31 December 2011

Book Review


Tabarrok focuses on four policy areas in which changes could yield very positive results.  He kicks off the short eBook by focusing first on patent reform, noting that many areas of patent coverage (software, technical processes e.g.) have low innovation costs and, as such, are not worthy of patent protection.  In fact, his recommended patent reform is basically total abolition of all patents, save for medicine and a handful of other fields.  This seems rather viable given that most inventions and innovations are generally cheap and likely inevitable.  He also has a few short steps that would help as well, like requiring a functioning prototype and capping terms to seven or fourteen years depending on category.

He next turns his sights on to a prize system for innovation.  His proposed policies are well-intentioned but naïve.  He proposes that the government fund sizeable prizes (to the tune of millions or billions of dollars per prize) with specific goals—not methods—in mind.  This should work in theory, but the fundamental problem with this method is that it fails to discern how the government would go about setting the most economic goals and prizes.  This process could become highly politicized, as anything involving billions of federal dollars tends to.  However, venture capitalists and innovation firms should take note of this recommendation and implement it.

Tabarrok closes his short book by looking briefly at education—both public and post-secondary.  Regarding the former, he recommends reform.  Why this is preferable to privatization is unstated, but perhaps that is beyond the scope of the book.  One curious thing about is argument is how he claims that there is a correlation between high school graduation rates and GDP growth.  While statistical analysis bears this out, it is worth noting that there is no proven causal relationship between the two.  It could be that GDP growth causes increases in the rate of High School graduation as families become wealthier, and better able to secure leisure time for their children, thus reducing teenagers’ need to work.

It is worth pointing out, though, that public education in the US is crap, and is entirely too test-driven, thanks in large part to No Child Left Behind.  Tabarrok doesn’t dwell much on this, which seems to be a bit of an oversight.

Finally, Tabarrok turns his sights on to college education, noting that there is undoubtedly a college bubble and that there should thus be fewer college students.  Government reform is recommended, since that is a source of the current malinvestment.  Better education as to the benefits of a post-secondary education is also recommended, though this seems largely fruitless.

In all, this short book is a rather thought-provoking read.  Readers are not likely to agree with all the answers, but the questions are worth mulling over.  In fact, the questions the book asks make it worth the purchase.  There is a lot to consider and debate, thanks to this book, and the answers Tabarrok provides are considerably less hackneyed than what has been heretofore seen.  As such, the book is a recommended read.

30 December 2011

Ann Coulter, Owned by the GOP

How else to explain this putrid mess being passed off as political analysis:
That leaves us with Romney and Bachmann as the candidates with the strongest, most conservative positions on illegal immigration. As wonderful as Michele Bachmann is, 2012 isn't the year to be trying to make a congresswoman the first woman president.
Two Little Indians sitting in the sun; one was just a congresswoman and then there was one.
Mitt Romney?!  Is she serious?

No conservatives like Mitt Romney.  Not one.  He’s a greasy northeastern “conservative” with a remarkably liberal political background.  He’s Kerry-esque in his flip-flopping, and his record is no reassurance for his political promise.

The only people who like Romney are the party bosses.  Since Ann Coulter has endorsed Romney, I think it’s fair to conclude that she’s been bought out by the GOP.

The Media Is Blacklisting Ron Paul

This is no surprise, of course, for the media hates Ron Paul.  What’s intriguing is that claim of Ron Paul being a fringe candidate is simply a lie:

In summary, the mainstream media attempts to show Ron Paul as a fringe candidate to discourage undecided voters from aligning themselves with him. Don’t be fooled, and don’t be fooled by the "Ron Paul can’t win" canard. The real world statistics and indicators show that the mainstream media has and is consistently underestimating the strength, depth, and breadth of Ron Paul’s support.

The post linked above is most certainly worth an in-depth read, for it is—to my knowledge—the most in-depth examination of Ron Paul’s popularity using objective metrics.  It appears that Ron Paul’s popularity has not only been underreported, but it has been underreported to a nearly criminal degree.  As the statistical analysis shows, Ron Paul is a remarkably popular candidate.  Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or ignorant.

Strengthening the Case Against Group Work


Results varied to some extent. At every institution studied, from research universities to small colleges, some students performed at high levels, and some programs fostered more learning than others. In general, though, two points come through with striking clarity. First, traditional subjects and methods seem to retain their educational value. Nowadays the liberal arts attract a far smaller proportion of students than they did two generations ago. Still, those majoring in liberal arts fields—humanities and social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics—outperformed those studying business, communications, and other new, practical majors on the CLA. And at a time when libraries and classrooms across the country are being reconfigured to promote trendy forms of collaborative learning, students who spent the most time studying on their own outperformed those who worked mostly with others. [Emphasis added.]

This confirms something I wrote a while ago, wherein I noted that group work is both retarded and retarding.  Quite simply, you cannot—indeed will not—master any subject or discipline as long as you can (and do) rely on someone else’s intelligence and knowledge.

Compelling Proof of the College Bubble


In Academically Adrift, Arum and Roksa paint a chilling portrait of what the university curriculum has become. The central evidence that the authors deploy comes from the performance of 2,322 students on the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test administered to students in their first semester at university and again at the end of their second year: not a multiple-choice exam, but an ingenious exercise that requires students to read a set of documents on a fictional problem in business or politics and write a memo advising an official on how to respond to it. Data from the National Survey of Student Engagement, a self-assessment of student learning filled out by millions each year, and recent ethnographies of student life provide a rich background.
Their results are sobering. The Collegiate Learning Assessment reveals that some 45 percent of students in the sample had made effectively no progress in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing in their first two years. And a look at their academic experience helps to explain why. Students reported spending twelve hours a week, on average, studying—down from twenty-five hours per week in 1961 and twenty in 1981. Half the students in the sample had not taken a course that required more than twenty pages of writing in the previous semester, while a third had not even taken a course that required as much as forty pages a week of reading.

One of the subtle cultural shifts arising from the education bubble has been how people are inclined to view college.  It used to be that people went to college for an education.  Now people go to college in order to ensure having a good job later on.*  In essence, the role of college has shifted from education to credentials.

As such, it should not be surprising that colleges dumb down both their admission requirements and their curriculum, for the goal is not education.  Rather, the goal is giving students customers a piece of paper that says they are smart.  This claim doesn’t have to reflect reality in any meaningful way because most students don’t bear the direct costs of their “education.”  Therefore, students are considerably more willing to spend their parents’ money and their future income on degrees that become less and less valuable.

Basically, then, the dumbing down of academic standards is proof of the education bubble because the free and cheap money subsidizes marginal students who would otherwise have no business being in college.  This subsidy is then seen in the dumbed-down curriculum, for students expect to have something to show for the time and money they’ve put into college, and it’s easier to satisfy customers by giving them a degree regardless of their actual accomplishments.

* One thing that always puzzles me is how parents think that four to six years of extended adolescence is better for their children’s future than having an actual full time job is.  But that’s for another post.

