The British Left will brand School Children Racist if their Parents don’t let them go on an Anti-Christian Field Trip

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

If you’ve ever watched The Five you’ve probably heard Greg Gutfeld (libertarian/quasi conservative) blame all of our woes on liberal college professors.  And heard Bob Beckel (liberal) say Greg Gutfeld is full of excrement.  And that whenever they play a video of a leftist professor saying something anti-capitalist/socialist/communist Beckel (the one liberal in the group of five) yells that they only put on liberal extremists.  Never a conservative extremist.  Which he said there are just as many as liberal extremists teaching our kids in college.

Of course he’s full of excrement.  Because conservatives aren’t in control of the curriculum.  Liberals are.  In the United States.  And in the United Kingdom.  And it’s because they control the curriculum that things like this happen (see ‘Refusal will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s educational record…’ by Daniel Hannan posted 11/22/2013 on The Telegraph).

As part of the National Religious Curriculum together with the multicultural community in which we live, it is a statutory requirement for Primary School aged children to experience and learn about different cultures.

The workshop is at Staffordshire University and will give your child the opportunity to explore other religions.  Children will be looking at religious artifacts, similar to those that would be on display in a museum.  They will not be partaking in any religious practices.

Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.

England has an official religion.  The Church of England.  Which is Protestant.  That is, Christian.  And it has a long history of being Christian.  Which makes this school action rather remarkable.  For it basically is telling British children to forget their culture and tradition.  And observe the greatness of people who are not British.

When an American high school choir wants to sing a Christmas carol referencing Jesus of Nazareth, who the Christmas holiday celebrates, the school authorities shut it down.  But they make a trip to expose students to other religions mandatory.  Why?  Because liberals hate Christianity.  And love anything that disparages Christianity.  Which is why they will brand any student who doesn’t attend a field trip that enshrines other religions (while banning high school choirs from singing Christmas carols referencing Jesus of Nazareth) as a racist.  Even though religion transcends race.

Liberals will say a cross submerged in urine is art.  But children not learning the glory of Islam and other non-Christian religions is showing an extreme lack of respect to those religions.  And is worthy of branding those children as racist.  Even though religion transcends race.

Bob Beckel is a Christian.  And is a vocal opponent of the anti-Christian acts of militant Islam.  Even condemning the whole Islamic faith as no one in that faith condemns these heinous acts.  Yet he fails to see the anti-Christian element in our public schools and universities.  Or refuses to see it.  For although Beckel is a Christian liberals in general don’t like Christian morals that frown upon premarital sex and abortion.  Things liberals are all for.  As are our public schools and universities.  As is evidenced by their handing out of free birth control.  And providing access to abortion services.  Even without parental consent wherever they can.  And this while one of those religions they want to expose our kids to, Islam, won’t let their women out of the house unless they’re covered from head to toe and in the company of a male family member.  There’s no premarital sex or abortion for them.  But this is a religion we must show tolerance to.  While showing no tolerance to Jesus of Nazareth during the holiday celebrating His birth.  Is that because conservatives are in control of the school curriculum?  No.  It’s because liberals are.  So Gutfeld is right.  And Beckel is wrong.

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Nuclear Power is Green but Governments prefer Wind Power because its More Costly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

To save the world from global warming we have to go to a low-carbon energy economy.  Say goodbye to coal.  And hello to solar.  And wind (see Energy firm RWE npower axes £4bn UK windfarm amid political uncertainty by Terry Macalister posted 11/25/2013 on The Telegraph).

Britain’s green ambitions have been dealt a blow as a big six energy company has pulled the plug on one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms, with the political storm enveloping the industry threatening the multibillion-pound investments needed to meet emissions targets and head off a looming capacity crunch.

Weeks after warning that the government was treating environmental subsidies as a “political football”, the German-owned RWE npower is pulling out of the £4bn Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel because the economics do not stack up.

The move comes as figures show that energy firms reaped a 77% increase in profits per customer last year, due to bill increases that the big six say are partly due to government green levies…

The Renewable Energy Association (REA), which lobbies for more low-carbon power, said government infighting over subsidies was causing deep uncertainty in the industry…

“We need assurances from George Osborne in the autumn statement about where we stand,” said a spokesman for the REA. “Nick Clegg says one thing about the green levies, Michael Fallon [the energy minister] another…”

RWE indicated that the government might have to raise green subsidies – and thus increase bills or the burden on the taxpayer – after admitting that technical difficulties had pushed the price up so far that it could not be justified under the current subsidy regime.

But RWE has already pulled out of a £350m nuclear-power project, is selling its DEA North Sea oil business and last week disposed of part of its UK gas and electricity supply arm. Developers have been warning for some time that they would need more subsidies from the government if ministers were to realise low-carbon energy targets.

RWE was in partnership to build that nuclear project.  Which cost in total £696m.  Or 17% of the cost of the £4bn Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel.  Which they say will power one million homes.  Of course, that would be only when the wind is blowing.  But not blowing too fast.  For there is a small window for safe wind speeds these turbines can generate power at.  Giving them a low capacity factor (the amount of power they could produce over a period of time at full nameplate capacity and the actual power they produced over that period).  About 30% in Britain.  Whereas nuclear power is about 90%.  Which is why we use it for baseload power.  Because it’s always there.  Even when the wind is blowing too slow.  Or too fast.  So that Atlantic Array wasn’t going to provide reliable power for a million homes.  In fact, on a calm day it will provide no power to any home.  Which begs the question why spend £4bn for unreliable power when you can spend £696m for reliable power?

