Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Bailouts Are The Answer!

The New York Times has an editorial piece out blasting Germany for not bailing out the rest of Europe.  The Times says that Germany has the resources to shore up the PIIGS that are on the brink of bankruptcy and that they should do so in order to buy time for those weaker states to shore up their own systems.  Also, the European Central Bank should be allowed to print off money to buy bonds from those broke nations in order to reduce the interest paid on national debt. 

I'm puzzled by this and can't help but wonder if the Time's only goal in the world is to destroy those that are prosperous and successful.  Does anyone in this world believe that if Germany bailed out the PIIGS in the short term that these bankrupt nations would seriously reform their own systems?  These countries are bankrupt because their politicians do not want to increase taxes or decrease spending; if they don't have to, they won't.  Bailing them out now puts off making the responsible choices.  This is fact; Greece has already been bailed out and still hasn't fixed their situation.  Austerity measures nearly brought down their government.  A short term bailout buys a year, maybe, at a massive expense for Germany, but doesn't fix the problem at all.  

Similarly, printing off money, an option that should be considered a joke anyway, won't help.  Yes, interest rates may go down for a short period of time, but the more of that bad debt you buy and monetize, the higher inflation is going to go throughout Europe.  Once again, those bailed out nations have no incentive to act responsibly if someone else is paying the bill.  And interest rates are, in fact, reasonable.  Greece, Italy, and Spain are bankrupt.  It is a high risk proposition to lend to those nations.  Screwing over responsible nations to lower interest rates for irresponsible ones isn't going to give incentive for governments to act responsibly. 

Read that entire Times piece.  Does it anywhere say how reform will be brought to the poorer nations with this extremely risky bet they urge Germany to take?  No, it doesn't.  Germany has no responsibility to pay for the foolishness of other nations and gains nothing by doing so. Without a solid plan putting forward how the PIIGS will sure up their own fiscal situations without bailouts in the future, a German bailout only buys a year or so of extra time before the crunch hits, this time with Germany lacking the resources to survive as well. 

Hard times are in store for Europe.  I'm thoroughly tired of people borrowing themselves into a boom and then wanting others to save them during the bust. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Endgame Is Often The Most Important Part of a Game

In my last post, I argued that OWS is effectively screwed.  I wish to clarify that.  Protests may very well continue for some months or even until this time next year.  Those out protesting now are often professional protesters, rich enough not to have to worry about working, or college students.  So in the sense that there will still be "occupy" protests, no, I don't think they will end anytime soon. 

But the movement's chance to be an important part of the political process may very well be finished.  Recent polling has shown a growing disapproval of OWS and very little support.  At first, I can understand that Americans would like a group that is ticked off about bailouts and crony capitalism, but once it became obvious most of the protesters had no idea what to do about such things and those who did have a plan were on the Radical Left people very quickly lost interest in the movement.  Combined with the well documented lawlessness of the group, and pretty quickly OWS has lost the potential to represent the masses. 

So yes, the protests may continue, but nobody is going to listen to them because they have nothing of interest to say.  In the meantime, people will focus on the darker side of these occupations.  OWS has failed to impact the "1%" in any meaningful way, but they certainly have disrupted the lives of middle class citizens in cities throughout the United States.  Blocking streets, bridges, and subways (in particular the last) strikes at the daily life of average people, the supposed "99%" this group claims to be representing. 

The New Yorker has a nice piece up on the history of OWS.  In it, many of the leading members of OWS speak positively of "revolution" though never really define it.  I'm not sure what scares me more: the massive majority of OWS people who don't know what revolution entails but support it anyway, or those few who are all too well aware of what revolutions bring and want just that. 

Anyway, a semi-violent and completely lawless group without a coherent set of goals and philosophy but otherwise tacking onto hodgepodge leftists positions is a blessing for the supporters of capitalism and liberty.  Support is plummeting; Americans will not risk their livelihoods to support anarchy.  A very small group on the Left continues to be in the media with all of their nonsense.  OWS has lost the moment to shift America to the left, but what wonderful potential it has to make people question the validity of leftists ideas!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wither OWS?

The question is simple enough.  Is Occupy Wall Street effectively dead?  

It's not the clearing of Zuccotti park that makes me ask this question, though the lack of ability to literally camp there will certainly dent the physical protest.  I'm curious because of this poll put out by PPP (itself a left wing organization) that shows public support cratering for OWS.  A combined 33% of Americans support the movement now while 45% oppose.  The chant of "we are the 99%" is clearly very inaccurate at the least.  Looking at the internals of the poll, you realize very quickly that this is actually overstating their popularity.  41% of responders to the poll are Democrats, but I promise you that does not even come close to reflecting society at large.  Also note that the first question asked is about, of all people, John Boehner, rather than, say, the President.  Asking about a Republican first in a time when people hate all incumbents can shift fairly weak minded people into a more leftist position.  Note that nobody bothered to ask about whether the people approve of the President's job performance. 

And oh, the Tea Party is more popular than OWS.  In fact, it's popularity is within the margin of error for its disapproval rating, making it a statistical tie.  

The only thing that should be surprising about any of this is that it actually lasted for roughly two whole months.  I pointed out well over a month ago that this group lacked any actionable goals or means of executing those goals.  OWS turned into a motley crew of leftist causes, but more than anything it was (or I suppose, technically, still is) a protest for the sake of having a protest.  For better or worse, Americans may very well have liked the ideas of fighting inequality and corporate power, but once it became obvious this movement had no solutions beyond shouting, violating the law, and making the lives of locals miserable, support plummeted.  The Tea Party evolved mechanisms for winning primaries, mostly against Republicans.  OWS created a Soviet style state with multiple, ill defined governing bodies composed of who knows who that quickly became eyesores in the cities due to lack of any actual control.  

Really, any Left leaning movement that has to have "rape free zones" is a godsend to the Right.  We could only hope that this would continue through November 2012.  Unfortunately, it looks like America only gets two months of college kids playing Utopian deities over increasingly filthy societies. 

Without an end (and thereby without means), the movement could not actually move.  I'll have to set aside my extreme humility for a second, because I described this perfectly:  "This is a spasm more than a movement.  Movements go somewhere, spasm's are just violent shaking in all directions."  The best that could have been accomplished would be to rule these little OWS societies in a way that made outsides approve of them.   Instead, they became Obamavilles in which public sanitation, safety, and decency decayed before the eyes of the world.  That is the very reason support for OWS is gone in the public, and combined with the lack of ability to physically maintain these protests 24/7 and with the onset of winter, I don't see things continuing as they have.  

Most will go home.  What I fear, not necessarily predict but fear, is that the hardcore people calling for the death of capitalism will realize this was their best shot in ages, that it is rapidly passing and that the only way to keep it from dying a quiet death is to make it die a violent one.  I'm not saying most in OWS are of this sort (indeed, I believe they are pansies who would never actually risk themselves, as much as they might wish to imagine otherwise), but it only takes a few hardcore fanatics to do a great deal of damage, both to physical persons and to our political discourse.  

I don't think it will happen that way, but I do recognize the possibility.  But I would be greatly shocked if OWS as it exists today should still exist come January 17.  That said, I wouldn't have predicted it would still be here now, but spasms can't go on forever without killing the sufferer.  Either the movement will peter out due to lack of results or it will have to actually come up with ends and means.  The latter requires leaders to take charge or, more likely, for current leaders to become public, obliterating the "equality" myth the movement has about itself.  The Iron Law of Oligarchy will not be silenced by chants. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

1st Amendment Is Not A Pass For Anarchy

Today, New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman ruled against Occupy Wall Street's argument that the protesters may protest in violation of park rules.  They argue that rules limiting tents and 24 hour protests at Zuccotti Park are targeting their movement in particular and hence are violations of the 1st Amendment's protection of free speech. 

