How to Best Advocate for the Minimum Wage

minimum-wage-2It’s campaign season again (when is it never campaign season?), and Republican douche-bags are out in force running for president, casting aspersions on the minimum wage. Master creep Scott Walker just called the minimum wage “lame”.

Given the laziness of the national media, we are invariably going to get into a he-said / she-said about the minimum wage, with conservatives dissing it as some kind of communist take over of industry where we will all be wearing drab, olive-green uniforms singing hymns do Dear Leader if we raise it, and liberals calling anybody who doesn’t want to raise it a corporate fascist. CNN will put two talking heads from opposing ideologies on the tee-vee machine, let them yell at each other, and then say they gave equal opportunity to both sides.

But I’d like to detail and argument for the minimum wage that I think liberals should use, and while it won’t convince any conservative about anything, it will at least use language conservatives can understand.

Conservatives (and the libertarians in conservative clothing) make a point about the minimum wage that should be true. In their worldview, you have capital (those that are owning or running the business) and labor (those that are working for the business), and that these two groups will come to a naturally agreed upon wage that is an equilibrium between supply (labor) and demand (capital). Any intervention of government into the process just distorts this equilibrium.

When they make this argument to people in my income bracket (those making over $100k per year), it makes sense. People in my pay grade aren’t depending upon a minimum wage, and for the most part, we can pretty easily switch jobs if we want. We may choose not to because we have kids in school or we like the neighborhood, but that’s a personal choice not something forced upon us for lack of opportunity. My company has to pay me a “competitive” wage compared to other people in my field, and if I’m good, I can look around and probably demand even more than I’m making today from some other company.

However, this is not what happens as you get to lower wages. As work becomes less skilled, people are more easily replaceable (supply goes up). And these people are less mobile or less likely to be able to be mobile, which further exacerbates the supply. Capital, however, is always pretty mobile. We all know of companies like WalMart that set up shop in a city, and if they cannot squeeze the city into getting the tax breaks or other incentives, they move their store 5, 10, 15 miles away to the next town. The demand, therefore, hasn’t changed. WalMart doesn’t really give a flying fig that you have to travel 15 extra miles to shop there.

Which means through basic economics that wages will just go down. There are too many people competing for too few job positions. A natural equilibrium will still be reached, but it will be quite low. And this shouldn’t be a surprise. There is a reason that BMW opened its first US factory in the American south east as opposed to putting it north of San Francisco. Certainly, cost of land has a lot do with it, but BMW can be pretty sure their cost of labor will stay low – they moved into a depressed area with a lot of workers willing to work for less. It’s the same reason businesses abandon the US and open factories in China and India. We could eliminate minimum wage laws so the factories will stay here instead of moving, but is the point to really be paid one dollar an hour, or one dollar a day?

Labor and capital do not have equal negotiating power. Capital has much more negotiating power, and it always will. In order to equalize the negotiating power, you need a countervailing force. That force can be a union or it can be a government. It cannot be an individual worker applying for the job. That’s why we need a minimum wage. It sets a floor.

Naturally, this is going to have consequences. Anecdotes abound any time the minimum wage is raised as some business that was struggling to stay afloat now goes under, claiming the reason they are shutting their doors is because their cost of labor has gone up. But can you really say that this was the only reason? No. Plenty of businesses do quite well when the minimum wage goes up, and they do well across all sectors of the economy, so it isn’t like a minimum wage has damaged a specific sector. Perhaps that business that shuts its doors needed to shut its doors. Perhaps it just wasn’t well run.

Will this convince your crazy uncle who watches Fox News all day that the minimum wage is good? No. But it should at least be using language they can understand.

 

 

What Are My Digital Photos Like? (Part 2 of 6)

Photos-iconThis is part 2 in a 6 part series on my digital photo library.  Quick jumps:

How Many Photos Have I Taken?

The first thing I was interested in knowing was how many photos I take every year. We got the first camera because we wanted to easily take pictures of our first born, and you know how parents can be with photos. But what was shocking to me is that, while I certainly thought I took tons of photos, we’re taking way, way more photos now. Compared to film, the number of digital photos we took were an order of magnitude more. But as you can see in the chart below, the number of photos taken in the last few years dwarfs the number of photos taken when the kids were babies.

