Kim Jong-Il is Dead

Mark this day because it’s one of the few times you’ll see me happy that a man is dead. The tyrannical butcher who ruled North Korea, Kim Jong-Il, is now a corpse:

Mr Kim, who has led the communist nation since the death of his father in 1994, died on a train while visiting an area outside the capital, the announcement said.

He suffered a stroke in 2008 and was absent from public view for months.

His designated successor is believed to be his third son, Kim Jong-un, who is thought to be in his late 20s.

He died, she said, of a heart attack brought on by mental and physical fatigue. Kim Jong-il had battled serious health problems for many years but his death has come more quickly than many expected.

His apparent heir, his son Kim Jong-un, has been groomed as the successor of the nuclear armed state for little more than a year.

The question now is whether he has the power and authority to fill his father’s shoes.

North Korea’s state-run news agency, KCNA, urged people to unite behind the younger Kim.

“All party members, military men and the public should faithfully follow the leadership of comrade Kim Jong-un and protect and further strengthen the unified front of the party, military and the public,” the news agency said.

On a related side note, North Korea’s state-run new agency has also put out a touching video commemorating the life of Kim Jong-Il:

I just hope somebody remembers to drive a stake through his heart before burying him.

The Real Reason Obama is Threatening to Veto the National Defense Authorization Act

Obama has been threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a section that will authorize indefinite detention of anybody accused of being linked to terrorism in any way. His supporters are pointing to this threat as proof of Obama’s willingness to defend the rights of American citizens. Unfortunately, for all of us, that’s not true. How can I make this claim? Easy, his administration were the ones that asked language in section 1031, the section authorizing indefinite detention, exempting American citizens be removed. Don’t take my word for it, let Senator Carl Levin explain [MP3].

If Obama gave a crap about civil rights he would have been demanding the language remain in the bill. Knowing he demanded the language be removed it’s obvious there is an ulterior motive for threatening a veto and it most likely isn’t benevolent.

Even though there were videos of this speech floating around they have apparently been removed from YouTube (I found four instances of the video, all were said to be removed by the user when I tried to view them). Thankfully I was able to find a copy of the speech on No Agenda Show Notes. The copy I linked to is from there but uploaded to my server so as not to waster their bandwidth unnecessarily.

Don’t Blame the Automobile Manufacturers

Once gain I ventured into the Letters to the Editor section of the Star Tribune and returned with blog fodder gold. This letter was penned by an individual wrongly blaming automobile manufacturers for the lack of available small trucks on the market:

After 190,000 miles of service, my 1998 Toyota Tacoma has come to the end of its life. A rusted frame has brought its use to an end. Concerned about liability, the Toyota Corp. has given me a rather generous sum to buy back my 13-year-old truck.

The bad news : Toyota no longer makes a small truck. If it did, I’m certain it would get well more than 30 miles per gallon.

My Tacoma averaged 27 mpg — not highway miles, mind you: 27-mpg average. I’m certain that 13 years of technology could easily push us into the 30-mpg range.

The small truck is gone; the question is: Why?

Why are we being dictated to by car companies? Why do we move backward rather than forward, and how much longer will such regression continue?

We are about to conclude one oil war; half of our trade deficit is petroleum, and winter no longer comes in November in Minnesota.

National strength comes from minimizing our liabilities, not ignoring them. All but a few suffer when the tail wags the dog, and it needs to end. Petroleum addiction and inaction challenges our future. Change should be parked in your garage.


Emphasis mine. Notice that Mark is blaming the automobile manufacturers for what is actually a fault of government policy. How so? It has to do with the method fuel efficiency is calculated by government busy bodies:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) are regulations in the United States, first enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1975,[1] and intended to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks (trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles) sold in the US in the wake of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Historically, it is the sales-weighted harmonic mean fuel economy, expressed in miles per US gallon (mpg), of a manufacturer’s fleet of current model year passenger cars or light trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds (3,856 kg) or less, manufactured for sale in the US. If the average fuel economy of a manufacturer’s annual fleet of vehicle production falls below the defined standard, the manufacturer must pay a penalty, currently $5.50 USD per 0.1 mpg under the standard, multiplied by the manufacturer’s total production for the U.S. domestic market.