Worse, wind power requires government subsidies.  So much that companies won’t build wind farms unless they get government subsidies.  Something you don’t need to build a nuclear power plant.  And to rub salt in an open wound those subsidies are paid for with levies on the family utility bill.  Or higher taxes.  Forcing these families to get by on less.  While these green energy firms are seeing rising profits.  Because of the money the government takes from the households and gives to the green energy firms in the form of subsidies.  Which begs another question.  Why charge the British people so much more for clean energy when they can get it for far less from nuclear power?  At 17% of the cost for the Atlantic Array project?

When it comes down to it renewable energy is crony capitalism at its worst.  Huge transfers of money from the private sector to the public sector.  Where they turn around and give to their friends in green energy companies in the form of lucrative contracts and fat subsidies.  After taking some off the top for their expenses, of course.  If it wasn’t they’d be building less costly and more reliable nuclear power plants to be green.  Instead of building these green elephants all over the place.

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Relying on Technology in lieu of Teaching our Kids to be Responsible Adults

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

There was an episode of Madmen showing Don Draper spending an afternoon drinking beer while working on a present for his daughter.  Then his wife said he had to go pick up the birthday cake.  He was not happy about this.  But poured himself a drink and left anyway.  Taking his glass of bourbon into the car.  And drinking from this glass while driving.

This is only a television show.  But a television show noted for its accurate portrayal of life in the 1960s.  People drank.  And drove.  With some crawling from their car to their front door because they were too drunk to walk.  And life went on.   Teenagers watched driver’s education films like Red Asphalt.  And still became Don Drapers.  Despite all that gore.  To this day we still drink and drive.  Well, for a little while more, at least (see Auto safety initiative seeks to reduce driver errors by Jerry Hirsch posted 11/29/2013 on the Los Angeles Times).

Auto safety regulators are pushing for new equipment to protect motorists from their biggest threat: themselves.

They’re aiming to keep drunk drivers off the road with the help of onboard technology that immobilizes their cars…

Now NHTSA and a coalition of 17 automakers are working on the so-called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. The DADDS system uses sensors in the cabin to measure blood-alcohol content by breath or touch to ensure a driver is below the legal 0.08% threshold for impairment…

But some have reservations about these high-tech minders. The restaurant lobby opposes what it sees as an encroaching nanny state. Some analysts predict the equipment could add hundreds of dollars to the cost of each vehicle. And even some car enthusiasts say that imperfect technology could alienate the public it’s supposed to protect.

Jack Nerad, an analyst with auto information company Kelley Blue Book, imagined a scenario in which sensors picked up alcohol on the breath of passengers, preventing the designated driver from getting them home.

“You are reliant on the technology to be 100% perfect or your car doesn’t start,” he said. “That makes people very, very angry…”

Mistaken alcohol readings or faulty seat-belt sensors could put motorists in harm’s way if they’re stranded during emergencies or in remote places.

Where the DADDS system will set the blood alcohol limit could also prove contentious.

NHTSA says it will be the .08% level at which a driver is legally considered impaired, a ceiling that is supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving…

But a slightly higher limit might leave a margin of error that reduces false positives without greatly increasing the frequency of drunk-driving crashes, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

The majority of people who were killed in drunk-driving crashes last year were in collisions in which a driver had double the legal limit, according to NHTSA data…

“We are opposed to mandating this technology on all cars as original equipment,” said Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, a restaurant trade association. “You are not going to solve the drunk-driving problem, which is a small, hard-core population of offenders, by treating everybody like a criminal.”

She said drinkers could find ways to evade the technology. For example, they could quickly throw down some shots and already be on the road by the time their blood-alcohol level crosses the .08% limit.

“And then what is going to happen?” Longwell asked. “If you crash your car and you are well above the legal limit, can you sue the manufacturer? Who has the liability?”

Good point.  Who do you sue?  The bartender for serving the shots?  But why should the bartender worry about a patron’s sobriety when his or her car won’t start if this person is too drunk?  Which would be great for the drinking industry.  No more worries about someone leaving too drunk to drive.  Because the car will determine that.  So while the bartender may have cut them off after 3-4 shots there is no reason to cut them off at all now.  Because their car won’t start if this person is too drunk to drive.  So you can’t really hold the drinking establishment responsible.  For the new technology takes on that responsibility.

So do you sue the car manufacturer?  They’ll blame the American Beverage Institute who lobbied against the 0.08% limit.  Saying that raising it to such a high level (something above 0.08%) that it didn’t detect the drunkenness of the driver until after they started their car and entered traffic.  Will they require a time lapse between the driver’s last drink and the time they can try starting the engine?  A link between the bar’s POS system and the car?  This would be ridiculous.  Add more costs to a car.  And add more technology that can be ‘not perfect’.

What happens if some rowdy men spill a drink on a woman in a bar.  Who then leaves the bar.  But cannot start her car because of the alcohol spilled on her?  And then the rowdy men follow her to the parking lot.  And proceed to smash her windows to get at her.  While she can’t do anything because her car won’t start.  And they rape her.  Who gets sued then?

They used to hang horse thieves in the old West.  Because if you stole a man’s horse you put his life in great danger.  A car is the modern day horse.  Something you depend on getting you home safely.  And it is so reliable that we never imagine it not getting us home.  But now your car may strand you.  Leaving you to the dangers surrounding you.  And it may cause you to abandon your drunken friends to find their own way home.  Because you don’t want to take any chances your car won’t start.  By having their drunken asses in the car with you preventing you from getting home.

Of course it begs the question.  What will they do to protect us from people texting and driving?  Which has surpassed drinking and driving as a greater danger?  Technology that shuts off your engine whenever it detects a cell phone in use?  Imagine someone turning on their cell phone when you’re in a center lane on a limited access expressway.   Shutting off your engine.  And your power steering.  While you desperately make your way to the shoulder during rush hour traffic.

Perhaps we need a little less technology and a little more Red Asphalt.  For many of our problems would go away if we would only teach people to be responsible.  Instead of relying on technology to protect us from the irresponsibility of others.

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Military Children (and Children of Single Mothers) suffer Mental Health Issues due to Absent Fathers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

Boys love their fathers.  And it’s tough losing them.  Just listen to some Pink Floyd music.  During the Roger Waters’ period.  Whose concept albums were shaped by his experience growing up without a father who died in World War II.  As the children of Britain grew up in a dearth of fathers following World War II.  As so many of their fathers died in the war.  Waters went on to great success.  But he suffered for his art.  As all great artists do.  Who probably would have preferred to be happy instead of being a great artist.

The bond between child and parent is so strong that the parent doesn’t even have to die to affect the child.  Just periods of separation is enough to do damage (see Military deployments tied to teens’ depression by Kathleen Raven posted 11/29/2013 on Reuters).

Adolescents who experience the deployment of a family member in the U.S. military may face an increased risk of depression, suggests a new study.

Ninth- and eleventh-grade students in California public schools with two or more deployment experiences over the past decade were 56 percent more likely to feel sad or hopeless compared with their non-military-family peers, the researchers found.

The same kids were 34 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

So it would follow the more deployments (i.e., the less time the parent spends with their child) the more likely the increased risk of depression, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.  So the more time one parent stays away the less happy and the more frequent mental health issues a child suffers.   With the child no doubt suffering the most should that parent die in a combat zone.  Thus being removed from the child’s life forever.  Sad.  But intuitive.  For most probably didn’t need a study to tell them this.

The same can be said about single mothers.  And their children.  For it is the absence of one parent from their lives that reduces the quality of their lives.  Because that father isn’t there to toss the football around with him after school.  To attend a tea party with her favorite stuffed animals.  To be there to teach them what to do when they lose power during a thunderstorm.  And make them feel safe just by being there.

We take a lot of things Dad does—or did—for granted.  And the more time we spent with him the more we’re able to do the things he did when he’s no longer there to do them.  So the more time we have with Dad the stronger and more able we become.  The less time we have the less strong or able we become.  And if he’s not there at all it is like a child losing him in a military deployment.

The Democrats attack the Republicans and claim they have a war on women.  Because they don’t want to provide free birth control.  Abortion.  Or an expanding welfare state for single mothers.  The left really doesn’t want women to have children.  And if they do they want to help mothers raise their children without a father.  By having the state replace the father.  So women can remain free.  Pursue careers.  And not be condemned to stay-at-home motherhood.  The left does all of these things for women.  For it’s what is best for them.  Without ever considering what’s best for the child.  Two parents.  They will do studies to prove this if they can condemn the military for the effect it has on children.  But when it’s about women enjoying life to the fullest while treating pregnancy as a disease to avoid it’s a different story.  And for those women who become infected with pregnancy?  They don’t need a man in their life.  As long as there is the reassuring embrace of government to comfort her.

The Republicans don’t have a war on women.  But you could say that Democrats have a war on children.  As they always put a woman’s happiness over her child’s happiness.  For a child would rather grow up in a traditional family than be shuffled back and forth from daycare.  Just listen to some Pink Floyd music if you don’t believe that’s true.

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Obamacare to create Great Doctor Shortages, Long Wait Times and Rationing of Health Care Services

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

How did African slavery arrive to the new world?  The New World was vast continents.  And there were just not enough settlers to farm on the scale required.  With a huge shortage of laborers the colonial powers tried enslaving the local population.  But it proved difficult to keep them enslaved.  As they were well familiar with the land.  And the indigenous population.  If they escaped they could disappear into the land and into the indigenous population.  Something an African slave could not do as well.  If at all.  Strangers in a strange land.  Unable to communicate with the indigenous population.  And unable to hide among them.  Who were probably just as hostile to them as they were to the white man taking their land.  Making escape from bondage much more difficult for the African slave than it was for the indigenous slave.  So the African slave proved to be a good fit for the colonial powers.  Allowing them to fill the shortage of labor by forcing the black man into bondage.  To provide their labor against their will to meet the demand of the ruling colonial powers.

Now there is a new demand that the government will struggle to meet (see Lack of Doctors May Worsen as Millions Join Medicaid Rolls by ABBY GOODNOUGH posted 11/28/2013 on The New York Times).

Dr. Ted Mazer is one of the few ear, nose and throat specialists in this region who treat low-income people on Medicaid, so many of his patients travel long distances to see him.

But now, as California’s Medicaid program is preparing for a major expansion under President Obama’s health care law, Dr. Mazer says he cannot accept additional patients under the government insurance program for a simple reason: it does not pay enough…

His view is shared by many doctors around the country. Medicaid for years has struggled with a shortage of doctors willing to accept its low reimbursement rates and red tape, forcing many patients to wait for care, particularly from specialists like Dr. Mazer.

Yet in just five weeks, millions of additional Americans will be covered by the program, many of them older people with an array of health problems. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that nine million people will gain coverage through Medicaid next year alone. In many of the 26 states expanding the program, the newly eligible have been flocking to sign up…

In California, with the nation’s largest Medicaid population, many doctors say they are already overwhelmed and unable to take on more low-income patients. Dr. Hector Flores, a primary care doctor in East Los Angeles whose practice has 26,000 patients, more than a third of whom are on Medicaid, said he could accommodate an additional 1,000 Medicaid patients at most.

