Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Ben Manski doesn't understand.

Or how to distinguish a political protest from a childish tantrum.

"What some can't accept, they pretend not to understand . And the political class can't accept that the common demand of the current protest wave is for democratic revolution. We want them gone. We want power." This is Ben Manski's justification for the lack of expressed goals from the Occupy movement. It's far less revealing than I would have liked, and for that reason, far more revealing.

Let's start with the claim that the "common demand of the current protest wave is for democratic revolution. This is simply false. I haven't heard any demands for democracy as he later describes it from the Occupy movement let alone "constant" demands. Sure protestors have claimed "This is what democracy looks like" (while making absolutely no effort to vote or otherwise determine what the majority wants) but nobody has been calling for violent revolution.

Of course he might have meant nonviolent revolution, but this begs the question, what would that mean? What would constitute the "We" having power and the "them" being gone? If they mean the current government system why are they protesting Wall Street and not Washington? If they mean the financial system what exactly do they want gone? Do they want the Wall Street banks just to shut up shop because they said so? Even ignoring the absurdity of the idea that they would what's the alternative? How do they suggest business gets financed without banks? I don't believe I've heard the word "credit union" or "building society" out of the mouths of any of them. If this is a demand it's something that's far from constant and certainly not exactly universal amoung OWS. If they did want big banks replaced by cooperatives then here's an idea, START A COOPERATIVE. Or at least switch your money over to it. The Occupy movement isn't talking about this, although Manski is. The question is what is his evidence that the Occupy movement which keeps it's money in a big, bad bank is really interested in such things? Nothing.

He goes on to claim that "Democracy is a simple idea. The people rule.". These two sentences in succession mean that he does not understand the concepts democracy, "The people" or "rule". For a start which people rule? All the people? Great then he should ring up the guys in Africa and see what they think about wealth redistribution. Considering the USA has 300 million people and Africa has over a billion they should mostly be the ones deciding on this whole revolution thing. What? He meant the people in an arbitrary area should rule? Well which one? The entire nation, NY state, NY city? Maybe the borough, why not? There are so many arbitrary lines you can draw with one side meaning power over these people and the other side meaning power over others.

Let's make no mistake here, "Democracy" means having power over others. It means ruling which is to say maintaining your wishes by force over them. It means jails, fines, beating and executions. It is not freedom it is not justice, it is force pure and simple, with it's justification based on mathematics not morality. It is the limitation of such arbitrary power, that many of the founders knew was no more trustworthy in common than in royal hands, that led to the creation of a republic, not a democracy, a country of laws not men with the majority able to make some changes but no subvert the freedom of the minority (in theory at least). That a majority of people want something is no more morally convincing than that white people want it, or rich people, or lutherans or any other arbitrary group. So if this guy wants a system where a group uses force to control another group why would he be upset at cops getting rough with demostrators?

He believes "it our birthright to directly participate in power. ", note DIRECTLY participate, as in without elections. So he wants over 250 million people to vote on whether to increase or reduce fish catch numbers off the Florida coast. Of these less than 1% are either marine biologists, economists or work in fisheries. This will end well. Even assuming that electronic voting (which never gets rigged mind you) could remove the need to physically go to a polling booth the US government passes several laws each week at least, many of them longer than Atlas Shrugged but without the kinky sex. It's been estimated that most Congressmen don't read the the laws and they're paid to. This guy thinks 250 million people will read each law, understand the historical, legal, social and economic consequences, compare these consequences to what happens if the law doesn't pass, including evaluating alternative legislation and vote in a way that's isn't totally corrupt and self-serving? I haven't heard anyone be this optiministic since they disbanded the Office of Special Plans. Of course if nation-states were a lot smaller this would be easier, but I don't see too many OWS types calling for secession.