In other words a car manufacturer is punished if the average fuel efficiency of their fleet is below a specified threshold. This threshold, measured in miles per gallon, is a moving target that has only ever increased (meaning the average miles per gallon of a company’s fleet must be higher).

Physics only allows for so much fuel efficiency to be squeezed out of a gasoline engine. Combine this, government regulations, and the fact that physics is a harsh bitch who also dictates that more fuel is required to produce more power and you have a formula that is just setting up small trucks for failure.

People who buy cars generally desire what they feel is acceptable acceleration and speed while people who buy trucks generally desire what they feel is acceptable towing capacity. Small trucks like the Ford Ranger are kind of an in between; they offer acceptable towing capacity without being gargantuan and therefore difficult to maneuver on small city streets. Unfortunately they’re not the most fuel efficient vehicles as people often will want to be able to pull their boat around with their small truck.

When the government increases the required average miles per gallon tough choices must be made. Increasing fuel efficiency requires decreasing power, which will irritate customers buying new vehicles (who generally assume their new vehicle will be equally or more power than their last). On the other hand if you eliminate one of the models that has a lower average miles per gallon your total corporate miles per gallon goes up. Thus in order to keep a majority of their customers happy and comply with the demands of government the automobile manufactures find they must make a handful of them unhappy.

You can’t rightfully blame automobile manufacturers for the lack of small trucks on the market, that blame is purely on the shoulders of government regulators.

Excuse Me While I Crap On Your Marxism

Behold an idiot standing in front of a Soviet flag babbling on about capitalism being a religion:

Why do I link to this video? Because I feel like decimating an idiot Maxist for personal amusement. First let me say that the advertisement that plays before this video is a great way to make some quick cash… you know like a dirty capitalist (but hey you have to fund that capitalist produced video camera somehow). Next let me urge the videographer to iron his Soviet flag, those creases are distracting and show a complete lack of professionalism. I’m also going to throw out the obvious point that having a flag of a country that killed millions of its own citizens hanging in the background doesn’t send a very positive message. At least most Marxists I talk to have the decency of disavowing the Soviet Union for the violent acts it unleashed upon the people unfortunate enough to live within its borders.

Honestly those are just petty complaints and avoid the message he’s trying to portray, which is the idea that capitalism is a religion. I’ve not actually heard the argument that Marxism is a religion before. In fact that seems a bit odd considering Marx was a self-proclaimed atheist and considered religion to be “the opiat of the people.” Still I will humor this accusation for the sake of quality argumentative decimation.

The videographer, who I’ll now refer to as Marxy Marxist, is claiming that capitalism is a religion because its proponents believe that some “magical” thing call the market will fix all ills in the world. This right here demonstrates Marxy Marxists’s complete ignorance on the capitalism economic system. Namely proponents of capitalism do not believe the free market will fix all ills in the world. For instance Marxy Marxist mentions inequality, a phenomenon the free market makes no attempt to correct.

The free market is nothing more than a system that allows individuals to compete in the providing of goods and services to consumers. Those who properly fulfill the needs of consumers are rewarded for their efforts, usually with money. Their reward is then reinvested to provide for additional consumer wants. Thus those who properly fulfill the wants of society are granted control of more resources as they have demonstrated a socially desirable use of those resources. The only problem a free market attempts to solve is providing consumers with the products and services they want.

It is true that free markets can have a hand in solving other social issues such as racism. For example a businessman who refused to sell his goods or services to a hispanic person loses out on their money. In addition to that many other people will boycot the person’s business because he’s being a racism asshole. Strictly speaking though, voluntary association dictates any person may chose to or not to interact with any other person. While the free market does punish an individual who refuses to do business with a specific group it does not force them to associate with anybody.

Marxy Marxist also brought up the name Adam Smith. Smith was an important early figure in free market economic theory but certainly wasn’t the be all end all. Smith, and later Menger, both missed a crucial piece of the free market puzzle, which is the understanding that value is subjective. Unfortunately Smith followed the labor theory of value limiting the potential of his works. It was Ludwig von Mises who first articulated the idea of subjective value so I would argue if you’re going to talk about capitalism it would be best to use Mises as the poster child as he was the one who provided the crucial missing piece of the puzzle. Again this demonstrates Marxy Marxist’s ignorance of the development of free market economic theory.

