Plots and Thoughts

Yahoo’s Annoying @Work Series

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Warning, fusty language below the belt:


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Evan Bayh – The Third Party Establishment Candidate

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 18, 2010

Evan Bayh (with conservative columnist David Brooks’ help) is trying to position himself as a third party contender for 2012 with hilarious results:

“You remember back then, the deficit was unsustainably high,” Bayh said, referring to the economic conditions of the early-1990’s. “The economy was struggling. People had a sense that Washington was just broken, and they looked for someone from completely outside the system. So, you know, let me be clear. I support the president. I think he is making a major effort, and I’m going to do what I can to help him succeed. But just my political take on it, I think–I think David is–he’s on to something.”

Bwahahahaha.  Outside the system?  Bayh?  Wow this guy has balls.

What Brooks and Bayh are aiming for is a stock conservative.  The kind of person much of the horribly and purposely misnamed “liberal media” actively want as President.

ROSE: My friend David Brooks, who was on the program recently and over the
weekend, said at long last, he believes that third party may be a viable
alternative if the president runs for re-election and someone from the right
of the Republican Party is the nominee, that there is today, in today’s
atmosphere, because of a feeling that issues are not being addressed well, an
opportunity for a third party candidate with very–with appropriate
credentials to run and win the presidency.

The only “opportunity” for a conservative pretending to be a centrist is the one Brooks, Bayh, and other villagers/establishment power brokers are working hard to create.

It is fairly easy to see through it now.  I wonder how clear it will be if they manage to run such a candidate in 2012.  More likely they will use this as pressure to pull Obama even further to the right of his current stance, pressuring Democrats to continue giving in to every Republican demand without getting an ounce of cooperation in return.

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The First Google Buzz Victim

Posted in Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 17, 2010
Google Buzz has a privacy problem.  Sometime blocking people doesn’t quite take. I’ve experienced this myself.  A friend of mine did as well, only in her case it was an ex-boyfriend.  An ex who now has an extensive criminal record (which includes assault).  So after she had blocked him, she posted info on a private party.  He wasn’t really blocked, so he found out.  He attended.  She eventually blocked him on Buzz after several tries, but by then the damage was done.  He then proceeded to find her on Facebook (which she has reasonably locked down).  She thus far hasn’t been able to block him there at all.
Privacy isn’t an abstract civil right, it is central to our reasonable expectations of safety within society.  Without privacy there is no security.  While my friend mulls a restraining order, I’m left wondering why Google launched such a dangerously broken product.  I’m also wondering what is going on with Facebook.  Facebook is nearly always buggy, but as with Google Buzz, those bugs can have deadly consequences for users.  Plenty of enterprise grade websites function daily without the host vital problems we see here.  These sorts of bugs are not a fact of web development, they are the result of incompetence.
Google and Facebook need to step it up before someone is hurt, and their asses land rightfully in court.

ZOMG Dream Job

Posted in Musings by Captain Optimistic on February 16, 2010

A rather dear friend of mine sent me a link to a blog post about moving towards your dream job.  While the sentiment is appreciated, the post itself doesn’t paint a complete picture, and it leaves out some very important points:

If you stuff your hours full of one thing, but find yourself wishing you were spending all of those hours each week doing something else, you absolutely should devote every spare resource you can to (1) getting yourself out of debt and on a very stable financial playing field and (2) putting the pieces in place so you can live that dream.

Yes!  Definitely devote yourself to making your dream a reality.

Think big. Do you need that large of a house or that large of an apartment? Do you need that car? Keep going down the scale. Do you need to eat out? Do you need that cable bill? And include the hundreds of small things, too. Do you need name-brand paper towels – or paper towels at all?

The essence of the advice is: “cut back on your monthly expenses so you can do with less”.  This assumes that your dream job pulls in any kind of funding.  If it doesn’t, then your current job must be amenable to less hours a week.  In this economy a high paying part time job is far, far less likely.  Meaning you might find a job that lets you work on your dreams part time, but with the amount of money you’d be pulling in you’d really need to work at least 40 hours to take care of even your lesser expenses.

Let’s make this concrete.  Say you find a part time job that pays $20 an hour (and that’s being pretty generous  You are far more likely to find something paying half that).  Let’s be very conservative and assume you get to keep around 65% of that after taxes and etc.  At 20 hours a week for 4 weeks, you monthly income is roughly $1040.  Keep in mind with a part time job you’ll need to pay for health insurance (if you can get it – which means you either live in a civilized state or have zero pre-existing conditions).  Depending on what you need that could set you back anywhere from 100-300 a month.  Perhaps more.  Let’s stick with $200 for this example.  So now you have $840 to live on for the month.  3 meals a day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month, works out to 84 meals a month.  So with rent entirely out of the picture your meal budget puts you at $10 a meal.  Factor in $400 monthly rent (everything included – in NYC this means renting a room as far from Manhattan as possible) and your meal budget is $5 a meal.  Forget forgoing paper towels, on this kind of budget bandaids could send your carefully laid plans spinning out of control.  Oh, is there any money in there for internet access?  A phone?  Nah, neither of those are necessary.


Getting out of debt is a good goal,  but with credit card companies able to legally commit robberies if you make a single late payment, and college debt continuing to soar, you find that escaping debt is an incredible steep mountain to climb even for those with high paying jobs.

Cutting expenses certainly helps.  But its not the sort of brash insight that suddenly opens up your dream job.  Saving up while working at a high paying job you can stomach isn’t that viable either.  Come up with a base salary you’d need to make to survive.  Do you think you can save that in a year?  Two?  How about five?  Savings run out fast.  Especially when unexpected expenses crop up, like medical bills insurance won’t cover, emergency trips, transportation issues if you aren’t lucky enough to live in an area with solid public transit.  The list goes on.

The way I see it, to work on your dream job, you need to identify sustainable and substantial revenue streams that can replace your current job’s income or come respectably close.  Everyone can cut expenses, but there is a limit.  We need to be honest with ourselves about how close to that limit we are likely to go (and whether approaching that limit might restrict our dream job in other ways).

If you do want to start moving towards making your dream a reality, there are steps you can take:

  1. See what you can cut out of your monthly expenses.  Keep a firm eye on expenses that you are likely to cut out.  Be brutally honest.  Can you really get rid of that cell phone and still function socially and professionally?  Start a spreadsheet in Open Office (you best not be paying for software at this point unless it falls under the next point:).
  2. Now assess any expenses your dream job might incur.  Will you need to travel?  Attend conferences?  Will you need any additional supplies?  Will you need a degree or particular training?  Add these expenses to that spreadsheet.
  3. Start identifying potential sources of income.  Create an income column in that spreadsheet.
    1. Could you do your job part time?  Some companies are amenable to this, some only appear to be and will grow to resent not being your number one priority.  Contracting is risky, but if you can find 6 months of full time high paying contract work, and take a few months off in between gigs, that could turn into a very workable compromise (Allow me to repeat again how risky that can be, and note how unlikely and option that is for most jobs and experience levels).
    2. Can your dream job provide any income?
    3. Are there any small jobs you can take, or products you can create, that are related to your dream job?  If you’d like to write, could you teach a writing course?  If you’d like to be an artist, could you sell some crafts on etsy?
    4. Are there any part time jobs that would pay you enough to work 20 hours a week or less, affording you more time to spend on that dream job?

Looking solely at cutting expenses and ignoring income is so…. Republican.  You need to take a fiscally responsible look at where your income is coming from if you want to make that dream job a reality.

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Reasons Not to Help in Haiti

Posted in Musings, Observations by Captain Optimistic on February 4, 2010

I think what the 10 Baptists are accused of doing is wrong.  And the tragedy in Haiti is horrible.  But at the same time, this caught my eye:

Coq said that under Haiti’s legal system, there won’t be an open trial, but a judge will consider the evidence and could render a verdict in about three months.

Coq said a Haitian prosecutor told him the Americans were charged because they had the children in their possession. No one from the Haitian government could be reached immediately for comment.

Each kidnapping count carries a possible sentence of five to 15 years in prison. Each criminal association count has a potential sentence of three to nine years.

Haiti’s legal system is so backwards that anyone going in to help risks imprisonment or other punishment without a fair trial.

It provides a rather curious conundrum, one faced daily by people of immense bravery and compassion.  Women and Men who risk their lives to do human rights and aid work in hostile countries where their rights aren’t recognized.

While I don’t think we ought to refrain from helping in these instances, I believe they call out desperately for public shaming.  In a situation like this, while condemning the actions of the Baptists, we ought to with equal force and conviction condemn their legal system.

What do you think?

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Fuck You Massachusetts

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on January 20, 2010

You picked a loser Democrat to fight against a Republican prepared to do the work.  The silver lining isn’t (Lieberman will continue to be a powerful asshole).  The only possible good I see comes from Arianna’s encouraging take.  Oh wait, no, the Democratic party will simply slide further into centrist hell.  YEAH THAT WILL WORK.

Really this is less about Massachusetts, and more about the Democratic Party: Party of colossal fuckups.

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On Crying in Public

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on January 18, 2010

A rather good post over at Pandagon regarding women crying in public.  I think Spencer Morgan is a misogynistic prat:

I’m sure he thinks women go home and just power down like a computer deprived of its electricity, except in this case our electricity is attention.  And since sadness, like all female behavior, is a ploy for attention, it pisses Morgan off because it’s not the performance he wants from women.  So he’s going to make fun of the sad women and bully them into performing behaviors he finds sexier, presumably non-stop grinning.

However I have to disagree here:

Why is it that he sees people—okay, women—occasionally crying in public?  And when people see this, why don’t they stop to talk to the crying women, to offer help?The answer to thess questions, from a non-misogynist perspective, in order: Probably because they’re sad.  And because others realize that the crying woman probably would like not to be crying in public, and would like to be accorded the respect and privacy her sadness deserves.

I actually think when you see anyone who is sad, its a good thing to check and see if they are ok if it seems appropriate.  If they want to be left alone, they’ll let you know and you can respect that.  In some instances a person crying in public isn’t approachable, in others, they are.  That’s a judgment call that is very much based on the particular situation.

I am the type of person who tries to help people who are feeling down.  I’ve battled with depression, and I come from a family where its rife.  Expressing sadness in public can be a private moment that tumbled out unexpectedly, or it can be a cry for help.  And its ok to listen to that cry should you hear it.

I was walking home late one night and I noticed a girl sitting by herself outside a hotel.  Her head was in her hands, and you could feel something was wrong.  So I walked over and asked if everything was allright.  It wasn’t.  I ended up sitting down and talking for hours.  This woman had served in the war, and had found out a few hours before that her former CO had been killed in Iraq.  She needed someone to talk to.  I was there, so we talked.

If you see someone who seems down, take a chance on looking like an idiot or intruding, and ask if they are ok.  If they want to be left alone by all means respect that.  But if its someone in need of a shoulder or an ear, don’t hesitate to lend it.

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The Politico has a Crush on Thune

Posted in Analysis, Observations by Captain Optimistic on January 13, 2010

Awwwww.  Johnathan Martin thinks Thune is ever so dashing.  He’s written the sort of soft-journalistic intro piece one often sees gently ushering conservative hopefuls onto the national stage.  Remember the reader’s digest article that praised George W. Bush as a bipartisan guys-guy who got stuff done?

John Thune is presented as someone Democrats and Republicans can agree upon:

“At a time when we’re burning taxpayer money like coal in a 19th-century steam engine, Thune’s message of focused fiscal restraint, coupled with aggressive small-business incentives to drive growth, will resonate extremely well with the GOP base and independents as well as Democrats,” said Jeff Kimbell, a Republican lobbyist and Thune enthusiast.

Wow, he sounds great!

But McKinnon sees a third possibility: “He could be the 2012 federal version of Bob McDonnell,” said the GOP adman of the Virginia governor-elect. “He’s unquestionably conservative but not in an ideological way — more in a Midwestern, rural, country, small-town way. So he’s acceptable to all factions.”

Not in an idealogical way huh?  Check out this interview with Christianity Today:

Having a Christian worldview shapes my decision-making with respect to all aspects of my life. I always respect people in public life who are principled, and those principles have to be connected to something. And my faith is what serves as the anchor and directs my actions.

