Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Self-inflicted trolling: 300 million Americans don't have iPhone insurance


Title Corrected

Oops. I meant to say, many Americans still don't have health insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report that states, 50 million Americans don't have health insurance. This group released a new report and now the print, digital, and TV news media have to run with this story. That is the headline, "50 million Americans don't have health insurance". If you said, "90% of iPhone users don't have iPhone protection insurance", you will probably think, who cares? But with 50 million without health care, we are supposed to get mad at our government. Get those people health insurance.

Wait a minute, shouldn't we at least ask the question, does everyone need health insurance? Do the 50 million without health insurance need health insurance? For Americans to experience a higher quality of life, I hope that most Americans have access to some kind of medical services. I just don't know if health care insurance is the silver bullet to a existence free of worry. And it is really interesting how the media presents the report, they will only focus on that one liner. Health insurance, health insurance. You won't hear, "five hundred thousand people died of heart disease" or "220,000 cases of lung cancer are expected in 2010". The focus in the media on the health care debate is not on health care but health care insurance. It is never, heart disease, cancer, advances in medical technology, or anything actually related to the cost of medical procedures. In most cases the anger from the people is in the form of, "There are too many uninsured", it is never, "There is too much cancer out there. Do something about the cancer and the heart disease". I would even suggest a debate on the procedures that are being offered, are they needed? So now, we expect our elected leaders to further exacerbate the problem by somehow getting more involved. Like I said before, people will expect the federal government to do something about getting those uninsured more insurance. From the standpoint of the health insurance companies, they can't possibly lose. With the current bad economy, small and medium sized businesses are dropping their employees from their insurance plans because they can't afford to cover them. So the insurance companies may lose those customers in the short term. But that is OK for the insurers, the media will just send out a press release detailing the ever growing lack of insurance problem. And the government will respond in kind by making sure that the uninsured get insurance from the health insurance companies. It is a textbook case of a boondoggle.

What if I DON'T want health insurance?

Ideally health insurers should offer health care plans based on the number of customers in a particular group or on a particular plan. Let the insurance models dictate the market rates in an unencumbered system. If federal government forces are involved in determining which customers can be dropped from insurance plans and ensuring that all Americans are covered by some health insurance, then the health insurance companies are guaranteed a large number of potential customers. In some cases, government is telling insurers who to cover and even taxing particular procedures. With the recent health care bill, some stipulations include a 10% tax on ultra violet tanning bed services and dependents must be covered up to age 26.

The actual health care service providers are guaranteed a check from the federal government or the large health care insurance companies. At the very least, the insurance plans won't offer competitive rates because there is no real competition. They are not competing for your money. Ideally, the health care debate should be about health care and not the insurance. Not only do people not pay for most health care out of their own pockets. They don't even pay for health insurance. You get a job, hopefully you will get a job with a large number of employees like Boeing or GE and you opt into their group plans.

Plastic surgery, laser eye surgery, cosmetic dental care (braces) prices have remained steady while other medical procedures have increased dramatically. Why? Most people will pay for these types of services out of pocket and not through an insurer. The market forces influence the rates for these services. You don't have as much fraud, waste, and abuse where the plastic surgery professionals have to compete for your money because the consumer is cautious about the type of services they are paying for directly.

My Opinion

I would really like to see a health care system that is driven by the market, like most of the non-health related services we pay for. The government shouldn't tax money given to us by our employees that may be used for health services. We shouldn't give employers tax incentives to keep large number of employees on our health insurance plans. The federal government just shouldn't be involved in the business of providing health care insurance plans.

References

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/27/uninsured-americans-50-million_n_801695.html

[2] http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba437

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Standard Developer Toolkit - 2010 version


I don't know if it is because I am getting older but I am starting to record my thoughts online or digitally so that I can easily go back to that record. I do this by posting blog posts on blogspot and through other subversion code repositories.

One task that I have long neglected is creating a list of common developer tools. The toolkit suite contains a list of common software applications that a developer of any language or environment would need. Most of the software is open source of freely available. Obviously, different developers want or need different tools. Here is the list of packages that are essential for what I need. Yes, the list is bias with a emphasis on Java development. I marked the critical applications in bold. I would typically install of all of these tools on one machine over a long time period. Some of the tools seem similar in nature, for example, I do install Netbeans and Eclipse on the same machine. I may swap between the IDEs if there are tools built for one platform not available in the other environment.

