Thursday, May 31, 2012

Banking Regulation Done Right!

There is an article of faith among conservatives that banking can't be regulated.   They theorize that no matter what laws you pass, there will always be some smart, unethical genius that will find a loophole.

But this is wrong.  Fundamentally wrong.  Their logic depends upon assuming regulation is "negative regulation".  That is, the regulations tell you what you can't do.  "No buying junk mortgages",  "No betting on horses", etc.   Then of course,  lobbyists and congress put in lots of exceptions.   Then these exceptions get abused or someone finds something new (or convinces people it is new) and abuse begins again.

But we don't have to do 'negative regulations'.  Instead put in place a system of positive regulation.  That is tell banks what they are allowed to do rather than what they can't do.  Anything not on the approved list can't be done by the bank - but bank owned subsidiaries can do (as long as their are legal protections that prevent the bank from being fiscally responsible for the subsidiaries' debts.)  If someone truly invents something new it is by law automatically prohibited. 

This will practically (not perfectly), end all banking crisis. Here is what the bank would be allowed to do - and no more:

  1. Accept money and securities  that others own  -paying interest or other reasonable considerations in exchange for the right to loan it out (see #3 below).
  2. The bank itself may own, purchase or accept as collateral property: debt, stock or other securities approved by the SEC for sale that do not under any circumstance require the owner to provide additional monetary support (not even stock options). 
  3. It can loan out anything it owns or a customer owns (and has given permission to loan out in rule 1) to other customers.
  4. Act as Agent (not broker-dealer) and accept fees for assisting customers.  The bank has a legal fiduciary obligation to give the best possible advice to said customers.   They act as agent, NEVER as dealer (i.e. own something and sell it to their clients).
  5. In order to sell anything they own, they must hire an Agent.   This agent can not use the bank's property (intellectual or physical) for advertising purposes.  No mailings to the bank's customers, no brochures on the bank property, etc.  No 'advantage' at all to the bank's customers.  The bank is not in the business of selling things to their clients, as this presents a conflict of interest, so it must hire other people to do so.
  6. Own subsidiaries that have limited liability (protecting the bank), that are not subject to any of the above rules.

They would be legally forbidden from engaging in any truly risky behavior.  If they want to do other things, they can, but only through  a subsidiary that specifically limited liability.  That is, if the subsidiary goes bankrupt, the bank would not have to cover it's losses.

If the bank tries to violate these laws, any contracts they made that violated them is declared null and void.   The people that signed those contracts would be subject to prison terms of no less than 2 years in jail, prevented from ever working for a bank again, and the contract is null and void. The court should do it's best to undo the trade but under no circumstances does the bank owe more money.

This system has multiple advantages.  First, it protects the banks from stupid risks.  They can't take on unlimited risks, only their subsidiaries can.   This prevents those risks from bankrupting the banks.

Second, it lets the banks invest their money in risky things - but only through owned subsidiaries.  They can pump any money that is not needed for their banking operations into the subsidiaries and do the funky investments there, as opposed to risking their customer's money.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

They All Look Alike To Me.

There is a well known phenomena called "out group homogeneity effect".  Basically it means you can't tell the difference (homogeneity = look the same) between two members of another race (out group), even though members of that group can easily tell the difference.

This phenomena happens because the real differences within any group is relatively small, compared to those outside the group.  That is WHY they are a group.   Chinese people do look a lot more like each other then they look like Swedish people.

But the human mind is flexible - we need to be able to distinguish between people we know.  So if we are surrounded by Chinese people as a young child, we learn to distinguish them.  The same skill can be learned later as an adult, but it takes a lot more work.

In effect, it is not strange that they all look alike, but it is strange that you can tell the difference between your own group.  It is a specialized skill you learned as a child.  You see, it's NOT an outgroup homogeneity insensitivity.  In reality it is an INGROUP difference sensitivity.

We become hypersensitive to differences within our group.   This is something innately human.   It is how we learned to tell the difference between poisonous food and very similar non-poisonous food.

