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21 May 2011

New home for the blog formerly known as 'Es un alimento muy completo.'

I'm joining the mass exodus. The mission (such as it is) of the present blog will be continued at See you there!

17 May 2011

A brand new baby meme?

Seems one of the featured (bankrolled) videos on YouTube is some kind of astroturf presentation condemning what they call the "bad cap tax." A Google search on the quoted phrase "bad cap tax" (as of this writing) produces exactly one result.

16 May 2011

Another day, another Romanian malware site

The website

directs one to

which runs an apparent Java exploit which shrinks the browser window to a very small size. Re-maximizing it reveals the message:

Windows Security 2011 has found critical process activity on your PC and will perform fast scan of system files

06 May 2011

Enough of the 'liberal elite' meme already

Elitism is the belief that wealth and power are evidence of virtue. The 'liberal elite' meme is Orwellian in the sense of 'ignorance is strength,' 'freedom is slavery,' etc. As with all memes, the strategy of choice is assertive, relentless repetition.

The people who parrot the 'liberal elite' meme would like us to believe that academia and the media are dominated by liberals, or leftists, or at any rate people they disagree with. This may be true of academia (though I have my doubts--economics department faculties tend to be well to the right of center) but is so obviously untrue of the media (who rather aggressively frame issues in right vs. center terms) that 'liberal media' used as if it were one word is a patent falsehood. Even if media and academia were liberal dominated, the implication that they are the power centers of society is laughable. The amount of real power in media and academia is trivial compared to the power in big business, and in the military and intelligence services, as well as of course government in general.

It all follows the usual pattern of propaganda. The assumption seems to be that if you repeat something enough times, many will believe it to be true.

The Yahoo! Courriel disimprovement

Message options used to be both above and below the message. This was logical. If something was spam, you'd want to click the top "Pourriel" (formerly "Publipostage") button before reading. Otherwise, you'd read the message, and when you're done reading, where are you? At the bottom of the page. Under the old Yahoo! Courriel, you'd have a repeat of the buttons for delete, reply, déplacer (stick in a 'dossier' or folder), etc. Now one has to do a ctrl-home to go back to the top of the page.

"Marquer comme non lu" (mark as unread) no longer works on the currently open message. For a while I thought they had also gotten rid of 'précédent' (previous) and 'suivant' (next), but eventually figured out that that was what the ꜛ and ꜜ represent. One has to go to the inbox view for this feature to work. Oh well, it does say 'beta.' I'm waiting with baited breath to see if the 'alpha' version re-incorporates certain features subtracted from the 'classique' version.

28 April 2011

Another phishing domain

This one purports to be from Bank of America, and redirects to They even included a copyright notice, which I am taking the liberty of disregarding here, as the message is fraudulent to begin with. Non-standard grammar, it seems, is par for the course with spam, and this one is no exception, with "To get start:"


Due to the high number of fraud attempts and phishing
scams, it has been decided to implement EV
SSL Certification on this Internet Banking website.

The use of EV SSL certification works with high
security Web browsers to clearly identify whether
the site belongs to the company or is another site
imitating that company's site.

It has been introduced to protect our clients against
phishing and other online fraudulent activities.

Since most Internet related crimes rely on false identity, Bank of America went through a rigorous validation process that meets the extended validation guidelines

Please upadate your account to the new EV SSL certification

To get start :

> Log on to

Please Note:
If we do not receive the appropriate account verification within 48 hours, then
your account will be suspended.

Remember, Bank of America is committed to your security and protection. To find out more, take a look at our Information Security section
under Privacy and Security on the Web site.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender

© 2010 Bank of America Corporation. All rights reserved.

