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I for one don't really get worked up about our new foreign overlords

Xenophobia: it's not just for Republicans anymore. Taegan Goddard, who appears to be some sort of robotic DNC agent, passes along a Newsweek story about how foreign companies might influence elections in the US. You see, many American companies are foreign-owned, and since United Citizens v. FEC allowed corporations to get elected to the Senate for a fixed sum, furners might run the country! Oh noes!

Also, note how artlessly they bring up this worry. If you're going down that path, at least do it like you yourself believe it. You'll get more votes that way, which is the entire point of political pandering. (Better still, don't go down that path at all.) Doing it this way makes you look evil and foolish.


United Citizens v. FEC

All of the lefty hang-wringing over the decision in United Citizens vs. FEC is missing a big point: corporations as they currently exist are a product of government intervention in the economy. They only exist because of the government in the first place. Fight about band-aid solutions all you want, but there's that one glaring fact right in front of you. I say let's let businesses decide for themselves (and only themselves) what kind of organization is best, and not grant them any spurious protections. That'll do a lot more than any kind of campaign finance law.

That's not all. Worried that corporations might exert undue influence in election cycles? The System is run by elites, and no matter what the laws are will always primarily serve the elites. Did you receive any of the hundreds of billions of dollars of bailout money, or did it all go to large corporations or other branches of the government? Without being freed to boost their interests as they now are, corporations still won that one. With our government, they never lose.


Guevara, asesino

Nick Gillespie has a great post about the murderous Che Guevara.

Previous Catallarchy/Distributed Republic treatment of Che by yours truly here.


I like to think of beer held in a man's hand. Nature, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips.

This needs verification, but I'm completely willing to believe this:

Did a thirst for beer spark civilization?
By Michael Kan
Friday, 15 January 2010

Drunkenness, hangovers, and debauchery tend to come to mind when one thinks about alcohol and its effects. But could alcohol also have been a catalyst for human civilization?

According to archaeologist Patrick McGovern this may have been the case when early man decided to start farming. Why humans turned from hunting and gathering to agriculture could be the result of our ancestors’ simple urge for alcoholic beverages.

“Alcohol provided the initial motivation,” said McGovern, a biomolecular archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum. “Then it got going the engine of society.”

There's more to it. I mean, he's not basing this on wishes, even if I am.


To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts?

Stephan Kinsella taught me something interesting today:

I am not sure if non-practitioners realize exactly what goes on in patenting. Quite often medium to large sized companies hold "patent mining" sessions. They are usually not trying to come up with ideas that they might use in their business. What you do is you get 5-10 engineers to sit around a coffee table, and they are led by a "facilitor" (often a patent attorney). They talk about what they've been working on, and try to find little twists or aspects of a design that they can file a patent on. Or, they'll sift thru a bunch of patents in an area that competitors are practicing in, and just brainstorm, thinking of things they can file patents on. Not because they intend to use these ideas. But just to build up a thicket of patents that they can use against another company, either defensively (i.e., a countersuit if the competitor sues them); or to extract royalties or to squelch competition.


Camp No

I know it's early, but Scott Horton's article The Guantánamo "Suicides" is the most important piece of journalism you'll see this year.

According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

Not only this, but the surprisingly sloppy attempt at a coverup was guided by the Bush administration, and then by the Obama administration. They know what happened, and they're still lying about it.

The article is long but worth reading.


Conservative mythology

Charles Johnson, a.k.a. Rad Geek, takes down a lame conservative argument for something completely indefensible. He has a number of points, but this is the money shot:

Of course, the main thing to say here is really that maintaining our [sic] culture is not a good enough reason for criminalizing nonviolent people. If your culture can only be maintained at the point of a gun, then your culture sucks, and the sooner you stop maintaining it on the backs of harmless pot-smokers, the better.

The rest is a great, and has a point too infrequently made: the past that conservatives want to conserve rarely meshes with the actual historial past.


Dangerous Historical Myths

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, here's a great piece about Dangerous Historical Myths:

Take the standard account of the Great Depression and the New Deal. In many ways the New Deal itself was one result of another historical myth: the widely received account of what had happened to the German economy in the first half of the twentieth century, particularly during World War I and the Third Reich. That myth probably did more harm than almost any other in that century.

