Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New porn law includes older adults as "child porn."

Even an old cynic like myself has to be astounded by the utter stupidity of government now and then. And this is one of those times.

I have argued that America is really screwed up when it comes to sex. Due to the influence of fundamentalists, Catholics and Mormons our society seems to live in continually panic about sex. The specific form that hysteria takes may vary from time to time but antisexualism is endemic in American culture. In the civilized world this attitude is pretty much exclusive to the United States. It isn’t that other cultures don’t’ exhibit such raw antisexualism, certainly Islamic cultures do so, but then I don’t consider them part of the civilized world.

Of course, the problem in Islamic nations is the same problem that infests the United States: that a significant portion of the population takes religious mythology seriously and literally. I like to remind people that when you can’t find a rational explanation for something, such as this hysteria, the next best thing to look for is an irrational explanation and that is where religion comes in.

Precisely what astounding act has government done to warrant my attention today? In Massachusetts a couple of political morons are attempting to introduce new legislation to ban erotic images of anyone over the age of 60! I am not making this up. In my wildest imagination I couldn’t make up something as ridiculous and absurd if I tried. Truly this sort of stupidity is only possible to those who have spent a lifetime inside the halls of government—there even the most absurd and ridiculous ideas sound sane after awhile.

The Boston Herald said the new law “would add seniors and the handicapped to kiddie porn laws.” A rather scary woman, in a Janet-Reno-burn-down-the-damn-building-even-if-there-are-children-in-the-building sort of way, Elizabeth Scheibel is pushing for the law. As this sex Nazi puts it, she wants “to protect our two must vulnerable populations.” That would be, I assume, children and older adults. Apparently this imbecile thinks that older people are just like children with all the rights of children. But let’s be truthful here, it is likely that Herr Scheibel believes that of everyone. She is Big Mother here to regulate our sex lives for our own good. Perhaps she is just jealous that other people have sex lives.

Scheibel, who is a district attorney helped craft the legislation. Of course, Herr Scheibel points to cases where an elderly person, or a handicapped person, was actually abused against their will. But, as one attorney pointed out, those acts are already illegal.

Law professor Eugene Volokh has looked at the legislation and says that it is so broadly written that what it really does is make it illegal for older adults or the handicapped from consenting to a sexual activity they may enjoy: erotic photos. He says the law “is not limited to people who are mentally handicapped and thus unable to consent, or who are photographed against their will by their caretakers… The operative provisions cover people over 60 and the disabled whether or not they are incompetent.Volokh says:
Note that the law isn't limited to making pornography for commercial purposes (since the child pornography law that it builds on covers noncommercial child pornography, too). That means that if 60-year-old spouses or lovers — or spouses or lovers of someone who is disabled — decide to photograph each other naked with "lascivious intent," they would be committing a crime.
Under the law a person can “punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a term of not less than ten nor more than twenty years, or by a fine of not less than ten thousand nor more than fifty thousand dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

Political creeps, like Herr Scheibel, engage in political creep: that is where they constantly work to expand laws, in small increments, to cover more and more territory. Eventually the law is distorted beyond all recognition and people sit around, their jaws dropped open, wondering what the hell happened. That is what they did with child porn laws. No one is opposed to protecting children from exploitation but now we are imprisoning teenagers as "child pornographers" for taking nude photos of themselves. Laws meant to protect children from molestation are now defined so broadly that teens making out in car, on a date, can be charged with molesting each other. And they can all be forced to join the government’s favorite list of pariahs: the sex offenders list.

I’m not aesthetically anxious to see granny porn, but if grandpa does, then I don’t see how that is any business of Herr Scheibel. Clearly the law already protects anyone who is incapable of consenting to erotic acts. So there is no justification for this new law. The string of stories that Scheibel belts out are mere excuses, they are the raison d'être or perhaps I should say, raison d’état.

At every turn the political process is a war on the liberties of the people. Politics, and thus politicians, are inherently imperialistic. They are constantly searching for excuses to expand their powers, their privileges and their perks. And each expansion must come at a price to your liberty and your welfare. Certainly, before democratic elections, the political class was explicit in their desire to rape, pillage and plunder the populace. Such honesty today would be a PR problem, so they couch their expansionary moves in terms of “protecting” the public from some danger, usually an imaginary danger. And in those cases, where the danger does exist, they magnify it all out of proportion. Today’s politicians are as predatory as those that were thrown off the backs of the people in the past. But they have learned to hide their predatory nature under a cloak of concern and care.

The most dangerous predators, the ones who threaten all of us, are those who hold elected office. The Founders attempted to limit the ability of these predators to do harm by "chaining" them down with the restraints of enumerated powers. Unfortunately, the predators have broken through those chains long ago. Now, no one is safe, the politicians are lose.

Photos: Apparently our first photo, of an older woman who apparently likes to dress up and pose, would be illegal. The second photo, of Herr Scheibel, is far more disturbing and scary, but would remain legal though beastiality provisions may apply. (No, I'm not nice to people like her, so don't whine about it.)

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And you didn't think they had good reasoning for the bailout.

Our friends at South Park take a look at the science behind the bailout.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Let them sink.

Obama is out of control. The man seems to think he is elected to micromanage private business. The way this man, with the messianic complex, is acting, he thinks he is Caesar, not a president with specific, enumerated powers. And none of those powers give him, or his puppet Congress, the power to manage private business, or to turn major industries into government pawns.

In just a few short weeks Obama has proven himself to be worse than George Bush, when it comes to the infection of the imperial presidency. Recently the Obama administration told General Motors to fire its CEO and to merge with an Italian auto manufacturer. Now he is telling General Motors and Chrysler to submit plans to him on their reforms and complaining they aren’t moving fast enough. He also says that he will not allow the US industry to “simply vanish.” What he means he is that he will subsidize a few badly run companies that are held hostage by their unionized workforce.

In one of his scripted messages (without the script he’s not so eloquent) he said, “We, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk our responsibility any longer.” We aren’t. Chrysler or General Motors are NOT “our responsibility” Mr. President. They aren’t your responsibility either. Let us get something straight. Presidents, even those who think they are Jesus and JFK rolled into one, are not elected to manage the economy. They have no such powers enumerated by the Constitution. Their duties are few and precise. But then we’ve not elected a Constitutional president is a very long time.

Obama says that the US auto industry is “a pillar of our economy.” Nonsense. The US auto industry is a relatively minor percentage of the economy. If they can’t survive close them down. There are plenty of good cars on the market, manufactured in the United States. We don’t need Chrysler or General Motors.

Let us be clear, Obama has zero business experience. He doesn’t even write his own speeches that so mesmerize the Obamatrons. Normally that is not a problem for the president since presidents are not elected to run businesses. But Obama is clearly engaged in a radical take-over of the private sector by the government. Mussolini would be proud of his cozy relationship with big business and his micromanaging the economy.

Elected officials rarely have the experience necessary to run a business effectively. On a collective basis, where political concerns dominate, they are totally unable to do so. Just look at what happens when politics gets hold of something as simple as education if you don’t believe me. Add in the perverse incentives of political management and state control of any industry is asking for trouble. Politics is about the most perverse method of solving problems that we have. The best solution, in this state-created crisis, is to let the bad companies go under, and the sooner the better.

