Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How out of touch is he?

US military officials knew of the Haditha massacre a couple of months ago. The current revelations are not new to them at all. Originally the Marines who led the massacre claimed that two dozen civilians they executed had died in a roadside bombing. This lie was immediately and obviously false as the civilians did not have the wounds of bombing victims.

What they had shown was that the victims died of gunshot wounds to the head or to the chest. In other words all of them showed signs they were executed.

It is known that two Marines took photos of the incident shortly after it happend (though neither participated in the massacre). What happened to those photos? Who has them?

It is also known that the US military paid out $38,000 to the families of victims of the massacre for wrongful deaths -- in other words they knew the Marines had lied at that time or they wouldn't have made the payouts. In typical doubletalk a military official involved in the payouts said: "I didn't say we had made a mistake, I said I'm being told I can make payments for these 15 because they were deemed not to be involved in combat."

Okay, think about this. The 15 were were not "involved in combat". US Marines killed them. but this was not a "mistake".

Perhaps the most bizarre thing about this massacre is that while the US government has been aware of it for months President Bush supposedly first heard about it when reading an article in Time magazine! Much the same way he supposedly only found out about the flooding in New Orleans from news reports. Exactly what sort of commander in chief is so out of touch with the facts of his own military that one of the worst US atrocities in decades only comes to his attention by reading a publication on the news racks?

US government wants credit card details of Europeans.

The United States, using 9/11 as an excuse, is pushing for the European Union to arrange a new deal to provide US authorities with reams of material on all passangers on planes headed for the United States.

A previous deal gave the US government 34 different pieces of information, including credit card details, on all passangers. But the European Court of Justice struck down the agreement as illegal.

Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament, Graham Watson, said ""The response to 9/11 has been costly, both to the taxpayer and to individual freedom. It has made us little, if any, safer." Another MEP, Claud Moraes, said "Giving out people's personal financial information is a big deal, you need good assurances and we didn't believe the standard of assurances we were getting from the Department of Homeland Security and the US authorities." I don't see why there is such skepticism about the efficiency of the Homoland Security gestoap after all they did such a bang up job with the Katrina disaster.

But the airlines are concerned since the US government is threatening them with punishment for not following the requirements while the EU is telling them it is illegal to comply with those same requirements. An official of the British Air Transport Association said that if airlines "don't supply the information to the US border authorities, they are liable to fines of up to $6,000 per passenger, and loss of landing rights. If we do supply the information, potentially we are breaking the law."

Not long ago the United States got a rash of bad publicity in New Zealand when it Kiwis learned that all air passengers flying via American airports to other destinations, such as London, had to disembark the flight, pass through customs even though they had no intention of visiting the States, and were routinely finger printed. A Kiwi member of parliament said it was disgusting that the US treated him like a common criminal, forced him to provide fingerprints, and all he was trying to do was change planes for London. It is now adviseable for flyers to avoid the United States entirely unless they enjoy being treated like criminals by rude, arrogant, petty bureaucrats who seem to enjoy making people miserable --- I speak from experience watching them at work.

(It is also the reason that I have intentionally booked flights that avoid US territory instead of flying via the US. And when required to be in the US I have taken other forms of transport. However I can attest that the gestapo mentality that rules the airpors is not apparent on other forms of transport as well. I took a bus in the US only to find that federal agents stopped the bus, boarded it and demanded ID from every passanger. When I arrived at the final destination uniformed agents were walking around randomly demanding ID from people waiting for buses.)

It is apparent that the rising police state in the US is intent on forcing similar policies on the rest of the world and will use the might and power of the US government to do so. It is already difficult, if not impossible, for American citizens to open bank accounts in Europe. Banks are told that they can all their US assets confiscated if they open an account for a US citizen, whether they reside in the US or not, if the US government decides that citizen has broken any law. The only way banks can escape this is to have no assets in the US or to refuse accounts to US citizens and that is what they are doing. The best advice I can give is avoid the United States and if you are a US citizen get citizenship someplace else the first chance you can.

Iraqi ambassador says Marines killed his cousin

The United States put the current Iraqi government into place via an invasion. Now they find that the new Iraqi Ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaidaie, is saying that US Marines executed his cousin for no apparent reason.

With the Haditha massacre fresh in the news revelations from a top official of the Iraqi government can only make matters worse.

Sumaidaie says he learned about the Haditha murders from a member of his security detail who had relatives in Haditha. He said he was not inclined to believe them at first and attributed them to rumour. But as time went by he became convinced that a massacre had taken place purpetrated by US military forces. He also says that in a separate incident in Haditha a cousin of his was executed by Marines. He said Marines were going door to door searching homes and his counsin let him in. He says his cousin's mother and siblings were present.

During an interview on CNN Sumaidaie said: "I believe he was killed intentionally. I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing.

I would like further investigation. I have, in fact, asked for the report of the last investigation, which was a criminal investigation, by the way."

The Ambassador also said he knows of another incident where people were pulled out of a taxi and excuted. US forces have already admitted that in Haditha four passangers and a driver were pulled out of a taxi at Haditha and summarily executed yet they were innocent of any wrong doing. As this blog has said before: when you have a president who acts illegally and unconstitutionally one should not be surprised when those he commands do the same. Once the top commander flouts the law his underlings will follow.

How bad will be it be for the GOP?

How bad will it be for the Republicans come November. If you don't have the patience to wait then just watch the election in the 50th Congressional Distriction in Southern California. Now this district is rockhard Republican. In the last election Randy Cunnigham, the candidate for the pro-morality Republicans scored 58% while the Democrat, Francine Busby managed only 38%.

But Cunningham is out of office and in prison for taking bribes. And George Bush had decimated support for the Republican Party through his ineptness, his lies, and his big government policies.

A strong Republican district yet Busby, according to the most recent poll is running neck to neck with the Republican, Brian Bilbray. It shouldn't be that way, not in this district. If the Republicans lose the 50th, even if it's a close race and they win, that means trouble for the Republicans. Bilbray isn't catching on. He is trying to turn the election into an endorsement for the war in Iraq. That and immigrant bashing are his hallmarks.

The national Republican Party is pouring money into the district trying to secure a victory that ought to have been a cake walk. But the "Washington Whispers" column of US News & World Report says: "Staffers from the National Republicans Congressional Committee are quietly telling GOP House members to prepare for a possible loss in the June 6 special election ... The NRCC has already pumped $3.1 million into the race." Much of these funds are being used to wage a very negative smear campaign against Busby.

There are 50,000 more Republicans in the District than Democrats but you wouldn't know it from the recent polls. That latest results show both candidates at 45% with 9% supporting somone else and 1% undecided.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One man's tragedy, a nation's shame

We have already posted on the developing story of the massacre conducted by US Marines in Iraq. Some of the Marines who witnessed what happened are now speaking out. One Marine, not involved tells a tragic story. Tragic for the people who were senselessly slaughtered by their "liberators" and tragic for this Marine himself.

He is Ryan Briones. Ryan was only 20 years old when he was in Haditha and what he saw has traumatised him and destroyed him emotionally. Perhaps the most outrageous thing about war is that old men by necessity force the killing on the very young. The recruiters use every under handed trick and form of intimidation to try and get high school kids to sign up. These are kids who wouldn't be allowed to sign a contract except to join the military. And with a few months of learning how to kill they are sent off to war. But no one can teach them how to live with killing. No one can teach them how to make sense out what is happening. No one can teach them to keep their wits about them when facing the disgusting and gruesome nature of a violent invasion. And the men who send these young men, far too young for the burdens placed upon them, sit in Washington giving deceptive press conferences, offering the world assurance that things are really going great and pretending to be concerned about the lives they are destroying.

Briones is now 21 years old and he is home. Life is not going well for him. He returned to the United States and fell apart emotionally. He came home and got smashing drunk. And when you understand his story you will understand why. Totally intoxicated he stole a pick up truck and crashed it into a house. He left the scene of the accident and when police tried to arrest him he resisted. He is out on bail. He is also a new member of Alcoholic Anonymous (maybe George Bush can be his sponsor after all George is responsible for Ryan being a member). He is seeing a physician for to deal with post-traumatic syndrome.

