So Much for Hope

After reflecting about my hopes for 2016 a month ago, I was hopeful and now look at what happens. The stock market is down with a vengeance, but hope says that in the long term, this will have been just another missed buying opportunity. The rational agents in the market are not so rational after all, or as Christian’s would say ‘God works in mysterious ways’. All it shows, though, is that after a relentless talking down of overvalued stocks, 2015 markets could hardly hold on to their values and now finally let go. On the political front, all is contorted as the Donald tries very hard to lose support by insulting everyone and even seems willing to shoot someone in broad daylight to just accomplish this. Donald’s supporters stubbornly hold on to him, while stock owners are rushing to discard their doomed holdings, buying bonds and holding on to their cash. We humans do vote with our guts, and our guts mostly care about what others are doing. We desperately look for winners and run away from losers. At this time it seems hard to stick to ones conviction, no matter how rational and foundational they seem to us. After all, we want to be right, and then we want to be loved, and then we want to be respected. And the best way to get there is to join the majority. So we sell loosing assets hoping not to lose it all, or we support the presidential candidate more likely to win (all these Trump supporters can’t be wrong, now can they), as we hate to waste our vote. Yet this desire to join the winning team misleads us since both the stock market and the elections are systems where the outcome changes the input and individual actions are not isolated and predictable, but rather through their influence on other individuals’ actions, form a feed-back loop that we cannot really control. To make matters worse, our thinking is linear, believing that what is happening now is happening for ever, neither willing to anticipate change nor being able to predict its exact occurrence. As they say in mutual fund statements, past returns do not guarantee future returns. So we are stuck between individual psychology and group think. It becomes hard not to believe that this time it is different, oscillating from greed and exuberance to doom and despair. So when people say that we are more divided than ever, do not believe them. Go ask a historian instead, it simply means that what happens now feels more visceral than what happened a long time ago. It does not mean that the past was only glorious and obvious. It never was when it happened. So stick to your believes and your goals and keep on going. Good luck.

The Hopes for 2016

2016 brings hope for more justice. Hope for a criminal justice system that is more transparent, fair and focused on rehabilitation. One of the best way to do that is to  protect the innocent, outlaw inhuman incarceration practices (solitary confinement), to never try juveniles in adult court and most of all to abolish the death penalty.

Hope for a family court system that stops forcing children into custody of child abusers. One of the best and most direct way to accomplish this is to eliminate the common accusation of parental alienation, when a women, concerned that her child is ordered to spend time with an abusive man is accused of alienating the child against the father simply because she tries to protect the child from certain abuse.

Hope for a police force that rather then systematically regarding black people as dangerous, giving black America the same benefit of the doubt it gives white America. The best way of doing this is to start confronting our representation of history, which discounts the trauma of the past injustice called slavery.

These hopes are based on the ability of Americans to become fearful of their fear rather than to demand safety through restrictions on freedom and justice based on fear of terrorism, immigration and foreign religion.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Today is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations from December 10, 1948. Some of the most basic human rights include, but are not limited to, equality and dignity, freedom from discrimination based on race color, sex, religion and the right to life, liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to slavery and torture, and shall enjoy the equal protection before the law.

Here’s how to argue for gun control legislation

The current voices demanding registration of Muslims and refugees from the Middle East do so to keep Americans safe. Or so goes the story, suggesting that the trade off in violating privacy and unreasonable search and seizure by the government is just what is necessary to prevent a terrorist attack on US soil. The same voices, ironically, happen to be vehemently against gun control legislation in this country, although a majority of Americans think a registry of gun owner ship is a reasonable way to make this country safer from mass shootings in our schools, churches and shopping malls. Opponents of gun control argue that the Second Amendment trumps Government intrusion into law abiding citizen’s life.

If registration of all refugees and Muslims makes us safer, it follows that a nation-wide registry of gun owners should also make us safer, since guns are the primary weapon of choice in mass killings. Who is doing the killings? By taking a look at the most notorious mass shooting in the last 30 years in the US (see LA Times), the killers are mostly men, mostly white, and mostly between 20 and 40 years old. So here is our target group, young white men, most likely to kill.

In arguing differently for different groups, I sense a tad of discrimination against ‘strangers’, the other ‘folks’ whose customs we barely understand, but which we target out of fear and who are made into scapegoats by our government, politicians and ‘law abiding’ citizens. It’s not an American problem, to be sure, it is a human problem to single out a whole group of people because a few individuals of such a group (e.g. Muslims) are committing heinous crimes. But alas, if Americans commit heinous crimes, we do not blame us all, but call the killers for what they are, criminals and psychopaths, mentally disturbed or brain washed, fanatics, radicals, and definitely not like us. We react shocked and claim ignorance about the killers’ motives and retreat into and find solace in categories of good and evil. And only evil people need registration.