This is nonsense.  The 1st Amendment does not protect everything that people might claim is free speech; for example, I cannot burst into your house screaming obscenities, or even a coherent political viewpoint, because I do not have a right to speak one your private property.  Zuccotti Park is private property.  If they wish to change the rules for whatever reason, they are in their rights to do so.  This is reinforced by the zoning laws imposed on the park concerning safety and health regulations. 

Occupy Wall Street has every right to speak its mind peaceably (hell, I wish they would come out with anything resembling a coherent thought to argue about).  Intentionally disrupting the lives of others, however, is not free speech.  You can speak without being a pain in the ass.  Remember that free speech is just that.  You do not have the right to force people to listen to you.  You do not have a right to bang drums and disrupt the nights of families.  You do not have the right to defecate in public and protect rapists.  These things are not free speech, nor does prohibiting them in any way reduce the ability to propose or attack any idea. 

I pointed this out at the beginning.  This movement couldn't get any traction in the media until they resorted to blocking a bridge.  It isn't their message that gets them attention (for the most part, they lack a message at all).  It's the fact that they are nuisances to society.  Most of them are protesting for the sake of protesting rather than having any goals to actually achieve. 

If you have something to say, OWS, put it into English so we can understand you.  Banging drums, blocking subways and bridges, shouting down people who have nothing to do with your silly protest, these things are not free speech.  You can say whatever you damn well please.  So say it already.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beyond Educating, I Guess

This is from OWS' "Statement of Autonomy" (whatever the hell that may mean):

Occupy Wall Street is a people’s movement. It is party-less, leaderless, by the people and for the people. It is not a business, a political party, an advertising campaign or a brand.  It is not for sale.
Any statement or declaration not released through the General Assembly and made public online at should be considered independent of Occupy Wall Street.
Really, nobody sees a contradiction between these two statements?  Those that control the website are the leaders.  They are the new hierarchy.  And note that they are making a point of differentiating themselves from anyone not publishing via their controlled website. 

And then there is this wonderfully idiotic protest for Thursday.  Shutting down the subways, that's the way, what is this all about?  I'm sure that will do wonders for OWS' popularity in the city.  Note at the bottom they demand we "resist austerity."  What on Earth is that a reference to?  These guys claim to be above partisan politics, but they explicitly say cutting government spending is to be resisted.  It is a tenet of their faith that government spending is in and of itself a good thing.  Amazingly, they don't realize that austerity reduces the chances of corruption; the more politicians can spend, the more they will do so for their interests, not ours. 

Anyway, I'm just annoyed with these people.  People who cannot see reality right in front of their faces drive me off a wall.  Look at how these people have run their "camps" and ask yourself, do you really want their ideas running the country?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Rome, Sweet Rome

There has been some historical buzz on the Internet (weird, I know!) about the hypothetical question of who would win between a Marine Expeditionary Unit vs. the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus, which is a close approximate for Rome at its zenith.  Technology and troop levels have predictably been the main focus of conversation.  I like these kinds of questions, especially since I'm covering ancient Rome with my 9th graders right now, so I just want to toss out a few thoughts.

The technological advantage is obviously on the side of the Marines.  Really, the whole question is about measuring how much more powerful we are in the 21st Century than the most powerful nation on Earth during the 1st Century was.  This will be the key to obliterating support for Augustus, as the first Emperor will appear, and in fact be, impotent to stop the oncoming invaders.  Nothing surprising here. 

The question of who would win, however, requires parameters in which victory is defined.  Could the Marines overthrow Augustus and institute anarchy?  Unquestionably.  They could shell the Palatine and Capitoline Hills from miles away from the city, potentially wiping out Rome's leadership instantly.  But could the Marines supplant Augustus rather than merely obliterate society? 

I believe the answer is yes, but there are two important variables.  For starters, the Marines would have to set out immediately with the intent of supplanting Augustus.  If this is some sort of time traveling invasion and this is the mission, the Marines are dedicated to this objective, then I believe they will be in very good shape.  Without a clear mission, however, the Marines will use up their supplies very quickly without achieving anything.  Food and potable water will be far more important than ammunition.  The Reddit version has the Marines magically being transported back in time and space.  In that situation, the Marines would need to very quickly decide to take over.  Our soldiers are extremely good if there is an objective, but without any objective, confusion would reign.  At that point, it's not even Romans vs. Marines rather than Marines trying to figure out what has happened while being harried by Romans.  The question is a lot clearer when both sides are intentionally trying to take the other out. 

The second variable is whether any of the Marines speak Latin.  Back on the website I linked to, I'm kind of shocked Adrian Goldsworthy believes the Marines would lose due to a lack of numbers.  I've read Goldsworthy's book on the Punic Wars and saw striking similarities to our conflict in Afghanistan.  The trick is to win over individual cities with a carrot and stick approach.  If the Marines can communicate and win over those socii, they suddenly have the manpower to enforce peace in Rome or in any other city they choose. 

Of course, we'll never know, but it certainly is an interesting question. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Berlusconi to Resign

Italy's Prime Minister is set to resign.  This is a man who has been under various scandals nonstop for the last decade and had shown no indication of resigning, mostly because he controlled the courts. 

You know what he can't control, though?  The laws of mathematics.  Italy, like all of the other welfare states, is going under. 

So Berlusconi's abandoning the ship.  If things have gotten so bad that this crazy bastard is giving up power, we may want to stock up on canned goods and shotguns. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Notes From the Classroom

I have a different philosophy on teaching history than may be common.  In my classroom, I fully expect and encourage questions, even if they may be tangential to the topic at hand.  Discussions often start up and I let them run with it for a while.  Hell, I even try to drive them forward.  You can't have a discussion on history and politics if you are not thinking, and it's almost impossible to tell if people can think about politics and history based on standardized tests.  Make them think on their feet to prove they are truly capable of thinking.  

With this, I've noticed some very alarming trends, both in my students and in others throughout society.  People are tired of the partisanship in this nation.  The bickering between Republicans and Democrats is irritating to people; all they want is the parties to come to an agreement and work together on whatever is best for the country. 

I've heard way too many positive comments on establishing a dictatorship in this nation.  

I see the reasons for this all too clearly. Our educational system creates people incapable of independent thought, incapable of taking responsibility, who only want somebody to either give them the answer or "do something" to make things right.  These people would never challenge either the answer or the plan, even if those things should be challenged.  The startling truth is this: our people will never accept tyranny imposed upon us, but we may very well end up begging for it instead. 

The following should be self evident, but somehow are not: 

  • The parties are not putting their own interests ahead of the nation's.  They legitimately have differing ideas as to what is good for our nation.  Therefore, it is impossible to "put politics aside", since politics itself is debating what is good for our nation and what is harmful.  
  • To say a certain party should put aside their positions "for the good of the country" is to say that party should abandon its conception of what is good for us...for the good of us.  It's a non sequitur, but you have to actually think the statement out to realize that.  
  • Partisanship is not all that bad.  One party states completely lacking in partisanship are common; they are known as fascist states or dictatorship.  Their standards of living and respect for human rights are atrocious.  Partisanship helps keep bad ideas in check by allowing somebody to stand up and say "this is a bad idea and I oppose it."  
  • The people in government may very well not have an answer that works.  In fact, they may have been the cause of problems.  To wish maximum efficiency from the government, or to wish they would "just do something", is to assume that whatever they will do will be good.  There is no reason to grant that assumption. 
 Our Founding Fathers created a system of checks and balances to require broad consensus before our government could move forward.  That means that often ideas proposed by factions are shot down.  This is a good thing and proof the system works.  

