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Everything posted by GeorgiaDon

  1. The estimated death rate of ~ 2% is certainly an overestimate, as it only counts deaths among people who were sick enough to seek medical help and tested positive for COVID-19. Certainly many infected people are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. On the other hand, it seems such people may still be infectious. There is no practical way to detect and quarantine such asymptomatic people, so they slip though any effort at isolating the virus. Already we are seeing a few cases in the US of diagnosed patients who have no travel history or history of contact with known patients. The possibility of becoming infected by handling products shipped from China has been discounted, so those new cases must have been exposed in some way to an asymptomatic carrier. There is no way to prevent the virus from coming to the US, though it might be possible to slow things down a bit. The precautions Bill mentions are very reasonable. Unfortunately the US health care system is not well prepared for this situation in some ways. We are told to see a doctor and stay home from work if we get sick. The US has a much larger proportion of the population that is uninsured, and who work at jobs without paid sick leave. Missing work can have serious financial implications, ranging from big medical bills and lost pay to losing your job. Often people in this situation do go to work until they get so sick they can't. Also they will send their kids (who have been exposed to whatever illness is involved) to day care, opening another avenue to spread the virus. If we had universal health care and universal paid sick leave the situation could be much better. Don
  2. The story seems outrageous, but then again Fox has been known to slant their coverage more than a little. No doubt there was more to the story than what Fox chose to tell. Anyway, if this case makes it OK to solicit murder, then surely the non-prosecution of Trump even after he bragged on camera about assaulting women makes that behavior legal for everybody? Don
  3. It is consistent with the new Republican Party platform though. That platform being, Trump is King, and whatever is in Trump's personal interest is by definition in the national interest. On the other hand, any criticism of Trump, or any disagreement with his brain-dead policies, is by definition unpatriotic and even treasonous. I recall the days when the Republican party at least pretended to have principles and policies. That party is dead if not buried. Now it is a personality cult. I'm quite certain that Trump could walk into Congress, shoot Schiff and Pelosi in the head in front of all the members of the House and Senate, and not one Republican would speak a word of criticism. Don
  4. Hopefully not. MAGA (My Ass Got Arrested) Don
  5. According to a recent poll, 53% of Republicans think Cadet Bone Spurs is a better President than Abraham Lincoln. Don
  6. Wouldn't that make the donkey a stable genius? Wow, the similarities with Trump are amazing. Surely that can't be just a coincidence. Don
  7. The first point is true, but the story is more complicated than that. Whether to have a large or a small family can be a deliberate economic choice, and either can be optimal depending on circumstances. In underdeveloped economies it may make sense to have a lot of children, especially if you make a living by farming but also under other circumstances. Children are relatively inexpensive if you have little expectation that you will have to pay for education, sports or other optional activities, fancy "toys" (computers, the latest cell phones), etc. On the other hand, children can provide much of the labor of planting/weeding/harvesting. Having multiple children in this role provides some assurance that this work will get done even if you (the parent) are incapacitated with malaria or some other disease. When you get to be too old to work, you will dependent on your kids to take care of you. Remember that in these economies there is no such thing as pensions, social security, or basically any government support. Some of your kids will die in childhood or along the way, and most will end up barely scraping by. If you have several kids, odds are better that one or two will do well enough to care for you, or at least keep you from starving. Note that this model also applied to much of the US until just a few generations ago. In developed economies, we don't depend on our kids to work the farm (or other business) in the same way. We are expected to put money aside (voluntarily through pensions/investments, or involuntarily through social security or equivalents) to care for ourselves. It seems selfish to say "I don't need to put money away, my kids will look after me." Kids are, in our society, very expensive. There are expectations that we will provide clothing, medical and dental care, education up through college/university if we can, extracurricular activities, and so on. My brother has a 12 year old son who is in a traveling hockey team (so quite advanced/competitive) . He spends $20-30,000 a year on fees, equipment, rink rental, coaches, and travel. Even "simple" things like transportation is impacted by family size. How do you get a family of 12 anywhere? Own a bus? In developed economies, kids (despite their many positive attributes) are a net large economic liability. Even if you want a large family, you might not be able to afford that, or you may have to make painful tradeoffs. Of course, education of women is also important. Educated women can make choices and exert some control over their lives (as much as any of us can I suppose). Educated women may contribute to the economic success of the family, and reduce the dependence on kids. Of course, they can support themselves and so are not dependent on being in a family to survive. Generally, women's access to education goes along with economic development, so it can be hard to disentangle the role of education from other aspects of economic development that tend to drive the transition from kids as investments to kids as economic consumers. Don
