September 29, 2013

Dutch guy tries to ride a bike in the USA, this is what he encounters

As a car-free cyclist myself, I can vouch 100% for every point he makes.



Dear Congress, You're fired.

At every job that I've ever worked at, getting drunk at work is grounds for termination. Not if you work for the US Congress.
If I were to play online gambling games on my cell phone while on the sales floor, I'd get fired. But that's totally fine if you're a US Senator.
Showing up late to work? YOU'RE FIRED.  Unless you're a congressperson, and then you don't have to show up to work to do your job (which, by the way, is pushing a button to vote on things).

So Congress, you want to shut down the government because you don't want to get along and make a compromise via the democratic process? YOU'RE FIRED.

Who do you work for? US.
Who pays for your COMPLETE health care package and ridiculous incomes? WE DO.
Who affords your vacations and meals? WE DO.

Congress, times are tough, and I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go. I'll see you in the line at the unemployment office. Although since you repealed the rules about insider trading, and since most Congress people are millionaires, you probably have a little bit in savings that you can survive on. I hope you can make your net worth of between $1-to-$500 million last the two week probation period before you start receiving your unemployment checks...

based on a rant by my bandmate Dylan Verner

September 28, 2013

The New York Times reports that the NSA collects social media information

So the New York Times is reporting, as though it's a revelation, that the NSA has been collecting our social media data.

To which I have to say, um, no fucking duh!

For those who have been paying attention to this issue since the USAPATRIOT act first passed, or when the Total Information Awareness Office was formed, this "recent revelation" is nothing new. Of COURSE they are slurping up all of our social media meta-data, and running it through predictive behavior models to try to root out "crime thought." That's what they set out to do originally.

Big Retail stores like Target already uses this sort of data to predict things like what sort of toothpaste you are most likely to buy, and then send you an ad in the mail for that toothpaste.



As Derrick Harris says over at Gigaom.com:
Google, Facebook, direct-marketing firms and even grocery stores? Well, they know a whole lot about what we buy, where we go online and who we talk to. I’m confident most of this data is just used to train models and then lump me into a particular segment that computer systems can use to automatically present with ads or coupons, but a bad actor with access to my data could do some serious cyberstalking.

And check this out from Forbes magazine:
Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. Target, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers.

Charles Duhigg outlines in the New York Times how Target tries to hook parents-to-be at that crucial moment before they turn into rampant — and loyal — buyers of all things pastel, plastic, and miniature. He talked to Target statistician Andrew Pole — before Target freaked out and cut off all communications — about the clues to a customer’s impending bundle of joy. Target assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they’ve bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources. Using that, Pole looked at historical buying data for all the ladies who had signed up for Target baby registries in the past.

While the TIAO (or rather, the TIA and the IAO) were defunded, only an idiot would think that the military intelligence aparatus would just abandon their plans. They just moved the budgets around.

Now, I'm not saying that Facebook *is* the TIAO, but it did launch in 2004, just one year after the TIAO lost funding in 2003. Not only that, but Facebook indirectly received funding from DARPA:


So please remind me exactly what the big revelation is?

I feel like I'm the only one who realizes that they've been doing this shit for some time now. This isn't anything new, it's the same fucked up police state, 1984 shit that they started nearly a decade ago under George W Bush.

Why have we failed to notice?

That thing you wiggle and the screen goes crazy

This thing is awesome.
That is all.

September 25, 2013

Aphasia

Aphasia is a biological disorder that can make it hard for you to read, write, and say what you mean.

aphasia(Feb2013) from Li CHEN on Vimeo.

September 18, 2013

And history remembers her as pretty...

This post originates with this tumblr post

As this photo was reblogged, the previous comments kept being added to by subsequent posters.  And it became an "exquisite corpse" style poem (each new addition is indented).

‘Cause people seem to only post the 20-something Audrey Hepburn
     this is genuinely the first photo i’ve seen of her looking older
I didn’t know Audrey Hepburn grew old into a bomb-ass old lady until like, last year. I thought she died young cuz that’s the only pictures I’ve ever seen. 
     omg
she was also the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts.
and history remembers her as pretty.
     and history remembers her as pretty.
     and history remembers her as pretty.
and history remembers her as pretty.
     et l’histoire se souvient d’elle comme √©tant seulement belle.

September 16, 2013

DECLINES IN STATE SPENDING LEAD TO SOARING STUDENT DEBT


Originally posted here on June 27, 2013

By Kimberly Green

STUDENT DEBT IN THE U.S. 

As college costs spiral upwards, unpaid student debt has reached a record high of $1 trillion, slowing down economic growth and causing many young individuals to lose control of their finances. Many politicians, media outlets, and educators are focusing on cuts to state and federal subsidies as the reason behind these astronomical tuition hikes. But while this may be true in cases, it’s not that simple.
Paradoxically, many studies have found the opposite to be true: as federal and state subsidies increase, colleges and universities actually charge more for tuition, exacerbating the student debt crisis. Here we will trace the problem back two decades, examine funding trends and college costs to pinpoint what exactly is behind tuition increases.

