Common Sense 115 – Storming Heaven & more Foreign Dragons

Going through the backlog of Common Sense (with Dan Carlin) episodes that I wanted blog on.

115 was titled Waterboarding the Bureaucracy; and other than wanting to second the motion, yeah let’s waterboard ’em, I really don’t have anything else to say. Except that if you want to research the history of drugs in America (including the CIA’s programs, to some extent) I’d recommend the book Storming Heaven. It’s more about exploring why we experiment with drugs in the first place, but it still addresses the problem with powerful people using drugs to alter the perceptions of others. I found it fascinating, myself.

[I’ve been looking for an excuse to plug that book for awhile now]

As for the second half of the program, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; again, my observations are limited. Military dictators tend to oppress their oppositions with violence. Why would you not think she was killed by the sitting dictator?

Should Pakistan have democracy? That would be up to Pakistan. Getting involved in the politics of other countries, suppressing the free expression of political thought (even in this country) increases the chance of a later violent backlash; worse than any violence we might face by not interfering in their politics now. Dan takes longer to say it, but it’s just as true in the short form.

This has been an issue widely discussed in Libertarian forums from Strike the Root to to to and on to more traditional places like CATO. The list is nearly as long as the history of ill advised American intervention abroad. It’s just too bad that government bureaucrats don’t read libertarian publications (outside of the CIA, that is) or they might be more aware of the mess they make every time they decide to dabble in other countries politics.

But then, what the hell do we know? We’ve only been saying that terrorism was going to visit us here in the US if we kept meddling in other peoples politics since about 1971. Wasn’t 30 years warning enough?

Common Sense 114 – Sortition!

Going through the backlog of Common Sense (with Dan Carlin) episodes that I wanted blog on.

114 was titled the Government we Deserve and was about the beauty pageant that we call elections in this country, and the way that government excess can be laid right at the feet of the common voter.

Every time I hear people complaining about election results, wasted votes, blah, blah, blah, I immediately want to just throw out the entire concept of election. It was the wrong form of democracy for us to choose in the first place.

Why do we appoint government officials by holding a beauty contest? By deciding who is the most popular? What does that gain us? The problem with most of the people who run for election, who want to be popular, is that they want the job in the first place. If they want the job, they’ll do anything to keep it, and that’s a bad precedent to set. Most of the problems with legislation and bad government (as I’ve pointed out elsewhere) comes from influence peddling; which government officials engage in to enhance their ability to stay in office.

So let’s not do that anymore.

What if we simply qualified all the people who could hold office (and when I say quailify, I mean you have an IQ above X and an education above Y. No other qualification metric should be allowed) You put all those names in a hat, and then you pull out the names of the people who will be appointed to office. You’re name comes up and “Congratulations congressman Doe” off you go to Washington.

The system is called Sortition. It was practiced by the ancient Greeks, and I think it’s a practice we should revive. And we better do it soon.

There would have to be accompanying legislation that allowed for heightened ability to recall representatives (so that those being represented can remove representatives they feel are out of line) but I think the average monkey could do a better job than the current congresscritters.

Whack a Weasel Candidates

So, what’s going on with presidential politics these days? The Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney drops out, McCain becomes the favorite. The highly touted Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani are virtually no shows.

[Dan Carlin picked Giuliani as the Republican winner in Common Sense 109. At least his candidate actually was in the race. Bush didn’t even voice an opinion on candidates, a nearly unprecedented event, and consequently no one from his presidency stepped forward to run. So no Condi vs. Hillary in 2008. Ah, well. ]

McCain is probably the only Republican running that could loose to Hillary.

Obama and Clinton can’t play nice in the sandbox, and the Democrat voters can’t decide which one of them they really want to support. My money is still on Hillary, but I’m hoping I’m wrong. Like the Republican field, half of the Democrat candidates have dropped out already.

Hillary is probably the only Democrat running that could loose to McCain.

It’s like a game of Whack a Mole, or Whack a Weasel.

[another nod to Dan Carlin (110, 111) for giving the candidates their proper mascot. Weasels is what they are, when they change their opinions about any policy issue depending on what audience they are in front of; and 9/10’s of the candidates do this without blushing]

The candidate’s head pops up, and they get smacked down again. Except we’ll probably still end up having to choose between weasels when it comes to the major parties. I’m not sure how two such unpopular people could ever get this far in a beauty contest like the presidential election.

Here’s hoping that the rumors about Ron Paul are correct. At least I’ll still have someone to vote for then.

What about the Losers?

Originally titled Austin, the Portland wannabe, this entry has morphed into an In Related News type column (with a tip of the hat to Dan Carlin) because Common Sense 113, What about the Losers asks the same questions that were being asked by Jeff Ward when he interviewed Austin Mayor Will Wynn (Editor’s note: it only took me 11 years to notice I spelled Will Wynn’s name wrong, and unfortunately I can’t find that interview online anymore. The link I had for it is dead. My Google-fu failed to turn it up anywhere else.) on Our Little Show a few months ago.

At the time, I was screaming at the radio “It’s because Austin desperately wants to be Portland!” but I think the answer will take more explaining than that. Probably quite a bit more.

First, let’s deal with Dan’s assertion that we live in a capitalist system. This is important because Dan’s point is quite valid; in a capitalist system the growth of the markets should be robust enough that even the least ambitious, least able to compete amongst us can be provided for charitably from the fat left on the table. The problem is, we don’t live in that system.

Ask any economist and they’ll hem and haw and finally explain that we live in a managed market system, a hybrid market managed from the top down with central controls placed there by government to ostensibly protect the investors/users/general population from the dangers of an uncontrolled market.

What those dangers are is anyones guess, because hindsight has shown that the failures of the stock market can generally be traced back to interference in the market by the Federal government, or by it’s monetary arm, the Federal Reserve (before the Federal Reserve the fluctuations in markets were probably an offshoot of the legalized theft that is Fractional Reserve Banking. I’m leaving that discussion for another time because this thing is almost a book already) Most of the other markets haven’t so much failed, as they were never allowed to fully bloom before being stifled by state and local controls placed on whatever resource or talent the market formed around.

But the controls do serve the purpose of keeping the markets in check (whether the controls are professional licensing, health inspection, zoning and planning, or just the good old Securities and Exchange Commission) Keeping the markets in check being indistinguishable from slowing growth.

So we don’t really live in a capitalist system, and it’s been getting less and less so for more than a hundred years now. We do still live in what is largely a meritocracy (which is better than the alternatives) but it’s a far cry from the kind of capitalism that most laissez-faire capitalists dream about, and the profit margins are getting leaner all the time.

If there’s limited profit (what it means to be lean) then there’s limited fat to provide for those marginal types on the fringe of society. And no amount of exhortation to buckle down and provide for them from outside is ever going to result in their getting more of what they need. Like a parent telling a child to be good and share, if there’s only one toy, the toy’s owner gets to play with it.

Globalization (Dan’s second point) was occurring whether we drafted and joined GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA, et al, or not. I would actually offer up the observation that the agreements appear to have been drafted to favor the staid multi-national corporations after the wilderness had been tracked by more nimble entrepreneurs.

[much like the stock tech bubble was burst just in time for established corporations to wade in and take over newly created tech industries. But it would be very black helicopter of me to say that, wouldn’t it?]

So blaming the state of affairs on these agreements suits me just fine. I just wouldn’t waste time kicking the scapegoat of Globalization (whatever that means) for the fact that you can’t make $30 bucks an hour doing tech support for (insert giant corporation’s name here) anymore. As Dan rightly points out “they have smart people in India too” and they’ll work for much less. Any corporation bent on reducing costs is going to outsource work in those sorts of circumstances, globalization incentives in place or not.

It’s not globalization’s fault, because that’s only part of the big picture. There’s also the consistent devaluation of the dollar (generally referred to as inflation) by spend-happy congressmen bent on buying their way into re-election at the top end of the government chain (not to mention crusading Presidents with Foreign Dragons to Slay) These actions reduce the purchasing power of the dollars you have left after your job was outsourced to India.

On the other end of the government chain, you have cities (like Austin) that have activist governments bent on achieving various goals, either for the enrichment of the powerful within the city, or to satisfy the security/comfort demands of the citizens, or both. In Austin, the government has used zoning, licensing, and control of the water/wastewater and road system, as well as what’s known as an Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) to limit growth and prevent what city planners refer to with distaste as sprawl. The predictable results have been growth outside of city controlled areas (leading to congestion and a mad dash to toll all roads that lead into Austin) and a steep climb in real estate values within city boundaries.