His mother had sent a letter to the local papers about the incident. She wrote: "My son saw what the Marines did, and he knew who did it before the Haditha investigations began. He saw the killings and knew who sent the word out to do the killings, he had to clean up the bodies of children who were sleeping in their beds and he saw his best friend die in front of his eyes."

When Ryan went to Haditha that day the first thing he saw was the body of his best friend blown apart in a road side bombing. And then he saw what his fellow Marines had done. He went into the homes of the victims and helped carry the bodies out. "They ranged from little babies to adult males and females. I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood. This left something in my head and heart." He and another soldier were told to take pictures which he did.

He remembers carrying out the body of a young child, a small girl. He held his arms extended out holding her. He said she was shot in the head. Her small head bounced as he walked and bits of her brain fell out on his leg as he walked. His mother said that this incident haunted him. "He called me many times about carrying this little girl in his hands and her brains splattering on his boots. He'd say, 'Mom, I can't clean my boots. I can't clean my boots. I see her.' "

Ryan turned his camera in when he returned to base. He later returned for it saying that it had been moved and apparently the photos downloaded and the camera erased. He does not know what happened to his photos. Later he was shown photos that someone else had taken. This is a story that won't go away, Mr. Bush.

Ryan says: "I used to be one of those Marines who said that post-traumatic stress is a bunch of bull. But all this stuff that keeps going through my head is eating me up. I need immediate help."

A fish rots from the head down. When the White House condones torture, when it says that anything done to "fight the war on terror" is justified, it sends a message that lawlessness is justified. The Commander in Chief has told those he commands that fidelity to the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" is not longer necessary. And they have put this new principle into practice. They summarily found these civilians guilty. And they carried out the punishment without any of that messy division of government power much the way George Bush has justified his imperial presidency. The soldiers on the ground are still far too young to make the decisions that have been forced upon them. The men in the White House know what they are doing. The troops were following precedents established by Bush and his buddies. If they are put on trial then the Executive branch of the American government is being put on trial with them.

There is a scene in Ayn Rand's film The Fountainhead where Howard Rourke is about to face his verdict in a court of justice. The judge tells the accused to stand. Rourke stands. So does Gail Wynand. I shall not ruin the plot but suffice to say that if Rourke is found innocent Wynand knows it means he is guilty. And if Rourke is found guilty Wynand sees that an his exoneration. When there is finally a court of justice that investigates this massacre of the innocent and the young Marines are asked to stand to hear their verdict it would only be fit and proper for George Bush to be there. He should be standing next to them, shackled if they are, in a prison uniform if they are. And when they are asked to stand he should stand with them. And when they are sentenced he should receive the same justice. These young men can be put on trial for their lives.

If they are found guilty they can be executed for their crimes. Bush won't stand with them. He'll eventually stick his foot in his mouth and say something stupid or insincere or both. He'll retire and get some lucrative job with Halliburton or some other major company which lined it's pockets with the proceeds from this war. Bush will then spend his time doing nothing productive. Which is an improvement over the last six years where almost everything he did was destructive. And he'll work to put his brother in the White House so the fleecing of America can continue. Meanwhile there are more than a handful of young Americans having to live with the horrors that Bush inflicted on them.

Note: The photo is of Susie Briones, Ryan's mother, holding a photograph of her son.

Some of the funniest TV bloopers ever. Just for fun.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Liberating the world one corpse at a time.

George Bush and Tony Blair have both recently made speeches pushing their globalist agenda. Each is promising to take the military subjugation of nations to more and more countries. Bush is promising that his campaign won't stop until the entire world "is free" (which apparently does not include the US where the Bill of Rights is being shredded). The very people that Iraq needs to rebuild are fleeing the country in massive numbers because of the botch-up there. But all Bush can promise is more and more military crusades to "liberate" more countries.

But what is liberation? It is not freedom though Bush throws that word around a lot. In Iraq it means the election of a theocratic Islamist regime put in power by the US government. It means more terrorist attacks. It was supposed to mean freedom from torture and execution. But then it turns out the US uses torture and so does the Islamist regime it put into power. It doesn't mean freedom from execution either. Members of the national tennis team were recently executed on the streets for weaing tennish shorts. The Islamist regime has death squads that visit neighbourhoods at night and execute people the Islamists want to get rid of. That is Anerican tax dollars at work.

And now we learn that the US military itself went on a killing spree executing innocent civilians. Photographs have emerged showing that US Marines executed up to 24 civilians. One photo showed a mother and her young daughter. They were on their knees praying when shot to death at close range. That is an execution. The photos were taken by a US military photographer who arrived on the scene just after the executions.

One witness said he heard his neighbour pleading for his life in English saying, "I am a friend, I am good." But the neighbour says, "they killed him, his wife and daughters." Marines claimed that the civilians were killed by a roadside bomb but recently a Pentagon official admitted that none of the dead were killed by such a bomb. In fact investigators have concluded that the killings took place over a three to five hour period.

Supposedly the incident began after a taxi with four students was pulled over at a checkpoint set up by the Marines. The occupants were ordered out of the vehicle and executed. Next the marines entered three homes near the checkpoint. They entered the home of 76 year old Abdul Hameed Ali Hassan, a blind man who lost his legs and was confined to wheelchair. He was shot to death. His 10-year-old granddaughter says: "About 10 marines entered the house. They threw hand grenades and began firing in all directions. Grandpa was sitting close to the hall and they shot him dead. The American soldiers... gathered all of us into one room -- my grandma, my mama, my brothers and my uncles. They threw in two handgrenades and started shooting at us." This child says the adults tried to cover the children with their bodies. She says when it was over "everyone was dead around me except for my brother and my uncle."

The child fled to relatives who lived next door only to find all of them, except one young girl, had been executed as well. This second girl testified: "My daddy tried to open the door to let the Americans in, but he was immediately shot in the head and body. I managed to hide under the body of my brother Mohammed. His blood covered me and protected me as I pretended to be dead." Among those murdered were her sisters including Aysha, 4, and Zainab, 2. This girl said" "I was the only one who survived. I watched them kill my entire family."

After the executions the Marines created a cover story but it unraveled quickly. A video by an Iraqi student journalist showed that the victims were still in their nightclothes, unlikely if they were all outside when the bomb went off. And the bodies of the dead showed they had been shot at close range not killed by a bomb. The marines also paid $2,500 in compensation for each of those killed. But refused to do so for the occupants of the taxi sahing they were insurgents. Government officials now say the taxi occupants were innocent civilians. So far the US government has managed to keep the existing photographs out of the media. But the incident itself is no longer hidden.

That US Maines went on a killing spree in Iraq murdering innocent civilians can only complicate the disastrous foreign policy of the interventionists. It is difficult to convince people that you intend to "liberate" them when your own forces execute innocent civilians. Such attacks can only serve as recruiting vehicles for terrorism and create even greater hatred toward the United States. This is only pouring kerosene on an already burning fire. The negative consequences of such actions will be severe and long-term. Government intervention always has unintended consequences and those consequences are negative. While some people understand this about economics, but blank out numbly when it comes to foreign policy, baffles me.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Who you gonna call?

Various "nativist" groups, Know-Nothings, bigots, "border security conservatives" and others have a dilemma. Every year for centuries the West experiences wild fires. The West is dry and always has been. It has some strong winds and fires start and get out of control. So who are they going to call to put out those fire? Immigrants for a large part of the work.

A large measure of the work of putting out wild fires is in the hands of private fire protection services. And the New York Times reports: "As many as half the roughly 5,000 private firefighters based int he Pacific Northwest and contracted by state and federal governments to fight forest fires are immigrants, mostly from Mexico. And an untold number of them are working here illegally." I like a comment I recently read. Martin Luther King attacked a society that judged a man by the colour of his skin instead of the content of his character. This author, and I don't remember where I read it, said that Americans have reached the point where they don't even bother with the colour of the skin. Instead they judge people by the colour of their documentation not the content of their character.

