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HR 1207 clears committee, attachs to HR 4173 and passes.

C4L:

So here's the good news: the Paul amendment passed with the bill! No matter how bad the overall bill, it's still pretty incredible that we were able to get a thorough audit of the Fed all the way through the House.

Personally, I don't care how bad the overall bill is. Auditing the Fed is the first step to abolishing yet another US central bank.

I wonder how this will play out in the Senate, probably the same way it played out for these fellas with those nice taxpayer funded ear muffs:

Well, one can hope the Senate and Presidente allow this audit to happen. Otherwise they just may build a prison for all of us, the southern fence is getting built right now.

FIRED UP! READY TO GITMO!


Sock puppet imperialism and the non-existent republic.

What happens when your wrist deep in the nether cavities of foreign leaders that you protect with the blood of your fascist storm troopers?

Things fall apart. Can you honestly blame these sad sack freedom fighters that are attempting to resist the quisling state that the US Federal Government has imposed upon them? I know I cant. Matter of fact, I salute them for their continued resistance to foreign occupation, it renews my faith in humanity. The outcome in Iraq will be decided by time and fates, not the sound and fury of unremarkable peoples who languish over the morals they posses but fail to impose on foreigners.

Today is a good day for the anti-state. Not only are the evil terrorists in Iraq proving that the state cannot protect itself, let alone its citizens... but we are also getting some head way in our own occupation!

It seems the ideas of nullification are spreading throughout these United States. As with the state level resistance to Real ID, it all comes down to money. The federales cannot afford as many of these control grid projects as they once could, and the states are unwilling to pony up the dough.

Nullification leads to secession on the long road back to the republic. Sure the union can play the abusive husband role once again and beat and abuse the battered spouse one more time. Will they get away with it when those who resist are better organized and more diffuse? When the wife poisons the husbands dinner?

Our freedom may come in the form of a US default on debt, freedom at a terrifying and almost unprecedented level in the history of these United States.

These are exciting times indeed.


Which side do you support? Mu.

In response to the judicious remarks of my friend Hodja whose comments on my blog I appreciate immensely, I will add a few clarifications to complete my previous Defense of Libertarian Imperialism in a series of posts.

First, and most importantly, I think that hodja and I actually agree on the importance of staying out (emotionally, physically, etc.) of conflicts that others try to impose upon us. Everytime you manage to stay out of a conflict into which others are trying to draw you against your will, you've made a small victory against oppression. I have even quite a a few posts on this topic already, most of them in French: mu — the zen buddhist answer that unasks a question the premises of which you deny to accept.

When "my" government forces me to go to war with bad guys, I may or may not object on the principle that only a less criminal government has the right to fight a more criminal one — but I do object in either case to their drafting my support (in form of increased taxes) for not just for this war of theirs but also for the details of their implementation of it. Now similarly, when "my" government refuses to go to war with another government that it declares is legit, I may or may not object according to the principle that the other government is or isn't deserving to be toppled — but I do object to their preventing me (with my own tax money!) from supporting wars I think are just and worth fighting in the specific way that I think they ought to be waged. In either case, they are drafting my support to their specific implementation of specific goals no less in times of forced "peace" than in times of forced "war". My opposition to their monopoly on the provision of security is wholly independent from any particular decision they make or fail to make to declare and misimplement war or peace.

Moreover, inasmuch as anyone is lobbying with any power towards influencing said government into either going to war or not going to war — he is exerting political power, and I am objecting to this power just as much from them as from anyone with any bit of government power. I am just as much against peace-mongers as against war-mongers. "Do not speak in my name" is my equal message to both. Of course, most people who blather either way are but fools without any power proportionate to the noise they are making, wasting both their time and mine. Nevertheless they do participate in the general brainwashing and the competition for who manages to temporarily be the tyrant who will impose his will upon me, whichever is their position on this particular conflict. And indeed, the main argument of most "peacemongers" is not at all to oppose the spending of trillions of dollars of stolen money by government — they just want to spend it in their own soul-crushing socialist enslavement schemes. Slow death instead of quick death.

That is why an honest man's first and vehement response to any intimidation towards taking side in a conflict should be "mu": to refuse to take sides and to waste resources into something that is none of one's business, upon which one has no influence whatsoever, something that is beyond one's competence in more ways than one, whereas one has more important and effective things to do. Leave the decision and the responsibility for it fall upon each empowered government official, who'll be making the decision independently from you anyway. Meanwhile, focus on doing good where actual good one can do.

