Archive for the ‘regulation’ Category

Can We Afford Net Neutrality?


People seem to believe that the internet/World Wide Web exists independently of society, a magical system which is just there, without anybody having to do anything to make it be there.  They are apparently unaware that all the activity in the cyber world requires machines to make it possible,  Lots and lots of machines, racks and racks of them, filling buildings the size of Wal-Marts, connected by hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber optic cable and radio links.  All of this costs money, which comes out of our pockets.

And some of us cannot afford premium Web service, but we still need access to the Web.  Schools now communicate with parents via the Web, students get homework assignments over the Web, and have to turn them in via the Web. Many companies request that applications, orders, returns, and other business be conducted over the Web.  Banks often charge customers extra if they want to do business in person, or severely limit the opportunities to do so.  Web service can be more important than having an automobile, and can serve in place of autos by allowing so much to be done electronically.

My internet provider is constantly improving the download speed that their system runs at, in part to justify charging more for their service.  However, they do not offer tiers of service levels, instead insisting that one size fits all.  So I am charged the same amount for my occasional YouTube videos, text content, and emails as the guy down the street who is streaming several hours of video every day, downloading movies, and online gaming.  Sure, it is nice to have blindingly fast Web service, but I would rather pay less and get slower access.

Sure, it will take longer for my video to load, but I would tolerate that if my bill could be cut in half.  Web service is becoming as vital as electric service, an essential utility, and it should be assured to everyone, not just those who can afford top-of-the-line bandwidth.  Toll roads are beginning to charge more during high-traffic periods, when demand is highest.  Electric companies sometimes charge more for energy during peak demand times.  Allowing Web service providers to charge more for faster access is part of making ever faster service possible.  But we don’t all have to use it.


Units. Of measure


Meters and liters, inches and feet.  Ounces, quarts, gallons.  Kilometers per second.  Light second, light minute, light hour, light year.  Terabyte, barrel, kilowatt, hands, stone, the things we measure have changed along with the way we measure things.  Learning the metric system is only a start, because our immediate neighborhood is only a few light hours across.

Mars averages about 12 light minutes from Earth, while the Earth is only about 8 light minutes from the Sun.  Light travels about 300,000 kilometers per second, so, unlike the Sun, Mars can be anywhere from 3 something light minutes away to about 22 light minutes.  Sometimes, a radio beep would take nearly an hour to go to Jupiter.

On Earth, everything is only a fraction of a light second away, but even the Moon is nearly a light second away.  To get into space, we have to get going about 7 kilometers per second, after we get above most of the atmosphere.  Space is only a about 100 kilometers from wherever you are right now, but the atmosphere gets very thin only a few kilometers up.  And space is big.  Really, really big.

Greed Kills!


London experienced a horrible fire recently, when a 24 story apartment building caught fire and burned rapidly.  So far, 79 people are either confirmed dead or missing and confirmed dead, and the death doll may go higher.  I happened to be reading the New York Times at the time that the fire was reported, and the video that I saw was terrifying.

High rise buildings are designed to contain fires to their starting point, so that people have a chance to get out.  This building burned like it was soaked in gasoline.  Seeing a multi-story residential building burning from top to bottom is utterly wrong, never supposed to happen kind of stuff:

From the first, people who lived in the building were saying that the cladding,  which had been added during a 10 million pound renovation as insulation, had burned rapidly, spreading the fire from a lower floor to the top floor in minutes.  Additionally, the building only had one fire stairwell, and there was no central fire alarm system.  As the building had been built in 1974, it was not required to have sprinklers.  That anyone escaped at all is mostly due to the presence in the building of many Muslim people who were awake preparing their Ramadan meal and spread the alarm.

This horrible tragedy was completely preventable, and most certainly is the result of criminal negligence.  Terrorism is an act meant to force people to change.  Setting people up to die  by saving a few pennies is far worse.

Stopping the pain


Most people I know are hurting in some way, spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in other ways.  Life seems to be needlessly complex, and drains us of energy.  We often do not feel like our work is of value to anybody, and getting rewarded for what we do is frequently inadequate and materialistic.  People all over the country are losing their sense of community, withdrawing from society, becoming increasingly isolated.