Marxy Marxist continues to refer to the free market as a magical being that can not be controlled. I can see how a Marxist would have a difficult time grasping the concept of something not tyrannically controlled. Truth be told the free market is controlled by the consumers. As stated above producers who fulfill the wants of consumers are rewarded. There is another side of the coin, producers who do not make products or provide services consumers want will fail. We as consumers control the market and producers are at our mercy (unless of course a violent state intervenes on the producer’s behalf, but that is not capitalism).

Right around the 2:10 mark Marxy Marxist makes his most ignorant claim, that those of us calling ourselves capitalist really aren’t because we don’t own any means of production. Guess what I’m writing this post on? A fucking computer. Guess what I, as a programmer, use to produce? A fucking computer. Holy shit I own means of production! Marxy Marxist is also a capitalist because he owns a video camera and a computer, which he uses to make money by producing advertisement supported videos on YouTube. Even a so-called Marxist can make money in a capitalist system.

Finally Marxy Marxist closes by accusing capitalists of not wanting to fix society’s problems but to profit from them. Interestingly enough by profiting off of society’s problems capitalists solve them. Case in point medical technology used to save millions of lives every year is developed by medical companies to generate profit. Automobiles solved a problem of personal transportation over long distances than horse drawn buggies could not and Henry Ford was certainly in the business to make money. Computers, a device that have helped solved an almost uncountable number of social issues, are built by profit seeking companies. Profiting off of society’s ills is not mutually exclusive to solving them regardless of what Marxy Marxist claims.

In closing I leave you with a question: why do all these Marxists wear military fatigues? If I was going to go on camera to preach about something I’d have the decency to wear a suit and tie because people are more apt to listen to a well dressed individual than a tactic-cool Internet commando.

What’s In a Name

The mercenary company everybody loves to hate has once again changed its name in the hopes of avoiding all the bad press they’ve been accumulating. Say goodbye to Blackwater Xe and say hello to ACADEMI:

Renaming the company “ACADEMI” tops a number of changes that have been made by a private equity consortium that purchased the company from former owner Erik Prince last year.

“The message here is not that we’re changing the name,” said Ted Wright, who came on as the new company CEO in June. “The message is that we’re changing the company, and the name just reflects those changes. We have new owners, a new board of directors, a new management team, new location, new attitude on governance, new openness, new strategy – it’s a whole new company.”

From the bottom of my heart I hope the new owners are serious about the mentioned changes but I’m not an optimistic man. Either way update your terminology cards to reflect the new name when the next atrocity committed by members of this company comes to light.

Cognitive Dissonance Regarding Paying Off the Federal Debt

National Public Relations Public Radio (NPR) has a piece that tries to explain how paying off the federal debt ended poorly for the United States. I’m not quite sure what their angle is but it appears to be an argument against ridding ourselves of the yoke of our national debt:

That was the one time in U.S. history when the country was debt free. It lasted exactly one year.

By 1837, the country would be in panic and headed into a massive depression. We’ll get to that, but first let’s figure out how Andrew Jackson did the impossible.

What? Paying off the national debt will lead to a depression! Oh no, we need to make the debt bigger! Due to a failure of logic it’s pretty easy to see the depression that followed paying off the federal debt was due to the use of fiat money.

When Jackson took office, the national debt was about $58 million. Six years later, it was all gone. Paid off. And the government was actually running a surplus, taking in more money than it was spending.

Damn, if it wasn’t for that whole massacring American Indians Andrew Jackson may actually be on the very short list of presidents I respect.

That created a new problem: What to do with all that surplus money?

Jackson had already killed off the national bank (which he hated more than debt). So he couldn’t put the money there. He decided to divide the money among the states.

Um… I don’t think the author understands what a national bank is. A national bank isn’t some place for the federal government to place its money so that it can be loaned out to other countries as banks we interact with daily are. National banks exist simply to control the supply of money without having to deal with that pesky free market that prevents easy expansion of the money supply. What a national bank does is print money and loan out that money (usually to other banks) to expand the supply of money and recalls loans to contract the supply of money. Through this convoluted process the national bank attempts to control inflation but in actuality causes inflation as the money supply is only expanded due to the government wanting more and more money to spend on frivolous projects.

Thus eliminating the Second National Bank didn’t prevent the federal government from storing the surplus of money, that statement is just idiotic. Fuck it, take it away Rothbard:

The state banks went a little crazy. They were printing massive amounts of money. The land bubble was out of control.

Exactly what I said above, when government is given the power to expand and contract the money supply they only expand it. Fiat money systems are bad m’kay.

Andrew Jackson tried to slow everything down by requiring that all government land sales needed to be done with gold or silver. Bad idea.

Please, explain to me how that was a bad idea.

“It was a huge crash, and the beginning of the longest depression in American history,” Gordon says. “It actually lasted six years before the economy began to grow again.”

That crash is what we would call a market correction. In essence the value of land was much higher than the market could bear due to government distortion (printing money to buy up land, thus artificially increasing demand and therefore value). This is exactly what happened with the housing market and is currently happening with the education market.

By demanding all land purchases be made in silver and goal Jackson was saying the states had to give something of value instead of worthless paper they could simply print up willy nilly. The crash wasn’t due to the requirement of using gold and silver, it was a demonstration of the fact that land wasn’t worth what people were selling it for.

Let’s use another example because I love examples. Due to some fortune vendors have decided to accept paper notes you print off in exchange for goods. At first you decide you want to maintain your purchasing power so you only print 100 notes. You also don’t produce anything besides these notes so at one point you run out of these notes and come to a crossroad; in one direction you have to get a job and start producing while in the other direction you simply print more of these notes. Being lazy you go with the easy method of print more notes. Seeing how easy this really is you start printing vast numbers of these notes and buying up as much product as you can. Unfortunately the massive influx of new notes has made them easier to come by, which fills demand, which reduces the value of each individual note (supply and demand). As each note is worth less value people who have them are able to buy less, unless they control the printing press and can simply punch up more paper!

Inflation is a delayed phenomenon. The first receiver of the printed money has vast purchasing power because the notes haven’t entered the market yet and thus haven’t increase the supply (and therefore reduce demand). Therefore the first person to receive these new notes is able to buy products at their current market value at which point the notes enter circulation. Now that those notes are in circulation the supply has increase and thus the individual value of each note is reduced.

Gold and silver can’t simply be printed up and they’re both used in actual manufacturing so the supply of money stays relatively stable. Thus gold and silver (which aren’t the only commodities you can use for money) are good to use for money as their supply remains relatively constant, which keeps inflation in check.

Now you know why fiat money is bad.

Using Cell Phones to Track Shoppers

I’ve said cell phones are the best spy devices we’ve ever decided to voluntarily carry around and, as Bruce Schneier points out, the ability to judge a person’s location based on their cellphone signal isn’t restricted only to government agents:

Online retailers have long gathered behavioral metrics about how customers shop, tracking their movements through e-shopping pages and using data to make targeted offers based on user profiles. Retailers in meat-space have had tried to replicate that with frequent shopper offers, store credit cards, and other ways to get shoppers to voluntarily give up data on their behavior, but these efforts have lacked the sort of data capacity provided by anonymous store browsers—at least until now. This holiday season, shopping malls in the US have started collecting data about shoppers by tracking the closest thing to “cookies” human beings carry—their cell phones.

The technology, from Portsmouth, England based Path Intelligence, is called Footpath. It uses monitoring units distributed throughout a mall or retail environment to sense the movement of customers by triangulation, using the strength of their cell phone signals. That data is collected and run through analytics by Path, and provided back to retailers through a secure website.

The location of any device that emits a wireless signal can be triangulated. Again I will state that cell phones are immensely useful but not only to their owners. Combining the fact that cell phones are almost always on their owner, contain a vast amount of personal information about their owner, and have built-in cameras and microphones makes for devices that are great for spying on select individuals. While people can harp on the malls for implementing this technology ultimately it’s nothing new as your cell phone provider, whom I worry about far more, have the exact same information at all times (usually with some history of your past locations).

Biology is Awesome

The more science uncovers about our biology the more amazed I am. Take for example new research that demonstrates how hard a fetus will fight to keep its host alive:

Now, a new study in mice shows such that nature has arrived at just such a solution, too: When a pregnant mouse has a heart attack, her fetus donates some of its stem cells to help rebuild the damaged heart tissue.

