Burn it! Burn it all down!

How to demolish the oligarchy in 3 easy steps
American democracy has been tainted by lobbying and corporate interests. How do we fix it? Blow it all up

This is a nice clean summary of some of the pivotal sources of inequality in our ‘great nation’. This doesn’t require that the rich pay higher taxes (though they certainly should), it only requires that parasites on our dysfunctional system get shed for the greatest good for the greatest number…

We have six separate, major American health care programs, with different streams of revenue and based on different systems

America’s health care policies are a dog’s breakfast. America’s retirement policies are a dog’s breakfast that a dog barfed up later.

By my count, that’s four distinct major retirement systems in the U.S.

Education? We have public provision: public K-12 and public community colleges and state universities. Outside of this system of direct public educational provision, we have a separate system of federal student loans. And a third system of federal grants. And because three incompatible systems of aiding higher education are not enough—this is America!—we have yet a fourth, completely different system of tax-favored college savings accounts. America’s system of funding higher education is not quite as insanely complicated as our health care and retirement systems. But we’re getting there!

The political scientist Steven Teles calls this kind of baroque public policy “kludgeocracy.” Another way to describe it would be that Rube Goldberg gets elected and promotes various goals—health care, retirement security, educational access—by means of needlessly elaborate contraptions involving candles, levers, and gerbils running on wheels.

Who benefits from this complexity? Lobbyists, tax preparers, accountants, and rent-seeking parasites in the private sector who figure out how to game these needlessly elaborate systems to skim money from taxpayers and rate payers. Complexity is the friend of corruption. Simplicity, on the other hand, promotes democracy.

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Fantasy? In the short term, sure. The well-paid parasites who profit from complexity will see to that. But there are two kinds of politics: Moving the ball and moving the goal-posts. This is about moving the goal-posts. This is about the next generation, not the next election.

Rome was not built in a day, and the antiquated, crumbling, rat-infested fire hazard that is American public policy will not be condemned, demolished and replaced by a clean, modern, solid structure overnight. But the sooner we start the demolition, the better. In the meantime, “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none” would make a good campaign slogan in 2016.

Physicists ‘skeptical’ of global warming

Semantic battle among physicists forces a restatement of their stance on climate change

Semantics is very important in science and I agree that the 2007 version was non-scientific:

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

The key here is ‘incontrovertible’. Very little is such in science and to have an official statement representing a huge body of scientists use that word is rather offensive. Though physicists sometimes bandy about Einstein’s equations using such verbiage, they all know that doing so is a lazy approximation and is fine only in casual conversation. When they stand up to give presentations or write papers they get a lot more conservative and sprinkle caveats all over their statements. The person behind the change in verbiage, Dr. Steven E. Koonin, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (which, naturally, was controversial in itself since the WSJ has regularly been critical of climate science) where he basically laments the crappy state of the science of climate science and how both sides (‘denalists’ and what I term ‘end-of-the-world-ists’) have left no room for actual scientific discussion. As I talk about many times I have many of the exact same complaints about the science of climate science (I even talk about it here, toward the end) and while I seem to have missed Koonin’s original essay by a number of months, I do agree with his sentiment and so want to promulgate it to the extent my poor blog is capable of.