Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Obama's successes

Obama's successes are fairly well known (and despised by the GOP).

The death of Bin Laden, the passage (and sustance) of the Health Care bill, and the two Supreme Court Judges, and the destruction of DOMA

In addition, he dealt a near mortal blow to Fox News, by proving them oh so very, very wrong about his election.  

It is looking more and more to me like he will also get a win major immigration reform.

The reason he has won is that the GOP is dysfunctional.  They got caught up in the idea of beating the liberals at all costs, even at the cost of what's good for the country.

As such, they moved very far to the right, so as to avoid compromising in any way shape or form. 

The thing is, as much as this ensures that the President will be a Democrat for the foreseeable future (at least the next presidential election - the GOP continues to push candidates that have no chance of winning), it is bad for the country.

The US needs a loyal opposition, not just an opposition.  The entire concept of Democracy depends upon it.

We need a Republican Party to yell at the Democrats for letting the NSA invade privacy.  We need a Republican Party to yell at government agencies from time to time, just to keep them honest.

We need a Republican Party to ensure that we get the best possible Democratic candidate, and not just some schlub that knows the right people.

And honestly, the GOP needs us Democrats as well.  Without our shining example, they would continue to believe their favorite lies - chief among them is that Americans like the GOP's political philosophy.

But most importantly, the GOP needs as incentive to raise their game.  They need to forget about the Minor leagues (state governments) and get back into the Majors.  They need to focus upon the things that americans focus on.  

Instead of letting the Democrats steel Healthcare right out from under their presidential nominee and make it our issue, they could have made it their issue.  They failed.  They failed BIG time when it came to healthcare.

Honestly, what they really, truly need is for the GOP to take David Frum's advice.

Specifically, they need to get rid of their sacred cows, talk about income inequality, deal with environmental issues instead of deny them, accept Healthcare, and stop labeling Obama as the devil incarnate. 

Because quite frankly, at this point it is obvious to all Democrats and quite a few independents that Obama is a very good President and their attempts make them look as stupid and out of touch as a Holocaust denier.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Interesting take on China

There is an interesting speech given by Eric X Li at TED.

In it he offers five basic statements:

  1. Democracy is not for everyone
  2. China does quiet well with it's non-democratic, Bureaucracy
  3. Bureaucracy is not for everyone either
  4. Democracy has it's own problems that China doesn't.
  5. China does have some problems but it is working to solve them and will succeed.

I agree with the first three.   I don't believe Democracy is for everyone.   To have an effective Democracy you truly need many things, including but not limited to an intelligent, educated public.   You can't run a democracy with people that are too stupid and uneducated enough to sell their votes cheaply.

China has been doing well in large part because it has a path to follow, blazed by the west.  Bureaucracies don't innovate well, but they follow very well.  As long as they are behind the west, they can follow at breakneck speed.  But they can't innovate.

Which of course is why I agree with part 3.

Now for the last two.  Those I find to be laughable.   All the problmes that US democracies have, China has as well, they just don't publicize them.

Key problems that the US currently has include Congressional stagnation caused by dramatically different political views.  China has that as well, they just cover it up by letting one side win and burying their opponents.  

Other issues that the US deals with include things heavily involved with morality, of which China ignores one side completely.   Whether it's homosexuality, abortion, torture, we lead the way on issues they sweep under the rug.

Ignoring an issue is not dealing with it.  The US looks so combative because we face the major issues head on, rather than sweeping the other side under the rug.

He brags about China's leader's experience, and the lack compared to US politicians.  Experience is the enemy.  We want innovative solutions, not the same old stuff.  We want new blood, which is why terms like maverick, new blood, outside the beltway, are all positive terms.

Honestly, if we already knew the solution, then it is easy to solve the problem.  That is why bureaucracy works so well in those situations.

But the US is not following the path of another country. We are blazing the path. China is, to use a  Nascar analogy, drafting behind us.    We solve problems that NO ONE knows the solution to.   To do that, you need the innovative power of Democracy, not Bureacracy.

Mr. Li. knows a lot about China's history.  But fails to understand why it has succeeded.  He fails to recognize that it's success is on the back of the work done by the West.   Just as we taught them how to make cars, computers, etc, we also taught them how to run a country.  

He thinks China will continue it's growth.  He predicted that China will become the largest economy in the world.  That is likely - population counts.  He also predicts it will do well on a per capita basis, that is not going to happen.   When you pass the lead car, you can no longer draft, and that's the only economical technique they know how to do.  They can't get anywhere near us without the drafting.  I can see their per capita rising to about half of what the US will have, but not much more than that.

He thinks corruption will be curbed but not eliminated.   That is likely.  He also thinks they will do a good job of curbing.  I doubt that.  Their system by it's very nature lends itself to corruption.   Bureaucracy is not good about curbing it's corruption.  Their culture and system is about respect, not challenge, which lets corruption flourish.

He also thinks that economic reform will accellerate.  I disagree.  It is already near the economy they are drafting against, they have to put on the brakes to avoid cruising past the west's car.

He also thinks political reform will continue, which is a given, and the one party system will hold firm, which I also agree is likely to happen.  It takes a generation to realize your mistake, and they haven't made the mistake yet.  China has at least 40 years of one party system left to go.   

Not because their system works so well, but because they are blind to the fact that they are drafting behind the west's economies.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Three Surpreme Court Decisions.

There are three interesting Supreme Court decisions I want to talk about.  Two of which I agree with and one is clearly a bad decision by 5 out of 9 judges.

First the bad decision.  SCOTUS had no business tearing apart the Voting Rights Act.  (Huffington Post News story)

They specifically declared the formula in Section 4 unconstitutional. "The formula in that section can no longer be used as a basis for subjecting jurisdictions to preclearance.”

Specifically they said that our country has changed and they the formula must be updated.

This is a bad decision because they admitted that at one time the formula was good.   Roberts said  "Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions"

But you see, that is CONGRESS's decision, not the Courts.  The court is there to determine if the Congress overstepped it's bounds, NOT to determine if they did a good job or a bad job.  If Congress has the power to  make that determination, they have the right to do so poorly.

Honestly, I believe that Congress should simply say, screw it, EVERYONE has to be subject to jurisdiction for preclearance.   That is, every single state and every single county should be forced to ask the DOJ if their voting procedures are racist.

It would end a lot of vile and corrupt practices, such as gerrymandering.

Second, the good news.  SCOTUS said that the Federal Government must recognize the Marriage of Gays, done by states.  Gays are people too, and as such have the rights to obtain the legal status of married, with all the tax, medical, etc. benefits. (CBS news story)

This is fairly obvious and not that surprising.  Scalia himself predicted it would happen 10 years ago  - although he was too preejudiced to understand it is a good thing.  He was kind of like an old racist from the 1860's saying "Why if we free the slaves, they might marry our white people."  Yes, his prediction was true but he was too prejudiced, and frankly, illogical to see that it was not a bad thing.

Thirdly, the Supreme Court also confirmed a lower courts decision that said being homeless does not mean you are not allowed to own anything.  Specifically they stated that the state of California could not take the possessions of homeless people and destroy them simply because they were on 'public grounds' and the homeless people had stepped away from them (to go to the bathroom or get on a food line.)  (Death and Taxes Blog)

Note, California had previously stolen and destroyed such possessions including identification (such as driver licenses, social security cards, etc.) and cellphones (if you don't have an address, a cellphone is vitally important to stay in touch with people.)

Frankly it was a rather evil attempt by the state of California and not that surprising that the Supreme Court sided with the homeless people.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why Obama Should Pardon Edward Snowden

First, for purposes of this article (and only this article), I am going to make a false assumption.

We will presume that the NSA's actions are entirely legal, appropriate and in no way an invasion of privacy or an abridgement of American rights. Edward Snowden has clearly committed a crime of treason and by all rights should go to prison.

Now, given that 'fact', I still say President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden, with certain conditions (specifically he must return to the US to answer questions in front of a closed session of congress and no longer talk tot he press about anything that happened prior to his pardon, and agree to never again reveal any information whatsoever about his work for the US government).

Why should we do this?

First, given the situation with Julian Assange, we already know the likely outcome for Snowden.  Most likely he will remain outside of US clutches, in the worst case locked up in an embassy of a foreign country. If we offer a pardon, we can at least avoid the embarrassment of having another Assange case out there.  Ending bad publicity is itself worth it.

