About Corporations

2 November 2015

Some Americans worship the concept of Corporations the way credulous and gullible people worship . . . Whatever. This thinking has created problems for us. Let me explain.

As worshipers tend to do, acolytes of the Corporation stoutly defend the object of their veneration; no matter what the Corporation does, it’s never wrong. The Corporation is viewed by its devotees as a supranormal form of life. Instinctive and unthinking life in the way of an insect perhaps, but a form of live nevertheless.

Defenders of Corporatism rail and froth against any and all governmental regulations and constraints. The faithful flock maintains saying “no” to the mighty priests in the boardroom is the next thing to blasphemy, maybe even heresy. The idea of regulating Corporate behavior is anathema: “The goddamned gubberment outta just get outta the way and let thems Corporations make money!” they say.

Regulations. Rank and foul. The chief bugaboo of Corporations everywhere.

But I wonder just how many worshipers understand Corporations are themselves, government regulations? No? Didn’t think so. Let’s have a reality check here. The original purpose of the Corporation was to let several people band together in some sort enterprise and thereby dodge individual responsibility for misdeeds on corporate time — if the corporation hurts you, you sue the corporation, not individual employees or shareholders. Also, Corporations exist as long as they do not operate against the common good and obey the law. All this is a good idea, really. It makes possible doing business beyond a sole proprietorship.

To create a Corporation, the people who want it go to the Secretary of State and make application and pay a fee. If the Secretary of State determines if the applicants have met all legal requirements and regulations. If they have, he or she will grant a corporate charter. This Corporate charter is in reality, a government regulation describing what the corporation may or may not do in the same way environmental regulations determine how much CO2 can come out of a smokestack. (Also, if a Corporation works against the common good or breaks the law, the charter can be revoked, dissolving the corporation in the entirety. Think about that.)

So a word to defenders and apologists of the Corporation: You may hate regulation with every atom of your beings but it turns out the object of your adoration is in fact, a regulation itself!

Ironic, isn’t it?


The Programmer’s Prayer (Release 1.0)

30 October 2015

Our program which art in the mix
A-prompt be thy name

Thy OS come, Thy Command be done
At the printer as it is on the screen

Give us this day our daily datum
And forgive us our I/O errors
As we forgive those who hack our code

Lead us not into syntax errors
And deliver us from bad compiles

For thine is the application
The structure and the algorithm
Looping forever and ever


Microsoft Windows

22 October 2015

Microsoft Windows is a piece of shit.  Was, is, and always shall be.

Some months back, one of Microsoft’s interminable automatic updates had a bug (what else could one expect?) and destabilized a stable system.  Things started running slllloooowwww.  Then crash.  I was getting the Blue Screen of Death (BSD) thrice weekly.  One day, I got two BSDs inside an hour.

Then one morning, the damned Windows wouldn’t start.  Not even in Safe mode.  So I got out my Windows distribution CD and began the re-installation process.  That was Monday morning.  This is Thursday noon.

For security, I use Microsoft’s wretched Securities Essentials.  How many times over the last three days have I tried to get it installed?  Six, maybe seven.  Oh, it worked once but then I got some automatic Windows updates, one of which stepped on Essentials and I was stuck in Installation Hell.  I even de-installed it twice.  Well it’s working now, as is Windows.

Wishing to let sleeping dogs lie, I went into the security settings and turned off the automatic updates.  On doing so, Windows told me I had 128 updates waiting to go!  Well, you’d better believe I DSed those sons-of-bitches.

Oh, and when I tried, for the second time, to install Jo’s website creator, it worked one time but then Windows crashed twice more and the installed program disappeared from the menu.  So I went back to the external hard drive where I’d stored the exe and was told the exe was corrupt.  I’ failed to turn the external drive off and Windows had somehow gotten into the drive and wrecked the exe.  Fortunately, I had the exe on another computer so I piped it onto a thumb drive, brought it over and got a clean install.

Jo and I are starting a MacIntosh fund.  After we’ve saved enough pennies, I’ll store this computer in the garage and head for the closest Apple store.  Enough is enough.



A Dilemma

21 October 2015

Do you like dilemmas?  Yes?  Well here’s one for you: Pick either A or B.

A: You will live but three years more and your death will be painless.  In the meantime, you’ll have money without limit.

B: You’ll live at least into your nineties and be in perfect health the whole time and your death will be painless.  However, you’ll be stony-assed broke the whole time.

Think carefully.



Impacts Of The Self-Driving Car

15 September 2015

What will the impacts be?  In two words, Not Much.  There are several reasons for this.

