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.
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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.