Monthly Archives: December 2007

Huckabee: My Supporters Are Scarier Than Ron Paul’s!

Ron Paul has attracted the support of a few unsavory characters, but we’re all sure that Ron Paul doesn’t agree with them on their unsavory beliefs, and his record proves it.

Mike Huckabee? Not so much. He seems pretty certifiably wacko, and his supporters are most definitely unsavory:

I read in Robert Novak’s column this morning that Mike Huckabee held a fundraiser earlier this week at the Houston home of Dr. Steven Hotze. As Novak notes, Hotze is “a leader in the highly conservative Christian Reconstruction movement.”

Christian Reconstructionists, for those unfamiliar with the term, are Religious Right radicals who believe that America, and the rest of the world besides, should be governed in accordance with strict Biblical law. And yes, that includes stoning adulterers. Here’s a snippet from “A Manifesto for the Christian Church,” a 1986 document from an outfit called the Coalition on Revival that was signed by, among others, Steven Hotze:

We affirm that the Bible is not only God’s statements to us regarding religion, salvation, eternity, and righteousness, but also the final measurement and depository of certain fundamental facts of reality and basic principles that God wants all mankind to know in the sphere of law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communication, medicine, psychology, and science. All theories and practices of these spheres of life are only true, right, and realistic to the degree that they agree with the Bible.

So let’s ask Mr. Huckabee. “Do you want to institute a theocracy?” He won’t exactly say “yes”, but look at what he will say:

This is not a man that I would trust in the Oval Office.

Naughty Or Nice? Santa & The FBI Want To Know!

It’s often said that if a politician or newsmaker wants to make sure something gets swept under the rug, they’ll ensure it drops on a Friday afternoon. That way, the media gets distracted by other stories by the time Monday rolls around, and they can hope that it gets reported without fanfare.

So what does it mean when a story about government surveillance drops the Saturday before Christmas? It means you should pay extra-special attention:

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.

Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

“Bigger. Faster. Better. That’s the bottom line,” said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.

The goal is a permanent surveillance state, where you know neither how much information they’ve got on you, have no recourse to get a clear answer, and you never know who is or isn’t watching. It’s Big Brother, circa 2008.

I guess Santa’s not the only one with a list.

Why The Ron Paul / Stormfront Issue Bothers Me

As most readers of this blog know, I’ve pretty well stayed out of this issue. I’ve never been all that interested in stupid political theater, preferring to deal with the ideological issues instead. I’m a lot more of a policy wonk than a political chess player.

That being said, Doug’s criticism of Ron Paul’s handling of the Don Black contribution has brought a lot of traffic here, and most of it to rip him a new one. And Doug and his detractors largely appear to be talking past each other. So, as a Ron Paul supporter who has some issues with the campaign’s handling of this issue, allow me to try to bridge the gap.

First things first: I don’t believe Ron Paul has any racist intentions, I don’t believe Don Black’s contribution buys any favor from Ron Paul, and thus the contribution itself doesn’t bother me. As one blogger/commenter (Don LLoyd) stated, it’s a lot better that Don Black doesn’t have $500 than if he does, so I’d almost rather see Ron Paul do something with that money rather than return it to Don Black.

The Ron Paul campaign, of course, has been clearly stating that the contribution carries no promise that Ron Paul will work to enact any of Don Black’s racist policies, and thus I don’t think that a guilt-by-association should be a valid criticism of Ron Paul here. I would say that those who criticize Doug firmly believe what the Ron Paul campaign has said– as I do– and think this is much ado about nothing.

The problem is that there’s a blind spot when you get to the American public. Ron Paul can speak until he’s blue in the face about how the contribution doesn’t buy favor with him. But the public doesn’t believe it. They’ve heard that tune before. It’s what every politician says when an issue like this comes up, and then the public watches as the politician gets elected and rewards those contributors.

I don’t believe Paul would do that. Ron Paul’s supporters don’t believe Ron Paul would do that. I don’t think Doug Mataconis believes Ron Paul would do that. But does the American public believe that? After watching politician after politician break similar promises and guarantees, why should they believe, considering the little that they know about the man, that Ron Paul would be any different?

Ron Paul is attempting to fly above all this as if it can’t touch him. It’s a dangerous gamble, and one that I personally believe to be a bad decision. I like the idea of taking that $500 and donating it to a charity that is opposite Don Black’s goals. That has the ability to placate all sides in this mess. Ron Paul gets good press, he wipes his hands clean of Don Black without actually giving Don Black his money back (to be used for unknown/nefarious purposes), and a worthwhile charity gets a nice bit of press and $500. For all that, Ron Paul doesn’t need to scrutinize his donor lists. After all, with the internet watchdogs on the case, these things come up on their own, without the campaigns having to work to uncover them. Everybody wins.

