Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Congressman Rocks!

Here's the email I got from my Representative - Peter J. Visclosky... who I will continue to vote for in reply to my letter opposing the bailout. (Ephasis mine - all mine)

Dear Michael:


Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns regarding government assistance to distressed financial institutions. 


I absolutely agree with you. That is why today I opposed H.R. 3997, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, and the House rejected it by a vote of 205 to 228.


I do not believe that it is the responsibility of Congress to bail out financial firms experiencing loss because of a lack of regulation, a lack of oversight, the greed of financial executives who often make sums in excess of 250 times the income of the average American worker, and bad judgment


I have the gravest reservations over this proposal, and I am appalled at the President's arrogance to suggest that Congress act within ten days to undo a disaster that has crescendoed over the last ten years and enriched countless Wall Street executives and speculators while impoverishing multitudes. Enclosed, please find a copy of the remarks that I submitted for the Congressional Record during consideration of H.R. 3997.


The problems in our current financial system are not temporary aberrations in an otherwise healthy system, and may not be so easily addressed. As I write, it is not known whether similar proposals will be considered in the future. However, given the gravity and systematic nature of these problems, you can be assured that I will examine any future proposal with the same care and deliberation I exercised with H.R. 3997.


Thank you again for contacting me. Do not hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.


Peter J. Visclosky
Member of Congress

It's heartwarming to me to know I've got good representation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The people have spoken... for now...

They voted the bailout down... the first good news all day.

Maybe now we can move forward, and purge this toxic debt from our markets, and get to work rebuilding our country.  Some transparency will certainly help if we can get it.

What the bailout really means

A friend noticed that the first vote on the bailout failed... and asked for my opinion....
If we do nothing, we'll have to watch some banks fail as the CDO mess along with the derivatives beast die... it won't be nice... but at least the Government would still be here, and could help out the little guy once the consequences of this bad debt are fully known. Folks like us could survive it.
If this bailout makes it through, regardless of the details, the bailout buys us a few months to a year of the status quo. It does this by hiding the "toxic" loans from the markets by eating them before anyone gets a chance to see how foul they truely are.  Of course, to do this we'll be spending somewhere around 0.7 Trillion dollars, and it will only take a small nibble out of the shitpile. There will be trillions more left, which still has to be dealt with.  The 0.7 Trillion has to come from somewhere, and for the first time, the Congress, Treasury, and Fed are considering just printing it up, with no "reserve" to back it.  Once they get a hit of truly free money, they'll be like a meth addict, and think they can just buy up all the bad loans...   that's when the result is totally debasing our currency, resulting in the devaluation of the dollar to nothing.
It's my opinion that passage of this bailout signals the end of the United States of America.

Bad word of the day - Webinar

I recently decided to try out a Webinar offered by Dr Dobbs, it was "on demand" which was good because that meant it wasn't somewhere off in the mysterious future where I might not get to attend... score +1.

They made me register and give a ton of marketing information... score -1 

They spent the first 1/2 minute explaing how to use the live features... score -1

They didn't edit down the presentation... score -1

Three strikes and they're out!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My plan to resolve the mortgage crisis... ugly, but effective

I believe that mortgages are a symptom, and not the real problem. Trust and transparency allow us to have expections that actually get met. Nobody knows what Paulson will do... which is going to make things worse, regardless of his actions. 

We have a solution that works...it's called the Bankruptcy Courts The process of Bankruptcy won’t have much (if any) stigma once the wave hits… people will be able to walk away from houses they shouldn't be in, and those that gave "home equity" loans to people based on inflated property values were taking a risk that shouldn't be rewarded either.

I firmly believe that the capital markets will not "sieze up" as the personal savings rate in the US has gone UP THROUGH THE ROOF in the past few months, people are saving cash like mad… if banks need money, all they need to do is offer a decent return on an FDIC insured savings account, and funds will FLOOD IN. 

We need to backstop the FDIC to protect individuals, possibly moving the limit from $100,000 per account to $1000,000 per person. Otherwise let the FDIC raise its premiums to recoup the losses in the long term, and this crisis gets solved from almost no money what so ever.

The simpler the solution, the better. The less new code in a program, the fewer new bugs. Let's not write a lot of new code (or laws) to try to fix this bug.

What do you think?    


Cluetrain urgently needed

As I think more about the bailout... the need for a copy of the ClueTrain to be used here is more apparent than ever.

The bailout and the process leading up to it is totally opaque to the general public. We're being rushed into this by the type of government by panic that Naomi Wolf warns us about in her latest book.

We need to stop, breathe, slow down and take a few moments to talk about this, discuss it, open up the conversation and shine some daylight into this mess.

We need radical transparency if we're to have any hope of doing this right... the fact that opposing candidates both agree with the bailout was to me a very strong sign that this is politics as usual... which we just can't survive.

The United States needs a clue... open up the books, find the real costs of the fiscal games of the past 30 years, and push the bad debt out into the light of day, where everyone can see the stinking corpses floating on Wall Street, and then give that debt a proper burial. 

Bush, Pelosi, McCain and Obama need to be together tonight on every channel if this thing gets done, and explain it all to us, exactly... or we need to vote each and every member of congress who swallows this out of office.

I'd write more, but I'm spending the day with my Father... and life is short.  I've said my piece, now please talk about it with your friends and family, and stop this bailout insanity, for our nation's sake.

May God bless the United States of America.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sneakernet 2.0

Metafilter linked to Google's Project 10100 which is looking for ideas to help humanity in general.

I don't know why by here's my first contribution, which I think can be done without any money or great deal of time. I copied my answers out of the form before I hit submit, because I thought it was a pretty good idea and wanted to be sure to save it. You can read them at the bottom of this post.

My basic idea is to learn from history, toss in modern code and the fact that almost everyone can get access to a working computer / USB port, to build a set of social networking tools that don't need the internet, but could certainly use it

We need Sneakernet 2.0

I have massive amounts of photographs which I would like to share with my family. Because of the limitations of even "broadband" connections in the US, it's just not practical to do this across the internet. I'm sure that there are lots of people with lots of stuff they want to share that just aren't willing to try to stuff it through the net.

Plain text (or html) is tiny compared to the vast size of the thumbdrives we now throw away. With the appropriate software and/or organization tools, you could re-implement "fidonet" using USB keys to eventually get things to the places they need to go, with or without the net.

The internet is nice, but there needs to be more, with store/forward and some hints provided by the people who carry the stuff around, you can get far more bandwidth to far more people. This I believe is a worthy goal.

My favorite quote on this subject from history:
Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway. Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1996). Computer Networks. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 83. ISBN 0-13-349945-6.

There's already projects to be done, I'll survey the existing stuff and join one if it looks promising.

Here's the questions and answers raw from the form I filled out, in case they help explain things better.

10. What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

Build a complete set of social and computer networking tools that can be distributed on/via USB Sticks.

11. Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)

CBBS opened a new vista of social networking in 1978, which lead to Fidonet, to parallel UUCP, etc. Build a set of tools which allow the modern update to it, with sneakernet as the backbone.

This could be used by families to share photos. Researchers with huge data sets on the larger scale of things.

Provide a nice standard way to share stuff on a massive distributed scale that's extremely easy to use.

12. What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)

Routes around censorship and trust issues with the internet. Lowers the barriers to entry for social networking.

13. If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)

Anyone who needs to share a huge amount of stuff with others they meet or send packages to on a frequent basis.

14. What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)

Some brainstorming, evaluation of available tools, and a small community of people who want to contribute to the idea.

15. Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

Everyone around the world gets to share more stuff, and gets more as a result.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pissing in the wind

It's probably as useful as pissing into the wind, but I wrote both of my senators here in Indiana with the following text:

They made bad loans, they deserve to pay for it, not me and my child.



Saturday, September 20, 2008

More information needed in hyperlinks

It would be useful if you could add information to hyperlinks, beyond that of the target URL.

You might want to link to a given URL for a number of reasons, it seems to me that there should be a way to express at least part of your intention when linking.

