Odd Citizen

Odd Citizen
An Odd Citizen’s Search For Vanishing Freedoms

Exploding Growth of Free Market Healthcare

April 28th, 2010

What happens when the world’s only provider of free market medical care converts to a socialist system? Where do the patients go? Where do the doctors and nurses go? Where do the researchers go?

They won’t be allowed to operate in the U.S. in competition with government regulated facilities. They’ll go abroad to open and operate private, free market medical services. Medical tourism takes off.

As an investor I’m betting on a big surge in for-profit offshore medical services. The demand will be overwhelming because the U.S.A will no longer provide high quality free market medicine for Americans and foreigners alike. The only alternative will be privately owned facilities in countries like Mexico, India, Thailand and elsewhere.

Obama, Reid and Pelosi can get their offshore care in Cuba.

Illegal Immigration — A Sensible, Workable Solution

April 27th, 2010

On October 30, 2007 I wrote a post (click here) suggesting a practical, common sense solution for the problem of illegal immigration. Essentially, I proposed a system whereby those who wished to work temporarily in the U.S. would purchase an insurance policy. This policy would have several purposes:

1) The policy would pay for any extraordinary public or private expenses that the worker might cause due to criminal activity, hospitalization, welfare costs, etc. Mexicans now pay “coyotes” (human smugglers) from $2,000 to $3,000 for transport across the border. This same sum would pay for quite a handsome insurance policy for a year’s work. A U.S. based employer might be willing to pay all or part of this policy premium.

2) The policy becomes a legal immigration document. No additional bureaucracy would be needed. It could all be done through private insurance transactions, leaving the worker free to enter the country and leave at the expiration of his work or the policy’s one year term.

3) There could be a rebate at the policy’s expiration if no claims were paid from the insurance. This would be an additional incentive for the worker to return home when the policy expires.

The original article, linked above, discusses the benefits of this approach from the viewpoint of those who oppose Mexican illegal immigrants on cultural or economic grounds, and by those, like vegetable growers, who want the benefits of Mexican labor.

This is a solution that doesn’t involve shouting.

Fraudulent Data Produces Bogus Science

March 31st, 2010

Having been distracted by the Sun God’s health care disaster I missed a most comprehensive report: Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception?. This report discusses in great detail the manner in which temperature records relied on by climate scientists have been systematically jiggered to support the global warming religious dogma.

It has been and remains my contention that the Climategate emails, though dramatic and newsworthy, did not by themselves blow the legs out from under “global warming scientific consensus”. To me, the damning revelation was that the data was manipulated to serve a political agenda. When the scientific theories (such as climate models) are contradicted by real world data, then the theories should be thrown out. When the scientific theory is based on bogus data, then the science is unequivocally bogus as well.

Read the report. It is thorough, well documented and worthwhile.

Garbage in – Garbage out — RIP Global Warming.

Global Warming In the Land of the Undead

March 31st, 2010

From Michelle Malkin comes this news:

Eight Democratic senators from industrial states are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate pollution blamed for global warming.

In a letter written by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the lawmakers said the agency lacks the power to restrict greenhouse gases from stationary sources such as power plants, factories and mines. The lawmakers said Congress – not the EPA – should address an issue with big implications for thousands of U.S. jobs and businesses.

Although the news outlets and I suspect a majority of Americans are oblivious to the discreditation of the global warming religion, it does begin to have practical consequences.

And yet the Sun God continues to preach cap and trade. He releases some offshore areas for oil drilling while retracting existing lease areas in Alaska. Auto mileage regulations threaten to make automobiles more expensive, and if Obama and his gang get their way gasoline will cost a lot more — real soon now.

Meanwhile, Sen. Inhofe is releasing a report on Climategate, the IPCC fraud and the EPA’s “endangerment” finding leading to regulation of nearly everything.

For those of you who would like some additional background, here’s an interview with Senator Inhofe (again courtesy of Malkin).

So the struggle continues as long as some people continue to be blind to reality.

It may take a wooden stake through the heart to kill this vampire after all.

Blocking Obamacare Now

March 30th, 2010

An encouraging article by Dick Morris in BigGovernment.com points out that repeal of Obamacare is likely impossible as long as the Sun God is enthroned. He’ll veto it. However, Morris points out that the recently passed bill is an “authorization” for spending. Until congress passes an “appropriation” bill nothing can be actually spent. So the goal is for Republicans to gain a majority in at least one branch of congress. This will allow them to stop Obamacare in its tracks until such time as Republicans gain control of the White House — then Obamacare can be repealed.

However, nothing will be easy. Undoubtedly the appropriation bill will be attached to something hard-to-vote-against, like national defense. But the possibility of blocking this monstrosity early on is nonetheless encouraging. And this, combined with the potential for favorable Supreme Court rulings may just save us from the disaster.

When Things Go Wrong

March 20th, 2010

Government run health care, several incremental steps beyond Medicare and Social Security is a move toward government control of everything and everyone. As the government takes control of our lives the self-same government is the only source for resolution of our problems when something goes wrong. And as the government becomes ever more arrogant and repressive, the only way to complain effectively is by mass protest, sometimes violent.

This week in Russia the people in over 50 rallies protested government actions that directly affect their lives. In addition to calling for “Free Speech, Free Elections!” they protested numerous economic problems blamed on government micro-management of the economy.

Scenes such as this are common in countries such as France, Turkey and Greece, where citizens view the government as the only solution to their perceived woes. They block highways and wave signs in protest. They don’t see any other means of resolving their problems.

As our country moves toward a socialist, government dominated economy the government becomes ever more the focus of discontent. You don’t complain about your medical treatment to he local hospital administrator. He’ll just open the rule-book and tell you he’s “doing it all by the book.” So your only alternative is to go out and wave a sign, hoping to be joined by others and noticed by government officials.

Freedom is not only precious for the fresh air one is able to breath, but also for the way that it keeps small problems small and responsibility where it belongs.

This weekend’s attack on our freedom by the Democrats in congress isn’t the first nor the last attempt by government to dominate us. The consequences are dire.

An American Story

February 17th, 2010

Late in the 19th century some immigrants from Norway arrived in the U.S. One of these came as a cabin boy aboard a Norwegian sailing ship named the Lancing. His name was Thor Ottman Firing whose father was a Norwegian naval officer. Thor Ottman signed on to the sailing vessel to fulfill a requirement to enter into the Norwegian naval academy, but by his arrival in New York he was sick, due in part to mistreatment by the Lancing’s brutal and much hated captain. Thor Ottman then jumped ship and was taken in by some Methodist missionaries who nursed him back to health. He later chose to enter the Methodist ministry and also founded a college in Illinois. In the meantime he married Evelyn, also of Norwegian and Swedish heritage and they had six children, the eldest of which was named Thor.

