Monthly Archives: January 2011

Laws the GOP Should Pass #10:

Now usually I try to point out areas where the government is over regulating, over taxing, over intruding into our lives. But government does serve a positive function. It does have a responsibility to protect you from harm caused by others (it has no responsibility to protect you from yourself, and it should really learn to mind its own business in that case). So, just to switch things up, and maybe get a lot of you yelling at me, I present the following wacky off the wall idea:
You know those breathalyzer devices that people with DUI’s get put into their cars? The ones that if you have even a small amount of liquor in your system the car won’t start? Congress should pass a law that all new cars need to be made with these devices and all older cars need to have them put in within three years.
You’re probably wondering if I’ve lost my mind, but hear me out. First off you’re probably thinking that you have a presumption of innocence that you shouldn’t have to prove you’re sober to drive. Sorry. We all admit we don’t have an inherent right to drive on public roads. That’s why we get licenses to drive. That’s why we are forced to get insurance. That’s why police can set up sobriety check-points and test everyone without question or cause (and the courts uphold those checkpoints). We have to submit to all of this because we don’t have an inherent right to drive on public roads. We might have a right to drive on our own property (but really that defeats the whole point of a car). So really this is only hindering your conditional right to drive with a license if and only if you’re drunk. Certainly you don’t have a right to drive drunk. And as the government is charged with protecting us from other people this would certainly stop drunk drivers from getting onto the roads. Now the only difference between the machines that get put in cars now and what I’m proposing is that, under the current system there is a computer that can record if a person attempted to start the car while drunk. Under my proposal the government would not keep or be entitled to that information (not only is this a protection of your privacy, but there is going to be a great secondary benefit to this coming up).

So your rights aren’t violated and I’ve just stopped a third of all deaths on the road. It seems all good. But you complain, as we all learned in SuperFreakanomics that walking drunk is more dangerous than driving drunk which actually means the number of deaths will go up since many of those drunks, unable to start their cars will now go stumbling into the streets and get their boozed asses run over. Boo hoo! The true tragedy of most drunk driving fatalities is that the drunk lives (after all they’re so relaxed that the crash has next to no effect on them) and they kill other people. So I’ve shifted the deaths from the innocent to those who had a choice not to get themselves three sheets to the wind drunk. Somehow there seems more justice in this even if I haven’t really lowered the death toll (although I figure one drunk vs. a whole family in a car might actually mean in the end fewer people will die).

Now your next logical objection is that these machines are expensive. Putting them in every car in America is going to raise the price of a car. Wrong! One, I believe the main reason those machines are expensive is because of a little thing called the economies of scale. As it is now those machines only have to be produced for a rather small portion of the population who have them put in their cars after a DUI. If you put them in every car I feel the per unit cost will go down as the economies of scale dictates. So probably the price of your average car is going to go up by about $100. Not that much for the kind of added protection this law gives. But it gets better, if there are no drunks on the road, then not only are vehicular deaths going to go down, but accidents in general. And if accidents in general go down, then insurance companies are paying for fewer accidents. Which means that their profits go up, and I figure for every 2% their profits go up, then our insurance rates will go down by about 1% (competition will force them to cut their rates because there will always be one company willing to cut its rates if it feels it will get more customers). So probably you’ll actually come out ahead when the system finally balances out and you’re paying less in car insurance.
But it gets better. Since more of these machines are being made, then that means the industry that makes them will have to expand. More jobs. The economic benefits of that are self explanatory.
But it gets better still. If there are no drunks on the road, then cops can actually focus more time on violent crime and other traffic violations (the kind that come with a better per incident fundraising). Oh and traffic court has just taken a huge cut. I can’t imagine the thousands upon thousands of dollars saved in court time, public defenders, cops having to take time to go to court for DUI cases. It’s not hard to imagine that this could help the budget of almost every city in America.
Sure shyster lawyers who make a living defending in DUI cases will be hurt…but I hardly feel this is something any human cares about. Laws the GOP Should Pass #10:

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Birthers are stupid

Granted that title is kind of a self-evident truth, but regrettably they’re going to come back into the news. (The situation is more complicated than what I’m about to explain, but this is the story you would get from reading headlines, which is sadly all most people do anymore). Apparently the new Governor of Hawaii opened up Pandora’s Box when he went to look for Obama’s birth certificate and couldn’t find it. The government of Hawaii says it’s buried somewhere in mountains of paperwork and it’s just that they can’t track it down this very minute. I’m sure they’re right and it is just buried in a box somewhere. But I’m sure you know as well as I do that those idiot birthers are going to come back that this is a major conspiracy.
However, while reason, facts, and argument are not going to penetrate the thick skulls of these people I am going to provide you with an argument that will leave them stuttering and sputtering to try and come up with a comeback. So while it won’t lead to them seeing truth, it will allow you to enjoy watching them suffer if you have the misfortune of getting into an argument with one of these idiots.
For a thought experiment let’s say Barrack Obama wasn’t born in the US. Hell let’s say he wasn’t even born in Kenya. Let’s say, for the purposes of this thought experiment that he was born on ….….Mars. Let’s say it was a fact that he was born on Mars. Guess what? He’s still a natural born U.S. citizen. Do you know why? Because his mother was a U.S. citizen and so her son is from birth a U.S. citizen (there’s a legal disclaimer about him needing to touch U.S. soil by a certain date…but we have enough pictures of him growing up in Hawaii and Chicago to have that covered). Barrack could have been born in Hawaii, Kenya, Chicago, the Andromeda galaxy, all make him equally a natural born U.S. citizen because his mother was a U.S. citizen.
Watching a birther try to make a comeback to that is actually kind of funny.

