Saturday, December 31, 2011

2016 Presidential Candidates: DNC

Yeah, I know, we haven't done the 2012 elections yet.  But I am pretty Obama is going to win, and I think the GOP candidates are not very interesting.  More interesting to talk about who are going to be the 2016 candidates.

On the Democrat side, Biden and Clinton are the old dogs. We like VP's, they already look presidential and have contacts.   But he will be 74.  If he gets elected and re-elected, and doesn't die, he would leave office at 82.  Hillary Clinton almost became the Democratic Nominee (and probably would have beat McCain if he made the same stupid comments about the economy).  But she is only 5 years young at 69.  Which explains why she has said she won't run again.   I don't think she is going to change her mind.

Frankly, neither of these look likely.  Usually presidential candidates come from popular Governors.  They have the support of their entire state and have executive experience, that congressman and senators lack.   But Senators and Representatives also run.   In addition, democrats don't like to pick North Eastern democrats, as southerns are more likely to vote for a liberal if he sounds and thinks like them.   Besides the DNC likes moderates (unlike the GOP).

So here are five good choices for the Democratic Nominee in 2016.  I bet at least two of them will run, if not win:

Jack Markell
Highly popular jewish governor of Delaware.  Can a jewish man win the Presidency? Well, not that long ago, we thought a black man couldn't win.  On the other hand, there are a lot more black voters than jewish ones.  He has a deficit fighting, pro education history.  Delaware is a small state (only 3 electoral votes), but it may be just south enough not to be tainted as "North East".  

John Hickenlooper
Colorado's governor.  He is a Quaker that opposed Colorado's pro-marijuana public referendum, but abided by it when it passed.  Colorado's 9 electoral votes was won by Obama, but also by Bush.  Their votes are definitely up for grab. 

Sherrod Brown
Democrat Senator of Ohio.   Defeated a Republican Incumbent for Senate - in a big (20 electoral votes) swing state.

Kay Hagan
Female Senator from North Carolina.  Defeat a female incumbent Republican Senator. North Carolina has 15 electoral votes - votes that Bush won.

Claire McCaskill
Female Senator from Missouri.  Defeated a male incumbent Republican Senator - in a tight race.  Missouri has 10 electoral votes - and the state voted for McCain in 2008 and for Bush.  She may be the only way the Democrats could win Missouri - although it is only a medium sized set of votes.

These are the 5 most interesting candidates I know of.   I would expect that at least one of the women will run in the primary, if not win it, and at least two of these people should try for the nomination.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Money - cause or symptom of winners?

If you have read my previous posts, you know I think money accrues to the most popular candidate, rather than makes them the most popular candidate.

One of the reasons I think that is the case is primaries.  We are going to have a test right now in Iowa.

If money buys you an election, then if you spend more money than other people in an primary, you should win it - even if the other guy collected more money from that state.  But if money goes to the popular guy, then people that spend all of their nationwide collected money on the first primary will still not win.  Another possibility is that money has neither affect.  So lets check the numbers.

Lets' assume that people give as much to the actual candidate they prefer as to a Super Pac that supports them.  Not a definite fact, but a reasonable assumption.

So we need to see how much each candidate RAISED in Iowa, as opposed to spent there:

Romney: $61,800
Paul: $59,435
Bachman: $26,674
Santorum: $22,400
Perry: $8,950
Gingrich: $7,650 

(Comparison purposes: Obama $165,603)

Note, that is not a lot of money.  It does not include the money given to Super Pacs that support a candidate - which unlike direct contributions are effectively private - no one knows who gave to who.

More importantly, is in fact far less than than MILLIONS they spend in Iowaw, estimates are they spend about $11 million in Iowa - mainly because it is the first primary.

Using this method, (as opposed to my last post that attempted to determine who will win by looking at their supporters),  Gingrich comes in last, instead of the potential leader.   Note, Gingrich has been severely lacking in cash raised in part because of a early problems with his campaign (mass quits).  that may be anomaly, that we may ignore for the most part.

Now lets look at time in state.  Visits take the candidate's most valuable and irreplaceable commodity:  face time.  This indicates how badly the candidate thinks they NEED to win the state. 

Romney: 14 trips
Paul: 67
Bachmann: 184
Santorum: 245
Perry: 71
Gingrich: 58

Clearly Santorum wants it bad.   He has publicly stated that if he comes in last, he will quit.  It looks like this is working out - his standing in the polls is rising in Iowa.  Bachmann needs Iowa almost as bad -  without an early strong showing in the primaries, she knows her campaign will end quickly.   Romney, Paul and Gingrich are feeling secure.  Perry prefers to spend cash rather than time(see below).  Apparently Perry believes you can buy an election.  We will find out.

We won't know real spending totals in Iowa till January, as unlike trips and fund raising, you can easily spend a wad of cash last minute.  Worse, they tend not to break down spending by state.  That said, most of the current spending is concentrated on Iowa (with Florida close behind), and nationwide, the spending is as follows:  ((Source for above and below):

Romney:  0.6 million
Paul:  1.1 million
Bachmann: 0.1 million
Santorum: minimal
Perry: 1.6 million
Gingrich:  0.1 million

Santorum is short on cash nationally.  He is hoping the face time will make up for cash.

Clearly, if money buys an election, then Perry will be the winner, followed by Paul, then by Romney.   If face time is that important, than Santorum, Bachmann, then Perry.

If fund raising is the indicator, rather than spending, Romney, Paul, and  Bachmann.

I think fund raising is the indicator, but that Gingrich messed up earlier.  As such, I think it is going to be Romney, Gingrich and Paul in the top three, with Bachmann behind.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iowa Caucus

On January 3, the first GOP primary will happen in Iowa.  Well, in Iowa it is a caucus.

What's the difference between caucus and primary?   Caucus are public.  You debate, you publicly state who you vote vote for.  Primaries are secret ballot, just like the general election.

As a side note, there are open, closed, and partial open both caucus and primary.  Closed is the standard - it means only members  of the party can vote on who their party's candidate will be.  Open means anyone can vote - even democrats.  Partial opens are rare - Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas, are the only states that do them.  Texas is even worse - they do both a caucus and a primary.

Massachusetts and New Hampshire  lets anyone that is a member of the party OR an independent vote in the primary.  Registered democrats can't vote in the GOP primary and vice-versa.

Ohio lets you vote in any primary - but demands you officially switch your party registration to do so - and you can only vote in one.  It lets you do so on the spot.

Texas is incredibly complicated - suffice it to say that their primary lets some independents vote, but not their caucus.

Back to Iowa.   At this point there are three major candidates, plus a bunch of also-rans. Mitt Romney, Mr. Steady, who's been there from the start, but people keep looking for anyone better.    Then there is Newt Gingrich, Mr. Not Romney.   A Washington Insider with a lot of baggage (corruption, cheating, etc).  Finally there is Ron Paul.  Mr Libertarian.  The fact that he is doing so well is strange.  Not because he is strange - he isn't.  Instead it is strange because he clearly is not a Republican.  He is a Libertarian.  The only reason he does well at all in the GOP is because the GOP has done a PR campaign to claim they are libertarian.  This blatant lie has attracted some libertarians into their fold, who now wonder why no one else in the GOP votes for the only Libertarian candidate running in the GOP.

The also rans are Huntsman, Cain.  Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum.   (not counting the unknowns - Johnson, Karger and Roemer)   None of these can seriously beat Obama.

There are now four legs of the GOP, the libertarians,  the Tea Party, the Religious conservatives, and the fiscal conservatives.

The libertarians vote Ron Paul - and if he loses the primary, they won't vote in the general election.   The Tea Party is leaning towards Newt Gingrich - but may select one of the also-rans - Bachmann is a possibility.   The religious Conservatives like Santorum, Bachmann and Perry, but konw these three can't win against Obama.  They wish they could vote for Romney or Gingrich, but Romney is a Mormon and Gingrich cheated on his cancer-ridden dying wife.  The fiscal conservatives would have liked Cain, but he is out.  Without him they may like Gingrich, but could decided that Romney has a better chance to win.  They tend to be more practical than most other GOP believers.

Which explains why no one has emerged as a clear winner.   On paper, Gingrich has a slight advantage, getting some Tea party and some fiscal support.  But Romney has a better shot of winning, which gets those Republicans that care more about defeating Obama than about principles.

My prediction is, in order: Gingrich, Romeny, Paul as the leaders, but no one having more than 33% of the vote.   Honestly, Run Paul may surprise everyone - at least he has strong believers supporting him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Texas Redistricting

Texas is growing.  Well, their Hispanic population is growing.  The whites, not so much.

Total population (from 2000 to 2010) started at 20,851,802 and rose to 26,145,561.  That is a rise of 4,293,741 people, or about 20.6%.  This is a lot - the US as a whole grew only about 9.7%  (source).  When one state grows more than the rest of the country, they get extra congressman - at the expense of those states that lost.  In Texas's case the 2010 Census gave them four new congressmen.

