Saturday, November 10, 2012

Republican Intellectual Blinders

A comment I posted in Krugman's post, Delusions of Reason:

Similarly, Republicans often project their flaws onto Democrats:

  • Obama is a Nazi: It is almost insanely obvious who the real fascists are. Oh right, he wants to steal their money...
  • Democratic policies will destroy the economy: A slew of recent data-oriented publications show the opposite, although one claims that it does not matter. Oddly, no publication claimed Republicans are better for the economy or for the stock market.
  • Liberal policies will destroy the country: Studies typically show an inverse correlation between religiosity and inequality with social welfare.
  • Democrats will take away our freedom: The freedom of money is such an import human right, along with freedom for guns and SUV's, but not the freedom from want, to have a one's health, etc. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

We Are All the 47%...

Although I decry Romney's sentiment, the truth is that we are all dependent on government. Government is good for people. The modern capitalist-democratic state would be a failure if not for the state preventing or correcting its abuses, although nowadays the government is often an abettor of corruption.

Certainly Wall Street could not have survived without the government, nor would there be much health care, since no one would have insurance, nor could people afford health care, nor would there be many 'cures' since that would have required research, which the government typically funds. Nix the educational system and what do you have? The list becomes even longer when you start considering in investments in infrastructure - anyone remember roads, bridges, and the internet? - and on regulation that everything relies.

A Response to Temerity at the Top

Regarding a post from David Brooks:

Economic growth is treated as an unquestioned good, when in fact, it has almost no correlation with human welfare in DEVELOPED countries. It is different for the DEVELOPING world, since in those growth has a very high degree of interplay with human welfare.

Growth basically goes to support the portfolios of the wealthy, correlates with an increase in hours worked on the average, and has very little benefit to most people in the US.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Response to Why Men Fail

Regarding David Brook's column Why Men Fail:

Although I have been reading these arguments for a long time, and I am not interested in questioning them, one item irked me. It is that women who leave financial firms do better than men. I have read studies of this issue, and it partially stems from the fact that women rely on external networks, while men tend to have strong internal networks.

As an aside, economic inequality has been increasing for as long as men have been becoming social/economic laggards, and like many social issues, I wonder how much is attributable to something larger than men themselves. As an example, people cite obesity causes and cures, without realizing that obesity correlates with inequality at about .7, a very large relationship. This correlation points to potential causes that are so large and beyond the control of individuals. It is possible that growing inequality more heavily impacts men, regardless of the causes attributed to individuals.

  • Does this kind of gender disenfranchisement exist in all WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) countries?
  • Is there some degree of correlation between economic inequality and male 'failure'?
  • If not economic inequality, is there some larger-than-individual social factor at play?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Response to Starving the Future (NY Times)

In response to an article on the growth of China and India regarding education:

The debate is often framed as a business choice; it is a quality of life and equality choice. 

Many of the choices for a better America are obvious, but the people making the decisions are often the same people that benefit from the 'broken' system:

  • Reduce inequality (taxation, change laws that favor the powerful and wealthy)
  • Increase education, making it independent of financing
  • Provide nationalized healthcare
  • Rein in the healthcare industry
  • Rein in corporate power over government and politics
  • Reducing inequality goes a long way. Often, suggested solutions for problems are merely band-aids, since the underlying problem is often a matter of resources.

Lower inequality means:

  • Better health, reduced obesity
  • Less crime, less violence
  • Better educational outcomes
  • Better economic performance for all, not just a few

Correlation is not causation, but working toward a better life for Americans, while reducing inequality, can keep America strong.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

How to Discourage Aurora Copy Cats? (A Response)

A response to an article on The Atlantic:

