Tuesday, July 31, 2012

News: Unrest in China

Image from ABC news
Unrest in China over a proposal to put in an industrial waste line in one of the coastal cities.  Many reporters will probably leave it to the natural NIMBY tendencies individuals have and a growing discontent over pollution in general in China.  This assessment isn't wrong, but I believe that there is something more here.

"The government says the waste will not pollute the sea, but if that's true, then why don't they dump it into Yangtze River?" said Lu Shuai, a 25-year-old protester who works in logistics. "It is because if they dump it into the river, it will have an impact on people in Shanghai and people in Shanghai will oppose it."
What many individuals do not understand is the regionalism is a powerful force in China, much more so than the United States.  Outside of the antebellum south the Americans do not tend to identify with very strongly with whatever region they are living from or are from.  This is not the case in China. I have personally witnessed the very strong regional ties that Chinese have.  Remember, the province of Guangdong, or perhaps better known in the west as Canton, is different culturally and linguistically than Beijing. The differences between the two regions, of the many that exist, is far deeper and wider than what exists between the regions of the United States.

Regionalism is a well known issue within China, so much so that there is an apocryphal story to illustrate it.  Regionalism was one of the major factors for the fall of the Qing Dynasty and was exploited by Mao when he toppled the nationalist regime about half a century later.  It is an issue that the PRC is very aware of, hence the constant government edicts and statements about creating a 'harmonious society'

There is also issue with growing unrest with corruption and greed amongst the bureaucrats and officials of the regime.  This is also an item that the central government worries about, because even if the corruption is only local in nature, their inability to prevent it makes the central government look week and ineffectual at best, and complicit at the worst.  This is no simple environmental protest, which fails to elicit such a violent response, and much more a political one.  There are hundreds of protests in China every day that go unreported, whereas in America protests are so few that any over the size of 50 seem to attract real media attention.

As China's economic situation gets more strained expect to see more of these. (You can simply google China and unrest to see plenty of examples within the past year) And unlike with Europe, which many analysts and news outlets seem to have successfully marginalized, the implosion of China cannot be ignored. Once that news gets out to the west, expect to see even  more volatile markets, and perhaps another financial crisis since the markets have abandoned rational analysis for sensationalistic hype years ago.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stratfor Video: North Korea's Geographic Challenge

Weekly Stratfor Video.  Even states ruled by mad men, at least according to our own media, are constrained by real world geographic and political realities that shape and mold their actions.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Colleges Do Not Like Free Speech

I can tell you from first hand experience that there is no one more hostile to free speech than an academic.

Business Slowing in China

The news for China continues to get worse. This latest piece is particularly alarming.  I have a snippet from a Stratfor article that you can only view if you have a subscription so I won't bother linking a page that non of you probably would be able to view.  Here is the segement:

More than 60 percent of businesses in Wenzhou, China, have slowed or stopped production since June, Morning Whistle reported July 27, citing a report by the Zhejiang Provincial People's Congress. According to the report, large businesses' profits declined by about 24 percent, medium-sized businesses' profits contracted by 18 percent and small businesses' profits declined by 14 percent. Companies in Zhejiang province have seen their average net profit decline by about 19 percent since January, according to the report.

Read more: China: Business Slows In Wenzhou | Stratfor
Now this isn't one of the interior backwater cities, its a coastal town and one of the larger economic centers in the area, it ranks 34th, and a population of over 9 million, the fact that a coastal city is stumbling so hard indicates that the Chinese economy overall is struggling.  In fact it has gotten so bad that even some analysts are saying the Chinese are in the middle of a hard landing.  Now whether we see their economy slowly unravel like Japans or collapse under its own weight, like the Soviet economy, is something that remains to be seen.

At this points we should all be taken bets.  Who will hit the wall first?  The US, Europe, China, Japan, or some other BRIC nation?

News: France Jobless Rate at Record Highs

This is the consequence of socialism everyone.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

News: South Korean Growth Slows

Global economic troubles continues with Korea experiencing a slowdown in growth; the slowest level in three years.  Now the US would kill for a 2.5% growth annual rate right now, but the major danger is that Korea has only recently moved to a more market-oriented economy.  If their economy slows enough, and given the global situation it will slow, this could result in a reversal of all the reforms they have enacted through the years.  And the reversal of these reforms would further slow the Korean economy.

Moreover one thing needs to be kept in the forefront of your brain.  What we are going through is a global crisis, the kind that happens every century or so.  Almost a 100 years ago it was the Great Depression, which interestingly enough, coincides pretty closely with the demise of the European colonial system that had dominated the world for since the discovery of the new world in the late 15th century.  Does this economic event signify the end of America's preeminence?  I am inclined to say no, as long as the US remains whole we will be a power to reckon with, but others do disagree.  Eitherway get ready since the 'event' is coming and it will touch every nation on this planet to some degree.

Is America Really More Violent Than Europe?

It is often said that United States is a more violent nation than most European countries. Look at the murder statistics, and the statement looks like it has weight. I used to think that comparing an individual European country to the entire US did a disservice to America. Some regions were obviously more violent than others in my mind, however, this data seems to suggest that while certain states have low murder rates, regions in general are pretty uniform across the board. Based on the murder rate alone, the US is indeed a more violent country than most Western European nations.

Looking at just the murder rate, the discussion would be relatively short. However, I became interested in other violent criminal statistics and what I found was interesting. For my data I went to the European Union data information portal for both the European Unions and America's violent crime rate so I hope that any European readers might not think this as a 'statistical' hit and run using questionable information. Now a few things.

First off, how crimes are recorded are different between each nation, so I will admit that this could potentially skew the comparisons between the US and Europe and between individual European nations to each other.

Second, when I created the violent crimes per 100,000 individuals I used the latest rounded census information I could find. This could potentially cause the data to be skewed because of varied population growth rates. However, outside of the US, population growth was relatively minimal. This does mean that violent crime rates will be understated for America coming up to the years approaching 2010; but realistically I don't think it affects the data that much.

Lastly, I would have liked to find a break down of different types of violent crime, however, the EU data portal does not break the data down this far.  It's disappointing since there could be an instance where a nation could have a higher violent crime rate but have its violent crime be a lesser type (I am thinking assaults attributed to bar fights versus rapes). Or even more pertinent, some nations would list threats as violent crime, while others would not. There is little I can do about this, other than go over each nation's definition, and in the future I may do that. But I am not going to do so today (and to be frank, I am not entirely sure that the different definition make a huge difference. But I could potentially be wrong).

Now a definition on what violent crime is in the US. In America, violent crime covers homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault.  In short, any experience where significant bodily trauma occurs outside of robbery. I highly doubt victims of gun/knife point robbery would see their experience as not being violent. Now for the charts.

