Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Limiting emissions

Grophenhagen Conference - Prostitutes Offer Free Climate Summit Sex

"Copenhagen Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards saying 'Be sustainable - don't buy sex' to city hotels warning summit guests not to patronize Danish sex workers during the upcoming conference. Now, the prostitutes have struck back, offering free sex to anyone who produces one of the warnings."

Um really? What exactly is sustainable about not buying sex? Certainly one could sustain the non-purchase of anything indefinitely - but this warning actually implied that buying sex is unsustainable. Well yes, if you run out of money, it is. But in environmental terms, buying sex is a fuckload more sustainable than traveling around the world for a fucking climate conference.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Update: Judge affirms $675k verdict in RIAA music piracy case by Jaikumar Vijayan

Today, musicians and the music-listening public need the recording industry the same way fish need bicycles. The recording industry was socially beneficial back when music had to be stored on big physical doodads that had to be shipped on trucks, displayed in stores, then marketed (then heavily, then more heavily) to stand out from the competition. Today, all of that is bunk. Superfluous. A drain on societal resources. There is no societal justification for the existence of the recording industry - why, so I can learn about the latest album from Smiley Syrup? The only recording of hers I would want to know about I can discover without the help of the recording industry, simply by googling her name along with the words "sex tape".

In fact, the continued existence of the recording industry is not only completely unnecessary, it is actually pernicious. Beyond committing the metaphorical equivalent of chopping kids' hands off for stealing gum - not to mention completely shafting artists in their division of revenues - the recording industry tends to lower our collective cultural product to the level of the lowest common denominator: look at the artists (and I use that word lightly) the industry promotes, which crowd out of the public consciousness artists with talent (but which may require more than an iota of thoughtful attention to appreciate). An undeniably better system would provide public financing for artists, just enough to allow those with great talent (or just a pretty face and a decent voice) to get their recordings out via the internet, where they can then make boatloads from live shows - which is where recording artists make the majority of their money from anyway.

On a legal level, one must be truly deluded to be oblivious to the true nature of law: a non-violent (at least overtly) means for the powerful to exert control over society. Now I wrote that in a way that may evince my disgust at this reality, but the same could be written to produce the opposite effect, like the conservative Thomas Macaulay formulation here: "What are laws but the expressions of the opinion of some class which has power over the rest of the community? By what was the world ever governed but by the opinion of some person or persons? By what else can it ever be governed?"

OK Tom, got your point, but the problem is that the ideals that define our society and give us meaning do not include "let's be governed by a powerful class of persons" - in fact, our ideals are sharply antithetical to such a vulgar basis for the law. Instead, our ideals demand that the laws that govern us emanate from us, collectively; again, sovereignty of the people is the opposite of sovereignty of some people. As the collective "we" is clearly not the provenance of the copyright "laws" that were used to hand down this preposterous judgment, the judgment is illegitimate in a fundamental sense.

Oh yeah and the recording industry might not have lost a dime even if that kid shared those songs with 50 million people. Those songs were bits of information, not manufactured goods. If I stole a manufactured good from a store, that's one less manufactured good that can be sold; but if I download a song, I haven't reduced the total stock of that song by anything - stores will have just as many copies of Jason Timberlake's latest album after I download it and put it on every computer and electronic device of mine. To actually prove damages in a justice system worth the name, the recording industry would have to prove that all downloaders of those songs would have bought the songs if it were not for the defendant sharing them for free. I don't know if my point needs any more elaboration, but I sure as fuck wouldn't buy a Jason Timberlake album.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Proof of intelligent life on the planet

Frontline: The Women's Kingdom - In China, how free can a woman be? by Xiaoli Zhou

Here's one of the world's matriarchies that didn't get wiped out by a barbarian patriarchal society: "'Why would you want the marriage license to handcuff yourself?' a blunt-spoken Mosuo woman named Cha Cuo asks Zhou. For Mosuo women, it is not an idle question. In their matriarchal society, they do not marry. They practice what they call 'walking marriage' in which a woman may invite a man into her hut to spend a 'sweet night,' but he must leave by daybreak. If a pregnancy results from this union, the child will be raised by the woman and her family."

While men are widely considered to be more "unfaithful" than women, and so people think that monogamy favors women because they are more naturally monogamous, this is totally wrong. Women have adapted to the imposition of monogamy, which on a biological level is just a way for men to monopolize a woman for breeding purposes. Biologically speaking, while eggs are precious, even the best sperm is cheap. Therefore, sexual monogamy only makes biological sense for men because they have an acute evolutionary interest in monopolizing their partner's sexuality, and makes no biological sense for women who can get just as much (purely biological) reproductive benefit from a "faithful" man as from an "unfaithful" man. Monogamy evolved to benefit men by giving them social sanction to dominate female sexuality - this is clear by looking around the world and seeing that women are disproportionately and more harshly punished for breaking the monogamy taboo...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Straw man and a cowardly lion

Why Kennedy Said No to Vietnam Combat Troops by William Pfaff

One of the straw men arguments Obama beat up on in his recent speech at West Point was that "Afghanistan is another Vietnam". Well of course it isn't. For one, Vietnam has much better weather. Obama pointed out that unlike in Vietnam, 1) in Afghanistan the U.S. has a coalition of 40-odd countries involved (I'm at pains to understand the relevance of this to a determination of the wisdom of carrying on this war - it seems rather like contrasting the two countries' weather patterns), 2) the insurgency is unpopular (sure, if by "unpopular" you mean that only 44% of Afghans have no sympathy for the various insurgent groups, while 22% have "a lot of" and 34% have "a little" sympathy; but then, so too is Karzai's government unpopular), and 3) the U.S. was attacked from (notice the preposition usage here: "from" rather than "by") Afghanistan (partially, yes; but the U.S. was just as much if not more attacked from Florida and Germany - besides: so fucking what? A political bombing was carried out in the U.S. in the 70s by a bunch of Chilean thugs, and no one suggested bombing Chile).