Ron Paul had the chance to take a negative issue and spin it into a positive. Instead, he’s taking that negative issue and treating it like a non-issue. That might be acceptable if you’re polling at 40%, but not when you’re polling at 7%. Doug’s posts indicate to me that he believes the Ron Paul campaign is being run badly. Issues like this make me think the same. I want to see Ron Paul win the nomination and be elected President. However, I believe that this issue will turn off the American public, regardless of Ron Paul’s integrity. I worry that this issue is scuttling Ron Paul’s chances to win the nomination, and that is why I’m pained to see how it’s being handled.

What’s So Bad About Mike Huckabee ?

George Will sums it up nicely:

Huckabee’s campaign actually is what Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy is misdescribed as being — a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs. Giuliani departs from recent Republican stances regarding two issues — abortion and the recognition by law of same-sex couples. Huckabee’s radical candidacy broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity. And consider New Hampshire’s chapter of the National Education Association, the teachers union that is a crucial component of the Democratic Party’s base.

(…)

Huckabee’s role in this year’s ’70s Show is not merely to attempt to revise a few Republican beliefs. He represents wholesale repudiation of what came after the 1970s — Reaganism.

Mike Huckabee: He’s Nixon, but with a better shave.

H/T: Jason Pye

Web Sites “Fined” For Gambling Advertising

Web giants to settle gambling allegations

The U.S. attorney in St. Louis announced the settlements Wednesday with Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc., which she accused of selling ads that steered U.S. Web surfers to offshore gambling websites. The Justice Department considers publishers of such gambling ads to be accessories to a crime.

Without admitting or denying liability, the three companies agreed to forfeit millions of dollars they took in from the suspect ads, and Microsoft and Yahoo vowed to run public service campaigns warning young people that online gambling is illegal.

All three Internet companies said they had stopped accepting gambling ads in 2004, more than six months after the government warned magazine publishers that similar ads were illegal.

So they did not participate in online gaming, they simply hosted ads (that until told otherwise, they believed to be legal). Ads for a service that allows adults to consensually engage in peaceful commerce, commerce that is legal in Vegas, California, Atlantic City, Alabama, and on countless riverboats and Indian reservations throughout this nation. Then, when told the ads were illegal, they stopped within several months and haven’t engaged in the behavior since.

And for this, they’re forced asked to pay Danegeld to the Feds, as well as run ad campaigns “informing” the public that online gambling is illegal. I guess I can’t blame them for settling. It may not be right, but I’m sure it’s a lot cheaper for them than going to bat against the feds, who have the advantage of writing all the rules in the first place. This probably shouldn’t be considered a fine, rather it’s “protection money” against the racketeers in D.C.

And it’s not going to stop:

She said her office was continuing to investigate whether other forms of promotion, such as the sponsorship of televised tournaments by a poker company affiliate, were “artifices to promote illegal gambling” and therefore illegal.

Any guess as to what her investigation will find– and whether it depends on how deep the pockets are of the subject of investigation?

Federal Reserve To Reduce Your Access To Risk

In the subprime meltdown, there were some problems on the front end, and some problems on the back end. The front end is the lender/borrower relationship, and most of the major-media attention has been placed here. The major media is torn between blaming borrowers for taking too much risk, and blaming lenders for making too much risk available. Not enough attention is being placed on the back end, regarding the reason why those lenders offered so much risk. The Federal Reserve is attempting to fix the problem, but is only focusing on that front end:

The Federal Reserve moved Tuesday to impose new restrictions intended to curb unfair and deceptive home-lending practices and prevent a recurrence of this year’s meltdown in subprime mortgages.

By a 5-to-0 vote, the Fed approved a plan that would tighten provisions meant to protect borrowers and apply them to a far larger share of home loans — whether from banks, mortgage companies or other lenders — than under current regulations.

Well, in two sentences you understand the political leanings of this writer. “Unfair and deceptive” practices, which will be curbed by provisions “meant to protect borrowers”. If you’ve read much of what I’ve written on the issue, you’ll note that I’m not the type who angrily wants to punish borrowers for their actions, but neither am I about to call them victims.

Let’s face it. Lending standards were disregarded in a wave of irrational exuberance, and while many homeowners will end up paying the price for taking on risk they couldn’t accept, it also opened the doors to borrowers who may not have had access to home ownership in the past, and who will be able to weather the storm in a home of their own.

It’s clear that the fed is lining right up behind those who believe this bubble was caused by unscrupulous lenders, who simply want to foreclose on your home and ruin your life:

“Our goal is to promote responsible mortgage lending, for the benefit of individual consumers and the economy,” the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said. “We want consumers to make decisions about home mortgage options confidently, with assurances that unscrupulous home mortgage practices will not be tolerated.”

The plan includes provisions that would require more extensive disclosures, restrict advertising and make it harder to lend to borrowers with little or no documentation and a questionable ability to repay. It would also allow borrowers, in some circumstances, to sue lenders who violate the rules.

