Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 31_2007 – My Cynicism About Darfur

I keep seeing these heart rending stories about the slaughter going on in the Darfur a province of Sudan. But it makes me wonder,what it is exactly that this slick lobbying campaign and its bank rollers would have “us” (using “us” in the collective sense of it, as in the American government) do exactly? Many if not most of the noisy pleaders whose message is directed at the US Congress and the Bush Administration are the same subset of persons and groups that are currently loudly denouncing the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan too. Go figure that? Haven't these folks seen exactly what happens when one nation, no matter how powerful and well-off it may be comparatively, tries to establish itself as the World Cop?

Let the UN and the African Union handle this one you guys. America's plate is full right now with other more pressing imperial entanglements. Again, what, (military intervention, boycotts, airstrikes, blockades, something else?) would these maudlin interventionists have “us” do? I honestly wonder what the real agenda is here.

“Lobbying groups regularly get their way in Washington”, says this article from the Washington Post, “but few have had as much impact in a short period as the Save Darfur Coalition, an organization that has been pressing for international intervention in war-torn Sudan.

Over the past two years, it has flooded lawmakers' inboxes with pleas for assistance, filled the Mall with protesters and blanketed the airwaves with heart-rending commercials. One ad showed photos of anguished, starving Sudanese and asked, 'How will history judge us?' "

History has already judged this sort of thing; and the honest truth is that the interventionists are nearly always wrong. And yet with each new crisis they persist. History doesn't repeat”, said Mark Twain, “ but it often rhymes.” And we know how this kinda song goes too, even if we only know the melody and not the words.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30_2007 - Cheap Gas or Energy Independence: Not Both

Says economist Robert Samuelson in today's Washington Post:

"It's one of those delicious moments when Washington's hypocrisy is on full and unembarrassed display. On the one hand, some of America's leading politicians condemn high gasoline prices and contend that they stem from "gouging" by oil companies. On the other, many of the same politicians warn against global warming and implore us to curb our use of fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

Guess what: These crowd-pleasing proclamations are contradictory. Anyone fearful of global warming should cheer higher gasoline prices, because much higher prices represent precisely the sort of powerful incentive needed to push consumers toward more fuel-efficient vehicles and to persuade the auto industry to produce them in large numbers. Bravo for higher prices!"

True enough. If we want the free market and human ingenuity to liberate us from dependence on foreign oil and we also want a healthy and cleaner environment we have to let oil prices rise to what the owners and producers of that oil ask. It is the only way my friends. We just can't have cheap oil and not be dependent on crude petro from places like Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela and the Middle East. The "cheap" gas we have from what we are doing now isn't all that cheap when you add to it the huge cost in blood and treasure that maintaining a huge military presence all over the world to gain and retain access to it, eh?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29_2007 - Cindy Sheehan 'Resigns' as Protest Leader

Good riddence you politically illiterate attention whore. Ever since Sheehan played kissy face with that thug Hugo Chavez, a nascent neo-Castro, I've had no further use for her "leadership" role. Just like with John McCain, John Kerry, Jack Murtha and the rest of our "war heroes," Sheehan seems to think that her loss entitles her to a level of credibility that she just doesn't deserve.

The Iraq war and all the rest of America's imperial entanglements should be abandoned just as a matter of justice and honor, period. And this would be true even if her son had come home from Iraq without a scratch. Lead on Ron Paul.

May 29_2007 - Even Blind Pigs Find an Occasional Acorn Now and Then

When my father died this past January one of the things I inherited from him was his unfinished subscription to the Wall Street Journal. And I have to say that over the years I have not found the WSJ very much to my liking. And why is that? Well, their business news stories, while usually well written and researched, are pretty commonplace fare; mainly stuff I can find for free on the web, although not as well written perhaps. And ditto with their tables of stock data, currency prices, precious metal values, and such too. And their reliably “vulgar libertarian” argumentation in their right-wing editorials and columns just drive me nuts.

But once in a while, as my maternal grandfather used to say: “Even a blind pig finds the occasional acorn, now and then.” Meaning, the pig got lucky, not that he’s skillful or smart.

And so it was when I read a review in today’s edition of the WSJ of Michael Barone’s New book, Our First Revolution -The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers.

Barone describes and analyzes the coup d’etat by nascent English [Classic] Liberals in
1688 that toppled the last Stuart monarch James II, for fear he’d further erode the traditional rights that most English folk had come to like, and become more like the absolute authoritarian monarchies in continental Europe.

