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Friday, October 22, 2010

Muslims Attacked Us?

Was it "Muslims" who attacked us on 9/11?

Bill O'Reilly said so, and two of his four hosts walked out on him. Juan Williams expressed that he was anxious when he sees people wearing Muslim garb in an airplane, and was very publicly fired for it.

To understand this issue, I think you need perspective. Saying "Muslims attacked us on 9/11" is like saying "Christians terrorized black people after the Civil War." As a Christian, I would be deeply offended if someone said that the Ku Klux Klan was a "Christian" organization, simply because they waved Bibles and used a cross as a symbol. In my view, they weren't Christian or even extreme Christians. They were a complete perversion, abusing the good name of religion for an evil purpose.

The middle east is seeing much the same thing. The region is going through incredible growing pains right now. I believe the US went through a similar period during the 1860's through the 1960's. Modernization is very difficult and it takes time. There are always those who will violently fight against it.

The United States is a relatively peaceful country, outside of our inner-city ghettos. We don't want the growing pains of the middle east coming over here. However, its absurd for us to expect that it wont, when we have a major military and industrial presence over there. Our two options are to withdraw or fight it.

I think our philosophy must be to withdraw where we can, and fight where we must. Afghanistan is a job that needs to be finished. Iraq is pretty well wrapped up now. Our main approach must be to set a good example. Jealously of our rights and liberty will do more to advance the middle east than anything else. We have seen this happen in Russia before. Similar to the Cold War, our most effective tool will be satellite tv.

As for political correctness and Juan Williams--what Williams said is a view shared by people across the world. Americans were shocked by 9/11 and obviously don't like to be put in any situation resembling 9/11. Liberals are very conscious of the history in America of discrimination. They are afraid that such fears could trigger discrimination and that is legitimate. But this liberal fear should not manifest itself in an outright visceral hatred of views they don't agree with. Juan William's firing was wrong.

There's a big difference between being polite and ignoring facts. The middle east is full of waring factions. Civil wars throughout the middle east are to be expected during this period. And with our involvement in those battles, it is reasonable to be anxious of people who may come to the US from that region. However, we must be very careful to distinguish between perversions of Islam and the billions of peaceful Islamic people throughout the world.

But with the thousands of Americans who die through domestic violence, disease and accidents--I think you have to put the issue in perspective. Only around 2500 people have died in the US due to international terrorism, and about 2100 of those were on 9/11. Compare that to the 40,000 Americans who die yearly due to car accidents. Only a handful of the billions of Muslims in this world practice any kind of violence. An American is far more likely to die in a car accident than anything else.

As for violence, our extraordinary drug-related violence is far more of a threat than people driven by perversions of Islam. Lets focus on our own civil wars first. I'm more worried about getting shot by drug dealers walking downtown Columbus than having my airplane hijacked while I'm flying. Although both are serious problems that must be addressed, lets have some perspective.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Irony Behind the NAACP & Tea Party Racism

The NAACP is considering a resolution condemning "Tea Party Racism." Click here for the story.
They say, ""I think a lot of people are not taking the tea party movement seriously, and we need to take it seriously," said Anita Russell, head of the Kansas City chapter of the NAACP. "We need to realize it's really not about limited government" and "all people of good will to repudiate the racism of the Tea Parties, and to stand in opposition to its drive to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era."

These comments are extraordinarily ironic, considering the Tea Party movement would encourage, not only the U.S. to get back to its constitutional roots, but also for the NAACP to get back its roots as well.

When the NAACP first began, its mission was to help counter Jim Crow laws. (Click here , here, and here for informational stories). Jim Crow laws were a reaction to private businesses that were NOT segregating blacks. When the government acted, through Jim Crow, to mandate such segregation. The NAACP was a group of (what we would now call) libertarians who wanted to protect the right of private business not to discriminate. That's right. The original NAACP was all about property rights.

What a shame that the NAACP so often uses its former credibility as a crutch today, in the interest of pure politics. It is now a liberal/progressive advocacy organization, rather than a sincere civil rights organization (of course, they would not make that distinction). In their view, everything they don't like is racist.

Civil rights does not equal progressivism. In fact, it the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as imperfect as they are, are still the greatest civil rights documents of all time. As Martin Luther King said, it was not that the U.S. lacked the right values, but rather that it failed to live up to the "true meaning of its creed."

