Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Supreme Court to Corporations: Take all the Megaphones You Want, It's Your Right

This week, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to lift spending restrictions on corporations and unions, claiming that such restrictions are a violation of Free Speech, a right given to all "citizens" by our Constitution.

Given that corporations are allegedly "Persons"*, and given that there is legal precedent dating back to the 1970s for equating money spent on lobbying and advertising with Free Speech, the winning side here believes that the Constitutional Rights of these poor helpless fictional entities have been justifiably restored

To me this means we've just cleared the way for America to be a Corporate Fascist nation, not a Democracy.

Sure, there are Constitutional Purists, like Glenn Greenwald, who drank the Kool-Aid and think this ruling was about an abstract fight against the notion of limiting free speech to some category of entities.   He and others think having any such regulation in any context is paramount to censorship and must be stopped.

I don't buy it.

We're dealing here not with stopping ideas we may or may not agree with.  Glenn is right when he points out that government banning and censoring human communication in one context, but not in others, is unacceptable in a true Democracy.  Either you have Free Speech or you don't.  If you don't, you live in China and mere mentioning of certain topics will get you imprisoned or killed.

But, even if we don't restrict its content, the intent of Free Speech was never to allow one group of entities to have more of it than anyone else. The problem is how to mix all the communications channels in a fair, informative way.  Prior regulation kept the Corporate voice lower in the mix.  Now that regulation will be off.

Thanks to these Supreme Court idiots, Corporations will able to seize the control room, crank up the volume and mix everyone else out of the dialogue.

The Megaphones vs. The Unmiked.

It is not that Corporations have not been able to speak.  (They already have).

It's not that they cannot speak the particular messages they would like to (even if those might be misleading or false).

No.  The problem now is that Corporations do not speak.   With billions of dollars, they can YELL.

They can now yell louder, and across more loudspeakers and channels than any other entity on the planet.  These entities can now buy up all the megaphones and boomboxes. 

Speech?  Or Corruptive Influence

Then there is the matter of corruption.  Corruption can trump even the fairest of dialogues and messaging between elected officials and the citizens voting for them.

When a human being donates money to a politician in the hopes of getting him or her elected, there is the hope (or expectation) he or she will vote in a way pleasing to the donor.

But with a corporation, we're talking HUGE sums of money that no mere mortal human being can simply walk away from.  In effect, the politician will think twice before enacting any laws against such a "generous" donor.  In effect, the Corporate Donor has just bought the Law, custom-made for its own self-interest.

Theodore Roosevelt and our preceding governments recognized the danger of granting unlimited power to Corporations.  We had protections in place to separate government and commerce.  They gave corporations a voice, but muted so that the rest of us could be heard too.

But now our members of Congress are former members of Corporations and vice versa.  They have debts to repay, Laws to create on their donor's behalf.  This ruling will make he voice of the Corporations so overwhelmingly loud that we human beings might as well call it a day and do what Douglas Rushkoff suggests -- forget about government and do stuff ourselves.

* Albeit fictional, and only made so in the 1800s by a clerk writing notes on a court case about granting rights to slaves.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Save the Poor Health Insurance Companies!

Awwww... There, there monstrous corporate entities -- it'll be all right in the end. Don't worry.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Douglas Rushkoff's "Life, Inc" book and short film preview

Media ecology professor, author, and documentarian Douglas Rushkoff has been writing a book called Life, Inc: How The World Became a Corporation and How To Take It Back. While Joel Bakun's book (and documentary film), The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power, describes how public corporations are basically psychopathic neighbors that are bound by Law to make choices detrimental to humanity and the environment (in the pursuit of infinite profit growth), Rushkoff's book will discuss how Kings fabricated an economic environment designed to control the merchant class, bringing rise to chartered corporations and a mindset of self-interest, consumerism and profit above all other virtues that people, particularly Americans have adopted as the default nature of being.

Above is a short video preview.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TEDx USC: Dave Logan and Tribal Leadership

Dave Logan, Associate Dean and Executive Director of Executive Development at University of Southern California's (USC) Marshall Business School, gave an excellent talk about tribes, based on his recent book, Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization.

According to Logan, tribes are small groups (10-100 people) of people that form naturally. They tend not to be the same from each other and that difference is called "culture." A crowd or a business will likely contain many tribes. Tribes can be classified by one of 5 stages and each tribe can only hear one level below and above its own level. The stages are:
  1. "Life sucks" (ex. gangs)
  2. "My Life sucks" or "How can people so dumb live?" (ex. the DMV)
  3. "I am great (and you're not)"
    (ex. lawyers or doctors meeting in an elevator, conferences)

  4. "We're great!"
  5. (ex. a company like Zappo.com)
  6. "Life is great!"
  7. (ex. any tribe with positive members that has a positive impact on people)
According to research, only 2% of tribes are stage 5, with most hovering in stage 2, 3 and 4. Mr. Logan encouraged us to "nudge our tribes" towards the next level, and to start doing triadic networking, that is, introduce two people you don't know to each other (in effect, bridging tribes together).

Ultimately the point of the book is to dispel the myth and mindset that only Dog eat Dog cutthroat companies survive and grow big. In fact, cultures based on back-stabbing and fear and "cover your ass" (as so prominent in FX and game companies in my experience) are doomed to stagnate or die. Not surprisingly, Mr. Logan encountered hostility when speaking about his book on FOX News:

A lot of TEDxers enjoyed this talk a lot, citing it as one of the highlights.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

End Corporate "Personhood"

Now here's an idea I have to support -- eliminate the legal "personhood" that all American public corporations have. Because corporations have the rights of people without the responsibilities and considerably more money than regular people, they have become exploitive monsters above Law and Government. Commerce worked quite well, arguably, before when corporations were not people under the Law. They should be made lesser beings, and while we're at it, programmed to seek profit responsibly rather than exclusively.

Of course I can just hear the corporate lawyers saying it's unconstitutional to take rights away from people and therefore this can't be done.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bailing out the "American" Auto Industry is a Misnomer

So there are three remaining American corporate entities that are pleading with our Government to bail them out with taxpayer money. These entitities have over the last ten years failed to produce energy efficient cars, despite both government regulation requiring them to (which they lobbied against) and increasing consumer demand. Now struggling in every sense of the word against foreign auto companies, they insist they need $25 billion to get them through this crisis, or "millions of jobs are at stake" and American industry will be in jeopardy.

Too late for that, points out Huntington Post blogger Chris Kelly. Chrysler, for example is no longer really an American company, it's owned by an international holding firm Cerberus who couldn't care less about keeping jobs in America if it didn't suit them. It's simply eager to get money from the new corporate socialist trough.

As Mr. Kelly points out, nostalgia is not a good reason to keep a dying company going with taxpayer money. These companies should go bankrupt, restructure themselves, rehire folks, and get ready to start over, or close up shop. Feeding them money to stay how they are, how how they have been and reward more executives is ridiculous.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

How Our Government is Abusing Democracy: The Bailout Bill

Glenn Greenwald wrote on his blog about why the proposed $700 Billion taxpayer dollar payment -- demanded by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (to be paid to him with very little accountability, and which would likely be paid to his buddies in the banking business who made the poor decisions that caused the collapse) -- is not unlike the other examples of how the recent Administration has undermined the democratic process. These are his 10 principles, which all recent crises our country has faced have in common:
  1. Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency.

  2. Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored -- systematically excluded from the process.

  3. Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions.

  4. The Government begins with demands for absolute power so brazen and absurd that anything, by comparison, seems reasonable ... [P]eople thus end up grateful for what is, by any measure, an extreme outcome, all because it's not quite as extreme as what the Bush administration began by demanding.

  5. Wall Street, large corporations and their lobbyists own the Federal Government and both parties, and (therefore) they always win.

  6. The people who run the Washington Establishment are drowning in conflicts of interest.

  7. For all the anger over what Wall St. has done, the Government -- as it bails them out -- isn't doing anything to rein in their practices.

  8. When the Government wants greater and greater power and wants to engage in pure corruption, it need only put the population in extreme fear and it gets its way in every case.

  9. On the most consequential and fundamental questions that define the country, the establishment/leadership of both political parties are in full agreement, and insulate themselves from any political ramifications by acting jointly.

  10. Whenever you think that the Government has done things so extreme that it can't top itself -- torture, theories of presidential lawbreaking, a six-year war justified by blatantly false pretenses -- it always tops itself.

I believe these behaviors are what emerges when self-interest is allowed to run rampant; when key rules of democracy designed to reduce corruption are eliminated, business and government become indistinguishable. Democrats and Republicans become indistinguishable. All that's left are rich people (and their friends) doing what's best for themselves and fooling everyone else into believing all is well. Unfortunately, THIS is what needs to be changed.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cartoon: Save the Economy by Paying the Bankers $700 Billion for $#@&ing up our Economy? Awesome.

There is something fundamentally wrong with companies -- which caused the financial crisis in our country (affecting the entire world) -- urging Congress to reward them with taxpayer's money for making extremely bad decisions. Those on the Right and the administration argue that the market should have no regulations, should not have any government constricting them in pursuit of infinite wealth, and yet when they fail, by all means, the government should pay them our money, because otherwise they'll take everybody down with them. If they truly believed in the Free Market, companies that fail should die and new ones should step in.

How about we throw every CEO banker involved with this mess in jail (instead of giving them millions in golden parachute money)? If this were China, the folks committing what amounts to massive corporate fraud would be sentenced to death. Oh wait, that won't happen, these people also are in government. Oops.

The last time we had a collapse like this the government refused to give away the people's taxes. A rich person fixed the problem, bailed out the system. Instead, the rich involved are rushing to save themselves and scare everyone with doom and gloom unless "something is done now!"

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Pro High Fructose Corn Syrup Propaganda, Anyone?

One of the side effects of traveling is that you may find common foods still made with sugar and not High Fructose Corn Syrup, an unnatural suspicious industrial concoction which is in a huge proportion of processed foods available at American stores (and fast food restaurants) and eaten by the public at large. Some time in the 80s, American food manufacturers switched from cane sugar to this substance without telling us. Remember the New Coke vs. Old Coke fiasco in the early 80s? Prior to that, American Coke was made with sugar. After they brought back Coke Classic, it was made with High Fructose Corn Syrup. But in many places in the world, you can taste how much better sugar tastes by drinking a Coke.

Now it seems, the Corn Refiners group is on the offensive. Not happy with all the negative press against HFCS (including documentaries), it is launching commercials like this (which I saw this weekend) on Food Network and elsewhere.

The ludicrous conclusion of this ad: "Well, you can't explain why HFCS is bad for you, therefore everyone can eat it in moderation." Apart from the many reasons why it is unhealthy, there's almost no way to eat it in moderation because it's in almost EVERYTHING. Over time, your body won't care if you ate it in moderation or in excess.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Stand Up 2 Cancer

I'm sitting waiting at the Burbank Airport and on TV, all three American Networks are showing a live fundraiser right now called "Stand Up 2 Cancer." Celebrities of all sorts are answering phones. It's really great that these corporations are focused on a cause, if just for a few hours. Their website will be up for a while, so please donate.

(And the cause I'm focused on this weekend is the Totoro Forest Project, an art auction / fundraiser over at PIXAR to help protect Japan's endangered forests, the ones that inspired the legendary animation master Miyazaki, creator of My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.)

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Monday, March 03, 2008

TED Talk: Purple Cows, and Being Remarkable To Those Who Care

Marketing expert and Author Seth Godin talks about the changing landscape of creative success. The old model was to spend millions on interrupting people with the message about your product, a product that is "safe" and appealing to the masses. The new model is to recognize that "the idea that spreads, wins" and that this idea must be remarkable ("easy to remark about"), different, not boring, and appealing to people who care ("otaku"). If you let these people work for you, you win.

(The R.I.A.A raises its hand.)

"But can't we sue them? I mean, come on. They're ruining our old business model, and this new one where we can bully them into paying up is pretty neat. And we save so much $$$ not paying artists--"

Seth Godin stands up, answering "Well you can, but you'll lose. People will either get their intangibles for free or they'll care enough to buy them, preferably from the source. And anyway, you're boring now."

"Aww man."