Three much more apposite points of similarity between the wars against Vietnam and Afghanistan are: 1) a domestic insurgency fighting to take back their homeland from yet another foreign occupier; 2) the U.S. propping up a corrupt government; 3) the U.S. government invoking a domino effect theory to justify the war.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

He may be a murderer, but at least he's hypocritical

New chapter in U.S.-India relations by Teresa Albano

Here is a real knee-slapper from Indian Prime Minister Manhoman Singh: "There are other things more important than GDP growth, Singh said - 'respect for human rights and multi-cultural rights. There are several dimensions of human freedom that aren't shown in GDP.'"

Singh, banking on the ignorance of his audience (good bet, by the way), tried to evade the obvious fact that any accurate comparison between India and China would be invidious in China's favor, by trumpeting India's wholly undeserved reputation for respecting "human rights" and "multi-cultural rights" and implying that China does not follow India's example.

Yeah, Manmohan, you are right. China does not follow India's example on human rights because China doesn't wage three simultaneous dirty wars against its own population in Kashmir, the Northeast, and the so-called "Red Corridor", resulting in thousands of deaths by violence every year. Not to mention the frequent pogroms in India led or collaborated in by government officials, against Muslims or Christians or Sikhs or potentially any non-right-wing-Hindu group. Maybe Manhoman should ask the 1-2 thousand Gujarati Muslims who in 2002 were... oh wait, they're dead, no one can ask them anything! Good thing there are 150,000 refugees of the pogrom, who could be asked to testify to the Indian state's respect for multi-cultural and human rights.

And that is only counting deaths by overt, fascist gang or military violence (aided by lovely laws that allow Indian state thugs to kill those merely suspected of "criminal" activity). Millions of people starve to death every year in "Shining" India (oh boy, do skeletons shimmer!)... though surely India's "respect" for human and multicultural rights is a great consolation to the starving dead and dying.

Unlike in China, where the disrespectful Chinese government forces its people - first by not killing them with bullets and bombs, and then by ensuring that they have food to eat - to face indignity over the course of a long life. The bastards! You tell 'em, Manhoman!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Private equity explained

Private equity (PE) is like when you own a family business: all the equity (ownership) is private, that is, the business is owned by your family and not by thousands of investors on a public stock market. But because your chain-making factory or whatever is so small, you probably wouldn't refer to your family as a private equity group, unless you have delusions of grandeur.

Now let's say that your chains become insanely successful, and you have to open another factory, and another; and still you can't meet demand. People all over the country are dying to buy your chains. You want to expand further by building a a few megafactories and tripling marketing expenditures to establish yourselves as the premier chain manufacturer in the country and the world - because you are all almost entirely empty as human beings. After all, you've been working like dogs for years without any time for personal development, so you have confused yourselves into thinking that accumulating money is the point of life. But you don't have the cash for such a huge expansion, nor the expertise to run such a mammoth enterprise even if you had the cash.

So that's where a boatload of lawyers and bankers come in, to take the company public. Whereas now your family owns 100% of a relatively modest Chains Inc., after the Initial Public Offering of stock - when gamblers buy pieces of ownership in your company from you (while giving a generous cut to the lawyers and bankers involved of course) - you will own only 40% of the company, but you will have tons and tons of cash from all of the gamblers who bought your stock. Now you can loan some of that money to Chains Inc., and raise additional money from many willing banks using your newly-issued stock as collateral. With this pile of cash you can afford a massive expansion of Chains, and some experienced managers to run it. Now you've got enough money to make sure 50 of your great-grandchildren live like kings and queens.

But is that enough?

Not for your kids, one of whom went to business school, graduated, and went to work for KKR - the trailblazers of PE - to make enough money to pay for his coke and pedophilia habits. But this kid is making it to the big leagues of pedophilia - trips to Thailand just aren't cutting it anymore - and needs to have billionaire money to buy protection from society and its annoying "laws". This kid learned the PE ropes, and decides to use some of his inheritance to strike it out on his own by founding a new private equity group, and using it to buy his family's company.

Chain Inc. stock is trading at $25 a share, and with 20 million shares on the market, is worth $500 million. The kid's got $35 million of his own money he can invest, so how is he going to buy the company, get his net worth up to the billionaire level to escape society's annoying attempts to keep kids out of his bed? The magic of PE, that's how.

He goes back to his boatload of lawyers and bankers, and says he wants to mount a takeover challenge for Chains Inc.: a $500 million company that he's going to try to take over with only $35 million in his pocket. Worse yet for him, once word got out that there's a takeover of Chains Inc. planned, speculators pushed the stock price up to $30 a share as they anticipated a rise in its price. Now he will need 20 times the money he has now, because he'll need to pay a premium on all those shares to get their present owners to sell. He needs to shoot for $35 a share - or $700 million for the whole damn company. So the bankers get to selling "junk" or "high-yield" bonds to finance the other $665 million dollars needed. These bonds are IOUs in the company's name - not the kid's - that pay very high rates of interest to compensate for the high risk involved (remember the company was valued at only $500 million before, and that's as an operating enterprise - if it gets forced into bankruptcy, then damn, when you chop the company up it might be worth only 3 or 4 hundred mil... and then the junk bond investors would be taking a bath.)

So, with a $35 mil payment of his own, and $665 mil in other people's money, the kid buys all the shares of Chains Inc., and takes the company private. Now he's a dictator with supreme control over the enterprise. Don't like how he's running the company? Get another fucking job. There isn't one out there? Then eat grass!

