Guaranteed profitability hurts the little guy.
I've written before about Bolivia's nationalization of its oil and gas industry. Now it's cutting deals with large international oil companies - and guaranteeing them profit.
Of course, what this means is that if the companies make bad decisions, they won't suffer - the people of Bolivia will. This is a gross perversion of what nationalization of the energy industry was supposed to do, that is, stop exploitation by the oil companies and protect Bolivians. (There was no chance that nationalization would accomplish this, but it's a nice goal at least.)
This sort of thing demonstrates something we libertarians have issues convincing people of - big government quite frequently advances the goals of big, exploitative corporations, and the only way that exploitative corporations can continue harming their customers is with government help. Markets don't guarantee profitability, and nothing should. Guaranteeing reward for something that may or may not be beneficial is the best way to guarantee that no benefit will come from it.
You have more than two choices.
The Democrats appear to think that they can win this November by pointing out that George W. Bush isn't a member of their party. They are trying to position themselves as the only alternative to two more years of Republican control. But that simply isn't the case - in fact, voting for Democrats isn't too much different from voting for Republicans in the grand scheme of things. To really show how sick you are with the Republicans (and the Democrats), vote for a third party. If you want to run your own life, vote Libertarian. If you want the government to run your life, vote Green. If you're a crazed fundamentalist, vote Constitution. If you agree with one of the other more niche parties, vote for them. But if you're discontented - which, if you're an American, you statistically probably are - don't vote for Republicans or Democrats.
The Democrats don't get it either.
Except for the most hardcore of rightists, it is generally acknowledged by Americans today that invading Iraq was a mistake. Most won't look at you funny if you tell them that it was a morally reprehensible, completely unjustifiable act, even if they disagree. Naturally, the Democrats are capitalizing on this mistake by attributing it to Republicans (even though many Democrats voted to invade as well), hoping to score points with voters so that they'll have a chance to screw up your life - the Democratic way.
An easy lesson to learn from the situation in Iraq is non-intervention except in the case of an attack (for example, I contend that the invasion of Afghanistan was justified, although why we're still there is a mystery to me.) The Democrats should logically be arguing for a less aggressive foreign policy. Instead, everybody's darling Barack Obama is arguing that the United States should put its soldiers in harm's way in Darfur.
I disagree not because I'm a heartless icicle who has no concern for the victims of Darfur, but because our troops should not be sent abroad and put in dangerous situations except to defend America. If I had any confidence that the various schemes to help Darfur would do something besides put money in the pockets of the dictators causing the problems, I'd help. If people wish to protect the natives of Darfur with military might, they can (and ought to be free to) raise a group to protect a village, a family, whatever. But those who signed up to protect America should not be forced to protect Darfur.
Arguing with socialists is fun!
I encountered two girls handing out copies of Socialist Worker magazine today. Naturally, I stopped to convince them that they were errant in their views. Naturally, they refused to listen to reason. Most of our exchanges went something like this (they were power-to-the-people types, but evidently power-to-the-individual wasn't in there):
Me: So you recognize a right to self-determination?
Me: So how can you advocate socialism, where everybody is rubber-stamped and isn't allowed to decide for themselves what they want?
Them: Well, we more advocate a central revolution of the people.
They also said "we don't really understand economics" when I explained how the free market prevents monopolies from forming. I suppose I should have already guessed that from the fact that they were handing out copies of Socialist Worker.
Are they trying to scare us?
I'm being hunted all over campus in a game of Zombies vs. Humans here at Cornell, so perhaps all this is just collateral paranoia. But the conflicting reports on whether or not North Korea really set off a nuclear bomb or not, plus the very small yield of the bomb (far less than the Hiroshima bomb, logically the least advanced nuke ever detonated) is making me wonder whether both the governments of North Korea and the United States are hyping up the DPRK's nuclear capabilities to cause fear. First, the conflicting reports:OK, well, that's exciting. (If it's compressed too much, the top headline says "North Korea: Radioactive Debris Found in US Test" and the bottom one says "Official: No Radioactive Particles Found".)
Now, the question of "is it crazy to believe the government would hype something up or lie". No. I don't believe that the government perpetrated 9/11, but many instances of the government lying to or concealing things from us have already been documented (in other words, everything classified, and the various propaganda machines that have been openly set up in times of "national emergency"), even though, since they are our employees, we ought to know everything they do.
