Thursday, August 30, 2012

Billionaire GOP Donors Don't Want to Be Questioned

They want to run the country, but if questions are asked of them they seem offended. At this link you can see what happened when Democracy Now attempted to ask questions of a man that is prepared to spend $100 million to see his preferred candidate installed at the White House. His daughter boxes out the reported, takes the camera, and drops it on the floor. They want to control what happens in the public sphere. But the public is unable to ask them questions and find out what they are about.

The alphabet networks will cover this convention in a way that portrays it in the manner the RNC prefers. Democracy Now is outside of the convention covering protestors and the intense security presence as well as the puppet masters in the suites. DN is showing you what is really happening, doing real journalism. DN is the preferred news source for people that want to know what is really going on in the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For Romney the Shots to the Foot Continue

Ron Paul's delegates have been kind of aced out at the Republican convention. You can get the story at Democracy Now. For Romney the best political strategy is to enrage any faction within the party that doesn't tow the line 100%. I think a lot of Ron Paul supporters that would have considered voting for Romney as the lesser of two evils now will not consider that.

It's pretty frustrating I imagine. People often ask Ron Paul why he doesn't just run as a liberterian. He disagrees so much with the Republican platform. His answer is that he just knows it's fruitless. The system is rigged to prevent any third party success. He doesn't want to spend all his time trying to figure out ballot access and red tape. He wants to spread his message. To do that successfully he has no choice but to work within one of the two parties.

So Paul did that. The rules are rigged against him, but he used those same rules to get lots of delegates out of Maine and get himself a voice at the convention even though he did not win the popular vote in Maine. But that doesn't matter. Now the RNC has just changed the rules when it turns out they are used against Romney. They just told Maine's delegates they can't be seated.

It's a tough situation for Romney. He'd like to think everyone within the party is happy with his nomination. That would be ideal. But that's not reality. Politically is it wise to just rig the rules to silence dissenting voices so you can have the illusion of unity? Why not instead allow people to express disagreement, but then reach out to them and say that yes, you know you have disagreements, but you still want their vote and you can still agree that Obama is more harmful? We all know what Paul thinks of Romney. We all know that his supporters have problems with Romney. Preventing his delegates from having involvement isn't going to change that.

I think it is the kind of thing that will help some of the Paulites recognize that the Republican party has real contempt for democracy and will certainly subvert it if necessary. This is something Democrats have known for a long time. Consider the events surrounding Mike Connell and the 2004 election. The party elites and big money behind them are going to try and win by any means necessary.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who Cares About Looting?

George Carlin has got me thinking. In the below clip on Bill Maher the topic is Katrina and they discuss (among other things) black men taking TV's from Best Buy. Maher points out that Bush's rhetoric in response was some encouragement to shoot such people on sight, which of course is ridiculous. The right winger replies "Well at least we can agree the looting is terrible." Carlin basically says "To tell you the truth I'm not too worried about it."

This got me thinking about our two tiered justice system. I'm reading a book right now called "The New Jim Crowe." Our justice system is simply skewed against blacks and other minorities. Blacks use illicit drugs at the same rate as whites, blacks are 13% of the population, and yet blacks are over 50% of the people in prison for non violent possession only type drug crimes. This YouTube video which purports to be a documentary of the book I'm reading, is kind of just a mash up of interviews and news pieces that show that this is not an accident. The Reagan administration realized that fear of the black man was a winning political issue. Divisive. Funnels dollars from the private prison industry into the coffers. And drug money can be used to fund terrorist operations in Latin America. So the CIA piped in the drugs and Reagan/Bush coordinated with the media a big "crack cocaine" scare campaign. They filled the prisons with black men, generating enormous profits.

It sounds too crazy to be true. The idea that the CIA was the source of crack. But even the CIA admits this now. Now, we know many black men have been incarcerated for use and distribution of crack. Who from the CIA is incarcerated? What about the very top people, like Bush Sr or the at the time CIA director? The very source of the problem? Well of course they are not only free but living in luxury. Ollie North is celebrated. He had his own show on Fox News.

