Category Archives: Look About

Quote of the Day: #Ferguson Edition

Here’s a great observation for Lucy Steigerwald writing from Rare:

Whether the shooting of Brown by Wilson was justified or not, it’s important to remember that there were good reasons people distrusted the Ferguson police’s narrative of events.

Police did everything wrong after Brown was killed. They left his body in the street, they refused to answer questions or identify the officer. They used military tech to answer the protests that resulted. They repeatedly teargassed crowds, arresting peaceful protesters and members of the media.

Officer Darren Wilson shouldn’t be punished for the impression that people — especially minorities — have of the police. If he doesn’t deserve prosecution, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. Whether he deserves harsh, little, or no punishment is still up for debate.

Read the whole thing. The entire article is worth quoting but I thought I would just wet your beak.

Link: Popehat’s Gamergate Post That’s Not About Gamergate

Today Clark @ Popehat has an excellent post about Gamergate.

Only, it’s not really about Gamergate. Gamergate is a symptom. Clark’s post is about the cause. A cause which is much deeper, rooted in the very things that make us human.

It’s not often that you can find someone who ties off evolutionary biology, political history, technology, and a healthy dose of Saul Alinsky (quoted properly, not as red meat for conservatives), but Clark pulled it off.

Highly recommended reading. And while you’re at it, click to Christopher Bowen’s post right here while you’re at it. He’s got more detail on Gamergate in particular than Clark goes into, and also hits the main key elements of the culture war that’s been uncovered.

Reason’s Mike Riggs Interviews Radley Balko on Police Militarization

It’s been nearly a month since Radley Balko’s latest book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces was released. Now Balko is making the rounds with the various media outlets about this subject which normally receives very little attention by the media. As one would expect, Balko has more than his share of critics particularly from the cops-can-do-no-wrong crowd but there has also been a quite positive response by at least some members of law enforcement (particularly former cops who began their careers prior to the SWAT era).

In the video below, Reason’s Mike Riggs interviews the author.

(Note: Link above is taken from Reason‘s site, so if you click through and buy it from Amazon via that link, a portion of the proceeds go to Reason Magazine.)

The Constitutional History Lessons You Didn’t Learn in School

More often than not, history is written by the winners and taught by individuals who love big government. Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom has been providing a refreshing non-P.C. presentation of history that is rarely brought up. Very little of what we call history either is “settled” without controversy or without lingering questions.

• What is the true philosophical inspiration for the Declaration of Independence?
• What is the meaning of “natural law” and “natural rights”?
• Was the American Revolution just about “no taxation without representation”?
• Was the Articles of Confederation really inadequate for the needs of the several states?
• Was the Constitution itself legally drafted and adopted in replacing the Articles of Confederation?
• How controversial was the Constitution previous to its ratification?
• Was it originally the intention that the union would be perpetual? (i.e. Was it the common understanding during the ratification debates that states could leave the union or not?)
• What did the founders think about states nullifying federal law?
• Was the American Civil War (or “War Between the States”) really about slavery?
• Might slavery have ended without war?
• Was the Supreme Court intended to be the final arbiter of both state and federal law?

These questions and more are explored in Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom. The video below “German and British Antecedents [to the U.S. Constitution]” is the first of 15 videos available for free from Liberty Classroom (watch the rest here,). Each lecture runs for about 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Quote of the Day: Pye r Squared Edition

Former Liberty Papers contributor and Editor-in-Chief of United Liberty Jason Pye has been making the rounds lately speaking at FreedomWorks’ Spring Break College Summit in Washington D.C. and interviewing leaders in the liberty movement such as Cato’s David Boaz, Sen. Mike Lee, and Igor Birman.

Here’s just an excerpt from his recent speech entitled: “Standing on the Sidelines is Not an Option for the Freedom Movement”

Recently, I had dinner with a friend and we were talking about some of the issues in the freedom movement, including the resistance to those who are interested in our message. He explained that he found it odd that those who are the most likely to quote Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek are the same people who face so much animosity from some people in our movement. I completely agreed with his assessment.

In his book, Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman explained why economic liberty serves as the basis for a free society. From where I stand, it makes no sense for any of us to be fighting amongst ourselves when the very basis of liberty is under attack. We should have discussions along the way about ancillary issues, but we have to understand that person who disagrees with us on 10% or 20% of issues is not our enemy.

Very well said, Jason.

Quote of the Day: Modern Day Witch Hunts Edition

If you haven’t been over to The Agitator recently to read what Radley Balko’s guest bloggers have been writing in his absence over the last several weeks, you are missing some grade A quality posts. This post from William Anderson “Costs and Benefits of Modern ‘Sex Crime’ Witch Hunts” is the creme de la creme.

In this post, Anderson details how easily innocent people can be charged, tried, and convicted of sex crimes due to federal laws such as the Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act of 1974 (A.K.A. the Mondale Act) and rape shield laws which disadvantage the accused by lowering the normal criminal standard of proof guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a preponderance of evidence. Not only does the accused have to try to prove a negative (ex: that s/he did not sexually assault the accuser) but also pay out of pocket for legal defense that can cost in the millions of dollars to do so (meanwhile, the state can easily bear the costs of prosecuting the case with taxpayer money).

People who are accused [of sex crimes] either must depend upon a public defender or must pay for legal representation from their own resources, and it does not take long for the money spigot to run dry. Tonya Craft literally had close to a million dollars to spend on her defense, and she still ran out of funds before the case even came to trial. In the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case, each of the three defendants had to spend more than $1 million apiece just to try to debunk what were transparently-false charges.

[…]

The costs can be substantial. I know one attorney who specializes in such cases who requires a down payment up front of $100,000. Since few people keep $100K in spare change, getting the funds is very, very difficult. Then there a experts in forensics, interviewing, and the like who also do not testify for free. One of the reasons that so many people plead to something in such cases is that they do not have the personal resources to fight the charges.

Surely, this could not have been the criminal justice system the founders of this country envisioned!

The Talkmaster to Retire After 42 Years on the Air

On my first day of my staycation (yesterday), I saw the tweet that Neal Boortz has announced his retirement. Just moments ago, I finally got around to reading the full announcement. I am happy to report that his “year of talking dangerously” will not come to an abrupt end as I first thought. Below is the “short version” of his announcement (read the rest here).

I will be ending my daily talk radio show on Monday, January 21, 2013. It’s finally the right time to put away the headphones. Not immediately though. My last day on the air will be inauguration day, January 21, 2013. After that I’ll be around with daily commentaries, fill-in duties and some special projects. Am I going to miss my listeners and callers? Absolutely! But the time has come

Although I have evolved closer to a more hard-core libertarian position than Boortz in recent years (particularly concerning foreign policy, particularly war and interventionism), I have nothing but respect for him and appreciate his perspective. I will miss the sermons from “the Church of the Painful Truth” but I cannot fault him for stepping away from the microphone and enjoying the fruits of his labor.

Thank you for all the great memories, Neal Boortz. I’m looking forward to listening to the final 8 months of your broadcast career and never stop talking dangerously!

More Boortz Related Liberty Papers Posts:
Threat of Teachers Unions by Brad Warbiany (February 26, 2006 – one of Boortz’s major targets over the years: teachers’ unions and government schools.This post became one of Boortz’s “reading assignments” and was a banner day for The Liberty Papers traffic wise)

Somebody’s Gotta Say It (Book Review) by Stephen Littau (March 28, 2007)

RE: Boortz review by Jason Pye (March 29, 2007 – Boortz saw my book review of his book and reposted it on Nealz Nuze; a high point for me personally to be sure)

Virginia Legislators Target Neal Boortz by Doug Mataconis (May 2, 2007)

An Open Letter to Neal Boortz by Jason Pye (December 18, 2007 – Jason expresses his disappointment with Boortz for his supporting of Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential campaign)

No Apologies for “Heated Political Rhetoric” Here by Stephen Littau (January 10, 2011 – In the aftermath of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, especially the nasty commentary by those on the Left, Boortz said exactly what needed to be said. I had a few things to say about the aftermath also)

R.I.P. Royal Marshall by Stephen Littau (January 17, 2011 – a very sad chapter for the Boortz family with the passing of Royal Marshall; one of Boortz’s trusted assistants and best friends. The show hasn’t quite been the same since)

Quote of the Day: Americans Cheer the Assassination of the Fifth Amendment Edition by Stephen Littau (September 30, 2011- Here I criticized Neal Boortz and Larry Elder for supporting the attack on Anwar Al-Awlaki)

Shenanigans Afoot at Wikipedia Concerning Obama’s New Campaign Slogan: Forward by Stephen Littau (May 2, 2012)

Post Iowa Caucus Links/Open Thread

Newt Gingrich calls Mitt Romney “a liar” but says he would support him over Barack Obama if he wins the nomination.

Talk radio host and raving lunatic extraordinaire Mark Levin threatens to campaign against Rand Paul if his father chooses to make a third party run. What a petulant asshole.

Sarah Palin warns: “G.O.P. had better not marginalize Ron Paul or his supporters.”

Over at Reason, Matt Welch gives 7 reasons why Ron Paul supporters should feel optimistic about his third-place finish in Iowa

CNN news feed “drops” as Afghanistan war vet urges support for Ron Paul; some Paul supporters claim shenanigans. To CNN’s credit, they do later carry a feed where Paul has the same soldier speak from the podium.

Rick Santorum came in a close second to Mitt Romney but James Hohmann at Politico says there will be a reality check coming concerning his viability. I certainly hope he is right.

Michele Bachmann drops out of the race after a very disappointing (but expected by most) finish. Buh-bye.

Rick Perry decides to continue on to South Carolina. He shouldn’t be a problem for too much longer.

There are a whole lot of other items in the news. Please share your links or comment about whatever.

Reducing OWS Economic Equality Demands to Their Absurd Conclusions

While I’m sympathetic and agree with some of Occupy Wall Street’s grievances, too many of their solutions are fatally flawed. Louis DeBroux over at United Liberty has written some grade A quality snark concerning OWS’s demands for economic equality. DeBroux says he had an epiphany while watching some of the ESPN coverage concerning the NBA lockout: what if the NBA adopted the OWS model?

The most obvious reform he mentioned would be to pay all the players equally regardless of talent and contribution to his team. But why stop with pay? Why not change the rules of the game itself in the name of fairness:

This new equality should not be limited to just to salaries though; it should extend to the basketball court. While winning is fun, losing just stinks. It makes the losers feel like, well, losers. Sometimes players even cry when they lose. It hurts their self esteem and makes them feel inferior to the winners. To solve this horrible injustice, I propose that at halftime of each game, the total points scored by that time be redistributed equally among the players of both teams. Then, with one second left on the clock, just before the game ends, the head referee will call time out and the official scorekeeper will once again redistribute the points evenly among the players of both teams.

