29 March 2013

You Don’t Say

"My take-away from this evidence is that – at least in some contexts – intellectual property can have substantial costs in terms of hindering subsequent innovation," said Williams. "The fact that these costs were – in this context – 'large enough to care about' motivates wanting to better understand whether alternative policy tools could be used to achieve a better outcome. It isn't clear that they can, although economists such as Michael Kremer have proposed some ideas on how they might. I think this is an exciting area for future work."

Well no shit.  The whole point of the limited monopoly power granted to inventors, innovators, and creators in the form of intellectual property rights, even as espoused by the constitution, has been to give said creators, inventors, and innovators the power to prevent people from using their intellectual creations.  By nature this power is suppressive, and therefore it should not be surprising that it hinders subsequent innovation.  That’s the whole point.

But, you may object, the justification for IP is to encourage innovation.  Of course, this straw man objection is nonsense (though this is the implicit justification for in Article One, Section 3 of the US constitution) because the very nature of the “right” granted by the government is suppressive.  And so, while it might encourage fundamental innovation (i.e. the creation of a new industry or product type), it will eventually prove to cripple the very industry it spawns because the first creators will inhibit their competitors in order to stay in business.  Their competitors will then either quit, or spend an inordinate amount of time inventing substitute goods, either of which they do instead of innovating an existing product or market segment.

So really, the failure of IP laws is that they do not account for that which is unseen.  It’s easy to see how IP will bring new products and market segments to bear, but it’s not as easy to see how the mechanism that supposedly brings about innovation ultimately cripples it as well.  Ultimately, getting rid of the negative effects of IP—in this case subsequent innovation—will mean getting rid of IP itself, for this is the natural consequence of the system.

27 March 2013

Pay To Delay

Federal regulators are pressing the Supreme Court to stop big pharmaceutical corporations from paying generic drug competitors to delay releasing their cheaper versions of brand-name drugs. They argue these deals deny American consumers, usually for years, steep price declines that can top 90 percent.
The Obama administration, backed by consumer groups and the American Medical Association, says these so-called "pay for delay" deals profit the drug companies but harm consumers by adding 3.5 billion annually to their drug bills.
But the pharmaceutical companies counter that they need to preserve longer the billions of dollars in revenue from their patented products in order to recover the billions they spend developing new drugs. And both the large companies and the generic makers say the marketing of generics often is hastened by these deals.

Basically, this exposes the fundamental problem of patent law:  how many drugs would make it to market if the producers/inventors didn’t have some sort of monopoly?  It’s easy for consumers to complain about how big pharma wants to screw consumers over by paying companies to delay production of generic drugs.  What’s forgotten is that big pharma already had the power to prevent companies from doing so thanks to having a limited-run monopoly on production.

Now, most consumers will agree that big pharma must have an incentive to produce the drug, and will thus agree to the terms of patent law, which gives big pharma a monopoly.  But then, many of these consumers will turn around and complain that big pharma is acting like a monopoly.  Well, duh! But if you accept that proposition that big pharma should have monopoly rights to have an incentive to produce the drug in the first place, on what grounds would you object to big pharma using the market to extend their monopoly rights?  And if you don’t think that big pharma should be able to extend monopoly rights by buying off competitors, on what grounds do you say that big pharma should have monopoly rights in the first place?

Paragraphs to Ponder

A more emotionally charged question is whether we have equal intelligence. Take Jews, for example. They are only 3 percent of the U.S. population. Half-baked theories of racial proportionality would predict that 3 percent of U.S. Nobel laureates are Jews, but that's way off the mark. Jews constitute a whopping 39 percent of American Nobel Prize winners. At the international level, the disparity is worse. Jews are not even 1 percent of the world's population, but they constitute 20 percent of the world's Nobel Prize winners.
There are many other inequalities and disproportionalities. Asian-Americans routinely score the highest on the math portion of the SAT, whereas blacks score the lowest. Men are 50 percent of the population, and so are women; yet men are struck by lightning six times as often as women. I'm personally wondering what whoever is in charge of lightning has against men. Population statistics for South Dakota, Iowa, Maine, Montana and Vermont show that not even 1 percent of their respective populations is black. By contrast, in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, blacks are overrepresented in terms of their percentages in the general population. Pima Indians of Arizona have the world's highest known diabetes rates. Prostate cancer is nearly twice as common among black men as white men. Cervical cancer rates are five times higher among Vietnamese women in the U.S. than among white women.
Soft-minded and sloppy-thinking academics, lawyers and judges harbor the silly notion that but for the fact of discrimination, we'd be proportionately distributed by race across incomes, education, occupations and other outcomes. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere, at any time, that proportionality is the norm anywhere on earth; however, much of our thinking, many of our laws and much of our public policy are based upon proportionality's being the norm. Maybe this vision is held because people believe that equality in fact is necessary for equality before the law. But the only requirement for equality before the law is that one is a human being.

Well said.

The Value of Testing

Alex Tabarrok writes at MR about how performance pay for teachers has led to student improvements.  It appears that students are not only performing better on tests, but that this improved performance translates well into real-world abilities and performance.

I don’t deny the results of this study, obviously, but I do think that a word of caution is in order.  India has a long way to go in matching the Western world’s academic achievement.  As such, performance tests will remain meaningful for some time.  In America, though, most performance tests are not particularly meaningful because there isn’t nearly as much intellectual/academic variance among students.  Every student is functionally literate and numerate, and that helps reduce variance.  The same is not true in India, and until it is, test performance will generally translate well into real-world performance. Once India gets close to universal literacy and numeracy, the gaps between students disappear, and performance testing will hit a rapidly diminishing point of return, because most students will be mostly interchangeable.

A Soldier’s Condemnation

I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.

The perpetual war machine requires blood in order to operate, and simply goes through young men in the primes of their lives.  Sometimes war is just—sometimes war is even noble—but oftentimes war is simply a way for corrupt men to enrich themselves by shedding the blood of innocent men.  War is bought and paid for in taxes.  War is a racket.  Those who produce munitions and those items necessary for carrying out a war profit immensely from their labor.  And they profit off of the backs of hardworking taxpayers who are duped into supporting war in the name of patriotic duty.

When a war exists perpetually, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the end of war never seems in sight, then soldiers become fatigued and cynical, and rightfully so.  They begin to realize that war isn’t about winning, but about lining the pockets of military suppliers.  Once the war ends, the money dries up.  And so, when confronted with this realization, soldiers lash out against those who have squandered their youth and vitality in the service of pretty lies.

Perhaps it is no wonder why Ron Paul engendered so much support from the military.  And perhaps conservatives might do well to ponder why the veteran Ron Paul is so opposed to war while the draft-dodger Bush was so gung-ho.  Perhaps one of those two men has a realistic and personal understanding of war, and perhaps that’s why he doesn’t see war as something to enter into lightly.

