Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Largely Unnoticed Change

Congratulations to Barack Obama. Today, around the world, media outlets can hardly contain their exuberance at his victory. Headlines read "A New Dawn for American Politics" or "Change Has Arrived." Some people think this is a watershed in black-white race relations. I doubt it - if we elected a black president, the watershed happened a while back. I think the Obama years will be business as usual except that I'm looking forward to four years of saying "Obamanomics." But the gushing global geyser of love for Obama conceals one very important change: for the first time in recent memory, the Democrats have largely focused on the middle class.

Think about it - when was the last time a Democratic candidate actually made helping the middle class the centerpiece of his campaign? Nobody really knew what Kerry was about except that he wasn't Bush. Gore was going to fix the environment - not a cheap project. Clinton was elected in '92 on promises to let gays serve openly in the military and to institute a national health care program. He got re-elected because he was smart and slippery enough to grab all the usual Republican high ground, signing NAFTA and major bills to reduce welfare and fight crime. Dukakis and Mondale were painted by the Republicans as well-meaning guys who would raise taxes for the middle class. By 1980, Carter was in charge of an economy worse than today's - all Reagan had to do was ask, "Do you want four more years of this?"

Meanwhile, the long-running Republican promise of smaller government has proven hollow. If you're charitable, you might say perpetual short-term crises made cutting the budget unfeasible. Or you might just say they were full of shit. Either way, the government is bigger than ever and the Republicans have mostly been running the show since the mid-90's. Meanwhile, their standard positions on key issues have been fighting the tide of demographics. They lose a lot of women voters with their opposition to abortion and their support for abstinence-only sex education. They lose a lot of minority voters because of their positions on affirmative action and illegal immigration and the overwhelming whiteness of the religious right.

The Democrats, for their part, have shifted further to right over the last thirty years. They get that the private sector isn't just a cash cow to build massive government programs to give jobs to their cronies and secure low-income votes. They understand that, if rich people aren't able to make money through business then they'll have no reason to invest in business. They don't support top-bracket tax rates of 70% - which were in place when Reagan took office. In a sense, the Democratic party has done what Clinton did for his re-election campaign - they gave up their collectivist vision of how the world should work and focused on how it does work.

So, this may be an important signal that the Democrats are now coming around to the idea of individual responsibility. For decades, the Republicans have been able to portray the Democrats as tax-and-spend liberals who want to confiscate money from the middle class on up, in order to give it to poor people too lazy or irresponsible to work. Now, we may be on the verge of seeing an important shift - the Democrats may succeed in portraying the Republicans as out-of-touch deficit builders who enrich the top 1% at the expense of the middle class on down. I'm interested in seeing how the next twenty years will play out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why You Aren't Getting Second Dates

You're in your mid-thirties and the online dating demographics now favor you. For every dateable man your age, there are three or four women. And, so, lots of women would rather let you buy them a few drinks than spend another night at home watching Grey's Anatomy and running down the batteries in their vibrators. You get plenty of first dates but most of them don't lead to second dates. Why not?

It's because you're good on paper but not good relationship material. You're successful, smart, reasonably good-looking, and you make passable conversation. That's all the stuff that should be coming across in your profile. It's the first filter - she's convinced you're good enough for her. But the filtering never really stops - even with the numbers game on your side, there are still plenty of guys good enough for her. You can be sure she's going on first dates with many of them. So, the next filter is evaluating your relationship potential. If you fail there, no second date, because she doesn't want to get at all physical with you if you're a dead end.

To understand this second filter, you first have to understand what women want beyond the basics. For this, we can look at how men and women view money. Men use money to get women, period. Women, however, use money to build their social circle and raise their position within it. Basically, men derive status from having money, while women get status from spending it - on themselves and on others. So, on the first date, she's looking for signals about how generous you are because she wants a man who will enhance her status.

Now, if you have any sense at all, you avoid all the obvious first date missteps. You don't drink whatever's on special. You pay for the date even if she offers to split the check. You tip well but not too well - 20% or a dollar a drink, whichever's higher. But the great irony is that the very things that tend to make you look good on paper are also likely to make you fail to get a second date. The very attributes that led to your professional success are toxic in relationships. In short, you're coming off as selfish.

So, you're successful, which is good. But if you're successful, you probably work hard and don't have the time or inclination to do chick-friendly things like volunteer. If you work hard to make a decent salary, you probably aren't overly happy about government programs to support people who slack or don't have their shit together. Now, even if you happily spend money on whoever you're with, the first date is no time to be lavish - if it's obvious that a first date is a special occasion, you'll appear slightly desperate. But all the same she wants to see that you are a generous person.

