Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ugh, 2014 Politics

After the last few elections, I've a feeling lots of people are going to tune next year's midterms out completely.  Those that faithfully vote will continue to (so Republicans will likely do better), but I can't imagine anyone is particularly excited about the prospect.  So I barely skimmed Charlie Cook's piece, but this is kind of key to Democrat frustration:
Add to that growing concern over the Affordable Care Act, with only a third of Americans telling pollsters that it will help the nation’s health care situation, and less than a quarter who believe that it will help their own family’s health care. 
It was a crappy, Republican health care plan.  Republicans should be happy about it, but since it was passed by the socialist Kenyan Muslim, fat fucking chance.  Democrats have tried to be happy about it, but when the only possible liberal/Democratic aspect was killed by the douche from MA it became pretty hard to be honestly enthusiastic.  If they had kept the public option, or just allowed anyone to buy into Medicare on the exchanges, then there would have both excited Democrats and would have been something to point out to all the other constituents who pretty much won't have anything change.

As for the ineffective leadership stuff: maybe, but I think the root of that problem was Obama was not the right person for this job.  He would have been at home in the 80's and maybe the 90's, but all the grand bargain, compromise bullshit just doesn't work with today's Republicans.  On top of that, the creeping Bush-era government surveillance system and perpetual war on terror don't give anyone other than Dick Cheney warm fuzzies.  So it isn't just that Obama is an ineffective leader--there may not have been any way to be otherwise with the Senate rules what they are--it is that the things he actually does are very much at odds with the way that he has been perceived on them and even the way that he talks about them. 

NJ Senate Race

Booker is probably going to win, and if you are a big fan of Wall Street and big bankers and high finance then you should be very excited.  If, on the other hand, you prefer people to money, then that should be very depressing.  There is a much better candidate in the race (a rocket scientist at that), who would better represent the people of NJ, and who would actually represent a change for the better in the Senate.  Rush Holt for NJ Senate.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Student Loan Rates: Meh.

Lots of noise about the Senate bill passing (Bipartisan! Helping Students!), but it just mostly is not helpful.  There are two somewhat separate student loan problems: current and future.  The current problem is with people who have [recently] graduated into a crap economy with a mortgage worth of debt to pay off.  These people, who might be helped somewhat with lower interest rates, are not addressed, because--unlike pretty much every other type of debt on the planet--YOU CAN'T REFINANCE STUDENT LOANS.  People "lucky" enough to have 2, 3, 4% interest: good for you.  Those who have 5, 6, 7% interest: tough shit.

The other problem is the level of the debt (not the interest on it), and low interest rates, if they do anything, will make that worse.  If you make the price of money much lower for a specific activity (going to college in this case) then people will over-consume that good, and so the price of college will rise faster than it would otherwise.  So lowering student loan rates going forward may actually lead to higher debt levels for future students while doing nothing for current graduates with lots of outstanding debt.

We need low cost or free college education available to everyone, and we need to address the outstanding debt of [recent] graduates.  All this fucking around about the student loan rates is more distraction than help.  Yes, it may help quite a few current students, but at the expense of future students, and to the detriment of our nation, if education is in fact a driver for economic growth.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Randian Destroys Business...

Bloomberg has an amusing read on the clusterfuck that is Lampert's management of Sears (well, amusing provided you don't work for Sears/Kmart in which case it is probably horribly depressing).  I do want to make a quick note about this lunatic in charge.  When he responded thus:
“Decentralized systems and structures work better than centralized ones because they produce better information over time,” Lampert writes. “The downside is that, to some, it appears messier than centralized systems.”
He wasn't entirely wrong.  I don't know about better, but decentralized systems certainly produce easier to extract information over time.  One of the problems of centralized systems is that there are lots of feedback systems that are very difficult to accurately measure/discern.  But that difficulty doesn't make the centralized system worse (or, technically, better) it just makes it harder to break down and quantify. 

