Big Brother is Watching You

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2013

Week in Review

I have a friend that once worked in construction.  A small company.  They did a job at a gay bar on an industrial street.  It was the only place opened late night/early morning for a mile or so in either direction.  It was an old part of town.  The street lighting wasn’t that good.  Which made their parking lot very dark.  So being a good business owner concerned about the safety of his cliental he installed security lighting in the parking lot.  To make it bright and safe at night.  Once the job was done and the owner saw it at night he was very pleased.  And the very next day he called my friend’s company to come back that day to shut these lights off.

Funny thing about a gay bar.  About this particular gay bar.  It just wasn’t a place where people came for drinks and camaraderie.  Not this bar in the middle of nowhere with a pitch-black parking lot.  Where the gay clientele went there to meet other gay men.  And if they hit it off they went to the darkened parking.  And did things they couldn’t do in a well-lit parking lot.  Men who were testing the water outside of the closet.  Others who remained in the closet for work or personal reasons and felt safe letting their guard down in such private location.  Perhaps even people who were just questioning their sexuality.  Who didn’t want family, friends, coworkers or neighbors to know.  At least not yet.  For these reasons and possibly numerous others men went to this gay bar.  Because no one could see their car in that parking lot.  Or what they might be doing in that parking lot.  So if something as innocuous as parking lot lighting could spook the clientele  imagine what this could do (see Pubs to escape demand to install CCTV if trouble-free posted 6/14/2013 on BBC News UK Politics).

Pubs in England and Wales with no history of trouble will no longer be forced by local authorities to install CCTV systems, the government has said…

In many parts of the country, pub landlords have been told they must install CCTV, which can cost several thousand pounds, to monitor entrances and exits or face losing their licence…

Community Pubs Minister Brandon Lewis said: “CCTV has a role to play in stopping and deterring crime in anti-social behaviour hotspots.

Not too long ago a college student committed suicide.  Because his roommate filmed a sexual encounter he had with a friend and uploaded it to the web.  This person had not yet come out of the closet.  His world changed after that prank.  So much so that he couldn’t bear to live after it.

People expect privacy.  Whether they’re going to a gay bar, are having sex in their dorm room or going through the airport only to have their most personal belongings tossed about in public.  They don’t want to worry that their every movement may be watched and recorded.  Proponents of public safety will say if you’re not doing anything illegal then you have nothing to hide.  But there are a lot of things that we do that aren’t illegal but could be very embarrassing.  A night out with the girls can get a little rowdy.  But most things we do can pass into anonymity.  Which is why people can relax and let their hair down.  Let off some steam after a stressful week.  But if we fear our every movement ends up on a surveillance tape somewhere we will stop relaxing.  Stop letting our hair down.  And stop letting off steam after a stressful week.  As we feel the cold stare of Big Brother ever present over our shoulder.  Living in fear that someone somewhere may see us NOT acting like everyone else.

This is where we’re heading.  To the dull gray world of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Where there is no happiness but only fear.  Fear of the state.  Fear of Big Brother watching our every movement.  Fear of getting caught doing something that the state doesn’t approve of.

Is this the world we want to live in?

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Chicago has a Gun Problem while Britain has a Knife Problem

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2013

Week in Review

Gun violence is out of control in the US.  And knife violence is out of control in the UK (see Two teenagers arrested over stabbing murder of 17-year-old boy in Bristol by Rod Minchin posted 6/15/2013 on The Independent).

Two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of murder following the death of a 17-year-old boy.

The victim was stabbed near the junction of Cossington Road and Newquay Road in the Knowle West area of Bristol shortly before midnight yesterday.

The youth was taken to Frenchay Hospital but died shortly afterwards, Avon and Somerset Police said.

Sad.  But not all that uncommon.  For the Sun reported in 2010 that six people a week are stabbed to death in the UK.  Or 312 each year.  With stabbings leading all homicide deaths.  It’s getting so bad that some are calling for automatic jail time for knife possession.

So how does this compare to a big American city?  Say Chicago?  In 2012 there were 443 homicides by firearms.  Their leading homicide weapon.  So the city of Chicago has more homicides than all of Britain.  Even though both have very strict gun laws.  But they also share something else in common.  They both have gang problems.

Gangs kill.  Whether with a gun.  Or a knife.  If you get a handle on the gangs you reduce the number of homicides.  Whether there are guns—or knives—on the street.

