Saturday, December 30, 2017

Abolish Red Tape and Disenfranchisement

For some time, I've been greatly worried about the unemployed homeless.  It seems that they have the least ability to participate in society.  Sure, for those down on their luck, there are government programs (e.g. welfare) and offers by private companies (e.g. "your job is your credit"), but for some people, the extent of many current government and private offers just isn't enough.  There are still some people who can't benefit from such offers.

Such offers are aimed those in the middle and lower classes - who are merely down on their luck - but aren't completely helpless.  Unfortunately, in society, there isn't often enough help for those who have absolutely nothing, and that needs to change.

Over the last few months in particular, I've grown concerned over the seemingly increasing level of identity and financial verification.  Credit scores and checks have seemingly become more pervasive, and even for getting an e-mail address from Yahoo! - or signing up for a VK account, one needs a phone number.  On top of that, there's the possibility that even prepaid phones could start requiring personal information.  It's a potential catch-22 that hurts the poor and those that have nothing.

Also, I've been shocked to learn that many banks require credit checks even for opening mere savings accounts, which I think is ridiculous.  If it were for actual loans, then yeah, I wouldn't be opposed to credit checks, but savings accounts are much lower risk, so there is no reason why banks should require credit checks for savings accounts.  All that does is disenfranchise those who need help.

Conservatives and Republicans will often complain about those gosh darn "government regulations."  But what they don't say is that they have no problem with "private regulations" - and that government regulations often times stop those "private regulations," which would have denied help for the poor.

Take Obamacare for example.  Before Obamacare, health insurance companies could deny coverage for people due to preexisting conditions, but thanks to Obamacare, that is (hopefully) no longer the case.  Denial for a preexisting condition could be considered a privately-imposed "regulation," which is just as bad and harmful to the poor as some (I emphasize the word "some") government regulations.

To me, it doesn't matter whether the regulation is from the government or a private entity - anything that disenfranchises the poor and underprivileged is bad and should be done away with - or allow the use of waivers for some circumstances.

Also, in addition to being indifferent to private regulations, conservatives and Republicans do still love some types of government regulations.  Despite their professed love for "small government," they have had no problems implementing things like the REAL ID Act - and have favored restricting LGBT and abortion rights - and have favored requiring ID at polling stations.  It sounds like Republicans aren't all that against government regulations after all.  Completely the opposite - Republicans love regulations - just not on the big businesses who actually can afford to deal with them.  And they also have no problem with privately-imposed regulations on access to health insurance, e-mail addresses, and bank accounts.

The problem with society nowadays is that there is a poor mixture of government and private policies.  My preferred system is a proper blend of government and private entities, but the system that we have in the United States - and unfortunately in many other industrialized countries - doesn't properly help those in the most need.  For instance, a government could require that someone seeking government assistance had to get a job.  However, that system could potentially be detrimental since one might not be able to find a job since private companies have the discretion not to hire people.  Some ways to fix this sort of situation (which is unfortunately very common in many countries nowadays) would be to either waive the employment requirement - or to provide an employment guarantee - an employer of last resort.  If one couldn't find employment in the private sector, then one could be assigned a job in a government or private entity.

To be fair, although I have been critical of private entities, they have occasionally done some good things to prevent disenfranchisement.  For instance, for the unbanked, there are prepaid debit cards that don't require credit checks.  Also, one can get website domains, e-mail addresses, online accounts, and Wi-Fi for free - although as I said earlier, for such services, there seems to be a growing amount of red tape, which needs to be abolished since all it does is disenfranchise the helpless.  The helpless can't improve their lives if stuck in a catch-22.  Some things should be able to be provided with no strings attached.

In the case of requiring phone numbers for e-mail addresses, having stricter photo ID requirements, and required registration for cell phones, some will say that these security measures are done in the name of fighting terrorism.  But short of stripping everyone's civil liberties, terrorism could still happen.  Increasing verification requirements wouldn't stop anything.  A perfectly law-abiding citizen could suddenly decide to become a terrorist.  Verification doesn't need to be increased - but the actual causes of terrorism need to be prevented.

The types of assistance available now do generally help (at least to some extent) those in the middle and lower classes, but they are not enough to help those that have absolutely nothing.  The poor mixture of government and private policies keeps the helpless trapped, and both government and private policies must be properly coordinated to ensure that even those with absolutely nothing can participate in society and rebuild their lives.

I Have Trichotemnomania

I have trichotemnomania - not to be confused with the more commonly-known trichotillomania.  Trichotemnomania is distinguished from trichotillomania in that those with trichotemnomania are obsessed with cutting or shaving off hair - rather than pulling it out as those with trichotillomania are.

I felt the need to make this post since trichotemnomania seems much less known as trichotillomania, and I wanted it to be more well known.  An example of a character in popular culture with trichotemnomania is Fred from Courage the Cowardly Dog.

Trichotemnomania isn't a major part of my life, but I am still moderately obsessed with shaving hair.  I should note that I've liked mowing lawns, which could be a symptom of my trichotemnomania - even though mowing lawns deals with long grass instead of hair.