Then there is the claim that this form of government is a "birthright". Inherited from who? Who gained this right to rule over me and how did he bequeath it to all and sundry?
"The rights to housing, to an education, to health care, to child care, to a livable income, are all democratic rights." No they're not. Even granting that you have a right to beat people up if they don't give you a "liveable income", free health care, and an education these "rights" have nothing to do with democracy. Democracy is a method of choosing how force is to be used, not a theory of what force ought to be used to provide. There can be no such thing as "democratic rights" other than rights to participate in a democracy, because all other rights would be subject to a vote and therefore not a right. But feel free to pick these things off the tree where you think it grows to paraphrase Ayn Rand.

"Students of social change learn that mass movements are most likely to emerge at times when economic conditions become intolerable. " Said students might want to get a better teacher. In fact mass movements like the civil rights struggle came when conditions were improving as did pro-democracy movements in China, the American Revolution. Violent revolts might take place when conditions are intolerable but mass peaceful protests rarely. The reason is obvious, mass protests and mass movements rely on large numbers of people with spare time, spare energy and who aren't afraid they'll starve to death if they get fired.
His entire screed is simply a series of false claims about what OWS wants and whether this is likely to result in anything. Find me one OWS protestor who advocated the abolition of elections, and I'll call Manski something other than a complete liar.

Monday, January 09, 2012

An open letter to anti-war.com

Dear Anti-war.com,
I write because your website is informative, honest and useful and therefore one of the best places to seek explanations for the US basing more 2500 troops in Australia. Your current explanation however is somewhat lacking, for reasons that I will detail below. To help you I have complied a list of things that are NOT the reason for these troops being there.

First they are not there because Australia is a weak country desperately needing defence against enemies with the ability to invade it. Whilst Australia isn't the greatest military power in the world it's army is not only more competent man-for-man than any in the region, but more competent than the US army and "battle hardened" thanks to the Iraq and Afghanistan stupidities. It is also big enough to handle any realistically transportable invasion force in the region. This is hardly relevant however since any invaders would have to overcome the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy before the first digger even puts his boots on. I do not say that the Malaysians, Indonesians, or Singaporese cannot come, I only say they cannot come by sea. Which is where they'd have to get their supply from, given the place is a desert. So they'd have to get and keep air superiority against the best air force in the region for at least months. This would be even harder once we get our fancy new massively over-priced planes. If the F-35 isn't sufficient to defend destroy vulnerable troop transports we should ask for our money back. Even if a couple of thousand troops were necessary to forestall invasion Australia, (unlike some countries) has total government debt about 1/5 of it's GDP by IMF accounting and can thus easily afford to hire more.

The second possible reason is that they are there to counter China in it's attempts to control the South China Sea, a vital trade route. There are several reasons why this is not the case not, not the least of which is that armies don't float. You can't control a sealane with troops, unless it's the Strait of Hormuz and they have missles. Australia's over-budget, underperforming submarine fleet is far more capable of influencing events on the SCS than these troops will ever be. A far bigger problem is that why the hell would we care? By "we" I mean Australia. The main Chinese strategic interest in the South China Sea is to keep it open to trade, much of said trade being us digging up half of Western Australia and the Northern Territory then selling it to China. The only way US troops could help Australia's interests in this context is by refeuling Chinese ships when the Aussie troops take a sickie.

Another strategic interest is the control of energy resources around the Spratley Islands which are contested. However considering the estimated peak oil in the Spratley Islans about on par with Vietnam and the Natural gas fields are about rich as Thailand's. I hardly see this as worth getting into a shooting war over. If it was worth getting into a shooting war over it would be between China, Vietnam, the Phillipines, Malaysian, Taiwan, and/or Brunei. Neither America nor Australia have a dog in this fight. Even if it was worth committing US troops to such a conflict it would make far more sense to station them in Taiwan or the Phillipines. Not that you'd even need troops to win such a fight since it would be an air/sea battle. Given that neither country appears to want US troops why should the US bother to defend their claims for them?

