127 Comments

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Balko: "[I]f you’re a shoplifter in California [$950 misdemeanor ceiling] who wants to steal a lot more stuff without worrying about a felony charge, you might consider moving to Texas [$2,500 misdemeanor ceiling]."

And since the 2023 cost of living index for TX (92.1) is less than two-thirds that for CA (142.2) (US avg index is normalized to 100), TX could give you more bucks for the bang than CA

https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/cost-of-living-index-by-state

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Personally, I think streaming will go away in the next couple of years. It was a product that peaked when everyone was stuck at home for 2 years. Now that people are out and about, there is not much point to most of the streaming platforms from a business sense. For all the top notch products like "Picard" Season 3 and "The Great" on Hulu (WICKEDLY funny), you get a lot of tripe such as the Bridgerton products, The Morning Show, and that God-awful KA-KA casserole that Nicole Kidman did where she had that bizarre semi0Eastern European accent.

There is a market for classic television (as Hulu and the Roku Channel have shown), but for original programming, streaming really is not fit for purpose. Why should a writer sign up for a season that is only 6-9 episodes? "Seasons" on streaming make no sense. That explains why the storylines frequently

come off as threadbare or badly stitched or agressively rushed (As Marvelous Mrs Maisel has been at some points here in their final season). Unless they are getting a substantial payment upfront, there is no financial incentive for them to write for streaming unless their name is Amy Sherman-Palladino (who both EP's Mrs Maisel and writes for it).

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"Say less. Some of the greatest, funniest, most memorable things I’ve ever seen on social media were only a few words long. Make your point as economically as possible."

Ugh...

Well, yes, making your point as economically as possible is a good writing skill, but the idea that you need to distill complex ideas/thoughts/arguments down to 120 (240) characters is what (one of) has caused modern America to have the attention span of a gnat.

God forbid anyone have to read paragraphs - let alone chapters, or a book...the horror! - to understand the nuance involved in a concept or idea. Best to have it bumper sticker length, because you should strive to be pithy not accurate.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Listen in good faith--meaning actually listen--to the 9/11 families whose activism created the 9/11 Commission. The chaos of disinformation surrounding the attacks, alongside our two decades long inept response, is drowning out the very people who can help us the most. "Consider the possibility of other perspectives. You’ll be stunned at what you might learn if you’re just willing to listen and keep an open mind...."

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I don't agree with Hines' advice. If you want to be better on the Internet, learn to read more closely, and pretend--at least-- you are listening to what others say. Then others may listen to you.

Demand that unedited AI identify itself as such--legally required. The charge is "impersonating a human". It's just a misdemeanor to violate, per instance, but if it's sent to a million, the fine is billions.

And clamor for better coding--these websites mostly suck.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

The Progressives insist that people shoplift because they are deperately poor.

That is malarky. Shoplifting is the way organized crime feeds its fencing opertions. And it kills the very kind of businesses that provide jobs for the pepole they pretend to care about. And (1) most poor people never commit any crime, and (2) some of the poorest parts of America are almost crime free. Saying that poverty causes crime is saying that poor people don't have morals and ethics.

A very small number of shoplifters are responsible for a very large fraction of shoplifting arrests.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/15/nyregion/shoplifting-arrests-nyc.html

The refusal to deal with this problem is one reason why people vote Republican even in the MAGA era. You are a hypocrite when you whine about Trump's crimes and ignore other organized crime activity.

(FWIW the cutoff in NY is $1,000 before it is a felony.)

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Seems like you are jumping around categories a fair amount here. From shoplifting, to crime in general, back to shoplifting.

Are you suggesting that there is no causal link between poverty and crime? That seems to be a rather bold statement.

A few thoughts:

1. You say that most poor people never commit any crime. I'd suggest that while that is true, it is also true that most people never commit any crime. So without looking at relative rates and types of crime, I'm not sure what this statement proves.

