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Why I’m Sick to Death of Hearing About “Inequality”   Leave a comment

If “inequality is increasing”, it can mean a couple of things:

  • The poor are getting poorer
  • The rich are getting richer, or
  • Some combination of the two

I care about poor people. I am agreeable to political measures to help them. If poverty is increasing, I see that as a dire crisis requiring action.

But, by and large, we have not been seeing great increases in poverty. We have been seeing the richest people getting richer, and the rest of the population has not been keeping up with them.

In 2006, I read the book “The Conscience of a Liberal” by the Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman. I did it to expose myself to a contrast to my own conservative views about economics. I was expecting him to go on and on about “poverty”. But he didn’t. I’m not sure the word “poverty” even occurs in the whole book. But he went on and on and on about “inequality”. It became pretty clear that Krugman lies awake at night, dreading the possibility that anyone else out there might have it better than he does.

It gets worse — he describes the Great Depression as the “Great Compression” because inequality was greatly reduced by FDR massively confiscating the property of rich people with ridiculous, extornionate tax rates over 90%. There were far fewer rich people at the end of the Great Depression, and Krugman thinks that was just dandy, he waxes nostalgic over this era. Most of the labor-saving devices we use to do housework hadn’t been invented yet, so women had to stay at home — being a “housewife” was a busy full-time job. In 1947, the median family’s income was 44% of what it is now, but the important thing is that there were far fewer of those oh-so-nasty rich people around so the likes of Paul Krugman could sleep soundly.

There are a number of problematic trends that are worth talking about:

  • the plight of the poor
  • median wage stagnation (in real terms — median wages have been keeping up with inflation as defined by CPI, but not increasing any faster than that)
  • medical inflation far outstripping CPI
  • many jobs that were previously done just fine by high school graduates now require a college degree (why?) and inflation of college tuition and the price of textbooks has far outstripped even medical inflation

All of those problems are worth talking about. And if you discuss any of them under their own specific name, I have no problem with you. But talking about “inequality” is intellectual sleight of hand, a way of pretending to be motivated by compassion while really being motivated by envy. Talking about “growing inequality” makes it sound to the uninformed like someone is getting worse off, which is baloney — in our times “growing inequality” does not reflect a trend of people getting worse off, it reflects the rich getting richer, and if you can’t live with that, I suggest you seek counseling.

And if people want to be especially misleading, they start giving figures on “wealth inequality” rather than “income inequality”. The thing is, culturally, most Americans don’t save squat. Only a few are too poor to save anything, there are many Americans whose income, in real terms, is stratospheric compared to many people in the third world who are getting by just fine. But they lack the maturity to save anything. American culture is about “keeping up with the Joneses” so you buy a house you can barely afford, same for your car, and tons of other useless crap, and the whole time it’s the height of bad manners for anyone to ask “Is it paid for?”. The financial sector has been doing such a great job of making credit available to such a large share of the population that people don’t see any need to save up a “rainy day fund”. If hard times hit, they’ll just go into credit card debt.

Sometimes you get figures like “the 8 richest people in the world have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the world’s population”. I’ve got news for you, the net wealth of “the bottom 50% of the world’s population” is very probably negative. You have more change in your pockets than “the wealth of the bottom 50% of the world’s population”.

In the US, except for really, exceptionally poor people, a failure to accumulate wealth reflects an inability, or at least an unwillness, to delay gratification. And there’s a lot of that going around.

Posted July 28, 2019 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

The Plan   1 comment

I see the left’s whole identity politics as a deliberate plan to destroy Western Civilization. To begin with, they don’t see that as a bad end, since they see Western Civilization as a criminal enterprise.

The society consists of a large number of demographics. In virtually all cases there are cultural differences between them, and very often intrinsic differences. These differences amount to advantages and disadvantages, so that if society is operated in a fair manner, treating all groups equally and basing everything on fundamental rights of individuals, different demographics will experience different outcomes.