Now for the political ramifications.   It doesn't just apply to faces.   It also applies to politics.   We become hypersensitive to relatively minor differences and think they are big.

President Obama is practically identical to Mitt Romney on most issues. As per Political Compass, Ron Paul is the only substantially different presidential candidate.   We all know Ron Paul is "out there", but that just means that Barack Obama is NOT out there.

It's not just about about presidential candidates, it's about basic politics.  ObamaCare is based on RomneyCare.  You don't do that when you have real differences in politics.    The Democrats and the GOP are basically very similar groups, with relatively slight differences.

Both sides tend to exaggerate what differences exist.  They need to do that to generate support.

But we can easily recognize that they are all pretty much the same, with minor differences.

Note, minor differences DO matter.   There is a huge difference between spending no money on Planned Parenthood and spending a reasonable amount.  But the real difference is whether we arrest and send women/doctors to jail over abortion - and neither party will let that happen again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Solomon's Solution to the Tax Debaate

There are two specific problems with government - how big government can be, and who should pay for it.   There are two sides - Republican and Democrat.

One solution is to apply Solomon's Rule:  divvy it up.  One sides controls the size, the other controls who pays for it. 

The GOP keeps claiming they want a small government.  OK, they get to decide how much taxes to charge.   Just let the Democrats decide WHO pays those taxes.

If your side disagrees on how they do their part, you can wheel and deal to arrange a compromise.

If the GOP wants to reduce our tax bite from 2.4 trillion in 2011 to only 2.2 trillion, that's fine.   Its a solid 9% tax reduction.  Just let the Democrats decide who gets that 9% tax reduction.

If the GOP doesn't like the Democrat's solution, they can negotiate away things.  Let's say the Democrats gave a tax split that was 100% taxing the wealthy at 80%.  The GOP could agree to raise taxes by $500 billion more dollars if $250 billion of that money came from the poor/middle class. Otherwise, they are stuck entirely with the tax plan the Democrats came up with.

You can do the same with spending.
 Have one side decide how much to spend, give the other side power over what to spend it on.  The GOP wants a small government, let them limit the size of our spending, but don't be surprised if the Democrats keep all the social programs and reduce the military.

But honestly, in real life this would never work - for two big reason.

The GOP is outright lying about their intentions.   They have zero real desire to lower the deficit and zero real desire to reduce the size of the government.  They had the power to do that before, under GW Bush, but the government grew.  Worse, the new 'T-party' people are too arrogant to compromise and achieve there goals.  In effect deficit reduction and smaller government are just buzz words they use to defend attempts to reduce spending on projects they dislike, and use the money on projects they like.

Another problem is tax predictions don't always come true.  The GOP loves to predict that lowering taxes raises income, and the Democrats like to say the opposite.   Neither have anywhere near a 100% accuracy.  I personally would let the person that was most accurate about which way the actual tax changes came out to get to pick which side they do next year.

P.S.  The main reason we have these problems is that economics is probably the softest of the soft sciences.  That is a psychiatrist is far more likely to be able to predict what a crazy person will do, then an economist can predict what the economy will do.  There is an old joke about an economics professor.  Each year he uses the same questions - it's just the correct answer that changes.

Honestly, no one truly knows much at all about economics - aside from a few theories that we know don't work very well .  And no one - democrat or republican - actively pushes any of the theories that we know don't work. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cultural Relativism.

I have recently read a sci-fi book written by a literate conservative fool.  Unfortunately, he is also a good writer, so I still read his stuff, despite having to slosh through obvious and moronic prejudices.

For those of you that don't know, there is a rather sharp dividing line in Science Fiction.  You have liberal science fiction which covers a range of topics, including spy stories, mystery stories, romance (big among the ladies), steampunk, space opera, superhero.

Then there is conservative science fiction.  That basically falls into just two categories:

1) Christian wish fulfillment (oh, their are aliens and they already Christians!)
2) Military.  (War.  Don't need to bother with alien ideas and ethical questions, just use their own tech to kill them!)

There is also libertarian science fiction, which is different from conservative science fiction.  Usually it involves either 1) bad/evil governments with people rebelling against them (internal wars, as opposed to external 'military wars') or 2) an anarchic areas with little to no government.  Think wild west.  Some libertarian Sci-Fi is more conservative, other is more liberal.

This author is a conservative, with a slight libertarian bit (he clearly thinks conservatism is all about libertarianism, despite the strong pro-authority theme of true conservatism).  As such, of course he writes a Military novel, where the aliens are rarely a real threat to the creative humans.  Instead, most of the danger comes from within mankind.   This despite the fact that in real life, when a country gets attacked in real life, we all  ignore internal struggles and attack the threat.  In the US, prime examples are Perl Harbor, and 9/11.  But there are similar events in ANY country.  In the book, the USA are of course the good guys, but there are a bunch of whiny countries that complain and makes it harder for America to save the world.  Until eventually they bow down and accept US culture.  In the book, the supposed danger would be the American losing their position of authority, but it doesn't happen because foreigners all quietly obey the American as long as the American has the guts to stand up and insist they do it right.   In real life of course, the non-Americans would act far more honorably and the Americans would, if they followed this author's moronic advice, fail horribly.

The main point he is trying to make is to reject cultural relativism.  That we should not 'respect others culture', and trying to do that means nothing gets done.   But in real international business it is the ONLY way to get things done.  So much in fact that other countries call cultural relativism the real American business culture.

Why does he dislike cultural relativism so much?  Mainly because he, like so many conservatives, has failed to understand it.  He sees caricatures, often created by poor businessmen that don't understand it and thinks that is what is it is all about.  Or he sees half of it and ignores the rest.

He thinks cultural relativism  causes problems as opposed to fixing them.  He thinks it is all about  Americans bowing down and catering to the culture of other people.  Nope. 

This could not be further from the truth.  Cultural relativism is a way to deal with the innate belief that you are doing things the best possible way.  The thing is,  everyone thinks they are doing things best way.   If you don't think your way is best, you stop doing it look for something better.  That's obvious.

But if ten people are doing something, then they will do it ten different ways.  Only one of them can really be doing it the best way.  In a world of 7 billion people, there are really 7 billion different ways of doing everything.  Yes, people from the same culture do it similar, but the farther you get, the greater the variation.  With 7 billion people, there are probably at least 1 million major differences for any technique.  Whether it is putting your pants on, or fighting a war.

More importantly, while many things have better ways of doing things, not all activities do.  For many things, there is NO BEST way to do something.   Yes, certain ways are better than others (far better to punish the rapist rather than the victim), but most of culture is about random choices, not right/wrong.  In some cultures it is an insult to use their first name, in others to use their last name.    The choice is random.  But you need to know if the person you are talking too is trying to insult you or not.   Some countries drive on the west side, other's the left.  You need to know which to do where.

A major part of culture relativism is admitting that for some things - like which name (first or last) to use familiar, there is no best way.  The second biggest part is admitting that for things that there IS a best way, the mathematics means most likely your particular way is NOT the best one, and you should at least examine the other methods.

Cultural relativism is an attempt to convince people that they they are NOT doing it the best possible way, and that other ways are viable.  This allows you to try new ways without admitting that you were doing it wrong.   Sometimes you may actually have been doing it better, but you won't know until you try the other way.

But cultural relativism is not about allowing people to do things the obviously wrong way.  It's not for example, about letting foreigners arrest our women for getting raped, because 'it's their culture'.  Nor is it about letting foreigners drive on the left side of the street in America because in their country, that's how it is done.  Nor is it about letting hiring people in Mexico and letting them take a three hour nap during the middle of the day when you have a big rush order coming in.