A third non-reason is that they're required to allow the US to invade nearby countries. While 2500 troops would probably be sufficient to occupy Papuan New Guinea who the hell would want to? The forces are nowhere near sufficient to take and keep Malaysia or Indonesia, even assuming neither went to the aid of the other. They might be able to conquer Singapore but selling Singapore as a threat to world peace would be beyond the capabilities of the most deluded neocon. None of this matters in any case because any invasion from Australia would have to get at least tacit Australian approval, and a shooting war along one of our biggest trade routes is to say the least, not in our interest.

Of course it's possible that Obama wanted the troops to have somewhere nice to stay. The cournterargument is they'll be staying in Darwin.

If anyone can come up with a semi-rational reason why it's in the strategic interest of America, Australia, or indeed any country to post these troo

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Lies about Ron Paul Part 1.

The first thing Gary Weiss claims in his article ("Ron Paul's wacky but influential Fed policy") is that the Republican party is falling "deeper into the clutches of Ron Paul's radical ideology,". Yeah right, that's why there's so many Republicans who want to end the Fed, FDIC, bailouts, etc. etc. That this lie can be told in a mainstream publication with the assumption that nobody will check (good luck on that one pal, the Pauline Church don't tend to miss much).

This is immediately followed by another lie, that "Castrating" the fed is part of an "anti-popularist agenda". Since when has supporting the Fed in any manner been "popularist"? If memory serves the Fed was created by closed-door discussions (oh no, a conspiracy theory! But we'll get to the conspiracies later) on Jeckyll Island by elites intent on foisting the abomination on the populace without it's understanding. Whether it qualifies as "popularist" or not it certainly doesn't count as "falling deeper into the clutches of Ron Paul's ideology". Anyone who read an article which mentions RP's actual Fed policy would know this. The weird thing is THIS IS ONE SUCH ARTICLE. It specifically says in paragraph 7 that Ron Paul doesn't support "castrating" the Fed. Perhaps like the grazier talking to the dingo population control officer with the dart gun that makes them impotent he understands that the problem is they're EATING the sheep. So this guy can't even keep a deception up for 8 paragraphs and thinks he's going to go up against Republican politicians? Again, good luck feller.

He keeps up with this lie by claiming that "Bray’s legislation amounts to 'Ron Paul Lite.' The proposed law wouldn’t toss the Fed in the ashcan, as Paul wants, but it would go to the very heart of the Fed’s mission.". But the good doctor isn't arguing with it's mission but with it's powers, unaccountability, inherent potential for corruption, misuse, political influence, incompetence and disaster and it's unconstitutionality. Limiting it the use of it's power supposedly to reducing inflation (which is more efficiently done by simply adopting a commodity currency) is like telling a coal power plant to only send it's electricity to the West not the East, the posions it spews don't get better Not that it would even do that because "some of those regional bank presidents might want to keep the Fed focused on job creation, even if it’s ostensibly stripped of its ability to do so.". Again this guy doesn't even bother to keep the evidence of his deception out of his own article. If its ability to "keep... focused on job creation" is only "ostensibly stripped" then what's the big worry? In fact this only proves that RP is absolutely on the worth-7-cents-on-the-dollar money when he says it's grandstanding.

Then he brings the claim that the good Doctor is a "faux popularist". This is somewhat puzzling as AFAIK RP never claimed to be a popularist, nor have any of his followers claimed this as far as I know. The term "popularist" is of course one with a long and complex history, but the Popularist Party was best known for it's radical anti-strong money position.