For those desiring a more active government, be careful what you wish for.  The 20th Century should be more than enough proof that checks and balances, partisanship, and bickering are preferable to their opposites.  Teach your children to question and think, rather than to beg for an answer.  Those who can think independently will be citizens, those who cannot will be subjects.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

School as the First Circle of Hell

"The fact that no one made demands of her knowledge in her special field was lucky for Simochka.  Not only she but many of her girl friends had graduated from the institute without any such knowledge.  There were many reasons for this.  The young girls had come from high schools with very little grounding in mathematics and physics.  They had learned in the upper grades that at faculty council meetings the school director had scolded the teachers for giving out failing marks, and that even if a pupil didn't study at all he received a diploma...Besides, when their students failed, the examiners were reprimanded as if the failures were spoiled goods in a production process--according to the well-known theory that there are no bad pupils, only bad teachers.  Therefore the examiners did not try to trip the students up but, in fact, attempted to get them through the examination with as good results as possible." 

A novel about America's failure to educate its children?  Nope.  That's from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle and describes Soviet education. 

Fun fact: teacher performance is not only not the sole factor being measured by test scores; it is not even the predominate one.  If you pretend otherwise, teachers (out of self preservation) will see to it that test scores are high, even if those tests have no connection whatsoever to actual student performance.  If you actually want students to learn, they have to be held accountable for their results, mostly by parents.  Those same parents, I might add, should know what teachers are doing in the classroom.  That's the way to hold teachers accountable.  Abandoning that role to the state and their "quantifiable measures" is irresponsible but easy.  Sure enough, that's the path we're moving down.  

Some folks might take offense at the idea of "tripping up" students.  Let me reword that for you: challenge the students.  Find out which students can really think by letting them stand on their own two feet and run through a mental obstacle course. Of course, to do this means those kids that can't tie their own shoes (figuratively and, I'm afraid, often literally) won't be in the classroom anymore. 

Sadly, this is all about equality.  If you can't get the kids who don't do well to pick up their pace, you focus all of your energy on rising them up an inch at the expense of the talented and motivated who could climb mountaintops if there was any motivation for teachers to focus on them instead. 

"There are no bad pupils, only bad teachers."  

If you believe that, you must be the product of a Soviet style educational system. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Mess With The (Wall Street) Bull, You Get The Horns

It's about time.   (Also, I don't think any corporation had anything to do with this, I just put that in to spite some folks). 

For all of the media's rhetoric about the "violent" nature of the Tea Party, I cannot recall a single time the riot police had to use flash bang grenades to clear granny and her tricorne hat off of the barricades.  Perhaps my favorite part is the screams of "medic!"  You are not in the military; there are no medics here.  Why there wasn't some noble minded protester there to help without charging a fee, well, I don't know. 

The police and locals are pretty much fed up with this.  If Occupy Wall Street movements in the nation do not start following health and permit laws, they can expect more.  And it is not police brutality.  You were in violation of the law and warned to leave.  Cops don't take well to people being belligerent. 

And right at the end, with the "we are the 99%" cheer, I really was hoping another flash bang would go off. 

Come up with a message and a plan so we can talk.  In the meantime, leave the parks and let sanitation crews (not to mention the freaking police and EMT folk) do their jobs. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cicero Speaks on OWS

"But many claims in his speech were those of the demagogue, and especially reprehensible was the statement that less than two thousand persons in the state owned property.  This was a pernicious speech, promoting as it did the equalization of property; what could be more baneful than that?  Why, the chief motivation behind the establishment of states and city structures was to ensure the maintenance of private property; for though nature guided men to form communities, it was in the hope of guarding their possessions that they sought protection in cities."
"So those who seek to pose as populares, and with this in mind raise the agrarian issue to have owners shifted from their properties, or think that money owed by debtors should be remitted, are undermining the foundations of the state, which depends first and foremost on the harmony between classes (and this cannot continue to exist when some citizens are robbed of their money and others have their debts remitted), and secondly on fair dealing, which is totally abrogated if the individual cannot keep what belongs to him.  For, as I remarked earlier, the distinguishing feature of the community and the city is that every individual should maintain free and undisturbed control of his possessions."

These quotes, which come from De Officiis by Marcus Tullius Cicero, are worth pondering.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Organizers vs. the Organized points out what I already knew: the Occupy Wall Street movement is, in fact, hierarchical.  "Consensus" democracy runs into the same flaw every other type of democracy (or government, for that matter) hits: there are dissenters who have rights, and they won't just shut up and go along with the majority. 

This all has such a French Revolution without the balls feeling to it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Are The 1%

From Economix Blog at the NYT.

I got bad news for everyone down protesting Wall Street: you are the 1%.  You are the most privileged people on Earth.  Even if you are downright poor by American standards, you are freaking rich compared even to the rich in many other places.  India, China, and Brazil are not exactly the most backward nations on the planet, either.  Hell, they are often tossed about as our competitors and maybe even future superpowers.  More than half of Americans live in that top 10% percentile of wealthiest people in the world. 

Every time you point a finger up and demand those above you in life pay more, remember that there are billions under you also point a finger upwards.  To them, you are the rich. 

Also, by this standard, inequality is pretty freaking flat in the United States.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Obviously Not a Tea Party

I somehow do not believe 99% of Americans support political violence and injuring police officers.  Somebody needs to bring these people back within the rule of law.  If the organizers of Occupy Wall Street won't do it, then the police need to crack down on these mobs. 

And yes, that's an accurate term.  Once you stop obeying the law and turn to violence, you are a mob.  The Tea Party never did that, despite the wet dreams of the media. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Atlas Didn't Shrug, He Was Shot

Government requires corporations to do a lot of dumb economic things (massive regulations, minimum wage laws, requiring hefty amounts of money be lent to those who can never pay it back, etc.).  

Shit hits the fan due to bad policies.  Government then bails out corporations to stem the disaster.  

Progressives use the disaster to "prove" that corporations (not the government) are responsible.  More power is forked to the government for things like "economic justice" rather than anything fitting economic reality.  

Shit continues to get worse.  Again, blame corporations, give government more power.  Repeat.  

The biggest problem with Atlas Shrugged (though I love it, there are a few) is that Rand ended it on a happy note.  In reality, when this vicious circle begins, it ends in bloodshed and starvation.  See Revolutions in France, Russia, China, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, etc.  The scariest and most frustrating part is that the people have their scapegoat and so little understanding of economics or morality that rational discussion is almost impossible with them. That very lack of understanding causes them to be supremely confident in their gut feelings about what is "right and wrong" in economics and that surely their ideas of economic justice would be feasible.  Nevermind that time and again, reality has proven this wrong.  These are the same idiots who bought into "Hope and Change" in 2008; they have had power for three years and things have become even worse.  Rather than talk about actual policy changes, in particular their own policy failures, they want to talk about wishy washy terms and blame corporations. 

If there is any consolation in any of this, it is that the many people in this country who do not deserve liberty may not have it for long. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Directive 10-289 Has Been Expanded and Amended

You just can't make this stuff up.  It reads like a law created in an early draft of Atlas Shrugged that Rand struck out because it was too unbelievable.  I can't go through 50 something pages of nonsense point by point, but some of the more entertaining things include:

"Truth in Journalism" law.  Why, we all know the government will make sure the truth is told! 

Compulsory voting.  Yes, we need more people who are not informed to vote.  They'll be thrilled about it, too.  Only good things can come of this.

Ban short selling.  Yes, when things are overpriced, we need to make sure nobody knows it until the shit hits the fan so that everyone suffers rather than those paying attention!

Hold out government accountable for a Gross Happiness Index.  Like Bhutan.  No, seriously, they are advocating that position, even the Bhutan part. 

Everyone supporting Occupy Wall Street should be required to read pages 41 and 42 of this trainwreck. For starters, oil is outlawed; you need to turn in your car.  How you will be getting to and from anywhere is left unstated.  Free education for all, provided by God knows whom.  Free healthcare for all, again provided presumably by God via manna from the sky. 

By far and away, my favorite part is the mandated salaries.  Here they are:

Concepts of Economic Sustainability and Right Livelihood

Bankers $20,000
Lawyers $27,500
Realtors $25,000
Doctors $28,000
Nurses $27,500
Teachers/Librarians/Train Engineers/Bridge Maintenance/Ship Pilots, etc. $35,000
Police $36,000
Public Servants $28,500
Laborers $20,000
Other public sector $30,000
Other private sector $29,000
Technical/Research/Academic $36,000
Entrepreneurs/Business Owners $10,000 (i.e., tax breaks for corps)
Congress $30,000
President 40,000
Soldiers N/A
Defense workers $25,000

All jobs include full health benefit for worker and family, full retirement benefits, full free
education for children.

Taxation - to run the government. The only tax will be a sales tax for all goods and services, which will be fixed at: 4%.
As a teacher, I will be among the richest Americans!  We're sure to have new businesses making new products with entrepreneurs being the least paid individuals in the nation.  It is good to know that people will put in the work and sacrifice to become doctors, even though they will be paid less than teachers who will make more than almost anyone for 180 days of work. As we all know, running a bank is child's play, especially when compared to being a realtor or a librarian!

This is what I've wanted from hardcore Leftists for some time, a detailed outline of their world.  And it is everything I expected it to be. My favorite part may be that this document begins with this requirement:
Actions should not interfere with the efficient functioning of a market economy, the allocation of capital, and incentives for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers as long as basic welfare and genuine opportunity for the entire American people are served.

Between this and the abject failure of consensus democracy put on show in Atlanta, I can only hope Occupy Wall Street is highlighted more in the news.  The looks on the faces of those shouted down is priceless, especially since those people are fans of Representative John Lewis, a civil rights activitist and liberal Congressman.  They sure aren't Tea Parties is my point.  This "consensus democracy" doesn't actually remove dissent, it just silences it, much to the chagrin of those not in the majority.  Funny thing about democracy, there always seem to be a minority who wants to voice its point of view.  Jazz hands and shouting "mic check" makes those folks feel ostracized. 

Remember Tahrir Square

In all honesty, I doubt very much that the interim government will make significant changes. I have been much less enthusiastic about these protests than many others for this reason (though I have to admit I thought Mubarak would play his hand better than this). The fun, romantic revolution is over, but the revolution is not complete until liberty has been secured under a functioning government that respects the rights of all people. Creating such a government is among the most difficult tasks mankind has ever faced. I hope, by the grace of God, that the Egyptians will manage it, but I would not bet on it.
That would be me, back in February.   Now, Egypt is seeing sectarian violence and the very real possibility of starvation, in no small part due to a lack of government.  Occupy Wall Street people who use Tahrir Square as an example, take note. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Update on Occupy Wall Street

So this morning, it appears the Occupy Wall Street people continue to mill about in their park. 

Um...hmm.  This is making a very short blog post.  So...yeah, I don't know.  Reading Caesar's account of the Roman Civil War, so far I liked the Gallic War more but I haven't quite gotten to the conflict in Greece yet. 

Some football today.  Haven't seen any yet this year, what with the working and whatnot.  In fact, today is my first straight up day off in a solid month. 

Ok, seriously, do something Occupy Wall Street!  Give me something to talk about.  I freaking read Aristotle and Plato and Caesar for funsies, if you are boring me that's not a good thing.  The Tahrir Square protests were exciting because those people were putting their lives on the line, rallying against an authoritarian power who made it clear the protesters did not have the government's blessing to assemble.  Downtown New York isn't exactly the same thing.  Can't even follow on twitter anymore because it is always the same nonsense about you being the 99%, which I might add isn't exactly (or even remotely) true.   

A lot of wishy washy calls for "real democracy" and "change the world" without ever actually doing anything.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not 99% of Locals

The Occupy Wall Street protests are entering their third week at Zuccotti Park.  It appears that the General Assembly, which is praised by many in the movement for being a competent governing, broad based democratic body, has failed to include a place for everyone to go to the bathroom.  Local stores are closing their restrooms due to property damage, which apparently makes the protesters mad.  Local residents are also tired of having their lives disrupted; parents of newborns have a pretty legitimate gripe against protesters banging drums throughout the night.  

Where is the General Assembly to keep order and provide bathrooms without freeloading on businesses?  Have there been no working committees on this?  Will they repay for damages done to small business owners?

This movement absolutely must transform itself into something productive with at least somewhat clear aims and plans if it is to be seen as anything other than petulant children having a month long hissy fit while free loading off of the backs of locals.  Even if the gripes of this group are legitimate (a good debate for another time I would love to have), this movement does nothing to make Wall Street or Washington care.  Angering locals by shutting down bridges and making residential areas intolerable may get you in the news, but it's also going to make you a lot of enemies out of people who are unquestionably not the "1%." Costing citizens another $2,000,000 in overtime for cops isn't helping things.  

The last thing this group can afford is confirming images that these people are dirty, stinky, freeloading hippies without a message.  Not having bathrooms or a message but being loaded with random topless women won't confirm the seriousness of this movement to 99% of Americans. 

UPDATE:  Just to drive the point home.  Nothing says clean, safe, and mature like crapping on a police cruiser. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And God Said, "Keepest Thou the Iron Law"

In my last post, I asked if anyone could describe the leadership or goals of the Occupy Wall Street, New York City General Assembly. My concern, and a question every supporter should have asked of themselves, is that we have no idea who is leading this movement.  Yes, for the most part is lacks clarity and much leadership at all, but there is clearly somebody organizing things like when and where to protest as well as putting out "official statements" on the group's website. 

No matter how democratic any group may wish to be, the larger the group gets, the less truly equal participation and leadership can be.  Somebody has to be making decisions with a decently long view into the future if it wishes to accomplish anything at all.  This is known as the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Think of trying to make a movie.  Which would be better, if the script were written by one writer, a small team of four to five, or collectively by a stadium of 100,000?  The last is completely impracticable.  There will be no consistency to the story, no pattern.  How do you get the input from that many people, how do you integrate it?  That's why classical direct democracies worked through smaller committees, to determine what issues were to be discussed, when discussion would end, voting, etc.  The General Assembly has taken a similar course with its committee system. 

The New Republic has done a little research into this group and unsurprisingly has found a small core leadership attempting to maintain some level of control over apparently rather transient "committees" formed by who knows who. In many ways, this explains why the group really lacks any coherent message or the ability to perform actions to further those goals.  This is a spasm more than a movement.  Movements go somewhere, spasm's are just violent shaking in all directions. 

Anyway, unless this group resorts to violence and attacking property, they won't last long.  Fits of anger might be fun for a while, but as this goes on with no resolution to the undefined goals, people will eventually get bored.  Perhaps worse, everyone else in the world will get bored, too.  Amorphous blobs are fun to look at for a while but they make horrible pets.  Come up with something definite and we'll talk.  Assuming, that is, anyone actually wishes to discuss the motivations and goals of Occupy Wall Street. 

