Friday, August 30, 2013

Minimum Wage vs. Minimum Guaranteed Income

I used to be very much on the side of raising the minimum wage to something "livable", at least $10 and maybe as much as $15/hr ($20k - $30k/year).  I still think we would be better off as a nation (and with many much better off than now) if we doubled it, but I am starting to come around to minimum guaranteed income (this has come up again regarding the civil rights movement, radical socialists that they were).

Minimum guaranteed income does a lot of lifting on a lot of issues--it would have to be set appropriately, but it could be used to eliminate most welfare programs, from cash payments to snap to housing (section 8), and would make useless some of our tax code complexity (we would need to seriously overhaul the tax code to do this anyway).  It also takes a lot of the perceived burden off employers, where we could let the free market reign: if people are willing to work for an extra $2.50/hr, then employers could pay that, but if, as I suspect, people who had more freedom to pick and chose, decided that their time and effort was worth more than it is when they have to take some job, any job, to survive, then employers would be forced by teh markets to pay higher salaries. 

People at the bottom of the income ladder would be far more free, and have greater opportunities.  At the top end: no bitching because they get that money too (well, less, all taxes would need to go up in this scenario).
On top of that, if you look to discussion about the hollowing out of the middle (automation now taking middle class jobs away) as a phenomenon that is likely to continue and expand, then this becomes the best solution.  Technology and enhanced productivity make us wealthier as a society, but the distribution becomes more unequal and the price to pay is that we must transfer some of those benefits down to the people who lost out because of them.  Having a minimum income does just that. 

As for the level...$16k is a fair starting point: it covers bare basics (well, not health care but so long as we're fixing things, we have single payer here) but there is still lots of incentive to work and pull that up.  Probably it would be something along the lines of [GDP/total population/x] where x is some age dependent scaling factor, maybe in the in the 3-5 range for 18+, and 10-20 for under 18 (money to parent/guardian). 


I think the most accurate representation of the problem is The Onion's.  I've no confidence that us going in (not matter how far) will do anything but make matters worse.  The world is a very complex place, and sometimes we just can't fix things.  Still, not trying seems just as bad.  In a better alternate universe we could get a coalition together to go in, arrest Bashar, have an actual trial with evidence and find out "what really happened". 

In our existing world the options seem to be: kill people and blow things up or let Bashar (and/or his loyalists) kill other people and blow other things either case rebel forces will kill people and blow things up, though I suppose we could help them do that more effectively as well.

I Get Calls

I have contributed to various [progressive] campaigns in the past, and so that puts me on some list that leads to me getting harassed (often at work by people who force me to hang up on them if I want to get off the line) by groups and campaigns looking for money.  I get that, and that's fine.  My problem is with their pitch.  It is almost always about how bad the Republicans are or some horrible thing that some person or group within the GOP is trying to do.

I understand why that works for many people, but I've been around (and paying attention) long enough to know that it's kind of a bait and switch: they are so horrible, that our less horrible behavior seems acceptable by comparison.  If they called up and told me about great things that [Democrats] will do then I may give them some time (and money) to do those things.  So long as the only thing they claim to stand for is anti-GOP extremism, then they can go take a flying leap. 

Some Reps and Senators (Alan Greyson is an excellent example) are doing good things and "fighting the good fight" but too many others--up to and including Obama--just pay lip service to those good things while fighting for things that Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex want.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Things That Aren't the Same

People who don't like Obama care are not the same as people who want the GOP to defund it.  That should be obvious, and it should be pointed out far more often (pretty much any time any GOPer uses the poor polling of Obamacare to justify their ongoing attempt to kill it).

