North Korea: the nightmare of living under a god

April 11, 2014

North Korea Yeonmi Park

There’s an interesting and frightening interview posted to Business Insider today with Yeonmi Park, a woman who escaped from North Korea with her family as a teenager, but needed years to get over the brainwashing she endured there. An indoctrination so intense, she believed the late Kim Jong Il could read her mind:

Yeonmi Park grew up in North Korea, under the watchful eye of then-leader Kim Jong-il.

Though she escaped with her family when she was 15, it took her years to get over the intense brainwashing she experienced. In a recent interview with Australian public broadcasting channel SBS, Park went into unbelievable detail about growing up in the totalitarian state.

Growing up in North Korea, according to Park, was like “living in hell.” She describes constant power outages, no transportation, and watching classmates and friends disappear without a trace. While that may be unsurprising, the most interesting part of Park’s experience is her admission that she believed Kim Jong-il to be “a god” who could literally read her mind.

“I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind. Every couple of days someone would disappear,” Park said.

Ms. Park’s story is part of a larger program on mind-control shown by SBS, the Australian public broadcaster.  The whole show is worth watching.

In an article at SBS, she tells more of her own story:

I lived in North Korea for the first 15 years of my life, believing Kim Jong-il was a God. I never doubted it because I didn’t know anything else. I could not even imagine life outside of the regime.

It was like living in hell. There were constant power outages, so everything was dark. There was no transportation – everyone had to walk everywhere. It was very dirty and no one could eat anything.

It was not the right conditions for human life, but you couldn’t think about it, let alone complain about it. Even though you were suffering, you had to worship the regime every day.

I had to be careful of my thoughts because I believed Kim Jong-il could read my mind. Every couple of days someone would disappear. A classmate’s mother was punished in a public execution that I was made to attend. I had no choice – there were spies in the neighbourhood.

George Orwell’s 1984 depicts the UK after an atomic war and a Socialist revolution. Big Brother is a de facto god to the people: his every word the undeniable truth, no matter how it contradicted what he might have said just the day before. Your innermost thoughts known to him, and he held the power to make you willing to accept your own death and the deaths of those close to you as just. His Animal Farm is a parable of a just revolution hijacked by an anti-democratic cadre, who maintain power by turning the other animals against each other and all into slaves. Both are taught as works of fiction, but Yeonmi Park’s story reminds us that they were more like docu-dramas and that the story hasn’t come to an end.

It reminds me of a saying of John Adams:

“It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power”

Our second president was right, but left something out: it’s not just that Mankind is too morally weak for any one person to hold absolute power, but there is also the weakness that makes us willing to surrender our responsibilities as citizens and entrust a small group of people or a single person with unlimited power. It is dangerous because, eventually and inevitably, that power will fall into the hands of evil men.

And then what is to stop them from proclaiming themselves gods?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


North Korea: all men must now wear Kim Jong Un’s hairstyle?

March 26, 2014
x

Bah! You call that a “haircut?”

When you’re the boy god-king of the world’s largest prison camp masquerading as a nation, you can get away with weird, petty stuff like this:

If you are a man in North Korea, we sincerely hope you have a round face. It’s the shape that will work with your new haircut.

That new haircut is reportedly called the “Dear Leader Kim Jong Un,” modeled after—you guessed it—North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s impenetrable block of black hair atop his chubby cheeks. The style reportedly became a state-mandated guideline about two weeks ago, though experts familiar with the country have said there’s no evidence a new hairstyle rule has gone into effect.

According to the article, this isn’t something new for North Korea: Kim’s father, the late, demented Kim Jong Il, launched a state campaign against long hair on the grounds that it sucked the nutrients from one’s brain.

Really.

Anyway, a TV campaign was launched and “journalists” would go to people’s homes to confront them about their overly lengthy locks. This being North Korea, I suppose they were lucky not to be shot or fed to the dogs.

Back to Kim III, and regardless of whether this is true, it’s another illustration of why limited, constitutional government is best; when there are no limits to the powers of the rulers, there are also no limits to what they will do the the ruled. North Korea is just the extreme example that clarifies the point.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Time for a Free-Market Postal System

March 25, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Revisiting one of my pet peeves: privatizing our hugely inefficient and money-losing postal service. In this case, Mitchell presents Britain’s success at doing just that.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

It’s not often that I agree with the Washington Post , but a government-run monopoly is not the best way to get mail delivered.

Moreover, it’s not often that I agree with the timid (and sometimes reprehensible) Tory-led government in the United Kingdom, but they just put the Royal Mail into the private sector. And that’s something deserving of loud applause.