(R.I.A.A stands up, sulks, walks out as Lawrence Lessig, Cory Doctorow, and I escort him out, consolingly)

"There there, cartel. It'll be all right. Have you ever considered a new career? Prison management maybe? Or smoking ban enforcement? I hear that's big in Europe now."

(R.I.A.A smiles hopefully) Ohhh!

To be continued...

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Dangers of Incompetent Consolidation

I used to work as a contractor for a small company (we shall call "AF") owned by a large company ("Exp"). While I was there, they were beginning the process of being merged with two other companies that "Exp" bought. Each had very different cultures, processes and technologies. "AF" was independent but soon after I left became under control of "LMB."

Anyways, I found out last week that a VP at "LMB" laid off a former "AF" co-worker of mine. But not just any... he was their guru, the one tech guy who had been there since the beginning, who had worn many hats including PC support, database support, programmer, and overall expert on the way the business worked from a technical standpoint. Apparently, in a cost-cutting effort, he decided that they had no need for a "PC Support" person. He never consulted with his boss, or anyone at "AF" as to whether the guru was someone who could be let go. No, the guru was unceremoniously kicked out (given 15 minutes to leave) without anybody at AF knowing about it until later that day.

Oops. Talk about a company shooting itself in the brain. Now the darling company owned by the big company is leaking their top people, abandoning ship. It pays to do some due diligence before you axe the wrong people, no?


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posted by Brian at 4:34 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, September 08, 2007

So You Think You Can Swindle?

Very depressing Rolling Stone article about how the War in Iraq is being outsourced to rich friends of politicians and their own corporations. These "contractors" charge outrageous prices (which we taxpayers foot the bill for) and do largely nothing, and in fact threaten the lives of anyone over there who could cry foul. ("What? You don't like what we're doing? We'll stop paying for your security.") There's also the possibility that these contractors have supplied money and arms to the enemy in exchange for not being killed. Meanwhile, our government insists the surge of troop levels is working (by cooking the books and redefining terms) and that all this lovely money, er, freedom-spreading should continue.
[But] what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success? There's no profit in patriotism, no cost-plus angle on common decency. Sixty years after America liberated Europe, those are just words, and words don't pay the bills.
We don't have a truly free market or a Democracy once the government regulating it becomes just another business player, using its military might and media control to reap monetary benefits paid for by brainwashed taxpayers. What's really infuriating is that the Democrats do not seem capable or interested in Impeaching the whole mess of cronies along with Bush, whose crimes are against the American taxpayer, U.S. and other countries' troops, the Constitution, and the World at large.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dilbert on Naming a Product

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Computer Science = Not enough to solve production problems.

Some thoughts occurred to me today as I looked back over my career:
  • My Computer Science degree taught me nothing about how to build great tools for actual people working in a production environment.
  • Nor did it tell me how anything about how such tools get created in the "wild" -- neither ideally nor poorly.
  • Small companies tend to build production tools from the bottom up, based on informal conversations between people needing tools and the developers.
  • Once a small company grows too big or gets bought out by another company, a top-down approach takes over.
  • This approach is a mostly linear flow:
    • Users complain about a problem.
    • Production or Management determines whether this problem is worthy. If so, it creates a ticket in the tracking system.
    • Developers see ticket and build tool.
  • Seems logical enough, but I have yet to work for a company where this invading top-down methodology:
    • Improves the actual production for the people using it or the customers they support.
    • Doesn't waste time & money and actually cause lower production over time.
    • Isn't initiated by so-called experts outside (and with little knowledge of) the production wanting vague results like "accountability" and "return on investment" and other business buzzwords.
    • Doesn't discourage bottom-up ideas from going through the new top-down process, EVEN THOUGH the new system mantra is "Please, send us your ideas to improve the system."
  • The top-down folks and the bottom-up folks tend to speak very different languages.
  • Managers from both sides host meetings with minimal feedback from their teams.
  • Hierarchy, a concept from the top-down folks, gets imposed to keep folks under the manager of the developers from going around and talking directly to the other teams they are building tools for.
  • The flow from top to bottom results in tools built to specifications that are weak because the folks needing them:
    • Speak different languages amongst themselves and the developers.
    • Can't determine precisely what it is they need.
  • The developers adopt a mentality of "Just build what is asked -- that way we are not accountable. It's their fault if they don't get what they want."
  • Meanwhile, the experts in actually making the production work without decent tools get overworked.
  • They finally burn-out and leave, leaving behind a gaping hole of lost knowledge.
  • Sometimes, the original developers become "operations" and new developers called "engineers" are brought in to formalize the (mostly unknown) process.
  • These engineers:
    • Have no understanding of the legacy system,
    • Often discourage feedback from the original developers
    • Make grandiose promises of a panacea for management.
  • The panacea never happens.
Next time, I'll describe what has worked.