For them, leftist policies are their goal. Race-baiting is their weapon. I understand why black people moved to Democrats in the 1960's, after almost a century of being Republican. Republicans dropped the ball in the 1960's pretty badly. But arbitrarily labeling someone a racist, especially from the pulpit of a traditionally genuine organization like the NAACP is the height of irresponsibility.

However, associating one's race with a particular collectivist ideology is not the answer. Becoming a tool of the Democratic party cheapens the Civil Rights movement. And saying that a legitimate social movement isn't really what it says it is, is just political opportunism.

All these baseless and ridiculous allegations do is further polarize people. If somebody is making a legitimate argument, and you say "well, you're really just a big racist," then you lose the argument. Drawing on a prejudice that only exists on the far left does little to convince everybody else, and further enrages and encourages the Tea Party to makes its point more forcefully, drawing off the logical weakness of the opposition, hence the sense of inevitable success.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Stimulus" in Pelosi's Dictionary

This is the beginning of a series of blogs I will do about definitions of terms within the Democratic Party. For starters, I'll discuss the word "stimulus."

At about the 2:40 mark in this video, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dives into an argument that unemployment benefits are economic stimulus. For people who are not lost in the fog of the far left, these statements have become somewhat of a joke recently.

This comes as no surprise though, coming from someone who argued that contraception is an economic stimulus. It seems everything Pelosi likes is economic stimulus!

What Pelosi does here, is the same thing Democrats have been doing for a while, namely, testing the waters to see how much they can get away with. The effort here is to base the U.S. economy in imaginary economic principles. So here, I discuss some real economics.

In the real world, a strong economy is built on every individual's productive capacity, i.e. our ability to add value to society. "Value," in this context, is measured by people's willingness to trade money for the activity. This can be through exchanging money for goods, such as making boards of wood into cabinets, or services, such as making corporate management boards into more efficient managers. Like anything else, sometimes value is added by investment; but sometimes value is added by divestment. In other words, my law firm may add value by adding another lawyer...or possibly by firing a few.

Unemployment benefits merely move money from point A to B, with substantial overhead (i.e. a kickback to public sector labor). There are benefits and detriments, and for honest progressives, the argument is that the detriments are worth it...not that detriments are actually benefits! The benefits are that you minimize the costs of switching to more productive work. The detriment, is that people who are already productive, have to give up some of their fruits to accomplish this.

But more generally with unemployment, the incentives are exactly the opposite of perfect (where working is rewarded, and not working is detrimental). First, unemployment takes the fruits out of the hands of people who produce value. It then distributes that value to those who are not producing, with a large chunk going to bureaucratic overhead.

Bureaucratic overhead is little more than a drain on society, and should be reduced as much as possible. As for those who are not producing (i.e. the unemployed) we should be benevolent, but careful and prudent. The goal is to ease their transition into productive roles--as opposed to helping people maintain counter-productive roles. This is not meant as an insult, but common-sense.

There is an economic principle called diminishing returns. Too much help is counter-productive. If someone is drowning and 20 people swim to save that person, not only to you fail in finding a solution, you also create a bigger problem.

Hence, the Democratic Party. If someone is unemployed "by no fault of their own," then we all benefit if something is done to keep them from drowning, because of the moral issue, and also as they come ashore they will produce for us all.

Democrats like to feed off emotions. We all hate that feeling we get when someone needs help, and we cannot do anything. Democrats virtual party slogan is "we cannot just sit by and do nothing; something is better than nothing." It may feel good, but not only is this simple statement patently absurd, but it is also dangerous, as illustrated above. Often, less is more.

Welfare benefits can never strike this balance perfectly. Although its often justified, the accusations of greed that Pelosi so gratuitously doles upon corporate America, should sometimes be reserved for scammers and bums who inevitably will take advantage of a welfare system. Most of us know somebody who will work hard just to get welfare hard in fact, that they would make great small business people if they would redirect their efforts in that direction.

