Friday, December 28, 2012

Why they aren't fixing the "Fiscal Cliff"

Because they don't want to.


  1. The Democrats think that if the tax cuts expire, then when Obama re-instates new ones, then everyone will believe that the Bush Tax Cuts were a failure and the new, Obama Tax Cuts, are good.  This of course ignores the budget deficit and sequestration issues.  Not to mention worrying everyone that just wants things to go back to 'normal'.
  2. The Republicans would rather vote to create new tax cuts (even if they are "Obama Tax Cuts"), than vote to 'raise taxes'.  Note, they are not afraid of losing to Democrats, they are afraid of losing primary elections to "T partiers".   In effect, they think their own people are so stupid, they can't tell that voting to extend tax cuts only for a small group is exactly the same as letting them expire and voting for new tax cuts for only that small group.
In my opinion, the GOP is mostly to blame.  Mainly because they have tried a really stupid, ease to see-through trick.

There is a basic negotiating tactic called High Ball.  You start with something ridiculous that you know they won't get.  Everyone does this.  It's normal.  But there is a higher stakes version.

It is something called Padding.  You start not at something you really want but instead something that you have zero interest in, that you call essential - something called 'padding'.  You try to convince your opponent that giving up your padding is a huge concession. Then you don't have to give up much more.
 It's the difference between saying "I will only vote to raise the debt ceiling if you cut entitlements on a one for one basis with tax hikes on the rich."  and saying "I don't want to raise the debt ceiling at all, just to get me to do that, you have to say no new taxes.  Then we can negotiate where to cut spending."

A variant of this is called 'false concession'.  That's what they did this time.  They put forth a bunch of crap and said "What do I get for this?"

Obama did not fall for that trap.  He responded with "Nothing.  You get nothing for that.  It's the base value."

I know, you guys are going to say "But they were offering something."  No, they weren't.  they offered nothing, and for nothing, you get nothing.

You see, the base start of the negotiation is not your ideal platform, because anyone can pad the ideal platform.

The base start of every budget negotiation is the last agreement you have.  The current agreement is as follows:

1)  All of Bush's tax cuts go away.
2) Debt ceiling goes up, preventing us from paying back the loans we already have.
3)  Sequestration of the budget
4)  AMT tax rates start applying at the low, un-indexed for inflation rate.

 Oh, and one more thing - Obama was re-elected and the GOP lost Congressmen which puts the DNC. The GOP had the chance to negotiate before hand.

The GOP CHOOSE to not try for a negotiation before the election.  They stupidly thought they would win the election and have a better shot.

They lost that bet.  That means they start out at a disadvantage.  That's how that works.   Obama doesn't have to get re-elected.  he doesn't have to worry about pissing off the voters.  He doesn't have to worry about anything.

It's the GOP that has to worry - and they damn well better.   

What's going to happen with the budget negotiations?  I think we will go off the fiscal cliff and then they will have a new agreement:

1)  Debt Ceiling will go up.
2)  AMT indexing will be at least temporarily extended (if not permanently - or perhaps the AMT will go away with some other simpler method put in).
3)  Sequestration will not happen (or it it does, it will be quickly ended)
4)  Taxes will go up for people making over somewhere between 250 and 500 k.  They won't go up for people making less.  Pay roll tax will probably be modified as well.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More about Treaonous Republicans

 I have talked about treasonous Republicans before.  This is not about the same Republican, but about others that follow his general line of thinking.

First let me say that in my personal opinion, most conservatives are not treasonous.  They are ethical, honorable people I enjoy having dinner with.    But in the last 40 years or so, they have attracted quite a few traitors.

The thing is, that even 60 years ago, it were the liberals that were talking treason.   Not anymore.  Now, every time you have some blowhard talking treason, he is from the far right, not the far left.  There are no communists trying to take over the government, just fascists trying to get us to do what they want, even if most of us vote against it.

No stand offs with armed liberals holding back the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in California.    No.   It's even the conservatives that talk about 'second amendment solutions', seceding, reloading, etc.

Usually when you question them about it, they claim they were not serious.   In other words they are shocked, shocked that anyone actually believed them.   Apparently, even conservatives don't think anyone actually believes the words that come out of their mouth.

The thing is, people do.  People listen when you vilify the president, claiming he isn't legitimate.  People listen when you talk about armed insurrection - even in a veiled way.  If you like the idea of 'blood libel', they hey, you join the party that talks about it, rather than the party that condemns it.

As a result, the GOP has, over the past 40 years attracted the majority of psychotic christian nut jobs that want to overthrow the government.   [ Why just the christian nut jobs?  Because the GOP is quite clearly pro christian and anti every other religion - including Judaism  despite their fervent claims and pro-Israel stance - and that's why Jews still prefer the Democrat party.   The same goes for Muslims, and other religions.  ]

But lets talk about the latest bit of treason.

The GOP has looked at the demographics and realized that given their current stance and reputation, they will never win another US Presidency.  Never ever.  Quite a few of the smart, honorable republicans have therefore insisted on changing the vision of the Republican Party. Henry Olsen, Luigi Zingales, Robert Stein, James Caprett,   David Frum, and Ross Duthat for example.

