Wednesday, April 23, 2014

For Us Thieves, Life Is Easy

I get the feeling that for most of the people reading this blog, life is pretty easy.  Mostly it's the kind of people that not only can meet their needs with each paycheck, but there's money left over to save.  I'm lucky enough to be able to say that's true for me.

I don't consider myself a super frugal person, but I aspire to be.  If you are frugal and you save money it doesn't necessarily take too long before the money you've saved itself "earns" enough to cover your monthly expenses.

So for instance, suppose I was a more frugal person and could live on $30K/year.  If I were to save $750K then my savings should cover all of my expenses.  Forever.  A general savings rule is that if you've invested in a broad range of stocks, perhaps via a mutual fund, you might expect that you can withdraw 4% of your total savings annually and the savings would never go away.  Maybe you have 7% growth, you withdraw the 4%, and inflation eats 3%.  Basically the money lasts forever.

Suppose I've hit financial independence, but I just keep working for a few more years.  It doesn't take that long to go from $750K to $1.5 million because that initial $750K grows as well.  If I wait a few years on retirement and still live on $30K when I do retire, by the end of each year I'd have $30K more than when I started.  Despite the fact that I've lived comfortably, paid my utility bills and my food bills.  I had many people that provided me services.  And yet despite doing nothing I now have even more money than the year before.

How does that work?  How is it that I can take advantage of services, pay for utilities, go out to eat, generally enjoy myself, all the while doing nothing, and when I've done that for a year now I have more than when I started?  We're told that our money "works" for us.  But it doesn't really.  Money doesn't actually "do" anything.  People do.  People work.  What money does is it entitles me to take a portion of the value that other people create.  This is entailed in the concept of "property rights".

In other words, people work in factories and in so doing they add a certain amount of value.  They only keep a portion of that value.  Who gets the rest?  I do.  It goes to me.  I don't necessarily know what they do.  I don't know if the work is destructive to his body or his environment.  I just get the money.  And I haven't really done anything.

If I were to continue working as I do now for a couple of more decades a savings of $1.5 million is entirely conceivable, and I think living on $30K/yr is also plausible when the mortgage is gone.  So what does this mean?  It means that when I stop working I not only will watch my wealth grow, I'll be able to provide for my kids such that they could extract services forever and likewise never work.  I just need to teach them the 4% rule.  I'd be living on 2% on this scenario, so the amount I can withdraw annually without seeing any reduction in my real wealth increases

This scenario is very much within my reach, and it seems unfair.  The idea that I can reach a point where I never work, yet my wealth grows, and further that my kids and their kids can likewise live off that same wealth.  So you can imagine how extreme the unfairness is for people that are really sitting on large piles of money.  They can hardly see their wealth diminish even if they try.  Why?  Because sweat shop laborers and other laborers are compelled to hand over the fruits of their labor to these rich oligarchs.  Money the oligarchs don't need, but the sweat shop laborers do.

This is the system I participate in.  We are the lucky ones that don't live hand to mouth.  We've seen a big boost in our wealth over the last year or so as the stock market has come back.  That's wealth that was created by the companies I partly own through mutual funds.  Companies that have people that work for them, people that often live hand to mouth and just don't have the ability to save.

It's just kind of depressing to me, but I don't see that I have much choice.  I've been working all these years and I haven't been allowed to keep the entire amount of value I've created.  It's gone to stock holders before me.  If I had been able to keep what I produce maybe I'd have enough saved that I wouldn't need to work any more, but that's not where I am.  So like they have taken the excess value I've produced, I'm going to take the excess value produced by others further down the line.  As I age it's going to get tougher and tougher to work for a wage.  You're going to have to have savings.  There are alternatives to investing, but they aren't so good.

What would be more fair of course would be to take back from the rich what was taken from us instead of taking from the poor, but our system of property rights just doesn't permit it.  But this is one of the reasons I find it absurd to hear complaints from rich people about welfare.  The biggest welfare system ever is the system of property rights, which compels the very poorest of people to give the value they create to people that are so fantastically rich they can't realistically even spend it.

