On Racism and Economics from FB

I do understand, for many, this is like debate team, with the goal being to defend your own position no matter what, and sure, that’s a valid perspective. I appreciate that it pushes me to learn more about my own positions. But at some point, these ideas that some people feel define them as some sort of iconoclast have to stand up to actual intellectual scrutiny.

It’s not that “Hayek’s views are not widely held”, it’s that 75 years of economic theory has largely dismantled Classical Economics. Thanks to these Austrian adherents, I have an entire bookshelf full of econ books, from basic textbooks to detailed analysis of the financial meltdown, even Alan Greenspan’s memoirs. And if they supported the Neoliberal position, I’d be more than happy to agree with them. Buuuuuut they don’t. Not a one of them.

Greenspan himself accepts basic tenets of Keynesian economics, and admits the failure of his policies to prevent the boom and bust cycle – he doesn’t take responsibility for it, mind you, but he admits that there are big gaping holes in this Hayek/Friedman notion of Free Markets and the Invisible Hand that simply cannot be accounted for, that are dealt with far more definitively in modern economic theory. If it worked, man, we’d see it. But the contrary is true. Oh, sure, total State control doesn’t work, either, be it Soviet Russia or Communist China. But when every mainstream GOP candidate is doubling down on an austerity agenda that is directly in conflict with the most easily historically proven application of Keynesian theory, a policy that has been decried by economists for decades (as applied to the IMF/World Bank strictures that demand austerity for emerging markets), this notion of GOP appeal to authority is laughable.

I’m sure they hate Stiglitz as well, but in his classic “Globalization and It’s Discontents”, he lays out very clearly how these policies have gutted the emerging markets the Bank was supposed to help. Even now, Ireland, who has faced the most severe austerity measures in Europe, has had it’s bonds downgraded to “junk” status. Why in the name of Bernanke would we want to follow that course? It’s not like a bunch of Liberals were at the helm when the first round of bailouts and stimulus were enacted. It was the same former Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros execs that have been in charge on our economic policy since the 80’s. Oh, they preach “free markets” when it suits their interests, but when the shit hit the fan, what did these people do? They got on the first plane to Keynesville. So the message is clear. Even the people who push the hardest for the deregulation of the markets understand that they are full of shit.

These ideological economic suicide bombers pushing austerity and government spending cuts that share these views, however, are not harmless Facebook Debate Team wonks, they are charged with fixing problems. How they can ignore the expert consensus – and expert consensus is not the popularity contest that people seem to think it is, it’s based on peer review and preponderance of the evidence analyzed by people who know stuff, not armchair dilettantes like us – clearly shows that their aim is NOT to solve problems, but to serve their own personal interests… not just serve their own interests ahead of ours, but to serve interests in DIRECT CONTRADICTION to ours. Ironically enough, policies that will crush the market to the extent that those who push this failed ideology will lose far more in actual wealth than they would had they followed a more sensible strategy based on ACTUAL SCIENCE. That they’ve roped in a section of the population that defines America on such narrow, xenophobic terms – while ignoring the clear subtext of the Tea Party’s language against Muslims, Gays, immigrants, and Liberals (not to mention Obama-as-monkey-or-witch-d​ octor signs, Fox’s “Hip Hop BBQ” headlines, constant race baiting from O’Reilly and Beck… a simple Google search pops up with one of the original Tea Party “founders”, Dale Robertson, holding this sign: http://chattahbox.com/imag​es/2010/01/teaparty_robert​son_spelling_racist_proble​m.jpg To claim anything BUT a clear and obvious agenda against “anyone who doesn’t hold our values and ideas” is not only intellectually disingenuous, but downright delusional.If people demanded as much evidence of God’s existence as they do this semantic and sophistic “proof of racism”, we’d all be Atheists (that’s why the Fort Hood shooter is evidence that all Muslims are terrorists, but the Norway shooter was a lone kook).

So at some point, faced with this overwhelming, monolithic block of stuff that at the very least pokes some pretty serious holes in these Neoliberal tenets – it not dismantling them entirely – one would expect an intellectual of your stature to adjust their ideas accordingly. But instead, as is the norm nowadays, their Economic Evangelicals just double down on them. I’ve literally spent the last year reading nothing but econ, with as open a mind as can be, a tabula rasa ready to learn, engaging and interacting with economists, and I came to the conclusions I have after reading a fairly exhaustive range of ideas. If the wealth of evidence supported this Hayekian position, I’d have no problem supporting it. But again, economic theory as accepted by actual economists puts Hayek in the same boat as neuroscientists put phrenology.

At the end of the day, the “fiscal Conservative” is shown to be as obsolete and misguided as the “social Conservative”, both clinging to ideas and policies on both the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of evidence. Now, I’ll certainly grant that this doesn’t give a free pass to the other side of the aisle, it just means that THESE IDEAS are dead, and that we will either adapt, or die. The same goes for other similar ideas as well – can one step outside your echo chamber (not a disparagement, we all have them, that reinforce our ideas) to look at the larger picture?We must ask, are you someone for whom contradictory evidence makes you adjust your ideas? Or just makes you double down, clinging even harder? Don’t be that guy… http://www.npr.org/templat​es/story/story.php?storyId​=128490874

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Tea Party Racism Rant from FB:

I was actually asked to “provide evidence” this morning that the Tea Party contains racists. Which I actually find less offensive than the GOP’s complete misunderstanding of basic economics. We all know racists are fuckbags, but people actually still think “fiscal Conservatives” know what their talking about, and THAT shit is SCARY.