Nonetheless they will eventually still try and comeback with “Why doesn’t he release his birth certificate then?” And the answer will be “Because it keeps idiots like you busy and makes it appear anyone who is opposed to Obama is a crackpot.” When you think about it, not releasing his birth certificate was a genius move of misdirection. Rather than have people pour over legislation or moves of the federal bureaucracy or whatever obsessive compulsive government nuts pour over, he has them focused on something that is utterly irrelevant and not, you know, something that might actually piss off the whole of the American public….like say all of his crappy legislation and executive orders.
I will oppose just about everything Barrack Obama does (unless he actually does make a desperate jump to center-right) but please, birthers, shut up. You’re idiots.

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Repeal Obamacare

So, supposedly the Republicans are going to bring up Obamacare Repeal in the House this week. It will either die in the Senate (and thus guarantee Republicans take the Senate in 2012) or socialist-in-chief Obama will veto it (giving the GOP the White House, I’d prefer both out comes, but I can live with either). However, Republican politicians do not have a great track record for holding the line, so you might want to get your Congressman’s number and be sure to make it clear to them the House makes this symbolic stand against encroaching tyranny, or in two years we’ll find someone else who will make that stand. Doubly important if you live in a Democratic district that you flood their switchboard with constant calls (I recommend you be very polite, but relentless in your calling until they give up and start swearing at you, I then recommend you record it and send the recording to a major media outlet).

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Laws the GOP should pass #9: Tort Reform

Tort Reform

I’ve mentioned tort reform before. The reason this keeps coming up is that it is probably one of the five most important internal policies for the United States. The problem is that most people don’t know what tort reform is. Hell, most probably don’t even know what a tort is. A tort is something you do that is wrong and makes you responsible for those actions, but this action is not necessarily illegal. How do we deal with torts? We sue people. Lawsuits are one of the great advancements of English common law. The problem is that as with just about anything involving lawyers the system has been corrupted.
Right now in America we are an obscenely litigious society. We sue over everything. Everything! Spill hot coffee on your lap because you clearly have the intelligence of a turnip. Well that’s McDonald’s fault. Smoke all your life and get lung disease, because you didn’t grasp what has been known since about 1700 that smoking is bad for you. Well that’s the fault of Phillip Morris. You’re fat. McDonald’s fault. Get shot. Gun manufacturer’s fault. Basically if you win a Darwin Award, it’s everybody’s fault except your own. And they should pay. They should pay a lot.
Think I’m exaggerating. Read the warning on your standard clothes iron. It actually says “Do not iron clothes while wearing them.” There is no reason for that to be there unless some idiot not only did that, but then sued because of it. … I also like the warning on some Christmas lights “For indoor and outdoor use only”—I’m torn between asking what other kind of use some idiot who sued found…and being very disturbed by the answer.
You don’t think this has anything to do with you other than the fact that these are the same idiots who are cutting you off in traffic. Well think again. Every one of those multimillion dollar lawsuits has a payout. And with a payout a company loses money. Guess how they get back the money they’ve lost? They raise the cost of what they charge you for their product or services. The estimated cost per person is about $834 in 2008 (http://www.sickoflawsuits.org/threats/CosttoConsumers.cfm) and that’s not fully counting personal injury lawsuits costs. You want to know why medical costs are so high…well to a great degree it’s because doctors are sued by people so often. People don’t get better from this or that, or they aren’t diagnosed quickly enough to catch a problem, or something goes wrong during recovery. And so they sue the doctor, the hospital and everyone else involved in your medical treatment. Why because apparently medicine is an exact science where everything always goes perfectly if it weren’t for the doctor’s malicious nature. Oh wait, medicine is about as in-exact a science as you can get as that works it on the single most complex machine known to existence, the human body. Now, yes I will never defend a doctor’s incompetence, depraved indifference, or unquestionable unprofessional behavior (but those do not make up the bulk of medical lawsuits…the bulk of medical lawsuits are ambulance chasers with clients who would probably spill coffee in their laps if you didn’t tell them it was hot).
There are a lot of problems. Most of them have some fairly simple solutions. All these solutions have been and will continue to be opposed by trial lawyers (next to the Teachers Union they’re the most corrupt and influential campaign contributor there is). If the GOP is serious about reform and earning the trust of the America people they have to take an attitude somewhere between “Screw them all” and a line from Shakespeare’s Henry IV (you know which one I mean).
Tort Reform Part 1:
Limits must be placed on pain and suffering awards. Further damages payment must be realistic. If a 50 year old blue collar worker gets injured because of negligence on his employer’s part…he wasn’t going to earn $50 million in his remaining years before retirement. Pay all his medical costs, insurance costs, and lost pay plus maybe 10% to be on the safe side, but no more of these ridiculous sums. A million dollar cap on pain and suffering awards should be more than sufficient if damages payments are all taken care of.
Tort Reform Part 2:
Loser pays the bills.
The fact of the matter is that so many of these ludicrous lawsuits come about because there is no disincentive to not file. You sue McDonald’s for making you fat; the worst that can happen right now for the plaintiff or their soulless attorney is that it is thrown out of court. Thus filing an obscene amount of crazy lawsuits with the same attitude similar to that of seeing if spaghetti is cooked, see what sticks to the wall, is good business for unethical lawyers. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And the lawyers of these big corporations aren’t opposed to this either. As defending their clients against quacks is the only way to rack up thousands of billable hours. And you and I as consumers get to pay for all those legal fees.
To put an end to this reckless system of litigiousness is put in a simple rule of the loser will have to pay the winner’s legal fees. Thus you’re not going to sue a big company unless you 1) have a slam dunk case or 2) are Don Quixote and believe in your case. Ambulance chasers that bring frivolous lawsuits are under neither category. Yeah is this going to be hard on those few poor people who have legitimate complaints but can’t compete with legal team from the darkest depths of a Grisham novel and end up not only bankrupt, but millions in debt? Yes. But as you’ll have far fewer lawsuits, you’ll have far fewer lawyers in the system. It’s a worthy trade off.
Tort Reform 3:
Judges need to be given more authority to throw out cases.
I don’t know if you need to have a three judge panel go over every perspective case and two have to agree to keep it, or just rewrite the laws of what standard a judge has to hold a case to for a prima fascia burden, but judges need to be throwing out a lot more cases. Let’s be honest here would you take this case: “So let me get this straight, you were told since early age that smoking was addictive, as this is a fact that’s been known for well over a hundred years. Your first reaction to your first cigarette was to hack up a lung. You noticed early on both a need to smoke and that you had less breath. You were warned for the last 50 years that smoking was bad for you. But only recently because you came down with lung cancer did you want to stop. And it’s the cigarette company who’s to blame? Not you, you have no responsibility for this at all. All the conglomerate tobacco, that’s to blame. Did they stick a gun to your head and tell you to smoke?” Would you take that case? I wouldn’t. And whoever the judge (judges?) was who allowed that case to ever get to a jury, let alone a settlement should be disbarred and executed for gross incompetence.
Tort Reform 4:
There needs to be some kind of scoring system put into place. If you’re a lawyer that brings more than 10 frivolous lawsuits in the course of your career, you shouldn’t be allowed to practice law. Now I’ll admit you’ll have to hammer out a pretty clear definition of frivolous as opposed to no chance you can win against the evil law firm held on retainer, but these psycho ambulance chasers need to be put out of business.

