30 October 2018

Moderation to fix what ails libertarianism

What's the matter with libertarians? You'd think that being able to appeal to people on the left, right, and center with principled support of a broad array of issues would make libertarians popular (and useful!). But they aren't, and it seems that a special kind of hatred and disgust is reserved for libertarians by the more activist partisans on the Left and Right. I think it comes down to ideology for the hated and the hater both.

Jerry Taylor at Niskanen Center digs in from a slightly different perspective. He diagnoses ideology as problematic, primarily because it encourages motivated cognition and prevents people working together to get stuff done. He calls for moderation. I don't like that word in this context, and I'm struggling to understand why. It's not that I'm against moderation per se. I just don't see it as much of a grounding philosophy as, say, balancing open mindedness with skepticism.

Adhering to a directional libertarianism can be a moderating influence on one's thinking and actions. If some policy moves in the direction of greater freedom, then it just might be OK to support it, even if it's not full-on anarcho-capitalism or whatever. As much as folks like to harp on the socialists who bleat real socalism has never been tried, well you get similar bleating about all sorts of Utopian if-onlys from libertarians, too. I'll take universally honest cops as a goal rather than no cops at all.

I guess there is no single word that combines pragmatism, justice, skepticism, and empiricism. Justice has to be in there, because without it, it sounds a lot like science, but that's not right. It's not a problem science can solve.

Taylor's piece is a compelling whole, which he finishes with a beautiful quote from Norberto Bobbio:

There were only a few of us who preserved a small bag in which, before throwing ourselves into the sea, we deposited for safekeeping the most salutary fruits of the European intellectual tradition, the value of inquiry, the ferment of doubt, a willingness to dialogue, a spirit of criticism, moderation of judgment, philological scruple, a sense of the complexity of things. Many, too many, deprived themselves of this baggage: they either abandoned it, considering it a useless weight; or they never possessed it, throwing themselves into the waters before having the time to acquire it. I do not reproach them; but I prefer the company of the others. Indeed, I suspect that this company is destined to grow, as the years bring wisdom and events shed new light on things.

Love that.

29 October 2018

4th Estate drowns itself in its own BS

Warning: rant ahead!

Will mainstream news ever catch a clue? I have not heard more vapid, concerted, hyperventilating nonsense than much of what gets passed off as "news". It's transparently obvious to even the most casual observer. I suppose that they aren't trying to fool anyone (because they aren't) but rather virtue signal with an eternal torrent of bullshit. We all know Trump is a bullshitter. Classic definition. He may actually be telling the truth, but he doesn't give a shit. That is quite possibly an actual qualification for POTUS, but it should be highly disqualifying for the so-called 4th Estate.

It used to be I'd have to roll on over to Slate or Alternet to get some good and maddening eyerolling headlines, but now the Google News roll call of WaPo and NYT can generate all sorts of are you shitting me drivel about impending Constitutional crises, creeping Fascism, and the End Times of America.

It's… all… bullshit!

All of the whining about getting tagged with "Fake News" is pretty rich, especially when they sling knowing false, misleading, spin, aka news that is actually fake aka fake news. Any "journalist" talking regularly with, say, Michael Avenatti is probably better described as a click ho. Taking on a client who claimed that as a college student went to multiple high school gang rape parties? Really? Fuck yeah! Run it above the fold! How hell could that woman hold a clearance or be read into any program?

Oh, sure, there is a bunch of spin on the right, but it lacks the screaming hysterics and the astonishing lack of any sort of effort to even dress it up as serious. It tends to be of the connected-to-policy variety of "Socialism will turn us into Venezuela" and "Medicare is broke" and "The Democrats are coming for your guns", not "Trump conspires with Putin to turn America into Fascist Russian vassal state" or whatever jacknozzle delusion is coursing through the staff of Vox at the moment.

South and North Korea are talking and apparently removing mines from around the DMZ. Yes, it was covered and yes that's not fake news. It's good news! But does POTUS get any credit? If anything, his eccentric approach to NK, not to mention his interest in not just wanting to bomb the shit out of them gets no mention. But, blame mail bombs and mass murder get laid at his feet, which is total bullshit. Brexit? Blame Trump. Brazilian Trump? Blame Trump. Khashoggi? Blame Trump. Running out of toilet paper and forgetting to buy more when you were at the store? Blame fucking Donald Trump, because, obviously, it's all his fucking fault. People see through irrational bloviation.

I think the overuse of words like "authoritarian" and "fascist" would be whimsical if it weren't so goddamn irritating. With the exception of NK and cracking down on immigration, and his loopy tariff trade warfare, Trump's policies would be Mitt Romney's or Jeb Bush's or Marco Rubio's policies. Again, with the exception of NK and Iran, his foreign policy would probably be if anything less aggressive than HRC's would have been. Trump, in a fit nostalgic confusion perhaps, has been working as the Executive and not the extra-Congressional Legislator a la "pen and phone" BHO.

I'm going to be interested in seeing how the Blue Wave crashes down on Congress. If it turns out to be the same old Red Tide we have today, that's just more nails in the coffin of journalistic credibility in the mainstream press, and they will have no one to blame but themselves.

12 October 2018

MMT strawmen and other musings

I was fortunate to spend a good portion of my career in the company of a friend and colleague — let's call him Tab — with whom I could be in a near perpetual state of semi-disagreement. Now, I doubt there are very many relationships that can withstand this kind of friction, but there were extenuating circumstances which made it tenable for us to work together for many years.

First, we never doubted each other's intentions. We both have a tendency to argue for argument's sake in us, but when we were just fighting to fight, it was fairly apparent. Second, we were very broadly aligned on essential goals and values. We wanted to make software that was a value to our customers and a viable company. Third, we shared a commitment to objectivity, subject to limits of knowledge. That is, we could dig in to understand that some ideas are better than others. As you might guess, it's in this space the battle royales took place.

If there is such a thing as a spectrum of dude archetypes, we occupy two decidedly dudeish and distinct slots. Tab's a fairly authoritarian conservative engineer type and I'm a non-Utopian libertarian physical scientist type. And while these are distinct, they're largely compatible for constructive collaboration.

One of the things that hammered a little humility into me was repeatedly being on the wrong side of Tab's intuition. He has an uncanny knack to put his finger on the critical clue or aspect of a problem. This prescience was usually revealed in a statement like "I don't know what it is or why, but I don't like it!" And while Tab certainly has things he likes, operationally, he works mainly with dislikes and things that don't register as dislikes. There is something deeply conservative about not letting your likes get the better of you.

So, for as much as I like fighting it out with Tab, I am irritated when I argue with people who lean too much on what they like and reject what they dislike. That is, they argue from ideology rather than reason. I've seen this in looking at critiques of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and it drives me nuts.

First, let me say I am not a proponent of MMT or any particular economic school. I'm not an economist, just someone broadly interested in the panoply of economies in across the globe throughout history. This is in no way a defense of MMT or policies advocated by MMT. I simply want to clear up mischaracterizations (as best as I can tell) I've see widely promulgated in critiques.

Second, we need to distinguish MMT from policy recommendations derived from MMT by its proponents. I think that the policies generate the animus, and the critics thus try to figure out how to invalidate the theory by whatever means. That said, the domain over which larger aspects of a theory is valid (or at least instructive) will limit what policies can be implemented effectively based upon said theory. With that said, let's take a look at some of the misconceptions of MMT.

The scope of MMT is, as far as I can tell fairly limited. It pertains to relatively well-run modern market economies in countries with sovereign fiat currency systems. On top of that, I think you probably have to add a relatively low level of foreign debt. If those preconditions don't exist, you're probably not talking about MMT. Warren Mosler cooked up a MMT "Grexit" strategy that would suggest my assumption about foreign debt is misplaced. I doubt that Greece could adopt a "when and if" foreign debt repayment strategy without some furious blowback from Germany and other EU creditors. But that's an experiment we can't just go out and run. Arguing that MMT applies around a Greek level of development or higher is not a critique of MMT, but rather a hypothesis about its domain of applicability.

Anyway, even if I've missed the mark a bit with the foreign debt, MMT is not a universal theory of economics, so if it doesn't explain the Great Depression or the Roman sack of Carthage, that in itself does not invalidate it as a theory. Most critics that I've read, however, grant what they would consider to be foundational truisms about MMT, but then go on to attack policies derived by MMT proponents. These take the form of "yes, a country never need default on debt issued in its fiat currency, but hyperinflation!" The problem with this sort of critique is asserting an inevitability without regard to other fiscal and monetary policies and the functioning of the markets. Yes, Venezuela (sigh) has mastered the fine art of hyperinflation, but Japan has kept a lid on things. Australia can probably experiment with MMT in ways the DRC or Somalia cannot.

