Tuesday, July 14, 2015

IMF Concurs on Evaluation of Greece

So, the IMF published a memo on the Greece debt situation (memo is here, link referencing story is here). Basically, the memo outlines why the IMF will refuse to give Greece any more money, unless the other EU countries sign up to give Greece their money first. It is, by all appearances, a rational response to the most recent asinine bailout "agreement" reached over the weekend, which calls for (among other things) the IMF to dump another 50B euros into the bottomless monetary waste pit that is Greece.

Yes, by refusing to participate in the latest round of handouts, the IMF might be writing off its loan to Greece. However, with the current economic and political realities in Greece, they probably should have written off that money at the point they "lent" it, and certainly should have penciled it in as "gone" at the point of the latest elections. Greece simply has no will to repay their national debts, even if they had the ability to do so (which they also do not).

The important point, though, as the article somewhat notes, is that the EU basically has two options at this point. Option one, as laid out in the IMF memo and echoed in the article, is that the EU countries subsidize Greece indefinitely, creating a wealth redistribution funnel from the prosperous (read: capitalist) countries to the fiscally irresponsible (read: socialist) ones, where the people in Germany work hard to pay for the generous vacations and pensions for the people in Greece. Option two is for the EU to find/craft a way for Greece to denominate its debts in its own currency, so the market can punish their fiscal malfeasance over and over and over again, until the people finally "get it", and change their political policies.

Here's hoping they pick the second option, and not some half-measure somewhere in between to just delay the inevitable, while the people of Greece continue to suffer.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Simple Solutions for Greece, et all

So Greece has been in the news a lot recently, as a predictable culmination of a sequence of intentional steps which have brought the world to this point. To recap, an abbreviated summary:

  • Greece develops a culture of entitlement, with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and healthy government benefits for the people, such as government pensions and a retirement age of 50
  • Greece joins the EU to establish a common currency, which helps their tourism industry, but like other socialist-leaning countries ignores the nominal requirement to be nationally fiscally sound
  • Greece runs up large deficits which they cannot pay, requiring initial bailouts, which are granted because the EU is afraid of collapse should a member state default (and due to pre-existing financial rescue efforts and organizations, such as the IMF)
  • Greece doesn't change any of their policies, or enact any meaningful reform, and in a couple of years obviously needs further handouts to pay their ever-increasing bills
  • The EU government balk at funneling any more of their citizens' wealth to the effectively financially (and arguably morally) bankrupt Greece
  • The people of Greece double-down, and elect a pure socialist ruler on the premise of giving the colloquial finger to Greece's international creditors, while increasing the government benefits for the people (method of paying bills is unspoken, of course, since it doesn't exist)
  • Greece's government goes to the EU and demands more multi-billion euro handouts, but the EU countries have developed a modicum of common sense, and rebuke the idiotic demands
  • Greece's prime minister doubles-down again, calling for (and winning) a referendum from the people of Greece to say "FU" to their creditors, because somehow (in the prime minister's logic) this will make them more likely to throw their money into the black hole of Greece's bankrupt system
  • Greece submits a new proposal to get a new handout, which is just as absurd as the previous ones, but inexplicably the EU states consider agreeing to it (or at least pretend to, which is equally absurd)
So that's where we are, going into this weekend. It would, of course, be monumentally stupid (as well as a financial betrayal of their own people) for the EU countries to give Greece any more money, but that's not what I really want to write about. What I'd like to consider, instead, is how to conceptually fix the EU's charter to prevent the inevitable repeats of the Grecian meltdown (looking at you, France, and other unsustainable socialist "economies").

See, the real problem is not that hard to solve (looking past political issues). What Greece needs, and indeed what the EU needs in general, is for the member states to be required to denote all of their own borrowing and governmental obligations in their own state currency. Note that this currency might not even need to exist in any physical form; rather, all that is required is an electronic market for currency exchange between the individual nation-state currencies and the euro.

