Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Part-Time Work and False Compassion

I wrote recently that part-time work cannot support a society of part-time workers. Here's a story about a woman who can't get by as a part-time worker which is long on vilification of corporate managers, but bears not one mention of the president who raised hiring costs with a massive statist entitlement.

I thought this was the president who cared about "women's issues" (as if women are an interest group), but here's a woman who has gone from middle-class to poverty on his watch. He'd give her a concerned face (if he were capable of any look besides a sneer or a holy glow) and tell her Mitt Romney wants to enslave her vagina, but the most compassionate program any candidate can give this woman would be the one that gives her a full-time job.

Obamacare destroys full-time jobs. This woman's problems aren't caused by Tesco or her supervisor, they are caused by Barack Obama.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pre-Emptive Anti-Monarchical Post

Let me just get this out there: the election of the President of the United States does not require a popular plebiscite. The Constitution (remember that ol' thing?) grants state legislatures the right to select electors, and grants the states the ability to decide how the electors will be selected. As recently as 1868 (i.e.: for the first 21 presidential elections in the nation's history), at least one state chose its electors via the state legislature.

The president's spokes-hole, however, had a long answer that doesn't mean anything when he was asked if the president would delay the election because of Hurricane Sandy. Any attempt to select the president through extra-constitutional means would be the complete end of the rule of law in our nation.

The president must be elected according to the Constitution. It does not need to be done by a plebiscite of the people.

Daddy/Daughter Book Club 3: Hurricane Edition

All area schools are closed today because of Hurricane Sandy, which our homeschooled kids think means they should get the day off. Fat chance, slackers!

Since I'm home today, we used the opportunity to get caught up on our Daddy/Daughter Book Club. We'd previously read and discussed Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and The Iliad, and today we discussed The Odyssey and some biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I thought Crazy Jane would enjoy The Odyssey more because it's not quite as violent as The Iliad, but it turns out she doesn't appreciate sea monsters. We read Tennyson's "The Lotos-Eaters," which she recognized as weird for not having a response to the eaters' complaints. And in discussing the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, we discovered a new word she can read but not pronounce: troubadour, which she says like "trouble-doer." This is what happens to girls who do nothing but read beyond their grade level.

Next on our list: some biographies of Ernest Shackleton (I'm reading his book South right now), and then the Theodosia Throckmorton series by R.L. LaFevers. (Crazy Jane hasn't read any of them yet, but I've already read the first three. I think I'll be able to read the fourth one before Crazy Jane catches me).

Walking-Around Money

Manchester United is going to have a new jersey sponsor come 2014: General Motors. If the name sounds familiar but you're having trouble placing it, it's the taxpayer-fleecing outfit of the Obama Perpetual Campaign that has cost 14 billion dollars (so far).

What's the market rate for ManU sponsorship? Well, Aon was paying £20 per season, so it makes sense that Government Motors is going to pay two-and-a-half times that much. That's usually how stuff gets sold; one guy says, "I'll pay 20," and the other guy says, "I guess I can be persuaded to go to 50," and the seller bites the inside of his mouth to keep from asking, "You know there are 29 smaller numbers that beat 20, right?"

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another God Stand-In

Remember when I blogged a couple months ago about some politician who cited Jesus' teaching that "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" as justification for stealing under threat of violence? Good, because I don't feel like finding it on my blog right now.

The point is, Jerry Brown has done it again.

There's a huge hole in the logic that says that a moral obligation of the rich to help the poor, which I believe exists, creates a moral obligation of the rich to fund government. It is pathetically parochial to think a man is incapable of charity without a government performing it for him. It is pathetically paternalistic to think a man is resistant of charity without a government forcing him to it. And it is pathetically presumptuous to think a government should force men to perform that which God Himself only tries to persuade.

Jerry Brown is not Jesus. If Jesus relies on polite requests for me to do His will, who the hell is Jerry Brown to threaten violence? He should stick to bankrupting states and leave the moral suasion to someone else.