I officially declare myself bored of this protest, subject to change should they actually do something. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Questions for the General Assembly

I've followed this Occupy Wall Street movement about as closely as I could over the last few weeks.  Despite it's apparent popularity with some of the denizens of Twitter, I have yet to find any real substance to the movement.  To clarify, both for my own interest and for those who may consider themselves followers, what exactly Occupy Wall Street is about, I would like to ask a few questions which hopefully somebody representing the movement can answer:

  1. Who composes the "General Assembly?"  The website has statements in the name of the General Assembly dating back to August 19th.  Who is putting out these statements? 
  2. What, exactly, is the "General Assembly?"  Does it claim to be, or aspire to be, a legislative or executive organization?  Is it merely the currently anonymous mouthpiece of the movement?  How does it relate to government authorities?
  3. Your group recently released your Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.    What do you mean by "occupation?"  Generally, that term is associated with the concept of control over the police powers in an area, i.e. the American occupation of Iraq.  Are you claiming authority and if so, is this not an act of treason?  
  4. That same document is effectively a litany of complaints against corporations.  How do you intend to have any of them addressed?  Who, exactly, are you expecting to take an action here?  
  5. Your working draft claims you are a "direct democracy."  How, exactly, does that work?  I've heard claims that thousands of people attend your rally.  Do they all get to put ideas up before this General Assembly and be heard?  If so, how do you manage that?  My concern here is that there may be only a few people directing this movement and website, while most of the people in the crowd merely chant back whatever it is you spoon feed them. 
I guess what I really want to know is, who are you and what do you want?  No, don't tell me you are "the 99%" because you are not, and "justice/fairness/your favorite squishy term here" doesn't really tell me anything, either.  

As you can guess by the content on this blog, I'm the libertarian type and don't exactly agree with your goals or philosophy, but I am doing my best to be open minded and understand your methods and goals.  Answers to these questions beyond accusing me of being a corporate shrill would greatly further that objective.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hipsters of the World, Unite!

This...this just hurts my head

I'm trying to form a coherent response to an incoherent call for...well, what?  Hey, you evil corporations that provide hundreds of millions of people with jobs and benefits, not to mention nearly all of the goods we consume, this world would be so much better if you didn't exist!  Those goods and jobs?  Well, they'll still exist, somehow. 

For Christ sake, people:

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

I'm assuming "they" are corporations.  All of that education apparently didn't help the NYCGA clarify pronouns.  Seriously, how do you pack that much stupid into 21 words?  Students are not "hostages" if they voluntarily sign onto a loan.  The government, not corporations, hold a huge portion of those loans.  Education has to be earned and is not a right we are innately born with. 

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

"They" as in the same "they" from before.  So corporations are launching wars and taking over territory?  Really?

"corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth"

*blink blink*

Do they force people into the stores at gunpoint?  I mean, seriously, what the hell does that statement mean?

This isn't their first protest.  The first, held on the 17th of September, was a monumental flop noticed only by conservatives who relentlessly mocked them on Twitter (thank you, Iowahawk!).  This one was basically a joke, too, with only a 1,000 protesters showing up, many bused in by local unions.  Compared to Tea Party rallies in the hundreds of thousands, this makes the progressive movement look pretty pathetic compared to the grass roots libertarian movement.  Have to get some notice from somebody other than conservative Twitter comedians...I got it!  Resort to shutting down important roadways and making people's lives miserable! 

Occupy Wall Street is one of the best examples I can think of for reducing direct democracy and reinforcing the protective barriers of a republic.  Go pick up Cicero's De Re Publica, you might learn something.

To this asinine group: If you obey the law, we will ignore you.  If you turn to violence, we'll crush you.  And no, I'm not a corporation, I'm a middle class guy who works two jobs.  Don't even think about responding that I should be on your side; my side is that which protects the rights of people, of all people, even those who have done better than me.  Also, I only join causes that have something resembling a plan.  You say you emulate the Tahrir Square protesters.  Perhaps you do; where is their democracy?  What is their plan?  Been over half a year and their military is still in charge.  That's how most revolutions end up.  Learn your history.

Lacking Consistency

When George W. Bush held Al Qaeda agents that were not American citizens in Gitmo, people had a fit about how the President was violating their constitutional rights. 

When Barack Obama zaps an American citizen (Anwar al-Awlaki) without so much as a trial, no such objections are raised. 

Logically, those who criticized Bush's actions but not Obama's must believe that killing people without trial is a worse violation than holding people alive (in a Caribbean island, no less!) and that people without American citizenship deserve higher protections than those that are American citizens. 

Yes, I am glad the bastard is dead.  No, I don't believe the President broke the law.  But then, I don't think Bush did, either.  My position is consistent: those who conduct war upon us have no protections in law.  I would like to know how anyone on the Left squares their situation, though. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Hope This Is Not 99% of America

There's a wonderful new blog up called We Are the 99 Percent, set up by the same people who epically failed to launch a revolution on Wall Street back on the 17th of September.  If this really represents 99% of Americans, America isn't worth loving anymore. 

I'm not saying times are not tough.  Hell, if anyone could talk about hard times, it's me.  I'm 27, work two jobs and live with my folks for the lack of a better option (mostly due to the lack of a job I know I'll have long enough to sign a lease).  My debt comes to around $50k.  Trust me, I know things are not easy.  And I also know that people in high places have really screwed the pooch without using a condom.  The housing bubble that popped and completely freaked the world is in no small part due to government actions to increase housing ownership.  The cost of a college education and its corresponding decline in value for employment has a lot to do with government and society pushing more and more people to go to college. 

Look through the photos at 99 Percent.  College debt is a common theme. 

But you know what?  Nobody put a gun to any of their heads and ordered them to march off to higher education.  Nobody did that to me, either.  Nobody forced millions of people to buy houses sold way, way above their actual value on the free market. 

Perhaps nothing drives me more nuts than the idea that the American Dream is going to be handed to you or that people are entitled to it.  Look at the pictures:

To the "99%": you made the decision to go to college.  Just because you went to college and paid for it in loans does not mean somebody owes you a job.  The only way you, or anyone, will ever get a job is to provide a useful service.  Your college degrees are not useful services. 

I know, I know, it's hard to admit that you could have screwed up that badly and that in all honestly you may not actually be worth the minimum wage you are receiving.  I know this because I have had that revelation, too.  It hurts like hell.  But that doesn't make it wrong or the fault of somebody else. 

Sir, you did take control of your future.  You signed on to six figures of debt.  Wall Street didn't do that to you, so what does Wall Street have to do with any of this? 

And there it is.  This world, the other nearly seven billion people on this planet, do not owe it to you to change everything that they want in order to make your dream come true.  Odds are, you're not the only one with that dream and others have worked just as hard at it.  If you want the material good life, if you don't want to have all of this debt, you have to be valuable to other people based on their conception of what valuable is, not yours. 

This fellow apparently graduated with top honors and a 3.9 GPA.  Answer me this: why should any employer care?  Did you pick up skills useful to others?  Again, I'm not being mean, as mean as it otherwise may sound.  I work two jobs, seven days a week, and while I pull in better than that for now, one of my jobs ends at Thanksgiving and then I'll be in basically the same boat.  When I look for jobs, it kind of amazes me how my skills do not translate well to this job market.  Yes, there are jobs, even high paying ones, but what we lack are people with the skills to do them.  That's not a conspiracy to keep the 99% down; it's a frightening result of our education system that cannot produce creative or even competent individuals.

I haven't looked through all of these photos, but I have looked through many, and the one I thing I haven't seen yet is "I screwed up."  Hating on Wall Street may make you feel better by denying your own responsibility, but it doesn't improve the situation any. 

Maybe it's just a matter of philosophy and people absolutely refuse to see reality for what it is.  Your dreams are not an entitlement claim upon the rights and wealth of others. 

