Examining Socialist Myths: Tax Cuts Don’t Stimulate the Economy

Aw Hell. It’s election season again. As someone posted, “It’s a great time to pare down my Facebook friends.” I’m sure a fair amount of that goes on. As an acquaintance of mine recently described it, “Political beliefs are largely an echo chamber. Election season is an invitation to everyone else to enter your personal echo chamber.”

I’ve gotten better about things. I enter fewer political discussions on Facdbook and have greatly reduced my objectives. The truth is that as a Libertarian, I disagree politically with well over 90% of the voting public. So if I responded to every invitation to enter a political argument, I’d never have any to time to myself.

And some arguments are really subjective and not worth discussing. If you think Obama’s the best President in history, good for you. If you think Mitt Romney is the voice of sanity in the political wilderness, good for you. I’m not here to debate things like that. I’m never going to win the argument, first off, because these beliefs are not subject to change. They are part of political identity that people have absorbed and they’re sure as hell it giving them up for me.

But then, sometimes, I just can’t help myself. Sometimes political beliefs are so out there that I just can’t help myself. If a NeoCon is arguing that invading the entire Middle East will usher in a new American Golden Age, I just have to wade into the fray. I can’t say I have any success in converting people, but occasionally people do tell me that they find discussing things with me enlightening.

Which brings us to today’s political Facebook discussion, “Do tax cuts stimulate the economy?” I find it strange that this is a real question, but I am going to treat it as legitimate and go forward from there. Continue reading Examining Socialist Myths: Tax Cuts Don’t Stimulate the Economy

Whale Wars is Here!

Dood! “Whale Wars: Viking Shores” just premiered on Animal Planet. When I heard that, I had to tune in. In days of old, the Welsh (who live in Wales for those of you who are geographically challenged) had to fear the Vikings. Now the shoes on the other foot! Wale Wars!

Upon further research, it would seem that this show does not actually involve any Welsh. Or, if it did, they backed out on their agreement to appear. Instead, this show is about making wars on whales: those large aquatic mammals whose blubber reduced to an oil upon which civilization depended before we discovered petroleum substitutes. The novel “Moby Dick” contained a reasonable depiction of what constituted whaling back in those days, but times have changed dramatically. We no longer ship out in row boats to throw harpoons by hand; now we fire exploding harpoons from directly from the boat that kill the animal on detonation. That’s how to win a war ladies and gentlemen- superior firepower. The whales are drastically outgunned (in fact, they don’t have any), and are just sitting ducks for the whalers.

Enter the Sea Shepherd Organization. If the whales represent victory for the whalers, then Sea Shepherd represents the defense team brought in to prevent them from scoring. Every whale corpse that’s savaged with an exploding harpoon and then hooked up to an air compressor in order to bloat it’s carcass with air to keep it afloat equals one point for the whalers. Each time that is prevented, it’s a point for the Sea Shepherds. Each side has it’s tactics they are going to use to try to win. It’s a bit like football, except instead of the quarterback getting sacked he explodes in a bloody mist from an exploding harpoon launched by the opposing coach from the sidelines. Come to think of it, if football were really like that, I wouldn’t miss a game.

We, the viewers, get to watch this grand spectacle courtesy of Animal Planet which carries the show. The show ends up being a rather lopsided view of the two opposing sides in Whale Wars, because the nations that operate the whaling fleets won’t consent to let cameras on board their vessels. Instead the opposing ships are viewed from the camera crews operating on the Sea Shepard fleet. So we see the conflict entirely from their point of view. Of course, since the whalers are hell bent on using explosives to kill a large, cute, and harmless creature, I’m not sure they really want that story told. It’s not a very good story. I mean, the hunter who killed Bambi’s mom didn’t exactly release his story as a best seller now did he?

The Sea Shepherd fleet was originally a single ship, the Steve Irwin. Obviously, this was named after the well known conservationist and “Crocodile Hunter” who was crazy about protecting animals everywhere- right up until he was ironically killed like a snitch in a jail yard by a shiv from a grumpy sting ray. Then, in later seasons, two more ships have been added: the Brigitte Bardot and the Bob Barker. Obviously the eponimous celebrities either have or did have ties with the Sea Shepherd organization. I’m just thankful that the fleet hasn’t added a ship named Bindi Irwin, the Jungle Girl yet.