Once these industries collapse than the valuable labor, tools, factories, etc., will be snapped up by individuals who are able to put them to profitable use. All these factors in production still hold value. But the management of these resources is wrong. Reallocating them to more profitable uses are the only solution to the economic crisis. Sustaining unprofitable uses is not a solution, it is the problem. Ultimately Obama’s solution is like treating a cold with pneumonia.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

What the fuck!

It's been a while since we have featured the moralistic antics that tend to go on in the Theocratic State of Texas. It is time to make up that short-coming with this bizarre story.

Kathryn Fridge, 29, of La Marque, Texas was shopping at Wal-Mart with her mother. In a conversation between the two women Kathryn said "fuck." Her sentiments were understandable. A tropical storm warning had been issued and she and her mother were looking to buy batteries. But they found that the shelves had already been picked clean. In response to this unfortunate turn of events, Ms. Fridge expressed dismay by saying that the batteries were "fucking gone."

Now Capt. Alfred Decker, moralistic buttwipe and La Marque assistant fire marshal, steps in and decides that because he gets to wear a uniform that he can issue a citation to Ms. Fridge for "disorderly conduct." Keep in mind that Capt. Asshole was issuing a citation, and arresting the woman, while a Tropical Storm was bearing down on the city. Apparently this moronic twat had nothing better to do in the realm of public safety than arrest women for saying "fuck" in his sainted presence. Decker appears to be one of those thugs who likes throwing his weight around and bossing people. The Galveston News says he has "fallen upon people for such things as playing music too loudly in their cars." Decker got in a fight with one man, who is now charged with assault, when Decker started lecturing him about the loudness of his music.

In fact, it appears that Decker arrested Fridge because she stood up for herself. Decker's fire chief, Todd Zacheri said, "If she would have said, 'yes, sir,' there would have been no problem and she would have been able to walk off." But the Galveston Daily News notes: "One of the great things about being an American is that we don't have to say 'yes sir' everytime a government employee speaks to us: we can talk back to authority." In principle true, In practice cops have assaulted a lot of people for questioning their "authorita."

It also appears that like many moralistic busybodies Decker is a hypocrite, actually I should say, fucking hypocrite. It appears that Decker himself once got in trouble for screaming foul language at a man in front of the man's little girl. Fridge's remarks were not said int he presence of a child unless you count the childish antics of Mr. Decker.

In a previous incident Capt. Asshole Decker was on fireworks patrol on New Year's Eve when he ordered Damien Hill out of his car. "[Hill] accused Decker of failing to identify himself, ordering him from his car, placing him in a headlock and forcing his head on the hood." Mr Hill said, "He was chocking the shit out of me, and I wasn't fixing to die that night." According to Hill, "I didn't have my music on, and my windows were rolled up."

Fire Chief Zacheri claims that "Decker is the city's code enforcement officer, who routinely encounters rude residents who refuse to cut their grass and remove trash from their property and generally object to Decker's dedication to neighborhood preservation." God, this Decker sounds like one big twat who really does get his rocks off by ordering people about on the great inconsequentials of life. No doubt he has illusions that he is some great protector of the law but what he is is a meddling, petty-minded bureaucrat that would do the world a favor if he chocked on his breakfast. Consider what he does for a living: he arrests people for swearing, hassles people who he says are playing their music, in their car, too loud, and orders people to cut their grass. I'm surprised this jerk hasn't been shot yet.

Decker threatened Stephen Taylor and screamed obscenities at him and said he would assault the man, in front of the man's child. This had nothing to do with Decker's normally annoying, petty duties at all. Decker was, in fact, dating the man's ex-wife. And the dispute was over that. Decker approached the man's vehicle, while the man's daughter was in the front seat.

In an aapparent domestic dispute, Stephen Taylor complained to Dickinson police and a League City justice of the peace, accusing Decker of threatening him with profane language within earshot of Taylor’s frightened 9-year-old daughter.
According to the affidavit, Decker and Taylor’s ex-wife were dating at the time. Taylor had no comment. A message left for Decker at his office wasn’t returned. Decker has no public telephone listing. A judge on Aug. 29, 2007, issued an arrest warrant for Decker on a Class B misdemeanor terroristic threat charge. Bond for Decker was set at $1,000. In the affidavit, Decker is accused of placing his head and arms inside Taylor’s truck, while his daughter, a passenger, had her head between her knees, crying and shaking. Taylor’s affidavit states: “(Decker) was calling me a ‘chicken s—, mother f---. Get out and I will beat your ass.”
Apparently Decker was guilty. He paid $263, was put on 180 days probation "and was ordered to have no contact with Taylor." After Decker paid his fine and finished the probation the charges were dismissed because he "abided by the court's guidelines." The Galveston paper says that at least a dozen people called the paper complaining about Decker and his heavy-handed tactics but most were afraid to allow their identity to be revealed.

Throughout the articles I've read Fire Chief Zacheri seems to have a real crush on Decker. All he has to say about the man is loving, wonderful things. He completely defends the moron's actions even for arresting the woman who said "fucking." Zacheri argues: "You just can't go off swearing and hollering. You just can't do it." Actually moron, read the First Amendment. It gives everyone the fucking right to say fucking even to fucking assholes like Decker who can be reached at a.decke@la-marque.tx.us. Don't expect an answer, he's refusing to speak to the media. Apparently he doesn't like to speak to anyone he can't arrest and threaten.

It sounds to me like Mr. Decker is just a bully who needs to be taken down several notches. Actually he needs to be laid off.

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The Obama Slide

Obama's popularity is plunging. President Obama is proving himself to be relatively incompetent. And, after eight years of George Bush, the bar for competency was set quite low. Obama is proving he can do more damage to the economy than Bush, can spend more than Bush, can create bigger deficits than Bush, can expand the Afghan war beyond Bush, ad nauseam. Add in his bungling appointments and his clear cut radical agenda regarding the economy and Obama is earning his decline in support.

It isn't that I'm opposed to a radical change in the economy. But Obama's radicalism is to magnify all the bad things that Bush did several fold over.

Rasmussen polls have charted the plummeting support for Obama. As Obama pushes more radical expansions of government control over the economy his support is declining. As this blog argued last year, during the election, support for Obama was not support for his inane economic policies. People supported Obama because he was NOT George Bush. I argued that there was no significant support for Obama's economic agenda but that the Democrats were too stupid to realize this. That stupidity still abounds.

While the Obama regime is trying to increase state control over financial services, the very thing which helped create this economic mess, few Americans support that plan. Only 11% of the public believes that the state can run financial services better than private industry. Even 70% of government bureaucrats say that government will do a worse job.

A plurality of the public, 45% to 34%, wants the bailouts ended. Rasmussen also measures support using a Populist vs Political class criteria. While their use of the term Populist is misleading the analysis is interesting. A Populist would basically argue that the judgment of the public is better than the judgment of politicians, they would argue that the government is itself a special interest group looking out for its own interests, and that government and big business work in collusion in ways that hurt consumers and investors. Generally, a populist is the opposite of a libertarian, in this case the two categories have complete overlap.

