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Archive for June 6th, 2005

This op-ed by the perpetually embittered Bob Herbert of the NY Times reads like a guy making a speech wrapped up by the cry "workers unite and strike down the evil capitalists!" Read on how he laments that we all don’t wait in the same bread line:

Consider, for example, two separate eras in the lifetime of the baby-boom generation. For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent of the population between 1950 and 1970, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162. That gap has since skyrocketed. For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent between 1990 and 2002, Mr. Johnston wrote, each taxpayer in that top bracket brought in an extra $18,000.

It’s like chasing a speedboat with a rowboat.

Put the myth of the American Dream aside. The bottom line is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for working Americans to move up in class. The rich are freezing nearly everybody else in place, and sprinting off with the nation’s bounty.

When did prosperity among the uber rich translate into poverty for others? Aren’t zero-sum economics kind of, um, retarded? Can a discussion of enriching those less fortunate be had without demonizing those whom they wish to emulate? So the top 1 out of a thousand is incalculably richer than 900 out of 1000. Good. I have something to shoot for. I will refrain from his bad advice to forget the American Dream. Herbert goes on to bitch:

Economic mobility in the United States – the extent to which individuals and families move from one social class to another – is no higher than in Britain or France, and lower than in some Scandinavian countries. Maybe we should be studying the Scandinavian dream.

Cute. Maybe Herbert doesn’t realize it, but most of Scandinavia is so hobbled by subsidizing all those compassionate entitlements to a  group increasingly addicted to the public teat that there isn’t very far to go to catch up to the top .01%. I don’t want to live in that kind of country, and neither does Mr. Herbert, but he’s too busy spewing hate and class warfare campaigning for Democrats to admit it.

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This article in the Times highlights the extent to which AOL’s constant efforts to "reinvent" itself will continue to be fruitless. Like millions of others, AOL was my first Internet experience. It was a phenomenal service on many levels, and the instant messenger alone allowed me to "speak" with family and friends more in one week than I had the previous decade. I was a Community Leader. I met my wife through AOL. I had two accounts. Any shortcomings with spam and poor interfaces with other services due to proprietary programming was a small price to pay for the virtual 24 hour "Cheers" tavern we enjoyed. This was all due to Steve Case, who envisioned more than just an Internet portal, but thousands of specialized online communities where a guy in New York could BS about the Yankees with someone in LA, or even Asia.
Around 2001, as Case became more of a hands off executive, the erosion began. Online communities, where one could go to read and post messages on anything from baseball to dogs to gardening, went from well moderated destinations to cesspools of trolls and spam. Terms of Service was watered down to the point where trolls members who would have previously been banned from the boards became regulars. Community Leadership’s hands were tied. The experience we thought nothing of paying twenty bucks a month for no longer seemed like such a bargain. Then they raised the price. What a formula! More money for less in return.
When those online communities became less of a value (or none at all), previously loyal members were left with icons, spam filled inboxes, and an application that slowed their computers down. AOL decided that more bells and whistles were the answer (instead of the obvious, which was to keep the things that kept members loyal at a high quality), although spam controls never seemed to be a priority until it was far too late. I wasn’t an AOL member for bells and whistles, especially when my two biggest issues, security and spam, were not addressed. So since 2002, members have been leaving in droves.

All the while, AOL has kept shrinking – to 21.2 million subscribers in January from 26.5 million in 2002 – as the dial-up customers it brought online shift increasingly to high-speed access from their phone and cable companies.

It isn’t just dial up, however. I still have two AOL accounts, but I never use them. I had some hope that things might improve, but only a week or so ago I received an email informing me that the Community Leader program was to be discontinued. The thousands of volunteers who moderated the online communities, exchanging hours of time for a waived monthly fee, are to be no more. It makes sense; our hands have been tied for years anyway. It marks the official end of an era that began dying 4 years ago. In my view, it is no coincidence that AOL’s stock has been a literal match of the quality of member’s experience. What was "Cheers" is now an overcrowded subway restroom. AOL doesn’t need more features. It needs Steve Case.

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