All ur bikes are belong to us

It’s always interesting to see when one aspect of the overblown Nanny State is at war with another aspect of it. I think we can safely declare the Green movement dead with this report of egregious child abuse:

“On August 25th my 10 year daughter arrived home via police officer, requested to speak to me on the front porch of my home. The officer informed me that in his ‘judgement’ it was unsafe for my daughter to ride her bike to school.”

Ms Tryon called the mayor’s office and the chief of police office in order to determine what laws she was breaking by allowing her daughter to ride her bike to school. Her daughter’s route to school was reasonably safe.

Major Verran of the police department returned Ms Tryon’s call. She said he told me, “He had spoke with the District Attorney’s office who advised that until the officer can speak with Child Protective Services that if I allow my daughter to ride/walk to school I will be breaking the law and treated accordingly.

She asked, “What law she would be breaking to which the answer was ‘child neglect'”.

Ms Tryon confirm with Major Verran that her daughter was indeed breaking no laws at any level, but it was Ms Tryon who was breaking the law by allowing her daughter to ride/walk to school. Even though it only takes her daughter 7 – 9 minutes to bicycle to school, she is expected to ride the bus.

By the way, in Big Government Europe, children are not only expected to walk to school, but this time of year there are massive posters put up warning drivers to be careful and on the lookout for schoolchildren walking to and from school. The only police involvement is to man the crossings at the busy streets.

As a commenter on another site pointed out, it’s a fascinating charge of child endangerment, especially considering that the schoolbus she will be required to ride doesn’t have seatbelts, much less five-point child safety seats. But let’s not be too harsh on the police officer. He’s just concerned for her safety, because the police are all about protecting and servicing.

What feminism is

In Gloria Steinem’s own words:

“Feminism starts out being very simple. It starts out being the instinct of a little child who says ‘it’s not fair’ and ‘you are not the boss of me,’ and it ends up being a worldview that questions hierarchy altogether.”

In other words, it is an intrinsically childish ideology founded on an abstraction and defies empirical reality and the entire historical record of Man. That sounds about right.

Analyzing the Obama “jobs plan”

Obama’s attempt to address unemployment and the economic contraction can best be described as “quixotic”. Another apt adjective would be “doomed”:

The White House scrambled Monday to finalize a new jobs initiative as President Obama nominated the last member of the economic team that will be charged with carrying it out. In tapping Alan Krueger, a Princeton University professor and noted labor expert, to be chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Obama turned to an economist who officials said was well suited to guide the White House through a jobs crisis…. Obama’s nomination of Krueger would largely reconstitute the economic policy team inside the Treasury Department during the first two years of the administration. At the time, Krueger served as Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s top economic adviser. His work overlapped with that of Gene Sperling, who was a top adviser on budget and tax issues.

The Krueger appointment only makes sense, given that Obama’s economic policy team did such an effective job in 2009 and 2010, avoiding the Second Great Depression and subsequently producing seven straight quarters of economic recovery, right? Let’s look at the elements of the proposed plan:

1. a tax cut that would directly reward companies for hiring new workers

The big companies already have billions parked in offshore accounts. The tax cut won’t be big enough to balance the risk and additional expenses that new hires impose on small companies. Conclusion: irrelevant, but at least it won’t cost anything.

2. new spending for environmentally friendly construction and for rehabilitating schools

This is just more of the same Samuelsonian stimulus, but not so much that the demand for labor it will create can’t be met by the existing construction labor force that is already half-idle due to the collapse in the real estate markets. Conclusion: this will increase federal debt and create no new employment.

3. clean-energy tax cuts.

Actual tax cuts will do nothing. I’m guessing these are actually subsidies disguised as tax credits. Conclusion: More federal debt, more malinvestment, no new employment.

4. programs to target long-term unemployment, potentially including a version of a Georgia unemployment insurance program that pays employers to hire workers who have been unemployed and provides funding for training.

Theoretically more useful, depending upon the industry. Serious employer-provided training could be a genuinely positive long-term boost to employment if it was combined with import tariffs in manufacturing industries, especially if tighter immigration restrictions were imposed as well. But since neither trade restrictions nor immigration restrictions will be incorporated and the training will probably be oriented towards low-skill service industry jobs, all of the subsidized positions will disappear as soon as the subsidies do. Conclusion: expensive and irrelevant. A 2012 Census would have the same effect and likely prove more useful.

