07 December 2010

The State Giveth When it Taketh not Away

That is how E. J. Dionne E. J. Dionne saw it:

[T]here are Republicans in Congress whose top priority is to force through legislation making the Bush-era tax cuts for the best-off Americans permanent, thus expanding the deficit by about $700 billion over the next decade.

So on the one hand, we have to cut, cut, cut because fiscal catastrophe is looming. On the other, we have to make the problem worse by shoveling more money to the rich because...taking care of those with tidy incomes is contemporary conservatism's highest purpose.
It may be contemporary conservatism's highest purpose to take care of those with tidy incomes. My purpose--a libertarian purpose--is to take care of anyone with any income. But I digress.

On Dionne's view (not that he is the only one who has it) when the government doesn't take your money, it is giving you money, or, to put his way, shoveling money to you.

Your money. Shovelled to you just because someone decided not to take, or to take less than previously was being taken from you. How generous!

You know, by that sort of logic (I'm being generous in calling it logic) if you and I pass each other on a sidewalk and don't rob each other of the money in our bill-folds (or wallets) then we have each made a gift to the other of the money we didn't take. What generous people you and I are!

What Dionne wants to know is why cut taxes when the deficit is so big? These people. I cannot recall the last time I heard anyone on the left say, "Okay, now it's a good time to lower the tax rates for everyone, including the rich." For almost every year I've been following politics, I have heard leftists complain about Republicans lowering taxes for the wealthiest Americans and (I love this part) balancing the budget on the backs of working families. We couldn't lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans before the present malaise. We can't do it now.

It would be nice if they would stop pretending they'll ever think any time is a good time for tax rate cuts for all of us, including the so-called rich.

It would also be nice if they would stop arguing (still being charitable) as if the deficit is the fault of the rich. Most of what the unfederal government does--and spends money on--isn't constitutional in the first place. Why in hell should any one pay the bills of a government who cannot be prevailed upon to obey the "law of the land"?

P. S.

The reason I didn't post on this until now, is I didn't want to look like a partisan, unlike Dionne. I like to discuss the issue of taxation as such, not as part of some statist party's political platform.
29 November 2010

Sara Palin was right about "death panels"

according to Nat Hentoff, quoting Paul Krugman, who came out and said on This Week that we would need "death panels". Krugman clarifies, here, but Hentoff thinks he's canting. So do I.

Airport security protest fails to get off the ground...

and it's probably a good thing, too.

The desire for such a protest is, at least to me, understandable. I am no fan of the new measures. In fact, I haven't been a fan of many of the other measures, all of which exclude--for politically correct reasons--the one measure which frankly makes the most sense, profiling. Like Charles Krauthammer recently put it:

We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety - 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling - when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

To me this is just one more thing we'll get used to until one day our grandchildren will inherit a country ruled be a government so invasive and intrusive as to make the present state of affairs look laissez-faire.

Most disconcerting, from the afore-linked article, was the opinion of one Marti Hancock:

"If that's what you have to do to keep us safe, that's what you have to do."

Say, why not telescreens too, even in personal automobiles? That way we'll know what people are up to before they get to the airport.

Do you think Marti will ever say the following? "If sticking your whole hand up my ass is what you have to do to keep us safe, that's what you have to do." Frankly, I wouldn't put it past her, even though, today, she would probably deny it. After all, presently, the only reason she really knows that's what TSA has to do is because TSA is telling her that's what they have to do. On those grounds, an ass-search shouldn't be objectionable either.

All that aside, the reason it's good that the protest failed is that it would have done nothing to TSA. The only people who would have been affected were the passengers, who would have suffered flight delays, baggage mis-haps and the like. Then, of course, there were those families waiting at destinations who would also have been put out by these delays. Who knows how many Thanksgiving weekends would have been ruined by this.

It's one thing to determine a battle needs fought. It's quite another to choose the right battlefield, as well as the most effective strategies and tactics. This was poorly conceived all around.
09 November 2010

Ah, feudalism, where a man's home is his overlord's castle

At least they don't want in our bedrooms.

Until they can say they have found a connection between the environment (or something) and what goes on in there.
04 November 2010
Need more soup? Just add water.
28 October 2010

The Life of Juan Libertarian

The following was posted to my Facebook page as a response to a similar piece by one of my friends. The original is re-printed below, for purposes of authorial attribution and needful context.

Juan gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is as clean and good as it was when his ancestors pumped it up from wells they dug themsleves without the help of tree-hugging liberals. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are as safe to take as ever because some smart capitalist, in addition to financing the research which brought the medication to market, also determined that knowingly, willingly and negligently killing customers isn't a workable business plan. He also knew that where he failed, one of his competitors might succeed, putting him out of business and his employees out of work.

All but $10 of Juan's medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Juan gets it too. Aside from the fact that he didn't ask for it, he also wouldn't need it if not for the insurance in the first place. You see, Juan is the curious sort who long ago wondered why the costs of just about every other good or service on the market has a tendency to go down, except for healthcare. Reluctant to take the word of people who give him things he did not ask for and then demand gratitude, he looked into the matter himself and determined that using the insurance model to pay for health care is one of the things driving up the costs--that and his government's dictate that there are no such things as pre-existing conditions. Then, too, are all the regulations which arbitrarily add to the cost of it all.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Juan's bacon is as safe to eat as it was when his great-grandfather and grandfather were growing pigs on the family farm in South Texas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Of course, now, thanks to regulations and all those other good things he asked no one to do for him, his pork costs a hell of a lot more than it did a century ago (adjusting for inflation, which was also brought to him by his government). Not only that, but thanks to all these regulations, and licensing fees, and inheritance taxes, Juan's ancestors could not today afford to go into farming in the first place, leading Juan to believe that the primary purpose of these regulations is, for the most part, to limit the entry of new competitors to the no-longer-very-free market.

In the morning shower, Juan reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some enterprising capitalist accurately forecast that consumers would have a preference for his product over his competitors' precisely because it was labelled. Juan, of course, doesn't really care as long as it cleans his @#$%ing hair, so he has no intention of expressing gratitude to anyone for it. He paid for shampoo that cleans his hair--label or no label--and he received shampoo that cleans his hair--label or no label. He figures that if he ever really wanted to know what was in his shampoo he could have called and asked the producer to email him a list. Or he could wash his hair, and the rest of his body with lye soap, like his ancestors. Again: he didn't ask anyone for this shit in the first place. After all, even if he could easily pronounce Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, he doesn't have a degree in chemistry so he has no @#$%ing idea what the hell it is, anyway.

Juan dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean not because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air but because the people who own those polluting factories discovered they couldn't breathe the shit in the air any more than people who don't own factories. On his view the liberals don't want clean air; they want purified air--or just fewer factories, which they will get due the costs of building and managing new ones. (You know, like oil refineries.)

He walks on a government-provided sidewalk because it's there, whether he wants it to be or not, whether he asked for it or not. If being lectured to by liberals--in addition to paying his taxes--is the price for walking on a sidewalk he didn't ask for, then he'd rather walk in the mud, like humans did for thousands of years without having to be made to kiss meddling liberals' asses for an alternative. (He smiles at the probablility that those humans who walked in the mud for those thousands of years would consider liberals to be whinning, snivelling little pusses. The Spartans would have killed them, or exiled them: dead weight.) As he walks, he shares the sidewalk with children on their way to the elementary school, supported at the local level by his property taxes and at the federal level by his income taxes. (His own children go to a private school, for which he foots the entire bill.) He tries not be too miffed that the people responsible for taking his money in the form of taxes then turn round and lecture him on the gratitude he owes them for what they have provided him at his cost and depriving him, in the process, of those things he might have preferred to spend the money on--had he been allowed to keep it and employ it as he, the earner of the money, saw fit. "Thugs and racketeers," he mutters to himself. "I wish they'd grind this sidewalk to powder and blow it up their asses."

