Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Social Security Favors Trophy Wives Over Poor Single Moms

My standard reasons for opposing Social Security are of course 1) that it is monumental inter-generational theft from young non-voters by voting seniors, and 2) that it socializes the retirement savings industry and thus reduces the nation's savings rate and ultimately its standard of living.  A recent Cato Institute article reminds us that the Social Security status quo is also unfair to minorities, poor single moms, gays, and couples in which both spouses need to work:

The overwhelming support for the status quo from the political left is shocking, and should be appalling to members of the Democratic Party or anyone who holds [its] liberal values.  [Democrats seek] to protect a system that systematically discriminates against core constituencies of the Democratic Party, a system that disproportionately benefits white women who have never worked a day in their lives over all other groups. Is that a status quo that the Democratic Party wants to be associated with?

The article is a good summary, but for the full extent of Social Security's inequities you have to read the entire statement of  the Urban Institute's Eugene Steuerle before the House Ways and Means Committee last month.  He details how Social Security is unfairly stingy to
  • minorities with shorter life expectancy;
  • non-working spouses who get divorced one day shy of ten years;
  • single heads of families, whose spouse can abandon them without any effect on the future benefits of him or his next spouse;
  • dual-earning couples (compared to couples with the same household income earned by a sole breadwinner);
  • unmarried couples, such as gays or co-habiting heterosexuals;
  • people who marry a lower-earning spouse after a ten-year marriage with a higher-earning spouse;
  • people who work for more than 35 years;
while being unfairly generous to
  • divorced people whose former spouse dies early;
  • trophy spouses whose high-earning spouses are much older; and
  • people with multiple ten-year marriages (who thus get to multiply the survivor benefits paid on their behalf).
For more on Social Security, see Cato's and the excellent coverage by Jim Glass at

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Questions About Heaven For Terri Schiavo's Parents

As someone who has lost a child, I can understand why Terri Schiavo's parents tried to keep Schiavo's body alive. What's harder to understand is why they worked so hard to keep her out of heaven for so long. My tentative hypothesis is that, for all the tenure and firmness of the grip that religion has on humanity, individual humans are intuitively skeptical that there is an afterlife. One way to check your intuitions about heaven is to consider the following questions:

If on Earth you tried but couldn't have a child, can you have one in heaven? If you had a miscarriage on Earth at ten weeks' term, is the child waiting to meet you in heaven? What about discarded human embryos? What about stem cells? If you were a fetus or infant or child at death and get an adult's mind in heaven, what determines your personality? If you were mentally disabled or senile when you received life everlasting, do you get an adult's mind? Are some people in heaven still smarter or funnier than others, or is everyone equally intelligent and witty? Is there humor at all in heaven? Will any joke still seem funny after 100 trillion years? Will you understand (or be able to learn) every principle of math and science? Will you eventually understand everything, and thus face an eternity of having nothing new to learn? Will you know (or be able to learn) every fact of the history of you, your loved ones, humanity, and the Earth in general? Will you know Earth's future, or be able to observe it as it happens? Will others in heaven know (or be able to learn) embarrassing things about your life? Will you be able to remember any sinful pleasures of your mortal life? Will your memory of your sins be wiped clean, or will you still have shame? Will you be able to play games (like chess) with other people in heaven? Will you ever lose? Can you ever improve at such pursuits? Will you be able to take naps, and if so for what duration? Will people ever have differing opinions, interests, or hobbies? Will there be any possible way to create new knowledge or new art? What intellectual person could be happy having an omniscience withhold knowledge from her? What intellectual person could be happy being omniscient and having nothing left to learn?

Will you have a material body in heaven? If so: Will you need to eat and use the bathroom? Will you be subject to the periodic reproduction-related episodes which our bodies experience on Earth? If you were obese all your life, will you be slender in heaven? If you were a bodybuilder, will you keep your muscles? Can you decide to start bodybuilding in heaven? What are the physics and topology of heaven? Is heaven infinitely big, or does it have an edge? Is there gravity? Do heaven's physical laws govern everyone there who isn't God? Is there conservation of mass-energy and momentum? Is there entropy and friction? Are there any material scarcities in heaven, or does God provide an unlimited supply of any material good you desire?

If there are scarcities, then: What are the economics of heaven? Is there an official currency? Is there private property in heaven? What is the discount rate in heaven? I.e., is there a time-value of money, or are all interest rates zero? Is there technology in heaven? Is there capital equipment to help you produce scarce things more efficiently?

What is the biology of heaven? Are there plants and animals, or are the gardeners and pet-lovers and bird-watchers and equestrians out of luck? Do all your dead pets join you in heaven? Can you breed animals in heaven, or do you get a fixed set of them? Do animals that were nobody's pet get an afterlife? Do kittens in heaven never shed, and puppies never chew on your stuff? Do puppies and kittens ever age in heaven?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Error: Integer Underflow In Time Machine

This universe does not allow time travel to moments prior to creation of time machine being used. To access earlier epochs, use an older temporal conveyance such as or