Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous outrages’ Category

Getting back to blogging — just in time for football

Football Cake by Sweet Pea 0613 via flickr(cc)

Football Cake by Sweet Pea 0613 via flickr(cc)

After a couple of months’ diversions, I hope I am getting back to something like regular blogging, starting with a nice article — as far as it goes, at least– by Gregg Easterbrook about the subsidies and political favors governments provide for professional football. A lot of this, on stadium subsidies (not just for football), has been covered in the past by Heartland, most recently here (pdf). But Easterbrook covers some additional ground, noting the federal favors done for the football business. I hadn’t been aware that NFL has a special anti-trust exemption (I thought it was just one of the many many cases where feds choose not to enforce laws.) And I’d never made the connection between stadiums paid for by the public, and the “intellectual” “property” of football game images, which of course are government-created privilege.

Easterbrook does seem to be a football fan, which is a skill (affliction?) far beyond my capabilities.  My preferred remedy for “sports” subsidies has always been for the audience to go away and do something else.  But even tho I’m just as happy watching an amateur softball game, many people evidently get pleasure from seeing the professionals in action.  Easterbrook suggests that it’s necessary that “public attitudes change.”  Great idea, but as long as the public feel compelled to watch these games, it’s difficult to imagine any politician willing to risk the wrath of those who control them.

Machine-written headline?

Somebody please tell me whether the Tribune has any human editors any more.

Self-driving cars could hit showrooms by 2019

Outrageous assessments

3710 N. Kenmore

Image of 3710 N. Kenmore from Cook County Assessor

Gary Lucido writes of a small parcel at 3710 N. Kenmore, offered at $9.9 million ($4950/sq ft) after failing to sell when offered at lower prices. While the price seems outrageous, the property is very close to Wrigley Field and could be used for a billboard or rooftop viewing platform. We know that the former use has commanded $350,000/year on a nearby building, which seems to justify a multi-million-dollar asking price.

So we have a parcel worth, let us say, five million dollars.  What are the taxes? (more…)

Why I’m not posting so frequently

This is about software problems.  For some reason Firefox and Mint 10 KDE don’t get along, and after anywhere from many minutes to several hours the system locks up.  Leave it alone for 6, 8, 10 hours and it seems to recover, but I can’t usually spare the time.

So, while waiting for Mint 11 KDE, which one hopes will solve the problem, I’ve been using the Opera browser instead of Firefox.  Opera is very smooth, works very well except when it doesn’t.  And doesn’t is how it handles blanks in the WordPress visual editor.  Whichwouldresultinallthewordsrunningtogether.  So, for blogging, I switch back to Firefox.  All the while worrying whether I’ll get another freeze. What’s really discouraging is that neither the WordPress forum nor the Opera forum have offered any assistance.

Gov’t screwing up medical care

Mostly by subsidizing it heavily while failing to enforce anti-trust. This one isn’t about insurance,  patents, or even unions; it concerns hospitals, suppliers, sole-source contracts and kick-backs.  Like most medical stuff, there’s too much money and power involved to expect a good result.

via Naked Capitalism

I P and the Petro-Kleptocracy

Florida journalists Robert Block and Mark K. Matthews see it as a conflict of interest that a former Marathon Oil Director, who still owns over half a million dollars worth of Marathon stock, is working to prevent NASA, which he heads, from developing a method of creating oil from waste, algae, and seawater, while absorbing CO2.  The scandal apparently is that the suspect, Charlie Bolden, sought advice from Marathon before seeking to delay the project.

Buried deep in the text is the note that Marathon has its own “proprietary microbe” to produce ethanol from wood chips. Whereas, one hopes, that a successful NASA project would produce technology available to all.

I suppose Bolden wanted, not to kill the project, but only to slow it until Marathon’s attorneys can figure a way to monopolize the “intellectual” “property” which it produces.  Am I cynical?

btw, I think Tribune Company still owns the Orlando Sentinel, where this article was produced, but there is, so far, no sign of it in on Chicagotribune.com.

Debt trolls

One (of several) good arguments for eliminating, or at least drastically scaling back, patents, is the existence of patent trolls, entities whose sole business is trying to hinder the diffusion of innovation. They buy patents believed to have little value, and try to intimidate actual productive individuals or companies into licensing them.  If you’re, say, a manufacturer, and a troll offers you a license for a few thousand dollars, you might just pay up to avoid the expense and risk of defending yourself.

Now, we have debt trolls.  These are (per second page of this article) “well-funded, aggressive and centralized collection firms, in many cases run by attorneys, that buy up unpaid debt and use the courts to collect.”  The reason it’s news is that, in Minnesota and some other states, taxpayer-funded police, jails, and courts are used to arrest the alleged debtor and collect the debt. It’s not exactly debtor’s prison, but it is going to jail because you’ve failed to pay what you (presumably) owe.

via Naked Capitalism.

Terms & Conditions: Souls for Sale

For just one day (April 1, of course) a UK merchant added to their terms and conditions which every on-line purchaser is required to accept:

…you agree to grant Us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification…we reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act.

Purchasers were offered an opt-out checkbox, but apparently only 12% checked it.

Of course nobody reads the terms and conditions.  (Actually, I have met one person who claims to; I didn’t ask him whether he had actually purchased anything on-line.)  On more than one occasion I’ve found the link to terms and conditions didn’t work, or made no sense, have notified the vendor and usually received an updated link or a correction.

Free “enterprise” at work

It’s true that census confidentiality is imperfect and could be used to compromise civil liberties, but I can’t imagine any way that it could be used to steal one’s identity (especially if one is cautious enough not to provide name information on the form). IRS, that’s a different matter.  Anyway, Equifax has found another way to sell their protection racket.  If it’s “only $4.95” for the first month, how much is it thereafter?

taking advantage

Do something good for Chicago

Chicagoans for Rio

Thanks to Windypundit for this tip.