Friday, May 20, 2016

The Zaphod Effect: The Best Thing The Next President Can Do For The Economy

The best thing that a President can do to help the economy is give the press something else to talk about besides the economy. Economics boils down to applied psychology: when people think the economy is bad, they cut back on spending and investing. The media picks up on this and continues to talk about how bad the economy is. And consumers continue to avoid spending, and investors continue to avoid investing, and the media talks about that, continuing on in a viscous cycle.

To break the cycle, the media needs something else to talk about. The reason why the economy was so great during the 90's is because Bill Clinton accidentally gave the media all sorts of things to talk about. Bush had a recession that went away after 9/11. But a new recession started when people got bored with the War on Terror.

I call this the Zaphod Effect. Zaphod Beeblebrox was the President of the Galaxy in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. His sole responsibility was to distract the public.

Many economists will insist that the Zaphod Effect isn't real. This is because the only time anyone pays attention to them is when the economy is bad. And for the Zaphod Effect to work, we have to ignore them.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Explaining Trump's popularity

A lot of political science is forensic. We try to explain the past rather than correctly predict the future. A lot of people assumed George H. W. Bush  would be re-elected in 1992 because of Desert Storm. A lot of people thought Al Gore was going to win in 2000 because of anti-GOP blowback from the impeachment process. A lot of people thought Hillary Clinton would be the nominee in 2008 because it was her turn. So really we can only look back and explain what happened.

Donald Trump is a very unusual candidate. I didn't think he was serious about running last year. Billionaires tend not to run for president, because that would be like a millionaire applying to work at WalMart. The annual salary of the President is less than .05% of any billionaire's net worth. And every presidential election this century, the wealthier of the two establishment party candidates always came in second. Presidential candidates typically have prior experience serving in elected office and/or in the military. Trump has spent his entire life in the private sector.

So let's dissect why he has done so well so far.

1, Name recognition This is the easiest explanation right here. When people ask me why Trump is polling well, I quiz them on the other candidates. And Trump is the only candidate who they can name what he does for a living. When I was in elementary school during the 80's, I knew who Trump was. I didn't know who Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, or even Hillary Clinton were back then. Trump has been a household name for decades.

2. Perceived competence "You know he's good with money," a Trump fan told me last year. Trump got rich in the first place because he was born into a wealthy family. He became wealthier through a combination of both prudent and shady investments. This describes a lot of politicians in fact, and not even most of them are worthy of holding elected office. Just because some trust fund kid survives into old age doesn't mean we should hand him the nuclear football if he asks for it.

3. Perceived honesty "He tells it like it is!" a lot of his fans will say. Let's not mistake political incorrectness for honesty, though. Trump makes promises that educated adults should know he can't keep. Check out all the statements that he makes that get rated "Pants on Fire" by PolitiFact.

4. Media coverage It's all about ratings and pageviews. The media likes to talk about the zaniest guy on the stage. Television is a poor medium for learning about politics. A candidate can soberly state his informed position on a current issue, but the audience will forget what he said and remember anything funny or outrageous the next morning. Trump says things that are geared more towards upsetting people than solving problems, and the media rewards him with extra airtime and column inches that he doesn't have to pay for. And I'll admit that I'm part of the problem with this very blog post. You need to admit that you are part of the problem if you know more about the Donald's personal life and how many times he has been married than you know about what the other candidates had to say about healthcare, foreign policy, and taxes.

5. The GOP establishment and liberals hate Trump By going after Trump, Democrats are luring GOP primary voters into supporting a candidate that Clinton would very much like to run against. I actually know a Bernie Sanders supporter who says that if Bernie drops out before he gets a chance to vote, he plans to vote for Trump in the primary and Hillary in the general election.Trump is a strawman capitalist made into flesh. He is like a businessman movie villain supplied by Central Casting. Progressives love to hate Trump, and it's like they are using reverse psychology to get Republicans to nominate the weakest possible candidate.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thoughts about online dating now that I'm in a stable relationship

Historically, online dating was thought of as a tool for the desperate. Even though it's more popular, it still gets bashed a lot. But it opens up a single person to more potential dates. You get to meet people that you likely would never have met offline. And to think that our parents met through random chance in meatspace.
For me, online dating was like college: enjoyable but stressful, and I'm glad I don't have to do it anymore. Here are my thoughts for anyone who is still looking:
1. Never post your thoughts about online dating on your blog if you still are active in online dating. You will sound like a complainer. You probably are a complainer if you do this. So stop it. I get to rant about online dating because I'm in a stable relationship now.
2, Your parents probably give better dating advice than your single friends.
3. I saw a lot of single mothers on OKCupid. I know that kids come first. But just check off the box that says you have a kid or kids. Don't gush about how amazing your kids are in your dating profile bio. "Amazing" was a pretty common adjective to describe toddlers. I would have liked to meet the mother of a mediocre three-year old. That would have been a woman with realistic expectations.
4. Platonic friends and coworkers can sometimes stumble across your dating profile. It's probably best to keep things PG.
5. I think people who put up ads that say they are looking for a platonic relationship with a member of the opposite sex are either lying to themselves or don't know what "platonic" means.
6. You don't save yourself up for marriage. You save yourself up for a house full of cats.
7. People say there is no such thing as the friendzone. But I think it's real. It's like getting a bronze medal in the Olympics. My best advice is not argue with the judge, and just move on to the next event and try again. (Silver medal is when you are friends with benefits.)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Filling Scalia's vacancy

People have been going on Twitter rages complaining that Republican senators are refusing to do their job. The word "treason" has been thrown about like f-bombs on Xbox Live. And most of the adults using the "t-word" have no idea what it really means. It's just something they say when they are angry. If people are going to be upset about the nomination process, then let's be honest about our real reasons for being upset. Conservatives are upset about the possibility that Scalia might not be replaced by another conservative, and liberals are mad that Obama's nominee might get borked.

Article 2, Section 2 Clause 2 gives the President the power to nominate Supreme Court justices with the advise and consent of the Senate. The President can nominate whoever he wants, and the Senate is under no obligation to consent to anything. Obama can systematically nominate everyone who has ever graduated from law school and the Senate can vote them all down if they so choose. And the Supreme Court can function fine with a vacancy. Nine isn't a sacred number or anything, especially back when FDR was President.

There are a couple things that I think might happen. Mitch McConnell can hold the line until after the election, but he would run the risk of Hillary Clinton winning and then nominating Barack Obama for SCOTUS. But he isn't going to confirm the first person Obama nominates either. So what might happen is Obama will nominate a very liberal sacrificial lamb for the Senate to vote down. And then he'll nominate what passes for a moderate these days, and the Senate will confirm that judge to keep this from being an issue during the election.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Music videos that look like they are older than they really are.

It's getting harder and harder to tell when songs were recorded. For example, you could show this to your friends and convince them it's a 90's song that they forgot about.

I like that song, but I kind of wish they were singing a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song of the same name.

Here's Walk The Moon, using synthesizers from back when it was somehow okay for men to wear pastels in public but not get married to each other.
Play this at a 50 year class reunion, and see who "remembers" it.
Lastly, there are college students who think this a propaganda reel from the 1940's.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Indiana's new bad law.

Several thoughts:
1. There should never be religious exemptions for any law. Laws against murder are great laws, and there are no religious exemptions for those laws. Even if you believe that consuming the hearts of your enemies will cause you to absorb their strength and courage, you still aren't allowed to kill a person and cut open their chest for that purpose. Good laws shouldn't have religious exemptions, and bad laws should just be repealed entirely. If it's ok for Indian tribes to take peyote, anybody should be allowed to take peyote.
2. The First Amendment already guarantees your right to believe whatever you want. But certain beliefs will hold you back from pursuing certain careers. If you are Amish, you probably can't work in IT. If you believe that killing animals is wrong, you can't work in a slaughterhouse. If you are a pacifist, then you can't be a US Marine. And if your beliefs prevent you from providing service to an entire group of customers, then your beliefs will prevent you from succeeding in the retail industry. I do wish all of the above groups the best of luck in finding gainful employment, but they just won't have the same options as the rest of us.
3, Real business owners don't want to discriminate. They don't want to turn down paying customers. And they really don't want paying customers to be under any impression at all that they would be discriminated against in their stores. This is why most business leaders don't lobby against anti-discrimination laws. Anti-discrimination laws ultimately protect businesses because with such laws in place, people know that they are welcome in any store. Governor Pence is going out of his way to protect a very small number of businesses that are doomed to fail anyway.
4. People make up new religions all the time. And who is to say which new faiths are sincere? I'm sure the Heaven's Gate cult members were sincere about their new faith when they all poisoned themselves. So if someone starts the High Church Of Tall Grass And Smoking Crack, will the City of Fort Wayne intervene by forcing HCOTGASC members to stop smoking crack and start mowing their yards?
5. If you are going to open a business that doesn't serve gay people because of your religious beliefs, why not just call your business a church and claim tax exempt status? Heck, if the law sticks then I wonder what would happen if a burning bush told me to stop paying Indiana taxes?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Recent Photo

This is what I looked like as of about an hour ago, when I got very frustrated by Virgin Mobile's repeated failure to carry my image to someone else's phone. At least it isn't a Verizon phone though. There are two things you should know about me.
1. I will become Amish before ever using Verizon for my cell phone service again.
2. I will abandon even Amish levels of technology and become a hunter-gatherer before ever talking to one of Xfinity's customer retention specialists again. Stop trying to take me for a sucker. Stop making me have to threaten to cancel my service in order to keep from being charged $80 a month for Internet access. Because I don't make threats. I make promises, and I keep them.