Author Archives: Eric

Read Recently on a Local Forum

I participate in a local forum for my city. We discuss local and national politics, sports, poker, TV shows, and much more. Sometimes the things I read are just amazing. Like this, for example, in a discussion of the recent redistricting ballot initiative in California.

…. the problem with the gerrymandered districts is there needs to be a consistent nationwide method. Why should Tom Delay get to gerrymander his state in favor of his party while California has fair districts? I believe the Republican + seat gain in the House in 2004 was exactly the same number of rigged seats in Texas.

I voted against redistricting in California until it’s fair in Texas and other redstates as well.

For those who don’t know, California so badly gerrymandered the political districts in the last go round that not one single state Legislature or Congressional seat has changed parties since. It was a deal worked out between the state Democratic leaders and the national Republican leaders that finally led the deal being brokered. The state Democrats wanted to ensure they would have enough seats in the Legislature to be able to push their agenda without significant worry about Republican opposition. The national Republicans wanted to ensure that they would not lose any Republican Congressional seats in 2002 and 2004. The deal was reached. The politicos chose their own voters. And the rest is history.

Not to mention completely ignoring the principles of Federalism, the person who wrote this misses the point that the Legislature of the state of California actively worked to frustrate the intent of the citizens of the state and guarantee their own personal power. The end result is that the state is run by a political machine that is completely isolated from the voters. And Karl Rove traded the state of California for a promise that he wouldn’t lose any Republican seats in the California Congressional delegation. This was as crucial to 2004 as the gerrymandering in Texas.

Ooooops.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

It Must Not Be Important

Interesting that this story is not at the top of the headlines in the country. Iraq is close to exploding into civil war, a scenario that many opposing the Bush Administration’s actions in Iraq predicted would come about. Yet, Google’s current “Top Stories” don’t include it, it’s not on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle or the Sacramento Bee. We have more than 100,000 American military in the country who are, potentially, about to be embroiled in an outcome that was predicted by many, yet it’s not leading the evening news. Nor is it the hottest topic for blogs, which currently appears to be reserved for a story that looks like a dud to me, the UAE port maintenance deal. Side note on that, the UAE company that won the contract will NOT be providing security, regardless of what you read on dozens of blogs out there.

So, what’s the deal?

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

The Legacy of the Cold War

If you haven’t read Raymond’s piece on ideological and memetic warfare, you really should. Although neither Raymond nor I are old enough to remember the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, we both remember the 70’s onwards and many of the points he makes can be seen in the changes from then to now in our culture, our society and our view of ourselves and the world. Much of what he discusses is a legacy of the Cold War that has resulted in profound changes in the way we think about ourselves and our culture. He points out to us the key memes of what he terms “suicidalism”, and others commonly refer to as post-modern leftism:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of
    racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such
    standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be
    impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

I can remember a time when people espousing such thoughts were considered to be on the ludicrous fringe of politics in this country. Now they dominate the left and right coasts. I know, I live in the middle of these people. On a local discussion board I belong to someone seriously said (here’s the link to the conversation):

Although I consider my self centrist leanning to the left currently because power is in the hand of right wingers and rligious extremest, I do like Lungren, to me he represents a middle of the road candidate who works for the voters for the most part

This has got to be one of the sillier things I have read recently. If Bush and co are religious extremists, I can not even begin to imagine what Islamic terrorists are considered. Oppressed victims reacting with justified anger, probably. Right wingers is, I presume, part of the Bush and the Republican Party = proto-fascists meme, which would be funny if it wasn’t such a sad distortion of what authoritarianism, fascism and a police state actually are. Centrism is your standard code, these days, for folks who actually don’t, at least to outside appearances, adhere to any set of principles, but instead believe that compromise is the best way forward. They completely ignore the fact that compromise with those who wish to strip our liberties and rights from us is just feeding the monster. Lungren, who is my Congress Critter, does “work for the voters”. He brings home tons of pork spending to the district. The point is, of course, that the memes are so alive and well that we have supposed moderates pretty well spouting their end results unconsciously.