Because I'm such a kick-ass blogger, I went and found the old blog post for you. You're welcome.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Claim to Life Is Contingent on My Father's Criminal Record

Thank goodness my dad wasn't a terrible criminal, because then I might have been murdered as an infant.

The anti-life movement is the most intellectually bankrupt of liberalism's long list of intellectually-bankrupt ideas.

I'm an Old Man, I'm a Young Man

I already admitted that 63-year-old Ann Romney is sort of hot. Then I watched General Conference and thought Relief Society General President Linda K. Burton is cute. Wikipedia says she is at least 59 years old.

I came into class the other day and a student (who I've always assumed to be in her mid-40s) said, "It's not No-Shave November yet." I said, "I'm in a moustache-growing contest with a friend who lives in California and I'm getting a head-start*." She said, "You need a razor." I said, "What I need is some Just for Men." She said, "Oh, yeah, you've got a lot of grey there." Then she asked how old I am. I said, "Thirty-four." She said, "I'm two years older than you!" So this means I look like I'm in my early 40s now?

Not so fast. I went to a political office the other day, which was manned by a teenage boy. He assumed I was a college student. Which is really saying something when teens routinely think everyone over 20 is at least 45. Right?

My wife says he wasn't asking what college I attend, but what college I attended. Why is she trying to make me feel old? Doesn't she know that, if I'm now attracted to Baby Boomers, she's too young for me?

* = I don't mind admitting this because I don't consider it cheating. The other guy grows a moustache while he's finishing shaving his chin. If anything, his challenging the follicly-challenged like me is the real cheating here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

You Know How I Know You're Successful?

I was walking along at one of my jobs the other day and overheard a woman on her cell phone say, "They changed my court date again."

Ah, the court date. The sure sign of a successful life. I can't think of a better forecaster of loserdom than the possession of a court date.

When I worked at the garage door factory, a large portion of orientation was instruction on how to get time off work for your court date. (That and what could happen to you if you failed to follow Lockout/Tagout procedures. Those two things were the entire week-long training course.) In a different job I once had to deliver some material to the El Paso County (Colorado) Courthouse and when I looked around at my fellow patrons that day, I came to realize that, for many Americans of a certain social status, a court date is like adult prom. (And you know how I feel about [fill-in-the-blank] proms.)

I talked this over with a few people, and they said, "Maybe she's a lawyer." I wish I still was that naïve.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Early Voting

Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution reads in part, "The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States." Congress did its part in "chusing" Tuesday, November 6, 2012, as Election Day.

When I read this story about a man who voted even though he will be dead on Election Day, I'm not "inspired," as the AP reports "thousands" are. I'm infuriated.

Elections need to happen all at the same time, so voters have the same information (or have had the opportunity of having the same information). Early voting moves an election even further from an informed decision towards being a popularity contest. People who vote in September don't actually care about the information that could come to light in October. They like they're guy and they're going to let you know.

Even if they're dead by the time you count the votes. Really, what is the point of voting? To control the country from beyond the grave? Then why can't I leave a will saying, "Cast my next four presidential ballots according to the following guidelines"? The man is dead, and as such is no longer affected by the presidency, and so should no longer have a vote. Not even Chicago politicians would claim they're voting for the dead because they're doing the dead a favor.

Elections should consider only the opinions of the living. (I can't believe I actually had to type that sentence.) They should be at one time, so all voters are casting ballots based on equally-possibly-informed opinions. Without getting into some of my less-widely-accepted beliefs about the curtailment of the franchise, these two points seem like they are self-evident. If dead people can't vote on Election Day (which in theory they're not supposed to do), then early votes cast by those who die before Election Day should not count. The easiest way of keeping track of something like that? It's to not have early voting at all.

I Guess It's Not Worth It

The other day my wife and I saw this pinned on Pinterest: a weight-loss simulator that uses avatars to help you visualize how you'll look at your target weight. We messed around with it a bit, changing skin tone and background (because when I stand around in my underwear, it's usually in a tropical setting).

The end result: I'm less motivated now to lose weight than ever before. It would be so much work, and the change is practically unrecognizable. So I could bust my ass for six months and have nothing to show for it, or I could eat half a pecan pie tonight when I get home.

I think we know which is the right choice.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Proper Nouns, the Definite Article, and Indefinite Articles

I dislike the convention of maintaining the definite article for a noun with a proper name. Sentences like "I went to the Greengate Mall," bother me. The mall has a proper name (Greengate Mall), so the definite article should be completely dropped. "I went to Greengate Mall" makes much more sense.

This gets a little tricky when the proper name is a following possession, such as "I received my degree from University of Kansas." That sounds sort of clunky to most people. Oh well. You no longer need an article when you have a proper name to use.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

American History (su)X

In the The Simpsons* episode "Make Room for Lisa" (the episode that inspired me to hum the theme from The Odd Couple when I'm forcing my kids to do something they don't want), a traveling Smithsonian exhibit recognizes Fonzie's jacket and Archie Bunker's chair as central artifacts of American history. That was funny, until I went to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and saw Fonzie's jacket and Archie Bunker's chair.

Firstly: Arthur Fonzarelli and Archie Bunker are not real Americans. This is a museum of real history, not made-up crap.

Secondly: including these items because they encapsulate our shared national experience in the late 20th century is even more damning. We used to have a common consciousness that came from live interaction; now it comes from staring at the same sequence of flashing lights. The phrase "television event" is all the reason aliens need to enslave the human race.

I boycotted the museum after seeing this exhibit. But my wife took her parents this week and happily reported back to me that those items are no longer on display. What replaced them? Costumes from the Harry Potter films.

What. The. Crap.

Harry Potter isn't even a fictional American. Joanne Rowling isn't American, either. Same for Daniel Radcliffe. The costume designer, Judianna Makovsky, is American, but this is not an exhibit to highlight Makovsky's work, it's an exhibit paying homage to the shiny things that distract us from the meaninglessness of modern life.

The boycott's back on.

* = the name of the show is The Simpsons. The Fox announcer used to say, "And now an all-new The Simpsons." Like The Smashing Pumpkins, or The George Washington University.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fantasy Sports Verdict

A colleague of mine asked me to join his fantasy baseball league. Last year I spaced the draft and so I didn't participate. This year he asked again and I did it to make up for being rude last year and spacing the draft.

Now that I've completed one year, here's the verdict: fantasy sports are ridiculously stupid. What an unbelievable waste of time! Why would I want to take a sport I love and drive it into the ground by completely losing sight of the actual sport in favor of the wins above replacement of a shortstop who plays for a team I don't like in the league that doesn't even play the true version of the sport?

I'm a Pirates fan, not a box score fan. I like to see the Giants lose, not see their utility infielder's batting average drop three points.

And the time it takes! (I mean, if you're doing it right. My team took virtually no time at all once I finished the hours-long draft that made me hate the entire thing right off the bat.) Guys spend hours on this crap. When I was a missionary I knew a guy who won a trip for two to Vegas by winning his fantasy football league, but he was on State-Supported Income because of his 1960s drug use and he managed his fantasy team full time. Fantasy sports are video games for guys who think they're too sophisticated to allow their lives to be destroyed by video games.

I never took a single action after the draft. I logged in once a month later and found I was not in last place. I have no idea if that remained true through the end of the season. But I now know that there is nothing, nothing even remotely appealing about fantasy sports, and I can be fully confident in my dismissal of anyone who says otherwise.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Alright, Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for My Close-Up

I know what I want to do for a living: I want to pick the cradle cap off movie-star babies.

