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.

Of Constitutional Conventions and Secession

In late September of this year, Harvard Law School will be hosting a Conference on the Constitutional Convention. Rather than being an actual Convention for forming a new government like that held at Philadelphia, it more closely resembles the much less famous Annapolis Convention. Think of it more as a grand jury rather than as a courtroom jury. This convention is being sponsored by the Left and the Right.

I have to admit, I am a bit skeptical about this. Were our current Constitution more strictly obeyed, in particular in matters of federalism and limitation of powers, I think our system would be working smoother. Any change to our system would require 3/4ths of all states to sign on to. The problem this convention is going to run up against, and which is no real secret, is that there are two dominant political philosophies that are pulling in the opposite direction. Statists on the Left will want to remove obstacles to government action while Tea Partiers like myself wish to see restrictions tightened. Realistically, there is no compromise that will satisfy these diametrically opposed notions.

Let me illustrate this point. Lawrence Lessig, the Left sponsor of this convention, argued at the Huffington Post that if our Founding Fathers could compromise enough on slavery to create a functioning government, surely our differences can also be put aside to find meaningful compromise. Lessig is wrong, however. The Founding Fathers did compromise, as did later generations in 1820 and 1850 under the notable leadership of Henry Clay, but none of them actually found a solution to the problem of slavery. In the end, what eliminated the problem was not rational discussion but the death of over half a million Americans during our Civil War. Compromise postponed dealing with the problem; it did not solve it.

The Left and the Right in this nation have a very different idea as to the proper role of government, which in turn leads to different interpretations as to the legal powers of the government. This is best appreciated in the current debate over ObamaCare's constitutionality.

SCOTUSblog has held a symposium on this very issue with a number of top legal scholars from both sides. This is not the time and place to go over the merits of each side's case (I have done that elsewhere), but just consider how radically different their views are. One the pro side, defenders of the ACA say that Congress may regulate interstate commerce or any activity that could potentially impact interstate commerce, even on an infinitesimal level. Against this, detractors point out that any moment of our lives could theoretically be used to impact interstate trade and that this basically gives Congress carte blanche, that Congress may only invoke this power to regulate existing trade that does in fact cross state lines. Where, exactly, are these two sides to compromise, either with existing Constitutional language or with any proposed amendments that both sides would have to agree to? The Left will not allow any constitutional movement Right; the Right will not allow any constitutional movement Left; ergo, we will not move as one unit.

Perhaps rather than a political marriage counseling session, we may wish to consider a political divorce? If this convention is really about spit balling ideas, I don't see why secession should be so quickly dismissed. Let's get this out of the way right now: this is not an advocation of slavery. Yes, 150 years ago the Confederate States broke away largely (but not entirely) because of slavery, but it is a non sequitur to then imply that every secession act is thereby about slavery.

Would it be an easy process? Absolutely not, but neither would it be impossible. The Soviet Union managed to break apart fairly peaceably. Southern Sudan split from Sudan and Montenegro has recently joined the world by splitting apart from the rump of Yugoslavia. A call for secession is not a call for violence; we could split and go our separate ways, assuming both sides are willing to concede the independence of the other group.

The details of such a secession can be discussed later. I'm not necessarily advocating this position; I am advocating, however, that we at least examine it. I have no illusions about it being the saving grace that will create a perfect world. Politics would still exist within whatever nations are created by the division, but I believe it would be much less over principles and more over which form of administration is best to achieve fairly agreed upon principles. I see no particular reason why the divided nations could not peaceably coexist.

Anyway, it is an idea that would actually go somewhere. To try to shift the whole United States left or right via a constitutional change is impossible. Any changes all sides would agree to are likely to be dealing with extremely minor problems.

I am looking forward to seeing what this convention produces.

The Daily Snark 8/16

You can’t just make money on SUVs and trucks,” Obama said during a town hall forum in Cannon Falls, Minn. “There is a place for SUVs and trucks, but as gas prices keep on going up, you have got to understand the market."
I'm pretty sure I just peed myself a little. Nobody wants to buy SUVs and trucks? President Stimulus himself is lecturing others about not understanding the market?