One of the better bits of the piece focuses on an issue I’ve commented on myself. The people working so hard to make sure that the West is unable to be effective in this war completely fail to understand that they are the enemies that Osama bin Laden most wants to destroy. He, and the rest of his ilk, abhor the multi-culturalism that the left cherishes. Homosexuality, secular humanism, Hollywood, intellectualism and so forth are on their list of things that must be destroyed. Or, as Raymond puts it:

Another consequence of Stalin’s meme war is that today’s left-wing antiwar demonstrators wear kaffiyehs without any sense of how grotesque it is for ostensible Marxists to cuddle up to religious absolutists who want to restore the power relations of the 7th century CE. In Stalin’s hands, even Marxism itself was hollowed out to serve as a memetic weapon — it became increasingly nihilist, hatred-focused and destructive. The postmodern left is now defined not by what it’s for but by by what it’s against: classical-liberal individualism, free markets, dead white males, America, and the idea of objective reality itself.

Raymond, further on, points out the danger that this poses. The real danger of the rise of authoritarianism. Ultimately, Islamic extremists such as bin Laden, cannot defeat the US. But, they can, in conjunction with the nihilism of the post-modern Left, defeat classic liberalism and individualism and leave us with no place to go but authoritarianism and a response to their savagery that will make our waging of WWII seem like a pillow fight. For all that the left now abhors how we fought that war, the truth is we didn’t go all the way, didn’t descend into full on barbarism in our urge to destroy our enemies. But, it could happen this time.

Brittingham and other have worried that postmodern leftism may yet win. If so, the victory would be short-lived. One of the clearest lessons of recent times (exemplified not just by kaffiyeh-wearing western leftists but by Hamas’s recent clobbering of al-Fatah in the first Palestinian elections) is that po-mo leftism is weaker than liberal individualism in one important respect; it has only the weakest defenses against absolutist fervor. Brittingham tellingly notes po-mo philosopher Richard Rorty’s realization that when the babble of conflicting tribal narratives collapses in exhaustion, the only thing left is the will to power.

There’s so much more there I can’t begin to touch it all in this commentary. Go read it. Then read it again. It’s a long, thought provoking essay that deals with much of the core issue that the West faces today.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

The Harvard Fiasco

As Stanley Kurtz, at NRO, points out:

So Summers behaved badly. But that just shows how serious the problem of our politically correct campuses is. Students face a daily choice between speaking their mind and harming their own career prospects by alienating the professors who control their grades and recommendations.

The Harvard faculty continues it’s tyranny of the majority. Summers was one of the folks actively working to reverse the politically correct and authoritarian culture of our university campuses. It appears, at least in the short term, that the culture tyrants have won. Intellectual honesty and open discussion of issues will not be tolerated at Harvard. The lesson will not be lost on the students.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Quote for Today

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

— Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801)

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Monopolies, Markets and Microsoft

Okay, we’ve had an ongoing discussion here at the Liberty Papers about monopolies, markets and Microsoft. The position presented on one side, a position taken by many libertarians and libertarian-conservatives, is that monopolies that are not directly created by government fiat are okay and we shouldn’t see them as bad. They are, in this line of thinking, natural and arise out of very good business practices and market forces. I’m going to argue that this is not the case and that all monopolies, of whatever origin, should be viewed with suspicion and distrust by those who describe themselves as libertarians, classic liberals, anarcho-capitalists, etc. There are, essentially, five types of monopolies.

  1. The government created, or legal monopoly. AT&T was a legal monopoly, as are the police and fire departments in most cities. When the government directly intervenes and legally creates a market where only one competitor is allowed, that is a legal monopoly.
  2. Natural monopolies are ones that arise because economies of scale, economic efficiencies and capital costs for competitors are such that one one competitor is able to satisfy the demands of the market. In a perfect free market this is impossible.
  3. Monopolistic competition occurs when a single competitor in the market is powerful enough to act as a de facto monopoly. For example, at its height, Standard Oil controlled 64% of the oil market although there were more than 100 competitors in the market. Microsoft, today, is a monopolistic competition with control of 90% of the PC operating system market and more than 90% of the desktop office suite market. Companies in this position are able to take actions to maintain their position that a non-monopolistic competitor could not.
  4. Coercive monopolies occur when competitors use activities that violate the principles of free market. Coercion is aimed at hiding information from the market or influencing consumers and competitors in order to maintain a dominant position in the market. It is often difficult to distinguish between good business practices and coercive practices.
  5. Local monopolies exist when only one resource for a specific product exists in a given area, but not within the market as a whole. For example (and I’ll discuss it further down), Starbucks is a local monopoly at the Sacramento International Airport.

