Thursday, June 30, 2016

How the GOP could win back the Black vote.

Sixty years ago, the black vote went to the GOP.   Back then there were a lot of southern, racists Democrats.  In the 1960's Lyndon B Johnson turned that around, signed a Civil Rights Act and turned everything around - now blacks are among the most reliable voters for the Democrats.

The GOP keeps pushing their same, current philosophy and tries to convince people that it will help the blacks more than the Democrats.

It will never work.  That strategy has been tried and failed so many times, it has become my go-to example of Albert Einstein's definition of INSANITY ("Trying the same thing and expecting different results").

So, how could the GOP win back the black vote?  Yes, it is possible to do without abandoning their ideals.

They could do it by doing the following:

1)  Carry through on their false claim of fiscal responsibility and 'freedom from oppressive government' by massively reducing budgets for small and local government police mismanagement.   Note the "mis" in that sentence.
  • Make it illegal to ever hold a person in jail for failure to pay a fine less than $5000.  Many poor people, a distressing number of whom are black, end up in jail, costing local governments hundreds of dollars per day, for failing to pay fines that are less than the government paid to arrest, adjudicate and hold in prison.    Stop that stupid crap and sentence them to community service, not time in jail.  (Note, this will also put a stop to abusive debt law suits.)
  • Make it legal to fire any police officer or guard whose action - even if legal - causes the city to lose more than $100k  via a lawsuit.   If the police officer wants to fight the charges, they can pay to defend themselves.   Business fire idiots that get them sued, so should the government.
  • Pass a law that any deal made with a prosecutor to prevent the government being sued is null and void.   Prosecutors have no business protecting the city from being sued, it is their job to prosecute the guilty - EVEN IF THE GUILTY ARE POLICEMEN.  They are not their to save money by letting the guilty go free, it doesn't matter if the guilty are cops or burglars, doing that is directly the opposite of their job.
  • Have the GOP actively push for 'community policing' by requiring that all new hires and promotions of  police officers must be hired from within the community they serve.  Right now, police are about 30% less white than the communities they serve.  They want to police an area they have to live among them.
2)  Demand equal rights for black gun owners.  If a black man is arrested for using a gun that does not kill or wound an innocent, have the NRA/GOP pay for their defense.  Go all out defending their rights, something they do not do now.

3)  Stop insisting on using Sales Tax to fund local governments, it affects the poor far too much.  Instead, eliminate sales tax and use a state Property Taxes.   Property Taxes are shared equally by the rich and the poor - as rental prices go up when property taxes do.  Yes, that means property taxes (and rents) will go up a lot.  Not important.

4)  Speaking of property tax, insist that each school district gets the same amount of money per student enrolled.

5)  Start calling out racism and prejudice among their own.  Idiots doing things like "Make America White Again"  (actual billboard used by a Republican in 2016) should be literally kicked out of the Republican party.

If the GOP took these steps, ten years from now, they would have a whole bunch of new, darker republicans.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Read more at:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit and Immigration: More Millionaires than Terrorists.

Britain just decided, via a close vote, less than 2%, to leave the EU.

This is in my opinion a major mistake.  I am not British, nor am I European, so some may think I have no business talking about it.  That is ridiculous - I have no business voting on it, but I am free to discuss it, just as the British and other Europeans discuss our election.

From an economic viewpoint, larger economies are always better than smaller ones.  It's not just economies of scale, not just saving money by doing things once rather than multiple times (one decision about cigarettes, one decision about food dye #7, etc.).  Nor is it only about having to painstakingly re-do a multitude of treaties.

There is also the innate power of free trade.  It is the great equalizer.  Yes, certain British businesses lose out to more efficient European ones - but the British people benefit from the superior companies. Or they used to.   They won't anymore.

But more importantly, Britain is NOT the 'weaker' part of the EU, as such they are the ones with the better companies that will eat the lunch of the Greece and Portugal.  Yes, separate from the EU, they can set Interest rates and other government regulations to deal just with local problems, rather than European ones, but frankly this is not that big a deal.   If we TRULY knew and understood how to do that then we wouldn't have those issues at all.  Sure, we know enough to prevent extremely high inflation but quite frankly we don't really know the ideal value.  As such, our attempts to control things are misguided.  Yes, they can save a small (relative) amount of cash they contribute to the EU, but they lose out on the economies of scale, etc.