But damn, these junk bond IOU payments are fucking expensive, what with their 10-15% interest and all! The revenue stream ain't gonna pay for that. Well, that's where the kid's expensive business school education comes in. He breaks the union contract, lets the fuckers go on strike, and hires scabs. All the while he's shopping for buyers for his American factories, and looking to source all production in Vietnam. Once he sells the factories, he's got plenty of cash to pay the junk bonds with their high rates of interest, and maybe pay some of them back early. He doesn't need to actually buy the Vietnamese factories, he just pays them (very little) to make the chains. The formal costs of production are very low because most of them are borne (in the form of externalities) by the workers in Vietnam who get paid only a fraction of the value they add to production, and by those who live in the areas that suffer environmental degradation due to the mining of the metals and minerals that go into chain production, the factory production processes that create wastes and emissions, and the emissions required to ship the chains to rich markets in the U.S. and Europe.

Now all Chains Inc. actually owns is a management structure and intellectual property: brand, trademarks, patents, etc. The marketing is done on Madison Ave, and sales and logistics are handled in a relatively small office. Now the kid owns the entirety of Chains Inc., whose value other investors now estimate at over a billion, since he's cut so much "fat" from the company: non-slave-wage workers, and physical plant that's noncompetitively located in high-wage, no-slavery-allowed USA. With 100% ownership of Chains, Inc., the kid's a billionaire and can afford to be friends with enough politicians all over the country, and pay the media enough money in advertising, that no one wants to ask him too many questions about his collection of little shoes, and the little mounds of dirt scattered around his enormous backyard.

There you have it: private equity!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Genocide: India Shining

Listening To Grasshoppers by Arundhati Roy

I've cobbled together something from this essay, as well as from another unrelated interview... I think it works as a preview to Roy's position on the Indian civil war:

"While our economists number-crunch and boast about the growth rate, a million people — human scavengers — earn their living carrying several kilos of other people’s shit on their heads every day. And if they didn’t carry shit on their heads they would starve to death. Some fucking superpower, this.
The poor, the so-called poor, have only one choice: to resist or to succumb. [Bollywood star Amitabh] Bachchan is right: they are crossing over, quietly, while the world’s not looking. Not to where he thinks, but across another ravine, to another side. The side of armed struggle. From there they look back at the ... Tsars of Development and mimic their regretful slogan: ‘There Is No Alternative.’

They have watched the great Gandhian people’s movements being reduced and humiliated, floundering in the quagmire of court cases, hunger strikes and counter-hunger strikes. Perhaps these many million Constraining Ghosts of the Past wonder what advice Gandhi would have given the Indians of the Americas, the slaves of Africa, the Tasmanians, the Herero, the Hottentots, the Armenians, the Jews of Germany, the Muslims of Gujarat. Perhaps they wonder how they can go on hunger strike when they’re already starving. How they can boycott foreign goods when they have no money to buy any goods. How they can refuse to pay taxes when they have no earnings.
Of course it’s horrible that ... policemen [are] killed. But they’re as much the victims of government policy as anybody else. For the government and the corporations they’re just cannon fodder — there’s plenty more where they came from. Crocodile tears will be shed, prim TV anchors will hector us for a while and then more supplies of fodder will be arranged. For the Maoist guerrillas, the police and spos they killed were the armed personnel of the Indian State, the main, hands-on perpetrators of repression, torture, custodial killings, false encounters. They’re not innocent civilians — if such a thing exists — by any stretch of imagination."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Schooling a teabagger

Robert Reich speaks directly on what the 'public option' is and why it is so important to health care reform.

How is a public option, which takes money in the form of taxes, and then gives it away in the form of bureaucratic health care, not socialism?

Oh -- and does it matter that a federal health care plan is unconstitutional?

I understand the fear, but aren't our soldiers given a public healthcare that comes from our taxes? Aren't our fire and police departments paid for out of our taxes? Would you decry these institutions and call them socialism?

If not, then why would you deprive me, a citizen of this country, the ability to have heathcare (which I can't afford...)?

Doesn't it say "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" Then why allow people to die because big business (not big government) choses who will live and who will die? Every person in this country has the right to live, and a corporation choosing who will get heathcare and who will not (either thru financial realities, or preexisting conditions) is not just. We live in a free country, and our healthcare should be a right, not a luxury.

Wow J! I wish I had restraint like that ;)

nicely said!

You're not deprived from having healthcare -- you're just deprived from forcing others to pay for your healthcare.

Who made health care a right? Is food a right? Is the internet a right? When did it become a right to steal the bread of the laborer? Where does it say that in the constitution? Who defines who has what rights? If the majority decides on a "right," does their decree supersede the rights of the individual? If the majority decides that we should have the "right" to live in this country without hearing speech we don't like, can we then silence the minority?

Freedom means the right to own your own property and the bread you yourself make, and the right to choose what doctor and what procedures you want -- not have them dictated to you by some idiot bureaucrat.

We should also abolish police departments so people who can afford private security aren't forced to pay for the safety of everyone else. And the department of transportation, so people who don't drive aren't forced to pay for roads. And I'm pretty sure your high school diploma isn't valid, because people who sent their kids to private school were forced to pay for it.
"Owning" your own property means bupkis without a government with courts and police to enforce your property claims. And why do you have a "right" to the bread you yourself make? That makes perfect sense in a hunter-gatherer community, but in a large, complex civilization, you don't make bread. You might put flour and water and yeast together and put it in an oven, but the flour, water, yeast, oven, energy, etc., were "made" by thousands of other people. You have a claim to the bread you "make" because of a social contract that binds all of the thousands of joint producers together, and sets the terms of exchange.

Your underlying philosophical premises are absurd, which is why the arguments you build upon them are so easy to tear apart with a reductio ad absurdum - which is what C just did. The problem is, you arbitrarily (and implicitly) pick some random things and say the costs for these should be shared by society - and demand that the costs for other random things should be borne by individuals as they choose.

Ultimately, you are stuck with this ridicule-worthy point of view because it is the best thing the marketing and public relations people working for the "health care" industry could come up with. You now believe it, because they have successfully spread it throughout the portion of the population susceptible to conservative-sounding ideas. Unless you actually own a significant amount of wealth in the "health care" industry, and so benefit from the status quo, you are essentially being skull-fucked by the profiteers of our anachronistic, anarchic system.