Here’s a slice of the big news from the Financial Times.

The goal of privatising Royal Mail had defeated governments for 40 years. …Even prime minister Margaret Thatcher balked at the political risk of selling off a public service that carried the Queen’s head on its stamps. This time, the legislation went through parliament.

My Cato colleague, Chris Edwards, is suitably impressed.

Here’s some of what he wrote for Cato-at-Liberty.

Britain privatized its Royal Mail in 2013, proceeding with an initial public offering of shares that raised about…

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On birthday parties, income inequality, and big government

January 20, 2014
"By invitation, only."

“By invitation, only.”

So, in all the excitement of the NFL’s “championship weekend” the featured the 49ers thrilling come-from-ahead loss in Seattle (1), I forgot it was Michelle Obama’s 50th birthday. You can bet she didn’t forget, though, enjoying a lavish party attended by 500 celebrities and political stars. An intimate soirée, in other words.

Like Byron York, I’ve no need to know the details, assuming the party was paid for with private money, but the intense secrecy surrounding it is intriguing:

It’s not easy to enforce discipline on successful, wealthy, and famous people used to having their own way. But the White House apparently did not want to see photos of the first lady’s glittery gala circulating around the Internet. So it imposed a strict rule: No cellphones. “Guests were told not to bring cellphones with them, and there was a cellphone check-in area for those who did,” reported the Chicago Tribune. “Signs at the party told guests: No cellphones, no social media.” People magazine added: “Guests had been greeted by a ‘cell phone check’ table where they deposited their camera phones on arrival and it was understood that this was not an occasion for Tweeting party photos or Facebooking details.” The publications cited sources who insisted on anonymity for fear of White House reprisal.

“So great was the secrecy surrounding the party,” the Tribune reported, “that guests were handed an invitation — on their way out, the sources said.”

Kind of amusing for the Most Transparent Administration in History, no?

York speculates on the reasons for the secrecy, including the aforementioned privacy. But, he also touches on another, one that I think is at least equally valid – political messaging:

Or maybe, since the president has announced he is devoting the rest of his time in office to an “inequality agenda,” the White House felt photos of a champagne-soaked, star-studded party would be somewhat off-message.

I’m willing to bet this is it. The Left is singing like a chorus about income inequality and the widening gap, hoping to distract us all from the rolling disaster of Obamacare, and Michelle’s big blow-out would sound a loud discordant note, if it had gotten out on the Internet.

The truth the Ancien Régime misses while enjoying their luxurious parties at Versailles-on-the-Potomac, however, is that their parties are not the problem. No one really cares whether Michelle invites five, fifty, or five-thousand guests. No one cares (other than as an object of mockery) how many snobby dinner parties Anna Wintour throws for her glitterati friends.

The real problem, according to David Malpass in the Wall St. Journal, is that the Left’s preferred big-government, class warfare policies make the dread inequality worse more often than not:

Big government expansions in recent years have harmed individuals with modest incomes while exempting or benefiting people with higher incomes. These include the federal takeover of the mortgage industry, and the Federal Reserve’s decisions to keep interest rates near zero and buy some $3 trillion in bonds. Both of these expansions channel credit to the government and the well-connected at the expense of savers and new businesses.

Middle-income earners used to be the primary beneficiary of the rise in the value of their houses. Housing gains now lift Washington, allowing the government to pay itself huge “dividends” from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Reserve, which owns nearly $1.5 trillion in the government’s housing-related bonds. The government promptly spends the windfalls, fueling a further accumulation of wealth and income for those with Washington access.

The financial industry is making billions in profits fueled by the government’s provision of zero-rate loans for those with connections and collateral. Wall Street’s upper crust is the epicenter for financing the contractors, lobbyists and lawyers that help the government spend money. Meanwhile, government grabs a huge share of the profits generated by small businesses. It piles on opaque regulations, complex tax rules and countless independent agencies, producing a system that works against small businesses and the middle class. The Affordable Care Act takes pains to exempt Congress, government, corporations and unions, but leaves the rest severely exposed, adding to inequality.

This week’s congressional budget deal saw a narrow group of Washington’s elite legislators and lobbyists working over the weekend to divvy up nearly $1.1 trillion in discretionary spending for 2014. Much of the spending and all of the lobbying and debt underwriting costs will benefit those with high incomes while the extra debt falls heavily on the middle class.