What Rasmussen found was that 55% of all Americans would accept all three of the premises outlined above. If this is true then I'm astounded and pleased. Only 7% completely side with the Political Class in this measure. When those who fall in the middle, but lean in one direction, are included then the Political Class is 14% of the public and the "Populists" are 75%. When it comes to the bailout issue the difference between these two viewpoints is clear.
As with other topics concerning bailouts, there is a huge gap between the Political Class and Mainstream America on this issue. By a 76% to nine percent (9%) margin, the Political Class believes the bailout should continue. By a 58% to 26% margin, those with Populist views disagree and say the bailouts should stop. Most Americans have Populist attitudes and their perspective can reasonably be considered the perspective of Mainstream America.
The majority of the public believes, correctly I might add, that the bailouts are rewarding the very people who caused the problems we are experiencing: "68% of Americans now believe most of the taxpayer money given out as bailouts is going to the very people who created the country's current economic crisis." Those who invest in the economy believe this slightly more strongly (70%).

More proof that the public has not bought into the Obama agenda is that a plurality (43% vs 33%) say that a government health plan will make matters worse. A slightly larger plurality (47% vs 35%) believe the solution is the expansion of private health care and only 29% want a national health insurance scheme run by government. Even a plurality of Democrats (35% to 26%) oppose socialized medicine.

Most Americans want tax cuts not bailouts. Rasmussen says that in the years of tracking support for tax cuts the proposal now has more support than ever, with 63% saying tax cuts would benefit the country. Only 13% oppose tax cuts. A majority also believe that tax increases will harm the economy.

A recent survey shows that the sentiments of Ronald Reagan are still popular with Americas. The recent poll found that 59% of the public agree with Reagan's view "government is not the solution, government is the problem." Only 28% disagreed and 14% don't know if they agree or not. When asked if they agreed with the view that "No matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse" 58% agreed. Only 26% disagreed.

All these statistics indicate that Americans hold a relatively libertarian view in regards to the economy. I still believe that a Republican candidate holding such views can do very well, if he sticks to the limited government message. Unfortunately none have done that. Even Ron Paul had to spout off about making abortion illegal and continually drifted in Looneyland with his banking conspiracies, North American Union garbage. Most Americans do not support the Religious Right moralistic policies yet the Republican Party is held hostage to our version of the Taliban. All of this alienates a public that is clearly ready and willing to vote for a Republican. But the GOP prattles on about God, prayer in schools, hating gays, and moralistic bullshit that doesn't appeal to anyone but brain-dead fundamentalists. The Republican Party is guilty of self-immolation or perhaps it is more accurate to say they have crucified themselves on a cross of intolerance and religious fanaticism.

Clearly the Republican Party can resurrect itself, but only if it ignores the American Taliban, adopts a policy of social tolerance, and sticks to the core economic principles. Unfortunately it puts religion before policy and that has little appeal with the public.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Obedience is more important than compassion.

NFL player, Ryan Moats, was rushing to the hospital with his wife Tamishia, whose mother was hospitalized and about to die. Moats stopped at a red light by the hospital, when traffic was cleared he went through the red light because it was believed that his mother-in-law would die any minute.

Dallas Police officer Robert Powell saw this and pulled up to Moats in the hospital parking lot. Moats and his wife tried to explain they were rushing to the bedside of the dying woman. Office Powell was more interested in exerting his authority. At one point the officer pulled his gun and told the family that he can “screw you over”. He pointed the gun at the distraught Tamishia. Moats and ordered her and another female relative of the dying woman to get in the car. Mrs Moats and the other relative instead ran for the hospital door.

Even when a second police officer confirmed that Moats and his relatives were telling the truth Officer Powell didn’t care. Moats yelled” My mother-in-law is dying! Right now! You’re wasting my time! I don’t understand why you can’t understand that.” Powell told Moats: “Shut your mouth. You can either settle down and cooperate or I can just take you to jail for running a red light.” Compassionate dude!

Video of the incident, according to Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, shows that Moats “handled himself very, very well.” Powell, however, issued one threat after another. He told Moats that he could have his car towed and that he could arrest him and jail him for running the red light during this emergency. He hinted that he could make things very bad for Moats if he didn’t obey and stop talking: “I can screw you over. I ‘d rather not do that. Your attitude will dictate everything that happens.” What precisely did he mean by “screw you over?” For the record, Tamishia’s mother died while Moats was still being held in the parking lot by the arrogant police officer.

A video of the incident is above. Of course Officer Power is on paid vacation, or “administrative leave” as the matter is investigated.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Another "lost" cop kills another dog and steals.

Cops kill. Many like to kill. I have repeatedly warned on this blog that even allowing a cop on your property is a threat to you, your family and your pets. Previously I told the story of Lee Ann Hutts, who was home minding her own business. A cop, who couldn't find the address he was looking for knocked on her door to ask for directions. She made the mistake of trying to help him and her beloved dog ended up dead as a result.

In Blanchard, Oklahoma, another lost cop pulls into someone's rural driveway. He says he wanted directions. The family dog comes running out, as all dogs tend to do, anxious to greet the new arrival. Instead of getting back in his car, if he is scared by dogs, the cop kills the dog. Tammy Christopher, the owner of the dog, says she wants the cop held accountable. But Tammy doesn't understand cops never hold each other responsible unless they are forced to do so.

The dog-killer, Deputy Sean Knight, was not held accountable at all. He was promoted.

It also appears Deputy Knight is a thief. A fellow moonlighting cop got Knight a second job at a golf course not far from where he killed the dog. It seems that Knight would work the graveyard shift, or was supposed to. He would clock into work and then disappear. I assume he returned in the morning to clock out. One night a fire started at the golf club and when the fire department arrived no one could find Knight. The golf course, being a private entity, did hold Knight accountable and fired him. Of course, stealing from an employer with falsified time sheets didn't bother the local sheriff's department even though it is a crime. But it was crime committed by a cop and cops are above the law.

In fact, Sheriff Art Kell, told a local reporter that he didn't appreciate him investigating his department and warned the reporter, "if you want to keep asking me questions on this issue you'll damage any good relationship I have with the paper." The question that spurred that veiled threat was asking if falsifying time sheets to increase pay wasn't stealing. The Sheriff said, "why is this such a big deal if the deputy was not working on department time? If I start calling you and asking you questions about your crimes and sins we'll see how much you like it."

What!!! Is the Sheriff saying that he normally wouldn't investigate people for their "crimes?" Or was he implying that if the reporter doesn't shut up that he will investigate him for crimes? Was this an admission of incompetency, or a threat of intimidation?

This is the same department that told one story about the dog murdering, pay stealing cop at the beginning but later changed the story when a video of the incident was released. Now they simply refuse to talk about their trigger-happy, dishonest, but newly promoted, officer. The local county is expected to pay compensation of $15,000 to the owner of the murdered dog.

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Who needs freedom? The libertarian, or classical liberal, would say: “Everyone.”