It is no insult to say that people respond to the incentives created for them. And it is no surprise to anyone, that all politicians use welfare as political badminton, as a result of their own political incentives. Democrats would have you believe that they are compassionate, and Republicans are cruel and heartless. For Pelosi, it is a mere distractions that her characterizations ignore what Republicans have done for unemployment, and the specific reasons why Senators like Sen. Bunning obstructed specific unemployment legislation. But beyond that, what's more compassionate: spending recklessly in the name of compassion, or disciplining compassion so that it is not wasted?

The unemployment system should focus on minimizing transition costs for legitimately honest working people; while minimizing overhead and weeding out the bums and scammers. Undisciplined strokes of compassion with others people's money, are neither virtuous, nor admirable acts.

We have a right to earn an honest living, through voluntary exchanges--not a right to other people's money, by force of government. The former is a God-given right. The latter is a luxury.

If Pelosi is so compassionate, why doesn't she forego her disproportionately lavish travel expenses, such as her private government jet and her office rental in San Fransisco (the rent of which recently shot from $6,000 a month to $18,000 a month). I imagine some unemployed people could use that money.

These are merely the academic responses to Pelosi's absurdity. Absurdity that is, in my view, unbecoming a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The real motive for Democrats is to take credit for sending checks to as many people as possible, in an effort to gain political favor.

Newt Gingrich has proposed conditioning unemployment benefits on enrollment and good standing at either school, or some volunteer work at an organization, such as a church or non-profit. I wonder how heartless Democrats would find such a proposal?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meet the Democrat's New Constituency: The Unemployed

Lately, I have seen the Democrats crying foul constantly, because Republicans are adverse to voting for extensions for federal unemployment benefits.

It seems the unemployed have become the Democrat's new constituency. They now see it as their job to take money from income earners and redistribute it to those who are not working--making no distinction between those justifiably unemployed and not, following no rules (not even their own), and accepting no boundaries.

The first major example was Sen. Jim Bunning (R. Ky) who blocked an extension months ago. He was attacked relentlessly by Democrats, despite offering a perfectly legitimate explanation, (which mainly was that his obstruction didn't really change anything one way or the other and that the manner of extension violated the Democrat's own "paygo" rule). Recently, the attacks continue.

There are plenty of unemployed people who are truly working hard to get back on their feet and find new jobs, and I have no problem with some redistribution to help them, because helping them helps everybody. However, the research shows clearly, that unemployment welfare prolongs unemployment. Therefore, policy makers may have to actually think a little bit before acting viscerally and blindly to always extend unemployment benefits.

However, are we even surprised? Since the Democrats treat the unemployed as their constituency, they have an incentive to keep people unemployed as much, and as long as possible. In fact, this hearkens back to a long argued point--that Democrats use welfare benefits to keep people needy, purposefully, while they hold themselves out as the champions of the needy. Recently, Michael Barone laid out a strong article, showing the British history of why only those with property were originally given the right to vote--mainly because they knew that those without property would vote to take property from those who had it. Barone's argument was that the US never had such a problem because most people, even the poor, owned property. So therefore, US citizens have always been less likely to vote to redistribute property.

We see this problem persist in unemployment benefits. The Democrats encourage high burdens on business, whether that be through straight taxation or high regulatory compliance costs. This drives up unemployment because it makes jobs more expensive, and the expense of jobs more unpredictable. When something is more expensive, there is less of it. This is why the US had high unemployment throughout the FDR presidency, and why unemployment remains high today.

Once they drive up unemployment, they then hold themselves out as the saviors of the unemployed. They wag their fingers at Republicans for objecting to the whole cycle.

But even Republicans relent on this issue far more than they get credit for. For example, in the recent unemployment extension battle, Republicans proposed a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits with TARP funds, but Democrats would not vote for it.

This is part of a larger pattern for Democrats. They use poll-tested-rhetoric that we all can be comfortable with, for example "helping the needy," or "taxing only the rich." However, "the needy" seem to become virtually anybody, and so do the rich. For example, if you make over $250,000 and you lost your home through mortgage foreclosure by taking a loan you couldn't afford. In this case, given your income, the Democrats have designated you as "the rich," upon which, you are a distributor of wealth, in their redistribution of wealth schemes. At the same time, you are "needy" because you "lost your home through no fault of your own," and in this case, you are a distributee.

And the examples abound. It seems the definition of who is rich and needy grows and grows.

