Monday, June 30, 2014

Harris v. Quinn

The other major supreme court decision today was of course Harris v. Quinn, which has its own problems. I only need to point out one to show how misguided this notion is and why this is has absolutely nothing to do with economic freedom. The plaintiff was saying that requiring union dues are

First, on the complaint and why it is faulty:
If you are an employer and specifically write out that it is a union shop and that in order to work there the employer expects you to be part of a union than that is part of a legally binding contract. If you are employed by the employer you have signed the contract to be part of the union, so you need to follow your obligation. The Supreme Court fortunately did not overturn these private contracts, so requiring union dues is still legal.

This is good for employees because it has nothing to do with saving employees money since unionized employees are paid more on average in practically every profession (excluding state employees who are being slammed by regressive tax policies in a number of states and getting their wages cut annually, which I will publish soon) which means a $100 fee is totally worth it if you are getting more than $100 in added wages which most union employees certainly do! This is the government interfering with the market and interfering with private business to the benefit of none.

That's right, no one benefits from lower wages because businesses need customers to survive and when people in the lower and middle classes businesses lose revenue. Cutting employees wages shrinks the demand curve which hurts the sales of businesses, makes it harder for new businesses to form and get customers, and hurts our overall GDP. This decision is as anti-business as it is anti-union for this reason alone. Lower wages are bad for the economy. Companies can't sell items to people with no expendable income after cost of living. Companies can't stay in business if no one buys their product. This is a fact.

Now, the actual decision
This decision didn't accept every complaint by the plaintiff turned out to be a prohibition against unions from using member dues for political activities. This is the root of the issue. This is of course the same court that rules in Citizens United v. FEC that limits on campaign spending are unconstitutional, apparently this isn't the case if you are not a private corporation. Justice Kagan is absolutely right that this is overtly political, as it is going to remove union money from elections but keep the corruption influence of private corporations such as Bank of America and Koch Industries that push for deregulation. This is going to make our politics even more rigged against the middle class and has absolutely nothing to do with liberty as the majority opinion are trying to make it out to be.

It could have been better, it could have been worse.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

Busy day at the Supreme court, and the first one I will discuss is Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

This decision is problematic, because they are saying any employer can opt out of a law because of religious beliefs. The biggest problem is here:

The court’s four liberal justices called it a decision of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
So, if I wanted to opt out of laws that prohibit me from killing someone and say it was my religious belief that I had to sacrifice a baby and a lamb on the third Wednesday of every month the Supreme Court's decision would say this is appropriate. Murder a little extreme? How about if I said that my neighbor's house offended my religion with its construction and burnt it down? Still extreme? I could go on, but this means that people don't have to follow the law if it doesn't fit with their religious beliefs perfectly. This opens the door to forced marriage from extreme groups (like what the Mormons did back when Joseph Smith was alive) and basically any group that wants to do anything they want. This is going to be overturned someday, but we are opening a dangerous precedent with this decision that extends beyond healthcare. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act which this decision is based on includes these types of dangers as well.

Another issue is how conservative religious groups are opposed to IUDs in general. IUDs are incredibly useful and since people are going to have sex anyways prohibiting IUDs is a pointless and frankly cruel decision. There is no law and there shouldn't be a law forcing anyone to use a IUDs, and prohibiting only IUDs is a very strange decision. This isn't protecting the religious freedom of those who are opposed to IUDs since it doesn't include other forms of birth control, but it is harming the ability for low-income families to access health products. This damages the government's ability to promote the general welfare, and misses the point completely on why we have laws to promote health in this country and that religious freedom does not include the right to impose your beliefs on others. Freedom of religion does not include imposing your religious beliefs on other which is exactly what this decision does. It shouldn't even be connected to abortion since wearing a IUDs to prevent pregnancy is a very different mechanism than an abortion. One would expect a religiously conservative Christian would be in favor of IUDs anyways since the Bible says nothing about IUDs (and in fact the only mention of abortion is in the Old Testament where it gives an ancient recipe to help a woman have an abortion) and if they were to follow Jesus' advice to love they neighbor would want to prevent unwanted pregnancies which when caused by rape or some other event can make a woman far worse off and struggle to pay the bills if she doesn't have a supportive partner and/or family. The very notion of opposing IUDs is contrary to the old Christian notion of charity (which is of course very similar to other world religions, Islam, Buddhism, etc.) and this type of behavior is what turns so many people off of religion when these people abuse these religious texts to take advantage of others.

