Sunday, January 25, 2015

Flowers and Cakes

In an attempt to show that the pro-gay folks are just discriminatory as the anti-gay "Christians" a guy in Denver has filed a lawsuit because a baker wouldn't decorate a cake with "God Hates Gays" written on the top.  This might make sense if Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers fame had refused to provide flowers to a wedding spelled out "Christians Suck". But she didn't. Actually it makes the point against Stutzman by showing how out-of-line her objection to do business with a gay couple actually is by comparison.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Voter ID Laws Make Fraud Worse

Current voter ID laws laws only suppress one form of fraud but do nothing about other forms of fraud. In a close election, such a fraud suppression bias could produce a fraudulent election result. But then, I suspect that is what the supporters want. They want to be able to win elections they might otherwise lose by suppressing valid voters that tend to vote against them.

We have better elections when all types fraud is suppressed to the same degree.

Radiation Doses

It seems that our ideas about what is safe and not safe about radiation needs to be rethought.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ten Secret Truths About Government Incompetence

Donald F. Kettl in the Washington Monthly talks about what we don't know about government.

  1. Government works better than most people think most of the time.
  2. Good management can't win elections but bad management can ruin presidencies.
  3. We don't distinguish between failures that have consequential impacts and those that don't.
  4. We say we want government run like the private sector but we expect government to meet standards to which the private sector couldn't come close.
  5. Much of the government work isn't done by the government.
  6. The problem isn't too many bureaucrats but too few.
  7. Half the time when it looks like the President's fault, the problems actually originate in Congress.
  8. Critics of government will create self-fulfilling prophecies by under-funding and sabotaging programs they don't like.
  9. Government can be improved very quickly but can be wrecked even faster.
  10. Presidents can make big gains if they pay attention.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

We Need a Stronger IRS

De-funding the IRS and complicating the tax code benefits tax cheaters and raises rates on the rest of us.
If Congress really wanted to lower tax rates, it would broaden the tax base by simplifying the tax code, and it would adequately staff the agency tasked with collecting taxes. In both cases, it has done the opposite. All of this means that our political leaders have not only improved the odds for getting away with (illegal) tax evasion; they have also created more opportunities for (perfectly legal, methodically planned) tax avoidance. Put these factors together, and higher statutory tax rates look inevitable.

Sensors for Extraterrestrial Life

Could a super-sensitive motion sensor be used to find extraterrestrial life?

"Wait a minute, Captain! I'm getting life-form readings from the surface of the planet!"

Sex and Poverty

Conservative policies lead to the conclusion that sex is only for rich people.:

the solution for low-income people is to never, ever have sex. So seems the logic behind many of these policies: If only we make it harder for people to have access to family planning services, and financially painful to raise children who predictably result from sex in the absence of those services, people who cannot afford to raise children will choose celibacy.

This, of course, is magical thinking. The belief that we can get entire classes of Americans to practice abstinence until they’re financially ready for marriage and children is a right-wing delusion on par with the left-wing delusions that go into socialism: Both rely on a fundamental miscalculation about human nature. If the socialists wished to legislate away self-interest, the moralists wish to legislate away libido.

Why We Should Tax The Rich At 90 Percent

A working paper by Kindermann and Krueger demonstrates how much better off everyone would be if we raised the highest income tax marginal rate to 90%. It would greatly reduce the tax burden on most of the people while placing it onto people for whom it would not be a burden at all.

Clearly, this makes too much sense to actually be implemented.

Films About Money

We the Economy has a nice set of short films about how modern economies actually work. Things like this should be part of our basic educational curriculum.