Sunday, August 26, 2007

Michael Vick- Why the Uproar?

I just can't let it go with out a logical diagnosis. The "It" I refer to is the Michael Vick story. I'll leave my thoughts the common human trait that rewards people who play barbaric simple non-intellectual games with the highest stature in recognition and finical influence. That will have to wait. I would like to concentrate more on the crime at hand.

I cringed as I heard this week people actually start to relax their criticism and even almost condone Vick's actions. One person, who is a reverend I am told and a very religious man at the very least said, "When we were kids, we often gathered up the stray dogs and made them fight." Alright, I often say, "It's impossible to offend me". However, that made me feel squeamish. I really respect the guy who said it to. I even found some logic in the statement, "Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a woman and he received less bad press and less heated public opinion then Michael Vick did for killing animals." However, there was always an air of belief of Kobe’s version of his story and his case. His accuser was a woman who had a "sexual history" for the week prior to the incident. She also had DNA evidence showing she had sex shortly after having sex with Kobe. To believe this woman would have reservations after going to a hotel room with "The" NBA superstar is hard to rectify. (This is why your actions do matter. they are not independent of the things that happen two you, even though our court system wants to often treat it that way.)

In interest of full disclosure, I have a dog. My little buddy is one of my closet friends. In truth I love him more then some of my friend and extended family members. He is much more fun to drink with then many of them, and he certainly keeps up his end of the conversation once I have a few. Somebody forced me to pick between say my dog and George Bush, well I sure would miss old George. My wife even accuses me of caring more for the dog then her. All’s I’m sayin’ is he greets me at the door with his tail wagging and exuberant excitement to see me. He is happy I am home no matter how I left the kitchen when I left. The only chores he barks out to me is to throw the stick or wrestle. My wife? Ehhm, anyway I like dogs. I have been around them my whole life. So it is very hard for me to conceive people taking "Schadenfreude". That is "pleasure in others discomfort" for you non-German speakers. But as a logical man, I acknowledge my bias in an attempt to set it aside, but can not write it off as only a personal interest.

So I proceed to the next step in logical analysis. Like most things I ask myself, why does this bother me. What element dog fighting disturbs me so deeply? I mean I think he should face multiple year in prison or even the death penalty. OK, so my depth disdain may be more personal, but the contempt for the crime is not. But why am I (and most of the public) so stricken by dogs in mortal combat with each other? Why is such a past time illegal in every state in the union? I mean dogs fight in the wild naturally. So why is torturing and prodding dogs to fight different? The answer lies in the implications of what people who participate in these barbaric acts are capable of. A public concern over weather the kind of person who would choose in such an activity might be a hazard to other citizens.

If somebody is capable of taking pleasure in watching animals die viciously and violently, then what is there to ensure that person might not take pleasure in watching other animals (the human kind) die viciously. People who can be cruel to animals, especially those such as most of us keep as friends, companions, and pets are consciously and/ or subconsciously threatening to us. When we picture dogs fighting we all picture our own best friends being forced into a vicious gladiatorship. That vision of one of our "family members" enrages and offends us.

Now then you throw in the crime being perpetrated by a person whose life and livelihood is a violent sport where the goal is to smash, slam, drag, and collide with "opponents" and that sense of threat is heightened. A better understanding of why Michael Vick’s activities were especially disturbing comes to light. We are all now living in the OJ Simpson and Chris Benoit age. We are all aware of what these people we often looked to as "heroes" can do some of the most heinous acts.

Dog fighting is not an event where people are standing around in tuxedos, sipping champagne, discussing the latest advances in rocket science, and making business deals. No, these events are attended by the members who rank low on the educational and intellectual ladder of our society. While there is a kin to this in all other violent sports, especially those that involve the scoring of brutality. At least in those cases the "animals" involved are making the decisions to be involved themselves. The goal isn’t the destruction of life.

The answer to "why does the training and using of dogs to fight death matches bothers me?" is this. It condones and encourages the disregard for life. It is a disregard that can lead less intelligent people to diminished respect for all life. A person with no respect for life would have no hesitations in taking it. That is why we as a society make laws that attempt to discourage activities that would make such a disregard valid.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush Claims Korea and Vietnam Were Victories?