With the wild success of market reforms in Red China after Mao’s death, followed by the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Warsaw Pact, the far left faced a crisis — everyone knew at that point that they didn’t know their asses from a hole in the ground about economics, so what were they going to talk about? So they went into new areas, mostly environmentalism and identity politics. These fields enabled them to vilify most of the same people who they had hated all along, with the added bonus that in identity politics, many in the Western World felt that the principle of free speech didn’t really apply.

They moved aggressively to punish anyone who talked about intrinsic or even cultural advantages or disadvantages between demographics. They never established any scientific or historic reason that such advantages and disadvantages couldn’t exist — they didn’t have to — they just said it wasn’t a nice thing to say. Once they had done this, they aggressively asserted that the only reason for a difference in outcomes was injustice. This warping of the rules of debate resulting in a spectacular over estimation of the amount of injustice in the society. The far left could then weaponize this perception as a tool to tear everything down.

This continues with a systematic and deliberate attack on American society’s symbols, heroes, and history, and an attempt to portray everything as unjust and unsustainable, as no one having justly earned anything that they have.

Posted July 16, 2019 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

The Pessimism of 2019   1 comment

I was born in 1960, but I had siblings 10 years older than me.  So by the time I was old enough to read, I was surrounded by many 10-year old children’s books bought on their behalf, and was an avid reader.  I was particularly interested in science, and the science books written around 1960 were extremely optimistic.  They were written by people who could remember using outhouses and refrigerators cooled by huge blocks of ice.  We were barely starting to have regular commercial flights across the Atlantic.  The improvement in the world that these authors had seen in their lifetimes had been enormous.  And they were very confident that we would have permanent colonies on the moon, if not Mars, by the year 2000.

The period around 1960 was just a very, very optimistic time.

The seventies were another matter.  There was a war in the middle east in 1973 and the US and Europe supported Israel, and the Gulf States retaliated by cutting off our oil supply.  This was followed by an energy panic lasting for years.  I remember reading, around 1973/74, that the world had 30 years of oil left, and 20 years of natural gas.  The media was full of stories about how we were running out of oil, how important it was that we conserve energy and somehow adapt our whole infrastructure to other sources of power.

In 1976, a lecturer came to my high school, and his thesis was that the 1970’s were a very pessimistic time.  One fact that he brought up was that the human race had more years of proven oil reserves available than at any previous time.  The lecture hall was silent.  That didn’t make sense.  It did not compute.  The media had been screaming at us that we were running out of oil for years.

He turned out to be right.  We were generations away from running out of oil.  The press was completely wrong.  The media had malfunctioned.

You’d think some intrepid reporters might have actually done their frigging jobs and spoken with people in the oil industry to find out what was going on.  But most of the press at that time leaned left, and to the left, the oil industry was a pariah, not to be engaged with in a civil conversation.

So the media followed fashion rather than fact, and society was completely misinformed about what was considered one of the most pressing issues of the time.  We should all remember that.  There’s no reason it can’t happen again, or that it’s not happening now.

It wasn’t just oil.  Pessimism was everywhere.  Post-Watergate, Americans tended to believe that everything was corrupt.  Movies about the future tended to be dystopias like “Soylent Green” or “Planet of the Apes”.  The popular movie “Capricorn One” speculated that the whole space program had been a fraud.

I remember an interesting intellectual at that time pointed out that the late seventies was a time when public debate was much more interested in problems than solutions.

2019 is an extremely pessimistic time in the United States, to put it mildly.

It is important to remember that the media currently has a very pessimistic bias.  Reporters nowadays are absolutely miserable.  The Internet has broken the business model of most publications, which are laying off reporters left and right.  The ones who can find work at all are barely hanging on.  So we’re all being informed by miserable people whose prospects are turning out to be much worse than they had been expecting a few years ago.

Cable TV, the Internet, and social media have provided diverse forums for a variety of conversations to take place.  Different forums have different, wildly conflicting ideas about what the boundaries of acceptable discourse are, which ideas are reasonable, and which one are beyond the pale.  People have coalesced into tribes talking in different forums.

