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Comment It's like encouraging everyone to become lawyers (Score 1) 351 351

The salaries for lawyers vary like those for software developers. There are a vast number of grunts doing basic work and making adequate salaries. BUT, towards the top of the pyramid, which is exceptionally difficult to reach, there are those making eye-popping salaries.

Ditto with the IT field. That guy who "stole" code from Goldman Sachs, Sergey Aleynikov, was pulling down 400K a year at Goldman. He was set to get 3 times that amount from another company upon leaving Goldman. That's like an elite lawyer's salary. BUT - some guy doing PHP on a no-benefits contract - what, 50-60K? Some average guy doing intranet programming, or building websites for small businesses as an employee? Probably averaging in the same range, maybe a tad higher.

The difference is that there is no bar to entry for programmers. Lawyers have to pass the bar. Anybody can start slapping together apps or get on a no-benefits contract with a little experience. Plus lawyers are highly organized, with the ABA, the American Trial Lawyers association (representing plaintiff lawyers), etc. IT types are way too... I dunno, disorganized, libertarian, low-social-IQ (in general) for that kind of thing. But people that make businesses are not low social IQ. They're dealmakers. And they absolutely hate having to pay these high salaries. They figure if they can flood the market, they can lower their labor costs.

Jokes on them a bit though. True, they'll suppress IT salaries in general. But the superstars will still be a small fraction of the overall IT pool, and they'll still command the stratospheric, though a bit lower, salaries.

And programmers ought to be organizing more behind the ACM, I guess, and encouraging some kind of "PE" (Professional Engineer) equivalent to mark one as someone who actually knows the theory of computer science and practice of programming.

Comment Re:Too big to fail (Score 1) 255 255

They don't have to buy the country, just the government. And all that's required to do that is merely to spend enough to influence a sufficient number of the 535 legislators who make its laws.

The same dynamic works at the state and local levels.

All corporations allocate a certain amount to lobby/invest in government. Those investments typically have a very high rate of return. Another more in-depth analysis is here.

Comment Re:Too big to fail (Score 4, Interesting) 255 255

Corporations were not considered in the original list of entities that would need to be included in the checks-and-balances equation. Back in the Founders day, there was the East India Tea Company, but still governments were unquestioningly the shot callers. So, there was an effort to place checks and balances within government.

Today, businesses have grown large enough to co-opt government. And they definitely influence society.

Eisenhower warned of the Military-Industrial complex in his famous speech: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."

Today, the financial sector dwarfs defense in its lobbying efforts. Technology is also another gigantic sector with a growing influence.

So - Business must now be included in the check and balance equation of governing. Unfortunately, virtually no one willingly gives up power.

Comment Dangers of a homogeneous media (Score 1) 255 255

"When they own the information, they can bend it all they want." - John Mayer, "Waiting On The World To Change"

There are a lot of very powerful interest groups that want to gain control of the information flowing over the Internet. That would, I think, be a terrible blow to the advancement of the human race, and a slide back into oligarchy.

And also, this concept of local government officials - chieftains - working as fronts for very specific interest groups is troubling. It's commonly seen in DC where lobbyists write sections of laws which apply to themselves or competitors. Also on Wall Street where financial companies can direct prosecution (e.g. Aleynikov) as well as write law. This kind of behavior is a dereliction of duty, and should be treated as such.

Comment Hands of Death and Destruction (Score 1) 245 245

HODAD- "Hands of Death And Destruction" - A Hopkins doctor wrote a book about the subject.

From the article:

"At a medical conference Dr. Marty Makary saw one of his Harvard professors who “looked out at a room of 2,000 doctors and asked ‘How many of you know of another doctor who should not be practicing because he is too dangerous?’ Every hand went up.” Yet few report bad doctors and those that do often get fired.

Hospital staff knows they are practicing bad medicine and mostly do nothing. In Makary’s provocative book, Unaccountable, he describes one Ivy League-trained doctor who’s popular with patients yet dubbed Hodad, by his colleagues, for his continuing string of patient deaths. Hodad is their dark humored acronym for “hands of death and destruction.”

Doctors are kind of like cops. They both do a life and death, high stress job, and are under assault from all corners (for different reasons). So they protect their own. But to improve illness survivability, and in the interest of trying to get more information to patients, there has to be some way to get information about doctors to patients.

On the other hand, any metric will be gamed. So - if doctors aren't willing to police themselves... what choice is there but trying to get metrics on them? We're not talking about a good and a bad choice, we're talking about a bad and worse choice - which one is less bad?

And if you think the teachers union is badass - the AMA is made up of doctors, who are smart and relentless and wealthy. They're a big lobby in DC (although smaller than I thought prior to looking them up. In recent election cycles, with Obamacare, I recall seeing them near the top of the list).

Comment Magnificent (Score 1) 109 109

I read Bloom County throughout the eighties. It was a brilliantly funny comic, nothing like Doonesbury which was highly political. Yes, Breathed obliquely dealt with political issues ("caucus raucous!") but in an evenhanded fashion, which was unusual for back then. I'm amazed Breathed is bringing this back. I'm really looking forward to it and hope he has a long and humorous run.

