Friday, August 31, 2012

How can Romney disagree with the GOP Platform?

The GOP recently pushed out an incredibly extremists platform, particularly about abortion (source).

But Mitt Romney doesn't agree with the platform, at least about abortion, one of the litmus tests of politics.  Can you imagine a President putting forth a Supreme Court candidate that disagrees with him about abortion?

So why does the GOP put forth a candidate that disagrees with them?

Well, there are two specific things going on here.

  1. The GOP movers and shakers know that Americans do not believe in the extreme conservatism ideas that the GOP embraces and will not under any circumstance elect someone that stands for it.  It's why Santorum failed to win their primary.   So they pushed forth a moderate candidate.  That's OK, the Democrats do the same, but....
  2. More importantly, Mitt Romney is a failed leader.  A strong leader would, after winning the nomination, push the party in the direction he wanted to go.  That's what Obama did.  He put a break on the gun control lobby and slowed down the gay rights movement because they were not his priority.  By doing so he shifted the Democrat Party to the center, which helped him win.

That is in fact what strong leaders do.  When President Lyndon B. Johnson, (Democrat) championed civil rights  the southern Democrats were racists.  Mainly because Lincoln was a Republican, so all the pro-slavery southerns became Democrats.  But Lyndon B. Johnson took the Democrat party and led them into the anti-discrimination, pro-civil rights, anti-racism party.

On the Democrat side, Ronald Reagan led the GOP.  He moved them in so many ways, it was amazing.  He took a bunch of 'no compromise' people and convinced them to compromise.  After they bombed our barracks in Lebanon, killing 240 American soldiers, he convinced the US not to invade.   While simultaneously elevating the USSR to an "Evil Empire", he managed to negotiate in good faith with them via his 'trust but verify' policy. (source).

Leaders LEAD, they don't follow.  Romney can't lead his own political party, how can he lead the entire country?
Compare Romney with Huntsman - the only Republican that ran for President that I would have considered voting for.   Huntsman that publicly supports Obama for President.  Huntsman that talks about trust, rather than socialism. 

Huntsman is a leader.  He led as Governor, he led as Ambassador, he led when he ran for president in the Republican primary (and lost).  Too bad the Republicans choose lies and deceit and hate, as opposed to a good leader.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Optical Illusions and Political illisuions

Note, this post is not about which political viewpoint is better, but about why we choose them.

There are several distinct ways that optical illusions work.  Most of those methods involve the brain taking shortcuts.  It makes assumptions based on observations from the nearby area and the past.  It knows what a smile looks like, it knows what movement looks like.  When it sees something similar, it assumes a smile or movement are occurring.  It knows that a half sized human riding a half sized horse is most likely farther away, not actually half sized. You don't just see a color, you see it in relationship to the colors next to it.
 (Great source for optical illusions.)

Your brain does the same thing with politics.  You look for things and clues you recognize and assume they exist in other places.  If you live in a place where the only minorities exist in TV shows, usually committing crimes, that's the first thing you think of when you see a minority do.  If you live in a world where the cops never show up in time to stop a crime, but routinely stop and frisk you for no reason (often very rudely), then you don't trust cops.

If you were given opportunities and became wealthy, while you saw others fail to take advantage of those same opportunities, then you think anyone can be wealthy.   If they aren't, you ask yourself what's wrong with them, as opposed to admitting that they might not have been given the same opportunities.

But lets take a look at what those surroundings are, comparing liberals with conservatives.

American conservatives tend to be:  (source)
  1. Rural rather than urban
  2. Protestant as opposed to Jewish  AND observant as opposed to less religious
  3. White (particularly in the south)
  4. Male
  5. Married
  6. Extremely wealth as opposed to extremely poor
  7. Not in a Labor Union
  8. heterosexual
  9. Less well educated
  10. Owns guns
In other words, the stereotypical conservative is a wealthy, white, male, church going protestant lives on a farm, married, straight, has a gun but not a doctorate.

The stereotypical liberal is a poor, black/hispanic/asian, lesbian, Jewish woman that does not keep kosher.  She is single, belongs to the AFL-CIO, lives and works in a city, has a Masters in English Literature and has only seen guns in the hands of a cop or a criminal.

Let's see how those things affects both of their view point.

1)  Living in a rural area means you don't think local government does much.  The bus don't run very often, it take 20-30 minutes (or more) for a fire truck, ambulance, or cop car to show up, and you have to maintain a septic tank because the town doesn't have a sewer system.   Rural areas don't have a 311 system.  But on the other hand, if you live in a city, you get a LOT more services.   Also, those service you do have work a lot better because it is easier to do them in even a small city.     If you live in a city, then government works a lot better.  You might even say it works well.  If you live outside of a city, it just doesn't work anywhere near as well.  Also, the smaller a government agency, the more likely it is to be corrupt from head to toe.  It's easy for one corrupt sheriff to get elected and abuse his authority - he could be the only competent cop in the entire county.  It's harder when there twenty other competent and honest police men - plus an FBI office down the street, and an internal affairs office in the same building.  Sure, there are just as many corrupt cops in the city, but they get watched and checked up on a lot more than a county sheriff.

2) Being Protestant, no one ever really discriminated against you based on religion.  When some rude person starts yelling about how Jesus will save you, you agree with him on principle even if you wish he would be quiet.   You never had someone think you must be evil because of your religion.   No one ever mistook your for an Islamic terrorist even though you are a Jew or a Hindu that has been fighting Moslems for the past 100 years.  People don't think of you as a cult, they don't demonstrate against your church being built, they don't treat you like you are evil simply because you are being faithful to the peaceful traditions handed down by your parents. In addition, as you are observant, if your friends and family fail you, you can turn to your church and ask them for help.  

3)  Similarly, you never experienced real prejudiced based on the color of your skin.  No cop ever stopped you for a stop and frisk, no one ever turned you down for a job because of your accent, no one etc. etc.

4)  Being male, you never had someone try to tell you you have to have that baby, you can't get an abortion.  You get paid more than women do, you don't get sexually harassed, etc.

5)   Being married, you have a better support system of friends and relatives.  You have double the number of relatives and you can depend on your spouse's friends as well as your own.  

6)  You live a childhood without real worry.  Your parents sent you to college, as opposed to not going or taking out loans.  You never depended on welfare when you got fired after your boss ran the company into the ground (or worse, embezzled from your pension plan).