Yuk! Where do I begin to critique this article?
  • I have read analyses that show that increased, broadly reported media portrayal decrease the likelihood of copycats. Other than the common belief, do you have any facts or studies regarding copycats?
  • You actually assume the usual simplistic analyses of loneliness and retaliation. It is more likely that Holmes failure in his Ph.D. program was an indication of a faltering ego, of someone slipping into mental illness, rather than the cause of his action
  • You believe Holmes is gratified at seeing his picture plastered across the media. That is true, only as far as any psychotic might be gratified to see his own picture.
  • His picture is disrespectful to victims? This is simply more pandering to the masses and that is usually just a justification for vigilantism, more of the punitive justice system that has failed for so long.
  • Certainly empathy matters, and concern for the current and future welfare of those impacted is good, but as mentioned, the concern for victims is typically used to for abrogate the accused’s' rights, and by punishing some even more severely. Instead, how about something that might reduce or solve the problem, like government-provided mental health services, or if you go along with the simplistic idea the cause was that he was a loser and alienated, why not just have true government-supported educational system. And as always, there is gun control.
Nothing that you would suggest, or that this government will do, will stop these crimes. There will always be psychoses. There will always be the disaffected and alienated. There is the internet, with its bounty of information about almost anything you might not want someone to know. Even the actions that might reduce the likelihood of these crimes are not even on the table, considering the loons that form the Republican party.

What are our options?
  • Gun control, not even a ban, just simply registering weaponry?
  • Cracking down on the small number of suppliers supplying most illegal guns?
  • Single payer health care, and the related mental health services?
  • Laws, or even administrative action, against bullying?
  • Republicans coming to their senses and joining the 21st century?
  • Cogent, broadly handled, analyses of the illness that these crimes entail?
How about we just throw a big party and invite everyone, taking special care to make the outsiders feel liked? There is no chance anything of real value will happen anyway...

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Is Not A, It Seems

A comment I made on Krugman's blog regarding Ayn Rand:

I remember a writing contest for student, whereby one could win several thousand dollars writing about an Ayn Rand book, Anthem for high school students, The Fountainhead for college students, and Atlas Shrugged for post-graduate. I read the four Tolkien novels at 14, and read Anthem and the Fountainhead a year later. I never got around to Atlas Shrugged, but then again, I found Castaneda, Hesse, Asimov, and Vonnegut.

Anyway, I do not think it a fair comparison, comparing a thoroughly enjoyable childrens' stories with a relatively adult-oriented novel. For pure power and simplicity, there are always Brave New World, 1984, and Animal Farm, the latter what I think most like Republican political stances, although 1984 is a good second.

As 'libertarians' cite Rand, one cannot help but think of the atrocities committed by authoritarians in the name of some grand false ideal.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Quiz Asks: How Insulated Are You?

A small blog post on the NY Times looked at a PBS quiz based on Charles Murray's latest book, Coming Apart.  Below is a comment I posted:

Looking over the scores, I was reminded of an idea I had when considering income inequality, that although I deplore the state of the country - I have been blogging about income inequality since 2003, when I discovered how large and negative the correlations were - I am glad to not be in the suffering lower classes. I deplore the suffering, but do not want to suffer myself.

This is no different. I want to enjoy a better, more affluent lifestyle. I like being among the educated and affluent. I look down my nose at all sorts of media consumed by the middle-classes, but not because of the people that watch it; I find much of it to be useless, critical, unintellectual garbage.

My score was 23, or 17 (depends on interpretation of some questions). Yes, first-generation upper-middle class.

A Comment on The NY Time's A Surge in Learning the Language of the Internet

My father worked with computers in the military during the Korean War in the 50's and with corporations in the 60's. He died prematurely, but his brother saw the industry growth and got involved, programming for major corporations through the 70's and 80's. For much of my young adult life I heard "go into computers, it's the wave of the future." I find it amusing, in that it still is. The 'nerds' are a bit less nerdy, but still considered odd and of lower status than other professions.

As for myself, I avoided the 'wave of the future' for quite some time, but with half a CS degree, finishing a BA in Psych and half an MBA, I work as a software developer. Other than the basics I learned in 80's college, i.e., BASIC, PL/I, COBOL, loops, etc., most of my knowledge is self-taught, with books covering algorithms, patterns, data, databases, and software architecture.

Original article:

A Surge in Learning Language on the Internet

A Journey — if You Dare — Into the Minds of Silicon Valley Programmers

My responses in a NY Times comment section for the book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson ...