Tuesday, 26 February 2013

08:11 – We dodged the bullet again. When I woke up this morning, it was pouring rain and one degree above freezing. Barbara made a flying visit home last night after work. We had dinner and then she packed work clothes and her gym bag for today and took off to head over to her parents’ place to keep her dad company overnight. She’s taking him to the doctor this morning to get the paperwork done that he needs to get Medicare to approve a scooter.

I didn’t get as many containers filled yesterday as I’d planned because I ended up having a lot of other stuff going on. For one thing, I discovered I was short of caps for the 15 mL bottles. My vendor sells bottles and caps separately, and the numbers don’t correspond. For example, the 30 mL plastic bottles come 1,500/case but the caps for them come 1,440/case. That’s not so bad. I can keep those in close sync simply by ordering a case of bottles with a case of caps and an extra bag of 144 caps. Then, every once in a while, I’ll order a case of bottles without the extra bag of caps and things work out pretty closely. The 15 mL plastic bottles are more problematic. They come 1,100/case but their caps, different from the 30 mL caps, are still 1,440/case. So, unless I’m careful, sometimes we end up with a bunch of leftover bottles and sometimes a bunch of leftover caps.

So, we currently have one half-full case of 15 mL bottles and maybe 50 or 100 caps. I thought I had another case of 15 mL caps, but if so I can’t find it. So yesterday I ordered two cases of the 15 mL bottles and two cases of caps for them. That matches 2,200 bottles up with 2,880 caps, and should make things come out right. We needed more 15 mL bottles anyway, because Barbara will be starting on labeling new batches of bottles. Meanwhile, I got all the labeled 30 mL bottles filled yesterday, and would have started on the 15 mL bottles if I’d had caps for them. Oh, well. I have several hundred tubes to fill anyway, so I just changed gears and started filling tubes. And, with what we have on hand, those 2,200 15 mL bottles are enough for about 60 more chemistry kits and 60 more biology kits.

12:30 – Amazon has apparently created a monster with free Kindle books, and now they’re trying to clamp down by penalizing sites that feature their free ebook downloads. I’m not surprised. In the past year, I’ve downloaded close to 1,000 free Kindle ebooks. Well, 2,000 actually, because I download them for both my Kindle and Barbara’s. And even at that, I’m being pretty selective. I only click the link to view a book on Amazon if it looks like something we might want to read, and the sites that provide the link do some preliminary winnowing–minimum stars required to be listed and so on. On a typical day, that might mean I have a quick look at five or six books among the 50 to 100+ candidates. I then do a 15-second review of the description and number/average of the reviews. If it passes that test, I download a copy for me and one for Barbara. In the past, I’d typically download three of the final candidates; now I’m more selective and usually download only one or two a day. Then every couple or three weeks, Barbara will go through the titles I’ve gotten and winnow them further. The upshot is that we end up with maybe 1% of those free titles on our Kindles as final candidates. Then we read the first couple of chapters–or sometimes just the first couple of paragraphs–to decide if a book is worth spending any time on. Maybe a quarter of them are good enough to be keepers, and the vast majority of those are self-pubbed titles. So, overall, we actually end up reading maybe 0.25% of the featured free Kindle books. The good news for the winning authors is that we then usually go out and buy the rest of the titles in their series. But Amazon is doing its best to put a stop to all of this.

63 thoughts on “Tuesday, 26 February 2013”

  1. You have the right to be stupid. Why the hell would Kerry say something like this about freedom of speech. He’s the SoS. Show some class. I’m sure the Germans said Ya with a chuckle.

    Yes, in the United States of America, we have free speech, which allows people to give voice to controversial (or even stupid) opinions. I’d expect the Secretary of State to say it better, and have his point lost because it doesn’t translate into German well.

  2. I’m not sure why Amazon should care. The load on their infrastructure should still be minimal, and the usual deal is a free book, with sequels that you have to buy. Priming the pump, so to speak.

    Kerry: According to the German articles I found, he came across very well indeed. I assume that, in context, his “right to be stupid” was a light-hearted way of explaining freedom of speech.

  3. I think Amazon may believe that free books are cannibalizing paid book sales, and in particular more expensive books. In the past year, Barbara and I have discovered half a dozen or more new-to-us authors, all of whom are self-pubbed. One of those, incredibly, had all five of her titles up for free simultaneously. Many others rotate their titles, so we end up getting some or all of them for free. (Not intentionally; when we like an author, we like to buy her (usually it’s her) other titles, but I often end up with several of them already “purchased” for $0.00, and Amazon won’t let me buy them again.