While I seriously doubt the political acumen of any of these folks, it seems unlikely that any of them actually believe occupying Wall Street would somehow solve our problems.  It's nothing more than a rant.  Giving the amount of ranting I do, it may seem hypocritical for me to disparage their rants, but there are differences.  I rant against those who use force, the government, rather than people and groups using their own wealth and liberty to do as they see fit.  Those people owe me nothing.  And even though I rant against some powers that be that have definitely made things harder on us all, I don't pretend that I deserve to have the good life handed to me on a silver platter.  Truth be told, I didn't do the things I needed to in order to be competitive in the market.  The things that I am really good at, history and teaching, are in a market that is glutted.  Maybe I'll find a job in this field; I've had a little luck so far and have made some impressions.  But as I pointed out, there are indeed jobs out there in other fields and I just do not have the skills for those jobs.  Wall Street didn't do that to me; hell, even with the bogus claims made by the government about upcoming shortages of teachers, I can't blame them, either.  The opportunity to learn other skills was always before me, but I did not take it. 

Have other powers played a large role in determining the opportunities available to me?  Yes.  But my hand was pretty large, too. 

In that sense, I'm part of the 99%.  Perhaps I'm in the 1% because I recognize it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This Isn't Helping

For those not living in the upstate New York region, we've been hit with a major flood, arguably the worst this area has ever seen in some three hundred years of being inhabited by Westerners.  Entire towns such as Owego were under water, have no utilities, and after six days, no real access to groceries.  Enter New York's attorney general:

"As hurricane and flood victims work to get their lives and property back in order, my office stands ready to enforce price-gouging laws so that no one is taken advantage of in this difficult time. New Yorkers are strong and resilient, and our state will recover stronger than before, but consumers must be protected throughout this process."
This is not helpful.  Yes, to one who doesn't think about it for more than two seconds, a very sudden rise in prices during an emergency might seem like a horrible thing to do.  If you're buying up canned goods, you're going to complain about how all of a sudden you have to pay so much more because something bad happened to you.  Clearly unfair, right?

That is, until the guy who can't get to the store until four hours later shows up.  If prices remain low, all of the scarce goods will be gone by whomever gets into the store first, as these people are stocking up for the long haul.  Those who show up later get nothing.  Not they have to pay so much more, but rather they get no food at all.  Higher prices means people buy less; people buying less means other people can have a shot at buying scarce products. 

The market is not broken, even during times of emergency.  Ironically, the laws to prevent "greedy capitalists from exploiting people during tragedies" really puts the screws to those who need resources the most. 

Sometimes, you have to think about morality for more than the nanosecond it takes to form a gut reaction to something in order to find out the truth of the matter. 

I work in the only grocery store that will be open as of tomorrow at 9 AM.  We're not raising prices.  Try as we will to get shipments in, we could very well run out of a lot of products pretty quickly. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Last Reflections Upon 9/11

Every anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks makes me reflective upon the past, but this one is different.  For the first time, it dawns on me how long ago it really was.  Maybe it is because I'm a teacher who has students in high school that don't have concrete memories of the event.  I mean, think about that: were it not for some historical source, these kids, who will very shortly be voting adults, would not really understand 9/11.  A new generation is already taking the stage that never knew a world without that terrible event.

When I stop and think about the last ten years in their own right, it really becomes apparent how old that event is now.  I was in high school myself then.  All of college, which itself seems a lifetime ago, happened since.  Many old flames that I barely remember sparked, raged, and went out in that vast expanse of time.  Strangely, I recall 9/11/01 better than I do 01/01/05, my 21st birthday, though perhaps there are other explanations for that.  But then, I remember 9/11 better than the first day of just about any job I've had, or of college.

I wonder sometimes if people alive during the Pearl Harbor attack felt the same way until I remember that ten years afterwards would be December 1951.  Not only was that event buried, but the entire Second World War had been over for more than half a decade.  Hell, we were up to our necks in Korea and the Cold War by then. We consider 9/11 to be a paradigm shift in our understanding of the world and international relations; I don't think Pearl Harbor really could be considered that.  The United States went from isolation to openly joining the Allies, but the system of alliances throughout the world didn't really change, nor our conception of who was powerful and who was not.  That was all changed by World War II and the beginning of the Cold War.

9/11 was also a national event in a way Pearl Harbor wasn't.  Sure, World War II had a massive impact on the United States, from war rations to the huge number of casualties suffered, but Pearl Harbor itself was really limited to those living in Oahu on that particular day.  The war was national, but the event was particular.  In our case, the roles were reversed.  I can distinctly remember watching the North Tower burn and people huddled around a TV wondering how such a freak accident could occur when the second plane struck the tower and removed all doubt, horribly and instantly, from anyone's mind about what we were witnessing.  9/11 was experienced by the whole nation; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have really not.  There are no small number of people in this nation who, if denied access to the news, would not know about those conflicts.  Rationing, war bonds, everyone knowing a casualty, black out drills, 10% of the entire population being recruited or drafted; we didn't experience those things.  The event was national, the war particular to those serving and their closest loved ones.

It seems incredibly strange to think, but in the grand scheme of things that attack may not rank very high.  It may very well be that its proper role in our thought is to be consigned to history, an event that happened and led to other somewhat relevant events but which otherwise is no longer a guiding star in the constellation of events that creates our narrative of the world.  I will not say that we "need to start looking forward rather than behind" because we are always looking forward; we look into the past to see our direction.  Maybe the financial crisis will be the truly big event that is recorded in the history books when we pass from this Earth; maybe nothing we do will be particularly remembered and this decade, if remembered at all, will be recalled only for its dullness.  I make no predictions, I only acknowledge the possibilities. 

This will be the last anniversary reflection I write upon 9/11.  In our national understanding (if such a term even makes sense), it can rest with a marble gravestone alongside Pearl Harbor and the Civil War, events which we understand happened but are no longer current with us.  Sooner than we of that generation may like to think, a new cohort of teachers will join our ranks who were not even alive when the Towers fell, when the Pentagon was struck, when a brave band of passengers brought down their own plane to stop madmen, when we were unsure when the attacks would stop, who perpetrated them, and whether life would ever return to normal.

But though I will cease memorializing the anniversary, the memories will remain with me until I die.  Whenever I hear a siren blare, even out here in the country, for the briefest of moments my heart jumps and I wonder if the world will be the same place tomorrow as images of ash and fire flash before my mind's eye. There will never be a beautiful September morning in which I don't remember sitting in English class writing an essay and having a Social Studies teacher whisper the first rumors of chaos in New York.   There will never be a clear September afternoon in which I'm not startled if there are no planes in the sky above me.

declinet autem a malo et faciat bonum inquirat pacem et persequatur eam

~1st Peter, Chapter 3, Verse 11

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Few Thoughts Before a Hiatus

I've decided to take a break for the next few months, both from blogging and from following politics quite as closely as I usually do. I don't anticipate any major policy debates over the next few months; Obama has spent all of his political capital and is deadlocked with the House while Republicans are going to duke it out to see who will challenge him for the White House next year. Of the candidates, I'm inclined to support Perry, but nominations never really held my interest. if something major does spring up, you'll get my two cents worth.

For the last few months, I've been busy trying to find a suitable job and working at borderline minimum wage. This is not exactly conducive to what I wish to do with this blog, as I any free time I did have went to finding better employment. Now, I have been accepted for a short time teaching position but will also be hanging on to the minimum wage job. Working 60 hour weeks plus prep time for class doesn't leave much time for this, either.

