Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Could government spending be profitable?

Economists speak of the multiplier effect of government actions in regard to taxes or spending. Recently I heard two claims on this, that a dollar spent circulates to a dollar and sixty cents of economic activity while a dollar of tax cuts circulates to a mere thirty cents. I doubt these are numbers that anyone will agree on, but there were two parts that stood out: first, that spending did a lot more than cutting taxes, second, that a dollar of spending creates more than a dollar of activity.

The second one made me think back to the cycling of money and what stops the cycle: taxes. By that I mean that the dollar is spent, some taxes taken out, the remainder spent, some taxes taken out, and so on. Eventually it will be whittled down to nothing, having returned entirely as taxes. This would seem to make spending neutral, as in theory it will always trigger that amount in increased taxes from economic activity. But there's another way for the money to stop moving: saving. At some point the entire dollar will be taxed or saved and it is the saving which prevents it from cycling fully around to balance the budget.

This suggests that the ideal way to stimulate an economy is to tax savings and then spend the revenues from those taxes.

On the profitable side, the newly flowing dollar and the resulting demand would encourage saved money to be invested, putting it into he flow as well, where it is taxed, and now the dollar of spending has freed up more than a dollar of incoming taxes. Profit! Also known as a surplus, the strangely forgotten opposite side of Keynesian economics.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Not so much fun on the other side, is it?

Military chaplains debate their role without 'don't ask, don't tell'

Among the issues raised by chaplains, according to the report, is whether a change in policy would hinder ministers' religious expression, particularly for those faiths that consider homosexuality immoral.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"So your answer is, it's the spending of money that drives the economy"

Representative John Shadegg of Arizona recently said this, to mock the interviewer (skip to the fourth mention of unemployment benefits). In other words, this seems to imply that this Congressman does not think that the spending of money drives the economy. I will admit that I have never been to Arizona or the Capitol (I'm excluding when I was approximately 1 year old) so maybe I don't know that they use a barter-based economy, or an economy based on mutual cooperation and sharing, which we might call Communism, but I'm pretty sure that in both places they use roughly the same money-based economy as the rest of the United States, and the world.

But maybe I'm being intentionally unfair and I should approach this more objectively. What would be an economy not based on the spending of money? We could have one based on the production of goods, but with no one to consume them, that makes little sense, so even a production-oriented approach eventually needs people to spend money. Besides, it would be rather hard to motivate workers to produce if they did not have any money to spend; slavery hasn't exactly withstood the test of time. Or we could try a research-based economy, driven by knowledge and technology and just generally getting better at everything we know and do. I like the sound of that. But I have to wonder, how do the scientists eat, live, and move? I imagine they require things like food, housing, transportation, perhaps even entertainment, so that beyond this Utopian knowledge-based economy there must also be an economy based on physical production, which goes back to the production-based economy which requires: spending money.

I get that some people are market fundamentalists and believe that any government intrusion in markets must be bad, and so obviously they'd want to reject Keynesian economics of government stimulus spending. But surely they still have some basic understanding of things like people needing money to buy goods to encourage production which is the root of employment. In other words, an economy based on spending money. Or alternatively, the Chicago school which would advocate deregulation and tax cuts, possibly with some trickle-down economics for good measure, which operates partly on the idea that the rich will... spend money!

See a theme here?

Yea, economies need people to spend money. When demand is low, you can cut taxes to encourage spending or you can raise government spending to raise spending. Or you can clap your hands and say "job job jobs!" and make it all better. Republicans like Mr. Shadegg seem to prefer the third approach.

But he's not done yet. The interviewer followed up with this question: "Unemployment checks, people don't spend that money?" To which he responded "No, they'll spend as little of it as possible because they'll hang onto it as long as they can." An excellent point, if it were true. In fact it's the complete opposite of the truth. The long-term unemployed tend to have bills, debts, and all manner of pushed-back expenses. In other words, they are going to spend that money. They have no other choice. Spending that money is what keeps their heat on, their bellies full (or at least half-full, but they might see it as half-empty), and themselves in their homes. So the Congressman is 180 degrees wrong on this. Earlier he said that any extension must also be linked to tax cuts. Why? Well surely it cannot be to hope for trickle-down spending, since the wealthy have a habit of saving their money. Does he want it for investment? In the long term, investment would make sense, but in the short term, who is going to invest in a business if there's no demand for products? Maybe there would be more demand if people were spending money...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Net Neutrality is a Leftist Socialist Plot to Silence Dissent

True story.

Okay I lied. But that's okay. On the Internet you can say anything you want. Lies, deception, slander, and so much spin that it sends Superman back in time. It's a boon to the far right. And the far left. Extremists thrive on cheap, open places to lie, and the Internet is the best.

The Internet is also the biggest fact-checking machine in the world. It has facts and it has people who like to spend time comparing claims and those facts.

But these are all sissy 'freedom' arguments. So let's go with this instead: the Internet drove the massive economic growth of the 90s and continues to drive growth and efficiency.

I'm sure you know this already.

So instead let's look at what happens when people who either do not understand or do not appreciate the Internet attempt to influence and regulate it. I am of course referring to net neutrality.

Specifically, opposition to it.

The government has been meddling in the Internet since before it was born. In other words, it created the Internet and then shoveled money at it until it transformed the world. All the while it kept poking around in the Internet telling traffic to go wherever it wanted and told everyone to play fair. That was net neutrality, letting everyone talk at the same speed.

It wasn't a fairness doctrine. It was an awesome doctrine. It was an idea that made it so anyone could run a business or send an idea, or shop and listen. This was government regulation against regulation, essentially saying "No one will regulate this." That's net neutrality.

But people paranoid about government regulation either don't understand this or are actively and consciously working against the freedom of the Internet.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prison as part of a debt to society

Now and then I hear the phrase "debt to society" used in combination with imprisonment, the implication being that people are sent to prison to fulfill the "debt to society" and then once that is complete, they may go free. This is a completely absurd concept.

Can you think of any other situation in which a debt is paid by the debtor losing huge amounts of time, and at major cost to the creditor? Let's imagine that the prison system really is a literal system of debts. A guy with an income of about $20,000 per year(arbitrary) is imprisoned, at a cost of about $22,000 per year (actual number). If we imagine a strange fantasy world in which the lost income of prisoners goes to the creditor (that being society), then at best society is still down $2000. In other words, the process of paying off the debt causes the creditor to lose even more money. Of course this will be different if the prisoner has a higher income. But of course a prisoner isn't generating any income because he's not at his job, so the actual income for the creditor is zero, resulting in a loss of $22,000 when attempting to regain a debt.

Does this sound ridiculous enough yet, this concept that prison is part of repaying a debt to society? Let's go further.

Imagine that you take out a mortgage. Then you default. You now owe a debt to the bank. The bank seeks to regain that debt. How? By burning down the house. See how completely absurd this is?

Why don't we treat the "debt to society" as an actual debt to be repaid? I mean money, not vague concepts like "justice". Not to dismiss justice, but if we're going to talk about debt, we might as well talk about something definite.

