Monday, November 28, 2011

Dangerous Lows

As my followers know, I am a critic, not of vaccinations, nor even  of compulsory vaccination programs per se, but of the gulf between the invective some vaccination proponents hurl at non-conformists and the demonstrable risk such non-conformists pose to vaccinated individuals.

Yet these numbers concern me:

It’s probably a bad idea to crowd together this many unvaccinated kindergarteners – most of whom are still learning basic hygiene like washing their hands, using tissues, covering their mouths when they cough, and, you know, not licking doorknobs – all in once place.

But having said that, can any of my readers point me towards a mathematical model of epidemics that account for vaccination rates, breadth and depth of social contact, and virulence?  I’ve looked around a bit, but haven’t seen one that was especially compelling.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Corporations will do anything for profit (as long as it's bad).

This post by Female Misogynist made me think: the liberal narrative likes to paint corporations as so driven by greed that they will do anything for profit, including (as in, for instance, the movie Avatar) killing large numberrs of sentient beings.

Yet whenever Congress is proposing some new business regulation, they always claim that the regulation makes "good business sense", requiring businesses to do only what they would be doing anyway if they acted in their own interests. Not to mention the complaints that corporations would be able to dominate the market with products that liberals claim they want, i.e. shampoo in non-sexist bottles.

Liberals seem to believe that corporations will only do bad things for money, but will happily ignore profit in favor of some racist/sexist/homophobic agenda.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


It turns out that a coalition of internet privacy organizations are observing "American Censorship Day", attempting to mobilize opposition to the so-called "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA), H.R. 3261 and its Senate variant. The same people who brought you the DMCA have united against the rest of us. Congress held hearings on the bill last week.

Fortunately, the bill has attracted some powerful opponents, including Google.

From the website:

The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.

It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.

Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn't be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Custody Laws


This post by Sheila Tone on the role that even theoretically legal marijuana use plays in CPS actions reminded me of a conversation I had with my uncle a couple of months ago and intended to blog about, but didn’t.

I had driven out to the coast to see my father’s side of the family.  Although my father is an educated professional, he comes from a working class family whose fortunes vary widely.  My uncle, for instance, while never having attended college, found mid-life success as the owner of a couple of small businesses.  His children both had behavioral problems that hurt their early potential.  One of them seems to have recovered while the other spiraled downhill.  It is about this second son that I spoke with him the night we all had dinner together.

I had known that my uncle was raising his own granddaughter, one of two offspring from a relationship my cousin had with his then-girlfriend, the other being taken care of by its maternal grandparents.  Cousin Σ has been in and out of prison on petty crimes, while the mother is out west somewhere living at the edge of homelessness.  She, too, is a drug addict, a fact the family blames entirely on Σ.

My uncle had legally adopted η and helped the maternal grandparents, not as well off as he is, adopt her sister.  Over dinner, he related a story, presumably true, about another set of grandparents that were raising their granddaughter when the child’s mother confronted the family in a restaurant demanding money.  When they refused, she summoned the police and demanded that the grandparents give her her daughter.  Note that the child, a toddler by this point, had no idea who this woman was.  The police asked the grandparents if they had legal custody.  They did not.  The police then forced them to turn over the little child to a complete stranger right then and there.

The conversation swung back to Cousin Σ, whom his father cornered at gunpoint one evening as Σ was attempting to break into one of his father’s businesses.  Shortly thereafter, my uncle visited Σ in jail and presented him with adoption paperwork.

“What’s in this for me?” he asked.

“Son,” his father replied, “the law forbids me from offering you anything in exchange for adopting your child.  But I will tell you what I will do if you don’t sign these papers.  I’ll go to court and have you declared an unfit parent.  I’ll request custody of the girl and get it.  And to top it all off, I’ll then seek an award for child support from your worthless ass, and when you can’t pay it, I’ll have you tossed back here in jail.”

That turned out to be persuasive.

I got to observe η over dinner that evening and later during our game of miniature golf.  She’s the same age as my younger daughter, and seems to be doing pretty well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Rich Get Richer

Megan writes:

Income inequality has been rising for so long that people have started to assume that it has just kept rising, even when the data show otherwise. We don't want to spend years focused on income inequality, only to learn that the financial crisis fixed it for us.

