B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Musicians on Robert Allan II was uploaded to Flickr

South Branch, Chicago River

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I took Musicians on Robert Allan II on May 10, 2014 at 08:07PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 19, 2014 at 04:20PM

Written by eggplant

June 21st, 2014 at 9:33 am

The Amazon Fire Phone Is An Overpriced Shopping and Surveillance Tool

Jeff Bezos introduced the latest Amazon hardware device yesterday, the Fire, an entry into the smartphone category. I’m only half finished reading Brad Stone’s biography of Bezos, The Everything Store, but one thing has been made clear: Jeff Bezos is a long-term thinker who makes no small plans.

And so what seems to be Amazon’s long term goal here? Basically, to sell more items at Amazon.com. The Fire is a hand-held cash register customized to selling you more things. Uhh, yay? Are there people out there who are irritated that it takes 10 seconds to order replacement razor blades at Amazon.com? Not to mention there already is an iOS Amazon app that scans either a bar code or the text on a package. I’ve found it occasionally useful, but frequently the scan yields zero results.
Search Amazon
The Fire is not really a phone, per say:

Although he did not show the feature onstage, Mr. Bezos confirmed that his expensive new phone does makes calls. “I haven’t made a phone call on my phone in a long time,” he said. “But I know people still make phone calls.”

(click here to continue reading Amazon Fire Phone’s Missed Opportunities – NYTimes.com.)

and skeptics abound:

At the outset, Fire looks to be an attempt to rope Amazon shoppers deeper into its world — the phone is, above all, an enhanced shopping tool. It’s not a realistic shot at the smartphone market.

(click here to continue reading Amazon Phone Is An Enhanced Shopping Tool | Digital – Advertising Age.)

Rate this packaging
Rate this packaging

and my second, nearly immediate thought about the Amazon Fire – it seems like an NSA dream! So while the Fire encourages you to purchase more consumer goods, it will allow Amazon.com to collect more meta data about your house, your office, your car, your friends, your neighbors, and so on.

The WSJ notes:

Amazon squeezed a number of new technologies into the Fire, but it seems its biggest innovation may be new uses it found for an old technology: cameras. The Fire doesn’t just take nice photos–it watches you, and what’s around you, to customize what you see and how you interact with the world.

(click here to continue reading First Look: Amazon’s Fire Phone Is Watching You – Personal Tech News – WSJ.)

John Koetsier agrees with me that this sounds a bit creepy, and writes:

How do you think it recognizes those things, including text on images, which Amazon says it will offer language translation features for later this year?

Well, the Firefly button and the camera button are one and the same. Meaning that whenever you use the camera, you’re using Firefly. And whenever you’re using Firefly, you’re using the camera. Plus, of course, you’re turning on audio sensors that capture ambient sound.

And then you’re transmitting all those pictures and sound files to the grandaddy and still global leader in connected cloud technology, the company that pretty much invented what we now call big data analytics for customer insights, and the largest online retailer in the wild wild west.

Amazon.com, of course.

All of those pictures require processing, analysis, and matching, presumably at a level — if they can identify 100 million objects — that can only be done in the cloud, and not on a small handheld device with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of on-board storage.

Fortunately for you, dear consumer, Amazon has kindly consented to storing all your photos, forever, in its vast cloudy server farms. How gracious Amazon is, providing that massive service for free! How lucky are you, getting all that for free!

Probably not as lucky as Amazon.

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Fire Phone might be the biggest privacy invasion ever (and no-one’s noticed) | VentureBeat | Marketing | by John Koetsier.)

I think I’ll pass…

Written by Seth Anderson

June 19th, 2014 at 8:01 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

This Will Be Our Year was uploaded to Flickr

waiting for the storm to roll in

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I took This Will Be Our Year on June 18, 2014 at 11:34AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 18, 2014 at 08:56PM

Written by eggplant

June 18th, 2014 at 4:49 pm

West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux was uploaded to Flickr

another view of the now defunct Fisk Generating Plant spewing mercury and what-not over our fair city…

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I took West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux on January 14, 2012 at 05:44PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 16, 2014 at 02:59PM

Written by eggplant

June 17th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Pump Room at Public Chicago was uploaded to Flickr

Goofing around with Analog Efex Pro.

The original was opened in 1938, per Wikipedia but this is a revamped version. I actually only used their bathroom facilities…

http://ift.tt/1qX2GL6

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I took Pump Room at Public Chicago on June 15, 2014 at 05:45PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 16, 2014 at 09:02PM

Written by eggplant

June 17th, 2014 at 8:55 am

Dreaming of The Funeral of Amenhotep was uploaded to Flickr

Street art, Wicker Park somewhere, or maybe W. Chicago Avenue. Actual title and artist unknown.