    And nearly all of the ones we actually paid for were $2.99. Amazon pays the author $2.04 (plus or minus; it depends on the download fee they charge the author, which varies slightly from book to book). I’m not sure Amazon is too happy about grossing $0.95 per book. Granted, their incremental cost to sell a book is pretty low, but they incur that on all of them, including free ones. I suspect Amazon’s gross margin is pretty damned low on these titles overall.

  4. Yeah, but from the outset when Amazon started as just a bookstore, low prices at big volume was supposed to be the key to their success. Now, they are just as greedy as all the rest.

  5. On Kerry, the Germans always excuse the liberals they like. Just like the JFK quote where he clearly says (on some recordings that were not edited), “Ich bin ein Berliner,” (I am a ‘Berliner’ jellyroll) but everyone I ever talked to there, claims he never said it.

    I have a collection of recordings of that speech, and it is amazing how many have edited out “ein”. But the dead giveaway is that the crowd begins roaring with laughter, then breaks into applause. Germans will tell you that laughter is cheers, but anyone with working ears knows better. Not surprising Kerry got a pass.

  6. Chuck, what you call “greed” is what I call capitalism or the free market. The invisible hand controls pricing and profits. A company that charges too little is not profitable and goes bankrupt. A company that charges too much is not profitable and goes bankrupt. Greed has nothing to do with it. Never did.

  7. Note that even back then, as a kid, Liveshot Kerry was attracted to the commie side of things. I’ve read recently, though, that him and Hagel may actually be decent choices for their new positions; both are reportedly highly skeptical about our various military misadventures and the constant baying of the neocon chickenhawk sons of bitches that want wars with Iran and Red China, while they bow and genuflect before Israel’s Likud and “its amen corner in the U.S. Congress.”

    I have a bunch of hard-to-find Amazon Kindle titles in their cloud thing now, which I can read across multiple devices at home and work. Pretty slick.

    Say, Mrs. OFD is gonna be in the mahket for a new laptop ASAP; I see that everything ships now with Windows 8 (and had a bitch of a time removing it from an HP Pavilion desktop recently so I could throw RHEL on it at home). But what little I saw of it didn’t really faze me none, so I’m guessing she’ll be OK with it, too.

    Anybody here got any favorite and proven hardware to suggest? She looked at the Chromebook thing but that seems to be pretty much internet-connected-only use most of the time so we ruled that out. Should be light with decent battery life. At least 8GB RAM and HD storage not that important. SSD would be cool, I guess.

  8. I bought a Chromebook back in late November and really haven’t gotten around to doing anything with it. I think I’ll eventually install Linux on it.

  9. Why bother purging Win8 from your system? If you value your time, simply buy an extra laptop drive and install your favorite OS from scratch. Then, if & when necessary, you can restore Windows with the turn of a few screws.

  10. I didn’t really care about Win8 one way or the other; I have another desktop running Ubuntu with Win7 in a vm, and I have yet another hard drive lying around with Win7 Ultimate on it. With that and Mrs. OFD’s netbook and current dilapidated Vista laptop, that is way more than enough of M$ around the house already. And I only have Win7 in a vm as a backup with Office for Mrs. O. Previously I thought I’d also keep it for games, but why bother now, with Steam available finally for Linux. And my damn games that I wanted to run on the vm won’t run on it, like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom II, Doom III, etc. so it’s off to Steam for me now.

    So right now we’re looking at a new laptop for her to replace the one that is about to fall apart. Once she finds one, I’ll get rid of the Win7 vm and probably just give the Win7 Ultimate drive to someone who wants it. Then it’s only Ubuntu and RHEL for me at the home front.

    Jeezum Crow, just looked at the outside temp here; it’s allegedly 43 and overcast. Like we’re in Mud Season already and I see the maple sap buckets out, too. Winters here used to last well into March and often April, and that’s not to say it still couldn’t happen. Hey, longer growing season for our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

  11. I can see both sides of the greed debate that Chuck and Bob seem to be having. I actually still subscribe to a magazine in dead tree format. Actually, I don’t subscribe, my in-laws renew my subscription every year as a birthday present to me. Anyways, it’s a hobby magazine that’s been published every month since sometime in the 1930’s and they have a very loyal following.

    Two or three years ago, they digitized all their back issues and released them on DVD for the princely sum of $199.95. There are a few back issues that I would like to read, and I’ve been thinking about buying it off an on since it came out. The costly part was digitizing everything, and producing the disks has a minimal cost. If the price were $99.95, I would have probably bought it, rather than stayed sitting on the sidelines. I have to think there are a lot of people out there like me who would balk at the current price but buy it if it cost half as much. Maybe I’ve been reading Joe Konrath’s blog too much, but I think they’d sell more than twice as many at the lower price.

    It gets better. The same magazine has for the 1o to 15 years put out at least two special issues per year. They have now digitized the special issues, and priced it at $99.95. I’m still more interested in the original magazine than the special issues, but if they had a special of buy the more expensive title now, we’ll throw in the lower priced one for free, I’d jump on it.