I propose that this debt be calculated by damage caused. That damage includes the stolen property, assets, money, etc. So if someone breaks a window (cost $500) to steal a stereo worth $200, the total crime is $700. This actually gives them a discount since it leaves out inconvenience and the police work cost. But I'm willing to let that go for now, for the sake of simplicity. Simpler is better for everyone except lawyers and fraudsters.

To repay the debt, the individual literally repays it from either bank accounts or future wages. This would be calculated to ensure that they are not financially ruined by the process but also so that they do not gain any benefit from the crime. For example, an individual cannot be forced to put it on credit, since that would put them into a cycle of debt, nor can they lose so much of future wages that they cannot afford basic living expenses. The goal is to repay the debt, not to drive them into crime just to pay for their previous crime.

If the individual is unemployed, well that's a tough one that I haven't figured out. Leaving the debt over them to be paid when they do eventually find work would discourage them from seeking over the table work. But just dropping the debt would encourage crime. Mandatory employment is more commonly known as slavery and would result in the crazy situation of criminals taking jobs from law-abiding citizens, possibly driving those same citizens into crime to get by, and well we can see how that's a path straight downhill. On a side note, we can see there how government oppression is encouraged, and to some, justified, by criminal behavior.

Crimes such as property damage fit easily into this system. Fraud and other 'theft-like' crimes fit as well, since they fall into a material loss category. Murder, rape, assault, or other non-property crimes are clearly difficult to fit into this and perhaps would be handled in a separate system.

The goal is to keep people out of prison, not because I like them, but because it's expensive and often hardens criminals. What could be more encouraging to a "fuck the system" attitude than spending five years locked up by that system?

It's more than a little bit idealistic, but imagine how much lower taxes could be if people weren't locked up. Imagine how much less crime there could be without large parts of the population being taught to hate orderly society. Or maybe crime wouldn't change. But at least the overall cost would be lower. At the least there's little interaction between prison terms and crime rates. Unfortunately being "tough on crime" is a politically useful stance, just like being "strong on defense", another stance which encourages huge amounts of spending for little to no benefit, but which is always politically safe. No one wants to be "soft on defense" or "weak on crime".

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tax cuts for business

Eliminate payroll taxes and offset the revenue loss with a higher top tier tax rate. This makes job creation cheaper. It makes hiring cheaper. It makes business cheaper. It makes small business cheaper. The only people it hurts are the ones who are not creating jobs: the ultra-rich.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A brief statement of the obvious

The midterm elections made it clear that Americans want a government that works for the people.

Uh, no shit? Just once I'd like to hear an opinion person say that an election shows that Americans want a government that fucks them over. Sure, it would be inaccurate, but at least it wouldn't be someone stating the obvious and using it as a foundation for whatever ideological stance they picked before the election.

Ban Sharia law, it violates the first amendment, and so does this ban

Judge blocks Oklahoma's ban on Islamic law

This ban seems both redundant and unconstitutional.

On the redundant side, I see the ban as a preventive measure to protect against the imposition of Sharia law on a non-Muslim population. Redundant because such an action would violate the first amendment. The ban is as pointless as a ban on slavery; the Constitution has that taken care of.

But the ban was too wide, potentially covering even personal matters, such as wills or contracts. In that case, it's clear government overreach by restricting personal decisions without even a hint of a public safety element or even protection of potentially vulnerable parties. For examples: I cannot write a contract for an illegal service such as murder and mentally disabled and underage people may be required to have the consent of a caretaker for some contracts.

Beyond the government overreach angle, which I don't put much stock in anyway, since too often it seems that 'government overreach' is just a derogatory term for "regulations which protect people from the abuses of others", there is the first amendment. Government cannot establish, or prohibit, a religion. As I've said elsewhere, the Christian-based Islamaphobia which uses a Christian theocracy as a way to block Islamic theocracy, is actually the very thing which would allow it, since to allow Christian theocracy would mean destroying the first amendment, which is the main protection against an Islamic theocracy. Or as I put it elsewhere: Is the American Tea Party a radical Islamist front?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Choosing your Tyrant

Over at Troll Racials are Overpowered I made this claim
humans are not naturally free and perhaps freedom is never even possible. Not since we lost the ability to kill tigers with little more than rocks. Which is to say, never. Even then we worked together. Cooperation is such a lovely word. So I'm led to only this: choose your tyrant carefully, for if you do not pick one, then it will be chosen for you.

The word choice seemed to cause people to misunderstand, so I'll elaborate. The tyrant is simply outside control. Someone or something will always tell us what to do or reduce our options. This is inevitable. Nothing short of a god can be absolutely free. Even the libertarians are picking a tyrant, though they do not realize it.

We've seen the control of a priest, a king, and chieftan. These are old tyrants. We've seen social control, caste systems, and exile from the tribe to a certain death. These are old tyrants. More recently we invented, or perhaps finally recognized, the market. This is a tyrant, a form of control over our lives. It is the greatest of irony that we call if a free market, when it is no promoter of freedom.

Just as a socialist government may tell you what to plant, so will market forces. Oh you can defy the market, but you will pay a price, quite literally; not so different from the government, though it may take a higher price. That does not mean that the market is innately more free than the socialist economy. After all, the government could give more options and back up those options. And it could be representative or even direct democracy. Imagine voting about your wallet. The market has an equivalent of voting with your wallet, which sounds nice, but it is a poor substitute for democracy when one person may have a million more votes in his wallet.

Markets and governments will tell us what to do. They exert control over our lives. We cannot get that control back directly, except by becoming a part of the market and being the controllers of others. But government can offer a way: representation and regulation. Regulation is a way to indirectly take back some control. If we can vote for government and government can exert some control over markets, then we have gained some control over the markets, and in doing so become more free, as we will have gained more control over our situation.

This is not perfect. Regulatory capture is a persistent risk. Socialist regimes do not have a good history, due to some mix of implementation, circumstance, and unaddressed flaws within the idea of socialism. I'm not advocating a Soviet-style system, or even Chinese, or Venezuela. These were all destructive to freedom. But American socialism, this has worked. We are more free as consumers, more secure, when we can buy products with confidence that they will not kill us. With no regulation this would be a major problem, leading to what I call the trust trust: monopolies on trust. Those are for a future post. Here I only wanted to explain why we might choose tyranny, because it will inevitably happen, so it might as well be one we can remove or shape to our needs.

Related post: Producer regulation does not imply consumer restriction

After more thought I've seen that this post isn't done. Why do I allow for certain things to be illegal? These restrict my freedom! Security. Yes, we're always trading a little security for a little freedom. I'm willing to give up my right to kill to protect myself from the same. A libertarian might say that I should pay attention and protect myself. I'd rather not have to waste all my life struggling to keep a little bit more. Similarly, let the buyer beware is a philosophy that I find to be stupid. Is it worth the greater freedom to have to check the safety of anything I buy? I don't think so. Many dangers I could not even test myself, so I need some higher power to handle that for me, and I am willing to concede to that authority some freedom over what to buy. I'm willing to give up my exploding cars. Similarly, I give up my choice about which side of the road to drive on in return for greater security, based on the reduce chance of a head-on collision. Should we instead let the market decide? No. That would be stupid. The entire cultish devotion to markets as the solution to everything is stupid and dangerous.