As he stands in the subway car, tolerating his government-subsidized ride to work, he fondles the .45 semi-auto in his overcoat and hopes two things: (1) he doesn't get caught with it since his caring and benevolent government won't let him be responsible for his own safety without its kind permission (any more than it will permit him to be responsible for his own ride to work); and (2) he never has to use it (because his benevolent government doesn't exactly own and manage the safest subway system in the world). He politely smiles at the liberal standing next to him, lecturing him on the benevolence of the government, who takes money from people who for the most part never use the damn thing in the first place. The liberal demands gratitude from Juan for an opportunity he didn't ask for--the "opportunity" to be a contributor. The liberal says, "I object to people like you enjoying the benefits I and my ilk provide and criticizing us for providing them." He tries not to laugh too hard: this liberal don't provide shit; he's a @#$%ing fast food restaurant manager who receives tax credits.

Juan begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, because he doesn't belong to a union and is not bound to a collectively bargained employment agreement, which limits his pay to a figure approved by his union "brothers". Therefore, because of his superior marketable skills, as well as his skill as a negotiator, he makes better money than his unionized peers in other organizations. He has medical benefits, it's true. But this is not because liberal union members fought and died for it. (Another thing he didn't ask anyone to do for him.) It's because of U.S. domestic policy in WWII. Due to government policy, Juan learned in his private school, inflation grew both before and during WWII. As a “remedy,” caps on wage increases were imposed by the government. (Another financial set-back provided by your benevolent government.) In response, employers began to offer their employees health insurance to soften the blow and attract quality workers. ( WTF, mate? Imagine that: employers providing health care insurance, not because they were commanded by a benevolent government, but rather because of market considerations. Sometimes, it's an employees' market, not an employers' market. Again: WTF?) The federal government did not consider an increase in health benefits a violation of these wage controls, and the IRS (bless them for their infinite wisdom and generosity) ruled that health benefits were tax exempt for workers. After the wage caps were abolished, health insurance benefits became the norm and were not eliminated. Now, of course, these benefits, which started out as market driven benefits, are rights. And liberals want us to kiss their asses for (not!) procuring them for us. Thank you (relatively) free market.

It is noon-time and Juan needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. It's true that Juan's deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some liberal wanted to protect Juan's money from bankers he determined were unscrupulous and ruined the banking system before the Great Depression. But Juan, again because he was privately educated, suspects that the liberal had no idea what unscrupulous actions the bankers took. Juan, on the other knows that the banking system wasn't ruined until after the stock market crash. Juan further knows that the stock market crash followed in predictable fashion on the heels of a great boom, a boom which was itself created by a fraudulent banking practice called "fractional reserve banking", which Juan, since he thinks its fraudulent, opposes. If banks were prohibited from practicing fractional reserve banking, he wouldn't need the @#$%ing FDIC. We wouldn't need the Federal Reserve, either, which would do away with inflation.

Unlike Joe the Republican (maybe!), Juan doesn't have a Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage or a below-market federal student loan. Consequently he doesn't feel a duty to express gratitude to some elitist liberal who decided that Juan and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime--things which cost him (i.e., the elitist) nothing. Juan wonders two things: (1) Who the hell is the liberal to decide for him what would make him better off and then to force it upon him? and (2) Why do liberals, since they feel so strongly about it, not start their own mortagage and student loan companies and extend below-market loans to the objects of their concern? Better yet, he thinks, why don't liberals found, fund and operate their own free universities? You know: do something that actually costs them--and only them--their own @#$%ing money.

It is true that Juan attended a state funded university. But he attended it, not because it was state funded but because it was in a city he wanted to live in while he went to college. He'd have gone to that state funded university even if it were private. (He spent six years working his way through that university for his bachelor's degree; he'd have had no problem spending eight years working his way through a private one). Moreover, he'd have had no problem taking out a market-priced student loan, spending fewer years working his way throught school and paying the loan off from money earned from his improved employment conditions. Juan happens to believe that without state funding inflating both the costs of a university education, as well as the grades awarded by universities, there could be more private universities. This increase in the number of universities, all competing for students, would drive down the cost of a university education. (It's a supply and demand kind of a thing. A liberal wouldn't understand.) Finally, as a believer in privately funded university education, as well as personal generosity, Juan is a member of his alma mater's alumni association and gives as generously as he is able to financially support his university.

Juan is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world. It's also a bit more expensive than it needs to be because it has features required by law he might not have wanted in the first place had he been asked. This, again, is because some meddling liberal fought for unreasonable car safety standards. As he drives out to his father's he remembers his great-grandfather's car that didn't even have seat belts because in those days, seat belts were optional; and his great-grandfather didn't think he needed them. Juan admits that he himself would have purchased them, but wonders what it would be like to live in a country where an adult is free to make such decisions for himself. What a country that would be.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the fourth generation to live in the house financed by three previous generations of capital accumulation--no inheritance taxes. The house didn't have electricity until Juan's dad was almost out of high school. It's true that some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification, which, naturally, cost the liberal nothing. The electric company ran the wires out there, but lost a lot of money because there were few customers: Juan's family and their neighbors didn't have shit that ran on electricity in the first @#$%ing place, and had no immediate plans to buy such things. But you can't expect your average, city-dwelling, big-government liberal to know shit about country living.

Juan is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father, who lives on a farm, remember, lives on the money his still-productive farm generates for the family. Yep. His dad and mom handled their money well, making sure, as well as they could, that they could take care of themselves so Juan wouldn't have to. Not that Juan would mind: he loves his parents. (He knows there are liberals who think he shouldn't have to take care of his parents, but he doesn't care what they think. These are not their parents!) And it's a good thing his parents were smart with their money, too: Social Security don't pay squat. Who the @#$% can live off it? Certainly not Juan's parents.

Juan gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The liberal radio host keeps saying that liberals are good and conservatives are bad. (Libertarians are probably worse than bad.) He doesn't mention that the benevolence bestowed by liberals like himself cost them nothing or, at most, a pittance. He doesn't understand why conservatives aren't grateful.

Juan muses aloud: "First they take our money, then return a fraction of it in the form of things we didn't ask them for. Then they demand our gratitude and call us hypocrites for living the life they have forced upon us. What the hell are we supposed to do? Rip out the seat belts? They have made it illegal not to use them. For this, we are to be grateful? Cabrones."

P. S. -- Joe Republican, who in Juan's opinion is almost as much a statist as any liberal, can speak for himself.


"The Life of Joe Republican"
by Hector Cruz

[Or; "How a Liberal Does Ad Hominem, Specious and Tendentious all in Seven Hundred Words or Less"]

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans.The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."
11 October 2010

To Keep My Brother

Hugh Hewitt was recently concerned with the President’s description, speaking in New Mexico (28 September), of why he was a Christian and what it meant to be a Christian. Question and answer are split between the two following videos, beginning at about 6:20 into the first posted video.

Obama refers to a passage in Genesis and tacitly asserts that it conveys the notion that we are our brother’s keepers. Color me skeptical.

And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And [Cain] said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" [God] said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground" (Genesis 4.8-10).

The question asked by Cain seems to be a request for information. Cain, we are to believe, is honestly asking God if he is Abel’s keeper. But note what Cain says just previously: “I do not know [where my brother is].” Cain’s question is rhetorical, claiming that it is not his job to know Abel’s whereabouts. Remember, the question Cain is answering is about Abel’s whereabouts, not his welfare. Today we might say, “It’s not my day to keep up with him.”