The problem is the cognitive dissonance of people completely incapable of addressing their own racist agenda – the problem isn’t that specific Republicans believe that straight White people should have all the money, it’s that people are so wrapped in their identity as Conservatives that they completely lose the ability to apply critical thinking to their own party. When people say “both parties are the same”, I call bullshit for this reason: The Democratic Party is made up of a bunch of different voices – racial minorities, Labor, LGBTQ groups, different political ideologies (Socialists, Communists, Progressives, etc), different religions (Episcopalians, Jews, and Atheists, oh my!), people from all over the spectrum used to examining the consensus agenda, and molding it with their own perspective. Sure, there are plenty of Liberal sheeple, but at the higher levels of activism, there is a lot of diversity, not just of race, but of thought. Cornell West is very different from Gloria Steinem or Al Sharpton from Richard Dawkins, and not just racially. The irony of this is that Republicans can look at their monolithic homogeneity of thought and actually proclaim ” we don’t care what you look like, Black, Brown, Woman, whatever” and have a leg to stand on… until you realize that the second half of that sentence is “…as long as you fight for the rights of Straight White People”. Bottom line is that “we don’t see race” is a great defense for racists. Because they don’t understand racial dynamics any more than they do gender dynamics – that’s why attacking a woman’s right to chose isn’t sexist, but criticizing Michelle Bachmann for wanting America to default and crash the world economy is. O.o The definition of a predjudice is not just someone who “doesn’t like” a group, it;s one that actively belives that group is “inferior”, and less deserving of rights, protections, opportunities. And THIS is what defines the GOP agenda. OUR America. We’re taking OUR America back. THOSE PEOPLE are INFERIOR and DO NOT DESERVE America. Unless they are like us – we’ll let “the good ones” play in our sandbox as long as they behave. Trying to get people mired in that mindset to see the inherent racism and xenophobia that clearly resides in all aspects of that agenda, when wrapped in “what, we just want small government, lower taxes, and freedom, man, how is that racist?” is all but impossible.

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Climate Change II:

Originally Posted by Penosity View Post
I disagree. I think this is about money from start to finish. It’s a marriage of taxpayer funded research with a government hungry for more tax dollars. Therein corruption lies.

The conflict of interest is too prevalent for me to just overlook it. Doesn’t pass my smell test.

Originally Posted by Vince View Post
I really hate to be considered lazy by anyone, yet I don’t want to put a bunch of work into trying to intellectualize a theory that my not-so-scientific mind tells me may be hooey for whatever reason. Can you recommend perhaps one good book that would expand and support the points you’ve made above, and can you please explain your credentials in this area and specifically, what study you have completed that have helped you to reach you conclusions and garner the information you have and the strong position you take?

Vince, my point was not that any lay individuals are the “intellectually lazy ideologues”, but a larger statement about how these debates are framed, and by whom. It is more the idea that those presenting the more detailed talking points are often presenting their information in a less than honest fashion, more for personal behavioral reasons than as part of a larger conspiracy, or for the money, or what have you – as Napoleon said (and I paraphrase), man does not fight for gold alone. Indeed, the point of many of these sites are SUPPOSED to be information aggregates. However, many of them just aggregate information that confirms their own bias, one borne of ego and contrarianism.

As lay people then scour for information, they are presented with arguments that may sound valid, presented as “the other side of the story”, but are in fact intellectually dishonest, leaving out critical information or skewing results to fit an agenda – not just those who profit, mind you, they’re just presenting their own propaganda, but bloggers, media writers, and other “information gatekeepers”, who’s reasons for siding with one side or the other is purely an arbitrary assignation of their own biases. Sure, there are shills and paid flunkies. But at some point, the True Believers step up and start disseminating flawed information for no reason other than they have self identified with that position.

PAC X or Industry Shill X writes a position paper on subject X. Sends to a website that shares it’s ideology. Website presents it to piss off the other side. People go to website because they are True Believers, and then go off and influence well intentioned lay people, via social media, forums, etc. The actual ideology doesn’t matter, btw. I’m not presenting this as a referendum that one ideological bent is superior to another in this specific case. Just to present how such an imbalance in evidence such as in Climate Change science can be so muddled.

In this way, tho, lay people themselves are influenced not by the actual information, but by the manipulative actions of these fallacious arguments. Contrarian views with far less evidence than the affirmative are presented as being of equal validity. This is intellectually disingenuous.

And often, in our current climate (no pun intended), the goal of ANY viewpoint is to get people emotionally attached to the ideas and position presented BEFORE they can research the other side. Studies show that most people, once emotionally or intellectually attached to a position, viewpoint, or ideology, are not likely to let go, regardless of the evidence against them – indeed, a recent study purports that being presented with contrary facts makes people dig their heels in HARDER, supporting their failed viewpoint directly in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Again, view the “anti-vax” movement. Despite studies done again and again, NONE of which successfully link vaccines to increased Autism rates, the AV movement was based on ONE study, later completely discredited. Proponents demanded a level of academic rigor from science that their one study couldn’t survive. Yet the movement still exists, living off information provided by… whom? Who makes money off unvaccinated kids? No one really makes money off of vaccinated kids, either. 3 months of Viagra profits could vaccinate all of Africa. So where’s the money? The most vocal proponent of this “theory” was a celebrity Mom looking for answers. How many parents in the tragic position of caring for an Autistic child grabbed the anti-vax movement simply becuase they wanted someone to blame, someone to hold accountable? And who the f*** would blame them? To admit they were wrong is to admit that that they have no control against a cruelty of fate.

How cruel is it in turn to dash those hopes in search of intellectual truth? But it must be done.

Same with this “debate”. I’m not saying that there aren’t reasons to be skeptical, or critical. But there is a fundamental difference between a scientific debate and a policy debate. Should we not teach evolution in schools because a perfect, unbroken genetic line from swamp water to humans hasn’t been found? One of the hallmarks of a flawed debate is when one side demands an evidence load it cannot provide for it’s own cause. And this has that is spades.

These ideas are not limited to this debate. My current field of study is actually economics and public policy.

For example, what economists actually hold as being evidentially supported and what we actually make policy on is frighteningly different. Economists from ALL viewpoints have been HORRIFIED at both sides of the debt limit debacle. As lawmakers posture and spout ideological purity rhetoric, economists from all around the world – Conservative, Liberal, Keynesian, Hayekian, New School, Chicago School, pretty much a broad spectrum of actual economists, both practical and academic have been pointing at graphs and data points and screaming their heads off, dismayed at ALL the “solutions” that have been placed on the table. Jeez, John McCain retweeted a Paul Krugman OP ED saying he agreed with it, The Economist quoted Jared Berstein, Kevin Drum, and Matt Yglesias as voices they agreed with.

