“…you better free your mind instead.”

Speaking as someone who knows his own Baby Boomer generation reasonably well, not only am I not particularly impressed with or fazed by the so-called revolutionary rhetoric of a handful of Tea Party participants or so-called Christian Nationalists, etc., the last time I heard such rhetoric from my g-g-generation the music and, for that matter, the rhetoric was a hell of a lot better:

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Posted in Civil Liberties, Communities, Manifestoes, The Good Old Days, Unite! | 67 Comments

“Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!”

As reported by Politico and The Street, Ron Paul is in line to head the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology on the House Financial Services Committee, the subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Mint and the United States’ dealings with the World Bank, IMF, etc.. As The Street tersely reports:

Paul got some traction recently with legislation proposing to audit the notoriously secretive Fed. He also wants to re-establish the gold standard.

Auditing the Federal Reserve is a pretty good idea. The Fed is enormously powerful and should therefore be as transparent in its deliberations and decisions as possible. However, having any instrument or agency of the federal government auditing the Federal Reserve (including the Government Accountability Office which does not make government accountable and was more honestly named when it was the General Accounting Office) is a very bad idea. The Fed’s primary virtue is its nearly complete independence from the federal government. Having a committee drawn from all of the major accounting firms to perform the audit, on the other hand, might work.

A return to the gold standard, on the other hand, is simply nuts. As I recently wrote, I’d probably vote for Ron Paul if I bothered to vote and lived in his congressional district. Not that he’d need my vote, having garnered a 76% majority of the vote on Tuesday. And, mind you, if the gold standard (or, hell, the turnip standard) had the positive effects its advocates insist it would have without the negative effects they tend to discount if not ignore entirely, well and good. Here I must give the usual “I am not an economist or economic historian” disclaimer, but as I understand both the historical evidence (in, for example, the Great Depression) and the fundamental theoretical relationship between GDP and the money supply, the comparative dangers of inflation versus deflation, etc., the contemporary insistence on a return to the gold standard is tantamount to an irrational faith commitment.

On the other hand, it isn’t like bad economics is a rarity on Capitol Hill. And if we can’t have rational policy in Congress, shouldn’t we at least have entertaining programming on C-SPAN?

Posted in Economic Fallacies, Government Debt, Money Makes The World Go Round, Political Theory, Public Policy | 15 Comments

Why I Hate the Religious and Teabagging Right

I noted in my last post that Beirut has an edgy vibe. After only one day here I’m obviously not an expert, but from what a few people have said, I think part of it may be the fear of renewed war. For the Lebanese it’s not a matter of if, but when. And while the proximate worry is simply another Israeli incursion, the context of that is their 15 year civil war (1975-1990). The precise causes of that war are still murky, but in large part it had to do with politicized sectarianism within Lebanon’s diverse population.

That’s why people who think all Christians must vote Republican scare me. They’re politicizing religious sectarianism in a way that never ends up well. And those teabaggers who are suggesting it’s time for a violent solution to the problem of our failing government have no idea what types of forces they’d really unleash.

Here in Beirut you can still see the bombed-out buildings. A 30 story apartment tower with holes blown in the side is a perfect image for what these fools would achieve. They don’t understand the ruin of infrastructure, the economic devastation, the families living in fear of being targeted and killed just because they think social security is a good thing. They don’t understand that those who seize power by force are inevitably corrupt, creating a gap between governing elite and common person the likes of which these comfortably angry whites can’t even begin to fathom.

These fools believe a revolution would be quick and painless enough to simply set America back on course, and they don’t understand that they would actually be setting it off on a wholly new course, one that would be socially, economically and politically ruinous.

They’re basing their beliefs on the American Revolutionary War, one of the few revolutions that resulted in a reasonable approximation of popular government, accountability, and lack of corruption. But they don’t realize how unusual that situation was. The colonies all had functioning governments that had been in operation for decades–in fact a primary cause of their conflict with England was the new constraints on the autonomy they’d historically observed. While they reorganized their forms, to become state, rather than colonial, governments during the war, they were building voluntarily on what they already had. And they voluntarily agreed to a centralized organizing body (later to become the collective government of those states), built upon the same general principles. So even while the Revolutionary War was very damaging to life and property, the end of it saw not so much a new government, as the re-established and extended the autonomy they’d traditionally enjoyed.

No such outcome would be foreseeable for a new American revolution. In fact a revolution would be an egregious misnomer. What these folks are calling for is nothing less than civil war. If they’d like to see how well that turns out, they should spend a few days in Beirut.

Posted in Manifestoes | 24 Comments

Greetings from Beirut

Random thoughts while traveling.