Obama seems to be under the impression that when Cain uses the word translated “keeper” he means the same thing as is meant when in verse 2 it is said of Abel that he was a “keeper of flocks”, a shepherd. We are, if Obama is correct, our brothers’ shepherds. But the two words are not the same. Abel was a “keeper [רעה] of flocks”. Cain denies being his brothers “keeper” (הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר). It doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to see that the two words are different. הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר is used in reference to sheep only one other time, in 1 Samuel 17.20, where David is recorded as leaving a flock of sheep with a keeper. But this is telling: in the same passage (verse 22) it is recorded that David left his baggage in the care of a “baggage keeper”. This second notion, of someone who “keeps” in the sense, not of shepherding, but of guarding, is the one most associated with the word employed by Cain in Genesis 4.9. The word is used similarly elsewhere in references to officers called “keeper of the wardrobe” (2 Kings 22.14), “keeper of the king’s forest” (Nehemiah 2.8), “keeper of the women” (Esther 2.3). Frankly, I don’t feel like I need a keeper, thank you very much.

It is interesting to see and compare the Septuagint with the New Testament. In the LXX, the word Cain uses is translated into Greek as φύλαξ, while the word employed with reference to Abel is ποιμν, the same word used in the New Testament to refer to pastors. How is φύλαξ used? In the Louw-Nida schema, it belongs to the category of words associated with rule, or control (i.e., 37) and appears three times: Acts 5.23, Acts 12.6, and Acts 12.19. Each time it is used, it refers to guards in prisons. Get the picture? Cain is really asking, “Am I to be holding my brother captive, so as to know at all times where he is?” Or, perhaps a better fit with the context: "Am I my brother's master?"

But Obama is not a Bible scholar, certainly no Greek or Hebrew scholar. So let’s stipulate that, all of this aside, he really means “keeper” the way that the word is used of Abel. He wants to be his brother’s shepherd. But recall that his claim is that the Scriptures, or specifically Jesus, teach that we are our brothers’ keepers. The fact is, the Scriptures don't teach this. Secondly, let us note that Obama wants to use this as an excuse for his statist policies. Even if I am my brother’s keeper, it does not follow that support for statism is an appropriate means of exercising my duty.

I might not mind so much the idea that I am my brother’s keeper in the same sense in which Abel was a keeper of flocks, if not for the fact that the state bears the sword. I might wish to be my brother's keeper by assisting him with paying his medical bills, but the sword-bearing state makes me do it, whether I want or not, and in a way I might not want. The sword-bearing state makes me be my brother's keeper, but in a way suitable to it, not me. I might not mind, as my brother's keeper, assisting him with his college education by giving money to insititutions I deem worthy of my personal financial support. The sword-bearing state makes me do so anyway, whether I want to or not, taking my money from me and giving to institutions and students which I may deem unworthy. If I am an atheist and find objectionable the biblical notion that people other than my biological siblings are my siblings and that I am their keeper, then the sword-bearing state "establishes" religion by forcing me to, for all practical purposes, pay tithes.

The fact is the state is not the proper means by which I exercise my brother-keeping, assuming we actually have this duty--which we don't. If, as President Obama seems to believe, we must be our brothers’ keepers, then we must be so because the Scriptures teach it. And that’s the problem for the idea that the operations of the state are the appropriate means for exercising this duty.

If we look at the key NT text regarding the state’s obligation, what we find, to put the matter in simplest terms is that the state bears the sword—not the bread basket—for purposes of serving as God’s “avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13.4). I suppose it wouldn’t bother me so much that statists believe they are acting as their brother’s keeper but for the fact that the state bears the sword, not, let us note, the shepherd’s staff.

Every time Obama and his ilk talk about being our brothers’ keepers I get this image in my head of a book titled, To Serve Man. I mean, it sounds good and all, but it’s really not. It sounds really sweet of people to want to be their brothers' keeper. But it doesn't look like they are going to put up with people who don't want to be kept.

17 September 2010

Breath-taking? Where, on Mount Everest?


That's what Michael Gallagher calls Inés Sainz, recently, and persistently, in the news for objecting to being harassed by Jets. Apparently, some of the Jets had difficulty buying her as a serious sports journalist. More apparently, this guy isn't buying her as a journalist, either:

My favorite sideline reporter Inés Sainz was nice enough to pose in some bikinis for Esquire Mexico. You know, the country where the hotties who do our sideline reporting don’t pretend to be journalists, but come right out and show us what sexy POA they really are on a regular basis. Yeah, that country. Say, do we have a free trade agreement with Mexico for sideline reporters? If not, we should. I might just run for Congress on that platform alone.
I assume "POA" means piece of -- well, never mind. I suspect the number of men who take her seriously as a journalist is not a very large number, maybe her dad and a few others. Maybe. "Mr. Guyism" doesn't really even take her seriously as a woman, or even a human.

She insists she was dressed appropriately. Naturally, so to speak. Sainz wouldn't be the only woman I've encountered in my travels -- and I've traveled -- who pretty much thinks that any way she dresses is appropriate. In fact, when most of these women have been honest they've as much as said that it shouldn't matter how they dress, men should always treat and respond to them the "right" way. If "the view" is causing them a problem, they should see to it themselves.

These conversations always put me in mind of the chapter on clothing in Marshal McCluhan's, Understanding Media. On McCluhan's view, and I tend to think he's largely correct, clothing is a medium, and it really does communicate. Women who insist that it never matters how -- or if -- they dress always deny, whether explicitly or implicitly, (at least when it comes to dress) that there is such a thing as non-verbal communication. "The way I dress", they invariably insist, "communicates nothing. It's just fabric."

The persistence of males' reactions would seem to indicate otherwise. Perhaps women have no intention of communicating anything in particular by their dress. Perhaps they do. But the fact that a message is unintentional doesn't change it. I learned that at a very young age, when I "flipped" someone off for the first time. I had seen two older kids do it to each other and laugh about it. But when I tried it -- intending it as a friendly gesture -- I must say I was quite surprised by the reaction I got. Specifically, a fat, bloody lip. (Followed by a reddened posterior later in the day when I explained -- well, demonstrated -- to my mother how I received said fat, bloody lip.)

For Sainz, and other females of her ilk, to dress provocatively and insist that males disregard any communication they think there are receiving is a bit like walking around in public with your middle finger extended and insisting that people disregard any message they believe they may be receiving. (In fact, I've done that.)

"But James," you say, "you know what they say: 'If you've got it, flaunt it.' " Right. And the way Inés Sainz dresses says, unequivocally, "I've got it." She's insulted that quite a few members of the Jets agreed with the proposition. We have a saying in spanish: "El hábito no hace al monje." Literally, it means, "The wearing of a habit does not make one a monk." (The english equivalent is, "The clothes don't make the man." The spanish has always made more sense to me. It's a nuance thing.) For one who is not a monk to wear a habit is to lie. For such a one to complain if his wearing of the habit convinces others and they treat him like a monk is foolishness. Inés Sainz wears the habit of a street walker, swaggers on the side-lines as if she should be the center of attention, then complains she's not treated with the respect to which a journalist is due. ¡Que pendeja!

Besides, I don't think Inés Sainz is really very beautiful, much less breath-taking. I've seen breath-taking, up close and personal: in 1980, in 1986, and in 1989.

"Eye Custodians" (tm): H/T to Curt Jester via Catholic Pillow Fight
10 September 2010

Get Your Dose of Daly Hate

Michael Daly thinks Rush Limbaugh and others bear some (if not all) responsibility for Michael Enright's attack on cab driver, Ahmed Sharif. Never mind that Enright has a history of bizarre, drunken behavior, for which Limbaugh and others cannot be responsible. Last year, he was arrested in an apartment building while ranting about dead Marines. Residents hid in their apartments as Enright marched up and down the hall for a half hour. Who's responsible for that, the cast and crew of "A Beautiful Mind"? We do not know. But we do know that Michael Enright, the guy who did the marching and ranting, is not responsible for it.

