Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"Protecting the Homeland"

It's great that we have the government to protect us and our freedom. In order to fulfill that duty, it has recently acted to tackle 3 of my worst fears - fears shared by millions of Americans. The government's agents scored victories for freedom by taking the following actions on our behalf:

1) A small bootleg radio station was sacked by the feds last Wednesday. Apparently the government hadn't granted them a freedom license to broadcast.

2) An indebted former Stanford Law student had $61,000 seized by the feds without charges on suspicion of prostitution. She (kinda sorta) allegedly worked as a call girl to pay off her debts.

3) A pregnant woman was shoved to her knees and arrested by the Metro Police in D.C. after having talked too loudly on her cell phone.

The government agents involved in these cases are obviously heroes. They should be saluted for protecting our freedom from the threat posed by small, anti-state radio stations; for protecting our freedom from someone else accepting payment for sex; and most of all, for protecting our freedom from hearing pregnant women yell at people on their cell phones. All of these innocent (oops didn't mean that!) people deserved what they got - a nice drubbing from the state's agents who protect our freedom. We should be thankful for their service. But for the heroic feats of these agents this would not be a free country.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Bad News for the International Social Engineers

After internal conflicts ravaged the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, the UN and NATO intervened decided to turn Bosnia and Kosovo into protectorates devoid of sovereignty. The international organizations then declared their plans to turn both into multi-ethnic liberal democracies. Apparently, those who declared such goals must have forgotten that the ethnic groups in these areas have deep-seated hatred and/or mistrust for the other group(s) (as if the wars between the groups weren't enough evidence of this). Such an environment couldn't breed a stable dictatorship, let alone a democracy.

This fact is being borne out today, where all three ethnic groups in Bosnia are about to elect nationalist candidates in upcoming elections, showing no trust for candidates of other ethnicities, and in Kosovo, Serbs are planning to boycott the election due to the lack of security provided by the region's NATO-appointed rulers - the Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" who hates them.

If these examples, along with the ongoing "catastrophic success" in Iraq, aren't proof of the futility of international social engineering, then I don't know what is.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

What would an idiot do?

Recently, Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Presidential candidate John F. Kerry, told us that we must be idiots if we don't support her husband's health plan. The plan, in short, offers a variety of government subsidies to offset healthcare costs for workers and employers. The program seeks to help those 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, and thus, little or no access to health care. This is definitely a problem that needs to be addressed. However, in light of Mrs. Kerry's remarks, after a quick look at the history of government subsidies and programs for health care one might wonder what kind of idiot would support Kerry's plan.

Major government involvement in health care began with our socialist Medicare and Medicaid programs set up to "help the vulnerable". These initiatives, which begun during LBJ's failed "Great Society" subsidized health coverage for the elderly and poor respectively. As with any other situation in which specific groups are given services without seeing the direct cost of what they are consuming, prices went up for people who were not in the targeted groups. This concept in economic terms, is called a shortage - a simple concept that Congress routinely ignores.

The poor and elderly used and overused (wasted) their subsidized medical care, leaving less medical care for people who were neither poor nor elderly. The lack of supply due to overusage combined with an increase in demand due to subsidization, drove up healthcare prices for anyone who wasn't eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Thus, thanks to the government, many people were punished by having to pay for Medicare and Medicaid both through taxes and with higher health care costs - all for the crime of not being in a targeted special-interest group. An idiot couldn't have drawn up a worse scenario - until Congress reconvened.

As the aforementioned government programs caused health care costs to skyrocket, the gang on Capitol Hill cooked up another disaster to "solve" the crisis they started. The solution was them, of course. This time, the government decided to provide people with more health care by forcing them into HMOs with the 1973 HMO Act. This act hid the true costs of health care from an even larger group of people - virtually all employees in medium to large-sized companies - who now, instead of paying directly out of their pockets for health services, paid an HMO in advance for subsidized services. The act predictably drove up prices for people not in HMOs. Meanwhile, since the government act attached health care to employment, those who were out of work were hit hard, finding themselves facing astronomical prices with no health insurance to help foot the bill. Idiots indeed.