The Cyprus Model

It appears that we have a new meme:

If a gaffe is what happens when a politician accidentally tells the truth, what’s the word for when a politician deliberately tells the truth? Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the current head of the Eurogroup, held a formal, on-the-record joint interview with Reuters and the FT today, saying that the messy and chaotic Cyprus solution is a model for future bailouts.
Those comments are now being walked back, because it’s generally not a good idea for high-ranking policymakers to say the kind of things which could precipitate bank runs across much of the Eurozone. But that doesn’t mean Dijsselbloem’s initial comments weren’t true; indeed, it’s notable that no one’s denying them outright.

New Zealand is apparently in the process of giving bank depositors a haircut, in addition to all the EU countries that are contemplating the same. (My guess is that Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Ireland are first in line for haircuts.)  I don’t think it will be long before this idea spreads to the governments of every country that is having trouble in its banking sector.  It could even spread to the US.  And take note, because even though the tax measure failed in the Cyprus parliament, the tax measure still got shoved down Cypriots’ throats.

My advice is to keep as little money in your bank accounts as possible.  Either hold cash in hand or convert it to precious metals that you can keep in your possession, but keep as little money in the bank as possible.  Contrary to the claims of the media, the money you deposit in the bank is not protected by deposit insurance (the FDIC) if it is taxed away from you.  If the US government decides to unilaterally enact a one-time tax on bank deposits, you will lose your money, and never see it again.  Prepare now.

20 March 2013

The Constant Crisis Mindset

Over the last decade or so, as I shifted from childhood into adulthood, I’ve noticed that there are a large number of men who feel compelled to raise their voices every time something goes wrong.  I mean this literally.  Every time something goes wrong, these men act as if the world is coming to an end and thus yell, scream, berate, and otherwise pitch a fit.

I suppose I should qualify myself and say that there are times in which yelling, berating, etc. are helpful.  Sometimes things go terribly awry, and circumstances demand authoritative volume and attention-grabbing behavior.  Sometimes people need a boot in their ass in order to get a certain message.  Sometimes there are legitimate crises that must be dealt with in such a way.

And yet, I can’t help but think that the method of dealing with every speed bump, trivial deviation from a plan, and minor inconvenience with yelling, berating, and general loudness expressing profound displeasure is inherently feminine, or at least unmasculine.  And thus I cannot help but be repulsed by men who respond to problems with volume and emotion instead of calmness and reason.

I call the tendency to overreact to every little thing the Constant Crisis mindset, and it seems to plague a lot of men.  Viewing every minor problem as an epic crisis that Must Be Dealt With Immediately Or Else The World Will End is not only unmasculine (or, if you prefer, beta), it is largely unnecessary, and often counterproductive.

In the first place, a lot of problems aren’t really problems.  To draw from my own life experience, I once had a boss who had a tendency to berate for not following his training.  There were, and are, a thousand and one ways to apply paint to a wall, but my boss was convinced that there was only one way to paint properly, which coincidentally happened to be the way he did it.  And so I was occasionally yelled at by my boss not because my results were terrible, but because my methods were wrong. (In fairness to him, though, my results weren’t generally something to write home about when I first started painting.  However, focusing on process over results is generally stunting since, as mentioned, there are a ton of different ways to get the correct results.)

In the second place, the Constant Crisis mindset can be counterproductive since it encourages emotional, short-term solutions over rational long-term solutions.  To draw from my own experience again, I once sat, and continue to sit, on the board of directors at the church I attend.  I am easily the youngest member of the board, and am half the age of the next-youngest member, and a good four to five decades younger than the rest.  I am on the board because I have more experience with IT, accounting, finance, and financial management than everyone else on the board combined.

About two years ago, I noticed that contributions were decreasing and costs were increasing, and that these trends had been occurring for several months and showed no signs of reversing in the immediate future.  At one business meeting shortly after I made note of these trends, I proposed a radical financial overhaul that would likely avoid the impending fiscal cliff the church was hurtling towards. When I proposed this plan, all of the old guys yelled at me for being radical and trying to destroy the congregation.  I was shunned, and called names, and was generally reviled.  And this was by males (I hesitate to call them men) who were thrice my age.

Every last one of my predictions came true, and we were eventually forced to implement large chunks of my financial plan.  Now we’re on the brink of bankruptcy and insolvency and we can’t pay the minister his full salary.  But at least, in the meeting when I initially proposed my plan, we made sure our short-term spending plan was viable, though it did not last very long.

So why, then, do so many men feel compelled to treat non-problem and minor problems are epic crises? And why do so many handle true crises poorly?

I suspect that this is because most men are beta, in both a relative and absolute sense.  Yelling and berating are both status signals, of sorts, and do signify dominance.  The man who can shout down other men, or women, is the most dominant man.  Thus, it doesn’t really matter if facts or logic is on your side; what matters is if volume is on your side.  Constantly viewing everything as a series of crises gives you more opportunities to demonstrate dominance.  However, this leads to a paradox:  if you have to constantly assert and demonstrate dominance, at least by yelling and berating, then you don’t really have dominance.  Dominance is self-evident; if you have to prove it, you don’t have it.

The truly dominant male, then, is one who is calm, cool, and collected in a crisis.  He is one who lets the little things slide and remains unflustered in the face of minor setbacks, deviations, and minor mistakes.  He knows that there is no reason to get bent out of shape over minor things precisely because they are minor things.  And because he always knows what he is doing, even in a crisis, he never really feels compelled to yell, berate, and scream.

The best example of this sort of dominance, in my mind, is the TV character Raylan Givens (from Justified).  Raylan can be emotional—he’s often angry—and he doesn’t shy away from his emotions.  However, he’s always cool under pressure because he’s always thinking of a way out.  Thus, Raylan rarely loses his composure because he always knows what he’s doing, and has very little to prove.  He knows his skills, his limits, and he knows what matters.  And therefore he doesn’t have to get in a shouting match every time something goes wrong.

I think, fundamentally, the constant crisis mindset reveals a man’s lack of status.  It enables a man to feel like he’s important, like he has status.  He really doesn’t, and those who defer to his volume know that he doesn’t have status or dominance.  They defer not because they respect him or because he’s so dominant, but because they prefer the quiet.  These men delude themselves into thinking that they are respected/dominant because everyone cowers in fear when they yell, but ultimately their status is as empty as the content of their raised voices.

15 March 2013

Free Trade and Imperialism

[Note:  I generally support free trade in theory.  I do subscribe to the belief that everyone should be allowed to trade freely with whomever they choose, insofar as doing so does not infringe upon anyone else’s rights.  However, I also recognize that a theoretical moral ideal often has little to do with reality.]

Rubio’s only statement on military intervention, as far as I can tell, was the following: “We also need to engage in the world. If we’re living in a global economy America must be wise in how it uses its global influence. We can’t solve every war. We can’t be involved in every armed conflict, but we also can’t be retreating from the world. And so that balance is critically important for us to strike, because we live in a global economy.”  [Emphasis added.]