29 December 2011

What Did You Expect from the GOP

Terry Jeffrey, complaining about the Virginia Primary:

He would like to see the Virginia law changed so that it strikes a balance between keeping frivolous candidates off the ballot and allowing all serious candidates access.
I would loosen it further: Let anybody on the primary ballot who meets the constitutional qualifications for president. Let voters decide whom they want their party to nominate.
Virginia's current system is designed to take power away from voters and give it to party bosses and establishment candidates who can raise massive amounts of money early in a campaign. It is wrong.

Sweet Reagan but this is naïve.  Political nominations have always been decided by party bosses.  The idea that political parties even care about democracy or giving power to the people is simply absurd.  Political parties exist for one reason, and one reason only:  to gain political power.  The belief that anyone in a political party is going to represent the wishes of the people they claim to represent is just hilarious.

At least Terry has now recognized that representative democracy in the united states is nothing more than well-orchestrated sham.  Hopefully others will follow suit.

28 December 2011

Predictions 2012

We here at Le Cygne Gris are going to make six predictions for the coming year.  The first three concern economic developments, the last three concern political developments.  They are as follows:

1. Gas will go above $4.00/gallon at some point, and will remain there for at least 26 weeks.  With markets collapsing, investors will want to own something real, like crude oil.  The shift from stocks and bonds to oil will lead to increased prices.

2.  Commodities will be up at least 10% at the end of 2012.  For comparative purposes, we here at Le Cygne Gris will select a portfolio of five commodities for comparison.  They are wheat, soybeans, feeder cattle, gold, and copper.  The current prices are:  $6.53/bushel, $12.13/bushel, $1.50/pound, $1,566/ounce, and $3.40/pound respectively.  The predicted year-end prices are $7.18, $13.34, $1.65, $1,722.60, and $3.74 respectively.  (Current price listings from CNN money.)

3.  Housing prices will tank.  S&P’s US National HousingIndex places the median house price at $130,3990.  I expect it to drop below $120,000 by the end of 2012.

4.  There will not be any more QE.  Thanks to Ron Paul and many others, The Fed now enjoys a considerably higher level of scrutiny than ever before.  Many are beginning to recognize that The Fed is just as political as Congress, and The Fed has already begun to receive the ire of many citizens.  If Ben Bernanke had a popularity rating, I imagine that it would be similar to Congress’s.  As such, Bernanke and the Fed will have an extraordinarily difficult time trying to pass off massive amounts of inflation on the taxpayer.  The Fed will instead have to rely on its normal practice of passing off light amounts of inflation on the taxpayer.

5.  The United States will send troops into Iran in the attempt to engage in some sort of conflict.  This may not be a war per se, since Congress will likely continue its practice of authorizing the use of force instead of declaring war like The Constitution requires.  Nonetheless, the United States will be fighting in Iran by the end of 2012.

6.  Obama will be reelected.  Obama has comfortably shifted into a do-nothing president, so he hasn’t done anything recently to piss anyone off (except possibly the signing into law the recent NDAA legislation).  The negative effects of ObamaCare won’t kick in until 2013, assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t rule it unconstitutional.  The army is finally clearing out of Iraq. Osama is dead.  The Fed is taking some of the heat for the current economic mess.  And, if Obama goes to war with Iran, he will effectively own that issue.

Furthermore, the Republican field is a mess.   No one likes Romney, except for his wife and the GOP bosses.  Gingrich is a joke that everyone laughs at.  Bachmann is Palin lite, except for the rabid support base.  Huntsman and the other 3-percenters (now there’s a band name) have no shot.  As for Ron Paul, I don’t see how he will win.  The media has become its smear campaign and the GOP bosses are hanging him out to dry.  He’s more polarizing than Obama, and has no eloquence.  An Obama-Paul presidential race would probably lead to one of the lowest turnouts in history, and Obama would win by virtue of having the Chicago machine backing him.

Basically, going into 2012, Obama is in a pretty good position for victory.  People aren’t particularly angry at him as much as they’re angry at everyone.  He has the potential to outmaneuver conservatives on military issues while still keeping liberals happy.  Plus, the GOP seems to be trying to lose the upcoming presidential election.  For what it’s worth, we at Le Cygne Gris hope we are wrong about this prediction.

If At First You Can’t Succeed…


Of all the arguments for giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, the most foolish is the argument that we can't find and expel all of them. There is not a law on the books that someone has not violated, including laws against murder, and we certainly have not found and prosecuted all the violators -- whether murderers or traffic law violators. But do we then legalize all the illegalities we haven't been able to detect and prosecute?

The logic of the argument that the inability to prosecute all potential offenders should preclude a law’s existence leads to the conclusion that no law should ever exist.  After all, if we cannot prosecute every murderer, why bother prosecuting any of them?  If we can’t prosecute all thieves, why prosecute any of them?  That this is even an argument for amnesty simply demonstrates how shallow and foolish the supporters of this political movement really are.

Cameron Finds Jesus

Mr Cameron declared Britain ‘a Christian country’ and said politicians and churchmen should not be afraid to say so.
He warned that a failure to ‘stand up and defend’ the values and morals taught by the Bible helped spark the riots and fuelled terrorism.
At Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, where Dr Williams used to teach, Mr Cameron said the time has come for public figures to teach ‘right from wrong’, and questioned whether the Church of England has done enough to defend those values in the face of the ‘moral neutrality’ that pervades modern life.
Attempting to discern the cause of social decline is a chicken-or-egg sort of deal wherein one can only offer opinion, theory, and anecdotal evidence.  That aside, we here at Le Cygne Gris are happy to offer our opinion on the cause of social decline and the theory behind it, and we are inclined to agree with PM Cameron:  Britain’s decline can be traced to its descent into post-Christian secularism.

Britain became powerful and wealthy when its citizens tended to conduct themselves by the Christian code of ethics.  It was, unsurprisingly, Christianity that provided the basis for many of the great accomplishments in Britain and its sphere of influence.  The British legal code based on natural law is an inherently Christian ethic (simply read volume 1 of Blackstone’s commentaries), and therefore the resulting legal codes that arose from it, including the constitution of the United States, can trace its roots to the Judeo-Christian ethic.

What’s especially interesting is noting how spiritual and religious decline in Britain corresponds to a decline in liberty. It appears that rejecting the notion that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights leads some to conclude that not all men need to be treated equally under the law, nor do all men need to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, nor do their rights and freedoms actually need protection.

At any rate, the solution to the current problem of civil unrest and government totalitarianism could likely be cured by a spiritual revival.  Britain should go back to serving God and living by Christian morals.  The nihilistic hedonism of the post-Christian world has not been kind to Britain.  Many young people live aimless lives, leading them to riot senselessly, participate in a hook up culture, and generally waste their lives.  The lack of Christian ethics among the elites hasn’t been better, for it has led to a policy where all cultures are accepted, even if some cultures seem to be quite criminally inclined.  The failure to normalize foreigners and lower-class citizens alike to a Judeo-Christian culture has led to an incredibly rotten culture (described in sickening detail by Theodore Dalrymple, among others).

Of course, there is no way to determine causality, since cultural decline is often a self-reinforcing feedback loop, wherein moral decay within the family structure encourages moral decay within the political system.  Corruption occurs simultaneously at the base and at the head until the rot spreads inseparably throughout.  There are many top-down policies deserving of criticism, of course, but many of these top-down policies are encouraged and support bottom-up behaviors.  In short, the cause is hard to discern, but reasonable cases can be made for both bottom-up causes of corruption and for top-down causes of corruption.  The most likely explanation is that the two occur nearly simultaneously, and that unraveling one will unravel the other.

That said, the bottom-up approach of religious restoration is still worth undertaking, if for no other reason than it provides a way to acclimate people to possible top-down solutions to be enacted later on.  In essence, the bottom-up approach is a way for individuals to begin a positive self-reinforcing feedback loop.  Plus, what do the British have to lose by trying this?

Evidence for Preselection Bias

In my most popular post of all time, I theorized that:

This, then, is how the perfect storm is created.  Average-looking girls have lower standards for men, and are more willing to seek attention from men.  The men, mostly betas, disqualify themselves from being with the attractive girl and focus their attention of the average-looking girl, who is all too happy to eat it up.  The attractive girl is left out because she doesn’t want attention from betas, and because betas are too intimidated by her.


Guys think that pretty girls get hit on a lot, but I can say I never got hit on that much. I don’t know if guys were intimidated or shy or what. I’m a pretty forward girl, though. If I see someone who I want to talk to, I make the first move. [Emphasis added.]

As such, I’ll reiterate what I said in my original post:

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this.  First, average-looking women are likely predisposed to attention-seeking, making them difficult targets.  Second, the only game you really need with attractive girls is the testicular fortitude to say hello coupled with the ability to carry a conversation.
Go forth with confidence.  Ignore the plain, seek the beautiful.  And don’t be surprised when you get it.  After all, you deserve it.

Marginal Christianity

One thing that often galls me about the church today is the spread of Pharisaic thinking among Christians.  Specifically, I refer to the Pharisaic thinking condemned by Christ in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! [Emphasis added.]

I have met a large number of nominally Christian parents who refuse to allow their children to watch certain television shows, play certain (or any) video games, and listen to certain types of music, all in the name of preventing their children from being influenced by the world.  Yet these same parents send their children to public school.  Many of these parents also heavily rely on the church to provide spiritual training for their children.

To me, this is a very peculiar way of thinking, which I generally refer to as marginal Christianity, for its practitioners seem to believe that Christianity takes place at the margins.  Thus, it is acceptable for Christians to send their children to public school, in which the spiritual dregs of society are compelled to attend, but it is unacceptable for Christians to allow their children to watch a television show that has a character say “bitch” or play a video game wherein one is expected to kill imaginary opponents.

Not all Christian parents are like this, of course.  I have met many materialistic Christians who were consistent about their embrace of things of the world, and I have met some conscientious Christian parents who not only forbid their children from consuming modern media, but also homeschool in order to shield them from the various unsavory aspects of worldly behavior.  However, most Christian parents I’ve met seem to be perfectly fine with allowing their children to face an enormous amount of pressure from evil influences in public school (for 6+ hours a day, five days a week, 36+ weeks a year) while simultaneously balking at the idea of allowing their child to watch an NBC comedy.

This strikes me as completely backwards.*

To me, it seems better to take care of the weightier matters of the law, like keeping your child away from the evil influences of their generally degraded peers than to focus on marginal things, like media consumption.  Yes, media consumption can be an incredibly negative influence but this is very much a marginal concern.  The evil that is seen on TV, heard in music, and simulated in video games often pales in comparison to the evil that is daily present in public schools.  Thus, if parents are so concerned about their children’s spiritual well-being, it is far more effective to homeschool them than to forbid them from watching TV and playing video games.

* Please note that I am not saying Christians should consume popular media.  There is much in popular media worthy of moral condemnation, and thus avoidance.

27 December 2011

Why Ron Paul Can’t Win

He doesn’t have enough hope and change:

Practiced as he is in the art of argumentation, Gavin, in the end, fails to fully persuade. He is mostly right that politicians should “stop trying to get us to stand up and cheer” and “start persuading us to sit down and think.” But he has too low an opinion of high rhetoric. As Richard Goodwin, who drafted speeches for John and Robert Kennedy and for Lyndon Johnson, has written, the basic purpose of political rhetoric is to “move men to action or alliance.” To accomplish this, a speaker has to be able to modulate, to hit a range of notes on the scale — including, at times, the highest. True leaders exhort as well as explain.
Yes, “thrill-talk,” as Gavin insists, often gives wings to “impossible dream[s]” and “inevitable disappointment.” But the words that excite us are also the words that can change us — words that stretch our national sense of self, that make us believe we really can end Jim Crow and win a war and put a man on the moon. Not every dream is an impossible one.

Ron Paul is neither witty nor inspiring when he speaks.  He is incapable of speaking in sound bites, incapable of being pithy.  And he does not inspire people with his rhetoric.  Those who support him are not inspired by what he says but by what he represents.  They believed in liberty and were committed to supporting it before they even heard of Ron Paul.  They drank the Kool-Aid before he even served it, so to speak.

But Ron Paul’s central failing is highlighted above.  He wishes to get people to sit and think, not stand and feel.  In modern American politics, people don’t want to think, they want to feel, which is how Obama managed to get elected.  Thus, Ron Paul’s political method is better suited for a different era, one in which presidents didn’t travel the country endlessly to stump, speak, speechify, appear on TV and radio, and engage in inane debates.  Ron Paul is 19th century politician trying to win a 21st century election; don’t be surprised if he loses.

Something’s Got To Give

Take note, war-mongering Christian conservatives:

On this Christmas Eve, one of the great unreported stories throughout what we used to call Christendom is the persecution of Christians around the world. In Egypt, the “Arab Spring” is going so swimmingly that Copts are already fleeing Egypt and, for those Christians that remain, Midnight Mass has to be held in the daylight for security reasons. In Iraq, midnight services have been canceled entirely for fear of bloodshed, part of the remorseless de-Christianizing that has been going on, quite shamefully, under an American imperium.

The persecution of Christians is Iraq is a direct result of the federal government’s martial intervention over there since 2003.  The attempt to bring democracy to Iraq has led to an increase in the amount of persecution that Christians face in Iraq.  Stated another way, Christians were safer under the Saddam Hussein regime than they are under the current democracy.

And Egypt is also the United States’ mess.  The federal government has interfered in that locale’s political arena for decades; sometimes directly, sometimes overtly.  The results of this meddling are the same as in Iraq:  more Christians are being persecuted as a result.