  • Sunday in the fall is one of the better days to be in an American airport. At least they’re showing football instead of Fox News. Saturday, of course, would be even better.
  • Dubai’s airport is basically a shopping mall that people fly to instead of driving to. That said, it’s still a lousy place to spend twelve hours waiting for a flight.
  • My taxi driver who brought me from Damascus to Beirut hit 160 kilometers per hour. You can guess whether he was being paid a flat fee or by the hour.
  • Beirut’s a happening place, but it’s giving me a bad vibe. Damascus is nearly as active, in terms of numbers of people out and about, but feels more laid back. Folks in Beirut walk faster and smile less. It’s also about three or four times more expensive than Damascus. On the upside, it’s right on the Mediterranean.
  • Did I mention that Beirut’s right on the Mediterranean? The Freaking Mediterranean! Midwestern Farm Town Boy here can’t quite get over seeing the Mediterranean again. It’s my second time now, when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get a chance. The Mediterranean…words fail me. Long time dream, life goal, etc. etc.
  • I’ve been invited to talk to a class at Lebanese American University here in Beirut. Midwestern Farm Town Boy…lecturing in Beirut. Nobody predicted that in my high school yearbook.
  • I’m not looking forward to the trip back to Damascus. The border crossing wasn’t really bad, but had all the trappings of dismal Hollywood flick about third world government/military bureaucrats. I did manage to get through without paying any baksheesh, although the soldier/customs agent obviously wanted some. Americans are famously stupid about such things, and I used that to my advantage.
  • When in Damascus, it’s important to keep lots of small bills on hand to pay baksheesh, which doesn’t just mean bribes, but tips, too. I ended up paying 200 pounds ($4) for a guy to carry my bag from one taxi to another, just because that was the smallest bill I had. But it’s hard to keep small bills on hand when so many things cost so very little. You either use them up quickly, or you pay for tea with large bills, suffer the annoyed looks, and wind up with a wallet so thick you can’t sit on it.
  • Al Jazeera is a much better news network than either CNN or Fox. Not that that’s so hard to do. But those Ay-rabs have a much less biased news source than we Amurricans do. Suck on that, angry white Americans.
Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

But what’s Obama’s position on Homo sapiens marriage?

(Hat tip to Reason’s Radley Balko.)

Posted in Economic Fallacies, Humor, Is our children learning?, Vote Early-Vote Often | 5 Comments

“I voted against anybody whose name I recognized.”

Per Tom Brokaw, the voter quote above wins my soundbite award for this election. As for the returns, several individual results were somewhat surprising, but as most pundits and polls predicted the Republicans recaptured control of the House but failed to win enough seats for a majority in the Senate. Ho hum.

Herewith, some random thoughts on voting and democracy.

If you voted, good for you. It made no difference in terms of outcome to any congressional or statewide race, but if it makes you feel virtuous for doing your so-called civic duty, then you got value for the inconvenience. In that regard, voting is not unlike purchasing a lottery ticket: the odds are overwhelmingly against your receiving any material benefit, but at least you can enjoy a bit of hope, however fleetingly.
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Posted in Political Theory, Public Policy, Vote Early-Vote Often | 16 Comments

Pot is Bad For the Brain

It takes a nice, peaceful, brilliantly talented hippie guitarist — Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of the Doobie Bros. — and turns him into a Republican military strategist. From 2001:

He’s currently working for the Department of Defense as an adviser to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and has also served as a top military adviser for numerous congressmen and senators.

“To most of the world, Skunk Baxter is one of the great rock and roll guitar players. Inside the Beltway, he’s one of the leading experts on military defense, and we listen to his advice all the time,” said Republican California congressman Dana Rohrabacher. “He knows all about weapons technology and has a better understanding of the strategic game going on than I do, and I’m on the International Relations Committee.”

Check him in action:

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

On Parenthood

The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children — Clarence Darrow

Rather than threadjack Mr. Rowe’s recent post with my various pontifications on the subject, I thought I’d start another thread. Here, in a nutshell, are my views on parenting:

If your children don’t grow up bearing at least a few resentments against you, you probably haven’t done a very good job as a parent. Children come into this world not only incapable of fending for themselves but also utterly uncivilized. It is the parent’s primary job to correct both these deficiencies. In fact, broadly construed, those are the only two jobs responsible parents must strive to accomplish; that is, developing their children into civilized, independent adults.
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Posted in Family and Children, Is our children learning?, Won't Somebody Think of the Children! | 2 Comments

Howard Stern Illustrates A Reality in Which Most Folks are Not Aware

As I noted in my last post, we are going to look all over to place to understand what I want to convey. This relates to a rut many well intentioned otherwise good middle class parents fall into. There are “bad” parents. Those who neglect, abandon, and/or physically abuse.

What the Stern example illustrates this problem endemic to middle class parents. His were “good” parents, in a comparative sense (they always provided and didn’t do the “bad” things above mentioned).

But the way they dealt with him on an emotional level was unhealthy, suboptimal, and caused damage. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

A New Direction

I had an “a ha” moment today. I’m going to start blogging about a complex topic which I’ve only hinted at over the past six years. I don’t even know what to call it because I DO NOT want to be the next New Age self help guru; but there’s going to be times when I sound like I am. I plan on making NO money off this. Rather, it’s in the charitable spirit of good will and philosophy (discovery of truth).

You are going to hear names and terms like Deepak Chopra, Roy Masters, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Howard Stern, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John Lennon, Frederick Von Hayek, Jesus, the Bible, Aristotle, Stoicism, Sam Harris, and Robert Wright, and many others (many esoteric ones), all tied together to support a comprehensive teaching. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments