Categories
freedom politics

In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the war on drugs…

… a little joke.

Q: What’s the worst thing that could happen to a kid that tries pot?

A: He could go to jail.

 

We are now at a point where the treatment is far worse than the disease. The number of non-violent people languishing in prison for doing something that only effects them is truly sad. The violence that has arisen from the black market of banned substances is horrifying. The kicker is that the vast majority of all of these problems revolve around marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Of the three, marijuana is, by far, the biggest one, and least dangerous. Even more outrageous, there are a multitude of even more dangerous substances, alcohol included, that are perfectly legal.

it’s time to end the war on people that do things to their body that the government doesn’t like. Ending the “war” is the humane thing to do, 40 years is way too long and we have ruined enough people’s lives.

Categories
freedom politics

ال يمن مجنون لكن مسكين

Last night, I had not one, but two friends tell me they wanted to go back to Yemen… right now. As crazy as that sounds, I do understand where they are coming from. Despite the tribalism that is starting to rip Yemen apart, there is something special about the place that makes so many westerners want to go back. As I remember, those two friends were more than a little crazy and ready to get the hell out of Yemen the last time I saw them. Another friend came and saw me three times in Yemen, each time he said it would be his last. He has been back since. An Australian came to Sana’a as part of her sweep up Eastern Africa expecting to stay 3 weeks. She was there 6 months. I was more than a little crazy by the time I left too, but I miss it.

 

I hope that whatever has been kept under wraps for 30 years can be sorted out somewhat quickly. I am dead set against any American involvement in whatever is to come in Yemen. Some say that Al Queda is too dangerous to allow them to get a foothold in Yemen. I’ll point to their fearsome success of blowing up a guys underwear and the shipping ink cartridge “bombs.” Their attempts in Yemen were pretty pathetic, the running joke was that none of their plans were coming to fruition because none of them wanted to give up their cell phone to act as a detonator. Yes, they attempted to bomb the American embassy, but they didn’t get close and only managed to kill some Yemeni troops and a single, unlucky American. Their crowning moment happened in 2000 with the attack on the Cole. Yes, Americans were killed, but the damage could have been minimized if even basic security procedures were followed. When a missile cruiser is damaged at all and deaths occur from an attack from an inflatable boat, someone fell down on the job. The Unabomber was a far more effective terrorist and yet we didn’t need a single Tomahawk missile or special ops group to get him. All of the same things that are being said about Yemen were also said about Somalia. As it turns out, a chaotic situation is not conducive to world-wide terror plots. Too much energy and time is spent on maintaining local power and influence. The crazier it is in Yemen, the less likely Queda will be able to mount any attacks at all. Even if they did, their attempts in recent memory have been laughable.

More than any of that though, I don’t want us doing anything that gives Yemenis reason to hate us. It”s bad enough that we supported Salah all these years. We have to let them figure things out on their own and find their own balance. Raining missiles down on them or attacking them will not make us the good guys. Don’t give Queda recruiting fodder. I would like to go back one day, please don’t make the US the enemy.

Categories
freedom politics

Osama the trust fund brat

From Dana Vachon at the Daily Beast:

 

“Osama bin Laden was already made an old fool by the Arab Spring. It was a million young bodies, their unsated creature needs, a generation of Arabs who were only 9 or 11 when 9/11 happened, that pushed the Middle East into modernity, in the end. It was taxi drivers and street vendors and people with no jobs. And they revealed bin Laden for what he always was, a trust fund brat peddling delusions of past grandeur as a cure for the present’s pains.”

Categories
economics politics

If you love America, you throw money in its hole.

Why is it that the Onion is what we rely on to uncover what’s really going on? This piece is amazing. They manage to skewer  most of the political spectrum with this bit. Even when you have someone on a discussion show try to argue in favor of personal choice, they are still as insane as everyone else on the show. The rest of them really are how I see Keynesian talking heads, they have never made any sense to me. Some of my favorite quotes include the title of this post and “… if I did (receive money) I would throw it in the hole, because I am a patriot!” And there’s the priceless “It’s like they say, you have to throw money in a hole and set it on fire if you want to make money.”

