Sunday, November 16, 2014

Eternalism vs Presentism

If eternalism is the idea that the past and the future coexist, and that we are just experiencing a safari - an observation adventure - through a world that is pre-determined, then it means our free will is just an illusion, but time travel would be possible because as "simply" movement along the time dimension.

If presentism is the idea that only the present exists, and that the past and the future are just concepts that we can use to relate to states that have changed and states that we expect to happen, then it means time travel is impossible and that time itself can only be a measure of the difference between states of the present, so that in an absolutely static world with no movement at all it would be impossible to measure time, and in other cases it would be possible for time to be measured differently at different places.

Since no one has been able to demonstrate travel either forward or backward in time, and since a concept of the present is required in order to form concepts of past and future, I believe the idea of presentism has to be assumed to be a better estimation of reality than eternalism; I live in the present and if anyone want to convince me otherwise, the burden of proof is on them!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Animals

I think it's cruel to spay or neuter an animal for any reason other than its own health. Preventing an animal from having offspring does prevent cruelty from happening to its offspring but it's not preventing cruelty to the animal itself. I believe that if a survey were done of humans asking if they believe that they would be thankful for being neutered without their consent because it prevents them from having children who will experience cruelty, the results would be overwhelmingly negative (but maybe not entirely negative).


From http://www.beefusa.org/beefindustrystatistics.aspx:

2014 Cattle inventory (as of July 1, 2014):  95 million, 3% down from July 2012.
Economic impact:  $44 billion in farm gate receipts (USDA NASS)
Number of beef cow operations: 729,000
Number of cattle & calf operations: 915,000
29.0 million beef cows (down 1%)
33.9 million head calf crop (2013)
The average cow herd size: 40 head
2014 U.S. total beef exports: 5.6 billion pounds
Top export markets:  Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Hong Kong

More than 50 percent of the total value of U.S. sales of cattle and calves comes from the top 5 states:
  1. Texas
  2. Nebraska
  3. Kansas
  4. California
  5. Oklahoma
Average producer age:  58.3, up 1.2 years since 2007 (USDA 2012 Ag Census)
U.S. beef production (commercial carcass weight) was 25.8 billion pounds.
The total U.S. beef consumed was 25.5 billion pounds.
Average annual U.S. retail Choice beef price in 2013 was $5.29/lb.
U.S. commercial slaughter total was 31.9 million head


From http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html:

U.S. pet-ownership estimates from the APPA for 2012

Dogs
83.3 million—Number of owned dogs
47 percent—Percentage of households that own at least one dog
70 percent—Percentage of owners with one dog
20 percent—Percentage of owners with two dogs
10 percent—Percentage of owners with three or more dogs
1.47—Average number of owned dogs per household
20 percent—Percentage of owned dogs who were adopted from animal shelters
$231—Average annual amount spent by dog owners on routine veterinary visits
83 percent—Percentage of owned dogs who are spayed or neutered
Even—Proportion of male to female owned dogs

Cats
95.6 million—Number of owned cats
46 percent—Percentage of owners with one cat
31 percent—Percentage of owners with two cats
24 percent—Percentage of owners with three or more cats
2.11—Average number of owned cats per household
26 percent—Percentage of owned cats who were adopted from an animal shelter
$193—Average annual amount spent by cat owners on routine veterinary visits
91 percent—Percentage of owned cats who are spayed or neutered
73 percent vs. 62 percent—The difference in number of owned female cats and owned male cats, respectively

Monday, December 30, 2013

Functions of government

In a news story http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/28/unemployment-benefits-expire-dems-vow-to-fight-on/ about unemployment benefits, Dean Heller, R-Nevada, was quoted: "providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government"

Dean Heller is wrong. Providing for people in need is the function of charities, not the government. 

The government does have a useful role to play in coordinating efforts to help people in need, especially during a crisis such as natural disaster or violence. Paying people to do nothing is something our government has a long history of doing but is not something that should be a function of any government.

Among the most important functions of government are:

Protecting each citizen's right to life, liberty, justice, property, and equal opportunity. 

Organizing the national defense - which supports protecting citizen rights.

Engaging other nations with diplomacy to protect citizens traveling abroad and to resolve disputes with other nations peacefully.

Coordinating public efforts such as building infrastructure for transportation, communications, water and electricity distribution, education, recycling, and waste disposal; and controlling the use or preservation of natural resources.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Anonymous Corporations

If a corporation can hide the personal involvement of its true owners - the people who control it and benefit most from its existence - what else can it hide?

Unethical behavior? Illegal activity? It's certain that shell corporations have been used to hide these things.