As we can see, when comparing the US to the EU, the EU has a far higher instance of crime. But using this data alone would be disingenuous since the EU has two hundred million more people than the US; basically the equivalent of two extra Mexicos. Because of that we need to normalize the data. I did this by taking the data I used to make this chart and then normalizing them to come up with violent crime per one hundred thousands individuals.

Having normalized the data we still see that there is a significant difference between the European Union and the US. The EU has a violent crime rate nearly a third higher than the United States. At this point we can say, assuming my data is in the ball park, that while the US has a murder rate far higher than the EU it has lower instances of other violent crimes relative to the European nations. I will admit that I was surprised at this point, I had assumed that there would be lower instances of violent crime than the US, but the data points in the opposite direction. So I decided to take a look at some other European nations.

I decided to try to get two groups of bodies together. One was the Anglosphere, less the United States, which would be the United Kingdon, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The other was Scandinavia. I picked Scandinavia because it often fairs very well in terms of corruption, economy, democracy and stability.

Scandinavia is well known as a collection of nations that are very safe to live in. I was surprised to see that their combined instances of violent crime was more than double that of the US. And that the Anglosphere had a violence rate about a 1/5th of Scandinavia. I had thought that the general cultural make up of Anglo nations would be more predisposed towards violence. But the data suggest otherwise. It was very interesting and confusing. I decided that one of the Scandinavian nations must be skewing the numbers upwards and so I decided to take a took deeper look.

As we can see, there was a nation skewing the data and to my surprise it was Sweden. But then Save Capitalism might have something to say if his post earlier this week is indicates anything. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the data. Sweden is often held as an example of what the US should be by many academics of left leaning individuals.  It is progressive, economically healthy and tolerant. I, like many other Americans, simply assumed that Sweden would be a much less violent nation than the US.

Even more interesting is that the United Kingdom, known as the violence capital of Europe (at least Western Europe) is comparable to the other Scandinavian nations. The data I have seen so far suggests that the UK isn't as nearly as violent as portrayed, unless the Danes and Norwegians are far more violent than American media lets on, and this data warrants a deeper look at Europe as a whole because for some reason Europe has higher instances of violent crime than the US (once again assuming my data isn't horribly flawed).

So is America really as violent as we in West believe? The data would suggest otherwise, though the murder rate here is intolerably high relative to European nations and one could say that having higher violence but fewer murders is preferable. So the question is why? Left leaning bias is certainly one of the reasons in America, and our news media certainly doesn't help with that depiction.  As for the European view that we are more violent there is the additional factor of our 'American mystique'. The mystique being that Europe has never completely let go of their colonial and wild west notions of the US, where the land was violent and untamed, and law could barely be enforced within the towns much less the countryside.

One final point needs to be made. The argument over which nation is more violent is largely academic. The point is that in most parts of Western Europe and the US you do not have to fear harm coming to your person. There are parts of cities across both sides of the Atlantic that would be foolish to reside in for very long after dark, but the fact is that the violence levels in both continents are far lower than they are in other parts of the world (save parts of East Asia). Either way, whether the US is relatively more violent than the EU or vice versa, I wouldn't be in a rush to install iron grates in your windows in either parts of the world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Feather In The Cap

For congressman Ron Paul. The House overwhelmingly passed the audit the Fed bill. And while it still has to go through the Senate where Harry Reid has vowed to not let the issue come to a vote, the fact is that the tide is turning against those who support a Federal Reserve Bank that can act without scrutiny.  Individuals like Congressman Frank and Senator Reid are simply circling the wagons.  They may fend off the attacks of those who believe in sound money or governmental accountability, but many of us know that eventually will succumb like a caravan that has run out of water in a desert. It's only a matter of time.

Attention Lib Arts Majors! One of Your Own is Warning You About Getting a Masters

Read this in Forbes today.  A columnists who took the time to get a Masters of Arts in Communication, Culture, and Technology relates the hard truth about masters degrees. By the way the length of the title of a degree should be a major indicator on its value.  The longer it is, the more useless it becomes. But I digress.  She relates how getting the degree might have hindered her future career prospects.  Even after indicated she would be willing to take a salary less than what she was making before grad school, the company didn't want to hire here.

Now there is some rationalization that there might be some sort of jealousy at play.  But the simple truth is that companies have begun to wake up and realize that the vast majority of masters degrees aren't worth the paper they are printed on.  (And in fact might actually hinder otherwise employable individuals because companies don't want to take the time and make individuals unlearn everything wrong that they have learned.)  Humanities, communications, liberal arts, business degrees, soft sciences, the list goes on. These degrees don't bring any value.  Why would Google, Facebook, Groupon, or Twitter hire you? The fact is you learn how to be like them by doing things in the field, not in a class room.

 Remember younger millenials that I am one of you and I can testify, having recently left college a few years ago, that much of what you learn will not serve you. And that colleges will not help you.  Their goal is to squeeze as much money out of you as they can, as well as pad their egos, if you happen to learn something then you either learned it yourself or you lucked out.

Geopolitics: Endgame Syria, US involvment, Al-Qaida, Uncertain future.

As the Stratfor video states the Syrian regime may be standing on its last legs. Of course the common media (CNN, Fox, MSBC, BBC etc) will report this as good news, for a variety of reasons, with perhaps some mild hand wringing about the signs that Al-Qaida is now becoming active in the conflict. But the news media will probably, actually most assuredly it will not, go into why the regime is falling.

First let's revisit Libya. The Gaddafi regime fell, and only fell, because of the West’s direct involvement in the conflict. We need to remember that prior to our involvement Gaddafis forces were poised to take the rebel held Benghazi and crush the rebellion, despite the placement of a no-fly zone by the UN and was quietly expanded to include ground targets. The rebels in Libya were a fractionalized bunch of competing interest and tribes, despite the portrayals by the media, there was no unified resistance. We are now seeing this with a weak central government unable to even ensure national elections. Libya has become the new Somalia.

This is not quite the case in Syria. There is a more centralized resistance, though I do not think it strong enough to prevent fractional infighting, it is enough that the rebels could prevail without direct intervention by the West. The US, and most importantly, the Arabs, have been funding and supply the rebels in their fight against Assad’s regime. The question is why? And the answer is that the US wants to contain Iran, which had been expanding its political influence in the region since our invasion of Iraq. The Assad regime was closely aligned to; in fact you could argue they were a proxy state of, Iran. The US is playing a game that is has for decades in the Middle East.

This has begun isolating Iran, and more importantly taken away the political initiative from them. Moreover the fall of Syria will be net losses for Russia and China as well. There are some major risks though; Al-Qaida is starting to show up in the region, which increases the risk of an islamified state being put in place. But the truth is that US has probably learned, after our fighting in Iraq, and Afghanistan, that outside of the worst third world cesspools, the amount of influence the militants will wage is probably limited. Once again with Iraq and Afghanistan being examples. This doesn't mean that Al-Qaida couldn't be successful, remember their primary goal isn't the defeat of America so much as it is the establishment of either a new caliphate or baring that Islamic fundamentalist regimes, but the US has determined that the risks outweigh the potential costs.