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posted by Brian at 11:26 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Stovepipes" and Culture

Global Province is a management consulting group with an enlightened viewpoint. In its Letters From the Global Prince section of its website, there are often eye-opening observations about the world around us. Here's a blurb about culture and the lack of communication between subgroups:

Stovepipes. We emphasize that culture is a mosaic, a quilt of widely different strands running through society. It’s not painting, or music, or spices, or a night at the opera, or rap—but all of these woven together and more. Today it’s inextricably global, for culture of any merit no longer respects borders.

It is a catalyst because of ‘stovepipes.’ ‘Stovepipes’ is consultese-shorthand that describes the structure of old-style companies where the different parts or departments don’t converse with each other very well. It’s an American Express where you may have to talk with 4 people—instead of one—when you want to find out about travel, or hospital insurance, or about the points on your credit card, because the company is so compartmentalized that the left hand does not know what the right is doing. It’s every telephone company where you are lucky to be able to talk to anyone (all the telecoms are very understaffed in customer operations, maintenance, and several other areas), and you may talk to as many as 5 people trying to discover your service options if you need to telephone Paris a great deal. The consulting firms themselves are full of stovepipes, and knowledge is not shared well between different practices.

That said, the ‘stovepipes’ that really matter in modern commerce are not those inside companies but those strewn through society and scattered about the world. Neurologists understand very little chemistry—an impediment to research advances. Boutique businesses have a primitive understanding of internet commerce—without which they cannot survive. The U.S. knows little about Indonesia, the world’s major Moslem country, and even less about the Bandas where Ms. Alwi grew up. The more complex the society, the more numerous its stovepipes.

Culture weaves together the world as it is, bringing together spices, the Bandas, cooking, New York, a host of media, and much more. It provides the neural circuitry along which ideas can move. Culture knocks down stovepipes, so that a society can become interactive.

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posted by Brian at 10:26 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, March 09, 2007

Apple Stores Succeed despite Predictions of Doom

Nice blog entry about an article about the surprise success of Apple stores.

From Signal vs. Noise:
The critics were way off…

“Sorry Steve, Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work,” BusinessWeek wrote with great certainty in 2001. “It’s desperation time in Cupertino, Calif.,” opined TheStreet.com. “I give [Apple] two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake,” predicted retail consultant David Goldstein…

Saks, whose flagship is down the street, generates sales of $362 per square foot a year. Best Buy (Charts) stores turn $930 – tops for electronics retailers – while Tiffany & Co. (Charts) takes in $2,666. Audrey Hepburn liked Tiffany’s for breakfast. But at $4,032, Apple is eating everyone’s lunch.

The stores were prototyped like a product…

“One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn’t work,” says Jobs. In other words, design it as you would a product. Apple Store Version 0.0 took shape in a warehouse near the Apple campus. “Ron and I had a store all designed,” says Jobs, when they were stopped by an insight: The computer was evolving from a simple productivity tool to a “hub” for video, photography, music, information, and so forth. The sale, then, was less about the machine than what you could do with it. But looking at their store, they winced. The hardware was laid out by product category – in other words, by how the company was organized internally, not by how a customer might actually want to buy things. “We were like, ‘Oh, God, we’re screwed!’” says Jobs.

But they weren’t screwed; they were in a mockup. “So we redesigned it,” he says. “And it cost us, I don’t know, six, nine months. But it was the right decision by a million miles.” When the first store finally opened, in Tysons Corner, Va., only a quarter of it was about product. The rest was arranged around interests: along the right wall, photos, videos, kids; on the left, problems. A third area – the Genius Bar in the back – was Johnson’s brainstorm.