A key insight of MMT, IMO, that many critics reflexively reject is the mechanism by which MMT-applicable governments pay for things: government issues debt to print money. The role of taxes is not so much to "pay for things" but take money out of the economy. People think that payroll taxes "pay for" Social Security. Do they? How do you know where a dollar paid into the Treasury came from when it comes out again? You can't know. Payroll taxes are a mechanism to use money from workers when needing to remove it from the economy via taxation. They're a story to tell. And so it goes with any Federal tax you can imagine (state and local taxes are different because those governments don't issue their own currency, of course). Taxes are a tool for policy. Now, there are plenty of fights to be had about how to pull money out of the economy to keep things balanced, but those arguments need to be made transparently in light of how fiat currency governments actually pay for things. Gold standard and other constrained currencies (e.g., pegged to some other currency) cannot work in the same way, so again, the policies that work in one domain don't apply in others.

You don't have to read very deeply or very wide in MMT literature to see that its serious proponents do not offer it as a panacea. MMT doesn't have anything to say about size of government relative to the economy, size of debts or surpluses, etc. MMT does not suggest governments can just print their way to full employment with no consequences regardless of other considerations, although policy suggestions for government-guaranteed full employment is what critics often latch on to as it's widely reviled by many conservatives and libertarians.

Would these critics hate it if such a policy actually worked? That is, the government could guarantee full employment without causing undue inflation and a sustainable economy? Around these edges you find motivated reasoning. Many would, of course, continue to hate it for their dogmatic devotion of their economic and political religions. It's very hard for people to change their minds, even in the light of evidence, absent a form of religious conversion.

Reflexive hatred of a idea, partially formed, foregoes possibility. What if the government guarantee of full employment didn't require additional government employees? What if it entailed tax cuts? There are, of course, bogus notions that can be dismissed out of hand. And, of course, good intentions and noble goals don't necessarily result in good policies and outcomes. But, well-intended people working openly, honestly, and seriously should be considered openly, honestly, and seriously. If people look to take down MMT, well, OK, but do so on the merits, not knocking down strawmen stood up in remote and irrelevant fields.

08 October 2018

Against Fight for Fifteen

Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong. — H. L. Mencken

First, let us distinguish ends from means. The ends of improving the odds that people can sustain their families and themselves through stable, meaningful work should be a non-controversial goal of a people bound by citizenship. One step we take in this direction is abiding by an admittedly imperfect application of the rule of law. So, no argument about the ends. What's wrong with the means, with a $15 minimum wage? A bunch, IMO.

Although I'm not a professional economist, I have been in and around both sides of the wage equation for a bunch of years in the real world. I'm not talking theory, but what I've seen and experienced. Wages are not set by profits; they are enabled by profits. That is, firms can only afford to pay people if they are making money. If they are making more money than expenses, that's a good thing, because it means that they can keep on paying their employees. Despite ravings by certain lefty ideologues, the vast majority of employers dread the prospect of not being able to make payroll and being forced to let good employees go. The flip side of this, though, is that employers generally don't want to pay more than they have to for anything, and this includes employee compensation. This isn't evil, it's rational.

How wages get set is messy and opaque, but outside of perverse governmental, mercantile, and collectively-bargained contexts, it's generally market driven and it's influenced in great part to supply and demand. Outside of certain manufacturing contexts, it's often hard to estimate what someone's "productivity" is going to be or evaluate what it actually is once their employed. This is especially tricky in software development, the area I know best. The best developers can do things that lesser folks are simply incapable of doing. Moreover, they often do much more work of dramatically higher quality. Many high-end firms aggressively recruit these elite developers -- there is an almost unlimited appetite for such workers -- and thus wages, benefits, and working environments are very attractive. The mere mortal developers benefit from this as well because they don't have to compete with the elite developers in less glamorous software development jobs but still benefit from a relative scarcity of competitors. Offshoring and H1B visas are primarily about costs, but writ large the bang for buck is much less than you might imagine. They are less of a boon and more of a crutch that lets you limp along. Of course, there are some, but in my experience rare, stellar H1B folks and offshoring firms and personnel. Anyway, ascribing some "productivity score" to someone and the dollar value of that productivity is actually very hard to do for a wide variety of jobs. What's an office manager, janitor, receptionist, mail room runner worth to the firm in terms of increased productivity? Regardless, the firm will have to pay whatever they can agree someone to take to do the job, and this is set, in part, by supply and demand.

