what's been floating my boat lately:

"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
-Albert Einstein-

8/7/18 (20:35)

  • lately there was a lot of talk about civility in politics and political discourse. basically the argument from the hardcore left is that fascism and white supremacy and power structures in general can't be contended with in a civil way. they also contend that civility itself is a patriarchal structure that has been created by, simply put, the man. i've listened to this debate a bit and can't say i've been moved by the arguments the radical left is putting out there. i think it's absolutely central that we have a civil discourse. civility in politics are of paramount importance and giving in to incivility is the beginning of the end.
  • basically i think that politics are like a friendly game of ping pong. the point of the game is to rally as long as possible. if one person is slamming the ball and going for kill shots all the time then it defeats the purpose. the longer we talk and stay at the table the better off we are. even if one side gets creamed for a couple decades (for example when the democrats ran congress for 26 years in the 60s and 70s).
  • i've tried to hire a couple times in the past and it's been very difficult finding people who even have the soft skills required for any kind of real employment. i'm talking about the ability to show up on time, speak basic english (unfortunately a requirement for me), and be generally willing to work. i don't know if this is specific to the trades or what. then there's the next level that i'd like which is someone who can do the basics of carpentry or wall patching or whatever. fine homebuilding magazine has a podcast and they were in SF for the PCBC and talked about how so many of the local contractors were having trouble finding guys who could even show up to help lift a beam on occasion and help keep the jobsite clean. what's been most disconcerting, however, is the lack of pipelines there are for this work. on the one hand it's nice for me because it makes me more valuable. i'm not the most skilled tradesman in the world, but i have more than enough work for the two of us because i can get the job done, communicate well, don't scare people, and demand is insanely high. but on the other hand it's very disconcerting. there are a lot of (mostly) young men who should probably go into the trades instead of working fast food or as janitors or getting into trouble on the streets. they don't fit into the classroom, but a trade school or wood/auto shop in high school could change their trajectory. unfortunately those pipelines don't seem as strong as they once were. unions are corrupt, only viable on the commercial/civic level, and too stale to change their ways. guilds could be a solution, but i don't think they were ever really a thing here.
  • i've talked to the head of the carpentry program at laney and asked her to get me people on two different occasions and both times no one contacted me. either she lied about giving them my info or they didn't care to follow up the lead. after this article came out in the paper i contacted the program about getting someone who could help me on the jobsite. no response. so, we have a meager pipeline for this type of work and no one associated with it seems to be doing their job and/or the people in the pipeline are of such low caliber that they can't even get it together enough to follow up on career leads. or maybe my experience isn't indicative of a larger trend (even though it's corroborated by the FHB podcast and every single contractor i've spoken with about it).
  • it's kinda easy to forget about how good metallica is.
  • the bill of rights is pretty awesome. i think the average american could probably come up with 1, 2, and 5 off the top of their head, but all (except 3) are so foundational and interesting to consider as a whole.
  • 1 is freedom of speech and assembly. i think it's #1 for good reason.
  • 2 is right to bear arms. i think it's really important if you think of it as i think it was intended - as a way of avoiding a standing army. the so-called gun nuts are right about the 2nd amendment when they say that it's about the people keeping the government in check. it would have been nice if it was interpreted this way, but that didn't work out for whatever reason. viewed this way, i think it being #2 speaks volumes about what the founders wanted (or didn't want) from their government...namely consolidated power backed up by a standing army. as-is we got the worst of both worlds in a way. we have pretty open gun laws in a lot of places AND we also have a large and powerful federal army.
  • 3 is about quartering soldiers. i don't know that it applies to today's world at all.
  • 4 is right against illegal search and seizure. interesting ramifications in today's tech world, but i basically see it as a right to privacy and basic dominion over your own property.
  • 5 is the right to not incriminate yourself and the right to due process. pretty fucking important and starts the run of amendments about criminal justice.
  • 6 is also about criminal justice and covers the right to a speedy jury trial. foundational.
  • 7 is also about criminal justice and expands jury trial rights. 3 in a row limiting the ability of the government to lock up its citizens.
  • 8 is also about criminal justice and limits excessive bail and cruel/unusual punishment. 4 in a row about locking up the citizenry. i think it's very telling that 4/10 of the bill of rights are about placing restrictions on the government's ability to lock up its citizens. it would be really nice if we took these four amendments way more seriously.
  • 9 says that there are other rights of the people, not listed in these 10 amendments, and the government can't restrict them just because they're not listed here. in my perfect world you could have gotten gun rights in through #9 and #2 would have been about limiting the standing army. #9 is also the way we got the right to abortion.
  • 10 is possibly the most abused amendment of all. it basically is the states' rights amendment. presidents have been shitting on this amendment for 100+ years.
  • it's obvious, but i was looking at them again this week and really admiring how good a job they did 240 years ago in laying out a good framework for the limits of power the government can have. i just wish we stuck more closely to their prescription. things get tricky when you talk about the intent of the second amendment and all that, but amendments 5-8 being about limiting the government's ability to lock people up seems really important and contrary to what has followed. it's a shame we haven't lived up to their intentions.
  • prime working age (25-54) employment is 79.5%. this is evidently a relatively high number, but it seems awfully low to me when you think about the u-3 (most reported unemployment rate) number being something like 4% right now. that's the number that's always reported, though i prefer the u-6 (7.5%) which takes into account discouraged workers. but the prime working age employment number is only 79.5% which means 20% of people in that age range aren't working. this is just shockingly low to me. of course it's higher now than in the booming 1950s and 1960s (when it was in the mid 60s range) because women weren't in the labor force then at the same rate that they are now. i think if you adjusted for that, it may be higher, but i don't know. 4% for the u3 is very low historically so maybe i'm wrong. just tough to think that a fifth of people who are in the prime of their working life aren't working.
  • for reference, people over 55 are at 40%.
  • in the mid 1990s 16-19 employment rate was about 67% during the summer months. today it peaks at 42%. this means it's 25 percentage points lower in just 20 years. in other words, there's real truth to my saying that the kids these days don't work as much as they did in my days. teenage employment peaked in the late 1970s at around 72% in the summer.
  • this point about teenage employment relates to my post above about finding people with soft skills required for employment. if only 42% of teens are getting work in the summer then how can we expect them to show up on time, etc. when it comes time to get a real job in their 20s?
  • obviously i'm looking at a lot of US bureau of labor statistics data right now...another finding (which is somewhat well known now with the recent immigration talk), is that immigrant labor participation rate is higher than native born people. i've said for a while now that i'd take a lot of illegals over the lazy people who were born here. if you're willing to leave your life and cross an ocean or travel through a desert, or whatever, to get here then you're probably going to find a way to actually work. foreign born rate is 66% and native born is 63%.