Lastly, I have a bunch of projects I wish to focus on, but because I have a bunch of ideas I don't focus on any of them. When it comes to ideas, I'm a kid in a candy store, which isn't helpful for focusing on a long term project. I'm watching The Tudors on Netflix right now. Because of that alone, I'm borderline infatuated with Thomas More (I'll likely pick up Utopia again shortly) and theology. Before that, my intention was (and still is at some point) to figure out the nature of rights and laws. As it stands, I'm not impressed with the Natural Law viewpoint and think libertarianism can be supported with a positivist approach. I have a lot of books queued on the topic. From there, I'm still trying to figure out a just philosophy of foreign policy and of secession, but I think both of those depend on that law and rights idea being hammered out. I also would like to spell out in some detail my thoughts on education. And again, I'm not actually focused on any of these things right now. I think a break will help me clear my mind, get personal things in order, and then I'll try to tackle them.

Before I start that break, however, I wish to outline a problem I see with our democracy. Democracy itself rests on these four assumptions (not exclusively, but each is a necessary requirement):

  1. People know what good government is. The entire idea of democracy is that "The People" will safeguard a good government out of self interest.
  2. People know what the current government is. Can't safeguard your well being without knowing what is happening.
  3. People have the ability to change government for the better. This is all mere prattle if the people cannot actually improve their lot by controlling the government.
  4. People have the will to change government for the better. This may seem like an odd requirement until you are in the minority.
Unfortunately, I don't believe these assumptions hold up in the United States, or really in any modern democracy.

  1. Ask anyone what good government is and you'll probably get a very bad answer. In fact, most will probably say democracy is in and of itself the definition of good government. Democracy is only a means and does not assure that the government will act in a just manner. We're off to a very bad start.
  2. Ask anyone to name the nine Supreme Court Justices of the United States. Or their Senators and Representative. Or their governor. Or the policies or judicial philosophies of any of them. Now see how many government bureaucracies they can name, their roles, powers, who heads them, etc. Even a lot of political wonks will stumble with that latter part, but it is frightening how many average folks couldn't get the easy questions either.
  3. Elections are remarkably imprecise tools for change. The only real check we have on bureaucracies in this nation is electing different officeholders to regulate those bureaucrats. If the current administration won't act against a corrupt office, you basically have to vote to overhaul the entire elected offices in order to change, which may very well change a lot of things in ways the voter doesn't want. I'll give you an example: I hate the idea of a "Bridge to Nowhere" that was proposed by a Republican. My only realistic alternative was to vote Democrat, which is even worse in my opinion. How, then, do "we the people" do anything about corrupt bureaucracies we know little about (in fact, many of which we probably do not even know exist)?
  4. This is classic Federalist 51, of tyranny of the majority. Since this problem hasn't even been close to being solved, not much more needs to be said here.
I don't have much in the way of answering this problem except to say we need an educated and virtuous citizenry to watch a small, limited government. How do to that, I'll leave for another day. The point is, the more you entrust to unknown political entities which we do not have direct control over, the larger the black hole becomes that sucks up knowledge and blinds us to the actions of the rule makers who are supposed to be held accountable to us.

"The People" is a pretty ridiculous concept as a unitary force, but even if it did make sense, I don't see how they could retain mastery over the government for long. We are too often lulled to sleep by the democratic creed. I'm not even implying here that there is some secret cable ruling us from behind the scenes; most of the agencies in that black hole don't know what the other are doing, either.

Anyway, I'm going to go read Les Miserables and clear my mind for a few months. Probably.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/28

RealClearPolitics has a nice feature following the major polling of the President's approval rating. Over the last two months, the President's numbers have been in free fall; in fact, Gallup has his approval rating at a mere 38% as of today. Nothing particular seems to be going on to drive those numbers further down; the debt ceiling debate ended a month ago. What is going on here?

Look at the Gallup numbers. Barack has a weekly average approval of 40%. Outside of liberals, blacks are the only demographic to be above 50% for the President with a whopping 88% supporting him. Basically, everybody in this country but African Americans have bailed on this President and overwhelming support from blacks is the only thing keeping him from crashing into the low 30's level of approval.

Independents have had it with this President.

Republicans seem somewhat happy with their options, a great difference from 2008. Really, without a very sudden and significant economic recovery occurring very shortly, I see the President being a one termer going down with the likes of Jimmy Carter. As I mentioned before, I'm not even honestly sure what the President will campaign on. "It Could Have Been Worse" is not a particularly inspiring message. ObamaCare is deeply unpopular, the Stimulus was a trainwreck, transparency has been nonexistent.

Seriously, what will he run on? In 2008, he could pick health care out of thin air and pretend it was some sort of national crisis requiring his guiding hand. In 2012, everyone would mock him for trying to do that with any other sector of the economy. The other thing he did in '08 was attack the incumbent, which is obviously not a viable strategy this time around. The cult of personality he built around himself is also gone; posters of his face with the word Hope will not be making a comeback outside of Republican ads mocking such vanity.

Most of all, conservative and in particular libertarians are going to be out for blood. We haven't been treated particularly nicely during this Administration's time in office; hell, the Vice President saw it fit to describe us as terrorists. We have a level of enthusiasm matching that of 2010 but which is otherwise not seen for a Republican candidate in a very long time. I would be shocked if the Democrats somehow threw the Republicans out of the House of Representatives, especially since the Republican hold on that House is stronger than it has been in 70+ years. In the Senate, only 10 Republicans are up for reelection and all of them are survivors of the 2006 election bloodbath. We have two people retiring, one in Texas and the other in Arizona, so I doubt we'll lose any Senate seats. That leaves 23 Democrats and 2 Democratic voting independents up for reelection. Six are retiring, leaving open races in North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Additionally, Democrats will need to hang on to seats in Montana, Nebraska (no chance, Ben Nelson), Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Republicans only have to win half of those competitive seats in order to take the Senate.

As incredible as it seems, a mere two years after Democrats had absolute power in Washington, Republicans might rule unopposed.

This next year is certainly going to be interesting.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/27

From the Associated Press:

Obama will have to win over people such as Brian Arnold, 33, of Pickerington, Ohio. He's an independent who voted for Obama in 2008 because he liked the Democrat's outsider image.

Now, Arnold says he's undecided and down on Obama. "He got elected, it was a big party and after that he went back to being a politician. As soon as he got in office, he just did more of the same."

No kidding. It's almost like someone said this over and over and over again during that campaign. Elections are not games and we were supposed to be voting for policy, not personalities. Believing this unknown to be the personification of Hope and Change was ridiculously dangerous.

I'm still flabbergasted by the way people acted in 2008. People wanted to punish the Republicans, that I get, but hoisting up this radical in the belief that he was somehow going to fundamentally transform the United States into a land in which politics would forever be a positive thing? Are you kidding me?

I hate to say it, but it really was a mob mentality. People were extremely excited about the person of Barack Obama without ever giving solid thought to policy. People actually believed electing a person due to his skin color was appropriate. Ironically enough, these same people accused opponents of Obama of latent racism.

Go find those people now. Most of them don't want to talk about Obama and sure as hell don't want to admit that they are personally responsible for the last two and a half years. They wanted to have their pop culture political party, but once the actual governing part occurred (you know, the reason we have those elections), all of a sudden the euphoria disappeared and politics wasn't an acceptable topic anymore.

Politics isn't a freaking party, people. If you don't want to put in the work to understand history, philosophy, law, economics, and everything else that goes into good governance, stay the hell out.

Friday, August 26, 2011

On Libya

The New Yorker has taken to applauding the President over Qaddafi's apparent downfall in Tripoli. I celebrate the downfall of this tyrant as much as that of any tyrant, including the likes of Saddam Hussein. However, this odd example of Libya, in which the United States occasionally tossed a few bombs at tanks and trucks, hardly constitutes a winning strategy for dealing with tyrants in the future. Or, for that matter, currently, in places like Syria.

Look throughout that New Yorker piece, and you will nowhere find an argument describing how Obama's actions were legal. I've pointed out before that the War Powers Resolution does not allow the President to just start bombing random counties without Congressional approval. I don't particularly care what the United Nations decided, they are not the legislature of the United States nor a substitute for it.