Amongst some on the left a popular phrase is "Property is Theft".  I think that's correct.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Corporate State Capitalism

Did you know that every important component in the iPhone was originally developed with funding from the US government?  Not just the iPhone of course.  Google, pharmaceuticals, GPS, commercial aviation, satellite communications.  Just about every advanced technology that you could think of that sets the US apart from the rest of the world in terms of our economic strength finds it's root in the state sector.

Economist Marianna Mazucotti goes into more detail in this Ted talk, and those that have read my blog for a while know that I learned this long ago from Noam Chomsky.  Chomsky goes into further interesting detail in this lecture from 1997.  He says that pretty much everyone understood following the end of WWII that state support of the economy was vital, and if we took it away with the end of the war we should expect to plunge straight back into the Depression we had just emerged from.  Think about these facts the next time you hear someone talk about how Steve Jobs is the perfect example of the kind of innovation that is possible if only we'd get government out of the way.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chasing Liberal Extremists

I really first started reading liberal voices in more depth around 2009, just after Israel's invasion of Gaza, which struck me as outrageous.  At that time I learned for the first time of many things, one of which was how the finance industry uses high frequency trading to extract money from the rest of us.  What happens is when a trade is placed it takes fractions of a second to execute the trade.  Financial institutions have access to cables that can execute trades more quickly, so what they do is they run a line to sense if you've made a trade.  Knowing you are about to buy a stock they basically cut in line, jump in front of you, and purchase at a slightly reduced price, then the price you actually get is slightly higher, and they make a small amount.  It's not a lot, but do it millions of times per day and you're now pulling in some good money.

This is another example of how finance extracts money while it's quite dubious that this provides real value.  What's interesting to me though is suddenly I'm hearing all kinds of more mainstream voices talking about it.  Today it's Paul Krugman.  Here again at Naked CapitalismThe Atlantic.  It's just interesting to me to see so much of this in more "mainstream" liberal circles.

Global warming is another case.  I'm glad to see that in mainstream liberal circles it's becoming more common to take the urgency of this issue for granted, while the extremists have been saying it for years.  For those that think science was telling us global cooling was on the way back in the 70's I think it's interesting to show them Isaac Asimov explaining things in 1977 or even this scene in the movie Soylent Green in 1973.  But recently despite the well funded propaganda efforts by the fossil fuel industry and the right wing think tanks you're seeing a lot of alarm in mainstream circles, like this from the NY Times.  John Kerry recently said of dealing with the deniers that we just don't have time for a meeting with the Flat Earth Society.  For the bury the head in the sand crowd evidence is just not something that matters to them at this stage, and we really don't have time to wait for them to be convinced.  I think I'm seeing more and more of this and that's a good thing.

At the root of all this is simply the fact that Capitalism is killing us and can't go on without catastrophic consequences.  Read here about how Thomas Piketty's book is affecting even mainstream economic discourse, simply saying the kinds of things liberal "extremists" have been saying for a long time.  Capitalism Has Failed The World is one headline.  I'm not expecting the establishment to buy it any time soon.  A lot of the people involved simply benefit too much from existing paradigms.  It's like that esteemed economist interviewed in the movie "Inside Job".  He wrote papers about how in Iceland deregulated finance was working wonders and was a model for the rest of the world.  At the time of publication Iceland was beginning the collapse, and we would later learn that he's on the payroll of banks that benefit from this catastrophic system.  Glenn Hubbard similarly in the US.  There's a lot of that going on.