Is regulation a slippery slope? Yes. It is. There isn't a clear distinction between sensible regulation and a nanny state. That's something we have to figure out as it comes. But to simply reject protection entirely would be suicidal. Literally.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reminder: Gold is a scam

There are two grand gold scams going on now: 'investment' and the 'gold standard'.

Let's start with investment. Gold is protected against inflation, so in times of inflation, buying gold will essentially give a safe currency. Right? Well... In times of inflation, everything that isn't currency follows inflation, so gold is not really any better. But gold has two things going for it.

1) Gold is nearly worthless. Once you get past some electronic use and decoration, what is it good for? You can't burn it for heat, you can't eat it, you can't build with it, you can't do much of anything with it. Also it's very stable so it's just as worthless now and ten years down the road, so obviously you'll never lose.

2) Bubbles! They're not just fun for children and stressed out housewives.

If we expect 10% inflation, we should expect the price of gold to go up by 10%. Of course the numbers will vary due to not everyone having the same predictions, but let's take 25% as a reasonable amount to expect over a year. Gold doesn't do that. It doesn't follow predictions of inflation. It follows speculation bubbles. The price goes up so we all jump o the moving commodity and that drives the price higher and up and up it will go until we all calm down about inflation and suddenly realize we've just bought gold at double the highest sensible price (actually I think even 'normal' gold prices are dramatically inflated, but that's for another day).

When you speculate on a bubble, whether you see it as a bubble or not, you're effectively betting on when it will burst.

Or to look at it another way, who would buy gold? I'm going to use imaginary numbers here for ease of rounding. I think gold will go up to $110 in a year, so I buy it for $100. Who will buy it? The person who thinks that gold will go up further. He must think it will go up. Staying the same isn't beating inflation, it must go up to be a worthwhile investment. So he buys it expecting $120 the next year. And so on.

And now for the glorious gold standard. Did you know that if the US switched to the gold standard that there would be no more inflation and the so-called economic cycle would go away, replaced by joyous prosperity, upward forever?


I find it funny that the gold standard is so often advocated by libertarians and Laissez-faire acolytes would actually be a huge government intervention in the economy. It's not establishing a value of currency: it's setting a price of gold. That would make the US government the biggest influence in the world gold market. And since it isn't going to be easily allowed to inflate the currency when gold prices change elsewhere, the standard would inevitably collapses into a giant wealth-losing machine. Since libertarians and their ilk so often demand a balanced budget, that wealth loss would have to be offset by even higher taxes.

Short version: the gold standard would bleed the average American dry, and quickly.

My opposition to the gold standard doesn't mean I think that current monetary policy is just fine. It isn't. But the gold standard is an incredibly stupid way to fix it. It's not a practical economic idea, it's more of an outdated moral crusade, with about as much usefulness as the old practice of fixing the economy by imprisoning Jews. And no, I am not suggesting that the gold standard is in any way comparable to the Holocaust or the world-wide tradition of anti-Semitism, I'm just using it as another failed idea to fix the economy. I have no idea what Hitler's stance on the gold standard was and I don't care; it's irrelevant.

Monetary policy is important. It matters. The money supply must vary, sometimes up, sometimes down. Maybe less variation than it has had, and we certainly need a better way to do it, but a stagnant money supply fixes nothing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Have you voted yet?

I'm rather sick of hearing this. I know they are well-intentioned, but it just sounds wrong to me hearing this before election day.

I recognize the value of early voting and absentee, especially absentee. For many people, such as active soldiers and the sick or elderly, those are the only ways they'd be able to vote. But me? I don't need it and don't want it. In fact, I believe that if someone can vote on election day, they should not vote early.

Why not? Revelation! No, not the Bible book. Instead I mean the stuff you hear later on.

For example, I was really leaning toward Mark Kirk for Illinois Senate. I'm usually a Democrat and he's a Republican, but from what I'd heard of him at debates he seemed like a reasonable guy and the Democratic candidate didn't seem all that inspiring. I could have voted early for Kirk. Now I'm glad I didn't, as more information comes out about him getting mixed up with Karl Rove and the usual tactics of voter intimidation disguised as anti-fraud action. Bullshit, I say. More real voters are driven away than fake voters, meaning a net loss. I still think Kirk is a decent guy, but he's making bad friends and I'm not eager to see how much they can corrupt him.

Still, him winning wouldn't be the ed of the world, not by a long shot. At least he's not Brady. I swear, the man is a walking stereotype: an anti-government creationist. I can't stand people like that. Smaller government? Sure, it definitely needs a lot of streamlining and cleaning up. Teaching that science isn't the absolute truth? Sure, that's part of how science defines itself: always falsifiable. But this bullshit of just wiping out jobs and thinking that will balance the budget in the long term (it won't, since education in particular is the one biggest driver of long-term wage and economic growth, in other words the sources of tax revenues), combined with sneaking religion into schools through creationism or intelligent design, that's just unacceptable.

Maybe our campaigns are too long, but ironically, I don't think cutting them short is a solution.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theories of Evolution and Gravity

Just to ensure that you understand where my true bias lies: I'm inclined to think that evolution has far far more evidence and usefulness than alternative theories. especially intelligent design which is little more than a devil-citing-scripture way to sneak a twisted form of creationism into public schools.

That said: I'm a bit annoyed by gravity and evolution comparisons, such as when someone defends the theory of evolution by pointing out that gravity is just a theory. I'll try analogy to explain.

The existence of life is to us not floating off into space as evolution is to theories of gravity.
It is a fact that life exists and it is a fact that we do not float off into space. However we don't have much past that. Last I've seen we've still not detected gravitons nor have we managed to fit gravity into the framework of the other three major forces (I admit I'm a bit behind the times on this, so please, correct me if there's something new). In other words, the theory of gravity is entirely different from the fact that we do not float off into space.

That said, we've seen evolution and natural selection in progress, so perhaps the theory of evolution has more evidence than explanations of the phenomenon known as gravity, or as I've named it "not floating off into space".

That said, I cannot promise that I will never again respond with a snarky "so is gravity" when confronted with an "evolution is just a theory" stance.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Let's put the Republicans back in power

No really, I want a Republican president again. A specific Republican president. A war hero. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II and our 34th president.

Under him the unemployment rate was a mere 5.4%, an impressive figure considering how many soldiers were being demobilized following the biggest war the world had ever seen.

Of course I'm leaving out a few important things. Such as the fact that Eisenhower was a big government high tax weak on defense liberal, saying such things as this.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms in not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.

And of course this
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

Or there was his growth-inhibiting tax policy with a top tax bracket of over 90%. Can you imagine playing 90% of your income as taxes? Of course not, because no one does. The debate over taxes has been wonderfully distorted with misleading figures, such as the constant stating of the top tier tax rate, ignoring entirely that only the highest tier of income is taxed at that rate and that as you go down the scale incomes are taxed lower and lower, to the point that for many people the majority of their income is not taxed at all. Throw in tax breaks and loopholes and income taxes are in the 10%-15% range, hardly the 30% that gets thrown around so easily.

Not to suggest that the tax system doesn't need reform. It certainly does.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Right finally stands up to foreign money in politics

Earlier I wrote about the blatantly illegal actions of the US Chamber of Commerce in using foreign money to influence American elections. Well finally the unending patriot Rush Limbaugh has taken a stand on foreign money in politics by...

