Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kiss Your Freedoms Goodbye If Health Care Passes

Kiss Your Freedoms Goodbye If Health Care Passes

by Andrew P. Napolitano
by Andrew P. Napolitano

Recently by Andrew P. Napolitano: Health-Care Reform and the Constitution

Congress recognizes no limits on its power. It doesn’t care about the Constitution, it doesn’t care about your inalienable rights. If this health care bill becomes law, America, life as you have known it, freedom as you have exercised it and privacy as you have enjoyed it will cease to be.

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on a 2,000-page bill to give the federal government the power to micromanage the health care of every single American. The bill will no doubt pass. It will raise your taxes, steal your freedom, invade your privacy, and ration your health care. Even the Republicans have introduced their version of Obamacare Lite. It, too, if passed, will compel employers to provide coverage, bribe the states to change their court rules, and tell insurance companies whom to insure.

We do not have two political parties in this country, America. We have one party; called the Big Government Party. The Republican wing likes deficits, war, and assaults on civil liberties. The Democratic wing likes wealth transfer, taxes, and assaults on commercial liberties. Both parties like power; and neither is interested in your freedoms. Think about it. Government is the negation of freedom. Freedom is your power and ability to follow your own free will and your own conscience. The government wants you to follow the will of some faceless bureaucrat.

Read the rest of the article

The One Minute Case Against Socialized Healthcare

The One Minute Case Against Socialized Healthcare

from "One-Minute Case," at

There is no right to healthcare

The United States was founded with the declaration that all men have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Founders recognized that all men have a moral right to be free from the coercion of others, as long as they allow others the same freedom. They believed that rights do not impose a positive obligation on others, but only the negative obligation to restrain from the initiation of force.

The claim that there is a “right to healthcare” violates the principle of individual rights because it requires that the liberty of doctors and the property of taxpayers be violated to provide for others. When the New Deal and Great Society programs forced doctors and taxpayers to become sacrificial offerings to the “common good”, the current “healthcare crisis” was born.

The myth of “free” healthcare

It is a common belief that when government provides something, it is free or cheap. But politicians cannot create wealth – they can only redistribute it. Money for all government spending comes from business – whether by entrepreneurial investment, the wages of patients, or taxes.

Whether by price controls of outright nationalization, when governments make prices artificially low, demand skyrockets, and shortages result. Politicians respond by passing ever more regulations to control costs. These regulations stifle innovation, drive up costs, and force healthcare providers out of business. The end result is to replace capitalism, the greatest wealth-generating system known to man, with an onerous system of central planning.

Capitalism cannot guarantee that all our medical needs will be provided for – no system can do that. But it does give entrepreneurs the incentive to compete to provide the best possible service they can. Centralized socialized systems have no incentive to improve service or to try bold new techniques. Politicians can force prices to be artificially low, but they cannot lower costs – they can only drive doctors, hospitals, and drug companies out of business.

The victims of “universal” healthcare

The waiting time for treatment in Canada varies from 14 to 30 weeks. Waiting lists for diagnostic procedures range from two to 24 weeks. Some patients die while waiting for treatment. To stop sick people fromcircumventing the “free” system, the government of British Columbia enacted Bill 82 in 2003, which makes it illegal to pay for private surgery. Patients waiting for critical procedures are now forced to seek procedures in the U.S. and doctors are abandoning Canada in droves. Cleveland, Ohio is now Canada’s hip-replacement center. Ontario is turning nurses into doctors to replace some of the 10,000 doctors who left Canada in the 1990’s. 1 2

What will patients do when it is illegal to seek private medical treatment in the U.S.? Politicians are already working towards that goal. State and federal regulation impose onerous regulations which forbid insurance companies from offering services such as basic coverage for emergencies by requiring coverage of many types of procedures. Medicare forces doctors to follow 130,000 pages of regulations. Critics often attack the “capitalist” nature of American health care system. The reality is that the government now pays for 50% of health care, and closely regulates the rest.