Thus while Our Betters in D.C. and Manhattan and Hollywood graciously deign to run our lives for us (when they’re not attending a fancy-dress ball or jetting off to another exclusive resort), the burdens they impose on our lives really just enrich their friends at our expense and leave us holding the bag.

There’s a genuine opening or moment for a populist revolt coming. Not the Left-wing, class warfare kind the progressives like to sucker us with (and for which far too many fall), but a Jacksonian, democratizing electoral uprising against governing elites represented largely, but not exclusively, by today’s Democratic Party. A rising that would restore opportunity for us all, not trap us like Europe in social democratic amber.

We saw the first wave of this with the Tea Party rising of 2010, and Obamacare creates the conditions for another. The question is, will the Republican Party have the sense and the skill to take advantage of it?

We’ll see.

Footnote:
(1) Okay, I’m done pouting. Really. Just wait’ll next year…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Introducing the 2013 Federal Register: Last year’s 80,000 pages worth of **job-creating rules & regs

January 12, 2014

Only 80,000 pages. The government must be slacking…


Have a Happy New Year: privatize @USPS

December 31, 2013
Poor, trusting fool

Poor, trusting fool

This is a bit of a personal rant to end the year on, but a recent experience with the US Post Office and trying to get a package delivered has lead to the conclusion that one of the best “little things” a new Republican Congress could do in 2015 is privatize the danged thing. First, my recent travails:

On Christmas Day I received some Amazon (1) gift cards. Being a good little consumer, that afternoon I ordered some goodies, including a highly-rated electric skillet (This one, in fact. It’s a great price.) that Amazon promised to deliver for free by the 28th. Great!

So, on the 28th I stayed home to wait for the delivery. By that afternoon, I was curious, so I checked Amazon; “delivery attempted.”

“Really?” I thought. So I checked the USPS site: “Delivery attempted at 9:37 AM. Notice left.”

By now a bit concerned, I went down to the front of our apartment complex to check the mailboxes: no package, no notice, no nothing. Like I said, I had been home all day. My cell phone was on, the ringer set to “loudest.” At 9:37 AM, I was letting in my writing partner for a day’s work. In other words…

I WAS HOME!

Apparently the schmuck carrier couldn’t be bothered to actually try to contact me. I understand he couldn’t come to my door (it’s a large, winding complex), but… he could have called. I’d have come right down. But, I guess he didn’t want to make the effort. Maybe he was tired.

Checking the USPS site again, I saw a redelivery option (2) held out the promise of delivery Monday (yesterday). So, I filled out the form and printed the receipt. Problem solved — yay!!

You can guess what’s coming.

I waited at home all Monday, not daring to leave my apartment lest I miss the carrier and my new toy. By 5PM, I went downstairs to check and found the regular mailman. I asked her about the package — she’d never heard of it. “What about redelivery,” I asked.

Jay Carney gives more informative answers.

Finally, she helpfully suggested the other carrier might have left it with the building managers. Nope. Not on on their list.

So, this morning, I walked to the post office, waited for the lone clerk at the counter to finally call me forward only to tell me to go to “the door on the left.” After a half-hour or so, I was beginning to fear my package was really “out for delivery” this time, probably to the wrong address. But, no, I was rewarded at the end, the package was mine. Happy New Year, indeed. I then trudged the 1.5 miles home, this time carrying a bulky box and swearing eternal vengeance on the Post Office.

Okay, so, as far as horrible experiences with the USPS goes, and as maddening as it was, that was fairly minor. I’m sure any of you reading this could come up with far worse. But the whole experience had me wondering…

Why do we put up with this garbage?

Private companies have a much harder time getting away with poor service. Not only are there irate customers who can go elsewhere, but angry shareholders to wonder why they’re not making money. And, at the end, a poorly run, money-losing company goes out of business.

The USPS, which lost over $20 billion from 2007-2010 –and $5 billion in FY 2013, goes chugging on. This report from the Cato Institute well-documents their problems. For example:

A key driver of mail delivery costs is the congressionally mandated obligation to serve virtually every mailing address, regardless of volume, six days a week. Fulfilling this “universal service” obligation results in the USPS having large fixed costs, including the costs of more than 36,000 postal outlets, 215,000 vehicles, and 600 processing facilities.

However, even given the universal service obligation, the Government Accountability Office and USPS officials believe that more than half of these processing facilities aren’t needed. Why aren’t they closed down to save money? The GAO notes that the USPS faces “formidable resistance” from members of Congress and postal unions when attempting to close or consolidate facilities.