Take, for instance, me.  I don't like Obamacare: it's the right wing version of universal coverage and serves as a give away to insurance industry and the broader health care industry.  I would love to see single payer (Medicare for everyone) funded directly through broad base tax increase (combination of raising the medicare tax rate, applying it to all income--including cap gains--and eliminating the tax breaks for employer provided health care).  Still, Obamacare is better than what we had, and so I'm pretty strongly opposed to any effort to repeal it that doesn't replace it with something better (since it is the best idea for universal coverage the GOP has ever had, they aren't likely to have that "something better" but if ever they manage, then that'd be ok).

MLK Jr: NOT a Conservative

This has really been ongoing for sometime, and it is more than just MLK, but Republicans like taking popular figures and trying to own them.  Martin Luther King Jr. was a radical socialist liberal, the points below come from the rude pundit and are things we should all remember...

1. Martin Luther King was against prayer in school and thought that Christianity meant that you had to help the poor.

2. Martin Luther King thought America's use of military power was immoral and that protesters loved their country.

3. This is not to mention that Martin Luther King thought that money spent on useless wars would be better spent on anti-poverty programs.

4. Unlike today's Democrats, Martin Luther King believed that radical activism, even at the risk of arrest, was more important than moderation and compromise. Principle over popularity.

5. Martin Luther King believed that a janitor was as important as a doctor and that the government had the duty to ensure that the janitor was taken care of as well as the doctor was, including a guaranteed wage, health care, and more.

6. Martin Luther King believed that the rich needed to pay their fair share to help lift people out of poverty. They should, you know, spread the wealth, especially through taxation.

7. And, after a change of heart, Martin Luther King did not believe in owning a gun.
As dingby said (re: Jim DeMint's tweet):
If that's the platform of Jim DeMint's Republican Party, where do I sign up? If it isn't, then Jim DeMint should probably keep his mouth shut.

American "Justice"

For sale to the highest bidder.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Yes, Pathetic Is Correct

I think this goes into the category of "The Obama administration can be as horrible as they like, so long as they are 'Better than Republicans', and they'll get a pass."
...not only has Obama appointed fewer women than Clinton did two decades ago, he has no excuse for not appointing a lot more...It has been obvious for some time that this administration is only tepidly interested in advancing women's equality, at least to the extent that it might cost them something to do it. The president only wants to work closely with people with whom he feels "comfortable" (whatever that means) and very few women seem to fit that bill for some reason. Odd.
This is an issue that is actually very surprising to me. There really is no excuse for any Democrat to not be very good on women's issues, but this administration just isn't.  They can say that they are better than Republicans, but so could Henry VIII--talk about a low hurdle to clear, it's like stepping over a piece of string.  And the thing is, there is really no downside to being very good on women's issues: more than 50% of this country (and of registered voters) is female.  There are lots of competent and capable women (at the cabinet level that is in no small part due to Clinton).  Obama has just done a really shitty job.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Future of Computers

I think I'm still at the same place I was a few years back when the iPad first came out.  Basically tablets (I am partial to Android and so probably Samsung's entry) are excellent for sofa/commute browsing (reading and simple gaming too), they are very good for some task computing: recipes, portable showrooms--very good when a designer is at your house and wants to show you images--and they are fine for simple messaging/communications, particularly as voice to text has gotten better.  They suck for long form writing--whether blog posts or business email, or any other longer writing--and are crap for any gaming that wants to be immersive. 

That means that they are probably good for about 90% of what people use computers for at home, and maybe 20% of work use.  Not being able to do that last 10% at home, however, means that real, full on computers are still (to the extent that they are at all) necessary.  Massive storage on the cheap, CD/DVD/BluRay players and writers, better graphics and keyboard mouse inputs are all still important. 

Now, that said, things are changing rapidly and I don't think it will be very long before tablets are the home computers.  HDMI connectivity to a television, USB or wireless connection to a network attached storage, and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse cover most of the difference between how people use computers and what you can do on a tablet.  Pretty much the only things that are still missing are the raw power you can get in a desktop (or even a laptop), but most people don't need it.

Throw in a PS3 and you've covered most gamers, and there are only a handful of processor intensive tasks remaining for the computer (graphics, CAD, serious audio/video editing).