7)  You never had to strike to get a raise. You never had to unite with your fellow workers to get a good bargaining position.  You never had to suffer bad working conditions because your Union failed to win a negotiation.

8)  You never experienced anti-gay discrimination.  Your spouse has insurance, rights to your kids, medical rights, inheritance rights, citizenship rights, etc.

9) The highest status and greatest authority you personally knew (before starting to work) were clergy.  You probably never met a very intelligent college professor who exposed you to the idea that you could be knowledgeable without being religious.  Your church did many of charity activities that the government could afford to do in a major city - such as give shelter to the homeless.

10)  You know a lot of people that own guns and use them responsibly.  Chances are, none of them are criminals, and you've never seen a gun in the hands of a criminal.  You probably have cherished memories of using your gun with your father and/or friends.

Not everything here will shape your beliefs, but it is not that surprising that the political party composed of people that have never experienced real prejudice, never seen effective government, never needed government aid, and whose most respected elders are clergy, and who have a lot of good experiences with guns:

Doesn't understand prejudice, doesn't think government works, doesn't think we need government aid (because they get more aid from non-government sources) and gives excess respect to religion, not enough to scientists, and don't see a problem with gun ownership.

Similarly a party composed of people that has been discriminated against, hasn't seen guns except in the hands of cops or criminals, doesn't have the same family support structure, mostly poor, that has had employers  ignore their needs to the point they need to strike  (no one wins in a strike), and has seen the value of education believes:

They need protection against discrimination, guns are dangerous, they need some government support in bad times, and respects scientists.

I'm not saying that either viewpoint is correct (well, not today - most other days I'll claim liberals are right)  but I am saying that is why people have these viewpoints. 

Your viewpoints are shaped not just by the facts, but your life experience. 

But those viewpoints do not reflect reality, they reflect just a limited, prejudiced point of view.   You are always missing something because your mind simply can not understand something without a lot of context.

When you judge other people, you should account for this.  They are not trying to get rid of the gun you have fond memories of using with your father, they are trying to get rid of the gun they saw in a muggers hand last week.   They are not trying to eliminate healthcare for your government job, they are trying to have you buy it privately so that that no one got kickbacks for arranging for it.

A smart man recognizes these different points of view, instead of demonizing people for having them.   This lets you forge a reasonable compromise.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How to Design a System of Laws

First, why design a system, as opposed to just letting the judges make up their own minds?

Uniformity.   If you have a system, then you won't have a situation where two guys get arrested for doing the same crime and one gets stoned to death, while the other gets community service.

This is an obvious problem.  Not only is it clear that one person got the wrong punishment, but it creates anger in the person that received the worse punishment as well as their family.  It creates unnecessary stress in the society.  It also allows prejudice to unfairly punish the disadvantaged and the privilege to escape reasonable punishments.

A uniform system is therefore much better - both for society as a whole and for the judge (it makes their decisions easier).

Next we need some guideline on how to decide the punishment.  I am going to use an old one.  In the original Hebrew, from the Old Testament, it is:

עין תחת עין‎

In Arabic it is:


In English, it is a rather famous phrase:  "An Eye for An Eye."

There are many ways to interpret this, but I am going to interpret it fairly simply:  The punishment must be appropriate to the crime.  It's an eye for an eye, not an eye for $10.  The government shouldn't kill someone to punish them for stealing - you can't pay money to counter a beating.

In the United States uses a similar rule (The Eighth amendment to the Constitution.)  The idea is to limit punishments to avoid excess.

So the first thing we need to do is categorize crimes.

  • Body Crimes.   Here someone kills, maims, or otherwise inflicts harm and/or pain to another.
  • Wallet Crimes.  Here, someone steals money or something of value from another person. 
  • Cage Crimes.   Here someone attempts to control another person.  Blackmail, kidnapping, slavery.
  • Rude Crimes.   Here someone engages in activities that undermine the culture or society without hurting someone, stealing from someone or forcing someone.   Some people call these 'victim less crimes'.  Marijuana use, Obscenity, speeding, etc.  If the crime doesn't physically hurt someone, take their money, or control them, it's just an affront to the culture, not to a person.  That';s called being rude.
Please note that you can also punish people for accidents and more importantly for negligent or intentionally risky behavior.   Taking an unloaded revolver, putting one bullet in the chamber, then spinning the revolver and pointing it at someone and pulling the trigger should still be a Body Crime even if the gun doesn't go off. 

Also notice that many crimes can fit into two or more categories.  If you rob a bank and in the process kill someone, that is both a Body Crime and a Wallet Crime.  They must be tried and punished for both crimes.

There are three basic concepts of criminal justice:  rehabilitation, prevention, and punishment.

Rehabilitation only works if the person wants to be rehabilitated - ask any drug abuse detox program.  You can not under any circumstance force someone to take it.   The process of rehabilitation is at heart an education program that usually require classes albeit sometimes with minimal constraints/security to keep people from backsliding.  But remember, as it requires cooperation, it can't really be forced - not if it's going to work.  The best you can do here is to offer it as a way to reduce other criminal sentences.

Prevention only works for the duration of the punishment.  It generally is either very expensive or involves some rather questionable actions on the part of the legal system - such as sterilizing or mutilating the accused.  Note you almost NEVER have to kill someone to prevent them from committing a crime - to my knowledge no quadriplegic has ever committed a serious crime.  Unless you are talking about murder or certain Cage crimes (slavery, rape) then prevention as a criminal sentence is a bad idea - it costs (either morally or financially) more to do than the potential crime.  Why not for rude crime or wallet crimes? Then you are doing something worse than what they did - and generally not preventing the crimes from happening.

That leaves punishment, so let's talk about what is appropriate type of punishment for each crime type.
  • Wallet crimes are easy - the criminal should pay money.  At the very least it should exceed what he stole. 
  • Rude Crimes are also fairly easy.  If you commit a crime against a community's culture, then you should pay back community service.   Feed the poor, collect garbage, care for the elderly, etc.
  • Cage Crimes are also a bit easy - if they attempt to control others, they should be controlled - i.e. prison.
  • Body Crimes are harder.   Do we want to attempt to offer the literal 'eye for an eye'?  There are some issues with that - among other things it means a mistake by the judge will double the crime.   In addition, it doesn't in anyway compensate anyone for the crime - society comes out behind, not ahead.   For that reason, some might say it makes more sense use prison to punish for Body Crimes.  This is an arguable point, one so I will leave it up to the individual criminal system.
There are several distinct advantages of this method.  It prevents wild abuses such as throwing someone in jail for cursing on TV.   It makes sense to most people.

We don't need the punishments to exactly match the crime - it might be more than the crime, it might end up as less than the crime.  That is up for the judge to decide based on the situation.   Among other things we should probably punish an intentional act more than negligence and we might not even punish a truly unforeseeable accident.  Stealing to feed your children is different from stealing to buy a race car.

When it comes to rude crimes, small crimes should be one day - 8 hours or so.   The worst of the worst crime should be no more than 1000 hours over an entire year (basically every single weekend).  That could be an appropriate punishment for doing something irrevocable and unfixable - such as insulting someone till they committed suicide. 

But even give that, sometimes we simply can not use those types of punishments.  If a broke man steals from you, he can't pay you back.  If you are using the literal version of "An Eye for An Eye", then if a blind man pokes your eyes out, you can't blind him back.  If someone has already been given community service requirements that exceed 24 hours a day for the rest of his life, then he can't do it  (let alone giving him time to sleep, eat, go to work, etc.)

So how do you deal with that.   Well, you if it is a Wallet crime you can upgrade the punishment.   That is, if someone steals more than they can re-pay, we can have them pay what they can and either service community service and/or go to prison.   Those are clear cut cases, and I would expect that most Wallet severe crimes would routinely end in prison. 

Similarly, for Rude crimes, if someone has an excessive amount of community service - more than 1,000 hours a year - and yet continues to do crimes we can upgrade to something more sever like house arrest.  (AFTER they have already been sentenced - no "he did so many bad things in one event or even one extended series of events then we should send him to jail).   But please note that those should be extreme situations, not the norm.  1000 hours a year of community service should basically be the worst sentence you can get per single arrest for Rude Crimes.

Cage and Body crimes are more difficult.  We can send people to harsher prisons and/or increase the sentencing. There is a big difference between time in a prison with an exercise yard and one without one.  There is a big difference between letting people read in prison and forcing them to work.  Why should we just restrict those conditions to punishment/rewards for good behavior in prison?  The point is judge should be making those decisions, not a warden (or a legislature trying to close a budget gap with prison labor - see here.)

Why don't we already do this?  Well, some people think the Rude crimes should be punished a lot more severely.

Here are a list of Rude Crimes that some cultures want to punish with extreme sanctions:
  • Marijuana use (not sales - that could easily be called a Wallet - tax avoidance, Body - damaging their body, or even a Cage - addiction.  Similarly any drug such as alcohol that encourages violent behavior could be a negligent Body Crime)
  • Voluntary Prostitution  (Again, pimping would be a Cage Crime)
  • Homosexuality (Again, Rape would be a Body Crime, I am talking about consensual)
  • Virtual Child Pornography (i.e. cartoons, etc.)
First of all, I'm not saying these should be crimes, not am I saying they shouldn't be crimes.   But if you DO insist on making them a crime, then the punishment has to be appropriate, not excessive.    Governments have a tendency to go overboard on the punishments in an insane attempt to discourage the behavior.  But people do them anyway.  The governments think by making the punishment extremely severe, it will prevent the behavior from occurring.

This will never work.   People don't stop doing things because they are punished excessively.  All that does is anger them and turn them against the government.      

Why doesn't excessive punishment work?

Look at prostitution - jail doesn't stop the women from doing it.  They need the money and don't think it's wrong, and so many other people agree with them.  People pity these women, they don't think "they are evil."   The prostitutes think society is being rude by arresting them, not that they are being rude.

Punishment only works if the punished person thinks they deserve to be punished.  If they don't, then instead of stopping the activity, they do it MORE to 'get back at you'.  Punishment requires the punished person to both know why they are being punished and to think they deserve it - and deserve it more than anyone else.  The most specifically have to think they deserve it more than the person doing the punishment.
When a man breaks into your home, holds you at gun point and screams "How dare you park in my spot!" and begins to beat you relentlessly, you don't think "Well, I'll never do that again."  Instead you wish for the good guy to arrive and rescue you.   Even if they never come, that's what you think.  As long as you think you are the good guy and the cops are the bad guys, excessive punishment will never work.

Whats worse, most cops needs the aid of non-cops to help them catch criminals.  Ask any police man, he will tell you that he needs honest people to refuse to aid the criminals, honest people to never consider doing the crime themselves, and honest people to aid the police in catching and stopping the crime.

If the punishment is excessive, then honest people feel sympathy for the criminal, not the government.  They aid the criminals, they consider trying it, and they don't help the police.  In order to stop a crime, people need to think that the crime is serious, not that the government is tyrannical.

When people think they are being unfairly treated, it just makes them want to protest.  Excessive punishments turn you against the government, not against the crime.

Think of it - what if your government was taken over by an evil political party.  If you like gun rights, think of an anti-gun zealot party that outlaws gun possesion and kills people found with them.  If you are pro-islamic, think of an athiestic party that outlaws Islam.  If you are gay, think of an anti-gay party that wants to kill you for your sexuality?  We all know how anti-marijuana laws affect the marijuana user - it makes them vote against the people passing those laws.

Would you bow down to their demands or rise up in revolution?

In every case, you create a revolutionary, not an obedient citizen.   Even if they don't actually rise up, your policy has increased the problems within the country rather than decreasing them.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Senator (D) Claire McCaskill vs. Rep. (R) Todd Akin

Claire McCaskill is an incredible woman from Missouri.  She is one of the few female senators, and she presides over a republican state.  She is up for re-election in 2012, you can contribute to her campaign here.
I have talked a bit about her before.

Running against her is Todd Akin, a republican Congressman.

He said, and I quote:

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare.  If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."  On the Jaco Report, August 19th, 2012.  He left out the words in the bracket, but that's what he was talking about.

Note, even after that statement, he is polling at one point greater than Claire McCaskill.  She needs your support (see link above.)

For those of you that don't know, in an ironic way, he is right about one thing.  If a woman gets raped, then her brain cells can trigger, causing her legs to get up and walk to the nearest Planned Parenthood, where she can request an abortion.

But that's the ONLY way to that her body can 'try to shut that whole thing down'.

I'm not even going to try and touch that 'legitimate rape' comment.

But let's not talk about what he said anymore.  Let's talk about two other things.

  1. Lots of us believe things that aren't true.  But most of us know when we are stating things that other people don't believe.   I don't bring up my feelings about ethical vegetarianism, because I know it's a bit radical.  What possessed this ...conservative... to state something so wildly out there?  Is he really stupid enough to not understand how it will lose him votes?  I could see being stupid enough to think that, but to state it out loud? Note the rest of the GOP knew how bad it was, they told him to quit the race.
  2. The GOP thinks this is the best republican from Missouri, to take down a democratic senator in a thoroughly republican state.  By god, I weep for Missouri, if this is the best they have. 

I just talked about being wrong yesterday.  About how your opponents aren't always ignorant, stupid or evil.  But here is a reminder that sometimes they are.   I have to state here and now that Todd Akins is not evil.  He is just incredibly ignorant and stupid.   He honestly believed that there were legitimate and illegitimate rapes.

Just so you remember, that (R) they put after Todd Akin's name doesn't stand for Republican, they want him to quit.  What does it stand for?  I'll give you a hint - the next letter after the 'r' is an 'a'.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Humans Have a Problem Being Wrong.

Kathryn Schulz is an expert on being wrong.  She says that if some guy disagrees with you, most people will assume one of the following:
  1. He doesn't know stuff (ignorant)
  2. He doesn't comprehend it (i.e. is stupid)
  3. He is evil.

The nicer people start with one and move to three, but some people just assume you are evil right off the bat.  Of course, while most people use these three quick analysis methods.   They ignore several other possibilities.  This is particularly a problem in politics - your opponent starts out trying to teach you facts, then ensure that you draw the correct conclusions, but if those two actions fail, he decides you must be EVIL.  This is wrong.  There are many other explanations then your opponent being ignorant, stupid or evil.

Here are the other possibilities that I have identified:

First, the most obvious one - yourself might be wrong, i.e. YOU are ignorant, YOU are stupid or YOU are evil.  It's sort of obvious why wen don't consider this possibility.  But given a random person, it is exactly as likely as the first three examples, for obvious reasons.

Second, it also ignores the possibility of combinations.  In truth, this is always the case.   No one knows everything - all of us are at least a little bit ignorant.  No one truly comprehends everything - all of are at least a little bit stupid.  And yes, no one is a real saint - all of are at least a little bit evil.  

This means that in all cases, both you and your opponent are at least a little bit ignorant, stupid and evil.

Third, it ignores different points of view.  Language is an approximation, not a perfect reflection of reality.  This means no statement can ever be totally accurate and quote often two contradictory explanations can both be true
  • In Communism, everyone is equal, there are no class distinctions.   In Communism, there is a strict class system - bureaucrats and everyone else.
  • Gold is worth a lot more than water - unless you are on a raft in the middle of the pacific ocean.
  • Charity deliveries food to hungry people in Africa save- them from starvation.  But it also destroy their native farms, creating starvation (Some charities now deliver money to areas, allowing the recipients to buy food from local merchants, but you get the idea.)
Contradictory statements can both be true.  There are several reasons for this.   You can come to one answer deductively and another by inductively and a third by faith.   There can be a difference between theory and practice.  Definitions may vary depending on time and location.  Time scale matters.   The truth and falsehood of statements can, in some circumstances, only be determined by a point of view.

Fourthly, it ignores different underpinnings.  When we talk about ignorance, we generally meant relevant information. But often there are a lot of indirect facts that are not obviously relevant.  You may know all the facts about the welfare bill, believe them, use reason correctly, but have different risk tolerances.  Your upbringing may allow for 1% of people to die of starvation, or become homeless, while others don't.    Those inner assumptions are never discussed.   They matter a lot. If your personal experience values something more than other people, you will come to completely different results.  If you live in a city, you will think government works a lot better than if you live in a rural area (sewers, cops, bus, fire department, roads, etc. are all better in a city).   Different things are relevant to different people because of their entire life stories.

In summary, besides your opponent being ignorant, stupid or evil, here are the other possibilities.  Before labeling your political opponent as evil, ask if one of these are true.
  1. You could be the one that is ignorant, stupid and/or evil
  2. You both could be ignorant, stupid, and/or evil.
  3. You could both be right.
  4. You could both be totally talking past each other, not understanding what matters to the other person.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who Should I Vote For

This is intended as general advice for anyone seeking to vote but isn't quite sure who to vote for.  It assumes they know at least a little bit about the candidates.

There are four basic techniques on selecting the 'right' person to vote for:

  1. Pick the person you trust the most.  You have been fooled before by someone you thought agreed with you.  But they flip-flopped, or turned out to be a fool.  So you go not by what the candidate says, but on how he says it - you look for someone you trust based on his back ground.  Or maybe you just are not all that up on the candidates but know the political parties.   You trust political party X, so you pick that party's candidate.  
  2. Pick the person you hate the least.   Usually elections come down to two people.  You may not know who honestly agrees with you the most, or who will do the best job, or even who to trust.  But it is fairly easy to pick the guy you hate the most and vote against him.
  3. Pick the person that agrees with you the most. The person that agrees with you the most will of course vote the way you want them to.  Therefore you should vote for them!
  4. Pick the person that you think will do the best job.   I know I am not perfect, I want someone that is better/smarter/more creative/more experienced than me - someone better than me.  I will try to pick the person that can do the job the best, even if he disagrees with me more than the second best candidate.  (Note this is more often done in crisis/war time - when the risk is high, people want someone better than them to fix it.)
The real problem is when these methods disagree.

Take Obama.  There are racists liberals out there (yeah, they do exist).   Such a person doesn't trust Obama and hate's Romney less, but he personally agrees with Obama and thinks he will do a better job than Romney.

All of this is complicated by the Trey Parker rule "It's always between a giant douche and a turd sandwich"   You can't win in politics by being nice - because your opponent will lie about you.  They will say "he's not an American citizen, show me the birth certificate", or "He paid no taxes, show me his tax returns."   Politics is a dirty game and you can't win without getting a little bit dirty.  So it's never between nice people, always a contest between people a sane person wouldn't get into business with.

Will it ever get better?  Well, THIS IS THE BETTER.   We used to decide with guns, now we do it with votes (and lets face it, money).   We don't even fight duels anymore, but we used to .... Burr vs. Hamilton - forget "Han shot first", it's "Burr shot first" ;)

Now, back to the main point:  How should you pick your candidate?

Well, first of all, ignore any method you can't get enough evidence for.  That is, if you don't know who will do the best job, skip that method.   If you don't know if you agree with them (which you really should find out), then ignore that method.

If you don't have ANY information - you don't know who agrees with you, who is the most competent, who is the most trustworthy or who you hate the least, then don't vote.  You should at least have something?

That only leaves the situation of having multiple and contradictory answers.  You agree with candidate W but trust X, while Y has done a fantastic job, but you hate W, X, and Y, so you want to vote for Z.  Or if you have two candidates, guy X you might trust and agree with, but guy Y seems nicer and more competent.

OK, in that situation, then I suggest the following:

A)  In politics, no one is really trustworthy (see Trey Parker rule above).  Going for the guy you trust the least is a crap-shoot at best.   It's the least reliable method.  Give that guy only 1 pt.

B)  In politics the guy you hate the least is mostly a function of his campaign - his public relations rather than his worthiness.  Remember the "Birth Certificate vs. Tax Return" stuff.   Yeah, he let them do that stuff (unless it's a Super Pac), but he didn't object.  While he still a douche or a turd, he's not quite as bad as you think.  Mark it as the second worst method.  Give that guy 2 pts.

C)  If you honestly knew how to solve political problems, you should be heavily involved in it - running for office or advising other people.  That is, if you know the right answers, but can't enact them, at least help a guy that can.  If so, vote for yourself/the guy are advising.  Failing that, admit your personal opinions, while important, are not the absolute best method.  Give that guy 3 pts.

D)  The guy you think is the most capable is the single best way to choose a politician.  It is how England got Churchill, despite so many people disagreeing with his politics.  They knew he was the guy to win World War II, even if they did not want him when the war was over.  (They voted him out in 1945, practically before Hitler's body got cold.)  If you use that method for emergencies, then why not use it all the time. Give that guy 4 pts. 

Add up the points and pick the guy with the most points.

For me, in 2012:

  • I agree with Obama more (I am liberal - mostly). +3 pts to Obama..
  • I don't honestly know if Obama would do a better job than Romney.  Romney might get more cooperation from the GOP - enough to get things done.   This is a bit of a crap shoot..  I award no point to either candidate here.
  • I trust Obama more   He didn't flip flop on Healthcare or abortion the way Romney did.  Obama puts forth actual plans, while Romney gives general, non-specific promises.  Yes, Obama has failed to do some things he promised to do.   But it looked to me like he made honest attempts.    Romney on the other hand seems willing to say and do anything to get into the Oval Office.   Who knows what Romney would do in office?  +1 pt Obama.
  • Of the two, I hate Romney slightly more.   Obama has failed to reduce the police state, but Romney's people keep playing really dirty - from birth certificate stuff to misquoting the president about 'didn't build that'.   +2 points to Obama.

Obama gets six out of ten points, Romney gets nothing.

That's me.  Your results may vary.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What we can learn from Americans Elect

Americans Elect was a failed attempt to create a third national party.

We can learn a lot from it's failure.

Let's start with a bit more about them.   They claimed to be a non-partisan, non -profit organization, not covered by the FEC's political committees rules.  As such, they can't accept money from a candidate or candidate committee, nor donate funds to them, nor can they advocate for or against any issue.   It can only get signatures to put people on the ballot.

They were internet based, and tried to elect just the President (and Vice President), not other offices.

They set up a bunch of delegates and they drafted 52 potential candidates.  Then people voted on those candidates to see who would make it to a 'run off' election, then to see who would be their nominee.   To be a successful nominee, their rules required at least 1,000 votes from each of 10 states, for 10,000 votes minimum.   If the person had not held one of 12 specific jobs, they would need 5,000 votes from 10 states, for 50,000 minimum.  But no candidate gathered enough support to make it to their primary ballot.  

They were well funded with $22 million dollars.

Why did they fail so badly they couldn't get a single candidate to qualify for their run off election? 

They started with a candidate for Presidency.   That's the big game - it's kind of like someone trying out for the New York Yankees without ever having played ball at College or for a minor league game.  You start small and work your way up, not the other way around.

They were running against an incumbent president.  Incumbents win most of the time.   This is a stupid idea, you want to start your political party with the best chance, not the worst chance.   Worse, people think third party candidates are run as 'spoilers'.  Doing so against an incumbent makes it look far more like a spoiler.  A 'spoiler' candidate is run without the real desire or expectation of winning - you are just trying to steal off enough votes from your enemy so that the main stream opponent can win.  I.E.  some people think that Ralph Nader did this in the 2000 election, helping Bush to win.   Worse, they did not reveal their funding source.

They did NOT run any other candidate.  Being president hard enough if you have supporters in Congress.  You need people in Congress to put forth laws you agree with, people that will support you.  Much of the Democrat's complaints against the GOP over the past four years is that the GOP voted down laws they liked because the Democrats tried to get them passed.   Obamacare, which the GOP hates with a vengeance is basically taken from a Republican.

They were plagued by bureaucratic software problems.   Some people claimed delegates couldn't vote because of their web based software and security systems.

By law, they could not promote any ideology.  Political parties are all about belief. "None of the above" is not a belief, it doesn't get people to come out and vote.  If that's all you think, then you stay home and don't vote.

So let's talk about how to do this the RIGHT way.

  1. Start with a lower office and run multiple candidates - preferably not against incumbents.  Say five senators and 20 congressmen.   If you can win multiple times at the lower levels, then you can talk about the presidency.  But if you don't have at least two Senators and at least three congressmen, you do not have the national support you need to win a presidency, let alone get stuff done after you win.
  2. Once you narrow it down to a some candidates, go with a real world primary.  Add in a virtual half NEXT year, with some kind of password given out to people that attend last year's real world primary.
  3. PROMOTE AN IDEOLOGY.  It's not that hard to pick one that most Americans like, just go for polling.   Because there are some real centrist ideas that people feel Americans political parties ignore.  Leave out anything that does not get at least 55% of citizens agree with.  Avoid the controversial stuff like abortion and gay marriage, instead stick to the practical stuff that most Americans agree with - fiscal 'conservative' with liberal 'social' programs.  Throw in a careful blend of moderatcy to pay for the social stuff, and you got a solid platform.  By moderatcy, I don't mean 'half way between liberal and conservative', but instead I mean doing things moderately without going to extremes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Do you believe in Big Government?