Let me let you in on a little hint here, Mr. President. The "market" isn't a term for "what the President wants us to buy." It means the collective input of all people's economic decisions. Do you know how we learn what it is people want to buy? By what they purchase, in this case SUVs and trucks. So yes, they can make money on SUVs and trucks; I'm puzzled as to how you thought it would be otherwise.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/15

One of the benefits of the Tea Party movement is the expansion of political literacy. People like Hayek, Nozick, Rand, von Mises, Rothbard, and others are being read by people who never really bothered to think about such things before. Of course, the people in Washington are a bit ticked that the masses would do their own thinking and whatnot, so you get lots of charges of racism and hatred and such. My favorite one, though, is that the Tea Party folks are ignorant. Yes, nothing makes one ignorant like reading.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/13

Apparently, we need yet another analysis of the game of Monopoly. Nothing that should surprise anyone at all familiar with the game, but I'm going to be snarky about this comment:

For others, it's a Machiavellian affair that tosses love and loyalty aside in favor of a capitalistic bloodlust where there is but one goal: Drive mom, dad, grandma and weird Uncle Steve into bankruptcy as soon as possible.
Sigh...the most significant aspect of capitalism is personal choice. If Monopoly was capitalistic, you would choose on which property you wished to land on. You would always pay the lowest possible rent and no monopolies would ever be formed. In fact, the only way Monopoly works as a game is because you are forced to buy from other people against your wishes.

You know, like ObamaCare.

Anyway, it's my experience that you want to get your hands on the orange and red properties. The green properties are expensive and don't pull their own weight; the dark blue's are similar but at least you only have two to develop there. Use utilities as trading pieces. Always look for trades. More than anything else, that is the key, finding someone you can trade with to build a monopoly before other people can. Never let just one person have a monopoly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/12

Low hanging fruit. I should be ashamed about even picking this as my snark target for today.

And then I realize, oh my God, the majority of Americans who voted in 2008 picked this guy.

Nothing is wrong with out political system, per se. It was designed, intentionally, to be slow and deliberative. We are supposed to air our differences and move forward where consensus can truly be found.

You'll note, that doesn't leave a lot real estate in the middle ground on which we can move forward together. Certainly not enough to run an economy from Washington. But then, that was never the idea, either.

In light of that fact, statements like "start passing some bills that we all know will help the economy right now" appear ridiculous. I don't know of any bills existing that everyone knows will help the economy. When Republicans and in particular Tea Partiers say more government spending will not improve the economy, we're not playing politics. We actually mean that.

This isn't a game and neither side is really "playing politics" here. Both sides have principles they wish to defend; those principles are nearly diametrically opposed to each other. There is no middle ground on which to compromise. On those issues which nearly everyone does agree on, progress is made, quietly and without much fanfare.

If the President has a plan, I should like to hear it. If he has a strong case to make for more government spending, something other than "it works, don't ask for proof," I should like to hear it. What I am tired of hearing is our "leader" complaining the opposition will not capitulate on demand.

Mr. President, we will not quit the field just because you cry about how we won't let you have your way. It is your responsibility to provide an outline as to what that plan might actually be, in detail, and reasons why we should believe it will work. Mind you, this plan must be in line with justice rather than class warfare. That is the only realistic way to win from a position of elected office in this nation. You don't have any real experience in that, but you should remember how easy it is to criticize from out of office. In 2008, you put on a clinic. Now you actually have to play defense. Man up and do so, or announce that you will not seek reelection.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/11

A Rasmussen poll taken a few days ago (and which I am only now getting around to) says that roughly 17% of Americans believe our government has the consent of the people.