The idea that America’s (potential) economic interests abroad justify an interventionist foreign policy is hardly new.  Anyone familiar with history, which is to say very few, know that this sort of economically-motivated imperialism was a matter of federal policy prior to the civil war.  Thus, for over one hundred fifty years—intermittently, of course—America has pursued a foreign policy that tends to be aligned with trade interests.

This, naturally, poses a problem for a certain type of libertarian.  This certain type of libertarian values trade above all else, and thinks that foreign is the bees’ knees, and will provide wealth untold if only governments would stop acting like irrational turds and just let people trade already.  Needless to say, this is a rather juvenile and incredibly na├»ve way of looking at the world, and belies a large amount of historical ignorance, for trade is often used by certain war racketeers, peddling their own prosperity gospel of force, to justify an imperialist and interventionist foreign, which tends to be rather costly in its application.

Good libertarians are rightly aghast at this sort of thinking, but are also left with trying to square the circle of being anti-war and pro-free-trade.  For, as has been the case on several occasions, and will likely be the case many times in the future, promoting trade is used as an excuse for war.  (I note, with some degree of amusement, that justifying war by trade is a weird form of the broken window fallacy, in that the main theory of trade-cum-war is that if we simply destroy a bunch of resources, we will soon be able to a sell a bunch of resources to a new group of people on account of having destroyed their resources. It’s all rather neat.)

I think the blind spot in the utopic libertarian’s philosophy is a proper understanding of how the world actually works.  In the complete absence of a state, most trade would be completely localized since production would not be hampered by collusive laws, and most foreign trade would face the problem of high shipping and transportation costs.  In fact, my belief is that if every state/government disappeared tomorrow, foreign trade would diminish severely and relatively quickly, since it is usually state policies that prop up trade.*

Additionally, I would bet that societies scale down to considerably smaller groups, and that those groups are more homogeneous.  There would be more societies, and each society would surprisingly un-diverse.  In a truly anarchist world, we would be poorer and less comfortable, less prone to foreign trade, and more socially insular.  Personally, I think this is a good thing, but I can see why people might be inclined to reject it.  At any rate, the point I’m getting at is that the dream of anarchy and its actual reality are quite different, and almost polar opposite.  But I digress.

The main point I was driving at is that libertarian proponents of free trade need to think long and hard about this policy position because its practical application, as history has shown and will continue to show, is that trade can and will be used to justify war.  And so, libertarians may end up being put in the unenviable position of justifying the policy of free trade on the grounds of civil liberty and individual autonomy while decrying the wars that come with it on the grounds that wars violate civil rights and individual autonomy.  It’s not going to be a comfortable position, to say the least.

* I’ve noted before that the federal government basically hamstrings domestic businesses, which has the practical effect of propping up foreign trade because it gives foreign businesses a better chance to compete with domestic businesses.

Death To Conservatism

It would be a mistake to read too much into Senator Paul's triumph at this stage. Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsay Graham went way too far in denouncing him. But the jury is out as to how Senator Paul will perform on the world stage. The libertarian worldview flirts a little too closely with isolationism, for my money. But Senator Paul has plenty of room to grow there, and he made a very successful trip to Israel that indicates he wants to grow and maintains an open mind.

The latter featured Breitbart’s Joel Pollak, apparently a foreign policy expert in the CPAC universe, who told the crowd “we can remove Iran as a threat if we commit to a policy of regime change, by peaceful transition if possible, and by military removal if necessary.”
Our ability to do so, he contended, was a matter of American resolve, which is apparently in question because of Senator Paul’s filibuster. “The filibuster was a brave and heroic gesture of opposition. It proved that at least one leader–a Tea Party leader–was prepared to stand up for the Constitution and for the principle that individual liberty precedes government power. But Senator Paul was wrong about one thing: it is not as easy to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants as he suggested.”
He continued: “A foreign terrorist on foreign soil does not stop being a terrorist simply because he or she is far from the battlefield. If we accept the hypothetical example that he used, that a terrorist at a cafe is never a legitimate target, then we cannot protect ourselves from terror. In our zeal to roll back government power we will have placed our liberty in danger. Similarly, in embracing the sequester, we cannot accept defense cuts that may prove more costly over time by putting our security at risk. We must replace those cuts with other cuts.”

The reason I do not identify with conservatives, and the reason I hold modern conservative thought—and I use that word quite loosely—in such contempt is because conservatism is as statist, and ultimately as bankrupting as progressivism.  We simply cannot afford to spend $700 billion per year on our military; it will bankrupt us.  The 2012 budget was nearly $3.8 trillion dollars, and 35% of the budget was funded by debt (and a good portion of that debt was basically inflation, which is to say imaginary money).  Over 19% of the budget was dedicated to national defense. While completely eliminating all defense spending will not balance the budget, it is clear that wasteful “defense” spending is contributing significantly to the budget problem.

Conservatives are hell-bent on continuing military spending and micro-managing the rest of the world to suit the government’s imperialistic goals.  When Rand Paul dared to question even the smallest point of the continued war on terror, a good number of his fellow party members basically backed the president (who is a member of the opposition!), and then had the unmitigated gall to call for increasing America’s imperialistic, meddling, busybody foreign policy as if the federal government can continue to afford more prolonged, protracted wars.

The conservative approach to national defense is stupid, inane, vapid, illogical, and will bankrupt the country.  While it is true that America needs some sort of national defense, it is not only foolish, but incredibly ignorant to think that national defense should consist of a sort of soft imperialism that needlessly requires the death of American youths and trillions of dollar in federal debt, not to mention the requisite higher taxes that increased spending generally entails.  And all we have to show for this intervention is the death of thousands of US citizens, shot down in the prime of their lives, increased danger for Americans travelling abroad, and increased foreign resentment for the United States of America.  America is not materially safer as a result, and in fact appears to be at a greater risk of retribution at the hands of foreign terror groups.  Not only that, the increased risk has led the federal government to strip citizens of their liberties.  And this is what conservatives are fighting to continue.

Since it is clear that conservatives are just as supportive of wasteful spending as progressives, and since it is clear that conservatives hate liberty as much as progressives, I think that it is safe to say that conservative politics needs to die off. It is of absolutely no value to anyone, save those who profit from the military-industrial complex.  It is extremely costly and profoundly anti-liberty for everyone else.

14 March 2013

Maybe There’s A Simpler Solution

Podcasters everywhere are asking people to contact their representatives—which takes two minutes via the Electronic Frontier Foundation—to urge them to back the SHIELD Act. The law dictates that trolls would have to pay defendants’ legal bills should they lose the case, which happens 76 percent of the time, and that would kill the financial incentive for trolling. The problem is most don’t go to trial because it’s insanely expensive. That comprehensive Wired article notes that companies spent $29 billion in 2011 defending against nearly 6,000 troll cases. That number was only $6.5 billion for 1,400 cases in 2005. It also noted that Apple and Google spend more money on patent acquisition and defense now than they do on research and development.