But nationality is not just about economics.  There are also social values.

I could see leaving a Union of the majority of the EU was culturally opposed to the values of Britain.  But that's not really the case.

The main 'cultural' issue that is upsetting Britain is Immigration, and quite frankly most of the EU is anti-immigration and anti-Muslim.  That's not a real difference.  The only real difference is the severity of the anti-immigration movement, which is more so in Britain than in other countries.  Not surprising, as Britain won World War II without being invaded, making them far less sensitive to accusations of tyranny than other European nations, which still the bigotry that the NAZI party forced on them.

But Britain's new bigotry isn't going to help them.   It stops one in a million terrorists, while also keeping out thousands of innovative, brilliant, creative, citizens.   There are more soon-to-be millionaires in those immigrants than Terrorists.   Hard working immigrants outnumber the criminals and give more in taxes than the criminals cost.  The net result is a worse Britain, not a better one. 

 So why do people dislike the immigrants?  They are culturally disruptive. The new millionaires invade the old institutions and demand services.   Those new hard working immigrants take jobs from hard working native born.  And the immigrant criminals steal things the native born criminals wanted to steal.    It's all about the competition, and no one wants it.  Sound familiar?  It is - it's the free market at work.

Just as a free market beats a mercantile one, an immigrant friendly country beats an anti-immigrant one.  It's the exact same principle - let anyone do it and let the market decide who is better.

Britain leaving the EU is a huge mistake.  It's obvious to the financial markets and that's why things are getting bad.    Plus side, good time to buy.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Beat the NRA and Get Real Gun Control

In the aftermath of the horrible, bigoted mass murder in Orlando, a lot of us have been thinking about gun control. This is demonstrated Connecticut Senator's Chris Murphy successful filibuster that forced a gun control vote, and by the House Democrat's sit-in - without CSPAN cameras - protesting the GOP's inaction.

But these are mainly symbolic, and frankly it wasn't enough.  All the gun control votes done after the filibuster have failed, and predictions are just for further failures.

The thing is the majority of Americans are in favor of gun control.  The majority of Republicans are in favor of stricter gun control, and even the majority of NRA members are in favor of stricter gun control.   (source)

So why can't we get any gun control, if so many of us want it?

Representative Democracy is not about what's right, nor is it even always about what most people want.  It's also about how much we want it.

And while most NRA members, Republicans, and Americans all want stricter gun control, it's a weak and disorganized desire while the Pro-Gun forces are FANATICAL and strongly organized.

They have so much power they passed a law called the Dickey Amendment that prevents the collection of gun data (for use in lobbying - but the definition of Lobbying is so poor that it basically prevents the collection of any data).

How do we fight this insidious, fanatical, well funded, and well organized threat?

By being better organized and better funded.  We need an organization that is the polar opposite of NRA

Note, this will take money.  Pro gun forces spend about $30 million in an election year.  We will need to spend at least $3 million to fight them - and honestly I would prefer to outspend them.  If you can't out spend them, that means you don't care as much as they do.

When senators and congressman vote on gun control, they get calls.  And they get about 20 calls for gun control and 200 calls against.

Those numbers are relatively small.  We can beat them.

We need a list of every single person killed by or wounded by a gun.  If they survived, recruit them.  If someone passed, recruit every single person that loved them.

This is our potential army.

Get our army to agree to push three SIMPLE and easily explainable goals:

  1. Remove the Dickey amendment.
  2. Create a new license from the federal government that you are required to have in order to buy, sell, carry, or own any hand gun .    This license will also allow concealed carry - in all US territory.  Failure to have that license is a felony.
  3. Create a single, downloadable and freely available online list of all people that are legally forbidden from buying, selling, or owning any gun, according to existing laws.   It is now a felony, punishable by a minimum of 1 year in jail to sell a gun without getting their ID and checking that list.
Now give our army of gun victims four phone numbers and have them spend 10 minutes every single week.   The first week of the month they call their state Representative.  The second week, their Senator, the third week their Congressman, and the fourth week they call their Governor.  Have them do that every week without fail for a year.