A huge amount of social media content is outrage of one tribe at what the craziest people in the other tribe are saying or doing, which is all very negative.  Very, very little constructive communication between tribes is going on.  Both tribes believe very deeply that the prospects for American society are dismal and it’s all the other tribe’s fault.  So the only consensus is that everything’s going to hell.

I have mixed feelings about Democratic Socialists.  On the one hand, they are proposing a lot of ideas that they think will improve things, so at least they’re being positive in that way.  At the same time, most of what they are proposing is completely politically infeasible, and in an attempt to motivate the public to accept their ideas, they try very hard to convince everybody that the status quo is horrible and unsustainable, so they, too, feed into the atmosphere of negativity.

Things are, in many ways, much better than they used to be.

  • As the human race has learned from a wide variety of social experiments around the globe, including the discrediting of the Marxist economic model, we’ve gotten better at running countries, and this has led to prosperity in the third world increasing faster than nearly anyone was hoping for.
  • Violent crime in the United States, which was a terrible problem in the 1970’s, has been reaching new lows.
  • Today, we’re concerned about left-wingers in the Antifa beating up very small numbers of people with their fists, while in 1971 we had radical leftists exploding more than a bomb per day in this country.
  • 50 years ago it was widely believed that within a few decades, every country in the world would be struggling terribly with overpopulation, and governments were going to have to forcibly prevent people from reproducing too much.  The problem just went away by itself in most places with only China, and to a much more limited extent, India resorting to that draconian measure.
  • When I was in college 40 years ago, checking facts meant a time-consuming trip the library, and even then it wasn’t clear that they were going to be easy to find.  My peer group believed, and passed around, a lot of highly inaccurate “facts” that they got from each other by word of mouth.  That still goes on, but, now, we all have access to the Internet and with it, access to highly reliable sources of information for very little effort if we’re at all interested in them.

What is the most constructive response?

  • Make sure that you are sampling information from both tribes.
  • Be skeptical of whether stories that are just one tribe getting mad at the other are worth your time.
  • Try to avoid getting angry.  Anger can be addicting and it’s counter productive to really understanding what’s going on.  Social media seems to be designed to get everybody angry.  Don’t fall for it.
  • Don’t focus on the dumbest or craziest voices.  Focus on the smartest, calmest, most reasonable and constructive speakers.
  • The presence of problems is not necessarily a reason to be pessimistic or depressed. Try to get excited about solving them.

Posted July 5, 2019 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

When I Researched Islam   Leave a comment

I was in college in the middle of the cold war. The news was dominated by the clash of communism and capitalism. It was clear to me that I had to understand communism to understand the news. When I read Marx, I absolutely loathed it. He would make wrong assumptions on nearly every page, and go right on building on that thinking he’d proven every step. For another source, I spent a lot of time in bull sessions arguing with leftist college students, which was rough going because there were a lot more of them that there was of me and they would gang up and be abusive and rude. But it was really important to me to understand them so I kept at it and did get a pretty clear view of the leftist mindset.

After 9/11, it was clear that the news for a very long time was going to be dominated by the clash between western culture and Islam. So, just as I had to learn about communism before, I had to understand Islam to understand the news. So I studied it a lot. I read an abridged Koran cover to cover, which was stupid, because all the dirt had been abridged out. So I started reading an unabridged Koran.

I did not enjoy reading the Koran. At all.

In the Koran, Allah is talking to you, divinely revealed to Muhammed who dictated it to scribes. Everything is phrased as though Allah is speaking directly to the reader. In Arabic, there is a special pronoun that Allah uses to refer to himself, and translating that to “I” in English doesn’t really communicate the effect well, so in English he refers to himself with the royal “We”. And I really personally disliked Allah, he was not the type of person I would want to befriend, let alone worship. He was not what you would describe as a “nice guy”. He was more of a stern father type, who would beat some sense into you if you got out of line or gave him any lip. His values were in total conflict with mine.

