Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes.

Recently Phil Mickelson (professional athlete) complained about his taxes. He pays over 60% taxes, and is wealthy.

The reason is simple - he actually works for a living, as opposed to most wealthy Americans.

You see there are three different ways to be rich in America.

  1. Earn It.  Here you pay your fair share of taxes - perhaps even a little bit more. 
  2. Dividend it.  Her you pay far less than your share of taxes.
  3. Trust Plan It.  Here you pay no taxes - even if you are the guy setting up the trust, as opposed to the kid inheriting it.

Edward J McCaffery wrote an interesting article on CNN about it.  While worth reading because of his concise explanation of the problem, his solution sucks.  He wants a sales tax.  His strategy fails to recognize the existence of method #2 above, or how sales tax typically work in the USA.

Basically, sales tax are always regressive.  By that I mean, if you are poor and live in a state with a 10% sales tax, you pay 10% of your income in tax.  If you are wealthy however, you often pay far less than 10% of your income on tax.   The poor spend all their earning, while the wealthy always invest it. The wealthier you are, the lower the percent of your earnings you spend.  In fact, the truly poor spend MORE (credit cards and other debt) than 100% of their earnings and the truly wealthy spend less than 1% of their income every year.

Sales tax are by definition regressive and ALWAYS taxes the poor too much and the wealthy not enough.  Because the wealthy always have the option of not spending, while the poor never have that option.

So lets look at something reasonable as opposed to yet another 'tax the poor' proposal.

First let me delve deeper into the three methods of making money.

1) Earn it means you get a salary.   You income each year is taxes at the progressive income tax rates.  The more you earn, the higher the tax you pay.

It is in fact how most of our federal funding is done - mostly on the middle class/ lower upper class.  In states with high sate income tax , it is perhaps a bit unfair, but in other states with low income taxes, it is pretty much the ONLY way we tax the wealthy.  If you are wealthy and can move to a lower tax state, it makes sense to do so.

This taxation system is reasonable - the wealthy get far more for their money than anyone else does.  Economies of scale ensure that happen.  They benefit far more from the government's actions than we do.

I see no real reason to increase their taxes.

Again, I do not really see the need for significantly higher income tax.   Is the extra 3% going to kill them?  No.  Nor will it help a huge amount.

2)  Dividend it.  Also Capital Gain it.   Here you don't earn your profit, you put your money to work and it earns for you.  You pay no tax on this money if you are poor (making less than $36,250 single), and only 15% if you are middle class (single making $26,250 to $250k), if you are lower upper class (earning between $250k and $400k) you pay 15%+3.8% (medicare) =18.8%.  If you are truly wealthy (over 400K for single), you pay 20+3.8=23.8%

Note 23.8% is still very low compared to the 39.6% those suckers who try to EARN their money have to pay.  As in half the rate.

This is a joke.  It was put in by the GOP who try to pretend that all Americans earn their money, and they wanted to encourage 'investing".  Fine, encourage investing by offering a 5% tax discount, not 17.8% discount. 

They need to be taxed just like regular income - with perhaps a freebee $10k a year, and special treatment for real estate gains for houses you live in for at least the past year.

3)  Trust plan it.   As McCaffery wrote, the truly rich don't even bother to pay capital gains taxes.  They make investments, take out loans on their wealth, and pay no taxes - not even capital gains or dividend taxes.  When they die, their heirs get new cost basis.  No taxes EVER on their yearly earnings.  Instead they pay interest on their living expenses till they die.   Occasionally, they take small gains, offset by losses to pay off loans.  But they leave the big gains alone.   If they do it right, their heirs don't even have to pay much inheritance tax because of the trust plan they set up.

The only reason for these trust plans and loans are to avoid paying taxes. These people need to be taxed and taxed up the wazoo.  They are not contributing to the system, they are instead manipulating it and abusing it.  They are not 'investing in America', they are raping America.   And we stand back and let them.  No, we point the way, with tons of tax attorneys and lobbyists.

I am all in favor of letting people inherit their wealth. I am not in favor of letting the truly wealthy avoid paying taxes by pretending to leave it to their children.


Early I have suggested replacing income tax with a wealth tax.  Well, if you don't want to do that, here is a simpler, easier solution.

Ten Year Unrealized Capital Gains Tax at 40%.

Right now we encourage people to invest by giving them a low capital gains rate for investments more than one year.   Fine.  But if you have held an asset for more than 10 years, we don't need to encourage you to invest, we need to encourage you to SPEND.  So put a ten year extra high capital gain.

Simple rule - if you have owned any security for more than ten years and it is worth more than when you bought it, you must pay taxes as if you had sold it for a gain and bought it again 1 month later (tax rules currently consider a sale + re-buy to be a false sale if done within 30 days.)

Your cost basis gets adjusted up, you owe the taxes, and we destroy the entire loophole.

Also, arrange for the Inheritance tax to be substantially reduced - ten years after this law goes into effect.  Let's be fair.

P.S.  Yes people, we can put in exceptions, as always, for the home that you live in, and slightly different rules for a business property you earn money on.  You could for example allow business property to pay 4% tax on the gain every year, offset by business losses as opposed to 40% at the end of ten years. 