WHAT. THE. F***. It clearly shows, however, the complete disconnect between policy and actual scientific consensus.

But this is how these things work. Somehow, 1500 economists for = 3 economists against. 5000 climate scientists on the side of “we should do something about this whole killing the planet thing” = 20 “It’s nothing to worry about”.

As late at Fall of 2007, Wall Street was assuring us that the end of the housing bubble was merely going to be a small plateau in housing prices. In fact, it was REGULATION that they said would cause a horrible collapse, contracting capital and restricting investment. Fo reals, dawg. These ideological standoffs, much like the totally manufactured debt ceiling crisis, are a zero sum game. If you guys are wrong, I’ll get no real satisfaction is saying “I told you so” while we swim to our beachfront houses in Colorado.

Part of what has occurred here is a moving goalpost, obfuscating the debate. At first, there were the people denying that the planet was heating at all. Then, climate science showed pretty conclusively that it was. Did this silence the critics and move us forward to sensible climate policy? Uh, no. Then came those who said that man was not responsible. The deadly correlary to this is the idea that man can also not stop it. That NOTHING WE DO will have any effect. And THIS is what is not only totally not supported, but is clearly debunked by the myriad ways we HAVE affected the planet, and the actions we’ve ALREADY TAKEN that have affected it. Again, remember the hole in the ozone layer and CFCs?

In the end, what we as lay people should REALLY be debating is “what should we do about this problem”, not whether or not there is a problem.

From a Science Magazine 2004 article:

Others agree. The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling (8).
The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies’ members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change” (9).
The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

In all aspects of rigorous testing, the negative side of this debate fails any test of intellectual or evidentiary merit. NO major National or International group or organization has come out as disagreeing with the general consunsus on Climate Change. Again, not saying there isn’t room for criticism, nor that science should simply accept Climate Change as being set in unchallengable stone – point is well taken that consensus can be wrong.


What this boils down to is the underlying theme across our social and political spectrum of a narcissistic need to cling to an adopted ideology over practical policy. This debate – like every single “debate” nowadays, it seems – is framed NOT by the evidence, but by linking personal identity with a position. If this were NOT the case, our public policy debates would be VERY different. People simply do not change their positions based on evidence – it’s too linked to self esteem and personal identity. They merely reframe the argument, move the goalposts, or fight the smaller, ancillary battles they think they can win. And that’s what we see here – and in politics, and in economics, and in World of Warcraft forums, and whether a pancake bodied Norlin is better than a chambered Standard. This really isn’t news.

But these are also not the results of shadowy cabals and hidden Illuminati, either. The irony of this True Believer mentality is that these positions against collected evidence and shared self interest are driven by people who REALLY BELIEVE they are doing the right thing. Alan Greenspan STILL believes to this day that he was doing the best thing for America. Of course, so did the Norway shooter. There are those who FIRMLY BELIEVE they are “saving” America from Al Gore. As face-palmy as that sounds, their intentions are the best, fighting a war of critical importance against an intractable enemy…without any basis in reality. And it’s that “not based in reality” thing we need to deal with, to understand WHY people hold these views.

Too often, to challenge a mindset like this is to sound like you are challenging the people holding said views, and that makes this sort of criticism difficult. It sounds personal, and that sucks. However, I’m weighing in on this debate because the evidence IS so clearly supported on one side, that it really highlights the basic communication problems we have as an open, self governing nation, and part of a larger global construct. But I challenge people to look at their own motivations for choosing a side that no credible, accredited scientist body has endorsed a study supporting, and examine why they would oppose sane preventative measures when the consequences of being wrong is so disastrous… and WHY we keep doing this.

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On Climate Change, from a forum:

Originally Posted by Alister View Post
What matters is, are the facts, statistics, data verifiable. Do they hold up to scrutiny, etc., etc.

We have developed, for better or worse, a system called “peer review” that largely juries these matters. Among other things, this system demands that someone — anyone — has to demonstrate their expertise in complicated topics, to people who have already done so.

These latter people’s credibility are far more important than any others in the process.

As far as the notion of ‘bias,” which is also very complicated, I have posted a link, way back in this thread, on “Confirmation Bias.” Most readers have ignored the link, while busy demonstrating its validity all along.

Here it is, again:


Hear, hear.

There’s a lot of valid criticism in this thread, to be sure. And science is based on constant reexamination of the accepted works and theories.


We’ve been through this scientific reductionism before. These are the same tactics used by opponents of vaccination and evolution. Attacking the minutia while ignoring the larger trends (“we need a perfect ‘missing link’ between monkeys and man but POLAR BEARS WALKED TO NOAH’S HOUSE”), trying to discredit specific studies while ignoring the greater concensus, and disproportionately ascribing the validity of unproven doubt to those who work to challenge established theories and hypotheses. Not to mention restating the argument and moving the goalposts – remember when the argument was whether or not the climate was changing in the first place, regardless of the cause? Now it’s “OK, it’s changing but it’s not our fault” and “it’s natural, we can’t do anything about it”, which is the LARGER context to this argument: regardless of the cause, is there evidence that man can change climate based on behavior? And the answer – as we have seen from other changes, both good and bad – is a resounding YES.

These same logical fallacies and disingenuous arguments are a bore, and designed to wear out the patience of those tired of debunking these claims.

Just because there are scientists who are skeptical of a theory doesn’t automatically mean their viewpoint is a valid argument against it. Until they have done the due diligence to present their own evidence and rigorous peer reviewed experimentation, it is scientifically worthless. The entire anti-vax movement was based on ONE STUDY, that was eventually COMPLETELY discredited, and yet in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence (or, I should say, a total LACK of scientific evidence to support their theory), people continue to cling to this failed idea.

The data pool we have on climate change is pretty wide ranging. One shady data collection method doesn’t discredit the vast amount of data that has gone into these studies. There are literally thousands upon thousands of researchers working on ever increasingly detailed models and forecasts, as well as analyzing more and more data from more and more sources. Plenty of money goes into both sides, and yet the overwhelming consensus remains on the side of man having a hand in climate change (has everyone forgotten about the ozone layer?). The “smoking gun” that the anti-climate change need to debunk the larger data pool just isn’t there at this point. To say that “it might be” as an excuse to ignore the science is scientifically and logically disingenuous. Is the Universe not made of matter because we can’t find the Higgs Boson particle?