But it is clear that not everyone “needs” freedom in the same way, or with the same urgency. There are, in fact, people who benefit from the lack of freedom. There are entire industries of people who profit from the lack of freedom.

Consider the prison guards, and their loathsome “union,” which subsidizes politicians who promise to make more and more Americans criminals through legislative fiat. The war on drugs is a profitable enterprise—for those who are paid to administer the war. According to the War on Drugs clock, as I write this, the US government has spent $12.07 billion on the war on drugs since the first of the year. In that time, those paid to enforce these laws arrested an estimated 438,326 people. Of those, 207,767 were probably arrested for smoking pot.

Twelve billion dollars is a lot of money in so short a time. That money goes to someone. The recipients of those funds are the war on drugs industry which lobbies to keep a failed program alive. It is just convenient for them that their moral outrage about drugs happens to coincide with the interests of their wallet. When we arrest 438,326 people we need lots of jail space and we need lots of guards. The prison guards union is a political force that literally buys the incarceration of people in order to line their pockets.

According to The Celling of America, in 1980 California had 22,500 prisoners and prison guards were earning $14,400 per year. By 1996 there were 140,000 prisoners and salaries had jumped to $44,000. A report in USA Today, for last year, says the prison population had then reached 170,000. The San Diego Tribune reported:
Some 2,400 rank-and-file correctional officers' pay exceeded $100,000 in 2005, compared with 557 the year before, a San Diego Union-Tribune analysis of payroll figures shows.
One guard grossed $187,000, making him the highest-paid correctional officer in California, according to data provided by the state controller's office. At the historic San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco, one out of five guards was paid more than $100,000 last year. The average base pay was $57,000 with plenty of options to increase that.

In 1980 the state of California was spending $300 million to incarcerate people. By 2008 the budget was nearly $8 billion. Eight billion dollars buys a lot of support for “being tough on crime” and “zero tolerance.”

We understand how greedy bankers and businessmen can lobby for legislation that will enrich them. But the same is equally true for police officers, firemen, schoolteachers, and prison guards. All of them have reasons to push for higher spending in their particular field. Some lobby to increase the demand for their services. Law enforcement does it by pushing for tougher laws, mandatory sentencing, and new legislation. Through the powers of legislative fiat they can create new crimes over night. And they benefit when they do. Schoolteachers are constantly looking for ways to make the demand for their services more expensive, even if educational results never improve as quickly as their paychecks do.

When millions of dollars were thrown into programs to deal with “children who abuse children” the number of so-called “child offenders” exploded. They were everywhere. Residential programs were established all across the country where therapists could “treat” these offenders. Professional abuse sniffers were trained to find abuse. And, to keep the whole thing going, actions that were once considered normal sexual curiosity among the young became heinous crimes requiring the services of the abuse industry.

Consider just one small section of the sex abuse industry: the psychiatrists and psychologist hired by the state of California to “evaluate” sex offenders. One of them, Robert Owen, was paid $1.5 million for his “services” in 2007. The Los Angeles Times notes: “That’s equivalent to working 100 hours per week for 52 weeks at nearly $300 per hour—top scale in the private sector.” Dawn Starr billed the state $1.1 million for her alleged services. Working part time Shoba Sreenivasan billed the state $900,000 for her services.

Are you starting to see why California is in a perpetual “budget” crisis?

When Obama announced he was going to waste billions on subsidizing “alternative energy” for major oil companies it was applauded. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that one industry group supported the idea “even though many of its members—such as oil giants BP and ConocoPhillips—emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.” The paper seemed to believe these guys were just altruists. Yet both these companies actually profit and receive federal money from these very programs. Instead of acting against their own “self-interest” as the Chronicle implied, they were lobbying for legislation that would line their pockets.

Of course, all this moving around of trillions of dollars must be done through the hands of the political elite. So they benefit from each transfer. The more funding they transfer, the more anxious the “special interest groups” (or what I call particular interest groups—PIGs) are to curry favor with the political elite. PIGS want to be on the good side of politicians so they can guarantee that when the money moving begins that more is moved into their pockets than out of their pockets. And they usually succeed. The one group that tends to lose out each time, is the actual taxpaying public

Moving money increases the power, prestige and influence of the political classes. It also raises their cost. Campaign contributions are, in essence, an attempt to purchase the right to distribute trillions of dollars to the groups that have purchased your services. Just before the election the Telegraph reported that Obama “has raised nearly $650 million, with $150 million in September alone.” According to Open Secrets he spent just shy of $760 million, or just over three quarters of a billion dollars—just to get elected. Of course, now that he is elected, he is moving trillions of dollars around. That is a very hefty return on the money that the PIGs invested in Obama's campaign.

A huge amount of the trillions that he is redistributing to wealthy corporations will come out the pockets of the poor suckers who sent $5 to his campaign because he offered them “Hope.” If it doesn’t come out their pockets through higher taxes it will come out when the trillions in new debt drives down the value of the dollar and drives up interest rate. Mr. Obama is the more anti-poor than any other president in history. He has done more to harm the world’s poor than the most malevolent, uncaring, selfish monster around. And the poor love him for it. That’s politics.

People wanting to keep the money they earn, to feed their own family or improve their children’s chances in life are called “greedy.” Small businesses that are pushed against the wall are called “greedy” for not surrendering even more of their thinly stretched earnings to the state. But the PIGs, those particular interest groups that lobby for a transfer of wealth to themselves are portrayed, mainly by themselves and the media, as caring, unselfish, individuals merely attempting to improve society.

The police and guards, who lobby for zero tolerance and more laws, are merely “protecting” us. The therapists, who collect millions from sex offender programs, are “saving the children.” The greedy corporatists, that push through “alternative energy” subsidies, are “saving the earth.” Apparently if you use the political process to take other people’s money you are “public spirited,” “selfless” and “compassionate.” “Greedy” and “mean-spirited” only applies to those who wish to keep the money they worked for. Spending your own money is evil; spending other people’s money is virtuous.

A cautionary tale of today's political feast comes to us from The Twilight Zone. Aired on March 2, 1962 the episode (view here) is based on the 1953 short story by Damon Knight, entitled To Serve Man. Earth is visited by a race of aliens known as the Kanamites, these giants promise to solve all Earth's problems—and they do! They end war, end famine and make life wonderful. Early in the show, one of the giants accidentally leaves a strange book behind. Cryptologists try to decipher the meaning of the Kanamite language with little luck. The best they can do is determine the title: To Serve Man. With such obviously altruistic motives the planet lines up to honor the Kanamites. Tens of thousands take up the offer to travel through space and visit the planet from which the Kanamites came. Only at the last minute, and far too late to help, does one studious cryptologist discover that To Serve Man is a cook book.

This is a fairly accurate portrayal of the political process at work. Of course, unlike the Kanamites, the political classes are not giants (more like mental midgets), nor do they actually succeed at solving very many problems. But they promise to serve man. And lo and behold, when they serve up dinner, you are on the menu and the PIGs are at the table.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gordon Brown grilled and served.

Here is a nice take on the corrupt, incompetent and authoritarian policies of Labour's Gordon Brown in the UK by Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Parliament.

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A slim volume between two vast bookends of nothingness.