Going after an American citizen
George Soros, a naturalized citizen for 50 years, made a donation to a media watchdog group known as Media Matters. Mr. Limbaugh jumped on this, as did many other right-wing extremists. Is it obvious liberal manipulation of politics? Well, sure! But it's not "foreign money in politics" and it's hardly comparable to the secretive, undisclosed donations to right-wing organizations. That's beside the fact that it's far more justifiable for an individual to donate money than someone like Rupert Murdock essentially stealing from FOX shareholders to fund the GOP.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Who jumps into a bushel of bad apples?

Illinois is in a tough spot. Our budget is terribly unbalanced, Chicago is about to get turned upside down as mayor Daley leaves, unemployement is over 10%, the entire region is in the middle of an economic shift, I could go on. Short version: bad things.

The Senate seat held by Obama was handed to a career politician named Roland Burris. Or possibly sold. Now it's up for the taking with a close race between the Republican Mark Kirk and the Democrat Alexi Giannoulias. Normally I might just go ahead and punch the party ticket for Giannoulias to help maintain some Democratic control in Congress. But I don't think that would help anyone (besides Giannoulias of course). He strikes me as the sort of Democrat who ruined legislation in the first place by refusing to do the right thing without first getting all sorts of deals and handouts (which I suppose makes it the wrong thing). So he's worthless for that. Instead it could be useful to have someone reasonable, such as Mark Kirk.

But he has a problem: he's a Republican. That isn't really the problem. Instead it's the sort of consultants who hang around Republicans. An otherwise decent guy can end up as a heartless sociopath in no time. Just the other day he whispered a little line about "voter fraud", which while certainly something we want to avoid, in practice tends to be a great way to remove voters, certain voters in certain places with certain voting tendencies. But let's set that aside, I mean, a guy's got to win after all, and this is Illinois. I'd be more worried if he didn't appear slightly crooked, because then we'd know just how well he can hide it.

No, what truly worries me is a Mr. Karl Rove. This man has a consistent habit of corrupting all he comes in contact with. He turned the Republican Party from an essential balance to the Democratic Party into... well... Okay I'll just get to my point: Karl Rove is like a sneaky version of the Antichrist. He turns the best of intentions to evil ends. He lies. He deceives. He cheats. He is a worse threat to America than every terrorist in the world combined. Oh yes, he has a secret weapon: being an American political insider. Terrorists can only kill people. Political manipulators can kill people, imprison people, torture people, and worst of all: take away freedom.

I don't mean take away freedom the way liberals do with food regulation or social security. I mean take away freedom by shredding the bill of rights. Figuratively of course. The literal act would be too obvious.

He's the bad apple and he's rotting the entire Republican Party. I makes me sad to see Congressman Kirk in the middle of the bushel.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foreign money is influencing elections in America

The Chamber of Commerce is doing just what we should expect from it: using a mix of lies and budgeting tricks to hide that foreign money is buying attack ads in America.

They claim that foreign donor money only goes to non-ad expenses. Which I'll go ahead and believe. But that doesn't mean that foreign money isn't still funding the ads. Yes, that is a contradiction, that's what happens when you're dealing with greedy people who don't give a damn about law or principle.

Here's how foreign money funds ads:
Let's say base expenses are $100, things such as offices and staff and the things that you need even if you're not doing much. Any money after $100 can go to ads. If $100 are given by Americans, then any money after that can go to ads. Even foreign money. Foreign money fills up the base expenses, meaning that more American money can go to ads. Since money is money, that means that in effect, the foreign money has purchased the ads, even if there is not an explicit money->ad transaction, the mere donation of the money will allow for more ads.

This is of course blatantly illegal.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

The following groups and individuals are considered "foreign nationals" and are, therefore, subject to the prohibition:
# Foreign governments;
# Foreign political parties;
# Foreign corporations;
# Foreign associations;
# Foreign partnerships;

These are the ones giving money to the Chamber of Commerce, money which indirectly funds political advertising in the US.

So when can we expect to see the Chamber brought to trial?


Oh right, I forgot, laws don't apply if you're rich enough.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

People have died before I have shot them

Now and then someone says that this or that act emboldens terrorists or will encourages attacks. Things like burning Qur'ans.

Inevitably someone else responds that we were attacked before we did that. There is of course the obvious flaw: there are many ways to be offensive which do not involve burning Qur'ams or secretly torturing Muslims who have never had a trial or lawyer. Such as assassinating democratically elected leaders and propping up dictators (see: Iran), supporting a state popping up in the middle of nowhere and forcing out the original inhabitants (see: Israel), or occupying religiously sacred land (see: the Arabian Peninsula), the last one of which I say is just too bad; just because I have a book that says you can't stand somewhere doesn't mean I get to kill you.

In other words we've never been attacked in an innocent state.

But the bigger flaw in this logic is that it fails to recognize that bad things can get worse. As my title says, people have died even though I haven't shot them. Does this mean I should go ahead and shoot people since there's no clear link between shooting people and death? Of course not! If A causes B but B happens anyway, that doesn't mean that A is unrelated to B and cannot make B happen even more. In this case B is American civilians being murdered in retaliation for perceived offenses.

This doesn't mean we should bow to the terrorists. Hardly. Terrorists should all be imprisoned or killed. But we should consider what effect our actions have on the potential next generation of terrorists. These aren't bad people, they're blank slates, so it would be smart to not scribble anything bad on them. But again, we shouldn't go out of our way to avoid offending everyone, because let's face it, someone somewhere will get offended by something. However we shouldn't go out of our way to be offensive. That's just stupid.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why give him so much publicity?

As of writing this Mister Crazy Minister has backed down from the burning. Maybe it was just a publicity stunt. Maybe he recognized that someone was bound to kill him for it, possibly even a Christian, just to shut him up.

He got a whole lot of undeserved publicity. But I think that was a necessary evil.

Did the media and politicians blow up the story? Yes. Should they have been quieter? Hell no.

If they had been silent, then in a week Al Jazeera would have a clip showing and then we'd have a shitstorm. Why did no one try to stop this? Why has no one condemned this? This would have gotten out somehow, so what matters is that it gets out on our terms.

What are our terms?

Our terms are "Look at this terrible thing which we all condemn and would not do ourselves. This is a fringe person who gains no respect here. We are not like him."

Of course we'd say the same thing even if the clip was 'leaked' rather than broadcast constantly. But it's a much different thing to condemn the minister before he does it and before there's been a huge backlash than to appear to be patching things up afterward.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the Nationalist Socialist Party is scary

Why do commentators seem to have such a problem with the imaginary* socialist wing of the Nazi party but the nationalist part is just fine?

*okay, not always imaginary, it used to exist before Hitler destroyed it

Friday, July 30, 2010

Not everything Hitler did was bad

We live in a strange world in which anything can be criticized with "Hitler did that" or "Hitler did something similar". I wonder how we uselessly attacked people in 1930. I suppose we had Lenin. But the 1910s must have been pretty difficult times for poorly supported arguments.

