All posts by Default .Xbe

Fake Progress Bars

A trend in mobile browsers (and mobile apps in general) that has bugged me for several years is the use of fake progress bars. Those little bars that load from left to right to show you how much of your page is loaded.

The problem is they are 100% fake bullshit. They show nothing. They are just programmed to move at a set rate to tell you the app is doing something. Even if there is no data transferred at all (you can confirm this by configuring an upstream firewall to drop all packets) it will still go about 3/4 of the way across and then slow to a crawl and stop.

Its just to placate you, to assure you the app “doing something” even though its doing nothing productive (much like most politicians these days)

Oddly this trend only seems to have infected mobile apps, desktop applications still use an Internet Explorer-esque rotating icon or pinwheel, to indicate that the program is working, but giving no illusion of progress (or lack thereof) being made

The reason is that such progress bars are impossible with the current internet protocol. The Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) has no way of transmitting data on the total size of a page, so your browser has no way of knowing how much of a page has been loaded until its all fully loaded

The gold standard cannot work with capitalism

I recently heard a respected economist repeat one of the most irksome misconceptions about the gold standard: That the price (or value) or gold never changes, and any apparent fluctuations are actually changes in the value of the dollar. This is easily disproved by simply looking at an inflation-adjust graph of gold prices

If it were true that it represented changes in the value of the dollar adjusting for inflation should render the graph a flat line, but clearly it doesn’t. Gold standard advocates will sometimes follow up that it instead represents the more nebulous concept of confidence in the value of the dollar, which is conveniently impossible to measure with any precision, but we can still disprove it fairly easily

The reason is one of the most fundamental rules of economics: prices are a function of supply and demand. As long as gold is traded in a free market, as long as people are able to buy, sell, and mine gold the market will always effect the price of gold. Sure you can argue that confidence in the dollar sets demand for gold, and that certainly is a factor, but there are still countless other factors, including confidence in the Euro and other currencies, simple speculation, and any other reason people might want gold (such as jewelry of electronics) You would have to posit that gold is somehow magically immune to these market forces (and that only USD speculators hedge with gold futures)

Ignoring the fact that the US government only has enough to gold to secure 1 in ever 5 US dollars currently in circulation, the gold standard, a stable currency. and capitalism cannot co-exist. You must choose no more than 2. If you want a stable dollar you must maintain a stable price, and this means controlling either supply or demand. Obviously you can never control demand so that is right out, leaving only supply. With fiat currency the Federal Reserve clearly has control over the supply of money, but on a gold standard there is no way to control the supply of gold in a capitalist environment. You would not only have to remove gold from the free markets in the US, but internationally as well, 

Imagine this: Currently US gold reserves stand at 8133 tons. China and Russia control a combine 5000 tons (and China has been growing their reserves in recent years) Now what would happen to the price of gold (and thus the value of the dollar, and in turn our economy) if China and Russia decided to flood the market by selling off all of their gold reserves? Gold, the dollar, and our economy would all tank.

Many gold standard advocates already fear China has a gun pointed at our economic head, moving to a gold standard would load the bullet in that gun

Monroe doctrine alive and well in 2019

John Bolton alluded to the almost two century-old policy known as the Monroe Doctrine in a press briefing on Friday, warning Russia not to deploy troops in Venezuela in attempt to expand it’s sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere.

“We strongly caution actors external to the western hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said Friday, dubbing the Russian troops “a direct threat to international peace and security in the region.”

Arkansas to add conviction requirement to civil asset forfeiture

A bill (SB 308) recently passed by the Arkansas Senate and House to add a conviction requirement to civil asset forfeiture. The governor still has to sign it, but given that it passed both chambers unanimously they have more than enough votes to override a veto. If Arkansas of all states can pass this, every state can do it

COLLEGE admission scandal

So the one thing no one seems to be talking about regarding the admissions scandal is how the method of labeling applicants as an athletic recruit got them a spot at a school that their academic qualifications wouldn’t get them into.

So the question no one is asking is: Why are athletic students being preferred over academic ones at supposedly academic institutions?

I know I’ve had conversations with Disgust about how athletic programs interfere with academics but we could never come up with a workable solution, primarily because the schools would resist losing the money associated with collegiate sports. But anyway here is yet another suggestion, that could serve to solve multiple problems at once.

So recruited student athletes can choose either a full (or partial) ride scholarship to a NCAA Division I or II school of their choice (depending on what Division team they were drafted to) or a salary equivalent to the tuition and expenses that would have been covered by the scholarship. Students that choose a scholarship but are unable to gain admission to a school on their academic merits would take the salary instead.

Athletes would be drafted in a process similar to professional sports leagues. By taking the team choice out of the hands of students (and disassociating the team they play for and the school they attend) the problem of “gifting” to prospective recruits should be eliminated, although there may be some gifts to entice an athlete to declare themselves eligible for the draft.

An added effect, since the salary paid to non-student athletes would be based on tuition cost, it should encourage schools to keep tuition low, or at least not raise it as rapidly as its going up now. Another bonus is that flunking out or being expelled from a school would not effect eligibility to play on a team, so coaches wouldn’t have to pull strings or otherwise allow their players to “coast” in their academics.