At dinner I was reading the Economist. I found a small, rather interesting article entitled “But not yet, Lord.” The article looked at religious beliefs and a person’s attitude toward dying. They noted that conventional wisdom would say that the religious would not take more steps to try avoid death, even steps they know are useless, while atheists, who presumably have nothing to die for “might be expected to cling to life.”

A recent study followed 345 cancer patients and compared their religiosity to the requests they made for attempting to extend their lives. What they found was that the religious do far more to try to avoid death while non-believers are less likely to go to extreme measures. The article reports:
The correlation was strong. More than 11% of those with the highest scores underwent mechanical ventilation; less than 4% of those with the lowest did so. For resuscitation the figures were 7% and 2%.

Explaining the unpleasantness and futility of the procedures does not seem to make much difference, either. Holly Prigerson, one of Dr Phelps’s co-authors, was involved in another study at Dana-Farber which was published earlier this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine. This showed that when doctors had frank conversations about the end of life with terminally ill cancer patients, the patients typically chose not to request very intensive medical interventions.

According to Dr Prigerson, though, such end-of-life chats had little impact on “religious copers”, most of whom still wanted doctors to make every effort to keep them alive. Saint Augustine of Hippo, one of Christianity’s most revered figures, famously asked God to help him achieve “chastity and continence, but not yet”. When it comes to meeting their maker, many religious people seem to have a similar attitude.
Certainly, as an atheist, I have considered such matters seriously. And with each birthday the thoughts become a bit more timely. I know for a fact that, contrary to the claims of religionists, there most certainly are atheists in foxholes.

There were two occasions when I was rather sure that my own death was imminent. Once I was in the Indian Ocean taking a swim. I had gone too far out and turned toward shore. But I was exhausted before I reached a point where my feet could touch ground. I was literally about to go under when I saw a man a few feet away. I just looked at him and said, “Help me.” As I started to sink he reached for me and literally pushed me several more feet toward shore. At that point my feet touched the bottom without water covering my head. As I was trying to make it to shore I was not panicky. But I realized that the odds were very high that I would be shortly dead.

The second occasion was far worse. It was a violent attack. At several points I had a gun pressed up to my skull as the savage wielding it promised to kill me. It was an armed robbery, a home invasion, which was brutal and vicious. At one point I lied to the gunman intentionally to force him to take me to another room, and away from someone I loved, who was tied up and terrified. While the distraction worked I was beaten for my lies.

Throughout that ordeal I was convinced that the two of us would be killed. I never once feared that possibility. My entire concern was the pain being inflicted on my friend.

I have many friends who are non-believers, dozens of them. Not a one of them has shown me that they worry about death. While they would like to live a long time each realizes life ends. They don’t want life support; they don’t want machines standing between them and death.

So the study doesn’t surprise me at all. If it had turned out the opposite I would have been surprised. Along the way I have thought about the matter, both when I was religious, and when I wasn’t. And the conclusion I came up with is that, for many people, God is a concept they invent because they fear death. Certainly that is true of all, I’m just saying I believe it is a force that inspires some toward religion. An atheist does not believe there is anything to fear. When life ends, life ends. There is no more pain, no eternal retribution, and no sinner in the hands of an angry God. There is nothing to fear.

I do not wish to imply that non-believers embrace death with enthusiasm, just that without a belief in an afterlife they have no reason to fear death. I suspect that many believers always face residual doubts about their own salvation. They may believe but they wonder if they please the god they worship and what he will do to them when they face him. Without such a fear the atheist can lay his head down and go to eternal sleep without trembling.

Allow me to quote from the manuscript of a novel I recently read (unpublished at this time).
Stella seemed to realize that the question about her death was instead a question about Tony’s own. It was his own end that her illness kept bringing to his mind. At the time, Stella had reached over, patted his hand and smiled. How odd, he’d thought, that she was comforting him when it was she who was dying.

“How did 1950 feel to you?” she asked him. Tony was confused. That was long before he was born. Stella knew this. Why ask such a question? But before he could respond, Stella answered the question herself.

“You didn’t exist in 1950 and at some point in the future you will once again cease to exist. That’s really it, you know. One day you came into being, and you sucked at life itself, grabbing everything you could. You learned, you lived, if lucky, you loved. And one day it simply ceases to be. What is there to fear? Did the time before your birth traumatize you or cause you pain? No. You weren’t there to be traumatized or to feel pain. And someday you, and I as well, will simply stop being. It will be as it was for that eternity before our births. The world, for us, came into existence the day we were born and it will cease the day we die. There is an eternity after our death, and an eternity before our birth. Our life is like a slim, but wonderful book sitting between two vast bookends of nothingness. Why worry about the nothingness when we have such a wonderful volume in our hands right now?”
Why indeed!

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How dumb can people be?

Because Amazon is staffed by computer programs you can't get personal advice there, like you can from a book dealer who knows their product. Amazon doesn't care about books per se, just the profits. So, to substitute for informed book sellers they replace them with uninformed ratings from anyone so inclined to post them. It is not uncommon to see books that are not yet released being attacked in reviews by people with their own political agenda. Or take how the odious Rachel Alexander wrote a butt-kissing review of a book by her own boss without revealing that she worked for the man. Even worse than the agenda-hiding fraudulent reviews are the reviews from total morons.

One blog actually collected some of the dumbest reviews of the classic film Casablanca. Since I love the film I was interested to see what the unwashed asses had to say (no, that's not a misspelling).

One reviewer thought "Ingmar Bergman is like totally hot." Ingmar Bergman was a rather unhot male director and not the star of this film, Ingrid Bergman. And while the reviewer liked Bergman he was disappointed because the film "started ripping off all sorts oc catch phrases" such as:
“Play it again”, “this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” etc. It even has a whole speech of nothing but catch phrases. Hire a screenwriter next time. And the movie ends wrong! Wrongly. Whatever. She’s supposed to get on the plane, and Bogart is supposed to be sad, but then she’s supposed to get off the plane and everything is happy. That’s how it works. … So that’s why this movie is like the worst movie ever.
Another bitched that: "Ingrid Bergman is no Maryland Monroe." I suppose Marilyn Monroe was no Maryland Monroe either. But then neither was Ingmar Bergman.

Another whined:

I really don’t understand the fascination people have with this movie. It’s a film about unrequited love which frankly doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t care about great dialogue or “whimsical”, “beautiful” acting and drama. This is a film from the 1940s and the acting is stagy and the film has no entertainment value. A film where a bunch of people talk for 3 hours is not the greatest ever made.

Or this classic:
This movie is horrible! It is so boring and unoriginal that I can’t stand it. The only good thing about it is the cast. Bogie is the man of course and Ingrid Bergman makes the screen shine with her beauty and talent. But that’s it. How is it boring? Because all they do is talk. The only moment I felt enthralled is where Rick flashbacked to Paris and the end. That’s it. The rest is a bunch of talking and ordering the African-American around. Now I know it’s old but it’s not based on the Civil War. It’s during World War II. A lot of people, including blacks, got killed so the studios could make this awfulness.
How is it unoriginal? It’s about a love triangle. You take away the locale and the nazis and that’s all it is. Besides, there’s absolutely no chemistry between Bogart and Bergman. They looked more uncomfortable than in love. A lot of professional reviewers praise it because they base it around World War II. Of course they did, the movie was made in 1943.

According to the AFI this movie is #2 in the best movies of all time. It’s right above The Godfather. Say it isn’t so say it isn’t so.

Final words: If this movie is so great then could anybody tell me the director or the screenwriter?

For the record, the screenwriter was Julius Epstein and brother, Philip, for the most part. Others helped. I knew Epstein was involved with the writing and knew Hal Wallis was the producer. I didn't know that Michael Curtiz was the director. He also did Yankee Doodle Dandy, Mildred Pierce, White Christmas and others. As far as I know he never worked with Maryland Monroe.

At least Amazon reviews entertain us. As for me, I've stopped buying through Amazon long ago.

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Sentenced to death by freezing. Politics at work.

You often hear the words: “You do the crime, you do the time.” The theory has been that once someone has “paid their debt to society” (a phrase that is invalid in many ways) then they are given another chance to “go straight.” A man may cruelly beat his wife, put her in hospital, and spend time in prison for it. When he comes out his punishment is over. A woman may mistreat her child, leading to the death of that child, and serve time in prison for it. But when she has served her time she is released and the punishment ends.

Only one class of people is punished repeatedly, over and over, for the rest of their lives: sex offenders. Of course, when people think of these people, they assume that everyone is talking about someone who violently raped a small child. In truth few offenders fit that profile. We have seen how a sex offender can be a teen on a date with another teen. If the object of their affection has lied about his/her age, the older teen can be classified as a sex offender and punished for the rest of his/her life. The rabid politicians, always seeking to appear “pro-active” continue to make life worse and worse for such people, while “closing loopholes” which means inventing more criminals who fall into this category. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote:
When convicts serve their sentences, their debts are paid, and they are generally free to live and work wherever they can find shelter and employment. But the sex offender registry is a kind of life sentence. Those on it cannot live or work within 1,000 feet of places children congregate, such as parks, schools, rec centers and swimming pools.
A teenager streaking a school event as a prank can be classified as a sex offender. Two teens, both of the same age, can have sex and become “sex offenders” for molesting each other. Teens who took racy photos of themselves are arrested as child pornographers and treated like sex offenders. We have seen numerous cases where a girl lied about her age to her date, and admits she lied about her age, but the date is deemed a “predator” by the stupid justice system.

Right now there is a man in Georgia who is on the sex offender registry for a hold-up he committed years ago as a stupid teen.

Darnelle Harvey was 17 when he and a friend decided to hold up a Dairy Queen restaurant in 1990. He’s listed as a sex offender for that robbery yet no sex was involved. He and a friend hid outside the Dairy Queen waiting to rob it. Harvey was reluctant, he told his friend he was not willing to go through with the crime. His friend admits that he then pointed a gun at Harvey and told him he had no choice. Harvey caved in under the threat.

As they approached the shop a 16-year-old boy exited. He was told to lie on the crime and they robbed him. One by one as the people in the store left they were robbed. But Georgia politicians say that “false imprisonment” is a sex offense even if no sex was involved. And making the boy lie on the ground during the robbery was “false imprisonment” and thus a sex crime.

Greg Soucia broke was caring for someone’s property. When they were away he went into their house and stole a credit card. For that he was registered as a sex offender. The local prosecutor said that Soucia used the credit card to hire a stripper so it was now a “sex crime.” He said: “If you commit a burglary and your goal is because of your own sexual gratification, it’s a sexually motivated felony.” I assume a teenage boy shoplifting Playboy is now a sex offender under this logic.

When sex offender registries were first created they were limited to individuals who were violent and dangerous. Over time the registries have been expanded and expanded again. In addition, the definition of “sex offense” has been blown entirely out of proportion so that an increasing number of people on that list pose no threat to anyone—and never did. In Georgia alone “thousands” of sex offenders “are on the registry for having consensual sex when they were teenagers, or for lesser crimes such as flashing, peeping through windows and sexual battery, which often translates into inappropriate touching.” One offender “a 23-year-old Georgia State student, got on the list for drunkenly groping a co-ed at a keg party.”

The perpetual punishment of “sex offenders” rests entirely on a theory that has no substance: once a sex offender always a sex offender. The claim is spread around that sex offenders are incapable of controlling their impulses and will offend again so they must be tightly regulated and controlled. A large majority of convicted offenders do not reoffend. The Center for Sex Offender Management of the Department of Justice, in a link that now appears broken, said that it is a myth that, “most offenders reoffend.” They said, “Reconviction data suggest that this is not the case” and “recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than for the general criminal population.”

One sex offender who did not reoffend was Thomas Pauli who was convicted twenty years ago for molestation. Like so many “registered offenders” Pauli was homeless. Politicians have legislated hundreds of thousands of offenders out of their homes forcing them to roam the streets. Zoning legislation restricts where they may live, yet the law may require them to stay in a specific city. Thus they can be sentenced to live in a city where it is illegal for them to “reside” anywhere. For instance, in Miami offenders were rendered homeless by city laws restricting where they could reside. The only location that wasn’t covered was under a bridge.

Thomas Pauli was homeless and wandering the streets of Grand Rapids. Two homeless shelters were in the area but state law required them to turn Pauli out into the cold. Had either shelter given him a warm place to stay they would have been in violation of sex offender laws. Pauli wandered the streets trying to find a warm place. He climbed a fence by a car repair shop. The owner says that he believes the man was looking for an open car where he could shelter himself from the cold. A local news report said:
Don Lamse, 70, who operates a car repair shop in the building, said he walked outside about 9:30 a.m. Monday to look for a part. He found Pauli crouched in a kneeling position. "I thought he was trying to stay warm," Lamse said. "I don't know exactly what put him there...It's been very cold, and I've seen where, occasionally, people use vehicles to get out of the cold. I don't know if that was his intention."
News sources say that spokesmen for the two homeless shelters in the area “agreed that Pauli may have tried to gain entrance, but that their missions risk fines and loss of license if they admit sex offenders. Bill Shaffer of the Guiding Light shelter said: “These men and women are clearly ‘The Scarlet Letter’ folks of our day. And where do they go? I have no answer.”

A quarter of a century ago Thomas Pauli did something wrong. He served 11 years in jail because of it. And then he was released to find that he was being subjected to a life sentence of legal harassment. Still, he didn’t reoffend. He obeyed the laws and as a result, this last January, he had no place to live legally. Two homeless shelters were willing to help him but they too were stopped by the law. Mr. Pauli wandered the streets in subfreezing weather. He was found on his knees between two cars, frozen to death. He may have served his time for the crime he did, and he may have learned his lesson and never reoffended, but he was literally tortured in freezing conditions and sentenced to death because of legislation that protects no one. Here is one man killed by grandstanding politicians who don't bother thinking through the results of their own legislation.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Minors and Medicinal Marijuana

The War on Drugs is not about protecting people from the dire effects about drugs. That may have been the original reason for it, but that is not what keeps this ill-conceived, tyrannical program going. Two things inspired this violent assault on peaceful Americans. One is the pure greed and self-interest of the drug control industry: that is cops, prosecutors, prison guards, and other officials who earn their living busting down people's doors and shooting up their homes. Some do it for the benefits of a paycheck, others because they get their kicks hurting people. And some do it because they believe they have the right to run the lives of others. About 10 minutes long.