Another of those 19th century Norwegian immigrants was Paul Tweet, whose last name (spelled Tvedt) was Anglicized at Ellis Island. He was trained as an accountant in Norway. After arriving in the U.S., Paul established himself in business in the small Minnesota town of Roseau, Minnesota. He also homesteaded land in North Dakota. Eventually, Paul Tweet became a leading business man and civic leader in Roseau, and even owned the local U.S. Post Office building. He married Thora a beautiful and refined Norwegian immigrant woman and they had three children, one of whom was named Gertrude.

Thor Firing met Gertrude Tweet in Los Angeles, Ca. Gertrude had gone to Hollywood in hopes of being recognized for her figure skating talents and Thor had gone there in hopes of becoming a movie cameraman. It was the depth of the depression so jobs were hard to get. Thor took up the only job he could find, repairing typewriters. Meanwhile, Gertrude found work as a legal secretary. They fell in love and were married, but World War II loomed.

In his early life, Thor Firing was a pacifist and registered for the draft as a conscientious objector. However, at the outset of World War II he read about and saw news reels depicting the brutal rape of Nanking, China by the Japanese. This so shocked and disgusted him that he abandoned his CO status and joined the Army as a photographer, a skill he’d acquired through his employment at a photographic studio.

Thor achieved the rank of sergeant by the time the war ended and was discharged from active duty. But then the Korean war broke out. He, like many others of his generation had their civilian lives and ambitions turned upside down by being recalled to service. At that time Thor was recommended to attend Officer Candidate School to become a commissioned officer. By the time the Korean war ended, Thor had achieved the rank of Captain and had decided to make the Army his career.

In addition to numerous stateside assignments, he and his wife served in France, Korea, Thailand and Germany. He also served a combat tour in Vietnam. After 35 years of service Thor Firing retired from the Army as a full colonel. He then had a second career as a winery representative for Hans Kornel fine champaigns, fulfilling his passion to participate in the world of fine wines.

It is Thor and Gertrude’s generation and that of their parents, whose values of duty, honor, thrift and hard work made this country what is today. They built our modern economy, kept the world free of totalitarian control, and made the U.S.A. the most admired and prosperous country in the world. They did this with incredible modesty and grace. They gave generously and asked for little or nothing in return.

My father, Colonel Thor M. Firing, died yesterday. Gertrude, his wife of 70 years and his three children, four grand children and two great grand children survive him. He was a true hero and will be missed by all who knew him.

Which Party Should Collect the Garbage?

February 9th, 2010

Tucson, Arizona is engaged in a discussion about whether local elections, now partisan, should become non-partisan. So the question arises, do Republicans and Democrats differ at the local level? Yes, absolutely, said Tom Volgy, University of Arizona professor of political science and former Democrat mayor of Tucson. In a recent appearance on Arizona Illustrated Mr. Volgy used the example of garbage collection, which some say is a non-partisan activity.

Volgy said (as accurately as I can remember), “Democrats hire garbage men and pay them well. Republicans contract out the job and the contractors pay the minimum possible. So yes, there is certainly a partisan difference.” In essence, Volgy says Democrats regard garbage collection from the viewpoint of rewarding city workers. The Republicans (for shame) regard garbage collection as a service to be performed efficiently at lowest cost to the citizens. To my mind that’s about the clearest, most succinct summary of the difference in outlook between the two parties that I’ve ever heard.

Thank you Mr. Volgy for your insight.

P.S. The only thing I’d add is to question whether garbage collection should be a municipal service at all. A couple of decades ago I lived in San Francisco where fiercely competing private garbage collectors provided the best, most efficient and least costly collections I’ve ever seen. They’ve now gone over to a municipal service that stinks.

Madam Speaker: The President … Our Glorious Leader?!

January 28th, 2010

The start of every State of the Union speech begins with the grave announcement that the “supreme one” has arrived. “Madam Speaker: The President of the United States of America,” he gravely intones. And then the clapping can begin.

What he should say is: “Madam Speaker: The Chief Bureaucrat of the United States Government.” That, after all, is the president’s actual role. The congress makes the laws, the president manages the bureaucracy. The United States is not led by its president nor by its congress. These are the servants of the people, not their masters. We Americans don’t want nor do we need leaders in federal high office. We are not a club, not a corporation, not a ball team. We are individuals who go about our own business in spite of government, not because of it.

Did I somehow get this wrong? Are we a “people” organized and directed by a “leader”? Do we march about doing the work of the nation? Do we have a “national purpose?” Do we have “national goals?” I say nonsense, BS.

Live Free or Die.

The Right Tool for Budget Trimming

January 18th, 2010

Government budgets need to be hacked, not trimmed. Pictured below is what the seller, Husqvarna, calls a “traditional multi-purpose axe.”

This is the correct tool to use for reducing government budgets down to a practical size. Whole departments need to be eliminated and their employees fired.

Let’s start with the following. Can someone tell me what “services” the following Federal Government departments provide for you personally? Would their disappearance cause you any real hardship? Note that none of these are constitutionally authorized or even permitted Federal Government activities.

Department of Education ($63.5 Bil.)
Department of Energy ($24.7 Bil.)
Department of Commerce ($8.2 Bil.)
Department of Labor ($54.2 Bil.)
Department of Transportation (71.1 Bil.)
Health & Human Services (70.4 Bil.)
HUD (38.5 Bil.)
EPA (7.1 Bil.)
NASA ($18.1 Bil.)
NSF ($6.0 Bil.)
EPA ($8.0 Bil.)
SBA ($22.8 Bil.>

Completely hacking off these departments and activities would reduce the budget by $393 Billion, a good start, but only 13% of the total budget.

When I advocate hacking off 85% of the federal government’s agencies and make a challenge to identify personal consequences I always get the retort, “But what about the national parks?” OK, let’s talk national parks. The Department of the Interior runs the national parks. The Department of the Interior costs the U.S. tax payers 11.5 Billion per year. The budget spends $2.1 Bil. on national parks, 18% of the total Interior Department budget and 0.07% of the total Federal Budget. So I’ll grant you the 0.07%. We’ll transfer this function to the new National Parks Operations Agency, which will contract out the parks to private business operators. They’ll do the job better and for less money. But let’s eliminate the rest. HACK IT OUT.

A few more agencies that need the axe treatment are:

Homeland Security (37.6 Bil.)
Veterans (48.4 Bil.)
Corps of Engineers (4.7 Bil.)

Constitutional Departments:
Office of the President (0.4 Bil.)
Judicial (6.3 Bil.)
Legislative (4.7 Bil.)
State (38.3 Bil.)
Treasury (12.5 Bil.)
Other (7.2 Bil.)

Some Homeland Security activities are needed, particularly with the threat of Islamic Terrorism. But not 37.6 Billion worth. So let’s cut that in half. Veterans and Corps of Engineers are necessary obligations, but they too can do with a 50% haircut each for savings of $90.7 Billion.