Acceptance of the technology.  The public is conflicted.  In a recent survey about self-driving cars, almost a third love the idea and said they’d never drive again.  One quarter said they’d never own one.  Some people like the experience of driving so much (your author being one such) they they loathe the whole idea of self-driving cars.  Moreover, three quarters of those surveyed — including that one-third who love the idea — said they’d never trust self-driven cars to take the kids to school.

The question of wide-spread acceptance is not yet answered but the outlook is chary.

The costs.  The issue of acceptance notwithstanding, the price will tell all.  Remember, this not a “gotta have” technology and never will be — unless mandated by the government or the Insurance industry,

Over the last decade or so, many elements of a driverless car have been built into new cars, e.g., adaptive cruise control, anti-lock brakes, stability systems, electric power steering and of course, GPS navigation.  If all of these had come out in one year’s time, people would have choked on the “sticker shock” but they’ve been introduced one-at-a-time so the pain was not unbearable and the “sticker shock” was tolerated.  The whole panoply of goodies necessary to a completely autonomous car — using today’s technology and best practices — will be $7,000-$10,000 in the year 2525, measured in 2015 dollars.

The Price.  As the price of today’s new car averages $33,560, or 2.6% more than last year, another $7,000 brings the price to $40,560, again in 2015 dollars.

Is this affordable?  A nation-wide study on car affordability showed that, in Chicago which was in the middle on the personal income scale, an affordable car was $21,409, which is roughly half the projected price of a self-driving car.  Is this affordable?  No, not without skewing the prices of other things downward as an offset.  Things like houses, vacations and college educations.  Will you degrade your standard of living in order to buy what can only be described as a “goodie” of marginal value?

And last-but-not-least, there’s the problem of liability and insurance.  The whole system of responsibilities, blame  and torts will have to be rejiggered.  If my driverless car smacks into your driverless car, who do you sue?  The car’s maker?  The company that built the driverless system?  The government that mandated the driverless car?  Certainly not me.

Will we have to have a hold-harmless law for the makers of these goodies so they won’t be put out of business by ruinous class action lawsuits?  Probably.

The mind boggles and the wallet bleeds.

So, then.  The impact on society of a self-driving car is supposed to be huge but given what we know, the public may well blanch at the prospect and settle for some improvements to a known commodity.  So in reality, the true impact will be slight.


he Came to America

22 July 2015

He came to America by jumping a fence, swimming across a river, hanging from the undercarriage of a railroad car, locked in the trailer of a semi, nestled in the wheel well of a jet plane or by some other harrowing conveyance.  He came here because there was nothing for him at home.  Nada.  Zilch.

He had no regular income.  What he did make was chump-change paid him by an overlord, a gringo ex-pat, a drug dealer . . .  Some ignoble source.

His mother had lost all the teeth on one side of her mouth.  His dad could no longer stand fully erect as the years of stoop labor messed up his spine. His girlfriend had a couple of health problems of her own but no money for a doctor.

His house was a shack.  The lawn was a patch of hard packed earth in which nothing grew, not even weeds.  Drinking water came from a dirty well. Diarrhea was a weekly visitor thanks to the broken refrigerator (the compressor conked out two years before).

His prospects consisted of the same-old-same-old until age, disease or misfortune carried him off.

He had to get out.  To go somewhere where there was at least the possibility of better times.  So one hot morning, he announced his decision to all and sundry, bid them farewell, picked up his bindle and said goodby.  Probably forever.

Now he’s here, picking vegetables and fruits at a series of sweltering California farms.  But he makes more money than he ever thought possible.  So much that he sends half back to his family.

He’s a wetback.  A beaner. A greaser.  An illegal immigrant.  He goes by many names.

And The Donald [Trump] doesn’t like him.  A lot of people don’t.  They figure he’s here to simply take a swig from the public tit.  But he’s not.  Why would anyone leave his family, his home, his sweetheart, his community and his country simply to pick lettuce?  I sure as hell wouldn’t.   He’s here because he had no hope.  Last year, a survey of the Mexican people showed 56% wanted to leave.  The USofA with their first choice of destination followed by Anywhere Else.

The problem of illegal Mexicans can be laid at the feet of a Mexican government that is feckless and corrupt to the bone.  It has utterly failed its people.  The Mexican government has been bedeviled by tin-pot dictators, parasites, strongmen and a party that kept its power for seventy years, thanks to rigged elections, bribery and, sometimes, murder.  The Mexican government was so weak and rudderless that in the 1800s, it actually hired an emperor from Italy to come in and run things – Maximilian III – then promptly murdered him in coup d’etat.