It will still be far simpler than the convoluted estate and trust garbage we let people get away with every year.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ten Years from Now

Recently a complete lunatic that failed to predict the turnout and results of the 2012 election the actual day it happened (after studying the polls for years), came out with a ridiculous set of 10 year predictions.   Well, if any idiot can do it, this one can too!

Here are my predictions about the GOP:

First, over the next ten years the Republican party will slowly lose it's hold on local and congressional offices.  People age and they have seriously pissed off the younger generation, immigrants, and the demographics that are growing.

This will lead the Democratic party to grow complacent.  They will make mistakes and a new leader will arise in the GOP.

He will revolutionize them and re-invigorate the GOP.  He will still be the second place party, but they will pick up some momentum.  It might be a familiar name (Christie, Rubio, Jindal etc.), or it could be someone new.

I am not sure exactly what he will do, but I can tell you they will definitely abandon certain key GOP ideas. They will keep pro-life, and remain conservative.  But they will become a huge pro-latino party.  It's the only way they can retain any relevance.  That means immigration reform, led by the GOP.  Good bye racism, hello equality.

They will also have to give up the anti-gay agenda.   They will still be anti-gay, just not as openly.   They will never become pro-gay, but frankly they have lost the anti-gay battle, it's just a matter of time.  As for abortion, they will continue to press their anti-abortion agenda, winning in the state legislates while repeatedly losing in the courts, having their ridiculous anti-abortion laws overturned over time.

Guns - whatever happens this year will remain in place for the next ten.   If we can't get any changes now, we will not do so for a generation.  If we do, the NRA will use whatever gains done now as an excuse to stop more.

Taxes - the current GOP will continue with it's ridiculous plan of "cut the deficit while also cutting taxes."  But honestly, without total control this is meaningless.  Without the power to actually pass laws, it's just a way to wage a two-front war.  If they actually obtained power and achieve the Presidency (unlikely, but possible), then they would practically abandon one of those ideals while maintaining lip service.

Most likely they would abandon the idea of cutting taxes and let them go up.  Because they are smart enough to realize that if they cut services enough to affect the deficit without raising taxes their presidency would become one term.  Because the only ways to that would be radical changes in the social services that people LOVE or the military - which they are paranoid enough to keep.

Drugs are a strange issue.  I suspect that within ten years there will be some kind of law passed giving the states the right to legalize marijuana.  If the GOP is smart they will push this idea to the forefront, in part as a way to avoid legalizing it nationally.   If they are stupid, they will let the Democrats take this winning idea and run with it.  If they are REALLY stupid they will pull an ObamaCare - let a GOP governor create the idea, then abandon it when the Democrats agree.

If they are smart, the GOP will pick up the battles the Democrats have abandoned - specifically pro-web user rights.  If they bring just a dash of anti-Facebook to their platform, they can recruit some of the liberals that are pro-privacy liberals.

Who will this new wunder-kin Republican be?   They need either a northern republican like Chris Christie, or a non-white southern republican, like Rubio or Jindal  Better yet, a northern non-white republican - Colin Powell would make a great one.  Or a female version of him.

If you are a white southern male republican, you have no chance to win the Presidency.   Sorry Perry, Santorum, etc.  You never had a chance and you never will.  Not in the current demographics.

The Tea Party will slowly lose relevance, they are a distraction that inhibits the GOP on the national stage, while barely keeping them alive in the local elections.   The Libertarian/Ron Paul will slowly gain relevance at the cost of the Tea Party.  But they will not achieve real power.  They will never pick the President - if they win the primary, they would lose the general election.

The next Republican GOP President will not come from the existing GOP power structure, it will create a new one.  Rubio, Jindal or Christie could do it - but only by kicking the hell out of Fox first.  Because honestly, Fox is holding the GOP back.

Fox News is force for the status quo.  They  maintain the base, but at the same time retard growth.   A real GOP leadership would have to be be capable of getting them to shut the hell up.   They need someone that can kick Glenn Beck, or his equivalent off the air, not have their campaign destroyed by it.

Louisiana Governor 'Bobby' Jindal (his first name is too ethnic for Republicans to vote for), and Chris Christie have already made the first step in yelling at the current GOP.  But it's not too late for Rubio (or someone new) to step in and really take control.

Because the first step to taking control of the GOP is to crush their free independence, just like any stereotypical Drill Sergeant in any good army movie.  Then he can build them back up - in his new political image.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Military to 'Open" combat jobs to women

Why did I put the word "open" in quotes?  Because women have already served in combat.

They just didn't get combat pay for doing it.

Female mechanics fixed vehicles while taking fire.  They had weapons and they used them to shoot back.   Since they were mechanics, they weren't in 'combat' and did not get combat pay.   Nor did they get the medals that go with it.

Similar stories happened with pilots, drivers, and other 'non-combat' positions.  Not top mention women serving ship board.

During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, more than 800 women were wounded and at least 130 died while in 'non-combat' positions. (source)

It's time to recognize real equality.

American women have consistently proven themselves as deadly soldiers.

Yes, there are problems with sexual harassment in the military.  But if the women are willing to risk it, then we should support them.

It will in fact help us create a better army.

All militaries run on discipline.  Where sexual harassment is occurring, that is a failure of discipline, which means our military had a secret weakness that we uncovered.  When we fix the lack of discipline that led to the harassment, we make our military stronger and better.

In addition, there are heroes out there.  Some are male, some are female.   By keeping women out of combat, we were preventing these heroes.

One day - and soon - our decision to let women serve in combat positions will save the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of other American soldiers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

National Debt.

The National Debt is a very complex topic.   This is not surprising, the larger a monetary value, the easier it is to take small portions of it and do strange things.  If you have $1, in America, basically, the most you can do is keep it in 100 different places (in pennies), and that would be silly.  But if you have $1 trillion dollars, there are a lot of little secrets and tricks you can use.

Currently the US has an "official" national debt of just under 16.5 trillion dollars.  (source).  Not the word "official".  I will get back to it later.

The first question is:  "Is that a lot?"

It seems like a lot.  But it might not be.  If the US tax revenue was 500 trillion, then debt of 16.5 is not that much.

So lets figure out is it a lot by comparing it to other things

  •  If you break it down per person, 16.5 trillion is more than $50,000 per citizen.
  • The Federal government earns about 2.9 trillion a year (source)   
  • The Federal government spends about 3.8 trillion a year (source)
  • The current (2013 estimate) US deficit is about 1 trillion a year (source)
  • It's a little bit over our National GDP, which puts us (just barely) in the top ten debtor nations (source)

So each year we add another 6% to the debt.   That is not horrible.  Obama has done a pretty good job of reducing the huge deficits that he inherited from Bush (the last budget GW Bush created was for 2009 - which he passed during 20008 - was 1.4 trillion.)

The debt is about 6 times what we earn.  That's not good.  If you earn 100k a year, then you should not get a 600k home(Mortgage Calculator), not unless you have more than  200k in down-payment.

But on the other hand, interest rates are incredibly low.  It costs the US less than 2% for 10 year, and just over 3% for 30 year.  At those rates it is almost stupid not to borrow,

But lets get back to the beginning.  Remember when I talked about "official"?  Guess why. Because a dirty little secret is that about 1/3 of that debt is debt the government itself owns.  (source)  Yes, we sell ourselves treasuries.

Specifically. the Fed itself owns $1.66 trillion.   It holds the bonds to trade.  We use it to control the interest rates.  Right now they are below 2% for 10 years and around 3% for thirty years.  The Fed is allowed to sell when it wants, or buy more.

That isn't real debt in any way, shape or form.  It's basically part of a cash advance from our credit cart that we keep in our wallet because the bank gave us a better rate if we took out more than we actually need.  Drop that 16.5 trillion down to 14.84

But wait, I'm not done.   Lots of federal agencies have extra cash and guess what they hold it in before they use it?  Yup, US Treasuries. Effectively, these are loans from our retirement plan currently being kept in our bank accounts till we actually pay the contractors that are working on our home.   Yeah, eventually we will pay them out, but the contractor is taking decades to finish the work he said would be done in two weeks.

Social Security is the big one at 2.72 trillion, but if you add up all the "Intragovernmental debt", it comes to another 4.9 trillion on top of the 1.66 held by the Fed.   That debt is kind of like Dad borrowing fro his own 401K to put in his own bank account labelled 'vacation'.  It's not real debt, it's just a way to track which agencies are owed money by the federal government.  The whole "Lock Box" idea for social security.

Subtract out the 4.9 trillion from the 14.84 and you get the real debt of just under 10 trillion dollars.

The real debt each person owes is about 33 thousand dollars, not 50k.   That's a big difference.

The real debt is about 3.4 times what we earn, not 6 times.   A person can borrow 3.4 times their salary to buy a home.  It's totally reasonable.

Is it a great situation?  No.   But given the incredibly low interest rates, it's OK. In my opinion  the federal government should be converting short term debt to 30 year treasuries as fast as it can, then let inflation go a bit.  If we did it just right, then in 5 years, our national debt would be gone.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Criminal Sheriffs

Everyone knows that cops are people too.  Some are incredibly honorable.  Some are incredibly criminal. Most are good men trying to make the world a better place.  They all need sleep and food.

Recently a sheriff (I won't name him or even give his state - you can google him if you are truly interested) said he won't enforce 'unconstitutional' gun laws and will arrest feds if they try to do it in his territory.

Well, someone should tell him he is a sheriff not a judge or congressman.  As a sheriff he is sworn to uphold the laws, not make them. 

He does not have the legal power to decide if a law is unconstitutional. That right is reserved for judges.  If he wants to do that, he needs to study hard, get a law degree, work as a judge, and maybe, just maybe, some President will appoint him as a Supreme Court Justice (and congress might approve him.)  Nor does he have the power to make laws.  To do that he has to run for congress or at least state assembly.

Because you see a sheriff that attempts to stop federal agents from enforcing laws is not a sheriff.

He's just an arrogant fool with a gun.  Worse he is also a two-bit dictator with a gun trying to tell us how to live our lives.  He doesn't have that power or authority.

Do you want to know what happens to arrogant fools with guns that try to interfere with federal agents doing their job?

  • First the federal agents try to arrest them. 
  • Second, if they don't drop their gun, they got shot by those federal agents.
  • Third, those federal agents get praise for killing a dangerous lunatic with a gun.

Now I don't think that's going to happen.   Mainly because this sheriff is also a paranoid fool trying to get some publicity.

He thinks by talking big, he raises his status.  No, just makes it easier to take him down a peg or two in the courts.

The main things he is afraid of are things no one is doing.   He likes to lie about what the President is trying or will try to do, because he doesn't believe in the President.