"As Limbaugh and...other...panderers...shamelessly sowed," Daly writes, "so did Ahmed Sharif undeservedly reap." Oh, brother.

Sharif, we are to believe, was attacked because Limbaugh and other svengali types made appeals to base desires. Begging the question which has everyone arguing (i.e, whether there is anything objectionable about a mosque at or near Ground Zero), Daly arbitrarily asserts, without any explanation of the causal relation between Limbaugh's supposed pandering and Enright's attack, that he "fanned...bigotry and hate...at one point saying it was like building a Japanese temple at the battleship Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor."

So far, I have not found that Enright was even listening to Limbaugh and Gingrich when they both compared the building of the mosque to that of a Japanese temple. If Limbaugh's pandering, as evidenced by his analogy, is responsible for the attack on Sharif, one should expect that Enright heard it. Not only so, but Limbaugh has millions of listeners who have heard this violence-motivating pandering but for which the attack would not have occured. Thus far, only one attack, on a single cabbie, not millions of attacks.

To get around the probability that Enright wasn't responding to anything he heard Limbaugh or Gingrich say, Daly asserts that Limbaugh and Gingrich are responsible by creating a "climate", which climate itself, not Enright, is somehow the cause of Enright's attack on the cabbie. In the same way, no doubt, that one cannot help being cold in a cold climate -- and responding accordingly -- one cannot help hating in a hate climate -- and responding accordingly, like Enright.

But the only way one can avoid the ridiculous charge of "climate creation" is simply to voice no opposition to something like the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. That's the left for you: the only way not to be responsible for this or that is to keep your mouth shut about things they do not oppose.

It doesn't bother Daly that despite having millions of listeners all over the country, there were not millions of attacks all over the country -- only one. He deftly deals with Limbaugh's pandering analogy: "One difference is that Japan really attacked Pearl Harbor. The World Trade Center was attacked by a handful of fanatics who need us to do exactly what the panderers are doing." (Yeah. That's it. The fanatics didn't really want to kill any of us. They just wanted us to get really angry with each other. Thousands died, not so much because the terrorists wanted to kill anyone, but because they wanted us to get pissed off at each other. All we have to do, I guess, is not get angry with each other and the fanatics will give up.)

Brilliant, but only so long as one ignores, as Daly does, that the handful of fanatics were fanatical about Islam and thought, as is too well known, they were doing their God's will. (Allah akbar, and stuff.) All Daly really demonstrates is that what Limbaugh should have said is something to the effect that building an Islamic community center (or mosque) at or near Ground Zero, which many Muslims round the world admit would be something on the order of an arch of triumph, would be like building a Japanese cultural center at the battleship Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, which cultural center, arguably, has as one of its purposes the celebration and honor of the Emperor of the Empire of Japan, in whose name, and for whose sake, the attack was perpetrated, and was being funded by Japanese who remain sympathetic to the Japanese Imperial cause. Or something like that.

See the problem? It takes too many words. Daly and people like him can do stupid in fifty words or less. Smart takes a bit more. Limbaugh hosts a live call-in show, not a live philosophy journal. (And it might interest Daly to know that even in philosophy journals, people smarter than Rush Limbaugh employ faulty analogies. I have never seen it happen that one philosopher accuses another of any act more heinous than logically fallacious reasoning. Good thing Daly doesn't read philosophy journals: whole lot of crime in those pages!)

Of course, what Daly would like us to believe is that Limbaugh didn't just happen to employ a faulty analogy. If he's truly responsible (I mean, you know, if Daly isn't just, well, pandering) then he did so knowingly, consciously, and with malice aforethought and with the express intention of so fanning bigorty and hate (blah, blah, blah) that it would create the necessary climate and some harm would result. Furthermore, he did so hoping that, in fact, someone out there in radio land, hearing his svengali broadcast, or being influenced by his climate, would in fact perpetrate just this sort of violent act. Wait, there's even more: If Rush Limbaugh did not intend this, then he is still culpable, for he should have known his svengali message would have this effect, and behaved accordingly. So he's guilty of not knowing something he should have known.

Given how smart Daly must believe Limbaugh to be, I imagine that the only thing that bothers Daly more than the fact that Limbaugh is (must surely be!) smarter, is the fact that Limbaugh is richer. (Daly mentions Limbaugh's money two or three times in his article.) But I digress.

So, it's about a mosque at Ground Zero. To Rush and others, there is something objectionable about a mosque at Ground Zero. To Daly there isn't, which naturally makes him morally superior to those with whom he disagrees. Morally superior enough to know there can be no truly principled objection to a mosque at Ground Zero. In order honestly to have a problem, Daly has to hold that Limbaugh and his fellow panderers really know and agree with him that there is no principled objection to a mosque at or near Ground Zero. Otherwise, the charge of pandering fails.

Take the simple proposition, "The building of a mosque at Ground Zero is objectionable." It is a categorical affirmative proposition, taking the form "For all P, P is Q" or, "For all building of mosques at Ground Zero, the building of mosques at Ground Zero is objectionable." As a proposition, it has a truth value: it is either true or false that "For all building of mosques at Ground Zero, the building of mosques at Ground Zero is objectionable." The difficulty is that this is not a question of empirical fact. The proposition is not subject to empirical verification. Its truth value depends upon the grounds which render objectionable the building of a mosque at Ground Zero, grounds which also are not capable of empirical verification. But that particular question does not concern me here.

What concerns me presently is how holding the proposition either true or false makes one responsible for the actions of another, simply because one has used a faulty analogy in arguing the case. If Rush Limbaugh and others believe it to be true that "For all building of mosques at Ground Zero, the building of mosques at Ground Zero is objectionable" how do they become responsible for the attack on a Muslim cab driver? Why is not the attacker, and only the attacker, responsible?

According to Daly, they are responsible because they complained, loudly, and employed an analogy which, to him, isn't just inapt, but inciteful -- climate-creating, in fact. Very well and good. Daly tells us they are responsible but he doesn't tell us the way in which they are responsible.

And he really should do, because there are many ways of being responsible for something.

(1) One can be role-responsible, in the sense that one holds a position or office in an organization to which specific duties are attached to provide for the welfare of others and is responsible for the performance of these duties. A ship's captain is responsible for the performance of those duties which attach to his position; and in that role he may be held responsible for, among other things, the lives of his crew and any passengers. Should any harm come to them as a consequence of some failure of his assiduously to perform these duties he is responsible for that harm although, techinically speaking, he himself did not cause the harm. If Daly conceives of Limbaugh and others as role-responsible, then he must believe they have, by virtue of their positions, or offices, some specific duties they are obligated to perform and which they failed to perform. And the failure to perform these duties resulted in harm to Ahmed Sharif. I suppose he could assert that at least one of these duties was the duty not to pander, which pandering is what caused the harm. But his only evidence for this putative pandering, at least in Limbaugh's case, is the "Japanese temple" analogy. If so, that's pretty lame. (2) One can be causally responsible, the way a drought is causally responsible for a famine. But if we consider causal-responsibility in thinking of the harm to Sharif, then the one who is causally responsible is Enright, not Limbaugh. I think about the only way Daly could hold Limbaugh causally responsible is if he argued that Enright was Limbaugh's agent. To be a reasonable claim, it would entail that Limbaugh personally selected both the target (Sharif) and the agent (Enright). I don't see Daly pulling that one off. Besides, that isn't the way causal-responsibility is discussed. (3) One can be liability-responsible, having some obligation -- legal or moral -- to act or refrain from acting, and becoming responsible when failing to meet the obligation. Moreover, one can be held (vicariously) responsible for the actions of one's servant, or employee, even if he gave no order or permission, or even had no knowledge of what his servant was doing. But the master-servant, or employer-employee, relation is a formal one. Such a relation did not exist between Limbaugh and Sharif. We would also have to inquire about Limbaugh's state of mind at the time of his pandering. Daly needs to believe that Limbaugh had, or should have had, some certainty that someone, somewhere would assault a Muslim just because he (Limbaugh) has some objection to the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero and offered a faulty analogy involving a Japanese temple. (4) One can be capacity-responsible, but the issue there isn't about what someone has done, or failed to do. The question with regard to capacity-responsibility is whether one has the mental capacity to be held responsible. The assertion that one is capacity-responsible is intended to defeat a claim, among others, that one is not guilty of wrong-doing by reason of some diminished capacity (e.g., an insanity defense). There is no question of Limbaugh's sanity. (If so, then those who find fault with him should shut up, since he can quite obviously use the diminished capacity defense. Just saying.)

