It’s Time To Send the H-1Bs Home

Think this, but more geek.

Think this, but more geek.

My apologies to some of my staunchest libertarian and an-cap friends, but I’m going to have to make a semi-heretical suggestion.

Ordinarily I’d advocate that the Federal Government get out of private business entirely (or disappear completely), and indeed, I’d love to see it do so. However, I’m going to suggest a fairly minor policy change that would instantly rebound the economy.

It’s an entirely practical, easily-implementable idea that’s of benefit to both politicians and voters. Both major parties could have something bi-partisan to do, if they were actually so inclined. It would cost them no votes.

If just one party did it, they could write their own ticket for the next decade.

The one, simple thing that would instantly turn the economy around is this:

Send the H-1B visa-holders home.

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An Open Letter To Mark Penn

Dear Mr. Penn:

Having recently watched a video of an MSNBC program on which you were a guest, I thought it might be helpful for you if I quoted the late Bill Hicks:

By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising … kill yourself.  No joke here, really. Seriously: if you are, do.

No, really:  there’s no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers.

Kill yourself — seriously.  You are the ruiner of all things good.

Seriously.

Kill yourself.

I know you’re all waiting for a joke coming, but there’s no fucking joke coming.

You are Satan’s spawn.  You are filling the world with violent garbage.  You are fucked and you are fucking us.  Kill yourself. It is the only way to save your fucking soul.  Kill yourself.

I know all the Marketing people are going, “He’s doing a joke — ”

No, there’s no joke here whatsoever.

Suck a tail pipe, hang yourself, get a pistol — I don’t care how you do it, just rid the world of your evil fucking machinations.

I know what all the Marketing people are thinking right now:

“Oh, you know what Bill’s doing?  He’s going for that anti-marketing dollar.  That’s very smart.”

No, man, I’m not doing that, you evil scumbags!

“Oooooh, you know what bill’s doing now?  He’s going for that righteous indignation dollar.  That’s a big dollar — a lot of people are feeling that indignation.  We’ve done research — huge market.  He’s doing a good thing!”

Goddammit, I’m not doing that, you scumbags!  Quit putting a dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

“Oooooh, the anger dollar!  Huge — huge in times of recession!  Bill’s very bright to do that!”

God, I’m caught in a fucking web!

“Oooooh, the trapped dollar!  Big dollar, huge dollar!  Look at our research:  we see that many feel trapped, and we play to them and separate them and — ”

I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don’t you?  You go home, the wife asks, “What’d you do today, honey?” and you say:

“Oh, we made arsenic a childhood food, now.  Good night!” and you sleep like fucking children, don’t you?

That fairly well sums up my attitude regarding you.  Anyone who can think up the notion that a terrorist bombing would be good for a President is … well, again I’ll simply point you back to Mr. Hicks’ comments on the subject, above.

Ordinarily, I’d sign an email with something like, “all the best” or “yours sincerely”, but since I clearly wish you nothing but the earliest possible grave that you can arrange for yourself, I’ll simply end with:

Make sure the garage door is closed,

Bill Stone

P.S. –

It’s the Economy, Stupid!

Let It Fly!

This is what they thought happened.

Contrary to what the talking heads are saying this morning, and contrary to all the finger-pointing and scapegoating you’ll hear in weeks to come, it was not a tiny computer glitch that caused yesterday’s Dow drop of a thousand points.

I have worked in information technology for twenty years.  I spent the preceding fifteen as a hobbyist.  My father bought his first computer for business use in 1979, and from that point on, I never used a typewriter again.

I’ve taken care of these systems.  I was specifically in the banking industry for five years, taking care of banking computers, and occasionally did work for big financial companies.

It’s certainly true that every program has bugs, and that in some cases these bugs can cause costly errors. Financial systems are no exception — though there are both more and fewer safeguards that one might expect.

But a bug isn’t what happened yesterday.  What happened yesterday was psychological.

Ultimately, the problem is simple:  a century of collectivist government policy — worldwide — has finally come asking for the bill.

It’s just that simple.  For a hundred years or so, every single nation on Earth has engaged in collectivist economic practices.  The engine driving this foolishness was once the United States — an economic powerhouse itself driven by an intentional avoidance of collectivism.

However, beginning with Lincoln, massively accelerated under FDR, and finally realized under Reagan, collectivism became the official policy of the US Federal Government — and with its example, collectivism trickled into every other government.  Then to companies and even individuals who should have known better.

The economic powerhouse gutted itself from within.  Collectivist policy made innovation impossible unless you were a huge company that could pay government for exemptions.  The only area that escaped regulation is the only area to see innovation — and I’ll give you one look at whatever monitor you’re reading this on to figure out which area that was.

