Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A food bubble

Food prices are rising. There are food riots in the third world, and food rationing of certain items in the United States. Various analysis pundits are trying to figure out exactly where to place the blame.

This is a real concern, as due to the economic collapse in the United States the prices of many commodities both at home and abroad will be rising. The Federal Reserve insists there is no recession yet, posting a 0.6% growth for the previous quarter, but Shadow Stats begs to differ. There is a possibility that food will become a more scarce commodity, which is why it is important for people to ensure a proper food supply through urban and suburban farming. But we aren’t at the crisis point yet.

Many people blame ethanol, and rightly so. While those who know what foods we should eat enjoy telling us that it takes many pounds of grain to enjoy one pound of beef (based on acreage) any acreage devoted to ethanol cannot be consumed as grain or beef. This has had a direct impact on the price of corn and corn products, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Unknown News author Mahdi Abdul Finke blames the current situation on another speculative bubble. With the Dot Com bubble a distant memory, the Housing Bubble still deflating, and the source of them all, the Currency Bubble, not being reported, other bubbles will of course sprout. Until the Currency Bubble finally pops, pressure will be relieved by venting into other markets, creating bubble conditions there until the subsidiary bubbles pop.

All of the bubbles making headlines are subsidiary bubbles. The reason why various government agencies cannot address the cause of the subsidiary bubbles is because they will not address the root cause of the subsidiary bubbles. As long as the Federal Reserve is not looked at as a cause, as long as it is looked at as a cure, then there will be no way to stop these bubbles from growing in the first place.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a food crisis looming. There is, but the early signs of it are being exacerbated by the Federal Reserve.

Rising fuel prices are at the root of the real aspect of the food crisis. It takes fuel to power farm equipment, and fuel to transport food from growers to consumers. The fuel crisis has two roots. One root is environmentalist policies that restrict drilling for oil, restrict the construction of refineries, and mandate the use of ethanol (it takes 120 barrels of oil to create 100 barrel of ethanol). The other root is the insane policy of aggression towards countries that produce oil, such as Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela.

Since it is more expensive to grow food and to ship food, prices are rising. Since the economy is in a recession and the Housing Bubble has thrown people into panic mode, this hysteria is taking that rise and turning it into a bubble.

While it is an excellent idea to prepare for upcoming food shortages, it is not yet time to panic. It is, instead, time to plant a garden while stocking up on durable food stores.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bugger the TSA

The Transportation Security Administration has a blog. It is intended to facilitate communications between the flying public and the TSA administration. There are a few problems with the blog as it is presented though.

They do not answer questions.

Actually, they do answer some of the questions posted in the comments. They answer the softball questions. They answer the easy questions. They do not answer any of the difficult questions people have been posing to them since the day the blog was introduced.

Here's a good list of questions to bother the TSA with. The blogger team seems intent to let statist commenters handle these questions on their behalf. The goal is to get one of the actual bloggers address these issues.

Dear Blog Team,

1. The demonstrations about imaging technology only shows an image of a man from the rear as proof that frontal images will not show any intimate details. To further support the promise that intimate details are not shown, the viewing screen used by the TSA is carefully protected from view by the public. Given the track record of the TSA on "just trust us" issues, do you really feel yet another "just trust us but don't verify" is a way to increase public trust in the TSA? What measures are being taken to ensure that images from your new advanced technologies are not overly invasive and do not ever leave the TSA?

They finally posted front and rear male and female pictures, so people can individually judge if the process is too invasive.

2. Every chemist who has been asked has answered that there is no scientific basis for the 3-1-1 rule, a binary liquid explosive that is undetectable, stable, and can be easily turned into an explosive. Yes, we know about the London plot, with some guys who had no equipment and no knowledge and no plans beyond the "gee this would be a neat idea" stage, but the fact is that science has refuted both their plot and your rule. We know that the TSA has some data that contradicts the scientific facts, that they have research that contradicts scientific laws, but the TSA research is "classified" and the message from the TSA is "just trust us" with regards to a rule that violates the laws of nature. It's obvious that the TSA itself knows the rule lacks any scientific basis by the free mixing of liquids in an unshielded trash can at the check point. Given all of that, why do you keep the 3-1-1 rule?

They finally answered this one too. It's not a binary liquid, it's a liquid and a powder. The problem is that the concentration of hydrogen peroxide needed to make this work is so very strong that bomb sniffers would always detect it. The 3-1-1 rule is still an unnecessary encumberance.

3. It is TSA policy that TSOs do not have the authority to deny someone the right to fly. It is also TSA policy to not give additional screening to someone as a punishment for complaining. Note, the order of events in that statement is not extra screening leading to complaint, but complaint leading to extra screening. This question has nothing to do with avoiding extra screening by complaining about it - this question has everything to do with getting extra screening because one dared to complain about the TSA. Given that TSOs still hold complainers for extra screening, and given that holding someone for extra screening until after their plane is in the air is de facto denial of flight (although apparently not de jure), is there any plan in place to dicipline screeners to conduct retaliatory screening and de facto denial of flight?

4. Given that nipple rings are clearly not deadly weapons, clearly not disguised weapons, and that a visual inspection was actually offered as a means to solve the alarm situation, why was the traveler with the nipple rings forced to remove them?

5. In the near future, when REAL ID is implemented, the TSA has determined that the only valid IDs for flying are IDs that conform to REAL ID requirements. Several states have announced that they are either delaying or outright denying the REAL ID requirements for their drivers licenses. What plans does the TSA have to give additional screening to 100% of the travelers from those states? Have additional personnel requirements and additional space requirements already been analyzed? Given that one of those states is Arizona, with several major national and international hubs, do you think that the insistance on REAL ID instead of a regular drivers license is overly onerous a burden?

Oh boy did the ever answer this one, in part.. The answer is that every single person from a state that doesn't conform will get the additional screening. They won't budge on the rest and don't care about the intrusiveness. The plan is to blame the state and get the voters angry at their state government instead of the TSA. That is unlikely to work.

6. The biggest security hole is after the TSA inspects baggage and before the baggage is put on the airplane. Since the luggage is all either unlocked or bearing a TSA approved lock that can be easily defeated, and the TSA specifically denies any responsiblity for the baggage after screening, what is to stop a baggage handler from either stealing from the bags or planting a dangerous item in the luggage?

7. What measures are being taken to ensure that terrorists themselves do not infiltrate the TSA with the objective of becoming TSOs and therefore bypass security to get deadly devices planted on airplanes? If you cannot answer that for security reasons, can you tell us if any measures are in place at all?

8. Given that this blog is about facilitating communication, why does nobody on the blog team ever answer comments in any but the most recent entry? Why are these very questions occasionally censored?

The common theme in these questions is that the TSA has an institutional impediment to admitting error. The closest you ever come is "we are reviewing policies." Even the TSA knows the 3-1-1 rule has no scientific backing, but to repeal that regulation is to admit they did something wrong. They cannot admit they did something wrong. Therefore the rule cannot be repealed. The more I question them about their obvious mistakes, the harder it is for them to avoid admitting you made a mistake. They can, and do, make mistakes. They erred on the 3-1-1 rule, they erred on the piercings, they are going to err on REAL ID.

The common theme in the answers previously given is that not even the TSA believes what the TSA tells the public. It would be insulting if you thought your official statement ware meant to be believed. If you actually thought that statements were serious you would be showing contempt for our intelligence. Instead you are simply showing contempt for us. That is beyond insult. It shows you do not care enough about us to even insult us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The War on Education

The governments' policy with regards to education could easily be called “The War on Education” in the sense that the War on Drugs was supposed to eliminate drugs and the War on Poverty was supposed to eliminate poverty, except that unlike the other two this particular war has been successful.

California has done much in recent years to bring the whole conflict on education to the fore, because while other states are quibbling about stilly attempts to insert creationism into the science curriculum California has been arguing the basic premises of the educational system, and coming to the wrong conclusion.

Many people are familiar with a recent ruling against Home Schooling as issued by the California Judicial System. It is bad, but it was bad before the ruling as California has always been hostile to home schooling. The only people who are actually authorized to home school are credentialed educators. The rest have been using a loophole in the law that allows parents to declare their home a private school and thus private school the children at home. While the ruling has prompted potential reform of the law in a way that might increase liberty, it also has the potential to close the loophole instead.

But this needs to be viewed in light of a slightly older ruling issued by the California Judicial System. In the city of Palmdale the students in the elementary school were given very sexually explicit surveys. When parents protested, the courts decreed that parents had no right to protest what the school teaches once the child is handed over to the government schools.

These two items taken together help paint a more full picture of the nature of the problem. Parents cannot withhold their children from government schools, and once parents deliver their children to government schools they have no grounds on which to protest what the schools decide to teach.

Now combine that with the statement of the judge in the home school case

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare,"

A parent must send their child to school, the school is there to teach loyalty to the state, and parents have no grounds on which to protest any topic the school decides is necessary for the education of the children.

It’s bad enough that the schools fail to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but to have to pay for this alternative education really is modern tyranny. That is not an exaggeration. When this is combined with programs such as DARE, where children are encouraged to tell school officials if parents have drugs or guns, the situation is positively frightening.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A proposed solution

There are many proposed ideas on ways to repair the government. The problem with all of these ideas is that none of them have a prayer of passing.

As more and more stories about police abuse appear in the media, as police get ever more abusive, the constant theme going through each of these stories is the severity of the punishment the offending police receive: they really aren't punished. Many of them are suspended with pay. Most of the rest are suspended without pay. A few are actually fired. How many spend time in jail?

The same goes for misbehaving prosecutors, the other half of the offensive power of government, as the police lack the power to convict (in theory, as when pain compliance via taser is administered it is clearly conviction and punishment). When Michael Nifong so severely raped the North Carolina Justice System that it was inescapable that he be disciplined, he spent one whole day in jail.

Obviously there is a major disconnect with the officials of the government policing itself. The police and the prosecutors not only fail to act against offenders within their own ranks and each others ranks, they also fail to act against offenders in other departments of the government.

In England and Australia there is a law that, while seldom used, would be useful to remedy the situation in the United States. The people have the authority to file criminal charges. Given how much more lawsuit happy the people of the United States are, this could easily get out of hand so as an introductory step the people of the United States would better be given the authority to fire criminal charges against government officials.

There would have to be a few conditions on this os as to keep this from getting out of hand. First, the person filing the charge must pay for the initial filing - a successful conviction will warrant reimbursement from the government. Second, prosecutors are not able to take over the prosecution without agreement from the filing party. This will prevent the prosecutor from taking over simply to move that the charges be dropped with prejudice. Third, government attorneys other than those already designated as public defenders may not act as the defense for accused government agents, and only if the government agent passes the means test to qualify for free public defense - which they will not.

No government attorney should be allowed to defend the accused. That would be a conflict of interest.

Given that when a prosecutor accuses a person, if the person successfully defends himself the government does not reimburse the defense, so when a person accuses a government agent the agent should expect no reimbursement from either the government or the filing party. This is quite unlike the loser-pays system of civil suits, and much more like the government's idea of justice ... only applied to the government.

Too bad it has no chance of passing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A new plan to advance liberty

The reason for the delay in this entry was because of the need to confer with financial aid counselors on the feasability of the project described herein.

It is often said that the Libertarian Party or the libertarian ideology has the best product and the worst marketing. Various proposals have been put forward as to how to remedy this situation. One person went so far as to suggest wealthy libertarians pool their resources to create a not-for-profit newspaper with nationwide distribution.

The problems with that situation are numerous, including but not limited to: getting better name recognition by purchasing an established newspaper, newspapers are fading from the scene as national news resources, and actually getting people to read the newspaper in the first place.

Libertarian material is already available in greater quantity (and quality) than ever before. All a person has to do for free literature is visit any near-by Libertarian Party meeting, and the visitor will receive more than ample information to take home and read. It is all over the web, and there are journals available in print such as Reason magazine.

The question of how to reach the people was put to someone who has no experience in marketing, but great experience in problem solving, an engineer with a liking for philosophy. After months of pondering the problem a conclusion was reached:

The problem isn’t that the material isn’t out there. The problem isn’t getting the material to the people, the problem is getting the people to the material.

How can the Libertarian Party, or any other libertarian organization, get the people to the message? How did the socialists do it?

The Socialist Party has never won major elections. There has never been a Socialist Party president. Yet for all of that, their platform has, to a large extent, been passed.

They did it through education. They became teachers, and year after year molded the opinions of future leaders and future teachers. Each generation brought the country a step closer so that while the United States was still fairly free at the beginning of the 20th century, it certainly wasn’t at the beginning of the 21st.

That is why there is one region of the Libertarian Party, a small region, planning on doing something about it.

The Antelope Valley Libertarian Party is starting a scholarship program. As a small region with a small budget, they will only be able to afford one scholarship a year, and not a large scholarship either. Once the program is started it is expected to grow, to eventually offer more and larger scholarship.

This scholarship will be available to anyone who fulfills three requirements.

1. Pays Libertarian Party Dues.
2. Attends Libertarian Party meetings.
3. Is studying to be a High School History Teacher.
4. Is attending California State University at Northridge.

The location was chosen because that is the closest college to offer education as a major. The major was chosen after much deliberation to pick the one major that will, in the long run, increase liberty.

It is a long term investment that won’t see a return for a long time, but as a long term goal this may be the best way to bring people to the message.

Pledges to the fund can be made by contacting the Chair of the AVLP.