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Is it too soon to say "I told you so"?

Because I told you so.

Why any libertarian thinks a neo-fusionist alliance with the teabaggers is a good idea is beyond me, given the past few decades worth of conservative-libertarian fusionism.

It's all supposed to be about economic issues, while putting social issues to the side for the sake of maintaining the alliance, right? So is immigration an economic or a social issue?

Useful idiots, indeed.


US Government supporting Kim Jong-Il

Via North Korea Economy Watch, a sadly familiar story:

Economic sanctions by the United States and other western countries is actually strengthening the Kim Jong-il’s regime, a German social worker involved with a non-government organization told reporters here this morning. Sanctions are also affecting life in other ways like the new-found emphasis on sustainable agriculture, she said.

“The leaders are using the sanctions as a justification. People believe the country is in a bad condition because of outside forces,” Karin Janz, country director in North Korea for the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, said while speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Beijing. The official media justified its actions as efforts to fortify the nation against the onslaught of foreign forces, and the people fully believed it, she said.

The sanctions have hit the North Korean agriculture and caused fears of a worsening of the food situation, Karin said. “The North Korean agriculture is highly industrialized,” she said while explaining the country’s agriculture is heavily dependent on imported farm machines and chemical fertilizers. Most of these materials came from South Korea, which has now slammed the doors.


She's dating a younger man

He's really cute. He plays on her sister's soccer team. He's seven.

Heather Morris's character Brittany on Glee has replaced The Office's Creed as the person with the highest humor:screentime ratio on television. Every line she utters is a home run.

"When I pulled my hamstring, I went to a misogynist."

The look she gave Shu when asking him if Jesse was his son simultaneously combined accusation, distrust, and sourness.

Tonight's episode almost put Glee into the musical genre outright. Till now, every musical number has been a performance, either in practice or in competition. But when the three couples spontaneously broke out into "Like a Virgin", I thought the writers finally decided to accept fate. It turned out to be a dream sequence.


Sovereign v Subject

From John Reale:

Two guys, Sovereign and Subject, have an arrangement of sorts. Subject does the work, Sovereign sponges off of him. Subject puts up with it, because Sovereign will beat him up if he doesn’t.

Sovereign has gotten greedy of late. He’s decided to issue bonds backed by Subject, with a guaranteed return rate. He keeps some of the funds raised for himself, and maybe uses some to make Subject’s life a little more productive as well, but with the explicit condition that Subject is going to have to pay these funds back with interest.

Subject doesn’t like this plan. He also sees that Sovereign has very little incentive not to overpromise what Subject is capable of.

Sovereign has two takers in his Subject bond offering, Investor and Leech. Investor is impressed by what Subject is capable of, and wants to keep him well funded to achieve more, and to profit in the process. Leech is a bully and a coward, and wants Sovereign to squeeze Subject for all he can. Both have purchased bonds for very different reasons, but both are very concerned by the writing on the wall. It’s becoming apparent that Subject is overworked. He’s lost his motivation, and he’s been giving so much to Sovereign and Sovereign’s creditors that he hasn’t been able to properly take care of himself. Payments meeting the exorbitant amounts Sovereign has promised are no longer a given.

Naturally, Sovereign is troubled greatly by this development. If Subject underperforms, his gravy train derails: Not only does he lose his direct revenue stream, but also his take from controlling access to Subject.

Read the rest of it here.


I got your sage of Omaha RIGHT HERE!

From a CNBC interview with Warren Buffet:

QUICK: When you look at the situation in Greece right now and what’s happening with the trouble they’ve gotten into, do you believe that contagion spreads to not only other EU nations, but potentially other states here in the United States? Is that a huge worry for you?

BUFFETT: There’s a huge incentive for the EU to handle something like Greece and, of course, that’s what you’re seeing now. I mean, it isn’t–it isn’t because the rest of–the other 15 countries in the EU have suddenly developed this great affinity for Greeks. They just–they know the consequences of, you know, if A is going to lead to B and you can’t stand B, solve A. And that is essentially the situation. That’s what we went through a year and a half ago, you know, after–when we stepped in and guaranteed money market funds and commercial paper and all of those things. We saw a run on the country developing, and, believe me, it was developing. And no one has to lend money to country A or country B or country C. And if they lose money with country A they’re going to get more worried about country B and country C just like the same experience we had with financial institutions in the fall of 2008. The time to stop runs is early on.

QUICK: But do you think that this is something that could happen here in the United States, if you look at California or New York, if you start looking at some of the states that have very large financial problems?

BUFFETT: Yeah, and they can’t print money.

QUICK: They can’t.

BUFFETT: No, no. What they can do is one of three things. They can cut expenses, they can raise income, or they can go to Washington eventually.

QUICK: And you think Washington would cover all of those problems?

BUFFETT: It would be very tough if you’re in Congress and they say, `Well, you bailed out General Motors, and you did this and that. And are you going to say, “People in the largest state in the union or whatever it is, that we’re not going to take care of you? I mean, the political problem would be huge. But there’s no question that states and municipalities the fiscal–the financial situation for them has deteriorated dramatically. We did not write any municipal insurance to speak of in 2009. The risk got higher and the premiums got lower and that just–it made it a dumb sort of thing to do in our view.

QUICK: Tying this back to Europe and if Europe and Germany do step in and provide for Greece, as it looks like they very–may very well do at this point…

BUFFETT: Almost have to, yeah.

This type of argument is based purely on a mechanistic systems analysis, disregarding the fact that humans make up the system. It's difficult to change people's bad behavior unless they suffer the consequences, or at the very least, know there will be consequences, from their bad behavior. In short, the argument ignores moral hazard.

If the EU bails out Greece (like they're trying to do), there's no incentive for Portugal's leaders to get their act together, nor Ireland's or Spain's or France's. Nor our masters here in the land of the free. The can is just kicked down the road. And that's why the modern day entitlement-fiat state will come crashing down everywhere in the world. Foolishness and vice are being subsidized.

Sometimes I wish I had a hot tub time machine so I could go back to 1998 and prevent the Long Term Capital Management bailout by distracting the key players with booze and women. How life might be different.


Will Global Warming Supporters Sell You Insurance Against Iceland Volcanic Global Cooling?

Are we going to need an ice cube tax? (Probably not, as producing ice cubes likely has a net heating effect.)

Regards, Don


Playing with fire

One part I loved about the otherwise not-very-good Natural Born Killers was this little anecdote:

Once upon a time, a woman was picking up firewood. She came upon a poisonous snake frozen in the snow. She took the snake home and nursed it back to health. One day the snake bit her on the cheek. As she lay dying, she asked the snake, "Why have you done this to me?" And the snake answered, "Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake."

This story made me think of it. It's sad how few people know a snake when they see one. Article via Radley Balko


Leveraging Bankruptcy

Suppose I knew a publicly-traded company was going to be bankrupt in the next couple of years. What is the way to make the most money? Shorting the stock is one possibility, but leverage is limited.

I ask this because GE is going to 0 in the next couple of years and I want to make money off it. I've never shorted anything before, but GE might be the first if I can't find any other strategies.


Shopping for Government

Democracy divides. In order to get anything close to what you want in government, you must support a team. Democracy makes us stupid as well. Once on a team, you have an incentive to defend that team’s every action no matter how bad.

And so, the Sith Lord Moldbug finds grist for his condemnations of democracy, and rationale for monarchy. And if you ignore the War of the Roses, Czarist Russia, most ancient history, all of Central and South American Indian history, monarchy begins to look pretty good. Actually, what Moldbug is locking in on is a mix of competitive government, which the Holy Roman Empire had to a significant degree, and a slice of colonial history from when classical liberal values were popular. His data points are not representative of his thesis.

Competitive government provides better accountability than democracy, so radical federalism is one answer, even of some of the localities are run by a Boss Hogg. But today, state’s rights are not enough. The states are too big. California is a prime example. Split up the big states so that none are more populous than, say, Virginia, and we might get a taste of accountable government even under our current system.

But while accountability breaks down with size, other features of government scale up. Uniform laws over a large population provide bigger markets. Larger countries can field larger armies per mile of territorial border. Economic diversity stabilizes the tax base and reduces the impulse for mercantilism somewhat.

So I’ll stick with democratic republics until someone successfully field tests anarchocapitalism in a small country. But I do think we can and should make democracy less bad. To do so, let us look at the mechanisms by which democracy divides and dumnificates.

If you wish to reign in the rich, hand out largesse to the poor, stop global warming, keep abortion legal, and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous civilians, then the Democratic Party is your team. If you hate high taxes on the rich, despise regulations on business, like to own guns, and think abortion is murder, then the Republican Party is your team. If Democrats outnumber Republicans, then you get Democratic rule in that district and vice versa. No problem, if everyone fits into one of the teams. But they don’t.

Joe is a union member, distrusts big corporations, but he is also a God-fearing gun owner. Jane wants to stop global warming but she also thinks government is too big and complicated. Which teams should they join?

Enter the ugly battle for the swing voter. The Democrats need members of the tax paying elite to fatten its welfare-mooching coalition, so they pander to professors and push pretentious preachers on PBS. The Republicans need some blue collar voters to round out its coalition of golf-playing corporate overlords so they feature clowns and buffoons on talk radio and run presidential candidates of limited vocabulary.

Each side nitpicks away at the other, trying to convince the swing voters that the other side is less competent and more corrupt. Those who agree significantly more with one team, join said team and then bend their thinking to fit in. Each side has its echo chambers to exhort the faithful and drown out inconvenient truths with noise. Stupidity is amplified.

But what happens if we switch to Score Voting? Joe and Jane can safely give their highest scores to candidates they actually agree with. Candidates in general have less incentive to toe their party’s lines, since you could have more than one Democrat and/or Republican on the ticket in the general election. Groupthink provides fewer rewards; people can think issue by issue. Collective stupidity wanes.

If government becomes a bit less stupid, it might become a bit less bad. And if it becomes a bit less bad, it might become a bit less period. Government grows in response to crisis. Lazy libertarians would do well to ditch the Atlas Shrugged scenario and push for Score Voting and other incremental reforms. It’s cheaper and safer than living on a floating island, or turning Cuba into an experiment in anarchocapitalism.


These are not isolated events

Via Chris Floyd, a post at Truthout showing a distinct lack of heroism on the part of America's most dangerous government employees.

Some highlights:

"During the course of my three tours, the rules of engagement changed a lot," Washburn's testimony continued, "The higher the threat the more viciously we were permitted and expected to respond. Something else we were encouraged to do, almost with a wink and nudge, was to carry 'drop weapons', or by my third tour, 'drop shovels'. We would carry these weapons or shovels with us because if we accidentally shot a civilian, we could just toss the weapon on the body, and make them look like an insurgent."

...

"One time they said to fire on all taxicabs because the enemy was using them for transportation.... One of the snipers replied back, 'Excuse me? Did I hear that right? Fire on all taxicabs?' The lieutenant colonel responded, 'You heard me, trooper, fire on all taxicabs.' After that, the town lit up, with all the units firing on cars. This was my first experience with war, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the deployment."

...

Bryan Casler, a corporal in the Marines, spoke of witnessing the prevalent dehumanizing outlook soldiers took toward Iraqis during the invasion of Iraq.

"... on these convoys, I saw Marines defecate into MRE bags or urinate in bottles and throw them at children on the side of the road," he stated.

...

"My commander told me, 'Kill those who need to be killed, and save those who need to be saved'; that was our mission on our first tour," he said of his first deployment during the invasion.

"After that the ROE changed, and carrying a shovel, or standing on a rooftop talking on a cell phone, or being out after curfew [meant those people] were to be killed. I can't tell you how many people died because of this. By my third tour, we were told to just shoot people, and the officers would take care of us."

Call this unavoidable, but to say killing civilians indiscriminately advances the cause of liberty requires us to consider those Iraqi/Afghani civilians as less than human. If you're seriously willing to do that, you need more help than I can give on this blog.