How would this help? Well to start with, countries would no longer need bailouts; they could, in cases of high debt, simply create more money to pay those debts (since all debts are, by charter/definition, denoted in the national currency). Creditors will, of course, demand interest rates proportional to the risk of devaluation through monetary creation, but that's a good thing: the demanded rate will be a direct reflection of how successful the monetary policies of the states are perceived. Moreover, the country could never run out of money, again by definition.

What about the people? Well, it turns out that the proposed scheme would address many of the governmental fiscal policy issues automatically as well. Overwhelming pension obligations? A non issue: the would be denoted in the national currency, and devalued automatically. Too many highly paid government workers? Not for long, as effective salaries are reduced through monetary devaluation. Essentially, the unsustainable debt load would fix itself, automatically.

Is that bad for the people? Well, that's a more complicated question. In the short term, it would certainly be painful, there's no question. However, it could actually be beneficial in the longer term, as perceptions and behaviors change by necessity. With the advent of devaluations and inflation, the countries would be forced to confront economic realities, with much more real-time feedback. Moreover, it would be much more difficult to create unrecoverable circumstances, as the economy would be constantly adjusting to economic reality. Thus, hopefully no more politicians winning elections by ignoring reality, as the realities would be much more obvious to the electorate.

Lastly, perhaps the most important question: would it work? Well, I think it would... but that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Celebrating Idiot Masses Day

This year, Tuesday November 4th marked the day I'd colloquially term the Idiot Masses Day in the US. This is the day, bi-annually, when the idiot masses get to go to the polling stations, and help steer the country inexorably forward toward its destined idiocracy. It's the day when, no matter how informed or educated you may be on any particular political issues or candidates, there are an order of magnitude more people going to the polls to vote purely based on idiotic partisan categorization, some partisan or paid-for endorsements, or worse, a combination of distilled and filtered sound bites randomly garnered from media exposure. The setup virtually ensures we'll get a mediocre outcome at best, and reinforces the monetarily corrupt native of the current voting process.

Which begs the question: could we do better? Well, that's a more difficult question, with no easy answer. Conceptually, there are several ways we could hope to have a better overall outcome, but they all have substantial drawbacks.

For example, we could have some sort of political literacy test required in order to vote, which would eliminate some of the people influencing the process without the faintest comprehension of the effects of the things they are voting for. Depending on the test, this could do wonders to screen out the easily manipulated votes (and by extension the corrupting influence of money), but whoever was setting the test criteria would have enormous influence over the election process. Since this would be done by elected leaders (directly or indirectly), and they are generally contemptible and thoroughly corrupt, this would be untenable in practice.

We could also weigh votes, based on some objective criteria, designed to elicit more educated voting indirectly (eg: count votes by property owners as worth more than votes by people with no land holdings). While this could certainly work to increase the quality of opinions expressed by the voting populace, it would (again) no doubt elicit much debate as to what criteria was used to select for "good" opinions on political matters. While I'd love to see this employed for some sections of government, to allow specific points of view to have a voice (eg: elect the US Senate with votes weighed based on actual taxes paid, to allow the people who pay for government a say in government actions), I don't think this is really viable for general elections, due to the potential for abuse of the criteria.

There are also optimizations which could be made to make it more feasible for working professionals to vote, and/or for people to express indirectly-educated opinions. For the former, something like online voting would be a great alternative to visiting a polling place. For the latter, the ability to proxy your vote on specific people/issues to others who you trusted to be educated and like-minded would go a long way toward raising the effective education level of the voting populace. However, both of these also have issues, primarily related to the required anonymity of voting itself (ie: the moment voting has a identification trail, it's a certainty that the intelligence agencies, who don't particularly care about rights or ethics, will compromise the data, and politicians will then be able to use it to intimidate voters and influence the process). So this, too, is probably a non-starter.

