Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's time for five minutes of pure beauty.

I've posted this before but it's time for a repeat. There is nothing to watch. Just listen. Turn up the sound, close your eyes, block out the distractions of the day and listen. Try to feel the music. No other piece of music affects me the way this piece does. It is the only piece of music that regularly and consistently moves me to tears. And this is a particularly beautiful rendition -- I've heard it butchered as well -- and that moves me to tears for other reasons. Take the five minutes, you need it, you deserve it. You won't regret it.


Another victim of the war on drugs.

Here is a story which I think you will be hearing more about in the near future.

Just a little while ago I got a phone call from the Rev. Ronald Carson of Michigan. What started as a business call developed very quickly into something else when Rev. Carson mentioned something that had happened to him and his wife. And I thought I’d share his story here.

Rev. Carson is a local gospel preacher in not far outside Detroit. He can be heard preaching every Sunday morning on the local gospel radio station. Normally Rev. Carson and I wouldn’t have much in common, me being the horrible atheist that I am. But Rev. Carson was a victim as well and my natural inclination is to want to defend the victims of the world. Hell, that’s why I’m a libertarian -- protecting people from the biggest victimizer of them all -- the state.

And it was Big Brother that victimized Rev. Carson. Like many ministers Rev. Carson doesn’t rely on the income from his preaching alone. He has a sideline. He and his wife own a pharmacy. Of course they hire a licensed pharmacist to operate it.

One day, around two years ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency strong-armed their way in the pharmacy and into Rev. Carson’s home. They were investigating a local physician. The DEA alleges the physician was doing something wrong. The Carson-owned pharmacy had merely filled a prescription they were given. The prescription itself was valid in every way. It was not forged by sent to them by a licensed physician. It was verified as legitimate with the physician.

But the DEA contends the physician shouldn’t have given it out. Gee, aren’t we lucky to have DEA agents who are also physicians and experts in their fields with the ability to override physicians and save us from ourselves. The pharmacy’s involvement in all this was filling prescriptions and nothing more.

But the DEA gestapo raided the pharmacy and Rev. Carson’s home. His home was raided because he owned the pharmacy which filled the legitimate prescription issued by a licensed physician. And the DEA decided to help themselves to Rev. Carson’s assets. They emptied personal and business bank accounts and walked off with around $500,000.

Rev. Carson was shocked. He didn’t do anything wrong. And apparently the DEA agrees since no charges of any kind have been filed against Rev. Carson or against this pharmacy. Certainly in the last two years the DEA had plenty of times to file charges if they had any reason to do so. But nothing. On the other hand, just because they haven’t filed charges doesn’t mean they want to return the money they stole out of Carson’s bank account. Not at all, that they are still attempting to keep.

Along the way they told Rev. Carson that he might also be guilty of “money laundering”. Money laundering is another one of those federal crimes that is vague and meaningless thus allowing government to file ludicrous charges against for doing virtually nothing. In Rev. Carson’s case he was told he might be guilty of this crime because he moved some funds from one of his bank accounts, that was earning almost no interest, to another one of his bank accounts where the interest was higher. Merely moving funds from one account to another brought the ominous threat of “money laundering” against the Minister.

Until today Rev. Carson hasn’t said much about the case. He seems to have believed that since he didn’t do anything wrong that the government would eventually see the light and give him his money back. Rev. Carson is stuck in a time-warp, he still holds the forgotten ideal of an honest government which wouldn’t hurt innocent people. The war on drugs, among many other programs, has smashed that ideal.

Rev. Carson is another victim of the puritanical zeal of the Drug Warriors. And while I don’t cotton much to the use of drugs, especially the illegal kinds, I have no sympathy for the destructive, violent war on drugs. What ever problems drugs cause the war on drugs makes them worse. Rev. Carson became a victim of the war on drugs, another one of many. But it wasn’t drug dealers who victimized him but drug warriors. Drug usage may harm those who choose to use them (usually not, but it’s possible). The war on drugs doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t inflict its harm merely on the “guilty”. It harms innocent people as well, and Rev. Carson is one of those people.

I hope his story gets more play. And if I have anything to say about it, it will. I’ve passed the story on to others who can report on it and I’m hoping that, with some negative publicity for the thugs in the DEA, the DEA might actually admit they overacted and return Rev. Carson’s money. But I wouldn’t count on it. Drugs are bad, but the DEA is worse.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Imagine my surprise!

Imagine my surprise when I read that Wayne Root, the loudmouth conservative hypester from Vegas, who made a deal with Bob Barr to inflict both of them on the Libertarian Party as candidates, has written a book. The real surprise is that it is supposed to be about libertarianism.
That's a double surprise.

First, I didn't know he'd ever read a book. Secondly, since when did he know anything about libertarianism? He thinks his blather about state's rights is libertarian. Wrong! He's flipped and flopped as he thought necessary in order to secure the V.P. nomination for the clearly desperate Libertarian Party.

Root continues to tell the media that he's "Ron Paul on steroids" -- a claim that doesn't carry much weight here and carries none with Ron Paul. I don't think Ron Paul on steroids would be a good thing as Ron seems intent on emphasizing his most unlibertarian positions. Witness his endorsement of the theocratic, anti-social freedom Constitution Party. So in this libertarian's view, Ron Paul himself on steroids, wouldn't necessarily be a good thing.

But I can tell Mr. Root: I know Ron Paul and you're no Ron Paul.

Speaking of Paul I had something of a shock yesterday. I was speaking to an old friend of mine who mentioned something that has me taking memory pills. We were discussing the current dire situation for libertarianism and he made reference to the time that he, his now exwife, myself and my partner went out to have dinner with Ron and Carol Paul. My jaw dropped as I simply don't remember the occasion. But he remembered well even telling me the part of town where we had dinner.

Back in the 80s I spent several occasions with Paul and I found him and Carol both to be decent individuals. He was marginal as a libertarian then, with very strong conservative tendencies, but since then the tendencies have strengthened and the social conservatism started to dominate.

I still don't remember that dinner. Then to make things worse for my sense of memory I went to tell a business associate, who I have known for decades as well, about my total lapse of memory. As I started to tell him about completely forgetting about going out for dinner with Ron he says: "Oh, I didn't know about that, I just remember the lunch you had with him at...."

Poor me, I'll have to take some memory pills. I had forgotten about the lunch as well. It must have been around the same time. As my friend Leon Louw, from South Africa says, "I have a good forgetter." I'm going to have to call my ex and find out what else I've forgotten.

Enough of the diversion, so back to Wayne Bozo Root. Root's a hoot. He alone is spreading the claim that he's Ron Paul on steroid. But he keeps telling people "The media calls me Ron Paul on steroids." I can't find any reference to the media calling him that at all. I do find the media quoting Root saying that about himself, however. It's Root's current con job, to wrap himself in the mantle of Ron Paul. Apparently Ron isn't so keen on Root and has refused to endorse him. Having watched Root in action I can say that he comes across more like a used car salesman on steroids. And no, I wouldn't buy a car from him. He's the sort of fellow who, if I'd shake hands with him, I'd go off and count my fingers.

I was wondering precisely how he'd use the LP nomination mistake to make some money. I knew he'd use it to promote himself -- that is his one full time occupation -- to tell the world how wonderful he is. But I figured he'd try to make a buck off it as well. I just never imagined he'd hawk a book purporting to explain libertarianism to the world. That would be like me written an introduction to brain surgery. I can only hope that he had it ghost-written. If not, I can only hope no one reads it -- much the way no one read self-promotional book Millionaire Republican.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gang brags about beating crowd.

Some urban areas have gang problems with several gangs. The Bloods wear red to symbolize their gang. The Crips are fond of blue. That creates something of a conflict since another gang also is fond of blue -- the Cops.

Keep in mind that if you are asleep in the middle of the night and someone smashes down your door it is most likely going to be the last gang -- which in many ways is the most violent of all of them. As bad as the Crips and Bloods may be they don’t have a tendency to go around killing people’s dogs. The Boys in Blue however love killing dogs. Just google on dog, killed and police and see what happens.