Now, as the costs are starting to catch up with HMOs, making them increasingly expensive and unaffordable for employed and unemployed alike, millions are left without access to health care. Average Americans are wondering, or should be wondering, how health care became so unaffordable. Such things don't occur in a vacuum, there is always a cause. In this case, that cause is government involvement which has caused nothing but harmful distortions from which we all suffer. Unfortunately, the disasterous consequences of government involvement in health care have been used by politicians such as John Kerry as justification to unleash more of the same. This course of action is a stupid attempt to defy logic.

A horrendous cycle has been started by Washington and Americans are caught in the middle of it. We are unecessarily paying arms and legs for our health care. Meanwhile, the health care barons in D.C. who have been more like a weapon of mass destruction than any true help regarding health care, receive plush health insurance plans for themselves and their families at our expense. This notwithstanding, the solution, thankfully, is pretty simple. Eliminate the problem - Congress' benevolence.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Disturbing, but expected

Demonstrations against terror were the order of the day in Russia in response to the recent atrocity in the North Ossetian city of Beslan. In watching footage of the demonstration, I noticed a sign with a disturbing, but expected message: "A Strong State Means Security".

Maybe they should tell that to the tens of millions who were killed by strong states during the last century. Or they could tell it specifically to the millions killed by the "strong state" within Russia's own borders during Soviet Rule. If they're feeling statist enough, they could even tell that to the over 200,000 civilians killed by the strong state during each of the two Chechen Wars (massacres). The thought of it is disturbing.

On the other hand, it does feel kinda nice to be reminded that other countries have brainwashed statists too, just like we have here in America. There are other people in the world who ignore the causes of terror and promote policies that will only increase it. After all, terrorists just hate us for our freedom... they must attack Russians for their freedom also. It has nothing to do with governments' meddling in the affairs of other nations, occupying countries, or bombing cities flat.

Why would any self-respecting third-worlder want to fight against that?

Friday, September 03, 2004

Terror In Russia

The recent tragic events in Russia have induced a predictable reaction from the Bush administration. President Bush automatically linked the attacks to the US war against terror, thus linking the situation in Chechnya to the Wahhabist-Islamic terror that struck the US. This paints the Chechens as virtually the same as Islamic fundamentalists who attacked the US. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Chechens themselves are actually quite secular, and as far as Islamic practice goes, they are closer to Sufism than the fundamentalist Wahhabism of groups like al Qaida. There are infiltrators from Arab countries who have come to "help" them in their struggle against Moscow, but these characters, not a few of whom were involved in this last atrocity, are late-comers to a conflict that has been going on since 1830. This is a conflict in which Chechens have a legitimate beef with Russia.

Russian rule (rule from Moscow or St. Petersburg) has been tormenting the Chechens for some time now. Russian rule subjugated these people, declared war on their way of life, and at one point, ethnically cleansed them for rising up against Soviet rule.

For that reason, and many others, Chechens wanted at least some autonomy, and possibly independence from Moscow after the fall of Soviet rule. But Moscow couldn't bear any further erosion of their power, so they invaded and got their collective arse kicked by a comparatively tiny force of Chechen rebels. The Russian did, however, manage to destroy much of Chechnya in the process.

However, after having their forces bludgeoned by guerrilla warfare, the Russians decided to make peace and pull out. The peace lasted until a suspicous bombing of apartments in Moscow and incursions into Russia by the Chechen rebel leader, Shamil Basayev (who, by the way, is a product of Russia's criminal invasion in 1994). While the incursions into Russian territory were carried out by Chechens, the bombings were blamed on the Chechens with little evidence presented. This gave Moscow an excuse to go back in there and reassert their power, laying waste to the Chechen capital of Grozny and murdering untold numbers of Chechens and Russians. Such an extension of the conflict has brought along more infiltration of international terrorists and caused more suffering for Chechens and Russians alike. A prime example of the desparation on the part of the Chechens is the prominence of female terrorists in the attacks - many of whom allegedly have had husbands and brothers killed, or were themselves raped by Russian troops. These are people who have had everything they'd ever had destroyed, and, accordingly, they look in one direction for the source of their troubles - Moscow.

There are indeed Wahhabis in Chechnya now, thanks to Russian bombs. But don't let that cloud the reality of the entire situation down there. Many fighters in their original movement detest the Wahhabis who want to impose their form of fundamentalist Islam on Chechens, a secular people, who do not want Wahhabism. Nevertheless, Chechens are being falsely accused of aiding groups such as al Qaida and the Taliban, due to the abundance of ignorance of the situation in the Caucasus. So, the reality, in fact, is cloudy itself. Nevertheless, it is clear that simply grouping Chechnya in completely with Wahhabi groups such as al Qaida would be a mistake.

Surprise, surprise - Iraq likely to break up

Analysts from a London think tank are saying what many observers (myself included) have been saying all along - there is little chance of Iraq coming out of this war as one consolidated unit. There are three major groups in the country that do not trust each other, and for good reason. They have little confidence that one of the other groups, while in power, will respect the rights of individuals of other groups whether it be ethnic or religious. For instance, anyone who believes that the Kurds, after having been tormented by Arab rule from Baghdad for many years, will willingly delegate significant power to Baghdad, must be smoking dem tweeds. Pretty mush the same goes for the Shia Arabs in southern Iraq. This is something that the US government should have known all along before going into that artificial, Mid-Eastern nation claiming that they could create a "free, democratic Iraq".

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"Defending our freedom" in Iraq

I often hear the mantra that our troops are "defending our freedom" in Iraq. I find that Iraq is an interesting location to defend "our" freedom, especially when Iraq has never attacked the US nor our freedom--a fact that puts Iraq in stark contrast with the US government. Let's check out the facts.

How often have Iraqis come to America to take American lives over the last 15 years? I'll wait for an answer to that one. Meanwhile, I'll remind you that the US government has taken the lives of plenty of Americans over that time frame--the most horrific incident occuring at Waco in 1993, when roughly 80 worshippers were killed ... because the government thought they were weird. Defense of religious freedom, anyone? Defense of the right to worship without the government killing you? How about a defense of the freedom to be weird? I don't think those freedoms are better defended due to our action in Iraq. But anyway...

Final breakdown of murdered American civilians (last 15 years):

Score - US Government - (more than) 80, Iraq - 0

Then, how often have Iraqis raided the wallets of American citizens to do God knows what with the loot? While you ponder that one, I'll let you know that the US government gobbles up over a third of our GDP and regulates (plans) our economy which costs us over $800 billion dollars each year. Our freedom to use the fruits of our own labor is being violated by the US government everyday. Iraq still has not forcefully taken anything. So, where can we best defend our economic freedom, here at home, or in Iraq? Given that the biggest threat is our own government, I'd say that our economic freedom can only be defended here.

Final Breakdown of property stolen from Americans:

Score - US Government - untold billions, Iraq - 0

If you still believe that Iraq is (was) the main threat to our freedom, then you could probably give me an instant in which an Iraqi imprisoned Americans for consuming something with their own bodies that he didn't approve of. Or, maybe you're not in a tale-telling mood, and will recognize that the US government has imprisoned millions for such "offenses" in the "War on Drugs" while Iraq has done nothing to Americans in this regard.

Do Iraqis force us to send our children to schools of their choosing? Did they ever impose a mandatory retirement program on us? Do they forcefully take our income to dole out to special interest groups? Do Iraqis snoop around our email or violate our civil liberties? Have they ever attacked America or violated any of our freedoms?

They have not, and the US government has. Given that simple fact, which of our freedoms can be effectively defended in Iraq? Shouldn't our main concern be here at home?

