Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kentucky sell-outs may embrace bigot again.

For a brief moment it appeared that the Kentucky Libertarian Party actually remembered what it means to be a libertarian. But just as I was starting to think they got something right the bloody unprincipled morons who run the LP once again proved themselves unworthy of any support.

As you may remember the LP in Kentucky nominated another one of those extreme, has-been Republicans as their Senate candidate. The man, Sonny Landham, is a bigot, a racists, and generally disgusting politician who is so disgusting that not even the Republicans want him.

Landham made bigoted remarks against everyone of Arab descent and advocated a massive increase in US war making. He is also anti civil liberties so he is not a libertarian by any stretch o the imagination. But the LP has become so flexible about principles these days any bigot in Sunday-go-to-meeting sheets can run for office.

The gutless state chairman of the KY LP first claimed that Landham's bigotry was just merely a difference of opinion. Of course it was, you can't have a difference of principles if you don't have principles. Then as the stink got worse they dumped Lanham from the LP ticket. That was the one decent thing I've seen from the LP in a long time.

But that fit of principles didn't last long. Now the state chair is saying that if they remove this bigot as the LP candidate then he won't get to run for the Senate at all. So they are now reconsidering their disendorsement to save Landham's campaign.

Why? Exactly why should they give a bigot ballot status as a libertarian? Landham should never have been nominated. He was clearly anti-libertarian right from the start. But the whores that run the LP in Kentucky wanted him because he is a washed up actor and Republican-reject and that is as good as they could find. See, they aren't trying to get libertarian ideas out. That goal has been scuttled. Now the goal is to maximize votes no matter how badly libertarian principles get twisted along the way.

Maybe, in the end, they will do the right thing. That they are having so much trouble deciding what is the right thing is itself a strong indicator that these sell-outs have utterly corrupted the LP. These people are doing to libertarianism what George Bush has done to the Constitution.

I urge my fellow libertarians to leave the LP. Stop making contributions to this organization. And don't vote Libertarian. The Libertarian Party is now destructive of libertarianism itself. It is libertarian in name only and unworthy of any support.

Photo: I may be mistaken but I think the photo might be the first taken of the 2010 slate of candidates for the Kentucky Libertarian Party.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New York's finest --- finest at what?

The official story, according to the police what that Christopher Long, 29, was riding his bicycle in a dangerous manner during a “Critical Mass” bike ride in New York City. According to the police he weaving in and out of traffic endangering others.

Police officer Patrick Pogan claimed that Long rode his bicycle into him, injuring him and causing Long to fall off his bike. The police gathered around Long and arrested him. They said he committed attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Witnesses said the officers roughed Long up. One said: “They put their knees on top of his head and were smashing him into a phone booth.” Long was carted off to jail for his crimes against the police and sat there for 26 hours.



Many people, perhaps most, would be inclined to believe the story. Three officers were involved in the arrest. And we are told that the police are upstanding individuals “laying their lives on the line” for us and they wouldn’t just make up a story. I mean, if it didn’t happen the way the police say it did are we to believe that a police officer just randomly picked some guy out the crowd and assaulted him? Come on! Who are you going to believe?

Apparently not the police officer. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for Mr. Long a tourist was filming the bike ride in the moments before the incident. And that film clearly caught the actual incident on tape. Here is what you will see.

Officer Pagon is off to the right of the screen. He starts crossing through the bicyclists. You see Long coming up the road. He spots the officer and veers off to his left to avoid hitting the policeman. Pagon, however, intentionally speeds up. He starts to run toward Long and then intentionally hits him with full force knocking him off his bicycle and onto the sidewalk.

One the officer assaulted Long, and not the other way around as the police claimed, Pagon and another officers starting working Long over in the course of “arresting” him. The New York Post says that when the tourist posted the video of the actual incident to YouTube it showed that the reality was far from the official police report. “The criminal complaint drafted by Pogan bears little resemblance to what was witnesses by onlookers and recorded on video.”

Craig Radhuber, 54, was there, just a few feet behind Long. He said that the officer “body-slammed this kid off his bicycle so hard that he went from the lane to the curb.” He said that he went to tell Officer Pogan off for his assault but that another police officer prevented him from getting hear him.”

Bicyclists who were behind Long also said that the police concocted the entire complaint. At no point was Long doing anything wrong. Officer Pagon just decided to assault a member of the public for his own reasons. Unfortunately someone happened to have made a video.

All I can say is that this fits a pattern of behaviour with the police. I take Lord Acton seriously. He said power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You might call it the “Lord of the Ring” syndrome. Smeagol yearns for the ring and the power it brings. But the power of the ring corrupts the wearer of the ring.

The more power someone is given over others the more likely they are to be corrupted by it. Our police have become worse because they are given vast control over the lives of others. As one favorite cop t-shirt calls it, they are “death dealers”. The police have taken on more powers in recent years, they know that their fellow cops will protect them. They know the system will believe them. They know that they are given wide latitude in how violently they treat people. They know that they can kill and rarely will ever pay the price for doing so -- even when entirely unjustified. They are not held responsible in the same way your or I would be. Reduce responsibility for their actions when couple with greater powers to act violently means that police are more likely to be abusive than the general public. Power does corrupt.

This also illustrates very nicely why so many cops get irrate when they are filmed. In numerous cases, around the country, individuals have been arrested for doing nothing more than filming a police action. Cameras prove them to be violent and deceitful. I say bring on the cameras. Like the police like to say about surveillance: if you have nothing to hide then why do you fear them?

By the way, once the video surfaced and Pogan was proven a liar and guilty of assault he was put on desk duty pending investigation. Even with this evidence, without a public outcry that is loud and sustained, chances are good he'll get little more than a slap on the wrist with a wink, a nudge, and a "don't get caught" again whispered in his ear.

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Bridge officials want suicide barrier: but at what cost?

Officials for the agency that manages San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge are planning to spend tens of millions of dollars to build a suicide barrier. The bridge has long been a magnet attracting those who wish to end their lives.

But a poll of San Franciscans found that about three quarters of them think there should be no barrier at all. Of course public opinion will be ignored. The most popular plan is to but a net made of steel cables to catch the jumpers. The cables will be coated with plastic but will still hurt like hell when someone hits it, hitting steel cable after falling 20 feet is not exactly pleasant.

The main proponents of the idea are mental health professionals, who at the very least, have a conflict of interest here. I presume that any jumper so snagged would then be forced into the mental health system where these professionals will be paid to “help” them.

The net, of course, will not be fool proof. An unknown number of people will still be able to climb out of the net and complete their journey.

The other problem they are grappling with is that the net may actually attract jumpers just not those who wish to die. Thrill-seekers can be tempted to leap into the net. To prevent this the authorities are planning to impose stiff fines on jumpers. I assume this will be across the board. Somehow I can’t see a heavy fine giving the suicidal another reason to live.

The cost for the netting is estimated to be $40 to $50 million. Typical with any government project one should at least double the original estimate since government officials always lie through their eye teeth when it comes to cost estimates --- much as they always overstate the benefits of any new project they propose.

The bridge, which is now 71-years-old, has been the location of approximately 1,300 known suicides. If, over the next 71 years, the net prevents the same number of suicides as have taken place since its erection, then the cost per suicide prevented, would be approximately $38,500. That is provided the cost is not higher than the original projections. If the costs are double what they project then figure about $77,000 per prevention.

According to news reports the jumpers will be extracted by a specially utilized truck with a “scooper” that will lower two workers down to the jumper. It is unclear whether the cost of the truck in included in the $50 million cost. And there is the question of how much money it will cost per call out. Both should be added to the costs. None of this includes the $2 million being spent just to study the project!

Of course, if the net actually encourages thrill-seekers to leap then the number of jumpers will increase and so will the costs of extraction. In other words there is no idea what the costs may be per life saved. Assuming the numbers jumping over the next 71 years are similar to the last, assuming that the net actually saves every single one of those jumpers from death, and assuming typical cost overruns and labor costs to scoop out the jumpers, the cost per suicide prevented could be around $100,000. And that is assuming that no thrill-seekers are attracted to jump because the net is there to save them.

In one recent year the Bay Area had a total of 622 suicides. Of those 23 were people who jumped off the bridge. That means the barrier will do nothing to prevent 96% of the suicides. Less than 4% of suicidal individuals in the Bay Area use the bridge to off themselves. And officials admit that some unknown number of them will still climb out of the net anyway. In addition it is safe to say that a barrier on the bridge, if successful, may only change the method of suicide. Someone wishing to end their life has many options to pick from. Removing one option still leaves all the rest. Then there is the question as to whether it is a proper function of government to prevent people from killing themselves but I won't delve into that here. I’m with the 75% of the public who think the officials should just scrap the project.

For the record, I did have one friend who jumped from the bridge. Yes, I was shocked he did it. But not surprised. He was an immensely unhappy individual plagued by fears about his life. I have little doubt that had the bridge option been closed to him he would have found another method to end it all.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Will the Kentucky LP grow a pair?

Apparently the Libertarian Party of Kentucky might grow a pair of balls and remove the racist they are running for U.S. Senate. I only say apparently because the LP there hasn't yet made a decision.

After former porn star Sonny Landham made racist, anti-Arab remarks in his campaign the LP chairman in Kentucky described the views as just another one of the many views that libertarians can hold. It was just a disagreement. So libertarianism was anti-immigration and pro-immigration. (These days it appears that libertarianism is often for one position and for the polar opposite as well --- it's all part of being "principled" among the new libertarians.)

But a few days later the chairman of the LP changed his tune and said: "Obviously the party does not stand for that." That's a major shift and a welcomed one. However, there was a time when it would have been instantly clear that Landham was pushing views unacceptable to libertarians.

I have also read some claims which are disturbing but which I don't yet feel are sufficient to report as factual. So please note these are still undocumented in my mine, even if they fit. Various sites have reported that the Council of Conservative Citizens recently held a national conference outside Louisville and that Landham was a sponsor of the meeting and an activist with the group. You might remember that the CoCC was formerly known as the White Citizen's Council and remains a virulently racist, anti-Semitic organization to this day. By that I mean the CoCC is openly racist a blatant, KKKish manner not that they are merely "politically incorrect".

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bury it, the stench is too much.

Once again the ugliness that helped destroy the Republican Party is now rearing itself in the (formerly) Libertarian Party. Ever since the LP became a refuge for Republican Party rejects it has started to have problems with racism and war mongering.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Sonny Landham, the Senate candidate for the (formerly) Libertarian Party, came out in a racist attack on all Arabs and was whining that the Bush Administration didn’t make war in enough places.

Landham said that Bush “should have bombed Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan” and bragged that he “would have blown all of ‘em right back into the desert.” He also said he wanted all Arabs banned from visiting the U.S. for any purpose.

According to the newspaper the LP state chairman “distanced” himself from the remarks but to my ears it didn’t sound like much of a distancing. He is reported to have said: “There are some who are nervous about the comments. There are some who agree. Libertarians, just like Republicans and Democrats, have a variety of viewpoints.”

Yep, you got it. The “Party of Principle” is now one of a “diversity of viewpoints”. Bombing numerous nations “right back into the desert” is now just one “libertarian” viewpoint within the LP. Apparently, to placate the invasion of Republican nobodies, the LP has broadened its principles so much that they can mean the opposite of what they have historically meant.

This is just another sign that libertarians no longer belong in the Libertarian Party. Once the LP has gone this far there is little likelihood it will revert to principles later on. Just bury the damn thing before the stench gets worse.

Photo: Sonny Landham, another failed Republican candidate now in the LP.

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Protect us from the Grannies!

The problem with politically-induced panics is that as fear spread more and more people act irrationally. Often the panics are about real problems but the panic is based on an exaggerated fear. There is loss of a reasonable sense of proportion when people are in a panic.

The child abuse panic has always lead to this kind of disproportional fear and that is one reason it is a tool which unscrupulous politicians can use for their own benefit. And while the politician may, may not, know that his panic-mongering is exaggerated lower functionaries in the bureaucracy take this sort of fear peddling seriously.

That is what caused problems for 82-year-old Betty Robinson. Betty, and her friend Brenda Bennett, 69, were walking through the local park recently taking photos. Betty thought that the empty pool in the park would make an interesting photo so she started snapping a few pictures. At this point a local government official berated her and ordered her to cease taking photos.

The reason for the orders was that she might be a pedophile putting children at risk. That there were no children in the pool, or anyone else for that matter, did not seem to matter to the official at all.

The local council has backed down slightly but not by much. They suggested employees use more discretion but say they are obligated to protect children from the pedophile threat. The council argues that since people are so concerned about threats to their children (the fear factor) that government officials have to be “aware of taking photos”.

Rob McCaffrey, 50, has a rather innocuous hobby. He’s a bus spotter. He loves buses and has collected thousands and thousands of photos of buses, that he has taken himself, of buses around the world. He says he’s giving up his hobby because of the fear among the general public. Twice in recent months he was subjected to police questioning because of taking photos of buses. He has been seen as a pedophile, if children are on the bus, or a potential terrorist. He says, “it seems everyone with a camera is a potential criminal. It’s very upsetting.”

Oddly McCaffrey says he doesn’t mind the terrorist accusation so much “but when they start saying you’re a pedophile it really hurts. We just want to enjoy our hobby without harassment.”

Dorothy Judd is a psychotherapist who works with children regularly. She is also a grandmother. When her young grandson came to visit her she took him to the local woods to play. Just as she was telling the boy that they had to return home for afternoon tea she was approached by “a large policeman in a flourescent jacket” who started asking her grandson if he was alright.

Apparently two different people reported them to the police saying it looked suspicious for an adult to be playing with a child. The police officer takes her details and those of her grandson and insists that he has to walk with them as they return home. She says her grandson became concerned and wanted to know if they were trouble and she simply tried to reassure him.

The officer told her: “Well, then I’d better see you on your way.You know, complete the inquiry. I’m sure it will be all right. I’ll just pass by the house. You said you were going back anyway.” Judd said she was in “a state of disbelieff and shock” and wondered if she had been stupid to allow her grandson to play in the local park. She tried to figure out why others would report her. “Did they think I was abusing him? Or that I had kidnapped him? Or perhaps that I was crazy?”

She admits that she is more cautious with her grandchildren then she was with her own children. But she thinks “society is losing, especially for our urban children, a sense of freedom, an unstructured and ‘safe-enough’ physical environement with dangers that can be tamed through play and imagination, where worlds -- even a kind o magic -- can be created.”

What she needs to realize is that one can’t play in the words with any joy if one constantly imagines monsters lurking behind every tree. One of the results of the politically-induced panics is that people lose their sense of joy. They become surrounded by a impending sense of doom.

But then the United Kingdom was the place where Yvette Cloete, a pediatrician, was driven from her home because locals didn't know the difference between a pediatrician and pedophile.

If the pedophiles don’t grab your children, then terrorists will blow you up. But then, why worry about that when global warming is going to kill us all? We're doomed I tell you, we're all doomed!

Photo: That is the dangerous granny and her camera.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Public abuse and x-rated searches now common.

video

Every day millions of Americans, and foreign tourists, are subjected to humiliating and often abusive treatment by the morons who work for the Orwellian Homeland Security Department’s Transportation Security Administration.

In this report one television station documents some of the cases that continue to pop up as clueless, classless apes get hired by government to harass and intimidate people. What is astounding is that the TSA brags that they are doing something right because only 112,000 complaints have been filed against them.

I have regularly been subjected to “extra” security checks every time I force myself to fly through U.S. airspace. I have been barked at and threatened by the uniformed goons at the airports. In one case I was delayed by a TSA thug who refused to let anyone through security until everyone trying to get in was standing in a “straight line”. He kept barking about the straight line as if he were taking second graders to the bathroom during a school break.

I have been fondled by people who I wouldn’t voluntarily let near me. I have been swabbed in public as if I were a dangerous criminal. I had one official take my suitcase and dump it out on a table while he pushed through my belongings with a pencil. As he dumped everything I was carrying in public view he screamed at me” YOU will stand behind that line. YOU will not touch your things until I give you permission.”

In one case I was subjected to numerous test, one right after the other. First, I was X-rayed and cleared. But that wasn’t enough. Next I was put in some chamber where they “sniffed” me. Then I had the wand run all over me. Not finding anything they then patted me down. I was then take aside where they used a chemical swab on everything I carried but mainly my shoes, my briefcase and my laptop and wallet. Then I was subjected to another very hands-on pat down all in public view.

As the TSA official and a female assistant finished this extensive and embarrassing search he announced: “I am required to tell you that all this can be done in private if you request but since I’m finished anyway that wouldn’t make much sense.” Obviously his routine is to only inform people that they have the option of some privacy after it is too late for them to utilize it. But this way, if he is ever asked he can claim that all his victims were informed of their options -- if only when it was too late.

Even though there were times that I was livid about how badly I was treated I never filed a complaint. Like many I don’t see any use in it. Even if something is done about it I am the one who has to collect information and then deal with another brain-dead TSA official. I have to get the name of the harassing or rude employee. Right! Like I’m going to question people who have been filmed attacking passengers who question their authority. Just asking for a name so I can file a complaint later could mean missing my flight or worse.

The TSA may brag about “only” 112,000 complaints. I’m amazed they got any. The system is set up against the public and in favor of the travel Gestapo. They have all the power and most of us don’t want to take the risk of complaining. Many no doubt fear that an official complaint will only put them on the “watch” list with 1 million other Americans and that will mean extra harassment everytime they fly -- if they are allowed to fly.

Of course the whole TSA search is pretty much ineffective. All the 9/11 hijackers went through airport security and were cleared. And if terrorists were wanting to kill a lot of people there are millions of opportunities to do so. One bomb in a briefcase, which is set off at one of the long TSA backups that routinely accumulate large numbers of people into a small area could kill hundreds. A bomb in the New York subway during rush hour could kill thousands.

There are multiple targets that could be used and which would effectively kill thousands at a time. The most we can say about the TSA is that they might force terrorists to pick other targets, targets which can never all be secured by any means. But then we have also seen that with all the barking, rudeness, harassing and humiliation the TSA routinely fails security checks. Devices that can be assembled as bombs get through all the time.

It is doubtful that any of this increases public safety since so many alternative targets exist. Any terrorist who wants to kill large numbers of people won’t be short of ways to do so. But it does accustom Americans to the routine of being herded about like compliant cattle by armed government thugs. It teaches obedience and silence. Speaking up when subjected to abuse may lead to arrest and certainly will lead to assault and being denied the right to travel.

I remember reading an account of an inmate in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. He wrote how inmates tried not to be noticed. They were silent, heads bowed as they feared to look the guards in the eyes. Anything that made one stick out was dangerous.

Now watch people in line at TSA. There is often complete silence from the inmates—— I mean passengers. They shuffle through processing complying with every order. Most say nothing. They speak only when spoken to. They try not to look into the eyes of the travel Gestapo. People don’t want to be singled out by these goons so they try not to stand out. Don’t be noticed is the rule. Don’t talk back. Don’t question them. And whatever you do NEVER invoke any of your Constitutional rights. And maybe if you are quiet and compliant and obedient these thugs will let you catch your flight. The TSA method of dealing with the public is training citizen to act like sheep.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't feel sorry for the ethanol hogs.

The New York Times has a short piece regarding Texas asking the Environmental Protection Agency for a waiver on the use of the ethanol. Of course the ethanol hogs, feeding at the government trough, are livid over the idea.

Yet some of those who will lose their place on the government gravy train do have legitimate concerns. One company complain that it wouldn’t have spent millions on piping without the governments mandated increases in the use of ethanol.

One farmer said: “We bought fertilizer and corn seed, decide our crop mix on the basis of ethanol being where it was. To change the mandate in the middle of our growing season, that’s really not right.” He apparently never worried if the mandate was right in the first place.

Government intervention constantly screws up the private plans of citizens. Government planning does not impose planning where chaos ruled. It imposes one crude plan in place of millions of micro-plans set up by the people. It substitutes a plan by a politician for the millions of plans by individuals.

When politicians pushed the ethanol boondoggle they messed up the plans of lots of people. For instance, they are starving poor people to death in Third World nations because they have push up food prices artificially by consuming vast amounts of food to produce ethanol. Those poor people didn’t plan on starving to death but Hillary and Obama and the majority of the US Congress decided that buying the votes of well-off farmers was more important than a bunch of poor people starving to death.

Others who are are not starving are still financially hurting because of the moves. Families that planned one budget suddenly had to start cutting things out, in the middle of their financial year, because well-off farmers got hoggish with government subsidies. The businessmen and farmers now complaining about a change in the policy didn’t see anything wrong with upsetting the plans of others when they helped push these subsidies through.

The very individuals who are now complaining about how a change in policy is upsetting their plans advocated the policies which upset the plans of hundreds of millions of other people. They didn’t care then so why should we care now?

On the surface it sounds reasonable for them to complain that they made certain investments based on the returns promised by politicians. Changing those plans now will be detrimental to them. But so what? First, their profits were being stolen from working people by government force. What they are whining about is that they might not be able to mug the taxpayers any longer.

If you are walking down a dark street and someone puts a knife to your throat he has plans for your money. If you use Mace on him you might just foil all the plans he had made. But he had no right to make plans with your money.

And the farmers and corporate interests that were getting rich off of ethanol had no right to make plans with your money either. Personally I think it a good thing when we foil the plans of robbers, thieves and political muggers.

This ethanol issue also shows how pernicious the argument used by conservative Bob Barr, presidential candidate for the (formerly) Libertarian Party. Barr wanted to bail out FannieMae and FreddieMac because government had been so heavily involved in the housing bubble that it helped create the crisis we are now facing.

Government did. Just like it created the food crisis with ethanol, the energy crisis with numerous policies, the drug cartel problem with drug prohibition, the illiteracy problem with state education, the congestion problem with socialized roading and a host of problems.

People make plans based on the current political realities. Government forces people to change those plans. And a series of state interventions usually leads to a crisis. But if we were to bail out every industry that was negatively effected by government policy we would have 100% federal bailouts. Every industry would be eligible.

If we want government to mitigate the bad results of every policy it has passed there would be no end of government interference. People who advocate state intervention to mitigate bad policies are no different than the people who advocated the bad policies in the first place. First, none of them argued their policies were bad. They all felt they were justified for some greater good.

And the Barr interventionists are ignoring the main lesson from such debacles: government intervention, no matter the intentions, leads to unintended consequences. Barr’s solution will itself distort the market even more and lead to further bad consequences. That is the road to serfdom that Hayek warned about. Bad policies lead to bad consequences. These results then are used to justify more policies to mitigate those harms. The new policies lead to further bad consequences thus justifying more intervention. Mises argued that interventionism is socialism by “a series of successive steps.”

And many of these successive steps were justified as remedies for the ill results of previous policies.

Bailing out people who benefited from previous government policies is not libertarian. Their failure, if anything is a bit of justice. It returns some of the booty that they stole back to the productive economy. As such their failure fuels beneficial and productive enterprises.

The ethanol hogs, eating at the through, had no right to the riches they received. They picked those riches out of the pockets of lots of people who were in far worse financial straits. Government intervention almost always robs those who are poorer and less powerful and benefits those who are wealthier and powerful. After all, the political elites love that wealth and power, they need it. So it should be no surprise that government intervention redistributes wealth from the have-nots to the haves.

Now and then the haves end up in trouble because the government program they rely upon is not sustainable. Some, like ethanol subsidies, create massive disasters quickly. Bailing out those who were lining their pockets with stolen money is absurd. Let them fail. Their failure will be a sign to others who hope to get rich by political redistribution. It will help rectify the economic crisis faster if they fail. And it starts to put the stolen money back in the hands where it belonged. After watching the misery inflicted on billions of people by this ethanol policy I can’t muster any sympathy for the ethanol hogs fearing the end of their free ride. It should have come sooner.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Given my druthers, I'd take Walmart.

I went by the Great Satan the other day. Yes, I visited our local Walmart, the icon of hate from the Left.

Let me tell you a bit about it.