Now the US Forest Services is saying that it will work to identify illegal firefighters. I'm sure that will make the people in front of the fires feel much safer. Let's get rid of some people fighting fires. Talk about cutting off you nose to spite your face.

Larger fire fighting companies are also helping push through laws to disadvantage their competition. Oregon recently passed laws requiring that any companies that fights fires must have a formal business location. As if the fire will just happen to show up there. There are towns across the US where there isn't a formal office for the local fire department as it is volunteer work. And some of these fire crews have been sent all over the country. Having an office back in Oregon where they can meet, while fighting a fire in Colorado is just nonsense. Of course the bigger companies have offices. It is the small companies with one or two crews that don't.

This is a classic example of how Big Business in conspiracy with Big Government pass regulations that do nothing to improve life for consumers but which give advantages to the big big guys and regulate little guys out of the market. Socialists and Leftists, who love regulation, have been cooperating with Big Business to limit competition for well over 100 years now. History is filled with such examples. Also keep in mind that the fire problem is a seasonal one. It strikes mostly during certain months of the year where conditions are right. This regulation requires a business to have an office which is barely needed during the fire season and totally unneeded the rest of the year. With just one or two crews the extra costs will drive them out of business --- which is what the big companies want.

Serafin Garcia immigrated to the US almost twenty years ago and started a fire company in Oregon. He says the new rules will cause him severe problems. "I'm right on the edge this year and may be out of business," he says. One local bureaucrat says: "All we want as a government is a good, productive, safe work force." But nothing in the article indicated that the work force wasn't already good, productive and safe. The real reason appears more typical of the mind set of people infected with governmentitus. The Times notes that this bureaucrat "said the industry grew too fast to be well regulated..." It is not about safety. It is about state power. It is about the same bureucratic mentality that took a disaster like Hurricane Katrina and made it far worse.

One local company owner, who only hires native born employees, which sounds like it violates all sorts of anti-discrimination laws, is quite open about the new regulations. He says: "The new systems clearly discriminated against minority contractors but that give me an edge, and I'll take it."

Obscene exaggerations

Kiwi blogger Lindsay Mitchell has noted that Keith Deltano, one of these American “conservatives” now running around the schools at the expense of taxpayers to promote chastity claims that the average American is exposed to between 240,000 and 480,000 sex acts before reaching the age of 18. Deltano is a fundamentalist Christian who is on the Bush gravy train collecting fees for his "faith based" abstinence lectures. This sort of "business" now gets around $178 million per year from the Bush Administration.

What is this man saying? Let’s put this in perspective. When you have your 18th birthday you will have lived 6570 days in total. This would average 38.5 sex acts per day. I’m not sure what half a sex act would look like. But, that’s how the math works out. Of course, that is just for his low estimate. If you take his high estimate it would be 77 sex acts per day thus ridding us of the necessity to contemplate what half a sex act would be like. Though I am told that many women say they know precisely what half of a sex act is like!

But, can we say at a new-born infant is exposed to such things? I doubt it. I get the impression that Deltano, like most conservatives, is obsessed with the media so he’s probably talking about television and film. New-borns don’t watch much TV and I have actually never seen a new born at the cinema. So .it is probably fair to delete the first two years of life from this analysis, if not more. After all, for the first two years infants are mainly exposed to cribs, diapers and adults going “goo goo” at them. Rarely are they lining up at the porn shop, watching racy late night TV, or sneaking a peek at the Playboy Channel.

So, it is fair to delete the first two years at least. That brings the number of days in which they are exposed to such things to 5,840. That comes to 41.09 sex acts per day. If that half sex act was messy consider what one-tenth of a sex act would be like. I think it’s called shaking hands. So Deltano is saying that children are exposed to between 41 and 82 sex acts per day.

I don’t have any idea what he calls a sex act. If Bill Clinton’s definition of sex was way too narrow the typical conservative’s definition is way too broad. Some fundamentalists think dancing is a sex act.

I watch quite a bit of TV. Even when I’m not “watching” TV I often have it on just because I like having sound around me and prefer voices to music. I see some kissing on TV fairly regularly. It is fair to say that I see it daily. But I’m not sure that counts as a sex act. I really would have to say that a sex act is anything that includes the genitals. Sure you run across “depictions” of that. But I wouldn’t say I that happens in every show I watch and it is more suggested than shown.

How many hours of television do kids watch per day? Let’s assume that most days they sleep 8 hours per day. They probably spend at lest 3 hours per day eating, bathing, dressing, going to the toilet. That’s 11 hours. They spend time in school. Let us assume that over the whole period in question it average 4 hours per day, which could be low, I ‘m too lazy to figure it out precisely. We are now at 15 hours that are occupied. I wouldn’t be surprised if a typical kid spends 2 hours per day playing games, hanging out with friends, etc. That’s 17 hours. And I'm sure they do all sorts of other things as well. Various groups contend that the average child spends 3 to 4 hours per day watching TV.

That sounds reasonable to me. And, for argument's sake, lets assume it is the 4 hour figure. So that is 4 hours per day from the age of two to 18, or 16 years. That is 23,360 hours of TV, video and film before they turn 18. But, even that is not quite accurate. Typically during one hour of television there is about 15 minutes of commercials. So that means while they watch 4 hours per day they get only 3 hours of television. And last I heard the typical commercial very, very, very rarely shows “sexual acts.” That brings the total hours down to 17,520. That means 13.69 sex acts per hour. (And that .69 sex act we all know about!) This would amount to one sex act approximately every 4 minutes.

Not even porn videos can match that record. And that is still being “conservative” (as in being low as opposed to being “conservative” in the modern political sense, where you exaggerate everything you dislike to prove the world is falling apart.) Most shows have few, or no sex acts, inthem. And this is particularly true of the shows that kids like to watch especially when they are young. I know Jerry Falwell, in one of his senior moments, said Tinky Winky was gay, but even he didn’t say that there were orgies on Teletubbies.

At the very least much of what kids watch has no sex at all in it. I’m not sure how we quantify this. But, if we just say that a third of the time they see nothing that is sexual that would mean the number of sex acts they do see during the “hot” times would have to be around 20.5 per hour to 41 per hour to come anywhere near the figures this conservative activist claims.

That is one sex act every 3 minutes on the low estimate and one every 90 seconds on his high estimate. This is getting absurd. I have to wonder what shows these children are supposedly watching. I have enjoyed some rather adult dramas, not typically watched by children, and none of them have approached the frequency that this author seems to be saying exists.

So are kids getting exposed to this much “sex” every day. No. I don’t think so. What is going on? Ask a homeless advocate how many people are homeless and the numbers he will spout will indicate a crisis that needs addressing. What is factual is not important; he is pushing an agenda. Ditto for virtually any issue you want to think about.

Right-wing religionists are not exempt from the tendency to exaggerate the issues that bother them. The fact is that in many cases they just make up the numbers. Or they use estimates that are intentionally skewed to make the “problem” look much bigger than it is. And if I, as an adult who has watched considerable television in his lifetime, haven’t seen the frequency of sex acts that Deltano claims exists I doubt the kids have seen it. I’m no prude and I wouldn’t turn off a show just because it shows sexual situations. I haven’t seen that much sex on television. I don’t think the children see it either. I’m not saying they never see anything sexual. And I’m not convinced that if they did it would be a disaster if the parents have already dealt well with such information. But I’m fairly confident that these estimates are obscenely exaggerated.

PS: Yes, the photo is Deltano. I'm not making it up.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Russian thugs, govt, attack gay rights marchers

The Putin regime in Russia is dictatorial and undeserving of being recognised as a civil and free society. Putin has thrown out the rule of law. Now more confirmation that the Russian government is uncivilised has surfaced. An attempt to hold a march for gay rights was banned by the thugs in power. Up to 1,000 policemen were stationed all around the city to prevent anyone from demostrating for gay rights. The city bragged: "All the central strees will be under control, as the exact location where the organisers plan to hold the even is unknown." At least 50 people were arrested for attempting to exercise their rights. The BBC says it was more than 70. In addition the BBC reports that foreign supporters of the march were also attacked.

