Party line vote attack ads

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or X has voted with Obama Y% of the time.

In a fairly interesting development there are now attack ads on candidates that solely focus on how much they voted with Obama. Interestingly enough though Obama used the same tactic when it was Obama vs McCain for president.

Why does that bother me ? It does not. The implications do bother me, though.

So we live in a world where most of the voting happens along party lines. That much is obvious to pretty much anyone. But now the republicans are implying that the gridlock that is now part of D.C. is the fault of the democrats that keep voting with Obama. Obviously this also rallies the republican base.

If the democrats now made attack ads about how much the republicans vote along party lines, or against any democratic bill, nothing the ad says would be news to anyone, and it wouldn’t get anyone to vote, or even change the way they would have been voting. We have actually come to a point where republicans can freely admit and advertise that they vote against any bill of the democrats and it won’t cost them a whole lot of votes. It might even actually get them some votes. But they can “attack” the democrats on doing the exact same thing. Hypocrisy now knows another level.

Now here is what actually bothers me about the whole thing: All the ads are focusing on is how much the democrats vote with the president. Nothing at all is said about what bills they voted on, if they approve or deny certain bills. The content of the bills they vote on is completely irrelevant. It could be a bill preventing people from clubbing baby seals and all the democrats vote for it… doesn’t matter, voted with the president.

Jobs bill, ending government shutdown, obamacare, you’d bet the democrats voted with Obama. Why is that ? All of them are insanely popular with broad support among any demographic (except for that last one in the conservative rich white demographic, maybe).

So now we have attack ads that attack the democrats for passing bills that enjoy the support of far over 60% of the voters and the worst thing is: it works.

The republicans shutdown the government over obamacare, vote to repeal obamacare over 40 times, when it’s such a huge step into the right direction that no one in the general public really questions anything about it anymore, except for the personal mandate. Discrimination against preexisting conditions, no one wants that. Preventive care is paid for, everyone wants that. Medicare expansion allowing less fortunate people to get emergency help, everyone wants that.

But none of that matters, because what individual bills you vote on doesn’t factor into the ads anymore. The simple fact that you vote with the president is enough to rally people to vote republican.

Please people, focus on the issues. This almost seems like a foreign concept these days, but look at what the candidates have voted on and how they have voted. Don’t focus on statistics.

Obamacare has such broad support and republicans still run on the platform of repeal obamacare.

Background checks for all gun sales has 90%+ support of the general public. And yet almost all republicans vote against that bill.

Republicans shut down the government over obamacare in a last ditch effort to stop it from taking effect. And somehow they get reelected. Please don’t let that happen. Don’t let them waste hundreds of millions of dollars on posturing and circumventing democracy.

Whichever way you decide to vote, make it about the issues and not the person. Vote for the person who is more likely to improve your situation or the situation of the nation as a whole. Don’t vote for someone who wants to give tax breaks to the top 10%. Don’t vote for someone who creates or extends tax loopholes or even subsidies for companies who make billions of dollars every year. Don’t vote for someone who wants to cut social security for the people who already are hit hardest by the recession. None of this helps you, or the country.

Why Rick Perry will never be President

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Rick Perry recently said: ‘The United States is at “historic record highs” of individuals being apprehended on the border from countries with terrorist ties such as “Pakistan or Afghanistan or Syria.”‘

Now obviously there’s no basis for what he said at all, but Rick Perry isn’t the kind of guy that lets facts get in the way of the point he’s trying to make. And very obviously that appeals to a lot of the conservative republican voters.

The problem that the republicans have, though, is that only the conservative republicans appreciate that kind of thing. There are quite a few moderate republicans, there even are liberal republicans and those people, while they would vote for nearly all republican candidates probably don’t appreciate everything the republicans are doing right now.

There was a time when the republicans knew that they can’t just push an extremely right wing agenda on the general public, and they didn’t try. There was a time when the republicans appreciated the middle class and what they’re doing for the economy. There was a time when the republicans appreciated job creators, rather than calling rich people job creators without any basis for it at all. These days the republicans just have no problems that they’re working to solve. The republicans have a majority in the house and they have the opportunity to pass legislation that would help people. Yet they pass bill after bill eliminating obamacare. Obamacare now being something that most of the country actually wants.

So currently the issues for the republicans are whether or not Obama is at fault for Benghazi (he’s not), whether or not Obama is at fault for the IRS targeting conservative groups (he’s not), whether or not Obama is at fault for the humongous deficit (he’s not), etc. The issue is not (and hasn’t been in a long time) “What can we do to improve the lives of americans”. And that is the main issue for most people.