This could be the very reason why it is so hard to understand the Bush war doctrine. That which most of us would consider a loss, a negative outcome, George Bush seems to consider wins. I remember back in primary school when there was a fight, there was always at least one person who staunchly supported the looser and dissented the facts of the outcome. "Dude your friend Bob just got his head bash in with a chair, sent to the hospital in a comma, and surgery will be required to fix him." Bob's friend would inherently say things like, "it was only because of one lucky punch.", "The chair wasn't fair. If it wasn't for that...", or "I am not saying he didn't loose, but he got a few good hits in." George Bush, who never went to Vietnam (seems he had more important things to do then defend his country from the "evils"of terrorism or communism, or socialism, or whatever "ism" the old and rich used to send the poor and young into war at that time.), seems to have taken the stance of "Bob the loser’s friends".

I don't know what history book he had read. I can assure you it had lots of pictures, big block lettering, maybe something by Glenn Beck, and somebody read it to him. However, leaving behind a wake of enemies chasing you and shooting at you is not what I would call a "win". When the government you were attempting to overthrow and repress kicks you out of your buildings, and installs martial law on your capital city, that is not a win. You can pretty much assure that they will not be following your demands and punch list over the next few years. Click here for a quick refresher on the fall of Saigon for those who can't remember what they had read.

North Korea was much of the same story. We are still technically at war with them. They are, according to the Bush administration, one of the "Axis of Evil". (Please envision sarcastic snickering here. That phrase has always conjured up childish memories of "The Justice League.") Their economy and people are one of the most repressed and deprived in the world. However, they handed the US military its own ass when the US war mongers tried to impose their will on their portion of the peninsula. It so frustrated the US that they twice considered using a nuclear bomb. In the end, the United States signed only a cease fire and establishing the line exactly where it was before the US tried to invade in the first place. (It should be noted that The US was screwing with them by dropping dummy nuclear bombs and conventional bombs on North Korea before the official declaration of hostile activities. And you wonder why the North don't trust the US to have "nukes" when they don't.) At it's end 4 million people died directly as a result of the action. An "action" that resulted in no action, no change. That is not a win.

Wars that the US won were easily distinguishable. WWI for instance ended with the Treaty of Versailles was signed. WWII ended with the leader blowing his own brains out and the enemies army leader formally "surrendering unconditionally." The Asian part was moving along very well, and the end was sped along with the advent of two giant mushroom clouds and millions of civilian deaths. In truth any time the US has fought a North South war, even inside its own boarders, the south has never prevailed. Building and infrastructure once owned by the people they were trying to defeat were under the US and it's allies control. People who were once being killed by the "enemy" were not. Treaties and cease fires are signed. Allies were standing beside us. Real allies that contribute equally, not "allies" you have to pay to be your friend. Mothers were proud to send their sons off, and they were glad to go. Soldiers returned home to parades. Definite days where the enemy caved in are celebrated as national holidays. Most importantly, you do not have more enemies then before you started the war. Pulling out your soldiers does not result in the deaths of many civilians. This is how you know if you won a war.

Bush boldly compares Vietnam to Iraq. Many have always said it. The lesson that was supposed to be learned from Vietnam was that you don’t go in strictly for ideological and political reasons. Always take allies who are equally committed. Follow the "Just War" doctrine, and victory will be certain. If you do go alone, with out clear cause, goals, and validity, you might meet with a population that doesn’t share your views. Why didn’t he heed that lesson when considering Iraq. He instead said, “America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary…” Bushed seemed to be insinuating that, if Americans had stayed in Vietnam, then the outcome would have been different. I mean the other alternative in Vietnam was to stay there, loosing 10,000 soldiers a year, and wounding 50,000. And for what? The majority of the Vietnamese wanted to embrace communism. Even if that majority is only 50.5% that is democracy. In the end Vietnam found a way to become a viable modern society in spite of US intervention, not because of it!

Mr. Bush needs to look up two theories before comparing Vietnam to Iraq. First he needs to look up Newton’s Third Law. The explanation of how, “for every controllable action one can expect and equal and opposite reaction.” Analogy time. If you have sex, you could very well create a baby. No miracle there. Staying in there is just going to make it harder for the baby to come out when it is time. He also needs to grasp on “opportunity costs”. This he should research for an understanding of how for every life lost in Iraq could have been the one to save lives as a doctor, fire fighter, or research scientist here in the states. Iraqis people could have eventually reached that boiling point and rose up to take their own freedom. Then again we have recently learned that conservatives are too busy thumping their bibles to actually read it.

