On Lying to Kids

Calvin and Hobbes - Why Sun SetsI am not a parent, a fact that children everywhere are most grateful for. Although I always thought I would be a great father—like Calvin’s dad, but with more flair. For some reason, all actual parents seem to think that I’m a bad influence on their kids. Like it’s wrong to lie to them or something!

Now I have research on my side. It may be wrong to lie to children, but all parents do it. And not in ways that explain important things like Charles’s Law. Research published in the International Journal of Psychology did interviews with 200 parents in China and the United States. And they all lied! (To the kids, not the researchers. I think.) Check this out:

The most commonly used lie—popular with both US and Chinese families—was parents pretending to a child that they were going to walk away and leave the child to his or her tantrum.

The researchers claim that this is due to “the universality of the challenge parents face in trying to leave a place against their child’s wishes.” I don’t think so. I suspect this isn’t even the most common lie. Rather, I think this is the lie that parents remember because they feel bad about it. They think, “What if someone thinks I would really leave my child?” When you think about it, this is kind of sweet. Or many not.

One mother told her child, “If you don’t follow me, a kidnapper will come to kidnap you while I’m gone.” There could be a little verbalized fantasy going on here. I may not be a parent, but I can see that being one is a trial at times. Recently, Bill Maher (about as knowledgeable of kids as I am) said he knew that a stem cell was not a baby because you could put a stem cell in the freezer and you can’t a baby. And how did he know that? Because if parents could put their babies in the freezer, they would. “We need a vacation; let’s put Junior in the freezer until we get back!”

Anyway, I don’t think lying is a bad thing. Mostly, I think it’s good. You look great! What a wonderful song that was! I didn’t mean to kill the first few! Okay, maybe not that last one. But I certainly think that my “educational” moments with kids should be seen in charming. And the kids will someday too. “Uncle Frank? I just made a fool of myself! Why did you tell me unicorns were hunted to extinction by Neanderthals?!”

We’re #1… On Healthcare Costs

Ezra Klein wrote another one of those “chart” articles that he’s so fond of, Two Charts That Should Be in Every Health-Care Discussion. (What is it with everyone thinking “healthcare” is not a word?) The second graph is not very interesting. It shows how much more the United States pays for private healthcare. But of course, everyone knows that. That’s our system. But the first chart? Oh my!

Chart #1: We Pay More Than Anyone!

The first chart shows home much the government spends on healthcare per person and compares it to other similarly rich countries. As with pretty much every chart you can create about healthcare, the United States looks really bad:

Government Heathcare Spending Per Person

Bottom line: the government spends more on healthcare than any other country even though most of the people don’t get their healthcare from the government and 16% of the people don’t get healthcare at all!

Best Healthcare in the Word! If You Can Afford It…

“But!” the conservative will say, “The United States has the best healthcare in the world!” Well, that might be true if you are Dick Cheney. Of course, he isn’t a Medicare patient, and could have bought great healthcare elsewhere.

But for the regular guy? He doesn’t get the best healthcare in the world. Let’s take a look at the countries on the graph.

The WHO has ranked all the countries in the world. Let’s see where they stack up:

Ranking County (Cost)
1 France (4)
2 Italy (11)
10 Japan (13)
18 United Kingdom (26)
23 Sweden (7)
25 Germany (3)
28 Israel (19)
30 Canada (10)
38 United States (1)

The number in parentheses is where each country ranks in how much it spends on healthcare. So we’re number one! We’re number one!

One interesting thing here: taken all together (public and private healthcare), the United States pays 70% more than the next closest country, Canada.

We pay roughly 250% more than Israel pays. All while getting much worse healthcare! We’re number one!


There have been a lot of attacks on the WHO healthcare rankings. But they aren’t that compelling.

If you question me, check out Wikipedia. Basically, it is claimed that such rankings aren’t that accurate. This is true, but one thing is certain: the United States healthcare system isn’t head and shoulders better than other systems. And it doesn’t insure 50 million people. [At that time. –FM 25 Jan 2018] And it does this by being by far the most expensive system in the world.

And What About the Guns?!

Fox News mustache stand John Stossel has noted that our life expectancy is artificially lowered because we have so many homicides.

He says that when you take this into account, our life expectancy is higher than in “nearly every other industrialized nation.” But he just claims it, he doesn’t produce any numbers or studies or anything. But consider this: rough 2.5 million people die in the US every year. There are roughly 10,000 homicides each year. That adds 0.4 percent to our death toll. So it’s hard to see how this is going to make a huge change in our life expectancy.

