Friday, December 31, 2010

The Day Social Security Fails

Austrian Economists, and anybody capable of doing simple arithmetic, have all said that Social Security is in near danger of bankruptcy. For many years the date to watch was 2018, and recently due to Great Depression Two it has moved up to 2016.

The date is based on when Social Security starts paying out more than it receives in revenue. The predictions, based on extensions of existing trends, is that the surplus revenue would slowly diminish until finally the fund breaks even, and then as the trend reverses would cause annual deficits in the Social Security budget.

That leads to two possible interpretations of what will happen next.

Those who fervently believe in government, in spite of all the evidence, are convinced that there will not be a problem until 2038 (previously 2042) because the Treasury Bonds that comprise the Trust Fund will be cashed in.

Everyone else considers 2016 to be the day the program goes bankrupt.

To cash in the treasury bonds will require that the federal budget be running a surplus.

Even though the Social Security budget is running lean, barely breaking even, this problem could be dealt with even now by politicians with courage and intelligence to tackle the hard problems. Based on that this problem will not be dealt with until the last moment, at which time it will be too late.

But none of this is new. Why mention it now? It was previously noted that there was a potential for the United States government to attempt to shore up the losses by seizing private retirement funds.

It is already happening in Europe.

Planning for the future is the responsible thing to do - depending on the government to provide is both irresponsible and unethical. But planning for the future is also something that the government may be making it more difficult to do and punish people for doing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Freedom is Slavery

The United States is, of course, a free country.

There is evidence that the law serves the government instead of serving the people, that those who irritate authority will be punished without regards to law, and that when police misconduct becomes so blatant that it cannot be ignored the offenders will not be punished. But the United States is still a free country.

We have freedom of movement in this country. True, the screening standards by the TSA are secret so those who travel cannot make an informed decision before entering the airport about whether or not they wish to submit to the intensive physical search. The intensive search, compared often to molestation or rape, is the alternative for those who do not wish to submit to a nude screening. Those who, upon finding out what the search entails decide to not be searched, instead of merely being denied entry to their flight, are threatened with a fine of approximately $10,000 and sometimes arrested. When someone is giving the choice of submitting to sexual advances or being hurt for failing to do so, it is considered sexual assault. But the United States is still a free country.

Of course, there are choices other than flying. One can avoid the TSA by taking the bus, or one can drive. Soon all methods of transportation will be under TSA control and all citizens will need TSA permission to go anywhere. But the United States is still a free country.

Originally the Interstate Commerce Clause was interpreted to only apply to actual interstate commerce. In the 1930s the Supreme Court found an interpretation whereby any activity that impacts interstate commerce can be regulated under that clause. Any item grown for personal consumption is something that would otherwise be purchased, and if purchased might possibly be purchased from someone out of state. That is one of the alleged constitutional supports for the drug war. Now, with the healthcare reform passed by President Obama, even even inactivity is considered activity with regards to the commerce clause. The government has the power to dictate both what we purchase AND what we do not purchase. But the United States is still a free country.

Since the United States is a capitalist country, people are still free to engage in many business opportunities in spite of the restrictions of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Of course there are many licensing requirements that prevent people from entering many fields that would allow people to rise out of poverty. There are still more fields than can ever be covered by piecemeal regulations, so sweeping legislation has been enacted to cover all fields and limit or prevent the ability of the people to conduct business. But the United States is still a free country.

The Third Amendment to the Constitution was written to secure people from being compelled to act as agents of the government. When it was written there were few ways in which that could happen, the most common was forcing people to quarter troops. Today there are many more ways in which a person can be forced to act on behalf of the government. There is no proof that Joseph Nacchio of Qwest was indicted for refusing to be a government spy. Anyone who thinks so is a conspiracy theorist. And there is no proof that the women who accused Julian Assange had political motivations. It is true that due to the proliferation of laws, anyone can be accused at any time for unknown and obscure crimes, and that the government could use that power to punish those whose actions are otherwise untouchable. But the United States is still a free country.

When those issues are brought up, people insist that they are all necessary to maintain freedom in the United States, because otherwise there would be anarchy. Someone, somewhere, will describe each of those intrusions as a necessary price to pay for freedom. People are required to submit because of the social contract which is the price people pay for living in society. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote "None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." With all these freedoms, because the United States is still a free country, it certainly is true that Freedom is Slavery.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ignorance is Strength

The recent controversy over Wikileaks has put the position of government officials on an informed population in plain view. It is obvious to everyone that the government officials do not want people to know what the government is doing, and are going to great lengths to keep people uninformed, not only by targeting Julian Assange with trumped up charges, but by keeping the conversation focused on the act of leaking instead of on the content of the leaks. But the Wikileaks controversy is just one of the many ways in which there is a demonstrated preference for an uninformed population.

In "The Fountainhead", the antagonist Ellsworth Toohey described the general terms of his plans for taming mankind by comparing it to growing a garden. Instead of spending time plucking out each weed one at a time, he described preparing the soil in such a way that certain crops are encouraged and others are discouraged. Then he described intentionally preparing the soil so that weeds strangle other plants.

Starting with the preparation of the soil, John Taylor Gatto has described government education in very severe and exacting detail, pointing out over and over how government schools not only fail to educate on the topics one traditionally thinks schools should cover, but teach many topics one would not think schools should cover.

The superficial design flaws of the public school system help mask the fundamental design flaws. In general people are so busy worrying about why the schools don't teach our kids to read that they don't notice what they ARE teaching them. Schools teach conformity above all else. Schools, in addition to teaching us to conform and obey, are very purposeless. The article Why Nerds are Unpopular shows the nature of the social structure of a school. This is the down side of the herd mentality. The up side (which is even worse) is the herd mentality itself.

The result is a population that is largely illiterate in English, Math, Science, Economics, and Philosophy. Although the empire needs educated people to administer the empire, it also needs a population that is uneducated in everything except conformity to be an empire - a crippling internal contradiction.

Next is the planting of intellectual seeds, in which the range of allowable ideas is strictly controlled through an infotainment industry encouraged by the ruling class. Much of the news is celebrity personality gossip, and what little issue-oriented debate that occurs is careful to be confined to an allowable range of ideas. This was most blatantly on display when Fox News refused to allow Ron Paul to attend a debate of Republican Presidential Candidates, as he was considered "not legitimate." Certain seeds are not planted - very few colleges or universities teach Von Mises in their economics department or Ayn Rand in the philosophy department or literature department. Usually in order for such classes to exist there has to be a special endowment from an outside source.

Once the allowable range of ideas is fully defined, everyone can have their choices carefully tailored to guarantee the correct outcome. Everyone is asked if they will choose between a Republican or a Democrat on election day. Other options simply aren't discussed. People can have a choice, but the choice is meaningless.

Finally there is the full bloom of the garden described by Ellsworth Toohey. Very few people question the official narrative of events. When George W. Bush spoke about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, it was only the non-mainstream media that questioned him. When George W. Bush and Barack Obama enacted bailouts, the only debate was on the size, and not if bailouts work in the first place as that was settled Keynesian economics. And when Julian Assange posted leaked government documents, the debate centers on whether or not he was right to do so, whether he is a journalist or an activist, what crimes the Obama justice department would charge him with, and not on the content of the documents themselves and not on the crimes committed by government officials as described by the documents.

The final harvest is an undereducated ignorant population so that those who are in the ruling class can have the power to deal with the population from a position of strength.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

War is Peace

One of the effects of the Wikileaks document dump has been to undermine the case for the war on terror by showing how many of the supposed reasons were fabrications, as well as the opinions of the allies of the US with regards to the war on terror.

Of course, apologists for war point out the necessity of each involvement. But examining the root of each argument finds that the arguments themselves are unsupported. Each intervention is necessary because of the prior intervention, but what was the basis for the prior intervention? The War on Terror is a result of the interventions during the Cold War, the Cold War was a result of interventions during World War Two, and World War Two was a result of interventions during World War One, but what was the basis for intervening in World War One?

It is an elaborate interdependent structure, each piece connecting to every other piece, every facet supported by some other facet, and the whole structure supported by absolutely nothing.

That is important. The whole structure is supported by nothing.

That is what Wikileaks has shown us. There is no support for this whole structure. The US has a military presence in so many countries around the world because the US has a military presence in so many countries around the world. It is not in actual defense of anything, unless you count bases in one foreign country defending bases in another foreign country.

Of course, noticing this will get a person labeled "Isolationist" by those who refuse to tell the difference between "isolationist" and "noninterventionist." Yes, all isolationists are by default noninterventionists, but not all noninterventionists are isolationists, with some preferring to have peaceful relations with all and entangling alliances with none.