The last gang is heavily narcissistic and believe they have a natural right to rule others and to hurt them. They believe they are deserving of special respect and are, in fact, above the law. They are closely bonded to one another and have no hesitation to lying for one another in court or under any investigation. If they attack you they will lie about how it started. If they kill a dog they will claim they were being “attacked” even if the dog was shot in the back fleeing them. The Boys in Blue gang apparently have a moral aversion to honesty and the truth. And they have this macho tendency to brag about their violence. They relish it and enjoy harming people. It offers them amusement.

We witnessed this gang in Denver when they started grabbing people on the streets for protesting -- even non-violent people. You may remember these armed thugs in body armor with big, big guns to compensate for their tiny.... Well, never mind. A lot of people were disgusted with how the cops in Denver trampled on the Constitution.

The Boys in Blue gang however thought it was all good fun. They have a head gang there called the Police Protective Association which representing the 1,400 members of the Denver Boys in Blue gang.

To celebrate their attacks on protesters at the Democratic convention the head gang had a T-shirt printed up. The local CBS outlet describes the shirt as having “a menacing-looking police figure, wearing what looks like a Denver police badge and clutching a baton.” Along with this menacing figure is the slogan the police find just so amusing: “WE GET UP EARLY, to BEAT the crowds.”

The Boys in Blue gang are selling the t-shirts for $10 each. The head gang for them gave one to every police officer in Denver and says that “officers from other departments... have been clamoring for the shirts” with “so much demand” they had “to reorder more shirts.”

You may remember that I blogged about a business started by cops to sell clothes to exclusively to other cops. One of their best sellers is the shirt that says “Death Dealer” on it. As I said, this gang is big into machismo posturing. But don’t get me wrong -- they are very dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Dr. Frankenstein's Bubble: Made in Washington

Question: How bad is the economy going to get?

Answer: Much worse than it has to be.

Why: The nostrums being proposed by the Secretary of the Treasurer are destructive and noxious. Let’s face it, the Bush Administration is totally incompetent and can turn any cold into a fatal disease. I really wasn’t paying that much attention to what Secretary Paulson was saying so I didn’t realize precisely how stupid he was in regards to economics. The man is a blithering moron. Take this series of questions and answers with Paulson as an example:

Jon Healey: Many of the people we speak with don't like this because they see the results of the government's work being sustaining housing values that should have been allowed to come down.

Henry Paulson: Again, I've given my answer to that. I think what we're doing is avoiding a market failure that would have forced housing values down in a way that was not in the investors' interest, and in a way that the market wasn't intended to work.

Tim Cavanaugh: How can you force values down? Why aren't values finding their natural level?

Henry Paulson: The way values would go down is, as I've said, you'd have market failure...

Henry Paulson: ...What this will do will make a difference in that we won't have housing prices driven down in ways that distort the market because the industry wasn't able to come up with procedures to deal with an unprecedented situation.

Tim Cavanaugh: Is it distortion in the market when the market was already distorted up to a degree that maybe wasn't unprecedented, but was certainly unusual in American history?

Henry Paulson: So you'd like to see it distorted down too...
Peter Hong: Could you be a little clearer on what you mean by "market failure"?

Henry Paulson: As I've said, chaos...when I say market failure I say that we have an unprecedented situation, and the private sector has to find a way to deal with that. Otherwise you're going to see them drowning in people who can't make resets, whom they would ordinarily want to keep in a home.

Peter Hong: You used the phrase "distort down." Is it distortion or is it a correction?

Henry Paulson: What I want is markets to work. And I would define a market failure as the system not being able to cope with the wave, so that foreclosures took place that would not have taken place if there were smaller volume...

Peter Hong: But are house prices too high?

Henry Paulson: I'm not going to—foreclosures are bad for neighborhoods. You have needless foreclosures that are driving down prices, created by a situation that is unprecedented and that would under normal circumstances not have taken place.

Good God, didn’t this man take a basics Econ 101 course sometime in his life or is he intentionally ignoring market fundamentals for other reasons? First, lets get rid of the absurd idea that this crisis is one of “market failure”. Markets are doing precisely what they are supposed to do -- when a good is overpriced markets correct that price and bring it down.

So why is housing overpriced in America? Government policies pushed by short-sighted politicians (are there any other kind?) intentionally distorted markets to increase the demand for housing. The whole purpose of the government created monsters, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was to make it easier for people who can’t afford a home to buy one. Easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve, cheap lending from government-backed institutions, increased the demand for housing faster than the supply thus pushing up prices. This gave the home owner the illusion of increasing wealth and they went on a spending spree increasing their debt believing the increased equity in their home would cover it. A good time was being had by all.

And there were lots of people willing to build homes in order to sell them to these people. In fact, there were lots more people building those homes then there should have been.

But why the distortion in building? Consider yourself an investor wanting to get a return on your money. If you purchase stocks, and the stocks went up, you paid capital gains tax on the increased value. If you invested in gold, silver, coins, or almost anything, and you received a profit on your investment you paid a capital gains tax on that profit --- with one major exception. You guessed it: housing!

Go back to 1997 and the so-called Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 passed by the Congress. Here is a description of the law:

The relief act's primary provision for home sellers is the capital gains tax exclusion -- when you sell your home, if you qualify, you can keep, tax free, capital gains of up to $500,000 if you are married filing jointly or $250,000 for single taxpayers, or married taxpayers who file separately.
Your capital gain on the sale of your home is the selling price minus your cost basis. The cost basis is your purchase price, plus qualified purchase costs, improvements and selling costs, minus any accumulated depreciation, say for a home-based business. A professional can help you more specifically calculate your gain if you are not sure what qualifies and what doesn't.

Now a libertarian might say that tax relief is not a bad thing. But there is tax relief that can create problems. When you have a tax on all capital gains but one specific kind then tax relief linked to one investment alone it will distort investment patterns. The tax policy, in essence, lowers the return on all investment save the favored one. Thus more capital flows into the favored investment than into the others. The natural market is distorted. Some areas lack the investment they ought to have under natural returns and the favored area receives more investment than it would if on an equal playing field.

When one sector of the economy has too much investment the rate of return in that sector will eventually fall. Over investment drives down profits in that sector while pushing up profits in the underinvested sectors. Housing was over built and with each new house the pressure was increasing. The bubble had to burst. What Secretary Paulson is doing is trying to artificially pump up the bubble -- the very sort of policy which caused the problem in the first place. Somebody needs to point out that you don’t cure drunkenness with more alcohol and you don’t cure an economic bubble by re-inflating it.

Vernon Smith won the Nobel prize in economics and almost a year ago he wrote about the housing bubble and the cause.
Thank you President Bill Clinton for your 1997 action, applauded by the banks, the realtors and all citizens in search of half-millionaire status from an investment they could understand and self deceptively believe to be low risk; thank you for fueling the mother of all housing bubbles; thank you for enabling so many of us who bought second or third homes, and homes before construction began, which we then sold to someone else who dreamed of riches from owning homes long enough to sell to another fool.

Once again, try as we might and in spite of our political rhetoric, we have failed to help the poor in applauding government action intended to help ourselves.
The consumption binge is now over, and there is more than enough blame and souring loans to spread around. Congress, if its members can stop squabbling, wants desperately to sanctify it all with actions sure to launch at some future date the grandmother of all housing and mortgage-market bubbles. This august body has long forgotten that it set the stage for housing bubbles by creating those implicitly taxpayer-backed agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as housing lenders of last resort.

Smith notes that it would have been beneficial to allow “capital gains on all assets to go tax free, provided that the capital was reinvested....” But proposals to do that raise the shrill cries of the Statist Left who believe the benefits the rich. They preferred target “relief” and they picked housing to encourage more people to invest into this one sector of the economy. They told us this was helping the poor.