Tort Reform 5:
Malicious intent needs to be proved. Raise your hand if you’ve seen commercials looking for anyone who has ever had contact with asbestos. Because apparently it was in high use back when we didn’t realize how dangerous it was. So the companies that made asbestos, without knowing how dangerous it was should all be sued. And that goes for drug companies that create drugs that are designed to help people but eventually they find unexpected side effects that hurt a small group of people because they are to blame for those unintended side effects. Are you kidding me? A lot of companies hide dangerous effects of their products and dump poisons into the environment, sue their asses off, I don’t care. But if a drug company pulls a drug the minute they find out about that side effect, it’s not like they put it on the market to hurt people. They put it on the market to help people (and make a little money) they aren’t to blame for the unforeseen. The problem is that people need to admit that shit happens sometimes and no one is to blame. There are terrible things that happen, doctors made the wrong call in good faith, machine are sometimes lemons even though the manufacturer tries to maintain high quality, things just go wrong. Shit happens. And sometimes no one is to blame. Unless you can legally prove malicious intent or depraved indifference, no one is to blame, and no one should be sued. (You pass this one and watch your medical bill drop like a rock).
I understand that often there is a psychological need to blame someone for the terrible things that happen in life. But as a society we need to grow up and understand that sometimes things just happen.
Tort Reform 6:
Eliminate the practice of contingency payment. A lot of greedy lawyers take cases on contingency, that is, they will get paid a percentage of the settlement in addition to their fees and costs. This basically creates a massive incentive to sue large companies for large settlements and hope they’ll just pay you off quickly so you can move onto your next BS case. Hmm, I wonder, is creating an incentive for frivolous lawsuits a good thing? Let me think…no. It’s about the dumbest idea I can possibly think of. This tied to reform #2. If the loser is going to pay, then you still have an incentive to take on clients who may not be able to pay your bills (you’ll just make sure that they actually have a case). All you have to do is submit a bill for the number of hours at the last hourly price you billed for before that case and the court will make sure you get paid. If losers have to pay, then there is no need for contingency fees. And if there are no more contingency fees than the chief incentive for all these preposterous lawsuits go right out the window.

Now I would love to see all of these passed. But any combination of at least 3 of these being passed will lower costs for businesses and consumers, raise incentives to build and expand businesses, improve the economy, and drive many lawyers to ruin and bankruptcy. Win-win for everyone who has a soul.

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Some Random Thoughts

Involuntary Commitment: What should we take away from last week’s shooting in Arizona? That we need to revise some of the laws in this country that deal with involuntary commitment in mental institutions and legally requiring people who are not of sound mind to be forced, by law, to take their medication. More gun laws probably would not have helped stop this situation. Law requiring an educational professional to report possible mental issues and then force institutionalization when it is deemed to be in the best interest of the patient might have stopped this.
At least I’m not the only person thinking about this:

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/ggutfeld/2011/01/11/rather-than-restricting-speech-lets-help-people-we-know-are-crazy/

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/loughner-and-how-america-treats-its-mentally-ill/

Gun Control
There has been a lot of stupid things said about gun control. The only intelligent things said this past week dealt with not letting those mentally unstable buy a gun (see the above paragraph) and Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) suggestion that in addition to a background check you need to take a drug test to get a gun. Gun rights advocate that I am, I have no problem with this. I also read that the assault weapons ban expired a couple of years ago. What the Hell?! I believe everyone has a right to, and probably should own a hand gun, a rifle and/or a shotgun. But nobody needs an M16 for private use.
…Now if can only get Senator Schumer to also agree to drug testing for all entitlement spending.