I don't think this poll was actually measuring people's belief in the consent of the people for government as it is whether people think the government has done things correctly. When we give consent, it is to particular powers of the government, not particular results. Roughly no one is happy about the massive amount of debt we have, but if you asked people if they support spending on Social Security, Medicare, Defense, Education, and what have you, you'll find support being significantly higher than 17%. You'll also likely find that "consent" given for those programs will be much higher, yet not for the resulting deficits.

Let me put it this way: if you consent to eat like a pig and never exercise, you can't "not consent" to being obese later. It is the logical outcome of the actions you do consent to.

Government has grown so large and pervasive that most people have no idea what they are consenting to. So long as their lives go on as usual, they won't care, as Dahl pointed out in Who Governs? The only real option for "the people" is to 1) stay complacent and happy when times are good and 2) get angry and toss out the bums when times are bad. Problem is, poor decisions made when times are good can have negative impacts later on, but since things are good now, people don't pay attention and intervene. When times get bad, most people don't have a clue why that is, and so they react with passion but without intelligence. This creates a devastating feedback loop in democracy, as politicians that need to be reelected in the short term will favor policies that may be nice in the short term but could be devastating in the long term. Since people vote based on how times feel rather than a more objective, rational basis, this political behavior will be rewarded.

Anyway, I hope that poll is wrong. If 83% of the people believe the government does not have the consent of the governed (or are at least not sure of it) and there hasn't been a revolution, then this country is ripe for tyranny.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/10

Europe's third and fourth largest economies are already on the fritz. If France starts to teeter and the whole weight of upholding the Eurozone falls on Germany, it's all over. To use yesterday's analogy, France doesn't even have to be past that point of no return to spook markets into a panic; the very idea that one of the two remaining pillars of strength might go under will be enough to sound the death knell of the Euro.

Yikes, people. Yikes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/9

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have always been an important subject to me. My grandfather was a combat engineer in the Pacific during that war. The alternative to bombing Japan was invading it. People, like Greg Mitchell at The Nation, seem to think Japan would have thrown up their hands by that point anyway and that the bombings were not necessary.

The Battle of Okinawa, fought from April to June 1945, says otherwise. The closer we got to Japan, the worse the battles became. In this one campaign, the United States suffered many more deaths than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Mitchell doesn't point out that on August 10th, the day after the Nagasaki bombing, the Empire of Japan did not end the war. On August 11th, after two nuclear bombings and being attacked by the U.S.S.R., Japan did not surrender. On August 12th, Japan did not surrender. On August 13th, Japan did not surrender. Mind you, people are dying on every one of these days. On August 14th, Japan did not surrender. On the 15th, after a failed coup attempt by a military faction to continue the war, Japan finally capitulated.

The point here is simple enough: on August 9th, 1945, it was far from obvious to anyone that Japan would give in without another nuclear demonstration.

Had the atomic bombs not been dropped, it seems highly unlikely that Japan would have surrendered without being invaded. The American plan for that invasion, Operation Downfall, would likely have lead to the deaths of millions of Japanese and Americans. My grandfather, as an engineer, would have been key in turning Kyushu into a gigantic, unsinkable aircraft carrier in order to invade Honshu.

When given the choice between my grandfather (a person with no role in creating this war) dying in that invasion, and hence my own nonexistence, or the destruction of a city in the nation that launched this conflict, I feel no moral compunction about supporting the latter. No, nobody is arguing that the atomic bombing was a pleasant experience, but that does not justify having more Americans killed in order to protect the people who launched the war in the first place.

International law and justice is an unholy mess. In the end, the argument against using the atomic bombs is an argument in favor of risking my existence. No muddled argument about non-existing standards of international morality and ridiculous claims about Japan suddenly being willing to surrender will change my mind on this issue.

I, and millions of others, exist because of those bombs. I will not be made to feel guilty because I exist and the expense of a warmongering nation. The innocent people in Nagasaki certainly were wronged, but they were wronged by their own government that viciously attacked other nations, not by the nations that defended themselves.

