Pickup Artistry or Hokum?

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Pick-up artists (PUAs) claim to have mastered the “art” of seducing women.  You might think their work largely appeals to men who are only looking for one thing, but the most susceptible men are actually nice, quiet, lonely men who have hit rock bottom with women.  I’m honest enough to admit I was there once, and it was then that a friend of mine introduced me to “pick up artistry”.  I’ll admit, when I started reading the book he sent me, I was impressed.  However, as I continued reading, and he continued telling me about it, I had second thoughts.  I began to realize that even if it did work, I would not be happy that way.

PUA’s have a series of tactics they use.  For example, if you see a girl you like, and she is with a friend, don’t talk to the one you like, talk to her friend.  That way, the one you like will start getting interested in you, and be slightly jealous of the attention you’re giving her friend.  How is that genuine?  While watching my favorite sitcom currently on the air, Big Bang Theory, the character Howard (clearly a PUA in training) suggested using what I think he called “back handed compliments”.  This is where you say something like, “Most girls wouldn’t look good with greasy hair, but it works for you.”  That is designed to show interest, while at the same time making her self-conscious.  The Howard character also tries to do magic tricks and such to impress women…he nearly always fails.

So despite Howard, can this actually work?  Well, most PUAs swear by it.  They say something like, “It didn’t work at first because I was too nervous, but as I kept practicing, it starting working.  I just got this girl’s phone number.”  Yes, if you use just about any tactic on say, 100 women, eventually 1 might be interested.  That doesn’t mean that PUA strategies actually work, it just means that you are an average guy who is appealing to some women.  The one thing that he PUAs are right about is that if you are unauthentic by never approaching women you are interested in, you will get nowhere.  However, using their strategy is very unlikely to lead to a relationship.  If cheap sex is what you’re looking for, than PUA may be for you.  I’m not here to judge anyone, just to help

If you are truly genuine, nervousness and all, you can and will find what you’re looking for.  If you are a single guy in a rut right now, and you want to find love, a relationship, etc. I have a few pieces of advice for you.  Don’t change who you are, but change who you are approaching or dating.  You are likely approaching the type of woman who is all wrong for you, even though you think she’s perfect.  If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting the same result.  If you try to change who you are, you’ll never be happy.  You should instead try to find someone different.  If you are normally attracted to a particular type of woman, try approaching women who are “not your type”.  Also try meeting women in a different kind of place than you usually do, as you’re certain to meet a different kind of woman.  Lastly, don’t let this consume your life.  If you like your job, focus on that.  Maybe find a cool hobby, or get involved in church or something.  When finding a relationship was all I thought about, I was getting nowhere.  When I started focusing more on my career instead, lo and behold, I met the woman I would marry!

 

PS Though this is largely addressed to men, women’s perspectives are certainly welcome.

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Why Social Security will never be bankrupt

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Ideological dogma often complicates what should be very simple.  From the very creation of Social Security in 1935, there have been the liberty-puritans who are adamantly opposed to the idea that government should take a portion of our income for purposes of a basic safety net when we are too old to provide for ourselves.  The sacrifice of a small portion of personal choice has resulted in an undeniably massive social benefit.  Poverty among the elderly is now less than 15%, whereas it was once above 50%.  The disabled who cannot work, or cannot work full time, also are relieved from poverty by that 6.2% tax we normally pay into social security.

However, growing up in the 1980s, I was deceived by the liberty-puritans into believing that Social Security would be bankrupt by the time I would reach the age of retirement.  I was told that the money was running out, and by about 2040, it would be depleted.  Anyone who makes such a claim is either ignorant, or lying.  The Social Security Trust Fund will likely be depleted by 2037.  However, they will not be broke as long as there are people paying the Social Security payroll tax, and as long as that money does, indeed, go into Social Security.   At this point in the debate, the liberty-puritan usually responds with the red herring, “But that’s not even real money.  The trust fund has all been borrowed by the Federal Government.”  Let’s give them that one for the sake of argument, and assume that there is no real trust fund.  Let’s even assume that the Federal Government will never pay back one dime of that borrowed money.  This does not change one simple, irrefutable fact – We are still paying for it!  It’s not complicated.  As long as we continue to pay 6.2%, matched by our employer, Social Security will continue to receive 12.4% of our income.  Therefore, they will always have new revenue, and will never be bankrupt.

