After all, the 1% have people to do this for them.
(Swiped from Facebook.)
After all, the 1% have people to do this for them.
(Swiped from Facebook.)
This isn’t mine, but it’s awfully damned close:
We have produced an entire subculture of people who want things of value and who don’t want to pay for them. I really think the Prince of Darkness (curses be unto him) is going to have to build on an addition to hell to make room for them all.
Yeah, I hear you: “It’s probably just a kid.” Kids with no sense of propriety or property grow up to be adults with no sense of propriety or property. There aren’t enough roads to Damascus for all of them to wake up in time.
And this is what he says:
Before you suggest a method, though, he wants to make this clear:
is there a way to get real n active followers without following other people and for free?!?! I want to get a lot of followers without doing much work and without paying. any ways?
The scary part, of course, is that eventually he’ll be old enough to vote.
Because, you know, nobody’s actually giving you anything for “free”:
The program launches on Thursday, Verizon announced on its website, and customers “may be required to enroll in Verizon Selects, part of Precision Market Insights from Verizon, as part of the Smart Rewards registration process and will receive 2,500 bonus points for being part of Verizon Selects and 500 Rewards points per participating line each month.”
That “may” might be that you’d have to enroll if you haven’t already it seems it would be a likely requirement, as it enables Verizon to offer deals it thinks will interest customers based on their “location, web browsing and mobile application usage data, as well as other information including customer demographic and interest data,” as explained on its info page about Verizon Selects.
So it’s a tradeoff: we hand you some points, presumably good toward something, and you tell us what you’re doing at every opportunity. And really, you’ve seen worse.
Sometimes you cherish the easy questions. “Do Americans have the right to free parking?” Well, no: nobody, I suggest, properly has a right to anything that anyone else has to pay for.
Still, there are those who remain unpersuaded by this argument:
In Los Angeles, activists have been organizing for months under the banner of The Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. They argue that the city takes advantage of its citizens to ameliorate its budget problems. The Los Angeles Times reports that an average L.A. parking ticket costs $68, and that money secured from parking fines has grown from about $110 million in 2003 to almost $161 million this year. Activists are now seeking to cap non-public safety related parking fines at $23.
Activists in Keene, New Hampshire, are fighting for more than just a decreased financial penalty; they want parking fines eliminated altogether. Although there is free parking in Keene after 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and all day on Sunday [pdf], libertarian activists involved in the Free Keene campaign are not satisfied. To demonstrate their discontent, they are feeding expired meters before tickets can be issued, and have allegedly prevented the city from issuing more than 4,000 parking tickets since 2009. They also have taken to harassing parking enforcement officers.
What the hell kind of “libertarian” thinks parking at a meter they do not own is a “right”?
The ostensible policy goal of parking tickets isn’t really to generate municipal revenue it’s to manage the supply of a public asset. If parking is plentiful and cheap, people will use tons of it. If the cost of violating parking regulations is low on top of that, the city has even less leverage over how curb space should be used for the public good. Maybe a cheap parking spot feels good for the individual parker, but a city overrun by parking where there’s little incentive to invest in alternative transportation, among other things probably doesn’t feel like somewhere you’d want to live.
Of course, once you’ve seen some Family Truckster on stilts making six passes through the lot at Lowe’s looking for a space within 50 feet of the building, you begin to despair. Or at least I do.
This actually showed up in Y!A Cars & Transportation:
There is “unclear on the concept,” and then there’s downright opaque.
Once again, we have someone who can’t bear the thought of actually paying for whatever is in that Mystery Download:
i want to download a file from filespeedy but i need to download the filespeedy survey bypass application first, but theres even a survey just to download the filespeedy survey bypass application, anyone know where i can download it without any surveys?
Five will get you ten he’s being baited, and if he actually somehow gets that file, it will enlist his machine in the Evil Bot Army.
From the “Nobody wants to pay for anything” files:
Just wait until he finds out that the Tooth Fairy was really his mom.
John Naughton in the Guardian, on the cost of those “free” online services:
When the history of our time comes to be written, people will marvel at the way that billions of people were seduced into the kind of one-sided agreements they have struck with outfits such as Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. In the case of Facebook, the historical analogy that comes immediately to mind is sharecropping the agricultural system in which a landowner allowed tenants to use his land in return for a share of the crops produced on it and which was once a staple of the southern states of the US. Its virtual equivalent is the Facebook system: a billion people till Master Zuckerberg’s land, creating all the content that is then harvested by him and his advertiser buddies. The only difference is that on Facebook the sharecroppers don’t get any share of the proceeds. They’re just croppers.