But not every Republican is an honorable or intelligent as the esteemed men listed above. Note, I looked for a woman but it's hard to find a Republican woman that qualified, unfortunately.  Part of the problem, of course.

So some of these less honorable and less intelligent Republicans instead want to change the way we elect the President.  They can't win, so instead of trying harder, they want to change the rules so that they have an advantage.

The first suggestion is to simply have the Republican controlled state houses of the swing states, shift to proportionate electoral voting, as opposed to winner take all.  That is, have them do it like Main or Nebraska - BUT ONLY IN LIBERAL STATES.   They want the Republican states to remain winner take all.  This would be unethical, but not outright treason.  As I said, Maine and Nebraska already do it that way.

Lets assume they managed to do that in all of the following states;  Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio, Florida.   Those were all big states Obama won, that the GOP thought they had a chance of winning (they didn't).   Lets assume they go all out and round off, so the state winner doesn't always get one extra electoral vote.  If you get 51% of the state vote, you get 51% of the electoral votes, which if number is even, is the exact same number of electoral votes as the loser gets.

Given the 2012 election, that means they would have +10 votes for PA, +5 votes for WI, +9 votes for OH, and +14 votes from FL, for a total of  +38 extra electoral votes.  They actually won 206, so with +38, electoral votes, that brings them to 244.  Obama still wins.  

OK, let's try it with all the states that are not Strongly Democratic.  Add in +3 votes from Nevada, +3 from Iowa, +5 from Michigan, +8 votes from Michigan, and +2 from New Hampshire.  For a total of another 21 votes.  That brings them to 265.  Obama still wins.

Why?  Because the country as a whole prefers the Democrats.  It's not just a bunch of east coast and west coast liberals,.  And because New York and California contain so many people and are so strongly Democrat.

They would need to try and pull that crap in either most of the Democrat controlled states, or at least in California and New York to have a chance to affect this past election.    Worse, the country isn't stupid and if the GOP tried such god awful crap, it could very likely give the House to the Democrats, not to mention giving the Senate a super majority (no more filibustering).

So lets try the next bit of bullshit.  The scheme proposed by the traitor, Reid Wilson.  

And they are not alone.  The traitors Robert Godshall (Repubican State Rep) and Seth Grove (Republican State Rep) are trying to implement this evil scheme in Pennsylvania.  If it had been in place, Obama, who won 52% over 47% of the state's popular vote would have only been given Romeny would have won 13 of the 20 electoral votes and Obama get only 7.  Yes, Obama, winning the popular vote by 5% would get just over 1/2 as many electoral votes as Romney.

How do you totally destroy the very heart of democracy?   You award electoral votes by congressional district, as opposed to by state.  That is, each district vote separately and the winner wins one electoral vote.   Of course, they only want to do this in Democrat states.  Despite the fact that they control the majority of House Districts due to gerrymandering.

In fact, the gerrymandering is so bad, that if this was the case, they could quite literally lose the popular vote by a major amount - 10% or even 20% , and still 'win' the presidential election - no lets be honest here and use the word 'achieve' the Presidency.

Again, Republicans are too stupid to realize that the Second amendment protects Democrats right to take up arms and rebel against a treasonous dictator just as much as it protects the Republicans.  If they tried this crap, and it was not thrown out of court, we would have another civil war against the fascist pigs that think they can ignore the will of the people.   The entire point of Democracy is to ensure that the will of the people is done.  When you try to ignore it, we rise up and slap you down.

This is a free country.  We get to vote on who rules us.  If you try to steal the vote by rigging the ballot box or just by rigging the system, you won't like what we do to your body.

But that won't happen.  The Supreme Court would throw it out.

Because you see, gerrymandering is an incredibly vile act that states get away with mainly because it doesn't affect how powerful someone's vote is, it affects who you get to vote for.  It escapes under a technicality.  We all know how evil it is, but we haven't found a way to kill it yet because of that technicality.  The Supreme Court takes the Presidency very seriously, I assure you, if someone tried to gerrymander the Presidency, it gets tossed.

His idea is to use gerrymandering in a new way, so it not only affects who you get to vote for (congressman), but how powerful your vote becomes.  In his system, the majority of people will no longer have one person one vote.   but instead a complex system of one person, one share of one vote.  With the system designed to ensure that minorities shares are worthless.  

The traitor Reid Wilson would find his scheme, once it is used to reduce the value of minority votes, gets thrown out by the Supreme Court of the United States.   Oh, and it would also probably end Gerrymandering.  

SCOTUS would throw it out under the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which states that the right to vote may not be abridged by any state on account of race.  The court has already ruled that things like literacy tests, poll taxes etc.  qualify as abridging the right.  Abridging does not have to specifically mention race, it just needs to be done in such a way as to affect race.  I am sure the majority of the court would rule his ridiculous district plan abridges the right to vote of the minority voters as they are all concentrated in gerrymandered districts.

You see, the GOP's problem is that they are racist.  As such they have so few black republicans (less than 15%).  So all the schemes the GOP likes to dream about violate the 15th amendment.

Reid Wilson, Robert Godshall, and Seth Grove (and their traitor brothers) do not understand the laws of the United States, the idea of Democracy, or ethics.  They put party above country, above freedom, above Democracy.

But America is still a free country.  We don't let dictators like Mussolini, Stalin or Castro ignore the popular vote.

That's why their traitor's scheme will never come to pass.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Armed Guards At Schools

The NRA has finally broken their silence after the Newport School shooting.

Their proposal is to have armed guards in school.

One pro-gun speaker said "The only way to stop bad men with guns is with good men with guns."

You know what?  I agree with that pithy statement.  But should those good men try to stop the bad men at the schools - or in the gun shops?  I personally would far rather have them shoot the badmen in the gun shops that at our schools.

Lets talk about why putting armed guards in school is a bad idea.
  1. We want small government, not a bigger one.
  2.  Too expensive.    We have a budget - and are fighting over it already.
  3. Kids don't just stay in schools.  There are also playgrounds, parks, beaches, toy stores, candy stores, and many other such locations.  
  4. I don't want adults shot either.   Should we post a guard at my house, work, etc?
Arresting bad men when they buy the guns makes far more sense.  It makes for a smaller government, is cheaper, protects all the schools and other locations.  It protects adults as well.

Civilians do not need automatic rifles.  Owning one should be illegal.   People sell versions of them that are not automatic that can be converted to fully automatic.  Which means a gunsmith can take a fully automatic one and make it semi-automatic.  Pass a law making it  illegal for civilians to own them.  Give them a year to sell them or have them converted to semi.

Every single gun purchaser should be checked for criminal background.   Give purchasers a choice - either get a federal license to buy one instantly, or have the store submit the name to a state and have the state take a 10 days to check the guy out.    This lets people get a gun instantly for self protection at the cost of giving their names to the Federal government.  It also lets people buy a gun without giving their name to the Federal government. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to fix the Fiscal Cliff without raising taxes

First, we should raise taxes to the Clinton era.  Under Clinton, the economy not only grew, but we actually had a balanced budget - in large part due to the tax rate he used.

But given hat the Republicans staked their reputation on not doing this.   Their incredibly stupid pledge of "Don't raise taxes"- mainly at the insistence of an un-elected lobbyist Grover Norquist-  may force us to do this.

But lets talk about how to do this.

  1. Cap Tax Credits to no more than the minimum tax rate for 25%  Currently that would be $35,351.   Why the weird wording?  To make it automatically rise when the tax brackets do.  Note Tax Credits are far more valuable than tax deductions - they directly reduce your tax bill on a $1 for $1 basis. 
  2. Cap Tax Deductions to no more than the minimum tax rate for 28%.  Currently that would be $85,561. 
  3. While we are capping credits and deductions, eliminate the caps for all federal taxes.  Currently you only pay payroll taxes on the first $110,000.  So wealthy people basically pay far less a percentage of their wages than the average person for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.   Similarly unemployment taxes are currently capped at $1,000 per employee.   No longer will we let the wealthy pay less than their fair share of taxes - they have to pay tax on every dollar they make, not just the first $100,000 or so.
  4. Rule that any capital gains or dividends over $100,000 count as regular income, with an exception for the sale of any home you have lived in for more than 5 years continuously. 

These three rules basically eliminate massive unfair advantages that the wealthy have.  It won't affect the poor at all.  The middle class would have to have rather unusual tax situation to be significantly affected.  But the wealthy would lose massive tax advantages they have.  As a side note it makes Social Security solvent again and is a step towards fixing Medicare and Medicaid.

Then lets talk about cutting spending.   The military are ripe for tax cuts.   Use the original sequestration formula - For every $1 that the House Majority (GOP) take from the military, the Senate Majority (DNC) will take away $1 from non-military spending.

 Note, by Tax Deductions, I am not referring to business expenses.  Those should paid directly (or re-reimbursed) by your business, subtracting from their bottom line, so they don't pay taxes on it in the first place.  Instead I am referring to charity giving, 401K contributions, retirement account expenses, mortgage taxes, etc. 

Some will the claim this will reduce charity giving, because you can only get deductions for the first $85,561.  Trust me, if you give more than $85,561 to charity, you are not doing it for the tax deduction.   Similar arguments apply for Tax Credits.

These short, simple rules will raise substantially raise the tax on the wealthy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why is there evil in th world.

After the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Ct, some are asking the question WHY?  Not just why these particular 20 kids and 6 heroic teachers died, but why any evil exists in the world.  We can understand accidents and natural disasters, but true, real evil is just mind boggling.

There are two main answers to this heart rending question.