I have to say that the ships look pretty damn cool. I mean the Steve Irwin looks like a traditional boat, but the Bridgette Bardot looks freaking awesome. Here, have a look for yourself at these replicas of the boats.

Model of the Steve Irwin of Sea Shepherd

Model of the Brigitte Bardot of Sea Shepherd

I mean the Steve Irwin looks like a converted shrimp boat, but the Bridgette Bardot looks like an alien destroyer closing in for the kill. What the hell is that thing? It’s got wings and crap.

Turns out the Bridgette Bardot has quite a history. Before she was commissioned by the Sea Shepherd, she was circumnavigated the globe in 74 days- beating the previous world record. For extra style points, she did it using bio-diesel. For logistical reasons, she has since been converted to conventional fuel, but that’s still pretty cool.

As for the last ship in the fleet, the Bob Barker, it’s a more conventional boat like the Steve Irwin. Kind of a bummer, but all the boats can’t be as cool as the Bridgette Bardot. Here’s a model of Bob for your viewing pleasure.
Models of Sea Shepherd Ships Brigitte Bardot and Steve Irwin

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’ve transitioned to talking about the ships to showing models of the ships. The models were made from the actual plans of the boats themselves. That’s because the Sea Shepherd Conservatory has these models commissioned, designed from actual plans of the boats themselves, and built so that those of you at home can get off your duffs and into the war. You see, each model, in addition to raising awareness for the cause, helps to fund it. In fact, a full 50% of the profits form these models go to the Sea Shepherd conservatory. Furthermore, each model is made with a small piece or part from the ship on which it is based; I’m not quite sure how they do that, but it seems cool.

Of course, as you’d expect from an environmental group, every model is made of biodegradable and Earth-friendly building materials. And, to make them collectible, each run is limited to 1000 models. Once those 1000 are sold, there are to be no more models made like them. That’s all she wrote, so call in those orders.
Model of the Bob Barker of Sea Shepherd

Innovation Killed Socialism

I’ve never liked top-down economic planning, and after reading Brink Lindsey’s Against The Dead Hand, I know why. Plus, it really changed my perspective of free markets and socialism, especially how the death of liberalism came about in the late 19th century.

Apparently, top-down just seemed logical, given their experiences with large corporations; a single big one could organize the resources for a market better than five smaller. A central economic planning body was preferred to competitive interactions between smaller actors in separate fields. The term “progressive” came about as a result of this ostensible idea that that’s where the world’s heading. Of course, our understanding of it all then was limited and ill-founded – and we’d all pay for it later.

I was reminded of James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, showing how localized decisions aggregated into a broader network yielded better results than top-down. How? According to this social organizing principle, the group itself acts smarter than even the brightest of its members – providing all have access to different information, are making independent decisions, and aren’t influencing each other. It’s not a new phenomenon, first observed by Francis Galton in a county-fair game guessing an ox’s weight over a century ago. The majority missed it while the average of the group’s responses were within 1% of it.

The most noted has to be the wreck of the USS Scorpion – a submarine that went down with all hands in May ’68, the Navy only having its last reported location days before. To help pinpoint the wreckage, a panel was assembled of diverse talent: mathematicians, salvage experts and sub tacticians – each given all available information to best estimate the location. Using Bayes Theorem, a collective determination was calculated; while its discovery proved none had correctly located it individually, the “group guess” was within 220 yards of it exactly.

So, if the broader network is smarter decision-making, why didn’t top-down planning go the way of the dodo when it proved inferior? Okay, let’s do a quick recap on the history of socialism.

It first assumes the marketplace naturally chaotic, which jives with why top-down planning was a local choice to combat it; observers claimed entire industries become consolidated in the hands of a few individuals. Second, it was born during the Industrial Revolution – a really crazy time – with its pioneer, Karl Marx, believing the whole thing a one-off process: the world needed to transition from an agrarian society to an industrialized one. In Das Kapital, he argued all industries would eventually find themselves controlled by only a handful of wealthy leaders, at which point, the process was complete. He seemed hopeful society would lose its dynamism, returning to a more tranquil time, and leaving these industrialists in possession of “the means of production” of the greater society was an injustice.

