Archive for January, 2009

Government-Sanctioned Duopoly: Pick Verizon or Comcast

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

I have Verizon Wireless for cell phone service and based on their customer service over the years, I see no reason to give them any more money. I also read an online blog about their horrible customer service and was convinced to stick to Comcast wherever possible. Verizon owns the telephone lines (DSL service where available and telephone service), and a new infrastructure they spent billions throwing into the ground, called FiOS; Comcast owns the cable lines (cable TV, cable internet, digital voice through Verizon’s phone lines).

Problem is, those are my choices. I’m not one for too many choices – go into a furniture mega-store and try to figure out exactly what you want within an hour; I tried that recently and it didn’t work out so well.  We recently got the itch for a land line, more for security reasons than a need to call people, and here were our options:

  • Verizon: $39.99 per month for unlimited national dialing with a few features (Caller ID, Voicemail, etc.), or $29.99 per month for a local calling plan that allows us to call towns we border for free, and 5 cents per minute otherwise.
  • Comcast: $39.99 per month for unlimited national dialing with a bunch of features, a few more than Verizon but not much, or $29.99 per month for local calling to towns near us.

$40 a month for national; $30 a month for local. Most economists would call that price fixing, but since we have VoIP networks now, technically there’s competition (even though having a land line from actual telephone wires tends to be superior to internet-based phone services).

That means suddenly our “services” bill nearly doubles.  It’s interesting just how much people are willing to pay for TV and internet services these days, with the land line being a mere afterthought. The land line is now priced at a premium because if you want an old-fashioned land line, you have two choices, and the prices are the same. This is your government at work: years of regulation and then semi-deregulation allowed the “haves” to continue to own the infrastructure, so why should they even allow competition?

This article does a good job of explaining the problems with two companies controlling these services that most want.

Why I Hate iTunes

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

I’ve been using iTunes for about 3 years, ever since I first had the (mis)fortune of receiving an iPod for a Christmas gift. At the time, and since, I was working out often enough and decided it would be nice to have. It’s also nice once you can get it working in a car built before 2003 or so. Speaking of that, let’s get right to the reasons I hate Apple and iTunes.


  • My car’s tape deck comes with a little flip top lid which has an exterior LCD display. People told me, “just get one of those radio transceiver thingies and you’ll be fine”. The quality is always terrible, especially in a place like Massachusetts where there are so many radio stations there’s hardly any bandwidth left to use for the broadcast of your iPod. I have an iPod; why would I want to broadcast it through the air so I can listen to something of less quality?
  • Crashes a lot after 3 years of light use. I know, I know, which electronics out there last a while? Hm, let’s see – I’ve had the original hard drive in my PC for six solid years now, added components, taken some out, had wireless, had Norton on there (thankfully that’s gone), done ridiculous amounts of downloading, asked it to do more than I probably should…and it’s still kickin’. No problems…knock on wood. Even the power supply is original. I’ll be upgrading some components shortly, but if Dell can make a much more complicated piece of machinery and Windows can make an OS that doesn’t crash for six years, what is Apple doing wrong, and what’s with all the snooty commercials about how stable their products are?
  • Recently, I had to make an appointment with an “Apple genius” at an Apple store so he could revive my iPod after it was “REALLY frozen”.  Not “kinda” frozen, but “REALLY” frozen. He had to do some weird mojo on it: toggle the “hold” switch (courtesy of Sony…had one of those on my MiniDisc player, which I actually preferred now that I think of it); plug it into a wall outlet, then do the “hold down menu and middle button” thing to restart it.
  • Back to the car thing, I had to take out my tape deck, put a tape converter in, thread the wire around the back of the tape deck, and have the wire piece hanging out by the ash tray so I could use my iPod via my tape deck and get somewhat decent quality during car rides. I guess I’d have to do that with any car without an Aux In port, but it still pissed me off.


  • Generally speaking, it’s a clunky program. Weird menus, iTunes store sucks and it’s difficult to find things…and they wonder why people illegally download music and movies. Search capability and user-specific sorting capability is sorely lacking. And therein lies the problem with Apple: its users just blindly accept whatever the programmers want them to do, instead of customizing for the benefit of the user.  Seems like a small thing until you’re trying to appeal to millions and millions of PC users and making annoying commercials.
  • You go and download some album from some random source, and you instruct iTunes to “Add folder to your library”. Pretty simple, but if it’s not tagged using one of iTunes’ preferred methods, you have to search for your recently added music – which means if there’s no tag, you have to go through ALL of your music until you figure out how iTunes decided to label it, or maybe it was mislabeled in the first place. You can’t just scroll to the bottom of the list of all of your music.

I’m going back to WinAmp, where at least when you add something it goes to the bottom of the list and you have the option of relabeling and sorting easily. It’s been hours and I cannot find some music anywhere in iTunes even though I saw iTunes go through the process of adding the songs…no thanks to this program.

Heating up the ethnic-cultural comedy

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Now that we’ve got a black president, people are feeling more empowered to make comedy not about empowerment, but about mocking stupidity. In this case, it’s trans-racial appropriation of a grotesque caricature of that moronic subculture that imitates the music and lifestyle made by black people and predominantly consumed by bored suburban youth: gangsta rap.

There is a huge population of people trying to make themselves look like gangsters and thugs while talking in fabricated words and taking shirtless pictures of themselves in their bathrooms with camera phones. Fat 19-year-old’s with half a dozen children that they dress up like dolls keep trying to talk to me as if I think they are human beings. I’ve decided to go undercover and infiltrate their community by acting as one of their own. Here are the results of my experiment…

Most of those ensnared are black, but not all. He’s an equal opportunity stupidity identifier. Look for this meme to catch on as people stop tolerating stupidity because it appears under the guise of racial empowerment.

And also from the “Let’s all be equal” comedy files:

A drug that stimulates the body’s tanning response — turning pasty skin caramel for up to two months — has been approved for human trials, but not for tanning.

“It’s a bioabsorbable implant that you just inject into the skin,” said Colin Mackie, director of business development for Clinuvel, the company bringing the drug to the U.S. “It stimulates melanin production.”

Melanin is the body’s natural pigment. It’s responsible for the color of skin and protects humans from harmful solar radiation.


Reminds me of the time Oliver Wendell Holmes turned Steve Dallas “black” with his melanin ray.

Modernism (personal reality) kills

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

On the eve of a BBC1 documentary on the life of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, Sir David has criticised the centuries-old idea running through the Judaeo-Christian tradition which assumes God gave the Earth to man to exploit and use in whatever way he saw fit in order to populate the world.

Sir David, 82, said the devastation of the environment has its roots in the first words that God supposedly uttered to humankind, as detailed in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

“That basic notion, that the world is there for us and if it doesn’t actually serve our purposes, it’s dispensable, that has produced the devastation of vast areas of the land’s surface.

“Of course it’s a gross oversimplification, but that’s why Darwinism, and the fact of evolution, is of great importance because it is that attitude which has led to the devastation of so much, and we are in the situation that we are in,” he told the science journal Nature.


Just like a scientist: identify the hammer, not the hand that swings it!

The problem is the idea of a personal reality. I am human, therefore I gain the right to believe in my own reality and judge earth accordingly.

From that comes: we’re all equal, because I’d hate to admit someone has better judgment skills than I do.

That in turn unravels into “no one can tell me what to do,” and because that’s bratty, it becomes “I am oppressed by the law / the money / the Gods.”

And so we have a huge mass of people united only by “I only wanna do what I wanna do.”

France paralysed by a wave of strike action, the boulevards of Paris resembling a debris-strewn battlefield. The Hungarian currency sinks to its lowest level ever against the euro, as the unemployment figure rises. Greek farmers block the road into Bulgaria in protest at low prices for their produce. New figures from the biggest bank in the Baltic show that the three post-Soviet states there face the biggest recessions in Europe.

It’s a snapshot of a single day – yesterday – in a Europe sinking into the bleakest of times. But while the outlook may be dark in the big wealthy democracies of western Europe, it is in the young, poor, vulnerable states of central and eastern Europe that the trauma of crash, slump and meltdown looks graver.

Exactly 20 years ago, in serial revolutionary rejoicing, they ditched communism to put their faith in a capitalism now in crisis and by which they feel betrayed.

The Guardian

Ah, idiots. So resourceful in always finding someone to blame, thus obscuring reality.

They ditched 1968-style socialism in the 1980s because it was convenient.

Now they want to ditch capitalism for 1968-version-2.0-cum-Obama socialism, and are hoping that’s the magic bullet.

All these buttons, just gotta press the right one!

Maybe look at the whole of society for a change, and identify where it’s gone off course? Well, that brings us to the troubling realization that we’re not all kings in our own domain… but it would save us… but it offends us personally, so it’s taboo.