Unrelated, but important: next time I hear someone say "Communism is good on paper, but ... " I am going to hit the speaker over the head with a copy of Mises's Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth. Good thing it's a short paperback.


That other 1937 feeling

Paul Krugman has a new piece up called "That 1937 Feeling", in which he advocates ignoring all economic discoveries since 1937, and even ignoring economic discoveries from before that time that were and are politically unpopular.

Or something like that.


War quiz

Quiz: against whom was war declared the last time the US government formally declared war?

EDIT: Without looking it up, of course.


Round 16843854354354: markets beat government

Ex-(left-)anarchist Robert Paul Wolff writes:

When I use Google or Amazon.com, they seem to have no difficulty remembering who I am, identifying sites I might want to visit or products I might want to buy. Netflix knows what sorts of movies I would enjoy renting. And all of this is done with blinding speed, virtually in what is called real time. But the CIA, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the NSA, and the State Department cannot "connect the dots," as the cant phrase has it, despite spending 40 billion dollars since 9/11. Why doesn't the President simply call Sergey Brin and Jeff Bezos into the oval office, offer each of them one dollar in salary [an echo of the WW II "dollar a year" men who worked for nothing to contribute to the war effort], and ask them to design and implement, in six months, a system that would allow the integration of every warning, every red flag raised in any embassy or consulate, any question at any airport security gate, all in real time, so that anyone in the entire system anywhere could access that integrated information from any laptop or computer terminal immediately? I mean, this falls under the heading of "solved technical problems."

This isn't really that surprising: Amazon's fortunes rise and fall directly in proportion to its ability to serve its customers. The US Government's, on the other hand, depend on entirely coercive factors, and its contractors have plenty of incentives for making really complicated systems that really don't do that much when they're all put together.


Since I don't have a Twitter account

Someone should translate Atlas Shrugged into Pashto so that all these Afghans can realize how it's a moral imperative for the US military to kill them. Also works for Arabic / Palestinians / Israel.


Libertarianism and nerdism

A buddy of mine just sent me a link to a post called "Not all nerds are libertarians, but almost all libertarians are nerds." I'd say that this is true among self-identified libertarians. My leanings have led to numerous conversations with apolitical types who would best fit under the 'libertarian' heading but who just aren't interested in it. These types are not nerdier than average.

Add to it that there are a lot of libertarians, like me for instance, that have nerdy interests (and, frankly, if you're reading this, you're probably guilty as well), but aren't exactly nerds. Some of the archetypcal libertarians (e.g. Rothbard), on the other hand, were nerds extraordinaires.


Forget Iran, the next war could be Venezuela

Don Boudreaux highlights some Hugo Chávez shenanigans from the WSJ:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, beset by a recession that is hurting his popularity, has turned his sights on international car companies, threatening them with nationalization and pledging to ramp up government intervention in their local businesses.

The populist leader has threatened to expropriate Toyota Motor Corp.’s local assembly plant if the Japanese car maker doesn’t produce more vehicles designed for rural areas and transfer new technologies and manufacturing methods to its local unit. He said other car companies were also guilty of not transferring enough technology, mentioning Fiat SpA of Italy, which controls Chrysler Group LLC, and General Motors Co.

Let's assume that Chávez indeed nationalizes a General Motors plant. Being that the U.S. Department of the Treasury owns a majority of GM, we could expect more war almost instantly. I know Chávez is a little off, but I think he's smarter than that.


Juror Qualification Questionnaire

I recently got a letter that I have to fill out and return under threat of fine or imprisonment, the "juror qualification questionnaire". I won't get into a discussion about jury duty per se here, but this form was already a pain in the ass. One of the questions was "Are you qualified to vote in X County?"

Well, is anyone qualified to vote? Not really, but but I doubt that's what they mean. I'm not registered to vote, so I guess I'm not qualified. Or does that mean I've never been convicted of a felony and could theoretically get my papers in order to vote? In that case, I am qualified.

In any event, I answered no.