Remember, the whole justification for patent law, per the constitution, is that the brief monopoly rights that inventors get hold for their inventions is supposed to encourage innovation.  In light of this, can it truly be said that patent law does more to encourage innovation than it does to stifle it? And if you’re spending nearly as much money defending your hard work as you’re making from it, is the patent system really that advantageous?

And so, it seems that the best solution to this problem is to simply dispense with the whole legal charade of intellectual property and just scrap patent law.  When the idea industry spends more on defending ideas than coming up with new ones, perhaps it’s simply time to consider the experiment of intellectual property a failure and move on.  One benefit would be that companies could spend on money on more useful things than lawyers.

It’s Not Much Of A Point

The husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords generated nearly 4,000 comments on Facebook from people on both sides of the gun debate after he posted a photo of himself buying a military-style rifle — a purchase he said he made to demonstrate how easy it is to obtain the kind of firearms he's lobbying Congress to ban.

Unless Giffords’ husband is a criminal or plotting some sort of crime that requires an AR-15 to execute (heh), then the system is working exactly as intended.  Law-abiding citizens should be able to easily purchase any sort of gun they want without any delays or hold-ups.   I can’t say that I see how there’s a problem with this, unless Giffords’ husband is secretly a terrorist.

Houses Are Not An Investment

Somehow this story popped up in my stream again:

Regan followed up with a question that got Shiller perked up.
"Then why buy a home?" she asked. "People trap their savings in a home. They're running an opportunity cost of not having that money liquid to earn a better return in the market. Why do it?"
"Absolutely!" Shiller exclaimed. "Housing traditionally is not viewed as a great investment. It takes maintenance, it depreciates, it goes out of style. All of those are problems. And there's technical progress in housing. So, new ones are better."
"So, why was it considered an investment? That was a fad. That was an idea that took hold in the early 2000's. And I don't expect it to come back. Not with the same force. So people might just decide, "Yeah, I'll diversify my portfolio. I'll live in a rental." That is a very sensible thing for many people to do."
Adam Johnson also noted that this was in line with Shiller's assessment that real U.S. home price appreciation from 1890 to 1990 was just about 0 percent. This is explained by the falling costs of construction and labor.
For people who can't wrap their heads around this, Shiller offers an analogy.
"If you think investing in housing is such a great idea, why not invest in cars?" he asked. "Buy a car, mothball it, and sell it in 20 years. Obviously not a good idea because people won't want our cars. It's the same with our houses. So, they're not really an investment vehicle."
Any homeowner knows that you can't sell a home with 30-year-old roofing, carpet, and kitchen appliances. Sure, the home price might go up, but you have to adjust for years of maintenance and renovations.

Real estate is an investment.  Personal property is not. There is nothing wrong with owning a home, of course, but there is no point in pretending it’s an investment, for you are unlikely to recoup all of the money your pour into your “investment.”

If you want to remodel your kitchen because you want something prettier or more functional, or more spacious, or whatever; then remodel your kitchen because you want to.  But don’t pretend that remodeling your kitchen is somehow an investment in your home.  That’s just bullshit that salesmen use to get you to spend lots of money on upgrades.

If you want a nice, comfortable place live that you can customize to your exact preferences and specifications, more power to you.  But don’t lie to yourself and pretend that modifying your home to your specs is somehow a reasonable business investment.  It simply is not.

And if you want to invest in real estate, either buy rental property or buy development property, or some other property that you can flip in short amount of time.  That’s investing in real estate.  Remodeling your home is not.

12 March 2013

A General Rule For Social Science Research

When he began to run the game it became immediately clear that Machiguengan behavior was dramatically different from that of the average North American. To begin with, the offers from the first player were much lower. In addition, when on the receiving end of the game, the Machiguenga rarely refused even the lowest possible amount. “It just seemed ridiculous to the Machiguenga that you would reject an offer of free money,” says Henrich. “They just didn’t understand why anyone would sacrifice money to punish someone who had the good luck of getting to play the other role in the game.”
The potential implications of the unexpected results were quickly apparent to Henrich. He knew that a vast amount of scholarly literature in the social sciences—particularly in economics and psychology—relied on the ultimatum game and similar experiments. At the heart of most of that research was the implicit assumption that the results revealed evolved psychological traits common to all humans, never mind that the test subjects were nearly always from the industrialized West. Henrich realized that if the Machiguenga results stood up, and if similar differences could be measured across other populations, this assumption of universality would have to be challenged.
Henrich had thought he would be adding a small branch to an established tree of knowledge. It turned out he was sawing at the very trunk. He began to wonder: What other certainties about “human nature” in social science research would need to be reconsidered when tested across diverse populations?

It should be clear from this that most social science research is nearly useless.  A good portion of social science research consist of making college students do silly tests.  This is hardly a good cross-selection of the general US population, let alone the global population.  Once you consider that a good amount of social science research is never replicated, it would seem that a good rule of thumb is that any sort of conclusions or findings of a social science experiment is valid only for the instance of its occurrence until proven otherwise.

If, for example, a group of Harvard college students being tested in the middle of September are found to walk slower after being primed with reading words associated with old age, the only conclusion you should draw from this is that there was one instance at a specific point in time in which priming Harvard college students with certain words correlated to them walking slower than normal.  This conclusion is, necessarily quite specific, and thus quite accurate.

By adhering to this sort of rigorous standard, though, you won’t make the mistake that a lot of social scientists have in extrapolating the characteristics of a group performing a very specific task in a very specific situation to the rest of humanity.  Weirdly, this will make you a better scientist than most of the people who are paid to do science.

The Audacity of Bush

It is essential that we have an ample supply of workers both for labor-intensive jobs that few Americans want and for highly skilled jobs for which there are inadequate numbers of Americans with the skills to fit them.

This is propagandistic nonsense.  I have no idea where Bush gets the idea that few Americans want labor intensive jobs.  It is true that Americans don’t want labor-intensive jobs at illegal immigrant prices, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t ever take any sort of labor-intensive job.  The problem is that there are a lot of corporate bosses who want to pad their bottom line a little bit more, and are willing to sell out their fellow citizens so that they can have 10% profit margin instead of an 8% profit margin.

Then, to cap it off, the government, with the encouragement of major corporations, legally prevents American laborers from competing on price thanks to minimum wage laws, income tax laws (like employer “contributions” for SSN), and other labor laws that make hiring more time-consuming, legally risky, and thus expensive.  And ObamaCare doesn’t help either.  Then the government goes out of its way to make entrepreneurship and small business ownership damn near impossible, thanks to the world’s most difficult tax code* and onerous regulatory regime.  To make matters worse, official bribery is discouraged,** and so entrepreneurs can’t grease the wheels of the government to get them moving again.

When all is said and done, big business demands cheap labor, and then imports a bunch of illegal immigrants who work illegally for wages that American citizens can’t legally compete with on price.  And then the government makes it exceedingly difficult for Americans to circumvent big business by starting their own business.  And then Jeb Bush says that the problem facing America is that the American worker just hasn’t been raped enough, and thus needs to face an ever-increasing supply of cheap labor so as to bring down the price of lazy, entitled American labor.

* Ever notice how the case for micromanaging people’s diet is predicated on the assumption that they aren’t smart enough to figure out how to eat properly?  And yet, the same people that aren’t smart to figure out that soda is bad for them are supposed to smart enough to navigate the federal tax code on their own.

** Though you can always start a lobbying and consultancy firm, or offer regulators a high-paying job at your multi-billion dollar firm.  Of course, this is all above board, and could not be construed as bribery in any way.

Another Immigration Canard

It turns out that we don’t even really need the best and brightest from foreign countries:

The technology industry, in lobbying Congress for expansion of programs to attract skilled foreign workers, has long claimed that foreign students graduating from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are typically “the best and the brightest,” i.e., exceptionally talented innovators in their fields. However, the industry and its supporters have offered little or no evidence to back up their assertion. The claim is investigated in this report, with a focus on former foreign students now working in the United States, the group viewed by the industry as key to innovation.
The assertion that the foreign graduates offer superior skills or ability relative to U.S. graduates is found not to be supported by the data…

File this under news that isn’t really news.  The US, in spite of its attempts to utterly destroy the brains of the current generation of students, has a long history of educational excellence.  The US university system is, if not the best in the world, definitely in the top five.  The US was country founded on the principle of freedom, and this enabled and fostered the development of industry simply by enabling creators, entrepreneurs, and businessmen the freedom to create and innovate marketable goods.  The US was never a perfectly free market system, and there has always been plenty of crony capitalism, not only today, but even in the nineteenth century, especially after the civil war.  In spite of this, the relative freedom of the US coupled with its relatively large population of people of Western Europe descent is what enabled the US to become the economically dominant force that it remains today (and this in spite of the federal government’s concerted effort over the last fifty years to absolutely hamstring domestic business).

As such, the assertion that America just needed to attract skilled foreign workers to make up for some sort of supposed brain gap is simply fiction. This may end up being the case later on, once the federal government completely destroys the brain of this and the coming generation, but for now America simply does not need the best that foreign countries have to offer because America produces the best and brightest the world has to offer, and has done so for quite some time.

On the other hand, multinational corporations that wish to afford the bribes they’re currently paying federal politicians to legalize the rape of the American middle class do need cheap skilled foreign labor.  They have to suppress the wages of productive American workers somehow, so they can strip them of that much more of their wealth.  And, to that end the current immigration policy makes sense.

Never Trust A Politician To Defend Your Right To Own A Gun

Several previously unreported Oval Office recordings and White House memos from the Nixon years show a conservative president who at times appeared willing to take on the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun lobby then as now, even as his aides worried about the political ramifications.
"I don't know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house," Nixon said in a taped conversation with aides. "The kids usually kill themselves with it and so forth." He asked why "can't we go after handguns, period?"
Nixon went on: "I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it." But "people should not have handguns." He laced his comments with obscenities, as was typical.
Nixon made his remarks in the Oval Office on May 16, 1972, the day after a would-be assassin shot and paralyzed segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace. As president, Nixon never publicly called for a ban on all handguns. Instead, he urged Congress to pass more modest legislation banning Saturday night specials, which were cheaply made, easily concealed and often used by criminals.

While the GOP has done decent job over the years defending gun rights, especially relative to the Dems, it’s important to remember that party affiliation is no guarantee that a politician isn’t secretly a statist of the highest order.  You must always be vigilant, no matter who is elected.  At the end of the day, all politicians are pandering liars, and campaign promises mean nothing.  What matters is the laws they propose, pass and/or sign into law.  And if any politician, whether Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party, etc. works towards proposing additional gun control laws or refuses to support the repeal of current gun laws, it’s time for said politician to find a new job.  The ability to defend one’s person and property is fundamentally assured with keeping and bearing arms, and any politician that wishes to trample on that right needs to find a new line of work.

Sports and Depression

From the Grey Lady:

You probably think rabid sports fans are a bunch of lonely, disoriented souls who try to fill the holes in their lives by attaching themselves to a team. And you’re probably wrong.
A growing body of scientific research and some compelling empirical evidence suggest that sports fans, even the foam-at-the-mouth variety, are less prone to depression and alienation than people who are immune to such maladies as March Madness and pennant fever.

Assuming the science continues to be replicated and confirmed, this looks like something that has the potential to be interesting, assuming causality can be established.  My bet is that causality runs from personality to sports, not the other way around (i.e. people who are less prone to depression are more likely to be sports fans).  If, however, causality runs from sports to personality, it seems like there is the possibility to use sports as a form of psychotherapy.  I guess we’ll have to see where the research leads.

Common Sense In A Bizarro World

It’s just that their solution to this injustice is wrong. If one has identified a religious tenet written into law, the appropriate response isn’t to have the state alter it as it feels necessary. If you’re a libertarian and arguing for that, you need to turn in your libertarian badge (keep the gun, obviously). Having the state fiddle around with religious tenets is a controversial and dangerous action that will have no end. Is anyone really so naive as to think that gay marriage will be the last marriage-based controversy ever? No, there is only one course of action that will actually end this: Marriage and the state need a divorce.
Some may see that solution as cutting the baby in half, but it really just finally restores some sanity to the issue. The state has never been good for marriage, and gay marriage is not the first marriage-law controversy; there have long since been arguments involving things like divorce — arguments often very religious in nature, i.e., the exact sort of arguments you want the state to stay away from. As a Christian, I feel very strongly about the separation of church and state, not as a protection for the state — who cares about the state? — but as a protection for the church. If we can learn one thing from human history, it’s that anything government gets involved in becomes corrupted. And marriage is very important, so it’s something you want to keep the government far away from.
All the government should do is write up a suite of legal contracts between two consenting adults (or groups of consenting adults — let’s just head off that next controversy) that can be signed in front of a lawyer. If you want a religious ceremony and want to call it a marriage, that can be done before or after you sign the legal documents, but the ceremony itself will have no more direct legal consequences than, say, a Catholic confirmation ceremony. And everyone can continue to argue what is considered a proper marriage and what isn’t, but that debate will be moved to the best place for all contentious debates — to a place where it has no legal bearing on anyone.

As you can probably guess, I pretty much agree with this line of reasoning and support it in its entirety.  Marriage should be a religious matter, not a political/civil matter.  Unfortunately, saying that the government should simply be involved in enforcing legal contracts that happen to coincide with the living arrangement formerly known as marriage is stupid since the government has now shown a tendency to ignore contracts when the contract is disadvantageous to the signatory formerly known as a wife.  So, not only should the government not be involved in marriage, it shouldn’t even be involved in contracts.