So the Republicans (are you listening ? this might be important in 2 years) are holding primaries and the most extreme candidate wins (like the one that beat the extremely conservative Cantor) while making 100% sure that they won’t win a general election. They are trying to lower the taxes for the top 1% while taking that money from the bottom 50% and justifying it with ‘we have the moral high ground’. They make immigration, abortion or ‘don’t take my guns’ a topic for elections so that they can then push their own agenda.

You won’t win a general election by being against abortion (majority supports it), lowering taxes for the extreme rich (majority opposes it), denying background checks on all gun purchases (majority wants that), or close down the border (that simply isn’t an issue that needs to be addressed, what to do with the people that do (want to) come to america is a real issue). But apparently it wins primaries so now the republicans put themselves into a corner that it’s hard to get back out of.

Epson Workforce 2540 Review

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I have recently bought the Epson Workforce 2540 (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), after my other Epson printer died. Luckily it was fairly shortly after buying that one, and I’m assuming just a random occurrence.

I went for Epson because they have recently (a few years ago) abandoned their Laser Printer department and focused completely on Inkjet technology. They now make printers who print faster and cheaper than most laser printers. And that while cutting power and not putting out toner dust or ozone. I don’t really print enough for a laser printer to make sense, and I don’t print so infrequently that the inkjet will dry out. So I decided to go for the Inkjet.

I decided to go for that specific model because I really wanted to have an automatic document feeder, it also has Ethernet and WiFi. Setup was reasonably easy (would probably have been flawless had I not had the drivers for the other Epson still on the machine).

The printer is amazingly fast. As fast as, or faster than, a laser printer. Definitely gets the first page out a lot sooner, even if it’s just getting turned on for printing. Quality also doesn’t lack anything, cost of one page is reasonable. There’s XL cartridges available in case you print a lot.

The scanner also doesn’t leave anything to be desired, Quality is good, speed is a bit slow, but manageable. The Software that has to be installed is pretty good. I really like that it can just scan multipage PDFs and even rearrange pages or delete pages and scan them again.

The Automatic document feeder, which again was the reason I went with this model, is pretty bad. It’s pretty slow and doesn’t always pull the pages in straight. It does work quite nicely besides that, though. If you do want to scan a lot of pages I would definitely advise getting a standalone scanner (either in addition to this printer, or getting a cheaper printer with it).

Overall I’m very happy with this printer. Haven’t used the document feeder as much as I had intended to, however.

Your stuff will break !

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This isn’t really a prediction so much as a general point, both to consumers and to companies.

Ever since the end of life of windows XP we get a lot of people coming into the store to either replace their computer or upgrade to a new operating system. We currently charge 105€ for the license and 79€ for the Install. There actually are people thinking about doing it. Laptops with Windows XP preinstalled are usually over 5 years old. Windows 7 came out in 2009 and replaced windows XP fairly quickly on new computers.

Now here’s the point I’m trying to make: After 5 years you should consider your computer to be dead. You should not spend money on anything that you can’t move to a new computer. The license you can obviously use for all other computers you’ll ever buy (one at a time :p), but 79€ for installation (about $100) of an operating system for a computer that may very well break the very next day ? That seems like a fairly bad deal.

People keep thinking that the stuff they buy will just stick around forever. People think you buy a computer and that’s it. You now have a computer. When in reality it’s more of a continuing cost that they now have to pay. You buy a computer you really need to budget a new computer every 5 years, because that’s about how long you can count on it lasting on average. It’s even worse for a company. You get a new employee you need a new computer. When in reality you should be looking at it like a continuing cost. You need a computer every 3 years (sooner if you need it for programming, CAD, etc), you need a new monitor (or 2) every 5 years, hell you should probably replace the chairs at least every 10 years. Now with some numbers (computer $1k, monitors $500, chair $1k) you get a yearly cost of $500 for the computer, $100 for the monitor(s) and $100 for the chair. Or in a month you can budget $45, $10 and $10. Which means it’s less than $100 per month on all that stuff. Not really a big overhead at all. Even the up front cost of hiring someone isn’t actually that significant. A new employee probably costs you around $3k at least, you pay the same amount again and don’t have to worry about anything for 2 years.

Luckily computers these days aren’t really big ticket items anymore (unless you’re a serious gamer and want to have amazing graphics that you can ignore while actually playing (in most games you don’t have time to appreciate the graphics while playing)). It’s worse with other, more expensive items. People buy a car and don’t save up for a new one until it’s so worn down that you know it’s going to break soon. People don’t actually budget money for maintenance and repairs half the time. Some people don’t even budget stuff like gas, oil and insurance. So obviously your car breaks down at the worst possible time, you just bought a new TV, moved to a new apartment. Now you have to spend money to repair the car you really should have planned on getting replaced next year.

Disney Fastplay

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I’m sorry if the Headline mislead you into coming here (I’m not), I really am (I’m really not). This has literally nothing to do with Disney.

I just appreciate Fastplay so much. And not just because the children lose their remote every 3 minutes. I’m just wondering why years after Disney made fastplay I still have to press play on the movies I watch.

Seriously, who in the world puts a movie into a dvd player that he’s not going to watch ? He’s going to want it to play I guarantee it.

Sourceforge

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The most trusted name …. in malware ????

So as many of you know (yes I like to pretend more than one person reads this) I work in a computer store and I used to (I don’t much anymore) fix people’s computers. Fixing people’s computers in most cases means get the viruses and other malware off. So there are a few programs that I see all the time where I can just tell that the computer has a virus somewhere. Anything with the word ‘optimizer’ or ‘downloader’ in the name is an obvious candidate.

Anyone working in IT for more than a few weeks knows how that crap gets onto your computer. You download a program from a shady source, forget to uncheck the “Install more shady shit on my computer” checkbox and voila you’re good to go. And just as obviously anyone working in IT more than two weeks knows how to uncheck that box, or go to advanced settings (even if it’s greyed out). And I have obviously never had a program like that on my computer. Until a few days ago.

I was downloading Filezilla from Sourceforge, which is a fairly highly regarded ftp client. I’ve been using it for years without a problem as well. Somehow the filezilla homepage makes me download the thing from sourceforge, which really isn’t a problem. I trust(ed) sourceforge, and it’s really not regarded as a shady source for stuff. So then sourceforge makes me download some sourceforge downloader crap which slightly troubles me. I really shouldn’t have to download something to download something (legal, and free !). So I do go ahead and go to advanced settings in the installer to make it not install some shitty toolbar and mess up my internet shit. And then (!!!) without asking (!!!) it installs pc optimizer pro. Which starts running immediately.

This all happened over a week ago and I’m still pissed off about it. I will never trust sourceforge with anything. And I urge everyone to switch over to github or any other credible site to host your stuff. It really isn’t worth getting your potential customers all pissed off over something you don’t get any benefit from.

Vorratsdatenspeicherung

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Auf Heise.de gibt es mittlerweile einige Artikel über die Vorratsdatenspeicherung. Ich kann auch jedem empfehlen täglich heise.de zu lesen oder @heise auf twitter zu folgen um die Headlines zu sehen. Auch könnte man @xyious folgen, da sieht man dann wenigstens wenn hier was passiert.

Hier hat Heise zum Beispiel kurz zusammengefasst wie es zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung überhaupt gekommen ist. Es war, wie es zu erwarten war, ein drängen der Amerikaner der dazu geführt hat, dass einige Politiker denken, dass die ganze Sache eine gute Idee ist. Und natürlich wird die Gefahr des Terrorismus in den Vordergrund gestellt. Fareed Zakaria hat schon sehr viel geschrieben, einer seiner besten Artikel ist aber die Überreaktion auf den 11. September. Vor allem ist die Gefahr des Terrorismus in den letzten Jahren deutlich geringer geworden, ganz ohne die Vorratsdatenspeicherung.

In einem ganz anderen Artikel geht heise.de auf die Abfrage von Kontodaten in relativ großem Umfang ein. Im letzten Absatz “Terrorismus als Türöffner” kritisiert der frühere Bundesbeauftragte für Datenschutz Peter Schaar die Ausweitung der Abfragen. Der Terrorismus wurde auch in diesem Fall dazu benutzt die Daten der Bürger den Strafverfolgern zu übergeben. Und sobald dann das Gesetz wegen der Terrorbekämpfung geschrieben wurde geht’s um Steuerhinterziehung und Leistungsmissbrauch. Da ist klar, dass das Vertrauen in die Politik langsam verloren geht.

Aber zurück zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung. Die europäische Richtlinie dazu wurde Anfang diesen Monats für ungültig erklärt, weil die Vorratsdatenspeicherung in erheblichem Maße in die Grundrechte des Menschen eingreift, ohne dass es spezielle Regelungen für die Verwendung der Daten gibt. Österreich hat die Daten zur Vorratsdatenspeicherung für das Jahr 2012 im Detail veröffentlicht. Aus 326 Anfragen gab es nur eine einzige wegen Terrorismus. Da muss man nicht mehr lange darüber nachdenken was der eigentliche Grund für die Vorratsdatenspeicherung ist. Die CDU/CSU wollen aber so schnell wie möglich ein neues Gesetz auf den Weg bringen um die Vorratsdatenspeicherung trotzdem umzusetzen.

