"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
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
1 is freedom of speech and assembly. i think it's #1 for
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
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%.
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
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
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.