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Friday, October 24, 2003
Internal Memos, Boss to Employees:

Have you every received a memo from your boss that said "you are doing a great job, lets keep it up. When we meet next week at the staff meeting we can all discuss how wonderful we are ?

Can you imagine Bill Gates saying that, even though he owns personal computing and has over 40 billion in cash lying around. Of course not, you get versions of the Halloween memo which says we are under attack and must fight back. So why would anyone expect Donald Rumsfeld internal memos to be any different from any other boss.

  Xtreme Politics

I think many people who don't get paid for waging politics are becoming quite frustrated with dysfunctional legislatures that are now polarized--as in Congress or in California--essentially along the cultural faultlines created by 30 years of allowing judges to pre-empt the broader community's ability to discover, or re-examine, its social beliefs. These legislators have become little more than clerks to judges and the complainants in their courts--the law as not much more than a brief. When this happens, citizens lose their status as voters or electors and become mere courtroom spectators. How can this be good?

  German War machine powered by synthetic fuel

The leaders of World War II, on both sides, knew that an army's lifeblood was petroleum. Ironically, before the War, experts had scoffed at Adolph Hitler's idea that he could conquer the world largely because Germany had almost no indigenous supplies of petroleum. Hitler, however, had begun assembling a large industrial complex to manufacture synthetic petroleum from Germany's abundant coal supplies.

When Allied bombing of the German synfuels plants began taking its toll in late 1944 and early 1945, the entire Nazi war machine began grinding to a halt. More than 92 percent of Germany's aviation gasoline and half its total petroleum during World War II had come from synthetic fuel plants. At its peak in early 1944, the German synfuels effort produced more than 124,000 barrels per day from 25 plants. In February 1945, one month after Allied forces turned back the Hitler's troops at the Battle of the Bulge, German production of synthetic aviation gasoline amounted to just a thousand tons – one half of one percent of the level of the first four months of 1944. None was to be produced afterwards. Lack of petrol meant the end of the war and the end of the Third Reich.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
  The Most Important Opinion Piece You Will Ever Read

Quoted in entirety below: NYtimes articles are only available for short time online:

So why is this important. Lets leave out the usual look at deconstructing the language where not voting for a tax increase is "Low tax mania". Lets instead look at the assumptions of how government should behave. We are told government should pay for AIDS patient care, for hypertensive medicine, extra tutoring for kids who flunk out of high school, restaurant inspectors and special needs camp.

And how is government behaving when its tax increase isn't passed. In a way that proves it wasn't up to the job of making hard and effective decision. An equal 18% cuts across all departments is the opposite of the decision making require to effectively manage anything. That assumption implies that every government service is of equal value and importance. Which can't be true, that is like saying that paying your rent and going to the movies are equally important uses of your personal income.

Lets take a second to analyze some of the things stated in this article. Some things are obviously the responsibility of government like restaurant inspections, because no one else but the government can do it.
Unfortunately history has shown that this isn't true. Jews all over the world have their food checked by rabbi. And it cost them nothing, they just avoid restaurants and butchers who don't have a seal of approval. I could also imagine another system of freelance food inspector who get paid by fines on restaurants they check.

Other examples in the article are classic throwing good money after bad. In 12 years a kid didn't learn enough to pass graduation exam, well lets fix it with some after school tutoring. Yea that will work.

For most people hypertension can be treated with diet and life style modification instead of drugs. So that is more money that the government doesn't need to spend. And there is no cure for AIDs, should the government pay for treatments that don't lead to a cure ? Should the government be responsible for your child's special needs or should parents take care of their own children.

These are just some of the fundamental question that everyone needs to be asking themselves. What would happen if a town stopped providing free schooling ? Could you imagine it. We have this bad habit in America of creating behaviors that last forever and never question them again. Inside government we have the idea that k to 12 education should be free, why not pre k to 8th grade or through college. In the "private" sector every movie ticket is priced the same despite what picture is shown which is insane because some pictures cost 100 million to produce and other 5 million.

Question your assumptions.

What Alabama's Low-Tax Mania Can Teach the Rest of the Country

Published: October 20, 2003


The budget ax is swinging in Alabama, and the carnage is piling up. A hundred and fifty fewer low-income AIDS patients will receive life-saving medicines from the state. Fifteen thousand low-income Alabamians may lose their hypertension drugs.

High Hopes, a program that offers after-school tutoring to students who fail the high school graduation exam, is being slashed. And up to 1,500 poor children and adults with Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities will not be able to attend a state-supported special-needs camp.

The cuts are reaching down to core government functions. The court system is laying off 500 of 1,600 workers, from clerk's office employees to probation officers. The health department is losing investigators who track tuberculosis, and sharply reducing restaurant inspections.

Alabama's huge budget gap is a result of the voters' rejection, nearly six weeks ago, of Gov. Bob Riley's tax reform plan, which would have generated an additional $1.2 billion, much of it from undertaxed timberland. After the vote, Governor Riley was forced to cut most state agencies by 18 percent, and other recipients of state funds by 75 percent. Bad as things are, the impact is being blunted by a fortuitous one-time injection of federal funds. Next year agencies are bracing for a 56 percent hit. If the state cannot find more revenue and Governor Riley is searching it may be nearly impossible for basic services, including courts, prisons and police, to operate.

