And we’re surprised why? Technology can’t overcome gross stupidity…
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Friday, December 09, 2011
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
GOP presidential campaign: a series of flashes in the pan.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
and save the $7 a month Comcast charges me to lease their equipment.
The only complicating factor is having to contact Comcast to
let them know the equipment MAC address and serial number so they can
properly provision it.
And as you may guess, contacting Comcast is like getting a root canal
when all you really needed was a good floss.
I went for the live chat option, hoping that incompetence would seem
less frustrating via IM than phone and knowing that relaying a
15-digit serial number verbally was asking for trouble. I filled in my
details (name, address, account #) and enter the chat room. The agent sends me the usual canned
text about being happy to help and asks for account verification (basically, everything I've already typed in plus the last four digits of the account holder's SSN).
Note: the account is in my wife's name, but I have been added as an
authorized agent at least twice, and remember vividly the last time
when I had called during the MLB playoffs in 2010 to clarify why I couldn't
Everything seems fine, I'm thanked for the information, they ask what I
need and I tell them I need to set up my own equipment. They leave for a
authorized user and they can't discuss the account.
I explain that I can actually tell them the date and time I was (most
recently) authorized to suffer through this indignity. Amazingly, I
got an honest answer about why I keep having to be added to the account.
Comcast has a notes section on each account where they record things
like authorized users. The rep informs me that these notes are
regularly purged if they "get too long" and that this precaution is a
matter of security in an era of identity theft, so this is really for
my own good.
Using simple words, I share my sentiments with the rep, end the chat,
and promptly start a new one posing as my wife. Five minutes later,
Thanks for keeping my identity safe, Comcast.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
1. Pass this constitutional amendment: Corporations are not people
Friday, October 21, 2011
I'm nowhere near deciding if it's worthwhile. But it has made me think hard about where I am and what I do, and for how long I should stay.
For starters, where I work now - there's hardly a better place to be if you have family. Flexible hours, great benefits, good pay, wonderful people. And the kind of loyalty to employees that has the upper ranks cutting salaries to save the rest of us. And it's been a mind-opener, a place with enough guidance to hone my edges and enough freedom to make mistakes. I'm still growing after five years on the job. Good for home life and good for career. Hard to beat.
If I knew I'd be happy doing research forever I doubt I'd even consider a change. But it was freshman year of college when I decided to run for student senate that I realized how much it mattered whether or not I could make a difference - that life was not just about maximizing my happiness, but also about improving the world around me. I've always felt the best way to do that is politics.
There's no higher calling than public service, no greater challenge than balancing the very different demands of your constituency with the demands of your own conscience. And making laws has the potential to truly alter the lives of millions for good: Medicare, the Environmental Protection Agency, Health Care, renewable energy; or ill: massive tax cuts, wars, constraining civil liberties.
This new opportunity would run closer to politics. And it would feel like politics, with more time spent raising money, schmoozing, and running around trying to build coalitions. Some of that seems exciting and challenging; some of it seems really distasteful.
Ultimately, I feel like there will be a tradeoff at some point. To put more energy into a career means less for home, and that should only happen if the potential to do good is significantly higher than my current role and if I'm uniquely suited to it.
Is it? Am I? Good questions.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Last night, I almost pulled the plug on this whole thing, figuring it was better to delete it than not, especially since I had to split the blog in two to easily post interesting stories from my phone's Read It Later app to Tumblr. But ifttt to the rescue, allowing me to push all those Tumblr blog posts back here.
So here's what's up. Work has been great, I just hit my 5-year anniversary at my job and am loving it. I finally feel like I know what I'm talking about, and so do a few others in the field. Very cool. I'm hopeful that it means I'm having an impact.
Two kids are great. M is the world's greatest sleeper, almost letting me forget that she's got a bad case of acid reflux just like her brother. She also has to have physical therapy for torticollis, which means I'm seen on the front porch twisting her head in strange ways. Bet the neighbors love that.
If you haven't seen it, read up on the Occupy Wall Street folks. The Tea Party was mostly an astroturf movement of Fox News meant (heck, it's the third entry when I search Google for "astroturf") to cram budget cuts to save millionaires pocketbooks, but this is the real deal. These folks are protesting the absurd and unconscionable class warfare of the rich on the middle class since Jimmy Carter was president. There won't be a middle class if things continue as they are, no amount of cheap crap at Wal-Mart can make up for stagnant incomes.
