Friday, December 20, 2013

The Liberal Case against a Universal Basic Income

I completely agree with Max Sawicky regarding the proposed (by certain utopian libertarians mainly) Universal Basic Income.  In many ways, I like the utopianism, and like Max I'm not worried about how it changes incentives for individuals.  It's just that it would wreck other programs that, while less utopian, are actually successful.  It would also be unfair to many, such as current and future social security recipients who had high income jobs.

What the idea is, actually, is a kind of hot potato used to smear existing programs while sounding even more "progressive" than they are.  Max spells this out in great detail.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Nix TPP !!!

Krugman shows there cannot be a big economic win from trade agreements like the TPP, as supporters claim.  But where does he show there will be no big negatives, which he claims in passing without any substantiation?  Fellow prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is more direct, be blasts both the TPP and the anti-democratic processes behind it, and the US Government's approach to trade agreements in particular.

Rather than reducing negative environmental externalities, consumer protections, and worker rights, these trade pacts are immediately used to attack whatever stands in the way of corporate greed, environment, workers, and democratic processes be damned.  This has been endlessly documented with regards to NAFTA, GATT, and WTO.

A leaked memo published by HuffingtonPost shows a bonanza of special rights TPP would grant to corporation.

Public Citizen calls TPP the Corporate Power of the 1%.     Here is their Take Action page, with multiple letters you can send regarding different aspects of the TPP and Fast Track authority supporters want.

I'd call for the abrogation of all existing trade pacts, and the defunding and abolition of the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR)--a corporate shill--which pushes them.  But more presently, write every message you can to stop this, starting with the Public Citizen's Take Action page.  The first is one  suggested by Senator Elizabeth Warren to release the full text to the public.  There is no excuse for the lack of transparency used to ram through these agreements.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Austerity is Crap

Large numbers of people are unemployed or underemployed.  Does that mean we should all tighten up our budgets, spend less, borrow less and save more, including the Government?

Of course not, that will only make more people unemployed.  To reduce unemployment, we all either individually or collectively need to spend more!

One person's income is another person's spending.  If you want incomes to go up, there has to be more spending!  So if people are unemployed, there needs to be more spending to get them employed.  This is basic Keynesian economics.

Now, I would hasten to add, of course we should be spending on the right kinds of things.  One of those right kinds of things is research.  But thanks to the Sequester, research spending by the US government has been going down.  The government shutdown didn't help.  And more cuts to things like research appear to be coming right up.  This is so counterproductive!!!

And we should be spending less on things which increase pollution, global warming, etc., or abuse natural resources.  But that is exactly where spending has been increasing, doing things like developing the tar sands in Canada, and it will be worse if the Keystone Pipeline is built.

Now, thanks to the tax cuts which have been driving by Reaganomics, rich people have been taxed less, so they have accumulated more of the total wealth.  Since rich people spend proportionally less of their incomes, this has depressed spending relative to what might have been otherwise--with more taxes collected and more government spending.  Reaganomics has created what looks like a permanent depression, in which the saving glut fueled by the ever increasing wealth of rich people sloshes around the world unproductively and even destructively in search of additional profits.  Of course those additional profits are not to be had overall, since income-from-investments also comes from spending.*

Tax and spend is the only answer, outside of a perfect communist revolution.

*The only kind of additional profits possible are those which are carved out of someone else's income, a zero sum or negative sum game.  This is Adam Smith turned upside down, the invisible hand becomes the not-so-invisible knife.  In such a world, markets don't increase the general welfare, they decrease it as they enable such destruction.  Actually, this is the general rule, the invisible hand only works as Adam Smith said when something else such as a comprehensive ethical system eliminates zero sum and negative sum activities (including all externalities).  No such ethical system has persisted except among a small part of the population, and when it does, it simply provides more incentive for others to steal their bacon (in a world with private wealth), along with stealing an unspoiled world from the future.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Negotiations With Terrorists

I was apalled to hear the upbeat tone on Al Jazeera about the negotiations over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling.  Obama's stand has been very simple, and correct.  He should not have to make any concessions to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.  Because making concessions is rewarding hostage taking.

AG: But you say there should always be negotiation when you are talking about the middle east.

Me: First, there's no moral equivalency here, US Republicans are far worse than Al Qaeda.  At least you could say with regards to the latter, that they have claims to represent the true grievances of many moslems, arabs, persians, and others in the middle east.  Those true grievances do exist: those peoples in general have been the victims of western neo-imperial dominance and direct and client state aggression.  For the Republicans, whose interests do they represent?  Well, with respect to those I just mentioned, they are far more consistently the aggressors, not the aggrieved.  And more generally, the interests of never allowing taxes on the wealthy to increase, or benefits to the poor be anything but slashed, it's clear the Republicans represent the most direct interests of the plutocracy as well as the neo-empire and are willing to do anything (because they know their backers will reward them well) to serve those interests--at the expense of everyone else.

OK, so no concessions, but talks are OK.  And maybe Obama could negotiate over this: the abolition of the mandatory budget (budget act) for continuing operations, and the abolition of the debt ceiling, both of which should be (as I have argued) unconstitutional.

Anything less that that would be leaving a destroyed democratic system of government, because future terrorists could apply the same tactics, and the precedent will have been established for it to be an effective approach.

But we hear negotiations are over a mere 4 month suspension...then more hostages.  That's not worth a damn thing.  When will it end?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Congressional Doomsday Machine

Laws like the Budget Act which require Congress to annually pass a budget have worked in the past because anti-government extremists had never gained plurality control of one branch of government before.  But such laws inherently created a doomsday machine, in which inability to agree on new items could close down previously authorized government programs...for an indefinite period.

The Constitution say nothing about a "budget."  It does say Congress should make accounts...but those accounts are for declarative reasons, to show where the people's money is being spent.  It says nothing about re-authorizing the spending for individual or groups of government programs on an annual basis.  That reauthorization is a creature of the Budget Act.  It used to be mildly abused on a frequent basis...a few days of shudown here, a few days there.  The first major abuse was under the Gingrich speakership, which featured a 28 day government shutdown.  And here we are again, with no definite ending in sight.

But as everyone points out, the bigger doomsday machine is the debt ceiling, another creature of congressional law.  It had been used as a negotiating ticking clock, or bomb, but never to the point where there was any inkling it might hit ground.  Until the first debt ceiling crisis in 2011, when it nearly did so.

I continue to say both these laws are unconstitutional.  Their mere existence led to hardball anti-democratic negotiation styles, which was always part of the game.  And they always inherently created an anti-government doomsday machine, which is now appearing right in front of us.

Democracy ought to be as transparent as possible.  And one form of transparency is to not build democracy on riders to laws, stuck in after midnight before the vote.  Laws or packages of laws (such as the Affordable Care Act, which needs to include both new taxes, new regulations, and new spending) ought to be freely debated as to what singular combined effect they are intended to have.  Essentially one new set of laws for each new act of Congress--that is the most transparent way of doing things.  (And so, rarely done...)

Even at best, Budgets and Debt ceilings create a way to reduce the transparency even more, more opportunities to hide or force things without a clear majoritarian vote.  And also permit anti-majoritianism and anti-democracy in various ways, some of which we are seeing right now.

Obama has been at his best in the current crisis, and the Republicans are being exposed as the traitors they are.  But how will this seeps into the right-wingophere remains uncertain.  And that exposes other anti-democratic biases, some even inherent in the Constitution--but mostly not mandated by it, how a comparatively small slice of American opinion can come to dominate, through concentration and monopolization of media, the corruption of campaign financing, unlimited corporate speech, district jerrymandering, and so on.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tea Party Treason and Unconstitutional Processes

In the end, it is worse than extortion.  It it treason to create a logjam by insisting on changing laws through the budget and debt ceiling processes.  Which is exactly what Republicans including Boehner, Cantor, and Cruz are doing.

We have a democratic process for changing the laws.  It does not involve holding the entire government, or the full faith and credit of that government hostage, so that a minority with no concern for the general welfare can change laws.  Their lack of concern for the general welfare shows they should not be changing laws.

I'd go so far as to say both the current budget processes (not part of the Constitution) and debt ceiling process (which has always been used as political football...but never the end, the uncolored debt ceiling has always gotten passed) enable this treason in a most unrepublican way.  I'd hold them unconstitutional.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who is shutting down the government?

First, does the US House of Representatives have the power of the purse?  No, it has the obligation to originate "revenue" bills.  And here a big rule of thumb in negotiation should be noted.  He who goes first, loses.  At best, being first guarantees nothing.  He who goes first, and who also also wants things to continue, aims to please who comes next by exercising self-selection of his own extreme impulses.  That's a big part of the losing aspect of going first. The one who goes first must aim to please.  Those who come later can simply say no if they feel too disadvantaged to even make a counter-offer.  If no counter is made, the originator can only guess where the boundaries are, i.e., the bottom line, and then has to exercise even more self-selction next time bit with no new information for guidance.  By going first in a negotiation, one is giving information about one's own boundaries, but not necessarily getting any information in return.  That is why a common negotiation strategy is simply to refuse to negotiate.  To negotiate means to be willing to give up something, which is what a first offer must always do.  So negotiation stalls when no one is willing to make this first offer.  But the US Constitution is clear about who must make the first offer with regards to revenue bills.