1)   It's our fault.  Yes, you, the reader.  And mine.   This answer is founded on either a benevolent God granting free will or the non-existence of a benevolent God.   In either case, mankind has control of our own world, we get to make our own decisions, and therefore we, as a collective whole, are responsible for the evil in the world.   Which brings me back to you, the reader.  Are you a cop, prosecutor, judge or at the very least, politically active?  If not, WHY NOT?  Don't you know there's evil in the world?  Why aren't you personally taking action to stop it?   Yes, not all of us are suited to work in the field of criminal justice, but this is a free democracy, and as such, at the very least you have the power to vote, lobby or run for political office.  Evil exists because not enough of us take the necessary action to stop it. Most just look the other way - or worse, put other things ahead of justice.  That's our fault.  Do something.  Run for office, vote, or just lobby.  But DO SOMETHING, FOR GOD'S SAKE, THERE IS EVIL AFOOT! *

2) Evil is not so bad. This argument is founded on the idea of Heaven.  Once you postulate a pleasant afterlife, then death just isn't so bad.   So they went to heaven, what's the big deal?   If you don't believe in the afterlife, then this argument doesn't work.   If you do believe in the afterlife, then why are you so upset?    Well, the honest answer to that is God has gone out of God's way to ensure that we don't have proof about the afterlife.   In other words, God wants us to take death seriously.  He wants us to DO SOMETHING, FOR GOD'S SAKE, THERE IS EVIL AFOOT! *

If you don't believe in God or look at God as a parental figure, then the answer is more of #1.  If however, you believe in God and think of him more as a creator/author/artist, then the answer is more of #2.  But in either case, you should become politically active.  If you are political, then you can create change.  Not just in your own community but in the country as a whole.  We can make this world a better place.  If we don't, then it's our own fault.

But honestly, neither of these answers give me much solace.  They are not about comforting the grieving, but instead about inspiring action.     In my heart, death is tragic, as opposed to not so bad.   As for accepting personal responsibility, that just makes me feel worse..  What could I have done better, what could I have done right to stop the horrible events in Newtown?  Discussed gun control more?   Fought harder for liberal causes?

But this isn't about comforting the grieving, this is about preventing future evil.  Evil is at heart wronging the innocent. These 26 people were very innocent.   They have been wronged greatly.

What it comes down:  Evil exists because there are consequences to our actions.  If we do not regulate actions, then evil has a free hand.  If we over-regulate actions, then we ourselves do evil.  The trick is to find the middle ground.    When we go too far in any one direction, evil happens.  When it comes to gun rights, the conservatives have gone way too far in their actions.  They have prevented many sensible and necessary laws out of ridiculous ideas.

* Yes, saying 'afoot'  is corny.   The word corny means excessively sentimental.  Maybe it's just me, but after Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14th, 2012, I am feeling sentimental. If you think I'm being excessive, that's your opinion.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gun Control.

My heart goes out the friends and family of the 26 people killed in Connecticut.  My heart also goes out to the 22 kids stabbed in China.  Note it goes out to the friends and family of the Americans, but directly to the Chinese children, because all of the Chinese kids survived.  The old phrase "guns don't kill people, people kill people" was fairly concisely proven wrong. 

I'm not against guns.  But our gun laws are horrible.  They need to be fixed.

There are at heart three different arguments against gun control.  Part of the problem is that all three have different consequences about which rules we should use.

  1. Legal sports use - hunting
  2. Self defense against common criminals
  3. Defense against oppressive government.

Arguments one and two are rather logical, reasonable - and would allow for logical, reasonable laws.  Argument three makes very little sense - how often do we rebel and what insane government helps it's citizens rebel?   Except for the fact that it is the entire reason why guns are legal in the first place. It's why we have the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  Without the Second amendment, argument 3 would be laughed at by most reasonable people - any government that is truly oppressive would have found a way to take your guns already.   In fact, a truly oppressive government would simply declare the second amendment illegal.

But let's go through the consequences of those arguments.

#1 Hunting usage allows for major restrictions (no automatic weapons, no hand guns, no big clips), long waiting periods, thorough background checks, and government registration of all guns.  Also, all guns should be kept locked in a safe when not in use.  Concealed carry should require a permit, which should be hard to get.   No taking the guns to a bar, schools, work, etc. 

#2 Defense is a rather different argument.  In some ways it is the exact opposite of #1.   It says that hand guns are good, big clips allowed for them, but still no automatic weapons.   No waiting periods, but thorough background checks are allowed.   Still have government registration of all guns, but you need to have at least one gun out of the gun safe.  Concealed Carry should now be allowed with an easy to acquire permit.  You can take the guns anywhere.

#3 Rebellion is very different requirements.  Here we say no limits on guns (hell, let them get a tank), waiting periods are out, as are background checks and registration.   Guns should be kept in a locked safe when not in use.  Concealed carry should require a permit which can be hard to get  (If you are rebelling, you don't care about breaking that law).  You can't take any gun out of your home (unless you are rebelling, again if you are rebelling, you are willing to break this law).

So the three different arguments for guns, which should result in three radically different rules.  Part of the problem is that the pro-gun lobby has lobbied for the least restrictive for all the various sets of rules.   That is ridiculous.

Lets talk about what a reasonable country can and should do.