Religious leaders demanded that the civil rights of gay people be stomped out and an Orthodox priest was seen blessing a group of individuals, some carrying religious banners, who then attacked a nightclub for gay people.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A sign of the times.

Hell has frozen over. In a debate in Congress it took a well-known Left-wing Democrat, Barney Frank, to refer to Hayek and Mises to chastise Republicans for supporting subidies to agriculture. The Republican Party has gone far astray that even a man as far Left as Rep. Frank is more free market on this issue. Here is what Frank had to say:

Mr. Chairman, I am here to confess my reading incomprehension. I have listened to many of my conservative friends talk about the wonders of the free market, of the importance of letting the consumers make their best choices, of keeping government out of economic activity, of the virtues of free trade, but then I look at various agricultural programs like this one. Now, it violates every principle of free market economics known to man and two or three not yet discovered.

So I have been forced to conclude that in all of those great free market texts by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek and all the others that there is a footnote that says, by the way, none of this applies to agriculture. Now, it may be written in high German, and that may be why I have not been able to discern it, but there is no greater contrast in America today than between the free enterprise rhetoric of so many conservatives and the statist, subsidized, inflationary, protectionist, anti-consumer agricultural policies, and this is one of them.

In particular, I have listened to people, and some of us have said let us protect workers and the environment in trade; let us not have unrestricted free trade; but let us have trade that respects worker rights and environmental rights. And we have been excoriated for our lack of concern for poor countries.

There is no greater obstacle, as it is now clear in the Doha round, to the completion of a comprehensive trade policy than the American agricultural policy, with one exception, European agricultural policy, which is much worse and just as phony.

Sugar is an example. This program is an interference with the legitimate efforts at economic self-help in many foreign nations. So I appreciate the leadership of the gentleman from Arizona [Jeff Flake] and the gentleman from Oregon [Roy Blumenauer]. Here is a chance for some of my free-enterprise-professing friends to get honest with themselves, and now maybe we will see some born-again free enterprisers in the agricultural field.

Apparently Mr. Frank has given similar speeches in various places in recent days. He always mentions Hayek and Mises and sometimes throws Friedman into the mix as well.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hating the poor, a Left-wing pasttime.

Politicians were given the green light to steal private property and give it to other private individuals for the good of the people to whom it is given. That is what the US Supreme Court effectively, and wrongly, ruled. Under that decision government could confiscate the land of one person and give it to another just because the politicians liked the recipient better. The US Constitution says eminent domain can only be used to take land for "public" purposes. But this decision basically made all decisions public ones thus allowing theftof private property for any reason politicians want.

Now the politicians in Hercules, California have decided to steal land not because they want the land for any specific purpose at all but only to prevent the private owners from using it. Wal-Mart had purchased 17 acres of land for a shopping complex. The politicians don't like Wal-Mart because it is too big and too successful. So they have voted to confiscate the land in order to stop Wal-Mart from building. There is no "public" purpose for the land at all.

In the Surpreme Court ruling they streatched logic to say that if land is confiscated and turned over to a "higher" use that will generate more taxes that counts as a "public" purpose. Now the politicians are trying to twist the ruling even further. In this case the land is currently empty and the shopping mall would generate more revenue. Even by the Supreme Court's bad logic this confiscation is just pure theft. Local politicians justified the theft saying that they have the right to stop businesses that people don't like -- meaning the organized forces of resentment and envy. One such hateful local, Jeri Wilgus, said she was glad the council stopped this "big corporation' from opening a store. If the newspaper quoting her is correct her only reason from this view is because it is a big corporation. She is the political equivalent to a vandal who chucks rocks merely to destroy what others own. In this case she used political force, or supports it, to stop a company for no other reason than they are successful.

A few residents noted that Wal-Mart offers products at good prices and that this helpful to those on limited budgets. The chic Lefties in town said they want the land used for up-market boutiques that "attract affluent" consumers. Scratch a Leftist and you find someone who hates the poor.

Honest, but violent.

Miraslov Macek is a former deputy Prime Minister in the Czech Republic. He also has a grudge against the current Czeck Health Minister, David Rath. During a public forum Macek stopped a speech he was giving to walk up behind Rath and slapped him across the back of the head. Some media reported that Macek "beat him in the face" but as you will see below that is not quite accurate. But still it was rather uncivilized. But since politics is mainly organized lobbying to initiate force against others for one's own benefit there is something refreshingly honest in seeing it played out this way.

Via: VideoSift

Pondering victimless crimes.

John Stuart Mill got liberal/libertarian theory off to a bad start when he wrote: "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." The problem is that many things harm people. Wal-Mart harms K-Mart. Two people bidding to buy the same item harm the other. My taking my patronage from one grocery store to another harms the one I am leaving. A proper defintion of harm is needed. But to do that one has to contemplate the differences between "positive rights" and "negative rights".

Sam Harris says we should not spend much time contemplating victimless crimes. True but we must spend some time contemplating the nature of rights and what is, or is not, a victimless crime and how to tell the differences between them and real crimes. P was mainly promoted, not on the basis that one should protect the drinker, but protect society from the harm caused by drinking. Mill's "Harm Principle" left a space for the extension of the Nanny state and could be one reason he ended life sympathetic to socialism.

"Only those actions which entail committing an action against the rights of the other would be forbidden. Only “harm” in the sense of violating the rights of others is forbidden. Harm which is caused by refusing to make others better off is not a crime. It is not a violation of rights. The Religious Right, whether it wishes to see it as such or not, is basically pushing a socialist concept of rights when it wishes to ban victimless crimes. I am sure that many socialists would be equally horrified to discover that they share so much common ground with their sworn opponents."

You can read the full essay here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Some things never change.

I will confess that when I first read excerpts of this I thought it was a spoof. I went to the original just because what is written is so out of touch with reality that I assumed it was fraud. Either that or the author, former 60s Marxist David Horowitz, was having one hell of a flashback.

Like many big government Marxists Horowitz has become a big government conservative and thinks that's a change. He's still in love with crusades and remaking the world over. It's still that Marxist desire to centrally plan. Except as a conservative Horowitz is less interested in centrally planning the economy and now believes Big Brother can centrally plan the entire world provided he uses the US military and prays in the process. Here are a few comments by Mr. Horowitz from an essay he wrote: "Everything the Left Said about the War is Wrong." You will note that according to Mr. Horowitz the anti-war movement didn't make some mistakes. They were wrong about absolutely everything! As a "convert" from Marxism Mr. Horowitz knows how to use the big lie for propaganda purposes.

Horowitz: "...what we witnessed was the swiftest and most bloodless conquest of an armed nation in the history of warfare. The immediate result of the victory has been exactly what the Administration promised: a swift liberation of a largely grateful Iraqi people, no terrorist outbreak, and no explosion of Arab rage." Swift liberation? The bloody battle is still going on years later. Nothing swift about that. As for liberation? From what to be precise? If he means from Saddam then yes. By that same standard Stalin liberated Poland from Hitler but they weren't free. Iraq has been liberated from Saddam but is far from free. Freedom requires more than the overthrow of one regime. It requires a culture of liberty. And the fatal flaw in the delusions of neo-conservatives like Horowitz is that the cultural values on which freedom rests can not be imposed at gun point. If it does not come from within it will not come from without.

This is precisely the reason that once "liberated" the Iraqi voters turned around and elected authoritarian theocrats to rule their nation. But one would suspect that Mr. Horowitz has few problems with authoritarian theocrats since he is fans of the one in the White House.

Horowitz calls Iraq a "three week war" which explains why more soldiers have died since "victory" than during the war itself. Horowitz argues that anti-war critics "said America could not fight international terrorism and Saddam at the same time -- as though the two could be separated. In fact, the Bush Administration showed it could do both very well at the same time." You will note that this is the reason that bin Laden is now in prison awaiting trial. Right! NOT!! It is for this reason that there have been no major terrorist attacks except the almost daily ones in Iraq and the attacks in London and in Spain. Those are the big ones that people remember but certainly not the only ones. Good thing we wiped out terrorism and with just a three week war at that!.