Healthcare is only affordable under capitalism

If a society is not wealthy enough to afford healthcare, health socialism will not make it richer. Cuba, a poster child of socialist healthcare schemes, spends $229 on healthcare per person each year, while the U.S. spends $ 6,096.3 Premium services are available only to paying foreigners, while natives must bribe doctors for timely treatment and bring their own towels, bed sheets, soap, food, and even sutures.4

A government can decide to replace individual choice with state-mandated decisions of what goods and services are more important for the “common good.” But it can only spend on one area at the expense of another. If Cubans are not totally deprived of medical treatment, it can only be at the expense of all other goods. A doctor’s salary in Cuba is 1.5 times the median at $15-20 per month. 5 A telling sign of their deprivation is the Cuban suicide rate, which is the highest in Latin America and among the highest in world. Cubans in Miami on the other hand, kill themselves less often than other Miamians.6 When they risk their lives in leaky boats to escape to the U.S., the right to make their own decisions regarding their health is among the freedoms they hope to gain.


  1. “Free Health Care in Canada” by Walter Williams
  2. “Do We Want Socialized Medicine?” by Walter Williams
  3. Reuters: Health care in Cuba more complicated than on SiCKO
  4. BBC: Keeping Cuba Healthy by John Harris
  5. “An Evaluation of Four Decades of Cuban Healthcare” by Felipe Eduardo Sixto (PDF)
  6. Miami Herald: “Study: Suicide epidemic exists under Castro” by Juan O. Tamayo

Further reading:

Govt Stimulus Actual Vs Forecast

No comment needed from me....

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Rights Talk" Incites, But Doesn't Solve

One of my favorite political columnists, George Will, in his Sunday Oct 11 2009 column "Anger Management Hits a Hump," raises a good point, one you've no doubt run into when you get in an ideological argument with someone.
"If our vocabulary is composed exclusively of references to rights, aka entitlements, we are condemned to endless jostling among elbow-throwing individuals irritably determined to protect, or enlarge, the boundaries of their rights. Among such people, all political discourse tends to be distilled into what Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School calls 'rights talk.'

"Witness the inability of people nowadays to recommend this or that health-care policy as merely wise or just. Each proposal must be invested with the dignity of a right. And since not all proposals are compatible, you have not merely differences of opinion, but apocalyptic clashes of rights.

"Rights talk is inherently aggressive, even imperial; it tends towards moral inflation and militates against accommodation. Rights talkers, with their inner monologues of pre-emptive resentments, work themselves into a simmering state of annoyed vigilance against any limits on their willfuness. To rights talkers, life -- always and everywhere -- is unbearably congested with insufferable people impertinently rights talking, and behaving, the way you and I of course have a real right to....

"Can't liberals play nicely together? Not, evidently, when they are bristling, like furious porcupines, with spiky rights that demand respect because the right-bearers' dignity is implicated in them."

The example Will gives involves his observation of liberals, especially in federal government, but experience tells us that rights talk (sometimes in the form of self-righteousness) infects most of the rest of us too, conservative, libertarian, and decline-to-state alike.

Libertarians suggest Nobel announcements should be moved to April Fool's Day

The Libertarian Party makes some good points in a recent press release about Obama's Nobel:

"President Obama has utterly failed to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has increased American military involvement in Afghanistan, and appears ready to escalate that war even further.

"...Perhaps President Obama would earn a peace prize if he were to change course, go against most Republican and Democratic party leaders, and support a Libertarian non-interventionist foreign policy instead."

On a subsequent page, read Libertarians suggest Nobel announcements should be moved to April Fool's Day . Between recent Nobels to Paul Krugman and Al Gore, and past peace prizes to war Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt, maybe an April Fools' Day timing would clarify the true meaning of this award.

Why Democrats' Health Care Overhaul May Still Die

Essay at Cato gives an interesting inside-baseball view of the political forces whipsawing our D.C. solons as they consider the health-care bill -- It seems there's a lot of "Who's paying for this? Not *me*!" back and forth going on in Congressional halls.

Ah, the eternal dream: To get Someone Else Not Me to pay for the stuff I want but *I* don't want to pay for myself. Defining that Someone Else is always tricky, especially when that Someone Else has Congressional representatives too....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama's Peace Prize--What Happened to Our Peace President?

Ron Paul On Obama Winning The Nobel Peace Prize

Ron makes many good points about the irony that this president, who ran against the war president, is getting in deeper despite his peace prize.

(Ron suggests that it's Obama's pledge to be internationalist rather than to make peace that won him the prize.)

Makes more interesting viewing that almost any other commentary on this event that I've read so far...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

NBA or NFL Criminal Class? (Amusing)

Subject: NBA or NFL??

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

36 have been accused of spousal abuse

7 have been arrested for fraud

19 have been accused of writing bad checks

117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses

3 have done time for assault

71, repeat 71
cannot get a credit card due to bad credit

14 have been arrested on drug-related charges

8 have been arrested for shoplifting

21 currently are defendants in lawsuits,

84 have been arrested for drunk driving

in the last year

you guess which organization this is?