Photos-Pictures-Taken-Count

Trying to think about why this may be, I think there are two factors.

First, consider how many I took in 2001… 286. If I were still using film, I would be surprised if I took anywhere close to, say, 90. (Keep in mind, my wife still took a lot of photos with film cameras during this time). That would have been three rolls of film, and I just wouldn’t have done it – I would have forgotten to buy more film, and thus not taken some photos, and then forgot again, and then remembered after developing the last roll and realizing I don’t want to spend that much money again, etc. So, even though I was using digital photography, my behavior was built around taking film pictures. I know I looked at the number of photos I took back then and thought it was kind of a ridiculous number – it felt like I had a camera glued to my hand. But it is nothing like now. The world has changed.

Secondly, as much fun and easy as digital photography was, it isn’t like there was unlimited storage. CompactFlash (CF) cards were expensive, and it isn’t like we had tons of hard drive space just laying around. Scanning the interwebs, I found a history of hard drive prices, and found a 6GB drive was available in 1999 for $290, or roughly $0.048 per MB. This was for a bulky 3.5” “bare” drive. You couldn’t use it externally – you would have to have opened up a desktop case and installed it, so you may not even have had anyplace to put it. At the time of this writing, you can get a 1TB USB3 based portable drive from Western Digital for about $70, or roughly $0.00007 per MB. This newer drive I can throw in a backback and lug around with me, plugging it in if my memory card on my camera (or phone) ever got full.

But those memory cards never do get full. The PowerShot S100 had an 8MB CF card in it. My DSLR has a 64GB SD card in it. While I couldn’t find the CF card’s price in 2000, if I do a little extrapolation from available data, I’m going to guess that the 8MB CF card cost me about $50 in 2000, or $6.25 per MB. The 64GB SD card cost a $22, or $0.0003 per MB. Looking at 2000 with these eyes, then, memory was “free” when compared to film, but not nearly as free as it is now.

To explore this a bit further, I opened up one of the photos from back then, a 108KB photo. That’s roughly 11% of a MB, so the photo “cost” 69 cents to store in 2000. A photo I took on the Nikon D5200 at the end of 2014 was 13.3MB, which “cost” $0.0039 in 2014, or 0.39 cents. No wonder I’m taking more photos now, right?

(Part 3: What Cameras Have I Used?)

(Go back to part 1)

Man Made Global Warming is Real, but the Earth is NOT Dying

I came across this blog post, and I think it says everything I believe. I’m tired of hearing about how the earth is “dying” because of global warming. It isn’t. It is we who will die due to what we are doing. The messaging that we need to stop pumping carbon in the air to “save” the earth is stupid and it needs to stop.

When I invariably get into an argument with somebody about anthropomorphic (meaning, man-made) global warming, here is what I see from the climate change deniers, from their first argument to last argument…

  1. Earth isn’t warming.
  2. Earth is warming, but not because of humans.  This has several sub-arguments as to why it is warming, all of which are provably wrong.
    1. Sunspots
    2. Volcanoes
    3. “It changes all the time”
    4. Mars is also getting warmer and there are no power plants up there (seriously, some dipshit in Congress made this argument).
  3. It’s changing, and maybe we did something, but if we do anything to try to change it, we’ll just make the situation worse. It will also destroy jobs.
  4. Even if it is changing, and we had something to do with it, earth will go on. This is usually accompanied by a George Carlin clip in one of his specials where Carlin mocks the environmentalist movement.  I think this clip is amazing, because it is really subversive.  While it mocks environmentalists, it makes the true case for environmentalism – that if we don’t do something, we’ll all be dead.  Of course, the subversiveness is buried very deep, and your every day convervative-libertarian, frankly, isn’t that smart.  Think about it – Reagan adopted “Born in the USA”, a song about how conservative policies destroyed the steel industry, as his theme song for his 1984 election, because it had a rousing chorus.

If you look at these arguments, it can be frustrating. Because argument #1 is entirely different from argument #4, yet deniers will go through all 4 of these arguments in order to justify not doing anything.

So, let’s be clear. The earth will survive even if we make the planet uninhabitable for ourselves. There are 7 other planets in the solar system (sorry, Pluto), and they are all surviving just fine. They all orbit the sun and rotate in various ways and some have seasons and storms, and there is nobody living on them. And earth will continue to orbit the sun and there will be tides and seasons and storms and there will even be life on it in some form.