And the idea that the whole idea is financially motivated is f***ing preposterous. Opportunists can and will make money on either side of this bet. GE is making money selling both incandescent bulbs and CFLs. They’ll take government grants to develop “green” tech, but they’ll sell the regular crap as long as they can. Really, they just don’t care. Corporate profits on “green” products are equal to or more than their older counterparts.

As for “your money”, can we drop this notion that we get nothing for our tax dollars? I for one am happy to invest in technology that – regardless of global climate change – gives me cleaner air, cleaner water, and maximizes our natural resources. Actual Green products (not crap with “green!” printed on the side of it from Wal*Mart) usually SAVE money, often enough to pay for themselves over the life of the product. WHY DO YOU HATE SAVING MONEY GUISE??

In the end, a lot of the dissent on views like this come not from skeptics with mad critical thinking skills, but intellectually lazy ideologues who have wrapped their egos around being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. “Oh, I’m not one of those _______ sheep that blindly follow that _______. I’m a Freethinker, and smarter than you!”. And they make just enough sense that it makes a case for well intentioned lay people.

I certainly hope that climate change is not as catastrophic as the doomsayers would have us believe – though I think that if we listened to saner warnings, everything in this country wouldn’t have to e a crisis to get us to act. I certainly do NOT want the scientific community to stop testing climate change theory, nor do I want people to stop challenging the data. Timinator and others have some VERY valid criticisms, and I don’t want to sound like I am just dismissing them. Nor is the OP’s post unimportant. Quite the opposite, I believe that the contentious nature of science is what gives it it’s validity.

But as lay people and policymakers, we have to act based on the larger consensus, without bickering over unproven claims and sophistic arguments. In this case in particular, the upside is independent of the issue – the lighter footprint we make, the longer we’ll have this planet’s resources. Period.

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Advertising gender stereotypes, from a forum.

Originally Posted by stinkbug View Post
The first one you mentioned fits well with the current trend of making commercials based on the “Men are complete idiots” theme. Annoying…

Agreed, all of these overdone stereotypes are lazy and demeaning.

Advertising (and American films/TV) have been trading on our lazy gender mythos for years. We had a moment in the 90’s where our heteronormative gender binary was opening up a bit, but the backlash to the “PC Nazis” has clamped us down into the narrowest of gender roles yet again, and our media is more than happy to reinforce these.

The Miller Lite ads drive me f***ing batsh*t. If a bartender ever called someone a “momma’s boy” or a *****(cat) for my choice of beer, she’d be unemployed within seconds. The Coors Lite “bar exam” ads are demeaning and insulting to everyone involved as well. Hey, blow off that $150,000 education you’ll be paying loans on for 20 years, and certainly make sure you lie to the woman that’s no doubt been feeding you for the last 4 years that you’ve been in Law School, and go to the bar and get sh*tfaced with strangers!

Rom-coms and even mainstream comedies use this lazy cultural shorthand to avoid, I dunno, costly character development? Crap like “Couples Retreat”, “The Dillema”, “Hall Pass”, “The Hangover”, “The Change Up” and a disgusting host of other generic “Men are from Mars, screenwriters are from sh*tsville” movies all depend on and reinforce these awful gender stereotypes.

We get it, Kevin James/Vince Vaughn/Will Ferrel/Paul Rudd/Ryan Reynolds/Dane Cook/Bradley Cooper is a likeable douchebag who will eventually learn some pithy little lesson about how he should step up and “be a real man” and let some shrill harpy ruin his life. Or not. Or he’ll figure out how ultra-perky yet oddly one dimensional Mila Kunis/Katherine Heigl/Kristen Bell/Jennifer Anniston was perfect for them all along. It doesn’t matter. The ending comes from a mix of third rate New Age pop psychology blather and fortune cookies wrapped in some bizarre male wish fulfillment fantasy world anyways.

Even the so-called female fantasy crap like “Sex and the City” and “Cougar Town” trades on these awful stereotypes. These screenwriters need to be beaten into the hospital with bell hooks books.

But the interesting thing is that the majority of people still think this way. Whether the media creates or merely reinforces these stereotypes, it’s clear that our creatively bankrupt, cowardly media have zero interest in challenging the status quo, and enough people believe that crap to make it viable.

This country is still financially run by the 18-35 year olds who have grown up in a world where being a horrible person still gets you everything. Being a total sh*thead is what succeeds, and fitting in is the most important thing you can do. If you aren’t a Housewife of Beverly Hills or a Jersey Shore Situation, you ain’t nuthin. And that’s who these ads cater to. People who actually have their emotional sh*t together tend to do research, and buy the product that actually best suits their needs. So screw it, try to get the idiots to develop an emotional response to beer that tastes like dog piss or just paint it pink and say it’s for women.

It’s a dangerous cycle, where these outlets are how kids view gender and relationships. Even now, as advertising outlets grow and grow – it’s estimated that we see 3000-5000 ad images a day – media plays an increasing role in defining and reinforcing the status quo. We’re hitting a generation entering their 30’s where huge numbers of them are completely incapable of forming long term relationships because they simply have never seen those skills modeled. Life has been set up to them as this game in which you are the richest guy, the hottest chick, you get married and have kids, and everything works out as long as you can brag about it to your “friends”. Yet they are finding that they are deeply miserable, and don’t know why. Well, because Madison Avenue has a vested interest in maintaining childish selfishness and poor impulse control linked to material goods as a substitution for self esteem.

I’m painting with a broad brush, obviously, but these gestalts are clearly visible among the population at large. And it makes me sad and frustrated that so many people are oblivious to how damaging this crap is to their own pursuit of happiness.

Happy people come in all shapes, sizes, and talents. I wish our media reflected this.

