Thursday, October 31, 2013

Innovation Gov't VS's Private Sector



Who does it better?
The Private Sector Or Government Supported Research?
The answer is both... in partnership


I found this presentation a bit hard to digest. What Mariana Mazzucato is trying to explain is that innovation begins with high risk huge investment dollars that only government can provide. She also goes on to explain that the government should retain a portion of ownership. Relying on taxes alone for a return on investment is a losing proposition. Government, by retaining a portion of ownership, could then profit which in return could provide future funding for additional research projects.

Let me clarify further with an example
Let us suppose government provides a grant for developing solar panels since few if any companies are willing to make the highly speculative investment into researching the science to develop them. Let us further suppose a design is successful. Current policy is that a company could then patent them and be allowed to manufacture them profiting 100% at the taxpayers' expense. Under Mariana's plan, the government would provide a grant with the understanding it retains a portion of the patent.

In the past and up to now, the United States government spends enormous amounts of money for research grants. She suggests the United States organize a special department for the funding of research. That this department be funded by retaining ownership at least in part. At the present time the Congress hands out all kinds of grants with no strings attached. If instead the grant was issued to the private sector with the understanding that government retained a 10% or 20% ownership with all the profits derived thereof, it would not only save taxpayer dollars, but provide future funding for research projects such as these.

Let me give you another example. In 2003 the government spent $34.3 billion on medical research. Most of which benefited the pharmaceutical companies which retailed the resultant drugs. Some of which outsourced the manufacture of them to foreign nations. In 2012 11 Major Drug Companies Raked in $85 billion in NET PROFITS. Had the government retained as a little as a 10% ownership this would have made $8.5 billion more available for further medical research.

There is not an investor group crazy enough to invest $34.3 billion doing medical research without expecting some sort of return for their investment. Government should be no different.

One would think whether it be a conservative who places their faith in the private sector or a liberal who supports larger government involvement, both would be onboard with this idea.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obamacare- Republicans Liked It Before They Hated It

Former White House special advisor Van Jones


The Republicans really blew an opportunity. The 'Heritage Foundation' once supported mandated coverage. Newt Gingrich supported the 'individual mandate'.



Had he Republicans played their cards right they could have snatched a victory out of Obama's hands. (1) They could have accused Democrats of having stole their plan. (2) They could have claimed (righteously or not) that it was the Democrats who blocked the Republicans from implementing healthcare overhaul they wanted all along. (3) Could have rallied the citizens behind them which would have allowed them the leverage needed to steer the outcome of this legislation while it was still in committee.

Had they gotten onboard early on they could have looked like the champions for ordinary citizens. They could have taken control of the message and ran with it for themselves. Instead they chose to oppose their own ideas making them look rather hypocritical.

1994 U.S. Senate Race in Massachusetts
Mitt Romney Once Supported Universal Healthcare

What happened between then & now?
Hint: Obama got elected


Since Obama got elected Republicans have pursued some really bad strategy. Not only for failing to support bipartisan government ideas, but made an even a worse decision for the Republican party brand itself. Seems to me they're not only making themselves look foolish, but kicking themselves in the ass as well.

There was once a time when I voted for Republican ideas like these. Things have changed since then. Today's Republicans no longer represent what they once did. I really truly wish they could recapture those days.

These days I have no stomach for tea, the confederate flag or what they've become. Mine may be only one vote, but mine is not the only vote among others who feel this way. Many of us old enough to remember can still recall the days when true Republicans stood for something other then 'the party of NO'. They may not be embarrassed, but I would be if I supported today's version of the Republican candidates.

Pope A Threat To The U.S.?

The NSA seems to thinks so

"The National Security Agency wiretapped the pope, the magazine said, accusing the United States of listening in to telephone calls to and from the Vatican, including the accommodation housing cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he was elected Pope Francis...


Bergoglio “had been a person of interest to the American secret services since 2005, according to Wikileaks.."



The Washington Post reports, "The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world...."

.."According to a top secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records..."

CAPTCHA Cracked

Huffington Post: Coders Say They Taught A Computer To Crack CAPTCHA
"CAPTCHAs serve that function: in order to sign up for free email, post comments, buy tickets or other online activities, more than 100,000 websites require users to prove they are human by deciphering the squiggly letters, which are often blurred, smeared and cluttered with dots and lines."

These guys say they aren't going to sell it nor provide the code to spammers. The thing is, if they can do it. So can someone else given the right kind of financial incentive by spammers who would love nothing more then to get a hold of it. When it comes down to computer software and security it is not a matter of 'if' but 'when' the latest software can be broken into.

Speaking About Computer Security..
I can think of no way better to protect yourself then to buy the best virus protection program you can. It may not eliminate all the threats, but one thing is for sure. Anyone who isn't using one is going to get whacked.

Spam is an annoyance, but viral malware is a entire beast altogether. It can not only cripple a computer, but also steal passwords for every account someone owns. Accounts that many now use online for their 401k, insurances, IRS filings, car renewals, social networking, purchasing, credit card payments, Social Security, unemployment, disability and 100's of others that most people rarely think about.

I myself recommend Symantec's Norton Antivirus Products. I've used this for over 15 years and can honestly state that I've never, ever once became infected. Not ever!