Second, obtaining him will not end the issue, it will instead make it worse.  If we get him back it will look like we are holding a political prisoner, even if (as we presumed in this article) he is a traitor to this country and deserves no less than life in prison.

Third, capturing him will in not way discourage others from following in his footsteps.  Instead it will do the opposite.  Look, this is no man selling secrets to obtain a better life.  He had a better life and gave it up for principle.  He (and many others in this country) considers himself a patriot willing to give a six-figure job, a model girlfriend, and a home in Hawaii, all to fight the nasty evil dictatorship.  It doesn't matter that he is wrong and the US is a benevolent democracy.  He (and those that agree with him) considers himself to be Nathan Hale.  He regrets that he has but one life of pleasure to give up for his country.

You do not discourage heroes by imprisoning them.  That ENCOURAGES them to fight on.     The people that think we need to discourage copy cats are right - but trying to put Snowden in prison will not in any way discourage them. 

Fourth, the way you convince honest, honorable men to lay down arms is to offer them trust and forgiveness, not jail.  It discourages others by making them look stupid, not heroic.  What, the hero is bravely standing up to fight against the injustice of being told he is pardoned and can go on his way????

Fifth, it would stand as a beacon to other countries showing them the fair, democratic way to handle dissent.  By pursuing Snowden we give China, Iran, and other countries moral standing. See, the US is no better than they are, we have our own 'political prisoners'.   By pardoning Snowden, we show them that a truely powerful country can handle a bit of dissent - as opposed to dissenters as criminals, we forgive and forget.

Sixth, we get control of the situation back. He will have to agree to certain conditions, we get to question him and we can stop further leaks of information other countries may want.

I see little if any upside from pursuing a criminal case against Snowden.  I see huge international political capital to be generated if we pardon him.

Monday, June 17, 2013

We don't need Morphine, we have Asprin????

One in a while I see people complaining about the problems of major bulwarks of our civil defense, often using the existence of other, relatively minor legal protections as an excuse to get rid of our most important rights.  For example some claims that we don't need the fifth amendment because we have laws against torture and unreasonable punishment.

But you see, the rules against torture are actually rather weak  I would call them paper thin..  Government torture happens all the time.   I am not just talking about being water boarded by the CIA, I am talking about police officers routinely using pain on criminals.  Part of the problem is that the line between torture and other, reasonable activities is rather blurry.  Hit a guy?  Is it torture, self defense, or an accident?   Or perhaps you were trying to get him to obey a reasonable order.

The fifth amendment however is a huge giant wall, one or the strongest protections we have. Punish a guy for not answering a question, that's a fifth amendment violation.  We easily see that and know it is wrong.

Lets talk a bit more about the thin line between torture and legal activities.  Cops love Tasers and they don't restrict them to preventing violence.    In fact, the very famous line "Don't Tase me Bro."  came from such an incident.  The guy was not a danger to anyone, he simply was refusing to cooperate with the police.  He wouldn't leave an event, and wouldn't give up the microphone.  (Source)

The cops tased him not because he was a threat, but to force him to obey.  They caused him pain and physically controlled him.  Some would say that is torture.  They hurt him to convince him to obey.   They didn't put hand cuffs on him first, they made no attempt at all to control him without pain, they moved directly to pain.  

Torture is not used just to get information.  As per the US legal definition:

(1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

Tasers are supposed (i.e the company says their purpose is to) to be used not to obtain compliance, but to deal with dangerous situations.  As per Wikipedia:

"Tasers were introduced as non-lethal weapons to be used by police to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous people, who would have otherwise been subjected to more lethal weapons such as a firearm."

Instead, they are often used as 'pain compliance' devices.  The difference between pain compliance and torture?   If you are under the control of the cop, it is torture.  If you are not yet under their control, it is pain compliance.  Who decides if you are under their control?  The cop.  With no second judging of his decision.
Torture is a relative word.  Hence the controversy under George Bush where moronic lawyers tried to argue that water boarding is not torture.   But there are many circumstances where torture is perfectly legal.   It is easy and COMMONPLACE for cops to claim you were resisting arrest and therefore use pain compliance.

They can even make that claim if you are already arrested, in handcuffs, in prison, and on the floor crying. They just have to claim you were not complying.

The fifth amendment is the big gun.  It is the brick wall.  Other laws are the small arms, the velvet rope.  We can't depend on the rope line to hold back the cops, we need the brick wall.

In part because if we have the brick wall, as opposed to just a rope line, it lets the cops slam you up against the brick wall, without worrying about going over it by mistake.  If we have just a rope line, then cops will mistakenly cross it.

You don't demolish the brick wall because we have a velvet rope.  You don't get rid of morphine because we have aspirin.  The Fifth Amendment, which protects US citizens from self-incrimination is the strong protection and we must keep it that way.

It doesn't just stop torture, it stops many other problems caused by the police.  For example it stops the government from punishing you for not revealing something that you don't know (no matter how much they THINK you know it.  It also helps stop the government from learning things they have no right to know - such as your sexual orientation, accidentally or on purpose.  
Similarly, laws against excessive prosecution are not enough.   We need some ways to incentive criminals, some discretion by the government.   Given that we want to the cops to be able to talk to the criminals, and even bribe/punish them, we need strong laws that stop them from going too far.   If the cops won't even let you remain silent, that's going too far.  Honestly, if we really need the information, we can always offer immunity.

If immunity is not worth the trade, then don't demand they speak.

Friday, June 14, 2013

On Snowden Leaks

First let me discuss the facts about the Snowden leaks.

  1. Snowden was an employee of a private contractor.  He did not work directly for the government.
  2. Snowden had access to top secret information.  Specifically he ran computer programs that had the ability to obtain certain specific information about people's electronic communications, including american citizens.
  3. He leaked the existence of those programs to the press.
  4. He fled to Hong Kong
  5. He then publicly admitted what he had done.
  6. He claimed he did it because he had moral objections to the existence of that tracking abilitiy, believing it to be an immoral and unethical invasion of american citizen's privacy, that should be illegal.
  7. Some members of the government want him arrested for treason
  8. Some members of the government want to arrest the press for releasing that information.
I have not talked about this for a while because it is a complex issue.

First, let me talk about crime in general.   Intent, or the mental state of the criminal, is key to most crimes.

If you go to a car that looks like yours, put the key in, it works, and you drive off, then most people don't think you have committed a crime - even if it turns out to be someone else's car (car manufacturers re-use keys, so this can happen - it used to be common).

Similarly, the difference between:  Murder (tried to kill), manslaughter (tried to hurt, but killed), gross negligence (didn't care if he got hurt/died so did not take precautions), and an accident (took reasonable precautions but he died anyway)  are all about intent.

Mr. Snowden's actions clearly indicate he was attempting to be a whistleblower, not a traitor.

  1. He leaked to the press, not to a foregin nation or terrorist organization
  2. He publicly admitted responsibility, risking jail time
  3. He only released the information about what the government was doing.  He with-held sensitive specific information, instead of releasing everything he had access to.
This brings us to the first question:

Should it matter what he was trying to be?  That is, should we judge him by the results alone, or take into account his intent/motive?

Yes it does matter.   By giving a reduced/no punishment for whistle-blowers as opposed to traitors, we as a government and a culture gain the following:
  • Incentive for whistleblowers as opposed to simply spying for foreign powers.  (leaking to the press rather than a foreign organization, admitting your actions)  We as a nation are much better off if we know what they know, rather than being left in the dark about them knowing our secrets.   It also saves us money in the investigation, prevents innocent people from being targeted, and allows us to fire him immediately (which we did), as opposed to leaving a spy in our midst.
  • Incentives for whistle-blowers to report actual crimes (even if you don't think Snowden was a whistle-blower.   By treating people trying to be whilstle-blowers better than traitors, we encourage people to be whistle-blowers, as opposed to terrifying them into submission with possible false claims of treason.  
  • The knowledge that whistlblowing is legal/punished less than treason also encourages us to TRUST the government.
These are all valuable qualities that governments can not buy except by treating people trying to be whistleblowers different than regular traitors that do it for money.

The technical definition of treason says either "wages war against the US, adheres to enemy, giving them aid or comfort".  Snowden clearly did not intend to do any of those things.  He should not be treated as a traitor, if for no other reason than to encourage other people considering revealing top secret information to leak it to the press and publicly admit their guilt as opposed to leaking to China and keeping their identity secret.

Next up, did he do it by mistake?

Second question:

Was he really a whistle-blower, or just a traitor?

Polls show that Americans have mixed views on Snowden.  The numbers are all between 40% and 60% approval dissaproval.

It doesn't matter.  You see, you don't convict someone of a crime if 40% of people think he's innocent.

This is America.  If there is reasonable doubt, you go free.   40% thinking he is a patriot is reasonable doubt.

It's too close a call to send a guy to jail for something many of us consider to be a patriotic act. 

We don't even need to know if he actually was a whistle-blower.  We just need to ask does a reasonable person have reasonable doubts about his actions?   At least forty percent of our population does.   Therefore he is innocent.

More about this later (see the last issue).

This brings us to the third question:

Should the NSA be contracting our 'suspect' work to private industry, as opposed to doing it in hourse?

This answer is a clear NO.  This is a horrendous mistake on the part of our government.  Even assuming the electronic surveillaince in question is legal and appropriate, it should in NO way be done by private industry.

We don't let military contractors operate nuclear weapons.  The weapons in question are too powerful and too dangerous.  They may build them and even maintain them, but we insist they hand them over to the US government and we guard and operate them.

You don't let private contractors do the work that has extreme issues.   We don't let them control our nuclear issues and we certainly should not let private contractors spy on American citizens. 

What's appropriate for the US government to do is not always appropriate for contractors to do.

Even assuming the espionage in question is appropriate for the US to do, it can not in any way be appropriate for us to pay private contractors to do.

Should the electronic surveillance in question be legal?

To answer this question, lets start out discussing what should be happening.

I expect our government agencies to be MORE concerned about security than our privacy.  They should be trying to push up as close as possible to the wall of what is legal.  It is not their job to safeguard our privacy, it is their job to safeguard our country.

If they are not taking risks and getting close to the edge of what is legal, then they are failing.

Traditionally the 'movie' traitors do something like the following:

  • Reveal technical secrets on how to make top secret devices
  • Reveal top secret names of people who operate in secret and  would be at risk if their identities become known.
  • Reveal top secret locations that cold be targeted by enemies.
  • Reveal specific military plans currently being executed, allowing the enemy to counter-act them.

He did none of these things.  Instead he revealed the current practices of the USA, not it's current plans, nor even the possible capabilities (just because Snowden couldn't listen to your phone calls doesn't mean no one else working for the US government can't)

They claim that by maintaining secrecy of our current practices, they can make it harder for the bad guys to counter them.  Note, our capabilities keep increasing, so the bad guys still have to take more precautions than just avoid what they know we used to do.

There is a technical term for this type of secrecy:  "Security through Obscurity"  If your opponent does not know how you do things, it makes it harder for them to defeat your efforts.   But if you check the wikipedia page I linked to you can instantly see what a bad reputation Security through Obscurity has.

Honestly, the food industry wanted to do a similar thing.  We laughed and told them NO.  We required them to list all the ingredients, if not the proportions.    They clearly have an interest in preventing their competitors from knowing what they put into their food.   Why didn't we let them keep their ingredients simple?   Because our personal interest in knowing what we are consuming is more important.

Similarly, our personal interest in knowing what information the government is gathering on us FAR exceeds any minor increased efficiency the government gains by having the terrorists not know for certain some of the things the government is doing.

Especially when a large portion (over 40%) consider the government's actions to be questionable, if not innapropriate.

If your actions are close to the wall between ethical spying and unethical spying, then you have to accept the fact that the public will get to examine at least the actions that are closest to the wall, if not the ones far from it.

You want security through obscurity?  Then do your stuff away from the wall.  Not right up next to it.

The NSA leak did damage security, the same way requiring food companies to list their ingredients damaged their profits.   That is, it damaged security a tiny, insignificant amount, and gave the country a massive amount of information that we desperately needed.

It is our job to determine whether your security measures are worth the effort.   Therefore you must reveal the most questionable security methods you use to the public.  If you want to keep something secret, then you create a public, more invasive 'throw away'  method and see how the public responds to you admitting you do that.  If they object, then you cancel the 'throw away' method and then reveal the one you wish you could keep secret and hope they accept it.

You definitely should not under any circumstances, keep your most invasive privacy violating security methods secret.  

Because the damage that your most privacy violating methods do the country will always be greater than the damage you are protecting.   If only in  destroying the people's trust in the government and creating a climate of distrust.


Snowden may not be a hero, but he is definitely NOT a traitor.  The NSA has clearly made some bad decisions - having private contractors spy on American Citizens???? Shame on you for stupidity, let alone privacy violations

We need to slap the NSA down and have them re-think their strategies. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to tell if you are a Partisan Fool.

There is nothing wrong with being partisan.  It just means you believe in a cause.  We should all believe in causes, and I pity the person that doesn't believe in anything.  I would go further and say:

If you don't have something worth dying for, then you don't have anything worth living for.

 But you can take things too far.  You can care more about your beliefs than they are worth.  Being willing to kill anyone that thinks a certain brand of cookies doesn't taste good is not a good thing.

Neither is putting the needs of your political party above the needs of your country.  Even if you think your party is correct and the other party is sent by the devil himself to destroy your country, you still can NOT put the needs of your party above the needs of the country.  Not even for a little bit.

So lets talk about the cases where people have their priorities backwards, where their partisanship has gone to the extreme and they are nothing but a joke.

Here are signs that you are a partisan fool:

  1. You do whats best for your party, even if it is bad for your country.
  2. You insist that EVERYTHING has to do with your group.  Anything bad you ascribe to enemies of your party, and anything good must be caused by your party.
  3. You can't conceive of a good person being both informed and not on your side.  You think the only reason good people are not for you is that they are ignorant/uneducated.
  4. You can't conceive of an informed person thinking your issues are irrelevant.  If they understand your issues than they must either be good people and on your side or bad people and your enemies.  No one is allowed to be informed yet remain neutral  (Thus you think the media must either be with your or against you, no neutrality)  "You are either with us or against us."
  5. You can't conceive of being wrong on even the smallest of side issues.  You think any scientific studies that prove you wrong must be invalid - done by the opposition and designed to fail.
  6. You defend (or refuse to attack) members of your own group even when you know they are wrong (or have committed a crime).

Political Parties are not the end all and be all.   The good of the country is far more important.

When you do these six things you are placing your partisan political party above the country, and have crossed the line from a loyal politically active person, and become a traitor to your own country.

It doesn't matter if you are liberal, conservative, fascist, communist, libertarian, monarchist, theocratic,republican, democrat, progressive, royalists, tory, whig, bull moose, or anything else.

Putting any political party above and beyond the country proves you to be a fool not worth listening to.   Political parties exist to serve the country, not the other way around.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Growth Stages of Empire.

Empires are a lot like people.

They start out young, small and weak.  They begin to learn, and as they learn, they grow larger.

Sometimes they lose a little power and come back.  But eventually they hit their prime, using what they have learned.  

Finally, they begin their real, permanent decline.  They try to hold on to old things they knew, talk about the good old times.

But they don't regain their power.  Instead they die.  A new empire takes over based in another part of the world, with a different culture.

The reason is simple.

Empires don't form because a country 'deserves it".

No.  Instead, the empire is created when one country invents/discovers something dramatic.  The US empire is fairly obvious.   A combination of capitalism and nuclear weapons made us a 'superpower'.  Those have spread to other countries, but by then we were already a superpower.

The truth cause of our success is the spirit of freedom and innovation.   Because you see, neither nuclear power nor capitalism were invented here.  Europeans (mostly Germans) invented nuclear power, but came to America because of the lack of freedom in Europe (Nazi Germany).  Adam Smith, a Scotsman, was the father of Capitalism.

The United States true power came from embracing progress and liberalism where other countries preferred conservative values.  Note I am talking about real conservatism which is founded on the respect for tradition, not the new pseudo conservatism that embraces libertarianism in theory (though not in practice).

Because you see tradition is what kills empires.  When you start valuing things because of how great they were once as opposed to trying to make things better, then you are going backwards as opposed to forwards.

You can never back into an empire, no matter how great the old empire used to be.  Instead you have to charge forward into the unknown.