Sunday, October 09, 2011
Op-Ed Columnist: The Bankers and the Revolutionaries
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
— For months, poll after poll has showed that rank-and-file Americans of all political persuasions believe that revenues (the nice way to say taxes) should be a part of any deal to resolve our debt crisis. Seventy-two percent of Americans polled between July 14 and July 17 said taxes should be raised on those making more than $250,000 per year, including 73 percent of independents and a stunning 54 percent of Republicans. Fifty-nine percent wanted taxes raised on oil and gas companies, including 60 percent of independents and 55 percent of Republicans. Yet Republicans refused to vote for a deal that included any revenues at all, and the Democratic leadership capitulated despite the fact that the position was exactly the opposite of what large majorities wanted.
Monday, July 25, 2011
It always drives me a little nuts when, at Republican events, the U.S. health care system is routinely described as The Greatest Health Care System In The world (GHCSITW). The crowd always goes wild at the ritualized invocation of American greatness. In recent history, the invocation of the GHCSITW is, of course, always in the context of denouncing the depredations that will be visited upon the GHCSITW if Obamacare passes (before it did) or is not repealed (now that it has).
Perhaps there is a statistical torture chamber sufficiently nimble to produce some measure by which the U.S. system is the GHCSITW. It’s often pointed out by GHCSITW defenders that the unimaginably wealthy Arab royals like to come to the Mayo Clinic when they are sick, although this measure of American greatness may be difficult to wrestle into a statistic.
Still, you don’t have to be terrifically well-informed to know that by the most sensible and obvious measures of a health care system’s efficiency and effectiveness – for example, how comprehensive it is, the results it produces, how much it costs and even how it treats the less wealthy within a given society – the U.S. has pretty much the worst health care system in, at least, the developed world.
Our GHCSITW is the most expensive in the world (by far) on a per capita basis, leaves by far the biggest portion of its population without health insurance and compares very badly with Europe, Canada, Japan, etc. in life expectancy, infant mortality, death by various preventable illnesses, etc. etc.
So it’s a little hard to know why anyone other than those ignorant of the facts or who hate factuality itself are so willing to applaud the ritual invocation of the GHCSITW.
Now comes some recent evidence of what the general public thinks from a poll done by Harris for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. When asked what letter grade they would give to the U.S. health care system, here is how Americans graded it:
“F”: 12 %.
DeLoitte got similar results with the same question in 2009 and 2010.
When asked whether the U.S. health care system works better than most systems in the world (which is a substantially lower standard being GHCSITW), 23 percent said yes.
Hat tip to Dave Durenberger whose latest “commentary” called attention to the Deloitte survey.
A long writeup of the survey is here.
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If we want to swap polarization for moderation, we should adopt Ranked Choice Voting | Community Voices
If we want to swap polarization for moderation, we should adopt Ranked Choice Voting
By Cyndi Lesher | Friday, July 22, 2011
I'm a lifelong moderate and have always thought of myself as results-oriented — in work and in life. When there's a problem to solve, I'm not concerned with dogma or ideological preconceptions; I'm interested in what works.
That's how I've approached my career in corporate leadership, and it's how I've approached my public service, including my work on the U of M Board of Regents and my tenure as chair of the Governor's Workforce Development Council. My pragmatic focus on real-life solutions has served me well as an innovator and a leader.
And it's precisely why I'm such a strong believer in Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Because, as this shutdown has so clearly underlined, politics in Minnesota is in dire need of innovation. Because, unless you have a vested interest in political polarization, mudslinging and rancor, the electoral system we've got right now is not working — and it sure isn't good for the Minnesota business community I represent.
We shouldn't accept 'politics as usual' as a fact of life. It isn't. There's a better way to run a democracy, and it's our responsibility — yours and mine — to demand it: RCV.
Father risked everything
My father was my greatest role model. He taught me, by example, the importance of integrity, and of standing up for what you believe in. When I was a teenager, he risked everything — his business, many friendships, even his neck — by discovering and reporting several cases of insurance fraud by some very prominent individuals. Indictments followed, and my father's life was threatened.
I remember asking him, 'Dad, why did you have to be the one? Why can't somebody else speak out?' His answer: 'Because it's right. And if not me, Cyndi, then who?'
I've carried that all my life and tried to apply it in all kinds of different situations. It's why I volunteer my time on the board of FairVote Minnesota — because I know that our political system is broken, and we can't just wait for others to fix it.
There was a time when it didn't matter so much who won election: Democrat or Republican, I could trust they would govern in the interests of the majority of Minnesotans. This was the Minnesota way.
Those days are now gone, and I have no illusion they'll return. Appealing to candidates and the parties to tone down the attacks, engage in civil discourse and rise above the narrow interests of their base hasn't worked — and won't work as long as the system is hard-wired to reward this political behavior.
Under our 'plurality-take-all' system, candidates win by mobilizing their party base and scaring undecided and independent voters away from their opponents. Divide-and-conquer campaigns work in a system that locks voters into a 'lesser-of-two-evils' choice.