And this could not be described as a Western Crusade? Who did all of the bombing? Who provided the air cover? Arab nations? Nope. Say hello to white men flying above killing Muslims. The fact that we bombed halfheartedly does not mean it was not the West providing that firepower. The war could have been ended in February or March had appropriate firepower been supplied to the rebels, rather than waiting for Qaddafi's forces to push the rebels back to Benghazi and extending the war (with all the deaths that follow) for months.

"They are indigenous; they have legitimacy."

Irritating idiocy. You know who else was indigenous? Muammar Qaddafi.

The lesson every Arab despot should learn from our response to Libya and Syria is that if you have a powerful army and friends, you may butcher your own people at will and the United States will stand by. If, on the other hand, you have a weak army and our President feels like he needs a military victory to improve his own image, you're on our short list of targets.

This should not be seen as a model for future behavior. At no point did our President or his supporters have anything resembling a plan for dealing with Libya. That Qaddafi's forces suddenly collapsed is a blessing from heaven rather than a result of anything our President or Europe is responsible for. By far and away, the most disturbing part of all of this is that our President would illegally use force, that Congress would be cut out of such a decision. Our influence has not been increased at all by this event. And until Libya is a stable and free nation, we have not won yet.

Illegal, belated, halfhearted...the model for the future! NATO basically took out Glass Joe and had difficulty doing so. Good luck being relevant anywhere else. Like, say, Syria.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/25

A completely non-political bit of snark here. I absolutely hate it when I meet people who are bound and determined to be my friend. The less interest you show in them, the more they will hang around you and talk themselves up; they will know nothing about you, but still insist on being chummy pals. It's that last part that really drives me up a wall. If you want to be a friend of mine, it would be nice if it had something to do with me. Such people just cannot handle that there is someone in the world not particularly interested or impressed by them. The only reason such people are interested in me is because I am a human being who still has vital signs, ergo I must be their friend.

Screw that. And the worst part of it is, the normal disinterestedness that would indicate to most people you don't give a damn about them is precisely the thing that draws this sort back to you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/23

I like Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution. He's a pretty bright guy, very well read, and of a very calm demeanor online. Based on the comments, I think his attempt at snark went over people's heads on this post, though.

Anyway, I recommend reading Matt Yglesias's original post that Cowen is responding to. If you spend any time in the real world, or if in particular you work in a grocery store (like myself), it shouldn't take you long to spot the problems. For starters, the grocery store being robbed isn't as likely to hire new people and may be more likely to let people go. A lot of money is moving through these stores, sure, but not a lot of it is profit. You would have to steal a lot of product from a particular manufacturer in order to be noticeable (no company producing goods is going to go out and hire new people over a five dollar spike) and long term (no company producing goods is going to go out and hire new people over a two week spike). Random theft at a store isn't going to meet those conditions. Even prolonged shoplifting won't meet those conditions if different goods are taken, but repeatedly stealing noticeable amounts of a single product tends to be, well, noticeable. Which is a bad plan for shoplifting.

If you read Chapter III of The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism and think you now possess a great theory for stimulating our economy, go drink yourself stupid and start all over.

By this reasoning, those riots in London were a godsend. I don't think Yglesias is dumb enough to actually be proposing people go out and steal, but saying moving closer towards an abandonment of the rule of law by the people doesn't strike me as a good thing, no matter how it comes about.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/22

E. J. Dionne is always good for a laugh. Why, what President Obama needs to do is ignore the Tea Party (and common sense) and propose a massive amount of short term spending! In fact, short term deficits should be ignored.

Nevermind that as is, we are going nearly two trillion dollars in debt over the last year. Might as well dump another trillion in debt on top of that, I'm sure all will be well.

But we need infrastructure spending! This one makes me laugh; wasn't that what the Stimulus was all about? We need to subsidize state spending; their constitutions require them to have a balanced budget and be responsible, so the only way for them to be irresponsible is for the federal government to jump in on their behalf.

My favorite part is that he mentions Europe's austerity should be a lesson. Apparently, nobody told Dionne that Europe can't borrow any more money because nobody is willing to lend it to them. Austerity isn't being imposed by a European "tea party" but by reality. Can't just ignore that one, chief.

We could hike taxes on the rich, just as Europe did, and end up in the same place.

People don't seem to want to face reality. For decades, we have lived on the wealth of the future. Now the future is here and the past must be paid for. Our democratic social welfare state is not designed to handle this transition.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/20

I'm going to jump ahead of this train for a moment. Shortly enough, we'll be hearing outrage about Israel's "excessive use of force" or disproportionate use of force or some such nonsense. Which is odd, since I'm sure those people who will use those terms have not thought to condemn the Palestinian use of weapons against Israel over the last few days and the deaths that were caused.

Then again, I don't remember hearing outrage against Palestine's disproportionate use of force when an anti-tank missile was used against an Israeli school bus.

Let me offer a solution to this problem. The Palestinians need to get the hell out of Palestine. Go to Egypt, or Jordan, or Syria, or Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, or wherever you like, but leave Gaza and the West Bank. Cease your rather ridiculous claim to the area. It's not the end of the world. Look at the Irish outside of Ireland, the Africans outside of Africa, or (dare I mention it) the Jews who fled Europe. Prosperity will never follow rocket attacks against children; only incoming fire will follow.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/19

So people are finally getting smart and realizing the best way to rob a place is by a flash mob. It effectively neutralizes any defense a shopkeeper or passerby might have. Sure, call the cops. By the time they arrive, the mob will be gone with just about everything they wanted. And with so many people robbing you at once, remembering details about anyone in particular becomes difficult, severely reducing the likelihood anyone will be prosecuted for the crime. Second Amendment arguments don't help you much here, either. One armed clerk vs. a mob which may or may not have weapons? In that situation, you keep your gun hidden and hope to god the mob just goes after property.

That said, if this really goes viral, you'll see very severe restrictions in our civil liberties, in particular to privacy in electronic communications. Link

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/18

I watched Apollo 13 the other night. Weird as it is, I actually get a little teary eyed at the launch scene and find myself rooting for the rocket to make it into space. The space program really was an amazing propaganda machine for both the United States and the USSR.

Then I got to thinking about how now we no longer have a vehicle to take Americans into space and that we're relying on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Almost made me think we should fund NASA more.

And then I read this. Nevermind.

To the extent that I think about such things, my belief is that if aliens do exist, they don't have the technology to get here. If we were reached by anything at all, it would be by a machine. And really, there's no real purpose in visiting Earth unless you are interested in extraterrestrial (by their definition) life as we are. I highly doubt the Earth has much raw materials worth colonizing us for at such distances.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Free Rider Argument

Neil Siegel of Duke argues at SCOTUSblog that the ACA is legal under the Commerce Clause because that clause exists to fight free rider issues in this nation.

For starters, the main reason the interstate commerce clause was included was to prevent states from charging duties and establishing monopolies, inhibiting trade across state lines. This isn't a free rider issue at all; it was a matter of preventing state interference from messing up the economy.

But even if you ignore that, Siegel's argument is absolutely ridiculous. The free rider problem "arises is when people benefit from collective action regardless of whether they contribute to it." So creating a program in which 30 million people get health care from the government without contributing a dime is fighting free riding? It sounds like expanding free riding to me. Healthy people who do not buy insurance because they choose a healthy lifestyle now must pay in order to cover the costs of those who do not have a healthy lifestyle or pay their own insurance (via their own pocket or from work). Sounds like they are free riding off of the healthy people.

Isn't the entire notion of the welfare state creating more free riders?

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear what limit there really is to Congress' power if this expansion of the Commerce Clause holds up.