Constitutionally mandated activities such as the Judiciary, legislative and office of the president, can be trimmed at least 25%, saving $38.1 Billion and no Federal Budget should have such a large “Other” (it must have no purpose to describe it) so HACK IT and save another $7.2 Billion.

That leaves Defense and entitlements.:

National Defense ($600 Bil.)

Social Security ($660 Bil.)
Medicare ($420 Bil.)
Medicaid & SCHIP (210 Bil.)

Net Interest ($240 Bil.)

The Entitlement Mess: Combining Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid/SCHIP adds up to $1.29 Trillion. These are supposed to be paid for by so-called payroll taxes. But in fact, the money collected (budgeted at $850 Billion for 2009 but actually $803 Billion, down 5.5% from budget) is immediately spent, leaving a deficit of ($1.29 Trillion – 803 Billion=) $487 Billion. So what is to be done about this?

My proposal is to have an plebiscite in the form of: “Which of the following do you prefer?”


A. Stay with the present Medicare/Medicaid/SCHIP program and double or triple the current FICA taxes, including so-called employer paid portions to 35% of income making these programs viable for an unknown future period. In voting for this option you understand that the U.S. will lose its current standard of living and become a third world economy with almost universal poverty – no exceptions for you.

B. Privatize Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid making each program optional and relying on private charity to provide for those who “fall between the cracks.” In so doing, over time, eliminate $1.29 Trillion from the national budget. By voting this option you understand that, although the country will become immensely richer due to a vastly stimulated economy, you will have additional responsibility and duties, and failing these you may some day have to rely on the charity of others.

C. OPEN FOR SUGGESTIONS — this is a vital issue.

This leaves National Defense, a $600 Billion program ripe for some axe work to trim it down to what is actually needed for the country’s defense and to back up its international interests. A reduction of $200 Billion should do the trick, leaving $400 Billion in the budget.

In keeping with the 33% reduction in National Defense, we’ll reduce the budgets of all other remaining departments by a third as well.

After a while, the Interest portion of the budget withers, so we’ll just leave that one alone. After all, we’re not Argentina.

After the hacking the non-entitlement budget looks something like this:

Office of the President ($0.3 Bil.)
Judicial ($4.7 Bil.)
Legislative ($3.5 Bil.)
National Defense ($400 Bil.)
State (28.5 Bil.)
Treasury (9.4 Bil.)
Homeland Security ($18.8 Bil.)
Veterans ($24.2 Bil.)
Corps of Engineers (2.3 Bil.)

Total Budget: $491.7 Billion. We’ve hacked off $529 Billion. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

But we still face a reform of the $1.29 Trillion entitlement mess. This can only be solved by a plebiscite as suggested, above. If it is not solved then we’re doomed to poverty and serfdom.

To place this into perspective, the last time the Federal Government spent about a like amount ($504 Billion) was in 1979. The country had a population of 225 million. By 1989 the budget stood at $1.1 Trillion, double that. The population had risen to 246 million. The cold war had just been won, so we were still in maximum cold war defense mode. The budget had a $152 Billion deficit. The 2009 expenditures amount to $3.0 Trillion with a $400 Billion deficit. The population of the country is now 300 million. We’ve gone from spending $2,300 per capita in 1979 to $4,479 per capita in 1989 to $10,000 per capita in just 30 years. In spite of the Reagan economic boom and the cold war peace dividend, the Bush-Clinton-Bush governments have put the country into a terrible jam. What Obama intends to do to us is frightful.

Note that without the entitlement mess the Federal Government would have to collect “only” $1,430 per capita to finance the government. Entitlements add $4,300 per capita for a total of $5.730 per capita or ($17,190 for a family of 3). The current burden is $10,000 per capita ($30,000 per year for a family of 3). But this whole article uses 2009 budget figures because 2010 is so wildly uncertain. With the Obama/Pelosi/Reid vision of the future it looks more like a complete wipe-out. Just give all your money to the Feds and they’ll decide how to spend it until the whole country collapses.

And this doesn’t even touch on the fiscal mess the individual states have brewed up for themselves. (Maybe more on this later.)

The moral of this story is: Trim the budget with an axe, and vote on the proper future handling of entitlements. It can’t go on this way much longer without drastic reforms.

Whores – a Lesson & a Warning

January 18th, 2010

From Larry Klayman’s recently published book, “Whores” we get some insight into the ugly political maneuvers that politicians routinely use to provide themselves with loot and political advantages at public expense. We also learn how the political realm includes not only elective office holders, but also the corruption of the judiciary and the bureaucracy at the highest levels of our government.

Until reading this book I could not have believed that the self-dealing corruption, ass kissing, and outright criminality was so prevalent and vile as it is. The corruption of the judiciary was nearly unbelievable. I could not have believed, until recent years, with the advent of the internet as an alternative news outlet, that the press was as blatantly complicit in this corruption as it is.

After reading the book some thoughts and reminiscences come to mind:

In high school I used to always walk around with a smile on my face, which attracted the attention of bullies. And each year I’d have to have it out with a bully to establish a reputation and preserve the peace for the rest of the term. It never took more than one fist fight, and being a geek not a jock, I always lost. But it didn’t matter. My ‘rep’ as someone not to fool with, my legend so to speak, was established. From then on I could go around with a grin all I wanted — after the shiner healed.

Why the smile? Well, I always thought of people as basically good and honest, even if occasionally wrong when they disagreed with me. The conspiracy theorists and cynics never impressed me, because conspiracy takes too much discipline to maintain secrecy, and cynics denied the fundamental incentives most people have to do the right thing. And further, as essentially a loner, I never believed or understood how people could so completely ignore their better instincts to behave as members of a gang, covering for and protecting their cohorts with artful lies and deceptions.

During my career as a market research consultant and entrepreneur I was privileged to meet and provide services to a fair number of senior executives, most from small to medium size high-tech firms. All that I met were honest people dedicated to building successful companies. I never met a crook, a cheat, or an illegal schemer among them. Maybe I was just naive or lucky, but that’s my experience and observation.

Although I did some work for large companies my observation of these firms revolved around their bureaucratic aspects, but I suppose I was never entwined in their politics enough to become cynical or suspicious. Big company bureaucracy was enough anthropology for me. And whether private or public, I firmly believe that bureaucracy contains the seeds of evil, the potential for its use to create great harm, but to use it for evil requires evil political leadership.

All of which leads to politics. Whether in government or in large organizations, politics involves the trading of favors to create and perpetuate a hierarchy. This commonly also involves the promulgation of a mythology and an ideology. These justify and support the political hierarchy, often at the expense of the greater public. The mythology evolves to reassure the public that the politicians and the institutions they occupy are honest, well intentioned and disciplined. The ideology is spun to corral a particular constituency’s support for the politician and his party.

The most misleading aspect of politics, in my opinion, is the degree to which we citizens rely on the myths and ideology to guide us in selecting and supporting our politicians and, indeed, our political system. In doing so, and by involving ourselves in earnest disagreements over ideology and mythology, we are distracted from the power games that are being played behind our backs by the politicians, senior bureaucrats, the judiciary and the mainstream news sources.

We have essentially allowed a gang to be created within our political system. It is a voluntary association of political players who mutually support, discipline and reward one-another by preying on their constituents, the citizens, you and me. This gang does not recognize any limitation of law or morality with regard to its activities. Its leaders do what they please, The gang members kiss ass to rise in the political hierarchy, all the while proclaiming their good intentions and support for the constituents. Loyalty runs up and rewards and discipline run down the hierarchy. What rankles most about this situation is the difficulty of dislodging the gang from institutions we, ourselves, should own.

Curiously, preservation of a corrupt political system relies on its ability to corrupt the citizens, themselves. A citizenry that recognizes no need for self-discipline, thrift, sacrifice, or duty in its own behavior, favoring only its own apparent comfort and advantage over everything else — such a constituency will not question the gang’s behaviors. The gang bestows favors, it’s constituency consumes them, and the gang’s secure future is assured.

Evidence of this corruption of the citizenry is evident in blindness to the looming disastrous fiscal consequences of entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It is apparent in the willingness of citizens to ignore the economy crippling results of high taxes, heavy handed regulation, environmental and energy manias and government nanyism. And the willingness of citizens to let the defense of the country, once a duty of every male citizen, to be born by a professional military force, even if this requires recruitment of females, this is evidence of moral corruption. Oh, well, we rationalize, we’ll muddle through and I’ll get mine before it all comes crashing down.

If, on the other hand, the constituency actually holds true to its political mythology, such as American exceptionalism, duty, honesty, peace through strength, personal freedom and justice for all; and insists on its ideology, such as limited government, budget discipline and transparency, then the gang can be driven out, broken up and banished until next time we get lazy, selfish and complacent.

Given all of this, it is difficult not to become a complete cynic. But I still believe most people are well intentioned and good. So I’ll keep my smile and stand up to the bullies when necessary. And I’ll do whatever I can to fight back against the gang, whether locally or in Washington, D.C.

Fun With Scares, Panics and Manias

January 8th, 2010

I’m a great fan of panics, riots, myths and media scares. These are all manifestations of the human proclivity for group-think and mob psychology, a most interesting and sometimes dangerous phenomenon. Thus I was pleased to see the article entitled The Top Twelve Faux Media Scares of the Past Decade in Andrew Breitbart’s new site, BigJournalism.com.

Included are:

1) Global Warming
2) SARS
3) Asbestos Insulation
4) Radon Gas
5) Swine Flu
6) Killer Bees
7) West Nile Virus
8)  Mad Cow Disease
9) Killer Spinach
10) Killer Tomatoes
11) Tuberculosis Plane Guy
12) Y2k

Of course, these twelve are not the entire list, which would have to include lead paint, the bird flu and Ebola scares, among others, but he does a great job of selecting the top 12. And let’s not forget that old hole in the ozone layer (1985), Nuclear Winter (1983), the Population Explosion (1990), World Running Out of Oil in 5 years (1979) and the coming Ice Age (1972) from earlier decades.

What every one of these scare scenarios has in common is that the alarm bell was rung loudly by respected elements of society, including government leaders, bureaucrats, business leaders, academics and, of course, journalists. And in each case, instead of a grand debunking, the scares simply petered out, quite silently being replaced by other, apparently more urgent concerns and occasional replacement manias. And in most cases those who rang the alarm bells most loudly will today not admit that they ever believed in or had anything to do with the crisis in question.

And the next one is right around the corner. What Fun!

Brutal Communists All

January 2nd, 2010

Amidst the dismal background of hypocrisy about Islamic savagery we’re subject to amnesia about another brutal force in the world — the remaining Communist states.

We’ve been lulled into thinking that China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba are really just harmless “socialist” relics. In the case of China and Vietnam our government and industry regard these outwardly benign countries as potential markets and low cost manufacturing sites. Unless we’re paying attention, unless we’re sensitive to the reality of these Communist regimes, we don’t realize what callous, evil, brutal regimes we’re dealing with.

In Vietnam the world’s capitalists have found a docile, low cost workforce ready and willing to sew t-shirts and manufacture sneakers. The population is large, but suppressed by its Communist government. Every so often a little of this government’s truly brutal nature peeks out, such as last week when a pro-democracy army officer was put on trial for subversion. “Mr. Kim, a 60 year old former lieutenant colonel, was accused of joining Bloc 8406, an organization that promotes multi-party democracy, an illegal act under Vietnam’s constitution.” After a short trial Kim was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. He could have been sentence to death but the judge was lenient due to Kim’s military record.

Kim and his like are among those who were unable to flee the Communists after the fall of Saigon. Hundreds of thousands did flee in every conceivable craft, from inner tubes to fishing boats. They went out to sea, desperate to escape the vicious Communist government that they knew would be merciless and brutal. They were right, although a large, but unknowable number of them died in the attempt to escape slavery.

Meanwhile, we’re turning a blind eye to the savagery of China’s Communist government. Their vicious repression of Tibetans who protest the Chinese occupation of their country, their brutal treatment of Uigurs, their threatening war with Taiwan, their roundups, executions and jailing of dissidents — all of these are glossed over. The currently fashionable trust in China as a commercial partner is blindness. We cannot and should never trust a Communist government. They need not be shooting enemies, but they are certainly not friends or allies.

Face it. Communists are evil, vile people. North Korea is a death camp, Cuba is a prison, as are Vietnam and China.

Pork is Corruption. How to Fix It.

December 31st, 2009

OINK! OINK! isn’t funny any more. This isn’t pork, it’s corruption of the worst and most blatant kind. It should get congress members jailed, not just ridiculed.

Here are examples of some of the $4.2 Billion of earmarks added to the grotesquely bloated $636 Billion defense budget.
From Fox News

In all, Congress added in 1,720 pet projects, including:

∙$5 million for a visitors center in San Francisco
∙$23 million for indigent health care in Hawaii
∙$18 million for the Edward Kennedy Policy Institute in Massachusetts
∙$1.6 million to computerize hospital records in Oakland
∙$47 million for anti-drug training centers around the country
∙$20 million for the World War II Museum in Louisiana
∙$3.9 million grant to develop an energy-efficient solar film for buildings
∙$800,000 for minority prostate cancer research
∙$3.6 million for marijuana eradication in Kentucky
∙$2.4 million for handicap access and a sprinkler system at a community club in New York

Our wimpy Sun God President Obama promised to veto any bill containing such earmarks. He lied! Again.

So why do our elected representatives engage in this criminality? They do it for votes. There are voters and campaign contributors behind every one of the above earmarks. They’re all done for the “good” of someone. Why would anyone argue against these good works?

