Monthly Archives: March 2009

Eminent Domain, Alabama Style

Speaking of the Cato Institute’s new video telling the story behind Suzette Kelo’s legal fight against the City of New London, I’ve been working on a website for a new grassroots organization in Alabama hoping to promote “the property rights of all Alabamians, regardless of race or financial status.”

In Alabama, it is generally the poorest of our citizens who are victimized and intimidated in similar situations to what happened in New London, CT.  Working with state legislators and the Alabama Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, we have reasonable hopes of being able to make a difference in the lives of people touched by corporate and government land grabs.

Right now, we are highlighting on two cases and working on two distinct pieces of legislation.  One issue deals with the highly publicized (many thanks to Neal Boortz and the Institute for Justice on this one) case of a Wal-Mart landgrab in Alabaster, AL:

In 2003, Alabaster, Alabama, a small bustling community south of Birmingham, garnered national attention through their efforts to seize property for the construction of a Wal-Mart shopping center. Ownership of the property was predominately poor and black. When national attention focused on the private property seizure, other avenues of securing the property for Wal-Mart prevailed. The procedure, while legal, would, by those familiar with the circumstances, deem the chain of events and the ensuing aftermath unethical by all standards. In the video Elizabeth Swain, her daughter, and granddaughter tell the story from the beginning to the end.

Click the link above to watch some touching video regarding the Alabaster issue.

Another issue never hit the national news, but it is just as disturbing.

Evergreen Baptist Church overlooks I-65 between Birmingham and Gardendale, Alabama. The Church was required to surrender its property through eminent domain for road construction. The Church agreed to a property swap with the State Department of Transportation. The Church at its old location was serviced with water, gas and electricity – all modern conveniences. Before construction began on the new Church building, Rev. Smith contacted the Birmingham Water Works to ensure that water would be available. With the Water Works assurance, construction was begun. When construction reached ¾ completion, it was disclosed that the Birmingham Water Works would require $80,000.00 to install a new water main. The Church, consisting of a small congregation, could not afford the demands of the Water Works. Two years have passed and the inequity in the land swap has not been resolved. The Church pleads for a just and appropriate public outcry.

Again, click the link for related video footage.

We’ve got two pieces of proposed legislation and an upcoming press conference dealing with these sorts of issues.  There is also an upcoming Civil Rights Commission Panel which will focus on racial minorities afflicted by these sorts of abuses of power.  The Alabama Advisory Committee is currently chaired by Dr. David Bieto, a name familiar to many libertarians and conservatives out there.

The site is still under construction, but feel free to sign up on our e-mail list if you’d like to keep track of what were are up to.  Also, if anyone wishes to donate some time to help with site graphics, please let me know.

In Alabama, some of us feel that protection from eminent domain abuse should apply as equally to people living below the poverty line and people of color as it does in the more affluent neighborhoods in the state.

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My Name Is Suzette Kelo And The Government Stole My House

The Cato Institute has a new video out telling the story behind Suzette Kelo’s legal fight against the City of New London, Connecticut and Pfizer, Inc, which resulted in one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in recent memory:

You can also listen to Suzette Kelo tell her story in her own words.

And, yes, as of today, the lot on which her house once stood still stands empty.

Strategies For Advancing Liberty — Building Alternative Structures To Government

Those who have read me for a while have seen that I’ve transitioned a lot over the last few years. When I started blogging, my first post was days after the 2004 election, defending a vote for George W. Bush as the best of a couple of bad options. Now, I’m nearly indistinguishable from an anarcho-capitalist. I don’t believe that our current governmental structure has any hope to do anything but grow to an eventual collapse, and that something must be done about it.

One of those early posts was defending the use of incrementalism in our strategy for change. I’ve modified that position slightly, but there is one point that I think still bears repeating:

An entire society based on the role of a strong federal government would collapse without it. The only prudent way to deconstruct that society is incrementally, because only then can we slowly build up the private support structures to replace government.

As much as I hate to say it, I truly believe that if the government disappeared tomorrow, it wouldn’t be all wine and roses. Civil society needs institutions to operate, and if you remove all the existing institutions without having alternatives, the result will be the type of “anarchy” feared by most who hear the term: chaos.

But above, I make an error. The answer is not to slowly deconstruct government first and then let the alternatives grow in government’s absence. The answer is to create those alternatives and thereby make government redundant (and unnecessary).

Mark, writing for The Distributed Republic, has come up with a way to begin that process: The AnCap Entrepreneur Network:

Mission

Anarcho-capitalism describes a society free of the initiation of force or fraud. Each individual has a right to his or her life, liberty, and property, and no other individual or group can legitimately violate that right.

The State is a centralized organization that inherently violates rights. It funds its activities through extortion. It restricts voluntary trade through licensure, subsidy, and prohibition. It uses its monopoly of force to erode every limitation on its power, and thereby grows until it collapses under its own weight. It demands subservience to its authority.

