February 17, 2009

Taxation Without Representation

Did you know that D.C. residents have no representation in Congress, and no voting rights in the House of Representatives? According to Wikipedia:

Voting rights of citizens in the District of Columbia differ from those of United States citizens in each of the 50 states. D.C. residents do not have voting representation in the United States Congress. Instead, they are represented in the House of Representatives by a non-voting delegate who may sit on committees, participate in debate and introduce legislation, but cannot vote on the House floor. D.C. has no representation in the United States Senate.

People in D.C. are mad. They have "Taxation Without Representation" license plates, regularly march about obtaining their rights, and want their quarter to carry that motto. Heck, even the Visitor's Center, a few streets from the White House, advertizes D.C.'s lack of representation:

Taxation Without Representation

DC Residents Federal Tax Dollars Paid: $116, 177,984.40

Even the usually very New-York centric New York Times had an article on it today:

This nation’s founders rebelled against taxation without representation, but residents of Washington are still without a meaningful voice in Congress. A bill to give the District of Columbia a voting member in the House of Representatives has taken an important step forward, and it could become law this year. The bill is not ideal, but it would redress a longstanding injustice. Congress should pass it.


Washington’s lack of representation is profoundly undemocratic. Its residents are American citizens who pay taxes, vote for the president and serve and die in the military. Although the city is relatively small, it is more populous than Wyoming and nearly equal to those of Vermont and Alaska.


With Barack Obama, who co-sponsored a 2007 version of the bill, now in the White House and the Democrats in control of both the House and Senate, this could be the moment Washington finally gets its representation.

“It’s 200 years too late,” says Eleanor Holmes Norton, who now serves as the city’s nonvoting member of the House. “But we’ll take it.”

I can't wait. Maybe we should ask for reparation: 200 years of Representation without Taxation.

February 09, 2009

Planned Obsolescence

There’s an approach in the United States that I like to call “more bang for your buck”. It goes like this:

1) I have a limited amount of money,
2) I want to own a lot of stuff,
3) I will buy the cheaper items, so I can get more stuff.

I wish it was a little bit more like this:

1) I have a limited amount of money,
2) So I will save my money until I can buy that nice, good quality item,
3) When I buy the item, I will take care of it so it lasts a long time.

Sure, attitudes are changing. Americans are turning, for example, to better foods, leaving the McDonald behind, and choosing instead to get a nice salad at Cosi.

But gadgets remain an area where the “more bang for your buck” theory goes strong. Since people want cheap goods, and manufacturers want your money, they’ve devised a crafty, little scheme of “plan obsolescence”.

According to Wikipedia:

Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence is the process of a product becoming obsolete and/or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use in a way that is planned or designed by the manufacturer. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because the product fails and the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence. The purpose of planned obsolescence is to hide the real cost per use from the consumer, and charge a higher price than they would otherwise be willing to pay (or would be unwilling to spend all at once).


There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer, if any, which offers a more durable alternative.

Problem 1
The many hair dryers I used to buy, for example, are made from lightweight, breakable plastic. It naturally follows that, when I am drying my hair in morning, holding the dryer in my recently moisturized hands, rushing to get ready before 8:00 a.m., I will often drop the dryer on the tile floor of the bathroom. And so it breaks, or overheats. And so I have to buy a new one.

Source - This is an ugly hair drying from ebay, but I bet it still works

Solution 1
Borrow your ex-boyfriend’s hair dryer made in the 1960s, permanently. I’ve dropped it countless times, and it still works like a charm.

Problem 2
Imagine yourself a loyal customer of, let’s say T-Mobile. Imagine yourself a chatty person who likes to call your friends often, and keeps in touch with family abroad. You’re a good customer, and you spend a lot of money on your phone plan and long distance. You always pay your bill on time. Wouldn’t it be infuriating then, to find that even the most basic phones offered by T-Mobile are ridiculously expensive, and have an uncanny ability to break a mere one month after their warranty?

Source - contrary to what the picture may lead you to believe, this basic phone does not shoot death rays from its screen

Solution 2
Purchase the cheapest phone available, and extend your contract another 2 years to get an acceptable discount. Consider changing phone companies.

Problem 3
I’ve had my computer for 5 years. I’ve treated it with kindness and consideration even while in the bush in Congo. But I’ve had to replaced the battery once (it lasted about 3 months before shorting out again), and the power adapter twice. I’ve also had Geek Squad remove the standard antivirus software, because the upgrade I installed was defective and froze the computer. I’ve had to buy an external hard drive because I ran out of room on the hard drive.

My computer is possibly the most precious thing I own, since it contains my thousands of photos, videos, newsletters, and passwords. I have also grown addicted to connecting with my friends through email, skype and blogger, and watching episodes of Lost and Torchwood on it.

Source - Expensive, ugly and poor quality. And this was the best they had to offer when I bought my laptop

Solution 3
At this rate, I’ve easily spend the equivalent of a new computer on the replacement parts. I am seriously exploring going over to the dark side and buying a mac computer.

Grrrr. This is all such a waste of money. What a waste of components, plastic, time, and human labor as well. How very un-environmental.