Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Constitution Day


If you've never read it, you should. You should also read the arguments for and against its ratification. To get a more full understanding of how it came to be, you may also want to read the Articles of Confederation.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How do you get around the Posse Comitatus Act?



Easy: first you transform all agencies into law enforcement agencies, then you equip these new law enforcement agencies with military gear, and finally, you gather them up under the control of the executive branch
We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded. 
- Barack Obama 
If not Obama, then the next president, or the next. It's coming, folks. Be ready.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Has the economy recovered?

Last year I took a look at employment.  I watched the unemployment numbers fall with skepticism, and wondered what was really going on.  Here's a brief recap of that analysis:
I took a look at St. Louis Fed data today, both the civilian employment to population ratio and the working age civilian population.  I then combined the data into a chart of deltas with their initial values pegged to Dec-2007.  The result is the following:


What does this chart mean?  It means that whilethere are about 2.5 million fewer people employed than in 2007, but that we've also got 12.5 million more people of working age - that is, 15 million more unemployed today than we did five and a half years ago.  This is due to an increasing population that has completely given up trying to find work.  It means, that though the recession destroyed something like eight million jobs and the post recession has created around five million jobs, we've added more than twelve million non-working civilians in the same time. 

That's staggering - utterly and completely staggering.  That means - follow me here - that means that not a single working age person added to our population since 2007 is working.  We've added twelve million takers but not one new producer.  Not one.
Today I decided to revisit this.  Using the same methodology, but extending out a year further. Take a look at the updated chart.  We can unequivocally say that the number of employed people has improved.  In June, (a year after my previous analysis), we finally caught up to, and passed, Dec-07 employment.  It took 6 and a half years to recover the jobs lost in the recession.


Yet as you know that does not tell the full story, not by a long shot. This simple graph here also shows how many more people have joined us who are of working age, but not working. In fact that number has barely changed at all. 14,800,000 new takers - adults who aren't working but should be.

Here's a chart that shows this.  Virtually unchanged from a year ago. About 4% of the working aged population has simply removed itself from the pool.  BLS verifies this for us again, with 13.5 million more Americans "Not in Labor Pool" now than in 2007.


Where did they go?  Probably to their living rooms, waiting on a government check. The rest of us are, on average, making due with close to 10% lower income and substantially higher than reported inflation. (I like to use a few real items that I purchase, such as chewing gum or fast food.  Prices for Big Macs, for example, have risen about 24% since 2007.) 

More takers, less income, and less for your money. That's the real economic situation. When politicians start to pat themselves on the back over the official inflation rate or employment numbers, keep in mind how far from reality Washington DC is.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Vitriole

Yeah. This is the same guy who offered $100,000 for nude photos of hunter Kendall Jones because he wanted to destroy her life. Despicable.

Oh, he claims to have a regular spot on a radio show. This may be an opportunity to cause an effect.
Tell the radio station to drop him, if he truly is a regular.

Tell them you will be contacting their advertising supporters as well:
http://www.whanradio.com/our-adverti...upporters.html

Monday, August 18, 2014

Unintended Consequences: solar plants scorch birds in mid-air

No matter how often you point it out, no matter how hard you try to beat them over the head with it, they just won't see the unseen. Crusaders, one and all, are blind, deaf, and stupid. One can only wish they were dumb too, but unfortunately not. When the consequences they never saw before they started on their pet projects finally arrive, they're shocked, shocked I tell you!

IVANPAH DRY LAKE, Calif. – Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays — "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.  
Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.  
The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.  
The deaths are "alarming. It's hard to say whether that's the location or the technology," said Garry George, renewable-energy director for the California chapter of the Audubon Society. "There needs to be some caution."  
The bird kills mark the latest instance in which the quest for clean energy sometimes has inadvertent environmental harm. Solar farms have been criticized for their impacts on desert tortoises, and wind farms have killed birds, including numerous raptors.
... 
Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays. 
Federal and state biologists call the number of deaths significant, based on sightings of birds getting singed and falling, and on retrieval of carcasses with feathers charred too severely for flight. 


Saturday, August 9, 2014

The separation of church and state?

Some statements are so clearly correct you just have to repeat them, and spread them as far and wide as you can.  GeekWithA.45 lays down god's honest truth, that the separation of church and state is just more smoke and mirrors when the state is their church! via The Smallest Minority: Quote of the Day - GeekWithA.45 Edition

The separation of church and state is an awesome idea... 
until you meet folks whose church IS the state.  
With high minds, noble virtues and the very best of intentions, they dance around their altars like neolithic savages, gathering followers to help them implore their $DEITY to accept their sacrifice and to provide for them; to organize their economies, to calm their storms, to heal their sick, to teach their children, to pave their streets, to collect their trash, and above all, to punish their enemies.  
The saddest thing is that most of these folks deem themselves to be evolved, and recognize no part of their atavism.  
Yep, separation of church and state is an awesome idea until you meet the folks whose church is the state.  
Then it's irrelevant.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Moral, logical, and practical arguments against more laws

When I talk to people about being a libertarian, they often think I am an anarchist. It's not true, but it's what they think. When it happens, their brains appear to shut down - they just can't or won't think about any further concepts I try to discuss. Tom Woods' interview with a zombie is a perfect caricature of this behavior.

