Vulgar Politics – The Libertarian Standard Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Vulgar Politics – The Libertarian Standard clean Vulgar Politics – The Libertarian Standard (Vulgar Politics – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Vulgar Politics – The Libertarian Standard TV-G Ted Cruz mad at Obama for not throwing more pot users in cages Sat, 11 Jan 2014 08:30:36 +0000 Senator Ted Cruz (R-Alberta Texas), a “Tea Party” Republican and ostensibly a champion of states’ rights, is unhappy with President Obama’s decision to not round up marijuana users in Washington and Colorado:

“A whole lot of folks now are talking about legalizing pot. The brownies you had this morning, provided by the state of Colorado,” he jokingly said during his keynote speech at Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Policy Orientation.

Oh Ted, what a knee-slapper!

“And you can make arguments on that issue,” Cruz continued. “You can make reasonable arguments on that issue. The president earlier this past year announced the Department of Justice is going to stop prosecuting certain drug crimes. Didn’t change the law.”

The problem, as Cruz sees it, isn’t just limited to Obama’s decision to not interfere with Washington’s and Colorado’s legalization of marijuana. The president is running the government like a “corrupt dictator” and only enforcing the laws that suit him. And perhaps Cruz has a point. But let’s look at a list of Cruz’ complaints:

Cruz is on solid ground when criticizing Obama’s unilateral delay of the ACA employer mandate. He simply doesn’t have the executive authority to make such a decision, as a lawsuit filed in October to block the delay argued. But it all falls apart when Cruz goes after Obama on immigration and drug policy.

For one, discretion in law enforcement is not the same thing as suspending a law. Prosecutors have always had substantial leeway in choosing which cases to pursue and what evidence to present, so Obama’s directives to immigration and Justice officials on relaxing deportation rules and drug offense indictments is not flouting the law but simply changing the enforcement strategy. This is not uncommon.

But more to the point, Cruz is attacking Obama for not strictly enforcing immoral laws. No government has moral authority to use violence against people, especially so when those people have violated no one’s rights. Smoking a plant and crossing imaginary political borders are crimes only because the state has declared them so. It’s blindingly clear that the federal government has no compelling interest in criminalizing drugs nor does it have a constitutional mandate to do so. And arguably it need not have jurisdiction over immigration enforcement — the constitution provides for federal authority over naturalization, or the laws and process by which one becomes a citizen. A states’ rights advocate, as Tea Party Republicans purport to be, might argue that border enforcement is the domain of border states.

Cruz seems to be repudiating both a cornerstone of the new Republican grassroots platform, and arguing for more federal infrastructure to maintain policies any true conservative should oppose. This is the sort of cognitive dissonance, not to mention rank hypocrisy, that keeps Republicans so woefully out of step with much of the nation.

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Unipartisanship is the new bipartisanship Fri, 30 Nov 2012 22:05:58 +0000 Romney bans certain kinds of guns; Obama supports war and Bush-era doctrines; Romney enacts (even more) socialist-fascist health care; Obama has a near opaque administration in spite of the desire to be transparent.

The so-called “left” promotes a policy (say, universal healthcare or the individual mandate or the health care exchanges). The “right” opposes it. The opposition is usually superficial and us used as talking points to obtain votes. The object of power is power, after all. Assuming the policy becomes law, and assuming (as is often the case) it receives widespread support, the right becomes less vociferous about repealing the law. At best they want to reform; usually either nothing happens or the mildest of cosmetic changes are made, if only to appease the fringe party supporters. Today’s progressive, becomes tomorrow’s conservative. Already, for example, the financially devastating Obamacare that was such a hot topic a year ago is starting to go away in the eyes of most–that is, if you don’t have a business facing ever-higher health care costs. Soon the right will stop talking about repealing it or replacing it with something else. Florida governor Rick Scott, who initially opposed setting up the FL healthcare exchange, has changed his tune–how unexpected!

On the other “side” of the political spectrum, the totalitarian and warmongering right wing, whose most recent icon and trend setter is GWB, pushes for war and empire and crackdowns on civil liberties. The left claims to oppose it. When Bush II was in power the progressives, ever irate, regaled us with their smugness (and, as we now know, insincere) opposition to the Bush administration’s policies and tactics. Enter a democratic president. Oh my–what happened!? Suddenly Obama adopts and relishes in continuing core Bush doctrines as well as expanding into new territories of despotism: droning and NDAA come to mind. Today’s warmongering conservative is tomorrow warmongering progressive.