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I took Dreaming of The Funeral of Amenhotep on September 09, 2011 at 02:13PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 13, 2014 at 08:38PM

Written by eggplant

June 16th, 2014 at 8:27 am

A Sight For Sore Eyes was uploaded to Flickr

Marty checks out a hologram, Museum of Holography, Chicago.

The museum is closed, btw.
http://ift.tt/1l8yEof…

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I took A Sight For Sore Eyes on September 09, 2011 at 01:32PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 13, 2014 at 03:08PM

Written by eggplant

June 14th, 2014 at 9:38 am

IFTTT Recipe Acting Strangely

Chainsaw sculpture
chainsaw-sculpture – source unknown

If you’ve noticed, in the last couple of days photos have appeared here that have already been posted; duplicate entries from weeks ago. I don’t know why this is happening, but I do know the cause – https://ifttt.com/wtf

I have a recipe1 that works like this: if I add the keyword “blogged” to a Flickr photo, the photo gets published on this blog with the author being “eggplant”.  I find this recipe to be a fairly easy way to add photos – all it takes is adding a tag, which can be accomplished even with a mobile devie – the main complaint I’ve had is that the photo has to be fairly recent. It doesn’t work with any image uploaded more than six months ago, give or take.

IFTTT Recipe: New Flickr photo with tag “blogged” gets a WP post connects flickr to wordpress

I’ve used this recipe 183 times as of this morning, but starting yesterday, duplicates started appearing. I’ve deleted them all so far, but since this is an automated process, I don’t notice the duplications until later, which means they get pushed out to my Tumblr blog, Twitter, yadda yadda. Irritating, but not happening frequently enough to turn off the recipe. Yet.

Apologies.

Footnotes:
  1. Recipe is the word IFTTT uses for these scripts []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 14th, 2014 at 8:51 am

Posted in blog

Tagged with

The Emergency Monologues – by Morgan Jones Phillips was uploaded to Flickr

Got my copy from Lulu.com today…

http://ift.tt/1vaZXAb

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I took The Emergency Monologues – by Morgan Jones Phillips on June 13, 2014 at 01:16PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 13, 2014 at 06:17PM

Written by eggplant

June 13th, 2014 at 11:27 am

Boeing falls most since April After Cantor loss

Double Rainbow Over Boeing
Double Rainbow Over Boeing

The most amusing headline we read the day after Eric Cantor (Smug R) lost his primary to the Tea Bagger, and Ayn Randian acolyte, David Brat, was this one. Poor, poor Boeing, lost one of their sugar daddies…

Boeing Co. (BA) fell the most in two months as U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in a primary election threatens congressional reauthorization of low-cost lending that benefits the world’s largest planemaker.

Keeping alive the Export-Import Bank will be an “even more high-profile/challenging fight,” Chris Krueger, a senior policy analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC, said today by e-mail. Boeing was the “biggest loser” besides Cantor in the Virginia Republican’s surprise loss yesterday, Krueger wrote.

Ex-Im arranges financing that helps foreign airlines buy jets, a service that Boeing said last month would support $10 billion of 2014 sales. As Congress debates reauthorization, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas is being promoted as a possible Cantor successor. He has said the U.S. should “exit the Ex-Im.”

(click here to continue reading Boeing Tumbles as Cantor Loss Clouds Ex-Im Bank’s Future – Bloomberg.)

Boeing - El Segundo
Boeing – El Segundo

So what exactly is the Export-Import Bank? The Wikipedia entry:

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) is the official export credit agency of the United States federal government. It was established in 1934 by an executive order, and made an independent agency in the Executive branch by Congress in 1945, for the purposes of financing and insuring foreign purchases of United States goods for customers unable or unwilling to accept credit risk. The mission of the Bank is to create and sustain U.S. jobs by financing sales of U.S. exports to international buyers. The Bank is chartered as a government corporation by the Congress of the United States; it was last chartered for a three-year term in 2012 which will expire in September 2014. Its Charter spells out the Bank’s authorities and limitations. Among them is the principle that Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders, but rather provides financing for transactions that would otherwise not take place because commercial lenders are either unable or unwilling to accept the political or commercial risks inherent in the deal.