Somebody's got to be doing that, since movie-star babies never have cradle cap. And I love OCD tasks like completely removing cradle cap from a kid's head. That sounds like a win-win situation if I've ever heard one.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Obama's Long-Term Jobs Plan Is Short-Sighted

So it seems the president is okay with an economy where everyone works 29-hour-per-week part-time jobs. But here's why part-time work won't keep the economy going. When everyone works a part-time job, no one can afford to patronize their fellow part-time workers' businesses.

Is working at Chick-Fil-A a long-term unemployment solution? No, because when you work at Chick-Fil-A you no longer make enough to shop at Petsmart, and the Petsmart employee no longer makes enough to buy lunch at Chick-Fil-A. An entire economy of service jobs cannot maintain an entire economy of service jobs. The growth of service and retail was only made possible by the large number of management jobs whose workers patronize the service and retail workers. When Obamacare kills full-time work, part-time work will not be a sufficient replacement to maintain the prevailing living standard.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scott Adams's Ringing Endorsement

"[Mitt Romney's] not an idiot; he's just a guy who needs idiots to vote for him."

From his follow-up to his initial endorsement.

We Are Serious About (Monetary) Safety

I've already written about why I now hate football. But honestly, how seriously are we supposed to take league guarantees that they are concerned about player safety when they use replacement referees who cannot enforce safety-enhancing rules, when they continue to push for a longer regular season schedule, when they broaden the Thursday night schedule? The league is only interested in money, and their half-hearted safety measures are just a component of their profit-maximization, not a restriction on it. They have to appear to care enough to not lose the players or the fans. So they'll do high-profile, obvious-connection things like study better helmet designs, but they won't do anything with a more-intricate connection that will be too nuanced for the average fan to follow.

It's not just football that has this problem. Professional cycling is a massive illusion for those willing to suspend their disbelief. The safety of the riders is not a factor in determining how much or how little doping to allow. Instead it is a question of how much revenue will be boosted or curtailed by particular actions. Baseball is the same way: baseball's steroids "crack-down" came when cracking down on steroids was a better business decision than turning a blind eye had been.

Player safety will never be a sports priority as long as players expect the league to care more about player health than the players care themselves. Players want to press the limits of unsafe decisions in pursuit of victory and expect the league to stop them when they've gone too far. How is it Roger Goddell's job to care more about your "golden years" than you do? Players need to show they are serious about their own safety before bemoaning their leagues' tendencies to sell out safety for revenue.

Practicing Random Acts of Hard-Truth-Telling

Another Friday in northern Virginia, another visit by the president to Graduate U. I want to walk around finding his supporters on campus today and say to each of them, "You're a fool."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Conspiracies and Probabilities

I'm reading this week's Sports Illustrated article about the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's report on Lance Armstrong. And I'll admit that, until sometime last year, I thought there was very little probability that Armstrong's critics in the French press were right. After all, someone as high-profile as a seven-time Tour de France winner couldn't very well expect to keep terrible secrets secret, could he?

It turns out I'd grossly misjudged that probability. Armstrong doped, and dozens of people around him knew about it. He wasn't just getting injections in complete privacy. He was doping and leaning on others to do the same.

Does this lend credence to conspiracy theories? How many times do we discount crack-pot ideas by declaring, "It that were true, people would know." There's a difference between persons knowing and people knowing. Persons knew about Armstrong long before people knew. What other things in the world do persons know and people are yet to learn?

Work Zone Ahead

When you're driving along and you see a sign that says "Left Lane Closed - 1 Mile Ahead," what does this mean to you? Does it mean you should get out of the left lane sometime in the next mile? If it does, you're not from the D.C. area.

What the sign really means is that you have just over one mile to rocket up the left lane before wedging your car between two sorry saps who are in the other lane.