“Although James II stood for Catholic obscurantism,” says the review, “pro-French appeasement, and Stuart paternalism and monopoly--all of which would have held Britain back politically and commercially in the 18th century--it is hard not to sympathize with his Lear-like cries of anguish as both his daughters, Mary and Anne, betray him in order to safeguard their claims to the throne.”

Well, I didn’t, but still, that quibble aside, it’s a good review.

“Yet had James II not made myriad errors after succeeding his brother, King Charles II, in 1683--errors that help to trigger William's later intervention—‘French-style absolutism might really have sprung into life’ in England, Mr. Barone writes, perhaps ‘in late 1688 or early 1689.’ Such absolutism was doing well on the Continent, especially under Louis XIV, and James was busy trying to buy the coming general election and pack the House of Commons. When an heir was born to James in June 1688, establishing the Catholic succession, the moment of decision had arrived.”

And England, America and the whole English-speaking world benefited from the coup’s final result, says Barone’s analysis.

How so?

“Everything that flowed from the Whig victory of 1688--limited government, the Bank of England, tradable national debt, triennial Parliaments, mercantilism, free enterprise, an aggressively anti-French foreign policy, the union with Scotland, eventually the Hanoverian Succession and the Industrial Revolution--combined to make the English-speaking peoples powerful. Mr. Barone proves beyond doubt how much the Glorious Revolution inspired the Founding Fathers to launch their own, with Virginia gentlemen farmers seeing themselves as the heirs of England's revolutionary aristocrats. The 1689 Bill of Rights in Britain thus unquestionably paved the way to the American Bill of Rights of 1791.”

Well, perhaps or perhaps not. Some think that the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution are merely Libertarian Myth, mere fable, and weren’t really any form of genuine progress in political philosophy, in theory or in practice, at all. That view I disagree with. All those developments were positives, the best that could be expected in those times, and Liberal Democracy was an important milestone in human political evolution.

Plus, I like English history, and so I am gonna read it.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

May 27_2007 – What I’m Reading These Days

Please don’t get the wrong idea here; I read what I’m interested in or curious about or has been recommended to me or is on a topic or subject I’m working on, and doesn’t mean that I embrace any ideas the books might contain. So with that noted, here’s the list.

Buda's Wagon: A Brief History Of the Car Bomb
By Mike Davis
This book, “… [t]races its worldwide use and development, in the process exposing the role of state intelligence agencies—particularly those of the United States, Israel, India, and Pakistan—in globalizing urban terrorist techniques. [Mike] Davis argues that it is the incessant impact of car bombs, rather than the more apocalyptic threats of nuclear or bio-terrorism, that is changing cities and urban lifestyles, as privileged centers of power increasingly surround themselves with ‘rings of steel’ against a weapon that nevertheless seems impossible to defeat.” (AK Press blurb)

How Nonviolence Protects The State
By Peter Gelderloos
“People working for social change face plenty of difficult questions, but sometimes matters of strategy and tactics receive low priority. Among many North American activists, the role of nonviolence as the default mode of struggle bears little scrutiny. Is nonviolence effective at ending systems of oppression? How is nonviolence connected to white privilege? Is militancy naturally macho, or does pacifism reinforce the same power dynamics as patriarchy? Ultimately, does nonviolence protect the State? How Nonviolence Protects the State brings existing criticisms of nonviolence, and several new ones, together into one book, in an attempt to illuminate one of the most severe roadblocks to social change today.” (AK Press blurb)

Durruti in the Spanish Revolution
By Chuck Morse (Translator) and Abel Paz
“In this new and unabridged translation of the definitive biography of Spanish revolutionary and military strategist, Buenaventura Durruti, Abel Paz has given us much more than an account of a single man's life. Durruti in the Spanish Revolution is as much the chronicle of an entire nation and of a tumultuous historical era. Paz seamlessly weaves intimate biographical details of Durruti's life—his progression from factory worker and father to bank robber, political exile and, eventually, revolutionary leader—with extensive historical background, behind-the-scenes governmental intrigue, and blow-by-blow accounts of major battles and urban guerrilla warfare. Written with a thorough and sympathetic understanding of the anarchist ideals that motivated Durruti, this is an amazing and exhaustive study of an incredible man and his life-long fight against totalitarianism in both its capitalist and Stalinist forms.