I for one welcome our new unipartisanship overlords.

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Official TLS Live Election Blog 2012 Wed, 07 Nov 2012 00:35:48 +0000 Welcome to our live blog for the 2012 election.  We’ll keep this updated through the evening with results and reactions.

The polls have already closed in some states and are about to close in others, but we’ll make the bold move of calling the election…for the Federal Reserve.  Thanks for joining us!  (Just kidding.)

As I’m in Colorado, I have a special interest in some local races, particularly the vote on Amendment 64, which would legalize the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana for adults 21 and older.  Similar measures exist on the ballots in Washington state and Oregon.  Any one of them passing would be a significant repudiation by voters of the horrific, wasteful, tyrannical war on drugs.

Currently CNN is calling Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky for Mitt Romney, while President Barack Obama appears to have Vermont locked up.  Ohio, Virginia, and North Carolina are too close to call.  Aren’t you excited?  I’m excited, and I haven’t even started drinking yet!  Stay tuned.  (All times MST.)

10:36 pm: At this point it’s pretty much all over but the Republican shouting.  Even if the result in Ohio is reversed, Obama still has enough electoral votes to affirm re-election.  So now we can puzzle at the cognitive dissonance of Colorado voters who approved legalized marijuana but also voted for a president with an abysmal record of harassing medical marijuana providers (including those in Colorado).

Then there’s the drone-bombing, the indefinite detention powers, the secret kill list, Obamacare, the truly terrifying deficit spending…the next four years might look a lot like the last four years.  Which is to say, a lot like the previous eight.

Welcome to George W. Bush’s 4th term.  Good night, and good luck!

10:25 pm: Gary Johnson is now the most successful Libertarian Party candidate ever, with over 920,000 votes.

10:18 pm: I have to give Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper credit: he campaigned against Amendment 64, but is at least keeping his sense of humor about its passage: “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.”

10:03 pm: Same-sex marriage proposal has won by a wide margin in Maryland, and a similar measure is ahead in Washington state.

9:55 pm: Apparently the talking heads on Fox News have lost their collective shit over calling Ohio for Obama.  To be honest, it’s still close enough to think a recount might happen AND Politico is now reporting that Romney is actually leading the popular vote in Ohio.

9:48 pm: I guess I should be grateful that Obama voters in Colorado also seem to think legal marijuana is a good thing.

9:40 pm: Not all good news on the pot front: Oregon’s underfunded initiative is losing.  Montana’s initiative to restrict sales of medical marijuana is passing by a wide margin, and Arkansas’ MMJ proposal is losing.

9:38 pm: @LucyStagIt’s too regulated, the DEA is no doubt readying the jackboots, but holy shit Colorado seems to have just legalized marijuana.

9:31 pm: What kind of role did Gary Johnson play in these races? In Ohio, he’s received nearly 39,000 votes, more than the current margin between Obama and Romney.  Similarly, 38,000 votes separate Obama and Romney in Florida, less than the votes Johnson has received.  (He’s been less of a factor in Wisconsin and Iowa.)

9:28 pm: Time for the sputtering in near-impotent rage to begin: Romney campaign is disputing the Ohio call.

9:24 pm: Marijuana update: Colorado’s Amendment 64 leading 53%-47%, with 39% reporting.

9:22 pm: This is playing out exactly as I predicted: Romney is likely to win the popular vote but lose the election.

9:20 pm: Game over, it appears.  Obama wins Ohio and is re-elected to a second term.  Republicans weep.

9:16 pm: Depending on which site you’re following, Obama is either 14 or 36 electoral votes away from re-election.  CNN has called Wisconsin and Iowa for Obama.  Essentially it all hinges on Ohio or Florida at this point: if Obama gets either state it’s over.

9:12 pm: More proof God doesn’t exist: Joe Arpaio re-elected by a landslide in Maricopa County, Arizona.

9:11 pm: @KerryHowleyIt’s a bad time to be a dog owned by two election bloggers

9:07 pm: North Carolina is given to Romney.  With all of the other nail-biters in progress, one other swing state has been ignored: Iowa, which is currently 55%-44% in favor of Obama.

9:03 pm: Polls close in Washington and California, and they’re promptly called for Obama.  Only really interesting races there are on ballot issues: pot legalization and gay marriage in WA; tax hikes, death penalty abolition, and “three strikes” sentencing reform in CA.

9:00 pm: #NotTheOnion: Boston’s Logan Airport is “overwhelmed” by private jets arriving for Mitt Romney’s party.

8:54 pm: Obama is ahead by 8,000 votes in Wisconsin.  Who the hell called this state already?  This is like Ricky Bobby and Jean Girard sprinting for the finish line.

8:48 pm: Louisiana voters have overwhelmingly approved an amendment to strengthen the state’s gun rights laws.  Perhaps they have long memories of residents being forcibly disarmed in the aftermath of Katrina.

8:45 pm: Will this election set the record for most automatic recounts triggered?  In North Carolina, Romney is leading by 80,000 votes; in Florida, Obama leads by 16,000 votes; in Ohio it’s Obama by 90,000 votes.

8:38 pm: Gary Johnson update: he’s polling at 2.4% in Wyoming, 1.1% in Colorado and Arizona, 2.2% in Montana.  He may well end up over 1% by the end of the vote counts, which would be the best showing ever for the Libertarian Party.

8:33 pm: Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin wins the Senate race?  Still seems too close to call, but if so, she becomes the first openly gay Senator.  And a crucial blow to Republicans hoping to gain ground in the Senate.

8:28 pm: Other pot proposals: medical marijuana winning by a big margin in Massachusetts, but losing in Arkansas.  Apparently, the rest of the state doesn’t like to inhale, either.

8:24 pm: I’m currently relying on Web sites and Twitter for election coverage.  My wife is showing her appreciation for this auspicious event by watching replays of The Voice.

8:21 pm: Cale Crout ‏@BlGBlRD: Romney has now lost 4 of his 6 home states. Still hope in Switzerland and Cayman Islands.

8:18 pm: Twenty minutes after the polls close in Utah, Romney carries the Mormon national homeland #ResultsWhichSurpriseAbsolutelyNoOne

8:13 pm: Man, Twitter is nigh unbearable already following Warren’s Senate race victory.  I can’t imagine what it will be like should Obama pull this thing off.

8:09 pm: Romney comfortably ahead in Missouri, but in the Senate race, Todd Akin is no longer seen as a legitimate contender.  Ahem.

8:04 pm: Obama projected to win New Hampshire.  Interestingly, the Constitution Party candidate, Virgil Goode, is outpolling Gary Johnson there.  Did they split the Free Staters vote?

7:56 pm: Enthusiastic redistributionist Elizabeth Warren wins her Senate race in Massachusetts.

7:51 pm: NBC has called New Mexico for Obama.  Johnson received 3% in his home state.

7:42 pm: Colorado update: Obama ahead 50.7% to 47.6%.  Amendment 64 now leading 53.5% to 46.5%.  Thank you, stoners!

7:35 pm: Fellow TLSer Steve Ciciotti, on the close race in Florida: “You know *whoever* loses in such a situation, will believe it was because of a Johnson being shoved up their ass.”

7:30 pm: Pennsylvania appears to be a win for Obama.  He is still trailing overall in electoral votes, but all of the swing states are still undecided.

7:25 pm: Bill O’Reilly stops just short of claiming that the country has gone to hell because white people are no longer in charge.

7:23 pm: Michigan is a win for Obama.  He’s also now leading in Colorado.

7:17 pm: Very early returns in Colorado has Romney ahead, with Johnson at 1.1%.  Amendment 64 trailing.

7:12 pm: Another state where Johnson is having an impact is North Carolina.  Romney with a slight lead, 50.2% to 49%, with Johnson polling at 0.8%.

7:10 pm: Great swaths of red throughout the South and Midwest, but that is (mostly) expected.  The battleground states still very tight.

7:02 pm: Obama barely leading in Florida: 49.7% to 49.5%.  Gary Johnson holding steady at .5%.

7:00 pm: Polls have closed here in Colorado.  Now comes the wait for the results on Amendment 64.

6:58 pm:  @michaelpetrou I think Mitt Romney would win my “Who would you rather have a beer with?” test because I’d get to drink his.

6:55 pm: Ah, Internet.  Some Web sites (like CNN’s) seem to be struggling to display election results due to heavy traffic.

6:51 pm: Another Ron Paul Republican, Thomas Massie, has won a House seat in Kentucky (h/t Jesse Walker).

6:48 pm: Did Oklahomans even make it to the bars after the polls closed before their state was called for Romney?

6:39 pm: One example of Gary Johnson possibly affecting the outcome: he’s got 0.5% of the vote in Florida.  Obama ahead 51%-48%.