Give up yet?

Scroll down,

it's the 435 members of the
United States Congress

The same group of Idiots that crank out
hundreds of new laws each year
designed to keep the rest of us in line.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oakland Airport BART Rail Extension--We're Doomed!

Headlines today (Oct 7, 2009):

Oakland Council Now Supports BART Extension Plan

Two quotes from the CBS 5 story will suffice for the moment:

"The 3.2-mile extension to the airport has been a point of contention for a while. The voter-approved project has grown from $130 million to over $522 million."

Got that? Fourfold increase. And it hasn't been started yet. Any bets on how soon it will pass one billion?


"Project opponents, who include many public transit advocates who favor bus service over rail service, claim BART could save hundreds of millions of dollars by using a rapid bus service instead. They estimated that such a service would only cost between $45 million and $60 million. "

And that? Given a choice between $500 million and growing, or $60 million (a tenth that amount) -- our solons leap for the big-bucks project! No hesitation! It's all about "keeping the Oakland Airport competitive" (Why?)

Two more justifications, equally idiotic: First, jobs will be generated - during construction and to run the thing. That's our new golden calf now -- if it generates jobs, even if they cost taxpayers millions per head, we have to do it. Second, the construction industry (source of electoral funding) and construction unions (source of electoral funding and endorsements) will be delighted.

Oh, and the money is already at hand -- part federal tax moneys (that the feds obviously can't afford, but no matter) and part a chunk from a bond measure the voters were dumb enough or deluded enough to approve a few years ago -- for "transportation projects." If it had been phrased, "So we can turn $60 million projects into $600 million boondoggles," who would have voted for it?

Judging from recent elections, maybe that's not such a good question.

But the real issue - not mentioned, of course, by our solons approving the project (of course) and also not mentioned by the reporters or editors (or apparently thought of, since it hasn't been mentioned in any of the recent coverage) -- What will it cost us to *run* this thing once it's built?

None of these rail projects pay for themselves. Even if $6-each-way tolls don't discourage traffic, chances are this project like all others will prove a permanent drain on the budget of whatever agency gets stuck with it -- BART, apparently, which is already deep in the hole despite tolls and a big chunk of everyone's real-estate taxes each year. Nobody thinks of this; nobody mentions getting stuck with the eternal tab; nobody mentions it, not even the press that's supposed to be paying attention; certainly not any of our political class.

So they've just voted for another appallingly expensive (and growing) rail project, for a trivial task that could have been taken care of less glamorous but much cheaper bus, and brushed aside all considerations of sticking future generations with the bill.

Your local politicians at work. Thanks, kids! (And the feds, too, who encourage such nonsense with their "mass-transit" funding out of their budgets we can't afford either.

We're doomed.

FTC Controls the Blogosphere

The FTC, an agency of the US federal government in charge of asserting power over business and media, in October 2009 extended its rules about product endorsements in advertising into the blog world. If you write a product in your blog, you must--not as a moral or business obligation, but by government rule--mention if you received any compensation from the product maker, including receiving the product for free (as is common in product reviews in many markets).

Note that these rules do not apply to anything appearing in a conventional print newspaper or other print periodical.

As you would expect, the blogosphere--you should forgive the expression--is abuzz, and part of that buzz is coming up with examples of ridiculous corner cases.

And also ridiculous examples of noncorner cases, such as the argument that software sent to a tech reviewer is worthless after the package is opened; or that hardware the vendor refuses to accept back (a common type of bribe-like object) should not be included; or when vendors who offer to sell the product to the reviewer after the review is published, for a special low price, that shouldn't be considered compensation; or galley proofs of books sent for review, which proofs are not really marketable, should not be considered compensation. Well, no: If you accept the FTC's right to rule in this environment, then the above examples are exactly what the FTC means.

The whole problem is easily resolved for most bloggers, on the face of it, by simple boilerplate, as one writer has already done, along the lines of "Software/hardware/books reviewed in this space are in most cases sent to the reviewer free in hopes of being reviewed. When the review is finished, some materials are returned, some donated, some retained by the reviewer. The reviewer makes no representation to the vendors that products will be reviewed, or reviewed favorably."