One final complaint with the people who are anti-woman is how they are misappropriating feminist and abolitionist Susan B. Anthony who like me was of Quaker heritage, like me attended a Unitarian church, and is my 6th cousin a few times removed. Our heritage is that of working on the Underground Railroad, like everyone I know of in our family was a feminist at some level (even the more conservative members of my family turn out to be feminist when you grill them about specific feminist issues). Claiming that she was opposed to abortion which if they knew anything about us Quakers and Unitarians (not all of my family is UU, but I have met a good number of UUs who are of Quaker heritage and have found a significant number on our family tree) would know how very wrong they are to misappropriate my heritage. I don't swear on my blog, but this pisses me off! Stop abusing my heritage!

This opposition to IUDs has nothing to do with freedom of religion. It is a war against the poor and women. As a feminist I am very unhappy with this decision and its implications.

Update: 1 July 2014. This post originally stated that condoms were banned, this was factually incorrect and has been corrected to IUDs.

The other thing Clinton needs to do

Hillary Clinton has this very annoying habit of writing her opponent's campaign ads. Last week she said she was not truly well-off. This is absolute baloney, since she and her husband are worth $80 million, and were worth over $1 million the day they left the White House. If she wants to have any political future she needs to stop doing this. Her 2008 campaign was filled with times where she would misspeak and say things that are blatantly not true, and she lost the primaries at the end of the primary season which gave Obama the presidency. A great deal of this was due to her being tactless in her speeches. Mitt Romney is similar to Hillary Clinton because he also made a lot of his money on investments (as does every millionaire in the world with the exception of tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un) which turned voters off in the general election. In a country with growing income inequality this will kill her campaign by the attack ads from her opponent and whoever the Republicans nominate will become president. A Republican in the White House will be a huge problem because of their tax policy, opposition to education, warmongering, like Clinton an opposition to AMTRAK, among other issues. If Clinton is going to keep doing this type of stunt she should stay out of the race and let Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders run because they don't make these types of large mistakes. She will be eaten alive, and this would be bad for all of us.

She also needs to address how she and her husband make millions of dollars on speaking arrangements. Fortunately for the Clinton campaign, she can talk about her voting record in the Senate which was quite progressive on economic issues, and explain that if someone is offered a million dollars they will take it. If she is tactful about how she says this she will be able to convince liberal voters who listen that she is far more progressive than her husband on these issues. Fortunately for Republicans based on history this is extremely unlikely to happen since she is not a great speaker and frequently says things that are wrong. She needs a coach for making speeches (or a better coach if she doesn't have one) who she can practice with so that she doesn't keep making these mistakes that kept the presidency from her in 2008.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

If Clinton wants the vote of the left

I've been extremely skeptical of Hillary Clinton. I've been worried because her husband and her have a lot in common and this makes many people like myself wary of them. Bill Clinton had a weak presidency, and Clinton had an average Senate Career. I personally would like better for my president, and I am not alone. The day Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy will definitely be the day I sign up to work on her campaign, and I still support her more. Currently, it looks like Hillary Clinton will be the nominee of the Democrats in 2016. She is going to need to do a major rebranding of her political career, and here are the issues and policy statements she needs to change and make clear in the next few years:
  1. She needs to propose a major overhaul of the NSA. So far she has done nothing on this issue and it is the one she needs to come clean on soon. If she does she will have a chance in the election, if not it will be very close and she will probably lose a lot of voters. She needs to speak out against the PATRIOT ACT and propose a real constitutional solution. She did vote against wiretapping after the PATRIOT ACT came out in 2005.
  2. She is an enemy of AMTRAK and needs to reverse this position.
  3. Her education policy needs massive work and she needs a clear policy that the NEA will endorse. She is close, but this could use some massive work and clear policy objectives.
There are some issues she has corrected over time:
  1. She has done a complete reversal of her gay rights policies. They are now in line with basic civil rights.
  2. She has come clean on Iraq as of this month. It took her 12 years.
There are also issues she has been good on and will help her campaign considerably:
  1. She has been progressive on taxes in the Senate
  2. Her record on Social Security is stellar.
  3. Abortion record is stellar.
  4. Women's rights record is stellar.
  5. Her environmental record is stellar.
  6. She supports Ukraine and Georgia.
  7. Her trade policy was more progressive than her husband as a Senator and in line with modern progressives.
  8. Support for voting legislation is clean.
  9. Supports background checks for guns.
  10. She has supported public health care since she was in college.
  11. She supports the minimum wage being enough to live on.
  12. She supports GMOs.
Important voting records that are good are for progressive taxation, abortion, women's rights. Her civil rights score from the ACLU (excluding women's rights) is 60%, which is truly abysmal for a Democrat.

My main criticisms of Clinton thus far have been the 4 policies (which are extremely important). I have not criticized her for Benghazi because I realize that was a freak terrorist attack, and the resources were lacking from where they should have been due to a bill signed by George W. Bush. 

I've been extremely wary and have been hoping to have a different choice, but doing some deeper analysis at her policies leaves her with only 3 weak spots, which is pretty good for any candidate, and I think she can fix her positions on them during the campaign. Elizabeth Warren supports her, so that is another reason for me to trust her more. She does have some strengths over a few of her husband's weaknesses (she was more critical of free trade and supported fair trade over free trade as we see with CAFTA, as well as being significantly more liberal on her tax policy as Senator) which makes me have to change my mind on her. I underestimated her on economic policy, and since I was basing her views off of Bill's and now that I have (finally) done the necessary research I could campaign for her if she does a great job at designing her platform and hopefully could help design a platform that will reach out to young swing voters and target Republicans where it hurts.

So, I will support her candidacy over other candidates after doing more thorough research and separating her from Bill Clinton given that her Senate Career had some major improvements to her husband's career.

Hopefully she keeps moving forward as President on issues and will be more of a firebrand than Obama or her husband. Elizabeth Warren (who is the most admired politician in America) believes in her and she certainly has momentum. Hopefully when she becomes President she will be able to keep the momentum up and make some much needed change by working with Americans and politicians who work for us.

Information on Former Secretary Clinton:

Good quizzes at the moment:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Relativism as subjugation

In my political theory classes there is a big discussion about liberalism and relativism. Liberalism is of course the idea that focus should be on individual liberty as opposed to social class (Marxism) or ethnicity (Fascism) in a nutshell. Sometimes I will hear left-wing people (who aren't really that liberal) think of liberalism and the expanse of democracy as cultural imperialism or something like that. These people will argue at times that expanding democracy and overthrowing existing governments hurts their culture. I think this analysis is misguided.

I do not think that any major culture (which I would define as music, language, literature, art, etc.) is inherently better or worse than another in general within certain limitations. These limitations are very important however, because we also need to value people, and there are some times and places (The Deep South is a dishonorable mention here) where societal norms have encompassed treating other people unequally. The return of voting regulations that disproportionately hurt African Americans across the Old Confederacy is a big argument that racism is not dead, and research has shown hate tweets are far more common in the Old Confederacy than anywhere else in the United States. Some countries mercilessly hurt women and girls in things like female genital mutiliation, allowing husbands to beat their wives where the woman has no recourse, and for men to beat women on the streets with no legal prosecution possible. These are not cultural differences, this is an individual abusing others, and it doesn't matter where the person lives it is still abuse. These sorts of statements from relativists are not support for culture but support for abuse which is opposed to the idea of respecting other people, are deeply misguided notions, and illiberal. We need to stand up and oppose governments that hurt their own people. No culture on Earth has a tradition of abuse like what we observe in Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and North Korea among others, the current abuses from their governments are just abusive and not cultural.

Another feature that people will frequently look to is governmental systems as a form of cultural relativism. They seem to think that countries adopting democracy is a form of colonialism by the US, at least that is the interpretation I get from them.