Fortunately, there's a simple solution: pretend to be socially conscious. If she brings up politics, tell her conservatives are way too selfish and wonder out loud how they can live with themselves. Emphatically state that no one can live on the current minimum wage. Tell her you think it's scandalous that health care isn't a right - and get bonus generosity-culture points by adding, "like it is in Europe." And never, ever suggest that poor people might be largely responsible for their condition. Don't lay it on too thick. No "Universal Coverage NOW" bumper stickers. Just say you think the government should help out people in trouble. The fewer details, the better - more talk means more chances to be discovered as the selfish bastard you are. And never talk about the possible cost of all these things.

Honestly, it's just a signal - she doesn't care whether you're socially conscious or not. I mean, unless she's actually actively involved in some cause - in which case, you wouldn't want to date her, anyway. But she will think that you're generous. That you won't serve cheap wine at a dinner party. That, if she's personally in financial troubles, you'll help her out. That, if she wants some expensive thing, you wouldn't refuse her because that would just be mean and cheap. That you understand her money is hers because she earned it but your money gets shared because you're loving and supportive.

Do this and you will get follow-up dates, with all the associated groping and screwing. And, when you've grown tired of her, you have an easy path to a clean break-up. Just sit halfway up in bed, put your hand behind your head, and say, "I've been thinking... how are we going to pay for all these social programs, anyway?" She'll be gone before you can start your next sentence.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Surviving the CTA

If you've used Chicago public transportation lately, you'll know that they periodically make announcements along the lines of "Please do not put your bags on the seat next to you, so that others may sit down." Well, why else do they think people put their bags on the seat? But that's fine - people should take priority over bags. But what I don't understand is why the CTA can't also announce, "If you sit next to someone, please make reasonable efforts to avoid touching him or her. Most people don't like being touched by unattractive or same-sex strangers." Because, clearly, a lot of people don't know that.

I am not a small person. So, riding public transportation can be uncomfortable. I'm not obese - not skinny, either - but my size is mostly from having lifted weights for many years. In any event, I do my best to avoid encroaching on the other half of the seat. But when I take a window seat, quite often the guy who sits next to me will lean up against me, arm to arm or leg to leg. And, unfortunately, there's no simple or graceful way to say, "Please stop touching me. What the fuck is your problem, you freak?" And then, when I try to scrunch deeper into the window, usually the other person moves right with me, like my pressing up against the window somehow created an irresistible vacuum.

For years, I tried to be a good sport about it, sitting in window seats so that no one would have to ask to get around me. Sometimes I would keep bags on my lap, strategically placed to prevent people from putting their leg against mine. But, after one person too many sat too close, I realized I would have to become an asshole to get the personal space everyone should have. I starting sitting in aisle seats. That fixed everything.

I would really rather not have anyone sit next to me at all. And, most people will take a vacant aisle seat rather than ask to get around me to take the window seat. I do understand buses are public and will let you through to the window seat, no problem. I'd just rather sit alone. Second, taking an aisle seat prevents someone who doesn't understand personal space from pressing up against me the whole ride - I can always slide over until only half my ass is still on the seat. Finally, when it's time for me to get off the bus, I don't have to get your attention and cooperation and move past you to do it. Nothing personal, you're probably a perfectly nice person. I just would rather not interact with you, let alone rub my ass or crotch against you if you're unable or unwilling to stand up to let me out.

Unless, you know, you're hot.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What's Wrong with America, pt. 2

So, the election's coming up and once again voting for either candidate would make me feel cheap and used. It's not that I think either one is awful - I don't. I think both want, in their own way, to make the US better. But then Pol Pot, in his own way, wanted to make Cambodia better, too. And, to a far lesser degree, US elections are inevitably about self-interest, about getting a little extra for your group at the expense of everyone else. Gotta love democracy. But until we evolve into an altruistic species with workaholic instincts, that's the best we can do.

In the meantime, this election shows just how fragmented we are. And that's interesting, considering how much more complicated life is compared to two hundred years ago. Back around 1800, practically everyone was either a farmer or a worker (craft or industry) or a shipper. So, the main measure of self-interest was tariffs. There was no personal income tax and no real safety net. People wanted protection for their own industry and free trade for the others. And, in practice, that meant tariffs got put on everything and things pretty much balanced out.

Now, people are defined by more attributes than just their line of work and those attributes have more variety. Religion is no longer just Protestants and Catholics. Race is no longer just white and black. Class is no longer just owners and workers. Education is no longer literate or not. Sexual preference is no longer straight or sent to prison for buggery. And, compared to two hundred years ago, we have a vast range of ways to spend our vastly greater free time. But, in the end, it all seems to come back to money.