Any country that talks about how good the good old days were and how bad (immoral) the young folks are is doomed.  They can never become strong and powerful because they are preventing new ideas from bringing new power to you.

You can't copy your old ways to get power because everyone else already knows your old secrets.  You need new secrets, new ideas, you need liberalism.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The ACLU Agrees with me.

Just a short update.

A while ago I posted here and said the recent snooping by the government may give people standing to sue the government.  Previously  the Supreme Court said they could not sue to stop being spied upon because they could not prove they were being spied upon.

This article says the ACLU agrees with me about the snooping.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Victory for the Cowardly Idiots

The TSA, an agency known for spending excessive amounts of energy and money to avoid miniscule risks, declared that it was safe to take Swiss army knives and similar sports equipment onto planes.

Then a bunch of scared fools complained.   They complained so loudly that the TSA had to back down.

This is how the terrorists win - when we become so scared of them that we give up minor liberties in exchange for ZERO increased safety.

The TSA does not say that the weapons and sports equipment (golf clubs for example) are dangerous.  Instead the TSA continues to insist that they pose no danger to the aircraft.

But do admit that they can be used to harm individual passengers.    Big deal. So can eyeglasses.  I'm not talking about eyeglass ground into a shiv.  I mean regular normal, unaltered eyeglasses.

Not to mention what you can do with an ordinary, non-sharp piece of alkali metal and the water they give you on the plane.

The devices they are preventing are NOT in any way a danger to the plane, nor are they any more dangerous to airline passengers, air-marshals, or stewards than everything else they let passengers take on a plane.

They are being outlawed because of stupidity, not logic.

The TSA has no business attempting to control people and protect people.   It's their job to prevent terrorist related crime, not all crime. Attempting to prevent all crime is way too expensive and a massive invasion of our civil rights.

The cowardly morons that are too stupid to realize how deadly your belt, crutches, eyeglasses,rings, etc are helping the terrorists to win.  They are wasting our money, our time, and slowly eroding our personal rights.

The search and removal of such items - which is NOT done in other countries - takes up time and effort of the TSA.

More importantly, it lets the terrorists perform simple blocking maneuvers without any risk.  I.E.  they send a shill with a simple Swiss army knife who complains loudly when they take it away, distracting the TSA and taking their attention while the real terrorists breezes through the checkpoint with a perfunctory check.

This is a sad day in American History.  Logic and wisdom has lost to fear and stupidity.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The REAL IRS scandal

There is a real IRS scandal that is being mostly ignored by the main stream media.

It is also being mostly ignored by the conservatives.

And also by the liberals.

Try doing a google search on the words "IRS ADOPTION"

Sixty Nine percent of people that adopt children get audited

This compares with 1% of people that don't adopt.

 Some people get audited TWICE for the same claim.

Of course, this makes perfect sense because the fraud rate was as high as zero.  Yes zero.  In fact, after auditing, additional taxes was due 17% (from honest errors, not fraud) - as compared to an average of 86% of the time for audits for non-adoptions.  (Source)

Adoption is a complicated process that often involves huge fees, with a lot of bureaucratic paperwork. If it is an international adoption, sometimes those fees are more like bribes.  You are told to bring cash and they don't give receipts.  It is in fact legal for the US citizen to claim these expenses as as an Adoption Tax Credit (upto $112,650).   Even if they are cash and you don't have paper receipts.

It is made worse because the IRS does not do a good job telling taxpayers what records they need, how to fill out their forms, or put those forms in their e-filing process.  (Source)

This is what a real scandal looks like.  69% auditing with zero fraud found and a relatively small amount of additional taxes owed.

The partisan crap?  It is not worth of the name scandal.  It's low level partisan bull that has been going on since the IRS was founded.  The only real difference now is that they got a couple of incriminating emails from low level employees.   It is being talked up because the GOP wish it went much higher than it really is.  So they keep digging, hoping to find proof of something that doesn't exist.

P.S.   Warning, some of the people that discovered this adoption scandal are partisan fools.
They see everything through a lens of 'it must be liberals doing it to hurt conservatives".   They can't conceive of people not giving a crap about their personal political wars.

So they come up with ridiculous theories to try and blame this on Obama and the liberals.  (Silly ideas such as the belief that liberals think that people that adopt must be conservatives, because religious people adopt)

That is bull.

This is a real problem but it is not a conservative-liberal thing.  It is a bureaucratic  government screw up that has nothing to do with partisan politics and everything to do with incompetence.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Supreme Court ruling allows DNA abuses

In one of the few times I agree with Scalia, he has dissented from a 5/4 ruling that says it is OK for cops to take DNA samples upon arrest.

Kennedy incorrectly stated that DNA sampling is like fingerprinting or photographing.

Privacy invasions is not measured solely by how much time or physical inconvenience, but instead by what you can learn about someone, and countered by the safety needs of the cop.  That is, it is OK to to do a strip search to check for weapons before you put someone in jail, but to forensically examine their financials based on a belief they mugged someone.

Fingerprinting and photographing are used solely to identify the person arrested.  Yes, you can sometimes connect fingerprints to a location (proving presence, but not the committing of a crime), but DNA goes far beyond that.

I am going to ignore the facts that DNA is both easier to plant as evidence (anyone can move a liquid sample, prints stick to surfaces)  and less reliable than fingerprints (fingerprints are always unique, some people have twins and they don't do full DNA scans so DNA false positives can happen).

Instead I am going to talk about the many personal and private things that DNA says about you besides your identity.  These are all things DNA can tell you NOW, let alone in a decade.

  1. It clearly lists parentage.  People should not be forced to deal with sudden realization that you are a bastard or adopted.
  2. It identifies racial groups that can not be identified any other way (As in, wow, I didn't know I was descendent from Jews and apparently my dark skin and curly hair come from a black great grandfather, not from being Italian.)
  3. Health issues, including the knowledge of specific deadly disease that DO NOT HAVE ANY TREATMENT.
These things are not minor issues.  They are major ones with major psychological impacts on people.  

I am not saying we should outlaw DNA testing, or even not do it on jailed citizens.  I am saying that arresting someone does not meet the barrier for doing the testing.

Police can arrest ANYONE for ANYTHING.   They don't need a reasonable suspicion, they can do it on a whim.  Cops are known to arrest people based on race, based on political beliefs, or merely for pissing of the cop.  If the cop wants DNA, they can arrest an 4 year old child on an accusation of money laundering, then test his DNA, then release him saying "woops, we got the wrong guy".

Then they can match his DNA up on a familial basis and issue an arrest warrant for his father for an unrelated murder charge.

No, this law is rife with potential abuses.

If we want to do a DNA scan of every single citizen of the country, that is one thing.  I would be happy to consider such a dramatic and drastic change.  It makes a lot more sense than doing it to people arrested.  It could stop quite a bit of crime, rape in particular, as well as make assigning financial responsibility for fathering a child much easier.

But there is NOTHING special about arresting someone except in the mind of the cop, something we can not trust.  Most cops are good guys, but some can not be trusted.  That is why we don't let them search houses without a warrant, and why they should not have the right to pick and choose who gets a DNA test.

Either give it to all of us, or give it only with a warrant.

Doing it on 'arrest' is asking for discriminatory abuse.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why We Should be Good

At a very basic level, being good means exercising self-control.  Ignoring your base "I want" because you realize the potential consequences and don't think they are worth the cost.That cost might be direct punishment, or merely ethical, i.e. the cost of living in a world where bad things happen.

You see a pretty woman and want to have sex with her.  But you don't knock her out and rape her because you recognize that it is bad and don't want to live in a world where that happens.  Or if you are a little bit less philosophical, don't want to risk going to jail for your crime.

Now people with power, particularly politicians, tend to have ways to get out of punishments.  As such, the philosophical reasons tend to become more important.   The more power you have, the less fear you have of punishment and the more important the philosophical issues become - as if you have such power you recognize that your actions have a much greater affect on the world.

But the stupider you are, the less likely you are to care about the philosophical issues, no matter how important they are.

The fact that in the modern world we have so many ethical rulers is actually fairly surprising.   So many people recognize, either consiciously or unconcisouly the importance of their actions.

That also means we should not trust the unethical rulers, even if they are good at what they do.  Drug using mayors, child raping Italian leaders, etc.  all fail to either recognize the affect their particular actions have on others around them, or fail to care.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Government's snooping on reporters.

