Monday, September 26, 2016

Texas voting, Likely vs Registered voters

In the past I have talked about how Texas is primed to flip from Republican stronghold to Liberal territory, mainly based on the growth of Hispanic population, along with long term trends such as senior citizens slowly dying and younger voters turning more liberal.

Recently (early September 1-11, of 2016), there was a poll done by Texas Lyceum, that has some interesting results.  As always, they do a lot of questions, and several different analytical methods.

The one they concentrated on was the "likely Voters, who do you prefer out of the four candidates",  There, Clinton came in at 32% vs Trump's 39%.  Johnson got 9% and Stein got 3%.   Trumps minute lead of 7% is ridiculous for a GOP candidate in Texas.  For comparison purposes, in 2012, the actual poll results were: 4,555,799 votes for Romney (57.2%), 3,294,440 votes for Obama (41.4%), 8,110 votes for Johnson (1.1%) and 24,450 votes for Stein  (0.3%).

Yes, Johnson and Stein - the candidates for the Libertarian and Green party - ran in 2012, just as they are running in 2016.

But that is not the whole story.  First, note that the poll is likely voter, not registered voter, not actual voters.

Likely voter is something that the POLLING company determines.   Good polling companies base it on answers to questions such as 1) Did you vote in the last presidential election? 2) Did you vote in the last non-presidential election. 3) Did you know where people in your district have to go to vote? 4) Rate your chances of voting.     Not-so-good polling companies try to do calculations such as x% of Democrats voted last time, so x% will vote this time. 

Second, note that lots of people will give their 'real preference' in a poll, but when it comes down to actual voting in the election, they will not vote for a third party candidate unless that candidate has over 20% of the votes in the polls.  That is, they only vote for a third candidate if they think they have a real shot.

Digging deeper into the polls, we find some more interesting answers, rather than the heavily biased "likely voters, out of four".

First, let's do the Clinton Vs Trump vs Johnson vs Stein, all registered voters.  That makes it 30% Trump, 29% Clinton, 10% Johnson, 3% Stein.  That's a big deal for Democrats.  Johnson and Stein stay about the same, Trump loses a lot, Clinton loses a moderate amount (those losses are 'undecided', not surprising in unlikely voters).  But most importantly it means a LOT of the people that are unlikely voters do not like Trump.   A heavy get out the vote effort from the Democrats in Texas could easily take the state.

Now lets' ignore the people that got less than 2% the last time they ran.

Likely Voters - 42% Trump, 36% Clinton.  not much difference there, Trump still wins by 6% rather than 7%.

But Registered Voters: 35% Trump, 39% Clinton.   Here we have a huge win for Clinton.  She finally beats Trump.

The problem is, that involves the registered voters that are unlikely to vote.  The Democrats really need a HUGE Get Out The Vote program to take Texas back.

Also note, a similar thing happens For the US Congress and Texas state representatives elections, although not quite that extreme (i.e. 31% dem vs 32% rep among registered voters).

The Democrats need to create a new, superior get out the vote program in Texas.  It should be the single most important priority for the DNC.  It has to do so in direct opposition to the GOP's attempts to stop people from voting in Texas.

It probably needs to be lead by a charismatic Hispanic Texan born Democrat.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Fix America's Schools

America's pre-College education, ages 10-18 have well known issues. 

We have some of the world's best Universities, and some good early education, focusing on creativity and learning, rather than memorizing facts.  Primary school does OK (Elementary school), but our Junior High and High Schools have major issues.

These issues are complex.  But most of them can be summarized with one word:  Money.  Mos schools are paid for out of local taxes, particularly property taxes.  This leaves certain schools cash poor.  Worse, those schools are often from poor neighborhoods so their parents do not have the skills to compensate for the school's problems.  Sometimes the parents ARE the problems - drugs, crime, etc.

I am liberal capitalists.   My solution to the United State's education problem is simple, apply capitalism properly.  The key word there is 'properly'. 

People often confuse capitalism with money or money obsession.  As such they falsely think the problem is to either throw more money at the education problem, or worse, take away money from the schools that are doing poorly.

This is wrong.  Money is simply a score keeping method.  It is used to tell who is winning and who is losing, not to solve a problem.   No teacher ever got into teaching for the money.   Not even in the most corrupt, school systems run by the worst possible unions (and most unions are run by good people).  In the worst cases, some people got into education for the job security and perks (summers off, retirement plans) of teaching, but never the money per se. 

Capitalism is not about money, it is about competition .   As such, to fix the education system, you need to properly reward those that win the competition and to properly correct those that fail.   Money ends up rewarding or punishing the kids, not the school.

To reward or punish the school (rather than the kids), you need to increase or decrease the number of students attending the school.

Take a school system with 10 schools.  Rank all the schools, into five rankings (1 being the best, 5 being the worst).   Also, create a minimum and maximum number of students per school.

If a school is ranked 5, reduce the number of incoming freshmen students attending that school by 20% of the maximum (by shrinking their district).  This will reduce the number of students attending a 4 year institute by 5%.  If the total number of students falls below the minimum, that school closes down.   Non-tenure people are fired (they may apply for a job elsewhere), tenure people are moved to other schools.  We can put in rules to let parents request that siblings stay together.

Similarly, schools that do well (ranked 1) and are not at maximum, increase the number of incoming students by 20%.    

When a school is closed down, we spend a summer fixing up the school, replace text books, etc.   We bring in a new principal, and hire all new teachers, with a rule that NONE of the old teachers may work there.  They can work at other schools, but not this one.   All the new teachers must either be new hires or transfers from a school of rank 3 or better.   One year bonuses will be offered to induce transfers.  

Monday, September 12, 2016

What the People Respond To.

There is something that losers do (as in people that have lost, not people that are unworthy)  - complain about the test being unfair.  Sometimes they are right - the test is unfair.   For example, if you are entering a swimming contest, but they include the time it takes to take off your clothing and put on your bathing suit, that's unfair.

But more often they are wrong, the test was fair, they simply didn't understand what the test was.  This is most often the case with politics.

The politicians complain about either the media not covering or the people not caring about their point.  This proves they don't deserve to be president.   The people have no obligation to understandor believe you, you have an obligation to understand the people.

When you complain about no one covering or caring about your opponent 'corrupt' activity with an AIDS Charity guess what - that means you are wrong about their behavior being out of line.  Frankly, America doesn't care if a Secretary of State gives access to monsters that have given large sums to an AIDS charity.   We are fine with that.  

When you complain about being treated unfairly for your own relatively minor sins involving word choice, guess what - if they people don't vote for you because of it, that means the people think YOU ARE WRONG.  It is not a minor sin, it is a big one.  They are the ones that make that judgement call, not you. 

One of the major advantages of Democracy is that it forces the politicians to pay attention to the people, not the other way around.  Voting is not a test of the people that they win or lose, it's a test of the politician and the politician is the one that wins or loses.  (The term in office is the test of the people).

Part of the problem is the friendly bubble.  When you run for office you surround yourself with people that think you would be a good candidate. This makes understanding and playing to your base very easy.

But it also can make understanding and playing to the undecided and opponents very hard.

You have to know what they care about.  You can't convince them to change their mind using the same techniques that work on your base.  Your base believes what you say without evidence.  Your base disbelieves what the opponent says even if they have evidence.  The independent voter looks on you as if you are the liar, at least as much as your opponent.

Trump's techniques don't work at all on the independent voter.  Which is why he is going to lose.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Future of the Republican and Democratic parties..

It's up for grabs.

The problems with both parties are rather obvious - and dramatically different.

The Republican party is imploding.  It can't win a Presidential election, even when their competitor is Hillary Clinton - someone they have been gunning for more than 20 years.  Hillary is likely to win this election with the highest unfavorables ever.   That's how bad the GOP is doing - they can't beat a woman that nobody likes.

Why?  Because they over-promised to a small, motivated group and totally failed to deliver.   There is a fatal flaw in GOP strategy - cultivating a fanatical base that is far more radical than the US in general.  While that will help them win congressional districts and state representatives, allowing them to gerrymander at will, it pisses off the majority of the population, so they have no chance to win the Presidential race which means no Supreme Court Judges.  Most likely, sometime in the next 8 years, gerrymandering will be outlawed, by a 5:4 supreme court vote.  After that, the GOP in it's current form is dead.   Even without that issue, it will fall apart.

Currently, they have created a constant revolution in the lower ranks against the party leaders.  T Party candidates like Cruz get overthrown by Trump radicals objecting to the T party 'insiders'.  And two years from now, some new group will continue the process, throwing out the Trumpers and replacing them with some other new, radical group.