You know, maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but when someone offers me a chance that they’re not quite sure I’m ready for, it gives me motivation not to let them down. Not to sue them if I fail. But then, maybe I was just born a generation or two too late. I don’t fare well in this victicrat society, where everything you do wrong is someone else’s fault– and they should be made to pay.

All this, though, obscures the real issue. It’s a lot more complex, and thus a lot less easy to demagogue, but let’s explore why those lenders were so loose with their cash. It’s not because they wanted to foreclose. It’s because they didn’t believe their own holdings were at risk, even though they were lending to people that they knew weren’t good credit risks. Mortgage brokers were willing to bend the rules on the front end, because they knew that there were willing buyers on the back end who thought they too were insulated from risk, a portion of the problem that deserved only one mention in this article:

But those personal misfortunes — whether the result of individual misjudgment, excessive optimism, shady lending or all of those — have mushroomed into a national problem, further complicated by the packaging and reselling of mortgages in ways that are so arcane that even some bankers acknowledge they are befuddled by them.

Simply put, nobody worried about the risk of foreclosure. Buyers didn’t care, because prices were going up so quickly that they were sure they’d be able to sell at a profit if things got bad. The mortgage brokers and lenders weren’t worried, because they were selling those mortgages off their balance sheet to investors. The investors didn’t care, because those mortgages were sliced-and-diced into all sorts of packaged investment options that was meant to distribute the risk evenly.

This isn’t an issue of poor lending standards, it’s an issue of lenders getting careless because they were no longer playing with their own money. It was an issue where everyone thought someone else was carrying the risk, when in reality they all were carrying the risk.

In short, the real result of these actions by the fed will only hurt poor and mid-credit borrowers, who now won’t be able to get a loan even if they’re able to repay it. This is done in order to fix a problem caused by rich investors seeking high returns in an expanding asset bubble, and willing to invest in products they didn’t understand in order to find them.

In the days of the tech bubble, it was commonplace for investors to throw gobs of money at companies that didn’t produce anything– be it software, or widgets, or positive revenue. They forgot that they weren’t buying a product, they were buying a belief– and beliefs change fast in the investing world. In this bubble, they threw gobs of money at housing-backed assets, thinking that if there were a few isolated foreclosures, they were protected. They forgot that it was a housing bubble, and that prices only keep rising if everyone believes prices will continue to rise– and beliefs change fast in the investing world.

So thanks a lot, Federal Reserve. Your band-aid will hurt the middle class, and won’t fix the problem. But I’m sure you feel real good about yourselves right now.

Quote Of The Day — Creative Destruction Edition

The FCC is looking to relax some of their rules regarding media cross-ownership, in order to give fishwrap media a chance at survival. To do so, they need to be lean and efficient. One way to do so is to share their reporting staff with television news, to ensure the job is not needlessly duplicated. Yet a FCC Commissioner doesn’t agree:

“In this era of consolidation in so many industries, isn’t cutting jobs about the first thing a merged entity almost always does so it can show Wall Street it is really serious about cutting costs and polishing up the next quarterly report?” said Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who voted against the plan. “These job losses are the result of consolidation. And more consolidation will mean more lost jobs.”

Perhaps he’d prefer to hire on these journalists to dig holes, and then fill them up? After all, it doesn’t matter if someone’s job is useful, just so long as they have one!

The Ron Paul/Stormfront Story Makes The MSM

Frankly, I was beginning to think that I was wrong in my prediction that the story about Ron Paul’s campaign receiving a $ 500 donation from the guy who runs the Stormfront website would eventually be picked up by the mainstream media as Paul became more of a story in the race.

It appears, though, that I was right after all:

Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received a $500 campaign donation from a white supremacist, and the Texas congressman doesn’t plan to return it, an aide said Wednesday.

Don Black, of West Palm Beach, recently made the donation, according to campaign filings. He runs a Web site called Stormfront with the motto, “White Pride World Wide.” The site welcomes postings to the “Stormfront White Nationalist Community.”

“Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights. If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he’s wasted his money,” Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said. “Ron is going to take the money and try to spread the message of freedom.”

“And that’s $500 less that this guy has to do whatever it is that he does,” Benton added.

Black said he supports Paul’s stance on ending the war in Iraq, securing U.S. borders and his opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“We know that he’s not a white nationalist. He says he isn’t and we believe him, but on the issues, there’s only one choice,” Black said Wednesday.

“We like his stand on tight borders and opposition to a police state,” Black told The Palm Beach Post earlier.

On his Web site, Black says he has been involved in “the White patriot movement for 30 years.”

There really isn’t any other way to spin this. This is bad press. And it could have been avoided if they’d just return the $ 500, or even donate it to, say, the Holocaust Museum or something. Five hundred bucks doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but the damage the donation does could be worth a lot more than that.