Now, the question for war-mongering Christian conservatives is this:  if you have to choose between doing what’s in the best interest* for your brothers and sisters in Christ and feeling proud of how your government’s military can easily dominate a third world country, which will you choose?  The choice is not merely hypothetical, and it must be made.  Who is greater:  God or country?  And who do you truly worship:  God or country?

* This being the very meaning of love as it’s used in theBible.

Interesting History

Walter E. Williams, on the federal income tax:
During the legislative debate before enactment of the 16th Amendment, Republican President William Taft and congressional supporters argued that only the rich would ever pay federal income taxes. In fact, in 1913, only one-half of 1 percent of income earners were affected. Those earning $250,000 a year in today's dollars paid 1 percent, and those earning $6 million in today's dollars paid 7 percent. The 16th Amendment never would have been enacted had Americans not been duped into believing that only the rich would pay income taxes. It was simply a lie to exploit American gullibility and envy.
I believe it was either last year, or possibly in the spring of this year, when conservatives got their panties in a knot over how 49% of all taxpayers paid no income taxes (though, funnily enough, all taxpayers still paid their FICA and other payroll taxes).  The theory was that there would arise a class of professional voters, who would simply elect officials to pay take money from the rich and give it to the more-deserving poor, of which said professional voters just so happened to be a part.

The reality appears to be a bit different, at least historically speaking.  When the income tax was first enacted, it only applied to the rich, who comprised 0.5% of the population.  Thus, the percentage of the population paying the income tax increased 100-fold over 98 years to 51%.  If the theory of professional voters were true, the percentage of taxpayers should have at least remained stable (or even decreased) while the tax rates should have remained stable or increased.  Reality, as it were, is markedly different.

In spite of all the attempts at class warfare in the last one hundred or so years, the poor still get screwed over by the rich.  This is probably because there is a strong correlation between a general form of stupidity and poverty,* as well as a strong correlation between wealth and general intelligence.  In essence, the wealthy are generally intelligent enough to figure out how to make things work to their advantage (hence their wealth).  If one is cunning enough to convince people to buy something they don’t need, it seems plausible that one could also sell someone a political policy that works to their disadvantage.

The historical norm has been that poor people pay quite a bit in taxes, and the wealthy are often the beneficiaries of those taxes (think of the feudal system as a general model of this).  The idea that those who are intelligent enough to become quite wealthy won’t also be intelligent enough to protect their wealth is, quite frankly, absurd, and the idea that somehow the poor will manage to “reappropriate” wealth from the rich is even more absurd.

* Two quick notes:  a lack of education generally correlates to stupidity, which in turn correlates to lower income (as evidence by the myriad statistics showing that high school dropouts earn less than those with a high school diploma, bachelor’s degree, etc.)  Also, shorter time horizons also correlate to stupidity as well.

This Won’t Be A Problem

From an article titled “The Best Jobs for Women in 2012:”

At No. 1, post-secondary teachers top the list. Not only do women report very high satisfaction rates in the job, median annual earnings range from $59,000 (for foreign language and literature teachers) to $94,000 (for law teachers), well above the average household income in the U.S. Furthermore, the field is expected to grow by 15% and features an average of 55,000 openings each year.

One thing that’s especially intriguing about feminism is its unsustainability, which is seen in every aspect of its reach.  The relatively recent MRA movement is indicative of its political unsustainability and the generally negative crime and social statistics of single motherhood (and absentee motherhood) are indicative of its social unsustainability.*  And now this story provides proof of its economic unsustainability.

As has been well-documented, there is a bubble in higher education, wherein government subsidy encourages many people to go to college and earn degrees that offer a decreasing rate of return on investment.  This has a secondary effect of increasing the demand for collegiate services, like an increased number of educational facilities, the relevant support staff, and, of course, more professors.

The problem with this model is that it is fundamentally unsound.  Direct and subsequent demand for post-secondary educational services has been grossly inflated, and cannot continue forever, primarily for two reasons.

First, maintaining demand costs money.  Subsidies don’t come from nowhere; they must be provided somehow.  This costs money, which the federal government is quickly starting to run short on.

Second, the value of a college education is declining, at least in terms of income.  A college degree is now less of a guarantee of getting a job, and guarantees less pay for the jobs one does eventually get.

The popping of this bubble, then, is a mathematical certainty.  And when this happens, that “best job for women” will disappear in a hurry.  Those women who decided to place their faith in maintaining a career in a bubble-fueled field will eventually wake up to the fact that this was nothing more than a mirage.  And then where will they find themselves?

* And the relatively recent decline in Western Christendom speaks to feminism’s spiritual unsustainability.

25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, 
 And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

24 December 2011

Defending Ron Paul Again

This time, from OneSTDV:

Why then does Dr. Paul rarely ever speak fondly of American tradition? Because libertarians, given their indiscriminate hatred of the state, refuse to intellectually acknowledge a nation and the attendant cultural trends within them. To libertarians, collective social movements do not exist as such a conception would undermine the notion of the radically autonomous individual. I support the free individual, but the libertarian ignores how individuals comprise society and believe that personal actions manifest in a vacuum. Paul cannot support his political positions by appeal to national heritage because to do so would imply that a national, cohesive unit even exists in the first place. And if a nation and national community exist, then one would presume top-down political policies would at least occasionally be justified, a concession at odds with anti-state libertarianism.

It is becoming readily apparent that One incapable of discussing Ron Paul in a logical manner.  The assertion of American/national tradition is assumed but never proven.  As has been discussed before, the concept of the nation of America/USA is fiction.  The united states are a federation, not a nation.  Nowhere in the constitution or in any of the founding fathers’ writings can the concept of a nation be found.

Additionally, the entire idea of a national community is inherently absurd given the geographic size and scope of the united states.  There is simply too much regional cultural variance to describe national culture in any but the most vague and inclusive terms, terms that could potentially include the rest of western society.

And also from Karl Denninger:

When it comes to Iran there's a curious problem with Ron Paul's narrative that his supporters simply ignore.  Paul says that Iran is just "misunderstood" and doesn't really want to wipe Israel off the map.  Ok, let's assume I accept that "bad translations" are responsible for that "misunderstanding."  What am I supposed to make of their repeated, vehement, and "in English" denial of the Holocaust?  That's much harder to argue over, isn't it?

Let me get this straight:  we should go to war with Iran because some Iranians deny the holocaust?  Also, why should we be concerned about Israel?  Can’t they take care of themselves?

Furthermore, as Pat Buchanan asked:

If Iran is an "existential threat" to Israel and intends to use a bomb it is now building on Israel, why have the Israelis, with 200 to 300 nuclear weapons, who have bombed both Iraqi and Syrian nuclear sites, not removed that "existential threat" themselves?

Frankly, this whole issue over Iran seems quite similar to the run up to the Iraq war.  There are threats aplenty of a vague, but near-total disaster, accompanied by rather tenuous proof.  If the united states does end up going to war, it would not be particularly shocking to learn that Iran had neither the intention or ability to develop nuclear weapons after all.