But I don’t think the charts she shows support her argument:



These graphs don’t say that “the recession fixed it for us”.  These graphs tell me that income inequality took a cyclical dip as part of a 30+ year rise back to 1920s levels.

I’m inclined to think that, by itself, this trend is probably bad but not catastrophic.  But nothing ever happens by itself, and I’m much more vexed by the percentage of the national wealth going, not to people putting their capital at risk or creating value, but to financiers collecting rents by sitting astride key economic nodes.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Who is “Occupy Wall Street?”

Chris Roach writes:

My initially measured view of the Occupy Wall Street crowd has given way to real concern about their nastiness and capacity for violence.  Dozens have been arrested all of the country.  The moderates have departed and are replaced by bored, angry young people.  They have attacked police, broken laws, hurled missiles, and all the rest. [Emphasis added.]

But then he appears to miss the point:

[A] great many of the Zucotti Park protesters and their fellow travelers are manifesting that love of destruction and hostility to law that characterized the protest movements of the 1960s . . . .  I think it a terrible political judgment by Obama to align himself with this unpredictable group of unemployed (and unemployable) losers.

Without making any judgment about the cause or character of either the 1960s or OWS.  I rather agree with Steve that the original OWS protestors are in danger of being ethnically cleansed from their own protest by minorities and vagrants.  Good White Liberals have no intellectual or moral antibodies that help them exclude from their midst any Designated Victim Group.

OWS has the feel of a movement that would just as soon dispense the bourgeois instruments of social control, yet they are finding that, in multicultural America, that’s a sure formula for their own extinction.  But I wonder:  if we were, I dunno, Iceland, how long would we last without those instruments?

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Trumwill and Web go back and forth on what counts as taxation.  The question comes up in the context of the response to the OWS slogan – “We are the 99%” – from the Right:  “We are the 53%,” i.e., the 53% of the population that pays federal income taxes, specifically those that have a positive number on line 60 of the IRS Form 1040.*

This number, of course, excludes payroll taxes:  social security, Medicare, and Medicaid “contributions”, as well as taxes on corporations from which a given taxpayer may receive dividends (which the government taxes again as income).  Not to mention state, local, sales and property taxes.  National Review’s Kevin Williamson makes this point in a debate below:

On the other hand, social security, while technically a welfare program, is under current law a government pension:  paying social security taxes to the government creates a government liability payable directly to the individual taxpayer.  Likewise, Medicare taxes.

And state and local taxes are just that:  state and local.  Granted, some nonzero percentage of sub-national fiscal liabilities are created by federal fiat, and that is a shame irrespective of the particular spending on the merits.  But by and large, state and local spending of state and local taxes are spent on state and local priorities at the behest of state and local electorates .  Federal spending is a different question.

Corporate taxes are a little trickier:  they fall on the rich and poor alike in proportion, not to their overall income, but to the measure in which they own the companies being taxed.  For this reason, among others, corporate taxes should be abolished in favor of raising marginal rates.  But really:  given that wages and salaries are paid pre-tax, how much of the income of the 47% comes from already taxed dividends?  I’m thinking, not so much.

So really, federal discretionary spending is funded (not counting Red Chinese loans) by only 53% of the population.  National Review’s Rich Lowry (if you can put up with his interlocutor’s screeching interruptions) gives the best explanation yet for why this matters:

Rich is at pains to disagree with the application of this principle – that enlarging the class of non-federal-income-tax-paying citizens correspondingly enlarges the constituency for all-upside increases in federal spending – but he never gets to explain why.  He hints that his reasoning is similar to Kevin’s:  it’s a lousy way to build a political coalition.  I would add that this is especially true now that the relationship between spending and taxes is attenuated at best – remember those Red Chinese loans.