» Read more

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Government Created Monopolies

Another point, in keeping with our ongoing discussion of economics and monopolies, that I have made is that government intrusion into, and distortion of, the market creates monopolies. I have argued that folks of a libertarian or classic liberal mindset should not accept these “private monopolies” as okay becuase they are not directly created by government fiat. In fact, anarcho-capitalist thinking would dictate that a monopoly, regardless of origin, is anti-liberty. A monopoly becomes, in effect, a quasi-government through their ability to dictate standards, prices, regulations and much more. they can do this because they control resource scarcity, rather than the market controlling. The beauty of a market is that no one is in control. Invisible market forces control resource scarcity, supply chains, prices, etc. This provides the individual with the maximum choice and the minimum intrusion on their liberty. The reason we oppose socialism is that it reverses the entire scenario. Small groups of people are in charge of the controlled market and individual choice and liberty is removed.

Since a business monopoly introduces exactly the same problems, I’m always challenged by the idea that libertarians and classic liberals would think a monopoly is okay when it is, in effect, a socialism. It is a scenario where a small elite is making decisions for the broader market, rather than the market dictating.

Alright, enough of that philosophy. » Read more

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Scarcity

I’m reading The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford, as I mentioned over at Eric’s Grumbles yesterday. The interesting thing, and Harford makes a compelling case for it, is that scarcity is the driving factor in all markets. If the cost of a product is high, yet it seems like the cost to produce it is low, look for the scarcity in the market, whether natural or artificial. The more scarcity, the higher the price that the consumer will pay, regardless of the production cost.

For example, suppose there were some sort of boundary around a city that would prevent the city from growing. As the number of people seeking to rent/own property in the city increased, the scarcity of the land would also, because the city couldn’t acquire more land. The landlord may have bought the land for $1,000 and be able to sell it for $10,000, for example, because there are more people who want the land than there are pieces of land to sell. In the real world, London has a so-called Green Belt around the entire city that acts as a boundary to the city’s growth. It also has the highest commercial and residential rents in the world, higher than Tokyo, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Manhattan, even though all four of those cities have natural barriers causing scarcity.

Scarcity of a resource, whether that resource is buyers or sellers, drives the cost. But so does the marginal value. That is, if it costs more to acquire the resource than it would cost to create it yourself, then buying the resource is not worthwhile. The example used in the book is farmland. If there is a lot of undeveloped land and only a few farmers, the rent will be low. The resource is not scarce and the marginal value is very low. If there is a lot of farmers and no undeveloped land, the rent will be high. The resource scarcity is now reversed and the marginal value is high.

Why bring all of this up? Well, in the debate over whether Microsoft is a monopoly and whether that is good or bad, I mentioned scarcity and was asked what that had to do with anything since we clearly don’t have a scarcity of operating systems. Since there are a multitude of operating systems and, comparatively, not that many buyers, the buyers should be able to drive the price down. They are scarce, not the resource. However, Microsoft and the OEM’s (Dell, Compaq, etc.) created artificial scarcity, so that there were fewer operating system choices for the same number of customers. At this point I’m not arguing whether this is good or bad. Just pointing out why the operating system market is artificial.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Complaint Department

“It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.”
— Edmund Burke (1729-1797) British statesman, parliamentary orator, and political thinker

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Thoughts?

“The bigger the information media, the less courage and information they allow. Bigness means weakness.”
— Eric Sevareid (1912-1992) American newsman, journalist, author

This is right in line with the libertarian line of thought on small, competitive entities being better, all around, than larger, non-competitive ones. Your thoughts?