So the reason there are bases all around the world waging war in distant lands? It is to keep the peace, because if the US were not waging war on everyone there might be war, even war against the US. Instead the US is waging "peace" in Afghanistan, waging "peace" in Iraq, and threatening to wage "peace" against Iran as a way to prevent the US from having to wage war.

It’s nothing more than a circular argument suspended in midair. Wikileaks has committed the crime of pointing that out.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More on Unions

In order to prove that libertarians are hostile to unions in general, and not merely hostile to them receiving special favors or benefits from the government, a staunch progressive referenced an article by Professor William Hutt: Trade Unions: The Private Use of Coercive Power. In it, Professor Hutt makes the argument that the strike or threat of a strike is a coercive act.

That article is actually little better than a diatribe against the economic ignorance of unions, their members, and their leadership. While it is clear that Professor Hutt stops short of forbidding unions the right to act, and thus the article does fit in within the realm of libertarian thought, it is also clear that the article is quite far off base when it describes a strike as coercion.

Only at the very end of the article does Professor Hutt actually get to one of the legitimate critique of unions expressed by libertarians, and that is their political activities to get them special favors or special benefits from the government.

But by calling a strike "coercion" he opens the door for asking for government intervention, the step he stops short of. If there must be a government, acting against coercion, acting against the use of force or the threat of force, is one of the few areas where it should act.

If there is a right to conduct business, there is also a right to not conduct business. It cannot be coercion to refuse to conduct business. There cannot be one without the other. That is what a strike is. And unions themselves are a right of free association.

The other factor is that he describes how unions hurt their own cause. Take any issue libertarians stand for, and it is obvious that libertarians have absolutely no interest in stopping people from hurting themselves. This is evident in every single moral issue on which libertarians and conservatives disagree.

The only redeeming factor in the essay is that Professor Hutt did stop short of advocating legal restrictions on unions. But he is truly straying beyond libertarian thought when he goes so far as to call striking or threatening to strike by the term "coercion."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monadnock Valley

One thing that a political party does not want is to be the party in charge during a disaster, especially one that the public considers preventable. An economic downturn is a prime example of this sort of event, where both parties try to take credit for any economic upswing and blame the other for any economic decline.

As bad as the current economic decline has been, something much worse is on the horizon, something that is preventable assuming even a little bit of political courage. Of course, needing a little bit of political courage is exactly why nothing will be done about the bust of Social Security in 2016. So rather than do anything about it, Obama may be playing to lose.

Now it appears that the Republicans may have caught on to that strategy. The Tea Party may have given the Republicans an unexpected victory, which would add yet one more reason for the mainstream Republican Party to dislike the Tea Party movement. But interestingly enough, before the 2010 victory, Republicans were not talking about Sarah Palin as a viable presidential candidate.

This could be an example of "Play to lose will you? Well then, take this: Candidate Palin."

Of course finding political connections between Palin and Soros adds an interesting twist.

But there is one more outcome if the Republicans have also decided to play to lose in 2012. They could pull a Monadnock Valley.

In "The Fountainhead," a con-man hires Howard Roark to build the Monadnock Valley vacation resort. Nobody can figure out what is wrong with the project until it is completed and starts turning a profit. It turned out that the con-man expected to fail and double sold the stock. If the project had failed he would keep the money from the excess stock sail, but since it succeeded he had to pay $2 in dividends for every $1 in profit.

The con-man chose Howard Roark because conventional wisdom said he was the worst architect, but it turned out that conventional wisdom was wrong he was actually the best architect.

The Republicans may wind up picking a “Monadnock candidate" in the 2012 elections. They may pick a candidate who they expect to lose, but will not only win but be able to handle the economic woes afflicting the nation. They wouldn’t handle then in a way that keeps the elite in their privileged positions, but the problems would be taken care of.

Who would be a "Monadnock candidate" if the Republicans did this? It would have to be someone that conventional wisdom considers to be a poor candidate but has the potential to deliver far more than conventional wisdom could ever anticipate. The list is not large, but it includes Representative Ron Paul, Senator Rand Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, and Governor Gary Johnson. Of course, the Democrats probably have their own "Monadnock candidates" but they will probably not run as Obama will likely be the Democrat candidate in 2012.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

National Opt Out Day

In response to the TSA giving passengers a choice between either being electronically strip searched or an overly aggressive pat-down, and threatening to fine those who upon discovering the choice decide to leave the airport, there is an event, National Opt Out Day. Those who have been protesting the TSA for years welcome everyone else to the protest, and are heartened to find out that there really is a limit to how much the American people will endure.

An “opt out” is when a passenger chooses to not undergo a virtual strip search, and instead endures the punitive pat-down instead. National Opt Out Day is a day when as many people as possible are encouraged to opt for the punitive pat-down instead of the virtual strip search. The participants are also supposed to insist on the optional private pat-down room.

The effects of a sufficiently large number of passengers doing this will be chaos. Checkpoints have a very limited number of private pat-down rooms, and a limited number of screeners to perform all of these examinations. Given that the standard operating procedure of the TSA is to put people into the virtual strip search machine whenever it is available, even if there are passengers waiting for the pat-down, this will create tremendous delays and tie up large amounts of TSA resources.

One possible outcome is that those who opt-out will simply have to wait until they receive their pat-down, even if that means they miss their flight. Another possible outcome is that the TSA will anticipate this by adding many additional screeners for that day and setting up impromptu private screening rooms. Another possible outcome is that the TSA will simply not operate the virtual strip search machines, although there is evidence that they absolutely will not back down at all.

For those who wish for an entertaining way to opt-out, there is an entertaining way to do so.

It has been determined that the technology does not penetrate skin very deeply, and as a result has a very difficult time scanning through leather. So in order to opt-out without actually saying "opt-out", the solution is to wear nothing but leather. This involves leather shirt, pants, and underwear.

A leather jacket is insufficient because the TSA requires passengers to remove jackets and sweaters. But if a sweater is worn as a shirt, the TSA will allow the passenger to leave it on. So the shirt and pants must both be leather without a jacket. As an additional layer of protection leather underwear will guarantee privacy protection. Being thick, when the TSA attempts to grope the passenger, leather provides a layer of additional protection by virtue of the thickness, giving protection from all but the most determined groping. All these items can be easily purchased on Amazon as a way to celebrate National Opt Out Day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Southern Strategy?

Whenever the Republicans lose an election, they blame it on "RINOs", since no person would actually cast an informed vote against a Republican. Whenever the Democrats lose an election, they blame it on the stupidity of the voting public, since no person would actually cast an informed vote against a Democrat. It's a very old pattern that found expression during the Bush election with the famous "Jesusland" map, as well as maps comparing the red versus blue states to the maps of the War Between the States. Since the current electoral results show Democrats losing, it is worthwhile to rebut one of the claims of how they unfairly lost.

The most insidious explanation for Democrat losses is "the Southern Strategy", which is a severe insult against all Southerners as ignorant racists. It is one of the most hyped theories around, but it is not a given that it even exists. It traces to the musings of one Republican who was a racist, but doesn't trace to any actual proof that any actual strategy even exists in the first place. All evidence for it is circumstantial - that since the late 60s the Solid South stopped voting Solid Democrat and started voting Republican a lot more often.

The Southern Strategy is allegedly based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the fact that it was signed by a Democrat president, even though it was put on his desk because Congressional Republicans pushed it through. Key votes are examined such as when Goldwater voted for every Civil Rights Act before the 1964 one, and key votes are ignored such as when Goldwater's opponents voted against every Civil Rights Act before the 1964 one.

The theory states that because a Democrat president signed the Civil Rights Act, the ignorant and racist South turned Republican. The facts do not support that assertion.

Democrat Jimmy Carter's won victories in every Southern state except for Virginia and Oklahoma in the 1976 Presidential election, years after the alleged emergence of the Southern Strategy.

Democrat Bill Clinton was able to win five southern states twice (Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia) and two states once (Georgia in 1992 and Florida in 1996). Virginia, Texas and North Carolina were won by the Republican candidates by significantly smaller margins than usual.

The first Southern state to give the GOP control of both its governorship and its legislature was Florida. It did not do this until 1998. Florida has an atypical population for a Southern state, with a large retiree population from northern states and also a large Cuban population that leans Republican due to a shared opposition to Fidel Castro.

Georgia did not elect its first post-Reconstruction GOP governor until 2002. Until 2005, Louisiana had been represented since Reconstruction only by Democratic Senators. Arkansas has two Democratic Senators, a Democratic governor, three out of four of their U.S. representatives are Democrats, every statewide office is held by a Democrat, and their state legislature is Democratic. Tennessee and North Carolina have a majority Democratic delegation in the U.S. House of representatives. Mississippi has a house delegation that is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

It seems that the "Southern Strategy" which is quoted so often is more the musings of one particular racist Republican and not a Republican Party policy. Nixon is supposed to be the epitome of the evil American politician, but he is still just one person.

What caused the South to shift from Solid Democrat to mixed?

In the 1970s the Moral Majority was actually a factor. Its leaders endorsed the Republican Party, and it morphed into the modern phenomenon of the Religious Right. The South, being the home of Southern Baptist fundamentalism (a whole different creature from Puritan fundamentalism), was wooed into the Republican Party that way.

Another factor is Air Conditioning. One of the reasons heavy development didn't occur in the South is the fact that it gets hotter there in the summer than it does in the Rust Belt. It's easy to heat a building; it's harder to cool it. Couple the widespread use of Air Conditioning with the fact of overly-strong pro-union legislation in Northern States, and the result is that many businesses become willing to relocate to the South, and people moving there along with the businesses. The South has experienced population growth above and beyond that of other areas in the country - and that is not due to a birth rate but immigration from other states.

Plus the Republican Party has done a better job of appealing to the "common man." The Democrats appeal to the lower classes is more to the "down and out". The "common man" works for a living, the Democrats campaign towards those who live off of government handouts. When Reagan played "Born in the USA" at the 1984 Republican Convention, it was a strategic coup, because it identified the GOP with those who work hard all day then kick back with a beer to relax while watching a game on television. The Democrats, when not identified with the lowest class, identify with New England wine drinking elitists.

New England is one more reason that the Solid South fractured. The elitism of New England has never gone away, and the disdain New England feels for the South is matched only by the resentment the South feels for New England. One side still resents the abuses of reconstruction. The other side still resents that an entire region of the country dared question the doctrine of central authority. When the Democrats embraced New England, they sundered themselves from the South. Even as late as 1996 Georgians were worried that during the Olympics that the liberal elitist journalists would come down from the North, look for the absolute worst and most backwards parts of Georgia, and send back images saying "This is Georgia today." It's like going to a mansion and only photographing the angst-ridden teenager's bedroom.

Puritan Fundamentalism no longer exists in the form it did back then. It still exists, but in a secularized way. Instead of trying to create God's Kingdom on Earth, ruled over by pious Elites, the modern Democrats try to create a Socialist Utopia on Earth, ruled over by Elites. One look at the Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign shows this tendency. There wasn't a single position that she took in her entire campaign that wasn't "I know best about everything in your life and if you give me absolute power I will create a secular God's Kingdom on Earth."

Religion, industry, air conditioning, elitism, the difference between the common man and the downtrodden masses, many things went into the fracturing of the Solid South. Blaming it all on the words of one racist Republican is terminally short sighted to a degree that it can only make sense if someone desperately wants it to be true, but not in any actual analysis. What that really proves is that the south is not solid in either direction. Any remarks about how the Civil Rights Act did this are little more than sour grapes, saying "how dare those ignorant racist southern rednecks not deliver the vote for us like they should."

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Did Obama Play to Lose?

The election put Republicans in charge of the House of Representatives and weakened the Democratic majority in the Senate. Commentators, both right and left, are wondering if the influence of the Tea Party was more of a help or a hindrance, given that in the Nevada and Delaware Senate races, the people elected Democrats over Republicans supported by the Tea Party, but overall it was a gain for the Republicans.

But of greater influence was Obama himself. Even the influence of the Tea Party is a derivative of his own influence. And President Obama has been quite a different person from Candidate Obama. When he was a candidate, he played the "Hope and Change" mantra to the fullest, inspiring audiences with the possibilities of what he would accomplish. In many ways he was a blank slate on which people would draw whatever they wanted to see in a presidential candidate.

Upon assuming office, much of the glamor quickly faded. He got mired in the details, and failed to lead his own party in pushing issues favored by his party’s base. Those who are more observant knew that Obama wasn’t a peace candidate, that he only appeared that way because he was running against Hillary Clinton and later John McCain, and those two were so militaristic that anyone would appear peaceful compared to them. The genuine peace candidates in the Democratic Party primary washed out quickly, one of them transferring to the Libertarian Party.

Since he assumed office, he has alienated two of the traditional bases of the Democratic Party; feminists, and those who support gay rights.

On the issue of gay rights, it was a Republican appointed judge who overturned California Proposition 8, and it was a Republican plaintiff who launched the most successful attack on Don't Ask Don't Tell. Obama has refused to do anything about Don't Ask Don't Tell, allowing Harry Reid to stick it in a bill in such a way to guarantee its failure, and he has refused to move on marriage equality.

On the issue of feminism, it was reported that a woman who was an actual DNC delegate in 2008 reported that she could barely stomach voting for Democrats in the comment section of a New York Times opinion piece. Unable to link to the comment, this paraphrase will have to do to express her complaints:
*misogynistic tactics used against Clinton in the 2008 campaign (which apparently still lurks unhappily in some women's memories)
*freely slung accusations of racism to anyone who does not support Obama past or present
*democratic/liberal assertions that Islam is religion of peace, while, to any western woman's perspective, it is polluted by the subjugation and abuse of women
*reproductive rights no longer hold the sway over female voters that they once did, either because they believe them to be ironclad or they have developed pro-life leanings to whatever modest degree
*Democrats have done little more for women than have Republicans in the past 30+ years

Obama's proudest achievement is a version of Healthcare Reform so watered down and compromised that most progressives are unable to actually claim it as an achievement without holding their nose. As a candidate, he was in favor of Universal Health Care. As president, he was in favor of Single Payer. The bill he signed contained nothing but countless new regulations and a mandate to buy insurance or be fined.

While some analysts are suggesting that the Republican victory in 2010 will result in an Obama reelection in 2012, perhaps that is not Obama’s plan.

The winner of the 2012 election will be in a very bad situation. The economy will have made little improvement at best, and according to current projections the breakeven year for Social Security is 2016. That means whoever wins the 2012 election will have to deal with the fiscal mess of the collapse of Social Security, an unenviable position.

Had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Primary in 2008, it would have guaranteed a Republican victory in the general election. Continued economic woes as started under President Bush would continue, and the Republicans would have nobody to blame and the public would not blame anyone else, resulting in a Democratic victory in 2012 and leaving them with the "hot potato" as a result.

Instead Obama entered the race to beat Hillary, and then went on to use popular dissatisfaction with the status quo and Republican leadership to win the presidential race in 2008. By then failing to achieve anything, and giving the country laughable examples of attempts to fix the economy, by alienating his own base by failing to lead, he may be working to ensure a Republican victory in 2012 and thus leave them with the upcoming financial catastrophe.

One does not succeed in politics by only thinking in the short term. The leadership of both parties know this, and have to think beyond the next election even if those who are in office seldom think that far ahead.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The TSA goes even farther

The leadership of the TSA is quite aware of the complaints people have against their Advanced Imaging Technology, formerly Whole Body Imaging. Both the Millimeter Wave and the Backscatter X-Ray devices are virtual strip searches, and at best are on very shaky constitutional ground, and the Backscatter X-Ray technology favored by the TSA also produces deadly ionizing radiation. The TSA is also determined to perform these virtual strip searches on minors.

To quell public discontent, the TSA implemented an opt-out program where someone can go through a Walk-Through Metal Detector and be frisked. If an airport does not have an electronic strip search, or a passenger is not selected for it, the metal detector without a frisking is sufficient to clear a person - but if a person actively does not want to be strip searched suddenly the metal detector is not sufficient to clear a person. This has led to accusations that the frisking is retaliatory for those who do not want to be strip searched.

In spite of public opposition, the electronic strip searches are being implemented at more airports. Assurances by the TSA that the searches are completely safe, that the images cannot be stored, and that they aren’t as revealing as feared, have been shown to be false.

People were still opting out of the electronic strip search; some for safety reason, some for constitutional reasons, and some because they did not want their children to be imaged nude. So the TSA has instituted a much more aggressive frisking for anyone who exercises their right to opt out of being strip searched.

There is new information. Although it is only in the rumor stage, apparently it may soon be the case where opt-out is more difficult, to the point where they are as optional as the "optional" showing of ID to the Travel Document Checker, and some rumors that light pat-downs may become mandatory for everyone. There have not yet been any official announcements, but reports from travelers who heard this from TSOs indicates that the TSA is going even farther is violating the rights of all people guilty of wanting to get from one location to another quickly. The frisking of passengers is to get even more intimate than the already recognized "enhanced pat down". There are even reports of the hands of TSOs going inside the clothing of travelers.

It seemed impossible, but the TSA has made flying even worse, even more uncomfortable, for the public. There is, however, a way to deal with this.

Travelers should always opt out of being strip-searched. When the TSO orders the pat-down, the traveler should be sure to demand that a Law Enforcement Official and a video camera both be present at the time so that sexual assault charges can be filed immediately. Above all, the traveler should always be as polite as possible because any rudeness is all the excuse government goons need to say that the traveler was the cause of any disruption and to have the traveler arrested instead of the TSO.

If the TSO forbids an opt-out, which they should not do but enforcement on the front lines is erratic and up to the unpredictable whims of the front line agents, and the traveler has any minor children also traveling, the TSOs at that location should be reported for child pornography.

It is time to take the war back to the TSA. It is well known that the mindset of the TSA is that every traveler is a potential criminal and should be treated like a suspected criminal. It is time for the TSA to have their employees treated like the criminals they are and report them to law enforcement at every opportunity.

UPDATE: Ironically, the next attack appears to be through parcels shipped by air and not on a person but the response by the TSA is to be more aggressive searches of passengers. Although there is no connection between the premise and the conclusion that is standard operating procedure for the TSA.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Debt to GDP

Government debt as a percentage of GDP is a popular measurement to determine if a government is spending too much, with various "thresholds" given for when the debt gets too excessive. Unfortunately it is not a good measure in itself.

The first problem is with the items being measured. GDP is measured with the formula "Y = C + I + G + ( X - M )", or GDP is equal to consumption plus investment plus government spending plus exports minus imports. Although there are many criticisms of GDP the worst is that it includes government spending as a positive component.

Government spending is, at best, a transfer instead of an actual investment or consumption. A measure of the GDP that leaves that out would be "Y = C + I + X - M". But given that there’s inefficiency in the process, every government dollar spent is actually a drain on the economy. They Keynesian "multiplier effect" is a myth unsubstantiated by actual results. To measure the full effect of GDP would be to subtract government spending, giving "Y = C + I + X - M - G".

The other part of the ratio, the debt, is also a problem. The government debt is not a stationary target, but is moving, which means to get an effective measurement includes the deficits. That means government spending is on both sides of the ratio. Increasing government spending will increase both GDP and Debt, making all ratio measurements unreliable.

The second problem is that debt to GDP is used to measure a government's ability to repay the government debt. That implies that the government has a claim on the GDP of a country, which implies that the government has a claim on the whole of the wealth of a country. Any attempt to claim that wealth in an effort to pay off the debt would destroy the economy and deplete the wealth of the country.

Third, given that both parts are moving targets, an 'improving' ratio doesn't necessarily show any greater or lesser responsibility on the part of politicians. If the debt increases slower than the GDP climbs, or if the debt decreases but the GDP decreases by a smaller amount, the result is the appearance of improvement. Reverse the ratios and it gives the appearance of economic degradation. In the first half of each example, debt increased. In the second half of each example, the GDP declined. None of those are good, but two of them give the appearance of a better economy.

Fourth, the measures can be manipulated. Take a country with a debt to GDP ratio far in excess of 100%, such as 130% or higher. That country's government can use the central bank to monetize the debt and borrow money a thousand times more than owed before, such as a country that owes trillions can create quadrillions. The government can then spend the money. That would surely alter the GDP equation, with G increasing by an exponential amount while C, I, X, and M trend towards zero, leaving Y increasing while basically equaling G. Debt would also be basically equal to the newly created money, leading to a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 100%. By those who favor debt to GDP as a measure, that leads to the conclusion that the economy of that country has improved, while any objective measure would show hyperinflation and the collapse of the economy.

There really is little use in debt as a percentage of GDP. It doesn't measure what it is supposed to measure, it is very prone to manipulation, and its components aren't very as reliable as one would desire in an economic measure.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to win in Afghanistan

There is a way the United States can win in Afghanistan. There actually is a way. The solution is to refer to Afghanis as "Sioux" and refer to one of our generals as "Sherman." This would be a bad thing to do.

It is always risky to give ideas to statists. No matter how absurd or sarcastic the idea, there is a danger they will take it seriously and try to implement it as policy. For instance, every time the subject of raising the minimum wage comes up, someone suggests raising minimum wage an absurd amount. After all, if the current minimum wage isn’t considered a "livable wage," raising it by 50¢ per hour will not transform the minimum wage into a "livable wage."

In 2001, the city of Santa Monica took the suggestion seriously and tried to set the minimum wage for that city at more than double the national minimum wage and 68% higher than the state minimum wage.

The most successful invasion of Afghanistan was by Genghis Khan. He slaughtered all warriors, sent all artisans out of country back to Mongola, massacred the population, and the young women and children were given to his soldiers as slaves.

There is a reason that kind of war will not be waged. In spite of the subservience of the mainstream media in not reporting atrocities, waging a war of extermination on that scale would be too hard to hide. The United States, under Bush and Obama, already has a horrible international reputation, and it could not endure the international condemnation that would be the result of such an activity. Waging war on that scale would finally mobilize the world to stop the United States, and finally end the United State Empire.

For the United States, this would be a very bad idea. It would destroy any remaining illusion about what the United States have become. But it could be done because the United States do have experience waging this kind of war. Just ask General Sherman or the Sioux.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

California Proposition 19

When discussing voting, the point was made that there is a good side and a bad side to every ballot proposition. That is actually an exaggeration, as some ballot propositions are procedural and have no impact on individual liberty. Examples of this are California's 2010 propositions 20 and 27 which address redistricting, which the Libertarian Party of California has taken no position on.

Then there are complex measures, which have positive features and negative features. Those require more careful analysis, to determine whether the overall effect of the proposition is more beneficial than harmful. An example of that is Proposition 19, which has caused debate in libertarian circles.

Of course the purist argument is that "legalize it and tax it" contains three unnecessary words, that all that should be needed is "legalize it." In a perfect world a simple "legalize it" would be on the ballot, but the absence of a perfect proposition shouldn’t deter people from analyzing whether Proposition 19 is worth voting for.

So is Proposition 19 more beneficial than baleful?

According to Ballotpedia if Proposition 19 passes then the laws are greatly loosened. Persons over the age of 21 will be able to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana.

It does not address federal activities, and it is theoretically possible that local police could ignore this law by working with federal law enforcement. An unnoticed criticism of Proposition 19 is that, like 10th Amendment resolutions, it lacks teeth. Many police and district attorneys are against Proposition 19, and while they will be unable to directly act against small marijuana users they can always encourage cooperation with the DEA.

Overall though it is a step in the right direction. Not a full step, not a perfect step, but definitely in the right direction. Given how few steps there are in any good direction, this is definitely worth supporting.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

This Troop Doesn't Want Your Support

I wrote this essay back in 2005. I was still in the military then, and quite disgusted with the "support" I received with regards to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2007 I left the military after ten years of service and have never looked back. This message is meant for those who "support the troops", and if you support bringing them home then you are not one of the people I accuse with this article. By posting it here I'm probably "preaching to the choir" but after finding it recently when going through old papers I really felt strongly about publishing it.

Every time I go out, I see magnetic ribbons in yellow, or red white and blue, or worst of all desert camouflage, bearing the logo "support our troops", with the proceeds for the purchase of that ribbon going to a factory in China. Sometimes the ribbon also includes the image of a cross, incorporating the Christian message of peace into the ribbon's message of war.

As one of the troops that you are supporting with that ribbon, I have to say I do not want and I do not need your support. I know what your support means, and your support is unwelcome. It is possible that your support means that you want to keep me out of harm’s way, that I can stay with my family. I very much want to stay at home with my wife, to watch my infant son grow up, and I do not want to die in a pointless conflict started by politicians. I joined the military to defend the constitution, and if I must fight I would prefer that be the reason.

Yes, it is possible I would fight for that reason, but that is not what your support means. Your support means that I have to go fight for political causes. The more you support me, the more likely it is that I am going to be sent to Iraq to be shot and killed by those who do not want me there. Your support means that I am more likely to die.

Because you support me, it means that I may spend at least six months, possibly several years, apart from my wife. I will not see my son grow up because you support me. I will not be there to see his first steps or hear his first words because you support me. Because you support them, my fellow troops who have completed their contractual obligations cannot be released from their service contracts, and because you support me that might happen to me too.

Because you support me, I am more likely to get killed.

Because you support me my son would grow up without a father.

Because you support me my wife could become an untimely young widow.

Because you support me I may be sent over there to be killed.

Because you supported others and they were sent over and killed. You say you do not want the deaths from your support to be in vain. You want to honor their deaths by supporting the yet more deaths.

If your support kills me, you will honor me by supporting other troops while they are sent over there to die, so that my death would not be considered vain. You will support me by creating more widows and more orphans.

If your support kills me, which is what you ask for when you say you support me, then the way I want my death honored is by ensuring there are no more deaths to honor my death.

That is what your support means. That is why I do not want any of your so-called support.

There is only one way to truly support me. You can make sure my wife does not become a widow. You can make sure my son does not become an orphan. You can support me only by keeping me out of harm’s way. If you want to support the mission, you can still show support for the troops by taking the place of the troop. Until then, you can keep your support.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do Authoritarians understand Libertairans?

Sometimes, after hearing anti-authoritarian arguments, a question comes up: do those who are against libertarian ideas even know what they are arguing against? It seems that some are confused when someone takes a principled stand against government wrongdoing in the abstract.

Take the case when someone argues against police abuse invariably suggest that the only reason someone could take a stand against police activity is due to personal animosity due to a personal bad experience. Very shortly in the conversation the topic will turn to what individual personal experiences one has had that could cause someone to actually have a bad opinion.

If someone takes a stand about taxation, especially taxation in whole as a concept, the assumption is always that the person taking that stand is doing so because he simply wants his own taxes lowered. Often it is simply assumed that the actual argument is nothing more than a cover, in order to create the illusion that there is theory behind the anti-tax argument.

It is the same with arguments about drug use, in which advocating legalization is assumed to be because it is a cover for personal use of drugs. And the Tea Party protests are assumed to be angry because a particular party is out of office and not because of the policies of the party that is in office. Arguments against business licensing reduce to wanting to got to unscrupulous or unqualified vendors, or wanting to be an unscrupulous or unqualified vendor.

Over and over the one thing missing is any recognition that someone is actually making a principled pro-liberty argument. Authoritarians seem incapable of believing that a pro-liberty argument is being made.

Are libertarians capable of understanding authoritarians? In general later societal stages can understand earlier ones. If they try barbarians can understand tribesmen and citizens can understand barbarians. Libertarians can understand that authoritarians believe people need to be taken care of. Do authoritarians understand that libertarians believe people don’t need to be taken care of?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Third Party Distractions

In 1992, both of the major parties had fielded uninspiring candidates for president. It seemed to be a promising year for a solid third party candidate. Instead Ross Perot entered the race, left the race, and then entered the race again. The result was that any genuinely independent movement had its energy taken over by a solidly establishment third party candidate.

In 2000, both of the major parties had fielded uninspiring candidates for president. It seemed to be a promising year for a solid third party candidate. Instead Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan balanced each other out with Buchanan destroying what was left of the Reform Party and Nader giving Democrats solid reason to reverse their prior opinion of third party “interlopers.”

In 2010, in California, both of the major parties are fielding uninspiring candidates for governor. It would be a promising year for a solid third party candidate, so all of the third party energy is being focused instead of Chelene Nightingale as a way to vote for someone other than Meg Whitman (R) or Jerry Brown (D).

There really is only one truly solid and independent third party, only one that can honestly claim to be equally distant from both of the major parties. Although “wasted vote” is a fallacy, almost all of the third and minor parties can be considered more closely aligned to one of the two major parties. The Libertarian Party is exceptional in that regard in that it honestly is not closer to either party.

Although neither will mention the subject, both the major parties are cognizant of the special status of the libertarian party. That may be why, whenever there is a third party threat, it appears than an effort is made to find a third party contender that is not a member of the Libertarian Party.

A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties can be more easily accused of stealing votes. A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties can have the constituency more easily reabsorbed. A third party candidate who is more closely aligned to one of the major parties does not challenge the status quo as a whole. And if the third party candidate is eccentric, all the better.

That may be why, whenever both the major parties field weak candidates at the same time, the press is even less eager to cover libertarians. Andre Marrou was more serious than Ross Perot. Harry Brown was more serious than Patrick Buchanan and Ralph Nader. That’s why Ross Perot, Patrick Buchanan, and Ralph Nader got all the press.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Near-miss Libertarian

Although the world is full of unpleasant examples of socialism, apparently not a single country that embraced central planning has ever counted as an example in any discussion of the subject. In each and every case the country in question wasn’t “real” socialism. It is a giant international game of "No True Scotsman" with regards to socialism. Every country in the Warsaw Pact, as well as China, Cuba, and North Korea are not examples of real socialism.

It may be necessary to deny all the examples of the failures of central planning are examples of socialism. After all, if one were to admit them as evidence, it would be necessary to conclude that socialism as an economic system does not work.

This stands in stark contrast to classical liberalism, where imperfect examples are embraced, with the caveat that they are imperfect examples and there are aspects of those examples that are illibertarian.

One of the first examples is the United States, usually prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve but often prior to the New Deal. Libertarians will grant that the setup had the flaws, most notably slavery. Other examples include many other western countries during the time between the final defeat of Napoleon and the outbreak of World War One, in spite of their colonialism. Or further back in history, there is Medieval Iceland, which lasted three hundred hears before becoming a territory of Norway.

Although each example had flaws, libertarians embrace them as examples because they show that the closer a country has gotten to the classic liberal ideal the better off that country has been.

Statists have counter-arguments to the trend the examples show. The first counter-argument is The Temporal Fallacy wherein they argue that, due to technological advancements since then, that today’s situation is clearly better in every respect. The truth is that technologically today’s situation is improved, and the rest does not follow.

A second argument is to deliberately confuse the flaw with the example. If a libertarians says "although this example had the glaring flaw of slavery…" the statist will respond as if the libertarian had said “this example has the virtue of slavery” and accuse the libertarian of being a defender of the flaw instead of condemning the flaw. The statist will then feel free to ignore the point of the example.

Either of those arguments is easily countered. The principle stands as a shining one – the closer a country has gotten to liberty the better off that country has been. This includes many countries that count as examples, and even a few that are decidedly not libertarian countries but have become more free in various areas, such as when communist China decontrolled various parts of the economy creating an economic powerhouse. The principle is clear to anyone willing to see.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Libertarian, Liberal, Progressive

Most of the debate between different political ideologies (as opposed to “our guy is better than your guy” debates) occurs between liberals and libertarians. The ideological debates that pit conservatives versus liberals or libertarians come in a weak second.

Why is it that the fiercest debates occur between liberals and libertarians? It is not out of any leanings towards conservatives that these debates occur. Conservatives allege they share economics with libertarians but a closer examination proves otherwise. Conservatives are quick to steal libertarian rhetoric but fail to follow through on it. The real reason there is so little debate is because there is so little to conservatism. Mercantilism isn’t a school of economics as much as it is a way for people to use the government to line their own pockets and the rest of what is commonly called “conservatism” is a morality platform based loosely on religious concepts. That is why Jerry Pournelle listed conservatism as irrationalist, while he listed both liberalism and libertarianism as rationalist.

Liberalism and libertarianism spring from the same root, classical liberalism. One side emphasizes liberty, and the other equality. Both see the other as essentially missing the point, which is somewhat ironic given that essentially the two are trying to achieve the same thing but by entirely different methods. The programs suggested, the laws sponsored, are opposed to each other to achieve what is ultimately the same goal. Liberals and libertarians both have their root in the enlightenment and try, in different ways, to seek justice. One seeks it through equality, the other through egalitarianism.

That is why there is plenty of room for debate. But that is not a full analysis of why there is such fierce debate between liberalism and libertarianism. Another reason is that many who would be called liberal are instead progressive. Libertarians and liberals pursue opposite policies for identical goals. Liberals and progressives pursue identical policies for opposite goals. Progressivism doesn’t share the Classic Liberal root of both libertarianism and liberalism, but instead uses the tools of liberals for their own ends. Since they advocate the same policies they seem to be the same.

There is no common ground between progressives and libertarians, other than also both being listed as "rationalist" by Jerry Pournelle. One seeks justice through liberty. The other seeks control through dependence on the government. The programs advocated by liberals are precisely the tools progressives can use because the argument can be easily made that the programs are there to help the recipient. And in being helped, they become dependent until the progressive achieves his goal: everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.

One argument is a civil war. The other is oil and water. In both cases, unlike the conservative, there actually is substance though. And the progressives do worry every time the phrase "liberaltarian" comes up or liberals and libertarians find common ground, because if the two children of classical liberalism were to ever rejoin the progressives would be through.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

False flag cell phone guns

One alleged reason that the police are so quick to take action against anyone who uses a cell phone to make a video recording of their activities is because the cell phone might actually be a weapon. And there are two reported incidents of firearms that are disguised as cell phones.

The first was discovered in 2000. The second was discovered in 2008. Their existence was verified by Snopes. There are a few problems with the reports though.

First, the only reports of these disguised firearms come from reports of the police finding them. There are no reports of anyone ever actually using these firearms. There is never even any follow-up to the stories, such as trials for those the police seized these firearms from.

Second, although the design of cell phones has changed during the eight years between the two stories, the pictures are nearly identical to the point where it is very possible that they are pictures of the same firearm. If they are not the same firearm then they were manufactured from identical cell phones by the same person and function the same way.

Third, there are only two incidents in eight years. One report could mean this is an isolated incident of one person trying to disguise a gun. More than one report means these are being manufactured in some bulk. But if they are being manufactured in that way why are there only two incidents?

To believe the official version of events it is necessary to believe that the government never runs any false flag operations. On the other hand, to believe that this is a set up by the government to give police an excuse to confiscate any cell phones (that coincidentally have cameras) is to be a conspiracy theorist. Never mind that when cell phones are returned the videos have been deleted.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lemonade and Nullification

Recently yet another group of bureaucrats tried to shut down yet another lemonade stand by yet another child trying to raise pocket money. Predictably people thought this quite absurd, and the county backed down in this case with Oregon County Chairman Jeff Cogen issuing an apology for the incident.

This parallels an older case where some students spontaneously broke into song at the Lincoln Memorial, singing the national anthem and were told by the park police that it wasn’t allowed because it was a demonstration. Bystanders supported the students and joined in the song in spite of a rule being broke.

Although it can easily be argued that the park police and the health department bureaucrats were wrong to enforce the law the way it was written, the actions by the observers and onlookers was most curious. Most people do not know of or agree with the concept of nullification, and yet in both cases they were advocating it.

Libertarians have long advocated jury nullification and judicial nullification. It is not as often discussed, although it is agreed with when police nullification is brought up as well. But just as libertarians are the only ones to agree with the concept of jury nullification, they are also the only ones to agree with the concept of police nullification.

Many people are unjustifiably afraid of nullification, except for judicial nullification. Perhaps the reason that they are not afraid of judicial nullification is because judges are in a special position of authority, all the credentials that the average person lacks. When a police officer, or worse a jury member, nullifies a law that puts decision making power several layers downward and out of the hands of the elite.

Of course that is not the argument made. People argue against nullification on the grounds that they do not want juries and police simply making up laws, completely ignoring that nullifying a law is the exact opposite of making up a law. They also argue that the principle of nullification would enable corrupt police to fail to enforce the law on their friends, forgetting that that already happens.

Those who support not enforcing the law on the child selling lemonade are advocating nullification, whether they know it or not. Those who oppose nullification should support full enforcement of the law on children selling lemonade.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Legal Positivsm

There seems to be, in the United States, a general assumption that when something is immoral it should be illegal, and if something is illegal it is therefore immoral. This assumption most often strikes those who argue against state interference, since the accusation is always that those who favor liberty therefore favor immorality. People also conflate opposing a program or strategy with opposing the goal of that program or strategy, because a law has been passed to make it so and that makes it good. Has legal positivism actually taken hold in the United States? Or is it the case that it is a convenient mental shortcut for a population no longer skilled at thinking about issues in depth?

Legal positivism is an enemy of any natural rights basis for formulating law. Under natural rights there are standards that a government must not cross, but under legal positivism there are no such standards since the law itself is the standard. Defenders of the state will try to paint libertarians in a bad light by saying “the laws you object to are legally enacted by the duly elected representatives of the American people and those representatives are elected and re-elected without any real objection from the majority of the American people.” That phrase aptly describes the Fugitive Slave Laws, and those who make that argument should be reminded of that fact.

A stronger case can be made that the average person is not a full legal positivist. To be an actual positivist is to embrace a philosophical system. Most people instead think of themselves as pragmatic while endorsing some of the most non-pragmatic laws and programs. It could be called intellectual laziness, but most people have never bothered to consider matters deeply. People seldom actually consider things to be right or wrong because it is law, but instead take the lesser positivist route and believe that what is right and wrong should be made into law.

It is necessary to disengage morality and legality from each other if liberty is to be achieved. If it is possible to say "that is immoral but should not be illegal" and to have that not sound strange then people are free. That they are so often found together shows the inroads legal positivism has made through a combination of poor education and laziness.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wikileaks and Telling Forbidden Truths

"I like the pretty lies" - Myca, The Crow

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell, My Few Wise Words of Wisdom

In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged there is a scene early in the book when Dagny Taggart is trying to get the Rio Norte line built against the combined challenges of her looter opponents. To circumvent the difficulties she creates her own company, the John Galt line. The point of that scene is the immense pretense she had to go through to get the looters to leave her alone. Jim Taggart, near the end of the scene said "nobody must know it." Dagny responds with "everyone will know it, Jim. But since nobody will admit it openly, everybody will be satisfied."

In the United States, on so many issues, there are many things which everybody knows but few admit. When people repeat lies that they know are lies, because the lies are what they are supposed to repeat, then speaking the truth is indeed a radical act and condemned as such. And one of the issues it is true of is the military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When someone, in a discussion of the wars, talks of civilian casualties as a criticism of the wars the response is to pooh-pooh it as unsupported, or as being anti-American, or as conspiracy theory. Everyone knew that there were massive civilian casualties, but as long as nobody admitted it then it was considered acceptable to ignore it.

Wikileaks broke the convention by not only saying it, but by giving solid support to what everyone already knew.

Because it is still unpopular to discuss the issues raised by the content of the leaked documents and leaked videos, most people prefer to discuss just how dangerous Wikileaks is to national security and whether or not the owner should be considered a traitor or a terrorist.

The documents are valuable, and not because they reveal anything new. To some extent it could be said that they reveal a depth that was previously unknown, but that isn't new information as much as it is an expanse of information.

Many who support the military activity insist that only government sources or American media sources are to be trusted for information about the wars. That is where the true value of Wikileaks comes in because the video from Iraq and the documents about Afghanistan are from government sources, the most trusted source of war supporters. It is no longer possible to dismiss the information as anti-American propaganda.

That's why supporters of the war don't want to discuss the content of the leaks at all. But it is too late, Wikileaks already "admitted it openly."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Cities are Falling

The city of Maywood, CA, recently shut down their police department and outsourced all services. This is because their police department was so corrupt that the city could no longer afford the insurance necessary to guard against lawsuits. They outsourced their police protection to the city of Bell, CA.

The city of Bell, CA, was the next city in the news. It was discovered by the Los Angeles Times that City Manager Robert Rizzo was making $787,637 per year, Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia was making $376,288, and Police Chief Randy Adams was making $457,000. The city has a population of 36,664 and a median income of $29,946, well below the state average.

For two weeks in a row, there has been overflow attendance at city council meetings. The first time the council immediately recessed for seven hours, not resuming business until after midnight. The second time the council reconvened earlier to meet the demands of their citizens. When the citizens of Bell demanded the resignation of the whole council, the response was that the mayor offered to work the rest of his term for no pay and the rest of the council offered to work at one-tenth their prior pay.

As it was members of the police department who allegedly tipped off the Los Angeles Times regarding the pay issue, it was thought that the city council was going to disband their police force in retaliation at that second meeting and turn security over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It was even reported by John and Ken that there was an agreement between Police Chief Adams and Sheriff Baca that ensured the Sheriff’s Department would not hire any of the displaced police. So far the department is still intact, although the threat of retribution is still very real.

On Monday, July 26, State Attorney General Jerry Brown issued a subpoena for all city records, giving the city officials 48 hours to comply. It is doubtful that in any case not involving government officials he would announce that the culprits have 48 hours to destroy all evidence. Eventually a police raid did occur, not led by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department or any state enforcement agency, but by Police Chief Adams who was barred from his own office.

There is obviously a lot of corruption in the city of Bell, just as there is in the city of Maywood. The mood in Bell was extremely bitter to the point where city councilmen desired police protection to simply get from their cars to the city council meeting.

These are just current events. It was California that also hosted the first city to go bankrupt as a result of the Greater Depression, the city of Vallejo. Across the state of California, and across much of the nation as well, cities are being hit hard.

Listening to John and Ken report on it, one thing became clear: the people are angrier than ever. In spite of efforts to force the Tea Party movement into picking a side and only one side, keeping the greater freedom movement divided, the people as a whole are angrier than ever before. Had it been announced that the crowd had turned violent, it would not have been surprising to any listener.

Many people are starting to see a definite possibility of a second American Revolution, probably more similar to The French Revolution than the first American Revolution. As each new scandal of each new city hits the news, each scandal worse than the one before, it gives reason to ponder if that revolution could be sparked by a particularly corrupt city and a riot that gets out of control.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Overused Tactic

If an average American were accused of being a Tory, he’d probably shrug his shoulders and consider it a silly thing to say. During the American Revolution, however, it was a potent insult. Call him a Papist and he’ll understand that it refers to Catholicism, but will find it an odd way of putting it. If called a Communist most would find it funny, although that does still retain some sting.

The truth is that labels meant to be insults do lose their power over time. Sometimes the issue ages out, such as when calling someone a Tory. Sometimes the label looses effect due to overuse, such as when calling someone a Racist.

It has come to the point where the term "racist" has become so completely overused that it is losing its impact. There was a time when a person so accused would take great offense and spend much time demonstrating a lack of racist tendencies. The typical response now is to sigh and accuse the other person of making the accusation due to having run out of actual arguments.

The reason it was overused is because the person making the accusation typically did resort to it due to having run out of actual arguments. Now an outside observer, hearing a progressive refer to someone else as a racist, hears "he's saying that guy isn't a progressive."

That is what happened when the president of the NAACP, Ben Jealous, called out the Tea Party movement as racist. It was such an obviously cynical and transparent ploy that it takes a determined effort to believe that there is any legitimacy to the claim.

He was called out on it a cynical and sarcastic response by Mark Williams of Tea Party Express. While the Tea Party Express is one of the groups trying to co-opt the Tea Party movement with false promises of "enemy of my enemy" and "lesser of two evils", in this instance Mr. Williams was right. He compared the NAACP to slaves rejecting an offer of freedom.

For that he was pilloried in the media as racist. While the National Tea Party Federation did expel him, the wider reaction was interesting. Most progressives worked hard to convince themselves that the letter was itself racist. Everyone else yawned.

While it is good that those who dare to oppose progressive are no longer afraid of the charge, the unfortunate effect about the diminished meaning of the word "racism" is that it enables the few real racists to defend themselves with "he called me that because I’m not progressive enough."

Once again, a useful word has been destroyed by progressives. First the word "liberal" was taken to mean the reverse of what it originally meant and now "racist" has come to mean nothing at all.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tea Party Protest History

The first of the modern Tea Party protests took place in 2007. It was a combined event, both a protest against the excessive spending of George W. Bush and a campaign event of presidential candidate Ron Paul. Throughout 2008 more of these combined events occurred.

This is important to remember, because while the current state of the Tea Party movement is such to cause many libertarians and other freedom lovers to be a little cautious of the current Tea Party protests, especially those that emphasize the pseudo-patriotism of the current military misadventures in the Middle East, especially the Tea Party Express AstroTurf movement, the history is still noble.

Currently progressive and liberal critics of the Tea Party movement like to ask the question where the protesters were before February 2009. This is asked in order to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the protesters by highlighting how they didn’t protest spending under Bush. This allegedly shows that the protests aren’t based on spending but either on partisanship or on alleged (but never proven) racism.

It is true that after the election many people joined the movement who were not in it previously. It is true that many of these late-comers could have their concern described as partisan instead of fiscal, but certainly not all of them. The same can be said about the reduced attendance in anti-war protests since January 2009.

The history of the Tea Party protests is also forgotten by members of the Republican Party trying to absorb the Tea Party protests with false promises of “enemy of my enemy” and “lesser of two evils” who do not want to recall the true origin of the protests. To acknowledge where the protests came from is to acknowledge the dirty secret of Republican fiscal irresponsibility and to lose the audience they wish to capture.

History is inconvenient, and thus forgotten.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Fascism with Free Speech

One of the most difficult challenges people face in convincing people that the United States is far from free is that, for the most part, people still have a considerable amount of the right to free speech as allegedly protected by the first amendment.

There have not been any incidents to truly rival the White Rose Resistance Movement of Nazi Germany, in which the six people who were handing out pamphlets criticizing the government were executed. It is true that compared to Nazi Germany, Americans have pretty impressive free speech rights. Anybody can start a blog, or post to any internet forum, and criticize the leadership of the United States. There is no crime in saying that George W. Bush and Barack Obama are incompetent, idiotic, despotic psychopaths.

But doing so has no impact.

Sometimes internet activity can have an impact. In the case of Michael Nifong, William Anderson’s relentless blogging, combined with the defendants having the resources to defend themselves, not only led to the case being dismissed but to Nifong being disbarred, losing his job, and spending an entire day in jail. It was clear that the trial of Nifong had the entire court staff mystified because it was a prosecutor being put on trial for prosecutorial conduct. But that was an isolated case. Libertarians commenting on the case tried repeatedly to branch the discussion from this particular example to the behavior of the legal system in the United States and the behavior of prosecutors, only to have the audience disappear every time. While this particular case was impacted, the system as a whole was not impacted.

Or there is the case of the Critical Mass Cyclist, where the internet forced the case to not only be dropped but for the officer involved to be stripped of his badge. He was not incarcerated for his crime. This relates to the case of the BART shooting in Oakland, where the officer was convicted of fourth degree manslaughter because of the large number of cell phones recording the shooting - after the police attempted to confiscate all the cell phones in the vicinity of the shooting. In both of those cases, modern technology facilitated free speech to achieve some (albeit insufficient) justice, but libertarians commenting on the cases tried to branch the discussion from isolated incidents to police behavior in general, only to have the audience disappear every time.

In these specific instances, in these specific cases, the specific people involved were impacted by free speech, but the overall system was not impacted. Even so, there is discussion inside Washington on how to regulate blogging, because even isolated incidents show that the power of the elite is not absolute. It is when speech starts having an impact that government officials seem to be more than willing to sacrifice the first amendment. It is already the case that elected officials believe campaign contributions are not a form of speech at all, and have managed to convince many people of that.

Radio personalities John and Ken of KFI640 were unhappy with Congressman David Dreier area over the topic of illegal immigration. So they led a campaign to have him lose his next election, calling it "Fire Dreier" and urging people to vote against him due to his stand on illegal immigration. Their impact was such that, in his safe district, he won by a small margin instead of a large margin. That result was so troubling that the Republican Party filed an FEC complaint against them in a deliberate effort to chill political speech. The FEC has not taken any action against John and Ken or KFI.

Unlike the victory of John and Ken, Julian Heicklen is constantly being abused by those in authority, so that when he is not being arrested by police he is being involuntarily committed to the hospital. He is receiving this treatment for handing out FIJA pamphlets in front of court houses. He is not a major radio personality in a major media market, and that is why the police can continue to get away with this kind of abuse. FIJA pamphlets are a direct assault on the court system which has conspired to prevent people from exercising their full rights as jurors. In some states, such as California, it is currently illegal to hand out pamphlets on court house grounds at all, unlike in the places were Julian Heicklen does his work.

It is clear that free speech is under assault, but in a very careful manner to protect all speech except for speech that may actually make a difference. That way the average American will not ever encounter a situation where he will find his free speech to be limited, and thus will never believe that free speech is limited in the first place.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Prison Normal

Andy Dufresne: I just don't understand what happened in there, that's all.
Heywood: Old man's crazy as a rat in a tin shithouse, is what.
Red: Oh Heywood, that's enough out of you!
Ernie: I heard he had you shittin' in your pants!
Heywood: Fuck you!
Red: Would you knock it off? Brooks ain't no bug. He's just... just institutionalized.
Heywood: Institutionalized, my ass.
Red: The man's been in here fifty years, Heywood. Fifty years! This is all he knows. In here, he's an important man. He's an educated man. Outside, he's nothin'! Just a used up con with arthritis in both hands. Probably couldn't get a library card if he tried! You know what I'm tryin' to say?
Floyd: Red, I do believe you're talking out of your ass.
Red: You believe whatever you want, Floyd. But I'm tellin' you these walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized.
Heywood: Shit. I could never get like that.
Prisoner: Oh yeah? Say that when you been here as long as Brooks has.
Red: Goddamn right. They send you here for life, and that's exactly what they take. The part that counts, anyway.

- The Shawshank Redemption

One of the more amazing things about people is their ability to adapt to almost any circumstance. No matter how unusual the situation people develop means of coping and new routines to accommodate the extremes that they face. Some people even move towards considering the unusual situation as the normal situation.

In "The Shawshank Redemption" the character of Brooks had been in prison for fifty years. Hearing that he was about to be paroled he snapped and attacked another inmate. He did this because he knew no other life than prison, and he wanted to stay inside. According to the character Red, Brooks had become institutionalized. Prison was normal for him.

After a century, most people in the United States have come to believe that an unbacked fiat currency is normal. People have come to expect an average of three percent inflation per year is normal. In the course of one century the dollar has lost ninety-eight percent of its value, and people have come to think of that as normal.

People have come to think of it as so normal that they have come to think of other arrangements as being completely abnormal. It is argued that a modern economy cannot grow without a constantly inflating fiat currency. They are experiencing "Prison normal".

The real miracle of the United States economy is that it has been prosperous for so long in an abnormal situation. It takes a long time to drain the wealth of a wealthy nation, which is why the abnormal situation was able to continue for long enough to become a Prison Normal situation. The steps that are necessary to return the economy to a truly normal state are considered abnormal, extremist. The average American has become institutionalized.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Against Milton Friedman

Upon seeing "Fear the Boom and Bust”, the Keynes versus Hayek rap video, the following email was sent to the producers of that video:

On Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 11:39 AM, Ayn R. Key wrote:

Having Keynes versus Hayek was great. Loved the imagery of alcohol and hangover, and the reference to Tim and Ben.

Next, Hayek (or Rothbard or Mises) versus Friedman (or Fisher, where Friedman got all his ideas from) please.

I'm tired of people thinking that Chicago School Monetarists are some sort of libertarians.

The following response was forthcoming:

On Thu, Apr22, 2010 at 9:16 AM, John Papola wrote:

Thanks for the note! Explaining the differences of the two schools of thought is useful and we'll be getting to it in our extended content via interviews. It's a little too nuanced for a rap song.

Have you read Roger Garrison's "Time and Money”? There is much more in common between the Austrian theory of the business cycle and Milton's monetarism than meets the eye. If we can't call Milton a libertarian, we're doomed. I'm not big on libertarian factionalism. Compared with our opponents on the Keynes/Marx statist side, the differences between Hayek and Friedman are inconsequential in my opinion. Friedman was also very successful in moving public opinion and the profession away from Keynes. For that we should all be grateful.

Friedman, Hayek, Mises and Rothbard are all awesome in different ways.

For reasons unknown, Milton Friedman is considered to be a libertarian thinker, especially in matters economic. He is often used as an example of libertarian thinking by those who are not libertarians but wish to reference libertarians to support a point.

The problem is, Milton Friedman was a Monetarist. As pointed out, Monetarism is not the same thing as Capitalism. When compared to Keynesianism then of course it appears to be more libertarian, but that is an awfully low bar to measure against.

There are many critiques libertarians can make against Friedman, such as his relationship to Pinochet or how he instituted income tax withholding, but the most fundamental one is that he, like Irving Fisher, advocated central banking.

If Keynesians are to be considered as saying that two and two make eight, and Austrians are to be considered as saying that two and two make four, then Monetarists try to position themselves as moderates by saying that two and two make six. They may be closer than Keynesians, but they are still quite wrong. Central banking, the defining position of Monetarists, is causing yet another catastrophic collapse, and people actually are calling it libertarian? Calling it so is a gift to the statists that they couldn't even hope for.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A second civil war

It comes up every once in a while in libertarian circles, more often in some boards than in others and more often as we near the anniversary of the secession of 1776 - a discussion of a potential future civil war that could theoretically restore liberty in the United States. Although entertaining to think about an uprising can have disastrous consequences, or if it is the wrong uprising can be a disaster itself.

One of the ways it could go horribly wrong is if the conflict is steered into red versus blue, red states versus blue states. Neither the Democrats and their supporters nor the Republicans and their supporters represent greater liberty, but instead offer competing versions of how the government should run the lives of the people. The leadership of both parties believe that they are entitled to rule others. Yet this is a particularly likely form of civil war due to it perpetuating the basic right versus left division that has kept the freedom movement divided against each other instead of the common foe, and kept the people divided so that they do not notice the common foe.

What could undo that possibility is if both a red state and a blue state were to nullify or secede for different reasons at the same time. Supposing California seceded over marijuana legalization while Texas seceded over health care reform, at the same time. By both acts occurring near each other it would prevent those in charge from saying that pulling away is uniquely red or uniquely blue.

Another possibility is a very messy war composed of many factions, both within and outside the government. Although this gives the freedom movement more opportunities, it will take a lot longer to resolve and it will mean many more enemies. This would come about if an over grown government begins to splinter under its own weight. Different areas of the country could come under different rule not by secession but by different agencies or commands declaring different fiefdoms. It is already the case where the military is establishing a command with the special focus of inside the United States, and there are the ever present rumors about FEMA camps.

Then there is the possibility of a groundswell in the form of riots. Some predict that they will be triggered by the depression getting worse, or by a lack of food. Given the success of public education it will take a lot to get to this point. The people have been successfully taught that there are only two respectable sources for answers to political questions, and anything else is fringe and to be ignored. These same people also do not like the answers they are getting from the only two sources they have learned they should listen to. It is a nasty dilemma that the average person is in, and the frustration can lead to chaos. This type of uprising could lead to a revolution more like the French Revolution than either of the American Revolutions.

The only real option for the freedom movement in the face of those possibilities is to try to build strong networks of mutual support. That way if it does come down to people shooting each other the freedom movement will have the advantage of friendly loose organization.

If those in the freedom movement genuinely believe there will be conflict, then the thing that needs to be done is to prepare to ensure it is the right conflict. The wrong conflict could result in a Napoleon or a Lenin seizing control. And even if it is the right conflict, it should be remembered that war is ugly. There may be some opportunity for glory, but there is much more opportunity for gory.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Voting

There are three common arguments made about voting by libertarians. The first is made by those who are too ready to sacrifice principle; that a person must vote for the lesser of two evils. This is a wasted vote. Voting for a Republican or a Democrat on the premise that the candidate from the other major party is worse really makes no difference. First of all most districts are safe districts and the winner of the general election is really determined in the primary. For state-wide races, such as senators or the president, most states are safe states as well.

Voting for the lesser of two evils doesn’t send the message the voter generally assumes will be sent. If a person votes against candidate A by voting for candidate B, all the vote totals show is another vote for candidate B. Votes do not come with labels saying "this is actually a vote against the other candidate", it is counted as a positive endorsement of all the flaws of candidate B.

Maybe in some particular races the counter argument could be made. In Minnesota, for example, the margin of victory in the 2008 senate race was less than the third party total, and Republicans bitterly complained about Libertarians allowing a Democrat to win the office - but Republicans forgot that the votes do not belong to the Republican Party, that they had not earned them, and in fact had acted in such a way as to guarantee that those voters will vote Libertarian. In attempting to make the lesser of two evils argument in that particular case, defenders of lesser of two evils not only undermine their own case, they support showing that the case is the exception and that most races are not nearly that close.

Except for the very extreme case, the vote for a third party will not decide the race between the major party candidates. In Texas, a voter trying to choose between Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party or Barack Obama of the Democratic Party will not swing that state. In California, a voter trying to choose between Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party or John McCain of the Republican Party will not swing that state. Also, a voter choosing between McKinney or Obama in California or Baldwin or McCain in Texas will not change the outcome.

But put it another way, take a theoretical voter trying to decide between Cynthia McKinney as his first choice or Barack Obama as the lesser of two evils candidate. If he votes for McKinney he increases her vote total from 161,603 to 161,604 (a percentage increase of 0.0006), but if he votes for Obama he increases his vote total from 64,639,738 to 64,639,739 (a percentage increase of 0.000000015). Clearly voting for McKinney would have a greater impact.

The two arguments on effective voting center on whether or not someone should vote at all. Well reasoned arguments are made on both sides of the issue. Those against voting are attempting to withhold consent from the state, consent that the state claims to have from participation in the system. Theoretically if someone votes, the person agrees to abide by the outcome of the election. Those in favor of voting, and not for the lesser of two evils, say that only by voting can the voice of the voter be heard, however faintly, alerting those in power to the wishes of the voter.

On the consent issue, the state has constructed an inherently contradictory case. If a person does vote the person is said to have given consent through participation; however, if a person does not vote the person is said to have given consent through not bothering to participate by expressing that the voter is content with any outcome. The two arguments contradict each other, but that is no concern to those who support gaining the illusion of consent. Whether or not someone votes, it is counted as consent, so therefore there is no reason to not vote; better to vote in a way that sends a clear message on the voter’s preference.

It is true that if there is no good candidate then there is no point in voting, but if there is actually a good candidate then by voting for that person it does increase, in however small a number, the chances that said candidate would win and does relay the message of who the voter actually supports and what the voter actually wishes of the government. Since the leaders of the major parties seem to believe that the votes belong to the major parties, by voting outside the two party framework a voter sends a disproportionately loud message by not "giving" to the parties that which "belongs" to them. The more voters fail to "deliver the goods" the more the parties start to work on how they can adjust to cause those voters to return. It is even possible, though unlikely, that the major parties could move towards greater liberty without ever attracting a pro-liberty vote. They will never move in that direction if they can get the pro-liberty vote without effort, or if they do not know that the vote is out there.

But there is one area in which the message sent by voting is unmistakable: ballot propositions. There are only two sides to a ballot proposition: yes and no. One of those options is clearly better, and there is no splitting of the vote with third options on ballot propositions. Sometimes the right side of the ballot proposition wins, such as Proposition 13, and sometimes it loses, such as Proposition 14, but every vote on a ballot proposition counts. There is no argument against voting for a ballot proposition.