2. On the poorest areas being crime free, without knowing which areas you are talking about, it is hard to discuss that fully. At best though, I think all that could prove is that the relationship between poverty and crime is not a 1 for 1 direct causal link. Which I don't think anyone actually argues. Anyone serious about discussing the issue would certainly acknowledge that there is no single cause of crime, and that focusing on only one factor and likewise ruling out any factors would be a poor way of addressing the problem.

Not sure who specifically you are accusing of being a hypocrite, but I don't know of anyone here that is actively ignoring organized crime. Though I would suggest that organized crime would seem to be a fact of life that predates prohibition (where it got famous) and can ebb and flow depending on the various environmental factors that affect it. Trump's crimes, specifically inciting an insurrection, stand out as being a bit more worthy of focus, since they threaten our entire democratic republic. I hate to speak for others, but for me, that strikes me as a more existential threat than a shoplifting ring in SF. That said, I'm not for ignoring that problem, but SF will or will not handle that to their credit or detriment.

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#3 hit hard. I was not my best and brightest in a comment I made on yesterday’s triad. I do stand by it , though. I do not like Boebert, and I would like to slap some sense into her. Saying that relieved a little stress, but slapping anyone is not a good thing. And, yet…

I realized recently that I learn a lot more if I pay attention to what is written by the Bulwark crew, and what is said in the comments. I like a lot of comments, and I often go back to figure out why I liked them, or to find the book or source recommended. Sometimes I try to figure where I *actually* stand, because I like opposing views. And very frequently I’ll like a whole string of comments, because you all are hilarious! A lot of you are way more informed and intelligent than I will ever be, and I really love mulling over what you’ve said while I am pulling weeds.

So this is me, being succinct.

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Sucks to realize that Adam Corolla might have lost his shit, too. I'll have to peek around and see how he's turned out over the last several years.

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Migrants crossing the border without documentation dropped on Friday, the first day after Title 42 was lifted,

Just read this, now what are republicans going to screech about?

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Thanks for posting. I found a reporting on this and sent this to my conservative friend. "Doesn't fit your narrative, does it?" I said.

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Meanwhile, in my local area when out with various conservatives, you can't get away from the bitching about labor shortage. "No one want to work," they whine. To which I typically just respond with, "pay more. The laws of supply and demand aren't magically suspended."

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That is perhaps my more "conservative" friends' most annoying complaint...and if you break it down, it's really "Why is it that so many people are unwilling to work for sub-minimum wage with a smile on their face so that the more privileged among us can enjoy our leisure time?"

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I have an opinion on EVERYTHING. If I didn't I will as soon as you bring it up ;)

Just remember, opinions are like assholes and everyone has one--and a lot of them stink.

Writer's Strike:

I come from a long line of blue collar workers. Worked blue collar jobs into my mid 30s. Member of a union, still (FWIW). I tend to sympathize with the workers.

The thing is, I think the writers are screwed. Mostly because of... wait for it.... AI.

A lot of the writing I have seen over the years for shows was middling good at best. Occasional flashes of brilliance. The reality is that there are only so many stories (that get dressed up various ways). This kind of writing is tailor-made for being automated.

I fully expect my own job (teacher) to become largely automated at the public school level (despite the fact that it is probably a VERY bad idea for a number of reasons). The current generation of teachers could very well be the last,

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Completely agree automating teaching is a very bad idea because teaching is a relationship job. Knowledge of your subject and skill in instruction is necessary, yes, but without the relationship you have with your students, not much of that gets across. Algorithms duplicating humans relating? I don't see it.

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I don't disagree, but I wonder if AI can't be a force multiplier of sorts in teaching. One thought that springs to mind is grammar. A set of complicated (somewhat) rules that a computer can (already has) learned with ease. Then feed that in with best practices for teaching kids that struggle with this rule or that rule. The combined wisdom of the best grammar teachers coupled with the immediate access of the software available to teach every kid at the same time.

Same should be possible with much of math. Each kid learning the basics with a computer program that moves at their pace and presents them with a variety of best practice methods to deal with their individual stumbling blocks.

Teachers could then focus on subjects that aren't as rule based, as well as helping and guiding on the other functions of teaching (interpersonal stuff, group work, larger projects, critical thinking, etc.