It's just as easy to call you absurd. You're on the fringe -- you're a statist -- you apparently believe in a totalitarian utopia. Why don't you move to France where you don't have to work to keep your job? You apparently believe that the government owns our property. When I buy my bread, no one is forcing them to provide it to me. I'm giving them something in return. The market place is all about the free will. The government is all about controlling what you get or what your options are. You're the one who apparently believes in a primitive feudal economy, where we are all servants to our leaders who protect and provide for us.

Yes, we need the police and courts to defend property rights. But they should only need to enforce laws which are fair, just, and equitable, and respect the individual rights of people as defined by the constitution. But you don't believe in that apparently. You believe in tyranny -- as sold to you by the power-hungry state-run media we have today.

I would move to France but for their protectionist immigration laws that, just like in the U.S., keep wages artificially high by preventing a free market in labor from equalizing wages across the world.

By the way, I didn't just call you absurd - I went to lengths to demonstrate that your position is absurd. On a couple of levels. It's absurd on its face, but it's doubly absurd - assuming you aren't an heir to an insurance company fortune - because it conflicts with your interests while corresponding to the interests of the few who profit from our dysfunctional "system".

I'm still trying to figure out the role of government here. It's the government's responsibility to tell people who they can and can't marry, but not to provide an option to heal the sick and injured among its citizens, do I have that right?
By the way, I didn't state any of my beliefs, I only demonstrated why the beliefs you stated are ridiculous. You attempted to guess at my beliefs, and failed with near perfection.

You haven't really argued your point at all. You don't say anything to me that demonstrates that it's in my interest to go to the government for my health care instead of an insurance plan that I choose and pay for.

Right now I can go see whatever doctor I want, and my privately funded insurance plan will pay for it, as long as I've met my deductible. Do you honestly believe the government "insurance plan" will provide that for me?

I agree that we should allow more legal immigration into this country.

This plan is also unconstitutional, because it violates the whole concept layed out there that the federal government is only allowed to be involved in certain activities, such as national defense and managing the mint.
Not going to get into the constitution, except to say that we shouldn't treat it like the Koran: divine revelation that got it right the first time and doesn't need to be changed. Or the Bible.

I'm not arguing my point because I haven't the time or interest. Suffice it to say that if you educated yourself about how civilized countries arrange their health care systems, you'd understand why a public health care system is in your interest. That is, assuming you aren't in the top 5-10% of wealth holders. If that were the case, naturally, you are better off in a system where the masses are abused for the benefit of a few. If you get off on that kind of system, by the way, you would love India.

"Enlightenment is the emergence of a person from self-inflicted immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's understanding without another's guidance. This immaturity is self-inflicted if it is caused not by a feeble understanding, but by lack of resolution and courage. Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own understanding!" - Immanuel Kant, An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? (1784)

If you're calling me immature -- you're a hypocrite! You're the one who is such a baby, such a child -- that you as an able adult want other people to be forced to take care of you. You apparently want a nanny state where all of your needs are guaranteed. What's next after universal healthcare? Universal food? Then I suppose you'll want me to feed you your food as well as be forced to give you a physical?? (At gunpoint, because if I don't pay my taxes I get arrested). It sounds like you're pretty wussy if you're not even grown up enough to want to rely on your own abilities to take care of yourself.

I'm showing the uncomfortable parallel between Kant's definition of immaturity and your thinking. Although a major difference is that you lack knowledge - for instance, about the public health care systems of every other industrialized country on the planet - not necessarily courage.

For the record, I don't think health care is either a right or a privilege. Rather, it is a good that we as a society could provide for everyone. It is well within the realm of possibility, and I strongly believe we should provide it. Likewise, I strongly believe we should provide the good of universal education. We could of course do without a public school system, and let those who can afford it pay for their own kids to go to a private school. This would leave millions of children uneducated however, through no fault of their own.

Public education and public health both have huge positive externalities or spillover benefits; who wouldn't want to live in a country with educated and healthy people, rather than a country with a large uneducated population with no health care?

At any rate, as young, healthy males, you and I have no problem providing for ourselves. But I have enough foresight to want a safety net in case I lose my health, job and the insurance attached to it (or the income needed to pay for an independent plan); I have enough compassion to want the same for everyone, including those not as able-bodied or otherwise fortunate as myself; and I have enough knowledge about the world to understand that universal, public health care systems work much better than the present anarchic, archaic "system" you are implicitly if not explicitly defending thanks to the "health care" industry's many well-spent public relations dollars.

I have enough charity to give a large percentage of my income to help those who are in need in such situation. It's not charity to be forced to provide the care through taxation. I feel good after I perform a voluntary act of charity and good about myself, but I hate tax day. If it's so wonderful to be forced to give welfare or healthcare through the government, why isn't tax a happy day like it is when you do a charitble [sic] act?

In other words, I feel like for every dollar the government forcibly takes from me for public welfare, it takes away another opportunity for me feel good by voluntarily giving it someone in need, like someone who has cancer and needs help paying the hospital bills.

If the U.K. style health care system is wonderful, why do the poor (those that can't afford the black market), still wait and die in queues there waiting for life saving treatments?
Again, your ignorance is painfully obvious: the UK has better health outcomes than we do - this despite a shitty cuisine and weather. Not to mention a greater fondness for binge drinking and petty violence.

And your generosity is commendable, if not your motives. Personally, I would not want to be handed charity from someone I know in a time of need - I'd rather that which you consider charity be rather part of standard social services to which I am entitled, and for which I paid my taxes for. If you have ever been the recipient of charity, you would know that the giver's good feelings come at the expense of the recipient's pride.

And tax day for me isn't happy, because I know that over 50% of the discretionary budget of this country is devoted to killing.

Yes -- there is a certain natural human desire to provide for ones self.