Most of us are doing the jobs of three people, yet our pay is the same as it was 30 years ago, correcting for inflation.  Wages should have grown as productivity increased, but the capitalists kept them low, choosing instead to pocket the increased revenues.  These are the same people who decided to send jobs overseas so that they could increase their profit margins.  Those decisions were made without regard for community, or society, and were driven by pure greed.  Everyone was making decent money back in the 1970’s, but then thefts began.  Retirement funds held by unions, Social Security, trusted companies, all were ripped off, or ripped us off.  Social Security was the biggest heist in history, billions of dollars stolen from the fund that was supposed to pay out the benefits.  Enron was responsible for thousands of elderly folks to lose their retirement savings, along with Tycho, General Motors, and several others.

Greed is driving the push for ever-greater profits, a lust for money beyond reason, a desire for money that cannot be satiated.  People who believe that they are above having to work, because they have invested their wealth so that they can receive dividends.  Their neighbors used to live on interest from their investments, but the banking world is upside down now, and banks don’t pay interest anymore.  Banks are upside down because nobody is saving any money, like they used to.  Who can afford it?  A friend of mine said the other day that most of the people that she knows are one crisis away from losing everything, because they have no reserves left.  Can’t use credit cards anymore, the interest is so high.  If you can get one.

Only new hires, or teenagers, should be working for the minimum wage.  People should be earning more, so that they are not struggling to survive.  They should have the chance to do a good job, one that they can be proud of, rather than be forced to turn out shoddy merchandise or poor service.  We all need to remember that we need community, feeling connected to each other, sharing with each other.  These are things that government cannot make happen by passing laws or creating regulations.  These are things that capitalists should be doing anyway, to protect their most valuable resource, people.

Taking too much


Everything that we do is an investment of energy, a gamble that we will get more out of something than what we put in.  Sometimes, we lose, sometimes, we win.  When we lose too frequently, we are diminished, lacking that which makes life possible.  Many of the interactions that we have generate energy, a surplus beyond what we have invested.

When this surplus is taken away from the people who produce it too often, the process of production begins to fail, as fewer and fewer people will invest their energy into something which will inevitably cost them.  What is wrong in America is that too much taking of surplus energy by people who are not creating that energy is going on.  There are too many people trying to get rich too quickly.

These people see the potential surplus of a deal to be theirs regardless of whether it is actually created or not.  They feel victimized if they are not allowed to extract every possible bit of surplus for themselves.  To claim that you have been robbed because you didn’t make as much as you could have is to deny the right of others to receive the fruits of their labors.

Paying a living wage means paying more than the minimum, giving the producers a surplus to spend on themselves.  This creates the energy to drive the system.  Raising the minimum wage will not alter the inequity of our economic system, raising the average wage is what will increase demand for goods and services, stimulate innovation, and produce satisfaction with our lives.

Greed, oh Volkswagen Greed


Back in the late 1990’s, Volkswagen announced that it intended to become the largest auto manufacturer in the world.  At that time, the company was considerably behind Toyota, then the largest car maker.  But Volkswagen succeeded in being number 1, for a few months.  The cost of eclipsing Toyota may have been too great, though.  In order to sell so many vehicles, Volkswagen cheated, claiming mileage which was extraordinary for their diesel-powered cars.  Yes, the cars actually can get that kind of mileage, but not while being compliant with U.S. emissions standards.

When confronted with evidence that their cars were not compliant, Volkswagen stonewalled for nearly a year, before admitting to the deceit.  Now, the courts are trying to determine what the remedy should be for the people who purchased these defective cars.  Rather than spending millions in court costs and lawyer fees, I suggest that Volkswagen give these customers their choice of a brand new Volkswagen, or Audi, with a complimentary maintenance agreement.  This would be far cheaper in the long run, and might even go some ways toward repairing the damage that has been done to the Volkswagen name.