Unions
What did the Department of Justice focus on this week? Focus on how a lunatic got hold of a gun? No. Focus on where the holes in system were for FBI background checks that let a nut job get a gun? No. Track down Islamofacists? No. Prosecute Black Panther members who intimidate voters? Nope. Help tighten our borders? Again a no.

They sent letters to states telling them that the right to a secret ballot for unionization is against federal law. Ignoring that the very idea of a closed shop is at best unethical, and at worst unconstitutional, they want to garner more power for the unions by taking away the right to a secret ballot in states. Because card checks will never encourage intimidation and fraud…you know the reasons that we made public elections secret ballots. That’s what the DOJ did this week, it helped out Obama’s campaign contributors once again infringe upon your rights. Thank you Eric Holder. (I eagerly look forward to Holder’s vast corruption trial that will one day come.).

Decline of Freedom

A minor story went almost unreported this week. Freedom House, which tracks level of liberty in all countries around the nation, states that “A total of 25 countries showed significant declines in 2010, more than double the 11 countries exhibiting noteworthy gains[.]” Apparently there is less freedom the world over. Minor story, nothing to worry about. This is certainly not the kind of thing that will come back to bite this nation in the ass when it gets to be a massive problem. No, not at all. After all I’m sure we’ll have peace in our time.

Poor Leadership

For the most part I’m not going to comment on that memorial service in Arizona. However, once again, Obama lost a great opportunity to show he was more than an egotistical prick. He could have at some point said to the crowd, “I know you want to show your support for the ideas I’m proposing, but in deference to those who we are here to honor, I don’t think applause is appropriate. I know those of you in the audience meant no disrespect, but please I ask you to not applaud” or something to that effect. But no, which makes me wonder how much the event was about him or about the dead in his mind.

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Best Movies of 2010

So it’s a little late but here are my Top Ten Movies of 2010 (Because art is an important part of life and it’s necessary to take a break from the purely serious every so often). (It’s a little late because it took a while for me to finally see The Fighter and The King’s Speech and just from the preview I knew they’d be on this list…and this didn’t seem the best thing to publish last Sunday).

So let us begin with the review of 2010…a year of mostly crap, a few enjoyable films and five truly great movies.

Up first
Honorable Mentions (Because I just can’t bring myself to put them in a top ten no matter how hard I try, they’re good but they’re not great):

Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton’s fun little romp through our childhood favorite walked a very thin line: it stayed true to the original content of Lewis Carroll’s work while still making it an original work. The visuals were typical Burton, but as with most Burton films plot and the human soul are not left behind. That and I’m a sucker for a strong female character.

Morning Glory: Enjoyable little film that has no deep meaning but was fun. And it’s nice to know that Harrison Ford is finally acting his age after a decade of trying to deny that he’s not Han Solo anymore.

The A-Team: How can you not enjoy this movie? Certainly not great cinema, but it was very fun. I really hope that there will be a sequel.

Valentine’s Day: A fun little compilation of love stories. It was a cute date film. Its greatest flaw was that it was trying to be He’s Just Not That Into You and failed (which is made slightly worse by the fact that He’s Just Not That Into You was trying to be Love Actually and failed).

And now the Top Ten:

#10 & 9. I really don’t have a 10 and 9. (It wasn’t a great year for film). But I hear good things about Secretariat and Toy Story 3 even thought I haven’t seen them. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

#8 The Next Three Days: The story of this thriller kept the tension and suspense constantly building and kept me guessing. It wasn’t Hitchcock, but it was well done. And the hero is an English teacher which always makes me happy.

#7 Red: Bruce Willis never ceases to surprise me in how well he can constantly come up with new loveable and badass characters. It is sad that a man who can do comedy, action and drama so well is not more appreciated in Hollywood. This movie is just yet another fun example of how good an actor he really is.

#6 Hereafter: As I’ve stated in a previous blog, this was a great movie, but it is very anticlimactic because people will go looking for answers that aren’t readily there (unless you have faith). Also, as good as it is, the fact is that Eastwood has done much better.

And now the top five…it would be rare for a single movie of the caliber of the next five to appear in any year. The fact that we had five movies of extraordinary caliber in a single year makes this a great year for movies despite the lack of overall quantity.

#5 Waiting for Superman: Probably the first documentary I would consider to be more than just interesting and actually a great movie. Not only is its message desperately important issues (the need for school choice and the need for the annihilation of the teacher’s union) it is exceptionally well produced, providing the kind of drama that usually only comes from fiction.

#4 The Fighter: I’m usually not a fan of boxing (along with football, I find it just a bit too violent for a civilized society) but movies about boxing can be surprising well made. This movie did an exceptional job of showing how an individual can rise above the circumstances in which they find themselves or which they place themselves. It shows that redemption is possible and that in reality people can truly achieve their dreams and the happiness that comes with it.

On a side note Christian Bale should get every award there is for best supporting actor as he almost stole the film with his performance.

#3 The King’s Speech: These last three were hard to put in order as they are all exceptional films. The King’s Speech is a beautiful work of art of one man dealing with the pressures of a job probably none of us would ever want if we really thought about it, and his rising to the occasion when it was called for. If it has a flaw it is the slight historical whitewash of how George VI first supported Chamberlain’s appeasement policy and how much his brother was involved with the Nazi’s—but sometimes art is there to show us the best in human nature and not just what happened, which this movie does quite well.

