Brexit – the empty bucket

A bunch of guys (politicians looking for an edge) got together and decided to convince the British populous that all their problems could be blamed on someone else… the “them.” And, if they simply pushed “them” out of their lives, everything would be great.
But, along the way, they forgot to mention all the things the “them” were doing for the populous.
And, another but, they didn’t actually have a plan to replace the “them” once they were kicked out.
The populous, moved forward by stump speeches, catchy slogans, and empty promises of a universally better life, agreed. They told the “them” to go screw off.
What did the bunch of guys do?
They sh!t their collective pants. “We won? The populous bought this crap? What do we do now?”
What they did was quit. Figuratively and literally, they, to a last, just quit.
Theresa May was left holding the bucket of emptiness trying to fill it with stuff that just doesn’t exist.
There are no simple answers to happiness or a better life. Most certainly the answer is not “them”.

Pork industry safety to be more self-regulated

The current administration is shifting the responsibility in the pork industry for food safety from the regulators to the companies.

The Obama administration made a similar move with poultry.

There is an interesting difference between the American perspective and the European perspective.

In the US, policies tend to be a “wait and see” if the industry will do “it”, whatever “it” is (be safe in this case).

In Europe, policies assume companies won’t “do it,” and enforce more regulations, or take action.

In Europe, before drugs or new foods are approved, they have to be proven safe. This is a burden on the companies.

In the US, drugs or new foods are more likely to be approved with lower/no safety standard and then pulled once proven to be dangerous. In other words, people have to get sick or die before the burden shifts to the company.

As a general mindset, the recent events with the Boeing 737 Max are a good example. The rest of the World grounded the plane immediately (nearly) until it could be proven safe (still hasn’t). The US waited as long as it could, until pressure was too much, to ground the plane.

As a priority, the US wanted to lessen the burden on the company where Europe wanted to protect the people.

In the US, we assume:
1) That companies have the same rights as people
2) That companies operate with a conscience and they won’t hurt people (perhaps because they are run by people?)
3) That business growth is the most important thing

With this as a premise, it is easier to accept a loose regulatory environment.

Unfortunately, history shows that companies are willing to literally kill people to expand profit. From the dawn of the industrial age to today, this holds true.

– Slaughterhouses in Chicago ca 1900
– Railroads importing and abusing immigrants 1850-1900
– Mills in the Northeast and East.
– Mines throughout the Southeast, even today
– Superfund sites across the country (residential areas too polluted and now abandoned). 1950-1970s
– Koch bothers pipelines blowing up and killing people
– Firestone 1996-2001, hiding defective tire issue (270 dead)
– Enron shutting down access to electricity in CA to drive up prices.
– Mortgage companies knowingly writing fraudulent loans and literally initiating a worldwide economic meltdown.
– Epipen hiking the price of life-saving drug 5x with no cost-basis, just profit.
– Pharma increases the price of insulin for greater profit.
– Boeing wanting to keep planes in the air despite knowing there was a lethal problem, even after a crash and many reports of problems.

These are just a few that I am aware of. Some were cases of people deliberately planning or covering up. Others were done in the name of profit over people.

Perhaps the pork & poultry industries will do a fine job self-regulating the quality and balancing profits w/ safety. Unfortunately, we won’t know until people get sick or die. Our own history shows us that we’re likely heading for trouble.

Europe passes online copyright rules, benefiting large publishers (they think)