Hitler did personally orchestrate the industrialized murder of millions of innocent people and started wars which caused the deaths of millions more. That's certainly bad. If someone wanted to criticize someone for having an idea similar to "kill millions of innocent people", I could see that as a valid criticism. In general I think people can agree that "kill millions of innocent people" is a bad idea, regardless of whether or not Hitler had done it.

The problem with Hitler wasn't that he was Hitler. It's not as if he was born a symbol of timeless and ruthless evil. Hitler isn't even a specific name, since I presume his father also had the name Hitler, as well as his mother, grandfather, perhaps some uncles and aunts, and so on.

The bad parts of Hitler are the bad things he did. Not who he was or everything he did, just the bad parts. When he orchestrated the murder of millions of innocent people, that falls under the "bad things he did" category. When he told France "go fuck yourselves and your ridiculous 'guilt for WWI debt'", I'd put that in the "good things he did" category, since the Treaty of Versailles was timeless bullshit. When he invaded France, through Belgium, in addition to invading just about everywhere else, that falls under the "bad things he did" category. This in no way diminishes the positive aspects of things like leading the recovery of the German economy and pulling millions out of misery and poverty.

Hitler is dead. Even assuming conspiracy theories were true and he actually escaped to go hide in South America, by now he'd be over 120 years old and probably dead. Not even his Aryan super-race descended from gods could live that long, and he clearly was not part of it. Someday Hitler won't have as much impact as he does now. Just as outside of England and Ireland people tend to not know much about the mass killings attributed to Cromwell, and therefore rarely use pictures of people with Cromwell's mustache attached, so some day Hitler won't evoke much emotion or outrage. Hopefully by then we'll have figured out that we shouldn't criticize ideas for "being like Hitler", but instead should criticize them for the true problem "being like killing millions of innocent people".

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Taming the Beast

The stock market is overrun with speculators. And not just people speculators. No, that might be like actual work (not that it would be anyway). Instead they've automated their leeching. Welcome to the world of high-frequency trading in which computers are used to jump ahead of real traders and grab tiny bits of money from them. That's right, your mutual fund and pension are being slowly drained by a computer.

I propose two methods to calm the markets, to make speculating against other people unprofitable. My goal is to encourage investment in companies and long-term profitability, rather than grabbing the next big payout next quarter with accounting tricks and gambling on the fluctuations of the market, fluctuations which their speculation drives.

First, add a one cent tax to every stock transaction. This will have a minor effect on investors, a larger effect on speculators, and will completely wreck the computers. With a one cent tax buyers would only want to buy when they had a good chance of substantial price increases, the kind which can only be assured over the long term with stable companies. Even if a person can pull of 10 cent profits on transactions, this cuts that by 10%, a significant hit which would discourage such trading. The tax could be reduced or waived for sufficiently cheap stocks which might only move small amounts even over years.

Second, add a holding requirement, such as requiring stocks to be held for at least two years and unable to give dividends for a similar amount of time. This encourages long-term investment. Buyers would want stocks which will perform well for years and will not be tied to the short-term outlook. This means companies could focus on the research and development which drive long-term growth and profits (and the economy), rather than short-term gains from accounting tricks, layoffs, and deceptive advertising. It would also become impractical to speculate on the actions of other investors, since projections would have to go out for years, and therefore short-term bubbles and busts would be insignificant.

The goal is these changes is to stabilize the fluctuations in the stock market, fluctuations which are unrelated to the actual state of the economy, and which only harm it. The focus of traders could then shift away from predicting the market itself and towards the actual health of companies. Imagine how much different the dot com bubble would have been if investors had been forced (by their own self-interest) to look at the long-term profitability of tech firms. Maybe there would have been less of a bubble, less of a bust, and a better economy for Bush to inherit. With a genuinely good economy we might not have been so easily drawn to cheap credit and housing speculation. And so on.

These ideas aren't perfect. The tax needs tweaking, maybe a variable scale based on the initial stock price. The holding requirement might need to be longer or shorter. But I think it's a good start.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fire Insurance

Maybe I'm biased, but in America we seem to have a pretty good system for dealing with fires. When your house is burning, the firemen come and put it out. Then afterward you sort out damages with the insurance. But the fire gets put out. No smoldering embers or gas manes left leaking. If there are you get to sue them.

I wonder what it would be like if fires were handled more like healthcare.

Your house catches on fire and the firemen rush over. They put out most of the fire, so it's not going to catch up again since things are so wet. But there's still a gas leak and some piles in the basement are still glowing. But your house won't burn down anymore, at least not right away, so they go. Then you have to sign some forms and see if you can get an insurance-approved fireman to put out the last few dangers. Because of paperwork he isn't even allowed to under the front porch, though you can clearly see a few flames already. But firemen are expensive and paying out of pocket just isn't an option. You've missed work and are behind on bills. Eventually you think you've settled all the billing and pretty much taken care of the fire. A few months later the house explodes and kills you. The insurance company refuses to pay or send anymore firemen to your house to get your children out.

Yep, the second example in which fires are handled by the free market, rather than those lazy socialist firemen, that sounds pretty good doesn't it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fetuses are elderly

Have you ever noticed how anti-abortion activists often use pictures of babies? The general message they present is "Don't kill babies!" This is a message I can get behind. I have a niece now and she is amazing, and if someone were to harm her, I would perform a very late term abortion on whoever hurt her. I won't say I'm a fan of babies in general, but I'm certainly anti-baby-killing.

I'm pro-choice as well. Well, none of the very late abortions, those really are just killing babies. I would know, I was one, born nearly thee months early. So I can conclude that 6 months is definitely too late for an abortion. Six days isn't too late. Between those it's a fuzzy area that needs work. When is it a baby? I don't know.

Why are the pictures always of babies? Unless it's a late abortion, it's not killing a baby. In most cases it's an undifferentiated, nonviable blob of cells. That's not a baby. It is certainly the potential of a baby. But if they are defending potentials, why only baby pictures? Why no posters of teenagers? Or middle-age adults? Or the elderly? If they seek to protect potential, they appear to be ignoring 99% of human life.

I have a theory: Anti-choice activists don't actually care much about babies. If they did they might focus more on far bigger sources of dead fetuses, and dead babies: malnutrition, stress, war, and the expense of pre- and post-natal care. Instead what is at stake for them is contraception. They've fought against condom use, birth control pills, and whatever else you can think of. But those are look so harmless: a bit of rubber, a pill, not all that scary or easy to attack. Abortion is simply more convenient. It's a starting point.

I wonder if anyone would care so much about abortion if it wasn't a way of preventing childbirth. Would we accept killing people if it didn't give women control, but instead gave us cheap stuff? I think we would. We would! We only need to look at factory conditions overseas, or even here in some cases, to see that it is true.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This is not Obama's Katrina

It's his Dust Bowl.

Once upon a time America was based heavily on agriculture, but by the 1930s was transitioning to manufacturing. Similarly, we are in a transition from oil-based manufacturing to a service economy, though still based on oil.

But perhaps not. The dust bowl drove millions of small farmers off their land and into distant cities where they sought non-farming work. This paved the way for industrial agriculture as small-scale farming became unprofitable and the former farmers found alternatives. We may see a similar shift. Unsustainable land use faded (though obviously not completely). Hopefully the same will happen with oil use. This could be the start of a green economy, whatever that means. Makes a great buzzword though.