10 March 2013

Phantom Jobs

The number of job openings has increased to levels not seen since the height of the financial crisis, but vacancies are staying unfilled much longer than they used to — an average of 23 business days today compared to a low of 15 in mid-2009, according to a new measure of Labor Department data by the economists Steven J. Davis, Jason Faberman and John Haltiwanger.
Some have attributed the more extended process to a mismatch between the requirements of the four million jobs available and the skills held by many of the 12 million unemployed. That’s probably true in a few high-skilled fields, like nursing or biotech, but for a large majority of positions where candidates are plentiful, the bigger problem seems to be a sort of hiring paralysis.
There’s a fear that the economy is going to go down again, so the message you get from C.F.O.’s is to be careful about hiring someone,” said John Sullivan, a management professor at San Francisco State University who runs a human resources consulting business. “There’s this great fear of making a mistake, of wasting money in a tight economy.”

Now, a lot of economists would take the current hiring freeze to be indicative of economic uncertainty (and there is certainly some validity to this view), but it seems more reasonable to assert that the real issue is that these jobs are really predicated on macroeconomic growth since a lot of CFOs—indeed, any number of professional economists—tend to make policy recommendations on macro trends, or certain micro trends. Of course, these macro and micro policy instruments are manipulated by government policy.  In particular, The Fed is supposed to enact monetary policy that helps keep CPI in check, or helps boost other economic indicators, while the federal government is supposed to enact fiscal policies that work towards similar ends.  Thus, a lot of corporate policies and analysis are generally contingent on macroeconomic data and the trends found therein.

As a result, the jobs being advertised by major firms are more appropriately thought of as phantom jobs since filling the positions are generally viewed as risky.  Employers want to find the absolutely best candidate, so as to ensure that no money is wasted by hiring someone new.  What this means is that employers are interested in minimizing hiring and training costs (HR is basically a fixed cost, so having HR people jerk applicants around doesn’t really affect the bottom line while the extra costs of actually bringing a new employee aboard aren’t realized until the actual hire) and thus take their time hiring.  They make rescind the position if the macroeconomic data trends suggest that potential economic growth is diminished or negative.

These jobs are phantom jobs because their existence is contingent on improvements in macroeconomic trends and conditions.  If the economy doesn’t get better, employers will continue to delay hiring people.  If the economy gets worse, they may forego hiring altogether.  Thus, these jobs are mostly contingent on macroeconomic trends, which are themselves subject to government manipulation.  Therefore, the hiring freeze could be nothing more than unrealized government stimulus, which makes these jobs essentially fake, since economic stimulus is nothing more than a false signal of demand.

Thus, it is easy to see why government statisticians are so eager to put a positive spin on every new release of macroeconomic data, like CPI, employment numbers, GDP, etc.  As long as the government continues to push the message that the economy is recovering, the government can basically convince businesses to hire people in the vain attempt to prop up the economy.  Unfortunately, if the economy starts to drag again, or drag even more than it is already dragging, these new jobs will disappear as quickly as they appeared, which is what makes them phantom jobs.

09 March 2013

The Middle Class is Dead

The nation’s median household income has actually declined by more than $4,000 since 2000, and the “typical trappings of middle-class life are slipping out of financial reach for many families,” CNNMoney said.
Economists are attributing the blame to two factors: jobs and wages.
According to the National Employment Law Project, mid-wage work, such as that for office managers and truck drivers, added up to 60 percent of the job losses during the recession, but only 22 percent of the gains during the recovery.
Meanwhile, low-wage jobs have soared 58 percent.
The mortgage crisis “hollowed out” the middle class, Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and research at Demos, a public policy research group, told CNNMoney. Home prices are still 29 percent below their mid-2006 high. [Emphasis added.]

It’s only going to get worse from here.  ObamaCare is basically going to give employers an incentive to make workers pay for their own health care out of pocket, and I would be willing to bet that most employers won’t provide full compensation for the difference.  For example, one of my friends is a safety manager at a production facility and his bosses are trying to cut health care costs as much as possible, which is causing employees to seek alternative providers; ultimately the company hopes to have the employees pay for their health care directly in exchange for a pay increase that’s slightly less than company’s original cost of health care.  Thus, if you made $60k a year plus a health plan worth $20k, under the new plan the company would just pay you $80k pretax and you would be responsible for finding your own health plan, which will undoubtedly cost considerably more than $20k, and possibly post-tax at that. This is practically the same as a pay cut.

Additionally, the continued federal budget deficits are unsustainable, which will likely result in a tax increase for the middle class.  The wealthy are too politically connected and financially savvy to be taxed more than they already are.  The poor don’t have much that can be taxed.  Thus, the continued deficit problem will be paid for by what’s left of the middle class.

Big businesses will clamor for more access to cheap labor, which means either more immigration or more “free trade” (i.e. access to cheap foreign labor), or some combination thereof.  Since big business lobby/bribe politicians more effectively than the middle class can, it’s likely that these policies will be pursued until the middle class simply gives up and starts working for slave wages.  However, big business will not lobby for deregulation or lower corporate taxes until all of its smaller competition is completely destroyed.  Thus, the hallmark of the middle class—self-employment—will be mostly done away with since it will basically be impossible to operate a business at a profit sufficient for decent wages.

In sum, the middle class will be more or less completely gutted.  They will face decreasing wages, higher taxes, and more restraints on entrepreneurial activities that would otherwise alleviate their plight.  They will not be able to afford the Middle Class lifestyle, and will eventually descend into the lower class.  Of course, the current government policies will not last forever; they will continue until they are unaffordable.  But by then, the damage will significant and will take a considerable amount of time and effort to reverse.

It’s A Little Late

It appears that Americans are now realizing the fundamental flaw of so-called free trade:

Walmart (WMT), the nation's largest retailer, earlier this year announced it will boost sourcing of U.S. products by $50 billion during the next 10 years. General Electric (GE) is investing $1 billion through 2014 to revitalize its U.S. appliances business and create more than 1,500 U.S. jobs.
Mom-and-pops are also engineering entire business strategies devoted to locally made goods - everything from toys to housewares. And it's not simply patriotism and desire for perceived safer products which are altering shopping habits.
The recession, and still flat recovery for many Americans, have created a painful realization. All those cheap goods made in China and elsewhere come at a price -- lost U.S. manufacturing jobs. A growing pocket of consumers, in fact, are connecting the economic dots between their shopping carts - brimming with foreign-made stuff -- and America's future.  [Emphasis added.]

To be perfectly honest, the fundamental problem with free trade is not that the federal government allowed foreign companies to sell their goods in the US, but that the federal government imposed a massive regulatory regime on domestic producers, as well as costly taxes, and generally onerous labor laws.  The US government basically hamstrung domestic businesses, than invited their less-restricted foreign competitors to compete in the US market.  The results are not surprising.

Americans should be livid at the federal government for destroying economic prospects and transferring their wealth to elitist corporate overlords.  The fact of the matter is that major corporations have benefitted from this massive betrayal of the American people as it has allowed them to gut American wages by hiring poor people in third-world countries to the jobs that American workers are essentially legally prevented from doing (or at least competing on price).  As a consequence, the unemployment rate is extremely high, wages are low, and now the benefits of free trade have disappeared as prices of food and energy continue to rise.  But at least the corporate elites have enjoyed billions in profits as well as multimillion dollar bonus checks.  This particularly insidious form of crony capitalism has ensured that future generations of Americans will seeing their standards of living erode while the corporate elites who betrayed and brainwashed, with help from elected politicians and corrupt bureaucrats, live high on the hog.