# 2 The Town: In this touching story of redemption, Ben Affleck not only proved that he is a great actor if he has a good script, but that he is a better writer/director than he is an actor. Honestly, I would prefer to see him behind the camera than in front of it from now on.

# Inception: This movie deserves a full blog in and of itself (and one day it will get it). Action, tension, drama, a little comedy, redemption, philosophy, psychology all in perfect balance for a wonderful cathartic emotional experience and an even greater philosophical ground of questions. And I still, and will forever maintain that it wobbled.

Worst movie of the year: Again so many choices. Clash of the Titans for its’ useless use of special effects? Skyline for no plot, no acting, no logical sense of events? Iron Man 2 for having the best scene in the movie not be in the movie but somehow be in the trailer? No, I’m going to have to go with The Last Air Bender. Do you remember when M. Night could make movies and write dialogue? I do. Which makes this movie all the sadder. If there was a writing, plot, direction, cinematography, music, acting, dialogue, or any other kind of movie making call, the wrong call was made while making this movie. I could watch that movie a million times over and find a new thing wrong with it every time I saw…but I’m not going to do that because I’m not a masochist. Even as a children’s film this movie sucks. Between this and The Happening, Shyamalan has whipped out any credit he should get from his first five films (great works of art that they are). If anyone ever allows him near a camera again (and I’m not sure they should) he had better pull out of his tail spin dive soon or he will be remembered as one of the worst writer/directors of all time.

 

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Law the Gop Should Pass #8: An Ideal Tax Policy Part II

So last time I proposed flat taxes on individual and corporate income. This has the advantage of making sure that when taxes are raised it can’t be claimed to be on one less than popular group or another (which hides the reality that a tax increase on anyone is pretty much in the end is going to be a price increase on what we all pay for, thus it’s a tax increase on all of us). But just flattening taxes on income isn’t enough. Those sneaky bastards will come up with lots of other things to tax and tariff, fee and surcharges. So how on earth do we stop them from hiding taxes, keeping income at a level that will allow the government to function, and making every tax equally apparent to everyone—notice I do not say equally a burden, as all taxes are already equally a burden on everyone since any tax on any group has a way through economics of slowing down the economic flow for the rest of us.

And the easy answer is that they can only tax one thing and one thing only. Sounds kind of like a no brainer doesn’t it (and yes I realize for this to have real force I’m not suggesting a law but a full on Constitutional change). And bear with me for a minute because I can almost guarantee you’re going to have a very quick knee-jerk reaction against this, but I’m pretty sure that on reflection you’ll be more open to this.

(Also please remember that last week I predicated all of this on the idea the Congress gets its spending problem under control, I’ll fully admit this will not work without A). Some kind of balanced budget amendment or at least agreement and B). Major cuts in all those unquestionably stupid and evil entitlement programs like welfare, social security, Medicaid and Medicare.)

We eliminate all federal taxes and replace them with a 10% sales tax. (I’ll give you a moment to stop screaming at me for being insane).

Okay, now let’s go over why this will not only work, it will work really, really well.

First, when I say a sales tax I mean on everything. Everything you buy (including food), gas, liquor, movie tickets, soda, your car, you new computer, and every service, the electric bill, the water bill, the telephone bill, the oil change at the dealership, hiring a maid, hiring an outside company to do a service for your company, any sale of stock. Everything. Every item sold, every service sold. (The salaries of employees are not counted in this).
You will recall that I suggested last week that everybody’s income tax or corporate tax go to 10% so if you spend pretty much all of your money on goods and services your income has roughly changed by nothing. So this change should not become a burden to anyone.
However, psychologically it will make a huge difference. If the tax burden is right there for people to see every time they make a purchase you will see people spend less and save more. In the long term people will have more saved up, thus making the need for social security less required. If it is purchases and not earnings that are taxed people will have more incentive to earn and incentive to spend. Granted this will have some ripple effect in our very consumer based economy but they will likely be for the good.
One of these effects is that you will likely see people become more self sufficient. Rather than pay 10% sales tax on every item of food it’s better to pay it on some seeds and grow your own food. Further you will likely see people barter more and spend less, a system that requires people interact with each other, which counters a lot of the isolation that modern society is bringing. And with greater social interaction you will find society not becoming so dependent on the government.
This law needs to be made that while it cannot go above the 10% limits (except in time of war) that if the government actually has a surplus then the next fiscal year’s tax rate goes down by a percent to 9%…two years of surplus goes down to 8% so on and so forth. What this point will do is it will encourage everyone to demand that government cut back on all of its useless spending. Right now you don’t really see an effect if government cuts back on this or that…if you had actual incentive to demand that the government cut back its spending because it will make an actual difference on all your bills, trust me people will demand for less and less government spending.
I figure after a couple of decades of this the actual tax rate will settle down around 7% and the government will be kept in check by a constant stream of people who do not want their bill to get too high.
Now you might wonder what about the money we made from corporate taxes. Well they’re still paying taxes, but only on the things they buy, thus encouraging companies themselves to become more self-sufficient, which means there will be a check against almost every corporation outsourcing its accounting to Arthur Anderson (or whatever replaced that corrupt institution to have to offer a much better, and certainly more honest, product).
Won’t a 10% tax on every stock trade hurt the stock market? Nope. It will actually cut down on the insanity of day trading, cut down on the exuberance that creates bubbles and it will encourage much more long term trading because if you’re going to pay 10% right at the start of you purchase of a stock you’re going to make damn sure the sale will pay for itself over the long run. (Consider that almost all capital gains taxes right now are at 10% so this really is actually going to encourage more investment, not deter it).
I can see that there might be a lot of other objections to this, and I’m not saying there won’t need to be little adjustments needed to a plan that is more or less given in outline here, but I believe this plan, in the long run, would be the most beneficial and logical for an economy.