Check out the 160+ videos on liberty at TvLiberty.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Means and ends and the classical liberal ethic.

It is an obvious truth that much of life is a series of choices of ends and means. Ends are the goals that we individually pursue. Means are the methods by which we seek to accomplish our goals.

Under classical liberal theory it is the means that may be the proper concern of the state and not the goals. It is the means that potentially violate the rights of others not the goals. Goals themselves have no ability to violate the life, liberty or property of others. Not even clearly malevolent goals can do that—such as the desired death of someone that you hate.

The goal itself does nothing; it is the means only, which has the ability to violate your rights. Take this murderous impulse as the goal and look at two different means to accomplish it. One is the direct action of physically causing your demise. I have obviously violated your rights if I kill you. But I could seek my goal through other means as well. For instance, I could put a curse on you. It is not likely to be effective. But my wish to see your demise itself does not violate your rights. There are a series of means by which I could ineffectively seek my goal. I could pray to some deity that he/she/it strike you down. I note that some fundamentalists engage in such prayers for people they dislike on a rather frequent basis. Eventually they get their prayers answered but then eventually they would have whether they were praying or not. Since their method had nothing to do with your death they have not violated your rights. At worst they have wasted their time.

For classical liberal theory it is the means that then may be regulated in some manner; and then only if the means is one that violates the life, liberty or property of another person. Mere “harm” is not enough. My refusing to purchase a product from you causes you some harm. It limits your income, but it violates no rights. I can even make you worse off than before without violating your rights. The purchase illustration shows that. Had I been a regular customer, one you counted on to buy products from you, and then I stopped buying, you are harmed. But unless I’ve some contract with you, requiring me to purchase items, your rights have not been touched.

Consider, as further illustration, a goal that is not inherently malevolent, such as giving charity. Let us say the charity involves the feeding of the hungry. I could whip up a meal in my kitchen and invited the hungry to my table. I can take the food to them where they are. I can hand them money and hope they will use it to purchase the food they need. I can distribute groceries to them. All of these are means to the same end. And all of them are consistent with the rights of others. I don’t have to violate the life, liberty or property of another is order to achieve them.

But, I can also feed the hungry by hitting you over the head and stealing your food. I could use some hacking method to access your bank account and transfer funds from your savings to my checking account and then write checks to the hungry or purchase them the food they need. In these examples, the same goal—feeding the hungry—is achieved by means that violate the rights of others. For that reason libertarians would argue that the exercise is illegitimate. However, it is critical to remember that the reason it is illegitimate is the means used not the goal being sought.

Many critics of libertarianism, on the Left and the Right both, like to ascribe motives onto libertarianism that just aren’t there. Charity is a prime example. That libertarians oppose achieving charitable goals by rights-violating means does not prove that libertarians are opposed to the goal. The Left, in this case, often claims that opposition to right-violating means is simply meant to disguise the malevolent nature of libertarians.

The Right pulls similar tricks in regards to morality issues. Libertarians don’t wish to use rights-violating means to stop individuals from using drugs—a worthy goal in my opinion—so they are accused of being in “favor of immorality.” Both the statist Right and the statist Left are similar in this regard. Both believe that the proper function of government is to control goals, as well as means. Libertarians, of all stripes, are attempting to limit state action to means alone; and then only to those means that violate the rights of others.

Most libertarians describe two methods by which rights may be violated. Those are force and fraud. The force method is obvious. I use violence, or the threat of violence, to induce you to bend to my will. It is sometimes direct—as in the case of the mugger in the dark alley or the burglary of a home. It is sometimes less direct—such as hiring someone else to do this action on my behalf. In libertarian theory it doesn’t matter whom the “someone else” is who is hired to do this. If it is a “hit man” sent out to kill you, it is wrong. But, if the agent violating your rights is doing so because I have elected him to engage in this action, it too is wrong. Rights are not the constructs of majority rule in libertarian theory.

It is wrong to assume that libertarians are unconcerned about the goals. Such an assumption indicates that one simply does not understand the libertarian ethic. Goals simply are the business of the individual. Means, and then only those means which violate rights, are the concern of others. And by concern I mean legal concern not individual, moral concern.

A libertarian may or may not approve of others seeking wealth. But provided that such wealth seeking is not done through rights-violating means then they are not open to legal recourse. Most libertarians do support wealth creation. Perhaps close to 100% do. But that is only if the wealth seeking is accomplished through means which do not violate rights. Oddly, while libertarians take precisely the same view toward charity that they do toward business, they are accused of being anti-charity and pro-business. Libertarians are saying that any goal can be pursued legitimately if it uses means that do not violate the rights of others. Opposition to illegitimate means does not mean opposition to the goal itself.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Of course this thug is subsidized by the state.

While the British government is waging war on the liberties and pocketbooks of the average Brit they are then using the stolen funds to prop up hate merchants and protect them from criticism. Perhaps because they need the threat of terrorism to excuse their power grabs.

In today's new I see that Islamist Anjem Choudary, above center, has called for the imposition of Sharia law in England and wants gay people stoned to death (something he has in common with Christianists like Gary North). At this press conference Choudary and other Islamic clerics threatened that Muslims in England will rise up and "you will be touched by the fire of hell."

When asked if he would condmen the deaths of innocent people Choudary said he would but "when we say 'innocent people' we mean Muslims. As far as non-Muslims are concerned, they have not accepted Islam. As far as we are concerned, that is a crime against God." The moment people start talking about crimes against God you know you are dealing with fanatical, dangerous, lunatics.

Knowing the European welfare state I immediately assumed that this walking piece of shit was so evil and abominable that he had to qualify for benefits. Sure enough press reports claim that he and his wife qualify for £25,000 ($36,000) per year in welfare benefits. Europe makes it easy to access welfare and hard to find jobs. This means the Islamists who have migrated to Europe are isolated from their surrounding culture. One way to prevent immigrants from assimilating is to make it hard for them to find work—a stupid policy the U.S. is now implementing. This isolation allows Islamic extremism to flourish and the welfare state funds it, often directly by giving funds to these thugs.

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Going Galt

Almost overnight a new term has entered the American language: Going Galt. Ayn Rand's hero from Atlas Shrugged, was a man who got sick of the corruption of politicized markets and went on strike. He convinced other true entrepreneurs, not those who rely on political pull for their profits, to join him. In her novel, Rand used the phrase, "Who is John Galt?" Catchy, but not as catchy as "Going Galt."

