Monday, March 27, 2017
  Socialize it.

Health Care:

Socialize it. Once and for all. Like they do in civilized countries.

  The web sucks.

I go to a lot of sites every day for news and the rantings of political junkies and interesting people who write.

At one site you have to hit the back button twice instead of once.

At one site you have to click on a blank space in the body before you can move around the page. Another where doing the same thing activates a link to an enlarged version of a nearby picture.

At one site the up and down keyboard arrows and the mouse wheel don't work no matter what you do, and you can only move up and down the site by clicking on the right side navigation bar.

The HTML mark up is done by machines, without human intervention. Humans only drag and drop, cut and paste. And monstrosities are created. The simplest little bit of web real estate has thousands of lines of HTML where dozens could create the same look.

And that's massive unnecessary overhead. And it causes stupid effects like those mentioned above.

And you kids get off my lawn

Thursday, February 09, 2017
  The Workshop That Wasn't A Workshop


  After an early presentation by PeopleSoft, I told everyone around me, including my Supervisor and her Supervisor, I've seen this before: heavyweight private industry software player moves in on the University, promising the moon: Oh, our program does everything. Believe me. We've been doing this for many years. Millions of people are employed by companies using our software. A University is just like any other business when it comes to this stuff. (It's not.) And we can make enhancements in our software, if we do find incompatabilities. (They won't.)

  Management swoons. The Magical Market Faeries are here! We'll save money! There's no down side!

  But sooner or later it is revealed that the fit is not perfect, there are conversion problems, and the University is going to have to change their procedures to fit the software, not the other way around.

  I suspect it's not just the UCs that are engaging in this folly.


  It was billed as a workshop. It wasn't one. It was a meeting. Why call it a workshop? So we'd be receptive, and not expecting bad news or orders.

  Donna: We're so glad you're all here. The "go live" date is being moved back (again) from August to December. (1)

  Everyone is happy about that. More breathing room.

  Next: General introduction by Troy-- what is UCPath? (2)

  The PowerPoint slide shows how it all starts with people. It says "PEOPLE" right there in the middle. Aw.

  We've all seen this PowerPoint slide before. Repeatedly. "Comprehensive", "integrated", and other words like those are uttered. Yawn.

  More Donna: We love you, really love you and you're wonderful and smart and good. And we're all part of the team.

  (A person might have wondered at this point, "Just what are you planning to do with all that lube?")

  They have us raise hands for "novice" and "experienced" users of our current Cognos canned reports. About half and half.

  (But they know that perfectly well from analytics and word of mouth. They are telling us in the form of asking us. Why? See below.)

  Hilda shows a schematic of the PeopleSoft tables. There are hundreds, yes hundreds of them. She assures us there is no way we will ever master the data in that form. (3)

  With that Hilda lowers the boom: despite previous representations, employees will not be able to use Excel, SQL, MS Access, Hummingbird, or Crystal Reports to access data as we always have. We will use canned Cognos reports. End of story.

  Those of you ("experienced") who've already made peace with canned reports? Look, you'll be right at home! (Oh, that's why. Divide and conquer. See above.)

  Get used to it: PeopleSoft methods, PeopleSoft nomenclature, and Cognos canned reports.

  This, then, was the purpose of workshop that wasn't a workshop: to tell us where we stand.

  Hilda assures us she will take all our queries from the old system and design canned reports that'll be just as good! Okay, then.

  tl;dr Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.


  Epilogue: We are looking into new financial system software, too. And we're going to go down the same road. Management is excited by the words "cloud computing." (Sigh. I don't want my or our financial data in the cloud, for crying out loud.)


  1) They don't tell us why, but likely data conversion problems. Likely the data will never convert properly, and there will be a massive clean up operation after we go live. This despite original blithe assurances of a smooth transition.

  2) UCPath is a way of not saying PeopleSoft.

  3) Why is the table structure impenetrable? At first I thought it was a legacy problem-- you can only add tables, and can never re-engineer, because everything must be backwards compatible forever.

  But it's not just that. For instance, the basic "person" table does not have a field for a person's name. You'd have to link to another table to get that. This is beyond efficient into needlessly complex. It is absurd.

  I have to conclude that they want the table structure to be inpenetrable. It means PeopleSoft now and PeopleSoft forever, because we won't be able to do anything with the data if we ever wanted to walk away. It will be harder to change systems in the future than it is now.

Friday, January 27, 2017
  DOW 20,000

  So... Stock value has doubled in the last eight years. (But the value of my labor has not.) Rich folks who had 10 million in stocks now have 20 million. I'm so happy for them!

  ETA: I know, I know: lots of people have money in the stock market, not just rich people. (I even do myself, in the sense that my pension plan invests in it. Exciting!) But the vast majority of stocks are owned by the ultra wealthy, even if a lot of people have a teeny tiny bit each.

  Neighborhood Councils in L.A.