Is instead about letting french kids drink wine on a cruise ship because they are french and it is LEGAL in France, and the cruise ship isn't governed by American laws.   It is also about driving on the left side when you go to Tanzania, not insisting on driving on the right side (and crashing repeatedly).   It's about not being an arrogant domineering shmuck except when you absolutely have to.

Culture relativism is also just as much about other people respecting YOUR culture.   If you employ Chinese people, they are not allowed to call you bastard, and you are not allowed to use their first name (unless you knew them from childhood.)    It also means explaining to them (one time, not many times) that pointing up with just their middle finger (i.e. giving you the finger) is an insult, as opposed to automatically assuming they know it.    Similarly, they should politely tell you that beckoning someone with a finger is a sign you believe them to be very low class (OK to do for children, waiters, taxi drivers, not OK for employees) .   Best if both you and they are told this before hand, not to let the mistake happen.

Why do I say this? 

First and foremost, respecting other people's cultures does NOT cause problems, it fixes them.  If some jack-ass goes into a foreign country and expects everyone to do it the 'American' way, his business will FAIL.  No ifs, no and's, no buts.  Because the whole point of cultural relativism is that when you fail to respect people, they don't do good work.   PERIOD.   If you hire a bunch of Hindus, then don't expect them to be grateful if you give them free hamburgers for lunch every day.   Yes, as the boss, you can require them to do work related changes to do the job.  But not stuff unrelated to the job.

No liberal in the world is going to let a Hindu tell him how he can run his beef stockyard.  But similarly, you can't force them to say Merry Christmas.

Think of what would happen if someone from China came to America and started using the middle finger pointing up all the time as a sign of a good job. (It is a common way of pointing in China, it doesn't mean 'f*$k you', the way it does in the USA.)  Let's say he also never looked you in the eye (counts as staring in China), and never give compliments.   What do you think his employees would say or think about him? Would his business succeed?  No of course not.  Not because he is trying to insult you but because his arrogance means he is insulting us without knowing it.

The same thing happens when you go to their country and ignore their customs.

In the real world, any good businessman knows they have to respect other cultures when starting a business - but that also means the boss gets to demand his employees respect HIS culture as well.

Cultural relativism is not about bowing to other cultures, but about understanding when to bow and when to demand they bow to us.    This particular science fiction author just saw the bowing we did and was too ignorant to see (or care about) the bowing we insist they do back.

Where does he get these ideas?  Well, no one likes to take responsibility for their own actions.  So sometimes, people do horrendous things ( like rape & cover up the rape of  a female contractor in Afghanistan), then blame it on the culture of other people around them.  

Any good idea can be blamed for your bad actions.   Capitalism is a great idea, and the mere fact that certain banks mistreat customers does not mean capitalism is evil.   It is the banks that violated the rules and they are just blaming it on capitalism.

Similarly, when some schmuck violates our most sacred rules, we should laugh when they try to blame it on cultural relativism.    Rule #1 about cultural relativism is you have to respect our own culture before we respect others.   If someone doesn't respect our culture, then respecting the other culture is not cultural relativism, it is cultural violation.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Prejudice - how to tell if an action is motivated by it.

My last post was about recognizing prejudice when you hear/see it.

It's OK to be prejudiced.  It is in fact a natural part of being human.  We make wide generalizations - they help us make quick decisions.  Bears bad.  Rabbits nice.  (unless of course, the rabbit is infected with some weird disease).   We can't get rid of all prejudice, we can only limit the negative consequences of it.

Just because you are prejudiced doesn't me you let it control your actions.  We may not be able to eliminate prejudice, but we CAN eliminate the evil that prejudice does.  We can prevent it from affecting our legal and legislative decisions.

It's OK for a prejudiced police man to arrest a black criminal.  It's not OK to arrest all black people - or even more black people than white people.

