Truth, Justice, and the American way. TRUTH: Helping to correct people's misconceptions about history, science, and the state of the world. JUSTICE: Meant in the biblical sense. Fair treatment of other people, rational laws, and assisting the disadvantaged. THE AMERICAN WAY: A classless society where everybody has an opportunity to meet their potential and for economic advancement, regardless of race, ancestry, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Law Against Anmoying Behavior

As I was driving today, I heard a radio host (on KTLK 1050, Los Angeles) discussing a new law passed in a medium sized city in Michigan. The law bans annoying behavior. Since there is no way to define what is annoying, this law might be struck down by the courts (actually, they can apply it to one individual annoying another or they can use say that annoying behavior is any behavior that would annoy a "Reasonable person". Still, it gives police a blank check for annoying behavior of their own.

The host said (paraphrasing here) "I understand outlawing profanity and strong cologne, but how do you define annoying?" He then went on to discuss hearing frequent profanity from employees at McDonalds, while he had his young daughter with him.

There are several problems. First he used the word profanity, which means using the Lord's name in vain. He meant obscenity.These two words are often confused. Just as people often confuse pornography with obscenity.

The disturbing the peace laws already prohibit hate speech and other speech that is likely to lead to physical harm. In many locations, the law (or work rules) prohibit any behavior tht offends (not annoys) another person. Wearing strong cologne in an enclosed space also qualifies as a harmful act (for example, it can trigger asthma attacks).

The proper thing to do about obscenity in McDonalds is to speak to the manager. Obscenity on the job is not permitted in any respectable restaurant or store. McDonalds, inc. has strict rules about the use of obscenity where customers can hear it (Kruck made sure of that while he led the corporation). Since these are at-will, hourly employees they can be fired on the spot for such an offense. The manager will probably warn the staff, not fire anybody.

If you are offended by activity at a store or restaurant and have informd the manager, you can revisit the site and see if the problem has gone away. In the case of Mcdonalds, you have the right to return to the restaurant, buy a cup of coffee (or whatever), and listen for at least 15 minutes. You also have the right to observe behavior from the counter (which can help identify the misbehaving employees).

There are federal laws that prohibit exposure to high levels of airborne toxic compounds (such as those in most cologne). There are also workplace laws that can be applied. Nobody has to stand for strong cologne in an elevator where they work, just ask the boss to speak to the offender. As a customer, you have the right to speak to a manager.

I suspect the Annoyance Law was a way to clear beggars from the street. Since the supreme court has stated that begging and grifting are protected speech, cities have been trying to find other ways to "remove the problem." I doubt obscenity was on the minds of the city council members.

If an action (in public) offends you and would offend "a reasonable person," contact the appropriate authorities (be they police or managers). You don't have to stand for it. But if somebody just annoys you, they are probably not doing something illegal.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why has the US been going down hill?

Since January 1981, the presidents of the United States have been mired in a variety of criminal conspiracies. It has become clear that the presidents have deliberately put the good of corporate officers above the good of the nation.

Wait, I am not a nut. This is Real.

How bad is it?

The total jobless numbers in the US are higher than they have been since the great depression. Relative to inflation, professional salaries are down over 50%. Relative to inflation, the pay of low paid hourly workers has dropped to about 1/3 of what it was 25 years ago. The middle class in this nation has dwindled significantly.

In practical terms, our national infrastructure is falling apart. Over 40% of bridges do not meet minimum standards established by the government, interstate highways have suffered similar neglect, the country needs approximately a 50% increase in chemical plants (including fuel refineries), the same situation exists in many other industries. Electrical generation and transmission capacity are unacceptably poor, and there is no plan to fix these problems.

The US dollar is worth about 60% of its value 10 years ago. That means that price of products produced abroad have gone up over 65% (about 5% per year) plus the inflation in the companies we import from (about another 5% per year). This is due to purchase of foreign goods, corporations sending jobs abroad (thus transferring dollars to other countries) and the US government borrowing money to operate (much of it from foreign entities) and spending that money outside the US (e.g., the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The solution to all of these problems includes development of macro-economic plans at all levels of government.


Economics is more art than science. Our understanding of macro-economics is based on using statistical studies to develop models of how changes in one area affect other areas. Unfortunately, when it comes to the national level, the statistics are weak and the models leave out almost all detail.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan became fixed on the idea of "Trickle Down" economics. This is a concept (not supported by any generally accepted models) that in a "Free market economy." government actions to benefit the rich will eventually also benefit the people they purchase from, trickling all the way down to well paying jobs for the poor. This has continued to be government policy, even though it has never worked in 25 years.

For over 2000 years, governments have known of several ways to grow an economy. They include
  • Make sure all people receive the basics of life (bread).
  • Direct the people's attention away from the negatives (circuses) and toward the positive (goals).
  • Improve public confidence in the nation (speeches).
  • Create worthwhile jobs that help the nation (infrastructure).
The words in parentheses are used to summarize historical categories. For example, it is said that the Roman Emperors kept the empire going with "Bread and Circuses". To survive the great depression, national leaders gave soothing and uplifting speeches; the depression did not start to lift until the government started to guarantee food and shelter and too provide jobs by investing in national infrastructure (roads, dams, electrical generation, etc.).

Real economic models are much more complex. For example, the Federal Reserve uses a spreadsheet that is 64 columns by 64 rows, with an equation most of the boxes. These studies are necessary for planning, but are worthless unless the specific advice they yield is studied and implemented.