First a little background.   The right to privacy in the US  has steadily been eroded over the past ten years.  Partly by the internet, partly by the fear of terrorism.

There are all sorts of new privacy laws we need:

  • Right to photograph cops, because after all, they are photographing us all the time.
  • The right to end a corporate online relationship(and kill their tracking of you-  and their data)
  • The right to SEE all the data they have collected on you 
  • Require a warrant to search emails (everyone expects them to be private despite the court ruling that they are not - look at how often people send incriminating evidence through them).
  • The right to have online photos of your removed or have the face distorted. - unless the poster has a signed permissions to use said photo.

These are just a few things that could and in my opinion should be set up.   Clearly privacy is under attack and we need to fight back.

Now lets talk about the federal warranted search of reporter's communications.  Th FBI was trying to identify the source of leaked information, particularly about a foiled terror plot involving the CIA operating in Yemen.

Originally it was clearly reporters should be given more respect when the government tries to snoop on them.  No longer.   The line between reporter and blogger and random citizen has begun to blur significantly.

The actual scandal is relatively small.  No reporters charged or even brought in for questioning.  No emails read or telephone calls listened to.   Just reporters telephone records obtained.  So they know who spoke to who, but not what they said.

It is a scandal and it is at the very least questionable behavior by the FBI.  But compared to what happens in Russia and China, it is not a huge deal.  There reporters get jailed or killed.

In my mind, the AP should in fact use government snooping.  Specifically, they should point out that they now have proof that the US government is snooping on them and try to kill the FISA Amendments Act.

They, unlike Amnesty International, can now claim that they have been concretely injured by the existing, known snooping, and therefore can sue to stop the FISA warrant-less wiretapping that Amnesty International failed to stop (in Clapper vs. Amnesty International) because Amnesty International could not prove they were being snooped on.

The AP can prove that the government was snooping on them and they can therefore claim the burden of proof has shifted to the government.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Government Should Fund Science.

One of the Republican Party's tropes is to kill government sponsored science.  They consider it to be a waste of money.   While they admit the obvious fact that scientific research is very profitable for the government (the Internet is just the most recent and obvious example), they think business can do it better. Instead of having the government fund research, they want business and non-profits, such as universities to do it. 

They base this trope on several false assumptions.

  1. Any science that doesn't make a profit and can't be funded by by a non-profit is not worth investigating.  They typically bring up moralistic examples (research into the sex lives of animals).
  2. Business are better suited to decided which scientific endeavors can make a profit.
  3. Businesses care more about profit than about anything else, and therefore will investigate all potentially profitable areas.
All of these assumptions are false, and they are not just small errors.  They are incredibly large errors.

Lets start with part 1.   There are a lot of science that can't make a profit.   I could talk about the endless number of orphan diseases (diseases too rare for cures/treatments to be profitable).   I could also talk about the big science questions that require HUGE expenditures to answer - such as the age of the universe.   These things are worthwhile even without a profit, yet for various reasons are not appropriate for for non-profits to answer.  Among other things, sometimes these huge expenditures need steady funding that can't depend upon non-profit.  Which brings us to part 2.

The biggest tech boons of the past 50 years derive from government funded initiatives.  But there is a corollary to this fact, which is more importantly: There was nothing stopping businesses from doing the research themselves.   The most obvious one is the internet, but the space program also counts.  Business could have created the internet, but failed to step up to the plate.  So businesses have demonstrated an INABILITY to fund key, profitable research. 

Government uses different standards to decide upon funding than businesses do. Businesses do in fact make good decisions.  They invest in a lot of valid scientific research, and ignore many bogus ones.  But so does government - and more importantly government invests in different technology than business does.

Business has a rather short timeline.   Small business has to make a profit asap.  If they don't, they change their business model right away, and if they can't get a profit within two years, they die.  Public corporations usually can't look further than 1 year, and die after six years or so of losses.  Private business can look three-four years ahead but will die after ten years without a profit.

A lot of science however takes decades. Most of the twentieth century owes itself to the scientific work of Nikola Tesla.   Make no mistake, Tesla made a lot of money - when he was young.  But he gave up his patents to save Westinghouse (which failed to work, GE eventually stole them).  But even after he lost the money, he proceeded to invent a multiple of advanced scientific devices, all of which took DECADES to become profitable.  He made discoveries related to radar, microwave ovens, computers, and even VTOL airplanes.  Business did not actually follow his research until decades after he died.  They had their chance and failed.

Goddard did his first rocket work in 1926, but it didn't really become profitable until the early1940's when the Germans turned them into a viable weapon of war.  That's more than a decade.  Not to mention it took over fifty years from Goddard's first rocket to the big business of satellites.

The internet started before 1969, but it didn't become truly profitable until 1990, and internet commerce didn't start for another 4 years.

Lots of big, profitable science takes many, many decades to make a profit.  That far exceeds the schedule that business  uses.  Worse, if you waited on these things, it would mean waiting for the results.   Some things you need to pay to do asap.   Which brings us to part 3.

Bad timing isn't the only reason why businesses miss profit opportunities.  Businesses tend to be moralistic.  They have to worry about PR and can't get involved in certain things.   Banks will reject financially sensible loans because they don't want to get involved in sex businesses.  Not to mention prejudice about gays, women, etc.   Business can't research how ducks have sex, even if the biochemistry is incredibly interesting and can lead to real scientific progress with actual financial awards.

Sometimes businesses care more about security than profit.  As in, they would rather maintain their existing business then try to create a better business model that undercuts their current one.  Worse, they are quite willing to legal (and sometimes illegal) monopolistic tactics to prevent others from doing it.  Look at Tesla and their business model.  Existing large corporations undermine new companies research, just as they undermine new business models.

Why?  Because the risk-reward is is MUCH lower to undermine something than to try something new.

People and organizations with large amounts of money care more about risk than about reward.   Not that hard to understand, the more you have to lose, the more you care about losing it.

Governments have several specific immunities to this kind of risk.  Usually they don't have to answer to anyone about specific programs - in part because they are often looked at as jobs programs, in part because they amalgamate so many programs that some are doing well even if some are doing it poorly.   In the US, the government has so much money that even large science projects take up such a small part of the budget that no one cares if they fail.

For all of these reasons, government should continue to fund science.  They don't always do it better than business does, but the different priorities of government allows it to make hugely profitable investments that the business world simply can not or will not make.

Now a couple of extra points.

  1. I am talking about funding science, not restricting research.  Funding is good, restricting is bad. Laws restricting research is about picking winners and losers.  They stop better technology by laws, not through money.
  2. Funding is not picking winners or losers. You can still win if your opponent is better funded.  Just ask Nikola Tesla.  General Electric and Edison had much better funding than Westinghouse and Tesla.  As a direct result GE strong armed Westinghouse, but they ended up using TESLA's inventions.   Nikola Tesla won the science, even if Edison won the money.   While it might be unfair to Tesla, the country as a whole came out ahead, despite Edison's attempts to push into using the wrong technology.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why Conspiracy theories are always wrong.

Conspiracy theorists make a lot of rather simple mistakes.

Here are a set list of the mistakes common to almost all conspiracy theories

  1. They fail to take into account that in a free country, their are always intelligent, ethical people in government, the press, and most importantly the political party out of power.  They have huge motivations to expose the conspiracy.  And by intelligent, I mean more so than the conspiracy theorist.
  2. They fail to take into account that conspiracies break down over time.  The longer the claimed conspiracy, the more likely someone will have discovered it and proven it to the public.   
  3. They fail to understand that the more people in on the conspiracy, the more likely it will get exposed.
  4. Bosses usually have motivations to expose conspiracies done by their subordinates, but hiding one from your boss is MUCH harder than it is to hide it from random people not in the organization.
  5. They fail to realize that the conspirators know all of facts 1-4.

Lets start with some basic facts.  Few people will meet more than 100,000 in their entire lifetime.  One of those 100,000 people will be smarter than all the rest.

But the USA has over 300,000,000 people.  That means the smartest person you know, most likely has about 3,000 people smarter than them, in this country alone.   Quiet a few of them go into politics and some go into the press.

I guarantee you that there are people working for the government and for the press that are smarter than EVERYONE you have ever met.   That means if you can figure it out, they did before you did, and they probably predicted that you would.