Operating Systems:
- Use both WindowsXP/Windows7.
- Cygwin
- Use VMWare and an Ubuntu 9+ Image (only VMWare player is needed for win32)
- VMWare Fusion if you use Mac
- Ubuntu 10+ on a standalone machine (AMD64bit or Intel machine)

Programming Languages and Environments:

- Java (Java JDK from Oracle on Win32, possibly OpenJDK on Windows)
- Scala (JVM language for Java)
- Clojure (JVM language for Java)
- Python (install on both win32 and Linux)
- Perl (for some scripting)
- Haskell

Developer IDE Tools:

- Eclipse (you can easily install/setup multiple versions of Eclipse)
- Eclipse CDT for any C++ Development
- Eclipse PyDev for Python development
- IntelliJ IDEA (Great for Scala development, rapid Java development)
- Netbeans
- Emacs

Misc Developer Tools:

- Subversion client
- Git client
- Mercurial client (optional)
- Maven (for Java development)
- Ant (for Java development)

Text Editors:

- Vim (install on Cygwin if using Win32)
- Emacs (I prefer Emacs over XEmacs and use the Emacs win32 version)
- TextPad
- Notepad++ (notepad++ is open, textpad isn't, I like both)
Word Processing:

- Open Office
- Microsoft Office (I prefer older versions of the Microsoft Office suite. If you have the money, I would consider purchasing the software).

Web Browsers:

- Mozilla Firefox
- Install Firefox Firebug plugin
- Install Firefox Tamper data plugin
- Google Chrome

Network Tools:

- WinSCP (Win32)
- FileZilla (Win32)
- XChat (or XChat2)
- VMWare Player

Graphic Tools:

- Gimp

Misc Tools:

- 7zip
- WinMerge (open merging software, very useful)
- R (google R statistics application). Useful for charting data

Cygwin Installs

- Install Cygwin
- Download or make sure that these are installed: vim, find, grep, wget, gcc, g++, gtk libs, openssl libs, gnuplot

Eclipse Plugins for Java Development

- Subclipse
- Maven Plugin (m2eclipse)

Java Frameworks

- Spring Framework, Google's GWT, Apache Wicket, Hibernate, iBatis ORM, Lucene, AspectJ, ASM, Antlr

Practical AI: Hello World Bitworm Example with Numenta's Nupic (HTM for the masses)



Overview

Jeff Hawkins of Numenta and previously the creator of Palm Inc has shifted his focus from mobile computing to developing a sophisticated AI system. He has always been passionate about artificial intelligence. Jeff knew early on that the trends in AI research weren't very promising. He had concentrated his AI interest in human biology and neuroscience. Numenta has patented HTM (Hierarchical Temporal Memory) technology. According to Jeff Hawkins, you cannot mimic brain functions without including a hierarchical system of memory. The lower level has more input/output nodes than the level above it. According to Jeff, you must also take into account "temporal" memory. For example, the human brain has many parts of the brain that handle visual information. The brain may be able to detect a particular object but also factor in the time that the visual event occurred. If you are at the zoo, your brain predicts that you will see animals and animals in cages at the zoo. It is rare that you see a plane take off or land in the middle of your zoo visit. You would have had previous memories or seen pictures of the zoo in the past and parts of your brain activate other things associated the zoo. The context in time is a visit to the zoo. The memory of a zoo visit is probably in a different area of the brain than a trip to an airport. In the case of an airport, you expect to see planes landing and taking off. -- Repost from my previous blog entry.

Jeff's vision of HTM is implemented though Numenta's Nupic. Nupic is a HTM Python library and software suite that includes simple speech recognition demos, computer vision demos(picture object recognition), and other Nupic examples. Normally, you would have to pay hundreds for pattern recognition software of this quality. But all of these examples are functional and demonstrate the power of the HTM Nupic approach.