"I seriously doubt if we will ever have another war. This is probably the
very last one. "- Richard
M. Nixon

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cheney '94: Invading Baghdad Would Create Quagmire C-SPAN

For all of those who like to quote democrats for what they had said about Iraq prior to the war, here is Cheney at his best. More proof that you do not judge a politician by the hot air coming from his mouth, but rather from the actions and the votes he castes.

Iraq – What Happened?

How can something that seemed so easy have turned out to be such a mangled mess? Well it is easy to explain really. One day I am going to do nothing but a few pages of Iraq war analogies. It seems the best way to demonstrate the action / reaction relations of this event in a way we can all understand. That is where I left off with the first part of this discussion in Iraq –"What now?". I am trying to work backwards through this issue. Understanding, that all things are a result of choices is important because of those choices easily predictable consequences occurred. I will only use two analogies today though.

The first could be used as easily be used to represent why the US should have never went to war in the first place as it is to explain why it didn’t work. Pretend you have a giant bee’s nest hanging from your apple tree in the back yard. Bees love apple trees. If you grow enough of them one will inevitable build a nest there. Is it their fault for building a nest in your tree, or your fault for growing one in the first place? I don’t know if there is fault to be laid for this event. It is just the nature of things. Let say these bees make their nest in one of your apple trees. They are a special kind of Apple. We will call them "oil" apples. They are the best for making sweet American apple pie. As growers we don’t have a problem with these bees because they do the job of pollinating our entire orchard. We pay no concern to the fact that they run their culture with a strict hierarchy that is counter to the way we run our lives. They are a strange bunch whose Soldiers only sting once and die because of it. But hey, they make great apples and we don’t have to pollinate every bud ourselves. Then one day a bee comes "buzzing" in and stings your wife right on her fat pie eating ass. This infuriates you. So you wage war for revenge. Only you don’t want to take it out on the bees that pollinate your orchard, even though they are the most likely responsible for the bee that stung your beloved. "NOOO", instead you go into the forest and find a hornets nest to take out your revenge. You find this nest and you send your sons into the woods with little protection and the instructions to "destroy the nest, bring down the queen, and kill not all, but only the hornets with stingers." So your sons smash through the nest with their fist, grab the queen, and get stung to death in the mission. All the hornets look alike, they can’t tell which ones have stingers in the heat of battle. They keep trying to come home, but now you feel bad because you have upset the hornets’ nest, you tell them to stay there until they glue the nest back together. Your sons are loyal and listen, however they are mad. Mad at you because they don’t understand why they were sent there in the first place, and they are mad at the hornets for stinging them while they are trying to "help them rebuild" their nest. Does that make any sense to you? Not to me either, however it is exactly what happened prior to and not during the "war" in Iraq.

As the government said Saddam had every chance to come into compliance with the UN resolutions and be spared, the truth was that millions of dollars were going into plans to remove him from office. You can’t spend that kind of money and then not do what it was intended for. (try folding a paper airplane and then not flying it.) Unfortunately very little panning was going into what should and would happen after that mission was successful. Make no mistake, weapons or no weapons, evidence or no evidence, compliance or non-compliance, Sadddam was coming down. All of the reasoning was just marketing to get the American people to invests their sons and daughters into the war. Some fact to support that are as follows. The Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was officially established in January of ’03. That means at least 6 months or more in government speak was spent finding and recruiting the heads and personnel to run the organization. March 8th 2003 Bush said, "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force." It doesn’t sound to me like they are trying to avoid war. However, the prewar planning was not going so well either. The OHRA is set up only 2 months before the invasion. Many of the people involved had never met before, let alone discuss ideas about how to keep a country together once you rip the head off of it. It took some digging and a few assumptions about things. The best effort is that a million dollars was spent setting up the "post Saddam" organization, then they were given about $250,000 to actually keep Iraq from falling to chaos. Many of the ground force members of this team complained about everything from lack of infrastructure to run their office, to lack of communication with the CPA and military, to lack of interpreters to go out and recruit and assure Iraqis that things would soon return to normal. Jay Garner went on to head the CPA after the end of the ORHA. He lasted only a month before being overwhelmed and he had to call it quits. So it seem the Bush administration was spending an awful amount of money trying to set up a shadow government for a war they were trying to avoid. The obvious contradiction to what was being said and what was actually happening is going to have to be addressed in a post about the lead up. What is important to be demonstrated here is that the OHRA was set up only months before the invasion and had not one person who know the culture or the language for that fact in head positions. They were expected to stabilize the populations with no idea of what that meant, no definition of their purpose, and no idea of how to achieve that purpose. Us Americans are and always have been independent. We are used to having to fend for ourselves with little help from our national government. However, the Iraqis have never had such an environment. They have never had to follow the course of logic to dictate law. On top of that they had a deep bread hatred for each other.

So when war broke out, the US had about 2 months at best to make it feel like Saddam had never left before the different groups started clumping together for protections like gangs of New York. If they did not avoid that event, then chaos and civil war would have been inevitable. They didn’t.

Analogy number two. Lets say you are a New Yorker. One day for no apparent reason a military strike comes rolling into town with the intent to take out your mayor. On the way the bomb and destroy your entire cities infrastructure. The electricity no longer works, your pluming is backed up, the streets are too dangerous to travel, and it is getting cold but there is no gas service to your building. Hospitals are closed down and all of the decent doctors have fled the chaos in fear for their lives. Schools are no longer available options for your kids. Even if they build a new one, it just becomes a target. The mayor just before leaving ordered the 10,000 dangerous criminals harbored in the corrections facilities to be released. Say you couldn’t stand your mayor. He sponsored a corrupt police force that often came into your projects and participated in the criminal acts rather then stop them. They had even been known to rape a few women and children, and kill other innocent or revolting people. However, even though you felt restrained by your two part time jobs that barely paid the bills from month to month, you had stability. In that stability there was security. You know what the rules were, when and where to walk at night, what not to say and who not to say it to. You kept your head down and just got through life one day at a time. One thing is that you always had the luxuries of infrastructure. However, since the invasion, that had all changed. You used to be able to send your daughter to the corner store and get some basic groceries. But the chances she will make it there and back unharmed in broad daylight became slim post invasion. Your previous places of employment have been bombed, so you have no money to buy anything anyway. These invaders say they have come to "liberate you". Why aren’t you thanking them? I mean they got rid of that repressive evil mayor that was holding New York back right?

Here is this analogy get a little gray because we don’t have anything that resembles a religious sect here like they do in the countries of the Middle East. Lets say the old police forces enter your neighborhood. They come to your people and say they are standing up against the invaders. They need your help. You look and see some of the familiar corrupt faces that you recognize in the group. However, this group brings food, water, medical supplies, education, and most importantly security from the criminals that have been roaming your streets. You have two choices. You could sneak out and tell then invading force that some of the "insurgents" that they are looking for are in your neighborhood. The result of which would be the invaders would roll through your streets shooting and blowing up everyone they felt was suspicious. Your neighborhood would become a battleground. That is if the insurgents didn’t find out that you ratted them out and kill you themselves. The second choice would be to keep your mouth shut, accept their help and security, let them hide weapons in your house, and maybe even consider joining their cause. The later is the most appealing to most people. Especially when the invaders are so foreign and unsympathetic. The rebels might have been your repressors before, but they look like you, speak like you, and are more believable and understanding to your cultural needs.

Iraq is not the United States. The country was forcefully put together by the British after WWI. They were clumped together as a country even though they were all sworn enemies. The Kurds were not "Saddam’s own people" in 1926 nor were they when he dumped American made chemicals on their village in the early 90’s. They had tried to kill him, he responded in turn. These were not states that sat down and held conventions and make policies. Saddam had ordered "Arabization" of Kurdistan in the 70’s. He forced the Turkiman out of their homes and gave them to Arabs. Iraq was ruled by a hierarchy of fear. Households were ruled by men. Them men made up the village leaders. The villages were ruled by fear of the religious leaders. Those leaders lived in fear of the sectarian leaders. Those leaders lived in fear of the state henchmen. The only thing Saddam had to do was control the religious sectarian militia leaders. These Islamic groups supported their own medical, security, and educational needs.
The only way to rule in Iraq was as Saddam had done it. Now instead of a solid Iraq, there is hundreds of little countries and only a small handful of diplomats to deal with them. That is why it was doomed to fail from the onset, and that is why we should have never went in to begin with. However, that is for another post.

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"Because if we had gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t
have been anybody else with us…. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took
down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in it’s place?"
– Dick Cheney, 1994

Monday, August 20, 2007

Burnett on Hardball - video

Burnett on Hardball

WOW, talk about spin. This lady makes the case China has to make poisonous toys so Wal-Mart can "keep the prices low". Her Assesment is that China should be allowed to make hazardous products that kill us because if they don't it would be bad for our economy. She is brilliant!! I hope Bush considers her to replace Rove. "A lot of people like to say 'ahh scare monger' about China." What?