Also, it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. It is just more apologetics for our failed system. I’m sure there are all kinds of special circumstances you could use for every country that would change its life expectancy. It’s also funny that Fox News would use what is primarily gun homicides to justify our terrible healthcare system.

What About Economic Inequality?

It’s possible that our homicide rate is so high because we have so much economic inequality. Would Fox News be in favor of making our economic system more fair in the name of justifying our terrible healthcare system?

Does the United States really have a worse healthcare system than Costa Rica (ranked 38 in quality and 50 in cost)? For most people, probably not. For people in the bottom half of the economy, almost certainly.

Republicans Are a Christian Party

Jonah GoldbergConservatives are so cute! At least when they try to figure out why no one likes their party. It just never occurs to them that it might be, you know, their policies. Look: conservatives like their policies. It is the party of the rich that does the work of the rich. And a bunch of Christians and racists. Conservatives don’t talk about the racists for a couple of reasons. One is that it is who they are. Another is that they don’t believe in racism. Except reverse racism, where the powerless make the powerful cry. But that’s just part of doing the work of the rich. Let us say no more about racism!

But Christians? There’s something there. And Jonah Goldberg thinks he understands why Asians are not voting for the Republican Party. Back in December he wrote, The GOP: Not a Club for Christians. That’s an aspirational title, because Goldberg fully admits that the Republican Party really does act like a Christian group:

I’ve attended dozens of conservative events where, as the speaker, I was, in effect, the guest of honor, and yet the opening invocation made no account of the fact that the guest of honor wasn’t a Christian.

Now Goldberg doesn’t take offense to this, because he understand that he is one of them. After all, he’s the speaker. But what about a Jew or a Buddhist or a Muslim who just happened to be in the audience? He might feel like an outsider.

There is something to this, but again, this is just tinkering around the edges. The real problem is policy. But even on this issue, Goldberg shows the biggest problem the conservative movement has going forward: rigidity. He writes, “The challenge now is to figure out how to talk in a way that doesn’t cause decent and dedicated Christians to pull in like a turtle, while also appealing to non-Judeo-Christians and the nonreligious.” Even apart from the fact that all he’s talking about is “appearance,” this just isn’t going to happen. As I’ve argued before, Christians in the United States do not want equality. “Happy Holidays!” is not good enough because it doesn’t explicitly claim that Christianity (unlike all those other religions) is the Truth.

But its even worse than this. The Republican commitment to evangelical Christians dates back to Ronald Reagan. There has never been a good marriage between the libertarian and social conservative wings of the party. In fact, they, more than any other groups, ought to belong to different parties. And the Republican Party really can’t move forward in a meaningful way until they resolve this conflict. That requires offending a fair percentage of “decent and dedicated Christians.”

And that’s what I started with. There are three major categories of people who vote for Republicans: rich, social conservative, and racist. I think the third category is quickly fading—or at least I want to think that. The social conservatives still dominate who votes for the Republicans. This is why the Tea Party started in opposition to corporate welfare and the bank bailout but ended as a bunch of deficit scolds who get abortion absolutists elected.

But I repeat: conservatives really are adorable as they scurry around looking for something easy they can do to fix their demographic problems. To misquote Churchill: “Republicans can always be counted on to do the right thing… After they have exhausted all other possibilities.” I’m thinking 4-6 years, but even longer if the Democrats screw up and hand them the White House in 2016. Until then, it will be more attempts to game the electoral college, pretend to be “compassionate,” and welcome other faiths.

Scurry along, little party!

Mary Jo White: Business As Usual

Mary Jo WhiteAh, Mary Jo White! Obama has nominated her to run the SEC. There are good things to say about her. And Obama has said them all. And there are bad things to say about her and I will talk about them shortly. But all you really have to know is that Obama nominated her. Therefore: she will not do anything to upset Wall Street. Look, Obama is a Wall Street kind of guy. He loves those peoople! Just look at who he’s surrounded himself with. Obama wants to look forward! Except, of course, when it comes to the prols who don’t know their place. Then it is, “Deport that man!” Then it is, “Prosecute that whistleblower!” Then it is, “Kill that copyright infringer!”

So let me explain where we are with White. When she was a prosecutor, she was very tough. But this was against terrorists and organized crime. When it came to banks, well, not so much. Oh sure, she went after the little, relatively powerless banks. But when it came to a big bank like Bear Stearns? No! No criminal charges for them. They were involved with allowing organized crime to pump up the price of penny stocks they owned in order to dump them. Dylan Matthews interviewed Gary Weiss, author of Born to Steal, about this matter.