Bitworm Hello World Example

The Bitworm example provided with Nupic is a Hello World Example. But it is probably the most complex and thorough Hello World I have seen. It covers the basics but it also usable as a library or simple Nupic API. In the case of the Bitworm example, the goal is to track the movement of a bitworm through it's movement in 2D space and time. Think of the bitworm example in three dimensions. Dimension 1 is on the Y axis and is the height. In this case, the height is one. Dimension 2 is on the X axis. The X axis contains the length of the bitworm and movement along the X axis. And the third dimension is time. There are 20 time sequences trained for the bitworm examples. (OK, in reality you could think of the example in 2 dimensional space. The X and T axis are relevant).


There is one bitworm represented in the screen shot above. There are two bitworm lines from the top to the bottom of the screen. Line one is a representation of ONE bitworm and its position. In line two, the bitworm has moved in the X direction. Line two is a representation of the bitworm at TIME sequence two. There is ONE bitworm and 20 time sequences of that bitworm movement. The goal of the bitworm example is to train that movement and then predict the bitworm type based on a test set of bit worm examples.

I wrote a python example TK graphic program to render the bitworm's movement. The TK example is not provided with Nupic. The string of bits are created by the bitworm example, here is a representation of the training data set:

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 [---- bitworm zero and time sequence 0
0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 [---- bitworm zero and time sequence 1
0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 [---- bitworm zero and time sequence 2
0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
...

There are 420 lines of these bitworm bit vectors in the text file. Each line in the training set and the test set are representation bitworms.


The bitworm example is located at NUPIC_HOME\share\projects\bitworm

Summary to understand the bitworm example:
1. The bitworm python example does the following:
1a. The bitworm example creates the training data (File: training_data.txt)
1b. The bitworm python example creates the test data (File: test_data.txt)
1c. The bitworm example creates the bitworm categories (needed during the training process)
1d. The application trains the training test after the test and training data is created.
1e. The application validates that Nupic can learn the training data by verifying against the test data.

Think of training as training the Nupic AI software and test data as the way to check that the training worked.

2. training_data.txt and test_data.txt is a simple text file
2. Each line in the training_data.txt and test_data.txt database file consists of a bitworm (16 bits in the bitworm vector)
3. Each column or bit in the training and test file is a bit in the bitworm. There are 16 bits in the bitworm example.
4. Each line in the training and test data file is a bitworm and a representation of that bitworm at a particular time sequence.
5. There are twenty time sequences in a GROUP training set. Basically, line 1 of the training file represents a bitworm at time sequence 0. Line 2 of the training file represents a bitworm at time sequence 1, etc. At line twenty, that is the end of a time sequence group. At line twenty 22, a new bitworm example starts.
6. There are twenty EXAMPLE BITWORM time sequences.
7. There are 420 lines in the training and test data file, each line is bitworm at a particular moment in time.
9. There are zero bitworm vectors that delimit a time sequence

If you look at the file training_data.txt:

One bitworm is 16 bits:

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 [---- bitworm zero and time sequence 0
Here is a formula to determine why there are 420 lines in the training and test file:

(1 bitworm * 20 time sequences) + (20 groups of time sequences)
+ (ZERO bitworm delimiter line * 20) = 420 lines in the file.

Example snippets from the Python Bitworm Example:

def generateBitwormData(additiveNoiseTraining = 0.0,
bitFlipProbabilityTraining = 0.0,
additiveNoiseTesting = 0.0,
bitFlipProbabilityTesting = 0.0,
numSequencesPerBitwormType = 10,
sequenceLength = 20,
inputSize = 16,
trainingMinLength = 9,
trainingMaxLength = 12,
testMinLength = 5,
testMaxLength = 8):

# Generate training data with worms of lengths between 5 and 8
trainingData = BitwormData()
trainingData['prefix'] = 'training_'
trainingData['minLength'] = trainingMinLength
trainingData['maxLength'] = trainingMaxLength
trainingData['sequenceLength'] = sequenceLength
trainingData['inputSize'] = inputSize
trainingData['numSequencesPerBitwormType'] = numSequencesPerBitwormType
trainingData['additiveNoise'] = additiveNoiseTraining
trainingData['bitFlipProability'] = bitFlipProbabilityTraining
trainingData.createData()

Train and verify the bitworm example:

# Train the network
# TrainBasicNetwork: This function trains a basic network with the given data and category files and returns the trained network
bitNet = TrainBasicNetwork(bitNet,
dataFiles = [trainingFile],
categoryFiles = [trainingCategories])
print "Bit Net (TrainBasicNetwork-1): ", bitNet

# RunBasicNetwork: Runs the network using the given data files. The output of the classifier
# node for each input pattern is stored in resultsFile.
accuracy = RunBasicNetwork(bitNet,
dataFiles = [trainingFile],
categoryFiles = [trainingCategories],
resultsFile = trainingResults)
print "Bit Net (RunBasicNetwork-2): ", bitNet
print "Training set accuracy with HTM[a] = ", accuracy * 100.0

# RunBasicNetwork: Runs the network using the given data files. The output of the classifier
# node for each input pattern is stored in resultsFile.
# Run inference on test set to check generalization
accuracy2 = RunBasicNetwork(bitNet,
dataFiles = [testFile],
categoryFiles = [testCategories],
resultsFile = testResults)
print "Bit Net (RunBasicNetwork-3): ", bitNet
print "Test set accuracy with HTM[b] = ", accuracy2 * 100.0


Modifications to the Bitworm example and moving forward:

The bitworm example is a common type of example in the AI and pattern recognition world. You are given a bit sequence. Train the bit sequence and attempt to test the sequence against other sequences that have a similar structure. In the case of the bitworm example, a bit vector of 16 bits is trained. You could modify the example to train a 16x16=256 bit vector image.

Resources:

[1]. http://www.numenta.com/

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Practical AI: Machine Learning and Data Mining with Weka and Java



Practical AI: Machine Learning and Data Mining with Weka and Java

Most people tend to think of Artificial Intelligence with depictions of autonomous bipedal robots speaking and greeting humans in a monotone voice. The computer science field of Artificial Intelligence is far from that science fiction world that we see portrayed in the movies. The most prominent past AI research seems more like it would fit under a branch of mathematics and not computer science. AI research sub-fields include machine learning, data mining, computer vision, string match and indexing, search algorithms and neural networks. There is a new focus on not just faster search algorithms and pattern recognition, but building a relationship between computer science, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, biology. AI is branching out beyond the algorithms and merging with those other general science and medical fields. Marvin Minsky, a prominent researcher in the AI field, called some of the previous interests like Neural Network, technology fads. Marvin Minsky's most recent book, the Emotion Machine describes some of human's behavior with a simple set of rules. The book is a useful guide for computer scientists that want to model that behavior. Jeff Hawkins of Numenta and previously the creator Palm Inc has shifted his focus from mobile computing to developing a sophisticated AI system. Numenta has patented HTM (Hierarchical Temporal Memory) technology. According to Jeff Hawkins, you cannot mimic brain functions without including a hierarchical system of memory. The lower level has more input/output nodes than the level above it. According to Jeff, you must also take into account "temporal" memory. For example, the human brain has many parts of the brain that handle visual information. The brain may be able to detect a particular object but also factor in the time that the visual event occurred. If you are at the zoo, your brain predicts that you will see animals and animals in cages at the zoo. It is rare that you see a plane take off or land in the middle of your zoo visit. You would have had previous memories or seen pictures of the zoo in the past and parts of your brain activate other things associated the zoo. The context in time is a visit to the zoo. The memory of a zoo visit is probably in a different area of the brain than a trip to an airport. In the case of an airport, you expect to see planes landing and taking off.

Basic Data Mining With Weka

In my post, I present a practical Hello World using WEKA. WEKA (Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis) is a suite of machine learning tools and libraries that can be used to mine data.

What is data mining and how could you use data mining techniques? Many enterprise companies are connected to large databases. These databases contain millions of records. Data mining and machine learning techniques are used to find patterns within that massive trove of data. These techniques can also used to filter out noise. Popular email filter software utilizes data mining to remove or categorize spam email.

Hello World Weka for Java Web Server Log Files

I have dozens of Apache web server log files. I wanted to find groups or clusters between some of the log files and the time that a user requested a page on my site. I used WEKA to find clusters and categorize various groups of relevant data.