IN specific cases, one can say, "The latest model of the iPhone, sent to us by Apple for review..." And then at the end of the review, "The device will be returned to Apple in six weeks (to allow for the possibility of corrections)." If you are reluctant to explain to the reader that you are keeping the product, free, or buying it at a "reviewer's discount," then you are obviously engaging in a conflict of interest.

And so on. But that's not the core issue here, not at all.

As a libertarian, I take the First Amendment more seriously than the FTC does, and so find no authorization in the Constitution for an exception to that amendment that grants a government agency authority to control the press, not even if it would be a really, really good idea and the poor dumb populace isn't capable of noticing whether an endorser is paid, and not even if it really is a good idea for the writers to acknowledge conflicts of interest.

The government and the courts have for a long time taken the basic position that the 1st Amendment's highlighting of the limits of government power apply only to daily and weekly and monthly newspapers; not to radio or TV and not to any less formal publications, and certainly not to anything in the advertising field. If it's not a newspaper, it's up for grabs. The Constitution doesn't say anything about this, of course, but when has that ever stopped anybody?

I think that's idiotic. No, I think it's abuse of government power, and this instinct to assert power in the teeth of Constitutional restrictions isn't just applied to the press and speech; Bush II should have been an object lesson in why we must stop government assumption of nonconstitutional power in every area. Because abuse of power knows no limits.

The government has no authority under the Constitution to make laws or rules or regulations about what people write or say, regardless of the venue, the medium, or the purpose. If you, as a public-spirited citizen, want to protect the public from bad words, bad opinions, misleading assertions and offers, you will have to find another method. Force, the threat of the use of force, fraud, and breaking of contract are all appropriate areas for laws; beyond this, no.

Insurance Company Contract Abuse

Which, as an aside, is something that puzzles me about the current healthcare debate. One obvious-seeming abuse of contract cited regularly is insurance companies that cancel policies when the insured becomes ill with a covered illness -- this seems like a straightforward violation of the contract. All we would need would be the government to assert that it will treat such violations of contract seriously, maybe setting up an agency to focus on this abuse.

Another example is the insurance company waiting until you have an expensive covered illness, then going back over your original application (filled out decades ago, perhaps) looking for technical inaccuracies that are not material to the insurance underwriting or to the present case.

A law could simply clarify that in this area, as in many others, minor, nonmaterial, and honest errors on applications cannot be used to deny later fulfillment of the insurance contract; and that after a given period of time has passed, the application shall be considered good on its face, thus forcing the insurance companies to check the applications for errors at the time they are submitted. The companies currently don't bother checking for errors or clarifications, knowing that if an expensive procedure arises, they can go back over the original app with a fine-toothed comb and any errors they find - no matter how innocent - can be used to deny payment.

This is a simple clarification of a contract law, one that would clear up a lot of things without requiring the government to engage in idiocies (such as requiring coverage at favorable rates regardless of preexisting conditions, which is crazy). Note that this kind of "after x period, everything here is accepted as true" provision is commonly written into contracts by businesses; of course, since we sign their contracts, and they are nonnegotiable, we don't get commonsense provisions like that.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Is Capitalism Bad for Art?" - Stephen Hicks lecture

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you might be interested in an upcoming lecture by Prof. Stephen Hicks of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship at Rockford College (Illinois). Here is his description:

Is capitalism bad for art?

palette1-70x50I will be giving a talk with that title at California State University, East Bay, on October 14. Thanks to Professor Stephen Schmanske and the Smith Center for inviting me.

My theme will be the relationship between art and liberal cultures, focusing on economically free cultures especially.

dollar-sign-50x74One part of my talk will discuss how economic liberalism is empowering for artists both materially and psychologically, and part of my evidence for that will be historical: Why were the greatest of the great eras in art history classical Athens, Renaissance Florence and Venice, the Dutch Golden Age, Paris in the late nineteenth century. Why not, say, Sparta in the 5th century BCE? Or Milan in the 15th century? Or Denmark in the 17th? Or Portugal in the 19th?

picasso-photo-50x52Another part of my talk will take up the perplexing question of why, since the late 19th century, so many artists have taken anti-business and anti-capitalist stances. Pablo Picasso is representative here, having said, famously, “The merchant — there’s the enemy.” A fascinating set of adversarial (and self-destructive) issues there.

The lecture is based on my current book project, The Fate of Art under Capitalism, which I discussed in an earlier post.

Sound interesting? It does to me! --mac

Monday, September 28, 2009

"End the Fed!" Book hits NYT Bestseller List!

