Reverse Fear Mongering on Gun Control

Merica!
Merica

It has just about been one year since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, with the topic of gun control peaking early in 2013 and simmering down by the summer. But that did not stop gun control advocates and opponents from pushing legislation throughout the year. Obama, took the standard liberal approach, calling for federal gun control measures that were simply dropped the second they left his mouth. Some of the more liberal states, like New York, passed sweeping bills that pissed off the gun-owning crowd to no end. I can say from first hand experience that you cannot drive a square mile in New York State without seeing a “Repeal Safe Act” sign on someones front lawn (NYC metro area excluded, of course).

Regardless of your position on the matter, what happened at Sandy Hook was tragic. If you do not want to blame guns, that’s fine – you can easily blame those with mental disorders and their ability to get guns. Either way, you would certainly expect a positive legislative change regarding either one of the two following the tragedy, yes? Well you would be wrong. In the year since, the 50 states have passed a total of 109 laws regarding guns, only 39 of which are actually restrictions or make if more difficult for people with mental disorders to acquire guns. The remaining 70 laws actually *loosen* gun control laws. What does this tell us? It tells us that those behind the gun manufacturing industry and gun toting citizens have far more influence over lawmakers than 20 dead kindergartners. So much more influence in fact that states were so afraid of gun control measures, they went in the opposite direction to make gun access easier for citizens.

This, to me, says a lot about the current state of government.

Will Work for Beer? Move to Amsterdam.

Dick Sharpe in 10 years
Dick Sharpe in 10 years

Happy 80 years of repeal! What better way to celebrate this glorious memorial than by sharing with you, our dear fans, that there is now a way for you to be homeless AND work for beer. Yes, you heard (read) me right – work for beer! The New York Times yesterday reported a story where homeless alcoholics in Amsterdam can pick up garbage around the city for cans of beer. The program is remarkably simple: 2 cans of beer just for showing up, then 2 more cans for lunch (with free food), and then depending on performance, 1 or 2 cans to knock off a good day’s work. Oh and don’t worry, the program also pays 10 euros (and rolling tobacco) for the days work, which may cover the cab ride back to your homeless shelter.

The idea behind it all is that, you cannot tell alcoholics to stop drinking, so why not put them to productive work rather than having them rot in a park somewhere? Depending on your personal level of social empathy, this is brilliant or extortion of people’s addictive disorders. It’s certainly riddled with controversy, even in a country where social welfare is very high relative to the rest of the world. What are your thoughts on the matter? stepasideshow @ gmail.com

Major League Baseball is Full of Shit

AP_arod_alex_rodriguez_tk_130805_16x9_992
Likely day dreaming about Twinkies – or whatever hot broad he happens to be banging this week

First and foremost lets get this out of the way; Alex Rodriguez is kind of a douchebag. Any by “kind of”, I really mean “is a huge”. But this aside, the man is getting a lousy deal.

Much like the NFL head office, the MPAA, and even our federal government, Major League Baseball is full of shit. For the uninformed, Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for 211 games for violating the leagues drug policy. Rodriguez was named, along with other players earlier this year, in attending a clinic in Florida known for giving professional athletes performance enhancing drugs. Among the other players was once American League MVP Ryan Braun, who besides Rodriguez, got the most severe penalty of 65 games. The typical punishment for first time performance enhancing drug offenders is 50 games, however Braun was subjected to a higher punishment because, well, he was a douche about the whole thing.

So then, why is Alex Rodriguez being given such a huge punishment, for basically being the same level of douche as Ryan Braun? Well just like everything else in the world, it’s purely financial. The New York Yankees were stupid enough to offer Rodriguez an unprecedented contract back in 2007 for almost $30 million a year. Since the signing of that contract, Rodriguez has mostly played like complete shit (which is partially why he is a a douche, see Figure 1 below). The Yankees will just about do everything in their power at this point to keep Rodriguez off the field to stop paying him. Rodriguez being injured was working out great for the team, because it’s well known professional athlete’s pay is covered by insurance when they are unable to play. However once he was better, the league conveniently handed down the sever punishment of 211 games, which would have been the remainder of the 2013 season and the following 2014 season. Rodriguez has appealed the punishment (the only player caught in the most recent scandal to do so), which is finally being ruled on now. Rodriguez reportedly stormed out of the procedure today because the MLB commissioner will not be questioned, which lead Rodriguez to call the process “fucking bullshit”.

Rodriguez’s analysis of the situation is fairly accurate. The commissioner was to be questioned by Rodriguez’s council as to why Rodriguez’s punishment is so much more severe than all the other players. Instead of defending the punishment to the arbitrator hearing the case, he has chosen to not show up at all. Even more suspicious is the fact that the arbitrator is not calling for him to be present either. How can a dispute be settled when one side does not even show up?