5. new programs to lift the housing market, such as a refinancing initiative that could pump tens of billions of dollars into the economy.

Conclusion: This is the Bank of America bailout signaled by Warren Buffet’s investment. I suspect the plan will somehow involve shifting household debt to the federal sector and thereby attempting to encourage homeowners to take on more debt. This might involve something like a federal guarantee for X amount of debt with administration-approved banks in return for every XY amount of new debt borrowed from BACthose banks. The Fed and the administration are desperate to get the household sector borrowing again since the trillions in financial sector debt they ate in 2008 didn’t even slow down the decline in financial borrowing. Conclusion: if large enough, it would trigger a short term spending and employment boost combined with another debt-deflation disaster within three years.

6. renewing — and potentially expanding — ongoing efforts, such as a two-percentage-point cut in the payroll tax.

Trivial. They’ll have to eliminate it for at least a five year period for this to have any effect on unemployment.

This doesn’t even include the plan to extend “emergency” unemployment benefits, which will tend to increase the unemployment rate. The only way the Obama administration is going to reduce the unemployment rate is to continue the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s practice of artificially lowering the labor force participation rate to keep U3 below 10 percent. Of course, the continued decline in the Employment-Population Ratio to pre-1953 levels will expose this predictable shenanigan.

Setting Mr. Harris straight

This promises an amount of amusement, as Sam Harris has unaccountably decided to dabble in economics:

I’ve written before about the crisis of inequality in the United States and about the quasi-religious abhorrence of “wealth redistribution” that causes many Americans to oppose tax increases, even on the ultra rich. The conviction that taxation is intrinsically evil has achieved a sadomasochistic fervor in conservative circles—producing the Tea Party, their Republican zombies, and increasingly terrifying failures of governance.

Sam is off to a bad and overly politicized start. First, Sam simply has it wrong as there is very little conviction that all taxes are intrinsically evil, since most of those opposing the income tax have no problem with a flat tax, sales taxes, or excise taxes. No one expects the government to do without any funding at all, it is the amount of funding required that is at issue. Thus, it is not an issue of taxation, but rather one of government spending. Harris also gets the Tea Party wrong, as it is a rebel force within the Republican Party that is primarily opposed to the pro-spending Republican establishment and is focused on unseating certain types of Republicans during the nomination phase rather than electing Republicans in the general elections. This should be obvious, as the Tea Party began in opposition to a Republican administration, not a Democratic one.

Happily, not all billionaires are content to hoard their money in silence. Earlier this week, Warren Buffett published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he criticized our current approach to raising revenue. As he has lamented many times before, he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary is. Many conservatives pretend not to find this embarrassing.

Warren Buffett is a corrupt old bag of shit. He steals from the American people with the connivance of the Wall Street bankers, the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration. Witness his little deals with Goldman Sachs and now Bank of America. To point to Buffett as any sort of moral examplary indicates that Harris has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. Buffett is the poster boy for how government creates the very income inequality that bothers Harris so.

Conservatives view taxation as a species of theft—and to raise taxes, on anyone for any reason, is simply to steal more. Conservatives also believe that people become rich by creating value for others. Once rich, they cannot help but create more value by investing their wealth and spawning new jobs in the process. We should not punish our best and brightest for their success, and stealing their money is a form of punishment.

How is taking money from others utilizing the threat of violence not a form of theft? It is true that not all rich people become rich by creating value, of course. Some inherit it, but more often these days, they do so through government-enabled gambling and government corruption.

Of course, this is just an economic cartoon. We don’t have perfectly efficient markets, and many wealthy people don’t create much in the way of value for others. In fact, as our recent financial crisis has shown, it is possible for a few people to become extraordinarily rich by wrecking the global economy.

Like, for example, Warren Buffett. Buffett creates nothing, neither do the financial institutions, which presently skim off around 30 percent of all the corporate profit in the USA.

Nevertheless, the basic argument often holds: Many people have amassed fortunes because they (or their parent’s, parent’s, parents) created value. Steve Jobs resurrected Apple Computer and has since produced one gorgeous product after another. It isn’t an accident that millions of us are happy to give him our money.

But even in the ideal case, where obvious value has been created, how much wealth can one person be allowed to keep? A trillion dollars? Ten trillion? (Fifty trillion is the current GDP of Earth.) Granted, there will be some limit to how fully wealth can concentrate in any society, for the richest possible person must still spend money on something, thereby spreading wealth to others. But there is nothing to prevent the ultra rich from cooking all their meals at home, using vegetables grown in their own gardens, and investing the majority of their assets in China.

And the inevitable atheist tendency towards totalitarianism finally shows through. Rich people aren’t “allowed to keep money”. They have it. It’s theirs. As in, not yours, Sam. This is called the principle of private property, and upon it all the wealth of the Western world is founded. Or rather, was founded before it was turned into collateral in a ponzi scheme.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the two richest men in the United States, each have around $50 billion. Let’s put this number in perspective: They each have a thousand times the amount of money you would have if you were a movie star who had managed to save $50 million over the course of a very successful career. Think of every actor you can name or even dimly recognize, including the rare few who have banked hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, and run this highlight reel back half a century. Gates and Buffet each have more personal wealth than all of these glamorous men and women—from Bogart and Bacall to Pitt and Jolie—combined.

In fact, there are people who rank far below Gates and Buffet in net worth, who still make several million dollars a day, every day of the year, and have throughout the current recession.

Some people have more money than others. Big deal. I don’t see Sam handing over his royalties to the poor. If he’s a typical atheist, he gives a lower percentage of his income to charity than Bill Gates or Warren Buffett does.

And there is no reason to think that we have reached the upper bound of wealth inequality, as not every breakthrough in technology creates new jobs. The ultimate labor saving device might be just that—the ultimate labor saving device. Imagine the future Google of robotics or nanotechnology: Its CEO could make Steve Jobs look like a sharecropper, and its products could put tens of millions of people out of work. What would it mean for one person to hold the most valuable patents compatible with the laws of physics and to amass more wealth than everyone else on the Forbes 400 list combined?

This is actually a very good point and something which has concerned me for nearly 20 years. I remember going over a list of 100 employees with my father and realizing that about 10 of them actually did anything particularly relevant to producing the products we sold. Everyone else was basically talking to other people or filling out forms.

How many Republicans who have vowed not to raise taxes on billionaires would want to live in a country with a trillionaire and 30 percent unemployment? If the answer is “none”—and it really must be—then everyone is in favor of “wealth redistribution.” They just haven’t been forced to admit it.

Dude, they already kind of do. There may not be a trillionaire yet, but since the Employment-Population Ratio is presently 58.1, that means 41.9% of the population is already not employed. And if he means U3, as I showed yesterday, that’s already over 15%. I haven’t recalculated U6, but if that’s not over 30% now, it’s very close.

Yes, we must cut spending and reduce inefficiencies in government—and yes, many things are best accomplished in the private sector. But this does not mean that we can ignore the astonishing gaps in wealth that have opened between the poor and the rich, and between the rich and the ultra rich. Some of your neighbors have no more than $2,000 in total assets (in fact, 40 percent of Americans fall into this category); some have around $2 million; and some have $2 billion (and a few have much more). Each of these gaps represents a thousandfold increase in wealth.

Some Americans have amassed more wealth than they or their descendants can possibly spend. Who do conservatives think is in a better position to help pull this country back from the brink?

The problem has nothing to do with income inequality. In fact, the income inequality stems from the real problem, which is the massive quantities of debt in the system. The relatively recent increase in income inequality is primarily an artifact of the massive quantities of financial sector debt combined with the way in which the federal government – the very institution Harris imagines using to reduce income equality – is providing a backstop insuring the very wealthiest against the negative consequences of the huge gambles they are taking. For example, Warren Buffett was probably the primary beneficiary of the federal government’s $85 billion credit line to AIG, $13 billion of which went directly to paying off Goldman Sachs.

I will address his addendum in a future post.

The static answer

In related news, a similar study has determined that increased cholera outbreaks cannot be explained by rainbow-striped unicorns:

Cholera outbreaks seem to be on the increase, but a new study has found they cannot be explained by global warming…. Vibrio lives in water near river mouths, waxing and waning in cycles based on blooms of plant plankton. The plankton are eaten by tiny crustaceans to whose shells Vibrio attaches. Warmer ocean surface waters suppress plankton growth, so scientists had assumed cholera outbreaks would decrease with global warming.