(click here to continue reading Export-Import Bank of the United States – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Golden Plowshares
Golden Plowshares

Corporate welfare, in other words. Propping up the bottom line of the military-industrial complex, and other crony capital chores. Sure, after World War 2, the bank was perhaps justifiable, the Marshall Plan and all that. But in today’s economy? Why does Boeing, GE, Halliburton or ExxonMobil need special low-interest loans subsidized by US taxpayers, loans that are not available to the rest of the business world? Especially when so much of what the bank subsidizes is bad for the planet. 

Like:

The bank’s environmental policy is a disappointment because it would allow an increase in spending on coal and other technologies harmful to the environment, said Steve Kretzmann, who runs Washington-based Oil Change International, which seeks to curb government aid to fossil-fuel companies.

“It makes a mockery of the Obama administration’s supposed commitment to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies,” Kretzmann said in an interview.

The project in Papua New Guinea led by Irving, Texas-based Exxon has become a particular point of contention.

The pipeline’s construction will destroy pristine tropical forests, PacificEnvironment’s Norlen said in a submission to the lender in September.

Exxon “is the most profitable corporation on the planet,” Kretzmann said. “This is the last place that taxpayer support should be going.”

(click here to continue reading Obama’s Trade Goal Fights His Clean-Energy Plan (Update4) – Bloomberg.)

and:

President Barack Obama’s goals of boosting U.S. exports and combating climate change are colliding as the U.S. Export-Import Bank expands financing for oil, gas, mining and power-plant projects.

Bank-supported ventures approved in the year ended Sept. 30 will emit an estimated 17.9 million metric tons of carbon annually, more than triple the previous year and the most since the lender started releasing data in 2001, according to its annual reports. Among companies aided were General Electric Co. and Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil business.

“Ex-Im is on a fossil-fuel binge,” said Doug Norlen, policy director at PacificEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group in San Francisco.

You Can't Bribe No one
You Can’t Bribe No one

We’re not alone in wondering why in our current economic climate, this corporate welfare bank continues to exist.

For instance, from those hippies at Forbes:

Nothing brings out the well-tailored lobbyists in Washington quite like a threat to corporate welfare.  With the Export-Import Bank’s legal authorization set to run out this year, the Chamber of Commerce recently led a Big Business march on Capitol Hill to protect what is known as Boeing’s Bank.  Over the last eight decades ExIm has provided over a half trillion dollars in credit, mostly to corporate titans.  Congress should close the Bank.

ExIm was created in 1934 to underwrite trade with the Soviet Union.  The agency piously claims not to provide subsidies since it charges fees and interest, but it exists only to offer business a better credit deal than is available in the marketplace.  The Bank uses its ability to borrow at government rates to provide loans, loan guarantees, working capital guarantees, and loan insurance.

The result is a bad deal for the rest of us.  For instance, ExIm is not free, as claimed.  Recently made self-financing, the agency has returned $1.6 billion to the Treasury since 2008.  However, economists Jason Delisle and Christopher Papagianis warned that the Bank’s “profits are almost surely an accounting illusion” because “the government’s official accounting rules effectively force budget analysts to understate the cost of loan programs like those managed by the Ex-Im Bank.”

In particular, the price of market risk is not included, even though doing so, explained the Congressional Budget Office, would provide “a more comprehensive measure of federal costs.”  Delisle and Papagianis figured ExIm’s real price to exceed $200 million annually.  Indeed, both the Government Accountability Office and ExIm Inspector General raised questions about the accuracy of the agency’s risk modeling.

Federal Reserve economist John H. Boyd took another approach, explaining:  “For an economic profit—that is, a real benefit to taxpayers—Eximbank’s income must exceed its recorded expenses plus its owners’ opportunity cost, a payment to taxpayers for investing their funds in this agency rather than somewhere else.”  If ExIm was private, he added, “one must suspect that its owners would have pulled out long ago in favor of a truly profitable enterprise.”  He figured the Bank’s real cost averaged around $200 million a year in the late 1970s but had increased to between $521 million and $653 million by 1980.  Given the recent explosion in Bank lending the corresponding expense today could be much higher.

(click here to continue reading Close the Export-Import Bank: Cut Federal Liabilities, Kill Corporate Welfare, Promote Free Trade – Forbes.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2014 at 10:42 am

Self Portrait with a Hat, Redux was uploaded to Flickr

Testing a new Hipstamatic Lens/Film combination

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I took Self Portrait with a Hat, Redux on June 06, 2014 at 01:35PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 06, 2014 at 11:16PM

Written by eggplant

June 11th, 2014 at 9:11 am

Cocktail (18) – Hendrick’s Gin, Meyer Lemon, Heering Cherry Liquer, Thatcher’s Blood Orange Liquer was uploaded to Flickr

I need a better name for this, suggestions?