And notice the smuggled phrase "as though the two can be separated" to repeat the Bush lie that Saddam was involved in international terrorism. Even the Bush Administration has stopped peddling this rot and admitted they were wrong on a huge number things. Of course Bush believes in "staying the course" no matter how wrong it may be. But Horowitz can't differentiate his Right-Wing dreams from messy reality. And those weapons of mass destruction that Bush said were there. What of those? "Nothing the war has so far revealed would indicate that these threats were less than had been feared; much has served to confirm them." So nothing has indicated to Horowitz that the atomic bombs Bush hinted at don't exist?

Now and then, but not here, Horowitz writes something worth reading. But that is rare and one might find nickles in piles of horse manure but the search is not worth it. From his "Left-wing" days in the 60s not much has changed for Horowitz. Former Marxist, now with a permanent crush on George Bush, Horowitz has dropped Big Government for... well for Big Government. He used to spread propaganda that distorted facts in order to push an ideological end. Now he spreads propaganda that distorts the facts in order to push an ideological end. He used to think that smart Marxist central planners could centrally plan society. Now he thinks that smart Neo-Con central planners can centrally plan the world. And what is really delusional is that he thinks he made progress in his thinking and that he had some major change of heart along the way.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

No resemblence at all.

Recent DNA evidence indicates something interesting. Man and chimps separated millions of years ago. But apparently they were quite capable of interbreeding for long after that and continued to do so. So for about one million years our ancestors and the ancestors of chimps were doing the horizontal tango. This may explain why the DNA between us and our chimp cousins is so similar.

Believers in intelligent design in the White House might have problems with this and would deny there is any commonality between humans and chimps.

Friday, May 19, 2006

To serve and protect? Yea, Right!

It amazes that anyone thinks American cops are noble protectors of human rights. It may be that some have that dream. I suspect they lose it very quickly when they deal with the authoritarians who infest police forces across the country. These are trigger happy men who engage in violence frequently, not because it is necessary, but because they enjoy it.

Radley Balko, of the Cato Institute, has been collecting reams of information on the constant abuse which police officers are willing to inflict on people. Balko printes a letter from a pharmacist who describes an off-duty cop coming into his store. He pulled Sudafed Liqui-Gel tablets off the shelves and threw them on the counter demanding that they be removed. He claimed he was a DEA ageent (apparently not true) and that the tablets were being displayed in violation of the law (apparently also not true).

The pharmacists reread the regulations and concluded this off-duty cop was wrong and put them back on the shelf only to have the cop reappear and throw a fit. The pharmacist showed him the regulations but the cop threatened to have people turned in for their "attitude". Finally the pharmacist told the officer to leave the private business --- he was not on duty and not acting in his role as a police officer as no crime was being committed.

The cop left and returned with a buddy who was duty. The pharmacist writes: "They handcuffed me, roughed me up, shove me through the store and me to jail." State law requried that the pharmacy be closed if the pharmacist was not on duty. The police refused to allow them to close the store. The victim of this harassment reports: "I was not read any Miranda rights, never saw a badge until the 2nd cop appeared, had numerous bruises on my left, both wrists and my shoulder was displaced." He says: "I am a practicing Southern Baptists and a die-hard Republican (until now)."

In two other cases trigger happy cops killed family pets -- something that seems to be a trend. In Winter Springs, Florida the police were sent to one address but went to the wrong address --- they seem to do this a lot. They went into the home without a warrant and without cause (as it was the wrong house) through an unlocked down. A family dog inside approached them and they killed it "due to its close proximity to them".

In Richmond, California police entered the yard of Cynthia Peters and Mark Parr. allegedly in pursuit of a suspect who had nothing to do with this couple. They encountered the couples pet dog in the enclosed yard (which is where dogs are supposed to be) and shot it 11 times. When Parr came out and demanded to know why they killed his dog the beat him up. (At least they didn't shoot him which is more than many cops would have done.) Parr says they "kicked and punched him and threw him to the ground". They arrested him for "obsctructing police officers" a favorite bogus charge they impose on anyone who questions their stormtropper methods. In the end no charges were filed --- they rarely are this is merely a method to harass people for questioning their authority to act any way they damn please.

And if you want to see how police incompetency and their cowboy mentality can put an innocent man on death row read this PDF report regarding the case of Cory Maye. Maye was sleeping in his home when police officers barged in at some ungodly hour of the morning thinking they were entering the back door of a neighbor. Maye heard men breaking in his door and pulled out a gun to protect himself and his small child. In the dark one cop, who had no business even being there and went along for the fun of it, was shot. When the police yelled they were cops Maye dropped his weapon immediately. The cop died. There was no search warrant for this house. Maye was not the suspect in this case. The cops screwed up. Maye defending himself. A cop died through his own incompetency. Maye was sentenced to death and is awaiting his execution.

I'm not convinced that disarming citiznes is a good idea but it may help things to take them away from cops.

Verdonk blinks

Dutch immigration minister Rita Verdonk blinked. She backed down even after she insisted that it was impossible for her to do. She stripped Ayaan Hirsi Ali of her Dutch citizenship saying she was restricted by law and had to do it. The Dutch parliament erupted into a fury at her especially from her own party. She still claimed that she could reinstate the citizenship as this was impossible. Apparently she had done the impossible and restored citizenship to Hirsi Ali. Conjecture is that she did this to appear "strong" in order to launch a bid to take over leadership of her party. She can kiss that idea good bye. She know appears to be self-seeking, manipulative and dishonest. She was investigating Hirsi Ali while denying that an investigation was needed. She said her citizenship was safe and then stripped it from her. She said she could not possible undo the revocation and then did just that. If she changed her story any more times instead of being in the Dutch cabinet she could be a top official in the Bush administration.

God's Own Party

One of the central principles of American Constitutional government is that the states are independently allowed to pursue domestic policies. This division explicitly restricts federal power and allows a diversity of policies at the state level.

One such area has been marriage law. But the Bushified Republican Party has basically abandoned all such principles of Constitutional government. These were the guys who claimed to want to devolve power from the federal level back to the states but under their leader, chosen by God himself, they are concentrating power in Washington. Not only are they concentrating power in Washington but they are expanding it on a massive scale. And the power in Washington is being further centralised in the hands of one man: the president. America is witnessing the rampant rape of time honoured Constitutional principles and the culprits involved in this gang rape of liberty are the Republican Party.

Every two years the Republicans put into practice a Karl Rove strategy to scapegoat homosexuals and appeal to the bigots who are the core of the fundamentalist movement in the United States. At one level they know that any attempt to tamper with the US Constitution is likely to fail. On another level they don’t care. This has nothing to do with principle, Republicans abandoned those when they nominated George Bush, it has everything to do with power.

They do not particularly care if the measure passes. They just want to rile up the hounds on the Right who will see the election as an opportunity to tree themselves a few faggots. The goal is get the Christianists angry enough to turn out and vote for God’s party --- which, of course, is supposedly the Republicans. And it appears that the Republicans are now the closest thing the West has to a party promoting ideas more befitting the Taliban.

So with elections looming, and with people utterly disgusted by the incompetence and viciousness of the Bush Administration it appears the Republicans are in trouble. Obviously most Democrats want the Republicans out. So do most Independents. And every a hefty section of Republicans want the GOP to lose. What is also important is that the number of people who self-identify as Republican has shrunk considerably under the watch of these president. So while Bush’s support among Republicans remains strong that is because many Republicans, who don’t support him, have ceased identifying themselves as Republicans.

This trend against the Republicans is deep and strong. And the only voters they think they can count on are the Bible-beaters. So they trot out there amendment to nationalise marriage in the United States. An amendment to the Constitution that would do this has just passed a Republican controlled committee on a 10 to 8 vote. All 10 Republicans voted to have the federal government nationalise marriage. All eight Democrats voted against it.

