Monday, September 12, 2011

Trickle Me Elmo

(I originally wrote this in the summer of 2008 but didn't publish it. Sadly, it's as apropos now as it was then.)

What loon came up with the notion of trickle down economics? This notion that somehow if you give more money to the rich, it will benefit everyone? That somehow if you give businesses more money, they will "naturally" take that money and invest it in their operations, grow them, create jobs, etc.? Would you like to hazard a guess as to where the rich and business tend to put their excess money? Yes: they buy various investments from other rich people and businesses who think they've made enough money on whatever it is they're selling.

What is it that actually prompts businesses to invest in and expand their operations? Sales. What drives sales? The 95% of the country that aren't rich. Haven't we been hearing Didn't we hear for most of the Bush administration that it's "consumer spending that has been supporting the economy"? All the while the businesses were retrenching following the dot-com implosion, it was consumers buying what businesses had to sell that brought us out of that recession. It wasn't the rich buying stocks, or golf club memberships, or fleets of cars, or $10,000 shoes, or any of the things one tends to buy when one has more money than one can sensibly use.

It's a very simple concept any capitalist can get behind: businesses grow their business when they can make more money by doing so, and they can only do so if there's a market, and there's only a market if people have money to buy what's being sold. Giving a tax break to a business for which there's no market simply causes them to put more money in the bank, or pay the additional profits out as dividends.

Update: Goldy posted an eerily similar post on the SLOG today.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

In Memoriam - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

I've just left the memorial service for Steve Lacey, who was killed a week ago by an enraged drunk driver. I didn't actually know Steve all that well. He worked in the Kirkland office, mostly, and I don't go over there much. But in the last four years we've had a few chats, and beside that, he touched many people's lives -- the church was entirely full.
There are many surface similarities between us (which is part of what is so distressing about this event, I suppose): he was a year younger than I, also tall, good humored, loved to build things, loved to write code, loved to create things to help people. He shared more of himself than I do. A lesson to be learned there, perhaps.
I do not believe it is possible or healthy to live your life as if you could be killed by a drunk driver while driving to Costco on an ordinary Sunday afternoon. But to do the important things first: that I need to work on more. Thank you for that lesson, Steve and those who spoke at his memorial. My heart goes out to all of Steve's family. May life give you better than what you got on the 24th.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Brother Can You Spare a Billion

I've been looking at the money being raised in the market, both in VC and IPO transactions, and aside from wondering what the hell those companies are going to do with all that money (Color: 51 million? you going to do some serious TV advertising? You're not a hardwaree company...) I can't help but wonder if this is what the wealthy are doing with their tax breaks? It seems like there a lot more effective ways to create the kinds of jobs we need in this country (hint: it's not a few thousand geeks in silly valley, though I'm one of them.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Then There Were Two

[ed: I started this post on the 17th of November, with Ralf's body in the back of the van]

It never gets any easier. Our sweet boy Ralf went to college today, with a push from us. You would think after 8 graduations, I might be inured to it. I think I'm happy that I'm not. With Bob it was easy to see she was ready to move on, and I spent the day with her, then took her to the vet to be put down. Harry bled out after surgery. Rosie did too. They were hard because of the suddenness. We sat up all night with Madeleine until she died, mostly quietly. The others were harder or not, depending on the circumstance and whether they felt they were ready.

None of them was easy.

Ralf, though...there were some possible treatment options. He had good stretches of a few hours. But really. When I got home, he used to get so happy and whirl around, barking (we think that's how he injured his shoulder, but it's really who he was). He used to bark at horses, applause, and fake bird noises on TV, standing indignantly with his ears forward and his nose an inch from the screen. He hadn't heard birds in a year, though there'd been plenty to hear. He couldn't stand up on his own, and in the last couple weeks couldn't even get into a sitting position. He'd been reduced to lying, with his head on a pillow, snapping in pain when we would get him up, and staggering around panting. Steroids might have helped, but for how long? It was mostly clear what he wanted, so we gave it to him. We are blessed to have Rachel Bergman in our lives.

We took on Ralf back in 2002, as a foster dog, because we've got a soft spot for collies. He was 6 years old, 105 pounds, and crazy. Then Jake got so sick, and the only people who wanted Ralf were families with small kids, not the carpenter-guy-who-would-take-Ralf-to-job-sites that we thought he deserved. When we finally got out of that crucible 3 months later, we had a 4th dog.

Through the not-quite-9 years he was with us, he taught us about patience, the importance of food, love, silliness, joy, and endurance. We endure without him now, even now, occasionally expecting to see him, or hearing his soft meef. When he came to us, I repeatedly said I didn't want 4 dogs. But really. Who was I kidding? I want him back.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Art of Photography

Made a quick stop at the MOMA in SF today. Really interesting exhibit of Muybridge shots, including many old photos from SF in the 1860's. There are also a series of stereographs that cemented for me an impression I've had over the years: photography really need a 3rd dimension. There is definitely a place for 2d photographs and what they can convey and how they can move people, but the lack of a real 3d option for photographers means we are missing out on so much that we could experience from other people's viewpoints. So many times I catch something, close one eye, and recognize the loss of the 3rd dimension renders the photo uninteresting. I know there are ways of using the modeling of light to convey the 3d dimension, but often that light is simply not available. The other exhibits reinforced for me my definition of art: art is anything that moves me emotionally. If it has to be explained or placed into an intellectual context, it's masturbation, not art.