Multi-part Solution

Part of the solution the nation's problems is to charge import duties on all work that is outsourced from US businesses. This means that if money is spent in other countries to buy goods or services for use within the company, import duties should be charged on the money that is spent. The duties should be high enough to partially equalize the cost of doing business in the US and in other nations. The import duties should be simplified (one set percentage for friendly nations and another percentage for other nations). The use of penalty duties should be minimized and temporary (e.g. there is a 100% duty on televisions and memory chips).

A great opportunity exists in reducing the amount of money the US government spends in foreign countries. The US needs to stop destroying and rebuilding other nations and spend that money to reduce the debt (reducing inflation) and improve the infrastructure (every dollar spent on infrastructure pays back three to five dollars in benefits). In a time of guerrilla warfare, isolationism is a valid defense strategy.

Privatization of infrastructure should cease. In many cases, it should be reversed. Especially in fields like transportation, electrical transmission and communication, local plans are necessary, but they must be collected into a coherent interstate plan. Monetary policy (operation of banks and trust companies and the creation of dollars) must be coordinated by federal government entities. Fake private corporations (those backed by the US government) must be brought back into the government (e.g., deregulation has caused two banking crises in the past decade).

Before the Reagan administration, taxes on inheritance were high enough to prevent the hording of funds within a single family. Now, those taxes are almost gone. You cannot take it with you should also mean you cannot give it away. Gift and inheritance taxes should be raised to at least 50% (the minimum to avoid inter-generational hording). An exemption should be used to permit a reasonable inheritance for middle class and poor people (about twice the median net worth).

Income tax should be simplified to a level tax system. If everybody paid the same percentage (after exemptions), this would save billions of dollars each year. Special tax incentives for individuals (such as the homeowner interest tax exemption) should be eliminated. Income tax for companies should be based on the change in book value of the company and should equal the same percentage (no exemptions) paid by individuals.

The government (at all levels) must invest in infrastructure. The jobs created by this investment will also help reduce crime (this brings up a matter for later discussion).

Health care must become part of the infrastructure. This country wastes at least 25% of our health care costs, because we do not have a single payer system and do not have coordinated plans for development of providers.


Every politician knows that for-profit corporate lobbyists are performing criminal actions with most bills they endorse or oppose. Campaign contributions imply control over the candidate for reelection contributions. Thus there is an implicit quid pro quo in these contributions (this means the politician conspiring to sell votes).

For-profit corporations should not have first amendment rights. Specifically, only individual people should be allowed to donate to election campaigns and the amount donated should be limited (no more than 5% from any one source). Political education corporations should have similar donation restrictions. Finally, political education funds should be spent only in the territory in which they were collected (e.g., no television ads for a California referendum paid for by a corporation in Florida).


The nation is in trouble. Unemployment, inflation, and infrastructure are a disaster. The tax system does not collect enough taxes, encourages outsourcing, and encourages the centralization of wealth. Regulation or outright takeover by the government is necessary in many infrastructure industries. Political contributions must be controlled to avoid the current quid pro quo system.

For every dollar spent on infrastructure, there is at least three dollars of benefit (there is some trickle down, plus advantages to people and business). On average, the taxes on the extra benefit should pay back at least half of the initial investment in the first year. Well planned improvements will pay back in full in just a few years.

Simplification of federal taxes should save billions of dollars. Elimination of tax breaks for special interests will raise tax collections considerably.

Next Time

Everybody deserves a shot of the American Dream: Self sufficiency and independence. Not having to worry about the future. A house may be part of that dream, but it is not The Dream as advertisers have tried to convince us. So hold on to the real dream.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jesse Jackson and the N-word

Over the past 40 years, political correctness has changed what is acceptable language to use in public within the United States. For the most part, this has been a good thing. It has caused legislatures to reword laws so that they are gender neutral and reduced the use of hate words in public. Like any movement, it tends to be carried to extremes, but it has made significant contributions to "domestic harmony."

The first generally accepted example of political correctness was abolishing the use of hateful words against the African-American communities. Surprisingly, this is also the ethnic group in which hate words continue to be the biggest problem. Even well educated people in the African-American community continues to use hateful terms against other African-Americans; terms that they would not tolerate if used by a person of another ethnic group.

Why would they do that? It is not a lack of education. It is caused by people not understanding the logic of the situation. Reverend Jackson should understand it as the Golden Rule, but clearly doesn't (as translated from the Bible): "Do not do to another what you would not want another to do to you". Any other! Using language such as that recently attributed to Reverend Jackson is a sign that he is not comfortable with his heritage, and so he belittles his people.

African-Americans do not have a patent on hate speech. Many ethnic groups suffer from from epithets specific to their race or religion. My ethnic group still suffers greatly from hate speech and prejudice (as a small minority, we work quietly against these problems).

As descendants of slaves, most African-Americans deserve a hand up in education and avoiding prejudice. But in return, they have an obligation to assist the process. Reverend Jackson shows us that even those famous for fighting for equality do not always follow-up with action of their own.

The issues of self confidence and respect for one's race apparently are behind Reverend Jackson's recent hate speech against one of the presidential candidates. Reverend Jackson is apparently afraid of those with self confidence and who expect others of his race to work toward self respect.

What do you think?

About Me

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Canoga Park, California, United States
Software Engineer with Ph.D. in Computer Science. I have a deep background in the sciences and in computer-human interaction. I was a college professor for 11 years, followed by over a decade of work in industry.