The poorest and most vulnerable are the ones hit worst by the disaster, those who work directly off the land, or water. The fishermen of the gulf are losing their harvests, and the water in which they would fish, to the oil. Will this trigger a similar exodus? It is likely. But where will they go? A recession is not a very good time for hundreds of thousands of unemployed people to attempt to migrate into other occupations.

Both disasters were made by humanity. Well, the Dust Bowl was a combination of drought and poor farming techniques. It didn't help that the plains weren't naturally the best place for farming. Similarly the drilling was a man-made disaster, made worse by the location so deep.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Steal back BP

BP's negligence has caused untold damage to America. We'll probably never know the full cost. And they'll probably never pay the estimated cost.

So fuck em! Let's seize all BP assets in America. All physical infrastructure, any patents based here, any accounts, stock, bonds, anything and everything. Let's take their suits after they get done lying to Congress.

We'll call it even and promise in the future to have a more effective means of containing anger.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White flight, anti-redlining, and the mortgage crisis

I had planned to start this post with the popular story, that the Community Reinvestment Act caused the mortgage crisis. The general story goes something like this: in the name of equality CRA forced banks to give mortgages to people who couldn't pay them back, leading to a surge in home prices out of proportion with income and inflation, peaking with the bubble that we just saw burst. And somewhere I'd seen the graph of home prices, incomes, and when CRA was enacted. It all fit. So obviously I had to prove it wrong.

So please accept this strange assumption: let's assume that the narrative which I disagree with is based on facts, but draws the wrong inferences.

Cancel that, this works. Sort of. It places the bubble at around 1995. But that doesn't fit the data so well. Let's not let facts get in the way of our opponents. Oh the comment makes me laugh.

Let's look at the other side of racism in real estate: where you can buy a home. Once upon a time people would write and accept contracts which stated that they would not resell the home to black people. This was an effective way of keeping white neighborhoods white. At about the same time that CRA went up, so did segregation contracts become illegal. Combine that with legislation for race-neutral lending, and suddenly black people can move into white neighborhoods.

If they can afford it. In fact there was not a flood of poor, uneducated, criminal blacks to white neighborhoods. Instead the black middle class, who wanted to go somewhere better and to get out of that mess, they moved. But why didn't they move to good black areas? Well, there weren't a whole lot, since race-based lending tends to bring down the middle class along with the poor who they are stereotyped with.

But white residents weren't entirely clear on the "middle class black people will not rape your daughter and rob your house while smoke pot" thing. So they left. Simple supply and demand, even without any discounting due to urgency, will drive down prices. That allows a lower class of black people to move in, driving down prices even more, bringing in more, and so on. Meanwhile the middle class blacks see that the neighborhood has gone to shit, so they leave too.

On the surface this would appear to cause prices to drop. On the contrary, it's actually a perfect scenario for both oversupply and higher prices.

Moving out means a new home, driving construction. There's also a rush, meaning the new houses will cost more. Meanwhile in the previous neighborhood the home values are plummeting, after they have been bought, resulting in upside down mortgages. Walk away from that and buy a new house.

Why would the banks give loans for this? Well sure the white people might seem to be overpaying and rushing, but they're responsible middle-class people who have been paying off their loans and have savings accounts and whatnot, so it would seem to make sense to loan money to them. The black middle class, well it is black, but it's middle class and they can't legally discriminate. As for the poor coming after, everything is so cheap, there's nowhere to go but up. It helps when you can just mislabel and sell off the loans if they don't look as good as expected.

So a wave goes out from the city, driving prices up at the front, crashing them behind, and creating the Alice in Wonderland scenario of overpriced homes, oversupply of homes, and a whole lot of unoccupied places.

This shouldn't be taken as factual, and hopefully hasn't, but just as a "maybe this is it?" theory. I'll have to do some more digging to see if it's actually worth anything.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Have some of my wireless

A while back I got into a bit of an argument with my brother regarding unsecured wireless networks. Most of what I concluded is that law should not be written by people with next to no experience in the field, as is most internet/electronics/computing law. He's a law school graduate and has passed the Georgia bar, so one can assume he has some concept of the relevant legal concepts. The problem is that there are almost no relevant concepts for this strange new world.

All current notion of theft involves exclusivity: what I have you don't have. In the physical world theft is very straightforward: you have what I own without my permission. In a digital realm, it's not so simple. I can have what is yours without you not having it. We can both have it. I didn't earn it, but I didn't deprive you of it either, so while there is clearly something wrong, theft is not the right word. Incidentally, I believe this is part of why the record companies have so many problems: they keep accusing people of theft when they haven't. Switching to calling it piracy isn't much help when we all think pirates are awesome, and pirates are thieves anyway.

To the point: I felt that it was not theft or trespassing to use an unsecured wireless network as long as the use was not reducing the effectiveness of the connection for the owner. If they were using it at something near capacity, then outside use of it would be limiting their service, and that would be theft: the bandwidth someone else has, they do not have.

I could think of no good analogies at the time, though I was confronted with many terrible ones. But finally I have it. Broadband connections are like a water pipe to the house which is always open, always running, and tends to spill out onto the sidewalk and evaporate. Most if it is excess, wasted.

There is one major problem with my assertion that use of someone else's network is not innately theft: we can't easily measure their usage. Wouldn't it be great if there were a way to ask a network and connection, "Are you busy?" But let's not stop there.

Here are the features I'd love to see:
Password/key to be 'inside' the network.
Guest access to 'outside' the network, but retaining internet access.
Outsiders could not see anything inside: no information on the computers, router, or anything besides remaining bandwidth and network name.
Insiders would have absolute priority. Outsiders would only get leftover capacity, so insiders are never slowed down.

Have this built in to every wireless router and make the default "No one without the key can use this network for anything". After all, people have the right to decide how their own resources are used. Instead the sharing would be an option, a way to make some use of excess or unused bandwidth without going totally unsecure with no password or priorities.

If you happen to run into a network like this and use it a few times, drop a dollar on their doorstep and a note thanking them for the generosity.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Environmentalist Suicide

Apparently today is Earth Day. Who knew?

A former friend of mine once said something incredibly stupid: She'd kill herself to protect the earth from her humanity. I believe this was caused by several factors. She had terribly low self-esteem, wasn't of anything close to sound mind, thought she was a druid, and didn't seem to value humanity very much. Her life was a sad story, which she liked to tell any time anyone else had a bad day and needed to vent. Got a bad grade on an exam? "I'm an orphan." Well fuck, that helps so much!

This is a fringe movement, those who believe that humanity should cease to exist in order to save the planet. I say cease to exist because they have different methods: murder, suicide, no next generation, so it's not quite accurate to say they want to destroy humanity or kill it. The thought behind the movement is that humanity is unnatural and harmful to the world and therefore must be removed.

I consider myself an environmentalist, but I consider the concept of 'environmentalist suicide' to be incredibly stupid. Humans are animals, naturally evolved like any other. We have as much right to exist as any other species, meaning that we have no right to exist but also do not deserve to not exist. Nature doesn't have morals, it just is. Survive or don't, that's it.