6:31 pm: None of the swing states can be called yet: Florida, Ohio, and Virginia all still very tight.  In Connecticut, the Democrats appear to have regained Joe Lieberman’s Senate seat.

6:29 pm: Romney’s home state, Massachusetts, has been called for Obama.

6:25 pm: The Florida count is officially interesting.  Near dead heat between Romney and Obama with half the vote counted.  Any sign of pregnant chads?

6:13 pm: Unsurprisingly, none of the major news outlets seems interested in following all of the Presidential vote counts.  Only the “legitimate” heirs to the throne need apply!  Looking for other sources that provide third party counts.  Politico appears to be a good one.

6:05 pm: Another independent appears to have won a Senate seat (Angus King in Maine).  Electoral vote count: Obama 64, Romney 40 (CNN).  But NBC has Romney ahead 82-64.

6:00 pm: NBC has renamed 30 Rockefeller Center “Democracy Plaza” for the election.  Does that mean we can vote on Brian Williams’ performance?

5:54 pm: Early returns in Virginia have Romney well ahead, 59% to 40%.

5:48 pm: I voted for Gary Johnson, and although I am very skeptical that the Libertarian Party candidate will make much of an impact tonight (no LP candidate has polled above 1% nationally since Ed Clark in 1980), I am hoping he makes enough of a difference in swing states to make both major party supporters nervous.  So far he’s pulling 2% in Indiana, although that state has already been called for Romney.

5:40 pm: Follow #electioncocktails on Twitter if you need beverage ideas to get you through the night.  Suggestion courtesy of Radley Balko: “The Ann Coulter: white wine, nicotine, hydrochloric acid.”

5:35 pm: Polls are closed in South Carolina, and it’s already been called for Romney. 

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“We Now Have Our Smallest Government in 45 Years” Wed, 08 Aug 2012 15:51:39 +0000 Federal Net Outlays

That’s the absurd title to a blog post over at The Atlantic today. The writer claims that the U.S. government is now the smallest it’s been since LBJ was president. The article is making the rounds among leftists, who, against all reason and common sense, have managed to convince themselves that the US government is getting smaller.

The claim is based on a calculation of total government employment as a ratio of the total US population. Right off the bat we know that comparing these ratios from 1968 and today will be off. This is largely because in 1968, most people whose salaries were funded by taxpayer sweat actually worked for the government. There weren’t mercenaries shooting up foreigners back then, or an enormous government-funded non-profit sector or legions of “consultants” who are really just government employees making extra-large salaries.

On top of this is the fact that government size is not only measured in the number of government employees. Better measures would include the US prison population, or taxes paid, or pages of government regulations or the number of federal laws, or the number of people groped by TSA pedophiles. Needless to say, all of these things have exploded in recent decades. On top of that, you have the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on salt, fat, guns, raw milk, and a number of other things.

Yep, government sure is a shadow of its former self!

But, to make it simple, let’s just look at government spending. In 1968, the US government spent $883 dollars for every one of the 201 million Americans, or annual outlays totaling 178.1 billion. In 2011, the US government spent a whopping $11,493 for every one of the 313 million Americans for total outlays of 3.6 trillion. That’s an increase of 1,923 percent since 1968. The CPI over this period increased 545 percent, so we’re talking an enormous increase, even when adjusted for the official inflation rate.

We can also look at this another way. The amount of money taken from each American has increased almost 2,000 percent since 1968, which is more than triple the inflation rate.

Federal Net Outlays

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The Animus of the Nanny State Fri, 13 Jul 2012 16:49:44 +0000 We don't want your money, let the motherfucker burn!

“Politicians treat firefighters like pawns. When my house burned down, I learned how valuable public servants can be.”

That’s the tagline of an article on titled “Thank God for Taxes.” Naturally the author cannot imagine how firefighting could be better as a private business. It never occurs to him. He just praises public “servants” and calls for more taxes.1

If Andrew Leonard could imagine private firefighting at all, he would probably imagine something like the rival firefighters in 19th century America that fought violently over who would get to put out the fire while the house burned down. But of course, this was caused not by a free market in firefighting but rather a combination of public property (fire hydrants, roads), lack of private property rights enforcement (sabotaged fire engines), and political machines (Tammany Hall) — politicians like Boss Tweed using neighborhood firefighting departments for their own political gain.

We don't want your money, let the motherfucker burn!

We don’t want your money,
let the motherfucker burn!

