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Posts Tagged ‘monopolies’

American ‘HealthCare’ System Has Been a Scam for Over Two Decades

February 10, 2019 5 comments

What do you call a service which keeps on getting expensive much faster than general monetary inflation but which does not improve? How about calling it a scam. In the past, I have written a few posts about this general area such as the american ‘healthcare’ system is crap, a majority of people now see doctors as no better than credentialed scammers and how life expectancy in USA has always been about class, not race. Yesterday, I came across a tweet in my twitter feed containing a graph which tracked the amount of money spent on healthcare in USA since 1960. Intrigued, I looked up the source and used the more realistic inflation adjusted option. Having seen many other graphs and infographics about the ‘healthcare’ system, I noticed something right away. Here.. have a look at the attached figure to spot what I am talking about.

You might have noticed that the increase in calculated average life-expectancy at birth from world bank data has a peculiar relationship with cost in USA. For starters, the calculated average life-expectancy at birth has improved by just shy of 9 years since 1960. But isn’t that a good thing? Well.. sure, but have a look at how it correlated with cost. It had already reached the 74 year mark in 1981, when the total cost was about 440 billion USD (inflation adjusted)- which is about 1/4th of what it costs now. But it gets better.. or worse. In 1998, the average calculated life-expectancy at birth was 76.6 years and cost about 1,016 billion USD (inflation adjusted). Long story short, average life expectancy has increased by only 2 years over the previous 20 years- but the costs have more than doubled over the same time span.

Even worse, average life-expectancy has been slowly falling over the past two years– but costs keep on going up. While USA spends a bit over 18 % of its GDP on ‘healthcare’, other developed countries achieve significantly better results by spending less than half that amount and their average life expectancy is 3-4 years higher and still rising slowly. So what is happening in the american system? Well many things.. first, the income of doctors started rising a lot after 1980 due to the introduction of billing codes. Impressed by the ability of doctors to extort the system, hospitals joined in the act and used their leverage to out-exploit them starting in the mid-1990s, which is also when pharma got in on the act. So far, none of the three want to stop. And why should they? Too many boomer idiots still want to delude themselves into believing that the american ‘healthcare’ system is the “best in the world”. Keep believing..

What do you think? Comments?

Quick Thoughts on Deplatforming of Alex Jones by Internet Monopolies

August 6, 2018 11 comments

Over the past few days, but especially today, I noticed that many “liberals” on the internet show us their collective orgasm-face as internet corporate monopolies such as YouTube, FaceBook and Apple progressively deplatformed the Alex Jones show. It was darkly comic to watch one allegedly “liberal” commentator after the other enthusiastically defend corporate monopolies while spouting all the shitty arguments made by “libertarians” regarding corporate rights. Though I have nothing but contempt for CONservatives, I am no fan of establishment-worshiping LIEbrals either.

While I have no love for Alex Jones or his show, the idea that monopolistic corporations can cut off essential services to their users without any worthwhile legal recourse is highly problematic. Sure.. Alex Jones is a greedy shithead, but a society which cheers on as large corporations mistreat their customers based on some highly subjective moral standard is even more fucked up. Think about it.. how many of the idiots cheering those monopolies today would feel the same if their electric utility cut them off based on what they read, saw or who they associated with.

Then again, these are the same idiots who believe that removing guns from hands of average people while doing nothing about progressive militarization of police in USA is a great idea. They also think that unreliable “renewable energy” can magically displace conventional power plants and how forcing everyone to be vegetarian is a fantastic idea. And then they wonder why all their SJW-driven, “celebrity”-promoted and “ivy-league” endorsed beliefs result them in losing the 2016 election against a reality show clown. But who cares about reality outside their bubbles..

Anyway, I will make one prediction about the most likely result of this enthusiastic support for corporate monopolistic power suppressing free (if tasteless) speech. To make a long story short, the precedent they are cheering today is guaranteed to come back and bite them in the ass soon- most likely before 2020. They are not going to be able to keep basking in the glow of this “success” for long- not unlike Gollum after he finally got his hands on the ‘One Ring’ inside Mount Doom.

What do you think? Comments?