And here’s the really weird bit: the croppers are absurdly pleased with their lot. They get to post photographs of themselves drunk, sober, recumbent and upside-down. They get to “Like” their friends’ jokes and status updates and to organise parties and social events without having to use obsolete media such as email. And in the process they “pay” for this entertainment with their privacy and their personal data, apparently without batting an eyelid. Like I said: weird.
One assumes that these folks are happy with the deal. Now if the Big Zuckowski puts together an archive that barfs your status updates back at you exactly twenty years later well, a little mortification is good for the soul.
And in the next few minutes, some schmuck will try to sell it to you:
[M]ore and more products and services are being provided to “consumers” who aren’t really consumers because we/they don’t want whatever they are. The phone calls from telemarketers, carefully positioned around our dinnertime, become more frequent. A lot of them have to do with “taking surveys,” which I dunno, is that some kind of effort to get around the do-not-call laws? Well, I suppose it is to be expected. If you’re in business to provide something people actually want, it won’t be enough for people to want it, they have to be willing to part with cash in order to get it. That would be a lot of wait between the wanting right now, so I can see how it’s more appealing to provide something people don’t want.
Or at least less work.
Even so-called “free” stuff, which of course does not actually exist, is desperately vended. CFI Care (not its real initials) called me twenty-seven times last month after I failed to respond to some tedious letter of theirs about some “free” program in which they thought I should enroll. I figure, I’m already paying a physician to shake his head at me and groan; why do they think they ought to be patched into the loop? It is exactly this sort of behavior that makes people wonder if single-payer could possibly be any worse. But they kept calling until the first of the month, anyway, when I presume the phone bank’s upsell quotas were reset.
At first, I was going to dismiss this as just another plaintive wail from a clueless newbie:
But that was before I noticed the user name “First Choice Computer Services,” indeed which suggests, or wants to suggest, far more in the way of technical chops than is in evidence. I’ve heard of starting businesses on a shoestring, but most of those guys actually had shoes.
Alternatively, this may be “choice” in the cattle-business sense: one grade below prime.
Despair mode ON:
Ladies and gentlemen, a Member of the Future (and possibly the Present) Electorate.
We are well and truly doomed.
CFI Care (not its real initials) sent me a form letter to tell me that they would not be sending me a check:
The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the individual and small group market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on health care services and activities to improve health care quality (in the large group market, this amount is 85 percent). This is referred to at the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule or the 80/20 rule. If a health insurer does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services and activities to improve health care quality, the insurer must rebate the difference.
It would be nice if Healthcare.gov, the Federal site that details some of these factoids, had actually posted a list of insurers and the MLR for each. (If in fact they do, I apologize, but they need to do a better job of spelling out where it is.) Still, it was no particular trick to find the pertinent number for my own carrier: 86.
Inasmuch as the line before the quoted text says flatly “You will not be receiving a rebate,” I suspect some people heard about this on “the news” (as distinguished from the news) and just naturally assumed they’d be getting a check, which presumably they could use to buy a free lunch.
Healthcare.gov did provide a breakdown at the state level. Apparently nobody at all in New Mexico will be receiving a rebate.
Day before yesterday, two other sites I run had bogged down to slower than a crawl, while this one, which gets roughly 100 times the traffic of the other two combined, was whizzing along as usual. I assumed this was a cache issue, inasmuch as this site is cached and the others aren’t, so I duly installed a cache plugin, and, while I was at it, moved up to WordPress 3.4. The gain in speed was microscopic, and after sweating it for entirely too long, I turned in a trouble ticket to the host.
The response was quick, and somewhat unexpected. The nature of WordPress is somewhat bifurcated: you have your Web server, but most of what it’s serving is coming from a separate database machine. I had guessed that communication between the two boxes had been severed, or at least impaired, and when a couple of tracert runs timed out, I was sure of it. Well, no: the requests weren’t getting to the database because procwatch was killing them. It goes like this:
The problem is not necessarily with either of the domains you listed, but with any domain or combination of domains hosted under [user name]. If domain-A is using 99% of the allotted memory and domain-B uses the other 1%, it will be domain-B’s scripts that get killed, even though domain-A is the one using all the memory. (For this reason, it may be sufficient to simply split up some of your domains among multiple users.)
See “100 times the traffic,” supra. And, of course, being lazy, I’d set them up over the years under the same user name, failing to anticipate that for convenience in administration they might eventually put them all on the same shared server. (I don’t have the traffic to justify anything more than that.)
So new users were created, and behavior returned to normal in a matter of minutes. And I’ve installed a little gizmo that calls out the memory usage at any given moment, along the bottom of the admin screen. (Which, of course, uses some memory, but TANSTAAFL applies, as it always must.)
When are we going to stop handing over all of our personal information to Zuckerberg and the Googleplex? How about “never”? Does “never” work for you?
Some are saying sooner or later consumers will have to revolt and demand payment for the use of that kind of data, but for now, we’re all idiots and do it for free for them. Personally, I have no hope of any of the average users having the intelligence to realize they’re being manipulated, particularly when they still think liking some post or another will automatically drop a dollar from Bill Gates or whomever into some mythical cancer sufferer or the like.
A lot of them, I suspect, think they’re getting something for free, despite the fact that “free” stuff does not actually exist. (Which explains much of our political discourse, come to think of it.)
Bill Quick, in a post from the summertime that bounced back into view, points out the basic structural problem with the current paradigm for so-called “employee benefits”:
Those “free” benefits are paid for by you with your much reduced salary. Is your employer one of those who notes on your paycheck all the “free” benefits they are so graciously bestowing on you? Well, add all that money directly to your own salary, and that’s how much you’d be earning without those “freebies.” Think you could shop around and do better than what your employer, GargantoCorp, is spending your money on for “your” benefits?
Assuming, of course, that GargantoCorp would actually raise salaries to compensate for freebies withdrawn, which in the current corporate climate seems unlikely.
That said, though, were the government’s thumb removed from the scales, I suspect I could find quite a nice package for way less than is being spent now on my ostensible behalf. Then again, when have you ever seen a spoiled child give up a toy willingly?
From around the world, across the nation, and up your street, it’s these folks.
(Yes, that is a Carlinism.)
If Americans are united in anything, it’s in their desire for free stuff. You can’t go two pages in the computer section of Yahoo! Answers without seeing someone ask how they can get so-and-so “totally free” and/or “without downloading anything.” (This latter usually brands the asker as a kid who doesn’t have admin privileges on the family desktop.) Politicians, not surprisingly, have built entire empires out of concealing the price of “free” stuff.
Now comes word that Facebook is using your precious personal information for, OMG, commercial purposes. You or I will probably react this way: “Well, duh.” For the rest of the world, Tam has the proper response:
What did you think was going to pay for this futuristic new way to stay in touch with your friends and family, to keep everyone you know updated on your every meal and movie and micturition? Did you think some kind philanthropist had donated the code and the server space and the bandwidth out of the kindness of his heart?
Wait ’til they find out that should they micturate on a rug in this fair city, they must pay compensation.
Last time we talked tires in this space, the Obama administration had decided to increase the tariff on Chinese-made tires from four percent to 35 percent, on the pretext of protecting US jobs. Interestingly, no actual US tiremakers had requested this action.
[Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican] and Representative Dan Boren, an Oklahoma Democrat, urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to establish a comprehensive monitoring system to assess the impact of the import tax on U.S. employment, tire prices and auto safety.
They said they had seen reports of significant tire price increases in many areas of the country, including poorer neighborhoods, and anecdotal evidence of layoffs in tire distribution and retail sectors.
The tariff, as enacted, declines by five percent in the second year, five percent further in the third, then expires.
(Via The Truth About Cars.)
“Selfishness” is a virtue when it means rational self-interest, or to put it another way “rational egoism.” The rational egoist understands that benefits come with costs; they recognize that TANSTAAFL. The rational egoist acts in accordance with his or her long-term best interests, which may require the individual to forgo immediate pleasure or comfort. Past generations understood this because there was no immediacy of media entertainment or immediacy of revolving credit or ubiquity of 24-hour-a-day goods and services. They had to save up if they wanted something, and bargain for it at arm’s length. In our society’s admirable effort to truly democratize communications and so create the “eternal now,” the notion that one must plan ahead and accept prerequisite costs in money and time has fallen by the wayside.
