Thursday, April 30, 2009

Obama Completely Misses the Point

Obama Describes Big-Government Solutions as Unwanted, but Necessary - First 100 Days of Presidency - Politics

President Obama directly addressed critics today who accused him of trying to expand the size and scope of government. From the article:
After taking questions for an hour, the president concluded by attempting to dispel charges that he's a big-government president by design.

"I don't want to run auto companies. I don't want to run banks. I've got two wars I've got to run already -- I've got more than enough to do," he said. "So the sooner we can get out of that business, the better off we're going to be. We are in unique circumstances."

He said he's "amused" by charges that he wants to grow government.

"I want to disabuse people of this notion that somehow we enjoy meddling in the private sector," Obama said.

"If you could tell me right now that when I walked into this office, that the banks were humming, the autos were selling and that all you had to worry about was Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, getting health care passed, figuring out how to deal with energy independence, deal with Iran and a pandemic flu -- I would take that deal."

With regard to the auto sector, Obama said the federal government is intervening to help America's automakers survive and eventually become globally competitive.

While it is encouraging to hear the President say he would rather the government get out of the private sector under normal conditions, I would be more inclined to take him seriously if the government hadn't just acquired 8% of Chrysler as part of bankruptcy proceedings. And if Rahm "let no crisis go unexploited" Emmanuel wasn't his chief of staff. Incidentally, according to Open Secrets, Emmanuel "was the top House recipient in the 2008 election cycle of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms and the larger securities/investment industry." But I digress.

Obama is missing the point. None of his critics care how much he is enjoying overseeing the dismantling of the last remnants of American capitalism. We care that he's doing it. The fact that he sees government intervention into the economy as necessary in times of crisis puts him philosophically at odds with Americans who love liberty and understand what it means.

This leads us to the fundamental questions that libertarians wish liberals would ask more often: Is government the part of society best equipped to deal with this problem? If so, is this a legitimate use of government power, i.e., does acting to solve this problem protect people's rights, or infringe upon them?

"The question we ask today is not whether government is too big or too small, but whether it works," said the President at his inauguration.

The President asked the wrong question. Let's say it turns out the the government is the most efficient institution for delivering health care, to pick one of the President's favorite projects. Does that mean the government should enter the healthcare business? By asserting that the primary qualification of a government program is whether it works, the President is skipping the more fundamental question: is this program a legitimate function of government?
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
"To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." Not "to provide for their material needs;" not "to protect the environment;" not "to provide cheap, high-quality healthcare," not "to conduct scientific research;" not "to define marriage as between one man and one woman;" not "to educate our children."

"To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men."

President Obama would do well to remember it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mish on the Fed and Libertarianism

Mike "Mish" Shedlock posted a response to this claptrap on his blog today:
Anti-Libertarian Nonsense From Henry Kaufman & Company

If you want to learn more about the libertarian/Austrian criticisms of central banking, this would be the place to start. The gist of the article is that saying the Fed followed a philosophy that was "too libertarian" is nonsense. The Fed can't be libertarian any more than the military can be pacifist. Its existence precludes such a label by definition.

I would add that you can immediately dismiss anyone who says that lack of regulation allowed the creation of companies that were "too big to fail" or "led to companies receiving bailouts." There is no such thing as a company that is too big to fail, only a company with enough political power to demand that it be enriched at the expense of the taxpayer. Bailouts have nothing to do with deregulation; they stem from the same source that thinks intervention will fix what ails the economy. Bailouts, like regulations, are just another link in a long chain of interventions.

We should decommission the Fed, and leave failing companies to their fates. This includes public-private monstrosities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as failed corporations like AIG. These dying behemoths are being held in suspended animation at taxpayer expense, and their girth is clogging up the marketplace and choking off resources that would be better employed by new market actors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HR 1207: A Small Personal Victory

The Campaign for Liberty has designated today a "Mass Action Day" for HR 1207 activism.

I just got off the phone with the offices of Representative Doyle and Senator Casey. I didn't bother to call Senator Specter, I feel like his office is totally inundated with noise right now. Congressman Doyle's office gave me a polite acknowledgment, as has been my experience in the past.

What I heard when I called Senator Casey made my day.

I spoke with a fellow named Joe, if I remember correctly. I explained that I hoped the Senator would consider cosponsoring S513, a bill which would allow the GAO to audit the Federal Reserve. I added that it was the Senate version of HR 1207, since the House bill seems to have more name recognition.

