Friday, March 30, 2012

Just a Broken System

I kind of agree with the headline: "There is no student loan 'crisis'" but we do have a broken [higher] education system. A good system would send people to college for something close to free, and then extract a return on that investment by having higher taxes on their higher resulting salaries (i.e. a more progressive tax scheme). This means the successful grads pay back the gubment (many times over in the case of, say, surgeons), and those that have a harder time of it (like many today) are not saddled with an oppressive--and virtually impossible to get rid of--debt burden.

My student loans were pretty high, though not approaching the $100k level. But I got a very good job as a result of my education (I'm pretty middle of the road among my peers, maybe a bit low of middle compared to other non-academics, but very happy). As such I can certainly afford to pay off my student loans. If my education had been free, however, and my federal income taxes about 6% higher, then the government would have made a sizable profit on my college and grad school attendance.

I know that I've no chance of convincing conservatives of this (facts and logic are evidence of bias to them) but if we wanted to be really fiscally conservative, and run the government--at least in part--like a business then the intelligent behavior would entail free school and higher taxes. Of course it would also entail more infrastructure spending (i.e. investment) and higher taxes, but, again, they aren't actually fiscally conservative, and they don't want a well run government, they only want low taxes for rich people.

Note: Obama is pretty much in the same place as (non-crazy) conservatives on these issues.

On Gated Communities

I've never come close to comprehending the mentality it takes to live in one, but this article seems a pretty fair shake. I think I would be pretty happy if all the people that want to live like that went and did so and never interacted with the rest of us, but only if they were sufficiently isolated that I didn't have to have my bike route interrupted or the like.

More than just gated communities, however, I wouldn't want to live anywhere with association fees. All those people giving up their freedom for some notion of security that is probably not very real.


What Digby Said

Especially the last line.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Evidence and Facts

Will continue to be evil conspiracy things to the skeptics, but the world's climate is not getting better.

Friday, March 23, 2012

And In Other News

The earth: not flat...or hollow...or in the center of the solar system/galaxy/universe. This article on global warming skeptics being wrong should really not need to be published. Worse, though, it won't convince the skeptics because to them facts, reason and logic are all instruments of the devil or something.

At some level I wonder: "why bother?" but I know that this stuff needs to be repeated over and over and over again because repetition is oddly more convincing to many than science and fact.

Name That Liberal

Your clue:
Spending on social services doubled, and military budgets actually decreased. He oversaw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. His administration was the first to encourage and enable American Indian tribal autonomy. He quadrupled the staff of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, almost tripled federal outlays for civil rights and began affirmative action in federal hiring. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment and signed Title IX, the law granting equality to female student athletes. One of his Supreme Court appointees wrote the Roe v. Wade decision.”
The answer? Obama? Clinton?? Carter???

Nope: Richard M. Nixon. Most liberal president of the past 42 years. Obama: still more conservative than Nixon. May God have mercy on us all.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No Party For Liberals

I really, really, really do not understand how it is that we live in a country where people believe that Obama is a liberal (the most liberal president evah!). It's very frustrating. Worse is that because the more-conservative-than-Richard-M-Nixon President Obama is the Democrat, there is next to zero chance that there will be a quality candidate for progressives and liberals to vote for...possibly in my lifetime!

Whether this is just some form of creeping ideals that results from triangulating started with Clinton or something else really doesn't matter. What matters is who gets represented and how well:

Lunatic (right) fringe, crazy, fact denying, science hating, gold worshiping zealots can vote for Republicans and be relatively well represented.

Conservatives, to right-of-center people to moderates to maybe--just barely--left of center people (Regan Democrats) can vote for Obama and Democrats and be very well represented.

Left of center to moderately progressive individuals, if they are fortunate enough to live in a small subset of locations in this country, can find a US Rep to vote for who will represent them well (not be very effective, mind you, but will at least try). But already, these people get nothing they want--more progressive taxation, renewable energy, less pollution, better social security/welfare programs, ...--and the smattering of locations is woefully insufficient to accommodate this group (which is at least as large as the one immediately preceding).

It really isn't worth going further to the left. The lunatic left fringe (which does exist) has less than zero power. They are actively mocked by Democrats.

I really think that this is one of the reasons that Republicans are far more effective in elections than Democrats. The people that Democrats need to get excited to go out and vote for them have zero reason to do so. We never have a place at the table even if Democrats win. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, gets heard and "respected" no matter who is in charge.

So why vote for Dems? I guess because the GOP is insane. May work [again] this year, but if they keep disenfranchising their base, the Democratic party will find itself to be as much a dinosaur as the current GOP. Voting for the lesser of two evils is not as inspiring as voting for something good. Obama had that chance at being something good, something inspiring, and he blew it something awful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Asked and Answered

If it's a great time to buy a house why aren't more people doing it?

a. It really isn't.
b. People want to but can't.
c. Good time for thee but not for me.
d. Some of all of that.

It is probably a great time to buy a residence to rent out (preferably multi-family unit, but even single family in places). It is also probably a great to buy if you are able and planning on staying in one place for a while.

No matter how great a time it may be, if you can't get access to funds, you can't buy. It is almost never a great time if you are uncertain about your future (as many are), or if you do not expect to be around for long. If you live somewhere that all the "deals" are foreclosures in need of a lot of work, and/or all the houses available are still very expensive then it may not be a great time in a more general sense.

It's probably a great time for investors (landlords) to buy, but for regular, owner occupier types, it's a crappy economy and things aren't so easy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Violent Nature?