I hope it is not too late to right the course, but I suspect that it is.  America’s wealth has been transferred from the middle class to the 1% and their overseas compatriots, with healthy kickbacks for complicit government officials, of course.  The lesson to be learned in all this is that businessmen are as untrustworthy as the politicians they bribe, and that it is therefore quite foolish to implement their self-interested policies for, at the end of the day, they don’t actually care about anyone other than themselves.  There really is no point in foregoing your self-interest in favor of someone else’s, especially if they are more than willing to sell you out later on.

Indoctrination Camps

I think it’s clear that modern American government-run schools are nothing more than indoctrination camps designed to turn the current generation into slaves of the state:

Nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system.
The number of kids behind the 8-ball is the highest in years, CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.
When they graduated from city high schools, students in a special remedial program at the Borough of Manhattan Community College couldn’t make the grade.
They had to re-learn basic skills — reading, writing and math — first before they could begin college courses. [Emphasis added.]

And what are they learning instead?

A Maryland lawmaker has introduced legislation after a 7-year-old boy in his district was suspended for shaping a pastry into what his teacher thought looked like a gun.
The Star Democrat reports that Republican Sen. J.B. Jennings introduced a bill that would prohibit schools from suspending students for seemingly harmless childish acts, such as playing games with fingers pointed like guns or chewing food into the shape of a firearm.

They’re learning that it’s wrong to play with make-believe guns since guns scare the piss out of ignorant elementary school teachers who apparently lack both imagination and tolerance for others of differing worldviews.  To recap, kids aren’t learning how to read or write, but they are learning that all guns, even pretend ones made out of pastries, are scary and bad.  What passes for education today is nothing more than pablum and propaganda.  Government-funded schools are deliberately crippling children’s intellectual development.

Why are government-funded schools doing this?  Well, if history is any indication, ignorance is a good way to keep slaves from rebelling:

In 1755, Georgia modeled its own ban on teaching slaves to write after South Carolina's earlier legislation. Again, reading was not prohibited. Throughout the colonial era, reading instruction was tied to the spread of Christianity, so it did not suffer from restrictive legislation until much later (Monaghan 243).
The most oppressive limits on slave education were a reaction to Nat Turner's Revolt in Southampton County, Virginia during the summer of 1831. This event not only caused shock waves across the slaveholding South, but it had a particularly far-reaching impact on education over the next three decades. The fears of slave insurrections and the spread of abolitionist materials and ideology led to radical restrictions on gatherings, travel, and—of course—literacy. The ignorance of the slaves was considered necessary to the security of the slaveholders (Albanese 1976). Not only did owners fear the spread of specifically abolitionist materials, they did not want slaves to question their lot; thus, reading and reflection were to be prevented at any cost.
Each state did not respond differently to the insurrection, a few examples are especially illustrative. While Mississippi already had laws designed to prevent slave literacy, in 1831 the state legislature passed a law that required all free African-Americans to leave the state so that they would not be able to educate or incite the slave population. The same legislation required that any black preacher would have to be given permission to speak before appearing a congregation. Delaware passed an 1831 law that prevented the meeting of a dozen or more blacks late at night; additionally, black preachers were to petition a judge or justice of the peace before speaking before any assembly.
While states like South Carolina and Georgia had not developed legislation that prohibited education for slaves, other, more moderate states responded directly to the 1831 revolt. In 1832, Alabama enacted a law that fined anyone who undertook a slave's education between $250 and $500; the law also prohibited any assembly of African-Americans—slave or free—unless five slaveowners were present or an African-American preacher had previously been licensed by an approved denomination.
Even North Carolina, which had previously allowed free African-American children to attend schools alongside whites, eventually responded to fears of insurrection. By 1835, the public education of all African-Americans was strictly prohibited. [Emphasis added.]

By now, it should be clear that the main reason why education has devolved into its current state is simply because the state would like to make sure that its citizens are too stupid to rebel against the horrific evils perpetuated by the state against not only its citizens but against other people around the globe.  The self-defined and self-measured proficiency tests administered by the state to prove students’ educational attainment should be viewed as nothing more than propaganda, for it is clear simply by the mere act of interacting with those who are fresh out of the public school system that most students are not educated, nor are they capable of prolonged, rational, abstract, individual thought.  They have been reduced to cogs in a machine, too stupid and ignorant to understand their lot, and thus incapable of rebelling against it.

06 March 2013

Yet Another Reason To Homeschool

A California high school student was shocked at what she found when she decided to play detective and stop a string of thefts from backpacks during gym class.
Justine Betti said she decided to hide in a locker to see if she could catch the thief in action. She didn’t expect the alleged culprit to be her gym teacher.
After all of the students left the locker room, the teacher stayed behind, rummaged through backpacks and took money, Betti said.

It’s been well-established that public school teachers are morally degenerate lot, what with their tendency to engage in pedophilia and ephebophilia.  But now it turns out that their moral degeneracy extends (pardon the pun) to simple theft as well.  It’s almost as if the public school system was designed to destroy society by taking children from their parents and training them to conform to a morally corrupt authority without question or reservation.

What Explains The Racial Wealth Gap?

White families build wealth faster than black households, a phenomenon economists call the “racial wealth gap.” What explains this growing divide?
The biggest drivers, new research shows, are home ownership and income levels. Tracking 1,700 working-age households from 1984 to 2009, researchers at Brandeis University’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that, among households whose wealth grew over the period, the number of years owning a home accounted for nearly 30% of the difference in the relative growth in wealth between white and black families.
Family income accounted for another 20% of the widening gulf in wealth. Other factors include college education, inheritances and unemployment. All told, these five factors accounted for 65% of the increasing wealth gap, researchers said.

The explanations proposed above are simple misdirects, as they merely beg the question of why black households have lower home ownership levels and income levels, etc.  Really, the problem with the “explanation” is that it is actually a description.  Saying that blacks are less wealthy because their home ownership rate is lower is simply the post hoc fallacy.  Sure, the assertion is tautologically true, but the assertion is ultimately circular because the lower home ownership rate is the definition of being less wealthy.  The “explanation” merely begs the question of why the black home ownership rate is lower than that of whites.  Answering this question gets us to the real heart of the issue.

What’s astounding about the question and the attempt made at answering it is that it basically ignores race as an explanation.  If you’re astute enough to discern between races and then ask whether there is a difference in wealth levels by race, then surely it has to occur to you that if a) race can stand as marker for differing wealth levels, then b) wealth can also stand as a marker for the behaviors, abilities, drives, and accomplishments that affect wealth levels.  Thus, the one who poses the question of what affects the variance in wealth levels across races is stuck in the ludicrous position of ignoring the most obvious factor: race.