Includes an afterword by José Luis Gutierréz Molina's on Abel Paz's life and the historiography of the Spanish Revolution.” (AK Press blurb)

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. " - Thomas Carlyle

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25_2007 – The Results of Living in A True “Culture of Corruption”

Every so often I return to my roots; in my case the mainly Middle-Eastern/North African enclave in Dearborn, MI where I grew up. Then, as now, it is the first place recent immigrants take up residence when they come to America. And the culture, history and life experience that they have informs all their actions and practices too.

I was visiting a friend there recently and we were having a snack at restaurant that serves the food of the Yemenis. The time was early afternoon and it was warm and humid, especially in the kitchen area. So the cooks were taking a smoke & coffee break in the area near the alley door, and the door itself was propped open to allow some cool fresh air in and to let the smoke and steam out. My friend is fireman for the city of Dearborn and carries a badge and ID proclaiming such too. Now being the sort that he is (i.e., a notorious buttinsky), he went up to the cooks and flashed his badge on them and explained that it is against heath code regs to have the door to the kitchen propped open; it can only be open when and if someone is entering or exiting. Anything else is a violation which can get the restaurant fined or closed by the “authorities.” It was this which my friend Firefighter Buttinsky was attempting to warn them about. But that is not the effect it had though.

The owner came running out and jabbered in his native dialect with the cooks to ascertain what the hub-bub was all about. Mr. Owner was absolutely convinced that Mr. Fireman was soliciting for a cash bribe, free food, or something. See, that's how things are done and how badge carriers act in Yemen. The downside of doing business this way is that it adds to the owner's costs, it allows nasty and unhealthy conditions to exist and persist over time, and other bad things as well.

Once the owner figured this out, that it was just friendly advice and not solicitation for a bribe, the look on his face was priceless. America is a good country, mostly, ain't it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22_2007 - RIAA Seeks Royalties From Radio Stations Now Too

The LA Times reports that the RIAA wants royalties from radio stations. 70 years ago Congress exempted radio stations from paying royalties to performers and labels because radio helps sell music. But since the labels that make up the RIAA are not getting the cash they desire through sales of CDs, and since Internet and satellite broadcasters are forced to cough up cash to their racket, now the RIAA wants terrestrial radio to pay up as well." [ post]

It would serve these fookin' greedy monopolist assholes right if they did get they're way on this only because I believe that in pretty short order market forces would settle their hash once and for all. Radio stations would likely stop or seriously cut back on playing the songs and bands where they had to pay royalties and start playing more independent artists and groups that didn't require it. What are the coporate bands who are RIAA clients gonna do when their latest crap gets no or very limited airplay?

The RIAA, MPAA and their shills, lackeys, and dupes in the mainstream media and Congress are marching themselves and their products ever closer to the cliff that I sincerely hope that they go over soon. Step on you morons.

And notice please that this whole “the airwaves belong to the people” meme (but in practice actually meaning “belongs to the government”) provides the nexus for their entire rationale (such as it is) for for this and every other monopolistic practice and the rent seeking that they continually attempt to impose (and then enforce) on us. Ditto with copyright laws too. Without a huge government law enforcement apparatus and the threat of ruinious lawsuits in civil courts what power would these greedheads have at all?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

May 20_2007 - WE WIN! No cops for us!

The Village Council voted Friday night against forming a police force or contracting with the Lenawee Sheriff's Department by vote of 5-1 with one councilperson absent. And so we win, for now. As some famous dead white guy said once: "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." And so the flamethrower will keep his ears pricked-up for any further footsteps of approaching tyranny.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19_2007 – Final Thoughts and Observations (for Now) on Peace and Order without Police

Once the State law-enforcement monopoly is destroyed, and the inadequate State protection of person and property is no longer forced upon us, each ex-citizen will have the opportunity to consume protection services according to his own tastes and preferences. If he is a risk-lover, he may reduce his expenditures on protection services far below that level which he was forced to pay implicitly through taxation. If the risk-lover's estimate of the risk he faces and the competitive market's estimate are the same, he may even demand no protection services at all! However, most people exhibit risk-averse behavior, particularly when faced with large-loss, small-payoff risks. Since non-purchase of protection services can be thought of as such a risk, we thus expect risk-averse persons to exhibit an effective demand for protection services.” Order Without Law: Where Will Anarchists Keep the Madmen?

by John D. Sneed

I have insurance and an alarm system on my business premises that notifies a security company or the villages's (volunteer) fire & rescue department as well as myself, if there's a problem. And that's it; that's the whole extent of my need for security and safety services. I pay for it all and it's customized just how I want it. Anything more I don't want, don't need and can't/won't use. What additional protection will having Deputies or a Village Police force give me in exchange for much higher taxes and way-less personal liberty? I can't see any. If my neighbor has expired tabs on the license plates on his boat trailer, what's it to me? If I drive down to Ohio to buy a few cartons of cheap cigarettes for myself and bring a few back for my friends, who gets “hurt” by it? Nobody but the state tax collectors. But if there are cops, and they now find out about it or discover it in the course of their “normal duties”, they'll “care” and big time, too.

