Friday, November 30, 2012

And Now, For The Viewers At Home

Two blogs in one day. I may crap myself. But this is one I've been meaning to write for a while, and it's not particularly timely, nor is it in keeping with my usual motif. Therefore, I'm just going to throw this out there.

No, this is not a plea for attention, by the by, though at times you may think so. Just saying. Onwards, then!

Mine is not an earth shattering blog of proportions epic and influence boundless. Counting this one, I'll have 25 posts. My little corner of the Internet, in three months, has garnered just under 800 views. Some of my posts have hit over 50 individual views, but most are in the 10-20 range. In short, not the most successful way of transmitting ideas.

However...I have some really weird numbers I would like to bring up now.

First, I have a fan base! There are 13 of you out three that read my blogs like clockwork. One is my husband, one is my sister, six are good friends...and that's what I know.

Whoever the rest of you are, thanks! (But seriously, who are you people?)

Next up there's this sweet little function provided by Google that tracks where views are coming from, what browser is used, what parts of the world I'm being viewed in, etc. Understandably, the lion's share of my hits are in the U.S.

The runners up, however, are (drumroll, please):

Germany, just under 60 views, and Russia, just under 50.

Uhhh...not that I mind. In fact I'm rather tickled. But who are you?! I mean really, there's someone in Germany or Russia that reads an American college student's blog about social issues? I'll freely acknowledge my deific fabulosity (yes, I made up a word. Sue me) but I'd love to find out why my blog interests you!

Finally, a minor little thing: if ya' read it, and ya' like it, would you share it on Facebook or Twitter? Yes, it's shameless plug time!

In all seriousness, though, if you read it, you probably agree with it. I'm not exactly about love and bunnies, people. And when you're as ranty as I am, dialogue is the only way to get a more open view of the world.

So please share Sum Iratus with your friends. Especially the friends that will hate me on first read and seek to force me to stop breathing through the power of debate. Those are the people I want to talk to most, to mutually expand our views of the world.

That, and I just like knowing people read my stuff.

To recap:

1. Woot to mah fans! Drop a line so I can find out who you are, please!

2. Holy crap, German and Russian people! You especially, talk to me! I thirst for the knowledge of why you read my stuff!

3. Share my stuff, please. Cause I'm awesome, yes, but also so we can get some debate going around the issues I discuss.

And thanks to all of you who read this Cogito, Ergo Sum Iratus, for proving that an angry writer with a mad-on for society and humanity in general deserves some loving too.

Made in America. No, Really!

Ladies and gentlemen, it's the rare happy blog. I know, where the hell did this come from? Well, a wonderful lady I know posted this article a few days ago. Very short synopsis: the manufacturing industry has come to the realization that outsourcing wholesale is probably not a good idea. 

Normally, this would be a "point and laugh" moment, around four hundred words that all boil down to "holy gods, you idiots." But in this case, the realization comes not from catastrophe or bankruptcy, or the slow bleed of the economy. It comes because someone had a freaking brilliant epiphany and actually tried doing it the other way.

General Electric, that venerable old house of absolutely everything that can be designed and built (no seriously, they've built just about everything at some point) is the proud owner of this monstrosity:

This is Appliance Park. That's a factory so big it has it's own zipcode. The five manufacturing plants and the warehouse take up 103 acres, or 4.5 million square feet. And that's just the buildings. We're not including the freaking parking lot, which, you may notice, is nearly as big as the buildings. Appliance Park has it's own fire fighting station, for gods' sakes.

It's been pretty much dead or dying since 1973. A great big chunk of wasted space. Between the "death" of the American manufacturing industry, and the outsourcing boom, this massive facility had a whopping 1,863 people working there in 2011.

And then, someone realized the innovative, brilliant designs they'd been sending overseas had two major problems: 

FIrst, once you send something out of sight, it gets a lot easier to steal. I mean, if you designed a brilliant device that enhanced the consumer experience and market, and was worth millions of dollars, would you then promptly ship it off to another country where the only thing between your million dollar idea and a thousand cheap knockoffs was some guy whose only concern is making sure he hits production quota?