21 April 2011

Low-income Americans are undertaxed

I have noticed a not-at-all subtle shift in the tone of conservative movement rhetoric in America, that (in terms of conservative sources I'm tuned in to) has seemingly unfolded in just the last few months. Since the Reagan revolution, the tendency of movement conservatism has been a zero-tolerance policy toward tax increases on any subset of the population, period. Now the meme being parroted by grass-roots conservatives (I'm willing to assume they're not all sock puppets) is that citizens below about the 40th percentile in income are undertaxed, the talking point being that they "don't pay any income tax." I initially interpreted "40% pay no income tax" as code for "I'm against the Earned Income Credit." But it also appears to be a salvo in the far-right's age-old struggle to replace the income tax entirely with sales tax (code phrases "fair tax" [sic] and more recently "consumption tax").

According to Bill Carver, "Most democrats don't like a sales tax because it gives up conrol and doesn't punish the rich." Disregarding the 'punish the rich' rhetoric, the 'control' issue is an interesting frame to put on the issue. People control the amount of sales tax they pay by controlling the amount of taxable consumer goodies they purchase. Sounds fair enough. But how is income tax similarly not under individual control? I can't count the number of times I've been lectured by libertarians and other conservatives about my relationship with my boss being 'voluntary,' let alone how many times I've heard the cliché "nobody's holding a gun to your head." While economic competition provides resistance to any attempt to increase one's income (and hence one's income tax liability) there is no resistance, let alone coercion, standing in the way of decreasing one's income. One (who itemizes deductions, anyway) can even decrease one's taxable income without any change in earnings through philanthropic giving. Of course, all taxation is coercion, and justifying taxation requires coercion to be a means justified by some end, one of the more popular being the maintenance of civilization itself. It is not my purpose here to debate the legitimacy of taxation in general. I simply don't see how sales tax is under a taxpayer's control in ways that income tax is not.

17 April 2011

Many perceive an uptick in deletion of content at Facebook

This was recently noted regarding the "F*** the Royal Wedding" event page.

Could it be that there is a campaign to make Facebook less useable for noncommercial uses? That the annoyance factor itself is the weapon of choice? Facebook should be regarded as part of the main$tream media; a platform for marketing that is adaptable to other uses to the extent that they neither interfere with nor draw resources from the primary mission.

06 April 2011

Conspiracists: Tell me something I haven't hear before

Tell me something I haven't already heard millions of times, or better yet, STFU.

Conspiracy theories are to the marketplace of ideas as pyramid schemes are to the marketplace of consumer products. At some point a seemingly normal conversation takes an unexpected turn and you just realize that you have been thrown a 'pitch.' Talk radio is where conspiracists go to work on their curve ball.

28 March 2011

Where does one find high-contrast street maps online?

Would it kill websites such as Mapquest, Google Maps, Bing Maps etc. to offer a 'high contrast' option? What we might call a monochrome-printer-friendly (ideally in 'draft' mode) option? Perhaps the problem is me, simply not having figured out (yet) how to set the display preferences. Or is it a yet another case of necessity-creep; the tendency to design websites (and everything else) with built-in assumptions, like 'everyone has broadband' or 'everyone has color printers' or the despicable 'everyone has a car.'

25 March 2011

Necessity Creep

The key to living within one's means, especially in these times of austerity, risk, competition, precarity and casualization, is the ability and willingness to classify possible expenditures as luxuries or necessities, with a bias for regarding things as luxuries, and being aggressive about enforcing that line in the sand. The most formidable enemy of thrift is the tendency for luxuries to become necessities. What exactly is the economic or technological history behind something like indoor plumbing becoming an economic necessity? Is it a necessity because life requires it or because policy requires it? To the serious student of economic minimalism it may appear to be a conspiracy against the cheapskates, although there are of course questions of whether urban living can be safe or hygienic without everyone having indoor plumbing, and hence a water bill to pad the "baseline" cost of living. While it is always debatable what are the raw necessities of life (or as Thoreau put it, the grossest of groceries) it's plainly obvious that many product categories have migrated in the direction of the 'necessity' end of the spectrum. These include utility hookups, refrigerators, telephone service (if nothing else, so you have a phone number to put on your résumé), Internet access (because many job openings are announced only online, or even only take applications online), non-casual clothing (again, often a pre-requisite for earning a living). Perhaps the most egregious example of a perverse necessity is cars, in places not well served by mass transit.

