Bye bye American Pie

down

It’s illegal to unlock your own cellphone from Saturday, reports Mashable.

In many progressive countries where “illegal” monopolies don’t rule the people, selling phones locked to a network is illegal. Here in the increasingly reressive USA, locked, cooked phones that even when unlocked don’t work at full network speed is common place. From Saturday its even illegal to unlock your own phone. It’s hard to know what to say, even harder to prosecute. My t-mobile Samsung Galaxy S3 is unlocked, I did it myself, but how would the “cops” know when, and how would they prove it?

I went down to the sacred store, Where I’d heard the music years before, But the man there said the music wouldn’t play…

Nagin vs Armstrong

oprah-lance-armstrong-interview2[1]I finally managed to catch the 2nd part of the Lance interview with with Oprah tonight. Fascinating stuff. I got press training from IBM back in the early 1990’s, I can recognize many of the points in the interview where Lance is struggling or in trouble emotionally or intellectually. Oprah did a good job, although you could tell the segments were pretty heavily split, or edited.

It wasn’t my point to dissect the interview here, that’s been done in a zillion places. What caught my eye today was the announcement that Federal prosecutors today announced a 21-count indictment against former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

There is nothing much in common in these two cases, until you take a step back. In fact, in reality, there is not much different between them. If as alleged, Nagin did those things, they both lied, deceived, maintained a lifestyle they didn’t earn honestly, let down their supporters, their family’s, and received money they didn’t earn.

Looking at the proposed punishments, it’s suggested that Nagin faces 15-years in prison if found guilty. Armstrong in the second show of the Oprah interview, refers to his “death sentence” aka his ban from any sport that is a signatory to the World Anti-doping Authority code of conduct, etc. especially cycling and triathlon, aka Ironman.

So, given the history based on Lances confessions, the words attributed to the  Australian Cycling Chief, seem fair. You’d assume the same from Ironman, especially given CEO Messick was formally tour director of the Cycling Tour of California, and must have had dealings with Armstrong both then, and most certainly in his Ironman comeback, where its reported that the WTC through Messick offered the Livestrong foundation “less than a million but more than $500,000”.

Instead of being angry, and being let down badly, based on the Slowtwitch report, and my own notes from the 2/2012 Triathlon America conferenceMessick seems to be trying to find a path and encouraging discussion(1) about how Lance might yet comeback to racing Ironman. Messick, a man who must have had almost as much insight into Lance the cyclist as any race director, rather than resoundingly pronouncing why he can’t, like the Australian Cycling CEO. Which is really difficult to understand.

Strange old world, be careful what type of leader your delegate your trust to.

(1) There are lots of links, I just chose this one as it had the most provocative title.

Texas, It’s not like anywhere else

austin_bumper_stickerLiving in Austin it’s all to easy to think you are in Texas, but really like it’s often said “Austin is a liberal oasis in Texas“. More often, Austin isn’t in Texas, but you can see it from here!

One of the first things I had to get used to is the Texas Legislator only being in town once every 2-years. That’s right, in what seems a total anomaly  the elected officials of the State of Texas are only in the capital to make/pass law every two years.  I’d guess this stems from the days when they had to ride horses to get to and from their constituents?

So while they work on the bi-annual budget as a key part of their initial work this year, there are a few key things that Texas does differently…