    I think they should be pricing to maximize revenue, and a lower price might do that more effectively. It’s their content, and they get to set the price.

  12. Yep. Price elasticity of demand has always been the critical consideration, but until recently no one could do much about it. Everyone knew intuitively that if you reduce the price you’ll sell more units, and vice versa. (That turns out not always to be true; some products actually sell more units at a higher price because there’s a cachet associated with exclusivity.) But recently technology has started allowing companies like Amazon to do serious, quantitative price-elasticity tests. That’s why you may see a different price for a particular item, higher or lower, than I do, and vice versa. Amazon knows a whole lot more about individual customers than most of them would guess. A year or two ago, Amazon famously screwed up by featuring infant-related products to people who hadn’t had a baby recently. It’s just that their buying patterns led Amazon to believe that they were new mothers. But that’s just a glitch. They really do test constantly to feature the items most likely to appeal to you, and to optimize how much they charge different people for the same item. I used to keep a second “clean” browser so that I could compare what Amazon was going to charge me when I was logged in versus what they’d charge an anonymous potential customer. The difference went both ways, depending on the item, and was sometimes substantial.

    Of course, the invisible hand controls Amazon, too. They can’t charge too much because people are now much too good at price comparisons. But they can make sure they don’t charge too little by keeping constant track of what other vendors are charging for the same product.

  13. I see that everything ships now with Windows 8

    Lenovo ThinkPads ship with Windows 7 by default. You have to explicitly choose Windows 8. You might have better luck on HP and Dell looking at their business products and not their home user products.

  14. Capitalism in this era in the US is synonymous with greed. It is not okay for business to do any damn thing it wants, with consumers and customers having no alternative recourse. Fortunately, it looks like Euroland is going to address the question of those who say, ‘if you don’t like our terms of service contract, then you cannot use our product—period.’ The EU courts have more backbone than US courts and have said that is not acceptable in the case of Google. And it is not acceptable and once was not in the US during my lifetime.

    In almost every area of life, business has consolidated into one or two or not enough to be real competition, and have done so by buying off legislators who, in return, reduce all barriers to monopolies, and in the case of GE, let it get off almost scot-free of paying taxes on its billions. And although it did not start out that way, it ultimately included even Microsoft paying off legislators.

    Amazon underpriced bookstores and drove them out of business, started electronic publishing with practically no competition, and now, left with virtually no competition, gets greedy and oppressive, instead of being satisfied that they are one of the most successful businesses on the planet. Reminds me of the insane Xerox ad campaign telling everyone NOT to call a photocopy a xerox, because it is a copyrighted name. Funny, Hoover was quite happy to have everyone refer to the task of vacuuming as “hoovering”. That’s okay, though. Xerox is a nothing company today, compared to what it once was.

    I am the first generation of my family not to be an entrepreneur and own a business. In my family’s eyes, making a living with the ability to save enough to live comfortably in retirement, and to provide jobs for others to do the same, was the purpose of life. But not anymore. Government screams for entrepreneurs and new start-up businesses as the answer to our economic woes. There ain’t gonna be any in significant numbers, because the big super-greedy corporations do everything they can to prevent that. Hell, Monsanto won’t even let farmers reserve seeds anymore, something that has been standard practice since farming began.

    Greed is so conspicuous in the US. I flatly do not agree that it is acceptable for business to set its own rules and do anything it damn well pleases and that that is the definition of freedom and fair business. We are seeing that having run amok in every aspect of life. Unrestrained capitalism is a curse, because it is letting the ogres of society set the rules. What is the result? The poor stay poor, the rich get richer, and jobs for the lesser educated are shipped abroad. Great set-up for the future.

    What a country!

  15. “Lenovo ThinkPads ship with Windows 7 by default. You have to explicitly choose Windows 8. You might have better luck on HP and Dell looking at their business products and not their home user products.”

    I didn’t know that; my work laptop is a ThinkPad that came with XP and I, with everyone else, was ORDERED RUTHLESSLY to migrate it to RHEL, which I did, after doubling the RAM, also by RUTHLESS orders from on high. Of course the issue of said T-pad was two years ago and apparently 7 has come and gone.

    But thanks for the tips on those and the HP and Dell products.

    Gotta say that my brief experience with 8 did not ring any alarm bells EXCEPT when I discovered their RUTHLESS borking of the BIOS and “secure boot” UEFI crap. Mrs. OFD may have to keep using their shit but Mr. OFD is jettisoning it as fast as I can.

  16. After dealing with Win8 for a short time, I would not wish it on anyone. Just try and find where they hide things in it. Worse than an Easter egg hunt where the bunny forgot to put out the eggs. If you are a person like me, who has to do things like swap soundcard settings twice a day, I think Win8 will give you problems. Me, I would think twice before giving the Mrs. a Win8 computer.

