Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey, Feds: solve our problems!

I am more and more disappointed in our federal governmental situation, but only partly because federal politicians seem to think they need to avoid every crisis and solve every problem in society: I see more and more evidence like this "Presidential Challenge" that shows how many people really believe our national government could and should impose it's will to try and fix every injustice. (Disclaimer: the one about bin-Laden really is a valid project.)

All I can do is sigh.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Two news items today showing why the state is not to be trusted:
I never understand why people feel it helps to pass bills with extra safeguards or to set up regulations "the right" way; with the national state as large and unwieldy as it is, there's no way to ensure that things will be done even as promised in writing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Senator Bennett on health care (and the money crisis)

Attended an early-morning health-care speech with Senator Bennett.

First mentioned the money crisis (at someone's request):

  • story about Cannon-Grant and their struggle to get money to avoid bank crash in 1893 money crisis
  • Andrew Jackson destroyed Hamilton's national bank, resulting in a bunch of money panics (eg. 1893), so the Federal Reserve restored our national bank
  • He is in the banking committee; calls to his office were 493 to 1 against the bailout; the 1 call was a car dealer who wouldn't be able to make payroll.

Then talked about a federal bill to address health care:

  • Ron Wyden asked Bennett to co-sponsor Healthy Americans Act (AKA the Noah's Ark bill); core of agreement is that Republicans must give up bias against universal health care ("every American insured"), and Democrats will allow markets to run the system
  • tax code affects this somehow... dictates something about 16(?) % of GDP...
  • person putting up money is different from payer
  • changes tax laws so that payer controls spending: employee can change HMO
  • government will subsidize up to 400% of poverty
  • every individual must have coverage (he says we already do with mandatory emergency service)
  • employer gives money to employee tax-free
  • feds must create a minimum standard of insurance for people to meet; cannot be proscriptive because it won't improve with time (and everyone will want in); plan must be actuarial equivalent to average federal employee plan
  • won't address medicare yet
  • HMO, fee-for-service, concierge plan, whatever; just cannot provide less service than federal plan
  • very poor may benefit since those who help them navigate the bureaucracy could get paid
  • best health care: Seattle, Rochester, SLC
  • greatest cost control factor is quality
  • story: daughter graduated, went to work idealistically at nursing home, called him complaining about medicare manager
  • story: doctor would proscribe wrong procedure so that they could pay for right one
  • story: Michael Leavitt & wife needed colonoscopy; hospital couldn't tell costs until after breakdown; got price easily (at half the cost) in Utah
  • prediction: next president will be a senator (and will know the cloture rule)
  • will give the money to medicaid recipients
  • by CBO, will be revenue neutral for first 2 years and save money after that; other say it'll save 1 trillion in 10 years

This talk was very informative, and I got a sense Senator Bennett is one of those politicians with integrity (though I won't make a final judgement based on one talk :- ).

My own comments:
  • It was interesting to hear about the constant money crises without a national bank. I'll have to see if that's true; it seems to be worse WITH a central bank and national management! Anyway, at least it looks like Senator Bennett has tried to understand the history of the system, and really thinks there is a crisis where government intervention is necessary for our security (rather than totally a knee-jerk reaction to Bernanke et al).
  • He talked about Heber J. Grant's efforts to get money to ensure their bank would not fail, but he seems to miss the fact that his exemplar made things work without even asking for government assistance. He worked hard and almost failed, but succeeded at the last minute with his own creativity and persistence, which is what should be happening. Some will win; many will lose.
  • I still don't like the idea of forcing every American to have health insurance, even if we currently struggle under some emergency laws. It's more government encroachment: suddenly, everyone will be forced to pay a certain amount to the government; nobody will be free to choose where to put their money and how much risk and responsibility to take over their own lives. It's best to roll back some of our current, overly protective laws.

