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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Drug Addiction is Great for the Economy

In Baltimore, MD, alone there are an estimated 60,000 heroin and cocaine addicts either using the white powdered type or the rock version called Crack. Minorities and urban dwellers are more likely to be addicted to the Crack version while the Caucasian and suburban dwellers are more likely to be addicted to the powder. Penalties for possessing or selling the Crack version holds prison terms that are two to ten times longer than for the powdered stuff.

A typical daily consumption costs $70- $150 per addict. That becomes $6,000,000 per day in total consumption if we use $100 per day. Let us assign half of that cost to the people who can still hold gainful employment and pay for their habits with legally obtained funds. The other $3,000,000 per day has to be raised through crime. At 10 cents on the dollar for fencing stolen goods and pawn shop loans, the amount of stolen property is $30,000,000 per day. Annualizing that number it becomes $10.95 Billion to support the habits of Baltimore's cocaine addicts. Now apply that number to the 50 largest cities in America and that's $547.5 Billion annually.

If I were a retailer selling electronic devices and other portable things like watches, rings and gold chains, I would love the trade that drug addicts create for my business. If I were a manufacturer of such things, I would likewise appreciate the market that the drugs create for me. In neither case would I have to have any connection to the production, transport, import, sale or buying of controlled substances in order to realize this benefit.

Everyone who has property stolen will replace it with and maybe without an insurance settlement. Not including any of the criminal justice cost-benefits to the economy, just the "stimulus" that drug addiction provides is highly beneficial to the economy while being wholly detrimental to the addicts.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

The Gun, The Religion and The Driver

I see the world as a set of vector arrows pointing at each other and at common places.  These are cause and effect couplets and isolated events that don't seem to have anything pointing at it to make it happen.  Some of the vectors we see and others we don't.

There are a lot of parallel arrows that point to different objects and by that parallel geometry creates a relationship between seemingly independent objects.  Such is the conditions among the firearms debate, radical religious factions and automobile accident fatalities.  Wow, what a wild and spurious connection?

Here is what I mean.  There are hundreds of millions of automobiles registered in this country, well almost two, at 196 million people.  Automobile fatalities is presently down from the 1972 high of 54, 589 deaths to the 2011 level of 32,367 deaths.  Between 1900 and 2012 there have been a recorded 3.5 million deaths from automobile accidents.  While many deaths occurred in the same collision perpetrated by the same driver that lowers the one to one ratio, for simplicity sake we will use the 1:1 ratio for further discussion.  And, yes, the 3.5 million deaths were over a period of 112 year.  Even so my point will be valid.  Somewhere less than 0.5% of drivers will cause the death of someone in their entire lifetime.  This means that 99.5% of drivers are innocent of anyone's death.  However, all states require training, testing and retesting, licensing and renewals.  And most states require sufficient automobile liability insurance on all drivers even though most will never be the cause of an accident or a claim.  Gun rights advocates just said, "I knew you were going there."

There are upwards of 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. They want to live a comfortable life, work, eat, stay warm and dry, raise a family and pray to their god.  There are some Muslims who are not satisfied with the way they are treated in this world and adopt radical ideas of how to make that change.  Some of the more radical ones adopt violence as their tool of choice.  Even if there were 1 million such violent persons who actually will ever do a massive violent act, this number is 0.0625% of the world population.  Muslims in general should not be held responsible for the actions of such a small part of their population. Someone just called me a "Muslin Apologist."  Most others are seeing my point.

In the USA the estimates of gun ownership widely vary from between 190m to 300m individual guns.  The better and more conservative estimate is that about 52 million households have about 260 million guns in them.  Even if you don't agree on those numbers the point that is being made here remains valid.

Gun deaths run around 40,000 per year.  Using a one perpetrator per dead person as the largest percentage of crimes or measures of self-defense we are talking about 40,000 perpetrators per year.  It is unlikely that perpetrators of gun deaths in the home, where most gun deaths occur, will be a repeat offender.  Yes, there will be a few but not many in the grand scheme of things.  Over ten years there will be 400,000 deaths and 400,000 perpetrators.  Running the ratios, that means that slightly more than ¾ of a percent of the gun owners will ever kill someone.

In all three of my examples it becomes acutely obvious that a very small number of people perpetrate all of the violent death and dismemberment in each example.  And that the vast majority of people on each category are innocent and guilty only by association, the associations that others assume.

Most people are not capable of distinguishing which driver of which vehicle is going to collide with them or anyone, now or ever.  But we force insurance and other regulations on them just in case.

Many Americans want to exclude Muslims from residency or entry in the US on the grounds that they cannot be trusted, even though the percentage of dangerous ones is the smallest of the three examples.  They want to hold all people in that group responsible.

The gun rights advocates want to segregate themselves into the law abiding and the lawless components in order to equate themselves with the virtuous and deny the dark side of their ideology.  To be fair, automobile drivers who do not drive intoxicated, distracted or fatigued, want to divorce themselves from the aggressive ones and those who are not fit to be behind the wheel for any reason.  And religious people of all faiths want to not be lumped together in to one group and labeled with the characteristics of the minority.

Gun rights advocates are indeed responsible for the actions of the lawless when they stand in the way of proposed solutions and do not champion solutions of their own to curtail the death and injury that their population inflicts on themselves and everyone else.


I do not know of too many people who decide for themselves what their annual income will be. There is the legendary scenario where a person is in such demand by the headhunting company executive that he gets to name his salary.  This may actually be a fact for a very few people but typically the wage or salary paid is determined by the company that is doing the hiring or is set via a collective bargaining agreement.  Whatever the method is it is not usually up to the employee to make the determination.

