Monday, October 31, 2011

Stand Up and Be Counted

I do this blog for my own edification.  It allows me to express my opinions on things as freely as I want.  However, one of the most gratifying things for me is to see that people are stopping by on a regular basis.  I'd like to recognize those of you who find my work intriguing.  So...if you find yourself checking this little corner of the internet pretty regularly, leave me a comment so I can extend my gratitude.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Where the Occupy Protests and the Tea Party Meet

With the Occupy Protests perhaps reaching their tipping point in Oakland last week, it seems as though two disparate groups are active in American politics and discourse today.  The Occupiers blame Wall Street and the so-called "1%," the uppermost group of wealthy people, for the ills of our economy.  The Tea Party, though growing more mainstream and accepted by the minute, blames the government for the same.  Though both groups want very different things, they are very similar to each other, and in my opinion, simply form the complete picture of the true problem with the economy.

Capitalism's PR image has taken a beating in the last few years because of the declining economy.  Most people argue that the problems of our economy are due to a market failure or an intrinsic problem in capitalism.  Here the thing, though: we do not live in a capitalist system right now.

What both the Occupiers and Tea Party have danced around is the notion that we actually live in a corporatist society, where business and government have elected to become bedfellows.  The so-called "crony capitalism" is exactly this.  The 1% thrives upon its ability to wield influence in Congress and with the White House.  The government has extrapolated the Commerce clause to obscene lengths.  Both are guilty of establishing a definite system of winners and losers.  The only problem is that, at last, the losers figured out the game.

All of this is to say that the Occupiers and the Tea Party, along with any other Americans tired of the 1% and of the notion of companies being "too big to fail," can come together pretty easily.  Supporting one and bashing the other is likely evidence of someone not seeing the big picture.  Whether this nearsightedness is deliberate or accidental is a far more telling question to answer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Would You Be a Republican or Democrat if You Didn't Have to?

One of the criticisms I bear most often as a libertarian is the notion that I'm throwing away my vote, because my party (if I choose to vote with the Libertarian Party) or my candidates will rarely get elected.  My response is often shrill, because voting based on chances of winning does not, in my estimation, indicate one being guided by their own inner principles.  Rather, it seems like people are more interested in simply being on a winning team...for reasons that make little sense other than it gives one a social group or bragging rights.

However, between Tea Party and Occupy protests and a recent New York Times/CBS News poll that suggests a 9% approval rating for Congress, it appears that the majority of Americans do not favor their elected officials.  The problem is that many people likely don't think they have much in the way of choice.  The US system is a de facto two-party system, as much as it pains me to say so, and people fall into three camps as a result: people who agree with one party for the most part, people who choose the party they disagree with less, and people who refuse to vote because neither works.

So...why don't we try a multi-party system based on proportional representation instead?  People simply vote their consciences, and based upon the self-identification, seats are allocated to each party.  Overly-fractured government can be avoided using minimum quotas to qualify (no more than 3 or 4%, ideally more like 1%), and the only way that legislation proceeds is through coalitions between parties.  Many of our closest allies, such as Canada, Germany and France have used systems like these effectively.

Though such a system would temporarily cause governmental gridlock, eventually, parties would figure out that legislation would do well to appeal to as many people as possible, and would account for many minority interests.  Installing a slowdown on legislation is, in my opinion, a good thing because it would force legislation to be well-considered and fair in order to pass.  Gone would be the days of statements like "we have to pass this bill to see what's in it."  Besides, can we really say that a different system would produce more gridlock than the current one, particularly with two sides hellbent on zapping each other?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Withdrawal from Iraq Indicates Obama Is a Broken Clock

President Obama Announces All Troops to Leave Iraq by End of 2011

On Friday, President Obama announced that all U.S. troops would evacuate Iraq by the end of 2011.  Citing the end of an eight-year war that has cost 4,400 American lives, the president stated, "our troops will definitely be home for the holidays."

As a libertarian, I support a well-maintained defense.  One of the few governmental expenditures I think correct is the protection of our national sovereignty.  However, I draw the line between what constitutes defense and what becomes interventionism.

When we thought that 9/11 originated in Afghanistan, I supported reacting.  When it became clear that the Taliban had given safe harbor to Osama Bin Laden in the years prior to the attack, I was in favor of their overthrow.  However, the nation-building that has since occurred there and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, though both noble in intention and action, have never been anything but an overstepping of our responsibility to the world.

We absolutely have the right to defend ourselves...I'm not arguing that.  But the Roosevelt Corollary, which initiated the notion of the United States as the policeman to the world, is simply not our job.  I propose my own corollary, which is to say that much like my rights end at my property line, so should a country's rights end at its borders. be clear...I mean ALL that doesn't mean I support Iran being able to launch a nuclear missile at us.  But...part of being a libertarian is that you have to grant people the ability to behave in ways of which you don't approve.  If Iran (or North Korea or Pakistan or the Mexican drug cartels) did launch an attack on us, then I would say we pull no punches.