Of course, history has an ironic sense of humor. In time, Marxist revolutionaries would go on to do just that, as industrialization was proven not a one-off process after all.

Innovation constantly brought a new stream of products and services to market, and a society run by top-down committee (see: the former Soviet Union) just couldn’t effectively allocate resources to produce what the public actually wanted. And, like we know of any bloated bureaucracy, it collapsed beneath the weight of its own inefficiency.

What’s consistently proven to get the job done? Well, for resource-allocation, the free market is tops. If an oil embargo suddenly restricts its nation’s access, we hardly need an army of bureaucrats to refigure society’s production flow. As a commodity’s price rises, people naturally seek less expensive alternatives or use less of it. The free market allows for a resource to be restricted to those who use it best to benefit society; downright unthinkable to the “progressives” of yesteryear. And it’s that free market mindset which allows the “wisdom of crowds” to do its thing.

Oddly enough, socialism has been almost entirely refuted, and yet, it’s still around. We can only hope, like other “great” ideas – flat earth, phrenology, and stagflation – it’ll find its way to the dustbin of history as people become better educated.

Or just tired of wasting time and money – whichever comes first.

US Treasury Bonds Soar on the News of Their Own Downgrade?

Anyone who’s been seriously securities pricing over the last several years has seen a series of bizarre pricing anomalies in securities as markets have gone from boom to bust- back and forth. Taken individually, any of these pricing anomalies as the market moves would be a challenge to Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) notion that the current price of a security reflects the most current analysis of information regarding that security. EMH proponents have a hard time explaining the internet bubble, or really any security that seems to defy rational explanation.

Still, people put stock in the pricing mechanism of the marketplace and see some wisdom in it. When gold was languishing in comparison to the US Dollar through the 1980s and 90s, the rational explanation was that people no longer felt it was a safe haven. Now, conspiracy minded Libertarians such as myself felt that there was a greater conspiracy at work on the part of the powers that be to get people to believe in the US Dollar as the ultimate safe haven rather than gold. There are certain strange coincidences, such as the decline of the spot price of gold in the wake of most major political news (such as the start of Desert Storm or 9/11) which would be occasions where you would thing it would go up.
Continue reading US Treasury Bonds Soar on the News of Their Own Downgrade?

Tom Hartmann- Raving Socialist Moron of the Day

There’s something about Vampire: the Eternal Struggle players and Keynesian Socialism. I was previously unaware of just how deep this ideology was entrenched amongst VTES players until Facebook came around and I started seeing all of their updates. Holy snikees. Every freaking day I’m seeing updates from such left-wing rags like Media Matters, Raw Story, and who the hell knows what else. I can understand the left’s frustration with Fox News, but the answer is not just to spread your own version of historical fiction.

Kevin, who’s consistently my only reader, brought this to my attention off of David Cherryholmes’s Facebook update.

Continue reading Tom Hartmann- Raving Socialist Moron of the Day

Call for Action: Join the Poker Player’s Alliance

If you aren’t an avid poker player, you may not have heard that the Department of Justice/FBI have recently take some very aggressive action against the game of poker as played through the internet. How aggressive? Well, just click on over to any one of FullTiltpoker, Pokerstars, or Absolutepoker and you’ll find the following notice.

The Banner Annoucing the Seisure of Poker Sites
The signs of tyranny

It spells out the that these sites have been seized as part of a larger criminal legal action against these companies and the individuals who run them. They’re out for blood… and money of course. Continue reading Call for Action: Join the Poker Player’s Alliance

None Dare Call It Marxism

Once upon a time, back when Vampire: the Eternal Struggle Collectible Card game was actually in print, I played a fair amount of it. Then we all ended up friending each other on Facebook. And then Facebook recommends other friends based on the friends you have, and pretty soon you have people on your Facebook friends you’ve never met. That’s all well and good, but inevitably you end up in these political discussions with “friends” who are really strangers and you realize you have no common ground with these people. Worse, you don’t have the luxury of death actually meeting these people to keep things civil.