Explaining The Appeal Of Ron Paul

Are political analysts finally starting to figure out why someone who was, until earlier this year, an obscure Congressman from Texas has garnered the support that Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign has seen ?

Here’s Ezra Klein at The American Prospect:

With Paul, the positions aren’t the point. His candidacy is tonal, aesthetic in nature. It’s a movement united behind Howard Beale: They’re mad as hell at politics, and not going to take it anymore. The force of that statement is far more important than whether Beale’s political opinions or likely comportment in office precisely match up with what his supporters would desire. Paul’s candidacy is an indictment of the system, not an argument for who would best administer it.

And Andrew Sullivan:

Paul’s candidacy is a moment of protest from all those who once saw the GOP as their home and who have become enraged at what Bush and Rove have done to conservatism. So many of us feel like refugees – forced out of our homes by Christanist intolerance and neoconservative fanaticism. The Paul campaign is a refugee camp, pitched temporarily at the border of old-school conservatism, as we wait to see if our politics is really over in the Republican party, and whether a freedom agenda can still have a future in America.

Incidentally, Sullivan endorsed Paul a few days ago:

[T]he deeper reason to support Ron Paul is a simple one. The great forgotten principles of the current Republican party are freedom and toleration. Paul’s federalism, his deep suspicion of Washington power, his resistance to government spending, debt and inflation, his ability to grasp that not all human problems are soluble, least of all by government: these are principles that made me a conservative in the first place. No one in the current field articulates them as clearly and understands them as deeply as Paul. He is a man of faith who nonetheless sees a clear line between religion and politics. More than all this, he has somehow ignited a new movement of those who love freedom and want to rescue it from the do-gooding bromides of the left and the Christianist meddling of the right. The Paulites’ enthusiasm for liberty, their unapologetic defense of core conservative principles, their awareness that in the new millennium, these principles of small government, self-reliance, cultural pluralism, and a humble foreign policy are more necessary than ever – no lover of liberty can stand by and not join them.

He’s the real thing in a world of fakes and frauds. And in a primary campaign where the very future of conservatism is at stake, that cannot be ignored. In fact, it demands support.

When Sullivan’s right, he’s right. Ron Paul isn’t perfect by any means, and I’ve detailed some of my disagreements with him, and discomfort with some of his supporters, here more than once. But he’s a damn sight better than any Republican running for President this year.

Should Oil Producers Embargo America Again? The Democrats And Republicans Seem To Think So

In 1973, OPEC announced an embargo of oil sales to countries whose governments had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war. In the U.S. this precipitated a major economic crisis as the U.S. government attempted to ration gasoline and control production and sale through a regime of price controls. The U.S. Central bank also embarked on an inflationary spree in an attempt to “stimulate ” the economy. Just as in the Great Depression, the result was a combination of inflation and economic stagnation, known as “stagflation.”

Today, nearly every presidential candidate is calling for something called “energy independence”, which amounts to an attempt to reenact the embargo, although this time it would be the U.S. government turning back oil shipments instead of the Saudi Government. This suicidal course is supposed to insulate the economy from high energy prices and to promote attempts to mitigate global warming. However, rather than insulating the economy from higher energy prices, these measures will have the perverse effect of making the high energy prices we face today more devastating and permanent.

Energy is merely a factor of production; one of many inputs that are converted into a more valuable product or service. Because energy is one of the most important inputs into most manufacturing processes, consumers of energy tend to be very price-conscious; attempting to get the most ergs for their dollar. However, unlike a person shopping at a grocery store, they can’t easily switch from oil to natural gas as easily as a consumer switches switches from buying eggs and bacon for their breakfasts to buying oatmeal. Once a factory or some other piece of heavy equipment or facility is designed to use on particular energy source, switching to another source is either very expensive or impossible. Thus, the largest consumers of energy look at not only the current price of energy products, but also at the long term trends. They try to lock in suppliers to long term contracts. They study the long term availability of the various sources and try to predict what the supply situation is like.

This desire for predictability forces energy producers to focus on keeping prices low and stable, if they want to attract customers. Because there are so many consumers of energy who will pick a supplier and stick with that supplier for a long period of time, and because these customers strive to understand their supplier’s business in great detail, the sources of energy that they choose to consume tend to be the most stable and cheapest sources then available, generally energy from oil or other petroleum products.

The plans being promoted by the politicians attempt to force American businesses to consume not the cheapest forms of energy, but rather more expensive and less economical forms of energy. They take one of four forms:

The Manhattan Project

Most programs call for the U.S. government to take money from tax-payers and to spend it on scientific research and engineering development to develop new sources of energy, or to make the consumption of new energy sources more “efficient”.

The problem is that these R&D programs will be funded by a political process and not necessarily based on criteria of which programs are most likely to bear fruit on a reasonable time-scale. The R&D that is expected to provide a payoff is already being done by investors or companies that expect to make a mint if they are the first to market with more efficient, less costly mechanisms that satisfy the demand for energy. The works that are not already being done, for the most part, are boondogles with an insufficient probability of a positive return. Essentially, the money confiscated and redirected to this research will necessarily displace investments that would otherwise be made in more profitable or less risky ventures. Thus, these programs are guaranteed to be as big a waste of money as other forays of the government into R&D such as nuclear power plant design and space exploration.

For my theory on why this is so, see my article Government Funding of Science: Inherently Susceptible to Junk and Superstition.

Subsidies for ‘local’ energy sources

Most plans involve subsidies for energy sources that do not use imported oil, things like wind-mills, ethanol and other ‘sustainable’ forms of energy. Essentially, these alternative sources of energy exist, but are so much less economical than imported oil, that nobody seriously uses them. The government’s plan is to subsidize these alternates so that the price demanded from people who are purchasing them is competitive with that of the hated imported oil. There is, of course, one problem with that: TANSTAAFL.

The subsidies must be paid by taxpayers, the same people who, for the most part, are consuming the subsidized energy. The result? The tax-man boosts the cost of energy to higher levels than we currently pay for “imported oil”. If the high cost of gasoline is painful, the cost of ethanol enhanced gasoline will be much more painful. In the end, this is the equivalent of treating the pain caused by a patient’s sore muscles by beating him up.

Subsidies for increased fuel efficiency

The rationale for this scheme is that if we could reduce the amount of fuel consumed, the price of the fuel would go down. However, it assumes that consumers want more efficient vehicles or factory equipment, but are powerless to influence manufacturers and producers to make more efficient machinery. This is, of course, poppycock. People balance fuel efficiency with many other criteria in making their choice. In times of bountiful, cheap energy, they may decide that a vehicle of large mass and carrying capacity is what they want. Increased efficiency generally comes at the expense of cost, or reduced performance in some other area.

Again, the principle of TAANSTAFL applies. By mandating that all products have a certain degree of efficiency, these plans essentially are forcing consumers to forgo other wants, or pay higher prices to purchase equipment that meets their needs.

Paying for Externalities

Currently it is in fashion to blame combustion of fossil fuels for causing a warming of the Earth. Of course, the change in climate causes people to bear costs in the form of reduced crop yields or loss of land to the sea etc. Many of these plans attempt to ‘mitigate’ this damage either through additional taxes levied on fuel consumption or from cap-and trade schemes. Both ideas suffer from flaws:

The rationale for remedying externalities through taxation is thus: Let us say that every gallon of gasoline burned in the U.S. causes $0.25 worth of damage to everybody on Earth. A tax of $0.25 is levied on each gallon of gasoline that is purchased or produced and the money is then spent to compensate the people suffering the damage.

Of course, the reality is quite different. The funds rarely are spent to reimburse injured parties, assuming that the injured parties can even be identified. Rather the funds are apportioned through a political process. A glaring example of this is, for example, the use of tobacco settlement money to pay for athletic programs in government schools as opposed to reimbursing Medicare for the costs of caring for ill smokers.

Cap and trade schemes have their own sets of problems. Under such a scheme, the state sells or issues permits to individuals or businesses permitting them produce X amount of pollution. The owners of these permits are then free to sell permits to those who wish to buy the right to pollute. There are two basic problems unique to these schemes:

First, there is the question of how many permits to issue? Of course, there will be a conflict between those who favor more permits and those who favor a reduction in the numbers of permits that are issued. The process for setting the number of permits will be a political one, and as such only loosely coupled with the actual number of permits that is appropriate, assuming that the number of appropriate permits is even calculable.

Secondly, there is the question of who gets the permits? If the permits are given away, then the state will have to ration the permits it issues. The distribution of permits will again be a political process with connected individuals and organizations being granted a windfall of permits that they can then sell at a great profit. Alternately, if the permits are sold, typically by auction, then once again the problems associated with the state levying taxes to repair externalities will manifest themselves.

Do We Need a National Energy Policy?

To me, the answer is a resounding NO! We no more need a national energy policy than we need a national food policy or a national entertainment policy or a national clothing policy.

The fact is that those who consume energy are already driven by reasons of frugality and profitability to seek the least expensive and most cost-efficient forms of energy out there. In order to prevent people from using oil, the state must force people to pay more for oil than they ever would under a volatile free market scheme. This means that in order to ensure energy the U.S. government must, in effect, force an embargo upon its subjects. Under international law, it is considered an act of war for one nation’s navy to blockade another nation’s sea trade. The fact that U.S. politicians are attempting to carry out such an act of war on their own people – worse that a significant portion of the U.S. population thinks this is a good idea – is quite disheartening.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

An Open Letter to Neal Boortz

Mr. Boortz, I am writing this letter as a plea for you to reconsider your support for Mike Huckabee‘s candidacy for Republican nomination for President.