Many of our relationships with each other are structured through institutions. We use these to simplify our trade, to transmit our culture, to communicate, and to resolve our differences. To the extent that our institutions rely on the State, they are vulnerable. Our institutions can be corrupted as the State engulfs them, or can be destroyed when the State fails.

The Anarcho-Capitalist Entrepreneur Network exists to help individuals cooperate to design and implement organizations that respect the rights of individuals; to create organizations that are completely independent of the State. In time, we hope that such organizations become familiar enough that individuals no longer consider force or fraud a legitimate way to interact with each other.

There are some who believe that working within the system, they can change it. While I think those people should continue their efforts, I don’t have much hope that they can be anything but a brake on the growth and expansion of the State.

Instead, the way to beat the State is to make them irrelevant. The more time we spend working completely outside of the State, the less reason we have to keep it alive at all. The quicker we duplicate the purposes of their coercive institutions with free and voluntary institutions, the sooner we can put an end to their institutions entirely. When they finally wither and rot, our key to ensuring peaceful anarchy rather than chaos is having something that is free to supplant the institutions which have collapsed.

An undertaking like the one proposed is not going to be easy or trivial. But right now the options I see going forward on our current trajectory are a continued trek down the road to serfdom or a painful chaotic collapse. Those aren’t the only options available, and the stakes are high enough to make it worth the effort to avoid that fate.

Posse Comitatus Alert: Military Deployed in Alabama to Aid with Murder Spree Law Enforcement Activities

As I was just interviewed by the Associated Press pertaining to federal troops being sent to Samson, Alabama immediately following a rampage last week which left 11 people dead, I’d thought I’d collect my thoughts on the issue here.

Preliminary reporting includes these stories: the initial AP piece, USA Today, LewRockwell.com, and CNS News.

The AP is currently reporting the following:

The Army has launched an inquiry into whether federal laws were broken when soldiers were sent to an Alabama town after 11 people died in a shooting spree.

The Army confirmed Wednesday that 22 military police and an officer from Fort Rucker were sent to the nearby town of Samson after slayings last week. The town’s tiny police force and county officers were stretched to the limit after a gunman killed 10 people and himself.

Authorization from the governor or president is typically required for the deployment of federal troops on U.S. soil. It’s not clear who ordered the troops sent to Samson.

An Army spokesman says the military is trying to determine what happened. Among the questions is why the troops were sent and what they did while there.

CNS adds photographic evidence of military members on the scene as well as the following:

The troops were apparently not deployed by the request of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley — or by the request of President Obama, as required by law.

When contacted by CNSNews.com, the governor’s office could not confirm that the governor had requested help from the Army, and Gov. Riley’s spokesman, Todd Stacy, expressed surprise when he was told that troops had been sent to the town.

No request from President Obama, meanwhile, was issued by the White House–or the Defense Department.

Wrongful use of federal troops inside U.S. borders is a violation of several federal laws, including one known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Title 18, Section 1385 of the U.S. Code.

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” the law states.

David Rittgers, legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said there are other laws barring use of federal troops outside of federal property, as well.

“Title 18, Section 375 of the U.S. Code is a direct restriction on military personnel, and it basically precludes any member of the army in participating in a ‘search, seizure, arrest or other similar activity, unless participation is otherwise authorized by law,’ “ Rittgers told CNSNews.com.

“The security of a crime scene is something I think that would roll up in the category of a ‘search, seizure or other activity,’” Rittgers added.

In addition, there is the Insurrection Act of 1808, as amended in 2007, (Title 10, Section 331 of the U.S. Code) under which the president can authorize troops “to restore order and enforce the laws of the United States” in an insurrection.

Some quick thoughts on the topic:

  • This does seem (based on evidence presented so far) to be a clear-cut violation of federal law.  There may be some local law enforcement arrangements for pooling local law enforcement resources in time of disaster, but they would not override federal law on the matter.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any major harm done, so long as we don’t allow the bar to be lowered for similar future tragedies.  However, as citizens, it is important that we remain vigilant when things like this do occur.
  • This needs to be investigated to determine where the fault lies.  As I told the AP, if some local commander made a mistake, his wrist probably needs to be slapped, as appropriate.  We do need to find where the system broke down in order to prevent something like this from happening again.
  • This doesn’t seem to be part of any nefarious Obama plot to impose martial law across the land.  Some folks seem to be claiming this is President Obama’s first step in some apocalyptic total-takeover scheme.  For the conspiracy-minded out there, if this is such a plot, the Alabama mass murder seems to be a bad case to begin operations.  It was a quick response to a local event with no advance notice.  Anyway, it seems that Obama has a whole lot on his plate right now.  He’s probably too occupied at the moment to be concentrating on how to use a handful of MPs to overturn the Constitution in the deep south.
  • There are times when U.S. military forces do reasonably need to be involved in local issues.  When I was in the Army, I was involved in an operation to remove unexploded military ordinance found on private property in the D.C. area.  In this case, FEMA, local law enforcement and military personal cooperated and communicated about how to handle the issues involved and we (the military) were very mindful about the line between the military and civilians.
  • That someone didn’t quickly answer the question about who ordered the MPs offbase is concerning.  A quick and honest answer probably would have stopped online speculation which may continue for some time.  It also (probably needlessly) undermines public confidence in the military.  Why not simply say “who dunnit” so folks can move back to more important issues in their lives?