Can it be stopped? Good question. I propose the following reforms to get control of our Federal Government:

  1. The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is fully enforced by the Supreme Court, throwing out the bogus use of “Interstate Commerce” as an excuse to regulate and corrupt anything and everything. All existing legislation relying on the expansive interpretation of the Commerce Clause shall immediately become null and void.
  2. Congressional bills are required to cover only a single subject with individual votes on each bill.
  3. Every bill requiring expenditure of money must specify its gross total cost and include a tax provision to fund the spending. Detailed budgets shall be the responsibility of executive department heads who will be held personally responsible for every line item of their budget.
  4. No bill, including any amendments, may exceed 50 pages of 10 point text printed on 8 1/2×11″ paper with 1″ margins.
  5. Any member of the legislative body considering a bill may object to a lack of clarity in the bill’s language. In which case the bill will be sent to the nearest (private) high school for re-drafting before a vote is allowed.
  6. Congress shall be allowed to propose no more than 100 bills per legislative year. (That’s 5,000 pages total.) After 100 bills have been voted upon, Congress shall be sent home to face the voters.
  7. All bills involving expenditures shall expire after five years, after which they must be re-introduced within the 100 bill limits above.
  8. Congress shall pass no law or regulation that does not apply equally to itself as to other citizens.
  9. Service as a congressional representative is a privilege, not a career. There shall be no retirement program for members of congress other than Social Security (if it isn’t repealed).
  10. Unionization of government employees should be outlawed. All employees serve at the pleasure of the head of their department and may be dismissed an any time for any reason. Department heads are personally responsible for all acts or failures of their department.

Short of revolution and a new constitutional convention it would be difficult to implement these reforms. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to limit government power and political corruption.

Political Pork is Poison.

Dear Mr. Democrat Representative

December 20th, 2009

I’m sending this plea to my Democrat representative, Rep. Raul Grijalva, who has voted for the health care takeover against my ardent advice.

Dear Rep. Grijalva,
You’re acting like a push-over. Look, Ben Nelson and Mary Lanerieu got lots of boodle for their districts. What did you get for our district? Nada! You need to tell your congressional leaders that you’ve changed your mind about the health care bill, and you won’t change it back until they pay you off, send mucho moola and mountains of goodies to your district. Don’t be a pansie. Fight for the goodies. That’s what we elected you for.

Sincerely,
Odd Citizen

Bill Whittle, Spokesman for Liberty

December 15th, 2009

From time to time someone gives frustration a voice. If you’re as frustrated and depressed about where the country seems to be heading currently, please take time to view this:
Bill Whittle “The Kudzu Curse” On Pajamas TV. You may have to register, but it’s well worth the extra effort.

Mr. Whittle, for those of you who don’t know him is a blogger, screen writer, director, speech maker, pilot and campaigner for freedom. He’s a young fellow fired with obvious enthusiasm and spunk. I haven’t found any evidence of a PhD or elected office. He’s just a supercharged polemicist. In short, I admire the man and am impressed by what he has to say and how he says it.

In many respects, Bill Whittle’s passionate defense of liberty reminds me of Thomas Paine, the revolutionary polemicist who published a booklet called “Common Sense.” This was widely distributed and very influential in convincing Americans to break with Britain.

From The History Guide we learn:

Paine was convinced that the American Revolution was a crusade for a superior political system and that America was ultimately unconquerable. He did as much as any writer could to encourage resistance and to inspire faith in the Continental Army. I essays published in the Pennsylvania Journal under the heading “Crisis,” Paine attacked the faint-hearted, campaigned for a more efficient federal and state tax system to meet the costs of war, and encouraged the belief that Britain would eventually recognize American independence.

Note the positive attitude, the confidence in Americans’ ability to overcome the British and stand on their own two feet. This positive attitude and confidence are also reflected in Whittle’s speeches and writing.

With age I’ve become convinced that some of the most profound wisdom and best guidance is supplied by people from ordinary backgrounds who have extraordinary powers of observation and perception of reality, plus the ability to communicate. It has also become apparent to me that we often give too much credence to the credentialed, the famous, and the wealthy among us. In fact, the amount of balderdash emitted by experts, Nobelists, PhD’s, Celebrities and holders of high political office is mind boggling, and if taken seriously and blindly made the basis of government policy can be absolutely dangerous. In revolutionary times these people would have been the British generals, grandees, tax collectors, governors, and of course George III, himself. And we wouldn’t have had a revolution. We wouldn’t be America.

So here’s a toast to you, Bill Whittle. Keep it up. You’re in good company.

Christopher Monckton on Climategate

December 10th, 2009

Here, Lord Mockton, former science advisor to the British government, discusses in some detail the implications of climategate and the Copenhagen conference which is taking place now.
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Here Lord Mockton asserts that the email and document revelations from CRU are the work of an inside whistle blower, not an external hacker. Very interesting, indeed.

Urban Vs. Rural Temperature Patterns

December 9th, 2009

A Coyote scoop! This stands on its own.

Awsome Analysis of Urban Biases on Surface Temperatures

A Good, Readable Summary of Climate Fraud

December 2nd, 2009

If you really want to learn what all the noise about ClimateGate is all about, I highly recommend Christopher Monckton’s very readable treatment in “Caught Green Handed, Cold facts about the hot topic of global temperature change after the Climategate scandal” referenced here in pdf format. In this 40 page summary filled with graphs and arguments, Lord Monckton, former science advisor to the British government, lays out what he considers to be the essential lies behind the global warming fraud, as he calls it.

I don’t personally believe that the people involved in this fraud had evil intentions, but were rather caught up in a sort of mass hysteria, group-think, PC movement. They thought of themselves as planet saviors. But the implications of having their U.N. backed fantasies would become world-wide political policy would be stunningly ugly. It would involve human industrial and scientific progress and personal freedom being replaced by a philosophy of penance, penury, servitude and gloom — sort of a new Dark Ages.

So let’s can IPCC. Shelve the whole of climate hype and greenie politically influenced policy. Cancel all funding of global warming centered research. Open up all climate data to independent and objective reconstruction starting with a clean slate. Let this be done by, among others, academics in the comfort of their usual research studies, rather than by lavish government-funded, agenda driven projects. Calm down. Then, if and when the scientists and their critics can objectively and conclusively prove that there is a climate problem, and that we as a society can do anything responsible and effective about it, then we can calmly and jointly discuss mitigation of some sort.

Until then we have much more important things that deserve our attention and resources.

Cap & Trade IS NOT a Free Market Scheme

November 25th, 2009

What, exactly, is cap & trade? I’ll try to illustrate it here by example. Let’s say the government decides that the citizens are getting too fat. They declare that the ideal weight is (170 lbs. men, 110 lbs. women = average 140 lbs.) So it announces a cap and trade program allowing only (140 lbs. x 300 million citizens) 42 billion lbs. of body weight for the country. But the government knows that the actual body weight is 50% higher than that, or 60 billion lbs. So it sells licenses to fatties who weigh more than 140 lbs. each, allowing for the extra 70 lbs. per fatty. Fatties who don’t want to purchase the licences are simply weighed, then fined or taxed. But in return they get a fat license.