Maybe I'm just being crazy. But I'd like independent, non-governmental confirmation of radioactive debris before anything is done regarding North Korea. (Obviously it's too late for that, but folks can dream, can't they?)
More proof that socialism is all about repression
The opposition Socialist party managed to limply pass a law through France's lower house of Parliament making denying that the mass killing of Armenians by the Turkish government during World War I a crime. Naturally this infuriated Turkey, but that's not really the issue. The issue is that even though denying that fact is stupid, this violates the inherent right of people to say whatever they like - even when that stuff isstupid and damaging, like, say, socialism.
North Korea's tugging at our chain. Again.
Every time North Korea decides the rest of the world has forgetton it exists, Kim Jong Il, its Daffy Duck-obsessed leader, does something crazy to get attention. Yesterday, it was detonating a powerful explosive device equivalent to 550 tons of TNT that it claimed was a nuclear bomb in the barren northeastern part of the country. (I personally believe that it's far more likely that they detonated 550 tons of TNT, but that's just me.) By doing this, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (three lies in one name!) calls the bluff of the United States, which has said it will not tolerate North Korean nuclear power. Kim Jong Il knows we don't have the cojones to invade.
Obviously we shouldn't invade. So what should we do? We should stop sending North Korea aid through the UN. Every dollar we send in aid is another dollar the DPRK can spend on weaponry. If the UN stopped its aid to North Korea, the government would have to feed its people or face a revolution.
The immediate response to this argument is that stopping aid to North Korea (which is sent mainly in the form of food) would precipitate a humanitarian crisis. The people that make this argument evidently fail to recognize that every day that the DPRK continues as the government of the northern half of the Korean Peninsula is another day in a humanitarian crisis that has been going on since the government was established in 1948.
LP Ballot Base
I just used the new LP Ballot Base program to conduct polling in Texas's 22nd Congressional District, where Bob Smither running a very strong campaign for Congress. The tool was certainly interesting to use. I made 57 calls and was allowed to complete the survey by a grand total of one person. She told me to "put Democrat all the way down", which was not possible. When I explained to her that there was no Democrat in the special election for who will serve out Tom DeLay's term from November until the new Congress is inducted, she said she wouldn't vote.
I think my timing was probably not so good for most people, and I'll be trying again tomorrow. If you'd like to help, go to www.BallotBase.org.
If X is causing a problem, don't add more X.
Especially when X is government.
Since I'm part of Cornell University's Solar Decathlon team, which aims to build a solar house, I had to attend a construction training seminar this afternoon done by some OSHA-trained guy. It was pretty much along the lines of "Here's when to use safety goggles. Here's a guy with a nail in his eye." None of the regulations were particularly stupid - most of them were common-sense, like "use safety goggles when operating a nail gun."
But why is OSHA around anyways? Surely in a capitalist system, employers would want to protect their workers, since they wouldn't want to replace them and they wouldn't want to be liable. Unsurprisingly, government shows up here too. Employers could be safe from liability if their greased representatives made sure they were, and so employers greased their representatives. The solution was, unfortunately, to add more government, when it should have been to prevent laws from being passed which would prevent the normal handling of liabilities.
Who do you blame now, Jack Thompson?
Jack Thompson has been one of the most outspoken advocates of banning and censoring video games and other forms of entertainment to "protect" children from their "harmful" influence. He blames such tragedies as school shootings and teenage drug abuse on violent video games and their supposed psychological effects. Today, there was, unfortunately, a school shooting at an all-Amish high school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In case you don't recall, the Amish reject all industrial and post-industrial technology - in other words, this kid didn't get the idea from video games.
I don't want to make light of this situation, but it does make anti-free speech advocates like Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton look pretty dumb.
UPDATE: Apparently the shooter was not an Amish person, in which case, this is just sad and does not serve an argument.
Jameson could knock out Hutchison
The race for Texas Senior Senator could take an interesting turn after Libertarian Scott Lanier Jameson debates Democrat Barbara Radnofsky and Republican incumbent Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of the highest-ranked Republicans in the Senate. The latest poll to include all three candidates has Hutchison at 45.2%, Radnofsky at 36.8%, and Jameson at 7.1%. Since the debate had not happened when the poll was taken (it is scheduled for October 19), it's likely that Jameson's support will rise, since many Texans will not have heard about him. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising if he got into double digits. Since there is currently an 8.4% difference between Hutchison and Radnofsky, it is possible that an increase in suport for Jameson would knock out Hutchison, severely shaking up the Senate.