In the otherwise forgettable movie In the Line of Fire, the villain tells a group of financial brokers “American CEOs plan to deliver good numbers after the next quarter. Japanese CEOs plan to deliver great numbers after the next quarter-century.”
That’s how you know the villain in a financial movie: he’s the guy who tells you the truth. Before Gordon Gekko ever said “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good,” he said this:
Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated.
I have no idea if this is why they named a reptile after him.
There is no more exasperating aspect of modern-day leftism than its insistence that anything from which someone actually makes money is somehow impure and unworthy. This results in handwringing over such nebulous tragedies as “income inequality,” as though Professor Tokeworth is going to pay her nanny the same sum she earns at Cal State-Anywhere.
Mark Alger’s been kicking around this idea for a few days, and now boots it through the uprights:
The same mind-set which embraces income taxes, class warfare, wealth-envy, and anti-free-market ideas also sees profit as a dirty word. It is somehow seen as unearned or “found” money. A windfall. A close examination of this notion reveals to an open mind exactly how wrong-headed it is. Absent coercion of the type that, in a free republic, only a government can muster a profit will always be earned albeit perhaps sometimes less-than-honorably. One cannot have a return on investment greater than 1.0 unless one has provided goods and services that people are willing and able to pay for. The only way you can get around that rule is by collusion with government to distort the laws of the natural marketplace. If the merchant is behaving honestly and the government is doing its job, coercive monopolies, price-fixing, barriers to entry, and the like are virtually impossible. But, these days, economic ignorance is widespread (by design, I hasten to add), and so, when demagogues inveigh against profits obscene, record, unheard-of, windfall they have a ready audience.
It doesn’t help that the same merchants, once they reach a size somewhere between too small to notice and “too big to fail,” often let’s say, too often are perfectly willing to engage in collusion with government, perhaps to see their own business practices enshrined in law, perhaps to make life difficult for their competitors. Neither of these practices strikes me as meeting the definition of “behaving honestly”; if anything, they argue for a government too small to grant such favors.
We were told during the Energy Crises of yore that profits were “obscene.” I’m just contrarian enough to think that if anything in the marketplace is obscene, it’s losses.
This weekend post, like many from this blog and others, has wound up on a scraper site, unattributed and poorly formatted, not to mention incomplete.
Ordinarily I would ignore this sort of petty lifting, but inasmuch as they actually posted a DMCA takedown procedure, albeit in PDF format, I decided to give the premises a look-see.
For future reference, this scraper, and probably several others, is represented for DMCA purposes by a fellow named Mike Johnson in Shelby Township, Michigan at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Note: Do not bother Mr Johnson unless you’ve been similarly scraped by a site which names him as DMCA representative.)
Although I really put this up to give you a look at some of the motivation out there, courtesy of one Jeff Johnson. Some months back I went to the trouble of sticking an actual copyright notice in my feed, so here and there you may see my name in vain.
You’ve heard variations on the theme all your life, but the truth remains the same. In engineering, it goes like this: “Fast. Good. Cheap. Pick any two.” It’s applicable, I suspect, to most human endeavors, and here Cobb extends the premise to politics:
Ethics + Results – Principles = Pragmatist.
Ethics + Principles – Results = Theorist.
Principles + Results – Ethics = Tyrant.
If you have none of these things, you may well have: Incumbent.
Tires imported from China have been carrying a duty of 4 percent. The Obama administration, starting in two weeks, will increase the tariff to 39 percent for one year, which would drop to 34 after one year and 29 after the second, a response to a Section 421 request by the United Steelworkers, who claimed cheap Chinese imports had cost 5000 jobs.
It is unclear how blocking the importation of Chinese tires is going to help anyone here: imports from China represent only about 11 percent of the $16.4-billion US tire market, and less than 30 percent of total tire imports. There are plenty of not-quite-so-low-cost producers, some in the Pacific Rim, some in central Europe, who could take up the slack, but prices at the bargain end of the tire market will inevitably rise.
The absence of tires from China in the market will raise costs to downstream consuming industries, including automobile manufacturers, will limit consumer choices and affect most seriously those with the fewest resources. Thus, these tariffs will be the most regressive of taxes. Consumers will purchase fewer tires, which will not benefit U.S. tire manufacturers or their workers. The loss of tire sales will also eliminate jobs in industries such as tire wholesalers and distributors employing many thousands of U.S. workers. Many aftermarket tire dealers are small businesses, the backbone of employment in the United States. At this time, we must do better than to sacrifice small businesses to the demands of a few workers.
