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The lesser of two evils

Governor of Montana's got somin' to say about hare-brained schemes.


Sowell on Immigration, evidence?

Today I listened to this podcast with Thomas Sowell and Russ Roberts. At the end, Sowell gives some arguments against relatively open borders. I may be biased because of my own opinion on the subject, but he didn't seem to have as strong as an argument as in previous subjects in the podcast. In particular, he made an empirical claim- that our culture can't handle this many immigrants (at least from certain areas), but didn't provide any evidence. Then it struck me, is Theophanes' link to the article on the amount of americans in prisons evidence for Sowell's claim? To add to this, Daniel D'Amico points out that this number has been increasing in recent years.

It seems plausible that if a relatively high proportion prisoners are (legal) immigrants, then they are causing problems within our culture and our institutions. If this is the case, we should probably be wary because capitalism does depend, to a large extent, on the institutional and cultural foundation we have in the west.

It seems more plausible to me that this is a sign of the drug war or if it is a sign of our slowly crumbling culture, it's crumbling from within because of certain structural problems that help churn out people who are dissillusioned with capitalism and western values for whatever reason. In particular, I'm thinking of inner cities here.

The big question is, what does the evidence say? Can anyone think of/find anything relevant?

 


B.S. Sentences that I read today..

From my money and banking textbook:

As with adverse selection, the government has an incentive to try to reduce the moral hazard problem created by asymmetric information, which provides another reason why the financial system is so heavily regulated.

I fail to understand why textbook writers in general stop doing economics when the get to government intervention. It's one thing to say that these problems potentially justify government intervention, but the above sentence is simply false.

edit: html


Economic Illiteracy: The Video Game

The posters here are likely a good bit more tech-savvy then me, so they have probably seen ads for this spectacularly strange video game being released today. Here's a trailer for "Frontlines: Fuel of War", a fantasy about peak-oil-induced resource wars coming in 2024. It's actually pretty amusing. Can't wait for those weeks-long blackouts to start rolling across the country this summer!

What I'm wondering is this: Has anyone ever studied (very doubtfully) or wrote about (possibly) the impact of video games on political belief formation? I shudder to think of a generation of teens being taught about resource wars through first person shooters.

I've actually thought about this for a while. I remember playing SimCity and the various iterations of it, and I wonder if, subconsciously, games like that train people to think as planners. Houses in the way of progress? Switch to the bulldozer button and let the good times roll!

Schumpeter said that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, subsidizing the intellectuals who would bring about its downfall. I doubt he thought the intellectuals would be sitting around learning resource economics from their XBox360s though.


1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars

1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars

Good god. This is insane.  How long can a political and economic order persist while 7% of state budgets are going to forcing a significant portion of the population to rot behind bars? The internal contradictions of state capitalism are destroying the system from within.


coComment

The Distributed Republic should consider integrating with coComment. A Drupal plugin exists. I think this service can potentially do a lot for people who comment around the net.


Let's Hear It for Apathy!

I'm not a huge baseball fan, but my respect for the players as individuals shot through the roof reading this strange hit piece on them from Jeff Pearlman on ESPN's Page 2. Apparently athletes are focused on being athletes rather than being political activists:

Yet while ballplayers are bound both by their disparate backgrounds and an uncompromised love of the game, they are also united by one not-so-great characteristic: political indifference.

And what's the problem here? Pearlman complains that ballplayers didn't know the results of the Wisconsin Democratic primary. Why should they? What difference could that make? It's one thing to be uninformed about issues, but are we all bound to follow the incredibly boring ins and outs of the "Ballot Bowl" (as CNN dubbed it) process? I'd like to think most Americans are sick to death of this election already. The only redeeming feature I can see of having the process last over two years is that by the time Obama is inaugurated, people will already be fatigued of him that he won't have a honeymoon in which to ram through his whopping tax increase.

Another apparent issue is that the athletes don't sit around and discuss politics in the locker room. This is totaly bizarre too: Who wants to sit around their workplace talking about elections, especilaly in sports, where team chemistry is so critical? More importantly, who wants to listen to their officemate prattle on about Obama (or McCain) forever? Most workplaces would probably be a lot more productive, not to mention happier, if there weren't obnoxious activists foisting their beliefs on everyone else. (I've almost stopped reading the excellent sports site Deadspin because I'm so sick of Will Leitch's incessant pimping for Obama. Sports is where I go to escape the nonsense of everyday life, not to be "inspired" about politics.)