But I was trying to have an open mind, and one thing about the Koran, is that it is constantly filled with vivid, detailed threats about how Allah (not the devil, but Allah) is going to horribly torture you in hell if you harbor the slightest shred of disbelief of anything this book says. And so, on a rational level, the book wasn’t very convincing, and on a personal level, I didn’t like Allah, yet on a purely emotional level, I was being intimidated into believing this book against my will. It was turning me into a Muslim. It really was.

I saw what this was leading to and quit reading the book. Basically, I couldn’t get through the book without a dire risk of enslaving my mind to someone I didn’t respect, couldn’t stand, and believed probably didn’t exist. I was very upset about this, because it was so important to me to become knowledgeable about Islam and the Koran.

The Internet saved that day. I found a website with links to dozens of other anti-Islamic websites that had done a lot of research into Islam and the Koran. And I found chat rooms where Islam was discussed. This was 6 months after 9/11, and the non-moderated chat room was filled with Islam-haters who were saying things like how they were using the Koran for toilet paper. It wasn’t terribly informative. But another, moderated chat room was a far better resource. There were all these really intelligent Muslim scholars there. If you asked an honest question, it would make it past the moderators and you’d get an answer, usually with specific scripture references, 4-8 hours later. I got to quite like some of those guys, and they didn’t mind me because it was clear that I was there to learn. I kept at this for a couple of months while unemployed during the dot-com bust.

I got to understand Islam better than pretty much any other person I know who was raised Christian.

One exercise that I had done was to go to the various anti-Islamic websites and see which violent quotes they would cite, and eventually I was hearing the same ones, over and over, and I thought, OK, now I’ve seen the worst of what the Koran has to offer.

Right around this time I had started going to a Humanist group in Silicon Valley, and someone there started emailing me appalling Bible quotes. I had attended Bible studies as a wannabe believing Christian at times in my adult life, but I had never subjected the Bible to the sort of inquiry that I had just done to the Koran, and decided now was the time.

The verdict is clear — the Old Testament is far worse than the Koran.

If a Muslim claims that all the violence in the Koran is about killing soldiers, not civilians, I can respect that. Historically, after Muhammed, some of the more violent passages were used to justify genocide, but it would not be unreasonable for someone to claim that that was not what Allah or Muhammed had intended. In the Old Testament, they are very specifically clear about exterminating men, women, children, babies, livestock, and pets — “anything that breatheth”.

There are some passages about religious tolerance in the Koran (superceded by more intolerant quotes made later, particularly in book 9, the final and most belligerent book — there are a lot more than 9 books, but they’re not in chronological order, and book 9 was the last). In the Old Testament, religious tolerance is generally seen as one of the greatest possible sins.

The Old Testament is fundamentally and centrally extremely bigoted against gentiles, sometimes genocidally so. I saw a statement in the Koran, on the other hand, saying not to put too much stock in a person’s complexion. The Old Testament is all about being born into the tribe, while the Koran welcomes anyone willing to believe it, of any ethnicity, from the get-go.

As far as I can tell, there is no afterlife in the Old Testament. The worst thing that can happen to you is that your bloodline will be wiped out, like happened to King Saul. That’s it. The New Testament, as far as I can tell, invents the afterlife, and it’s very vague — something about fire in hell, and Heaven’s very nice without saying exactly how (but there’s specifically no sex in Heaven, everybody’s above that sort of thing up there). In the New Testament, Hell is forever. In the Koran, the afterlife, particularly Hell, is all over the place. There’s lots of sex in Heaven, and gay sex with boys, which is forbidden while alive, and non-alcoholic wine. But in the Koran, almost no one goes to Hell forever. That only happened to a few guys who really personally pissed off Muhammed. Everybody else, you’re in Hell until Allah figures you’ve learned your lesson, then you get to Heaven and, if you’re male, get your virgins (every male gets at least 2).

Once I asked the Muslim scholars “About these virgins — do they have souls? Are they interesting to talk to? Are they capable of sin?”. Nobody answered me.

One of the biggest value clashes that I have with Islam is that the ideal of the marketplace of ideas as a search for truth is very, very central to my world view. For this to work, you need freedom of speech and ideological tolerance as pretty much your highest ideals. Islam doesn’t think that way at all. Allah knows, if not defines, what’s true, and he told it to Muhammed, who arranged to have it written down, and that’s that. Anyone who disagrees should get his ass kicked or worse.