Here is a simple test.  Add up the number of times you say yes, to get your score (be honest).
  1. Do you like the idea of belonging to a Home Owners Association?  
  2. Do you think the government should be able to track who owns guns?
  3. Do you think the government should be able to stop people from having an abortion?
  4. Do you think the government should be able to stop gays from getting married?
  5. Do you trust the police to handle political protest people whose politics are out of favor - communists, neo-nazis, hippies, whatever?
  6. Do you think America still needs nuclear powered aircraft carriers, nuclear powered submarines, stealth aircraft, and must maintain it's nuclear missiles?
  7. Do you think we need to maintain some form of Social Security and Medicare?
  8. Do you think we must control inflation?
  9. Do you think that the marijuana should continue to be illegal?
  10. Do you think that people (including children and the elderly) should be forced to endure humiliating strip searches - whether electronic or physical as a matter of course when boarding an airplane?
  11. Do you think that students should get government guaranteed loans to go to for-profit schools (beauty schools, mechanic schools, etc.)  where 2/3 of the alumni can not pay back their loans?
Each and every time you answered yes, you voted for Big Government.  I personally only answered yes to three of those questions - #2, #6 and #7.  The right to own a weapon is not the right to own one secretly.  The government needs to know who has the guns, and should be able to stop criminals and psychotics from buying them.  Similarly, we need a strong military, even if it is expensive, and we need Social Security and Medicare.

Home Owners Associations are all about adding another level of government to your life.   They stop you from selling your home, from putting too many flowers in the garden, from building a fence, from putting up Christmas lights, all without any due process.   If you are foolish enough to want to live in one (that includes co-ops), then you have no right to complain at all about Big Government.

Tracking guns is an obvious big government action.  While it can be used to prevent (and investigate) crime - a totally legitimate and necessary law, it also means the government knows who can resist them, should it turn evil.

Abortion laws are all about big government.   There is reasonable doubt about it being murder.  We have no scientific proof about when embryos develop sentience, it is still a religious issue.  But we have religious freedom in this country so you can't use your religious beliefs to write a law.   Jews may think fruit trees are holy, but that doesn't mean the federal government can arrest and charge a christian for cutting one down.   When you use your religion to decided if an embryo has rights, you are pushing your religion on other people, something that directly violates my religion, and is big government.

The religious fanatics might be right, but they can't charge people if they can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, so they can't use our courts to enforce their beliefs.  (P.S. They are wrong.  Doctors have shown that over 75% of fertilized human eggs miscarry - mostly in the first two weeks. Any god that murders 75% of souls he creates before birth is not worth worshiping.  God is good, therefore embryos don't get souls at inception.)

In the United States, marriage is a legal contract, not a religious matter.  You get treated differently by the IRS, have specific legal rights when it ends (divorce and death), and get special legal consideration all over the place.   Worse, I have the freedom of religion.  That means I can worship any God I want - including one that DEMANDS gays marry.    In this country you are legally forbidden from tell me what God wants as a basis for laws.  You need to found your laws on non-religious principles, even if you are right.

If you don't like this situation, the proper thing to do is to remove all legal rights of being married.  Drop all references to husband or wife in the laws (divorce just got a lot cheaper - but a lot less fair).  Have husbands and wives sign wills, medical treatment contracts, and incorporation for tax purposes, just like gays have to.  Oh, and throw out all the corporate benefits for husbands and wives (health care, insurance, etc. etc.)

One of the easiest way to detect big government is how it treats it's enemies. The whole reason we dislike big government is that it will mistreat the people out of political favor.   If you think government can be trusted not to mistreat the people they dislike, then you like big government.  If you think the government can't be trusted with the people the government dislikes, then you don't trust big government.

The US spends more on the military than almost all the other countries in the world combined.   Most of it is on the big ticket items I mentioned.   If your country spends more on something than the rest of the world combined, that's Big Government.

Aside from defense, our next biggest expenses are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  Social Security and Medicare alone are more than the Defense Department.  If we continue to spend even half those amounts, it is Big Government.

When the government tries to control inflation, it is attempting to manipulate a huge amount of financial transactions.  In effect, you are saying the government should screw around with every single mortgage, every single bank, every single credit card, etc. etc.  Big Government.

Marijuana is a drug that by any reasonable standard is safer than alcohol.  When you abuse it you lose focus and get unmotivated.  You are less likely to do anything but sit back, watch TV and eat.   Alcohol on the other hand plays an important roll in a huge number of fights, car accidents, and other crimes - including rape.  About 1/3 of convicted criminals were drunk at the time they committed the crime. (Source)  If prohibition was an example of Big Government going too far, than the marijuana ban is also.    I'm not saying we should legalize it - but if you want it illegal, then you like Big Government.

Government search without a warrant is an obvious Big Government idea.  It's part of the Constitution for a reason.

Lastly, the for-profit colleges are outright stealing money from the government.  The Department of education had three simple rules they wanted all colleges (public or private) to meet:  (Source)

  • At least 35% of the former students must be paying their own loans back by at least $1 a month
  • The average graduate's loan payments can not exceed 30% of their income
  • The average graduate's loan payment can not exceed 12% of their earnings
Please note they wanted at least 35 % of their students to pay it back.  That's not a typo.  If it were upto me, it would be 85%.  It's a loan, not a gift.

Five percent of university programs fail to meet all three.   All of those programs are for-profit.  Of the for-profit programs, only 35% of them met all three qualifications.  Obama tried to stop paying them for overcharging students for what minimal training they offered.  But the schools lobbied to get those rules watered down.  The schools won.  Where were the 'small government' people then?  

Net Net, if you answered 'yes' to four or more of those questions, you are in favor of Big Government.  Because this liberal only said yes to three of them.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Electoral Map

I recently discovered the web site electoral-vote.  Note the gadget to the upper right.  It updates itself with every poll.

Assuming the polls are accurate, it currently (August 9th, 2012), shows Obama winning 323 to 206 electoral votes, plus 9 (Colorado) too close to call.  Almost more importantly, it also checks the Senate races, which will result in the Democrats retaining a slight majority, 50 to 48, plus 2 undecided (50 votes plus the Vice Presidents = a majority).  Currently the republicans hold 47 seats, so in effect the GOP is projected to lose the presidency, win one Senate seat, with two up in the air.

I like there projects much better than the standard ones, because it shows the accuracy of the prediction, as opposed to simply declaring all the swing states as 'up for grabs'.

For comparison purposes, CNN calls:  Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virgina and Florida as "up for grabs".  Electoral Vote, using the recent polls, says, of those states, Nevada, Iowa, and Ohio are likely Democrat, Colorado is a tie, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida are 'barely Democrat".  Also note that Electoral Vote says North Carolina is only 'barely Republican'.  North Carolina is the only state Electoral Vote calls "barely Republican".   CNN shows North Carolina, along with Indina, Missori, and Arizona as 'leaning Romeny".