Or he might imagine private firefighters refusing to put out a fire until the owner paid some astronomical fee, which the owner couldn’t afford on the spot. In fact, he might vaguely recall an incident in Tennessee last December2 in which firefighters let a home burn down because the owner failed to pay a mere $75. “This is what would happen in a free market!” he’d cry, not recalling, or never bothering to learn, the details of the incident. But this was a government firefighting department rigidly adhering to bureaucratic internal rules,3 as government agencies are wont to do, not a private business responding to profit incentives.

I fail to see why the owner couldn’t contractually subscribe to affordable firefighting service with a local company in advance, or why something else, like a payment plan, couldn’t be worked out on the spot.4 Or insurance companies might pay the firefighters, because that would be cheaper than paying out the insurance claim on the house or on surrounding houses that could burn down with it.

But Andrew Leonard is probably doubtful of a free market in fighting fires because he’s an irresponsible risk-taker5 engaging in psychological projection on a massive scale:

Note to mandate-haters: If my mortgage lender hadn’t required that I have home insurance, would I have plunked down that check to Farmers every one of the last 16 years?

This is how leftists really think — that no one would make rational, responsible choices unless forced to do so by someone else.6

Why? Because they recognize in themselves an inclination to make irrational, irresponsible, risky choices7 and project these bad character traits onto everyone else.

This is the animus of much of the nanny state.


Prior to the fire, I had no conception of how big an economic event a disaster like mine is for other people. The hubbub of job-creating activity related to my home in the past few weeks has injected instant cash into the local economy — from Santa Rosa down to Watsonville. I am my own Keynesian-stimulus. Want to get the U.S. economy really moving? Burn everything down.

I hope he’s joking, because this is one hell of an example of the broken window fallacy. How stupid and ideologically blinded can you be to believe such nonsense?

  1. “That firefighter deserves a raise. Put it on my next ballot, please.” No. Volunteer your own money, please. Tip him yourself. 

  2. Or this one, dating back, it seems, to 2010. 

  3. Oops, you forgot to pay the required $75 fee! Sorry, no firefighting for you! No, you can’t pay us now. 

  4. Another Tennessee county near the one where the aforementioned incidents occurred allows owners to pay for firefighting services on the spot: $2,200 for the first two hours firefighters are on the scene and $1,100 for each additional hour. Ouch. 

  5. He didn’t properly maintain his Weber grill, or put out the fire, and initially blames the manufacturer before mentioning his own carelessness. Did he have even one working smoke detector in the house? He doesn’t mention it. In fact, he was woken up not by an alarm but by the sound of the fire itself. 

  6. By the by, why assume mortgage lenders wouldn’t require home insurance in a free market? How is this a government mandate? 

  7. That’s what all the “addiction” language is about too, I might add: “addicted to high taxes” as the author puts in this article; or addicted to fossil fuels as environmentalists like put it. We’re not in control of or responsible for our own actions, so we need the state to make us do the right thing — to free us from our addictions (well, when the addictions are bad anyway; addiction to high taxes is apparently good). 

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Obama: more for thee, but not for me Tue, 17 Apr 2012 06:42:54 +0000 President Obama pays a lower tax rate than his secretary – the very sort of disparity which, according to his own staff, illustrates why the so-called “Buffett Rule” needs to be implemented so that the wealthy pay more.

But Obama won’t consider the idea of simply donating more to the Treasury to address the gap – oh no! “That’s not the way we operate our tax system, okay?” his campaign strategist says. “We don’t run bake sales. It’s not about volunteerism. We all kick in according to the system.”

He’s right. It’s not about “volunteerism.” It’s about violence. Pay your “fair share,” or the government will take it from you by force. They won’t even entertain the novel idea that if people wanted to give the government more money, they could – the Treasury Department will gladly accept their check! But that’s somehow less legitimate than pointing a gun at them and taking whatever the law decrees is “fair.”

And yes, I am reminded of the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the peasant observes “now we see the violence inherent in the system!” If only we had a government which derived its authority from a mandate from the masses…

Bonus reading: Matt Welch on the five new ways the IRS is screwing Americans.  Happy Tax Day!

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‘Hispanic’ vs. ‘White’ Wed, 04 Apr 2012 14:52:18 +0000 As a Hispanic, watching the media’s use of terms like “white” and “Hispanic” and “Latino” in the Zimmerman-Martin case has been an occasion for much eye-rolling. The way the press uses these terms betrays just how completely ignorant most reporters and talking heads are about even the basics of ethnicity and race in this country. Also, it’s a fair bet that the “journalists” at CNN and NBC have never actually seen a Hispanic who wasn’t scrubbing toilets or peeling potatoes back at the reporters’ Chevy Chase estates, so they can be forgiven for being so clueless on this matter. Our media elite might have to leave Martha’s Vineyard to actually meet a Hispanic who didn’t fit their preconceived notions of race and ethnicity.