Those congressman get assigned to districts, which are set up by the state legislatures.  They get rid of all the old districts and make new ones - that may or may not bear any resemblance to the old ones.  This is called redistricting.  The state legislatures are pretty free to do whatever they want.  They could keep everything simple and make a bunch of regular shapes - squares, rectangles.  But that would simply be doing their job, without taking into consideration their own personal interests.

Instead they are almost always very partisan.  They come up with wierd shaped districts to do things like put all their opponents in one district, and let themselves get other districts that are easy for them to win.     That is, if you are creating 5 districts out of 3.5 million people, 1.5 million of whom are liberals and 2 million  of whom are conservatives, you could put 700 million liberals in one one district, and then create 4 other districts, each of which has 200 million liberals and 600 million conservatives.  The districts generally have to be continuous - you can't put one house of liberals surrounded by 10 houses of conservatives in separate districts, but they can be very weirdly shaped, like a spiral.  This version of redistricting is called "Gerrymandering".

In fact, there is also one vile practice, legal in Texas (but not all states - New York does not allow it), of counting criminals in prison as 'residents' of the county they are imprisoned in.  Other states, such as New York, use their legal residence, - i.e. where they lived before prison.  Since the prisoners can't vote, are largely non-white, and usually are put in rural areas to save on money, in effect a small white area can count as a district because of all the black and Hispanic prisoners that can't legally vote. 

The rural prison districts quite literally are stealing the votes of their prisoners, votes they very much use AGAINST the interests of those prisoners (for some reason, voters in rural areas near prisons tend not to like the prisoners).  In fact, given that 1% of our population is currently in prison, and we have 435 congressmen in the country, that means that it would be possible (if we moved all the prisoners in the country to Texas), for the GOP to make at least 5 congressional districts out of just the prisoners and the people that work at the prison.  In effect, you steal 5 congressmen.  Whatever happened to one man one vote?  It's not supposed to be one cop = 5 votes (his + 4 prisoners).

All of this is quite legal, even if it smacks of corruption and in my opinion, outright evil.  In effect the politicians are using government authority to benefit their own party, not the country.    It's kind of like someone passing a law that says donations to their own political party are tax free, but not to their opponent. Why is it legal?  Because the politicians that are doing it are also the people that decide what is legal and illegal.

It's not quite as bad as it sounds.  Another reason it is legal, is that it is not that effective.  You can physically move ALL the people into an area, you can just design a really weird shaped ones to get as many as possible.  More importantly, it only really lasts a couple of years.  People move, age, change their party.   So once every 10 years, the party that is in power tends to get a slight advantage for the next two-four years.  After 5 years or so, the shapes are no longer that helpful.  Except of course for the prison districts - people can't move out of them.  Those are permanent 'pro rural/anti-crime' votes.

But you see, Texas has a problem.   While it is legal to put all the Texan democrats (and yes, they do exist) in one district, it is NOT legal to do the same with all black people.  Or all Hispanic people. Because federal voting rights laws (Voting rights act of 1965) prevent you from eliminating a races effective vote.

Guess who are responsible for Texas's 20% growth rate?  I'll give you a hint - it isn't Germans, French, or Irish.

Non-hispanic whites grew from 10,933,313 to 11,397,345 a gain of 464,032 or about 10.6%.  Not that much better than the country as a whole of 9.7%  A growth rate of 10.6 earns you no more congressmen.

Latinos grew from 6,669,666 to 9,460,921 a gain of 2,791,255,  or about 41.9%

Blacks grew from 2,364,255 to 2,886,825 a gain of 522,570 or about 22.1%

(No other racial group had more than 1 million people)

(Click here to download my an excel source from

So basically, Hispanics, with a bit of help from blacks are entirely responsible for the fact that Texas outgrew the rest of the country and earned more congressional districts.  If it was just the whites, they would have no new seats.

First, let me point out that at their current rate of growth, Texas will be mostly Hispanic by the next census.  9.5 million growing at 42% will beat 11.4 million growing at 10.6%.  And it will turn mostly Democrat BEFORE then.  In large part because the GOP continues to treat Hispanics poorly, despite the obviousness of this trend.  Texas will once again be a Democratic stronghold, not a Republican one, within 10 years.  In fact, I bet that in 2016, when Obama retires, the Democrats will win all of Texas's electoral votes for presidential.  Even with the prison cheat.  Of course, that assumes someone better than Biden is running.

Second, back to the Texas's problem.  You see, while Texas will become Democrat, right now, it is strongly Republican.  As such, the GOP did the redistricting, try very hard to give Republicans more districts and create no new Democrat districts.

That meant they had to work very hard to give the Hispanics no new districts.  So they took mostly Hispanic districts moved the non-Hispanics out and added more Hispanics to them.  Then they carved out enclaves of non-Hispanic districts for the new ones.  To do this they had to put some Hispanics in the 'GOP' districts, but they made sure to keep it light.  They succeeded, in large part because Hispanics tend to be in the same place - cities and SW border sections of Texas.   All the new districts created by the Republicans in the Texas State legislature were non-hispanic majorities.  Every single one.

People noticed.  They sued.  The federal court agreed it was racial discrimination and came up with their own redistricting plan that gave the Hispanics 3 new districts - which were obviously Democrat districts and one district that is probably going to be Republican.

This pissed off the Republicans - they were in power and thought it was THEIR right to gerrymander, not the Democrats.  How dare the Democrats do what the GOP wanted to do?

In fact I have read of Republicans complaining that the judge gave the districts to the Democrats on purpose - all the while ignoring the clear fact that the GOP did exactly the thing they are complaining the Judge did.  In other words - the GOP's complaint is that they have the legal right to be corrupt, not the judge. 

The thing is the Judge is not being corrupt.  He did NOT look for Democrats, he looked for Hispanics - the people that caused the population growth in the first place.

This is not judicial activism, this is outright fairness. You want the extra congressman the Hispanics earned for the state?  Give them to the Hispanics.  No you can't steal them.   Trying to will just make sure you lose their votes for the next 20 years, like you lost them the last 40.

So it goes to the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS)  The question is, will the court say "It is the Legislatures allowed to be a partisan dick and screw over the Hispanics that gave them the new districts."   Or will they say that anti-discrimination laws prevent it?

Honestly, this will only affect Texas for 2-4 more years.  By 2016, the Hispanics will have moved enough to mess up the carefully drawn GOP districts and it won't matter that much anymore.  In fact, I expect Texas to go Democrat a BIG way by then.   But till then, the SCOTUS decision will control about 3 congressmen for the next 4 years.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cellphones in cars

The first question is should the government be in the business of regulating phone use in a car.

The answer to that is a profound YES.  I understand people objecting to excess government regulation, but they miss the point.  They think this is about phone use.  It isn't.  It is about car use.  What you do in a car affects my safety as much as yours - and I don't even own a car.   People that drive stupid don't just kill themselves, they kill other drivers and even pedestrians like me.  The government clearly has the legal right to enforce traffic safety rules.

Do you think the government should be allowed to stop people from putting on blind folds and racing the cars?  Of course that should be illegal.  It is a clear danger to everyone else on the road, not just the blindfolded fool.

This is why drinking and driving is illegal.   It kills people - besides the idiot that is drinking and driving.   Almost every one in the country recognizes that not only is drinking and driving stupid but it is illegal and the government SHOULD make it illegal.

The question then becomes is cell phone use - either texting or verbal direct to phone or with a headset/hands free setup - as dangerous as driving while druink.

The answer to that is a profound YES.  There are multiple studies (Utah study, British Car and Driver study, list of many more studies) that clearly show driving while on the phone is worse than drinking.

The problem is two fold:
  1. Many of us have done this stupid thing and not crashed.  That makes us think we are experts, and we are not.   Idiots that drive drunk say the same thing - that they have done it and not crashed.
  2. We falsely believe that a hands-free setup is no worse than talking to someone in the back seat.  Not true.   People in the back seat can see what is going on and stop talking when it get's 'risky'.  That happens instantly.  Someone on the phone can't do the same thing which means they keep talking and distracting you even when a semi has crossed the line and is coming right at you.   Your brain quite simply can not ignore them just because your life is in danger.

The problem is that so many people already drive while using the phone.  But people also speed.  I bet more people have driven 10 mph over the speed limit than have driven while "phoning" (Phoning = using the phone in any manner - text or call).

People think they now better than the scientists.  They don't.  Driving while using a phone in any manner - whether texting or even using a hands free set up is DANGEROUS.  We have multiple studies from Utah, Australia, Britain, Harvard and many other places confirming this.

People need to trust the scientists and stop trying to claim they are wrong simply because you personally have anecdotal information that contradicts them.  Anecdotal evidence is not good evidence.  If driving while using a cell phone was instantly deadly, the problem would solve itself.  Instead it simply raises your risk - in something that is already fairly risky (You have a 30% chance of being in a car accident - unsupported number, found on a yahoo answers)

The scientists have numbers and tons of real evidence to back them up.  You don't.   They do the math, you don't.  Yes, if you ask all your friends if any of them been in a car accident related to phone use, chances are they will say no.  You didn't ask the dead people.   Nor did you check to see if they lied - highly likely as insurance companies love to blame people.