Now before we rail against the imperialism/colonialism/militarism/whatever of America we must take into account this; that the Arabs have a vested interest in the fall of the Assad regime. They are terrified that Iraq could fall under dominion of Iran.  And if it does, and if Assad remains in power, then there would be a crescent of nations under the sway of the Iranian regime. Even if America does nothing, the rebels would have been funded by the Arab nations and the game would largely play out the same way. In this case the US is getting involved probably to have some chips in the game to help counter any potential regional powers, and of course Al-Qaida.

Now I would prefer that the US not be involved. I think the threat of Al-Qaida is over stated. We saw how they spectacularly failed in Iraq. They had a population, a substantial minority that was unhappy with the American occupation that was willing to side with Al-Qaida. But  Al-Qaida was so brutal that they made their erstwhile allies (the Sunni tribes) the strongest American allies in the country. But I also understand why the US does so (get involved). It's not for oil, but because of a foreign policy that has been on auto-pilot since the days of the Cold War. We originally became involved in the Middle East to keep it away from the Soviets. And like so many government programs, what once might have made some sense (though that's still debatable), continues on long past the point of reason.

I don't know how involved our government is in that affair (the rebellion in Syria); it could be very little and it could be a lot. But they are most certainly involved, and the reason why is because its stuck playing a game that has long since ended. We need to remember that the Middle East isn't as important as we think it is. We get more oil from Canada alone than we do from the entire region. And the reason we became involved was that we traded our economic power, by offering to trade them money and weapons for their oil, in exchange for them to not outright align themselves with the Soviet Union. However, despite the fact that I think we could pull away from the Middle East and suffer little to no real geopolitical consequences, the fact is that we are stuck. Governments are always playing the last inning of the last game.

But that being the case, we need to also remember that we are not the only nation doing this. A country's involvement in geopolitical affairs is directly related to their ability to do so. For powerful nations like America, China, or Russia that means covert actions and interfering in the governments of other nations. For smaller weaker nations, such as Switzerland, that might simply mean laundering money for despots. This is part of the reason why I am not as dovish as other libertarians (nor am I as hawkish as neo-cons).

The idea that we can return to colonial style foreign policy is not only historically wrong, the United States did involve itself in foreign affairs from the get go such as the Barbary wars, but not realistic. I understand that circumstances will dictate action, action that I might not like, but action nonetheless. That being said, by and large, a substantial portion of our foreign interactions, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo, etc, are unnecessary and counterproductive to our long term ends. In fact the US has a luxury that most other nations do not, we can afford inaction. The US is so powerful; our dispute of the oceans and of space is unchallenged, that if our nation’s leaders were a bit wiser, they would realize that we can do nothing and be no worse off.

But keep this one thing in mind. Whether or not the US had gotten involved with Syria the end result would have been the same. Too many other nations have an interest in seeing the current regime fail.

Stratfor: Beleraus Video

Another free video from stratfor.

Monday, July 23, 2012

It Doesn't Matter If One Government Project Fails...

We'll just keep pumping out government sponsored programs until we have an economy! That is the thinking of Chinese bureaucrats despite that fact that a 130 of their state sponsored airports lose a little over 300 million dollars a year. And it's safe to say that this is the thinking of our current, and preceding, administration as well. Remember, despite the fact that no real audit of the stimulus has been done, the fact that we have an official 8.2% unemployment rate, probably closer to 15% when government 'accounting' has been accounted for, and 1.7% growth rate shows that the Stimulus 'worked'. Never mind that estimates vary on how much was spent per job, but that it could be as high as $4.1 million. Spending eighty three times the average income per job? Now that's success! Never mind that no one knows which jobs were stimulus created and which ones weren't.

The mind of the bureaucrat, and especially the collectivist minded one, will only see the things that it wants to see, despite evidence to the contrary. In China this means they brush aside the ever mounting evidence that their prolific 'public works', which accounts for more than half their economic growth, spending is bankrupting its cities and strangling its small businesses. And it’s the same sort of world view that will ever prevent socialists from admitting that we do not live in a capitalistic society and the disconnect is so large that presidents can make potentially campaign ending speeches that are diametrically opposed to fundamental American values. Even when the weight of their shibboleths becomes too heavy for the foundations that they have created they will resist seeing the light.

Remember, the history of government I have never heard a collectivist ever say that the government did too much. Bankrupt America? Too few social programs. Companies going over seas? Too few regulations. Cities going bankrupt? Unions not strong enough. Remember, to the collectivist, individual freedom and responsibility is anathema to their very being. They may not hate America or her people, but they deplore our values, look down upon those who do not think them.

Generation Gap

My parents generation had a saying 'Don't trust anyone over 30'.  That phrase takes on a whole new meaning today what with the baby boomer generation making no effort whatsoever to try and prevent the fleecing of their children.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

University Shakes Down Student Who Excels

It has become common knowledge that college is absolutely necessary if you want to achieve the middle class lifestyle that your parents could obtain simply by finding good steady work.  Presidents, politicians, activist, teachers, parents, and of course, school college advisers (they aren't counselors any more) tell you that it is absolutely vital.  However, what they don't tell you, and frankly many do not know or are unwilling to see, is that there are many degrees out there that will do you no good whatsoever.

Moreover, the costs of school have become so great that in many instances you could never hope to repay your loans in anything that would resemble a timely matter; much less a time frame that would make such an expenditure a sound investment.  The savvy among the college bound decide to go for degrees that have real demand and/or practical skills that can be taught.  The savviest take extra summer classes and overload during the school year in hopes to blow through the program and minimize their debt load.  Sounds like a great idea, however, universities might have something different to say about that.

You see universities are not beacons of education, or cities upon the hill, or a melting pot of new ideas. They are a business, do not think otherwise.  They exist to part you from your money in exchange for a piece of paper.  Now they will tell you that this piece of paper has value, and in the past it did.  But more many reasons, the value it once had has been all but erased.  Moreover, the university try to squeeze every last dime out of you that it can.  And that extends to punishing those that try to graduate early.  Nothing illustrates the craven nature of the university system today than a when a university sues a student who had the intelligence, and the ability, to get through his program early.  In the past this student would have been given a pat on the back, but not in today's climate.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Moon is Made of Cheese: Gun Control Logic

The terrible events in Colorado have brought back an argument that gets kicked around every few years after a terrible travesty like this happens.  This argument is that there are too many guns in America and that we need stricter regulation to prevent gun violence. This is an issue that I didn't want to blog about, and that I tried to ignore.  Unfortunately I happened to catch a glimpse of  a news program were a talking head was making some pretty fantastic claims, all without the slightest claim to credibility.  In the end I cannot help but blog about an issue that is very near and dear to my heart.  So I will wade into this fray, but apart from a brief introduction of the data, I will be going at it from a different angle.