With the Zimmerman-Martin case, Zimmerman is labeled as simply white, in spite of his claims of Hispanic heritage, because that’s what the media has determined will produce the most fertile ground for “racial” conflict. Had Zimmerman been the victim of a shooting, and the shooter were also white, then Zimmerman would of course then be labeled Latino, and the case would then be a national story on the oppression of Latino persons of color by whites in this country. In fact, Zimmerman is pretty obviously white or perhaps mestizo. What is not deniable however that he is also Hispanic. I don’t know why this is so hard for the media to grasp, but let’s just make this clear: According to anthropologists, ethnologists, historians, and census takers, “Hispanic” or “Latino” is not a racial designation. It is a term that denotes ethnicity.

Hispanics can be of any race. There are white Hispanics, black Hispanics, and even Asian Hispanics. Examples would be former Mexican president Vicente Fox, Cuban musician Ibrahim Ferrer, and former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, respectively. There are also, of course, mestizo Hispanics, such as Benito Juarez. White non-Hispanics are properly referred to as “non-Hispanic whites” in the technical jargon, and among us Hispanics, we simply refer to such people as “Anglos” for lack of another easy-to-use term. We all know, however, that only the mestizo Hispanics, who look like the stereotypical Latinos in the minds of many Americans, count as fully “Hispanic.” Indeed, my mother who is a dark-skinned Hispanic is often forced to have conversations like this with Anglos and other non-Hispanics:

Stranger: What are you? I mean racially? Mom: Uh, well, my parents came here from Mexico Stranger: Hmmm, you don’t look “Hispanic” Mom: Maybe if I donned a sombrero and put my hair in braids I would look Hispanic enough for you?

And so on.

Left liberals are often the worst about this. Being utterly parochial about race and ethnicity, as so many Anglo leftists are, they fancy themselves the arbiters of who is sufficiently Hispanic and who is not. Such is the case with the talking heads during the Zimmerman-Martin affair. Zimmerman, perhaps because of his German last name, is deemed white without any qualification because, well, that plays better as racial high-drama. And we all know that all Hispanics have Spanish surnames just like Nestor Kirchner, Salma Hayek and Bernardo O’Higgins, the George Washington of Chile.

Vicente Fox, Person of Color

Why should we refer to Zimmerman as a Hispanic? Well, because we know that he and his family claim that he is Hispanic. They know better than we do. A Hispanic is simply a person raised in a culture in which Hispanic cultural elements are a dominant or influential factor in one’s life. Such things include the Spanish language, a feeling of shared heritage and cultural solidarity with other Hispanics, and sometimes but not necessarily, Roman Catholicism. If someone has been raised in or lives in such an environment, such a person is probably Hispanic. It has nothing to do with race, and it has nothing to with the origins of one’s last name.

There is a reason that questionnaires with demographic information ask two questions to determine one’s status as a Hispanic or Latino: What race are you? and “Are you Hispanic or Latino?

NB: I don’t know if Zimmerman is a murderer or not. We have trials to sort those things out.

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Fears of Decentralization Wed, 08 Feb 2012 13:27:21 +0000 Many libertarians, perhaps most notably Thomas E. Woods, support the decentralization of power from the federal government, including the power of nullification. Many people fear and denounce this power, often because they like the immense power of the central state and are supporters of big government. There are, however, some very real concerns by people who desire freedom as their highest political goal. A simple question, which is asked in various forms is “if decentralization leads to more freedom, why did African slavery thrive in a more decentralized America, and only go away (well, sort of) when the central state forced it to go away?” Similar statements could be said of Jim Crow.

Tom Woods briefly addresses a critical point which bears emphasis: a major problem with decentralization is that decentralizing power may have huge negative effects for people who cannot vote.  The very people who are most obsessed with them not having political power are the people who are most empowered by the receding power of the central state. This points to the people that libertarian activists should concentrate on protecting: non-citizens (including both legal and illegal immigrants) and convicted felons in states which strip them of the franchise. As most minorities have the ability to exercise the vote, the greatest evils of the past have no chance of being repeated. And some unprecedented benefits may come about. Without the significant support of the federal government, individual states could not maintain the murderous drug war at the levels at which it is currently prosecuted.  Family and morals-destroying welfare programs would have to be greatly scaled back without the ability to print money. Taxes would have to be levied to pay for these things, forcing citizens to carefully evaluate just how much they wish to impoverish themselves in the attempt to eradicate various victimless crimes.