There's a great big America out there, full of people falling in love, raising kids, going to the ballpark, and doing everything else that make life worth living. If most of those people don't spend their waking hours obsessing over which stationary bandit is going to rob them more, or worse, actually spending time to help the bandits take power, well, then I say God bless them.


Internet Abuse

I made the unfortunate choice to comment on a blog, www.wernerpatels.com, run by Werner Patels regarding the Ezra Levant lawsuit. Instead of posting my comment he instead made claims about the comment that were untrue, and posted those instead.

I did not keep the original text of the comment because I assumed he played by the same rules as everyone else. I do remember the character of the comment and it did not include any dirty words, defamation, racism, or any of the other claims made by Patels. In fact, several of my arguments are substantiated by news articles, and the contents of the Qur'an. I think Soharwardy an extremist for some of his actions known at the time, and further news articles point in this direction.

I posted two follow-up comments on this same article in order to point out this action of his was dishonest and that my claims are substantial and not in any way defamatory, racist, etc. These were not long comments, and only three in total. He did pretty much the same thing with those additional comments but now painting it like I was a stalker for my three comments.   Maybe that's a record on his site?

I later found that several articles on this issue, of Soharwardy and how Patels thinks he's a nice guy, were removed from his site. It looked to me like he was whitewashing his record on this. The news reports had changed in nature and the person he was praising as a moderate was being accused in news articles of using physical violence against other Muslims. I thought whitewashing his past positions on his blog was also dishonest of him.

Seeing that he had a track record of changing comments on his blog I decided to talk with him via email. His response was to post my email on an entirely different blog, set up a special category just for me, and make additional false charges against me. I only noticed this later when trying to search for the original post.

Today I started to write a short post in reply to this attack piece which claimed I didn't have a job because I had a window open to his site open for five hours on Monday, Presidents day. Well I have one open right now on his site in the background and I am not reading anything. I was foolishly planning posting a reply, and had written it. I decided against that. In fact, my current policy is to never comment there but instead somewhere else and then provide a link, so he doesn't have the power to delete the comment, and also will not have an excuse for deleting the link. After all, anything he might be afraid of a lawsuit about will not be on his site so there is no reason to delete the link. His lies will then transparently be lies.

Below is my response to his current attack article that I was planning to post on his site. He also had sent me a bunch of offensive emails I will share in another article. For someone who is afraid of lawsuits he sure likes to slather on the defamation. Not surprisingly he threatened to sue me for harassment over my emails. As you will see he has poor judgment when it comes to what's legal and what's not.

Not surprisingly this guy is notorious for dishing out internet abuse. In the past I had another more famous run in with Dean Esmay, another internet abuser that got carried on several heavily trafficked blogs. Esmay called me a traitor because I disrespected Islam. I know it sounds ridiculous but that was what it was about. His wife even disagreed with him on that and invited me to be a co-blogger on her blog. I think in the future it behooves me to look up the name of any site owner for abuse before I post on their site.

Here's some of what Patels had to say about me which is prefectly ridiculous:

"Poor fool. Too bad Brian Macker can't read or open his eyes. My
stuff (previous and current articles) are all out there; nothing has
been whitewashed or hidden.

Macker is also a bit mad because I previously edited one of his comments on my site: it contained serious libellous [sic] allegations, as well as hate-filled language, which could have exposed this site to litigation.

But Macker is a disturbed and backward individual: at this point,
he's already spent five hours on this site today, and counting. He must
be unemployed -- then again, who would hire a nutter like that?

Proof again that those without much brain and/or a good education
always fall off the deep end (on the far right or the far left)."

Here's my response to his article:

Feb 18 was Presidents Day. I use Windows often with multiple windows open in the background, and my computer on for long periods. Apparently one was left open for five hours. Believe me I know little about you.

All my posts here have been reasonable. You did delete the article on you other blog (that was critical of Ezra Levant and praised Soharwardy as a moderate) or at least you provided no explanation for why it has disappeared.

Here's the URL: http://www.wernerpatels.com/canuck_columnist/2007/12/the-trap-so-eas.html

Another dishonest thing you've done here is to do a character assassination of one of you commenters, me, on on a different site than the one on which I commented. I commented on the www.wernerpatels.com blog and not over here on this different blog I was not aware of at the time.