Starting with unions about a hundred years ago, political organization has become the vehicle for grabbing a bigger slice of the tax pie. The twentieth century was the great era of political movements, both good and bad. The world saw drives for women's rights and racial equality. Developing countries stopped being colonies and became nations through well-organized independence movements. The world also saw the rise of fascism, communism, and dozens of local -isms that never strove to take over the world. So, for better or worse, political organization is the standard model for making voices heard.

And that's the toolbox we have. So, we get this election. Women heavily supporting Hillary Clinton. Blacks almost unanimously supporting Barack Obama, who also is strongly favored by younger voters. Old white people supporting John McCain. Evangelicals in love with Sarah Palin. Surely, some of this is contrary to narrow economic self-interest.

Surely, for example, many young people would gain little from Obama's policies - they would pay for old people's medical care, minimum wage increases would make finding temporary jobs more difficult, and Obama has said that he hopes to inspire young people to sacrifice for the good of everyone. Surely, many older people have little to gain from McCain's policies - they'd still be on the hook for their own health care, they are less able to learn the new skills that an open economy continuously demands, and they would happily trade growth for stability in their income stream.

Most people vote on economics, not principles. Most people are too absorbed in the daily struggle to make money to worry too much about anything else. So, what the hell is going on here? People want one of their own in power. Judging from people's voting patterns, many people feel they're likelier to gain from organization, from being part of a powerful negotiating bloc. Maybe they're right, maybe not. Or maybe people just fall back on identity politics when the issues are too complicated for average people to understand. And, without an education in economics and finance, at best important concepts are reduced to parroted slogans.

How many people understand that minimum wage increases will increase unemployment and encourage automation? That under free trade agreements, imports increase but so do exports? That, if employers are required to provide health care, they'll hire fewer workers to work longer hours? That when you tax corporations, you also cut into returns on investments for things like pension funds and university trusts? That recessions hurt but propping up failing businesses and industries costs more in the long run? That any job that's economically viable doesn't need to be protected? Not enough.

So, we vote for whoever's more like us.

That may be the best argument of all for smaller government.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Language Revolution

Our language has too much redundancy and bad phrasing. To address this problem, all phrases in the following list have been scheduled for elimination from the English language, effective immediately. Those caught using them will be punished with utmost severity. Violations may be reported here for forwarding to the National Institute of Shut Your Fucking Mouth. SQLA thanks you for your cooperation.

Banned Phrases
1) Free gift.
If it's a gift, it's free.

2) Small children.
Smallness is one of the defining characteristics of children. You wouldn't say an old adult was big, would you?

3) In the future, I will...
Use of the future tense renders the phrase "in the future" redundant.

4) Benefits package
The plural form of benefit already implies a group.

5) Empty shell.
Shells are empty. Otherwise they would be nuts or mollusks or whatever shell-and-its-contents thing is being talked about.

Further phrases will be added as they are banned.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why I Loathe Sex and the City

Everyone likes a little fantasy in their TV. Men like action movies. Men like to watch Alpha Men struggling against each other across a backdrop of exploding buildings. Women like romance. Women like to watch Alpha Women being won over by Diamonds in the Rough. This is all normal and good; why watch TV if it isn't more interesting than life? Sex and the City, however, creates such an implausible reality that it is painful to watch. And I do watch it. I watch, squirming with discomfort, as if I had a tiny shard of glass embedded in my ass.

What makes SATC so painful? It's not the obsession with high-priced fashion. It's certainly not the sexual content; the show is mildly racy and nothing more. Women have casual sex; women use sex toys; women masturbate; so what? It's not like you ever got to see three guys making Samantha airtight. It's not even Carrie's regular narration of the opening lines of her columns, which are pointless navel-gazing, which all boil down to women not being satisfied with their options. The pain comes from the quartet's not being nearly attractive enough to justify the long-term attentions of the men they are with. On top of that, they still complain!

Let's be honest - the women of SATC are not knockouts, though they do all have nice bodies. I'd give them 7's, maybe Miranda would be an 8 if she wore makeup and grew out her hair. Carrie can sometimes look OK, as long as the camera angle makes her big nose look normal. Miranda looks boyish - not my thing. Charlotte has bulgy eyes and as the series goes on her nose starts to rival Carrie's. Samantha, finally, actually is a good-looking woman but she's well over 40 and it shows. But she gets an extra point for generosity.

In the real world, women like them would date guys who were also 7's, if not on looks then certainly on their composite of looks, earnings, and charm. They'd be dating either guys who had good jobs but were boring or who had average jobs but were good-looking and charming. In the real world, rich or gorgeous men might sleep with them once but would quickly forget them and move on. That's not how SATC works, though. Or, when it does happen, the women are outraged at how superficial men are.