Ladies and gentleman we have ourselves another theocrat being groomed as mainstream.  He’ll be a reliable force for anti-gay, anti-women values.  You know, family values.

As the Politico article briefly mentions:

Though he doesn’t promote it, and it wasn’t listed on his 2004 campaign website, Thune is a graduate of a California Bible college. And on cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion, he’s pure to the party base.

It also mentions that the the former lobbyist … is liked by lobbyists:

Though he doesn’t have the infrastructure of Romney or even Pawlenty, Thune has many fans among operatives and lobbyists, and he’s surrounded by savvy strategists, including the well-regarded Brasell and longtime GOP adman Scott Howell.

Great.  A slick “Republican Obama – minus the brains” lobbyist theocrat.  He’s already getting promotional press.  He should do well in a crowded GOP field.  2012 is looking ever more interesting.

Congress: Term vs Age Limits

Posted in Analysis, Observations, Strategy by Captain Optimistic on January 10, 2010

I find myself disagreeing – strongly – with Amanda Marcotte.  This of course has me a bit startled.  At issue is the question of term and age limits.  Amanda is upset about old out of touch white men in public office.  Which is understandable.  It isn’t like our generation will be any better when we find ourselves in power.  These men – across both parties – represent positions and hold perceptions that are way out of whack with the rest of the country.  Her solution is to avoid term limits and their associated problems and instead institute a mandatory retirement age.  There are a number of problems with this solution.

  • Medicine and Technology are turning 65 into 75, and 75 into 85.  At what point is a citizen no longer allowed to hold office because their world view is no longer relevant?  Should we instead of a citizenship test of sorts – a litmus test – to ensure aged political hopefuls are with the times?
  • Is there any premium at all on differing perceptions?  Do we want to make our governing body more homogeneous?

What we ought to be doing is removing age limits.  There is no reason a 20 year old cannot run for the highest office in the land.  Part of the problem is that congress is dominated by entrenched power, and entrenched power and age go hand in hand.

I’m hesitant to suggest term limits.  I think they’re a bad idea for a lot of reasons, starting with the fact that the existence of senior politicians is often a good thing—experience and stature helps them get things done. While we were talking about this last night, Marc also pointed out to me that term limits encourage corruption by encouraging the Dick Cheney-style revolving door between holding office and working for corporations.

We therefore need to couple term limits with strong and effective anti-corruption laws.  Encouraging the ageism in our political system does not strike me as an effective way to gain allies or improve our representation.

What if, instead of encouraging politicians to hang onto their seats as long as humanly possible, we created an incentive for politicians to groom and root for their successors?  One reason we’re all so scared to see someone like Ted Kennedy or Robert Byrd leave office is we’re afraid of who will take their place, but I think if these politicians were looking forward to retirement instead of waiting for death, that might not be so.  They would have much more of a reason to groom someone suitable for their seat, and help get them elected while they still had the energy to do so.

These incentives would increase the stranglehold of entrenched politicians even further, so they could continue to exert their influence after they leave through their successors.  Take a good hard look at Putin and Medvedev.  Do we really to encourage that here?

To strengthen our representation in Congress we need to increase diversity of representation and freedom of choice while simultaneously restricting entrenched power and corruption.  Here is what we need to agitate for:

  • Removing age limits
  • Instituting term limits
  • Selecting a new system of voting (along the lines of instant runoff) that allows people to rank their choices
  • Make elections entirely publicly financed, outlawing the spending of any private funds

It would be a start, a small step forward.  Age limits would be a step backwards, an act that legitimizes existing age limits when we need to do what we can to remove them entirely.

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Hawaii vs DC: Taxation Without Representation

Posted in Observations by Captain Optimistic on January 10, 2010

The AP notices that:

Cash-strapped Hawaii can’t afford to pay for an election to replace a congressman who is planning to step down next month to run for governor, potentially leaving 600,000 urban Honolulu residents without representation in Washington.

Funny, 600,000 is roughly the population of the District of Columbia.  Hawaii will have to wait at worst until next fall’s elections.  DC will have to wait until hell freezes over, or Congress decides having one more urban district really won’t be that awful a tragedy.

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