Posted February 9, 2019 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

The Identity Politics of the Far Left   Leave a comment

The far left’s view of identity politics is scientifically inaccurate, and morally depraved. They claim that:

The truth or falsehood of a statement depends very strongly upon the group membership of the person saying it.

One’s right to speak at all depends very strongly upon one’s group membership.

Original Sin exists, where some people are not only “born guilty”, but irredeemably so, by dint of their group membership.

Western Civilization is a criminal enterprise.

Race is a social construct, yet racial differences are so profound that “privileged” races are unable to understand the experiences of other races, and shouldn’t even try. They should just listen to whatever is said by the most hateful representatives of those other races and agree without question.

The only prevailing gender difference, innate or learned, that is allowed to be discussed is male criminality, otherwise known as “toxic masculinity”, which we are to go on and on about.

Popular generalizations about social groups are “stereotypes” and as such are always wrong, except for those that are casting privileged groups in a negative light.

Due process does not apply when a member of a privileged group is accused of bigotry or sexual predation by a member of a less privileged group. The accused has no rights, and if they fight the rap, are to be condemned in a petition signed by all of their peers. The only acceptable response to such an accusation is to confess, apologize, beg for forgiveness while professing self-hatred, resign from any post they hold, and check into rehab.

All differences in outcomes between groups where privileged groups are doing better are explained by “oppression” and “injustice”. Any attempt to discuss any other possible explanation is to be met with hysterical outrage.

All differences between outcomes where privileged groups are doing worse (i.e. higher rate of homelessness among males, lower rate of college graduation among males, 93% of deaths on the job are male, single childless females of a given age earn more than single childless males of the same age) are not to be discussed.

What is really, really bad about these identity politics is not just that they are so profoundly stupid and morally depraved, but they pervade all aspects of the liberal world view. They can’t talk about anything without dragging identity politics into it, and when that happens everything goes insane.

Posted February 8, 2019 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

The Lie That is Destroying the Social Fabric of America   Leave a comment

This video (click here), published by the Bernie Sanders campaign, concludes that “The greed of Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase is destroying the social fabric of America.”, actually, Jamie Dimon and Chase have both been doing a great job for America.  The lie about Wall Street told by Bernie Sanders and much of the press, that the bailout was a gift and not a loan, has been “destroying the social fabric of America”.

If the bailout had been a gift and not a loan, that would have been 100 times more outrageous than what really happened.  Yes, the bailout was bad, people should be upset about it.  It’s like if I broke into your house and stole your TV, that’s bad and I deserve criticism.  But I don’t deserve to have everybody believe that I stole your TV and raped your wife.

That lie, believed by most of the public, has caused the public to believe that American society is 100 times more corrupt than it is.  It fueled the rise of the Tea Party, the rage of the poorly educated against the educated “elites”, and a culture of outrage and hatred in American politics at both ends of the political spectrum, driving voters into the arms of lying, hateful demagogues promoting idiotic ideas, such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

One argument is that what went on during the financial crisis was so profoundly deplorable, that no amount of hyperbole or exaggeration is excessive — that whether the loan was paid back was a minor detail, it’s the difference between infinitely bad and infinitely bad. I disagree. Facts matter. A hundred times awful is worse than awful.

This lie is very widely believed.  None of the professional fact checkers, like Snopes, flag it when it is told.  Nobel Prize winning economist Josef Stiglitz told it, over and over again, in his book “Free Fall”, about the financial crisis.

In the video, the Sanders campaign is so hateful that they take one statement by Dimon, “A recession could be good for JP Morgan” and take it way out of context to vilify him.

Let’s look at some of the claims by the video:

  1. “Wall Street crashed the financial system”.
  2. “Chase was bailed out.”
  3. “Chase is 70% bigger than it was before the financial crisis.”
  4. “The business model of Chase and all of Wall Street is fraud, pure and simple.”
  5. “Chase has admitted to wrongly foreclosing on thousands of people and overcharging them for their mortgages.”
  6. “The greed of Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase is destroying the social fabric of America.”