So, the hypothesis was that cholera outbreaks would decrease with global warming. But the subsequent observation is that cholera outbreaks are increasing. Now, the logical mind would conclude that the most likely explanation is that global warming is therefore not taking place, even if it is possible that there is no relationship between cholera outbreaks and global temperatures. But since what presently passes for the scientific mind no longer permits the questioning of certain assumptions revealed by the Divine Consensus, the conclusion is that the hypothesis must be wrong. In fact, it must be reversed.

So, even when science is wrong, it is right. That sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it…. The question is, is this better described as “self-correction” or “the answer is static, only the question is dynamic”?

Let me explain how this works

The Pharyngulan Reynold managed to post six (6) eleven (11) comments without actually answering any of the four questions I posed him:

It’s only been a few hours Vox..I do have to do other things than just post comments on your blog. You can’t start badgering me because I’ve not answered all of your questions after just a few bloody hours! I’ll get to them eventually.

I’m sure you have many other things to do. Just as I’m sure everyone will be interested in reading those answers when you find the time to answer them. But if one has time to post six comments, one surely has time to answer four questions. Just to make things perfectly clear, priority should be given to the four specific questions I have posed. I’m not badgering him, that’s simply how things work around here; see The Rules on the left sidebar for details if necessary. Now, it must be recognized that Reynold did make unsuccessful attempts to evade two of the questions by calling them into question, but since the points he made were respectively incorrect and irrelevant, all four questions still remain to be answered. They are as follows:

1. Would you seriously consider it meaningful, or even remotely relevant, if JD were to debate me on Paul Zachary’s behalf, so long as he felt he has a good understanding of Paul Zachary’s words?

2. If science produces technology, and not the other way around, why was technological advancement almost completely frozen in the Soviet Union for fifty years when they devoted a larger percentage of their GDP to science research than the United States did? (His attempt to argue that Soviet technology was essentially equal to US technology on the basis of the stolen atomic bomb and the space program is verifiably false. I am also willing to accept an answer which substitutes why the technological level of the Soviet Union “fell significantly behind that of the United States” in lieu of its technological advancement being “almost completely frozen”.)

3. Is science unnecessary for technological development or am I, in fact, a master of science? (This is in response to his contradictory assertions that science drives technological advancement and my supposed ignorance of science. As he questioned my technological credentials, which are well-known in the game industry, I referred him to Engadget, which described one of my various technology designs as “the most advanced they had ever seen.”)

4. Now that I have answered all his questions and proved that “marital rape” can be reasonably defended under the principle of Common Law, is he willing to admit that by his own metric, the adjectives “inane” and “unworthy” no longer apply to me as a potential debate opponent for Paul Zachary Myers?

Now, for all that Pharyngulans tend to believe that Vox Popoli is the polar opposite of the echo chamber that is Pharyngula, that really is not the case. Here, one is expected to respond directly to the questions posed; any rationalizations or justifications are to be offered AFTER providing an answer to the question, not in lieu of it. As I have answered all of his questions, as well as those of his fellow Pharyngulan Mhich, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that they will show me the same courtesy.

UPDATE – Reynold writes this and then proceeds to spend the rest of the comment, and four subsequent comments, still failing to answer ANY of the four questions. He points his toes nicely as he dances, though. Dance, little Pharyngulan, dance!

So, less than one full day and you go and make a post about how I have not answered any of your questions? Not only is that impatient as hell, but that’s dishonest. I have answered several of your questions. You just find some excuse to disregard them (see your post above) and then claim that I’ve never answered them. I was warned that you were a dishonest pr1ck, looks like they were right.

That makes eleven (11) comments and still not a single answer. First, one cannot be considered to have answered a yes/no question without providing a yes or no. Nor can one be considered to have answered an either/or question without selecting one of the two options. Neither can one legitimately answer a question by arguing about the basis for the question. I haven’t needed any excuse to disregard his answers because he hasn’t actually answered any of the four questions. Unlike his fellow Pharyngulan, Mhich, who appears to grasp the basic concept of first answering the question and only then proceeding to justify his answer, Reynold has produced nothing but incorrect, unsubstantiated, and invalid excuses for why he shouldn’t have to answer the questions. Is he being evasive because he fears being pinned down or is he simply that stupid? At this point, it’s a tough call. In any event, he will not be commenting here anymore unless and until he provides unequivocal, straightforward answers to the four questions, as per the publicly posted Rules of the Blog.

