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.