It does create one problem, that of geography, for example if a student is drafted to Duke, but accepted to attend UCLA. This could possibly be mitigated by limiting it by conference, allowing greater use of online classes and distance learning, or possibly deferring the education until after the sports career is concluded. But separating the team someone plays for from the school they attend is an important aspect to eliminate conflicts of interest (which is the cause of most of these problems in the first place)

The draft would have to be to early enough to allow students to apply to schools in the division of conference they were drafted to, but considering they spend most of the student’s senior year in high school trying to court them to apply to their school it shouldn’t be a problem

Obviously this would require changing a LOT of NCAA rules, but in the end I think would be for the best, and it wouldn’t impact costs much, as the NCAA already pays over 200 million a year in Div I scholarships, that same money would simply be applied to scholarships for those students who attend a school, or the equivalent in a salary (and it might even reduce costs if tuition goes down as noted above) NCAA would retain all their licensing rights to both the team logos, game broadcasts, and player likenesses so their income would be unaffected

The fuzzy math of the “Billionaire Tax”

So far all the Democrats who have declared their candidacy for the 2020 nomination, as well old hats like Bernie Sanders and young Party members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez all agree on is we need to tax billionaires (some saying to point of nonexistence) and use that money to fund all the trillions of dollars of additional spending they want, notably Medicare-for-All.

The problem that no one wants to talk about is that for all their wealth, the billionaires simply don’t have that much money, not on the order of what these Democrats want to spend.  So here’s some math:

Medicare-for-All is estimated to cost 32 trillion dollars over 10 years, that averages to 3.2 trillion per year (it would actually be higher in the first few years as the program ramps up, but 3.2 trillion is fine for our purposes) Every billionaire in the country, when combined, have a total net worth of about 2.8 trillion dollars. That’s not all liquid assets, or even liquidable, so there’s no way you could get the full 2.8 trillion out of them, ever, but again 2,8 trillion is fine for our purposes

So we need 3.2 trillion per year, and we can get as much as 2,8 trillion but putting every billionaire in the poor house. That doesn’t even get us to December of the first year of Medicare-for-All, let alone all the other programs

Obviously we can go after the rest of the so-called “1%” (anyone with a net worth over about 10 million dollars) to keep the train rolling a little more. Now its much harder to find figures for a total net worth of the top 1% but its estimated to be about 40% of the total wealth of the country, that total is just under 100 trillion for all households and nonprofit organizations. So 40% of 100 trillion, minus the 2.8 trillion we already spent, leaves 37.2 trillion. Again these are not all liquidable assets, but we can still use this figure. It will at least get us over the next 10 years of Medicare-for-All, with about 8 trillion left, so liberally 3 more years of Medicare for a total of 13 years,

Similarly by going after the rest of the millionaires (the top 10%) we can collect about another 20 trillion, which we are going to need because we’ve only funded Medicare for the last 13 years, not any other government program. But at current spending levels 20 trillion will only last 5 years, not 13. Sure we also collect income taxes from people with less than 1 million net worth, but the portion is much smaller (the bottom 90% pays about 30% of the total income tax)

Basically the only conclusion is that if we want Medicare-for-All we need to not only raise taxes on the ultra-wealthy, but also the regular wealthy, the middle class, and maybe even the working class. Effective tax rates will need to be at least doubled across the board. If you don’t believe me look at the European states that we want to emulate with universal healthcare, their middle and working classes are taxed at about double what we pay here

All that just to fund Medicare, a program that no one who is forced to use even likes, and anyone with an option immediately abandons. Maybe we should force government employees to use Medicare first, then see if they want that everyone

When rights aren’t rights

One of the first things Democrats did after taking control of the House of Representatives this year was to introduce a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College. The purpose is of course to prevent the election of Republican presidents who lose the popular vote (as Trump did in 2016 and Bush in 2000) This makes sense since much of the recent campaign battles have been over Supreme Court justices, and of course appointing them is one of the few powers the president has to make a lasting impact

What’s interesting to me though, is that for all the fearmongering over Trump’s appointments and Republicans controlling the Senate that seminal cases like Roe v. Wade might be overturned, Democrats did not see fit to introduce an amendment guaranteeing a right to an abortion. It would have a better chance of ratification than the Electoral College amendment, and would eliminate fears of Roe being overturned.

But that is of course exactly the problem, Democrats can’t afford to eliminate fear, they need it for their campaign. Your rights can be no safer than the next Supreme Court case, so if you want to keep them you must elect Democrats who will appoint progressive judges (of course as I noted in my previous post, this puts you on the hook for the entire progressive agenda, not just the parts you like)

Naturally Republicans are not to be outdone, they can introduce an amendment to clarify or expand the 2nd Amendment, guarantee religious business owners to operate their business in line with their religious beliefs, or to fix any of the problems they like to fearmonger about, they but they don’t want to either.

Obviously these are not rights at all, but rather privileges in a form of “benevolent” dictatorship, whose benevolence depends on you keeping the right dictators in power.

The biggest threat to political tribalism

I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of billionaire and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announcing his intent to run for president in 2020 as an independent, and I’m sure you’ve also heard the Democrats’ responses. How did we get to a point where it is somehow “undemocratic” to have more options on a ballot? Have we really fallen so deep into tribalism that only the 2 major parties are allowed to decide who gets to be president? 

The biggest threat, of course, to such tribalism is people who check some boxes of one of the major parties, but not all of them. The person who believes in LGBT rights, but not gun control, or the pro-choice who is also concerned about unchecked and reckless federal spending.  As both parties race full speed away from the center they need those centrists to be forced to choose one extreme or the other, and of course independent and third party candidates give voters another option. But the establishment parties need to force their extremist agendas on people by attaching them to the policies people want, so naturally when someone comes along without all the far-right or far-left baggage people are intrigued.

Sure I’ve heard the “spoiler” arguments, but I don’t buy it, because that means you have to accept our tribalism as a good thing, that should be preserved. In that case I say spoil away, as the major parties get more and more extreme the “spoiler” candidates will start to have a chance to win, or at the very least force the major parties back toward center