On Linkage Between Nasim Aghdam and YouTube’s Monopolist Policies

April 5, 2018 6 comments

I am sure that, by now, most of you heard about the shooting at YouTube’s headquarters by Nasim Aghdam. Regardless of what you think about her personality, the unintentional meme-friendliness of her videos or her general mental stability- its is clear that the incident in question was triggered by YouTube’s (and by extension, Google’s) completely unaccountable behavior towards its content creators and users. In that respect, Google is part of the general trend of Silly Valley corporations being monopolistic, autocratic and totally unaccountable. Given the amount of online hate about YouTube’s corporate behavior, policies and decision-making, I am surprised that such an incident did not occur sooner.

Amazon, Paypal, Facebook and pretty much every other large Silly Valley corporation have, in recent years, displayed very similar behavior when it comes to acting like autocratic monopolies. I hope to, soon, write a more detailed post about my views on the effect of such behavior as well as the kind of pushback it will eventually engender. Having said that, I am sure that this little incident is unlikely to change the attitude at Google anytime soon. Many of you must also be aware that YouTube is soon going to ban channels about guns. Surely such a move will be hailed by the public as an uncontroversial “common sense” decision without any pushback..

Link 1: Tragic YouTube shooting casts new light on creators’ “adpocalypse” complaints

As news unfolded about Tuesday’s YouTube shooting, a chilling motive emerged. Ahead of the incident, the alleged shooter had posted videos maligning the service—doing so as a former money-making user of the site. “I’m being discriminated [against] and filtered on YouTube, and I’m not the only one,” alleged shooter Nasim Aghdam said in a video that was shared after her identity as the shooting’s current, sole fatality was revealed. “My workout video gets age-restricted. Vegan activists and other people who try to point out healthy, humane, and smart living, people like me, are not good for big business. That’s why they are discriminating [against] and censoring us.”

YouTube’s automatic filters have wreaked demonetization havoc through a wide swath of video types, including those about conservative politics and LGBTQ issues. However, keeping track of which videos are impacted (and for how long) is itself quite difficult, owing to how many channels may be temporarily hit only to have those strikes reversed after an inefficient reviews process. The above-linked video about LGBTQ videos, for example, was itself demonetized when it was uploaded; it has since been whitelisted for ads.

One video made by alleged YouTube HQ shooter Aghdam, which was successfully archived before most of her online presence was wiped, focused primarily on YouTube flagging a video she’d recently made. Her complaint video included footage of the demonetized video, which showed a fully clothed Aghdam working out via sit-ups and leg lifts, as well as an allegation that YouTube rejected her appeal, telling her that the video was “inappropriate.”

Link 2: Livid over site’s policies, YouTube shooter trained for attack, shot randomly

Barberini provided a few more details about the incident, confirming that she was upset with the company’s “policies and practices.” Earlier videos—which have been removed from YouTube and Facebook but remain scattered in other places across the Internet—include clips of Aghdam railing against perceived grievances concerning age restrictions and demonetization. Last year, Google overhauled its age restriction rules and enforcement policy. This resulted in a wave of videos being demonetized, which angered YouTubers who could no longer attach money-making ads to their videos. Ruchika Budhraja, a Facebook spokeswoman, confirmed to Ars that the company had deleted Aghdam’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and wrote that the company would also “delete content that praises or supports the shooter or the horrific act as soon as we are aware.”

Link 3: YouTube shooter IDed as woman angry at site’s “age-restricted” policies

The San Bruno Police Department has identified the suspect in Tuesday’s shooting at the YouTube campus as Nasim Aghdam, a 39-year-old woman from San Diego. The confirmation came hours after numerous media sources had initially named Aghdam as the suspect. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Aghdam’s car was towed from the YouTube parking lot. Aghdam seemingly had a website in which she promotes numerous YouTube channels, including ones in English, Turkish, and Farsi. All of her social media channels appear to have been deactivated or removed. The woman seemed to be upset at YouTube over what she called “age-restricted” policies.

Link 4: YouTube Attacker’s Complaints Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars

While the police did not specifically say what those policies were, they likely had to do with a concept called “demonetization.” In response to pressure from advertisers and consumers, YouTube has been pulling ads from thousands of videos that it decides do not meet its standards for content. That has sparked an outcry from many of the people who post videos to the service. One of those creators was Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman the police said had shot YouTube employees in San Bruno, Calif. She frequently posted videos to several YouTube channels and had become increasingly angry over the money she was making from them.

When YouTube pulls ads, it tells creators which videos violated the standards, though it doesn’t elaborate very much on what they did wrong. It’s unclear whether YouTube pulled ads from Ms. Aghdam’s videos.The anger around demonetization has been growing for more than a year. One of YouTube’s most popular personalities, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie, posted videos with Nazi imagery, including a sign that called for “Death to Jews.” As a punishment, YouTube demonetized some of his videos in early 2017, though it didn’t outrightly bar him. Mr. Kjellberg, now calling himself “family-friendly,” still posts regularly and has a booming business on the platform.

A wide spectrum of YouTube creators, from the conspiracy-minded to the most popular stars, have been vocal about what they see as censorship on YouTube. After a popular video blogger who posts about news, Philip DeFranco, saw his videos demonetized, he called demonetization “censorship with a different name.” On Twitter, he wrote: “Producer just got off the phone with Youtube and it wasn’t a mistake. Feels a little bit like getting stabbed in the back after 10 years.” Luke Rudkowski, an independent journalist who describes conspiracy theories to his more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, has repeatedly complained about the site pulling ads from his videos.

In August, he posted a video criticizing news that YouTube would start removing more terrorist content. “We are seeing the purging, the cleaning of this major online institution to be more favorable towards corporations and governments,” Mr. Rudkowski said. “Now that’s why I think we’re finally reaching the end time of this beautiful and amazing platform.” A few days later, he said YouTube had pulled ads from 660 of his videos, “basically eviscerating my main source of revenue for this news organization.”

What do you think? Comments?

Monopolies, Managerialism and the Downfall of State Communism: 1

November 23, 2017 5 comments

As regular readers of my blog are well aware of, I do not believe in ideologies of any kind since all ideologies are by definition highly compromised and simplified mental models of “reality”. These pathetic human attempts to model reality are as similar to the real thing as a photograph of a clock is to the passage of time. But perhaps the biggest reason to oppose any ideology is that every single one of them comes with its own unique baggage of unnecessary tragedies and a priestly class and elite who benefits from all that unnecessary suffering.

What I have said above holds true for every single ideology which has ever been proposed or pushed as the “only right way”. And this includes everything from polytheistic and monotheistic religions, older modes of social organization to all forms of capitalism, socialism and communism. The study of ideologies is however interesting because it provides a very useful, if cynicism inducing, insight into the nature of human self-delusion. One of the more interesting observation I have made is that ideologies created under similar conditions are more similar to each other than they are dissimilar.

The similarity between ideologies created under similar conditions also extends to their modes of failure. As I have mentioned in more than one of my older posts, capitalism and communism are far more similar to each other than is commonly understood since both are based in a particular version of post-industrial revolution social and economic organization. In other words, they are just two slightly distinct attempts to solve the same “problem”. This similarity is more obvious once you start looking at how the two types of systems work in reality, as opposed to how they are represented in literature.

But what does any of this have to do with the topic of this post? Well.. as you will soon see, a lot.

Have you ever wondered why state communism (especially in Russia) was able to survive the post-ww1 civil wars, Stalin’s despotism, ww2 and still keep making impressive gains till the 1970s- only to fall in the early 1990s? Why could a system that handily survived tons of adverse conditions which included the deaths of tens of millions start losing public support in an era of relative peace and prosperity? As I have said in older posts, there were many reasons- from ideological rigidity, institutional inertia to the apparent inability to deliver on some of the promised improvements in general quality of life.

Let us focus on the last one, because it has a lot of commonality to what we are seeing in western capitalist societies in the post-2008 era. So.. why were countries run according to the ideology of state communism unable to provide a high standard of living and comfort for most of their citizens? Why were the cars made in those countries so ugly and often hard to get? Why was the toilet paper so coarse? Why was the quality of TVs often so bad? Why was everything that most people used in their daily lives so mediocre or shoddy?

The conventional explanation for this phenomena involves some hand-waving about “capitalism being better” and “market economy”. But is that really true? Think about it this way.. the soviet union had no problem building excellent rocket launchers, spacecraft, aircraft, ICBMS, tanks and weapons of pretty much every other kind. They were very clearly capable of manufacturing high quality items on very large scales- if doing so was deemed necessary. So why did that ability not translate into the manufacture of high-quality cars, TVs, toilet paper and other consumer goods? And why did they experience chronic shortages of even those consumer goods?

The answer, in my opinion, comes down to the downstream effects of what were essentially monopolies run by incestuous cabals of power-hungry professional “managers”. To appreciate what I am saying, ask yourself the following question- How would the process of buying a car and the choices differ between a person in USA and USSR in 1970? Let us start by considering the issue surrounding the ability to buy one in both situations. For starters, average wages in 1970-era USA were high enough to make it possible for almost anyone to buy a half-decent new car.

But do wages really matter? I mean, it was perfectly feasible for a nation as big as Soviet Russia to create a different currency for internal use only. In other words, if they wanted to make sure that every adult in that country could buy a car- they could just pay part of the wages in such a restricted currency or just distribute one car to every adult once every few years. It is important to note that every material and labor input (plus fuel) to create something as technologically simple as automobiles was present within in large quantities within that country. So why did that not occur?

Once again, there a bunch of closely related reasons but it mostly comes down to availability of manufactured cars. As many of you know, state communism was a top-down system of governance in which most consumer products were produced by companies that were, for all practical purposes, monopolies. Consider the sheer number of car models from competing corporations vying for the money of a car buyer in USA in 1970. Now compare that situation to a person in a similar position in 1970-era Russia. I should also point out the system in 1970-era USA tried to prevent the formation of monopolies and oligopolies.

To make a long story short, people involved with the production of cars (or other consumer goods) under state communism did not have to worry about whether consumers liked their products or whether they made enough of them. It simply did not matter because they were the only game in town and they had the full backing of the government behind them. They could produce ugly and often crappy cars, unreliable TVs and toilet paper full of wooden splinters and guess what.. the people who has to use them had no option.

In contrast to this state of affairs, failure to make decent ICBMs, airplanes, spacecraft, tanks, guns etc was severely punished by the state. Also, unlike for consumer goods- different companies, design bureaus and groups competed against other to develop and manufacture excellent products. It was as if the mechanisms to ensure effective innovation and production were present for products required by the state but absent for those required by the average person. But why does any of this matter to us in 2017, except perhaps as a historical curiosity?

Well.. because post-2000 era USA has undergone a similar change in almost every sector of the economy. The buzzword and operative principle of most businesses in USA today is profit through consolidation leading to what is basically monopolization and monopolization. Compare the number of department stores in 1980 with 2017 (including their relative market shares). Do the same exercise for for banks, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, newspapers, TV and radio station ownership, internet providers etc. I could go on and on.. My point is that consolidation of smaller corporations into ever larger oligopolies and monopolies have resulted in a concurrent deterioration of product quality, demise of real innovation in addition to an increasingly poor consumer experience.

The oligopolies and monopolies which increasingly dominate the commercial landscape in USA have far more in common with state-sanctioned monopolies in communist countries that their predecessors from the era when anti-trust laws and regulations were actually enforced. It is likely that the outcome will be the same and USA will be known as the land of shittier, costlier and scarer products. In case you haven’t noticed- it is already happening in sectors as diverse as banking, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and household appliances. Then again.. similar systems reach similar end points, even if some may reach it faster that others.

In the upcoming part of this series, I will talk about the remarkable similarity between the type of people (under capitalism and communism) who end up in important positions in state-sanctioned monopolies and oligopolies- and how they speed up rate of overall crapification and hollowing out of the system.

What do you think? Comments?

Censoring Speech on Internet is Always a Bad Idea: Aug 21, 2017

August 21, 2017 22 comments

Over the previous few days, many short-sighted idiots.. I mean people.. of varying fame on the internet and various social media platforms have been supporting attempts by various corporate monopolies and oligopolies to deplatform people and organisations with connections to the so-called ‘alt-right’. Let us, for a moment, ignore that the so-called ‘alt-right’ is actually a bunch of different groups with overlap in some parts of their individual ideologies but large (and often irreconcilable) differences in other parts. Let us, instead, focus on the far more important question which is as follows:

Should corporations, with or without state support, be allowed to censor speech on the internet?

In my opinion, giving corporations (of any type) such power, whether implicitly or explicitly, is a very bad idea. Now some of you might say- but.. but they are trying to censor Nazis. What is wrong with bending rules to marginalize Nazis or people who profess to believe in that ideology? The short answer is that censorship of speech is always a bad idea, even if the groups or individuals you are trying to censor are vile and loathsome. Furthermore, censorship of free speech or similar instance of rules and regulations based on extreme cases are almost always counterproductive in the longer run in more ways than one.