  8. Like it or not, coal is not coming back. Former coal miners would be well advised to train for a different career, rather than put their trust in a bloviating orange mango con artist who will say anything to get you to buy the kool-aid. Clinton lost because Republicans have been making baseless accusations against her ever since she dared to step out of line and declare that she wasn't going to stay in the kitchen and bake cookies. It didn't help her cause that she decided to stay with Bill. I live in the buckle of the bible belt, where 90% of the people I know are hard core Baptists, and I swear half of them are on their third or fourth marriage and have no clue about forgiveness or commitment. They may not say it out loud, but given the view of the Baptist church on the role of women, I have no doubt that they are offended by an uppity educated woman daring to aspire to any sort of leadership position. Just look at the elected Republican officials from the South: white white white and male male male. Don
  9. It says a lot that Trump makes us wish for the "good old days" of the George W. Bush administration. Don
  10. It also lacks the body count. Don
  11. A while ago I saw Steve Cortes on CNN trying to argue that although slavery was a "black mark on American history" it wasn't so bad because even as slaves Africans had more rights than minorities did anywhere else in the world. I figured anyone who could argue that without throwing up in their mouth had nothing of any value to say, ever. Don
  12. I'm curious about what exactly you think those people in El Paso and Dayton should have done to "be prepared". Don
  13. So, then, why did Trump and the Republican Party repeal the law that required people with certain mental health issues to be reported to the database that is used for federal background checks? The law had required that people who are so mentally ill that they are on disability, and also have been ruled by the courts to be unable to manage their own affairs so they have to have someone else manage those disability payments, be reported to the database. Since the repeal, which was promoted by the NRA and enthusiastically backed by the Republican party, people who cannot be trusted with a credit card or checkbook must be trusted with any legal firearm. That's crazy! Also, what do you mean by " "This is the world we live in, live accordingly." It's a dangerous world out there, Be prepared for it." Does that mean be prepared to shoot first and ask questions later? Or does it mean "Prepare to die at any instant, such as while watching a movie, listening to a concert, enjoying a food festival, etc? Or maybe it means "hide in your house and let crazy people with guns run amuck". "This is the world we live in" was the refrain of those who supported all kinds of social atrocities, such as Jim Crow laws. "If you don't like it, move somewhere else". How about asking why this is the world we live in, if the world could be a better place, and if so why not change the rules to make it better. Don
  14. Tanks in a parade seem fairly obvious, but also the cost is relatively trivial compared to the total budget. The problem is that for almost everything one person's "wasteful boondoggle" is someone else's "essential program". Often this falls along lines determined by whether on not the person offering the opinion is benefiting from the program. I tend to think that the problem is more along the lines that most people want the government to maintain programs that benefit them, but no-one wants to actually pay for those programs. Generations of politicians have discovered that the easiest path is to maintain government programs and at the same time promise tax cuts. No-one wants to be the politician who killed social security, or sold off the national parks, etc; nor do they want to confront people with the actual cost of those programs. An easy way to kill your political career is to campaign on cutting the military, you'll immediately be painted as unpatriotic or a terrorist lover by your opponent, who does not need to ever explain how they plan to pay for yet another billion or two in new military spending. Don
  15. I could be mistaken, but I recall that the guy who was so angry at Phillykev (and I assumed was the troublemaker) disappeared from right after things blew up. I just figured that he had been banned. I forget the guy's name but I think he worked on a submarine or something like that. Also I recall that Phillykev had more trouble than "just" being fired, I think the police showed up and confiscated his gun collection. He definitely got screwed over. As far as Google tracking my every move is concerned, I hope they have a high tolerance for boredom. Don
  16. It is with overwhelming sadness that I have to report that my friend and colleague Marianne Shockley was taken from us this weekend. She was at one time a regular presence at Skydive Monroe and the Farm; here on she posted as blueskyserenity, and to the students at the University of Georgia she was Doc Shock. Keep her kids in your thoughts, she was a single mom but always did her best for them. Her boyfriend has been charged with her murder. Don
  17. I am a professor at a state university. In my state, in-state students who finish high school with a B average get a scholarship that covers 80% of their tuition. Additional merit/need based scholarships can cover the rest. To keep the scholarship they must maintain a B average in their university studies. This is paid for by the state lottery. Personally I am OK with requiring students to cover 20% of their tuition. In my experience people who receive things for free are often less likely to value whatever goods or services they are receiving. If they have to pay for it, even a bit, they are more likely to respect it. Of course tuition is only part of the expense of going to university/college. Books, additional fees, room and board, and entertainment/incidentals must also be paid for, and this may easily exceed tuition. The state scholarship does not cover these costs, and they are a major impediment for students from low income families. Tuition has really skyrocketed over the last couple of decades. Several factors are involved, but a major one is that states are covering less of the operating costs but demanding more from universities. This became a lot worse during the last recession, but a bigger factor is the political pressure to cut taxes, which reduces state revenues. For example, in Wisconsin funding from the state amounts to only 15% of what it costs to operate the state university system. The difference has to be made up somewhere, and increasing tuition is an obvious option. The current system of student loans does not help (IMHO) as students do not immediately feel the pain of high tuition so they may not make well thought out decisions. High student debt has become a national crisis. Also taxpayers seem to be seduced by the idea (sold to them by conservative politicians since Reagan or maybe before) that governments will provide lots of services and "somebody else" will pay for it. Don
