Saturday, June 30, 2012

About the 3% Bush Tax Cuts

The Bush Tax cuts were relatively small - about 3%.  It's not enough to fix the tax rate.  I heard Senator Rubio (Most Dangerous Republican for 20116)  talk on the Daily Show recently.  He made a lot of comments that indicate immense failures of basic logic.  Mostly things where he argued one way to support himself, then ignored his own logic when it proved him wrong.  Here are some simple facts that he seems not to know.  I am grouping together supporting facts with conclusions.

About tax raises not helping the deficit:
  1. In 2012, the tax deficit is about $1.17 trillion  (source).  In 2011, the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was about $15 trillion (source).  Note the economy is significantly more than 10x bigger than the deficit.  
  2. By his own admittance, the economy is affected by many more things besides taxes, as proven by the fact that  GW Bush lowered taxes but the economy got bad.   Tax rates have a direct result on tax income, but a REDUCED effected on the economy, as it has to go through the filter of the Government. 
  3. If something is too small to significantly affect the deficit then it must also be too small to significantly affect the economy.   
  4. Granted, if taxes are set at 100%, no one works, so you get no taxes, and lowering taxes rates would increase tax revenue.  But but similarly, if you lower tax rates to 0, you get no taxes.  So it IS possible to raise tax revenue by raising taxes, at least under certain circumstances.  Somewhere between 100% and 0% is the optimal tax rate.  At that rate if you change it in either direction (raise or lower), then total revenue goes down.  But we don't know where it is.  It could be at 20%, it could be at 80%.   I'm fairly confident that it is in fact between those two numbers.
  5. I'm not saying that taxes are already that low, but I am saying that you CAN'T just claim that taxes are already too high.  We don't KNOW and the GOP has made no attempt to prove it.  They just go with the wild ass guess that it has to be lower than the current tax rate because if they say that people vote for them - even if they are wrong and doing so would make things worse.   
  6. When they passed their tax rate, they economy got worse.
  7. Worse, not only don't we know the 'perfect rate', it could VARY.  That is, in a good economy, it could be say 30%, and in a bad economy it might be 20% - lower to encourage people to take more risks and make profit.  Or maybe in a bad economy it could be 40% - higher to encourage people to work harder to make more money.
There are a few more things Rubio does not seem to know.   When the government takes in money, it doesn't disappear.   It gets IMMEDIATELY spent.   How immediately?  Well, technically we spend it BEFORE we get it - because we have a national debt.    Profits that people at the high end of the tax brackets get put in the bank.  They sit until they accumulate enough to buy things.  A house, a car, a boat, a 100 shares of stock, a $10,000 bond, etc.  Some of the money also gets spent  outside the country.  The wealthy invest in foreign stocks, send money to Swiss bank accounts, buy foreign cars.

The government is far more likely to 'buy American'.   Moreover, money spent by the government tends to go to poorer people than money spent by wealthy people.   Guess what, poorer people  are in debt which means, like the US government, they spend it BEFORE they get it.   Net result, money collected by the government helps the GDP quicker.  Higher taxes can in fact raise the GDP.

Finally, Rubio made some blatantly wrong assumptions.

  • He claimed that the deficit was the single most important thing.  No.  We can fix the deficit simply by allowing inflation to run wild - or even simply declaring bankruptcy and not paying it.  Our lives are more important than the deficit.  Similarly we will NOT give China all of our military hardware and have them pay off the debt.  Nor will we sell US Citizenship to illegal immigrants to get rid of the deficit.   Nor will we abandon our Constition just to eliminate the deficit.  There are LOTS of things more important than the deficit.  Rubio used this false assumption to ignore anything that Democrats like, but casually 'forgets' about it when he wanted to do things the GOP likes.

Friday, June 29, 2012

One more bit about the Obama healthcare ruling

I've heard some people (source) complain that the Obama care individual mandate 'tax' is not a tax because it is " punitive, regulatory, and intended to compel."

Apparently these idiots don't know what a tax is.   Again, I repeat, as per the US constitution (source) there four types of tax like payments government can require:

  1. taxes
  2. duties
  3. excises
  4. imposts

So, what are the differences?  (source)

A "Tax" is to specifically raise income.  It is not punitive, regulatory or intended to compel

A "Duty" is placed on things you import or export. Any international traveler knows what a 'Duty free shop' is.   For example sugar has a duty on it.  It is there specifically to prevent people from importanting sugar.  It protects American sugar manufactures.  In other words, it is a kind of tax that is PUNITIVE,  REGULATORY AND INTENDED TO COMPEL.

An "Excise" is "taxes on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of goods, or upon licenses to pursue certain occupations, or upon corporate privileges".  Note the word license to pursue certain occupations or privileges.  In other words, it is REGULATORY.

Imposts are everything else.  Including the individual mandate.  They can be punativie, regulatory and intended to compel.

Part of the problem is that people are combining the word 'tax' to include duties, excises and imposts.   Technically they are different things.  The rules that apply to an income tax do not apply to duties, excsies and impost taxes.

The fact that some people don't know about duties, excises and impost taxes are just examples of ignorance.