In short, we should probably try to figure out what happened and fix the problem so a) the bar doesn’t get lowered and b)  we can prevent this from happening in the future.  We need to remain vigilant, but not overreactive.  Based on information available so far, it appears that no serious harm was done but we do need to get to the bottom of it — and with no stonewalling, either.

UPDATE: Here’s an updated AP report from the Houston Chronicle:

The chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, Stephen Gordon, said while many are worried about the use of Army troops in civilian police roles, he doubts there was anything nefarious about the soldiers in Samson.

“There is no apparent harm here, but the principle still needs to be upheld,” Gordon said. “The barrier has been lowered for the next time, and we really need to take a look at what happened.”

Who is John Galt?

This question is asked repeatedly in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged until Galt himself introduces himself to a world in crisis. In light of this new phenomenon of “Going Galt” being encouraged by Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many others (particularly on the Right), this question deserves a serious answer. How else would it be possible for individuals to “Go Galt” without answering the question: Who is John Galt?

I would begin answering the question by explain who Galt is not. John Galt is not someone who merely caps the limits on his productivity to avoid being pushed into a higher tax bracket. What Galt does in Atlas Shrugged is much more radical: going on strike by refusing to produce anything for the benefit of society. Galt seeks out other high achievers and convinces them to do the same and help him build a society of their own.

Are these folks who claim to be “Going Galt” prepared to do this? Would Michelle Malkin et. al even be considered by Galt to be invited into his society?

Hardly.

To be invited to Galt’s Gulch one has to demonstrate that s/he has rejected the false virtues of altruism, collectivism, and mysticism (religion) and embrace his virtues of selfishness, reason, objective reality, and capitalism. While Malkin and Co. pay lip service to capitalism (especially when their people are not in control of the levers of power), their remaining values run counter to that of Galt’s. Is it not these very people who wish to erect religious monuments on government property, demand that Intelligent Design (Creationism) be taught alongside evolution in government schools, encourage individual sacrifice for the “greater good,” and wish to ratchet up the War on (Some) Drugs despite the evidence that the policy is completely counterproductive?

Now that I have pointed out what John Galt is not, perhaps I should allow the man to speak for himself in this modern dramatization* from the novel:

How many of those who say they are “Going Galt” prepared to embrace this philosophy by taking the following pledge:

“I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

While I am pleased that the Galt trend is bringing some much needed attention to Atlas Shrugged, it’s my hope that more individuals will actually read the book and learn exactly what Going Galt is all about. That way when someone says “I am John Galt,” those who have been educated can respond by saying: “I know John Galt and you sir are no John Galt!”

UPDATE: XCowboy2 has released a newer version called “This is John Galt Speaking 2.0.” Enjoy!

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Fixing The Hidden Homeless Problem? No, Throwing Money At The Non-Existent Homeless Problem

Maybe, in the fury over federal bailout dollars spent on AIG bonuses, someone should stand up and ask whether this $600K in stimulus money is well spent:

The Town of Union is getting $578,661 in federal Recovery Act funding for a homeless problem that may not exist within its borders.

The money is coming from the federal Housing and Urban Development program to pay for homeless prevention and emergency shelter programs.

Union did not request the money and does not currently have homeless programs in place in the town to administer such funds, said town Supervisor John Bernardo.

“We were surprised,” Bernardo said. “We’ve never been a recipient before.”

Bernardo said he isn’t aware of any homeless issue in the largely suburban town.

This illustrates a major problem with the way that any ultra-large organization accomplishes tasks. The organization has far too many levels, departments, subsidiaries (if you can define the local-state-federal governments as a subsidiary relationship — I’m stretching slightly here), and egos. You have people who have mandates that certain things get done, but if there’s not adequate communication between all the players, the wrong things will be done.

The act of trying to unwind this money will be gargantuan. Is it some Congressman’s earmark? Maybe, but since we don’t have any real way to track earmarks, it may never be proven. Is it some mid-level HUD bureaucrat who “had to spend his money” and said that Union, NY sounded like a worthwhile recipient? Did someone within Union put in this request without telling anyone?

Which is why, of course, they aren’t going to try to unwind the slime trail. It’s only $600,000, after all. HUD, even though the town doesn’t have any programs designed to alleviate the nonexistent homeless problem, suggests that they find a way to spend the money:

“We hope and encourage these new grantees to develop creative strategies for the funding,” Glantz said of Union’s homeless grant.

Funny how cavalier they are about wasting other peoples’ money.