UPDATE II – Where is Renee anyway? This sort of rape talk would normally have her all hot and bothered.

Recovery and income

It’s interesting how so few of the objective measures tally well with the GDP statistics:

U.S. incomes plummeted again in 2009, with total income down 15.2% in real terms since 2007, new tax data showed on Wednesday. The data showed an alarming drop in the number of taxpayers reporting any earnings from a job — down by nearly 4.2 million from 2007 — meaning every 33rd household that had work in 2007 had no work in 2009.

Average income in 2009 fell to $54,283, down $3,516, or 6.1% in real terms compared with 2008. … Compared with 2007, average income was down $8,588 or 13.7%.

So, income is down 15.2% and I previously calculated that current U3 unemployment comparable to the Depression-era estimates are around 15.5%. I’m just not seeing a lot of economic growth there, seven straight quarters of reported GDP growth notwithstanding.

WND column

Breaking Windows in New York City

I was deeply disturbed to read that the erstwhile hurricane which has inspired such panic on the East Coast has apparently been degraded to the status of a tropical storm, and a minor one at that. The winds that had been reported at 85 mph by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were being reported in the 25-35 mph range by various land stations. As we have seen repeatedly in the case of anthropogenic global warming/climate change, the disasters predicted by the scientific experts reliably turn out to be significantly less disastrous when they finally arrive.

Real life is not like the movies. In the world of Hollywood, the dire warnings of scientists are ignored by the authorities. In the real world, the dire warnings of scientists cause the authorities to overreact and throw billions of dollars at the experts in an attempt to find a solution to a nonexistent problem. Given this perverse incentive system, it should be no surprise that scientists across many disciplines spend so much more time prophesying doom than they do actually performing any science.

The boring Borgias

I have to admit, I am a little disappointed with the mini-series about the Borgias. It is strange, at a time when Batman has grown darker, The Sopranos and The Wire were popular and critically acclaimed cable television series, and epic fantasy has increasingly devolved into nihilist torture porn, that a producer should feel the need to present the most notorious crime family in European history as weak, sensitive, and misunderstood people.

Read the rest at the Black Gate

Seculars are seriously insane

Datechguy simultaneously sums up the inherent lunacy of the “evolution in the schools” debate and illustrates the insanity of the secular science fetishists:

My friend is an educated man in his 40′s. Both he and his father owned small business and are longtime republicans. We were going through the potential GOP nominees when he declared he was afraid of Rick Perry because of his fundamentalist belief in the Bible (specifically on evolution). He argued that if he doesn’t believe in Evolution what OTHER science does he not believe in?

I’ve already said something in my gut doesn’t care for Rick Perry but this caused me to do a double take; I answered:

“Unemployment is 9.1%, the economy is in the tank and you’re worried about a candidate’s position on how old the planet is?”

It is instructional to see how secularist Americans are attempting to construct the very walls they once condemned. Whereas they still complain that there was a time when belief in God was an essential societal requirement, now they are simply substituting a different religious dogma to serve as a litmus test. Their concerns can’t possibly be about science, as there probably aren’t more than one or two Senators who could pass a college level physics test or more than ten who could pass an economics one. I’d be surprised if any of the candidates other than Ron Paul or Mitt Romney could even tell you what something as simple as marginal utility or a reserve requirement is.

I don’t like Rick Perry either, nor would I vote for him, but his opinion on the age of the planet and the origin of the species is probably somewhere around number 345,732 on my list of concerns about the man.

The irony is that the same people who believe that fiscal stimulus ends economic contractions and FDR’s New Deal ended the Great Depression will tell you, with a straight face, that you are ignorant and should not be permitted to hold office if you don’t believe that all cats and dogs are the descendants of a single catdog 42 million years ago. Because, you know, that’s so much more relevant to the main political issues of the day than economic and geopolitical rationality.

The truth is that all cats and dogs are descended from a male calico catdog named Fluffy Leghumper who was born on May 17th, 41,997,010 BC. His two kitten-pups, fathered on different female catdogs, were Patches and Happy Sniffbottom. And thus cats and dogs evolved. True science fact. And if you don’t believe in Fluffy Leghumper, you’re just ignorant and you know nothing about science.