Sunday, January 30, 2005

So, 9/11 and Iraq ARE connected

At least according to this story about the chairman of the University of Colorado Ethnic Studies Dept., Ward Churchill. From the article:
Churchill's essay argues that the Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children killed in a 1991 U.S. bombing raid and by economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War.

Harry Browne on Social Security

Financial advisor Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party's candidate for President in 1996 and 2000, has a flair for the "Goverment breaks your leg, gives you a crutch, and then tells you you're better off because of them" argument:

Final fix for Social Security

By Harry Browne

The president's Social Security Commission has acknowledged what politicians have been denying for decades - that Social Security has no true reserve fund and that much higher taxes will be required to make good on the promises made to you.

The politicians don't put your Social Security taxes into a "lock box" for your retirement. They give part of the money to current retirees and squander the rest on their favorite boondoggles. Since they've set nothing aside for your rainy day, they can pay you a pension only by taxing your children and grandchildren at higher and higher rates.

"Solving" the Social Security problem wouldn't be as difficult as the politicians and pundits make it seem. But to understand the solution, we must first deal with a few clichés.

Investing for retirement Cliché No. 1: "Some people can't invest properly for their own retirement."

This is typical of politicians' justifying their interference by citing a problem they caused themselves. If they didn't tax interest payments, and if their monetary policies didn't create inflation, anyone could ensure a secure retirement simply by putting 5 percent of his earnings in a bank savings account. No speculation or investing expertise is necessary.

Cliché No. 2: "Some people are too irresponsible to plan ahead for their own retirement."

Of course, some people wouldn't provide for their own retirement - just as some of them won't brush their teeth. But it's wrong to hold the rest of us hostage - to force us into a fraudulent Social Security scheme (or force us to display our teeth for government hygiene inspectors) - simply because some people won't take responsibility for their own lives.

Cliché No. 3: "Social Security would be more solvent if the politicians could increase the system's earnings by
investing the reserves in the stock market."

Social Security brings a new dimension to such concepts as annuities, insurance and retirement. No long, complicated contracts. No actuarial tables to pore over. Social Security operates on a very simple principle: The politicians take your money from you and squander it. Allowing the politicians to boost Social Security's earnings by investing its reserves in the stock market would just give them more money to squander - and they'd still be back soon enough to increase your taxes again.

Cliché No. 4: "Gradually 'privatizing' Social Security will wean people off the system."

The first time the stock market dives, the politicians (both Democratic and Republican) will jump on that as an excuse to take away from you any further control over your own retirement.

The problem and solution Social Security is inherently unsound because it's a political program - run by politicians for political purposes. It will never work. And no attempts to fix it, reform it, or refinance it can make a silk purse out of a politician's ear.

Only a purely libertarian solution can make things right: Shut Social Security down - completely, immediately and for good. End the Social Security tax tomorrow morning and stop making Social Security payments tomorrow evening. Anyone under 50 can have a better retirement putting 10 percent of his income in the bank instead of 15 percent into Social Security.

And what happens to those who are currently dependent on Social Security and those too close to retirement to build a new nest egg?

Have the government make a one-time purchase of private annuities - secure, non-political annuities that guarantee the same income Social Security is paying now to senior citizens.

How will the annuities be paid for?

Sell off assets the federal government shouldn't own anyway - power companies, pipelines, unused military bases, Western lands, oil rights, mineral rights, and the hundreds of thousands of federal buildings that serve no constitutional purpose.

This approach doesn't appeal to politicians, because it takes tax money and power away from them. But the only alternative to it is to resign yourself to having more and more of your income taken from you and poured down the drain.

Three questions

Before we go supporting legislation to reduce human-caused global warming, it would be well if we were all aware of the answers to the following questions:

1. What gas is responsible for approximately 95% of the "greenhouse effect" on planet Earth?

2. Is the United States a net A) Emitter, or B) Absorber of carbon dioxide?

3. Is the global climate now A) Warmer, or B) Cooler than it was approximately 1,000 to 1,100 years ago?

These questions come from a letter on Jerry Pournelles' web site. Here's the complete text.

Here are the answers from the letter:
1. Water vapor is responsible for about 95% of the Earth's greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide is less than 2% of the total effect, with methane taking up most of the balance, and other gasses responsible for the remainder. But all we EVER hear about is CO2.

2. The U.S., with it's vast forests (more now than in pre-Columbian times) and farmlands is a net ABSORBER of opposed to Europe and Japan, which are net emitters.

3. Let's see...they were raising crops of oats in Greenland, and the Icelandic/Viking explorers were calling what is now the chilly area of Newfoundland "Vinland" because of the grapes which grew there. It's an era referred to as the "Medieval Climate Optimum" in old climate textbooks, and was followed by the spread of Black Plague (the fleas of the rats taking advantage of the warmer climate to spread to northern Europe). That period was followed by what used to be referred to as the "Little Ice Age", in which England saw snow in areas never before seen, and the River Thames froze quite solidly on a regular basis. That period ended in the early/middle 1700's, and we've been in a warming trend ever since.

Friday, January 28, 2005

We need to see more like this

The London Times Online published this story today. An excerpt:
One thing not in doubt is that the elections will go ahead and that there will be a result sometime next month. “I think that despite everything, many Iraqis will vote on Sunday,” Fadel Alfatlwi, the head of the Iraqi Institute for Peace and an independent candidate, said. “With the occupation and all the horrible things that have happened, people dream that they will be wealthy and happy. That dream starts with the election.”
We're pulling for them.

You can't make this stuff up!

Man pees his way out of an avalanche after drinking 60 bottles of beer. Oh, man!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

It's hard to beat Fred

Fred Reed has a nice rant on education. An excerpt:
How is it possible to spend twelve years in school and not be able to read? How? It is beyond me. A sheet of dry wall would be reading in less time.
How indeed?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Oh, gawd! VI

They're still going. Jesse Jackson and the Democrat supporters of the idea that Bush really lost in Ohio are pushing ahead with charges of vote suppression, intimidation, and fraud. The Dec. 30th MSNBC interview with Jackson is very mild compared to the unbelievable frothing at the mouth on the web log.

And, of course, there's more on the book front. Former New Jersey governor, Christine Todd Whitman, has a new book called "It's My Party, Too," in which she
details her many scars and frustrations in dealing with what she calls the "antiregulatory lobbyists and extreme antigovernment ideologues" that she suggests hold too much sway over the Republican party.
according to the Drudge Report.