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2 comments:

1. Such programs already exist to teach the rules of reading English words (it's all about the vowels and syllable patterns, same for spelling). The one I am familiar with is Lexia, a terrific program. When I first came across it quite a few years ago, I don't think it was AI-based. Kids took it individually at a computer station with headphones on. Until they mastered a topic, they didn't move on; they got more practice until they mastered it. Perfect individualized instruction. But, it is now (https://www.lexialearning.com/why-lexia/#:~:text=It%20blends%20artificial%20intelligence%20with,teachers%20without%20ever%20replacing%20them.)

2. FYI, someone sent me this article from "MIT Technology Review": "ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it" (https://www.technologyreview.com/2023/04/06/1071059/chatgpt-change-not-destroy-education-openai/).

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In the first JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot movie there is a scene of Spock at "school" as a young child. His teacher is an AI, he stands in a depression in the floor of a large room interacting with the AI.

When you get AI to the level that it can be someone who the student interacts with as though they were a human being, THEN you MIGHT be able to replace teachers.

AI could do a lot to improve education in concert with teachers--BUT I seriously doubt that it will be used in that fashion. It COULD be used to offload a lot of the "boring" and administrative workload from teachers, freeing them up to, IDK, actually teach.

The up side to AI is that it could potentially provide a LOT of individualized attention and monitoring and immediate feedback on routine or rules-based learning (like math and science).

You could also set it up to act in a Socratic manner on other things--carrying on an actual dialog/argument.

Plus it could take attendance and do a lot of the admin that I am stuck with doing.

It has been my experience, however, that education (at least public education) is not good at leveraging computers/software.

Computerization has increased my workload, not decreased it. Given me MORE administration to do, not less. More forms to fill out. More data to gather and analyze.

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"Computerization has increased my workload, not decreased it. Given me MORE administration to do, not less. More forms to fill out. More data to gather and analyze."

I'm way outside my area, so if I'm wrong, just say so. I wonder if part of the problem her is lack of standardization (I know, a bad word). By that, I don't mean tests, but rather basic processes. Each school system is its own little kingdom, loosely governed by the state. As such, there's less consistency in doing things like collecting forms and data, checking attendance, etc. The administrative bullshit is there and different from school system to school system, sometimes building to building. And from what I can tell as a parent, adopted or not on the whims of whoever is in charge / the admin types who have to use the system, etc. Get more uniformity, and that stuff starts benefiting from economies of scale.

As an example, our system uses something called Final Forms (online forms so the paper goes away and filling them out each year is much easier after the first. Wonderful improvement, but other school systems adopted it sooner and others still haven't (cost or something else). Were such a system implemented state-wide, each individual school administrator wouldn't have to be taught independently or in a small group, it could be done on a larger scale. I think you'd also see faster adoption of what is at least on the parent end a vast improvement.

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Standardization is an issue, given the atomized nature of public education... but the increase in my administrative workload isn't driven by lack of standardization.

The increase is driven by rising data demands across the system, driven largely by the federal or state governments. By the increasing number of my students who qualify for various special needs or special education programs. By the demand (from the educational culture at large) for MOAR data, period.

Because more data CAN be collected (and provided in an easy format for the end user, who BTW is NOT me), more data MUST be collected. Because... more data is good?

There is this huge demand for various types of data, which is supposedly used to help us generate better outcomes (only it doesn't). We do more standardized testing at a variety of age levels now than we did 25 years ago.

Demands to quantify the unquantifiable.

So many metrics to track that determine funding levels.

All of this information is generated (and a big chunk of it is rather iffy, TBH) and then goes to die somewhere--because the decision-making process in public education is not driven by the educational needs of the students, but by politics and funding.

The reality is that we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't work in education. But because what works is either hideously expensive and manpower intensive or is politically untenable, it doesn't happen. It will likely never happen.

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Yeah, I certainly know about data collection, its limits, and the desire from those up top who don't really know what they're doing to want some magical window into the organization that will provide them the answers.

