Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Lessons of Natural Disasters

The Houston area was hit hard by nature recently, but the people of Houston and people with large hearts around the country have responded. The damage is severe, but there is bright hope in the spirit of cooperation evidenced, if we will just keep it in our hearts.

Puerto Rico is not as fortunate by any means. Even if we were all as aware of Puerto Rico as we are of Houston, we can't just pool resources with friends, churches, and whoever and pack up big trucks and buses and get down there to help. Even if we could, the infrastructure to move people and materials once they get there was not in good shape to begin with, and has now been severely damaged -- almost destroyed -- by two storms. The help can't get where it is needed, and people are suffering and dying while they wait for help.

We can blame the people of Puerto Rico, but that doesn't end their suffering. And I hope that is not where we stop thinking.

There is talk of it taking more than 30 billion dollars to just rebuild.

We have 10 US citizens whose personal worth is well over that. If the 400 richest people in America each gave 1.1% of their personal wealth, Puerto Rico could, theoretically, have it covered.

But Puerto Rico was in trouble before the storms. (I ranted a little bit about that here, on the debt, and here, on fixing their debt.)

Fixing their infrastructure and getting them food and supplies is not going to solve the underlying problems.

Puerto Rico is a microcosm of the essential problems first-world countries face around the world and at home. How can we expect the less well-off to be happy (and peaceful) wearing out their lives in sweatshops that manufacture the goods that we buy (with borrowed money) and so blithely throw away?

They need investment from people and institutions who won't be waiting to exact their pound of blood exactly one year or ten from now.

Why would investors be willing to take a loss in Puerto Rico or any particular rust belt town in the US, or any failing community anywhere around the world?

Imagine what would have happened had the country and the world just abandoned New York after 9/11.

Imagine what would happen were we to all just let the people of Houston fend for themselves.

What happens without all the the small towns that are struggling not to disappear? The big cities and small territories and countries? Where does the market go when it disappears?

Isn't this obvious?

This is what refraining from loss investment means:

No market. No sales.

That cash flow from which the rich milk their excessive profits dries up and blows away like the smoke it is.

(Have you ever wondered why those whose ledgers show vast personal worth never seem to have enough money? There's a big clue here. There are a few small items missing on most of those ledger sheets -- abstract items, maybe, but no less essential.)

So, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, what does your warm-fuzzies pledge mean for the people of Puerto Rico? Will you turn away, just because you can't figure out how to recapture the value you would have to give away?

Jeff Bezos, can your rockets move needed fuel, food, infrastructure, raw materials, etc. to Puerto Rico?

Mark Zuckerberg, can a woman in Juncos use her Facebook page to tell her friends or relatives on the mainland she's alive but still without electricity or clean water?

Larry Ellison, your databases might help track the supplies being sent to Puerto, but who takes them the last mile?

[edit 201710021016: I felt an imbalance in the force. Someone complained that I had left Trump out of this list.

Skipping, but not ignoring, a lot of people in the list, Donald Trump, what substantial help can you give?

]

What good is all that paper worth if you can't use it to help hold this world together for a meaningful context for next year's bottom line?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Can We All Calm Down before We All Fall Down?

Trump is a loose cannon. He could have been more polite, and he could have waited until we had calmed down a bit, but we won't let him.

We want the magic words of healing, and we want them now.

There are no magic words of healing.

Trump is doing his best to tell us so.

His best seems to be woefully short.

But he is limited by the chacter count of the tweet.

Are you still trying to use the tweet to communicate? The tweet should be only used as an invitation to talk.

If you fail to listen after you tweet, you are not communicating.

If you fail to think about what the other guy is saying, especially, to think about the words you don't like and don't want to hear, you are not communicating.

Lack of communication leads to war.

(And that's a nice tweet isn't it? :-/)

Let's think about it.

Lack of communication comes in two forms -- silence and argument.

Silence is cold war. Argument is hot war.

How did we break the Berlin Wall down?

Communication. Listening. Both sides compromising a little at a time.

War broke out in Charlottesville.

Why?

There are people who get offended to discover that the US of A has a history of slavery. Perhaps they think that erasing the reminders of that history will somehow magically erase the evils of modern slavery.