If I accidentally give myself an extra $10,000 on my tax return, will the IRS suggest I come up with creative strategies to use the improper funding? Didn’t think so…

I guess it’s only the spending that they’re willing to waste, they want to make sure the get every penny of revenue out of us.

Hat Tip: Paul Jacob

Stephen Colbert Goes Galt

Last week, Stephen Colbert put his spin on the whole “Going Galt” meme:

Even though I like Rand’s ideas alot, I think Colbert hits the nail on the head. In the end, I think that a lot of this “going galt” stuff is just talk that will amount to nothing.

UPDATE (Brad Warbiany): Fixed formatting issue with video. Again, apologies to Comedy Central for stripping the top & bottom bars. One of these days I’ll figure out why your embeds are breaking our theme, but until then, I hope readers will click over directly.

Sacha Baron Cohen Makes “Queer” Pass at Ron Paul

Two of my favorite former presidential aspirants have now been punked by Sacha Baron Cohen. Those who thought the Borat scene with Bob Barr funny (modified YouTube below) may find even the thought of this one even funnier. Here’s how Slate describes (movie spoiler warning) the scene with Ron Paul for the upcoming movie Bruno:

Cut to a nondescript hotel suite where Bruno sits across from Ron Paul. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, a light blows out on the set. Bruno apologizes for the technical difficulties and suggests that he and Paul wait in the other room while the crew fixes the light.

The other room, it turns out, is a bedroom. The lighting is low, and the film is now grainy—not unlike a sex tape—as it cuts to a hidden spy camera. There’s a spread of Champagne and strawberries and caviar on a table.

Bruno tells Paul to make himself comfortable. Paul sits down on the bed. Bruno turns on some music and starts dancing. Paul is visibly uneasy but doesn’t say anything at first. He picks up a newspaper and pretends to read it. “You can tell at each weird gay detail, he [chalks] it up to, This guy is European,” says one of the attendees.

Finally, Paul asks what’s going on. “Don’t worry about it, Dr. Paul,” says Bruno, who then unbuckles his belt and drops his pants. At that point, Paul snaps up and storms out of the room.

As Paul is walking away, you can hear him say, several times, something like, “This guy is a queer!” “The word queer comes out of his mouth three or four times,” says an attendee.

As I was driving from Atlanta to Birmingham today, I heard on the radio that Cohen also punked the Alabama National Guard. It seems that Cohen may have actually spent more time around the Alabama Guard than Dubya.

A tip of the hat to Marc Gallagher.

Angry About The AIG Bonuses ? Blame Washington

As the Obama Administration tries to manage the blowblack from the revelations about the bonuses paid to AIG employees last week, it’s becoming exceedingly clear that this is a controversy created largely thanks to the incompetence and grand-standing at all levels of levels of government.

First of all, there’s the fact that Tim “Turbo Tax” Geithner approved the latest round of AIG funding without taking any steps to deal with the issue of the bonuses:

President Obama, seeking to quell anger from taxpayers whom he soon may have to ask to support another bailout, on Monday called for trying to block the $165 million in bonuses that American International Group paid to reward top executives even after taking billions of government bailout dollars.

Mr. Obama called the move an “outrage,” but administration officials spent hours Monday attempting to explain why Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner gave AIG a new payout this month even though the bonuses had been on the books since last year.

Moreover, it’s clear that the issue of the bonuses themselves has been known in Washington since at least last September:

For all of the furor since details of the bonuses became public over the last several days, the issue of retention payments to A.I.G. employees globally has been percolating publicly since A.I.G. was bailed out in mid-September. About $1 billion in retention payments for 2008 and 2009 are in question, but the controversy involves about half of that, about $450 million over two years, that was intended for employees of A.I.G.’s financial products unit. That unit was the source of the financial derivatives blamed for the near-collapse at the heart of the economy’s downturn.

The Treasury and Federal Reserve officials said they had known about the bonus program as far back as last fall.

And, as if that’s not enough, only last month Congress passed and the President signed the stimulus bill, which included an Amendment that directly addressed the very issue we’re dealing with today:

While the Senate was constructing the $787 billion stimulus last month, Dodd added an executive-compensation restriction to the bill. That amendment provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009” — which exempts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and others are now seeking to tax.

The amendment made it into the final version of the bill, and is law.

Separately, Sen. Dodd was AIG’s largest single recipient of campaign donations during the 2008 election cycle with $103,100, according to opensecrets.org.

All of which leads to a question that needs to be answered by the Obama Administration and everyone in Congress whose beating the drum on this issue:

Why did it take so long for the president and senior lawmakers to get so worked up? More troubling, why did it take so long for them to discover AIG planned to give huge bonuses in the first place?

So, when you’re listening to politicians trying to exploit populist anger over the idea that a company that received a taxpayer-funded bailout paid out millions of dollars in bonuses, remember this —- the politicians who are acting angry now, are the same ones who let it happen.