At the end of that year, we will have gun control.

Note, I have avoided the various stupidity traps that the anti-gun control lobby has fallen into.   No talk about 'assault weapons ' (a made up term that just confuses the issue.)  No talk about clips, silencers, or rifles at all.    We concentrate on the real problems - the horrible Dickey Amendment,  the ease of getting dangerous hand guns (ignoring the far safer long guns), and finally the systematic problem we have in enforcing our current laws.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why Democrats are Better for the Economy.

Thirty years ago the Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility.  They were for smaller government at the time when government was huge.

Then Ronald Reagan came along and they took over the government.  They got rid of the the excesses the Democrats had at that time created and limited government.  Yes, those spending cuts were modest - because the excesses the Democrats had created were modest.

The problem was the GOP saw a winning strategy and went with it long after it stopped winning.   And stayed with it for from 1981 all the way to 2016.  That's 25 years.   The problem with cutting the fat is that if you keep doing it for almost thirty years, YOU RUN OUT OF FAT.   Picture the blind butcher, who started out trimming the fat, but has now moved on to the muscle and in some cases is now carving the bone.   That's what the Republican Party is doing.

Yes, there may be some fat left on out shrunken, anorexic government, but only a pro-ana idiot with a microscope could find it.

How do you tell that we cut enough?   Simple, you look at Kansas.   Kansas is what happens when you keep on cutting taxes - you turn a $600 mill surplus into almost a $700  million deficit, get below average job growth (even the Kansas GOP can't kill the economy that Obama gave to our country), bankrupt school districts, and (Source).

You can only cut so long, before you hit bone.   They hit bone in Kansas and need to stop cutting.

Part of the issue is that the GOP gave up on actually reducing spending, and is now just cutting taxes - just like they try to do in the Federal Budget.   That doesn't work, no matter how much it did (or did not) work in the past, increased efficiency only gets you so far.

How do you tell if you have cut to the fat or the bone?  You compare with other countries.  First of all, note that the US outspends the next nine other countries when it comes to the military. It was the next ten before Obama - thanks Obama - but he cut us back some and convinced other countries to help out in the middle east.  Keeping that in mind, you can check the general list.

Let's look at per person spending (all data from Wikipedia). 

The World spends on average $2376.  But the bigger, first world countries (20 largest economies) spend on average $16,110.   The US spends only $11,041, #15 out of the top 20.  If we wanted to spend less than South Korea (moving us down to #16), we would have to drop to $4,556.  And we all know one of the reasons why South Korea's spending is so low.

This nice graph demonstrates the Federal net outlays a a percent of GDP since 1929.
Click here for this nice graph

It is typified by 4 things.  
  1. A general trend up from 3% to about 20% now.  
  2. A large spike up above 40's for World War II
  3. A general decline starting in the 1980's (Ronald Reagan) and getting significant in the 1990's (Bill Clinton's incredible economy that kept going and going)
  4. The HUGE spike that stated with George Bush (took up back above Ronald Reagan at it's worst) and that Obama almost entirely fixed.  Almost, but not entirely.
Yes, we aren't all the way down to Clinton at his best, but  we are already below Reagan at his best.

But more than 70% of the US budget is on Military, Social Security, and Health Care.   The only place the GOP is willing to cut that HAS enough money left to actually reduce costs is the Health Care sector.  But more than half of the healthcare spending goes to Seniors - Medicare again.  The biggest cut would be the $371 Billion we are expected to spend on Medicaid in 2016. (Source).
The only way to really reduce spending is to cut Medicaid to the bone (or cut everything else we fund).   That is why we haven't done it.

The real problem is that government actually DOES work.  People that join the military really do act as a deterrent, preventing other countries from attacking us.  People in education really do educate our students, allowing them to get better jobs and make more money.  Health care and Senior care really do let people take risks without having to save up money for unforeseen health issues and aging.   The police actually DO stop criminals, encouraging honest economic activity. 

Which means we have 3 choices on how to reduce taxes.

1) Eliminate neccessary services, cutting long term taxes in the future, for temporary gains that get eaten up IN ONE YEAR - as proven by Kansas.

2)  Keep current services and pray that our economy gets better, reducing the need for social services.

3) INCREASE spending on certain services that we KNOW have solid return on investment.  Things like half-way housing for the insane who currently end up in prison - something that costs a lot more than a half-way house.  Things like education for at risk students - children of homeless, drug addicts, and criminals - that are almost 50% likely to go to prison - with the plan of turning them into honest, tax paying citizens.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Progress: is it inevitable?

If you are a student of human history, you know that out path has not been easy.

There were long periods of time where progress was lost.  Technology and political progress were created then lost to the mists of time.

Whether we are talking about the western greco-roman culture that technically invented the steam engine just after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (only to have it forgotten for 1500 years) or the Qin Dynasty's near total destruction all science and knowledge in China, 221 BC, technical and political history has had long periods where we regressed rather than progressed.

The question is, is progress fundamental and if so why did we have these lost periods.

First, let's define progress.   Progress is at hear an increase in efficiency.   Whether we are talking about a way to get 11 bushels of grain from a given land instead of 10 bushels, or simply a form of government that has 10% unhappy citizens instead of 11%, if it works better, that is what we call progress.

Next we have why we would ever regress - go back to the old, less efficient ways.  Well, there are several possibilities.  1) We forgot how to do something better, 2) Someone is extorting/blackmailing/forcing us to use the worst method.  3)  People are lying about how efficient something is - either denigrating the best method or promoting a faulty method.   Those are the three main reasons progress isn't smooth and we sometimes regress.

The first possibilities is no longer a real problem.  The much higher world population, along with the incredible gains we have made with information storage and transmission make the danger of forgetting a better method almost nil.   We aren't going to forget how to make titanium now that we know how - even if few people actually posses that information.

The second is still a real issue, particularly in politics.  Entire countries are forced to use inefficient methods (North Korea) for politics, patents prevent the wide spread use of superior technological methods, and religion still pushes itself into politics.   But such methods are not perfect, and if they were to spread worldwide, the fractious nature of politics ensures that at least one country would violate the spread, keeping the more effective methods alive - if only for the advantage they offer.

The last has become the real threat - the only way to stop progress is to convince enough people that it isn't progress.   Often done for political reasons (global warming deniers, Trump-ism, etc.) it is the last real danger.

But can it be overcome?   The honest truth is that over time, the liars tend to lose.   All humans are NOT sheeple, despite the fears caused by public stupidity and success in small scale cases.  The real advantages of progress - the greater efficiency - can be tested and once done, people fight the lies.

Thousands of years ago, information storage and transfer was so limited that you could kill everyone that knows how to do something by accident (usually via wars).  Hundreds of years ago, you could use a combination of wars, and politics to prevent progress.  Now we are stuck using lies.   Communication, storage, and education have progressed to the point where we are no longer in danger of forgetting how to do something.

Barring an extinction level event, (asteroid/nuclear/biological weapons of mass destruction)  Progress is now inevitable.   No political party - whether it is the Communist party, the Republican party, or the Democratic party can stop it.

That does not mean that the latest and best will always be taken up.  China has proven that they can take "free market", but still retain their ancient bureaucratic government.  This doesn't mean their government is better, just that it is good enough. Similarly, the US has proven we can refuse to take up certain science facts, as our current system is good enough.

But it does mean that the better systems will continue to survive somewhere - and that that somewhere will gain a clear advantage over those that done. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Telepathic" political pundits.

There are a lot of simple ways to tell when your argument is wrong.   There is one very specific on that I see all the time, and I want to talk about a bit more:

You try to tell other people what your opponent believes.  *
* Exception - if you are an actual telepath and really can read minds, then tell me what your opponents think. Also, I have some questions about what my last date was thinking.

People do this all the time.   It often happens when someone is proven wrong and is too arrogant to admit it.  So instead of trying to figure out where they made a mistake, they look for a 'mistake' their opponent 'must have made'.   Sometimes their opponent really was an idiot, and their own prejudice makes them think that all/most/many of their opponents must be that stupid.