Current process jeopardizes state's health
Our electoral process is jeopardizing the long-term health of our state.
Satisfying the party's 'base' is a winning strategy in a system where elections can be won with as little as a third of the vote. But it's a dangerous way to elect officeholders who have to govern an entire state. Elected officials who are indebted to their base enter office with their hands tied by single-issue pledges that put thoughtful deliberation and consensus out of reach.
Moreover, they can't work productively together when just weeks before they waged nasty ad campaigns belittling each others' character and reputation. As the shutdown and lose-lose budget deal have revealed, problems are simply pushed off to the future, exacerbating their size and scope and prolonging their resolution.
We must change the system if we want to swap polarization, zealousness, and deadlock for thoughtfulness, moderation, and compromise. We must put the incentives in place to compensate these outcomes. Ranked Choice Voting does this.
Under Ranked Choice Voting, voters 'rank' their preferences — 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. In a single-seat race (e.g. governor), if no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the least popular candidates are eliminated and their votes are reassigned to remaining candidates until one receives a majority of continuing votes. It works like a traditional runoff but happens in a single election, saving taxpayers the cost of a second election, candidates the expense of another campaign and voters another trip to the polls.
Under this kind of system, third-party candidates can run and capture votes without being labeled a 'spoiler.' Voters can rank No. 1 the candidate they think will do the best job without concern that they'll 'throw their vote away' or help toss the election to the candidate they least favor.
More choice to voters
RCV gives more choice to voters and makes third parties more competitive. In multicandidate races, candidates must reach beyond their base to appeal to voters for their second choices. It rewards candidates — and parties — who strive to represent the broad interests of the majority and penalizes those pushing ideologically extreme, single-issue agendas. Finally, it produces winners who take office with the affirmation of a majority.
RCV isn't just smart, it's doable. We know from its use in Minneapolis (and several other cities across the country and countries across the globe) that it works. St. Paul debuts RCV this year, and other Minnesota cities are working toward it. As counties across the state replace their voting equipment in the coming years, they can install machines able to tally a ranked ballot. The technology already exists.
RCV is within reach, and I hope Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature will put this critical reform on their list of priorities in the next session. Please join me in asking our elected leaders to enact RCV statewide.
Minnesota can't wait.
Cyndi Lesher is a retired CEO of Northern States Power, an Xcel Energy Company, and served as president of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Host Committee for the 2008 Republican National Convention.
Click to write a comment or read comments about this post.
Monday, June 13, 2011
For some folks, it's a matter of principle that the government should do least, letting the private or charitable sectors handle the rest. But what happens when the private sector (contrary to our conventional wisdom) is not the most cost-effective (let alone effective)?
Take health care. We know that we can do health care more cheaply with a public system (Medicare) than with a private one (Medicare Advantage, etc.). So rather than waste economic resources on private health care, let's create a public health care system and re-dedicate our savings to a more useful economic pursuit.
There are some other great examples. Publicly-provided education loans leave fewer students in default of their debts (and more able to take risks, be entrepreneurial, and buy things), as well as costing taxpayers less money.
Community-owned broadband networks deliver superior services at costs below what the private sector does, and the high quality and low cost create massive economic multipliers as the private sector takes advantage of the better public infrastructure.
Government is often better than the private sector, especially for essential services and the basic infrastructure of a market economy. It's time we made better choices about when to use it.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Monday, June 06, 2011
There's absolutely no way that Rep. Bachmann should ever get a headline like that. She lies. A lot.
Friday, June 03, 2011
And the economic problems continue for the middle class:
Almost 14 million Americans are jobless, and millions more are stuck with part-time work or jobs that fail to use their skills.And employment has not really improved since the start of the recession. Rather, the employment:population ratio has fallen 5 percentage points and has not recovered any ground:
To make matters worse, the social safety net has been eroded significantly compared to earlier recessions, thanks to "welfare reform" in the 1990s. Rather than move families to work, welfare reform has simply dropped them through the cracks and made the poor poorer by allowing states to shift from cash assistance to the poor to other services.
What else do we know about the economic distress of the middle class? Well, workers at the bottom are not only struggling to stay employed, but also struggling to maintain their pay. Service workers at Minnesota grocery chains have seen wages fall 25 percent in recent years.
There are other broader problems for the middle class. Take these two items from the 20 things everyone should know about inequality (hat tip Economist's View). One, unions helped maintain private sector wages (and middle class living standards):
And second, upward mobility is declining, putting the American dream further out of reach for many Americans.