Joe asked me if I was referring to Ron Paul's bill. I said that yes, he has done a lot of advocacy on the issue and is the sponsor in the House. I added that the Senate version is sponsored by Bernie Sanders and cosponsored by Senators Feingold and Lincoln.

This was Joe's reply, as closely as I remember it: "To be perfectly honest with you, this isn't an issue I've asked the Senator about yet. But I feel like we've reached a threshold now where it is something I should bring to his attention."

I thanked Joe, and said that support for the bill would go a long way towards showing the Senator's commitment to openness and accountability.

How encouraging! Keep the ball rolling, everyone!

Specter a Democrat! In Other News, Water Wet

Arlen Specter just announced that he's switching parties. The cynical view would be that he's a waffler and an opportunist. There might be something to that, although it's likely that Specter will just keep on voting like he's been voting. This isn't Specter compromising his principles, this is Specter seeing the writing on the wall and making the most politically sensible choice. The real question is why he didn't do it sooner.

At least now the senator is being open about the fact that he's not recognizably conservative. My only worry is that Rick Santorum will try to run against him. I've got a year to keep that from happening.

From the article:
Specter faced an extraordinarily difficult re-election challenge in his home state in 2010, having first to confront a challenge from his right in the Republican primary before pivoting to a general election campaign against a Democrat.

"I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," he said in the statement.

"I don't have to say anything to them. They've said it to me," Specter said, when asked in a Capitol corridor about abandoning the GOP.
Maybe there's some hope of the Republican party finding itself after all. The way I read this is that Specter was more or less sure that he couldn't win reelection as a Republican--he'd have to lean too far right in the primary to run successfully against a Democrat. Well, what do you expect, Senator? You keep voting for bailouts and bigger government. I love the massive condescension in his statement, too. "Unwilling" to be "judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate?!" Willing or not, you have been, and you will be. You may have had an "R" by your name, but you've been voting like a "D" for years. Then again, you aren't alone.

I hope this is a wake-up call to the Republican rank-and-file that having an "R" after your name simply isn't enough. How long until we demand conservatism from Republicans? How many more usurpations and abuses will it take? How long until we see through the two-party illusion and perceive this country's entrenched monolithic power structure for what it is? Donkeys and Elephants are putting on a dog-and-pony show while the country slips further and further towards tyranny and economic oblivion. Labels don't matter, actions matter. This is the lesson to take from Specter's otherwise irrelevant switch.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

HR 1207: The Crazy 88

Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty is reporting that HR 1207 is sitting on 88 cosponsors and counting. This was after a jump to 71 cosponsors yesterday, when Congress returned to session. That's a jump of 33 congresspeople since I last reported on the issue.

Not all of the new cosponsors are listed on the Library of Congress's site yet, but here's the ones that are:

Rep Lucas, Frank D. [OK-3] - 4/21/2009
Rep Lamborn, Doug [CO-5] - 4/21/2009
Rep Ehlers, Vernon J. [MI-3] - 4/21/2009
Rep Bilbray, Brian P. [CA-50] - 4/21/2009
Rep Pence, Mike [IN-6] - 4/21/2009
Rep Manzullo, Donald A. [IL-16] - 4/21/2009
Rep McCaul, Michael T. [TX-10] - 4/21/2009
Rep Cole, Tom [OK-4] - 4/21/2009
Rep Roe, David P. [TN-1] - 4/21/2009
Rep Herger, Wally [CA-2] - 4/21/2009
Rep Bishop, Rob [UT-1] - 4/21/2009
Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] - 4/21/2009
Rep Olson, Pete [TX-22] - 4/21/2009
Rep Latham, Tom [IA-4] - 4/21/2009
Rep Luetkemeyer, Blaine [MO-9] - 4/21/2009
Rep Doggett, Lloyd [TX-25] - 4/21/2009
Rep Rooney, Thomas J. [FL-16] - 4/22/2009
Rep Massa, Eric J. J. [NY-29] - 4/22/2009
Rep Johnson, Sam [TX-3] - 4/22/2009
Rep Thompson, Glenn [PA-5] - 4/22/2009
Rep Brady, Kevin [TX-8] - 4/22/2009
Rep Smith, Adam [WA-9] - 4/22/2009
Rep Shimkus, John [IL-19] - 4/22/2009
Rep Graves, Sam [MO-6] - 4/22/2009

Those of you doing research will find it helpful to know that David Roe goes by his middle name, Philip. We picked up four more Democrats with this update: Baldwin, Doggett, Massa, and Smith. It's always nice to have Adam Smith on your side on a piece of economics legislation.

Campaign for Liberty believes the number of cosponsors will continue to rise over the next few days.

The Senate version of the bill still has no cosponsors listed on THOMAS.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Obama Backtracks on Torture Investigations

Obama open to prosecution, probe of interrogations

It seems that all is not totally lost. Apparently while "I was just following orders" is a perfectly acceptable excuse for someone to participate in torture, writing the policy that those giving the orders referenced in an effort to justify their crimes is not.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said in a television interview over the weekend that the administration does not support prosecutions for "those who devised policy." Later, White House aides said that he was referring to CIA superiors who ordered the interrogations, not the Justice Department officials who wrote the legal memos allowing them.
Obama is worried about investigations leading to partisan squabbles that get in the way of running the country, and is seeking a process that would use independent investigators, perhaps like the 9/11 Commission. Wouldn't want to play the blame game, you might look vindictive.

This is the same bullcrap the Democrats have been feeding us for years--they'd rather look conciliatory and stay above the fray than address serious human rights abuses head on. And yet they still get most of the "progressive" vote. Oh well.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Al-Qaeda Official: Nothing's Changed

Al-Qaeda says Obama 'did not change anything'

I wonder how many more times Al-Qaeda is going to have to tell us in plain English exactly why they're killing us before someone in America actually hears? They have no incentive to lie about this, just like a kidnapper has no incentive to lie about his or her ransom demands. "Islamic fundamentalist" terrorism is a complete misnomer. This is about the expansion of the United States' empire in the Middle East.

From the article:
It is America that is still killing Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is America that steals their fortunes, occupies their land, and supports the thieving, corrupt, and traitor rulers in their countries. And consequently, the problem is not over. Rather, it is likely to deteriorate and escalate.
Now, the caveat here is that while terrorism is usually a political action, not a religious one, church and state are much more intertwined in the Middle East than they are in other places. To say that terrorists are "Islamo-fascists" who "hate freedom" essentially misses the point. We may not agree with these folks' ideal form of government, but that disagreement is peripheral to the terrorism issue, not central to it.

Right-wing partisans in the US will seize on this as proof that Al-Qaeda will attack us no matter what the US's foreign policy is. They might have a point if anything Obama had done anything other than give us what has so far been Bush's third term.

War in Iraq? Still going strong.
War in Afghanistan? Getting ready for a ramp-up.
In bed with the Saudi royal family and antagonistic to the most secular government in the region? Check and check.
Willing to support anything and everything Israel wants? You betcha.

Hooray! Change we can believe in!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Liberty News Wire Added

The Campaign for Liberty's "Liberty News Wire" RSS feed has been embedded in the column on the left. The feed features a selection of news items that are relevant to various liberty issues.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Human Rights and Barack Obama, the Coward

One step forward, two steps back.

That's how I'd describe the news that came out today regarding the Obama administration's stance towards persistent Bush-era torture policies.

AP: No charges against CIA officials for waterboarding

I watched the documentary Torturing Democracy (viewable online) recently. It's very good; I would have preferred something a bit less sensationalist in nature, but with this subject matter, sensationalism is hard to escape. If you want to learn more, sitting down and watching Torturing Democracy would be my recommendation.

When Obama took office, one of my hopes was that we would see a rollback of the Bush administration's massive human and civil rights abuses. Indeed, much of the secrecy surrounding the US's use of torture has been ended--but to what end? Reports of prisoner abuse have not decreased, even though Guantanamo is scheduled to be closed, along with the so called "black sites" around the world. The Patriot Act is still on the books. Our intelligence agencies are still completely out of control.

And now we find out that the people responsible for this are going to get a free pass. President Obama tells us that "We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history...but at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." Attorney General Holder tells us that "It would be unfair to prosecute dedicated men and women working to protect America for conduct that was sanctioned in advance by the Justice Department."

"Nothing will be gained?" Maybe so. But by choosing this course of action, everything will be lost.

Norton v. Shelby County tells us the following:
"An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is in legal contemplation as inoperative as though it had never been passed."

All of these people took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Even the bits about due process and cruel and unusual punishment.

The article linked above says "using a plastic neck collar to slam detainees into walls...and beating and kicking the detainee(s)" was authorized. Torturing Democracy also reports the practice of sexual humiliation. Everone's heard about waterboarding.

Every time someone calls waterboarding "simulated drowning," I get nauseous. There is nothing about it that is "simulated." They start drowning you, and stop the flow of water before you suffocate, letting you cough up the water they just poured down your throat and take a few gasping breaths. And then they start drowning you again. Your tax dollars at work.

The kicker? The techniques used at Guantanamo are based on techniques used against our soldiers to produce false confessions. They aren't designed to get people to tell you the truth, they're designed to get people to tell you whatever you want them to tell you.

Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi and Barack "Nothing to be gained" Obama are cowards of the highest order. They had a clear view of a great evil. They had it within their power to ensure that justice was done. They have abandoned their responsibilities for reasons of political convenience.

This is what my country has come to: neither authorizing nor carrying out the systematic torture of human beings, imprisoned indefinitely and without charge, warrants any repercussive action.

Today, I weep for my country.

The FBI is Spying on Churches

Mich. Muslim group says FBI asking people to spy

File this under "totally unsurprising..."
An FBI agent testified in February at a detention hearing that an informant infiltrated several mosques in Orange County, Calif., and befriended Ahmadullah Niazi, brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden's bodyguard. Niazi was charged with lying about his ties to terrorist groups on his citizenship and passport applications.
Former FBI agents and federal prosecutors have said spying on mosques is one of the government's best weapons to thwart terrorists, but agents need to have credible and specific information before sending in a plant.
And file this under "what do you mean 'the nature of government is coercive force?'"
...the most common complaints have come from people with pending immigration issues being approached by agents to monitor mosques in exchange for help in resolving their citizenship cases.
I think it's fairly clear that there's an implied threat here--cooperate, or we'll deport you.

I guess spying on Osama bin Laden's step-nephew's hairdresser has its place, if a judge is willing to issue a warrant, but are we really expecting someone to write down something their brother-in-law does as a "connection to terrorism?" Has this guy even ever met his brother-in-law? I'm obviously not familiar with the case, but it wouldn't surprise me if the connection between this guy and terrorism was entirely speculative. An unfounded claim? Not really. Of the 775 detainees ever at Guantanamo, a grand total of three have been convicted of anything, and about 420 have been released without charge (source, source).

Bubble Collapse, Phase II

General Growth files for bankruptcy protection

General Growth is the second largest owner of malls in America. The Reuters article above calls this recent event "the biggest real estate failure in US history." The banking crisis is over? As I mentioned earlier, laughable. The banking crisis just entered phase two.

It turns out that we don't need a Starbucks every 500 feet, and that every last village in the country doesn't need a giant mall. Over-expansion in areas like these led to a bubble in commercial real estate that has begun to collapse.

The collapse of commercial real estate is expected to hurt midsized banks, which had largely escaped the housing bubble collapse. Fasten your seat belts, the depression that started in 2008 just took another bad turn.

It's doubtful that the vacuous "too big to fail" argument will be bought by anyone this time around, so there's a possibility of bank failures, which will strain the FDIC--and the FDIC is already nearing its breaking point. The good assets of failing banks will likely be bought up by larger banks (possibly with taxpayer guarantees). The danger here is the creation of an oligopoly of government-favored institutions in the financial sector, which would be a major step towards economic fascism.

Bankrupt banks should be allowed to go under, but the government shouldn't decide who gets what in the aftermath. This possibility is my biggest worry.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Party Hijacking

The media has picked up on yesterday's Tax Day Tea Party protests: Tens of thousands rally at tax day 'tea parties.'

The most important bit from the article:
While FreedomWorks insisted the rallies were nonpartisan, they have been seized on by many prominent Republicans who view them as a promising way for the party to reclaim its momentum.

"All you have to be is a mildly awake Republican candidate for office to get in front of that parade," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

The movement attracted some Republicans considering 2012 presidential bids.