Hotel concierges were the inspiration for the genius bar…

“When we launched retail, I got this group together, people from a variety of walks of life,” says Johnson. “As an icebreaker, we said, ‘Tell us about the best service experience you’ve ever had.’” Of the 18 people, 16 said it was in a hotel. This was unexpected. But of course: The concierge desk at a hotel isn’t selling anything; it’s there to help. “We said, ‘Well, how do we create a store that has the friendliness of a Four Seasons Hotel?’” The answer: “Let’s put a bar in our stores. But instead of dispensing alcohol, we dispense advice.”...”See that? Look at their eyes. They’re learning. There’s an intense moment – like when you see a kid in school going ‘Aha!’”

The stores fight clutter in products and elements…

The most striking thing, though, is what you don’t see. No. 1: clutter. Jobs has focused Apple’s resources on fewer than 20 products, and those have steadily been shrinking in size. Backroom inventory, then, can shrink in physical volume even as sales volume grows. Also missing, at the newest stores, anyway, is a checkout counter. The system Apple developed, EasyPay, lets salespeople wander the floor with wireless credit-card readers and ask, “Would you like to pay for that?”

The interiors, too, have been distilled to a minimum of elements. “We’ve gotten it down so there’s only three materials we’re using: glass, stainless steel, and wood,” says Johnson. “We spent a year and a half perfecting that steel. Stainless steel can be cold if you don’t get the finish right.

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posted by Brian at 2:53 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fun with Phone Automation Systems

A recent conversation with the US Postal Service's automated phone system:

USPSAPS: Hello, and welcome to the US Postal Service's Automated Phone System. Please choose... (two second pause) I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please choose from the following (two second pause) I'm sorry I could not understand you. Please choose from the following options. Press 1 to track a package. Press 2 to ...

ME: (Press 1)

USPSAPS: Please enter your tracking number

ME: (Press 20 numbers)

USPSAPS: I heard ... (20 numbers) Is this correct?

ME: ("May I help you?"/sarcastic) Yessssss?

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (normally) Yes.

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: No.

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (slowly) Y e s.

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (angrily) YES!

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (Press 0)

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, zero is not a valid option. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (Wall E Gator) Yay-es!

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (like BIT from Tron) yes.

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (opera choir) Yesss!

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (demonic) YESSS!

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (Igor) (breathing) Yessssh mashter

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: (German) Ja!

USPSAPS: I'm sorry, I could not understand you. Please say "Yes" or "No."

ME: *click*

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posted by Brian at 2:33 PM 2 comments links to this post

Sony Imageworks India

From VFXworld:

Sony Pictures Imageworks (SPI) has purchased 50.1% of FrameFlow, the visual effects and animation studio based in Chennai, India, for about $5 million. FrameFlow worked on Sony’s CLICK last year.

As part of the deal, FrameFlow will become Imageworks India and will work with SPI’s main production facility in Culver City, California.

"Imageworks has taken 50.1% equity in FrameFlow and will be investing $5 million for the stake. We expect this would translate to about $20 million in revenue in three to five years," said Jenny Fulle, evp, production, Imageworks.

Imageworks will invest in infrastructure, technology and training in the new company. Imageworks India also plans a significant growth in its current talent base of 80 employees, as it continues to provide visual effects and animation services. It would be relocating to a larger office in Chennai with a seating capacity of 300, according to Hitesh Shah, ceo of FrameFlow and the co-md of Imageworks India.
Curious to see what types of projects they will handle, and how the communication flow will work. In other news, Industrial Light & Magic has set up shop in Singapore.

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posted by Brian at 11:17 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Start a scam in China? Die!

In sharp contrast to how America deals with Corporate Fraud, there's China.

From the BBC News:

A Chinese company chairman has been sentenced to death for running a scam involving giant ants.

Wang Zhendong promised investors returns of up to 60% if they put money into the fictitious ant-breeding project, the court heard. Wang, from Liaoning province, raised 3bn yuan ($390m; £200m) in three years, prosecutors said.

The ants are used in traditional medicines and remedies in parts of China.