“There could easily be 10,000 patients looking for us and we’re just not going to be able to serve them,” said Dr. Flores, who is also chairman of the family medicine department at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles…

The health care law seeks to diminish any access problem by allowing for a two-year increase in the Medicaid payment rate for primary care doctors, set to expire at the end of 2014. The average increase is 73 percent, bringing Medicaid rates to the level of Medicare rates for these doctors.

But states have been slow to put the pay increase into effect, experts say, and because of the delay and the fact that the increase is temporary, fewer doctors than hoped have joined the ranks of those accepting Medicaid patients. “There’s been a lot of confusion and a really slow rollout,” Ms. Folberg said, “which unfortunately mitigated some of the positive effects…”

Dr. Paul Urrea, an ophthalmologist in Monterey Park, said he was skeptical of “blue-sky scenarios” suggesting that all new enrollees would have access to care. “Having been in the trenches with Medi-Cal patients who have serious eye problems,” he said, “I can tell you it’s very, very hard to get them in to see those specialists.”

Dr. Urrea said that when he recently tried to refer a Medicaid patient with a cornea infection to another eye specialist, he was initially informed that the specialist could not see the patient until February. “And this is a potentially blinding condition,” he added.

Travel long distances to see a doctor?  Long wait times?  A shortage of health care providers?  Low reimbursement rates?  Overwhelmed doctors?  A shortage of specialists?  You’d think your were reading about the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).  But this is just what the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is doing to Medicaid.  Which it will soon do to the rest of the American health care system.

So not only is the Affordable Care Act making health insurance unaffordable it will create doctor shortages that will lead to longer wait times.  Some waits stretching out over two months.  A wait so long that a patient may go blind from a treatable eye infection.  This is national health care.  People succumbing to their diseases as they wait for treatment that is being rationed out.  Which they have to ration as the number of patients far outnumber the number of doctors available to treat these patients.

So this is what Obamacare will do to the American health care system.  Give us longer waiting times.  Rationed care.  And people succumbing to their illnesses because of the long wait to see a doctor.  Funny as the Afford Care Act was to give affordable health insurance to all.  So everyone could live in a utopia where if they were sick they could go to a doctor and have everything covered.  Just pray you’re not one of those who can’t afford to pay the higher premiums and higher deductibles of Obamacare.  Because these people are being dumped into the overcrowded and underfunded states’ Medicaid systems.  Which will only get worse under Obamacare.  Especially with doctors leaving the Medicaid system.  Retiring early.  Or moving into concierge medicine.  Leaving ever fewer health care providers to tend to the swollen Medicaid ranks.

Not a good time to be a doctor.  For you have to be wary of a government that can’t find enough doctors to voluntarily meet the health care demand.  Especially one that has a Senate ‘rubber-stamp’ for its judicial appointments.  Thanks to Harry Reid and the nuclear option.  Changing the rules of the Senate by eliminating the filibuster for judicial appointments.  Which opens the door for a lot of illegal and unconstitutional law.  Such as new health care mandates issued by the executive branch that exceed its constitutional authority.  Which will be challenged.  But once these cases hit these Obama-packed courts you can guess the outcome.  Illegal and unconstitutional mandates will become law.  Which no doubt concern doctors in a health care system that has a doctor shortage and an explosion of new patients.

If a doctor wants to remain a doctor and get paid for his or her services he or she may find new requirements.  Such as mandatory salary caps.  Forced acceptance of Medicaid patients.  With ‘opting out’ made illegal.  Compelling doctors to work against their will.  Now forcing people to work against their will is nothing new.  When Roman taxes rose so high to pay for the bloated Roman state people quit their jobs to avoid paying taxes.  Then the Roman state made that illegal.  Bonding these people to their jobs.  And when they died their children were forced to continue in their place.  Giving Europe feudalism.  Where the masses worked the land against their will.  For the law prevented them from ever leaving the land they or any of their progeny were born on.  Could this happen to the American health care system?  If the state controls the health care industry and the courts, yes.  Which is why it is not a good time to be a doctor.

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FT198: “Obamacare will fail because you can’t incentivize people to make their lives worse.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 29th, 2013

Fundamental Truth

Stores used the Incentives of Black Friday to get People to do what they Wanted

A belated happy Thanksgiving.  And a belated happy Black Friday.  We say belated because Black Friday was already here by the time Friday woke from its sleepy slumber.  No more waiting in line Friday morning for those stores to open.  No.  Today if you snooze (i.e., spend Thanksgiving with the family at home) you lose.  Because it’s first come first served.  Which means if you wanted to get some of those deep discounts before they run out you didn’t let anything silly like celebrating Thanksgiving with the family get in your way.

Now everyone loves a bargain.  It’s why we scan the Sunday sales papers.  And search online for the best price.  But in the Obama ‘recovery’ there isn’t a whole lot of spending going on.  As there isn’t a whole lot of employment going on.  Since President Obama assumed office his policies have destroyed some 10 million jobs.  And one thing about unemployed people.  They definitely want a bargain.  Especially if they want a good Christmas for their family during the dark times of the Obama presidency.

But there is a greater lesson Black Friday can tell us other than President Obama is a bad president.  Especially in things economic.  Why are stores opening on Thanksgiving?  Because they’re cruel and evil forcing their workers to slave away during a holiday?  No.  It’s not that.  In fact, some employees love working on a holiday.  For they get paid more working on a holiday than they normally would.  Allowing them to earn extra money to give their families a good Christmas during the dark times of the Obama presidency.  As it turns out shoppers and workers alike like Black Friday.  For it allows each to have more for less.  And that is the great lesson of Black Friday.  Getting people to do what you want by offering them something they want.  Or, in other words, offering them an incentive.