  • The Texas execution machine took a break over the year end, with near-weekly executions scheduled and most carried out. In all, Texas put to death 15 men in 2012. The state will kick off 2013 with the rare execution of a woman, Kimberly McCarthy on January 29th.
  • In all, Governor Rick Perry has presided over 239 execusions, surpassing all modern governors and marking the 478th Texas execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976.
  • While we await the outcome of Vice President Joe Biden to report back on gun control, Texas and Austin resident Alex Jones demonstrated perfectly why people are right to be concerned about “nut jobs” with easy access to legal guns when he “discussed” it with Piers Morgan on cnn.com.
  • Talking of “nut jobs”, over in Lubbock County Texas, Judge Tom Head claimed on local TV that a proposed tax increase would be needed to put down civil unrest and defend the country from invading UN forces should President Obama be reelected.
  • Down the street from me is a closed restaurant, Jovitas. It’s waiting the return of its owner, Amado Pardo. The restaurant was closed when Pardo was arrested by the FBI with 15-others for allegedly running a longtime heroin-dealing operation out of his eatery. What was really surprising was that Pardo was a twice convicted murderer, even more of a surprise was that Pardo was released on bail today, he has terminal cancer. Where’s the tough on crime, three strikes and you are out, when you need it?
  • Not quite as close to home, across Austin, in the Hot Bodies Mens Club, Victoria Perez, 21, was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon following a fight among seventeen women in the dressing room. A Male strip club employee was seriously injured when Perez hit him in the face with a spike heeled shoe and may have blinded him. As Alex Jones might have it, should we ban high heeled shoes? Hell no.
  • As a final vote of confidence, Buzz Bissinger, author of the book, Friday Night Lights about an Odessa Texas high school football team, tweeted that “if Dallas slid into a sinkhole, nation’s IQ would raise by 50 points”.

So, much for calm, rational people with legal access to guns. It’s interesting now that Texas has stricter controls over a womans uterus than guns. Texas now prescribes invasive gynecological procedures for Texas women, while at the same time making even harder for many thousands of Texas women to even visit a gynecologist.

And finally, it looks like the governor and the legislator don’t read my blog, otherwise they might have focused on what’s going to happen to all those children that are going to escape an unwanted death in Texas. The Governor continues to make it clear he is diametrically oppossed to any expansion of Medicaid in Texas, that pays for most of these births, and will do everything in his power to undermine national health care in Texas.

@pointaustin, writer and Editor Michael King points out that in Governor Perrys political universe, “Fetal pain” has an expiration date. Once that new Texas citizen takes his or her first breath, they are on their own. Writing in the Chronicle, King says “When the Governor says Suffer the little Children – he really means it.”

The Law of Unintended Consequence

“”The fetus is the property of the entire society,” he proclaimed. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.””

This month marks 40-years since the 1973 Roe vs Wade landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, legalizing abortion. As some states are now trying us back to pre-1973, with little fanfare, Virginia and Michigan Republican governors recently signed new abortion bills into law. There are issues other than simply obvious one of abortion.

It’s possible to draw a lot of parallels between the former President of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, and the Tea Party, also with a number of recent issues and topics that have come up in Texas, for example the teaching of Sex education in schools, abortion rights etc. It would behoove those that espouse the same policies, to note what became of Ceausescu. He was executed after a short show case trial by his own people, long before the Arabic Spring.

[from ceausescu.org] “Ceausescu made mockery of family planning. He forbade sex education. Books on human sexuality and reproduction were classified as “state secrets,” to be used only as medical textbooks. With contraception banned, Romanians had to smuggle in condoms and birth-control pills. Though strictly illegal, abortions remained a widespread birth-control measure of last resort. Nationwide, Western sources estimate, 60 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.”

Freakanomics authors Dubner and Levitt posit that the data proves that this was partly responsible for the huge rise in social unrest in Romania some 15-20 years later; as recently as 2009, the BBC uncovered the still appalling state of some of Romania’s orphanages, some 20-years after the fall of Ceausescu. This growth, the number of babies and children in orphanages and in need adoption and fostering, should have been an obvious consequence.

Law of unintended consequences

  1. The subsequent rise in crime was an unintended consequence. Ceaucescu expected these “forced birth” babies to grow and become part of his mass people automation workforce, instead, the grew up in a suboptimal environment and many turned to anti-social behavior and crime
  2. The demands of this growth in unwanted babies places a huge additional demand on their society, which Romania at the time never lived up to, or only minimally tried; in the early 1990’s Save the Children started compiling dossiers and records of the children from as many as 600 Romanian orphanges, only to find many had simply vanished without trace. “”We never found out what happened to them. Some could have ended up on the streets, or been trafficked to other places. No one knows,” said Silvia Boeriu, the head of Save the Children in Romania.
  3. You can’t hide the societal effect of such actions, it cost Ceaucescu and his wife their lives. While I’m not suggesting the same will happen in the USA, it’s safe to assume that none of the current politicians will be remembered or looked on positively in years to come if they persist in this direction..
  4. If Dubner and Levitt are indeed right, that Roe vs Wade and the legalization of abortion in the early 1970’s had a direct correlation to the drop in crime in the 1990’s because there were significantly less “unwanted” babies that had matured to the peak age for committing crimes, and especially violent crimes; should this push to either rollback the clock, or make it seemingly impossible to offer abortion services, we better be ready for 2032 and all that will come.