There is a very big problem with this, and that is that democracy has been chosen by people in many countries that are not European and it has worked extremely well. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Botswana are the best examples of where Democracy has been the most successfully implemented outside of Europe, none of which have European roots. Other regions still have progress and they are better now than they were 50 years ago. Countries that have seen their people stand up for democracy and individual liberty are wealthier (or at least see their economies grow much faster) than countries that are non-democratic. They see lower corruption in their government, and lower barriers to ingenuity. The most successful implementations and improvements were done not by being forced on them but through the people themselves without foreign involvement.

A few case examples:

  • North Korea is an excellent example of how tyranny is not a function of culture because before the Kim Dynasty came to power North Korea was even more advanced than what became South Korea, and South Korea is a fully developed nation where people are free. The situation in North Korea and other places is not a function of culture but a function of tyranny.
  • China is perhaps the most traditionally communal culture in history, and even China sees the idea of questioning and individuality in the writings of Mozi, and if it weren't for the suppression of his writings which are problematic for tyrants it would have a much larger impact on Chinese culture. The ides of Mozi were about as liberal as one can get, and if he wasn't killed by the government Chinese norms would be very different. China's emperors were more successful at keeping strains of thought that threatened their tyranny. Confucius also taught tyrants should be dethroned if they were abusive to their people, but he also argued from a more communal perspective so the Chinese emperors used those ideas to further their cause of absolute power to get people to be part of the whole. The existence of people like Mozi and events like Tiananman Square shows China has a long undercurrent of the people desiring more freedom, which has been able to flourish in Taiwan (which shares a similar culture and language) where people can speak freely and has led them to extreme economic growth and stability.
  • There is no other explanation for such contagious support of liberalism in every country with a free press and how millions of people stood against the USSR in the early 1990s to implement democracies, 3 of which have been able to meet the EU acquis which are very strict and now enjoy the highest quality of living in the former USSR. If the systems put in place by the Czar and Communist Party were merely cultural there would not have been such a wide revolt across so many different cultures that have almost nothing in common besides being human, yet the majority of people in all areas agreed they preferred liberal democracy over communist tyranny.
If it were culture than there is no way to explain Machiavelli was able to move his area to be the most prosperous nation on Earth in his time through economic and social reforms which then were adopted across parts of every region of Earth.

The idea of America's "spreading democracy" as spreading democracy is inherently flawed. When the US goes around claiming to be "spreading democracy" they always tend to come in with big guns when the people elect someone the US government doesn't like. This is not spreading democracy. This is spreading imperialism. This is highjacking the name of democracy like neocolonialists have stole the term capitalism from liberals. Social liberals need to reclaim the capitalism of Adam Smith, which was most certainly not completely laissez-faire given his support of government in non-competitive public goods, and use it in the way that it was intended in the first true masterpiece of economics, The Wealth of Nations, which is as far from an imperialist document as one will ever find. Realizing this will help liberals (if they are truly liberal) understand how different actions effect people and what we can best do to advance human rights throughout the world.

We need to look at how we think of foreign cultures and not be overly judgmental to cultural differences, but also not be overly sympathetic to governments that abuse their cause which is what happens when many people start talking about cultural relativism. They have confused democracy and colonialism which are diametrically opposed to one another, and democracy is the best solution to colonialism. Amnesty International comes I think the closest to what it means to be a true social liberal, but speaking out against governmental abuses veiled in culture as many governments use. No child truly wants to work as opposed to go to school. No woman wants to beaten on the street with no legal protection. No culture historically supports this, except when an insane leader forces it on the people of a region.

I am a relativist only as far as it recognizes that different cultures have many lessons to tell, and no language is necessarily superior to another, but also balanced with reason and respect for the individual. To excuse every societal norm as culture, as I have demonstrated with North Korea, China, and the USSR forgets history and is the easy path of supporting the status quo, which when that is your only objective frequently becomes lacking in ethics and hypocritical. We need to stand with people around the world for them to be able to find their way, no matter what their local tyrant says.

Anti-Vaccination Movement and gunmen

The large misinformation campaign put on by the anti-science community over the last decade has made it so that numerous diseases ranging from polio to measles and rubella have seen increased prevalance and deaths from these pathogens has needlessly increased their death rate. The anti-science community is going against all knowledge that modern biology has given us, and are constantly in their unscientific fashion using poor studies that prove nothing and going on the television and writing in popular anti-science journals, particularly Natural News, that maliciously spread lies and deceit to people who don't understand how science works. I would even argue that people who spread such tripe are committing murder.

Imagine a man who stands outside of a building stating that there are great deals and free things being given away to passer-bys on the street. People will hear it and go in to check out the great deals. However, the man outside the building is perfectly aware that as soon as someone walks in they will be immediately shot or stabbed for walking in. He is using his knowledge and the other people's lack of knowledge to kill them, even though he never pulls the gun. There is little doubt this man has committed manslaughter with his colleague inside the building, and there would be almost nothing he could defend himself to a court when he is convicted.

The same can be said of the anti-vaccination movement. They are deliberately putting people's needlessly lives at risk knowing full and well that their actions will greatly increase the probability of them getting terrible viruses that will then spread and kill millions of people.

As one friend of mine argues, they could kill more people than bin Laden did through his terrorist organizations, and I have no reason to doubt it. The weapon used by terrorists like bin Laden is fear, which is exactly the same tool that the anti-vaccination movement has used. Calling them terrorists is not a stretch if we use terrorist in its most reasonable definition, to strike terror into the hearts and minds of many, which is a form of power. Some of their leaders (like the MMR-autism scam a few years ago) have enough training in medicine to understand the difference, which makes me convinced the problem is malice and cannot be misinformation on the part of the informants. They refer to papers published by highly corrupt and dishonest people, most importantly Andrew Wakefield, and this causes mass hysteria through misinformation. If we are going to hunt for terrorists across the world, we should also work hard to end the misinformation campaign by these people because they will kill far more people than terrorists ever had if they are allowed to continue.

No one has the right to put other people needlessly at risk by spreading pathogens, either by dumping them in the water supply or walking around a town or city with an extremely contagious pathogen. No one deserves to be put in the type of danger this can cause to so many people.

Murder is not protected by the first amendment.

Manslaughter is murder.

Manslaughter does not have to be a direct action.

The anti-vaccination movement is putting billions of people in danger from being killed by pathogens that should be destroyed because as soon as one of these viruses becomes prominent it will be able to mutate and if it mutates enough the current vaccines will not work, meaning that many more lives and hundreds of billions of dollars will have to be spent before we can protect ourselves.

If that isn't manslaughter, I don't know what is.

It is the job of those of us who are scientists whether we specialize in biology or economics to counter these anti-science arguments and we need to choose which is more important, making people happy, or saving lives. For me, saving lives is always worth more than someone being unhappy they have been disproven from their pet topic, so I will not take prisoners and speak the truth about science so people understand how vaccinations save people and need to be done to enough people to prevent the outbreaks we have been seeing lately.

This also isn't theoretical, with outbreaks in measles, polio, and whooping cough on the rise currently, which is a threat to the whole world. Source

Friday, June 27, 2014

A New Democracy Index

I created an index of my own I haven't published after not being fully satisfied with any democracy/liberty index based primarily in social issues anywhere, and made it based on several existing indexes and easily measured features. The biggest problem I see with human rights indexes is they usually measure only one variable, when there are many different aspects that go into determining whether a country is truly free or not. I looked at government policies in 8 benchmark ways that are concrete, and weighted all 8 equally on a scale of 0-5 (it was an arbitrary decision to choose 5 but I found I could get enough differences in each policy where 5 works nicely, I also start at 0 as opposed to 1 because it makes a difference in the math). The indexes are Freedom of the Press standardized to the same scale from Reporters Without Borders, gave a score of 0-5 for religious freedom based on official government policies, 0-5 on access to healthcare, 0-5 on gay rights policies, 0-5 on access to courts and their quality, 0-5 on women's rights from The Daily Beast, 0-5 for the quality of elections and their methods, and 0-5 for visas rewarding countries for having more open borders through lower visa requirements. This is going to be a major judge for me determining whether the country is free or not and will be my judge for high-quality leaders. The way I ranked didn't take into account whether the potential violations are for citizens or non-citizens which hurt the United States in particular.