  • 8/3/18 (21:05)

  • adjusted for inflation, there's been a 77% decrease in the number of psychiatric beds since 1970. we just don't have psychiatric hospitals like we used to. is it any surprise then that our prison population has skyrocketed during that time? couple the decrease in number of hospital beds for the severely mentally ill with the tough on crime policies of reagan and clinton and you can probably explain most of the graphic below.
  • i've written before about the liberal myths of privatized prisons and the war on drugs being the cause of the rising prison population. this isn't really the case and i've sourced that stuff before. i can't make a causal link between prison population and the decrease in psychiatric facilities, but i'd be willing to bet that the two are strongly causally linked, and certainly more than the two myths that are typically talked about (and which i once bought into). it was actually the liberal vox.com that clued me into the war on drugs being a fake cause for rising prison populations.
  • the next thing my (liberal) mind goes to is that the decrease in psychiatric beds is due to evil conservative politicians cutting funding, but i didn't find this to entirely be the case. instead it seemed to be largely cultural. one flew over the cuckoo's nest type hospitals fell out of favor. new drugs came on the market and funding shifted from hospitals to local programs funded via medicare/medicaid. in CA the LPS act (bipartisan bill signed by reagan) was passed and that decreased some funding on the state level. on the federal level reagan also moved funding to block grants and states chose to defund mental hospitals over other priorities.