Something like 50% of black males of this generation have either been in prison, jail, or probation. It becomes difficult to enter mainstream society with a record like that. What happens when men of this age are locked up or develop this history to where making a living is difficult? If they have children those children suffer. The father, struggling to make a living even for himself, may be tempted to leave and deprive these children of a good role model. These children might grow up and do stupid things, like steal a TV from Best Buy. People on the right are ready to shoot them on sight. The root cause of the problem they ignore. Those people get away.

One more economic thought on this situation. Who is harmed when a TV is stolen from Best Buy? Not the person that made the TV. He's in Mexico making $1 an hour or so and he has already been paid. Not the workers at Best Buy. Their salary doesn't change. In an economy where corporations have record cash and only hire to meet the demand the people harmed are the investors. The poorest half of people in this country don't own any stock, so they obviously are not harmed. By and large it's the richest people in the world that are harmed when a poor person steals a TV from Best Buy.

Mitt Romney made $20 million in 2010 and he didn't work. He's the kind of guy that gets the largest share of the money due to the profits generated by workers. So you can kind of see why the right wing would want to shoot a black man for stealing a TV. He's stealing from Mitt Romney, a super rich guy that won't actually notice because he already has money coming out of his ears. But so what? Serving the needs of the rich is of prime importance.

Romney doesn't actually "steal" because "stealing" means illegally taking something. He takes the value created by the Mexican factory worker, but it's not stealing because it's legal. Let's say the Mexican worker is paid $5 to make a TV. Other costs related to delivering that TV to a buyer amount to maybe $300. The TV is actually sold for $1000. So Romney gets $695, even though he may have been asleep through the whole process.

It's kind of like how nobody is concerned about higher level CIA personnel that created the crack epidemic. They go free and the black man that smoked some goes to prison. In the same way nobody is concerned when Romney takes all the value created by others (we can't call it stealing because it is legal). We're not worried about that. Only when the black man does the same. When he takes a TV he didn't create then he's to be shot for it.

I think Carlin is saying that we should concern ourselves first with the much larger "thefts" and the people at the very top of the drug trade. People like Mitt Romney and Bush Sr. I think that's right.

Friday, August 24, 2012

President of Ireland takes on Tea Party Talk Show Host

Entertaining if nothing else.

If that link doesn't work try this.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who Should You Vote For

A test from my friend Jonathan here.

My results are here. Post a link to your results in the comments.

BTW, Chomsky has endorsed Jill Stein. Maybe our one disagreement is abortion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Were You Tricked By Clever Marketing?

If you bought an expensive engagement ring, then the answer is yes.

Economists develop models of how the world works based on the assumption that consumers are rational utility maximizers. Anybody that has seen a television commercial knows that the marketing industry operates on the assumption that this is not true. SUV's climbing near vertical walls, celebrities telling you that certain credit cards are great. Those celebrities will say the same about the leading competitor's product if that competitor had paid more. The appeal is completely irrational.

But at least a car is useful. What about the diamond engagement ring? I don't think so. The symbolism was concocted out of thin air as a means of enhancing profits for DeBeers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. And what's tough is that it's a financial burden placed on a person at a time in his life when it is generally harder for him to manage it. That's one of the issues discussed in this article: 7 Reasons Why Diamonds are a Waste of Your Money.

In fairness to economists, the "rational utility maximizer" is an understandable assumption. Assumptions are required in order to develop models that predict behavior. It's true that people generally don't buy things because they want to harm themselves. But our irrational consumptive tendencies must be kept in mind, because on unregulated free market capitalism we should expect companies with huge concentrations of wealth to seek to exploit those tendencies to improve their own profits. Even when the consumer is harmed.

As a related point, watch Derren Brown turn the tables on marketing executives, manipulating them in the way they manipulate their own customers.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Liberterianism and Freedom

A fascinating commentary on how liberterianism in it's modern incantation is really unfreedom. Long, but very interesting, with lots of sourcing documenting the rather surprising abridgement of freedom that exists in the workplace.