  The Neighborhood Council system was set up precisely to diffuse the power that created it. That is why they have no actual authority, that is why the voting rules make it impossible to coordinate NC elections with City elections. The Council had to do something because there was a lot of grumbling, so they came up with a way to tie up activists with meetings and debates and elections of no import.

  The Mayor and Council will no way voluntarily cede any more power or influence to the NCs. It's not in their interest.

  What is needed is a petition drive to increase the number of council districts to 96 or 99, matching the borders of the NCs (or not if they are not of near enough population size). The language would be easy to draft-- just change a couple of lines in the Charter.

  (Does that sound like too many? Not at all. Many smaller cities have much bigger councils than we do. Having "local" districts as large as ours distorts democracy-- money plays too big of a role.)

  The new Council would have to better reflect the wishes of their constituents-- they would be easier to run against, but of course they will have a conflict of interest then, too, and also not want to give more power to the NCs until sufficient force is brought to bear. But it would be easier.

Friday, January 20, 2017
  This will be different, but how?

  Trump plays the bully, the bad boy, and may be personally someone many of us would hate, but he is not a solid ideological Republican. He hijacked the party machinery to get elected. He is an authoritarian, but not a fascist. He is reality teevee star, and a brand promoter.

  The Republican party with all its resources is not behind Trump the way they'd be behind Jeb! or were behind the Georges. And he is similarly not loyal to the party. Thus he cannot simply draw from the deep Republican bench in order to populate his administration.

  So instead of the incoming cabinet and crew being composed of experienced party loyalists...

  (And what a sham the two party system is. Not that there aren't differences, and real consequences of electing one or the other, but neither party can stay out of the war business or give us or even want to give us national health care, the former because of the deep state and war industry influence, the latter because of insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical machinery industry influence. Money rules both parties.)

  ...this time we'll get a cabinet and crew full of those who usually only do the buying, and thus know little about government or governing, along with some Republican lackeys who have signaled or demonstrated loyalty to Trump personally. Oh, and some retired generals. They will probably not be particularly effective.

  That's one difference. Here's another:

  The deep state is not with Trump. Some of them are-- most in the FBI, for instance-- but he isn't a "business as usual" president in the sense of "can be told what to do" by it.

  That is unprecedented in recent history. It's kind of a big deal, and not bad. It might even mean less war. He won't want the complications, the distractions, or the risk of failure. It could also mean they'll continue to maneuver against him, and eventually drive him out of office. We'll see.

  What will Trump do?

  Trump is a promoter, he is concerned first and foremost with optics. He'll want to appear to be delivering on his promises, and making America great again.

  Immigration? All trump has to do is to keep deporting at the current rate. Under the Obama presidency there have been more deportations than ever before. The machinery is in place, and those who do the deporting have years of experience. Trump can say we're deporting faster than ever, and it will be sorta true.

  The wall? Already being built. He'll keep building, and claim credit.

  Repeal Obamacare? He may be forced to embrace Medicare For All. Certainly he won't accept anything that doesn't plausibly look like he's keeping his word on delivering something "better." Even if they did repeal and not replace, it would only make things how they were a few years ago. We'd go from bad back to worse, not from good to bad.

  Tax cuts for the rich? Happens under every Republican president, dialed part way back by every Democratic one. Business as usual.

  Turn fossil fuel extraction on to high? Stupid, but if it gooses the economy, he'll crow about it, and say he's gonna look into AGW or something. We weren't accomplishing much anyway. Hello, fracking? Tar sands?

  Let the vampire squid loose to run up another bubble? We're already doing that. The timing and severity may change, but not the fact of the matter.

  In short, we needn't be driven mad. It's likely to be a bumpy ride, but not utterly unlike anything we've experienced before.

  Oh, and on that Russian silliness. Putin is a bad man. But I take it that an indifference to the suffering of others is requisite to acquiring real power. He is not a super-villain, just a bad man. He wants to export more oil, and Trump wants to help him (and presumably get his beak wet). And maybe they helped him win the election, though no actual evidence is on offer. But it's run of the mill corruption, not treason.


Thursday, January 05, 2017
  (Revised) Open Letter to President-elect Trump (anyone got an email address for him?)

  Note: Teh Google tells me a number of mostly small news outlets are making the same argument.

  Dear President-elect Trump,

  If you're not careful, repealing Obamacare will be a disaster for you because it will be a disaster for many of the people who voted for you.

  So will messing with Medicare. Everybody knows Medicare works. Maybe there aren't a lot of things the federal government is very good at. But they're good at that.

  Here's a better idea than repeal and stall: Medicare For All.

  Only you can do it, Mr. President. Obama couldn't do it or he would have done it-- instead of creating the Rube Goldberg machine that is Obamacare. Obama had to make a deal that was all about benefiting the insurance companies. You don't.

  I've heard you say it-- it got you criticized from the right at the time: Everyone in the US should have health care. And I say: Amen. Other nations can do it, why can't we? Despite Obamacare, there are still millions of Americans with no health insurance, who can be wiped out financially if a family member gets sick or has an accident. Others can't afford to use the insurance they're forced to buy.