The benefits don’t end there. Freedom would be catching in this country for several reasons. Our national myths support the value of freedom. The proximity of states and the freedom of movement among them, in the face of massive differences in the amount of liberty inside them, would mean that the most inventive, industrious people would tend to leave less free areas and go to more free ones. This would impoverish the most oppressive states, further pressuring them to liberate. Perhaps the single most important factor which would allow liberty to really catch in the United States is that the US military would not be looking to crush these efforts, as it does in other countries. If liberty is to be permitted by any government, it is likely that it will have to be permitted in the USA, as the American government is among the world’s most fervent supporters of foisting government on people, whether they like it or not, in the name of “stability.”

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Poli Sci 101, My Ass Wed, 07 Dec 2011 18:55:46 +0000 Roger Ebert gives his two cents (for what that’s worth these days; thanks Fed!) on the Occupy Wall Street movement, if you care to subject yourself to the inane political views of a mainstream-leftist movie reviewer. What I found interesting was the comic at the end of his article:

Poli Sci 101

I have a PhD in political science, and I can tell you it doesn’t take passing Poli Sci 101 to realize that electoral politics is no way to bring about radical change.

One would think the left-liberals in this country would understand that better than most. Obama was their great Hope-and-Change candidate, an alleged outsider destined to change the way corrupt Washington works, and look how he turned out: Bush 2.0. But I guess the memories of unthinking, incorrigible statists are short — extremely short. Their great self-delusion: If only we can get the right people into power…

Is Power Stupid or Smart? Thu, 01 Dec 2011 02:55:31 +0000 If you seek power over others, how much of an advantage does raw intelligence gain you?

If you look at the makeup of the U.S. Congress — which now has a 9% percent approval rating — or if you watch the Republican debates, you are not immediately inclined to label either the smart set.  In fact, you have to be a dim bulb to repeatedly say many of the things that seem necessary for electability. On the other hand, a certain amount of cleverness is obviously necessary to outwit the media and your opponents.

Which is it? Two films that explore the relationship between power and brains are “Being There” (1979) and “Limitless” (2011). The films came out thirty years apart but deal with the same issues. “Being There” suggests that being dumb as a chicken is a huge advantage for those who seek political success. “Limitless” suggests that politics is the inevitable trajectory of a person who is far more intelligent than everyone else. Which is more realistic?

I’ll state my own view up front: politics is a gigantic waste of brains. If a person really has a gift for high-level thought, almost any profession would be a greater better to society and probably more self-fulfilling in the long run. Whereas it was probably once true that the political life attracted some of the best and brightest, it no longer seems true at all today.

“Being There” is both hilarious and serious, worth sitting down with at least once every few elections seasons. Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine star in this adaptation of a novel by Jerzy Kosinski about an illiterate and simple-minded man named Chance who happened to be in the right place at the right time. His utterances are few and most concern what he has done his entire life, which has been to tend one garden on one estate and otherwise watch television.

When his benefactor dies, he is turned loose on the world and is taken in by a wealthy and influential industrialist who is close to the U.S. president. His new caretakers mishear his name and call him Chauncey Gardener, and they mistake his stupidity and space-cadet ways for discreetness and quiet dignity.

Wearing the right clothes borrowed from the attic of his old house, and otherwise seeming to hold himself well and convey the right messages, Chauncey inadvertently leads everyone around him to think he is brilliant, well connected, a great lover, a worthy successor to the great men of our time, and, in the end, is even considered for president.

When he does speak, it is about the only thing he knows, which is gardening. People around him imagine that he is speaking in high-level metaphors. This happens in private and even on national television. He rises to such social heights that he is beyond negative judgment. The only person who knows the truth decides not to reveal because to do so would be such a crushing blow to people he loves.

Unrealistic? Not so much. The only reason we tolerate the blather from the political class at all is entirely due to power and position of its members. If you put the same thoughts and ideas in the mouth of your neighbor, you would find him tedious, annoying, and largely deluded.

You can try an experiment using C-SPAN. Watch any random subcommittee hearing sometime and replace the faces you see by imagining the same said by the clerk at the convenience store or the worker laying asphalt in a new subdivision. Only then do you fully realize: the real talent of these clueless people is the ability to fake it for extended periods.