It’s also worth taking note of the identity of those who have received campaign funds from AIG. As they say, money talks, others walk

Spot The Flaw In Ezra Klein & Kevin Drum’s Reasoning

Here we go — unfortunately I have to quote this nearly in its entirety, or the error will not be quickly apparent.

Noam Scheiber says “our political system isn’t ideally suited to dealing with financial and economic crises.” Ezra Klein begs to differ:

Indeed, I think our political system is actually fairly well-designed for short-term crises. The problem is long-term crises like global warming or health costs. As Peter Orszag wrote back on his CBO blog, “our political system doesn’t deal well with gradual, long-term problems” that require “trading off up-front costs in exchange for long-term benefits.” Few Congressmen want to raise taxes tomorrow to reduce carbon a decade from now. Lots of Congressmen don’t want the economy to collapse if they have to run for reelection next year. For that reason, I’m much more confident in the system’s ability to react agilely and seriously to the economic crisis than global warming. The economic crisis, after all, threatens their reelection. Incumbents often don’t survive depressions. Conversely, I think conventional wisdom is that it’s fixing global warming, rather than global warming itself, that poses the largest political threat to incumbent legislators.

I think that’s right. In fact, I’d go further: not only can we respond fairly well to short-term crises, we actually have responded fairly well to the current economic meltdown. There have been plenty of miscues and half measures along the way, but in the space of 18 months the Fed has created an alphabet soup of term lending facilities; Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG have been nationalized; interest rates have been reduced to near zero; TARP was passed and hundreds of billions of dollars pumped into the banking system; the Fed has launched plans to rescue the commercial paper market, the money market, and the consumer loan market; FDIC insurance has been raised to $250,000; Detroit has been bailed out; and an $800 billion stimulus measure has been passed. Some of these actions might have been late or misguided — it could hardly be otherwise considering the depth and freakishness of the financial implosion — but all things considered, the willingness of our political system to deal with this crisis hasn’t been all that bad. If we could muster half this much energy, mistakes and all, on behalf of global warming I’d be ecstatic.

A hole like this is big enough to drive a truck through.

Consider the premise that both of them seem to take for granted — Klein explicitly and Drum implicitly. Legislators, due to electoral incentives, are unwilling to take politically risky positions even if they’re in our long-term best interest. They fail to do so, even if it means letting festering problems* go unsolved, because the benefits are far off in the future but the cost and political risks are immediate.

So what’s the converse of this belief? Legislators will take short-term positions that are politically rewarding today even if it means that they will be creating or exacerbating problems for people down the road. That’s the flaw. You can’t accept the former paragraph without accepting this statement. Legislators and public officials are notoriously short-term thinkers. They’ve shown time and time again that they’re willing to spend today what need not be repaid until the next election cycle.

Drum quotes approving about the new alphabet soup of bailout and stimulus packages, and throwing billions after billions at shoring up AIG, Fannie and Freddie. In fact, his only criticism is that some of it might have occurred later than he would have liked. What’s noticeably missing from the analysis are questions of moral hazard and long-term debt. He seems to accept the rationale that it’s more important to start acting boldly and immediately, and only question whether we’re acting intelligently as a secondary matter. This is the exact sort of political incentive that our legislators and public officials are responding to. Spend today, and deal with it tomorrow.

When they suggest that our legislators ignore long-term problems for short-term politics, I completely agree. In fact, for that reason I suggest that their short-term actions are suspect as well, because they make those short-term decisions with a blind eye to long-term consequences.

Is government good at dealing with short-term or long-term crises? No. As with anything else, government is going to take the easiest and least painful way out, even if it’s not the best way.
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Protectionism For Green Industries Is Unnecessary [And Bad]

The Economist Free Exchange Blog, responding to this pro-protectionism piece by Joe Weisenthal, half-heartedly suggests that maybe Joe meant that a little infant industry protection for green industries is in order:

I wonder if he is suggesting some sort of infant industry type policy to stimulate domestic manufacturing of more enviromental products. Interesting idea, but infant industry is tricky. The idea is that with time and protection from the global market (through subisdies and tariffs) the domestic country will gain a comparative advantage in that field. Korea pursued this policy with, arguably, some success in the 1950s. But it did not work so well elsewhere. It involves the government hand picking industries that need to be developed, rather than the market. It often leaves consumers paying more for mediocre goods that might not otherwise exist in the global market.

There are two problems trying to compare anything that America will do regarding infant industry protection for green industries with any other nations who have tried protection:

First, the protectionist nation must be an underdog. America engaged in protectionism at the beginning of the industrial revolution to protect itself from Europe, and eventually rose to a dominant place. Because we are now the most technologically advanced, innovating nation on the planet, we need not protect our own industries from those overseas. They’re the ones playing catch-up, and they’re the ones trying to protect their own infant industries against our established industries. Now, there can be a debate over instituting retaliatory trade impediments to counter those protections other less developed countries are enacting (and I’d come down on the side against doing so personally), but there’s no reason to protect ourselves from them.

Second, protecting infant industries is only necessary when you’re protecting them from established industries. There are no established green industries. This is an infant industry worldwide, and on a worldwide basis, we’re in just as strong of a competitive position as any other country. I understand places like Korea enacting a protectionist, when they’re trying to achieve the same sort of efficiencies on heavy industry of more advanced countries. But here, there’s nobody who has figured it out. Infant industry protectionism arguably may be a good way for industries to catch up with mature foreign industries, but in this case there are no mature foreign industries. There’s no catching up to do when we’re all just out of the gates.

Now, this was separate from Weisenthal’s main point, which is that we should use “green protectionism” as a ruse to introduce some rather traditional forms of protectionism. He sees protectionism as an alternative to welfare, because even if we get higher-priced, less-well-made goods in the US, that keeps those US manufacturing workers employed. I suspect he’d be in favor of banning motor-driven plows, too, so that we can go back to high farming employment? Instead, I suggest that we stop trying to limit competition, and actually stop our own impediments to engaging in competition. If we want to win, perhaps we should get out of our own way instead of trying to trip our competitors.

New Jersey To Ban Being Bare “Down There”

New Jersey, already a state even less free than my home of CA (PDF), has decided to tread where others don’t dare, to see if the ladies are bare down there:

Things could get hairy in New Jersey this summer for women who sport revealing bikinis or a little bit less.

The painful Brazilian wax and its intimate derivatives are in danger of being stripped from salon and spa menus if a recent proposal to ban genital waxing is passed by the state’s Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling.

Cherry Hill salon owner Linda Orsuto said that women would “go ballistic” if the proposal passed. She said that some women would resort to waxing themselves, visiting unlicensed salons or traveling to other states, including Pennsylvania, in a quest to remain bare down there.

“The clients are going to freak,” said Orsuto, who owns 800 West Salon & Spa, on Route 70. “It’s a hot issue, and we’re going to have to do something.”

New Jersey statutes allow waxing of the face, neck, arms, legs and abdomen, but officials say that genital waxing has always been illegal, although not spelled out.

Regardless, almost every salon in South Jersey, from Atlantic City casinos to suburban strip malls, has been breaking the law for years by ridding women, and some men, of their pubic hair for $50 to $60 a session.

Don’t the emanations of penumbras that apply to nearby portion of a woman’s body also apply here? I’ve never figured out where those emanations and penumbras lie, especially when the 9th Amendment would have sufficed to cover that other decision, but I have to think this is similar enough to get a hearing before a very titillated Clarence Thomas.

Does this mean that all those douchebags wearing their “FBI – Female Body Inspector” t-shirts will now start applying for exactly that job with the state?

I do feel sorry for the husbands and boyfriends of women who are doing it only to be courteous — you’re out of luck. Get ready to hear “sorry, hon, it’s illegal.”

So why the uproar over this? Well, it comes from a likely source:

Orsuto said that the proposal may be the state’s way of diverting a long-established salon procedure “perfected by aestheticians” to the medical community, where hair can be removed via laser treatment by dermatologists.

Follow the lobbying money.

Hat Tip: MichaelW @ QandO

Logic Problems for the Single-Payer Cabal

Believe it or not, Jay Leno is not the biggest clown with that particular last name.  No, really, he’s not.  That dubious honor instead falls to my State Senator, Mark Leno.  Leno’s latest clown move is again introducing a single-payer health care measure that would impact all Californians:

The new version of the bill, SB 810, would provide medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits to every California resident and make state government the single payer of all benefit claims. Both employees and employers would be required to contribute to pay for the coverage.

So, in Leno’s California, every person would be dependent on a single agency to get health care. He sidesteps the issue by saying the following:

“It is not socialized medicine. Your doctor doesn’t change. Your hospital doesn’t change. Your clinic doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is who pays for the health care provision.”

That’s wonderful. It really is. I can choose my doctor, my hospital, my clinic, my medical marijuana club, and anything else. But to actually pay them and get anything in return, I have to crawl to a bureaucrat in Sacramento. That sure sounds like socialized medicine to me. However, I don’t just want to argue semantics about what is and isn’t socialized medicine. I want to take a look at how single-payer health care squares with some other sacred cows of the political left.

First, let’s take a trip back to the late 1990s. The fashionable thing among the left was to bitch about the big, evil corporation Microsoft and their monopolistic behavior with their operating system. I don’t dispute that monopolistic behavior is bad, but it must be remembered that this monopoly dealt with bits in a computer and was never complete. The fact that I’m typing this from Mac OS X is proof enough of that.

In comparison, the Leno bill comes off just a bit worse. Where the maligned Microsoft monopoly allowed other OS players in the space, the Leno bill creates a true, iron-clad monopoly. This brings up logic problem number 1: Why is a quasi-monopoly on computer software evil while a real monopoly on medical services is good?

Next, let’s come back to the present day and talk about the death penalty. Even after all the appeals and reexaminations of the evidence, innocent people still wind up on death row. The left, along with libertarians, argue that systems composed of human beings cannot justly hold the power of life and death in their hands.