I am aware that some other countries have better longevity and infant mortality rates than the U.S. You naively assume ignorance simply because I haven't pointed out every fact you happen to know or believe you know about the European system. These statistics may be because people here are free to make their own choices about whether they want an annual checkup and whether they want to pay for it. Even if tyranny result in better longevity, I would rather die a year or two earlier and be free than to live my whole life under healthcare (national socialist or Nazi) tyranny. The quality of my life matters as well as the quantity. I'm happier in our system than I would be in the U.K. I relish my power as a consumer to decide my own fate. You have the same power to decide yours, yet you seek to deprive all of us of basic human rights, the right to keep that which we earn and not have it stolen from us.

"There is a fundamental difference between healthcare and defense. Healthcare can be efficiently provided for voluntarily by society (rather than the government), defense cannot. Defense is ineffective without central command and control. Healthcare thrives without central control.

The primary role of the government is to protect our rights from being usurped by others, not to "provide" for us. The writings of the founding fathers seem quite clear on this. Rights are given by God, not by the government. Life and liberty are God-given rights, because left alone, we would have life and liberty. Healthcare is not a God-given right, because it requires the service of others. If healthcare was a basic right ensured by the constitution, why did it take more than 200 years to recognize it as such?

Yes, society has an obligation to care for the poor and provide healthcare. Government has no such obligation. Two separate things IMO."

That last quote was by my friend J. He just put it on another link.

Maybe people don't see the doctor voluntarily as much as they should, or exercise as much as they should like they are trying to force people in the U.K. But once a person is sick, I believe we do a much better job. Compare these prostate cancer 5 year survival rates:

U.S. -- near 100%

U.K. -- much lower, even though they should presumably have access to the same technology and you insinuated that they are somehow more civilized than we are in Europe:
So your saying that your motives in forcing others to pay for your healthcare are more noble than my motives in wanting to freely give to those in need? If so -- that doesn't make any sense to me.

The defense budget is not devoted to killing. It is devoted to the prevention of the killing of Americans, and to some extent the killing of others as we come to the defense of other free societies. Also -- it prevents killing because nobody wants to go head to head with us anymore, so they don't even try. Casualties today are at incredibly low on both sides of the war compared to what they were when our military was more comparable to the rest of the worlds. But, if you don't believe in defending a free society against those who would inflict tyranny on us, I could see why you would be in favor of weakening our military.

The military only makes up about 21% of the U.S. budget. Twice as much is engaged in unconstitutional programs started by FDR and Lyndon Johnson.

If you don't like the constitution as written, you should seek to change it first through the democratic process.

well, friends... i'm glad to see that a little facebook post can garnish some truly agitated discussion.

May I throw a bit of civility into this discussion-- because while both of you do remain on the outermost fray of your respective sides, these fundamentalist thoughts (and name calling) aren't going to help us solve the larger crises of our time-- namely budget problems (which, N, is inexcusably linked to our heathcare problems... and our defense budget).

There is absolutely nothing UNCONSTITUTIONAL about helping your fellow man-- this is right to Life, Liberty, and Justice as I understand it-- and I hope you both agree on that. The 21st century presents us with a challenging question of how to supply that, because of the damaging nature of a capitalism that runs well over the common man in search of another buck.
While N, you may be the most altruistic human on the planet and give throughly to the arts, sciences etc., but I highly doubt that whatever money you have/make is enough to supply for those truly in need (namely those who are either forced out of work by the bureaucrats who decided to tax the poor and give to the rich, as the last administration was so fond of doing, or those forced under due to illness).

To say that it is unconstitutional is to be ungodly in your definition... and I suspect that is something you don't want to be. The debate we are having IS the change we seek thru the democratic process, and as Obama said-- if you present a better idea, he will listen (much to the chagrin of many people on the lef. In the first decade of the 21st century, it's actually one of the few times the democratic process seems to be moving forward (albeit slowly and irrationally, as we are pushed to petty insults (read: this thread) or in congress (read a Joe Wilson (R; s carolina)).
I encourage the debate to continue, but don't allow the entrenched thoughts cloud the real challenge of what we need to accomplish-- real reform that allows for every human being to live by those glorious words-- with Life, Liberty, and Justice for all.
Depends on what spectrum you are looking at - if you were looking at an international spectrum of political opinion, I'm smack in the center, while N would be off the charts to the right. Even conservatives in Britain don't dream of abandoning their system of socialized medicine. (Socialized medicine is where the government operates the major part of the health care system, while single-payer systems are where the government is the sole insurer and purchaser of medical services, but the providers tend to be privately owned.)

Then again, looking at an international spectrum of opinion, the U.S. is quite the hermit kingdom, home to quacks and wackos of all kinds. Our "left", if exemplified by the New York Times, would be center-right (politically) from an international perspective.

Minus the qualifiers - which I would point out were added by every single belligerent country over the past millennium at least, so you can guess at how valid they are (hint: probably not very) - you were forced by reality to concede that the military portion of the budget is for killing; allow reality to force you to concede the correct percentage as well: ... CDI's figures exclude trust fund spending, as the US government used to do back before 1964, when to evade criticism of its war spending Johnson watered down the official budget with a little good ol' American accounting ingenuity.

By the way, merely asserting something does not constitute an effective argument. Stating that the military should be provided by society as a whole through its government, but health care should not - because one asserts it is done effectively through the market (it is not: ) - is of equal validity to my claim that I am the world's greatest basketball player.

Still more absurd is your desperate attempt to provide an evidentiary basis for your assertion by cherry-picking one disease the health outcomes of which are better in the U.S. than Britain. Analogy: I am the greatest basketball player in the world, because I have won many games in the U.S., and in Israel. (Actually, my analogy is inapt insofar as I provided two examples to your one.) Read this report, or skip to page 155 at least:

J -- I would be interested in getting your reaction to this article (I'm not trying to convince you of anything):

Full disclosure -- I like Jews and how bright they generally seem to be, and I think we should help defend Israel and allow it to use a united Jerusalem as their capital.

I guess we have a fundamental difference of opinion about what this country is about: I believe it should be a beacon of freedom, and capitalism is one manifestation of that. You seem to believe that this freedom is oppressive. I don't see how me buying private health insurance oppresses or how my insurance company oppresses anyone else. They are not forcing anyone into their plan, nor should they be forced to insure you if they don't want to. Likewise, Doctors should not lose their freedom to treat whom they will.

Better to ask why some Jews (like Podhoretz) are reactionaries... I'd surmise that century after century of being at the bottom end of European societies' (not to mention the U.S.) totem poles being ostracized, excluded and hated, shaped Jewish thought such that it tended to focus on and champion the rights of the underdog, the poor, weak, oppressed. Hence the long tradition and prominence of social justice among Jewish intellectuals. Like that Jewish guy... what's his name... Jesus. Whom you purportedly follow, right? The guy that railed against the rich whenever he had a chance...

There is freedom to, and freedom from. Being relatively well off, you cherish the freedom to do or not do as you wish. Most people in this world, however, would love to have the freedom from hunger, sickness, homelessness, exploitation, etc. that you already enjoy, and don't give a damn about the freedom to own a printing press, freedom to choose which insurance to buy at $5,000 a year, freedom to drive a Hummer - freedoms which are completely illusory, even if formally granted - for the vast, vast majority of people on this earth.

So you're saying that the money I've rightly earned through hard work was somehow gotten at the expense of others? How does me earning money somehow impede the freedom of others?
It might seem incomprehensible to you now, but it won't after reading a book by Immanuel Wallerstein or others on world systems theory (like Introduction to World Systems Theory by Wallerstein), or the history of the world economy - particularly on the continuity of exploitation from colonial times to the present. Check out Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano and Michael Hudson's Super Imperialism. The former is really impassioned and easily readable, the latter is drier (written by an economist who worked for Chase and now consults for governments... yawn) but the subject matter is fascinating.

I'm not interested in what they theorized on the macro level. I want you to tell me how I am exploiting others by working hard and having control over the fruits of my labor?
That's a bit difficult for me to explain, and for you to understand. Like explaining how the lighting in a movie was really well done, starting from how electrons were emitted from the excited atoms comprising the filament in one of the bulbs used to illuminate one of the scenes in the movie...

But here's a sample. And I'll again encourage you to check out the books I recommended for a macro understanding.

You work at a job making considerably more money than a free market would dictate, thanks to the protectionist immigration laws the U.S. government has in place. If you are a doctor, you are protected from reams of Indian and South American doctors who would otherwise move here in droves to take advantage of our higher wages, eventually driving them down as the increased demand in their countries drives wages there up, finally reaching an international level that is much lower than the current level in the (highly protected) U.S. Same goes for just about any job, not just high skill or low skill professions.

With your inflated paycheck, you can now buy any number of goods imported from other countries. And not only is your paycheck inflated, but the value of the currency your paycheck is denominated in is inflated as well. Ever since the first Bretton Woods agreements, and owing to the destruction of the rest of the industrialized world during WWII, the U.S. dollar has been the word's key currency, in which most commodities are traded and most savings are denominated. After the U.S. reneged on its promise to freely convert $35 for an ounce of gold due to the budgetary strain of the war on Vietnam, the dollar became a fiat currency. Today, despite recurring and ever increasing trade and budget deficits, the value of the dollar hasn't plummeted - contrary to what orthodox economic theory would predict, and to what would happen to any other country's currency if that country followed the same "irresponsible" fiscal and trade policies.
Due to a number of factors, among them path dependence, China's export-led development strategy, U.S. military hegemony, and the oil-for-debt deal made between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia in the 70s, your inflated paycheck contains inflated dollars, so when you buy a clock made in China the purchase is doubly unfair already, from the get-go. You are trading a miniscule amount of your labor for a relatively substantial amount of labor from a man or woman in China. The trade is already distorted by immigration laws that prevent the international equalization of wages, and by the overvaluation of the US dollar.

But, you say, the Chinese factory worker, or the Indonesian sweatshop worker, or the Mexican peasant, etc., I buy my clock, pants, or oranges from is free to refuse to enter into this deal with me. Yes - but "free" in a sense so meaningless as to be absurd. Free to engage in this deal, or starve to death, along with his/her family. But you say, Nick Kristoff from the NYT says that sweatshop jobs are better than nothing for the workers so employed, so we shouldn't disparage them?

Yes, but Nick is ignorant of the economic history - apologies, another macro concept - that puts peasants in the position of having to choose an empty stomach or a sweatshop, a history that begins with colonial powers forcing peasants off of their land, making subsistence farming impossible (though it had been quite possible, in fact the norm for most of the period of human civilization), and creating a large surplus army of landless laborers that can be exploited for either plantation monoculture or urban factory work. A process that operates even today.

Hence by getting your inflated paycheck, denominated in inflated dollars, and using that money to buy goods from other countries, you are in effect exchanging an unfairly small amount of your labor for an unfairly large amount of others' labor. A trade which would never be made between you and anyone free to set their own terms, or even free to reject such an unfair trade.


Ok. I agree that the U.S. labor market is protectionist, and I would be in favor of opening the borders to vastly expanded legal immigration. I think the real reason people view immigration as a bad thing is because of welfare, so to do so we would need to reduce welfare. The Roman Empire had the same problem -- at first immigration was viewed as a good thing -- but then it became a bad thing with free bread and circuses, until this anti-"barbarian" stance eventually overthrew the empire.

You don't address the fact that protectionist labor or import policies drive up consumer prices incredibly in this country -- my so-called inflated paycheck won't by as many goods or services in this country as it would in others.

I think that I would still prosper in such an environment, but my guess would be that you would still view me as somehow exploiting others and that my prosperity would be found at the expense of others.

Your propensity for insulting my intelligence because I have different political views than you is foolish, especially considering that you probably have no clue what my academic qualifications are. If you want to be a persuasive writer, start by not insulting your audience.