More than one society has died of its own taboos.

“Sarkozy gives money to the people who created this crisis, but what about the man in the street?” shouted Antoine Laurent, 20, a history student at the Sorbonne University.

Behind him a group chanted: “Stop the sackings, it’s not up to workers to pay for bankers.”

The Telegraph

No, dummies… it’s not that easy.

You need to build infrastructure.

You’re looking at a barren farm and saying “But the farmer got fed!”… yes, because if you’re a farmer and you produce 20% of what crop you normally have, you better eat it, because no one else is going to give you anything.

These entitlement brats think we can just hand out cash and there are no consequences. Durrr, that cash has to come from somewhere — if we just hand it out, we devalue it and so your $500 handout becomes $5 in the “old money.” (We saw that happen in Mexico in the 1980s, remember?)

World leaders are in retreat as well. Sarkozy will do nothing radical because we all saw what happened to George W. Bush. Even if what you do is not that bad, the media and the great masses of clueless will fawn and howl and whine and riot until you’re out of office, replaced by a panderer.

Behind the plastic smile of Barack Obama, for example, there’s a simple Bill Clintonian truth: figure out what the polls say, and give it to them — the undifferentiated masses — because you never stay in power by supporting those with a clue.

You stay in power by supporting those who are clueless, and so demand a lot, and you can give it to them and not tell them it’s going to be worth $5 tomorrow.

You stay in power, and the economy slowly collapses inward, and the next guy in office needs to deal with it.

But you? You’ve made the right decision, personally: you got your $25 million career and you can now afford to join the ultra-rich and leave behind your shattered homeland as it careens into third-world status.

Watch the USA and Europe do it.

What’s more fascinating is the people who aren’t rioting. The engineers at home designing breakaway civilizations. The country folk building hamlets. The hackers conspiring toward a technological new world order that could hide itself in the midst of the decay.

That’s tomorrow’s story. The fall of the West is yesterday’s, in case you don’t get the T.S. Eliot News and World Report.

Remember that race isn’t genetic according to corporate barons and hippie activists alike

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Your last three presidents think race isn’t genetic.

Every single person in Hollywood thinks race isn’t genetic.

All of the hippie activists think race isn’t genetic.

Every American and multi-national corporation has adopted the position: race isn’t genetic.

It flatters everyone to think we can all be whatever we want to be. Social mobility. If your grandparents were peasants, maybe you can be President. Hope, Change, Freedom, Justice, Equality, Liberty, Fraternity!

We also like to get ahead in social status by telling everyone they can be anything, and by helping those who cannot help themselves. These ineffective and inexpensive actions make us look good, even if we have to lie to do it.

African-American men with family histories of prostate cancer could benefit from a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) reading to determine their probability of developing the disease.

The effect of the baseline PSA level on future prostate cancer risk was so robust that the correlation held true even for men with other significant risk factors.

Using a study cohort drawn from a longitudinal screening study enrolling more than 26,000 volunteers between 1991 and 2001, researchers analyzed a group of 329 African-American men with a family history of prostate cancer.

Eight percent of men in their 40s with both risk factors and a PSA above the median were diagnosed, as were 16 percent of men in their 50s. Twice as many men in their 60s with both risk factors and a baseline PSA above the median were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Science Daily

Medical science treats all of these factors as important: race, age, PSA and risk-factors. African-Americans have more, different, and more pernicious cancers than white people.

At some point, we will grow up as a species and admit that evolution happened, and different groups going into different types of civilizations in different climates permitted genetic change — or genetic adaptation. Africans, for example, are the most diverse; white people are the least diverse. But the specialized groups have genes adapted to deal with certain circumstances they encountered.

Our wise cohorts think that genetic engineering will be the future. But GM foods have worked so badly we’re rethinking that. Race, like age and gender and other factors, is part of reality, and denying reality always ends badly.

Why humanity is unable to respond to global warming and ecocide

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

We, the People, are about to exterminate multiple ecosystems on our planet and kill all things within them. In addition, we are about to raise our planet’s temperature and cause other grisly effects. So say many but not all of our best scientists.

Yet nothing is happening. I mean, besides buying fluorescent light bulbs. Why? Do people not care? Do people want to do evil? Are we really this bad?

Think it through:

To act, we have to act together. If just some of us act, the others will take advantage of that and make themselves more powerful at the expense of those. This means that we have to force all of us together to do the same things.