 

 

Categories
economics politics

Government funding

A friend on facebook was recently complaining that because of the looming government shutdown, he was facing no trash pickup, and the closure of the pool he practices in. He rightly criticizes the folks in DC over their political grandstanding and arguing over petty things, but I think he missed the real issue. I can’t help but point out that if things are funded by the government, they are subject to the whims of the political process. And that includes everything from park access to social security checks. Reasonable people can disagree over what the government needs to fund, but we should always keep in mind just how tenuous that funding actually is. Things that seem like a good idea to fund when your team is in power suddenly don’t seem like such a good idea or are in danger when the other team takes over. You can’t really depend on stability in the political sphere, so why would you count on stability of services from it?

When the government shuts down, there will be plenty of places where pools are open and trash is collected because they aren’t operated by the government. Sure, those can be interrupted too, but there are consequences for them if that happens. In the private sector, the pursuit of profits, fear of competition, and possible legal implications over broken contracts keep things going. Things tend to get done more often than not in the private sector. I keep hoping that at some point the discourse will shift over to the idea that perhaps we depend too much on the political process. I’m not holding my breath, especially around here.

Categories
politics

The campaigning has started already

I’ve started to get posts in my facebook profile about the “In it to win it” effort to re-elect Obama in 2012. Pop quiz, which party starts wars and expands existing ones, adds trillions and trillions to the federal deficit, busts people legally selling marijuana to cancer patients, has a terrible track record on civil rights, operates secret (and not so secret) detention centers across the world and routinely denies habeas corpus to it’s inmates, and bails out and supports large business and special interests on the taxpayer tab? Trick question, it’s both parties of course.

 

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Obama supporters still support him, he has become everything he professed to hate when he was running in 2008. Where have the anti-war protestors gone? Where is the anger about Gitmo? Why does Obama seemingly get a free pass on all of these things? The only thing I can come up with is that the people that were protesting before were really protesting the fact that the “wrong” team was in office. That would also broadly fit into the reasons behind the more recent protests. Anything the tea partiers are protesting could have been relevant when Bush II was in office, and yet they didn’t show up then. Cheerleaders, that’s all that republicans and democrats seem to be.

Despite all of my gripes, Obama is in a weaker position now then he was last election. Luckily for him, the republicans don’t seem to be able to come up with a real candidate. It reminds me of when dubya was running for a second term and all the Dems could come up with was John Kerry. I really think that the only republican that would have a real chance against Obama is Ron Paul. That’s because he is, and has been, anti-war, anti-drug war, anti-deficit, pro 2nd amendment. He was against the bailouts, doesn’t trust the federal reserve, and is adamantly against corporate welfare. The really wonderful thing about him is that all of that is philosophically consistent, all of his positions are based upon individual liberty and autonomy. He hasn’t flipped his positions, check out the speeches from Obama’s 2008 campaign if you want to see the definition of a weasel politician. Of course, the reason Paul won’t get the nomination is because he is too different from regular republicans. The irony is that makes him different from most Democrats too, making him the ideal candidate to run against Obama.

 

I predict more of the same fiscal mismanagement, foreign entanglements, crony capitalism, and vacuous assurances that they are doing everything possible to make everyone better off in 2012. I know, crazy prediction, right?

Categories
christianity economics free market odds and ends Philosophy politics religion

The limits of Logic and world views

I know that I think differently than a lot of people do when it comes to things like economics, politics, and religion. What strikes me is the reactions I get from people. There is a common belief that if someone has deduced things logically, they must be right, and therefore I must be wrong. They confuse making sense for reality.

