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.