12_15_10_10_14_03 [HASERR N] log.fileName1[]:Wed 22:14:03 EST 2010 [SIZE 144]
12_15_10_10_14_03 [HASERR N] log.fileName2[]:Wed 22:14:03 EST 2010 [SIZE 121]
12_15_10_10_14_03 [HASERR N] log.fileName2[]:Wed 22:14:03 EST 2010 [SIZE 156]
12_15_10_10_15_33 [HASERR N] log.fileName3[]:Wed 22:15:33 EST 2010 [SIZE 160]
12_15_10_10_15_33 [HASERR N] log.fileName3[]:Wed 22:15:33 EST 2010 [SIZE 146]
...

The timestamp with hour, minute and seconds are on the furthest column to the left. The middle column contains filename information. There are only four or five rows shown in the example. But the log files contains millions of requests. I determined the data that I want to categorize, then I converted the timestamp log file into an ARFF file format that WEKA requires. WEKA has several tools to convert generic CSV files into a ARFF format. ARFF is essentially a text database with column attributes and rows of the data that you to analyze.

Example ARFF File for Weather Data:
@relation weather
@attribute outlook {sunny, overcast, rainy}
@attribute temperature real
@attribute humidity real
@attribute windy {TRUE, FALSE}
@attribute play {yes, no}
@data
sunny,85,85,FALSE,no
sunny,80,90,TRUE,no
overcast,83,86,FALSE,yes
rainy,70,96,FALSE,yes
rainy,68,80,FALSE,yes
rainy,65,70,TRUE,no
overcast,64,65,TRUE,yes
sunny,72,95,FALSE,no
sunny,69,70,FALSE,yes
rainy,75,80,FALSE,yes
sunny,75,70,TRUE,yes
overcast,72,90,TRUE,yes
overcast,81,75,FALSE,yes
rainy,71,91,TRUE,no
Here is my arff file with web server log data. The attributes consist of the log file name and the rows contain information with a count the server wrote a line to the log file at a particular period of time.

Example arff file for server logs:
% Title: Database for application line count
@relation scan_app_data
@attribute LogXX0 real
@attribute LogXX1 real
...
@attribute LogXX36 real
@attribute LogXX37 real
@attribute LogXX38 real
@attribute LogXX39 real
@attribute timeperiod real
@attribute class { 'night_morn', 'earl_morn', 'midday', 'after', 'night', 'late_nigh' }
@data
0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,3,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,night_morn
,0,0,0,0,4,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0,1,night_morn


I used the WEKA GUI tools to visualize the patterns. I simply clicked on ./weka.jar to launch the WEKA explorer.

It was interesting to focus on the groups of requests. I could see a cluster of requests combined with errors displayed to the user. After looking at the visual tools, I could easily determine what time period had the most errors and in which log file.

I just wanted to cover some basics. WEKA is mature Java software but the developer and the researcher must do some work to determine which data to feed to WEKA. In the case of the log files, I wanted to cluster log file data, errors and the time period that these events occurred. In future test, I might change my ARFF file to include the web server execution time vs the application requested to see if there is any correlation between the two.

Resources:

http://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/ml/weka/

http://www.numenta.com/

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trolling my site again: Taxes, Democrats and more


I want to reiterate this again. I am in essence "trolling" my site. Also, when I troll, I don't normally provide facts or figures. I am just bloviating. I am diverging from my main focus of software development and entering into other realms. To me, technology is easy. Politics is infinitely "complex". In the back of my mind, I think everything is related. For example, with the legislative talk of tax cuts and stimulus and jobs, no one talks about the reinvigorating our work force. We could do that with a focus on technology and education. We could encourage math, physics and engineering programs at the high school level and push incentives to enter into technology program as opposed to "the Arts". But that is another issue that I won't address in this post.

I really want to address the tax cuts and all of that. I guess I will have to profess, I lean more Ron Paul Libertarian. The stuff makes sense. The recent tax cut issue is one of those Libertarian classic topics. And I will make two points.

Point-1. If you are rich or poor, really really rich or poor, you should be entitled to keep your own stuff. It is your stuff. Yours yours yours. The income you receive, however you got it, is yours. Yours.