Now comes the really clever part of the scheme. Fatties who lose weight can sell their fat licences to skinnies who want to gain weight, thus providing an incentive for fatties to slim down. But what incentive do the skinnies have to get fatter and pay for fat licences? Very little, indeed.

The cap and trade scheme relies on the government reducing the cap year by year. So if the first year’s cap is 70 lbs per person and the cap is reduced to 50 lbs, then fatties who haven’t reduced their weight may have to pay for more fat licences. They can pay the government for these, or they can purchase them from fatties who have lost weight and don’t need so many fat credits on their licences.

The fat licenses become less valuable as fewer and fewer skinnies decide to pork up and as fatties become skinnies. So the government reduces the cap more rapidly to maintain the value of fat licences and thus the incentive to lose weight and of course the revenue the government gets from selling the licences. All is sunshine, the nation is losing weight rapidly and soon everyone will be skinny.

Advocates for cap & trade as CO2 mitigation such as the Environmental Defense Fund claim that cap & trade was successful in ending acid rain a few years back, so it should be used now. But, it is widely reported, the European Union’s cap & trade scheme has been a complete failure leading to economic damage and no significant CO2 reductions. Much of this failure is attributed to the inevitable corruption that results from government control of the economy. Politicians like to get paid re-elected, industries like to get favors.

Let’s analyze this cap and trade scheme for what it really is. The whole scheme requires three things to work. It requires artificial scarcity (the cap), coersion (requirement to report weight and buy licenses for excess weight) and government price controls. None of these is a characteristic of a free market or a free society.

So don’t be fooled. Cap and Trade is government regulation, economic interference and taxation.

Eee-Gad! A Simpler Climate Model That Actually Works?

November 23rd, 2009

While stumbling around the climate blogosphere I came across this, just published report:
Simple Model Leaves Expensive Climate Models Cold

The report describes a simple climate model that seems to actually work and compares it to the complex U.N. IPCC models that don’t work.

Incidentally, this new model predicts 0.5 degree C. rise in temps over the next 100 years, but says this may be an artifact of measurement error. Nothing to worry about in any case.

Maybe someone will be able to elaborate on the technology and mathematics involved. (See link in cited article, above.)

Just thought you might be interested.

The Berlin Wall Didn’t Fall — It Was Pushed

November 9th, 2009

This still brings me tears of joy. It was a great day, the culmination of years of evil and blood. For my generation which was taught how to “duck and cover” (hide under one’s school desk) in case of atomic attack, for a generation in which some of us went to war to fight communist evil and thus had a small part in bringing down the evil empire — for us this was a most memorable milestone in our lives.

(Thanks to Club for Growth for bringing this video to my attention.)

Reflecting on this joyful video gives me hope that statism, no matter how well established it has become, can and eventually will cave in to the yearning of people for true freedom.

I’m also reminded, however, of the truth that “freedom isn’t free.” It is earned and purchased with blood and sacrifice.

I hope you will remember that on Veteran’s Day – November 11th.

Allahu Akbar My Donkey!

November 7th, 2009

Mr. Obama warns us about jumping to conclusions. The press, CBS, NBC, ABC, et al begin to paint Major Nidal Malik Hasan (who yelled “Allahu Akbar” as he gunned down and killed 14 soldiers and civilians and wounded 30 others) as a “victim” of cultural insults and stress. One would expect nothing less from these leftist politically correct sources.

But the U.S. Army should have no such excuse. It is becoming abundantly clear that the army hierarchy was aware of Hasan’s radical Muslim leanings. And I suspect but can’t prove that the army was reluctant due to political correctness reasons to do anything about Hasan’s continued participation as an officer. But political correctness makes no sense at all when the army is fighting a war against radical Muslim fanatics, Al Queda and the Taliban. To allow such a man as Hasan to continue wearing an officer’s uniform or even continue in military service is, under these circumstances, irresponsible. The army has a duty to identify and preemptively dismiss such people as security risks.

And this wasn’t the only case of Muslim fanatics as military members committing mass murder. Remember the case in 2003 of the unit in Kuwait waiting for deployment to Iraq — and the soldier (Sgt. Hasan Akbar) who tossed grenades into tents killing two officers and wounding 14 others. I presume he, too, yelled Allahu Akbar. He was tried and sentenced to death. I wonder if he’s still living? Have there been other similar cases covered up for politically correct reasons?

Wake up. This is not a “man caused contingency operation,” this is a war against mass-murdering Muslim fanatics, the likes of which do not belong in the U.S. armed forces.

60 Years of Shameful Brutality

October 1st, 2009

Worth Reading, an article about modern China from Mail Online, Marching to world domination: China celebrates 60 years of communism with a display of military might that should worry the West

We shouldn’t forget that the communist government of China has been responsible for the deaths of some 80 million of its own people through repression, starvation and outright official brutality.

Although the Chinese armed forces, with 2.5 million men are still not the military match for the west’s much smaller but more lethal force, this may not remain true, especially as Europe becomes ever more feminized and the U.S. loses its will to maintain a Pax Americana. And an increasing reliance on China as a source for manufacturing leaves the west vulnerable to a Chinese social calamity. But most important of all, these are brutal Communists. Don’t be fooled.

These guys are not our friends.

Miles per Ton of Coal

September 25th, 2009

We’ve all been entertained by the 100-230 MPG mileage claims for gasoline/electric hybrid cars. It’s entertaining because nobody agrees on how to calculate MPG when the gasoline engine may run from 0% to 100% of the time. In the first instance the MPG is infinite. In the second it equals a normal gasoline engine.

We do know a few other things, though. The typical claim for range on electricity alone for a plug-in vehicle is about 40 miles (Chevy Volt). After that it needs gas to go. The more miles you drive without a plug-in recharge the lower the gasoline mileage you get for your trip.

So let’s concentrate on the electric powered part of the cycle. Assuming a 40 mile range, how much coal needs to be burned in typical power plant to power the Volt for 40 miles? An easy way to estimate this is to use the Volt’s battery capacity, which is 16 KWH. The typical coal fired power plant running at 40% efficiency produces 2,460 KWH per ton of coal. So (ignoring transmission losses) 16/2,460 = .0065 (tons/40 miles) x 2000 (lbs/ton) = 13 Lbs. of coal per 40 miles driven.

Now, suppose every car in the USA were a Volt driven only 40 Miles per day as the environmental dreamers dream about. That would require 135 million autos (2006 count) x 13 lbs / 2,000 lbs = 87,750 tons of coal per day, or 32 million tons per year. In the U.S.A. about 1,146 million tons of coal are produced per year.

In 1994 it is estimated that U.S. “residential” vehicles traveled 1.74 Billion miles. If this were to be done under electric power using today’s efficiencies, as above, this would require 565 million tons of coal per year, a 50% increase compared to current production.