The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 pitted Northern Republicans against Slave-Owning Southern Democrats

Slaves working in the planter South had no desire to be slaves.  Yet they were slaves.  Why?  There weren’t slaves in the North.  Only in the South.  The blacks in the north chose not to be slaves.  While those in the South had no choice.  The planter elite in the South, the ‘Old World’ planter aristocracy, used force.  And having a larger force in Washington than they normally would have (thanks to the Three-Fifths Compromise that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for representation in Congress) they were able to use the force of government to continue to force blacks into slavery.  The Southern Democrats (i.e., the ‘Old World’ planter aristocracy) were able to keep the black man enslaved until the mid 19th century.  Even using the power of the federal government to override states’ rights in the North.  Using the Fugitive Slave Act to force northern states to return fugitive slaves to their Southern Democrat owners.  The ‘Old World’ planter aristocracy.

This is coercion.  This is how you get people to do what they don’t want to do.  Using the power of the federal government the Southern Democrats kept their slaves in bondage.  Also, using the power of the federal government they forced those in the North who wanted to help ‘fugitive’ slaves to stay free return their slaves or else.  That ‘or else’ being the full weight of the federal government coming down on them with extreme prejudice.  But when the North became more populated control of the House of Representatives favored the larger populated North.  Despite the Three-Fifths Compromise.  Which left the Senate.  And as each state got two senators how the new states entered the union mattered.  For the planter elite to hold their power over the United States.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was an early attempt to put slavery onto the path of oblivion.  Those in the North did not want it.  The planter elite in the South did.  So they compromised.  Slavery could remain in the South to appease the planter elite but the compromise prohibited slavery in the new Louisiana Territory that Thomas Jefferson purchased above the 36°30′ parallel (about the southern border of Missouri).  Except in the state of Missouri.  Then came the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 and the idea of popular sovereignty.  Throwing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 out the window.  These two states were both above the 36°30′ parallel.  The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 said the first people into the fledging states could choose for themselves if they would be a slave-state or a free-state.  Which led to a mad rush to Kansas.  And a bloody civil war there.  That eventually led to the American Civil War.  To settle once and for all the issue of slavery in America.  Would the Southern Democrats prevail and keep the black man in bondage?  Or would the Republicans free the slaves?

Obamacare is less like Black Friday and more like Slavery

Even if you flunked your history class you should know the answer to this.  Abraham Lincoln and his Republicans defeated the Southern Democrats and won the American Civil War.  Freeing the slaves.  Of course, the Southern Democrats were not good losers.  They gave us the KKK.  Then the Jim Crowe Laws.  The separate but equal nonsense that didn’t exist in the Republican North.  The old southern aristocracy were not huge fans of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.  All they wanted was privilege.  They wanted the Old World in the New World.  And the planter elite fought bitterly to keep that.  Well, not them as much as their fellow southerners they lied to about states’ rights.  Getting them (most of who were too poor to own a single slave) to fight and sacrifice their lives to maintain the institution of slavery.  To maintain the privilege of the southern aristocracy.

So there you have examples of incentive and coercion.  Black Friday incentivized people to hire in for seasonal jobs during the holiday season.  And brought people into stores with deep discounting.  Everyone got something they wanted.  And so they did what the store owners wanted.  People worked for them on Thanksgiving.  And people came into the stores on Thanksgiving.  Both of their own free will.  Now contrast that to slavery.  Where there was no free will.  Only the coercion of the federal government.  Where fear and intimidation compelled slaves to remain slaves.  And their only incentive was to obey their masters to avoid physical harm.

With the Supreme Court ruling the penalty of Obamacare became a tax.  Allowing the federal government to compel people to buy health insurance or suffer the consequences.  A ‘tax’ that will grow in time.  Buy insurance or else.  With that ‘or else’ being the full force and fury of the IRS.  Something most people would find more unpleasant than a colonoscopy.  Without any anesthetic.  No, a letter from the IRS is something no one wants to see in their mail.  For few things will fill you with fear and dread more.  This is the enforcement mechanism of Obamacare.  Which they need because people otherwise wouldn’t spend more for less.  Higher insurance premiums to cover things they will never need (a gay man will never need prenatal care).  And sky-high deductibles that will be like having no insurance.  As everything will be out of pocket until you reach that sky-high deductible.  Which few people will reach unless they have a catastrophic illness or accident.  This is why people are NOT signing up for Obamacare.  Because Obamacare ain’t no Black Friday.  Obamacare is offering nothing the people want.  At prices higher than they ever had to pay for health insurance before.  Leaving them with less to spend on their family.  Forcing them to cut out things they once enjoyed.  Which is why Obamacare will fail.  Because you can’t incentivize people to make their lives worse.  No, to do that you need the fearful power of the state.  Just like the Southern Democrats used to maintain the institution of slavery.

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Little Ice Age, Protestant Reformation, Louis XIV, Enlightenment, Seven Years’ War, American Revolution and French Revolution

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 28th, 2013

Politics 101

(Originally published August 30th, 2012)

King Louis XIV remained Catholic as Protestantism was Breaking Out in Europe and Britain

It’s been awhile since the last ice age.  In fact the last time we had a real ice age predated the first civilizations.  We still wore animal skins and hunted and gathered our food.  Long before we first farmed.  But it would get cool again.  Shortly after the Black Death (during the 1300s) it did get unseasonably cool.  So cool that we now call it the Little Ice Age (from 1350 to 1850 or thereabouts).  The glaciers didn’t cover Europe.  But it was cold.  And wet.  The spring took forever to change into summer.  While summer was quick to turn into fall.  Which led to short growing seasons.  Poor harvests.  Hunger.  And famine.

Martin Luther was no fan of the Pope.  Especially because of the indulgences he was selling.  A shortcut to heaven.  For those with money.  Which is what the Pope wanted.  Money.  For he was doing some costly renovations in Rome.  So in 1517 Martin Luther nailed up his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door demanding reform.  And kicking off the Protestant Reformation.  Well, the Catholic Church wasn’t interested in reform.  So Luther set up a new church.  With a new religion.  Protestantism.  A more plain religion.  With masses in the common language of the people.  Instead of Latin.  And no fancy things in the church.  No altars.  No stain glass.  No icons.  Just the word of God.  With over a thousand years of Catholicism already under their belt, though, a lot of people took offense to this.  And their offense offended the new Protestants.  So they went to war with each other for a few centuries or so over their religious differences.

King Louis XIV was one of the great French monarchs.  Under his rule France was the dominant European power.  The Sun King believed in the divine right of kings.  Absolute monarchism.  Doing pretty much as he pleased.  Which included a few wars.  And growing an empire with oversea colonies.  It cost a pretty penny.  And a lot of lives.  Louis remained Catholic as Protestantism was breaking out in Europe.  And in England.  For a couple hundred years or so England and France were bitter enemies.  Contesting colonial lands throughout the globe.  And defending the true faith.  Catholicism.  Or Protestantism.  The Catholic-Protestant battle lines stretched across Europe.  And to distant lands across the globe.  Including the New World.  Where they would both spend fortunes in waging war.

For the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans

The Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, gave the French Voltaire.  One of the great Enlightenment philosophers.  When Benjamin Franklin was in France the French were eager to bring two of the world’s greatest Enlightenment philosophers together.  And did.  The French also gave us the great Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu.  The greatest influence on the Founding Fathers as they drafted our Constitution.  So there was some great thinking percolating in France.  Thoughts that focused on science and reason.  Not tradition and faith.  Even questioning some long-held beliefs about the Catholic Church, the aristocracy and the absolute monarchy.

Louis XIV built a great French empire.  The French seemed invincible.  Until Louis XV took over.  Who lost the Seven Years’ War to the British.  And saw French North America become British.  (And the Louisiana Territory go to Spain.)  That was tough having their eternal foe humiliate them.  The Protestant British.  It was a blow to French pride.  French commerce.  And French finances.  The near-perpetual state of war that had existed between Britain and France had cost both nations a lot of money.  The British decided to recoup some of that money by taxing their American colonies.  Which didn’t go over well with the Americans.  For unlike France the British had a constitutional monarchy.  Where the Parliament restricted the king’s powers.  That great institute of the people.  Which the Americans had no representation in.  Leading to their rebellion.  Because they didn’t like being treated like second-class subjects of the British Empire.  Which brought about the American Revolutionary War.

After the Americans defeated a British army at the Battle of Saratoga the French joined the Americans in their fight for independence from the oppression of a constitutional monarchy.  Which seemed rather odd being that the French at this time was still an absolute monarchy (though now ruled by Louis XVI).  Which was far more oppressive than the constitutional variety.  But for the French the American War of Independence had nothing to do with the Americans.  It had to do with French interests.  It was a chance to strike back at their eternal enemy.  The Protestant British.  And more importantly, when they won they could get back all their colonies they lost in the Seven Years’ War.

The French were Intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment Ideals and the American Win over an Oppressive Monarchy

The Americans won their independence.  But the French didn’t get anything they wanted.  All they got was a lot of debt.  To add to the enormous pile of debt they already had.  One of the French conditions for their alliance was that the Americans would not make a separate peace with the British.  Which is what the Americans did.  Why?  Because the French and the Spanish were conspiring against the Americans during the peace talks.  So they could expand their holdings in North America at the expense of the British and the Americans.  The French were even willing to trade American Independence away.  The British, who would rather have Americans on their former lands than the French or Spanish, made a separate peace with the Americans.

This act of diplomacy stunned the French.  For they had assurances from the American Congress that they would take the lead in the peace talks.  The Americans double-crossed them before they could double-cross the Americans.  This wasn’t supposed to happen in the world of European diplomacy.  Especially with rubes like the Americans.  But it did.  And the French were now in a world of hurt.  Broke.  And facing bankruptcy.  Desperately needing new tax revenue King Louis XVI called an Assembly of Notables.  The nobility and clergy.  But they didn’t want to pay any more taxes.  So the king called the Estates-General of 1789.  Which included the clergy, the nobility and everyone else (i.e., the Third Estate).

Meanwhile there was widespread hunger and malnutrition.  Poor grain harvests (in part due to the Little Ice Age) pushed the price of bread out of reach for many.  People were cold, hungry and poor.  In the Third Estate, that is.  For though they may have been suffering they saw that the nobility and the Catholic clergy were not.  In fact, they were living rather well.  Which inflamed the masses.  Who became intoxicated with all of those Enlightenment ideals.  And that American victory over an oppressive monarchy.  It got the people thinking.  That they didn’t need a nobility any more.  The Catholic Church.  Or a king.  And the people would get rid of these things.  For awhile, at least.  With something called the French Revolution.

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Alphabet and Writing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 27th, 2013

Technology 101

(Originally published November 23rd, 2011)

The Necessary Information to Survive in Prehistory was Minimal and did not Require a Written Language

Hunters and gatherers had little need for language.  For they did little in life but hunt, gather, eat, sleep and propagate the species.  Much like wildlife today.  Such as feral cats.  Abandoned house cats.  Who mate and produce more feral cats.  And these animals are survivors.  They hunt.  Gather food from human garbage.  Eat.  Sleep.  And reproduce.  If you ever had any in your neighborhood you know that they can be very loud, too.  Making a variety of sounds.  Meows, cries, growls and hisses.  Not an advanced language.  But sufficient to survive.  And enough to keep you from trying to pick one up.

Early man was similar to feral cats.  They had a limited language.  That allowed them to survive.  And make modest advances.  They made tools out of stone.  Used fire.  Made clothes from animal hides.  Even left art on the walls of caves.  Far more than any wild animal ever did.  But they didn’t do much more.  If they did it was probably nothing to write about.  Because they didn’t.  Write about it.  Either because they had no written language.  Or because they were a modest people.

History starts with written language.  Before that we have only archaeology.  And best guesses.  But based on the archaeology they weren’t doing much.  Other than surviving.  And in these prehistory times life was pretty simple.  See above.  The necessary information to survive was minimal.  Eat.  And don’t die.  It wasn’t necessary to write that down.  So they didn’t.  Memory was more than sufficient.  And it was like that for millions of years.

The Phoenician Alphabet was the Basis for the Greek and Latin Alphabets

But then the simple became complex.  There were food surpluses that allowed a division of labor that led to trade.  And a burgeoning economy.  Which required a more sophisticated way of communicating.  And a system of maintaining records of economic exchanges.  For memory and talking just wasn’t good enough anymore.

In the 4th millennium BC, in Mesopotamia, this began with clay tokens to represent an economic commodity.  And the first system of accounting was simply counting and storing these tokens.  But as the division of labor produced an ever more complex economy, the number of tokens used became too great.  So they represented the economic commodity with a symbol scratched in a clay tablet.  Instead of counting tokens they read these tablets.  We call this writing cuneiform.   Which was later used to write down the spoken Sumerian language.

Over time we developed alphabets.  We represented the sounds of the words we spoke with letters.  The Phoenician alphabet being one of the first alphabets.  Used by one of the greatest traders and merchants of all time.  The Phoenicians.  Which spread this language around.  Giving rise to Canaanite and Aramaic.  Aramaic giving rise to Arabic and Hebrew.  Incidentally, all languages without vowels.  But the granddaddy of all alphabets was Greek.  Which added vowels.  And formed the basis for Latin.  As well as all other western languages.

We Know about the Glory of Greece and the Grandeur of Rome because they Wrote about It

Athens was the cradle of modern civilization.  The Athenian empire grew because it was based on a complex trade economy.  Ditto for the Roman Empire.  At the height of their power the civilized world spoke their languages.  Conducted their trade in Latin or Greek.  Wrote their laws in Latin or Greek.  Conducted their diplomacy in Latin or Greek.  Why?  Because they could.  Their alphabets and their written language allowed them to manage the complex.

And they wrote.  A lot.  We know so much about Greece and Rome because we can read what they wrote.  And we can build on the glory that was Greece.  And the grandeur that was Rome.  Because we, too, have complex trade economies.  Giving us comforts in life that not even the Greeks or Romans could have dreamt about.

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Hunters and Gatherers Live at the Mercy of their Environment, Farmers Control their Environment

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 26th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published October 18th, 2011)

We can Ultimately Blame Neanderthal’s Demise on the Hunter and Gatherer System

We’re Homo sapiens.  Neanderthals were here before us.  By a few hundred thousand years.  Give or take.  We have fossil evidence of their existence.  And we’ve been able to put them into the historical timeline.  But we’re not sure what happened to them.  For they were stronger than us.  And they had a similar brain size as ours.  Stronger and just as smart, you’d have to give them the edge when Homo sapiens met Neanderthal.  Yet here we are.  Homo sapiens.  Wondering what happened to Neanderthal man.

There are theories.  Neanderthal was adapted to live in the cold.  And he hunted cold-adapted mammals.  But then an ice age came.  And the temperatures fell.  It became too cold even for the cold-adapted.  The climate change pushed the 4-legged mammals south.  In search of food ahead of the advancing glaciers.  And Neanderthal followed.  Moving into what were at one time warmer climes.  Bumping into warmer-clime Homo sapiens.

The climatic change was rather sudden during this period.  One theory says that this rapid changing changed the environment.  Creating different plant and animal species.  And Neanderthal was unable to adapt.  Another theory says that as the glaciers advanced they just forced more people into a smaller area.  And they fought over a smaller food supply.  When the glaciers retreated, Homo sapiens then followed Neanderthals north.  And expanded into their hunting grounds.  Until they displaced them from the historical timeline.

Whatever happened one thing is sure.  We can ultimately blame their demise on the hunter and gatherer system.  Because this system requires large hunting grounds for survival.  Advancing glaciers reduced those hunting grounds.  Putting more people together in a smaller area.  Competing for limited food resources.  And they ultimately lost that competition.

The Hunter and Gatherer Culture Continued to do things as they had During the Stone Age

We can see a more recent example of the demise of a hunter and gatherer people.  In North America.  During the European colonization of that continent.

The North American continent is huge.  Much of it remains uninhabited to this date.  But it wasn’t big enough for the North American Indians and the Europeans.  Why?  The Indians were hunters and gatherers.  They needed a lot of land.  Each tribe had ‘braves’.  ‘Warriors’.  Soldiers.  Because they were a fighting people.  They had a warring culture.  They followed food.  Taking land from other tribes.  And protecting land from other tribes.  So they needed large numbers of warriors.  Which required large amounts of food.  And great expanses of land to hunt that food.