Anti Capitalist Rant

Pretty interesting. Skip ahead to 1:22 to hear the start of the rant. The prior portion is a little intro by a different speaker.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chomsky Discusses Ron Paul, States Rights, Other Matters With Ron Paul Supporter

This is a private email correspondence I found on line between Chomsky and a person designated as "K". Chomsky does reply to those that send him personal emails. I think he spends something like 6 hours a day doing this. I think it's an interesting discussion.

Dr. Chomsky,

This has been absolutely amazing to witness the media's response to Ron Paul's rise in the polls. He is the only one taking your stance on the IAEA report being propaganda. In this article from CBS they even refer to his policy as Chomskyesque. First time I have seen that.

I know his right-wing economic views make him difficult to accept as a leftist but isn't it worth it if he could demilitarize the US? Shouldn't the left and non-interventionists support him as he is being attacked so heavily? This seems like a pivotal moment in history.

C: It’s a judgment call. I agree with some of his views on international affairs, even if sometimes not for his reasons. But it’s hard for me to support a candidate who is committed – whether he knows it or not – to placing our fate in the hands of unconstrained corporate tyranny, to destroying public health and public education, and who describes global warming as the greatest hoax of all time, demonstrating not only a willingness to destroy the possibility of decent life for our descendants but also utter irrationality, since he doesn’t even pretend to provide arguments to counter the conclusions of the overwhelming majority of qualified scientists.

K: In my opinion the only reason he is so credible on foreign policy is because he is a right-winger with these irrational views. It is like only Nixon could go to China. You have been saying these things for years but it hasn't gotten to the mainstream media because the left is perceived as weak if it is dovish in foreign policy. But to have a conservative/libertarian point it out it makes the argument that much more credible. If he was to all of a sudden say that global warming is real, abortion is okay and human evolution is a fact he would lose all credibility in the Republican Party.

Also, in Canada we don't have a federal department of Education, it is delivered by the provinces. Do you think these federal run institutions are necessary or should they be left up to the states to decide?

C: You might be right that he can reach the media in ways that rational people can’t, but that doesn’t make me feel a lot better about it.

In the US, what’s left to the states is commonly far more susceptible to control by concentrated economic power and corruption is more flagrant. In the case of education, elimination of federal mandates would take with it special education, and much else that property owners (who probably send their children to private school) would be unwilling to fund. Actually, education is largely under local control, but the federal government involvement has been generally beneficial.

K: I saw one of your responses where you discussed Ron Paul's vision of health care and I think it is a little more nuanced. He has said that he would not eliminate Medicaid, Medicare or SS because he acknowledges that people have paid into it and have become dependent on it and that he would phase it out over time.

Don't get me wrong I live in Saskatchewan the home of single-payer universal health care and I still believe it is the most efficient way to deliver it but Ron Paul's policies are not as off the wall as you claim.

At the last debate he went on a huge rant about racial discrimination in drug policy and ended off by yelling, "How many rich white people do you see get the electric chair?"

Also, you keep saying it is academic because the business community would never let him get elected but it certainly not helping his case by having you, someone that people trust, say that he is crazy. He is not crazy. He is just extremely anti-collectivist.

Overall, he is a force for Hegelien-scale change and a change for the better and he needs all the help he can get. You yourself said once of religion "that things don't always come in nice little packages". This appears to be one of those cases, no?

C: Not sure what you saw, so can’t comment. I haven’t written anything about Paul, and don’t recall ever having brought him up in talks. When I’m asked questions, I say what I think.