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To my friends looking to take advantage of low housing prices:

[In response to a “should I get a rental property? question on a forum, reposted so I don’t have to retype it every time a friend asks the same question 😀 ]
I think getting into a rental property isn’t a terrible idea, but it’s not a great one. It may be over a decade before the rise in equity even starts to approach what you’ll pay over the life of your loan, so flipping isn’t a bright strategy at all, but the uncertainties involved with the economy make rentals not that stable an idea either.

The problem as I see it is fourfold (forgive me if I am lowbrowing you, it sounds like you are casually interested, so I’m going broad strokes. Most of this you are probably aware of anyways, but I figure it’s worth mentioning for perspective, at least):

1. First off, getting into the landlord business is a pain in the butt. To start, you’d need to get the right deal on the right property. This is not just a low cost property, but one with minimal maintenance costs, as little up front costs like upgrading the plumbing, etc, with desirable attributes for the tenants you are trying to attract – good schools, access to amenities like shopping, health care, and entertainment, etc – just getting a property ready for tenants can be a real investment. Not to mention the outlay for maintenance of the property and grounds once you HAVE tenants. All of this feeds your expenditures, and affects your bottom line.

I say all of that to say that this makes your loan of paramount importance. A few tenths of a percentage point can make a difference of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan – enough that the wrong loan terms can mean the difference between weathering 6 month of non-occupancy or not. You’re not just building equity – and the AMOUNT of equity is more volatile a number than it’s ever been in this country. You simply cannot depend on rising prices to create that profit. As someone who just finished a loan in which I paid $52,000 for a $32,000 car (including a $9000 trade in), I can assure you, you need prices to REALLY move even just to cover the cost of the loan.

My family made it’s money on real estate investment (mostly commercial rental properties), and I’ve sat with my Dad as he went over the math, and that was in far better times than this, and the margin for error is far slimmer than the infomercials would have you believe. My bassist owns three rental properties, and can barely get his mortgage out of em, much less profit. He is still sinking his wages from his day job into them, and hoping that prices will rise again at least to the point where he’s not underwater on em. It’s TOUGH.

It’s tempting, with all the banks are doing to get your money – no down payment, adjustable rates, no closing costs, etc etc etc – but they get their money in the end, oh yes they do. Unless you have cash for a big down payment, and sterling credit to borrow as little as possible, you’re looking at paying 25 to 50% of what you’re paying in fees and interest, and betting that your property is going a appreciate that much (or more) over the life of the loan. And again, that doesn’t figure in the maintenance and administrative costs of rental property ownership.

2. The way the economy is right now, there are better places to put your money with a better chance of a higher return. Corporate and investment profits are at or above the already historic levels of 2006ish. The innovation in financial markets has continued unabated, creating a host of still unregulated exotic products for the savvy investor. Advances in information tech and other emerging fields has led to other opportunities as well. There are also a host of safer, well performing funds that take a lot of the guesswork out of investing, and as long as you work with a trusted firm to stay out of a Madoff scheme, you can expect steady returns as the financial market seems to be doing very well.

3. The development boom seems to have continued without too much of a hitch. A lot of these development plans were started long before the meltdown, and developers have little choice but to slog on. With capital behind them, developers can subsidize rents in some places, have access to advertising, and enjoy access to government to pass favorable legislation to give them an even greater advantage over the smaller landlord. Here in Seattle, Mayor McF**head…. I’m sorry, Mayor McGinn is trying to deregulate development and real estate to keep Seattle’s building boom going. This hurts in two ways – not just direct competition for tenants, but it also drives down prices, and creates a glut vs occupancy. Especially in a high turnover area like Vegas, this makes for a very tough rental environment for landlords. Competing with brand new complexes with state of the art amenities that can undercut your costs in a low occupancy area is a recipe for disaster.

4. Everything else is still broken, 50% of respondents to a bankruptcy questionnaire cited a “major medical expenditure” as a major contributing factor to their financial woes. If you need to get out of your investments in the financial market, there are ways to do that. But getting out of a mortgage in such a depressed housing market is going to be a nightmare. Having the cushion needed to tie up that much money for that long (even just assuming a vanilla 30y mortgage) with the rest of the economy in such uncertainty is a gamble with very little guarantee of a payoff.

One thing you have to think of is the financial health of prospective tenants. In this “jobless recovery”, people’s lives are changing very quickly. The loss of a job is a deadly problem now. Having tenants that can’t pay is a real possibility, and every month your property isn’t generating income, the more it unbalances your bottom line, and the success of the investment over the long term – not to mention the possible strain on your own finances, depending on how much you rely on that income to offset the expenditures.

So, in conclusion, I’d say this: put your money somewhere else. Even though the prices are tempting, real estate depends on stability, the one thing we certainly don’t have. If you have a lot of cash to burn (so your debt load is low and not a burden even in future hard times) and can wait out the recession for prices to move – and I mean 15, 20 years if not more – sure, there are some opportunities out there. But IMHO it would take more expertise than most of us have, and a larger investment in time and effort than most of us could spare to make it work, and even then, there’s no guarantee that prices will rebound (at least not sufficiently), that you’ll even get out from under the loan, much less develop actual equity. Infomercials and “conventional wisdom” would tell you differently, but if you really look at the reality, and the math (which I encourage you to do!), I think you’ll see that the risk/reward is just not in your favor.

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An FB status update:

My daily “it occurs to me”: When wronged, there are those who seek justice, and those who seek revenge. There are those who, having been wronged, develop the empathy to try not to wrong others, and those who, absorbed only by their own feeling of being victimized, seek to victimize others. This empathy – or lack thereof – seems to be the difference between saints and tyrants.

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On Vaccines and Autism (from another forum)

Posted in a thread about vaccines and autism:


My response:

There are a lot of these “miracle cures” claiming to do all sorts of wonderous things, from[url=http://www.dca.med.ualberta.ca/Home/Updates/2007-03-15_Update.cfm] DCA curing cancer[/url] to [url=http://www.bust.com/blog/2011/06/08/male-birth-control.html]male birth control[/url]. We as a public ask “why can’t we have access to these? They clearly work!”.

But without standardized scientific protocols, however, our protection as consumers is fatally compromised. While I would agree that FDA (and wordwide) drug testing protocols need to be reformed to be both safer and faster, this notion of lay people screaming about anecdotal evidence and conspiracy theories is a far more dangerous path.