These exchanges tend to be a waste of time. Inevitably I end up discussing politics with people who parrot a few tidbits of history to support their rather outlandish points of view. These kind of discourses them to be rather tiresome, but I thought the one I had today was rather funny.

Let’s take a look. Continue reading None Dare Call It Marxism

Sicko Banned in Cuba for Being Misleading

Ok, this is pretty damn funny. Michael Moore’s movie, “Sicko”, was banned in Cuba. I’ve never seen the movie, but apparently it depicts the horrors of American “for profit” healthcare versus socialist healthcare systems in the countries of Cuba, France, and the UK.

Apparently he chose to showcase the best healthcare Cuba had to offer, which is actually not available to just anyone. Instead, you need to be, I’m guessing, fairly well connected in the Communist Party to visit the hospital showcased in Michael Moore’s movie. In fact, the Cubans banned the movie “Sicko” in their country because they feared a popular backlash if the average citizens saw what the level of care to which the privileged were entitled. You can read about it for yourself in the Guardian UK story.

And we know all of this thanks to Wikileaks, which I feel is doing a service to citizens everywhere. For one, it shows you once again how Communist governments manage their citizenry, and secondly it shows you how dishonest Michael Moore was in trying to mislead people in the name of Socialism.

How Much Do Religious People Actually Know About Religion

A recent article in the LA Times reports the results of a survey which shows that, on average, the most knowledgable people about religion are those who don’t believe in it. When asked 15 questions about world religions those who reported their personal belief as either Agnostic or Atheist scored highest. The next highest were Mormons and Jews, with Protestant and Catholics brining up the rear.

Wow. I tested this out myself and went and took the Pew Research Questionaire on US Religious Knowledge .  Sure enough, I got 93% correct and I’m an Atheist. So there ya go. We who don’t believe know a lot more than those that do. Of course, it goes a bit deeper than that. I went to sunday school quite a bit growing up and there was those five years of Catholic Theology that I got in parochial school. So my religious knowledge should be far above the norm, but this survey verifies something I have long held as a personal truth. Those that believe most fervently that the Bible is the literal word of God are those that have simply never read the book.

I say this and always get a “Oh yea,” from the Bible thumping Baptists, but I’m usually able to ace them on actual Bible knowledge when we get to discussing things. For instance, I will ask them how exactly they explain Jesus’s actions regarding the fig tree that bore no fruit when it wasn’t supposed to. I often get a glassy eyed stare in response. It gets far worse when you start asking them about comparative Biblical accounts. For instance, why is the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (where King Herod ordered the first male children of all Israelites put to death) only mentioned in the Gospel According the Matthew? Was it not a significant enough event for the other Gospel writers to mention it? Or, for that matter, how come the Gospel According to Mark not include the accounts of Jesus’s Virgin birth? Mark opens up discussing Jesus’s life as an adult. You mean to say that this guy who hung out with Jesus his whole life and wanted to record his life for posterity did not thing the Virgin Birth a significant enough event to actually record? Was he just low on ink?

The vast majority of Christians, particularly those who believe the Bible is the absolute literal way it happened, have no idea that the different Gospels contain different (and occasionally conflicting) accounts of the life of Jesus. They furthermore are very hard pressed to actually know which Gospel has the briefest account of Jesus’s life, and so on.

It has been my lifelong experience that those who believe in religion the most are those who know it the least. It’s strange, given how fervently they seem to cling to their devotion, but it’s true.

A Special Request for Kevin

My blog reader Kevin wrote,


Stop muttering about that role-playing stuff and check this out:


I would LOVE to see you take the time to deconstruct this article, one line at a time. It’d be a real eye-opener for all the commie pinko VTES players out there.


Well, as long as we’re going after commie pinko VTES players, count me in! Well I read Dr. Reich’s blog entry, and, sure enough, it’s dreadful beyond belief. Not it that typically way a politicians ideas are all hot air kind of dreadful, but in that much more pernicious way thinking that only macroeconomists seems to think.

Continue reading A Special Request for Kevin