And please don't give me any of that “obedience to the law is freedom” BS either, cuz I don't buy that. Obedience to a law you didn't write, ratify, or otherwise agree to, (or even know about at all), isn't “freedom” in any sense of the term, period.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 18_2007 – Why Our Village Doesn't Need Cops, Cont'd

As if I haven't said enough about this eh? Well apparently not so let me continue on folks. Two cops in the neighboring town to our north (Jackson, MI) got “honored” last night for blasting down a mentally impaired old women who answered the door with a small kitchen knife, probably cuz she was wondering who the hell was pounding on her door. So what did these two brave Jackson cops do? Back off and call for support? Spray her with pepper spray or shock her with a taser? Nah, they opened fire on her and shot her no less than ten times in the chest and face with their pistols. And for this they get the highest award the Jackson PD can give, the "Medal of Valor" [sic]. Yep, it sure does require a lot of “valor” to shoot some old lady to death on her front porch.

Now I would ask all you proponents of a police force if this; Is this the kind of protection and service we really need in our village too? The next time the neighbor's dog is barking at night, instead of just calling them up like civilized people and asking them to let their fookin' dog in already, we'll all just call 911 and have armed cops show up and maybe give a ticket, or take the dog, or worst case scenario, blast your neighbor dead? If everything goes good, and the cops just go with the first two options, are you really gonna have a better relationship with your neighbors afterwards, or are you going to have a tit-for-tat smoldering feud going on for long while, even years maybe? Next time your kid hops the neighbor's fence to get his ball back, they then call Officer Pig on you. Seems fair after all, eh? You did the like to them, right?

Screw all this stuff! We can handle our own affairs ourselves. And so we should.

May 17, 2007 - Ron Paul Voted Off Future Debates

Yes dear friends, it didn't take long, did it? The American Idol-type "debates" the GOP and media poobahs put on for the masses are now starting a movement to oust Rep. Ron Paul, the GOP's real "maverick" (as opposed to the egocentric and inconsistent John McCain), from any further candidate beauty show spectacles (aka "debates") because he strays from the RNC/neo-con script and tells the truth about things. And after just one "debate" too. Hell, Simon Cowell would probably have voted to keep Paul on just for the entertainment value his comments have alone. And all of which shows what a fraud this whole process is anyhow.

I saw this new story on the Drudge Report today about how the Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party wants Paul excluded from any party-sanctioned debates here in my state. Sad it is when you get bounced (voted off?) for telling the inconvenient truth about things, eh?

" 'Given what he said last night," the story reports, "it was just so off the wall and out of whack that I think it was more detrimental than helpful.' [Michigan GOP chairman Saul] Anuzis said his petition would go to debate sponsors and broadcasters to discourage inviting Paul."

And so it goes.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 17, 2007 - Tax Evaders for Increased Foreign Aid and Other Stuff

The pot calling the kettle black redux. I found this tidbit while perusing economist Dean Baker's blog:

“That is not the name of Bono's organization, [i.e, Tax Evaders for Increased Foreign Aid] but perhaps it should be. The NYT devoted an article to the Irish rock star's complaints about 'a particular crisis of credibility' among wealthy countries who have not carried though on their commitments to help poor countries. Such words are especially ironic coming from Bono. He became a Dutch citizen a few years back to take advantage of a provision in the Netherlands tax code that applies a very low tax rate to royalty income.” [Link in original]

Go figure, eh? Just like the George Clooneys, Rosie O'Donnells, Angelina Jolies, and such like amongst the glitterati who all employ the best tax evasion/avoidance schemes the worlds best bankers, tax accountants, and lawyers can devise to avoid paying their “fair share” of taxes which would presumably then be redistributed to the world's poor, Mr. Rock Star shields his own wealth the best he can while calling the rest of us cheap. Sheesh. Wadda hypocrite.