Thing is, most of them don't have the mathematical background (and I'm not talking higher math) to really 'get' how to deal with the data.

The silver lining I have in the corporate world is cost. And don't get me wrong, C-suite execs will spend hideous amounts of money just to avoid looking like they don't know something when their boss expects them to. One company I worked at probably spent a couple million a year to have financial results on day 3 instead of day 4. Didn't chance anything. No one made decisions faster or better as a result. Certainly day 4 vs, day 10 (the old days) provided actionable benefit, but not 3 vs. 4. You'd think when every single person in management had taken economics and thus had been exposed to diminishing returns that they'd get that. But at the end of the day, having to tell the CEO on day 3 to wait a day was a higher personal cost than the millions to have an answer. And thus, to the agency problem.

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I think if AI can do marking or instant correction and summarizing of students weaknesses, it would half the teachers' work load and give them more time to focus on helping their students. Or possibly work their 2nd jobs.

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One of my huge time sinks when I was teaching English was grading student essays.

Doing a bare minimum pass on an essays takes about 10-15 minutes (add in a few minutes for me literally pulling at my hair and screaming inside over how bad they are).

I had about 90 students.

That is a minimum 900 minutes to grade an essay.

That's 15 hours.

They do not give me time during my work day to do that. That is unpaid time, usually on a weekend.

A program similar to ChatGPT could probably do that in minutes... at least as far as grading/correcting the rules-based parts (grammar, spelling, etc).

I would still have to read each one though, for the non-rules part, but that would likely cut my time in half.

The problem is that it seems that every time I get some time freed up, admin and the politicians find something new for me to do.

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Re "there are only do many stories." True. But the arts have always been that way. So if we look to the Renaissance, we have paintings of the same Madonna in thousands of settings. also the same saints standing rigidly at the side. And re drama - just endless rehashings of jealousy and lust with a sword fight thrown in. But absent work for artists the art will vanish (and I still don't see AI as producing great art).

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(Disclaimer: I am an art teacher and a professional artist)

Art has always been that way because it is a consumer driven product. Art (even the fine arts) has always been crassly commercial.

We have thousands of Madonnas because the Church was a major source of revenue. Artists are prisoners of their patrons... unless you like starving.

There is some interesting art--but it is interesting to other professional artists, not to the general public. It sometimes BECOMES interesting to the general public (usually because it enters the realm of the cool or stylish, pushed by societal elites as part of their larger enterprise of one-upping each other).

I find Picasso interesting.. I would never buy a Picasso (even if they were only a few hundred dollars and nobody knew who he was) but the CONCEPT is interesting. I find the work, itself, ugly.

A lot of the abstract art is conceptually or technically interesting, but I would never pay money for it.

I am not sure, after all these years of work and study, what great art is--or how important the artist is to creating great art. I believe that greatness lies more in the eyes of the audience than in any technical or creative aspect supplied by the artist.

And the same goes for writing.

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Well holding a BFA and MFA but ending up in business, I still think that artist is important to make a good piece. Of course greatness varies by the audience as you suggest. Still I come away admiring and even liking some of Picasso. But of course if you see 50 works by an artist maybe 10-20% will be worthwhile.

Re what is shown as contemporary art - well I was in the Whitney in NYC a few months ago to see the Hopper exhibit. As the end, I stepped out we entered a room of contemporary work - boring and trivial.

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I think part of the importance of the artist is simply that there IS an artist--the understanding and perception (by the audience) that another human being did it... and an appreciation of the skill involved.

AI removes that.

Part of the reason why a lot of contemporary art is so meh is that a lot of it requires no real skill nor deep knowledge. The reaction on the part of the audience that "I coulda done that."

I don't do art for other people (well I make things if you pay me). I do art because:

1) I enjoy it; and

2) It is challenging.

It fulfills a psychological need.

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Yes, my friend who is a member of WGA shared this article with me: "The contract that the writers are striking for could set a powerful precedent that AI must work for people, rather than being used to marginalize people to juice profits" (https://apple.news/Aspg9lk5JTT6ckKub1JWLLg).