It won't.

Lee had flaws, but he was a good man.

Malcolm X was another man who had flaws, but was a good man.

I wonder. Would it help to put up a statue of Malcom X next to the statue of Lee?

Maybe not a good idea today, anyway. Let's think about it again tomorow, when we aren't quite so excited and offended.

We need to talk about these kinds of things.

Not tweet.

Talk.

Otherwise, what we are doing is no better than what Trump is doing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

FinCEn/FBAR -- Systems Always Get Fouled up Beyond All Recognition

How can we even attempt to untangle the bureaucratic mess that gives us FinKEn FinCEn and FuBAR FBAR?

(That's Fin-ancial C-rimes En-forcement and Foreign Bank Account Reports. You can't make this kind of thing up. The government wants to enforce financial crimes, I guess -- make everyone a financial criminal. Maybe someone involved in setting these agencies up understood the legal and factual ironies and was trying to tell us something.)

(Now I'll take a deep breath so I can try to say something reasonable here.)

I understand that the US government, if it is to pursue the course of fighting against terrorism, must be able to track every bank account in the world, so it has to start by tracking foreign bank accounts of US nationals. I am not going to argue (much) against the war against war terrorism here. I've already done that elsewhere and will probably do it again elsewhere.

I'm just going to tell you about this FBAR thing.

The way the reports are set up, it has already inspired four rants on three different occasions.
  1. The first time I read the law and realized that it was virtually impossible for a US to live outside the United States for any extended time without becoming obligated to report every foreign bank account held.
  2. Later, in June of that year, hurrying in a panic to try to submit the required report before the deadline so I wouldn't potentially make myself subject to a fine more than five times my total financial worth at the time, fighting against impossible reporting procedures
  3. Later, that September, when I took one last stab at trying to get my tax reports straightened out for that year so I could be "legal" again.
I've tried to straighten things out several times since then. This year, I got a response to my e-mail request for help, but not a very good one. Quite literally, all they had to say was
Try Internet Explorer!
I don't do MSWindows. Not in my house.

At work, where the company takes responsibility for the potential damage, sure. Not at home.

I don't even own any machines capable of running any version of MSWindows safely. (And I'm really, really poor right now. Trying to get a start at writing novels for a living took concentration, and now I've literally run out of money.)

Bureaucracy is a necessary evil, even in a free country. I'll grant that.

When I was in college working on my BS in Computer Science at BYU, I took a class called Computers and Ethics (or some such). We discussed a variety of possibilities, including the concept that computers would be used for universal surveillance. I don't think we properly picked up the topic of an effective universal internetworking network, but very few people recognized the meaning of the nascent internet (lowecase "i") back thing.

The one thing I was worried about, I don't believe I was able to properly express during that course.

Computers make it easy to build systems.

System Science, even then, had one prominent axiom:
There is no such thing as a correct system.
Some said two axioms, but the second is actually a restatement of the first:
There is no such thing as a secure system.
This axiom has not been entirely proven, but it shows no signs of being disproven. There is a field of computer sciences that deals with problems that may be too hard for mortals to ever solve, and the problem of building a correct system is among those that would be in the too-hard-to-solve group.

You can, with effort, build a system that is reasonably correct for some contexts, but not for all. And not perfectly correct.

And the longer the system is in use, the more likely it is that someone will attempt to apply it outside the contexts in which it is even reasonably correct.

Looking at the question from another point of view, it is really, really difficult to describe the contexts in which a particular system should operate, much less define what correct operation means.


But computers make it really, really easy to create systems. Not to build correct systems, neither to prove an existing system either correct or not. But easy to create systems.

A long time ago, when electronic calculators were beginning to become popular, the idea that our tendency to trust machines would betray us relative to computers was tested by psychologists using mis-programmed calculators. Sure enough, most people would trust a calculator rather than their own calculations, even after several re-checks.

(I relate that to the ancient proscription against idolatry, but that can be easily misunderstood, and it historically has been misunderstood. We weren't proscribed from building models, we were proscribed from worshiping them -- from depending too much on them or believing them too much.)

What does this have to do with financial law?

Laws have something inherently in common with computer programs:

A body of laws defines a group of systems.