The Europeans, on the other hand, were farmers.  They could grow a lot of food.  And grow large populations on very small tracts of land.  They had higher population densities on their land.  They were better fed.  And they had a middle class thanks to a healthy food surplus.  Which created new technologies.  And provided tools and equipment to advance their civilization.  While the hunter and gatherer culture continued to do things as they had during the Stone Age.

Food Surpluses Created a Middle Class which allowed Advanced Civilizations

Hunters and gatherers live at the mercy of their environment.  Whereas farmers have taken control of their environment.  Creating food surpluses.  Which led to a middle class.  And to advanced civilizations.  Which is why they became the dominant civilization.  And displaced hunter and gatherer people from the historical timeline.  Simply by being a much more survivable people.  Because they took control of their environment.

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The Poor Economic Model of Passenger Rail

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 25th, 2013

Economics 101

The Amtrak Crescent is about a 1,300 Mile 30 Hour Trip between New Orleans and New York City

An Amtrak train derailed this morning west of Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Thankfully, the cars remained upright.  And no one was seriously injured (see Amtrak Crescent with 218 aboard derails in SC by AP posted 11/25/2013 on Yahoo! News).

There were no serious injuries, Amtrak said of the 207 passengers and 11 crew members aboard when the cars derailed shortly after midnight in the countryside on a frosty night with 20-degree readings from a cold front sweeping the Southeast.

This is the Amtrak Crescent.  About a 30 hour trip one way.  It runs between New Orleans and New York City.  Approximately 1,300 miles of track.  Not Amtrak track.  They just lease track rights from other railroads.  Freight railroads.  Railroads that can make a profit.  Which is hard to do on a train traveling 1,300 miles with only 207 revenue-paying passengers.

People may board and leave the train throughout this route.  But if we assume the average for this whole trip was 207 and they were onboard from New Orleans to New York City we can get some revenue numbers from the Amtrak website.   We’ll assume a roundtrip.  They each have to pay for a seat which runs approximately $294.  Being that this is a long trip we’ll assume 20 of these people also paid an additional $572 for a room with a bed and a private toilet.  Bringing the total revenue for this train to approximately $72,298.  Not too shabby.  Now let’s look at the costs of this train.

Diesel Trains consume about 3-4 Gallons of Fuel per Mile

If you search online for track costs you will find a few figures.  All of them very costly.  We’ll assume new track costs approximately $1.3 million per mile of track.  This includes land.  Rights of way.  Grading.  Bridges.  Ballast.  Ties.  Rail.  Switches.  Signals.  Etc.  So for 1,300 miles that comes to $1.69 billion.  Track and ties take a beating and have to be replaced often.  Let’s say they replace this track every 7 years.  So that’s an annual depreciation cost of $241 million.  Or $663,265 per day.  Assuming 12 trains travel this rail each day that comes to about $55,272 per train.

Once built they have to maintain it.  Which includes replacing worn out rail and ties.  Repairing washouts.  Repairing track, switches and signals vandalized or damaged in train derailments and accidents.  This work is ongoing every day.  For there are always sections of the road under repair.  It’s not as costly as building new track but it is costly.  And comes to approximately $300,000 per mile.  For the 1,300 miles of track between New Orleans and New York City the annual maintenance costs come to $390 million.  Or $1 million per day.  Assuming 12 trains travel this rail each day that comes to about $89,286 per train.

Diesel trains consume about 3-4 gallons of fuel per mile.  Because passenger trains are lighter than freight trains we’ll assume a fuel consumption of 3 gallons per mile.  For a 1,300 mile trip that comes to 3,900 gallons of diesel.  Assuming a diesel price of $3 per gallon the fuel costs for this trip comes to $11,700.  The train had a crew of 11.  Assuming an annual payroll for engineer, conductor, porter, food service, etc., the crew costs are approximately $705,000.  Or approximately $1,937 per day.  Finally, trains don’t have steering wheels.  They are carefully dispatched through blocks from New Orleans all the way to New York.  Safely keeping one train in one block at a time.  Assuming the annual payroll for all the people along the way that safely route traffic comes to about $1 million.  Adding another $2,967 per day.

Politicians love High-Speed Rail because it’s like National Health Care on Wheels

If you add all of this up the cost of the Amtrak Crescent one way is approximately $161,162.  If we subtract this from half of the roundtrip revenue (to match the one-way costs) we get a loss of $88,864.  So the losses are greater than the fare charged the travelling public.  And this with the freight railroads picking up the bulk of the overhead.  Which is why Amtrak cannot survive without government subsidies.  Too few trains are travelling with too few people aboard.  If Amtrak charged enough just to break even on the Crescent they would raise the single seat price from $294 to $723.  An increase of 146%.

Of course Amtrak can’t charge these prices.  Traveling by train is a great and unique experience.  But is it worth paying 80% more for a trip that takes over 7 times as long as flying?  That is a steep premium to pay.  And one only the most avid and rich train enthusiast will likely pay.  Which begs the question why are we subsidizing passenger rail when it’s such a poor economic model that there is no private passenger rail?  Because of all those costs.  Congress loves spending money.  And they love making a lot of costly jobs.  And that’s one thing railroads offer.  Lots of costly jobs.  For it takes a lot of people to build, maintain and operate a railroad.

Which is why all politicians want to build high-speed rail.  For it doesn’t get more costly than that.  These are dedicated roads.  And they’re electric.  Which makes the infrastructure the most costly of all rail.  Because of the high speeds there are no grade crossings.  Crossing traffic goes under.  Or over.  But never across.  And they don’t share the road with anyone.  There are no profitable freight trains running on high-speed lines to share the costs.  No.  Fewer trains must cover greater costs.  Making the losses greater.  And the subsidies higher.  Which is why politicians love high-speed rail.  It’s like national health care on wheels.

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