Category Archives: Poor Design

Poor Design

Off-The-Cuff Oil Policy

If you’ve been vaguely aware of recent oil news, you may have heard conspiracy ideas and theories regarding the current administration’s dealings with Russia and OPEC (the oil cartel dominated by the Middle East), and how our administration is and may be attempting to coerce them into increasing oil output – thus lowering the price of oil, and very indirectly, the price of gasoline at the gas station.

Should we be conspiring with Russia and OPEC on oil matters?

Yes, we probably should.  Just not in the way this administration is currently going about it.  For the first time in nearly 50 years, and with the fossil fuel era slowly coming to an end, the Unites States is actually the world’s top oil producer!

America's new export and financial lifeblood: Oil. (Oil barrel graphic courtesy of Bear17, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)
America’s new export and economic lifeblood: Oil. (Oil barrel graphic courtesy of Bear17, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)

That’s right, thanks to shale and fracking, the U.S. is set to produce more oil than anyone else!  In an increasingly competitive world that buys, for example, fewer American automobiles, oil is now one of America’s top products, and it could easily become America’s flagship, top-selling product.  What do you do when you have the most of something, and that something is extremely valuable and extremely finite?  Well,  what you don’t do is attempt to sabotage the price of that commodity, in what can only be characterized as the laziest, least-thought-out, most off-the-cuff policy in recent memory.

Through intelligent taxation, and intelligent supply cuts coordinated with Russia and OPEC, we can charge the rest of the world much, much more for our extremely valuable, extremely finite oil reserves, and in doing so, balance our respective budgets, transform our yearly deficits into yearly surpluses, and ultimately, at some point in the future, we can have some hope of paying off the U.S. national debt.  (Moreover, as oil profitability increases, the United States’ transition to becoming a net oil exporter happens faster, becomes more pronounced, and naturally, becomes more profitable.  This is the textbook definition of a “virtuous feedback cycle”, and in this case, it’s very, very virtuous.  Conversely, in the case of low oil prices, we are projected to always be a net oil importer; i.e. be energy dependent on foreign nations that are sometimes hostile.  This phenomenon is due to many variables, and the easiest one to remember is that our particular oil rigs have to shut down when the price of oil is too low; if oil is more profitable, they can afford to look for more of it, and perhaps build a new oil rig close to your property.)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2018
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2018
Same chart with visual aids. (Original Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2018)
Same chart with visual aids. (Original Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2018)
Same chart with visual aids. (Original Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2018)

My back-of-the-envelope estimate for the amount of profit lost, over 30 years, when comparing the low-oil-price scenario to the high-oil-price scenario is $20 trillion ($20,000,000,000,000) – roughly our current national debt.  I’m not an expert, and I certainly encourage you to come up with your own estimate.

Once our oil reserves are depleted§, that’s it!  When it’s gone, it’s truly gone.  We’ll never have it again, and we’ll never be able to sell it again!  So why are we trying to deplete this trillion-dollar resource at the lowest possible prices!?

You can bet your life that once our oil reserves are finally depleted, but our gigantic debt and deficit remain, fingers will be pointed and limitless questions will be asked about why we didn’t make America stronger by taking full advantage of our potential oil wealth.  The downhearted headlines will be predictable: “Squandered Oil Wealth Fades Away In Rear View Mirror As America Mired In Hazardous Record Debt”.  (In fact, this is actually one of the main complaints that radical terrorists in Saudi Arabia have always had with their government.  Everyone in Saudi Arabia knows there is immense oil wealth under the sand, but yet their country has perpetually carried oversized deficits and debts.  For some reason they view this as incomprehensible!…  And continuing yet even further with that side topic, entire books could be written on how terrorist organizations, and specifically terrorist recruitment, feed off of poverty and weakened economies.  Meanwhile, to exaggerate slightly, Al-Qaeda’s cost for the 9/11 attacks was 10 or 20 plane tickets and a value pack of box cutters.  With similar expenses for their other attacks, it becomes clear that, just as it is with every other oil issue, the solution does not exist at the lower end of oil prices.)