Figure 1
Figure 1

A Suggestion to Keep Us “Safe” and Happy

Probably what the NSA datacenters look like - actual photo of Robs basement
Probably what the NSA data centers look like – actual photo is of Rob’s basement

The pursuit of happiness, a fundamental idea most attributed to the founding of the United States. Our government is particularly good at doing the exact opposite. This year, more than anything (including the government shutdown), the coming to light of NSA phone tapping reigns highest on the list of “Government-making-citizens-unhappy”.  It truly is an atrocity for this country. Not only is it a gigantic invasion of privacy, it is an enormous waste of resources. It has recently been reported that the CIA pays AT&T approximately $10 million a year  to acquire call data as part of its anti-terrorism efforts. Since the leaks, the agency says it only targets calls made within the United States to people overseas. But really, this is non-sense. For example, the NSA had been targeting current German chancellor Angela Merkel, hardly a terrorist target.

The effectiveness of these anti-terrorism campaigns is highly suspect. Agencies have reported that they have been able to deter dozens of terrorist homeland attacks, without going into too many details of course. It is entirely possible that these campaigns have saved some lives (probably not as many as proper gun control could save, but lets not go down that road right now), but at what cost?

So, I have a simple solution. All government agencies engaging in this type of eavesdropping come forward with it ALL, and in return, all citizens are entitled to a single line of telecommunication service. Cell phone service is expensive, and I’m pretty sure the majority of modern day Americans would gladly let the government read their text messages if they did not have to pay their monthly cell phone bill (count me in). It would be a new level of government transparency while actually offering a government service most people would be happy to accept. It may not make all citizens happy, but that is an impossible feat anyway.

The New Tech Bubble – Writing About Tech

rev-InternetBubble

David Pogue, long time technology columnist for the New York Times is leaving the news giant to work for once Internet giant Yahoo, to start a consumer technology news site. Unless you’re a tech nerd (and even if you are), you do not care about any of this. I don’t regularly read Pogue’s stuff, not because I don’t like him, but because his stuff his boring to me. Pogue writes about tech stuff in such a way that anyone can understand it, which is great for communicating technology news to the masses. The only problem is the masses are not that interested in tech news.

There are more tech sites than you can possibly dream of: Engadget, TechCrunch, Anandtech, CNet, TWiT, Gizmodo, All Things D, ZDNet – and this is not including major news publication tech columns and this is not including a dozen Apple dedicated tech sites. I often wonder how half of these blogs even stay in business, then I realize most of them are owned by huge content conglomerates (with the exception of TWiT, which is user-funded (or at least was back when I was paying attention)). The point is, this is a saturated market, and it keeps growing to a non-growing market. All Things D just announced its founder and gadget reviewer are leaving to start a new tech news venture, though it has yet to be named.  Rather than do the responsible thing and research if any of my thoughts or opinions have any valid merit, I’m just going to join the bubble. So today I am proudly announcing the newly formed “Step Aside Technology Blog”:

StepAside

This fits inline nicely with our podcast change to be less political and more general news oriented.  And hey, check out my first post!

Step Aside Show – Batched Episodes 93-96

Step Aside

 

Episodes 93-96 of the Step Aside Show are now available. Since I’m super lazy, I’m posting them all in a single update. As for what each show includes, who the hell knows.

Episode 93 – You Suck at Powerpoint

Episode 94 – El Jefe no es Bueno

Episode 95 – Dick Don’t Care No More

Episode 96 – Not the Shittiest Thing on the Internet

The New York Times Obviously Hate ESPN

ochoThe New York Times clearly has it out for the mega-network ESPN. Perhaps it is because the political/sports statistician/wizard Nate Silver recently left the New York Times to join ESPN, and included his fivethirtyeight blog as part of the deal (which the New York Times never owned, just contracted it for three years). Or perhaps because even the New York Times hates Keith Olbermann, they must bash the network for allowing him to come back. Or maybe the New York Times hates Mickey Mouse, and must destroy everything in Mickey’s domain (most likely, in my opinion).

Regardless of the reason, The New York Times has been throwing punches at ESPN for the past week. It all started last Friday, August 23rd, when the New York Times reported that ESPN bailed on a documentary about head injuries because of pressure from the NFL. This kind of punch takes a clear shot at ESPN’s journalistic integrity, which lets be honest, its fans don’t really care too much about. I would bet most of the Monday Night Football fan base could give a shit less about concussions. However, that article was nothing in comparison to today’s exposé of the giant ESPN truly is. The New York Times starts off with the standard anti-competitiveness of the network, by mentioning it owns more rights to sports than it does capacity to air said sports. The article goes deeper into Disney’s lobbying efforts to keep bundled television, as opposed to a la cart television – where subscribers would only pay for channels they actually want to watch. ESPN gains A LOT by having TV providers bundle channels, because ALL subscribers pay $5.44 for ESPN programming, which is 4 times more than any other cable network. Of 100 million subscribers paying this fee, only about 25% of them actually tune to an ESPN network. This means Basement Rob is subsidizing Sunday Night Baseball and Monday Night Football for me (thanks Rob!). I’m sure given the choice, Basement Rob would not be paying for this subsidy.

The article goes on about how Disney let the FCC chairperson use Superbowl ad time on ABC to announce the analog to digital TV change years ago, likely because the FCC chairperson was in favor of keeping bundled television. The article tells tales of lobbying events in Washington where politicians were giddy to take pictures with Mohammad Ali, Carl Lewis, and Johnny Unitas. And there is even mention where a congressman with ties to the cable bundling bill was given a free trip to Disney for himself and his family. All classic Washington stuff really.

It’s long, but the article is worth the time.