So where are the poor today? They bought houses that had inflated prices, prices inflated by the politicians and their “created in DC” bubble. They bought the houses that they couldn’t afford because the same politicians made it easier for them to do so through the lending distortions they put into effect. So they gave easy money to people to buy property that was overvalued. When the value of the property corrected itself, as was bound to happen, the same homeowners found that they were paying far more than the property was worth. Each month their were going shelling out money as if a property was worth X amount, when in reality it was worth far less. Basically the “caring” Left in Congress conned a lot of people into buying an investment that was bad for them.

Of course those people borrowed the money and most those loans ended up in the hands of the government-sponsored agencies Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Make no mistake these are entirely creatures put together by the Dr. Frankenstein’s in Washington. Now the conned home owners are defaulting, destroying their credit ratings, going bankrupt and being harmed in innumerable ways. So the morons who created this crisis, the politicians, are rushing to bail out the big moneyed institutions that leant the money. Damn the little guy tricked into making a bad investment by government policy, but bail out the corporate interests.

Once again we have another politically-created disaster where the most vulnerable people in society are being harmed. The harm was imposed on them by policies which the politicians, particularly the Democrats in DC, claimed were being implemented to “help” them. One basic principle to remember is that “help” from Washington almost always does more harm to the recipient being helped than it does good. Help from DC is like a rapist claiming he’s helping his victim learn new techniques for sexual pleasure. The victim ends up bloodied and beaten and it is only the rapists who gets his jollies.

After the poor home buyers were conned into buying overvalued property by the snake-oil salesmen from Washington they found themselves in a horrible position. When they start going under, and the institutions that hold their loans start hurting, the politicians rush in to rescue the institutions. And who is going to pay for that? The taxpayers. And that means higher taxes to cover the billions in bailouts. Washington tricked people into making bad investments. And when those people go broke and can’t pay off their loans Washington comes in and taxes the same people to save the asses of the corporate elite.

Once again it is clear that government intervention into the market does not help the poor. Quite the contrary. It is the poor who tend to pay the highest price for the intervention and receive the least benefits. Even under the best of the times the “benefits” are dubious and or a short-term nature with long-term consequences which make them worse off.

Keep an eye on Washington because this will be a perfect example of how alleged liberals in the Democratic Party will push through policies that help major donors to their parties while shafting the poor. It will also illustrate how government interference in the free market does not help the poor but harms them. And notice how this crisis has been evolving for sometime now but the political classes did nothing. As long as people were losing their homes the politicians were relatively silent. Once the defaults started hurting the billionaires that fund both parties the politicians jumped to life and demanded bail outs for the big boys. That is the nature of politics but I’ve written about that before.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dr. Frankenstein's Bubble: Made in Washington

Blogger is really screwed up so we are unable to post today's commentary which is about the housing bubble created by Washington. Now that the bubble has burst the politicians are rushing to bail out the billionaires at the expense of the people who are seeing their dreams of a home being destroyed. The article is finished but attempts to drop it into the box where we must put it for publication fail. Blogger keeps putting in some bizarre part of the page so it doesn't show up at all. This remains true no matter which browser I use so the problem is clearly with Blogger. I can type it in the box I just can't copy it to the box and it is too tedious to retype the entire piece. So I will wait until someon at Blogger gets around to fixing it. Unfortunately attempts to tell them when such problems exist fail as well. As part of the "customer service" routine of web based giants like Amazon, Google, etc., they don't allow you to actually contact them except in the most round-about way which they easily, and usually, ignore. And you are strictly forbidden from actually contacting a living human being. They much prefer irrelevent computer-generated responses answering questions you didn't ask and addressing issues that are not pertinent. So, if you wish to see the piece on the housing bubble, check back later.

In defense of short selling.

Politicians are having a field day with the economic meltdown that they worked so hard to create. Typical of the political classes they create a crisis then argue that the cause was that they don't have enough power. They then propose "solutions" guaranteed to make matters worse in the long run thus creating another crisis which sets the power-grabbing process into motion once again.

In the current situation the politicians are refusing to look at how they created bad incentives to overbuy housing. Instead they want to find scapegoats. And they seem to think that "short sellers" in the financial markets are responsible for the problems there -- as opposed to too many houses being held by people who are defaulting on their payments because the "caring" politicians insisted on creating programs to sell homes to people who can't afford them. Short-sellers are the scapegoat. Selling short don't drive down the value of the stock. They are betting that the stock is overvalued. And if enough people are short-selling that is the canary in the mine and ought to serve as a warning. The politicians think it best that there be no warning that a collapse of a company is coming. They want stock holders caught unaware -- how sweet of them. The above video is a short presentation on short selling.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Destroying American jobs in order to deport Mexicans.

The perpetual whine of the xenophobic nativist is that immigrants are “stealing our jobs.” The idea is absurd on the face of it -- jobs are not the private property of one individual. They are a contract between a willing buyer of labor and a willing seller of labor. No one owns a job. No one has a right to a job. But even if we grant the unspoken premise of this whine it still doesn’t pan out.

Pretty much once a day I stop into a local food establishment for lunch. Actually I have around half a dozen such outlets that I frequent with varying regularity. Ours is a relatively small town with only around 26,000 people. Of these around 10% are Hispanic.

The restaurants have signs posted in their windows that they are seeking employees. So who works there? for the most part it is Hispanic young people in their teens and twenties.

Several of the restaurants seem to have almost completely Hispanic staff. The rest seem to have one or two white kids working there but are predominantly Hispanic. Do these major chain restaurants actively discriminate against white kids? There is no indication that they do.

Certainly it’s possible but highly unlikely that six different restaurants are actively working to discriminate against whites. And if they were doing this where are the whites with their complaints?

Let’s talk reality and not Right-wing fantasy. The staff of these restaurants are mainly Hispanic, not because they are “stealing” jobs from whites but because whites have thrown those jobs away.

Kerry Howley, over at Reason, wrote an article on employer sanctions in Arizona that forced companies to fire “illegals” from their jobs. And the net result isn’t white Arizonians flocking in to take those jobs -- the result is empty jobs. She quotes Sheridan Bailey, the president of Ironco Enterprises which was forced to let go of about one third of their workers. Wagers were forced up in the hope of attracting workers. Training programs were created and still the company can’t grow because it can’t find employees.

The owner of a masonry business says he goes to job fairs and is offering a starting salary of $13 an hour without any experience. He’s having trouble finding workers.

These companies are losing revenue because they can’t find staff willing to work. Yet the workers who are willing to take the jobs are forbidden from doing so. It sure sounds like a government program to me.

In Texas, J. Allen Carnes grows onions on 500 acres of land. Come harvest time he could only find half the field workers he needed. MSNBC reports that he fell two weeks behind schedule, ended up leaving unpicked food to rot in the fields and saw his farm income drop by $150,000. The U.S. Department of Labor, just a few years ago, estimated that just over half of all farm laborers were illegal immigrants.

According to NPR farmers in Arizona have been dropping certain crops such as lettuce, strawberries and broccoli because the have to picked by hand --- they can’t find enough pickers. And in New Jersey tomato growers are reducing the size of their crops because they can’t find field workers.

Keith Eckel grows tomatoes in Pennsylvania, lots of them. “We normally harvest 200,000 25-pound cartons of tomatoes.” But he can’t find workers. He used to have them: “Many of them have come to our same farm for 25 years. These people do extremely hard work and are doing jobs that our local people will not or care not to do, and that would include myself... They are critical to our process. Without those harvesters, we’re out of business.” Of course those workers were Mexican migrant workers. They averaged a pay in excess of $16 per hour but Americans don’t want the work so Eckel is closing down.