That bothers Weiss, who thinks White was looking out for her post-prosecutor career rather than for the public’s best interests. “Why weren’t they prosecuted? I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer to that… I know there was an active Morgenthau investigation, but when it comes to wrongdoing by the major banks, they would much rather be representing them than prosecuting them,” he alleges. “As a career builder, would you rather prosecute these guys or defend them? Obviously, they would much rather be on their side.”

And, of course, Mary Jo White left government and became a Wall Street defense lawyer! David Sirota describes her as, SEC’s New Wall Street Enabler:

I suddenly remembered that this is the same Mary Jo White who has built the latter part of her career leveraging her position in governmental law enforcement positions to land lucrative private-sector jobs defending Wall Streeters. In moving through that revolving door, she has been a part of a corrupt culture that has weakened the power of the very law enforcement agency President Obama is now nominating her to run.

Matt Taibbi provides information on a very troubling moment of White’s career as “defender of the masters of the universe,” Choice of Mary Jo White to Head SEC Puts Fox In Charge of Hen House. He tells the story of how White worked to undermine SEC investigator Gary Aguirre’s investigation of insider trading by John Mack, who would later become the CEO of Morgan Stanley. It was a clear case of insider trading and White used her inside connections from her years as a prosecutor to quash the investigation. Taibbi contacted Aguirre to find out what he thinks of the nomination. He said, “Obama is not going to clean up financial corruption by pinning a sheriff’s badge on Wall Street’s protector-in-chief.”

But then, Obama would only pin a sheriff’s badge on Wall Street’s protector-in-chief. The Huffington Post reports that last year on an NYU panel, White questioned, “Whether banks had committed crimes ahead of the financial crisis. She warned against trying to prosecute ‘mistaken behavior, what is even reckless risk-taking.'” And that’s exactly the kind of person that we need heading the SEC: someone with a “boys will be boys” attitude when it comes to the crimes of the rich and powerful.

TED Talks Elitist

TED Talks

I happened upon a page for the TED Talks where they try to answer the question, Is TED Elitist? The thing about elitism is that those who suffer from it don’t normally understand what the issue is. And TED is no exception. Here is their answer to the question: “Is TED elitist? In a nutshell, no. It certainly attracts people who are regarded as elite in their area of expertise. But the word ‘elitist’ implies exclusionary, and we’ve taken many steps in recent years to open up the live conferences to as broad an audience as possible.”

No one is arguing that TED (or any other group) should grab people off the street and put them on stage. “And now Homeless Bob will tell us what he thinks about recent advances in radiation therapy.” Nor is anyone saying that the talks are not widely available. Although it is worth remembering that in notable cases, TED has refused to release talks, and that does have to do with TED’s elitism.

What makes TED elitist is how they push ideas that comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. My favorite example of this is Mike Rowe of the show Dirty Jobs talking about how kids would be happier if they just accepted crummy jobs. You see, Rowe has been around a bunch of people doing crummy jobs and they were all happy. I might point out that he is around them only when the film crew is and people are actively paying attention and caring about the work they do. But the issue is deeper than that. In the one example he gave, the man owned his own farm or business (it wasn’t clear); he wasn’t some day laborer or someone working at McDonald’s. So the fact of the matter is that a young person is no more likely to succeed at these dirty jobs than are at anything else. To top it all off, should a celebrity worth $35 million really be telling kids to forsake their dreams?

This is what I wrote back in August:

TED Talks are geared toward the elites and what their interests are. Basically, it is a series by, for, and of Michael Bloomberg. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is the implication that these talks don’t funnel the truth into a very narrow Overton Window: that occupied by the mainstream media—socially liberal but economically quite conservative.

Of course, the ultimate example of TED elitism is how the group tried to censor Nick Hanauer’s talk on income inequality. I’m sure that TED felt very comfortable booking Hanauer. He’s a billionaire, after all. But then he talked about how the rich are not job creators. The horror! Eventually TED was forced to release the video. But if Hanauer’s video had been how the rich create jobs, the video would have been released with no thought at all. And that is why TED is an elitist group. It isn’t because they feature elite speakers. It isn’t because they don’t distribute video of their talks to the prols. It is because they provide a megaphone for the interests of the elite.


If you haven’t seen it, check out Hanauer’s excellent speech. Only an elitist could have thought this talk was controversial:

TED Talk images used under Fair Use.