Congressman Ron Paul, whose run for the Republican Presidential nomination last year was one of the few refreshing things to happen to the Republican Party in decades, published his book, End The Fed, a few weeks ago and it has already come out in the top-10 new books on Amazon, as well as the NT Times and the WSJ bestseller lists -- quite a feat for a book of libertarian politics that advocates ending the Federal Reserve!

Paul writes, "Since 1913, the Fed has had it all its own way: booms and busts, dollar depreciation, redistribution to the government and the big banks from the middle and working classes. But just as Andrew Jackson abolished the predecessor of the Fed, we too can knock over this dangerous institution. End The Fed teaches all the fascinating history, and tells us what we can do for the future."

I've started reading it and it is indeed very readable and quite shocking. Paul's bill to force the Fed to open its books to Congress has received surprising support in Congress, from the Democratic left in particular -- the sense of the Fed's enormous power and secretive operations is creating fear and worry. I recommend this book; it may be the only economic-policy book you ever read, but it will be the most important.

Interested? You can order this slim but important volume from Amazon at this link:

Friday, September 25, 2009

"More Government Won't Help," Ron Paul

Ron Paul made this speech in the United States House of Representatives, September 23, 2009.

He begins, "Government has been mismanaging medical care for more than 45 years; for every problem it has created it has responded by exponentially expanding the role of government." He goes on to list 16 specific points, some examples of how the government has screwed up or set up for failure the medical care system, and other points suggesting better paths for us to follow to improve health care in the US.

The thing that amazes me in this debate is one simple example of the perversity of our political system: The government (including the president) assert that more competition is the key to a better healthcare system. They might be right. But one big reason we don't have more competition is government regulations forbidding it in some areas: Every state controls its own insurance companies, and forbids, by statute, selling insurance policies across state lines.

So you can't, as a Californian, decide that an insurance company operating in Arizona offers better coverage or better rates, and buy a policy there. It's against the law, in almost every state in the Union.

Recently, Republicans have suggested allowing cross-state-line competition in insurance, only to be roundly ignored. There are two reasons: First, state insurance commissions don't want to give up their regulatory power, which they can't exercise across state lines. And second, those who believe in government goodness are happy to list many reasons why it's better to exercise this control over insurance companies, who would otherwise do bad things. To control insurance-company abuse, they've set up 50 regulatory bodies, one in each state.

And when that doesn't work -- and insurance-company abuse of its customers is rampant, despite this supposedly noble political and bureaucratic control over them -- the solution offered is *never* to rethink the whole thing; no, it is to add more control. Always. There is, you see, no such thing as government failure that should lead to the government retreating from an area; only market failure that leads to government intervention.

Another level of irony is that the main forms of outrageous abuse insurance companies engage in could, in fact, easily be managed by the insurance commissioners doing their jobs better, and a few simple inexpensive laws being passed. Yes, laws.

For example: Insurance companies violate contract with customers by ending their coverage as soon as they catch an expensive disease. They do this by combing through the insurance application, which may have been filled out thirty years ago, to find apparent errors, to justify cancelling the policy. This is acting in bad faith, from a contract-law perspective, and a simple adjustment of contract law in each state would suffice to end this abuse. It's a contract-law issue, and shouldn't be used to justify government takeover of medical insurance. In most contract situations, simple rules say that if a contract is entered into in good faith, and a nonfraudulent error is not found within a reasonable time by the other party, then the error is considered nonmaterial and cannot be used to cancel the contract. For ordinary contracts, for example, if I make a spelling error in the name of my street or my house address, that is not fraudulently intended, then this cannot be made the basis for cancelling the contract twenty years later. Only in insurance contracts is this reasonable limitation not enforced. Our state insurance commissioners -- the ones whose campaigns for reelection are heavily funded by insurance companies -- should take care of this problem. They could. They won't. Their job isn't to solve problems; their job is to get reelected, which they do by demonizing their subjects and passing abusive laws that cause more problems.

How long will you continue to believe that this politicized system is a good way to solve social problems, in the teeth of the evidence to the contrary?

"Beware the Stalin in Progressive Hearts"

Columnist Mark Tapscott makes some good points about how power tempts even progressives to abuse power -- in the name of good, of course, always in the name of good.

It's the fundamental libertarian insight: Every one of us, with access to the levers of power, hates to simply accept situations in which we might not 'win.' If we give everyone else full control over their own lives -- but no forced control over the lives of others -- then some people won't Do the Right Thing. We can come up with rattling good examples, too, of the negative impact on the rest of us. We think these examples justify our seizing of power over the lives of others.