There are two things you can know with absolute certainty.  One is that no other country will voluntarily pay down our national debt for us.  The other is that they will all fervently – and, eventually, some of them violently – demand that we pay them when their American treasury bonds mature.  We will need to find extraordinary sources of income, and charging foreign nations a higher (and arguably more fair) price for our precious natural resources is one of the few ways to achieve that goal.

Meanwhile, we are being sold a ludicrous self-sabotage strategy as an ingenious, indirect way of lowering gasoline prices by dimes, nickels, and pennies.  This line of thinking hits every possible dead end, signaling that, as suggested above, it hasn’t actually been thought out.  Feel free to follow along in the next four paragraphs if you’d like to see for yourself.

First, the voters who could theoretically be “bribed” by this Republican administration’s scheme are obviously lower-income citizens.  Unfortunately, these Americans spend all their time making ends meet.  They don’t have much time to keep up with current events, much less politicians.  More to the point, they don’t vote, don’t care about voting, don’t want to vote, and have decided at some point that voting won’t improve their lives in any tangible way – at least not enough to make voting worth their time.

On the flip side of that coin, you have low-income citizens that do make the effort to vote.  And these are 99.9999999%  institutional Democrat voters.  Registered Democrats and people who have decided in the past that what makes sense for them is to vote Democrat.  These voters already know how they’re going to vote, and are not going to be swayed by a modest change in gasoline prices.  (In fact, the modest change in gasoline prices will ultimately amount to little more than anecdotal water cooler talk.)

The last segment of low-income voters, who actually vote, but might not vote Democrat, are habitual Democrat voters who are disaffected.  This demographic will defect or not defect based on the president’s many other grandiose policies – not the price of gasoline.  (Similarly, the president was propelled into office by these grandiose ideas and policies – not the price of gasoline.)  In other words, even within this ultra-ultra-low percentage, inconsequential voting bloc, it will still not make any tangible difference!

Finally, we have countless “tax credit” systems and schemes embedded into our local, state, and federal taxes.  These tax credits are everywhere, and are used for everything.  I’m being extremely sarcastic when I now ask you to brace yourselves and try to follow along: We simply take the enormous oil profits, and then give a small fraction of those profits back to citizens as a “gasoline credit” when they pay their taxes, or even as a yearly check (similar to the George W. Bush rebate checks).  You are charging the rest of the world a much higher price for your commodity, and then using some of those profits to subsidize gasoline purchases made inside America.  Not exactly rocket science.

In this specific case, one might speculate that our president may be more infatuated with the idea of being a populist, and the idea of hatching a hard-boiled, seemingly-scuzzy diplomatic deal to achieve some kind of indirect, minor populist outcome, than actually achieving tangible national goals that are much more significant, much more populist, and much less complicated.  (Not to mention, much more “America First”.  Why is the president promoting simulated “tax cuts” for the rest of the world, paid for by lost U.S. oil wealth?  From now on, when you hear the words “oil price” and “the world” in the same statement, you can correctly translate that into a receipt indicating much money America received in exchange for its extremely finite oil.  “High” means America tried everything possible, and we charged foreign nations the most we possibly could.  “Low” means America got very little for it; basically a yard sale for our natural resources.  Similarly, when you hear someone calling for foreign nations to produce more oil, that is correctly translated as increased competition for American oil exports.)

(For the record, countless analyses now validate the same simple idea: Since we are now producing so much oil, America’s overall economy benefits from higher oil prices.  To quote one of the experts, “When the president calls for lower oil prices, he’s ignoring the new reality.”)

Why are we attempting to sabotage the price of one of our most valuable, most finite commodities?  And attempting to do so at a very unique time when we have the largest amount of that commodity?  This is not dominance.  This is a major violation of our business, economic, and national interests.