  • block grants are interesting because they give the states freedom to do what they want with federal money, but the downside of them is that it creates a lot of opportunities for states to do questionable things with the money. politicians talk a lot about "50 laboratories of innovation", and indeed the federal system is one of the great things the u.s. has going for us. unfortunately those 50 laboratories can sometimes take that federal money and do dumb things with it. so, after a state tries a new way of dealing with the mentally ill or people on welfare, and it doesn't go well, people can easily go back and point out that the feds started doling out mental health money (under reagan) or welfare money (under clinton's reform) in block grants and some states wasted that money because there wasn't enough federal oversight or because the state had some weird ideas about how to spend said money. the other thing with block grants is that sometimes they're not adjusted for inflation properly so it's a de facto spending decrease. that said, i am, in principle, in favor of them. i like the 50 laboratories of innovation aspect and i do believe in montesquieu's idea that decisions should fall to the smallest available authority whenever possible.
  • when deciding how much authority a government should have should we err on the side of too much or not enough? it's strange because i think a lot of left leaning people would typically say i'd rather have too much regulation to protect the poor and the environment, etc., instead of not enough. but they're getting a lesson now (at least intellectually, if not in practice) on that thinking. the same people who lift up FDR and Obama and Wilson and every other leftist president who expanded the reach and power of the executive branch must now rethink their point of view. the problem isn't that a bunch of idiots voted for Bush or Trump...the problem is that we gave the office of the presidency, and the executive branch in general, so much power that when an idiot or tyrant inevitably snuck into the office, he could do real harm. people need to think about this deeply and overstand it. there's a big difference.
  • one measure of a just society, perhaps the most important measure, in my opinion, is to create a system in which you would be satisfied with your position regardless of where you happened to be. so, if i were born a black woman in america would i be happy with the current paradigm, the existing laws, the culture's way of dealing with me? if not, then perhaps something needs changing. i must quickly add that it's tempting, then, to make a communist system where the state forcibly equalizes everyone because then it wouldn't matter if you woke up tomorrow as a disabled veteran or a left handed transgender native american. this is clearly folly.
  • what percentage of u.s. workers earn the federal minimum wage or less? go ahead and take a guess. i was wrong when i guessed. latest number i found was below 3%.
  • i think one of the best arguments against the democratic party is in the form of medium and large cities that typically are run by democrats (and often for several continuous terms, as in chicago [democrat since 1931], baltimore [democrat since 1967], st. louis [since 1949], philadelphia [since 1952], detroit [democrat since 1962], SF (since 1964), oakland [since 1977]) and yet are overrun by crime and poverty. to my thinking, this is a real problem for a democratic platform that preaches wage equality or claims any ability to run a successful government. the democrats really need to do something about this if they want to make a claim that they can fix economic inequality or run an effective government.
  • when i think about government's core functions it's to provide law and order. that includes enforcing contract law, property rights, etc. and it also includes basic safety (police and fire) on the local level. for example: in oakland, 66% of the general purpose fund goes to police and fire. if one party's ideas consistently can't get the job done then i'd think you'd need to change things up.
  • look at cities like phoenix, san diego, LA, houston (to a lesser extent), NYC, etc. those cities have had at least occasional republicans in the last 40 years (unlike all the cities i listed above). those cities don't show up on the list of most crime. they also range in location, demographics, size, etc. my theory is that it takes diverse views and approaches to run things well. when you have a city like chicago that was run by one family (richard daley and his son) for 43 out of 56 years...it's not exactly the diversity of opinion we're looking for.
  • back to oakland. 66% of our general fund goes to two departments. that's $378 million and that doesn't even include pension payments (which add tens of millions, though i can't find the exact number). but the #1 single expenditure is "debt service and misc." to the tune of $283 million. when servicing your debt is your number one expense you're not doing something right. personally, i'd love someone who can balance a budget and decrease crime rates.
  • republicans talk about those two things all the time. on a national level this is something that you can argue they talk about, but don't actually follow through on very well (look at the budget under bush vs. obama, or reagan vs. clinton, for example). on a local level, though, it seems they tend to do a better job. wish i had some data on that to confirm or deny. regardless, oakland is paying way too much for police/fire, way too much for servicing their debt, and way too much for their pension (a defined benefit plan vs. a defined contribution plan - which is far better).
  • the general fund was $397 million in 2012 under jean quan. today it's $593 million. that's an additional $196 million a year in spending that oakland is doing. times now are good and so city revenue is high. there seems to be no urgency in paying off debts or having a rainy day fund. if you give the government more money it will spend it.

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