Comment Re:Other opponents (Score 1) 446 446

No. I found it curious that the manufacturer, after having likely spent extra effort/expense on the rBGH-free animal, would be mandated to include the statement that there is no difference.

The manufacturer wasn't claiming any benefit to the rBGH-free animals; merely that they were rBGH-free.

Comment Re:Other opponents (Score 1) 446 446

I would suggest instead that non-GMO products should voluntarily label themselves as non-GMO, and enforce the veracity of that claim under truth in advertising laws.

The ag lobby has already blocked things like this. On containers of yogurt not made from cows given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), you'll see a label which says that. But there's also a mandated label (at least in the mid-Atlantic) which says there is no difference in milk from cows given rBGH and cows not given it.

Comment Re:Glorious (Score 1) 446 446

I read this in The Economist recently:

"Mr Putin and his associates know, from first-hand experience, that courts and judges in Russia are for the most part obedient puppets of their political masters. They also believe, wrongly, that the Western system works on the same principle, but just dressed up with more hypocrisy and flimflam."

I'm no fan of Putin, I think he's a corrupt oligarch. But I see things like this, shenanigans in the financial sector and various other regulations swayed by donations at all levels of government. And I have to wonder if Putin and his cronies are right.

Comment Glorious (Score 1) 446 446

I remember first seeing on a container of recombinant-bovine-growth-hormone-free yogurt that stated there was no difference between it and rbgh containing yogurt.

I thought - "What? Why would the manufacturer put both of those labels on his product?" Of course, it's because the agricultural lobby paid off politicians in order to force non-rBGH manufacturers to put such labels on their product.

You know how Tom Wheeler, former top lobbyist for the cable industry is now head of the FCC? Yeah, it's safe to assume that this sort of thing occurs throughout the US regulatory apparatus. You know the IRS scandal regarding the targeting of conservative groups? Yeah, Big Ag seems to do the same thing but through the regulatory apparatus.

You know, El Chapo broke out of jail, probably with the help of Mexican authorities. It was reported that "He then hinted that the authorities had been complicit in the jailbreak by posting: 'The dog (slang for the Mexican government) dances for money, and I've bought it.'

Fortunately, we don't have law breaking like that here. First the bribery and conflicts of interest are legalized of course, THEN the "favors" occur. So - no illegality.

Comment Re:It's not about Uber, it's about independence. (Score 1) 432 432

[Aside: I notice your interesting post is at 0 points: Reminder to certain mods: There's no "-1 disagree"]

Regarding your post - what is the net result of individuals being able to pick up a small gig here and there? What is the social cost of that? Yeah, it can generate some spending money, but is the overall result to drive down wages of workers, while increasing wealth among business owners?

Or does it lower costs for business, both in regulation and wages, leading to greater business innovation and business creation, and greater social welfare?

Or does it lead to deflation as wages are pressured down? How about deflation along with greater income inequality leading to even worse social outcomes?

I don't know - but my point is that policy makers (politicians) should be trying to understand the big picture, guided by what most improves social welfare, and not what gets them the most contributions (hah).

Comment The term is "Creative Destruction" (Score 1) 432 432

"Creative Destruction" is the destruction of the "worse" which is replaced by the "better". Hopefully resulting in better overall social welfare.

Would the destruction of the current model of the taxi industry lead to higher general social welfare? If the choice is between concentrating more of the profit at the top and less of it among the workers, probably not. If it means more profit for workers, and more workers, then it would improve social welfare.

Trying to identify which model improves social welfare is the key. Change is scary and disruptive, and not always good. But without technology-driven change, we'd still have a wagon-wheel manufacturing industry. On the other hand, we have lost a great deal of manufacturing, with all the costs and benefits that entails. IMO the costs outweigh the benefits in losing manufacturing.

Unfortunately, we don't see creative destruction in other important areas such as finance or politics. The financial system imploded in 2008, due to consistent patterns of misjudgment and malfeasance. But, they are among the biggest donors to federal politicians, so they received a rescue. I can understand saving the banks, but no executives were penalized, much less jailed. And the business models didn't change. Too Big To Fail just got bigger. Also, we don't see creative destruction in politics where the game is heavily rigged to favor the incumbent. If taxi drivers can convince (i.e. contribute sufficiently to) local, state and federal politicians, they may be able to save their business model, regardless of the social welfare implications.

Comment Re:My concerns (Score 1) 688 688

Comment My concerns (Score 1, Interesting) 688 688

1) In an area which gets most of its electricity from fossil fuels, like DC Metro, the energy is still being mostly obtained from fossil fuels - including coal. So instead of directly using a fossil fuel, I'm using it with one degree of separation via electricity.

2) How long it lasts: Every X number of years, the battery has to be replaced at very significant cost.

3) How gracefully does the battery degrade: When the battery starts degrading, what does that do to performance?

4) Environmental impact of building and disposing of the battery: Are giant leach pits being left behind and aboriginals being looted?

5) Annual and lifetime carrying costs are hazy versus those of an oil burner.

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