Look at how many drugs over just the last decade have been recalled because of fatalities and severe side effects. Most companies have armies of lawyers and dump trucks full of money to dump fending off lawsuits and swaying public opinion, it’s true. I certainly wouldn’t argue against evidence that the FDA has an inappropriately cozy relationship with the health care industries it is supposed to be regulating (a common theme in Washington – ask the dozens of Goldman Sachs employees that have worked in Washington as regulators).

But this is a function of the politicizing of our health care system.

Dr. Burzynski claims to be in Stage III trials, and I hope it’s true. DCA has found a new voice in social media, with pressure now building to get the secondary use approved. Again, I agree that the FDA and other regulatory and testing protocols MUST be overhauled to provide both consumer protection and expedited discovery.

However, the “debate” about vaccines and autism shows exactly what we are doing wrong. This issue has been tried in the court of public opinion far more strenuously than in the halls of science. At present time, there is not a single study that can positively link vaccines to autism. There is more evidence that eating fish while pregnant is more harmful than anything in vaccines. But do we see “anti-fishies” clogging the airwaves and screaming on message forums? Does the “anti-fish” lobby have a pretty blonde celebrity spokesmodel?

Of course not. Eating fish would make it the PARENTS fault, and we certainly can’t have THAT.

I have found that a large part of this whole anti-vaxx argument centers around the emotional burden of the parents and their loved ones who are looking – quite rightly, and quite understandably – for answers. But here’s a boogeyman that can be laid at the feet of an external agency. It’s the government! The medical establishment! THEY did this to my child! THEY are responsible! We have an enemy, something we can FIGHT. We can DO something!

My ex girlfriend is a doctor (MD/PHd in Neuroscience). Her former lab partner and best friend went on to be an Oncologist. I was with her during her entire first year of Med School at Vanderbilt University, went to all the functions, knew a lot of the students. I lived close by Vandy for 8 years, worked with a lot of kids from Vandy medical staff families, partied with a lot of Vandy nurses and interns 😀

I say this because I want to say this, very clearly: I have NEVER met a single person in the medical field who didn’t want to help people. Even the most ruthless, money grubbing plastic surgeon who really just wanted to roll in Botox money – and I’ve known a few – have had at the core of their practice a sense of service and helpfulness. And I just can’t believe that among the huge hordes of medical professionals and research scientists who have invested YEARS of their lives and HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars on education there are the numbers of cold hearted sociopaths that would be needed to stall the medical field in regard to some of these issues. To place that kind of motive on an industry – the medical practitioners themselves, mind you, not just the profit driven corporations – seems to be the height of hubris and malice.

A single Facebook page started a revolution in Iraq that still rages. Twitter from cell phones in Libya fomented the biggest uprising in that country’s history. Social media and the inter-connectedness and immediacy of information nowadays is staggeringly powerful. I am glad people are challenging the system, and calling out for funding and exploration of these issues and products. However, we HAVE to know where the lines are, and we HAVE to approach these things with critical thinking and open minds.

The Casey Anthony verdict was a shock to people not because it runs contrary to the evidence. In fact, 10 hours is a SHOCKINGLY short time to deliberate a case like this. It must have been pretty clear cut. The verdict was a shock because the media (thanks Nancy Grace!) ginned up the outrage and horror, and tried this case – without any of the evidence presented in court – in our hearts long before it every went to trial. And that’s what we do with these medical issues. KIDS ARE DYING, DAMMIT! Yes, and it’s sad – I lost a good friend to cancer this year, and another just got out of the hospital after surgery to remove a tumor. My own feelings at the thought of them dying needlessly because a bunch of suits won’t approve or fund something simply because they won’t make money on it are strong.

However, I simply cannot abandon science, reason, and critical thinking just because I so desperately WANT something to be true. Because when you are so attached to an idea like this, you’ll do anything to make it true, to foster your belief, even as the evidence disappears like fog in the light of the Sun. And in the end, that does as much a disservice to those we are trying to help as those we are accusing others of doing. In following these blind leads and forcing the issue on red herrings, we delay the discoveries that COULD make a difference. Every dollar spent researching vaccines and autism is a dollar NOT spent on more promising research.

In the end, we have to hold those agencies charged with our protection accountable, and make sure that funding IS available for promising new treatments regardless of their profitability. THAT is our job as voters and lay people. And I hope that THAT is one thing we can ALL agree on.

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FB Libertarians:

From FB:

  • Hah! Another fear mongering liberal hater. Hope and change?! Not so good so far….but go ahead and spew yer hate somemore. People are wising up. Stats have it that an empty box can beat nobama in 2012. Stop being so bitter, you’re going to hurt yourself. Have a happy INDEPENDENCE day and enjoy what little freedom you have left.

    about an hour ago · Like
  • Meager ??? Were crushing the economy with goverment bailouts and entitlements alone are more than all tax revenues combined, entitlement at 2.3 trillion … Tax revenues at 2.2 trillion which is a all time record.. Our spending 500,000 times as much the entire GDP of Somalia.

    about an hour ago · Like · 1 personSo “pragmatic” means following the corporate media until we turn into N. Korea?

My response:

Aw, you kids are cute. You Google 3 articles with “Libertarian” in the titles and you think you’re informed. Yes, I’m a Liberal (ironically, a Libertarian Progressive)- not because I hate anything, but because I can read, and I can do math.

1. Entitlements are solvent for quite some time – and would be even more safe is not for GOP raids on the Trust Funds. Take this from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorites (re: 2010 Trustee’s Report):

2010 will mark the first year since 1983 in which the program’s total expenses (for benefits and administrative costs) exceed its tax income (from payroll taxes and income taxes that higher-income beneficiaries pay on a portion of their Social Security benefits). That temporary imbalance — which the actuaries peg at $41 billion in 2010 — results from the severe economic downturn and will shrink dramatically in 2011 and disappear in 2012, although a so-called cash deficit will return permanently in 2015 as the retirement of the baby boom accelerates. Throughout that period, however, the trust funds will continue to grow larger, primarily because of the interest income the trust funds will receive on the Treasury bonds they hold. Even in 2010, for example, the trustees estimate that the trust funds’ interest income of $118 billion will more than offset the cash deficit of $41 billion.