Doing something about global warming is not about saving the earth. It is about saving ourselves. It is about ensuring that our children don’t have to go suppress a civil war in some oil rich country due to a massive drought that causes a government to collapse. It is about having reasonably priced food because there is plenty of potable water around to grow industrial crops. It is about our children’s children being able to live in the same city their grandparents lived in because it hasn’t turned into a dustbowl.

An Open Letter to Comcast / Xfinity

A great piece of snark. We have service from a small, local company (Surewest). Well, it used to be local, it is now part of a larger group called Consolodated Communications, but this is not even a fly on Comcast’s windshield.
It is a bummer sometimes to be on such a small network, because it means that all those wonderful TV apps for the iPad and AppleTV aren’t necessarily usable – Surewest hasn’t signed a deal with those stations yet. (Thankfully, HBO Go is on Surewest now!)
So, I always think about leaving and going to somebody like Comcast. Thankfully there are people out there who can properly warn me off!

Ramblings

Hello,

My name is Stacie Huckeba I have been a customer of Comcast for over eight years.

I realize that it’s a dirty little secret and you don’t like to talk about it, but c’mon, between just you and me, you can admit it. Basically you have a monopoly on internet service, at least in terms of speed. It’s ok, I like money too. Nobody is happier than me when I deposit big fat checks. Sadly, I’m not quite as “connected” as you guys.

I’m a photographer and I think I’m really good, unfortunately, I live in a town with a plethora of talented photographers so I can’t just sit back and be lazy. I’ve sent emails to the Mayor, and Governor and even my Senators and Congressmen asking that they put in regulations to make sure I am the only photographer who can use professional and top of the…

View original post 1,765 more words

The Silliness of Libertarianism: An Example

So, the family and I just took a trip from California to Florida to visit the grandparents. We had not been to see the grandparents since they moved, so this would be our first time spending any extended time there. They live outside of Fort Lauderdale, and we were going to spend time with them at their house, and then of course, make the obligatory trip to Orlando, to visit his holiness Mickey and the apostles of Disney princesses.

This trip was great for many reasons, but most hilariously, because of just it highlighted the silliness of libertarian philosophy (adopted by conservatives), with “toll roads”.

Now, Californians are not unfamiliar with tolls. We do have bridges after all, and those bridges are tolled. I think this is incredibly stupid, but is the kind of thing you can grow to expect when a bridge like, say, the Bay Bridge, needs to be built and nobody wants to pay anything in taxes to actually build it. And we are, of course, familiar not only with tolls but with owning a device that can be read electronically, so that you can go through the tolls faster without having to stop and hand some worker a fiver.

But Florida has taken it to a whole new extreme, to the point where you have to ask yourself, WTF? It’s a system so complex and convoluted, and involves many government actors to ensure that the pieces all move and fit together, and government passed laws to coordinate the actors, that you just can’t understand how this system could possibly be better than having the road be public and paid for with tax dollars.

So, here is what I saw when I was driving there.

First, the toll roads are everywhere. There are long stretches of freeway, and multiple freeways, that are tolled. As such, this leads to the construction of extra lanes, and interesting on/off ramps, in order to deal with the tolls – to make sure they are paid, for example. To limit access even further from a traditional freeway, as another example. These extra lanes and convoluted on/off ramps surely cost money, no? More money than would otherwise be necessary?

Second, there are signs all… over… the… place. Signs for the cost of the toll. Signs to remind you the toll is about to start. Signs to remind you that here is where you can get off if you don’t want to pay the toll anymore. Signs, signs, everywhere a sign. Again, this costs money, right? Right wingers and libertarians got their panties in a bunch when the stimulus was passed, because of all the street signs made for the construction projects that the stimulus created. They were very upset about this. if these particular toll roads were instead, say, public roads, that’s a lot of savings on signs, right?

Third, Florida really, really hates having to have to man these toll roads with, like, “employees”. You can get an electronic reader doo-hickey such that you don’t have to go through one of the manned tolls and like, talk to a human (note, I never have to stop to talk to humans on public roads). You are incentivized to get one of these things by having your toll costs reduced. These electronic readers used to make a “beep” sound when you went through a toll reader (the one I have for my car in California has this). But they don’t anymore, because otherwise the damned thing would be beeping all the time. When Florida changed from the beeping system, they had to replace all the readers. Again, these readers and the equipment to scan them costs money, right? Also, the new reader system is a “national” reader system, meaning that the reader in Florida can be read by equipment on the toll roads in, say, New Jersey. Coordinating such a national system surely cost money, right? Money you don’t need to spend if the roads are public, right?

Now, lots of people have these readers. They are, basically, silent cash registers. People are just driving on freeways as if they are public roads, and then their little reader just racks up charges. Kind of like how people could just drive on a public road and it would get paid for by gasoline taxes. But, you know, totally different. Because…. why? I mean, if everybody is on the road, such that you wanted to get rid of the annoying beep sound, clearly this is a public road. There aren’t a whole lot of people who just aren’t driving because they don’t want to pay the toll – they looked at the system of the toll road readers beeping too much and instead of deciding “the road should be public” they decided “the reader should be silent. It is, basically, a public road now, yet you still want to keep the illusion that is isn’t. /facepalm

And, finally, as I mentioned before, the toll road operators really hate paying for those humans to take your cash and change. So, they are moving to an “all electronic” system. There will be no toll booth operators anymore. So, again, it’s like it is a public road. But… not. You have to have one of these readers in your car. Except, well, no, actually you don’t. The state (or the toll operator) is installing all kinds of new technology on the toll roads. If you don’t have one of these electronic thingies in your car, a camera will take a picture of your license plate. And then bill you. That’s right, they are spending gobs of money putting the equivalent of an “eye in the sky” to get you to pay for using the road. That’s a lot of money to build out. And, of course, there are signs all over that were made to say “electronic tolls coming to this stretch on date XYZ” so that you know that soon you won’t be able to pay in cash to use the road. More money.

Oh, and if you are an out of state resident that happens to be in Florida using the toll roads? They will happily mail you the bill to your house in whatever state you came from. This means, of course, spending even more money to coordinate with all the other states so that they can get your address so that they can mail you the bill… that you probably won’t pay… because I don’t think they can’t make you pay it. (I could be wrong, maybe they can hurt your credit if you don’t pay)_.

Now, think about this. Libertarians are the proponents of things like toll roads, because they don’t like the whole idea of “everybody” paying for something “a few people” use. That’s socialism and socialism leads to fluoride in the water and FEMA re-education camps. Yet, the counter-system the libertarians have set up involves tracking your every movement, either with an electronic gizmo or via a camera. But I thought libertarians hated to be tracked?

Oy, my brain hurts.

Which is actually cheaper and easier to do: have public roads, paid for by a pool of gas taxes, which, of course, does cause the “heavy users” to pay more than the “light users” – heavy users spend more in gas? OR, creating an elaborate network of electronic readers and cameras, a distributed billing network, and agreements with out of state governments for “free loaders” who happen to be visiting your state, combined with complex and expensive lane and entry/exit ramps to protect the sanctity of the “paid” road?

Really, why would anybody consider the latter system “better’?

Don’t answer that – I know the answer. Libertarians think the latter is better, because… a libertarian argument does not need to be coherent.

Do You Like the Current Internet? Because It Will Be Frozen in Time Now

Well, internet is pretty much fucked. The FCC is adopting new rules that will allow for “high speed lanes” for those willing to pay.

Whatever services you have right now? That’s pretty much all we are going to have. You can argue whether the likes of Facebook, Netflix, Amazon streaming, and others are “good” or “a waste of time”, but the simple fact is they can only exist because of how cheap and easy it was for a company to get on the internet. Without the open internet, those services most likely never would have happened, and we’d still be watching pixelated 320×240 video clips with mono sound.

Any new company that even comes close to doing something interesting that might require bandwidth will now be squashed – the ISP that feels threatened will jack up fees for the service that wants to use any additional bandwidth, which will suffocate it in its crib.