If we ignore following distance requirements (which most American drives do, in fact, ignore), then the ramification on traffic speed of closing a lane is an increased likelihood that a slower vehicle will be in your lane holding you up. So if you're in the left-hand lane traveling at 70 miles per hour and the next lane over is moving at 65 miles per hour, combining your two lanes will make you travel at no more than 65 miles per hour. So with sufficient advance warning (like, say, one mile of warning), you need slow down no more than five miles per hour. You continue through the work zone at 65 and then pick your speed back up when the left lane becomes available again.

In practice, though, every single work zone involves a one-mile crawl that takes 10 to 20 minutes to merge down. Why? Because a large portion of drivers take the sign as a cue to use a mostly-empty lane for a mile and then merge into the 65-mile-per-hour lane, thereby arriving at their destinations 3.96 seconds sooner ([1/70 * 60 * 60] - [1/65 * 60 * 60] = 55.38 - 51.42 seconds). Even if they accelerate to 80 miles per hour for that mile of open road, they save 10 seconds. This savings is based on a seamless merger at the end of the lane, which does not happen. So the saving is illusory and is completely destroyed as soon as the driver must come to a complete stop before the merger.

The whole thing reminds me of this church movie I saw once at a stake priesthood meeting.

This movie terrified me as a teenager. I've shown it to my kids and they hate to even be reminded of it. Now you can have nightmares over it, too.

My life is damaged by these idiot drivers seeking a benefit that isn't even there, just like in the video how any subsequent visitors to the ghost town can no longer use the pump because of the one jack-ass who ruined it for everyone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cementing Education

Bryan Caplan had a blog post yesterday about how useless algebra is. He argues that, since algebra skills quickly deteriorate for those who don't study math beyond algebra, the "we'll never use this in the real world" lament of the under-achieving high-school student is correct.

As much as I like stories about the worthlessness of education (that's not an ironic statement; I really do like them a lot), this one doesn't work. It has long been my experience that you don't get a solid handle on anything until you take the next class up. So algebra sort of makes sense at the end of your algebra class, but you don't really "get it" until you take calculus. And you don't really "get" calculus until you've had vector calculus. I thought this was something that everyone would have figured out by now. I guess it's not.

The graph Caplan cites backs me up: study math beyond calculus and you'll be an algebra expert forever. But stop after algebra and it all goes away.

Does this mean the high-school students are right? No. Because this can be extended backwards. The real rest-of-your-life skill they learn in algebra is pre-algebra. If the students are correct that they will never need algebra, there is still real value in taking an algebra course.

Allowing the student to skip algebra because they say they won't need it is really depriving them of the pre-algebra they very well might need. So once you've identified what you want to know forever, you'll need to take one course beyond that. This is the value of my vector calculus and differential equations courses: they cemented what I learned in calculus and linear algebra.

This is another example of kids being stupid because they don't have as much experience. They don't know what they will need for the rest of their lives, and the preceding generations do. Normally Caplan is smart enough to not buy in to teenage tomfoolery, but not this time. My kids are going to study all kinds of crap they'll "never use in the real world" so that they will know the stuff they will use.

The Banks Are Like Cathedrals / I Guess Casinos Took Their Place

Newcastle United FC, a club which plays in the Barclays Premier League, recently signed a sponsorship deal with short-term loan provider Wonga.com which has shocked England's more hypocritical sorts.

Wonga charges incredibly high annualized interest rates to willing customers. This has led some Muslim clerics that nobody asked to tell Newcastle's Muslim players to not wear the Wonga logo.

The entire league is sponsored by an interest-charging bank. Newcastle's current jersey sponsor is an interest-charging bank. Currently a quarter of all Premier League teams have gambling industry jersey sponsors. There's nothing about Wonga that violates Islam's interest prohibition that the rest of the entire league doesn't already violate.

I'm all for religious prohibitions on interest ("You cannot serve God and mammon"), but to single out Wonga for criticism makes no sense to me. Payday lending is expensive, but it serves a purpose that its customers want. Wonga is said to be preying on the poor, ostensibly contrasted to Barclays which won't lend to the poor on any terms at all. Which is better when you're poor: paying high interest for the money you need, or not having access to the money at any price? Trying to block the Newcastle United deal because of Wonga's treatment of the poor is to say the poor must be best cared for when they all starve and we can't see them anymore. Sometimes the absence of a problem isn't the same thing as its correction. The poor need better assistance than keeping Wonga off Newcastle United's jerseys, and until then they receive at least some help from Wonga itself.

Title from the U2 song, "Playboy Mansion."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Leon Is Getting LARGER!

Here's an article about the rapid increase in average breast size.

A few points:

  1. As a regular observer of breasts, I can't say I've noticed this reported spike. It must be an accounting trick of some sort. Breasts look the same to me.
  2. Supposedly the average went from 34B to 34DD. The reporter criticizing the report thinks the change is just evidence that women are getting fatter. I'd say that's probably true, since it's happening to men, also. But wouldn't fatter people have a larger number, also? I thought the number was the measurement around the torso at the base of the breasts, and the cup size came from a ratio of that number and the measurement over the fullest part of the breast. A woman who gains weight should increase both numbers, shouldn't she? Granted the cup size will increase faster, since breasts are mostly fat deposits, but keeping the 34 unchanged seems fishy to me.
  3. To try out my assumptions from the previous bullet point, I did an Internet search for "bra measurements." I found a website that will help me determine my correct bra size. Since I don't have breasts*, I had to guess at believable numbers. The result: 36FF. Maybe I'm not as much of a bra size expert as I thought I was.
  4. A different website says I'm not so far off for a guy who doesn't size bras for a living. The under measurement gets slightly inflated, and the cup size comes from a difference problem, not a ratio.

* = I'm overweight (borderline obese, according to the Federales), but I don't have moobs. (Yet.)

Title from the movie "Airplane!".

Cheeky Bastard

I teach a large lecture-style class that uses a classroom management software program. Last week a student somehow sent a spam e-mail to the entire user group. The e-mail began, "I hate these kind of e-mails, but I thought you should all know about a great site for reselling your used textbooks." It was several paragraphs of shilling for a textbook website. It was not a spontaneous communication.

I sent the class an e-mail that said students who violated the university's technological use policy would be dropped from the user group and would be responsible for any repercussions (like missed announcements or lack of access to course documents).

This student then sent me an e-mail that said, "I work for the university's IT department and I know that my e-mail didn't violate any use conditions," and sort of menacingly told me he would continue to send such announcements when he felt like it.

In under two minutes on the university's website I found the technological resources policy which prohibits commercial e-mail activity. After I sent it to him, he did not respond.

What is wrong with my students? They are making me not like teaching. When I was there age, I wished the world revolved around me, but I was smart enough to know it didn't and self-aware enough to know it would be unseemly for me to whine about that. Now every class has students who demand study guides for each exam and respond with angry stares when I dare suggest they write down the words I say during the study period before the exam.

Am I not already enough of a push-over when I dedicate class time before each exam to reviewing for the exam? Reviewing is what students are supposed to do on their own. Now some students misuse university mailing lists (that they shouldn't be able to access, unless they abuse their positions with the IT department) and angrily maintain their right to do so in the face of contrary facts.

I'm teaching a master's class this semester that is so much better. My new motivation for finishing my doctorate is to never have to teach undergrads again.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Scaring Off Competitors

A long time ago, when I was a single guy at BYU and was aggressively looking for dates ("You would date a tree." - My friend Jann to me in 1999), I had to go to some record office for some reason. (Probably because I was failing out of school.) The woman at the record office was cute. I looked at her left hand to see if she was available, and saw an enormous diamond ring.