The USPS is required to provide services to all communities, including areas where post offices have low traffic and are not cost effective. Before closing a post office, the USPS must provide customers with at least 60 days of notice before the proposed closure date, and any person served by the post office may appeal its closure to the Postal Regulatory Commission. The USPS cannot close a post office “solely for operating at a deficit.”

Members of Congress whose districts would be affected by a post office closure often raise a big fuss. Last year, for example, the USPS proposed consolidating 3,200 postal outlets, but following a congressional outcry, the number under consideration was reduced to a paltry 162. That is no way to run a business.

No, it’s not. Labor costs are also a problem:

While the USPS has been able to eliminate a substantial number of employees through attrition, the USPS’s predominantly unionized workforce continues to account for 80 percent of the agency’s costs despite increased automation. The USPS estimates that, in the absence of changes, its total workforce costs will soar from $53 billion in 2009 to $77 billion in 2020.

And at the root of these costs are restrictive union contracts:

Another factor that reduces postal service efficiency is that union contracts inhibit the flexibility of USPS leaders in managing their workforce. For example, most postal workers are protected by “no-layoff” provisions, and the USPS must let go lower-cost part-time and temporary employees before it can lay off a full-time worker not covered by such provisions.

There’s a lot more in this report, which makes a great case that the postal service should be privatized and its monopoly on first-class mail ended. The benefits would redound to the benefit of taxpayers and customers, providing the service the Founders had in mind when they gave Congress the power to “…establish Post Offices and post Roads.” In this day and age, that does not require a government-run, inefficient, and monopolistic postal service.

It’s time to privatize the USPS.

I might then get my packages on time.

Footnote:
(1) By the way, if any Amazon employees are reading this, tell your boss, Jeff, to stop using USPS for deliveries. It’s your two-day guarantee to Prime customers they’re breaking and your reputation they’re harming. Fire them.
(2) The page for which apparently works as well has the healthcare.gov payment system — not at all. I sense a trend in government-built web sites.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Instead of a Government-Guaranteed Income, How About a Practical Plan to End the Washington Welfare State?

December 20, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

Hmmm… Block-granting the entire welfare state to the states to allocate as they need, then gradually eliminating it — a federalist approach. I like it.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

The welfare state is a nightmare.

Programs such as Medicaid are fiscal catastrophes. The food stamp program is riddled with waste. The EITC is easily defrauded, even sending checks to prisoners. And housing subsidies are a recipe for the worst forms of social engineering.

The entire system should be tossed in the trash.

But what’s the alternative? Some libertarians argue that we should eliminate the dozens of Washington programs and replace them with a government-guaranteed minimum income. I address this issue in an essay for Libertarianism.org.

Some libertarians argue that the state should provide a minimum basic income, mainly because this approach would be preferable to the costly and bureaucratic amalgamation of redistribution programs that currently exist. It’s hard to disagree with the notion that the current system is a failure. The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner has produced a searing indictment of the modern welfare…

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To Deal with the Problem of Incompetent Government, David Brooks Wants to…Make the Executive Branch More Powerful?!?

December 15, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

Patient says to his doctor, “Doc, it hurts when I do this!” Doc replies, ” Well, stop doing that!” Brooks obviously didn’t listen to the doctor.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I sometimes get irked when I read columns by David Brooks. He’s sort of the token Republican at the New York Times, so he has a very important perch that could be used to educate an important audience about the harmful impact of excessive government.

And Brooks often does a good job of highlighting important and worrisome social trends, but what rubs me the wrong way is that he frequently thinks the right answer is to give government even more power.

He wrote a column back in 2011, for instance, that nailed the problem of growing dependency and declining workforce participation. But then he proposed more government intervention.

And he correctly worried about the social costs of family instability in 2012, but then bizarrely decided that the right response was subsidies to make men more marriageable.

So it won’t come as much of a surprise that I’m perplexed…

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Tweet of the Day, #Obamacare testing train wreck edition

October 19, 2013
"Train wreck"

“I didn’t test the site. I thought you did!”

National Review’s Jim Geraghty catches HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitting in the pages of The Wall Street Journal something she should have known years ago:

This is going to sit well with her boss, don’t you think? After all, the fourth-greatest president ever is always willing to humbly own up to mistakes. He might even recognize the mistake he made in hiring the former Kansas governor and fire her in the spirit of accountability.

Oh, stop laughing.

Besides, as Jim argues elsewhere, why should we want her fired?