Lest you think I’m being hyperbolic, keep this in mind. The US (FCC) already decided once, in 2002, against treating the internet as an open utility. The thought was that doing so would “regulate the internet”, and thus “stifle innovation”. The thought was that by not regulating how data was brought into your home, the world would open up to all kinds of crazy new ways to get data in. Cable! (Your cable company could provide you the internet). Phone! (Your phone company could) Fiber! Satellite! Wireless! It was going to be a bonanza because the competition would drive speeds up, and drive costs down.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. You pretty much can only get the internet in one or maybe two ways, and you are locked in to that one service. Great Britain, amongst others, went the other way, regulating the pipe, and saying the pipe had to be open for anybody to use. You would get your pipe from, say, the phone company, but you would buy your actual service from any ISP that wanted to provide it. This was more like the high speed version of the old dial-up days of ISPs – you used your phone to connect to AOL, or a local ISP, or another ISP, etc.

The result? Well, there was a really good explanation of it on NPR’s Planet Money podcast “The Last Mile“. (click here for a transcript). Did you look closely at the transcript? Look who was the FCC chairman in 2002 – Michael Powell. Guess where he works now – as a lobbyist for the cable industry, which hey, wouldn’t you know, happens to be “winning” the race to bring internet into your house. Does your head hurt yet?

In most places in the world, you get several choices of providers, at various prices that are lower than in the US, and the speeds are higher.  Here is a handy little chart showing what, on average, people in various countries pay for internet, vs. the speeds they get.

_70717869_countries_with_high_speed_broadband

Look at that. The US gets crappy, slow internet, and we pay through the nose for it. And no, this is not because we are a “large” country or we are “spread out”. A country like Korea is densely populated, but countries like the UK are much more spread out, yet they also get incredible speeds at ridiculously low prices.

And now, its about to get even worse now. Your bill is high, and your speed sucks. Netflix has to pay cable companies in what has been billed a “peering arrangement” to get decent access. Now they can have a formal method of payment thanks to the FCC, in these new “fast lanes”. When Netflix pays, what do you think will happen? The bill will be passed onto you as a Netflix user. So, not only will you have a ridiculously high internet bill compared to the rest of the world, you will have to pay just to be able to use the coolest services on it.

Oh, and Netflix won’t have to worry too much about any new players coming along, so their service doesn’t have to keep improving. Well… actually, maybe it will. Because Comcast is also a content provider, and can also start its own streaming service like Netflix (they have one now, it’s just not very good). If they aren’t getting the kind of buy-in for their Netflix-like service from consumers? Well, they can just charge Netflix a little more, and then offer you their service “for free” as part of your internet/cable/phone package. So, unless Netflix continues to be “awesome”, you might dump it for the freer, crappier, Comcast service.

“Oh, no I won’t! I won’t stand for crappy service. I will keep Netflix!” Really. Huh. OK. Have you used your cable box recently? Do you see how crappy the user interface is? Do you see how slow it is when you do something like bring up the guide, or the pay-per-view, or the OnDemand menus? They suck…. they suck terribly. You don’t have to use one of those boxes. In most places, you can buy a box online that uses technology that will allow you to connect to your cable provider. And the interface will be better. But, realistically, nobody does that. Because it is a hassle, it is expensive, and, for the most part, since people don’t know they can get something better, they just assume this is how TV has to be.

The internet in the US is going to get shittier. That’s just the way it is. And since most Americans don’t travel abroad, we aren’t going to know how shitty the internet became. I’ve seen friends tell me how “cool” it is that they can watch Netflix or other TV type services on their phone. Guess what? That new thing was new in South Korea, too. In 2000.

Our internet is terrible, and the FCC has just decided to make it worse.

sigh.

We should all realize – if the government doesn’t regulate something, it doesn’t mean “freedom”. The thing will get regulated… by a for profit company.

More TV Adaptations, Fewer Movies Adaptations!

After going out on a whim to watch World War Z last Friday, I got to thinking about works of fiction, and even non-fiction, and how they usually suck when translated to the big screen.  And I knew going in that World War Z was probably going to suck because, having read the book, I couldn’t think of any way it made sense for a 2 hour movie.  And sure enough, it sucked.  As many have pointed out, it shared virtually nothing with the book save the title.