Think how great this would be! Everyone that plays will be the high scorer. Never again will an NBA player experience the sadness of losing! Every team will be the L.A. Lakers or Boston Celtics, and no team will have to feel like the Washington Wizards or Toronto Raptors. Every team will go 82-0, and every player will be an MVP! It’s perfect! Just like PC-kiddie-soccer leagues, everyone is a winner and everyone gets a trophy. Isn’t this awesome?

Obviously, this would be the death of sports if such changes were implemented. As awful as that would be, DeBroux points out life and death consequences if the notion of competition was taken out of our culture completely:

There might be the occasional sacrifice that hits closer to home when little Sally, who always wanted to be a surgeon but could never quite remember the names and anatomical characteristics of the various human organs, accidentally mistakes the aorta for the appendix and snips that sucker right out of there. Oops! That’s gonna make a mess! Alas, poor mom, we loved you and will miss you, but the loss of your life was the acceptable price for keeping Sally’s self-esteem intact by letting her become the surgeon she always wanted to be, even if she never quite mastered the minutiae of performing surgery.

We would be all worse off to be sure, but hey, at least we would all be equal!

Are You or Someone You Know a Victim of the Drone Mentality?

Are you or someone you know a victim of what Glenn Greenwald calls “the drone mentality”?

[Emphasis original]

I was predictably deluged with responses justifying Obama’s drone attacks on the ground that they are necessary to kill The Terrorists. Reading the responses, I could clearly discern the mentality driving them: I have never heard of 99% of the people my government kills with drones, nor have I ever seen any evidence about them, but I am sure they are Terrorists. That is the drone mentality in both senses of the word; it’s that combination of pure ignorance and blind faith in government authorities that you will inevitably hear from anyone defending President Obama’s militarism.

If you are or have been a victim of this mentality don’t feel bad. I was once a victim of this mentality myself. I once believed that the government was completely incompetent domestically but somehow very efficient in its execution of the so-called war on terror.

The article continues [Emphasis original]

As it turns out, it isn’t only the President’s drone-cheering supporters who have no idea who is being killed by the program they support; neither does the CIA itself. […] Obama’s broad standards for when drone strikes are permitted, and noted that the “bulk” of the drone attacks — the bulk of them – “target groups of men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” As Spencer Ackerman put it: “The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups”; moreover, the administration refuses to describe what it even means by being “associated” with a Terrorist group (indeed, it steadfastly refuses to tell citizens anything about the legal principles governing its covert drone wars).

Kill ‘em all, let [insert deity here] sort ‘em out…is this the policy for combating terrorism now? Is anyone else reading this disturbed by this?

[T]he internal dissent [inside the U.S. government] is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region (there’s that primitive, inscrutable Muslim culture rearing its head again: they strangely seem to get very angry when foreign governments send sky robots over their countries and blow up their neighbors, teenagers and children)[…] Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life.

Nah, that can’t be it. They hate us because of our freedom. Just ask John Bolton, Rick Santorum, and the rest of the Neocons who are chomping at the bit to start a war with Iran.

How is it that this drone mentality persists and what is the cure?

This is why it’s so imperative to do everything possible to shine a light on the victims of President Obama’s aggression in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere: ignoring the victims, rendering them invisible, is a crucial prerequisite to sustaining propaganda and maintaining support for this militarism (that’s the same reason John Brennan lied — yet again — by assuring Americans that there are no innocent victims of drone attacks). Many people want to hear nothing about these victims — like Tariq — because they don’t want to accept that the leader for whom they cheer and the drone attacks they support are regularly ending the lives of large numbers of innocent people, including children. They believe the fairy tale that the U.S. is only killing Terrorists and “militants” because they want to believe it…

For far too long, I believed this fairy tale myself. I couldn’t handle the truth but I eventually saw the error of my thinking. Government is just as blunt an instrument on foreign battlefields as it is in virtually every domestic aspect of our lives but even more destructive and deadly.

How about you, can you handle the truth?

The truth (according to sources cited in the article) that between 2,359 and 2,959 people (nearly 200 of whom were children) have been killed in 306 documented drone strikes, 85% of which were launched during the administration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama?

If you are willing to confront the drone mentality head on, I would strongly encourage you to read the rest of Greenwald’s article.

Quote of the Day: Libertarianism Edition

“Liberty. It’s a simple idea, but it’s also the linchpin of a complex system of values and practices: justice, prosperity, responsibility, toleration, cooperation, and peace. Many people believe that liberty is the core political value of modern civilization itself, the one that gives substance and form to all the other values of social life. They’re called libertarians.”

-From Cato Institute’s new website libertarianism.org

I haven’t had much time to check it out yet but I can tell there is some very, very, good stuff there. Essays, video, and audio from great thinkers such as Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, Murray Rothbard (just to name a few) as well as contemporary libertarian thinkers provide something for those who are curious about libertarian ideas and long time libertarians alike.

Kevin Drum’s Guest Bloggers Upholding The [ahem] Fine Standards He Has Created There

Kevin Drum is on vacation this week. While I thought that might leave me without boneheaded material to criticize, I’m afraid he’s found guest bloggers as credible and clueless as himself. Today we have Andy Kroll, who wants to delve into meta-debates about rights and entitlements with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

But the statement that really jumped out from Walker’s interview is his own perception of the bargaining fight:

“They defined it as a rights issue. It’s not a rights issue. It’s an expensive entitlement.”