To suggest that humanity has less right to survive is based on the false notion that humanity is unnatural, that we break the rules. Bullshit. We're no better or worse than any other creature and we're all just trying to survive. The whales wouldn't die to save us (or at least have made no such indication), so why should we do the same for them? Does a wolf starve to death before it eats a rabbit? No. It eats the rabbit and doesn't question it. Instead it survives. Does the rabbit complain? No. It does what it can to survive and has a hundred siblings to carry on.

I'm not trying to justify all human action. It is equally stupid when people gloat about wasting energy and littering and going out of their way to destroy the world. Their kids need that world to live in.

There's a terrible situation of extremes. On one side you have those who don't consider any larger impact on the world and the next generation. On the other side you have the static world advocates. Who are the static world advocates? They are the ones who fight tooth and nail to not let anything change, who believe that any alteration of the environment is bad and should be stopped. They advocate taking a picture of the world and never letting that change. How boring. The irony is that they like to talk of biodiversity, when preventing any change means that we won't see new species, and so over time we'll have less diversity.

Evolution doesn't just happen. Something causes it. There is a balance to the world, which tends to remain unless upset. Humans are not the only cause. The world changes in temperature and air content and sea level and all sorts of things change and have changed without us. We should not fear changing the environment. It is not an antique to be locked away in a glass case and never touched. Certainly we should not break it, but we shouldn't be so afraid of some dust, or new paint, or using it as a pitcher rather than a vase.

Let's not get caught up in extremism. Humanity should not end. It also should not foul its own nest. We should not fear changing the world, but we should be careful to not destroy it. That means not destroying ourselves, for we are part of the world.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Producer regulation does not imply consumer restriction

The FDA is moving towards regulating salt. My first thought when I saw that was "wtf?" Then I started actually thinking and decided to see what they meant. Were they looking into salt types? Purity? Sources? Turns out I was entirely at the wrong end. The regulation would be on salt levels in manufactured foods.

As I finished the article I looked over the comments. In summary they expressed outrage at Obama telling them what to eat.

Let's start at the place where you would start if you were being logical. Or complete illogical. The Soviet Union and the Communist Party's regulation of industry. In this extreme example, regulation of the producers is a direct restriction of consumer choice. If there is one car design, one apartment layout, there is no choice beyond buy or not buy.

At the opposite extreme, no regulation at all, there is theoretically unlimited choice brought on by the wonderful productive nature of the free market. Until you introduce patents, copywrite laws, and all the other restrictions which are necessary to prevent intellectual property being ripped off, and all of which restrict consumer choice to some degree.

It appears inevitable that regulation would restrict choice. But that's at overly-general extremes.

Let's look at the specific example: salt. I go to buy my soup and that damn socialist has reduced the salt in it. What an outrage! I take it back home, heat it up, and grab my salt shaker. At this point Obama personally takes away my salt shaker and dumps it in the trash. Actually that second part doesn't happen. I have just as much control over what I eat as I did before. In fact, I potentially have more. If the soup starts with less salt, I have the choice of having less salt, or more salt, or the same salt as right now.

Just to review the facts: Obama has not killed my grandma and he has not stolen my salt shaker.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day of Silence and Mass Murder

Not being in school I have no reminders of when Day of Silence is. It's today. People plan ahead of time to not speak for the day in order to spread awareness and protest or something like that. At college one group also held one to protest abortion. I didn't bother to point out that fetuses have no voices because they literally can't talk and have less mental capacity than a brain-damaged hamster; they knew they were putting on a good performance.

My Google news brought up this article. Students protest hate speech with ‘Day of Silence'
It ends with this:
In the past year, hate speech has also been highlighted in Massachusetts bullying cases which ultimately led to student suicides. Though he did not identify as gay, 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, a sixth-grader at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield was repeatedly taunted with anti-gay slurs and endured other forms of bullying. He hung himself at his home with an extension cord last April.

That got me thinking. Why commit suicide? That seems rather dumb. It's a surrender, a submission to those who are wronging them. If you're going to kill someone, kill someone more likely to be the problem: the other people. I'm not advocating killing every 6th grader who ever called someone gay, since then there would be no 7th grade the next year, and so on until humanity is gone. I am suggesting though, that if this were say, 10 years later and the people in question are in their 20s rather than 12; that by then people should have outgrown their "everyone is gay" phase. If you're going to commit suicide, don't, take down the people who are the problem instead.

Same as in those shitty oppressive culture where women are abused and neglected and sometimes kill themselves to get away, or do nothing and eventually are killed for some petty offense like "exposed eyelid in public." The world would be a better place if those women either refused to die and tried to escape or accepted death and made it useful, taking a queue from the suicide bombers, except fighting for something worthwhile. Or at least die for a useful crime like "cut off everyone's balls and eliminated the next generation."

Of course the ideal would be no suicide, no murder, and no defocused hatred:homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dear President Ahmadinejad,

Do you need a hug? You seem angry. It's not that we hate you. I don't hate you, at least. But you've been acting crazy lately. By lately I mean since we first heard of you. We're not going to nuke you. We just say stuff like that because certain morons in our country think we should. But they're not in power and sensible people will do what they can to keep them out.

So here's a hug.

An American

P.S. Israel is not using mind-control devices to spread belief in the Holocaust. You're mixing up "Israeli mind-control devices" with "Hitler killing millions of Jews and Eastern Europeans". It's the second one that makes us think there was a Holocaust. Have a nice day.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The gold standard is pointless

The value of gold comes from two sources: commercial/industrial use and perception. The former would give it much less value than it has. The latter is well, perception.

Gold is a useful material commodity. It isn't a stable currency or a reserve. It's just a rare metal which we hype up and fool ourselves into believing it has innate value comparable to the market price.

Moving to a gold standard would fix absolutely nothing. Anyone who advocates a gold standard or investment in gold is either speculating on a bubble or deluding themselves. Gold isn't special or magical. It's a rare metal that makes shiny stuff. That's all.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Patriot or terrorist?

Is he a crazy terrorist who demonstrates the failure of the liberal Obama security policy?

Or is he a brave, if desperate patriot fighting back against Obama's socialist taxes?

The spin could go so many ways. But my prediction: right now he'll be called a man driven to insanity by big government. 6 months from now this will be listed as a security failure.

Who says you can't attack the President and change your stories too?

Monday, February 15, 2010

The efficiency of the market and Nazis

Godwin makes everything better.

It is often claimed the the free market produces the most efficient distribution of resources. There are many ways to criticize this, but I will choose two: Nazis and happiness.

Efficiency as an end in itself
There is something seductive about efficiency. It draws you in. It's almost like the thrill of an action movie, explosions and guns and no point at all. There's where the problem comes in: What is the point of efficiency? By itself it is nothing; a tool at most. Tools are useless without something to work on and are terrible is used for the wrong purpose.

Enter the Nazis. They were efficient in many tasks. Such as killing millions of people. Despite the hyping up of health care, Obama's death panels would have a hard time killing millions of people in less than a decade. No matter how many Hitler mustaches and swastikas you paint on him, he is not as efficient as the Nazis.

