Saturday, March 28, 2015

Every Tax Loophole Is Sacred

I really don't know why the Republicans are being so blatant about showing their true colors. It can only be from the belief that they are untouchable by the little people. And there isn't much in recent experience that shows that they are wrong.

Some examples:
In: Tax loopholes for the super-wealthy, like inheritance tax shelters, special depreciation for corporate jets, and a lower tax rate for hedge fund managers.
Out: More than $1 trillion for basic economic security for low- or modest-income families -- things like unemployment insurance, basic nutrition assistance, help with child care, and Pell grants for college.
In: Hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate tax giveaways, like incentives for shipping American jobs overseas and reincorporating in a foreign country, and special breaks for coal, oil, and gas companies.
Out: Roughly $400 billion to provide health insurance to low-income families and nursing home care for seniors through Medicaid.
In: Insurance companies once again denying coverage for preexisting conditions and charging women more for health care.
Out: The health insurance that 16 million Americans have gained through the Affordable Care Act -- plus no-cost preventive care, such as cancer screenings and annual wellness visits, and subsidies to help people with modest incomes afford coverage in health reform's marketplaces.

Magicians And The Art Of Manipulation

Think about  the ways you may have been manipulated without even knowing it. And then think about how you might avoid it.

Solar-assisted, volcanic-composite sailing yacht

If I ever win the lottery (assuming that I ever actually play it), I'll take one of these.  It has a super-strong, hydrophobic, UV- and heat-resistant, fireproof and acid proof hull.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Building the Labor Force

As American manufacturing looks for a new generation of skilled workers, Volkswagen may have found a solution, classic German apprenticeship.

Making Choices

There is actual science supporting the best method of making a choice. When we place all the options on the table at once (simultaneous choice), we can become overwhelmed by the possibilities. When we use the A-B method (sequential elimination) in which we start with a choice between just two alternatives then comparing that choice with another alternative, and repeating until all choices are evaluated, we tend to hang on to an earlier, poorer choice just because we have invested decision energy into it.

The best way is to divide the array of choices into sets of four. Then look at each set and select the best of the four. Next take the winners of the first pass across all the sets, regroup them into sets of four and repeat the process until a final winner is determined (sequential tournament). It's easier to evaluate the best in a set of four and we don't get overly invested in a decent choice and miss the best choice.

If I Had a Hammer...

When faced with an intractable problem, this man dedicated his entire life to the solution. He worked 22 years to cut a road through a mountain so his fellow villagers would be spared a 45 mile hike around it to the next village. He did it with a hammer and chisel and daily effort.

There are lots of problems out there that seem so big that there is a temptation to give up. This example shows that by consistently moving in the right direction over time, big solutions can happen. Quite inspiring.

More Gecko "Glue"

The gecko adhesion method can actually be turned off and on. This enables equipment to more easily and precisely move small, delicate parts. It probably has implications for even larger applications.

What's Really in the Iranian Nuclear Deal

Jame Conca explains what's really in the Iran Nuclear deal and why we just need to get it done. Key Points:
  1. Nuclear deals with Iran have worked. They are no longer enriching above 5%. No additional centrifuges have been installed. Work has stopped on their heavy-water reactor. IAEA has full access to inspect.
  2. Those who expect Iran to completely abandon nuclear energy are completely unrealistic (or actually have other hidden agendas).
  3. A nuclear agreement does not require Senate ratification. Some of our senators are not the sharpest crayons in the box.
  4. Iran is already a signatore to the NPT. This propose agreement just imposes some additional requirements.
  5. Iran really wants an agreement because sanctions are hurting them.
  6. The best way to keep Iran from misbehaving is to bring them closer, not push them further away.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Obamacare Doomsday Cult

The Obamacare Doomsday Cult can't admit that it is wrong. All their fears have failed to materialize. They are victims of the phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance.
The way cognitive dissonance works is that when people are confronted with information that contradicts either their beliefs or actions, they feel discomfort. To feel better, they either have to modify their beliefs and actions, or find some way to discount the disconfirming information. And the more effort someone invests in a particular action or idea, the greater the lengths they will go in crafting justifications to ease their discomfort.
Indeed, committing to a specific ideology can make it much harder to see facts clearly, let alone acknowledge them. Aronson noted that it’s especially hard for people who spent the last five years opposing a specific policy. “These guys are so committed to the belief that Obama can’t do anything right, and that Obamacare is socialism, that it would be very, very difficult for them to examine the data objectively," he said. "I think that’s what’s wrong with politics, that’s what’s wrong with ideology, that’s what’s wrong with politics that are ideologically driven.”

But, one must exercise caution. This also happens on the other side of the aisle. We have to be honest when we are proven wrong and move forward with the truth, whatever that happen

Monday, March 09, 2015

Colin Powell For Fixing Voter ID Laws

Collin Powell's advice for fixing restrictive voter ID laws is to organize and make the effort to get voters to the polls under the new laws and the lawmakers out of office. That sounds well and good, but such advice would not have worked in 1965. It took a federal law to effectively enfranchise citizens who were systematically blocked from voting.  Then, the voting restrictions were peculiar to a set of states. Today, we have a situation in which a portion of those with national power find it within their interest to block voters who have historically supported their opposition.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has not been reauthorized. Reauthorization would limit the ability of the power bloc to restrict opposing voters but other ways have been invented which exploit both inadequacies in the law and loopholes that have been torn in the law by complicit court decisions.

It's time to take a broader look at voting rights beyond our history that hinges primarily on race. The Voter ID people have undertaking their work under the gauzy banner of an unproven voter fraud problem while publicly admitting that what really matters is restricting the ability of certain groups of opposition voters to vote. That canard could be completely neutralized by a movement for laws that ensure that no identifiable class of citizens have their right to vote encumbered or abetted more than any other identifiable class of citizens. Things like age, affluence, disability, access to transportation, access to polling places, etc., should not be a factor in one's capability to vote.  If jurisdictions are prevented from enacting such laws, redress should be sought in the courts.  If courts fail to support these constitutional rights, then it would become necessary to organize non-violent social actions to galvanize popular support for whatever is needed to protect the will of the people, be it constitutional amendments, vociferous public debate, public demonstrations, targeted economic disruption, or what-have-you.

This is the one fundamental right that is the foundation of our democratic republic and those who wish to restrict it must be held to account.