Men have two minimal criteria for women: that they be cute and they be pleasant. Obviously, other positive attributes, like intelligence, independence, and the willingness to be a little freaky in bed, can all help. But the value of those attributes is highly subjective; some guys like them and some guys like their absence. What SATC substitutes for a real personality match is a more nebulous "complexity." Carrie is "complex," which ultimately means she's never satisfied. Men might find the challenge interesting until they realize they simply can't win - whatever they do, she'll always want something more or even the opposite. Fuck that.

Instead of true connections based on something real - even simple lust - SATC follows the romantic formula of assuming from square one that the man is irresistibly drawn to the woman based on something he can't define. In real life, this does not happen. Men know what they like about their women. In standard romantic fare, of course, it's simply that the woman is beautiful. Fair enough, that. But in SATC, precisely because there is no good reason for the men to be drawn to the women, the show has to fall back on inexplicable attraction.

When an aging Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford hooks up with a gorgeous woman twenty or thirty years younger, it's a stretch, sometimes a little grotesque. But at least those guys play roles where they're the Alphas of the Alphas. On SATC, the women offer little but the certainty that they'll always feel they could've done better. I truly hope that real women just watch the show for the pretty shoes. I truly hope they don't relate to the characters.

The Great Universal Coverage Scam

Since 1992, national health care has been a hot topic in Presidential elections. It basically has two flavors: the currently more favored universal coverage and the more inflammatory socialized medicine. Under universal coverage, everyone has an insurance policy, possibly provided by the government; in socialized medicine, all medical expenses are paid by the state, except perhaps for some token co-payments. These distinctions are cosmetic, since under both schemes people directly pay just enough to discourage excessive consumption of medical care; we therefore refer generically to both flavors as universal coverage.

Advocates claim that, by cutting insurance costs and providing more affordable preventive care, it is possible to reduce total health care costs without reducing quality of care. This, as you may already have guessed, is The Great Universal Coverage Scam. Improved access to preventive care probably will not reduce health care costs enough to compensate for the increased burden on the system, as emergency care costs for all patients are around 1% of total medical care costs. In fact, just as with any other large-scale government policy, universal coverage will create clear groups of winners and losers.

One frequently-repeated statistic is that the US has some 46 million uninsured people. As it happens, that is both true and misleading (see first link below). While those people don't have medical insurance, it is rarely due to a terrible miscarriage of social equity. First, something like 10 million are not citizens and would therefore not be eligible for coverage. Another 18 million have incomes of above $50K and most of them could presumably buy private insurance if they so wanted. Of the rest, many are not long-term uninsured; they are between insured jobs. So, the true number of long-term uninsured, constituting the so-called "national disgrace," is in the vicinity of 10 million.

This means two things. First, the problem is not nearly as widespread as reported, which frankly suggests that politicians who stand to gain from supporting universal coverage are perpetuating propaganda. And, sadly, that includes virtually all politicians. Democrats can pander to envious proles, promising cheap health care in exchange for votes and painting Republicans as callous; Republicans can use the inflated figures to overstate the true costs and terrify the population into opposing universal coverage. Second, the immediate costs of covering these people would be significant but not overwhelming - at $5-10K per person, that would total $50-100B a year.

To the extent that medical care continues to operate under the current insurance system (albeit with some subsidies), quality of care should not initially be terribly degraded. However, so long as the cost of cutting-edge care continues to increase faster than GDP grows, at least one of four limiting forces will assert itself: average quality of care may fall; research and development of new medical techniques will slow; taxes will rise (or borrowing will increase, which still implies a future tax obligation); or subsidies will decrease. Something will have to give.

But who wins and who loses under universal coverage? Medical personnel who work on a fee-for-service basis will have more patients. For sure, those who could not afford insurance will also benefit. Democrats might capture that new and vocal voter segment but the effect would probably be short-lived. Universal coverage is likely to be a consequence of Democrats' holding the Presidency and Congress. If it became policy, it would be very difficult to undo or even change significantly (much like Social Security, which at this point would be better to separate into privatized, individual retirement funds and a welfare program for the elderly and surviving dependents). So, if the Republicans accepted universal coverage as a fact, Democrats would stop getting votes based on supporting it.

More importantly, a massive bureaucracy would have to be created to manage universal coverage. This is where the Democrats would truly gain. Since universal coverage is only likely to be a consequence of Democratic domination, they would be able to staff the entire operation with loyal supporters. Normal changes of political parties' fortunes would not change this - the Republicans could change the top executives in the Department of Universal Coverage but not do much to replace the lower ranks. As the available pool of medical funds (and therefore services) becomes more strained, medical care priorities would be more vulnerable to bribery or just influence.

As far as losers, insurers and pharmaceutical providers fear new regulation, caps on their product prices, and if not reduced profitability (since R&D spending can and would be cut to boost profits in the short term) then certainly less growth potential. Depending on what action is taken to rein in government expenditures on universal coverage, some people who would have been covered under the current system no longer would be. One obvious example is geriatric care; 5-year cancer death rates are up to twice as high in European countries as in the US (see second link below). However, since reduced spending on elderly patients in favor of increased spending on the young will likely increase average life expectancies (and since voting may not be the main concern of old people near death), there will likely be little political fallout from this.

One group, however, who will certainly not lose is the politicians. Does anyone think Fidel Castro or the Prime Minister of Canada have to wait in the same lines for medical care as the masses? It will be the same here. The middle and lower classes will get the same level of medical care while the elites will be served first. Therefore, if universal coverage is ever implemented in the US, we absolutely must demand one thing: transparency in allocation of medical services. Let us see who gets what and how long they wait. Everyone, wait your turn; that includes you, Hillary and Barack.

References:
http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/2007/20070829140826.aspx
http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9272 (read the full article PDF)

Online Dating: How Not to Attract Men

So, after my live-in girlfriend bailed, I'm back to online dating. I love it. It is so much cheaper and time-efficient than meeting people through actually having a social life. Plus none of my so-called friends can warn potential dates about me. Fuckers. But I digress. Online dating is great. It's like ebay for people. Instead of having to listen to hour after hour of tedious chatter from your vacuous friends and co-workers while remaining alert for a likely prospect to get separated from the herd, you can do all the legwork while watching TV in your underwear. You also learn basic compatibility information quickly. You can find someone who passes through whatever superficial yet important filters you have. The only problem is, unlike ebay, you can't pay with cash; you can only pay with the prospect of being with you.

If you are blah-to-average (or a BTA), this presents a real problem - and most people are BTAs within their social group; we can't all be above-average. Attractive men and women get loads of e-mail, some of it from dateable people. A well-intentioned BTA, who is looking for a serious relationship and genuinely attracted to someone (even another BTA!), is unlikely to stand out among the ranks of players and dinner whores who have more enticing profiles. So, one common approach is to try to make yourself seem far more interesting than you actually are. It's a good idea in theory but often goes terribly wrong in practice.

It's obvious why that fails for men; a man's interestingness is his ability and willingness to pay for nights out, and he can't pretend forever. For women, there are two interrelated reasons why it fails. First, women all know what men want: sex. Not just any sex, though in the euphoric early days, it really is all good. But once the relationship becomes settled, men want either really hot sex or really lazy sex. Hot sex can be anything with kink or extra women. Lazy sex can be no-foreplay quickies or just leaning back while she sucks you off. But even women who might accomodate that don't feel comfortable saying so in their profiles - "Will do anal and FMF threesomes every month in a loving, committed relationship. Cunt-licking not required."

The second reason is that women are delusional. They figure rightly that men will approach women who seem to have similar interests. They very sensibly put those interests in their profiles - "Love being wined & dined, going to exotic destinations, or just having great conversations while exploring all the city has to offer." The only problem is that all those things are courtship behaviors that start going away as the sex stops being exciting, which can take anywhere from a week to a year. Men just do that stuff to get into a girl's pants. They don't want to work that hard in a stable relationship - it's a much higher return-on-effort to find a new woman.

Therefore, most womens' online dating profiles read not as honest expressions of who they are but simply as a price list - "If you want me, do X, Y, and Z." And too often the price seems too high for what they're offering. Again and again, I see nice-looking women in their early-to-mid-30's write about how they love to travel, love spontaneity, love just going off to someplace exciting for a weekend. No wonder they're still single - a guy reads all that and thinks, "Yeh, maybe if you were ten years younger."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quiz: What Kind of Man Are You?

Ever wonder what kind of man you are? Grab a pencil and some paper and answer the following fifteen questions to find out.

1) You have just been promoted to regional vice-president of operations. You begin work in your new office tomorrow morning. You immediately:
  a) Hide in your cubicle, hoping to not fuck this up
  b) Piss in the department coffee one last time
  c) Rinse the taste of your boss' cock out of your mouth
  d) Call your friends and family with the good news

2) One of your co-workers has been promoted to regional vice-president of operations. He begins working in his new office tomorrow morning. You:
  a) Politely congratulate him
  b) Shrug and be glad the asshole's going away
  c) Tell him to rinse the taste of the boss' cock out of his mouth before he leaves
  d) Resolve to work harder and win the next promotion opportunity

3) Your wife tells you she's been sleeping with your best friend. You:
  a) Tell the whore to pack her fucking bags
  b) Ask her how much she had to pay him
  c) Start drinking scotch and wonder if you can forgive her
  d) Say, "I can see why. He looks like he'd have a big cock."