This dooms the dying Republican party to become an 'also ran' party.   When I say "dying" I mean it literally.  Every year their base will die off, while the Democrats increases.  More young, more black, more Hispanic, more Muslim, and more gay voters while the old, white, straight, male, Christian voters that used to dominate politics become an endangered species. They have already lost the majority of the population, they maintain their congressional majority via gerrymandering, which has limits and will be outlawed.

Which leaves the REAL dispute about the future of our country in the hands of the Democrats.  Hence the fight between the Conservative Democrats - aka Hillary Clinton - and the Liberal Democrats, aka Bernie Sanders.

That split isn't going away, it's going to get worse.   While the GOP descends into a death spiral, the Democratic party is likely to bifurcate into two parties - the Conservative Dems and the Liberal Dems.

This won't happen as long as the GOP is around to unite us.  We despise the elitist strategy of the GOP, catering to the politically motivated rather than giving the majority what they want.   As such, the Democratic party has attracted everyone that can't stand their "obey us way or be a traitor" philosophy.    But we are a disparate group with big differences.  We can only stay together as long as the big GOP unite us against them.

Is it possible for the GOP to save themselves?  Unlikely.  The quite truth is that Hillary Clinton was the candidate THEY should have put forward.  She occupies the real 'center-right' that they claim to represent, while being female and connecting to minorities.    The GOP's attempt to demonize the conservative branch of the Democrat party has made it impossible for them to regain their rightful place as the center-right party.

As they try to be a far right party (while claiming to be a center-right one), they slowly bleed voters to the Democrats.  The real question is what will happen after it's gone too far.  I see 10 years as the max.   If Hillary Clinton wins two consecutive terms and we get a third Democrat President after Hillary, that's
it.  By then either the GOP will implode or the SCOTUS will have outlaw gerrymandering, killing the GOP.   Once that happens, the GOP's bubble will pop faster than any stock market bubble.

For maybe six month the Democrats will relish their power - then the infighting will go from shouting "Hillary" over the Bernie Brothers chanting whatever they chant to outright revolt.   The Democratic party will split, Bernie and his successors will split off to form the first truly Liberal party we have had since Jimmie Carter, while Hillary and her successors will split of to form a real center-right party.  Only the far right nut-bags will remain with the GOP, making them a 3rd party, akin to the Libertarians.

Is there any way to stop the Democrat party from splitting after the GOP dies?  I doubt it.   Honestly, it may be for the best - the Bernie people do not like the Hillary people, and they deserve a political party of their own.  Then maybe we can have real political change in America.

But please note, the Democratic party will only split AFTER the GOP is dead.   But that shouldn't be long now, they are about to get their asses handed to them on a platter. 2020 is the real question - will Hillary (or Kaine, Hillary is getting old) be able to get re-elected.

With the right economy (a short recession in 2017, followed by three years of improvement), we will get a solid 16 years of Democrat ruling the white house and own the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.

The only question will be how liberal the ruling party ends up.   Most likely it will be the conservative Democrats still in charge, but perhaps we can get enough liberal ideas to rejuvenate our government.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Advantages of Outsiders

Job interview for an 'outsider'.


Hi, my name is Donald and I would like to apply for the job of CEO of your company.  Here is my resume.

- I notice you have never been a CEO before.   What makes you think your experience as Mayor in anyway prepared you to run a business?  Running a business is not the same as being a politician.

Well, they are both managerial positions, I'm sure I can pick up anything I need on the job.  Besides, I have to be better than your last guy - he ran the business into bankruptcy FOUR times.  And look at the IRS scandal - how could engage in such unusual tax practices?  I have never declared bankruptcy and have no tax scandals at all.  That's not the kind of man I am -  I would never take those particular tax risks. Especially when I have such cool, new innovative ideas that the IRS has never heard of before.

- True, but you ran a city that was given a set budget and never had to file taxes.  Basically I have to take your word that your new tax strategies are legal.  

Perhaps, but notice my main competitor, Hillary, has been severely yelled at by the IRS and her tax issues were declared faulty, even if she was not sentenced for any crime because they had no evidence of intent.  The IRS has never yelled at me for any of my tax strategies.

- But the reason you have never failed is because you have no experience.  You can't get away with claiming your methods are better if you've never tried them.  I'd have to be a complete idiot to trust someone that has no experience actually implementing their program, simply because they have never failed. 

Look, do you want to go with someone that's had proven problems, even if they didn't get arrested, or do you want to go with someone that has no experience at all, so can't possibly have proven problems? It's that simple.

- The thing is, you have no experience, so even if you honestly and truly believe your plane will work, because you have no experience, your own opinion about your plan is worthless.   It's like asking a first time pilot how well he thinks he is going to do - he doesn't know how hard it is.  Tell you what, tell me your plan, and I will have it looked over by tax experts.

Oh, I can't do that.  If I tell anyone the plan, our competitors will hear about it and take steps to prevent it from happening.

 - Then talk about something that isn't a secret, or give me an example of how you would fix another company problem.

I'll get back to you on that later.   Look, your company doesn't work.  I, being an outsider, can at least try something new.

- But our company DOES work - we have a real profit.  Yes, it could be better, but we are still looked up to by most of the outside world.

Trust me, ignore the statistics that show your company's doing well both economically and lower workplace accidents.  Doesn't it FEEL like your company is doing poorly?  So shouldn't you try something new?

- But the math says our feeling is wrong,  and it's not just something new it's untested with WILD claims.  I'm sorry, but we can't go with someone with no experience, no record, simply because our other main choice has made some mistakes in the past.  Frankly, Donald, even if we feel bad about our economy and safety, things are going OK.  It looks like we will hire Hillary.

OK, so when do I start?  And when should we talk about salary?

- Goodbye and good luck with your search.

Where are you going?   What's going on?

Outsiders are a great idea for the Senate and Congress.  They have experienced colleagues there that can ensure we don't screw things up too badly, and for that same reason, they need that innovation.

But Presidents are different.   He is the top guy, no one can really tell him no, as he appoints his own men.  That particular job needs someone with real experience in politics.  Business is too different, among other things we encourage businesses to fail, while we want a more conservative approach to government.

As such no sane person truly wants an 'outsider' to be President.  We need someone that has at least spent a couple of years in a political job - congress, senate, governorship, or at least mayor of a large city.  That gives him the back ground necessary to judge his own ideas, as well a record for us to judge him (or her) on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Hillary is going to rig the US election

Donald Trump claimed 'someone' is planning on rigging the 2016 election.  I have a big announcement.

He is right - Hillary and the Democrats are planning on doing it.  I even know how they are planning on doing it.  It's a very simple plan, and very hard to stop them.

What she is going to do is get people that have no business voting to vote for her.

You know the types - the Hispanic Americans, the gay Americans, the black Americans, the disabled Americans, American Reporters, Muslim Americans, Seventh Day Adventist Americans, Asian Americans, American women, American veterans that were once POWs, American Gold star families, American Fireman, etc.

You know  - all the people that good, god fearing, white, male Republicans fear, that's who Hillary is secretly talking to.  

Hillary is going to get all of these people, and convince them to secretly vote for her.  That's her plan on how to 'rig the election'.

How dare these people vote?   How DARE they!  

Of course, please note that all these people that Donald and his followers fear - they have one thing in common with each other (besides hating Donald Trump for some unknown reason).  Something Donald forgot.

They are all Americans.

Monday, August 15, 2016


There are lots of different kinds of prejudice.  "Prejudice" just means judging someone/thing without knowledge of them.  I for example am prejudiced against the taste of manure.  While I have never actually tasted any, I fervently believe that it tastes bad and I have zero desire to test my belief - in fact I will strongly resist any attempt to force me to do so.

There are two major categorizes of prejudice:

  • Intellectual
  • Emotional

My prejudice against the taste of manure is intellectual and organized.  I can give you a list of well thought our reasons, from smell, germ theory, how much effort my body took to eliminate the stuff, cultural bias, etc.

But I also have the other kind of prejudice - emotional prejudice.  Emotional prejudice is less organized - it's practically subconscious.  Even if you somehow convinced me that this particular manure smelled nice, had been sterilized and did not come from a human body, I still would not be willing to taste it.   In fact, studies have shown that people will refuse to eat chocolate if it is merely molded into a shape reminiscent of manure.  That is not logical, it is instead purely emotional.

Emotional prejudice lasts long after the intellectual prejudice is removed.   You can't teach it away, it is self -reinforcing. 

Most (not all) of American culture has removed the intellectual racial prejudice.  No one goes around talking about racial superiority anymore.    For this reason, if you ask people if they are prejudiced they say 'no' and get offended.

But the emotional prejudice remains.  Studies have found that unconsciously, people still have racist reactions.  People are more afraid of black men then white men.   Porn stars are considered tainted if they have sex with a black men.  The list of unconscious, illogical, emotional biases go on for a very long time.