If you think Sebelius is a blitheringly incompetent leader and manager, who ignores red flags and who is now requiring underlings to attempt increasingly implausible, desperate spin, and you want to see Obamacare go away . . . why would you want to get rid of her? The next HHS secretary might be better at the job.

As Napoleon once said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.”

Speaking of that “testing issue” Sebelius isn’t the only one to acknowledge a mistake total, catastrophic screw up. Writing in the Washington Examiner, Richard Pollock reports that Sebelius was indeed right when she said they had only a brief time to test the site and its systems. “Brief,” as in 4-6 days before launch:

Federal officials did not permit testing of the Obamacare healthcare.gov website or issue final system requirements until four to six days before its Oct. 1 launch, according to an individual with direct knowledge of the project.

The individual, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the troubled Obamacare website project as suffering from top-level management disarray, changing systems requirements and recurring delays.

The root cause of the problems was a pivotal decision by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials to act as systems integrator, the central coordinator for the entire program. Usually this role is reserved for the prime information technology contractor.

As a result, full testing of the site was delayed until four to six days before the fateful Oct. 1 launch of the health care exchanges, the individual said.

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Federal officials were “freezing requirements in time to permit full testing at all levels of the site — integration testing, user testing, performance testing and tuning,” the individual said.

“Normally a system this size would need 4-6 months of testing and performance tuning, not 4-6 days,” the individual said.

No, really? When you’re only taking over 16% of the entire US economy?? Surely you jest.

Read the whole article. This is how our $634 million was spent. Obamacare, and all the revelations like this coming out every day, is the greatest selling point for small-government conservatism America has ever seen.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obamacare: A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme for Washington Insiders

August 26, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

When government tries to control the economy, the real winners are those who can manipulate the laws in their favor. As in so many cases, it’s true with Obamacare, too.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Want to know why – as shown by this map – most of America’s richest counties are part of the metropolitan DC region?

Part of the answer is that federal bureaucrats are overpaid. Another part of the answer is that the Washington area is filled with consultants and contractors, and this shadow government workforce also is overcompensated by taxpayers.

But I’m guessing that DC’s vast population of lobbyists and influence peddlers dominate the upper end of the income spectrum.

And that community of back scratchers and deal makers are getting even richer thanks to Obamacare. Here’s some of what The Hill is reporting today.

ObamaCare has become big business for an elite network of Washington lobbyists and consultants who helped shape the law from the inside. More than 30 former administration officials, lawmakers and congressional staffers who worked on the healthcare law have set up shop on K…

View original 401 more words


Not enough scandals for you? Here, have four more!

June 11, 2013

Via Gabriel Malor at Ace’s, who laments that the misbehavior at the EPA has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed so far by the IRS, NSA, Rosen, and so many other stories. He collects them all in a handy post, but here’s a summary:

  • Remember former Administrator Lisa Jackson’s hidden email account using a fake identity? Well, that non-existent person somehow won a departmental award.
  • The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to enhance government transparency by establishing procedures by which people can demand access to information. But, in the bureaucratic Mandarin Land of today’s EPA, only conservative groups have to pay for the information — and pay a lot. Naturally, leftist groups regularly get waivers.
  • Contractors turning public property into man-caves.
  • This is the bad one: the EPA released the personal information of 80,000 farmers and ranchers to radical environmentalist groups. But, don’t forget, we can trust the government with our private information.

Read the rest of Gabe’s post for more, and some acerbic analysis.

Meanwhile, I’m adding EPA to the list of government agencies that Congress needs to have taken out back and shot (1). It seems to be growing by the day (2).

Footnotes:
(1) Dear PRISM: that’s called a figure-of-speech. Don’t flag me, bro!
(2) Phineas’ List of Government Departments To Scrap, A Work In Progress:

  • EPA
  • IRS
  • HUD
  • HHS
  • Commerce
  • Labor
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Agriculture
  • Homeland Security

Some of these may well have necessary functions worth preserving — the Census, for example — but I’m willing to bet 80-100% of each could be dumpstered, saving us a lot of money and headache.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Oh, no. This won’t set off conservative and libertarian alarm bells at all.

May 11, 2013

"The State watches over you"

“The State watches over you”

I mean, what’s so threatening about a biometric database of all adult Americans being in the immigration bill, citizen?

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

Emphasis added.

Nah, there are no 4th Amendment illegal search and privacy concerns here. Nothing to see, carry on. After all, wingnuts, you demanded greater security in the immigration bill and, well, here ya go! The government will make sure only bona fide Americans get jobs by keeping track of each and every one of us. And if they should find other uses for the information, well, that will be for the public good, too.