READ THE CONSTITION.   Otherwise you are just an idiot talking out of your hat.

P.S.  Obama said it isn't a tax earlier.  As I stated here, technically he is correct, it is a an impost, not officially a tax.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

SCOTUS proves it's above politics

As I have said before, as conservative Justices go, John G. Roberts is fairly good.   He joined the liberals and kept the Individual Mandate as constitutionally legal.
Kennedy fell for a rather foolish argument, but Roberts came through with liberty and justice for all.

He followed the same reasoning I did - if the Government can tax you - and exempt people from a tax if they buy things, then it can fine you for failing to buy something.   They are effectively the same thing, and the Supreme Court agrees.

What does this mean for the future of US healthcare?

Well, with enough Democrats in the Senate to block a House law, Obamacare will not change.  While it is just barely within the range of possibility that Obama will not be re-elected, it is extremely unlikely that we will also lose so many Democrats in the Senate that we won't be able to block Health care revocation.

In addition, the court said that the Federal government's powers to limit Medicare spending is restricted - no threatening to take away the funding for certain things.  But that was a relatively minor move.

More importantly,  Medicare will likely have changes initiated by the GOP anyway.  It is getting very costly and unsustainable.  Someone's going to have to do something soon, and the GOP has refused to accept any Democrat led ideas for a long time.  

If they can come up with something reasonable, it will pass.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Inaction Always Caused by the Weaker Party

The United States has a relatively simple political environment.  It has only two strong parties, and they are in command.  No other party can get anything through.

Our government was created with multiple checks and balances to stop stupid things from getting done.  But sometimes this also stops smart things from getting done.

Every government in power tries to DO things.  Yes, the GOP claimed it is for small government, but under every GOP president - including Reagan and both Bushes - it grew.   The amount of money the spent went up, the number of laws that existed went up, in every way it happens.
The People in Power DO things.

The people out of power can't do things. If they could do something, then they would be in power.   Instead, they do their best to limit and prevent things they disike from getting done.  It isn't just for the American government, it works in any shared power relationship where one side has much more power than the other. 

Things aren't getting done.  That is beyond a doubt true.   Which means the people without real power are being obstructionistic and stoping things from getting done.

So now the question is - who is in power: Democrats or Repbulicans.

If you think the Democrats are in power - then it is the Republicans fault nothing is getting done.

If you think the Republicans are in power, then it is the Democrats fault nothing is getting done.

Anyone that says "the democrats are refusing to cooperate with the Republicans" is in effect claiming that the Republicans are in control of this country.  That they have the power and the Democrats are working behind the scenes to obstruct them.

The president is a Democrat.  The Senate is majority Democrat.  Yes, the GOP has a majority of the House, but that just makes them powerful enough to stop everything from getting done.

If one part has a huge amount of power i.e. control of all three of the following (control of the senate - which equals 60+ - and control of the House) then things get done fast.

If one party partial control of the senate and control of the house, then things get it's clear who is in control and who is being obstructionist (the minority party using filibustering).  This is what happened during the first two years of Obama's presidency and the GOP was clearly and obviously obstructing government.

But if the House and Senate are split, then it gets a bit harder to tell who is being obstructionist.  The Presidency has some additional power (as shown by Obama's orders about illegal immigration).   But that could be countered by the claim that the Supreme Court is conservative biased.  (Justice Scalia has revealed his deep and improper hatred for how the democrats do things - even while accepting the exact same things being done by GOP when they were in power.)  While he isn't the only Judge, most of the judges currently in power were appointed by Republican presidencies.

Monday, June 25, 2012

List of Terroirst acts in the US

Every once in a while, some ignorant fool who never bothered to Google anything claims only Muslims are terrorists.   Then they remember one or two things before September 11 and then adds "in the past 15 years".  Well, they are wrong.

Here is a list of all terrorist attacks on US soil (including aircraft going to or coming from the US).  I exclude other countries because I don't want to debate who is or is not a terrorist - and in a country that has no Christians it is not relevant that no Christians were terrorists (just as a in Ireland, there are no Muslim terrorists, they are all good Catholics).  The date goes back to 1975, as any further things get a bit grey on 'terrorist', again. 

1975:  Jan 24, NYC, Puerto Rican separatist terrorists - Christian
1988: Dec 21, Lockerbie airplane bound for NYC.   Libya (Muslim) takes credit.
1993: Feb 26, NYC - first WTC bomb.  Muslim
1995: April 19, Oklahoma  City bombing, Christian
2001:  Sept 11, NYC, Arlington, Shanksville, Muslim
2009: Dec 25, Detroit, underwear bomber, Muslim
2010: May 1,  NYC, Time Square, Muslim
2010: May 10, Jacksonvile, Florida, Christians pipe bomb a Mosque
2010: Oct 29, two Yemen Planes to US, (Saudis discover and remove bomb before the planes lift off for the US), Muslim
2011: Jan 17, Spokane Washington, pip bomb along Martin Luther King Jr. March - unknown, most likely Christian

First of all, holy crap 2010 was a bad year!

But of the 10 terrorist acts between 1975 and 2011, only six are Muslims, three of the others are confirmed Christians, and one more is most likely Christian.

