Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stealing Ideas

Okay, Apple has just won a US lawsuit against Samsung. Many
critics (The New York Times and Atlantic Monthly to name 2) are saying this will be a bad thing with regard to future innovation. They argue that if Samsung were allowed to carry on using many of the tools
that Apple had built then Apple in order to compete, would have to develop even
bigger and better tools.  I don't really understand this argument.

What it seems
to say is that after you make something it's okay for someone else to steal it
because then it forces you to make something new or better than the thing you
already made. I would then presume that someone else would steal that and you would have to go back and make something new again. The onus is always on the creative person or company that made the product in the first place. The onus does not seem to be on the companies that are
stealing the original ideas.

The court has clearly said, at least in the United
States, that Google stole important aspects of the Apple iPhone operating system
so how is it better for all of this technology to be freely copied? It
does not force Google to be creative, it simply allows them to go on stealing
and it penalizes Apple which is the company that has done all the work. These so called experts seem to just like the idea that less expensive phones will have all the same features as more expensive ones.

Capitalism is not supposed to work that way. 

 

It’s what they say not what they do.

There is one difference between the elections of '08 and '12 compared to previous ones. The voting record of the candidates doesn't matter. In the past political candidates used to begin every speech by citing their voting record. They would often provide a list of of bills that they had written or helped to get passed. It was important to show that one knew how to get things done in Washington and everyone took pride in new legislation. What's changed: 

  • Virtually no new legislation is getting passed due to excessive partisanship. 
  • To appease lobbyists, what does get passed is often tangled, obtuse and embarrassing. 
  • Bills that pass with bipartisan support are later seen as compromises -worse than defeat. 
  • Bills are often put up for a vote even when it is clear they will not pass -just to make a point. 

Politicians seem to get away with inconsistent behavior whenever a member of their own party is in the oval office. Even the tea party movement finds this excuse to be lame. 

This leaves us with a rather simple problem. How can we know what a politician stands for when he says that his voting record means nothing? It seems like a century ago that George Bush senior was attacked for betraying his party by raising taxes and contradicting his election promises. How quaint. Obama was the candidate of change and then apparently changed nothing . Paul Ryan voted only for bills that  fundamentally contradicted his entire small government philosophy. It's impossible to find a single policy that Mitt Romney has not flip flopped on. 

Can we say that this era of hypocrisy is about to end? That would be hard given that all the forces that created it are still in place.

Who will be our William Wallace – the man to lead us against the depressing tyranny of political cowards who never vote according to their principles? Instead they prefer to vote on the Pledge of Allegiance, "personhood" and gutted regulatory bills while sticking to absurd pledges to never raise taxes or eliminate outrageous subsidies.

 

He won't come from the current batch of candidates.

Bumper Stickers and Labels

There's a funny bumper sticker that says" Am I a Democrat or just highly educated?" Since the Republican party has purged its intellectuals this question has become reasonable. As I listen to conservative talk radio attack " liberals" it often seems that I could replace the word with intellectuals and it would make sense almost every time. 

Mike Gallagher has a new book out called "50 things liberals love to hate". On his list are such things as: 

  • Light pollution 
  • Oil subsidies and consumption 
  • The second amendment 
  • Christian fundamentalism 
  • Limited government 

Rather than explain or defend this list we could create a new list called ""50 things uninformed people love to hate":

  • Darwin 
  • Scientific evidence of global warming 
  • Proof that lowering taxes does not increase gov't revenue. 
  • Proof that poor income/wealth distribution correlates perfectly with poor income growth
  • Mass transportation 

There are of course many subjects where the two sides might agree: abortion, illegal immigration, outsourcing, the occupation of Afghanistan, and Wall Street regulation.  We cannot allow all the critical thinkers to reside one side of the boat. If they are then periodic explosions should be expected just like the bomb we got from Todd Akin regarding female reproduction. 

We need more intellectuals like Niall Ferguson (a Harvard professor) to publicly explain his preference for Mitt Romney as he did this week in Newsweek. Unfortunately his knowledge of economic statistics proved to be so weak that he utterly embarrassed himself and his cause. He became the Todd Akin of economics.  (I hope his publisher has a good cancellation clause in his contract)

People often express disappointment over the acrimony that appears during election cycles but the problem is not with political polarization or severe rhetoric. It's with the growing divide between candidates who make arguments based on truth and knowledge vs. those who use rumor, superstition, mythology, and fear. It's up to the media to fight this battle and make sure that facts win out. 

If they lose we'll have mob rule. 

Do titans pay taxes?

President Obama really stirred up the pot a month ago when he said that entrepreneurs need a village to build a business. They need mentors, teachers, clean water, good roads and reliable power. Everyone needs a little help from someone along the way.

Defenders of our corporate leaders replied with great agitation. Clearly the President doesn't really understand how much work goes into turning an idea into a successful business. Let's not forget the creativity, organizational skills and perfect foresight that a Steve Jobs must posses to succeed. Yes he needs sustenance and a break from a friend now and then but so does everyone. We need to appreciate our entrepreneurs, coddle them and help them to avoid paying taxes. If we don' they may all move to … Monaco.

 These arguments are old and boring and to some extent they are both right. 

What's new is that unlike 20 years ago an entrepreneur no longer feels inclined to use American software engineers, American product designers, American production engineers or even American assembly workers. America is just the place with store chains like Walmart and Target, where the product gets offered.

Entrepreneurs are now global Titans recently arrived from Olympus. They shoot their job thunderbolts all around Southeast Asia and then command an army of lowly sales people to move the product to (relatively) wealthy westerners who will pay retail. They understand that Vietnamese and Pakistani peasants can't afford $500 for an iPad. They know this because they pay their salaries.

Since the titans feel more like Olympians than Americans they are confused when a Democrat talks about how they should pay their fair share. Never before has our master race of business people owed so little to the country they live in. When asked by a US senator to help the US set policies to help it become energy independent Lee Raymond, the former CEO of Exxon was appalled by the stupidity. He declared – "Exxon is not an American company". These titans think we should thank them for their purchases of private castles and employment of servants within our borders. That's the most we can expect. Their only false illusion is that unemployed Americans will be able to go on indefinitely buying foreign made toys, clothes and electronics. Titans from Olympus don't concern themselves with such parochial issues.

If we force them to pay higher taxes or consider the welfare of their neighbors they'll just fly home to see Zeus – via Geneva.

 

 

 

The Intellectual Wing of the Anti-intellectual Party

Paul Ryan is commonly associated with the tea party movement (whatever that means). This low IQ crowd rarely uses logic or knowledge to make their unconvincing arguments about taxes and deficits. Mr. Ryan has taken on the role of intellectual leader. 

His biggest "new idea" is to have seniors use vouchers to buy their own health insurance. The $6,500 amount each will get will almost surely fail to pay for a plan that will cover all their medical problems (Every 70 year old has a pre-existing condition). 

Since Medicare is indeed going broke, a radical funding change is called for – just not this one. By forcing Grandma out to buy insurance on her own she is left utterly alone, with no pricing power. If she could pool her money with many other (or all) seniors then she would have purchasing power and the average health of the group would be the one considered for coverage. This would save individuals who have grave problems.

This is how and why insurance works.

So what does Paul not understand:

  • Does he not like the idea that insurance buyers might band together to get a better deal, thereby reducing insurance company  profit margins?
  • Does he not understand that a group health-care plan is always cheaper than an individual plan?
  • Perhaps he prefers the situation where Grandma becomes her own death panel after she gets denied coverage by all the insurance companies?

Perhaps Ryan doesn't understand the first thing about insurance.

The Dems reply seems to be to leave things just as they are – headed straight for a fiscal black hole. Insulting Ryan won't fix anything but tweaking his idea could save the day. Using all the upcoming debates on this issue to scare seniors so that no intelligence is applied and no legislation is ever written would be the worst outcome of all.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a whole new ball game.

Mitt has chosen as a running mate a congressman who is connected to both the tea party and a fabulous list of legislative initiatives to change the tax code and reduce the deficit.  The election has suddenly changed from a boring referendum on Obama's four years to a policy debate.

Thank God.

The tea partiers' perverted desire to let the US government go broke may finally go on trial. The first two questions for Ryan must be:

  1. Are his radical changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security driven by a responsible fear of federal insolvency or by Randy (Ayn’s) schadenfreude
  2. Does he really believe in the fairy tale that tax revenue rises when tax rates are cut.

All of this good meat needs to be chewed by the press. If Ryan lies or obfuscates then they have to stay on him and refuse to accept assertions as facts. If Obama refuses to respond with alternative policies then he should be attacked as a do nothing candidate. What are his solutions to the budget mess? Foreign policy is no longer even a part of the conversation. 

Mitt will now spend all his time defending Paul's policies.

 

 

The Olympics used to feature unusual youths

The athletes we see featured in special profiles done by NBC used to be the exceptions. They toiled away as amateurs, perfecting their skill for a chance at fleeting fame. A medal was a great reward and if you were really lucky you might be attractive enough to get a few endorsement contracts.

As much as we respected their drive most of us never imagined a path where we would give up an education and all our work commitments to do nothing but swim or run. It was something for spoiled or desperate children who either had the luxury to postpone their lives or had no lives to postpone.