Venture Beat published this article about the liability of linking to publisher content (or anyone’s really).
Two issues with the law
According to the new EU rules, which must be adopted by EU countries by 2021, sites must pay publishers to publish excerpts of their content.
Okay… not sure how much constitutes an excerpt. But, I get the notion. These are their words, creative property. If you can’t come up with your own words, then you shouldn’t take someone else’s (? even if you attribute it?).
But, here is the real kicker…
No Linking Without Payment
They have to pay them to even LINK TO THE CONTENT.
Under the copyright rules, as explained in the article, this very post that you are reading violates the new EU rules even if I don’t have images and the article title included, the very hyperlink above makes it a violation.
If this same content appears on Facebook,  I am not to be held liable. Facebook (or any other platform) holds the liability. 
Neutering the Internet
Google’s search platform is rendered as one huge copyright violation, as are virtually every social media platform or other search engines.
This law is akin to removing all the highways from the continent, disabling GPS, illegalizing printed maps, and then telling people to find their way to… anywhere.
Left as is, this law essentially means you will only find content that you already know exists and where it is. It kills the sharing of ideas in any broad sense. 
The Beneficiaries
One of the proponents says this says the rules modernize the internet. I am not sure how that conclusion fits. This ruling effectively negates the very core function of the internet and does so in the name of large publishers who simply could not keep up with the changing times.
I also wonder how shortsighted this is. Do the proponents/publishers believe Google or Bing users will simply come directly to their sites to find content?  If they dismiss the traffic driven by social media and search platforms as trivial, then why is the rule even necessary?
If this rule is not overturned, the biggest proponents will likely be the biggest sufferers in the short term.

The Economy: The best thing the president can do is stay out of the way.

In the image, there are
– 3 ways of looking at unemployment
– The GDP
– Federal Budget Deficit

Since 2010, things have been improving.
The trend line from Obama through Trump term to date is steady.
The only difference so far is the deficit.

While the budget deficit can be, and is, drastically affected by the administration at the time (along with Congress), the economy does not follow nice, neat 4 year increments.

The presidents are neither to blame nor to be credited with the economy in any short period of time.

It is us, the American people who are responsible for the economy.

The best thing the president can do is stay out of the way.

BTW, the stock market is a terrible metric for our economic health. If it were a good metric, we would not see the bubbles or rallies and inexplicable big drops. The market is a speculators world and goes up and down accordingly.


Administration changes formual for drug payments. Its not enough.

The Government, despite being the largest payer for meds, does not negotiate price. We simply agree to pay the average going rate in the U.S.

We passed laws that prevent the Government from negotiating drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid. Guess who pushed that law?

Since the U.S. has the highest drug prices in the world, the Gov pays a lot (we pay a lot).

The Trump administration says it plans to change how Medicare pays for some expensive drugs to bring the costs more in line with the prices paid in Europe. This is a good first step.

But, we are only factoring in their costs, not trying to meet or beat it. For a country that says “we always win”, this sounds like we’re giving up pretty easily.

This has been going on for decades now; Rep and Dem administrations and Legislatures. The drug companies got their law, and “our” representatives seem fine with it. Yes, they complain about drug prices, but they don’t take the very simple step of overturning the 2003 law (or at least part of it) and allow the biggest payer of drug prescriptions to use its power to lower the cost.

“For decades, other countries have rigged the system so that American patients are charged much more,” President Trump said Thursday

While the president says other countries “rigged the system” (in his tendency to play the victim), the reality is that the U.S. removed itself from the equation a long time ago.

The proposed changes are small but more than we’ve done before. I only hope it leads to someone taking up the next step of letting the government negotiate the cost of the drugs for which we all pay.

My issues with the GOP tax plans are twofold

1) we knowingly grow the deficit, even eagerly do so under the two plans.

2) individuals are being sold a lie re individual tax cuts for them. They will phase out.

The cuts for corporations and for pass-through income (S-Corps, one of the income drivers for very wealthy people) remain.

As for lower taxes on companies benefiting people…

They aren’t investing because they have more cash. We’ve seen this with prior cuts as well as with the cash buildup following the crisis.

With these lower corporate tax rates, we need to stop the revenue transfer that takes place. (create a “license” agreement to use a product name in your Ireland division. Then “license” the name and rights to sell related products to the US division for absurd fees that literally shift all profit to Ireland). These are tactics openly discussed during earning calls.

If we say we should simply match the international average tax for corporations, then we also need to look at matching the relative expenditures of these countries’ governments as well.

Military budgets – we spend 8-10 times that of any European country and 4+ times that of China (the next largest military budget).

There are only 3 countries that spend more per capita on the military than us. Israel and Saudi Arabia (for understandable and similar reasons), and Singapore (an outlier that is baffling).

