Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Continued Fall of the USA's Political Leaders that We Give Power To

A few days into the new President's administration and it is as bad as anyone paying attention would have expected. It is very sad the USA elected Trump and the Senators and Representatives standing with him. The consequences of electing Trump and the others that support his actions and that are choosing not to protect the USA constitution will be very damaging.

Photo of the White House by John Hunter. This house should be a place worthy of respect (even for those with political differences) but the current occupants are straining that hope.

As a kid in high school I couldn't understand how the USA could fail as badly as McCarthyism; Japanese internment; Nixon's enemies list, watergate etc.. Other failures I would witness later, while a shockingly abhorrent, such as the Iran-Contra scandal flaunting of the rule of law and the failure to do anything about it I saw as sad but not surprising.

The USA we created isn't a binary no-Trump = good v. yes-Trump = bad. The current situation was created by us voting for who we did for decades. The actions of the people we put in power, created the system where Trump could be elected and have huge support from the others we elected.

There were many warning signs of how bad it was during the last 2 administrations. True, it is much worse now, but we were on the path here. But we have created a toxic system that was intentionally shaped by those we granted political power. They shaped a system that ignore facts, devolve discussion into 1984 News Speak, ignore the rule of law when it was convenient for whoever was on your side in the battle for power, pretend complex realities have simple solutions, badly distorted democracy with unconscionable gerrymandering, etc..

The current president and his leadership team certainly are taking the toxic situation created by those we elected for the last few decades and are taking it extremes even more damaging than those that designed it wished for it to be. But when you create and promote a dumpster fire in order to get whatever your short term desires are you can't disown responsibility for the damage that dumpster fire continues to do after you.

Photo of the USA capital by John Hunter. If those elected officials voting in this building the next few years continue as they have done in the few decades we are going to suffer greatly for the mistake of electing them.

The kids of kids today are going to be wondering the same thing about us that I did about our McCarthyism, Japanese internment... supporting ancestors. It is devastating that for decades we allowed our political parties to destroy the fundamental aspects of what the USA should stand for.

The challenges we face as a society are great enough without continuing to put in power the people that have lead the USA to the extremely sad state of affairs we see today with the actions of the current president and his supporters in the White House, on Capital Hill and in the State houses and legislatures around the country.

Sure the current president is a huge mistake we will suffer greatly for voting into office. But the problem is much deeper than just him. The political leadership has been allowed to rot to the core. He is merely a symptom of how bad we have allowed things to get.

We need to fundamentally change who we give power to if we want change. We need to provide power to those that seek to fix problems. We need to give power to those that acknowledge scientific and economic reality. We need to elect people that appose hate. We need to elect people that care more for the country than for personal aggrandizement and reward. We need to elect people that care more for the country than following the orders of their party.

Things are much worse today than a year ago but if we believe the problem is the current president we will fail to address the real problem. He is just a symptom of how messed up our country is. Replace him with his Vice President or most of the other leadership of his party and maybe a few of the most extreme embarrassments to the country would go away but the core of what they stand for doesn't change. The president is not a King or Dictator. The Courts, House and Senate can (and the Constitution depends on them doing so) block actions that damage the country. But the House and Senate are not doing so.

As the current system has evolved the politicians state a few words about they believe in such and such and don't support this other thing and then they go ahead and vote for this other thing while undermining such and such. They have created a system in order to promote the belief that what they actually do isn't what matters but what they say. That way they can fully support actions that they claim to not support. Sure the current president is even less concerned with the truth but he is just extending the policy of News Speak that became the standard practice for both parties over the last few decades.

If we are lucky a few Republicans will stand with the USA and the Constitution and join Democrats that mainly will appose just because the current president isn't from their party and we will avoid some of the worst of what we can expect. But we may very well not be lucky for a several years. Being stuck in a position where we have to hope for a few politicians to be courageous is not a good position to be in given the poor performance of our politicians the last few decades.

Related: Living Through Your Society Becoming a Police State (2013) - Security Theatre Thinking is Damaging the USA (2013) - Freedom Increasingly at Risk (2008) - The Aim of Modern Day Political Parties is To Scare Donors Into Giving Cash (2014) - Selling Out the Country: We are Electing the Wrong People to Control Our Government (2015) - SWAT Raids – Systemic Failures? (2007) - Anti-Market Policies from Our Talking Head and Political Class (2011) - We Need to be More Capitalist and Less Cronyist (2011) - Preaching False Ideas to Men Known to be Idiots (2010) - Adding More Banker and Politician Bailouts is not the Answer (2012) - Failure to Regulate Financial Markets Leads to Predictable Consequences (2009) - Don't Excuse Immoral Looters (2009) - Lobbyists Keep Tax Off Billion Dollar Private Equities Deals and On For Our Grandchildren (2007)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Government Debt - How Safe of Costly is It?

