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The chocolate ration is being increased to 25 grammes per week.

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Angry Birds boss: ‘Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business’

Angry Birds boss: ‘Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business’.

When ever the discussion of piracy comes up, claims are made on both sides.  Here’s a data point for the “piracy isn’t the problem it is claimed to be, and sometimes it is beneficial” side of the argument.

Free can be good.  The rank of the Kindle book Realms Unreel rank jumped from #72,330 to #3 in free Sci Fi, #8 in free Fantasy, and #198 overall in the first day of free promotion, and is now has a paid rank of #8,328.

Many people in the Tech industry have pointed out that Microsoft would not be the powerhouse they are today if it were not for DOS piracy.

Free can be good.

Stephen Colbert’s FEC report: made $1M+ to date, quotes Jay-Z

Gotta highlight this:

“Stephen Colbert, President of ABTT, has asked that I quote him as saying, ‘Yeah! How you like me now, F.E.C? I’m rolling seven digits deep! I got 99 problems but a non-connected independent-expenditure only committee ain’t one!’” Polk wrote, adding, “I would like it noted for the record that I advised Mr. Colbert against including that quote.

Stephen Colbert’s FEC report: Big money!

These are serious “meeting notes”

Courtesy of Megan Ganz, writer for Community, one of my favorite sitcoms of all time.

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More doodles here.

“Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit.”

“Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit1.”  I don’t really think there is any disagreement with the preceding statement.  You might think the 99% would agree only out of selflessness, however this statement was made by someone in the top %0.1.  I really don’t understand why every single person in the U.S., that gets their income and wealth from middle-class spending, isn’t clamoring for political change that will make the middle class stronger.  On that:

  • Attacking the budget deficit in the middle of a financial crisis/recession isn’t the right time, yet it seems like all of congress is obsessed with the idea.  Obama has bowed to the pressure and included lots of spending cuts in his forthcoming budget (we don’t know exactly how much and it’s due in a week or so).
  • Giving or maintaining tax cuts to the top 1% doesn’t do anything to help the middle class.  Cutting taxes on the 99% would give them more disposable income to spend on products that help drive the economy.
  • Moving manufacturing jobs overseas is shrinking the middle class.

If you are a rich person, your best chance to stay rich is if the middle class in America is strong.  Right now it’s anything but strong.

I actually believe the top 1% think more like the author of the linked article than the cacophony of right-wing idiots that have been pushing for policies that are killing the middle class.

We need a strong and expanded middle class!

Footnotes:

  1. Large corporations are enjoying record profits, so it would seem that a robust middle class isn’t required for them to turn a nice profit.  This is true.  Apple, for example, just announced record quarterly revenue of $46.33 billion and record quarterly net profit of $13.06 billion.  There are enough consumers of Apple’s products to keep them very healthy, indeed.  However, just walk through the downtown of any major city in America.  In the San Francisco Bay Area, empty store fronts are common.  I probably pass 15-20 empty store fronts on the way to work, and that’s only 2 miles from my home.  In the 90’s, these store fronts were all populated with small businesses supporting their owners and employees.  The current state of healthy, large businesses is misleading.  There have been a huge number of corporate mergers over the last 10 years.  This indicates that healthy competition wasn’t enough to keep all these companies moving forward.  There used to be 10 big accounting firms, affectionately called the “Big 10.”  That gave way to the “Big 8” and then the “Big 5” and then finally the “Big 4.”   Banks, airlines and other large businesses have combined to reduce competition and increase prices. The average cell phone contract in the U.S. is much higher than in Europe, for example, where there is true competition among the service providers.  Thankfully, the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile was stopped, or there would have become only 3 wireless providers in the US (Verizon, AT&T and Sprint).

“Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

“Those jobs aren’t coming back,” were the words spoken by Steve Jobs to President Obama, in reply to Obama’s question about what it would take to get the iPhone (and other Apple products) manufactured in the US (from Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class).

The authors go on to point out that

Apple has become one of the best-known, most admired and most imitated companies on earth, in part through an unrelenting mastery of global operations. Last year, it earned over $400,000 in profit per employee, more than Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil or Google.

This phenomenal profit per employee is the envy of the business world. It’s is clear the secret to Apple’s success is their foreign labor force and factories. Yes, not just foreign labor. The factories themselves, could they even exist in the US and not run afoul of environmental laws? I don’t have proof, but I seriously doubt it. More than the labor force, I think this is what Jobs had in mind when he made that comment to the President.  Emphasis mine here:

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.

90% of Apple’s workforce is indirect, almost all of them in other countries.  These state of the art factories that churn out phones, could they legally exist in the US? If you read the article, at least one aspect of the foreign factories is illegal: how they treat the workers at these factors.  Forced 12 hour shifts, to start with.  Dangerous conditions: there have been multiple reports of explosions at Foxconn (where the iPhone is made) with fatalities.  Foxconn employs nets around their buildings to prevent suicides.  Foxconn is so large, they have a city, called Foxconn City, where their workers live in dormitories.  Apple is not unique in their outsourcing.  All other electronics giants do it.  Apple is just really good at it.

It’s clear that the Chinese economy is set up for making things like iPhones, and the US economy is not, environmental and labor issues aside.  Until the policy makers and politicians in the US make creating a new middle class a priority, it will just not happen.  Businesses will, when given a choice, make decisions that make them more profitable, and if those decisions mean squeezing the middle class, then that’s what will continue to happen.

Also, we as consumers have to understand there is a cost to wanting cheap phones and other electronics.  That cost might literally be our middle class.  Would that fancy new smart phone be worth it if it was double the price, if you knew that it was made in the US and was responsible for supporting middle-class jobs?  I think it would be.

I’ll end with two quotes:

“Apple’s an example of why it’s so hard to create middle-class jobs in the U.S. now,” said Jared Bernstein, who until last year was an economic adviser to the White House. “If it’s the pinnacle of capitalism, we should be worried.”

and

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

UPDATE 1/29/2012: Foxconn is in the new again regarding work conditions and worker deaths.

How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online?

How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online?.

I was surprised to learn that selling through Amazon earns artists so little.  I just signed up for a cdbaby.com account,  which I will use when items are available there and I want to support the artist.

Khan Academy video explaining SOPA/PIPA

Sal Khan is amazing. Worth a look, even for people that think they know everything about the issue. I learned some things.

Obligatory “Khaaaaan!” (you need to click the picture)

TV nirvana #Southland #Justified

Southland and Justified both started up again tonight. Both were excellent season openers. Oh,  White Collar started, too, but it’s a little late to watch it.

Great quote about US politics and the influence of money

Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there’s deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?

[Quote is by Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC today.]

Romney the ”Serial Killer”

Stephen Colbert’s PAC Calls Romney a ‘Serial Killer’.  (It is not correct to call it “his” PAC, since he gave it to Jon Stewart.)

This is brilliant.