The Minimum Wage Is Just A Distraction.

Politicians of both parties want to pander to their political bases. Republicans want to show that they are providing good value for their oligarch masters by ensuring that it’s legal to pay ridiculously low wages to employees and that there is a good supply of illegal (ie. Close to slave) labor.

While Democrats want to show their supporters that they are looking to help the working people by increasing wages. But they do very little to actually increase the living wage for anyone below the upper levels of society.

And they both use the minimum wage as a flag to fly to support their cases.

But let’s be really clear, no one is proposing a minimum wage that is high enough to actually be livable in the modern United States of America.

The amount of money it takes to live clearly varies depending on many factors, such as the cost of local housing, basic amenities (water, power, heating etc), consumables (food, clothes etc), healthcare, transport, and services. These costs vary depending on where you live. When you add all these basics costs up, it’s clear that a single person or family living on minimum wage incomes cannot possibly survive anywhere without additional support from government programs (either tax rebates, social services or other forms of grants).

The republican view is that these people just need to work harder; otherwise their employers will find it better to take their jobs offshore.

The democratic view is that these people just need more support from government, either in direct assistance or support programs to help them get a better job.

Neither of these approaches ever work as planned, and I don’t think they are really expected to, so long as the bases of each party believe that their politicians are doing their bidding, the politicians are happy to posture and actually achieve minimal change.

There are programs that can work, but these mean actually looking at the causes of a problem and not the symptoms, and it doesn’t seem that either major party is ready to do that, except maybe at the fringes with lefty loons and right wing nut jobs.

The basic issue is that we need people to be employed and we need these people to earn enough money to be able to live without having to be supplemented by government-collected money and hence re-distributed money. This can happen, and the simplest way to make it happen is to create a system whereby employers must pay employees at least enough such that the employees don’t qualify for any form of government assistance (excluding health and disability related help). If an employer pays an employee less than that minimum level then the employer should have a tax levied on them at a level greater than the cost incurred by the government in supporting that employee, and it can be calculated at an hourly rate to cover full-time and part-time employees. That’s actually a very simple calculation to perform.

If an employee works X hours per week for an employer and is paid $Y per hour, but they get $Z of total assistance from government organizations then the impact of underpayment from the employer per week is Z/40 * X (assuming we expect a worker to work 40 hours a week). If Y > than the threshold for receiving benefits then the employer is paying the true minimum wage and no benefits are being received from underpayment of wages. If not then a tax of (Z/40 * X) * 1.5 should be levied on the employer. So it is cheaper for an employer to pay the worker a living wage than to pay the increased tax, that would quickly encourage everyone to pay a living wage.

This formula calculates the impact of assistance per hour so works just as well for part time workers as full time workers.

And to balance that cost there must be a levy on all services and manufacturing that is provided out of the USA. So it becomes cost effective to employee in the USA.

If employers were paying a level to their lowest paid employees that reduced the need for government assistance, then the amount of money government needed for these services would go down, allowing taxes to go down.

Obviously like any idea, this only works if politicians actually had the aim of reducing taxation and increasing the quality of life of the working class, but it really is not clear that is the true aim of any of them today.

It would be beautiful if there was a politician who actually wanted to reduce the tax burden by actually fixing broken programs, rather than pandering to their personal masters, but I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

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Why there is no easy answer on guns.

Weapons of all kinds can serve one of four purposes.

1. Defense
2. Offence
3. Hobby
4. Fantasy

In America the right for people to keep and bear arms is not limited to the government and it’s affiliates, and while the second amendment is written as a partially formed paragraph it’s almost impossible to argue with any interpretation that clever lawyers can push.

“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.”

I find it hard to see how some fat bloke living in a mobile home, who didn’t finish school and has more firepower that Pol Pot on the Khmer Rouge’s most pissed off day can be considered well regulated, but it seems that’s how that amendment to the US constitution is now interpreted.

I get freedom, and if I was living fifty miles from the nearest police station, I could see how having a weapon for protection makes sense.

