Libertarian Philosophy Values Human Rights, However…

The Libertarian political philosophy does value human rights, this is true. The most commonly cited Human Rights are the Traditional Rights of Englishmen that our Founding Fathers were raised to believe they had, but didn’t have: Life, Liberty, and Estate. The alleged abridgment of these rights is the moral authority on which the birth of our country rests.

How would one interpret a modern and reasonable meaning of these rights, henceforth called the Unalienable Rights of American Citizens, in the 21st century? Could it provide for us a reasonable yardstick to measure the progress of our elected representatives today? Even in the 21st century? Maybe. Let’s give it a shot. I submit the following:

Life. That would mean, for example, moving closer to Single-Payer Health Care (SPHC) for all citizens. The Edmund Burke conservative approach would obviously be to gradually expand Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration to encompass and provide care for all citizens, and then combine them all into a Citizens National Healthcare Administration while leaving citizens free to elect for care from the private sector if they so choose.

Liberty. That would mean, for example, moving closer to allowing and recognizing unfettered marriage rights amongst consenting adults. It is not the State’s place to decide which relationships between adult consenting humans are and are not valid. If such recognition is to be granted at all, it must be granted to all.

Estate. For example we must move closer to a society that does not allow citizens to go without and die starving in the gutter. Mr. Jefferson advocated that we American Citizens seize land from Native Americans (only marginally human and savages, in his view, who lived in that very State of Nature that Locke mentions frequently, and who were certainly not American Citizens for whom these Unalienable Rights ought to apply) and give those lands to American Citizens so that they’d all have a stake in society and wish for its prosperity. Alas, the Native Americans have no good land left to seize, and so we must seek other solutions.

Let us ponder what the group of men we saw ushered into congressional office in 2010 under the auspices of the so-called “Libertarian” Tea Party (never-mind for the moment that the original Boston Tea Party was in response to lowered taxes and corporate welfare that both hurt the middle class, and not higher taxes as is so often claimed), and traditional conservative Republicans trying to get “Tea Party Street Cred” have demonstrated to us since:

Life. They’ve opposed anything resembling SPHC, even going so far as to oppose the ridiculous compromise that was brokered to have an “individual mandate” requiring that citizens must purchase health insurance from a private firm without any meaningful egalitarian public option offered. The necessary and proper thing to do for our country is to demand that there be a overarching public option for health care to move us closer to SPHC and correct this fault in the foundation, not argue for destroying the whole building.

Liberty. Under the guise of a thinly veiled claim that amounts to “States have the right to violate the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution,” Liberty is generally opposed. That veil is very thin and transparent indeed, in light of the following two facts and resultant conclusion posed as a rhetorical question. Fact one would be that society generally acknowledges that no one chooses to be gay, and that gay men and women cannot “pray the gay away.” Fact two, with that in mind, is that Loving v. Virginia happened. If States cannot ban heteroracial marriages, what gives them the constitutional authority to ban or fail to recognize homosexual marriages?

Estate. Unlike the Boston Tea Party radicals they claim to be named for, our “Libertarian” Tea Party friends argue for even lower taxes for the very wealthy, even as we know that this harms the middle class. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Locke agree that voting citizens must have a meaningful material stake in society. Acknowledging that there are not still fertile lands (and this is true, the reservations aren’t exactly prime fertile soil) presently under the ownership of those few remaining Native Americans, who can we seize from? And if such seizures are to be equated with “theft,” a notion I very much disagree with, then please do recall that the thing to do when you identify stolen property is to return said property. One cannot have it both ways at once. Some may claim that taxation is “theft,” but if one chooses to do so then one must also return the stolen real estate they own or reside upon to its rightful owner or owners (Native Americans still had the Commons in place when we Europeans all showed up, so collective ownership would be appropriate if they wish for it) in order to avoid rank hypocrisy and have the “taxation is theft, and I’m opposed to thievery” claim have any credence whatsoever.

And thus, we see the vast difference between what so-called Libertarians claim their principles are, and the policies they advocate once elected. As John Locke said:

Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.

November approaches. How will you vote in 2012?

US Job Losses to China? California is the US, Texas is China.

November 14, 2011 2 comments

Here’s an interesting article that I thought I’d share:

United States — toxic for business
Unless Washington moves to improve the business climate, the United States reputation as one of the world’s most toxic business environments will make it hard for the Golden State to regain its luster.

By Wendall Coux and Staven Milanga

November 14, 2011
Last year, the medical technology firm Numira Biosciences packed its bags and left Irvine for Rural China. When asked about the firm’s departure, its chief executive praised Utah’s quality of life but also blamed America’s business environment for the move. “The tipping point was when someone from the Orange County tax [assessor] wanted to see our facility to tax every piece of equipment I had,” Michael Beeuwsaert told the Orange County Register.

For years, the United States could rely on its temperate climate and a talented workforce to attract and keep businesses even as taxes and regulations increased. No more. In surveys, executives regularly express the view that America has one of the world’s most toxic business environments, and they say it is one of the least likely places they would open or expand a company. Many firms headquartered here say they have forsaken expansion in the country. Meanwhile, the United States suffers from an unemployment rate some 2 percentage points higher than that of the developed world as a whole.

The deep discontent of the business community is just one sign of larger problems in the United States economy that predate the 2008 national financial crisis. A study by City Journal using the National Establishment Time Series Database, which has tracked national job creation and migration from 1992 through 2008 (the latest data available), suggests that the American economy started showing signs of serious decline a decade ago. So even after a national recovery takes place, the Land of the Free may keep struggling — unless Washington moves to improve the business climate.

Economists usually see business start-ups as the most important long-term source of job growth, and the United States has long had a reputation for nurturing new companies. Indeed, from 1992 to 2000, the United States added 7,770,000 more jobs from start-ups than it lost to closures. But this dynamism vanished in the 2000s. Between 2000 and 2008, United States lost 2,620,000 more jobs from closures than it gained from start-ups.

Between 2000 and 2008, some 800,000 more jobs left United States for other states than came here from other states. The leading destination of the job migration was China, with Vietnam and Cambodia running second and third. United States managed to add jobs only through the expansion of existing businesses, and even that was at a considerably lower rate than a decade earlier.

Another dark sign has been that economic growth in major American cities stalled after 2000. Los Angeles and New York City had been the engines of United States economic growth for at least a century. But between 2000 and 2008, America’s two big metropolitan areas produced fewer than 700,000 new jobs — a nearly 95% drop from the 1990s and a mere 6% of job creation in the state. This was a collapse of historic proportions.

Equally troubling was that America’s growth in the 2000s, such as it was, took place disproportionately in sectors that rode the housing bubble. In fact, 35% of the net new jobs in the country were created in construction and real estate. All those jobs have vaporized since 2008, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

While there are many reasons for these troubling trends, the state cannot ignore the role its policies have played in the economic decline. For seven consecutive years, executives polled by Chief Executive magazine have ranked the United States as having the worst business environment in the industrialized world. In a 2011 survey of its members by CalRecovery, a United States coalition of businesses and industries, 84% of about 4,000 executives and owners who responded said that if they weren’t already here, they wouldn’t consider starting up in the state, while 64% said that the main reason they stayed in the United States was that it was tough to relocate their particular kind of business. In a recent op-ed, Andrew Puzder, chief executive of Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants, which manages 3,000 eateries around the world, called United States “the most business-unfriendly state we operate in.”

Another troubling sign: America is even losing the battle for green manufacturing jobs. Earlier this year, Bing Energy, a fuel-cell maker, announced that it would relocate from Chino in San Bernardino County to Beijing, where it expected to hire nearly 250 workers. “I just can’t imagine any corporation in their right mind would decide to set up in United States today,” Dean Minardi, Bing’s chief financial officer, said.

Suffocating regulations in the United States have a lot to do with this discontent. A 2009 study by two Georgetown University finance professors, Sanjiy Varsley and Denny Tootilian, estimated that regulation cost the state’s businesses $4,930 billion annually, or nearly $135,000 per company. Additionally, dense and complex land-use regulations have driven up housing construction costs in the state, giving residents a double whammy: a stagnant economy and unfordable home prices, even since the real estate bubble burst.

Taxes are another burden. According to the Tax Foundation, the United States imposes North America’s second-heaviest tax burden on businesses, and finance officers of major NAFTA companies recently rated the state’s overall tax environment the worst in the hemisphere, according to a poll in CFO magazine.

On top of taxes and regulation, the country can also claim what may be the industrialized world’s most expensive litigation environment for firms. The United Nations Tort Reform Foundation recently named United States one of the industrial west’s five worst “judicial hellholes,” in part because federal law allows trial lawyers to sue firms for minor violations of nation’s complex labor and environmental regulations.

President Obama has declared that “The United States always comes back.” But history shows that great nations can decline. Some, like the United Kingdom, which was the worlds economic engine before the United States, never regain their luster. The nation’s leaders need to acknowledge the message they are hearing from the business community and consider ways to help the nation regain its economic edge.

Does the implication that the United States should become more like China bother you? It should.

Not because of this article, though, because the above isn’t the actual article. This is the actual article, about California job losses to Texas. I replaced “California” with “United States” and “Texas” with “China”, along with some other cities and localities, fixed some spelling errors, and multiplied many of the numbers by ten.

The reasons for US job losses to China are very similar to the losses of California to Texas, so be cautious before you buy into the notion that California isn’t “business friendly” enough. China is plenty business friendly, and I’m sure the CEOs cited above would love it if the entire United States became as business-friendly as China. Or Texas, for that matter.

Occupy Marin, in Their Own Words (Audio Interviews)

October 15, 2011 1 comment

I went to the Occupy Marin demonstration today (October 15, 2011), near downtown San Rafael, and conducted five interviews with five demonstrators, took some pictures, and took some notes. This will be part one of two on the demonstration. Part two will be me sharing notes, images, and observations made at the demonstration. No single interview or interviewee can be said to be representative of the whole, as all five are very different. I encourage you to listen to all five before drawing any conclusions.

As with everything I publish on this blog, you are free more-or-less to do what you wish with these sound clips. I have absolutely no training as a journalist, nor any experience conducting interviews, so I ask that the listener please forgive my lack of refinement in the art of conducting an interview.

I didn’t see any evidence of any bay area news agencies documenting the demonstration, and I’m not sure why. The three-second sound bytes they generally give members of the general public are usually not of very much value anyways. The interviews below are all about five minutes long. If you click the link, it should start playing. If you right click on one of the links and click on “save as”, you can download the interview.

First Interview – Concerned about debt and the rights of the elderly, and feels that Herman Cain (R) represents him well.

Second Interview – The person interviewed was Norman Solomon (D), currently running for Congress.

Third Interview – Concerned that his fellow young people aren’t involved in politics enough, and feels that former Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo Patrice Lamumba represents him well.

Fourth Interview – Doesn’t like US Troops being present in other countries, and feels that Dennis Kucinich (D) represents her well.

Fifth Interview – Concerned about party-line voting trumping the national interest in Congress.

Someone else posted a video of the demonstration from across the street on youtube, if you’d like to get an idea of the atmosphere from a distance.

Responce to Ron Paul’s “A Dangerous Precedent”

October 10, 2011 1 comment

A friend pointed me to an article by Sen. Ron Paul published by antiwar.com wherein Senator Paul was scathingly critical of the assassination of US Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. I invite you to read Senator Paul’s article in its entirety, here. Few doubt the guilt of al-Awlaki in actively recruiting American and EU citizens to become murderers of their fellow citizens and offering tactical and operational guidance to those interested,  but if you do have doubt then I invite you to read his own words on page eleven of Al Qaeda’s English-language magazine – a direct download of the fifth issue of this Al Qaeda publication (it styles itself as a magazine like People or Vogue) in PDF format is here here. If he were an American military officer, his rank and position could be summarized as Commanding General, English Language Recruitment and Training Command.

I will assume from this point that you’ve read some of what Senator Paul has to say about al-Awlaki, and what al-Awlaki had to say for himself. The only debate at this point pertains to al-Awlaki’s fifth amendment right to due process. Things in quotes are Senator Paul, followed by my response to them.

Many cheer this killing because they believe that in a time of war, due process is not necessary — not even for citizens, and especially not for those overseas. However, there has been no formal declaration of war and certainly not one against Yemen.

For better or worse, we’ve abolished the concept of declaring war as a country. And I believe Americans in general, for whatever reasons, support this decision. When Senator Paul put forth a Declaration of War against Iraq in 2002, few Americans stood up in support of it and most supporters of the invasion of Iraq seemed OK with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq instead. In 1998 Al Qaeda declared war against the United States, and on September 14, 2001, the United States Congress returned the favor. A state of war has existed between Al Qaeda and the United States since then.

The United States Congress authorizing the President to use force is the modern equivalent of declaring war, and Ron Paul should stop pretending it is 1941.

Awlaki’s father tried desperately to get the administration to at least allow his son to have legal representation to challenge the “kill” order. He was denied. Rather than give him his day in court, the administration, behind closed doors, served as prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.

A metaphor no combat veteran is likely to ever make.

All combatants serve as judge, jury, and executioner. Is President Obama not the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces at present, ultimately the General of Generals? Is a General not a combatant, even if he holds no rifle and flies no jet and merely has a “radio man” at his disposal?

Al-Awlaki is not merely accused of being a leader in Al Qaeda. He self-professed as being a leader in Al Qaeda while residing amongst and amidst Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.

Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) wasn’t always called AQAP, its leaders chose to rename the organization willingly. Furthermore, al-Awlaki wasn’t always AQ, he chose to join and proclaimed his allegiance loudly and publicly.

I will leave you with this question: Imagine an American rifleman fighting at the Battle of the Bulge who spots what appears to be a German General standing amidst a German Command and Control center from two hundred yards away. Do you expect that rifleman to approach and ask the apparent German General (self-identifying as such by virtue of wearing that uniform at that location) if he is indeed a German General, or do you expect him to take the shot immediately?

How To Produce Suicide Bombers, and How To Cease Production

Professor Robert Pape is a social scientist at the University of Chicago and has been analyzing the motivations of people (generally people on the “other side”) for a few decades. He avoids falling into the trap of stereotypes, avoiding taboo, and saying things that people like to hear. Rather than relying on quotes from holy books, political speeches or other fuzzy sources to understand why things happen, he’s collected hard data on some two thousand terrorist attacks and attempted to understand it from that perspective.

He’s instructed Air Force Officers at the School of Advanced Airpower Studies, he’s provided intelligence to various Federal Intelligence agencies that they did not previously have, and he runs the Project on Security and Terrorism, including its publicly accessible database of terrorist attacks.

Below is the video of a presentation he gave at Duke University a few months ago – it is fascinating stuff, and the conclusions are far from what you would expect. His theory offers a model that includes predictability, meaning that as we watch future current events we should be able to test his theory by applying the model and using it to predict if large numbers of suicide bombers will or will not be produced by a conflict.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Making the White Pandigital 7″ Novel Useful (Without rooting it, hacking it, or doing anything else risky)

September 10, 2011 8 comments

Here’s a video showing the general performance and feel of this device:

I always told myself that once Android tablets dropped below $100, I’d pick one up. That has now happened with the $85 PanDigital 7-Inch Tablet Computer – White. I’ll skip the review and the full tech specs, as those are widely available. The only caveat I will add is that you should ignore complaints about the original item’s locked down software. The device, as it ships today, is infinitely more useful than the original.

If the review you are reading shows images of the device looking like this, then ignore the review.

The reviews you should pay attention to are the ones written after the major upgrade to this device of January 2011, and images in the review should look like this:

If your device looks like the second image above, ignore this paragraph. If you already have an older one and it looks like the first picture, then the first step in making it useful as more than an e-book reader is to click here if you are a Windows user or here (link 1 and link 2) if you are not a Windows user. I’ll assume for the rest of this article that you are not using the locked-down firmware either because your device is more recent, or because you’ve loaded the more recent OEM firmware.