Wenigstens gibt es dafür nicht einmal eine Mehrheit in der Regierungskoalition, von der Mehrheit im Parlament ganz zu schweigen.

Kommen wir aber endlich zum eigentlichen Punkt dieses Artikels. Eine Mehrheit für ein Gesetz dieser Art gibt es in der Bevölkerung schon lange nicht mehr, das war auch schon vor der NSA Affäre so. Jetzt hat sich noch einiges anderes geändert und hat bestimmt nicht dafür gesorgt, dass mehr Leute die Vorratsdatenspeicherung wollen. Der EuGH hat entschieden, dass die Richtlinie so nicht in Ordnung ist, und trotzdem will die CDU, dass das Gesetz umgesetzt wird. Wie passt das alles zusammen? Gar nicht. Ich persönlich habe Angst davor, dass die Daten für vergleichsweise unwichtige Delikte benutzt werden. In diesem Fall liegt es nahe die Daten gleich zu den Abmahnanwälten zu schicken, damit die nur noch einen Click machen müssen um eine Abmahnung wegen Copyright Verstößen zu schicken und den Bürgern Geld aus der Tasche zu ziehen.

Wo wir übrigens beim nächsten Gesetz wären, dass für irrsinnige Sachen missbraucht wird. Das Copyright Gesetz wurde gemacht um Gewerbsmäßige Raubkopierer zu belangen, Leute die damit Geld verdienen, viel Geld. Nicht um normale Leute auszunehmen, die mal einen Song aus dem Internet beziehen. Nicht um Betreiber kleiner Internet Shops abzumahnen weil diese ein falsches Bild für ein Produkt genommen haben…. Ich schweife schon wieder ab.

Die Vorratsdatenspeicherung muss endlich begraben werden.

Jenny McCarthy and Autism

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The New York Times just posted a brilliant Opinion yesterday. Brilliant obviously mostly because I agree with it.

The Post, as you may have guessed from the Headline, is about Autism and how Jenny McCarthy so hilariously failed at covering her own ass.

This has been very important to me for a really long time. Everyone knows that vaccinations have saved literally billions of lives and have eradicated diseases and almost eradicated a lot more diseases. Smallpox for one is completely gone. I’m very happy about that fact. And yet there could be so many more diseases completely wiped out. I’m obviously not blaming Jenny McCarthy for that failure, but she is changing minds about vaccinations everywhere.

Think about that for a minute. Someone who has never been to medical school, has no degree whatsoever, has never even read a book about vaccinations, has never read any scientific information about vaccines is somehow the leading authority on vaccines and a link to autism that has been disproved again and again. She somehow is more trustworthy because she posed for playboy than literally hundreds of scientists who spend their lives trying to help people.

So the New York Times Opinion goes on about Jenny McCarthy trying to say that she’s not anti Vaccine when she’s been telling people not to vaccinate their children for years. She went on “Oprah” to say that the MMR Vaccine apparently instantly changed how her son’s brain worked.

Think about that…. instantly. He got the vaccine and he just changed …. right then and there.

How stupid do you have to be to even believe that. So in the millions of vaccines that have been given to kids…. in the BILLIONS of vaccines given to children no one noticed that ? Some doctors vaccinate hundreds of children every year, and they somehow don’t notice something that significant ?

I’m refraining from posting everything she said and linking to everything, but it’s very telling that both sides of the vaccination debate (which really should not exist at all, please read the whole ‘I fucking love science’ post on it) are so focused on her. She has a page named after her called ‘Jenny McCarthy Body Count’.

Now as you may have heard. The person that sparked this whole debate does not even have autism. Think about that…. over a thousand people die because they chose not to get vaccinated in part because of Jenny McCarthy. Who somehow linked autism to vaccines because of her son. Who then turned out not to have autism. That’s pretty ironic if you ask me.

TL:DR; Jenny McCarthy causes incredible amounts of time and money to be spent on disproving a link between autism and vaccines. Which has been disproved as hard as possible. Instead of that time and money being spent on actual research into autism, how you get autism, how to treat autism, how to prevent autism. People have died because of a silly debate when there never has been a link between vaccines and autism (except for one paper that was written because of greed, which has obviously been disproved about 20 times over, retracted and the author lost his license over it). And then it turns out her son doesn’t even have autism. And yet She still is not an advocate for vaccines, even for autism. To my knowledge she hasn’t even apologized for any of it. Not that any of that would undo any of the damage she has done. It would be a start.