What I don’t understand is why it’s acceptable that weapons are not licensed, insured and well regulated, in a similar way to cars.

In America you need to meet more regulation to cut hair than you do to own a semi-automatic assault rifle.

In the same way that someone with bad eyes or a brain injury will need to meet extra stringent test before they are allowed to drive, I think it’s not unreasonable to make gun ownership a seriously controlled act.

Anyone can own and drive a car as long as they meet the rules, why not the same with weapons?

I think we need to separate the loony idea of rising up against a tyrannical government from the idea of sensible gun ownership, if gun ownership is to continue to be a right.

I know that America has been incrementally militarized through multiple generations serving extended times in military services. And the excess of government spending on military equipment has filtered down to domestic security , and the police now have incredible levels of military hardware.

Culturally large parts of the American culture are now heavily influenced by military ideas. From camouflage clothing and backpacks being street ware to companies selling supplies to allow those with bunkers to survive a planned zombie government agent uprising.

There are a lot of weaponized citizens and most of them seem to love their guns. I know that in just about any armed confrontation, the person who has planned it has a huge advantage. If you plan to attack someone you have control of your adrenaline production, you would only attack when you are ready. If on the other hand you are attacked and are not expecting it, your adrenaline will start flowing and you will be in the worst position to respond effectively. The best course of action in just about any situation where you are attacked unexpectedly is to retreat to a defensive position and make a plan. And the best plan is to wait for reinforcements. That’s why a good guy with a gun is unlikely to defeat a bad guy with a gun.

The best situation is that bad guys don’t have guns. And the best way to stop bad guys having guns is to use a mix of limiting gun ownership (for bad guys) with technical and physical methods of stopping bad guys being able to use guns and acquire ammunition.

I don’t think the semantic political games about what is an assault weapon and sizes of magazines can ever do anything useful. But over time if it’s harder for a thief to steal a gun or for a mental patient to buy a gun on the secondhand market, then the volume of weapons held illegally will drop (as has been seen in many other places in the world)

There is no quick fix, and there is no perfect answer. But a start would be the gun special interest groups taking a position that licensing gun ownership, insuring guns and gun users and providing technology to limit gun use to the registered owner and limiting ammo sales to only those who have registered weapons that need it would be very helpful.

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Why on Earth would anyone want to be a politician?

Political office is supposed to be a service to society, but today it seems that politicians get power and money.

There has always been an element of power associated with political office, and I suppose that is why most capital cities have special laws that allow things that are not allowed anywhere else, such as legalized prostitution, access to fireworks and lower than average taxes. It’s also why most capital cities are a long way from where most people actually want to live.

But recently it seems that politicians have been awarding themselves much more than their fair share of goodies. Wage increases above everyone else’s, huge pension schemes, massive benefit packages, longer and longer vacations, even the right to insider trade and take money in exchange for influence.

This has been a concern since the Greeks had an empire, and philosophers wrote about an elite class that ruled but couldn’t benefit from the rules they imposed (Plato’s Republic), and the documented corruption of the senate in Rome (the fall of the Roman Empire).

Whenever politicians throughout history have given themselves too much power, the weight of the corruption that this in turn delivers has always led to the balance being reset.

It doesn’t matter what system has been in place, various capitalist systems, different types of democracy, fascism, socialism, communism and even the sycophantic Byzantine Empire model, which used titles and awards to reward people until those very people realized there was this huge lump of unguarded wealth protected only by purely corrupt words.

We now have ridiculously wealthy and powerful politicians across Europe and America, who seem only interested in furthering their own wealth by doing the bidding of those even wealthier than themselves.

The poor don’t have enough to pay a significant proportion of taxes, and the rich have enough to be able to avoid paying a significant proportion of taxes. Those in the middle have and always will pay more than they should. But when the poorer get poorer still, and the rich get even richer, then the middle has to pay even more. And politicians who don’t spot this early enough and allow the balance to shift too far get in trouble.

They can try for a while to pander to people with words about religious fervor, or scare people with stories about terror and those of a different color, but in the end they end up in trouble. The world has moved on from guillotines and now the trouble mostly comes in the form of impeachments, fines , humiliation and prison terms (hellos Blagojevich, hello Neil Hamilton).

And yet today we have a situation in the US where an almost infinite amount of money is spent to influence the political agenda.

It’s shocking that in exchange for money politicians add clauses into laws that directly reward those who pay them. There are actual laws in the US that mean that specific job titles in specific banking jobs pay lower rates of taxes than everyone else. Seriously Hedge Fund managers pay a lower rate of tax! People who earn their money off of stock trades pay less tax (as a percentage) than people who fight fires or dig holes.

We have had politicians who have run large companies, who have actually given no bid contracts to the actual companies that used to run and have huge investments in.

We have billionaires paying politicians to give billionaires lower taxes. And then these politicians ask people who own a house to pay more to fund the schools in their town (because it’s a choice, give another billion to a billionaire or ensure that schools have enough books, there’s not enough for both).

We have billionaires paying politicians to ensure that the government buys trillions in armaments at list price, and using the words “war profiteer” never passes their lips.

The corruption is across the board.
• Gun companies pay politicians to ensure that everyone can buy guns.
• Drug companies pay politicians to ensure that the government pays list price for drugs and that consumers are banned from buying these same drugs from lower priced sellers abroad.
• Coal companies pay politicians to build coal powered power plants.
• Oil companies pay politicians to build pipelines to their oil refineries.
• Huge farmers pay politicians for farm subsidies.
• Banks pay politicians to remove regulations.
• And the list just goes on and on.

The issue is that politicians are able legally to be influenced by money. And while this happens they will always be corrupt.

On the surface different parties blame each other for the corruption, but all the pigs are feeding at exactly the same trough.

In some places in the world it’s illegal for politicians to accept money for influence (it’s considered a bribe), this doesn’t stop it happening totally, but it does send some to prison.

The issue is that whenever I hear a politician say that they want to get money out of politics, I still don’t trust them. I know they have an angle.

Have we reached the point where no politician can ever be trusted again?

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Your ignorance is NOT as good as my knowledge

Isaac Asimov once famously said “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

The processes that are slowly but surely turning the news reporting and news publishing services into a continual flow of restating the opinions of others with absolutely no reference to actual facts is making this point of view more valid than ever!

It doesn’t matter if you follow MSNBC, Fox news, CNN or any of the other news services or news aggregating sites (such as the huffingtonpost or drudge report), the content is based on restating the most outrageous statements of every mouthpiece on every channel. The goal is not to report the news but to get eyeballs on the gaps between the news, by trying to tickle the interest enough of already biased consumers so that the stay on the channel across the ad breaks. And showing the latest shot of some oversized body part of a mostly naked vacuous plastic twenty something who is famous for only being famous is seen as more valuable than an analysis of some currently critical world event.

Why do political parties think it’s important to collect huge sums of money for their cause? Do robot-calls, surveys, print and TV ads actually influence peoples voting behavior? Or is the lucrative publicity machine using elections as a revenue stream and generating self-perpetuating statistics to “prove” their value to their customers.

When people give large sums of money to political causes, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they expect something in return. And people who can afford to give to political parties generally want something big, such as a return in excess of the expenditure they are making. Why would anyone think that it’s a good idea to allow government to be influenced by money? Well it seems that politicians are becoming part of the richest class in history.

Politicians should be paid for their work, and if they don’t break anything and find ways of doing what’s required without spending in excess of the available funds, they should be rewarded with some ongoing remuneration. But if they screw things up, get us into wars that should have been avoidable, spend money we don’t have or raise taxes beyond a very tiny amount, then they should get nothing.

And hey politicians and wannabe politicians let’s be clear on a number of things:

1. If you get us into a war, you have failed! War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy, if you can’t outsmart our enemies with words, and sneaky behind the scenes manipulation then you are the wrong people to lead.

2. Poor people need more help than rich people! Your job is to sort out education, healthcare, and a social net to ensure that this place is filled with happy, healthy, well educated, clean people who don’t need to live as an underclass, do that and everyone wins, and it can be a hell of a lot cheaper than a massive prison complex and millions of unemployable (mainly) minorities.

3. Balance the books! Stop spending half of everything on overpriced military hardware and services, that’s just a way of paying off your buddies (war profiteers), instead either pay a lot less for the military hardware you buy or buy less of it. That’s the only area of government that needs to be tweaked for the budget to balance, every other item is just a rounding error in comparison.

4. Tax religion! Religious organizations are trying hard to be political, it even says “In God We Trust” on the cash. Tax religions and you will have more money than you know what do to with, and it will just make us smile.

5. Education is NOT a way of making money! The blatant screwing of public schools, and the idiotic volume of testing is killing a generation, and charter schools are going to be the same at a higher price. Local county taxes for schools are killing people’s income and the huge cost of student loans is going to kill generations of spending power.

6. Science is key, we need well educated and highly motivated scientists to make a world of seven billion plus people function; otherwise we’re looking at a Mad Max future.

7. Infrastructure – We need better trains, roads, power, communications, water, and airports. We need better than everywhere else in the world, stop being stupid about it.

8. Stop worrying about difference. Everyone is different, and it is absolutely the government’s job to stop any and all levels of discrimination, there are no acceptable levels. Skin color, ability, sexual orientation, left or right handed, fat, thin, tall, short, blind, deaf, man, woman, race, religious affiliation, country of decendency, whatever criteria you can think of. If you don’t like someone else, tough, difference is just a fact of existence live with it!

9. And stop saying and doing stupid things. They say power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately, but COME ON, we’ve had Cigar-gate, Darth Vader, client number 9, dick picks, email scandals, selling senate seats, toe tapping in toilets, married men taking girlfriends on fuckaways on government jets, undeclared corporate gifts, leaks every which way you could ever imagine and so much more, isn’t in clear yet it’s not worth it. If you want to be a politician, take some bromide while you’re in office, and stock up on Viagra for when you get thrown out, and use it then and not before.

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Verbal diarrhea has a new analogy

Thinking is a complex activity, often when you think through an idea, your state to yourself inside your head a point of view, which you can quickly realize is wrong, and so you discount and keep working through all the rest of the possible ideas. This is how each of us considers complex issues and decides on a course of action that is reasonable and we then open our mouths and share the idea with others.
Sometimes even then we realize on reflection of other people’s responses, that the thing that we have said was wrong, and we take a moment to consider a reasonable response. In this way through a mix of individual thoughts and shared ideas we generally can come up with a position on pretty much anything.

Of course there are some people who just cannot ever let an idea stay in their head, or when it comes out and is clearly inappropriate, don’t have the common sense to say so, apologize and take a more reasonable position.

It seems that right now many of the people hoping to be president of the USA have no idea how to either keep stupid thoughts inside their head or when they have popped out, how to say “sorry, that was a silly thing to say, let me try that again”.

The most amazing “postulater” of half chewed misinformed and ignorant statements is quite clearly Donald Trump.

In just a few short weeks he’s accused all Mexican illegal immigrants of being drug dealing, murdering rapists and he’s publically stated that one of the leading elder statesmen of the US government was not a hero because he was shot down and captured while performing a mission during a war.

Everyone at one time or another has said something stupid, it happens, but no one can be that arrogant to think that when they have said something really inane that it’s okay to stand behind the statement, just because it came out of their own mouth.

There are clearly problems with illegal immigration in the US, but the issue is not just the migrants themselves, it’s much bigger than that. Economics drives migration, farmers who use undocumented labor should be imprisoned. Those who help traffic migrants illegally should be imprisoned. There are tough and reasonable actions that must be taken to provide a framework for legal migration for all levels of workers. But it is not by claiming that all immigrants from a specific country or region are immoral at every level.

John McCain is not everyone’s ideal senator. He’s vacillated between being a free thinking “maverick” and a right wing party mouthpiece, but one thing absolutely everyone can agree to, is that he was and is incredibly brave and a hero of the wars he fought in. He took amazing risks to perform his duty, was terribly injured and while in captivity under extreme duress did not tell the enemy what they wanted to hear. And he has spent most of his life serving his country. In the hierarchy of heroes he’s pretty much up there with the best.

Donald Trump should be ashamed of his words, that’s a natural response when you have verbal diarrhea. But instead the “donald” seems to believe that his shit stinks of roses. I really think his arrogance is boundless. If there was ever a need to use tar and feathers and carry someone out of town on a rail in humiliation, it’s now and it’s Trump. Maybe they can turn the process into a reality TV show.

I personally will be telling people they are “pulling a trump”, when they say something really ignorant and insulting and then stand by it.

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First they came for…

First they came for the homesexuals, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Homesexual.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they shot the black men, and I did not speak out-
Because I’m not black and they didn’t shoot me.

Then they came for the women, limiting their health options, and their relative pay, and I did not speak out-
Because I’m not a woman, and hey I can afford the expensive healthcare.

Then they came for the environment, and I did not speak out –
Because I can afford a water filter and live in a city.

Then they came for the illegal immigrants, and I did not speak out –
Because I’m legal.

Then they came for the voting rights of poor people and non-white people, and I did not speak out –
Because I’m white and not poor.

Then they came for the homeless people and I did not speak out –
Because I have a home.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

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Being selfish or ignorant are not desirable attributes.

It’s beyond embarrassing that democratically elected members of the U.S. Government think that science is a lie and that being selfish is equally as good as being generous.

Fools will always exist and selfish people will always exist, but knowing someone is an idiot and then voting for that idiot boggles the mind.

We have senators, representatives, governors, judges and even police chiefs that think the world was actually created (in a literal sense) 6000 years ago. They think that weather is manually manipulated by a god in response to any social behavior they don’t agree with. That poor people are only poor because they are lazy. That healthcare should be for-profit. That war is a good thing.

Yes we have people who won most votes in elections that think that immigrants should stay illegal, and that it’s okay to discriminate if you can says it’s for religious reasons. That woman should be subservient, paid less and seen as baby receptacles with no personal rights. That sexual orientation is a reason to discriminate. That taxes should be lowest for those with the most. That white is better than black (because they think that skin color is important). That slavery wasn’t a terrible thing. That it’s okay to be self-centered. That ignorance is as good as knowledge.

These people are just wrong. Shockingly, morally and in my view legally wrong.

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Experiences with Carly Fiorina

Many years ago I worked at Hewlett Packard. I had the pleasures of meeting every single one of their CEO’s from Bill and Dave all the way through to
Carly Fiorina. They were all amazing individuals with very different personalities, skills and attitudes.

While I never had the chance to play chess with any of them; If I had I would have expected to lose quickly and dramatically against all of them… except Ms. Fiorina. I don’t think Chess is her game.

Let me explain.

When you play chess there are several things you need.
1. You need to understand the moves, how each piece moves and the objective of the game (to capture the other player’s king).

2. You need to be able to develop a strategy to allow you to capture your opponents king without them capturing your king.

3. You need to be able to think ahead, recognizing how the other player will act in response to your move and how to react to the moves they are making.

I suspect Ms. Fiorina would be excellent at steps 1 and 2, but have no idea how to do step 3.

My experience in watching her was that she was exceptional at building a strategy to achieve a goal, but absolutely terrible at making sure that all the people who worked for her followed her lead and did what was required to deliver the goal.

I saw her tell her management team exactly what she required from them. And then I saw her management team ignore her direction and do whatever they pleased. The results were messy to say the least.

What I didn’t see was her dealing with this direct disobedience. Either she wasn’t aware of it or she decided to ignore their lack of professional respect, either way the outcome was not of the highest quality of leadership.

I’ve read her book, and watched with interest her start into California politics. And by chance a few years ago I caught a speech she gave in Sydney while on a world tour with Bill Clinton. They just happened to have the event in the hotel I was staying in. And I’m hoping she has either learned some dramatic lessons over the past decade or quickly moves out of the Republican potentials for Presidential nomination.

I think that on a chess board she would have no idea how her opponent would react, and would be shocked that her pieces were quickly destroyed and her king captured. If she could purchase additional chess pieces and change the rules, different story, but that’s not how chess is played.

When she joined HP as CEO, I was excited, but within a year I had decided to leave the company I’d been at for a dozen years because what she was doing was just that awful. Many friends and people I respect stayed at HP, but to this day I cannot remember anyone saying a good word about her leadership.

Maybe my experiences with Carly are not the experiences of others, and maybe I just caught her on bad days. But it was a lot of really bad days.

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What the hell is going on! oh right the same as always.

What the hell is going on!

Like most kids around the world, when I was at school I learnt of the history of the Brits who travelled to America to find solace free from religious and social tyranny.

It was held up as the pinnacle of freedom. A country driven to see all people as equal and to allow each individual the freedom to live their lives as they wished.

Of course the next chapter in that children’s history book did explain that all wasn’t perfect, with oppression of native people, rampant slavery, racism and sexism issues and a history of political corruption and political cowardice that pretty much matched the rest of the world. I know now that this chapter is taught very differently in America.

It seems that maybe teaching the issues of the past more completely may have been a great way to help people to learn to stop repeating them.

The issues of today, seem to be all too familiar from that children’s history book.

Yes I’m looking at you corrupt Supreme Court, and you, paid for politicians, and you business owners who think you have rights greater than other individuals, and you irresponsible gun rights advocates, and you manufacturers who ship jobs oversees to save a buck irrespective of the long term social costs, and you climate change deniers who put your short term profits ahead of long term health and social need, and you union leaders who limit growth of your members to line your personal power bases, and you war profiteers, and you bigots who subvert the meaning of religious texts to support your bigotry…. Hmm it’s a long list when you think about it….

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Mr. President, A Budget Tip

November 6, 2012, 3:30pm ET   

President Obamney (I’m not sure who won yet), I feel that if the rest of us have to balance our checkbooks each month (and year), our country should too.

Voters have to balance their checkbooks, right?

Call me crazy but I believe that the USA can find a way to survive on a meager $2.5 trillion/year (or whatever the expected revenue is next year).  Go through every line item the way we workers do with our own budgets and make adult decisions about what you absolutely have to pay for and what is a “nice to have” that will have to wait until you get a raise in revenue or an unexpected bonus.  If you and the leaders of the House and Senate can honestly say that every line item in that proposed budget is 100% required this year, then I’ll personally bet you everything I own that you’re full of crap.  The size of the debt itself is the next economy and retirement-crushing disaster-in-waiting and you and the House and Senate were elected to address just this kind of tough problem.

Line-item veto? OK

Please don’t violate the “No Asshole Rule” and put politics ahead of doing the job right.  I don’t care how you do it or who gets the credit and neither should you.  If a “line item veto” is how it will get done, then I’ll support the President (and Speaker and Senate Majority Leader if needed) getting that power and I don’t care which party any of them are from.

This isn’t rocket science or difficult to understand and you all know it.  Once the budget is balanced for the year, THEN consider options for tackling the existing debt.  Increasing taxes and adding those additional short-term $ to the budget kitty will only increase spending, not decrease the debt in my opinion and isn’t that the point, to eliminate the debt itself?

It’s a balanced budget, not the quest for the Grail

Find a way to spend within your current means and then I’ll support really reviewing all options (including new and higher taxes and fees), to raise revenue for the specific purpose of eliminating the national debt itself.

Who’s with me?

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