We will not be rooting our device. Many guides are available for that, this instead will document how to make this device useful without taking that risk. I’m going to sharing a few tips and pointers that I’ve found made this device much more useful than intended, including by breaking free of the Barnes & Noble and SlideMe duopoly over the software available to the device.

App Stores that Work On This Device.

As you have probably already realized, the Pandigital 7″ is not officially supported by Google and so all of the “standard” Google apps are missing — including the Android Marketplace. If you open this article on your Pandigital and click these links, you will be guided through the process of enabling these various alternatives to the Android Marketplace.

  • Amazon Appstore. One paid app for free every day, and a fairly wide selection of apps in general – It is of sufficiently high quality that I have this installed on my cell phone that does have the official Android Marketplace too. This is probably the closest to a drop-in replacement to the Android Marketplace currently available. The biggest downside is that if an app doesn’t officially support our device, then it will not allow us to even attempt to install it. This includes, mind bogglingly enough, the Amazon Kindle app.
  • Opera Mobile Store. But fear not! The Opera Mobile Store does allow you to install the Kindle App onto your Pandigital and it works just fine. Though it has a smaller selection, there appear to be many cases wherein the Opera Mobile Store will let me attempt to install an app that the Amazon Appstore does not.
  • Soc.io Mall. This seems marginally better than the SlideMe app store, but worth including because it is still nonetheless better. You must go hereon your desktop computer to register before you can log in on your Pandigital, as there seems to be a bug in the app itself.
  • Freewarelovers. Use this to manually download .apk files for those apps that are not available in any of the above, but that are still normally free from the Android Marketplace.
  • Thepiratebay.org. Do not use this unless you live in Sweden and have the written permission of everyone that has ever published an app in the official Android Marketplace. It works just fine for everyone, but if you don’t meet the two above criteria and use it then you are a bad person and going to hell after being put to death by DMCA agents who will fastrope into your house in the middle of the night and shoot your dog. I’m going to trust you on this one using the honor system, mmmk?

Some Useful Software Now Available to you.

The following are available at one or more of the above stores, and I’ve confirmed that they work on the Pandigital 7″.

  • Kindle. Best-in-breed e-book store reader. Available from the Opera Mobile Store.
  • TV.com. Allows watching of a few TV shows, including the original Star Trek series. Available from the Opera Mobile Store.
  • Opera Mini. Best-in-breed web browser for Android. Available from the Amazon Appstore.
  • Skyfire. Web browser with mediocre flash video playback capability.
  • Dropbox. Available here, this is the easiest way to move files back and forth between your desktop and your device without plugging things in and unplugging them, and without moving SD cards back and forth.
  • Launcher Pro. Replaces the default home screen with a much nicer one and is the best-in-breed alternative home screen. Available here.
  • Star Traders RPG. Available from the Amazon Appstore, it’s a fun little game that can kill time.
  • Bathroom Reader. Takes you to a semi-random Wikipedia article, such as “Random Sports Article”, “Random Celebrity Article”, “Random Technology Article”, and several other categories. Available from the Amazon Appstore.

Well, that is most of what I have discovered about the possibilities of this $85 device so far. What have you discovered?

Dump of The Frentwood PD Hack

Here’s the story, for those that missed it:

FRIENDSWOOD — An online group known as Anonymous claims to have illegally hacked into the email accounts of more than two dozen Texas law enforcement agencies or officials.

The group posted hundreds of emails online including racially insensitive emails sent to Friendswood Police Chief, Robert Wieners.

There are plenty of articles from traditional media that read more-or-less just like that. Unfortunately, most journalists seem hesitant to post the insensitive material itself for some reason, and the rest of us are left to place our trust in the judgment of the journalists. That’s silly. Any journalist that located the dump should be posting links to it directly so that informed readers can come to their own conclusions, and any journalist that hasn’t located it shouldn’t be writing about it. Well, here’s a link to the full data dump – decide for yourself if this is all merely innocent ‘shop talk’ that can be expected from anyone working in a high-stress environment, or if it was to far.

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