I’ve listened to you since I was fourteen years old. I remember my mom telling me when I was eight or so that I was going to like your show when I got older because I was just as opinionated, and for the most part she was right.

You single-handedly sparked my interest in classical liberalism/libertarianism and the Libertarian Party. My involvement in the Libertarian Party went as far as getting elected as the Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Georgia in 2006 at the age of 25. I have since left that post, and I consider myself to be an independent, but still very much a believer in the libertarian philosophy (limited government, capitalism and the Harm Principle).

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see your endorsement of Mike Huckabee, in an Athens newspaper. No doubt the endorsement is because of his support of the FairTax, a cause that you’ve taken up over the past few years. I have no comments to make on that issue, other than the fact that the only two reasons you are supporting Mike Huckabee is because he performed reasonably well during the GOP debates. He never really answers tough questions, choosing instead to make a joke and avoid the issue. The most obvious reason you have backed his campaign is because he supports the FairTax.

I do not intend this to be an attack on you because when it comes down to it, I respect you, but I disagree with you. I believe that you have betrayed your principles and ultimately your belief in limited government due to your support of Mike Huckabee.

There are several political commentators that have pointed out that Huckabee is a populist candidate. He is using some of the same class warfare rhetoric (the same rhetoric that John Edwards has used) in order to appeal to the emotions of individuals that simply don’t know better or they refuse to acknowledge reality…and it disappoints me when I think that you may have fallen into one of those categories of voters.

Huckabee’s record is troublesome for anyone who claims to be a fiscal conservative or a limited government conservative. As John Fund and FactCheck.org have noted, the taxpayers of Arkansas saw their tax burden increase by 47%, an increase of more than $500 million.

He has signed into law or supported numerous tax increases ranging from an increase in the state sales tax on several occasions, gas tax, taxing nursing home beds and opposed repealing sales taxes on groceries and medicine. Spending increased by more than 65%, triple the rate of inflation. Huckabee likes to say that he left the state with budget surplus, but he also left the state with $1 billion in new debt. One Arkansas newspaper put together an editorial which shows that Huckabee is more of a tax hiker than Bill Clinton.

The Cato Institute gave Huckabee a grade of “F” in fiscal policy in 2006 (16 Democrats received higher grades), and a “D” for his entire tenure as Governor of Arkansas.

Reason magazine probably put it best, “The vision of ‘compassionate conservatism’ promised by George W. Bush was actually practiced by Huckabee, with all the flaws that entailed. He’s the GOP candidate who’d probably get along best with a big-spending Democratic Congress.”

He has been hostile to school vouchers and has even managed to pick up the endorsement of a state branch of the NEA. You’ve been hostile to teachers unions, even saying that they pose a greater threat than al-Qaeda. This is a man that called No Child Left Behind, “the greatest education reform effort by the federal government in my lifetime.”

During his campaign he has been hostile to the concept of free trade, a fundamental human right, Huckabee instead has ignored the benefits of free trade, latched onto the protectionist “fair trade” rhetoric and opposed trade agreements that may not be perfect, but have had an overall positive effect on the American economy. I find it ironic that the candidates that support the FairTax (Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter and Mike Huckabee) are all anti-free trade.

His reasoning for agriculture subsidies is because it is a “national security” issue. Subsidies are misguided for a number of reasons, but the main problem with them is they drive up the cost of food, which only hurts American consumers.

He has offered no plan to reform the unfunded liabilities (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) that pose a threat to the stability of our economy. He supported the 2003 Medicare drug benefit and was the only GOP hopeful that didn’t support Bush’s veto of SCHIP.

This is a candidate that supported an increase in the minimum wage in his state, as well as an increase in the federal minimum wage. He believes that it is a biblical duty to fight global warming and supports cap-and-trade policies. Not to mention that he rails against Wall Street and the salaries of CEOs, going so far as to deem them to be “immoral.”

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg shined some light on Huckabee’s view of government. He said, “The problem with someone like Huckabee is that he much like, in my mind, a liberal sees no dogmatic constitutional limits on the “do-goodery” of the federal government. Whatever he thinks is the right thing for the federal government to do, if he thinks there’s a good thing that can be done by the federal government, he wants the federal government to do it whether it’s constitutional or in accordance with principles of limited government. And maybe what he wants to isn’t what a cultural liberal would want to do but he still wants to use the government the same way. It’s big government conservatism.”

This is your candidate, Mr. Boortz. I haven’t even touched on his social authoritarianism and nanny-statism, his comments about AIDS patients and homosexuality, his commutations, his ethics issues or the Wayne Dumond scandal. This is just limited to his fiscal record. And please don’t hand me the ramblings of a political mercenary as a response.