On Ron Paul's “Gaffe” at the GOP Debate

Above link is the YouTube clip of what transpired.

Ex-NYC mayor Rudy Guliani jumped on Ron Paul's ill-stated but quit correct assertion that the US wouldn't be such a target of hatred in the world if we left the rest of world the hell alone. Not how Rudy sees it though. He was there, see, and so he knows that isn't why al-Qaeda blew up the WTC on 9/11. How he knows this, Rudy G. never fully explained, (but then does he ever?) The thing that I found most discouraging were all the guffaws and hoots from the studio audience and the smirks and eyerolling from the punditry about Paul's being an “isolationist (like that's a bad thing), or that Paul is just a nutso libertarian.

But then it probably is nutso to ever think that a Republican-Libertarian alliance or common front would ever succeed anyhow given the total transformation of the GOP (the party of Isolationism until World War II started) into the modern day War Party under the leadership of Bush and the neo-cons.

Dr. Paul's noble last ditch attempt to guide the GOP out of the quagmire is now shown to be wholly futile, but I do admit it was a brave and noble gesture on his part. Don't be surprised if the American Idol-style of political debate and the mainstream media pundits and plutocrats who run it, “vote” Dr. Paul off the stage pretty damn soon. And so it goes.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 16, 2007 – More on Outsourcing from Barbara Ehrenreich

Democratic-Socialist Barbara Ehrenreich notes tartly the progressive destruction of the American working classes, both white and blue collar, in her blog post here.

“The world may be flat,” says Ehrenreich, “as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has written, but I always liked to think I was standing on a hill. Now comes the news that, a local news site, is recruiting reporters in India. The website’s editor points out that he can get two Indian reporters for a mere $20,800 a year – and no, they won’t be commuting from New Delhi. Since Pasadena’s city council meetings can be observed on the web, the Indian reporters will be able to cover local politics from half the planet away. And if they ever feel a need to see the potholes of Pasadena, there’s always Google Earth.” [links mine]

True enough. State Capitalism seems to be a race-to-the-bottom for most of us.

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May 15, 2007 – Some Disappointing Stuff Found Whilst Web Surfing Today

This tidbit from It seems that some “white hat hacker” posted an ad with Google that specifically promised (and in clear language too!) to infect the clicker's computer with a virus or malware; and amazingly enough, loads of people actually clicked on the link! Go figure?

“It's hard to say,” says the story about this experiment, “whether people clicked on the ad because they assumed it was a joke, or because they simply misread it as an anti-virus ad. Still, the numbers are pretty scary. The other shocker here is that Google, which does quite a bit of policing on ad content, didn't notice the scammy ad. Stevens says, 'I designed my ad to make it suspect, but even then it was accepted by Google without problem and I got no complaints to date.' Apparently, he's still running the ad, with slightly different experimental parameters. Can't wait to see what he finds out next . . .”

Me too. Sheesh.

And just to round out my disappointment in the level of human conduct and discourse on the web today, a little racist humor from, (usually) one of my favorite websites:

“Taliban replaces slain commander, Abdullah Rullah Dadullah, with his brother, Anna Banna Fofanna Me My Momanna.” (Tag-line from the link) [My link added]

I guess the guys at Fark find the names of Arabs and other non-Western European ethnicities amusing. What's next for you Farkers? Polock or nigger jokes? Double sheesh, and a shake of the head here. I am not humorless or PC, but come on now..this isn't just an “all-in-good-fun” joke here, now is it?

Enemy or not, what's so fookin' "funny" about a dead guy? Death is about the only time ever that everyone is equal; equally dead anyhow. And so it goes.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14, 2007 – What I Am Reading These Days

Summertime and the living is easy! Or easier than in the fall and winter months anyhow, especially if you're in the firewood business. Here is what occupies me now. Any suggestions? I am open to them.

Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
“Urban theorist Davis takes a global approach to documenting the astonishing depth of squalid poverty that dominates the lives of the planet's increasingly urban population...Though Davis focuses on individual communities, he presents statistics showing the skyrocketing population and number of 'megaslums' (informally, 'stinking mountains of shit' or, formally, 'when shanty-towns and squatter communities merge in continuous belts of informal housing and poverty, usually on the urban periphery') since the 1960s. Layered over the hard numbers are a fascinating grid of specific area studies and sub-topics ranging from how the Olympics has spurred the forceful relocation of thousands (and, sometimes, hundreds of thousands) of the urban poor, to the conversion of formerly second world countries to third world status.” From a Publishers Weekly review from the website for the book.