So, this got me thinking about the state of translating a book to the screen.  And the model I think we should be looking more towards is television.  Everybody kind of admits we are living in a golden age of television right now.  The Sopranos kicked it all off, which was followed up with The Wire, and has, in quick succession, been followed up on non-pay TV with cable shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men.  There were other shows that didn’t make it as big, but were still better than any of your scripted network shows.  The Shield, for example.  The Sons of Anarchy for another.  I never watched those shows, but they looked like they were well put together.

None of these are shows based upon books.  They are just very well written shows.  But even this has changed.  The most obvious example of this is Game of Thrones, which I think is awesome, and is based upon a book series.  But this isn’t even the limit – Band of Brothers was simply an amazing mini-series, and that was based upon non-fiction.  The Walking Dead is another scripted show based upon written material (a comic book, I think).

The point is, there are some good written words out there, and we don’t need them to be on the big screen for a 2 week run.  We should have more of these awesome TV shows, or limited run mini-series.  The British were kind of on to this already – rather than a sitcom like the American version of the Office, the British version was only 2 “series” (seasons).  You don’t need to make something that just hangs around – you can make something to fill a time slot for a year or two or three.  With non-traditional companies now trying to get into the repeated viewing space (i.e. Netflix with House of Cards and now Arrested Development), it seems like there are some really, really cool opportunities out there.

I also think that if your show is done as a set of 10 1-hour episodes per year, you will get the super high quality of acting and writing.  It’s got to be easier to give your all for 10 episodes instead of 22, right?  And the actors in these newer shows end up with plenty of time to do movies or other TV.

With that in mind, here is my list of books I would like to see turned into TV.

  • The Harry Potter series.  Yes, I know we just went through a blockbuster run, and it made a bajillion dollars, and people are probably tired of it, but let’s face it, the movies had to throw some things overboard for the sake of time.  We lost a lot of Dobby, for example.  And I just think it would be really interesting to see a 4-6 year run of a TV show with the kids aging as the show goes on.
  • The Lord of the Rings.  Again, it’s made a bajillion dollars, but clearly this is calling out for a more extended story telling.  The Hobbit, the shortest book in the series, is going to be three freaking films.  Clearly, this is a tale that can make a good TV show.
  • The Stand: Yes, it has been done as a TV mini-series, but it kind of blew chunks, frankly, because of the perceived limits of what a TV miniseries was back in the day.  Redo this with some amazing actors?  And redo IT, too.
  • Dune.  A shitty movie, a relatively shitty TV miniseries on the Sci-Fi channel (SyFy?  seriously?), this is calling out for a new run.  I’d even throw book 4 in there (God Emperor of Dune)
  • The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  This has been a radio play, so serialization isn’t a problem.  The movie was, eh, awful.  Plus, it’s British, and it seems like the best way to make a really awesome TV show is to cast it with British actors (see Thrones, Game of).  The one or two episodes actually spent at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe would be must-see-TV.
  • World War Z.  The book was very geopolitical and covered lots of ground.  It was not your typical zombie tome.  It should be done right… on TV.
  • The Percy Jackson series of books.  Pretty crappy movie, and I don’t care for the books, but my kids loved ’em.  Great way for The Disney Channel to fill some time.
  • “Space” – the James Michener book.  There are probably a whole bunch of Michener books that could be mini-series.  I remember Space because I was such a geek for the space program.  No way that could be a 2 hour movie, but would be a really good series I think.
  • 50 Shades of Grey.  Women love this porn series of books.  Don’t make it a movie, put all that nudity and sex on HBO or Showtime.
  • There was a series of books, whose name escapes me, about the Roman Republic from about 122BC to Caesar.  That part of the Roman Republic is just begging for a dramatic treatment, because the story is almost better than fiction.  HBO made a very good miniseries (2 years) detailing the very end of the Republic showing the rise of Octavian to become Augustus.  And I will watch I, Claudius over… and over… and over…
  • Ender’s Game – looks like it will be a crappy movie, would probably be a good TV series.  I don’t know anything about it, though.  Never been a fan.
  • For the heck of it, let’s throw out Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series.  That’s kind of got a World War Z vibe.
  • Mila 18 by Leon Uris.  Amazing book.  Screams “10 hour mini-series on HBO”

I”m sure I’ll think of more, but that’s it for now.  What are your thoughts?  Do you have a favorite book or book series that you think would be awesome if it were given time to be told long-form?