  What would solve that problem? Medicare For All.

  They will scream "Socialism! Communism! Boo! Next thing you know we'll have the government seizing the means of production and instituting five year plans for economic output!"

  No, health care isn't like other commodities and services. Health care is different. Everybody needs it, but only once in a while. And when we do need it, we can't afford it, so we have to have insurance. Well, you can choose not to drive and not buy car insurance. But you can't choose to never get sick or have an accident.

  Health care is different.

  Health care is just not a thing businessmen should do. The incentives are all wrong: profit seeking insurance companies make the most money by charging too much for the insurance and paying out for as little medical care as possible. How can that come to a good end? It doesn't. People pay too much for healthcare in America, and it's not the best in the world. We pay more and we get less because of those perverse incentives.

  There are some things government should do: The army. Police. Fire Departments. Paving roads.

  Yes, and health care.

  Other countries have figured this out. And their businesses have an unfair advantage over ours because they don't have to pay for health care. Medicare For All would fix that. Medicare For All would be a better deal for the American people, American businesses, and the American economy.

  Mr. President, Medicare For All would bring the country together behind you. Medicare For All is government doing what it does right, but now for all of us. Almost nobody would not benefit. And a whole lot of people who forego health care because they simply can't afford it, will now be able to thanks to President Donald Trump.

  Start your Presidency with an achievement of historic proportions. Medicare For All would bring the nation together in a way that only national programs can, make American companies more competitive with foreign companies, save the bacon of millions of Americans, and improve American medical care.

  The time is right for Medicare For All.

  HR 676, introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) may be just the thing. If so, tell Congress to pass it. If not, have them write a better one.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016
  On the Vote

  People write about the results of the election as if we can have any idea of what the real vote totals were, when we simply can't.

  Some people know how to hack some machines. Probably more than one entity, with different interests. Some people know how to cheat in other ways. Probably almost no one votes twice-- the risk is too high and the effect too negligible. But some corrupt people know how to suppress the vote here and over-count it there-- done strategically and right, the risk is low and the gains high.

  We vote, the vote is somewhere around 50/50, and the hackers and vote counters fiddle around the edges. And perhaps there is one group that determines the outcome every time, but perhaps there is competition. Either way, inside players determine the outcome, not voters.

  Without transparent (paper!) balloting, it's a question of who won the count, not who won the vote.

  All explanations of the result that discuss ups or downs in percentages of types of voters is so much fantasy football. Same with discussions of strategy.

  Hillary seemed surprised, so she must have thought the riggers were on her side, like Romney in 2012. The CIA making noise about the Russians probably means that they were surprised, too.

  That in turn probably tells us that the deep state was in the tank for Hillary, and was out-hacked. But by who? The Russians? Anonymous? Rogue operators in the NSA? The RNC? All are legitimate possibilities. Another less well known entity? That's possible, too.

  Being bent out of shape over what the voters did is silly. They didn't do anything unusual. They went about 50/50 like they do every four years, no matter who the candidates are. They don't decide presidential elections, or at least we can't presume they do.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016
  Deregulation and Privatization

  Politicians are fond of saying that the government should not be picking winners and losers. Paul Ryan said it just the other day.

  It is a lie that needs to be put to bed once and for all. The truth is that picking winners and losers is exactly and the only thing government does.

  Politicians choose between legislation and tax codes that favor fossil fuels or renewables. They choose between national health care and insurance companies. They choose between guns and butter. And so on. Every bit of it picks winners and losers.

  Politicians are elected to look after the public good. And this is the point: More and more politicians have shunted the public good aside altogether. They use the hideous hand waving justification that giving more and more deference to the profit motive and the already rich (private good), will magically result in rainbows and ponies for the rest of us (public good): the Myth of the Magical Marketplace.

  The MMM argument boils down to this: uninhibited selfishness leads to the greatest good. The theory is absurd on its face, and no amount of hand waving or magical thinking will make it less vile or more true.

  You don't have to believe in MMM to like free enterprise. Freedom is good, and free people will be enterprising. But we don't need to tilt the board toward the already rich and powerful in order to have free enterprise.

  Deregulation and freer private markets doesn't mean the best product or service wins, as the MMMers would have you believe. It means, instead, that the already powerful can use their size and wealth to crush competitors, and raise prices, and eventually degrade products and services. A free market without regulation is a free-for-all market. The winner is the biggest, strongest, the most brutal or unscrupulous. That's how free-for-alls play out. And that kind of winner does not play nice once they're on top.

  Politicians who want to deregulate and privatize ultimately want to do so because they get contributions or await sinecures from corporations that will benefit from deregulation and privatization. They are choosing private good over public good in order to benefit themselves. They are corrupt.

  Donald Trump is pursuing Trump private good right out in the open. He's not pretending to not pick winners and losers. Sure, it's corrupt. But it's petty.

When life gives you dilemmas, make dilemmanade.

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