Saturday, February 21, 2004
Question: Do you suppose Iraq will join OPEC? I've been thinking, and it seems that a whole lot of terrorism funding comes from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Suppose, now that Iraq starts pumping oil, and without setting their prices according to OPEC (which of course is controling the market price to line the sultan's pockets -- that sort of thing is illegal in this country, you know). Then suppose we buy from them, and not the inflated OPEC oil. Two major consequences, that could very well lead to some of the best dominoe effect ever:
1. Price of oil drops for Americans. Now, to appreciate this, think of what oil does. We'll start simple: gas and heating oil. Gas is cheaper, the average family's overhead drops considerably. Couriers, taxis, and truckers increase profits and expand their business or upgrade equipment, making such professions safer and more prosperous, as well as adding employees. Heating oil lowers the cost of electricity, lowers the cost to government of subsidizing poor people's heating needs in winter. Airlines can get back on their feet, perhaps lowering ticket costs or upgrading their planes or services. None of this is trivial, and its really the trivial end!
Now think about what all oil makes. Surfactants, solvents, plastics (not rubbers), composites, etc. The real money in oil is not gas (waste by-product) or heating oil, but in the chemical industry (esp. plastics). What around you isn't made with plastic? Surfactants are heavy in the food and medical industry. Cheaper food? Cheaper medicine?
2. The USA, the largest consumer of oil, quits buying from OPEC nations. Uh-oh for them. How stable would Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. be if there was no steady billion dollar income to line the dictator's pockets?
The ability to purchase oil from a liberty-loving country could be one of the most remarkable developments of the 21st century.
Remember that post a while back, where I linked to a lady who was writing summaries on many former Evil Empire countries? (A link would be rather pointless, as blogger tends to lose information on archived stuff - just go through the archives, it won't take that long, really!) Well, the summary included the strong hatred felt between Azerbaijan and Armenia, mostly fueled purposefully by the Soviets, who relocated people and drove them from their homes and encouraged instability as a means of keeping control of the region. Well, the fruits of their labor:
An Armenian military officer attending a NATO Partnership for Peace program was hacked to death on Thursday morning with an ax and a knife by an Azerbaijani participant, police officials said.
There's nothing really to say here, except in all seriousness, may God have mercy on them, and help them identify their hatred as the construct of a series of evil men.
The owner and starter of a small publishing firm met with the President of the USA along with some single mothers who work and attend grad school online. Sounds very Reagen-esk, ya? Even though I wasn't very aware of politics during that era, this group smacks of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." The link is here, courtesy Jeff Jarvis. The description of the encounter, and the bits of the speech Bush gave afterward are a perfect representation of how I feel every time I see the man give an interview. I get the impression he honestly feels strongly about the same things I do: encouraging small business and startups, low taxes, turning Medicair and SS into help-yourself schemes with tax shelters, and bullying evil dictatorships into providing their people with liberties, ensuring their own downfall. Awesome stuff.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Why outsourcing of unskilled customer service is NOT an election year issue, courtesy of the Mayor of Garage Logic, USA. Actually, our good Mayor ends his column expressing his hope that government intervention will eliminate outsourced customer service. But he's wrong, and the very existance of his article whining about the poor quality of outsourced customer service is the reason he's wrong.

He starts out by defining the problem, as good writers do:
Two identical packages arrived one day, each containing the same keyboard, mouse and docking station. I didn't order a docking station. Not only were they the wrong components for the laptop I had ordered, I had been sent two, just to rub it in. I did manage to call the company and get my instructions for returning the stuff. I did.

Next step: call customer service.

The line was clear enough, but the person I was talking to get my order straightened out seemed to be struggling to speak clear English.

"Where are you?'' I finally asked.

"I am in India,'' she said.


"Yes, I am in India.''


"Yes, how we can help you to do?"

"Uh, but you're in India.''

I once had a foreign person try to give me a telephone survey. I had to have them repeat the question every time, and often gave up and said "yes" regardless of the question (which I had no clue what it was). At the time I said to myself, "Self, this survey is going to give worthless results and be a waste of money for someone. Too bad for them." Here's what the Mayor says to himself:

And I don't know how many thousands and thousands of jobs we have shipped to India but the presidential candidate who says that he will return business to America and that I can deal with American workers gets my vote.

WRONG. Foghorn yourself, Mayor.
Here's what I think will happen.
1. The computer company (TCC) outsources customer service, hoping to save money and compete in a very tight market.
2. TCC's competitors are at a disadvantage; they pay more for customer service, and may have to charge more for their products.
3. The Mayor tells the world (at least 100,000 of us) how crappy TCC's customer service is, and he (and many others) will no longer deal with TCC.
4. TCC's orders from MN drop significantly
5. TCC's competitors notice the poor quality of TCC's customer service. They still need to match TCC's low, low prices, so they get their super-smart people together and brainstorm new customer service ideas that are better and cheaper than TCC's.
6. TCC reconsiders their outsourced customer service due to lagging demand for their product.
7. TCC's competitors come up with clever new software that enables them to answer customer service requests in half the time with half the staff. Coup de etat! (or whatever)
8. TCC attempts to copy their competitors as quickly as humanly possible.
9. The mayor and everyone else has better, cheaper computer and computer accessories with good customer service.
The miracle of the market!! Note that The Mayor's experiences will expedite this inevitable process.