The angle is that gun grabbers, as they are known derogatorily, being completely unaware, or just ignorant of the evidence, use logically sound arguments along with appeals to peoples emotions.   But there is a paradox to logical arguments, where on the face they appear to be sound, but with deeper examination they are shown to be false.  This not only applies to gun control, but many progressive arguments as well.

 Now this trope that America has too many guns is continually brought up, regardless of the state of gun control in America, and regardless of whether or not gun violence is increasing or decreasing.  A short google search will show you numerous examples of how not only murders, but violent crime in general, has decreased over the years. (though some would argue that perhaps its the result of America becoming overly medicated) Just look at this chart below

This has happened despite gun control becoming less regulated in the United States. The Federal Assault Weapons ban was allowed to sunset in 2004, and conceal carry went from almost no states in the 80s, and the dark days of murder rate almost double what it is now, to 49 states allowing some form of conceal carry in 2012.  Statistical evidence overwhelmingly proves that firearms do not necessarily result in an increase in crime, murder, or even suicide.  There is even a study that published by Harvard, not exactly a bastion of right wing ideology, that examined the data in America as well as in Europe that came to that very conclusion.  They found that gun control had no correlation to reduced or increased murder or suicide in Europe and that in America that gun control had a slightly negative correlation to reducing the murder rate.

Hopefully this small taste of the evidence out there is enough to convince you, if you already were not in the gun rights camp already, that there is some factual basis to the statement that guns do not cause crime nor have any affect on the homicide rate. Now we'll get into the crux of the matter.

The news reporter, or rather performer, kept saying "Even though Chicago has the highest crime right when it haves the strictest gun control laws I believe that it is because there are too many guns out there already."  Essentially he is trying to skirt the issue that Chicago has a murder rate three times that of the US in general, and in fact has seen more people killed in in their *fine* city than Americans killed in a war zone this year,  and make it seem like that its because there are already too many guns in the street and not that gun control is completely ineffective.  Naturally his solution would be to keep the gun control laws as they are and forcibly remove the guns that are circulating in Chicago.  It wouldn't work, Glasgow has strict gun control laws and its the knifing capital of Europe, and yes, Scotland has a murder rate less than half of America's, but it is also more than double other comparable European countries. America is a much more violent society than many other nations in Europe, there are a lot of theories on that, but it that would be a whole other blog post in its entirety.  (Perhaps Save Capitalism would like to weigh in on that matter and offer a non-American viewpoint.) I highly doubt that this man (the reporter) thinks about that.  In his mind his argument and reasoning is sound, and on the face of it is.  But he uses moon logic.

I call this moon logic because it is a case where the logic is sound based on a very limited set of criteria, effectively a bubble if you will. Here is an example of his reasoning. Assuming all these premises to be true:

  • The murder rate in America is high (relative to some western European nations).
  • Guns are used in most homicides in America.
  • Therefore, if we reduce the amount of guns then we reduce the murder rate.
Looks pretty good on the face of it. If we only look at the argument within the confines of the argument itself, you cannot deny the rational behind it.  But here is another argument, that within the confines of the argument, is logically sound, but obviously wrong.

  • The astronauts brought back moon rocks.
  • The moon rocks where made of cheese.
  • Therefore, the moon is made of cheese.

The final conclusion is obviously absurd and wrong, but it is still a logical one.  You may think I am pulling this argument out of thin air.  I am not, this was an example argument given in my GMAT study guide, before I realized that getting an MBA would be a waste of my money and time (Thank you Captain).  In the study guide it was trying to make a point to not use outside influences and experiences while taking the test because it would trip us up.  You see, when you analyze an argument, it only needs be logical if certain criteria are meet.  (You know if A=B and B=C then B=C kind of reasoning)  It doesn't have to be true, its simply a mathematical form of thinking, and if the parts all add up correctly then its a logical statement (remember this is only within the confines of the argument itself).  This is where a lot of individuals make a mistake.  An argument can be logically sound, but factually and empirically wrong.  Gun control arguments, outside of the most emotive ones, are like this.  In fact almost all of progressivism is like this.

Now if you ever point out the fallacy of their arguments, that they are logical but not using true data, you won't convince them.  Their Id will prevent them from accepting it.  I could point this out to that reporter all day until I was blue in the face but it wouldn't matter. However, the point isn't to convince the person making the argument (I have never ever seen an individual swayed by a single argument ever) but to convince those watching you too argue.  As long as you argue with reason you will plant the seed of doubt, or should we say   the red  pill, in someone and eventually they will come to see the world as it is, and not how progressives wish it to be.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bundling His Way Through the Election

So my morning perusing of blogs brought me to a website that brought to light something that I had never paid attention too, or known about before.  Bundling. It's been a while for a little while but only recently, the last decade or so, has it become real popular to bundle.  Know you might ask, what exactly is bundling, and why is it a big deal?  Well, up until this morning I was equally unawares because, while I am interested in geopolitics and economics, the interest doesn't extend to campaigning. I know the candidates make back room deals and skirt the law and looking into it would only serve to heighten my already high blood pressure. 

For the record I don't really care about the 2012 presidential election, or not that I don't care but that I know whoever wins won't change very much, after the departure of Mr. Paul from the scene.  I don't expect him to have an dark horse Warren G Harding style delegate win.  But that is neither here nor there.  The point is that I will not be doing a lot, or really any, coverage of the presidential election, but I am getting off task.  I stumbled into this little info graphic, seen below, and it piqued my interest.

The first thing I noticed was the massive amount of money Obama has raised since April of 2011. (It should raise eyes that Obama has been campaigning since early of 2011 because that would essentially meant that, after discounting the first six months of his presidency as learning the ropes, he has only really dedicated his time for governing for about a year and a half.)  A cool tenth of a billion dollar, and if there is anything that can be said about Obama, is that he is an effective campaigner, perhaps rivaled only by Mr. Paul, with a network that is very much behind him.  The numbers behind Romney are murkier, particularly because he hasn't released all his information yet, but it will certainly be an expensive election.

What caught my eye though was that 8 out of every 25 dollars was from a bundler.  Since I didn't know what a bundler was; I perused further.  Bundling apparently had started to be used after the enactment of FECA, but it was George W. Bush who took it to the next step during his 2004 election.  Not to worry, the democrats have just been as effective as using this strategy as the republican party. But in short bundling is simply when highly motivated and influential individuals convince individuals to give checks to their candidate in one big "bundle", hence the name bundling.

The breakdown of the bundlers isn't anything you wouldn't expect, about 20% of his downers worked in law  with another 13% working in securities and investments.  It also must be nice that non of these donors are lobbyists, so technically Obama isn't breaking any previous anti-lobbying promises he made, but only a fool would think that these 'individual' aren't lobbying.  And I also find it interesting when you look at the bundling chart that the 7th most prolific blunder is an employee of the Departmental of State. Everyone else in the top ten, save for a DreamWorks employee, works for some sort of financial and real estate firm (big surprise). When looking at Romney's you see some financial firms, such as Barclays' employee, but its the expected most up of large businesses.

Either way Obama has an obscene amount of individuals who have donated to his cause, and the election season still hasn't officially kicked off.  I don't really care that people are bundling, they can do whatever they want with their money.  But it certainly is disconcerting that this news hasn't gotten out more.  Let's not kid ourselves, this is essentially lobbying by any other name.  These aren't small time contributions, or peanut individuals, like with the Paul campaign, but well established mucky mucks in whatever industry they are in. And with Mr. Obama there are quite a few individuals who reside in D.C (but no one is surprised are they).

I am going to break down this chart and show a little graph of where each candidate gets the most of their bundlers later. But for know I'll let you peruse the site and reflect on the strangeness of businesses giving moving to perhaps the most unfriendly business president we've had in a while. But then we know why they are donating, to either one of the candidates:

P.S If Obama loses the election his recent gaffe, and it is a gaffe, on how business owners didn't build their businesses, will be it.  It floors me that someone as highly competent (I assume) as he is at campaigning would make that kind of statement.  Fact is that while the crowd that Obama spoke too would eat his words up. The rest of America is going to raise an eyebrow, we all work for/know a small businesses owner who busted his ass, so the fact that he made such a comment either shows he is comfortable expressing his truest self; or he isn't nearly as effective as a politician as some would have us believe.  Do you think Reagan or Clinton would make such a statement? I might take a passive interest in this election if only to see which candidate wants to lose the most.  I thought for sure Romney's goose was cooked, but Obama might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Maybe the West Isn't Dead: Small Steps Forward

I wasn't intending another one of these so soon, but I just recently found out about this tid bit of information, and I am pleased as punch about it. Reason reports that last month New Hampshire passed and signed a law where that lets defense advocates inform the jury of their right to jury nullification; essentially where juries refuse to convict because they feel that the law is unjust.  This is big news.  The Supreme court has upheld jury nullification, however, they have also ruled that prosecutors and judges can screen out jurors if they believe that the juror intends to try and nullify standing law. And that sitting judges are under no obligation to inform jurors of their rights regarding jury nullification.

This is great news since jury nullification is a tool that citizens themselves can use to help combat laws that they feel are unjust.  While it drug usage is the most obvious example of where this will be used; I can see this possibly coming into play for anything ranging from gun rights to sound money.  Makes sense that the home of the Free State project would pass forward thinking laws, never thought I would use the word forward thinking since its the favorite phrase of progressives, that give more power to its citizens.

I've never seriously considered living in the east coast for the most part.  The western states, excluding the pacific coast, are generally more freedom loving and small government minded. However, New Hampshire is starting to look pretty attractive.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Maybe the West Isn't Dead: Great Street Performer

Captain's post on hist friend Kahn got me thinking about how so many individuals with real god given talent, and more importantly the drive to us it, out there who will have trouble succeeded the system as it is.  Music, television, art, and literature, there are many thousands of individuals who have doors shuttered on them.  In the past they would have been forced into perpetual anonymity.

Fortunately, in this hi-tech gee-wiz age, there are alternatives.  The Internet is perhaps the greatest tool that was ever created.  It's spread liberty, opened us up to new ideas (or old ones we never knew about), improved access to knowledge, and even good performers.  And since I get tired of posting doom and gloom, and since I actually am an optimist. I am going to do a post about how the West isn't screwed every once and a while.  This segment, how there still are good artists and performers out there.

If you haven't heard of him, Bryson Andres is one such of these dudes.  A talented individual, I defy you to not be happier after listening to this.

Here's another one. I actually don't care for Soul Sista that much, but he does something with it. But then strings and brass make everything sound better.

Perhaps the west isn't screwed.

Why You Should Rethink Getting A Masters In Public Administration

There was something that I noticed yesterday when I was at my girlfriends gym, I had foolishly agreed try out her conditioning class in lieu of my normal regimen.  I was reading a profile of the personal trainers at the gym, typically standard fare for the most part.  Some went to university and graduated with a degree in kineseology or sports nutrition. Others simply had certificates.  But there was one that grabbed my eye.  This trainer had went to the same university that I had, albeit he had graduated 8 years before I had, and had a degree track very different from the others.

In 2000 he had graduated with a bachelors in criminal justice and seven years later he had received a masters of public administration from the University of California.  Now you may be thinking that this is just another one of the many examples that the Captain often cites when he talks about future overly 'educated' barristas.  Normally I would be inclined to agree. That this individual had amassed massive amounts of debt to obtain degrees with dubious market potential, however, unlike so many other wannabe public servants out there, he had something different.  He was a former Captain in the US military.

What does that mean?  It can mean a whole host of things.  One thing people often don't know, but this is true, is that as you advance in the military more education is required.  I could look for links to show this, but its my lunch break and I am going to take some liberties and simply go off of what one of my Marine buddies, and a future Army Officer, told me when we were drinking one day, around the time you want to become a Lieutenant Colonel, or maybe a Major, the military expects you to get a masters degree.  They also expect, and require, that all flag officers, i.e Generals, have a doctorate.  What this means is that the gentleman, and regardless of what I think of a criminal justice degree his service has earned him the honorific of gentleman, is that his degree may have simply been taken as a required step in a military career.  It stands to reason that public administration or political sciences would be very popular master degrees in the military field. 

You might be thinking why he is a trainer now? Well there are a whole host of reasons, but the one that I'd like to think is true, having never spoken to the man, is that he woke up one day and decided he was done with his military career and wanted to do something simple and personally rewarding.  Trainers can make decent money if they are very good and work in the right areas, they can also make next to nothing.  If that's the case, then more power to him.  However, I want to shortly cover another possibility. The one where personal training wasn't his first choice.

What if the man had woken up, and instead of thinking I want to be a trainer, decided he wanted to work in the public sector.  It stands to reason that a man with a masters from USC and a position in the military that required oversight of up to 225 men could easily get some sort of job in the vast public bureaucracies.  What if he tried and couldn't? What does that mean for the life long student who received an masters in the same field but no practical experience like our Captain trainer? (Or he could have gotten such a job and realized he hated it and decided to go into personal training from there, either way the point stands)  The fact is that there are thousands of officers and other individuals who have degrees and the practical experience of needed.  What chance does Brianne Berkley, who spent her time at every protest rally she could, or Larry Loyola, who boozed his way through 6 years of study, of getting the same job that battle hardened, or at the very least military disciplined, veterans and servicemen would gun for?  That is on top of the favoritism and backscratching that goes on for government positions.  The answer, not much.