I would propose that we be more disciplined in defining our terms. Just because something bad happened to you, does not make you needy. Some people are unemployed and temporarily need some help, but some others are just taking advantage of the system. Democrats have been feeding off of American generosity for a long time, and the people are starting to see that its being taken advantage of for their party's greed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Tea Party Fizzles?

The Washington Post ran a story today, speaking about how the Tea Party movement is allegedly fizzling, because it cannot coalesce around a central leader, and the candidates it has won with in these primaries, are seen as too extreme. It specifically refers to Sharron Angle and Rand Paul.

Wow. What a joke. The Tea Party movement wins primaries across the country, one after the other and the two candidates mentioned are ahead!! Angle is leading by 11 points and Paul is ahead by around 25 points. Not to mention the other champions we have out there, like Marco Rubio. Sarah Palin just endorsed several winning candidates across the country.

And you tell me its fizzling? You gotta be kidding.

Granted, it is yet to be seen how we perform in the general election. The Democrat's approach is clear--continue demonizing the Tea Party movement. Call them racist. Call them nuts. Try to make it look like its the 1960's and they are a bunch a segregationist.

This approach will not work. First of all, the Democrat's message in this regard, is wrong, both morally and as a matter of fact. Most people still support the movement, and that's why the more you mischaracterize it and the more you mock it...the stronger it gets. They're not just putting the Tea Party on the defensive--they're putting the voters themselves on the defensive.

Good luck with that Democrats!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Craziness of the Constitution

Harry Reid has set about a campaign based on framing his opponent, Sharron Angle, as being outside the main stream. We're seeing the same tact with Rand Paul and, in fact, the whole Tea Party movement. It would seem there are a lot of "crazy" people out there! One thing these leftist have to realize is that when they make fun of certain views that are shared by a lot of people, they create an enormous problem for themselves. The more they mock and mischaracterize the Tea Party, the more powerful it becomes.

But alas, this has become a typical strategy of progressives, although decreasingly effective. So lets address it.

Many people want you to think that you are crazy if you are principled. They want you to think that pragmatism and the realities of politics demand compromise. This is bunk. The best politicians are the ones who, when a bill is immoral or wasteful, vote "No" even if everybody else votes "yes." Sharon Angle is this kind of politician.

There is a concerted effort to paint anyone who believes in Constitutional government as impractical, and even crazy.

The Constitution limits the power of the government. When politicians get into positions of power, they often want more power--especially progressives. Therefore, they see the Constitution as an obstacle to what they want. So they'll say that the Constitution makes us less safe, or perpetuates racism, or prevents helping the poor. And for people who champion the Constitution, the effort is often to marginalize them, and characterize them as people who are an obstacle to progress.

However, the Constitution creates a framework, by which progress happens by consensus building, without abandoning certain principles. It sets up a free society, with such principles as checks and balances and division of power, and individual and minority rights. Progress can and must occur, but it must occur within that framework. Otherwise, the consolidation of power undermines morality, social stability and sustainability.

History is overwhelmingly clear about this point: that it is the consolidation of power that undermines progress, makes us less safe, perpetuates racism, and prevents us from helping the poor. Constitutionalists are often for helping the truly needy, and vigorous government activity in keeping us safe and enforcing individual and minority rights. But there is a concept called "diminishing returns." When politicians are over-empowered, for whatever excuse, the scope of that which includes progress grows to extraordinary levels, requiring enormous funds. Benevolence soon becomes monopoly, cronyism, favoritism and corruption. Hence, we get a government with a $13 trillion deficit, over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, where every taxpayer owes $117,000 as their share of the national debt alone, and owes an enormous tax burden on top of that.

The progressive movement of the 20th century went a long way to addressing many of the deficiencies in our society. This is why I recently wrote that progressives are intellectually trapped in the 1960's. However, what is really out of the main stream is when somebody wants to turn that movement into government run healthcare, Cap and Trade, 13 trillion in debt, and undermine property and economic rights.

Most people in America don't want any one person to have too much power, whether that be private or public actors. The Constitution is not perfect, but it helps set up such a system. Many of us are fighting for this cause. Trying to argue that being anti-status-quo and fighting for Constitutional government, equals "out of the main stream" is wrong. Also, personal character attacks are often wrong as well.