I know that if you happen read this, you’ll probably just brush it aside and continue your blind support for Mike Huckabee based solely on the FairTax, no matter how irresponsible and dangerous it is. It’s no different than a religious collectivist basing their vote on the issue of abortion or someone basing their vote due to their opposition of the war in Iraq. You have made yourself into a single issue voter.

It disappoints me to no end that someone who introduced me to the ideals of liberty and principle can abandon those beliefs so quickly due to his stance over one issue to support the candidacy of someone who antithesis of those values. Mike Huckabee is no fiscal conservative. He is no believer in limited government…and he is playing you for a fool.

The Price Of Government Comes Home

The government believes you should use ethanol as a fuel. They have enacted policies to incentivize ethanol production. Those policies, as I pointed out here, have unintended consequences:

But let’s look at what’s happened. First, we started hurting poor Mexicans by threatening their access to affordable corn tortillas, a staple of the diet for the impoverished in that country. Then, it was found that the high cost of feed corn for animals will end up resulting in high costs and lower supply of meat. And now, it’s spreading to milk. You know, full of calcium, the stuff we tell children will give them strong bones? Great work, Congress!

And now it’s hit me square in the gut, in my beer supply:

I’ll explain what’s happened to the price of Malt and Hops and why, what can be done about it, and why you are going to see prices jump likely between 15 and 25% on the retail end for Craft brews in a matter of weeks.

In late September I was told by another brewery that malt was going up about 40% and hops 30 to 40%. I started calling suppliers and they confirmed this was true, and also that they have no prices locked in yet. Additionally, I was informed that many farmers are not honoring their contracts to the fullest extent (don’t blame the farmers please) due to the crazy price situation that’s evolving in crop farming, with corn being twice the price it was last year.

What does corn have to do with it? Our supplier tells us that with Uncle Sam’s push and financial support for ethanol the price of corn has doubled and many farmers grew corn instead of barley this year. In the UK, where the EU has also required ethanol production, rape seed is the crop of choice and again, a lot more profitable than growing barley and wheat. Couple this with bad weather and growing conditions this year and in Europe and you have a crisis in barley supply. We were told this was coming in early summer, but we assumed our malt company might have meant a 10 to 15% increase in price, not this. When we finally got nailed down pricing last week, one malt price was up 45% and the other up 56%.

As a homebrewer, I just felt this pinch. I knew it was coming eventually, but wasn’t sure how soon or how drastic it would be. I needed to buy some malt for this weekend’s brew session, and went to my usual supplier, who usually has the best prices on just about everything. I was shocked to see that malt prices had jumped 30-50% (depending on variety) since my last order in November.

I’ve been further dealing with the effects of a worldwide shortage of hops, as supply has become inconsistent and prices have shot up, but I can at least blame that on the market. There are some very natural supply-and-demand forces that have affected that market over the last decade, and the market will respond to increase supply. And, to be fair, there are weather-related reasons that the barley crop was not as plentiful as past years. But when government steals my tax dollars and uses them to further exacerbate shortages in the things I want to buy, it’s a double-whammy, and it makes me resent them even further. Instead of having natural supply-and-demand, there is entirely unnatural and inefficient government-created demand that is taking away the incentive to supply malt.

The last thing I need is government policies creating additional cause for shortages. It may be rather “unimportant” that I homebrew beer. And after all, as a hobbyist, I’m willing to spend plenty of money on my hobby, as my constant equipment purchases show. But I look at brewing as a potential future career, and watch as struggling breweries are now forced to deal with this shortage and hope that their consumers are willing and able to afford price increases.

For me, this is an annoyance. For some craft brewers, this might be the difference between being able to stay afloat in business and shutting their doors. It may just be beer, but as I pointed out when discussing the milk, tortilla, and meat price increases:

Simply put, look at how the cost of government is affecting your food. In addition to all the farm subsidies, price supports, and all the other nonsense, they decided to make a completely separate mandate regarding ethanol in the energy supply. What happens? Your cost of living goes up, and your standard of living goes down.

They’ve made some lobbyists and farmers very rich with these policies. And being politicians, they’ve been using your money– not theirs– to do it. They take your taxes, use them to create incentives which make what you want to buy more expensive, and then (especially in the example of beer) tax the hell out of the end product anyway.

I realize some of our readers are in favor of government. So please, can you even attempt to justify this? Why should I be paying three different ways for the government to make some farmers very rich?

John Stossel & Ron Paul On Respecting The Constitution

Say what you might about Ron Paul and his supporters, but he’s the only candidate in the race who talks about following the Constitution and actually means what he says:

Paul talks a lot about the Constitution, more so than any other candidate.

“We’ve had a grand experiment in this country where we emphasize freedom. If you read the Constitution, the Constitution was designed to protect individual liberty, to restrain the government. But we have forgotten that.”

Restraining the government the way our founders intended, he says, would eliminate many of the regulations and federal programs we have today.