In order to earn a progressively better income over a period of years, the employed person must 1) have appreciating skills that permits promotions, 2) employment with a company that has a step-wise pay scale or a collective bargaining agreement, 3) be employed at a place where there are employment positions available to be promoted to, or 4) the ability to shop their availability and skills to other employers.

An example of a situation that is exemplar of #3 that is not a good situation is a public transit bus service.  The company may hire 1,000 drivers to operate buses but only maintain 10 to 15 supervisors.  Supervisor would be the second step in promotions but the opportunities are highly limited when there are potentially 1,000 in-house candidates with which to compete.  While not all drivers are or will ever be suitable to be a Supervisor, promotion prospect are very scarce.

Most public transportation providers do not undergo rapid growth of operations where in influx Fail new talent would suddenly be required.  Therefore, the ability of an individual employee to affect his/her income growth is minimal, even when they have excellent credentials and skills.  The only need to the company is the ability to safely drive the bus and prepare all the periodic reports.  Doing everything correctly is the only measure of excellence and one can only go down from there.

Giant retailers such as Walmart, in particular, employs upwards of 220,000 people.  People work there "at the pleasure of the owner," that is there are no guarantees or protections.  A person accepts whatever pay is offered, is subject to the work hours rules, and has zero control over promotions practices.  People who go to work in such places may never be promoted or receive a pay rate increase even after many years.  This is just the model that the employer created and strives to maintain.  A person seeking more income must go elsewhere to get it.

In communities where a very large employer sets up shop there are usually few alternatives to working at that location. A person seeking better pay and conditions, advancement opportunities will have to consider relocating to obtain it. At the lower end of the income level continuum, relocation is not compensated and the feasibility is low for the employee.  In households where two people hold jobs,sometimes even with the same employer, one person choosing to relocate for better opportunities is just not an option.

These obstacles to advancement do not occur to the upper middleclass workers because they are not subject to the limiting factors as being a two income household, working in a sea of personnel who all have the same job description,or live in places with only one significant employer.

While Conservatives cry for poor people to "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," first they must have boots and then they must be allowed to do the pulling.  Such self-help activities are stacked against the low income workers who really do want to do better than they are allowed to do. Lower income workers might make disproportionately longer trips-to-work and spend significantly more of their time getting from one place to another.

Consider this morning ritual.  Mom gets the three children ready in the morning before going to her 8-hour per day job.  The youngest must be dropped off at daycare.  The middle child must be dropped at Pre-school and the oldest at her Elementary school.  Then Mom goes to her job.  Now consider doing all this while riding the bus.  To top it off, the bus stops on the highway adjacent to her employer and she must walk ¼ mile to the employees'entrance.  If driving a car, she could park in the lot next to the building.

When she gets that $5,000 per year pay increase she will be able to afford to buy, insure, maintain and fuel a car.

Where Was The Warning?

Hebrews believe that god gave Israel and Palestine to them and Christians believe that god gave them the rest of the world and the entire universe. The truth is we are only renters here on this planet and act like if we foul the place we can just move elsewhere in the night. When the authors of the books of the Bible set out to write down their beliefs about the origins and destiny of their species, they knew nothing of global-wide pollution, depletion of fish in the Mediterranean Sea, or the impacts of over-population on their world. The author of Genesis only declared that god gave man dominion over all living things and the land. He did not know that there were other civilizations on the move in their direction and that one day they would collide and try to out compete each other for limited resources.

About the worst thing man could do to damage the land was to order it to be sown with salt to poison it and use the lack of food as a weapon against and enemy or conquered people. There were no massive petro-chemical corporations that would make a beneficial concoction while dumping toxic waste products into the rivers and onto the land. There were no plumes of heavy particulate smoke to blanket the landscape in the wee hours of dawn and choke the people to death or damage their future generations with mutations. I don't want to get into a discourse about how much god didn't appear to tell man when he was dictating his word to the scribes. A lot of that essential information would be useful just about now as Conservative Christian factions in the US and the world declare the Bible to be literal, absolute and unalterable while also declaring that god creates all bad environmental events as collective punishment for acts that men and women are squeamish about.

Some omniscient cautions would have been helpful to guide man in the "ways of righteousness" such that he could actually be an effective steward of Creation and not its ultimate destructor. Corporate mentality is only a microcosm of the mentality of a people steeped in the notion that everything belongs to them and that they have an inexhaustible amount of resources to exploit in an inexhaustible amount of time. The trouble is that even if the scriptures are only several men's notion of the divine, they did get it right that Time itself is a resource that is not infinite. Whether it is Time itself that runs out or there is a god who says that Time is up, either way man is never promised tomorrow.

There is a crack in our hourglass and sand is leaking out as we argue over who or what is responsible for the loss of sand. The biblical notion that man will not know the hour or the date of the end is actually quite prophetic even if you are an atheist, or believer in another dogma. Geologic, environmental, solar, galactic and cosmological events have a way of sneaking up on us even as we divert attentions to the trivial pastimes of professional sports, TV reality shows, political campaigns, culture clashes and war. Whole cities such as Pompeii can disappear from the surface of the earth for 17 centuries while emperors and kings play chess with the lives of other cities and towns in their domains. We neglect the doom that is spelled by fossil fuel burning even as the Russian Bear grabs a natural gas transit nation in a revanchist move to reunify its former territory.

Much of the nature of current events, faith conflicts, and socioeconomic discord masks the truly "end-times" scenarios that we have set in motion with carbon loading of the air and sea, poisoning of our food crops, and our relentless pursuits of personal longevity and family propagation. No deity has warned us against those things.