Friday, August 10, 2007

They Own You Society

I know I am harping on another financial issue. I will try to get back to social, constitutional, and foreign issues soon. The big news story of the week has been the wild ride and downward trend of the stock market. I mean besides a couple of illegal immigrants trapped in a coal mine, and the Illegal immigrant that rapped and murdered a mother and daughter. Besides that there was the stock market. The main catalyst for this downturn is results of the policies know as the "ownership Society". You can read one of many articles that support this statement here.

The "ownership society" policies were supposed to be implemented so that poor and middle class people would find it earlier to own their own houses. The problem is that they didn't own them because they couldn't afford them in the first place. So, loaning them money to buy a house only meant that the company holding the loan "owned the house". The "buyers" were just renting until some major financial downturn happened. If anything it encouraged people to sell themselves even deeper into servitude to the wealthy. Either they worked harder and longer with less benefits, or they gave up. Then they would have to give the house back and often be worse off for it. I don't just mean worse off financially. (If there was a sub title of this blog it would have to be "full impact studies"). In their struggle to keep their house, they spent less time with their family, friends, education, and entertainment. In other words, they spent less time being free.

The last 6 years have had two diametrically opposed forces acting on the system. While the "Home Ownership" policy has been pushing money into the economy through loans, the job market has remained unstable and the middle class has been diminishing.

This is one domestic issue that The Bush administration can not run from. That is their policy of an "Ownership Society". Here is one straight from While the concept is admirable, the implementation is a demonstration of the incompetence that has plagued this administration. It is just another example supporting a policy with out brainstorming the full impact of their actions.

What were these "impacts" you ask? More money was being turned into credit. Debt is money that doesn’t do any real work for the economy. When I give you a loan, that money is locked up until the debt is paid. I can't spend the money because you have to give it back to me. You can't spend the money because you don't have it yet. By "the money" I am not talking about the cost of the house paid to the previous owner. I am talking about the interest. Interest on a home line can often be equal to the actual cost of the house.

We kept hearing a few years ago about this "housing bubble". The experts kept trying to predict when it was "going to pop". I wondered what the hell they were talking about. A look in the local paper every Thursday and you could see the bubble already had a whole in it. It wasn't popping, but rather deflating. On Thursdays, our local rag listed two full pages of sheriff’s auctions. It is true, people weren't selling their houses for less then they were worth. Everybody was told "investing in your own house is guaranteed to be worth later". Many of them never got the chance to sell their house. They lost them to the bank long before they could sell them. Houses on the sheriff’s auctions start at 2/3rds the tax appraised cost. This is often 15 to 20% less then the market rate. This practice effectively dropped the price of the house 1/3rd%. Now it is so bad here that there are 12 houses for sale on the 2 square miles of my block. 9 of them have been for sale for more then 2.5 years.

Many people I know were sucked into the allure of a bigger and better house with the reduced interest rates and easy to get mortgages. Many bought their latest dream home with out having their first home sold. Many have struggled to pay the mortgage, taxes, and utilities on both houses and ended up selling at a loss.

As a personal example of why this was such a narrow sited situation, I offer my own house buying story. When my, at that time fiancé, and myself decided it was that special time in our relationship. It was time to buy a house. At that time in our lives we were making a combined total of about $44,000 p/y. I had explained to her that we would have to look for a house around $60,000 to $70,000. Then we went to get "pre-approved" through one of the many lenders that had flooded the market in the recent years. They cleared us for $120,000. My wife saw visions of a mansion on the lake with horses and a white picket fence. I know that doesn't make sense, neither does it make sense we could afford a $1000 a month house payment. That is the point.

That $44 thousand was before taxes. On average we only brought home about $1,500. With a house payment, meager groceries, really cheap beer, vodka, and whisky we would have walked that thin line of financial catastrophe. Some months we would have won some we would have had to charge more and pay the minimum balance at the end of the month. We ended up buying a house for $80,000. As it was we were barely making the bills. Had we bought a house for $120,000 we would have been just one incident away from loosing it all. That incident came only 6 months after buying the house. I was laid off from my job. It would take two years, something like 2000 resumes, and 50 interviews before I found solid work. I stopped following the finances during that period of time. We are still in the whole as a result. If we had taken the full amount of the money, we would have had to have gone bankrupt. I, fortunately, am the cheapest man alive. Most couples would have jumped on the offer of greater credit, and a better house.