This could be interesting

According to the Associated Press, the NY Police and Fire Departments have not ruled out a strike that could take place during the time of the Republican National Convention. Could this mean that the Republicans may not be able to set up barb-wired "free speech zones" for protesters like the Democrats did in Boston? I sure hope so, especially given the fact that the whole country was supposed to be a "free speech zone" so that we, the people, could protect ourselves and our liberty from the machinations of the political elite.

Unfortunately, things have changed since the 1st Amendment was written. The politicians believe they need more security than the rest of us, even if it does infringe our rights. Why? Because they believe that we would not know what to do with ourselves without their guidance. Or they just are placing their own self-preservation above our own safety and Constitutional rights simply because they can. Neither of these reasons are worthy of much adulation to say the least.

So, let freedom reign and let the police of New York strike. It may cost the citizens of New York less money and keep the Republicans from placing themselves above the Constitution in the same manner as the Democrats did.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

If it weren't so sad....

Dubya's ad entitled "Ownership" has hit the airwaves recently. It serves as more proof that the Washingtonites are intoxicated with power. He begins by saying that "One of the most important parts of the reform agenda is to encourage people to own something."

Right. Obviously, without the encouragement of a Supreme Being in the paradise known as Washington D.C., my own desire to "own something" would not be sufficient. I need encouragement from George W. Bush, lest I be afraid to buy something.

Now what in God's name has convinced this man that we need his encouragement to own something other than his own perceived power and importance?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Can Politicians Abolish the Law of Supply and Demand?

Do you believe that politicians can abolish the law of supply and demand? Can they work magic and make people buy a good for a price higher than its judged value? Despite how great and powerful politicians seem to be, I tend to think that they are less than capable of such a feat. Suprisingly, there are many people who do believe that the politicians are capable of abolishing the law of supply and demand, especially regarding minimum wage laws. They must believe that the those who will have to pay workers more due to a minimum wage law will actually do so, without a loss in jobs. Unfortunately, evidence from past laws and the pesky law of supply and demand disagrees.

Let's start of with an example of a non-labor good-- televisions. Let's say there are two types of televisions in the store--one is bigger with extra features and costs $100, and one is smaller with regular features and costs $75. Some people decide they want or need the extra features, so they by the bigger TV for $100. More people, however, do not need the extra features, so they buy the smaller TV for less -- $75.

But then, a politician sees this, and believes that the small TV company isn't making enough per TV. Then he sees that the big TV producer may have to lower it's prices due to competition-- that would make them poorer, and he can't let that happen! So, he decides to enact a minimum TV price of $100.

Consumers, not wanting to spend $100 on a TV that's worth $75, all react to the politician's act of social justice by passing over the smaller TV and buying the larger TV with extra features for $100. So, the $100 TVs start selling like hotcakes and the former $75 TVs collect dust on the shelf. After all, if you have to spend the money, you might as well buy something that's worth the money you're spending, right?

Thus, despite the politician's believing that he could raise income for both companies by creating a minimum TV price, he has destroyed the business that produced the lower-cost TVs. All of their business has gone to the company that produces the larger TVs which people deem worth the $100 that they will have to spend regardless of quality. Even people who would have forgone the extra features for a simple TV will not do so now, thanks to the politician's "benevolence".

These same results occur when minimum wage laws are enacted. The people with least amount of skills, the young, the poor, and the uneducated, are shut out of the labor market because of a politician's professed benevolence. Many of them ave their only chance at a job taken away because of a politician's belief that the law of supply and demand does not apply to labor. Their jobs are destroyed just as the business was destroyed in the previous example.

On the other end, those who gain from minimum wage laws are the people who have more skills than those on the bottom. More employers will seek workers with more skills, even if they don't really need the skills that the worker has. Why? Because to hire someone without the extra skills would amount to wasting money thanks to the minimum wage law, and we know that waste is a no-no in the business world. Employers would rather hire more skilled workers and find other ways to use those skills than pay a less skilled worker for more than they're capable of producing.