What’s his first step to show how wrong Walker is? Well, he skips right to the United Nations, a body whose Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that you can use your rights as long as you don’t do so in a way “contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations” (Art. 29, Sec 3). He starts there and follows on with a lot of other legally-created privileges that he calls rights:

Hmm. I’m pretty sure the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the UN after World War II (and drafted and adopted by the US), says that collective bargaining is in fact a human right. Oh, yes, there it is, in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration:

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Then there’s the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) here in the US, which “explicitly grants employees the right to collectively bargain and join trade unions,” according to the scholars at Cornell University Law School. Or as the National Labor Relations Board’s website puts it, the NLRA “protects employees’ rights to act together, with or without a union, to improve working terms and conditions, including wages and benefits.”

All of this analysis has one critical flaw: it doesn’t properly recognize that there are multiple kinds of rights, and that a right which the government shall not deny is, well, slightly different than one that it grants. I left the below in a comment to that Kroll’s post at the original site:

Are you even familiar with the distinction between “negative rights” and “positive rights”?

Negative rights are rights that you have unless someone else infringes upon them. You have a right to life, but not to force others to produce the food and shelter you need to live. You have the right to freedom of speech, but not the right to force anyone to listen (or, in the case of blogging, to force a blog to print your comments to a post). A right to healthcare or education — if you define it as me not being stopped by government or highway robbers from freely purchasing health or education services on an open market from a willing seller — is a negative right.

Positive rights are rights that require someone else to procure them to you. A right to healthcare — if you assume that those who can’t afford care should be covered by “society” — is a positive right. A right to an education — if you assume it should be paid for by government taxes — is a positive right. A right to food — if you define it as foodstamps for the indigent — is a positive right. *ALL* positive rights can be described as “entitlements”, as they’re what we as a society might define all people are entitled to be provided to them if they cannot do it themselves.

A “right” to organizing a union is a positive right (inasmuch as it restricts and employer’s ability to fire people for trying to exercise it). If we so choose, in our democratic society, that people should be allowed to unionize to counterbalance what may be perceived as in unfair labor advantage to the employer, we can call it a “right” all we want, but it’s a positive right, not a negative right. As such, calling it an “expensive entitlement” doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary. I don’t see any real disconnect in what Walker said.

Now, I was a bit unclear in that final paragraph. What I intended to say was this: The right to form a union is a negative right. It is inherent in the right to freedom of association. The right to collective bargaining is a negative right. It is inherent in the right to freedom of speech. As you point out (and as I intended to), it becomes a positive right when we write laws or regulations forcing businesses to the other side of the table. Forcing an employer to actually deal with them on those collective terms is the “entitlement” of that positive right.

Andy Kroll waded into deep water here, and it’s clear he didn’t want to recognize that. It’s also potentially true that Gov. Walker did the same — the original linked article doesn’t make clear whether Walker’s statement about entitlement had deeper context. Kroll is trying to use one line from an already snipped interview to make Gov. Walker sound like a simpleton who doesn’t understand the nature of rights. In doing so, Kroll only proves that to be the case about himself.

Cognitive Dissonance

Sometimes you hear a guy like Kevin Drum say this:

But of course, that’s the real slippery slope. If the state is allowed to prohibit me from killing myself, what else is the state allowed to do? Can it force me to accept medical treatment that will save my life? Can it force me to accept medical treatment that might save my life? If not, why?

I’m a liberal, but I’d just as soon keep the state out of decisions like that. I’d especially like to keep the state out if there’s no compelling secular reason for them to get involved. In this case, there sure doesn’t appear to be.

And yet you wonder how he can be so tone-deaf to any similar argument coming from the mouth of a libertarian. Or, in even sharper relief, the argument that comparative effectiveness review panels might not follow a slippery slope towards “death panels”, where the folks with the pursestrings (gov’t) decides some people just aren’t worth throwing the money in to keep alive any more.

My question for Drum is simple: with all the personal decisions that he thinks government SHOULD be involved in, why is this one suddenly verboten?

Reading List: Slackernomics and BMOC

For the bargain conscious out there, a couple books recently became available for the Kindle at dramatically reduced prices, and I wanted to pass them along. As an aside, if nothing else this is a great sales pitch for the Kindle — at $139 for the wi-fi only version [which is all you *really* need], the value of free and reduced-price books you can buy may quite quickly amortize the cost of the hardware. The lack of a physical book to print, stock, and ship makes it significantly easier to experiment with lower-cost pricing models, and Dale & Warren’s books below emphasize this.

So I recommend checking out both of the below. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably the type of person who would enjoy both books. Yet even if you don’t, they’re cheap enough to be worth the risk.

Slackernomics – Dale Franks [of QandO]
$2.99

This is a book I’ve been intending to read for a few years, but the >$20 price point for the printed version just made it something that was constantly on my Amazon wish list but never something I’d pulled the trigger to purchase. At $2.99 and without shipping costs, though, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve read Dale and the guys from QandO for years. Dale’s always been clear-headed about economic topics in the past, so while I can’t say I’ve read the book yet, I trust it will be solid.

BMOC – Warren Meyer [of Coyote Blog]
$0.99

I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book when it came out [review here], and thought the book was an excellent example of a page-turning novel that happened to integrate Warren’s libertarian-businessman point of view. If you like his blog, you’ll like the book, but even if you’ve never read his blog [a sin on its own merits], you’ll like his book.

The State of the Union: the Liberty Movement Responds

Executive Director of the Libertarian Party Wes Benedict:

President Obama says he wants a freeze in non-security, discretionary spending. In the unlikely event that happens, it won’t really matter, because to make a real dent in the deficit, it’s necessary to cut spending on the military and entitlements. The president promised big government in the past, and he delivered. I expect more of the same.
However, Obama has truly been a hypocrite on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a candidate, he promised to end them. Tonight we heard more hollow promises. The fact is, as president, he has kept those wars going, and has greatly escalated the war in Afghanistan. As a percentage of GDP, military spending is higher now than it was during any year of the George W. Bush administration.

Unlike President Obama, Libertarians would bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce the military budget.

Benedict also saved some much needed criticism for Paul Ryan’s Republican response

On the Republican side, I found Congressman Paul Ryan’s hypocrisy appalling. He claims to want big cuts in government spending. But he didn’t seem to be too worried about cutting spending when Republicans were in charge. He supported the huge Medicare expansion in 2003, and the expensive No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. He supports the expensive War on Drugs. In 2008, he put hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars at risk by voting for the massive TARP bailout, and he even voted to spend billions on the GM and Chrysler bailout.

Just one month ago, Congressman Ryan voted for the tax compromise that included a big increase in unemployment spending, and even extensions of government spending on ethanol.

Republicans don’t want to cut spending — they want to talk about cutting spending.

At Reason.com Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie responded with a post “We Can’t Win the Future By Repeating the Past”

How can we “win the future,” as President Barack Obama exhorted us to do in his 2011 State of the Union address, when our top elected official remains so drearily stuck in the past? And despite the commanding role of what can only be called Sputnik nostalgia in his speech, Obama was not even channeling the distant past in his remarks.

Instead, he served up the equivalent of a microwaved reheating of the sentiments of his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush. That’s some sort of groovy, space-age technological feat, for sure, but we shouldn’t confuse left-over platitudes about cutting wasteful spending on the one hand while ramping up publicly funded “investment” on the other for a healthy meal.

Neal Boortz:

Sure enough, as I told you, Obama replaced the word “spending” with the word “investing”. I’ve gone through this routine with you before, people just react better to the word investing than they do the word spending. Investing good, spending bad. What Barack Obama proposed last night was not investing at all, it was pure stimulus spending. Space and we all know how well the last stimulus plan worked. Where’s the unemployment rate now? About 9.5%? Yeah, that worked. One of the mainstays oval bomb his new stimulus program is this high speed rail boondoggle. Obama said “Within 25 years our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail.” Space you do know, don’t you, that Amtrak has never made money. Amtrak is a constant drain on taxpayer dollars were ever those trains run. And how is it going to be any different with high-speed rail lines. Experts not working for the government or not working for the building trades unions, are pretty much unanimous in their opinions that high-speed rail in our widely disseminated population simply will not work. It high-speed rail doesn’t work between New York and Philadelphia, or New York and Washington DC without losing money, how in the world isn’t going to work between Orlando and Tampa or any other two urban areas in this country. Space the fact is that this whole dream about high-speed rail is nothing but a payoff to unions in order to put construction workers to work building rail lines, joining unions, paying union dues, and allowing unions to make massive political contributions to candidates. Democrat candidates.

Gene Healy at Cato says the problem with the SOTU isn’t the seating:

Bipartisan symbolism’s all the rage on Capitol Hill right now, with members scrambling for a cross-aisle BFF to sit with at the State of the Union (SOTU). Tonight, the lion will lie down with the lamb — or at least Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will sit elbow to elbow and try not to bite each other.

Maybe these gestures will lead to a nationwide surge of oxytocin — the togetherness hormone — healing partisan rancor across the fruited plain. But that’s highly unlikely, given how polarizing the modern SOTU and the modern presidency have become.

Over at United Liberty, former Liberty Papers contributor Jason Pye warns readers to not be fooled by the president’s favorite buzzword from the SOTU: “investing”

Consider this, in the same speech President Obama was pitching a paltry speeding freeze, he spoke often of investment. Of course, since “stimulus” has become a political non-starter; thanks largely to his behemoth spending bill passed shortly after he took office two years ago, “investment” is the new buzz word for statists to push their wasteful pet spending.

Among these “investments” will be more spending for high-speed rail projects, high-speed internet, tax credits, more education spending, energy subsidies, and more spending for our seemingly endless operations in Afghanistan – although he promises that we will soon begin withdrawal from the country, don’t believe it; we’re going to be there for years to come. Obama claims to want a spending freeze, but he also wants to spend more money. On what planet does that make sense?

Former Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr called the speech a “yawn”

A little bit of something for everybody; but a really big something for government. This was the essential thrust of this 44th President’s second — and longest, state-of-the-union speech last night. While Barack Obama did not include quite as lengthy a shopping list in his state of the union speech as did his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, his list was long nonetheless.

Even though Obama paid lip service to regulatory reform, community-based education, tax reform, and reform of last year’s health care reform (among many other tid-bits), in virtually every instance, the ultimate solution to which he kept returning was more government spending and increased government prioritization.