Eckel planted around 2.2 million tomato plants last year. Now he will plant none. He says that the cost to plant and harvest his crops was between $1.5 and $2 million. He can't afford to make that sort of investment if he faces the risk of not having workers to harvest the crop. He estimates that the number of jobs directly lost by his having to cut production is 175. That doesn't count jobs created by these jobs. The president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Carl Shaffer, told a press conference that other farmers will be following Eckel's example. "The American consumer really needs to wake up to this issue. It's not just an immigration issue, it's an issue that's going to affect everyone's food supply." True, but the bigots don't care.

In 2005 the US had 131,800 acres dedicated to field grown tomatoes. In 2006 it dropped to 127,900 acres. In 2007 it dropped again to 124,400 acres. Perhaps Americans no long want tomatoes? Apparently not, imports of tomatoes have increased every year. In 2005 we imported 2.098 billion pounds of tomatoes, in 2006 it was 2.188 billion and in 2007 it was 2.361 billion.

Less and less of the food we eat comes from American farmers. In 2005 35% of the tomatoes we consumed came from outside the country. By 2006 it had risen to 36.7% and by last year it was 38.5%. American producers of tomatoes are closing down and they are saying it’s because they can’t find workers.

Do you know the number one foreign source for tomatoes consumed in the United States? It’s Mexico, from whom we import 2,093.3 million pound. In second place is Canada, with a fraction of that amount. This seems to indicate that what American immigration restrictions have done is not to protect American jobs at all -- instead, it exported them to Mexico.

There are jobs that need filling. There are people that need, and want, those jobs. The moronic nativists have pushed an authoritarian-inclined administration to stop the people who want the jobs from coming here to get them. But when jobs and workers need to come together moving people to the jobs is just one alternative. The other is moving the jobs to the people. And America is now exporting those jobs thanks to petty bigotry.

The short-sighted nativists don’t care. They imagine that their policies prevent those “damn Mexicans” from “taking our jobs”. Wrong. The jobs are being taken and being taken outside the country.

Some may say that if U.S. workers don’t want the job no harm is being done. Mexicans who would have come here to work now stay in Mexico for the work. They think that means there is no reduction in work for Americans and they succeeded in keeping “those people” out of the country. That typically looks at only one aspect of the production process. Yes, work that Mexicans would have done in the U.S. is now being done in Mexico. But more than the just field workers were involved.

American farmers, who used to grow those tomatoes, are now not growing them. Mexican farmers who didn’t used to grow them are doing so. When the anti-immigration bigots transferred the field work outside the United States they also transferred the profits outside the United States.

Go back and consider Mr. Eckel and his farm. No doubt his work force included far more than field workers. He spoke about having his accounts audited to see how much he was paying his field workers. And with the amount of tomatoes he was growing that would be a lot of records. No doubt he hired accountants. And I suggest they were not illegal aliens but Americans. They lost the work they were doing when he shut down his farm. He had truckers who delivered his produce to market, they are no longer moving his tomatoes.

Mr. Eckel bought farm equipment from local companies and sales agents. He bought fertilizer, irrigation equipment and mcuh more It’s unlikely he drove to Mexico to pick up any of the hundreds of other things he needed to successfully grow tomatoes on a massive farm. He’s no longer buying any of that.

And his profits are gone. What did he do with his profits? He may have fixed up his home, or bought entertainment, or new furniture. Whatever he would have spent those profits on is no longer being purchased. The stores where he spent profits don’t get his income any longer. So the loss of his profits translates into the loss of jobs for Americans.

His field workers were only a small part of the entire labor force needed to produce tomatoes. But while they were just a part of the labor needed they were a necessary part. Without them the entire process shuts down and lots of non-immigrant workers lose their jobs as well. The anti-immigration crowd nevers talks about that.

When the nativists stopped Mexicans from coming to America to pick local crops they inadvertently sent the crops to Mexico instead. The farming left the country with the workers. Along with those field workers we exported the profits from those farms. The nativists did deport the Mexicans--and don’t they feel proud?. But they also deported other jobs in the process. They put Americans out of work in order to indulge their prejudices. They made America less prosperous, they hurt the farmers who produced these goods and they hurt all the local workers and industries who relied on them.

As they are busily deporting jobs and capital from the United States to other nations these nativists have the audacity to call themselves “patriots”. Patriots? They are damaging the economy, destroying American jobs (not protecting them), and exporting capital to other nations. I argue that their actions are destructive and dangerous. They are hurting America and in return all they get is the satisfaction that they chased some hardworking people out of the country.

The idea that that they protecting American jobs is ludicrous and it is a smokescreen. They are not saving jobs for Americans but destroying them. But it was never really about the jobs, it was always about the Mexicans. The nativists are merely couching their racism in economic terminology. Unfortunately it is ill-informed economics based on fallacies and absuridites. These bigots aren’t just hurting Mexicans. They are hurting the entire country. And when a group works to harm a country they really ought not be called “patriots” at all. There are words to describe people who work insidiously to harm their own country. I don't think "patriot" is one of them. What could they be?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ron Paul comes out of the theocratic closet.

This blog has contended that Ron Paul is a social conservative who was using libertarians to raise funds. Ron Paul has consistently moved farther and farther to the fringe Right. Every time he deviated away from libertarianism it was to satisfy the social authoritarians on the Right. He’s always had an excuse for it but his voting has been consistent.

Ron Paul publicly endorsed the loony far Right John Birch Society. Ron Paul even went so far as changing his church from mainstream Episcopalian to a fundamentalist Baptist variety. Now Ron Paul has come out of the closet and endorsed the extreme Right Constitution Party.

Paul said: “I’m supporting Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party candidate.”

Now, there is no good reason to support Bob Barr, in my opinion. And the reasons I don’t support Barr are precisely the same reasons I opposed Ron Paul. He is a social conservative pretending to be a libertarian. And the man Ron Paul is supporting is himself a fundamentalist theocrat. I contend that no real libertarian could support the sorts of policies promoted by the Constitution Party. Let us look at the policies that Constitution Party runs on, and which have been tacitly endorsed by Ron Paul.

The Constitution Party is specifically Christianist and wants to impose fundamentalist Christianity on the United States. They don’t even pretend to respect the religious values of others. They instead claim that “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” is the “Creator, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe and of these United States.” Please note they specifically claim that Jesus Christ is the “Ruler of the Universe and these United States.” How much more clear can their theocratic tendencies be?

They say: “The goal of the Constitution Party is to restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations...” They are saying that American law should be based on Biblical law -- this is Christian Reconstructionism. What does Biblical law mandate? As the Reconstructionists are not shy saying, it mandates a government that executes sinners. It is the Taliban in Christian drag.

They say that gambling “promotes an increase in crime, destruction of family values, and a decline in the moral fiber of our country.” They want to repeal federal legislation to allow the states and local communities to regulate and restrict gambling on tribal lands.

They argue that a fetus is a “pre-born child... created in God’s image.” They want the government to ban abortion entirely. They make no exceptions even for rape or incest. Their position is theological to the core. For the same theological reasons they “oppose all ‘legalization’ of euthanasia, infanticide and suicide.” What kind of theocrat can be so stupid as to want to make suicide a crime? Hey, why not? They could impose the death penalty for it, something else they support. This is what Ron Paul is endorsing.

When it comes to the war on drugs they say: “The Constitution Party will uphold the right of states and localities to restrict access to drugs and to enforce such restrictions. We support legislation to stop the flow of illegal drugs into these United States from foreign sources.”

What about state education? They say that the federal government has no role in education but they do not exclude state and local involvement in education. And they openly say that such government schooling “cannot be separated from religious faith.”

They offer bullshit about how states rights should dominate but they also make it clear that when it comes to “morality” the states have to impose Biblical morality. Under their view no individual state could grant equal rights to marry to gay couples. “No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted.”

They say that the states have the right “to proscribe offensive sexual behavior.” Notice that it says nothing about proscribing sexual behavior that violates the rights of others only that the states may ban sexual behavior that they find offensive. As part of their morality crusade they also with to ban “adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples.” Once again this is the candidate that Ron Paul is publicly endorsing.