  18. A problem that often comes up is that it costs more to police some systems than cheaters take from the system. Take Social Security disability for example, how many people would it take to personally investigate everyone who claims that benefit? Let's say you hire 5,000 people at $40,000/year plus benefits (which adds another 50% at least to their salary). That would be ~$300 million dollars/year. Is that cost effective? I recall reading that a lot of medicare fraud goes unpunished because to costs so much to prosecute cases that it isn't worth it, except for major offenders. Don
  19. Of course, the only way to ensure no-one can figure out a way to abuse the system is to make sure there is no system at all, or make it so hard to qualify for that most people who actually need help are excluded. It seems to me that many Americans are more outraged at the idea that someone could take advantage of them, than they are at turning their back on someone who is truly needy. Don
  20. I think it is entirely reasonable to question why rules (laws) were enacted, and ask whether or not they solve or address a significant problem. Some laws may have made sense at one time but are no longer relevant. Some laws exist to force compliance with a belief system and punish behavior that is not harmful but just offends some people. "Blue laws" (businesses have to close on Sunday, or no alcohol sales on Sunday) would be one set of examples that have largely gone away. Laws against homosexuality are disappearing as well, though people are still fighting for a "right" to discriminate under the guise of "religious freedom" laws. My personal perspective is that only those actions that harm (or have a reasonable probability of harming) other people should be criminalized. Personal drug use, for example, should in my opinion not be a crime (you should have a right to make bad choices if you are the only one harmed), but DUI should be a crime because it puts innocent people at risk. Admittedly it gets more complicated than this (for example children are affected when their parents become meth addicts) but the basic principle is you should have a right to do dangerous things to yourself. Beyond that, assuming a law addresses a real problem (prevents or punishes one person harming another) I think it is reasonable to ask if the law does more or less harm than the behavior it is trying to prevent. All laws restrict our freedom to act in some way, so the question is do we gain more from enforcing the law than we give up? Most people agree that laws against theft are a good thing, in that they discourage theft and free us from the need to constantly stand guard over our property. If there were no laws against theft, every time you left your home you would risk coming home to an empty house. Although the law does not completely prevent this possibility, it reduces the likelihood to the point were most people feel free to go to work, or shopping, or the dropzone. On the other hand, I think a lot of homeland security laws infringe on freedoms and in exchange offer only illusions of increased security. However, there will always be debate about the cost/benefit of laws, and it seems to me some extreme libertarians I have discussed this with feel that there is no benefit that could outweigh the loss of freedom from any law. There are people who think they can personally deal with anyone who tries to harm them, so there is no need for laws or police. That's so unrealistic as to be idiotic in my opinion, but such people do exist. Another thing about libertarian policies is, it seems to me, that they never ask what the logical outcome of their policies would be. As an example, several years ago I had a discussion (here in speaker's corner) with someone who was very vocal that the government (the CDC and the FDA) had no business monitoring food safety or pharmaceutical drug safety, because those things were not specifically mentioned in the constitution. It did not matter at all to them that the consequence of their line of thought was that everyone would be exposed to a significant risk of serious illness or death from every head of lettuce or jar of peanut butter. The idea that they could be forced to pay taxes to support food safety was, to them, far worse than the idea of dying because a food processor decided to ship peanut butter they knew was contaminated (as actually happened to a bunch of people). Another example is the libertarian idea that the government should not subsidize anything, such as roads; that should be left to private industry. The idea is that, where there is a need for a road, investors will fund the road and then get paid back and collect a profit by charging tolls. Imagine you build a highway, at a cost of a million dollars/mile, in a city like Atlanta where 10 thousand people/day use that highway. Even with a modest toll/car you would soon recoup your investment and start making a profit. Now imagine a highway between two cities in, say Idaho. Many fewer people will use that highway each day, so the toll will have to be proportionally higher. In Atlanta, lots of people willingly pay between 5 cents to 50 cents a mile (depending on traffic) to use the express lanes. How many people will pay, say $5/mile, day in and day out, to get from Boise to Twin Falls (128 miles, or $640/trip). The cost of libertarian policies (no government subsidies for anything) would quickly make it prohibitively expensive to live anywhere except in large cities. If our libertarian lives in, say, Atlanta they may resent paying taxes to subsidize road construction in Idaho (or every other less populated area), but how much would they like it if all those people were forced to move to Atlanta? Traffic is already horrible there. Don
  21. The Canadian version of Social Security is called Social Insurance, which is perhaps a better way of thinking about the issue. Social Security is insurance against being left absolutely destitute in the event total disaster occurs. Disaster can take many forms. You may think you have a secure pension, then discover that the plan has been mismanaged and all your contributions are gone and your contract with your employer is unenforceable. For example, when Detroit declared bankruptcy everybody who had spent their lives working for the city (teachers, police officers, municipal workers, and on and on) found their pensions were cut drastically. Their situation was made worse because the city was exempt from paying into social security, so retired city workers did not have that to fall back on. It has become quite common for pensions to disappear when employers declare bankruptcy. Another disaster is to become disabled at a young age, when you have not had enough years of work to save enough to retire on, Yet another could be to have a child who turns out to be severely disabled. No-one who has a child expects to be confronted with medical and care expenses totally hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but this does happen to some unfortunate people. If you think about social security as insurance, rather than as an investment, you can perhaps see the benefit a little more clearly. I do not expect to collect on the fire insurance I pay on my house. You might say I'm foolish to pay for insurance I will probably (hopefully) never collect. If I invested that money wisely, it might eventually grow to a larger sum than my home and all its contents would cost to replace. On the other hand, if my house burns down tomorrow, actuarial calculations of the hypothetical value of an investment thirty years from now will not help me. If we were to make social security purely optional, we would have a situation very similar to allowing people the option of not paying for medical insurance, as was the case before the ACA and also the situation the Republican party is doing it's best to return us to. The issue here is that some (many) people will choose not to be insured, or not be able to afford insurance, yet many of those people will incur medical expenses. No-one plans to get cancer, or fall off a ladder, or (fill in the blank). (Similarly no-one chooses to have their employer go bankrupt and hand over the pension funds to creditors who never spent 5 minutes sweating on the assembly line.) This forces society to make a choice: step in and provide at least life-saving treatment at taxpayer expense, or allow large numbers of people to die of treatable conditions. As far as I can tell, the Libertarian position is "sucks to be them". That might make some sense from a purely selfish fiscal perspective. However, although I don't know how to express this as a financial balance sheet, I would suggest that a "society" that so lacks any sense of empathy that they would turn their back on people and refuse to acknowledge any value in them other than the size of their investment portfolio is so morally bankrupt that it is not a society at all. There is more to human societies than just a collection of dog-eat-dog winner-take-all investment strategies (where the best strategy of all is often to be born to rich parents). Social security was created for a purpose, and that purpose was not the desire of some bureaucrat to invent a new way to pilfer money from people. It was the moral outrage of seeing people who had worked hard all their lives being left destitute in their old age, especially after the Great Depression wiped out so many businesses, banks, and personal savings. One last point: is we were to make social security purely voluntary, we would have to ensure that every job paid enough to allow people to take care of their needs, the needs of any children they might have, and have enough left over to invest for retirement. How much would that be? It would depend on what rent, food, transportation etc cost so it would vary from place to place, but I imagine it could not be much less than $40-50,000 in most places. So all you libertarians who think you will save a few $$ by pulling out of contributing to social security, I hope you enjoy paying $20 (or more) for a burger at your local drive through. Don
  22. Or maybe you should consider that Mitch McConnell refused to allow the Republican party to sign on to or participate in any bipartisan effort to counter Russian activities? No doubt with the intent of accusing Obama of trying to influence the election, if Obama made a big issue of the election interference by the Russians. McConnell has no morals other than win at all costs, even if it does major damage to the country or its institutions. Don
  23. How do you propose to pay for our oversized military if nobody pays taxes? Or law enforcement? Or a hundred other things that a civilized society needs to operate? Or would you prefer anarchy? Don
  24. It's not Billy's fault he's tone-deaf. Don
  25. Why should people who live in cities be held in disdain? Why should people who live in places where real estate values are high be held in disdain and denied an equal vote? It's pretty remarkable that Americans can claim that they have the best democracy in the history of the world, yet they are comfortable with allowing some citizens 4 or 5 times the voting power of other citizens based solely on where they happen to live. Of course until relatively recently Americans were also comfortable with denying some people any vote at all, based on the amount of melanin in their skin. One might begin to suspect that many Americans don't really believe in democracy at all. All they care about is having power over others. Don