A)  Only Rebellion requires automatic weaponry.  Both other arguments are against it.  But rebels can modify guns.   So outlaw all civilian automatic weapons, but allow modifiable semi-automatic guns.  That is no civilian one can buy, sell or own any fully automatic weapon (assault rifle), but they can be designed so that it is easy to take a semi-automatic weapon and turn it into an assault rifle.

B)   Long guns have a month waiting period.  They are purchased for hunting or rebellion.   No federal registration required.   You can't take them to bars, schools, work, etc.

C)  Reasonable caliber handguns should be legal but federally registered.   No waiting period.   Frankly, no rebellion would seriously arm their militia with them.  Range is too small, and they get stopped by bullet proof vests.    Without a concealed carry permit, you can't carry it into a school, work, or bar.

D)  As handguns are being federally registered, concealed carry permits should be required - and work nationally.  They should be moderately strict - no criminals, no one ever committed to a mental   No one taking certain drugs (anti-psychotics, anti-depressants), etc. etc.   With the permit, you can take it anywhere.     AFTER they are issued, a check should be done to see if the person is safe.  If they are dangerous, revoke them and this will automatically trigger a search warrant for their home, car, and work.   Any guns will be confiscated.  If you have a concealed gun on you, you are not allowed to drink (or permit is revoked, gun is confiscated, and you go to jail as per drunk driving conviction.)

E)  All guns must be kept in a locked safe unless they are in your possession.  If you own more than one gun, you are legally required to buy and own a gun safe.  We can sell gun safes that fit in pickups. 


That said, how do we get to the above laws?

I would do the following, as a start.

Note this law would be inseparable - that is if any part is cancelled, the entire bill would be cancelled.

Issue a new government gun permit.  It takes a month to get (during which they check you out).   You can buy and own a gun without it - but only at a store, not at the gun shows.   Unless you are federally licensed to buy or sell guns, it is illegal to sell a gun to anyone that does not have the gun permit.  When you purchase a gun with the federal gun permit, it gets photocopied and sent to the federal government.  There is no such requirement if the person selling is at their gun store and has a license to sell guns (continue to use the old rules).

In addition, if you have a concealed carry permit in your own state, then this new government gun permit would let you conceal carry outside your home state.  If you move out of your home state, then you have one week to initiate new rules.

Finally, if you own more than one gun, you are legally required to buy and use a gun safe.

This gives something to the NRA (federal concealed carry permits), but closes the main loopholes in buying guns.  At the same time it tries to make it a little bit harder to steal guns.

Note, this won't do everything we need.   But it's a start.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Right to Work vs Unions.

Unions are a good thing.

They did wonderful work before anti-trust laws, OSHA and minimum wage laws were created.   In fact, their instance on high safety standards and high wages are probably why those bills were created.

They are in fact the primary reason America has a middle class.

They are also in fact good, not just for America, but often for American businesses.   They force us to be innovative, rather than just the low cost provider.  It is always better to be the smart business rather than the cheap one.

Unfortunately, Unions are in trouble.   They are losing members.  Part of this is due to their own success.  We have OSHA and tons of laws now in large part because of the Unions.  But that means we have less need for them.

As a result, the Unions did something that looks strange to a lot of people.  They passed contracts that said all employees - both the Union members and the non-members must pay for the Union's work.

Their argument is that the non-members are benefiting from the deals the Union generate, even if indirectly, so they should still pay.  That, is when the Union forces a company to have healthcare and a pension/401K, then even people that are not a part of the Union participate.

But what it comes down to is that they are forcing people to pay for a service they don't want.  The solution is not to force people to join the Union, but instead to not give them the same benefits.  

The Right to Work laws basically make this illegal.  That is, the Union can't force a non-member to pay them money.  While I am liberal, I agree that those laws make sense.   The methodology the Unions has been using is no better than the monopolistic tactics big business they were formed to fight.

The real problem is that while business has evolved, the Unions have not.  They have failed to innovate, instead trying to be the a monopoly - which was exactly the first thing they broke up in big business.

So here are a few ideas for Unions:

  1. Branch out of traditional areas   This is not a new idea, the Unions have been trying for years.   Push harder for it. Grad students should definitely get a Union.  Go after Professors as well.  Waiters and waitress.   There there are criminals that are forced to work.   Go after them.   
  2. Look at fixing the problems within existing unions - or simply starting competing ones.   The Screen Actors Guild has become more about keeping new people OUT of acting jobs rather than about helping actors.  What a joke - a Union that tries to limit it's membership????   Start a new Acting Guild for new actors and compete with SAG.  Unions are there to ensure fair treatment, not to restrict who can and can not work.
  3. Clean up the Union's demands.   Get rid of things we all know are foolish - the classic requirements of Electricians to turn on/off the lights, pension plans instead of 401Ks.  
  4. Stop protecting people that the Union doesn't represent.  That is, end the entire concept of a "Union Shop".   The Union negotiates only for it's members, not other people that happen to work for the same company.  Build that into their contracts.   If they want the benefits of the Union, they have to join the Union.  A simple rule would be to require that no non-union employee has their contract expire one month before or five months after the Union contract does.   That means when the Union contract is reset, they will have to wait at least four months to get the new deal.