And the plain text of the constitution says nothing about the House originating "spending" bills, that's simply been a precedent maintained by the House by never passing spending bills which originated in the Senate, and claiming justification by the Federalist Papers--which are not part of US law and have no legal standing.

OK, so what is a federal budget supposed to do?  Well, cover the bills!  Avoid waste.  Avoid undue exploitation.  But it not the normal way to change law. There is a separate procedure for changing laws--the same as passing new ones.  It requires approval of both chambers and the President, unless the presidential veto is overridden, which requires a 2/3 majority of both chambers.  This is by design a somewhat cumbersome procedure, which follows a conservative--as in actually conserving what has come before, not overstepping, etc.--philosophy.

So if changing law through the budget is permitted at all--it's an extreme tactic, especially when one chamber of Congress is also trying to do this alone.  It takes extremists to do it.  The normal thing for a budget it do the bills, not change law.

And if changing law through the budget is extreme, how about shutting down the government also, or knowing well that would happen, and keeping it going after the first failure.

I'd say the onus is upon the extremists.  They are the ones shutting down the government.  Those who are trying to use the budget to change the law, knowing they only have leadership control (and even not necessarily majoritarian support within)  of one of three governmental entities that needs to (and actually does) approve of this change without an almost impossibly high bar for at least two entities.

With the lack of support by the Senate and President, shutting down the government, or even threatening to do so, is not simply being extreme.  It is uncivil, arsonistic, threatening to burn down the house if one doesn't get one's way.  The civil way to reach agreement with others is by give-and-take, through which everyone wins.  If arson is conceded to, only one party wins, others must simply capitulate or get burned along with everyone else.  It is dictatorship by terror.

This is only one of many reasons to conclude it is the Republicans in the US House who are shutting down the government, and that it would be anti-republican for them to succeed in getting their way through this tactic.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Euro (despicable mercantilist experiment)

I love this hold-no-punches description of the Euro by commenter Foppe.

First he describes that nl/de entered the Euro at wage rate that was deliberately low, adding to their pre-existing competitive advantages over the southern Eurozone.

Then he describes how northern banks loved the Euro project.  They had been "languishing" in credit saturated markets, then the Euro opened up lots of new lending opportunities in the south, with devaluation risk removed, but where they could still charge much higher rates.  Meanwhile, all the credit extended to the south increased purchases of manufactured goods from the north, which helped those businesses expand further.  So the north got the both interest and the manufacturing.  Then he concludes:

And now that the bubble has been punctured, they get to moralize a lot about the imprudence of ‘garlic-eaters’, when the whole thing was just a despicable mercantilist experiment of giant proportions, which functioned largely to prop up stagnant western-european economies.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

smartphone connectors

Smartphone connectors have been changing, and, no surprise, not for the better.

The original iPod connector used for iPhone was the best.  Strange for such a big connector, it always mates easily, and never improperly.  It also had lots of specialized connections, such as analog audio and video outputs.  So, following the general industry path of eliminating everything analog, which is entirely driven by the attempt to make users into helpless sheep, it had to go.

The mini-USB connector used on the Samsung Galaxy phone is horrible.  It's hard to tell up from down, so 10 seconds of visual checking are required first.  Then it's very sensitive to rotation, a few degrees off and it won't go in.  And then mini-USB connectors often vary a bit in size, and some are large enough to take some effort for insertion.  That is notably true of a well known and expensive USB retractable cable made for smartphones.  It fits, but just barely, into the Samsung connector.

Apple has some new connector also.  It's obvious to me that the motivation behind this new connector is to drop all things analog for better intellectual monopolies.  I haven't tried it, but it looks like it was designed for more easy insertion than typical mini-USB.

The endless cacophony of smartphones

By default, the smartphones I have used attempt to advertise their existence with an endless cacophony of sounds.  They are very annoying mostly, and typically draw attention to oneself just when one doesn't want that attention.  A typical example is the shutter click.  Whenever one takes a picture one gets a gratuitous shutter click sound, louder than the loudest film camera I've ever used, even on the lowest setting (if such settings are even available).  This has little value to the picture taker (who can usually see other indications that the picture was actually taken--and such indication shouldn't even be needed if the camera is reliable and fast enough.  But it might be useful to art museum staff, pretty girls on the beach, and so on, to hear that their picture is being taken, intellectual monopolies being sidestepped, and so on.  One of my earliest experiences of this was at the famous Field Museum in Chicago, where, yes, I was trying to sneak a photo of one of the exhibits to show a friend.  I was very careful to be sure there was nobody around me.  I hid the phone close to my body as I was taking the picture.  But all my subterfuge was made useless by that little shutter click, which echoed through the surrounding area.  As I left the area, there was at least one security staff following me.  But they hadn't actually seen anything fortunately and didn't bother me.

I figure that smarphone makers are some of the biggest intellectual monopolists around, and so they add this shutter click feature to help their fellow monopolists.  That is so typical of mobile devices, computer programs, and operating systems these days it's hardly worth mentioning.  Over time, features that users actually like keep on being eroded (remember the freewheeling days of being able to record analog audio and video from nearly everything?), and features that users don't want keep being added (often, endlessly promoted as major user advances by legions of fanboys and fangirls) but with the actual primary interest of advancing intellectual monopolies, captive user base, and the like.  Well they might fool kids with these tactics, but they don't fool me.  Not that I can do anything about it other than complain.  And by the way, I do have a perfect right to complain, there aren't many choices and there all pretty much the same, and I think my complaining is part of the process of moving things forward.  I have actually seen things I've complained about actually get fixed.  Another thing that fanboys and fangirls typically say is that you have no right to complain (after the great corporations who rule the world have done so many wonderful things for us) and we should just buy some other product, or none at all.  That usually gets you a slightly different but usually pretty similar set of things to complain about.

Perhaps I don't remember all the audible annoyances of my iPhone 3G because I had it so long, by the time I retired it I had figured out how to stop most annoyances.  And the fully centralized settings widget was helpful in doing so.

Android seems less user friendly in shutting these things off because you may need to visit both the general settings menu, which itself has 4 parts, with the 4th "developer" part being full of additonal submenus, and so on.  And the applications have their own settings menu, which as I demonstrated in another post are often uselessly context sensitive, meaning that to get to a particular setting you have to be doing, or not doing, a particular thing.

Now I'm especially annoyed by text typing sounds, phone dialing sounds, and the like.  I did figure out how to shut off the email sound already, that was way over the top, waking me up in the deep of the night to alert me of new spam.   NONE of these sounds should be enabled by default.  Or perhaps there should be some kind of built-in expert or mode you can set, such as the All Silent Mode which stops all sounds except the essential phone ring and text message notification.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More reasons to be mad

I have something else with the name AT&T on it, my AT&T Universal Card.  Actually, it's a MasterCard administered by Citibank.  I've had the account for 21 years (that's probably my longest credit relationship ever--I paid off my home in 20 years and the owning bank changed a couple of times as well).

Just as a note: I've been more happy with the website for Universal Card than any other, even after the experience I describe here.  They've all given me grief more than once...  It's hard to say who has been the worst.  But I'd still say Universal Card has been the best, and it's been the best for a long time.  What I describe below is a typical snafu.

I recently took advantage of one of their 0% interest offers to refinance nearly $7000 of debt that was on a Chase card.  Yes I routinely swap debt from one creditor to another to maintain overall rates near 0%.  I know at some point the music might stop, but while it plays we should keep on dancing.  The banks of course know we will do this, in fact they encourage us to transfer balances from other banks.  They may refuse to transfer balances from other cards if it's the same bank, however.  I keep balances on a few non-zero rate cards simply because they are important relationships, like my credit union (which is fairly low interest anyway) or my Chase business card (that card gives me the lowest rates of any card I have, so I park extra negative balances there without too much concern, even if it's not a zero percent rate, and zero percent rates are almost always really about 3% because there is almost always a transfer fee of 3% or more).

Today I got email saying I had a message from AT&T about my account.  I clicked on the link and it took me to a login page.  After logging in, it sat with busy wheel for a long time.  I opened another window and tried to go directly to Universal Card online as I have several times a month for the last 13 or more years.  In that second window, I get message saying "You have to have baking relationship with citibank to access this part of the site.")  I'd never seen that message before, and it likely had something to do with trying to get my message through the first link.

Well I called the number on the back of the card.  First I had (no other choice than) to enter all sorts of account and verification information.  Finally I got a synopsis of my account balance, etc., but nothing about this "important message."  But I did finally get opportunity to ask about "something else" by saying "something else."  So then I got a human representative.  She was nice but couldn't do anything about website issues.  So then I was transferred to technical support.  Technical support had me shut down my browser and try again.  Geez I should have thought of doing that first.  It worked.