Finally and most importantly - even if you personally are a good enough driver to do it, not everyone else is.   It is more important to stop the less-than-perfect drivers than it is to give the few that 'might' be able to do it safely.  Unless you want to offer special "phone driving" licenses, which seems ridiculous to me.

The move to outlaw driving while phoning is not a government over-reaching, it is about safety.  You can't drive while blind folded, you can't drive while drunk and you shouldn't be allowed to drive while using a phone.

All of that said , just declaring it illegal will not be enough.  We need a campaign against driving while calling, just like we had a campaign against driving while drunk.

We need a MAPD - Mothers Against Phone Driving.   That needs not just TV time, not just money, but committed people with horrible stories.

Honestly, if the studies are right - that driving while phoning is dangerous, it should not be that hard to find those stories - and therefore the people..

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

We need to reform immigration law before we build a fence.

The GOP is flat out wrong about immigration.   Their official policy is to change the law to stop the illegal immigration, then create a policy to let more people in.  They leave the proposed policy up in the air on purpose.  It lets everyone read into it what they want, without committing to anything.

The problem with is four fold:

  1.  Ladders are cheaper than fences.  Cripes, even the tunnels the drug cartels use are cheaper than the long fences we would need.   It's not impossible to stop illegal immigration into the US, just prohibitively expensive. When times are good in the US, poor people from other countries spend thousands of dollars to get here for low end jobs.   We can't stop them with pocket change, it requires huge amounts of money.
  2. There are already 11 million people in the country - building a fence won't force them out.    The immigration laws focus more on prevention then on kicking people because as hard as it is to block them with a fence, it is even harder to hunt them down and kick them out.
  3. Their 'goalposts' are movable.    We can never totally stop all illegal immigration.  People can always fly in on a tourist visa and get work.  As such, even if we gave the GOP everything they wanted, they would say it wasn't enough.  We have already strengthened the laws against illegal immigration multiple times and they still won't let us change the policy.
  4. We NEED their cheap labor - and their money (source)  As Alabama has shown, without it, our food dies on the vine with no one to harvest it.  Millions of Americans will lose their livelihoods without illegals working for cheap pay and spending their money here. 

You want to stop illegals from entering this country?  Stop hiring them.  Accept either the much higher wages for low priced services such as farm labor, lawn care, maids, nannies, etc or go without those services.

Because the desire for cheap labor to fill those positions is not just the cause of the illegal immigration, it is a separate problem that is far more important than illegal immigration and the illegal immigration FIXES that problem.  If we get rid of illegal immigration we need to also fix that problem.   Look at what happened to Alabama.  It's not that horrible to have produce from one state spoil on the ground.  It is far worse to have it happen to ALL states.

The obvious solution is to create a solid guest worker program.  If we build it the right way, then the illegal immigration problem will go away.  Build the guest worker problem first and it gets RID of the need to deal with the illegal.

I've talked about this before (Arizona law about immigration).   With the right guest worker plan, we can legalize immigrants, get a solid identification of them (to prevent terrorists entering the country), raise money for the federal government (by charging for a green card), raise money for the states (via state income taxes that could be higher for the guest workers than American citizens).

Best of all, if we do it right, we can regulate the workers.  Among other things, we can revoke the right to be in the country for anyone 5 or more months pregnant.   No more anchor babies.

As for 'amnesty' for illegals, that argument is stupid.   What if during Prohibition some moron would to suggest that "we can't legalize alcohol unless we first arrest every single person that drunk alcohol during Prohibition."  No.  That's is not how laws work.   Legallizing something does not mean we have to arrest everyone that used to violate the law.

In fact, a major part of the reason we legalize something is that we recognize that the LAW was as much a problem as the people that broke the law.  If you don't think the law was a bad idea, then we wouldn't change it.  If the law was a bad idea than you can NOT demonize the people that broke it.

Yes, we should not give 'special benefits' to someone that is already in the country illegally.  But that does not mean we have to refuse to let them work here in the future - anymore than if we legallized pot we could then refuse to sell it to people that had previously been arrested for buying pot.

The solution is simple - whatever arrangements we make for the guest worker program should only be done in a US Embassy/Consulate or at the Borders (including ports and international airports).  

Complaints about letting people already in the US apply as a Guest worker should be laughed at just as we would have laughed at an idiot that insisted no one ever arrested for drinnking/bootlegging alcohol be allowed to drink it after prohibition.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Health care savings account

It's that time of year again.  When millions of Americans get un-needed health care - and spend our own money on it.

Me?  I got the following, "extra care":

  1. An extra doctor appointment.  Sure, I could have waited two more months for my yearly check up, but I got it early.
  2. I pre-ordered some medication that I still have two months of left.
  3. I bought a first aid kit
  4. I bought new reading glasses
  5. I am going to buy sun glasses.  Expensive ones.

Why do we do this?  Because the law encourages us.   My employer offers what is known as a "Flexible Spending Account."(FSA)   Flexible Spending Account is like a "Health Savings Account" (HSA) or a  "Health Reimbursement Account" (HRA), but unlike them you can't roll over the money.  If I don't use it this year, is forfeited to the government. Does the government end up with a lot of cash?  No. Instead we all rush out to spend it now - and decrease how much we save next year.

So at the end of the year I, like millions of other Americans, rush to spend whatever is left.

Is this money a total waste?  No.  But if we want to decrease how much we spend on healthcare each year, this is an easy cut.

Why doesn't my employer use an HSA or an HRA?

The HSA is only available if your health care counts as a "High Deductible Health Plan" - a deductible of at least $1,200 for a single person, 2,400 for a family.  The HRA is entirely funded by the business.  They pay the money, not you.    It is pretty much only used by small businesses - and then often used in place of good health care plans.

Companies with bad healthcare plans offer the HSA - and keep costs down.  Companies with good healthcare plans offer the FSA - and drive up our yearly health care costs.  HRA's are pretty rare in larger corporations.

But the end result is that anyone with an FSA is likely to waste money.  I paid extra for speedy shipping of medication - in part because I knew I would have extra money and decided why take the risk of missing a day or two of medication.   Normally I would have said the missed day or two would not matter.   I can probably make do with old, cheap sunglasses, but why not get a new, expensive pair?

After all it is MY money - I just have to spend it on healthcare this year.

You want to reform Healthcare?   Change the rules for the FSA to make it like the HSA and HRA.  Let any extra money rollover to the next year.

If that was the case, then I would probably spend about $267 less on healthcare this year.  If 5% of the US population did that, it would be $4 billion dollars.

Reform FSA accounts - let people rollover the money.  This will decrease our yearly health care costs without decreasing the quality of care.  Or you could simply let people pay the taxes they did not pay earlier in the year and get the money back.

The point of these accounts is simple - to encourage people to save for and spend money on healthcare.  Letting them rollover the money encourages them to save more money.  You don't have to worry or think about putting too much in.  Yes, the next year you may reduce your monthly contribution, but so what, you still are 'saving' for healthcare as the money you rolled over counts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why Cain had to dropped out

First note, that after Herman Cain dropped out, Newt Gingrich became the front runner.  Newt Gingrich cheated on both of his wives - one of them had cancer when he dumped her for his new mistress.

So clearly the GOP republicans are willing to vote for an unethical, womanizing cheater, as their Presidential nominee.


Herman Cain did not drop out because of his sexual indescretions.  Instead he had to drop out because of how poorly he handled them.

To quote myself  "But he has zero experience as a GOP candidate.  If he is serious about running for office, he should first win a lesser office. At least win a primary."

Cain had zero experience where it counts.  Yes he had experience running a company, but not in politics.  Why is this important?      Well, running a company is very different than running for office OR serving in any American political office.

First, lets talk about doing the job, rather than earning the job.   Quite honestly, running a company grants you MORE power over the company, then running a government does.   Boards of Directors pretty much take your word and let you do what you want.   You are a dictator.   Not so in an American political job.  Here you need to seek consensus - get other people - who are often your enemies - to agree to what you want.  There is very little you can just order done.

Being the head man in an American corproation makes you a BAD political candidate in the US.  As the head guy, you give orders and people obey.  Or you fire them.   That doesn't work with Congress.  Or the United States Supreme Court.   Or with other Countries.  Yes, President, (and Governors) do have to run the executive branch, but that is the EASY part of the job.  Mayor is pretty much the only political job you can run like a business.  Political jobs in this country is about getting things done without the dictatorial power that you have in business.  Which is why people often wish they could run this country like a business, but also why that dream will never come true. 

So, what jobs work better?  Well, clearly a community organizer works out pretty well.  There you have little power and have to convince a bunch of zealous individuals to work together.   But that's not all.  A lobbyist would also be good prep work.  After all, if politicians make good lobbyists, clearly a good lobbyist would make a good politician.  Same for charity work. 