And so it went, and so it goes.

Not long ago, we agreed to NAFTA in hopes it might bring prosperity to that benighted country.  It didn’t.  With a few notable exceptions, Mexico is as wretched and corrupt today as it was before, its people living in penury and want.

But there is a solution, one that will probably be welcomed by the people: Install an American regency.

Throw out the toads and install an American regent in the statehouse.  It worked in Japan, Germany and Italy after WW II.  General Eisenhower dictated the German constitution, General McArthur dictated Japan’s.  They ran those countries well, leaving functional governments in place when they left.

And look at Germany and Japan now.

I say bring in the American Army to distribute food and clean water and medical care.  The Corps of Engineers can build roads, power plants and schools.  And universities.  As quickly as possible, vet suitable candidates for government positions and bring them aboard.  Cleanse the land of organized crime, including the corporate kind, establishing really harsh penalties for violators.

Within six years – seven, tops – the hoard of illegal Mexican’s that flooded in, will flood back out.  They’ll go back to their homes, their families, their sweethearts & friends, their communities & country, for by then there will be hope and opportunity.

The fences will come down, the border will be open and everyone will be happy.  Even The Donald.


A Way Out for The Greeks?

16 July 2015

So Greece has rolled over and played dead for the European Union.  Greece will now be the vassal state of Germany and to a lesser extent, France, and to an even lesser extent, the remainder of the Euro powers, e.g., Latvia.

The problem of being a vassal state is your masters use you the way the Roman Empire used its provinces: A low-cost source of labor and resources exploited to the fullest.  Many in Rome felt grinding the provinces into the dirt was just a dandy idea. However, in talking about Rome’s relationship with the provinces, no less a person than Tiberius Caesar said, “I want my sheep shorn, not shaven”.

Look back at the Biblical times and you see Rome’s vassal states, like Israel and Assyria, still had their own local governments and economies, but Rome called the shots and drained those countries’ through heavy taxation and slave labor. Today, with Greece and the EU, it’s pretty much the same arrangement, but without the slave labor.

They didn’t get shaved, but the Greeks sure got shorn.

So what can Greece do now?  Let’s look to the past.

My dad was born in 1899 so he was in his prime years when the Great Depression hit.  He told me how the economy was in the toilet and that all of FDR’s mighty New Deal achievements helped, but the Depression lingered on.

Then, unintentionally, we hit on the sure-fire way to get a stalled economy working: War.  For four years, America worked 7/24/52 to build stuff that was then promptly thrown away — shot from the skies, sunk in the oceans and blown up on land.  Economically speaking, WWII was one vast make-work project.  Of course there were 407,300 casualties too, don’t forget.  In any case, at war’s end, America was the economic Colossus bestriding the Earth.

Did we have austerity here at home like the Greeks are having now?  Yes, but it was self-imposed.  Everything was rationed and Victory Gardens bloomed in almost every yard and commons.  Housewives worked the armaments factories.  Ma even saved bacon grease and brought it to a collection place at the grocery store; it was used to make gunpowder.  There was a central government authority that saw to it the austerity was felt by everyone so all Americans felt each person pulled his or her share of the load.  Taxes went up and almost no one objected to paying them.  Government bonds were sold and everybody bought them.  Huge deficits were run up too, but the prosperity at war’s end took care of that.  And what wasn’t taken care of was handled by printing more money.

Could the Greeks pull-off something like this?  Lift themselves up by their own bootstraps?  Quite possibly.  All they need to get the ball rolling is understanding two things. One, that they are in a war of survival against a european empire much like old Rome. Two, a nation’s wealth is the product of its peoples’ labors.  That this second point is true is demonstrated by the old barter system, i.e., “I’ll work for you, doing what I do best, if you’ll work for me, doing what you do best”.  No currency required.

So, then, the Greeks could repudiate their debt, kick the EU to the curb, reintroduce their own currency, or maybe use the dollar a la Venezuela, and put the country on a war footing.  Undertake vast public works projects that get everyone, and I mean everyone, involved. Create an actual honest-to-gosh labor shortage. If you don’t have a private sector job, you’ll be out on the road, swinging a pickaxe on a government project.  And, most importantly, you’ll get paid.

People won’t live high on the hog for a while.  Indeed there will be austerity but only on a personal level.  You can have a Victory Garden of your own as opposed to the grocery store but all the while the Greek government will build, build, build.  Employment will probably be at 110%, like it was here during the war.  In four years’ time, Greece could be wealthy once again.

Sure, the EU can make a billion-and-one reasons against this but you know, sometimes you’ve just got to take a winger.



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