The power-grab and destruction of federalist concepts goes much deeper than it appears. This amendment would also confiscate the right of States to forge their own state constitutions. It says: “Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.” Notice that second phrase. It specifically takes away from the States the right to write their own Constitution as they see fit.

Former Senator John Danforth of Missouri was elected as a Republican. He is also a minister. But he says this latest move is another example of how the Republican Party is being controlled by fundamentalist Christians to the detriment of the party. He said that there may well have been attempts to pass sillier amendments to the Constitution but that he can’t think of any. And he noted this contradicts “basic concept[s] of the Republican Party to interpret the Constitution narrowly, not expansively, so that legislatures, and especially state legislatures, can work out over a period of time the social issues in our country.” Incumbent Republican Representative Chris Shays was quite explicit. He says, “the Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Rita Verdonk joins a long line of traitors. Shame on Holland.

At this moment I have nothing but contempt for Rita Verdonk. She is the Quisling of Holland, a Petain for the Duth. She is a sell out to the forces of totalitarianism and a traitor to the tolerance and liberalism that once set Holland apart from much of the world. She should resign in disgrace and if she does not resign her party, the Party for Freedom and Democracy, should expel her for bringing shame to them and to Hollard.

Rita Verdonk is a former prison warden. She still acts like one. To the shame of Holland she is the Minister of Immigration and she has unilaterally stripped her fellow party member and member of parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of her citizenship.

Years ago this young woman came to Holland and sought political asylum. She learned Dutch, finished university, and became a member of parliament. She also became an outspoke critic of radical Islam and as a result Islamists have threatened to kill her. Indeed they did murder her close friend and ally, Theo van Gogh. Pinned to his bloodied corpse was a death threat for Ali.

But the Quisling in the Immigration department has caved in to the forces of radical extremism in Holland. Ali, long ago, admitted that some of the facts on her asylum application were not correct. All were minor issues. This has been common public knowledge for years. Ali herself spoke about it on Dutch television. She did not want her family originally tracing her so she used her grandfathers name Ali instead of the family name Magan.

But a left-wing television station, in bed with the social democrats, did a breathless expose telling Holland what had already been news for years. They exposed nothing new and nothing significant. It was a left-wing smear job. And the gutless "iron Rita" surrendered to the Left and used her powers as minister of immigration to strip Ali of citizenship in the matter of minutes.

I urge people to write the VVD (the Party of Freedom and Democracy) urging them to expel Rita Verdonk from their party immediately for her anti-freedom, anti-democratic positon and her treasonous actions to the best interests of the Dutch people. This is one email I have found that may work for that:

UPDATE: Not only is Verdonk a traitor but a liar as well. She claims that she revoked Ali's passport and citizenship on the basis that she lied about her real last name. She claims she never knew this until a few days ago. This is a lie. Ali has an email address which shows the surname she was born with though she uses Ali for her public life. Verdonk has sent emails to her using her real last name and now claims she never knew this. She also claimed that there was no matter for investigation last Friday but she had already started an investigation. There has been an uproar in the Dutch parliament against Verdonk who is now claiming she was without discretion in the matter and forced to act according to the law. This is not true. Her actions were entirely discretionary. Some think she was acting this way in order to try to topple the leadership of the VVD with higher aspirations for herself. I suggest that the Dutch make the amabassador to Saudi Arabia or Iran. Somebody mail her a burka and give her a plane ticket.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

BBC interviews wrong man

Wires got crossed at the BBC. They wanted to interview Guy Keweny about the recent ruling regarding Apple Records vs Apple computers. They called out to a group of people looking for Guy Keweny but Guy Goma, a taxi driver originally from Congo thought they called his name and raised his hand. He was ushered into a studio, miked up, and they started throwing questions at him live on air. Meanwhile the IT journalist, who is white, was watching the whole thing flabbergasted. The poor taxi driver was baffled and did his best to answer the questions they asked him and only realized the mix up when they mentioned his "name" again and it was the wrong one. Here is a clip of that interview. Note: One person I trust said that the account she read said Congo. I thought the account I read said Ghana. Now I can't find a news account mentioning any country although many counts mention the man by name and occupation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The magic of Zimbabwean inflation

We have posted on the evils of the Mugabe regime and their debasement of currency by cranking up the printing presses. Now we have been sent the following little essay that shows some of the absurdities of living under an inflationary regime.
The day is very hot and you are passing the Keg and Sable in Harare, so naturally you go in for a nice cold beer. The barman informs you that One beer now costs 150 000 Zimbabwe dollars. You can pay with three crisp new $50 000 notes, still damp from the printing press. Or, if you are feeling a bit bloody-minded, and if you can still source the coins you can sit back and enjoy a beer while the barman counts out 15 000 000 Zimbabwe one cent coins But hold it! We have a problem. Each Zimbabwe one-cent coin weighs 3 grams So this little lot weighs in at: - 45 000 000 grams - Or 45 000 kgs - Or 45 Tonnes !!! After humping 45 tonnes of coins into the pub you are going to need a helluva lot more than one beer to cool down. But don't panic - we have a plan. Like all brilliant ideas this one relies entirely on its simplicity. Plan B: We sell the metal and drink the proceeds There is a small legal question about smelting coin of the realm and exporting the resulting brass ingots. However we'll let the buyer worry about that one. There doesn't seem to be an international price for brass. Its main ingredient, copper, has recently been selling for an all-time high of US $ 5 200 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange, but we won't be greedy. For a quick sale let's discount it to U S $ 2 600 a tonne. We are now the proud owners of US $ 117 000 !!! But we still can't buy that beer as the Keg is only allowed to accept Zimbabwe currency. We must resist the temptation to change our money on the lucrative but illegal black market. So we change at the prevailing interbank mid rate which is

Dutch force Hiris Ali out.

It is shocking to report how the the Dutch have treated Ayaan Hiris Ali. And the cowardliness of her own party in the matter is disgusting.

Basically she has been a thorn in the side of the multicultural Left (which really means they hate Western culture) and the Islamists. She has been an outspoken critic of Islamists extremists and that goes against the Dutch view of hiding hiding one’s head under the covers until the problem goes away.

Years ago Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlands as a refugee. She said it was to escape an enforced marriage. But that was only a small issue and she admitted some years ago that was not entirely truthful. She was elected to Parliament with the VVD. But has never had the full support of her party. Now a leftist has put together an attack “documentary” which “exposes” facts that Hirsi Ali had admitted years ago.

But the Left, like the vultures they are, see her as a dead body and came sweeping in to attack. it is entirely a non-issue and ought to be. She was a good citizen and an important asset to Dutch political debate -- to the degree that will stomach debate. Her life has been threatened by radical Islamists and she had a bodyguard everywhere she went. She also lived in a “protected” apartment but was thrown out of that because the other tenants complained.

Now her own party has attacked her over the issue of her refugee status. In other words information that they knew all along is being used to force her out of parliament. Worse yet she is set to leave Holland altogether. Now Liberty and Justice blog site reports that tomorrow at 1:30 she will announce her resignation and departure from Holland.

It saddens me that she is going to work for the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, as her messages is an important one that should not be confused with the military interventionism promoted by the American Right. Conservatives are using the problem of Islamists the way they used the problem of Communists --- to promote a big government, anti-freedom agenda in the US. Liberals need to grapple with these hard problems and promote a liberal alternative to the militarism of the Right and the multiculturalism of the Left.

Anthem movie trailer

Below is a trailer for the film version of Ayn Rand's Anthem. No, it hasn't been made into a film. It was a student project. All in all I think the student did a good job and caught some important aspects of the plot. My criticisms would be minor. He should know the title is Anthem not The Anthem. A small issue I know. Second, as some points in the narration the music overwhelms and its hard to understand the narrator. He could have, with little effort, dressed the actors to fit the roles. But it was still enjoyable to watch. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Gore gives his State of the Union address. Not!