It's dishonest because there is a likelihood I wouldn't see it and even if I should find it then any defense is not only buried in the comments (not a problem here) but buried in time. The damage is done with no chance for defense. Of course, it's clear that you aren't interested in my defense.

You understand that there is a power differential between a blogger and his commenters. This is obvious because you feel free to not only delete comments but also to substantially misrepresent their contents.

I will also be sharing your side of our little email exchange with other bloggers. The one in which you made profanities about my national origins and said nasty things about all Americans. You also had some derogatory comments about being gay to share.

I looked up internet abuse and your name. Seems like you are notorious for doing this kind of thing. You have been very unfair with me and fail to recognize that I have reasonable concerns about this ideology called Islam. Those concerns do not automatically imply any kind of bigoted beliefs or behavior towards Muslims. That I think chopping hands off is not a reasonable punishment for stealing a loaf of bread, or the death penalty is not a reasonable response to apostasy does not mean I hate Muslims.

I realize you'll probably just delete this comment and claim it was hateful. Therefore I am posting it on a remote site and including a link to it. In fact all my posts from now on will be done in the way.

I suggest in the future you reconsider your blogging ethics and not mischaracterize other people's posts on your blog. The correct ethics is to send a private email to the commenter with an explanation as to why you think the post exposes you to a lawsuit if that's the case. You have a right not to post comments that you are concerned about even if they are not truly defamatory. However, publicly claiming they are defamatory, racist, or smut as fact when that is merely your opinion and not fact is in itself a form of defamation.

Clearly you believe your claims about me should affect my employment
prospects when you say the following:

But Macker is a disturbed and backward individual: at this point, he's
already spent five hours on this site today, and counting. He must be
unemployed -- then again, who would hire a nutter like that?

You believe the false charges you make against me are grounds for not employing me. If this is true and I should be fired based on these false accusations, and I might be without my knowledge, then it is you who will be facing a lawsuit.

In fact I suggest strongly that you take down your article, and if you persist in your behavior you might find that your fears of having a lawsuit for defamation are both misplaced and realized at the same time.

Were the comments available then people could judge for themselves if your opinion is substantiated and then it might be ethical for you to comment on them. As it stands people only have your word on the issue. Your powers of deduction are obviously faulty as is clear from your belief that I don't have a job based on your evidence, or the crazy idea I'm a "right winger". I'm both employed and not a right-winger. Your hateful smutty email that you sent to me where you claim that I am "harassing" you will further show people you are not to be trusted on legal issues such as what constitutes defamation, smut, etc.

Now I can certainly see where a Muslim might find my comments offensive, and sue you, but that doesn't mean they are defamatory. You certainly have a right to even ban me on that issue if you like. I really wouldn't care. In fact, in a way I am self banning myself. I will only comment on articles related directly to me, and only via comment links to responses on blogs where content will not be deleted.

I will post a link to this article in the comments there. I won't be surprised if he deletes it.

Patels: "... nothing has been whitewashed or hidden."

Yeah, right. I guess, in Patels mind, removing comments and articles doesn't count as hiding just so long as you misinform people of the actual content.


Seattle day care indoctrinates 8 year old capitalists into collectivism

According to this article:

Into their coffee shops and houses, the children were building their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys — assumptions that mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society — a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive. As we watched the children build, we became increasingly concerned.

[...]

We met as a teaching staff later that day. We saw the decimation of Lego-town as an opportunity to launch a critical evaluation of Legotown and the inequities of private ownership and hierarchical authority on which it was founded. Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.

In the end, the writers report, the teachers successfully indoctrinated the children. This happened (and presumably is happening) at "Hilltop Children's Center, a child care program in Seattle." (via hacker news)


Health Care Conundrum: Quality, Cost, Longevity, Goals

Unfortunately no one has tackled the problems Arthur raised in his post above about getting out of socialized medicine. Other things that no one has honestly dealt with are the problems of transitioning into a socialistic system as seen in Europe or as proposed by the Democrats.
This weeks New England Journal of Medicine has this article explicitly attacking private health care. It’s free on line.