America's new export and financial lifeblood: Oil. (Oil barrel graphic courtesy of Bear17, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)
America’s new export and economic lifeblood: Oil. (Oil barrel graphic courtesy of Bear17, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)

†  This would require a new regulatory agency to coordinate American supply cuts in a meaningful way that makes sense.  The United States is a free market, except when we’re not.  For instance, it’s illegal to have a powerful domestic monopoly, and our military industrial complex can’t sell weapons to North Korea.  And the list goes on an on.  When there’s a compelling reason for state intervention or guidance, the United States does not hesitate to act and make the necessary adjustments.  The advent of America becoming a major oil exporter in a trillion dollar market is clearly way beyond the threshold that is required.  It clearly makes sense to take the necessary steps that will benefit America and all American oil companies, collectively.  Indeed, this is the very reason OPEC was formed.  Oil exporting nations realized it made no sense to fight each other tooth and nail in the marketplace and in the process make very little profit.  If OPEC can figure that out, I don’t see why we can’t.

‡  As it stands, America shows no credible interest in becoming financially solvent, and we pay off American treasury bonds by selling more American treasury bonds.  Therefore, an impending corollary to the issue of our national debt, is the issue of who exactly is going to keep purchasing our American treasury bonds – effectively financing our existing national debt – if we cannot or will not show initiative – any initiative whatsoever – to become financially solvent.  If America acts like a deadbeat consumer, then other countries will stop financing our national debt for us.  The national debt is our national credit card.  You can’t keep running up debt on your credit card without demonstrating to your lenders a credible plan for how you will become financially solvent; otherwise, they eventually cut you off, and if you then default, they send in debt collectors.

¶  Generally speaking, profit equals revenue minus costs, and as you’d expect, that’s the value that’s being estimated.  However, regardless of how much it costs to produce a single barrel of oil, a healthy part of those costs are cycled back into the economy.  Whether it’s more steel being purchased, or more oil rig workers being employed, there are maybe a dozen economic sectors that get “put to work” so that a barrel of oil can be produced.  Said differently, the total price of a barrel of oil, and certainly each barrel that is exported abroad for sale, is as close to “pure profit” as you will find in the American economy.

§  There are many competing models that estimate when oil will run out.  When it’s your well being on the line, it makes sense to be conservative and assume oil will run out sooner rather than later.  However, it actually doesn’t matter.  From America’s point of view, the same financial end result will occur once the world has transitioned to renewable energy, and this transition is already in progress.  Either way, we will no longer be able to sell this natural resource for significant profit; the window of opportunity is right now.

‖  Hint: Since no interest group is willing to give up its special project(s) or operation(s), the solution, realistically, is to find new, extraordinary sources of income, hopefully matched with improved efficiencies in existing projects and operations.

※  Taking a look at just one of these huge, sweeping policies, we are now in the middle of a bitter trade war with China.  Superficially it’s over legitimate trade disputes, but under the surface, it’s also about confronting a strategic competitor.  (My only opinion on the matter is that we should either have the trade war, or not have it.  Having a muddled, implication-less skirmish makes little sense to me.)  And so, what I do not understand is why, in the middle of this huge, strategic confrontation with China, this anti-China administration is simultaneously angling to have our extremely precious oil practically given away for free to China – allowing them to continue development at breakneck speeds, on the cheap, thanks to us?…  I can only refer back to the original thesis for this blog post.

₡  Not surprisingly, this is exactly what Saudi Arabia does.  Since they’re a major oil exporter, they don’t sabotage their own oil industry in order to shave cents off the price of internal gasoline usage.  Instead, for that particular objective, they simply set the price of gasoline inside Saudi Arabia – and in the past it’s been extremely cheap.   In our case, I suspect a rebate or tax credit system is much more workable – funded by taxation on oil profits above a certain baseline.  Although it’s an extraordinary measure aimed at bringing down the price of American gasoline, it’s no less extraordinary than the haphazard,  fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants self-sabotage of America’s energy industry.  If we believe the price of American gasoline is that important, then by all means, we can afford to take extraordinary measures, but let’s make sure they actually make sense.