Well, this is problematic, yes? Republican presidential hopefuls are the last thing we needed at these rallies. It needs to be clear that the groundswell of anger in this country isn't being orchestrated by central planners affiliated with any party. Any attempts to hijack that anger must be resisted. Cheers to the San Antonio protest, which allowed no politicians to speak.

Republicans have a serious credibility problem when it comes to the economy. They drove the deficit through the roof for almost a decade. Well, some Republicans were way ahead of the game, but the party establishment basically laughed us off the stage. Did I mention way, way, way ahead of the game?

Sigh. There's another round of protests coming up, this time against the Federal Reserve. Republican leadership isn't really tuned into this issue yet, so hopefully it will be undiluted, and hopefully it will get media coverage as well.

To summarize some points I've made before--tax cuts without spending cuts won't get us out of this. Spending increases won't get us out of this. We need to drastically reduce the size and scope of the government, and we need to reform our monetary system. We need to reform Social Security and Medicare to address massive projected shortfalls, we need to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately, and we need to audit the Federal Reserve. We need to allow bankrupcies and end bailouts.

Until the Republican leadership moves in this direction, it can shut up about the grassroots movement emerging in opposition to Obama.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In Other News...

"Stock market prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

Time: The Banking Crisis is Over

More Quickly Than It Began, The Banking Crisis Is Over

The Article's Argument, Paraphrased by Me:
  • Hank Paulson acted quickly and decisively to buy Congress time to guarantee parts of the balance sheets of Citigroup and Bank of America.
  • Tim Geithner has been able to rescue dying banks by buying up their toxic/troubled assets through a public-private partnership.
  • The "stress test" has told us which banks "have dysentery" and which did not lose at Oregon Trail.
  • Wells Fargo reports turning a $3 billion profit in the first quarter, even though it bought Wachovia. This is indicative of a larger trend.
  • Further purchase of toxic assets and investigations of banks' balance sheets will be unnecessary. You see, banks are now earning enough from their loans to cover costs, so everything is okay.
  • All that's left now is a slow cleanup--the downward spiral is at an end. The cost to taxpayers will probably end up being around $1,000,000,000,000--but that's just what it took to get the job done.
  • In the aftermath, financial institutions will have "modest power and a regulated scope."
As a well-written piece in a reputable publication, this work deserves an analysis of equal depth and quality. As such, here are my thoughts:

Ha haha ha hahaha haha ha ha ha haha haha ha hahahaha hahahaha *gasp* ha ha haha ha hahaha ha ha haha ha hahaha ha ha haha haha hahaha ha ha ha hahaha ha hahahahaha *gasp* ha ha ha ha haha hahahahahahaha ha haha ha hahaha haha ha ha ha haha haha ha hahahaha hahahaha *gasp* ha ha haha ha hahaha ha ha haha ha hahaha ha ha haha haha hahaha ha ha ha hahaha ha hahahahaha *gasp* ha ha ha ha haha hahahahahahaha ha *snicker* ha ha ha hahahaha ha haha hahahaha ha ha haha ha hahaha ha ha haha haha hahaha ha ha ha hahaha ha hahahahaha *gasp* ha ha ha ha haha hahahahahahaha ha haha ha hahaha haha ha.

Ha ha.

Wooooooooooooo boy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Pittsburgh Tea Party and the Meaning of Liberty

I attended a protest today in a small green space called Allegheny Landing, near PNC Park. It was reasonably well attended. A lot of parents brought their children, which was nice to see. A cute activist tried to give me a copy of Arron Russo's "From Freedom to Fascism," but I declined as I've already watched most of it. I was wearing my "Students for Ron Paul" shirt. An older gentleman mentioned as we were standing in line to sign a petition that he liked most of what Ron Paul says, except about the war. He left before I got a chance to start a conversation. The funniest moment was probably when a group of women carrying signs which labelled them as "feminist democrats against Obama" yelled "or she" after one speaker's speech used only the masculine pronoun when referring to potential liberty-minded politicians. They were vindicated when one of the next speakers was a woman running against Arlen Specter (BOOOOOOOO) in the upcoming Republican primary elections. Senator Specter is considered especially vulnerable this year, since many center-leaning republicans re-registered Democrat during the Presidential primaries.

The tone was one of a conservatism which knows no party. Pelosi and Obama were mentioned in the same class as Specter and Bush.