“U.S. health care expenditures rose 6.7% in 2006, the government recently reported. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, total health care expenditures exceeded $2.1 trillion or more than $7,000 for every American man, woman, and child. Medicare costs jumped a record 18.7%, driven by the new privatized drug benefit. Total health care spending, now amounting to 16% of the gross domestic product, is projected to reach 20% in just 7 years.

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/358/6/549

Relentless medical inflation has been attributed to many factors — the aging population, the proliferation of new technologies, poor diet and lack of exercise, the tendency of supply (physicians, hospitals, tests, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and novel treatments) to generate its own demand, excessive litigation and defensive medicine, and tax-favored insurance coverage.”

It is fairly easy to explain why healthcare costs are accelerating in this country without a proportional superiority in longevity compared to other advanced countries which spend less. We also have bigger cars, houses and closets full of stuff. This is America, for Christ sake. Just don’t forget that longevity is increasing and new modalities often provide significant quality of life benefits and extend life for individuals even if this not reflected in gross mortality statistics nor are they equally distributed among all people.

Let’s look at an example at the micro level, far from the pontifications of public policy experts. Healthcare for individuals advances in ways that are not publicized since this kind of publicity would do nothing to promote the media’s socialist/ sensationalist agenda. Commercial interests which are ceaselessly pilloried by the media develop these advanced technical methods silently, for profit. This does not mean that corporations don’t have higher missions than just money. It is just that, unlike government bureaucracies, businesses can’t survive without eventually generating profits.

For example manufacturers are introducing super accurate methods of measuring a protein that escapes from the heart that increases if you are getting ready to have a heart attack. Scientists are using the same chemical process to measure the protein that fire flies use to glow in the dark, chemo-luminescence. The chemicals are bound to chemically created “Senso Beads” that glow when exposed to minute amounts of troponin, the myocardial protein in question. If the measured protein is inappropriately high this predicts a heart attack. We can already accurately measure this protein when it is grossly elevated and you already have had a heart attack. If doctors repair your coronary arteries before you have a heart attack it could save your life. Thus commercial companies adapt processes used by insects to develop methods of saving human lives. But for the profit motive would any such thing happen? I doubt it.

Critics of the fee for service medicine would homogenize and “rationalize” medical care. If successful it would depend more on public health measures such as coercive life style and state supported therapeutic regimens to ameliorate chronic diseases. Salaried primary care physicians would work at a more relaxed pace, order less tests, and practice less aggressively. For instance VA hospital MDs, so I am told, see about half the number of patients seen in private practice and get paid about as much. Manpower needs would increase not decrease.

If successful in remolding society to preventing deaths we suffer today this public health effort this would only delay deaths from other forms of decrepitude. This would consist of degenerative joint disease, various forms of organ failure that would not have supervened if one had died earlier. For example dementia, loss of senses such as vision and hearing and advanced forms of degenerative bone and joint disease already loom large in the elderly population. Just how much bionics, custodial care and organ supplementation does the government want to provide for oldsters? The sky is the limit without explicit rationing, which would be a political quagmire. Failsafe procedures, check lists devised by the aircraft industry are now available to prevent oldsters from that one in a hundred “mistake” that might be a friend in disguise that would push the fragile ones over the edge.

Sweeping generalizations are easy but lives are lived and end individually. There will be no lessening of the demand for care in the long run. Americans, many of whom are used to Cadillac care at minimal personal cost will make the system very expensive regardless of what is done. Either way your beloved dog has a better chance of a dignified death than you or your grandma does.


What restraint on government borrowing?

What immediate restraint is there on the government from borrowing too much money?  We know they like to finance their operations through debt beyond what's available in taxes, but why do they stop where they do?  Why not borrow even more?

I assume there is some sort of market force that puts the breaks on their ability to do this and does so in the short term (because we know they only care about the short term).

Can anybody clue me in? 


A hidden cost of moving to socialized healthcare

When I argue with Americans about socialized healthcare, I argue we shouldn't move towards it, when I argue with French people, I argue we should get out of it. On a moral level, the arguments are roughly the same and there is no need to go into details here : you shouldn't be forced to buy an insurance service, period.

When arguing for getting out of the system, there are legitimate practical problems that I need to deal with. Even if the moral case is rock solid, the practical issues, moving from here to there, are always relevant. There is one practical issue that I've never seen raised, and it's a tough one.