How times have changed. 

Just like Olympic athletes our current crop of 21-25 year olds are

  • completely unprepared for the current ghastly job market.
  • have been indulged by technology and weak parents so they have no idea how to steel themselves for economic hardship after the fun (college/Olympics) ends.
  • have continued on with indulgent worthless hobbies often with an absurd dream that they will make it big as recording artists, models or … professional athletes.
  • have continued to be supported by relatives well past a "normal age" thereby existing in a dependent state without seeing the need to become self sufficient. Unfortunately mom and dad, just like US Olympic team funding, won't last forever.
  • are allowing themselves to inadvertently drift into a 99/1 situation – believing that they will be part of the 1% by virtue of some kind of miraculous talent or effort, rather that digging in to the dirty job of just making it up to the 50th percentile. 

There's no glamor in the 50th percentile. You have to push your way past Chinese and Indian slave labor and find a niche that cannot be outsourced. You have to identify a job or a skill that the masses can't do or don't understand. You have to work overtime and learn things you might even find boring. There won't be time for computer games, surfing the web and texting all your friends about what you had for lunch. There probably won't be time for lunch. It won't be glamorous, you won't be famous and you won't get to be all you can be – at sports.

Olympic athletes have become role models that 23 year olds relate to, rather than oddities temporarily distracted by an exhausting hobby. Yes – they work hard on their bodies but it's not "work". In the end they may have nice memories but 99% of athletes never get on the team – any team. Their skills in volleyball and the backstroke won't get them far in the private sector. When they're finished they're about as marketable as a US Army veteran returning from the occupation of Iraq.  

There are some sober youths out there who are fighting their way through drudgery to make ends meet and get ahead – they don't have time to watch the Olympics.

 

 

 

 

The Anti-Apology Tour

Hate radio likes to proclaim that America is still exceptional in every way. In fact we still rule the world and so it is embarrassing when a President receives a foreign dignitary or leader with any humility.  Even a display of respect seems to be looked at as weakness. Mitt is trying to follow their instructions as he travels around the world.

Many Americans hold a set of beliefs that start with the premise that our forefathers arrived on this soil with a divine providence. They took the land from pagans – as God told them to do. They elected demigods who wrote a constitution that is clearly divinely inspired (please don't tell me they were secular humanists). Our path to global domination was inevitable. God willed it and we named it Manifest Destiny. To question our position in the world is to defy God and to doubt all these facts that we learned in grade school.

There is one other country with similar status – Israel. It is the promised land bequeathed to the chosen people by Yahweh himself. How can anyone question their right to rule over all the people of the region. God (the bible) is a strong advocate for murdering non-Jews and taking them as slaves. Might is right especially when you have a deity fighting on your side.

So Mitt's obligation is to talk tough to all our allies – even meanly, so they remember who God assigned to be their boss. When he lands in Tel Aviv however he must bow to the Torah and transform himself into supreme sycophant. There is no position that is too extreme in this regard. Newt said the Palestinians weren't a people at all and the tea-partiers loved him for it. Sarah wears the flag of Israel on her lapel. Mitt will grovel like a slave before Netanyahu (and then collect his AIPAC check).

God's name may have been left out of our constitution by mistake but as far as foreign policy is concerned – he rules!

 

Gun Profiling

After a convenience store is robbed the police investigate, get a description of the perp. and put out an APB with those details. That all seems logical. After airplanes are blown up by Middle Eastern men in their 20's and 30's we have airport security frisk everyone equally for fear of offending a minority group or being sued by the ACLU.

Michael Chertoff argued that to target individuals who resemble typical suicide bombers would be a waste of time since they would just change their appearance or hire westerners to do their deeds. That is like telling the police that they can't announce any description of the perp since he may have put on a wig, and if he is a minority then it may offend his racial brethren. Solving the crime takes a back seat to political correctness at the TSA. Aren't they supposed to make it harder for Al-Qaeda by forcing them to recruit old white ladies?

The gun lobby wants us to believe that the gun didn't have anything to do with the crime. If you banned assault weapons, crazy people (and criminals) would find them anyway and if they can't, then they'll use machetes or chain saws. That may be true but as with terrorists, aren't we supposed to make it a little bit harder for the criminally insane to succeed? 

If we had another 9/11, TSA would profile every Middle Eastern man in the US and no one would dispute the logic. If there were many crazy people like James Holmes surfing the web, buying AK-47's and killing people in theaters then the weight of public outrage and fear would bury the NRA (at least with regard to their defense of heavy weapons).

Periodic isolated events are just never enough.