Al Gore didn't win the presidency. Americans wanted limited government and balanced budgets and they thought Gore was too much in favour of big government and excessive spending. Little did they know that in six years Gore, without changing his positions, could be made to look like a conservative in comparison to what they got. Gore recently appeared on the Saturday Night Live comedy show in the US. And he delivered the State of the Union address that he would have given had he been president today. Okay, it's not actually the address he would have given but it is actually rather funny satire which includes him taking a few digs at himself. It is much easier to find some of your own foibles funny when you don't think God picked you for political office. Enjoy the skit.

Capitalist tales and consumer success.

Capitalism has come to China and everyone knows it. The country is booming and has some of the highest growth rates in the world. Incomes are rising, poverty is declining and the lives of working people is improving faster than any time in Chinese history. And now Chineses consumers have spendable income. And they are on a buying spree.

But as the Christian Science Monitor reports the Chinese have innovated a new way to buy. It tells the story of one consumer, Fiona Li, who was helping her brother buy things for his new apartment. She did some on-line research and then noted a location and a time. She and her brother then joined the newest fashion in consumer spending: team buying.

The idea is simple and innovative. Consumers in an area like Beijing for instance, who are all looking to buy a specific product get in contact with each other via a team buying website. In some cases they just all show up at the same time and tell the manager that each of them will buy a product provided they are given a discount. While one wouldn't have much bargaining power when a couple of dozen potential customers all want the same discount at the same time, or they walk, the shop keeper gives it a second thought.

In other cases the deals are worked out in advance by the team buying website. One such excursion was reported on. In this case the website brought a couple of dozen people to one camera store where they had already negotiated a discount on the camera, a free tripod and free extra memory for the camera. The organizers also take a commission for their work. The internet has changed the way the world does business and team buying, if it catches on elsewhere, may well be another revoluntionary change.

Capitalist tales and workers success

The New York Times has an interesting article regarding the employees who helped start Southwest Airlines. Normally I would mention it briefly, point out some interesting points and then let you use the link to read it yourself. But this paper very quickly removes items of interest and then wants to charge several dollars to read it in the future. (Their premium content is one reason their columnists don't exist on this blog. Which doesn't mean they don't have the right to do it just that we don't use them as a result.)

The article is about some of the 17 original employees who went to work for Southwest. Now Marxists argue that labour is inherently exploited by the capitalists. Of course in much of the modern world labourers are capitalists. And that is the case for Southwest. The company had no pension scheme but had a profit sharing scheme where employees could receive shares in the company and become part owners. So how did hey do?

The paper reports that Mike Mitchel collects boarding passes for Southwest . Over the years he accumulated over 80,000 shares of the company valued at more than $800,000. He has also reinvested his income over the years so that now those shares are only about a quarter of investment portfolio. The paper wonders why these employees are still there when so many of them could retire without ever having a financial worry again. "But for Mr. Mitchel and his Southwest colleagues from the first days — eight flight attendants, five operations workers and four executives, each a millionaire — it is not about the money. Ask them why they stick around and they mention frugality and pride in earning their keep. And they say they simply like to work."

When Southwest was formed it took four years before it could fly. Other airlines sued and tried to use the then heavy regulations to stop the company. These where regulations which politicians assured us were there to protect "the consumer" from being exploited by the airlines. But the airlines loved the regulations as they kept competition down and the airlines hated competition. And in Southwest's case they had reason to fear. Southwest did a better job at lower prices and the result is that many major competitors went under unable to offer the same to consumers who benefitted from the lower fares.

Southwest employees work harder and are more productive than others in the industry. One result is that it has some of the lowest costs of any airline. But as the Times notes: "it now pays the highest wages to many worker groups, making up the difference with higher productivity and by holding down its costs in a number of ways. Its planes fly longer hours and sit at the gate for fewer minutes." It notes that a flight attendant for the airline could make more than $100,000 per year if they wish. Unite Airlines attendants can expect a maximum of half that. And all the original flight attendants for Southwest are now millionaires. One of those attendant, Sandra Force, left her job teaching for Southwest. Her parents thought she made a mistake. Her profit sharing has given her over 100,000 shares of the company valued today at over $1.6 million. And at 61 she still works as a flight attendant. She says: "I love to work."

So in a nutshell: Southwest started with nothing and had to fight to get into the then heavily regulated industry. It beat the crap out of the competitors. It is unionised but workers feel free to ignore union regulations. It broke the rules, employees were allowed to have fun at work (including attendants who had competitions to see how many passangers could fit in the loo), work all they wanted and were rewarded for doing so. Pay is among the highest in the industry and so are the profits and this is do to greater productivity and efficiency. And now the "lowly" workers including attendants and mechanics who stuck with the company are millionaires.

The company is unionised but one worker says they are not bound by union rules like some companies. "If you saw something that needed to be done, and you thought you could do it, you did," said one worker.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

And now for something completely different

President Bush is an entertaining fellow. Here are two examples. Our first one shows how funny he can be with the speeches that he does give:

And the second shows how funny he can be with the speeches he doesn't give.

Either way we have to laugh. If we don't we cry.

Cheney wanted more eavesdropping.

According to the New York Times: "Cheney Pushed U.S. to Widen Eavesdropping." Apparently when the Bush regime was debating how much surveillance they should inflict on the American people in violation of the Constitution the vice president was one pushing for more, more and more. Cheney and his staff thought spy agencies should take "sweeping measures" in regards to surveillance. The paper says that insiders report that Cheney and his attorney "took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution..."

Isn't that the hallmark of the Bush adminsitration? They take a view where they argue the Constitution alleges grants them powers previously unheard of in the White House -- or anywhere else for that matter. Are they not the administration that argued they had the right to torture people, hold them without trial or acess to an attorney and arbitrarily declare people "enemy combatants" without any judicial determination. They are the administration to assert their surpemacy over all other branches of government, a new doctrine, and which says they can pick which laws they will obey and which they will not.

For those who believe the Cosntitution actually limits government (none of whom appear to be in the Bush administration) I recommend Power Surge by Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch. You can read it here.

Meanwhile the controversy over the Bush administrations collecting the phone records of millions of Americans continues. Bush is refusing to deny the reports that the government had phone companies turn these records over to them. But in his radio address he made the carefully worded statement: "The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trawling throught he personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." Of course they were caught eavesdropping on phone calls without search warrants but said they didn't need them if one of the participants in the call was outside the US. However, this does mean that half the people they eavesdropped on were within the United States and no court order was obtained allowing this. Bush says he doesn't need them.

He could argue that the government is doing the "trawling through" the lives of millions of Americans by claiming that the phone companies turned the records over to his administration. It is thought that phone records of up to 200 million Americans were given to the government. The phone companies involved, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth don't deny giving these records to the govenment they just claim they broke no laws.

These are typical weasal tactics where one can appear to answer a question without answering it. Example: if a politician is asked if he went on a junket paid for by a sleazy individual he can say: "I did nothing wrong." That doesn't answer the question it evades it. He may believe he did nothing wrong. But no one asked him if he thought he was doing wrong just if did what he did. The question for Bush is did his administration receive (and ask for) the phone records of millions of innocent Americans. It is a simple yes or no question. Yes means they have the records and no means they don't. All he has to do is say: "We do not have the phone records of millions of Americans." Instead he says he isn't trawling through the records. It's called evasion.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Is this an ominous headline or not?

The headline from the New York Times says: "Bush to Unveil Plan to Tighten Border Controls." It seems the Republicans have been clamouring for more government control of the borders. The paper reported: "'I think members of the House will like what they hear on border security,' a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing at the White House. Entry to the briefing was conditioned on anonymity."

"White House officials said Mr. Bush was considering proposals to increase the number of law enforcement and military personnel patrolling the border; to accelerate the use of high-tech surveillance tools and to step up enforcement against illegal workers and their employers."

Do secure borders mean preventing people from finding jobs or dealing with real terrorists. Last I knew Mexican farm labourers didn't fly planes into the Twin Towers. The authoritarianism in the Republican Party these days is scary. Spying on citizens, controlling people's bank accounts, de facto internal passports to travel, control, control, control. Now they want the military stationed on the border. Did it ever occur to anyone that troops on the borders may keep people out but they can also be used to keep people in?