My own uncle, a former military linguist and now higher level federal employee, said as much.  Sure you get a lot of talented and hard working people in the government, however, he said you get as many individuals that had no business being there, save the fact that they knew someone.  Now, I am not knocking the good ol' network. It's a fact of life that knowing people helps you get work. Doesn't matter how good you are, no one will notice you unless you either, a) advertise how good you are, or, b) develop a network of people that know how good you are.

I could talk about my uncle and his experience with dealing with less than competent employees, and he has some good stories to tell, but back to public administration.  The point I am trying to make to anyone considering a degree in any like field, though I highly doubt people who have public administration degrees or inklings towards them would read a blog with a conservative libertarian bent, to not do it.  There are a lot of people out there that realize that getting a masters in english isn't going to net you any monetary benefits.  Sadly, many of those individuals will still think that a public administration degree will have some kind of value to it.  It doesn't, or at least it won't for the majority of those who will receive them. You will go up against the likes of those who have a resume far more impressive than yours.  Moreover, as the government implodes, and it will most certainly implode, those positions will disappear; and the only ones getting the ones that remain will be the son of such-and-such a senator or former military. Do not get a degree in public administration.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The American Century

According, and as can bee seen via their graph below. To Stratfor, the 21st century is the beginning of the North American century.  This might be odd, considering that we call the 20th century the American century.  But what they are referring too is not the most powerful nation at any given time. But where the axis of world politics turns.

When viewed in this light the graph makes more sense.  Britain didn't cease to be the worlds most dominant power in 1848, however, its ability to control and direct the course of European politics, which was the axis of the world during this point and time, did change.  Once Germany united in 1871 European, and from there world, politics and strategies circled around how to deal with Germany and their position as the rising star of Europe.  The Cold was also a time period were the world turned on a European Axis.  Yes America engaged in wars over in the east to try push back or contain Soviet influence in Korea and Vietnam, but the center of it all was Europe. The USSR could never match the US without the advanced economies in the west (West Germany and France) either in their direct control or under their influence. And it was in Europe were everyone anticipated conflict.  Europe was incredibly important in terms of geopolitics, as whoever held the advantage in Europe would hold the advantage in global politics.  This changed with the fall of the Soviet Union.

With the rise of the Pacific, both economically and politically, the nations along the pacific rim are exerting more influence on the global stage than in years past.  Trade in the Pacific, thanks in large part due to the demand by the United States, is now larger than trade from the Atlantic, though trade in the Atlantic is still large.  With the relative decline of Europe, and the relative rise of Asia, the ability to control the oceans is now even more important.  During the age of Europe, while Europeans did have overseas colonies and forces in the East, the pacific was almost an after thought.  The Americans were able to expand their influence as the only major power that bordered the pacific (and when Japan rose to be a rival naval power in the east war resulted).

The US is in a unique position that allows itself to project both in the developing, but economically dynamic, orient and in economically stagnant, but wealthy, occident. And until such time that the divide between the east and west becomes as great as it was during the 18th to early 20th centuries the ability to project power in both spheres is vitally important.  Moreover, the North American continent has the 2nd largest GDP in the world, well above Asia, not far behind Europe, and about 85% controlled by a single nation.

Now, a lot of individuals might say that Europe's GDP is going to decline, they are right, and that Americas GDP is going to decline, also most likely right. That China and the Asian nations will see their GDP grow, and they may be right but I disagree (As I have frequently stated in my blog posts).  I say that because outside of small nations like Singapore, Asia has tied their economic fortunes to being the low cost exporters of the world.  Japan has moved on to high-tech goods, but at one point they did the same thing that China does now, and their economy is still very beholden to export.  With the two largest consumptive markets already showing a decline in demand, and with some nations like China unable to foster domestic demand of their own. Their growth prospects are diminished, for now.  Coupled that fact with the knowledge that nations like Korea and China have economies that, if not state run, are heavily managed by the state, and if believe in free market economics, then you can see how Asia's growth will be hampered for now.

For the time being, couple of decades, may a century, perhaps longer, the axis will revolve around the North American continent. One only need to look at the business section of a newspaper to see this. Despite China's growth everyone is looking to see what happens in North America first, they are the dog, and everything else is the tale.  If the global axis point falters so does the rest of the world.  Part of this is the circumstances that developed simply from America being the largest and richest economy. The other part was intentionally implemented by our leaders over the course of via political, economic, and monetary policies (How many other nations can export their inflation?)  And that is what Stratfor means when they say that the twenty first and not the twenty is the American century.

America may go to hell in a hand basket. But things are oriented as such, that if we go down. Everyone else is coming with us. We, or rather our leaders, have created a global economic system that needs to have America at the center*.  Rome did this to great affect thousands of years ago, and Britain, until she exerted herself in the early 20th century, did so for her dominions as well.  It's a system were nations actively try to ensure that America does not stumble (Why else would they continue to buy our bad debt?) because the fallout would be disastrous for them.

Now I could be wrong. China might not face economic collapse, though I am of the firm opinion they will, and that the BRIC nations could replace America as the economic and political engine of the global political and economic marketplace. But in my opinion to think that is to ignore that the very things we aggravate over, excessive government interference in the economic, burdensome regulatory environment, growing corruption, and inept leadership, are the same things that plague those countries as well.  At the very least well see in the next few decades if Stratfor's opinions are right or not. I'd say grab some popcorn, but I doubt well all feel much like eating while we watch this next decade unfold.

*This is also ignoring that somehow Mexico doesn't get its act together and seriously challenge the United States for the biggest boy in the Western Hemisphere slot. Something that I am doubtful about, but others, like Stratfor, say is a possibility.  Either way, if Mexico were in the driver seat its still a North American century. Just one without America at the helm.

Sorry Mr. French President. The Sun doesn't circle the Earth.

The post by Save Capitalism today inspired me to do a one panel comic.

It might as well be the same thing.

Stratfor: The Paradox of Chinas Naval Strategy

I've been talking about the South China sea recently, and it just so happens that the free article Stratfor is releasing this month gives a little historical background on China's strategy for that region of the world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Garbage Science

As you have no doubt read or heard via some news outlet, women for the first time ever scored higher than men on the intelligence test. No doubt the harpies on jeezebel cackle in delight at the news, while others might wring their hands that men aren't able to perform like 'smartl, independent, and driven' women.  My own take on the matter is that this is the best example of garbage.  There are a few reasons why but nothing better exemplifies the fact than this quote from the linked telegraph article
"This is a consequence of modernity. The complexity of the modern world is making our brains adapt and raising our IQ."
This in itself shows that the conclusions flawed simply because a) people suck at multitasking and there has been no indication that juggling multiple balls and responsibilities makes us any more capable than we were before, it only stresses us out.  This is simply the continuation of the myth perpetuated by many 'girl power' advocates that they can have it all; however, reality shows that trying to have it all just burns young women out, (and in fact burns young men out. You can't work 50-60 hours a week, binge drink on the weekends, chase tail, and live like a frat boy forever) and even higher profile women are now saying you can't have it all.  But this of course will be ignored, for now, and the science of this study go unquestioned.