Part of the problem is definition.  Some morons define terrorism as anytime a Muslim kills a non-muslim.   If you do that, then yes, only Muslims are terrorists.  Suddenly the Irish's IRA say "YAY - we can get out of jail, now, right?"    That is why you have a bunch of fools claiming things like the Little Rock traitor was 'terrorism' or the Cole bombing was terrorism.

The CIA's definition of terrorism is simple:
1) Premeditated Violence (including the threat of violence)

2) for Political reasons
3) against Civilians
4) by sub-national groups


The last one (sub national groups) was put in just so that the CIA's own actions don't qualify as terrorism.   They wanted to be allowed to kill North Korean and Iranian Nuclear Scientists without worrying about going to jail or violating certain treaties the US has signed.

But we can accept their definition, it has certain things going for it.

First, if you attack a soldier, it is an Act of War, not an act of terrorism.   It doesn't matter if it it is a hopeless attack, or even suicidal - like the kamikaze attacks Japan was famous for in World War II.   Nor does it matter it if was an 'ambush'.  Both of those activities are just as ethical and reasonable as any other military action.

Second, under these terms as per the CIA's own rulings that means the 2000 USS Cole attack - suicide torpedo boating of a US war ship - is not terrorism.  Neither was the 2009 Attack on two US Soldiers outside a military recruitment center.  Both were done against soldiers, not civilians.  As such I did not include it on the list above.

Why is this so important?  Because we want the bad guys to try and kill out soldiers, not to try and kill our children.   If you have enough guts to attack us head on, as opposed to trying to kill old men, women and children, then we say "You are honorable enough to qualify as a soldier and we will treat you as a Prisoner of War."

Those are important things are they make a lot of sense to me.  We treat soldiers better because they act  better.  Good people may, if the conditions warrant it, have to go to war, but they don't have to kill kids, old people, or pregnant women.  Not ever.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fix our schools

Things we KNOW are wrong with out schools, but we make no attempt to fix them.

  1. Summer break - originally done because teachers thought 'kids would have a psych break down if they worked too hard."   Rich kids read over the summer, poor kids don't - as a result rich kids come back to school with better English skill's while poor kids come back with worse skills than when they left school in the spring.
  2. Bad parents (homeless, drug addicts, criminals, etc.)
  3. Focus on tests, as opposed to learning
  4. Focus on talent rather than work.

Fascism and the Right

During World War II there were four major competing political philosophies.

Germany and Italy called themselves Fascists.   Russia called itself Communist.  America called itself Democratic Capitalists.  Japan called itself an Empire, but was clearly a Military dictatorship (the emperor was controlled by a military council and was practically a slave.)

The Fascists hated Communists.  They rounded them up and sent them to concentration camps - it was just as bad as being a Jew.  In fact, many of the Nazis were surprised that we did not join them and attack 'our mutual enemy', the communists.  They were friendly with Japan's Military Dictatorship because they had certain idea's in common.  The Communists and Democratic Capitalists disliked everyone else.

Now however, a bunch of far right nutcases who have been calling liberals  communists and socialists don't like it when we call them Fascists back.  So they try to re-write history and claim that Fascists were some how liberals.

They do this in large part by lying about the principals behind fascism and communism. They talk about the things they have in common, ignoring the many things that they had different.  This is not that hard. It's kind of like saying that Lions and Toy Poodles are the same thing because they both have fur.  Or claiming that the United States is no better than terrorists because we both kill for political reasons.  This logic is incredibly stupid, because it at heart ignores both history, stated beliefs, and the clear differences between the groups.  Terrorism is not defined by killing for politics, but by killing CIVILIANS for politics.

You need to go back and look at what the actual fascists said they were about and compare it with what the actual communists said they were about.  You need to believe the people that claim to follow those philosophies, not people that hate them.

First and foremost, Fascism was based on superiority, where as Communism was based on equality.  The communists thought everyone was the same, and should all get the same stuff.  They ignored exceptional-ism,  Fascism on the other hand was about arrogantly believing you were superior than others and should therefore control or eliminate them.   

Yes, both economic systems claimed to be merit based, but so is capitalism.  Communism embraced egalitarianism and hated private property.   It embraced unions and strikes by the workers who had their labor stolen from them for no payment.  The idea was that the meritorious people would do far more work than the meritorious people, but generously give them the same food and luxuries.  Fascism however loved private property and thought that the meritorious people should be rewarded and the less meritorious should be treated like dogs or outright killed.     It hated unions and strikes, as ways for the weak to control the meritorious.

Communists put people in work camps because they tried to get extra stuff for themselves for any reason (even if they had earned it) - or disagreed with communism.  Fascist put people in work camps because they thought they were inferior - or disagreed with Fascism.

The basic philosophies of Fascism and Communism directly oppose each other.  Communists believed we are all ants, while Fascism believed that they are gods and everyone ELSE is an ant.  Those are very different beliefs.

Communism is nothing more than the unalloyed extreme misinterpretation of a key leftist democratic principle: "all men are created equal".  Similarly, Fascism is nothing more than the unalloyed extreme misinterpretation of a key rightist capitalism  principle:  "The worthy should be rewarded".