A more realistic concern is that they will not be able to pay full benefits.  Based on current estimates, Social Security will only be bringing in enough revenue to pay about 80% of benefits.  That means that if we do nothing, by 2033, benefits will either be slashed by 20%, or the Federal government will use general tax revenue or borrowed money to subsidize the program.  Because of this, adjustments will need to be made to ensure that this does not happen, such as increasing the age to begin receiving benefits, raising the tax in some fashion, or cutting the amount of benefits more gradually.  As the program continues, people are living longer and having fewer children.  This means that people receive benefits for a longer period of time, and there are fewer younger people to pay into the program.  There will always be a need to re-examine the program and make adjustments to fit these changing demographics, in the same way as any private insurance company would.  This is nothing more than the result of the natural change in demographics seen in the developed world.

This program has been beneficial and remains widely popular across party lines.  Only the liberty-puritans object to it.  Some of them raise honest objections to the idea that government should “plan our retirement for us”.  That is a fair criticism, but most of us are willing to make that sacrifice in order to ensure that we don’t starve as elders.  However, some of the more unscrupulous liberty-puritans jump at the opportunity to exaggerate the aforementioned challenges to Social Security and scare us into thinking that the program won’t survive.  They know that the only way that they can gain political momentum to dissolve this program is with lies.  The lies cause us to fear, and the fear causes anger toward the program.  The anger then escalates into momentum to go ahead and dissolve the program instead of continuing to pay for it.  After all, if it won’t be there anyway, then why would we want to pay for it?

As a country, we have already had this debate.  Anyone who has been paying attention for the last several decades already knows the facts.  The enemies of Social Security, however, know the power of fear, and they clearly are not afraid to wield that power.  We do not need to fear that the program is broken.  We will not convince the fear-mongers that Social Security is doing fine and only needs minor adjustments.  They already know, and they don’t care.  We can, however, combat their misinformation campaign with simple facts.

This politifact article confirms my facts about social security and povery:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/aug/17/eddie-bernice-johnson/texas-congresswoman-eddie-bernice-johnson-says-soc/

This Wall Street Journal article confirms that the SS Trust Fund is projected to run out by 2033:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/social-security-trust-fund-to-run-dry-in-2033-2013-05-31

This report directly from the Social Security Administration predicts that if we make no changes, SS will need to cut benefits by 22% in 2033…so they will still be paying 78%:

http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2013/

Here is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities link, where I found the chart above:

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3818

The Benefits of Failure

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Whenever you fail at something you should remind yourself of this – you didn’t actually lose anything.  If you apply for a job, for example, and don’t get it, you didn’t lose the job, because you never had it to begin with.  You will not get far in life if you try to avoid failure.  Babe Ruth struck out more often than he hit home runs, but few remember the strike outs.  Michael Jordon once said, “I’ve failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

Sara Blakely (picture above), the founder of Spanx, a now widely successful undergarment corporation, was a door-to-door fax machine sales woman for many years.  In an interview with Fareed Zakaria (link below), she explained that this taught her how to handle rejection.  Growing up, her family celebrated rejection.  If you look around you, and really look deep, you begin to realize that nobody is immune to failure, but those who succeed do not fear it.  A failure (person) is one who allows failure (event) to become who they are, rather than a learning experience.

As I write this, I must practice what I preach.  Right now, I have left my teaching positions in Florida to pursue a PhD in TN.  This was a risky decision, and it has been years since I’ve looked for a job.  I have 3 PhD applications out there and 1 has already rejected me.  I did not lose anything, however, because I never had an offer from them in the first place.  More importantly I only need 1 of them to say “yes”, and there’s two to go.  Even if all of them reject me, I have a backup plan.  I could also try again next year.  I am also applying to new adjunct positions, and have yet to hear back from any of them.  If I do not apply for fear of rejection, I will never know.  If I apply and get rejected, I’ve lost nothing, but at least know that these are not options for me.  I don’t know what’s ahead of me, but I do know that every failure brings me closer to success.  I also remember that I’ve been through much worse, and only overcame it with determination.

When you’re trying to succeed out there, remember that everyone fails, but not everyone is a failure.  With the right attitude, not only can you say that a failure costs you nothing, but it is even a small step forward.  As you look at all the possibilities out there, most of them are failures, but you only need a few, or maybe just one success.  A few successes are mixed into all those failures out there, and it’s your job to find it.  Every failure you get out of the way brings you closer.  So go out there, and see how many failures you can knock out!

This is only the first half of the interview:

http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/24/sara-blakely-spanx-and-the-american-dream/

Is Joe the Plumber a hypocrite for taking a union job?

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So the Daily Kos, a subsidiary of the left-wing Ministry of Truth*, have decided that Joe the Plumber (Samuel Wurzelbacher) is contradicting himself for taking a union job at Chrysler.  When I started reading this, I was expecting maybe an anti-union quote from Joe, but then I noticed it was a Daily Kos article, and my expectations rapidly diminished.  After reading the article, it seems that their basis for argument rests on 3 positions he takes that supposedly contradict his decision to take a union job, and they are as follows: he is pro-gun, he hates high taxes, and he’s anti-Obama.  What on earth does any of this have to do with joining a union?!

Joe defended himself by saying, “Private unions, such as the UAW, is a choice between employees and employers. If that is what they want then who am I to say you can’t have it?”  Exactly Joe!  Joining a union does not mean you must conform to every rank-in-file leftwing political position there is, or even that you have to be a Democrat.  It means you pay your union dues, and enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining.  You may need to engage in a strike at some point if it comes to that, but there’s no reason a gun loving Republican can’t join a union.  But by Daily Kos’s logic, unions are on the left wing, and guns are on the right wing, so you can’t have both!  Daily Kos did have a half decent argument with their claim that Obama saved Chrysler, and Joe was anti-Obama.  However, Obama didn’t save Chrysler.  He tried with the bailouts.  But Chrysler continued to fail until an Italian company Fiat bought them up.  If Joe owes a debt of gratitude to someone for saving that job he now has, it’s Fiat!

The Daily Kos has proven yet again that they are nothing more than a narrow-minded pseudo-liberal rag.  Their limited dichotomous view of politics is largely responsible for the gridlock and dysfunction of our government today.  If anyone tries to tell you it’s all the Republicans fault, just remember how groups like Daily Kos thought policed the Democratic Party to drive out the old Blue Dogs (the last sane Democrats), and now even thought-police Republicans who don’t fit neatly into the left/right paradigm.  Well, Joe is an individual, and an American, and he’s free to think for himself, as are we all.

*Disclaimer:  I do not literally believe that there is a Ministry of Truth or “thought-policing”.  I love referencing George Orwell’s literature and I often use his concepts metaphorically to describe the many agents of conformity to the dichotomous left/right view of politics.  I believe, however, that this is a spontaneous order, not a conspiracy.

Link to original article:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/18/1278483/–Joe-the-Plumber-takes-a-union-job-at-Chrysler

Why did White Southerners become Republicans?

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Until Eisenhower ran for president in 1952, white southerners were solidly Democratic.  It was said that a white southerner would vote for a Democrat even if he was a big, ugly, yellow dog.  (This is where the phrase “yellow dog Democrat” comes from).  Between 1952 and 1996, white southerners made a slow transition to the Republican Party.

Why was that?  As a white southerner myself, I was told as a child that Democrats were once conservative and supported “states’ rights”, while Republicans were liberals who wanted to centralize government.  Now the Republicans are the “conservatives, and the Democrats are the “liberals”.  That’s the common conservative narrative.  As I grew older, I was exposed to the liberal narrative.  I was told that the racists, who used “state’s rights” as an excuse to discriminate against blacks without Federal interference, once dominated the Democratic Party.  But now the Democrats support civil rights, and those old racists went Republican to support Reagan who gave a speech at a site where a black guy was lynched.  I’m sorry to say this, but it’s hard to find a site in the south where a black guy wasn’t lynched.  I’m ashamed of this history, but it is a fact that needs to be noted here.