This notion that we have to rebuild what we destroy, however, is both paternalistic and nonsensical.  From my point of view, if we're attacked, and we fight back, and we leave destruction in our wake, then that serves as an example of the price you pay for attacking us.  If you break someone's nose in a fight, you don't immediately set it and splint it, why must we do so on a macro-level, spending trillions of dollars that we clearly do not have?

Lastly, do not construe this argument as a way of me saying I don't support our troops or military.  Choosing to serve one's country at the risk of life is one of the grandest acts a person can do.  The fact that we have a completely volunteer army heightens the nobility of this act.  All I'm saying is that the people in charge need to stop using them like pawns on the international stage, and more like the nation's shield.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Republican Debate Breakdown - Why So Serious?

Tuesday night saw the last of the first round of Republican primary debates.  CNN mentioned that this was, in fact, the eighth debate and the last one for a month.  I have made my feelings about the structure and format of these things pretty clear, so I won't beat a dead horse about it.  There was some pretty excellent human theater up there, though.

Everyone was so ANGRY!  My goodness, for a minute it looked like Rick Perry was going to slug Mitt Romney.  Rick Santorum was especially Santorumesque (more on this in a minute).  Even Herman Cain was angry at times, evoking a pulpit-pounding evangelist.  Why was everyone so feisty?  Did the whole group lose a bunch of money on the tables prior to the debate?  Well...the whole group except for Romney...maybe that's why everyone started piling onto him.  At least we didn't have Jon Huntsman there auditioning for a show at the Venetian with his humorous stylings.

At this point, almost every candidate has become their own archetype.  Romney's going to never answer a question simply, but do so in a polished way.  Perry's going to get rattled and miss obvious retorts that would help his cause.  Cain's gonna 9-9-9.  Gingrich is going to act like he's already been President.  Paul's going to act like he played the lead in V for Vendetta.  Bachmann's going to blame Obama for literally everything and insinuate that her motherhood is a qualification for the presidency.  And then we have Santorum.

Believe it or not, I think Santorum scored the most points (I've foregone declaring a winner for this one...believe me, there were no winners tonight).  Though Ron Paul continued to make lots of sense, I have to say that I liked the way Santorum kept interrupting everyone and pulling off the most contemptuous onstage performance I've seen in a while.  Between the headshakes, the butting-in and some wonderful sarcastic smiles, Santorum put on a rare display of televised scorn.

Don't get me wrong: Rick Santorum isn't winning anything.  In a just world, Ron Paul would walk away with the nomination, Rick Perry would get a late-night talk show, and Mitt Romney would start trying to convince everyone he was a libertarian all along.  But...the Republicans are probably going to give Romney the nod, and we'll have the general election of the dueling negligibly-different candidates.  Joy.

That said, I would totally buy a Herman Cain T-shirt if he started using branding referring to The Mark of Cain and substituting 9-9-9 for 666.

New Post Coming Tonight

For the four of you who care...

New post coming tonight to recap the Republican debate.  Hilarity is guaranteed to ensue.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Faulty Healthcare Law Highlights Fundamental Problem

Obama Discontinues Long Term Care Insurance Program

I am certainly no fan of the Obama healthcare law.  The idea that government can provide healthcare better than the private sector is lunacy.  Being forced to purchase health insurance is an affront to liberty, rule of law and common sense.  Unsurprisingly, the law has been under legal challenge since its passage, and its opponents have found some degree of success.  However, the recent removal of a long-term care insurance plan emphasizes a more fundamental issue with government, regardless of which party is in control.

The issue is the passage of legislation due to its own nobility.  There is no denying that the idea of providing healthcare for every person in this country is both lofty and admirable.  The problem is that politicians on both sides of the aisle have limited ability to anticipate side effects and unintended consequences of their actions.  Prohibition ushered in the Mafia.  The Smoot-Hawley Tariff deepened the Great Depression.  And now, the healthcare law is part of the reason that companies continue to sit on trillions of dollars of cash.

So...the law continues to be a millstone around the President's neck.  Right or wrong, his name is forever linked to the bill.  No matter which candidate emerges from the Republican primary, he will have to dodge slams about it.  In each Republican debate, the opposition of the law has been universal, even from flip-flopping Mitt Romney, who will know to come down on the right side of the debate this time (which, of course, is the point of flip-flopping).

The biggest problem is the fact that, as the article mentions, the administration knew that this section of the law was unsustainable, yet they disregarded the warnings.  George W. Bush did the same thing once it became clear that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.  Both notions were very noble in concept...stopping terrorism...taking care of the elderly.  Both failed because the President only heard what he wanted to hear.