Finally, John Stossel offers a State of the Union address of his own (to which I won’t excerpt because the whole thing should be read; I’ll post the video if I can find it).

***UPDATE*** Cato offers a more complete response to the SOTU by getting into some of the details of the speech and other observations.

Cliff Claven Gets It Wrong On The American Workforce

A common lament these days is that America “doesn’t build anything anymore”. John Ratzenberger takes that thought and expands upon it at Big Hollywood, suggesting that not only do we not build anything, we have nobody to do the building. Unfortunately for John, he’s made enough logical errors, irrelevant points, and misdiagnoses of the problem that he’s due for a fisking.

When America gave up its position as the producer-in-chief and became the consumer-in-chief, “essential skilled workers” became dirty words in our lexicon.

Gave up our position? Manufacturing output isn’t declining. As Don Boudreaux points out, it’s 80% higher than 1979 and 351% higher than 1955. Manufacturing employment might be declining, but value produced is rising. This, of course, reflects the fact that true wealth gains come not from output growth, but from productivity growth. America is much more productive relative to its labor needs than it has ever been.

The cultural shift is fast producing an “industrial tsunami” that threatens our economy and way of life. Ironically enough, we’re facing a crisis shortage of skilled workers at a time of dramatically high unemployment.

This may be true. A shortage of skilled workers is undoubtedly a bad thing. However, the free market is notoriously effective at solving shortages. Shortages are reflected by high compensation, and high compensation draws greater supply. If we have a persistent shortage, however, one would have to look at structural impediments to supply.

We must re-connect this disconnect or face the consequences.

Here is where he starts to both assign blame (which is correct) and attempt to generate a solution (which is incorrect) by using the ever-present “we”. It becomes apparent shortly that he is not willing to let the free market solve this problem, he prefers top-down command and control. What he fails to recognize is that top-down command and control got us into this mess in the first place, and thus cannot be trusted long-term to get us out of it.

America works when Americans are working.

Okay, so here’s a mindless platitude. What happened, need to build word count?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 25 percent of the working population will reach retirement age by 2012, resulting in a potential shortage of nearly 10 million skilled workers. This heightens the price our nation is paying for dismantling so many in-school vocational training programs during the past few decades.

Aha! Dismantling in-school vocational programs. Sounds like we already tried putting the government in charge of supplying the training needed for our workforce, and they followed the current president’s adage that “college is for EVERYONE” rather than understand that different people better fit different work tracks and goals.

The cultural shift he might be speaking about earlier is the shift between those who do physical work with their hands out in the world, and those who do intellectual work with their brains in air-conditioned offices. Those in the latter group often (mistakenly) assume that there’s no brain necessary for those in the former group, while those in the former group often (mistakenly) think those in the latter are mere parasites and produce no “real” wealth. The problem is that we’ve put the air-conditioned-office type in charge of our government, and thus they’ve been trying to keep students from the horrors of tradesmen work for a few decades now.

Is there any wonder that, after decades of denigrating the skilled trades, and dismantling one of the routes into those trades (public school vocational training), it’s getting hard to fill the positions today?

The current shortage already sharply reduces the growth of U.S. gross domestic product, contributing to our overall economic problem. America’s infrastructure is falling apart before our eyes. Municipal water and sewer systems are failing, and more bridges are unsafe to cross. Yet the nationwide shortfall of more than 500,000 welders is causing already-funded repair projects to be canceled or delayed.

Why is infrastructure falling apart before our eyes? Because government has spent decades using transportation funding bills on pork and new infrastructure. Every politician loves to create a new “Robert Byrd Memorial Bridge”, but none of them want to spend the money to perform upkeep on the “Spiro Agnew Drainage Canal”. We’ve neglected infrastructure for too long, and now that we’ve decided to fund some necessary projects, we’re limited by the lag time of new labor supply.

However, there’s a short-term solution! Labor is mobile, and if we REALLY need welders, I’m sure there are at least a few hundred thousand scattered amongst the world’s population of 6 billion that are both qualified and willing to come here and take those jobs. While I think it would be nice to give those jobs to Americans, it’s just not going to happen in the short term. But who stands in the way of allowing skilled immigrants to come here and do work that desperately needs to be done? If you answered government, John, you’re learning!

Essential skilled workers are heroes. Without them, America grinds to a halt. But there are national security implications to this skilled worker gap, too. The ongoing demand for U.S.-manufactured military parts and hardware — from boots to mother boards — require domestic manufacturing operations. Even now, critical manufacturing has been moved off-shore as a stop-gap measure.

We simply can’t “outsource” our national defense!

Oh, lord, did he really just go there? Red flag, folks, when someone’s position is so weak that they must run straight to the “you need to do what I say for NATIONAL SECURITY!”, you know he’s in trouble.

Critical manjufacturing (at least of motherboards) hasn’t been moved offshore as a “stop-gap” measure. It’s been moved offshore as part of the military’s wide push to COTS procurement methods. Everything for the military used to be one-off custom products. They were expensive, because from design to manufacturing, there were no economies of scale to take advantage of. Typically, in the military, the volumes just aren’t there. Vendors of sub-assembly components often aren’t salivating at the thought of getting an order to design and supply custom motherboards for, say, 200 aircraft over 5 years. It’s just not worth it unless the price is astronomical. Thus, for some products, there are already multiple independent vendors producing the needed product in much higher volume for commercial applications, and they can be used in military applications at much lower cost. Standard practice is to have multiple independent sources for every component for which it is physically possible, to lessen the risk of supply chain shocks if — for example — a factory gets bombed.