I thought, "No one needs a ring that size." Then I thought, "Except this lady has a job that makes her interact with people like me, who might think about hitting on her, so her husband needs her to have a large ring to get our attention and keep us at bay." Then I thought, "But no ring is large enough to get my attention if I'm not originally looking for it. I looked for a ring, and any sized ring would have done the job of letting me know she's unavailable." That's how I came to believe that women with large rings must be attributed to their vanity instead of their husband's need to mark them.

I've recently rethought this. A woman with a ring is not necessarily off-limits. A man sees the ring and has to determine if he sufficiently out-classes her husband that he could poach her. For this reason, a successful man has to imprint his successfulness on his wife when he's not there, so potential competitors know when they are out-classed. Large rings, then, are male-driven purchases that are designed to signal the success of the man.

How do us low-status dudes keep poachers off our wives? We saddle them with a ton of kids. A potential home-wrecking man has to assume the woman will bring along whatever children she has, and the last thing such a guy wants to do is finance a half-dozen of another dude's kids. So when you're too poor to buy your wife a large ring, you get her a minivanful of kids, instead.

This is further evidence that children are inferior goods: the more income you have, the fewer kids you need to mark your wife as your own. You can use conspicuous consumption like a regular American.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This Week in Blogging

My life is very frustrating to me right now. I have things I'm supposed to be doing, but I'm not doing them because I'm doing other things. Some of those things are others' responsibilities, and some of those things just don't need to be happening. My week off from blogging was supposed to be time where I came up with a plan to make blogging take less time so I'd be more able to do the other things that need to be happening. But over the week I came to feel my blog doesn't actually require that much time from me (as even a cursory reading of any post will attest), so I'm going to keep it up.

Over the week, though, instead of blogging I made notes of blog-worthy topics, with the plan of writing a "best-of" list of bullet points every Saturday. I was about to blog the list right now, when I realized I should write them up as individual posts and schedule them for the days of the coming week, so I'll do that, instead.

Bottom line: nearly-daily posts should continue for a while, and meanwhile I'll keep waiting for my dissertation to write itself. I think that's going to turn out really well for me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A Week Off

I'm not going to blog this week. Come this Saturday, I'll have a better idea of what my blogging schedule will be like going forward.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Does the Shoe Fit?

Is the Chicago Machine a secret combination? How would we know?

"And now behold, I say unto you, that the foundation of the destruction of this people is beginning to be laid by the unrighteousness of your lawyers and your judges." - Alma 10:27

"The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior's visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior's second coming." - Ezra Taft Benson, April 1987 General Conference

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Little Libertarians Everywhere

At Ice Cream Elementary we're doing a government unit to tie in with the election. To begin, last week the kids got an overview of the branches of government, an introduction to what the Constitution is, and a summary of the Bill of Rights.

In going over the Bill of Rights, we had to mention things like:

  1. There is no "wall of separation" between church and state, but rather the federal government is prohibited from establishing a religion (so it won't conflict with any religions established by states, which establishment states are allowed to do).
  2. The right to bear arms is an individual right, not one held by the state for the purposes of arming a militia. Otherwise, the Tenth Amendment would allow states to have militias and the Second Amendment would be pointless.
  3. The government needs probable cause to search you or your property, unless you're flying on an airplane, in which case they can analyze your body chemistry without your consent. (Those 18th-century statesmen were so prescient in their legislation!)
  4. The government can, with compensation, take your property for public use ("public," of course, meaning "private").
All on her own, Crazy Jane responded to reading the Fourth Amendment by asking, "So does that mean they can't look in your suitcase?" My wife said, "You'd think so."

At the end of the lesson, Articulate Joe said, "This makes me want to be a senator or the president so I can tell the government to stop doing the things they're not allowed to do."

Friday, October 05, 2012

Happy Days Are Here Again? Well, We Say They Are

To get the drop in unemployment the U.S. experienced this month would have required over one million new jobs.

Actual number of new jobs this month: 114,000.