But then, within the Account Online, I can't find anything about this "message" I was supposed to see.  My secure messages folder in Account Online has no messages at all.

More reasons to be mad

After days of struggling to get my contacts, photos, and other information copied to my replacement Galaxy S4 from AT&T, I finally shipped my old phone back to AT&T using the prepaid label on Saturday August 31.  I shipped it at a US Post Office and got a receipt.  They would not let me add delivery confirmation to the prepaid package.

On Monday September 9, I get a letter from AT&T telling me they haven't received my phone in two weeks (it still wasn't quite two weeks from the day I received it on Wednesday August 28), so I should be sure to ship it soon.

Thanks again for adding to my paranoia.

Friday, September 6, 2013

More run around with online banking

Nowadays I pay all my credit cards online (though I still like the paper statements as a permanent record).  I check my bank balance online also.

This is very convenient except when it isn't.  Far too often I am asked to re-register my computer.  My credit union has done this every time I've accessed my account since I got new Mac Mini last year.  I don't know why it keeps asking me this.  It's very inconvenient.  In order that it would not do this, and for similar concerns, I've given up trying to block cookies.  I keep my cookies wide open because if I don't, I can't do important things I need to do.  So much for security...  But even with my cookies wide open it is not remembering my having registered this computer.  But when I called the office, they said they did use cookies, and for it to remember my registering this computer I should keep my cookies open, so I still do, even though it doesn't actually seem to work.

OK, so a few times each month my credit union website asks me to re-register my computer.  In order to do this, it either asks me an obscure question, or it sends me an email.  Either one is bad.  I did not choose these questions, such as "What City was your mother born in?"  I would not have chosen a question like that because even I don't know the answer.  My mother was born in Canada in a rural area to at least one US citizen who died in childbirth, then was adopted by her uncle who lived right across the border. So I might have given her uncle's city.  But wait, I've only known her uncle to live in one city, but he moved there after my mother was born.  So I can't even remember which approximate answer I gave.  Did I give the city he lived in when my mother was first adopted, or slightly later?  I don't even always remember the name of the first place (a tiny settlement), but I do remember the later one.  So I must have given that.  But wait, I might have alternatively given the name of the Canadian province she actually was born in.  I seem to recall doing that a few times also.

Ultimately this isn't about knowing certain key (but perhaps unknown) facts about my life, but remember the particular way I answered them in a hurried and tense moment some time in the past, when my account asked me to answer these questions for enhanced security before I could check my balance that time.

Another example of this is my high school.  Suppose my high school were Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School.  Did I answer "Roosevelt" ?  That would be simple, but also ambiguous.  So then did I answer Franklin Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FD Roosevelt, F. D. R., FDR, etc. ???  And then even if I remember that I simply answered Roosevelt, did I say Roosevelt High School, Roosevelt HS, or just Roosevelt?

Nearly every single question like this has issues like this, there are many ways I could have answered the question, and what these "security questions" are really doing is forcing me to remember the specific way I answered them on some previous occasion.

I suppose I should just do the email option, but to do the email I need to access my work email account, since that's the one I always use for important stuff, and to do that from home I need to use the webmail interface.  This is sufficiently inconvenient that I'm always tempted to use the "answer questions" option.  I shouldn't, because far too often, including today, giving a wrong answer can be a path to being locked out of my account altogether and having to make a phone call during business hours which is not usually when I'm doing my banking.

OK, that's the run around with the "computer registration" feature which sometimes pops up, or in the case of my credit union, seems to always pop up.  But I also have trouble with the passwords.

Nowadays one has to keep in mind or somehow a large set of passwords for all the things one wants to access via computer.  A friend of mine has a written list.  I don't want to depend on the physical world like that for a simple reason.  I can never find anything in the physical world!  If I ever wrote a list (and in fact, I did try to do that several times) the first thing that would happen would be that I would not be able to find the list.  And especially I would not be able to find the list when I had to add some new password to it.  So I would start another list.  OK, you can see how this is not going to work.

So instead I have a tricky way of creating passwords for things depending on what those things are called.  That is what has actually worked for me over the last 15 years.  But there are several problems there also.  For one, not all accounts permit the same special characters.  So then I had to remember alternate rules for different accounts.  Where I couldn't use @ I'd use A instead, and so on.

Then, in addition, there's a question of what things were called when I created passwords to them.  For example, for Rolling Heights Credit Union did I use the name "Rolling Heights" or "Credit Union"?

I normally remember these things well enough.  But sometimes it takes more than one login attempt.  Sheer paranoia is behind the requirement that you get your password correct in just 3 attempts.  If it's a decent password, you don't make it significantly less secure by allowing 50 login attempts, and that is one of my recommendations here.  Because if for some reason I can't exactly remember how I created a particular password in just three attempts, my effort to pay my bills is thwarted, perhaps to be forgotten about the next week.

Discover Card has another trick.  If you don't get your password correct on the very first attempt, it then erases your actual login name (remembered from the last visit) so you have to enter that as well.  And that is another thing I don't always remember.  I try to create usernames following certain rules, but often I can't choose the name I want and have to bend those rules.

All this was taken to another level with the credit analysis service MyFico.  They had enormously long pass codes that you could not cut and paste but had to enter in by hand and get exactly correct, in a certain number of minutes, and all sorts of other impossibilities similar to the above.  I accessed the service twice and couldn't manage to do it ever again.  And it didn't help that my work email kept changing (not by my choice) during this process.  The service nicely re-billed itself to my credit card for the second year when I hadn't been able to use it in 10 months.  Finally, after two or three years of being unable to access the service, I got them to cancel it, somehow.

Anyway, I mention MyFico because that was my worst experience ever maintaining online access.  Discover Card and my credit union are slightly less paranoid than MyFico.  The most useable online services have been Chase and AT&T Universal Card (aka Citibank).  Chase has only bothered me a few times with the "register this computer" (for the umpteenth time) crap, but not so much as my Credit Union.  Citibank even fewer times.

One other thing I totally detest is that whenever there is a re-register your computer or other similar incident, you then have to choose a brand new password.  Even though there was no indication that my (quite strong) password was compromised in any way (if anything it was too strong, and I couldn't even remember it) I can't use that password anymore and have to create a new one.  So then I go back to my rules and figure out a new way to parse the name of the institution, and then try to keep track of that change in my mind.

I don't think a strong password should ever need to be changed, unless there is some actual evidence it needs to be changed.  If you couldn't remember it, that is evidence it's a good password.

Well on top of all of the above, sometimes the login/re-register systems aren't even logically coherent.  They ask you to do something, you do it correctly to the letter, and then that still doesn't work.  That happened to me today with my credit union online.  It started out with the re-register your computer thing.  Rather than figure out the correct answer to "what city was your mother born it" I asked for it to send an email.  It sent me a link, I clicked on the link, and it brought me right back to the login/password thing, then after that I was right back to the re-register your computer by answering this question, what city was your mother born it?  So the link had done nothing to advance my situation.

After some messing with this, I was finally locked out of my account.  I called the office, and they said they would unlock my account and send me a temporary password.  Well, they sent me a link, but the email they sent me did not include a temporary password, just a link.  I clicked on the link and it brought me to the login/password dialog and I was stuck again.  So I called a second time, and this time they gave me a new password over the phone, and "reset" my online password.  Finally, that worked, when I entered the temporary password it immediately asked me to enter a new password.  I tried the last good and strong password I had long used, but it wouldn't let me use any password that I had used before.  So I had to change my way of naming them again, so I could create a password I had never used before, and I wrote it down on a few pieces of paper so I won't forget, but probably will.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

More Samsung Android weirdness

Late last night, when sending a text message, the text use by the Message application had become very big, so big that small words filled a whole line in the message bubble.  Oh, no, what have I done now?

Having learned that there are menu adjustments you can get to for most applications by pressing the menu button, I did that.  But not one of the menu selections seemed relevant:

Insert Smiley
Add text
View contact
Add slide
Add recipients
Scheduled Messages
Add to spam numbers

Did I miss something there?  Not one of those concerns the text size.

So once again, I needed to resort to google to find the answer.  I lived with the ridiculous text size until mid-morning the next day when I had the time and patience to google.  The first fairly authoritative thread I found with someone complaining about the text size mysteriously getting larger had some guru saying to open the standard SMS application, choose menu->settings, uncheck use the volume key.

OK, I first wondered whether the Messaging app was the standard SMS application, but I couldn't find any other messaging applications except for the AT&T one, and I figured that wasn't the standard one, so Messaging must be it.

But when I open the Messaging app, it goes immediately to the friend I do nearly all of my text messaging with.  That shows the menu I showed above, no uncheck-the-volume setting, no settings at all in fact.  But realizing that the volume key was involved, I quickly found that simply using the volume key in the Messaging app allowed me to change the size back to something reasonable.  Whew.