This Walmart was built in an area that was pretty much undeveloped. They used to be in the nearby city but the organized forces of resentment did their level best to drive them out. You heard all the nonsense about how Walmart was driving other business into bankruptcy.

So Walmart found a new location, built a larger store and moved. And the area they went to didn’t really have any businesses to drive under.

As I drove past the location I noticed lot of new shops being built in that stretch of road. This was in addition to the many new businesses which opened nearby already. The presence of Walmart attracted thousands of customers, per day, to a location that had previously been pretty dead. The net result was that dozens of new shops and businesses are thriving there.

As for the town that didn’t want Walmart --- not particularly attractive. I had some tire work one there and had an hour to spare and wandered around. Sure I spent some money there. I had a very mediocre lunch and bought some videos at 50 cents each at a thrift shop. There were lots o thrift shops but I’ve notice they tend to crop up in areas where business is dying. And the town itself is in very deep financial trouble.

No doubt Walmart will be blamed for the problems of the town. where they were not welcomed, and get no credit for the dozens of businesses created in their shadow.

This doesn’t mean I like everything Walmart does. I don’t. Nor does it mean I like everything they sell. But compare Walmart to government.

Walmart has never been able to sell me a product that I didn’t want. Government constantly forces me to pay for goods and services that I don’t want.

When Walmart gets my money it does so because I voluntarily pay them for something I value more than the cost. Government, on the other hand, has entire agencies of armed goons whose job is to make sure you pay over the money they demand. If I don’t give Walmart my business they can’t do anything about it. If I refuse to give government my money they send me threatening letters followed up by use of force. If I still resist they take my property, kidnap me, and hold me in shackles as an example to everyone else.

Even when government provides services that I might want, such as education, garbage collection, policing, they tend to do so at vastly inflated prices. Sure they sometimes hide the true cost by charging me less than the actual cost but they get the rest, and then some, via coercive taxation.

When I go to Walmart it is to buy things that I want or need. I’m happy when I can get a pair of jeans for $12. When I leave Walmart I have more money in my pocket than I would have, had I shopped someplace else. Walmart tends to put money in my pocket while government pretty much just takes it out.

If Walmart has products I don’t want, and they do, then I don’t buy them. If government has services I don’t want they make me pay for them anyway.

If I get really irrate with Walmart I can shop elsewhere. If I don’t like their prices on clothes I can go to Target, or Macy’s or Sears, etc. If I don’t like the Department of Motor Vehicles, tough luck for me. I don’t have a choice. If I don’t like the way first class mail is delivered it is illegal for me to send a letter any other way.

Walmart expands my choices. Government restricts them. Walmart helps me save money. Government takes my money. Walmart can only sell me what I want. Government makes me buy what I don’t want. Walmart has to offer me good prices, government pretty much charges anything they want.

I have freedom to maximize my well-being when it comes to Walmart. I have no such freedom when it comes to government. Even if I were to vote in every election my vote wouldn’t change a damn thing. Every election would turn out just the same way.

But I don’t have to persuade the majority of Walmart shoppers in order to get the goods or services I want. I do have to persuade the majority of voters to give me the kind of government I want.

Every time I’ve been to Walmart the baskets of goods that I left with was different from the basket of goods that other shoppers left with. When I leave the voting booth I get the same government that everyone else gets.

And finally, whatever bad things you think Walmart has done they have never bombed anyone, never tortured anyone, and never executed anyone. The might use advertising but they don't use waterboarding. When I walk into their premises they greet me and welcome me. When I visit government premises I'm searched, identified and generally treated like a criminal.

All in all I prefer Walmart.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Motes and Beams

The Roman Catholic church leader, who has the audacity to claim to be the vicar of Christ on earth, has attacked “insatiable consumption” while visiting Australia. This was not long after he “toured Sydney Harbour on the city’s must luxurious crusie ship.”

It really is hard to take this man’s sermons seriously. He’s worse than Al Gore lecturing us on energy consumption while being an energy pig himself. Here are a few photos illustrating the Pope’s lifestyle.

Here is the Pope on his throne. Notice the lack of "insatiable consumption".










On the left is the entrance to the Pope's living quarters within the Vatican Palace.









On the right is a glimpse of the ceilings within the Papa apartments.






















What you have to the left is a little summer place that the Pope keeps. It is a massive castle, this is just one part of it.









The man travels the world by jet, rides in limos on a regular basis. He doesn't do his own laundry, doesn't have to clean his own toilet, and walks around in silk carrying priceless gold objects.

Yet he has the gall to preach to middle class working people about the small comforts of life that they have. They don't have his servants, his limos, or his palaces. The Pope spends more on lifestyle per year than most people can spend in a lifetime. But that doesn't stop him from pontificating (literally in his case) about the evils of insatiable consumption.

When it comes to consumption the Pope has a much business lecturing others as his church does when it comes to preaching sexual morality.

I'm not prone to quoting this guy very much. But some preacher, a few centuries back, is alleged to have said: "Judge not, that you may not be judged, for with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. Any why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." And just to be on safe ground I quote from the preferred Catholic translation of the Bible, the Douay-Rheims version.

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Mamma Mia! INDEED!!!

The following is from the website of the Boston Globe. When I read the caption I was rather surprised. Apparently the ladies in question have not aged well.

If you have trouble reading the caption just click on the photo and it will enlarge. Someone really has egg on their face.

And while I normally don’t do this I do think that the ladies Baranski, Street and Walters really ought to get a face lift, if this photo of them is any indication they could use it.

As for the film I'm not intending to see it. I saw the show some years ago with the great love of my life. Other than the fire alarm which kept going off forcing the evacuation of the theater it was fun. But what makes the show fun is one thing and one thing only: the music of Abba. Say what you will but those Swedes always wrote songs that you couldn't get out of your head even if you hired an exorcist to accomplish the deed. Beyond the music the plot is silly, often predictable and not particularly interesting. But then the plot is one long excuse to do an Abba number. If that is what you want, and Abba is always good fun, then just listen to the music and save yourself the price of the admission.

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End it, don't mend it.

The dour Bob Barr once again shows his true colors by calling for a taxpayer funded bailout of both Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, the two government corporations involved in the mortgage field.

Government decided to make it easier for people in risky financial positions to buy homes, as opposed to renting. When other government policies sent the economy into a tailspin one result was that property values declined. This means that a lot of not-so-well-off individuals, who were induced by the government to buy property, now have mortgages on property that cost more than the property is worth.

The political classes wanted to encourage people who couldn’t afford property to buy it anyway. And now those people are hurting because of those stupid policies. The problem here is that any bail out will just encourage future malinvestment.

Bob Barr, the Libertarian (in name only) presidential candidate wants the taxpayers to be forced to bail out both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Barr starts out trying to sound libertarian. He always does that just before gutting principle and sounding like your typical unscrupulous, unprincipled politician. He acknowledges that any bail out would be taking “taxpayer money” since government has no money of its own. But since government intervention in the markets caused the problem he says government must bail out the industry.

He wants a new government program to bail out the old government program. “I think, though, that, if we -- we have some -- some temporary line of credit -- and I think it’s important to do this through the Congress, so Congress understands and has a stake in this as well.”

That statement indicates how corrupted Barr’s thinking is with the polictics-as-usual mentality. He wants a temporary credit line. As Milton Friedman noted, there is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program. Secondly, what kind of moron actually thinks that Congressman “have a stake” in the programs they pass?

Congressmen don’t care if the programs work. They do care if they attract votes. And that is what Barr cares about. He is not standing up for free markets because promising a government bail out is good for the political bottom-line -- getting votes. The Libertarian Party, at the behest of the sell-outs in the national office, traded principles or appeal. They want votes not liberty.

Barr exemplifies the worst of the political mentality and he sounds just like the typical Republican. They always say that they support free markets but, of course, the current issue is an exception and government has to get involved. So they propose another temporary program in the hope of using it to secure more votes for themselves on election day.

This sort of compromising, Big Government mentality is precisely what we’d expect from Republicans. Apparently now the Libertarian Party is desperately trying to play the same game. But here is the reality. They are amateurs at political game playing. All they had to offer the public before were principles. Now they have no principles and instead want to manipulate the system to buy votes. But their amateur status tells me that they can’t really deliver the goodies.