Second, there is getting the job.   Getting a business job is mostly about money and experience.  If you have the money, you can buy a company.  Also, you can build a company yourself or pay a lot of money for a high end degree and work your work way up.   But in any case, dealing with the press, and public scrutiny is not a large part of your job.  People simply don't question you.

Running for office is and always has been a gauntlet of scandal searching.  How you deal with the press is a key part of it.

Cain had zero experience dealing with this.  He never had to talk to people about his own failings.  Which is why he lost the nomination.  He sucked at talking the press about what he did and what he did not do.  "Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan" and "China is trying to develop nuclear capability" made him look like a fool, as opposed to someone that could handle the tough questions.   Then he totally blew the infidelity issues.  He simply did not have a clue on how to handle this kind of stuff.

Newt knows how to handle this.  He is wily and cunning.   He wills still lose the presidency because he did cheat on his wives.  The plural their is key.   You can't keep the 'saintly' vote after they see your feet of clay.  But he might be able to beat the other candidates simply because he is competing with people stupider than he is.  But he can't beat Obama.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


In certain quarters (Republican party), compromise has gotten a bad name.

To quote the only republican president in the past 50 years not to do at least an acceptable job (Ronald Reagan), ""If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that's what I told these radical conservatives who never got used to it."

Recently  Senator Santorum disagreed with Ronald Reagan.  Specifically, he said that if you got 75% it wasn't worth it if the other 25% worked against you.

The problems with this is basic math.  If you get 75% and lose 25%, that's still a net gain of 50%.  Which is better than nothing.  Cripes, it's better than 40% of what you want.  If you ask for $1000 and get $750 but they take away $250 that's still $500 gain.

More importantly, guess what Mr.Santorum - sometimes you are wrong.  Maybe not on this particular issue, but on some issues.  Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but you are not perfect.  Sometimes the things you want to do are the wrong things and the things your opponent wants to do are the right things.   Reasonable people agree to try both and see what works.  More importantly, when you try your way and the entire country's economy collapse, you can lie and claim it was because you did not get enough of your way.

But that still not enough.

You see, when people (reasonable or otherwise) disagree there are exactly five ways to solve the problem.   In all of history, we have not found a sixth.

1.  One side forces the other to bow to their wishes.  Whether you call it Fascism,Dictatorship or Oligarchy, we've seen this happen more than once  Give one side a total win.  One guy controlling everything, ignoring what his opponents want. Sometimes they are a minority forcing the will on the majority, but it can also work the other way around.

2.  Compromise.  You get some of what you want and the other guy also gets some of what he wants.

3. Education   This takes a long time.  Worse the GOP hates teachers and teaching (professors - ivory tower types).  This is a long term project, as in 20 years.  We can't wait that long.

4 Trickery.  This is slightly better than force, but not much.

5.  Chance.  Flip a coin.

Force has a really bad reputation.  In the 20th century, Nazi Germany, Communist USSR, and Imperial Japan all used force to settle disputes   Much of our laws are designed to STOP people from forcing their personal political views on other people.   I am not saying it is never appropriate.  When your opponent is doing something so horrible, you can't stand to let them get away with it, Force is OK.   But things like that require real force - as in second amendment solutions.  You don't do that for simple things. You do it for major evils.  I'm talking about slavery, concentration camps, genocide, that kind of thing.  If you win, it's called a revolution.  If you lose they call you a traitor and or a terrorist (even if you never targeted a civilian, they still lie and call you a terrorist)  For this reason, we don't do it for tiny things - like budget negotiations healthcare laws or excess regulations.

Compromise is the Democrat's solution of choice.  It's how we accept people with such radically different viewpoints into our party.   But the GOP doesn't like it. So, if you don't like compromise, admit Force is only appropriate as a last resort, that leaves Trickery and Education.

Education. takes a long time.   I see you have been trying to change our schools, forcing them to teach your personal political views (anti-evolution, anti-global warming, etc.), but that's only a long term project, (one that hasn't really worked out well for you).  You pretty much don't even try to teach liberals how we are wrong.  Instead you insult us and call us names (socialist) instead of patiently trying to teach us your truth.  Probably because when you try to teach us, we are not convinced.

Next is Trickery. Trickery is not nice.  But I see how that could be your plan.  You want to lie to us, trick us, and deceive us into doing what you think is best.

Finally is chance.  Are you SERIOUSLY suggesting we flip a coin to decide things like Abortion, Health care laws, etc.?   It's fine for figuring out who goes first at a sporting event but national politics?

Hm.  Should we listen to the guys that are willing to actually play fair and compromise?  Or to the guy who either wants to force us at gunpoint, wait twenty years to solve the things we need done TODAY, trick us or flip a coin?

We aren't stupid.  When you say compromise is a bad idea, it tells us that you are not trustworthy.  That you are lying, violent, dictators that don't care what the majority of Americans think.  Sorry, but less than 1/2 the population is conservative - less than a third if you ignore the R.I.N.O. people.

This isn't a new problem, it existed from the founding of this country.  The founders compromised all the time.   They wanted a weak central government - tried that (Articles of Confederation) and realized it did not work.  So they COMPROMISED and gave the Federal Government more power.  Some wanted slavery, others did not, so they compromised on that.   Then the slavers wanted their slaves to count as citizens for census purposes, even though they did not get the rights of a citizen.  They compromised on that too: " three fifths of all other Persons." (source)

In fact the entire Bill of Rights was a compromise.   They are amendments to the Constitution, put in to get people to sign it.

If you don't like Compromise, you don't like the Constitution of the United States of America and you don't like Democracy.

Well, technically you don't like a Democratic Republic, as the US is not pure Democracy.  But you get the idea.  Democracy means we all vote on everything, Democratic Republic means we elect people to vote on issues for us.  And one of the main advantage of electing other people to vote is that they can create a compromise among themselves, rather than having us do all the work.

The problem happens when they start ignoring subsections of their electorate and concentrate only upon what their most fervent supporters demand.  Then they refuse to compromise, only doing the bidding of their favorites, rather than of the entire electorate.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bachmann, Cowardice and WaterBoarding

Michelle Bachmann is an arrogant coward.  Also gullible, but that is nothing new (no, anonymous sources in India are not something you should believe - not even for a second.)

Recently she was confronted over her ridiculous opinion over water-boarding.  Here is some background information first.   Water-boarding is long established as torture.  Nazis were tried and convicted of torture for water-boarding people. 

However, one moronic lawyer in George W. Bush's Department of Justice (DOJ) thought it was legal.  We know he was a republican because Bush's DOJ illegally refused to hire or promote Democrats - and was also accused but not proved to have fired lawyers because they were Democrats.  So this one lawyer gave permission for American agents to water-board.

Eventually people found out what they did and reminded us that the world had long (over 50 years since the WWII war crimes) considered water-boarding to be torture.  Eventually the DOJ admitted it was illegal and a crime.  Obama decided not to charge the agents because they acted 'in good faith' - they were specifically told it was legal.  They also decided it would be too difficult to charge the idiot lawyer.

But in the process, a lot of people tried to defend the decision.  Hence the GOP's party line became that even though the US had charged Nazis with war crimes for water-boarding, it wasn't torture.

Bachmann has followed that party line.  When asked would she let someone water-board her?  She said "Well, I think that would be absurd -- to have the president of the United States submit themselves to water-boarding.  There are those who have submitted themselves to it so that they can talk about it, and speak about it afterward."  (Source).

I need to respond to this directly (though I doubt she will read my blog).

First,  Ms. Bachmann are definitely NOT the president.  You aren't the GOP's nominated candidate, you are not even the front runner for their nomination.  Chances are you will never be the president.  It would be absurd for President Obama to participate in a GOP primary debate, but for you it is fine. So the fact that the it would be absurd for the President to do something, doesn't affect YOU at all.

Second, multiple people have come claimed it was not torture, then tried it and changed their mind.  So those people you talk about as 'back up'  say you are wrong.   (Source)

Third, American soldiers undergoing SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) undergo water-boarding.   This is not illegal because it is voluntary and done for training purposes and not for the objective of causing pain or obtaining information.  Amputating a leg to cause pain and get information would be torture, but doing it to stop a gangrene infection is not.  Torture is about causing pain for either no reason or to get information.  (Source - look for the quote of UN Convention)  Voluntary training to resist torture is not torture - but by it's very nature should include activities that if they were not voluntary and done "for real" WOULD be torture.  SERE training is not torture.  If you were voluntarily water-boarded for the purpose of learning what it is like, it would not be torture.

Fourth. The President is the Commander in Chief.  As such it is certainly NOT absurd for him to undergo any training that his soldiers do.  That includes SERE I mentioned above, which includes water-boarding.  In fact, it sounds like a VERY good idea to me for the president to prove himself or herself to those he/she commands by undergoing some of the training they go through.

So I say to you, Ms. Bachmann, almost every single thing you said in that quote was wrong.   It is not absurd to have the president water-boarded.  In fact, any candidate that undergoes waterboarding would be demonstrating bravery and the willingness to do part take in some small part of the sacrifices that those under his command do..  Finally people that, unlike you, know what they are talking about, do consider it to be torture.