A fetus will inject stem cells into the mother in an attempt to repair heart damage? That’s downright cool.

Thanksgiving, Another Example of Socialist Failure

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, the holiday we’re told is meant as a day where Americans give thanks for whatever they’re thankful for. We’re told the Pilgrims survived a harsh year and gave thanks for their good fortune on this day way back in the 1600’s. Truth be told the hardships experienced by the pilgrims is another example in the lost of list socialist failures:

After the poor harvest of 1622, writes Bradford, “they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop.” They began to question their form of economic organization.

This had required that “all profits & benefits that are got by trade, working, fishing, or any other means” were to be placed in the common stock of the colony, and that, “all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat, drink, apparel, and all provisions out of the common stock.” A person was to put into the common stock all he could, and take out only what he needed.

This “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was an early form of socialism, and it is why the Pilgrims were starving. Bradford writes that “young men that are most able and fit for labor and service” complained about being forced to “spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.” Also, “the strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes, than he that was weak.” So the young and strong refused to work and the total amount of food produced was never adequate.

As is the case with most attempts of establishing socialism (or anything resembling socialism) this failed miserably and ended in famine. Thankfully the pilgams learned their lesson and took efforts to correct their error:

To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609-10, called “The Starving Time,” the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.

While the advocates of socialism believe it is the natural system for human society history has proven their belief wrong time and time again. The Pilgrams who landed in America are yet another example of this fact in the long history of humanity.

People Killed by Socialism vs. People Killed by Capitalism

History shows us that socialism usually leads to body counts. Whenever I bring this up around those advocating socialism they’re usually quick to saying, “Yeah but how many people has capitalism killed?” While they believe this is a smart response in which their opponent can only answer with an absurdly high number the truth of the matter is capitalism hasn’t actually killed anybody.

An advocate of socialism is always quick to laugh at my answer and bring up all those die because they’re unable to afford medical care, housing, food, etc. The problem with their rebuttal lies in the fact inaction does not kill somebody. Capitalism is a form of voluntary trade where people in a free market are able to take the product of their labor and trade it to others for the product of their labor. If you don’t like the terms of a trade you can walk away and no harm will come to you. Unfortunately there will be those who can’t afford basic needs but they do have other options including charity and mutual aid societies. Still some people will inevitably die from exposure, disease, or hunger under capitalism as with any economic system.

Socialism is a different beast altogether as the product of your labor is not yours to keep. In order to provide for everybody a central state confiscates the product of peoples’ labor so it can be equally distributed. This is where the real difference between socialism and capitalism comes into play; under socialism if you refuse to turn over the product of your labor to the state they will use for to take it for “the greater good.” Thus socialism is not a voluntary economic system but one based on the act of theft. Another aspect of socialism that is necessary for this topic is the idea of a new “socialist man.” Proponents of socialism believe people must be educated in order for a socialism utopia to form and this education is often the source of violence in socialist countries. Those who refuse to cooperate and play but the state’s rules are usually shipped off to reeducation or labor camps (often both camps being the same thing in practice). On the other hand capitalism works with our current society without the need to education the populace.

Capitalism vs. socialism is really a debate between voluntary and forced society. Under capitalism all transactions are voluntary whereas transactions under socialism are performed through coercion. If you die because somebody failed to provide you with something we don’t claim the would-be provider killed you. A man with a carry permit who refused to intervene in a violent crime is not said to have murdered the victim. When a farmer fails to provide food to a starving man we don’t charge the farmer with murder. Thus the people socialists claim are killed by capitalism can not be said to have been killed by capitalism. Those people died because they were no provided with a need and that doesn’t fit the description of being killed.

The victims of socialism however are usually those who dissented against the state or tried to maintain the product of their labor by concealing it from the state’s agents. Many Ukrainian farmers were labeled enemies of the state and hauled away because they attempted to conceal grain for their sustenance. Those farmers were murdered by the state because they refused to turn over what was rightfully theirs; in other words the state played the part of the mugger in a robbery. When somebody kills another while performing an act of theft we call it murder. Therefore by definition socialism is said to kill people as the redistribution of resources necessitates theft which necessitates violence.

The people advocates of socialism claim are killed by capitalism die due to the lack of action whereas those killed by socialism are killed by purposeful action.