In America, and it would seem in all 'first world' countries, it is becoming obvious that the going rate for labor at most skill levels simply won't cover the cost of living in such countries, which is to say, the cost of necessities. If for some reason we must insist on not practicing protectionism, subsidy, or some other Sin against the Iron Laws of Economics, surely we must be duty-bound at least to facilitate what can only be called cheap living, with an emphasis on cheap housing. While I reject the free market ideology, at least those who are principled and reasonably consistent in the market fundamentalism favor radical zoning deregulation, so that truly cheap housing arrangements (say living in someone's garage, or having a lot of roommates) are at very least not illegal. I'm not convinced that there is any guarantee (or even market-equilibrium-seeking tendency) that the cost of necessity procurement will automagically make itself commensurate with the market value of labor, which is one of the many reasons I'm an anagorist, but housing has some potential to relieve some of the pressures that cause hardship, and is one form of economic deregulation I think actually has merit. The existence in the world of cheap labor, without the existence locally of dirt cheap housing and cheap necessities in general, is a death trap, a treadmill of superhuman speed, and a deliberate act of cruelty on the part of anyone who speaks in defense of, for example, minimum square footage requirements.

As for those semi-necessities referred to in the first paragraph, there is a need for a platform for sharing and cataloguing strategies for living without the semi-necessities. There is an art and science of cheap living, and it merits serious, sophisticated and collaborative study.

In memoriam

Today is the 100-year anniversary of the catastrophic fire at New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory, in which 146 fatialities resulted from the fact that the workers were locked inside. That was before my time, but I am old enough to remember the rhetoric surrounding the Berlin Wall, to the effect that free countries don't fortify their borders for the purpose of keeping people in. The point? There is nothing democratic about business. People under lock and key are not free people. The idea that employment is a "contract" between "free individuals" is a lie; one that can only serve the interests of the privileged.

18 March 2011

The trouble with PBS

Since it's pledge drive time yet again, PBS member station WTVS has the usual baby-boomer-oriented "pledge programming" slated for the next few weeks on channel 56.1. Meanwhile 56.2 becomes even more repetitive (i.e. less informative) than usual. One presentation they have been treating us to a lot is the US Chamber of Commerce's Illicit: The Dark Trade. Another is The Street Stops Here, jointly sponsored by Don Eberly's National Fatherhood Institute, Jeanne Allen's Center for Education Reform and an organization called The Clapham Group. Perhaps the people who make editorial decisions at PBS think that if they run enough decidedly right-of-center programming, they'll be spared the budget axe. It would seem a reasonable proposition, but it seems that the meme campaign to paint PBS/NPR/CPB as a left wing extremist organization is already in full force. The public broadcasters, like the Democrats (even the most moderate of Democrats) will be red-baited and branded as extremists no matter what they do. The purpose of the campaign of aggressive repetition is to convince people that "center is the new left," that is, that ideas considered middle-of-the road a generation ago are and should be considered left-of-center today. The negotiation of what counts as "middle of the road" is a far more high-stakes political outcome than an election cycle. The commercial media are obviously on the side of the political right. That the Democratic Party refuses to participate in the tug-of-war over the "center" demonstrates that the conservative (DLC and/or "Blue" Dog) faction of the Democratic Party has an uncontested controlling interest in the party.

17 March 2011

Good communication skills still suck

The excellent blog "Good communication skills" sucks pointed me to an ongoing debate on Debatewise about whether "companies should provide alternative interview methods," or alternatives to the job interview for the selection process. The points for the affirmative and negative logged so far are as follows:

All the Yes points

1. Doesn't always suit the job.
2. Can't get a realistic impression of a person in such a short space of time.
3. Unsuitable for employable people with Asperger's Syndrome and similar conditions.
4. Relies too heavily on vacancy details.

All the No points

1. Would create confusion.
2. Misses the point of an interview.
3. A significant number of studies reveal that the first impression is in fact the last impression

Now if I ran the world I'd abolish job interviews entirely. The question here is a little narrower; whether there should be an alternate screening method offered. I see job interviews as the second line of defense of Fortress Employment against the General Public. The first line of defense is of course 'networking,' which I define as the practice of working with rather than against the fact that who you know is more important than what you know. The object of the networking game is to make friends with people who have the authority to hire (or to cut purchase orders if your game is sales rather than job hunting), or at least to become of friend-of-a-friend of such key decision-makers. Another goal of networking is to get unpublished information about where openings are. The fact that most information of this type is unpublished in the first place is itself proof that the criteria of employers are largely other-than-meritocratic. The need to be socially connected to the employer itself in order even to find one's way to the applicant pool demonstrates that employers want to hire people they know; basically nepotism. Whether a vacancy is announced publicly or not, there will almost always be an interview at some point. This puts on display your personality characteristics, social style, race, sex, approximate age, and I suppose the firmness (or dryness?) of your handshake. The idea behind networking, which is to say keeping vacancies out of the want ads, seems to be "hire the people you know." The idea behind interviews, with the implied personality screening and social screening, is "hire the people you like."

13 March 2011

Illicit: a case study in package dealing

While generally pretty assertive about my non-Objectivism, I must admit I owe a debt of gratitude to Ayn Rand for popularizing the phrase 'package dealing.' One textbook example of this practice which is out standing in the field is the US Chamber of Commerce's funding of PBS' broadcast of National Geographics's hour-long production titled Illicit: The Dark Trade. Basically the terms 'illicit trade' and 'black market' are used interchangeably. These terms, we are told, cover everything from intellectual property infringement to illegal drugs to human trafficking. The centerpiece of the film is a truly heartbreaking story about hospital patient fatalities in Panama because of some cough syrup tainted with toxic ingredients because some overly-entrepreneurial Chinese firm substituted some cheap-but-poisonous compound for glycerine. Sounds to me not like not so much the consequences of counterfeiting proprietary products as the consequences of information about the supply chain being treated as proprietary. The problem is too much proprietary.

10 March 2011

Quotebag #40

“How long that will take I can’t tell you, but I don’t expect it to be very long, because as Watson begins replacing all those professionals in the job market, what do you think those experts are going to be doing? I know what I would be doing… making improvements in the open source versions of Watson to put the company that sacked me so the CEO could keep making a bonus out of business.”—valkyrie ice

“I work you fucking bastards. Isn’t that bad enough for whoever thought of this question to enact this farce, asking a wage slave to describe his work. 8 hours, for life to be expended in Hegelian freedom of choice, for the profit of a fucking wanker”—Anand 'droog' Kumar

“Cooperativity is fundamental … There is no dictator in cell regulation, no first among equals, no master regulator, no top-down system of governance.”—Michel Bauwens

“Where does this belief in ‘only works on the small scale’ come from? Is it based on the belief that people would, if not restrained by the personal effect of direct contact, cheat and hurt each other? If so, then it is only a corollary of the belief in man being innately evil.”—François Tremblay

“The CEO takes 11 of 12 cookies on the plate, then says to the Tea Partier, ‘look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.’”—Patricia Welch

“I don’t believe in God. And, dammit, I live like I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with that.”—Hemant Mehta

“The most oppressive governments people face are corporate governments, and the most tyrannical forms are usually found at work-places and local areas, not at the Federal Government.”—C. Holte

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.”—Howard Scott, quoted by Angela Russell

24 February 2011

Net metering limited to a few thousand??

From DTE Energy's brochure (pdf) on net metering:

How many customers are eligible for net metering?

Net metering is limited to one percent of Detroit Edison’s peak load, or about 100,000 kW. The eligibility is further broken down like this:

* 0.5 percent for units of 20kW and less
* 0.25 percent for units generating between 20kW and 150 kW
* 0.25 percent for units generating more than 150kW

These limits would allow several thousand customers to participate.

The rather low ceiling makes it clear that net metering is something the company opposes. Those of us who would like to follow Freiburg's example should expect some serious head-butting, against tens of millions of dollars worth of astroturf.

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