The Essential Nature of Science


This assumption—that understanding a system’s constituent parts means we also understand the causes within the system—is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry or even to biology. It defines modern science. In general, we believe that the so-called problem of causation can be cured by more information, by our ceaseless accumulation of facts. Scientists refer to this process as reductionism. By breaking down a process, we can see how everything fits together; the complex mystery is distilled into a list of ingredients. And so the question of cholesterol—what is its relationship to heart disease?—becomes a predictable loop of proteins tweaking proteins, acronyms altering one another. Modern medicine is particularly reliant on this approach. Every year, nearly $100 billion is invested in biomedical research in the US, all of it aimed at teasing apart the invisible bits of the body. We assume that these new details will finally reveal the causes of illness, pinning our maladies on small molecules and errant snippets of DNA. Once we find the cause, of course, we can begin working on a cure.
The problem with this assumption, however, is that causes are a strange kind of knowledge. This was first pointed out by David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher. Hume realized that, although people talk about causes as if they are real facts—tangible things that can be discovered—they’re actually not at all factual. Instead, Hume said, every cause is just a slippery story, a catchy conjecture, a “lively conception produced by habit.” When an apple falls from a tree, the cause is obvious: gravity. Hume’s skeptical insight was that we don’t see gravity—we see only an object tugged toward the earth. We look at X and then at Y, and invent a story about what happened in between. We can measure facts, but a cause is not a fact—it’s a fiction that helps us make sense of facts.
The truth is, our stories about causation are shadowed by all sorts of mental shortcuts. Most of the time, these shortcuts work well enough. They allow us to hit fastballs, discover the law of gravity, and design wondrous technologies. However, when it comes to reasoning about complex systems—say, the human body—these shortcuts go from being slickly efficient to outright misleading.

The essential nature of science is that its truths are subjective. As noted above, the scientific truths that we humans have “discovered” are nothing more than fictions that have not yet been falsified.  Scientific truths, then, are not true as much as they are reliable.  In essence, the validity of a scientific truth is entirely contingent on one’s ability to use it to predict the future.  The “law” of gravity is considered true because one can generally rely on the axiom that what goes up must come down.  The same applies to the various “laws” of thermodynamics, “laws” of genetics, and such like.

As such, the fetishism of science is quite problematic, for those who fetishize science generally tend to view science as the ultimate example of objective truth even though scientific truths are actually nothing more than subjective perceptions.  This tendency to view pragmatic lies as ultimate truths can lead some to embrace the lies to such an extent that they can no longer believe any truth.  Ironically, it is these very people who will claim, quite loudly, that they stand for truth.

See also: “The Limits of Science.”

23 December 2011

Creativity and Education


From Creativity: Asset or Burden in the Classroom?, a good review paper. What the paper shows is that the characteristics that teachers use to describe their favorite student correlate negatively with the characteristics associated with creativity. In addition, although teachers say that they like creative students, teachers also say creative students are “sincere, responsible, good-natured and reliable.” In other words, the teachers don’t know what creative students are actually like.  (FYI, the research design would have been stronger if the researchers had actually tested the students for creativity.)  As a result, schooling has a negative effect on creativity. [Emphasis added.]

Of course it does. Only a fool labors under the delusion that schooling exists for any purpose other than to train children to be allegiant to the state, comply readily to orders, and to stamp out any and all forms of individualism from children.  Simply look at the metrics of schooling:  everything is centered around getting good grades, wherein all students come to the exact same answer in the exact same way.  Diverging from the standard answer results in a bad grade, with the implicit message being that one is never to disagree with the official answer for any reason.

Thinking for one’s self is roundly discouraged, as is creativity and individualism.  All students are expected to comport themselves the same, reach the same answers, and sometimes even dress the same.

Furthermore, schooling is not even about education, at least in a general sense. The schooling regimen is so compartmentalized that it bears no resemblance to actual learning.  Many courses of study are interrelated.  One cannot study a given branch of scientific study without first knowing the language of the text, nor can one generally study science without also having some mathematical knowledge (at least number sense, as well as addition, subtraction, etc.).  One may even find it useful to know the history of the discipline as well.  Yet, “educators” somehow get into their heads that somehow each of these elements are separate things to be taught separately, with no regard for how they relate to one another.

Basically, public education has no value outside of forcing children to surrender their individuality and creativity to cultural conformity imposed, from above, by the state.  As such, it is time that we disabuse ourselves of the silly notion that schools can be used for education and inspiring creativity.

Coming Full Circle

The newest bubble appears to be (wait for it…) real estate.  Specifically, farmland:

The latest Grant’s Interest Rate Observer reports that farmers in Sioux County, Iowa bidding on a 74-acre tract forced a winning bid price of $20,000 an acre, far higher than the previous record price of $16,750 per acre set in October.
The price surge of Iowa dirt is the highest since 1977, with prices up 31% in the 3rd quarter from a year ago, and prices 7% higher from the just the previous quarter.

At the height of the housing bubble, farmland located close to major metropolitan areas was developed into suburbs.  When the housing bubble popped, some of these developments were not yet finished.  Now, thanks in large part to (quelle surprise) federal subsidies, there’s a strong chance that the farmland that was converted into housing developments will now be converted back into farmland.  Now Lord Keynes’ ditch-digging plan can be enacted on an even grander and presumably more efficient scale!

Defending Ron Paul

First, from John Derbyshire:

Politics proverbially makes for strange bedfellows, but there is no bed wide enough to accommodate these two. Ron’s difference of opinion with Michele over matters in the Mediterranean’s bottom-right-hand corner has affected him so deeply it has driven him into left-liberal speech mode. Asked by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show what he thought of Michele, Ron replied:
She doesn’t like Muslims. She hates Muslims. She hates them. She wants to go get ’em.
As sad as the lost hope of a Bachmann-Paul ticket is, it is sadder yet to hear Ron lapse into leftist duckspeak. The cant against “hate” is a low and dishonest kind of moralistic bullying based, as such things always are, on a deliberate perversion of words’ meaning. It allows the speaker to allege that opinions contrary to his own (or ones that are unorthodox or unpopular) are inspired by base emotions and are therefore false.

Ron Paul supporters are in a hilariously hypocritical position wherein they can state publicly that their candidate is a class act, a statesman , and a gentleman among political hacks all the while complaining—in private, of course—that Ron Paul’s presidential aspirations are dashed by the man’s unwillingness to play political games.  In essence, Paul is cursed by his classiness.

Unfortunately, Paul has to make a choice:  will he stay classy or will he get his hands dirty?  He can’t do both, and so he has to make a choice between the two.  Classiness did not seem to work particularly well with his first two presidential runs, so maybe the alternative will work out better.  This seems particularly likely, given that a lot of idiots have been granted the privilege to vote, and emotional appeals tend to be persuasive to the cognitively impaired.

Is taking potshots dishonest, shady, and dirty?  Absolutely.  But—and this is crucial—they are politically effective.

Second, from Debra Saunders:

Over time, those positions wander into crazy-talk land and wear thin. Recently, Paul told an Iowa audience, "Just think of what happened after 9/11. Immediately before there was any assessment there was glee in the (Bush) administration because now we can invade Iraq."
That kind of talk made Paul many Democrats' pet Republican in 2008. He has picked up support on niche issues -- on the far right, his pledge to shutter the Transportation Security Administration; on the left, his supportive rhetoric on accused Wiki-leaker Bradley Manning. Paul has won support ranging from Timothy Leary's backyard in 1988 to traditional-values Iowans in 2011. He has core values. Alas, he has no middle.

Ignoring the fact that “the middle” is a muddled, meaningless phrase that points to an elusive, inspecific (perhaps imaginary) demographic, the charge of kookiness is simply irrelevant.  The important question is:  to whom does Ron Paul’s positions seem kooky or crazy?

It should not be surprising that politicians and members of the media find Ron Paul to be crazy.  The truth often sounds insane to those who traffic in lies.  But beyond that, the claim that Ron Paul is crazy seems to only be made by either Paul’s opponents or by the media, perhaps in an attempt to create the world’s first top-down meme.

 Ultimately, the lens by which Ron Paul’s claims and policies should be measured is not in terms of craziness, but in terms of correctness.  It doesn’t matter if Paul’s views on Iraq sound crazy; what matters is if they are right.

Finally, from Jonah Goldberg:

Presidential power is the power to persuade -- Congress, the media and, ultimately and most important, the American people. The power of the purse, meanwhile, resides on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Paul has been in Congress, off and on, for nearly 30 years. In that time, he will rightly tell you, Congress has spent money with reckless abandon, expanded the state's police powers, launched numerous wars without a declaration of war and further embraced fiat money (he got into politics when Richard Nixon took us fully off the gold standard). During all of that, he took to the floor and delivered passionate speeches in protest convincing ... nobody. He authored precious little legislation of any consequence.
Paul's supporters love to talk about how he was a lone voice of dissent. They never explain why he was alone in his dissent. Why couldn't he convince even his ideologically sympathetic colleagues? Why is there no Ron Paul caucus?
Now he insists that everyone in Washington will suddenly do what he wants once he's in the White House. That's almost painfully naive. And it's ironic that the only way the libertarian-pure-constitutionalist in the race could do the things he's promising is by using powers not in the Constitution.

This is, to use a phrase, a steaming pile of bovine fecal matter.  The constitution provides no guidance for redressing violations of the constitution.  As John Marshall once (somewhat ironically) stated, “All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution, are null and void.”  This means that the president does not have to enforce any unconstitutional laws, nor do states have to comply with them, nor does the Supreme Court have to uphold them.  It doesn’t matter what statutory laws says about the executive branch’s compliance with congressional legislation, for the president swears to uphold the constitution, not congressional statutes.

As such, the president has an incredibly wide degree of latitude in upholding the constitution.  Therefore, Ron Paul would certainly be correct in using whatever powers he has to withhold funding from unconstitutional departments and agencies, or in flat-out abolishing them.  The constitution provides a system of checks and balances wherein one branch of the federal government has the same power and authority as any of the other branches, who in turn have the same power and authority as the various states, particularly in matters of upholding the constitution.  The idea that the president is bound by congress in upholding unconstitutional laws is, frankly, absurd, and certainly not in keeping with the language and spirit of the constitution.

Is Foreign Trade a Big Deal?


Hale and Hobijn find that the vast majority of goods and services sold in the United States are produced here. In 2010, total imports were about 16 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, and of that, 2.5 percent came from China. A total of 88.5 percent of U.S. consumer spending is on items made in the United States, the bulk of which are domestically produced services – such as medical care, housing, transportation, etc. – which make up about two-thirds of spending. Chinese goods account for 2.7 percent of U.S. personal consumption expenditures, about one-quarter of the 11.5 percent foreign share. Chinese imported goods consist mainly of furniture and household equipment; other durables; and clothing and shoes. In the clothing and shoes category, 35.6 percent of U.S. consumer purchases in 2010 were items with the "Made in China" label.

Foreign trade sound much less important when discussed as a percentage of GDP instead dollars.  16% sounds like a relatively small amount, but once you put that in dollar terms it becomes $2.24 trillion dollars.*  Obviously, this is a significant chunk of change, roughly equal to the mandatory spending of 2010 federal budget (and equivalent to roughly two-thirds of the total federal budget).  Given that unemployment wavered between 16.5% and 17.1% that year (and was likely higher, given how the government manipulates those statistics), it seems reasonable to conclude that it having even half of those imports produced at home would have had a pretty positive impact on unemployment.**

Much of what China sells us has considerable "local content." Hale and Hobijn give the example of sneakers that might sell for $70. They point out that most of that price goes for transportation in the U.S., rent for the store where they are sold, profits for shareholders of the U.S. retailer, and marketing costs, which include the salaries, wages and benefits paid to the U.S. workers and managers responsible for getting sneakers to consumers. On average, 55 cents of every dollar spent on goods made in China goes for marketing services produced in the U.S.

But why not have, if possible, one hundred cent of dollars be paid to Americans?  Saying that the effects of foreign trade aren’t that bad is little consolation to those who are unemployed.

Going hand in hand with today's trade demagoguery is talk about decline in U.S. manufacturing. For the year 2008, the Federal Reserve estimated that the value of U.S. manufacturing output was about $3.7 trillion. If the U.S. manufacturing sector were a separate economy – with its own GDP – it would be tied with Germany as the world's fourth-richest economy. Today's manufacturing worker is so productive that the value of his average output is $234,220, three times higher than it was in 1980 and twice as high as it was in 1990. That means more can be produced with fewer workers, resulting in a precipitous fall in manufacturing jobs, from 19.5 million jobs in 1979 to a little more than 10 million today.

The problem with the technology argument is that it fails to account for the impact of governmental interference.  Of course, it is impossible to tell with any degree of certainty how much the government, by its interference, has encouraged manufacturers to pull forward their demand for machines to replace workers.  It also fails to account for foregone manufacturing in light of a) regime uncertainty, b) the regulatory thicket that is the federal code, and c) the monstrosity that is the corporate tax code.  Basically, there is no reason to assume that manufacturing would be as automated if there was actually a free market, nor is there any reason to assume that there would be as few manufacturing jobs if there were no federal regulations.

Now, as has been mentioned at this blog many times before, federal policy has been directly responsible for the current economic malaise.  The federal government has hamstrung domestic businesses while simultaneously giving foreign businesses a free pass for trade.  The direct effect of this schizophrenic policy has been to subsidize foreign businesses at the expense of domestic businesses.  This has also contributed to a high unemployment rate.  While free trade is the undoubtedly preferable state of being, it makes no sense to allow this while simultaneously hamstringing domestic businesses.  The government must level the playing field, most preferably by deregulating domestic businesses.  In the event this cannot be accomplished, the government should ensure that foreign businesses adhere to same labor and environmental regulations faced by domestic businesses or at least pay the difference.