And it is indeed an actual good cheaply achieved to disarm the trap of "big urgent catastrophes" that crooks prepare and that your friends may be falling into. Help your friends not become the useful idiots of statist oppression, both victims that they are of mental traps laid by the political oppressors who seek their support, and contagious propagators of these viral memes that victimize them.

(Cross-posted to my livejournal: http://fare.livejournal.com/150094.html)


Reflections on Motherhood

On my first anniversary of becoming a mother I feel compelled to write about the very erratic attitudes that seem to be prevalent in American culture regarding motherhood. While there are a great many people who look down on stay-at-home mothers, what shocked me was how many people are offended by women who return to work while their child is under a year old.

Through my own struggles with a (female) boss who decided that motherhood had turned me into a bad therapist, I discovered that getting run off from a job after returning from maternity leave is surprisingly common.

The same employer who encouraged you to stay as long as possible, and saw you as indispensable while pregnant, suddenly sees you as damaged goods upon return. People seem to look for the virtues in a pregnant woman, and the shortcomings in a working mother.

It has become a new hobby of mine to discuss the experiences of new mothers in their first year, specifically in how the attitudes of those around them changes after giving birth.

Here are some of the common attitudes and prejudices the moms that I have talked to, encounter:

Stay-at-home moms, even well educated ones, are treated suddenly as undereducated, unsophisticated, un-ambitious, and occasionally they are seen as less intelligent than they were before the birth.

Working moms are seen as less professional or unprofessional, tired, hormonal, negligent of their children, cold, over-ambitious, and are perceived to have become less skilled and/or less valuable than they were before the birth.

In reality none of us have become less. As divine as the pregnant woman is often seen, the new mother seems to be seen as proportionately vulgar. But the truth is nothing has been accomplished until the baby comes out safely. It is the process of not just learning to be a mother, but of learning to become a good parent that we should value most. A process that cannot truly begin until the pregnancy has ended.

It is this same process that new mothers find themselves engulfed in when making the decision to stay at home or return to work. No matter what she chooses the path ahead will take skill, intellect, and resourcefulness to manage. It is not a choice any of us take lightly and regardless of the path chosen, mothers should not be looked down upon.


Contra-cynicism

To cleanse my spirit after that bout of cynicism, here is Butler Shaffer from the Murray N. Rothbard Memorial Lecture, Austrian Scholars Conference, 2003:

Each of us is biologically and experientually unique, and Liberty is the only condition in which we can express our uniqueness.

If we are to discover our connectedness with the world, we must understand that what we have in common with one another is the need to protect the conditions with which the Liberty of each of us can be exercised. Only as we learn to respect the inviolability of each individual, can mankind hope to survive. You and I are mankind--its present, and its future.

We must then declare to ourselves, as well as to our neighbors, that mankind--integrated in both body and spirit--will not only survive, but it will prosper in this world. That life belongs to the living, not to abstract collectives, regardless of their exalted trappings, or the duration of their tenure over the minds of men and women.

We must further declare that the spirit of mankind is going to survive on this planet, in the only place where it can ever be found, namely, in the autonomous and spontaneous expressions of individuals. It is time for those who believe otherwise to stand aside, as we support one another in the effort to reclaim our souls.


Disappointed with Rich Trumka, AFL-CIO's new president's choice of words, middle class?

see www.aflcio.org

"Because today the American middle class isn’t being squeezed: We are being crushed. The mirage of prosperity through borrowed money has dissolved—and now we’re left with the reality of a hollowed-out economy and a broken financial system."

He is right about the state of the economy but why does he think his membership is "middle class?" The letter he sent noted:

"John Sweeney has renewed our commitment to organizing, restored our voice in government and reminded us that organized labor isn’t just an institution; we are a movement."

My best guess is that most of the people in Sweeney's old union, the SEIU which pulled out of the AFL-CIO last year (2 years ago?) make less than $10/hour.

Ten bucks an hour is middle class? Our owners have castrated the labor movement by substituting the word, "middle" for "working." 100 years ago, we had rich people, working people (the working poor) and the poor people (the mostly non-working poor?). Now days we have rich people, middle class, and people on welfare.

No one wants to admit that they are "working class" and that is killing us. Half the people who came through Ellis Island "went into service." 100 years ago the middle class were doctors, lawyers, engineers, small business owners and most of them had live in servants. They were maybe 15% of the population with 80% being poor and working poor, the rest, stinking rich.

I propose that (in general) any family that needs two working adults to pay the bills is a working class family no matter what the politicians call us. These days I would classify a family "as middle class" one who paid all the bills with one person's salary and who could afford to send their kids to good private schools.