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Follow Up on Tax Migrations

Rogel, at It Looks Obvious (newly added to the blogroll as well), followed up on my previous article about tax reform in Rhode Island. He did some research on migration related to taxes at the state level and that resulted in this article on his blog. The interesting part is, of course, this:

From 2000 through 2004, a net 1.3 million people moved out of states with taxes on ordinary income and into those without such taxes, says Richard Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University.

The migration includes folks leaving California, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Massachussets. It’s important to note that Vedder was only looking at the trend from states with taxes on income to those without income tax. Based on the changes occurring in New England’s tax structures, I would guess the data would be even more interesting if you looked at states with progressive income tax structures, in general, and where their citizens are going. Would you find that Massachussets had a net loss to New Hampshire until they enacted a flat tax structure? That’s what the Mass Legislature found.

The real question is what impact this new “tax revolt” will have on Federal tax structures.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Quote to Ponder

“If newsmen do not tell the truth as they see it because it might make waves, or if their bosses decide something should or should not be broadcast because of Washington or Main Street consequences, we have dishonored ourselves and we have lost the First Amendment by default.”
— Richard Salant (1914-1993) former President of CBS News

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Interesting Perspective

Wulf, of Atlas Blogged, points out something interesting in The Cartoons are Symptom of a Problem, not the Cause. It is an interesting perspective, and one that should be developed further.

Jyllands-Posten’s publication of the cartoons [ed: the cartoons of Mohammed] is repeatedly called offensive. It should instead be seen as defensive. It would be appropriate to debate whether such defensiveness was warranted, but it must first be recognized as a defensive posture. Do so.

This is quite right, actually. There has been a campaign waged by Muslims in Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America to alter laws and cultural norms in order to remake Western culture to more closely resemble the culture these Muslims desire. Murder, terrorism and threats of murder and terrorism have been used to try and bring this about. Governments have been coerced into creating laws that protect religions from so-called hate speech (Great Britain, most notoriously). Editors of papers have been fired or sent on “sabbatical”. Plots of movies have been changed in response to pressure. News papers have refused to publish out of fear of reprisal.

These cartoons are not offensive, in the sense that they offend someone. The reality is, if these cartoons are offensive to you, then don’t read the paper that they are in, or browse the website displaying them. No, these cartoons are part of defending liberalism against totalitarians who use religion to motivate the masses.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

I Fell Over In Shock

After reading this article. What was so shocking? After all, there are quite a few states with flat income tax structures, and even quite a few states with no income tax. Well, two reasons really. First, Rhode Island has been, for quite a while, very anti economic liberty. And, this proposal was put forth by New England Democrats who, along with their California brethren, are about as far towards socialist as you can get in this country. They believe, heart and soul, that the government is here to provide “social justice” with “progressive” taxation and income redistribution schemes.

From the article:

House Democrats turned out en masse Thursday to support a massive tax reform package that will affect taxpayers from the top to the bottom of the economic scale.

The “Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006″ would give the richest Rhode Islanders the option of paying their taxes under the current system, which assesses 9.9 percent of their federal taxable income, or 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income with no adjustments, deductions or tax credits. Over the course of five years, that 7.5 percent would be gradually reduced to 5.5 percent to bring it closer to the 5.3 percent currently paid by wealthy taxpayers in neighboring Massachusetts and the 5 percent tax in Connecticut.

Mmmmmm, I’m starting to get an idea of what’s going on here. How about you?

Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty applauded the initiative, calling it “an excellent starting point on how we can make Rhode Island more competitive.

“When examining tax reform proposals,” Fogarty said, “we must consider two essential points: the need for a competitive tax system that is fair to all Rhode Islanders and maintaining the investment in important programs that protect our future and the health and well being of Rhode Islanders. While there are several areas where the state’s tax system can be reformed, the top priority must be property taxes, which continue to be well above the national average in Rhode Island and are severely overburdening homeowners and small businesses.”