Unfortunately, the way this is presented and the way they're planning, I'm willing to bet that this initiative (or something with a similar universal mandate) will pass. This is the age of government absolutism! It can leap over crises with a single bound! Speak loudly enough and I'm sure it'll be able to fix your problems, too (... for a small fee for everyone else... at least until the next administration...).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Keyhole Gardens

Keyhole gardens are viable gardens for Africa that take up about as little space as you can imagine. (I've got to spend some more time at Send a Cow because it looks like they have a good number of interesting ideas.)

Innovations inspired by third-world needs

Most of the Pop!Tech talks are very good, but I just heard the one about good designs for solutions to poverty by Paul Polack that spoke directly to me; it's funny, because he started speaking slowly, with long pauses, so I felt this would be boring... but I ended up being electrified.

Here are some of his slides:

Finding Simple Solutions to Big Problems
  • Go to where the action is.
  • Talk to the people who have the problem - listen to what they have to say.
  • Learn everything there is to know about the specific context.
The "Don't Bother" Trilogy
  • If you haven't had conversations with at least 25 poor people before you start...
  • If it won't pay for itself in the first year...
  • If you can't sell at least a million of them...
... Don't Bother!

Three Key Features of the Design Revolution "that's needed"
  • Affordability
  • Divisibility
  • ("infinite") Expandability
Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths
  • We can donate people out of poverty (donations are important in emergencies, but people must lift themselves out)
  • We can end poverty through national economic growth (despite what some economists say)
  • Multinationals as they are now will end poverty
Although these lists are interesting, they're just reminders about his high points; you really should listen to hear some of his anecdotes and connections in the modern world. At 2:20 before the end, he explains a very cool product that takes a battery, a pinch of salt, and a thimbleful of water to sterilize a liter of water in 90 seconds. Awesome. Plus he's got a business model to spread it. Then he leaves me on the edge of my seat by mentioning a $15 information device.

BTW, I also enjoyed his website: For example, read his "Ant Arithmetic" on the "Revolutionary Designs" page. This is someone generating good work and fascinating ideas!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Let's act honorably!

Another editorial for you. Actually, this is for us all, including my children someday.

There are troubled times ahead. We're starting a period of economic hardship for almost everyone, and I'm convinced that there will also be massive amounts of political force brought to bear on every aspect of our lives.

What are we going to do as this happens? Since many will lose their livelihoods and some of our physical infrastructure will be affected, people are bound to go hungry; as a result, many will lose their tempers and abandon all sense of morality. We've seen this happen in certain neighborhoods at times of destruction, where lawlessness reigns for a time. Hopefully everyone I know would not stoop to that level.

But even if it doesn't get that bad, I hope we will all act honorably even when things get difficult. If the majority of us act selfishly (in the short-sighted sense of the word), then we will reap anarchy and/or vicious totalitarianism, with repercussions for decades. There is more hope if we don't push others unreasonably, trying to get everything we can; if we give as much as we can to help others around us; and if we demonstrate generosity and kindness in the face of indulgence and anger. This is how a good people would act, and this is the way we maximize our peace and liberty, both for ourselves and for our children.

And this is especially true if you, like me, want to radically change the way our government works; I believe our best happiness and prosperity depend on massively reducing the national government's encroachment into every aspect of our lives. If we were to succeed in any part of what we're attempting, it will cause hardship as society has to adapt to the realities of free, voluntary association and non-interference. We will have to demonstrate patience, generosity, and strength of character in order to keep on track and show others the way to an effective society.

I love the example of my Grandpa Gould in this regard; whether finances were good or bad, he understood the needs of the people in his business, and he would do what he could to work with them while still caring for his own needs (see end of paragraph).

Can we put aside our need for security and dependability, and truly care for each other? Can we value relationships enough that our acts of kindness will overwhelm the insecurity that others around us are feeling? I guess everyone's actions will speak for themselves. Whatever happens in the world around us, this is all that truly matters.

Love is all we need.