I know, there's been ongoing arguments over which is the fastest. Which uses the least memory. Which is the most effective, etc.

The arguments, for and against in a number of cases, are posted by the very software companies themselves trying to push their own products.



There are strong arguments against this, but I don't do updates from Microsoft. Nor individual apps if it's possible to avoid them. So far it has worked out for me.

Prior to re-installing Windows 7 two years ago I would do all the updates and patches. I noticed programs started to slow down and opening them took longer and longer. My memory usage was increasing. Since I've reinstalled Windows 7 all my apps, memory usage and operating system works like the day I did a clean install of them. Whether this is the right thing to do or not is a matter of one using their own judgment. I'm just telling you what has worked for me.

I'm also of the opinion many of these software manufacturers are using your permission to update for gathering information rather then providing an improved design. In a couple of instances after I updated the 'freeware' became 'feeware' that could no longer be used for free.

Whatever you decide is your call, but above all else... INSTALL VIRUS PROTECTION.. no matter what!

Anything short of that and someone might as well leave their wallet laying out in the street and the doors unlocked.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Woman Billed For Medical Screw Up



According to 'The Daily Mail' a Woman, 60, who almost died from fungal meningitis after being injected with MOLDY MEDICINE is suing the Tennessee hospital who billed her $500,000 to fight the very infection they gave her



I realize nobody's perfect, but I don't expect others to pay for someone else's screw ups. I do respect that it may not be the hospital's fault directly. It was the pharmaceutical firm's. However, at the food plant where I worked we checked all the ingredients coming in before we mixed them and put them out under our brand on the grocery shelves. I would expect at least the same kind of care when it comes to injecting ingredients into the body of a patient.

The right thing to do would be to treat the patient they infected w/o penalty. Then try and recover the costs from the guilty party, the pharmaceutical manufacturer. In this case the manufacturer declared bankruptcy. So the hospital preferred instead to stiff the patient. Had they properly tested the medication in the first place, all of this could have been avoided. So yes they have a responsibility in all of this. It defies all logic that they should profit off both their and the pharmaceutical failures.

I'm all for patients assuming financial responsibility for their treatment, but not when a hospital created a condition that didn't exist prior to a patient's arrival. It as if a car mechanic poked a hole in a gas tank while repairing the fuel pump and the car burned up. OR a plumber came in and flooded a house while replacing the bath tub with bad parts.

Screw ups happen because we're all human. I understand that, but I very much resent the medical community thinking they should get a pass when other professions are granted no such immunity. It's a shame that this woman will suffer both medically and financially under the legal system for the next 10 years through countless appeals in which she may never be compensated..

Above each classroom's chalkboards at the old Central Jr. H.S. in Allentown, where I went to school, was a sign that read 'Personal Responsibility'. I must admit I didn't have a lot of things that stuck with me after leaving school, but that saying meant more to me as I went through life then any other. I don't know why it was, but that has always remained at the forefront of my thoughts in dealing with others throughout my life above all else.



Those signs are no longer there. Apparently 'Personal Responsibility' these days isn't either.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Baby Bumpaholics Beware!


WPXI (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania )


Pennsylvania man charged with harassment for rubbing pregnant woman's stomach
Celebrities Who’ve Had Their Baby Bumps Grabbed In Public
Q&A: How to get people to stop touching my belly?

Eagles- Chip Is Sinking

What's a coach to do?

Chip Kelly is facing a dilemma. 33 year old Michael Vick is out of the game for a hamstring injury that occurred 21 days ago that should have healed in 14 after only 9 plays. His second stringer, Nick Foles, is still out of commission with a concussion. This leaves him no other choice then his third string quarterback Matt Barkley. After Sunday's loss to the Giants the Eagles now stand at 3 and 5 and in 2nd place in the NFC East

If the Eagles were in the NFC West they'd be at the bottom of the barrel and in the bottom half of both the NFC North and South. If the Eagles were in the American Football Conference they would be in the bottom half of the entire AFC. Only three other teams (out of 16) have a worse record right now then the Eagles in the AFC.

Which brings me to Andy Reid. Right now his Kansas City Chiefs are 8 and 0. At my granddaughter's wedding on Saturday, October 26th, 2013 this subject came up. I was told the reason why Andy Reid is doing so well this year is because of the experience he gained while in Philadelphia.

HUH.. I THINK NOT!
He had 14 years to get it together when he was with the Eagles. I don't buy that. Here's why.

A Quick Look Back At Andy's Stats
Andy coached the Eagles for 14 years from 1999 to 2012. He was fired from the Eagles last year after a .583 (130/93/1) overall career record. While with the Eagles Andy finished 1st place in the NFC East 6 times. In 2012, 2007 and 2005 was the only times the Eagles finished in last place under Andy. Last year the Eagles ended their season with a .266 record.


In 2005 the Eagles were .375 . In 2007 they ended up .500. According to those stats over the past 14 years, only once (last year) were the Eagles this far behind. Keep in mind the last time they had a .375 record was in 2005 when they finished the season in last place. Currently the Eagles stand at .375.

New Coach. Same Owner (since 1994)
For nearly 14 years Andy Reid was the unemotional stone faced coach on the Eagles sidelines. The guy hardly cracked a smile.

By game 7 with the Chiefs here's Andy now...