Us. Over them. Never them over us.

And that's the problem: If only you, and people who agree with you as to what The Right Thing is, exercise this power over others, all is well. But sooner or later, Bad People take charge, and they proceed to use the power you granted to Good People to do things the Bad People think are The Right Thing, but, as you and your likeminded colleagues know, are really Bad Things.

How can one guarantee that only the Good People have access to power?

The fundamental insight of the Founders of the U.S. was this: There is and can be no reliable way to guarantee that. It is impossible to build a system of righteous tyranny that will remain in the hands of the righteous. Not even religious regimes are immune, though they think themselves appointed by God.

The Founders finally came around to the understanding that, if this is the case, then the only good government is one that is strictly limited -- limited, limited, limited! -- in its authority and its power over everyone else. It will still abuse its powers, but those powers will do less damage than an unlimited government would do.

It was the most original idea in political economy since the Athenians. It still is.

And it's an idea that has been lost. The average American is very uncomfortable with the idea that the government should be limited in its power to do good. The problem -- that we have different ideas of what good is, and where to draw the line - they see as just a quibble, a detail, something that even if imperfectly resolved, is better than just letting people do what they want.

Thus we have a political system used primarily for the purpose of each of us using government power to extract behaviors and moneys from others, to authorize and pay for and force things that we think are really, really important -- but not so important that we want to pay for them ourselves.

We want public parks because we want parks and want somebody else to pay for them.

We want government health care because we want health care and want somebody else to pay for it.

We want everything and anything we want, and we don't want to pay for it, so we look for excuses to force others to pay for it. We demonize "the rich" (somebody who makes more than your ambitions) as a way of pretending that it's not only OK, but even righteous to steal money from them to pay for things we really, really want but we really, really don't want to pay for with our own money.

And we hire politicians to make speeches to justify our greed.

Take the University of California school system, currently in lockdown because students and staff are protesting having their funding cut back to where it was, oh, a couple of years ago, and protesting having their heavily subsidized fees raised to a level closer to a third of what a private, unsubsidized school would cost. The students are actually greedy because they don't even want to pay a third; they want to pay less, ideally nothing; they want somebody else to pay for it. Nobody blinks at this. Nobody thinks this is wrong in any way. They point to this or that student who is poor, or comes from a poor family, and asserts that without the taxpayer subsidy, they would be shut out of an education. And thus a chance to become middle class.

If this were true, the direction of a solution set would lie in, first, means testing for student fee subsidies, with only the poorest students getting subsidies, with attention paid to alternative funding such as student loans and parttime jobs. Second, the subsidizing entity - the government, that is - should have the right to approve specific majors and exclude specific other majors for subsidized students -- exclude the majors that do not lead to middle-class lifestyles. You won't be able to major in surfing or basketweaving -- or for that matter in French medieval history or, come to it, in journalism. There's no future in them, so if we are helping poor students become middle class, then -- here it comes! -- we can't just let them choose their own majors, their own life paths! Can we? Of course not!

Think that's silly? Many another politicized part of our lives are under bureaucratic control and laws justified on the grounds that taxpayers have to pay for things. You have to wear a seatbelt because if you get hurt, the taxpayer-subsidized cops and cleanup crews have to clean up after you, and the taxpayer-subsidized healthcare system might have to pay for your medical care and maybe your welfare if you're hurt badly enough. Many have called for controlling foods allowed to be sold to the public on the grounds that people's bad eating habits cause health problems that the taxpayers end up paying for.

First, we offer to give you something for free. Then we offer to help you make decisions about your life that affect that thing you're getting for free. Makes sense. Welcome to serfdom.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Bill would give president emergency control of Internet"

CNET, Aug 28, 2009:

"[Bill would] permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity." emergency.

"The new version [of a bill winding thru the US Senate--S.773 (excerpt)] would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat."

It would also set up a "cybersecurity professionals" certification and require some private-sector servers to be managed by someone with the certification.

Industry players are "troubled," the article says.

No shit.

"Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. 'We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,'Rockefeller said.

"The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government's role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is "not as prepared" as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do."

Thank you. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Over and over, government players rear back on their hind legs and arrogate to themselves the authority to direct the actions of the rest of the nation (and the world), most commonly in areas in which government institutions themselves have failed to show any competence. They can't protect their own records; they can't organize their own cybersecurity; let them boss us around on these topics.

But then, nobody ever got elected or reelected by announcing that the government shouldn't get bogged down in some no-win situation, or should stay out of some area where it has no competence, or learn a lesson from its own failures and figure out a way to get out of the way instead of wading in deeper.

No, you get reelected by seizing on crises and taking advantage of the automatic assumption -- which the press will be happy not to even think to question -- that the first, best, and sole solution set lies in the exercise of more government power.

Well, why not. It's not like anybody is ever going to hold you to any standards of competence or performance. The city is incompetent at its basic job of protecting New Orleans, so the state government fails to intervene, leaving it to the feds to jump in -- too late. Make speeches, take helicopter rides, criticize partisan rivals (only), pass enormous spending bills -- and two years later you have a tale of waste, fraud, and only incremental improvements. But not to worry: The press isn't going to hold your feet to the fire. And if they do -- if there is a front-page multi-day story on how awful the government performed even at its most basic tasks -- well, still not to worry, because they won't follow up and keep hammering -- they've published their investigative report, now it's back to business as usual.

Next election, no worries because the press won't lean on you about your failed promises, your incompetence, or the government's general failures.

So we have what should be a big fat laugh: The feds want to take over private Internet network companies in times of 'crisis,' defined by the President -- who this year happens to be Barack Obama, but remember that recently it was one of the George Bushes, and it could be somebody like that again in the future -- and this new knucklehead will have the power you thought safely in the hands of your favorite political party, whichever one that is.

We are all idiots. Blind leading the blind? Dumb leading the dumb!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why We Are In Danger from World Terrorism *Because of* Dick Cheney's View the World.

Dick Cheney meets with Prince Sultan, Minister...Image via Wikipedia

Former VP Dick Cheney's work on his upcoming book, in which he will apparently defend his record, is producing a spate of articles on his views. One observation is that he is still strongly convinced a rogue nation will hand nuclear weapons over to a terrorist group, who will then attack the US.

To a Libertarian, this prospect leads strongly in an entirely different direction than Cheney thinks it must. To Cheney, all solutions involve the US continuing its intense involvement in attempting to direct the affairs of every other nation on earth.

To a Libertarian, the risk of terrorism suggests a different question: Why are foreign terrorists interested in attacking the U.S. in particular?

To answer this, let's turn to a terrorist problem that is not ours, and ask why it isn't. Chechnyan terrorists regularly attack targets in Russia. They have not attacked any U.S. targets, and nobody seems to expect them to. Why not?

They attack Russian targets because they have a beef with Russia. The Russian government holds power in Chechnya, controls its government, and fights with Chechnyan separatists. So the separatists attack those who interfere with what they consider their national rights: the Russians.

They don't attack the U.S. because we are not involved in Chechnyan affairs. More specifically, the U.S. does not involve itself in Russia's affairs: We don't support Russia in this conflict, we don't sell Russia weapons to use against Chechnyan opponents, we don't give speeches about it, we don't consider it our affair. And it isn't. And so we are not at risk from either side in that conflict.

The same goes for Tamil terrorists in Sri Lanka. And, for that matter, Basque bombers in Spain. We aren't involved in these conflicts.

But we involve ourselves in every other conflict on Earth, and in some of those conflicts, one party or another sees the U.S. as making their conflict harder because we support the other side.

Muslim terrorists don't denounce us and bomb us and fly jets into our buildings because we are Westerners. Not really. They talk like that sometimes, but if we weren't involved in the affairs of Muslim countries, they wouldn't bother forming an anti-Western-Culture theory to bolster themselves for the long fight against a superior foe. They'd just ignore us.

But we had to overthrow the government of Iraq; we had to take care of Saudi Arabia's problem by defending their neighbor Kuwait; we are now encouraging, apparently, Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear bomb facilities; we have troops in Afghanistan supporting a government we installed, and are bullying the neighboring governments too. And in country after country, year after year, we support oppressive governments, take sides in internal and external conflicts, and come up with elaborate excuses as to why we can't benignly watch the world do what it will, but must intervene, to produce, with force if necessary, the outcome we speculate would be good for us in the long run.

Central to much of this is Israel, whose continued existence we warrant, arm, and fund. Every country, every regime, and every opposition group that does or might someday threaten Israel we must involve ourselves against.

