Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Foundational Dialectics

My first two theme articles are titled Rich Theory and Foundational Dialectics.

Rich Theory is my Affirmative statement. The thesis starts with the observation that we live in multidimensional universe and that, to thrive, we need a rich multidimensional system of thought that lets the billions of people on this planet expand on the different levels in this universe.

NOTE, the theme page simply states the word. It will take a great deal of other articles to explain what I mean with the thesis.

My negative term is "Foundational Dialectics." Foundational dialectics is not a rejection of the dialectical argument. The dialectical argument in the western tradition is a effective tool that can be used to draw out and overcome conflicts.

Modern thinkers have developed techniques that magnify conflicts until they become deep divisive issues that tear societies apart. The goal of the stipulated definition "Foundational Dialectics" is to differentiate between good and bad dialectics.

y-intercept themes

I have not been happy with this blog. A blog provides a fun format for ranting, but it does not provide a decent format for examining issues in depth. So, I want to get back to my y-intercept project which I hope will be able to provide a more deliberative mechanism for researching issues.

The project keeps getting delayed by silly things. For example, I started the design in PHP with the assumption that register globals would be on and magic quotes off. I have yet to come up with an elegant way to handle register globals off and the various settings for Magic Quotes.

Quite frankly, I am ready to give up on PHP. I am researching web sites that host JREs.

Anyway, having forgotten the design I had in mind, I decided that I will just start hacking away at the site with the hope that a design will materialize in my head at some point in the future.

I just added a section on y-intercept called themes. The themes will start as essays. I hope to morph the theme section into something where it is a collection of nodes of thoughts. The goal of the themes file is to define a concept, then to show how that concept manifests itself in my various other writings.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

McCain's Plan

The two biggest challenges currently facing America are: our massive foreign account deficit and our dependency on foreign oil.

Sadly, McCain's economic stimulus package flunks the common sense test. The key elements of the program is a tax vacation where we temporarily nix the federal gas tax.

This program flunks common sense because it has the government widening our account deficits to facilitate our consumption of oil.

It is a bit like the coke addict's one hit for the road plan.

Suspending additions to the strategic oil reserves makes sense. If our focus is on replacing oil with alternative fuels, then the reserve would not be more valuable than the present price of oil which is likely to fall in the near future.

The gas tax is a fixed dollar amount. It is not a percent. One can actually argue that the Federal Gas Tax is decreasing because of inflation and the weakening dollar.

The current increase in oil prices is due to demand. Costs will continue to rise until it hits that point where people start conserving, which apparently hasn't happened yet.

Quite frankly, I think McCain would have done better to promise a future tax increase. The promise that prices will continue to be high will create an incentive for investments in alternative energy.

I've stated in a previous posts that, if we really want an economic stimulous, the stimulous should be aimed at reducing fossil fuel dependencies.

For that matter, forward thinking politicians would request that we spend the tax rebate checks in the mail on conservation. We should use the money for a tune up, insulation, a new bike, pellet stove, or for reducing our debt reduction.

Any tax decreases should be aimed at reducing payroll taxes. Lowering taxes on labor while increasing taxes on resource consumption would create a positive force where we replaced energy intensive applications with labor intesnsive applications.

Wise free marketeers think progressively when making tax cuts. That is, we should cut taxes on workers first, while saving those on resources for last.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Real Environmental Improvement

A few days ago, I listened to pundits complaining that The Great Satan George Bush had returned the U.S. to the energy policies of the 1950s, and how we need to have some sort of Al Gore style character back in the Whitehouse so that we can get back to a large centralized energy policy.

I thought this debate odd because the energy profile prior to the 1950s had a lot more alternative fuels in play than after the rise of the Great Society.

For that matter, I believe that the centralized environmental and energy policies advocated by progressives was a major factor in our current dependence on a single source of fuel.

The centralization of energy policy and ownership played a pivotal role in the systematic removal of all the windmills, watermills and alternative fuel sources that dotted the landscape prior to the Great Society.

Modern politics made harvesting biofuels from forests a sin against Gaia. Restrictive zoning laws reduced the ability of architects to experiment with environmental housing and community design. The strict zoning laws forced our cities into environmentally unsound development patterns (sprawl). For example, in Salt Lake County, most of the high density housing developed in the last half century is in the unincorporated areas.

Our activist leaders let forth a screech of NIMBY whenever a business used anything other than the once politically correct fuels of grid electrical power or petroleum.

The media tells us to hate George W. Bush and worship Saint Al Gore. The great irony of our day, however, is that our society appears to have made greater strides toward alternative energy under the administration of the hated Bush than during reign of loved Nobel Laureate Al Gore and adored president William Jefferson Clinton.

Of course, the people who understand that nature of political and economic power are not surprised.

The Energy Department of the Carter years spent a great deal of money on alternative industries. Sadly the companies that formed during this period geared their efforts to collecting the government manna, and failed to create a sustainable market. In many cases, energy companies created schemes that consumed more than they produced.

During the administration of the loathed Bush, alternative energy companies realized that their products needed to produce more energy than they consumed and that they needed products that could compete in the market. The market filters down to the most sustainable products. Not surprisingly, the technologies that are coming online today are a hundred fold better than those that occurred during the Carter years.

This next set of technologies might even survive the impending oil bust that will ensue when new earth friendly technologies come online and OPEC finds itself dealing with a glut.

Now, I really don't mind that liberal media and public schools teach students to hate President George Bush. I am cactus hugging environmentalist at heart. If hating Bush gets people to conserve or invest in alternative fuels, then I must concede that the hatred has had a positive effect.

I love the fact that there are more bikes on the road today than there were during the heady days of Bill Clinton.

We saw the positive effects of Bush bashing in action last year when Bush openly favored ethanol made from corn and switch grass. The press was quick to forget that Bush's mentioned switch grass and began a month long intensive criticism of subsidized corn ethanol.

This criticism would never have taken place if a Democrat had supported subsidies for corn ethanol.

As a person who authentically wants to see alternative fuels in place, I am actually more afraid of the blindness that will ensue if the candidate the media and public schools love ascends to power. When this happens there will be praise for the subsidies and centralization that caused our fuel addiction in the first place.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Guilt by Association

I was recently in a debate about whether or not the media should be reporting on associates of presidential candidates.

Most people seem to hold the gut feeling that the associations of presidential candidates is fair game for media scrutiny; However the idea of judging a candidate based on the company they keep seems to be a violation of the principle of Freedom of Association.

My take on the issues was as follows:

The term "Freedom of Association" is a place holder for a statement similar to "The State should not judge an individual for their association."

The statement "An individual should not judge a political candidate for their associations" is a logically independent statement.

The relation is a little bit like the logical converse. P → Q (P implies Q) is logically independent of its converse Q ← P (Q implies P). A triangle is a polygon does not mean that a polygon is a triangle.

One of the most fundamental mistakes of reason is to assume that the converse of a statement is true. The converse may be true. However, since it is logically independent, it must be analyzed independently.

My next observation was that, since political candidates often appoint their associates to positions of power, then it is critical for the media to examine the associates of a candidate.

I have noticed that whenever the press questions a candidate about their associations, their minions run around crying that their opponents are playing foul and trying their candidate by "guilt through association."

These cries ring hollow to me.

An election is something completely different from a criminal trial. A criminal trial has the goal of punishing criminals for their misdeeds. In a criminal trial, the court is considering a negative action against an individual.

An election is a decision about the direction a group wishes to follow. It is an inherently possitive thing. In an election, the people are weighing the good and bad things that might happen when the candidate is in power.

Trying to apply the standards of a criminal trial to a political campaign is absurd because they are logically different actions.

Anyway, after our discussion I helped pen a blog post on Freedom of Association.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Open v. Closed Schools

The raid on the FLDS Compound in El Dorado is fascinating. It provides an inside look into the workings of a completely closed religious sect.

I suspect that there are some people who see all private schools as little versions of the FLDS compound.

IMHO, these people are mistaking the distinction between open and closed education with private and public education. I use the term "open" and "closed" to refer to the extent to which the inner workings and curriculum are open to public scrutiny. The terms "public" and "private" refer simply to the ownership of the school.

These two concepts are mutually exclusive.

It is possible for a private school to have a completely transparent curriculum. Likewise it is possible for a public school to have a completely closed and secretive curriculum.

My direct experience with the teaching schools in Utah is that our public education system is a closed system that is hostile to new ideas. Utah educators may openly seek support from the parents, but it is rare for a public educator to support the parents.

Conversely, the private education system in an open market tends to be a bit more open.

The private schools have to sell themselves. To do this, they must make greater efforts to expose their curriculum and teaching practices to the parents. Because the parents are the buyers, the schools find that they have a symbiotic relation with the parents.

When you look at the Private Schools in Salt Lake you see that they do a much better job exposing their curriculum to the public than the public schools which balk at any substantive discussion of curriculum.

Oddly, the homeschooling world has one of the most open curriculums of all. In this culture, parents run from place to place trying to find quality materials for their kids.

A completely open curriculum may not be a good thing. I've noticed that there is an extremely high turnover rate in web sites about homeschooling. The reason for this is that the web sites are driven by the parent's current needs. Homeschoolers might produce a valuable resource, but they let it slide when their needs change.

It seems paradoxical, but, in most cases, publicly owned education systems produce a less open curriculum than privately owned schools. The reason for this reason for this is that public schools are answerable to a central bureaucracy. The privately owned schools must answer to the buyers, that is, the parents and students.

The FLDS system is not a repudiation of this observation.

One must remember that the FLDS sect is a commune. A commune is a system of absolute public ownership. The FLDS is the ideal of the left where their is a single entity (the public) that dictates one's life from cradle to grave.

The FLDS may have rejected the State owned education system. But they are simply replacing one communally owned education system with another closely held communally owned education system.

As the power that "the public" has over the children grows, the quality of education diminished. The El Dorado compound shows what happens when groups like the FLDS, NEA or NCLB achieve their goal of absolute power.

Regardless, the FLDS is not an example of private education run amok. It is an example of communally owned education achieving its logical end ... an ingorant population that behaves like sheep.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

That Can't Do Spirit is Back

I wish Earth Day was about celebrating the joys of nature coupled with discussions on conserving resources, reducing waste and improving the quality of life on earth.

I confess. I hold the world view that life is a good thing that can be improved with insight and effort.

Sadly, I get the feeling that environmentalism is trapped in that Hegelian/Marxist mindset where the world is thrashed about thesis/antithesis conflict.

We have this Earth Day thing every year that we could use to measures our actions against our ideals.

Sadly, the primary message being given by the Earth Day Network is the nihilistic statement that Americans, simply by existing, are an affront to Gaia**.

**Gaia, as you probably know, is the new politically correct name for God. The difference between "Gaia" and "God," of course, is that Gaia is a secular god so you can use government money and facilities to worship Gaia. It is strictly forbidden to do so for God.
Nihilism and paradox are apparently compelling. People seem to be drawn to nihilistic messages like flies. The big problem is that when groups build nihilism into the foundations of their system of thinking, they end up undermining the things that the aim to achieve.

The left has a strange tendency to want to push ideas to absurdities while they are in the conceptual phase, but pull back when the idea actually becomes effective. For example, the left pushed the construction of big dams when they were just see as publicly funded public works projects, but turned against hydroelectric energy once it became a lucrative source for energy.

I suspect that there are ways that we could be making better use of the hydropower available in this nation. Unfortunately, progressive politics is such that hydropower is completely off the table.

It is so sad. We seem thrash from extremes where we either have public work projects that destroy drainages with massive dam projects or have a complete restriction on harnessing hydropower.

Handling the energy needs of the future will take a multiplicity of energy sources. Our challenge is to find a way to rationally develop resources. Sadly, our political system is such that it pushes any idea to an extreme, then recoils at the political excess to nihilistic prohibitions on using an energy source.

We are dependent on fossil fuels for energy while we prohibit the sustainable use of biomass.

The growing severity of forest fires shows that absolute conservation of forests, as advocated in the 1970s, is even less sustainable than the exploitation of biomass that comes with cultures that harvest and burn wood for heat.

Too often the environmental movement seems caught in paradox. For example, many environmentalists seem to have their entire psyche invested in elitism or counterculturalism. One dining at the organic bistros of Boulder would likely find the rich professories at the tables recoil in horror if they were to hear the servants at the bistro talking of franchising and bringing organic food to the bourgeoisie. Fresh organic food, after all, should be the exclusive domain of the elitist snits who've back-stabbed themselves to positions of power in the public university system. How dare capitalist dream of bringing organic food to the population at large?

Other environmentalists have their psyche invested in being counter-culture and turn against any good idea that breaks against the environmental movement to become part of the culture they despise.

A true environmentalist cannot be counter-culturalism as the centerpiece of their psyche because the greatest gains are made when a good idea goes mainstream.

The nihilism that seems to imbue the environmental movement is problematic as our economy is in great need of the contributions of this sector. When a person's idealism hits that shrill extreme where they undermine the overall conservation efforts of society, then they end up doing a great deal of damage to our economy and culture.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I am a Horrible Person

Hi, I am a horrible person.

I took the Earth Day Footprint Quiz and discovered that, if everyone lived like me, we would have to have four planets. Earth Day Network is an organization that seeks change by redefining progress as mass poverty, ignorance and worldwide starvation.

The message of Earth Day is that bourgeoisie should not have running water, electricity or bedrooms with fewer than three people per bed. That is the only way to get us down to where we all could live on one earth without hundreds of millions of people dying of starvation as they do today.

Just a flow of concious here:

If we really want to be environmental, then we should be trying make medical care less accessible, and not more accessible to people. Do you know how many hydrocarbons get released when we treat people for disease? When we treat the sick we use all sorts of plastic gadgets and medicines that involve harvesting the rain forests.

Hospitals produce unacceptable amounts of waste. For example, many hospitals these days simply toss out used needles. You could easily get several hundred uses of a needle before it wears out. Think of how much waste we could save if hospitals just reused needles?

We are a terrrible people.

Even disease prevention is a horrible thing. Think about vacinations. When you get to the nitty gritty, I suspect that more energy and environmental harm is done by the process of creating your standard one dose of vaccination than a steak.

Creating and delivering vaccinations is a resource intensive task that releases hydrocarbons in the research, creation and distribution of vaccinations. Hydrocarbons that lead to global warming.

Is saving women from cervical cancer really worth the horrors of drowning polar bears?

Anyway, since Americans are horrible people who all deserve to die. I think I will spend Earth Day protesting at the local hospital and demand that they make health care less accessible to the people so that they die faster.

Of course the Earth Day Network allows me an out. I can buy an indulgence for my sins against Gaia by sending them a donation.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fixed BlogRoll Link

Ooops, the BlogRoll link in the side bar was pointed to the wrong place! I just fixed it.

The blogroll currently lists 400 sites--primarily from the US Mountain West (Utah, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming). My game is to emphasize location, so I break out the roll by community.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Creating an Elastic Wage

In my last post I argued that wages should be more elastic.

The employee stock option is the most popular mechanism for trying to make wages elastic.

Stock options have one fatal flaw. The flaw is that stocks fall precipitously during economic down turns. Stock options magnify the effects of a bust.

An employee who opts for stock options will find the options worthless if they are laid off during a market down turn. For that matter, owning a large pile of stock options makes an employee a larger target for being laid off.

Lets say the board of directors is under pressure to support the price of the company stock during a down turn. In selecting employees for the lay off, they are likely to realize that laying off the employees with a portfolio of stock options would have a direct effect on the stock price.

If the layoff committee is looking at two employees. One has 20,000 stock options that are currently below the strike price and another has none. Laying off the employee with options would retire those options and have an immediate and direct affect on the price of the stock. The employee with options flies out the door.

Employee stock options are the absolute worst way to make wages elastic.

Options, of course, are a derivative. What they do is magnify the peaks and troughs of a cycle. Investors should only use options for stabilizing their portfolio against peaks and troughs. Compensating employees with derivatives will simply have adverse affects on the workforce.

During peaks, you run the risk of encouraging people to live beyond their means. Imagine an employee who takes on a larger mortgage and more consumer debt based on the current value of their options. Such an employee is making the classic blunder of buying options on margin. The blunder is made worse because they employee really doesn't have a fixed sale date or even sale price in mind.

Stock options magnify the ill effects of bad times.

A better solution to making wages elastic would be to simply pay the employee in stock. The company would need to record such stock on the expense side of their ledger (like wages). Paying an employee in stock would create a situation where expenses rise and fall with the market.

Employees tend to have great insider knowledge. If you had a situation where employee stock payments went into a holding account that the employee could sell at leisure, you would probably find the employee selling stock quickly when the company is overvalued, and holding long when the stock is undervalue.

Payment in stock is not intended as an investment mechanism. It is intended to create an elastic component to earnings. There should not be an expectation that employees build up large portfolios of stock in the process.

An employee might have a deal where they are paid, as part of their salary, 100 shares of the stock a quarter. This money would go into an account. They could then sell the stock as needed.

The basic goal is to have a one way transaction. You are not encouraging employees to spend their day trading stock.

As we are dealing with small scale sales, there would not need to be onerous scrutiny of the stock sales.

Yes, employees might use insider knowledge on their small scale sales. For example, imagine an employee being paid 300 shares in stock. They know sales were fantastic that quarter and decides to hold through earnings. Lets say there was a dollar pop in the price after earnings. Well, the employee makes an extra $300.

Such an action is not abusive. The employee simply gets an extra share in the capital gains of the company. Hurray for the employee!

Conversely, the employee who knows that things aren't well and sells shares instantly (before earnings) gives the market a signal that the quarter earnings were weak.

A one way transaction with small quantities of stock does not create an abusive environment.

The evils of insider trading happen when people become manipulative or conspiratorial in their trading. Such evils usually involve large blocks of stock or options. If you have a situation where employees earn (and then sell) stock on a schedule cycle, then you create disincentives for manipulative actions. An employee with a monster pile of options to sell has more incentive to feed the market misinformation than one that one that receives a pile of stock each quarter. Employees with timed stock receipts have an incentive for fair play because they don't want the disinformation given this quarter to affect their future sales.

In conclusion, Paying employees in stock is a better way to make wages elastic than the granting of stock options. Options are a derative that magnifies peaks and valleys. They only really have benefit for investors who are balancing their portfolio. One-way timed payments of a stock allow employees some ability to exploit their insider knowledge of the markets without creating a climate of manipulation and abuse.

The Minium Wage and Job Losses

The two great victories of 2006 election victories were the British retreat from Basra and a massive increase in the minimum wage.

Today we find Basra in flames, and we find ourselves suffering a drop in the number of jobs.

Both the goals of an end to war and a more equitable distribution of wealth are worthy. The problem is that the ways we try to achieve our worthy ends seems to be lacking.

The economy is so complex that no-one really knows the effects of wage and price controls. Such controls tend to be controlled by the groups that buy economic influence. Since government wage and price controls are determined by politics, they almost always are out of sync with the real economy.

I do not know if the government set minimum wage is too high or too low. Personally, I think the very existance of government set wages is problematic.

My criticism of minimum wage is not the set value of the wage, but the thinking behind the wage. Our current thinking about wages is that wages are somehow inelastic. Since wages are inelastic, we find that companies choose to lay off workers in down cycles rather than decrease salaries.

The mass lay off cycle, of course, tends to undermine wages. During the bust cycle, companies lay off their highest wage workers. At the beginning of the next boom, they hire on new workers at a low wage. It is idiotic. Wages tend to be flat during the boom (when labor is actually most valuable). The pressures to increase wages often happen at the height of the market when the market value of the labor is actually falling.

The expectation of inelastic wages is also the primary factor behind the consumer debt and credit crisis. Lenders make loans assuming that the borrowers income is a constant. The borrowers who were laid off get crunched.

It seems to me that the best path toward long term economic health would be to create financial instruments that make wages a bit more elastic. With elastic wages, companies would be less prone to lay off workers in economic down turns. Such a system would sychronize pressures to increase wages with the boom. Empoloyees who've shared the hardship of the bust with the company are in a better position to demand their portion of the next boom. (employees who've been laid off have no political power and are simply lucky to get employed during the next boom).

Workers who realize that their wages are not elastic are also less likely to borrow heavily and are more likely to save (which, of course, would increase their life time earnings).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Basra Sorrow

The British Retreat from Basra was the one big Victory of the antiwar elections of 2006.

I've listened to a number of lefty pundits trying to claim the current violence in Basra is a sign of that the surge failed.

The fact that there is a flare up in violence in the areas where the British retreated really doesn't say anything about the affects of the American Surge.

The current violence screams volumes about the retreat. The power void created by the retreat of the British forces was filled by militias, thugs and organized crime.

It may be true that Bush's vision of an Iraq that would peacefully take toward Democrcay was off. The policy of the next president must be based on vision created in conjunction with the next elected government of Iraq.