Lion of the Blogosphere

Archive for March 2017

Regulations from an insider perspective

My former employer has a business model very similar to ISPs. Although the product/service my former employer provides isn’t essential to leading a normal life the way that high-speed internet access is essential, nevertheless the company provides a product that is highly desired by millions of people and for which there isn’t a convenient substitute product, hence the company’s monopoly power.

My former employer very much needed government and non-government regulation to keep them honest. Without watchdogs, the motto of senior management was “do anything to make a profit no matter how unethical.”

For example, we would trick people into signing up for our service with a very low-price offer, but we would hide the fact that the low-price offer would expire in a few months and roll into a monthly price that was a lot higher.

When customers called to cancel their service, we would make it very difficult for them, and in some cases the customers’ service didn’t get canceled (which wasn’t the official policy but was a natural result of the internal customer service policy to fire the poor schmucks at the call centers who allow too high of a percentage of customers to cancel).

Only action by government forced the company to change their ways, to disclose the true service price to customers, and to reform the call centers to make it easier for customers to cancel their service. And the company still doesn’t let people cancel online, which I personally think is unethical. I believe that anything you can sign up for online you should be able to cancel online. In fact, Congress should pass a law which states exactly that, that anything with recurring billing that can be purchased online can also be canceled online. However, I doubt that we will get a consumer-friendly law like that from this Republican Congress.

While it’s true that it a lot of employee manpower was needed to change the company’s policies to comply with these government mandates, it created jobs for people like me. A lot of the work I did had to do with stuff like this. Do you want me to be unemployed? And it’s not like any of this made the company unprofitable. In fact, the stock price has gone up quite a bit during the last year.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 30, 2017 at EST pm

Posted in Economics

ISP privacy

The Republican-controlled Congress reversing the Obama rules protecting ISP customer privacy is an example of Republicans reflexively and shamelessly bending over for big corporations using the simplistic formula: “big corporations=capitalism=free-market=good, government regulations=socialism=Marxism=bad.

ISPs have huge monopoly power and definitely should be regulated by the government so that they don’t abuse that power.

Yes, you are forced to deal with an ISP. In order to live a normal life in modern society, you need internet access, and most people don’t have a choice of more than two, and in many places only one. Until very recently, Spectrum (formerly TWC) was the only provider of high-speed internet in my apartment building.

Now more than ever, you should sign up for a VPN service like PIA and use it whenever you access a website that you wouldn’t want the FBI, the IRS, your significant other, your employer, or your mother to know about. But using a VPN has inconveniences. Many websites don’t work with VPN: they must be using third party security software that keeps track of known VPN IPs and rejects them, on the theory (no doubt true) that the vast majority of fraudsters are using a VPN.

Using a VPN requires technical acumen not possessed by the average ISP customer (at least that’s my experience with PIA). So the majority of people will not be able to hide their tracks from their ISP.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 30, 2017 at EST pm

Posted in Technology

In the future, will the government pay people to drive virtual trucks?

Self-driving trucks will soon put all truck drivers out of work. What will they do instead? Every other industry they might migrate to will also be laying off workers because of automation. Pizza delivery will be done by robots. Stores will no longer have cashiers. Even the cashier-less McDonalds won’t be hiring anyone, because robots will be in the kitchen making the hamburgers.

The government could simply give everyone a basic income check. But there’s too much political opposition to that. The idea of poor people getting something from the government without having to work for it drives a lot of people, especially conservative blog commenters, crazy. Even free healthcare for everyone, which is an important first step towards a basic income, outrages the conservative types.

Furthermore, there are some legitimate concerns about people without the kind of structure to their lives that comes from having a job becoming social problems, joining gangs, committing crimes, etc.

Thus paying people to do virtual jobs like driving virtual trucks could be a necessary first towards a true post-scarcity economic model. And it’s a lot better than paying people to drive real trucks because the virtual trucks don’t pollute and don’t waste any scarce natural resources. Plus the truck simulator provides reinforcement of civic values because you have to obey the traffic laws.

* * *

Am I serious, or is this just tongue-in-cheek?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 29, 2017 at EST pm

Girls S06E06 “Full Disclosure”

Several commenters demanded that I write about Sunday’s episode of Girls.

This is primarily an Elijah episode. Hannah and Marnie also appear. Not appearing in this episode at all: Adam, Jessa, Ray, Shoshanna. Shoshanna hasn’t had any role in this season since the WEMUN mixer. Did Lena Dunham grow bored with the character?

Given that Elijah is more likable than any of the female leads, even though he’s gay, it was mostly an enjoyable episode, and I even liked the sassy thick black girl whom Elijah befriends at the White Men Can’t Jump audition.

Dill, Elijah’s ex-boyfriend and TV-news-personality, returns for an appearance. A poorly written appearance. Dill as an emotional wreck is just dumb and not believable and we’ve already had enough of this with Marnie’s ex-husband Desi. And I choose to ignore the whole Dill wanted to buy a “white baby” scandal. Luckily, Elijah told Dill to get lost, so presumably that’s the last we will see of him.

Hannah talks, by phone, with Paul Luis, the surfing instructor who’s the father of her child. Paul Luis wants nothing to do with a baby. Hannah cries afterwards. What the hell did she expect? Of course you have to wonder about the bad advice of other characters on the show urging Hannah to call him.

Allison Williams who plays Marnie looks very anorexic. It’s not pleasant.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 27, 2017 at EST pm

Posted in Television

Free phone call with Google Voice and Google Hangouts

I just discovered that you can make free phone calls from your computer using Google Voice and Google Hangouts (of course you’ll need a headset or usb phone). Good to know!

It works best using the Chrome browser.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 27, 2017 at EST pm

Posted in Technology

American Truck Simulator bugs

Look at that 65 mph speed limit sign on a regular city street. One of many bugs in this game. It’s not as polished as Overwatch.

But still, not buggy enough to make me stop playing. A very strangely enjoyable game. Although I don’t see myself become one of those total truck-sim geeks with a steering wheel gas/brake/clutch pedals setup that costs hundreds of dollars, plus side monitors to see your left and right mirrors.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 27, 2017 at EST pm

Posted in Nerdy stuff

Reminder: before Obamacare, poor people got free healthcare

I read a lot of comments like “I don’t want no Obamacare because I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for the healthcare of no poor people”

Well here’s a fact for you: before Obamacare, poor people still had free healthcare.

1. Medicaid predates Obamacare.
2. Before Obamacare, under the EMTALA passed when Reagan was president, emergency medical providers (like hospitals) must treat everyone who has an emergency medical condition or is in labor, regardless of their ability to pay.
3. Everyone 65+ had Medicare.

Obamacare expanded healthcare subsidies to those who are less poor, the working poor and yes even the middle class. Yes, those making the median household income (currently $51,759 per year) are eligible for Obamacare subsidies.

Healthcare for all makes sense for middle-class tax payers. They are already being taxed for healthcare for poor people and seniors, they might as well pay a little more tax and get the benefit themselves.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 27, 2017 at EST am

Posted in Politics

Big Little Lies S01E06 “Burning Love” **Spoilers**

We still don’t know who’s the murderer or the murder victim. We still don’t even know who bullied Amabel.

I was correct, last week, that Jane’s trip to see the interior decorator in San Luis Obispo was a red herring. For starters, he was the wrong guy. And then, in this episode, Jane and Renata make up, so Jane is out of the running.

I still think that Ed being the murderer because of beta-male rage is the best bet. Madeline’s affair with the theatre director is about to get out to everyone. The theatre director’s wife accused Madeline of being the other woman. And then Madeline confessed to her daughter, Abigail (who wants to auction off her virginity on the internet and donate the proceeds to Amnesty International).

The best scene: Madeline’s ex-husband, Nathan, eating Coco Puffs for breakfast in order to annoy his health-food nut wife Bonnie (played by Zoë Kravitz). How could any man put up with Bonnie’s new-agey crap? Well, I’m sure that Ed would put up with it, that is until he goes crazy with beta-male rage and kills someone.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 27, 2017 at EST am

Posted in Television

Medicaid-for-all much less expensive than private insurance!

If you look at this chart you’ll see that average Medicaid spending per adult (which I presume are those adults who don’t qualify for Medicare) was only $3,247 per year in FY2011.

That’s a lot less money per enrollee than the cost of Obamacare insurance policies. Plus Medicaid covers 100% of medical expenses, not like crappy Obamacare plans that come with huge deductibles and copays and where you have to fight with the insurance company over every bill to avoid being ripped off.

Less expensive per enrollee plus 100% free coverage plus better customer service.

So why can’t scrap our private-insurance-based health system and just go with Medicaid?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 26, 2017 at EST pm

Elite schools only admit “leaders”

I enjoyed reading this essay at the New York Times, despite the subtle bashing of Donald Trump.

I am almost certain that the girl in the essay who’s a cellist and biomedical engineering major is Asian. It does seem to me that the demand for “leadership” is one of the ways that elite schools manage to discriminate against Asians.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 26, 2017 at EST pm

Posted in Education

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