After reading Bobo's latest bit-o-useless crap, I am posting something I've been thinking more about lately: the place of violence in human nature and society. It seems like I am hearing more about how violent and destructive people (yes, particularly men) are...

I was on the opposite side of a discussion over the weekend where violence [by men] against women was said to be remnant of a time when men would kill other men (for women), but since they only beat/abused/subdued the women, the female of the species was better off then the [dead] male.

Shows like Doomsday Preppers and the individuals who are akin to that mentality all assume that once something [very] bad happens that we will regress to a barbaric, violent culture pretty much immediately. It's a weird notion that a tiny slip from modern society would so quickly--in the minds of some--result in my willingness to kill someone for their canned goods. I really think it says more about the mindset of the preppers than it does the rest of society.

Really, though, that isn't the way humanity and society work. We are not so...fragile(?) as that. Violence actually makes little sense in most cases, and in reality the people who exhibit violence are either in an extreme situation or are mentally deficient or ill.

Individuals have families and societies have a sense of security and trust that are necessary for them to function and thrive. If one person injures or kills another that person should then expect others to do the same. It is a very isolated way of living. Because this further means living in constant fear of someone else hurting/killing you, it is also a much less productive way of living.

So we group together. This offers some security (if someone wants to hurt an individual in the group that person is far less likely to get away with it), and because of that it also allows for people to expend more effort on non-security related issues. There is still, however, the threat of group on group violence.

Minimizing the group on group violence threat can be accomplished by growing the group sizes. The larger the group the harder an attack would be, and the more resources it would consume (e.g. war). The better use of time and effort is directed internally. But that growth improves technology which, along with other benefits, will mean more effective possible violence.

Group size/technology mismatch is a back and forth that was, for large nations, pretty much resolved by the end of the cold war: the technology exist to utterly destroy human civilization, so no gain can be made. The trade off here is that the size of the societies that are necessary to avert this level of violence runs somewhat counter to the ability to deter individual violence.

In the US individual violence is deterred by local sub-groups of the overall society that is the USA. In descending size: federal police, state/park police, local police, neighborhood/community groups/organizations/residents, and family which could be a literal family or friends or a close-knit subset of a neighborhood. In countries like Afghanistan, where the top 3-4 levels are weak and/or corrupt internally, that leaves the last, but in the vacuum between the top and bottom exists lots of space for mid-group on group violence, and so a place for tribal warfare and groups like al qaeda.

Still, independent of enforcement, it is the case that violence is counter productive both from a societal and from an individual viewpoint. Even an event (war, solar flare, asteroid, disease, economic collapse) that would break down upper group levels would still leave a lot of social norms, because that will guarantee the best life for those remaining. This doesn't mean that there wouldn't be massive suffering, especially in the short run, but the people/groups who will do the best on a longer time scale will be those who help, not those that hoard.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Deep Thought

I bet that true statements by Bruce Bartlet are somehow better than the exact same statements would if made by Paul Krugman. (As, you know, he has been doing for years.)

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Disproportion of Buying Long and Selling Short

This is again evidenced in the Yelp IPO. A 60% spike from a meh-rated stock. That much of a jump means all the smart money that was able to get in at the initial price is back out of the stock now and will likely ignore it for a while.

This clearly indicates a problem with the way the financial system works. If I think that Yelp is a great company worth investing in long term it's easy: I can buy that stock and hold it until I die or the company does. But what if I think that Yelp is just an ok company and that its stock price is overvalued? Well, I could sell short but that just isn't the counter to buying long. It is the counter to buying short, and it is gambling on a fall in a very specific window of time.

I'm not sure that there is a real way to manage a long sell, however, so the only real alternative is: don't buy.

Bills and Coins

Stories like this make me mostly happy. It makes lots of sense to scrap dollar bills, pennies and nickles, and to mint $1 (and probably $2) coins. The arguments against mostly run the gambit from inane to stupid: "It's always been there, it's reliable, it's a symbol of our nation's history, it's a symbol of our nation's economic strength." Really? Printing paper $1 bills is a symbol of economic strength? How, exactly?

About the closest thing to a sound argument is an odd one: we are in the midst of the lesser depression and printing paper dollars means jobs. Of course, I'm not so sure that it really means more jobs than switching to coins would--especially if we were to add a $2 coin along with killing the paper $1's--but since it's saving the government money, it probably means fewer jobs, which may not be able to be absorbed by the rest of our depressed economy.

Also, the congressional back and forth is very parochial politics (mining vs. paper industry) so seems more petty than it should, but that's also the way politics works (well, used to work). Still, the end is right and the means aren't actually bad so may as well support the people working toward this noble goal that is my personal preference :)-

Thursday, March 01, 2012


In reading a pretty crappy piece (not linking it, bad reading) on how people earning $500k/year are suffering, there was another note about this guy (the original article was deleted, but a cached version was copied and pasted there), along with a link to his self-pitying farewell piece.

I hadn't read the farewell before and...Wow. Nevermind his lack of awareness about the internet and blogging in 2010, and let's ignore his utter delusion that he is something other than an upper middle class (or higher) ass hole. In the last paragraph he seems to suffer from a peculiar delusion that what he had said before was somehow correct and that it was all these personal attacks that give him a sad face. ...But he was wrong! Very, very wrong.

I suppose that if the personal attacks prevent this individual from spreading the garbage he was then the internet has become a better place? I really want to know what it would take to penetrate the thick skull as effectively as the internet did his apparently thin skin.