As for immigration their xenophobic, nativist tendencies are very extreme. They don’t just want to “secure the border”. They want a complete “moratorium on immigration to these United States, except in extreme hardship cases or in other individual special circumstances...”. This is supposed to stay in effect until all state welfare is abolished -- as if that is going to happen in our lifetime or in the next century.

Because they are theocrats they want to ban an judicial review of legislation based on theological premises. “We particularly support all the legislation which would remove from Federal appellate review jurisdiction matters involving acknowledgement of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government.”

They also want to abolish freedom of speech for erotica or material with sexual content because it is “a distortion of the true nature of sex created by God.” They absurdly argue that censorhip is required to protect freedom of speech: “We call on our local, state and federal governments to uphold our cherished First Amendment right to free speech by by vigorously enforcing our laws against obscenity... we also believe that our collective representative body we call government plays a vital role in establishing and maintaining the highest level of decency in our community standards.”

As for free trade, they oppose it. They say tariffs “are legitimate revenue-raising measures” and a means of protecting local companies from competition. They clearly say that the tariffs must be sufficiently high to prevent any foreign good from being able to compete on the basis of price with comparable American goods. They explicitly restrict competition from foreign competitors.

As for their opposition to government handouts and welfare they don’t oppose them with a blanket opposition. They in fact want “generous health, education and other benefits” but to veterans only.

As bad as Barr is he is still heads above Chuck Baldwin. As much as the Libertarian Party has deserted principles it is still superior to the theocratic Constitution Party. While Paul would have an excuse to not endorse Bob Barr there is no justification for endorsing Rev. Baldwin and his Christian Taliban. Well, there is no excuse for a libertarian to do this. On the other hand this is precisely what you would expect from a social conservative.

This blogger has warned libertarians that Ron Paul was heading in precisely this direction and heading there very rapidly. We were not believed by most. Ron Paul has now proven our concerns were correct. Ron Paul used libertarian sounding rhetoric to cover up his real agenda. His endorsement of an openly theocratic political party is proof positive that Ron Paul is not one of us. But then he doesn’t care anymore -- he’s got the millions of dollars that libertarians gave him to promote his real agenda. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

PS: If Ron Paul doesn't support these ideas, and his history indicates he does, then he shouldn't have endorsed Baldwin and the Constitution Party. The argument that Paul is having a hissy fit over Barr snubbing him is disrespectful to Paul. It implies that he would chuck out principle simply because his feelings got hurt. At least my view is that he has come clean and is showing some integrity by making explicit the views I contend were implicit in his campaign all along. What libertarians have to do is realize that Paul took them for a very expensive ride. The money is in his bank accounts now and he can be quite open about his views as he doesn't need libertarians anymore -- this is his last run for office. So you decide whether it is more respectful to say he is being a cry-baby over Barr or showing some integrity by coming clean on his real views.

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Corporate plunder as the consequence of state power.

Many people speak of the “profit motive” and attach it to free markets. Of course, there is a profit motive but the idea that the profit motive vanishes in the absence of markets is absurd. The desire to profit exists regardless of the economic/political system under which one labors.

The bureaucrat under the system of state socialism is just as driven to improve his life as the so-called robber baron. No system eradicates this motivation.

The political/bureaucratic system abolishes “profits” in the sense of creating value in excess of costs. But it does not abolish profits for the individuals who labor in that system. Politicians don’t earn profits in the sense that business owners do, yet they profit by their political activity. They gain things which are important to them and that includes monetary gain, prestige, power, praise, etc.

The idea that profit is only monetary in nature is naive at best. Once, when I sponsored a dinner with Milton Friedman, his entire compensation, in terms of material goods, was dinner for himself and Rose and a reduced parking charge at the hotel garage. When I handed him his discount coupon for the parking I commented: “This has to be one of the lowest honorariums that you have ever received.”

Friedman, never one to miss a chance to make an important point smiled and said: “Any good economist will tell you that their is more to profit than mere monetary gain.”

The basic reality is that all humans are profit-maximizers especially when you realize this covers more than “profits” in the pure business sense. Politicians and bureaucrats profit. All people are “greedy” in the same sense. Everyone wants to improve their life.

Political control doesn’t eradicate such greed and neither does the free market. But the two systems do create different incentives as to how one uses their “greed” in relationship to others.

In a totally free market, one without subsidies or political control, the entrepreneur must produce a good which I am willing to buy. For me to be willing to buy his product I must conclude that the value of the product is worth more to me than the value of the money which I am paying for it. If I conclude that I am worse off, I simply don’t purchase the product. In order for the entrepreneur to be “better off” by having me part with my money he has to make me more satisfied than I would be without the trade. His profit is dependent on his ability to increase my well-being. That is because the market is voluntary, and in order to get me to “volunteer” to part with my money, he must increase my well-being.

This is most certainly not the case with politics. Where markets rely upon voluntary exchange the political process relies upon state coercion. Politicians and bureaucrats have the ability to force individuals to make less than optimal exchanges. In fact they have the ability to expropriate private wealth in exchange for nothing at all.

The German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer explained this difference in 1919 in his classic work The State. Oppenheimer contrasted the two systems of profiting this way:
There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others. Robbery! Forcible appropriation! These words convey to us ideas of crime and the penitentiary, since we are the contemporaries of a developed civilization, specifically based on the inviolability of property. ...I propose ...to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means” for the satisfaction of needs, while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”

Even though he was socialist Oppenheimer saw clearly that the “state is an organization of the political means.” As Oppenheimer puts it: “The ‘state’ is the fully developed political means, society the fully developed economic means.” This fits precisely with Felix Morley perspective in his classic The Power in the People. Morley, a well-known journalist and peace activist (he became the president of a Quaker college), noted that society “carries the flavor of voluntary companionship” but with the state “the association tends to be involuntary”.

“Society” is all interaction, economic or not, which is voluntary and cooperative in nature. It encompasses not just the economic market but social clubs, charitable organizations, private associations and individual activities. It should be noted that the bulk of social good that we experience comes out of this undirected, unorganized, spontaneous social order that free individuals naturally create. The state, on the other hand, is that entity which imposes involuntary actions on people within a certain geographic area. In society many competing and varied organizations seek to do the same good. Within the state there is no room for “a thousand flowers” blooming -- it is a monopolized entity claiming the exclusive right to initiate force.

As Morley sees is, the state is the same an Oppenheimer’s “political means” and society is the same as his “economic means”. You can dichotomize them as the voluntary versus the coercive as well. I tend to see the one as peaceful action verses violent action.

The political means of wealth acquisition relies upon the use of force or the threat to use force. The economic means requires cooperation and peace. It is said that markets are seductive while political controls are rape. In each case they could potentially achieve the same end, but the one requires seduction or persuasion while the other relies upon orders, threats or violence.

My tendency toward limited pacifism means that I prefer the latter sort of social structure. I say “limited pacifism” because I believe it is immoral to initiate force against others but not necessarily immoral to use force to defend one’s self against violence from others.

And this brings me to my main point -- that businessmen are not inherently inclined toward one system or the other. The profit motive, which we all acknowledge inspires them, exists in both systems.

A profit-seeking businessman could be an advocate of social, voluntary exchange based on the peaceful exchange of value for value, benefiting all parties to the exchange. He, or she, can just as easily prefer the political means of wealth acquisition which uses state power to impose involuntary exchanges upon unwilling individuals. What we call “the profit motive” exists in both situations. But, as I see it, the one is inherently immoral and other moral.

There is nothing about businessmen that makes them more inherently moral than the public at large. Just as some individuals prefer to live by theft from others there are some businessmen who prefer to use the political means, or state coercion, in order to acquire wealth for themselves.

We are witnessing this sort of lolly scramble with those corporate interests who are using state power to confiscate wealth from productive individuals in order to bail out themselves. The entire debacle we see on Wall Street is one where government interventions created distorted incentives and encouraged risky investments, so risky in fact, that they failed. The State then comes in and uses its coercive monopoly to confiscate the wealth of individuals and make them involuntary “partners” in the losses created by the mismanaged corporations.