Now I am shooting from the hip, and that can get you into trouble. But looking at the original article there is no citation to the study.  This is important because a person needs to know where the test came from.  I showed this article to my girl friend and she came to the same conclusion that I did, that this was junk science, because as she said "You're the only person I have ever meet that actually took a clinically administered IQ test". The fact is that 99% of the population has never, and will never, take an honest to god intelligence test.  They are expensive, they last forever, and they frankly suck.  I was forced to take these tests when I was younger and I hated it.  This means you have a very small section of the population from which the results are extrapolated to everyone else.  I wonder if the results are extrapolated form other standardized tests. Something Vox linked too in his many articles on intelligence.

Moreover, this means nothing more than that a particular batch of individuals, who have taken the test, scored better than others.  I have always stated that IQ is elastic and can increase or decrease given ones mental activity (or inactivity in some cases).  I say this because I have the clinical records, signed by a doctor no less, that proves it.  Nothing has been illustrated or revealed to us, though you will get some absolutely brilliant (the sarcasm is heavy here) comments like this:
“I think women probably always knew deep down that they were the more intelligent ones – but as the gentler sex we were quiet about it and let men continue to believe they ruled the world"
This same person probably decried how these tests didn't really mean anything when they showed the opposite. And back then she would have been correct.  But the cancer that feminism has become, a social agenda that seeks government enforced privilege of a gender over another rather than human rights, you will get all sorts of justifications that will come from bad, or rather inconclusive, science.

It's like the women earn 70% less than men line, all the while ignoring that men do more dangerous and dirty jobs and that market economics dictates that those jobs make more money.  Now are there instances where women are paid less than men, while doing the same job, simply for being women. I'm sure it does happen.  The world isn't a perfectly fair place.  But this hand wringing, crying, and harping needs to stop.  The time and effort that is spent by social 'scientists' over things like this could be better spent on real problems. Isn't there something called ocean acidificaiton (but that sort fo thing is studied by real scientists)

So in conclusion. Trying to prove which gender, or race, is more intelligent than another is a waste of time. I personally believe that there is no real quantifiable difference that cannot be explained by environment or culture. However, I could be wrong, but even if that is the case, it's still a waste of time. Because what is true in aggregate isn't necessarily going to be true in particular. (A great example is how BMI tests are horribly flawed when it comes to very muscular and active indiviuals.) That means even if women, whites, chinese, english or whoever can scientifically be proven to be smarter than men, minorities, koreans, non-english or whoever that given the vast variations between individuals that your better off judging in a case by case basis.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Capitalism Ended Famine

Above is a short video interview done by Reason magazine with 'The Locavore's Dilemma' by Pierre Desrochers.  It's a pretty good short video that I took three points away from.

1) According to the author he grew up on a farm and farming was a job.  Tough and dirty. Not this almost spiritual connection that you see with some in America today.

2) That it was the implementation of the beginnings of the global supply chain network, railroads and steam shipping, that ended famine.  Food from prosperous regions like the great plains or California could be shipped to areas were food was not as easy to come by, such as Alaska or the deserts in the southwest.

3) That the local food movement is incredibly naive.  When you see that the local food movement started in Berkley, a very wealthy region when it comes to agriculture, you can see why it became so popular.  It wasn't difficult to get all the food one needed in Berkley, and since it was local, they got the added benefit of feeling good about sticking it to the 'corporate machine'. 

Well, as one can readily assess, it is a lot harder to go local when one lives in a desert, or even in an island that cannot support its population with what agriculture is available, such as Hawaii or Japan.  Places like Hawaii, Saudi Arabia, Japan, or Alaska are able to get the food they need because they exchange services or materials that others desire in exchange.  That's capitalism right there, you got something I want and you got something I want, let's trade.  It's the reason why humanity has progressed so far in 200 years, and the reason why prior to the articulation by Adam Smith, of principals that had been sussed out over from the 17th century on, that the average human being lived lives hardly distinguishable from their ancient counterparts. Big 'agri', as it is often derisively called, is the reason why we Americans have the luxury of dying from diseases that result in us being fat from lack of self control and not starving to death like the poor souls in Africa.

Now, its not that I dislike the local food movement, I don't. (There is an ice creams shop that I frequent that makes it a point to get ingredients locally) If individuals want to buy food that is locally grown, thus supporting local farmers, and environmentally friendly then more power to them. You really can't find fault with someone purchasing those goods, whether it be for reasons of taste or simple progressive sentiment, and when they exercise their prerogatives according to the principals of the free market I have no beef with it whatsoever.  I myself prefer 'organic'  meat, eggs, and milk for the taste. It's when groups of individuals try to force their viewpoint, through taxes, government funded incentives, or out right bans, that I take umbrage.

It also makes sense that this sort of food movement, and its most militant adherents I might add, sprout up in bastions of progressivism like Berkely. Berkely has the good fortune of being in one of the most fertile regions of the world (in addition to being in one of the most politically benign and wealthy countries in the world) so there is little cost to going local.  People aren't going to starve, and given the plethora of crops that are grown in California, they will still be able to get their ahi-aoili sushi or what not. In effect, many of the adherents to local foodism, and there are many that I know, while doing so for laudable reasons, are shielded from the worst possible side effects due to having the good fortune of residing in a nation that is often called 'the worlds breadbasket'.

So the next time someone complains about talks about how corporations are pumping us full of chemicals or how inumanely they treak livestock (things which I don't like by the way) take care to mention that if it wasn't for these industries tens of millions, if not hundreds, would starve to death. And then mention how hydroponics and aeroponics, which are industrial methods of producing food by the way, are the real future of feeding humanity

News Forward: China gets worse

Every once and a while when reading blog posts and forums you will hear someone express dismay that we are ceding our future to the Chinese. That we cannot compete with them, that they are faster, smarter, and more motivated than us.  And while in some respects its true, the individual Chinese person is very hungry and wants to improve their life, that fact is as a whole its not.

In what seems to be a general theme these past couple of months, things are getting worse for China. MSNBC reports the slowest growth rate in 3 years.  Now you might say, but Cogitans, their growth rate is at 7.6%, that isn't exactly suffering and most developed nations would kill for a growth rate at that level.  And yes on the surface that seems the case, however, as the article mentions, the data being presented from the Chinese is highly circumspect, even some of the highest leaders in the Communist Party admit as such.  Whether using coal consumption or electricity usage, the metrics show that economic growth is decreasing, or perhaps even contracting, its tough to say for sure.  But here are some things are known.

1) Much of China's growth recently has come from their stimulus program, which relied heavily on infrastructure projects. I have said this many times but these kind of projects can have a long term negative GDP impact.