Oh-oh! The Greenies will be offended and angered. How dare we assume that all this transportation electricity will come from coal? Well, we can be completely assured about one thing. It won’t come from wind and solar and bio-mass. Only nuclear or coal are capable of producing this much juice. But nukes take many years to build (thanks largely to constant, niggling lawsuits by greenies), so even nuclear plants won’t be a quick solution. This leaves coal or natural gas.

Conclusion: There’s nothing wrong with electricity, nothing wrong with petroleum, nothing wrong with coal, but you don’t get something (like 240 MPG) for nothing. And nuclear may be needed. If it isn’t all nonsense in the first place.

(P.S. I’ve never claimed to be a math whiz, so you’re welcome to check my calculations. And actually, I think hybrids are really keen, but the hype about energy and CO2 is pure political bull.)

All Together Now: Crisis. Panic. Catastrophe!

September 22nd, 2009

World financial collapse, climate being wrecked by human activity, food running out, population exploding.

What do all of these panics have in common? They are all used as excuses by statists to argue for more government control over humanity. They are all blamed on the developed world, which by their account owes a duty to the developing (poor) countries to spend a gazillion dollars in welfare to rescue the less fortunate masses.

Let’s take them one at a time:

The Financial Collapse is a byproduct of government’s regulation failures, not regulation of the private sector, but regulation of government’s own entities, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, HUD, Treasury and Federal Reserve. These were and remain completely out of control. In the midst of insane expansions of government spending, devaluation of the dollar and the growing dead hand of private sector regulations, the statists are calling for yet more of the same.

Climate Change Once called “Global Warming,” but in the face of actual cooling over the last 10 years it is now called “Climate Change” in order to preserve it as a crisis. This is demonstrably a mania engaging politicians, scientists, news publishers, movie stars and gullible self-promoters such as Al Gore. The proposed solution is to squelch the progress and living standards of successful countries and transfer their assets to help the “poor” Africans. Decreasing the wealth of the developed world and increasing the dependency of the under-developed world makes sense only to statists and nihilists.

Population Growth From a recent Breitbart article:

Ninety-eight percent of the expected population growth will occur in developing countries, especially in Africa, where numbers are set to double to almost two billion by 2050.

“How Niger is going to feed a population growing from 11 million today to 50 million in 2050 in a semi-arid country that may be facing adverse climate (change) is unclear,” said Adair Turner, a member of Britain’s House of Lords.

The population of Uganda was five million in 1950, is 25 million today and could reach 127 million by 2050, Turner said.

We are warned that:

“The inexorable increase in human numbers is exhausting conventional energy supplies, accelerating environmental pollution and global warming and providing an increasing number of failed states where civil unrest prevails.”

As pointed out notably by Mark Steyn in his book, “America Alone,” although Africa and the Arab countries’ populations are growing at an impressive rate, the populations of productive countries of Europe (including Russia) and Asia (including Japan, China) are shrinking rapidly. Only America has sustains a replacement rate of reproduction, in part due to its immigration policies.

The scare-mongers want control over what they view as looming catastrophe. But they seem blind to the reality that what they demand as a solution makes little sense. These alarmed statists led by the the U.N. want to see the (population shrinking) successful countries penalized so that the unsuccessful (population growing) countries can have more space and more resources for their exploding populations of uneducated, violence prone, unproductive, uncreative people. Oh, and by the way, there should be government run population controls to reduce the reproduction rates, but nobody wants to specify whose reproduction rate that should be.

The answer to all this is to step back, take a deep breath, and question the basic presumptions of the catastrophe crowd. Having done so, it should be clear that the unsuccessful, unproductive part of the world should emulate the productive, successful part. The successful countries are able to feed themselves, have stable to shrinking populations, increasing wealth and well being, and in spite of occasional pull-backs are financially successful as well. With respect to global climate, let’s just take a little more time (within the 100 year catastrophe window) to study the matter, paying particular attention to testing our theories against actual data.

It’s not as bad as it seems.

Obama Goes Pre-Emptive, Just Like Bush!

September 21st, 2009


U.S. Condemned For Pre-Emptive Use Of Hillary Clinton Against Pakistan

It can’t all be serious, or can it?

Recession, Depression or Panic

September 16th, 2009

An opinion piece by John H. Cochrane and Luigi Zingles in the Wall Street Journal includes a graph titled When Concern turned to Panic

This graph illustrates dramatically the panic produced by the fire in a crowded theater outcries of then Secretary of Treasury Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. I show it here to reinforce my contention that the recession is a byproduct of panic, and that this panic was clearly triggered by these two senior government officials. As in all panic situations others pile on, and the panic spreads.

See my posts of:
Sept. 17, Mass Delusions and Bigger Delusions
Sept. 17, Bubbles and Panics
Sept. 20, Financial Crisis Explained
Sept. 22, The Politics of Crisis
Sept. 24, The Herd in Crisis
Sept. 24, Light Shining Through?
Nov. 12, Government Money Riot
Nov. 22, A Stimulus Plan That Might Actually Work
Nov. 25, The Money Riot Continues
Jan. 9, Bent Reality Produces Fake Crisis
Jan. 12, $700 Billion Money Riot
Jan. 20, Recession or Money Riot Panic?
March 25, What Depression? We’re Being Lied To
May 6, Stimulus Fraud & Lies

Furthermore, this recession was never an impending “second great depression” as many economists, politicians and pundits proclaimed. See Allan Meltzer’s opinion piece and his chart reproduced below:

So the panic was caused by government officials and inflated by politicians who saw it as an opportunity to expand government.

The implications of all the above are:
1) The recovery will be driven by native forces in the capitalist system, as all recoveries have been.
2) The Obama administration tries to take credit for either avoiding a new depression or for the recovery. That’s absolute bunk.
4) The “stimulus” was a waste of money.
5) TARP was most likely completely unnecessary and again, wasteful.
6) Government habitually lies.

The Federal Government has done immense economic damage in the past 9 months by nationalizing banks, auto manufacturers, and the mortgage industry. The populist push to pile additional regulations upon what is already the most regulated industry in America, Finance, is insane and will cause additional damage. Why should anyone think that government regulators that were warned in detail about the Bernie Madoff fraud, but did nothing, would behave any more effectively if given broader responsibilities? What makes anyone think that a government agency, all of which were amply warned yet blind to the Fannie and Freddie frauds would have the foresight and guts to head off the bubble of credit default swaps that sank Lehman and got the Federal Government to nationalize AIG.

The only discipline that works is the fear of failure. So what would have happened if AIG had to declare bankruptcy and all those credit default swaps became worthless? It would have chastened the banks, such as Salomon Brothers which traded in them. Some might have been bankrupted. But instead, the all-wise Feds simply declared that all the bond-holders and stock owners of Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Bear Stearns, GM, Chrysler, hundreds of automobile dealers, and others would simply be screwed — their contractual and property rights nullified and their assets made worthless by government fiat. That is criminal.