Michelle Malkin, not one of my favorite people, said:
...untold numbers of America’s wealth producers are going on strike financially. Dr. Helen Smith, a Knoxville forensic pathologist and political blogger, dubbed the phenomenon “Going Galt” last fall.
Lisa Schiffren, at National Review, similarly writes:
So, what happens when the heart surgeons, dentists, litigators, and people who employ 10 or 20 other people in their mid-size businesses decide that they don't want to pay for the excessive, pointless spending that the president finds so compelling? Instapundit speculates on people "going John Galt." I think golf — a time-intensive sport that the hard-working have eschewed for the past decade or two because it took too long — will make a comeback. But while we're watching, "working affluent" is a far more useful and less loaded moniker than "the rich," which has overtones of dilettantes, poodles, and yachts.
Glenn Reynolds:
Can you say “going John Galt?” Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan. “A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law. So far, Obama’s tax plan is being looked at skeptically by both Democrats and Republicans and therefore may not pass at all.”
Sales of Atlas Shrugged are skyrocketing. The Economist wrote:
Reviled in some circles and mocked in others, Rand’s 1957 novel of embattled capitalism is a favourite of libertarians and college students. Lately, though, its appeal has been growing. According to data from TitleZ, a firm that tracks bestseller rankings on Amazon, an online retailer, the book’s 30-day average Amazon rank was 127 on February 21st, well above its average over the past two years of 542. On January 13th the book’s ranking was 33, briefly besting President Barack Obama’s popular tome, The Audacity of Hope. Tellingly, the spikes in the novel’s sales coincide with the news (see chart). The first jump, in September 2007, followed dramatic interest-rate cuts by central banks, and the Bank of England’s bail-out of Northern Rock, a troubled mortgage lender. The October 2007 rise happened two days after the Bush Administration announced an initiative to coax banks to assist subprime borrowers. A year later, sales of the book rose after America’s Treasury said that it would use a big chunk of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme to buy stakes in nine large banks. Debate over Mr Obama’s stimulus plan in January gave the book another lift. And sales leapt once again when the stimulus plan passed and Mr Obama announced a new mortgage-modification plan.
The last time I read Atlas Shrugged, it was still fiction. I fear that by the time I get around to reading it again it will be history.

Don't have it? Order if from Laissez Faire Books toll free at 1-866-686-7210.

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Nothing so corrupt and violent as the war on drugs.

Watch for this film, based on a true story. American Violet tells the story of Regina Kelly, a waitress in Texas. The local police conducted a series of militaristic "war on drugs" raid in the black community rounding up dozens of people and manufacturing charges against them. Kelly was one of those victimized by this authoritarian program. She fought back.

The war on drugs is the most violent, corrupting influence in American society today. Drug warriors are not serving the public and they are not protecting us. They are criminals. They deserve neither our respect nor our money. Hopefully this film will wake up the decent majority and help them understand that the war on drugs has to be ended.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Uninformed remark of the day.

Matt Yglesias wrote:
Atlas Shrugged is a stupid book, Ayn Rand is a stupid woman, and John Galt’s ideas are stupid. That said, none of them are nearly this stupid. Rand’s novel isn’t about a world in which executives who build companies based on a lot of incorrect decisions, then pay themselves millions of dollars while bankrupting their firms, then come to the government hat-in-hand asking for bailouts, then find that the bailers-out want to attach some strings to their hundreds of billions of dollars in public funds and then go to hide out in Galt’s Gulch. That doesn’t make any sense at all.
Has Yglesias actually read Atlas Shrugged? One of the lead villians is James Taggart, an incompetent businessman who wants to use political influence, not talent, as his source of income. Rand wrote of "Mr. Mowen," the president of Amalgamated Switch and Signal Company, who can't complete jobs and argues that business must be run for the good of everyone. There is Orren Boyle, the head of Associated Steel, who is a prime example of the corportists who use state power for their own benefit. Paul Larkin is another businessman who is unsuccessful and part of the looters. The board of directors of Taggart Transcontinental are all the worst sort of businessmen.

I do fear that Rand overestimated the number of decent businessmen at the corporate level. Corporate America is happily and inseparably intertwined with the political elite. And a huge amount of legislation acts to redistribute wealth in their direction. The media, however, keeps up the charade that government and Big Business are in opposition to one another. Uninformed leftists then push for regulations, to rein in Big Busines, but which Big Business then uses to their benefit since these regulations usually restrict competition and drive up costs. Meanwhile Big Business is lined up to get "bailed out" at the expense of the true entrepreneurs and businessmen, the small business owner.

Big Business is not, as Rand thought, "America's persecuted minority." Big Business, working with the political elite, is using state power to plunder the productive segments of the economy. This is not to say that some large corporations, probably most of them, don't also produce things of value. But production of value, and using state power to one's benefit, are not mutually exclusive. Most corporations managed to do both. But Big Business is not the champion of free, depoliticized markets by any means.

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Welcome to the United States of Zimbabwe

Here is a report from the New York Times:

The Federal Reserve sharply stepped up its efforts to bolster the economy on Wednesday, announcing that it would pump an extra $1 trillion into the financial system by purchasing Treasury bonds and mortgage securities. Having already reduced the key interest rate it controls nearly to zero, the central bank has increasingly turned to alternatives like buying securities as a way of getting more dollars into the economy, a tactic that amounts to creating vast new sums of money out of thin air. But the moves on Wednesday were its biggest yet, almost doubling all of the Fed’s measures in the last year.

...there were also clear indications that the Fed was taking risks that could dilute the value of the dollar and set the stage for future inflation.
We should note that the Times had this to say about Zimbabwe creating vast new sums of money out of thin air:
But [Zimbabwe's] government has generally chosen to print more money instead of readjusting the value of its currency; Zimbabwe's money supply rose 226 percent in 2004. The result has been hyperinflation and a thriving black market in money and goods. Hyperinflation and the artificial exchange rate, in turn, have crippled gold mining, Zimbabwe's other big export industry. Production fell 18 percent in the first quarter of 2005.
The newspaper quoted one Bulawayo businessman as saying: ''It's running out of contro. When you're going down a path of destruction, you can keep putting patches on the tires -- patch, patch, patch -- but eventually the tire is going to burst.''

My suggestion is that we ask this Bulawayo businessman if he could take on the role of Obama's economic adviser. Apparently Mr. Obama has his heart set on being the Mugabe of America.

For more on the destructive path that Obama has set for this country see this post.

Update: Bloomberg reports, "The dollar headed for a record weekly drop against the euro after the Federal Reserve ramped up supply of the currency..." The dollar is now at a two month low against the euro. Sean Callow, senior currency strategist for Westpac Banking in Australia says, "They're [the Fed] are effective printing money; we regard this as profoundly bearish for the dollar." Yilin Nie, currency strategist for Morgan Stanley wrote, "As the money-printing machine kicks into high gear, dollar devaluation should accelerate with a ballooning money supply."

Back in January I warned: "I hope I am wrong but I worry that the economic state of the country is much worse off than believed." I also said, "I would also suggest spreading your investments around—meaning look for savings accounts that are not denominated in U.S. dollars." In the same article I said, "Invest in hard assets like gold and silver but also invest in foreign currencies." Here are two charts for the last few months for the currencies where I have invested. This is their value compared to the U.S. dollar. Luckily they don't Barack Mugabe managing their money supply. I am also looking for a good place to buy silver. Any suggestions?

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