Imagine if told someone that parallel* lines can intersect and in some cases must intersect. If that person were in an argumentative mood, they might point out that the very definition of parallel lines forbids them from crossing. If this were a political, economic, or a religious point, more times than not I would be dismissed as an idiot. I’ve gotten that reaction fairly frequently. What I almost never get asked is why I might think that way. It turns out there’s a whole bunch of other types of geometries out there, as soon as you put lines on curved surfaces, basic rules of geometry get changed.

The point is that both I and my mysterious debater can logically defend why my view is right or wrong. The efficacy of logic is limited by the initial conditions or beliefs you start with. If you think you live in a Euclidian world and I think I live in an elliptic world, we are never going to come to any agreement or understanding if we rely on logic to stake out our claims.The same thing goes for any other world view you can think of. Once you believe you know the basic underpinning of your world, everything else follows logically.

Most people do what “males sense” to them based on their beliefs. If you try to point out that any given view they have is incorrect or, too often these days, tell them that they are stupid, you won’t get anywhere because they are a long ways down the causality chain. If you want to convince them to change their mind about something, you need to go to much deeper. When I talk to people about religion, economics, and even politics, I am usually pointing out that we don’t live in a Euclidian world despite appearances and how much sense it seems to make. It takes time, but ultimately you have to convince people you live in a better world than they do if you want them to come around to your way of thinking. It may not be a great way of scoring quick points, but it does give them some things to think about. That can lead to real conversations as opposed to slogans and name calling.

Of course, it’s a lot easier to not do any of this. Gotta keep telling myself that it’s worth doing. I think it pays off long term, if only for my mental health…

 

* I am using Euclid’s definition of parallel. Loosely, that is that if there is a line and a point off that line, there is only one line that can be drawn through that point that does not intersect that line. That’s Euclid’s 5th postulate, we call it parallelism. In elliptic space, there can be no parallel lines as Euclid postulated.

Categories
economics politics

Letterman pisses me off

Dave had Senator Rand Paul on tonight and talked to him about various things. They got onto the subject of the stuff going on in Wisconsin and Paul threw out a few stats. Letterman essentially said that they can’t be right, and he got quite a reaction from the audience. Never mind that the senator was right. When Paul pointed out that the average compensation level of Wisconsin teachers is north of 80 grand (which is also correct), Dave just tosses out to general applause that the figure should be doubled.

 

Snap, just like that, go ahead and double it. Whatever you may think of teacher compensation, it should be obvious that can’t happen. There is a budget crisis,etc etc… I’m sure that Dave wasn’t being serious, but I’m also sure it was the first thing that popped into his head. And the audience agreed with him. The real problem underlying most of our deficits is that people’s first assumption has been that funds coming from the government can just keep coming. Federal and state budgets are enormous after all, a couple billion here and there wouldn’t matter much surely?

I don’t know what it will take to get people to stop thinking that the government is magically paying for things and start thinking about the taxpayers. It’s easy for special interests to protest against spending cuts, but it’s a lot harder for taxpayers in general to rally for tax cuts. I once had an idea that there should be laws on the books that required all mentions of “the government” paying for something to be replaced by “the taxpayers.” Maybe that would help people, including Dave, to keep their eyes on the ball. Things are a mess at seemingly every level of government, are they going to have to come to a screeching halt before people regain their senses? What will it take for folks to say that as much as they’d like to double everyone’s salary, there just isn’t enough to go around? Even more important, what will it take for people to stop thinking that the money will simply come from somewhere/someone else…

Categories
free market politics

Public sector unions

The stuff going on in Wisconsin has me posting things on Facebook and chatting with people and I worry that some may get the wrong idea about my stance on unions. I have no problem with people organizing to exert political pressure or to have leverage in negotiations. This is what unions should do. What I do have a big problem with is many states have laws on the books that require collective bargaining through unions.

Whenever you have the government throw its weight behind any particular group, enormous distortions in the labor market and general economy occur. By making labor more expensive than it otherwise would be, people get shut out of jobs. Usually it is the underprivileged and inexperienced that suffer the most under mandatory union hiring and bargaining. Unions should be able to bargain based upon higher quality workers, acting a lot like guilds. Unions should be something that workers work towards so that they can command better wages, benefits, etc. because of their certification.