All of these indexes can have ties and if every country improved to have full freedom of the press, absolute freedom of religion, complete access to health care, full equality for gays, court systems that have no barriers and are completely free, fair and impartial for all people citizen or non-citizen, women have full equality to men, they use Single Transferable Vote and/or Instant Runoff voting for their elections, and all foreigners can freely travel to their country.

Leading with a score of 4.436 is Sweden, their worst score is on visas, and their women's rights score is a 4.96 out of a possible 5. The top 25 are the following:
  1. Sweden, at 4.436 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  2. Denmark, at 4.425 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  3. Finland, at 4.414 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  4. Norway, at 4.404 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  5. Netherlands, at 4.381 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  6. Ireland, at 4.339 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas. They don't have gay marriage, which is hurting them severely. Gay marriage will give them first place. They use single transferable vote which is the least error prone of all election methods which moves them from #15 to # 6.
  7. Belgium, at 4.325 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  8. Portugal, at 4.312 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  9. New Zealand, at 4.306 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas.
  10. France, at 4.284 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas, their freedom of the press is 3.92 which is hurting them.
  11. Switzerland, at 4.261 has 3 5s, their worst score is visas. They don't have gay marriage, which is hurting them severely.
  12. Luxembourg, at 4.251 has 3 5s, their worst score is visas. They don't have gay marriage, which is hurting them severely.
  13. Spain, at 4.242 has 4 5s, their worst score is visas. Their press score is hurting them at a 3.98.
  14. Andorra, at 4.236 has 3 5s, women's rights are missing data, visas are their worst score. Gay rights are limited.
  15. Uruguay, the highest ranked country in the Western Hemisphere at 4.219, has 4 5s, and their worst score is visas.
  16. Germany, at 4.206 has 3 5s, their worst score is visas, and gay rights are hurting them.
  17. Iceland, at 4.196 has 5 5s, they rank number one on women's rights, their election system is killing their score, and their worst score is visas.
  18. Slovenia, at 4.147 has 3 5s, their worst score is visas, gay rights are lacking, and press is below a 4.
  19. Czech Republic, at 4.140 has 3 5s, their worst score is visas, women's rights is below a 4, and gay rights are hurting them.
  20. Costa Rica, at 4.102 has 3 5s, their gay rights are hurting them, and visas are their worst score.
  21. Malta, at 4.094 has 4 5s, their elections are the best, gay rights are lacking, visas are their worst score. Their press is below a 4.
  22. Liechtenstein, at 4.089 has 3 5s, lacking data on women's rights, their visas are their worst score.
  23. Estonia, at 4.088 has 3 5s, gay rights are lacking, their worst score is visas.
  24. Australia, at 4.084 has 4 5s, gay rights are lacking, their worst score by far is their very conservative visa policy.
  25. United Kingdom, at 4.081 has 4 5s with the recent passage of gay marriage, their elections are their worst score. They have better visa policies than the rest of the EU.
(When I say gay rights are lacking I mean they don't have full equality, they are all doing way better than every country in the middle east.)