However, the Leno bill would require that the State of California to hold the power of life and death in its hands in the form of authorizations and declinations of medical care. Here’s logic problem number 2: Why is it unjust for the courts to decide whether criminal defendants should die but just for a bureaucrat to decide whether an innocent person should die?

Finally, let’s visit a topic rarely touched on the pages of the Liberty Papers–abortion. The left argues that it is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. There are legitimate questions about when a life begins, and that’s part of why the debate continues to rage.

The Leno bill places the choice about what happens to my body in the hands of a bureaucracy in Sacramento. This brings us to logic problem number 3: Why is choice for abortion sacrosanct while choice for all other procedures can be sacrificed for the common good?

How can the left support single-payer health care when it seems to go against their own principles? Discuss.

Defining Both Major Parties in Twenty Words or Less

Over at AmSpecBlog, Robert Stacy McCain has launched a contest to see who can best describe the Democratic Party in 20 words or less.  Considering that I’m a libertarian, I’m sure my entry won’t win — but here goes anyway: Of the big-government political parties, the Democrats are the ones who favor donkeys over elephants.

I’m wondering how other libertarians might describe the Republican Party, too.  My entry for the latter contest is pretty much the same: Of the big-government political parties, the Republicans are the ones who favor elephants over donkeys.

So who has some better definitions of both major parties?

20/20 and Reason: “Bailouts & Bull”

Last night’s episode of 20/20 was one of the best I’ve ever seen. John Stossel took on several topics, such as taxpayer-funded bailouts, transportation, medicinal marijuana, universal pre-kindergarten and immigration. Many of the segments are based on and include footage from The Drew Carey Project from Reason TV. Stossel also interviews Drew Carey in some of the segments.

The they are six videos (five below the cut). The first one deals with bailouts. Stossel talks to 18 economists about why the “stimulus” was a bad idea. He asks House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer if debt got us into this recession, then why is creating more debt going to get us out? One economist says that one dollar taken out of the economy is one less dollar to be spent in the private sector.

The second video deals with transportation, and actually starts off in Atlanta (my hometown), and is based on this video from Reason TV. It highlights private toll roads built in Orange County, California, Paris, Chicago and Indiana.

This segment is on medicinal marijuana and Charlie Lynch and is based on this Reason TV video. Lynch owned a medicinal marijuana dispensary in California, which is legal under state law. He was arrested by DEA agents for helping sick people and is now awaiting sentencing, up to a hundred years in jail.

This is the segment on universal pre-kindergarten, a promise made by Barack Obama during his campaign. It’s based in part on this Reason TV video.

Here’s the segment on immigration, which is based on a Reason TV video. Stossel shows how the gate is useless because illegal immigrants still manage to get around it, either by climbing over it or cutting holes in it. Stossel talks to both Duncan Hunter and his son, Duncan Hunter, Jr., about why it is necessary. The younger Hunter asks Stossel, “What is it worth to the American people to not have another 9/11?” Stossel says the fence wouldn’t have stopped 9/11 (the 9/11 hijackers came in the country legally). Hunter says, “It may stop the next 9/11.” Gotta love the fear mongering.

Here’s the final segment of the episode. It talks about how easy it is to make it in American if you live within your means and is based on this Reason TV video.

Quote Of The Day

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao:

“President Obama and his new government have adopted a series of measures to deal with the financial crisis. We have expectations as to the effects of these measures,” Mr. Wen said. “We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.”

Sorry, Mr. Wen. Much like the mortgage lenders who have imploded have learned, you shouldn’t lend money to people based on their “stated” ability to repay.

Hat Tip: MichaelW @ QandO

Is the White House “Going Galt” on Us?

randselfishIn a 2001 article entitled “The Virtue of Greed,” noted economist Walter Williams wrote: “YOU CAN CALL IT GREED, selfishness or enlightened self-interest, but the bottom line is that it’s these human motivations that get wonderful things done. Unfortunately, many people are naive enough to believe that it’s compassion, concern and ‘feeling another’s pain’ that’s the superior human motivation. As such, we fall easy prey to charlatans, quacks and hustlers.”

In what may become a new executive branch strategery to sell America on President Obama’s economic plan, White House National Economic Council Chair Lawrence Summers did what Glenn Reynolds and Ilya Somin are describing as channeling the fictional Oscar-winning Wall Street character Gordon Gekko (YouTube of speech below).  To be fair, Obama started it by calling on people to act in their own self-interest by making a few stock investments: “What you’re now seeing is, profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long term perspective on it.”

However, Obama’s motivation of selling his economic plan was revealed (emphasis added) in his very next sentence: “I think that consumer confidence — as they see the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act taking root, businesses are starting to see opportunities for investment and potential hiring, we are going to start creating jobs again.”