Only later did I find out how to get into the Settings menu. First, I had to use "back" to exit out of messaging to my favorite friend, then all the way out of the application.  Then when I re-entered the application, and pressed Menu, only then did a different menu appear, one with Settings at the bottom, and sure enough, Settings has the magic Use the Volume Key.  So I unchecked it.

What would make sense to me is have Use the Volume Key unchecked for starters.  No unexpected changes.  Then also have Settings displayed at the bottom of the menu selections whenever the menu button is pressed, not only at the top entry point of the application.  For me the latter change would have been enough for me to fix the problem asap.  I would go into settings and see that option and figure out what was happening.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More Samsung annoyances

I was getting a little sound all hours of the day and night.  Unlike when I first got the first phone, I figured immediately that this was because of email.  I do not need to be notified when email arrives.  I check email at my work, mostly.  When not at work I am not a slave to email.  I do not like getting notifications at 3am when the latest piece of spam arrives.  Or perhaps some collaborator in China needs a key--but they can wait until working hours.  Important people, right now mainly my lady friend because nobody else important enough does text, though possibly someone else temporary like a contractor if they ask, and the occasional AT&T offers...  Anyway, I still get far fewer texts than emails, and emails can be put on hold, texts usually need immediate awareness.  So I need audible alerts for texts at equal level as calls.  Emails, I don't need to know.  If I want to know, I'll open email.  I think those would make the most generally applicable defaults.

No obvious thing in Settings would take care of this, or at least that I could find.  It was easy to find the required settings in iPhone.  Here I resorted to Google, and there found I could open the menu in Mail and change the notification there.  OK.

Now I get a curious picture of candles and wine bottles every time I try to view the pictures in any of my galleries for the first time in a few minutes.  In front of the bottles, it says:

In Location
With Passion

Then below it says

If the following conditions are met when you take pictures, information, such as people's names, or the weather, will be shown briefly when viewing pictures:

The weather widget has been refreshed before/after taking pictures.

I've pressed the OK button for this stupid dialog hundreds of times, yet it keeps coming back.  How can I get rid of this damned thing!!!!!  I'm not interested in having my photos tagged in multitudinous ways. Please just tag them with the date, exposure settings, and the like, you have on tap.  Don't ask me to do indecipherable things so that the tagging can be made more wonderful.  Each time I try to look at my pictures.  Besides, I wasn't taking pictures just now, I was going to look at them, believe it or not I look at pictures more than I take them, wouldn't that make sense???

I tried the menu button instead of OK.  That does nothing.  It doesn't respond at all when this glorious Tag Buddy dialog appears.  So I need to learn a new trick.

Oh yeah, I did open the menu just after I got past this stupid dialog.  And sure enough it has a Tag Buddy option.  I turn that option OFF.  And I still get the stupid Tag Buddy dialog every time I open a picture folder anyway!

Once again, there is no obvious setting to turn this thing off either.  This time I haven't even a clue as to what to google for.  Oh, wait, at the top of the page it says "Tag buddy".  I googled that, and got lots of information about a feature that has little interest to me.  I only want to get rid of this stupid reminder.  I'll probably have to ask my android guru friend about this.  Don't these Samsung people test these things?  Don't they have any sense of what it's like to have a real life, to just want to have the smart phone obey orders, not give them, not require endless learning and adjustment merely to make the damn thing civilized?  Perhaps the only testers are serious fanboys and fangirls who already know all the tricks, not some poor schmuck trying to get along, moving from one gleaming appliance and platform and universe after another as they keep appearing on an endless treadmill, usually just after he's barely figured out how to get on with the previous one.

That's pretty much what I've felt about all Samsung products since I bought my Samsung LCD TV in 2009.  I heard far less positive things about the monitors Samsung made in the early 1990's, while I don't remember owning one myself, I think I remember seeing some in action and inaction at Amiga conferences.  So it's a great new Samsung, though still not perhaps the one we want.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Old Galaxy Phone returned

The saga continued when I took phone back to AT&T store for a second visit.  This time they graciously copied my contacts from the old phone to he new phone.  They had a machine for doing this, just as my Android guru friend said.  But they would not do anything about my photos, music, or any other personal items on the phone.  For my benefit, they went into developer options and turned on the USB Debugging feature.  They said that would make it easier to access all the data on the phone.  (I could not tell that it made anything easier...USB connection continued not to be of any use.)

So when I got back home Thursday night I first connected phone to my Mac.  It did not seem any different than at work.  No new device appeared either in Finder of iTunes.   A Samsung Modem device did appear in my network preferences.  But I tried that dialog several times (what is the password to my phone?  I don't remember anything about setting a password for my phone.) and nothing came of it.  I had no idea what kind of "server" I would have to enter for the Connect to Server dialog either.  (Why do these things assume I know all these things.  The programmers who programmed them probably have a much better idea of protocols, port settings, and so on, than I do, why cant the devices test the possible ports and set them, or choose working defaults?)

So then I downloaded and installed Easy Phone Sync on my Mac and my Phone.  But many attempts to get Easy Phone Sync to work failed with an error message about "device is busy."  The help explained that I should download Kies, then choose the uninstall option.  Well, before doing that, before messing with my phone and removing what might turn out to be essential programs, I thought I should get some more information.  Why shouldn't I be using Kies instead of Easy Phone Sync?  I resolved to consult the Android guru on Friday.   Only later did I even check into downloading and uninstalling Kies.  I had assumed I was supposed to do this on my phone (I had never installed Kies on my Mac at that time) which I'm now not even sure if it is true.  I'm not sure because there is no "Kies" I can dowload for my phone.  There is a "Kies Wifi" that I can download, and something else Kies also, but neither of them clearly The Kies I am supposed to download and uninstall.

I was a bit worried when I didn't see my friend at work when I arrived.  But I saw him just before he left for the weekend.  He agreed that it was not a good idea to uninstall Kies.  He told me that Kies was the sync software developed by Samsung, and I should use that.  I told him that I had seen lots of people complaining about it not working, but he dismissed all that and said using Kies was my best plan.

So when I got home, I uninstalled all the Easy Phone Sync stuff and tried running Kies.  Just as with Easy Phone Sync, every attempt to get Kies working failed.  At one point it asked for a password, but every attempt to enter my Mac's password failed.  I did this about 12 times.  There was no option to see what I was typing, and the next day I discovered that the batteries in my wireless keyboard were low, that that might have explained these failures.  But the keyboard had still been working well enough that one of my attempts to enter password should have succeeded.  I did see the required number of dots appear for password characters each time (though, sometimes I had to hit the required keys several times to get those dots to appear).

But what was really the downfall of running Kies was the part where it tells me my software (in phone presumably) was out of date, so it attempted to download some new update for it.  But every time that started, it simply stayed at 0% complete, no matter how long I waited.

But now after describing how all these attempts to transfer the personal contents of my phone failed, let me describe the one thing that actually worked, enabling me to preserve all my personal files.  My friend suggested I get an SD memory card, and copy all my files to that.  So that was one more thing I did on Thursday night.  After visiting the AT&T store that night, I then went to Radio Shack and bought at 16G SD card for $18.  After my exhausting episode with Easy Phone Sync, I inserted the SD card in my phone and first copied the Photos folder to the card.  Then I copied music.  Then I copied some other folders.  Then I decided, why not copy everything?  So I did that.  I selected "Select All Files" while showing the root My Files folder.  Since I had already copied music, and was worried that music might occupy several gigabytes--possibly enough to overflow the 16G card if I copied the music files into it twice.  So I unselected the Music folder when making the Everything copy.

But this was not wholly satisfactory.  When I moved the SD card (along with the battery and SIM card)  to the new phone, and copied all the photos from the SD card to the Photos folder in the new phone, the photos appeared in some strange order, almost random, definitely not chronological, and not even chronological by device-taken (something like 95% of my photos were taken with my iPhone in the past 4 years, before I got the Galaxy phone).

With 2000 photos, and lack of chronological (or any other discernible) ordering, I'd never find photos I wanted.  So it was this limitation that led me to try Easy Phone Sync and Kies, the USB syncing methods, both without any success at all.

But late on Friday night before the Labor Day weekend, I discovered something useful.  It turned out that my photos ARE in chronological order inside the DCIM folder.  The DCIM folder on my SD card is (like all other image folders on SD card) is visible in Gallery.  I just select the DCIM folder, and presto, I can see all the last 5 years of photos in chronological order.  That was all I needed.  Now I don't care to copy this DCIM folder into the DCIM folder built into the new phone.  It's fine with me that all my older photos are now in a special older folder.

One more thing I did on Friday night.  Nobody told me to do this at all.  But when I was finally satisfied enough to return the old phone on Saturday, I put my battery and SIM into the old phone (but NOT the SD card now full of all my old stuff!!!) and gave it a Reset.

It was quite easy to repack the old phone with the packing insert and box provided.  I took it to the Post Office at 3pm on Saturday afternoon and asked if I could mail this prepaid package with delivery confirmation.  The clerk said no, but he could give me a receipt.  So I got the receipt for returning my old phone to AT&T.  And now I hope this is the end of the story, and I hope that AT&T doesn't find some reason they can't honor the warranty, in which case I'd end up paying for two phones.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More AT&T Samsung Galaxy madness

Background: 5 days after bringing my 3 month old defective Samsung Galaxy S4 phone to an AT&T store, I received the replacement lacking battery, back, and SIM card.  AT&T directs me to to copy the contacts to new phone.  But wait, I only have one battery and one SIM card, so I can't actually operate both phones at the same time, can I?  How am I supposed to copy my contacts and photos (and that's all I care about, fortunately, I can get my apps from Google later).

Today I showed my phone to an Android guru at work.  We tried and talked about several things.  Nothing was successful and I will continue to go the the AT&T store tonight to see if they can resolve issue.

First he suggested that I could use Kies and wifi to copy my contacts and photos to my mac, then copy them to the new phone.  First we needed to get my phone on the public wifi at work.  We did that, but there did not actually appear to be a Kies app on the phone, or at least I couldn't find it.  There is Kies preferences, but not Kies itself.

We did find a way to copy my contacts to the SIM card.  Presumably I could unpack them from the SIM card after installing in the new phone.  But that would not solve the problem with regards to copying my photos.

So then we tried connecting the phone to my Mac computer using USB.  He was hoping it would appear as a disk device from which we could access photos and the contacts image I just created in the SIM card.

Unfortunately, the Mac did not recognize the Samsung as a USB drive, but instead as a network "Music Server".  It was not visible in Finder, but only in Network Preferences.  In order to attach a music server to my Mac at work I needed the Admin password.  I do not have the Admin password.


My Galaxy phone alerted me at 8am this morning unnecessarily.  I pressed the side button and there was no message on the screen.  So I pulled down the notifications screen, which is filled with stuff like the instructions for remote control setup.  At the bottom was a notification about IEEE meeting tomorrow.  OK, it is good that it reminded me about that, I completely forgot.

But if this had been iPhone, I could easily have set alert to appear on the wake up screen, without giving me an audible alert at 8am and unnecessarily waking me up.  Then the notification would have simply appeared on the wake up screen, I would not have had to fiddle with the phone to see what I was just being notified about.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Once again, we are the world's thug, not the world's policeman

We have absolutely no moral or legal authority to bomb or otherwise intervene with hostility in Syria without UN Security Council approval.  If there is such approval, then at least we have legal authority.

The only difference between the Syrian regime and hundreds of others we have supported militarily to suppress their own populations is that...the Syrians are allied with Russia instead of us.

Tens of millions of people have died in regimes we have supported militarily to advance OUR own geopolitical and geoeconomic agendas.

Even now, we are essentially turning a blind eye to government imposed mass murder in Egypt.  In fact, we are mostly continuing our support regime of Egypt, which has long been used for terroristic murder of civilians toward the end of subverting democracy.

The reason the American people support a military is for defense of the United States of America.  Not for being the world's thug or policeman.

AT&T Samsung Phone changeover horrible and ongoing

After three months of delightful call voice quality, and flawless Google navigation, but with such a horrible user interface that I've never bothered to do anything fun with it, and with many other frustrations regarding text notifications and such, my 32G Samsung Galaxy S4 microphone died.  So people call me, I can pick up the call, and they can just barely hear me if I cup my hands around the phone and shout at it.

I took the phone back to an AT&T store, the real store, not the mall kiosk where I bought it (where, as I have already learned, they basically can't do anything) and spent 90 minutes before I could get the authorization to have a new phone shipped to me.  (When my iPhone 3 had a failure, about 1 year after purchase, I took it to an Apple store and they had me switched over to a new phone and on my way in ten minutes.  IIRC, that was on a Friday evening also.)  No local store could exchange the phone for me because no local store has the 32G model.  I asked if they would just downgrade me to 16G and they refused.  So I had to endure a long call (at the AT&T store) to corporate before I could get the exchange authorization.  Basically they had me take the phone apart and verify that two water test spots were still showing no water damage.  During the conversation I made the mistake of hanging up the store's land line and it took about 40 minutes of shouting, hand waving, and esp to get connected with the same service representative again.  I was grateful nobody at the store interfered.  But nobody at the store was any help either.

I went to the store on Friday evening and received the new phone on Wednesday afternoon.  That just barely makes "two business days" if you toss the weekend.

Now I get the phone with a cheery sheet from AT&T telling me I can transfer my contacts to the new phone by going to  So I went there, but it seemed that it wanted to connect to my phone by wifi.  So I had to find my home wifi password.  That took about 3 hours of digging through old instruction manuals.  (I've made several copies of the wifi password and put them in the user manual caches in each room.  But it takes some time to go through those user manual caches and the relevant page turned out to be missing from the bedroom pile so I had to go to the kitchen pile.  When I actually found the information I made two copies and put one back in the bedroom pile.)  Obviously I don't add wifi devices to my system often.  I though I had already added the Samsung phone but maybe I didn't, or maybe it lost the password somehow.

Anyway, I got the wifi enabled and connected, then went back to the website.  Regardless of my wifi connection, it wasn't magically located after all and I then had to search for my make and model.  OK, so I finally got my "from" device entered.

But then it seems that it wants me to enter my "to" device.  And therein lies a problem.  The "to" device doesn't really exist yet.  I simply have a new husk of a phone with no SIM and no memory card.  The "to" device won't really exist until I move those over from the original phone.  It doesn't seem to me like they've actually worked this out.

So unless I figure this out, it may have to wait until Thursday or Friday and I go back to AT&T store and see if they can do the transfer.  Actually, even the kiosk might be able to do this.  They had originally offered to copy my stuff over from the iPhone.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Aljazeera America Revolution

This is a historic, and hopefully revolutionary moment in media history.  Al Jazeera represents critical media, long lacking in the USA, done with better resources than mainstream media.

Right now, Al Jazerra is the so far it blows the doors off everything.

Alternative media channels have done much similar work, and are still essential, more than ever, for independent documentaries, Democracy Now, and the like.  But some of the best parts of Link TV and Free Speech TV were in fact the Al Jazerra news broadcast (the previously developed Aljazerra English broadcast in Europe).  Actually, I'd still like the see the Aljazerra English on alternate channels continue...I worry about divergence...targeting to the predjudices of the US audience.

If you get Dish Network, like me, and you should, you can get Aljazeera America on channel 215, Link TV at 9410 and Free Speech TV (FSTV) at 9415.  More critical channels than any other network.

On Time Warner, or AT&T Uverse, you don't get any of these channels.  AT&T wimped out two minutes before the changeover from the changeover from Al Gore's CURNT channel.  Time Warner announced they would not carry Al Jazerra when the news of the sale of Al Gore's channel to Aljazeera became public.  As a friend of mine guessed, not just no but hell no. They won't cater to critical minds on Time Warner.  Only empire approved viewpoints will be recognized as sane.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac

Econobrowser has some interesting thoughts on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But be sure to read the comments also.

My feeling is that we should return to the fully public Fannie Mae of the past, with as little room for corruption or inflated salaries at the top as possible.  The very purpose of Fannie Mae was to hold risk that private borrowers might not want at low price, to keep only the smallest FHA loans low priced.  Some of that risk is the systemic risk.  The public bank may need to be bailed out during a crisis.  The idea is that fewer other entities would need to be bailed also.  And the public bank could set an example with good rules and boring management receiving comparatively low salaries.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Humanity and decency require new drug policies

Here's Ethan Nadelman of the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization I contribute to almost every year.

Funny, though, while I knew DPA favored legalization of Marijuana, I assumed, unlike the sea of Marijuana-only legalization organizations, they favored legalization of all drugs.

In fact, Nadelmann is even a bit qualified about his support for marijuana.  He does not want to see it become like the tobacco cigarette market.

And wrt other drugs, the DPA doesn't have an official policy, but it wouldn't be a full libertarian style legalization.*  They mainly push for harm reduction strategies, such as needle exchange, in a step by step process of reducing all harms from drug prohibition (by far the major source of harms) and the drugs themselves.  (*He seems to say other drugs should not be freely sold, but possession should not be a crime.)

My own idea of the only decent policy is legalization of marijuana as with alcohol, restricted by age particularly.  (I would prefer to see blue laws repealed and alcohol available pretty much all day, so I didn't mention hours.  And restrictions on location can be suburbanizing...)

And then for other currently illegal drugs, I believe all drugs without exception should be available with a presecription from a state licensed medical doctor.  So more "schedule 1."

Overthrowing the deeply intrenched status quo, especially the prison industrial complex, and DA's, is difficult to contemplate.

Anyway, Nadelmann says a lot of other things I had thought of decades ago, with nobody else talking about them ever, and it's so wonderful to hear someone else confirming those ideas.

One idea is the spirituality of a once a year carefully planned psychedelic trip, to clear out mental sediment.  Not that I've been able to do this.  But the arc of my life does suggest that at least one door opening is useful--perhaps essential.

Another is that prohibition of all drugs including marijuana is what can create a "gateway" effect, as illegal dealers may carry more than one.  If marijuana is legal, but not the others, there is no gateway.

He says you can't have an effective 12 step program if falling off the wagon has legal consequences.  I've always said you can't have drug treatment if the drug is illegal, few will ever seek treatment because of possible consequences.

He mentions nalaxone, as a good idea, I will have to check that out.  He believes it should be liberally available.

He says the latest research shows decriminalization has no effect on use (it doesn't go up over all groups in society) but vast effect on the harm caused on people and society.

Here is my post to Facebook

I agree with and support Ethan Nadelmann and the Drug Policy Alliance.  Their policy on drugs other than marijuana is to emphasize decrim, and make people think about what the ultimate laws should be (though they oppose full libertarian style legalization of all drugs, they don't mind others talking about it in the interest of dialog).  I more specifically say that all drugs should be available with prescription from any state licensed medical doctor.  I would abolish Schedule One, the drugs that cannot be prescribed for any reason.  And marijuana should be at least as legal as alcohol, but with personal production and noncommercial sales less restricted (so the corporations don't take over).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Causality is a story

I've been thinking about the Kennedy assassination, then the Tate-LaBianca murders, two epoch ending events, whose effect was the end of liberal governance (ok, that's overstating it a bit, the last liberal President was Nixon--as Chomsky says, but that might only have been the assassination aftermath corrected the rightward bias of the assassination itself), the the end of liberal culture.  My thinking is that there were likely inputs from many sources alleged by conspiratorialists (of whom you could say I was one).  For example, had the CIA not had the MK ULTRA program, and not experimented with LSD, the Manson murders could not have occurred as they did.

Did CIA/FBI/Mafia/KnightsOfMalta/dissaffected-nationals/Hoover direct the outcome more tightly than that, perhaps suggesting or listing Tate (such as hit one of these, and we'll let you live)?  Well that's into conspiracy territory, no evidence exists, but then none would be expected.  Remember the tape recorder on Mission Impossible.  Only a small group of people might have ever known.  But then, perhaps through some screw up, the table was tilted, as these programs certainly involved people with far right and racist views, like J Edgar Hoover himself, a finite number of people could have been targets, planned or unplanned.  Then where would you put the matter if CIA/FBI had a pot of money for this kind of thing, embarrassing Black power movements, but simply left the who question to the perpetrators, who would understand the biases of their clients?  They would have chosen 'someone like Tate' (a left liberal movie icon) as to not offend their clients and someone they could get their hands on, and not someone of other persuasions.

Anyway, determining most important or proximate causes may be more difficult than one would naiively suppose, especially in the broadest view, when you can consider counterfactuals of all kinds.

For example, what would have happened in the truck had broken down on the way to the Tate residence?  Well then the murder wouldn't have happened that night anyway, and Manson might have had a different goal the next day, if any.

Then where do you put such things as the highway itself.  Or the invention of things like automobiles.  Surely without those, both of these events cound not have been anything like they were.

When it comes right down to it, the cause of everything is everything.

So where does that leave us?  Causality cannot be considered an absolute description of everything that happened.  Only a description of everything that happened can be that, or some description of the same scale.  Causality is a story we create about events, selecting which things are the variables and which things are the fixed.  But the reality is that all are variable, it is only in our mind we consider some things part of a fixed background, which is the context which must exist for a notion of causality.

BTW, if you read over on my other blog, I have a (likely untrue--falsely remembered from misplaced details) story in which I caused the Tate-LaBianca murders by insulting Manson's drug access compared with that of my chosen (Hollywood) people.*  So he murders a couple of Hollywood dealers and their favorite clients to put me in my place (fear if not respect of him).  The LaBianca portion of the murders were related to my mother's first name, literally "La Nore" (she insisted on the space), so it was some kind of coded message (watch out, kid, you might be next).

Now what if the Manson murders had actually been sparked by some 13 year old kid's insult at a park? Consider the extreme case in which there was nothing else, particularly, behind Manson's decision to order murder at all AND to order murder for these specific people?  In what sense would you say that I caused the murders?  Well it certainly wouldn't be a matter of criminal liability on my part.  I had freedom of speech and an inherent right to defend myself by insulting a creepy guy.  I did nothing wrong, or at least nothing illegal.  Certainly a kid's insult isn't in any kind of balance with a terrible murder.  But from a neutral standpoint, not related to social judgement, I was part of the causality, and a more active part than a molecule in the roadway between Spahn Ranch and Cielo Drive (which must have taken a bit longer than the 20 minutes I've seen quoted)--which would have been nevertheless "a part" of the events that actually took place.

And so, guilt is restricted form of causality, a more particular kind of story.  When assessing guilt, we leave out a universe of additional causative factors, to focus on those assumed to be part of human free will.

*When I met Manson at the Chatsworth Park--2 miles from Spahn Ranch--during the years 1967-1969 preceding the Tate-LaBianca murders, possibly only days or hours beforehand, he first struck me as a country bumpkin Christian promoting his church.  Though I was only a 13 year old kid who had never used drugs, it struck me that I did not want to be leaving my infinite LA culture and becoming Christian in some country bumpkin church because that would mean giving up on a lifetime of playing with psychedelic drugs, as I imagined my future.  When we first started talking, he pointed out some alleged gaps in my world view, making me angry because I couldn't see through his rhetorical tricks. I retorted something like "But you don't have any good drugs.  What fun is that?"  All the Christians I knew were opposed to drugs.  If this is an accurate recollection--and I have serious doubts--the irony is incredibly thick.  I recall Manson quickly blurted out a bunch of details proving he knew plenty about drugs as he walked away.  I was a little blond headed kid, and my best friend and guide was a brown haired jew who had begun styling himself to look like Roman Polansky--in part because Rosemary's Baby had been his favorite movie.  All this could have made Manson angry, and angry specifically against blonde and jew pairs.  We might have been a causative factor, but not a guilty one.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The other theory

OK, perhaps it's rather hard to believe that Oswald was gunning for the other gunman, as I suggested in an earlier post.

It's actually not that hard to believe, even as a communist (and not a Communist?) Oswald seems to have been the sort of idealist for whom even though Kennedy was better that almost anyone else available could be, he still wasn't good enough.  He did, after all, order the Bay of Pigs.  Perhaps it wasn't known as well then how Kennedy failed to follow the whole Eisenhower script--and bring in the Air Force.

It seems reasonable still to doubt the fatal bullet came from Oswald.  But he could have been...with some imagination..the kind of person to try to kill Kennedy.

What kind of information was he getting from his friends?  In fact GdM, his CIA handler, said he was responsible, then allegedly committed suicide before he could testify to Congress.  He was responsible not for gunning Kennedy, but for programming Oswald to do it (or he could have been, allegedly).  A master conspirator.

And there could have been others...but we'll never hear the testimony.

Who was GdM working for at the time?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Maximum Possible Sea Level Rise: 263.5 feet or 80.32 meters

What would the maximum sea level rise be if all the glaciers melted?  I think the answer to this question is fairly simple, as reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, it would be 80.32 meters or 263.5 feet.

But some people, including many scientists and even Global Warming activists, don't want to give this number.  They think it too implausible, alarmist, or whatever.  So for example, we find reported in the New York Times (I have been told...but haven't checked out the links yet) that it would be 25 feet.

How do they arrive at this?  Clearly not by simply adding up all the water, as the USGS does.  Instead, to come up with another number, either based on what they believe is likely to happen, or based on some limited interval, such as 500 years.

But any such limited timespan is just an artificial cutoff, and any such idea of what is likely to happen is based on some kind of model of how things happen in the climate, and how they happen in the ocean, etc.  Even though the question, as stated, is not asking what is likely to happen, or even plausible, just what could possibly happen.

One problem with trying to gauge what is likely to happen is that it is very complex.  There are interactions between the main effects, interactions among the interactions, etc.  Scientists typically make conservative projections, the kind that are not likely to be wrong.  So then if you feed one conservative projection into another conservative model, you get an an even more conservative projection, and so on.  This is why scientists do not (apparently) like to report the 80.32 meters that geologists plainly see.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Long-Term Problem of Full Employment

John Maynard Keynes quoted by brilliant blogger Sandwichman in a comment to this post at EconomistsView.