Please vaccinate yourself and your children.

How the US is Lagging in Quality of Life

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CNN’s incredibly smart and prolific contributor Fareed Zakaria recently posted in his Blog about how the US is lagging in Quality of Life. The post was about an interview with Michael Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School about why the US is nowhere near the top in the Quality of Life Index. The United States being 16th overall, after Germany, Ireland, Japan, etc. All the way down at 70th place in Health and Wellness.

The whole post mainly just confirms a lot of things that I already knew but couldn’t convince most of my american friends of. I was actually quite surprised how high the US ranks in most of the statistics cited. I really didn’t think the US was doing that well in terms of opportunity and freedom. The Healthcare thing was obvious to me, since I haven’t lived a big part of my life in countries without universal healthcare (there actually aren’t that many of them that I would voluntarily visit). What did surprise me was just how horrible the US is doing in terms of healthcare. I wouldn’t have thought that they couldn’t beat Niger, Nepal or Liberia. I usually cite statistics from the CIA factbook (especially stats on infant mortality and life expectancy) when arguing how bad the American healthcare system is and how badly it had to be reformed before Obama actually had the balls to do it and the stamina to get it done…. eventually. Obviously there still is a lot of room for improvement and I hope that someone will eventually get to it, but I’m losing hope seeing how there was an obvious need to change things, widespread republican support and it still almost didn’t pass at all.

It’s really interesting to see how the countries rank when you play around with the statistics a little. My home country of Germany is actually doing fairly well in pretty much any regard, but we’re quite obviously never at the very top. But that’s a topic for a different time and Post. I have quite a few beefs with the German politics of today.

Spend some time playing around with the statistics and have a look at the CIA factbook (go to Guide to Country Comparisons), both will be surprising in many ways.

Google

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Taking over the world…

So it’s the age of the Internet and basically you don’t exist if google doesn’t find you. And they know that, too. I will get to a point eventually, but for now a little back story. When google was founded they wanted to change the way search engines find stuff. And they did, obviously…. kind of.

When google started Alta Vista was huge, and lycos, and AOL. You probably heard about one of those companies, the other two are search engines. Back in the day google had an ‘I feel lucky’ button. Interestingly enough they actually still do, just no one uses it anymore. My point is that that button used to showcase how google just works. You could search for whatever you wanted to find, click the button and actually be on the page you wanted to find. These days ? Not so much. Unless you were looking for a wikipedia article, in which case you actually might get lucky still.

So these days google sucks. Every one knows it, too. So why are they still alive and doing very very well ? The other options suck worse, far worse in some cases. Bing can’t get their market share up, Yahoo just gave up completely and started using Bing…. There actually are a few alternatives to google, which were made because of the huge issues some people have with one company basically having all their data saved on their servers. Here’s a list of Search engines, there actually are quite a few. DuckDuckGo is a name that comes up every time this is brought up, give em a try if you want.

But! The point of this article isn’t to talk about how much google sucks.

Mathias Döpfner said a few very telling things in an open letter published in the FAZ. He said that when google changed their algorithm the traffic to the website of one of the companies they own dropped by as much as 70%. Coincidentally it was a competitor to google. Now if the company I work for lost 70% of their traffic I would not have a job very long because they couldn’t afford having me. And as I mentioned earlier, they know that. They know how much power they have over basically the whole internet. When news publishers wanted search engines to pay for the content they show in previews to the sites they link to they removed them from the index. And obviously things changed a lot. I have to say that I’m with google on that issue (and many others).

In many ways google has already gone beyond the “don’t be evil” motto that they said they go by. In many cases. Take for example the android platform. Arstechnica wrote a very nice article about that one. Long story short they’re forcing manufacturers to stick to google apps and android. When Acer wanted to make a phone that didn’t run on android google told them to stop it or lose access to google’s apps. There were plans (pretty far along, like prototypes already made) for a tablet that runs both android and windows. I think that would be an amazing device. Google didn’t like it so it’s not going to happen.

There actually are many more examples like that, google is just exploiting the power that they have. After fighting against the same power when microsoft had it. It’s a bit hypocritical for my taste.

So to summarize Google is an evil empire that knows how to abuse their power. Google is also a great empire bringing innovation to people everywhere. So we need google. We just don’t like google. We love everything google stood for 10 years ago. We just don’t like what happens when a company is so great at things that they accumulate a great amount of power. So I would like a company with the amount of power google has, with the power of innovation, with the power to buy great companies that make great products. I just would like it if they didn’t abuse that power so blatantly and often.