All this makes me wonder if Andy was under pressure from the Eagles owner. Could it be Andy wasn't allowed to assume full control like he might now have with the Kansas City Chiefs?

So is it the players?
Is it the coaches?
Or is it the owner?

I tend to think it's that latter in my opinion. While players and coaches have come and gone the owner of the team is the only thing that has remained the same. That and their lousy performance over the last few years.

Getting rid of Andy was the very best that could ever have happened for his career. He's happier. He's winning. It'll be a hoot to watch if his team should end up in the super bowl.

"I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin' flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get back in the race"

~ "That's Life" ~


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fish That Got Away



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Both Political Parties In The Nutshell

The conservatives (Republicans) favor privatizing education and retirement funding (Social Security ). Reducing/eliminating Medicare/Medicaid, food stamps and welfare. Reducing taxes for both companies and individuals via cutting government spending across the board (except for the military). Reducing/eliminating labor rights groups including the reduction of National Department of Labor regulations. Eliminating the minimum wage and unemployment benefits. Reducing government regulations on the environment, banking/wall street, logging, drilling and others to name a few.

The liberals (Democrats) generally speaking seek just the opposite.

Both Liberals (Democrats) and conservatives (Republicans) have become like a religion to each of their followers. There's very little that a non-partisan can say or do that will sway those who cling to their own particular party's rhetoric.

What Both Have In Common
* At the end of the day both party's have continued Gitmo.
* Both have elongated our military involvements and foreign aid.
* Both have expanded our use of drones in foreign nations.
* Both are close in agreement on raising the age for Social Security and Medicare as well as cutting funding for both programs.
* Neither party will reign in campaign funding, lobbyists nor PACs.
* Both do redistricting when they become the majority in office.
* Both will raid the treasury's tax revenues (one for corporations-the other for their perceived voting blocks).
* Both have expanded spying on U.S. citizens and foreign leaders.
* Both promise to make property owners whole after a disaster, but neither actually do.
* Both claim they are reigning in military spending when they are not.
* Both stick their noses into undermining foreign nations.
* Both claim to know what the American people want. Neither have the courage to put their words into action by asking for a nonbinding opinion (referendum) at the ballot box.


The bottom-line is this. No matter which party you choose, the outcome will pretty much be the same. Middle America is going to get screwed.

The only way anything is going to change is when Americans get fed up and angry enough to send both parties packing by voting for independent third party candidates.

Sadly I don't see that happening anytime soon. Most voters will continue being disillusioned thinking either party actually represents what they claim to represent.


American voters have had their chance over the years and overwhelmingly rejected the opportunities when they were presented.

2012 Third Party Presidential Debate


Friday, October 25, 2013

Les Trésors Allentown



Les Trésors
526 North St. Cloud Street, Unit 4
Allentown, PA 18104


First off I want to mention that I'm not being compensated in anyway to plug this store. I just thought it was something worth bringing to the attention of my readers since I'm very into supporting our local merchants.

We've already bought some gifts from this shop. The wife and I are trying to get ahead of the curve concerning Christmas gifts.

If your looking for something truly unique to give someone for Christmas this is the place for you. Les Trésors takes items that someone no longer wants or needs and 'repurposes' them. Located next to Jimmy's Barbershop at 526 N. St Cloud Street, Allentown, Pa., it has been open since August 2013.

There is no website for the shop, but its owner, Larry Moyer, does maintain a page on Facebook which says... We explore unique treasurers with renewed potential, selectively designed, to satisfy the decorating and gifting appetite of discriminate consumers. Objects of curiosity and interesting furnishings will excite your creativity.

Our furniture, accessories, and personalized gifts are created to meet budgetary constraints that will accommodate your home staging needs. We reintroduce “finds” for everyone’s individual tastes.

Our mission is to commit to the buying needs of the diverse community, while maintaining the highest levels of business integrity and pride. Introducing our clients to quality, “first time seen” handmade crafts and locally produced, will be at the centerpiece of our company’s goal.

Treasurers and great “finds” will include, but not limited to the following; jewelry, handbags, scarfs, picture frames, pottery, glassware, framed art and prints, candles, flower arrangements and wreaths, distinctive repurposed furniture, men’s gifts, antique buttons, vintage window frames, serving wares, brass and cast iron items, and much more.
Not only are you supporting folks trying to make a living here locally by repurposing items that otherwise might end up on the dump, but are also giving someone a truly unique gift that could never be found in any big-box store.

Even if your not interested in visiting the store here's 50 other Ways to Repurpose, Reuse and Upcycle Old Things.

Not Just Christmas.. Why Not All Year Long?



Many moons ago I took an old slab of marble laying in the dirt out back in the yard for years.
Had it polished and a local guy who does wrought iron welding make up a stand for it.



The late father-in-law returned from WWII with currency he came across while serving overseas.
I stuck them in some old frames with colored paper.


I encourage people to think outside-the-box. Recycle things you would otherwise throw away. Repurpose them. It's not only creative, saves things from the trash, but also is rewarding to look at. I'm glad I did. I'm sure you folks can come up with a few ideas of your own that surpass mine.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Healthcare Exchanges-- A Historical Perspective



I've noted many times that history repeats itself time and again. There's no way a reasonable person can put the current political noise over the 'Affordable Healthcare Act' into perspective without garnering a little bit of wisdom from history.

Been there. Done That
Way back on August 14th, 1935 when FDR signed Social Security into law all hell broke loose. Drew Pearson (a syndicated columnist) relentlessly published weekly on how Social Security cannot possibly work and how it would end up a utter failure. He insisted the promised SS benefits for millions of Americans would never materialize.

Indeed the implementation of Social Security was a logistical nightmare Keep in mind no one at the time had a SS number. There were thousands of names that were the same. There were no computers. Federal employees had to weed through some 3 million applicants. There were calls for firing many of those involved in it's roll-out. The Social Security program was even tested before the Supreme Court. Others called for scrapping idea altogether because it was too complicated to work.

Is this refrain not sounding all too familiar with what's happening today?

The story is a long an complicated one. Too long and complicated to discuss here. Folks who want dig into all the details can check out this information at SSA.gov. It comes from the perspective of John Corson III who was it's director off and on again from March 1938 to May 1944.

Today's detractors against the ACA have insisted this legislation is too large and complicated to ever work. Do they not realize today's Social Security contains over 2,728 rules along with thousands of pages explaining them? They can all be found within the Program Operating Manual System (POMS) online. Anyone who has dealt with Social Security can attest to it's competence despite it's complexity.


COMMENTARY
Impatience: Off With Their Heads--
Hundreds of experimenters tried to build a flying machine and failed. Early in our space program there were many failed rocket launches. Some satellites failed to reach orbit or failed to initialize. We've been searching for and failing to find many of the medical cures for ages. These and many hundreds of things man has attempted to do failed to happen as expected. The light bulb, telephone, computer and so forth. Had we taken our marbles and gone home, none of these things would be around today.

Had today's quitters been around in those early days and blown off Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, Charles Goodyear, Dr. Jonas Salk, the Wright Brothers and countless others for failing in their initial attempts we'd still be riding horses in the dark with a crippling case of Polio.

Let's face reality. Whenever we try to do something that's never been done before, things aren't going to come out-of-the-box 100% ready to go. There will be those who insist these exchanges should have been tried, tested and 100% ready to go before the public was ever exposed. Could that not be also said of the Hindenburg, Titanic or all the boiler explosions (both factory and steam train) here and elsewhere. Relax. Take A Chill Pill-- Nobody's going to directly die because these online sign-up exchanges are off to a rough start.

The Blame Game--
Should we fire HHR secretary Kathleen Sebelius? Fire the software contractor and/or 300 or so programmers? How about officials in the 36 states which failed to set up their own exchanges as they were requested to do? Before we start lobbing heads off, how about we start by looking at what went wrong and how we're going to fix it?

If people are so hot on firing I suggest they not look at the people who are trying to do their job and make things work. Instead focus on people that are trying to make things not work. You know, like people in Congress. The ones who are all too eager to point the finger (with their congressional oversight committee investigations) when they themselves had failed to do their own job by failing to come up with a working one year budget for the last five years. Have not come up with meaningful campaign reform, an immigration bill, tax reform, legislative action concerning voter ID laws, nor provided oversight to reign in the NSA/Homeland Security overreach or the failed military aide policy for Afghanistan .

The exchanges have only been online for a little over three weeks. The Congress, under Obama, has been around for five years and still hasn't gotten it's act together. If there are firings to be done let's make them in the proper order of priority.

Strategy for their own shortcomings is to go on offense rather then defense. These birds hope if they scream loud enough about the ACA's shortcomings people won't be paying attention to Congress's own incompetence.

Is the ACA all it can be? Not at this time.
When we get a new car and it gets a flat tire or needs repairs, we fix it. We don't throw it out. If a zeppelin blows up or a ship sinks we don't give up on flying or sailing. We try to make the very best improvements we can to them. This is no different from that.

SEE ALSO: 5 other botched rollouts of government programs



"That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history."
~Aldous Huxley~

He only is exempt from failures who makes no efforts."
~Richard Whately~


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jury Duty Run Amuck!

New mom faces ARREST because she took son she's breastfeeding to jury duty when there was no-one else to care for him

While women who are breast feeding are exempted from jury duty in 12 states, apparently Missouri isn't one of them. "Trickle is one of two breastfeeding Jackson County women who recently have faced possible penalties for not serving jury duty. It’s not that she isn't willing, she said. The issue is the timing,’ she said. ‘I just can’t do it right now."

I have particular outrage over this because my daughter just gave birth to twins last Monday, October 14th, 2013. The amount of attention that is required is far more then this joke of a judge has empathy nor understanding for both the mother and the baby(s). If this should happen to my daughter it would be our worst nightmare. She would suffer and so would her babies.

Kendall

Karissa
My daughter came home from the hospital last Thursday. The very next day, on Friday, the pediatricians wanted to see them. She also had to take them back on Monday yet again. I could rage on and on about how much we all have been required to pitch in. New mothers should never neglect their duty as a mother and drop their kid(s) because some blowhard in a robe says so.

This mother could face a $500 fine and some jail time away from her infant all for being a good mother. Who knows, she could end up spending more time in jail then the defendant may get for their crime!

It would be no big deal for this judge to excuse her from jury duty for 6 months or a year. Who the hell do these guys think they are. I sure as hell wouldn't want a heartless SOB like him presiding over my case.

If citizens are expected to respect the justice system, guys like him have to go. I find it very difficult to respect the law when the law doesn't respect citizens such as this mother.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Healthcare Exchange Sites Glitchy.. BIG DEAL!


We're only about 3 weeks into a 24 week sign up period.

Can't sign up on line?
No sweat Here's 7 other ways to sign up




In 14 states where they cooperated with the ACA by setting up their own enrollment sites this isn't a problem. The main problems are in the 36 states that have opposed the ACA and haven't set up their own software. Those are states where the federal government was forced to create the software for them. Keep in mind the complexity involved here when someone has to make software work in 36 states each somewhat different from the other. The 4 levels of coverage are only the beginning. In some states there are dozens of companies offering dozens of different plans in each. When your trying to develop software that accounts for hundreds of different options, it's no simple matter.

There a couple of other things going on here. When the 'Affordable Care Act' (ACA) was being legislated in congress, certain members did everything in their power to louse it up by making it far more complex then it needed to be. Since that time a couple of states said they'd do anything they could to make it difficult for people trying to sign up.

Initially what supporters of healthcare reform really wanted to do was expand Medicare. Medicare already has the people and excellent software in place for decades. Medicare also doesn't have these $4k-6k deductibles. The initial idea was to lower the age requirements lower and lower over time. By gradually phasing in younger contributors this would have allowed for younger healthier people to join up. In essence making it financially stable.

While it is true that Medicare is a government run program, it contracts out most of it's services to insurance companies to administer. Medicare would have still allowed insurance companies to profit by offering supplemental plans of all sorts.

So Why Didn't We?
Because there are certain rightwing members in congress that blocked it 100%. Even mentioning expanding Medicare was so taboo it couldn't have possibly made it out of committee. Think for a moment how smooth the transition could have been.

Now Let's Talk About Glitchy Software
Just today 'Facebook' was locked up for hours. Microsoft pulled it's first update for Windows 8 after it crashed computers. iPhone 5s users reported they had 'Blue Screen Of Death' crashes. In September Google experienced a 11 hour Gmail interruption.. Also in September Apple's online store went down ahead of iPhone 5c preorders. Even Windows updates can cause crashes after updating.

I've given you several examples of the problems even the most well tested software by long established huge companies can encounter. This is not to make excuses, but realistically speaking, there is no programming expert in the world who can guarantee new software will be 100% on it's initial roll out. Had we simply expanded Medicare none of this would have been a problem. The software was in place. The people were in place. The supplemental plans were already in place. The printed material is already available. Everyone already knows exactly what Medicare will pay for and how much.

The only reason ACA has become a mess is because Republicans hated on Medicare since day 1.

1961- Ronald Reagan
"Medicare Will Bring A Socialist Dictatorship"

Sound familiar?
Same Crap... Different Day!


I'm convinced the United States will never see, at the end of the day, what 58 other countries already have. Why not and which political party is standing in the way? Even a better question could be asked, what are the motives behind one political party being against it? Is it because of sincere ideological differences or is it really about one being more centered on their own financial gains then the other?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our 2001/2002 Cruises

Fall and the inevitable cold weather is soon approaching. This started me thinking about the cruises we took in the dead of Winter.

Snaps of Our 2001 Seven Day Caribbean Cruise



We enjoyed that one so much we took a 11 night cruise the very next year




Boohoo for me. Unless we win the lottery those two will remain our only cruises. Oh well, at least we had those to reminisce about. I feel more fortunate then many for having had the opportunity. Soon the cold weather will set in... onward we go.

There's still 34 more lottery drawings left till February

:-)


New Rules For Telemarketers


On Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 new rules went into effect for telemarketers. The FCC issued this document entitled, "FCC Strengthens Consumer Protections Against Telemarketing Robocalls".

I will copy/paste a bit of that document below. There are some really super cool protections for consumers. One requires telemarketers to now get your written permission before calling. A voice agreement won't do. It must be in writing.

It also requires an opt out at the beginning of the message.

The other big thing about this new regulation is the removal of the exemption that allowed robocallers to call if you had prior dealings with them. Things like your credit card or bank trying to sell you extra products. Nonprofits, schools and political campaigns however still remain exempt.

This new FCC regulation applies to not only land lines but texts to cellphones as well.

Here's a couple of copy/pastes from that link above...PART 64 – Subpart L – Restrictions on Telemarketing, Telephone Solicitation, and Facsimile Advertising

(3) Initiate any telephone call to any residential line using an artificial or prerecorded voice to deliver a message without the prior express written consent of the called party, unless the call;
(i) Is made for emergency purposes;
(ii) Is not made for a commercial purpose;
(iii) Is made for a commercial purpose but does not include or introduce an advertisement or constitute telemarketing;
(iv) Is made by or on behalf of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization; or
(v) Delivers a “health care” message made by, or on behalf of, a “covered entity” or its “business associate,” as those terms are defined in the HIPAA Privacy Rule, 45 C.F.R. § 160.103

(A) A prerecorded identification and opt-out message that is limited to disclosing that the call was for “telemarketing purposes” and states the name of the business, entity, or individual on whose behalf the call was placed, and a telephone number for such business, entity, or individual that permits the called person to make a do-not-call request during regular business hours for the duration of the telemarketing campaign; provided, that, such telephone number may not be a 900 number or any other number for which charges exceed local or long distance transmission charges, and
(B) An automated, interactive voice- and/or key press-activated opt-out mechanism that enables the called person to make a do-not-call request prior to terminating the call, including brief explanatory instructions on how to use such mechanism. When the called person elects to opt-out using such mechanism, the mechanism must automatically record the called person’s number to the seller’s do-not-call list and immediately terminate the call.

Finally these calls will stop.. right?
Whoa there sparky, not so fast. Call it coincidence. Call it laughter from the Gods. Call it what you will. As I was putting this post together I got an automated call. Imagine that. I'll tell you I was shocked! So I asked myself whether these birds didn't get the message or have they already found a way around to skirt this new regulation?

It's the latter. This automated telemarketer's call started off saying, "This is your last reminder that you may be missing out on big savings on your credit card... call us..." It's like I've always said, there wasn't a contract ever written or a law ever made someone couldn't figure out a way to get around. So you see they're not selling me anything. It's just a friendly warning about what I could be missing out on if I don't act now. Who could be angry with someone being worried about my financial well being?

Oh the compassion. The caring. The warmth of that automated voice emanating from my receiver to my ears from deep in the bowels of somewhere in the nether world. It has left me oozing with appreciation.

Here's a question. Who can I call about this? The FCC didn't give us a way to complain. There's no point in making a law or regulation if there are no provisions made for enforcing it. Well so much for that...

Sorry to waste your time...




This would have been more useful, I suppose...


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Britney Spears' live, isolated microphone feed



COMMENTARY
This is what happens when you have untrustworthy despicable audio engineers who upload these things. On the other hand 'Elvis', Freddy Mercury, Bruce and a lot of other performers focus their entireties on their vocal abilities. This instead of appearing to be able to dance and sing at the same time.

I think most fans would rather believe their idols can do both. In truth few can. It's called show biz. Show Biz is a world of fantasy and make believe. I'm not going to be hard on Britney because she's giving em' what they want. That's her style.

The stage has always been a magical place of illusion. Two minutes after the lights go out and the audience leaves for home reality sets in. The magic, the lights, orchestra and accolades disappear. They are addicted to the stage as much as others to drugs. They need to get their fix with regularity from the next show. When their fame and these shows stop happening for them it is then that they crash. I get that.

Living the life backstage in rock, Broadway or sports for that matter is not pretty. The magic only happens for the few hours they perform. I don't envy their addiction. I've posted this here for the purpose of bringing to the attention of my readers that these folks are real living human beings. They hurt. They feel. They should be respected for trying to share their visions with us. This gotcha stuff isn't very nice.

This wasn't meant to exploit her weakness. Rather to show how hard she's trying give it her all and doing the best she can with what talents she does have to give. Is there anything so wrong with that?

Has Internet Advertising Become The New Spam?




I'll give you a quick answer.. HELL YEAH!

The New York Post has reported on the drama going on at the Philadelphia-Inquirer. A few days ago one of the reasons the Editor-in-Chief was fired is because "...he failed to make changes to reshape the paper for the digital era.."


Well if one of those changes was the adding of 'pre-roll' video advertisements on every article a reader clicks on, the publisher has now succeeded into become a major spammer. Here's how I define spam. It's getting hit over the head with unwanted advertisements whether it's through email or a website. Spam is spam.. period!

I can't begin to tell you how annoying it has become to have to wait for a site to load and then have to scoot around the page trying to turn off some annoying advertisement video It's also unacceptable to be hit with a splash screen that blocks what your trying to read. I recommend to never click the close button. By doing so your confirming that you seen it and the advertiser will be billed for each click and the site is then financially rewarded. I usually just leave the page and Google it to read somewhere else or rely on RSS feeds. Why should anyone encourage this kind of behavior?

YouTube started out with 15 second pre-rolls which someone could click to skip. However more and more have becoming longer the 15secs as well as not having the option to skip. On most of the news sites now the landing pages are taking longer and longer to load. This is because some of them have a dozen or two offsite links to advertisers that have to appear before the page is fully loaded before anyone can read it.

These guys want money. I get that. What I don't get is charging a rate so low that they need to load up on two dozen in your face ads before someone can access the information they actually came to read. Here's a little assignment for my readers. Either write down or study the ads. Can you honestly say that your either interested in or have ever bought one thing because of them?

Both AM and FM Radio is a shadow of it's former days. This isn't just because people can stream or mp3 them. Radio DJs were once entertaining listening to inbetween recordings. No matter how hard I try, I can't stand 5 or 10 ads every other song. Again mostly useless crap I will never buy. And yes TV's headed that way real fast too.

TV, radio and the internet has become nothing more then spam filled graffiti which has taken over the purpose to which people tune in or visit... for entertainment and/or information. No I don't want to hear a half a dozen promos for other TV shows I'll never watch. No I do not want to take a detailed look at the weather 3x's a half hour during a newscast. No I do not want boner pills. No I do not want a new car. No I don't want to hear about how I can succumb to the side affects of your toxic medications. No I'm not interested in gold, low 'T', menstrual pads or how bears wipe their *ss with toilet paper for that matter either!