Also, lately, I've been somewhat obsessed with The Simpsons, and have wanted to shave the hair off three characters in particular: Homer Simpson, Marge Simpson, and Ned Flanders.

First, Homer barely has any hair - aside from his wispy combover and hair above his ears.  Since he barely has any hair, that wispy amount that he has left looks bad.  He would look so much better if he shaved his whole head.  In fact, his head was completely shaved when he was the prison snitch in the episode "The Seven-Beer Snitch," and indeed, he looked so much more well-manicured.  If only he always kept his head shaved - and if only he also shaved off his five o'clock shadow, too.

Secondly, Marge also is a very obvious target.  Her hair looks so tall, thick, and hot - and disproportionate to her head.  If I could enter the Simpsons' world, I would take some hedge clippers and chop off the bulk of Marge's hair - and then neaten her hair up.  That way, she would still have hair - but it wouldn't be so disproportionately thick and tall.

Finally, Ned has rather thick hair and a rather thick moustache, too - both of which I would be ever-so eager to shave off.  I've tried to figure out why exactly I've felt that Ned's hair didn't look right to me, and I've lately figured that it's just too thick, rectangular, and straight.  It just looks too shaggy and somewhat aesthetically unpleasing - compared to Reverend Lovejoy's hair, who still has a nice, full head of hair - but without looking so hot and shaggy.

For some time, I've felt that my hair is too long if it sticks through my fingers.  Anything shorter than that is fine.  I like hair, but shaving it is fun, too.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Shannon Mall ASCII Logo

After waking up today, I realized that we had gotten snow, which was nice since my area hadn't had snow in probably almost four years.

Anyway, after spending some time in the snow (I wrote "트럼프" and "ПЛОХОЙ ТРАМП" and made some snowballs), I decided on the spur of the moment to remake an ASCII image of the Shannon Mall logo.

I made an ASCII image of the Shannon Mall logo on December 24, 2014, but a few months later, it was lost - along with other data that I hadn't backed up - when my original eMachines hard drive broke - after I banged on it in rage.  Since then, I never got around to remaking the ASCII image - until today.

I basically repeated the same steps that I did to make the image that I did back in 2014 (thankfully, after my hard drive broke, I still had my list of documents, which had some notes on how I made the image).  Like in 2014, I used Paint.NET and an ASCII art plugin - and loaded the same, 176x67 logo.  I inverted the colors - and reduced the size.  Unfortunately, in my list of documents, I didn't specify the size to which I shrank the logo, but since I've wanted ASCII art to be visible on a traditional 80x25 screen, I shrank the width to 76 pixels, and the height automatically adjusted (I've used numbers slightly below 80x25 to ensure that everything fits within the 80x25 resolution).  I then converted the image to an ASCII text file, and voilà, I again had an ASCII image of the Shannon Mall logo!

The above image is the Shannon Mall logo - after typing "TYPE SHANMALL.TXT" in DOSBox.  Thankfully, despite shrinking the image, it still resembles the original logo.  For anyone interested, here is the Shannon Mall ASCII text file.

I'm happy with how this turned out.  It's really cool to think that one can make images out of text characters - and that if Shannon Mall had a website in the '80s, it could have had an ASCII logo like this.  Also, I'm very happy that I have a Paint.NET plugin that allows ASCII art to be made automatically.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fixing Lost ID Catch-22s Is So Easy

For some time - particularly the last two years - I've been aware of the catch-22 that can occur if people lose important documents like their photo IDs, Social Security cards, and birth certificates.  To get an ID, a birth certificate is needed - but to get a birth certificate, an ID is needed.

I fully understand the need for preventing identity theft and terrorism, but at the same time, honest people finding themselves in this catch-22 should be able to get their necessary documents and get their lives back in order.

The crazy thing is that fixing this catch-22 is so unbelievably simple and easy that it's amazing that it hasn't been put into widespread practice.  It's all about fingerprints.

If people find themselves losing all important documents, then all they should have to do is show their fingerprints.  At least where I live, fingerprints are taken when people get their driver's licenses, so their fingerprints should be on record.  It shouldn't even matter whether IDs are expired.  Fingerprints are unique, so they can almost certainly verify the identities of people with expired or missing documents.

This would make restoring missing documents so much easier - but still just as secure as requiring valid documents is now - and without catch-22s.

Granted, I realize that even this isn't completely infallible - in that a few select people might have sanded-off fingerprints - or some other problem that would distort them or make them useless.  However, first, verifying with fingerprints would significantly reduce the amount of people caught in catch-22s, and secondly, fingerprinting is merely a low-tech option.  With today's sophisticated technology, if people got desperate enough, their DNA could be tested to verify their identities.

I think that presenting valid documents can still be the primary, preferable way to verify identity since verification through fingerprints and DNA would be more time-consuming and possibly costly.  However, verifying through fingerprints or DNA should definitely be an acceptable and more widespread way to verify identity in the absence of valid documents.

Fingerprints, at least where I live, are taken when getting driver's licenses, so it only makes sense to be able to verify identity through fingerprints.