The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System by Milovan Djilas
“For Djilas, communist regimes were slumbering civil wars between the government and the population. The government could only keep control by using physical (knocking down insurrections, incarceration and show trials) and ideological (censure) violence.

Djilas also analyzes the role of Lenin and Stalin in the creation of this State bureaucracy.
The Hungarian Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertesz defined the difference between fascism and communism as follows: fascism was a reality, communism a utopia, but both were characterized by the ruling of one party which wielded uncontrolled and unlimited power. Both were a disaster for the population. Djilas' book is the 'classic' about totalitarian bureaucracies. A must read, not only for historians.” A reader's review from the website for the book. First published in 1957, Djilas got three years in a labor camp as punishment for writing it from the Yugoslavian state.

The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies by Bryan Caplan
Timur Kuran, author of Islam and Mammon: The Myth of the Rational Voter discredits the fashionable view that democratic politics necessarily prevents socially harmful policies. Voters lack incentives to become well informed about political controversies, Bryan Caplan shows, and their policy choices tend to be based on deeply, persistently, and systematically mistaken models of reality. Caplan's findings lead inexorably to the conclusion that democratic governance can be improved only through reforms based on realistic assumptions about human cognition. Anyone concerned about political efficiency should read this elegant book carefully.” From a promotional blurb on the dust jacket back cover. From what I've read so far, it would be the perfect companion for Hans-Herman Hoppe's book Democracy: The God that Failed, at some anarcho-lib seminar or study group.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

May 13, 2007 - Wall Street Journal Now Featuring Commentary from Anarcho-Capitalists? Yes, Indeed!

No, dear readers, that's not a tag line or a teaser designed to lure you in. Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University and the maintainer and host of the Anarchy FAQ website was featured in Saturday's edition (both print and on line ) of the Wall Street Journal with a short guest column on why the majority of people in America actively support (or at least don't actively oppose), government actions and policies that are against their own interests. (Bottom Line: Heart over head; meaning sentiment over reason. Sorry for the spoiler. And I highly recommend you follow the link and read Caplan's article.)

“Behind every policy that does more harm than good,” says Caplan, “there's a special interest that favors it anyway. The [2003] steel tariff was bad for consumers, steel-using industries and foreign steel producers, but the steel lobby still pushed for it. Farm subsidies are bad for both taxpayers and unsubsidized farmers, but in 2002 the American farm lobby got a 70% increase in government support. The minimum wage is bad for consumers, employers and low-skill workers who get priced out of their jobs, but unions are hard at work to raise it again.”

Caplan has written a new book (which I've ordered but not read yet) on the same general theme (see pic) that shows the public as a herd of marching sheep of all things. Talk about anarcho-libertarian themes, eh? We've been using that one for years.

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A reader wrote me to say that you can get access to the full article from the WSJ by signing up a for a free "netpass" here:

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

May 10, 2007 - Ol' Bob Hasn't Lost His Touch

Bob Dylan from his Modern Times CD.

Bob Dylan Workingman's Blues #2 Lyrics

There's an evenin' haze settlin' over town
Starlight by the edge of the creek
The buyin' power of the proletariat's gone down
Money's gettin' shallow and weak
Well, the place I love best is a sweet memory
It's a new path that we trod
They say low wages are a reality
If we want to compete abroad

My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf
Come sit down on my knee
You are dearer to me than myself
As you yourself can see
While I'm listening to the steel rails hum
Got both eyes tight shut
Just sitting here trying to keep the hunger from
Creeping it's way into my gut

Meet me at the bottom, don't lag behind
Bring me my boots and shoes
You can hang back or fight your best on the frontline
Sing a little bit of these workingman's blues

Well, I'm sailin' on back, ready for the long haul
Tossed by the winds and the seas
I'll drag 'em all down to hell and I'll stand 'em at the wall
I'll sell 'em to their enemies
I'm tryin' to feed my soul with thought
Gonna sleep off the rest of the day
Sometimes no one wants what we got
Sometimes you can't give it away

Now the place is ringed with countless foes
Some of them may be deaf and dumb
No man, no woman knows
The hour that sorrow will come
In the dark I hear the night birds call
I can feel a lover's breath
I sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall
Sleep is like a temporary death


Well, they burned my barn, and they stole my horse
I can't save a dime
I got to be careful, I don't want to be forced
Into a life of continual crime
I can see for myself that the sun is sinking
How I wish you were here to see
Tell me now, am I wrong in thinking
That you have forgotten me?

