Saturday, April 18, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Maybe this would work...

With all the bullshit in the news these last few days, I figure I'll toss out my own views on what's going on...

Mexican drug cartels
First off, that 90%-of-the-weapons thing is utter, total bullshit -- and proven to be such. From my perspective, the problem with the Mexican drug lords is two-part: the corruption within the Mexican government and law enforcement, and the demand by (mostly) U.S. consumers. Personally, I think the "War on Drugs" is bullshit -- if we're going to have a "war" on drugs, then by-god wage war: shoot down the aircraft, sink the boats and submarines(!), or otherwise just directly and immediately terminate the smugglers. I also think we should dramatically graduate punishment for users: for a first offence, clean them up and put them on probation for some period of time; for a second offence, add some jail time (and public service, like cleaning up the sides of highways or empty lots, shoveling walks in winter, etc). A third offence earns longer (and more restrictive) prison time. If the government hasn't got the stomach for that, then legalise the shit and be done with it; the current half-assed "war" is only making the cartels richer.

Much of the current economic mess, I think, is because the Government defaulted on its (self-assumed) power to regulate. Well, if the various agencies weren't ready, able, or willing to "take care of business" (no pun intended) before, then they've got no justification for sticking their oafish thumbs in it now. Sure, enact the laws and rules and regulations, if they think that's necessary -- but don't bail out the greedy, lying dumbasses that got themselves into trouble. Someone is going to lose the house they lied about being able to afford? Tough shit. The bank that made the loan without checking the borrowers claims is going to go under? Too fucking bad. The banks stockholders are going to lose their money if the bank goes tits-up? Well, gee, if it's going hurt them THAT bad, then maybe they should have been paying more attention to what was going on.

Jesus jumping Roosevelt Christ, why is this even an issue in this day and time? The U.S. and a number of other countries have special-forces military units (the U.S. has Navy SEALs, Marine Force Recon, and others; Germany's GSG-9, Britains SAS, are among the others) that are MORE than capable of dealing with individual pirated ships, and eager to do so. Point them in the right direction and turn 'em loose. I'll bet that it wouldn't take many instances of pirated ships being recovered that way for the pirates to decide to go into another line of work. It would seem pretty obvious that paying the ransom only guarantees that the problem will continue.

Crime and Punishment
Something that crops up every so often is the number of people that the U.S. has in its jails and prisons. Here's a thought: if a person demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to follow society's rules, then completely remove them from society. This isn't my idea; it's something that I've read in some of Robert Heinlein's books -- the concept of being sent to "Coventry", where society's rules don't apply. If the criminal can't/won't accept the rules of living in a civilized society, then there's no reason for them to enjoy the benefits they get from the productive members of that society. In other words, if someone can't "play nice", then isolate them (NO outside supplies of food/water/whatever) with the other people like them -- root hog, or die. This would be a "Three Strikes and you're REALLY out" solution.

One of the truisms of the legal system is that "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse" -- but what the hell are we supposed to do when that "law" is Title 26 of the U.S. Code (a.k.a. the Internal Revenue Code -- all 26 1/2 Megabytes [9,067 PAGES, when I loaded it into OpenOffice] downloadable HERE)? How, in god's name, is a mere mortal supposed to keep all of that straight in their head? Here's an example of just how intelligible the Tax Code is: the IRS specifically states that any information or advice from its employees is not to be taken as final and absolute. Got that? Even the IRS says that the tax code is too much for its own staff to comment on in any authoritative manner. Here's a thought: how about if we simplify the tax code down to something that would resemble, say, a DMV Driver's Manual? And set the collection system up in such a way that all the taxes are collected during the year, so that there isn't an "April 15th" any more? All kinds of proposals have been made before ( a flat tax, a national sales tax, and Value Added Tax, among others) -- and all shut down by various permutations of special-interest groups. I would respectfully submit that it's well past time to quit farting around and actually DO it.

Social(ist) (in)Security
This one is the fabled "third rail" of American politics. It may have been an acceptable idea back when it was implemented, but thanks to all the political finger-fucking it has been subjected to, it's time we gave up on this one. Sure, I can hear older folks screaming even as I type this: "But I paid into it, and I want my money!" Fine. How about if we just phase the damn thing out, then, over (say) 20 years? Everybody that retires on or before the deadline gets 100% benefits. Then for each year after that, retirees get 5% less: retire the second year, you get 90%; the third year, you get 85%, fourth year 80%, and so on. Also, people would pay the same percentage as they would receive: if you're going to get 100% benefits, then you pay 100% of the tax; if your retirement age is going to be after SSI terminates, so that you wouldn't get any benefits, then you don't PAY anything, either. That would give folks up to 20 years to establish (and maintain) a tax-free retirement account to cover themselves for their old age (using the money the government WOULD have taken, even) -- however much they put into it is exempt from any taxes until such time as they take the money out.

North Korea
Again, this one seems pretty obvious to me: if Kim Jong-Il can't/won't play nice in the world arena, then quit playing with him. Every "agreement" we've made with him has turned into so much toilet paper when it suited him. So why do we keep fucking around with this asshole? China is the only country that really supports him (and then only because they're afraid of all those North Koreans crossing their border if his regime went tits-up). I would suggest that if ol' Kim Jong won't honor his deals, then it's time to quit dealing WITH him. Don't give the crazy little fucker anything. No aid of ANY kind (yes, that'll hurt the civilian populace -- but any more than he's doing to them?). No trade of any kind. Simply refuse to have any talks, negotiations, or anything else until and unless he demonstrates a willingness to behave himself. China doesn't like it? Tough shit -- they need to lean on the goofy little fuck harder. South Korea doesn't like it? So? I've been there, and they're pissing away a LOT of their resources even now, watching that dizzy little shit. The U.S. is arguably the most powerful country in the world -- why in the hell are we falling all over ourselves worrying about little piss-ants like him? He might have A nuke? Big fucking deal -- we've got them, too, though we could run his ass over like a steamroller without them.

Executive Compensation
The U.S. government has absolutely NO business dictating how much money a civilian corporation pays its people. That said, it baffles the shit out of me why stockholders aren't demanding the most basic and simple thing imaginable: basing compensation on results, not promises or expectations. Start a CEO at some base salary, then make future compensation dependent on performance and cumulative results. Hold the bastages accountable for their decisions: if the stock value goes in the toilet, so does the salary; if the stock doubles, then so does the salary -- but put some delay in the process so that the results of decisions have time to take FULL effect. It seems pretty obvious that a decision that increases the value of a company for one year, then makes it all but worthless five years down the road, isn't so good; set the compensation plan up so that the execs pay the same (proportional) penalty as the stockholders for their shitty ideas. I'd bet cash money that if those AIG (and other) assholes had as much risk of going bankrupt as their employers, they'd have been a hell of a lot more careful about their decisions. Here's a thought: write the employment contract in such a way that some (BIG!) percentage of their salary goes into a holding account that can only be paid out some number (5?) of years later. That should encourage execs to start making good long-term decisions, instead of maximizing profits for the short-term.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009