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Aging Populations and State-Provided Health Care will Stress State Systems to Collapse

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2013

Week in Review

When people provided their own health care and retirement nest eggs it didn’t matter if the population was aging or getting younger.  For each person planned to take care of him or herself.  But when the government took over health care and retirement nest eggs the age of the population began to matter.  For when the state provides these benefits they have to pay for them via taxes.  And if the population is aging that is a big problem.  Because more people are leaving the workforce and consuming health care and pension benefits than there are entering the workforce to pay for them.

Which means the government has to increase tax rates on those paying for these benefits.  And when people are living longer into retirement it really throws a wrench into the state’s plans.  For it is requiring a level of taxation that simply isn’t possible.  And this is exactly what the baby boom generation is doing to advanced welfare states throughout the world.  It’s causing greater governmental expenditures.  Resulting in larger budget deficits.  And financial crises (see Our aging population set to put a heavy toll on our systems, and we’re not ready by Simon Kent and Shawn Jeffords posted 6/14/2013 on the Toronto Sun).

The first baby boomers began turning 65 in 2012, and by 2036, one out of every four of our neighbours will be elderly…

“We don’t have a health care system in Canada, we have an acute care system,” [Sharon] Carstairs [former senator and was the first woman to lead an opposition party in Canada] after becoming Manitoba’s Liberal leader in the ’80stold QMI Agency.

The very sick are cared for well but we don’t do a good job of keeping others at home and out hospitals and high-cost facilities.

“We’re using acute care hospital beds to hold thousands of Canadians who should be in long-term care or home care,” she says…

Canada has a “little bit of breathing space” for preparations to cope with aging boomers, but not much, suggests University of Toronto professor emeritus David Foot, one of the country’s most respected demographers.

“We need to get this right to prepare for that boomer onslaught,” Foot says. “We can have an excellent system if we choose to.”

Zero hour is 2027.

“The first boomer born in 1947 reaches 80 in 2027,” Foot says.

That’s when the critical mass, the largest bulge of the baby boom, approaches 80 and will require the most care of their lives…

Canada needs to train gerontologists, therapists, psychiatrists, palliative care nurses and specialists, replace the workforce of aging nurses and the army of some 3 million volunteers who currently provide the bulk of in-home care to seniors, say experts…

“The sheer number of baby boomers that will be drawing on the system will magnify and put pressures on the systems that has not been felt before,” he says.

Both the United States and Canada have aging populations.  And a baby boomer bulge coming down the pike.  It will make it very difficult in Canada.  And far worse in the United States.  For they have about 9-times the population of Canada.  And will have 9-times the baby boomer bulge.  Making it a very poor time for the state to take over more pension and health care spending obligations.  Which is exactly what the Americans did by passing Obamacare into law.

The United States is already suffering record trillion dollar deficits.  By the time Obamacare pays to train gerontologists, therapists, psychiatrists, palliative care nurses, specialists, etc., and builds nursing homes to handle the baby boomer bulge the deficit will soar even higher.  Unless there really are death panels in Obamacare.  Which may be the only way not to break the fiscal back of the nation.  Well, there’s that.  Or they could let people provide their own health care and retirement nest eggs like they once did.  And then the age of the population would be irrelevant.  For it basically comes down to these two options.  Either we pay for our own health care and retirement.  Or the government will have to figure out how to cut costs.  And how do you do that when the largest cost is caring for the very old and the very sick?  In a word, death panels.  Well, two words, actually.

Welcome to the brave new world of Obamacare.

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Women are Choosing to get Paid Less so they can have More Time to be Mothers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2013

Week in Review

If you listen to some politicians there is a war on women.  Especially in the workplace.  Where evil business owners pay women less than they pay men.  At least that’s what the data aggregate tells us.  That business owners are not only greedy but sexist.  But there appears to be more to the unequal pay between men and women than the data aggregate shows (see Let’s Not Forget, Many Working Moms Want To Work Less by Erika Christakis posted 6/12/2013 on Time Ideas).

It’s almost become a cliché to note that women are still under-earning compared to men in the workforce. But maybe this reality shouldn’t keep surprising us. The recent headlines miss an important part of the work-life balance story: plenty of working mothers are earning less than men because they want the sort of jobs and working arrangements which indeed pay less…

The benefits of part-time work are substantial. Parents can be wage earners and role models without, literally, losing sleep. They can preserve most of their professional identity and work skills but still provide support to a wider group of dependents than would be possible with a full-time schedule, and without going insane in the process…

It’s true that the trend toward part-time, benefit-free employment can be financially ruinous to individual workers. One fifth of the country’s jobs are part-time, and many are low-skilled, dead end positions. But it’s easy to overlook how unrewarding full-time employment can be for many people, too – especially when the researchers and reporters and pundits who write about workforce trends tend to have fascinating, flexible jobs with decent pay.

We should stop limiting what women and men value by insisting that everyone has the same work aspirations. Some of us don’t want to spend the most productive and precious years of our lives trapped at the water cooler with our ‘work spouses,’ and we’re willing to pay the price.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Makes Jane a dull girl, too, as it turns out.  Apparently mothers want to spend time being a mother.  Oh, how the left must hate this.  What with their birth control, abortion and morning after pills.  They want to see every woman childless and working fulltime.  Preferably taking a job away from a man.  Earning a big fat paycheck.  And paying a lot of income taxes.  Perhaps the true reason the left wants women in careers.  Stay-at-home mothers pay no income taxes.  That’s the whole drive behind state-funded childcare.  To get women back into the workforce as quickly as possible.  So they can resume paying income taxes.  Which is why the left demonizes conservatives.  And the 1950s family.  The Donna Reeds and June Cleavers.  Who were happy to spend time raising their children.  The very thought of which makes the left want to collectively vomit.

Motherhood is not something to shun.  To disparage.  Or to attack.  Women aren’t less of a woman for wanting to spend more time with their family.  Instead of shipping their kids off to childcare so they can work fulltime.  Because one day they’ll stop and notice that their kids are no longer kids.  But going off to college.  And they’ll wonder where did the time go.  As well as their childhoods.  Wondering where they were when their kids grew up so fast.  Then they’ll look at the big house.  The two new cars.  The nice things in their home.  And the empty rooms where their children once played.  Then ask themselves, was it worth it?

A lot of women are saying “no.”  It’s not worth it.  So they’re taking part-time jobs so they can spend more time with their kids.  Which is why in the aggregate businesses are paying women less than men.  Because women chose jobs that pay less.  So they can spend time doing something more important.  And more fulfilling.  Being a mother.  And God bless them for it.

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Entrepreneurs Fail not because they are Stupid but because of an Anti-Business Environment

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 16th, 2013

Week in Review

The ‘capitalism’ we have today isn’t our Founding Father’s capitalism.  Yet critics of today’s ‘capitalism’ act as if it is.  And point to the inherent flaws of this ‘capitalism’.  As an excuse to bring in more governmental regulations to fix the problems of ‘capitalism’.  Which is the reason why today’s ‘capitalism’ isn’t capitalism.  It’s not the same economic system that made the United States the number one economic power in the world.  No.  It’s moved more towards European social democracy.  The system that gave the European nations their sovereign debt crises.  But those learned intellectuals speaking from their ivory towers still talk about fixing the problems of ‘capitalism’.  Without really understanding what the real problem is.  And it ain’t capitalism.  It’s the interference of capitalism and free markets.  This is the source of all our problems today.  And unless you address these problems you’re just wasting your time (see How to Reduce ‘Infant Entrepreneur Mortality’ by Sramana Mitra posted 6/10/2013 on the Harvard Business Review Blog).

Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, intellectuals have had to ask themselves, ‘Does Capitalism Still Work..?’

Two particular problems stand out. First, Capitalism has been hijacked by speculators. Second, the system enables amassing wealth at the tip of the pyramid, leaving most of society high and dry. Both problems have resulted in a highly unstable, volatile world order that jitters and shocks markets periodically, leaving financial carnage and mass scale human suffering.

The first problem with ‘capitalism’ today is that intellectuals are trying to fix it.  There isn’t anything wrong with capitalism.  The problems we have today have nothing to do with capitalism.  Because what we have today is state capitalism.  Crony capitalism.  European social democracy.  We have too much government in capitalism.  Who are favoring their big corporate friends in exchange for big corporate campaign donations.  And the only reason we have these speculators is because of the government.  Who is pumping so much cheap money into the economy for the speculators to speculate with.  And when their crony capitalist friends fail the government bails them out with tax dollars.  Because there is no downside to speculation when you have friends in government speculators will speculate.