    Win8, Unity, Jellybean on Android—geez, when the convention of life is indexes in reference books and maps to find out how to get places, I wonder who decided not having either in computer programs is a good idea. Probably the same person who designed the utterly non-intuitive layout of the ‘new’ Walmarts. Even employees can no longer find things.

  17. I’ll agree with Chuck to some extent: It is (or can be) a proper purpose of government to regulate businesses. Basically, to ensure fair play.

    The problem at the moment is: The government is essentially run by the big corporations. The primary reason that small businesses have a hard time getting off the ground is over-regulation: all of the stumbling blocks put in their way by government.

    These licenses are an irritation to big companies, who have to hire a couple of employees to deal with all of the various reporting requirements. The same requirements are an absolute killer to a small business, which simply cannot afford to deal with all the crap.

    So, yes, unrestrained capitalism is a potential problem. However, unrestrained regulation is the actual problem the US is suffering from. Get rid of the regulation, and you might just find a whole slew of customer-friendly small businesses who would be happy to have you as a customer.

    I mentioned my bank woes a few days ago. I went to another fairly large bank, and they said “born in the US? Go away!”. I found a small bank – more or less the equivalent of a credit union in the US. They said “we’ll have to wait till you’re rid of that pesky US passport, then we’ll be ecstatic to help!”.

    Small businesses are the way to go!

  18. I mentioned my bank woes a few days ago. I went to another fairly large bank, and they said “born in the US? Go away!”. I found a small bank – more or less the equivalent of a credit union in the US. They said “we’ll have to wait till you’re rid of that pesky US passport, then we’ll be ecstatic to help!”.

    There are going to be crooked and incompetent business people regardless of the regulatory hurdles put in place. At some point a better solution is an honest business person the next town over rather than additional regulations.

    I have a favorite bank that I loved. It offers better rates than the competing banks. It does this by having only one location. Also, if you go to that one location, you have to call them and tell them you’re there, and someone will come and help you. Yes, it’s an Internet Bank. Their one location is a bit inconvenient for us. The previous factors are a dealbreaker for Mrs. B, so we bank elsewhere now. But if I were still single, I would have never switched banks.

  19. I’ll agree with Chuck to some extent: It is (or can be) a proper purpose of government to regulate businesses. Basically, to ensure fair play.

    Well, as an anarchist, I’d much prefer no regulation at all, not to mention no government at all. But if we must have government regulation of business, it should be limited to prosecuting fraud. Anything else, the free market will take care of.

  20. I have a favorite bank that I loved. It offers better rates than the competing banks.

    I use a credit union and have for many years. The current one I use has been my primary financial institution for 25 years. Savings rates suck but all savings rates suck. I do not pay any fees. Bills are paid electronically, some even by a check they issue at no cost to me, not even postage.

    At one time when interest rates were hitting 15% for loans they offered a special account where you maintained $1000.00 in that account. In exchange they gave a full percentage point off loans and an additional 0.5% on certificates. I signed up.

    Now that rates are low the CU keeps wanting me to get rid of that account. I tell them no. At one time they changed the account and I quickly reminded them that we (the CU and myself) signed an agreement and there is nothing in the agreement that allows them to change that agreement without my signature. The last time I got a car loan they had to have a supervisor override the interest rate and manually enter the rate into the system. They were not happy. I can now get a car loan for 0.74% where their normal rate is 1.74%. Of course I no longer have a car loan or any loan for anything.

    I am the only one left at the CU that has that type of account. I have no intention of getting rid of that account. In the spring of 2016 I am buying a new Ford F-150. I can get 25% off the best negotiated price at the dealer because of my ties with Ford Motor Credit. I can then get a loan at the CU with the 1 percentage point taken off the loan. I wanted to pay cash but my financial adviser indicated that if the rates stay that low and with my discount I was much better off with the loan. He was right as I can currently get 1.0% on a CD and the loan would only cost me 0.75%.

  21. “… the free market will take care of.”

    This has at times been a resounding success and at other times not so much. Incompetent and paid-off (bribed) gummint regulators do not always detect or prosecute fraud. And corporations have batteries of lawyers and accountants and will collude among themselves secretly to rig markets and set up monopolies. Joe Consumer doesn’t get all this; he only sees what he sees when goes to buy stuff. Maybe he can get a better deal in the next town or the next state; maybe it’s the only deal available for something he really needs, like food, potable water, heating oil, phone service, or medical care.

    So historically, between the State and the Free Market, ordinary schmuck citizens often end up between Scylla and Charybdis. For non-classicists, ha, ha, between a rock and hahd place, between the Devil and the deep blue sea, etc., etc.