I'm not saying that a person should be unable to maintain some anonymity. But I am saying that corporations should pay taxes on their income, and being entities formed specifically for certain legal standing they should not have the same right to privacy that individuals have.

So if one wants to be anonymous in one's personal activities, one should not form a corporation to conduct them. 

And if one wants to be anonymous in one's business activities, one should move to another country that is more supportive of organized crime.






Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thoughts and Policies

A person's thoughts are private. If that person is an elected official, then his official thoughts are private too. This means anyone employed or appointed by the elected official has a duty to keep their internal discussions private and not to leak any information. This provides the official room to think and to discuss issues with other smart people in the room without fear of being judged prematurely. Elected officials are people and it is unreasonable to expect them to think and speak perfectly all the time.

An elected official therefore needs a means to express thoughts to the public in a way that invites discussion and criticism. That means should be the written word, in the form of speeches, policies, and policy drafts. Speeches are usually a public reading of a written essay. Policies should be the product of a lot of thought, reason, discussion, criticism, and editing to clarify, mitigate, explain, emphasize, and revise. Policy drafts should be the product of some initial thought and discussion with some problems remaining for which the elected official is soliciting debate and criticism from the public in order to identify points or issues that need clarification, mitigation, explanation, emphasis, or revision.

Policy drafts are requests for comments. However, to be helpful those comments must be constructive. For example, a comment like "this is the dumbest idea I've ever seen" should be immediately discarded by a clerk and replaced with a single tick in a count of opposing viewpoints. Similar constructive comments should be grouped together, rephrased if necessary to capture the point clearly, and tallied.

Anarchy

Thoughtful people who are concerned with survival in a dangerous world recognize that chances of survival are better when they cooperate with other people. This leads to bands, caravans, villages, and larger organizations.

When an organization already exists for mutual benefit, it's natural for some people to view it as a resource to be exploited. They want to enjoy its advantages without contributing their share. They may not be complete freeloaders but simply trying to maximize their own benefit and minimize their costs. To counteract this natural tendency, societies have for centuries designated judges and police to enforce their rules.

I think that anarchists, especially those living in cities, have an irrational desire for total disorder. If lack of government is what they want, there are plenty of places inside and outside the country where they can go and not be bothered by any authorities. They are free to choose one and go there.

Yet many anarchists stay in cities. Why do anarchists choose to live within the confines of the most successful social organizations in history? Why do anarchists choose to stay in cities - places that have so many rules? If freedom from authority is what they wish for, why don't they venture out of the cities and make the wilderness their home? Or at least rural areas where there are fewer people and fewer rules?

Cities are convenient places to find shelter, food, and social experience. In the wilderness, the anarchist would have to work much harder to obtain these.

If government were abolished and everyone lived in anarchy, then people who who would invest their assets to build something of value would always incur an additional cost for security. Anything that is built would need to be secured against other people. For example, a farmer who plants crops needs to protect them from looters; a blacksmith who creates tools needs to protect them from looters; a performer needs to protect the stage from drunks and violent critics. These security tasks require cooperation among people. It would be tedious to negotiate the terms of the cooperation every day, so the cooperation will naturally lead to a standing agreement among the parties, thereby creating an organizational structure and associated rules.

Societies emerge naturally out of the mutual cooperation and agreement of their founders because they are beneficial. Children born into societies learn the rules and are expected to follow them as long as they are part of those societies.

I think in a free country it is critical for people to be able to move freely so they can choose to live in a society that is a good fit for them, or choose to eschew society and live alone somewhere rural or wild and avoid contact with other people.

It's alright to talk about revolution against a government that oppresses its people, because as the Founders of the United States wrote, the government exists to uphold individual rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. But any anarchist who advocates revolution for the sake of eliminating government altogether is a hypocrite, because that would be taking away choice from other people who want a government to uphold their rights. For that reason, people who understand the value of government will always be opposed to the anarchists.

The anarchist has only one rational move: relocate to an area where contact with other people would be rare, and thus achieve a very high degree of personal freedom. Even the anarchist can rely on government to uphold his or her rights, because without a government to monopolize violence anyone with a weapon can attempt to become a little dictator, which makes for a dangerous wilderness.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Keeping the legislative branch accountable

Does the executive branch need to participate in keeping track of who voted for or against specific bills in the legislature?

If you're paranoid you may say that such record keeping could lead to harassment of legislators.

On the other hand, a president who needs to persuade legislators to take his cause seriously needs to be able to embarrass them if they have voted for nonsense in the past, or publicly acknowledge contributions to rational lawmaking by others.

Can the president rely on the legislative branch to keep those records? I think so. Also the legislative branch is the authority on those records so it makes sense for them to be provided by the legislative branch for all public and private use.

Those records should be easily accessible to any American.