As Walter Williams states:

The bottom line is that we Americans are allowing ourselves to be suckered into believing that China is the source of our unemployment problems when the true culprit is Congress and the White House.

* The GDP of the united states for 2010 was approximately $14 trillion; 16% of this is $2.24 trillion.

** Keep in mind that, during 2010, the welfare/unemployment budget was nearly $600 billion.  Half of the imports would have been $1.12 trillion, nearly double the welfare budget.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from this.

21 December 2011

Bubbleproof

That’s the best way to describe grads of technical schools:

So what are the best bets when buying student debt? Technical schools. Students pay the least for their education with the potential to make good money after graduation in only a couple of years.
By that arithmetic, technical colleges come out on top, Mr. [Daniel] Ades said. “We’re in a skills based economy and what we need is more computer programmers, more [nurses],” he said. “It’s less glamorous but it’s what we need.”
Meanwhile the nation’s law schools continue to over-supply the nation with lawyers. Law students are borrowing an average of $68,827 at state schools and $106,249 a private schools only to add to the glut of barristers.

In what must undoubtedly be a shock to humanities majors, people who are actually know how to do useful things are in position to make money after they graduate.  Imagine that.

Of course nurses and programmers are going to be in a position to make good money, mostly because people want to not be sick, maim, or injured, and they also like to be able to use electronic gadgets.  Hence the reason why students who graduate from technical schools with degrees in nursing and programming are in a better position to be employed than, say, an English major.  As fascinating as Faulkner undoubtedly is, being able to expound upon his work at length is not something many consumers really want to pay for.

As such, it should no surprise that people who learn actual, useful skills in college are in a better to make money than those who majored in something that is considerably less practical.

Pot


Taken together, these studies demonstrate that popular stereotypes of marijuana users are unfair and untrue. While it’s definitely not a good idea to perform a cognitively demanding task (such as driving!) while stoned, smoking a joint probably also won’t lead to any measurable long-term deficits. The Dude, in other words, wasn’t dumb because he inhaled. He was dumb because he was The Dude. (All those White Russians probably didn’t help, either.)
Furthermore, there’s some intriguing evidence that marijuana can actually improve performance on some mental tests. A recent paper by scientists at University College, London looked at a phenomenon called semantic priming. This occurs when the activation of one word allows us to react more quickly to related words. For instance, the word “dog” might lead to decreased reaction times for “cat,” “pet” and “Lassie,” but won’t alter how quickly we react to “chair.”
Interestingly, the scientists found that marijuana seems to induce a state of hyper-priming, in which the reach of semantic priming extends to distantly related concepts. As a result, we hear “dog” and think of nouns that, in more sober circumstances, would seem rather disconnected, such as “leash” or “hair.” This state of hyper-priming helps explain why cannabis has been so often used as a creative fuel, as it seems to make the brain better at detecting those remote associations that lead to radically new ideas.

The results of this relatively fair research seem fairly clear:  pot is not the highly destructive devil weed that conservatives make it out to be, and appears to even have some positive side effects.  This, of course, makes pot just like all other consumable substances, in that consumption has both pros and cons (otherwise known as tradeoffs).

In fact, assuming this research is true, pot appears to impose less long-term damage on the brain than alcohol.  And yet, pot will still attract the ire of SoCons even though it is not even as damaging as some legal drugs in terms of impaired brain function.

This then begs the question:  Why do SoCons continue to support the war on marijuana?  Making this illegal doesn’t even begin to reduce demand, it only changes supply channels.  And given its relative safety, opposition is more likely to drive people to harder but legal drugs (like, alcohol, or any of the recently invented compounds that are too new to be illegal but still completely mess people up).  Why then continue to oppose pot in light of the obvious and easily predicted consequences?  It makes no sense.

What we know is this:  pot isn’t that bad and its alternatives are often much worse.  Why drive people to them?

Feminists and Their God

Alpha has a theory:

Why are western women so against femininity?
I’ve come up with an idea
Mind you, its just an idea and its one that I’m pretty sure some of you wont like.
The Absence of God.
Now lets get into this for a minute.  God, in this case, doesn’t have to be an actual God – if you don’t believe in God, instead replace God with “objective standard” as it will work the same for my purposes.  You see, through out all of human history, men and women have had an objective standard of their worth.

Alpha is only half-right. He’s correct in noting that some women—feminists—have forsaken God.  But they aren’t atheists.  They have actually forsaken God for another god:  the ever-elusive alpha male.

It is, for me, a truism to state that one’s doctrine—the religious rules governing one’s life—is derived from one’s theology—one’s conception and understanding of God.  For Christians, the proof text for this truism is Ephesians 5:1, wherein Paul states that Christians are to be imitators of God as dear children.  The metaphor is clear:  as earthly children mimic their earthly parents, so then do spiritual children mimic their spiritual father.  IN essence, one’s daily behavior is the result of what one knows and understands about God.

Bringing this back to the discussion at than—the theology of feminists—it becomes immediately clear that feminists worship alpha males.  How else to explain feminists’ behavior?

Feminists are decidedly masculine, and often pursue highly masculine careers.  They go into law and politics (or, worse yet, political activism).  They act boorish and rude, self-absorbed and crude—just like the alpha males they desire.  In essence, every behavior of the typical feminist is either in mimicry of alpha males or a projected mimicry of alpha males, with the obvious exceptions of certain biologically-driven behaviors.

Although they are loath to admit it, feminists strongly desire alpha males.  They often aren’t pretty enough to merit the (lasting) attentions of one and so they compensate by acting like the men they desire.  They even judge their worth by comparing themselves to alpha males.  Look at all the key talking points of feminists:  they often compare female accomplishment to male accomplishment, as if it is innately desirable for women to be CEOs, star athletes, or famous scholars.  They completely buy in to the paradigm of male accomplishment, as if the only things in life worth accomplishing are the things done by men.

As should be clear, the alpha male is the god of the feminists.  Quite simply, they want alpha males so badly that if they can’t have one, they will instead become one.

On Immigration Policy

While I don’t think a free-for-all immigration policy is anywhere near approaching a good idea, this is hardly better:

Behind Door #1 are people of extraordinary ability: scientists, artists, educators, business people and athletes. Behind Door #2 stand a random assortment of people. Which door should the United States open?
In 2010, the United States more often chose Door #2, setting aside about 40,000 visas for people of extraordinary ability and 55,000 for people randomly chosen by lottery.
It's just one small example of our bizarre U.S. policy toward high-skill immigrants. Every year, we allow approximately 140,000 employment visas, which cover people of extraordinary ability, professionals with advanced degrees, and other skilled workers. The number is absurdly low for a country with a workforce of 150 million. As a result, it can be years, even decades, before a high-skilled individual is granted a U.S. visa. Moreover, these 140,000 visas must also cover the spouse and unmarried children of the high-skilled worker, so the actual number of high-skilled workers admitted under these programs is less than half of the total. Perhaps most bizarrely there is a cap on the number of visas allowed per country regardless of population size. How many visas are allocated to people of extraordinary ability from China, a country of over 1 billion people? Exactly 2,803. The same number as are allocated to Greenland.