Here’s how Politico describes the Summers quote:

“In the past few years, we’ve seen too much greed and too little fear; too much spending and not enough saving; too much borrowing and not enough worrying,” Summers said Friday in a speech to the Brookings Institution. “Today, however, our problem is exactly the opposite.”

In remarks to a private dinner at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Summers was even blunter, according to an attendee: “Before, we had too much greed and too little fear. Now, we have too much fear and too little greed.”

“While greed is no virtue, entrepreneurship and the search for opportunity is what we need today,” Summers concluded. “We need a program that breaks these vicious cycles. We need to instill the trust that allows opportunity to overcome fear and enables families and businesses to again imagine a brighter future. And we need to create this confidence without allowing it to lead to unstable complacency.”

At times, Summers sounds like he could be quoting from Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness. In reality, he’s promoting a program which has already caused Rand to rise from her grave.

Ordinarily, making Rand required reading around the White House would be considered a good thing.  However, such reading could turn into what Wikipedia describes as:

The political manipulation of language, by obfuscation, e.g. WAR IS PEACE. Using language to obfuscate meaning or to reduce and eliminate ideas and their meanings that are deemed dangerous to its authority.

and

The encouragement of “doublethink,” whereby the population must learn to embrace inconsistent concepts without dissent, e.g. giving up liberty for freedom. Similar terms used, are “doublespeak“, and “newspeak

America is still falling prey to the “charlatans, quacks and hustlers” Williams described.  Instead of using altruistic devices, the bad guys now seem to be toying with the use of Orwellian tactics.


Related reading:

Michelle Malkin’s take on what she’s describing as Obama’s 180 on fiscal policy messaging.

DailyKos: “Atlas Didn’t Shrug – John Galt 2009 is Staying

QandO: “Hayek, Greenspan And The Designs Of Men

Capitalism Magazine on the left’s reaction to the “Going Galt” theme

Patches, Security, and Blog Contests

A few weeks ago, I wrote on my personal blog, about an author who had, essentially by accident, trained himself to become an intelligence analyst:

Trevor Paglen is an author, and Dr. of Geography, who developed a fascination for the “black” side of the military some years ago; and started snooping.

His first book on the subject “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me“, was basically a recounting of his experiences in trying to figure out what mission patches for classified projects meant.

…snipped a video…

His new book is “Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World.“; in which he extends and develops on the methods and means from the first book, into an expanded view of the black world, focused on geography (and specifically logistics, and how they are related).

…snipped another video…

If you haven’t watched them yet, go back to the original post and watch the videos; and be prepared to be amazed at just how much can be inferred about black projects, by simple things like unit patches, and public records.

Amazed, and/or horrified (or perhaps simply resigned and amused), if your job is (or used to be) to keep such things secure…

Which brings me to the fun part of this post.

Dr. Paglens publishers saw my original post, and have graciously sent me a review copy of the book; which I plan to read and review this weekend.

In addition, they’ve offered a signed copy of the book to one of my readers, to be decided by blog contest (smart publicists these ones).

So, here’s the rules and parameters of the contest:

  1. Submissions accepted as comments to the contest post on my blog, from now through Monday morning 12:01 AM

  2. At 12:01 I will pick what I think are the top five posts if we get ten or more, or top ten if we get 20 or more. I will them put them up for a vote to the readers of the anarchangel blog, (and copy the stories here, but it would be a little complicated to have two polls) open from the time I post the stories, until 5pm Monday evening (at which time I will also be posting a review of Dr. Paglens book).
  3. Entries will consist of one each of the following:

    a. Your best, funniest, most interesting, or scariest (from a security perspective) patch, flash, sign, symbol, or insignia story; preferably with a pic, but at least with a very clear description and detailed story.

    b. Your best, funniest, most interesting, stupidest, or scariest (from a security perspective) security story. It can be infosec, comsec, psec, prosec, opsec, doesn’t matter.

  4. Stories do not have to be military or governmental in nature; though I suspect most of the best and funniest will be (governments are even better at absurdity than big corporations), so make it good
  5. Multiple entries from a single individual will be accepted; and if the stories are good, are in fact encouraged.
  6. All entries must be true and correct to the best of your knowledge (notice the out I gave you there).
  7. First hand stories are preferred, and will be given more credit; but a sufficiently good second or third hand story will certainly be considered.
  8. All entries should be either declassified, or sanitized sufficiently to avoid compromise; or in the case of non-military security stories to avoid compromise or disclosure of private or confidential (or higher) information.

Also, although I’m generally not a linker or memer, I would ask that if you find this interesting, please link it up, and forward it around. I’d really love to see what we get.

If there are enough entries, or if people post some REALLY GREAT after the deadline, I might even throw in a consolation prize myself afterwards.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Tonight On 20/20: Bailouts & Bull

Tonight’s 20/20 is definitely worth watching, not just for libertarians but for anyone who wants to know what’s really going on:

Additionally, starting at 8:30pm ET, Reason.com will be live-streaming an event from it’s D.C. Headquarters tied into the special.

So, watch it live or set your DVR’s !

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