Second, there's no way to ensure any of the following: quality of product, design viability in manufacturing, stable shipping costs, and receipt of intact product. In order to get those things, there has to be lots and lots of little checks and balances that add up to a lot of money when there's an ocean between you and your product.

What does this all boil down to? 

GE started bringing their products back state-side. And not just "power up the lines and crank it out." They grabbed people off the line and asked them "what would make this easier to build?"

They had a dishwasher assembly line that went from one end of a building to the other end and back. Remember, these are huge buildings. So they asked the guys building them how to fix this. They then guaranteed to all employees working to streamline production that they wouldn't lose their jobs. 

And when they did, in fact, cut production time by 10 hours, GE asked the guys on the line what piece of the dishwasher they thought would be better off being built in the states. They chose the control panel, and the whole team sat down and figured out an efficient production line for building that

Their new, incredibly efficient water heater? Brought it state side. Assembly dudes took one look at it and went, "Dafuq. Were. You. Thinking?"

It had this weird coil thing that had to be welded perfectly. The whole water heater depended on it being welded perfectly. The tiniest screw up, and that water heater would either not work, or not perform to spec. And it would die faster. 

Assembly dudes sat down with design dudes to try and fix the problem. They ended up redesigning the water heater from the ground up, this time taking manufacturing process into account. It's now 60% more efficient, and 20% cheaper. Not even kidding.

This. Is. Fabulous!

So what is it? 

It's called lean manufacturing. And until GE started in on it, the only stateside companies taking advantage of it were car manufacturers. Why should you care?

Partly because manufacturing and skilled labor jobs could make a comeback. Not enough to turn the economy around by itself, but any jobs are good jobs in an economy as fragile as ours is right now. 

But mostly because it's the best freaking thing I've heard in the news in a long time. One of the oldest and largest companies in the U.S. has just come to the sudden realization that assembly line guys and gals are valuable resources that can make their products better. You know all that crap that falls apart on you every day? 

That could conceivably go away in the next few decades. Products might not only become more innovative, they might actually start to look cool. Manufacturing and assembly might become a viable U.S. industry again. We might go back to being a nation with a real industrial contribution to the world, instead of being an exporter of our crappy pop culture. 

In short, "Made in the U.S." might, some day in the relatively near future, actually mean Made in the U.S.

Not "partially assembled in the U.S. after a dozen or so parts were built elsewhere by people we can't talk to cause we only speak English due to ethnocentrism." 

We might be able to visit a foreign country and see "Made in America" labels on products. We could flip a microwave over and not try to pronounce the place name of some country in Euarasia or South America. 

We…could be proud of the products our fellow citizens built. With their hands. On our soil. In our factories

Holy. Fucking. Shit. We could actually have something to be proud of beyond being one of the richest nations, with the greatest excess, and the best equipped military. 

I could stand here and say, honestly and with a straight face: 

"Damn. Look at that awesome thing. That got built here. I'm so freaking proud to be an American right now."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bread and Circuses

You know…I really hate you all sometimes. Not you, close friends and loved ones. You simply exasperate me occasionally.

No, I'm talking to everyone else in this country. That's right. For the first (and please gods, last) time, I'll be taking a page out of Colbert's playbook and talking directly to America. Specifically (because I'm fairly certain this is in no way the fault of the various soil layers I'm standing on) the American people. 

Read: the incompetent morons. 

Have a look here:

This is a fabulous news aggregator, which you should use because it's awesome. It is also not the point of this exercise. As you can see by the tab in the upper right corner that's highlighted red, this is what the US cares about right at the time this blog started to be written.  

For clarification, the bigger the block, the more hits the story has, the brighter the block, the more recent it is.

