Monday, October 27, 2014

Someone Should Remind Bill that Stalin was an Atheist

Considering that Atheists have long gotten shit from religious types about lack of moral compass one would think that a present day atheist would have enough sense to not blame religion (or lack thereof) for the horrible things people do.

Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists.  They were horrible people.  Following Bill Maher "logic" atheism makes people horrible (and yes, people have actually made that leap).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Helicopter Money

Simon Wren-Lewis has a good description of Helicopter money but I think he may be missing a couple things.

First is the perception of a "tax cut" vs. "free money".  At one level, if everyone gets $1000 it is the same either way.  If it is a tax cut, however, there is a perception that people who pay more in taxes are getting less out of the deal, and also, people who have little to no tax liability may receive nothing, and those are often the people most in need and most likely to spend.  Additionally, people seem to act differently about free money (read: they spend it) compared to earned money (which a tax cut is returning).

The second thing is the targeting/distribution aspect.  Tax cuts get money to all tax payers/filers.  Helicopter money can get money to everyone.  It could also target specific [debt] problems that may be holding back the economy (student loans, credit cards, mortgages).  True the latter is not exactly the same as helicopter money, but it isn't the same as the current QE strategy either, and everything else he said about it applies equally.

Personally the way I would like to see "helicopter money" distributed is via debt reduction to real people.  I am particularly fond of the fed buying and torching student loan debt, but I could also get behind credit card debt (which I don't really have) or mortgages, though with that last one I think I'd prefer a partial rather than complete buyout (up to maybe $50k per primary mortgage).

There is a lot of fear and uncertainty remaining in the US, and having lots of debt is a real issue for it.  People don't feel as free to spend money if they have these huge responsibilities hanging over them.  Even a fairly generous helicopter drop (via tax cut) isn't directly addressing the debt issue, and probably won't do enough to boost the economy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bill Maher is an Asshole

Sometimes he's a good asshole, but lately he's been on his anti-religion zealotry binge and he sounds every bit as bigoted, stupid and vile as the fundamentalists he is ranting against.  There are some atheists who are every bit as fundamentalist and xenophobic as the various fundamentalist religious groups around the world.  They hate religion and religious people like Fred Phelps hates gays: irrationally and with heavy doses of scorn and vitriol.

I saw a bit of the segment with Ben Affleck and I liked that Ben stood his ground against the fundamentalists at the head of the table, but Reza Aslan is right: you can't argue to convince Bill Maher: his viewpoint is not rational.  It is emotional, and he cannot be dissuaded.

Incidentally: the whole of that linked interview is really good.

"Abortion Rights Without Apologies"

Nicely put.

Monday, October 06, 2014


When I moved close to the Jenkintown train station I rode the train almost daily to Warminster for work.  It was (if I recall) $68 for a monthly (2-zone) pass.  Over the years, my travel increased a bit, that pass price kept going up and I started buying only in months I knew I was commuting to work for the whole of.  Now that pass doesn't exist and I would need to buy the $109 cross county.

I now ride SEPTA to/from the airport and occasionally to/from the city but otherwise not at all.  If the pass had been kept at the (already too-high) $75 level, I would still get a pass for months I wasn't travelling otherwise (e.g. I would have gotten one this month).  If that $75 was for the cross county I would consider buying it every month (except maybe Dec) regardless of whether or not I was travelling.  So SEPTA could be getting $600-800 a year from me, a single counter-flow rider whose ticket purchases are pure profit for you and who doesn't crowd out others (i.e. not riding peak to/from city), but instead you get $0 because your pricing for tickets is too high for non-center city commuters (especially considering your much worse scheduling for us).

SEPTA really should realize this: There is far more space on the counter-flow trains so extra commuters are pure gravy.  But it is cheaper than $75/month and MUCH more convenient for me--and for most suburban workers--to drive to work, so people with cars [who are not going to the city for work] currently have no good reason to ride SEPTA because the prices are just too damned high.

If I were in charge of their pricing I would try making the cross county pass $60/month, would market it to weekend city riders as well as suburban commuters, give it a year and see what happens.  I would buy that every month even though I wouldn't always be riding.

Commuters to the city have to deal with crappy traffic and paying for parking in the city: I don't.  I like the train because 1. the walking at both ends does me good and 2. reading on my commute is much easier.  When I drive, however, I can stop off at Costco, my Co-op, the beer store, or Target on my way home, so even months that I mostly take the train, I will likely want to drive occasionally.  If the pass price is so high that I can only justify it by riding every day...I won't buy it.