We need a president who deals with what works, not what could be.  Quite frankly, we're all living on a budget, and cannot afford to do otherwise.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Republican Economic Debate Recap - Hey, Who Ordered This Pizza?

Was po' before he was poor.

Herman Cain won the debate tonight.

Wow.  Never thought I'd write that.

He was on fire.  He was like a different candidate.  No one is more surprised to me how well he handled the onslaught from almost every other candidate.  He came off strong, presidential, optimistic and revolutionary.  As hokey as 9-9-9 sounds, it's hard to argue with both the simplicity and transparency of the plan.  As byzantine as the tax code is, something like this plan might be a winner with the American people.  Watch out, America...this guy might actually get the nomination, and then we'll have the most interesting general election ever.

The silver medalist was Newt Gingrich, I thought.  He came off focused and sharp, at least when they were still asking him questions.  He can't win, of course, with his personal problems (adultery just doesn't work).  But...whoever gets the nod should make sure he's on the ticket somewhere, because he's very smart and seems like he sees every angle on all the issues.

Mitt Romney was probably the third on the podium, but really, he's on cruise control at this point.  It almost seems like he's slightly miffed that he has to keep showing up to these things, even though he's probably the most poised debater.  All his answers used ten words to say three, and he seems incredibly adept at never simply answering a question using "yes" or "no."

The rest, including Rick Perry and, sadly, Ron Paul, are fading into the background, and there doesn't seem to be any way to stop the fade.  Even the Anger of Rick Santorum bounces off the wall...but really, there needs to be a fade at this point.  Nine Eight candidates (hey, thanks for showing up, Gary Johnson) are too many to keep straight, and the Republican Party needs to winnow things down as quickly as possible.

At this point, I'm pretty tired of these things.  I love politics...I really do.  I feel like a citizen when I have spirited debates about how best to steward this country.  These debates are theater, not statesmanship.  Let's see two or three guys (or girls, I guess) argue for about an hour, then vote.  America needs a rest.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Occupy the Fed in Houston Report

The storm was the least of the Fed's worries Saturday.
A group of protesters from the Occupy movement took to the streets outside the Houston branch of the Dallas Federal Reserve Saturday.  Around 250 Occupiers (Occupists?) showed up with posters, signs, megaphones and V for Vendetta masks.  They stood along Allen Parkway and exhorted passing cars to honk their support.

I attended the event with the same mindset as one does attending a carnival.  I simply had never been to a political protest before, and figured that I should add one to my list of experiences.  Martin Luther King in front of the Lincoln Memorial it was not, but it was nice to see people freely exercising their First Amendment rights.

Alex Jones yells something and people cheer
The focal point of the protest was the arrival of radio host Alex Jones, who self-identifies as a libertarian but also espouses many conspiracy theories regarding government involvement in certain events.  Jones drew much of the crowd around him in front of the Fed building and began screaming through a megaphone, which came across about as clearly as a distorted guitar.  Still, the feeling and the occasional recognizable syllable drew cheers from much of the crowd.

I'm not sure what I think about this protest.  Protests don't tend to work if they draw less than 1000 people.  I don't know that a bunch of folks screaming at cars causes social change.  I'm certainly no fan of the Fed, but I find it hard to believe that people like this guy:

...are going to cause the Fed to end.  I was thankful that I didn't see any Ben Bernanke effigies being burned (although I only stayed for about half an hour).  I guess we'll see...but it was a great day for the First Amendment.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Anchors away!

There has been quite a bit of rhetoric in this country regarding what to do about so-called "anchor babies."  Anchor babies, for those who don't know, are children born American citizens to illegal immigrant parents.  Due to the care these children require, the government tacitly allows the illegal parents to stay in the country and enjoy the fruits of the United States.

I have already written about what I think is the solution for the illegal immigrant problem, but this twist presents its own set of challenges.  In a cruel, harsh world, the most logical solution would be to simply deport the parents and either leave the kid to fend for itself (barbaric) or force the kid to become a ward of the state and grow up in foster situations (only slightly less barbaric).  I have also heard some indicate that these children should be deported or denied citizenship themselves, which seems antithetical to a country comprised of immigrants.

My solution lies somewhere in the middle.  I think that we should require one parent to be a legal immigrant or  citizen themselves in order for citizenship to attach.  As long as one of the child's parents is on the road to citizenship, I see no problem with allowing a child born here to enjoy the rights of his or her countrymen.  This sort of system would not only incentivize legal immigration, but also would fall in line with the similar precedent established for foreigners who marry citizens.

As with many libertarian solutions, I feel comfortable with such a system because it places the burden back on the parents, rather than the children.  Though the crueler solutions are simpler, sometimes nuance must rule the day.