Why Our Credit Rating Was Downgraded

Simply put, this is why credit agencies are beginning to distrust the American government's ability and willingness to pay back its debt in the long term. Robert Reich is not some random leftist political blogger; he is a former Secretary of Labor. When people who have been entrusted with high power in this nation are saying we ought not deal with the massive amount of debt we are under until it crushes us, credit agencies have good reason to be fearful of our financial sanity.

Consider Reich's analogy in the first two paragraphs. Basically, it's all wrong. One faction, the Tea Party, is refusing to turn on the hoses because the faction in power (the Left) refuses to deal with the long term water shortage problem, but they did manage to find water to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool which they named the Stimulus.

Reich's entire position is, we'll deal with that massive debt crisis when it hits. It is almost unbelievable that anyone would take that position. Let me use a different analogy to explain why: imagine the country is a canoe on the Niagara River. One of the paddlers, the Tea Party, is saying we need to go on shore now rather than move closer to the Falls. The other paddler, the Reich leftists, says that's a "long term problem" that can be dealt with later and isn't worth putting off fun now for.

Here's the problem: at some point, the current will become so strong that even if the paddlers turn around and go full steam, the current will still carry them over the Falls. We don't know where this point is, other than that it exists at some point before we actually go over the Falls.

The Tea Party risked a short term but large cut in government spending with the debt ceiling debate. The Left, on the other hand, is risking catastrophic economic collapse within the next decade. If you look at the deal reached, no significant cuts are made. We're staying in the canoe and moving to the point of no return.

S&P is the lifeguardish figure in the analogy. Their sole goal is to warn when people are acting irresponsibly. I think it is justified that they would be blowing their whistle right about now.

Reich goes on to mention that European nations are actually past that point of no return and are going to go over the Falls. Amazingly, he then goes on to say that America has plenty of money and won't ever find a point of no return. Our debt is now over 100% of the GDP, but we have plenty of money, apparently! Yes, we could pay off our debt, but it would bankrupt our nation. The same could be said of those European nations if they were willing to bankrupt their citizens. They're not, and neither will we be.

Probably the biggest concern I have here is that Reich honestly seems to think more government spending will somehow improve the economy. The United States has increased its spending by 30% in three years, jobs have disappeared, economic growth has been anemic at best, but Reich thinks yet more spending (and more debt) will solve our problem, all of this in light of Europe's debt implosion.

The American Left is out of bullets. They tried spending incredible amounts of money to stimulate the economy, but in fact it actually backfired and made things worse. Rather than admitting that they were wrong, this faction has opted to scream at the Tea Party for trying to deal with a very serious and very real debt problem that will overtake us in the next decade if we do not change course immediately. Since the day dreamers have the Senate and the White House, no long term solution (which, admittedly, will be painful) is possible. We have a party that believes tomorrow's apocalyptic problems should be put off until the day after tomorrow. That is why S&P downgraded our credit rating.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/8

I just want to make sure I understand this correctly.

The only faction that actually saw $14,300,000,000,00.00 in debt as a problem that needed to be addressed is the one responsible for the rating downgrade? And the party saying this, the one that asked for $2,500,000,000,000.00 in new debt with absolutely no cuts in spending over the next 17 months, is not responsible? That party which passed the Stimulus, an $800,000,000,000.00 failure, is not responsible for that debt, but those who opposed it are?

Does anyone actually want to explain this to me? I'm just going to assume that those on the Left realize how wildly irresponsible they are in blaming the only faction looking for a long term solution but don't want to admit it to other people. The alternative is to believe they are guilty of some deep doublethink.

And no, blaming the only people trying to find a solution to the debt problem is not a realistic alternative.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/7

John Kerry is mad that the media continues to cover the Tea Party. I mean, how dare opponents of our Great Leader be heard! The entire argument of the Tea Party is that government is too large. Declaring that "absurd" doesn't make it so. Things undefined by this "intellectual" include what exactly is legitimate and what is not.

I honestly want details from the man so I can chew him apart, but he won't give any. Basically, he's just mad that there is a groundswell of popular support against big government, which is a huge problem for Kerry since he is a proponent of that very same big government.