The problem is that it doesn't matter to the victim of racism if their racism is organized or unconscious.  Blacks don't care if they are pulled over because the cop thinks all blacks are criminals, or if the cop simply thought "hm, he looks suspicious".   Neither do Mexicans care if you think Mexicans are rapists, murderers and thugs or if you just think that Mexico sends their rapists, murders and thugs to the US.   Jews don't care if you think they are crooked thieves, or merely good with money, it's still prejudice.

Nobody cares that you don't want to be a racist, they care if your actions reflect inherent bias. And yes it does matter.   Ask any short guy or overweight woman that can't get a date.  It doesn't matter if the bias is intentional or unconscious, it still stings.

That is the major problem conservatives and the Republican party in particular have failed to understand.  They get the intellectual racism and stand firmly against it.  But they refuse to admit the emotional racism exists, they refuse to admit that under the civilized actions, we still harbor unconscious biases.  So they let them run riot.  They let TSA and cops racially profile, they allow situations where black kids get rejected from colleges not because they were black, but because they were arrested by cops six times (and found innocent all six times).

As long as we refuse to have government fight back against the pernicious emotional bias form of racism, we will never achieve a race-blind society. 

It's not enough to reject the idea of racism, we have to ensure that it doesn't affect our choices even without evil intent.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Church and State: Taxes

In the United States we have laws preventing churches from engaging in political speech.   We don't arrest the holy men, we just take away their tax free status.  When some people hear about this they get all upset - mainly because they think we are taxing holy men.   No - we are taxing criminals.  

The thing they forget is that in the US, we accept ALL religions.  Including the 'bad ones'.  It's not just the Catholic church, the Protestants, the Jews, that get tax free status.

It's also the Mormons, the Muslims, the Scientologists, and the Moonies (until a court found them to be propagating political views, so it took away their tax status).  But that's not the worst of it - it's also The Children of God, Heaven's Gate, the Branch Davidians, the Order of the Solar Temple, and Jim Jone's The People's Temple.

And don't forget those TV Evangelists that tell poor people to send them money, all the while living in mansions and buying airplanes for personal use.  While the people sending them money are literally unable to pay their own rent.

So how do you tell the difference between a "real" religion and a cult?  Well, we can't.  There is NO way to do it.  NONE.   As strange as you think some of the religions are, in the eyes of the law, they are the same - as long as they obey the law.  That doesn't just mean not killing people, not forcing them to work for free - it also means obeying the law to not interfere in our political process.

All of them get the same tax free status.  Yes, even the Branch Davidians had legal tax free status, - at least until they got caught breaking laws. 

Lots of people have abused these laws.  Not just the violent and crazy cults I mentioned.  There are also the thieving liars.  People that start a church not because of a true belief in god, but simply out of a greedy desire to not pay taxes.  They even have a preferred system, called "the prosperity gospel".  You preach that giving money to the church will put you in God's favor.   This is NOT in any of the 'real' bibles - not the christian, Jewish, or Muslim versions.   They just made it up for their own benefit.   You can do that too, and it's all legal.  It just requires you to be a soul-less, corrupt, evil, son of a bitch, willing to lie to everyone about what you belief - and not get caught doing so. 

The United States has not found a legal, constitutional way to stop them.   Because the real problem is not their philosophy, but the fact that they don't really, truly believe in it (with perhaps some exceptions for those that are really good at self-deception).  

[If you find a way to stop them, that does no make a value judgement on their religion  (the US Constitutions says the government shall not make value judgements on religions - we accept all, no matter how bat shit crazy it is, because of how badly the English and other European countries did at judging religions), speak up.  But I doubt you can, lots of very intelligent people have tried for a very long time.]

But we did find a way to stop ONE clear and obvious abuse of religion - political lobbying.

Remember - the US is supposed to not favor any one religion.  As politicians are not supposed to favor any one religion, that means religions should not be trying to tell politicians what to do.  If the politicians obeyed, that would mean favoring one religion over the other ones that disagreed with them.  So any religion that attempts to influence politics is attempting to violate one of the most sacred principles of our Constitution.

Which is why we made it illegal for churches to do this - with the minor punishment of removing their tax free status.  This stopped just one of the several abuses 'fake' religions that were set up only for tax purposes.

Is this evil?  No.   Churches are not entitled to tax free status.   Do you think that the Moonies, who worship a North Korean man and want to establish a world wide government ruled by Moonies should get tax free status?

The Mormons have walked a very fine line, basically running the state of Utah, but being careful to not step over it.  So we let them stay tax free as long as the church itself doesn't engage in political lobbying.

God's honest truth say there is nothing about democracy or capitalism that exempts churches from  paying taxes.  That is just an old hold over from the European custom of not taxing churches because they were basically an arm of the government.

Unlike the Middle ages, we have religious freedom, there should be no connection between church and state, so there is no reason to give ANY church tax free.  We have however graciously given all churches tax free status on the one condition that they don't get involved in politics.

You break that rule, you give up your special, UNEARNED status.  The same rule applies to the Moonies, the Mormons, the Muslims, the Protestants, the Catholics, and the Jews.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How should we talk about political opponents?

Politicians  love to insult their opponents.  Watching Trump and his pawns use words like "stupid", "evil", "crooked", and "liars" proves the point.

That is not helpful - not to society as a whole, nor to their election chances.  Why not?  Because while it engages the faithful, it does not convince the independents and worse, it enrages the victims of that name calling.

Because that's what it is, just name calling.  Even when it's true, (yes, both sides - Democrats and Republicans - have stupid, crooked liars working for them), it in no way convince any real independent to vote for them.

Frankly, it's like a small child calling another child 'poopy head' - it doesn't convince an adult they are right, it just makes you look childish and pisses of the independent.  Pure Insults (where the character and nature of the activity is by definition wrong/evil), are LESS effective than claims of excess (where you imply that "it's OK to do this a little, but that is just way too much.")

So, if those kinds of insults don't work, what does?

Here are a few words to call your opponent, that actually increase your political chances, rather than just make your base happy:

In the pocket of big...
Politically Correct
Religious Fanatic
Virulent Atheist
overly trusting
Asleep at the wheel/negligent

For example, I could call Donald Trump a callous, arrogant paranoid, partisan, racist.   Or the GOP could use other words on that list to describe Hillary.

The advantages of these words, are clear I am avoiding ascribing an evil motivation, and instead describing character flaws.  I make no claim that Donald Trump wants to do evil, just that he will make major mistakes because he doesn't know better.   You can be all of those things and STILL get into heaven.

Why is this important?

1)   When you attack motivation, you are making a claim that is both very hard to prove and unlikely for you to have any real evidence of it.  If you did, you would be pressing charges, rather than having to convince people not to vote for them.  No one is going to vote Madoff (an actual crook) into the White House.  If they were really that bad, they would be in Jail, rather than have convinced many good people to vote for them.   Everyone knows you have no real evidence of the crooked/evil/bad motivation, and your words get dismissed as just a partisan attack.

2)  They can explain how they got other people to vote for them without insulting the character of their supporters.  It's OK for me to like someone that's reckless - that person may have done a lot of good work even if they are reckless.  Similarly, the focus ceases to be on the nature, but instead on the extremeness, i.e. you can be religious but still decide not to vote for a religious fanatic.

3)  They don't involve assumptions that ONLY your own people make.  Almost everyone thinks that being reckless is wrong, and they also think that being paranoid is wrong.   It's not like claiming that they are horrible spendthrifts.

Calling Hillary "crooked" will not convince anyone not to vote for her.  Only people that dislike her will believe you.  It's not convincing.   It won't affect her supporters, and doesn't do much to the independents.  If she really were crooked, the FBI would have arrested her, and they didn't.

But if you call her ignorant of proper security procedures, quite a few Democrats would agree with you, and you might convince independents to vote against her.

Similarly, calling Trump evil won't do anything to any Republicans or independents. But if you bring up the fact that he never EVER admits he or anyone working for him was wrong - whether you are talking about plagiarized speeches, stopping all Muslim from entering the country, whether Hispanics and women vote for him - then you make independents question whether they can trust him and remind Republicans that he is not what the party wants.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Subject Vs Citizen

The difference between a Subject and a Citizen is that Subjects just obey the laws of their government, while Citizens make the laws of their governments (as well as obey them). 

One of the things I have noticed, particularly among the more conservative subjects (not citizens), is the tendency to say "you can't make a law that says that because their is no inherent right to...".
The thing is there is no such thing as 'inherent rights'.  Rights are things we grant each other via laws.

When we talk about making, amending, changing, or removing laws we are talking about making, amending, changing or removing rights.

We are talking about how we want people to act in the future, and how government should respond to their actions.

There is nothing that is sacrosanct except what we declare such.  If we are despicable, we could make laws requiring crimes (rape, murder, theft, torture, all the evil stuff).   That is in fact what many of the evil empires of our world have done and still do  (NAZI Germany, Stalin's USSR, the current state of Daesh).