Note, while the extreme misinterpretations were wrong, they are based on valid ideas.  Both of these directly contradictory statements (If someone is worthy, then all can not be equal.) have value to them.  They are true, even though they oppose each other.

-- Side bar --

How can two apparently contradictory statements be true?  It has to do with understanding the real meaning behind them.   All men are created equal does not mean that people are equal NOW (nor is it restricted just to men - women are equal to).  It means that nothing that happens at or before birth - or is mostly determined by birth - makes a man less equal.  The word 'created" is the key one.   You can't be born superior because of race.  Similarly, the 'worthy' should be rewarded refers to what they themselves DO, not what they were born as.  

-- End Side bar --

But back to the main point.   Fascism is very clearly not liberalism.  It is in fact the exact opposite of what liberalism is.  Liberalism is based on 'all men are created equal', although we don't go to the ridiculous extreme of communism.  Similarly capitalism is based on the "worthy should be rewarded", although it doesn't go to the ridiculous extreme of fascism.

Why do far right zealots claim fascists are 'liberal'?  Because they can't admit that conservatives might be wrong so anyone that is wrong must be liberal.

More importantly, HOW how do far right zealots claim it is?   They look at the methods of Fascism instead of the principles behind it.  They see that both Fascists and Communists act with disregard for the rights of individuals and think that 'dictatorship' or 'anti-freedom' is what makes them bad.

Now, being a dictator is evil.  You can tell someone's a dictator when they refuse to compromise (or arrogantly claim that compromise is when their opponent does what they tell them to).  But Fascism and Communism are more than simply dictatorial governments.

The methods are not what made Communism or Fascism wrong.    If you used less evil methods, they would still be wrong.  For example, pre-1970 America did not round up and kill black people, we just created a huge 'separate but equal' apartheid system, using democracy not dictatorship.  The Jim Crow laws were still fascist even if they flourished under a democracy instead of a dictatorship.

What makes fascism wrong is not their methods, but their ideology.  Because fascism is not about the methods, but about the ideology behind the method.

It was wrong in the 1940's Germany/Italy, it was wrong in the 1950's American deep south, it's wrong today.

But back to the original point.  Fascism is based on inherent superiority.. Liberalism is based on no superiority.  Anyone that is a liberal can not be a fascist and anyone that is a fascist can not be a liberal.  They are directly opposing viewpoints.

How do you tell if someone of the left has become too communist?  They don't want to reward anyone for being superior.  How do you tell if someone on the right has become to fascist?  They believe someone is inferior without proving that that specific person has done something that makes them inferior.

Key examples of Fascism in the far right today are the anti-gay political agenda and the anti-minor immigrant issue.  In the first case, they think gays are inferior without any logical reason (religious beliefs can not count in a country with religious freedom).  In the second, they are declaring the kids inferior, wrong, and attempting to punish and blame them for crimes their parents committed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Obama's Immigration Policy

The GOP has been expanding the power of Congress for quite some time.  Among other things, they expanded the power of the filibuster and used it relentlessly.

The president can't expand his power.  He can't suddenly decide to do thins they couldn't otherwise get.

But he CAN do is decided not to his job.   He does it all the time.  They decide not to prosecute corporate crimes all the time.  The president has the full power of Pardon, he can pardon anyone and everyone.  Including illegal aliens.  He has that legal authority.

The GOP is trying to claim it's his subordinates power, not his.   They are wrong.   It is his decision to make, no one else's.

Yes, usually he lets other, lower people make those decisions.   But they get the power from HIM.  He makes the decisions, he has the power, they have nothing in and of themselves.  It's his right, not theirs.

George Bush had a basic rule of not enforcing the Clean Air Act.  The Supreme Court kept yelling at him for doing it, but so what?  It was legal for him to do that, and it is legal for Obama to not enforce the immigration law against children. 

More importantly, he didn't just do this.  One of politic's favorite way to lie is to focus everything down to what their opponent did, ignoring everything else.   Obama he tried to get Congress to act, they refused to act out of cowardice.  Note it was cowardice, not politics.   The Hispanic vote is key and they know it.  It's why Romney - who said he disliked the President's order - refused to state he would reverse the order.

If a candidate for congress is so scared he won't admit to reversing an order he publicly said was bad, then that means one thing:

The order can't be illegal and the man that gave it had more courage.

If it was truly illegal or wrong, than Romney would have said he would reverse it.   Obama  acted with courage and decisiveness.

Leadership is not about following what everyone else is doing.  It's not about making the easy decisions.  It's about making the HARD decisions - decisions you know some people will hate.  The GOP has huge issues with immigration.  They hate it and wish everyone would stop trying to enter this country, PERIOD (legal or illegal).

Romney demonstrated no leadership.   Obama demonstrated strong leadership.  He took a stand on an issue that was controversial.  That's the definition of leadership.

Friday, June 15, 2012

History of the GOP

Democrats love to talk about how the old GOP was better.  More reasonable.  The GOP likes to pretend that in the future we will look back at the current GOP and like them the way they think we like the 'old GOP'.  They do this because they like to pretend that the Democrats are the problem, not the GOP.  Not true.

