Thursday, December 23, 2010

Social Security

Social Security is not as simple a matter as either the Republicans or Democrats make it out to be.

It is, effectively, a mandatory retirement scheme.

The problem is that it is a mandatory retirement scheme whose investment portfolio amounts to this: Treasuries.  Special treasures with special interest rates.

No, the Democrats didn't raid the trust fund, and neither did the Republicans; the excess funds from Social Security are always spent to buy treasuries, the sale of which funds government activity.  The system is -built- to raid the "trust fund," which is and always has been a big IOU from the Federal Government.

From a certain perspective this makes accounting easier; the Federal debt -includes- its Social Security obligations.

From another perspective, this simultaneously digs and hides a massive hole in Federal accounting; it holds a loan asset against itself on spent money, which can either be held out as an imaginary trust fund, or a massive debt obligation, depending on who is making the claim.

It also means that the Federal government is legally obligated to be in debt.  To itself.  Deficit spending is -required-.

The problem comes in because the Federal government isn't required to hold liquid assets against its debt, and doesn't, and as social security declines into the red, the excess costs are effectively and necessarily coming out of the general budget, which, because we're running a deficit, means our imaginary debt gets transformed into real debt; which is to say, the trust fund -does not exist-.  All of those costs must be paid for.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Prejudice In Hiding

Because prejudice is no longer acceptable, instead prejudice is hidden behind support for non-prejudiced ideas with a disproportionate impact on a particular targeted group.

Immigration is probably the most obvious arena for this; individuals prejudiced against Mexicans insist we should tighten immigration laws.

But here's the thing: Tightening immigration laws, while repugnant to me, is not a racist cause.  There are legitimate, entirely non-racial arguments for tightening immigration, and indeed the majority of people who want to tighten immigration are not racists.

But because they share a cause with racists, they're branded racists themselves.  This clearly is not a legitimate branding; the fact that a racist supports a policy does not make the policy racist, nor does it make those who support the policy racist.  Well-meaning individuals, looking at the racist basis, may treat the rational basis as a rationalization by the racists, invented by the racists, with no legitimate concerns.  This does not make it so.

This is a serious problem, not least because the targets of the misbranding rapidly cease to treat "racism" as a valid complaint.  It undermines broader efforts in eliminating prejudice.

This is why the race card is worn out; because individuals like Goldwater were and are branded with it; he had legitimate reasons for opposing the legislation he opposed; he didn't want the civil rights movement to go away, he wanted certain objectionable things removed from specific legislation, primarily the expansions of federal power at the expense of the states.

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Ode to Anon

Anonymous wins.

To the entropic decay of authority:
Fear Sun Tzu's greatest tactic,
An anonymous majority,
The entity climactic.

The greatest skill of battle,
An army entirely formless
Whose enemies babble and prattle
Unknowing of the coming abyss.

An Internet once given,
An Internet now taken,
All is not forgiven
And they are unshaken.

Try and take away a founder
Try and take away a domain
Regulation flounders
They will yet remain.

The domains will be theirs
Targeted once and scattered to the wind
The domains shifted to the shares
Domains over servers transcend.

Dot P2P or heirs,
Wikileaks and pirateers,
Anonymized encrypted musical chairs
Hiding what Anonymous reveres.

You should be fearing this fight,
Do not lose control to hold control
Or the status quo shall die tonight;
In chaos will achieve their goal.

Anonymous wins.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wikipedia: From Knowledge Base to Encyclopedia

A momentary respite from my absence, potentially prolonged depending on how things go.

One of the things which depresses me about Wikipedia is the extent to which it has declined from its initial explosion; it's trying to be a reputable source of knowledge, which to my mind is contradictory to both its mechanisms and its community.

What was beautiful about you, Wikipedia, at least for me, wasn't that you were 100% right, but that, 100% of the time, you had some kind of information about something.  I didn't want just another encyclopedia; there are already encyclopedias out there.

"We should be respectable and authoritative" - no, you shouldn't.  That's not why I, or countless others, came to you.  We already HAD respectable and authoritative encyclopedias; free ones, even, as of the time you got popular.

There was a brief, beautiful moment there, when the drive to create information exceeded Wikipedia's ability to remove it again; you could find information about the characters in the webcomic Freefall, you could find information on (somebody's opinion of) proper oral sex technique, you could find an editing war going on between a company and people trashing it.  Wikipedia wasn't merely an encyclopedia, it was an -internet- encyclopedia.

For all your work, you're still not authoritative; if I'm building a bridge I'm not going to get the shear strength of a magnesium-coated steel beam from you, you're no good to someone writing a paper as a source, I can't rely on you to say anything about climate change (your pages contradict each other for crying out loud).  You're not independent; your emphasis on authoritative sources and marginalization of things like blogs means anything ignored by the mainstream media gets ignored by you, as well.

You're still kind of good for getting the gist of something when detailed factual information isn't necessary, or quick refreshers for information I've already largely internalized and would recognize serious issues in.

But you aren't wild and free anymore.  You have massive lists of information you intend to delete - not because it isn't true, not because nobody wants it, but because it doesn't fit your vision of yourself.

Your time is limited.  The vision you're trying to constrain yourself to is not the vision which made you great.  What you are trying to be, others are better at being.  You're jockeying to be a third-rate encyclopedia.

Well, I have a first-rate encyclopedia.  If that's all you are going to be, I don't need you anymore.

What do I replace you with, however?  That is the question.