My comments on: Debt’s a Funny Thing // Plus: Why We’re Not Prepaying Our Rental Mortgage

There’s also the national debt, which it turns out is not really like debt you or I might have at all, and — this was mind-blowing to me — most economists don’t even think the national debt is bad, and some actually think we should have more national debt...

Government debt is indeed different than personal debt. It is true some of the USA debt we owe to ourselves (we also owe a lot to China, Japan and others). The situation is fairly odd now for the USA in that the interest rates are extremely low. That makes the huge amount of debt less painful - but even now 15% of the spending by the government is just paying interest. And that could easily double without interest rates really even getting high. That is a real problem. To the extent we owe it to ourselves it is less of a problem but we owe lots to people overseas which means we are going to be paying back hundreds of billions of dollars to people in China, Japan... At these rates it might be fine (or even a good deal) sometime in the next 20 years it is likely to be very costly.

I wrote about the issue of government debt and the different impact of it being held overseas or within the country.

Japan has far more debt than even the USA. But it is also much more owed to themselves than is true in the USA.

The USA also has significant advantages over other countries. We can hold more debt safely than other countries due to the perception of the safety of the US$ and the size of the USA economy.

Related: Chart of Net Government Debt from 1980 to 2013 by Country - Which Currency is the Least Bad? (2012 - USD) - Who Will Buy All the USA’s Debt? (2009) - USA Federal Debt Now $516,348 Per Household (2007)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Subscribe to blog posts by John Hunter

I have added an RSS feed to the blog posts I add to I add items there for some, but not all of my posts, from my various blogs.

There is a list of blogs I author on my Curious Cat blog site. I write on several topics including

  • Management and Leadership
  • Money, Investing, Lifestyle and Personal Finance
  • Travel
  • Technology, Computer Programming, Engineering and Science
  • Society

I am currently in the process of adding items for the past few years (as I stopped updating this part of the website for awhile).

I believe RSS feed readers are one of the most valuable tools for those learning online. I wrote about what RSS feed readers are and how to use them previously.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Worst Aspect of TPP That Gets Nearly No Attention

Sadly among the worst aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP (and also the TTIP) is the promotion of the copyright cartel's agenda along with very bad patent policy. Almost no one with political power is even talking about these huge problems with it.

I support free trade. I don't support the politically motivated trade agreements that impose the USA political donors' wishes on citizens of the USA and other countries.

The point that I most agree with, that those with power who are opposing the TPP mention, is the ludicrous abdication of national rights expressed in the trade deals (allowing companies to sue countries, say for enforcing their reasonable patent rules that the company doesn't like and has bought differing rules from the USA political parties).

It is true that we have to work together, and in doing so we need to reach agreements between countries that require making compromises. The TPP just has many horrible provisions paid for by USA political donors that are being imposed on other countries (and those countries are being paid to give the USA donors the favors via promises of USA military protection, access to USA markets etc.). It is a bad deal for nearly everyone. But the favors create a few huge winners that can pay to grease the wheels to buy passage in the USA (and elsewhere).

We need free trade that removes barriers to trade not that gives payoffs to USA political donors. Along with removing barriers a few conditions are justified but they should be kept as small as possible (things like no child labor, no slave labor, environmental requirements, safety requirements on exported material, etc.).

Related: Money Is Corrupting Our Political Process - Why Copyright Extension is a Very Bad Idea - We Need to be More Capitalist and Less Cronyist - I Can Spy on You, But You Can't Spy on Me

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Active Photos

I don't know how I did this but I am looking through some photos I took a few weeks ago and I have a video that is a string of photos with a few seconds of video on each side. I believe some version of Apple iPhones have added this active photo mode with a second of video or something. I managed to do it with my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS Digital Camera.

I have occasionally managed to turn on the video without noticing so I get a bit of video instead of a photo. But this is weird it is a video that jumps from place to place. It is really weird. I have no idea how I would make it do this if I tried. If it was one long video I could understand but it isn't it is like it started and stopped when I tried to focus for a photo and then a bit after the photo was taken.

In addition to that video I have the individual photos that I took while the video was recording.

See Curious Cat photos.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Netflix Throws Users Under the Bus

First Netflix was an awesome streaming service that just worked and was focused on providing users a great experience.