P.S.  my personal opinion is that torture should be encouraged under certain rare circumstances.  But I don't think it should be legal even then.   If we actually have a "There's a nuke going to go off if we don't know the code to turn it off" or even a "A little girl is going to die if we don't find out where he buried her", I am fine with torturing a person.  The courts should have the right use 'exigent circumstances to downgrade the charge to a misdemeanor if you can prove that the torture was the only way to save lives. If the cop/agent is not willing to be fired and go to jail for 11 months (more likely just get probation given our current legal system), then he should not be torturing people.

But if the government official thinks this particular incident is worth risking his job, then he should be expected to do his duty, torture the suspect, then accept whatever punishment our courts dish out to him.  Frankly, I've seen how our courts work, and I think this system would work fine.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Immigration and Chaos: Please come to America and Take Our Jobs.

I recently read a very interesting piece by Rob Asghar. (CNN Opinion)

 In it he analyzes the myth that US has fallen behind.   The heart of his point is that real business innovation is a chaotic process and that is why the US will not (in the foreseeable future) be overtaken by other countries.  He states that invention, innovative growth is a chaotic process and it is the American ability to thrive in the chaos that fueled our growth.

But once the innovations are developed, it is not chaotic.  You can simply copy the winner.   Also, it is cheaper to start out with the best, as opposed to work your way through the earlier inventions.   Build 1000 iPods, as opposed to 100 walkmans, 500 diskmans, and finally 1000 iPods.  

Other countries have been 'developing', not by actually innovating, but instead by copying ideas invented in America and/or refining them.   This works fine - as long as you have someone else to copy.  But eventually, like Japan did, you catch up to the US.  Then you have to break new ground, which is a lot harder and tougher.  It takes new ideas - and a willingness to let people have the new ideas.

Conservatives recognize this and it the basis of their 'anti-regulation' belief system.   The more regulations, the less space to innovate in.  But at the same time, regulations can keep businesses from conspiring against their competition.  That is,no price fixing, not "drive them out of business", etc.    Some regulations encourage innovation, as opposed to preventing it.

But the thing is, you can't just decided to innovate financially.  If you teach your citizens to innovate they won't just build a better music player.  They also demand other freemds.  Speech, religion, civil rights.  Financial freedom goes hand in hand with other freedoms.  It's an entire culture, not a business method.

When the Middle East and Asia tries to create their own financial freedoms, they either fail entirely to create a real culture of innovate or spend half their effort sabotage themselves by preventing the culture from spreading outside the financial zone.

This is America's edge.

It is also a high risk strategy.  In effect, it is the freedom to jump off the a financial cliff that lets us learn how to climb financial mountains.

Rob is pretty sure we are set for the forseeable future.  He is almost right.  The thing about Chaos is that it eventually settles down. The stablest form takes over.  Unless of course it has a constant influx of energy.

Specifically, we need immigrants.   That's good, because we have a large supply of people wanting in.   The forces of stabilization know this and are trying to stop them.   Here their clarion call:

"They took our jobs".

Yeah, THAT'S WHY WE NEED THEM.    Let me make this very clear.  I want all americans to be just a little bit afraid that an Immigrant will come to America and take our jobs.  Mine included.

We need the competition.  Competition keeps us strong.   Not just between corporations, but between employees.  Saying you don't want immigrants to come to this country and take our jobs is like the Heavy Weight Champion of the World saying he only wants to fight people he has already beaten.  You get good by beating other good people.  If America is going to continue to be the best, we need to recruit the best from around the world - and make our own citizens compete against them internally as well as externally.

Now, let me make it clear, I fully expect most of the people that come to America in search of a better job to fail.   I expect them to end up as the 99%, not the 1%.   Americans are very good at what we do, and it is tough for outsiders to compete with us.    But some of them will win.  Some of them will beat us.  And by doing so, they earn the right not just for themselves to be an American citizen, not just for their family, but for their friends and associates as well.

But that ends up with a population growth problem.  There are several ways to handle this, and one of them is a guest worker program.  Not everyone belongs here, but we need to offer them chance. I like the idea of giving people the chance to come to America, work hard, and decide they don't want to live here for the rest of their life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Police and Media Coverage of Protests

One of the things I have seen recently are cases of police stupidity.  Make no mistake here, I am not talking about evilness.   No "lets' beat the crap out of protesters cause I hate them.".  In general, that does not happen.  The police have a hard job and I sympathize with them.   Instead I am seeing (and hearing) a lot of police doing "I gave an impossible order to fulffil, now arrest them".

A typical situation is where the police order people to leave an area (rightly, or wrongly), then arrest everyone that does not leave.

Sounds reasonable right?  

Well, it's not reasonable if the exit is being blocked - either by police officers or by other protesters.   You don't arrest person A because they can't get past person B that is blocking the exit.

I know the police have a hard job, particularly in cases like this.   Their usual response is that they can't tell the difference between someone trying and failing to obey an order and someone actively resisting.  Let me ask you if a bad guy said "I was not trying to steal this item without paying, I just could not find a cashier?" would the police believe him?  Stupidity is not an excuse to steal, neither is it an excuse to arrest innocent people.

It is the Police's job to tell the difference between the lawful people and the lawbreakers.   If you can't do that, quit your job.    In most of the cases I have seen, the people make reasonable attempts to prove they are law abiding people.

On the videos, you can clearly hear the lawbreakers chanting stuff like "We are the 99 percent", while at the same time, the law abiding media are saying things like "I am a reporter, I am trying to leave.", and you can see clearly see the exit is blocked.   I don't see protesters are claiming to be reporter.  In addition, the reporters make reasonable efforts to leave.  They are not hanging back, they are not continuing to ask questions.

Now, being a reporter does not shield you from breaking the law, but the fact that they are clearly attempting to obey the police and NOT trying to break the law is obvious from the videos we are seeing on the internet.   

If as a police man you can't tell the difference between a protester that is disobeying you and a reporter that is obeying your commands, then you should be fired.

At the very least, the police need better training in how to deal with non-violent crowds - and with innocent bystanders in particular. The problem is, their bosses don't want that.  They want to crush the opposition, which just makes things worse.

Arresting reporters for simply doing their job and the police failing to do their jobs, is not helping the situation, it makes it worse.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Advice to Bachmann

I am about to give Michele Bachmann, real, honest, intelligent advice.  This is not a trick, it is in my honest opinion, the simplest way for her to win the GOP nomination.

Michele Bachmann is actually a fairly intelligent woman.  You have to be to make it as far as she did in the GOP primary.  More importantly to the GOP, she is a far right republican, which is what they think they want/need  in the presidency.  I disagree, moderates (like Ronald Reagan) have better chances, but that is what they think. 

But as the GOP has repeatedly looked for a far right candidate more attractive than Romney (whose main faults appear to be a) wrong religion and b) some moderate tendencies that he flip=flopped on) , they have consistently overlooked her.  They tried the Millionaire con man - that was using them as a publicity stunt, the Texan - who could not speak, the "our black guy" - who had never won real elected office and could not deal with the scrutiny, and know they are trying the "old pro-family values guy" - who has cheated on multiple wives. 

They have never tried her.  The reason is simple.  It is not her ridiculous claim that the media are out to get her.  It is her gullibility.  Well, technically it is her reputation of being gullible.  It doesn't matter if she gullible or not, people vote on what they believe, not on the truth.  Right now her reputation is for gullibility. 

Simply, the public knows her mainly for making obviously false statements.   Usually partisan attacks. Things like (My comments on her comments in parenthesis):

  1. Claiming that the swine flu only came when we had democrat presidents.  (Not only is this a weird claim, but she was wrong.  It broke out previously under republican presidents and not under Carter despite what she said.)
  2. Gay marriage is the biggest state and national issue. (As in bigger than then the economy, bigger than the debt, bigger than the war on terror, etc.)
  3. Claimed, based on an anonymous source in India, that Obama spent $200 million a day on his trip to India (he - and his entire entourage, including a few navyships - spent more like $10 million a day - It's like if you spent $10,000 on a vacation and she claimed you spent $200,000)
  4. That vaccinations cause mental retardation.  

So, lets assume she wants to actually win the republican nomination.   She has to portray herself as someone that can be TRUSTED, as opposed to someone that will say any foolish thing she heard, particularly if it is damaging to her opponent.  And that's a problem given the GOP's current strategy of using bad science.   She can't come out in favor of global warming, nor can she support evolution, either one of which giver her some credentials as a serious, trustworthy person among the moderates.

But she can attack her competitors other statements.  She has done a little of this on the debates.   Her comments on foreign aid to Pakistan were a good start.  But she has to up her game.   The best way to do it is to defend the President of the United States.  She doesn't have to do it too much.  Twice should be enough, with maybe a few more of the Pakistan type correction for other issues in between.