Yes, a smart business will during good times, give their non-union employees almost the same stuff.  But when things get tough, guess which group of employees will suffer first.

Then throw in a 5 year contract for union members.  That is, when you sign up for a union, you agree to join for at least 5 years or until you are fired.   Then build into your union contracts seniority clauses - based on years in the Union, not years at the business.

This lets people decide whether or not to join the union, but doesn't let them free ride on it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What is Civilization

Civilization is basically the art of living in a city.

When you live all alone, you can do whatever you want - burp, fart, scratch, drink, crap, pee, kill, eat, etc. anywhere without rules.

But when you have two or more people living together, you need basic rules - as all college room-mates discover rather quickly.

The more of us you put together in one location, the more rules we need.   If you live in a city, you tend to have more rules about noise and pollution, then if you live in a rural area. 

The thing is, those rules are not impartial.  They are designed to benefit some people more than others.  Rules against rape generally benefit women more than men.  Rules about money tend to benefit those that have it more than those that don't.  Rules preventing fighting benefit the weak, rules allowing certain kinds of fighting tend to benefit the strong.

Some cultures have more rules that benefit those in power, while others have more protections for the powerless.

In all cases, the rules of a culture are strongly tied to the values of that culture.   That is, if the culture respects the elderly, then the rules benefit the elderly.   Note that cause and effect go both ways here - if you want to convince the next generation to value the elderly, then you can create certain rules that will encourage that kind of behavior - but similarly if your culture already respects the elderly, then it will already have those kinds of rules.

America has a culture that values non-violent dissent.   Hence Freedom of Speech.   As a result, we have more non-violent dissent that other countries.  But we discourage violent dissent, hence lots of laws.

 Why do we do that?  Because we have found that dissent itself can not be destroyed, it can only be repressed.  If something is repressed to much, it will burst forth.  We decided better to let the dissent out peacefully rather than bottle it up till it violently escapes. That is our intent - to what extent it works, is up for debate.

You see, some rules work better than others.  And certain rules only work in certain situations.   Rules such as 'no cannibalism' work great in societies that have enough or even almost enough food.  But when food becomes scarce, it can destroy a society.

But certain rules work in all situations.  Among other things, there has to be some reason to trust the rules.  You won't live by the rules if you think other people are exempt from the rules.  Among other things, that means the judges have to abide by their own rules. 

All of this applies from the lowliest rule about which fork to use, to the most sacred rules about who you can kill and which people are absolutely not valid sex partners.

Now, sometimes cultures have differences in civilization rules.  One might value burping the other may consider it an insult.   To an ignorant member of one of those cultures, it would appear as if the entire other culture was 'uncivilized', 'barbaric', or 'savage'.   Eventually most people figured out the truth, but often this is only after stereotypes are created.

But not everyone figures out the truth.  That is why stereotypes  continue to be believed.  I am not just talking about stereotypes about foreigners and races - but also stereotypes about liberals, conservatives, northerners, southerners, mid westerners, etc.

People need to recognize that certain rules are not founded in truth, but in values - values that are not laws.  They also need to recognize that their own personal values are NOT the values of the rest of the country.

You may consider sodomy evil, but most of the country does not.  You may consider abortion to be murder, but most of the country does not.   When you say back to traditional values, you are attacking the rest of the countries current values.  That is not a good thing, nor even reasonable.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dowsize the States, Not the Federal Government

As I have said previously, it is the States that abuse their governmental powers, while the federal government generally has better things to do than intrude into our lives.  The states take your land for 'redevelopment', the federal government takes it for highways.  The states tell you you can't have a pet elephant, the Federal government says you can't sell their ivory.

Lets do a budget comparison.

The US federal budget for 2011 was $3.6 Trillion   The total of all the state and local governments for 2011 was $3.2 trillion.  (Source)

First of all, not those numbers are pretty close.  Only about 5% difference.  But wait a second.  Social Security is a big part of the first one.

The three biggest expenditures for the federal government are: Defense (0.9 trillion), Healthcare (0.9 trillion - mostly Medicare and Medicaid), and Pensions (0.8 trillion - Social Security was 0.730 trillion, the rest was federal employee pension).

Let's back out the pensions which is mostly social security payments, because seniors spend it, not the bureaucrats.   That brings us down to $2.7 trillion.

The three biggest expenditures for state and local governments are Education (0.9 trillion), Healthcare (0.6 trillion) Pensions (0.2 trillion ) and Welfare (0.2 trillion).  Back out their pensions and that brings us to $3 trillion.

The state and local governments spend more money than the federal governments  if you exclude pensions - which citizens spend, not the government.

When the states and local governments spend 11% more than the federal government does, it's not that hard to figure out which one is too big and which one is too small.  Unless of course you are so foolish as to suggest cutting social security.  Oh wait a second, the GOP is that foolish.  They just like to hide it.

Americans like Social Security.  Stop trying to get rid of the one government program that almost all Americans like.  I'm not saying we need to make the federal government bigger, but....