Ultimately, unemployment is a political failure, with one major party committed to policies that actively reduce middle class welfare (Republicans) and the other abdicating its commitment and instead focusing on the deficit bogeyman (which is also a political will problem of paying our bills). While traditional strategies have been employed, if insufficiently (an economic stimulus), Krugman notes that there are a number of other strategies that could be deployed to get Americans back to work.
It's a absolute shame that lawmakers are more focused on the largely fabricated deficit issue rather than the ongoing economic crisis. JOBS!
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Public Programs Keep Millions Out of Poverty, CBPP: With anti-poverty programs under serious attack in Washington, here’s something to keep in mind: a major new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) finds that public programs keep one in six Americans out of poverty — primarily the elderly, disabled, and working poor — and that the poverty rate would double without these programs.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
WASHINGTON—According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the nation's public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate students.
Sources in the Congressional Budget Office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $80 billion earmarked for national defense was accidentally sent to the Department of Education, furnishing schools with the necessary funds to buy new textbooks, offer more academic resources, hire better teachers, promote student achievement, and foster educational excellence—an oversight that apologetic officials called a "huge mistake."
"Obviously, we did not intend for this to happen, and we are doing everything in our power to right the situation and discipline whoever is responsible," said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), expressing remorse for the error. "I want to apologize to the American people. The last thing we wanted was for schools to upgrade their technology and lower student-to-teacher ratios in hopes of raising a generation of well-educated, ambitious, and skilled young Americans."
So who is the we in the “we’re broke” mantra? The recession has certainly been a rough patch of road for many families, but the output produced by corporations in the private sector has already recovered to pre-recession levels, and these firms’ profits were 21.7% higher overall, driven largely by the 60% jump in pre-tax profits enjoyed by firms in the financial sector.
Simple deficit reduction arithmetic (cutting spending is harder than it looks, which is why raising taxes also makes sense):
Suppose that the country – let’s call it Austerityland – has a GDP of $100/year, and a budget deficit of $10/yr, or 10% of GDP. And suppose that the government decides it wants to get the deficit down to 5% of GDP. How can it get there? ...
To keep things simple (and to make it particularly relevant to the three examples mentioned above), let’s focus on the strategy of trying to halve the budget deficit primarily through spending cuts. So the government of Austerityland decides to cut spending by $5/yr. What happens? ...
If G is reduced by $5 in Austerityland, the first thing that happens is that GDP falls by $5. But then a bunch of secondary effects kick in ...[list of effects]
So, what is the budget deficit in Austerityland after a $5 reduction in government spending? If we assume a relatively modest multiplier of 1.5, and a tax rate of 25%, then we get:
ΔG = -$5ΔY = -$7.5ΔT = -$1.875
And the new deficit is now $6.875, which is 7.4% of the new level of GDP. Wait, I thought we were trying to get the deficit down to 5% of GDP? What happened?
What happened is that we’ve missed our target, by quite a bit, due to the ... fall in tax revenues that resulted from the shrinking economy. In fact, just a bit of simple algebra allows us to figure out that government spending in Austerityland will have to be cut by about $9 in order to reach a budget deficit target of 5% of GDP. In other words, the government will have to cut spending by almost twice as much as it initially thought it would in order to reach its deficit target.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
If your name is Minnpost, yes.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
"Eight Facts about Social Security"Ezra Klein on Social Security:
Among his comments, my preferred solution:
Social Security’s 75-year shortfall is manageable. In fact, it’d be almost completely erased by applying the payroll tax to income over $106,000.Source (PDF).
1) Over the next 75 years, Social Security’s shortfall is equal to about 0.7 percent of GDP. Source (PDF).
2) For the average 65-year-old retiring in 2010, Social Security replaced about 40 percent of working-age earnings. That “replacement rate” is scheduled to fall to 31 percent in the coming decades. Source.
3) Social Security’s replacement rate puts it 26th among 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations for workers with average earnings. Source.
4) Without Social Security, 45 percent of seniors would be under the poverty line. With Social Security, 10 percent of seniors are under the poverty line. Source.
5) People can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62. But the longer they wait, up until age 70, the larger their checks. Waiting to 66 means checks that are 33 percent larger. Waiting to 70 means checks that are 76 percent larger. But most people start claiming benefits at 62, and 95 percent start by 66. Source.
6) Raising the retirement age by one year amounts to roughly a 6.66 percent cut in benefits. Source.
7) In 1935, a white male at age 60 could expect to live to 75. Today, a white male at age 60 can expect to live to 80. Source.
8) In 1972, a 60-year-old male worker in the bottom half of the income distribution had a life expectancy of 78 years. Today, it’s around 80 years. Male workers in the top half of the income distribution, by contrast, have gone from 79 years to 85 years. Source.
Friday, May 06, 2011
Sunday, May 01, 2011
From the article: