Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Abuse Scandal and America

At what point did our men and women decide to start treating the prisoners captured in anything less than a dignified and respectful way? Whether it was their own invention, or orders from their superiors, does not matter. We are in a delicate situation at best--and an explosive one at worse--in the Middle East and we need to act in as restrained and dignified a manner as possible to uphold the name of the United States. This includes how we treat all nonmilitary people, military personnel, and prisoners.

It is shameful to the entire nation that this abuse scandal has leaked out. There should not be anything to leak. I've heard the argument that, "Even so, we still are treating the prisoners better than Saddam did." These people do not understand the point. If we are trying to espouse the benefits of our democracy, if we are trying to change the world and lead by example, our example must be better than any other nation on Earth. When we make a military commitment to something, our military must act decisively, humanely, and with as much decency as possible in the hellish environment that is war. We must treat each detainee as if he is our family. Each high-ranking political figure we capture must be treated with absolute respect and full disclosure.

And we must start training and involving the nonmilitary people in the rebuilding efforts immediately. If they have a personal stake in the new nation as it rises from the ashes of the old, then they will fight harder against those who wish to destroy what is rebuilt, will help us in all aspects of our time in their nation, and will create a stronger foundation on which the new nation can stand as it takes the first steps toward democracy.

It is these actions, the humane treatment of even our most hated enemies, the education of nonmilitary indigenous people, and the respect we show to all people and cultures that will be our greatest weapon in fighting terrorism and nondemocratic nations.

All of this has been jeopardized by a few bad seeds (again, whether grunts or officers, military or nonmilitary) who were given a little bit of power and abused it in a horrendous manner.

Friday, May 14, 2004

A moneyless society

I think we can start moving the world toward a moneyless society. Let me explain.

The end goal would be for each person to be allocated the essentials (food, shelter, clothes) and then be free to pursue their own goals through the free exchange of skills and abilities. In this way, no one wants for the essentials and money is taken out of the equation. Just imagine what you could do and learn if you didn’t have to constantly strive to keep yourself fed, clothed, and sheltered, let alone all the amenities that people want. Obviously, there would have to be some sort of governmental infrastructure to allow much of this to happen, the workings of which I have not fully worked out yet. That's for another post.

In order to start striving for this goal, we need to start bartering our skills and knowledge to each other directly rather than for money (that we then use to buy what we need and want).

I envision a web-site that has a Skills Available and a Tasks Needed area, like the classifieds in a newspaper, where you could post one or the other. It would include chat boards (both public and private) where interested parties could hook up and negotiate the services rendered. Lastly, there would be a contract area where both users, after successfully negotiating the barter, would sign a binding agreement that no money would be exchanged, what services would be rendered by each to the other participant, and that neither can seek legal redress against the other (except under the strictest of terms).

For example, I could post under Skills Available something like:

"Skills: Writer and editor. Primarily versed in creative and technical writing areas. Good at "big picture" views/overviews. Skilled in Microsoft Office and Framemaker applications for writing/editing. Available for work most evenings and weekends.

Tasks: I need a program to track my comic book collection. Must be done to exacting specifications for user interface and reports, but choice of programming language, internal structure, and internal design up to programmer."


Now, someone with programming skills who needs help with a story concept he has could then contact me through the site and we could enter negotiations. Once we discussed the various projects and agreed to perform them, we would move to the contracts sections and electronically sign the binding barter agreement.

The beauty of this agreement, in my mind, is that you get people who WANT to do something working on your project. You are, in essence, asking someone who has the time and energy to simply help you. In exchange, you are willing to help them.

Another plus is that you can agree to do something in an unbalanced fashion. Still using my example from above, let's say that after reviewing my program request, the individual agrees to do it and believes it will take him a week working evenings and weekends. However, the story concept that he presents to me is a large, complex fiction that will need to be researched thoroughly, outlines and character designs will be needed, with the end result being a novel that may take 2 years to write. I can still make the "uneven" barter if I truly desire to do the work. The point is, we agree to that NOW, at the beginning and upfront with each other. Maybe as part of the agreement, he agrees to do other projects for me. Maybe the person in question has skills in other areas I could use; he is an auto mechanic by day who has learned and enjoys programming in his off-time. Maybe we agree that I will write his story and he will create my program and do some work on my vehicle.

The point is we are trading the unique skills and knowledge that we both have to get the things we need/want. We are bartering personal interests and needs rather than money and goods.

Are there holes in my theory and in my initial ideas for creating a utopian society where money is an anachronism and people trade skills and knowledge? Of course. But I'm willing to trade my skills with someone who can help fill in those holes.

It's a first step; an idea to strive for. And if we put enough first steps together, who knows how far we can go?

One more poem I'll share

The Abyss

There is a lost, lonely little boy cringing inside.
He shivers slightly, but is afraid to move.
It is a frightening place there, outside.

All this urchin sees is humiliation and abuse.
He hugs his knees to his chest and
Prays there's something beyond the refuse.

"God" and "evil" are foreign concepts to the boy.
All he feels is pain and loneliness and fear.
This child's life has no room for hope or joy.

The world outside and the people around rush by him.
He wants to join in, live, and grow, but
His fear of failure overcomes this whim.

He prays for helping hands to guide him through his wilderness,
But closes his eyes and sinks deeper, deeper inside.
All he can see through his fear and pain is the Abyss.

And the Abyss sees him.


06/97

------------------
Again, this is intellectual property and you must obtain written permission from the author (that's still me) to use this in any way. Thanx!

An old favorite of mine

Society’s Mirror

I’m cold
Inside and out
An unfeeling
Monster
Who hurts
People
It’s all an
Act
The smiles
And frowns
During the day
I’m numb and
Uncaring toward
You and
What you
Want
A sterile
Machine
That’s either
On
Or off
I’m frozen
Unmoved by
Your cries
Pity me
For I’m
Just
Like
You

-----------------
I wrote this in the early 90s. Remarkable how often I still feel this way.

BTW, this is intellectual property and you cannot use it without written permission of the author (me!). Thanx for your understanding.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Potential Greatness

Is it better:

  1. To have the potential to be great, to possibly have what it takes to be the best at something, or
  2. To have the potential to inspire greatness in others?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

The world economy and America

From the 40s through the mid-70s, there was more of a partnership between companies and workers. When companies were going through a slump, they told the workers and asked for their help in tightening belts and pulling on boots-straps to overcome the situation. Workers, for their part, helped if they could and got the benefit of life-long jobs and known retirements and benefits.

In the late 70s and 80s, this started to change and took strong hold in the 90s. Workers started job hopping, staying on average 2-3 years at any one job then moving on. Companies started to look more at the bottom line and stock valuation than at their company as a whole (including those who worked for the company). The age of the trolling CEO came into being, where a CEO would job hop as often as their employees; moving from one company, slashing it to bits and making it look profitable to Wall Street, then moving on and leaving a company divest of employees and, in many cases, ripe for a takeover.

Then we had the internet stock boom and bust where all of these practices really came to a head. People were overnight becoming millionaires and the next day were dirt poor again.

Since September 11, we have lost more jobs and companies and the government has been largely unable to create new ones. Our industries are in the crux of change; outsourcing is become a threat to the American worker, Wall Street is continuing to overvalue profits as compared to the stability of companies, and "good enough" just doesn't seem to be enough any more.

All of this leads to a cautious work environment where everyone is afraid to talk with everyone else. From management to workers, and even among workers within each group, people don't communicate. Adding the fears of outsourcing, an underperforming job market, and fears of further war and terrorism, and we've created a nation of people afraid of everything.

I don't know what the exact solution to all of these problems is, but I do have some suggestions:

1. Management opens up. Rather than keeping possibly layoffs a secret until the employee shows up and find out they are out of a job, management can go back to the days when they would warn that this might happen. They can throw in with the workers and attempt to work on a solution together.

2. Respect your fellow workers. Management can start to rely on workers to do the right thing and workers can start relying once again on management looking out for them. Ask the workers if they would be willing to take a temporary pay cut of 3% in order to make numbers and not lose any jobs. I'm willing to bet, as long as management lives up to their end of the agreement (making the cut temporary and not cutting the jobs) that workers would rather do that than face the prospect of months out of work. Workers need to work in an atmosphere of trust and cooperation from which the company as a whole will benefit.