I think when considering predictive capacity and incentives it's easy to understand why mainstream circles, even mainstream liberal circles, are always so late to the party.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Republicans prefer that you have no choice but to work until you die

Are Republicans really arguing that if you find yourself in a position where you can retire that this is a bad thing?  Here's Paul Ryan:
“The way I see it, let the other side be the party of personalities. We’ll be the party of ideas, ” he said. “And I’m optimistic about our chances—because the Left? The Left isn’t just out of ideas. It’s out of touch. Take Obamacare. We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. And the Left thinks this is a good thing. They say, ‘Hey, this is a new freedom—the freedom not to work.’ But I don’t think the problem is too many people are working—I think the problem is not enough people can find work. And if people leave the workforce, our economy will shrink—there will be less opportunity, not more. So the Left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach—and an empty soul. The American people want more than that.”
As the popular early retirement blog Mr Money Mustache has noted, if you want to retire early and are prepared to live in some way other than a typical American consumer, Obama Care is your friend.  Yeah, that's not enough for some people.  Exotic vacations, the latest cars and fashions, the latest electronics.  OK.  Obama Care doesn't prevent that.  What it does is say that if you're a different kind of person that wants something else, now you have that choice.  For Paul Ryan this is a bad thing.  You should be compelled to work for a wage, whether you want to or not.  You should not be given options that allow you to pursue a different path.

If someone that is 50 years old now decides to retire due to Obama Care, what that will often mean is that employers will need to find a skilled laborer to fill that slot.  That could be a young kid with a lot of student loans, maybe a family.  A guy that isn't at the point where he can get by on $25K/yr.  That kid will get this job, and get experience that he now can't get because he's working a McJob right now due to the fact that more elderly people just aren't at a point where they can retire yet.  This is a big improvement.  New choices available for the 50 year old.  Job opportunities for the 25 year old.  Paul Ryan doesn't want to see this happen.  Why?

One reason is because when people are scared and have few options they work for less.  If you must work to survive you can be pushed around.  If you work only because you want to then naturally you won't work unless the conditions are good.  That can harm profits, which means less for the super wealthy.  Making the super wealthy a little more wealthy is definitely more important than freedom of choice for a 50 year old and a decent skilled job for the young.

Monday, February 17, 2014

So you think you can debate a creationist?

Bill Nye made it look pretty easy against Ken Ham in their recent debate.  It was so lopsided that people like Pat Robertson are throwing in the towel.

But in my view this is giving a lot of skeptics the wrong idea.  They think disposing of creationist arguments is easy.  It's not.  Take it from me.  I've watched a lot of debates where smart skeptics have gotten their clocks cleaned.  What we are dealing with in this case is a Christian that performed unusually poorly.

Watching Ken Ham you'd think young earth creationists have never heard of ice cores.  Not true.  They've heard of them.  And they have some spin prepared to rebut the argument.  Why Ken Ham didn't unleash it I have no idea.  Bob Dutko would have.  I watched the debate with some young earth Christian friends.  They were likewise dumbfounded that Ham just would not engage Nye's arguments or put forward arguments that challenge the standard scientific view.

What I did over the following couple of days is recorded the Bob Dutko show.  Dutko was likewise disappointed in Ham and wondered why he didn't make better arguments, and of course he proceeded to do so.  Take a look at these and ask yourself if you'd be able to respond on the spot if you were at the podium.

Also, just so it's clear, I'm not saying these are persuasive.  I'm just presenting them as Dutko stated them.  Some are a bit silly on the surface, some maybe don't even make sense.  But some require you to do a little bit of work to figure out, and it may not be possible if you were actually in a discussion with a young earth creationist.  But this is the kind of thing skeptics are usually presented with in a debate, and often they are just not ready.  I was honestly expecting that Nye wouldn't be ready.  But we never found out because Ham really didn't do much except point to the bible.

By the way, these are kind of my notes and so it's not always great grammatically.  I did try to clean it up somewhat.

Rebuttals to Nye

Ice cores do not prove the earth is old.  The gap between layers gets more narrow as you go deeper due to pressure, and after just a few dozen you can no longer see the layers because they are bunched together.  Maybe a few hundred rings can be actually counted.  Scientists extrapolate for the remainder, just assuming that the pace continues throughout.  Christian geologists say an ice age occurred a few thousand years ago and deposited the bulk of the ice that remains.  Technically neither side knows for sure.