Actually closing the gap in the long term will requires painful cuts in federal spending and substantial income taxes running all the way through that 53%.  Unfortunately, the bulk of federal spending is supported by political coalitions sufficiently powerful that, with a few exceptions like Paul Ryan, neither political party has made any serious proposals to meaningfully cut it.  Similarly, neither political party has made any serious proposals to raise revenue, and of course both parties actively collaborate against shaping America’s population and economy into ones that would actually generate the wealth necessary to close this gap. 

* It could be even more technical than that.  I observe from my own 1040 that an additional $800, the “Making Work Pay” credit, was added to my return on line 63 as if it were tax that had been withheld.  (It was not.)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bad, bad teacher!

I watched the movie Bad Teacher on DVD. A few thoughts:

- The movie is laugh-out-loud funny. Even watching it alone, as I did. Cameron Diaz's portrayal of a shameless goldigger / deadbeat middle school teacher barely phoning it in subverts all the education movie clichés about caring teachers that challenge and motivate their students.  Instead, Diaz’s Elizabeth Halsey spends the first semester showing these movies while she sleeps at her desk.

She finally finds her niche though:

Bad Teacher (2011) – “I love Chase Reuben Rossi!”

The following year (SPOILER ALERT) she becomes the school guidance counselor, with all the school’s nerds lining up outside her office, presumably seeking similar transformation.

- The movie is politically incorrect, an observation Steve made in his reviews.  The old-money SNAG* (Justin Timberlake) that Diaz seeks to ensnare is, like most SWPLs, a dilettante in diversity, holding up his taste in ethnic food as a bold political statement; this is subtly mocked by Jason Siegel’s cynical gym teacher.  Diaz’s vanquished rival is ultimately sent to “bring my zany energy to the underprivileged students at Malcolm X Middle School.”  The audience doesn’t even need to have explained to them the implications.

- The movie is dirty.  Diaz emits a steady stream of vulgarity as in the clip above, plus there are a couple of truly cringe-inducing sexual situations (if you can call them that).

- The movie is, at a philosophical level, a little disturbing.  Diaz is lazy, promiscuous and conniving; a liar, a thief and a cheat.  With the exception of the scene above (and even this is obviously not without its moral downside) she shows absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever . . . and yet she is the character we are asked to root for!  On comic value alone we are expected to cheer as she blackmails silence from the bureaucrat from whom she steals the state’s standardized test and then frames fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch) for her own drug use.  What makes this worse is that Amy is a inspirational and successful teacher whose students routinely outscore the entire school on that standardized test.  Now, Amy’s sing-song, affected pedagogical style is easily recognizable from my own childhood, and the comic effect comes from seeing her use that style – probably more appropriate to a lower elementary school context in any case –  in her adult interactions as well.  Still, she (and Justin for that matter) clearly try really hard at being good at what they do, so why are we supposed to hate her and love Diaz?  The movie never really explains this.

* Is SNAG still a separate personality type from emo?  Or maybe I’m dating myself; I haven’t heard it used since the ‘90s.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Just say “No, thank you.”

Megan examines a Kenneth Anderson post on the origins of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, the summary of which is that it represents internecine conflict between the “upper tier New Class” (international financiers who have come through the recession relatively well) and the “lower tier New Class” (aspiring members of the “virtuocracy” whose members have been hard pressed by collapse in state and local revenue).

Both pieces should be read in their entirety.  But I was struck by something that Megan wrote as she contrasted her experience of red-blue class conflict with that she observed (or didn’t) on Wall Street:

[Y]ou sneer at the customs of the people you might be mistaken for.  For aside from a few very stuffy conservatives, no white people I know sneer at hip-hop music, telenovelas, Tyler Perry films, or any of the other things often consumed by people of modest incomes who don't look like them.  They save it for Thomas Kinkade paintings, "Cozy cottage" style home decoration, collectibles, child beauty pageants, large pickup trucks, and so forth. 

In part, obviously, this is a reaction to the politics of it, since uneducated white people of modest means vote (and attend church) very differently from the hyper-educated but modestly remunerated people in New York or DC.  A group of people who are quite empathetic, even tender, in writing about the financial difficulties of lower-middle class whites as workers, can also be quite vicious about them as voters and consumers. 