Here is a short simplified history of the GOP vs Democrat Party.

In the 19th century, the Republican Party was the voice of reason, god, and justice.   A hero named Abraham Lincoln  rose up and took action.  As a direct result of his actions slavery ended.  Of course, it took a civil war between the North and the South to right this wrong.  (No, vampires were not involved, despite the recent book/movie.)

The South resented this.  Losing a war does that.   Lincoln eventually was murdered by a southerner. But that did not assuage their resentment.   It lived on - against the Republican Party that they blamed for the Civil War. 

As such for more than a hundred years, the south HATED the Democrats - almost as badly as they hated their ex-slaves.  White Republicans were rarer in the south than a four leaf clover.

During this time period, the Republican party was mostly northern conservatives and moderates.   The Democrat party was a bunch of northern liberals plus all the white southerns.  The black southerns were mostly disenfranchised.

A hundred years later, the civil rights movement rose up.  A southern Democrat - Johnson, saw these disenfranchised voters and wanted their votes.  This left the southern democrats in a quandy.  You see, they were democrats because they blamed the GOP for the Civil War and freeing the slaves.   They could not stay part of the Democrats now that it was filled with blacks.  This is not to say that the old racists turned traitor and joined the GOP.    Instead, their children did.     The next generation grew up in a place where the Democrats were pushing civil rights, while the GOP was blocking them. 

As such, both parties began to change.  While the Democrats were recruiting all the newly enfranchised blacks, the GOP was convincing the white children of the south to become Republicans.   The Democrats became a moderate/liberal party and the GOP became a conservative party.  Until that time, the differences were very slight.  Not so with their new members.

The black population came from a history of not voting and were attracted by a party that was already catering to their needs.   The Democrats willingly embraced the new constituency whose goals were mostly aligned with the old guard.   Some were conservative, some were liberal, so the Democrats maintained their wide spread of ideals.  Oh, anti-racism and anti-poverty themes were strengthened, but as the newly enfranchised black population grew and matured, their interests moderated, rather than pushed the Democrats towards far left politics.

Not so in the GOP.  Their new recruits came from highly political families and brought strong ideas.  They had been raised on the the ideas of "state rights', as a counter to the growing national liberal trend (ignoring the fact that states have NO rights - it's people that get rights and states that abuse them.).   More importantly, they did not come because they liked the everything about the Republicans - they came because they disliked the Democrats.

As they grew into power, they remade the GOP into their own image.  It was the most conservative southerners that left the Democrats and joined the GOP.  They transformed it from a moderate party into a more and more far right party.

During the same time period, the Democrats grew bigger.  They were not losing their northern whites, they kept them.  Their party was expanding and the old guard managed to create a "Big Tent" party that encompassed both the older views and the newer ones.

Those changes have continued.  The Democrats continue to strive to keep both the conservative and liberal members in their party.  The GOP on the other hand got on a road to zealotry and has never left (so to speak).   Certain members started pushing libertarian ideas, that the majority of the old GOP hated.   Ron Paul is the prime example of this. 

Each year the GOP moves further and further to the radical right.

At heart, the Democrats have not changed.  They kept their moderates.  But the GOP has changed.

The Democrats will never like the current crop of 'new republicans'.  They are nothing but a bunch of dangerous, radical extremists - more at home with the religious terrorists of the Middle East than social moderates of Europe.

Now for the pay off - this explains quite a bit about why we have such gridlock in Congress.  The parties used to be much more similar to each other, willing to work together.  But the GOP is no longer willing to discuss things.   They are just like their Muslim enemies - so convinced they must be right that their enemies must be evil.

The Democrats on the other hand are far more like Europe.  We disagree, we argue, but when push comes to shove, we recognize our opponents are not evil - just ignorant.  Why?  Because we, unlike the GOP, allow for differences of opinions.  We area big tent, they have become a lunatic fringe that thinks the President of the United States is not born in the USA.  If you don't insult those that believe that, then you cater to and support them - which is WORSE than believing it yourself.  It demonstrates evil beyond belief.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Electoral Math

At this point, most of the answers are already known for the 2012 election.  

Obama will get at least 240 electoral votes and Romney at least 200 electoral votes.  They need 270 electoral votes to win.

Right now, it is pretty much impossible for Romney to win UNLESS he gets Florida (29 electoral votes)    But getting Florida is not enough to give Romney a win.   He also needs to get either Ohio (18) and any two state, or Virginia (13)  and three states (or Virginia and Ohio and one other state).

So once again, the nation's future may depend on Florida's votes. 

In addition to Florida, Ohio and Virginia, the other swing states are Nevada (6), Colorado (9), Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (4).   

Oh, the GOP wishes that Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16, Pennsylvanian (20) and New Mexico (5) were up for grabs.  But similarly, the DNC wishes that Arizona (11), Missouri (10), Indiana (11) and North Carolina (15) were up for grabs.   But those are all unlikely at this late date.   More importantly, anything big enough to move those states would also move Florida, Ohio and Virginia.    

 Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania went DNC for all three of the last presidential elections, and New Mexico only went GOP for Bush's second term.  Similarly, Arizona and Missouri went GOP for all three of the last elections, while Indiana and North Carolina did vote Obama, they usually went GOP.   Given current polls, those states are not going to move.  Indiana and North Carolina are regretting voting for Obama as much as New Mexico regrets voting for Bush.   

If I were the GOP, I would spend 30% of my cash in Florida.   Without that state, they get nothing.  Then about 15% in Virginia and 15% in Ohio.  Spend 5%  in each of Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.  That leaves 10% total to be spent  shoring up the Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, and North Carolina, and New Mexico and the remaining 10% total in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.   Let the SuperPacs spend general money throughout the other states.

Most importantly, if the the GOP is smart they will get a Floridian as their VP.  Rubio is the best shot (I repeat, Rubio is the scariest men in the GOP - he could win in 2016).  Double whammy - Floridian and Hispanic.  Jeb Bush is another possibility.

The Democrats are a lot harder to predict.  They could just dump a crap load of cash into Florida - 50% of it.  Then problem is that money can backfire - or worse.  But I would spend 20% in each of the the three top states:  Florida, Ohio and Virginia.  Another 5% each in Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire.  Again, leaving 10% to shore up their Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, with another 10% to try for wild shots in Arizona, Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina.  Other states get only the Super Pac money.

Now, my own personal prediction is that if Obama wins, it is going to be another landslide.  He won't just get barely enough to win (Florida).  Instead he will get all the swings states (Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada.  Over 330 electoral votes.  He might even get Indiana or North Carolina.  Why?  Because lots of states are on the 'tipping point'.   When you have multiple states on the edge, then little things will push most of them one way or the other.

But if Romney wins, it will be a closer call.  He will win with less than 300 electoral votes.  Most probably with Florida, Ohio, Virgina   If things turn a little bad, it could be just enough to push just the swing states.  It doesn't have to be big enough to push all the others.

Also note, it is just barely possible to get a tie.  For example, if Obama gets Colorado and Virginia, but loses every other swing state, then we get a tie.

Note, just because the states tie, doesn't mean the electoral college ties.  It is legal for the electors to vote 'the wrong way' in 24 states, including New Hampshire and Iowa.  In the other states, they are legally bound - BY STATE LAW to vote that way.  But in only two of the states do violations 'cancel the vote'.  In Washington Stae they only pay a $1000 fine.  In New Mexico, it's a fourth degree felony - he goes to jail, but his vote STANDS.

Assuming the electoral college is tied, that means the House elects the President (one vote per state, which makes it Republican by and the Senate elects the Vice President.  

But not all House representatives get a vote.  Each state gets a single vote.   The single vote is by majority of the representatives.  If a state is split 50/50 then they get no vote.  To win, you need a majority of the votes cast, not a majority of the possible votes cast.

We have 50 States and the nature of our country has several with few people.  The system of each state getting the same vote helps states with small populations at the expense of states with
large populations.  This means it will go Republican,  by a vote of about 35 to 13 (two tied states), using today's representatives.  I doubt it would change all that much after the election.  

All of which means, baring a major upset in many congressional races, the tie goes to Republicans.

P.S.  It would be the New Congress that makes the vote, not the existing one.  That is, we vote in November for both President and Congress.  Come December they confirm a tie - after massive re-checking of votes in every swing state.  Then in the first week of January, the new congress meets and votes on who the President will be.   But that is unlikely to matter - it would take a massive Democrat uprising to change the situation in the House.  The GOP would win.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lessons from Comic Books - both valid and invalid.

When I was a young child, I hated to read.  My father, a brilliant psychiatrist, knew that comic books encouraged reading, and introduced me to them (in direct refutation of that idiot's Wertham's false hypothesis).

As my father knew would happen, by introducing me to comics, he created a voracious reader.   I began with comics, then, as my reading skills improved, I moved on to books.

From my long experience with comics, I noticed two distinct trends in them.  One is an accurate reflection of the world, the other is false.

The most common weakness for a villain to have is arrogance.  The most obvious situation is assuming that of course your trap is inescapable, so you can leave the good guys alone.  But it happens all the time.

The most common weakness for a hero is to be excessively good.   Superman is famous for it.  They refuse to kill the bad guy, let alone risk killing the victims.  They will let the bad guy escape just because he threatens to kill someone else.   Oh, they usually catch the bad guys in the end, but only after he has gained some kind of advantage by threatening to kill a victim.

One of these ideas is true.  The other is blatantly false.

Take a second to think about it.  Done yet?

spoiler alert

Villains are arrogant.  Read/listen to anything a North Korean 'leader' has ever wrote/said.   But the good guys are not soft hippies that refuse to kill.

In the real world, the good guys are just as strong, just as violent as the bad guys.  The Navy Seals didn't hunt down Bin Laden and ask him to please come with them - they shot him dead without even asking him to surrender.

They did this under a liberal president and he congratulated them for doing a good job.

But at first they lied about it.  They tried to claim Bin Laden had a weapon.  Why?  Because they believed the comic book 'goody two shoes weakness' and were scared they would get in trouble with the liberal President if they just killed the terrorist.  They were wrong.

The good guys are not weak.  We don't refuse to kill.   We do it, and we do it well.  With no less compunction than the bad guys.

The difference is not what we do but why we do it.

And that my friends is all the difference in the world.   It is not what you do that distinguishes you from the bad guys but why you do it.   Why changes who you do it to.  Why changes when you do it.

It's why the fictional character Dexter Morgan is the protagonist  instead of having everyone root for him to be captured.  Despite having occasionally killed an innocent man or two, most of the time he is trying to kill the bad guys because they are bad guys.

The truth is that in the real world, the good guys are more like Dexter Morgan than Super Man.

Cops, soldiers, and yes, politicians, are not weak willed wimps.  Not the conservatives and not the Liberals.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Capitalism and chronic tough jobs to fill.

I am a capitalist.  No if's, and's or buts.

Under capitalism, there should never be a prolonged period where a single job type is hard to fill.  Let's call this type of situation an "under-filled' job.   When this happens for an extended period of time (more than 4 years) in a capitalistic society, three things should occur.

  1. Salaries (including benefits) should go up, attracting more people.  Right away this delays retirement, and causes people with similar jobs to shift into the under-filled jobs.  At worst, after four years, newly trained people should start to show up at a greater rate, as more people choose to study those skills because of the greater pay rates.
  2. The job should be come more specialized with extra support.  That is, if you are a nurse, then suddenly you get an administrative assistant to fill out the paperwork.   Think of is outsourcing from the high skill to low skilled.  Note, this has limits, particularly at the high end.
  3. People move to under-filled areas.
 Recently the Manpower Group, released a survey of the hardest jobs to fill.

They also let you look back over the past seven years.  An interesting trend results.  Sales Representative is the only job that was present for all seven years.  They get paid per a percentage of sales.  The nature of their pay means that it doesn't make sense to pay them more.   But it does mean their jobs should be subdivided.  I.E.  Each Sales Representative should get more sales assistants.   This could both make their jobs easier to do, and also act as training for more sales representatives.

The fact that this hasn't happened demonstrates two things:  A) The market is not perfect, it takes time to change the structure.  B)  In particular, their are inefficiencies in sales that need to be addressed.  This is an opportunity for some bright eyed kid who comes up with a better way to sell things.

Next, were the three jobs that were under filled in six of the past seven years:  Engineers, Drivers, and Machinists.  Driver stands out as the least skilled job and lowest salary.  The problem is it is fairly easy to do but no one wants to keep the job.  It's a harsh job and they don't pay people enough to do it.  Literally.  That's why they need drivers.  But the various driver-less robot controlled car technology may very well make that job vanish in the next 10 years, otherwise I would be telling everyone to start paying their drivers more money.

Engineers and Machinists require much more skill.  It isn't that hard to raise their salary and frankly, I see no reason not to.  Not everyone can do these highly skilled jobs and f you can't hire one, that just means you are not paying them enough.  Raise their salaries.  Similar story for accounting and Technicians.

But Teachers, Nurses, IT Staff and Management positions were all under-filled in 4 out of the past 7 years.   Teachers have an issue with bad planning on school.  Really, do we really need to have all the kids take vacation at the same time?   Yeah, people like summers off - so do Computer Programers, but our boss isn't moronic enough to shut down the business for 3 months in a year.   Stagger the schedules, give some kids off summers, others winters, other spring, others fall.   Make it a condition of getting into the "elite magnet" schools that they have start in May, rather than September.  Teaching itself is a tough job - you need to expect high turnover in troubled schools - and pay people MORE to teach there.  

Nurses don't get paid enough.  Quite simple, people think of them as 'less' than doctors, and so refuse to pay them as much as doctors.  Forget that crap.  A good nurse is worth more than a bad doctor.

As for IT and management, they both suffer have a strange problem.  It's not about being trained, but about experience.  Worse, often the experience desired don't exist.   The worse cases are people asking for 10 years of experience for a field that was invented 9 years ago.  But even if it was invented 11 years ago, very few people got involved in the first year.   Frankly, when you ask for more than 2 years experience for technology that is under six years old, you are being unreasonable.  You should be training from within your company for that kind of job.   Otherwise, you have to pay a HUGE premium to hire away the only guy with the experience you want from the job he has and likes.   Similar issues occur with management, although not as obvious.  Everyone wants the top management jobs, but they have crappy standards for hiring - they want people with a proven track record - those people have jobs and want a lot of money.  Hire from within and train to fill the job for half the price.

But my main point is that capitalism is not a quick answer.  It takes three times as long to wait for the invisible hand of the market to fix something as is reasonable.  Mainly because it takes takes people as much time to notice a problem is real as it would to fix it, then that same amount of time again to convince people to fix the problem.

Capitalism does eventually fix things - but it takes way too long to do it.  It's why we need government to help things out.

What could government do? Not much for Sales Reps.  But we could offer special discounts for people getting engineering degrees and more X-Prizes for driver-less cars.  We can

Monday, June 4, 2012

Just War?

In a black and white world, with no shades of gray, every single war would be a "Just War".