At least Weiss acknowledges good things that have come from RP's focus on the Fed, that is to say he acknowledges that some of these things happened, not that they came from RP's actions. How did Bloomberg "break the story" of $13T in loans to the banks? Because Dr. Paul pushed for, and got, some sort of accounting from the Fed (which was far short of a legal audit).. Note that Weiss calls auditing the Fed (and he puts the "auditing" in scare quotes) "throw[ing] a bone to the right". Why the right? Since when has the Fed been a friend to the poor, the disabled, racial mionrities and all the other people the Left is supposed to care about? The Fed has historically been bosom buddies with crony capitalists, arms dealers, Coca-Cola, and everyone else the Left sees as conspiring to rob the 99%. To call examining it's activities a "bone to the right" is an open admission that the left no longer cares about the link between big government and big business, it only cares about... it only cares about... I'm sorry I though I could finish that sentence but I have no idea what the Left cares about any more. It's not like they even care about taking power from the "Right" anymore or they'd be volunteering to audit the Fed's behaviour in the Bush years and shouting the results from the rooftops.

Weiss then claims the statement "The Federal Reserve is the chief culprit behind the economic crisis" "ideologically driven rhetoric". The problem is that it's incontestable. Whatever you think of the behaviour of the banks (and Dr. Paul and I are no fans) what caused the crisis was the inflation and subsequent collapse of housing prices. Without that there might have been defaults but they would have had minor effects on the banking sector because the houses would just have been sold to pay off the loans. No Fed money spout means nobody gambling their future on housing price increases, no sudden collapse of that housing price, and no banker left high and dry by the fallout. In the history of America there has not been an asset price bubble that didn't come from government interference in the money supply. Dr. Paul isn't ignoring the pre-Fed history of booms and busts, he's quite aware of them and the role government interference in the money supply in causing them. It is Weiss who ignores the historical evidence.

Then he accuses Dr. Paul of "retailing the conspiracist humbug" of an accusation that he doesn't bother to refute. All he does is helpfully link to a post that has Bernanke calling Ron Paul's accusations "absolutely biazrre" which we are supposed to take as proof positive that they are. There is no actual refuting of Paul's accusation, not even an indication that Bernanke would know if they were true or not before slinging mud. In fact the comments section includes this link: http://www.campaignforliberty.com/blog.php?view=33004 which seems to indicate that the accusations are the opposite of "humbug". That Weiss didn't do the most basic checking and was outresearched by the comments on his own link is disgraceful. How can you hold your head up in polite society Mr. Weiss?

"Ryan was quoted as pushing the Ron Paul nostrum that what the Bureau of Engraving and Printing churns out is really 'fiat money,' since it’s not backed by gold. ". Again this is a falsehood, although I hesitate to call it a lie since it's unlikely someone would tell a lie that demonstrates they don't know what "nostrum" and "fiat money" mean. A nostrum (and I admit I had to look it up ) is "a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness " or "a usually questionable remedy or scheme". Calling something fiat moneyis not a scheme or remedy. In this case it's the simple truth, which if Weiss really had enough economic knowledge to criticise Dr. Paul's belief's about economic history he'd know. Oh and it's not fiat money because it's not backed by gold. It's fiat money because its not backed by anything but the word of Wesley Mooch.

He also claims, with his VAST knowledge of monetary policy that didn't unfortunately include the definition of "fiat money" or indeed any apparent research into who called the current economic downturn (I'll give you some hints, 12 term congressman, loved by the guys on lewrockwell.com, reads actual books before making claims about what caused 9/11, was therefore able to pwn Rudolf Guiliani), that a gold standard would cause another Great Depression. Never mind that the Fed has openly admitted that IT caused the Great Depression, never mind that there has NEVER been a boom and bust sufficient to cause such under a strict gold standard. No never mind that because he's got a link to Paul "I get pwned by Austrian economists so often they don't even take the tag off when they buy me back." Krugman. Seriously. Krugman. That's your best shot?

Well I'll give him one thing, when he claims that a GOP controlled Fed wouldn't stop the next depression, he's on the worth-less-than-an-Aussie-buck-even-though-it-was-over-40%-more-only-3-years-ago money. After all it didn't stop the current one. Congratulations Gary, you got one important thing right. Given how you started I didn't even expect that. You know, because you're an idiot.