This leads to some perverse behavior sometimes. We can't just arm Israel, and threaten to intervene on her behalf should she be attacked -- in fact, the one thing we don't do is intervene militarily when Israel is attacked, for some reason. No, we have to try to control the complex internal politics of every regime around them -- and every other group in the world that is interested. So when Saddam invaded Kuwait, we couldn't just let Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, and possibly Syria figure it out -- they were all as unhappy with Saddam and his ambitions as we were, and they are right there on the spot. No -- we had to be the ones to intervene militarily, because otherwise the balance of power among Iraq and Iran and Syria and Israel might go out of control, and who knows where that would lead? We had to balance Iraq and Iran -- Iran, which had almost collapsed under the years-long assault of Iraq, and whom we helped prop up; but now Iran was growing too powerful, and a success against Iraq would give the mullahs too much power. To a Libertarian, this mess would have given the powers there a rare opportunity to decide whether they had more to fear from Saddam or from Israel. It might have led to a new alignment of powers. Imagine that. One in which the U.S. would play only a minor role. Imagine that.

No, we had to expend our blood and treasure to defend Kuwait -- and incidentally Saudi Arabia, source of the 9/11 assassins, and Iran, our current source of woes. And they all let us, because then they could avoid the blood and expense, and the political fallout, and still badmouth the US!

Every nation with problems, we have to get involved. North Korea is nuts; we have to step in and tell them that their policies to create nuclear weapons for themselves are "not acceptable." Even though we have, really, no clue what to do about it if the ignore us, as they always do.

For a while there it looked like we were going to use sense: We insisted that China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia take care of the problem in their own back yard. We refused to be drawn into the talks. North Korea, knowing a fish when they see one, very much want the US to be the sole opponent. They know they can always take us for a ride. (The irony of Bill Clinton's trip to shake hands with His Shortness to get the two reporters released is that Bill traded a handshake and photo op bit of propaganda for two human beings -- Bill gave North Korea less and got more from them than the U.S. ever has -- it was the most successful negotiation we've ever had with North Korea! (Usually, we give them oil and money and goods, and get a promise which North Korea never keeps.)

But lately, even with a Democrat liberal in the White House (what a surprise! The peace-loving Democrats in power continue the warmongering policies of the evil Republican predecessors!), the US is talking tough with North Korea. Again, we say have the Cheney worry: North Korea will give its nukes to terrorists who can bomb either Israel (our 51st state in practice tho not in law) or the US mainland.

Well, they might, though nothing we've been doing about it will help Israel, and our continuing involvement in every conflict on Earth makes us a target for the terrorist attack that must sooner or later succeed, because time is on their side, not ours.

And of course we're worried about NKorean missiles reaching Hawaii. Why on earth would Kim send a bomb to Hawaii? If the US decided that NKorea was a problem for the countries around it (and for Israel, the other target), then we wouldn't have to worry about Hawaii in this regard. And maybe -- just maybe -- the other nations of the world would eventually be forced to act like grownups and figure out solutions for their problems. After all, in many cases they are right there in the line of fire even more so than we are. Frankly, I don't believe the nations around Israel really, in their heart of hearts, want to see a terrorist group plant a nuke in Jerusalem. The likely reaction of Israel to the threat, or worse the reality, of such an attack would make me very nervous, even if I were the fruitcake President of Iran.

The US is a target for so very many negative forces of the world because the US involves itself in so many areas of the world. Just as there seems to be no aspect of American life that the government doesn't think it should have an opinion about, pass a law to control, and stick its bureaucratic noses into -- by the same token, there is no country on earth and no disagreement among the peoples of the earth that our wise politicians in Washington think is none of our business.

Switzerland isn't target of anybody's ire. There's a reason. Countries that meddle make themselves targets. We are the biggest target out there -- because we are the supreme meddlers in all the world. Just ask yourself: Why are we the ones at the center of everything? Why do other countries stay away, dummy up, waffle when we're in there Solving the World's Problems? How come they aren't worried about what's likely to happen?

All the security and waterboarding and spies and constrained freedom in the world won't protect us from our own inability to mind our own damned business.

The real root cause? Our political class is composed of meddlers. They get elected, and reelected, by sticking their noses in. They don't get vote by saying, "You know, we should just stay out of that one; yes, I know, awful things might happen; but we aren't the ones best suited to tackle the problem -- we'll just make it worse!" I know, because Libertarian candidates say that all the time, and none of you ever vote for them! Because you, like the pols, can't leave well enough alone!

There are tradeoffs in every involvement. We brush that aside. We shouldn't.
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