While the US has the highest cost per capita in healthcare, the government’s share of that is not nearly the highest (as a percent and in absolute dollars). We are lower than some and right in line with most developed nations.

Social Spending (basically helping people), we ranked about 20th relative to domestic GDP.

The United States doesn’t even make it into the top 10 for infrastructure expenditure per capita. The overall state of infrastructure didn’t even rank in the top 15 of nations.

I’m not a “tax them till it hurts” guy. I just have an issue with cutting revenue and not cutting expenses at all.

If we can implement a simplified tax code that says everyone pay x% and still afford to run the country, that’d be great.  However, I can handle 15 – 20 % tax, someone making $25k a year may not be able to handle that and still put a roof over their head, get clothing and food. I don’t know what to do about that end of it because you then start getting into deductions again.

The $1T average is a bit misleading.

We ran a surplus at the end of the 90s into the Bush Admin.

Then we had tax cuts and initiated a war in Iraq.

Then we had the financial meltdown.

The 1.3 – 1.4T deficits for a few of those years were widely believed by economists and those on both side of the aisle as necessary to prevent a complete collapse of the economy.


Year    Def     Debt Chg  %GDP   Reason

1998 ($69) $113  (0.8%) LTCM crisis

1999 ($126) $130  (1.3%) Glass-Steagall repealed

2000 ($236) $18  (2.3%) Surplus.

2001 ($128) $133  (1.2%) 9/11 attacks. EGTRRA

2002 $158 $421   1.4% War on Terror.

2003 $378 $555   3.2% JGTRRA

2004 $413 $596   3.3%

2005 $318 $554   2.4% Katrina. Bankruptcy Act.

2006 $248 $574   1.8% Bernanke chairs Fed.

2007 $161 $501   1.1% Iraq War cost

2008 $459 $1,017   3.1% Bank bailout. QE.

2009 $1,413 $1,632   9.8% Stimulus Act

2010 $1,294 $1,905   8.6% Obama tax cuts. ACA. Simpson-Bowles.

2011 $1,300 $1,229   8.3% Debt crisis.

2012 $1,087 $1,276   6.7% Fiscal cliff.

2013 $679 $672   4.1% Sequester. Government shutdown.

2014 $485 $1,086   2.8% Debt ceiling.

2015 $438 $327   2.4% Defense = $736.4 b.

2016  $585 $1,423   3.1% Defense = $767.3 b.

2017 $666 $672   3.4%

It’s one thing to get hit with a crisis. It’s another to plan a deficit.

Rest in Peace GOP

gop in a storm

You welcomed your executioner with open arms.

Inviting him in with a celebration of disrespect, pettiness, and discarded principles,  you walked away from what made you worthy.

Too late, your “leaders” came to realize that their private misgivings should have been voiced as forcefully in public as they now appear to have been in their nightmares.

While packed with voices of dissent, the leadership abdicated too easily. Removing your rudder in exchange for the captaincy, the GOP is now adrift.

As your crew indulged in the political rum found in abundance within the stores, you sped toward the rocks. Sobriety, too late, brings useless sorrow.

Your executioner is now your captain. And like all those who travel rudderless, he is content to go where the winds take him; too late, you realize you will share his political fate.

Rest in Peace GOP.


The strength of peace

For every blow you strike against the face of that fascist on the street, you also strike a blow against the cause for which you stand.

There is no moral comparison between the Nazis and those that oppose them.

The ultimate Nazi aim is to destroy others.

Those who oppose them aim to stop that destruction.

But with every act of violence, the opposition digs away at the high ground their position would otherwise hold.

Defend yourself, yes. But, do not incite the acts which will require such defense.

Speak. Yell. Scream. Stand in silent strength in opposition. But, do not strike out.

The violence of the Antifa lends shelter to the fascist. It creates sympathetic ears.

We hate their views, but our country gives them the right to hold their views as steadfastly as it gives us the right to hold our own.

Oppose them vehemently. But oppose them with the strength that can only come from peace.

Communicate. Congregate.  Educate.

Companies Turn Their Backs On Tump. It’s more important than you might think.

Morality or Practicality, either way, CEOs walked

Market forces compel businesses like Merck, Under Armour, Intel, and others to make practical decisions.

The CEOs of these companies walked away from Trump’s Manufacturing Council. Then his entire Strategic and Policy Forum voted to fold the group (shortly after, Trump “fired” them). Many stated that they cannot abide with Trump’s tacit support of Nazi’s and the KKK; they walked on moral grounds.

Whether moral grounds, of fear of market forces, this move by leaders in major companies is important.

Companies didn’t Turn their back on The Nazis

In the early 1920s and 1930s (and into the mid-1940s), the rise of the Nazi party, and later the 3rd Reich, was significantly aided by the participation of companies.

At the time, the companies had leaders that were active with the Nazi party, like Hugo Boss (which made uniforms for Nazis).

There were companies that simply looked to profit, like Coca-Cola which started a new drink brand called Fanta explicitly for the German market(they couldn’t ship the ingredients for Coke to Germany, so they had to create a new drink).

Then there were companies that actively participated in the Holocaust, like the precursor of Bayer ( IG Farben) that made the gas used to kill Jews and others; they worked side by side with Josef Mengele.

These are not the only companies that sought profit and ideological alignment with the Nazis. Unfortunately, the list is not short. You can get an idea of some others on the list here :

From local sh*t talker to National movement

For those who argue that the people we see today are “just talking sh*t” and that companies would not get behind them, think again.

Hitler was one of these “sh*t talkers” in the 1920s. He espoused the very same ideas that people are shouting on our streets today. The purity of the nation (meaning whites only) is their mantra. Read what Hitler pushed for and spoke about, and what the Alt-right (Nazis & the KKK among them), are pushing for now. It is literally the same.

In the 1920s, Hitler was nothing but a mouth. By 1933, he was leading Germany with a platform of anti-Semitism and racism. By the 1940s, he was gassing millions of Jews.

Corporations and the direction of a nation

Companies in Germany stayed with Hitler. Supported him. Financed him. Aided and abetted him.

Without the power and finance of corporations in Germany, Hitler would not have turned the world upside down.

This is why it is important that large and small companies turn their backs on Donald Trump’s acceptance of Alt-Right, fascist, racist, KKK, Nazis and others of their ilk.

Companies are neither inherently evil nor good. They are financial tools.

How the CEOs of companies allow these tools to be used is important in determining the future of our country, and (as we saw with Germany) the world.

We must support companies that oppose extreme nationalist, and hold to account those that do not.

Illinois Politicians Are Only Playing At Balancing The Budget

The state of Illinois has not had a budget for over 2 years. Our biggest issue, pensions, is not being addressed.  Here is a quick recap of the high-level numbers, sticking points and, falsehood.

Rauner’s proposed budget is $37B

Democrats budget is $36.5B

We’re on track to spend $39B

Democrats want a tax increase from 3.75% to 4.95%

Rauner wants property tax freeze

Dems offer a 4 year freeze.

Madigan wants exemptions for Chicago Public Schools and municipal pensions.

Rauner says he’ll veto the bill because of the income tax hike. His budget is even higher than the proposed. So, how was he planning on paying for it? (Trickle down?)

We haven’t cut any spending to speak of. We’ve not addressed pension reform or unpaid liabilities.

So, while the politicians are giving themselves a pat on the back for staying in Springfield this past weekend, doing what they should have done 2 years ago, don’t be fooled.

They have not trimmed any spending.

They have not dealt with the biggest cause of our issue: Unfunded pensions / pension reform

They don’t have an answer for the $15B in unpaid bills.

Unfunded state pension: $130B

290%+ of revenue

$14k/ capita

Other states are $1 -$4K per capita (Connecticut is the exception)

We have $15B in unpaid bills with a 12% interest.

They want to borrow money to pay the backlog. Reduce the fee to 6%. But, this is not in the budget. To get a loan at that rate would require a dedicated income stream as part of the loan agreement… ie more taxes.

Our per-capita revenue and spending are not out of line with bordering states. It is the mismanagement of the spending that is the cause of our problems.