Even at the beginning (or at least my beginning) they through Ubuntu users under the bus and just said we won't serve you. So I didn't use it. Later I got a Mac and then I decided to give it a try and it was wonderful, it just worked (well after requiring you install Microsoft Silverlight).

But most large companies just expect users to fit themselves into whatever constraints the big companies wish to impose (see Comcast, United Airlines, Verizon etc.). So compared to these really bad companies using Netflix was wonderful.

There are many issues with bad connections etc. and Netflix while not perfect (they would often only buffer a short amount and fail when the bad connection failed or got to slow) but they were much better than others at just working.

The last 6 months though it is more and more like the typical experience of some huge company that just expects you to cope with whatever they force you to do.

They continually won't work when I forget I have to sign off my vpn to use them. They blame others for this bad service (blaming others for treating customer badly is of course what all the companies people originally sought to escape the Time Warners, AT&T, etc. of the world by using Netflix. Oh well so one more time Netflix is selling us out.

Then then continually degraded the usability of the website. They seem intent on reducing the usability so that they can only bother to design as if we all were limited to smart phones. So if you have a computer and want to have more information available on your screen too bad, we are going to force you to pretend you are limited to a smart phone interface.

I found it frustrating. Netflix had gone from one of the few companies I really enjoyed dealing with (Trader Joes's is one on that short list) to the typical company that I could tolerate. Instead of the joy of it just working it became a relief when it just worked and if I was surprised it wasn't because of something good but yet another annoyance as they moved from a company that was a joy to yet another Comcast of the world.

And the latest disgrace from Netflix they won't play the show at all. They break the playback with one of their typical "we are treating you now just like Microsoft treated people in 1995" you are doing something we decided to not allow you to do. We now have the market power where we can just have you jump through whatever hoops we want and you can't do anything about it.

The latest message "Please ensure your monitor is HDCP compliant and is not mirrored using Airplay."

Why am I being bothered with this junk. Just like dealing with Microsoft decades ago when they would just have you jump through hoops try and figure out what they would let you do in order to use what you paid for. Netflix now justing just not "just work" it is constantly a struggle for how they are going to break things now.

I have never had a company I found to be really good fall so fast and completely lose any concern for their customers experience.

The shows they pay others for (including most of those they brand as Netflix but many of which they don't even own - they just are licensing certain rights to them) are decent. A few are really good. And Netflix is cheap for what you get. But I am very disappointed I now have to feel like I do using the typical disaster customer service companies (Comcast, any USA airline, Verizon, etc.). Every time it isn't a disaster I feel relieved (but having anxiety every time I use a service that the company is going to annoy me is not what I want). My expectations are just please don't torture me or completely block my ability to use what I pay for since you do that so often all I can hope for is the absence of lousy treatment. Actually getting good treatment is a distant illusion.

It is so sad. As I say the content isn't bad if you can fight through the lousy roadblocks they have put in the way of getting to it in the last few years. And the price is cheap. I would gladly pay double the price to just go back to the "it just works" Netflix instead of the current we are going to make it hard for you to do what you want Netflix we have now. And while I wouldn't be as happy I would pay 3 or even 4 times to get that back.

But this lousy treatment is moving me closer and closer to just dropping them. Something I never thought would be possible 2 or 3 years ago.

I actually tried to get a preview of Amazon Video (or whatever they call their thing) but couldn't find how to do it. I tried to use their help system but it failed (I know from experience they have a poorly coded website that has fragile code and breaks in the help area and that happened again so I gave up. I might try HBO. I really am amazed Netflix has managed to make using their service so annoying I don't want to put up with it.

I hardly see any commercials anymore (only when watching sports) but there is one where one company makes fun of the takeover by some horrible cable company making all sorts of idiotic steps. I know that didn't happen to Netflix but as a customer that is exactly what it feels like. Some bozos took over and just decided to drop any care about the customer experience.

It is annoying that so many companies have this attitude but often I can just avoid dealing with them. Though sometimes you have no real choice - you need to fly someone there is a good chance Southwest Airlines [the only non-horrible USA airline in my experience) might not fly there or you have to choose Verizon or Comcast or even have no choice for an ISP... But Netflix was something I had really grown to enjoy. I fear Amazon's isn't likely to be very good for Ux. But I think I will try it. And even if that doesn't work I may still drop Netflix just to avoid the pitiful Ux practices they have adopted in the last few years.

Related: Utopia (Dreamland in the USA) is an Amazing TV Program (2015) - Netflix is Well Managed - People are Overreacting to Short Term Issues (2011) - Curious Cat List of Super Useful Websites (2012), Netflix wouldn't make the list now, but it did then