Conspiracies break down over time.  First your opponent figures it out, and then they tell the world and the world believes them, because they get real, solid evidence (not bad video, not clearly faked documents, etc.)

In World War II there were several conspiracies.  The NAZI's tried to hide the fact that they were murdering Jews.  Hitler came into power on January 30, 1933, and the Soviets first started hearing about the Holocaust in June, 1941.   Eight years is all it took.   Yes, that's how long you can keep a major secret.   Note the Nazis were winning in June 1941.  The US did not enter World War II until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, up until December of 1941, the Germans were crushing the Russians.  (source).    Multiple first person accounts were received describing exactly what happened

Similarly, the US began the Manhattan Project was first conceived in 1939.   The Soviets learned about it by December of 1944, eight months before the US drops the first A Bomb on Hiroshima.   They ended up with actual plans for the weapons, before the weapons were used.  Five years  is the max you can keep such a secret.

So, during wartime - when you can find patriots willing to die for their country by simply walking up to random people on the street corner - two of the most powerful countries in the world could not keep a secret for even a decade.

I absolutely assure you, that NO important secret that requires many people can be kept quiet for more than 20 years.  It will get out - and with solid irrefutable evidence.

So lets talk about bosses.  They have the ability to ask questions and fire the conspirators even without proof.  So if your boss (president, head of the IRS, whoever) doesn't know, you have to be so far above suspicion that there is ZERO chance that someone who is not your boss will suspect you.  That means the President of the USA must be in on any government conspiracy.  But he changes party.  Which means eventually he will not join it and expose it.  Then hold you up as the villain, blaming the entire other political party.

Lets talk about a non-government conspiracy.  Say for example Mrs. Obama decided that for some godforsaken reason, she wants her son to be President of the USA, even if failure means he gets thrown in prison for the rest of his life.   Keep in mind that being the son of an American, the ONLY benefit he gets is the right to be President - he would have been able to immigrate anyway and become a governor - just like Arnold Schwarnnegger.

At the very least, his mother must have been in on it.   Let's assume she also easily convinces Obamas father to be in on the secret (or maybe he wasn't present and she just tells him this.  So 42 years before I wrote this post, she falsely publishes a birth announcement in two Hawaii newspapers.  At some point, she also finds a way to add that info this Obama's father's immigration file.

She also gets one of her deer friends to confirm her lie.  She does all of this without telling Obama (why risk it?)   She then pays someone else to forge a fake short form birth certificate  (birthers claim this was a forgery).

But that isn't enough for her.  She must think so far ahead that she sees the birth certificate will be challenged.  So she pays off someone in the Hawaii's Health department to put in a real record of his birth in the records.   Then the Hawai Director of Health will confirm it as being real.

Somehow, this conspiracy genius, who has managed to get an old friend to lie about his birth, paid for a forged berth certificate, and also paid off the Hawaii government to get a real one, then FORGETS TO DESTROY THE FAKE BIRTH CERTIFICATE.   After all, if she has the real one, she doesn't need the forged one.

That is the minimum number of people.   It requires one friend, one criminal, and one member of the government to assist Mrs. Obama in the conspiracy.  And they all keep their mouths shut for decades.

All of this also requires that she gives birth alone, without anyone noticing it, Otherwise she has to hunt down the real birth certificate and destroy.

Also, there has to be some stupid reason preventing her from actually giving birth in the US.  It's not that hard to do it - illegal immigrants sneak into the USA every year to do it.  Not to mention wealthy Chinese people.

All for the minimal gain of having a black baby have the right to TRY to be president - back in the 60's when most black men have problem trying to vote.  She has no real motive to commit these major crimes.  The idea of her doing it is incredibly stupid.

OK, let's try this again - now, Obama himself decided to do it.  He has no motive until he becomes a senator.  Then, at that point, he finds that his mother, for no known reason happens to have given him a birth announcement in two newspaper that make it look like he is an American.  WHAT A LUCKY BREAK!  So Obama himself, a Senator who could easily and legally become Governor of a major state, decides to do the following:

  1. First find someone to forge a birth certificate
  2. Find an old teacher/family friend and convince them to lie about his birth.  
  3. Pay someone to break into old immigration files and change his father's record to say Obama is an American born citizen
  4. When the truth still comes out, he has to pay someone to alter the Hawaii records.  Let's assume this is the same guy for #1 and #3
  5. He also has to hunt down and destroy any real birth record, not to mention pay off the doctor that delivered him..
As opposed to accepting a position as Hilary Clinton's Secretary of State, or some other similar position.

All of this has to be done by someone he trusts enough to commit multiple major felonies in his name. To be President of the USA, instead of the Secretary of State?  Worse, to be the first BLACK president of the USA?   The first one elected has to commit crimes to do it?  No way.   NO freaking way.   He would get caught, go to jail, and put back civil rights for decades.  No reasonable person that cares about this country would do it, and no one that doesn't care about this country would risk it.

Why not?  Because the person he pays to commit all these crimes will betray him..   In the first minute. Because the guy paid to do the crimes is either doing it for money or for political reasons.  If he is doing it for money, someone else (Trump) will offer more money.  If he is doing it for political reasons, the second he realizes Obama is willing to lie like that means he no longer believes in Obama - and betrays him.

The cost of the rime is all born by other people and it is physically IMPOSSIBLE for Obama to pay other people enough money to do the crime.

More importantly, he risks not just his career, but the future of the Democratic Party.   Hell, it makes more sense for a false-flag GOP non-citizen candidate to run for the Democratic primary than a real one.  

But it all comes down to risk vs reward.   For any small reward, usually the risk is worth it.  But the larger rewards always have risks that exceed them.   For a small reward, you can depend on anonymity, but not for the big ones.  You can easily still someone's wallet, but don't even think about breaking into the Federal Gold Reserve.  Why?  Because the security on your wallet would cost more than the wallet, but security for the Federal Reserve costs far less than it holds.

More importantly, Senators are smart enough to know that being the President's right hand man is almost as powerful.   Obama would have seen all the risks involved in this incredibly STUPID plan and instantly seen that being the President's Chief of Staff us far better,

But most importantly - all of this is done by the FIRST serious Black candidate for President.  No.   That title is too big for someone to try this stupid plan to get it.  The second black president, maybe.  But not the first.

And I assure the GOP would pay far more to uncover the issue than the DNC paid to cover it up.   Look at what they did in Benghazi when there was no cover-up.

Same thing for pretty much every other conspiracy theory.  People hiding aliens?  Not enough motive to do it.  Poisoning our water with fluoride?  Not enough reward for the risk.

President Bush causing 9/11?  Bullshit.   To much risk of impeachment for the relatively minor benefit.

Compare this with real scandals - the Fast and Furious gun running, the IRS scandal.  All of those are caused by INCOMPETENCE, with incompetent attempts to cover it up.

Never underestimate incompetence - and never think that your so called conspirators aren't just as incompetent.  

No, you CAN do these kinds of things in non-'free' countries.  China has no free press to investigate, nor any 'loyal opposition' party to complain and demand justice.  So who knows what goes on there.

But in the USA?  Not possible.  The Democrats or the Republicans would squeal on each other in an instant.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I believe the Banks, not Fannie Mae killed Housing.

Every once in while, I come across a news story that is so offensive, so evil, it makes me want to SCREAM!

 This is one such story.

It makes it clear and obvious why the banks are responsible for the housing issues, not Fannie Mae, or anyone else related to the government.

In Orlando Florida, a man had some issues paying off his mortgage.  So he wisely and prudently applied for and received a 'modification' of his loan.   Wells Fargo is, in my opinion, generally one of the better banks - note they actually did the modification. Wells Fargo agreed to accept a lower rate - commensurate with current rates - over a longer time.  He was told if he made four payments on time, then the lower rate would be made permanent.

Then his situation improved.

So, being a good citizen and a financially prudent man, he started putting a little extra into his monthly mortgage bill.  He also started paying it early.

Whereupon the bank foreclosed on him.

You see, the loan modification is a legal document.  His, like many others, expressly forbid people to pay extra money or pay early.  This in and of itself is within reason.  Banks lose money when you do this, and if interest rates have dropped even further they can't loan out your extra payments at the same rate you were originally paying.  So when they agree to give you a break, it is totally reasonable for them to say 'hey, no early/extra payments" with this special deal.