And he’s got one of the best lines of the campaign when he responds to the suggestion that his ideas are old-fashioned:

“Freedom is new, tyranny is old, it’s ancient,” Paul retorts.

Again, it’s a shame that ABC isn’t broadcasting any of this on television, but the message of freedom is still getting out.

Previous Posts:

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution
John Stossel Talks To Ron Paul On The Proper Role Of Government
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Foreign Policy
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Immigration
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Health Care

Iowa’s Pink Locker Room — Federal Issue?

Many years ago, coach Hayden Fry of the Iowa Hawkeyes chose to paint the visiting team’s locker room pink. In the world of big-time college football, he believed that putting his opponents into a pink locker room would pacify them and give the Hawkeyes a better chance for victory.

Such a sentiment, though, doesn’t quite fly in the “enlightened” world found on college campuses today:

A former University of Iowa law professor plans to file a Title IX complaint alleging the University of Iowa’s insistence to maintain Kinnick Stadium’s pink locker room is ‘‘a civil rights issue.’’

Jill Gaulding, who left Iowa in 2005 and practices law in Minnesota, led a protest Nov. 17 outside Kinnick Stadium and gathered signatures for a petition to change the locker room.

She said she plans to file the federal complaint ‘‘in the next several weeks.’’

‘‘I’m interested in asking the Office for Civil Rights to investigate, and if they find that there’s a problem — which I hope that they will — we’ll see what happens then,’’ she said.

In 1979, former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry painted the visiting locker room pink for two primary reasons. He claimed the color has a passive effect on opponents. And, according to his biography, ‘‘pink is a often found in girls’ bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color.’’

Gaulding contends the pink locker room represents a harmful message ‘‘because of the impact it can have in our brains.’’

So we’ll go crying to the feds. We’ll define ourselves by our surroundings, and if they’re not exactly how we think is fair, we’ll run to the authorities to “make the bad men stop”. Just think what impact that lesson will have in our brains!

The color of a locker room is not against any rule of football or the NCAA. For opposing players, it should be seen as a fair bit of “psychological warfare”, and addressed as such. For a good coach or a good team, it can be used as a motivating factor to beat the team that you’re facing. The coach, for example, could explain to his players that it’s a sign of Iowa’s disrespect, motivating them to prove themselves. Which is exactly what I think would be the response to this:

‘‘Well, ask a question of your readers about whether Iowa should hang a banner across the opposing team’s locker room that said you’re a bunch of sissies,’’ she said. ‘‘Because if you think there might be a problem with that, then you should agree that there might be a problem with the pink locker room.’’

Oppose it? I’m guessing any opposing coaches would love to walk into the locker room and see that. College football is a highly emotional game, and if you really want to get a 20-year-old testosterone-fueled athlete to give his all in a game, trying to attack his manhood is a pretty simple factor. As a Purdue fan, I would think that the Boilermakers would be motivated by such a banner, not cowed into submission.

There are a lot of lessons that our young people need to learn before they enter real life. I’d say one of the most important is that often the world doesn’t quite do exactly what you like, but that you should suck it up and win anyway. It may take the form of an opposing team having a pink locker room, or it may have to do with a coworker who tries to take credit for your accomplishments to further his own career at your expense. Running to the feds might get your locker room fixed, but it will make you look like a crybaby. Running to human resources might get your coworker reprimanded, but it will destroy the level of respect that most of your other coworkers have for you.

The feds have no place in this, although I can’t say they’ll keep their noses out of it. Barring any NCAA rules prohibiting this, it’s a question for the University of Iowa as to how to balance their desire for political correctness with their desire for football success. The school’s administration is not changing, and while I have no problem with social pressure being exerted on them to change (such as the protest this lady led to get it changed), but to put this in the hands of federal judges is downright ludicrous.

John Stossel & Ron Paul On Health Care

In the fifth part of his Ron Paul: Unplugged series, John Stossel talks to the the Texas Congressman and Medical Doctor about health care:

“We’ve had the government involved in our medical care system since the early ’70s, we’ve had managed care. And all of a sudden, nobody’s happy with it,” Paul said in our interview.

Paul has even gone as far as taking the lonely position of saying government shouldn’t provide health insurance for poor children.

What would happen to those kids under his administration? Paul replied by talking about his early experience as a doctor.

(…)

“Should we move to, toward a socialized system, or should we look to the marketplace to help us sort out the problems we have in medicine? My argument, of course, is always looking for the answers in the free market, in private choices, and in individuals dealing with those problems, rather than depending on the state.”

Considering that the health system in this country has gotten worse as government involvement in health care
has become more pervasive, Paul’s ideas make perfect sense to me.

Previous Posts:

John Stossel Interviews Ron Paul On Legalizing Drugs And Prostitution
John Stossel Talks To Ron Paul On The Proper Role Of Government
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Foreign Policy
John Stossel & Ron Paul On Immigration

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