In case you don’t know it, New Hampshire (a strongly libertarian state) has no income tax and Massachussets enacted a flat income tax two years ago (Teddy must have apoplexy). The problem Rhode Island faces is that they are not competitive with their neighboring states. So, small businesses and affluent residents are fleeing to Mass and NH. The whole concept of competitive government actually does work, you know. It’s tougher on the West coast with large states. But even here it works. One of the Liberty Papers contributors, Brad Warbiany, fled California because of its unstable budget, repressive tax structure and high cost of living. And he isn’t the only one, by a long shot. California is growing, but it’s not the middle class that’s growing. And RI has the same problem. So, they are going to try and fix it, because the loss to their neighboring states is clear and obvious. They are even proposing to enact sales tax holidays. My guess is that they lose significant business to Mass on their sales tax holidays.

It turns out that big government liberal ideology can, occasionally, be changed by reality smacking you in the face.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Democracy and Islam Go Together?

Excerpts from a Forbes update on the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons brouhaha. Or, as Reason’s Hit and Run has called it, the “Intoonfada”. So, I pulled out a few excerpts, and my reactions, just for you. :-)

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric called on the world’s Muslims to reject apologies for the “slanderous” caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and demanded the authors and publishers of the cartoons be tried and punished, Saudi newspapers reported Saturday.

Hmmm, when’s the last time you heard the Pope demand that the author of a cartoon that was against the teachings of the Catholic Church be tried and punished? Yeah, the Pope would love to have censorship that prevented anyone from saying anything he doesn’t like, but he is not living in an autocracy were something gets said only if the government approves. If you think the government doesn’t want this published, because you are used to the West, you need to re-evaluate how things work in Saudi Arabia. If these folks actually supported liberal, western ideas, then the cleric would have never called for such a trial. If they were at least moderate then they would also call for trials and punishment for the Iranian “holocaust contest”.

Arab governments, Muslim clerics and newspaper columnists have been urging calm in past days, fearing that recent weeks of violence have only increased anti-Islamic sentiment in the West.

No, the real truth is that the recent weeks of violence, first in France, and now over these cartoons, has opened people’s eyes to the reality of Middle Eastern and Islamic culture. They are seeing, often for the first time, a culture of oppression and intolerance. This is a culture that not only forbids gays to marry, but makes homosexuality a crime. A culture that stones women to death for infidelity, that allows men to rape their wives with no legal recourse. A culture that represses free speech, that openly calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and the genocide of the Jewish people. The so-called moderates want the same things, they just refrain from violence. They don’t condemn the violence, making them enablers of violence and extremism.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the controversy over the cartoons has created unprecedented tension between the Islamic and Christian world.

The tension always existed, and always will, until one culture or the other triumphs. Why? Because the cultures are diametrically opposed, with completely different values. Western culture could tolerate the existence of Islamic culture, but Islam can never permantly tolerate the existence of a culture that holds values they cannot accept. People like al-Seedes, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Assad and the others understand that a free and open culture challenges their power in ways they can’t overcome. Which is why they have censorship and police states. Ultimately, when people are given a choice, they choose capitalism and liberalism.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reiterated that many Muslims consider the cartoons an insult to their faith, but he called on Muslims to forgive those who have sincerely apologized.

“Reprinting the cartoons in order to make a point about free speech is an act of senseless brinkmanship,” he said in a commentary in the International Herald Tribune.

First, no one should apologize for these cartoons. Second, it’s only brinksmanship for the people enabling or inciting the violence, rather than calming it, which is just about every Islamic leader out there. Most Western governments have cravenly offered to surrender freedom of speech rather than confront religious totalitarianism.

“It is also a disservice to democracy. It sends a conflicting message to the Muslim community: that in a democracy it is permissible to offend Islam. This message damages efforts to prove that democracy and Islam go together.”

That is the message. In a liberal society the sacred cows get exposed, the emperor is told he has no clothes. This, of course, is extremely frightening to men who rule by protecting the sacred cows and pretending the emperor has beautiful, new clothes. They can never accept such a situation, because it will mean their loss of power.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

PC Manifesto

Be sure to swing by the PC Manifesto v3.0.

Q: WHAT IS P.C.?

PC stands for Politically Correct. We of the Politically Correct philosophy believe in increasing a tolerance for a DIVERSITY of cultures, race, gender, ideology and alternate lifestyles. Politically Correctness is the only social and morally acceptable outlook. Anyone who disagrees with this philosophy is bigoted, biased, sexist, and/or closed-minded.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball
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