The longer answer requires us to first consider the context and history of such demands and the almost certain negative and counterproductive consequences of such actions.

1] Many famous or credentialed morons.. I mean experts.. like to claim that free speech never “actually existed” are in the same ideological basket as those who defend slavery and Jim Crow because “that is how people used to do things”. I could show you the stupidity of that logic by asking them why those credentialed sophists why they prefer to use functional flush toilets and drink purified and treated water when neither of those have existed for most of human history. The nature of what is possible and justifiable has more to do with feasibility rather than selective interpretations of tradition. For example- the majority of people in USA are now OK with gay marriage largely because conservative opponents of gay marriage tried to couch their opposition in terms of appeals to thoroughly discredited traditional norms surrounding marriage.

2] Any half-decent analysis of history suggests that attempts to suppress ideas because they clash with dominant culture of the day often results in those ideas gaining more exposure and respectability. As some of you know, a number of ideologies from Christianity in the Roman Empire to Nazism in Wiemer-era Germany were able gain significant public interest because of persistent attempts by the prevailing establishment to shut them down and persecute their members. Sites such as the Daily Stormer, Rebel Media and many right-wing internet forums and social media recently gained tons of public attention because of the many attempts of internet oligopolies to shut them down. Moreover, trying to censor the content on such sites is problematic because it is quickly reproduced on many others.

3] Why would any person with basic critical thinking skills trust large corporations or government officials- both of whom have no worthwhile public accountability to make subjective decisions that are impartial? Why would they? What motivation do they have to be fair and reasonable? Do you really think that the legal precedent gained by censoring these neo-Nazis won’t be used to censor anybody else who they do not like? Do you think that social movements from such as BLM and various labor unions will somehow never be subject to high-handed censorship? Also do you trust the law enforcement apparatus in USA will not misuse such precedent to further their abuse of groups which they already like to murder and imprison? If you still trust large corporations, government officials and law enforcement to behave ethically, I have a bridge to sell you.

4] Laws criminalizing explicit violent threats and intentional libel have been around for a very long time. Therefore, we do not require new laws and regulations to prosecute those who commit such acts, either in real life or on the internet. What is most troubling about attempts by internet oligopolies to censor unpopular online speech by hiding behind the “Nazi exception” is that they are going after ideas and ideologies which by themselves are not innately violent or libelous. For example- a racist shitbag who opines that whites are the “master race” is just stating what he or she believes. As long as the person in question is not making an explicit violent threat, he or she is just being an asshole. And one person’s asshole could be an other person’s philosopher.

5] Right-wing ideologies such Nazism and similar ethno-nationalistic movements tend to gain most of their support from those who feel disenfranchised by the established socio-political system of that day. There is a very good why Mussolini became successful in the chaos of post-WW1 Italy or why Hitler rocketed in popularity after the great depression caused mass unemployment in 1930-era Germany. Similarly the rise of right-wing fascistic movements in west-European countries during the late 1920s-1930s was due to a combination of mass unemployment, unresolved nationalism and entrenched political establishments who did not want to change the unsustainable status quo.

In other words, the rise of neo-Nazis and similar right-wing movements in USA is a symptom of people losing their faith in the system and elites who are currently running them. You cannot treat a serious systemic disease by addressing a few of its minor symptoms. I would go so far as to say that the current interest in censoring unpopular free speech is basically an admission by the establishment that they are either unwilling or unable to fix the larger problems of socio-economic inequality. It is the policy equivalent of trying to patch up a banged up car with duct tape because you cannot afford to, or are unwilling to, repair it.

To summarize: Attempts to censor free speech (especially the unpopular kind) by large corporations and government officials are, at best, short-sighted and futile attempts to address minor symptoms of much larger socio-economic problems. At worst, they will make those assholes more popular and respectable while simultaneously abusing resultant legal precedents against a variety of relatively peaceful social movements and individuals. Therefore, in my opinion, it is far better for us a society to let a few assholes say what they want, even if they end up trying to test the boundaries of such freedoms. Large corporations, government officials, and “law enforcement” pose far larger risks and threats for the well-being and future of most people than a few idiots in office-cuck attires parading around some city with citronella-scented tiki torches.

Will write more on this topic in a future post, depending on your replies to this one.

What do you think? Comments?