Monday, September 26, 2011

Capitalism - Under Contract

I remember a time where companies offered goods and services and consumers purchased those goods and services at a competitive market rate. If the company did something wrong or had terrible customer service, we would stop buying from them and get our products elsewhere. There were a few monopolies where you were stuck with what they had and what they wanted to charge. But otherwise, the free market seemed to work fairly well.

Those were the good old days. Today it's hard to get a product or service without first having to sign a contract or join a price club. Some grocery stores won't even give you their sale rate unless you use the little card that tracks your purchases. But it's the contracts that really irritate me. I had to sign up for a 2 year contract on my cell phone plan, 2 years on my satellite TV, a year on my Internet service and landline phone (both of which are tied to my satellite service contract). In the event that I decide to change my service, I'll have to pay a hefty early termination fee. Everyone of these contracts starts out with the phrase that the service provider can change the terms of at any time without notice - yet I have no way of changing my side of the contract. I'm stuck with that service - good or bad for the life of the contract. How is all that the free market capitalism?

Clearly the capitalistic market we have today is tilted heavily in favor of corporations through these service contracts. Corporations have their profits protected whether or not they provide a good product or service. AT&T cell service for example is terrible by must users accounts - yet those users are stuck in their contracts until the 2 year term ends. And that doesn't even count the contract that AT&T had with Apple over the iPhone for years. That contract kept the product out of the hands of people who wanted it but didn't want to do business with AT&T - like me. These contracts also help corporations guarantee bank funding because they can show the banks they have no risk of losing money. Guaranteed profit. Where is my guarantee? No such luck. They can raise my rates or change my service plan at any time - even without notice.

I know the argument will come up that in most cases the companies give you a free device of some sort in exchange for your commitment. That's true and in some cases it makes for a good deal in the long run. But why the contract? How about this instead. You give me a reduced price on a device and I'll use your service. If I decide to go elsewhere for whatever reason - you get your device back. By the time the device is worthless the contract term would have been over. Easy.

For the capitalistic free market to work properly, it needs to be a free - unhindered by binding service contracts. Corporations will still be able to secure their bank loans by proving they can provide an outstanding product or service and keeping their customers happy. We need to get out of this "protect the corporation" mindset and get back to a system where consumers get a good product at a fair price - by natural unhindered competition.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tea Party - Despicable, Heartless, Mean.

A political party is more than the person chosen to stand at the podium and speak for them. A political party is a collection of individuals that would elect that person and support their views. So far the Tea Party supporters have:

  • Cheered an example of someone dying because they didn't have insurance
  • Booed an active duty soldier.
  • Cheered historic levels of government sanctioned murder (death penalty)
All on national television during the Tea Party debates. None of the candidates condemned these actions and in fact most went on to support those opinions. I've accused the GOP of having no compassion for those less fortunate and I stand by that accusation. However, the Tea Party has taken a giant step lower than that. They are just plain mean.

Thankfully, I doubt any of the current candidates will get the GOP nomination. Surely there must be someone else that represents the GOP in a better light. God help us if any one of these heartless idiots actually wins.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Honesty Returned to Military

Today is an historic day as Don't Ask - Don't Tell is officially ended. Gay men and women have served proudly in the American armed forces since America was founded. Those brave soldiers no longer will be subject to possible blackmail thus bringing honesty and integrity to our military. Over 13,000 troops who were removed from service under suspicion of being homosexual since DADT began can now serve their country again if they so choose.

It is a good day for America!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Patent Reform - Not A Good Idea

The patent process in America has been broken for a long time. It takes far too long to approve new patents and the process is prohibitively expensive. President Obama signed new patent legislation this week that makes some improvements but also, in my opinion, makes a huge mistake. The new reform grants patents on "First to File" rather than "First to Invent". I can see the logic behind the change as a way to limit lawsuits, but as someone who considers himself somewhat of an inventor I worry that the new process will invite fraud and will favor wealthy investors more than brilliant inventors.

Suppose two people come up with a similar idea near the same time. The one who thought of the idea first is financially strapped and the other one has considerable expendable income. Since the patent process remains expensive, the first person doesn't even have a chance to file even though they clearly had the idea first.

Then there are those that would take advantage of this situation. I'll use Google as an example. Google, like many companies these days have massive cross-linked databases that record every move I make - and more importantly every word I search. If I try to do a preliminary search for an idea to see if it already exists, Google can "harvest" that search. With the monetary power of the Google empire - filing a patent could be done instantly - leaving me without any hope of profiting off my great idea. And what if if I discussed my idea with my best friend or a family member - only to have them rush off and file a patent before I can . Even a crooked patent lawyer could take an idea and patent it first.

Patent reform only needed two important improvements. The process needs to be cheaper and faster. They shouldn't have messed with the "First to Invent" process - that was the only part of the patent system that actually protected the inventor. Had they kept that but made the system quicker and cheaper, we would see many more inventions - and financially rewarded inventors.

I have always felt that my financial independence would ultimately result from a brilliant idea rather than being a corporate drone. Looks like I might be a drone for the rest of my life.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Corporate Tax Breaks Go To CEO's - Not Average Joe's

Monday, September 12, 2011

Butts I Don't Like

Disgusting. Every time I go to the beach I see this. Thousands of them stuck in the sand like a giant ash tray. This particular one was stuck in the sand shortly after the rude smoker blew his filthy stench into the air that wafted quickly to my area. He then bent down, stuck it into the sand and walked away. He was wearing a hat that said Beach Ambassador. I picked this one up after I took the pic - thousands more remain. Smokers have no respect for themselves, for those around them, or for their environment. I see these butts tossed from car windows, stuck in flower pots, littered in the street, in lawns, waterfalls - everywhere. At my job there are containers put out specifically to dispose of cigarette butts - yet hundreds of them litter the area within feet of the container. I guess we shouldn't expect those who are rude enough to smoke in the first place, to make any effort to clean up after themselves. They are worse than the trash they leave behind.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Let's Try It

President Obama just gave his jobs speech and now I think the Republicans are in a very strategic position. The GOP has claimed all along that the Democratic response to economic recovery doesn't work. The current speech, which did sound somewhat familiar, laid out the Presidents vision for recovery over the next year and beyond. If the GOP really believes it won't work - they should pass it in it's entirety. If it fails - as they predict - the GOP will be a shoe-in for the next election. If it succeeds - as I think it will - America wins - and the President will likely get a second term as a side effect of success. When America wins - we all win. By passing the bill, the GOP will appear to be cooperative. They need that right now.

Let's try the President's plan. It is a win win for America.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Did Adam and Eve Evolve?

If all of us are descendants of Adam and Eve as the Christian Bible claims - how did we end up with so many different races of people? Shouldn't we all be a bit more similar? What explains these differences?