But you say this is only a theory? Well, this "theory" has been realized in many different examples in history. One notable example is often overlooked in the history books. The first minimum wage laws in the United States, enacted by FDR in his "New Deal", threw thousands of low-skilled, poor, uneducated laborers out of work, most of whom happened to be black. The beneficiaries were the racist white labor unions who no longer had to compete with the cheaper labor, not the poor and downtrodden who were (supposedly) the target of the program. The same can be said even today, where unemployment is at its higest levels among black youths, whereas before minimum wage laws, they were just as likely to hold a job as white youths, if not more so.

Then you ask, if the poor suffer the most from minimum wage laws, why are such laws still around? Well, my guess is that many people believe that politicians can indeed abolish the law of supply and demand when it's applied to labor, just like they believe the other nonsense the politicians spew regularly. Then there are others who know what's going on, and realize that they can benefit from it. Either way, wages set artificially by governments arbitrarily inflict a loss on one group or another. Sure, it's unfortunate, but it's how things are whether we like it or not.

For more on this issue: Minimum Wage Causes Maximum Pain
Minimum Wage Myth

Typical Government Elite Nonsense

Before the war, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told a group of Iraqi Americans that “If we commit [our military] forces, we’re not going to commit them for anything less than a free and democratic Iraq.” Leaving aside the fact that it is not the job of the US military to create "free, democratic" societies around the globe, one has to wonder whether Wolfowitz was really delusional enough to believe that the US government could actually achieve such a task via military intervention. Democratic societies do not form at the barrel of a gun, which is exactly the scenario that Wolfowitz posited in his comment. And unfortunately, "free, democratic" societies do not form simply because a government official wants them to.

In Wolfowitz' world, some do-gooder politician with a big army can go around the world, spreading his gifts of freedom and democracy with lazer-guided bombs and cruise missiles. Maybe depleted uranium, has other effects on people aside from causing cancer, such as sparking development of cultural norms essential to a free, democratic society. Maybe it makes people respect the individual rights of other people, and the rights of minorities. Perhaps the sight of military armor allows trust to grow between various sections of societies. Or, then again, maybe it cannot be done after all, and this is just another attempt by the government to work a miracle that is doomed to failure.

Much like many on the left believe that they can use government power and coercion to eliminate the ills of society, such as poverty and prejudice, there are those on the other side who believe that they can use that same power to create free, democratic societies in any part of the world that they please. Both sides have no qualms with using force to shape people into whatever type of society they desire. The speak as if the rest of us are just pawns in a large game that they play with others with similar power.

But, for good or for worse, people are not as malleable as the government elites would like to believe. Many in our government are currently learning this lesson in Iraq, as resistance to the imposition of "democracy" continues with little end in sight. Will they take the lesson for what it is and come to grips with the fact that they cannot create a free, democratic nation at gunpoint?

Monday, August 09, 2004

Kerry, the Neocon Hawk

Why are so-called "anti-war" activists uniting behind Democrat Presidential candidate John Kerry, who voted for the war resolution? A host of organizations and a growing number of musicians have voiced their support for Kerry, mostly because of their opposition to President Bush and the war. Maybe the Kerry supporters took his waffling as a shift in his position on the war? Perhaps there was some confusion, given that Kerry had not made his current stance on the war clear.

Well, let the confusion end. According to Reuters, Kerry has declared that he would have voted for the war resolution again if he had faced the same situation anew. To make matters worse, he added that he would have voted for the resolution knowing that WMD would not be found! But without the WMD (which alone, would not have made a sufficient case for war in the first place) for what reason would Kerry have voted to let GW start a war? That is the next question that needs to be answered by the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.

What would be his reason to authorize the sacrificing of lives -- both American and Iraqi? Anyone who is truly anti-war should seek an answer from Kerry on this issue before they go out and vote for him.