Friday, November 14, 2008

Quick Investment Lesson From Mr. Harper

Okay, Mr. Harper, we've all been inundated with your economic credentials.
"... an accountant at Imperial Oil"

"He took up post-secondary studies again at the University of Calgary, where he completed a Bachelor's degree in economics."

"He later returned there to earn a Master's degree in economics, completed in 1993."

He is also famous for advising Canadians, while the subprime mortgage crisis was taking down international stock markets, that there were probably some "good deals" out there.

So Mr. Harper, explain this to me. Explain why, during a lull in real estate prices, your Finance Minister is selling off Crown lands.

Fill in the blanks, here: Buy ____, Sell ____.

Unless, of course, you have a separate plan. Perhaps your plan is to sell off these Crown lands for billions of dollars to your corporate friends, then give them billions of dollars in tax breaks so the end result for the Canadian tax payer is simply that we have less stuff.

I know you have a great deal of economic knowledge, so I'm sure you're not selling off Crown property at fire sale prices because you're stupid. But if you're not stupid, the only other real option is that you're defrauding the Canadian public.

h/t to Red Tory.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama make Bishop Angry, grrrrr!

Us bishops fight Obama! Grrrrr!

In case you've forgotten that the Catholic Church opposes abortion, it does.

Of course it's not that catholics oppose abortion.
Sixty-five percent of non-practicing Catholics identified themselves as "pro-choice" on abortion, compared to 36% of practicing Catholics.

I'm sure that's the fault of atheists ... somehow.

But onward. The Catholic Bishops, whom I don't recall ever chastising George Bush over his failure to implement any anti-abortion legislation, are now going to "forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights".

I don't think it matters to them what anyone does. It only matters what a guy says.

Bush opposed abortion. He said so. He made it a lot more annoying to get an abortion. He probably even made it so annoying that a number of unwanted children were forced in to existence. With his opposition to sex education, he probably caused a lot of unwanted pregnancies. But he never really, in his eight years, did anything serious to illegalize abortion.

Obama, on the other hand, supports the current Roe v. Wade detente that draws a fuzzy line at the third trimester with exceptions. That is what the bishops oppose. Not the fact that neither presidential candidate would have done anything to change the law. They'll ignore the fact that the liberal approach of teaching sex education is actually better at reducing abortions than trying to legislate them out of existence.

Logic doesn't apply. The Bishops want a frothing at the mouth religious fanatic decrying the evils of abortion. If you want to approach the issue in any other way, they'll "forcefully confront" you about it.

Apparently that might include excommunicating Joe Biden, a man who claims Catholicism as his faith. Apparently you can't be Catholic while supporting legal abortion. I'm going to ahead and guess that the Bishops have never "forcefully confronted" politicians who work on Sundays. I hear that's an important commandment too.

It'll be such a wonderful world when we can shed all of this nonsense and make decisions based on logic, reason, empathy and fairness instead of the ramblings of a bunch of old men, sexually deprived and straining to derive morality from a two-thousand year old book written by one nomadic cult with another cult's nonsense tacked on helter skelter.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

The Free Market needs Socialized Medicine

It doesn't seem obvious at first. In fact, it seems contradictory. How could it be possible that a free market system could co-exist, and even benefit by, a government run, single-payer, health care system?

Let's first of all establish what "free market" means. I've received a recent and inspiring education from Rational Reasons and a bunch of other sources on the subject of "free markets" and "libertarianism".

If we were living in a free market system (which we aren't) it would mean that consumers are free to choose the best products. Natural economic supply and demand would work together with the consumer's judgment of quality to select the supplier or manufacturer who is doing the best job. If we impede the flow of the free market too much - say by creating incentives for the existence of large companies or by subsidizing certain raw materials - we will damage the ability of the free market to adjust itself to maximum efficiency.

On paper, you have to admit that this sounds pretty good.

As an example of where the free market would fail, if every soap I can buy changes my skin complexion such that I have to go through a four week period of skin rashes and boils when I change soaps, we can't really pretend that there's a free market in soap.

My argument is that, in a free market, people have to have the same freedom to move about from job to job. If my employer can keep me attached to him unfairly – say by blacklisting me, beating me up or burning down my house – then we don't really have a free market. It would allow terrible employers to continue to employ people that the employers don't deserve to have employed.

This is how I see private payer health care, as an unfair tether.

The fact that health care is provided by an employer allows an employer to unfairly attach me to his company. He can pay me less than a proper market rate - therefore damaging the power of the free market - simply by the fact that I could find myself dead if my next employer's health insurance declares my disease to be "pre-existing". Even worse, the situation creates a powerful bias against small companies and self-employment because private health insurance becomes prohibitively expense for individuals and small groups of people. This creates incentives for the existence of larger companies that otherwise might have no business existing in a free market.

The only possible way to keep the free market going is to remove the private money from health insurance. Health insurance should be paid by a government. Even if you wanted to allow private clinics to provide services in competition with the government, you have to keep private money as far away as possible from the paying side of the operation.

This is the only way to guarantee that labour is sufficiently lubricated to make this whole dream of the benefit of the "free market" come true for the vast majority of the people.

Guarantee people health care and you guarantee them freedom.

The mantra from the libertarians is that it is the freedom to choose that will make the economy work properly. In order to really have the freedom to choose, the people must know that, regardless of their choice, they will be secure of body and health. Consequently, we must sacrifice a small, irrelevant part of "choice" (i.e. who pays for the health care) in order to open up a whole world of choice in something orders of magnitude more important - where you want to work.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bullies Are Sadists: Study

I don't want to get in to the Sarah Palin "fruit flies in France" pit of ignorance, but I really do have to wonder what people are thinking when they do studies like this one.

There's no way to expose the stupidity except to quote the opening lines of the article.
Brain scans of teens with a history of aggressive bullying suggest that they may actually get pleasure out of seeing someone else in pain ...

it is not what the researchers expected ...

"It is entirely possible their brains are lighting in the way they are because they experience seeing pain in others as exciting and fun and pleasurable," Dr. Lahey said.

Can I break from my normal calm and professional blogging manner and curse for a moment?


I'm going to lead with, "No shit, Sherlock."

Are you telling me that the reason that we haven't evolved strategies to correctly deal with bullying is that the people developing those strategies weren't aware that the people doing the bullying are doing it for their own enjoyment?

I've got my own kids now. At some point, growing up, I realized that there are two really important things I wanted to develop in my children. The first is delayed gratification. The second is empathy. If my kids grow up with willpower and the ability to understand people, it doesn't much matter to me how much money they make or what fame they achieve, I know they'll be good people. I know they won't hurt others and I know they won't hurt themselves.

But this? This nonsense? After all these years of "cracking down" on bullying in schools, the social workers and psychologists are just now scientifically concluding that a bully has a failed sense of empathy that enables him to enjoy the suffering he inflicts?

We should have realized decades ago that we were producing and harbouring little sociopaths, not figuring out just last week.

Maybe now the geniuses behind this study can start producing real strategies for dealing with bullies. Of course, the strategy already exists and it's the only one I've ever known to work. It is elucidated most clearly by Gina and Mercer Mayer in their book "Just a Bully". I highly recommend it to be read as a bedtime story to all children that might ever have to deal with this problem.

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