4) You tell a joke and no one laughs. You:
  a) Start telling another joke
  b) Apologize for having wasted everyone's time
  c) Tell everyone they can all go fuck themselves
  d) Repeat the punch line, louder this time

5) Your wife is reluctant to try anal sex. You:
  a) Stick a finger in her ass while doing her missionary-style
  b) Stick a vibrator in her ass while doing her doggy-style
  c) Get her really drunk and cornhole her once she passes out
  d) Call up her slutty sister Melissa

6) Your girlfriend dumps you. You:
  a) Promise to be better to her if she stays
  b) Spend the next few weeks drinking a lot
  c) Spend the next few weeks downloading new porn
  d) Call up her slutty sister Melissa

7) You would describe your penis as:
  a) Almost average
  b) Fitting comfortably in your hand
  c) Shriveled, flaccid, and useless
  d) Thick, shit-smeared, and stuffed halfway down Melissa's throat

8) A middle-aged homeless woman asks you for money. You:
  a) Ignore her
  b) Give her a dollar
  c) Let her blow you for five bucks
  d) Let her blow you for two bucks, then ask her if she can change a hundred

9) While jerking off, you typically:
  a) Think about doing the hot babysitter again
  b) Think about women hopelessly out of your league
  c) Think about the improbability of your ever having sex
  d) Tell the woman in bed beside you that she isn't half as good as your hand

10) Your waitress made a mistake in your order. You:
  a) Tell her you know she's doing the best she can
  b) Remember the waitress' name, then write that she sucks cock for less, with the restaurant's phone number, in several public restrooms
  c) Take a couple bucks off her tip
  d) Leave a normal tip

11) You are shipwrecked on a small, uninhabited island for three years. One day, you catch a magic fish who promises you three wishes in exchange for its freedom. You:
  a) Wish for happiness, long life, and to return home
  b) Wish for a burger, fries, and large Coke
  c) Accidently drop the fish back in the ocean
  d) Say, "Throw in a rimjob and you've got a deal."

12) Your porn name would be:
  a) Barry Lou Sasshole
  b) Peter Porker
  c) Rock Hardwood
  d) Phineas Phistphucker

13) Your personal motto is:
  a) Who gives a shit?
  b) Fuck you, buddy
  c) Why me?
  d) Slow and steady wins the race

14) You view humanity as:
  a) A sea of people just like yourself
  b) An endless procession of cruel demons who torment you without pause
  c) Billions of barely-sentient worms drying on pavement in the hot sun
  d) People you've fucked and people you haven't fucked yet

15) It is wrong to:
  a) Commit misdemeanors
  b) Commit felonies
  c) Get convicted
  d) Interrupt conversations

Key:
  1. a(2); b(4); c(1); d(3)
  2. a(1); b(3); c(4); d(2)
  3. a(3); b(4); c(2); d(1)
  4. a(3); b(1); c(4); d(2)
  5. a(1); b(2); c(3); d(4)
  6. a(1); b(3); c(2); d(4)
  7. a(2); b(3); c(1); d(4)
  8. a(2); b(1); c(3); d(4)
  9. a(3); b(2); c(1); d(4)
  10. a(3); b(4); c(2); d(1)
  11. a(3); b(2); c(1); d(4)
  12. a(1); b(2); c(3); d(4)
  13. a(2); b(4); c(1); d(3)
  14. a(2); b(1); c(3); d(4)
  15. a(2); b(3); c(4); d(1)

Add up your points and see how you did:
  22 or less: You are weak and ineffective. You probably have erectile dysfunction. When you die, no one will even notice. You waste other people's air.
  23 to 37: You are dull and tedious. Your life is defined by cheap consumer products and bad TV. You fit in well with the masses. You will live a long but unsatisfying life.
  38 to 52: You are serious and goal-driven and a typical asshole. Nobody really likes you but most people don't hate you enough to actively plot your demise.
  53 or more: You are rotten. You are likely to be gang-raped and crippled and deserve it. The devil waits in hell to roast your black soul.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why Men Should Talk Like Women

Sticking to careless generalities, as usual, men are direct and women are subtle. When a man wants something, he just says it or more often just gets it. When a woman wants something, she first tries to find out if anyone else wants it, too. Except, you know, when she gives you surprise tickets to a dance performance, with lots of men in leotards, for your birthday. Yes, it happened to me. Once.

Consider a married couple, on the highway, approaching an exit with a Starbucks. Suppose one of them wants coffee. The conversations would probably go like this:

Man [thinking]: Mmm, coffee.
Man: Let's stop in and get coffee!
[Man turns off at the exit before she can respond]

or

Woman [thinking]: Mmm, premium coffee.
Woman: Would you like to stop here?
Man: Nah, I'm good.
Woman [thinking]: Bastard! I want coffee! Why didn't you ask if I wanted coffee? This is just like two days ago at the movie when I asked if you wanted to get popcorn and you said no and didn't offer to get it then, either! Why did I marry a jerk like you?
[they continue driving]

Now, a man would wonder, "Why all the fuss? If she wants coffee or popcorn or whatever, why not just say so? Any guy would be willing to stop for coffee for his wife." But that attitude misses the essential genius of the feminine approach. You see, women keep score, of everything. That's why they want the man to do things spontaneously and voluntarily.

If she actually asks for something and he delivers, he gets a relationship point (RP). Now, women never want to give men RPs, even bearing in mind that women count in their column not only everything they have ever done for men but also everything they wanted and didn't get. In her mind, the man's RPs have a half-life of maybe a couple weeks - it's all about what he's done for her lately. From an evolutionary perspective (and also just crass materialism), it makes sense. She wants a stream of continuous good things from him. She doesn't want him to take her for granted, ever.

But if she never actually asks for what she wants, she doesn't have to give him a point. After all, no one forced him to do it. He did it because he wanted to. He's a man. That's how men are. And why should she give him an RP for doing something he would've done on his own, anyway?

The solution? Use their own trick against them to get something approaching a fair score. If she asks you if you want something, tell her you could take it or leave it and then ask her if she wants it. Put the ball in her court. Get the RP you deserve. If you want something and you think she might want it, too, don't give her a free RP. Get her to agree to it first. Just make sure you don't talk this way around the guys because they interpret consensus-seeking as weakness.

Sample conversation:

Man [thinking]: Mmm, coffee.
Man: Honey, do you feel like getting a coffee?
Woman: Uh, sure, why not?
Woman [thinking]: How nice! He asked if I wanted a coffee. He's thinking about me! When we get home maybe I'll give him a blowjob.

Of course, after a few years of this, she'll eventually start feeling that something is very wrong. She won't have the huge lead in RPs that she's probably used to having. She won't be able to say exactly why, but she'll feel she's putting more work into the relationship than you're actually worth. In the end, she'll leave you for an average asshole guy so she can feel like she deserves to be condescending and bitchy and hormonal to him.

But then, she was going to leave you someday, anyway, you selfish bastard.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Much Do Women Really Cost?

Across history and cultures, some things remain constant. For example, men compete directly against each other for economic success. Men are overwhelmingly dominant in wealth-creating occupations. When an occupation becomes more remunerative, more men pursue it. What is the ultimate goal of all this economic activity? Attracting women, of course. Women are the commodity and men pay, one way or another, for them.

But how much does a woman cost? More exactly, how much does a typical woman cost a typical man in this time and place? Let's first make our assumptions:
  • Women earn about 80% as much as men
  • The average after-tax annual income is $30,000
  • When a man marries a woman, their assets, income, and costs are shared evenly
  • The average man marries at 29; the average woman at 27
  • Women and men both work until they're 65
  • The man dies at 71, the woman dies at 78
  • There is a constant real risk-free return of 2%
  • Both men and women receive real annual pay increases of 2%

These assumptions probably understate the actual cost; we will discuss why later. For now, they're a solid starting point. Since the real discount rate and pay increase rate are the same, we can calculate the net present value of lifetime earnings by just multiplying pay and years in the work force. Given our assumptions, the present value of a husband's earnings is about $1.20M, while the present value of the wife's earnings is about $1.01M. The cost of the woman (or CoW) is half the difference, or just about $100K. That was actually much less than I expected.

Now, of course, we can relax some of our assumptions. First, women tend to marry men who are higher on their gender-specific income ladder than they are. This is simply because, for serious relationships, women put much more weight on their partner's income than men do. So, an average-earning woman is likely to end up with an above-average-earning man. If we assume a 5% disparity due to gender-specific income ranking, the present value of the husband's earnings jumps to $1.26M, which tacks on an extra $30K to the CoW.

But that is relatively small compared to the advantages women receive from longevity. Women are likely to outlive their husbands by seven years. In those years, women will receive Social Security survivor benefits, her husband's pension (if any), his remaining retirement funds, and will of course own the house they shared. So, suppose the average couple:

  • Saved 5% of their net income, growing at a 4% real rate
  • Consumes 30% of their retirement savings by the time the husband dies
  • Receives Social Security equal to half their working income, growing at a 2% real rate
  • Receives a pension equal to half their working income, growing at a 2% real rate
  • Upon being married bought a $250,000 house on a 30-year mortage and which appreciates at a real 1% rate

At the time the man dies, this confers an additional asset pool to the woman worth almost $700K. If we discount it back the forty-two years, it becomes just over $300K. This can be added directly to the CoW; it is not split, because the man is dead. But, just for the sake of accuracy, let's subtract a few thousand for the funeral, bringing the post-husband asset pool down to a present value at marriage of $300K. Adding that to the already established $130K, the true CoW for a long marriage is, on average, $430K.

Maybe it's time to bring back dowries.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What's Wrong With Europe, pt. 1


In college, have you ever been in a group project where you were the only one putting in any effort? When the time came to assemble the final paper, did your fellow group members send you badly written or plagiarized chunks of text? Was their lack of effort rewarded because, in the group evaluation, it was your one opinion against their five opinions? Did the group get an A because they got a free ride in your wake? Or, if you got a B, did they think you dropped the ball? This is the relationship of the United States and Europe. European countries are like C students, united in their belief that the US is wrecking the curve.


The US has saved Europe three times in the last hundred years: twice from German militarism and once from Bolshevist Communism. Talk to most Europeans and you'll immediately hear that the US didn't enter the world wars soon enough and that we were superfluous in the Cold War; the Soviet Union never really wanted to take over Western Europe. Or that Communism would've fallen apart soon enough on its own. Or that it wasn't really that bad. Or that putting military bases and nuclear weapons in Western Europe was just not nice.


Today, American warships protect trade routes around the world. The prospect of American intervention has kept Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan from being invaded for decades. Europe benefits from this, yet most Europeans criticize us for trying to police the world. They are shameless free riders but enjoy looking down on us for doing their dirty work.


Europe has a simple response to genocide: let it happen. Examples? The Armenians in Turkey, the Jews in Germany, Bosnian Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, the Tutsis in Rwanda. Three of them happened in Europe and Rwanda's ethnic strife is partly a consequence of the racial hierarchy supported by colonial powers. In fairness, genocide does permanently solve the problem of ethnic conflict. But, more importantly, no Europeans have to feel like they are using force to solve problems. After all, violence never solves problems; only watching people get butchered and occasionally issuing statements of protest can solve problems.


The US isn't perfect, not by a long shot, and has also too often been inactive unless its commercial interests were threatened. Still, Europe remains the gold standard for valuing words over action. Europeans should be honest enough to admit that people outside their country just don't matter that much to them; it is self-evidently true. But then, they would also be admitting that they're no better than Americans and perhaps a little worse. In order to maintain their vision of themselves as morally superior, they might even have to stop criticizing Americans for not knowing foreign languages and appreciating their football and start taking a genuine interest in the world beyond their borders.


Then again, why should they? Let the US handle it.

What's Wrong With America, pt. 1

It's not the troubled economy. It's not the educational system. It's not teen pregnancy, government corruption, widespread drug use, the Electoral College, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, media bias, gas prices, political apathy, overpaid celebrities, or even Sarah Palin. The problem is that Americans have too much freedom.

The problem is free markets.
Americans no longer need each other as fellow workers. International trade has made us prosperous but also a nation of unconnected drones. We work and consume and shit and those are the boundaries of our existence. We regard our neighbors more as competitors or burdens than allies. We identify ourselves not by our principles (if indeed we even have any) but by what we choose to consume. We are a nation of aging adolescents, attaching the same importance to the size of our house or the model of our car or where we spent our vacation as teenagers do to being fans of a particular band.

The problem is freedom of communication.
With the Internet, it has become possible to associate ourselves almost solely with people who share our views. Are you an angry young feminist? Start a blog to meet other angry young feminists and denounce any dissenters as trolls or just delete their posts. Are you a libertarian? Start a blog and denounce any dissenters as socialists who just don't understand economics. No need to actually think or argue your point; just build yourself a soapbox, preach to the already-converted, and be drenched by the self-congratulatory circle-jerk as your readers tell you how right you are to agree with them.

The problem is freedom from consequences.
Don't feel like learning new job skills? That's OK, the government will raise the minimum wage, give you an earned income credit, subsidize your housing, and provide affordable medical care. Don't like your boring marriage? That's OK, you can walk away and still get half your spouse's stuff and maybe some spousal support, too. Did you buy a house you couldn't afford? That's OK, you can blame it on greedy Wall Street fat cats and maybe get the government to help with the mortgage payments. Or maybe you're a bank that made stupid loans and unsecured credit swaps? Well, hell, the government will cough up several hundred billion to take them off your hands.


We are materialistic, intellectually lazy, and financially irresponsible.

Any questions?