I certainly shouldn’t say that Paul wants to terminate health care and SS immediately. As a believer in contracts, he would naturally want to terminate them only after current contractual obligations are fulfilled – which is just as bad, or maybe worse. He’s been very good on opposing crimes of state, as you say, notably crimes of war; his ads are remarkable. But we should bear in mind that that’s a corollary to his wanting to virtually close down the federal government and transfer government authority to states, which, as we all know, are far more subordinate to concentrations of private power than even the federal government is. It’s a recipe for corporate tyranny (like much of what passes for “libertarian” in the odd usage of this term that’s developed in the US and the Anglosphere generally) – except that the society would probably crash first. I don’t think it’s quite accurate to call the “libertarian” position he espouses “anti-collectivist.” In the legal literature, corporations are called “collectivist legal fictions,” and the “libertarian” stance, whatever may be intended, is designed to transfer even more power to these unaccountable entities.

I don’t think and I don’t think have ever suggested that he’s crazy. On the contrary, I’ve often said that if I had to have dinner with one of the candidates for election, I’d pick him. At least he’s honest. I do think, however, that what he stands for – from denial of health care and security for the elderly, to rejection (without argument as far as I can find out) of the massive scientific evidence on global warming, to transferring authority to states (hence even more than now to corporate offices), and much more, the transformation he’s calling for would be very harmful.

I don’t see what I can do when asked a question apart from answering it as accurately as I can.

K: I think you are raising perfectly legitimate concerns. The same ones I feel but can't express. You never said he was crazy just that his policies were off the wall.

But why are states more susceptible to corporate tyranny? As an anarchist shouldn't more power be distributed on a decentralized model? What about the argument that each state acts as a social and economic laboratory and if you don't like it you can move to another state or vote in a different form of government? On the Jon Stewart show Ron Paul was asked about whether he would allow single-payer health care system at the state level and his response was that he would never advise that but he would not stop the states from doing it.

As to corporations being collectivist Ron Paul argues against corporate personhood. He says that only individuals have rights. He says the state protects these corporate rights and it seems hard to argue. Would it not be the case that the more the US withdraws from foreign intervention allows poorer countries to exert their own sovereignty and possibly nationalize their industry without the CIA being involved? This seems like a positive consequence of isolationism.

C: States are much weaker than the federal government, hence much easier for concentrated power to influence and control. That’s why there is such massive corruption at the local and State level, and why it’s the federal government that has to establish conditions that business hates, like OSHA, EPA, etc.

The issue of personhood is a different one. With rights of persons or not, corporations are “collectivist legal fictions” established and maintained by state power.

One can make a case for isolation, but that’s not Paul’s position. For him, isolationism is a corollary to virtually eliminating the Federal government.

It’s nice that he wouldn’t force States to deny health care and Social Security, but that doesn’t bear on the fact that his views in this regard seem to me simply savage.

K: I have been thinking about your responses where you say Ron Paul's views on social security and medicare are savage. But the right is hammering him saying he is going soft on "entitlements" because he is saying he won't eliminate them because of the social dependency on them. This view seems compassionate not savage. Here is an article out today that asserts he is "Weak on Entitlements".

C: Paul is very frank about his plans to dismantle social security and medicare. Social Security is a highly successful program, with minimal administrative cost, that has raised huge numbers of elderly people out of poverty, and is a lifeline for large parts of the population. His arguments show that he understands nothing about the program. Medicare has also been quite successful, given the constraints imposed by the outlandish privatized health care system, an international scandal (vastly more inefficient than medicare, which has to work through it). In this case Paul’s stand appears to be pure ideology.

It’s true that no matter how savage one is, the Republican right will be happy to outdo you.

Incidentally, I’m not accusing Paul of understanding the consequences of his proposals. He seems to be a nice person, and probably understands little about this. I’m speaking only of the consequences.

K: As for states being weaker and more susceptible to corporate tyranny, that may be true, but the federal government allows for corruption on a much greater scale, like the federal reserve lending 16 trillion to the banks with no interest and then paying interest to get the money back. As an anarchist, don't you think it is easier to keep corruption in check when power is decentralized and broken up among the states?