The Lives Of Others

Of course our ever-expansive military is going to monitor our lives, and here's how it's begun. It is expected, given the expansive powers they've been granted. But it's worth mentioning, along with the names of the two people who are bringing it to light: Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk. Thank you both for following your conscience.

And yes, I recommend The Lives Of Others; it's a story that draws you in, it's well done aesthetically and emotionally, and it really makes you think about the impacts in our lives. It's only a matter of time before a department or an individual will use this power improperly. Is this still a good trade-off for our safety? (Hint from the article: "the success stories underscored for her the waste of time spent listening to innocent Americans...")

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Big Bailout Bill

Here is the Library of Congress record of the bailout bill; a search for HR 1424 actually yields 6 versions; I believe this reflects how this bill began as one thing but was then used for more purposes. The White House site announces the bill's signing here, and it has a picture of Pres. Bush signing it. (This picture has it as part of a photo essay, but it keeps moving around.) For more friendly facts and summaries of the bill, you can go to the Open Congress site or site; the latter includes line-by-line comparisons of versions of the bills.

On the sacrifices of our future for some temporary stability

No news this time, just food for thought.

Today a friend of mine mentioned a new business he'd like to start, with some online work involved. I've been talking with some relatives over the past few months about their small business, possibly to the point of getting involved in making it work. Another friend of mine has been working on his new business for a while, and he got his first online customer today.

In my lifetime, the world has shrunk at a dizzying rate and the power of the individual seems to have grown in proportion. As a technology professional and hobbyist, I've fully enjoyed our increased capacity to calculate, inform, and connect. I've also been impressed by the political thoughts and personal character of the American founding fathers. Under these influences, I've been excited as I think about what we humans can do for each other nowadays, and I've anticipated a future where the power of compulsion diminishes (particularly government power) as individuals become more informed and able to produce in a variety of ways for a variety of markets. This would be a world where there still may be some large corporations and organizations who are able to attract the attention of masses of individuals, but there are more of the small-time, local cooperatives because they have many of the same tools at their disposal. The farmer in Nigeria would have as much of a chance to be successful as a CEO in New York. (Of course, we're not close yet! But with all the interest in international development and distributed systems, I don't see any barrier to creating these infrastructures over time.)

But I will not see this kind of world in my lifetime. Whether or not it is the will of the people, those in power will keep attempting things like the Big Bailout Bill whenever they feel there is an crisis to warrant it. They may or may not be justified by the wishes of the people; either way, I feel the leadership we most need is the persuasion and effective government that allows people to build self-sufficiency and make effective contracts with one another. This is the whole idea of limited government. Instead, what we have now is a society where one effective business strategy is to grow to be a massive organization, one so big that it'll make politicians nervous if your business fails. Sure, you might have to put up with more oversight, but you can likely make enough political friends to make sure your future is secure. Today's world is all about what you can get from your politicians, with those furthest away from you having the most power over your life and opportunities.

This situation makes it more difficult to get to my future, where the large, unsustainable organizations are replaced by smaller, more agile, more viable ones. If we want the best for ourselves, we have to accept change. We have to be willing to allow people to take risks and let them fail, even if it causes difficulty; if we really want to avoid catastrophe, we need to have the freedom to evolve our businesses and accept the pain of failure, even big failure, as well as the rewards of success.

I will do all I can to help my friends succeed, despite the emergence of this brave new world.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Supreme Court is assuming unconstitutional steps to affect international relations

Roger Pilon wrote the forward to this past year's Cato Supreme Court Review. The last paragraph is a good summary (supported by the 10 preceding pages): I understand it to mean that the Court's intervention in some recent rulings mean they're taking jurisdiction over laws regarding foreigners in a way that is not authorized by the Constitution. (Furthermore, he says they are making improper rulings about wartime powers, which seems appropriate to me, but I must not understand it all. That part starts at the top of page "13", though it shows as page 7 if you read it in the PDF format from my link.)

two great graphics regarding the federal budget and bailouts