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Books for New Agers: Evidence of the Afterlife by Jeffrey Long, MD

You should read Evidence of the Afterlife by Jeffrey Long, MD
If you’ve ever doubted that there is life after death, this is a good book to help quell those doubts. Fair warning, this is not great literature nor spectacular prose, but the information is quite interesting. The book examines the results of a massive study of near-death experiences and has truly fascinating insights. I’d recommend getting it because I’m always supportive of authors getting paid, but I will let you know some of the more interesting points, that I dare skeptics to refute.

1. 10-20 seconds after the heart stops electrical signals in the brain stops. Exactly how would the brain encode new memories with no electrical signals? And yet those near death experiences come from somewhere, just apparently not from the brain.
2.Many near-death experiences occur under anesthetics, yet near-death experiences are very lucid…which is in direct contradiction to what anesthetics do to the brain.
3. (And probably my favorite point because, I naturally have a skeptical side that likes to at least consider objections and I can’t even come up with a bullshit explanation for this) People who have been blind since birth, who don’t even dream visual impressions, describe visual experiences in near-death experiences. And their visual descriptions are accurate descriptions of the surrounding events.
4. We all know that people see dead relatives when they cross over…but apparently people who hallucinate often see people who are alive (proximity in their memories and all) so if near-death experiences are only hallucinations, as skeptics claim, how does the brain know to pick dead people?
5.Children, even at very young ages, have the same near death experience as adults (tunnel of light, out of body, dead people, angels, etc.)….so it can’t be society’s ideas put into people’s heads as they’re too young to have been exposed to such ideas. (Oh, and they’re consistent across cultures too).
And so really, without simply assuming the author of the book or the people involved are lying, I would love somebody to give me an explanation that isn’t bullshit other than the fact that there must be something after death.

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Attacking the Public Sector Without Regret

In further failed attempts to put the new Republican majority in the House on the defensive, the left is not only coming out with their old tried and true class warfare tactics, but also trying to defend the indefensible: Civil Servants. In an article in The Progressive, “The Cynical War on Public Sector Workers” writer Matthew Rothschild tries to defend public workers (read “people who are too stupid to get a job in the private sector”)…That and make you out to be an evil person for not wanting to give government employees everything you own and earn.
Here are his preposterous defenses of public sector employees…

“First, […], ‘The problem in the economy has not been created by public workers. It was created by Wall Street.’”

No, actually the problem with the economy came from overspending, forcing banks to give money to people who couldn’t pay it back, and corporate welfare. All problems created by the government (and implemented by those pesky government workers). This problem was exacerbated by massive federal and state debts (a massive portion of which for the states is obscene public pension funds) and irresponsible Keynesian spending (most of which was money taken from your wallet and given to…government employees). So really Congress for passing bad laws for decades, the last 4 presidents for not enforcing the rules when they should have and enforcing bad rules when they shouldn’t have, and the Supreme Court for not protecting private property and personal rights are the ones to blame. Public employees are just the SS officers carrying out the orders of those above them (which doesn’t mean they aren’t without blame in this).

“Second, it’s not as though any public sector workers are getting filthy rich like the Wall Street bankers who got bailed out and are now back to bathing in ridiculous bonuses.”

Oh gee, more class warfare. How immature. First off, most of those people on Wall Street work 90+ hours in high stress jobs which most of us wouldn’t want to do, and what is called a bonus on Wall Street is very different (i.e. it’s actually part of their contractual salary) from what most of us think of when we get a bonus (which isn’t part of our contracts and often paid at the whim of our employers). And then we could go over to basic facts, because fact and numbers are stubborn things:

“The nation’s 6 million retired civil servants — teachers, police, administrators, laborers — received a median benefit of $17,640 in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service. Eleven million private-sector retirees covered by traditional pensions got $7,692[…]. A typical full-time state or local government worker made $78,853 in wages and benefits in the third quarter of 2006, $25,771 more than a typical private-sector worker, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The difference was $7,604 in 2000. The compensation advantage holds true for all types of public workers, from teachers to laborers and managers. Better benefits for government workers is the biggest reason for the growing compensation gap.” Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

Hmm, well they might not be millionaires, but they certainly seem to be paid better and have better retirement benefits than most of us…and on our dime!

“Third, the attack on public sector workers is an attack on the idea that there should be a decent middle class in this country.”


Wow! So only the government can employ people in the middle class. I’m just going to ignore the idiot socialist implications of that statement and move to something else that’s a problem with it. Apparently there isn’t this thing called the private sector that is screaming that it needs people with educations so it can employee them in upper-middle class jobs. And because it can’t find educated people in this country it has to go to other countries to find them. So, if there is a barrier to creating a middle class it would be the fault of the education system (notice also the logical conclusion that: what government employees make it into the middle class do it in spite of merit, not because of it). And who is at fault for the education system. Hmm …bad legislators (public employees, who by the way are overpaid), bad administrators (public employees, who by the way are overpaid), bad teachers (public employees, who by the way are overpaid) and bad parents (many of whom I assume are…public employees).

“Fourth, the attack is but a thinly disguised thrust against unions. The public sector unionization rate is 36.8 percent; in the private sector, it’s 7.6 percent. Slashing the wages and benefits and rights of public sector workers is a way to delegitimize their unions. And for Republicans, it’s a way to get back at a Democratic power base and fundraising arm.”

Notice that he doesn’t even try to hide the fact that Democrats live, almost exclusively, on the dues stolen from union employees?
But I have a question, “thinly disguised”? Really? Why does he think it’s disguised? Any intelligent person has to realize that unions, be they private or public sector, have been far worse than the Robber Barons they were formed to counter. Unions need to exist as a check in the system. But right now they have near dictatorial power in the business world and cancerous effect on the economy. And this idiot is trying to suggest that the rational attack on the unions’ rampant abuse of power is wrong.

And of course:
“Finally, attacking public sector workers is bad for the economy. Cutting their wages and benefits will result in less purchasing power overall. The economy is suffering from a lack of demand already. This will just make that worse.”

So let me get this straight, stealing less from the general public and taking less out of the real middle class’s bank accounts will lessen the money in the economy? So taking less money from corporations will not encourage them to expand and hire new people? I’m confused. Probably because I’ve actually studied economics, and I know government handouts, even to people called employees, do not help an economy grow. That only happens when people in the private sector have money. And that only happens when the government isn’t stealing from the private sector.

Of course the biggest problem with all of this is that he calls the justified and rather late-coming attack on public sector is cynical. Let’s see here…they take my money in a myriad of forms; they make me fill out paperwork and pay fees if I want to do anything from park in forest, get married, or start a business; they limit my choices, take up hours of my time, “erected a multitude of New Offices and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance”, ruin the economy and retire in plush ease at an age I will still be working. Excuse me, but being robbed and raped and then not thanking my attacker for the pleasure of their service is not cynical.

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The myth of the importance of inequality.

“Over the decades [from 1973 to the present] the percentage of American families with incomes over $75,000 has tripled.”—Thomas Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies.
So within the last weeks I have seen a slew of ridiculous articles complaining that the income inequality is getting worse (which is just a fancy way of saying the rich are getting richer). Never underestimate the Democrats to go for that pesky class warfare thing when the chips are down.
Ah, one of the most common and asinine critiques of capitalism. However, the detractors of capitalism can offer little in the way of a legitimate case. Not that they don’t try. In an article to the Financial Times entitled “Why America needs a little less laissez-faire”, Democratic chairman of the House financial services committee Barney Frank had the following to say:
“As we prepare for this autumn’s election, the results are in on America’s 30-year experiment with radical economic deregulation. Income inequality has risen to levels not seen since the 1920s and the collapse of the unregulated portion of the mortgage and secondary markets threatens the health of the overall economy.”
That’s the best that the capitalism’s critics can offer. Rich people are rich and idiots who got adjustable rate mortgages actually had the rates adjusted. The second argument is the more ridiculous of the two, but it ties into the whole poor get poorer myth. The mortgage crisis while bad, was also in great part due to people just for some insane reason walking away from their mortgages and letting banks foreclose even when the banks were willing to work with them. Nor was it something affecting innocent bystanders, it was affecting people who took an adjustable rate mortgage, a move universally recognized to be on par with buying stock on margin and treating the lottery as your sole retirement plan. Although if you are one of those people who got an adjustable rate mortgage, please contact me, because I have some lovely bridges to sell you for rock bottom prices. Furthermore this is not an example of the capitalism market running rampant to destroy average citizens—it’s one of those natural low periods in the cycle. That’s life, no one seems to complain about the unreasonable high moment (although the rational people get out of the market when it is too high) but somehow when it’s unreasonably low they shouldn’t take responsibility. Of course we could have the government come in to try and prevent those little recessions and the occasional minor depression, but then as I said you’ll get one of the Great Depressions again. I’ll take the recession with its “subprime housing crisis” or “internet stock bubble burst” over a rerun of the 1930’s. But given the government’s current plans for “bail outs” I’m betting on having to suffer the latter.
The second argument, that the income gap is too wide, while not as ridiculous, is certainly more egregious and frankly is below the intelligence of anyone we should let serve in Congress (although it does show the intellectual depth of other icons bearing Mr. Frank’s first name). Yes, the rich are getting richer. It tends to always work that way over time. But the poor are getting richer too! But, says Frank, the rich are getting richer faster than the poor. He goes on to complain that while the top 1% has had their after tax incomes double that “average earnings for the vast majority of workers have fallen in real terms.” Wow. Really? Real wages have dropped during the recession. I’m shocked. (And this of course is when, as far as I can find on the Bureau of Labor Statistics says yes 2007 saw a dip in real earnings, however, it’s been a steady average growth over the course of the Republican controlled Congress which is what Frank argues caused the dip in real wages…even though the Democrats controlled Congress at the time of this dip). Will there be a dip in real wages, assuredly, at some point; recessions are inevitable in any capitalist economy. But here’s the thing, the real wage of workers will go up. If you look at history, when you average out the highs, lows, and midpoints of any capitalist economy they have wacky tendency of always going up, up, up. Let us not forget that we live in America, where our poor are the envied of the world. The rich are getting richer, but the nice thing about capitalist economies is that the poor get richer as well. Just consider for a moment that most people in America, poor included, own a car, own a DVD player, get their 2,000 calories a day (America is famous for getting more than their 2,000 calories a meal), have access to free emergency health care (that’s right any ER has to treat you in an emergency case even if you can’t pay), have access to free public education, and the list could go on. Yes, no one in this country would like to be poor, but in the grand view of things, the poor of a capitalist (semi-capitalist in actuality) country are not doing terribly in the grand scheme of things.
Another problem with this argument is that it views a person’s economic class as something static and unmovable. As the economist Thomas Sowell is fond of pointing out when talking about economic class “most people in the bottom 20 percent move ahead over time to rise into higher income brackets.” Your average high school graduate earns next to nothing right out of the gate, but, even without a college degree, they are likely to make it securely into the middle class by their 40’s. Give or take, people tend to double their incomes between their 20’s and 30’s and to make about $8,000 more every ten years (that’s adjusted for inflation) during their prime earning years.
By no stretch of the imagination are the poor getting poorer over time. When you really look at it almost everyone gets richer over time under a capitalist system. Thus in this single respect of fulfilling material needs capitalism lessens suffering for those under it. And while it may have its dips and downs it is a wholly positive trend that in the long term benefits more people, for longer periods of time.

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Laws the GOP should pass #7: Tax Reform Part I

Income taxes, gas taxes, capital gains, corporate taxes, death taxes, luxury taxes, import taxes, sales tax, taxes on phones, electricity, cigarettes, car registration, social security and Medicare withholding, excise taxes, fees for every public document you need to file…you get the idea. In the end we pay a lot of our income in taxes. And it gets worse when you consider that (1) if you’re reading a blog on the internet about politics you’re probably in the upper half of population in terms of intelligence, (2) it means that you are or are going to be in the upper half of wage earners in the country. The top 50% of households in the country (in terms of income) pay about 95% of all income taxes. (Income tax accounts for about half of federal revenue, corporate taxes about 15% and Social Security withholdings makes up about 32%, the rest is various other sources). But in final result, we the educated, working people of the country are being really overtaxed.
Now clearly one of the things we need to do is slash and burn government spending. When the government is spending about 40% of its current yearly budget maybe, just maybe, we can slow down in cutting the fat (slow down, not stop). This comes before anything else. And to try and critique what’s coming because we spend too much is a foolish argument because what I’m about to say about taxes can and must only occur in conjunction with massive spending cuts at the federal, state, and local levels of government. But it’s not only spending that’s the problem. Part of the reason we have a spending problem is that deep down those idiots in Washington know that if they need more money they can just invent a new tax. Is it a season when tax increases aren’t popular? Just create a tax on something that most of public doesn’t know enough about or care enough about to complain, i.e., Capital gains or corporate taxes for instance. The general public isn’t always eager to come out and defend the tax rates of big corporations…why? Because the general public has an amazing inability to see more than two steps into the future. They don’t see that a higher tax on corporations comes back to them in the form of lower wages, higher prices and a slower economy.
Now I acknowledge that a tax rate cannot be perfectly static. If we were ever actually to declare a war again (something we haven’t done since WWII) I would acknowledge the need to raise taxes for that. But at the same time giving Congress twenty million different ways to pick the public’s pocket isn’t only unethical and illogical as it makes them less accountable for their actions; it’s incredibly bad economics as any tax is always a tax on the general public and always a depressant on the economy.
The solution to this is to reduce Congress’ avenues of revenue without hurting their ability to fund the running of the government. To make all taxes transparent, obvious and very in your face so that the average member of the public can easily say that this public benefit is worth the cost of the taxes.
This comes into two different parts. The first part is to get simply the change and get everyone ready for the very simple very easy to see and adjust tax rate.
Step 1:
We change all current income based taxes (and any tax rate above 15%) to a flat rate of 15%. (Any federal tax under 15% will remain at its current level). What do I mean by a flat rate?
15% on all income for both individuals and corporate income. No exceptions. No deductions No exemptions. If you only made $2, come April 15th of the next year 30 cents of the $2 belongs to Uncle Sam.
The advantage of this is that first most of the complaints about the rich avoiding taxes come from the creative way they move money around. This simplifies that. The other problem is that the people who get the most per dollar out of the government (i.e. the lower tax brackets) would finally be paying their fair share (15%) and the rich would be paying their fair share (15%) and everyone would be paying their fair share (15%). To those screaming that the rich need to pay more, you need to go back to math class. If it’s a percentage then the more you make the more you pay in taxes.
Same with corporations, no deductions or exemptions based on whatever Congressman you paid off to give your industry a break, no shifting funds between different subsidiaries for tax purposes. Just straight 15%.
Now anyone who actually knows anything about economics will tell you that in the long run, just this step of simple flat taxes will reduce overhead, speed efficiency and improve the economy (and the revenue take for the government). And to as I prefer to phase things in over time it should probably be phased in over a period of three to four years to give people and companies time to adjust.
Next week in step 2 we get rid of even more taxes.

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New Age Thought for the week

Okay, so I’ve taken a couple weeks off (it was Christmas) and today’s not going to be great writing either but I promise to be back in full form this week starting this week. But for today’s meditation I’m kind of stealing. If you’ve read this blog you should know I’m a believer in the Law of Attraction, the idea that our thoughts do affect reality. And if we can focus those thoughts they can actually change the world around us. This idea is right now best known through the book The Secret and The Power (go buy the books, they’re very good and easy reads and I feel less guilty about taking these two videos by suggesting you should go buy them).

Now one of the biggest ways to influence your life is to start the day off right. We’ve all known those days where we feel it’s going to be a wonderful day, and it is…and those days where we wake up hating the world and the whole day spirals down from there. This is the Law of Attraction at work. What you believe will happen will happen.
So one of the best ways to counter the negative in your life is to start off the day with a positive affirmation or two. I suggest watching both these videos every day shortly after you wake up and shortly before you go to bed. Trust focusing on these will help improve your days.

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