Ulitmately, Daly's problem comes to this: He doesn't like Rush Limbaugh, because Rush (who, by the way, made less than half of Beyonce's $80 million, according to Daly's own Daily) is rich:

Rush Limbaugh sure lived up to his name. He was in such a rush to leave the city he helps make more dangerous that he left the furniture when he unloaded his apartment.

Limbaugh pocketed $6 million profit on his Fifth Ave. penthouse even as he was fanning the bigotry and hate aroused by the so-called Ground Zero mosque.

So, maybe Limbaugh could spare a few dollars to help out the Muslim cabbie who fell victim to the kind of attack that was sure to come in such a climate.

There's your hate. It is not hate to have, and voice, an opinion at variance with the left, despite the left's insistence that it is. It is not even hate to argue a contrary position and employ a faulty analogy, despite Daly's insistence that it is.

But it is hate to take a difference of opinion, call it hate, connect it with a tragedy, and assert that the tragedy occured because of this so-called hate. That's the left: telling us who they really are, by what they call their opposition.

Note: I'm still waiting to see whether Daly accuses Al Gore of being responsible for James Jay Lee holding all those people hostage at the Discovery Channel. After all, he said he was inspired by Al Gore.
07 September 2010

Pray for your enemies...

...and burn copies of their holy books.

Not too sure that, after doing this (assuming they are serious about it) they will be able to claim to be those who pray for their enemies (Matthew 5.44) and seek to overcome evil with good (Romans 12.21).

25 August 2010

On Where I've Been

I've been asked, via email and personal conversations, about the decrease in blogging activity. The short answer is, I've been working my through a required reading list, several, in fact, and for different purposes. (For one thing, I'm several issues behind in Faith and Philosophy. I have to leave it at that.

Also, I've been involved elsewhere in on-line discussions on topics such as Arizona SB 1070. That one was a knock-about of pure fun, revealing to me that opponents of the bill either haven't read it, or just know things that, as far as I'm concerned, just can't be known. There is a third possibility: they just have an ethnic chip on their shoulder and everything is an attempt to do no more than to knock off that chip.

One with whom I discussed the matter was just certain that he and his father, despite being citizens, were in jeopardy under the law. He couldn't say how, though. I mean, presently Arizona law simply permits law enforcement to check immigration status if there is reasonable doubt about that status. The new law would have required a check of immigration status if there were reasonable doubt. I asked several times precisely how he and his father were in danger under a requirement that they were not under a permission. Nothing. Then there was this silly assertion:

And last time I checked, a valid driver's license is not proof of citizenship.

And that was from someone who says he read the law carefully, the same law which stipulates that a valid driver's license (among other forms of identification) is acceptable as sufficient evidence that the bearer is not in the country illegally. I asked him about that, too. I'm still waiting for answers to both questions.

But mostly, I've been catching up on some reading and attending to family-related and house-hold matters. I intend to resume normal blogging, including the return of Wisdom Sunday, in about a month or so.
23 July 2010

The More Things Improve, The Worse They Get

"We won’t know the full results of what we have done until the very institutions we have created, the regulations we have suggested and provided for are actually tested." ~ Sen. Chris Dodd

In remarks delivered 13 July 2010, His Beatitude spoke, with reference to the recently signed financial reform bill of the end of an "era of irresponsibility". One must simply smile in order to avoid pulling out one's hair over a financial reform bill which not only leaves in place the entity, such as The Federal Reserve most responsible for this era (an era which, to some of us, goes all the way back to 1913, but actually gives to this entity, even more power over the economy:


We are told that, although the government does exert a great deal of control over the economy, the fact that the financial meltdown occurred at all means that it still is not enough control. The "free market", we've been told, failed us. (It's funny how every failure of the "free" market is testimony to the fact that it doesn't really work, but any successes are not evidence of the contrary. But I digress.) More is needed, and so we have the financial reform bill. As we've heard, over and over, the free market clearly doesn't work the way its supporters say it works. There is never permitted the slightest suggestion that, despite the supposedly little control the government has over the economy, it has still been sufficient control to be the greater cause of our present difficulties than the "free" market.

The irresponsibility for the meltdown, we've been told, lay in the over-reliance upon credit, motivated, naturally, by greed. But who, precisely, extended and expanded this credit? Not the greedy people who borrowed the money. They don't have that kind of power. Not the lending institutions. They don't have that power, either. If we really are talking about money which should not have been loaned, then why were the interest rates as low as they were? The fact of the matter is that the Fed controls the money supply, expanding it or shrinking it as they see fit. This has an effect on the so-called free market, making it rather un-free. It is, in fact, one could say, driven. There is a reason why people took out loans they should not have done. There is a reason why banks lent money they should not have done. And greed is an acceptable explanation only if gravity is an acceptable explanation for every plan crash.

"Why did the passenger jet crash"?

"Gravity." Think of the billions that could be saved if the NTSB would stop investigating plane crashes.

The money was lent because Alan Greenspan made it availabe and it was virtually (but only virtually) free. Recall the present complaints that banks have been given a great deal of money which they are not lending. Had the banks not lent the money which started the boom, we'd have had the same complaints in 2003 and 2004. One of the reasons the banks are not lending is that there is no way for them to know which loans to grant.

For what follows, think of money not as a medium of exchange, but as a commodity which, like any commodity, can be bought and sold. When you work a job you purchase money with your labor; your boss purchases your labor with money. Think also of interest as the cost of money between borrower (buyer) and lender (seller). Money is a commodity; interest is the price of this commodity.

Now think about the function of price. For most of us, price affects a great many of the decisions we make. There is a reason I bought a 2000 Saturn in 2000 rather than a 2000 Lambourghini: price. I could easily afford the former, but not the latter. But let's say the price of a 2000 Lambourghini, as well as the cost of owning one, suddenly dropped to a point equal to that of the 2000 Saturn, making it possible for me to own a Lambourghini for as much as it would cost me to own a Saturn. I assure you, that would have been sufficient reason for me to have purchased the Lamboughini. So it is with interest rates. A higher interest rate has a different effect on calculation than a lower one. If the interest rate is too high I might be reluctant to seek a loan for a business venture, or even a house. Both are risky activities; and part of the risk is the ability to pay the loan. The higher the interest rate, the greater the risk, especially since, in the beginning, the bulk of each loan payment is on the interest of the loan, not the principle. But if the interest rate drops to almost zero (that is, almost free), then things change. A business venture at 20% interest is clearly much riskier than at 2%. At 2% it's almost like passing up a Lambourghini for $1,500.00 to purchase a Saturn for $15,000.00. Pass up a virtually free Lambourghini? Are you mad?

In the same way that price affects my decision about a car purchase, the interest rate affects a businessman's calculation concerning the chances of turning a profit from any projects he may be considering. Just like the prices of the material factors of production, wage rates, and the anticipated future prices of the products, the interest rate (the price of money) is an item that must enter into the planning businessman’s calculations. The result of this calculation gives the businessman an idea of whether or not a certain project will pay off. A drop in interest rate makes the businessman’s calculations misleading. These false calculations will tend to make some projects appear profitable and realizable which a correct calculation, based on an interest rate not arbitrarily manipulated by credit expansion, would have shown as unrealizable. Being misled by the interest rate the businessman undertakes a project he would not otherwise have done. Business activities are stimulated, and a (credit-generated) boom begins. About the only thing the current president has correct about the recently ended boom (the meltdown) is that it was false. Indeed it was, as would any boom be which was egged on by a false interest rate. But that is about the only thing, because what neither he nor any other administration, would admit is that this false boom was egged on by a false interest rate, an interest rate set arbitrarily by The Federal Reserve, an interest set as low as it was precisely to start a boom in the first damn place! Now, they blame the businessmen for their miscalculations, and, on top of that, blame these miscalculations not on the Federal Reserve's interest rate, but on businessmen's greed.

The interest rate in a truly free market (as opposed to a centrally manipulated market that is called free) would be set by individual lending institutions, about as follows. To get straight to the relevant point, banks need to lend money, especially if they are to pay you interest on your savings accounts. The more you save, the lower they would set their lending interest rate. The less you save, the higher would be the lending interest rate. Why? When you save alot you send a signal to the bank that you are putting off consumption until the future, the more you save, the futher into the future you are putting your consumption. Moreover, the more you save, the more reserves the bank has on hand for lending. Recall that money is a commodity. When a bank has a lot in reserve it is like a car dealer with too much inventory, so it will usually lower its lending interest rate (the commodity price) in order to lend from these reserves (sell the money), taking some of the interest from these loans for itsef, as its profit, and passing some more of it to you in the form on interest on your savings account, certificates of deposit, or money market account. As banks lower their lending interest rates, this sends a signal to businessmen that a large portion of the population is putting off consumption into the future. In the future, they will consume. Businessmen, anticipating what these savers will want to consume in the future, and anticipating much more consumption in the future than if savings were lower, will take out loans either for research into and development of new, as yet non-existent products, or improvements in current products, or simply increased production (without improvement) of current products. When savings are low, banks, having less in reserve, will raise their lending interest rate. This signals to businessmen that consumers are preferring present consumption to future consumption. Consequently, they will discipline themselves and concentrate their efforts on producing such products as are presently being consumed because higher interest rates mean less tolerance for risk.

That is how banking would work in a free market. By increasing or decreasing their savings, by preferring present consumption to future consumption, or vice-versa, consumers -- not the government, not the Federal Reserve, not any bank -- would control the interest rates. But that is not the way it works. The Federal Reserve controls interest rates, and by virtue of this control it can launch an economic boom, for which, of course, greedy businessmen will be blamed.

After the dot-com bubble burst, and in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, Alan Greenspan decided to increase the money supply by targeting the federal funds rate, the rate at which banks lend to each other to cover their reserve requirements, lowering it to 1%. (Can you say, "Fifteen hundred dollar Lambourghini"?) And he held it there 2003 to 2004, the heart of the housing bubble.

As I mentioned above, this injection of liquidity sent a signal, as any change in any interest rates will do. For reasons I shant go into here, the dot-com bust resulted in a loss of confidence in the stock market. Where to invest this new liquidity? Confidence immediately turned to real estate. Among other things, the artificially low interest rate drove people into the building industry who, in a "normal" market would have been laughed out of a bank. In the market with which I am most personally familiar some of those who entered the general contractor profession included disk jockeys, cabinet makers, carpet and brick layers, electricians and one record producer (or drug dealer, still not sure.) Why could these people get loans to build homes, including "spec" homes? Because the loans were that cheap and, thanks to belief in a bit of nonsense which became known as The Greenspan Put, banks, among many, many others, falsely believed risk had been banished from existence. But also because, in most cases the banks would never have to wait for these loans to be paid.

What typically happens is that banks eventually sell the loans they make. To the uninitiated this sounds mysterious. But think of it. If money is a commodity, then so is a loan. In practical terms, the loan is the paper it's written on, that is, the loan contract. So the loan contract itself, like the money it represents, is also a commodity, bought and sold like any other commodity. So let's say, keeping it simple, you take out a $1,000,000.00 million dollar loan which, when amortized, will mean that when you've paid it off, you will have paid $1,750,000.00. Let us stipulate also that this is a twenty year loan, meaning the bank must wait twenty years to get its $1,750,000.00. On the other hand, it could sell the loan for, say, $1,250,000.00. It just made $500,000.00 and it doesn't have to wait twenty years for you to pay anything. So if a bank loans money to a disk jockey who wants to play general contractor it risks virtually nothing if it can sell that loan. As we know, many of these loans were bundled together and sold as mortgage-backed securities.

Of course, it would be one thing (forgivable, even) for banks simply to have loaned money to disk jockeys to build spec homes. It is quite another for them to have loaned to people who, as we've heard, had no chance of paying them. As we've heard, banks were not even requiring proof of income. This, we've been told, was because banks were unscrupulous, greedy. (Ostensibly, the people who falsely reported, or perhaps inflated, their incomes were innocent by-standers, unwitting victims of bankers' greed. Who were sitting around, minding their own business, when these unscrupulous bankers knocked on their doors with offers that couldn't be refused. The poor dears.) Clearly, if all banks have to do is loan money and then turn round and sell the loans, it almost doesn't matter to the bank whether the mortgagee can pay. Almost. In a truly free market it would matter a great deal: the one who buys the loan could sue the bank for failing to perform due diligence. In selling the loan the bank would have been understood as warranting to the buyer that it had ascertained the mortgagee's ability to pay the mortgage. And the bank should have done, for if it could not find a buyer for the loan, then it would have been stuck with that loan itself. But in a market in which losses are socialized, this is not a problem.

For my purposes here, it doesn't matter why banks loaned money to people who couldn't pay them. Some blame the Community Reinvestment Act. It probably played a role. But, like I said, it doesn't matter. The boom was fueled by manipulation of interest rates by the Federal Reserve. If the boom had not occured in housing it would have occured elsewhere. Remember that the lowering of the federal funds rate gave banks virtually free money to lend. Banks make money by lending money the same way car dealers make money selling cars. That money -- that liquidity -- was going somewhere. Loans were going to be made to someone. A boom somewhere was inevitable thanks not to greedy speculators, drunk with "irrational exuberance", who can't do squat without liquidity, but to the Federal Reserve, which provides the liquidity.

And now, two weeks after Chris Dodd told us we won't know what the financial reform bill will do until after it's tested, the POTUS tells us the bill, which leaves the Federal Reserve in place and even gives it more control over the economy, will save us from the boom-bust cycle. If only the mafia could make their operations work as beautifully.

Finally, a brief explanation of the bust. The sad fact is the Federal Reserve may be able to create money out of thin air, but it cannot create factors of production. There may suddenly be more money available for business projects, but there is not equally as suddenly the material for these projects. At some point, producers are unable to keep up with the Federal-Reserve-driven demand for production goods. The market slows down as businesses wait for the needed material. Unfortunately, banks don't wait for loan payments, not for long anyway. Finally, projects increasingly cannot be completed. But these projects need to be completed in order for loans to be paid. The boom is over.
02 July 2010

Suspend the law, by Executive Order? Are they serious?

[The President of the United States]shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.... ~ U. S. Constitution, Art. I, section 3.