And they're worse when it comes to the tastes of people in successful-but-not-intellectual people like sales(wo)men. The vehemence makes it seem, at least in part, like a way to say "I may have their incomes, but I'm not like them.  I'm better."

Similarly, in the 1990s, when I worked with a lot of mostly blue-collar and first-generation college grads (with a fair sprinkling of Ivy Leaguers, to be sure), I didn't hear nearly so much about the rich and how greedy they were--even though in the late 1990s, income inequality was almost certainly worse than it is right now.

As IT consultants, we were mostly working around some of the richest people in the world--investment bankers, traders, and money managers.  And they did occasionally abuse their power. I received some rather astonishing invitations from men who were literally my father's age, on the basis of the fact that . . . I had entered their office to check up on something.  And one trader at a mutual fund liked to throw things at the IT staff when his screens didn't work--at least until the day he winged one of the techs with a stapler and had to apologize with a very expensive gift.

But in all that time, I'm not sure I heard any complaints about rich people, or even traders or bankers, as a class.  Since OWS started, I've occasionally wondered: does this explain why there seem to be so many more educated white kids than long-haul truckers or home health care aides occupying Wall Street? [Emphasis added.]

I love Megan, both for the warmth of her personality and the self-awareness and humanity she brings to discussing the red-state-blue-state divide.  But Megan is not a believing Christian, and nowhere has she denied being . . . a woman of her time and place.

Which brings me to the bolded sentence above.  Megan has elsewhere described the intrinsically boorish sexual behavior of some of the men to whom she provided IT services, yet I can’t help but doubt that it was her virtue, as such, that was mortified by the “astonishing offers” to which she alludes.  So what was it, then, that made what was surely intended to flatter her appearance and disposition so offensive?  What made appropriate any other reaction than a simple “no, thank you?”*

Reading about this reaction, in this context, I was struck by the possibility that a dynamic very similar to the blue-state sneer at red-state mores also drives Megan’s reaction to the romantic overtures of Wall Street execs and, more generally, the median female sneer at betas.  As elite coastal whites shudder at being mistaken for the denizens of flyover country, so Megan shudders at being mistaken for someone who would accept those kinds of proposals.

Think of it as a reaction to, not just the implausibility of a suggested pairing, but the gulf between its personal plausibility and its perceived social plausibility.  If the gulf is small, either because the offer is, in fact, personally attractive, or because the offer is socially outlandish – from a child, say, or Strom Thurmond in his later years – then no offense is taken.  This may explain my recollection that in my single years I received less social hostility from beautiful girls than from average girls; the truly beautiful faced no danger extending the appropriate condescension.

But when the gulf is wide – in other words, when a woman isn’t interested but thinks that other people might think she would be – then the reaction is harshly negative.  That’s how we wind up with a network of sexual harassment laws policies protecting women from the advances of their workplace peers.

Anyway, that’s my theory for today.  Thoughts?

* Actually, given what I think I know about Megan, I suspect this was exactly her outward response.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Slouching towards Dhimmitude . . .

In the inbox this morning:

Several national pro-America, pro-Family groups including Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs (Stop Islamization of America), Matt Staver’s Liberty Counsel, Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch and Sharia Awareness Action Network organized a national conference for November 11, 2011.  The purpose of the conference is to educate leaders and citizens from across the country on what they can do to stop the advancement of Sharia law within the United States.  The Preserving Freedom Conference organizers signed contracts with the Hutton Hotel for the two day event.  Hutton Hotel is one of thirteen hotels operated by Amerimar Enterprise.

However, Islamic activists protested by placing extreme pressure on Hutton Hotel management officials to cancel the event.  Hutton chose to side with these Islamic, Sharia for America advocates by cancelling the event long planned by many pro-American, pro-Family organizations.  Matt Staver, Liberty Counsel President wrote a demand letter to Amerimar Enterprise.  Click here to read the demand letter.

The link takes you to the full article, plus an auto-emailer to help you express your opinion to Amerimar Enterprise.  It’s not much, but it’s a lot more than most of us would do otherwise.