Where does that leave us? Well, where we are now: celebrating Idiot Masses Day, as the abysmally poor way to make political decisions, which also happens to likely be the best methodology our corrupt system/people can actually support. The day when you can spend time going to the polls and do your best to correct the direction of the state/country (within the very narrow and practically meaningless confines imposed on you by the politicians determining what measures get onto the ballot, and/or choosing between two horrible corrupt partisan liars), only to have your potentially educated and insightful opinion drowned out by the masses of drooling idiots casting their votes for the highest media bidder. Congratulations.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Evolution of the Internet

I'm going to preface this blog post by noting that it's somewhat more technical than political, so if that is uninteresting, feel free to ignore.

I've been thinking a bit recently about what the internet needs moving forward. Specifically, I see a few looming problems which threaten to harm, if not effectively destroy, the internet as we currently know it. First, there is the problem of pervasive government monitoring, which threatens free communication of ideas. Second, there is the attack on net neutrality, which threatens to make only the content which the telcom providers sell viable on the internet. Both of these are serious problems, and although it's conceptually possible that they would have legislative solutions, that presumes the laughable premise that the government works on behalf of the people (as opposed to itself and/or large corporations who bribe them), which is obviously false. Therefore, it's prudent to look for a technological solution for these problems, if possible.

Fortunately, I do think a technological solution is possible (albeit at the expense of performance). Specifically, here's what I think we (the people) need: open source router firmware (dd-wrt style) which implements automatic multi-channel TOR communication, and passes all traffic through them, while itself serving as a TOR relay node (and optional exit node).

How would this work? TOR, by its nature, obfuscates traffic destinations, and encrypts traffic. It is, currently, one of the best defenses against network surveillance, both by individuals and governments. By passing data through multiple channels, you could guard against traffic analysis [at a node beyond the ISP level], and having each router act as a relay node would ensure wide distribution of nodes.

Moreover, this would effectively make net neutrality a de facto standard. With all network traffic sent through TOR relays, the ISP's would have no method of discerning the protocol or destination of traffic, and thus no metric upon which to bias the bandwidth. It's possible that they could apply a QoS to throttle TOR traffic itself (as some currently do with torrent traffic, for example), but with everything going over TOR, the ISP's would need to adjust their strategies or lose customers (and/or be subject to false-advertising claims with respect to their bandwidth). If enough people were using the firmware, it would become the de facto standard, and ISP's would be forced to live with it.

What about cost? Well, that's not insignificant: it would roughly triple the amount of network traffic necessary for the same communications, not counting encryption processing. It's even worse than that, though: multi-casting would become effectively impossible, and some elements of malicious usage detection and traffic would be rendered effectively impossible. Those would be the necessary costs of implementing a technological solution to a problem which would be much more efficiently solved at a political level, if not for the irreparably corrupt government we must deal with. Still, I think it would be worth the cost going forward, if the alternative is the internet as we know it ceasing to exist.

As always, I'd be interested in other opinions, either on this or other potential solutions. I don't know if something like this will happen, but given the various alternatives, I really hope that creative, smart people come up with some solution, before it's too late.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

High Crimes

President Obama has done a number of objectionable things during the six years of his presidency so far. Some things have been mere continuations, or slight expansions, of pre-existing objectionable policies (eg: domestic spying by the NSA, unauthorized and unconstitutional foreign military interventions, etc.). Others have been more substantial escalations of previous bad policies (eg: more expansive power grabs through executive orders, formulation of a legal opinion to allow arbitrary assassination of Americans, increasing the national debt at a historically record rate, etc.). Still others have been new, more creative attacks on American systems and long-term prosperity (eg: Obamacare, designed to be so expensive, arduous, and crippling to the health care system as to necessitate the adoption of socialized medical care). Obama is now finally regarded by Americans as the worst president in American history, and there's still [at least] two years of additional disasters to endure.

There's a new attack happening now, though, which might actually be worse than anything else Obama has done to-date. Like any good military operation, it's been years in the planning, with various subtle maneuvers designed with an overall strategic objective. It began shortly after Obama took office, with the direction to ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion to essentially halt deportations for all illegal aliens (except for those who committed crimes deemed too excessive to ignore). Then Obama shifted DHS priorities, to ensure that the border was porous, while refusing to allocate any additional resources to shoring up holes. But that was just the start of the campaign.

There were movements on the propaganda front as well. Obama positioned himself as pro-amnesty, and began gather allies in Congress for another wave, horse-trading favors on other measures to make clandestine allies. Allies like Eric Cantor, nominally one of the strongest opponents to Obama's other policies, but somewhat less confrontational on the issue of amnesty for illegal aliens. That front was developing well, and it looked like Obama was poised to push through another amnesty wave (along with whatever meaningless promises of border security the Democrats would throw in this time, with a wink and a nod, knowing that they would ignore them just like the last time they passed an amnesty bill). They had a setback, though, with Cantor's defeat... but as with any military conflict, a general does not let one defeat decide the war, he presses on.

And press on the Obama administration did, insinuating that Obama would act to affect amnesty unilaterally (irrespective of the lack of Constitutional authority to do so), while basically ordering DHS to stand-aside on the border. That was not enough, though: to ensure that local communities would not be effective in fighting back, Obama went a step further, and actually had the federal government relocate illegal aliens into the middle areas of the country, to ensure they could not be deported! These measures have been having the desired effect: a massive influx of illegal invaders streaming into the country, with no defense offered (and indeed, the efforts have been aided by the Obama administration), leading to a large shift in population (and voting) dynamic.

To what end? Well, that's simple: power, as always. Illegal immigrants vote, in small numbers (while illegal), and in large numbers (after being granted amnesty). When they vote, they vote overwhelmingly Democrat, primarily because the Democrat platform advocates forcible wealth redistribution, and illegal immigrants are largely poor (and thus socialist-type policies benefit them). Obama can do more to ensure continued Democrat leadership in government by shifting the voting population than any other action he could take (and indeed, since people are waking up to how unequivocally horrible the rest of his actions have been, minimizing the voice of legal American citizens is probably his best course of action).

Of course, in wars you have allies, and this situation is no different. There are many immigrant advocacy groups who would promote the free flow of people into the United States, but some are more specific and transparent with their goals than others. La Raza, for example, one of President Obama's political allies, has been somewhat outspoken (in less guarded moments) about the desire to establish hispanic control over a section of the United States, if not its entirety. In essence, they advocate taking control of the country through invasion, and shifting of population dynamics.

This is a section of the US code:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason...
If we take for hypothesis that the people who would advocate gaining control of the United States through [peaceful or violent] invasion are enemies of the country, then we can conclude that Obama's latest affront is distinctly more significant than all his previous efforts. He is, without doubt, by virtue of his position and oath of office, owing allegiance to the United States. He has aided enemy efforts by encouraging the invasion, promising to work toward appeasement and amnesty, and intentionally weakening the border enforcement and punitive measures. He has refused to enforce the law, with respect to these enemies. He has given them aid and comfort, both in supplies and care, as well as relocation to stymie local efforts to repel the invading forces. By all accounts, then, he is in direct and open violation of U.S. Code § 2381.

I don't want Congress to sue the President, as he taunted them to do, in relation to his latest unconstitutional power grab. I want Congress to prosecute him for his more serious offense, the only one spelled out in the Constitution itself.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Criticism where Appropriate, and the Converse - Iraq 2014 Edition

It would be fair to say that at times, I have been somewhat critical of President Obama, as well as Democrats in general, on this blog and elsewhere. As it happens, I find myself in frequent disagreement with his/their policies, pushes, and general philosophies on how government should work. However, I like to think of myself as having [strong] opinions on issues, and sometimes on ideology, but not on partisan political groups per se, despite the frequent overlap.

In that sense, I'd like to espouse the following opinion: I have no issue, whatsoever, with how Obama has handled our military interactions with Iraq since he took office, and I don't feel he should bare much, if any, blame for the ISIS uprising there.

It has been opined that the US should have persisted in Iraq, establishing a long-term presence to deter aggressive forces, as we have in other regions of the world. It has been opined that the Iraqi military was not ready to stand on its own, and needed more training, more resource, more money, and/or more time to be so. It has been opined that the US should have insisted on a longer-term troop deployment, to secure the "gains" from invading Iraq and establishing a new government. All of these are debatable points, from a military and international diplomacy perspective.

However, making those decisions is the job of the Commander in Chief, and given the various options, I can find no significant fault in the decision to honor the wishes of the Iraqi government to control their own destiny, for better or for worse. We should not feel obligated to put our military assets (people and equipment) in harm's way, in service of defending against a nebulous future threat, and in opposition to the wishes of the local [democratic] authority. Like many others, I think the US should err on the side of non-intervention, even if we are vehemently opposed to what transpires inside another country; we should not be the world police.

I refuse to criticize Obama for prioritizing Afghanistan for military action, over Iraq, as I refuse to criticize for scaling down our military presence in Afghanistan as well. Iraq has a culture of corruption which they need to overcome to secure their freedom, and while I feel for the people there (who, like us, are victims of a corrupt government), it should not be the responsibility of the US to intervene when things go awry. Moreover, the US military exists to support and defend the interests of the US, and emphatically not to serve as a first line of defense for other countries. I have no issue with Obama taking a very measured and conservative approach to military actions in foreign countries, even if such sometimes results in gains by the "bad guys".

That's my opinion, anyway; just wanted to get it out there.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mark Cuban, and the Difference Between Racism and Common Sense

So Mark Cuban is being criticized for some comments he made recently, tangentially related to the Donald Sterling controversy. Essentially, what Cuban said is that he would be cautious around people he perceived as potentially dangerous, and that perception could be based on many factors: area, race, clothing, tattoos, general appearance, etc. Then he characterized those perceptions as based on stereotypes... which is true, in a certain sense. In another sense, though, we might call that behavior by another characterization: common sense.

People (as well as animals in general) have evolved to be cautious of things they perceive as potentially dangerous, and for good reason. Dangerous things threaten us, and it would be foolish to ignore potential signs of danger, or wander through life intentionally ignorant of your perceptions of your environment, and the people and things in it. You wouldn't wander across a busy freeway, intentionally ignoring the cars whizzing by in some absurd nod to political correctness. Likewise, it's common sense to pay attention to the people around you, and evaluate (based on your knowledge and experiences) who might be a threat, so you can take appropriate precautions.

If you're walking alone in a bad neighborhood late at night, and you come across a group of heavily tattooed individuals wearing known gang attire, you're probably going to try to avoid them, or at least be more cautious around them. Now if they are hispanic, does that make you racist? Of course not; the race of the people is just one factor in your evaluation of them, possibly not even a major factor, and it would be absurd to ignore the potential danger which your common sense is alerting you to.

At what point, then, does an evaluation of people border on racism? Well, as Cuban observed, people's perceptions of the relative danger of others is influenced by their knowledge and observations, including factors which may be stereotypes or unfairly prejudicial. For example, if you think all black people are dangerous, you might be more inclined to avoid black people, even absent any other observable factors. That could lead to you being considered racist, by others who did not have the same impressions or experiences, and/or did not see any more reason to be fearful of black people.

The thing is, though: there are statistics, of crime and malicious activities, which are sometimes correlative to race, even though the political correctness class would prefer that not to be the case. Allowing statistics to influence your perceptions is probably wise, in general; that's why you might try to avoid walking alone in "bad" neighborhoods at night, for example. Someone who is judging prejudicially based on race might, in some cases, make the same judgments as someone acting without bias, but making judicious and informed observations based purely on statistics.

What Cuban observed, correctly, is that people make informed judgments, and that doesn't necessarily make them racist. Racism is judging someone differently because of race, which can often be difficult to discern, without knowing the thought processes of the people involved. Using your knowledge and experience to avoid danger to yourself isn't racism; that's common sense. Assuming that someone is making judgments based on race, when there are valid statistics to also support the same judgement, means you're seeing racism where it may not exist. If you assume the person making such judgments is racists, just because of the color of their skin... that makes you the racist.