  22. Jerry Coyne has discovered that the pope likes cats. Another black mark against the old codger.

  23. All of the failures that are attributed to the free market are in fact failures caused by government intervention in the free market. That market rigging and monopolies you talk about could not occur unless the government enabled them.

  24. “…That market rigging and monopolies you talk about could not occur unless the government enabled them.”

    Yes, I would stipulate to that, provided we are also aware that said enabling is not always direct and deliberate but also occurs through utter incompetence and ignorance which the businesses, of course, take advantage of. What then, is a recourse for Joe Consumer, so that the glories of the free market will reward the good and punish the bad? What was our recourse when the State enabled the pirates and criminal scum who manipulated the housing and financial markets over the past few years? How has the free market helped us with that?

    Jerry Coyne needs to get a life and stick to his area of expertise.

  25. Again, Dave, everything you mention was enabled, and in many cases actively encouraged, by the government. We wouldn’t have corporate abuses, for example, if the government didn’t make provision for corporations to be created.

    Government is all about unforeseen consequences. Even when they really do have the best of intentions, every time the government interferes with anything–every time–the consequences are much, much worse than any minor benefits. Why do you think I’m an anarchist?

    Government can’t create anything. Government can’t fix anything. All it can do is interfere and shift resources around, invariably both inefficiently and ineffectively. If something needs to be created, the free market will create it, assuming it’s worth creating. If something needs to be fixed, the free market will fix it, assuming it’s worth fixing.

    What few people understand is that the free market is a synonym for anarchy. And the further we get from a true free market, the worse off we all are.

  26. “All of the failures that are attributed to the free market are in fact failures caused by government intervention in the free market. That market rigging and monopolies you talk about could not occur unless the government enabled them.”

    How would the free market solve the following problem:

    A city of a few million people will generate enough business to keep one international airport fairly busy and profitable. Since this airport is privately owned it has a monopoly and so can drive prices up to just below the point where it becomes profitable for a competitor to open a second airport. Suppose that a second airport is opened. The first airport can drive the second out of business by cut throat pricing.

    Sydney Airport is the textbook example. When it was government owned, prices and charges are reasonable. It was flogged off 10-15 years ago and now the price of everything is insane. There’s talk of building a second airport in Sydney but no one in the private sector wants to sink any dough in it, because it would be vulnerable to the tactics I described above.

    This is a reason why I make exceptions for so called natural monopolies. Airlines are not, airports often are.

  27. “Why do you think I’m an anarchist?”

    Okay, I give up.

    You can be a free market devotee without being an anarchist, can’t you? How is a libertarian different from a libertarian anarchist?

  28. Airports are a monopoly because government rules and policies make them so. There’s no reason someone couldn’t build another airport or three. In fact, back before the government put its big foot in, competing airport were quite common.

    I know, because my great uncle built more than one of them, along with starting two airlines. Back in the 20’s and 30’s, he was a multi-millionaire several separate times. Each time, he lost it all and made it back. Unfortunately, he ended up dying poor.

    Nothing we think of as a “natural monopoly” actually is. We used to have competing power companies, competing gas companies, competing fire departments, and so on.

    Look into the history of fire departments if you want to see how it used to work and still should. Fire protection was a private service, and most cities had at least two or three competing fire departments. If you wanted fire protection, you hired one of these companies to provide it. You got a plaque to display. If your house caught fire and you called for help, the fire department showed up. No plaque? They just let the place burn to the ground. And the companies co-operated. If a customer of one had a large fire, two or three companies might show up to put it out, knowing that the next time it might be one of their customers and they might need help.

    Then city governments got involved, providing fire protection services for “free”, which of course was actually part of your tax bill. Private companies couldn’t compete with “free”, so they went out of business. But you can bet that the service the government provided was both inferior to and more costly than what the private companies provided.

  29. The free market is literally a synonym for anarchy. No rules or regulations. To the extent that the free market is constrained by externally imposed regulations, it is no longer free.

    Mainstream libertarians typically believe in small government, and by that I mean government 10% to 1% of its current size. Anarchist libertarians believe in zero government, because we believe that having any government whatsoever is like being a little bit pregnant. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger until it finally pops.

  30. OFD wrote:

    “Jerry Coyne needs to get a life and stick to his area of expertise.”

    Well, I think a frontal lobotomy would do the trick nicely, but I don’t think he’d agree. I think with many bloggers ego comes in to it. Some of his posts are quite interesting, others are long tirades against creationists, fellow atheists (well, I like those), group selectionists (E. O. Wilson came in for a pasting recently, and I have to agree with Coyne on this one) and, of course, anyone who criticises the pit bull atheists or supports accommodationism. But he’s not as cranky as PZ.