The losers of the Democracy index are the following:
  1. North Korea in dead last at 201st placewith a score of 0.401, with 0s in 5 categories, and their highest score is a 2 on health care which signifies limited access. A living hell.
  2. Sudan, with a score of 0.607 has a press score above a 1 which keeps them from beating North Korea. 3 0s.
  3. Syria, with a score of 0.623 with a women's rights score of 2.29 which is over twice that of their other score above a one. 4 0s.
  4. Eritrea, with a score of 0.629 with 3 0s, is another country I would qualify as a living hell, only their women's rights score keeps them from falling below North Korea.
  5. Yemen, with a score of 0.643 with 4 0s, has an election score of 2 that keeps them out of 200th place, instead they're at 197th.
  6. Oman, with a score of 0.698 with 5 0s, has freedom of the press ans women's rights keep them slightly elevated.
  7. Turkmenistan, with a score of 0.980 with 3 0s, has a relatively high women's rights index.
  8. Saudi Arabia, with a score of 1.132 with 4 0s, has universal health care which significantly elevates their score.
  9. Nigeria, with a score of  1.146 has only 2 0s, but has a poor visa score, and their press score is their highest at 3.29.
  10. Pakistan, with a score of 1.210 has 2 0s, has health care a their highest score at a 3, but poor human rights scores in other ways along with a poor election score with an electoral college.
  11. Uzbekistan, with a score of 1.254 has 3 0s, no freedom of religion, the only reason they have such a high score is their health care and women's rights.
  12. Burma (political statement intended), with a score of 1.592 has 1 0  but their highest score is women's rights at 3.33 and have poor elections.
  13. Afghanistan, with a score of 1.319 has 2 0s, their elections are high quality, and their press score is over 3, but with poor freedom of religion, women's rights and health care keeps them at a low score.
  14. Somalia, with a score of 1.464 has 2 0s, their elections have a high score, but everything else is poor. They have a gay rights score of 2.
  15. Chad, with a score of 1.505 has 3 0s, their women's rights visas, gay rights, and health care are abysmal. They have a relatively high press score.
  16. Vietnam, with a score of 1.530 has only 1 0 in the election department, have a relatively high women's rights score but everything else is lagging. Gay rights is 3.
  17. Mauritania, with a score of 1.760 has 2 0s in Gay rights and visas which hurts it significantly. It has a good election score however.
  18. China, has a score of 1.709 due to poor visa policies, horrible court systems, non-existent elections, and lagging freedom of the press. Women's rights and health care rank well.
  19. Bangladesh, with a score of 1.715 lags on visas and has low scores across the board. Their highest ranking is in elections.
  20. Iran, with a score of 1.747 has 2 0s in gay rights and justice, has a better election score than they would have had prior to the last election, and have a low religion score.
  21. Bahrain, with a score of 1.763 has 0s in gay rights and justice
  22. Kiribati
  23. Cuba
  24. Comoros
These are the winners and losers in the democracy race. Other notable countries are:
  • The United States ranks at 92 out of 200 with a score of 3.076 due to the Electoral College, lack of access to courts for non-citizens, and one of the most restrictive visa policies in the world with only one truly non-visa country being Canada. I do not count the "Visa-Waiver Countries" because they require pre-registration and a fine which by my very narrow definition makes them count as a visa (and the countries that have a so-called visa waiver have a higher bar than some foreign visas, so they are a visa for simplicity sake), and are more restrictive than the so-called visas of many other countries, which is why the US has a low score. Our gay rights are currently lacking as well. I gave us a 5 in health care since everyone is required to have access.
  • Brazil ranks at 60 with a score of 3.466 due to poor health care, a lacking visa score, lacking justice, and lagging women's rights.
  • India (who I am thinking of as the giant in the Diplomatic room given their potential for economic growth and international influence in the near future) comes in at 143 with a score of 2.348, have court problems, an electoral college, an average press score and a restrictive visa policy. There is a lot of room for improvement.
I think this is a much more useful tool because it is calculated, measures very fine differences between countries, pulls from reputable sources, and most importantly is across a wide variety of issues which corrects for bias and fixes the problem that a country could have excellent freedom of the press, but poor gay rights which hurts Jamaica a lot. I hope this type of index can be used by political scientists in the future to give politicians the tools they need to see how they are doing compared to other countries, and give more accurate pictures on how free countries are. I am currently in the process of updating with information on slavery and privacy rights, which will make an even more accurate picture, especially when it comes to privacy, but given how this work could take me months to get accurate data I will publish now.

Feel free to view my work at: here:

Ethical Investors and What Ended Apartheid

I am looking at my university which just approved to divest from oil companies due to their environmental practices and human rights abuses. I definitely agree with them that these oil companies are unethical and take advantage of millions, only a fool would deny it. However, my concern is that their strategy will not be effective in creating real change that will move the planet off of fossil fuels.

