Sunday, July 17, 2016

Consumer Advocacy

Society needs more consumer advocates. There's only about one that's a household name. Quite a few colleges offer programs in consumer affairs and consumer sciences, but there aren't very many majors in consumer advocacy offered.

Consumer advocates are important because they teach people the value of the dollar vote, and they educate and protect consumers. Sometimes someone is selling something people shouldn't buy. And, consumers need to know how to ask for what they want. Organizations can take advantage of uneducated consumers. Supply and demand need to be balanced. Boycotting can be a powerful tool along these lines.

The media should employ more of these people in journalism and reporting positions. Newspapers, for example, should have more columns written by staffed advocates/journalists. Better educated consumers means better products and services.

Consumer Advocacy

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Minimalist

If you ever find yourself doing any kind of serious, straight (i.e. not crooked) work such as this, you may need to keep things as simple as possible in many ways. A look at the early career of Ralph Nader reveals some of the types of things that can happen. And, this was how he ended up receiving some of his early funding. That was in the 60's. Today, things are more complicated, and technologies can make things much more challenging than they were in the 60's.

Sometimes it's best to keep things really simple when it comes to relationships, business affairs, living arrangements, social activities, responsibilities, etc. You need to be really careful with what you say to people, and watch out for pretexting. Be careful with how something can be interpreted. Personal relationships involving spouses and children make things more difficult.

In the case of writers and teachers, you could have someone acting as if they're "concerned" that you might???? - because you're working on things. And they could use that to justify their actions when they want something.

Basically, travel light. Try not to depend on anything that you don't need to, and don't make any unnecessary long term commitments. You might not be able to count on your job being there. Even a seemingly comfortable work situation can go south at any time. Avoid leases. Avoid making any plans which require financial commitments. In the most extreme scenarios, unfortunately, someone with information can use these things, or your situation, against you.

The Minimalist

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Affordable Housing

In many areas, access to affordable housing is a problem for the working poor. There seems to be a lot of dated solutions to this. A good solution in many instances would be to create opportunities for practical affordable housing through the private sector through land donations to private developers.

The current opportunities for people with low incomes include trailer parks, shared housing (which is getting expensive and not a comfortable alternative for many), expensive apartments, shelters, and housing programs.

Shelters are at the best a short term aid for working people who are in between places. These places are usually not geared toward workers who may be working odd hours. They typically are unsanitary, and have a lot of rules because of the variety of cases they deal with. And, access is typically limited.

Shared housing is becoming more difficult to access. As a result renters can be picky, and the people looking to rent out the space are typically looking for a specific type of renter, a college student for example. Shared living arrangements can be good for a while for students or short term situations, but they aren't always a good long term option. Lack of privacy is one major reason. For what a lot of rooms rent for, someone should be able to get into a small apartment.

With a lot of the housing programs, someone needs to go through some agency. The designs are often expensive and include unnecessary features such as environmental design, balconies, covered parking, etc. Private sector options could be more affordable and practical.

There is a lot of land set up as city, county and state property. Much of this was set aside in the past when the population was much smaller. A practical option would be to get some land to private developers/managers which would have an incentive (given the property was donated) to turn the property into affordable apartments. There could be stipulations on the land usage so improper transfers are prohibited, and the property is developed appropriately. 0 property taxes for such developments would act as an incentive.

In a scenario like this, someone could introduce efficiency apartments for say 350.00 a month where rooms start at 300.00 and one bedrooms 500.00. A developer would have an incentive to do this because they would receive the same income as they would if they had had to purchase the land for the same type of property.

A good way to look at it is like this. If you have one park where 30 homeless people congregate, in a town with 10 parks, wouldn't it be better to house 100 people on the same property when these people might be homeless, staying at a shelter or living under other unfavorable circumstances. It seems this would create a healthier and more pleasant environment for everyone.

Affordable Housing

Monday, July 4, 2016

Phishing and the Law

There is an interesting documentary about problems with public education, specifically in New Jersey. In a comparison between school districts in New Jersey and Maryland, New Jersey had 15 times the number of school districts per student as Maryland. The heads of the districts would turn their districts into little empires. The number of districts and the resulting number of administrators was a large part of the problem.

The number of laws is always increasing. So are the number of associated programs. Many of the laws act as a dual edged sword. Laws that are supposed to protect people can also be used against them. Sometimes it is best to keep the size of law enforcement in check. Like in the movie, the worse things are, the more money they get. Civil forfeiture needs to be addressed.

Using a few examples, if someone wants to start a business that is going to take market share away from a competitor, or a journalist is writing a story someone doesn't want published, or a teacher is teaching a class someone doesn't want them to teach, what is the easiest way to stop them?

The easiest way is through the law. Common set-ups include drug set-ups, sex set-ups, and verbal and physical set-ups (getting someone to say something or react with violence). There are "special rides." Laws can be used to enforce the establishment.

This is where mass surveillance, surveillance and tracking need to be kept under control. The more information the authorities have about citizens whereabouts and activities, the easier it is for someone to set them up. For example, anyone can be under surveillance for drug trafficking. Then, it is easier for something to happen.

Another concern is procedural technicalities. If someone has a daughter, for example, and she is sexually assaulted, are the proper charges filed and is the perpetrator prosecuted? Companies can put a lot of pressure on the competition.

Normal daily activities can become sketchy when it comes to money, power and the law. For example, someone walking down the street could have a couple of people get together and say the person assaulted one or both of them in some way. How does a particular situation look if something happens and it goes to court?

Law enforcement needs less resources. People need to take a closer look at the root causes of the problems, such as poor education, housing shortages and a lack of opportunities. The bad activities are usually symptoms of a dysfunctional society.

Phishing and the Law

Friday, July 1, 2016

Phishing - the People and the Effects

Software companies have some pretty sophisticated algorithms for profiling people. The types of people most likely to engage in this type of activity are: people addicted to strong drugs, people with gambling tendencies, people with antisocial personalities, and psychopaths. Poor economic conditions and disparity can stimulate this type of activity within a society. Personal financial conditions may have a big effect on people's behavior when it comes to this. People that are strapped for cash, have a lot of dependents and/or are experiencing financial hardships are all more likely to do this. Naiveness can also come into play because people that are really naïve are easy to manipulate.

At a workplace, for example, there might be a group of people doing it and they're harassing a co-worker. This can have a kind of cluster effect. Someone might be going into a new job for training. The trainer just started working there but he/she comes off like they've worked there a while. The trainer could be coached on the side. Some phishers run under aliases. Some of the younger ones look at it like it is a video game.

There are endless psychological techniques available. Someone being trained for a new position might be trained the wrong way so he/she is set up to fail. Coworkers or management will then use it against the person by pointing out "mistakes." Management or coworkers may pile on excessive amounts of work on purpose.

Housing situations can be the same way. A particular apartment complex may be a very difficult place to live. Someone might be renting out rooms and this is what they do. There could be noise, filth, unsanitary conditions, theft, behavior issues, a lack of privacy, etc. With a lease, someone is locked into it. Likewise, the more of a deposit there is, the more someone needs to worry about getting it back if they don't want to live there for some reason.

The motives can vary. The phishers might be phishing for threats, violence, information, or a set-up.

Negative effects of phishing include:

* A dysfunctional economy

* Stress and higher healthcare costs

* People in jail that shouldn't be

* People not in jail that should be

* A dysfunctional society

* A lack of trust and organizational effectiveness

* A closed society

Phishing - the People and the Effects