That brings me to the second part of that equation. The diminishing job market. In this same area we have seen high paying; labor intensive, low skilled jobs evaporate. Employers such as Ford, the steel mill, Goodyear, and all the subsidiary industries related to these major contributors have all reduced or completely closed up the shops around here. When that happened, you have people who were used to making 60, 70, or even $80,000 a year for the equivalent of putting lug nuts on a tire. They had those jobs for 10 or 15 years. All of the sudden they get laid off and they have no transferable skills. What they do have is a house payment, car payments, and other bills made while they were making more money. This is what is known as, under employment. That is when you are forced to take a job for less then the market had previously said you were worth to it. With no way to make that kind of money in their current state, they loose these possessions. This is epically hard for a labor force who have not had to enhance their education, intuition, or occupational direction since leaving high school.

I guess what I am saying is that an ownership society is about as realistic as a democracy in Iraq. The idea is great. It is the kind of admirable concept you might make a kids cartoon about. However, if you think that you can buy a home for $120,000 plus taxes, upkeep, utilities, insurance, and general maintenance on $44,000 a year, then you need financial education realignment. In reality your payback obligation is more like $240,000. That means if you put your entire paycheck into the house every month, and did not eat, sleep, or use its utilities, you would require 6 years to pay it back. That translates to really meaning 20% of your families income has to go just to the house as a structure. Add your transportation, food, education, and entertainment what have you got left?

Mark my words here. I am saying it before anybody else has acknowledged the futility. People must live somewhere. As all of these families loose their houses, the demand is going to drive up the cost to rent. You will find previously well intentioned (financially speaking) families finding it hard to pay the rent. The bright side is that there is still plenty of supply of houses. Renting is a more market immediate adjusting product. In other words, when a landlord finds that his renters won't or can't pay their rent time after time, he will be forced to consider his profit margin.

The landlords are another Issue. Many of them are people lured with the promise of wealth beyond their dreams into “flipping houses.” They are both victims and perpetrators in the current problem. They are not business people yet they will have to be landlords to survive.

There should be some attention paid to your economy when the country's 2 highest paid CEO's are Thomas J. Fitzpatrick and Richard D. Fairbank. They are heads of Sallie Mae and Capital One respectfully. Both are lending corporations.

Here is where I get to use a variation of my favorite quote. For those of you who work part time at Wal-Mart and hope that will one day lead to you buying a house.

You can "Hope" in one hand and crap in the other. Tell me which one
fills up first.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Difference Between Your Jeans and Your Genes

A topic was spawned on the radio show “World Have Your Say” a few days ago about discrimination. In Massachusetts they are trying criminalize discrimination against people because of their weight. The same law prohibits height discrimination for reasons of height.

When trying to figure out if an issue is susceptible to discrimination, simply ask if the target attribute is a result of birth, (skin color, sex, race, height, disfigurements, birth date, or mental capacity for example) or of they are a result of choice (sexual orientation, weight, religion, or ignorance as examples)
If it is a result an action without choice, then the person with the attribute must be protected from discrimination.

If it is the result of an action stemming for a choice, then it is up to the individual to defend their choice. And don't give me the "but weight and homosexuality are not choices. They are genetic" speech. Genetically speaking, we are all homicidal, selfish, incestuous, sexually unrestrained apes. It is our ability to choose to restrain our ancestral traits that make us human. There is no such thing as obese in the starving nations like Ethiopia, or Darfur. Are you telling me there that in that entire population nobody has that gene?

First, all things are relative. If you are talking about weight, for instance, and you are talking about employment then you should be able to discriminate. Let’s say you are interviewing for Hooter’s, a strip club, or a health spa. You do not want a fat chick waiting on you at Hooter’s, stripping for you, and it is a bad image at the front desk of a health spa. A Hindu is probably not your best choice for your meat packing factory. I really don’t want a gay guy being my proctologist.

Even attributes that should be protected should have some restraint. Say the Cavs are looking for a forward. They should not be forced to consider a midget just because he is a great free throw shooter. The KKK should not have to consider a Jew because of his impeccable accounting ability.