Would a firm ever "overpay" someone? That is, offer someone more than the amount they could pay them to do the same job? Sure, it happens. Most successful firms interested in long term viability want to have productive employees, and happy and grateful employees are better than sullen or resentful ones. At least, that's been my experience. And there are entire sectors where a variety of mechanisms deployed to maintain wages above what they would be if the wage was dominated by supply and demand. One of these mechanisms is a minimum wage.

There two things at issue: the minimum wage in general, and the Fight for Fifteen in particular. I cannot say that there might not be some situation where a minimum wage might make sense, but if there was I would think it would be sector-specific and local. I don't know if there is a Laffer Curve for the minimum wage, but it's easy to think that if the minimum wage for any sort of job at all was 100 bucks an hour, there would be a lot fewer employees out there. People push back on this line of reasoning saying that it's currently too low regardless and any grief caused to some by raising it would be outweighed by the benefits, and $15 is in the ballpark for a happy medium. I say this is too ham-fisted.

First, it ignores the reality of low-skill and entry-level work. It may just not be worth the cost to firms to employ people at the higher rate. And this would affect the people most in need of jobs, perhaps rendering them permanently unemployable. It may also remove the opportunity for parents to teach their kids the value of work and develop a habit of responsibility and industry by eliminating sources of part time work.

A higher minimum wage can also put low margin businesses at risk. That is, if a business is only scraping by today, it may not be viable if it needs to substantially increase its payroll. Some say, rather savagely in my opinion, that such business shouldn't exist in the first place. This is wrong -- it's not the business that's the problem, it's the artificial hoops that have been erected through which it must jump.

A specific problem with the 15 dollars an hour of the Fight for Fifteen is that it's completely oblivious to how very different local economies are. If there is such a thing a "good" minimum wage, Palo Alto's will certainly be different from, say, St Louis'. This hypothetical good minimum wage would certainly need to vary from place to place, and you can bet your bottom dollar that whoever charged with setting it will get it wrong.

I don't doubt that many who support Fight for Fifteen have good intentions. But that's what the road to hell is paved with. The economy would survive a $15 minimum wage, but there would be winners and losers, and I think there would be a lot more losers and loss than some people think. I can's say with certainty exactly what would happen, but neither can anyone else, LOL. So, if fiddling with the minimum wage isn't the answer, what is?

Well, I don't think that minimum wages can be dismissed out of hand as a tool for making people's lives better, even though a single, global one can be dismissed with extreme confidence. That is, as I said, there maybe certain sector-specific instances where a local minimum wage might make sense. For instance, what about a program to clean up blighted areas that uses? Either the government could provide jobs directly or allow firms to bid on contracts that require employees be paid some minimum wage. Another option would be to allow employers to refund some fraction of payroll taxes to the employee. Given that option, what employer wouldn't refund their employee's payroll taxes? I can't think of any reason they would. Yes, it's a form of a tax cut, but it's a tax cut that goes directly to working people and has absolutely no negative effect on a firm or its viability. In fact, it makes it easier for firms to employ people on the margin, which I think everyone would agree is a good thing.

Being against Fight for Fifteen is not necessarily to be against working people. In fact, people who want everyone to have a shot at the American Dream should look at a universal $15 minimum wage with extreme skepticism.

06 October 2018

Distinguishing framework from framer: postmodernism, Rashomon, and more

In the past, I've been pretty skeptical bordering on hostile to the different studies departments which have come to infest academia these days. That hostility dribbled over to some of the tools and concepts they use, and in hindsight, I see that was due to either intellectual laziness or blindness. Mea culpa.

In my defense, when I first looked into intersectionality, I thought it unremarkable. If I remember the story right, it went something like this: if you have a certain number of women and a certain number of black folks, you may still not have a certain number of black women and so something may be amiss. Our identities are formed at the intersection of many differing identities. Something like that and so far, so good. But when it devolves into oppression hierarchies and oppression Olympics, the utility diminishes beyond zero to become destructive. So, I was more skeptical of its use than its foundations from the get go. No so much with postmodernism.