In a lively economy such as ours it doesn’t take much to re-create paper-driven institutions such as investment banks. Entrepreneurs pick through the ruins and in months a dozen new entities arise out of the ashes of the fallen. The former employees of fallen Wall St. giants such as Lehman are already regenerating parts of the business where their expertise had value. Even automobile companies, with huge capital plants can be salvaged from wreckage, and would be if anything is worth saving.

It is a myth that any institution is too large or “systemic” to fail. Yes, it might hurt for a while, but free economies have amazing regenerative powers, and maintaining the discipline of potential failure is well worth the occasional stumble.

Free Markets Work. Government just gets in the way.

Inflation or Deflation? Experts Disagree

September 15th, 2009

First, I must admit that discussions of monetary policy make my eyes glaze over. But it gives me some comfort, or should it be fear, that the so-called experts can’t agree on it either. Below are two articles from British newspapers, one forecasting devastating deflation, the other inflation. My naive take on all this is that a) neither inflation nor deflation is good. Stable money is best; and b) the ugly predictions below are the direct result of government policies designed to use money supply to damp or goose the economy; and c) insane out of control spending on “stimulus” does not improve the economy, it just upsets the monetary balance.

Warnings of deflation from an article in Telegraph.Co.UK/b>

Professor Tim Congdon from International Monetary Research said US bank loans have fallen at an annual pace of almost 14pc in the three months to August (from $7,147bn to $6,886bn).

“There has been nothing like this in the USA since the 1930s,” he said. “The rapid destruction of money balances is madness.”

The M3 “broad” money supply, watched as an early warning signal for the economy a year or so later, has been falling at a 5pc annual rate.

Similar concerns have been raised by David Rosenberg, chief strategist at Gluskin Sheff, who said that over the four weeks up to August 24, bank credit shrank at an “epic” 9pc annual pace, the M2 money supply shrank at 12.2pc and M1 shrank at 6.5pc.

“For the first time in the post-WW2 [Second World War] era, we have deflation in credit, wages and rents and, from our lens, this is a toxic brew,” he said.

It is unclear why the US Federal Reserve has allowed this to occur.

Warnings of inflation from Financial Times of London:

“The comments from Mr White, who ran the economic department at the central banks’ bank from 1995 to 2008, carry weight because he was one of the few senior figures to predict the financial crisis in the years before it struck.”

Worldwide, central banks have pumped thousands of billions of dollars of new money into the financial system over the past two years in an effort to prevent a depression. Meanwhile, governments have gone to similar extremes, taking on vast sums of debt to prop up industries from banking to car making.

These measures may already be inflating a bubble in asset prices, from equities to commodities, he said, and there was a small risk that inflation would get out of control over the medium term if central banks miss-time their “exit strategies”.

Either of the scenarios, above, would mean misery for all of us. We should remember that not too long ago the experts were predicting that the U.S. would become economic road kill due to Japan’s then (apparently) successful economic policies. We can only hope now that while the experts play in the economists’ sand box, that U.S. industry will once again, as it did in the 80’s prove the experts wrong and irrelevant. People make economies. Experts just analyze them. Governments just mess them up.

Maybe we should conclude that simpler is better. Don’t trust the experts too much. Monetary stability can be accomplished with a few strong rules and the discipline to follow them.

Demonstrations & Democracy

September 13th, 2009

It has been a life-long hobby of mine to observe crowd behavior, whether it be mass delusions, demonstrations, riots, or other forms of collective behavior, some pathological, some not. In its extreme forms this kind of behavior strips people of their individual judgment and sometimes even their self control. Riots are an example of this extreme. Mass delusions differ from the other forms in that, although they influence behavior, they don’t necessarily produce actions, but may play a part in demonstrations and riots.

Demonstrations are a closely related but different animal. Demonstrations are frequently the predecessor to riots, and any motivated and skilled agitator can turn a demonstration into a riot. I have personally witnessed, during my student years in South America how this can be, and is accomplished. Which is not to say that all demonstrations are preludes to riots.

An interesting and important aspect of demonstrations is that they are almost exclusively directed at grievances toward actions or policies of institutions (e.g. government or large businesses) which the demonstrators feel otherwise powerless to influence. By demonstrating en-mass, the participants hope to show those in power that they are opposed by a large number of people. The demonstrators carry signs and shout slogans justifying their positions and demanding solutions. But few if any participants believe these arguments will have any significant direct impact on the target of the demonstration. And in fact, very few demonstrations directly produce changes the demonstrators demand. Through publicity and in some cases implied intimidation, however, they can influence outcomes. But only a change in opinion or attitude, or fear within the target institution can produce the result the demonstrators argue for.

Another very important role of the demonstration is to encourage and reassure the demonstrators and their sympathizers, thus building more support for their positions. People like to join and root for what they perceive to be a winning team. And the larger the demonstration, the more effective it is likely to be. Those who run institutions are often no less susceptible to peer pressure than the average teen ager.

The implication of the foregoing is that: a)demonstrations are born of frustration in that no other means are apparent, and b) demonstrations are unlikely to directly produce the change demanded, but do build support.

Who demonstrates and why? Demonstrations are unnecessary and a waste of time when other means of change are available. Likewise, demonstrations are only useful to oppose large entities, such as government. This suggests that, in a well-functioning democracy there are ample means of influencing desired changes, and therefore the frustration needed to motivate demonstrations is removed. As government gets involved in ever more aspects of life, however, citizens are presented with an increasing number of issues over which they may feel powerless to change. This produces frustration, and frustration motivates demonstrations. One can observe this phenomenon in countries where the government controls large and important sectors of the economy. In France it is common for farmers to block roads with tractors because farm prices are low. If the government doesn’t control something there is no motivation to demonstrate. If the government does control something, then demonstration may be the only means of seeking change.

In the past, demonstrations have been a rarity in the U.S. compared with more statist societies around the world. Limited government, economic flexibility, and free speech are responsible for this. Post-WW-1 bonus marches, 1960’s civil rights demonstrations, and anti-war protests resulted from large-scale social movements or perceptions of large-scale injustice. Ordinary personal matters such as health insurance do not justify demonstrations. Demonstrations in a democracy are a symptom failure.

The “Tea Parties” we’re now seeing result from the perception of a government completely out-of-touch with the American people. There is a frustration with huge increases in spending, increasing government participation and regulation of the economy and intrusions into individual choices such as health care. A large segment of the American public perceives that these things are changing for the worse, and that these changes are out of their control. Government isn’t listening, they’re frustrated, so they demonstrate.

If the Obama crowd succeeds in implementing enough of its agenda of government expansion, then we’ll see a lot more demonstrations. We can demonstrate for better automobile warranties, lower prices, health insurance coverage for absent-mindedness, whiter teeth, availability of lettuce, ad-absurdum.

More demonstrations, more to demonstrate about, less freedom to make changes absent of demonstrations. This isn’t a change we should believe in or want to encourage.

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