If you are given a toy or a Christmas card or a car. It is your car, your toy, whatever. We shouldn't have an third party entity (the federal government) make an

Point-2. The American government is one of the richest, most powerful organizations to have ever existed. Not only can we invade another nation (in two weeks), and not even declare war, we can occupy that nation for decades. We have set up hundreds of proxy governments all over the world. The massive amount of American influence is mind boggling. So, why why why are so many Americans excited to fund more federal government. If you let tax cuts expire, raise taxes, then you hand over more money to an organization with a trillion dollar budget. You are taking a small percentage of income from millions of rich American and handing it over to a couple hundred rich politicians so that they hand it over to poor Americans. Now that I said it, it seems that directly asking rich people (like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg) to distribute their wealth to poor is a lot better way to distribute wealth than relying of the federal government to do it. Bill Gates can give a poor person hundred thousand dollars without any restrictions (and he has done this). It takes the federal government so long to do anything. Some poor aren't even poor by the time they receive their benefits (bureaucracy). Worse yet, the poor weren't poor to begin with (fraud). But But!! Reaganomics doesn't work. Supply-side, trickle-down economics does not work. It is funny to hear pundits use this language. I guess it doesn't work if you don't actually define what particular aspect of the strategy works or doesn't. I could say, "computers don't work". That doesn't make much sense but it is a valid declaration. "Computers and speech recognition software doesn't work well at understanding garbled speech". OK, that is better. I wish pundits would identify what aspect of lower taxes doesn't work. Right now, they are saying that lower taxes and supply-side economics doesn't create jobs. I don't know if any government policy outside of hiring federal workers (see the recent Census), can actually create jobs. I hope that good economic policy can encourage growth and then companies will hire new workers. It seems a little bit too simplistic to directly attribute Congress and the White House to jobs created or not created in the private sector. I would trust the GDP growth figures during one time period or another. I would trust federal revenue figures. Government policy has an impact on those numbers. Pundits are suggesting that the Bush policies, supply-side economics didn't create jobs. I looked at the GDP growth figures and the job numbers, they number are lower over time during the Bush years. At least the growth rates are lower. And during the Clinton years, there was more economic stability. But, were the economics of those times the result of White House policy or just the events of those time periods. The average GDP growth rate went down over time during the Bush years. But there was a lot of stuff happening. There was 9/11, Katrina, the Iraq/Afghan wars. I would suggest that long wars and major unplanned catastrophes contributed to a loss GDP. We can't tell if it was the cause, but it certainly was a factor. I can't say that tax cuts contributed to GDP growth loss.

I will be honest, I don't care as much as some should, what our government does or does not do. I don't receive unemployment. I don't have kids in the public education system. I don't have close family in the military. I am more a silent observer. To me (I am sitting here up high), I don't understand the premise behind the peons (the poor and middle-class) wanting to take money from the rich peons (the 250k+ households) and giving it to...the federal government (the trillion dollar organization).

I know, I know. If you take money from the greedy rich, then the government will give that money directly to the poor. And the poor will then be rich too. Not only has that never happened. It couldn't possibly happen. The entire premise of wealth distribution is impossible with how the system works. This is not the 1700s. We are not under the rule of some oligarchy. It is 2010. There are 300+ million Americans, some of them have fixed incomes. They work at hourly rates and in salaried positions. If you really wanted to fix a problem. I would start with Wal-mart and McDonald's. They employ 2 million Americans. You could look at retail and fast food chains as well. A lot of Americans work in low-paying jobs. The problem are these corporations that use American slave labor to fund their operations. But they are operating within the law.