The US could only last so long on momentum from thirty years past.  The momentum has run out.  The US can no longer afford to pay for its own collectivist follies, much less those of the entire rest of the world.

Anyone with the slightest bit of sense can see this.  That certainly includes the big players on Wall Street, most of whom have a lot of sense or they wouldn’t be big players on Wall Street.

Those on Wall Street are totally aware that at any moment, now, the legal trickery that backs their fortunes is going to disappear out from under them.

No doubt they have plans in place to deal with that eventuality, which probably amounts to, “Sell everything I can before the market closes, and head for my mansion where I can pay people to guard me if I need to.”

What happened yesterday was that the people on Wall Street thought that this was probably it.  The big IT. They saw big selling happening and decided that the shit had hit the fan.

Then, just before the market would have been closed automatically due to volume of trading, they said, “Wait, is this really it?  What’s happening, exactly?”

It was decided that it could be milked a little longer, so naturally the market rebounded a bit.  It’s by no means over — though it could go relatively dormant again for a while.  Not long, a few months at best.

Understand that there was no secret cabal meetings.  What happened yesterday was just psychology in action:  individual Wall Street investors know things are about to go belly up, and they know what to do when it does.  They just jumped the gun a little yesterday.

As always, Gerald Celente is saying it best:

The Economics Of Pokemon

Latias

Latias, a Legendary Pokemon

Like many similarly-aged children, my nine-year-old daughter is heavily into Pokemon.

Being an engaged parent constantly on the lookout for pop culture that undermines my attempt to turn my children into gun-toting individualists, I’ve watched a number of episodes and three of the four movies that have been released to date.

For the uninitiated, “Pokemon” are “Pocket Monsters,” a Japanese children’s show animated in the style of Anime. They generally cute life forms possessed of a single super-power each and nominal pet/companions of the “Pokemon Trainers.” The lead human characters of the program are pre-teens who spend their time collecting Pokemon in the hopes of ultimately becoming the greatest Pokemon Masters in the world.

I admit it: I don’t really get it. The animation of the shows is uniformly lousy (though in this respect it differs little from any modern animation). The cultural differences between what constitutes Japanese and American entertainment are wide enough that pacing and characterization is generally hard for me to follow. The dubbing is such that all the characters seem to be speaking at a breakneck pace, communicating complex thoughts and ideas almost too fast to follow.

My daughter spends an enormous amount of her thankfully ample spare computing capacity memorizing the names and vital statistics of literally hundreds of individual Pokemon. I am consistently amazed at the sheer amount of detail she manages to keep straight. She collects Pokemon cards, games, action figures, DVDs, and other memorabilia at a rate that makes me glad I’m in the computer science field.

In her particular case, it’s not just a marketing success: she’s the moderator of an online Pokemon message forum, and spends time role-playing Pokemon on AOL Instant Messenger.

Thank goodness for broadband Internet.

Again, I don’t really get the show at all. I understand her zeal: when I was her age, my parents must have been equally mystified by my ability to regurgitate Star Trek trivia. The frightening thing is that I can recognize that if I’d have the Internet at age nine, no doubt I’d be doing exactly what she is.

Yesterday, we were making a run to the video store to pick up Episodes IV through VI of Star Wars and the DVD of the second Pokemon movie. It seems my daughter recently discovered the audio commentary on the DVDs, and was so engrossed that she needed to rent the movies again to listen to it.

On the way, she was reiterating some Pokemon trivia, and I was listening politely — not entirely understanding, but happy that she’s happy. At some point, we got onto the subject of comic books, and how, when I was her age, comic books were only a dime.

This confused her, as it often does, since it doesn’t make any sense that they could cost so little forty years ago. Indeed, given advances in manufacturing and production technology, a comic book should cost significantly less than a dime, yet today’s average price is at least $2.50.

“Well,” I told her, “it’s inflation. Over time, government makes paper money worth less and less, and when this happens, it looks like things cost more and more.”

Being the inquisitive, intelligent child she is, my daughter naturally wanted to know how government inflates money.

“Well, first of all, you have to understand about supply and demand. Do you know what that is?”

She didn’t, and for a moment, I wondered how I would put this in terms she’d understand. Then a flash of inspiration hit me:

Pokemon Card Collection

A Pokemon card collection

“Well, think about your Pokemon cards. Some of them are very rare and some of them are common, right? Give me the name of a rare one.”

“The Zapdos Holographic card,” my daughter answered instantly. “You can never find one of those.”

“All right, how about a common one? Something you get almost every time you open a pack of cards?”

“A Staryu.”

“Okay, now suppose you have a Zapdos Holographic card and I said to you, ‘I’ll trade you a Staryu card for your Zapdos Holographic.’ What would you say?”

“I’d say, ‘No way, are you crazy??'”

“Suppose I offered you fifty Staryus. Would you trade me then?”

“No way! I can get a Staryu in any pack. Zapdos Holos are really rare.”

“Exactly,” I explained. “That’s supply and demand. There are very few Zapdos Holo cards, and lots of kids who want them. The fewer there are of something and the more people who want them, the more valuable they become.

“The supply of Zapdos Holos is small, and the demand for them is high, so they’re valuable. The supply of Staryus is high and the demand is low, so they aren’t valuable.”

That clicked, and she understood, but didn’t get how this related to inflation.

“Ok, you know gold is valuable because it’s rare — supply and demand again: there isn’t much of it, and lots of people want it. You can’t really make more of it, because it has to be found, so its value doesn’t really change.

“Now, is there anything at all rare about pieces of paper?”

“No, that’s everywhere.”

“Right — paper isn’t valuable at all because there’s lots of it and not that many people want paper. Now, here’s where it gets complicated:

Continental Currency

Continental currency. Note the use of Spanish minted gold coins.

“Way back when the government first started printing money, the money was a certificate. If you had a dollar bill, you could take it to a government bank and exchange it for gold.”

This suitably impressed her. She was not, of course, aware that paper money ever represented gold.

“Ok, now we know the amount of gold in existence doesn’t change very much, so imagine you had a big bank vault with five hundred pounds of gold in it. You start issuing certificates for that gold: every certificate is worth a pound of gold. How many certificates could you print?”

“Five hundred.”

“Exactly,” I said. “And what happens if you print five hundred and one?”

“You don’t have enough gold. People could start asking for gold, and you’d run out.”

“Right! Now, as long as the government’s paper money was actually a certificate, they couldn’t print any more of it than there was gold. Because people in America might start asking for the gold, the government might run out if there were too many certificates, and people would get angry. Does that make sense?

“So when paper money is a certificate for gold, it’s stable. It will be exactly as valuable as the gold it can be redeemed for.”

Again, that made perfect sense to her.

“All right, so here’s how government screwed it up and caused inflation:

“Back in the beginning of the 20th century, the people in government said, ‘You know what, this whole gold thing is inconvenient. Let’s just use the paper money and forget about the gold.'”

This puzzled my daughter. “Why would they do that? The paper wouldn’t be worth anything, by itself.”

“You’re right about that — the paper is only worth something if people believe it is and act like it is. It’s not like gold, which is worth something because of supply and demand.

“As to why they did it, well, it was basically because they thought they could control what people did with the money easier with paper than they could with gold. What really happened was they made a huge mess of things.

“See, as soon as it didn’t matter any more how much paper the government printed, they started printing tons of it. When the paper was a certificate for gold, they had to worry that people who show up and want their gold. When the paper was just paper, they didn’t have any reason not to print money.

“What they basically did was take a Zapdos Holographic card and turn it into a Staryu by printing up lots and lots of them.”

“But … that’s stupid! Why would the government do that to its money? It doesn’t make sense!”

Action Comics #1

Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Superman. Considered to mark the historical beginning of the super-hero comic genre.

At this, I had to smile. “They did it over a long period of time, and at first very slowly. As an example, comic books were a dime for at least the first ten years of my life. Then, as government printed more money, it became a quarter. Then fifty cents. In the last ten years, it’s gone from a dollar to over two-and-a-half dollars.

“And the reason they did it, honey, is because the people in government don’t understand what you do about supply and demand. All they want is power, and they see controlling the money supply as a way to get it.

“They’re not interested in what makes sense or what’s best for people, they’re just interested in having something they can control for its own sake.

“There’s not a government in existence that, when given the power to print money, hasn’t printed it until it was worthless. Government should never have the power to print money, because it can’t be trusted with that power.”

Now my daughter was truly mystified. “Why don’t people stop them? Like vote for people who won’t inflate money?”

“Most people don’t know about supply and demand.”

“Wait — they don’t know about supply and demand?! But I know about it, it’s not that hard!”

“Well,” I admitted, “you now know more about supply and demand than the average high school graduate.

“Remember that the same people who want to control how people spend money also want to control what they learn. If they don’t tell you about supply and demand in school, that means no one will have the knowledge to try and stop them from inflating money.

“So I guess you can imagine why they don’t want people to learn about supply and demand.”

“But that’s not nice!”

“Well, unfortunately, honey, ‘nice’ isn’t something that government is.”

At which point, we arrived at the video store, prompting my daughter to observe, “Wow, Daddy, that was good timing! You finished that up just as we got here!”