Then he lies about what he personally is willing to do.    At hear this guy is just a coward.  When faced with federal agents armed with guns and the real power of the courts, he will back down.  He won't try to stop the federal agents.  He will sit back and take it like a weak, state employee with little real power.

P.S.  Is the sheriff aware that since 1968 more Americans were killed by firearms on US soil then in all American wars since .... 1775.   1.4 million vs 1.2 million. (Source)  That pretty shocking.

But more so is the fact that in 2011 alone, more Americans died from gun shots than in the the Iraq War, Afghanistan War, and the Persian Gulf War combined.  You could even through in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Mexican War for good measure.

Also, more Americans died from gunshots on american soil during George W Bush's term (CDC says 212,334 gun deaths from 2001 to 2007) than in every single American war excluding the big three (Civil, WWI and WWII) (124,262).  Yes, I know GW Bush's term ended in 2008, but I was being generous.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I Was Wrong about Gun Laws

First, Obama recently upgraded our no-buy list for guns.  This is a big deal, as it previously was a joke.  More about that later.

Second, let me state that I have put forth several, slightly different gun control proposals.  I am not so arrogant as to think any of them are perfect.  But we need to do SOMETHING and these blog entrees are offer multiple possible solutions.  I am not wrong about them.

Third, let me admit my own ignorance.  I thought the attempt to ban assault weapons were an attempt to ban assault rifles.  Turns out I was wrong - assault rifles are already illegal and no one is complaining about them.  Assault weapons are something different and rather indistinct.  Let me apologize here and now for my ignorance.  I will talk about the assault weapon ban below.

First lets talk about the big thing, hand guns.

Part 1:  Hand guns.

OK, the first point is fairly simple.  According to the FBI, hand guns make up the majority of murder weapons.  Some idiots use this as an excuse to avoid regulating rifles, but please note that poison (5) and explosives (12) cause far fewer deaths a year, but we still regulate them.   The number of deaths per year are a warning sign of where we need to focus, not an excuse not to regulate.  We still need to regulate long guns, but hand guns are far more important.

Hand guns are singularly unsuited for hunting or or military use.  They have horrible range, accuracy, and low penetration compared to rifle rounds.

They are really only useful for three things:  competitions, ambushes (i.e. concealed carry), and urban combat where you you want to avoid civilian casualties.  Criminals prefer it for the second reason, police prefer it for the third reason.

As a result, there are four and only four reasons anyone wants a handgun:

1)  You think someone is trying to kill you but are not willing/can not get police protection
2)  You enjoy shooting one at a shooting range i.e. competing - either against others or just yourself.
3)  You job uses them (i.e. security guard, cop, etc.)
4)  You want to ambush and murder someone

In order:

  1. Many studies show handguns are far more likely to kill their owners than people attacking them.  Mainly because hand guns have crappy accuracy, particularly in untrained hands.  As a result, countries with strict hand gun controls ALL have much lower murder rates.  As a general rule, if we make it harder to get a hand gun, then more people will survive than if you let everyone buy one.
  2. Fine - let hand guns be legal in a shooting range.  Rent them from a business.   That way you try 50 different ones without being rich.  Your average guy doesn't need to own it.
  3. If your job (police, guard, etc.)  means you need one then you can get one - and a concealed carry license.
  4. If you want to ambush and murder someone, just go to the police and fill out a form.  Then they can arrest you with no fuss. 
There is no reasonable reason for most civilians to buy a handgun.

But you say "Second amendment!"  Now, I am a reasonable person.  I don't see a reason to outlaw handguns.  I have a better solution.   We are not actually outlawing guns - just the short stock.  You can continue to own the exact same piece, you just need to replace the stock.  Or just yet weld a one foot long stock to your pistol grip.  No folding or detachable stock allowed.   The concept of adding a stock is not new:  Mauser C96 with stock., Star Model A with stock, are just a couple of examples.

Stocks increase accuracy by reducing vibration.   Who can complain about improving the combat effectiveness of the hand gun?

We would just be requiring all privately owned civilian handguns be improved by the addition of a stock.

You keep your guns, you just have a harder time concealing them.

Recently a 7 year old kid brought a handgun to school in his backpack.  If we require them to have stocks, it would not have fit.


Part2:  Assault Weapons

What exactly did the 'assault weapon' ban stop?  I have cut them into two categories, first the ones that make sense:

  • Folding telescoping stocks (see hand guns, above)
  • Flash Suppressor (again, used for concealment)
  • shotguns with magazines of greater than 5 rounds
  • Grenade Launcher
  • large and/or easily detachable magazines
The first two are about concealment, which should be illegal for civilians.  The rest are only really needed in a war - and can rather easily be modified by gun makers after a war.  There is no good reason for civilians to get any of them before they declare rebellion against the USA.

Next comes the silly things:

  • 'pistol grip' for long weapons
  • bayonet mount
  • barrel shroud
  • weight of the weapon
  • semi-automatic versions of fully automatic weapons
The pistol grip idea was to make it harder to use rifles and shotguns.  Silly rule, not worth much.  Bayonets are basically only useful to scare people.   Barrel shrouds make it easier to carry a weapon after it was fired.   The weight of the weapon restriction is designed to limit the power of the weapon.   The semi-automatic rule was designed to make it harder to convert them.   Currently the number of guns around give criminals far easier and better ways for criminals to spend their money on guns.