We need to tell people NOT to take these low paying jobs. It is such a cost ineffective decision. Once you work at these places, that is less time that you could spend to further your education and building your real value. Your brain is a valuable, valuable commodity. You are not leveraging your resources by doing jobs that machines can do. And what have they done, Wal-mart and the retail companies have introduced machines to do the work that normally people would do. The self check-out is a good example. As opposed to paying someone five or six dollars to manage a register, they added a camera system, an easy to use bar-code scanner and there you go, jobs are replaced. And like most major corporations, they don't slim down their work force with the added productivity from the robots. No, the corporations normally just put humans on jobs that a machine can't do. The Wal-mart greeter that says "hello" when you enter the store is a good example. Seriously, Wal-mart uses productivity gains to make more money not to become a smaller organization. If you notice, the people that work at Target and Wal-mart are all equipped with radios and scanner guns. Wal-mart didn't get rid the people because of technology advances, they just shifted resources. And once again, Walmart is well within the bounds of the law to do so. With the might of 1.8 million employees (and McDonald's has 500,000), they seem to be growing and not shrinking. And human slavery is cheap, the average salary at Wal-mart is $11 a hour. Wal-mart employees are not paid a lot and Wal-mart has a lot of employees. So if you distribute that $11 salary across the 1.8 million works, you could employ all of those workers for 20 million dollars. That is nothing for the type of business that Wal-mart does. My theory is highly, highly suspect. But I hope you get my point. It is very cost effective for Wal-mart to hire people for those menial jobs and cost ineffective for the person that works there.

I want to go back to my point, there are a lot of people that work for these mega-corporations. They don't get paid a lot. And a lot of Americans are fighting to work for these places. You see the same human rights issues and social engineering in China and India. I guess it is different in America because these corporations are huge. Plus, we tend to have better marketing. How can you be mad at McDonald's, the corporation's mascot is a big clown in a yellow jump suit? Who cares that it takes half a work day for their employees to buy food from the restaurant that they work at? Not a well-seared rib-eye steak and champagne from a top New York restaurant. No, two big mac combos at McDonald's can still be a bit pricey. In America, it isn't just one broken down factory. We are looking at a hundreds of thousands, a million jobs. And all of their employees aren't making 250k a year. No amount of federal government intervention will substantially push up the hourly wage of a Wal-mart employee.

I am still swinging around back to my point. So we have this slave labor thing that is happening in America. It is bad and probably a lack of government is at fault, but it doesn't mean that we increase taxes on the higher income earners. The taxes probably won't be distributed to the really poor. The increase government revenue will get spent on earmarks and defense. I don't know what the legal procedures are with taxes and the deficit, but the reason we even have a deficit out of control spending. Tax cuts or lack of tax cuts still don't change the government's trillion dollar budget. If you want to address the deficit problem, I would cut non-vital government functions. I don't know have fifty thousand troops in Japan is a vital government function, when Japanese people don't want us there. I found it funny that the Congressional Budget Office included speculative revenue that they would have received from tax revenue if the Bush tax cuts expired in their figures for why the deficit is so large. It would be like suing an employer that never hired you, suing for funds that you should have received if you worked for them. The federal government includes tax revenue that "they should have" received. And guess what, I am excited to tell you, that there is a US debt ceiling. So, once the federal government has too much debt, then the government will shutdown. But it isn't like the ceiling in your house, where the height of the ceiling is mostly at a fixed position. No, the Congress can raise the ceiling. Is the power to raise the debt ceiling some hidden aspect of our law. No, they raise it every couple of years. The debt ceiling is set around 14 trillion dollars and they plan on raising the value in a couple of months. Also, if we reach the debt ceiling and Congress does not raise it, I am still a little suspect that government will actually shutdown. They will just create another law to subvert the government shutdown (probably).

I know, the Democratic position is to fight for tax increases on the upper income earners. It is Democratic dogma. It is Republican dogma to fight against those tax increases. To the Republicans, if the Democrats don't budge and you won't budge, I am surprised you don't look at other ways to decrease taxes (see Obama's recent tax framework). I wouldn't mind increases in other areas. We could start with increases for mega corporations. We should create a tax just for BP and their negligence in the oil spill. So, we can get more tax revenue, fix the deficit and make everyone happy. People just have to be more creative. But my position does still stand, I still feel those greedy, greedy rich people should be able to keep as much of their money as the law allows. And yes, rich people have the power to avoid taxes. And sometimes, we have tax limits in the tax code that make it unfair for the regular people. For example, there are limits on the payroll taxes that you pay. With the FICA tax (Federal Insurance Contributions), you are not taxed on income earned from capital gains/sale of a stock trade. So the tax code hasn't caught up to trends in our economy. If that is unfair, then change the code so that the really rich pay their fare share. Remove the tax limits or address capital gains. Now everyone is happy.

Up next, a post about machine learning and Numenta's nupic!