrong with Capitalism. The Capitalists would be nowhere without Labor, plain and simple, though they live in the illusion that Labor could not exist without them. Depending on how you look at it, there's a measure of truth to this, but only to the extent of the system set in place in Medieval times. The truth is that the Capitalists, indeed Conservatives, are the real Takers, while it is Labor that are the Makers.

Capitalists might put up capital to allow for Makers to produce goods, but they ultimately take the spoils and benefits, and leave the Makers with pittance and scraps to fight over. This has gone on for centuries, and sadly will continue on as long as Labor, the Makers, allow it.

Be Wary of Ads

Picked this up from Josh at TPM. It's an old ad from Enron, trying to make the case for regulation being bad, and weighing down progress. We've all seen and paid for Enron's warped sense of progress, the same way we're seeing and paying for Wall Street's warped sense of progress. This ad is a great example of why everyone must be suspicious and critical of all the ads the various financial services companies are spending millions of your tax dollars on in an effort to gloss over their bad - and sometimes criminally fraudulent - mistakes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Obama Depressed, Distant Since 'Battlestar Galactica' Series Finale

Nerd Candy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sorry Josh, but Kindle isn't the real story

Josh at TPM has been on a tear this week as he's gotten sucked into the Kindle via the Kindle iPhone app. His inner and outer dialog is interesting to me since I can relate, but I see this from a different perspective than he. For the record, two things make me willing to abandon my principle of not giving my money to AT&T. (Well, three things if you count that it's impossible to get an iPhone from Apple w/o opening an account with AT&T). The TED Talks app, and the Kindle app for the iPhone. But this post is not about TED. It's not directly about the Kindle, nor the iPhone either. It's about the aggregate of all of them, and so much more.

The first time I saw a Kindle, I was impressed by the ePaper (non-backlit screen, basically). As a designer whose eyes spend more time looking at a computer monitor than they do being closed, I can appreciate looking at an LCD screen that isn't trying to attach itself to my brain via optic nerves. Interestingly though, Kindle achieves the same result, albeit less intrusively. I like looking at that ePaper screen (at least the text), so the text makes it into my brain faster than the text I read on typical PC monitors. Funny thing, that. Sadly though, as Josh points out, ePaper sucks when it comes to cool illustrations and maps and stuff. To me, Kindle is the ultimate paperback. I am sure this is what Jeff Bezos had in mind all along. If a book requires rich illustrations, photography, maps, and what not, then it must be bought in print. If the book is all about the writing and needs no serious imagery for support, like most paperbacks, then it's perfect for the Kindle. From this perspective, the Kindle is refining the publishing industry, perhaps.

Kindle is not the Harbinger of Doom to books, no more than iTunes was the Harbinger of Doom to radio and CDs and records, and no more than DVDs are the Harbinger of Doom to the theater industry. All have been refinements, or extensions to the long tail. Without going into a diatribe of all things media, I'll just settle on saying that the Kindle is just another means for people to access content in a way they find suitable for themselves individually. There will be some suffering to some along the way; just like automobiles put some horses out of work, and robotic assembly lines took some people out of work, neither presaged the end of the world or humankind (at least not any more than any standard doomsayer of the day at any given period). But who is complaining about not having to follow the backend of a horse for an entire day every other week just to buy some bags of flour and other staples, when they can drive a car across an entire state in the same time? Who's complaing that they can't spend an entire evening scanning a VHS tape for that one particular scene in a movie, when they can now just jump within a few frames of it n DVD? Who's complaining that that can't carry all 5,000 EPs in the back of their U-Haul when they can fit all 10,000 songs in their back pocket... and also take calls, watch videos, play fames, and send emails from the same device?

I feel where Josh is coming from, I really do. As a hardcore Steampunk fan, I relish the tactile feel of hand-crafted objects, and machine crafted objects. But, as much as I appreciate handmade wrought iron nails, I'm sure that if I was a carpenter back in the day when those were the only nails available, I'd be highly appreciative of the machine punched variety we have today. I'd be even more appreciative of a pneumatic nail gun! All the while, I'd still drool over the artisan craft of hand-carved dowel pins used in place of nails.

Shit. I feel like I can go down this line of examples for years... I guess the point that I'm trying to make is that while "progress" often means the "end" of something, that "end" isn't always so bad. I like to think of progress as clearing out the least visually appealing apples, leaving something more standardized and generally more acceptable. Once the undesirable apples are cleared out, and we're producing the kind of apples that Joe Public scoops off the shelves, that leaves the "heirloom" apples to those of us who appreciate such things. Refinement. Why waste small, flavorful apples with slightly discolored skin on those who'd rather eat brightly painted cardboard with a waxy coating?

Seriously. Anything produced for mass consumption is arguably going to be SHIT at the end of the day. Once you average anything against the spectrum of humanity, you can only end up with shit. It is mathematically impossible to do otherwise. So let the average wallow in their shit. There will always be antiques and heirlooms for those of us who appreciate and crave such things. The information will not necessarily be lost, but the transmitters and receivers will change.

Just a slip there using apples as a metaphor, but funny how Apple is so adept at creating just as much shiny, pretty, juicy things as they are with creating utter shit.

Now, when's that iPhone Nano coming out?