So, how do you tell if an action is caused by prejudice as opposed to other factors.    There are several tools we can use:

  1. Look for laws that specify the name of the discriminated group - or worse, go out of the way to describe them - without a generally accepted (by all political sides) reason for doing so.  That is, it is OK to prevent women from entering a bathroom designated as male only, but not to prevent a black man from using a 'whites only' bathroom  Similarly, it NOT OK to prevent gays/lesbians from adopting.  Same for gay marriage.   It's not up to the prejudiced people to decided if their law is prejudiced - it's up tot he NON-prejudiced people to make that decision.     No significant number of women ever complained about not being allowed in the men's bathroom.  No significant number of jews ever complained about not being allowed to teach at a christian university.   No significant number of black people ever complained about not getting enough research into black skin cancer (and yes, black people do get skin cancer - but at a lower rate)
  2. Stastiical analysis.  To determine if the police are prejudiced against jews, you could do a statistical anlaysis of arrests comparing jews to non-jews.  If X% of crimes are committed by jews, then X% of arrests should be made of jews.  If we see more than X% of arrests, then we have to find someway to reduces the number of arrests for jews and/or increase the number for non-jews.  Which should be determined by comparing conviction rates - if more jews get convicted, then non-jews, you need to increase the non-jew arrests.  If jews get convicted less often, than that means you need to arrest less jews.   Current statistical analysis of the stop and frisk in NYC policy of blacks indicates that police are prejudiced against black men.   In New York City,  (2010 census), 44.6% are white, 25.1% are black, 11.8% are Asian, and 27.5% are Hispanic.  But the 2010 Stop and Frisk NYC program stopped 54% black, 33% Latino, 9% white.  As 86% of them were not even arrested, this is not a case where we need to stop more white and asian people.     The police claim the results happen because they are running the programs in high crime areas which happen to be non-white neighborhoods.  The Bronx has the least white population.  If you restrict it just to the Bronx, you get 10.9% white, 30.1% black, 53.5% Hispanic.    That is, in the poor neighbor hoods, latinos outnumber blacks but the stop and frisk program still concentrates on blacks.   Thus we know it is racist.  Not because it stops too few whites but because they don't stop enough Hispanics. 
  3.  They use religion as a reason/excuse for legal actions.   Religion has a place in making your OWN mind up about right and wrong - it has no place in making political arguments to OTHER people about right and wrong.  Because other people are allowed to have different religions from you, you can't use religion to convince them that you are right.   This is actually fairly simple.   Freedom of Religion doesn't only mean we are allowed to be Jewish, it also means we can call ourselves Protestant and not believe what other Protestant people believe.   No politician (particularly a government employee) can tell me what religion to worship, which means they can't try to convince me to follow their religion's beliefs.  When a member of government or even someone aspiring to government service uses their religion to tell me what is right and wrong, they are actively trying to force me to obey their religion.  In fact only a priest or other clergy men has any excuse for telling people what a religion says to do.  If you aren't one, then why are you preaching!   You don't ask your plumber for advice on religion, you go to a clergy.  Politicians are not more qualified than plumbers to talk about religion - despite the fact that they seem to think they are.
  4. Claims of tradition/history.  It doesn't matter that traditionally women didn't work, or that blacks didn't traditionally have rights in the US, or that Jews couldn't join clubs. Nor does it matter that marriage was traditionally between men and women.    If the best excuse you have is tradition, you are just acting on prejudice.   
  5. Bad Morale:  "undefined interference" claims - aka "I get angry if other people can do what I don't want them to do."   This is so obviously a bad excuse, so people try to make it sound reasonable by making it vague: "If they do X it will somehow affect my ability to do X."  That is, if black men/gay/women/athiests/ can join the army/marry, it will somehow affect white/straight/male/religious morale, making the rest of us fight poorly/get divorced.   You want to claim that their rights interfere with your rights then you must fully and specifically explain how the interference happens - without resorting to claiming "it will affect me psychologically."

When people are caught using these excuses, we should automatically reject them.  We spent years finding out how wrong they are for original prejudices, don't let idiots try them out on new prejudices.

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Prejudice - how to recognize it.

    One of the problems we have with prejudice is a total failure to realize that you are prejudiced.  It requires a huge amount of self-awareness to realize you are prejudice or a constant social pressure.  Neither require or force you to change your actions.

    Part of the issue is that hating some group, or feeling superior to them does not make you prejudiced.  

    • Someone that hates Nazis is not prejudiced, someone that hates Germans because at one point they were ruled by Nazis is prejudiced.
    • Someone that hates Al-qaeda is not prejudiced, someone that hates Muslims is prejudiced.
    • Someone that hates George Lucas is not prejudiced, someone that hates Methodists is prejudiced.
    • Someone that hates the CIA is not prejudiced, someone that hates Americans is prejudiced.
    • Claiming any team is superior to the Baltimore Orioles (14 consecutive losing seasons, as of 2011) is just reasonable.  But claiming your race/country/religion is prejudiced.

    The concept of prejudice is simple - it means to pre-judge someone before you know them.  If you hate a group or feel superior to them because of actions they admit they have done (or in the case of the Orioles, failed to do), that isn't prejudiced.  But if you judge people not on what they admit doing, but on what some people that YOU think are identical/nearly identical have done, then it is.    You are pre-judging a large group based on a small group.  Here are some warning signs about prejudice.  They are things people do to convince themselves it is OK to hate a specific group.

    1. Confuse a large neutral group with a small bad group.  I.E: "I know about some (large category = Hispanic/Italians/black/German/Methodist/Muslims/Mormons/Americans) that are part of  (small category = gang/mafia/propaganda organization/political party/terrorist organization/black-ops law breaking spy group).  So all 'large group" are are incredibly evil - they do crimes and have specific plans to create more crimes.
    2. Claim a small leadership group has a secret agenda that most are not aware of - even though the no one admits to being part of that leadership group or admits those plans.  In particular, there is no such thing as a 'well known secret'.  If it's well known, it's not a secret.
    3. Ignore members of other large groups that also join the small evil group (or similar group).  That is thinking that there are no white gangs, no jewish mafia, no christian terrorists, etc.
    4. Claim that there is some kind of inherent link in the culture/genes that explains this - despite no real  evidence supporting their position.   (It's genetic, they are raised to hate, their religion encourages a master/slave relationship.)  If the link is not so clear to your opponents, then it isn't strong enough to be effective.
    5. Demand that because of the evil that some do, all of the larger group must suffer stricter control (i.e. discrimination) even if by some small chance a few of them don't belong to the small evil group.  Ignore statistics that prove this is no better than doing it to another, favored group.  Racial Profiling is the major example.  
    6. Claim a general, non-specific superiority, as opposed to a specific one.  I fully admit that there are people  smarter, faster, nicer, more dextrous, stronger, prettier, sexier than me but that does not make them BETTER than me.  There is no way to say that one race is generically better than any other.   Note this is mostly used as an excuse to not let the other group prove they are just as good (Boys are better than girls, so we won't let the girls play on our team!  na na na).
    These are the hallmarks of prejudice if you do these things, you are prejudiced.  No matter what.  If you don't, chances are you are not prejudiced.

    These ideas are the heart of prejudiced - and ALWAYS wrong.   The quite truth is that the larger the group, the more variety within it.  It is easy to enforce uniformity in a small group, much harder to do so on a larger group.  Time makes this far harder - large groups drift and schism.   If the large group were as bad as the small group, they would not lie about their goals, they would publicize them.   Groups grow by convincing other people they are right, not by hiding their intentions.   It's why Christians and Muslims outnumber Jews (Jews don't recruit, while Christians and Muslims do.)  Secret agendas don't work - you need to publicize the core of your beliefs - if not your 'solutions'. 