Here's what happens if the government steps in (heaven forbid!):
1. The computer company (TCC) outsources customer service, hoping to save money and compete in a very tight market.
2. TCC's competitors are at a disadvantage; they pay more for customer service, and may have to charge more for their products.
3. Government Intervention.
4. TCC pulls their customer service people back, increases prices.
5. TCC's competitors are no longer at a disadvange and halt any further research on improved customer service.
6. Customer service stagnates, prices do not drop.
7. The mayor and everyone else pay 0.1% more income tax to fund government subsidized for domestic customer service in, not just the computer industry, but also the critically (un)important jelly canning industries, 3-ring binder manufacturing customer service, and anyone else who can afford a lobby. Also note that this highly visible, election year issue will likely draw amendments from nutcases requiring things like the Navy respect the humpback whale by not testing new radar systems in the west indies.
8. The mayor and everyone else pays higher prices for computers and computer accessories.

So which is the preferred solution?
Saturday, February 07, 2004
You can see the legislation introduced to the senate committee on foreign relations here. While I don't know what most of the "status" comments mean, it is very enlightening to see who introduces what bill and who co-sponsors it. For instance, I was pleasently surprised to see Senator Tom Daschle co-sponsor a bill expressing that Yassir Arafat is a hindrance to peace in the middle east and has ties to terrorism! Kudos to the sodak senator.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
I spend much time whining here (duh!). For a break, read up on Martinus Luther. Read of the wickedness of (cowardly) people in power, how they invent laws and false customs to preserve, and fear open and honest debates and councils. Oh, wait, that could lead to more whining via means of analogy. But take hope; an honest monk reached the masses with logic and reason and (much more importantly) the blessing of the Holy Spirit. Good reading. (Especially check out his definition of faith.)
You can't read this stuff without fealing shivers...
On a discussion that appears to focus on the marriage of priests and monks (which he can find no claim anywhere that it is a sin, and concludes it is preferable to marry than "to burn with vain desires:"
"If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but
the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the
true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only
imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let
your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the
victor over sin, death, and the world."

He is not meek. In his work on translation:
"On the first hand, if I, Dr. Luther, had thought that all the
Papists together were capable of translating even one passage of
Scripture correctly and well, I would have gathered up enough
humility to ask for their aid and assistance in translating the
New Testament into German. However, I spared them and myself the
trouble, as I knew and still see with my own eyes that not one of
them knows how to speak or translate German. ...
I will
not allow the papists to judge for their ears continue to be too
long and their hee-haws too weak for them to be critical of my
translating. I know quite well how much skill, hard work,
understanding and intelligence is needed for a good translation.
They know it less than even the miller's donkey for they have
never tried it.
And there are brazen
idiots among them who have never learned their own art of
sophistry - like Dr. Schmidt and Snot-Nose, and such like them."

By gum, has the art of not offending people reached a state where Dr. Luther would be ashamed at the way discourse is carried on? He defends his translation by first identifying the poor state of his attackers and their lack of intelligence, and responds in like kind. Why explain, in great detail, the reasoning behind the translation on which you're being attacked, if you know full well your audience are asses and would turn your words upside down to suit their own purposes anyway?

And finally (not for wearing of reading nor writing, but I have other tasks to attend to), I note that perhaps I should refrain from whining (there's that word again) constantly about using "thee's" and "thous" and old-fashioned phrases in the newer versions of the Bible--I want to feel comfortable with the verses and traditions, but they do, indeed, hinder those for whom the book is also very important:
"Now when the angel greets Mary, he says: "Greetings to you, Mary,
full of grace, the Lord is with you." well up to this point, this
has simply been translated from the simple Latin, but tell me is
that good German? Since when does a German speak like that - being
"full of grace"? One would have to think about a keg "full of"
beer or a purse "full of" money. So I translated it: "You
gracious one". This way a German can at last think about what the
angel meant by his greeting. Yet the papists rant about me
corrupting the angelic greeting - and I still have not used the
most satisfactory German translation. What if I had used the most
satisfactory German and translated the salutation: "God says
hello, Mary dear" (for that is what the angel was intending to say
and what he would have said had he even been German!). If I had,
I believe that they would have hanged themselves out of their
great devotion to dear Mary and because I have destroyed the

Indeed! The angel would have said "God says hello."!! ... I have much to learn (but who better to learn from?).

Powered by Blogger