Honestly if we require all guns to come with 1 ft bayonets it would decrease the death rate - they can't be concealed.

All of these silly rules do not go to the real dangerousness of the weapon, but instead are about targeting minor things that the bad guys like and the good guys don't need.  They are not worth fighting over.

Ban the first set of stuff, compromise by giving up on the silly stuff.


Part 3:  Criminals.

No law will always be obeyed.  The point of most laws is not to stop something completely.  No, it is to strongly discourage the mostly honest people.   Most, but not all, of the guilty people we eventually find and capture or kill.

We need three more laws to effectively deal with criminals that disobey gun laws:

  1. One of our major problem is that fed's do NOT maintain a comprehensive "no buy" list.  That needs to change.  It's not that hard to actually enforce the rules.  Don't allow any government or state to get away with not updating the 'no gun list'.  Failure to comply by any state agency gets punished - severely.   Obama has announced this on Wednesday.  Good job Mr. President.
  2. All guns must be kept in a locking gun safe, when not in use.   So anyone buying a gun, must also buy a gun safe.  Make it included as part of the purchase - unless you show a picture of you standing next to an existing gun safe.   Punishment:  1 year in jail and forever lose the right to buy ANY gun.  All firearms will be confiscated and either sold or destroyed
  3. You must either get a federal ID to buy a long gun (no more hand guns, remember), or go through an extensive two weak back ground check performed by your state government.   Trust the state government or trust the federal government - your choice.  Gun shows can still exist using the federal ID system.   People that don't trust the government can buy from stores using the state system.

The laws I mentioned above will not always be obeyed.  But they do several things.

First, people could no longer merely steal a gun and immediately go on a wild killing spree.  Stocks/long barrels make it much harder to carry multiple weapons and/or hide them. Safes would need to be cracked, etc.

Second, it gives a simpler and easier criteria to convict criminals.  If we have stricter gun laws then we can declare breaking those gun laws to be high punishment crimes, the way we used to overpunish drug offenses.  As in 10 years, no parole

One of the problems we have now is that while we have lots of crimes with low criminal sentences.  If we treated gun crimes the way we treated drug crimes then our jails would be full of gun criminals instead of drug criminals.  Yes, many of the same people would be in jail.  But not all of them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One Trillion Dollar Coin.

First, let me talk about the obvious things.  A one trillion dollar platinum coin is not composed of one trillion dollars worth of platinum.

Similarly, a one hundred dollar bill is not made out of one hundred dollars worth of paper.  Or make that cotton, as US 'paper' currency is actually made out of cotton (plus some plastics and other synthetics).   It's called a one trillion dollar simply because that's what we engrave on it and claim it's worth.

Why a platinum coin - as opposed to say a gold one, or even a cotton/paper bill?  Because congress has put in rules and regulations affecting how much paper currency we can print and also how much gold, silver, and other coins we can mint.   But they put in a loophole to let Federal government mint any amount of platinum coins they want.

They did this to support coin collectors - both the sane ones doing it as a hobby with minor investment potential and the insane 'PUT YOUR MONEY IN GOLD AND PRECIOUS METAL!  THE WORLD IS ENDING!!!  NOW!"  Glen Beck people.

Done with the basics, now let's talk about the results of doing this.


Lots of it.

That's why congress put limitations on printing currency in the first place.

Is it an option?  Yes.  It is even a legal one.  Would I personally recommend it?  YES.  Will the president do it?  He said no.

America has had a huge period of low inflation.   For the past 70 or so years we avoided deflation entirely, but for the past 30 years we have had almost no inflation.  This is in fact one of the reasons why we had the housing problem.  If we had had some nice standard 10% inflation in 2005, 2006, and 2007, then houses would have gone up in value.  They could have sold most houses for more than their worth and the housing crisis would not have happened.

More importantly, inflation has been relatively low (see chart below) since the 1980's.   Our economy could definitely deal with a short period of inflation.   It might even be good for it.  Yes, some people are hurt by inflation (all those on a fixed income or who have most of their money tied up with long term fixed low rate securities).  But at the same time, many would benefit - for example those who have long term fixed rate debt (i.e. 30 year fixed rate mortgages).  Full disclosure - I have a 30 year fixed rate mortgage.

Is it going to happen?


Obama announced he won't.  A foolish move on his part - he should have used it as a threat to get the GOP will cave.

Why? Because the GOP loves the wealthy and the wealthy have a lot of their money tied up in the long term fixed rate securities.   They also don't want to piss off the elderly, as they have already screwed up with failed attempts to 'fix' social security.

So Obama should have threatened the GOP and they would have caved.  Because it is exactly the kind of threat the GOP would like to use against the DNC.  Which also makes it is exactly the kind of threat they would bow down to.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Violent Video Games Vs Guns.

There are some people that claim violent video games somehow cause violent actions.  They are doing this to avoid gun control.

They site clumsy studies that use strange definitions to hint that violent art incites violent actions.

The thing is certain things actually DO incite violence.  We call them drugs.  (source)

The main one is alcohol, but amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, and PCP are also confirmed sources of violence in SOME people.  Alcohol is the only one that always works.  The rest only work in certain individuals.  Kind of like the claims about video games.    Only video games don't have the same crime statistics as those drugs do.  If you give them to kids, they don't commit any more crimes than they do before the games.  Not so for the drugs.