"4. After the war there are likely to ensure [sic] three phases-
"(i) when the inducement to invest is likely to lead, if unchecked, to a volume of investment greater than the indicated level of savings in the absence of rationing and other controls;
"(ii) when the urgently necessary investment is no longer greater than the indicated level of savings in conditions of freedom, but it still capable of being adjusted to the indicated level by deliberately encouraging or expediting less urgent, but nevertheless useful, investment;
"(iii) when investment demand is so far saturated that it cannot be brought up to the indicated level of savings without embarking upon wasteful and unnecessary enterprises."
[Keynes's ultimate cure for the third phase?]
"It becomes necessary to encourage wise consumption and discourage saving,-and to absorb some part of the unwanted surplus by increased leisure, more holidays (which are a wonderfully good way of getting rid of money) and shorter hours."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thinking about a non-Oswald hypothesis

OK, I heard a great JFK assassination lecture at the 2013 Mensa AG.  I spent 4 1/2 hours at the JFK 6th Floor Museum in Dallas and inspecting Dealy Plaza and the Grassy Noll.

On the other hand, many years ago (1988?) I heard the PBS version, which basically left me feeling that the lone gunman theory needed no alternative, it was perfectly fine, people should just get over it.

But afterwards, I kept hearing about other things that didn't fit, such as

!!!!!  The Pristine Bullet   !!!!

The official theory has it that the Pristine Bullet shattered JFK's brain and did multiple injuries to Connally.  BUNK !!!!  Any theory which includes this should be immediately discarded, or modified not to include it.

There are other things that may be less conclusive, but I'm trying to explain anyway, such as:

1) Oswald was apprehended shortly after the assassination.  His cheek was tested for shotgun use.  The results were negative.  (In the official story line, shown at the Museum, the test was "inconclusive.  That means they didn't get the expected results.)

If you take this negative test as accurate, Oswald did not fire the rifle at all!  Sure, he may have set it up (at least there was the gun perch he supposedly created from boxes with his fingerprints).

2) When Oswald's rifle was tested, the FBI had to use many shims just to get it to work.  After the use of such shims, any claim about the bullets matching the wear pattern from this rifle should be abandoned.  The pattern may have been caused by the shims.  The rifle itself was old and rickety.  (I saw the full sized picture at the Museum).

3) The shot that actually killed Kennedy is half way down Elm Street.  This looks like a very difficult shot to me, especially with and old and nearly broken rifle.

4) Oswald himself!  Oswald always denied shooting Kennedy.  And what would have been his motives for doing so?  And someone so careful to get a job at the Book Depository (before the path was planned btw), be a Marine sharp shooter, and go to Russia and marry a Russian wife--this guy is no imbecile.  He has skills, he is smart, he can plan.  His lack of material success is a result of his idealism.  He should know that the assassination of Kennedy would put Johnson in power (or maybe someone even worse--if he could kill Johnson as well).  And if he wanted to show off his prowess--what was his escape concept?  Further showing that Oswald was no dummy, he refused a public defender and asked for representation from the ACLU.

5) Ruby.  Ruby shot Oswald two days after the assassination.  His story that he did this because he loved Kennedy makes no sense.  Ruby had mob connections and the mob hated Kennedy, as did most Texas conservatives.  This was clearly intended to shut Oswald up, and likely intended to hide whatever knowledge Oswald had.  Ruby died before standing trial.  This is just all to convenient to be dismissed.

OK, here's what I think.  Oswald--and his handler--were deep into this.  He knew the players.  He had deep connections in the exile conservative Russian community in Dallas (these people HATE the soviet union, just like the Cuban exiles in Miami).  He could have known:

1) There was a plot to kill Kennedy.

2) This plot was tied to the FBI itself (so no use calling them).  Did I mention that J Edgar Hoover not only hated John Kennedy, he feared Robert Kennedy, who was investigating the mob.  Hoover had long protected the mob and enjoyed their company.  Meanwhile, the mob had the dirt on Hoover so he was actually on their leash.  And possibly the CIA.  Oswald was being personally "handled" by the CIA, his best friend was a CIA contact.

3) Oswald could know that the outcome of a Kennedy assassination could be much worse.  Kennedy had done many things that could have been much worse, refusing to send the Air Force to bomb Cuba, making a deal with the Russians to end the Cuban Missle Crisis, setting up the hotline, negotiating the Test Ban Treaty, and most concurrently planning to withdraw from Vietnam.

So Oswald would be motivated to stop this plot--all by himself.  As an idealist, the difficulty of the task would not make him turn away.  What he was hoping to do was shoot the actual Kennedy shooter who was setting up the Grassy Noll.  He got his rifle set up, but before he could do anything, Kennedy was shot.  But Oswald must have immediately realized that intended heroism was not going to be taken that way.  He was going to become the patsy (as he always claimed) to take the fall for the assassination itself.  Oops!  Better get out of there fast, which was what he did.  And no use taking the gun, it certainly wouldn't look good for him to be carrying a rifle just after the assassination.

Now how would Oswald know so much to know the shooter would be on the Grassy Noll?  His Russian connections, of course.  Very smart people, including his Russian exile handler.

This sort of intended heroism was probably why Oswald attempted to shoot Walker as well.  He possibly feared Walker to be part of a coup to overthrow the Kennedy administration.  And possibly Walker was in the coup (or maybe just some of his friends).

From the Book Depository, BTW, Oswald had a clear view of the Grassy Noll, just as clear if not better than the motorcade shot, and easier because it was not moving. But he would have had trouble shooting the shooter there if that shooter were hidden behind the fence.  And thus his plan to stop the assassination was foiled.

The perps?  The FBI, the CIA, the mob, anti-Castro exiles, oil oil like HL Hunt.  I find the suggestion that HL Hunt provided the money which was used to hire two assassins.  It certainly wouldn't look good for the job to be done by actual FBI or CIA people, or paid for with payments traceable to the government.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oswald's Handler

The story of George de Mohrenshildt.

Was he the kingpin of the conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, as he himself claimed?  Only if Oswald fired the operative shots, which many, including me, now doubt.  Oswald himself always said he was a patsy.

So George was just the patsy's handler.  He may well have believed all along he was the only story.  Then where was the real kingpin?

I would think one of George's friends or associates.  Somehow I have been thinking of Edwin Walker.  In Walker we have the most rabid of Kennedy haters.  Harry Dean claimed to have been an FBI undercover agent, to have infiltrated the John Birch Society, and reported the Walker and John Rousselot had hired two gunmen to kill Kennedy, Loran Hall and Eladio del Valle.

The thing that makes me wonder about Walker is that it does seem as if Oswald tried to kill him.  Oswald knew these people.  Oswald had no reason to hate Kennedy.  Marina said that Oswald told her that Walker was mad and that he had tried to stop him.

Behind all of this you have H L Hunt, his money, and everyone he knew, virtually the entire american plutocracy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Smart Phone Considerations

[Massively revised and rewritten on June 23, 2013, after several days experience with Samsung Galaxy S4.]

First of all, a smart phone needs to be a phone.  I need something from which I can hear people most clearly.  Often, in louder office and mall environments, I did not find my iPhone G3 earpiece loud enough, or it was rolled off in the upper midrange, and it wasn't fully intelligible.  It is hard to know how much of the rolloff is caused by the cellular system, and the phone and the user on the other side.  But even when there is rolloff in the cellular system, it helps to have the earspeaker have a full upper frequency range loudspeaker, to get the most out of the limited signal as possible.  If for example, the telephone system were to employ a 3kHz cutoff, if the speaker also has a 3kHz cutoff, the resulting cutoff is 1.5 kHz.  To have no significant effect as these things are usually considered (less than 0.1dB change within the stated bandwidth) it would be necessary for the speaker to have 30Khz response.

Now in saying all this, and all I do say, I am not Bell Labs, who for one did enormous research into how a telephone should work in terms of balancing the bandwidth and so on.  And now, I would sustpect major smart phone companies also do such research, as well as knowing the body of now understood principles, as well as putting their best ideas into the design.  But at least from the beginning of the modern smart phone era, beginning with the stylish iPhone, it has seemed to many users that voice communications was taking a back seat to computer and video applications, as well as style.  So if that truly was the goal of the manufacturers, it doesn't matter how much research was being done, the priorities were wrong, and the priorities need to be right.  Even for nerds like me, voice communication is #1.

I have wondered if earspeakers should be round holes vs straight lines, or fully ear enveloping.  I think fully ear enveloping would be best, followed by roundish holes then straight lines--but this is all just a guess based on analogy with planar, linear, and point sources in audio, but at such small distances as an earspeaker, diffractive and dispersive effects are only at very high frequencies.

I am finding the frequency response and loudness to be ok so far with my Samsung Galaxy S4 (no loud mall experience yet) which has a straight line ear interface, and because the speaker is near the edge, I can tilt the phone away from the ear and still get good sound, perhaps even better.  In a very loud environment, one could perhaps get better performance with hole-in-the-middle-of-the-glass earspeaker if it could be fully pressed against the outer hear, thereby both blocking and directing sound.  The iPhone has some offset of the hole from the edge, but not enough to provide very much blocking.  Though generally I do not like pressing my ear up against flat glass, especially if it is hot, as all smart phones I have tried get to be fairly quickly, so the greater ability to tilt the phone away with the Samsung is probably the bigger advantage.  I suspect neither would do well in high noise environments at 85dB and up.

Neither is sufficient in high light environments for sure, and there iPhone actually appears a tad better (almost slightly visible) so far in direct sunlight (but angled away of course), but possibly same or worse when hand shaded, when Samsung's greater contrast helps.

My first test with the S4 was miserable, but that was due to reception and transmission factors.  In general, I am finding S4 to have much better audibility than my 4 year old iPhone G3, which has the classing hole-in-the-glass-half-inch-from-edge interface, but possibly an outdated worn and dirty speaker.

It would be good to see earspeaker performance objectively reviewed as to frequency response, distortion, maximum levels, and so on.  Of course, interpreting objective measurements (as well as what to measure) is pretty subjective, and interpretation even moreso.  So one has to have an open mind about such things, but that has been demonstrated in decades of decades of objective audio reviewing (including in the mostly subjective Stereophile).

One of the reasons I didn't select the HTC One instead was that it has higher SAR.  Samsung seems to have by far the best SAR numbers of the three, though they seem to vary in all the accounts I've seen.  I also think it makes sense, that a plastic case would make it easier to have radio energy directed away from the user rather than toward the user.  Apple iPhone 5 does slightly better in SAR than HTC.


One thing I find almost laughable is the obsession with how phones physically look, and especially whether they have a metal or plastic case.  A tiny piece of aluminum covering my phone does not make me feel much more like a rich man.  Well engineered plastic, especially tough polycarbonate, can be just as good or better.  Especially in a smart phone, where the most visible part is the front which is basically just a piece of glass in current smart phones.  The back is what you hold away from your face.  It merely needs to feel nice, which polycarbonate can do as well as metal.  Likewise with being strong and resistant to dropping--and there is a big advantage in having a consumer replaceable cover in case it does get dented or scratched, though the bigger advantage is with regard to being able to remove the cover to replace the battery and add a memory card.

I find nothing "cheap" feeling about the physical appearance of the Samsung Galaxy S4, especially in black.  When ordered in black, when the phone is turned off, it is essentially identical in appearance above to the highly esteemed (in appearance) iPhone.  If only such obsessions as the metal case obsession were turned to important things, such as voice quality and reliability, we'd all be better off.

I confess that silver tone that's not actual aluminum does actually look a bit cheap.  In that regard, however, the chrome accent around the face button on the Samsung is fine, though I worry about it wearing off over time.

One place where style is more important is in the actual active screens.  I found the default Samsung busy and obnoxious, disorganized, unhelpful, filled with adware and bloatware which can't easily be deleted.  I'm gradually getting it better by turning things off.  I sympathize with those who root and overwrite the default system.  I believe that is far easier with Android than iOS, and I might do it eventually.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Extravagant new HQ's for Apple, Amazon, and Facebook

Great story with appropriate tone.

Thinking about the old Bell Laboratories building in Holmdel, New Jersey, I found this blog and wrote this comment:

The transistor was invented before the Saarinen Bell Labs building was built.  What was the real accomplishment?  Start with what was the result of building this building: the destruction of the world's most innovative company.  But in between lies the story.  The most technically significant development to come from Bell Labs after the transistor was the Unix operating system.  This was not the management's plan, instead it was developed by long haired renegades, in an unused office, in their spare time.  But Bell Labs realized before long (though perhaps still too long) this was hot stuff.  At first (and actually, most importantly) it was released to universities and other research institutions.  But the old AT&T knew that computers were the future, and they wanted to own it, and they thought they had the key, so they voluntarily split the company up in the famous Consent Decree, spinning off the actually profitable bits and keeping The Future, Bell Labs and Unix, for themselves.  Only once again, The Future didn't quite work out as planned, AT&T's Unix PC's were dogs, and amidst the success of IBM, Microsoft, and Apple, the whole effort was quickly abandoned.  Now, Unix is still at the heart of many of the most important computers, including Macs, and was the technical inspiration for all the rest.  So the the unplanned work that came from this building has made the world infinitely richer.  But it made the company no profit, the very name AT&T was sold to one of the spin-offs, the Labs were sold to a foreign competitor, and now vacant, ready to be razed.  Next story: Xerox PARC.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Plateau of the New Deal

I posted a reply to another comment in  this interesting blog about the promotion of the "free markets" concept in the 20th century.

Thanks for the bit about the tax reform of 1954.
But you could probably find rollbacks from the New Deal vision of Roosevelt as early as 1945. The one that stands out to me is the Taft Hartley act of 1947. I also wonder whether if FDR had lived longer, the Cold War could have been avoided and instead of the endless overt and covert wars we could have had the Four Freedoms. So another suspect is the National Security Act of 1947, which created the military industrial complex as we know it, and the endless pursuit of world control through military dominance.
These disgruntled aristocrats and petit bourgeois who started MPS were angry both at democracy and unions. Friedman blamed the business failures of his parents on unions.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Human Agency

Nowhere like Crooked Timber to find interesting arguments with better modern philosophy than I got in school.

In this compound argument, John C Halasz explains causality (briefly) and human agency.  Human Agency is the modern concept replacing the archaic "free will." 

Animal organisms are self-regulating causal organizations that delimit themselves from an environment and on the basis of that relative closure, intervene causally in chains of events.  But that's merely animal motility, common to humans and rodents alike.   It's only when there is symbolic thinking that environmental events can be interpreted against a horizon of counterfactual possibilities and one such possibility can be deliberately selected and implemented.  THAT is the root of human agency, also known as Freedom.  And behind it, there has to be an structured system of rules to make that thinking, selection, and implementation possible.  Hence Freedom is fundamentally based on, and thereby constrained by, rules.  No rules, no freedom.

I'm don't think I agree with Halasz generally, I think he is somewhat right wing in his economic thinking.  But I find the human agency concept very interesting and it's surprising that I first learned of it here.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Shaping the future, for what?

Each of us, in everything we do, shape the future (in which I mean the totality of reality at all times from the present forward to infinity).  First, consider the future to be the future of all behaviors, human and non-human (including nature, etc.).

F(t) = H(t) + NH(t)

In the past it has seemed like the human part of reality may have been changing much more rapidly than nature.  Though sudden outlier events could shake that complacency.  More recently it is beginning to seem like the human interaction may be causing the the non-human part of reality to change faster than before.

In any case, each of us has a human behavior at any point in time, we directly shape our own immediate future...which most of the time may simply be preventing various disasterous consequences.  Driving to work, 5 seconds of lost concentration could greatly change your life, or even end it.  On the other hand, large changes in occupation or residence may be difficult and take much time, or even be out-of-hand impossible.  We have some control over our behaviors, but most is determined by physical realities, human incentives, in the immediate timeframe.  In the long run, it can't be known if any of our behaviors have not been so determined by external realities--including our genes.

So one way to conceive of this is that from the present moment onward, there are an infinity of possible universes extending forward, starting very close together (we can't move that fast) but eventually meaning, within highly constrained limitations of course--though not knowable--we could be anywhere doing anything.  So a lot depends of our future depends on our choices, though those choices may be severely constrained.  But also the rest-of-the world is shaping our future, as we in very small measure shape it for all others (perhaps large measure for a very few).

But what do we shape our future and that of other FOR?  That is a question that motivates this discussion.  Utilitarians assume we shape our future for maximum pleasure and minimum pain.  Or maybe we should.  But we are certainly far from that.

We largely seem to shape our world to satisfy certain ideals within a particular world model.  So, say one is a serious Evangelical Christian.  That person's ideal is to be a wonderful saver of souls, by converting people to a preferred sect of Christianity, perhaps my local church.

For someone like me...  Well, I'm basically a utilitarian, in terms of how outcomes should be judged.  But getting to the greatest good for the greatest number, now and forever, is pretty mind boggling.  What I tend to do, as I think most everyone would, is to start from a particular model of the best possible society.  What we need to do, from that perspective, is to migrate to that.  So the most useful behavior is promoting that migration.  Success is not judged by how much one personally migrates to that way of life, but promotes said migration across a community or the world.

So of course economists, for example, have been personally invested in promoting market society.  Study the life of a particular economist, and you will rarely find a utilitarian.  You will find a market evangelist.

My ideal is obviously lefter than that.  The best societies we have seen so far are social democratic, such as Norway and Denmark.  That seems the best place to start, and I am happy promoting social democracy, as it is the solution that can sell now.

But in my mind it still wastes human potential, far too much pain for the pleasure provided.  The error I feel is still property.*  Hard as it is to eliminate (and I'm not giving up my home either) it must be limited in power.  That is still, I believe, the path to freedom.  And so I am a communist in ideal, even if I don't know how to do without it (though I've heard some interesting ideas, such as participatory economics) and especially how we would get to a society like that.

But I don't feel that being a social democrat, or a liberal (NOT a market liberal) is selling out.  It's here today, the slightly defective technology we actually have, and hopefully can shape for the better.  If we can ever get it out of the hands of the Thatcherites.

(*Property, of course, is theft.)