Oddly enough, the SS shortfall would be offset completely by the expiring of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Gosh, for a bunch of dudes crying about “corporate this” and “corporate that” you sure do like to give them money and power.

2. TARP, the “Wall Street bailout”, the “Detroit Bailout”, and the Stimulus were all consensus strategies by a host of economists from all ideological backgrounds. Without these programs, we’d have lost EVERY major bank on our shores. Without the movement of capital from these banks – indeed, if we had even lost Citi and Goldman Sachs – we’d be bringing wheelbarrows of money to buy a stick of gum.

TARP was a necessity because of the ratings manipulations by Moody’s and the others, pressured by Goldman Sachs (who is being investigated for fraud because of their involvement in the rating scandal) to rate their derivatives as AAA (the same rating given to Treasury Bonds!). By dividing these CDOs into tranches, Goldman and others were able to hide toxic subprime mortgages given KNOWINGLY to people who could not pay them back in securities rated so high, rated as SO SAFE that even government pensions – who have a HOST of limitations on what they can be invested in – could get in on what was touted as :free money”.

The Wall Street Bailout was necessary so banks had the liquidity to meet their obligations – AIG’s bailout billions went almost immediately to pay Goldman Sachs for CDS’s they had purchased from AIG to ensure their own CDOs. O.o Fair? Not by a long shot. Necessary? Unless you have ANOTHER 13 multi-trillion dollar banks lying around, uh, yup.

Detroit paid it’s bailout money back with interest.

The stimulus did a great job at creating jobs – main problem was that the spending portion was too small, and it was too reliant on tax cuts. Most tax cuts went to paying off existing debt, not purchasing goods and services. Paying off debt does not drive production, so it doesn’t create jobs (see below).

So railing at the government against the bailouts is like yelling at the doctor for stitching up that gaping hole in your head made by a burglar. If you want to yell, yell at the burglar – Wall Street and their Washington cronies (there are PLENTY of Democrats that have gone along with the corporate takeover of government. However, I’d call none of them “Liberals”).

3. The economy is a result of more than 2 decades of deregulation. The financial meltdown is a perfect example. Credit derivatives, the engine of that downfall, were not only left unregulated, but laws were passed specifically to keep them out of the purview of ANY regulatory body. So more and more banks leaned on this method of hiding risk (selling consumer credit and mortgages to Wall Street to be securitized, while insurers like AIG insured these falsely rated securities). A benefit of moving the risk of consumer default to investors is that banks then met far lower standards for capital reserves. Hey, this freed up capital to create jobs, right? Uh, no. Instead, the Financial Services sector rose from 21.7% of GDP in 1980 to 31.8% in 2005.[BEA].

As Daniel Gross states:

But since the Obama presidency started, the trajectory in quarterly profits has reversed. Quarterly profits (reported at an annualized rate) rose from $1.18 trillion in the second quarter of 2009 to $1.42 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2009 to $1.64 trillion in the second quarter of 2010. In the second quarter of 2010, corporate profits were up 39.2 percent from the year-before quarter.
Corporate profits aren’t just rising in absolute terms, they’re rising in relative terms. Corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are back up to nearly record highs. Check out this assemblage of quarterly GDP data for the last several years. If you divide line 17 (corporate profits with inventory and capital-consumption adjustments) into line 1 (overall GDP), you can calculate corporate profits as a percentage of GDP—i.e., the chunk of the economy that corporations are keeping as profits. If companies and business were under assault, you might expect that this proportion would be falling. But as the chart here shows, that’s not what is happening.
After hitting a low point in the fourth quarter of 2008, the measure has risen in every quarter and checked in at 11.25 percent in the second quarter of 2010—the highest level since the last quarter of 2006. In other words, the chunk of the economic pie being reserved for business owners and bosses has been growing sharply in the past couple of years, despite slow growth, and is generally back at the levels it was during the business-friendly Bush administration.
Why is corporate America doing well when so many powerful forces seem to be arrayed against it? Some sectors are benefiting from government policy. Banks are profiting from low interest rates and the ongoing federal subsidies and guarantees. Even as the industry squawks loudly about demonization and tough regulation, banks just reported their best quarter results in three years, according to the FDIC.

Strangling the economy? Quite the opposite, apparently. Indeed, the fact that corporations are being given the freedoms THEY whine about in order to -as they claim – make jobs, turns out it just makes profit. Why?

Because most people who use Google as a fact finding tool instead of, you know, critical thinking, fundamentally accept some great mistruths about the way the economy works. We have endured “supply side” economic theory for so long that the Wall Street/Washington echo chamber seems to forget a teensy  little fact about the economy: aggregate demand is as driven by wages as by desire. In other words, aggregate demand is limited by the amount of money consumers have to actually make purchases. This means that the economy CANNOT grow beyond the consumers’ ability to pay. In this case, this means that the “real” economy will stagnate until the lower and middle class (the OTHER 95% of Americans) regain purchasing power.
Corporate America has been able to artificially stagnate real wages by getting consumers to use consumer credit, and then home equity to make up the gap between wages and corporate profits. Wage inequality is at the greatest level sine the Great Depression. Simply put, people don’t have the money to drive production. Increased production is the ONLY thing that actually creates jobs (oh, except that corporations are getting more productivity out of fewer workers by threatening them with a host of horrors: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/06/speed-up-american-workers-long-hours).

So if you look at what is ACTUALLY stagnating the economy (the part that ISN’T record profits for corporations), that would be our (that’s “We The People”) lack of protections against corporate power. Traditionally, this means strong Unions and government regulation. These are OUR tools against the decades-long attack on OUR FUCKING FREEDOM by corporate interests.