 You see, the GOP is going to lie about Obama.  They have done it before (Gun control - Obama did nothing, birth certificate - was valid - both the short and the long form, etc. etc.) and they are going to do it again.   So when Gingrich or Romney trot out something that Bachmann knows is false, she can defend him.  She can say something simple like "I despise Obama as much as the next guy, but it just isn't true that he eats raw kittens alive."

I guarantee that if the Gullible Gal gets up and defends Obama, it will play on TV.   The networks, even MSNBC will give her favorable coverage.   If she does it just right - reluctantly defending a man she hates - she will come out looking like the Last Honest Woman in politics.

Then wait a while, perhaps correcting some more non-Obama error.  Just like her Pakistan correction, only more so.  Which will happen - as Perry demonstrated it is only human to make mistakes. It is how you deal with them that matters.   If she starts correcting her opponents, it will establish a new reputation, as opposed to a one-off comment.

Lastly defend Obama one more time.   This cements her reputation as honorable and presidential instead of gullible.  More importantly it frees her up to attack Obama from a solid reputation.   When she claims he is going to raise taxes on everyone, people will believe her because she defended Obama against other nonsense.

Oh, and one more thing - she has to STOP making unsupported statements.  She should only speak about things that are accepted by the main stream or she has a LOT of evidence to back her up.  No more anonymous sources, no more "a random, non-doctor constituent gave me medical advice".

But she won't do any of this, for three reasons:
  1. She has an ego.  A big one.   This prevents her from admitting she was wrong, or even that she has the reputation of being gullible.  She has repeatedly refused to apologize for things she has said.
  2. She does not appear to know the difference between a supported statement and an unsupported one.   When you are running for president you need to know the difference between something you can believe and something you can state on national TV.   For local elections, people will overlook some rather silly stuff.  Here they research your remarks and discuss them on national TV.
  3. She is so partisan, I don't think she could bring herself to defend a democrat.  She would let an innocent Democrat be convicted of a crime even if she could easily alibi him out.
But that's my best advice to Michelle Bachmann.   Three press incidents - two Obama defenses sandwiching another non-Obama correction.   If she does this right, she can take Romney's place.   Without these actions, she is doomed.

    Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Why do Republicans Love Reagan - and why Democrats don't have a similar hero president.

    First, by today's standards, Reagan was a Liberal - or at least a "RINO"  He raised taxes - saying things like "Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.", "I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at gunpoint if necessary", and many more such things.

    So why does the GOP love him?  Well look at their other choices:

    Anyone born after 1945 was too young to vote for Eisenhower and most doesn't even remember him.  That means the Republicans are comparing:

    • Nixon
    • Ford
    • Reagan
    • Bush Sr.
    • Bush Jr.
    So exactly who else would they lionize?  Nixon?   The crook?  The man that stole an election?  Granted, he did a nice job with China, but you can't praise the only president to leave office because of a scandal.
    Ford?  The man no one voted for? The man that never was elected?
    Bush Sr.  Only served one term, and Bush Jr. is still reviled for taking Clinton's incredible no-recession economy (had no defecit), creating a defecit, starting multiple wars and creating the biggest recession since the Great Depression.

    That leaves Reagan.  He is the only republican president in the past 50 years to not be an obvious screw up.  That is not to say he did a bad job.  I think he did a good one.  Not as good as many of the republicans believe, but I like his record.  

    Honestly, Nixon was probably the second best republican president, after Reagan, if you just look at his presidential accomplishments, as opposed to what he did to get there.   Bush Jr. was probably the worst president, considering what he did to the economy.  But the GOP has a major problem looking for a 'superstar president', they really only have one choice, Reagan.   Lucky for him, Reagan ran against Carter, the worst Democrat president, and as such won in a landslide.

    Now look at Democrats.  Since 1945 we have:

    • Kennedy
    • Johnson
    • Carter
    • Clinton
    • Obama

    Carter is our Nixon - only not as bad.   Yeah, he did not fix the economy he inherited from Ford.  Yeah, he could not solve the hostage crisis - weather killed his rescue attempt.  Carter is without doubt the worst of the bunch.

    All the rest were pretty impressive presidents - beloved by the Democrats, even if the GOP dislikes them.  More importantly, the things they did that the GOP dislike, become more and more accepted as time goes by.   Kennedy was a war hero, kept us out of Nuclear war with Russia, and died in a hail of bullets (OK, 3 may not be a hail, but you get the idea).  Clinton took a deficit and destroyed it (only to watch Bush recreate the deficit).  He did this while keeping the economy strong - no recession under his term.   Johnson did the Civil rights Act and the Voting Rights Acts - without which Obama would never had a shot.   And Obama killed Bin Laden and pushed through healthcare.  Yeah, it is not as comprehensive as we want, but he is going down as a historic president if just for being the first black one.

    The final truth is, of the past 5 republican presidents, only one would be considered worthy of a major monument, such as Mt. Rushmore.   But of the past 5 democrat presidents, we have two obvious heroes and two  quiet heroes.

    Most democrat presidents in the past 50 years have simply done a better job that republican ones have.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2011

    Healthcare and the Supreme Court.

    On Monday 11/14/2011 the Supreme Court of the United States (S.C.O.T.U.S) agreed to consider Obamacare.  They are expected to hear arguments after March 2012, and to rule on it by July 2012.  Less than 9 months to go.

    Specifically, they are considering:

    1. Are the insurance mandate penalties a type of tax that can only be legally challenged after it is collected? (Refers to the Anti-Injunction Act)
    2. Does Congress have the constitutional power to mandate insurance (from the Commerce clause).  Can congress charge people money for not doing something?
    3. If it is not-constitutional, does the rest of the law become invalidated?
    The main issue is #2, but the#1 will, if won by the liberals, give them a great standing for issue #2.  That is, if  you call the insurance a tax, there are lots of examples of the IRS taxing people for not doing things.  We call them deductions. As in, if you don't do X, you don't get a deduction and you pay more money.  So we charge you for not doing X.

    First, in my own humble opinion it is in fact a tax.   Buy health insurance, pay less money to the government.  Don't, pay more. By that logic, the ruling should be "Delayed till implemented" and then of course, declared constitutional because the IRS already taxes us for not doing things.

    But I don't think SCOTUS will do that.   I think they will hate the idea of delaying this - it complicates people's financial planning tremendously, and I think they just want to end this crap.

    But I do believe they will rule that it is constitutional.  Most of the existing courts have already ruled that way.  Only one federal appeals court in Richmond Virginia said it was a tax that could not be challenged till after it was collected. Of the 4 appeals courts that have ruled on #2, only one said it was unconstitutional.  (source)

    In addition, the courts have found that congress can order us to buy vaccines (with our own money).  In fact, Congress has already forced us to buy health car -  it's called Medicare, talk to any senior citizen.  If they can make us buy health care from the government, they can surely give us greater personal control by letting us pick the corporation to pay instead of requiring us to pay the government.  Just like auto insurance.

    Obama's care fans have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.   Scalia, one of the most conservative judges, has in the past ruled that Congress does have more power from the Commerce clause than most conservatives have felt.  So has Chief Justice Roberts and Kennedy. Kennedy is the most liberal of the conservative appointed judges, while Scalia is generally considered the most conservative judge on the court.  (source).  I personally feel that Scalia is a stretch.  In the past he has demonstrated he would rather stick with his gut then with his personal philosophy - he is a a conservative first and a constitutional scholar second. But Roberts and Kennedy are prime suspects.  Roberts hates to make big law and Kennedy is a solid moderate, likely to let the government do more, rather than less.

    Judge Thomas and Judge Alito are expected to follow the conservative line and vote against Obamacare simply because it is a conservative talking point.  Next up are the liberals. None of the liberal justices are known to have issues with health care or with expanding the government. We have two judges chosen by Clinton and two judges chosen by Obama, all of whom are likely to look at this as a straight out partisan ploy by the conservatives to overturn a fairly enacted liberal law.  I don't think they see any problems with giving Congress this power.

    That gives the healthcare law four solid votes and 3 good opportunities to craft a majority ruling.  Given Chief Justice Robert's  past rulings, I think most likely they will craft a weak rule that validates ObamaCare as constitutional laws, but not a tax, and to do so without any major implications. Roberts doesn't like making new law, he likes to let things be.   Which means he will craft a decision that will make Kennedy definitely agree with.  In part I think Roberts will do this so as to avoid a situation where it is 5/4 in favor of the law, with Kennedy crafting a ruling that is stricter, granting the US Congress even more power.

    I bet the final vote will be 6 to 3 against (Roberts, Kennedy, Kagan, Sotomayer, Breyer, Ginsburg vs  Alito, Thomas and Scalia).  We will know in less than a year.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Gotcha questions

    Cain has repeated the "Gotcha Question" phrase recently.  The Republicans seem to think that reporters are supposed to be nice to them.   That "Gotcha Questions" are an unfair tactic - cheating, so to speak.