Few if any US automobile manufacturers actually use Chinese tires, though the absence of downward price pressure can be expected to increase their costs anyway.
As for the folks with the “fewest resources,” they’re routinely screwed already, and this is just one more quarter-turn clockwise. If the beater they bought from a dealer in third-hand cars is showing cord, they’re not going to pop for Goodyears at a hundred bucks apiece if they can find something, anything, that will do the job, however inadequately.
This is the Obama administration’s first Section 421 case, and the seventh to be brought before the US International Trade Commission since the section was added as a response to China’s admission to the WTO in 2001. During the Bush administration, the ITC rejected two of six petitions received; Bush himself rejected the other four not that W. was such an avid free-trader, but he apparently learned his lesson after attempting a 30-percent duty on steel imports in his first year in office.
(Via The Truth About Cars.)
In 1998, laser eye surgery cost more than $2200 per eye; today it’s about half that, though it’s not covered by insurance plans or by Medicare. Or maybe because it’s not covered by insurance plans or by Medicare, which have their own ideas about what medical procedures should cost.
First time I heard of LASIK the price quoted was $2,300 per eye minimum, and not exactly at high tier practitioner. That was about 6 years ago. Since then the procedure not only improved technically, it got cheaper, even not counting inflation: four grand for both eyes, performed by one of the best ophthalmic surgeons in NY. Along with cosmetic plastic surgery and orthodontist services it is among very few medical operations whose costs went down, not up why? Because no insurance is involved, let along no government healthcare. Free market: yay.
Around here, you can get someone to perform some form of this surgery for under a thousand, though the Good Stuff inevitably costs a bit more, and I have some qualms about assembly-line surgery anyway. (Yes, I’ve looked into the matter; once upon a time I was informed I wasn’t a candidate for this sort of thing, but I was told otherwise at my most recent eye exam.) I wouldn’t mind getting rid of the glasses.
It just takes a little psychic energy, or something:
I had a conversation with a distant relative who tried to convince me that I should read a certain book that promises to change lives through the power of positive thought. He asserts that the book has already changed his life. He’s starting small. For example: He wills himself a good parking space, or a clear route uninterrupted by stop lights, and voila!
What happens if two schmucks buying into this crap will themselves the same parking space? What if while traveling perpendicular paths they both will themselves green lights and collide at the same intersection?
I tend to suspect, as I do with most invocations of psychic energy, that you’re a lot more likely to remember the time or two you got it to work than the twenty or thirty you didn’t.
Besides, we have a tendency not to be too careful about what we ask for.
Certainly not daylight: we have pretty much the same amount of it no matter how we jerk the clocks around.
Focusing on residential electricity demand, we conduct the first-ever study that uses micro-data on households to estimate an overall DST effect. The dataset consists of more than 7 million observations on monthly billing data for the vast majority of households in southern Indiana for three years. Our main finding is that contrary to the policy’s intent DST increases residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent, but we find that the effect is not constant throughout the DST period. DST causes the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall, when estimates range between 2 and 4 percent. These findings are consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling. We estimate a cost of increased electricity bills to Indiana households of $9 million per year. We also estimate social costs of increased pollution emissions that range from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year. Finally, we argue that the effect is likely to be even stronger in other regions of the United States.
On the upside, you (or at least I) get the pleasure of driving to work in the dark a lot more often.
You can read the gory details here [link goes to PDF file] should you so desire.
(Via Coyote Blog.)
This would be hilarious were it not such an invitation to disgruntlement:
Available for tax years 2009 and 2010, the Making Work Pay credit is 6.2 percent of a taxpayer’s earned income with a maximum credit of $800 for a married couple filing a joint return and $400 for other taxpayers, but it is phased out for higher income taxpayers. Most workers will qualify for the maximum credit.
Let’s see. Four hundred bucks is 6.2 percent of … $6,452. Most assuredly, if you make $6,452 a year, you need four hundred bucks. But I’d hate to be the disembodied voice at the Eternal Revenue Service’s phone bank that has to tell J. Random Taxpayer that no, he’s not getting anywhere near 6.2 percent, he made too much money.
The real fun comes next spring, when all this has to be reported on Form 1040 or some variant thereof.