Still, those add on options that convert a tablet to a near-computer aren't exactly cheap, and it is still much cheaper to buy a low end desktop or netbook to get that functionality.  That will change, however, and I think it isn't too far off that all computers will be tablets, with enhanced functionality via home network plus some accessories. 

The form factor is still a question, and using a phone size makes much more sense to me than even a 7" tablet...but that is contingent on combining it with something like Google Glass for certain functions (reading) so that is further off than the tablet+ as computer.

New Fed Chair

The debate is a little odd to me.  Picking Summers over Yellen seems monumentally pig-headed.  Still, for David Atkins to be this upset seems odd to me.  At some level, there just isn't likely to be any difference in desired monetary policy between them.  Style, yes, history, yes, qualifications, yes and all those things favor Yellen (which is why Summers is a stupid pick), but both are supporters of quantitative easing, and neither sees inflation as a problem (right now).  Summers may be a bit more likely to see asset bubbles as forming (now, not in the past) and Yellen has indicated in the past that she may be happier with a lower inflation target.  Both of those things are bad, and would imply too early cutoff of QE.

In the end, David's piece is just weird.  For all the reasons he gives for being disappointed in Obama about this pick could equally apply to Yellen.  If he really wants a different (more progressive) attitude at the fed than Summers would bring, then he should be talking up someone other than Yellen (maybe Christy Romer--though she's probably not very differnt from Yellen on monitary policy either--maybe one of the even more dovish Fed board members).

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Doing It Wrong

Interesting bit on extremist parties getting stronger (in Europe but really here too) due in large part to really wrong "center" party policies, particularly austerity.  One odd thing about it is that right wing extremist parties seem to benefit more than left wing, and that seems worth exploring.  I can think of a few possible explanations but really no idea as to their veracity...

1.  People have more real experience with Communism than with Fascism and so are more likely to push right than left when the center is so horrible. 

2.  The right is more aligned with "self" and the left with "government" and the perception here is that "government" is failing so obviously trending the other way makes sense (I would argue this is ironic in that "government" is failing by being made smaller and less effective, which is exactly what most right side parties want). 

2.5  Corollary to the second point: the right is generally associated with tax cutting, and the more dysfunctional government is [perceived as being] the less people will see paying taxes as benefiting them more than keeping that money themselves.

3. Right wing parties tend to identify "others" to cast blame on for the poor fortunes of the "right types" of people.  Mostly this tends to immigrant groups and typically ones that look different than the native peoples--Arab, Persian, Indian (Muslim) in Europe, African (yes still), Mexican and other Hispanics in the US.  Note: it is very much not the same to blame a political party as it is to blame a race or ethnic group of people.  So, no, Democrats blaming Republicans or the Tea Party is not equivalent...calling yourself a Tea Partier is self-identification with a set of beliefs and values, being Mexican is not.

In this country there is the added problem that while the extremist right has pretty much taken over the Republican party, the extremist left is homeless (hell, the only slightly left of center is homeless here since the Democratic party mainstream, starting with Clinton and on through Obama has become a center-right party). 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Last week was Shark Week on Discovery.  In honor, the best video I took while shark diving in Gansbaai:

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Governor Yells at People

Notwithstanding Gov. Christie's brief stints into non-crazy-and-almost-non-asshole-like behavior, anyone who lives in NJ, and is a Democrat but who votes for Chris Christie, is about as dumb as they come.  I have more respect for people who voted for Bush than for those morons.

At one level I do kind of like Christie, and I find him entertaining though sometimes just mean.  Still, just because I wouldn't vote for him for anything, doesn't mean I don't understand why Republicans and even independents would vote for him, but Democrats?

Policy aside, I do prefer good governance (which Republicans used to be capable of), which in some places would mean GOP in charge, but Christie only manages it when it would end his career to do otherwise (i.e. Sandy).