Here’s what really happened: Chase was one of the best-run banks prior to the financial crisis, and it was in good enough shape to rescue two other huge banks, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. Chase did not particularly need to be bailed out, but the Fed’s policy was that all the banks had to be bailed out, to avoid particularly stigmatizing those banks that were bailed out. Banking regulations are so complex and byzantine that if they are all stringently enforced, they can basically make it impossible for a bank to do business, and those banks that tried to refuse the bailout loans were threatened with exactly that unless they took the loan. So all the banks took the loan.

Let me repeat that: loan. The “bailouts” were loans, not gifts. But the press widely reported them to the public as gifts, and in the 2016 campaign, half the time Bernie’s lips were moving he was talking about the bailout, and when he did, he always chose his words, always phrased it, to make it sound like the bailout was a gift and not a loan, and the press never called him on it. Most of the public thinks Bernie’s a regular “Honest Abe” while half the time his lips were moving in 2016 he was lying his ass off.

After forcing the banks to take loans in the fall of 2008, the government did “stress tests” on the banks to determine if they were fit to pay back. In June of 2009 several banks, including Chase, were permitted to pay back, which they did immediately, which did get mentioned in the press, but not with enough attention for most people to notice.  Note that claim 2 of the video “Chase was bailed out.” true to form, fails to mention that Chase was forced to take a loan which it did not want, and that it was one of the first banks to pay it back, which it did immediately when permitted to, with a profit for the government.

So claim 2 “Chase was bailed out.” is a profound lie of omission.  Bernie must know that it was paid back.  Somebody must’ve told him.

The Democrats used their near-filibuster-proof majority in congress to pass Dodd-Frank, a 2000-page monstrosity, because Democrats always believe that anything bad that happens Is because of a lack of regulation. The result of this was that only the biggest banks, such as Chase, could afford the armies of lawyers needed to figure out how to comply with it, let alone to make any money at the same time. This resulted in a period, for the next several years until the current administration wisely watered-down Dodd-Frank, where small banks were constantly being acquired by the bigger ones. The video cites the growth of Chase this decade as something sinister, when it’s just what happens when the government strangles the smaller banks so badly with regulation that they are all acquired by the best-run big banks.  This is the correct interpretation of claim 3 “Chase is 70% bigger than it was before the financial crisis.”.

Claim 5 of the video mentions some “illegal forecloses” and “overcharging”.  Any business at that scale is going to make some accounting mistakes, and they’re not telling the whole story. I remember reading in about 2011 that Chase was sitting on over 100,000 home loans that hadn’t received a single payment in 2 years. Those days, lots and lots of people were choosing to walk away from their underwater homes, especially in non-recourse states, and many of them were squatting in the homes for free rent until forcibly evicted. Banks had a huge backlog of foreclosures to process in a short time, and some of the banks failed to dot some ‘i’s or cross some ‘t’s in the paperwork. But according to Bernie Sanders, the banks were foreclosing just to be mean.

Regarding claim 1 “Wall Street crashed the financial system”, it is a misrepresentation of reality.  Wall Street did not cause the financial crisis by itself.  Nearly everyone in the country, not just Wall Street, but also the homeowners and the politicians, believed, before the crisis,

  1. That it was a fundamental law of physics that real estate prices nationwide would always rise.
  2. That the best investment that anybody could make was to buy the dwelling that they lived in.

I remember this very clearly, because I believed neither of these things at the time and would talk about them to anybody who would listen, and almost nobody else could be reasoned with at all about either of these points.  The politicians did everything they could to have every Tom, Dick, and Harry buy their home, including lean on the banks to encourage them to make subprime loans to poor and minority home buyers.  And legions of home buyers lied their asses off on their loan applications, but somehow its the banks who are the bad guys for believing them (and while the banks had to pay billions of dollars in fines for misrepresenting the quality of bonds, I never heard of any home owners prosecuted for lying on loan applications).