    Nothing can be further then the truth.   So called Gotcha Questions are expected to be easily answered by the President - and therefore by presidential candidates. In fact there is no such thing as a "Gotcha Question" - as long as you are not a moron.   If you go back and check the questions that people claimed were "gotcha questions", you will see they are all very simple ones.  More importantly, we grade on a sliding scale and the Presidential job is the highest.  Presidents should be able to answer the toughest questions and come off looking good.  They don't have to be right, they don't have to even truly answer the question, but they should come out looking ... well presidential.  When faced with an unintelligible question,  "I feel your pain." works well.

    It's OK for a president to not be smarter than everyone else.   He (or she) can hire geniuses.  But he should at the very least be a good politician.   The phrase "to play politics" means "to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way, as for job advancement."    Half of the president's job is to "out talk" his opponent.  He needs to be able to give a speech and change people's minds.

    But OK, lets pretend that I am wrong - that being President does not involve being able to out-talk other people.  We are still talking about people running in a primary, not a general election.  As in, if they win the primary, they still have to win the general election.  If you think the questions are troublesome now, wait till September and answer the questions the reporters ask then.

    When you apply for a computer job, you can't complain about being given a test of your computer skills.  When you are applying for a job as a politician, you should be able to out-speak other world leaders and the head of the loyal opposition.   At the very least you need to be able to talk rings around an amateur.  Because that's all a reporter is.  Reporters are low level talkers, not experts.  The thing about writing is that it takes time.  You write it once, then edit and re-write. 

    Politicians on the other hand have to get it right the first time.  Even an award winning reporter is an amateur compared to a politician.  Oh, a good reporter should be able to beat a low level (Congressman or lower). But President?

    Cain, you want to know how to deal with reporters asking questions?  Instead of calling them dumb, try this:

    "Before I refuse to take your questions, I have an opening statement."   You never heard Reagan complain about a "Gotcha Question".   

    To Cain, Palin, and Bachman I have but one thing to say.

    You are no Reagan. 

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    One Term Presidents

    As so many Republicans desperately wish Obama ends up as a OTP (One term president), I thought it's a good time to look over the one term presidents of the 20th century and find out why they lost re-election.

    1.  George H.W. Bush (R).   First of all, he lost to Clinton, one of America's more popular presidents.   Clinton is the only president to have no recession during his presidency.   Bush's problem related to a bad economy, violence in inner cities, and high deficit spending. 

     2.  Jimmy Carter (D)  Carter lost to perhaps the most beloved Republican President - Ronald Reagan.   Carter most likely lost due to military failings (hostage in Iran,) plus high inflation.  Even the Democrats were worried about him - as a Kennedy opposed him in the primary.

    3.  Gerald Ford.  (R) He lost in part because he was never elected.   He was appointed VP by Nixon, perhaps the least popular president.   Like Carter, he had issues with inflation and the economy.

    4.  Herbert Hoover.  (R) He lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, again a very popular person (only president to serve 3 terms).   The Great Depression started on his watch - within months of his election and he could not get out of it.

    5. William Taft (R)  He alienated members of his own party.  His predecessor was Teddy Roosevelt who got so mad at Taft Teddy left the GOP and started his own party.


    During the 20th century, 52 years were under Republican presidents and 48 were under Democrat presidents.   The first thing to note is that most of the one term presidents in the 20th century were Republicans, while the office itself was pretty much split 50:50 between the parties..  Four to one ratio is important.   Apparently, Americans elect more Republicans, but regret it enough to balance things out. 

    Three things tend to stick up.  One term presidents are created by 1) Bad economies.     2)  star competition and 3) a dis-unified base.     Obama has a poor economy to fight against.   He does not have a star competitor nor does he have a problem with his base.   As long as the economy does not get worse, Obama is going to be re-elected.  The question is, what happens if the economy gets worse.    Which is why many (if not most people) think the GOP may be trying to kill the economy (at least Floridians think so - source)

    It is also important to note that our data may be flawed.  We only have a single one term Democrat to look at, vs 3 Republicans.  One data point is not very informative.   It is possible that what kills a Republican president won't kill a Democrat President and vice versa.  For example, Republicans care more about family values.  A Republican may not be able to win as pro-choice, but clearly Democrats do all the time.

    In general, the people look to a Democrat to fix the economy and a Republican to save them from enemies.   Mommy vs Daddy, prosperity vs war.   If that is the case, then a bad economy will kill a Republican, but it takes a bad foreign situation to kill a Democrat.  Some people think Carter's failure to resolve the Iranian hostage situation may be more responsible for his defeat than his failure to fix inflation.  This was compounded by dissension in the ranks, Carter faced a primary challenge against a Kennedy.  Obama has no such competition.

    Obama has consistently outperformed in foreign affairs.   He is ending two wars on the same schedule his predecessor set up, started and won another one (Libya) with far fewer American casualties, and taken out multiple terrorists (including Bin Laden) that have been plaguing America for decades.   Obama has no foreign enemies issue.

    Obama has no real competition within the DNC.   While some Democrats are upset with him and wish he had done/could do more, the rank and file support him  This compares to a very divided GOP that ignores their best declared candidates (Huntsman), barely supports their one 'acceptable' candidate (Romney), while continuously obsessing about outrageous people (Palin, Bachmann, Paul, Perry, Cain) that say preposterous things.

    Is it possible for Obama to lose?  Yes.    A worsening economy may do that.   But if things stay the same or get better, Obama will win.  Easily.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Airport Insecurity

    I fly several times a year.  Not quite enough to make me a 'frequent flyer', but definitely experienced.

    I despise the current airport security paranoia.  They are for show, not to make us safe.

    1) The TSA has publicly declared they use a far higher value for the cost of one human life than we require industries to use.  That is, when calculating whether to force an airline (or car) to install a safety gadget, our government values a single life at about six million dollars.   If it costs eight million dollars to save one life, we don't make Boeing or Ford build or install the safety device safety device.  But if it costs only five million per life saved, we require them to build and install the devices.  This is called the "Value of a Statistical Life" or VSL.    But the TSA state doesn't use 6 million dollars.   In fact they are willing to spend more $180 million to save one life. Let me repeat, the TSA thinks it is fine to spend ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY MILLION dollars to save a life, while Ford thinks $8 million is too much.  (Source for TSA value).  The airlines and car companies number is much closer to that used by other government agencies.  Obama's EPA values life at about 9.3 million, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission values it at a low of five million.:  source.   When the GOP talks about federal regulations forcing businesses to put in ridiculous safety features - this is what they mean.  Consider what would happen if we did the same to the car industry.  We get about 42,643 (source) fatal car crashes in the US during 2005.  Using a generous 9 million per death, would be $383 billion , divided by the 62 million cars (source), comes to about $6,177.  So if we raised the car safety number 50%, that's how much a new car should pay for all safety features (brakes, seat belts, airbags, bumpers, brake lights, etc.).  If instead of 9 million, we used the 180 million figure the TSA uses, that would mean spending an additional $117,363 on safety.  Cripes, for that amount of money we could hire everyone a chauffeur.

    2)  They kill people.  Yes, the back scatter devices, if they are properly operated, are safer than medical and dental x rays.   But did you ever notice how the dentist covers your body with LEAD?  And leaves the room? Recent reports estimate that full use of the machines will cause 6-100 cancers a year. (source)  In the last ten years, there have been exactly none, zero, zilch, nada, nil, terrorists deaths on airplanes leaving a US airport.  OK, that doesn't include 2001, so lets make it 20 years.  Then we get 3,000 for 2001, and ...none, zilch, zero more.   That works out to 150 deaths a year.   Over the last 30 years we get another 270 deaths on the Lockerbie flight from London to New York (so no US screening, just British, but lets count it anyway), and that's it (there were some minimal - less than 1,000 - americans killed in flights between European countries, but my cancer death rates are just for America, so they can't be included for a fair comparison.)  (source).   OK, so over the past 30 years, that comes to 109 deaths per year, almost all of them on a single flight that did not involve anything more dangerous than box cutters.

    3) They don't catch terrorists.  Not once has any machine - not the metal detectors, not the back scatter machines ever caught a real terrorist.  (Yes, they routinely find weapons - most of which belong to citizens with gun licenses forgetting to check their bag.  Rarely do they arrest the person - usually the worst they do is confiscate the weapon - more often they simply check it.  Note, these are metal weapons that are detectable by a metal detector, you don't need an xray machine to find them.)    But of the two the foiled terrorist attacks involving airplanes, one was stopped by Saudi spies, another was stopped by the passengers and stewardesses on the plane, that is it.  For all the shampoo, nail clippers, snowglobes, etc. confiscated they have confiscated not a single bomb at the gates.   Most importantly, the easiest way to blow up a plane is to fire a missile at it, and the machines can not stop that.

     4) The majority of the deaths were caused by terrorists getting into the cockpit, not by letting people bring liquids or weapons on the plane.  A solid door, lockable door would have stopped 90% of worldwide deaths.   Replacing the door with a wall so that the only way into the cockpit is via an external door accessible only on the ground would be even better.   This would cost less than the back scatter devices cost.

