Category Archives: Politics

Damn those pesky regulations!

Angry right: Those regulations are stifling economic growth!!!!!!

Mellow middle: So you want insects and rat turds in your food?

Angry right: What are you talking about? That is not relevant!!!!

Mellow middle: I’m just trying to make a point by analogy; since you are so adverse to regulations, then you don’t care about what might happen if some regulations are eliminated.

Angry right: That makes no sense.

Mellow middle: Well, how many rat turds do you want in a can of soup?

Angry right: Obviously, the manufacturers will apply standards. Besides, if some manufacturer’s product has too many impurities the consumer will just buy from someone else. You liberals are just using irrational arguments as usual.

Mellow middle: That is an optimistic viewpoint. Sure it happens. Do you want your family to be the manufacturers testers? Did you remember seat belts?

Angry right: Now your into seat belts?

Mellow middle: The auto makers fought it tooth and nails, just like they fight against increased mileage requirements. If I’m not mistaken all of our precious children are in school buses with no seat belts. Also, remember Thalidomide? How about arsenic in your juice, how much is too much? Don’t you think that the quest, a valid one, for return on investment, will drive many decisions, many shortcuts? Also, don’t you think that industries will inevitably collude to optimize profit?

Angry middle: You are confusing consumer issues with industrial nation issues like energy production. This administration has put too many regulations on oil production, for example.

Mellow middle: So you don’t think that the same profit incentives are operating there? That any company should be able to do whatever they want as long as you can guzzle with your SUV? That safeguards won’t be relaxed? You don’t think that environmental factors should not be taken into any decision? And, don’t you think it is suspicious that these same companies via Citizens United are channeling millions of dollars to influence the vote?

Angry right: No, I don’t think.

Note
I was trying to create a hypothetical dialog between an extreme right wing ‘Tea Party” type of viewpoint and a saner style. However, rereading it, even the ‘saner’ viewpoint sounds insane.

No wonder American political discourse is so rancorous and unproductive. Add in statistics that can be used to prove anything, mix in religious psuedo-think, spice with partisan group think, and cover with jingoist Exceptionalism. Hmmmm, yummy.

Links

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Do Americans want bipartisan compromise?

On one of the Sunday talk shows the guests and host mentioned that the American people want the political fighting to end and some compromises to be made.

No, we don’t want compromise.  We want solutions.  In a compromise both sides lose.  And when these two sides lose, we lose.   A compromise is a solution to a flawed bilateral choice.

Lets look at one of these so-called problems.  Raise or lower the taxes?  That is not a choice, that is buffoonery.  What is the optimal tax rate at each moment in time?  How can the results of that tax rate be measured, and how can tax revenue not be squandered by the same parties who supposedly have this problem?   To argue about rates and 99% vs 1% is, though important, not the issue.  The tax system sucks.  Yet, we argue about the percentage of suck.

There are countless studies on tax changes and alternative systems.  Do we need more studies and even more hot air on the issue?  There are even simple measures to make taxes “meaningful”, like allowing a certain percentage of taxes to be targeted to concerns that taxes payers check off on the tax return.   How much do you want the 20% of total taxes allocated:  to congressional health club and perks, poverty, war making, education?

Next so-called problem?

Further reading

  1. Fuzzy Tax
  2. Compromise
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Political parties encourage extremism

Continuing with my “Are political parties the problem?” theme, we see many examples of extreme either-or thinking that partisan politics encourages, depends on, and exploits.

Consider the issue of the governments role in job creation and associated matters.  If you ask a normal non-political person about this, they will respond with common sense wisdom.  If you ask someone who is politically savvy and aligns with a political party you will get a distortion, a critical extreme thinking, an either-or, no subtlety, un-nuanced, non reflection of the complexities involved.  In other words, to put it bluntly, you get stupidity.

Clearly, government is not the problem, as the right would argue.  And, government is not the solution as the left would argue.   But, this left/right dichotomy is a cartoon world.  Government is PART of the problem.  And, as any entity in space-time, sometimes it exhibits more or less problems.