Tree rings are not actually counted to millions of years.  The oldest living trees don’t have rings counted.  They assume it by using carbon dating.  They find dead wood in the area and carbon date it.  Based on that age they look at how many rings the dead wood have.  Then they carbon date the live tree.  Then extrapolate forward.  Since a dead tree has a certain age similar to old tree, somehow use ratio of C14 in the live tree and figure out age of live tree.  All based on carbon dating of other trees in the area.  Carbon dating has other problems previously discussed.

If you could count 8700 rings, a young earth creationist scientist guy says many trees, especially bristle cone pines, can produce more than one ring per year, sometimes up to 5.

Why no trail of kangaroo fossils from middle east to Australia?  They could have been transported by boats because of trade.  An ice age causes sea levels to fall.  There are lots of islands between China and Australia.  A little reduction in sea levels and now they can cross.  Ice age ends and their trapped in Australia.

Why no fossils?  Because fossilization is rare.  There are no buffalo fossils for instance in the US.

Nye says 11 new species a day are needed if everything evolved from just a few thousand species that started at the ark.  But this is not a big deal because insects and fruit flies reproduce so fast that it’s not surprising that 11 new ones could emerge daily.  This is nowhere close to a problem when you consider how many insects there are in the world.  And this includes bacteria.  How many new strains of bacteria emerge daily?  Not a big deal.

Nye asks why we don't have Grand Canyon's all over the world due to the flood.  Because the Grand Canyon was formed because of its unique conditions, water bursting through an earthen damn.  Ground was already muddy and dirty.  There’s one in Texas that had been carved in 3 days.

You say it was carved by a river.  But for billions of years there have been rivers all over the world, so why haven’t other rivers produced more grand canyons?

Nye claims that fossils follow evolutionary pattern in the layering.  You never, ever find a fossil in layer that is not supposed to be in.

But this is blatantly false. Ham should have brought up polystrate fossils, which span different layers.  The bottom of tree in rock 50 million years older than the top.  Can’t be due to tectonic movement as evolutionists claim because there no indication of shattered rock where trees are pushed through.  Rock was soft, trees went through, no shattering.  In California a whale skeleton was found 45 degree angle, tail is in rock that is millions of years different from the head of the whale.

Bottom layer of grand canyon dated to 1.1 billion years old, then the top layer was dated to 2.6 billion years old, why is the Grand Canyon upside down?

How come none of the layers have gopher holes, rabbit holes, river beds, a single crater from anything, a single erosion line.  No caves.

Here’s a creationist prediction, if there was a flood and mud deposits, then we predict that the lines separating layers would be smooth and there would be no rabbit holes, gopher holes, river beds, caves, etc.

The layers in rock sometimes come to a V, yet they don’t appear shattered, as if they move easily.  Why aren’t they shattered if it was solid rock.

4500 years is plenty of time for the development of all the different types of cats.  Just 100 years back we have less than half of the amount of breeds of dogs that we have today.  3000 years ago there were only 10 total breeds of dogs according to evolutionists.

In Uzbekistan hoof prints of horses dated to the time of the dinosaurs (reported in Pravda).

Edwin McKee geological survey professional has hoof prints in Grand Canyon prior to when they should exist per evolution.  100 million years old.  Geological Survery Professional Paper 1173 p93-96.

Whale, elephant, horse, and other fossils plus crude hunting tools found in phosphate beds in SC.  Also dinosaur bones found in the same place.  Edward Noland in his remarks on fossils from the Ashley Phosphate Beds proceedings of the National Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1876 pages 80 and 81.

Grand Canyon, Venezuela, and Cashmere and Guyana have spores of ferns and pollen from flowering plants in Cambrian rock.  Nature Volume 210 April 16th 1966 p292 to 294.

Petrified trees in Arizona’s petrified forest contain fossilized nests of bees and cocoons of wasps.  Supposed to be 220 million years old, but bees and flowering plants shouldn’t have evolved until 100 million years later.  Steven Haciodas, evolutionary paleobiologist with US Geological Survey, in personal communication of his May 27, 1995.  Reported in Discover Magazine in February issue 1998 p76 to p83.

Pollinating insects and fossil flies with long well developed tubes for sucking nectar from flowers are found in deposits dated 25 million years before flowers are supposed to have been evolved.  “Science” Vol 280 April 3, 1998 p85 to 88.

Desert Magazine February 1975 p36 to 39 human bones found in 100 million year old cretaceous strata.  JP Marwhit of the University of Utah supervised excavation.  He caught flak and later retracted his statements.  Years later C14 dating showed the bones were about 200 years old.  The have been dismissed it as an Indian burial, though Marwhit said they were in situ originally.

Regarding Tiktaalik, artists renderings take too much license.  The actual bones lacked hind legs.  Only the top half exists.  Below that was just fragments.  So they fill in the gaps as though the entire skeleton was found then sell the idea that it’s a fish with legs.  Not much different from coelacanth today.

Arguments for a young earth.

C14 dating is good for only about 100K years ago.  Why do we find dinosaur bones that still have plenty of C14?  Aug 10 1990 fossilized dinosaur bones atkanthasauras and allasours dated at 3 different laboratories, including Arizona, everyone came back with ages in the thousands of years.  How do you explain that if it’s 65 million  years old?

How do you explain fresh dinosaur bones unfossilized?  Journal of Paleontology reference NW Alaska dinosaur bones “unfosslized” that “felt like old cow bones.’  Kyle Davies wrote about it.  Referenced in “Journal of Paleontology” 1986-1987 edition, No 1, Vol 61 p 198-200.

“Science” Dec 24 1993 bones of duck billed dinosaur found in Montana with fresh bones, not fossilized, p20-23.

1985 Geological Society of America Volume 17 p548.  More fresh dinosaur bones.

Coal, diamonds, why do they have C14?  Why don’t the ocean floors have enough mud.  Russel Humphries (nuclear physicist) says it should be filled with miles of mud, but it doesn’t have much (the amount consistent with an earth only a few thousand years old).

What about the lack of sodium in the ocean?  There is not enough for the earth to be billions of years old.  What about the decay of magnetic field?  Rate of decay means it would have been too strong in the past.

Radioactive elements produce helium, but we only have a few thousand years worth of Helium.  Atmosphere should have more Helium if it’s billions of years old.

Human population growth.  For all of human recorded history known growth rate for humans is some value.  Applying that value if you go back a mere 40K years you would have to have more humans than there are atoms in the Milky Way galaxy.  If you use the ark timeline it works out perfectly to 6 billion.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Republican House Does't Even Pretend to Serve the People

So they've now passed a law that will relieve corporations that produce hazardous waste of paying the price to clean up their spills.  Companies will no longer be required to carry insurance that will cover the costs should a spill occur.  Also this makes it more difficult for the EPA to enforce oversight.

Fortunately the Senate won't pass such a bill and even if they did Obama would veto it.  But you can still see how far gone our government is, passing legislation that only the 1% would want, the ones that care about profits only and don't suffer the consequences.  And maybe don't have kids or if they do they are too selfish to care about them.  Maybe this is only a small share of the 1%.  They have the House in their pocket already.  This kind of thing could come later as inequality expands and the rich collect more power.

This is in the very nature of capitalism.  I sometimes wonder if the CEO's and others that initiate the lobbying that leads to this kind of legislation in their hearts hope the politicians refuse, but they know they have to press for maximum profits or they will be replaced or at least criticized to where a competitor can start to look more appealing to the investors and board.  It's possible, though the best advocates of these policies are true believers.  Maybe they are psychopaths.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chomsky Addresses Federal Reserve/Deficits

As much as I sympathize with the Ron Paul wing of the Republican party I think some of their criticisms and proposed solutions are just not in the real world.  Very theoretical and impractical.  Chomsky takes a question from a person that is probably among the Paul faction below.