2) China's consumption is no where near the levels it needs to be for their production, so they are an export based economy. Which means that if other markets, can't or won't purchase their goods then they will have economic troubles.  With the two largest consumption markets, America and Europe, struggling this means economic woe for China.

3) Real estate bubble. Yes, there are some that argue that China's property market won't collapse, but I tend to ignore these.  You can make up a whole host of convoluted arguments on why so many things are good. But I have found that the analysis of the most simple metrics is generally more accurate than whatever super duper formula some whiz kid thought up.  China's real estate market is in great excess of real demand. That's a bad thing.

4) And lastly, and perhaps the most important point of all. There is no such thing as controlling an economy. You just can't do it. No matter how smart or how knowledgeable your team is, they are doomed to fail. And given that those in power are often the most economically illiterate of us, well, we should simply call technocracy the top men fallacy.  China is not doing anything that the USSR, Japan, France, or the Asian Tigers has not already done before it. We know how this story ends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your going to work to the grave

Forbes today has an interesting little Op/Ed about social security and retirement.  The permise being that you will work until you die, actually to the age of 70.  But considering how the article doesn't even touch on the fiscal realities that face us, such as medicaid, or that our liaiblities far outstrip our assets then you can assume that the retirement age will only creep upward. 

He even tries to paint a silver lining by saying that the youth of today are far more college eduacted, and that college educated individuals tend to work less physically demanding jobs, so it won't be that bad.  Makes me think of a certain blogger that rails about the preponderance of worthless degrees and the net drain they have on a persons economic potential. Furthermore, even if you are studying a worthwhile degree don't expect to have any sort of job worthy of your skill level.  Things are bad. I know guys who graduated as engineers, accountants, IT, or programmers who had to, or continue to, languish in jobs below their skill set.  I graduated with a finance degree, and while not as bad as a liberals degree in terms of employability, even with numerous internships under my belt I languished in an underpaying job for a year and was unemployed, outside of side work that I never reported, for a year after that.

Frankly, as a senior member of the millennial generation, I actually remember the transformers, GI Joe, Battle Toads, and Swamp thing, I advise you to be skeptical about any career advice you get from individuals a decade or older than you.  And while some would argue that the baby boomers have it out for you I would argue that they are simply too far removed from the realities that you face.  They came of age in a different era and in a different climate.  I remember relatives and older mentors advising me not to take such and such a job because it paid far too low and would hamper my future career prospects and that jobs that utilized my skill set would be forthcoming.  I really wished I hadn't listened, because while their advice would have been sound even a decade ago, it isn't now.

Take what you can get. Know that your employer doesn't necessarily have your best interest in mind. Think of your self as a contract worker. And always look for ways to expand your skill set or supplement your income.

More cities Bankrupt

In the 6 decades since Congress passed bankruptcy protection for municipalities only 500 have been field.  Anyone want to place any beats on how long it will take for another 500 to be filled?  With San Bernardino becoming the 3rd city to file for protection, I would be willing to wager that a conservative estimate will have that number being equaled by 2020 if no sooner.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A question of ethnicity

I found an interesting article yesterday were an academic running against an incumbent Massachusetts Senator is caught fibbing about her racial heritage. This appears to have hurt her campaign as where it was once considered a cakewalk for her, she is a democrat running in a very progressive state, the race is now neck and neck. It is also a testament to how entrenched the democrats are in that state since anywhere else the news that she has possibly lied, and taken advantage of the lie, about her heritage would have been a game ender.  I won't go so far to say her campaign is done. As I was once unpleasantly surprised four years ago when a governor that should have lost won simply through having the good grace of coming up for reelection right around a presidential election season in the same camp as a very popular candidate.

However, it has gotten me to thinking.  One of the aspects of the story, that she didn't lie but overstated her heritage, is an interesting one.  At what point does it become absurd to identify yourself as a member of a group that only makes up a small fraction of your blood?  You know the blue eyed blond haired individual, spoofed in South Parks a History Channel's Thanksgiving, or that claims a primary heritage that is very obviously a small or inconsequential part of who they actually are.

It doesn't even have to be that small a part. Morgan Freedman doesn't consider Obama a black president, saying he is instead a multiracial president.  Now Freedman isn't wrong about Obama being multiracial, but it certainly started a small whirlwind of criticism towards him.  And it could just as easily be said that the whole argument is a waste of time, that being 1/3 Bantuu, 1/8 Japanese, 1/32 Scotch Irish doesn't mean anything more than being 100% American.  Ultimately I would agree with the sentiment, but these kind of identifications are important to people.

So I ask anyone who reads this, at one point can someone no longer claim a heritage?  For example, and I am simplifying here because my family genealogy is rather intertwined with many ethnic groups through out Europe that simple fractions can't be used, that I am a 1/4 Irish.  I have many other ethnicity's, like English, Austrian, Prussian, and so on and so forth, but Irish is the largest percentage and the one I have the most affinity too. And by most affinity too I mean that I do know the counties that my grandmother 's and grandfather's on my mother's side comes from. I know some of the legends and the folklore but that's about it. I don' speak with a brogue and I know no living relative from my immediate or close extended family that hearkened or lives in the Emerald Ilse. I identify as an American, and I usually respond as such.  But it is vogue here in America to identify with some 'other' sub-group, so after some pressing I say that I am an Irish-America (Though if I am drunk enough I just simply start singing the theme song from Team America)

This can get rather interesting as there are individuals out there with a very diverse range of ethnicitys.  Many of them simply identify themselves as multi-racial, though there are those who gravitate to a particular one.  Would it be absurd from my children to identify as Irish if it only makes up an 1/8 of their heritage, even if it is the largest percentage of a diverse lineage?  Part me says yes.  I'd say that anything less than a 1/8 and it gets kind of absurd to identify yourself with a group that you are more than 3 generations removed.  You could even be stricter and say that if you do not know a relative of yours that actually have memories of the motherland, and from that true intuitive knowledge of the culture, how can you really claim to be a part of a group that you know nothing about?  According to that notion, I shouldn't identify myself with the Irish whatsoever.

In the end it is a mostly harmless game that we Americans like to play with our self-identity.  One that I understand.  When you identify yourself as an America you can only claim a heritage that is a few hundred years old, admittedly with strong ties to a culture from England that is much older.  I think some Americans suffer from a sense of cultural loss because we can't point to American cultural traditions more than a few hundred years old.  The Irish, Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Chinese can all look towards a culture that gestated over a thousands years ago if not longer.

But that brings me back to my original question.  At what point would you say that a person should stop identify with a group of people. Is it an arbitrary point of fractional ethnicity, like 1/8 or 1/16, or is it when you can no longer know of any living relatives from your 'mohterland' or is it at some other point entirely? Perhaps a person can, or should, be free to claim any cultural heritage no matter how tenuous the connection.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.