Archive for May, 2015

More economic thoughts

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

So, more and more I am liking the idea of a bucketed currency.

One of the big reasons why is that politicians (especially right wingers, but politicians in general) like to talk about how they ‘can’t afford to do things’. One big reason for this is that our current rather broken, not to mention stupid economic system doesn’t actually keep track of the resources we have at all. Therefore, when we, for example, say that we “can’t afford” national healthcare, the truth is, we don’t even know how much it would cost! Everything gets squashed into a floating point value we call “money”, and the “money” to real resource conversion is arbitrary and generally driven by things like scarcity. It’s not a value that indicates the real value of the resource, or else fracking would never have gotten off the ground. (Any 3 year old can tell you water is more valuable than any petrochemical).

I know that it would be a major endeavor to create a bucketed currency system. I’m talking about having separate buckets to track skilled man hours in every major skill, every type of metal, energy, transit cost, etc. I’m talking about tracking a hundred thousand buckets on every product. This is something that is well within the technology we use today, but it’s a rather radical shift from the “We turn everything into one price and call it money” system that we currently use.

However, the only way you know if you can afford national healthcare, for example, is if you know how many man-hours you have of people skilled in the medical arts, and about how many people are going to need those skills. This is again kindergarden stuff, but it’s not something that seems to be widely acknowledged.

“But, with a bucketed currency system, how would we know what people could afford?”. That’s a very good question, and not one I have a great answer for yet. However, well written software could at the very least ensure that everyone had a place to live and food to eat. Yes, I’m talking about communism. I think communism could have worked if they’d had better tools to use when they were creating it.

Of course, then the next question is, why would *I* want this? I’m in the top 2% of my industry, skill wise, and I get paid very well because of it. On the other paw, I feel awful every time another friend tells me about being evicted, or about struggling to pay their medical bills. As near as I can tell, almost everyone out there is hurting. Even the 1% – at the point at which they become the 1%, they no longer have any idea who they can trust – who is really their friend, and who is just out for their money. You will note that I will not sign up to *BE* the 1%. I’m fairly sure if it was a goal of mine, I could do it. It’s not. But while I see us having made amazing strides in technology, I see a world where a whole lot of people are stressed, scared, and unhappy, be they at the bottom of the ladder or the top. And I’d really, really like us to find ways to fix that. I think that a ‘everybody eats’ policy would go a long way towards that, and I think that it’s very doable.

Me and Tory ride again

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

So, for those of you who remember Tory from, among other things, Mischief Committee, we have been getting together and doing some tracking.

Here, for your listening pleasure:

track one
track two

In other news, I upgraded the virtual host that serves qm, so we again have disk space (yay!) and memory (double yay!). We actually have a fair amount of spare capacity on that machine now, which is a very nice feeling. QM and Brigandine both got upgraded to all-SSD operation, we got more disk for storing backups, and in general things were improved all around.

Luna continues to drive me nuts, she’s quite a furry little ball of energy. But, I love her.

And I continue to work on myself, as always.

On the lighter side..

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

Today was my birthday, and 44 people commented on my wall.. plus got to have sushi crack with Bruce. I have to remind myself to look at the good stuff sometimes.. and there certainly is a lot of good stuff…


Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

So, despite my best intentions to stay as far away from the news as possible (on the theory that there’s very little I can do to improve the situation, and that generally the news is going to bring me down) I have lately been somewhat more immersed than usual in recent happenings.

One of the problems with the Baltemore riots is that I can so clearly see both sides. I don’t really blame the police – in fact, I feel sorry for the police. I blame the system that put them in this situation. The system that over and over protected cops who had clearly done wrong, and worse yet, the system that loves to punish, that thinks the best thing we can do to a criminal is lock them in a cold, scary box for years.

I don’t think I can adequately explain how dumb this is. Yes, take someone who’s probably already mentally ill, and give them a real legitimate reason to hate the rest of us. Then when you let him out, I’m sure he’ll be a much better citizen. Even scarier, add a profit motive to imprisoning people (I foolishly watched Cash For Kids, and now there’s a part of me that wants to rip apart the entire criminal justice system brick by brick).

Increasingly I wonder if we as a species have decided that we deserve to be in hell, and have decided to try and build it. Things like the drug war – yes, let’s criminalize wanting to feel good! That makes a lot of sense! Let’s give every cop a reason to suspect every citizen, and vice versa. Let’s lie to the population, even though we know we’re going to get caught lying to them, to make absolutely sure that the citizens don’t trust the government – and let’s make it neon sign clear that the government does not trust the citizens.

I would love a exit strategy from Earth. There are a lot of wonderful things.. like puppies and kittens and sex and love and music.. but the place has gotten so scary. There are so many rules, so many forms to fill out, and it seems like it gets more complicated every day. And, there are so many people who are either impressively stupid or impressively underinformed. When people talk about what the government can afford to do, they measure in the totally broken resource allocation system we call “money” instead of in real tangible resources like man hours, kilowatt hours, and metals and food. Our resource allocation system manages to mask the fact that we have the resources to feed, clothe, and house everyone, especially when you take into account the wonders we can do using automation.

But, instead.. how am I not supposed to be afraid of the police when I see them on the news killing innocent people, and a cop doesn’t even lose his right to carry if he shoots a innocent civilian – often, he gets a paid vacation! How am I not supposed to be afraid of a government that thinks it needs to *UPGRADE* it’s ICBMs? That thought that fission weapons weren’t enough, we need *fusion* weapons. That appears to have no concept in what a sensible government would be doing to prepare for the future – instead of pouring money into space, and energy research, and automation of food production, and desalinization – is convinced the winning strategy is to maintain the biggest army in the world so it can fight for the last drop of oil (and, increasingly I suspect, the last drop of water).

Our government does a *grave* disservice to our guardians. They are supposed to be *OUR* guardians, and we are supposed to live in *our* town, on *our* planet. We are supposed to feel pride when we see them standing in the street, knowing they keep *our* laws and *our* systems working. But instead – the government makes so many laws, and so many of them are boneheaded, that I can’t honestly tell you if I committed a crime today or not. I don’t *think* I did.. but with hundreds of thousands of pages of rules, who can tell?

Have the people who write our laws never heard of KISS? Or, as I mentioned above, are they actively *trying* to build hell? That’s not even getting into the mess that is relationships in the modern world, or family in the modern world. Why is everything so broken?

Part of what I don’t understand is how the cops don’t understand humanity at last has a central nervous system that they don’t and can’t control. If they kill innocents, word is going to get out, because we have the internet and everyone is carrying a video camera. The only way the current situation can end is either de-escalation or civil war. De-escalation is going to have to involve freeing a lot of prisoners, as well, and figuring out how we’re going to afford to build real mental hospitals that actually fix people to run all of them through. Not to mention, it’s going to take the government getting down on it’s knees to the citizens and saying “We’re sorry.”

I could gesture you to all sorts of forms of brokenness.. from the idea that it’s okay to force children into a “learn what we tell you to” system and then *grade them* and tell most of them they’re not good enough – to the idea that there’s a God of Entrapment, who’s just setting you up to be tortured for all eternity if you do things that feel good. (I’m looking at you, Mormons and certain brands of Christians!). The idea that we’re all so awful that anyone would have to “die for our sins” – that’s a incredibly unhealthy, not to mention insane, thing to believe.

But I don’t *want* to see a civil war between the cops and the citizens.. there are moments when I’m so angry that I can understand why people would take up arms against the government, but most of the time I remember that 9 out of every 10 cops I have met have been good, hardworking people trying to hold it together, and that someone doesn’t stop being human, with feelings and needs, when they put on a uniform and strap on a gun.

And the truth of the matter is, I *want* *GOOD* guardians. I want to be able to say with pride “I don’t need a gun, because these people carry them and they do a good job of keeping the peace”. I want to feel like it’s not true that jails are meant to punish, and run for profit. I want to feel like it’s not true that the only way you have a chance to not go to jail if you are mentally ill is if you have a good job and a lot of money for lawyers.

I *know* we have it within us to make earth far more utopian than dystopian. I have seen the work of our hands and the work of our minds. But we need to throw out religion, and we need to throw out money in favor of a better and more functional resource allocation system, and we need to start making this a place that we would *want* to come to. We need to start remembering that everyone here is, at least in some sense, our friend and fellow traveler.

I have often been tempted to write Speedycop (a police officer who drives at Lemons) a letter asking what he thinks about all this. I am convinced, perhaps without rational reason, that he is a good guardian. Most of my logic here is that he has demonstrated excellent craftsmanship and a great sense of humor, and it’s hard for me to believe that he could be such a good person on the track and be a bad person on his day job. I just don’t see him shooting innocents or beating them. I wonder, do the bad cops scare the good cops? I also suspect that maybe the cops protect their own because they *know* the criminal justice system is fucked and as a result sending people to jail breaks them worse. I have to wonder why, in that case, they arrest anyone – the Milgram effect maybe?

I’m going to leave you all with a sketch of a track I’m working on.. ultimately I hope to make this a song about the cold war, and about the prisoner’s dilemma and two tribes meeting in a forest, as more of a rock song, but this is more a orchestral, movie soundtrack kind of cut. And I’d like to dedicate it to the idea that maybe we could stop making Earth hell-like.

Two Sides