Postmodernism is a much larger set of frameworks and concepts the details of which I won't get into here. There is a cavalcade of po-mo poltroons whose over-the-top idiocy, sloppy thinking, amorality, appalling behavior, misplaced relativism and innumerable other traits and activities had me dismiss postmodernism out of hand. I will confess that some groupthink made that easier, inspired in part, by an absolutely epic rant by Camille Paglia. Hostility to postmodernism is widespread and contagious. It can be cured however, with a generous dose of Nick Gillispe. Levi Russell aka Farmer Hayek helps in the recovery, too.

So I've moderated my opinion on postmodernism, intersectionality, etc as schools of thought but not so much on many of the pseudo-academics who use them. If, in the spirit of friendship offer some bacon to someone who I don't know keeps kosher, a third party watching the offer might see it as generous, I may be trying to keep it from going to waste, and the person looking at the bacon may see a grievous insult. This yields to a postmodern analysis where there are multiple valid truths which depend on perspective. It is, in part, why Rashomon is such a good movie, though I would bet that 99.9% (or more!) of all intersectional feminists absolutely hate it. Or would hate it if they every watched it.

Similarly, there is nothing essentially wrong from studying sociology, economics, history, physics, whatever, from a particular perspective. Where I things run off the rails, IMO, is when the perspective becomes the discipline. It's not there isn't something there, but that (via intersectionality!) it is necessarily unique. The degree to which there is overlap in perspectives between people of some given category can't be known, much less quantified. So, rather than a queer studies department, it would be better, IMO, to have queer folks bringing their individual perspectives to sociology, economics, history, physics, whatever. Lather rinse repeat all other group for which there's a studies department.

Even in the hard sciences, scientists disagree. But across the spectrum of sciences and other academic departments, there are foundational agreements. What the original Sokal affair and Sokal Squared has shown that there are some departments of academia where there is no foundation at all. There is a difference between seeing something as legitimate and at the same time wrong and having no common basis for legitimacy.

05 October 2018

Bail's broken -- here's how we fix it

Bail has been on my mind of late, prompted by news California has decided to "reform" its criminal justice system by eliminating its cash bail system. Reform is in quotes because I think that it's going to have unintended consequences, none of which are good. Cf. this piece in Politico for the backstory. Long story short: in the absence of bail authorities would likely choose to incarcerate folks that would have otherwise been released. This could have a disastrous effect on those incarcerated and their families (e.g., lost jobs, inability to attend school, etc.) and would be a miscarriage of justice for the innocent.

The bail system as it stands today is a good idea that is poorly implemented. It's a good idea in that it gets the accused back to their life while they await trial, it provides incentive for them to show up at the trial, and it provides an insurance mechanism to make sure they do if they don't come willingly. It's poorly implemented in that it requires many people to pay a bail bondsman to post a bail bond, even if they are innocent. The eighth amendment to the Constitution reads:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
If a person can't afford the fraction of the bail set to pay a bondsman, it's possible that the bail was excessive in the first place, but that will almost certainly never be the view of any court.

Over at TAC, Lars Trautman proposes "private freedom funds" as a solution. The idea here is that jails contract with the with a bonding organization and profit comes from a share of the savings accrued by not locking people up. While accurately recognizing problems with the current system and potential savings with reform, the proposed solution sounds like a recipe for all kinds of abuse and corruption.

Here's a solution that keeps the system largely intact that preserves a presumption of innocence, aligns incentives for better criminal justice, and is not punitive for the innocent: for people who cannot afford to put up the bail themselves, have the arresting organization or other aspect of the government put up the money for the bond. However, to guard against gaming the system where the government is on the hook for some fixed expense, bail bondsmen would compete for posting the bond at a reverse auction where the winner makes the lowest bid. If the defendant is found guilty, he is assessed a fine equal to amount posted for the bond. If the defendant is innocent, the arresting organization has to eat that cost.