One final thought: the media, to the extent that it has reported on the Tea Party, hasn't exactly been favorable. The Tea Party has grown in strength largely on the Internet, through blogs and tweets and social networking. Many Tea Partiers read books like Hayek, Rand, Rothbard, Mises, Nozick, and Mill.

We're not going away, even if the media decides to not cover us. In fact, that would probably help our cause, because it would be a blatant act of censorship in order to protect the Democratic Party from criticism it cannot defend itself from.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/6

Here's a question: come election 2012, what will the Obama campaign run on?

No, seriously. Are they going to completely rely on attack ads? That seems unlikely to work, most people in the United States have not been impacted one way or or the other by the likes of Romney or Pawlenty. I can tell you what the President's opponents will run on, Courtesy of Ace of Spades HQ.

That chart punches on a whole number of levels. For starters, it reminds voters that this Administration pissed away nearly a trillion dollars on a failed neo-Keynesian project. It also helps remind voters that this Administration's predictions have no real value at all. That's important with things like ObamaCare, which is still not particularly popular.

And, oh, this chart reminds people that tens of millions of folks cannot find work and provide for their families.

There is a lot of ammunition in the GOP's bunker, but that's a nice example. Now, what will Obama fire back with? Which popular achievements will he wish to highlight?

Yeah, I can't think of any either. It was nice getting Osama, sure, but nobody really thought that was a game changer in terms of the wars. Raising that issue allows Republicans to bring up how poorly the Afghan surge is going, which many of us predicted would not work. In 2008, Senator Obama could get away with having nothing productive to show. In 2012, after four years as being the most powerful man in the world, people are going to expect results, especially after all of the soaring speeches about Hope and Change we were inundated with way back when.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/5

We spent the last month hearing that if the United States didn't hike its debt ceiling, doom would be upon us. At the last moment, a deal was made, which happened three days ago.

Yesterday, all hell breaks loose. The mood is described as "total fear." Apparently, something far worse than the debt ceiling was looming and completely missed by everyone.

This is the only answer I have for you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/4

U.S. debt tops 100% of GDP.

Think about that for a second. If, between now and August 4, 2012, everyone in this nation worked just as hard as they do now but did not take home a single penny, we could not pay off our debt. If we gave up food, shelter, paying loans, entertainment, everything, for a whole year, we would still be in debt.

Considerable debt, actually, since if all of our money went to paying the debt, there would be none for taxes. We would have to completely shut down the federal and all state governments.

And we would still be in debt at the end of it.

But at least we raised the debt ceiling. All is well.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/3

Oh, come on! Once, just once, I want a female politician to be outed for posting nude pics on the web. I don't particularly like the entrapment that happened here, but let's just make this a rule: if you're in politics, don't take nude pictures of yourself and especially don't post them on the internet/text them.

Think we can do that?Link

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Takeaway From the Debt Debate

The President has just signed a bill hiking the debt ceiling of the United States, literally on the day the nation was scheduled to run out of cash. A lot of people were pretty worried that the government would have to reduce spending by over 40% in a real hurry and that such a shock could prove devastating to the economy. Worse still would be the political ramifications of justifying who gets paid and who does not. It has been a raucous debate in which both sides stuck to their principles while unprincipled, usually ignorant people in the middle yelled "compromise!" loudly and often.

As a libertarian, I generally side with the Tea Party and certainly did so in this debate. We have been called terrorists, jihadis, hostage takers, and a host of other vile names from the Left who, ironically, refuse to apply those same terms to many radical Islamists. In the end, the Tea Party "won" this deal, as no tax increases are included and $2.4 trillion in cuts are planned. Leftists are freaking out about this for multiple reasons, but the largest ones seem to be that it will be ruinous to the economy and that it legitimizes "hostage taking."

Based on that, one might think that the size of the federal government is about to be reduced significantly, regulations thrown out the window, and a libertarian paradise established. But is that what we are getting?