C: One may have what opinion one likes about that, but it isn’t corruption. It’s a bailout of the banks, bipartisan. It’s true that the states can do much less of this sort of thing, just as they can do much less to protect health and welfare. They have far more limited resources, and in the crazed right-wing anti-government thrust of recent years they have to have balanced budgets, so can barely function, just as a business or a household couldn’t under those constraints.

Anarchism would suggest supporting the federal government over the states. There are simple reasons for that.

The massive business propaganda campaign of the past decades has sought to demonize government (selectively: it wants to keep what serves its purposes, like the programs of their statist hero Reagan). The reason is that in our socioeconomic system, when government is weakened, power shifts even more to the hands of concentrated private power. That’s why US-style “libertarians” are dedicated anti-libertarians (whatever they may believe). Part of the propaganda campaign is to portray government as some kind of mystic entity separate from the society. It’s not of course. It’s largely an agency of private capital, but differs in that it is at least partially accountable to the public, which is why business wants the population to hate it. Anarchists should know better – and they do. If you look at the serious anarchist publications, like Freedom, a lot of what appears in their pages is calls for government to do more to protect people from the ravages of private capital.

And the reason they want government power to be devolved to the states is that they know that concentrated private power can control the states much more easily that the federal government.

K: Also, he is not an isolationist as he still desires trade with other nations just not military intervention, right?

C: I didn’t suggest that he’s an isolationist. It’s hard to find out just what he advocates in this realms, apart from mantras about “free trade.”

K: Does it matter if his reasoning is different from yours? Are we not just arguing over the means rather than the end? The rest of the GOP and Obama have all agreed that a war with Iran is the desired end. Why can't we agree with those that we share an end and work out the means through debate?

C: Paul is opposed to a war against Iran, as a corollary to virtually shutting down the federal government, which would bring catastrophic consequences – including, very likely, more foreign wars. If his policies of strengthening private capital (which is the consequence, whether he knows it or not) would succeed, they’d find their own ways of fighting the wars they want, without even mild constraints from an organized public.

K: Professor Chomsky, What is your view on natural rights?

C: Serious question, and requires a serious answer. Not in a brief letter.

K: The reason I am asking is because I always find myself in debates with right-wingers who say that people do not have a right to health care, education, collective bargaining, etc...but that we only have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But these "natural" rights just seem to me to be arbitrary, irrational ideals and the only rights that actually exist are the ones that are bargained for in the class struggle and are in constant flux.

C: Since they have no argument for rejecting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there’s no way to debate their arbitrary assertions. That aside, without the rights they reject there’s no way for the general population to achieve the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. If you’re starving, you’ve lost your right to life.

As you say, these are justifications for privilege, not serious arguments.

K:I agree that if one is starving they lose their right to life. When i bring that up in discussions I get answers like, "Well how did they get into that position in the first place? They obviously made some bad decisions..." things like that...

C: It’s true that they made bad decisions. They chose the wrong parents. Despite much Horatio Alger propaganda, the US has some of the lowest social mobility in the industrial world.

That’s putting aside the sheer savagery of the answer, which merits no comment.

K: If I argue the state is to provide food for starving people then I get responses like taxation for social programs is theft of private property which is an infringement on the right to property...tyranny of the majority type rhetoric...

C: One of the major arguments of the slaveowners. Abolitionist wanted to take away their property. Incidentally, if taxation is an infringement on the right of property, then the same is true of the taxation that has made it possible, from the earliest days and dramatically in the modern period, for the dynamic state sector to provide the basis for the economy that then yields profit to those to whom it is handed over – like IBM, Microsoft, Apple, the financial institutions, Walmart, etc.

The idea that taxation is infringement on private property is natural for Nazis and Stalinists who utterly despise democracy. In a democratic society, taxation is an agreement of the public on how to implement the policies on which they have decided.

Again, the savagery of these claims is even more shocking than their ridiculous intellectual level.

K: What do you think of that?

C: It’s your choice who you want to have discussions with.