And you thought Person of Interest was just fiction.

If this Wired story is true, this provision is reason enough to kill the bill.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Quote of the Day: Doing business in Texas vs. California edition

April 1, 2013

An observation on why Texas might have more appeal to business owners, from John Harrington, owner of Shield Tactical, who recently relocated his company from Orange County, California, to Austin:

In Texas, he said, “it’s an iota of bureaucracy.” In California, “it’s like before you put up your range you have to be worried about whether the noise level is going to bother the 10-headed duckmouse.”

That made me laugh, but it’s also so very true. One company found the regulatory environment here so burdensome, it wrote California a “Dear John” letter.

Oh, and if you think “duckmouse” was a joke, consider that Sacramento would rather let Central Valley farms die of thirst than fight the EPA over a two-inch bait fish.

BTW, the first linked article is a good one on how Texas is working to encourage firearms manufacturers to move to Texas from states that are imposing more and more restrictions. Smart man, that Governor Perry.

via Moe Lane and Rick Wilson

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


March 30, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

This is a very interesting study. I’m sorry to say my beloved California comes in only at second place in “most un-free” states, behind New York. Come on, Sacramento! I’m sure you can do more to screw this place up! I have faith in you.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Sometimes I myopically focus on fiscal policy, implying that the key to prosperity is small government.

But I’ll freely admit that growth is maximized when you have small government AND free markets.

That being said, our goal should be to expand freedom, not merely to have the largest possible GDP.

Which is why the Freedom Index is a good complement to Economic Freedom of the World.

It shows, for instance, that Singapore may be ranked #2 for economic freedom, but it is only #39 when you look at all freedoms.

We also have a comprehensive ranking of economic and personal freedom for the 50 states.

Here are the full rankings from the newly released Freedom in the 50 States from the Mercatus Center, showing North Dakota as the state with the most freedom, with South Dakota (#2), Tennessee (#3), New Hampshire (#4), and Oklahoma (#5) also deserving…

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The greatest issue facing America: a cruise-ship passengers’ bill of rights

March 18, 2013

And Chuck Schumer is on the case:

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the cruise ship industry to adopt a “bill of rights” to guarantee passengers certain protections while aboard their ships.

The New York Democrat says Sunday he’ll be asking industry leaders to voluntarily adopt the guidelines which include guarantees that ships have sanitary conditions, back-up power, medical staff and other standard procedures.

Schumer’s plan would also include the right to a full refund if a trip is abruptly canceled due to mechanical problems.

And thus we see the modern Democratic Party’s priorities in action: no budget from the Senate in more than 1,400 days? Bah! The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea? Don’t waste my time! Food-stamp usage at an all-time high while labor force participation is at a record low? Small potatoes, friend.

No, as we see from the senior senator from New York’s example, what really matters is grandstanding whenever possible and wherever cameras and mics are available, so that you can pretend you’re fighting for the little guy and convince enough saps to vote for you again.

This also shows the different mindset of the limited government advocates on the one hand, and the statists on the other.

Limited Government Advocate:

“A company that provides poor service will eventually put itself out of business, and those who feel harmed by it have access to the civil courts. Annoying as these incidents are, it’s really none of the federal government’s business, and we should get back to tending to what properly is.”

Statist:

“This is an outrage! People need our protection against evil corporations; the government must do something! What? They already have redress under the law? They can take their business elsewhere? Insufficient! We must pass new laws, because that’s what we’re here for — to pass laws! Not in our purview? Nonsense! We’ll pass a law to make it our business! Call a press conference!”

Is it any wonder people are disenchanted with our political class, when so many of them ignore the real problems we face and instead go chasing butterflies?

via Liberty Unyielding

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The progressive war on the middle class: Kansas vs. California

February 12, 2013

A few days ago, reactionary liberal E.J. Dionne wrote a piece in The Washington Post, part of which he devoted to bashing states that implement conservative fiscal and governance policies. And he singled out Kansas, the state with perhaps the most “Tea Party” government, for a ritual “two minutes hate:”

In some states where Republicans control all the levers of power, they are rushing ahead with astonishingly right-wing programs to eviscerate government while shifting the tax burden toward the middle class and the poor and away from the wealthy. In trying to build the Koch brothers’ dystopias, they are turning states in laboratories of reaction.

As Neil King Jr. and Mark Peters reported in a Wall Street Journal article on the “Red State model,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has slashed both income taxes and spending. This drew fire from moderate and moderately conservative Republican legislators, whom he then helped purge in primaries.