In any case, I understand the appeal of unionization when there is a class of workers that do not seem to be getting their “fair share” of the profits. Things are totally different when it comes to public sector unions. There is no evil capitalist  taking the lion’s share of the profits, there aren’t any profits involved. Things are so much more muddled without profit motives and profits to capture. How do we know what a good salary is? How do we know what good benefits are? It’s pretty cut and dry in the private sector, you need to pay your way in both wages and benefits. If you don’t create enough value to cover those things, you get fired. If you are inexperienced and can’t create very much value, you don’t get paid much until you do. Of course if there are laws and agreements in place that do not allow low enough wages to accommodate lower skilled workers, they just don’t get hired and are stuck.

The folks protesting in Wisconsin are the poster children of why people do not like public sector unions. When times are tough, it is going to be difficult to tell taxpayers to go look somewhere else for the money that is needed. True, there are some public sector jobs that still have a good vibe attached to them. Firemen, Police, etc. Most of the rest don’t have such a good rep. The saying, “Close enough for government work,” exists for a reason. . It’s also going to be tough to drum up much sympathy for a public school system that has generally disappointed over the past 30 years or so despite having had enormous amounts of money pumped into it during that time. Unions with required collective bargaining power do not seem to have helped education much.

Here’s a question. How many parents would willingly choose to send their children to public school if they were able to send them to a private school instead? I’m pretty confident that the vast majority of parents would choose the private option if given the chance. I doubt that many would cite the fact that very few private school teachers are not unionized as a reason. They would, however, cite lots of the effects of private vs. public (unionized) employment as reasons they like private school more. The private schools have higher standards and better results overall than public schools. Those results are directly tied to being more responsive to parents and teachers. That of course is tied directly to private schools continuing to make money…

 

All of this adds up to an uphill battle for the public sector unions in Wisconsin holding on to their collective bargaining power, let alone avoid the other concessions…

 

Categories
free market politics

The best summary of the Wisconsin mess

Reason‘s Tim Cavanaugh sums up the problem the Wisconsin public sector unions have

 

One picketing government worker blames Ohio taxpayers for acting like victims:

“What I’m seeing here today is that management is trying to be seen as the victim here, but they sit across the table and negotiated these deals just like us,” said Lawrence McKissic, of Twinsburg, who was at the Statehouse on Thursday. McKissic is an IT specialist for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in Garfield Heights.

“My concern as a state worker is that we would be unilaterally taken out of collective bargaining and it is being done without any word or input from the union or the employees,” he said. “They’re just trying slam this through this committee.”

McKissic refers to “management” as if he’s calling out a cabal of plutocrats rather than the people of Ohio, who will have to take up the slack for whatever new benefits accrue to the vital IT specialists of Garfield Heights. I think this is where the pro-union movement will find its limit. Outside of Detroit, Hollywood and what’s left of the newspaper industry, when you say “union” you almost always mean “government employee union.” In the private sector they expect results. The hard truth is that where public sector unions are concerned, there are no bazillionaires to point to on the other side of the bargaining table.

 

That’s really the crux of it. The public sector unions don’t have as much to bargain with since there are no profits to split with “management.” The state is in difficult financial shape, the money has to come from somewhere. Unions telling everyone that they can’t suffer these payments are essentially telling everyone else that they should suffer instead. We’ll see how long the union can sway public opinion…

 

Oh, and another related post made me laugh. I saw a posting in a blog that said, “Obama wasn’t elected by ‘big money’ so he should give more direct support to the union in Wisconsin.” Excuse me? The AFL-CIO isn’t “big money”? The public sector unions are among the largest, and most powerful lobbying organizations out there. Anyone that thinks that this is a battle for “the little guy” is out of their minds…