The husband and wife who work full time to pay the bills and call themselves "middle class" are fooling themselves because they are economically no better off than a working poor family was 100 years ago. They may be living easier but this is because of increased productivity, not because of economic status.


Friedman Admires Autocracy

Thomas Friedman compares the U.S. with China in the New York Times:

The only way for us to match them is by legislating a rising carbon price along with efficiency and renewable standards that will stimulate massive private investment in clean-tech. Hard to do with a one-party democracy.

Because China has Cap & Trade? Pffft.


Anti-democratic rant from the bottom of my drawer

Cleaning my desktop today I stumbled upon a small article I wrote back when Thiel made his infamous comment on women's suffrage. I have unfortunately little time to edit it or finish it, but I don't want to let it sink in abandon either, so here's the raw footage.

Ah come on !

Following Thiel's comment on women's suffrage, there's been a lot of talk about democracy. I keep trying to write a post about that and always end up thinking. Bah, I should just tell people to read "Democracy, the God that failed". So I'll start with that. Read it. I'm not a fan of Hoppe cultural conservatism, but he makes compelling argument against democracy. Now let me explain a few personal qualms I have with democracy.

Democracy is like the movie Titanic or Obama. I dislike democracy, but it's really people's opinion surrounding it that makes it fucking hatable. I have been an anarcho-capitalist and a libertarian for only a few years, but as long as I can remember, democracy and the high esteem it is held into have always struck me as silly.

First of all, people hold democracy as a political ideal. If there is a political ideal, it should be defined parsimoniously, it should be an extremum for some form of criterion. The idea to let-all-people-but-maybe-not-children-queue-every-two-to-ten-years-no-more-or-it's not-democracy-anymore-to-put-in-a-secret-ballot-in-a-box-so-that-the-ballot-be-counted-and-some-aggregate-be-formed-deciding-who-will-make-the-laws-according-to-a-set-of-rules-called-constitution-that-can't-be-bent-but-can is *NOT* parsimonious. There is no way this is a political or moral ideal, there is no way this is "the opposite of tyranny" (which is parsimoniously defined). Democracy as it is most often defined occupies a tiny region in the space of political systems. It's incredibly unlikely that broad ideal principles command such a precise organization system.

There is a conservative argument for democracy. If somehow society has organically evolved and settled with democratic institutions, then this tiny region of political system is optimal for some criterion. This is a valid criticism, and I understand why a conservative would be attached to democracy and democratic institutions. However, such a reason would not be idealistic. It wouldn't claim there's something grand about democracy, only that we should exercise caution in changing these institutions.

Anyone who claims democracy as an ideal is a moron.

A great point Hoppe raises about democracy: who are the democratic thinkers? The Athenian democracy had nothing to do with the democracy as broadly understood, Rousseau envisioned something radically different at a very small scale, based on consensus more than majority rule. Montesquieu had in mind something closer to a random selection of representatives. There is simply no serious thinker behind democracy.

One of the reason democracy enjoys such popularity is that is has been adopted by the left as a way to separate itself from the atrocities of communism. Communism was simply not democratic enough. While it is true that free elections could have quickly ousted Stalin, it's obvious that the problem with communism is much deeper than that. Instead of being opposed to free market capitalism, communism was opposed to democracy by the likes of Fukuyama.


Obrigado gozaimasu

The popular idea that "arigato" derives from "obrigado" has been repeatedly debunked. However, every debunking I have seen is unsatisfactory. It is pointed out that the Japanese word from which "arigato" is derived long predates the Portuguese arrival in Japan. And that's it. But that's clearly unsatisfactory. A satisfactory debunking would claim, and demonstrate, that the word itself, in that specific use, predated the Portuguese arrival. Without this, it remains possible that the following happened:

1) "arigatai" meaning "difficult" long predated the Portuguese arrival, but the use of "arigato" to mean "thank you" did not predate the Portuguese arrival.

2) Observation of the Portuguese saying "obrigado" to mean "thank you" caused the Japanese to say "arigato" to mean "thank you".

I do not have specific examples, but I do believe I have seen genuine examples of this sort of thing happening with other words in other languages - that is, that one language has indeed affected another language by altering the second language's use of its own native words.

Nothing I have read anywhere specifically excludes this possibility. Talk is always about the word "arigatai" meaning "difficult" predating the Portuguese. In my experience (and I have looked into this multiple times over the years) no one ever offers any samples of Japanese writing "arigato" to mean "thank you", or even claims that they did so before the Portuguese arrived.