Any time everybody believes that a price can only rise, there will be a bubble, and when bubbles burst, it’s painful, especially when the bubble is being sustained with loans. Fraud is not a necessary ingredient of a bubble and its catastrophic end.

The other thing about the over-optimistic (supposedly “fraudulent”) bond ratings is that a lot of that optimism was based on the reliability of rising real estate values.  If the home buyer didn’t pay, the home would be worth more than the outstanding value of the loan, so the bank could recover everything through foreclosure and the bonds would not default.  So if real estate prices had continued to rise as nearly everybody was expecting, most of those bonds would have performed as rated.

Regarding claim 4 “The business model of Chase and all of Wall Street is fraud, pure and simple.”, oft-repeated by Bernie Sanders (and he always shouts the word “FRAUD!” when he says it) is a flat out lie.  Some fraud occurred in the lead up to the financial crisis, but the real estate bubble, its bursting, and the financial crisis, all still would have happened had there been no misrepresentation of the quality of the bonds.  And the occurrence of fraud in some instance at some point in the past hardly makes it Wall Street’s “business model”.  Most of the public, in most of their interactions with Wall Street, do not experience any fraud at all.  They get credit cards and checking accounts and home and car loans, and they know exactly what they’re getting into, get money when they need it, pay off the loans, and lead better lives as a result.  In the meantime, many home buyers still lie their asses off on loan applications, secure in the knowledge that, no matter how severe the consequences for anyone else, they will never be held accountable in any way.

Posted January 12, 2019 by xyquarx in Uncategorized

The Use and Misuse of Facebook   Leave a comment

I spend a lot of time arguing with people on Facebook about politics. I feel very strongly that there are right and wrong ways to do it.

Politics on Facebook are very dangerous. By friending people who say things that you agree with and de-friending anyone with whom you disagree, it is very easy to slip into a comfortable cocoon of like-minded people on one end of the political spectrum who post only news stories and personal ideas that reinforce the world view of that group, and opinions about how stupid those who disagree are. Once this happens, you can frequently post opinions that are pretty dumb and that insult the living daylights out of people who disagree with you, with the experience that your posts go unchallenged and you get a lot of likes. You can become utterly convinced that you are intelligent and well-informed, when in fact you are nothing but an ignorant, obnoxious loudmouth who is utterly incapable of a civilized conversation with anyone with whom you disagree. There’s a lot of this going on.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Americans have come to so dislike the company of people who they disagree with politically that they have even been *MOVING* to areas with like-minded neighbors. So contact in our daily lives with people who disagree with us has been becoming rarer.

So one of your most valuable resources on Facebook is intelligent people who disagree with you and will say so. Every once in awhile they will prove you wrong, and when they do, it is important that you publicly admit it. They’ve earned that, and if it happens every once in awhile it is important that you reward them with that recognition, otherwise they might unfriend or at least unfollow you, and quit providing this vital service.

Another issue is that people who don’t know each other, by virtue of being in the safety of their physical isolation, can get much, much fiercer and more rude than they would be if they were sitting in the same room.

As a result of all this ferocity, many people who do have opinions hesitate to say anything but are really, really put off, being pushed in exactly the opposite direction of the posts that they are hearing:

If you want to discuss politics on Facebook, it is vital that you never friend any work colleagues.  There is a lot of talk about how free speech is jeopardized of college campuses, but that’s nothing compared to the situation in the workplace, where free speech as an ideal never existed.  The consequences of a bitter political disagreement in the workplace can be severe (I lost a job in 1999 without ever disclosing my party affiliation — just defending “the free market” when most of my co-workers were trashing capitalism was damning enough).

A lot of people never discuss politics on Facebook, but there is still a danger.  Watching all your friends show the best things going on in their lives, their vacations and their most photogenic selfies (and many people, especially young women, have become geniuses at digitally retouching their selfies) and seeing your friends do activities that they didn’t invite you to, can lead to quite an inferiority complex, or at least depression.

Posted October 20, 2018 by xyquarx in Uncategorized