Much of our perception of the relative weight of a person’s words is due to the significance of the person using them. How else can we explain how the chairman of the Federal Reserve gets away with giving several speeches and testimonies per week that consist of nothing but long strings of platitudes, buzzwords, and long-refuted fallacies?

And it is the same with every head of every main government agency. They only get away with this because the media play along, never really asking serious questions that deal with fundamental issues or call upon a serious use of brain power. The unstated rule among those covering Washington is to never challenge the stupidity of big government itself. This pertains in those political debates, in committee hearings, or in any press conference.

“Being There” has been popular for so long among smart film critics precisely because it seems to account for so many political successes. It was once said to apply perfectly to Ronald Reagan. I couldn’t say. All evidence suggests that it explains George W. Further, I’ve watched the presidency of Obama, and the Chauncey effect here is completely undeniable. The frenzy that once surrounded his presidency (but probably not so much anymore) was wildly out of proportion to the reality.

“Being There” is more of a commentary on those around Chauncey than Chauncey himself. He never really wanted all this attention and it was never clear that he even knew what was happening around him. He was a happy man just experiencing life as it came to him.

The trouble was that as soon as he entered society, he bumped into many needy people. An aging industrialist needed an heir, and he fit the bill. His wife needed a younger and similarly heroic new and virile husband. Match. The servants in the household needed a new and distinguished visitor, the media needed a star, the president needed an adviser without baggage, and finally  the establishment needed a new president. Chauncey was there. He never wanted it, never sought it, but he was there.

The tendency to find vessels for our dreams and worship fakes of our own creation is a universal one. It happens in every sector of life. But no sector is more replete with this problem than politics. The entire show is based on fundamental myths.

The candidates talk about their “vision” for America as if one man can remake a country in his own image merely upon being sworn in. It is not possible and that’s fortunate for us. It is a despotic longing. And yet people cling to these visions as if this one person can somehow become a conduit for realizing all their likes and dislikes throughout the whole of society.

In this sense, every candidate is Chauncey Gardener — a complete fake that voters themselves construct as part of a national ritual. It is a ritual rooted in a lie that government is anything but what it is, which is an agency of force that enables us legally to steal from each other. Government is not wise, it is not compassionate, it is not a creator of anything. It is a stupid, clumsy, and malevolent agent of legal compulsion, and nothing more.

“Limitless” — starring Bradley Cooper and Robert Di Niro — turns the plot of “Being There” on its head. A failed and down-and-out novelist is given a drug that allows him dramatically heightened ability to think clearly and thoroughly. His IQ soars to four digits and, suddenly, he can make great use of every bit of data that resides in the recesses of his brain.

He turns his life around, finishes the novel in a few days, and it becomes a bestseller. He turns to stockpicking and becomes rich in a matter of days too. He is then recruited to mastermind the largest corporate merger in history. Eventually he turns to politics, and we are somehow led to believe that this is the culmination of his excursion into the realm of advanced thought. The plot is energized by the scarcity of the pills and his quest to find more.

One merit of this film is its focus on intelligence as the key to amazing life performance. As I thought about it, I realized that very few comic book heroes are known for their distinctive ability to think as the main source of their power. They have physical strength, the ability to fly, the capacity to stretch or freeze, x-ray vision, or whatever, but none are known for amazing intelligence alone. It’s usually the villains who are smart and they are always beaten in the end.

Kudos, then, for this film for recognizing that thinking is far more important in the scheme of things than power and might. This is an unusual message that speaks an important truth, and it is a rare thing to see this featured in a movie.

On the other hand: the film completely stumbles with this idea that someone in this position would naturally gravitate to becoming a senator. Anyone with a high-powered brain would likely steer clear of such a thing. If you could make millions in days of stock picking, outsmart every corporate attorney in the world, save lives through medical research, speak any language after hearing it once, and so on, that person would surely dedicate himself to being part of the flow of real life, not becoming a mime in the mythical world of politics, where they pretend to hold the world together through legislation and regulation while we pretend to believe in their ghastly “visions” for how we should manage our lives.

If everyone in government were like the smart guy in “Limitless” we should seriously fear for our lives. Fortunately for us, government is more like “Being There” in two respects: its power and ways attracts and retains people with neither vision nor distinctive intelligence, and, institutionally, it lacks the means finally to rule a world of seven billion people with their own ideas of how to conduct their lives.

[Prometheus Unbound]

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