Or we can make laws that allow crimes, but not requiring them.  This is what happens when we do not act, when we try for the laissez faire form of libertarianism.

Or we can choose to do our best to out unethical actions, encouraging and promoting ethical actions.

This is not government over-reach, it is the appropriate actions of a government.

Government over reach is when it stops and prevents ethical actions for one of three reasons:
  1. People in power are hurt by those ethical actions and dislike it (corruption)
  2. People in power are trying to stop real unethical actions, but have written a law too broadly so it catches innocent people (incompetent use of power)
  3. People in power have a personal/religious belief that certain actions are unethical, despite the general consensus disagreeing (abuse of power).
Here are some examples of this type of activity:

When certain states try to stop Tesla's 'no-dealer' business strategy because it hurts the dealers in their state, that's corruption.  It's not government's job to help one business over another.

When the government uses "civil asset forfeiture laws" to take the money of honest, law abiding citizens without any evidence of illegal activity, that's incompetent use of power.

When state legislatures try to prevent legal abortions via abusive regulatory requirements (such as requiring doctors to have admitting privileges or that abortionists meet the requirements of a surgical center) , that's abuse of power.

But when you pass a law to prevent fraudulent/cheating behavior that is designed with loopholes for ethical actions, that's not government over reach.

Citizens have the right to create appropriate laws.  If you think a law is inappropriate, then you need to show how it will either benefit those in power, catch innocent people, or  how the actions it intends to prevents are really ethical.  Simply claiming that 'people have no right to fairness' is not a valid objection.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why Donal Trump is not buying TV Ads.

I have no inner knowledge of the Trump Campaign, but I suspect I have figured out why he hasn't bought any TV ads.

I predict he won't buy any for all of July and August.

The reason is simple - it's too early. 

Yes, politicians have traditionally come out blazing.  But honestly we all know that political polls this early don't matter.  People don't make up their mind yet.  You can spend millions every month, get good polls, then lose it all in the last month.

The election is Tuesday, November 8th.   That is more than 100 days away.  A lot happens in 100 days.  People forget about the current scandals and new ones happen.  People die.  People turn 18.  

I think Trump looked at that fact and said "Hell, I can play the media via twitter and press releases, I don't need any advertisements yet."  Throw in a dash of PAC spending and all he wants to do is wait.

Till September comes along.  Sometime in September, expect to see a fusillade of pro-Trump ads.  Hopefully Hillary will still have enough cash to fight back.  

That's my theory and I am sticking by it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Why poliiticans lie.

How do you tell when a politician is lying?  His lips are moving.  How do you tell when a politician is telling the truth?  When he's confessing.

All politicians lie - on both sides.   Republicans can point at Hillary and Obama etc, Democrats can point at all the Bushs, Cheney, Trump, etc.

If they lie so much, why do we keep electing them?   Because we DEMAND they do.  It's our own damn fault. Some of the more honest ones try to avoid lying simply by changing the subject.

Why do we demand they lie? Three very specific reasons.
  1.  We give them no win situations, often set it up with contradictory goals.
  2.  We punish them more for admitting they were wrong than we do for being wrong.  The worst example of this is when we punish them for changing their mind.  Lying goes unpunished, while admitting an error gets you thrown under the bus.
  3.  We demand certainty and the use of hyperbole to prove sincerity.
No win situations are a common situation, often intentionally set up as traps - that's how we get the contradictory goals in the first place.   A good example of this was the Cash for Clunkers program.  in 2009, the US set up a program to give large incentives for people to trade old older cars (25 years+) in for newer vehicles.    It was originally designed to help fight pollution and to limit oil use, as the fuel requirements were for a vehicle of >22 mph for the newer cars and <18 mph for the older ones.  That's basically a 22% improvement.  The cars were disabled to prevent them being resold/re used.

But it was sold to congress and to the American people in part as an economic boost for the car industry.  That would be the secondary goal.  Guess what - it was a lie to convince republicans (pro business, anti-pollution prevention) to vote for it.  And as it was a lie, it had no real economic benefit.   If you check the wiki page, the first thing they talk about is the economic effect - basically null.  But the environmental effect was real - average mph per clunker was 15.8, new cares averaged 25.4, a 61% improvement.  This was a clear win from the point of view of environmentalists, but from a political viewpoint it was a guaranteed no win situation.  Goal posts were ignored, and people attacked the issue on the 'goals' declared by the opponents of the bill, rather than the goals of the proponents.

Politician being punished for admitting they were wrong is very common - they get accused of being a flip-flopper.    George Bush made that wonderful, humble quality into an insult they used to great effect against Kerry.   But we never punished George Bush at all for begin wrong about weapons of Mass Destruction, for being wrong about torture, etc. etc.  The weird thing is the goal of an argument is to CONVINCE someone to change their minds.  Changing their minds is the DESIRED end result, not a bad thing.  Losing an argument does not make you a worse politician, it means you are not perfect and are not an arrogant asshole that refuses to admit you are not perfect (talking to you Trump).

Certainty is practically a requirement.  We never accept "I don't want to raise taxes, and won't do so unless the circumstances warrant it".  Instead we demand "READ MY LIPS, NO NEW TAXES".  Then we slam the honest man for admitting that a recession hit as soon as G. H.  W.  Bush took over after Reagan, so he had to raise taxes.   He never should have had to say say that lie, we made him do it.

We get the politicians we deserve, not the ones we want.   Given our future - Hillary or Donald, that means we deserve to go to bed without dinner.   Hillary was pushed into making extreme statements about her innocence  - all of which she clearly believed, even if she was also clearly wrong.  Donald has discovered the simplest way to get votes is to ignore the truth and instead speak to what people WANT to hear in the most extreme way possible, thereby guaranteeing he will lie.   He can never admit he was wrong, whether it is about a judge or a Jewish star.

Hopefully we at least deserve someone that knows what is possible, even if she doesn't know how to get there, rather than someone that knows what he wants, and doesn't care if it is possible or not.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tragedy in Dallas the start of a Race War.

The only question is will it continue, or will calmer heads prevail.

After a week of multiple unwarranted attacks on unarmed black men by police, two or more deranged criminals went on a killing spree and shot and killed 5 police men, wounding others. In the end, one of the criminals was blown up by a bomb that the police delivered via a robot.  Another was arrested.

The question is, is it a terrorist attack?  It was a horrendous mass shooting, a crime, a tragedy, might be considered an act of war, but it is in a gray area when it comes terrorism.

To be a terrorist attack, it requires three separate factors:

  • Attempting to kill or harm people
  • that are not combatants
  •  for political goals.
Obviously if you don't have political goals, then you are a criminal, not a terrorist.  Shooting your spouse (and her parents ) so you don't have to pay her alimony (and to get ride of witnesses)  is a horrible crime, but not an act of terror.

Merely having political goals is not enough.  If I have political goals and hold a sit in, that doesn't make me a terrorist, or if neo-nazis steal every yard sign for a black politician, that doesn't make them terrorists.  Even if some people are scared.

You have to actually try to kill or harm people, or at least threaten them.

Moreover you can't attack their their military.  Attacking a US Navy Ship (USS Cole), or bombing the Pentagon is not a terrorist attack, as you are attacking combatants.  That is called an Act of War, not an act of terrorism.

That is a very important detail, not an insignificant factor.  We WANT our enemies to attack our armed combatants, rather than attacking our children and grandparents.   Terrorists get treated with little respect, soldiers get treated with much greater respect because they play by the rules.

The question is, do policemen count as armed combatants?  They are not soldiers, so calling attacking them an Act of War may be extreme.  But this killing was also done in revenge for police killing multiple unarmed black men.  Let's face it here, our police are armed.  And not just with guns, the officers in Dallas used a drone to deliver a bomb to kill their opponent.

If this happened in England, with unarmed bobbies, that would be an act of terror.

But here on American soil where cops use drones to bomb you?  Where it is in retaliation for police killing black man?  That's an act of war.   Specifically a Race War - one the criminals did not start.

It's wrong and we need to stop it here and now in it's tracks.   We need real control of the police, real punishment for killing unarmed civilians, we can no longer look the other way, not with cameras catching the crimes and mistakes of police left and right.

We need real reform, so that police are judged by people that actually WANT to arrest police men, just as civilians are judged by prosecutors that actually want to arrest them.

As for the criminals that shot at police?  They deserve to go to jail, but have their legal rights respected, because they did not attack school civilians.
Should the cops be protected?  Yes.  But let's not dishonor them by pretending they are victims. They are defenders shot down protecting us from revenge against their own failings. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Help Superheroes Donate Organs

There are real superheroes in this world.  Real Sacrifice, with real costs, for real lives saved.  They don't wear capes or masks, but that doesn't make them any less a super hero.

They donate organs.   Doing it after death makes you a hero, in my book.   Doing it while you are still alive?   That's better than Batman or Hawkeye, in my book.  Mostly they give kidneys, but some donate part of their liver.  

First, let's do the pitch.  We need more superheroes, so join the League of Organ Donors, sign up here.

Currently (2016), there are over 120,000 men, women and children in need of organ transplants.

Every day about 144 people are added to that list, 82 people get off the list the good way - transplant, and another 22 people get off the list the hard way - death.  Notice that means the list keeps growing longer by about 40 people a day.  That's a new development, up until recently people were more likely to die, but medicine has gotten better at keeping those with failing organs alive.

Most of these people are waiting for a kidney.

Being a superhero is not easy.   The surgery to donate a kidney is painful and will take about six-eight weeks for you to recover.  During that time you can't drive.  The organ recipient's insurance pays for all the medical stuff.  But not travel or hotel costs.   Which really aren't that much (most of the time), so it isn't that important.  Organ recipients are in a similar situation, but most are just thankful to be alive.

But how many people get TWO MONTHS time off with pay?  Most people have to take time off work. It's pretty good if you get four weeks off a year.  The businesses that employ these heroes generally give them the time off, but not with pay.

So let's give them one month of Unemployment checks during that time.

I am not proposing paying for organs.  If you are an unemployed/retired superhero, you get no money.  But if you are medically unable to work because of such a heroic act, can we do no less than to give you the same payments as he jobless and/or disabled?

These people are superheros that are saving a human life.  The least we can do is recognize that for two whole months they can not work, and that they therefore deserve at the minimum a single month's worth of unemployment checks.  Have the paperwork filled out by the transplant doctor, to limit fraud.

Full Disclosure: I am intimately connected to someone that has a failing kidney.   I am not in any way impartial. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How the GOP could win back the Black vote.

Sixty years ago, the black vote went to the GOP.   Back then there were a lot of southern, racists Democrats.  In the 1960's Lyndon B Johnson turned that around, signed a Civil Rights Act and turned everything around - now blacks are among the most reliable voters for the Democrats.

The GOP keeps pushing their same, current philosophy and tries to convince people that it will help the blacks more than the Democrats.

It will never work.  That strategy has been tried and failed so many times, it has become my go-to example of Albert Einstein's definition of INSANITY ("Trying the same thing and expecting different results").

So, how could the GOP win back the black vote?  Yes, it is possible to do without abandoning their ideals.

They could do it by doing the following:

1)  Carry through on their false claim of fiscal responsibility and 'freedom from oppressive government' by massively reducing budgets for small and local government police mismanagement.   Note the "mis" in that sentence.
  • Make it illegal to ever hold a person in jail for failure to pay a fine less than $5000.  Many poor people, a distressing number of whom are black, end up in jail, costing local governments hundreds of dollars per day, for failing to pay fines that are less than the government paid to arrest, adjudicate and hold in prison.    Stop that stupid crap and sentence them to community service, not time in jail.  (Note, this will also put a stop to abusive debt law suits.)
  • Make it legal to fire any police officer or guard whose action - even if legal - causes the city to lose more than $100k  via a lawsuit.   If the police officer wants to fight the charges, they can pay to defend themselves.   Business fire idiots that get them sued, so should the government.
  • Pass a law that any deal made with a prosecutor to prevent the government being sued is null and void.   Prosecutors have no business protecting the city from being sued, it is their job to prosecute the guilty - EVEN IF THE GUILTY ARE POLICEMEN.  They are not their to save money by letting the guilty go free, it doesn't matter if the guilty are cops or burglars, doing that is directly the opposite of their job.
  • Have the GOP actively push for 'community policing' by requiring that all new hires and promotions of  police officers must be hired from within the community they serve.  Right now, police are about 30% less white than the communities they serve.  They want to police an area they have to live among them.
2)  Demand equal rights for black gun owners.  If a black man is arrested for using a gun that does not kill or wound an innocent, have the NRA/GOP pay for their defense.  Go all out defending their rights, something they do not do now.

3)  Stop insisting on using Sales Tax to fund local governments, it affects the poor far too much.  Instead, eliminate sales tax and use a state Property Taxes.   Property Taxes are shared equally by the rich and the poor - as rental prices go up when property taxes do.  Yes, that means property taxes (and rents) will go up a lot.  Not important.

4)  Speaking of property tax, insist that each school district gets the same amount of money per student enrolled.

5)  Start calling out racism and prejudice among their own.  Idiots doing things like "Make America White Again"  (actual billboard used by a Republican in 2016) should be literally kicked out of the Republican party.

If the GOP took these steps, ten years from now, they would have a whole bunch of new, darker republicans.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Read more at:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit and Immigration: More Millionaires than Terrorists.

Britain just decided, via a close vote, less than 2%, to leave the EU.

This is in my opinion a major mistake.  I am not British, nor am I European, so some may think I have no business talking about it.  That is ridiculous - I have no business voting on it, but I am free to discuss it, just as the British and other Europeans discuss our election.

From an economic viewpoint, larger economies are always better than smaller ones.  It's not just economies of scale, not just saving money by doing things once rather than multiple times (one decision about cigarettes, one decision about food dye #7, etc.).  Nor is it only about having to painstakingly re-do a multitude of treaties.

There is also the innate power of free trade.  It is the great equalizer.  Yes, certain British businesses lose out to more efficient European ones - but the British people benefit from the superior companies. Or they used to.   They won't anymore.

But more importantly, Britain is NOT the 'weaker' part of the EU, as such they are the ones with the better companies that will eat the lunch of the Greece and Portugal.  Yes, separate from the EU, they can set Interest rates and other government regulations to deal just with local problems, rather than European ones, but frankly this is not that big a deal.   If we TRULY knew and understood how to do that then we wouldn't have those issues at all.  Sure, we know enough to prevent extremely high inflation but quite frankly we don't really know the ideal value.  As such, our attempts to control things are misguided.  Yes, they can save a small (relative) amount of cash they contribute to the EU, but they lose out on the economies of scale, etc.

But nationality is not just about economics.  There are also social values.

I could see leaving a Union of the majority of the EU was culturally opposed to the values of Britain.  But that's not really the case.

The main 'cultural' issue that is upsetting Britain is Immigration, and quite frankly most of the EU is anti-immigration and anti-Muslim.  That's not a real difference.  The only real difference is the severity of the anti-immigration movement, which is more so in Britain than in other countries.  Not surprising, as Britain won World War II without being invaded, making them far less sensitive to accusations of tyranny than other European nations, which still the bigotry that the NAZI party forced on them.

But Britain's new bigotry isn't going to help them.   It stops one in a million terrorists, while also keeping out thousands of innovative, brilliant, creative, citizens.   There are more soon-to-be millionaires in those immigrants than Terrorists.   Hard working immigrants outnumber the criminals and give more in taxes than the criminals cost.  The net result is a worse Britain, not a better one. 

 So why do people dislike the immigrants?  They are culturally disruptive. The new millionaires invade the old institutions and demand services.   Those new hard working immigrants take jobs from hard working native born.  And the immigrant criminals steal things the native born criminals wanted to steal.    It's all about the competition, and no one wants it.  Sound familiar?  It is - it's the free market at work.

Just as a free market beats a mercantile one, an immigrant friendly country beats an anti-immigrant one.  It's the exact same principle - let anyone do it and let the market decide who is better.

Britain leaving the EU is a huge mistake.  It's obvious to the financial markets and that's why things are getting bad.    Plus side, good time to buy.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Beat the NRA and Get Real Gun Control

In the aftermath of the horrible, bigoted mass murder in Orlando, a lot of us have been thinking about gun control. This is demonstrated Connecticut Senator's Chris Murphy successful filibuster that forced a gun control vote, and by the House Democrat's sit-in - without CSPAN cameras - protesting the GOP's inaction.

But these are mainly symbolic, and frankly it wasn't enough.  All the gun control votes done after the filibuster have failed, and predictions are just for further failures.

The thing is the majority of Americans are in favor of gun control.  The majority of Republicans are in favor of stricter gun control, and even the majority of NRA members are in favor of stricter gun control.   (source)

So why can't we get any gun control, if so many of us want it?

Representative Democracy is not about what's right, nor is it even always about what most people want.  It's also about how much we want it.

And while most NRA members, Republicans, and Americans all want stricter gun control, it's a weak and disorganized desire while the Pro-Gun forces are FANATICAL and strongly organized.

They have so much power they passed a law called the Dickey Amendment that prevents the collection of gun data (for use in lobbying - but the definition of Lobbying is so poor that it basically prevents the collection of any data).

How do we fight this insidious, fanatical, well funded, and well organized threat?

By being better organized and better funded.  We need an organization that is the polar opposite of NRA

Note, this will take money.  Pro gun forces spend about $30 million in an election year.  We will need to spend at least $3 million to fight them - and honestly I would prefer to outspend them.  If you can't out spend them, that means you don't care as much as they do.

When senators and congressman vote on gun control, they get calls.  And they get about 20 calls for gun control and 200 calls against.

Those numbers are relatively small.  We can beat them.

We need a list of every single person killed by or wounded by a gun.  If they survived, recruit them.  If someone passed, recruit every single person that loved them.

This is our potential army.

Get our army to agree to push three SIMPLE and easily explainable goals:

  1. Remove the Dickey amendment.
  2. Create a new license from the federal government that you are required to have in order to buy, sell, carry, or own any hand gun .    This license will also allow concealed carry - in all US territory.  Failure to have that license is a felony.
  3. Create a single, downloadable and freely available online list of all people that are legally forbidden from buying, selling, or owning any gun, according to existing laws.   It is now a felony, punishable by a minimum of 1 year in jail to sell a gun without getting their ID and checking that list.
Now give our army of gun victims four phone numbers and have them spend 10 minutes every single week.   The first week of the month they call their state Representative.  The second week, their Senator, the third week their Congressman, and the fourth week they call their Governor.  Have them do that every week without fail for a year.

At the end of that year, we will have gun control.

Note, I have avoided the various stupidity traps that the anti-gun control lobby has fallen into.   No talk about 'assault weapons ' (a made up term that just confuses the issue.)  No talk about clips, silencers, or rifles at all.    We concentrate on the real problems - the horrible Dickey Amendment,  the ease of getting dangerous hand guns (ignoring the far safer long guns), and finally the systematic problem we have in enforcing our current laws.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Why Democrats are Better for the Economy.

Thirty years ago the Republicans were the party of fiscal responsibility.  They were for smaller government at the time when government was huge.

Then Ronald Reagan came along and they took over the government.  They got rid of the the excesses the Democrats had at that time created and limited government.  Yes, those spending cuts were modest - because the excesses the Democrats had created were modest.

The problem was the GOP saw a winning strategy and went with it long after it stopped winning.   And stayed with it for from 1981 all the way to 2016.  That's 25 years.   The problem with cutting the fat is that if you keep doing it for almost thirty years, YOU RUN OUT OF FAT.   Picture the blind butcher, who started out trimming the fat, but has now moved on to the muscle and in some cases is now carving the bone.   That's what the Republican Party is doing.

Yes, there may be some fat left on out shrunken, anorexic government, but only a pro-ana idiot with a microscope could find it.

How do you tell that we cut enough?   Simple, you look at Kansas.   Kansas is what happens when you keep on cutting taxes - you turn a $600 mill surplus into almost a $700  million deficit, get below average job growth (even the Kansas GOP can't kill the economy that Obama gave to our country), bankrupt school districts, and (Source).

You can only cut so long, before you hit bone.   They hit bone in Kansas and need to stop cutting.

Part of the issue is that the GOP gave up on actually reducing spending, and is now just cutting taxes - just like they try to do in the Federal Budget.   That doesn't work, no matter how much it did (or did not) work in the past, increased efficiency only gets you so far.

How do you tell if you have cut to the fat or the bone?  You compare with other countries.  First of all, note that the US outspends the next nine other countries when it comes to the military. It was the next ten before Obama - thanks Obama - but he cut us back some and convinced other countries to help out in the middle east.  Keeping that in mind, you can check the general list.

Let's look at per person spending (all data from Wikipedia). 

The World spends on average $2376.  But the bigger, first world countries (20 largest economies) spend on average $16,110.   The US spends only $11,041, #15 out of the top 20.  If we wanted to spend less than South Korea (moving us down to #16), we would have to drop to $4,556.  And we all know one of the reasons why South Korea's spending is so low.

This nice graph demonstrates the Federal net outlays a a percent of GDP since 1929.
Click here for this nice graph

It is typified by 4 things.  
  1. A general trend up from 3% to about 20% now.  
  2. A large spike up above 40's for World War II
  3. A general decline starting in the 1980's (Ronald Reagan) and getting significant in the 1990's (Bill Clinton's incredible economy that kept going and going)
  4. The HUGE spike that stated with George Bush (took up back above Ronald Reagan at it's worst) and that Obama almost entirely fixed.  Almost, but not entirely.
Yes, we aren't all the way down to Clinton at his best, but  we are already below Reagan at his best.

But more than 70% of the US budget is on Military, Social Security, and Health Care.   The only place the GOP is willing to cut that HAS enough money left to actually reduce costs is the Health Care sector.  But more than half of the healthcare spending goes to Seniors - Medicare again.  The biggest cut would be the $371 Billion we are expected to spend on Medicaid in 2016. (Source).
The only way to really reduce spending is to cut Medicaid to the bone (or cut everything else we fund).   That is why we haven't done it.

The real problem is that government actually DOES work.  People that join the military really do act as a deterrent, preventing other countries from attacking us.  People in education really do educate our students, allowing them to get better jobs and make more money.  Health care and Senior care really do let people take risks without having to save up money for unforeseen health issues and aging.   The police actually DO stop criminals, encouraging honest economic activity. 

Which means we have 3 choices on how to reduce taxes.

1) Eliminate neccessary services, cutting long term taxes in the future, for temporary gains that get eaten up IN ONE YEAR - as proven by Kansas.

2)  Keep current services and pray that our economy gets better, reducing the need for social services.

3) INCREASE spending on certain services that we KNOW have solid return on investment.  Things like half-way housing for the insane who currently end up in prison - something that costs a lot more than a half-way house.  Things like education for at risk students - children of homeless, drug addicts, and criminals - that are almost 50% likely to go to prison - with the plan of turning them into honest, tax paying citizens.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Progress: is it inevitable?

If you are a student of human history, you know that out path has not been easy.

There were long periods of time where progress was lost.  Technology and political progress were created then lost to the mists of time.

Whether we are talking about the western greco-roman culture that technically invented the steam engine just after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth (only to have it forgotten for 1500 years) or the Qin Dynasty's near total destruction all science and knowledge in China, 221 BC, technical and political history has had long periods where we regressed rather than progressed.

The question is, is progress fundamental and if so why did we have these lost periods.

First, let's define progress.   Progress is at hear an increase in efficiency.   Whether we are talking about a way to get 11 bushels of grain from a given land instead of 10 bushels, or simply a form of government that has 10% unhappy citizens instead of 11%, if it works better, that is what we call progress.

Next we have why we would ever regress - go back to the old, less efficient ways.  Well, there are several possibilities.  1) We forgot how to do something better, 2) Someone is extorting/blackmailing/forcing us to use the worst method.  3)  People are lying about how efficient something is - either denigrating the best method or promoting a faulty method.   Those are the three main reasons progress isn't smooth and we sometimes regress.

The first possibilities is no longer a real problem.  The much higher world population, along with the incredible gains we have made with information storage and transmission make the danger of forgetting a better method almost nil.   We aren't going to forget how to make titanium now that we know how - even if few people actually posses that information.

The second is still a real issue, particularly in politics.  Entire countries are forced to use inefficient methods (North Korea) for politics, patents prevent the wide spread use of superior technological methods, and religion still pushes itself into politics.   But such methods are not perfect, and if they were to spread worldwide, the fractious nature of politics ensures that at least one country would violate the spread, keeping the more effective methods alive - if only for the advantage they offer.

The last has become the real threat - the only way to stop progress is to convince enough people that it isn't progress.   Often done for political reasons (global warming deniers, Trump-ism, etc.) it is the last real danger.

But can it be overcome?   The honest truth is that over time, the liars tend to lose.   All humans are NOT sheeple, despite the fears caused by public stupidity and success in small scale cases.  The real advantages of progress - the greater efficiency - can be tested and once done, people fight the lies.

Thousands of years ago, information storage and transfer was so limited that you could kill everyone that knows how to do something by accident (usually via wars).  Hundreds of years ago, you could use a combination of wars, and politics to prevent progress.  Now we are stuck using lies.   Communication, storage, and education have progressed to the point where we are no longer in danger of forgetting how to do something.

Barring an extinction level event, (asteroid/nuclear/biological weapons of mass destruction)  Progress is now inevitable.   No political party - whether it is the Communist party, the Republican party, or the Democratic party can stop it.

That does not mean that the latest and best will always be taken up.  China has proven that they can take "free market", but still retain their ancient bureaucratic government.  This doesn't mean their government is better, just that it is good enough. Similarly, the US has proven we can refuse to take up certain science facts, as our current system is good enough.

But it does mean that the better systems will continue to survive somewhere - and that that somewhere will gain a clear advantage over those that done. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Telepathic" political pundits.

There are a lot of simple ways to tell when your argument is wrong.   There is one very specific on that I see all the time, and I want to talk about a bit more:

You try to tell other people what your opponent believes.  *
* Exception - if you are an actual telepath and really can read minds, then tell me what your opponents think. Also, I have some questions about what my last date was thinking.

People do this all the time.   It often happens when someone is proven wrong and is too arrogant to admit it.  So instead of trying to figure out where they made a mistake, they look for a 'mistake' their opponent 'must have made'.   Sometimes their opponent really was an idiot, and their own prejudice makes them think that all/most/many of their opponents must be that stupid.

Sometimes they were the idiot who totally failed to understand their opponent's intelligent argument.  Instead they of understanding what their opponent really said, they twist it around to something idiotic.  If I say "We evolved from primates", and some fool responds "Take that back about my mother!" 
Note, if most of your opponents are that stupid, why didn't you win?  When an adult can't beat an 'idiot', there must be something seriously wrong with the adult, or that 'idiot' is a lot more competent than you think.

So never talk about what your opponent believes - it always means you are wrong.

If you want to find out what your opponent believes, ASK THEM.  If you want to write about it, look for something they said in print and you can point at and prove that particular opponent wrong.  Why in print?  Because that increases the chances you are talking about a belief held by more than just one strange guy.

More importantly, it doesn't matter what your opponent believes.  Just because your opponent's argument is wrong doesn't mean you are right.   Most of the old Fairy Tales were lies expressly to children in order to get them be good.   There may not be a witch in the woods, but the kid still should NOT go into the woods.   Bears may not have houses, but don't break into them, eat their food, and sleep in the beds.

So don't tell me what other people think, tell me what you think.  Otherwise I will laugh at you for the arrogant, prejudiced, fake telepath that you are claiming to be.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

We need a President that ...

People love to talk about what we need in a President.  Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, and sometimes they are right but irrelevant.

What do I mean by right but irrelevant?  I mean they are referencing a quality that everyone has - often in an attempt to insult their opponent.  "We need a president that ....wears clothing/breathes/talks English."

Lets discuss some of the qualities and which are right, wrong, and irrelevant.  I am going to start with the irrelevant ones, because frankly, they are the most interesting.

  • Strong Willed
  • Good Leader 
  • Makes the Right Decisions
  • Willing to Take Risks

These skills are necessary but irrelevant for one major reason - you can't win a Primary unless you already have all of them.   For at least the last century, the US Presidency has been so valuable a prize, that the best men of a large, successful country (and not enough women, go Hillary!) have fought over it toe to toe.   No matter what the other party says, a weak person can not win a national primary - it's too nasty a gauntlet.   Whether it's your competition claiming you aren't an American citizen, claiming you had a black child out of wedlock, or calling up voters past midnight and pretending to work for your opponent, the US Presidency is not for the weak.

Similarly, making it past the Primaries, requires that you be a good leader, make the right decisions and willing to take risks.   All of these qualities are more than tested long before you make it to the General Election.  Yes one candidate may be slightly stronger than the other, but in the most extreme example, we are talking the difference between an 9 and 10, which isn't worth mentioning.

But people love to claim they have these qualities, implying their opponent doesn't.  It's easy to claim a winning move took no courage, was not their idea, was an obvious decision, and not a high risk.  Similarly, it's easy to claim a losing move was done out fear, after being pushed, a wrong decision, and was clearly far too risky.   Then they claim that they wouldn't do such a thing - or they claim they never would have been put into that position in the first place.  This is all bravado and lies.   All serious Presidential Candidates have been strong people, good leaders, made good decisions, and were willing to take risks.

Next are the qualities people think you need, but are not important for a President.

  • Religious/Good Christian/Morale/"Character"
  • Honest/Trustworthy
  • Charismatic  (more than the top 10%)
  • Intelligence (smarter than the top 10%)
All of these categories are not necessary to being President.  This is not a 'christian country', it is a country that goes out of it's way to ensure religious freedom.   The President has to abide by a set of rules that normal humans do not.  They are routinely placed in a situation where they have to order people to their death - both their own citizens and enemies of the state.   I am not saying that morality or religion is a bad thing (they are some people's best qualities) - just that they are not necessary to be a good President.   He can cheat on his wife (Clinton, JFK), flash his dick to everyone (Johnson), win an election using dirty tricks (Nixon, JFK, Bush), and make deals with terrorists (Reagan).   Being Morale/Good Christian is not necessary to be a good President.

Similarly, superior honesty is not necessary.  The Presidency requires that we keep secrets and lie to other governments.  Hopefully they won't lie to the American people but often you can't lie to your enemy without at least misinforming your own people.   Past Presidents have lied to our enemies and it helped the country - that's pretty much the definition of a 'covert' operation.   Part of being good at keeping secrets is being a good liar.

Charismatic and intelligence are also not needed because we can hire people to that part of the job - as long as you are not totally obnoxious or an idiot.  A good speech writer and good advisers can take care of those parts of the job.

Religious/morale, Honest, Charismatic, Intelligent  - these are all good qualities, that people like, so they pretend they are necessary for the job.  But they don't substantially help a person be a better president.

That brings us to the qualities a good President needs, but aren't guaranteed by the process.   Failing to have these make you far less effective as a President, and you can win the Primary without them.

  • Consensus builder.
  • Finger on the Pulse
  • Good Judge of Character
  • Flexibility

Consensus Builder - as Obama demonstrated, and Trump is proving again, you do not have to be good at building a real consensus to get elected.  You can simply be better than the alternatives.  The problem is this limits your effectiveness tremendously.   Aside from one major piece of legislation - Obamacare - we didn't as much out of Obama as some hoped.  He was a good President, but not and  FDR, nor a Reagan.   Trump would be even worse.  He can't  get his own party' support, let alone the Democrats, who are most likely to rule the Senate (and the Supreme Court).   But to be an effective leader, you need more than just the White House, you need to convince at least some of your political opponents to support your bills.  Hillary is a lot better than Donald Trump when it comes to Consensus Building, she has won back the Black vote after losing it to Obama. 

Also Consensus building is NOT negotiating.  Ambassadors and Secretaries of State negotiate.   Presidents do not negotiate.   Negotiating means you strive for the best possible deal at all costs.    Consensus means you give up the best possible deal in order to keep everyone friendly.  You negotiate with your enemies, competitor, and clients.  You build a consensus with you wife and Congress.

Finger on the Pulse of the Nation is a strange one.   In truth, you do need it beat the Primary, but from the time you win the primary, the process does it's best to rip your hand off the pulse.  You get surrounded by advisers, spin doctors, security, cut off from the people.  It is extremely hard to maintain the sense of what 'regular' people are doing.  Without it, you come up with horrible ideas that everyone hates and don't understand why they hate them.   The ability to stay in touch with the common man is tough.  Let's be honest here, neither Hillary or the Donald have any idea how normal people live.  Trump says he does, but then he thinks he will win the Mexican and Women vote.  Honestly, he understands how a certain subset of the US (disaffected male non-hispanic white voters) work, but is clueless about the rest.  Lies - even self delusions - don't help you out here.

Good Judge of Character: the ability to pick the right people for the right job is key.  If you are smart enough and charismatic enough, then you don't need this skill to win the Primary.  But being President takes more work than winning the Primary - no one can do it alone.   You need to be able to pick the right people who will do their jobs well.    Again, neither Hillary nor Trump has a good record.  Trump has many bad calls when it comes to failed businesses, and Hillary has issues with the people she trusted for email security and for state security in Libya.

Which brings me to Flexibility.  You need to be willing to admit when you were wrong and change your opinion.  Why?  Because no one is right all the time.  If you were right all the time, that means you were unwilling to take risks.  If you don't take risks, you can never be wrong - but you will always be behind the times, leading from the rear.  It means not pushing for Gay Rights, not telling Gorbachev to "Take Down This Wall."  because you are afraid of being wrong.  The only way to take risks is to accept that occasionally you will be wrong.  Trump is good about walking mistakes back, but refuses to admit that what he originally said was wrong.  He lies about it - and that pisses off his opponents who know he is lying.   Hillary on the other hand, is more willing to admit she was wrong (despite being wrong less often than Trump).  She has admitted mistakes graciously.

Note, most of the other Republican candidates failed because they never had their Finger on ANYONE'S Pulse.  Trump at least knew what white males were thinking.  If Bernie Sanders had been more  Flexible and a better Consensus Builder, he would have been a better nominee.  If Trump could figure out what gay, black, Mexican women really want (and be willing to support it), or if Sanders found a way to walk back some of the socialism and compromise with conservatives, they would be far better candidates.

Right now, Hillary is the best we have.   She is good  at Consensus and is Flexible when it comes to the tough choices.   She needs to get better at judging other people's character and find some way to regain a sense of what other people want.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Don't compare Trump to Hitler - Trump is nicer than Hitler

Everyone loves to compare their political opponent to Hitler.   He is the 'go-to' bad guy.  Unarguably evil, unarguably a bad military and governmental leader - despite having significant public speaking skills, he makes for a powerful and therefor overused comparison.

Let me be very clear - Donald Trump is not Hitler.  There are several ways that Trump is better.   Hitler was stupider than Trump (Hitler dropped out of college and repeatedly screwed up good military strategy).   Few if any people will disagree when I say that Donald Trump is nicer than Hitler.  (Good T Shirt...) That statement is pretty clearly true.  A low bar, but Trump can make it over the bar.

But there IS a World War II leader that Trump is comparable too.  No, I am not going to compare Trump to other bad guys.  It's not Stalin or Mussolini.   It's Henri Petain, leader of Vichy France, the 'Lion of Verdun' that surrendered to Nazi Germany, and was later sentenced to death for his treason (sentence was commuted to life in prison).

The similarities are clear.  Petain was a bigot, that refused to help refugees based on things he had heard about their religion.   Previously he demanded a giant wall to keep invading murders out.

Petain was an anti-Semite that went beyond preventing Jews from entering France, he also specifically removed protections originally granted to french Jews.  (source)  He was scared that the Jews would not be loyal to France - and instead would engage in acts of violence, perhaps try to take over France.  In truth, the Jews were just fleeing persecution.  Trump, like Petain, want's to block a group of refugees - Muslims in Trump's case - from entering the US.

Petain was one of the major forces behind the Maginot Line - a giant wall that was supposed to keep Germans out of France. (source)   But the Germans had  airplanes to fly over the wall.   It was also so big, that it had week spots - too expensive to build a strong wall that large.  Similarly, Trump want's to keep Mexican out because he thinks they are murders.   Petain at least was right about Germany, but Trump doesn't even have that going for him.  

Petain also married a woman 20 years younger than him, violated the Constitution of France, and ran the government along the lines of his previous profession (military) rather than using the normal political means.  Trump has married a woman 20 years younger than him, has been told by the military that they will not obey illegal orders to torture the family of enemy soldiers, and claims that he will run the government like his previous profession (business).

Donald Trump is nothing more than America's Henri Petain.   We can't afford to let Trump do to America, what Petain did to France.

We need to do better.  We need someone that does NOT simply try to offer up simple, obvious solutions to complex problem.  Because if the answer was simple, we would have already solved it.

Real life is complex and requires harder, more difficult solutions.   Simple solutions are simply wrong.  Walls haven't worked since the invention of the airplane.   Judging people - even for a short amount of time - on their religion is called prejudice, and history has shown that it is evil, not good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Capitalism, Patents and Healthcare.

I am a strong believer in capitalism who also realizes the need for government intervention in healthcare.   How can I reconcile such apparently divergent views?

The United State's of America does NOT use capitalism in it's healthcare system - and never has.  

Wikipedia list six separate characteristics of Capitalism:

  1. Private Property
  2. Capital Accumulation
  3. Wage Labor
  4. Voluntary Exchange
  5. Price System
  6. Competitive Market
If you don't have those features, it's not capitalism.   Socialism is famous for preventing capital accumulation via taxes and the competitive market via regulating prices.  Communism goes further, wanting to get rid of the rest, but even the Soviets at their height claimed that was an ideal utopia they aspired to, rather than something they could implement.

But Capitalism predates Communism by more than 100 years.  Lets' compare it to Mercantilism, the system we had before Capitalism.

In Mercantilism, there was Private Property, Capital Accumulation, Wage Labor and a Price System.  They did not have really have Voluntary Exchanges, nor a Competitive Market.  Specifically, they had government control of exchanges - what you could buy and sell was strictly controlled.   They were known for banning the importing of many protected goods and the export of gold.  They also were known for monopolies.   Lots and lots of monopolies created by the government, given to favored people.    Queen Elizabeth of England granted monopolies on everything from coal to wine.

In Elizabethan England, under Mercantilism, they called these monopolies "patents of monopoly".

Yes, that's right, patents are not part of Capitalism.   Patents restrict people from engaging in business, which directly prevents a competitive market. They are a hold over from Mercantilism.    If you are defend the concept of patents, you are not a pure Capitalist, you are at least partly a Mercantlist.

Why do we still have patents?   We needed a way to incentivize invention, so we took the old concept of a patent, reworked it, and now they only apply to things you invent, rather than any old thing the government wanted you to have a monopoly on.

Capitalism is a pretty strong systems.  It is more than robust enough to handle some flecks of impurity.  Patents have always been a problem for Capitalists, but it's something we can usually live with.

As long as we keep the other five characteristics of Capitalism, it works well enough.

But that brings us to Health Care.   Here, we don't just have patents on medicines, techniques, and devices.  If you don't buy necessary health care or you die.  That's involuntary, not voluntary.  No different from putting a gun to your head - or ordering people to buy this or go to jail.

Notice how hospitals don't list prices?  Name one other business where that happens.  I can't think of any.  The reason is simple:  you have to pay or you die.  It's not a voluntary exchange, and they know it, so they don't even bother to tell you the cost till after it's done.

Still, it would be mostly OK, as long as we didn't also have the patents and other restraints on free trade.   If there was open market, where you could get the stuff you need to live from multiple sources, the free market would keep the price down.  When you take away both the voluntary exchanges and the patents, there is no free market - that's Mercantilism, not Capitalism.

Which   is why the US has such a problem with Healthcare - we don't use capitalism, we use a mercantile system.  That's not something new that Obama created, it's been that way for more than a hundred years.

I'm not saying we have to get rid of patents* - and by it's very nature, we can't make health care "voluntary".  (Note, we could at least require hospitals to list prices and stick to them).   But we can recognize that system is not capitalist, and that it requires government intervention in this case, because we have already intervened to help out the suppliers (by enforcing patents, among other things).  We need to counter the aid to the suppliers by also helping out the patients.

Price limits are a totally reasonable method.   We don't want to do it directly, so we chosen let the insurance industry negotiate the prices, rather than have government legislate it.  But that means everyone has to have insurance to do the price negotiating for them.  If you don't want to let the government legislate the prices, you have to require that all people have insurance to do the negotiating for them.  Or we could simply rule that the government sets prices if you don't have insurance. 

Health care is not and never has been a free market.  That's why we need consumer protections and pro-patient regulations, on top of the many pro-business regulations such as patents.**

*Note 1:  I am also not saying we can't get rid of patents - a bounty system could be established by the government rewarding innovation might work.  So could a set 10% royalty systems where anyone would be allowed to sell patented objects as long as they paid a 10% royalty would also work.

**Note 2:, I do know that not all health care involves patents, but  the far majority of medical care is involuntary, rather than voluntary, and even without patents there are other issues with the competitiveness of the market (see hospital prices mentioned above, one sided information, limited providers with barriers against entry) that similar issues apply throughout the entire industry, not just patented medicine.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The problem with low interest rates

Money is a complicate concept.  For the purposes of this discussion, we shall treat money as grease for an economic engine.

While there are other explanations for it, this is the one that is most applicable for current economic theory. 

First, some back ground - current economic theory has changed dramatically since the 1950's.  Before then we did not attempt to use interest rates to fight inflation.  In the 60's that changed.

The basic idea was that inflation was caused by not enough grease in the system, so we applied more grease (lower interest rates = more lending from banks = more money available for use).

The problem is this what happens when you lower interest rates and the banks don't lend more money?  This began to happen recently, mainly because interest rates hit extreme lows.  Small difference in interest rates give little if any impact.  Lowering from 15% to 7% will have a huge impact, but from 7% to 3% is small, and from 3% to 1% is no impact at all.

You see, you can't just apply grease to the system and hope it goes where it is needed.  There are times when banks won't lend more even if you PAY them to borrow money from you (negative interest rates to the banks).  Once you go negative, the bank can simply borrow money, hold on to it without lending anything then give less back to you and make a profit.  No need to lend at all.

We need a more modern system of applying the grease.   We need to apply the grease not to the banks and hope they lend more, but directly to the parts of the economy that need it the most.

What would those parts look like?   There are several places to look at.  One is new businesses.   If you want to rev the economy up, offering to make more generous Small Business Loans - for guarantees, surety bonds, and Venture Capital, - works well.

Another is to look at parts of the economy that NEED the grease but aren't getting it.   Currently a major source for that is College debt loans. They can't be refinanced, no matter what happens to current interest rates.  Often they are held by hard working, intelligent college graduates.

So another thing the Fed could and should do is to refinance any education loan that has no late payments for the past 5 years.  It could even be set up to automatically work whenever the Fed lowers interest rates to banks - boom, instant refinancing allowed.   The people that benefit from this would be exactly the ones who could make use of the grease.