Twenty minutes of each hour is wasted for ads on TV and radio. Now it seems 20% of our bandwidth is being wasted trying to read or watch a video on the internet as well.

I long for the days when junk mail was king. The post office made money. The printers made money. AND... it only took 2 minutes to toss it into the recycling bin or trash. Spam is spam. Whether it's junk mail, on our nation's airwaves or on the internet. These days I could most certainly waste far more then 2 minutes out of the day on this stuff.

Here's I few ways I've been dealing with all of this.
* I'm DVR'ing my favorite TV shows saving about 15-20 minutes an hour
* I use a YouTube downloader (no ads)
* I use RSS feeds for my favorite internet sites.
* Despite being on the 'Do Not Call' list, I screen my phone calls
* I use eMail blocker options
* I use a surveillance camera at my front door to avoid door-to-door pests


There's one more thing I have in my toolbox when I'm near my computer....
video
I use this for all my unsolicited phone calls

I hold my phone up to the recording coming from my computer speakers.

Here's how this works...
Did you ever answer the phone and the robo call starts after 2 seconds? The reason is this. For 2 seconds the robo call computer is listening for both those tones and the announcement. If it hears those two things (tone+voice recognition announcement), it removes the number from it's recall list. When it's a live operator making the call this also helps. However using it on your voice mailbox will not work because it is not the first tone encountered. It has a tone which confirms to the operator or robo call computer they are accessing voice mail.

I'm not just complaining about these goombahs. I'm also taking active measures to try and combat them. Good luck in your efforts if you feel the same way. :-)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Should Schools Close For Muslim Holy Days?

The New York Daily News reported--
"Both Bill de Blasio, Joe Lhota say schools should close on Muslim holidays"

The Global Post also reported on this--
"New York pupils could get Muslim school holidays"

This blog has always taken the position that schools shouldn't close for Muslims' holy days. Neither should they for any religious holiday what-so-ever for that matter. This includes not closing them for Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists nor any other religion. Not even for atheists. Here's why.

I've addressed this before back on September 7, 2010 with a post entitled "Religion And School Calendar Conflicts" I will now repost it once again in full below.

Although the link to the Allentown School District's
2010-2011 calendar no longer exists, the other links still do

Also keep in mind the dates for the holidays were those which occurred in 2010-2011

~ ~ ~



Religion And School Calendar Conflicts

According to Reuters News Service, Muslims want certain religious holidays off for their kids who attend New York City public schools. Muslims observe 11 holidays. Not any which fall on any of the public schools' days off. And they aren't happy!


Before I discuss the Muslims' request take a look at this "INTERFAITH CALENDAR".

This request may only be the tip of the iceberg. So many faiths. So many "Holy" days. This could just be the beginning of the school administrators nightmare on how to accommodate such requests. Most likely each of these religions will challenge schools in various courts.


Before everyone gets their panties in a ruffle, I have some rather simple suggestions I will present shortly for your consideration.



Public schools already have the former Christian holidays covered by calling them "Winter Holidays". This takes care of the Christians and the Kwanzaa folks. (Since Kwanzaa falls on Dec. 26, 2010).

Each year the "Spring Holidays" overlap Good Friday. These skirt the legal issues surrounding major Christian religious observances.

Some of the other more significant "holy" days remaining in December are; Dec. 2-9: Hanukkah * - Jewish

Dec. 8: Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) ** - Buddhism

Dec. 21: Solstice-Yule * - Wicca/Pagan Northern hemisphere

How can our public schools accommodate all of these and stay out of future legal squabbles?

Based on the Allentown School District 2010-2011 calendar, here's what I've come up with.

Let's take December's Winter Holidays (Dec. 24 & 27-31). The Martin Luther King day (Jan. 17). Add in the President's Holidays (Feb. 18 & 21). The three days of Spring Holidays (April 21,22 &25). There are 3 more for Thanksgiving. 1 more for Memorial day.

This gives us a total of 16 days to work with. Let's rename them PD's (Personal Days). These PD's would apply to both teachers and students.

These then would be days that schools were no longer closed on.

Before September 1st of each school year both students and teachers would be required to fill out request forms in order to receive their desired "Personal Days" off. The order of priority would favor those who require religious leave for their various faiths. This makes provisions for even the atheist that walk among us and have their own objections to these religious holidays.

By submitting these days in advance the school administration would have a heads up regarding the required staffing for those days. Based on staffing requirements, the school then can make a certain number of slots available for those teachers, who request them, to take off. Firstly based on their religious needs. Secondly by order of seniority.

As in having any such days off, academics would have to made up by those who have missed those lesson days.

There are three advantages to this. Number #1 is the schools wouldn't get involved in a protracted courtroom legal battles. Number #2, everyone gets the days most significant to them. Number #3, it doesn't pit people against one another as they exercise their individual religious freedoms.

---



We have become is a nation of peoples who shout at one another. Shortly this matter may come up and become an explosive issue in the media. It needn't be so with the plan I offered.

Quite simply we can accommodate one another if we just use our intellect (brains) before our emotions (mouths). What I have presented is a common sense solution.

Whether the motives for these religious holiday requests are driven by Muslims (anyone else for that matter) with impure intent just to stir the pot OR whether the motives are genuine, this diffuses the entire matter before it gets all ginned up by those who seek to destroy America by creating self destructing division within.

Make no mistake there are those who seek to pit us against one another. "Divide & Conquer". Right now it looks like those with malicious intentions are gaining the edge.

Right now is the time to show the world America can unite as one nation. That we can find solutions irregardless of our differences. Failure to do so, will weaken us and lead us to fail as a nation.

What better place to start then with our youth?

What better way could we "teach" our youth on how to get along with one another?

Before I wrap this up.. please take a moment and allow me to introduce my former college professors
(1937)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Lot On My Mind

Things I'd like to blog about.. But I'm not going to at this time

(1) After the U.S. Congress passed the budget and debt deals for the next 90 days there are those who promise the fight will be even bigger in the next round. There is a power struggle in the Republican led House. Who will win? Moderates or those on the hard right? I think I have a pretty good idea. Everyone on Medicare and Social Security should be scared... very scared!.

(2) I have a bunch of thoughts regarding the East Penn school board member and his love life. The foremost being that not all 15 and 16 year old girls are victims based on my own personal experience. Generally everyone assumes guys are the aggressor. This isn't what I've found to be the case when I was 18 years old.

(3) There's talk again about restoring rail service. My thoughts go along the lines of which should come first the chicken or the egg?

(4) I've become a grandpa again for the 4th time with my daughter giving birth to twin girls. A lot has changed since the birth of my son. In those days all you had to do was pull up with the car in front of the hospital. Mom crawled in and held the baby for the ride home. Oy Vey, No Way, Today! Required seat inspections, dozens of forms, instructional videos and a whole lot more before a mother is allowed to take her infants home. Is it over the top or not? Another thing I'd like to address.

(5) Bethlehem's going to look into building a stadium/arena building. I have some strong feelings, whether these things are successful or not. Should taxpayers be forced into investing in the entertainment business? What should or should not government dollars go towards? Yeah I have a bunch of thoughts on that too.

(6) Historical bridges. Should they go or stay? Dams. Take them all away willy nilly or should we keep some of them for very good reasons?

(7) Can we save taxpayers $9 billion on welfare, food stamps and other federal benefits by simply raising minimum wages for the working poor?

(8) There's a huge difference between this generation of youths compared to the previous generation. I'd love to discuss those bio-evolutionary changes. One reaches their prime energy levels at the crack of dawn. The other in late afternoon or evening. (It has little to do with sociological conditioning)

(9) Recently there was a brouhaha over some guy using his lawn for growing edibles. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some spend large amounts of money to tour small villages in Europe who find this both aesthetically pleasing to the eye and practical. I have a lot of thoughts on this as well.

(10) If the United States weren't paying for policing the rest of the world, we could save trillion$ while most likely making friends instead of adversaries.



Blogs-- Quality versus Quantity
Why I Won't Post At This Time

I've only had seven people interact with me so far this year. Response has been poor. In fact, as I was composing this I received this...


It's apparent that 90% of the readers of this blog and others aren't looking for informational opinions. Most would prefer to engage in inflammatory rhetorical accusations that have little to do with advancing the discussion at hand. That's my nice way of saying (like politicians in Washington) most people prefer to be trash talking bullies rather then contributors. It's also a nice way of me saying people don't deserve a quality blog that makes every effort to avoid being a classless anonymous bottom feeding troll just to get a bunch of hits.

It would be easy for me to pick out the hot button issue of the day here locally and run with it. I've tried deliberately to introduce subjects that other bloggers aren't publishing about. I did this intentionally in an effort to set this blog apart from what everyone else is talking about.

The Point Is..
If you are now reading this blog and failed to participate, by engaging with me via comments, what's my incentive for speaking about those 10 items that I mentioned (and many others)?

This isn't about what I think so much as my attempt to begin a discussion on them. I never intended to become popular nor well liked. What I hoped for was to stimulate just enough folks to think about things that I have brought up. It's become exceedingly apparent to me that I've failed to accomplish this objective.

There are a few of my detractors who will say, there he goes again whining and bellyaching for the umpteenth time. This may be so, but I also have observed these very same people have visited this blog with regularity. Some have even used these posts of mine as a source for their own even though they've gone to extreme measures to reedit my ideas as if they were their own.

Yes, I want to be recognized for my efforts.
No, I do not want to acknowledged elsewhere. What I do desire is a comment or two by the readers who I do know read my stuff frequently. I have no problem if done anonymously. What I do have a problem with is the fact so few are willing to leave their thoughts after what I know are more then just a few casual visitors. What I find frustrating is after I spend a lot on time on these posts and after people read them, they will not take a minute or two to give me a shout out. How about a little courtesy via a response?

That would greatly be appreciated,
                    LVCI

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Congressional Jackass Speaks

This morning (Wednesday, October 16, 2013) Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) blasted NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis on why Occupy Wall Street protestors were allowed to camp in McPherson Square in 2011 but World War II veterans were not allowed to visit open-air monuments last weekend.



Because, JACKASS, there was no government shutdown in 2011 !!!

If a half a dozen more morons get elected like this in Washington, D.C. in the next election and we're screwed. Why would anyone with half a brain want to work in Washington under these idiots is beyond me.