If you give a victim a mix of alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, LSD and PCP, you can practically guarantee that the they will commit a crime.  Maybe just a misdemeanor.  But possibly a felony.  You can easily measure the effects by counting the number of victims that get arrested.

Do the same with a mix of violent video games and you get no crimes committed.   None.  Zero.

Most police departments have interesting violent stories about people hopped up on drugs. None of them talk about a kid hopped up on video games.

In addition the affect, while it increases with long term use is ALWAYS most present directly after a large dose.   Because that's the way the human mind works.   When you get most drunk, you get most violent immediately, not days later.

I personally do not own a video game system.  I do play some games on my linux computer.  (Linux computers do not have the best/most graphic games on them.)  I have however seen other people playing video games.

When they overdose, they get passive and become slackers.  They don't become violent.

I've been to bars.  I've seen the only real violence inciter work.   Video games don't do what alcohol does.   From what I've heard, any affect of video games is also nothing like what cocaine, LSD PCP, and amphetamines

If you read my source above, you will see an interesting quote "Of all psychoactive substances, alcohol is the only one whose consumption has been shown to commonly increase aggression."  Like I said, alcohol is the best drug if you want to make someone violent.

Please note those words. "incite aggression".

Aggression is not violence.  Aggression is often good.  Ask any stock broker, police man, soldier, or professional athlete.

We often encourage aggression.  Violence is different.  It is a rather special case of aggression, focused on causing damage and pain.

The idiots that think video game studies show violent video games sometime creates aggression.  They then confabulate aggression with violence and say "SEE!"

They are wrong.

Most business, police, soldiers, and athletes all like and try to create aggression.    Creating aggression is not bad, creating violence is bad.

The anti-video game people have no studies - not one - that shows actual crimes.   The reason is that they are wrong - violent video games do not create violent actions.

Why do they believe something that is wrong?  Because not only do they confuse aggression with violence, they have also confused cause and effect.  Violent people do in fact prefer violent video games.

Now some of you are going to point at studies claiming that the correlation exists even in infants.

Well I hate to tell you but infants can be violent.  Ask any pediatrician.   You know what, forget about pediatricians - ask OBSTETRICIANS.

Some babies kick their moms in the womb a lot.  Others don't.  (source).  I know what you are thinking - that babies are not smart enough to understand their actions.  That doesn't matter.  Some kick their moms, some don't.  Kicking your mom is violent.  It doesn't matter if they are -3 months, 0,  3 months, 30 months, or 30 years.   Some people are born with violent tendencies.   Some parents drink alcohol.  Some parents are exposed to lead.  Or maybe it's just genetic.

Whether or not those babies grow up to be violent has nothing to do with how often they play violent video games (or watch violent movies for that matter).

Instead it depends on how they are raised - and whether or not they get exposed to alcohol, cocaine, LSD, PCP or amphetamines.  And possibly lead.

The video game correlation exists because already violent people prefer to buy and play violent video games.  Not the other way around.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The anti-crime political party

There is a new study out claiming that lead levels are responsible for crime.  They compare lead levels with crime rates 23 years later (i.e. after the criminals grew up eating, drinking and breathing the lead), and found a high correlation.

It is well known that lead lowers IQ, damaging learning and memory, as well as causes brain, kidney and cardiovascular damage.  Now, some think it encourages violent actions as well.

I myself feel that crime is more likely to be related to legalized abortion, as unwanted children get a bad upraising and that leads to crime.   Among other things, I think China would have had a higher crime rate as they are a late comer to anti-lead laws, while they have family planning under strict government control..

But assuming that the studies are at least partly correct and lead plays a significant role in crime, then the Democrats just took back the pro-law and order crown.

Much of our anti-lead laws were enacted during Nixon's presidency- both the Clean Air Act and the Lead Based Paint prevention act.  But they were pushed by Democrats, particularly Senator Edmund Muskie, who ran as VP against Nixon.  He was one of the first environmentalists in the senate.

Then in 1990,,the Clean Air Act was amended (by Democrats), and again in 2008, under Obama, the EPA finally tightened lead rules.

If this study is true than the Democratic Party is and always has been the real anti-crime party.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fathers - how should the law treat them.

Full disclosure: I have no kids.  My sperm has never impregnated a woman.   My parents are divorced, my father raised me, my mother raised my sister.

Fatherhood is a rather strange concept in law.  At heart, the laws tend to ignore their rights, concentrating on those of the kids. Which doesn't make much sense.

Everyone admits religious rights exist.  But no moron would claim that my right to worship as I wish lets me burn your house down - even if my religion values arson.   My rights do not eliminate your rights.   Kids rights do not eliminate the rights of the men - that may or may not biologically related but in today's world definitely were not in control of deciding if the kid should be born.   There are even cases of women stealing sperm,and not just in the United States.

In addition, duties come with rights, which somehow get overlooked all the time.   That is, if I have a duty to the kid, then I have rights over the kids.

Sometimes the law states that biology matters, other times marriage matters.  In general this is done not for the benefit of the kid, but for the benefit of the mother.

 This article is not about divorced dads that choose (with or without pressure from the mother) to have kids and then abandon them.   I fully expect both the mother and the father to raise such children, and pay for them.  Even if they get divorced.