  31. Hm, could you point to an example of an anarchist society that works? I think anarchism throws the baby out with the bathwater.

  32. Well, Ireland was a successful anarchist society for several hundred years after the fall of Rome, and worked extremely well. While the rest of Europe was going through its Dark Ages, Ireland was a shining light. It had rule of law, equal rights for women, excellent medicine and science, and an educational system that wasn’t matched in Europe until hundreds of years later. Scholars came from all over Europe and Eurasia to study in Ireland.

    Yes, Ireland had “kings”, but not in the sense that we think of kings. They were basically leaders chosen by consensus, and if their people didn’t like what they were doing, the people threw them out and chose a new one. Actually, that was one of the main reasons for the enmity between the Brits and the Irish. They’d have a battle, and the Irish king would surrender. To the Brits, that meant the Irish had surrendered, but the Irish didn’t look at it that way. They’d just say, “screw the king, we’re gonna keep fighting”, and choose a new king. From the Brits point of view, the Irish wouldn’t stay surrendered.

  33. OK, there is libertarian and anarchist theory, and then there is practical everyday life. I am in favor of busting up the country into a loose confederacy, as I have mentioned here before, along the lines of our original Article of Confederation. I believe there is probably less than a snowball’s chance in Hell of this happening short of major disruption and overhaul extending over decades of potentially lethal and bloody struggle. Again.

    Assuming we could eventually get to this happy stage, there are probably regions or municipalities where libertarian anarchy could be successful. Maybe northern New England rural areas, large swaths of the West and the mountains, etc. Other places not so much.

    But never in the current configuration of 320-million people, mostly concentrated in the Northeast Megalopolis, the Left Coast, and the scattered gigantic cities between.

  34. Its funny, someone who writes in a media built by corporations (whole or parts), the same ones that received money from government’s to build electronics or develop that. There is no invention on our modern life that in some part does not received governments funding, nada, zero.
    Free market is free rider, someone profits on people’s money, since Navigation Act AFAIK

    as trivial example, Linux, built over Unix, built over governments funding to Bell Labs.

  35. OK, there is libertarian and anarchist theory, and then there is practical everyday life.

    Obviously, I’m talking about a vector here rather than a goal I believe is possible, at least not without what you’re expecting to happen. But, as the great Lysander Spooner once said, “gradualism in theory is perpetualism in practice”. In other words, never accept the status quo, never give an inch, and always demand what is right rather than compromising on what you think achievable.

  36. What then, is a recourse for Joe Consumer, so that the glories of the free market will reward the good and punish the bad? What was our recourse when the State enabled the pirates and criminal scum who manipulated the housing and financial markets over the past few years? How has the free market helped us with that?

    The problem in the housing market isn’t just the private sector, and it goes back decades, not years. Historically there were two Americas, the homeowners and the renters. Homeowners were more prosperous than renters. The government in its infinitesimal wisdom decided that everyone should be homeowners, so they made it easier to buy a home. Therefore they made it possible for almost anyone to buy a home. Not only did they make it easier to buy a home, but they made it possible to buy more home than you could afford. It wasn’t just the banks did this and the regulators looked the other way. It was that the banks did this and the regulators and legislators egged them on.

    The government and the banks created artificially high demand which inflated prices. Which required even more changes to make it possible for people to get overextended on their homes. Until the bubble popped, and the people most hurt were the former renters who lost everything.

    The reality of it is that financial success depends not on home ownership, but the ability to do certain specific things. Things like the ability to think about where you want to be in the future, and the ability to develop a plan to get there, and the self control to implement the plan. In other words, the ability to save a down payment.

  37. @ayjblog

    As the great Lysander Spooner once said, that the government does not provide shoes does not mean that men go barefoot.

    Of course, nowadays, the government *does* provide shoes.

  38. I gotta read up on Spooner; though I can see right away where something of his may well conflict with my RC theology and doctrine.

    42 here again today; looks a lot like Mud Season but it’s at least a month early. Technically we still have three+ weeks of Winter left. At least.

  39. as trivial example, Linux, built over Unix, built over governments funding to Bell Labs.

    The government did not provide funds to Bell Labs to build Unix. The government provided AT&T with a government sanctioned monopoly on phone service. AT&T made the decision to spend some of the money earned by that monopoly on basic research, thereby creating the transistor and the Unix Operating System. The government did nothing to compel AT&T to spend that money on research. Unix was literally created by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie on PDP 7 that they found laying around after AT&T decided to stop working on Multics. Eventually Dennis Ritchie created the C programming language so that they could stop writing all of Unix in assembly language.

  40. Actually, the housing bubble was caused by racism, pure and simple. Banks were required to lend more often to minorities. Objective criteria like income and credit-rating had to be ignored, in order to achieve this.