Note this map includes Rasmussen polls.   But Electoral Vote offers you the possibility of eliminating them.  If you do this, North Carolina becomes Barely Democrat.  Why would you do that?   Rasmussen is an arm of Fox News.  More importantly there is study that shows that most polls do not change radically just before an election, but Rasmussen DOES suddenly get more pro-democrat.  As in, they don't want to look stupid, so they stop using biased methods

Example:  If you don't pick up, Rasmussen randomly picks a new phone number.  But Democrats are more likely to be younger and go therefore out of their home, so in effect, they get a slight bias towards Republicans.  In addition, all polls try to call the same percentage of republicans and democrats as the state has (if a state has 40 republicans 30 independents and 30 democrats, they don't want to accidentally call 60 democrats and 40 independents) , but Rasmussen starts off with higher assumptions of percent republicans for many states.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why Obama 'hates coal'.

Recently the coal companies has been complaining about Obama 'hating coal'.  They advertise about the EPA shutting down plants - ignoring the fact that cheap natural gas price has meant gas powerplants have been replacing coal power plants (Source) I've talked about coal, in comparison to nuclear power before.  But since that time, natural gas has gotten cheaper, so it is time to talk about it again.

But actually, I agree that Obama hates Coal - and this is a good thing.   We don't support out-dated technologies - there are not many buggy whip companies still in business, nor are asbestos company thriving.   Coal deserves to go the way of asbestos and the horse and buggy.  Sure, we can still use it for certain, specialized projects.  But no reasonable culture should burn it to generate massive amounts of electricity - at least not without much better technology to a) capture pollution and b) mine it safer.

Coal is the single worst power supply we use.

  1. It is the source of most of the CO2 - causing global warming.  The main difference between coal and oil is that oil has hydrogen, while coal doesn't.  So when you burn coal, you get almost pure carbon dioxide (plus some poisonous impurities).  When you burn oil you get water and carbon dioxide. In effect, burning oil lets you burn some hydrogen into water, as well as carbon into carbon dioxide.
  2. Those poisonous impurities?  Let's start with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, aka acid rain.  It also includes mercury - which is why we can't eat all the fish we want.  Oh and did I mention uranium and thorium?  Coal is the main source of those pollutions.  We are not talking about safe depleted versions, I am talking about the radioactive, deadly cancer causing stuff.  Most of it settles in the ground close to where you burn the coal.
  3. Mining coal destroys the locality.   Unlike oil and gas, we are not talking about a simple drill and pipe.  We carve out mountains, dumping the non-coal into valleys.   And we are not talking about harmless rocks, the refuse is contaminated with dangerous chemicals.  Not just the mercury, uranium, thorium, but also the various toxic chemicals used in the mining process.
Coal is in fact the single worst energy source we have - for the people mining it, burning it, and also the general population.  It's only real advantage is it is cheap.  It used to be the cheapest available in many locations, but recent advances in natural gas have made natural gas the cheapest (see below).  Dirty coal plants average around $99.6 MWh, with clean ones going around $140.7.  

Anything over $115 is generally considered to expensive, given what people are willing to pay for power.  It is 'experimental', as opposed to commercially viable, so the 'clean coal' technology is quite simply not cost effective.

The 'best' overall power source we have right now is probably wind.  Zero pollution and you can use it in most places, though some places are much more efficient.  In the right locations (on shore, 30+ feet above the ground so build a tower, in a windy area), it is cheaper than nuclear power (and sometimes coal), if not natural gas.  It has no emissions, and only affects flying creatures (some bird kills).   In good locations, it's price is around $96.8.  In the worst locations - off shore, the transmission back to shore eats up a lot of the profit, making it the most expensive - around  $330.6  using conventional technology - that may change.  Most importantly, there are FAR more good locations for wind than any of the other sources.  It doesn't need water, works at the north pole and the equator, doesn't need a volcano or people.  It just plain works.

Next is hydroelectric.   The cheapest non air polluting power we use at $89.9,  but it screws with the environment a lot more than you would think and it is extremely limited by location.  The geography has to be just right and it still blocks migrating fish (salmon in particular), turning land into lakes, and affecting water use.  During drought situations, this can be particularly bad. You don't want to be in a situation where you have a choice of one of three: make electricity, kill the fish or restrict water usage.

Of the rest, most people consider natural gas to be the next best one.  In the current market, with fracking providing a ton of natural gas, it is the cheapest power around.  But that assumes you don't care about pollution.  While it does pollute, it doesn't do all the really nasty stuff coal puts out.  The only real problem I have with it is that the businessmen are refusing to divulge the chemicals they are pumping into the ground to get the gas out.   They claim it is a business secret, but businesses are not allowed to keep secrets that might endanger our health.   We should not have to trust that they are not using dangerous chemicals, they should divulge what they are using or stop using it.  The high pollution plants can generate electricity at a low price of $65.5, but if we want to clean it up, it can cost as much as $105.3.   Even at that price, 'clean gas' is viable technology, as opposed to 'clean coal'.

Next comes the popular nuclear.  Zero carbon emissions and zero deadly accidents at a US nuclear power plants (far less than coal or oil which routinely kill their employees).  It costs out at $112, the most expensive of the profitable energy production techniques.  It does create relatively minute amounts of pollution (by weight), all of which gets stored on site, as opposed to being pumped into the air.  But the pollution carries the nasty word 'radioactive' on it, scaring people.  It also can be used to create several profitable and essential non-power related products, such as medical supplies and military weapons. The military uses is not just bombs, but fuel for small mobile power plants (aka submarines, air craft carriers) and depleted uranium is used as armor and bullets.

Among the commercially viable methods, the last one is geothermal.  We use lava to heat water, to turn a steam generator.  It needs a good source of lava.  This is rare.  But the process itself is fairly cheap - at $99.6, it is cheaper than coal.   All we need is a few more volcanoes and boom, we got energy. 

Note,you don't see oil here.   Petroleum is too valuable for use in cars to be commercially burned for electricity now a days.  Room temperature liquid fuels are just too convenient for small generators.

Finally the also-rans.  Along with offshore wind plants, these are too expensive to be used commercially.