People like to blame the banks and Wall Street for the subprime mortgage crisis.  But they didn’t create that crisis.  They just played their part.  The government created it.  By pumping cheap money into the economy to keep interest rates artificially low.  To encourage people to buy houses.  Even those who weren’t even considering buying a house.  Or those who simply couldn’t afford to buy a house.  These people changed their behavior based on the government’s manipulation of the interest rates.  As the government intended to do.  And they made everything worse with policies to encourage more and more home ownership.  The big one being Bill Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending.  Where the government threatened lenders to lend to the unqualified or else.  So they did.  Using the subprime mortgage to qualify the unqualified.  And then the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie May and Freddie Mac, bought those toxic subprime mortgages from these lenders, chopped and diced them into investments called collateralized debt obligations.  And sold them to unsuspecting investors as high-yield, low-risk investments.  Because they were backed by the safest investment of all time.  The home mortgage.  Only they didn’t tell these investors that these mortgages were toxic subprime mortgages being paid by people who couldn’t qualify for a conventional mortgage.  The safest investment of all time.  The conventional home mortgage.  So these lenders were able to clear these toxic mortgages off of their balance sheets.  Allowing them to issue more toxic subprime mortgages.  They were making money by writing these risky subprime mortgages.  But incurred no risk.  So they kept qualifying the unqualified for more and more mortgages.  Which was profitable.  Safe.  And kept the government off of their backs as threatened in Bill Clinton’s Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending.

This isn’t capitalism.  This is government and their crony capitalist friends using their power, privilege and influence to game the system.  To enrich themselves.  This is what caused the mess we have today.  Where speculators and those in government get richer.  While Main Street America sees its median income fall.  And entrepreneurs struggle to stay in business.

Everybody talks about the role small businesses play in growing economies and creating jobs. However, as it stands, in America alone, 600,000 businesses die in the vine every year. This colossal infant entrepreneur mortality is a product of colossal levels of ignorance about how to build and sustain businesses.

And a myriad of governmental regulations, taxes and a litigious society.  Entrepreneurs today have to spend a lot of money and time protecting their money and time.  They need accountants and tax lawyers to help them comply with an ever growing regulatory environment.  And a boatload of insurances to keep the sharks at bay who all want a piece of their wealth and will sue if given the least opportunity.  It’s so complex that if they try to navigate their own way through these enormous burdens places on business they often make mistakes.  Or simply overlook something that they shouldn’t have.  Often times they just don’t charge enough to cover all of these costs they never expected when starting their businesses.  So when, say, a tax bill comes due they simply don’t have the cash on hand to pay it.  And then the downward death spiral begins.  This is why restaurants and construction companies are the number one and number two business to fail.  Where we have brilliant chefs and trades people who can cook or build something better than anyone else.  But are so out of their element when dealing with the business side of their trade.  The regulatory costs, taxes, insurance, etc.  And find they spend more of their time not doing what they love—cooking or building—but pushing paper through a labyrinth of red tape.  And often don’t find out they are not charging enough to cover all of the regulatory costs, taxes, insurance, etc., until it’s too late.

There is actually a method to the madness of entrepreneurship. And while the ‘character traits’ that support entrepreneurship — courage, tolerance for risk, resilience, persistence — cannot be taught, the method of building businesses can and should be taught.

In fact, it should be taught not just at elite institutions, but at every level of society, en masse.

If we can democratize the education and incubation of entrepreneurs on a global scale, I believe that it would not only check the infant entrepreneur mortality, it would create a much more stable economic system.

No.  That’s not the answer.  The reason why a lot of people remain employees instead of going into business themselves is that these people don’t want to deal with all the regulatory headaches their bosses have to deal with.  A tradesperson would rather work their 8-hour shift and go home.  They don’t want to deal with payroll taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, liability insurance, vehicular insurances, health insurance, real property taxes, personal property taxes, quarterly tax filings, business income tax, use tax, OSHA requirements, environmental requirements, city and state inspections, permits and licenses, etc.  If a tradesperson could just throw his or her tools in a truck and go into business they would.  But they can’t.  So they won’t.  Because it’s just so much easier being an employee than an employer.  Who are always guaranteed a paycheck if they work.  While an employer only gets paid after everyone, and everything, else gets paid.

You want to reduce infant entrepreneur mortality rates?  Get the government out of the private sector.  And give these entrepreneurs a chance.  You’d be surprised at what they can do if the government just leaves them alone.  Just like Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Henry Ford, etc., did.  Who probably couldn’t do what they did today.  Not in today’s anti-business environment.

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