Poor Design

Re-Current Events

One hallmark of idiocy is doing the same thing incorrectly over and over again.  Recently that badge of dishonor belongs not to slain civilians nor to police officers, but to so-called civic leaders who for some reason can’t seem to identify and execute the world’s most obvious solution to the recurring problem of legally ambiguous police shootings.

The problem is apparently that police departments are still in the stone ages with respect to weaponry.  Individual officers do not have the tools necessary to dial down force to non-lethal levels.   For the most part, they’re issued a lethal pistol to carry in their holster, and then they have additional lethal weapons in the trunk of their vehicle.  It would be like showing up to a job site to build an entire house from scratch, and only bringing a hammer.

Unless they want to rename these divisions “Death Squads”, it doesn’t make any sense at all for police personnel to have only one weapon to choose from – with just one lethality setting.

How much would it cost to supplement each officer in each police department with a taser/electroshock gun?  With respect to overall budgets, who would really care or oppose this?

On the other hand, continuing to spend millions of dollars on trials arguing whether shootings meet the letter of various highly-subjective laws is about as constructive as arguing over what shape you see in the clouds.

Poor Design

Cryptocurrency Epilogue: Please, No Cryptocurrency Bailouts!

In a previous post, I expounded on why I felt cryptocurrencies were one of the worst ideas and worst investments of today.

I realized I didn’t go far enough.  We as a society need to draw the line somewhere for when we’ll bail people out of their own bad decisions, and cryptocurrency is a good place to start.  I believe that cryptocurrencies are so stupid, that when cryptocurrencies do crash, people that are hit the hardest should not under any circumstances be bailed out.  I think it would be very appropriate for the U.S. government to go on the record and explain that.

I also noticed recently that what’s perhaps the most cryptic of all is what you can actually buy from anyone or from any business with cryptocurrency.  You can find anecdotal tales on the internet of one thing or another being purchased, or that some franchise somwhere accepts a particular cryptocurrency, but invariably those relevant business websites never advertise anything for sale in terms of cryptocurrency.

Poor Design

Troubled Foundations

It dawned on me the other day that one reason – perhaps even a huge reason – that New Year’s Resolutions don’t work for many people is because the notion that adjustments, changes, and drastic transformations should only occur once a year is completely incongruent with the correct mentality: they should occur whenever they’re deemed beneficial.

Thus, that subconscious mental dissonance poisons the effort from the very beginning.  For starters, the aspect of the effort that’s “gimmicky” is never fully shaken; it remains there like a cloud, infusing a lack of interest and a lack of seriousness all throughout the effort.

Poor Design

Precious Metals = Cryptocurrency

My attitude towards cryptocurrencies (e.g. Bitcoin) is very similar to my attitude towards pyramid schemes.  However, I think there might be a silver lining in the cloud!  Cryptocurrencies might finally awaken everyone to the ludicrous nature of so-called “precious metals” (e.g. gold and platinum), as well as their priceless cousins (e.g. rubies and diamonds).

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies that are kept rare to a certain specification, and they are not backed by any military in the world, and you cannot force a storekeeper to accept your cryptocurrency when you want to buy food.  In much the same way, you can show up at Walmart with gold and diamonds in the back of your truck.  However, the Walmart manager is not going to let you buy anything with it.  U.S. law states that businesses must, at the very least, accept U.S. currency.  U.S. law states that U.S. currency must always be accepted for public and private debts, which essentially guarantees it will hold its value and be accepted by private businesses for regular transactions.  No such law exists for precious metals, or just as dubiously, for cryptocurrency.

Furthermore, even if the Walmart manager wanted to trade for your geological rarities, he would not have any equipment on hand to verify the authenticity and purity of it.  You would have to wait around in the parking lot, hoping someone would eventually show up who believed that gold and diamonds were, for some reason, worth U.S. cash, and would trade for them.  If nobody showed up, you would be stuck with near-useless geological artifacts in the back of your truck, and no way to buy the groceries you need.

(It should be noted that gold actually has a use in electronics parts, and diamonds have a use in drilling machinery.  However, the value in those aforementioned uses do not come close to justifying what those commodities trade for.)

Petroleum is rare, and it’s also extremely useful.  Barring a new and unexpected discovery that reveals an amazing second use for people’s jewelry, the same cannot be said for precious metals.  In just the same way, cryptocurrency has no intrinsic use or value.  It’s (artificially) rare, but it has no inherent use and no inherent value, nor is any value imbued into it by a national military.  Like precious metals, your only hope is that someone else will think that, against all facts, it might be worth something in the future.

If there is to be a silver lining in the obvious cloud of cryptocurrency, it’s that once it crashes, people might start to realize their jewelry is surprisingly close to worthless.

Poor Design

Sliding Standards

I won’t say that “back in my day”, it was simply expected that you graduate from high school, but one got the sense that in generations prior, that’s how it was.  You were supposed to graduate from high school.

Now every school in my area takes out a full-page ad (some take out several pages of ads) trumpeting the unbelievable accomplishment of our high school students graduating from high school.

In fact, if you stripped all the words and context away, these ads almost look like photos of people who just won the lottery!

600 graduates

100 percent passing rate

I strongly disagree with this approach.  I refuse to participate in this cult of the high-school-graduation hysteria.  It looks and feels like sliding standards.  I’m skeptical that the world’s highest-performing countries do this.

And sadly, it will be hard for individual schools to stop doing this, as long as all the other schools continue doing it.  This form of peer pressure will tend to ensure this embarrassing trend continues going strong.

One wonders what’s next.  All-out celebrations for junior high graduates?  Custom theme music getting blared out for students each time they successfully go to the restroom?

To tell you the truth, I feel like the students here are pawns, at least partially, in an academia-led scheme to cult-ify high school graduation.  Very similar to how we used to always hear the mind-boggling sage wisdom about how 18-year-old basketball phenoms should play four years of college basketball.  While making $0 and risking a career-ending, millions-losing injury!  With the only upside being that they get a college education… that they could have actually received later after they secured hundreds of millions of dollars (with tens of those millions being guaranteed in their initial contract, before they even stepped foot on the court).

Poor Design

Petty Million Dollar Lawsuits

Right now there’s a nasty defect in ebay’s system.  When you look at an item’s listing, you are shown the item’s price and how much it will cost to ship.  If you agree to buy the item, ebay policy says you are then obligated to pay for it.

That’s where the problem arises.

You see, when you’re set to pay for it, the price goes up!  Yes, that’s right:

1.) You agree to buy the item at a certain price.

2.) ebay policy says you are now obligated to pay for the item.

3.) Woops, the price goes up!  Sorry, but please enter your credit card number!

Item A: The listing price.
Item A: The listing price.

Item A: The price after you agree to buy.
Item A: The price after you agree to buy.

In my estimation, based on various heuristics, this looks like a slam dunk for any law firm.   In this case, if a law firm filed a class action lawsuit against ebay, it would literally be the same thing as ebay writing that law firm a check for seven or eight figures.  ebay’s clearly guilty, they might be looking to cover this up as we speak, and they’ll surely want to settle the lawsuit.  The number of affected customers is probably high.  And most probably don’t even realize they’ve been overcharged, or, depending on your point of view, been a victim of a breach of contract.

The few times I’ve noticed it, this defect is not a result of the user choosing a different shipping option.  It sometimes exists when there is just one shipping option.  It can be for a few cents, or as much as $10.

Item B: The listing price.
Item B: The listing price.

Item B: The price after you agree to buy.
Item B: The price after you agree to buy.

Poor Design

Wrong Number

Julianne Moore on the verge of death from unknown toxins.  A still from Safe, a movie by Todd Haynes which was described by many critics as
Julianne Moore on the verge of death from unknown toxins.  A still from Safe, a movie by Todd Haynes which was described by many critics as “The Best Film of the Decade”.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=63NPIiCl3zo

Like something out of a dystopian alternate reality, dialing one digit incorrectly as you lie poisoned on the floor desperately trying to call the national poison hotline… will promptly connect you to elite professionals who actually cater to fantasies involving you poisoning yourself.

Well, that in itself would probably be poor design, and on many, many levels at that, but we live in the free world, thankfully, and so we’re going to focus on a very narrow aspect of this find.  To explain, let’s first observe that the number for the national poison hotline is 1-800-222-1222.

Page 286 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.
Page 286 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.

Now, before we reveal who owns 1-800-222-2222, it might be good to recap some previous action.  I have been reading a book titled First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced.  And recently I started Chapter 18.  It’s all about poisoning.  Page 289 really gets into it:

Page 289 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.
Page 289 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.

Now for the big reveal.  After Googling 1-800-222-2222, I found out that that number actually belongs to Caesar’s Entertainment, of Las Vegas fame.  Practically the very first thing I saw on their website?

www.totalexperiences.com/TotalExperiences/#/2
www.totalexperiences.com/TotalExperiences/#/2

OK, it may be poetic or humorous in a dark sense, but again the point of poor design lies somewhere else; truly, Caesar’s is free to run their business however they like, and we are free to slowly (or quickly) kill ourselves with alcohol.  What’s definitely poor design is this: Why didn’t the U.S. government just buy out and/or commandeer that number from Caesar’s?  I have no idea how that’s done or what the official term for it even is, but the government commandeers a lot of stuff; they take stuff like land and pay the owner fair value for it.  Plus, phone numbers are almost like a public utility.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the government already had a certain degree of control over them.

And so, who is going to remember that number for national poison hotline, as opposed to 1-800-222-2222?  Although the phone numbers differ by only one digit, the all-2s number is a million times easier to remember.  Having things that are easy to remember is important.  Having them be easy to remember for emergency situations is absolutely critical.

Well then, the clear runner-up image from the Caesar’s website:

www.totalexperiences.com/TotalExperiences/#/4 A woman has been "kissed" by either the sun's, or a tanning bed's, extremely toxic and eventually lethal UV rays.   (A staggering 1 in 5 Americans will eventually contract skin cancer.   www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts/myths-vs-facts)
www.totalexperiences.com/TotalExperiences/#/4  A woman has been “kissed” by either the sun’s, or a tanning bed’s, extremely toxic and eventually lethal UV rays.  (A staggering 1 in 5 Americans will eventually contract skin cancer.  www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts/myths-vs-facts)

Page 150 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.
Page 150 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.

Maybe what’s even more humorous, if you think about it, is how Las Vegas locals are given special discounts for all this stuff.

www.totalexperiences.com/TotalExperiences
www.totalexperiences.com/TotalExperiences

Poor Design

Competing Classification Systems

I’ve been reading First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced.  Overall, the book has been pretty clear, but there have been a few exceptions. Page 95 (below) is one of them.

Page 95 of First Aid, CPR and AED Advanced, Sixth Edition.

This page messes with my mind.  To me, it’s just like that mildly annoying color-related brain teaser that tries to trick your brain – which apparently is well documented and called the Stroop Effect.

In this flowchart, when the designer(s) decided which of the two choices (‘Yes’ or ‘No’) should be green and which should be red, they adopted the very common classification system where ‘Yes’ is green and ‘No’ is red.  However, they overlooked the context of the diagram, and specifically, what ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ indicate.

In this diagram ‘Yes’ means the victim has a head injury or has significant breathing problems.  My mind wants that to be colored red because it conveys a huge negative.  This classification system ought to trump the more basic one.  It’s more aligned with how my mind works.  Maybe if you’re a real Yes/No-oriented person, you see it the other way.

http://www.archimedes-lab.org/Stroop_test.html
http://www.archimedes-lab.org/Stroop_test.html

Poor Design

World’s Most Dubious Security Measures @ PayPal

Surely there are businesses with security practices even more dubious than those at PayPal, but relative to a company’s size and capital, I’m not sure any come close when it comes to passwords.

Just do a search for paypal 20 character password.

world most dubious security measures

Now, if you’re thinking that you’ll just enable 2-step authentication to mitigate this risk, think again.  Look at how PayPal almost appears to be working against you!

world most dubious security measures II