So, no one seems to have ever debunked this possibility. If this is what happening, then it is simply overstating the case to claim that:

"Superficial appearances notwithstanding, there is absolutely no linguistic relationship to the Portuguese word obrigado of the same meaning."

If the Portuguese use of "obrigado" shaped the Japanese use of "arigato" then that is a linguistic relationship.

I would be happy if either:

1) Someone finally specifically showed that "arigato" was used to mean "thank you" before the Portuguese arrived, or

2) People stopped overstating the case against the relationship between "obrigado" and "arigato".


Three meanings of "empathy"

This is a comment on Brandon Berg's recent entry. Empathy is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner ; also : the capacity for this

This is a fundamental component of human cognition (and one might even say perception). For example both the ability to imitate and the contagiousness of emotion are obviously, observably present in small infants. Implying that someone does not have it or does not use it is an insult on the order of calling a person blind or retarded. People do, of course, call each other blind and retarded when they disagree. People, then, are in the habit of claiming, falsely, that the people they disagree with are missing fundamental components of human perception or cognition.

To accuse another person of blindness, stupidity, or a lack of empathy is an expression of contempt. It is almost always false; if someone is actually blind, literally sightless, we don't nastily accuse them of it. If a person is actually stupid, we are careful to avoid rubbing it in. If a person actually lacks empathy, which is surely possible (Oliver Sacks writes about similar people), then they are suffering from a neurological deficit.

The only reason we are talking about empathy is that Obama used the word. But we know that Obama has contempt for his opponents. He has used expressions of contempt throughout his time in office, thinly disguised. It is one of his favorite things to do.

Obama used both "compassion" and "empathy". Similar points could be raised about compassion. This is one of the problems that I have with "compassionate conservatism". It implies the lie that conservatism, plain conservatism, is uncaring. This is a lie that liberals tell about conservatives. It is also a lie that anti-capitalists tell about supporters of capitalism, and liberals tell the same lie about conservatives for the same reason: because conservatives support the free market and oppose forced redistribution (this is a matter of degree: they do it to a greater degree than do liberals). "Compassion" is code for "liberalism" - i.e., economic interventionism and tax and spend redistribution.

Meanwhile recall the ideal that justice is blind, and that a justice must be dispassionate. What can this mean? It doesn't actually mean all the things that it might mean. It doesn't mean that the judge has to literally be blind or literally uncaring. It means something specific. It is if you like code for something specific (maybe not exactly code in the sense that the meaning is buried deep - but code in the sense that it is a very specific meaning and should not be understood in just any old way). It is code for impartiality. So is the requirement that justices be dispassionate. So it is not a great stretch to read a demand for empathy and compassion as a demand for partiality.

So, take your pick. Maybe Obama is expressing contempt, maybe he's repeating the commonplace liberal lie about conservatism (which many pseudoconservatives, such as the Bushes, ultimately bought into, possibly leading to the current state of Washington conservatism from which free market advocacy has been surgically removed), maybe he's demanding judicial favoritism.

Personally, I think it's all three.


Cap and Trade

The destruction continues. I'm too bleak to write anything, so instead I'll listen to this a few times. No, it has nothing to do with it, it's just something to listen to.


Privately Funded Public Transportation

From the Detroit News,

Private investors have stepped forward with enough money to build a prototype for a futuristic elevated rail system that would race along freeway routes between Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit, according to experts who testified at a hearing on the proposal Monday.

This seems like a good idea, instead of demanding money from the government, they are actually coming up with money. I have often heard people saying things like "if high speed trains are such a good idea, then private industry would build one". Well, here they are, trying to build one. The only thing they are asking from the government is permission to build the track along the interstate corridor. If they build it and have a reasonable fare, I might use it every once in a while; I live in Lansing and my parents live near Detroit.

Now, my question is, what if the business fails? This may be economically viable, and it may not. If the business goes bad, what will happen with the miles of track along the highway? Will they come and ask for a government bailout if there are no riders? I would like the company to address this possibility, I certainly don't want to fund a loser and I would hate to see deteriorating tracks crossing the state.

In another developement, the Michigan State Department of Transportation is asking for Federal money to build a high speed rail from Detroit to Chicago. Of the two plans, I like the private venture better, just because it is privately funded. It will be interesting to see how the two projects turn out.


Greatness

It is of nights like these that legends are built. Manny Pacquaio was a war god in the ring - inhuman, immortal. His fists were lightning, crossing the chasm to his opponent instantaneously. When the counter-punches came, he was mist.