3. End raiding. Instead of everyone moving around every couple of years, start staying put. Become an expert in your field. Do what you do best. Create an invaluable niche in your workplace that only you fill. This goes for workers AND management. This also leads to a stable work environment and stability for the company in general.

4. End Wall Street fear. Wall Street needs to stop reacting to "bad news" that a company made it's projections instead of exceeding them and instead start buying in to those companies. Companies that make their projections are stable, solid, assured. Praise them for their stability. Stop devaluing good, solid investments because you can't get rich short term. Start valuing them because that's a company you want your money in for the long haul.

5. Outsourcing. There is no way for American worker's needs to counter the much different economic situation in foreign countries. However, I have two suggestions:
A. If outsourcing is something you fear, contact companies and ask if they outsource to other countries. If they say yes, tell the company representative that you will no longer use their company's products/services until they stop that practice. This gives the company in question a specific reason why you won't shop there and also takes money away from their bottom line.
B. Every job that is outsourced means a small boost to the economy of the country in question. For example, in a recent report on India, it said that the average worker there makes the equivalent of $300 a year American. A recent software company that opened a division in India is paying their people $3000 a year American. That will affect the stability of India's economy as more countries outsource jobs to this country and wages in India continue to improve.

We are only beginning the first movement of the pendulum as it starts to swing. Many of us will be greatly affected by these changes. However, in the long run, third and second world nations will receive the money they need to improve their lifestyle and potentially reach 1st world status. As they do so, the pendulum will swing back as America continues to lead the way in different economic areas and new jobs do, eventually, get created. None of this can happen without a feeling of trust, confidence, and positivity. Reporters need to start presenting us with the positive sides to the stories; government needs to start looking to the positive side to these changes; and people need to stop living in fear and start learning to trust again. These could very well be the first baby steps we take toward a money-less society not driven by fear and want, but by desires and inspiration.

Let's find a way to reach for that brass ring.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Spam

The quickest, easiest way to stop spam, those annoying bulk emails you receive offering you penis enlargements, free vacations, and porn, is to make sending email cost money. I propose a pricing plan equivalent to 1/10 of a penny per email or address. By this I mean that if there is one email address in the to/cc/bcc field of an email, that email costs you 1/10 of a penny. If there are 10 addresss total in your to/cc/bcc fields, that email would cost you one full cent.

For over 90% of the users of the internet this would mean they would spend a few dollars per YEAR on emails. At 1/10 of a penny per address used, $1 would allow you 1,000 (100 cents in a dollar times 10 emails per full cent) addresses. When you look at your Sent list, how often have you reached a thousand emails and how often do you include more than one person on any one email?

However, to a spammer who is generally sending bulk emails to thousands of addresses per email sent or thousands of emails to individual addresses, this adds up quickly. It is my understanding that "small-time" spammers generally send around 10,000 emails a day. At my proposed pricing plan, that would be $10 per day. Over a year, that's $3,650.

A "big-time" spammer, who is typically doing this type of bulk emailing "professionally" using specific softwares and buying email lists from companies, etc., sends 100,000 emails a day or more. That is $100 a day or $36,500 a year. They would need to pay the average American's yearly salary just on one person sending out the average amount of spam per day. Which means, on top of the costs for buying addresses, professional software, etc., they would need to get enough "hits" to make more than that amount per year in order for it to be cost effective.

In a typical day, I receive around 250 bulk emails. Many of these are obviously from professional spammers using multiple incremented email addresses. So, my personal email account is receiving around $.25 of spam per day using my email pricing scheme. If there are around 100 million email users in America, then I would offer a conservative guess that half of them are receiving bulk emails. If I'm average at 250/day, this means that about $12.5 million of spam (using my pricing) is being sent a day. Even if I'm one of the higher targets and the average user is only getting 100 bulk emails a day, that is still around $5 million providers could be charging on emails per day. Or around $1,825,000,000 per year.

Do you really think the spammers will continue at their current rates if they have to pay these fees?