If you are going to start “protecting” people’s choices then a whole can of worms get opened. I am personally “stylistically challenged”. I refuse to cut my hair. It started as a result of my being the cheapest man on earth. It later became a rebellious thing. Now I am just bucking for a position as a regular extra on the caveman sitcom. I went through a period where finding work was quite difficult. I would nail the interviews. I know all the answers to all the questions. But not get that return phone call. Luckily I stumbled upon a position that required only a phone interview. By the time I even met my boss they had already sunk thousands of dollars into training me. Figured they would give me a chance at that point. Really the only work I am suited for is the positions I was trying to get right out of high school, a pirate or a rock star. In the end it has been my choice, and believe me my choice alone. My wife, father, grandmother, and friends have suggested a haircut many times. I don’t expect my government to pass a law forcing employers to not use my appearance or my B.O. as criteria for not hiring me.

The leading cause of death in this country is Heart disease. One of the biggest complaints is the rising cost of healthcare. If being obese increases the cost on public health and increase the demand on the health industry, then we need to promote not being obese. In this case being a fat ass is actually infringing on my rights.

Here in my area they recently took away my choice to offer people the ability to smoke at my bar. They recently took away other peoples' choice to smoke there. Are smokers not in this case being discriminated against? There is a gene found to have increased your disposition to be addicted to smoking. It is really the same thing.

Look, in this country we are letting the government take away the need for personal responsibility in choice. If you don’t want a baby, make that choice before you have sex. If you don’t want to breathe second hand smoke, make that choice before you walk into the establishment. If you want a job dancing at the Million Dollar VIP club, you have to put down the Ho Ho’s. If you want a job as a mechanical engineer, you will need to cut your hair. These are your choices.

Remember, if they can’t discriminate against weight, that will be true on an Airplane, at a sporting event or concert, or in a hot tub. That is all I have to say about that.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wage reform part 4 – the Day after

Democrat or republican, conservative or liberal, right wing extremist or left wing nut job, or something somewhere in between I believe most people would answer the following questions the same way. That is if you made them chose between the two options and not spout on as politicians often do trying to qualify, justify and basically cover their ass on an answer.

Would you rather have a national healthcare plan or citizens that could afford to pay their own bills as they come along? Would you rather have a fully funded social security plan or citizens who were able to save enough money to fund their own retirement? Which is better for the economy, a 12 million dollar mansion or 12 million dollars invested by a company into the stock market? do you really believe that every citizen has the mental capacity to become a doctor, a professor, or a rocket scientist? After the mentally handicapped take up all the positions needed to fulfill lawyers and politicians job, would you rather they make more money working at Wal-Mart or sitting at home pumping out babies to collect a bigger welfare checks? Who should be the primary teacher of a child’s social skills, the school or their parents? Would having less cars on the road reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce dependency on foreign oil supplies?

How do you make it possible to have people pay their own medical bill? An average wage must be established that is comparable to the cost of most medical bills. Could you imagine if just getting tires for your car cost $4000? Yet a simple physical can cost that much. If a company like Wal-Mart is forced not to pay $12 million dollars to its CEO, as well as many other people on its upper management staff, they will be forced to do something with it. Maybe they will invest it in a child daycare on campus for their employees. At the very best they can afford to offer full time hours to their employees. If the wage is such that a family can scrape by with one parent home, many may make that decision to raise children with more self worth and direction. More educated families make better decisions when it comes to family planning. More one parent working homes means less people on the road. SO how do we get there?

Alright. I am president, (god I like the sound of this already) I have pushed my minions to work with the legislative to get this bill through. For the paranoid nervous left I promised to submit a temporary "minimal living wage" for 2 yrs as a catch net. It could be reissued if things go bad. (Every good plan has a built in understanding that not all things work as they were figured out on paper.) To the puddle deep thinkers from the right I promised to "shit can" welfare all together, a promise to add more accountability to the disability program once the system settles, and reduce their tax rate to 1/2 of what they pay now one year after the official implementation date. They all agreed and passed it despite the fact that the insurance companies spent hundreds of billions in lobbing money seeing that the reformed economy would mean that people would be able to pay a medical bills, accident repair, home damages, and funeral expenses out of pocket.

Months even up to a year has gone by with teams of economist and finical law experts mauling over every possible way that might open a loophole. Employers have been informed how to figure their minimum wage. A final statement that every new law should have accompanying it, making blatant and negligent attempts to circumvent the stated objective of the law or rule would be considered criminal. As of April 15th all industries must be in compliance. And so it happens. April 15th dawns and the result is a big fat nothing. Nothing changes because the introductory minimum percentage is the same as the biggest wage disparity anyway. For example, if Wal-Mart at a disparity percentage of $23 million to $16,000 or basically .07% is the largest in the country. That would be the starting rate.