STUDENT DEBT: THE LAST 20 YEARS

Student Debt
The rise in student debt is by no means a new phenomenon – borrowing has gone up every year since 1993. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, average debt began to creep up in 1993, making small jumps from an average of $10,000 per student until it had doubled to $20,000 twelve years later. Then it began to increase very sharply. By 2013, the average debt per borrower hit $30,000.
The rise in borrowing naturally correlates with increasing college costs. The average yearlytuition and room-and-board in 1990-1991 was $8,485 at a public 4-year institution. By 2010, that had leapt up 83%, reaching an average of $15,605 per year.
Concern over this upwards spiral is all over the news, as unpaid loans take a major toll on the economy. And many are worried this is just the beginning.
Tuition rates are predicted to rise over the next two decades, with costs hitting $41,228 per year for in-state public tuition and $92,869 for private colleges in 2029. This ridiculous level of debt could not be sustained by parents in stable careers, much less by students with poor financial history. So why is this happening?

CUTS TO STATE SPENDING

Budget cuts brought on by the recent recession have taken their toll on the American education system, pushing more students and lenders to take up the slack. Incremental cuts have caused education allocations to drop since 2008, with thirty-six states decreasing funds by more than 20%. As a nationwide average, states cut their education spending by 28% from 2008 to 2013, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Some states have suffered deeper cut more than others. Washington and Florida now provide the lowest amounts of support for their public universities. Spending per student was just about $6,000 for these two states in 2010, barely over half the amount allotted to students in states like Hawaii, Connecticut or Arkansas that year, according to the Department of Education.
Student Debt
When states cut education budgets, where exactly does this money end up? The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) has identified great leaps in Medicaid spending, growing from 22.2% of state expenditures in 2010 to 23.9 in 2012. During the same time period, education spending dropped from 20.4% to 19.8%. NASBO projects that funding will become even more difficult to allocate toward education in upcoming years, due to long-term healthcare demands and pensions.
State funding for education may eventually climb out of the recession pit, as legislators anticipate upcoming economic growth. The Chronicle of Higher Education describes how California governor Jerry Brown is trying to raise expenditures from 4% to 6% in the upcoming year, but it will probably be quite some time before students feel the effects. Moody’s Investors Service still sees massive cuts to key areas like research on the horizon, so wary colleges probably won’t be loosening their budgets any time soon.

FEDERAL SUBSIDIES FOR STUDENT TUITION

Surprisingly, increases to government spending have also contributed in some real ways to the rising sticker price of a college education. The vast majority of college students who have filed a FAFSA know there is a range of grants and loans available to cover their bills. And of course, these funds are indispensable for the tens of thousands of students who need them in order to attend school. That said, increased funding availability does lead to an increase in price; the more students are given to help pay for college, the more they are willing to spend, and consequently, the more colleges can charge.
A 2012 report by the College Board makes it very easy to see how dramatic rises in tuition mirror sharp increases in federal student aid. The government awarded just around $17 billion in total federal grants (including Pell, LEAP, military, and several others) in 2001. This amount exploded up to $49 billion by 2011. This makes for a 185% increase within a ten-year span.
A very similar trend occurred with federal loans, which jumped from a yearly total of around $47.8 billion to $105 billion over the same period. While enrollment in college-level degree programs rose during this time, graduation rates fell. And unsurprisingly, the number of for-profit secondary institutions also multiplied.
This is a tricky situation. We all agree that deserving students should be granted more, not less, access to higher education and no one wants schools to have to reduce their enrollments or the quality of the educations they offer due to falling budgets. But if we want to lower the burdens on students, schools and taxpayers, we need to focus on allocating federal student aid and loans in a way that isn’t accelerating rises in tuition costs.
So if both cutting and raising government funding makes the student debt situation worse, what is the solution? The question is not about raising or lowering spending, but rather how the money is spent. Heaping thousands of dollars in subsidized loans on young borrowers to cover exorbitant education costs is not the answer, but neither is cutting support for important academic research. It’s a complex equation, but until it’s figured out young graduates are going to be bearing a heavy financial burden.

September 11, 2013

September 9, 2013

Ice Cream Tax



So There's an internet meme floating around from the an-caps, saying "teach your kids about taxes, eat 30% of their ice cream." As far as I can tell, this idiocy started with Grover Norquist's abusive father. I take this whole argument and flip it on it's head. Y'know, like I usually do with this sort of asinine stuff.

Like what you see? Become a sustaining donor ---->

September 7, 2013

Klout's Perks are trying to kill me?

By The Punk Patriot

So I use Klout.

Well. That is to say, I accidentally signed up for a Klout account because I had no fucking clue what Klout was at the time. They do that shitty thing where when you sign up, they spam all your friends to join klout as well-- and somebody I know and respect (who doesn't spam me with Farmville requests or other bullshit facebook apps) had joined-- and I was one of those friends who got spammed.

So I joined.

And I forgot about it.

But now apparently, I have perks. I have no idea why I have perks. Quite honestly, I still have no idea why Klout exists, or how it works, or what their business model is (I assume they are selling my data to advertisers.)

Well, so anyways, I got my first perk a week or so ago.


BARF! My "favorite McDonald's Menu Item?" That would be NONE OF THEM, because I DON'T EAT AT McDONALD's!

Klout's shitty perks must drive people to binge drink, because this is the alcoholic lifestyle-enabling perk that just popped into my inbox today:


Great. So Klout is encouraging me to eat shitty and binge drink-- hangover free! My imagination reels with excitement trying to figure out what will come next. A coupon for 10% off a sand-filled pseudo-meat wrap from Taco Bell? $20 off my next diamond purchase? A free sample of meth? A kick to the shins that I have to pay $10 for?

Are there any experienced Klout users out there? Do the perks ever become things that people who live healthy lives could actually use? Or is it just a Mardi Gras parade of shit, where we take off our shirts and show them our browsing data, and they in return throw cheap-ass plastic necklaces at us as a reward?