Now they worry and they hurry and they fuss and they fret
They waste your nights and days
Them I will forget
But you I'll remember always
Old memories of you to me have clung
You've wounded me with your words
Gonna have to straighten out your tongue
It's all true, everything you've heard


In you, my friend, I find no blame
Wanna look in my eyes, please do
No one can ever claim
That I took up arms against you
All across the peaceful sacred fields
They will lay you low
They'll break your horns and slash you with steel
I say it so it must be so

Now I'm down on my luck and I'm black and blue
Gonna give you another chance
I'm all alone, I'm expecting you
To lead me off in a cheerful dance
I got a brand new suit and a brand new wife
I can live on rice and beans
Some people never worked a day in their life
Don't know what work even means


[Lyrics found on]
Words and music by Bob Dylan
Copyright 2006 Special Rider Music

May 10, 2007 - The Naked Economist

As in "the emperor has no clothes." It's not hypocrisy on the part of conventional statist economists that makes them so weird but that they can't see a phenomenon for what it is. So says unconventional economist Dean Baker, anyhow.

"Alan Blinder, a Princeton University professor and former Clinton administration economist, had a lengthy piece in the Washington Post Outlook section that told readers that offshoring "rattles" him. After reading this, and other pieces Blinder has written on the topic, I am still at a loss to understand what he finds rattling.

It is important to keep in mind that Blinder is not retreating an inch from his support of free trade, as he clearly states in the column and the title, "free trade's great, but offshoring rattles me." Offshoring appears to be rattling because it is not just less educated people like manufacturing workers who lose their jobs due to offshoring, but also some highly educated workers like software engineers.

But where is the problem here for a committed free trader? We told the autoworkers and textile workers who lost their jobs or get lower wages because of trade that life's tough, get used to the global economy. Is there any reason that we should treat more highly educated workers differently? After all, who should be better prepared to compete in a global economy than a person with an advanced degree in a cutting edge field?" [Links in original text]

Baker makes some very good points and I recommend his article.

Read it all here.

May 09, 2007 - Why “Public Ownership” is a Disaster for Newspapers.*

I found this opinion piece at (registration required?) after I wrote my previous blog entry today. And while it doesn't pertain directly to what I wrote about the dinosaur media and the Internet the author makes a pretty interesting point; privately owned media is more likely to be diverse, independent and is more likely to stay that way than are the big corporate media conglomerates, who in the end, are only about the bottom line for their shareholders and Wall Street analysts.

“Public ownership” says Gary Weiss, “has been a disaster for newspapers not just because it invites hostile takeovers. Quite simply, much of what newspapers do has no clear investment rationale. Entire segments of the business -- such as foreign bureaus and investigative reporting -- are inimical to profitability, particularly when viewed on the quarter-by-quarter basis favored by Wall Street. [CNBC pundit James] Cramer nailed down the shareholder value view of the newspaper biz a few weeks ago, when he said, 'These are diminishing assets. They don't need to exist. Younger people rarely read them.'

Cramer is not wrong or cynical; he is simply being realistic and refreshingly free of hypocrisy. Viewed from a shareholder value perspective, the newspaper business is a dinosaur. And that is why the shareholder point of view needs to be eliminated from the newspaper business. The shareholders, not the newspapers, are the ones who don't need to exist.

A free press has a purpose in society. Shareholders, bless their hearts, deserve to make money without being screwed. But they should find another way of turning a profit. Columbia Journalism Review put the case against public ownership mildly in a recent editorial, saying, 'Public ownership of newspapers no longer makes the kind of sense it made when the industry was rapidly shedding labor costs thanks to new technology, and when the money that stockholders poured in was invested partly in editorial.' " [link in original]

Hmmm... Maybe this will all shake out in the marketplace, but it is kinda sad to see all the independently owned papers get gobbled up by Gannet, NewsCorp, and the Rupert Murdochs of this world, but maybe their aggregation will usher in newer and better kinds of media like the Drudge Report, independent political and cultural websites, blogs, Radio Pacifica, and the other forms of news reporting and opinion voicing that are currently taking root. I hope so anyhow.