Fifteen other staff members were fined and given jail terms of between five and 10 years. More than 10,000 investors signed 100,000 contracts with the company before the case was investigated in June 2005, Xinhua news agency reported.

Only 10m yuan was recovered before the case was brought to court, it said. One investor committed suicide after realising he had been duped, according to the court.

Wang's actions also caused huge economic losses for investors and many subsequently suffered from depression, it added.

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posted by Brian at 5:56 PM 0 comments links to this post

Hazards of Unregulated Free Market Capitalism #17: Vulture Funds

Those of you (probably not reading my blog) who still have unquestioning faith that so-called Free Market economies (the particular variety with few if any regulations governing the behavior of entities within) will "regulate" themselves and play nice with the Earth, Nature, and Man-Kind should read this eye-opening commentary, a blurb of which is found below:

From salon.com:
Donegal International is a breed of investor known as a "vulture fund" -- though such an association is a foul slur upon a bird that never deserved such calumny. Surely, no living creature other than a human being could conceive of and carry through so insidious a business plan as buying up the debts of destitute African nations at bargain rates and then turning around and suing those same nations for vastly inflated sums.
The inspiration for this commentary is at documentarian Greg Palast's site.

Now I realize, buying debt is a common practice (at least in America) -- one can buy foreclosed houses, cars, property, etc. Given that we save -1% of our incomes on average, this would suggest there's a high risk of debt sales.

But buying government debts?? Who needs to invade a country -- if it's poor, just buy its debt and threaten to sue it out of existence with an army of lawyers. Settle with payments of property instead of cash.

Hmm, anyone want to buy New Orleans' debt after Katrina? Nothing illegal about it. It's a Free Market, after all. Would hurt the Economy if we stopped such a thing...
*petting* Poor little Economy. Silly regulators trying to hurt you. Oh, but what about the the Children! We must regulate regulate regulate! Nudity? Ban! Words? Ban! Evolution and other un-Godly ideas? Ban! Filthy World out there must be kept away from the Children! Filthy World tarnished by sinful Mankind, made by the Intelligent Designer. Oh, but Corporations -- those are good for the Economy. Good little Economy. There there. *petting*

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posted by Brian at 5:03 PM 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Don't Feed the (Bad) Corporations

Public Corporate Beingz are the true top predators of the world's ecosystem. Though artificial, because of their Law-based DNA, far more powerful than individual people They also have tremendous life-spans, feeding on differences in value and shortages. Unlike people, they have specialized organs that can diffuse responsibility.

A large portion of humanity has a symbiotic relationship with these creatures, who give up time, energy, privacy, and sometimes individual beliefs in exchange for money to buy food, shelter, and health care. An even larger subset of humanity engages in trade with them, paying money in exchange for food, shelter, communications, entertainment, transportation, information, electricity, water, technology, and other physical items.

Some of these creatures are better than others -- less prone to "evil" activities like selling personal information, suing innocent people, eliminating other more benevolent corporate beingz, and excessively controlling lives of people who ought to be living in a largely free society. All of them live upon the money we provide, so we as humans can do our part not to feed the ones that misbehave.

The challenge though, is that corporations merge, creating fewer choices for us. What was once a tolerable corporation to work for or buy things from may now be owned by an intolerable one.

In my case, these are some corporations I am either avoiding entirely, or would like to as soon as it's possible:

  • Comcast
  • ClearChannel
  • AT&T (which now owns SBC... my DSL provider.)
  • Adobe (which unfortunately, bought its primary competitor, Macromedia)
  • Microsoft (nearly impossible to avoid though)
  • Verizon
  • MCI
  • Monsanto
  • Sony BMG
  • Yahoo
  • Wal-Mart
  • Exxon
Of course, even the most "evil" of corporations can benefit the individual if the individual and it engage in "investing", an unusual relationship in which the more the corporation grows (either through selling things, or by getting more investors), the more it pays money back. This can come at a cost though, such as the effect on other people's rights and health, the environment, other creatures, pollution, privacy, food quality, etc. Ultimately, these can all affect the existence of humanity itself down the road, so one must decide if this "investment" is truly worth it.


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posted by Brian at 3:39 PM 0 comments links to this post