Sometimes they were the idiot who totally failed to understand their opponent's intelligent argument.  Instead they of understanding what their opponent really said, they twist it around to something idiotic.  If I say "We evolved from primates", and some fool responds "Take that back about my mother!" 
Note, if most of your opponents are that stupid, why didn't you win?  When an adult can't beat an 'idiot', there must be something seriously wrong with the adult, or that 'idiot' is a lot more competent than you think.

So never talk about what your opponent believes - it always means you are wrong.

If you want to find out what your opponent believes, ASK THEM.  If you want to write about it, look for something they said in print and you can point at and prove that particular opponent wrong.  Why in print?  Because that increases the chances you are talking about a belief held by more than just one strange guy.

More importantly, it doesn't matter what your opponent believes.  Just because your opponent's argument is wrong doesn't mean you are right.   Most of the old Fairy Tales were lies expressly to children in order to get them be good.   There may not be a witch in the woods, but the kid still should NOT go into the woods.   Bears may not have houses, but don't break into them, eat their food, and sleep in the beds.

So don't tell me what other people think, tell me what you think.  Otherwise I will laugh at you for the arrogant, prejudiced, fake telepath that you are claiming to be.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We need a President that ...

People love to talk about what we need in a President.  Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, and sometimes they are right but irrelevant.

What do I mean by right but irrelevant?  I mean they are referencing a quality that everyone has - often in an attempt to insult their opponent.  "We need a president that ....wears clothing/breathes/talks English."

Lets discuss some of the qualities and which are right, wrong, and irrelevant.  I am going to start with the irrelevant ones, because frankly, they are the most interesting.

  • Strong Willed
  • Good Leader 
  • Makes the Right Decisions
  • Willing to Take Risks

These skills are necessary but irrelevant for one major reason - you can't win a Primary unless you already have all of them.   For at least the last century, the US Presidency has been so valuable a prize, that the best men of a large, successful country (and not enough women, go Hillary!) have fought over it toe to toe.   No matter what the other party says, a weak person can not win a national primary - it's too nasty a gauntlet.   Whether it's your competition claiming you aren't an American citizen, claiming you had a black child out of wedlock, or calling up voters past midnight and pretending to work for your opponent, the US Presidency is not for the weak.

Similarly, making it past the Primaries, requires that you be a good leader, make the right decisions and willing to take risks.   All of these qualities are more than tested long before you make it to the General Election.  Yes one candidate may be slightly stronger than the other, but in the most extreme example, we are talking the difference between an 9 and 10, which isn't worth mentioning.

But people love to claim they have these qualities, implying their opponent doesn't.  It's easy to claim a winning move took no courage, was not their idea, was an obvious decision, and not a high risk.  Similarly, it's easy to claim a losing move was done out fear, after being pushed, a wrong decision, and was clearly far too risky.   Then they claim that they wouldn't do such a thing - or they claim they never would have been put into that position in the first place.  This is all bravado and lies.   All serious Presidential Candidates have been strong people, good leaders, made good decisions, and were willing to take risks.

Next are the qualities people think you need, but are not important for a President.

  • Religious/Good Christian/Morale/"Character"
  • Honest/Trustworthy
  • Charismatic  (more than the top 10%)
  • Intelligence (smarter than the top 10%)
All of these categories are not necessary to being President.  This is not a 'christian country', it is a country that goes out of it's way to ensure religious freedom.   The President has to abide by a set of rules that normal humans do not.  They are routinely placed in a situation where they have to order people to their death - both their own citizens and enemies of the state.   I am not saying that morality or religion is a bad thing (they are some people's best qualities) - just that they are not necessary to be a good President.   He can cheat on his wife (Clinton, JFK), flash his dick to everyone (Johnson), win an election using dirty tricks (Nixon, JFK, Bush), and make deals with terrorists (Reagan).   Being Morale/Good Christian is not necessary to be a good President.

Similarly, superior honesty is not necessary.  The Presidency requires that we keep secrets and lie to other governments.  Hopefully they won't lie to the American people but often you can't lie to your enemy without at least misinforming your own people.   Past Presidents have lied to our enemies and it helped the country - that's pretty much the definition of a 'covert' operation.   Part of being good at keeping secrets is being a good liar.