*A “publically owned company” as is used in this context means this.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2007

May 10, 2007 - Old media turns combative against new media

I was heartily amused to hear this whistling past the graveyard bloviating from all the “old media” executive types reported in this new story. What fookin' crock! Newspapers are losing circulation and ad revenue left and right, the ratings for the TV news ditto, and yet the Internet just keeps chugging along.

The last gasps from these media plutocrats who are foolishly trying to maintain their monopoly on “real news” as opposed to say the blog you're reading now, and the like are just plain wrong. Sure the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric reaches far more people than I do, but when you sort it all out and then look at the big picture, the honest truth is that more and more people are reading, looking at, and posting to web forums and blogs than ever before, and in all likelihood, this tread will persist and increase. Viacom, the RIAA, MPAA and the rest can sue for royalty payments, damages, and otherwise try to suppress what we read and look at all they want, but in the end it will all be futile. Their tough talk is just BS, and everybody knows this by now, even them too, when they're being honest.

Myself, I haven't given up on viewing TV news or reading the mainstream newspapers and magazines, but now only as part of the mix. I'll bet that's the way it is with you too, eh dear reader? But the days when the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the big Three TV networks dominated the news and opinion on the national level and the local paper's monopoly in the local markets is going down fast. Why the hell should I care what NYT columnists Maureen Dowd or Thomas Friedman think about world affairs and such as opposed to say what bloggers, posters, and columnists at Strike the or the Drudge Report have to say? Why should I put an ad for a boat trailer in my local rag when I can post it on Craiglist or eBay instead? Local people read those websites too, eh?

The old media isn't gonna just die off, but it is gonna get smaller and less influential though; the big shot media are now just going to be one voice among many. And that's a good thing.

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May 08, 2007-The Democrats Try to Tackle the “Free Trade” Issue

Perusing the New York Times today, I saw where the labor unions are starting to have some doubts about the loyalty of the new Democratic majority in the US congress. After having been whacked around for the past four decades or so, the American trade union movement is at the point now where it has to prevail on this, or risk total extinction.

“All of this is playing out”, says the Times article, “under the nervous, suspicious gaze of an army of interest and constituent groups, particularly on the left, where many fear the committee will eventually bow to the powerful interests on the pro-trade side. Organized labor in particular has been voicing concern in recent days.

‘Sandy Levin sits on a committee that has tremendous pressure on it from Wall Street,’ said Representative Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio and a longtime critic of American trade policy. ‘I hope he’ll be able to stand up for Main Street, but I don’t know.’

Mr. Levin said fears that Democrats would give up on their core demands, for labor and environmental standards, were groundless. ‘If anyone thinks that after all this work, we’re going to give it up, they’re just wrong,’ he said.

The Ways and Means Committee has rarely been known as a hotbed of economic populism. Its new 24-member Democratic majority has a voting record that is significantly more pro-trade than the House Democratic caucus as a whole, concluded an analysis of 15 trade votes by I.M. Mac Destler, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland and author of American Trade Politics.”

Okay, fair enough. But still, like the late Will Rogers
is reputed to have said: “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” Isn’t that the truth! Because as economist Lew Rockwell pointed out, real free trade doesn’t require any laws or treaties.

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Sunday, May 6, 2007

May 6, 2007 – Some Thoughts on Economic Theory vs. Economic Reality

Brad Spanger put up an interview of Samuel E. Konkin III on his blog wherein he describes the difference between anarcho-capitalism and agorism. I recommend you read it even if you aren’t especially interested in the arcane nuances of economic theory. (A category that includes me for the most part.)

Some paleo-conservatives, anarcho-capitalists, and Libertarians conflate free-market, laissez-faire economics with the state-capitalism that we actually have now when they defend capitalism. But what we have now certainly isn’t a free market at all, is it? The state continually interferes in markets to the detriment of voluntary human interaction and activity.

The Marxoid’s view of capitalism (i.e., an economic system wherein wealth accrues based upon ownership) is largely true in the society we have today. And many defend the privileged position of the ownership classes as free-market economics. Read the LvMI blog, the Tech Central Station website or the Wall Street Journal some time for some glaring examples of this false consciousness.

“In theory,” explains Konkin, “those calling themselves anarcho-capitalists … do not differ drastically from agorists; both claim to want anarchy (statelessness, and we pretty much agree on the definition of the State as a monopoly of legitimized coercion, borrowed from Rand and reinforced by Rothbard). But the moment we apply the ideology to the real world (as the Marxoids say, “Actually Existing Capitalism”) we diverge on several points immediately.”


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