Studs give no grip


The past few days, I have been working outside near a major thoroughfare, and I have noticed how many cars have studded tires on.  We have not had any snow, freezing rain, or even sleet for the last month and-a-half, but people are still driving around with tires that have little pieces of metal pushed into them.  These pieces of metal are supposed to improve traction on icy surfaces.  Which they do, sometimes, but most of the time, they just reduce the traction, by lifting the tire up off of the road.  Braking distances are longer, and cornering is seriously impaired.  But that is not the worst.

Studded tires tear up the roads, accelerating wear, destroying paint and decals, and creating a very fine gravel, which is bad for motorcyclists.  Driving studded tires on dry pavement also makes the studs go away really fast.  In spite of all of that, I do have studded tires.  They are permanently mounted on spare wheels, and I only put them on the car when the roads are super icy.  Most of the time, all season radial tires work quite well, as the rubber is formulated to get soft when the tire gets cold.  But I can swap out the tires in less than an hour, in my own driveway.  Actually, I hardly ever use my studded tires, and would not be upset if they were banned.  They do tear up the roads, and they do reduce traction most of the time.  But I am sure that there is an amendment which guarantees the right to run studs.  When driverless cars get popular, maybe we can get rid of the studs!

Burn, Baby Burn


There is little doubt that the Earth is getting warmer.  You can deny it if you wish, but the evidence is becoming irrefutable.  Most of the debate now centers on whether burning fossil fuels is causing the warming.  Regardless of the cause, adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere right now is like throwing gasoline on a fire.  The human race is currently spewing over 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.  Reducing that amount requires reducing the use of fossil fuels, as they are the largest source of carbon dioxide.

Coal-fired power generating plants are the largest single source of this greenhouse gas, as well as soot, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.  Many of these generating plants have no emissions controls, such as scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide, or particulate absorption  devices.  Alternative sources of energy are becoming much cheaper, including natural gas, solar, and wind power.  It does not really matter what is causing the Earth to get warmer, what matters is whether we stop contributing to the warming.

Inequality must stop!


There are several ways to address income inequality, from taxation to raising the minimum wage.  Some way must be found to share more wealth with the working people, so that they can consume luxury goods.  Otherwise, the economy is going to stagnate as all of the wealth ends up in the hands of a very few people.  Encouraging payment of higher wages, without raising the minimum wage, is the least inflationary method of redistributing wealth.  Workers have not been compensated for the incredible increases in productivity which have occurred over the last 20 to 30 years.

Another way of redistributing wealth is national health insurance.  If everyone were to pay in, depending on their level of income, there would be little difficulty in improving the health of the American people.  The problem lies in getting enough people into the health care field when compensation is very low for the amount of preparation required, and the demands of the job.  The shortage of doctors and nurses is becoming acute in many areas, resulting in a great deal of overtime.

No minimum wage, just higher wages.


Raising the minimum wage will not alleviate the misery that so many are experiencing.  What is needed is to change the payroll tax laws to persuade employers to pay higher wages. By putting a high tax on low wages, we might be able to get employers to pay decent wages. For instance, if you pay your employees 8.00 dollars an hour, you pay a 40 percent tax on payroll. If you pay them 12.00 dollars an hour, you pay 12 percent tax.  At 20.00 dollars per hour, there is no tax.  Viewing labor as an expendable resource is pure capitalism, which is destroying itself right now.  We are a community, which survives because everyone puts in what they can.

Some workers are not worth high wages; trainees receiving minimum wage is an acceptable practice.  But that wage should be used rarely, with average wages above that by a considerable margin.  We do not want to raise the minimum wage, we want to raise the average wage.  Average wages must be nearly twice minimum wage if there is to be a large consumer class.   Minimum wage has been raised again and again, and it never changes the poverty levels, because it makes it so that you can be broke with more money than ever before.

In order to consume, people need money, more money than basic survival requires.  When people can afford such things as spa treatments, premium beverages, luxury cars, gardeners, housekeepers, the economy will be roaring.  When people spend money on those kinds of things, the money goes through the economy over and over.  Minimum wages take money out of the system, and puts it in the hands of the one percent.  Raising average wages would increase economic activity, generating more wealth.  Don’t raise the minimum wage, raise the average wage.