There is a clear link from Ron Paul’s idiot-ideology of dismantling government to Reagan’s “Voodoo Economics” and even Clinton’s business friendly deregulation to create the sweet freedom of, say, feudal England, or sharecropper Dust Bowl Kansas, or Coal Mining Company Town Appalachia, is this notion of “freedom” itself. I don’t recall you fellas screaming when Bush suspended Habeas Corpus, or when we OK’d wiretapping, rendition, waterboarding or even the assassination of US civilians abroad under Obama. Now we get groped in our own airports and you geniuses think that giving corporations and Conservative ideologues MORE POWER is the answer?
Seriously, you guys, go read a book. Stop looking up chemtrails and HAARP on your fucking computers and go learn something about economics and politics. You’ve been brainwashed into thinking that the only power structure that actually WORKS FOR YOU is working against you. Government is just made of people – if you think the people suck, elect new ones. But for fuck’s sake, please educate yourselves beyond “weed should be free and I hate wearing a helmet”.

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Oh! Teh Freedumb!

From the AP:

ONONDAGA, N.Y. (AP) — Police say a motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws in upstate New York died after he flipped over the bike’s handlebars and hit his head on the pavement.

The accident happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Onondaga, in central New York near Syracuse.

State troopers tell The Post-Standard of Syracuse that 55-year-old Philip A. Contos of Parish, N.Y., was driving a 1983 Harley Davidson with a group of bikers who were protesting helmet laws by not wearing helmets.

Troopers say Contos hit his brakes and the motorcycle fishtailed. The bike spun out of control, and Contos toppled over the handlebars. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Troopers say Contos would have likely survived if he had been wearing a helmet.

Here’s what drives me nuts about stuff like this: wearing safety gear while operating an open air vehicle going in excess of 60 mph should be so f**king obvious that no law should ever need to be passed. No one should be so stupid and misinformed – or have such a massive self entitlement complex – that they should even THINK of getting on a motorcycle without a helmet.

And this is the crux of this whole “MAH FREEDUMBZ!!!one11!!” ideological morass we find ourselves in. The fact is that people are too selfish and stupid to actually accept freedom with even a modicum of responsibility. We shouldn’t have to ban smoking, no one should ever be dumb enough to smoke. We shouldn’t have to legislate clean water, clean air – who the heck is dumb enough to poison the place they live? Are you stupid enough to set off bug bombs in your house and then sit down to watch TV? Are you stupid enough to go shovel your waste into your well?

But people make these decisions ALL THE TIME. At a certain point, it’s not just some idiots doing dumbass stuff, it’s a LARGE SECTION of the populace. What goofnut owns 30 Golden Eagles and AK47s but no gun safe? 80% of crimes involving guns are committed with stolen guns. You don’t want gun laws to infringe upon your 2nd Amendment rights? Then treat your sh*t responsibly. It’s not an ideological issue. This isn’t partisan rhetoric. This is basic human behavior – if you can’t handle your toys responsibly, your parents took them away. This goes for weed, strippers, Four Loko, and trans fats. It’s really, really simple. Clean your room and get good grades and you get a later curfew than if you flunk gym and set people’s science projects on fire.

People make decisions all day, every day that affect people around them, with no actual thought of the consequences. Take the guy talking on his cell while cutting through traffic in his Bimmer like Rusty Wallace on cold meds. If I said to him “you can get to work 2 minutes faster a day, but every 20 times I’m going to shoot a child in the head”, do you think he’d slow down? Do you think he is thinking about the other people his behavior might hurt? No, of course not. That self important jackass thinks of nothing but his own ego, and how much more important HIS time is than YOUR LIFE. Heck, there was a woman busted for driving while SHAVING HER PRIVATES. WHAT could POSSIBLY be SO IMPORTANT about having hairless genitals that it is worth the risk while piloting 4000 POUNDS of moving missile at 70 mph?

It’s not that bad or drunk driving is suicide that’s the problem. It’s that it’s MURDER.

Here’s the thing. We HAVE to get people to do the right thing at least SOME of the time, especially when it affects others – as almost everything does. If they do it on their own, then we get freedom. If they don’t, then we get laws that restrict everyone because a significant number of people can’t figure out that there is something beyond their own selfish desires.

The idea is to elect people who are smart enough to balance this, who can craft laws that do the least amount of harm while doing the most amount of good. Not people who are as dumb as us, who play up our fears and hatreds, who keep us ginned up against “the other guys” with platitudes and fiery rhetoric, sticking doggedly to strict, unyielding ideologies and rigid, unrealistic dogma – this is how we get this whole “legislating morality” crap, whether it’s abortion or recycling. Hey, separate your glass and wear a f**king condom. PROBLEM SOLVED. But I need my ego pandered to, to make me feel like I’m on the winning side, regardless of how contrary to my actual interests the agenda is!

If you’re constantly screaming about having the freedom to do something, dollars to donuts you’re one of the people f**king that freedom up. I feel that 7 times out of 10, these issues would be better served by people coming to a consensus as to what the stupid thing is, and then working through social pressure to eliminate it. If the NRA spent a tenth as much time and money getting gun owners to properly use and secure their firearms to reduce accidents, and limit the availability of stolen weapons as they do making sure we don’t outlaw teflon bullets, it would make a bigger impact than ANY piece of legislation would. Just sayin, especially as a supporter of gun rights.

We saw this with the financial meltdown. Wall Street has been saying that it can police itself, that the market corrects, that no government intervention was needed, throwing it’s entire weight behind deregulation and it got it. The derivatives that eventually crashed the market were BY LAW completely unregulated. As in, they were deliberately put OUTSIDE the purview of ANY existing regulatory agency. And what happened? Everybody did everything they possibly could to game the system, and it collapsed. Stupid, selfish, greedy people. And Greenspan was shocked – shocked, Jerry! – that people acted against the best interests of their companies. Jeez, Alan, have you MET people? So, there ya go – if Wall Street cannot police itself, as it has CLEARLY shown it cannot, what should we do? We HAVE to get these people to do the right thing. Not doing so is NOT AN OPTION. But if they actually HAD policed themselves, none of this would have happened, and we’d have no need for further legislation.

In the end, we have to accept that as a species, we are a selfish, self-centered animal out for our own immediate needs. This illusion of superiority we have as humans (magnified a million times for us Americans) that we are somehow not slaves to titties, cocaine, fast food and a good shoe sale is killing us.

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