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Computer Graphic Indicating BP Oil Spill Flow

Lebron James is some basketball player, I gather. This video seems much more relevant and important to my life. Lebron James could die tomorrow. Oh well. It would mean nothing. The BP Oil Spill is something we're going to live with for decades. How did it happen? Why has the CEO been paid millions in salary - that he'll never have to give back - when he's obviously a moron? Are American corporations really being led by the "best and the brightest"?

Nudge Yourself Out of My Life

Although physics and other legitimate sciences currently lack a Theory of Everything, the litmus test of policy philosophy and other pseudo-sciences is consistency of political theory.  If you're a libertarian who would nevertheless tax people to prevent children from starving in the streets, prepare your armaments.  You must defend your position, because if your theory is not 100% consistent, it's invalid.  

Thus, libertarians have a problem.

Like everyone else, libertarian-minded people have ideas about how you should live your life.  I would mandate exercise in exchange for healthcare coverage.  If you don't exercise 30-60 minutes each day, then die.  Yet I realize this drive is Will to Power rather than libertarian philosophy.  The less self-aware have found a way to bring accord to the cognitive dissonance.  

Enter Nudge.

In Nudge, the authors argue that experts (who are right as often as they are wrong) shouldn't be allowed to force to do anything.  Instead, they should be allowed to nudge you.  Let's walk down the primose path before seeing that it, like all gentle slopes, leads to Hell.

Organ Donation.  Look, you're dead.  People need your organs.  The living need your organs.  Why then aren't more people organ donors?

You can increase organ donation in one simple way: Make it opt-out rather than opt-in.  I am an organ donor, but I had to agree to be an organ donor when re-newing my driver's license.  Under the Nudge view, the DMV should make you out-out.  In other words, the default is that you're an organ donor.  If you have a problem with that, speak up.

Sounds great, right?  Socially-beneficial policies like organ donation rise, and no one is forced to anything.  Instead, you're nudged.  Sweet.  

Now let's see that path to Hell.

The Federal Reserve Has Nudged You Into the Stock Market.  No one is forcing you to invest in the stock market.  You could put your money into a savings account.  You'd explain to me that things are not so simple.

The Federal Reserve has determined that interest rates should remain low.  Your bank can borrow from the Fed at zero percent.  Why would the banks pay savers generation interest rates?  My bank unironically offered me a high-interest savings account - one-point-five percent.

You thus have a choice, right?  You aren't forced into investing in the stock market.  You can choose to save.  Yet we see that choice belongs in quotes, since 1.5% returns on investment means you'll never retire.  You've thus been nudged - by the same experts who told you housing goes up, and that the subprime market would not disrupt the economy - into investing in the stock market.

How do you feel about nudges now?

You Were Nudged Into Buying a Home.  In 2005, people who had no business questioning my judgement nevertheless adjudicated me a "dead beat loser" because I didn't want to buy a home.  How many men and women fought over the decision to buy a home during the bubble?  (The typical beta male is the guy in the commercial at the bottom of this post. Ask him how that nudge feels now.)

By setting interest rates at 0% and allowing no-down-payment loans, the Federal Reserve (the same guys who have nudged you into the stock market) nudged you into buying a home.  Real estate always goes up!  Borrow that money.  And so everyone - through experts' nudging - bought homes.

How do you feel about nudges now?

Nudge's False Premise Leads to False Conclusions.  Someone has to nudge.  Whom should that be?  Experts, of course!  There's one problem with our would-be nudgers.  They are wrong:  

two-thirds of the findings published in the top medical journals are refuted within a few years. It gets worse. As much as 90% of physicians' medical knowledge has been found to be substantially or completely wrong. In fact, there is a 1 in 12 chance that a doctor's diagnosis will be so wrong that it causes the patient significant harm. And it's not just medicine. Economists have found that all studies published in economics journals are likely to be wrong. [More.]

How many of those economists who nudged you into buying a home spotted the housing bubble?  None.  Plus, those same people who nudged you into the housing market (Ben Bernake and Tim Geithner) are the ones nudging you into the stock market.

They aren't forcing you.  It's just a nudge.

Today's nudge is tomorrow's push into debt slavery and quiet desperation.  I'm sure this chump wishes he had listened to me, but my life sucked for about three years because of nudges.  What's my prize for being right?  Have people proclaimed me a prophet, and thus now take my word on faith?  Have people apologized for the horrible insults they levied at me - telling me I had no drive or ambition because I wouldn't buy a home?

Nope.  Being right is a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.  And so my life is now filled with more arguments, as now peole are telling me I must invest in the stock market, or must buy a home today.  I'm "missing the biggest rally in history," that "presents the opportunity of a lifetime."  Plus, "housing has bottomed."  Why are these same people who dared to argue with me about the housing bubble saying such things?  Because that's what the experts are nudging them to say.  And that's why Nudge presents disastrous ideas:

Ninth Circuit Holds that Imprisoning Innocent Man is Constitutional

Sickening stuff from a "judicial conservative":

We must decide whether to recognize a judge-made exception to the statute of limitations for federal habeas relief in the case of a state prisoner who makes a showing of actual innocence in his original petition.

Lee v. Lampert (CA9) (here).  Everyone - include Judge O'Scannlain - seems to agree on two things: 1) An innocent man was convicted. 2) His statutory deadline for seeking relief under a constitutional provision - the Writ of Habeas Corpus - has expired.  What to do?

If you know anything about Judge O'Scannlain and other "judicial conservatives," then you know the answer:

We have previously refrained from deciding whether there is an actual innocence exception that serves as a gateway through the AEDPA statute of limitations to the merits of a petitioner’s claims. Instead, we have assumed such an exception and have evaluated the actual innocence claims themselves, waiting until a state prisoner shows actual innocence to answer the legal question. 

No more of these assumptions.  Judge O'Scannlain does prisoners everywhere a favor:

We decline to prolong the inevitable recognition that there is no “actual innocence” exception to the one-year statute of limitation for filing an original petition for habeas corpus relief.

If an innocent man can be kept in prison because of a statutory deadline, then the Constitution means nothing.  And so Judge O'Scannlain concludes that an innocent man should remain in prison.

Fun With Generational Hate

It's nothing new that the older generation looks down on the younger generation.  The kids, these days meme has remained constant through time.  The fun thing about reading old books rather than watching TV, is that you realize that every generation has attacked the younger generation.

If it were true that every older generation has been right about the younger generation, then society would not keep advancing.  Yet somehow civilization is more civilized today than ever.  The old generation of slave owners complained about the immoral younger generation.  Well, aren't you glad that those old people are dead?  The old generation who want homosexuals to be dragged from trucks are dying out.  Isn't that a good thing?

And, of course, this very Internet thingie you're using is a young person's creation.  Google?  The guys who created Google are today only 36.  Google was something they - and a bunch of other 20-somethings - started as kids.  

This is TypePad blog (20-to-30 somethings), and once the post is finished, I'll link to it on Twitter (20-to-30somethings).  Google (see above) will archive it, and many of you will read the post on Google Reader (see above).

Seeing a pattern?  The very people you ridicule are the ones who gave you a tool to ridicule them from. Those with a sense of irony (and most kids do) are smirking.

Yet older people nevertheless keep attacking the young, as if this is interesting, novel, or objectively  substantiated.  Thus, there's endless chatter about how lazy Generation X, Y, and the Millennials are.  This bigots should smile, as a recent study validates the hate: 

According to time-use surveys analyzed by professors Philip Babcock, at the University of California Santa Barbara, and Mindy Marks, at the University of California Riverside, the average student at a four-year college in 1961 studied about 24 hours a week. Today’s average student hits the books for just 14 hours.

Or does it?

According to their research, the greatest decline in student studying took place before computers swept through colleges: Between 1961 and 1981, study times fell from 24.4 to 16.8 hours per week (and then, ultimately, to 14).

A person attending college in 1961 (as an 18-year-old freshman) would today be 67-years old.  A person attending college in 1971 would be 57, and a person attending college in 1981 would be 47.  In other words, Baby Boomers are the lazy ones.

Now, of course, I don't believe any of this stuff.  Each generation has its own issues.  The bailouts were by Baby Boomers, for Baby Boomers.  Henry Paulson (64-years old) gave my generation's money (he borrowed it today, which means my generation must pay this back tomorrow) to Lloyd Blankfein (55-years old).

Indeed, one must really question the hatred of the young given that the young (other than creating your innovative products) haven't had time to do much.  The Baby Boomers gave us the Iraq War, the Bailouts, and the BP Oil Spill.  If you must have someone, aren't there better targets than the kids, these days?

Yet I realize Paulson didn't give money to Goldman Sachs because of age-related bond.  Power, unlike age, is the tie that binds.  And so bigots are the power elite's greatest army of useful idiots.

Goldman Sachs thanks you for your hatred of the young.  Anything that keeps you from focusing on society's actual problems only increases their bottom line.  Keep hating my generation, as if we're the ones who are  going to cost you 25% of revenues this year; or 25% of your retirement fund; or your declining home values.  Just don't hate them, whatever you do.

Why Care About Mickey Mantle?

One of the deepest statements of morality and community to ever appear.  The message is lost on the massages.  I hear people defending Obama, and before Obama, Bush.  These men don't care about you.  You could die; get third degree burns all over your body; raped; have your children stolen from you and sold into slavery.  They wouldn't care.  Why then do you care about them?  

Why care about celebrities?  I used to see them all of the time, and have a handful of encounters.  I didn't even know they were celebrities.  Even if I had, so what?  Why should I care?

War is a Racket

On this July 4th weekend, consider the words of one of American's greatest generals - Marine General Smedley Butler.  Most of us don't know about General Butler, because the corporate-owned media has a vested interest in keeping Americans ignorant of great figures.

In 1933, the father of a future President of the United States approached General Butler with a plan for a military coup.  The Business Plot.  General Butler exposed President George W. Bush's father's plot.  Conservatives - who love a general, but never more than an oil man - have attempted to discredit General Butler's accusations - choosing to take the word of a man who traded with Nazis (Prescott Bush loaned money to the Nazis through one of his banks) over the words of an American soldier.

Of war, General Butler had these words to say:

“War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. 

I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Happy Fourth of July.

How Jurors Think

Ponder this before your next trial:

I was a juror on a murder case 3 years ago...a mother charged with suffocating her 23 month old son. Similar to this case, there was no physical blanket fibers in the child's nose or mouth and the coroner/forensic team could not say how this child died but *speculated* suffocation. The mother (pregnant with her 3rd or 4th child) claimed the child was acting out, had a tantrum so she put him in his room and made him go to bed at around 4pm. She did not check on him until 10 or 11am the next morning...he was dead, his body already badly decomposing because he'd obviously been dead for a while.

Once we got into deliberations...I spoke out and said I had a hard time finding this mother guilty where there is no cause of death. How can we charge her with a crime when no one knows HOW this poor little boy died!??! We were going back and forth and it was looking like we were going to be a hung jury (another juror felt the same way I did), until another juror said, "She is responsible for that child! Any action or INACTION to that child is her responsibility." And then it clicked. There wasn't much evidence against her, but the fact that she put her son to bed at 4pm without dinner AND DID NOT CHECK ON HIM ONCE, put everything into place. What parent doesn't check on their child for 18+ hours??!!! She didn't check on him because she knew he was dead and she was using all that time to put her actions & story together. 

Life is often random.  Today's aggregate acts would not make an interesting plot line.  I walked around; bought a new mattress; drank coffee; hung out at the park; played with the dog.  A dead body showing up would make no sense at all.  Yet what makes random evidences random is, well, randomness.  Stuff that makes no sense happens every day.

Yet people think in narratives - stories.  Everything has to be consistent with a narrative.  If a piece of evidence is inconsistent with the narrative, then it will be ignored.  If a piece of evidence does not exist - but is consistent with the narrative - then that non-existent evidence comes to life.

Here, the mom did not check up on her baby.  Therefore, she must have been a killer.  Rather than a bad mom.  Or a mom who was just happy that he kid was finally getting some sleep.

If trial lawyers are always stressed, who can blame them?  A trial lawyer has to look not just at what the evidence actually is; but what evidence the jury might make up.  How can you know what a person is going to invent?  

And what's the narrative: She was a bad mom?  A negligent one?  You must come up with a counter-narrative.  Yet calling someone a negligent mom frames the issue against the client.  "Even her lawyer thinks she was a bad mom, so even if she's not guilty of this crime, she is guilty of being a bad person."  Which is good enough for a verdict in most jurisdictions.

Sometimes a mother puts her kid to bed, oversleeps, and wakes up to a dead baby.  There is no explanation.  There is no reason.  There is no higher purpose.  There's just a random tragedy of existence.

I would almost never risk my own freedom before a jury, and would plead guilty to a crime I didn't commit if the terms of the deal were right.  It doesn't mean I don't trust the jury system.  But juries are people, and people hate admitting that not everything happens according to a Lifetime movie plot line.