Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Harvey and Irma response and climate change

This isn't written as a post about the reality or unreality of climate change. What it is, is a suggestion for the next few months.
Pay attention to the actions of government, pundits, charities, politicians and advocacy groups in the next coming months. You will have a chance to see what they REALLY believe about climate change. You will see if they are willing to make the hard choices that a belief in climate change REQUIRES them to make.
If we respond to Harvey and Irma in the same way we have in the past, then you know that the people in power aren't serious about climate change.
Massive changes to the national flood insurance program, FEMA and HUD assistance, flood zone requirements and zoning are ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED if the current consensus on climate change is true. Rebuilding in many of these areas is ABSURD! Rebuilding in other areas without significant changes in building codes is RIDICULOUS.
If the government does the usual thing, and not only allows rebuilding without major changes in building standards, but subsidizes and encourages it, then you know that they aren't serious about climate change. This doesn't mean they're wrong, or lying, just that they put politics above reality.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Letter to The Post and Courier

In a Nov. 13 editorial titled “The next president’s policies,” you talked about being concerned about Trump “sounding less than committed to fulfilling our security treaty obligations.”
Let’s be clear, I am far from a Trump supporter, but this comment ignores the reality of NATO’s “obligations” to each other. NATO countries are supposed to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense in order to support their obligations towards mutual defense. In 2015, countries other than the United
States shirked that obligation to the tune of $100 billion. Let that sink in. This means the United States is subsidizing European social democracies by $100 billion. That’s a $100 billion that we could, theoretically be spending on our own social programs.
Obviously we wouldn’t suddenly divert all that money away from defense, but imagine if we did. What would $100 billion a year pay for? Fix Social Security? Improve mental health care? Expand Medicaid or fix the Affordable Care Act? Tax cuts?
It gets worse. Five countries in the top 10 of GDP in NATO make up $80 billion of that gap. Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada and the Netherlands have all outsourced their national defense to the United States. Only five of the 28 countries spend 2 percent of GDP on defense.
Twenty-three NATO countries are not meeting their obligations for mutual defense, yet we are to be castigated for even suggesting that we might be tired of carrying the weight of the world on our military’s back. America is paying for those wonderful European social welfare programs that we are told we should be emulating.
I say if we’re going to be like them, let’s go all the way. One percent of 2015 GDP (what Canada spends) would be $180 billion (rough numbers). Cut military spending from $600 billion to $180 billion and we would have money for the best social welfare system in the world.
Obviously I am not suggesting we do any of the above, but let’s point fingers in the right direction.

Politics and Sports

1. I am completely unobjective when it comes to sports. If Tom Brady got caught with 57 women, cheating on his taxes, and stealing from widows and orphans, I would find a way to blame Roger Goodell or the Jets. This is how most people treat their political party.
2. On the bad scale of 1 to 100 (50 being meh), Trump's a 75 (it can get much worse than him) and Hillary's a 68. D's think Hillary's a 2 and Trump's 57,000. R's think almost the opposite.
3. I pulled the numbers out my ass, so let's not get nitpicky. Point is, both are bad. There's almost no career politician who isn't at least a 60.
4. If you disagree with my point above, see #1 - I'm talking about you.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Libertarians Love Shooting Themselves in the Foot

I was, and still sort of am, a fan of Arvin Vohra, but he has really been stepping in it lately.  His latest schtick is equating all military members with murderers.  Yeah, not a typo.  He actually tries to make some compelling arguments, but, like rabid pro-lifers and Antifa radicals, he equates his understanding of morality and the costs of war as the ONLY possible understanding.  He assumes he's right (and lately I kind of agree with him) but dismissing other viewpoints out of hand is how small minded people behave.  It's not how the supposedly rational and intelligent Libertarian Party is supposed to act.  Just because more and more people are recognizing that our forays into foreign wars are reckless and counter-productive doesn't mean everybody has come to that conclusion, and it doesn't guarantee that we're right.  It certainly doesn't make everyone who joins the military an amoral murderer.

We need a military force.  Even if that force is solely used under the standards the Libertarian Party would apply.  Dismantling that force or undercutting its recruitment is biting off your nose to spite your face.  Not only that, even if we decided the Libertarian viewpoint was absolutely, 100% correct, you can't just unilaterally pull out of NATO and other mutual-defense obligations (you could, but it would be just as morally repugnant as the wars we are fighting.)  Like it or not, the world's security is based on a strong, proactive US Military.  Many nations rely on us for their security.  Some of them (Japan) do so because we made them.  The world out there is a world we made.  The messes we've made are OURS.  If we want out, we need to give the other players time to adapt, and that means a robust, capable military force that can only be drawn back as the other nations take more responsibility for their own defense (or refuse to do so after given fair warning).

Most soldiers and sailors joined the military to defend (and spread) freedom throughout the world.  Most soldiers and sailors will never face a situation in which the morality or rightness of their cause will ever be brought into question.  The fact that some of us have figured out that things aren't so clear-cut, and that we MIGHT be fucking things up left and right, is no reason to demonize the brave men and women of high moral standards who serve in our military.  The problem with the military is our leaders and a world situation that we've created.  The VAST majority of soldiers live in a world where they are the morally righteous, and seeing the suffering out in the world and the war crimes of the enemy, that world view is reinforced.  The fact that much of what they are seeing is a result of bad foreign policy is not something they are aware of or would agree with.  Their world view is different than ours.

I also have to add that I personally oppose these foreign military interventions because they simply don't work.  I served during the first Desert Storm, which I consider the last "successful" foreign intervention.  You can certainly debate the necessity of the war, or whether it was in the national interest, but I'm pretty comfortable with the morality of protecting the people of a nominally democratic and free country from invasion by a despotic one.  Since then we've lost our way, but, if there was a way to free the North Korean people from their despotic regime, without the ensuing chaos of an Iraq, and without loss of innocent lives, I would certainly not consider it immoral.  Unwise maybe, but not immoral.  Libertarians are big fans of freedom, I'm not sure why where you are born makes you any less deserving of it.

The military and police both suffer from the same problems.  People don't join to murder innocents or oppress people and violate their rights (at least not most).  They join because of the high ideals expressed by the organizations and the public opinion of them (or for the money or the education).  Some people turn bad.  In the case of police, many become enculturated in a system, reinforced when they see the negative aspects of drugs (not realizing that it's the war on drugs that causes them).  I believe most police are helping and doing the right thing, or THINK they are.  Most didn't realize that the First Rule of Policing was to come home at the end of your shift, and are then indoctrinated into that idea.  They later become numb to the abuses because they inevitably see the people as the enemy, since most of their interactions are with the worst of society.  The solution to this is not reviling all police and soldiers (that's called prejudice) but instead fix the underlying causes: the drug war, policing for profit, erosion of constitutional rights, and others.

Reviling the police and military simply ensures that the Libertarian Party will never get the chance to implement their policies and found out for certain if they are right.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Things Everyone Should Know Before Discussing Economic Policy

The poverty rate is the same for all 48 contiguous states.

The poverty rate is based on half the median (a form of average) income, not the cost of living.