Open Thread

This is where you can say pretty much what you want. Please behave, though.


Posted by: on May 18, 2004 07:48 AM

Why are online bill-paying services so expensive? It seems as if the going rate is about $1/transaction, about the same as it was five years ago. Why should I pay $1 to save myself 37 cents in postage?

The economics of this is all backwards. Surely it’s much more expensive for a vendor (and their bank) to process a paper check. If anything, they should be providing incentives for me to handle my payments electronically. And individually, they do: I can go to the SBC site and pay my SBC bill electronically for no charge. I can pay my credit card bill electronically by going to their site, etc. But if I want to handle all my transactions in the same place, I have to pay through the nose. Why is this? Why isn’t there an incentive for the vendors to absorb the third-party costs for such transactions, as there is with credit card purchases at point-of-sale?

This is reminisicent of the whole ATM thing. When ATMs were first installed, we were told that we’d all benefit because they would save lots of money which they’d pass on in the form of low fees. But then they started charging, in some cases $3 or more, to use an ATM. Greedy.

It’s clear why certain electronic conveniences (such as cash cards) have been much more successful in Europe and elsewhere than in America. Our companies are too damn greedy. Why should they expect to get $1 just for moving some money from one bank account to another, an electronic event which costs them nothing?

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 07:51 AM

Sunday’s Meet The Press episode told me two things:

The Bush Administration will stop at nothing to lie and manipulate the American people

Colin Powell made a terrible mistake in deciding to serve the Bush Administration. His hard-earned integrity slowly deteriorates as he serves as Secretary of State.

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 07:51 AM

Sunday’s Meet The Press episode told me two things:

The Bush Administration will stop at nothing to lie and manipulate the American people

Colin Powell made a terrible mistake in deciding to serve the Bush Administration. His hard-earned integrity slowly deteriorates as he serves as Secretary of State.

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 08:08 AM

Yawn. It taught me that Tim Russert is so full of angst that his own network isn’t promoting his book that he’ll rail against the Secretary of State when Russert’s own staff let the interview go into overtime, taking the satellite time from other networks, and Powell’s aide stepped in to move on to the next interview.

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 08:42 AM

wahoofive asks: “Why are online bill-paying services so expensive?” Because people are willing to pay that much. I don’t use them because I don’t see why I should pay more in order to save money for everyone else involved.

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 08:57 AM

you should revolt!

i’m in dallas (moved from los angeles in 1993) and get free quicken bill-paying with my bank, and have for years (i recall paying $6/month when i first moved here). if the bank started to charge me, i’d retaliate by either switching back to free paper checks, or move my account elsewhere. i suspect that’s not what they want, so … free checking and free ATMs are standard fare.

last time i paid an ATM fee was during a roadtrip to mississippi (`nuff said).


Posted by: on May 18, 2004 09:10 AM

I’m right with you, NonMoose, but it seems to me that since they’d save money, they have economic motivation to get me to switch. Where’s the invisible hand of Adam Smith? Gene, are banks competing on that feature in Dallas? No bank here in the Bay Area is advertising free bill-paying services, although one advertises no ATM fees.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein on May 18, 2004 09:19 AM

Mind if I plug some of my recent work about tech/social issues?

“Jew Watch”, Google, and Search Engine Optimization
Abstract: This report examines issues surrounding the high ranking of an anti-semitic website, “”, for searches on the word” Jew”. The search results present complex issues of unintended consequences and social dilemmas.


Nitke v. Ashcroft : Seth Finkelstein expert witness report
“A provider of content via the Internet cannot reasonably be expected to know the location of readers, if the context is one in which location would lead to a denial of the ability to read the content.”

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 11:54 AM

Hey Dan: RE your future Prius

Don’t know if you saw this article. Sounds liek some unhappy campers.,2554,63413,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

Posted by: Potpouri the Clown on May 18, 2004 12:22 PM

A man walks into a bar and trips over a string laying on the ground, and now the string is all twisted and coming apart at the ends.

The bartender sees the string on the floor and says “Hey! Haven’t I seen you here before and told you not to come in?”

To which the string replies “Oh no! I’m a frayed knot!”

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 12:54 PM

I’m wondering what America would be like had it returned to strict isolationism after World WAR II ended?

I would like to think that America would be a land of unequaled economic wealth, a happy population that long-ago solved racial problems because it would have had the money to fix American poverty.

It would be an America with citizens that could walk down the streets of any nation in the world and be greeted in kindness for staying neutral like much of the world does.

We wouldn’t be torn apart by the activities of the outside world, indeed many places of strife may not exist in the world had America stayed out of other nations problems. If America had not help create problems within the borders of other countries there might be peace in the Middle East.

Yes, I often wonder what such an America would have been like with tens of thousands of Americans that would have lived instead of dying for causes that were none of our business.


Posted by: on May 18, 2004 01:33 PM

I realize that I am a blowhard with not a lot of intelligent things to say. But someone has to represent the right on this libby board.

Posted by: Cog on May 18, 2004 01:37 PM

Media off the mark with Rumsfeld potshots:

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 01:50 PM


Your purpose is to derail any attempt at meaningful posit-and-discuss by asserting partisanship.

Why don’t you start your own blog rather than hijack Dan’s?

Posted by: Oscar Carrillo on May 18, 2004 02:41 PM

I hope this is an OK place for this. This is something I sent to Dan awhile ago, and he thought he might post something about this for discussion.
I haven’t seen any posts about it, so I figured I’d put it here in the open thread.

I am self-employed, and make nearly my entire living from delivering services/products by using Open Source Software.

I think that I am not alone and probably signify the beginnings of a trend in IT.

I think IT people have become accustomed to being employed by large
companies, because that’s where IT technologies started.

But now, it’s rather easy for large companies to move their jobs overseas.
Now that IT technologies are more mature, executives know they can get
some return from moving common development tasks overseas.

In the US though, we excel at many things including entrepreneurship.
And Open Source, greatly lowers the “barrier-to-entry”.

The lowering of the “barrier-to-entry” is not being heralded in any
publications that I read. Publications tend to focus on things like,
“Linux is free. Companies can save $$$”. That’s missing the biggest

So, if you know IT technologies (and savvy/self-directed enough to figure
things out on your own), then you can create wonderful new ideas that a
large behemouth company may not be pursuing.

And, possibly, we may see a big economic gain in the future from IT people
being unemployed. Some will pick up Open Source tools, and try to make
something out of not having a job.

Personally, my thinking is “Do I want to spend thousands of dollars to get
software for development for a risky idea?” Or do I say, “Hey, I have lots
of time on my hands, I’ll just figure out how to work with this Open
Source stuff!” There’s other reasons too, but I think that’s a big one.

I see some very qualified people getting laid off, and I think there will
be some adjustment to people not relying on large companies to provide a

I would love to see an article that can tease out information out there to
support this trend. I think the article would be a good candidate for
being posted on slashdot too, which I’ve also tried to get this topic
discussed but get lost in the noise.

I wrote this rather quickly, so I hope my points are clear enough.
I’ve corresponded to you in the past when you wrote about open source. I
think my testament to this trend is that I’m still here.

Posted by: Ian on May 18, 2004 05:30 PM

I thought this article from deserved a wider audience. This is a site devoted to the Services on a professional level and the writer is a Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy.,13190,Sanders_051704,00.html

Its a look in the mirror piece.

Posted by: Ray Ritchey on May 18, 2004 07:05 PM

I am curious how the academies that Jerry Brown set up a few years ago in Oakland are doing. Are the test scores and gruduation rates better? Do they still exist?

I tried looking for updated information and only came up with info. announcing they were being started a couple of years ago.


Posted by: Ray Ritchey on May 18, 2004 07:12 PM

A social issue that has been hidden is the long term unemployed. What can be done to make it so a company would prefer to hire someone who has been unemployed for a while, or at a lower paying job. Such as a former manager of mine taking a job at target because he is over forty, and can’t find a job in his field. Tax break perhaps? I have seen very qualified people, especially over age 40, who have a very hard time after losing a job finding a new one. Age discrimination is a problem in our youth worshipping society, unfortunately.

Or is the answer just expand the Forty Plus network, such as 😉

Posted by: on May 18, 2004 09:14 PM


The invisible hand of Adam Smith was treated like the visible hand of Luca Brasi in “The Godfather”. And then the rest of Smith was treated like the rest of Brasi. What we today call the “free market” is such a bastardized abomination that Smith himself would be compelled to ask “Weren’t ANY of you paying attention to what I said?”

I suspect Jesus would do the same upon a return to Earth.

Posted by: on May 19, 2004 01:07 PM

Russert is a wuss…a laydown too often and too easy to the fluff and BS of the GOP.

Allthough she is the (expletive appropriate…) gutter_____ of corporate sludge as news and earning every bit of the value they seek for her 15 million a year, the hardest assed interview on tv or elsewhere hands down is ….Katy Couric.

I know …never thought I would say so and do despise the format of banal crap she dominates, that said …disinformation and mfg. consent aside…having hated her as I did …I went with no cable a year stuck on one channel….watch her, it is true. There is no quarter given to squiggle or parse or mince or blow smoke. Laugh if you want but name one better. Someone like this is needed on the sunday gabs…But then Joe Biden sounds like the smartest man on the Hill today so maybe we who still prefer basis and context to frame our newsreading seem just as deluded to them. Best crock of dooty out today…

read the tripe Safire spouits in NYT today?
How can he hold a job with such bleeting.

Posted by: Mike on May 20, 2004 03:28 PM

Nice to have an entirely open thread once in a while. Good idea.

There was an article in the Scotsman recently, here, detailing human rights abuses including torture by Arafat and the PLO that I think deserves wider notice. Apparently an organization, the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), has been receiving funding from the Europeans and others as long as it focuses on Israeli abuses. But as soon as it began reporting on Palestinian actions the funding mysteriously dried up. Curious.

Posted by: Mike on May 20, 2004 03:31 PM

Sorry, the html didn’t come through. Thought it would cuz I saw links in other comments. Anyway, the article is at

Posted by: sbw on May 21, 2004 05:18 AM

There may be many reasons to support candidates for President other than George W. Bush. So why do anti-Bush zealots go illogical?

The ‘Bush lied about WMD’ Tango:$131

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