The whole question is extremely big picture. The goal of the movement is to move the world off of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. By doing this, we need an incredible amount of capital, in terms of fueling stations, to make it so we can all move to a realistic alternative. This requires a lot of money. The oil companies today have the resources we need. I have already wrote about this in my post The Ethical Investor and nothing has come to my attention since writing it to change my mind.

The classic example of successful divesting that people will point to is the almost global embargo on South Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s before the end of Apartheid. They were supported by the US until late in Reagan's administration when Congress finally imposed sanctions, and after the US left them the only country that freely traded with them was Israel (which is an interesting scenario given their policies in West Bank and Gaza). South Africa couldn't get outside resources and their economic system was such the Soviet Union wouldn't help them and Russia couldn't after the break-up, so the ANC was able to come to power without a massive civil war, which is unusual for any time or place. The only reason the sanctions worked was because they were from almost every country in the world and the protesters were the vast majority of people.

Companies however are a different animal. If we choose to divest from the stock of an oil company it won't have the same effect as divesting from South Africa because the mechanisms are completely different. The only major effect of the divesting will be removing voices of reason and science from the company elections which will give the people who vote for the individuals who attack our environment and abuse their workers a larger voting share. This will not shut the company down, and it will not give us the resources we need to turn the economy around to make a nationwide renewable energy network. Exxon Mobil is the most profitable private company in the world, and we could do much more good harnessing their resources to invest in renewable energy than investing in companies that have lower profit margins. In the end it is a self-defeating strategy and comparing to South Africa (the only sanctions in history that worked from my reading about historical sanctions) is not a valid comparison. There is also no solid theory to back up divesting as a real strategy that could change the world so it should be discarded and we need a new approach.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We should have stood up earlier

This is extremely to me, as a blogger, someone who had family in Germany in the 1930s and has studied the era of the rise of Hitler in my free time, and as an American.

This man should not be persecuted for reporting on something the government doesn't want to be leaked, because when the government gets to determine what constitutes freedom of the press it is the fox watching the hen house and it is impossible for anyone to be a neutral party when they are the person being investigated.

This is a very dangerous path, and it leads to where there is no independent journalism. I don't scare easily, but this does scare me. Democracy cannot thrive when freedom of speech is curtailed.

This is the gift of compromise. Democratic voters have been so willing over the last 20 years to make amends to the Republicans that the difference betwen the right wing Democrats and mainstream Republicans truly is small on a number of important issues. Sure, the Democrats still do some good things like the environmental action this week, but it is not enough. We need to protect our liberties and not allow them to do these actions in the background when we are not watching and celebrating a victory.

Shame on President Obama. He is giving up his heritage. This persecution of a journalist is treason.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Bernie Sanders is the right man for the job

The current VA scandal (which we must remember was created by the traitor George Walker Bush) is currently unfolding and the Democrats in light of an extraordinarily important midterm election are finally putting a real man on the job, Bernie Sanders.

This VA scandal is already a huge part of the election and if the Democrats do not fix it it will haunt them through 2016 and make it easier for the Republicans to win. The party has a historic record dating back to the election of Bill Clinton of trying to meet everyone halfway in mishmash legislation that gets only half the job done at best and frequently creates more problems than they solve because they miss important pieces. This is an important issue like the others, and they know that if they lose Veterans they will have a hard time winning in many places, like Florida!

On the other hand, Democrats portraying themselves as problem solvers as opposed to backstabbing two-faced liars will be more effective in getting people out to vote and hurt the idea that the two parties are no different which compromise has helped give evidence to support the idea that what differences they have are small. This will get African Americans and Hispanics and young voters out to vote which worked so well in 2008 that the Democrats got a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and over 300 seats in the house. If they repeat that in this next election than progress will be possible.

History says as much, as the most famous presidents in history were decisive and use politics to improve the country. By making excellent policy Obama could become a memorable president for a long time, and the last two years will be decisive for his legacy. Hopefully this will happen.

President Obama needs to look at people like Sanders for advice to get real change done that will improve our country.