So, why did white southerners really switch Republican?  Let me start by debunking the liberal narrative.  Eisenhower was a civil rights moderate on the surface, but recent revisions of his history in light of new evidence shows that he was far more favorable to civil rights than appeared.  While that is up for debate, Ike was certainly not a racist or a segregationist.  He was, however, the first Republican presidential candidate to make a significant dent in the old solid south.  Now let’s fast forward to 1964.  Lyndon Johnson passed two landmark pieces of civil rights legislation: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  While white southerners did strongly support Barry Goldwater for President in 1964, they continued supporting their state and local Democrats.  Furthermore, as late as 1996, you could still find many white southern conservative Democrats in office.  However, by 1996, these Democrats had become very favorable to civil rights and racial equality (consider Lawton Chiles for example).  Furthermore, there were plenty of southern Democrats in office who appealed to white and black voters effectively.  If white southerners switched Republican in response to Civil Rights legislation, why did it take so long?  In 1976, every southern state except Virginia went to Democrat Jimmy Carter, a white southerner who strongly supported, and still supports racial equality.  Even during the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 and 1996, the South was increasingly purple (made up of Republicans and Democrats).    Clearly there was far more going on in the minds of white southerners than “Dag nabbit!  We gotta sit at the same table with the colored people now”.  Actually, growing up in the 1980s south – You know, with all the Reagan voters? – I remember being taught that Martin Luther King was a hero that we should all admire.  Oh yeah, and we love Reagan.

While the liberal narrative is most absurd, the conservative narrative is also flawed.  Consider what the old south stood for, other than racism.  They stood for states’ rights, clearly.  They strongly opposed the FED.  They opposed most military intervention and expansion, usually favoring isolation.  This is what it meant to be conservative in, say, 1920.  Now compare that to the “conservatives” of the Bush era.  Bush attempted to nationalize marriage, trampling states’ rights, with a “Protection of Marriage” amendment, nationally defining marriage as “one man, one woman”.  No Child Left Behind was a major intrusion on the rights of states to run education.  Then there was the very costly war in Iraq.  I don’t doubt the old white south would have supported the invasion of Afghanistan.  We were attacked by Al Qaeda, they were operating out of Afghanistan, so we attacked Afghanistan.  Makes sense.  But Iraq?  We invaded Iraq supposedly to confiscate WMDs, but ultimately the justification arguments rested on the claim that the US was freeing the Iraqi people from a horrible dictator.  It was called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” after all.  The US, or “the Union” as it was known during the Civil War, then proceeded to occupy Iraq and begin RECONSTRUCTION!  Did white southerners respond to that Republican from Connecticut (Bush) with, “Hey Yankee, mind yer own damned business and go back to Connecticut!”?  We called the old Democrats “conservative”, and now we call the Republicans “conservative”, but clearly this word has a very different meaning today in practice.

In conclusion, more extensive study needs to be done into the many reasons why white southerners slowly transitioned to the Republican Party, but the claims of racism and the claims that the two parties swapped ideologies are based on cherry-picked facts and largely ignore historical context.  I suspect it was a mixture of rising religious fundamentalism (and GOP appeals to that), shifting economic preferences largely from the Reagan era, and a continued disdain for affirmative action by white southerners who otherwise supported most civil rights goals by the 1990s.  If anything, the switch to the GOP is indicative of the reality that white southerners no longer vote based on old racial tensions and bitter memories of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

My Rebuttal – “10 Reasons why Ronald Reagan was the worst president of our lifetime”

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The Examiner’s anti-Reagan article from 2011 is full of cherry-picked factoids, half-truths, and a few statements that are simply false or unsupported by evidence.  This unsigned article is mainly a top ten list of reasons the author regards Reagan as “the worst president of our lifetime”.  I will now go through this list, mostly in order, and pick it apart.

The article claims several times that Reagan cut taxes for the rich, and raised taxes on the middle class.  The article mostly fails to prove that taxes were raised on the middle class until near the end.  The article mentions that Reagan agreed to a Social Security tax increase, and then explains effectively why this mostly impacts the middle class.  However, that tax increase was a mere 0.2%.  This was part of a larger deal to save Social Security, as revenue was not keeping up with the amount of benefits paid.  Furthermore, the claim that Reagan “cut taxes for the wealthy” is at best a half-truth.  On the surface, it would appear that he did.  When Reagan took office, the highest marginal tax rate was 70%, and through a series of tax reforms, that rate was brought down to 28%.  However, the author clearly has no understanding of tax reform.  70% may have been the official tax rate, but few actually paid it.  For one thing, the tax code was riddled with more loopholes than it is today.  Furthermore, the uber-wealthy tend to earn their money through investment, rather than ordinary paychecks like the average American.  In other words, they make their millions on Wall Street.  When Reagan took office, many of the uber-wealthy were paying as little as 5%.  They were able to start at the “Dividends rate” of 15%, a far cry from 70%, and then they were able to write off all kinds of expenses and whatever else the tax code allowed.  When the marginal rate was brought down to 28%, the “Dividends rate” was brought UP to 28%.  That meant that the uber-wealthy could no longer escape taxes by calling it “investment income”.  Take that Wall Street!

The article lists unemployment as another reason that Reagan was “the worst president of our lifetime”.  Well for one thing, 11% is terrible, but far from the worst we’ve ever seen.  Besides, after Reagan’s first round of tax reform, unemployment substantially dropped to record lows.  Why only pick 1 year in Reagan’s presidency when unemployment was at its worse, and completely ignore the other 7 years, most of which were after that recession?  Oh right, he wants to convince us that Reagan was “the worst president of our time”.  If most of the facts don’t suit that agenda, just ignore them and pick the few facts that do.

More importantly, Presidents don’t cause recessions.  They don’t have the power.  The weak economy Reagan inherited was the result of decades of bad policy-making going back at least to the Johnson era.  We got in the habit of subsidizing idleness and punishing work.  Before the 1986 tax reform, Reagan complained that a bus driver paid more taxes than a Wall Street investor.  The Wall Street investor makes millions to do nothing more than move numbers around.  They buy, they sell, but they never create.  The bus driver, on the other hand, provides a crucial public service that most of us take for granted.  On the other end of the spectrum, that bus drive may have been better off unemployed and on welfare, in the aftermath of Johnson’s “Great Society”.  None of this was Reagan’s fault.  However, Reagan had to deal with the high unemployment and frightening inflation that resulted at least in part from these terrible policies.

Reagan’s debt level is undeniable, and the article certainly jumps on that opportunity.  Despite my overall respect for Reagan, I will certainly admit that he was no fiscal conservative.  However, we must consider context.  At the time, we were facing the most dangerous opponent we’ve ever faced, the dreaded Soviet Union!  They were a threat to freedom all over the world, and had to be stopped by any means necessary.  Many great leaders, desperate to stop the Soviets made mistakes that we now realize in hindsight.  Reagan poured money into the military industrial complex to fund massive weaponry and eventually the “Star Wars” project, which would have used SDI to disable nuclear missiles if they were launched at us or our allies (or anyone for that matter).  Did he over spend?  Probably.  Could he have known at the time that the Soviet Union was about to crumble?  Doubtful.  The Soviets put on a strong face, and kept information from the world.  We didn’t know how much of a mess they were in, and so Reagan took every precaution.  This is also why he supported some questionable groups, such as the Mujahidin, later to become Al Qaeda.  They were the enemy’s enemy.  Even if we knew with certainty what they would become, it still was the right move at the time.  I think any sensible person can agree that the Soviet Union was a far greater threat then, than Al Qaeda is now.

The article also brings up the Iran-Contra scandal.  I’m simply going to point out that Reagan was never proven to have purposefully transferred weapons to the Contras, though he knew there was a significant risk, yet the article speaks of Reagan’s guilt as though it were without question.  This is simply irresponsible reporting.  Even if it is very likely that Reagan knew, that wouldn’t stand up in court, and that shouldn’t stand up in any respectable news source, even an op-ed.

On the undocumented workers, it is worth mentioning simply because it shows the hypocrisy of today’s Republicans.  Reagan gets a free pass on this policy that would have them screaming “bloody murder” if Obama ever attempted.  I hardly see how it belongs on a top ten list of reasons that Reagan was “the worst president of our lifetime”.  Was this a terrible policy?  Maybe.  Is it unique to Reagan?  Definitely not!  Most presidents have granted amnesty to illegal immigrants.  Obama has done so indirectly via an executive order, which put a temporary stop to deportations of certain undocumented residents (only those who were brought to America as children and have grown up here).  If unions and others complain that illegal immigrants depress wages and “take ‘er jobs!”, they should consider that if these people are given the legal right to stay here, they are no longer so easy to exploit.  Employers can no longer threaten deportation to their underpaid immigrant workers, plus these workers now are protected by US labor laws.

Speaking of unions, I will conclude with his argument on unions.  Reagan was a consistent supporter of the right of workers to unionize.  He was also a consistent supporter of the right of management to negotiate with them, clearly.  The article accuses Reagan of being a “union buster” simply because he fired over 11,000 PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) workers when they went on strike.  In this situation, Reagan was on the management side of the negotiation table, and he knew that there were plenty of available air traffic controllers out there who would be happy to have those jobs instead of those on strike.  It’s just business.  They exercised their right not to work, by going on strike, so Reagan exercised his right to hire someone else.  Reagan was a tough negotiator, but that hardly makes him a “union buster”.

The reality is that Reagan’s successes far outweighed his failures, as he acted in cooperation with Congress, the Chairman Paul Volker, and some of Carter’s better policies already in place.  Inflation was brought down from a dangerous 11% to under 3%, unemployment was between 3-4% throughout his second term, and the Soviet Union soon came tumbling down…as did the wall.

Follow this link for the original article:

http://www.examiner.com/article/8-reasons-why-ronald-reagan-was-the-worst-president-of-our-lifetime

Another Reason that I’m not a Republican (Union busting on Volkswagon)

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My politics lean conservative, on average.  I’m pro-life, support a balanced budget achieved mostly by spending cuts, distrust the FED, go to Church, and value family and communities over centralized government.  Yet, I am not, nor ever have been a Republican.  Many wonder why.  Aren’t conservatives supposed to be Republican?

There are certain Republicans that I respect, but I’ve never seen the party as genuinely conservative.  This latest act of hypocrisy by Republicans in Tennessee is just another example of why I not only refuse to join the GOP, but I loathe the GOP.

So the supposed champions of smaller government, big business, and voluntary solutions by individuals rather than government force are not only opposed to labor unions, but are willing to threaten VW with higher taxes if their workers unionize.  How many of these same Republicans blame unions when jobs go overseas?  Sen. Bob Corker, the head hypocrite here in Tennessee, has long supported “free trade” agreements, and now supports this coercion of VW.

VW is actually OK with the union.  I was once in a union myself when I worked for UPS.  I was also a member of the safety committee.  My strategy was not one of constant conflict and strike threats.  I much preferred to work with union leaders and management to improve safety conditions and save valuable workers from injuries, and time lost from work.  Unions don’t have to be hostile.  They can be beneficial to a company, and I think VW gets that.  But the GOP just can’t stand it can they?  They love to complain of how unions hurt businesses and jobs, but the only ones I see hurting jobs right now are those Republicans with their BIG GOVERNMENT intrusion into the private sector.

I’m a conservative because I believe that communities have their own traditions and their own way of life worth conserving.  Friends, neighbors, co-workers, managers, employees, church goers, volunteers, etc. are much better fit to solve most problems than the government.  Few Republicans get this, and that is why I am not one of them.