The faux-egalitarianism that is the foundation of the current immigration policy is simply reprehensible.  If the United States is going to allow people to immigrate, then it should only select people who are actually going to contribute to the economic development of the united states (i.e. highly skilled workers) who will be more readily inclined to assimilate.

In addition, federal immigration policy should make a point of tamping down on illegal immigrants and sending illegals back to their home countries.  I’ve written on this several times before, so I will not delve deeper into this subject at this time.

Also, immigration policy should completely abolish the lottery system as well as the per-country visa allocation caps.  Quite simply, the united states should only allow the crème de la crème of immigrants to enter the country.

Ultimately, there is not a single good reason for the united states’ current immigration policy.  There is no excuse for extending citizenship to anyone other than the most excellent applicants.

Eliminate the Complexity

That’s my recommendation for the corporate tax:

Those advocating a cut in the corporate tax rate today generally ignore the tax on dividends, as well as many other provisions of United States and foreign tax law that may reduce the effective tax rate well below the statutory rate.
A recent study found that only 25 percent of the largest American corporations pay anywhere close to the statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent on their earnings, while 40 percent pay less than half that rate.
Indeed, General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, paid no federal corporate taxes in the United States in 2010, according to a report in The New York Times.

The sheer diversity of effective tax rates binding corporations—even though there is only supposed to one rate—suggests that the corporate tax rate is being used as a political tool.  This perception is certainly encouraged by GE facing an effective rate of zero.  If, as the current evidence suggests, the corporate tax rate is used as a political tool for punishing and rewarding certain corporations, then perhaps abolishing the corporate tax rate would be a good step.

While abolishing the corporate tax would not lead to massive economic growth, it would certainly be a step in the right direction.  In the first place, corporations could actually focus on producing things instead of playing pointless political games.  Furthermore, government costs could be slightly reduced—the natural result of reduced compliance requirements and the corresponding enforcement costs.

While corporate taxes do not apply to the vast majority of businesses, nor do they account for anything but a minor amount of tax revenue.  However, this is no reason to accept an incredibly stupid, highly politicized tax system.

20 December 2011

Bailments


The bottom line is that apparently some warehouses and bullion dealers are not a safe place to store your gold and silver, even if you hold a specific warehouse receipt.  In an oligarchy, private ownership is merely a concept, subject to interpretation and confiscation.
Although the details and the individual perpetrators are yet to be disclosed, what is now painfully clear is that the CFTC and CME regulated futures system is defaulting on its obligations.  This did not even happen in the big failures like Lehman and Bear Sterns in which the customer accounts were kept whole and transferred before the liquidation process.  
Obviously holding unallocated gold and silver in a fractional reserve scheme is subject to much more counterparty risk than many might have previously admitted.  If a major bullion bank were to declare bankruptcy or a major exchange a default, how would it affect you? Do you think your property claims would be protected based on what you have seen this year?

American common law has it that a transfer of property from one party to another for the purpose of safekeeping creates a bailment.  A bailment is most definitely created when one deposits physical property in a warehouse for storage.  This is what happened here, where depositors placed gold and silver bullion in a couple of different warehouses.  The next thing that apparently happened was that these warehouses went bankrupt and the depositors’ assets were confiscated.

As can be guessed, this is quite illegal, at least assuming that the laws have any meaning.  The reason for this is pretty simple.  Since assets are deposited into a warehouse for safekeeping, they create a bailment.  A bailment is simply a transfer of possession, not property.  The bullion and other assets were still owned by those making the deposit, not those receiving it.  As such, when default hits, it can only confiscate the property of those in default.  The property deposited at the warehouses s not (generally) owned by the warehouses but by the depositors.  Since the depositors still have ownership, their property cannot be seized, at least under law.

Thus, this case is extremely problematic because it undermines the once-secure legal concept of bailments, and significantly erodes property rights in the process.  Correcting this problem is as simple as enforcing the longstanding legal traditions that have long secured property rights.  Given the way things have been going recently, though, enforcement seems like a long shot.

I Want to Puke

Reading this:
The other day, dining out with my wife, I was surprised when the server set the bill down in front of me, instead of my wife across the table. In fact, I was every bit as surprised as, say, a 1950s’ housewife would have been to have a restaurant check presented to her instead of to her husband.
Just for a moment, my world had turned upside down.
So firmly entrenched is our matrimonial role reversal as we go about our activities that most restaurant servers and hotel clerks and salespeople automatically gravitate to my wife and give her all the appropriate attention and deference. When we walk in to a store, or sit down at a table, it’s like I don’t exist. They always address their questions to her, as they should. I assist them in their perceptions of power, I’m sure, by default. I emit absolutely no pay-attention-to-me, head-of-household, decision-maker vibes. This is not by design, but by long practice. It simply never occurs to me. I don’t look up expectantly at approaching waiters or waitresses. If they look at me or address me, I’m not impolite, but rather than respond directly, I defer to her. Without thinking. It is almost automatic that I look at my wife when a question is asked of me.
Occasionally, if I’m feeling frisky, I may answer, proudly and cheerfully, “My wife makes the decisions.” [Emphasis added.]
By the way, this comes from a blog called Worshipping Your Wife that is run by a man male apparent lesbian named Mark Remond.

This sort of herbitude leaves me speechless.  I have no clue where to start with this, other than to curse Chuck for even bringing this blog to my attention.  There are so many things wrong with not only this post, but with the entire blog.  All I can really say is that this guy must be a total loser, his wife must be a total uglo, and they have to be either really miserable or incredibly delusional.  I’ll conclude with another sickening excerpt:
And what could be more natural in a courtship marriage than hubby playing the part of perpetual suitor and kneeling to profess his devotion? And, yes, by “perpetual” I mean doing this every day.
Yes, there are other good reasons to bend the knee to one’s beloved. For a pedicure, or as part of a weekly evaluation session by the wife. Or as preliminary to receiving correction from the wife. (While some of these may appear offbeat, they are all, to my way of thinking, essentially romantic rituals, opportunities for renewed intimacy between wife and man.)
But more frequently than any of these, I think this ritual obeisance is part of what I like to call a husband’s daily devotions. It’s obviously a supplicant, prayerful posture, and prayers may indeed be spoken—to God, or the Goddess, or to a deity seen as incarnate in the beloved wife. Prayer and worship are inherent in a husband’s daily devotions to his wife, though not, I insist, in an idolatrous way, all appearances to the contrary. [Emphasis added.]
The mind boggles.