So -- I wonder what you think is the difference between an "exploited" worker, and a non-exploited worker? Just because one person has a higher than average income, how is not exploited if he believes his long hours are not fairly compensated? Maybe this higher-paid worker feels that he is forced to work instead of not working so that his large family and those he helps via charity don't starve.

I could argue just as easily that those receiving social security or medicare payments out of my paycheck are exploiting me and my hard work, except I have a gun to my head, and the worker in a supposed sweatshop does not.

Yes -- the sweatshop worker has to work to survive, but don't we all. If they don't like their job and want a better one, why don't they start another business -- become the employer themselves? With microloan charities, such an enterprise is definitely possible. Maybe it's because their government, through onerous regulations and taxes, makes it very difficult to start and run a business in their country. It seems to me that these so-called sweatshops are usually located in societies which have less economic freedom, more regulation, higher taxes, and are often undemocratic.

That's why we should help such countries, encourage them to have more freedom so that they can be free to lift themselves out of poverty. I would also contribute to charities which help teach such entreprenurial skills to people.

Access to freedom (and by extension capitalism) helps people orders of magnitude more than any form of government dole could ever do.

Like I said, read the books. Like I said, it is difficult to explain from a micro perspective what are better viewed as macro phenomena. I have little idea of your intelligence, but copious evidence of the insufficiency of your knowledge. Two separate things, my friend. If you memorized the phone books in every county in this country, I'd consider you the most intelligent person of whom I'm aware - and a complete fucking moron, if the contents of those books were all the knowledge you had.

Likewise if you memorized the holy books of every religion ever - or the complete works of the Chicago school neoclassical economists. Who have clearly influenced you.

I don't care one whit about your "academic qualifications". You need to educate yourself out of the black hole you are in, with such utterly foolish thoughts as 'economic freedom allows countries to lift themselves out of poverty'.

Believing that might have excusable - although still bacterium-level stupid - ten years ago, back when "academically qualified" people across the world were treating Tom Friedman's Flathead book and the ideas therein like Holy Writ, but today it is clear to everyone with open eyes connecting to a functioning brain that neoliberalism is terribly, horribly wrong. To continue to espouse ideas so paleolithic is pathological.

And before you think that my vitriol is out of place, or I'm being cynical, or mean, and my vehemence is out of all proportion to the topic at hand, know this: neoliberalism has been implemented throughout the world on a scale unprecedented for any other economic ideology. The results have not been completely tallied. We know that 2 million people died prematurely in Russia after its transition to neoliberalism; we know that growth rates in Africa and Latin America since the 1980s, when neoliberalism first began to be implemented, have been significantly lower than in the decades immediately prior - while in Asia, led by non-neoliberal China and the Tigers, growth rates have not suffered.

Most tellingly, perhaps, we know that around 30,000 children - just children - die every single day (want to guess how many died just as I have been writing?) from malnutrition and hunger. We also know that there is no shortage of food on the planet. Ergo, 30,000 children die every day because of the distribution and allotment of goods, that is, the economy, that is, our system of economic organization - a system which, looked at on a worldwide basis, can only be described as neoliberal capitalist. So think about that when your feelings get hurt because you feel that I am insulting your intelligence.

And what really tickles me is that the only time you can get yourself to agree with me is when I use the magic word "protectionist", which, as every educated person has been taught - in accordance with neoliberal ideology - means "bad". Or perhaps the Orwellian "not good" would be more appropriate.

You obviously don't want to have a rational debate if you assume that you're smarter or more knowledgeable if you agree with your political views. It seems arrogant and foolish to me.

Maybe you aspire to be in the communist upper class where you get to be the effective wealthy in your country that gets to decide how everyone else's wealth is redistributed. If so, I can understand why you would want to live in such a system. Otherwise, I can't believe you would aspire to live in the squalor of the common man in communist Russia where you have to wait in line for your daily bread because you're not allowed to trade and barter like you can in a free country.

If that is your utopia, I hope you go somewhere else to try it. I hope you go oppress some other people, because we don't want it in our free country. And if so -- if you're an enemy of freedom -- then so be it. We will fight and win, because this is America, the greatest country to ever be created, and its freedoms deserve to be protected, defended, so that we can live our lives as we see fit instead of under the thumbs of tyrants like you.

I hope you, Obama, and everyone else in the liberal wing of politics fails at what they are doing, because they are studying and seeking to destroy our freedom, to live, work, prosper, worship, and rear our families as we see fit.

You would have your government be your family that you can depend on -- well I prefer my family, and to depend on them when I need help -- they're a lot nicer than some dolt of a government bureaucrat or communist dictator could ever be.

If it comes down to it -- if it comes to war with those that seek to destroy our freedom to live as we live, then so be it. But we will win, if our cause is just, and if we repent and serve God.

God always supports and defends the cause of freedom, if the people will repent and serve Him, and I believe He will uphold us if it comes down to fighting tyrants like you.

You are out of your bleeding mind. Not only because you believe in an invisible, omnipotent man in the sky who will send those of his children who displease him to be burned and tortured and stabbed and flayed and choked for all eternity - and who loves us infinitely - but because you think I am a wannabe tyrant. Which is somewhat crazy to begin with, given that I have evinced zero desire to dominate and control, and much empathy with my fellow humans.

But what makes it pure batshit bonkers is that your belief arises from the fact that you seem to think that neoliberal or laissez faire capitalism is at one end of a political spectrum, and iron-fisted Stalinism is at the other. I can think of no other reason for you imagining me to be a wannabe tyrant.

Like libertarians - who are just poorly-read anarchists - you seem to think that a world dominated by un-elected businessmen - who, in the absence of governmental control would inevitably create monopoly after monopoly - would be the epitome of freedom.