Many people (including people on the right) are angry with the President for not issuing an Executive Order suspending enforcement of the Jones Act. Think of it: The President of the United States, constitutionally charged to see that the laws are faithfully executed, is to issue an order suspending the faithful execution of certain laws, as convenient.

Of course, the rationale is that this is an emergency of the sort which necessitates the suspension of this law, maybe others. Emergency -- that is the most common excuse used by tyrants to justify their excesses. One "emergency" after another; one suspension of law after another -- soon enough you have the Julio-Claudians and their successors running things.

It is odd that complaints come from the right, given their ire at the federal government's failure (or refusal) to enforce federal immigration law.

Supporters of this enforcement suspension cite the Bush Administration's suspension of it during the Katrina emergency. Robert Bluey explains a proffered distinction between the two events (here), such that Bush's suspension of the Act was justified, but Obama's would not be. But even if this distinction isn't valid, we are still talking about the suspended enforcement of law. Slow down and think that through. The President of the United States, because there is some crisis (you know, that thing which, according to Rham Immanuel, permits government to get away with things it otherwise could not), issues an Executive Order suspending enforcement of a law. While we're at it why not, if and when necessary, suspend enforcement of the Constitution, like Lincoln virtually did during the War to Prevent Southern Secession, or Wilson during World War I, or FDR during the crisis known as The Great Depression?

For the record: Like Senator McCain, I think the Jones Act should be repealed. (Wow. Something he and I agree upon. Who knew?) But so long as it remains in force, I'd prefer to see the POTUS exercise a habit of not picking and choosing which laws he shall faithfully execute and which laws he will not.
28 June 2010
George Will on questions for Elean Kagan, here and here.

Very, very excellent questions.
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25 June 2010

These are not your children

These people -- it's never satisfactory for them just to warn parents, and (HORRORS!) let parents decide whether to buy their children Happy Meals which include toys. Of course, they have warned parents; but parents (darn them!) insist on buying Happy Meals for their children. Since the parents won't stop buying, the only alternative is to make McDonald's stop selling the offending product, the product, that is, which offends the Center for Science in the Public Interest, not the parents.

It used to be that parents warned kids to run away from strangers offering candy, but companies have made an end run by laundering their perfidy through electronic media. Now kids absorb countless commercials touting premiums based on their favorite characters -- Shrek, Batman, Barbie, Beanie Babies, etc. -- and, surprise, surprise, ask their parents to take them to McDonald's. Consumer-marketing guru Adam Hanft said, "Happy Meals proved that you could actually 'brand' a meal and make children harass their parents for it."

The Federal Trade Commission has reported that fast-food companies--with McDonald's by far in the lead--spent $360 million in 2006 on toys to market children's meals. In the same year, fast food restaurants sold more than 1.2 billion children's meals with toys to children ages 12 and under, accounting for 20 percent of all child traffic at those restaurants. It should be no surprise that companies employ the practice--it works.

As one reads the article, one gets the impression that, for Jacobson and his ilk, the only market players involved are restaurants like McDonald's and children, where the children are the consumuers. The parents? Oh, those are the people who are "pestered" by the children into talking them to McDonald's and are, apparently, impotent in resisting this pestering. Some of us -- neanderthals, no doubt -- would say this marketing to children via toys works because -- and only because -- parents allow it to work. Jacobson knows better. It's McDonald's; and they've got to be stopped.

Granted "kids absorb countless commercials...and...ask their parents to take them to McDonald's" and that children can be motivated to harass their parents for a product. But the question remains: Who is in charge here? As Bill Cosby might say, "These are not your children!" (I can't tell you what my mother would tell Michael Jacobson.)

I recall the last time I attempted to pester my parents into something. I was about seven years old. Not only did I not get what I wanted, but my pestering was so aggressive I got something I most certainly did not want (but was told I asked for) -- and I got a lot of it!

The children may "pester" and "harass" but Mommy and Daddy are the push-overs who drive the little whiners to McDonald's. Mommy and Daddy are the ones who spend their hard-earned dollars on Crappy Meals. Why doesn't the Center for Science in the Public Interest sue the damn parents? I'll tell you why: McDonald's has more money.

23 June 2010

And the law is irrelevant, of course

If a judge blocks a moratorium on off-shore drilling it presents a set of simple legal questions:

(1) Does the President of the United States have the Constitutional authority to stop off-shore drilling? (And, if so, in which article or amendment are we to look for this authority?)
(2) If the POTUS does have this authority, then under what circumstances is he legally authorized to do so?
(3) Do the circumstances under which the present moratorium was placed meet the Constitutional criteria?

Judge Martin Feldman has blocked the moratorium, asserting that it fails legal muster. Thus far the media are more concerned with Judge Feldman's oil holdings rather than the legal questions presented. In this article, Michael Kunzelman is pleased to inform us that "Feldman's financial disclosure report for 2008...shows holdings in at least eight petroleum companies or funds that invest in them, including Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig...." Kunzelman is kind enought to go on to report that it is not clear "whether Feldman still has any of the energy industry stocks."

I'm sure Kunzelman thinks he's a brilliant guy, but the fact is his sub silentio argument is that Feldman's argument is one he holds only because he probably owns oil stock. But this sort of reasoning, if it can be called reasoning, is logically fallacious. Specifically, it is called a Bulverism. It's the "You assert P because you are a Q" sort of argument, meaning, tacitly, of course, that P is false. Kunzelman writes nothing -- and I mean nothing -- about any legal argument the judge may have had. Pathetic.

Note: Judge Feldman's ruling simply "prohibits federal officials from enforcing the moratorium until a trial is held." A trial? What a travesty of justice! Oh! But wait! What's this?

No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law....

I think that's in the Constitution somewhere. I could be wrong. But I'm not.

This moratorium constitutes the deprivation of the liberty of oil companies to engage in their business. Due process of law? A trial? With a jury sitting as finder of fact? Good heavens! What next? Rule of law?

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22 June 2010
Once upon a time many thought generals criticizing presidents was good for democracy. Now, it's a threat to civilian control of the military.

The alibi of tyrants

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants. ~ Albert Camus

It is easy to believe the story that the purpose of the $20 billions in "escrow" taken from BP is to make sure that BP meets its liability. But this is due to ignorance. The fact is, BP is already in process of meeting its liabilities. Soon after the spill, BP announced that it would pay all justifiable claims resulting from the oil spill. It opened 25 claims offices. As of June 15, it had approved initial payments that amounted to $63 million, and was expected to rise to $85 million by the end of the week, to businesses claiming $5,000 or more in damages. So it wasn't that BP had merely said it would meet its obligations. It was already doing so when the shake-down occured. BP created its own fund, appointed its administrator, and determined staffing with a view to ensuring only qualified persons, businesses, and governments would be reimbursed for losses. There was no need for this action.

Then, of course, there is the law. No provision of either the U.S. Constitution or the U. S. Code authorizes the executive branch to take this sort of action. Even if an escrow account was needed, such accounts are supposed to be managed by the judiciary. Well, until now anyway, in the United States I used to know.

Someone commenting on this said this action was necessary in order "to make sure BP pays up front, since we know damn well they will try to use every trick in the book to funnel their wealth to their shareholders or executives when the check comes due for the incredibly expensive disaster they've inflicted on us."

This extra- constitutional, extra-legal action was necessary for our welfare. Never mind that there has been no trial. No finder of fact has found for any plaintiff, assessing BP's liability for anything. The executive branch, according to this commentator, must punish BP for a crime "we know damn well" they will commit.

Of course...

Thus, an oil spill is such a crisis as requires suspension of the rule of law.

The point of this "escrow" account isn't to make sure that people get their money. The point is to make sure they get it from Obama. Remember these ladies?

And this one?

When the time comes, the right people will remember that they got their money -- Obama money -- from Obama, not BP. That is priceless.