No, as Chris Edwards at Cato has shown:

This is the deal. You'll notice that after this year, government spending always goes up. "Cuts" is a term that does not employ common meaning. When someone in the government complains about "cuts", what they mean is that spending will not increase by as much as that person wanted. Almost never does "cuts" mean "next year, we will spend less than we did this year." The 2012 budget is one of the few rare examples where the number will actually decrease, in this case by less than a single percent.

Look at that chart again and then look back at the rhetoric fired upon the Tea Party. We had to hold up a debt ceiling hike in order to get the Left to agree not to a cut in government but merely a slowing down of its growth. And the Tea Party had to drag them, kicking and screaming, the whole damn time to get the above result. Apparently, doing anything to defend the concept of limited government is going to be treated as a vile assault by the American Left.

Supposedly, there will be $2 trillion in these "cuts" (aka less spending growth, not actual reductions in spending) over the next decade, but nearly all of this is back loaded towards the end of the decade. For starters, those "cuts" equal only on average $200 billion per year (our deficit this year was nearly 900 percent more than that). But the bigger problem is that this Congress cannot hold the Congress 8 years from now to these promises. So these wildly inadequate "cuts" will most likely not happen, as Congressmen a decade from now are not likely to suddenly become moral, righteous men and women who will do the right thing even if it means taking a political hit. Spending is popular with those who receive the money; that's why Washington does it, not because it is in any way good for the economy.

Meanwhile, our current debt of $14,300,000,000,000.00 is may now grow another $2.5 trillion, which is expected to happen in January 2013 or roughly 17 months from now. In all the screaming about the Tea Party hostage tactics, I don't think you'll find a single mention of those numbers. During the debates, only the Tea Party was willing to bring these numbers up. This debt is the problem, not the debt ceiling! There will come a day, not too long from now, in which the market will impose a debt ceiling upon us and no law made by Congress will be able to fix it. That day will come when the world flat out doesn't have enough money to lend to the United States to pay our debt. As is, we're consuming 2% of the world's GDP to pay for our annual debt. As the entitlement programs fail, that number will get worse. Look at Europe if you think this isn't a problem.

Tea Partiers had to bring us to the brink of imminent disaster in order to get the Left to reduce the speed at which we are flying towards the market debt ceiling. How, exactly, are we going to reform ourselves to prevent this longer term (but not that much longer) and far worse disaster from hitting us?

The short term problem has been averted, yes, but in the process it has been proven this country is incapable of dealing with a gargantuan debt problem that will crush us in the next few decades. If those who see this problem have to fight an extremely bitter debate and be labeled as terrorists in order to win only a slowing down of our march to destruction, there is little hope for our future indeed.

The Daily Snark 8/2

So Tea Party members are the equivalent of jihadists now? Cutting the government by 22/3700th's this year equals terrorism according to our Vice President?

Remember long ago (January), when such language was unacceptable because it might have (didn't) lead to political violence? Remember Gabby Giffords!

Oh, wait, she showed up to vote in favor of this compromise. She's a terrorist.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Daily Snark 8/1

"Extortion politics" rails Steven Benen at Washington Monthly. I don't think people understand what "extortion" means. The Tea Party is not taking property or threatening people; in fact, their singular goal is to reduce how much coercion the government inflicts upon citizens via taxation and regulations.

The people who are demanding we take more from rich people, and if they refuse to put them in prison, they are extortionists.

Anyway, Benen's point is rather ridiculous. His idea of "old fashioned" ways of doing things is perfect for maintaining government power and protecting bureaucracies. No wonder he wants to keep doing things that way. The Tea Party won the election on a mandate to reduce government influence in our lives. If the Democrats insist on standing in the way, cutting off funding is a perfectly legitimate way of forcing the Left to the table in order to negotiate. We are not required to fund the American Left's wet dreams. If the Left will not modify them, we will remove them entirely.

Maybe, just maybe, the Left should consider negotiating some reductions in government power.