New Website

Check out my new website at http://www.daveoverfelt.com/.

I have been a bit behind on writing lately because I have been building this website! I believe I have worked out most of the kinks but the page is very new and there may be some things I haven’t seen so take a look and please send me an email at daveosociologist@gmail.com or make comments below if you have any suggestions for how I could improve this website.  I will be pulling stuff down from this page over time to point yourself to the new site.

Check out my services page and get in touch if I can help you make better decisions!

 

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Media Services Cost Too Much: The Downgrade Fail

There is a great article over at The American Prospect on the high cost of broadband internet in the U.S. As I am sure you already know, decent internet costs a great deal of money! What I had not seen prior to this article are some of the dollar to dollar comparisons with the absurdly low costs of fast internet in several other nations.

On the other hand, I think Waldman could draw us out to the costs of all media services in our nation. As several of you have noticed from my previous writing, I have been attempting to reduce the costs of my cell phone bills. The new problem is that I am moving around all over Columbia and the state for business and networking purposes and have quickly discovered I can’t rely on spotty free wifi. I need the cellular data to increase my powers of communication. I am even further frustrated to report events have conspired to make me continue with AT&T. Basically, the entire attempt to go without a cellular data plan has collapsed.

It is clear that we need better policy AND infrastructure if we want to have decent telecommunications services at reasonable prices. The lobbying wing of this industry is strong so the work to be done here is particularly difficult. It may be best at this point to focus on creating new policies or coming up with infrastructure projects that can increase media competition and access. Some places (like Columbia!) have been experimenting with free internet in high traffic areas. This seems like a great start but we clearly have a long way to go.

Vote for people who make good decisions and write them frequently then go invest in a business that wants to bring you reasonably priced services!

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Research Results, LLC

Part of the plan in coming back to Columbia was to start a research and writing business. As promised, I have founded Research Results, LLC and the various technicalities are mostly worked out so today I am launching a products page. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Contact me at daveosociologist@gmail.com or 573.268.6290 if you want to make better decisions!

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Headlines of Terror Distract from Real Danger

The headline tells us Americans want a “hearing”, but I think they buried the lede because the chart tells us we are fine with being under mysterious forms of secret surveillance. You might wonder what people are thinking, I certainly do. Trust in Congress in abysmally low but when it comes to “collecting information” to “keep us safe” from… terrorists I guess, we apparently trust that Congress needs to secretly collect unknown quantities of data (to be held in secret) on secret targets. Why would you support this program (seriously, tell me)? We have exactly no idea what is being collected, who it is being collected on, what is being done with what is collected, or if the act of collecting accomplishes something we would be able to accomplish in the open.

Don’t Fear a Ghost

Very seriously, you should not be afraid of terrorists. Yes, terrorists have killed people, yes, it was horrifying, and yes, we should be trying to stop terrorism. But, as far as threats to life and limb are concerned, terrorism is pretty damn far down on the list. Check out this Center for Disease Control (CDC) page on the leading causes of death. Then check out this CDC page on 75 years of mortality in the U.S. You will note that heart disease and cancer, not terrorism, have remained the biggest killers of American’s in the last 75 years.

If you want to step it out to a global level, check out this list from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the leading causes of death. You will see that terrorism is not on the list.

It does seem that terrorism, under the category of “Religious Violence” which is under the broader category of “Violence”, makes it to the wikipedia list of causes of death by rate but you have to scroll down some to find it as the broad category of violence only accounts for less than one percent of deaths.

These attempts to use surveillance to chase this ghost of violence around the world are doomed to fail. If these programs ever reveal the data collected or the details of the supposed plots all our secret surveillance programs have exposed, I expect we will be underwhelmed by the terrible lack of accomplishment for the extraordinary cost to reputation domestic and international. We spend an unknown quantity of money on these programs that we could instead be spending on some of the real threats to world health like cancer and heart disease.

As usual, I will advise you to (1) get involved with the democratic process and (2) stop electing people who make bad decisions. Both of these points require that you understand what you are supporting and why. Both of these points require you to suspend silly and meaningless fears of terrorists.

When you are afraid the terrorists win.

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Land Clearance

A great article on The Global Urbanist discussing the application of eminent domain to create Dodgers stadium in L.A. I have previously discussed the application of the same federal money in Columbia, MO under the auspices of the Land Clearance Authority.

This is specifically why I have made the claim that Land Clearance wasn’t all that bad here in Columbia. Try to imagine for a moment that, instead of building newer housing we decided to slap Faurot Field right downtown. The truth of the matter is that if you had put it to a vote people may very well have acted as they did in L.A., giving official democratic sanction to the utter destruction of vibrant working class communities.

I don’t get the feeling things have much changed from 1960 to present. If you put it to a citywide vote I would bet on a tight race between destroying or preserving the First Ward I love to call home. People are afraid and looking for someone to blame and today, just as in the past, the already unfortunate take the heat even when they don’t have anything to do with the problem.

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If A Snowden Falls in the Forest, Will Anyone Care?

While there has been some consternation over the recent realization that our government is watching our communication even harder than we thought, it appears that complaining is about as far as anyone is willing to go. The lead article on Snowden in Slate today is a discussion about how other companies would have hired him. I expect before it is all over we will be able to learn quite a bit about Snowden, the public face of the NSA, the shape of the surveillance state, and many other trivial details from various news sources.

Yet, over all these years since September 11th, the only common thread is that we have allowed (and occasionally invited)  government and private industry surveillance to penetrate deeper into our lives. If recent history is any guide, the current news will fade off into the distance like Bradley Manning as soon as *insert pop icon* does something foolish.

The part that really terrifies me is that Edward Snowden could be right that our government is seeking out a way to silence him but, at the same time, he could be wrong that there is no way to cover it up. If nobody beyond the ACLU cares then the story will die on its own.

Don’t forget, YOU ELECTED THESE PEOPLE!

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No Gap In Skills

One of the constant refrains in regards to unemployment is about the mythical “skills gap”. The NYTimes has a nice short piece from the editorial board that helps explain the issue at hand. Although there are some very real concerns about literacy and critical thinking skills, employers have traditionally trained their employees how to do the job they needed to do. When I took my first job at Fazoli’s in Jefferson City, for instance, I had no idea how to operate a cash register or a steam table. These are not skills we should be learning in school and it is no different if you move toward more complicated and technical jobs. The problem isn’t with the workers but with the broader economy into which their work is embedded. We need jobs not austerity!

As usual, I believe the largest piece of responsibility for dealing with these problems lies with us, the voters! There are however a variety of perfectly palatable political solutions on the table already. Susan Collins (R-Maine), for instance, has been involved with Clair McCaskil (D-Missouri, a few years ago) and Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania, this month) on bipartisan legislation that would very likely help small businesses add employees. Simple bipartisan bills like this are out there! There really are legislators who are trying to help get people back to work!

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