The real change will be in the hands of the governing branches. The following year will bring an adjustment in the wage. Say that the adjustment is a .05% change. If Wal-Mart wants to pay H. Lee Scott $23 million that year, they will have to pay all of their employees a wage of at least pay their lowest paid employee $17,250. Wal-Mart will have a choice. They will have to increase the payroll on all of the employees making less then $17,250 or and equivalent hourly wage based on a 40/ 52 work year. This works out to around $8.30 p/h. Wal-Mart has about 1.2 million associates. That includes everybody from the CEO to the janitor, full and part time. Obviously, many of the employees make more then that. The true cost of such a move would be hard to determine. Many extenuating circumstances such as the increase in pay would directly translate to an increase in sales at Wal-Mart would exist. It would be far less then straight figure of 1.2 million times $1,250. A $500 million cost might be an accurate guess at the cost. That from a business that produces sales figures that equate to $256 billion. They could easy save all that money by decreasing the wage of their CEO to $21.33 million dollars. Yeah, I know the Scott family will really have to tighten their belt that year.

Wal-Mart is a vast and large and extreme example. Most employers’ payroll will not be effected by these changes. A restaurant owner that makes himself a salary of $70,000 a year will only be required to pay his employees $66 per year. Of course he will have a hard time keeping employees when they could go work for Wal-Mart, McDonalds, or any of the other big box retailers in the area. He will probably continue to pay the same wage. Many of them already pay more then Minimum wage, not because the law says they have to, but because "market forces" says they have to. Eventually the goal would be to get to a point around that 3% mark. As the disparity gets closer together the buying power of the middle class will also increase.

So what effect will it have on the economy? Since the system is generally closed the money has to go somewhere. The small changes will have little effect at the onset. However, when the rate is raised to a more profound rate, changes will be evident. Going back to the Wal-Mart example, they will most likely choose to pay the CEO less. That will give them $1.66 million dollars to play do something else with. For a company like Wal-Mart they will probably invest in a couple of million more boxes of Cornflakes. It isn’t until the companies are squeezed to the point of having to reallocate profits that the economy will get really spinning. When the disparity rate gets to be such that of about .5% the economy will have an influx of cash that won’t be easily dammed. At that point, in order for a company to pay its CEO $7 million per year, they will have to pay their lowest paid employee $35,000. The people this is really going to hurt at the people like Richard D. Fairbank for instance. Who was only the 10th highest paid CEO at Capitol One financial, and only made 56.7 million. The problem there is that on Capital One’s staff is populated by plenty of janitors, computer techs, card makers, and bank tellers, credit consultants and other jobs that are not making .5% of their CEO. However, try to run the company without them. Capital One Financial would have to find something to do worth any salary over whatever acceptable rate they decided. They couldn't keep paying their CEO nearly 57 million dollars per year. "Hey Bob, what have you got in your wallet?" $2.8 million. He would be the lowest paid employee. Corporations will be forced to make decisions of what to do with the money it is disproportionately distributing. Ether they will be forced to compensate their employees more equally or they will have to invest money into the economy. Wages at the bottom end will be driven up and closer by market forces and competition. Then we can start concentrating on leveling the international field.

There is so much more depth to this idea. When I offer this idea one question I often get is "Why shouldn’t a CEO be able to make as much as he can get?" The answer is he can as long as he brings his employees with him. A person making $258 million dollars a year including the stock options didn’t get there on his own power. You are not going to tell me that the golf playing CEO of ford plant works harder and is that much more deserving them my father who busted his back on the assembly line. There were plenty of hard working employees below him. I also get a lot of comments about the poor just spending their money on socially unacceptable items. "So what, as long as they are spending it. A politician is not concerned how rich or even how poor you are directly. I am to design policies that keep the economy healthy. If I design a policy that causes a billionaire oil baron looses his mansion but 10,000 gas station attendants can afford to send their kids to college, I did a good job. I will earn 10,000 votes to his one. The policy doesn’t infringe on the rights laid out by the constitution. America will be a stronger and more free country because of it. That is the job of the elected official. If it did infringe on constitutional rights, in this case then a minimum wage law would have been declared unconstitutional years ago.


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