The keynote speaker was Alan Keyes. I am not very familiar with Dr. Keyes, but it seems he's a pretty good orator. He spoke with passion, and in a manner that reflected an excellent education. He didn't speak to the lowest common denominator, and for that, he has my admiration.


Dr. Keyes dredged up an issue that's always bothered me. You see, Alan Keyes really likes Jesus. Like, a lot. It seems to me, however, that the link between religion and freedom is...I was going to say "tenuous," but I'm going to go with "totally fictional." Many people believe that we get our rights from God, and that's fine. I happen to think they are a consequence of reason, but if you're a creationist, that very reason comes from God, so we basically agree. I've always thought a nice compromise is to say that our rights come from nature.

I don't really want to get into terminology, though, when there's a deeper issue at stake. The freedom movement quite simply cannot succeed without some serious coalition building. We need to join together big- and small-"L" libertarians, Constitution Party membership, John Birchers, ACLU members, advocates of drug decriminalization, NRA members, and Ron Paul Republicans, to name a few.

It irks me, then, when people undermine this process by doing things like bringing up highly divisive issues--usually it's abortion, but there are others--in a context where that's likely to alienate a large portion of the audience. And it really rubs me the wrong way when people decide to dismiss entirely all of the potential allies to the cause who happen to be agnostic or atheist.

Dr. Keyes spoke of an assault on Christianity. Quite frankly, the claim that Christianity is in some kind of peril strikes me as laughable. In this country, the electorate has proven willing to elect to high office a person with just about any kind of minority status (although I want to be clear that I reject "identity politics" absolutely), but is still clearly terrified of letting an atheist anywhere near the halls of power. An atheist or agnostic running for office is expected to be apologetic about their spiritual beliefs, and offer guarantees that he or she will respect the rights of the nation's religious. Openly religious politicians usually only issue platitudes about including everyone, and very often say that our society has become too secular, as if the relative religiosity of society was somehow the business of a politician. Which brings me to the point which I alluded to earlier: religion has very little to do with freedom.

Some of the most repressive governments on the face of the earth are theocracies. Christian politicians in America seem to completely miss this, somehow. When other countries have theocracy, we say it's "Islamo-fascism." When Alan Keyes and others like him call for a return to Christan values in government, it's "returning to the values that made America great." Neither the prevalence of Christianity in particular nor that of religion in general is a prerequisite for the existence of a free state.

Dr. Keyes made some veiled attacks on homosexuality. Liberty is meaningless without limits, he said. It is not, as some would have it, the license to satisfy whatever urges we may have. Liberty doesn't mean we tear down the fundamental institutions of our civilization. Cough, traditional marriage, cough. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The essence of liberty is the ability to pursue activities which society may deem distasteful, so long as those activities do not interfere with the rights of others. The essence of liberty is the freedom to fail, as well as to succeed. Indeed, you may fail by someone else's standards and succeed by your own.

Liberty is, as Dr. Keyes said, defined by boundaries. But those boundaries are human rights--wherever it is that human rights come from--not the moral approval of some religious organization or the whims of some government bureaucrat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

HR 1207: In Which The Library of Congress is Unreliable

So apparently there were some clerical errors which led to three Democrats being listed as cosponsors of HR 1207 when they were in fact never cosponsors. Bummer.

Scratch Keith Ellison, Henry Waxman, and Louise Slaughter from your list of people who pass the awesome test. The current cosponsor count remains 55, however, since 3 more congressmen have signed on.

Rep Fallin, Mary [R, OK-5] - 4/2/2009
Rep Smith, Lamar [R, TX-21] - 4/2/2009
Rep Westmoreland, Lynn A. [R, GA-3] - 4/2/2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

HR 1207: 9 More Cosponsors, Jefferson's Quran

More cosponsors! How exciting.

Rep Paulsen, Erik [R, MN-3] - 3/30/2009
Rep Gingrey, Phil [R, GA-11] - 3/30/2009
Rep Terry, Lee [R, NE-2] - 3/30/2009
Rep Carter, John R. [R, TX-31] - 3/31/2009
Rep Capito, Shelley Moore [ R, WV-2] - 4/1/2009
Rep Wittman, Robert J. [R, VA-1] - 4/1/2009
Rep Slaughter, Louise McIntosh [D, NY-28] - 4/1/2009
Rep Ellison, Keith [Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, MN-5] - 4/1/2009
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [D, CA-30] - 4/1/2009

This brings the total to 55. The biggest obstacle at this point will be getting enough support from Democrats that Barney Frank (head of the committee to which the bill was referred) and Nancy Pelosi allow it to come to the House floor for consideration. Rep. Paul has said on several occasions that should the bill come to a vote, it would almost surely pass. The challenge is getting it past the gatekeepers.