If you have to downsize a government, downsize the states, leave the federal government alone.

Because when you suggest moving things from the Federal government to the States, you are just making the problem WORSE, not better.

The states are less efficient than the federal government.   Their employee pool is smaller, and the worthwhile people graduate to federal government.  They have less money and less power, less ethics, lower barriers to entry, and they have only one advantage.

The advantage is the absence of career politicians.  It is also their biggest disadvantage.  While it keeps people 'grounded', it also lets incompetent and/or corrupt people try to to run things.

Now, I'm not saying all state employees are corrupt and incompetent.  Most are smart and most are loyal, honest people.  But they are the silver medal winners, while the gold medalists go to the federal level pretty quickly.

Nor am I absolutely sure we can downsize the state governments.  But I know one thing - we can't downsize the federal government - it's already smaller than the states.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Prejudice, How to Recognize it.

There are basically three main stages of Prejudice.

  1. X group should not be considered people.  They are 'subhuman', and my superior group should be able to treat them like (or worse than) animals
  2. X group are people, but my group is clearly superior.   They have some rights, but treat them like children, don't give them important jobs, and let us make the important decisions over them. 
  3. X group are people, and equal, but you can't make me like them.  My privileges over-ride their rights.    I should not be inconvenienced in any way, shape or form by them.   You should not take my resources to help them - not in the form of taxes, and not in the form of legally mandated services that I must provide to them.

It's an interesting progression.   Note that all stages deny they are prejudiced.  At stage one, they claim they are correct, and you can't be prejudiced against the sub-human group, anymore a human could be prejudiced against dogs.   At stage two, they say they are not prejudice because again, they are correct and they recognize the group is human.  At stage three, they say they aren't prejudiced because they ostentatiously admit that X group are people and equal, but that is not the issue.  Instead they claim their rights are the issue.

In America, racists first claimed blacks were sub-human, so you could enslave, kill, and rape them.  Come the 1940's, no one would dare publicly claim it was OK to enslave, kill, or rape blacks, but they still claimed they could keep blacks from voting, going to school, drinking the same water, etc.  Come the 1970's, prejudice still existed, but the defense was that they admitted equality, but insisted on the right to engage in racists business processes.

The same thing goes on with homosexuals.   The worst homophobics (stage 1) claimed they were evil incarnate and that good citizens should hunt them down and kill them - preferably before they 'infect' our innocent children with their evil.  At stage 2, a much more common one, they admit that gays are people worthy of a trial, as opposed to simple execute them.  But they don't want them teaching their kids, because clearly they are not good enough to teach our kids (they might rape the boys - because we all know that straight teachers never rape students ) .   Then there are the stage 3 people that admit gays are not sub-human, nor rape-crazed people.  But still they insist that their right to practice religion means that gays can't marry.


As I have stated previously, rights are NEVER about your right to do something.   Rights always limit what other people are allowed to do to you.   You don't really have a right to speak, the government has a limit preventing it from punishing you for speaking (but your boss can still fire you for it.).  I don't have to listen to you, I can walk away - despite your 'right to speech'.

If there is ever a question, just simplify the process and look at the core basic issues.   FORGET ABOUT THE BULLSHIT.   The complicated explanations people use to try and 'prove' themselves right?  They are just gobbledygook to hide the prejudice - it's just used to confuse the issue.   Finding a bureaucratic loophole does not let  you do evil.    Generally they are just people trying to exaggerate their rights beyond what they actually do.  My right to practice my religion does not mean I can force it on you - even if my religion has a proselytism core.

Laws are about following the rules.  But Governing is about what's fair.   When some one tells you you need to follow the rules even if they are unfair, that just means the rules should be re-written.  But usually that's not the case.  Usually what's going is not that the rules need to be re-written.  Instead, the man that says you have to follow the rules is lying about what the rules say.

The right to practice your religion never lets you put anyone else's life in danger.

The right to be alive trumps Aztec' religious rights to practice the sacred ritual removing a live heart.
Nor does it allow a government to ever put up any barriers to abortion if the mother's life is in danger. 
When you try to stop women from getting insurance coverage that includes abortion, you are interfering with their rights, not exercising your religious rights.

The right to practice your religion NEVER lets you say who is allowed to marry who.   It doesn't matter if one guy wants to marry another guy, a robot, an alien, a corporation, or even a car.   The government might say that certain people are not eligible to marry (robot, corporation, car), but if they can get married, they can marry anyone else.  The fact that they are 'redefining' the word marriage is not relevant at all (if it were true - and it isn't - see multiple examples of polygamy in the bible).

When you try to have unprotected sex without telling your partner you have aids, you are violating their rights, not exercising your own.

So when someone tries to convince you they aren't a racist, ask them to simplify their viewpoints without the explanations of "why".    Because "why" is very often a "lie".   Instead, talk about what.  That is the thing that really matters.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On raising other taxes (besides income)

Here is one article (of many, from many different sources) that talks about raising the gas tax.