My point is not that race means everything, and that racial differences account for every last variance between wealth levels.  My point is simply that if you’re going to measure average wealth levels by race, then surely you would have to think that race plays some sort of role in explaining the wealth gap.

A Good Start

For the second year in a row, Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican of Kentucky, is returning a large part of his office's operating budget to the Treasury.
According to a press release, Paul presented taxpayers in Louisville with an "oversized" check for $600,000.
"I ran to stop the reckless spending, and I pledged to the people of Kentucky that I would work to keep their hard-earned money out of the hands of Washington bureaucrats whose irresponsible spending has threatened our country's economic health," Paul said.
As we reported at the time, Paul wrote out a check for $500,000 last year. That means that during the two years that Paul has been in the Senate, he has returned $1.1 million.

While I still don’t trust Senator Paul to the same extent that I trust his father, I am encouraged to see that he is actually doing what he can to save taxpayers money.  Too bad his compatriots in the senate won’t do the same with the federal budget.


“Intentional” is one of those words that sounds right, but no one really knows what it means. So I would like to clear that up. Here is my working definition for intentional and how it relates to how a Christian man should pursue a woman. 
The intentional man repeatedly and constantly goes first and takes on all of the risk of rejection. He always lets the girl know where he stands so she feels secure and isn’t left guessing. (On the other hand, don’t weird her out by talking about marriage on the first date.)

From there, the rest of the post follows standard Churchian advice to initiate, pay for the date,* and being direct and upfront about your relationship.  I pretty much agree with the bulk of this advice, since it is basically my modus operandi, and has worked well for me (caveat:  I’m in my early twenties, tall, and have a very masculine face).  I got my number one girlfriend by asking her out within twenty minutes of meeting her.  I got my number two girlfriend by telling her I thought she was pretty and that I wanted her number so I could ask her out later, which I did.  I was extremely direct in both instances, and there was nothing nebulous about what I wanted.

Without getting into too many personal details, my approach to my relationship with number one has been very straightforward and take-charge.  I always make decisions, I always know what I want, and I’m very direct about it.  It works.  My approach with number two has been a little more reserved since she is considerably younger, and since it’s difficult for us to spend time together due to conflicting schedules.  Still, I’m very direct and honest with her.  It works.

My advice for guys is to simply have balls and be direct. Don’t wait forever to tell a girl that you’re interested in her; she knows within the first ten seconds of meeting you whether you’re interested in her.**  Hiding it, not acknowledging it, or pretending you’re interested in something else is just stupid, and makes you appear to be a complete and total coward.  I’ve ruined enough relationships by pretending I was interested in being friends, and in not acknowledging my attraction, and can thus say with certainty that it is simply best to be direct.

To be more blunt about it, being indirect and playing games is for cowards and manipulative assholes.  If you are looking for a substantive relationship, don’t play around and don’t be a pussy.  If all you want is a one-night stand or a low-risk relationship, go ahead and be indirect and play games.  Indirectness and games do work on a good number of girls (mostly stupid ones, and/or those with daddy issues); if that’s what you’re looking for, then by all means go PUA on them.  If all you’re looking for is friendship, suppressing and trying to hide your attraction will definitely ensure that you get into the friend zone.  But if you want a substantive relationship, be a man and tell girls what you want.  Be intentional.

* Here my specific advice would be to have a plan on who’s getting the check.  In my own experience, it doesn’t actually matter if I pay for a girl’s meal; what matters is that I have a plan for who’s paying.  I’ve paid for a good number of meals.  I’ve split checks with a good number of girls.  I’ve told girls that dinner was on them and subsequently they paid for the meal.  Whatever you decide to do, be confident about it.

** As a side note, I’ve noticed that whenever a girl asks me how to tell whether s guy is interested in her, what she’s really wanting to know is if she should take the initiative in hitting on a guy that she’s interested in.  She can usually tell if a(n unattractive) guy is interested in her, so if she’s asking how to tell whether a guy is interested in her, what she’s really looking for is a rationalization for spending more time with a guy she’s interested in without having to feel like she’s being slutty or easy or some other adjective that would have negative implications for her self-perception.

Boys and School

Stereotyped as "naughty," boys quickly learn that they are thought of as dumber and more trouble than girls. And that has consequences. "When boys aged seven to eight were told that they tend to do worse at school than girls, they scored more poorly in reading, writing and mathematics tests than those who were not primed for failure. And telling children aged six to nine before a test that both sexes were expected to do equally well improved the boys' performance." But the message that boys get is that they're not as smart.
The way boys are treated in K-12 also impacts how they do with regard to college. According to a recent study of male college enrollment, it's not academic performance, but discipline that holds boys back. "Controlling for these non-cognitive behavioral factors can explain virtually the entire female advantage in college attendance for the high school graduating class of 1992, after adjusting for family background, test scores and high school achievement." Boys are disciplined more because teachers -- overwhelmingly female -- find stereotypically male behavior objectionable. Girls are quieter, more orderly, and have better handwriting. The boys get disciplined more, suspended more and are turned off of education earlier.
Female teachers also give boys lower grades, according to research in Britain. Female teachers grade boys more harshly than girls, though, interestingly, male teachers are seen by girls as treating everyone the same regardless of gender. More and more, it's looking like schools are a hostile environment for boys.

The irony in this, of course, is that males are considerably more inclined towards academic pursuits and accomplishments.  Treating male behavior as a problem is thus literally anti-progress, as males have historically been responsible for the bulk of civilizational development, and scientific and technological progress since the beginning of time.  Thus, the feminized culture of public school is literally socially retarding.

At any rate, I think the solution to this problem is pretty simple:  take your boys out of public school.  Also, make sure they spend as much time with their father as possible.

To elaborate further, there comes a point in a boy’s life where he should be raised and trained by men instead of by women.  It would appear, based on the anecdotal evidence excerpted above, that once boys reach the age of seven or so they should start spending considerably more time with other males instead of with women.  I would hypothesize that by puberty (roughly 11-13), boys should definitely be spending the bulk of their time away from the retarding influence of women, and in the presence of men, especially their father.

As a side note, the whole egalitarian concept of coed schools is simply stupid.  It has historically been the norm that the sexes remained generally segregated.  Men had their own sphere and women and had their own sphere, and the two rarely overlapped, though they occasionally intersected.  Women were responsible for training and developing younger women and girls; men were responsible for training and developing younger men and boys.  While women were generally tasked with taking care of infant boys, it should be noted that ensuring that an infant male doesn’t die before puberty is not the same as actually training him, or even civilizing him.  And while women may domesticate their young children, this should not be viewed as being the same as civilizing or training them.

At any rate, it should be clear that egalitarian theory of society has completely failed, in that it has yielded to feminism, and has given women many roles to which they are not suited.  Consequently, the result of giving women the task of raising and training boys is leading to disastrous consequences, and future historians may well look upon this era as one of the most foolish and self-destructive eras of humanity, for in subjecting boys to women, we have sown the seeds of or future downfall, and the reaping will grim indeed.