I was surprised JVL didn't address this aspect of the strike.

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Him or Sonny, yes

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Thank you as always.

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May 13, 2023Liked by Jonathan V. Last

JVL, I briefly subscribed to the WS via Nook because I was looking for thoughtful conservative opinion...and I thought Bill Kristol looked like one of my grad school professors, Dr Richard Vedder. I would not have suspected that we'd be here now agreeing on the benefits of organized labor. What a wonderful world!

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Pennsylvania's F/M cutoff for theft is $2,000.00 (with exceptions for certain items like vehicles, firearms, etc.). We also differentiate between "theft" and "fraud," with the latter having a $500.00 threshold for felonies. Those statutes apply to things like identity theft, credit card fraud, check fraud, and so on. However, we have three degrees of misdemeanors, so the higher the value of the goods stolen, the higher the grading. When it comes to shoplifting, or "retail theft" as the statute is labeled, the first offense is a summary (depending on the value), but the third offense, regardless of value, is a felony.

I think we have a generally fair approach to things here and I was quite surprised to see how other states approach it.

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Unfortunately, here in Portland shoplifting is at an all time high. The issue is not misdemeanor v felony. It’s that if you lift in Multnomah County (Portland) there’s a decent chance you won’t be prosecuted. Both REI and the Nike Outlet Portland stores are closing because of theft. Stores have had to add security personnel, but they aren’t law enforcement so can’t do anything as thieves walk out of stores with handfuls of stuff. The news had a video of a shoplifter in Washington Co asking where he was (shoplifting prosecuted in that neighboring county). His response: damn, I thought this was Multnomah County. It’s not a misdemeanor problem, it’s failure to prosecute problem. Businesses are leaving the downtown core: 2nd highest taxes in country, theft, homelessness, vandalism. As lefties, we can’t wish these problems away. Just because the righties like to point out failings, doesn’t mean there aren’t failings.

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founding

Well said, that last.

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May 13, 2023·edited May 13, 2023

Harsh sentences do not deter crimes when no one expects to be caught. I also don't think the problem is failure to prosecute. To be prosecuted a person must be caught and these folks don't think they'll be caught. I don't know what the deal is with retailers these days. Do they not want to hire sales people and security people in great enough numbers? Having a lot of employees stand around helps prevent shop lifting. Surveillance cameras do not serve the same purpose and only work if the person is caught.

Whenever I see retail operators closing doors these days I have to wonder if the surge in online buying is at the heart of the closure...something they don't want to admit. It's easier to blame crime than it is to admit that market forces are making store front operations too expensive to run properly.

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That is my understanding about shoplifting and stores closing because of it: The DAs choosing not to prosecute. I'm a leftie, but I don't wish these problems away, so you're not speaking for me. Also, the righties who were pointing out the shoplifting failing were pointing to the wrong cause, Prop 47.

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I live in SF, our current DA actually does prosecute people for crimes. People still steal from stores. My wife used to work at one of the retailers downtown, and the gist of why this happens at the rate it does:

1) Organized crime / theft rings. The people doing the shoplifting are toadies, either coerced in, or trying to get in good with the bosses.

2) Online reselling (see Amazon) and others enable them to fence the goods "legally". The spike in shoplifting correlates strongly with the increase in reported stolen goods on ecommerce platforms.

As for retailers leaving downtown cores, I'm sure crime has something to do with it in terms of lost profits, but the bigger issues are:

1) COVID displaced a lot of workers to part time or full time remote. Less people = less buying in brick and mortar locations.

2) Online shopping reduces the need for physical locations.

As usual, it's a multifaceted problem. Prosecuting criminals is good, but don't ignore the organized crime aspect and broader macroeconomic forces that have been dunking on retail for the last 15+ years.

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May 14, 2023·edited May 14, 2023

Everything you say here is true. I will add one other point. Here in NYC, and probably elsewhere, there is another issue that is even bigger than the first two: Rents that are just too high for any business to survive. Even banks are closing branches! The commercial real estate industry has been leeching off its tenants for years and continues to do so.

However, it may be headed for a crash that could impact the entire economy. In NYC, there is now more VACANT office space than there IS office space in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston combined! This is going to cost NYC billiions in property tx revenues. Yet developers continue to build high rise office towers. And the lack of office workers means less business for the walk in retailers who were struggling with the confiscatory rent levels even before the pandemic. A lot of private equity is invested in NYC real estate and the bubble is bursting.

Meanwhile residential real estate prices in NYC continue to rise as the population continues to grow faster than the supply. (Don't listen the right wing disinformationists who falsely claim the population has declined.) The current mayor and his predecessor, both Democrats, have been trying, with modest success, to rezone much of the city for residential, and NIMBYs, almost all identifying as Progressives, fight every rezoning tooth and nail., usually also going to court after the rezonings are approved. Lawsuits held up one rezoning near me for three years, during which time the cost of housing in that formerly middle class neighborhood skyrocketed.

And the Governor, also a Democrat, has tried to force rezonings in the suburban areas, mostly around commuter train stations that cost the state humongous amounts in subsidies. Higher density would help to pay for those subsidies. This time the NIMBYs were both Republican and Democratic, and they killed the plan in the legislature. A lot of suburbanites of both parties LIKE having unaffordable housing with confiscatory property tax rates. It keeps the riffraff out. :( :( :(

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Don't even get me started on NIMBYs! The Bay Area version is even worse - but overall same problem.

We're at the point in CA where the Gov is more or less threatening municipalities to actually build housing to meet the demand (supply + demand in balance, what a novel / radical idea! /s).

You're spot on about the unaffordable housing and property tax rates - gotta keep "the other people" out. :(

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founding

RE: #2 The Writers' Strike

When the first troops from the Japanese invasion of "cheap" cars began landing on these shores decades ago, the domestic auto industry's response was a pretty arrogant "We'll drive them back into the sea." Glad those guys weren't in charge of things for our side on D-Day back in '44.

By the time they figured out this wasn't just going to be a skirmish to be crushed by their hefty industrial might, it was far too late to respond in a way that might have mitigated the losses in a significant fashion. So, the unionized troops in the trenches on the shop floors, of which I was one, started lining up at the barber shop. Concessionary contracts became the order of the day, and a new company strategy was born: Whipsawing. That was the art of pitting one local union against another in concessionary competition for new work from the company, practiced under the new company mantra of "Work smarter, not harder."

Well, working smarter - or even harder - doesn't keep your ears from getting chilled in a cold, stiff breeze when enough of your locks have been clipped and the price of hats keeps going up. So, at some point, when you notice management has been to the haberdashery and is keeping their collective ears not only warm but doing so in style, you tend to resist going to the barber.

I don't blame the writers for wanting to keep their ears warm. And I wish them a lot of luck, 'cause they're going to need it. Sounds like management in this case has thrown the windows wide open in the middle of winter.

That not overly loud sound you hear is me cheering for capitalism.

RE: #3 Advice for Social Media

My opinion...good advice. Wait. What was that?

You don't have to have an opinion on everything? Well, crap.

OK. I'll make a concession here...

RE: #1

No opinion.

Not really. But I haven't been to the barber for a while. And summer's coming on pretty soon.

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founding

The studio heads and streaming companies sound just like (billionaire) sports team owners complaining about having to raise the minimum player salaries and insisting that there needs to be a salary cap because they can’t stop handing out ten year $300 million contracts to free agents.

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I’m sure you get this a lot, but your criticism of owners giving out terrible contracts and the coincidence of you sharing a name with a dude who gave Allan Houston a 6 year/$100M deal is making me chortle.

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founding

I not infrequently have to issue a disclosure that I’m not THAT James Dolan. I love Charles Oakley myself and like to think I’d do a much better job with the Knicks than that other guy.

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Amazingly, I was trying to explain Oak (and Anthony Mason) to my 11 year old just last night. Best era of the Knicks

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