    Always clean up your own backyard before you talk about the opponent.  When the police break this rule, it is called "selective enforcement" and negates the arrests (If I can prove that the police are ignoring all the black men doing exactly what I did, then I can get a judge to dismiss the charges against me.).   The inherent link think is required for internal constituency.  You need to explain why all of 'them' are bad.   The thing is this doesn't work - groups/genes that are that bad die out.  They don't get passed on - whether they are genes or social habits.  As for the racial profiling - everyone is for it until they find out they are the one's being discriminated against.   Finally, there is no such thing as a general superiority.  Certain things are neither good nor bad - water for example can kill in too much quantities, but is essential to life.    People are one of them.   You may be a better liar than I am - but that means I am more honest than you.  If I am more law abiding, then you are a better criminal.  No such thing as a superior person.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Driving Faster Reduces Accidents, Right?

    Say there are fifty people in a study.   Some of them insist that driving faster is safer - as it lets them avoid other drivers.  They go at various speeds between 55 and 65 mph.  Others insist slower is faster as it gives them more reaction time.  They drive between 25 and 40 mph.

    So they start driving.  Over the years, they repeatedly show that the slower drivers are right - they have less accidents.

    The guys with the ninth highest accident rate realizes they have a problem.   They think it over, and realize they are doing something wrong.  They have to make a change.  So they insist that the solution must of course be to drive at 90 mph - faster than anyone else is driving.

    This is the hallmark of stupidity.  Refusing to admit that your core principle is wrong, that people doing the opposite have better results.  

    I am of course talking about Tennessee.  They are tied as the 9th worst teen age pregnancy state, in large part because they have a full blown case of "Abstinence Only" sex education.  (source)

    So what do they do to fix it?  They pass a "no gateway sex education law'.  You see, they look at the records and realize something.  Many of the 'abstinent kids' with relationships give hand jobs and oral sex to stay abstinent.   Tennessee, instead of realizing that this release is the only way kids can put up with the incredibly moronic and stupid sex ed policy, thinks it encourages the kids to eventually break abstience.

    So the 'no gateway sex ed' law makes it illegal (and allows parents to sue school teachers or organizations for it) to promote gateway sexual activity.  They left gateway sex vague - it could be hugging or holding hands claims some lawyers. (news about passing the bill, Bill summary).  Please note that the law specifically negates the 'health message' exception that people sometimes use.  So no, you can't use that excuse to explain that condoms works better than abstinence - because the human sex drive is stronger than abstinence promises but not stronger than condoms.

    They think by doing even more of a clearly failed program it will finally work. It won't.

    In business, they call this moronic plan to fix an issue "We'll make it up in volume".   No. You can't make it up with volume if your are losing money on each sale.  It didn't work for Karl Marx, and it won't work for Tennessee.  (Karl Marx admitted that the fewer owners an economy had, the worse the worker's life, but claimed that going all the way to 0 would instantly reverse the clear trend of getting worse and actually be better for workers.  He was wrong.  Going to 0 owners from 1 continues to make things worse the same way going from 2 to 1 did.)  More of something that doesn't work never solves the problem.

    I will hereby bet anyone that posts here that that Tennessee will NOT go down beneath 15 in teen age pregnancy ranking  as long as this bill is legal.   I will bet up to $1000.  First come, first serve.  Why do I give them the chance of going as high as 15th?  Because some other states might get worse.

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    In defense of war.

     In the words of Elie Wiesel, (Youtube source, July 27, 2009), "war, by definition, with the exception of a just war …is not moral".  Clearly he hates war, but does not always think it is wrong.  He is not alone, many people (Roma, Jews, Gays, Communists - anyone put in Auschwitz) felt that World War II was the best thing that ever happened to Europe.    

    The point is that war in and of itself is not evil.  Yes, it can be evil, but it can also be good.

    Recently  Professor Edward O. Wilson (of Harvard) wrote an article in Discover Magazine about the inevitability of war.  He claimed it was is a curse built into our DNA and we could never escape it.   He makes this argument in part based on chimpanzees (very warlike).

    I am obviously a liberal, and the stereotypical liberal viewpoint is that  war is evil.  But this is one place where I differ from the masses.

    Professor Wilson did not go far enough.  His article treated war as a curse or infliction upon humans, that is unfortunately built into our DNA.  That is where he made his mistake.  

    It isn't a curse, anymore than death is a curse. 

    The choice is not between War and Utopia.  Instead it is between war as one a on population growth and other, far worse limits - such as famine and disease.  Famine and disease tend to kill the senior citizens first, then children, then healthy, child bearing people.  To control overpopulation, it is best to kill the healthy people of child rearing age.  It cures your current problem and the next generation's one.   More importantly, famine and disease are uncontrolled, while we can always decide we have had enough and stop fighting (barring nuclear war).  A conventional, land war is a far better way to cure the root cause of overpopulation.

    [Note that air and naval wars are dramatically different.  They involve far less loss of life, instead revolving around loss of equipment.  A nuclear war on the other hand, would be far less controlled, leading to long term problems.]

    Land wars are not a curse, it is instead a natural part of a successful culture, just as death is a natural part of all life.  Yes, people suffer in war.  But usually it is far better than the alternative.  Given a choice between a long, drawn out, painful death from famine/disease or a quick death in war, most people would prefer a quick one. 

    War is natural - just look at ants, the other truly successful, civilized creature on earth.  Note, Professor Wilson is an eminent myrmecologist and it is his work on ants that helped him develop his view of war.   Ants live in cities, some of them farm  fungi (wikipedia source), some of them take slaves (Source = North Carolina State Univsersity), and some of them clearly go to war (Army ants, etc. See Wilson's many books, The Ants, Sociobiology:  The New Synthesis, Kingdom of Ants, The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by instinct).

    Now I am not advocating war.   I think it is a horrible, just as death is horrible.  But I recognize that death is part of life, and war is part of being a successful species.  If you want to eat, you need to defecate, if you want to live, you must eventually die.  If you want a successful civilization, you need to accept war.  None of those things are fun, but they are natural and necessary.   I would not villainize war anymore than I would villanize death or defecating.  War is the defecation of a successful civilization - not pleasant, but necessary.

    (Note, this post contains sections of an editorial letter I sent to Discover Magazine about Professor Wilson's article)

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    The Cultural Problem with Deception

    Deception has major advantages for an individual, assuming the lie is believed.

    The problem is when a culture of deception develops.   Then people start to actually BELIEVE the lies.

    In someways it works for the betterment of culture.   When you declare something wrong or illegal and people pretend to believe in it, over time, the belief becomes real.  Slowly people move from mouthing statements to believing them.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It takes generations.   But when you have teachers telling kids that that blacks are equal, some of them believe the lies.

    The problem is it doesn't work just for good.  The same effect happens when you lie for evil.

    When the republicans lie and claim things like the Democrats are communists, some of the younger, more impressionable people will believe two things:

    1) That such blatant lies activity are acceptable 

    2)  That it is true.

    This country needs a loyal opposition.  It is the heart of what makes a democracy work.  Without people that disagree with you, your get sucked into group think.   Imagine if the liberals had a free hand?  Now think about if the conservatives had one.  They recently lost an attempt to declare birth occurs at menstruation.  MENSTRUATION.   Not conception, MENSTRUATION.

    I know of almost no one that isn't horrified by the idea of doing this.

    A loyal opposition is needed.   The key to having a loyal opposition is that you can NOT vilify the enemy.

    You can vilify their practices, their theories, their claims, their beliefs, their politics.   But you can not vilify them.  You can't vilify the group or the individuals. You HAVE to admit that they have the best interest of the nation as their goal.  

    The GOP has repeatedly moved beyond vilifying their politics to vilify the democrats as a whole.   When people make the kind of claims that Glenn Beck used to, that Rush Limbaugh still makes, that certain un-named GOP congressman made about communists, then they are attacking the very core of democracy.

    Because without a loyal opposition, we just have a dictatorship, not a democracy.