Either the attacker was justified in attacking the target because they were  a viscous, evil, nazi/slave owner/raping/ etc.  monstrous country, - or the defender is justified in defending themselves against the viscous, evil, monstrous invader.  Either way, one side is in the right, making it a just war.

But the real world has shades of gray (not to mention glorious colors).  As such, you have situations where one side does some vicious things that are not quite as worth invading.  That, pretend for a second that a country's evilness could be measured to a tiny level.  At 10, they are evil, and invading them is just, at 0.00, they are saints, and defending them is just.   At 10 or  0, the answer is obvious.  Even at 9  or  1 , it is obvious.  Around 8 or 2, and a tiny bit of doubt creeps in, but the the war is just.  But at 5, neither side has a just war, nor at 6 or 4.   You could make an argument about 7 or 3 either way.

Most people recognize that World Word II was a just war.   Germany and Japan, did some horrible things.   Let's ignore Japan, and do some re-writing.   (Germany was a clear 10, on evilness, while Japan was closer to an 8.5.)

What if Germany did everything except invade other countries?  They still rounded up people and sent them to concentration camps, but did not invade Austria, Poland, France, etc.  Would that be enough to justify invading them?  There are several countries like that today. They probably would be around 7 or an 8 then.

What if they invade other countries, but didn't do the concentration camp?  Well, it's hard to do that as your occupied people revolt.   But let's say you managed to do that.  It might be possible if you picked your war carefully - like say Turkey invading Syria.  That would make them a  clear 8.  

The truth is rarely black and white, it is a world of grey.   Therein lies the problem.  When your country does something evil, but not as bad as war, then invading it is not just, but neither is defending it.

Worse, when dealing with shades of gray, by definition there is no clear line demarcating anything.  You can't say "They measure 7.4 the evil scale, so it isn't just to invade, but if they hit 8 , it suddenly becomes just."

It is a gradual thing.  Which means there are not only "Just Wars", there are also "mostly Just Wars", and "kind of Just Wars", as well as "Not Just War."

In my personal experience, the current conditions in North Korea have pretty well demonstrated that the Korean War was a just war.   Their government continues to act in arbitrary and monstrous manners - recently they killed 30 dissident officials and pretended they died in car accidents source,

But , the state of Vietnam right now means the Vietnam War was NOT a just war - on either side.  Since 1986, Vietnam has slowly abandoned communism and moved towards a socialist oriented market economy. But it is till a fairly dictatorial country - albeit a relatively benevolent dictatorship - and has avoided the insanity that still grips North Korea.   As such, their government, although not democratic is demonstrably only a bit evil.  Which means neither their attack nor defending against them was truly a Just War.

But part of the issue is we could only really tell both of those things through the benefit of hindsight.  It was NOT obvious back in 1950's that North Korea was far more evil than North Vietnam.  They looked, talked and acted quite a lot alike, at least to outsiders.  They both embraced communism, they both embraced one party dictatorships, they both were supported by China and the USSR.

It is very hard to judge the minds of men - to see if they are reasonable or unreasonable, particularly when fools continue to think that they can get more by claiming to be unreasonable.  When people think they can get more by being unreasonable, they are shocked, and appalled to learn that your opponent refuses to give them anything at all.  (i.e. GOP congressional gridlock).  In the case of war, they are shocked and appalled that you dared to invade them simply because they said they were going to conquer you.  That was the rhetoric of communism back in the 50's and 60's.

Which brings us to the next question - what if the country portrays themselves as an 8, but is actually just a 7?  Would attacking them be a just war?  They are still a 7 on the scale of evil.  The country that attacks thought they were taking on an 8.  This is at heart what the US did during the second Iraq War.  Iraq said they had more weapons of mass destruction but they didn't.  

This situation is not new, countries have been lying about their intentions and capabilities for millenia.

But it is also a core reason why we have 'unjust wars'.    It is too hard to judge exactly how evil people are.

Friday, June 1, 2012

NYC's Big Gulp Ban

Bloomberg wants to ban all 'sugary' drinks larger than 16 oz at events (sports, movies, etc.)

First of all, they could still sell you 32 oz, but they have to sell it in two cops.

Secondly, note that this is a LOCAL law, not a federal law.   Like most abusive laws, this is a local/state law.   It is the STATES that create these crappy laws, not the Federal government.

Why does he want to do this inane law?  Drinkable calories are far more likely to make your fat.  But he has forgotten a basic fact:  IT IS LEGAL TO BE FAT.

More importantly, the proper way to discourage people from doing something is not to put in abusive manipulative laws designed to make it harder to do.  Instead you tax it.   That's what we do with cigarettes and alcohol.   So just slam a 50 cents  tax on the sale of more than 16 oz of soda at 'events'.   This does several things.

First, it stops the abusive "you get twice the soda for a quarter more" stupidity that movies use.  That bullshit was actually just a way to excuse charging you only a quarter less for half the soda.  Which the movies would change to "a free second soda of the same type for just a quarter more"

Second, it works just as well a discouragement as the annoying 'buy two sodas' technique. 

Third, it actually RAISES money for the city, something it always needs.