Alabama's disintegrating government is a problem, certainly, for anyone in the state. But it may also be a harbinger of where the nation is headed. There is a "starve the beast" ethic, currently fashionable among conservatives, holding that the best way to downsize government and end the social safety net is to get voters to demand lower taxes. But before we hurtle any further in that direction, we should think hard about whether we want the whole nation to look like Alabama does this year or, worse, next year.

Alabama is not a wealthy state, but its bigger problem is that it is not making an effort to raise the taxes it needs. It is 48th in the nation in state and local revenue as a percentage of personal income, according to Governing magazine. And it has the nation's least equitable tax system. Alabama's income tax kicks in for families of four earning just $4,600. Its property taxes are the lowest in the nation, Governing reports, and "heavily favor farming interests."

As a Republican congressman, Governor Riley strongly opposed tax increases. But when he took over the state government, he realized it could not run on the revenues coming in. He courageously offered up a tax package that raised the needed revenue while shifting the burden from overtaxed poor people to undertaxed business interests. But the package was defeated by a skeptical electorate, with many of the no votes coming from low-income Alabamians, whose taxes would have gone down.

The voters were not entirely wrong to be skeptical. No budget is free of waste, not even Alabama's meager one. There is a state tradition of legislative pork, patronage controlled by key legislators. And powerful lobbies, notably the teachers' union, have long gotten more than their share of state funds. But Governor Riley has already trimmed much of the pork. And next year, he will no doubt take aim at teacher benefit packages.

It is easy to sell voters on low taxes, and a well-financed campaign by Alabama's business community aided, shamefully, by the state Christian Coalition did just that. What is harder, but vital right now, is making the more challenging case for why taxes, and sometimes even tax increases, are necessary.

One message Alabama voters needed to hear more clearly was that rejecting higher taxes costs more in the long run. Saving $10,000 by denying medicine to a poor, H.I.V.-positive woman is no bargain if she ends up in a state hospital with full-blown AIDS needing $100,000 in care. Tutoring high school students in danger of failing is cheap compared with paying for welfare or prison.

Alabama voters also need to realize that by entrenching their state at the bottom of the national rankings in taxes and government services, they are putting themselves on the margins of the new, global economy, and sabotaging their future tax base. Businesses looking for low taxes and cheap government will pass right over Alabama and head for Mexico. And companies that want well-educated, skilled workers, the companies Alabama needs to attract, will not locate in a state where high school students do not graduate, TB cases are not tracked and the restaurants may be hazardous.

The nation is facing precisely the same issues as Alabama. The Bush administration has tried to delude the public into thinking we can fight a war, rebuild Iraq, fix our schools, get prescription drug benefits and still enjoy the largest tax cut in history. But the deficit cannot grow forever. Eventually, we will have to pay more or, as "starve the beast" proponents hope, do with much less.

Last month, Alabama voted for fewer social services, less education, and a shoddier legal system to become, that is, more like a third-world nation. But low as taxes are, the state will never be better at being an underdeveloped country than actual underdeveloped countries are. Alabama's best chance, and the nation's, is to invest in its people and civic institutions, the things that set America apart.

Governor Riley's setback last month is being hailed by national antitax forces as a great victory. But if Alabama heads into next year without additional revenues, students may have to learn without textbooks, prisoners may be released early, and people may start dying of preventable diseases. We should all pay attention, because if the "starve the beast" crowd continues to prevail in Washington, as goes Alabama so may go the nation.
  Democracy Sucks Part 1

Anyone who has experienced democracy first hand knows its true. If you have been in any club or organization that is run on democratic principles you know its true. You probably have mentioned Robert's rules of order but never actually read them. Running a meeting with anything more than 10 people quickly becomes a nightmare.

Democracy is unreliable, and stupid, and it not because people are stupid its because life is complex and complex problems often have multiple solutions. Simple example we need 10 trucks. Do we by 10 from one vendor, of 9 from 1 and 1 from vender number 2. Or 5 from each or one from 10 different vendors. All of the solution would get us 10 trucks. But each solution has side effects that will cloud the decision making process, and the very worse part there is no best answer for everyone.

And the worse part is that everyone believes they are right, not only intellectually but morally. Which means that people who don't agree with them are wrong. Needless to say democracy breeds conflict. Look at Iraq in the good old days of Saddam there was no conflict, there were no protest, he was right and no one protested. Today American has brought the ugly step child of democracy free speech to Iraq and its a bitch.

Free speech and democracy go hand and hand but people often make the mistake of confusing the two. Free speech is a liberty that exist to protect minorities. That is why it a right that must be protected in democracies. Martin Luther King needed legal protection because he represented a minority view. Remember that whenever you see the protest from Baghdad and other places that are democracies around the world. If the protesters were the majority view they wouldn't need to protest. They would just go to their elected representing and get whatever law or resolution passed they wanted.

Canada, France, Germany they never debated joining the coalition in their parliaments and the didn't join. Britain did and they joined. Very rarely will democracy give you want you want. But if you try it, it will give you want you need.

News with a postive spin.

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