Here are some things I would like to communicate to anyone who thinks "anarchist" when they hear "libertarian". 
First, repealing some laws does not make one an anarchist.
Second, all people are individuals, so necessarily each libertarian you meet will have a different opinion on which laws should be repealed, and which should be kept.
Third, and this is the big one, there are many arguments against using the force of law to handle a problem.  These arguments are moral, logical, and practical.

Moral arguments follow this line of reasoning: is what the person doing harming someone else? While we certainly have a moral obligation to protect ourselves from harm, it gets less clear when we discuss harm to someone else. It may be that we have a moral obligation to assist others, but we do not have an obligation to intercept harm intended for others - in other words, there is no moral obligation to throw ourselves upon the sword to protect someone else. Since this is the case, how could there be a moral obligation to protect a stranger from himself?  The answer is there is no such obligation.  A person's life is his own, and the risks he takes are his own.  His mistakes, his failures, his successes, are his own. 

Logical arguments are built on the premise that government authority is derived from the people. This form of government consists of various authorities delegated to the few from the many. Logically this means that the authorities being delegated to the few are naturally held by the many - that is to say, in the absence of government, each one of these delegated authorities or powers naturally belongs to the individuals comprising the many. That is what delegation means - you have a responsibility or power, and you authorize someone else to use that power on your behalf. The wonderful thing about logic, what makes it useful, is that it works in both directions. So because authority derives from people, and because all powers of government originally belonged to individuals, there can be no government power that individuals did not once have. Powers cannot come from nowhere - they come from the people.  So logically, if you or I do not have the right, power, or authority to do something, then government simply cannot have such a right either.

Practical arguments are based on the concept of practicality, or workability. Does it work? Is it cost effective? Does it do more harm than good? This argument looks at the real results and costs. If your proposal passes moral and logical arguments, does it still pass practical arguments? Will your proposal solve the problem you want to address? If it will solve it, does it create other problems in doing so? How will you solve those problems? What is the cost of your proposed solution, and what savings does it produce? If your proposal doesn't work, then stop right there. It doesn't matter whether you've got the moral and logical authority to implement it. It is a waste of resources and effort and will not solve a problem. Throw it in the bin!  If your proposal would work, but at great cost, so great that it would impoverish or severely impact the people, stop again. There needs to be an analysis of the effect - a cost-benefit analysis. If the net cost is too high, throw it in the bin. Does your proposal do more harm than good? Are you creating the desired effect, but harming others in doing so? If the harm your proposal causes greater than the benefits produced, throw it in the bin. The bottom line is that not all ideas work, even if you think there is both moral and logical support for them.

You can see how these three arguments can be used against the justifications for various laws. Take the war on drugs. Does personal drug use harm others, or self? It certainly harms the self. It may harm the relationships with others. However by itself, it does not harm others. If you smoke weed in a room by yourself, you are not harming me. I have no right to harm you and claim I and defending myself. This doesn't mean I approve of drug use - only that I see it as a personal mistake, and often a personal illness, not a criminal or aggressive act that harms a second party. Drug use is harmful to one's self, and there is no moral obligation to protect people from themselves

But let us suppose there is such a moral obligation. Let us suppose that the drug war laws fulfill a moral responsibility. Do they pass the logical arguments? If the government has the logical right to bust down someone's door, and arrest them and imprison them for harming themselves, then you and I have the same right. I can kick down my neighbor's front door, knock him to the floor, tie him up and kidnap him or members of his family, and then lock them in my basement for several years. After all, the authority that government has must have come from individuals like me. Does this fly? Does it "pass the smell test"? Of course not. You and I cannot do such things. Breaking and entering, assault and battery, kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment. These are all crimes, and we would end up in jail if we committed them. So logically, there is no government right to enact a war on drugs and imprison drug addicts.

But again, let us suppose that the war on drugs does pass the logical arguments. Does it pass the practical arguments? Does it do what it sets out to do? No, the drug war has not stopped, or even slowed drug abuse. Is the cost of the program less than the benefit produced? We'd need to do a cost/benefit analysis on this. There are costs that are associated with drug addiction, including things like emergency medical care and many others. If the cost goes down more than the cost of the programs, then it would pass this test. I doubt it does though, since these costs are rising with the rising costs of the drug war itself. Does it cause more good than harm? Again, we'd need data. Does the drug war cure drug addicts? If so, how many? How many drug addicts go to prison and become hard core criminals while inside? It is well documented that prison does not reform criminals. Certainly sending non-violent drug addicts to prison doesn't do them any good if they come out still addicted, or with broken families and destroyed lives, though clearly that may have already been the case. This last test possibly is a wash.

In my examples I've made moral, logical, and practical arguments against the drug war, but again, I am vehemently against the use of drugs, and certainly not an anarchist.

If you read up to this point you know a bit more about how I think, so when you discuss government and law with me, these will help you start to understand why I think the way I do. There is more, much more, as there is with every person, but that can wait for some other post.