The Holocaust was efficient, but clearly, efficiency itself is not a noble cause. In contrast modern factories are very efficient and that let's us all (exclude those who are excluded) have a higher standard of living. That is good. But again, efficiency in itself is not good. Instead what matters is the purpose of the efficiency. What goal does the market have? That goal is the true measure of it, not its efficiency.

Efficient happiness
The market produces optimal distribution of goods by allowing us to maximize our happiness through rational exchanges of goods and products. Right? Well that depends on what you're measuring.

If we are looking for the total happiness in the world, then huge gains would be made if you were half as wealthy and that was divided up among the poor. This isn't due to some socialist enlightenment or freedom from materialism. It's simple diminishing returns. Having a car, house, refrigerator, and computer will yield a huge gain in happiness compared to not having those. Spend that amount again fora bigger house, better food in the fridge, and faster computer and you won't have double the happiness. In fact, you're likely to have less, due to additional stress from work and financial strains to afford the luxuries. In terms of arbitrary numbers, it's a case of 100+5+5+5+5+5+5+5+5+5 being less than 90+10+10+10+10+10+10.

If we are looking for individual happiness, well then the free market works very well if you're on the 100 side of the addition, less so on the 5 side.

You are bad and should feel bad
Individual happiness and total happiness are different measures and are unlikely to be reconciled, unless one thing changes: tie individual happiness to total happiness. In other words, give rich people a huge guilt trip.

That's not likely to happen. If someone doesn't feel guilty about corporate policies that cause pandas to be killed by orphan child soldiers, what could possibly cause them to feel guilty?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Creationism will lead to witchcraft

Creationism is based largely on an inability or refusal to objectively evaluate evidence.
Creationism is based on active misinterpretation of a book of parables based on the unchallenged assertion that it is absolute literal truth.

Put these together and what do we arrive at? Active suppression of thought and objectivity. Suppression of experimentation, of controls, of science and knowledge. What will take its place?

Some would like it to be Christianity. That is the plan of the Creationists. And in all likelihood, it will happen. Partially.

But ignorance and stupidity are not innately drawn to any particular system of beliefs, or any system at all. They drift and fumble in the dark, grasping at whatever they stumble across.

Much of what the ignorant find will not be Christianity, but older religions, or even older still, spirit-worship, voodoo (which actually is somewhat new, but the ideas of it are old), and all manner of heretical beliefs and practices. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that should creationism drive science out of teaching, we will see a rise in witchcraft.

Prepare for unintended consequences.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The most dangerous cult of our time

It's not radical Islam.

It's not even Christian extremists.

No, it's the fallen Cult of the Free Market.

This was once a peaceful, loving faith. They spread their gospel and virtues of hard work, perseverance, and prosperity. Sure, they were a bit backward, but it was a backward time known as the past. The early worshipers can be excused their harmful acts towards children and polluting the air and water, for they did not yet know what they did. And it was for a greater good, in addition to their own gain.

But this once great religion, this worship of freely-chosen economic decisions based on maximizing personal gain, it has fallen. Where it once followed the spirit of freedom, it now follows only in word. In place of the benevolent invisible hand, the cult now has a malicious and untouchable pantheon known as the Corporations.

These beings do not seek to bring balance. They do not seek prosperity. Instead they seek only their own power and profit, without regard for the harm they cause to the heathens or the faithful. These new gods are beyond reproach, held unaccountable for their actions. To question them in any way is heresy. To point out the truth, that they are not the once-benevolent spirit of the free market, is to invite personal attack and public scorn.

As Christianity rose in power it branded all other faiths as Pagan and devil-worshiping. Mirroring this, the rise of the corporation has brought the equally false labeling of any dissenters as socialist.

The cult of the Corporation is truly that, a cult, a religion. It has ceased to be a valid economic system, for it no longer cares about economics as a science. Science questions and examines and the corporations want nothing more for there to no questioning, only obedience. Followers have infiltrated all branches of government, written its scripture into law, and attack the separation of church and state at a scale that a few misplaced Ten Commandments could not even approach. As they write more loopholes and exemptions and shelters, the houses of worship for the cult have gained the same tax-immunity as any church would.

The time has come for two revolutions. First, government must be cleansed of the influence of the cult. Second, it is time for a reformation, a return to proper worship of the Market and the Invisible Hand, the benevolent forces which created our world; and the rejection of the Corporate Pantheon which is destroying it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I want my country back

The Supreme Court had decided that corporations, which are not people (which I hope is obvious), have free speech and therefore can spend however much they want to bribe... I mean finance elections.

Why should something which is not a citizen have any say in internal American politics? These are not Americans we're talking about here. They are corporations. They are international and care nothing for America except as it advances their own interests. That's their point: to make money, not to look out for the best interests of any state or national populace. This means that inevitably when their profits and national interests conflict, national interest will lose. This isn't mere theory and projection; it already happens on a routine basis.

Corporations are not even human. They pretend to be in order to manipulate and exploit, but that hardly justifies giving them any human rights. Do we give the vote to dogs who act like people and dress up for calenders? Of course not. That would be incredibly stupid.

Non-People should not have have free speech, or really any at all. They're not people and therefore should it is pointless to even consider the question of human rights in their case.

I want my country back. It is being taken from me by activist judges.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Well shit.

It's amazing how 41 people saying "we don't care if you live or die" can inspire people to vote... in favor of them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Would you vote for Jesus?

Let's go through some facts:

Fact: Born in Bethlehem, a Palestinian-controlled area.
Fact: Had conflicts with the Jewish authorities.
Fact: Had long hair.
Fact: Traveled the current Muslin world, preaching.
Fact: Had a small band of devoted followers, one of which eventually committed suicide.
Fact: Was motivated to "die for our sins."
Fact: Attacked the Temple, disrupting both Jews and bankers.
Fact: Speaks frequently of peace and brotherhood.

I don't know about you, but this sounds a like like a Muslim extremist with a lot of ties who seeks to undermine our national defense. I'd keep an eye on supporters of this guy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In 50 years China will be Communist

On it's not Communist already. Does it look like they live in a roughly equal worker's paradise?

No, instead China has, without telling anyone (quite rude of them), jumped back to a feudal system. The peasants and craftsmen toil away on land which they do not own. The nobility (government) takes all the profit and gives no freedom. And is utterly useless and has power only because it has power. Nobility in all but name and blood.

But capitalism is rising there. Economic freedom, slowly, is emerging. They're getting richer. The idea of property is growing. And eventually, the capitalists will be powerful enough to displace the nobility.

But the Chinese are not as big on consumption as other cultures. They are learning, but perhaps not fast enough. They do produce a lot though. Eventually we're going to run out of money to give them. So they will have a crisis of overproduction.

At this point China will be industrialized but with plentiful farmland and excess products. Cue Marxist Communist revolution.

And then Google will move back in.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Communism ruined captalism

If not for the Communist revolution in Russia and the resulting rise of it as a foreign idea, Communist ideas may have taken root in America and the Western world. Not for a revolution, since that's highly unlikely in such an individualist set of cultures, but for recognition of the flaws and gradual reform. Things such as minimum wages, safety laws, injury compensation, and the various safety nets which keep setbacks from being devastating. But instead these were all branded as Communist infiltration and for a while, and still, are attacked as such.

Revolution hurt reform and everyone ended up worse off because of it.