Even more, we’re divided by inequality, despite two thousand years of trying to eradicate it. Third world nations want the first world to take the brunt of this issue. First world nations point out that they have infrastructure obligations and aren’t going to back down from civilization so others can get ahead.

Finally, we have to all somewhat agree on the issue, and we don’t. Some scientists say that global warming is real, yet we can all recognize the kind of cliques that can form when an idea is trendy.

Many of us distrust the media and government, including people like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton who always pander to the crowd, doing exactly what is popular but not necessarily what’s best in the long term.

Did that last sentence offend you? I was just about to mention how politically divided we are, forming our identities from politics and uncritically believed one side or the other.

We just can’t get consensus on how we should act about global warming as a result of these factors.

The pioneering study, led by NOAA senior scientist Susan Solomon, shows how changes in surface temperature, rainfall, and sea level are largely irreversible for more than 1,000 years after carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are completely stopped.

The study examines the consequences of allowing CO2 to build up to several different peak levels beyond present-day concentrations of 385 parts per million and then completely halting the emissions after the peak. The authors found that the scientific evidence is strong enough to quantify some irreversible climate impacts, including rainfall changes in certain key regions, and global sea level rise.


(My take on the above article: we’re about to run into expensive petroleum, which is a good thing. In fact, it would be best if some nation like the USA took over a major part of the supply and hoarded it for military purposes. That would fix our global warming dilemma by not letting us get over the threshold identified in the article.)

Therefore, my prediction:

Humanity will take no effective action against environmental change, climate change, or ecocide. And we’d all rather be right, by our own political identities, than fix the problem — at least we all go down together, equally.

We’re all equal, and if not, we’ll punish those more equal until they’re equal like the rest of us

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The coach of a Texas high school basketball team that beat another team 100-0 was fired Sunday, the same day he sent an e-mail to a newspaper saying he will not apologize “for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”

On its Web site last week, the Covenant School of Dallas, a private Christian school, posted a statement regretting the outcome of its Jan. 13 shutout win over Dallas Academy. “It is shameful and an embarrassment that this happened. This clearly does not reflect a Christlike and honorable approach to competition,” said the statement, signed by Kyle Queal, head of school, and board chair Todd Doshier.

“In response to the statement posted on The Covenant School Web site, I do not agree with the apology or the notion that the Covenant School girls basketball team should feel embarrassed or ashamed,” Grimes wrote in the e-mail, according to the newspaper. “We played the game as it was meant to be played. My values and my beliefs would not allow me to run up the score on any opponent, and it will not allow me to apologize for a wide-margin victory when my girls played with honor and integrity.”


We like to pander to the crowd with little fictions. When we cannot maintain those fictions, we get upset and blame someone, so that the rest of us can continue evading responsibility and living with an ethic of convenience.

That’s clearly not the way to a superior society, but if you say that, you’re a bigot and need to burn in hell and/or be fired, whichever comes first, you fascist.

Bush won

Monday, January 26th, 2009

OSAMA BIN LADEN’S messages from the wilderness get little attention nowadays. Al-Qaeda has been unable to land a blow on Western soil since the 2005 London bombings. Its leaders lurk in Pakistan’s tribal belt, hiding from regular lethal attacks by America’s unmanned Predator aircraft. Their Pushtun hosts are tiring of their troublesome guests. Perhaps most damaging, former supporters publicly denounce its ideology.

The resultant bickering and low morale do not mean that al-Qaeda and its followers cannot still mount spectacular attacks. Western intelligence services are convinced the group tried to blow up several transatlantic airliners in 2006. It can still pose a menace in, say, parts of Asia. But for now, Mr bin Laden has to try to exploit the news, rather than to make it.

The Economist

Bush’s plan for al-Qaeda wasn’t much different than Reagan’s plan for the Soviets: since war is basically a case of who can outspend the other, why not use the threat of war as a weapon to force your enemy into outspending themselves?

Al-Qaeda could afford to run an organization when they didn’t need to hide every single detail of what they did. Now, they must have layers of additional protocol, and carefully hide their funds. All this adds up to a lot of money, and now they’re broke and ineffective.

History will probably eventually note that G.W. Bush did this to them. Even while 78% of the American people whine like sofa-bound brats about him, he achieved what he set out to do: defeat the enemy and protect the homeland. Whether he did it for Jesus, alcoholics anonymous, or the goodness of his heart is probably irrelevant.