    As Jerry Pournelle often writes: Anything other than true “color blindness” is racism. It shouldn’t matter whether you are black, white or purple – objective criteria count.

    If racial groupings appear, the sociologists can and should investigate this. Trying to “make it go away” by discarding the objective criteria is, as we discovered, counterproductive and downright stupid.

  41. “Actually, the housing bubble was caused by racism, pure and simple. Banks were required to lend more often to minorities.”

    Thanks to Barney Frank, Charlie Rangel and their ilk. I think they now they want to do it again. Can’t have those poor folks living in housing commensurate to their means. Mansions for all!

  42. “Amazon has the whole thing for Kindle for $0.99, indexed and linked.”

    Done. And on my Cloud Reader now, along with a bunch of other stuff I haven’t got to yet; I must be RUTHLESS about keeping up my important reading.

  43. I think you’ll enjoy old Lysander. He was a deist, which isn’t that different from you.

  44. Thanks to Barney Frank, Charlie Rangel and their ilk. I think they now they want to do it again. Can’t have those poor folks living in housing commensurate to their means. Mansions for all!

    If we want to help the working poor, we shouldn’t lower the credit requirements, we should help them learn the basic personal finance information we take for granted.

    John Edwards was partially right, there are two Americas. It’s not about rich and poor, it’s about knowledge or the lack of it.

  45. I have known of him and his writings for some time but never got around to reading the dude; I’d be a deist but for my acceptance of revelation and authority as sources of religious knowledge, thus miracles, the Holy Father, etc. I would not have lasted very long at the hands of my ancestors in colonial Maffachufetts and would no doubt have been exiled, flogged and/or hung along with the Quakers and other dissenters from the dissenters. Roman Catholics were perhaps one percent of the population at that time.

    My ancestor Thomas Macy took in three Quakers as shelter from a storm one day and was fined thirty shillings for it; a lotta money in them days. He got pissed off and split for the open sea around Cape Cod with half a dozen other hearties in winter and they ended up at Madaket and became the first permanent European settlers on Nantucket in 1659. I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard twice but have yet to make it to ‘the faraway island…’

  46. “Amazon has the whole thing for Kindle for $0.99, indexed and linked.”

    Oh the greed of Amazon to charge that much! 😉

    (bashing socialist as they are discovered)

  47. Sorry, but if you read Jerry Pournelle the deal was, you have the monopoly, you spend on research, but, a more clear example, ICs are consequence of missiles, not private people at risk research and development

    But, a simple example from 1700, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harrison
    Yes, without governments you could go barefoot, or swim, without a clock.

    Thanks for waste your time reading this.
    PS I read Kernigan and Ritchie too and a lot time ago RSX 11M (This is truly old)

  48. @Brad

    I asked this a week or so ago, but maybe you didn’t see it. Are there not branches of German or French banks in Switzerland, or are the only options domestic banks? In Berlin, we had many Turkish banks doing business, and also Citibank and Bank of America from the US, all doing full service banking. Surely the foreign banks like Deutsche Bank, based in Germany, are not bound to refuse Americans?

  49. I could not disagree more that somehow ‘free markets’—free to do anything, including screwing the public—is the answer to everything. In fact, the thing championed here of Amazon charging everyone a different price is not the free market at work, but is the very definition of discrimination. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” only we make Amazon the coercer who determines need and price and who can be coerced into paying more. I may not be a champion of Christianity, but as my stepson said at 10 years of age after talking to some Mormons when no one else in the family would: “They have some good ideas.” Screwing your fellow man for all you can get from him is not one of them. It’s theft.

    And who should be better to determine who should pay what, than CEO’s paid 411 times more than their grunts who together conspire to invent discriminatory methods to determine the price? Markets determine the price, hah!—what a joke! The market sure does not determine the price I have to pay for Internet, as the price ascends astonishingly year over year from the one provider I can get it from here in Tiny Town. And the market does not determine that CEO’s 411 times his grunts’ pay; his self-selected friendly Board of Directors do that, all too happy, in return for favors, to give him HUNDREDS of times more than the market is worth in any other country of the world outside of the US.

    We don’t have too much regulation. In a country where business buys off legislators to insure that the companies CAN manipulate the market and squeeze out competition legally, what we have is plentiful corruption but not enough regulation to get rid of it. Instead, we have less and less regulation as discriminatory practices are legitimized, while big business and big government now conspire together as Big Brother.

  50. OFD wrote:

    “I’d be a deist but for…”

    I don’t see the point of deism. You either believe in God (theism), you’re an agnostic or an atheist.

  51. “PS I read Kernigan and Ritchie too and a lot time ago RSX 11M (This is truly old)”

    I read Ralph Grishman Assembly language programming for the Control Data 6000 series and the Cyber 70 series. We don’t need no stinking DECs! St Seymour Cray (may peace and blessings be upon him) really knew how to design computers.

  52. RBT wrote:

    “Well, Ireland was a successful anarchist society for several hundred years after the fall of Rome, and worked extremely well.”

    Okay, how about a more recent example? How would a *modern* anarchist society work? If someone killed you/tried to kill you what law, police, court system would there be to track down and punish the offender? How could infrastructure be built without eminent domain?

    Even if you could come up with reasonable explanations there’s the bad example of Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War: if they hadn’t been so busy trashing churches they might possibly have won, and anyway, I think government is a good thing so long as it doesn’t get out of control.

  53. Hi Chuck

    Nope, I’d missed that. The trick is to find banks that have zero business in the USA. All of the big banks here have US branches; I expect the US is blackmailing them with their US banking licenses. I have found a small bank that is perfectly happy to deal with me as soon as I have handed in my passport.

    Because the Swiss government has been pressured into signing a country-level agreement about this, I expect any bank in Switzerland (including German or French ones) will be in the same boat: If they do any business with the US, they will be forced into hunting down any “US persons” amongst their customers, with very broad definitions of “US person”.

    In any case, I just have to muddle through the next 5 weeks. Delay our current bank from cancelling our accounts that long, and we can move to the small bank…

  54. Screwing your fellow man for all you can get from him is not one of them. It’s theft.

    Like many in the IT world, I’ve thought about being an IT consultant of some sort and having my own business either on the side or in place of my daytime job. There is one thing that keeps stopping me. I currently make X dollars per hour working a full time job. If I were a consultant there are things that I would spend time and money on that I don’t have to do as an employee. As an employee I don’t have to look for new customers, my boss does that. I don’t have to pay for the minimal benefits that I have, my boss does that. To replace my income of X per hour, I’d have to charge customers a minimum of 2X per hour. I am fine with that, but the area around me is saturated with people who don’t understand this and charge X per hour or less.

    Are you suggesting that if I were to charge twice what my competitors do, I would be gouging my potential customers? I say no. The price I’d be charging would be undercutting Geek Squad’s rates for on site service. I also would be charging less than a former employer charged for my time.

    Better yet, is Geek Squad gouging their clients if I charge less? I’d suggest they’re not overcharging, they simply have higher overhead.

  55. Oh, I’m sure Chuck does exactly the same thing that he’s criticizing others for doing.

    Chuck, let me ask you this. Have you ever taken a job and told them that you wanted them to pay you less than they were offering because other people would do that job for less money? Or have you ever bought something at a store and insisted they charge you more than the listed price because other places were selling the same item for more?

    Here’s the reality of human nature: sellers try to sell their products for as much as they can get. Buyers try to buy products for as little as they can pay. You are no different from anyone else.

  56. “…: sellers try to sell their products for as much as they can get. Buyers try to buy products for as little as they can pay.”

    And some sellers try to make sure that buyers are gonna be their captive market with no other recourse to any others and will then start gouging as much as they can from their victims and if that means killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, the attitude nowadays is ‘so be it.’ The State enables this, either through incompetence, neglect or as an active agent, and theoretically buyers have recourse through their votes and the existing political process but we have seen in recent decades just how badly that does not work for us.

    I’d also consider that what libertarian/anarchist theory makes plain as day and seemingly simple to implement on a small scale is an entirely different proposition when it’s on the gargantuan scale of 320-million people in an extremely complex globalist economic infrastructure.

  57. Having gone the route of running my own little IT company for a few years, let me chime in. We were producing and selling a software product, one that I really enjoyed working on. I found that I had to spend all of my time selling, marketing and networking – and had less and less time to do technical work.

    Life as a pure consultant may be a bit different; perhaps you can get longer contracts and spend less time selling yourself. Still, that factor will remain.

    Personally, I don’t like marketing and networking. I’d make a great hermit – human contact outside the family is very optional. I wound up selling our product to another company, and breathing a huge sigh of relief.

    However, pricing is not a huge problem. You aren’t competing with the people who selling their services for a song. They won’t be around long, either because they’ll run out of money, or because their work is crap. Assuming you do good work, your true competitors are the IT companies. The catch is building your reputation and client base – lots of marketing and networking – and I am very much the wrong person to ask about that.

  58. ” I’d make a great hermit – human contact outside the family is very optional.”

    Ditto. And though I’d thought about striking out on my own as some sort of IT “consultant,” I learned that much of the day to day stuff would be schmoozing with people, yakking on the phone, having meetings, marketing, and suchlike, not my cup of tea by a very long shot. Stick me in a data center or room all day or all night alone with the machines and I’m good to go.

    And come to think of it, family is overrated…(insert fake smiley face here)

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