K: It is not my choice who I have conversations with. I knock on doors for the NDP and these are the answers that real people in Saskatchewan are saying. Saskatchewan(and Alberta) are of huge geo-political importance. That is why Alberta Premier Redford is at the Bilderberg meeting in Virginia. I am trying to talk to human beings who can be persuaded through rational arguments. I refuse to just give up on human beings because they have been more brainwashed than others.

C: That makes sense. I hope you make some progress. Curious to hear such views from the major oil-producing regions, even more dependent on taxpayer subsidy than most industry.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Farcicle Election and Coverage

Here's Drudge's focus over the last couple of days. Oh my. Biden said something offensive, implying Republicans are for slavery. He said "y'all" as he tried to talk like a southern black man. I'm so offended. What an outrage.

There's actually some real things a person could be outraged about right now regarding Obama. For instance apparently there is a lot of information about our government using all those cameras you see everywhere along with advanced facial recognition software to track people's movements. Wikileaks, which revealed this recently, is under a ferocious denial of service attack, likely originating from the US government. Remember, when and credit card companies were subjected to a denial of service attack from Anonymous this was considered a serious crime. Wikileaks is not engaged in criminal activity. Exposing government secrets is supposed to be a basic journalistic function because this often involves criminal activity and the public has an interest in knowing. What is the likelihood that the Obama administration will consider this denial of service attack a serious crime?

As mentioned yesterday Obama is directly responsible for attacks on worshipers. He's also been known to attack funeral processions and those that rush to the scene of an attack to work through the rubble, perhaps looking for loved ones that may still be alive.

That's all pretty uninteresting though for the "who's up in the horse race" media. Biden said "They gonna put y'all back in chains." That's a big deal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Election Thoughts

I find myself wondering if the Romney campaign is very incompetent or has self destructive tendencies. Does he want to lose?

Ann Coulter has been asking the same question. A Romney spokeswoman defended some of Romney's job destroying activities by saying "At least that unemployed person was able to fall back on Romney Care." Ann Coulter asks if this is the kind of shoot yourself in the foot game the Romney campaign is going to play why should people bother sending money to him? Just call the election for Obama already. Romney Care is Obama Care. Is he for it or against it? If he's for it why is he out on the stump acting like he's going to change it?

And now we have the selection of Paul Ryan for VP. Of course I think Ryan is an awful person, but setting my own personal hostility aside, is this a wise choice in this political climate? One plausible defense of the appeal to Romney Care is that the primary is over. Romney is moving to the "center" to try and win the general election. If that were the strategy then maybe you could understand the defense of Romney Care. But with Ryan you're choosing the very face of the destroy Medicare and Social Security while expanding war and defense faction of the party. Is that a good strategy in a world where the majority of Americans want the reverse? That is they prefer we strengthen Social Security and Medicare while dialing back the war industry.

Even the Ron Paul wing of the party isn't pleased with Ryan. Sure, he's portrayed as some sort of Ayn Rand acolyte, like Ron Paul. But in reality he really only invokes that as applied to the poor. When it comes to war and surveillance that's all out the window. Grow the war machine. Encroach on civil liberties. The Paulites understand this. This is typical Bush like Republicanism. Sky high deficits, enormous corporate welfare, and the talk of being a "deficit hawk" and being "responsible" is only invoked when the hungry, elderly, and sick are being discussed. Is this a winning strategy?

I don't want to vote for Obama. I want to vote my conscience. If Michigan is not in play this will be easy. Romney is doing his best to make this easy for me.

But unfortunately you still can't count Romney out. Apparently he's leading the battle for fundraising. For the most part our elections are simply bought and paid for. We know what the major buyers want. War and global warming. If Romney gets most of the money he should win. When was the last time the one that collected the lesser amount of money actually won? So he may win despite his own incompetence.

Mosques and Sikh Temples

The attack came early. Like any coward, the killer wasn't interested in a fair fight, and chances are he didn't even know whom he was killing. Having stalked his prey for reasons that even now aren't entirely clear, he struck when his victims were most vulnerable: as they prayed in their house of worship. Within minutes, a once-peaceful place became a war zone, blood-smeared floors littered with the lifeless bodies of worshipers. And for what?