Instead this is about the other situation - when there was no marriage and no explicit or even implicit decision to have kids.  There, the laws grant all the power to the mother and none to the father - OR the kid.

In particular, there are two cases that highlight the stupidities of the law. 

First there is the case of Baby Verionica, whose Native American father gave up his legal rights when he thought the baby would be raised by Native Americans.  Then when it turned out not to be true, he tried to assert them again.

Then there is the case of a sperm donor being forced to pay child support (over the objection of the mother), because the state of Kansas neither recognizes the biological mother's lesbian marriage, nor the contract he had with both women.   (Note, the courts used a technicality - that no doctor was present for the insemination to avoid admitting the father had no responsibility.)
Our legal structure continues to insist that men are responsible for the child, despite taking all the power away from them.   Women have all the power.   They can abort, they can put the child up for adoption.  More importantly, their something called birth control pills which can not be subverted by a pin.

In addition, there are cases where women have admitted not having sex with the man, but instead obtaining sperm for donation, and the courts still order the men to pay child support.  See the sperm donor case above.

It is NOT true that men are responsible for the family structure, women have all the power, the men have almost none.    Would any one dare tell a 2 month pregnant woman that she can't legally get an abortion because she was the one who got pregnant and now she has to take responsibility for her sexual acts?  You try that in a liberal state, and you would be pilloried.   Why don't men have the same rights as women?

But it is OK to tell a man that he must take responsibility for his sexual acts by paying child support?

The honest truth is that in American culture (as with most of the world), women are the ones that want the child, women are the ones that have the legal power to have the child, women are the ones that have the legal power to get rid of the child.

As per this web page approximately 1% of unmarried women give up their children for adoption (Source - 2003 study)  

We take them at their word that they are unable to care for their children and let them abandon them - without any legal repercussions.  We don't track them down decades later, check to see if they have money and demand they pay child support.   What about the rights of the kids then?

We don't even give those kids the legal right to contract their biological parents, let alone the right to sue for money.      If we truly care about the rights of the child, then have Bill Gates pay.  That a joke, Mr. Gates.  In honest truth the money should be taken from the general tax receipts.  We don't take it from the parent's social security checks when their grown kids go on unemployment.  Even though a case could be made that the elderly parents screwed up raising the kids and are responsible.

The question is not about the right of the child to get the money but the responsibility of who to pay for it.      Sperm donors should never, under any circumstances be forced to do this.

We need better laws clarify what is and what is not a father - and they should be national.

We need to decide if a parent is someone biologically related to the child or a decision  to raise a child.

Frankly, the biological method seems fraught with multiple ethical problems..  If a man is a parent, then he has rights along with the duties, which means every single man has the right to know if he is a father at the birth of the child.  Women should be required by law to reveal the father if known, and should not be allowed to put a child up for adoption without getting his consent.    Genetic testing should then be done at birth to confirm all children.  There are lots of issues here. 

The decision to raise a child makes for a far better method, but it brings up the many times where a woman decides she wants to raise a child, ignoring the wishes of the man that un-knowingly assisted her with her desire.

There is one real problem.   Every year, about 1.4 million children are born to unwed mothers  (as per 2003 study mentioned above) and only 1% of them are given up for adoption.   THAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM. 

These women choose to do this - in part because they think the man should pay.  These women want the kids.  That's OK.  But the men shouldn't be forced to pay for something they never wanted and the women clearly did desire.  

But I have a solution to this issue.  Let any unwed mother have as many kids as she wants.  But if she has them, she can either:
1)  refuse to divulge the father, forever giving up rights to child support.


2)  let the courts take the kids and give them to the father to raise.

In my opinion, that would be true justice.  There is no reason whatsoever that women should raise the kids, as opposed to the man.

Some of you will say that the men would not be good fathers.   Unfortunately, many studies have shown that the majority of never married women are not significantly better.    Higher drop out rates, higher teen motherhood rates, higher unemployment rates, lower grade point averages, higher divorce rates, etc.  Maybe it's time to try it the other way around - it's hard to imagine the fathers doing a worse job.

Of course, this may just be the rant of a man that regrets never having a child himself.

    Friday, January 4, 2013


    I've talked a lot about leadership - in particular about how the GOP doesn't have any and hasn't had any in a long time.

    Let's talk about some of America's best leaders and what MADE them leaders.  In no particular order:

    • George Washington
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • FDR
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Clinton
    • Obama

    Yes, I put Obama on that list.  Read more to find out why.

    First, George Washington.  His leadership is to a large extent why America is great.  He was offered kingship and refused.  He was offered a third term and refused.  His shining example turned us into a country that had real democratic principles, as opposed to merely another dictatorship pretending to be a democracy.

    Abraham Lincoln led the country where it did not want to go.  The country was divided and he united it - not by doing what was most popular, but by doing what was right.  Note he did not pull them in at breakneck speed - he wanted to do everything SLOWLY.   He took his own party and forced them to do what was right, then tried to compromise with the Democrats to slowly end slavery.  They refused, broke away, and he responded to their speed by pushing them in the right direction.  The south was the reason why slavery was outlawed in the 19th century - if they had kept their mouth shut and accepted their lessened power, Slavery would have hung on probably into the 20th century.