While this is an expense that government doesn't currently have today, it's conceivable and even likely that it would cost cities, counties, and states as a whole less money. Why? The cost of the bond they have to pay out would likely be less than the cost of pretrial detention for the people who otherwise couldn't make bail. Assuming that they're mostly making people who are guilty make bail, the cost will eventually be borne by the accused -- they're just fronting the money. However, it provides incentives for law enforcement to be prudential in arrest decisions by assigning a monetary cost to getting things wrong. Moreover, it provides a measure of accountability that could easily be understood by the public. Naturally, there are all sorts of way set up a system that doesn't involve direct involvement of the arresting organization in the payment of the bonds, but whatever aspect of the government that does the paying will have an accounting.

From a bail bondsman's perspective, not much changes, except now they have to compete with each other at (reverse) auction rather than competing for customers. While this may squeeze the percentage they can expect from a typical bond, they should realize a savings from not having to advertise and see increased business due to those people who otherwise would not have made bail. Bail bondsmen may or may not like the scheme, but for them it's better than wholesale elimination of their profession.

For the guilty, not much changes either. They are still out the amount they would have been, though this will have been deferred until after sentencing. There is, of course, a big change for those who are guilty but wouldn't have otherwise made bail -- they see the imposition of a financial liability they wouldn't have been given had they waited for trial in jail. In this and any case, however, provisions to pay this and any other set of fees and penalties over time can and should be made. In some cases, the governments may need to provide a fund to pay for the hopelessly indigent. Regardless, the bail bondsmen's fees are almost assuredly less than what pretrial detention costs would have been, so the system should be a net saving for government.

For the innocent, much changes for the better. People who otherwise wouldn't have made bail don't stew in pretrial detention and the people who would have gone to bail bondsmen have saved hundreds or even thousands of dollars in their encounter with the criminal justice system. And it better protects the rights of citizens recognized by the eighth amendment.

04 October 2018

Latest governmental WTF: Presidential alert

Captain Kirk performs a Public Service Announcement on behalf of the United Federation of Planets.

So, at 1818 Zulu yesterday, a FEMA-sponsored "Presidential alert" showed up on my phone. Presidential alert? WTF? Doesn't Trump already have a Twitter account?

That it happened didn't creep me out so much as it apparently has some folks. I think the creep out factor is related to its being called a "Presidential alert". The President is Donald Trump, and thus anything Presidential is connected to President Trump, and therefore subject to any number of evil and twisted ends in his subversion of laws and norms as he transforms America into a fascist dictatorship. Or whatever. Actually, if Trump knew anything about the test, I think it's likely that he learned about it from Fox news. I don't know, but I wouldn't think that something like this needs Presidential attention once the decision was made to implement the new capability. If he had been in the loop, I think he would have used it to thrash the news cycle, insisting that there be a personal message from him on that the inaugural broadcast. Say what you want about the guy, but he does know how to grab the spotlight and this was an massive opportunity for spotlight grabbing: most of the phones in the US. Opportunity missed bigly. But, I digress… back to the name Presidential alert.

Consider Article 2 Section 1 Clause 1 (A2S1C1) of the Constituion:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
The text alert capability is a part of FEMA's more general alert infrastructure -- the one which occasionally produces those god awful screechings on the radio from time to time. Why can't they make up some some nice little service oriented jingle and play that? Or something in praise of fuzzy kitties and you need to go get one or two or half dozen from the local shelter sung by Madeleine Peyroux or, better yet, voiced dramatically to music by William Shatner? But, I digress… FEMA is in the Executive branch and via A2S1C1we may conclude that in some perhaps unusefully vague sense it's not strictly inaccurate to label it Presidential, but they might call it something better. And "President Trump's greatest alert ever issued!" is not something better.

As for the alert itself, the notion of FEMA being able to ask carriers to spam their subscribers with an important message is not in itself troubling. However, it's hard to imagine something that every person with a phone in the US would need to know immediately. Incoming Russian nuclear missiles? Maybe. But a gal canning salmon in Navnek, Alaska probably doesn't need to know that Naranja, Florida is about to get clobbered by a hurricane or overrun by unstoppable mutant pythons from the Everglades who have suddenly developed a taste for people.

So, as for the fact there is a Federal alert system that incorporates cell phone service providers to give the government a push capability to deliver messages to a bunch of phones in the US, that doesn't worry me so much. They could change the name of the alerts, or not. Any emergency so important that everyone in the US needs to know right now is probably going to be coming from the President