Grown up people realize this and will act accordingly.  It is time to get grown up people involved in the political process.  I don’t think that will happen when political parties demand stupid.

 

 

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Why are taxes a political issue?

Easy solution.   Just tweak them and see what happens?  Duh!

More.  Clearly, taxes should be tied to econometric measures.  Even if there are no changes to current ratios, they should be all be responsive to current “needs”.  In addition, there should be limits, if taxes are rising too much, then other measures are automatically taken to reign in spending.

No need for grandstanding political groups and class warfare, all which hide the fact that these same groups are just trying to grab more of that apple pie.

The real issue

In this connected world, the speed and quantity of information in the government is too slow.   There should be more direct and frequent information flows, an Agile Government.  And, this should be based on objective and measurable data, i.e., real information.

What we have now is nothing new.  In the old days they argued wearing white wigs, today the wigs are gone but the same heads remain.

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Video is adding to the rise of misinformation

Rich media, in particular video, is a low “resolution” method of obtaining information. Low because for the amount of bandwidth consumed, there is very little information content.

I never really understood why video on the web is such a big fascination. For entertainment and occasional news information it is fine. And, for some stories it is important to see the participants involved (for those non-verbal cues). However, for really understanding the news or some topic it is necessarily limited. In broadcast networks and web media it is composed of sound bites, interruptions, and entertainment. It is basically just a vehicle to sell advertising to sponsors. If you see a video about some event X, the next video you see also about X will not contain any new information.

A great example of this is the talk and interview shows. Invariably someone being interviewed will not answer questions addressed to them, important questions. Instead, the opportunity is taken to regurgitate what was said minutes before. Hence, no information.

The viewer, us, is conditioned to think that they got new information, but really they were manipulated. Video is a passive medium, you just look. It requires no interaction and exercise of logical thought, just emotional reaction.

Where to get information? Reading. Reading diverse sources and viewpoints will give one a better appreciation for reality, which is complex, nuanced, and bereft of easy answers. Not that one will automatically know what to think or decide on a course of action, but one will hopefully be more resistant to being manipulated, ’emotionalized’. With the looming elections in the USA, that is very important. There will probably be billions of dollars spent on double-speak and non-content news.

Updates

  1. Jul 29, 2012: Intentional ‘misinformation’ is really ‘disinformation’. I think I read this somewhere.
  2. Just had a thought, is video adding to illiteracy? Why read, there will be a talking head somewhere to tell you what to think about something.

Some related links
Note how some arguments against TV were made in the 70’s. Is the web the new TV?

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How can Justices be left or right leaning?

Hearing the justices speak and hearing commentators discussing how certain judges are left or right got me thinking about this again. How can a justice be politically biased? I thought they judged on the merits of the cases before them.

But, then we have the grilling that potential justices are put through to become judges and even there the questions don’t make sense. I guess I just don’t get it. Maybe I watched too many Star Trek episodes and now I think that somewhere or in some discipline there is a cold but accurate Vulcan logic being applied. No, there is just a bell curve and most of us are in the middle.

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Supreme Court uses the Slippery Slope argument.

Was reading about the supreme court hearings on the Republican health care plan that the democrats made into law. So far the most prominent argument is the use of the “slippery slope”. If you do this, then that giant evil government will force you to floss your teeth!

The slippery slope argument though seemingly applicable in a some areas is really just nonsense. This argument is really a logical fallacy. It is used to stop any attempts to apply sanity in many situations. For example, the gun lobby (In Guns We Trust) uses this to great effect. What, regulate sales at gun shows and the next thing is the evil socialist government will take all our tactical body piercing automatic computer controlled squirrel hunting assault rifle, dag darnit. The ‘right to abortion’ groups do the same: any regulation is just a slippery slope toward that big bad government telling you how to use your body and what is right and wrong.

It is insane. I could go on, but in a nutshell here is my claim: so much use of the slippery slope argument is itself a slippery slope into idiocracy.

Imagine if every great invention was subjected to such arguments. “Well, thanks for the gift of fire, but we think that will just lead to things being burned up till eventually the earth itself will be a lifeless cinder.”

As to the constitutional hearings. Maybe we should just round up the TV justices and make up a new court to try this case. At least it will be hilarious. Judge Judy will get to the bottom of it, “you mean, some lazy ass will sit around and not pay for anything, while everyone else does, but then will want medical attention if they get a big booboo!”

I was reading a good scholarly paper on the slippery slope years ago but can’t find the link anymore. Was very interesting. So did that camel get into the tent?

Further Reading
Slippery slope

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999 should be 6789

The Cain 999 tax simplification is attracting attention. Well, it should. In this political climate the major candidates have not been proposing anything bold, just the same phrases, party lines, and lack of answers to specific questions.

But, perhaps the 9-9-9 plan is too bold and as some critics are writing, lays the burden disproportionally on the 99%.

My counter proposal is just as simple, 6789:

  • 6% – income on the 99%
  • 7% – sales tax
  • 8% – corporate tax
  • 9% – income on the 1% rich

That is more equitable. Of course, economists and mathematicians can tweak the numbers. Most importantly, these numbers should be part of a feedback system. Why is everything “fixed” when the world is dynamic?

Based on economic performance and quality measures, the whole sliding scale could be shifted up or down. For example, in an overheated economy it could be shifted up, and in a difficult period, like now, it could be shifted down, such as, 5-6-7-8, etc.

Further Reading

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Do we need an ad-free top-level domain?

From its roots as an information sharing infrastructure, the internet is now increasingly composed of marketing and sophisticated attempts at private information harvesting. This has led to an adversarial relationship between providers and consumers.

Advertising is important. Commerce is important. Getting information on new products and solutions is important. Consumerism as culture is not important (it leads to a debtor nation). Advertising that preys on the bases ‘instincts’ and misinforms is not good. There are no easy solutions to fair advertising and fair use of personal information. Invariably, the consumer will be pimped.

When telephone soliciting became absurd, a Do Not Call registry was created. The same approach may not work in the web, for even the act of searching for something is subject to ad-fluenced manipulation.

A top level domain (TLD) that prohibits advertising will be useful if and only if it is also transparent. Since it must be funded and probably would not survive on donations or sponsorship by users, an ad-free domain must rely on organizations and companies. These must be explicit. No shenanigans like we have in the political process where influence is nefarious like the Political Action Committees (PAC) that subvert the democratic process.

Some difficulties:

  • What is advertising? How can it be identified?
  • Who does the filtering?
  • What people, organizations, and companies can become part of this domain.
  • What to call this? Radio Free Earth (rfe).

Oh well, perhaps a bad idea. It was out there, my brain picked it up.

I wrote about advertising and privacy before, but in a fictional short story format: Scattered.

Further Reading

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Whatever happened to higher level discourse?

I am watching The McLaughlin Group TV show. The panelist are discussing the President’s use of “Corporate Jet” tax breaks as examples of need for tax change, etc.

The panelists get all flustered and indignant. One of them even mentions that Corporate Jets are made by people and creates jobs. Another, that Corporate Jets as a tax issue is irrelevant, would generate miniscule returns, and that executives use Corporate Jets to conduct business to save time and other benefits.

I’m astounded. Clearly the president used the Corporate Jet issue as a symbolic example of the perks and privileges that are available to the super rich and not available to the majority of Americans*. Only one panelist understood this, Eleanor Clift? I doubt it; I hope not. Were the rest just playing the game, entertaining?

The problem is that this type of fixed thinking or reactionary vs contemplative response is amplified in popular media. There seems to be an epidemic of abstraction level miscommunication: where people who have not agreed on definitions, are deluded that they are arguing about the same thing.

“The beginning of wisdom, is the definition of terms” — Socrates

See also

*If you use a vehicle to just get to work, you can’t claim any tax benefits, afaik. In fact, in addition to the taxes you already pay that eventually get used for roads and other infrastructure, you will probably pay even more taxes for the vehicle, fuel, and maintenance. And, unlike those with formidable legal and tax departments, more then likely you can’t exploit all the loop holes of corporate tax complexities to reduce your pain.

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