Funny aside, ever notice that we never call business mergers and partnerships triumphs, but when sports teams make conferences everyone gets excited? Kinda the same idea there, people. Just saying.


Notice what you don't see, though? Red. Red being the color of world news. 

For comparison, here's every country covered by this aggregator, all interests highlighted:

What the…

Yups. The rest of the world is watching as our politicians play Monopoly with our economy. Again.

Oh, but it's about Obama so it must be the AP or something, right? Nope. That story? That's an Australian story written by the French equivalent of the BBC and circulated in multiple countries

No seriously. Here's the map without the US in it:

Noting chan — oh, no, no, wait…there's fewer sports stories. And the world column got bigger.  

What the bloody hell, people? Is watching men in tights chase an inflatable ovoid back and forth across an artificial grass plain so important to your life that the country you live in can just handle itself? 

These are the idiots that tanked us in the first place. No sides here, I hate them all. And the rest of the world gives more of a damn about what they're doing than you do. 

What's that? You don't even know what this cliff thing is? Well, for starters, it's not a cliff…it's more of a slope. Cliff is a term journalists latched onto because it sounded scary and scary words make people more likely to tune in. 

But basically what's going on: a few months back, there was this whole to-do about the debt ceiling. Some guys wanted to raise it, other guys wanted to keep it low and cut spending. The debt ceiling, to be clear, goes up every year. Like clockwork. So even the president was sitting there looking at the guys who were freaking out and going, "Dudes. The fuck?"

At the last freaking minute before the US would have had to shut off and reboot because there'd be no budget agreed on that would pay for all the debt we owe, there shone forth the light of compromise.

The debt ceiling went up, but Congress had to find a way to get the budget under control or a whole bunch things will happen that will ensure that no-one is happy. Basically, taxes will rise and spending will get slashed over a period of ten years. 

Now, that may not sound bad. Nothing to worry about, just a little trimming around the edges.

That's what happens when a fragile economy takes spending cuts and tax hikes to the face. That will take months to happen here if it happens at all, mind you, but stop and think about how bad the last recession was. Do we really want to risk another one?

Will that happen? Probably not. We'll probably slide into the whole mess sideways like Greece did, through overspending. Because Congress can absolutely vote to just postpone the whole thing so they don't have to deal with it.

That's right. The compromise that they agreed to, that's given them most of a year to come up with a functioning solution, will be ignored now. Because they've basically been grandstanding for the press for most of that time, seeing as how it's an election year.  

So yeah. Now that they've got the important part of their job (getting re-elected) out of the way, they can go home for the holidays, postpone the whole mess, and wait for their constituents to go back to ignoring them —

Oh right. Y'all already doing that, huh.

While the rest of the world gives a crap about whether we're starting the long slide into a depression and potentially dinging their economies on the way down, we're watching football. 

Dear gods, I hate you all so much.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Justice for All. Except ...

Good morning, everyone!  The thanksgiving weekend has come and gone, and hopefully we all survived the tryptophan comas and shopping riots. But as the holiday weekend was a time for family, friends, and reflection on the things that make life worth living, Uncle Jeremy is going to have some fun and talk about something unpopular. 

Fair warning: if at any point, you believe the justice system to be an overall valid application of limiting citizen rights, you should probably go away now.

Where are we headed with this? Sex offender's rights. Oh, yeah. Specifically, the bullshit that is rained on these people for no reason other than "easy target." 

Now, let's get clear: sex offenses, especially those involving minors, are horrific and should be punished at the strongest level warranted by the given crime. But, and this is a big but, once the time is served, that should be the end of it as it is for any other crime. So yes, we're addressing the registry today among other things. 

Why? Because our justice system is supposedly based on justice, on helping people to become or return to being functioning members of society. As with all things, any time a system says "oh, except you. You can just go 'eff yourself, because the system has nothing for you" I have a major problem with that. So yes, an equitable system is always desirable wherever possible. And if you don't like that?

Bite me.