    FDR  First and foremost, recognize that FDR ended Washington's tradition and went for a third (and fourth) term.   He did so only under the direst of needs (World War II).   Before then, he created the New Deal, which totally changed politics in America (called the New Deal Party System).   He turned Democrats into liberals - and began recruiting blacks to the party that had once insisted that all blacks were less than human and should be slaves.  Then he ran for a third term, which violated Washington's tradition.   He led us through the war, creating among other things Nuclear weapons, which have dominated international politics ever since.

    Ronald Reagan revitalized the GOP, starting it down the path it has become - a conservative party in favor of low taxes (which Reagan preached but did not follow), states rights (remember back before FDR it was the DEMOCRATS that tried to rebel because they valued states rights), etc.

    Clinton brought us a new Democrat party.  He kicked the extremists out, and turned it into the party of compromise.  We used that compromise to win battle after battle for his two terms.  He went for limited government, against FDR.

    Then Bush came over and ended the Compromise.  Obama led the Democratic party by returning to the roots of community activism.  He strengthened the local powers, and ended the long history of low democrat turnout.

    All six of these leaders changed the way modern politics worked.  But most importantly note how many of them basically did the opposite of their predecessors

    FDR abandoned Washington's greatest accomplishment.  Reagan and Clinton worked agaisn the New Deal.   Obama reversed against Clinton's low power federal government.

    Why?  Because the truth is always moderation.  When someone comes up with a good idea they run with it - and charge with it- till it becomes abusive.  Then the next big idea will almost HAVE to run directly counter to the last one.

    Low taxes are great - when your taxes are too high and destroying the economy.  But when lesser men try to continue the practice of lowering taxes, eventually they drop too low.  Then a new hero must come out and champion higher taxes - to pay our bills.  It takes a while to find the perfect balance and ALWAYS requires some back and forth.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    The Two GOP's

    It is increasingly clear that the GOP has unofficially split into two parties.  The Tea Party and the Skilled GOP.

    The Tea Party knows what it wants.  They have no idea how to get it.  They have no idea that democracy is all about compromise. They also have no idea that a lot of what they want is actually impossible.  They have been fed lies by FOX and the Skilled GOP and believe them.

    The Skilled GOP is very different.   They no exactly how things work and how to get things done.  They value compromise.  They remember all the lies they told (and convinced Fox to tell).   The problem is, most of the world right blames them for everything.  They failed on so many levels no one trusts them.  Not the traditional GOP base, not the T Party, and definitely not the Democrats.

    So what can they do?  What is their path forward?

    They need a leader.  A real one.

    Like Reagan.  Or Clinton.  Or Obama.  All three of those men grabbed hold of the reigns and marched them in on direction.   Among other things leaders make decisions about which goals to emphasize and which to put off for another day.  Which is the exact thing the GOP needs - they keep trying to go in two different directions.

    So lets talk a bit about which direction they can go.

    Deficit Reduction or Tax Reduction.  There are two entirely different themes, no one seriously thinks you can do both.    Pick one and make it your priority.  You can NOT push for both.  It's like trying to build a device that flies in the air and also swims down to the depths of the ocean.

    Here there are two paths - 'regulate it to a minimum in as many states as possible' and 'quietly accept the current status quo.'  Let's be honest hear.  The majority of the country considers it to be legal and just. The Supreme Court is on our side, and won't change for the next 4 years - and honestly probably not ever.  The far right never likes to admit it, but most of the country dis-agrees with them on this issue.  The only way they win is on local votes and even then only because most of the people are not energized.  When you talk about abortion, the democrats win national votes.  Every single time the right opens their mouth about abortion, they convince one more independent to turn liberal.

    They realize they are a party loved by racists.  As such, they actively try to prevent immigration in general, and Hispanic immigration in particular.  The problem is that while most of the GOP is anti-immigration, the far majority of the country is pro immigration.  Worse, the GOP has consistently used anti-immigration as an excuse for outright illegal, racist discrimination.  From ignoring rape accusations by hispanic women, to calling children whose parents broke the law criminals, to cutting funding for Hispanic books.   They lost votes from this and they know they lost votes. They have given up on the black vote, the Asian vote, the Jewish vote.  They can't give up on the Hispanic vote.  They need to not just  stop blocking immigration reform, they need to cave entirely and end the discussion.

    This is one area where they can keep their prejudice.   Yes, they are losing ground on this issue, and will continue to do so.  But honestly, their hatred has made such an enemy that even if they turned around today, it would not matter.  The Republicans won't win the majority of Gays votes for the next ten or twenty years even if the GOP ended their discrimination today.  More importantly, gays, unlike Hispanic and Black, do not make up the majority of any congressional district that is not already super-liberal.  The very dispersed, everywhere nature of homosexuality dilutes it's political power. 


    Here again they need to pick one direction.  They can either go for the strong nationalistic super-power of the post World War II times, or the isolationism of the pre war politics.  But trying for both makes gets you nowhere.  Honestly, if they were to move towards isolationism, with a 10% reduction in the military, (either using the savings to cut taxes or cut the deficit - their choice), they could win back quite a lot of independents.  Or they could stop talking about money and insist on greater military spending to 'help the economy' and make the world s safer place.

    The 'denial' strategy was always a short term tactic.  It can't win, as times goes by it becomes clearer and clearer that the world is warming, in large part due to man's behavior.  Every day it becomes more and more obvious that pollution is affecting the weather.   They need a new lie, or as they prefer to call it, a new narrative