In the case of Sears, if appliances bring people into the store, but they can get better margins on baby products, then it may be a good idea for those two to team up: offer a special on washing machines (new baby: more laundry) to get people in the door and position the sale item very close to the baby merchandise.  In Lampert world, however, you can't do this because appliances would see a drop in profitability while baby-whatever sees the gain, so next time around baby people get more money/space in the catalog/whatever, and appliances gets less, but because it is appliances that brings more people in the doors, the switch means fewer people come in and lower revenue all around.

Of course, Lampert is a Randian, and those people are largely out of their minds, but putting one of their true believers in charge of a company is mystifying.  Most of our corporate overlords spout that crap but don't really believe it...or so I'd always assumed. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

On Hunting Black Children

I'm pretty disgusted that I live in a country where a man with a gun can hunt and kill a black child armed with candy and suffer no consequences.  It's just horrifying.

What's The Matter With Not-Kansas?

I read the book (What's the Matter with Kansas), and thought it was pretty spot on.  I also see something very similar happening in the Democratic party right now.  Very depressing. 

Nuclear Power Goes "Oops!"

While I generally think that nuclear power has the potential to be an excellent, carbon-free energy source, there are some pretty not-minor problems with it as it exists today.  Problems that are probably made worse when you build them in earthquake prone regions, and then try and hide how bad the problem is.  Maybe we will all find out how bad the radiation really is when all the dead fish/whales/other sea critters wash up on the US west coast beaches.

Friday, July 12, 2013

In Defense Of College (Partial, Short)

Specifically, in response to the rather stupid opinion reflected by the "employers" in this article.  When a person gets a college education, it must have rather limited real world use.  That's the nature of it.  It is the responsibility of the companies and businesses hiring to instruct their new hires on the application of their knowledge to their new position.  The university system isn't meant to be job training for Boeing, it's meant to be education, that allows for people to more easily move into certain fields.

That said, early on it sounds like the article is complaining that colleges are not doing that job well, but even that is somewhat misleading.  If you require people to have a college degree and more and more people get one because of that basic requirement, then you are naturally pushing down the educational value of said college degree.  People who would have gotten training (votec/practitioner/whatever) are now getting degrees, because of that requirement.  Moreover, by seeing this as a job requirement rather than an education, students and faculty alike are apt to downplay the education aspect.

We seem to want colleges to be this amazing thing (and considering the price, they sure as shit should be!) but college isn't really meant to be amazing in the way that people think of it.  Education is supposed to be a base of knowledge.  How large and well founded that base is makes a difference, so college is better than high school.  By the same token however, what goes on top of that base is not necessarily reflective of it.  Someone may have a good base, but be unable to build.  Someone else may have a base that seems good but is completely displaced from where they go.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Not Gonna Happen but...

If I ever run for political office I would most likely do so on the Atrios platform...though probably with moar science!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Dunkin Donuts' New Breakfast Sandwich

Oh, it comes on a glazed donut.  Best review is definitely this one.  Weirdest is at Women's Health, where the Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, while described as one of the worst in America, actually seems better than almost all their "healthier" selections.

Monday, July 01, 2013

U.S. Beer Market

It is still astounding to me that, even with the rise of small breweries and brewpubs/brewery restaurants, that Inbev and Miller-Coors have 80% of the beer market in this country.  More astounding, still to me, is that if you look at all the independent brewers (which includes Samuel Adams), their entire market share is 6%!  That number is more astounding by the fact that prices for those beers are higher (sometimes much higher). 

On the one hand, I don't know why anyone buys Budweiser or Miller Lite at just about any level.  Really, it's kind of creepy, and pretty much reinforces that I will continue to not buy those beers for reasons that go beyond: "They suck."

Voyager is Pretty Awesome

It is, in my opinion, the coolest thing we have done with space exploration.  The idea of this craft we built drifting, functional, in space for decades is the stuff of science fiction.  Also it is maybe exiting the solar system for real this time.

Another Sunny Day Out West

Just don't call it global warming.