The Libertarian Party has let the creepy Bob Barr push them into a corner where they can’t play the political game particularly well but neither can they offer the voters a principled stand on the issues. There simply is no reason for the LP to exist. At this point it exists only to sap the libertarian movement of energy and resources making it a liability not an asset. End it, don’t mend it. And in this case this applies to Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac and the Libertarian Party.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Libertarian skunks, Barr and Root, in action.

The Benedict Arnolds in the Libertarian Party have done their dirty work. Now the LP is officially under the control of warmongering neocon types. At least the top of the party’s ticket is dominated by such pond scum.

Your blogger was recently at the Freedom Fest shindig in Las Vegas, hence the absence in blogging for awhile. While there I witnessed two individuals I know to be libertarians attempting to talk to the Republicans who are now the LP’s candidates: Wayne Root and Bob Barr.

At one point I saw Marc Victor, an attorney and sometimes radio talk show host stand-in, speaking to Barr. Admittedly Barr makes my skin crawl so I didn’t pay much attention and the noise in the room was sufficient that I couldn’t hear the conversation. But when Marc saw me he can over and recounted the gist of the conversation.

Marc had recently seen Barr on television where Barr was dismissing the long-held libertarian position of legalizing drugs. That didn’t surprise me since Barr is a conservative and not a libertarian. But Barr has the blind LP party leaders with their noses in his pigpen so they pretend the man is something he isn’t.

Marc says that when he brought up Barr’s anti-libertarian position on drugs that Barr glared at him and then gave one of his handlers a signal. Barr is always accompanied by handlers whose job is to keep libertarians away from their presidential candidate so they can’t ask him questions about his Big Government positions. A rather large woman, working for Barr then pushed her way between them in order to push Victor off to the sidelines. Barr then turned tail and ran in the opposite direction.

Another libertarian I know, land developer Treg Loyden was later witnessed by me having a conversation with Wayne Root, the LP’s unlibertarian vice presidential candidate. I called Treg up this evening to ask what that was about. He told me and also pointed me to something he wrote about the experience.

Treg first attempted to speak to Bob Barr, a man Treg now sees as Little Napoleon. Treg too had tried to ask Barr about his anti-libertarian position on the war on drugs. And like Marc Victor, Treg got the same treatment. First, he told Barr that his position on drugs was not acceptable and then waited for Barr to respond. Barr looked at him silently and simply refused to say anything. Barr instead turned away from Treg and started talking to a conservative.

Barr wanted to know what he could say to win the conservative’s vote in November. That very question is unprincipled implying that Barr will say whatever is needed in order to win the votes of voters, provided of course, that the voter isn’t actually a libertarian. The conservative said he didn’t want to waste a vote on Barr but was unhappy with McCain. Barr’s reply was enlightening.

He told the man, “Well, we can’t let them just keep ruining our party.” McCain is a Republican. So the only party that Barr can be referring to is the Republican Party. Barr stills sees himself as a conservative Republican not as a libertarian.

I argued that the plan by Barr and his conservative handlers like Richard Viguerie was to use the LP and its ballot status in order to try to force the Republican Party toward a hard-core Right-wing position. Barr doesn’t give a damn about the Libertarian Party. He would be happy to destroy the Libertarian Party if he can succeed in pushing the Republicans to the Right. This is the man into whose hands the traitors at the LP national office have entrusted their party.

Treg was dismayed by this and walked away. He later saw Wayne Root and tried to talk to him. Root started to speak to Treg but saw David Friedman, Milton’s son, and tried to rassle up his support. This I witnessed first hand as I had just been speaking with David a minute before this happened.

Root claimed he had the LP presidential nomination for president in the bag for the next four election cycles. Talk about trash leading the blind. Root basically ignored Treg not considering him important enough to talk with.

Treg later mentioned this treatment to Steve Kubby, who apparently thinks that party loyalty is enough to override the odious natures of Root and Barr. He decided to reintroduce Treg to Root in the hopes of patching things up.

When Root learned of the money that Treg had put into Ron Paul’s campaign (a point Treg and I disagree about) he was suddenly interested. He asked: “So what can I say to get you guys behind the Barr/Root team?” I never thought I’d hear an LP candidate selling his principles for votes but then the LP is dead and what now exists is libertarian in name only.

Treg mentioned to Root how Ron Paul “wants us out o Iraq now.” Root said: “That is where I disagree with Paul. Yes, we should leave when the job is done and we should leave with strength, not weakness.”

In one of the pre nomination debates I heard Root telling libertarians that he had learned his lesson about Iraq and that he wanted out Iraq. Of course, at the time, he was telling them what they needed to hear to give him their votes. This is the unprincipled con artist that Root is. His positions are not based on principles but on power seeking. He lied to the LP delegates claiming a conversion on Iraq and then, once he gets their support, he goes right back to his pro-war position.

Root got agitated and stood up to leave. Treg admits he didn’t tape record the event and was recounting the approximate words of Root, but if this is even vaguely what Root said, then it shows how bad a libertarian he is. “America should just let Israel alone, defend itself, and go nuke the heck out of those Iranian cockroaches. Blow ‘em all up... just nuke the place for a thousand years.”

I know both Marc Victor and Treg Loyden. In spite of disagreements we have had on some matters concerning this election I believe them to be honest individuals and that both are telling the truth. I was close enough to see what was happening and it corresponds with their accounts. I also witnessed Barr and Root lying, twisting and distorting their own positions in order to con the Libertarian Party into nominating them. So I have every reason to believe their accounts regarding these incidents.

What both men recount is proof that the amazing conversion of these neocons to libertarianism is all facade and no substance. Root and Barr are still Republicans and both are using the LP as a tool to their own personal ends. The LP has committed suicide by putting two anti-libertarian con men at the head of its ticket. I doubt the LP can survive this and I suggest, that if it does survive, it will be further proof of the innate rot that has contaminated the party.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Politics of fear harms us all.

Pandering to paranoia is an old fashioned trait of the political classes. Terrorize people with monsters and threats and they will give you the “power” to protect them. Such fear-mongering, I dare say, is the dominant trait of politics the world over.

Some right-wing group called the Children’s Educational Network was passing out the “Freedom Internet Browser”. The entire purpose of the “Freedom” browser is to restrict the use of the internet. In conservative jargon “freedom” almost always means control.

The whole purpose of this group is to spread fear concerning predators on-line attacking children. On the cover of the free software is a bizarre picture of what one assumes to be the ideal American family.

It shows a father, mother and daughter with an American flag waving behind them. Like most American dads the father is a member of the military wearing his combat gear while being photographed with his family. To the left there is a massive bald eagle, the symbol of American patriotism and to the far Right (and the whole thing is far Right) is the statue of liberty. Conservatives love the statue but aren’t so keen on the liberty.

Of course, there is more. In the background is a black military helicopter flying. No doubt it out there to snuff out some “evildoers”.

The CEO of these panic mongers tells terrified conservatives that the reason he is spreading this browser is because he’s “scared stiff” that his five children “might get lured by an online predator.” The really funny part is that these children include a 28-year-old, 26-year-old, and a 20-year-old. When someone starts writing about fearing that his 28-year-old daughter might “get lured by an online predator” then we are talking about a major case of delusional paranoia.

Among the false claims made by this group is that “1 in 5 kids are solicited for sex by predators online over the Internet”.

Thorough studies of teens who meet people online for sexual purposes shows they are not seduced but willing participants. A study published in American Psychologist showed that “most victims who meet offenders face to face go to such meetings expecting to engage in sexual activity” and “73% of victims who had face-to-face sexual encounters with offenders did so more than once.” This hardly sounds like seduction.

In 2005 there were a grand total of 500 arrest “for Internet--initiated sex crimes, 95% o which were nonforcible.” The reality is that the relatively small number of teens who are “seduced” online were seeking out the experience. Otherwise very, very few “children” are being lured by predators. The report in American Psychologist says, “cases of pedophiles using the Internet to meet prepubescent victims directly are quite rare.”

One fact ignored by the panic-mongers is that while Internet use has exploded the rate of sexual crimes against children has actually decreased during the same period. The report notes, “that several sex crimes and abuse indicators have shown marked declines during the same period that Internet use has been expanding. rom 1990 to 2005 the number of sex abuse cases substantiated by child protective authorities declined 51%, along with other related indicators.” They noted: “To claim, as one headline from Newsweek did, that the Internet has fostered a ‘shocking increase in the sexual exploitation of children”, one has to explain why this epidemic has not been more apparent in aggregate indicators of juvenile sexual victimization.”

The image of young children being violently seduced online by predators is fundamentally a lie. The American Psychologist report says that while it “may be more compelling in sex crime advocacy and prevention to typify victims as ‘innocent young children’, but this will not promote effective public policy or preventative behaviors among those most at risk.”

What this report shows is that the purveyors of sexual panic are actually doing harm. As the study showed, it is adolescents seeking out sex online who are the main “victims” of this activity. If the goal is prevent such activity then focusing on the non problem of children being seduced online doesn’t help. It focuses efforts where there is no issue while primarily ignoring the area where some concern might be legitimate. Parents who are paranoid about their young kids being seduced might just ignore the hormone-flooded teenager using the Internet to seek out sex.

In every matter of public policy there is always a limited amount of resources available at one time. Resources expanded on one issue can’t be spent on other issues. If politically-induced fear-mongering allocates resources to non-issues it invariably redistributes them from real issues.

This is true regardless of the issues involved. When special interest groups, with their own agendas, spread fear and panic with exaggerated claims and lies they invariably distort the allocation of resources, both private and public, from real problems to their imaginary monsters. In that sense their actions harm all of us.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Your right to bear arms ends at my property line.

This blog doesn’t take second place to anyone when it comes to defending the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. I go further. I argue that the right to self-defense precedes the Constitution and no Constitution can strip citizens of their natural rights. Even if the Second Amendment were abolished, the right to keep and bear arms is not legitimately subject to state restriction.

But we must remember that all rights exist within the context of property. That means that one may surrender some rights voluntarily when one enters the property of other people.

My First Amendment right to free speech gives me no claim on your property. You are not required to provide me a podium, a microphone, a printing press, or even a spot to stand and proclaim my views. I have the right to use my own resources, and those that are freely made available by others, but I can not have the right to the property of others.

My freedom of religion doesn’t mean you have to give me a ride to the church of my choice. My rights exist within the framework of my property. Your obligation is to leave me alone, but not to provide me with the property, or resources, that I need, even if I need them to exercise some right I have.

My rights cannot create any unwanted claim on you. It merely requires you to NOT use force or fraud against me or my property.

This is true with the right to keep and bear arms as well. I have no right to go into your home and take your guns merely because they cause me discomfort. If you threaten me that may be a different matter. If you attack me, it is most clearly a different matter. But, if you are minding your own business, on your own property, then my disarming you is a violation of your rights.

What is equally obvious is that if you are on my property then I have every right to make requirements for admission. I may required you to leave your weapon at home. I am under no obligation to grant you entrance except on terms that suit me. And if you don’t like the terms you are free to go elsewhere. I can’t force you to enter on my terms and you can’t force me to admit you on your terms. Mutual agreement is how it works.

Some people get baffled when the private property is a business. One reason for this is that socialistically inclined politicians have tended to treat private businesses as if they were public property. For instance, the no smoking laws regulate smoking in public, but always defines public space as including private property.

Malls, offices, restaurants, etc., simply are NOT public property. They are open to members of the public on terms and conditions set by the property owner. And this applies to firearms and cigarettes both.

Just as a private business has the right to ban smoking on their property, or not, it also has the right to ban firearms on its property, or not. Politicians, however, have NO rights in the matter. They don’t own the property. They can’t rightfully forbid smoking anymore than they can forbid firearms -- not when it comes to private property.

Conversely they are not empowered to mandate smoking or to mandate firearms either.

When antismoking legislation was being pushed, mainly by Democrats, Republicans were rightfully screaming about the violation of property rights involved in such a ban. Of course, when it comes to principles the Republicans are, shall we say, very flexible.

In Florida they recently stripped companies of the right to restrict what happens in their own parking lots. A parking lot is private property. That is clear since entry is often restricted to customers, or employees only, or to those who pay a fee, for instance.

But Republicans in Florida passed a law saying that the legislature, not the property owner, may determine whether or not a person can park their car with a firearm inside it, in those private lots. Some employers allowed it and some didn’t.

Republican state senator Durell Peaden was one who seemed upset when he heard that a loophole in the law was allowing Disney World to forbid employees from bringing weapons into their private parking lot.

The new Florida law makes it a crime to exercise one’s rights of control over one’s own parking lot, when it comes to firearms. No employer may forbid customers, or employees, from using the lot and having a firearm in their car.

When it comes to smoking I am vehemently antismoking, but I don’t want public smoking bans effecting private property. It’s not my property, it’s not my business. Similarly, I don’t want the state ordering property owners to admit firearms to private property when said owners don’t wish to do so. Both are a violation of the fundamental right to property.

If it is socialistic for the Left to ban smoking on private property, then this Republican legislation is just as socialistic. Both violate property rights, and do so in exactly the same manner. Both apply the same principle just in different ways.

The difference between the Left and the Right is not one of principles. They hold exactly the same principles. The only difference is over which issues they are willing to club you over the head. The Democrats want to club you to prevent you from allowing smoking on your property. Republicans want to club you to force you to allow guns on your property.

The reasons are immaterial. The principles are identical. The one big difference is that Democrats don’t pretend to support private property rights; to them everything is public and subject to control. The Republicans, however, pretend they support property rights. Both are statists, but Republicans are hypocritical statists to boot. That just means the Democrats are more honest about their bad intentions while the Republicans lie about theirs.

That is one reason we need a libertarian alternative, and one reason why it is such a tragedy that no such alternative exists any longer.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Meet the new ruler of Zimbabwe, no different than the last.

The Washington Post has verified something that this blog was noting some time ago. In a post on the crisis in Zimbabwe I argued that Mugabe seemed ready to negotiate a step-down. How nice of him considering he lost the election!

But I argued that: “The difficult point in negotiating a retreat by Mugabe will be that he has to bring enough of his military people with him. If too many are left behind, they will resist the settlement.”

In March I wrote that Mugabe’s regime “engaged in some genocide against the Matabeles. It is believed that his troops killed around 10,000 people in that massacre. The result was that the military was firmly committed to Mugabe. They fear that the election of anyone else would subject them to the courts for their executions.”

One of the major deficiencies in the American media is the lack of background for most stories. Journalists, for the most part, are too lazy to do the research. And this means that everyone has concentrated on Mugabe as the leader but ignored the role the military was playing. As I noted the military was firmly behind Mugabe because they feared that an other leader might put them on trial for genocide.

If Mugabe tried to step down, I stated that his problem would be taking his military people with him, into exile. If he can’t do that then the military “will resist” any settlement of the crisis. That was on this blog several months ago.

The new article in the Washington Post now tells us what went on in Zimbabwe, behind the scenes. They report that Mugabe called his “security forces” to his home and informed them that he had been soundly defeated at the polls. Mugabe was finally ready to step down -- as I suspected he might be at time. I also thought negotiations were underway for that step down to take place and assumed Mugabe would hide out in South Africa, where his chums in the ANC would take good care of him.

But all this ended when the top military official, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, told Mugabe he had no right to make that decision on his own. Chiwenga led the infamouts Fifth Brigade and was trained by North Korea and the Communist Chinese. It was his troops that slaughtered the Matabele from 1982 to 1986. Chiwenga is a cold-blooded killer and he wasn’t going to risk another government coming to power and having to possibly face trial for his crimes.

Chiwenga ordered Mugabe to stay in office and ordered him to refuse to release the election results. Then Chiwenga sent his troops into the country to start slaughtering opposition campaign workers.

Another vocal opponent of Mugabe stepping down was Emerson Mnangagwa. He too was involved in the genocide and was known as the Butcher of Matabeleland.

Of course if you paid attention to this blog you would have aleady had a good idea of the role of the military in keeping Mugabe in power. And it is now clear that they are keeping his as their figurehead and that have taken control of the country. They order Mugabe about these days.

Photo: General Chiwenga, the man now pulling Mugabe's strings.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Planning the world to death. Hubris and the New York Times

The New York Times has an interesting editorial regarding the food crisis in the world. And they have come to some important and rare conclusions. I say the conclusions are rare because they are correct. And, unfortunately, when it comes to economic issues, the Times rarely gets it right. Of course, old habits die hard so they do manage to get parts of the editorial wrong.

The very correct point they make is that the food crisis “could push tens of millions of people into abject poverty and starvation” and that it is largely “man-made --- the result of misguided energy and farm policies.”

Let us be a bit more precise. To call the crisis man-made spreads the blame to all of humanity, much the way the “man-made global warming” scare attempts to pin the blame on humanity in general. That sort of interpretation would be incorrect here. This crisis is politically-made. The culprits were elected officials like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Dianne Feinstein. The politicians of the European Union were involved as well.

Politicians intentionally foisted policies that provided them with political benefits but which would clearly result in world hunger. None of this was unpredictable. It was simple economics. This blog has been screaming about these policies long before the Times and the politicians realized there was a problem. And I did so, not because I have some sort of psychic abilities, but because the ramifications of the disastrous policies that the political class was pushing, including the New York Times, were obvious.

Just a little bit of Economics 101 is enough to predict that government policies like biofuels subsidies would push food prices higher globally. The problem is that the Times and the politicians both seemed to believe that if the bureaucrats had “good intentions” they could “rationally plan” the market in ways that abolish basic laws of supply and demand.

In any other field they would be laughed out of office for doing that. Imagine them thinking that rational, central planning could reduce the effects of gravity. But economics, more than the hard sciences, has the ability to attract charlatans who believe in the economic equivalent of alchemy.

We saw a concerted effort a few years ago to push for biofuels. That policy taxed consumers to redistribute wealth to farmers and big energy companies. The energy companies got the millions to produce biofuels which were worse for the environment, more costly to produce and which needed food, like corn, in the production process.

The European Union, the British government, the US federal government and many of the state governments, set up subsidies and mandatory requirements that companies produce these biofuels. In a short period of time those companies were getting rich producing a product that consumers didn’t want and which had to be subsidized to be competitive. They also purchased tons and tons of food. The more food they purchased the less food on the market and the higher the prices went.

The fat cats with political pull were living easy off these politically-created, artificial profits. The environmentalists were thrilled that a “clean” energy source was being used and many lobbied for greater subsidies. Big energy was thrilled as they were making record profits from the subsidies. The politicians could buy votes in the farm regions, while claiming to be concerned about global warming everywhere else. All in all that would increase their votes. They also got nice contributions from the big energy companies who were rolling in subsidized profits: just ask Obama and Hillary how much they got.

The Times, and many of their reporters and editorialists, has always had a disdain for free markets. They have preached the gospel of economic interventionism for as long as I’ve been alive -- and longer. They have believed that politicians, and the political process,, should take control of the vagaries of the market and manipulate things through various policies, in order to get politically-acceptable results. Market economists have long noted that such policies and plans always come with unintended consequences. What is particular shocking is that these consequences are not necessarily hard to predict.

But there is a hubris on the Left, or perhaps I should say among politicians in general, that they can somehow, through the sheer force of their own “innate goodness”, will, and government force, manipulate markets so that the results are politically desirable without bad consequences. Over and over they try to accomplish that, and over and over they create disasters. Their current disaster is resulting in millions of people starving to death because politically-planned markets don’t work.

Make no mistake about it, the current food crisis is almost entirely the result of political planning. The Left-of-center British newspaper, the Guardian, recently wrote that: “Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% -- far more than previously estimated -- according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian."

They say the report is “based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far.” They also note that this contradicts the claims made by politically bodies. For instance, the US government pretends that their policies are only responsible for “less than 3%” of the rise in food prices. But a report for the British government apparently backs up the World Bank study and says that biofuels played a “significant” role in the food crisis. This report challenges a central plank of the Labour Party’s environmental agenda. So there is no surprise that the release of the report to the public has been delayed by the government.

One idea of how major an influence these political-boondoggels are in regards to the world food market is that “over a third of US corn is used to produce ethanol, while about half of EU vegetable oils go towards the production of biodiesel.” The UN World Food Program has been arguing that these policies were pushing 100 million people into starvation.

What is particularly sickening is that the very politicians who tend to portray themselves as advocates for the poor, are the leaders in the campaign for the policies that are killing millions of poor people. Can anyone say Hillary and Obama?

The root cause for this is hubris, their belief that they have the ability to second guess markets and plan massive economies. That is what the socialists have been advocating for centuries. It is no accident that the first nations to adopt these short-sighted energy and agricultural policies were the Left-wing welfare states. In the US the Democrats have been the major proponents. In the UK it was the Labour Party. In nation after nation the Left-of-center parties have been pushing central planning in the name of protecting the environment.

We saw centrally-planned economic policies regularly produce famine. Political planning under the Soviets killed millions of Russians, Ukranians and others, as food production was destroyed. The socialist planning ideals of Mao led to massive famines in China in the late 50s and early 60s. State regulation in India was responsible for widespread hunger. Yet, when China allowed markets to work, the hunger ended even as the population grew. When socialist Vietnam stopped centrally planning agriculture, food production turned around and the nation became a food exporter. When India undid their socialist controls, and allowed markets to operate, they too became a net exporter of food.

Now, mainly in the name of the environment, governments around the world are once again centrally planning markets. Politicians are using carrots and sticks, penalties and subsidies, to force markets to fit their agenda. The result is 100 million starving people. Politicians kill. They don’t mean to kill but they do it anyway. Their inherent need to tinker with, and regulate people, means that they must destroy the private plans of the people and impose their own plans instead.

One of the great myths about central planning is that politicians impose planning where only chaos existed. On the contrary, government planning destroys the plans of millions of people. And those millions of people are planning with information they have which no government has, or can have. They are using the local knowledge of their own situation and conditions to plan for their future. The politicians come in, and smash those rational, individual plans. In their place the politicians impose a political plan, based more on wishes and whims than on reality and facts. The only possible, long-term result of such economic planning is disaster.

As long as people believe that politicians can solve problems, these sorts of disastrous results will keep accumulating. The problem is that, even while these results are staring them in the face, advocates of central planning are ideologically blind. They offer more of the same rot that caused the problem, as the solution. So the Times, while it acknowledges that political planning caused the problem, demands that governments “vastly increase aid to the poorest countries.”

Where does that aid go? It goes to the governments of those countries in order to allow even dumber, more corrupt politicians, to dominate more of the local economy. Anyone who has lived in Africa knows that agriculture is dominated by the State. Many African nations have food marketing boards. Farmers are required to sell to these boards at below market rates. These government boards then sells the food at world prices keeping the profits for the state and passing it around to the political elite. The net result is that many food producers don’t wish to produce for the market, but only for their own personal consumption. Peasant farmers who attempt to sell their products in the open market can face jail.

Robert Mugabe intentionally destroyed the agricultural sector of his own economy and was applauded by the other African governments while doing so. He did much of it with the vast amount of foreign aid he was receiving at the time.

The Times get much of the editorial right. They want the end of agricultural subsidies in the United States, the end of biofuel subsidies and the end of tariffs. They have recognized that central planning didn’t work in the rich nations of the world but created world-wide disaster.

But they seem to believe that central planning in the Third World will solve problems there. Foreign aid creates central planning where it might not have existed otherwise. Aid funds are giving to central governments which then use the money the way governments everywhere use money. On one hand it is used to punish activity the government wants to stop and on the other hand it is used to provide subsidies to projects the government wants to encourage. Somebody has to decide which projects fit which category. Government-to-government aid forces the very kind of central planning on Third World nations which the Times is now condemning in the West.

But the Times dare not see the principles involved. To acknowledge that political planning doesn’t work would destroy the very foundation of their entire political belief system. So they entertain the fantasy that old failed planning policies can be replaced with new planning schemes. They will continue to endorse politicians and policies which thrust government bureaucracy into the market and they will continue to propose the abolition of local, individual planning with central, political planning. The Times, and Left-thinking politicians, will continue to pretend that such proposals mean that they are “compassionate and caring” while the advocates of markets are proposing “a dog-eat-dog kind of world.” And more disasters will follow.

Postscript: As a perfect example of the problems I mention in this piece consider this news from the BBC. Argentina's lower house of Congress has "approved a controversial package of taxes on agricultural exports. ...Argentina is one of the world's top producers of soya, grains and beef and the government wants a bigger share of the profits, it says to fight poverty."

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Is cheerleading pornographic?

One of the worst trends in the United States the way that prosecutors in the United States continue to push the envelope in how laws are interpreted. This is especially true in the realm of sexual offenses. The new Puritanism, inspired by Theopublican dogma and feminist-inspired hatred of sexuality, is constantly looking for new interpretations to make more things illegal.

Here is a clear example. Mr. Gilbert Chan, 52, is a business reporter in Sacramento. And he was arrested for a “single felony count of possessing obscene matter depicting sexual conduct of a person under 18.” Sounds ominous doesn’t it? His own newspaper reports it as “possession of child pornography.”

There is no child pornography involved -- none. The film does not contain pornography of any kind except in the minds of the district attorneys office.

There was a video tape, but there was no nudity and no sexual activity on the tape.

Chan was at a “cheerleading competition at the UC Davis Activities and Recreation Center and he videotaped girls in their cheerleading outfits. They were doing cheers not cunnilingus.

For this Mr. Chan faced imprisonment and lifelong harassment as a registered sex offender. He had charges filed against him well in excess of anything that the law allows.

The evidence is that Chan’s video tape took particular interest in the buttocks of the girls and other “body parts”. I assume they means breasts. Remember everyone of the “victims” was clothed were performing cheers in a public place.

Worse yet Chan stupidly pleaded “no contest” to the charges. I suspect the reasoning was simple. The prosecutor used his ability to overcharge individuals to threaten Chan. They will prosecute the man as a child pornographer and work to get him the maximum penalty under the law. That includes the Scarlet Letters of the New Puritanism -- RSO, registered sex offender.

However, if Chan accepts the charges against him, through the “no contest” plea then the prosecutor won’t force him to register as a sex offender.

I have blogged about how prosecutors have used the death penalty in Texas to force innocent people to pleading guilty for murders they did not commit. The prosecutor informs the “suspect” that they will be executed. He waves about the tendency of the good Christian folk in Texas to demand that the state go into the murder business. Nothing gets the god-botherers more satisfied than a few killings.

The suspect then is informed that the only way he can avoid being murdered by the government is to plead guilty to the offense. In other words the suspect is offered the choice of dying or life in prison. And many prefer life. The prosecutor is happy and his “conviction rate” goes up -- that helps his career and is popular with the voters as well. The prison industry is happy, each new prisoner means more redistribution of wealth to wardens, prison guards and the like. Even the family of the victim is happy since they have been false lead to believe that a guilty person was caught and imprisoned.

Of course the satisfaction is all fake. The man may not be guilty at all. The real killer is likely free and unpunished. But nobody seems to care.

So it is with sex offenses. The prosecutor comes in with horrendous charges, he over charges intentionally in order to force the “suspect” into pleading guilty. In return for the suspect’s plea the prosecutor then reduces the charges.

Remember the case of Matt Bandy and the disgusting antics of the Maricopa County (AZ) prosecutors office. In that case District Attorney Thomas Andrew is a loony, rabid fundamentalist type. His office arrested a teenage boy and filed charges against him that would result in a sentence of life in prison. The charge was alleged child pornography -- I say alleged since the photos were never seen by a jury.

Bandy’s parents spent a massive sum of money --- enough to buy several houses, defending their son. They finally forced the reluctant prosecutors to release the computer, where the porn was allegedly stored, for forensic inspection. The result was proof that a handful of photos were being stored on the computer by someone from a remote location. Using virus they hacked the computer and could use its internet connection to store anything they wanted without the family’s knowledge.

Once it was confirmed that the prosecutor had an extremely weak case he went to the boy and offered him a plea bargain. If he admitted guilt to a lesser charge the main charges would be dropped. The lesser charge was that Bandy had showed a copy of Playboy to some of his school mates.

The boy would be spared prison for this new heinous offense -- heinous in the minds of the Christian Jihadists in the Republican Party. But Thomas still wanted the boy to be forced to register as a sex offender. Only the actions of the judge in the case prevented the sex offender status from taking effect. But Bandy was found guilty for showing the Playboy -- an offense which I fear would result in the arrest of about the entire teenaged male population of the country. And those not arrested for looking at Playboy would most likely be guilty of looking at Playgirl.

Bandy’s choice was life in prison or registering as a sex offender for having Playboy. Of course he choose the later. Thomas could brag about his conviction rate and the fundamentalist law and order mobs would be happy that Satanic porn lead to the punishment of a young student. It might not be burning at the stake but it sure made them feel good anyway. Things only worked out for Bandy because of the obscene amounts his family had to spend to defend him. The typical teen, caught in this sex hysteria lynching, would be convicted and jailed and become an RSO because of simple economics. His family can’t afford the defense he needs and the prosecutor doesn’t give a damn about how much tax money he spends. In fact, the more he spends on “crime” this year, the more he gets budgeted next year.

In Chan’s case the prosecutor was able to force a “no contest” plea, which is basically the same a guilty plea but without saying one is guilty. He was able to force it by promising Chan that if he did this he would be prosecuted for a misdemeanor, probably avoid prison time --- the new jail time was a possible three months versus three years --- and he wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender.

It is doubtful that Chan could afford a trial. Very few victims of prosecutorial zeal can match the spending habits of the prosecution. After all the “suspects” are usually spending their own money and the prosecutors are spending your money. And when the suspects get a public defender they rarely get quality help and almost no budget for their own defense. The system is rigged to encourage the lynch mob mentality of prosecutors.

Worse yet, Chan’s plea encourages more prosecutions for “child pornography” where there is neither nudity nor sexual activity. A cheerleading contest is hardly an orgy. Chan may have filmed the clothed buttocks of some cheerleaders, and some of those cheerleaders were under 18. But a clothed butt is not pornography. Chan was also convicted to plead “no contest” to violating the privacy of the cheerleaders, this in spite of the performance taking place in a public venue.

The prosecutor knows he can get away with stretching definitions beyond all reason. As long as he shouts “child pornography” the public looses any sensibility. With his powers to destroy lives by forcing a RSO status on people he has the ability to plea bargain individuals into guilty pleas, or their equivalent, even where no charges are warranted.

It may be that Mr. Chan enjoyed teenage buttocks. In fact it is likely. Most adults, male and female, find at least some pubescent individuals sexually attractive, even if they are below the local age of consent. Contrary to the fevered claims of the Religious Right that is entirely normal. But just because Chan enjoyed the video doesn’t make it pornographic.

However, the courts have long given leeway to prosecutors to prosecute people for pornography even when no nudity or sexual activity is present. Individuals have been imprisoned for material that could be shown on television -- some for material that even Christian television could show. One case I read about concerned a man who had photos of teenaged boys without their shirts on. They were otherwise dressed and nothing sexual was implied. The judge reasoned that if the man found it exciting that made it porn.

With that sort of reasoning a shoe catalogue could get some people arrested as purveyors of obscenity.

This is just another example of how the perverse incentives of government corrupt the legal system. One might argue that Chan was a bit creepy but he wasn’t a pornographer. His video might be bad taste but it wasn’t sexual. He shouldn’t have been prosecuted. Also note that the video in question was the only offense for which he was charged. I can assure you that the police confiscate his home computers, video tapes, etc., in order to find real child porn. That no other charges were brought against him indicates that no child porn existed in his possession. If he had it they would have filed more charges. This one charge indicates that Chan did not actually have any child porn at all. The prosecution was bogus.

Yes, sexual attacks on children are horrible things. It is that horror which helps prosecutors get away with horrible things themselves. As long as people become hysterical and irrational over sexual matters, something the Religious Right encourages, this sort of prosecutorial misconduct will continue.

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