Perhaps Ratzenberger wants to make the argument that America should go back to one-off custom products for military use, at much higher cost to everyone involved (especially the taxpayer). If he’s making that argument on the grounds that it will put more people to work, he’s right. (So will paying them to dig and fill holes). But if he’s trying to make that argument on economic grounds that it will increase America’s wealth, he’s economically illiterate.

Along with Emmy Award-winning producer Craig Haffner and the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, I am currently in pre-production with a new documentary, “Industrial Tsunami,” whose purpose is to wake up Americans to the shortage of skilled workers that threatens the existence of companies and entire industries.

I won’t disagree that we may be short on skilled workers. Alerting America to this fact is not a bad idea. I suspect, though, that his prescriptions for a fix will be quite different than mine.

We must develop short- and long-range solutions to this crisis, starting with expanding vocational training opportunities and restoring dignity and pride in America’s skilled workers.

Short-term: Liberalize immigration. We’ve got jobs today, and foreigners today have skills. What’s the problem?

Long-term: Privatize education (whether liberally voucher-based or full privatization). All done. Problem solved!

Okay, need more explanation? First, start with the fact that public education has made a high school diploma nothing more than a certification of breathing and a pulse. We’ve forced a college education to be the “starting point” of life by making it, at the very least, a certification of mild sentience, which is what a high school diploma used to be. Thus, employers have started demanding college degrees for jobs which don’t come close to requiring that someone finished a 4-year major in “Communications”. Break the “college is for EVERYONE” mindset by actually making high school valuable again, which will likely only occur through competition and privatization.

Second, once education is privatized, you cease to let government bureaucrats, who need a Master’s Degree to wipe their butts, to decide what’s important for success in the world. You’ll actually start to see private schools return to offering vocational training, because if there’s truly a market demand for skilled tradesman, they’d be stupid not to offer those programs. Yes, I am making the claim that the reason for the lack of these programs today is stupidity, but given that we put the government in charge of the decision, that should surprise no one.

Once you break the government impediment to seeing the skilled trades as honorable work (furthered by their destruction of a high school diploma’s worth and their active effort to steer EVERY child to a 4-year college degree), the “dignity and pride” of the skilled trades will follow.

We will explore the negative media images of skilled workers, as well as current initiatives at the national and local levels to address this crisis.

Is “getting the hell out of the way” an initiative at any level? No? Didn’t think so.

Equally important, we will promote the concept that essential skilled work is noble, is useful and creates the independent mindset and self-confidence in the individual that has resonated throughout our nation’s history — and can rebuild America with a solid foundation once again.

In this, I can only hope you’re successful. Since you’re opposed by pretty much everyone from the President (a walking college degree who’s never generated value either with his hands or his intellect) to academia (including the vast masses of teachers who went to college to earn an “education” degree rather than become experts in a subject matter and then add some teaching skills) to most of our media (themselves rationalizing wasting 4 years on J-school when they’re being outflanked by pajama-clad bloggers), I’m a bit worried that your methods aren’t going to work out as well as you hope.

Democracy Is A Referendum On The Economy — This Is A Defense Of Democracy?

While I regularly disagree with Ezra Klein, I believe that honestly one of the main differences between him and many libertarians is that he still has faith in the political system. He’s smart, he understands incentives, he just refuses to take the next step and start understanding public choice theory and the malincentives rampant in the political sphere (or thinks they can be fixed).

Today, though, he went off the rails. Here is his defense of the political system, regarding political science’s understanding of it:

First, campaigns don’t matter as much as we think. I take that as a good thing: Democracy shouldn’t be overly reliant on whose political consultants are better at spinning the truth into advertisements and attack mailers.

Okay, here I partially agree with Ezra. Advertising is a distinct activity independent of the quality of what is being advertised. If Ezra’s argument was that voters are able to see through the spin and BS to understand the actual qualities of the candidate, I would consider that a great thing. Sadly, Ezra’s next three paragraphs explain that the advertising is not insignificant because voters see through it, but rather because they don’t make decisions on candidates or policy anyway.

Second, “elections writ large depend more on performance than on policy — that is, they depend more on how things are going (for which the incumbent party is on the hook) than on specific policies, bills, legislation, etc.” That’s a bit unfair to incumbents, who aren’t totally responsible for conditions, but it’s nevertheless a fairly decent way for voters to make decisions.

So you’re saying that voters don’t make decisions based upon candidates or policy, they make decisions on conditions like the economy and national conditions. When things are good, they keep the incumbent, and when things are bad, they throw the bums out. How can you possibly square this with the belief that any election is a mandate for policy? I.e. if voters threw the Republicans out of office due to the war and the economy in 2008, can you claim that the voters actually wanted the Democrats to enact healthcare reform?

The argument that Ezra is making is that voters are simple and driven by macro events, while Washington is driven by micro activity (bills, policies, etc). And the argument that voters are making decisions based upon overly-simplistic reasons is used as a defense of democracy?

Third is that voters don’t approach elections with strong views on policy issues. Instead, they look to the political leaders they already trust to tell them what their views should be. If President Romney had proposed ObamaCare before a mostly Republican Congress, it would’ve gotten an easy majority of Republicans — both in Congress and in the country — and almost zero Democrats. Party affiliation drives policy opinions, and not the other way around.

