Climate change as the whipping boy for Goldman Sachs

http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=BLOOM&date=20110215&id=13006515&GT1=33009

Yes there have been floods and draught and other nonsense, and that is likely contributing somewhat to food prices.

But when food prices rocketed two years ago the primary culprit was speculation on food in the same way that idle hands speculate on gold and oil.

Goldman Sachs was the primary architect of this strategy of turning food into a luxury and introducing lots of extra do-nothing middlemen between the producer and the consumer.

These should be regarded as something like speculation welfare bums. They add nothing, their role is parasitic.

If it means that hundreds of millions face famine, they don’t care.

These games can have particularily tragic consequences if the wrong governments are toppled or changed due to riots.

Take China for instance- if allowed to continue on its’ present course, it will eventually become a liberal democracy.

Radically destabilize it and someone will have to seize control.

Whether that turns out to be imperialistic nationalists or a return of communist hard liners the result is more likely to be bad than good. It could lead to world war 3.

I have an idea for how to fix this.

How about a return to capitalism? The idea that you get paid for actually doing or contributing something.

I don’t see capitalism and socialism as inherently enemies or even inconsistent. They do however have a common enemy of speculationism.

This is something like socialism turned on its’ head. Billionaire welfare bums get paid enormous sums for not only doing absolutely nothing of value, but actively and aggressively making the world a worse place to live in.

Both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have close ties to Goldman Sachs and I don’t really see any change coming from that direction for that reason. Goldman Sachs party A was pushed out of power by Goldman Sachs party B and the games go on.

A key question for all 2012 candidates should be, are you going to take Goldman Sachs and similar predators head on, as well as the regulatory system that enables rather than regulates them while providing a veneer of accountability.

Because if you aren’t, F off.

If some speculators screw other speculators on, say, gold, that is dubious but the lack of availability of gold to the general population is frankly not a priority.

Treat food in the same way though and you create mass instability.

Do we really want to see what happens if nuclear superpowers like China and India, which can also put potentially tens of millions of soldiers into the field, start starving?

They’ll take what they need to take, that’s what.

If that ever happens it’s a whole different world.

The same problem would be likely to happen in other countries leading to lesser but still devastating food wars.

And don’t forget the similar situation of the Irish potato famine, when many Irish died while the Brits were shipping food oout of the country because it could be sold for more elsewhere. The Irish have never forgiven the Brits for that.

Toying with gold futures is one thing. Toying with lives in order to get unearned profit, well, that can generate animosity that lingers for centuries.

That’s too high a price.

“Lazy Loafers” vs. lazy school system

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41618492/ns/us_news-life/

Why do students not care about getting taught?

Perhaps the question should be, why do we not care about teaching them?

Back when public schooling started, the idea was to put the lower classes on the same footing as the higher classes.

And that is the ongoing model for education- to now provide everybody with a broad, liberal education befitting a 19th century gentleman.

When viewed through the lens that we are now in the 21st century and 19th century gentlemen are scarce, with the exception of Tony Hayward, it is perhaps time for our 150 year review of where all this is going.

Children naturally want to learn about everything. It takes a brutal and irrelevent system to drive that out of them.

Some guy named Cabot sailed down a river somewhere and purported to discover it, although the natives that had been there for 10,000 years probably had a different viewpoint.

English courses teach about things like “gerands”, although the purpose of attaching a label for its’ own sake has always eluded me. Even through my second degree I never had to use anything that I heard in English class even in academica fields.

Math and science are of course useful, although less so if you want to be an auto mechanic.

The system is geared to producing academics, so they can go to university in academic fields, following which most of them will find that there aren’t that many jobs for academics and have to get a real job anyways.

If you can’t be bothered to make the public school system relevent, how can you fault the students for not being interested in a 12 year marathon of Trivial Pursuits?

I’m not saying that students should only be prepared for the workforce, which passes costs from businesses to society, although at least basic preparation is certainly desireable.

Creativity, spontaneity, initiative, self motivation and most other qualities desirable in workers are actively discouraged in school and at best will result in poor grades for not regurgitating on cue, and at worst will earn trips to the principal’s office for being disruptive and not following instruction.

That is because the school system is mostly about getting people to accept authority.

One result of this that I have noticed is that people from the US and Canada seem to be less resourceful than immigrants. They need to be told what to do. I think that is because that is the model that was ingrained in them for 12 formative years.

Things that would be useful?

Games that exercise the mind and stimulate intelligence, probablistic reasoning and the like would be a good choice.

We can train everybody with an IQ of 80 or better to be equivalent to an entry level ambulance attendant in first aid ability using only two weeks of class time.

That is how long it takes. I’ve taken a two week first aid training and certification course myself twice.

In reduced medical related costs due to early appropriate treatment such a program would probably pay for itself.

I have saved one life with that training that probably would not otherwise have been saved, and that is gratifying.

It is also a lot more empowering than sitting there going eek eek and hoping that an ambulance isn’t delayed in traffic, and particularly important if you are somewhere out in the boonies.

Speaking of which, survival type courses would probably also be interesting and useful.

There’s probably a lot of useful things that could be taught, and learning something useful is always more interesting.

I would also recommend strongly courses that teach conflict resolution and working effectively in teams. Teams are not just for PE. The classroom authoritarian structure of one person talking and everybody else obeying is not very effective anywhere outside of a classroom.

Or we could just continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars per year in the US and Canada teaching everybody to be 19th century gentlemen.

In which case the rest of the world will pass us by.

Competing for foreign talent vs hypervigilance

http://www.sovereignman.com/expat/why-protecting-the-homeland-is-destroying-the-economy/?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=articledistribution

An interesting article with a foreign perspective on US measures.

I remember a arabic-looking lawyer that worked in both Canada and the US and had to frequently cross the border, who was invariably chosen for “random” extra searches every time he crossed the border- the guy’s Canadian job was as a prosecutor, hardly what you would could consider a threat and someone you would expect to be heavily pre-screened.

The point of the article is spot on, the US is no longer the only game in town for talented foreigners and if they are made to feel unwelcome they have plenty of opportunities elsewhere.

The US and Canada should be looking at how to poach foreign talent, not how to keep it out.

I love that story about the Kinder Egg border seizure. I am amazed that anybody had bothered to advise the border to screen for individual Kinder eggs coming in.

So border patrols are watching for Kinder eggs, there are congressional investigations into doping in the completely irrelevant world of sports, and police resources are increasingly being diverted from police work to setting up speed traps and the like, while there it little interest in pursuing the Madoffs of the world or any real problems.

The focus is also on high profile, ostentatious displays at borders and airports.

Given that the US borders are a sieve and the commercial points of entry such as shipping containers are mafia corrupted, airports and border stations are only for criminals that are stupid, lazy or unconnected.

As was recently pointed out by a security expert, crooks don’t check illegal shipments to make sure they match the manifest. If terrorists want to bring in dangerous materials it wouldn’t likely be that difficult.

But the point was never about terrorism or any real threats, it is all about convincing Americans to accept their country gradually turning into a police state on a very thin premise of safety, brought to us by the same kinds of right wing loons that turned Latin America into a bunch of police states when they had the chance.

That’s the real homeland security threat, people whose vision of America is one with soldiers on every street corner asking us for our papers, Soviet style.

Credibility of Italian justice taking a beating

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/15/italian-judge-amanda-knox-parents-must-stand-trial-for-libel/

When it is illegal to accuse authorities of misconduct that is just police state stuff.

Bringing new charges against the Knox family smacks of suppression and is frankly terrible PR.

People accusing police of brutality is hardly new and as often as not has some truth to it.

Nobody in an English style justice system is going to get extra punishment for suggesting that the process was flawed.

It is frankly terrible PR because treating the allegations as a serious threat to the conviction gives them more rather than less credibility. Either these are the world’s first hypersensitive cops or they’re worried about something. Cops get accused of brutality or excessive force all the time and ignore it. What makes this case so special?

It is I suppose an equal opportunity banana republic situation as we can see from some charges being brought against Berlusconi that can’t possibly be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

It seems that in Italy, anybody can charge anybody with anything and have it taken seriously.

These people really need to get their ducks in a row.

Donald Trump, worst possible presidential candidate

Other than hubris, what does Donald Trump bring to the table?

What he should be most famous for, was when planning the casino that resulted in his second bankruptcy, an analyst accurately predicted the outcome. So he had the analyst fired and replaced with a yes-man. We know the rest.

He has bluster, chutzpah and hubris. He has an extreme “fake it until you make it” mentality that is the wrong attitude for the situation. The next US president has to know his s–t on day 1 of office.

Trump is the anti-Buffett. Follow fundamentals? You’re fired. He uses tactics to raise his profile, such as reality television, rather than fundamentals and analysis. This has a disquieting similarity to tactics used by conmen. If the fundamentals don’t make any sense, try to appear as successful as possible and create a circus atmosphere to attract less sophisticated investment.

The other potential Republican candidates all have a combination of flaws and strengths, usually more flaws than strengths. But Trump does not have even one quality that would be desirable in a president.

He does have a dictator sized ego.

Does anybody really want a guy that thinks diligence is grounds for termination as president?

Trump can’t even run his own life properly. His business decisions have often been foreseeably disasterous.

He doesn’t seem to learn much from experience.

Past executive experience is desireable in a candidate for two reasons- one, a person’s first executive role should not be as in effect the CEO of the largest organization in the world, and two, we get to see if the person has any talent for it. Vision isn’t enough to be an executive.

Unless you want the US to degenerate into the Republic of Americastan find somebody else.

Confession iPhone app

Hackers will exploit such a thing for blackmail. The confession itself may be subject to a kind of privilege but the church can only guarantee the discretion of priests, not iPhones

Assange- no charges and an extradition application??

So Mr. Assange is still under house arrest and still hasn’t been charged with any offence.

I can’t see that the court has any choice but to release him.

He isn’t charged and the premise for seeking him, questioning, has no basis in English law. There is no obligation on the defendant to assist the prosecution in English law. If the case is too weak to press charges, incarcerating the proposed defendant until he agrees to cooperate with the prosecution and waives his right to silence is…alien.

Another reason I don’t trust continental law.

The allegations of whether he has agreed to meet with authorities or not agreed may be interesting in Sweden but on the immediate legal issue are neither here nor there and something of a distration. I’d also ask whether they have made any attempt to contact Mr. Assange with an appointment for the two months when his address in England has been known and the subject of a court order.

Maybe they get a lot of guilty pleas in Sweden by incarcarating people longer for claiming innocence than if they enter a guilty plea, but that is not what I would describe as due process in the English system.

This abuse of process is vexing because publicly oppressing a person creates a sort of aura of dignity, credibility and respectability around the victim. Their actions, including discreditable ones, are more likely to be seen as noble and copied.

Of course the extent of Mr. Assanges’ “martyrdom” is that he is court ordered to live in a mansion rent free. It is hard to see a scenario where he doesn’t come out the net winner in this Swedish fiasco.

On a side issue, it is surprising given the Patriot Act and other over the top national security measures that the law on espionage in the US is 70 years out of date and was badly written even for the time.

One doesn’t have to contrive any special, out of the ordinary usage of the term “espionage” to capture what Assange did and so it is quite surprising that somebody managed to craft an espionage law that is unduly narrow.