Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Don't Get Protesters

The last couple of days, there have been protests around my work. People are apparently protesting the reduction of wages for janitorial staff at large companies as a result of cost-cutting measures. We have been informed that they will be protesting all week, and that we should just be prepared to deal with all the noise, delays, and annoyance which will accompany them, because apparently we can't do anything about it. Now, I respect people's right to free speech and the ability to protest (as long as they respect other people's rights in the process, which, as an aside, these protesters do not, as they readily trespass on private property), but I just don't get the point of these protests; perhaps someone can enlighten me on what they are trying to accomplish. Let me explain further.

Firstly, the composition of the protest group. There are roughly 100 people, who all get bussed to and from the protest: they are not local (as far as I can tell), or connected to any local business in any meaningful way. The largest group is the marchers, with standardized color-matching protest shirts, and standard union protest signs. There are also security people, who coordinate displacing the normal people in the area so the protesters can march through. There are also a few union thugs in suits, presumably there to intimidate anyone who might oppose the protesters.

Then, there's what they do. Specifically, they march for roughly an hour or so, blocking walkways, driveways, intersections, bridges, and impeding anyone they can. They carry drums and bullhorns, so as to make as much disruptive and annoying noise as possible. There are a couple of special-interest signs (eg: promoting a politician the unions favor), but most are standard union-support signs, in English and Spanish of course. They pause in front of some buildings, but mostly they just unload, walk through being as obnoxious as possible, load up, and move on to the next protest site.

Now, what exactly is the point? I mean, here's what I get from the protests, in no particular order:
- These people don't care about the local businesses, they're union stooges bussed in from who-knows-where
- They don't care about jobs for Americans, just jobs for union members and people who can't/won't learn/use English
- They don't have any clue about what policies or politicians are good for jobs and the economy, so they are extremely hypocritical
- They don't care about anyone else, or the damage or inconvenience they impose on anyone else
- They want people to respect their rights, while they trample on other people's rights without a second thought
- They are spending an entire week working every day to solidify my contempt for their organization and whatever they stand for

Their protests make me want to support the businesses they are nominally protesting against, oppose their political causes, and seek and moral and legal justification for doing them physical harm. I can't imagine that's their nominal intent, but I also can't see what they think they will be accomplishing, other than providing something to justify the salaries of all the protesters and support people who are on the union payroll. Are they collectively too stupid to extrapolate the resulting sentiment, or am I not experience the typical/expected reaction, or... am I missing the point of these protests?

Update: Apparently these a-hole protesters will be busing in more people for tomorrow's protest, and randomly blocking/closing streets in the area between noon and 6pm. And, astoundingly, the LAPD will be complacent and supportive to their activities, helping them aggravate the local employees and patrons while facilitating their ability to otherwise break the law. The SEIU union will get no support from me ever, for what it's worth.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Obama the Muslim? Bad Reporting...

So the news story of the day, as much as anything else, is the "shocking" revelation that somewhere around 20%-25% of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. Now, that by itself is interesting, but not particularly blog-worthy: the numbers are trending up, but really, it's not like it matters too much; people should be much more concerned with Obama's actions rather than which deity he professes to be subservient to. However, I can't let go of the bad reporting associated with this issue.

Look closely in the Time article, for example, where they state unequivocally that 24% of American's "mistakenly believe" that Obama is a Muslim. Um, wait, what? When did you, the editorializing reporter, become an expert on what is factual based purely on the unverifiable statements of politicians? Moreover, this is a politician we know, for a fact, has no problem lying directly to the American people, over and over again, whenever he thinks the lie will serve him better than the truth. See statements about unemployment and the "stimulus" bill, his being a socialist, top priorities for his administration, or any of other clear, well-documented lies he has told just while in his current office. Why, out of the blue, does he get a free pass on stating his religion, something which clearly would affect many people's perceptions of him?

Now, I'm not particularly religious, and it makes very little practical difference to me if Obama is actually a Muslim or not. I have significant issues with many of his ideas and policies, but that's fairly irrespective of his religion. What I do have a problem with is traditional news outlets subjectively editorializing opinions as facts. The fact of the matter is that if you disregard Obama's statements (as any jury would, for example, given his complete lack of credibility), his actions would support the claim that he is, in fact, Muslim. Throw in some previous statements to that effect, and you could see how it's at least a reasonable conclusion. It's irresponsible and inaccurate to dismiss the conclusion as mistaken: at the very least, it should only be "in conflict with Obama's current claim".

Shame on the media for bad reporting, again; not that I expect better, but it's worthwhile to continue to emphasize it for people who may not be convinced.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The 14th Amendment

A preface: Before I dig into my opinion, I'd like to note that this is, of course, a sensitive subject for a number of people. The liberal media outlets love to label anyone who questions the principle enshrined in the 14th amendment as a "lunatic fringe" member, and mainstream conservative politicians know to stay far away, lest they alienate the growing voting base of gray-legal immigrant populations. But hey, it's not like I'm particularly timid, or running for anything, and I happen to have an opinion on this topic, so here it comes.

There's a principle in the justice system of America that a criminal should not be allowed to profit from his/her crimes. This is presumably derived from the observation that allowing a criminal to profit from crimes might encourage criminal behavior, and if the profit potential is large enough, it might provide a stronger incentive for socially-destructive behavior than the discouragement which the threat of punishment might provide. Accordingly, almost all of our laws are designed to ensure that any ill-gotten gains are forfeit if/when you are convicted of a crime; in fact, you often stand to lose whatever you may have had.

The 14th amendment, however, provides a glaring exception to this principle, which was almost certainly not intended. At it's core, the amendment is intended to simplify citizenship for people born in the US: it's sorta an easy catch-all for the "if your parents are welcome here, you are too" ideology. As such, it's fine... but the country has changed a bit since it was envisioned. For example, we had a lot less people openly breaking our immigration laws, the federal government was more concerned with upholding the law and less with [openly] pandering to the controlling party's demographics, and we weren't nearly as much of a welfare state, ready to constantly sacrifice our own hard-earned prosperity to care for people who has no interest in caring for themselves. All these things serve to pervert the usage of the 14th amendment from something which must have seemed clearly the "right idea", into something which is effectively being used to profit from criminal activity. I find that personally objectionable, and potentially worthy of change.

Of course, I would not propose to repeal the amendment or anything; after all, the motivating principle is still perfectly valid. However, I think it could be itself amended, such that children born in the US are citizens unless it cannot be shown that, at the time of their birth, the mothers are present in the US legally. Basically, as long as your parent(s) are in the US legally (for whatever reason, citizenship of otherwise), you're automatically a citizen; if not, you would not be.

At this point, someone usually objects, saying it's unfair to punish the child for the parent's misdeeds, but that's a dumb argument: there's no free right to US citizenship, and you shouldn't get that right if your mother successfully breaks the law. There's also the argument that it kicks the proverbial illegal immigration can down the generational road without solving anything, but that's an aside: yes, it doesn't fix the underlying problem or do anything to fix the government's asinine position, but it doesn't make the problem worse, or provide incentive for the commission of more crime, as the current system does.

Anyway, that's my opinion, for what it's worth.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Appropriate Plans for the Future

So there's an advertisement which is running on some web sites, from In it, the voice over laments the $3.5 Billion of additional debt the US is accumulating per day, and extols the need to stop digging ourselves deeper into the proverbial financial hole. I'm not sure I agree, though; not because I think our ridiculous recent handout spurts are anything but asinine partisan politics, or I think the deficit is easily solved or anything, but quite the opposite. I think it might be time to stop living in the fantasy world, and start thinking and planning pragmatically.

For example, I don't necessarily think we (the US people) should really start trying to reverse the tide of mounting deficits, and somehow try to save enough money to pay back the entire national debt. I mean, it's a noble goal, and the current situation is certainly worthwhile to guard against in future governmental frameworks, but realistically there's just no conceivable outcome to the current deficit spiral other than a default, in some form. With the enormity of the hole our politicians have already created, the reckless and astounding lack of any fiscal responsibility in the current government, and the crushing weight of pyramid schemes created and expanded by previous equally-irresponsible leaders looming, it might be time to think pragmatically about the national debt. That is, it might be time to abandon the "how do we fix it" question, and move on to the "how do we not be crushed when it inevitably collapses" question.

As this opinion piece by Peggy Noonan aptly points out, Americans are coming to the realization that the good times are over. Our politicians have done such a monumentally horrible job of managing the country that the era of ever-increasing prosperity in the US is likely over (which, to be fair, is also the fault of the monumentally idiotic voters who put them in office; eg: see Nancy Pelosi). This, coupled with the insurmountable debt, virtually ensures that the US will need to collapse (at least fiscally speaking) before it can be rebuilt; and like the financial debacle, where banks had trillions in bad assets and loans which needed to be revalued and cleaned out before the system can recover, the US will need to purge both its debt and pyramid scheme type obligations before it has a chance to return to increasing prosperity. The only question is whether the people suffer for a long time fighting uphill while in denial, or if we can openly admit the inevitable, choose the quick path which leads to the least suffering for the American people, and get to work on changing the system to prevent such egregious abuses of public trust in the future.

It's no longer enough to ask the politicians to stop making the problem worse. We need to start planning for the inevitable national default, start creating means for honest hard-working Americans to minimize the damage to themselves and their livelihoods, and start thinking about how to make sure these type of politician scum (the current group and groups past) can never again do such monumental, irrecoverable harm to the United States of America.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Radical Taxation Idea

I've been mulling over this for a bit; I'm not sure if it's actually a good idea, but it's an interesting idea. If anyone has any historical examples of if/how this would actually work, or specific negative consequences they can extrapolate, please comment; I'd be very curious.

Anyway, here's the idea: replace all taxes at the federal level with a fixed, Constitutionally-limited 2% annual tax on all [non-retirement] net assets, for all individuals and corporate entities.

Effects on people (generally):

- Low-income, low net-worth individuals will experience little change: they pay low taxes currently and in the new plan
- High-income, low net-worth individuals (people who spend almost all they make) will benefit: lower taxes on income will mean more spending power
- Low income, high net-worth individuals (significant savings relative to income) would pay more in taxes, but only after a high threshold: someone who made $100k/yr and paid $40k/yr in taxes would need to have a net worth of more than $2 million before the tax bill would be higher under this plan
- High income, high net-worth individuals would probably pay similar taxes, depending on exact numbers

The people who would pay significantly more are people with significant worth relative to income; eg: people who inherits millions, people who get very wealthy from stock/investments, etc. On the other hand, people with significant net worth usually make income from investing their money, so as long as they are making more than the tax amount on investment income, their net worth would not necessarily decrease, even if they do not have net income from business.


This type of tax would always be imminently affordable: since it's based on net wealth, the person/corporation paying will always have the assets to afford the tax. Since it's based on net assets, you don't pay more if you are leveraged to buy something (eg: house with a large loan): you are taxes only on net worth of your total assets.

Corporations would have less incentive to retain profits. Since retained assets would be taxed and dividends would be not taxed (opposite of current situation), corporations would be incentivised to only retain money they actually think they will imminently need, and pay out the rest to shareholders.

Net asset value is less variable than income/other, which means tax rolls will be much more predictable. Tracking net assets would be roughly equivalent to tracking income. The government needn't be concerned with private or intrastate transactions for tax purposes. Banks and investment institutions can aggregate reporting requirements for tax purposes.

This plan would constitute more explicit wealth redistribution than our current tax scheme, although I don't think it would be a significant problem, as long as the Constitutional low limit is solidly maintained (I would not be in favor of this plan without such a limit). It basically constitutes the same wealth redistribution mechanism/effect as inflation, but without the incentive to diversify out of the US dollar, and/or hold assets in tax deferred or unrealized-gain holdings. It would provide a slight negative-incentive to horde wealth, but as described, the actual tax consequences would be lower for most people, and the average spending power for people with income from employment would be higher.

This would effectively allow everyone (individuals and corporations) to deduct all operational expenses from tax liability, as opposed to the current system which favors corporate structure/operations for that benefit. Since you're only taxed on retained net assets, money expended to satisfy operational costs would not be taxed, either as income or otherwise.

2% should be close to enough, if not actually enough, to fully fund the federal government at current levels. 2% of net asset value of all households and nonprofit organizations would be roughly $1 trillion per year. Adding in taxes for all corporate net assets, and the figure should approach $2 trillion. The tax figure would rise directly and proportionally with the actual wealth level of US people/corporations, which is exactly what we want for incentive for the government. Moreover, as mentioned, the number changes slowly, so it's much less susceptible to economic fluctuations than the basis's of current tax schemes.

Anyway, that's my radical idea for the day; thoughts welcome as always.