Fifty years ago, we were familiar with this fact, and we knew that this fact was the reason we should not make too many laws. We understood, intuitively, perhaps, that this principle was one of the foundation principles of reference in designing and operating a government that attempted to recognize the freedom (and sovereignty) of the individual, and to work with that freedom instead of fighting it.

We have forgotten.

We have forgotten that systems are inherently fallible.

We have forgotten the connection between laws and system science.

We have forgotten that laws are therefore fallible.

From 1984 to Animal House, from The Metropolis to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to The Hunger Games, we've been warned. We have this huge body of prophecy we call literature.

But we have managed to convince ourselves, beyond the evidence that is all around us, that computers can somehow make up the difference, and make bad law good.

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

So said the preacher, and it's true. We are vain. We are willing to insist on our being right and demand that others use computers to fill in the gaps we create.

anyway, No. The federal government cannot be trusted with the information that is the ownership of every bank account we have, foreign or not. It's just too big, and the siren call that is The System is too seductive.

And that is why, not just the FBAR is all FUBAR, but the entire body of tax law is, too.

Taxes on individuals should have been kept at state or lower level.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Vaccines, Reducing the Population by Reducing the Mortality Rate, and Bill Gates

Vaccines are neither pure good nor pure evil.

Neither is money.

I was reading, maybe on Snopes or whatever that is, about comments on vaccines that Bill Gates made that were misinterpreted or something.

(It's recent news, January of this year or so. You can find it now with a simple web search on "bill gates vaccines", so I'll leave you to the vicissitudes of the Web if you want to read the sources.)

Bill Gates said something to the effect that he is trying to focus on indirect methods of reducing population, and that reducing the mortality rate by increasing the use of vaccines was part of his indirect efforts.

Some clown didn't read all of what Gates said, and claimed that Gates was admitting that vaccines kill people.

But Gates was really talking about the principle that has been found recently, that the birth rate in "advanced" societies falls far enough to well offset the lengthened lifespans.

(Japan, for instance, is looking at negative population growth without immigration, which is part of why it is becoming easier to immigrate now. Wish they'd let me keep dual citizenship so I could vote where I live without putting myself completely at the mercy of a USA immigrations "service" gone insane, should I ever go back.)

This is way oversimplifying what Gates said, but his argument goes something like this --
{paraphrase}... parents who are no longer worried about their children dying before they are old enough no longer get in a panic and have a dozen kids.{paraphrase.}
(Old enough for what? That doesn't seem to be clear.)

Okay. He's smart enough to see one of the less-obvious socio-statistical relationships, although his description misses what I think is the salient point:
{real-principle} Young kids who think that they can have sex with impunity quit worrying about babies and start trying to have sex with impunity. {real-principle.}
That's what drives the population down -- whether they use contraceptives and prophylactics, or whether the spread of STDs sterilizes almost everyone who doesn't die.

Having babies safely requires more planning ahead than using contraceptives.

The idea that having and raising children is no longer dangerous (which is not true), so they can always do the responsible thing after they've had their fun is just one part of the evil package.

And so one or more of his charities funds vaccines for poor people.

Are we going to set aside these facts about vaccines --
  1. that no vaccine is perfect, 
  2. that some vaccines are way too dangerous to be even offered generally, 
  3. and that parents should almost always be given the choice for their young children,
  4. because it's the parents who have to deal with the worst of the consequences if their child happens to be one of those for whom the vaccine goes wrong?
Vaccines for poor people probably does more good than bad, overall.

But the wannabees who look at Bill Gates as their example decide that
Bill Gates says vaccines are good.
and therefore
vaccines == absolute good!
and start trying to force, whether by legislation or by word-of-mouth flash propaganda campaigns on slashdot and reddit, everyone in the world to get all the latest-greatest vaccines.

Let me provide an example of something I personally have experience with.

My children's junior high school, about four years ago, strongly recommended that all the young women in the school get the cervical cancer vaccine (or whatever they called it).

But my daughter is not having random sex. Maybe she's doing things her parents don't know about, but she is not having sex with random partners on a daily or even weekly basis.

And the odds of negative side-effects for that vaccine are relatively high.

That means that, for her, the odds are better if she simply abstains from both pre-marital sex and the vaccine. Way better if she simply abstains from pre-marital sex.

She chose not to get the vaccine, after listening to both the school and her parents.

Now, some of her friends are already seeing the negative health effects of having taken the vaccine.

Vaccines are not a panacea.

So, Gates still is not necessarily helping the world (overall) with his vaccine campaigns.

If Bill Gates is really going to repent of getting his billions by scamming us, he is going to have to quit trying to "fix" the world's problems.

That is to say, if he wants to fix the evil he has done, he has to give up the idea that he knows how to fix other people's problems. He is not as smart as he thinks he is.

No one, when we start telling other people what they should do, is nearly as smart as we want to think we are.

(That's why, by the way, Mormon missionaries are instructed to stick to the basics of faith and repentance, and to encourage individuals get the specifics directly from God, through exercising their own consciences.

We can tell you that you need to repent, just because you aren't dead yet. Yeah, we aren't dead yet, either, so we need to repent, too.

Just what you need to do to repent is between you and God. Prayer is good, once you can tell the difference between the sneaky voice in your head telling you to take unfair advantage of your neighbor and the quiet voice in your heart telling you to help your neighbor without asking for gain.

All we want is to encourage everyone to get serious about trying to be better people today than we were yesterday.)

Gates can, in fact, do great things with his immorally gotten gains, on certain conditions.

He could, for instance, set up a no-strings-attached 20 million dollar permanent fund for Theo deRaadt and his friends to run the openbsd project from. And hope the sudden influx of money doesn't ruin the project.

Or he could go to crowdfunding places like kickstarter and fund random projects. And, again, hope that he doesn't end up funding projects that shouldn't be funded for some reason not visible in their proposals.

Hey, he could give me three million Japanese yen (roughly USD 30 thousand) to finish one of my novels. And a hundred million Japanese yen (roughly USD 1 million) to start re-inventing the computer/information industry from zero.

And, if he did, should he hope it's just enough money to keep me permanently spinning my wheels here in my own little world where I won't be bothering anyone?

Or should he hope that it will be just enough money to get my first novel published and selling, and just enough that I can set up a website from which to sell digital copies of the novel, with new free-and-open source software of my own creation, and to start building the next big thing in social media?

He's in a dilemma. He has more money than one person can safely burn off.
  • If he puts strings on the money he gives away, he changes the world for the worse by those strings. 
  • If he just gives the money away unconditionally, the mere excess of resources will allow many people to do things they shouldn't.
  • If he just hoards the money, society is dragged down by the lack of what he hoards.
If he really wants to save the world, he has to learn the difference between right and wrong, and he owns the USD 8×1010 wall that prevents him from seeing right and wrong well enough to safely get rid of that wall.

And the first thing he has to see is that it is impossible to make the other guy to the right thing.

And that is why I don't want Gates' billions, and why I would be hard pressed to accept it if he even offered me a few tens of thousands USD.

Now, if he, or you, would just read my novel -- current draft here and first draft here -- and tell me in the comments why you think I should or should not keep writing it, that would sure help me now. Yeah, I need a new job or something, but there are things I need more than just money.

There are things that we all need more than money. And if money gets in the way, we should put the questions of money behind us.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Top Money Grubbers and the Economy

My wife was reading the list of top money-grubbers.

I was struck by a thought and looked up the list.

Forbes has an interest quote for the day --
It is hard enough out there. Get all the help you can. Getting help really is just a part of that lifelong search for wisdom.
(Phil Knight, speech to 2014 graduating class of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.)
I like these from his speech better:
Two "nines" working together will beat two "tens" working for their own careers, every time. Ability and desire almost always trump money and power.
and these two:
And dare to take chances, lest you leave your talent buried in the ground.

And where there is no struggle, there can be no art.
And he quotes Frank Shallenberger at the end of his speech:
The only time you must not fail, is the last time you try.
Forbes took me on an interesting detour. So I went to wikipedia, instead: The World's Billionaires. Instead of Forbes' rah-rah, I get the information I was looking for. And one interesting quote, from Oxfam via Anna Ratcliff and Gerry Mullany:
According to a 2017 Oxfam report, the top eight billionaires own as much combined wealth as "half the human race".
Bill Gates has a net worth of USD 86 billion.

That's more dollars than you can count in 32 bits of unsigned integer. It takes at least 37 bits, which pushes you up to the next larger size integer.

(Good thing our desktop computers now have 64 bit CPUs. ;-/

... Uhm, in case you missed it, that was dripping with sarcasm, at multiple levels.)

Seventeen years ago, somebody put pressure on the US federal courts to scuttle the anti-monopoly case against Microsoft. It ended in a very light handslap.

The primary source of Bill Gates' obscene fortune is, yes, Microsoft.

Nothing has changed their virtual monopoly on the desktop, and it's getting harder to get a decent tablet without Microsoft and Intel's illegitimate offspring on it.

If the US government had not turned a blind eye to Microsoft from the late 1980s, we would not be saddled with the atrocity that is Microsoft Office. We would have wonderful options like Wordperfect and more locally produced office software.

Locally produced is a key word here. Microsoft knows Microsoft's business practices and maybe some of their larger clients' main offices. Statistically speaking, they do not know your business practices from your neighbor's children's lemonade stand's business practices.

Why does it surprise you that Microsoft Office makes some things really easy and the rest nigh impossible?

And the US government had a chance to split Microsoft up around 2000. That is, they were prevented, for a short time, from turning a blind eye. But people got paid off and here we are.

Repeat this story for the Lehman Brothers, for General Motors, for how many companies that are "too big to fail"?

Ten men -- yes, men -- "own" more wealth than 3 3/4 billion people.

According to the accountants, ten men have more say about what is valuable and what isn't than the world's entire poorest half.

According to the numbers, ten men nominally control more economic activity than 3.75 billion people.

BTW, Forbes says they don't count royalty and dictators.

Seriously? What's the difference? Ten men effectively rule the world.

Of course, the reality is that royalty and dictators do not control their subjects. They only try.

Likewise wealthy people. They don't really control things. Heaven help us if they did. But they like to pretend they do.

And they do represent a negative influence, a source of friction on the wheels of industry and society.

Think about this. Microsoft has 85 billion in revenue. That's ten dollars for every person on the planet. Whether we want Microsoft's stuff or not, we are each, statistically, paying Microsoft ten dollars a year.

That's why we call it the "Microsoft tax".

And that's ten dollars we are not paying to Microsoft's competitors.

Every other rich person in that list is the same. The money they are getting is money that the rest of us can't use in our daily business. At least, we can't use it without paying them rent on it -- loan interest, royalties, etc.

If you think of it, giving banks the ability to make loans on money they don't actually have is basically giving them a privilege of nobility -- the right to charge interest on money that wasn't really theirs in the first place.

Anytime you find people with income in the range of exceeding ten times the average, you can be sure they are using means that are not really fair to gain their income.

More than hundred times cannot naturally occur. It is prima facie evidence of unethical, immoral, and illegal activity to receive that much income.

Anytime you find someone amassing assets equivalent in value to over a hundred times the average individual's lifetime income, again, that indicates that something unethical, immoral, and/or illegal is occurring.

Holding too many assets may not be a crime against any particular individual, but it is a crime against all of us. It is assets that become unavailable to other people, most of whom would be quite happy to do something productive with it if they had it.

There is a natural principle here. If people who have gained excessive riches fail to willingly return some reasonable portion to the community and to relinquish their artificial control, it becomes the community's right to take it back by force of law.

If the community fails to take it back, those whose labor and patience have been the source of such gain will eventually grow tired of being so ill-treated. This is the primary reason for an excessive crime rate, including so-called crimes of terror.

If you want to know where the political momentum of the current wave of terror comes from, look at that list of billionaires. There they are.

Setting up "charitable foundations" which primarily serve to reinforce a monopoly position is not giving back.

If, in fact, there are any strings attached, the artificial control has not been relinquished, and the result remains the same. Those whose labor built the empire will want the freedom that is their due.

Management is labor? Get me a hundred managers and show me how fast they can, by managing, build a new road or a new building or a new piece of software, show me they can build anything but more systems of management. Then we can talk about management being labor in the sense of it being somehow worth significantly more than the labor which is being managed.

It is not unreasonable, nor is it unfair, for a country to strip a company of their patents, copyrights, and even trademarks if they insist on maintaining their monopoly position.

Nor is it unreasonable, immoral, unfair, or in any way wrong for a state to seize the assets of individuals who insist on maintaining a wealth in excess of a hundred times the average person's lifetime income.

It is, rather, a crime against its own citizenry for a community to fail to reign in excessive wealth.

Competition and profit are reasonable, fair, and healthy to a point, and the limit can be fairly high.

One hundred times is unreasonable, but may still be tolerable in an otherwise healthy society.

More than a thousand times is not only completely unreasonable, but intolerable.

If the community is not economically healthy, ten times is unreasonable, and a hundred times may be intolerable.

If you are a billionaire, what should you do?

Retire from your business. Turn it completely over to others and cease to accept any salary or other profit from it. Get out of the way.

Once you are out of the way, fund startups. Repay the loans of defaulting companies, perhaps. You may find it useful to give advice, but don't put strings on what you give back. Relinquish control.

If your lifestyle and standard of living won't permit you to do so, take a vow of poverty. Learn, or re-learn how to live simply.

Let others have a chance to work.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Building House to House

Several years back, my daughter took the orals part of an English test at a university called St. Thomas, here in Amagasaki. I went with her, and I heard rumors that the school was being shut down. I couldn't believe it. Nice campus, large, modern classroom towers. Well, some of the smaller buildings showed a little evidence of needing care.

Toward the end of 2015, the last student enrolled took a graduate degree and the school shut down.

(I should log in to Wikipedia and add the information about the school shutting down to the school's English page, I suppose, but it will take a bit of time to do it right -- get my sources together and annotate everything. Sufficient information is on the Japanese page for those who need it.)

I am not an investigative journalist, and I have too many other responsibilities to suddenly become one. So I am not going to detail my impressions of the school closure. I'll just note that it seems a very odd thing to just shutter a school as large as Eichi/St. Thomas was.

And it leaves the city with a monetary sinkhole, tearing down some of the less long-term viable buildings and converting to other uses buildings that are just too structurally sound to waste. (That has been in the news lately.)

And it reduces available options to student who are college-bound.

Working on my resume, as I must every year around this time, I found myself reading the Wikipedia page of one of my almae matres (;-), Odessa College. And I found this rather disconcerting paragraph:

In 2011, Odessa College, along with Frank Phillips College in Borger, Ranger College in Ranger, and Brazosport College in Lake Jackson were proposed for closure by the State of Texas. The Texas Association of Community Colleges rallied successfully to keep the four instiututions open. In a letter to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio and Jim Pitts of Waxahachie in Ellis County, then the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, TAAC leaders referred to state budget restrictions at the time:
Community colleges are fully aware of the state's budget crisis, and we understand that we will have to bear our share of the budget pain. We pledge to work with you to reach a fair and equitable solution ... the decision to close these four colleges is unfair and inequitable in that it appears to be arbitrary and ill-advised. We stand in support of our sister colleges, and we look forward to a productive debate ...[6]
[...]
[6]"Letter to the Honorable Joe Straus" (PDF). tacc.org. January 24, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2015.
Well, I'm glad the other community colleges in Texas rallied around us, there, and that the state legislature suffered an attack of reason.

What on earth were they thinking of?

It would be easy to recall the political infighting about bringing in a branch of the University of Texas (University of Texas of the Permian Basin), and assume that the University of Texas had gone predatory.

Let me unpack that. UTPB is a good school, and contributes to Permian Basin economy and society. But when it was proposed, there were real and reasonable concerns that the city could not support both schools.

(Midland was all too happy to suggest that UTPB be built in Midland County, instead. I think a lot of the ordinary citizens of both cities would have been quite happy to have had the campus built on the border between Midland County and Ector County, near Midland Air Field, and make it a joint venture.

But it is a joint venture, anyway. You have to understand West Texas to understand how territorialism is fundamental to West Texan rivalry-style cooperation. Maybe it's not ideal. There's lots of room for improvement. But it works. Midland gets their share, too (the Bush family? :-/). It's never fair at any one time, but it seems to balance out. Usually.)

UTPB was originally supposed to be upper-level only, to avoid taking students away from Odessa College. The plan was that Freshman and sophomore classes would be taken at OC, and students would have a two-year Associate's degree that they could use to get a job. Students who wanted to continue could then enroll at UTPB at their leisure.

Students who wanted to focus purely on academics could go to Texas Tech (Lubbock) or one of the other UT schools (Austin, for instance), or one of the many Christian schools in Texas. Or not in Texas, if they really wanted to.

(There is this attitude in West Texas about distance. A three hour drive from Odessa to Lubbock just to go to a different mall than usual doesn't raise eyebrows. Odessa and Midland are next-door neighbors. San Angeles, Lubbock, San Antonio, they're just down the street a ways, not furatall. Abilene, Dallas, and El Paso, yeah, they're a small piece of driving. Just six hours. Go in the morning, be back in time for bed, if you want. Shoot, even my second alma mater, BYU, was just a long twenty hour drive.)

This lack of concern about a break between the sophomore and junior years is part of the attitude in West Texas that school comes after work. I share that attitude. I think most students would benefit from at least a two-year break from school between high school and college. At minimum.

I'm showing my West Texas roots and rambling. Back to the subject.

In the 1990s, it seems to have been decided that competition for students would no longer be a problem. So UTPB was allowed to begin accepting incoming Freshmen.

In truth, it hasn't really been a problem. That is, UTPB had a record enrollment last year, over 6,000 students. And OC has about 5,000 traditional students and about 11,000 non-traditional students. OC runs several extension centers for students who need to live and study outside of Odessa, including a branch campus in Pecos. From my point of view, there's nothing to fight about.

Where was I?

St. Thomas quit taking new students in 2010.

The proposal to close schools competing with the UT System was floated in 2011.

There were other issues discussed in both cases.

But there were a lot of attempts to consolidate education systems (ergo, by closings schools) around 2010.

It's not surprising. Education is part of the market. Every industry wants to consolidate.

Misery loves company when it looks like it's time to change.

Upper-level management that has gotten used to their perqs and have become hide-bound seem to prefer seeking solace in the illusion of control that scarcity economics presents.

There is a scripture in the Bible, Isaiah 8: 12 --
Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.

This proclivity towards empire building has existed in human nature for a long time, and it generally leads people away from freedom, from God, from all that can be right in the world.

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

In mine ears said the Lord of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.
That's Isaiah 5: 8, 9.

I suppose I'm repeating myself, but big is bad. Small can be good, can be so much better.

Three must have been a better way than to shutter Eichi/St. Thomas University in Amagasaki.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Damage from Executive (dis-)Orders

I postulated damage if Trump were elected, based on the cluelessness of his campaign promises. He promised lots of things that bump into and go way beyond the Constitutional limits to presidential powers. I guess I didn't specify the reasons in my earlier post. Maybe I thought everyone would understand, or, at least, everyone who might read my blog.

Now he is playing the spoiled child.

The mere fact that he would attempt such executive orders does damage to the dignity of the office.

If he should actually get a court to approve such orders, it would do serious damage to the Constitution of the United States of America. It would seriously upset the balance of powers that is already so tenuous after the (un-)Patriot Act. That would make him guilty of treason, and give good reason to start impeachment proceedings.

This is the kind of damage I meant, eroding the checks and balances.

This is why I said, if you have money and are not being generous with it, now is the time to learn the reasons of generosity.

Now is the time to make jobs for the jobless, even if it's not immediately profitable.

Now is the time to voluntarily limit pollution.

Now is the time to donate, not products that your company sells, not computers that run your operating system and office software, not medicines for your favorite diseases, but money, to enable the recipients to do what they need to do whether it agrees with you or not.

Now is the time to quit trying to re-make other people and other countries in the image of your personal ideals.

Otherwise, expect war, and expect otherwise sane citizens of the USA to start agitating to allow Trump's illegal executive orders.

(And now is the time to start telling Trump, every time you see him, to learn how to work within the Constitution, and to try to help him understand what he can legally and morally do so that he'll quit trying to do things the wrong way.)