But a reasonable bank, would not have foreclosed.  I am sure that Wells Fargo foreclosed for some combination of the following:

  • Bureaucratic nightmare that tries to force irregular reality into perfectly shaped holes
  • Being a greedy, profit grubbing, house thief was too great a temptation
  • Literalists too stupid to think inside the box, let alone outside the box
But the bank did not have to foreclose.   What a reasonable corporation would have done is the following:
  1. Accept the check, but not cash it until the actual day the money is due.
  2. Mail him back a check for the over-payment(s)
  3. Along with a letter explaining that legally he can't pay more than the prescribed amount nor early, under the current contract
  4. Thank him for the effort and congratulate him on being a good customer
  5. Politely include a request to set up an automatic electronic transfer so as to prevent future problems
That is what a good business does, as opposed to what Wells Fargo did.

As I said earlier, Wells Fargo is one of the better banks.  They have not had the issues that Bank of America has.  So the fact that even Wells Fargo screwed up this badly is a fairly clear sign that the entire industry has major problems.

Most banks are bureaucratic nightmares, too focused on squeezing the last penny, who try to follow set rules, rather than think up new ideas, real customer service, or even good business.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Republicans Abandoning Capitalism

Tesla is an innovative small business.  They are creating electrical cars, something the big automakers repeatedly claimed was unprofitable and not worth their time.

Part of how they do it is by not paying dealers.  They sell direct to the customer.  You want a Tesla, you email/call them - or go to a Tesla owned show room.. No need to go through a middleman.

The problem is a whole bunch of car dealers don't like this.   They are afraid for their jobs.

Now a normal capable person, when faced with this dilemma, proceeds to up their level of service and advertise.  They sell cars from multiple companies and go out of their way to help you compare products and make the right decision.

If you offer a service that people find valuable, they will willing come in and buy direct from you, as opposed to online.

It is how Barnes and Nobles continues to operate despite Amazon.  They offer things that Amazon can't offer - among other things, instant free service for their e-reader, free WiFi for their e-reader, instant service (as opposed to waiting a week).

But the dealers in North Carolina are NOT reasonable. They don't want to offer things at a reasonable price, they want to overcharge you for what they offer.

In order to do that, they need exclusive licenses from the car manufacturers.  Which they have from most manufacturers.

But not Tesla.  Tesla won't play their game.

So the dealers in North Carolina talked to their state congressmen.  They bribed, oh, excuse me, contributed to campaign finances, of the Republicans running the state house.  Whereupon, those same Republicans have passed a law banning direct car sales to consumers, claiming it is 'unfair'.

It's not the only Republican controlled state to do so- Texas won't let Tesla owned 'showrooms' offer test drives, sell the vehicles directly - or even quote a price.  Tesla is already suing the state of Texas over this law - and attempting to have it overturned by the Texas State Senate.

Why exactly it is unfair for car companies to directly sell to consumers, while it is not unfair for Apple, Amazon, and a hundred other internet based businesses is not clear.
All I know is that the GOP in North Carolina has sold their principles out.

They are attempting to kill a new technology company that can someday save the American Car Industry, all to keep alive a dying business model.

No, the GOP has a whole is not abandoning Capitalism.  But no one is calling these state level Republicans "RINO'S"

Because the GOP as a whole considers capitalism to be a secondary issue, less important than getting themselves elected.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yes the Boston Bombers were Terorist.

In a previous post, I asked Are The Boston Bombers Terrorists.   The answer is yes.  Not because they bombed, but because they wrote a note and confessed to the government that they were doing it as retaliation against the US government, not because of hatred for the American People.

Once again, terrorism is not the use of bombs, or taking prisoners which others called "Hostages".

It is the:

  1. use of violence 
  2. against non-combatants 
  3. for political purposes.   

 This note confirms the political requirement, making it terrorism.  Without it, we just had a criminal.

Not that it matters, he is still going to be tried and convicted by a civilian court, because that is a right everyone in America gets.  (Unless Martial Law gets declared).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The IRS scandal - T-Party/Patriots tax audits

The IRS illegally concentrated on conservative groups trying to declare themselves as tax free groups.  They looked for groups with the words "Tea Party", and "Patriots" in their name, as well as for any group that objected to government' taxation. They did so at low level management and below.  High level managers were apparently kept in the dark about this program.

They claim it was not for partisan reasons., but instead was because they had these new political organizations popping up, and they wanted a way to find those that objected to taxes and therefore should have their taxes double checked to make sure they were obeying the law that they themselves objected to.   

Perhaps the IRS is lying and it was really done for partisan reasons.   I don't know.

But you should in fact consider the following.

Under US federal law, followed by the IRS law, all political action groups HAVE TO PAY TAXES.  There is NO legal way for political organization to avoid paying taxes.  

What certain groups do is get around this by claiming they are social welfare groups.  For example, you could claim to be teaching people about guns, rather than a gun lobbying group.

So before you get all upset about the IRS targeting conservative political groups, the real problem is that they didn't target liberal political groups.

If you have ANY stated political claims, you should get extra IRS scrutiny when trying to claim you are a social welfare group as opposed to a political group.

The problem is not the auditing, but the apparent partisanship.   They could and should have done everything they actually did - and also target with the words "Occupy" in their names and with stated goals of overturning our banking system.

If they had done that, this entire fiasco would never have happened.  We would have said "Look, they went after both conservative and liberal groups, equally, it wasn't partisan."

Why didn't they do it?

The IRS was too politically naive to understand how it would look. They were too stupid to realize they were only going after conservative groups.  They were honestly trying to go after tax cheats by looking at people that said they objected to taxes.

Their main problem was that they did not think about appearances, not that they had evil goals.  In fact, if they actually were evil, all they had to do to cover their tracks was add the word "Occupy" to their memo about Tea-Party/Patriot, do a couple of half-hearted investigations of a few liberals groups as cover, and they would have been safe from the charges currently being bandied about.

Or better yet, actually do a full investigation of the Occupy groups along with the T-Party groups and they would not only be without sin, but wearing the white hats in reality.

This is a scandal.   But just a tiny one.  Whether it was done intentionally or accidentally, it was done by incompetent people.

I am not afraid of incompetent people.  Over time, they will always be discovered and fail.

Compare this with the Bush partisan hiring scandal in the Justice Department.  The DOJ scandal was done by much more competent people.  Worse, they took steps to cover their tail - but in the end were caught.   Eventually some admitted that they were hiring and firing people based on political reasons.  They refused to hire/promote liberals and intentionally fired people because they were liberals.    You can read the official report (investigate and written up by a Republican) here.

But I digress. The DOJ is not the IRS.  It's not as if the IRS targeted liberal groups under George Bush.

Oh wait, they did:  They targeted liberal churches for being political, while at the same time ignoring conservative churches for doing practically the same thing.  Not to mention targeting the NAACP

This is a scandal, but a minor one, that has happened before and will happen again.  The people involved should be yelled at and reminded that appearances matter.

In addition, any settlements, fines, and/or punishments given out to those groups should be double-checked and reversed if they were found to be more severe than warranted.  As for reparations for legal fees and efforts, I think the free publicity for anti-government groups should be considered sufficient compensation.  Any organization worth their tin foil hats should be able to come out far ahead from this event.

It is not surprising that the GOP is trying to turn this relatively minor scandal into a big thing.  Particularly as the conservatives groups were already upset about taxes (which is why of course the IRS targeted them in the first place).

Did the IRS screw up?


It is a bid deal?


Monday, May 13, 2013

Printable Guns

The age of the printable gun has arrived.   For now, printable guns aren't that big a deal.

The machines to print them are still relatively expensive (over a grand), and therefore uncommon.

But that will change, their price is coming down.   While we have some time, within 5-10 years, that time may run out.

So let's assume a thriving community of millions rep-rap devices easily and cheaply available for less than $500.

Right now the Government is trying to block the downloading.  I don't think that's a good idea.

So, there are the following issues:

  1. First amendment (on top of the 2nd)
  2. The infeasibility of blocking the information because it is now also available in servers outside of the USA
  3. The fact that the new plastic guns often look like toys.  (Resulting in cops shooting kids with actual toys because they thought they were printed guns)

Now let's talk about possible real solutions to prevent widespread possession of downloaded guns by criminals, depressed people, the mentally unstable and children.

Note that last category.  Children, even  pre-teens , will be perfectally capable of building a gun in this situation.  While you may want adults to be able to print one out, as well as your own possible kids, what about others?

Very few people will be willing to let EVERY SINGLE kid in junior high school have access to a gun printing device.

Especially as they may leave them around for their younger kids to play with.

So here are some reasonable legal solutions to this coming problem.

  1. Make it a new federal offense to print, paint or even posses a real working gun that is not painted/printed in a dark color.  Sorry, we need to protect the kids, you give up certain colors to be used solely by children.   This would be an add-on offense, counting as a separate felony for making it and for possessing it.  Similarly, they should continue to, by law, require a metal implant to aid metal detectors.  Printing, selling, or even possessing one without  such an insert would be an add-on felony., 10 years, no parole.   Why?  Because you do this only to hide a crime.
  2. Pass a law that states while you can legally download gun plans, the government has the legal right to track your IP address, and doing so is considered sufficient evidence for a federal warrant if that IP address is associated with anyone that is on the government's "can not legally buy a gun".  (Note, it's already legal for the government to track your IP address, this just makes it clear that a warrant is justified.)
  3. When such a blueprint is downloaded, the government has the right to send a message to the IP address daily for 3 weeks notifying the IP address that a gun has been downloaded.  This is to let parents know that their children may have done so. 
  4. Any commercial business that lets customers rent their 3D printers should legally be required to prevent people from printing guns without first undergoing a background check.  
  5. If you print a gun and then sell it, you need a license - even for a single gun.  Otherwise people could claim they only sold 1, when in fact they sold 1,0000.   This rule would only apply to selling printed guns, not to selling regular guns.
Note that this won't stop terrorists from printing guns and bring them onto aircraft.  Expect that to happen relatively soon.   We will need better weapon detection devices - I say devices that can smell gunpowder.

Warren's Idea to tie student loans to banking rates

Right now we give large banks a HUGE deal on interest rates.

The idea is to make it cheap for them to loan out money, so that they will do so.  Supposedly, the lower interest rates will trickle down to the people the banks loan out money.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Senator from Massachusetts, driving force behind Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, oversaw TARP) wants to give students the same rate.

As per this article,  we  currently loan the money to the banks at 0.75%, while charging students almost  7.00%.   These loans are short duration loans to cover liquidity issues.   I.E.  give the bank $100 million to loan mortgage while they wait a couple of days to package them up and sell them to the Fannie Mae.

The banks get loans for hundreds of billions of dollars. (as per this report mentioned a peak of $150 billion 12 years ago, directly after the September 11th attack).

Student loans however exceed that number by quote a bit.  They are currently somewhere between $600 billion and $1 trillion. (Article about why it is so hard to tell)

Some people object to Warren's idea because of the cost.  Note that if the cost is so horrible, why do we give the banks the sweet heart deal?

Isn't the point of the Discount Window rate to encourage banks to loan money out?  Then why don't you want to encourage banks to loan money to students?

The quiet truth is we need to charge the banks more and the students less.

A solid rate of about 4% - higher than the 

Friday, May 10, 2013

A new solution to the NRA's 'gun registration fear"

The NRA has completely changed it's opinion on gun control.

At first they clearly stated background checks are acceptable.

That's OK, I myself have posted multiple times about guns (offering a couple of different solutions)

Now that has changed - they say it is unacceptable out of paranoid fear that the government will keep track of who has and who doesn't have guns.

The thing is that is not unconstitutional.  It is totally legal for the government to track who owns guns.

The 2nd amendment merely states we can't take AWAY the guns, not track who has them.

The NRA gun right morons claim that tracking guns is the first step in taking them away.

Nope.  We've seen it happen many times before - Japan, Germany, Russia,

The steps go this way:

  1. Get into power
  2. Change the rules to make it harder to remove you from power  (i.e. gerrymandering)
  3. Start abusing the rules you changed in step 2 to stay in power.
  4. Create a cadre of armed people willing to obey your command despite the abuses you did in step
  5. THEN start tracking the people you don't trust
  6. Then start creating laws to let you imprison the people you don't trust.

Tracking the people is not an early step.   It is a rather late stage.

It's kind of like saying you don't want to let doctors check your blood type out of fear that they will harvest your organs.

Any reasonable person puts the major limit much closer to the real problem, not so early in the game.

But too late, the NRA has control over enough votes to stop reasonable background checks.

So let's offer them some unreasonable ones.

I have previously talked about several ways to do background checks (private organizations approved by the states to check against a list maintained by the federal government, no checks for long guns, but substantial ones for hand guns, etc).

But how about if we let the NRA do the checking?  Will the NRA trust itself not to maintain a list of those people that checked?

If the NRA refuses to do the checking, how about the ACLU?  Or better yet, let EITHER of them check.

Have the federal government maintain the list of people forbidden from getting guns and each week on Wednesday send a copy of the list to the ACLU and the NRA.  

Let them charge whatever they want to check if you are on the list or not.  They must maintain an encrypted record of each check they do - using a public/private key system.   The private key is held by the store that does the request.
Of course, we would have to put in some penalties.   Specifically, have some random testing by the federal government and if they fail to reject appropriate people, the NRA or the ACLU gets fined.

Also throw in the right sue if someone forbidden from buying a gun uses one to kill or damage someone, then:

The person that was shot (or the heirs) may:
  1. Sue the store that sold the gun for $20,000 if they did not do a background check.
  2. Sue the NRA/ACLU for $20,000 if they did the background check but the NRA/ACLU failed to update their list within the last 13 days of the back ground check.
  3. Sue the US government for $20,000 if they failed to include someone on the list within 13 days days of being informed they belonged on the list
  4. Sue the responsible organization for $20,000 if they failed to report to the US government that someone was no longer eligible to purchase a gun - and why.
In addition, let's throw in some reverse checks - specifically make it clear that any federal judge can restore your right to own a gun, as long as they are proven sane and have no un-pardoned felonies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

American Civil Rights

I was talking to a conservative friend of mine, and he said something that I feel needs to be countered.

Specifically he stated that (I paraphrase) liberals would never give up on the issue of gay marraige/rights because of civil rights.  He claimed that even if a huge preponderance of evidence showed that gay parents were worse than straight ones that liberals would still object to it.

I disagree.  If in fact the founding conservative arguments are proven right, I think liberals would abandon gay parental rights, irregardless of the civil rights argument.  As per the law, the interests of the child supersede those of biological parents lots of times.

(Note, that's not going to happen - the conservative arguments are full of crap, gays make just as good parents.)

It is easy to see why he would think liberals would ignore the facts.  Liberals dismiss practically out of hand those arguments currently being made by conservatives.  That's because those arguments are too often laughable and the people making them don't understand it.  We rarely bother to try and argue with the conservatives on these facts - it's like trying to convince a rabid dog that you own the shoe, no matter if the dog has it in his mouth.   They make inane statements that confuse correlation with causation, and reject obvious alternative explanations.  Among other things they confuse problems caused by prejudice against gays with problems caused by being gay.

[See my previous posts about why conservatives arguments so often fail to convince liberals - they believe in faith not science, so create arguments based on faith, not science. ]

To fully understand how and why we need to start by talking about Civil Rights.

Civil Rights are based on a core principle of American liberty.  Here, I quote, rather than merely paraphrase:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

All men are created equal.  That is the foundation of our civil rights.  That is, gays are not evil, not sinners, nor in any way morally inferior.  They are just as smart, just as nice, just as capable as anyone else.

That is where we get our civil rights - from the concept of equality for all.

If by chance, gays WERE somehow significantly less capable parents - that would significantly undermine one of the United States' Founding Principles.  This would run counter to our experience for the past 200 years.

In this nightmare world where gays are not as good parents, Civil Rights might survive one such blow.   Like I said before, the rights of children tend to over-ride the rights of parents.    This would be a horrible shock to liberals - and to America, but we can probably survive it.

But too many such shocks would cause a political upheaval, a political revolution equivalent to the American Revolution in political thought, if not military results.   We would need to ignore those self evident truths we declared independence to get, because it would mean they had been proven wrong.

But like I said earlier this is not reality, it is a nightmare world dreamed up by conservatives.

All men, INCLUDING GAYS are created equal.  They are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights.

This includes the Civil Right to get married.   To raise a family.   To pursue Happiness.

That means they are not worse parents and their marriage does not impair striaght marriage in any way shape or form.