Okay, so the argument here is that Americans voters trust “the guy I’d like to have a beer with”, rather than actually knowing or caring about his policies. And that American voters are tribal and protect “their own”, whether it’s R or D. Further, rather than voting for what they believe, they wait for those in power to tell them what to believe, and vote accordingly.

And again, this is a defense of the system? If voters make their decisions based purely on trust and tribe, why in the world should their decision empower our leaders to do anything?

The political science take on elections is sometimes accused of being nihilistic, as if doubting the importance of campaigns is like quoting Nietzsche and dressing in black. In fact, it’s fairly optimistic: Elections are driven by the real state of the country, not the money candidates spend to advertise to voters. You could say that it would be better if people made their judgments based on the policy Congress was passing to change conditions rather than the conditions themselves, but when you really look into how people decide which policies they support, it’s actually not clear that a more policy-centric process would be an improvement. Conditions are what voters know best, and so it’s good that they rely on them.

Ahh, I see. So the argument isn’t that voters should make decisions based upon policy, because the argument is that voters are too stupid and easily-led to have any reasonable understanding of policy. Thus, they vote purely as a referendum on who’s in power, not whether replacing the group in power will result in better or worse policy.

Ezra clearly explains why democracy doesn’t work, while trying to defend democracy. When Ezra finally realizes this, he might just make a political switch.

The Whys And Wherefores Of Armed Rebellion And Beer

Over at Popehat, Ken has posted a very thought-provoking question about the American Right’s rhetoric lately regarding armed rebellion. He delves into two topics, first exactly what the reasoning, scope, and result of revolution might be, and secondly into why the rhetoric tends to follow very similar paths to rhetoric of the socialist revolutionaries of the last century. It’s worth reading for the post, and there’s been a pretty good discussion in the comments section as well.

TJIC responds with a very long post of his own, laying out not only a justification for what conditions make rebellion morally acceptable, but also a bit of a “how-to” guide to destroy the state without obscene collateral damage. Again, very interesting.

In particular, though, I personally (for several obvious reasons) was struck by this visual question/response in TJIC’s post:

Ken: [After revolution] When do we get free elections again?

TJIC: Why would we want elections when we can have freedom?

In a mere two pictures, this illustrates my beliefs on democracy, anarcho-capitalism, and [of course] beer.

Democracy is a choice of rule, of whether you will have Left or Right, Republican or Democrat, Bud or Miller. It is both limited and binding. If the populace chooses Miller, the shelves are stocked with Miller Lite. Or more accurately, in our current system the shelves are stocked with ONLY Budweiser and Miller, in proportion to the vote count. At the top (President), perhaps the decision is that only one of them is then allowed to advertise on the networks [to strain the analogy well beyond its breaking point]. This situation is great for Budweiser, and great for Miller, regardless of where they fit along the spectrum of 60/40 split or 40/60 split of market share. The situation isn’t so good for the folks who don’t like either — but this is a democracy and they’re stuck with it.

In such a situation, would you say that the people who don’t like Bud or Miller are fully enfranchised? After all, they have every right to vote alongside the B party and the M party. After all, if they really want to drink something else, why don’t they just convince the rest of the voting public to join them.

That answer isn’t suitable for beer, that answer isn’t suitable for restaurants (imagine if McDonald’s vs. Burger King were your only choices), or for musical taste (imagine Lady Gaga vs. Jay-Z as your only choices), or for automobiles (Ford vs. GM). Yet we allow that answer to be suitable for something far more important, our governance.

When it comes to beer, I want freedom. I don’t want to stop people from drinking Bud & Miller, even though I find both of them to be a bit bland and boring. After all, bland and boring works for some people. My sister-in-law rarely eats anything more exciting than spaghetti or grilled cheese, and while I often chide her in a good-natured way, I have no interest in forcing her to eat sushi. With freedom, though, the people who want Bud/Miller can have it, and the people who want wide selections of craft beer can have it. Bud/Miller/Coors make up about 90% of the US Beer market share, but that leaves a lot of room for us on the “long tail”. And when I want a beer that no brewery can make for me, I just fire up the burners, grind some grain, and make it myself. That’s freedom.

Likewise, when it comes to governance, I want freedom. My right to vote for the Bud party or the Miller party doesn’t mean I get anything close to the government I want or find legitimate. Democracy has its advantages over many other forms of government, but it still forces everyone into a lowest-common-denominator one-size-fits-all political system. Those of us who don’t fit that mainstream get crushed right in with the masses. Like beer, I don’t really care what governance *you* want — if you love the Republicans or Democrats, you’re welcome to them. The problem in Democracy is that if 90% of the people in this country want Republicans or Democrats, the other 10% don’t have a chance at getting Libertarians. Your vote only matters if you have popular interests. There is no long tail. Freedom and liberty shouldn’t be subject to a vote, but unfortunately that’s the world we’re living in.

This Is Your Government

As our readers can no doubt see, things have moved to a snail’s pace here. I’m not sure I expect that to change soon [at least for me].

However, I came across this post at TJIC, referencing a post at Coyote Blog, that is an absolute must read.

This is a government that is arbitrary, capricious, and exists not to protect the rights of the governed, but to aggregate power unto itself.

When you ask me why I don’t trust government to do anything, that post is a pretty good example of my answer.

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