Meanwhile, Vermont's Bernie Sanders has introduced an identical bill in the Senate. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. The Senate version of the bill was introduced on March 16th and referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

A word about Keith Ellison: this guy is pretty awesome. He's the first Muslim to be elected to Congress. I don't tend to go for identity politics, but whatever. He's pretty awesome regardless of his religion. He co-sponsored Kucinich's bill to impeach Dick Cheney, for example. The really cool thing, though? For his "swearing-in reenactment photo op" (actual swearing in is done en masse, without any books around) he used a copy of the Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson. Apparently Jefferson picked up a copy while he was studying for the bar.

A word about former member of the House Virgil Goode: all I have to say about this bigot is "Goode riddance." Goode issued a statement on the matter which read in part "If American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Quran." Because only Christians are allowed to be "REAL 'MERICANS." Clearly. There are a lot of good reasons to consider closing our borders. Hateful jingoism shouldn't be considered among them. The stinger? Ellison is a natural born citizen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Global Currency, or, an Economically Pointless Power Grab

There are rumblings in the distance about a new international currency system.

The Wall Street Journal: China Takes Aim at Dollar

Apparently, the IMF is pretty much okay with this idea.

Quite frankly, the idea is entirely pointless from an economics perspective.

China is essentially suggesting replacing a fiat currency controlled by a central bank with a fiat currency controlled by an even-more-central bank. For obvious reasons, this isn't going to help anything. It's as if, say, there was some really unsafe type of car made by Toyota and then Audi came along and said, "Hey, users of the hypothetical unsafe Toyota car, I have a better plan! Let's make the same car, except we'll make it in a special international factory. Also, we'll import the raw materials from all over the world instead of just from Japan!" In my fictional world, Japanese car makers use only Japanese raw materials. This isn't the point.

If I just keep my economics hat on, there is no point. The whole thing is a giant "who cares?" So let me put on my politician hat.

This is more or less an attack one of the bases of the US's international power. The US is looking economically vulnerable for the first time in a while, so this shouldn't be too surprising. Also, China has realized that being tied closely with the US economically might not be the best idea in the long term. China has a vast amount of dollars and US bonds, and as such a vested interest in preserving the value of the dollar. An attack on the dollar as a reserve currency is a signal that China is afraid of being dragged down with the US should the dollar collapse. Essentially they're hoping to cut their losses, and increase their influence in world affairs.

Now let me put on my liberty hat for a second. It does, in fact, have three corners. In case you were curious.

This is bad news. If we thought we had problems with an opaque central bank totally unresponsive to citizens and beholden to private interests before...ho boy, we're in for a surprise. Why do we even still have an IMF, come to think of it? The organization was created to help maintain constant exchange rates under the Bretton Woods system, which hasn't been around since the early '70s. Hooray for international organizations surviving the death of the systems that required them to operate and just doing whatever they feel like! Most of the world uses floating exchange rates now. Is it unfair for one country to control the worlds single most important reserve currency? Probably. But the thing is, we should be getting rid of the central bank, not adding another layer of bureaucracy on top of it. What is it even going to do? Be the lender of last-er resort? And when this new international fiat currency collapses, should we start a galactic central bank to be the lender of last-er-er resort? It can print magical galactabux backed by the vapor of a comet's tail. All our problems will be over!

Also, don't we already have this? Someone explain to me the difference between SDRs and what China is asking for.

I think I have it figured out. The IMF is the head zombie of the zombie banks. As you know, high-level undead can control lesser undead through psychic dominaton. Zombie banks are just like real zombies: shambling mockeries of their former selves, a pestilence upon the landscape. Except instead of eating brains, zombie banks eat taxpayer money. A zombie bank capable of producing currency would have an endless supply of food and therefore be unstoppable. By creating an international fiat currency, China is hoping to unleash an undead menace that will ravage the world, leaving it a dead, barren wasteland. Stock up on shotgun ammo and bury your canned goods. Zombie Armageddon is here.