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I took Cocktail (18) – Hendrick’s Gin, Meyer Lemon, Heering Cherry Liquer, Thatcher’s Blood Orange Liquer on May 16, 2014 at 10:32PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on May 17, 2014 at 03:35AM

Written by eggplant

June 9th, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Lost Time Is Not Found Again was uploaded to Flickr

Kinzie St Bridge over the Chicago River

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I took Lost Time Is Not Found Again on April 20, 2014 at 07:07PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on April 25, 2014 at 05:45PM

Written by eggplant

June 9th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Big Reasons The Estate Tax Needs to Be Raised to 90 Percent

Of course it buys happiness
Of course it buys happiness

If I was in charge of tax policy, instead of lowering the estate tax as so many rich schmucks are constantly yammering about, I’d raise it to 90% on all estates valued at greater than $2,000,000. Why can’t these parasites make their own fortunes? and even being able to gift 10% of your multi-billion dollar estate is more than enough to live comfortably…

Here are some reasons why. 

For instance:

SC Johnson, the “family” company’s billionaire heir, Samuel Curtis Johnson III, who confessed to repeatedly sexually assaulting his teenage stepdaughter has received an outrageous prison sentence of only four months because the judge, Circuit Justice Eugene Gasiorkiewicz, feels that Johnson’s importance to the community is valued much higher than the dignity of his abused step-daughter. 

Affluenza, as it has been dubbed, has struck again. This billionaire has officially plead guilty to mere misdemeanor charges of fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct instead of receiving the maximum which is felony sexual assault on a minor child. These charges originally stem from 2011. Think Progress reported Johnson’s stepdaughter “initially told police Johnson was ‘a sex addict‘ and touched her inappropriately 15 to 20 times starting when she was 12 years old. She told her mother about the abuse in order to protect her younger sister, and Johnson confessed when the mother confronted him.” Because Johnson’s victim was unwilling to testify in the case, the prosecutors had to make a plea deal with Johnson and his legal team. 

(click here to continue reading – Billionaire Gets 4 MONTHS For Sexually Assaulting 12-Year-Old Because He’s ‘Productive’.)

and

A Delaware man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

In her decision, Judge Jan Jurden suggested Robert H. Richards IV would benefit more from treatment. Richards, who was charged with fourth-degree rape in 2009, is an unemployed heir living off his trust fund. The light sentence has only became public as the result of a subsequent lawsuit filed by his ex-wife, which charges that he penetrated his daughter with his fingers while masturbating, and subsequently assaulted his son as well.

Richards is the great grandson of du Pont family patriarch Irenee du Pont, a chemical baron.

According to the lawsuit filed by Richards’ ex-wife, he admitted to assaulting his infant son in addition to his daughter between 2005 and 2007. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second-degree child rape, felonies that translate to a 10-year mandatory jail sentence per count. He was released on $60,000 bail while awaiting his charges.

(click here to continue reading One Percenter Convicted Of Raping Child Dodges Jail Because He ‘Will Not Fare Well’.)

and

Ethan Couch, the Texas teen whose deadly drunk driving was excused by a lenient judge because of “affluenza,” is serving his time in rehab on mostly taxpayers’ money, RadarOnline reports. According to RadarOnline, it is largely the public who will be responsible for the now 17-year-old’s $438,000-per-year rehab treatment.

“Recently a judge ruled that the teen should be sent to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon. The hospital’s rehab program charges $700 a day, but since it is a partially state-funded institution, Couch’s parents would only be charged $38 per day for their son’s treatment,” Kenneth Webster, a contributor to Breitbart.com, said, according to the news site. “Thanks to taxpayers, Couch’s rehab bill has been dropped from $438,000 annually to only $13,870.”

That seems a small fee for the affluent family, who have been sued for millions of dollars by the families of those killed in the drunk-driving accident, as well as by those injured.

Last year Couch decided to take a drunken joy ride in his pickup truck after a party. He crashed into the car of Breanna Mitchell, whose car had stalled, killing her and three others who were trying to help her. Another teen boy who was in the pickup with him, Sergio Molina, was thrown from the vehicle. He landed on his head and was left paralyzed, with only the ability to smile and blink. Molina’s family settled with Couch’s family in early May.

(click here to continue reading Report: Taxpayers Footing Rehab Bill for ‘Affluenza’ Teen – The Root.)

Walmart Neighborhood Market
Walmart Neighborhood Market

and then there are these stains:

As it turns out, the first generation led by patriarch Sam Walton put $4.7 billion into the foundation, a figure that represents 98.8 percent of all family donations over the past 23 years. The six Scrooges of the second Walton generation ponied up only 1.2 percent. Alice Walton, one of the faces of Mitt Romney’s 2012 SuperPAC, has given zero. With over $2 billion in assets, the Walton Family Foundation distributed $325 million in 2013. Those dollars went overwhelmingly to their stomping grounds in northwest Arkansas, funding environmental improvements, pet education reforms including charters schools and vouchers and, as Forbes reports, “Alice Walton’s stunning Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.”

For starters, for decades the Waltons have relied on a tax dodge that now bears their name to keep billions of dollars from Uncle Sam. The Walton grantor-retained annuity trust, or Walton GRAT, has allowed billionaires like the Walmart heirs and casino mogul and GOP bag man Sheldon Adelson to shield $100 billion from the IRS since 2000. Named after the tactic lawyer Richard Covey, the dodge was developed for Sam Walton: GRATs work by rapidly shifting large volumes of stock into a trust fund that is legally required to return that initial investment after two years. The stocks in the trust gain enough value that when it comes time to repay the initial investment there is a substantial amount of stock left over that can be transferred on to some third party without triggering the gift tax.

(click here to continue reading The Walmart heirs should save Detroit.)

(click here to continue reading The Walmart heirs should save Detroit.)

And more…

In 2013 alone, the Foundation invested $325 million across three key areas: education reform, the environment and the family’s home region of northwest Arkansas. One of the Foundation’s major recipients has been Alice Walton’s stunning Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, funded to the tune of $1.2 billion.

However, almost none of this largesse is the result of donations from the Waltons themselves, according to a report released on Tuesday by Walmart 1 Percent, a project of union-backed Making Change at Walmart.

Says the study, which can be viewed in full here:

The central finding of this report is simple: Our analysis of 23 years’ worth of the Walton Family Foundation’s tax returns shows that Rob, Jim, Alice and Christy Walton—the second generation Walmart heirs—have contributed almost none of their personal fortune to the foundation which bears their family name.

Specifically:

- Rob and Alice Walton made zero individual contributions to the Foundation during the 23 years we examined;

- Jim Walton made a single personal contribution of $3 million to the Walton Family Foundation, more than 15 years ago;

- Rob, Jim, and Alice Walton and the family holding company they control (Walton Enterprises) have been responsible for only .13% of all contributions to the Walton Family Foundation ($6.4 million);

- Among the second generation Walton heirs, it is the in-law, Christy, who has been responsible for the largest share of contributions to the Foundation;

- The four Walmart heirs and Walton Enterprises combined have been responsible for only 1.2% of all contributions to the Walton Family Foundation.

The combined lifetime contributions of the second generation Walmart heirs and their family holding company to the Walton Family Foundation come to $58.49 million, or:

■■ About .04% of the Waltons’ net worth of $139.9 billion;
■■ About .34% of the estimated $17.1 Billion in Walmart dividends that Rob, Jim, Alice and Christy received during the years we analyzed;
■■ Less than one week’s worth of the Walmart dividends the Waltons will receive this year;
■■ Less than the estimated value of Rob Walton’s collection of vintage sports cars.

The report goes on to detail how the Foundation has been funded over the years, namely by tax-avoiding trusts established with assets provided by the late Sam, Helen and John Walton or their estates. The study found that 99% of the Foundation’s contributions since 2008 have been channeled through 21 Charitable Lead Annuity Trusts. These CLATs, as they’re known, are specifically designed to help ultra-wealthy families avoid estate and gift taxes.

Forget-me-not Social Security
Forget-me-not Social Security

If the rich keep using their wealth and power to take from the rest of us, when will it end? If entitled assholes like the ones mentioned here get their way, and Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs become insolvent because little S.C. Johnson the Third refuses to participate in our democracy, what then? Will a guillotine be required eventually?

Written by Seth Anderson

June 9th, 2014 at 10:33 am

Posted in News-esque

Tagged with , ,

The Monkey Gland Cocktail was uploaded to Flickr

Orange Juice, Gin, Grenadine, and Absinthe.

recipe as described in Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.

When I make this again, I’ll reduce the amount of absinthe.

Per Wikipedia:The Monkey Gland was created in the 1920s by Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, France

http://ift.tt/1uKOeba

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I took The Monkey Gland Cocktail on June 08, 2014 at 09:04PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 09, 2014 at 02:10AM