These are all unintended consequences that can be proven by data, except #4, which is supposition, supported by historic data and trends. What is really a logical side of the Dubner/Levitt research, was in fact that the majority of women who were given the choice, later went on to have  “loved” babies in what todays passes as stable homes. Obvious really.

When heros were not zeros

So the election is over, I’m still struggling with the reality of what candidate Romney said he’d do and what President Romney would have had to do. A couple of recent things illustrate my confusion. Much of what the republicans were doing was looking back, back to a time when America was a producer, not just a consumer. Sure things are made here now, but so much of what we consume isn’t.

Here in Austin, at yesterdays City Council meeting, a big deal was made out of the package of incentives given to Visa to set-up office in Austin. Visa claim to be brining 800 jobs to Austin with an average salary of over $110,000 and in return they are getting some $10-million in tax breaks and other financial incentives. Texas gives away the highest tax breaks of any State in the nation, this week the NY Times ran a story on this, with the winners and losers.

The other piece of news that peaked my interest this week was the news that Apple would start making its’ Mac computers in the USA again, relying on tax breaks, and likely in “partnership with with FoxConn”. We will probably never know what this actually means since all tech companies try to keep their hardware operations veiled in secerecy, given the plummeting cost of hardware, that makes even the slightest improvement in process or manufacturing, potentially worth a fortune.

And there is my dilemma. Two big deals, both dependent on tax breaks, which ultimately either require some to pay more taxes, or services to be cut. The problem I have with Candidate Romneys proposal, was that it seemed to do both. While it made great political grandstanding, to claim to cut benefits and big government, the only way it made any real sense, was if he wanted or believed he could turn America into a low wage economy at the bottom of the stack, making people work for subsistence salaries, rather than get benefits and do nothing.

You could argue either way on this politically and humanely, but it would require huge tax incentives, which would be paid for by cutting benefits and effectively forcing people to work, which many would argue, isn’t a bad thing. However, the real problem is that there is a big difference between make and assemble. Assembling products in America would be entirely do-able. Making them much less so.

And, there’s the rub. In order to make things, you need the raw materials. For the last 20-years, and especially the last 6-years, the Chinese have cornered the futures markets in almost everything you’d need to make anything useful, their futures markets themselves have become essential in day to day trading.

So, I’m guessing Apple will be doing more assembly than making, FoxConn will be doing the making. In the next 4-years the Republican party is going to have to come up with a forward looking strategy, rather than a backward looking one. If that strategy is dependent on manufacturing, then it’s going to need a big government, even if only to cover the tax breaks needed to kick-start it. We’ll need real heroes to do achieve that, not just people who measure their value by the number of zero’s in their net worth.

Fear of change

(c) gapingvoid.comReading back my Britain vs America post, I can see now that really what drives this is the fear of change.

In a big country, geographically, and by population, change is something you don’t want. It is too easy to get lost, to be left behind.

It explains a lot of the things that have been said and done during the recent US Presidential Election. People are afraid, either if the President was re-elected, or if Romney got in, that things would change.

Generally even in the less wealthy areas, among the poorer people, change is undesirable. It’s easy for the those not on benefits to see those that are, and demonize them, even if they are only marginally better off, they are afraid that the burden on the government by those on benefits will pull them down too. Those that are on benefits, see those that are not as those out to get them and take from them the only things they have. And so it goes, up the chain. The rich are fighting the tax reforms and the Presidents stated objective of “raising taxes for the rich” not because they need the money, but because they too fear change.

Everyone, in some way, is comfortable. When I went to look for a graphic to illustrate this post, I found HUGH MACLEOD @gapingvoid.com cartoon, which says it all really. America has got to learn to change, because change is inevitable.