Imagine a socialized healthcare system where everyone is insured. Insurance is mandatory so there are no adverse selection problems. The state forecasts the costs and adapts the premium - it's actually not that hard to balance as long as it's fairly stable. Of course there are many other problems, moral hazards, the impossibility to decide what should or should not be covered, etc. 

Imagine now that, one day, a better government decides to get rid of the system. They say for example, from next year you'll have to find yourself a private insurer, or, from next year you may opt out of the current system and get a private insurer if you wish. You have an expensive chronic illness, next year comes, you have no risk to insure so you try to stay with the state insurance. So does everyone with an existing condition, adverse bankrupts the system, at best your premium increases dramatically.

I was actually never opposed that argument... but I could. So I've come up with some patchy solutions. One is to decide on a cutoff date, people born after next year will not be insured. That solves the problem, but it takes a century to get out of the system. Another solution involves the state's insurance making packs of 1000 insured persons drawn at random and sell the pack (without revealing its content) to insurers committing to offer insurance for life. Your risk has become insurable again since you're just a random person. From there, you can always arrange with your insurance to move to another insurer and you're free again. It's a bit cumbersome but I think it works.

The blog title was about moving towards it, and so far I've been talking about how to get out of it... what's my point ? I've heard many people argue for socialized health care on the US om the ground that "it hasn't been tried", that it deserves to be tried etc. When you try something, that generally implies a free option to get out of it. Well, that option is not free, it comes at a huge cost. Getting out of socialized health care is a terrible mess.

Once it has been argued thoroughly that socialized health care is simply criminal, it might be helpful to point out that, if it's implemented and it fails, it might be almost impossible to get out of it. It cannot just be "tried", it's a very pricey commitment.


The other war

The US killed one of the top Al Qaeda guys.

Abu Laith al-Libi, a wanted al Qaeda terrorist, was killed in Pakistan by a CIA airstrike, three U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.

Al-Libi was described as a senior al Qaeda leader believed to have plotted and executed attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, including a February 2007 bombing at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

But not all news is good.

The Taliban is now setting off more bombs — including one in Kabul's fanciest hotel on January 14 that killed eight people — and fueling its insurgency with profits from the opium trade. (Last year, the country produced 93% of the world's supply.) The declining security situation saw foreign investment in Afghanistan fall by 50% last year.

The Taliban is also killing more Americans: From 2002 to 2004, an average of one U.S. soldier was killed per week in Afghanistan; by 2007, that figure had more than doubled. Indeed, nearly 500 U.S. troops have perished in America's "forgotten war." Despite the presence of 50,000 foreign troops, including 28,000 Americans, arrayed against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has just ordered another 3,200 Marines into the fight. And the reluctance of other NATO members to send additional troops is threatening the future of the alliance. "Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said a study by the Atlantic Council released Wednesday. "Unless this reality is understood, and action is taken promptly, the future of Afghanistan is bleak, with regional and global impact."

It's hard for me to get a read on exactly how well the US's efforts in Afghanistan are going. 


Help me to understand the stimulus package

I'm trying to understand the economics related to the proposed stimulus package. I've seen the following claims made:

A. It isn't large enough to have a significant effect.

B. The legislative process takes so long that the stimulus package will arrive too late and thus fail to produce the desired effect.

C. Rather than spend the money, people will save the money, and thus negate some or all of the desired effect.

Is the argument for the stimulus package sound but for these objections?


Anonymous vs. Scientology

Scattered groups of hackers across the internet have united in response to the Church of Scientology's attempts to remove the Tom Cruise video from the internet. They call themselves anonymous, and they aim to destroy the church. Tons of people seem to have joined the raids. IRL raids are also happening. Relevant video:

Digg is their media outlet at the moment. They are keeping related links at the top of the page rather easily. Tons of news reports, some in mainstream outlets, are there, along with a couple vids of IRL raids, ex-scientologists talking about their experiences, files- including the full length tom cruise vid (hosted on torrent sites) and tons of documents (also on torrents).

They also seem to be trying to get Anderson Cooper to give them some attention, since he has been going after Scientology lately.

Here we have a decentralized "organization" taking on a centralized organization. The results should be rather predictable as long as the anons don't either get bored or, worse, scared once the church starts striking back, and they should be able to have the law on their side.

Who do you guys think will 'win'? Who do you want to win? Should someone set up a betting market? Does anyone else find this hilarious?