I, on the other hand, want to see democracy strengthened, and democratic control extended, beyond merely certain government offices to the economy as a whole. I despise tyrannies, such as constitute every single business in the world in which workers have no say over the direction of the enterprise of which they are a part. You, however, are blind to the power of the unelected, illegitimate, unrepresentative neo-feudal lords who control groups of producers and tools we call corporations.

You are immature, according to Kant's definition, for failing to take the initiative to question your society's conventions - and this explains your blindness to that which should make you indignant - in this case, economic tyrannies - given your professed commitment to freedom.

You would forcibly take my money from me to do what you think you would do best with it against my will. That is the same type tyranny that the revolutionaries fought against. Because you would glut yourself and others on my labor, and seek authority over me to force me to live my life how you see fit -- that makes you an aspiring tyrant in my mind.

And about God -- and the belief in Him being crazy -- you have no evidence that he does not exist. You cannot prove his non-existence through your intellectual arguments. You can only assert your belief in His nonexistence.

And I do not believe in oppressing other religions though force -- and neither does God. That is why He loves and supports freedom.

In terms of tyranny -- the difference between me and you -- is that I believe the misuse of force by the government to force benevolence on people is tyranny, whereas you seem to believe that people voluntarily (without force) coming together to run a company is force. And you seek to prove that that voluntary enterprise is forced through your macroeconomics nonsense arguments. You are a communist, it seems, and therefore you would seek to oppress others. Communism is forced and tyrannical, capitalism is evidence of freedom.

To pick just one example of your poor reasoning would admittedly be arbitrary and incomplete, but I'll do it anyway: it is nearly impossible to prove a negative. Why don't you prove that the last pair of shoes I wore are in fact omnipotent and omniscient, and are invisibly orbiting the moon, from where they control all events on the planet?

That's the point of this important site:  After all, Glenn Beck has yet to disprove these serious allegations...
And one more example of pervasive, flawed reasoning: you merely assert, when the burden upon you is to prove, or disprove.

To me there is plenty of proof that there is a God -- the ordered universe and the elegance of life and it's systems, including that of evolutionary biology. But the strongest came when I simply prayed to God to ask Him if a book written about Him was true, and I got my answer. You can do the same if you want, but it does take effort.

To me -- it's a question of innocent until proven guilty -- whether it's Glenn Beck or accusing God of not existing.

You can find out now or after you're dead, when it is too late to act in this life on that knowledge.

I do want to express that I think you're either lying or deceiving yourself when you say that you want to do good by promoting socialism / communism. You see -- you don't want to do good to your fellow man; you want to force me and others to do good to our fellow man.

And there's a tremendous difference between doing good and forcing others to do good. It is the difference between good and evil, God's plan versus Satan's plan, charity versus tyranny.

Let me say this again -- you don't want to do good in promoting socialism -- you want to force others to do good.

More assertion, when proof is required. That is fitting for someone who believes in a religion - which are, after all, the biggest bundle of proof-less assertions known to man.

Hey, since you seem to know more than I do about the inner states of my mind, can I just send you to the psychologist when I need therapy?

BTW, you might want to check out Acts 4 and 5. If you really believe in the tenets of Christianity, and the Bible, you should repent of your capitalist-loving ways, you whited sepulcher, lest God cast you into the fire meant for Satan and his helpers.

I can't believe this shit - I'm more Christian than you are, and I'm an atheist!

The united order, or law of consecration, as taught in the Bible, had nothing to do with the government, or force. It was a community of Saints VOLUNTARILY giving of their means according to their means, and receiving according to their needs.

Nowhere does Christ teach that we need force in order to be charitable.

About your inner state of mind -- are you then asserting that it is right to try to force someone else to do good? Or do you believe that we should only be allowed to judge whether someone's actions are good or even based only on their inner state of mind, and not on the actions themselves?

What happened to the "I don't want to force anyone to do anything statement?"

I'm just pointing something out from a book you put a lot of credence in: that the early Christians lived as communists. And that the Bible explains that your god struck dead Ananias (and his wife I think) for lying about some private property so that they could keep it and not share it all with the commune.

In fact, communism is the only form of economic organization the Bible endorses.

Again -- no one was forced to join the united order, and Ananias and his wife were stuck down for lying, not for refusing to join the commune.

There were millions of people all around the early Christians that they did not attempt to force in any way to join the united order.

It seems like we keep coming back to the same issue -- you want to force people to do something, but I want people to be free from such tyranny.

We keep coming back to you attributing to me beliefs which I do not hold. As I stated before, the difference between us is my preference for greater democracy - democracy that does not stop at, or is not restricted to, voting for political candidates. Whereas you, calling upon your spurious conception of freedom, want to limit democracy to its present boundaries in this country (the only country with which you evince much awareness).

Perhaps you could re-read our discussion, and attempt to finally answer how you are not being hopelessly confused at best and hypocritical at worstfor seeking to "force" me and others to pay for police and fire services for all, for instance, while inveighing against me for wanting to "force" you and others to pay for medical services for all.

Do you deny that state welfare restricts freedom in any way?

Just as much as state police, state departments of transportation, state food and drug administrations, state postal services, etc., etc., etc., restrict your freedom.

So you're saying that because the government restricts freedom in other ways such as by having police (which are actually supposed to protect people's rights), then that justifies restricting people's freedom even more.

At least you've acknowledged that state welfare does lessen individual freedom.

It lessons negative freedom, while adding to positive freedom. I.e., it lessons our freedom to do whatever the hell we want, while adding to our freedom to be free from violence (police), free from ignorance of ourselves and others (schools), free from poor or nonexistent roads - that is, the freedom to travel (DOT), free from products that can kill or maim us (FTC), free from monopolies - the existence of which would be a result of negative freedom (DOJ - Antitrust division), etc., etc., etc., down the line through the whole alphabet soup of government agencies you and I are compelled to pay for, yet which you offer not a word of protest against. And why? Because you implicitly recognize that the diminution of negative freedom they cause is more than made up for by the increase in positive freedom they occasion.