One of these two numbers is a lie. Is it the new jobs number which is in line with what analysts expected, with what production numbers predicted, and with the long-term trend? Or is it the unemployment rate, which by all accounts is a surprise, is the largest one-month change in 29 years, and takes away a key opposition point of "43 straight months with unemployment over eight percent"?

Is there wisdom in trusting anomalous government numbers that serve the government's interest?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Bigger Than a Breadbox?

Just how large is government? I heard a radio ad for something called Best Workplaces for Commuters, a government agency that advertises for businesses that comply with certain government transit standards. The ad says, "Go online to bwc.gov."

My first reaction: I can't believe that "bwc.gov" was still an available address. There are only 17,576 three-letter combinations possible, and the federal government is so large that it strains credulity to suggest there aren't at least that many three-letter government agencies.

It turns out, bwc.gov isn't even a valid address. The agency's website is actually bestworkplaces.org. So that's a fine use of government money, advertising a website that doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

All Up in Her Bidniss

An admittedly overweight news anchor in La Crosse, WI, got a letter from a viewer chastising her. She responded to what she perceived as bullying. Lots of people on the Internet have cheered her on.

I agree that her critic is out of line. What makes someone think he has the right to tell someone else what her health decisions should be?

Oh, yeah.

If total strangers foot your healthcare bill, total strangers have a say in your healthcare choices. No longer do we walk by a morbidly obese person eating french fries and blithely think, "Well, it's his body." It's his body, but it's my bill.

What you eat, what you drink, how often you exercise, how many children you have, what type of housing you use: these are all choices you can no longer make without my input. This TV anchor's critic is just voicing the concerns Obamacare made his.

Again, I agree this critic is wrong. But you cannot indignantly defend the news anchor while supporting the socialization of medicine. If your body is indeed your own, no one else should be paying for it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Rights in Services

If I have a right to a thing, then the current owner has no right to it. If my right is to an adequate food supply, then those who currently possess the food have no right to keep it from me.

What happens when we declare a right to a service? Those who provide the service have no right to withhold it from me; in other words, they are my slaves.

Just a thought to anyone thinking of entering the medical profession.

Healthcare Is a Purely Private Good

When I see a doctor, does that make fewer doctors' hours available for everyone else? Yes, so healthcare displays rivalness. When a doctor is provided for me, does that mean a doctor is provided for you? No, so healthcare is excludable. What do we call goods with rivalness and excludability? Private goods.

It doesn't matter if there are laudable side-effects to me seeing a doctor. (And the entire basis of arguing there's a positive externality in healthcare consumption seems fairly specious to me. Do we really think I under-consume something as personally beneficial as healthcare? The problem isn't under-consumption, it's exactly the opposite!) There are laudable side-effects to all kinds of private goods consumption, like home ownership. We still expect the individual to pay for his own home, because it's a private good.

Why are we trying to pretend healthcare is a public good? Because first we tried to treat it like a club good, with the invention of HMOs. Club goods display excludability but lack rivalness. If you argue that a doctor provided to a town is non-rival once he gets there, it might make sense. But doctors don't see entire towns at a time, despite what you might think you remember from Northern Exposure. Joel saw one patient at a time, and the other patients had fewer available doctor's hours as a result.

Healthcare isn't a club good. The response to the problems caused by HMOs should have been the dismantling of HMOs. Instead we got a half-assed argument for government provision based on high prices without any discussion of what causes high prices. Prices go up with demand goes up, and demand goes up when it is subsidized. When seeing a doctor costs you $5, you think it costs $5 of resources to provide a doctor to you. If we want to lower prices, lower demand. If we want to lower demand, stop subsidizing use.

Will the problems of treating healthcare as a club good go away when we pretend it's a public good? When we lower the price from $5 to zero, do we expect people to use less? The solution to the healthcare problem is to treat it like the private good it is.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Most Productive Day EVAH!

"Oh really, A Random Stranger? Then why are you blogging?"

I'm blogging to tell you I'm not going to blog today, smart-ass!