But Sarah Palin didn't tweet about it. No major-league sporting events were interrupted with a moment of silence. Barack Obama didn't issue a statement expressing his sorrow. Mitt Romney didn't try to out-sorrow him. If anything, when reports of the carnage hit Washington, it only served as that famously overcompensating town's afternoon Cialis. No flags were at half-staff, but something else was.

That's because the victims of this particular massacre made the dubious decision to be born and raised in a suspicious land called Somewhere Else, a strange and often swarthy place where moral principles like "hey, try not to kill people, yeah?" need not apply to the natives.

Charles Davis in an editorial for Al Jazeera contrasting the treatment of worshipers in Pakistan with those in Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Economics Profession and the Real World

Three quotations:

"Economics has increasingly become an intellectual game played for its own sake and not for its practical consequences for understanding the economic world. Economists have converted the subject into a sort of social mathematics in which analytical rigour is everything and practical relevance is nothing." - Geoffrey M. Hodgson, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Institutional Economics

"Economics has become increasingly an arcane branch of mathematics rather than dealing with real economic problems." - Milton Friedman near the end of his life

"But although the doctrine itself has remained unquestioned by orthodox economists up to a late date, its signal failure for purposes of scientific prediction has greatly impaired, in the course of time, prestige of its practitioners. For professional economists, after Malthus, were apparently unmoved by the lack of correspondence between the results of their theory and the facts of observation; a discrepancy which the ordinary man has not failed to observe, with the result of his growing unwillingness to accord to economists that measure of respect which he gives to other groups of scientists whose theoretical results are confirmed by observation when they are applied to the facts." - (J.M. Keynes, 1936)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Paying Others to Serve Your Prison Sentence

In China apparently the wealthy are paying the poor to serve their prison sentences. I can hear the right wing now. It's great because that poor homeless person now serving the sentence is better off. Before he was scavenging. Now he gets $31 a day. These cruel liberals want to shut this situation down. Now what is that poor homeless person going to do? It's another triumph of the market driven by concern for the poor and suffering. The fact that the law no longer applies to the rich, and prison is only for poor people, that's a mere happenstance.

Friday, August 3, 2012

When You Are Scared Of Your Own Shadow

You end up doing things that make you look silly.

I have a lot of friends from India and I just recently learned that Abdul Kalam, the former president of India, was subjected to a private screening and frisking at JFK airport in 2011. I'm told that this man is revered. He ran for president somewhat reluctantly and only at the strong urging of his many admirers. He comes from a very poor background. Apparently he delivered newspapers at a young age to contribute to his father's income. He has degrees in physics and aerospace engineering. If Abraham Lincoln had lived to an old age and after his distinguished presidency was treated in the same way, what would we think?

And why was Kalam treated in this way? Because of our fear of terrorism, a danger that is so remote that you are more likely to die by drowning in your own bathtub, or having a coconut fall on your head. For the threat of falling coconuts we are making fools of ourselves.

Shahrukh Khan (to the right) is India's most popular actor. Or so I'm told. It happens I saw a movie of his called "My Name is Khan". He plays a man with aspergers that embarks on an effort to convince Obama that he is not a terrorist. His signature line is "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist." You can be the biggest actor in the world and your biggest movie can be about an effort to convince America that you aren't a terrorist. You can star in that movie with the most popular actress in India (Kajol, to the left). But this doesn't stop you from being treated like a terrorist at US airports. I mean, think about this. His name is literally Khan. The movie didn't have to be "My Name is Khan". They could have used a different name. But they used the very last name of the actor. They are shouting from the rooftops exclaiming that they are not to be feared. But Khan (who is a Muslim and of course has a Muslim name, like Abdul Kalam) was detained a second time recently, which delayed his scheduled speech at Yale.

On the surface this seems very irrational. But if we want to be serious I guess we have to admit it's not irrational. The threat is not real. But the fear is very useful. And that's why we act this way.