Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Please be Reasonable with computers

Dear world, yes, I understand you want privacy and you don't want to feel trespassed, and regarding some things I feel the same way, but please be reasonable. Yes, bank accounts, social security numbers, and personal information you don't want to share isn't public unless if you choose. But for the love of GOD you have absolutely no reasonable right to privacy when you are in public places or in view of the street, are we all supposed to put our eyes to the ground while you walk around downtown Miami in a bikini so you don't feel "exposed"? because that is how I feel about this needless obsession with privacy regarding Google Street View and other extraordinarily useful technologies. Be reasonable please, it's a real drag when it is taken to the unreasonable extreme. Taken to the extreme it just is a drag to everyone because privacy is the most popular myth in the world, and if your relative with you in your will who you haven't talked to for a while has money for you, do you want to lose out on a nice sized paycheck? It happens. Thank you.

 If I am going to travel to a new city and I am going to need to find my way around I want to know what my destination looks like so that I won't get lost as easily, or if the voters of a region don't want my tourist money they always have that right. If they want me to be lost in a new city then I guess they don't want my business. Just be reasonable.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

To politicize or not to politicize, that is the question

I just heard about the massacre in Connecticut (though if it happened in many countries it would be a non-event, in America over 20 people being killed at once is such an outlier it counts as a massacre.) that happened just today, and felt sad of course, because no one has the right to take another person's life and no one has the right to expect that that could happen to them, and of course I want a solution. I saw a friend on facebook saying we should not politicize the issue, which struck me as funny, and I wondered, what are the leading causes of death in America? Another acquaintance posted a quote claiming that we don't need to ban guns but just need to pray and turn to God. This was from a father of a son who was killed at Columbine, and can be read here: http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bldarrellscott.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf gives data for the deaths of Americans 2009, the top Google result.

12 of which are related to health care (heart disease and cancer are the top two), accidents comes in number five, suicide is comes in number 10 (which could be argued is a health care issue when it comes to mental health),  and assault is number 15 with almost 17,000 deaths, drugs also made the list (but for some reason aren't listed in the top 15) with almost 40,000 deaths in 2009. Almost 25,000 people had alcohol as part of the problem for their death in 2009. The top causes of death related to health care totaled over half of all deaths.

Now, the most obvious solution to bring down our death rate would first be to use universal single-payer health care and finance health research to decrease the death rate among the 12 health-care related causes of death, and this is what liberal Democrats (not the centrist leadership, but real left-of-center people like my self) have been pushing for 80 years to do and the Republicans and DINOs will do everything in their power to stop.

Suicide is a health care issue, and the best solution would be to provide the mental health services necessary for people to go back to being productive happy members of society. It is the greater good.

Compared to other developed nations, the United States is not an outlier in the death rate category, but we can still do better. (I compared our death rate and median age to countries in Europe and we are not doing badly compared to them, we're actually doing a little better, but we can still do better. We should be the best.)

The three worst school shootings of all history (as of today) have all been American, and they all involved guns, the worst involved an automatic rifle. Shootings are the one category where a lot of progress can easily be made. The victims are always innocent and we have a duty as a people to do whatever we can to protect those who are most vulnerable, our children.

There is no reason that in the United States people should have any reason to fear going outside, going to the store, or going to school. If there are background checks for welfare there should be background checks and licenses required to buy guns. The constitution states "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." and we are not following the first part, because we are not safe when people can get guns at gun shows without identification. Who knows who is getting them, murderers? Rapists? Drug Dealers? Almost certainly. There need to be protocols that prevent people from getting guns that will probably use them inappropriately, and if there is going to be a gun show everyone admitted needs to have a license to have a gun, you would never sell a car to someone without a license and insurance policy, and the same should be for guns.

I do not support banning all guns and weapons. Some people carry pepper spray with them for defense, I have friends and family that do this and I have comfort knowing that they will not be attacked. For people who are smaller, especially young small pretty women, carrying pepper spray is a good defense if the woman is attacked. However, it is not acceptable that large guns can be easily acquired. Arizona is a massive gun dealer point and the reason Fast and Furious was done in Arizona was to track the purchases of cartels in Arizona. To have no regulation of guns clearly brings anarchy because those who are unscrupulous in nature and dangerous will buy the most powerful guns that puts everyone at risk. This is not appropriate or acceptable for any civilized nation. It risks lives. However, I do understand why having guns available can be a good thing. Our founding fathers gave many good reasons why people should have guns. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

One only has to look at the gun violence in this country to see what the cost of this "freedom" is. I just want to point out that the party that is so supportive of this "freedom" to own guns passed and still support restrictions on the freedom of speech to "protect" people. Words have never killed people. Words are blunt, they can only cause damage through action. However, a gun is a weapon, a gun can kill people and a gun can kill innocent children like happened this past week in Connecticut. There is absolutely no reason people in a civilized nation should ever have the reasonable expectation that they might be shot by a mentally disturbed person in a school in any free nation, and there is a reasonable expectation that could happen right now, right here in the United States.

We need a balanced approach. To own a car (which has a useful purpose) requires a license, because if driven dangerously can cause damage and needs education to know how to use. Should we ban cars because it is one of the leading causes of death? No, of course not. Cars are useful and as long as our mass transit system in this country is weak we will need them. Guns are the same story. There are only three reasons to own a gun, to hunt for food, to defend oneself by injuring another being, or to kill another being. That is all guns can do. You can not get to work with a gun. You can only kill or injure another being. With such a powerful weapon it is prudent that we protect ourselves from the mentally ill and instate laws so that they can not hurt others. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our children, we owe it to our country. Guns can be useful, if you are camping in the woods for a long time they can provide food, or if you just enjoy hunting. But with their use comes a massive dark side which must be contained, that of death if used by the wrong person. There is some truth to the saying that guns don't kill people, people do. So we need to make sure that in order to have a gun you must be deemed sane. My only proposition is that the requirements to own a gun should be no more lax than the requirements to own a car, as they currently are, f you don't know how to use it and you are not deemed sane by the licensing through a background check you have no right to own one because the need (of safety) of the many will always outweigh the desire (to own an item) of the one.

It comes down to the old debate regarding guns of freedom vs. safety. Is it more important to be able to own a gun, or is it more important to be safe from the mentally disturbed who currently can get hold of guns? That is our choice. A balanced approach can fulfill this.

The other opinion, that the problem is in our hearts, has some truth to it, however, we will never be able to make everyone safe to hold a gun as not regulating guns like cars has shown. We can pray as much as we want, these children will not come back to life. We can pray as much as we want and the evil and crazy people in this country who currently have access to guns will not listen. They don't care how much you pray to your God, they will continue to murder. Sorry, that's life. The current movement to legalize concealed weapons for people who have permits (which is the way it is going, as can be seen in Michigan http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2012/12/sweeping_changes_in_michigans.html) is the wrong direction and bad for America, we need to protect our children, our seniors, our weakest, and if you are a Christian (as 70% of Americans are), I recommend you read the Four Gospels again because I just finished them and that message to take care of your weakest was one of the most clear. Jesus never condemned gays, (which many seem to believe) but he was extremely clear that we are supposed to take care of our weakest. We have failed America. 27 dead bodies from gun violence, 20 of them children, counts as a failure to protect our most vulnerable in the one place they should be 100% confident that they should be safe, which is school. By allowing people to carry concealed weapons, there is no where in America where anyone can reasonably feel safe. Sorry that is my opinion on the common belief that guns make people safe, because 20 dead children being shot in their classroom sure doesn't make me feel very safe! It is a cultural failure. Britain when they had one massacre when only 17 deaths (ten fewer than the one that happened Friday) back in 1996 increased restrictions on guns and that is still their worst record. We have had two that have exceeded that body count since 1996, Virginia Tech and the massacre on Friday. This cannot be considered a success, the only thing this can be considered is a complete utter failure of our government to protect its people and a failure of the American people to protect their weakest.

But in the end, this entire debate comes down to a very simple debate between two values, individual liberty vs. communal safety. I choose communal safety. The needs of the many will always outweigh the desire of the one.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Speaking about the Laffer (think Laugher) Curve

So, the Laugher curve is one of the most cited and least understood principles of economics. The Laugher curve is the theory that there is a hypothetical point of where the optimal tax rate is where revenue is at its maximum and that if you increase taxes beyond that point you will have a net loss in economic output. This is heavily cited by conservatives, and is a hypothesis. It is not a theory. The reason I say that is because I can't find anyone who has graphed real-world changes in tax-rates and has come out with the Laugher curve. However, there is a graph on wikipedia that is from economicdynamics.org which cites the National Bureau of Economic Research as the institute who does the research that tried to prove the Laugher curve.


If you just want the graph, here it is on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Top_tax_rates_and_average_growth_1975-2008_v3.jpg

Oops, not information found to prove, but a good amount to disprove from a valiant effort.

If the laugher curver was real, the chart above would be a quadratic equation, which is not true, it is a flat line with a statistical outlier of Ireland, which because it is so unusual is probably due to other factors.

So, here you are. Real absolute proof that despite having wildly varied differences in their tax changes over 30 years there was no considerable difference in their economic growth. Spain and Switzerland kept about the same tax rates and they had very different economic growth rates. The United States had a substantial difference in their top marginal tax rate, yet had about the same level of growth as Germany that barely changed its top rate.

Of course, the Neocons will ignore this survey as propaganda, without presenting any evidence of their own demonstrating their Laugher curve as reality.

Because when you get down to it, there is no evidence for Reaganomics ever doing anything good for the world, as we saw with President Herbert Hoover, who was an absolutely perfect president when it comes to his religious observance of laissez-faire, Reaganomics, or Austerity, whatever you want to call it. With the longest economic downturn in American history lasting four years with absolutely no movement from the free market to move it up he is rightfully ranked as one of our worst presidents.

Of course, the Neocons will ignore this because it conflicts with their view of how the world should be.

This leads to my number one wish for economists. GROW. UP. Economics should not be as controversial as it is today. In every other branch of science if you make a claim you need to present some level of evidence that your claim is real. Economics is a science. If a pseudo-biologist walked into a conference and denied evolution, the first thing the biologists would ask him is for some proof for his claim, because he made the claim he has the burden of proof. He would of course be unable to present any evidence to contradict the DNA, fossil record, geological record, and short-term mutations in bacterial genomes that have all been observed that prove evolution beyond a reasonable doubt and he would be embarrassed and leave the conference a fool never to be invited to another conference again.

In economics, people routinely deny things that have been observed, e.g. that cutting jobs raises unemployment, unemployment hurts the economy, the government can create jobs, there are two sides to the economics equation supply and demand, and they never raise their burden of proof expecting themselves to be believed on faith alone. This is immature, and no one is special enough for such treatment.

Denying facts does not make you cool. Denying facts does not make you smart, it makes you look like an idiot. Adults don't say things without backing up their claims. Adults don't expect people to believe them on faith alone. Children expect people to believe their claims without backing it up, which is exactly what people like Laffer behaves like, and every Neo-conservative economist I have ever read expects to be believed not on their proof but because they sound good.

Don't believe anyone on faith alone. Trust statistics which are measured from reality and use the statistics to formulate your viewpoint, and if the statistics don't fit your preconceived notion do not twist the facts, do not deny the facts, and do not claim the facts which are empirically measured are wrong just because they don't fit your previous beliefs. Real economists use real facts to back up their claims, real historical events, and look for other possible explanations for why things may happen, and before they even publish their paper on their claim will try to refute it using hypothesis testing. Before publishing that the Laffer curve is real Laffer should have included another hypothesis, which is that he was wrong and try to disprove it. Every economist needs to do this, otherwise we get bogus pseudo-economics that don't fit what has been empirically observed, like the laffer curve.

I am right here going to say I read only two economists, Robert Reich, and Paul Krugman. I don't agree with them on everything (and I have a previous post about how I disagreed with their original analysis on Europe's austerity crisis) but I read everything they post. I don't do this because I already agree with most of their viewpoints, because Robert Reich is a Keynesian economist, Democrat, and former secretary, and Paul Krugman is another Keynesian Democrat economist, and certainly not because he is a Nobel Laureate, but because of how they formulate their viewpoints. They use real facts and source where they get it from. This is the only reason I trust them.

"Conservative" economists need to stop calling themselves conservative and call them what they are, Mercantilist. They aren't interested in increasing economic growth, they are only interested in improving their own wealth. They are only interested in reducing costs to their corporations, padding their pockets, and they don't care about the rest of us. We are collateral damage and they don't care.

Please economists, if you are going to claim a new theory, provide data and evidence to back up your plan before putting it into force. Don't expect to be treated differently because people already agree with you.

The same message for political theorists.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Our new Secretary of State


Now, I am going out on a limb here and my preference almost certainly won't be selected, but that doesn't matter, what matters is that my choice is I believe the most qualified candidate to be our next Secretary of State.

I choose Keith Ellison. The link at the top lists potential nominees for the Secretary of State's office. Here is why.

He is in favor of Israel's existence, and is in favor of more rights for the Palestinian people. After that last Gaza War last month it is clear to people across the world that there needs to be a solution. This is why the Palestinian Authority now has some representation at the United Nations. Unfortunately the US opposes their joining the UN as a recognized state which is why I do not want Susan Rice to be Secretary of State. Keith Ellison has the drive to bring a real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which when a solution is found will save thousands of lives and free up millions of American tax-payer dollars to do something useful.

He has criticized China for their harsh policies in Tibet.

Most other potential candidates for Secretary of State don't have the enthusiasm or values of Keith Ellison. Most politicians blindly do whatever Israel's government requests, regardless of their party affiliation, Keith Ellison is a man of the future where values matter.

As a freshman senator he visited Iraq and stressed that leaders need to understand what situations the soldiers are really in. This makes me want him to be Secretary of State even more.

As a 49 year old I expect a lot from him, and I hope President Obama nominates him as Secretary of State.