I do acknowledge that the politicians created the incentives to mismanage things. But that doesn’t exonerate the corporate leaders who choose to use these incentives in an attempt to enrich themselves. Long-term the reliance upon state coercion to gain wealth is doomed to fail. It is inherently destructive. Dr. Martin Luther King noted: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.” Because the state means of profiting uses force, because it is involuntary, because it is inherently violent, is multiplies the very evils it seeks to address. It tends to exacerbate problems not solve them.

The problem with the State socialist is that he doesn’t see how the use of evil means creates more evil. He is willing to use violence to address the needs of people. He wants to improve the lot of the poor and powerless and for this he creates state power. But power doesn’t fall into the hands of the powerless by definition. The centralized, violent system of statism always ends up in the hands of a powerful elite who use it against the interests of the very people it was meant to help.

Classical liberalism, or libertarianism, properly understood has always been a political philosophy of the Left. This was clearly indicated when the great liberal thinker, Frederic Bastiat, sat on the Left of the French Assembly. Bastiat shared the Left’s desire to improve the lot of the poor and powerless, but, unlike the state socialist, he understood the dangers of using state power to accomplish these goals.

I believe in a libertarianism that speaks out for the powerless and for those who are denied their full equal rights before the law. And I realize that to achieve such a system of justice requires the abolition of concentrated power--not its monopolization. When power is monopolized in the hands of the political classes the results will always be one where the rich and powerful use state coercion to pick the pockets of the poor and powerless.

The “bailouts” that we see today are the plundering of the working classes by corporate elites. It is a plundering that could NOT take place in a truly free market. It is only possible when the State has the power to transfer wealth involuntarily. And the statist Left needs to recognize that they are largely guilty for creating the system that makes such plunder possible.

If the Left wants to put an end to such corporatism they will have to re-evaluate their belief that the use of involuntary, state power can achieve a peaceful, prosperous social system. Violence does not beget peace, coercion does not create cooperation, plundering does not create wealth. Both the ends and the means must be consistent with one another. That means the eradication of concentrated power and the creation of truly free, voluntary markets.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The gay/Vatican/Bush plot to get Tony Alamo.

In a conflict between religious fundamentalists and government it is difficult to know which side to take. Both are capable of awful things and neither is exactly what I’d call trustworthy. Both are quite capable of lying to justify their actions and both are prone to doing awful things. Fundamentalist religions only tend to be less dangerous due to their lack of ability, not due to a lack of will.

So the current state of affairs between Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and the Feds is a toss up. Either could be quite capable of being wrong here. Either side could lying. Here is a run down on the conflict.

For some time law enforcement claims they were receiving accusations of child sexual abuse with Alamo’s ministry. And they have raided the ministry on charges of child pornography supposedly dealing with at least three young girls. This took place after a purported two year investigation into the situation.

Now there is little doubt that Alamo and his sect are a particularly wacky bunch of religious fanatics. When Alamo’s former wife died he kept her body for six months promising people she would resurrect. Of course she didn’t. But false stories about resurrections are popular in religious circles.

At this point I’m not going to posit a guess as to which of these two combatants is in the wrong. Nor do I particularly care here. But what I do find extremely absurd is Tony Alamo’s defense and his claims about the reasons the government is out to get him.

If the Associated Press is to be trusted: “Mr. Alamo said Saturday that the investigation was part of a federal push to legalize same-sex marriage while outlawing polygamy.”

That is enough to judge Mr. Alamo as bonkers. Surely he has to be the only person in existence who thinks the federal government, under George Bush, is attempting to legalize gay marriage. Clearly Rev. Alamo thinks this sort of claim is beneficial to him.

What is it precisely that causes religious kooks to immediately scapegoat gay people for everything and anything that they are unhappy about. A quick look at Alamo’s own church site shows him to be a complete conspiracy kook. Not only will you discover that he’s a 9/11 Truther (surprise, surprise) but you will discover the real truth about the conspiracy that runs the U.S. government -- it’s that other major pro-gay organization, the Vatican which “is very close to replacing our U.S. Constitution with her one-world, satanic canon laws of death...”

According to Rev. Alamo the Vatican “now controls the United Nations (which she created), the White House, Congress, every state, federal, civic, and social government agency, including the U.S. Department of Labor, the IRS, the FBI, the Supreme Court, judicial systems, the armed forces, state, federal, and other police, also the international banking and federal reserve systems (called the Illuminati and Agentur), labor unions, the Mafia, and most of the heavyweight news media.”

But according to Alamo the previous Pope was gay which “explains all the new Vatican federal government regulations regarding nondiscrimination against homosexuals.” I told you he was crazy. Apparently the whole world is conspiring against Alamo, whose church is “holiest” in the world. And everyone is plotting against him as part of the Bush Administration/Vatican conspiracy to promote same-sex marriage. Wow!

Tony Alamo is clearly a fanatic. He clearly is also crazy. And I suspect that there is more than just a little dirt under his rug. I have listened to sermons by Alamo and he clearly preaches polygamy and argues that God sanctions taking children as wives. There are claims that he has several child-brides himself. The Texas authorities botched badly their raid on the polygamist Mormons but there is enough material on Alamo that it wouldn't surprise me to see him arrested shortly and to see the government be able to present a strong legal case against him. Of course any such proof will be seen by his followers as evidence that they really are the true church and Alamo really is speaking on behalf of God. One thing I know about fundamentalists is that they can interpret both success and failure as an affirmation of what they believe. In fact, regardless of what happens to them, that seems to confirm their faith because nothing, no event, no amount of evidence, no compelling logic, can disprove their beliefs.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mugabe wannabe slated for South Africa's presidency.

South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, is to vacate his office at the request of the power structure within his own party. Mbeki has been in a power struggle with Jacob Zuma. Zuma is currently not eligible to become president but it is expected that he will shortly run for parliament, be elected to that office and thus become eligible. At that point Zuma will probably take the presidency.

This is just another of the slow steps that South Africa is taking toward Third World destruction. Mr. Mbeki was a big step in the wrong direction, after he took over from Nelson Mandela Mbeki was inspired by power lust. Zuma has even a worse case. Mbeki took some major steps away from markets and toward political control of the economy. Zuma will go even further down that disastrous road.

The New York Times ran a story on this, as expected, which needs some correction. They have either misstated facts or left out pertinent information.

They claim “Mr. Mbeki brought a moribund economy back from its death bed.” Interesting. They didn’t seem to think that Mr. Mandela had taken South Africa to its economic death bed when Mr. Mbeki took over from him. An article the Times printed in 1999, just before Mbeki’s election, mentions high unemployment but says nothing about the South African economy being led to its death bed by Mr. Mandela. But then then “journalist” Suzanne Daley falsely claimed that during the “election season, whites hoarded canned goods and ammunition, while blacks died by the thousands in grisly clashes.”

This blogger was actually there and half this claim is false and the other half exaggerated. No doubt some whites somewhere in South Africa “hoarded canned goods and ammunition” but none that were actually noted at the time. To imply that all, most, or even many whites did this is simply false. And Daley exaggerates when she says “blacks died by the thousands in grisly clashes”. She also entirely left out the cause of those clashes, which was Mandela’s African National Congress supporters going to war with other black political parties. Daley’s comment, immediately following the lie about whites hoarding ammunition, makes it sound as if whites were involved in these clashes. That simply is false. The clashes were entirely within the black community and between black factions. Regardless of her distortions there is no mention that South Africa’s economy was on its death bed at the time. Now the Times reports that it was. They fail to explain how they didn’t notice this then.

The Times says that in spite of Mbeki’s supposedly resurrecting a dead economy he “moved too sluggishly to lift up most of those in need. Unemployment, variously estimated between 25 and 40 percent, has remained a manacle on the millions of South Africans living in shanties.”