Note the requisite invocation of the demon Koch brothers, lest any of the progressive faithful miss the clue that these conservative reforms are EVIL!!!

Anyway, Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll read Dionne’s screed and did something increasingly unusual for journalists these days: he looked for facts before turning on his word-processing program. Imagine that.

So, first looked at how things are going in Mordor Kansas:

If Dionne were to bother to visit Kansas, he would find a state with an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, a full 2.5 points below the nation’s 7.9 percent average. Despite “eviscerated” state government spending, Kansas’ fourth- and eighth-graders beat the national average in both math and reading scores. The state’s 11.2 percent poverty rate is also well below the national 15.8 percent national average. And despite all those evil tax cuts for the rich, the gap between Kansas’ wealthiest and poorest citizens is also much smaller than the national average.

The most recent Jayhawk Poll showed Brownback enjoying a 55 percent to 37 percent approval rating. But I’m sure the backlash Dionne predicted is just around the corner.

Then he compared it to the progressive Paradise, my beloved California, where Democrats control the governor’s office and have super-majorities in the legislature:

At 9.8 percent, unemployment is a bit higher in the Golden State then in Kansas — or the rest of the country, for that matter. Despite California spending far more per student than most states, its fourth- and eighth-graders perform far worse on reading and math proficiency scores than the average American students. A third of all the welfare recipients in the United States live in California, and the Census Bureau reports that the state also has the nation’s highest poverty rate. Almost one-quarter (23.5 percent) of Californians live below the poverty line.

And there is plenty of wealth to go around in California, but it also has one of the nation’s highest levels of income inequality. According to the Census Bureau, it is getting more and not less unequal.

Oh, and Governor Brown’s claims that our budget is at last balanced turned out to be a total lie, too. No word about Kansas’ budget, but I’m willing to bet they’re in better far fiscal shape than we are. Even Albania is.

Anyway, based on just this brief comparison of two states that most embody, respectively, what Walter Mead has called the Red and Blue models of government, if anyone is waging a war on the middle class, it’s the liberal/progressive/statist Democrats. Instead of looking at conservative states and shrieking “My God, what are you people doing,” Dionne should look to places where “his way” rules and ask “My God, what have we done?”

PS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. That California isn’t yet in flaming ruins after decades of progressive misrule is evidence of just how powerful this state’s natural economy was and could be, again, if only the oligarchs in Sacramento would pull their heads out of their collective backsides — and their hands out of our wallets.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


January 27, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

My vote would be for Labor to get the ax, first, but HUD makes a very worthy choice. (Sorry about the image size. The reblog feature evidently does weird things with images…)

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I was asked last week which entitlement program is most deserving of reform.

While acknowledging that Social Security and Medicare also are in desperate need of modernization, I wrote that Medicaid reform should be the first priority.

But I’d be happy if we made progress on any type of entitlement reform, so I don’t think there are right or wrong answers to this kind of question.

We have the same type of question this week. A reader sent an email to ask “Which federal department should be abolished first?”

I guess this is what is meant when people talk about a target-rich environment.

We have an abundance of candidates, including the Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of Transportation, etc.

But if I have to choose, I think the Department of Housing and Urban Development should be first on…

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December 24, 2012

Phineas Fahrquar:

We have met the enemy, and it is the DC bureaucrat.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

In large part because of an excessive burden of government, the American economy is suffering European-style stagnation, with even the Washington Post now confessing that growth far below the long-run trend.

This helps explain why job creation has been so dismal in recent years, with more than twenty million Americans out of work, underemployed, or dropped out of the workforce.

But there is one pocket of enormous prosperity in America. It will warm your heart to know that our overlords in Washington are living the life of Riley.

Here are some of the highlights of a remarkable Reuters expose about the fat cats of big government, starting with the huge gap between the insider elite and the poor.

In the town that launched the War on Poverty 48 years ago, the poor are getting poorer despite the government’s help. And the rich are getting richer because of…

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Another reason to like Tim Scott

December 18, 2012

Aside from the fact that the current representative and senator-designate from South Carolina has a good character, the right politics, and a clear-eyed view of our real problem, he worries all the right people:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People isn’t too excited about the appointment of Rep. Tim Scott to South Carolina’s soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat.

(…)

Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP, told The Daily Caller Monday afternoon that the group welcomed diversity in the Senate, but expects the new senator to work against the NAACP’s agenda.

“It is important that we have more integration in the U.S. Senate,” said Shelton in a phone interview. “It’s good to see that diversity.”

“Mr. Scott certainly comes from a modest background, experience, and so forth, and should be sensitive to those issues,” he said, referring to Scott’s impoverished single-parent upbringing in Charleston, SC.

“Unfortunately, his voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives raises major concerns,” Shelton said.

Shelton explained that the NAACP platform is crafted through an annual voting process which engages grassroots-level delegates who vote on the group’s national agenda. That agenda calls for an expansive role for federal government spending in black communities.

Because federal intervention has done such a bang-up job for Blacks. Just ask any beneficiary of the Great Society’s urban policies. And that War on Poverty? We fought it, and poverty won.

While Ms. Shelton does have some nice things to say about Congressman Scott, it’s clear her views are trapped within the statist, dependent, and identity-group paradigm that dominates the Democratic party. And yet Blacks are far worse off under Obama, who is pursuing those very policies the way an alcoholic chases a beer wagon.  But, to be honest, the NAACP stopped being an organization seeking the best interests of African Americans at the same time they entered into a monogamous relationship with the Democratic party. (Helpful tip: if you’re an interest group and you give yourself wholly and forever to one political party — they no longer have to take you seriously, because they know they have your votes no matter what they do.)

Meanwhile, here’s hoping that Mr. Scott has a long and fruitful career in the Senate and that, rather than coming round to the NAACP line, he encourages NAACP members to realize there’s another, better way to help Black Americans prosper.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


California: We’re the best worst state! Yay? Updated.

November 28, 2012

The new flag of California

Now here’s something to be proud of. Thanks to nearly 50 years of  Democratic control of the legislature and the legislators’ kowtowing to public unions in return for donations and  support, the state of California –the Golden State, the land that inspired untold millions of dreams and created unheard of prosperity for its people– is officially the worst-run state in the nation:

50. California

Debt per capita: $4,008 (18th highest)
Budget deficit: 20.7% (17th largest)
Unemployment: 11.7% (2nd highest)
Median household income: $57,287 (10th highest)
Pct. below poverty line: 16.6% (18th highest)

California is 24/7 Wall St.’s “Worst Run State” for the second year in a row. Due to high levels of debt, the state’s S&P credit rating is the worst of all states, while its Moody’s credit rating is the second-worst. Much of California’s fiscal woes involve the economic downturn. Home prices plunged by 33.6% between 2006 and 2011, worse than all states except for three. The state’s foreclosure rate and unemployment rate were the third- and second-highest in the country, respectively. But efforts to get finances on track are moving forward. State voters passed a ballot initiative to raise sales taxes as well as income taxes for people who make at least $250,000 a year. While median income is the 10th-highest in the country, the state also has one of the highest tax burdens on income. According to the Tax Foundation, the state also has the third-worst business tax climate in the country.

The best run state? North Dakota. In fact, the top five are run by fiscally conservative Republican governments, while the three worst of the bottom five are dominated by liberal Democrats.  I detect a pattern here, and it has much more to do with governing philosophy than with the letter after the politician’s name.

The analysis given after the data is horse feathers, though. Yes, California did suffer heavily from the economic crisis that hit in 2008 and the resulting recession. But that does not explain the slowness of our recovery. That, instead, is explained by the poor policies followed by the government in Sacramento, which has done everything right — if the objective was to choke of economic growth and job creation. Borrowing too much money, then spending it on on padded public pensions and useless projects like high-speed rail; raising already-high taxes on the very people who create the jobs we desperately need, thus leaving no money for reinvestment and driving those people out of the state or out of business; and a regulatory environment that can only be described as miserable. Our “leaders” have taken us straight into the pit and they show no sign of changing course.

Well done, California. Well done!

via Legal Insurrection

RELATED: Other measures of our success: California now leads the nation in poverty, or, as my friend Teach puts it, we’re “Brokefornia.”

UPDATE: Walter Russell Mead explains far better than I did why California’s recovery is so weak:

The problem with California has never been that bad policies put the state in a permanent recession. Rather, bad policies have meant that the state and its residents suffer more than average when recessions come, and that they benefit less than they should when the good times return. Some of the world’s most dynamic people and industries are found in California, but poor governance means that the state as a whole keeps losing ground when compared with the country as a whole. That is California’s real problem, and the Times would serve its readers better by analyzing the forces holding California back from achieving its magnificent potential instead of hailing a modest and cyclical economic recovery as some kind of proof that the state’s model ‘works’.

Left unspoken: We keep electing those responsible for the poor governance.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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