We all want to be with people like us

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The big human fiction: we can all be whatever we want, at any time, because we’re all important if we’re socially important.

The reality: our abilities determine what we’re going to be.

The controversy:

A holiday firm which emailed its customers offering ‘chav free’ vacations has found itself accused of class discrimination.

Activities Abroad contacted 24,000 customers with a list of names they were not likely to encounter on one of their holidays, including Britney, Dazza, Chardonnay and Candice.

In the email newsletter, headed Chav Free Activity Holidays, [Founder Alistair McLean] wrote: ‘According to the Daily Mail, children with middle-class names such as Duncan and Catherine are eight times more likely to pass their GCSEs than children with names such as Wayne and Dwayne.

Stung into replying, Mr McLean launched an impassioned defence of his original email, writing: ‘I simply feel it is time the middle classes stood up for themselves. We work hard to make a decent home and life for our families and we pay our taxes to contribute to our society and economy.’

‘Unfortunately, everybody else in our society seems to take from us, whether it is incompetent bankers or the shell suited urchins who haunt our street corners.

The Daily Mail

If you work hard, think hard, take what you do seriously, you do not want to take a vacation alongside people who resentfully follow orders, are sloppy, and live lives of half-work and half-thought. You view these people as idiots, but not pejoratively, only that the reward of your work should include not being near them.

They, on the other hand, see no reason why they shouldn’t have what you should have. And this issue has divided the West for centuries and now is destroying it: the we-should-all-have-it individualist have-nots, who have no idea that someone has to actually create wealth, and then the people who are trying to escape the morass of dysfunction made by the have-nots.

The targets for ‘abolishing child poverty’ do not aim to bring real light and rescue into these nightmare lives. They just aim to ‘close the gap’ between them and the remaining working households, the hated ‘middle class’.

It only makes sense when you grasp that the target is the difference in income between the neglected classes and the striving classes. It is nothing to do with the truly rich, for many New Labour backers are very rich themselves, and in any case, they will simply go elsewhere if they are robbed by the state.

The middle classes are not good because they are better off. They are better off because they are good. This is the fundamental truth that socialism has always hated.

For socialists believe that they alone are good, that their ideas alone are good. This leads on to the next stage – their belief that they alone should control the state, that they should decide what is good for us, and how we should be rewarded – and in the end that those who disagree with them are dangerous and should be silenced.

Peter Hitchens

Hitchens says it well: socialism is well-named, because it is when a group of people get together and using social logic of flattering each other, decide they’re all entitled to whatever others have. Further, they argue, since they discovered this Christlike new Truth and Progress, they alone have the right to rule.

In France and in Russia, they left ruined societies behind them. In the third world, like Brazil or Venezuela, they specialize in driving out smart people and replacing them with teeming masses who are not only incompetent but hate anyone who is.

Police states exist when large groups of people exist who cannot control themselves. Since we can’t acknowledge that some people can control themselves, and we need more people like this, we invent equal draconian rules to keep people in line since they do not have the common sense to do it themselves in all cases.

We should just grow up and get over this problem. Some are gifted by nature; they are the future of evolution. Others are not, and should not be supported. Let natural selection make better people. We need people who do not need to be controlled.

Thailand gets rid of parasites

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Summary: Myanmar sets loose members of a minority sect, sends them to Thailand. Thailand says “Hmm, parasites,” and drags them out to see and cuts them loose.

A CNN crew traveled to a remote stretch of the Thai coast four hours north of the tourist island of Phuket to investigate the growing reports that the Thai military was secretly detaining Rohingya refugees before towing them out to sea and setting them adrift.

One photo shows the Thai army towing a boatload of some 190 refugees far out to sea.

The Rohingya, a persecuted minority in Myanmar, have been fleeing their country in rickety boats for years, in search of a better life.

[A source in the Thai military] claimed local villagers had become afraid of the hundreds of Rohingya arriving each month, and that they were accusing the refugees of stealing their property and threatening them.


The same story everywhere:

People become refugees for a reason.

They then become parasites when they reach a new nation whose population is different than they are.

If we are to be penalized for excluding others for their differentness, who will speak up for us when immigrants exclude us because of our differentness, and refuse to assimilate?

The answer is that assimilation and integration never work, as is shown by the total lack of historical examples of successful multicultural (“diverse”) societies.

Recommended Reading