This is true but also false. The Times neglects to mention that Mr. Mbeki and the ANC passed law after law to “lift up” the poor. Labor regulations were tightened and businesses forced to hand out all sorts of benefits. Mbeki and the ANC put into practice the very sort of labor laws which the Times promotes. The net result of those laws were an increase in unemployment.

The Times also neglects to mention that in the years leading up to election of an ANC government that economic advancement for blacks was quite strong. From 1985 to 1994 the disposable income of black South Africans had increased by 35%. That of Indian and colored South Africans, who had higher income to begin with, had increased by 24%. In comparison the disposable income of white South Africans had increased by only 3%. In 1967 only 7% of university students were black but by 1993 40% were. It would have been higher but during “the struggle” the ANC actively encouraged black youths to drop out of school, a policy that lowers the income of the dropouts to this day.

The reality is that the tonic the ANC forced onto the country was one of regulation, controls and restrictions. It followed the advice of publications like the New York Times and unemployment grew. Labor is heavily regulated and many workers were regulated out of jobs.

For instance, many homeowners hired maids to help clean their homes and gardeners to work in the yard. Pay was not great but significantly above zero, which was the alternative. The ANC passed legislation requiring each homeowner to provide retirement benefits to these individuals if they worked over a certain number of hours per week. Few homeowners could do this. Many just ignored the law. But many didn’t. And those who didn’t reduced the hours of employment, along with the total pay package, given to staff members. Others who were going to hire staff full time simply didn’t do it. The level of unemployment went up. The amount of compensation that workers received declined in total. True those who remained hired full time were better off. But the bulk of workers were worse off.

Repeatedly the ANC tried to lift up the poor through legislation. And repeatedly the results were the opposite of those desired. It should be noted that these same policies are chic policies in the circles of the New York Times and the preferred tonic for all that ails you in Left-wing circles. Unfortunately those policies don’t work.

Zuma is the man promoted by the trade unions and by South Africa’s powerful Communist Party. And it is there intention to move rapidly toward policies that they find acceptable. Their complaint about current ANC policy was that it wasn’t radical enough. The very tonic that is poisoning the country is being demanded in heavier doses.

Mr. Mandela already moved South Africa into a dirigist direction with a multiplicity of labor laws and racially-based legislation. Mr. Mbeki went even further. Doses of such legislation made the situation worse for workers not better. Other policies, such as in fiscal matters, helped alleviate some of the problems. But Zuma is a fiery radical with no sense of proportion at all. He will take South Africa further away from policies that work and is likely to adapt to populist measures which, while politically appealing, will have dire long-term consequences. Mr. Zuma is a consummate, albeit corrupt, politicians. As such the long-term is of little interest to him. His goal is short-term popularity no matter how devastating it will be to South Africa’s poor.

Mr. Zuma calls himself a socialist and has the support of the Communist Party and the communist-dominated Congress of South African Trade Unions. Zuma has no education and didn't finish grade school. He is a practicing polygamist and one of his wives was Minister of Health. She was particularly inept and corrupt and helped destroy hundreds of working hospitals. She was notorious for squandering most of the country's AIDS budget on a play that cost millions but was only shown to a few hundred people. Mr. Zuma is also well know to share Mugabe's hatred for gay people. He attacked South Africa's gay marriage law saying it was a disgrace but ignoring his own polygamist lifestyle. And he said that no homosexual, when he was growing up, would "have stood in front of me. I would knock him out."

Whatever his faults, and he had many, Mandela was no Mugabe. Mbeki, however, did have a tinge of Mugabe about him. He was inclined toward the petty machinations of Mugabe and used his power to settle personal scores. Zuma is much closer to Mugabe than Mandela. He shares Mugabe's desire to enrich himself through the powers of office. He proposes the same sort of destructive, but populist policies. And he works with the same sort of rhetoric as Mr. Mugabe. With Zuma on the rise South Africa is one giant step closer to becoming the new Zimbabwe.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurricane Bob leaves destruction in his wake.

When conservatives took over the Libertarian Party the promised that their candidate, Bob Barr, would practically walk on water. He's sinking faster than any other candidate in recent LP history. They promised that Barr's selling out of libertarian principles would attract swarms of dissatisfied conservatives to vote LP -- as if the real goal of the LP was merely the increase of votes and NOT the increase of liberty. Apparently none of the promised benefits are materializing.

The Barristas told the LP that their candidate could raise funds. He certainly raised millions when he was showering the money on Big Government Republicans just prior to his nomination. But he is still below $1 million raised for his own campaign. This is hardly path breaking funding. Other, lesser known LP candidates, have done better.

Instead of doing the hard work of a campaign Barr engages in court room stunts. When a church held a forum with Obama and McCain it was Barr who sued them to try to force his way into a church forum -- something no real libertarian would do. No tax funds were involved so it was private and Barr's actions were inherently statist -- no surprise there. Now he is trying to push a law suit to take McCain and Obama off the Texas ballot with the silly idea that he believes, that if successful, he will win the state. He won't succeed.

But while he was playing court room games in Texas his campaign was neglecting other states and losing ballot status there. It was recently announced that the LP will not be on the ballot in Connecticut -- though party officials are now scurrying to try to appeal the ruling that they didn't have enough valid signatures for ballot status. Barr's campaign is putting the LP in fourth place when it comes to ballot access with Nader on the ballot in 49 states and Barr only managing 44 states -- the worst LP showing for some time. Even the lacklustre Michael Badnarick campaign managed ballot access in 48 states. Harry Browne managed 50 states. Andre Marrou managed 50 states, Ed Clark managed 50 states. Certainly when it comes to ballot access Barr has managed to undo decades of progress.

We were told by the Barristas that running an Right-wing Republican would attract a large number of unhappy conservatives and thus Barr would set new vote records for the Libertarian Party even if they were voting for a libertarian. And we were told that one place we would see this would be the Georgia race where Barr could actually tip the race their in Obama's favor. That was the goal, of course, the election of Barack Obama. The far Right in the GOP, which is where Barr is most comfortable, wanted to punish the Republicans for not anointing someone they approved of. Barr's goal was to punish the Republicans not build the Libertarian Party -- he doesn't give a damn about the Libertarian Party.

But even the Georgia race isn't living up to Barr's promises. Barr isn't taking enough votes away from McCain to punish him and change the race in Barr's own state. The latest Rasmussen poll shows McCain with a comfortable 11 point lead. As for Barr they say: "Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, who served in Congress as part of Georgia's Congressional delegation, receives very little support from voters in the state." That's Barr, the more you know him the less you support him. The smarmy little weasel isn't going anywhere. He has the most name recognition in Georgia and he will be lucky to actually poll 3% there. I suggest he'll get less than 2% and this will be his stellar state. It's all downhill from there and the incline will be pretty steep.

Hurricane Bob swept into the LP and it blew away a lot of infrastructure that was built up over decades. It knocked down the principled positions of the LP and it hurt many of the leading activists over the years. The conservative coup leaders talked about rebuilding the area and that "aid" would come sweeping in from the loony Right. As in the case of Katrina it didn't materialize. All that happened was a lot of destruction. I have concluded that is a good thing as the Libertarian Party is the wrong tactic for spreading liberty and ought to die. But the people who betrayed party principles to secure Barr's nomination actually think political action will work. These shinning stars ought to hang their head in shame as they have done more damage to the LP in a short few months than anyone or anything in the past.

The Barristas in the LP sold out principle. They engaged in some pretty dirty tactics. They lied, they misused offices they held, and they acted like the gutter politicians they seem to admire. They took the party to new lows and some of them continue to act this way, especially a few from California. And in the end they will have done vast damage to the party they claim to support. Perhaps they really do love the LP and love liberty. If so, then Oscar Wilde put his finger on it:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

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Anti-marriage initiative seems headed down the toilet.

The latest opinion polls in California indicate that Proposition 8, which would strip gay couples of the legal right to marry, is headed toward defeat. Not only has the proposition not been able to win over a majority of voters, it is losing support. Apparently the more that the proponents of the ban campaign the less support they receive.

When the antigay initiative was first placed on the ballot it was trailing by nine points in the polls. Since then the initiative has lost ground and now trails by 17 points. Only 38 percent of the public now expresses support for the measure.

Previously I have reported how religious groups are pouring money into the coffers of the antigay groups that are pushing the initiative. Even that is starting to backfire on them. Bruce Bastian of Orem, Utah learned that Mormons had given large sums of money to the antigay measure. Bastian, who was raised Mormon, got a bit angry about this and decided to make a donation as well. He gave $1 million to defend equal marriage rights. Actor Brad Pitt also tossed in $100,000. Pitt's statement on the matter was pretty much spot on from a libertarian perspective (Bob Barr take note): "Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn't harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8." By the way, even with donations like these, the religious nutters are clearly winning the money war. Too bad for them, money doesn't buy bigotry.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well, that didn't work out as planned.

Paul Krugman is rather fond of big government -- the bigger the better especially if it is the kind of government where he and his friends are in control. When people he doesn't like, such as Dubya, are in charge is rather unhappy with big government. Sort of like the Republicans, but in reverse. Both love big government just different mixes of big government.

Krugman recently participated in a debate on whether or not the federal government should nationalize health care. He started out basically saying he didn't want to look at the economics of health care. I don't blame him, the economics aren't really good for his case. Instead he wanted to drone on about compassion and morality and caring. I'm in favor of all of those myself but no dose of compassion will turn poison into tonic. And caring can't make the bad incentives of government control work. None of those are actually relevant to the discussion -- which no doubt is precisely why Krugman wanted to discuss them.

Krugman decided to prove the virtues of nationalized health care by taking a poll of his audience. But like most plans put into motion by the Left it didn't quite work out the way he intended. There was a strong debate on the quality of care in Canada and Krugman wanted to settle it by an impromptu poll of Canadians in the audience. Here is how the official transcript reports it:

And private insurance? That’s the thing, I— Actually, can I just
—I wanted to ask a question. And—
Please—please do—
—and I wanted to ask, actually two questions, to the audience.
First, how many Canadians, would Canadians in the room please
We have about seven hands going up—
Okay, not as many as I thought. Okay, of those of you who are
not on the panel who are Canadians,, how many of you think you
have a terrible health care system. [PAUSE] One, two—
We see—almost all of the same hands going up. [LAUGHTER]
Bad move on my part. [APPLAUSE] I’ve got a selected--all right, I
won’t try it. But I will say, that—

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National "service" for children.

There are a lot of false claims about Barack Obama. And I don’t know why. Certainly the accurate problems with Mr. Obama ought to be sufficient reason to not want him anywhere near the White House. Ditto for Biden, McCain and Palin by the way.

This commentator is often conflicted over which policy is the worse offered by a candidate. There are so many bad policies to pick from that the choice isn’t easy. But certainly among the worst policies being proposed is Obama’s desire to put children into “service” to the state.

In July Obama gave a speech demanding that the citizens of this country engage in “service” to the country and said we must all act in “shared sacrifice”. And he thinks this sort of “sacrifice” to the collective is most important for children -- that they need to be taught to serve. My view is that servility is a tool of obedience and that servility and obedience are the hallmarks of slavery.

In particular Obama wanted more young people to learn total obedience to the state by joining the military. I should note to his antiwar supporters that a limited number of bodies to send to war is a limitation on the power of the state to make war. To expand the capacity for war-making also expands the ability of the State to wage war. Obama said he calls “on a new generation of Americans to join our military, and complete the effort to increase our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.” He said, “we must value and encourage military service across our society.”

He promises to expand “AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots, and make increased service a vehicle to meet national goals like providing health care and education, saving our planet and restoring our standing in the world, so that all citizens see their efforts connected to a common purpose.” A common purpose? Is this the Third Reich? We have individual purpose not common purpose. Freedom means individual choice not a herd following “suggestions” from the president. And notice how the issues that will be addressed are all top Left-wing issues.

Now we know that Mr. Obama wants to conscript your wealth and force you to finance his political agenda but would he conscript your children to do so as well? That is a legitimate question when you here some modern fascist-lite extolling national service (and I include McCain in that category even if he isn’t as bad as Obama on this issue.)

Obama has said:

So when I'm President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you'll have done 17 weeks of service.

Let us look at this more closely for a second. First, where in the Constitution is the president given any such power? Second, since when did the U.S. government have the power to determine how Americans will spend their free time? These are not the proper functions of a government in a free society. If you add this sort of “national service” mentality to the Bush surveillance state (and don’t expect Obama to repeal any of that) you have the fascist state in a nutshell.

I think this is critical for voters to consider. The Republican agenda alone is not fascism. The Democratic agenda alone is not fascism. Both contain major elements of fascism. But as we stagger back and forth from Democrats in charge to Republicans in charge each implements their favored version of fascism while neglecting to repeal any of the measures pushed through by their “opponents”. This is like a drunk staggering toward a cliff. He may stumble to the right for a bit and then to the left for a bit but he continues to head for the precipice no matter which way he staggers.

America is being converted to fascism for sure but it is a bipartisan effort. And Obama’s call for national servitude is a major step in that direction. In Obama’s case it is the kids he wants pushed into some sort of youth faction to promote expectable left-wing goals. He is talking about “middle school” and “high school” students.

How will he get these kids into such a program? If it is entirely voluntary most won’t volunteer and I applaud them for that. No child should enroll in any government volunteer program. If they wish to volunteer, and it is good that do so, they should do so entirely outside the public sector. And that has been the problem for national servitude programs. They need coercion to work. Obama knows this. But he also knows that if he sends out government thugs to force children in obeying his call for service it will look bad and Obama is very careful about his image (substance may be lacking but image is everything -- another trait he shares with his national service mentors in Italy and Germany).

Obama says he will meet his goal of forcing children into service “in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.”

So there is a carrot and a stick. The local school have to push children into national servitude or lose federal funding -- funding which is first taken from the local parents. If they succeed in forcing children into government approved service they will get extra funding. Please note that the purpose of federal funding of education is not to increase funding -- after all the money is taken from local taxpayers first. The purpose is so that politicians in Washington can use the funding to force local schools to act on their behalf. Bush did this with his silly abstinence programs and Obama wants to do this with his program of placing children into national servitude.

Schools that ignore Obama’s agenda of making children servants of the state would lose their funds. Few can afford to do that. They will be forced to comply and they will have to find methods of forcing children to comply as well. One such method could be withholding earned diplomas or credits until the child “voluntarily” enslaves himself to Obama’s agenda.

If the schools make the “service” truly voluntary they will find it impossible to meet Obama’s directive and would lose funding. Their only alternative is to make this “voluntary service” involuntary by finding a means of forcing children to serve Obama’s agenda. Remember the government calls income tax voluntary even as they are sending armed agents to incarcerate you if you don’t pay. Democratic fascist Charles Rangel has been pushing for government slavery for years. He says that his measure is voluntary because the slave can pick between “community service” or the military. These national service measures are voluntary in the same sense that you voluntarily hand your money to a gun-toting mugger who says: “Your money or your life.”

It is critical that as many parents as possible remove their children from state schools.

In the Obama tradition of demanding sacrifice for the common good here are some quotes in a similar vein.
If we then understand national solidarity aright, we cannot but see that it is based on the idea of sacrifice. In other words, if somebody or other objects that the continual giving involves too heavy a burden, then we must reply that... true national solidarity cannot find its sense in mere taking. Adolph Hitler

Once the whole nation has really succeeded in grasping the fact that these measures call for sacrifice on the part of each individual, then they will lead to something far greater than a mere lessening of material needs, from them will grow the conviction that the "community of the nation" is no mere empty concept, but that it is soemthing which really is vital and living. Adolph Hitler

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