Basically, it says we should follow through on the non-partisan Simpson-Bowles recommendation of raising the Gas Tax. by about 15 cents.   Why that much?  Well, the gas tax was created to fund the cost to build and repair roads, bridges, etc.  But it only raises about $32 Billion a year, while we spend about $50 billion a year.  The rest of the money gets funded by your income taxes (which basically means Chinese debt).  If we raise the gas tax by 15 cents, then the tax on gas would do what it was supposed to do.

The federal gas tax is currently  at 18.4 cents  a gallon (plus states of 10-33 cents - which totals about 17% of the price of gas).  This is very cheap compared to other countries.  India uses a tax rate of about 50%.   The Netherlands has a tax rate of over $3.50 a gallon (Wikipedia as source)

But we don't need to copy those crazy foreigners.  All we want is the gas tax to pay for the infrastructure used by cars.

An interesting article, but I think we should expand it a bit.

In general, all taxes designated to fund a program (except those designated to fund charity type programs should cover the programs costs. 

The Federal government should either reduce spending on programs or raise use taxes whenever the use taxes are not paying for their own use.   If transportation expenses cost the US government more money than the transportation based taxes we pay, then those taxes should go up, or cut out spending on transportation.

That's how capitalism works.   If you can't afford something, you stop using it, which reduces your cost.  You don't keep the low taxes and the high spending.  Simple economics: Balance the internal budgets before you try balancing the total budget.

Here are a few taxes that I found that, like the gas tax, do not entirely fund the programs they were supposed to fund:

  • Gasoline Tax
  • Aviation Taxes  (though we should cut the ridiculously expensive TSA that has never caught anyone)
  • Tobacco tax   (health care costs to Medicare and Medicaid from lung cancer, etc. exceed the money brought in)
  • Mining Taxes (costs to lean up coal and other mining activities exceed the taxes we get)

Note, this ignores a couple of charity programs, such as Medicaid, Medicare, services to the poor, and of course national parks.   Those are things we want no matter what, not things we want to

I am sure there are a whole bunch of others that I am just not aware about. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Politifact and Boehner

Conservatives don't like Politifact.

Mainly because Politifact keeps saying they lie.  Worse, it shows conservatives lying more than liberals.  Some conservatives claim this means Politifact must be biased.

Which proves that those conservatives are rather foolish and easy to fool.  Obviously it is quote possible for one side to lie much more often, and if that is the case, then an unbiased fact checker would show that.

If you want to know if someone is biased, you look at the ratios between the categories.  There is something called a bell curve.  Basically it looks like a bell.  I occurs whenever you have something that is at least partially determined by three or more random values.   Intelligence and Height are two really good examples of this.

So is the truth/falsehood of dramatic statements told by politicians running for President.  Their statements are not off the cuff, they are mulled over by a team of people.  Those people pump up the drama on true statements (making them only partially true) and tone down the lies in false ones (making them partially true)

For those cases, the number of True and Pants on Fire should be smaller than the number of half true.   

If you check the people that Politifact checked, then all of the following had more half true statements than True + Pants on Fire combined (and all of them gave more True than Pants on Fire)

Barack Obama 121 Half true vs 106 True or Pants on Fire
Mitt Romney  56 Half True vs 49 True or Pants on Fire

Joe Biden  17 Half True vs 15 True or Pants on Fire

Paul Ryan   7 Half True vs 5 True or Pants on Fire *

*Note Paul Ryan did get 12 Mostly False, the step below Half True -  he might be naturally a liar or Politifact could be biased against him, I don't know (OK, I do know, but for the purposes of this article, let's pretend I don't.).  Even then, the rule still applied - True and Pants on fire were rarer than half true.

That same rule does NOT apply to Chain emails.  Instead Chain Emails are heavily weighted for falsehood.  It is almost a straight line going from few totally true (6), increase all the way to 70 Pants on Fire.  No one fact checks chain emails, there are no consequences to the original writer (but they should be forbidden from the internet.  So they keep getting exaggerated.

Now that bell curve that the presidential candidates follow?  The congressional Leadership does not follow the bell curve at all. 

Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, are all rather evenly distributed.  Nanci tends toward Half truths (Is she considering a run for presidency?), but otherwise she and the other two men are fairly even. across the board.  It looks like they simply are not as good at weeding out the lies, or making true statements more dramatic.  They just say what they think.

But not John Boehner.  John Boehner's statement distribution is just STRANGE.  He has  17 True, 3 Mostly True, 5 Half True, 11 Mostly False, 17 False and  1 Pants on Fire.

It looks to me like he has one (and only one) honest man working for him, feeding him truths.  But  he gets most of his information form outright liars, with that honest guy putting his foot down and objects to the Pants on Fire stuff.

It might be that John himself is the one honest man, but why did he hire all those liars and why is he letting them feed him all those False statements?   Does he have a split personality? Maybe it's his wife, telling him all these true statements and threatening to leave him if he says something that's clearly pant's on fire. Maybe it's not a person, but software.

I don't know.   John Boehner, you have me stumped.  I'd love to know why.