    The machines are way too expensive.  They kill more than they save.   They don't catch terrorists.   There are cheaper ways to prevent hijackings.   They are an invasion of privacy.  They cause a small number of cancers.

    The various x ray machines are illegal under the Constitution of the US.  They are offensive to the very heart and soul of our country.  The only people that think they are worthwhile are either A) spendthrift,  paranoid and ignorant, B) own stock in companies that make the devices, or C) Politicians trying desperately to LOOK like they are doing something against terrorism.

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Perk vs Motive

    I truly enjoyed the Fountain Head.  Being an author, Ms. Rand knew a lot about the world of art critics.  She dealt with them all the time.  But I had major problems with Atlas Shrugged.   Rand made a ton of rather bad simple political mistakes. One of her primary ones is still found in the political (and philosophical)  world today.   She confused a Perk with Motive.  You can like something for multiple reasons, and some of those reasons are 'bonuses', rather than the main motive.

    At heart, the problem is ignorance.  It comes from thinking that the only reason to do something is that you like it.


    I do things for three main reasons:

    1. I like doing it.  Examples:  Looking at pretty girls, drinking, skiing
    2. I agreed to do it to get something else I like.  Work for money, ride on a plane to get to a vacation, 
    3. I hate the consequences of not doing it:  Breathing, obeying laws,
    These are three entirely DIFFERENT motivations.   If you don't know which is the main motivation, you can't take proper precautions.   For example, people like driving fast cars, so if you own one, you need to take steps to prevent un-authorized people from driving your car.  You don't need to stop people from filling your gas tank.   So there is a lock on the car door, but not the gas tank.

    But you don't need to take steps to prevent people from mowing your lawn.  No one wants to mow your lawn.   You have to pay people to mow your lawn.  So you do have to take steps to ensure that people you pay to mow your lawn actually does it.  If they could get money without mowing your lawn, they would do it.

    People don't give to charity because they enjoy giving to charity, Nor do we give to charity to get the tax credit or the applause.  We don't even pay because we like what the charity is doing.   We give to charity because we hate the idea that the charities' work won't get done.  Take any charity.  Suppose the charity were to somehow 'win'.  That is, suppose the  MS Society cured Multiple Sclerosis.  The people that gave to it would stop giving to the MS Society. Oh, a new charity might form, it might even have the same people, but the point is, people give to the charity not because they enjoy it, but because they hate the idea that no one is working to help/cure MS. We don't like giving the money, we don't like people working on a cure.  We hate the idea that the cure doesn't exist.   That is a very different motivation, something Ms. Rand never thought about.

    Now, they might actually enjoy giving.   We might like the praise for giving.  We might like the idea of employing doctors.  But those are PERKS, not the Motive.  

    For a non-charity example, consider the case of eating lobster.  I love lobster.  It is delicious.  When I eat it, I do so because I like to do it.  There are times when I will eat it even if I am not hungry.  My motive for eating lobster is that I enjoy it, not to gain substance or to avoid hunger.  My pleasure was my motive, the sustenance was a perk.    Now consider if I get shipwrecked in Maine.  Then, I might hunt down and eat a lobster (OK, for the sake of argument, let's pretend I am the kind of guy that can hunt down a lobster, catch it, and cook it all by myself.).   In that case, my motive would be sustenance, and the taste would be the perk.

    People often confuse motive with perk.   Members of both the conservative medical industry and the alternative medical industry get accused of being more interested in the money than in helping people.  Whether you are involved in alternative or traditional (doctor/hospital/FDA approved drugs), everyone gets accused of being motivated by money and being 'perked' by helping people.   Honestly, most people in both industries are probably motivated by helping people.   There are some that care more about the money, but they are the minority.

    The same thing gets done in politics. People focus on perks and think they are motivations, and vice versa.

    Honestly, it doesn't matter.   All consequences need to be examined.   I don't care if you want a flat tax because it will simplify things, or if you will benefit from it.  It doesn't matter WHY you want it, the question is is it a good idea.

    And you need to admit the various things you claim are perks, so that we can discuss them.  It doesn't matter if you are not motivated by them.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Corporations vs. People.

    The Supreme Court seems to think that corporations get the legal rights that people do.

    Let's talk about the implications of corporations having the same rights as people.

    First, they should clearly have the same duties as people do.

    • People have to sign up for the draft.   
    • People can go to jail and even be executed for their crimes.
    • People get nationality at birth - which they can not easily change.
    • People have to pay into social security and other taxes.
    • People can marry
    • People vote.

    That last one makes it obvious - if we declared corporations get all the rights that people do, it would include the right to vote, which makes for obvious problems with rich people creating multiple corporations and getting extra votes.  But that's not the end of it.   Obviously, if you let corporations 'marry', then two gay men could make corporations and they could marry their corporations.

    Some people like to 'translate' things and use that as an excuse.  They say things like the people in the corporation have to sign up for the draft, can go to jail (or be executed), have nationality, pay into Social Security and other taxes, can marry and can vote, and that is good enough.

    If that is true, by that same logic, the people in the corporations have free speech even if the corporation does not

    To me, the biggest one is the possibility of jail.  Corporations have their own goals and they can structure themselves to encourage the pursuit of those goals.  Most of the time, that goal is to earn a profit.  Usually the corporations structure themselves so as to pursue those goals legally.  But not everyone is ethical.  Sometimes people break the laws to get that profit.   And sometimes the corporations structure themselves to encourage people to break the laws.

    In those cases, the corporations need to be punished, not just the person that broke the law.   If the crime that was committed was just theft, that's one thing.  You can punish the corporation financially.  If the crime resulted in a single death, that's a whole other story.

    But lets talk about the single specific way the  SCOTUS said corporations count as people:  Free Speech.    Not all speech is protected.   There are types of speech that is illegal:

    • Obscenity (usually applied to pornography)
    • Fighting words "I had sex with your mother and you can't do anything about it."
    • Imminent Threat (yelling fire in a crowded theater)
    • Commercial speech has some restrictions.  Trying to sell something means you give up certain rights - which is how the government can prevent cigarettes from advertising to children.
    • National Security 
    • Lies
    • Public Employees.  If you work for the government, the government can restrict what you say as a government employee.  On your off time, you can say what you want.
    • Corporations can punish employees or customers for saying things - that is, Free Speech protects you from the government, not your boss.
    • For School discipline purposes.
    Of those, the one we punish most severely is probably National Security.  If a person violates National Security, they can be killed for treason.  We can't arrest a corporation.  We can't execute it.   We can dissolve it and arrest some of the employees.  We can take the money, but that still leaves the information and the methods to continue on.   If you can only arrest the people in the corporation than only the people in the corporation should have free speech.

      Saturday, October 29, 2011

      Optional flat tax = a limit on how much tax you pay.

      It's not that hard to understand.  An optional tax is in effect a tax cut but only for the wealthy people.  If using it you pay more, you stick to the current tax.  If using it, you pay less, you use it.  So in effect, people only use it to lower their taxes, never raise them (except for the stupid - but we tax the stupid enough already).  Worse, it makes it harder to raise taxes - as you have to raise both.  Which I am sure the GOP likes - they act like taxes are an incredible evil instead of the reasonable cost of freedom, security, and safety.

      The question is - is it a good idea?  Nope.

      Let's discuss why the GOP claims we need it.  At heart, taxes are complicated.  Could they be simpler?  Yes, they could.  There are certainly parts of the tax code that are way too complicated.  But a very simple tax code takes a reasonably good, working tax code with a few flaws and turns it in to an incredibly bad one.

      The world is NOT simple.   If it were, problems would not exist  and people would not argue about it.  We need a tax code that can not be expressed in one sentence to deal with these complexities.

      A key example is the complex problem of how you treat married couples.   Do you treat them as a single tax entity with a single income and a single set of deductions, or as two individuals.   If you treat them as a single entity, then you in effect are tremendously hurting the two income people.  All the various deductions they get are not doubled.   Their combined income pushes them up into a higher tax bracket.

      But now try treating them as two people.   This works great for the double income families, but screws the single income families.   A man (or wife) trying to support his wife ( or her husband) and four kids on one salary has it pretty tough.  They family should not be forced to have both parents work, they need the help.

      So the tax code gets complex because we want to be fair and life is COMPLEX.

      When you simplify things, in effect you are saying "we don't care about your special circumstances."

      Some of the special circumstances built into the tax code probably should go away.  But all of them?  Without even bothering to look at them?  No.  Bull crap.

      The simplest possible tax code will by definition screw over (and that four letter word should really be spelled with an "f") some people.  The flat tax is designed to screw over the poor, the home owners, and families, among many others.

      As I have said before, if simplicity is your only goal, then you should go after my "flat wealth tax", which taxes you on what you own, not what you make (income tax), or buy (sales tax).  But the 'simplify' people don't like that, because the flat wealth tax is good for the poor and the middle class, while treating the wealthy the same way their flat tax treats the poor.