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16 June 2010
Governments never lie about anything, especially inflation

Dividends? Retirees don't need no stinking dividends

When I was growing up, table talk could be a boring experience because most of the talk, dominated as it was by my parents, usually involved business, especially finance. I've learned to be grateful for it, especially when listening to politicians.

Of course, it's also the reason I think people like Nancy Pelosi are ignorant. Not because I don't like her policies. Quite the contrary, in fact. I don't like the policies because I believe them to be rooted in ignorance, an ignorance which is a function of both illiteracy and innumeracy.

Take, for example, a report I recently heard on the radio that she believes BP should not pay its stock-holders dividends. Maybe they shouldn't. But her reasoning is the most simplistic crap my parents trained me out of before I'd graduated high school.

BP should not pay dividends because it made $17 billions in profits last year. Actually, it was $16.58 billions. Close enough though.

One of the things my parents taught me about business finance, and understanding profits, is that some amount of money is "a lot" or "a little" only in comparison with some other amount of money, the two amounts being percentages of each other. Pelosi thinks $17 billions is a lot of money because she's comparing it with the thousands of dollars needed by victims of the oil slick. In fact, it represents only a 6.74 percent profit. Yes, I said only. In business, that's not very much. It is $17 billions, in comparison with $246.1 billions in revenue. That $17 billions represents what is left of the $246.1 billions when all the bills are paid.

This isn't to say BP doesn't have a liablity. It is to say that whatever Pelosi thinks BP should pay, and to whomever she thinks it should be paid, it should be paid because it is owed. It should not be paid just because she thinks $17 billions is a lot of money. It isn't. It's a paltry 6.74 percent profit. The company I work for didn't make $17 billions in profits last year. But it did make about 12 percent in profit. Profit is about the percentage of revenue, not the raw dollar amount. And neither the raw dollar amount nor the percentage have any bearing on liability. Would Pelosi entertain the notion, if BP's profits on $246.1 billions were only $1.7 billions, that they could then pay dividends? We know better than to believe that, I think.

I doubt Nancy Pelosi knows, or cares, to whom much of these dividends will go. No one can like everyone on the list, but some of my favorite stockholders are Ameriprise Financial, Capital Group, Prudential, TIAA-CREF, Standard Life, and the State of Texas, among others.

You might want to check your retirement fund. Make sure it doesn't (still) have any BP stock among its holdings.
10 June 2010

What's really offensive about POTUS's use of "ass"

Some are offended at the President's use of the word 'ass'. Frankly I don't find it offensive at all. It's one of my own favorite words, as, for example if I were to say something like, "The POTUS is an ass." But never mind that just now.

It's not even offensive to me that he is looking for assess to kick. What is offensive is the general direction he's looking for this ass. This is a man who cannot call terroritists, well, terrorists. He's reluctant to use the word "enemy". He's not looking for any terrorist ass to kick. He's not looking to kick any Taliban ass. He's not looking for any Hamas ass to kick. He's not looking for any Hezbollah ass to kick. And he most certainly is not looking for any illegal immigrant ass to kick -- not that I have a problem with that one. (If anything he's probably more interested in kicking some Arizona governor ass.)

That is what is really offensive.

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04 June 2010

Nancy Pelosi loves the Word

This video has been making the rounds on Facebook:

Since she loves the word so much, let her hear from it:
Hear the Word of the LORD, you who cant love for The Word. "This is what the LORD Almighty says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in prosperity. But do not trust in deceptive words and say, 'This is the Word of the LORD, the Word of the LORD, the Word of the LORD!' If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods then I will let you live in peace. But as it is, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense and offer prayers to a god of your own understanding and then come and stand before Me, Book in hand and say, 'We are safe'-safe to do all these detestable things? Has this Word, which testifies to Me, become a stamp of approval to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD." ~ Paraphrased from Jeremiah 7.
03 June 2010
This reminds me of something I was saying here. It may be that, as Eland puts it, "Tea Partiers are right-wing Obama-haters rather than liberty-lovers. And like their icon Sarah Palin, they seem proudly ignorant of history." But they probably can more easily be transformed into the sort of liberty lovers Eland and I would like than leftists can be.
28 May 2010
In this interview with Mike Rosen, oilman Paul Teague explains the technical aspects of the oil spill -- and not just British Petroleum. Yeah, like the news media, who are largely so ignorant of off-shore drilling that they can't properly report on it. The number of lawsuits coming out of this, he says, is going to be huge.
Paul Krugman wants us to know we are not Greece. Denver radio talk show host, Mike Rosen says it's only a matter of time. It's the government spending, stupid.
In honor of Ken Salazar, I'm thinking that my new nick-name for the executive branch of the unfederal government will be The Boot.
26 May 2010

This is not Rome

In a recent column, Cal Thomas was rightly critical of National Day of Prayer activities. However, in the course of his column, he offers the following critcism:

Judge Barbara Crabb, a U.S. district judge in Wisconsin, recently ruled it is unconstitutional for the government to endorse the National Day of Prayer. She did not rule prayer unconstitutional, which would be an entirely different matter. The decision will likely be appealed, but... [the Bible] says Christians are to obey the government because God instituted it. How do they justify disobeying a government God has put in place, including one led by President Obama, who many "Christian leaders" spend more time bashing then they do praying for? And if they believe, as Paul wrote, that all authority is from God, why are they spending so much time criticizing the authorities and focusing on the "kingdom of this world," instead of focusing on that other "kingdom" they say they believe is eternal?

I believe I can offer a very short answer to Thomas's question about why Christians spend time criticizing the authorities (some of which Thomas dismisses as "bashing" the president). While we agree with Paul that we should obey the governing authorities, we recognize, as Thomas seems at times not to do, that our "governing authorities" are not Rome's governing authorities. The governing authorities the Romans were exhorted to obey were authorities in an imperial system. Our authorities are authorities in a constitutional republican system. Inasmuch as Paul, on at least one occasion, insisted on his rights as a Roman citizen, we believe it perfectly acceptable for us to insist on our rights as citizens of the United States. Roman law gauranteed that no citizen could be scourged before being condemned; and he insisted on receiving that right (see Acts 22.25-29). Our constitution guarantees to us the right to criticize (dare I say bash?) policies with which we disagree, as well as the politicians who propose those policies. We criticize because it is our right. We are not in Rome.

But, says Thomas, all authority is from God. And that is true. But what, exactly, is the nature of the authority granted? Is it the power to do with that authority all that one wishes to do, without criticism? Is it, more importantly, the power to exceed that authority without criticism? If, as Thomas would say (and with which I agree), Barak Obama holds the office of President of the United States by the grace of God, then let us reflect that the office held by the grace of God, is not dictator of the United States, but President of the United States. The office comes with limitations. He doesn't get what he wants on the simple grounds that he has the office by the grace of God. He gets only what the Constitution grants him. And the Constitution does not grant him immunity from criticism. The authority God has granted to Barak Obama is the authority -- and only that authority -- which belongs to him by virtue of his being the President of the United States. Like wise with Congress and with the courts.

While we may enjoy them, it should not be for our own freedoms alone, but even more importantly for the freedoms of our non-Christian neighbors (rich and poor, corporate and non-corporate), we should continue bashing while we're free to do, especially while it is so clear that one of the present goals is to use the present malaise as an excuse for the consolidation of every more power in the executive branch of the government. Doing so is not ipso facto to focus on the kingdom of this world to the exclusion of that other, eternal kingdom. As C.S. Lewis said, in The Joyful Christian, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.”

I do not see the attempt to do good here on earth and being heavenly minded as mutually exclusive. Lewis would have us consider the probability that we can do earthly good precisely by being heavenly minded.

Thomas was better on the National Day of Prayer here .



About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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