For example, you might
  • agree
  • disagree
  • have an update
  • think it's funny
  • want to tag an entry
  • add a comment
Right now a hyperlink is just an address, stripped of intent. We need to add intent information as well.  If an article has 100 trackbacks, it would be nice to be able to examine those who agree or disagree, etc... in categories. The relevate attributes can be added, we just need to discuss and agree on some standard terms and tags.

What do you think?

Rebuilding the 4th estate

I firmly believe it's time for us to rebuild the 4th estate. It's obvious that we can't count on professional journalism to supply anything usefully approximating the truth any longer. A democracy requires informed citizens to survive. Thus the disappearance of credible journalism is an exisential threat to the United States, a matter of national security, of the first order.

We need Social Journalism... NOW

We need Social Journalism... NOW

We've got just a bit more grace period before the financial world implodes, and things get a lot meaner. Either we figure out means of carrying out journalism and democracy amongst ourselves with the newly minted technologies we have available, or we're all toast.

Open source software, USB storage are the keys to building and propogating a social network that can sustain the cause of Liberty in the face of powerful forces which would censor us into oblivion.

The newest bailout AIG is rumoured to have provisions to allow a firm to raid the assets of all the accounts it holds to "aid liquidity"... this is just what happened to LTV steel here in the Calumet Region, which resulted in all of the workers getting screwed out of about 1/2 of their retirement, and the loss of their health care plans. 

Is this true or not? I as a single person may not be able to find out, which is what gives the people who write these insipid little clauses later used to steal from us wiggle room to work.

My reason for bringing this up is a creeping sense of dread... one reason is that my pension has just been threatened, and I have no real means of determining the truth, other than to wait and see if I'm a victim or not.

Further along that thread is the realisation that any private assets held in the United States can be siezed under a number of guises...
  • RICO - claim it was drug money, force the rightful owner to PROVE it wasn't
  • Terror - claim they were supporting terrorists, throw them in jail
  • Retirement - allow the holding firm to raid your pension
  • US Dollars - fudge the inflation numbers and print as much as you want to spend
  • Stocks - the DOW isn't keeping up with inflation
  • Houses, Land - Emminent Domain
So there are a number of "legitimate" ways to take anyone out of the middle class without arousing suspicion... it's becoming increasingly clear that we'll need some way to fight back, outside the system, but within the framework of the law. We're all at risk here if we don't have some way to find the truth.

Social Journalism would seem to be our best bet.

The best way that I can think of to jump start this is to use blogs while they are still open and free to get a consensus and figure out what truely works and doesn't. We have to pick up the slack and do our own investigation and reporting, as the corporate giants buy out the last newspapers and commodify our process for finding the truth.

Edit suggestions always welcome. 


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Post 9/11 photography on the CTA - Entirely Reasonable

I was taking some photos on the Red Line of the Chicago Transit Authority today, and I was told politely that I would need to get permission. So I put the camera away... and decided to see what's involved in getting permission. The response was one which I'm quite happy with, as a photographer, passenger, and Citizen of the United States.

I rode the Green Line to the LindenClinton stop and walked over to CTA headquarters. Ms Kelley in customer service was very nice and polite in determining who should handle my inquiry. The lobby on the second floor features a nice Neon sculpture I hope to photograph some day.

After a short wait I was greeted by Ron Grazian Jr., who is the Planning Coordinator for Operations Oversight. He explained the situation to me, and gathered information from me about the nature and purpose of my photography. He gave me a copy of the policy document they use for their staff, which will probably prove helpfull at some point in the future. He also made the quite valid point that they have 11,000 employees who may or may not know the fine details of their policy.

The policy itself is quite reasonable, leaving things to the discretion of their employees, which is probably the most sane approach to things they could have possibly done. I'm very impressed with the professionalism and thoughfullness of the CTA.

In discussing why I take photos, and what I do with them, I was surprised that Ron had not heard of Flickr, so told him about the site, and gave him a link to my photostream. We both learned some things, time well spent.

All in all, a 5 Star experience. No hiding behind a set of rules, or anything of that nature, just real 1:1 conversation. 

Thanks Ron!