The registry is a horrible practice that seems legit on the surface. If an individual has committed a sex crime and suffers from a paraphilia or sexual disorder that increases their chances of committing a sex crime again, why wouldn't it be a good idea to keep an eye on them?

Well … because it doesn't work that way. Taking it from the top: murderers, thieves, drug dealers, shoplifters, etc. can walk away after time served, no problems. Earlier if they play nice. We don't ban shoplifters from major stores, or track the movements of murderers, or prevent drug dealers from living within x distance of a school.

But we do keep sex offenders out of bars, away from schools, away from churches, away from, away from, away from, etc. And that's often for life. So, to put it another way: the punishment for this type of crime, and this type of crime only, is the effective excommunication of the offender from society. 

If they're lucky, they'll have some help or a plan that they can work with to get back on their feet. If not, a sex offender might end up living somewhere horrible simply because there's nowhere else. They might end up with a shit job that will get them nowhere, because they can't work anywhere else. 

And as for "well they've still got a chance to turn their life around"? Sure, a thief can reform, or a murderer can go on to become a doctor. A sex offender, however, can be stuck with that for the rest of their lives. It's on their ID in some states now, and a lifetime registry can ensure that no one ever forgets or forgives.

Is this a worst case scenario? Actually, nope. Worst case is the poor guys that end up living under bridges because there's no where around them they can live, and they can't get a permit to move to an area that has a place they can live. Of course, living under a bridge restricts employment options severely, but hey. They've got this coming, right?

Well … did you know that consensual sex with an individual over the age of consent but under the voting age can be reported as statutory by guardians? If you've heard the phrase "five'll get you twenty," then yes you did know that. 

That's right. If you meet a cute guy or gal and they lie about their age, their parents can destroy your life forever if they're not cool with that. And no-one will say a damn thing, because you're obviously a pervert for sleeping with a kid. 

If you go on a hot date, and go parking (does anyone actually do this anymore?) and the wrong person sees and takes it all the way, you're done. 

If you step into an alley to take a leak because it's 2:10 a.m. and the bar just closed and you've got a 20 minute drive home and you're not gonna make it … someone sees you and isn't happy about it, that's indecent exposure. Congrats, you're a sex offender.

But the worst case? And believe me, I know at least three good guys that this actually happened to: a guy or gal gets upset at you and levels charges. And even if he or she retracts, there's enough of an interest for the parents or attorney's to pursue. 

If you can't mount a defense, or if you can't do the impossible and prove a negative, guess what? The rest of that life of yours is going to range from difficult to pretty much destroyed. For the rest of your life. Because hey, that's how we roll, right? No mercy.

So what's the solution, here?

Well for starters, let's kindly define the freaking difference between things that need to be investigated as sex crimes and the drunk guy taking a leak in an alley. I mean, seriously. 

Next, let's maybe have a bit more rigorous protocol for looking into sex crimes. Yes, there is a strong gender bias statistically speaking, but could we freaking remember that an accusation is not proof of guilt and that if an accuser recants there's probably no reason to go ahead and destroy someone for the lulz.

Finally, let's kill the stupid registry outright. Parole does the same damn thing anyway, as does probation. And if there's an honest need to track an individual based on fear of recidivism through commission of a sex crime, the hell are we releasing that person for? 

If there's an honest to gods psychiatric concern that someone is going to get hurt, why the fuck are you placing restrictions of someone and then releasing them? Don't you think a person that there is an honest concern about will find a way?

So, to recap: define a freaking sex crime as a freaking sex crime; follow through beyond accusation and initial investigation, including the motives, history, etc. of all parties involved; and get rid of a redundant system that has no purpose beyond branding an individual for life with the sole purpose of "protecting" others around them so they can be let out of jail and ignored by society. Especially given that such protection is afforded by non-life destroying systems already in place.

And that, if anyone is still reading, is my soapbox moment for the Thanksgiving holiday.