Charismatic and intelligence are also not needed because we can hire people to that part of the job - as long as you are not totally obnoxious or an idiot.  A good speech writer and good advisers can take care of those parts of the job.

Religious/morale, Honest, Charismatic, Intelligent  - these are all good qualities, that people like, so they pretend they are necessary for the job.  But they don't substantially help a person be a better president.

That brings us to the qualities a good President needs, but aren't guaranteed by the process.   Failing to have these make you far less effective as a President, and you can win the Primary without them.

  • Consensus builder.
  • Finger on the Pulse
  • Good Judge of Character
  • Flexibility

Consensus Builder - as Obama demonstrated, and Trump is proving again, you do not have to be good at building a real consensus to get elected.  You can simply be better than the alternatives.  The problem is this limits your effectiveness tremendously.   Aside from one major piece of legislation - Obamacare - we didn't as much out of Obama as some hoped.  He was a good President, but not and  FDR, nor a Reagan.   Trump would be even worse.  He can't  get his own party' support, let alone the Democrats, who are most likely to rule the Senate (and the Supreme Court).   But to be an effective leader, you need more than just the White House, you need to convince at least some of your political opponents to support your bills.  Hillary is a lot better than Donald Trump when it comes to Consensus Building, she has won back the Black vote after losing it to Obama. 

Also Consensus building is NOT negotiating.  Ambassadors and Secretaries of State negotiate.   Presidents do not negotiate.   Negotiating means you strive for the best possible deal at all costs.    Consensus means you give up the best possible deal in order to keep everyone friendly.  You negotiate with your enemies, competitor, and clients.  You build a consensus with you wife and Congress.

Finger on the Pulse of the Nation is a strange one.   In truth, you do need it beat the Primary, but from the time you win the primary, the process does it's best to rip your hand off the pulse.  You get surrounded by advisers, spin doctors, security, cut off from the people.  It is extremely hard to maintain the sense of what 'regular' people are doing.  Without it, you come up with horrible ideas that everyone hates and don't understand why they hate them.   The ability to stay in touch with the common man is tough.  Let's be honest here, neither Hillary or the Donald have any idea how normal people live.  Trump says he does, but then he thinks he will win the Mexican and Women vote.  Honestly, he understands how a certain subset of the US (disaffected male non-hispanic white voters) work, but is clueless about the rest.  Lies - even self delusions - don't help you out here.

Good Judge of Character: the ability to pick the right people for the right job is key.  If you are smart enough and charismatic enough, then you don't need this skill to win the Primary.  But being President takes more work than winning the Primary - no one can do it alone.   You need to be able to pick the right people who will do their jobs well.    Again, neither Hillary nor Trump has a good record.  Trump has many bad calls when it comes to failed businesses, and Hillary has issues with the people she trusted for email security and for state security in Libya.

Which brings me to Flexibility.  You need to be willing to admit when you were wrong and change your opinion.  Why?  Because no one is right all the time.  If you were right all the time, that means you were unwilling to take risks.  If you don't take risks, you can never be wrong - but you will always be behind the times, leading from the rear.  It means not pushing for Gay Rights, not telling Gorbachev to "Take Down This Wall."  because you are afraid of being wrong.  The only way to take risks is to accept that occasionally you will be wrong.  Trump is good about walking mistakes back, but refuses to admit that what he originally said was wrong.  He lies about it - and that pisses off his opponents who know he is lying.   Hillary on the other hand, is more willing to admit she was wrong (despite being wrong less often than Trump).  She has admitted mistakes graciously.

Note, most of the other Republican candidates failed because they never had their Finger on ANYONE'S Pulse.  Trump at least knew what white males were thinking.  If Bernie Sanders had been more  Flexible and a better Consensus Builder, he would have been a better nominee.  If Trump could figure out what gay, black, Mexican women really want (and be willing to support it), or if Sanders found a way to walk back some of the socialism and compromise with conservatives, they would be far better candidates.

Right now, Hillary is the best we have.   She is good  at Consensus and is Flexible when it comes to the tough choices.   She needs to get better at judging other people's character and find some way to regain a sense of what other people want.