Sinking to new lows.

The discovery that the Bush Administration has been gathering the phone records of millions of Americans has people in a dither. This completely the opposite of what Bush said was going on or to put it bluntly: he lied again. And it is illegal to do such things without search warrants. Bush spoke briefly about the matter to the press. His statement was: "the intelligence activities I authorised are lawful."

Now this means nothing. Remember this is a president who has repeatedly claimed he has the power to unilaterally break the law as he wishes. He is a man who says that the presidency, instead of being one of three equal branches of government is superior to all other branches thus not bound by laws passed by congress or rulings from the courts. He is an advocate of the imperial presidency. And that means that anything he does is automatically legal in his own eyes. For him to say that what he authorised is not illegal says nothing since he thinks everything he authorises is automatically legal becaused he authorised it. This my friends is as close to a dictatorial theory of government that any major US politician has ever pushed. It is as close to the old "divine right of kings" theory.

I have reported that previously Bush's approval rating had sunk to a new low of 31%. Of course that was then and today is today and he sinks to a new low. As presidents go he regularly sinks to new lows in all senses of the term. A Harris poll shows his approval rating now at 29%. At this rate by the mid-term elections his approval rating should consist of him, Laura and maybe the Cheneys.

Even among Republicans 39% said the country was headed in the wrong direction.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Health Nazis and Nanny gang up on kids

The health Nazis and their allies in the Nanny state are teaming up to bash kids around a bit. If there is one thing these Puritans hate it is pleasure. The Time of London reports that the health Nazis are now working to put a stop to ice cream trucks because "ice creams are too much of a danger to children's health." They report:

Under an amendment to the Education and Inspection Bill to be put forward this week, local authorities will be given new powers to stop ice-cream vans from operating near school gates. The move comes as operators claim that they are already being forced out of business by an over-zealous health lobby.Under an amendment to the Education and Inspection Bill to be put forward this week, local authorities will be given new powers to stop ice-cream vans from operating near school gates. The move comes as operators claim that they are already being forced out of business by an over-zealous health lobby.

Various regulators at the local level have already started banning ice cream trucks in specific areas generall the high traffic areas where they attract customers. One health Nazi complained that while the government is spending millions to promote healthy food in school "kids are rushing to spend their money on food from mobile vans." In other words: "We have ways of forcing you to do what we demand, damn it!" I'm not sure if this venial bureaucrat is more upset they are buying ice cream or spending their own money. After all these thus in government think that they should spend all the money people earn.

Now ice cream itself is not deadly. And I doubt the typical kid could eat enough to harm him. The problem is the entire diet not ice cream now and then. Basically they are saying that since ice cream is just one factor in a larger problem it should be banned because the total problem leads to obesity which leads to health problems and death. Okay, I get that. If it leads to death ban it!

From 1958 to 1962 government policy in China lead to the deaths of 38,000,000. The Soviet government killed some 62,000,000 people. The government of Nazi Germany instituted policies that lead to the deaths of about 21,000,ooo people. The government of the Kymer Rouge killed about 2,000,000. The government of Idi Amin in Uganda killed around 11,000,000. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. So we know that around the world government kills lots of people. Government has killed more people in the last century than smoking or ice cream combined. For the sake of our health shouldn't we ban government? I know from personal experience that on several occassions I have said to myself: "Gee, I'd like more ice cream." But in all my life I've never thought, "Boy, I wish we had more government."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just ignore the man listening in on this call.

There is an old joke that goes like this. "How do you know when Bush is lying?" "His lips move."

I suspect that with George W. you take what he says and assume the opposite and you get pretty close to the truth. There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq comes out as there are NO weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Remember when the controversy came up about illegal wire taps authorised by Bush. He claimed then: "Our intelligence activities strictly target al-Qaeda and their known affiliates. The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected. We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans."

If my theory above is correct this would mean at the Bush administration is mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Now USA Today reports that the National Security Agency "has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans." Here are pertinent excerpts from the article.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation.

The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

They also note that when the controversy about the first illegal wire taps arose that Bush said the government was only interested in international calls. Or a George, watch his nose grow, said: "In other words one end of the communication must be outside the United States." In this new revelation it appears that millions and millions of purely domestic phone calls are included.

One must give George credit for one thing. He is about the only man on the planet who could make Democrats look good.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Anti immigrant leader hires immigrants.

Roger Knapman is the leader of the anti-immigration UK Independence Party. The UKIP has attacked immigration policy saying it is a fraud that the country needs more labourers. Knapman is also the owner of a mansion that needed some extensive renovation.

So he went out and hired immigrant labourers from Eastern Europe. He has been bragging to people how they work longer hours, want less pay and do a damn good job of it as well. He said: "They have a very good work ethic and work so much harder than anyone over here. You know they are not going to go off to another job as they are there specifically for you. Many workers here just aren't skilled enough to do the work involved in renovating old property. These men work 10 hours a day, six days a week and then we give them Sunday off. It's a 60-hour week, but they want to do it."

Has Knapman changed his tune about immigrants. No. When these men finish the work for him and he can no longer save money from their labour he wants them to leave. Apparently it is okay for him to benefit from the work they are happy to do but no one else should. Of course he could put his anti-immigrant views into practice and refuse to hire these men but then he would pay the cost himself. He doesn't mind legislation to accomplish these goals it spreads the cost around. Prejudice, like anything else, is in lower demand the more it costs.

It reminds me of the two Conservative Party officials in Boksburg, South Africa elected to preserve apartheid. Each ended up selling his home to a black family even though each supported laws to forbid blacks from living there. If they put their prejudice into action they would have to accept the second highest bid and the difference between that bid and the winning bid would come out of their pocket in the form of lost income. Suddenly when it was there own money they weren't so interested in being bigoted. One of the virtues of private markets is that it privatises the cost of bigotry thus making less likely that any one person would want to pursue those policies.

Mugabe: Your day is coming.

The great liberal economist Ludwig von Mises once said that only government can take two valuable commodities like paper and ink and combine them into something totally worthless. Having lived through the Weimar inflation he knew what he was talking about. The corrupt dictatorship of Zimbabwe is now repeating the disaster.

The New York Times reports that a roll of toilet paper in Zim dollars costs $147,750. Last time I was in Zimbabwe you could buy a house for that. Now it only buys one roll of toilet paper. The country is destroyed. No surprise. Mugabe is a vicious tyrant who has ruined a beautiful country. I still remember the cruise I took on the Zambezi at sunset with some fondness. But now people are starving. Socialism at work.

Mugabe started the printing presses going a few years ago. So what we are seeing is the same intentional inflationary trend projected out a few years. Now if you don't understand the process of inflation read this from the Times.

Inflation, about 400 percent per year last November, edged over 600 percent in January, but began to soar after the government revealed that it had paid the International Monetary Fund $221 million to cover an arrears that threatened Zimbabwe's membership in the organization.

In February, the government admitted that it had printed at least $21 trillion in currency — and probably much more, critics say — to buy the American dollars with which the debt was paid.

By March, inflation had touched 914 percent a year, at which rate prices would rise more than tenfold in 12 months. Experts agree that quadruple-digit inflation is now a certainty.

I know it is old fashioned but inflation is a monetary phenomena caused when government prints paper money with no value. Speed up the printing presses and you speed up inflation. It is a government imposed con game where the government inflates the supply of money by print more and then spends the extra money before if drives down the value of the money already in circulation. It is a means by which government confiscate wealth without resorting to taxation. The paper does note: "Critics say that Zimbabwe's rulers are oblivious to such suffering — last year, Mr. Mugabe completed his own 25-bedroom mansion in a gated suburb north of town, close by the mansions of top ministers and military allies."

The day will come, hopefully soon, when Mr. Mugabe will get what he deserves. Like Mussolini hanging from a lamppost his end is coming -- if he doesn't destroy the entire country first.