I'll admit that every politicians usually has some explaining to do when they first get introduced to the pubic, and Angle is no exception. In fact, her stubborn refusal to cooperate with her colleagues in Nevada, may even require some extra explaining. I personally love this about her, but I realize the public wants an explanation.

But Harry Reid is about to lose this election, because he and his crew in Washington D.C. are the ones who are really out of the main stream.

As a sidenote, lets address the politics of the moment. The Huffington Post and some of the specific arguments put out there by the left are already circulating. These leftist organizations and Harry Reid's campaign must be viewed for what they are: the best possible argument they can make against Angle, and for Reid. American politics is based on an adversarial process. Its just like a court of law: you try to characterize your opponent and control the perceptions of the jury. But just like any court, you have to listen to both sides before jumping to conclusions. You must also understand that neither side is a balanced view of the issue--rather, it is the strongest argument for either side, often not made fairly at all. There are some particular arguments floating around, and all anyone can ask is to hold judgment till the other side has its chance. The same goes for the arguments against Harry Reid.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

College Football Is All About Money...And It Should Be!

The person in this video complains that college football is all about money, with regards to the recent realignment activity. He thinks the college presidents are greedy and that it is hurting someone...although he doesn't really mention specifically who it hurts. This is typical someone who doesn't understand economics.

Here, we see a classic fallacy: that doing things "for the money" is necessarily a bad thing. Most of the good advancements and innovations that occur in society are done for the money. We often think of "money" as being this very shallow thing, and in a lot of ways it can be. However, money also represents value. It represents the value we recieve for the value we give. So, although money itself can be quite shallow, what it represents can be quite deep. One must always remeber, even that depth is not worth certain prices. But one could just as easily say, the football conferences are "doing it for the value" of it. An institution does not get more money by stealing it or simply printing it (except the U.S. federal government).

Institutions make money by exchanging something for it. In the case of college football, they exchange the product of football and all the products associated with it. People give money for it, because they want the product. In order to get more money, the schools have to offer more in exchange. The realignment activity is about each school putting themselves in a better position to offer more value, and to get more value. Although the direct motive, of say Texas moving to the Pac 10 Conference, is to make more money, the long term result is that the fans get a better product, and the school gets more exposure and opportunities. Its a win-win situation for everybody and that is why there is more money in it. Money merely represents the value added.

Doing things to make money is good when one gets money by offering a product that people need or want, and voluntarily exchanging it for money. The unintended results are beneficial for everyone. This is how virtually every advancement in society is made, including medicine, services and goods for the poor, and engineering. And this is how college sports are advancing currently.

This isn't necessarily "greed" until the institution is willing to hurt others in the process. When someone is willing to step over other people to make more money, then you have a problem. However, that problem is to be taken for granted in society. It always has existed, and always will. The question is to what rules will govern this behavior.

There is some greedy activity going on with the college football realignment, and this subject isn't getting much attention. The big conferences want to solidify their status, and not be challenged anymore by the small guys like the Boise States and Utahs of the world. They lost a lot of money to these small programs in recent years and have been embarrassed by them a few times. My critique is that this conference realignment isn't fair to the smaller conferences like the Mountain West and WAC, which have worked hard to grow.

When you make money within a fair playing field, there is no complaint. But when you make money in an unfair, monopolistic system, while elimminating competition, this is a problem. This is how self-interest is different from selfishness (i.e. greed). This is not only problem in college football, but in many aspects of society.

You'll notice the parts of college football that involve competition (i.e. the competition between the BCS conferences) tends to be extraordinary and tends to change for the better constantly. All the while, this element retains its traditions and history. However, the parts that destroy competition (i.e. the lack of competition between the BCS conferences and the non-BCS conferences) tends to be unfair and of low quality.

The big college football conferences have always competed on unfair terms. The fact that they have been getting beat occasionally anyway has been extremely fun to watch. But they are now realigning to eliminate that problem. Again, we see an example of what I stated: the competition between the big schools improves and the competition involving the bigs/smalls gets worse.

The fact that these colleges are pursuing greater profits is wonderful thing, because they will do so by providing a better product. However, the rules do need some tweaking, as to keep the schools in smaller conferences from being unfairly competed against.