Thus Manny destroys one of the best boxers in the world with an effortless six minutes of work. Such speed. Such polish. There is not a finer fighter living. My children's children will know his name.


Robin Hanson: Not Enough Nazis

Finally, a principled utilitarian.

In a recent debate with Robin Hanson, Bryan Caplan said:

...Robin endorses an endless list of bizarre moral claims. For example, he recently told me that "the main problem" with the Holocaust was that there weren't enough Nazis! After all, if there had been six trillion Nazis willing to pay $1 each to make the Holocaust happen, and a mere six million Jews willing to pay $100,000 each to prevent it, the Holocaust would have generated $5.4 trillion worth of consumers surplus.

Let's consider another example. Suppose the only people in the world are Hannibal the millionaire, a slave trader, and 10,000 penniless orphan slaves. The slave trader has no direct use for his slaves, but likes money; Hannibal, on the other hand, is a ravenous cannibal. According to Robin, the "optimal outcome" is for Hannibal to get all 10,000 orphans and eat them.

In his review of the the debate Caplan confirmed:

I suspect that many attendees saw these examples as "cheap shots." But when I pressed Robin, he predictably bit both bullets.

...meaning, I take it, that Hanson conceded these are in fact his views and not exaggerations.

In a related post at Overcoming Bias, Hanson approvingly quotes Scott Sumner:

One of the most common strategies of the anti-utilitarian position is to assume some societal set-up which shocks our sensibilities, and then assume that it would satisfy the utilitarian criterion of maximizing aggregate happiness. Thus we might be asked to imagine a scenario where the total pleasures of the slave-owner exceed the suffering of the slaves ... Bryan has an even more shocking example where the benefits to Nazi’s from the Holocaust exceeded the suffering to the Jews. ... At the end of these thought experiments we are told that unless we are willing to embrace the society envisioned in the thought experiment, we must, on logical grounds, give up on utilitarianism.

I have several interrelated objections to this style of philosophical inquiry. I’d like to start with Richard Rorty’s assertion that the narrative arts (novels and film) produce liberal values. ... So if Rorty is correct, how do we know that slavery was so awful? Because we have been exposed to accounts of slavery in the arts which vividly showed how the suffering of slaves was immeasurably greater that the frivolous pleasures of the slave-owner. Can we then turn around and use an imaginary slave-owning society that passes the utilitarian test as an argument against utilitarianism? I’m not sure that we can, unless one can show that our initial visceral reaction against slavery is based on non-utilitarian grounds, i.e. based on some abstract philosophical principle. And that’s much harder than many people might imagine.

Hanson says "This seems to me a powerful argument" and "The argument, I think, is more that we overgeneralize from the stories where we first picked up our morals. For example, we first hear stories where slave owners gain less than slaves lose, and then come to see all slavery as bad."

The argument is that slavery gets a bum rap due to bad publicity: OF COURSE people are going to think slavery is bad when that's the moral of so many stories they hear!

It seems clear that Hanson sees no fundamental difference between a preference for vanilla ice cream and preferences for slavery, cannibalism, torture and genocide. All that matters is how much you will pay for your preferences and how much others will pay for theirs.


The Debt Problem

The United States national debt now stands at over $11,220,000,000,000 ($11.22 trillion). That is big. How big is it? Consider this: last year the federal government took in $2.66 trillion in revenue. If the US stopped spending money right now and only payed down the debt, it would take 4.2 years to pay off the debt. And that is assuming that the revenue will stay constant. Seeing how the economy has fallen off a cliff since last year, the federal revenues will most likely decrease this year. Pres. Obama is increasing spending, so the debt is set to skyrocket.

To make an analogy, imagine you buy a house with a mortgage. Let's say you make $40,000 (average American) a year, and you find a nice place for $170,000. This is quite reasonable, right? Now, the friendly guy at the bank sees that you are a busy guy with a family, so he fixes it up so you only have to pay the interest for a few years, that should make life easier, just pay it back when you can. This nice banker also signs you up for a home equity loan, just in case you need a little extra cash every once in a while. After moving in, you find your bills add up to just about what you bring home every month. Then your boss cuts your hours a bit. The kids want to take soccer lessons. And they want a new pool. And they want to go to the fancy private school. And your wife wants a new car and some pearl earrings. So you dip into that HEL and only pay the minimum due on your mortgage. You can do this for a while, but eventually the bank will want the money back. How soon will it be before you end up on the street?

I think the ruse will be up as soon as the lenders start asking for the principle back.