Biomass - the burning of corn, sugar, or garbage (including methane taken from a garbage dump).  This costs $120.2.  Just a bit too expensive to be commercially profitable - unless of course you get the garbage for free.  If you own a large farm, factory or university sometimes you can burn your own waste and make your own power.  Similarly, large cities can burn garbage to power their municipal buildings. But we can't burn all garbage and it isn't enough to give us all the power.

Solar photovoltaic (solar panels that directly convert light to heat) average at around $156.9.   Not quiet as close to being profitable as biomass, but given it's ability to go super small scale, it is no surprise so many small scale devices use it.  In fact, the smaller the scale, the better solar power works, at least compared to other technologies.  Which of course pushes the research, so it may someday beat coal and natural gas.

Solar Thermal is the new kid on the block.  Here you reflect light off mirrors, concentrate it down to heat water to turn the turbine.  It is a bit too expensive at $251 to be commercially used yet.   But the efficiencies it show may change that.   There is a lot of research on ways to cut that down, the technology is not as mature as the other power generation methods.  Unfortunately it also loses solar photovoltaic's best advantage- it can't be used small scale.  It uses way too much land.

Finally, bringing up the rear is the newcomer on the block.  Tidal has some potential - it has even less of an environmental effect than wind, but has fewer viable locations and is by far the most expensive one we use.  I am talking $610 a MWh.  But most of that is due to the lack of research and experimentation.   Give it a few more years and it could be cheap enough to compete with coal.

(Note, most of this information came from Wikipedia.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Conservatives: You Can Always Move to Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a great place.  It is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the Caribbean. 

It's part of an archipelago, with one big island and lots of smaller ones.   Sure, it gets some hurricanes (like the rest of the gulf area) but it enjoys a great tropical climate.

All Puerto Ricans are United States Citizens.   It is under the direct control of the United State Congress.

You don't like federal tax?  Well, as a resident of Puerto Rico, you don't pay US Federal Income tax - and you still get federal money.

You keep most (but not all) Constitutional rights. Specifically, you get freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the the press, assembly (protest), due process in court, unreasonable search and seizure (they need a warrant)

So, what do you give up by moving to Puerto Rico?

  1. You can vote in a primary presidential election, but not in the actual Presidential election.  If you maintain a house back in a state, then you could vote in absentee - but that might make you subject to the federal income tax.
  2. You MAY give up the right to have an abortion.   Article 99 of the Puerto Rican Penal Code states that abortions (except to save the life or health of the mother) is punishable by two years.  Note, this goes against the Puerto Rico's supreme court ruling in 1980 case Pueblo v. Duarte.(Source), but no court has invalidated it, yet (Source).  Their has been only one abortion reported in Puerto Rico since 2007 - and that was by a citizen that left the country and got it outside of Puerto Rico (Source).  But most people believe that others are getting abortions and not reporting them.    
  3. You lose some gun rights.  No Second amendment (they had an attempted revolt back int he 50's.)  You do have the right to own guns and keep it in your house (with bullets).  But transporting it requires the gun be unloaded (with empty magazines).  Concealed carry, loaded with a permit only - no open carry.  Ownership costs $400, shooting range permit costs $50 and concealed carry costs $1000 - all are 5 year licenses.(source)
  4. You don't have to pay Federal income taxes (you still pay social security taxes).  You do pay taxes to Puerto Rico, just as you have to pay state taxes.  Granted their Puerto Rico taxes are closer to federal rates than states, but you still come out ahead (i.e. in the states you pay Federal + state taxes, while in Puerto Rico you pay PR taxes that are about equivalent to Federal but no state tax equivalents).
  5. You give up the right to obtain Supplemental Security Income (an add on to Social Security for the poor that are either old, blind or disabled).  You still get Social Security, but not the Supplemental stuff.
  6. You give up most medicaid benefits (PR gets 15% of the medicaid money it would if it was a state) and your doctors get less medicare money (mainly because healthcare is cheaper in P.R.than the US)
So basically, aside from gun rights and the right to vote for the President, living in Puerto Rico is pretty much a conservative heaven.  Lower taxes, less entitlement spending. anti-abortion.  The only problem is gun laws but you can still own a gun if it costs a bit more.

So why don't conservatives move to Puerto Rico?

Well, without all  that federal 'entitlement' spending, Puerto Rico ends up as DIRT POOR(Source).  Over 80% of children live in high poverty areas (vs. 11% in the US).   Simultaneously, only 56% of Puerto Ricans children are actually poor, while 22% of the US children are poor.  

Stop and think about those two sets of numbers.  First,it means that 24% of Puerto Rican children are not poor, but live in high poverty areas - even the middle class kids live next to or in a slum.  Second it means that 11% of US children that are poor live in wealthy neighborhoods - even the poor kids live in middle class neighborhoods.  But back to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is not as nice a place to live.   These poor areas don't have sewage systems - the waste sits in canals - that over flow on rainy days.  You don't have high end stores, the areas are not wired for electricity and internet, the roads are not as nice.

Why is Puerto Rico like this?   Well, that's what you get if you get rid of 'big government spending'.

P.S.  Puerto Rico is voting this month - August, 2012 to ask Congress to become a state or remain as a commonwealth.  Even if they decide to become a state, they need approval from the US Congress to do it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Rebirth of America

Forbes has a fantastic article about  the rebirth of American industry.

To summarize:

China has cheap labor.
America has robots.
Robots are cheaper than the cheapest labor.

We are talking about 3D printing, laser cutting, CNC machines (computerized numerical controls), etc.  You program the machine and it builds what you want.

The article doesn't go into China's other advantage:  A willingness to accept a CRAPLOAD of pollution.   For example, they put in limits on fire retardants only in 2009.   Formaldehyde is almost everywhere - as it used for construction and the fabrication of furniture.  Note, they are getting better, but I think they will always accept more pollution than we do.  They value their economy more than their workers.

But I don't think any American is going to be upset about giving the high pollution jobs to China.  I just wish we could export our coal burning.

So, what is America going to look like in 20 years?  Well, I expect we will have some more manufacturing, but the jobs will still be service jobs - installing robots, maintaining them, fixing them, programming them and running them..

Unfortunately, this is not the entire story.  China has been expanding it's trade with other countries, and creating solid relationships and investments outside of China.  This may turn China into a financial powerhouse, capable of competing with the US.  It can't right now.  Yeah, people are scared of China, but the US still beats China on industrial output, as of 2010, even though it had 1/3 the population.  Throw in the Service industry - which includes installing, maintaining, servicing, and programming robots - and we handily beat them.