I say predictable, because this is the same formula that Portland and other cities modeled after Portland have used to limit growth and encourage compact city centers. The problems with this model have been documented in CATO studies, which I have perused often enough that I end up in a screaming match with my radio when the Mayor is interviewed.

Traffic congestion, homelessness and poverty. All of these are attributable side effects of limiting road construction, driving up the cost of housing, and diverting public funds to programs (such as light rail and subsidized housing) that do not produce the benefits promised. When you couple that with multi-national corporations outsourcing employment to countries where three generations of a family live under the same (small) roof; and the devaluation of the wages that remain, you have the recipe for the near unavoidable disaster which looms on the horizon.

Hello, interesting times. The ancient Chinese guy I was just talking to mentioned you.

So, what about the losers? What’s the solution? A lot less government, and a lot less government interference. It’s what will occur whether we head that way voluntarily or not. We might as well plan for it.

On the local end it’s going to mean relaxing building restrictions at the city level and perhaps relying upon the licensed professionals to do their job without the city looking over their shoulder (an architect can dream, can’t he?) it means privatizing road ownership (road construction, contrary to popular belief, is already mostly private) so that real maintenance costs can be established and funded. Privatized mass transit systems (London’s seems to work just fine)

On the Federal end, who knows? Can Washington be reasoned with? Considering the battle in California over medical Marijuana (a clear states rights issue if I’ve ever seen one) I’d have to say it looks like no. Can the out of control bureaucracy be brought to heal? That remains to be seen, but also doubtful.

[I’d be interested to see what would happen if the states insisted on payment of federal debts in Constitutional money; precious metal coinage. I think the Fed would have a hard time winning that battle in court]

So the real question is “will the Federal government survive the collapse of the dollar?” (which appears to be underway right now. It’s been slow so far, let’s see how long that lasts. And yes, I’m being serious. When have you ever seen the USD trade at parity with CAD? I’ve never seen it, till now) I don’t think it can be avoided. If, by some machination of events beyond the average persons comprehension collapse is avoided, and the federal government continues, there’s no telling what it will look like. Better to not worry about events beyond our control.

As for the plight of the losers, I’ve been rolling this idea around in my head for years now. Since we don’t use real money anyway these days, and since the banks can create money out of thin air when they need it, why can’t we do the same thing for that portion of society that would do without necessities if they aren’t extended the equivalent of credit.

There would need to be a standardization or nationalization of accounts, so that each person would have one account (and only one account) into which his electronic funds are transferred when he works, and from which funds are drawn when purchases are made. But rather than having a lower point at which no more funds are available, as in today’s bank accounts, the loser hits the point where the cash card becomes a charity card. Businesses would be given direct tax write offs for extending charity, and charity would be limited to strictly defined necessities (such as utilities, food, etc.) If you want a large screen TV, sorry you’ll have to do without. If you became productive again, then after a set period of time your charity card would once again convert to a cash card, and you could purchase whatever you wanted with it.

Not a libertarian solution, but a solution all the same.

I can see several of my AnCap acquaintances bristling from all the way over here. So, why should I care if the losers do without necessities? If I don’t want to give them charity, I don’t have to. And that’s true, as far as it goes. This post is already too long, but I thought I’d touch on the issue of haves and have-nots (or winners and losers) because it’s the have-not / have quotient (and the correlative societal highs and lows of money and status) that defines whether a society can continue to function peacefully or not.

Too high a number and the have-nots are emboldened to take what they want from the haves; and not all of us are or want to be Joe Horn. Too low a number, and human nature takes over correcting the trend turning haves into have-nots through natural laziness.

So obviously, it’s in the haves best interest to act in advance of the outset of violence, by not allowing the number to get too high; and the easiest way to do this is to keep the low end of the have-nots from falling too low. Put whatever conditions you want on the charity that makes you happy (after all, this is an exercise in “what if?”) Sterilization of the lowest portions of society so as to prevent a blossoming of their ranks through reproduction, in the event that they go on charity status. Repayment of charity before cash status is returned. Whatever.

Just remember that the more draconian the penalties, the less effective the charity will be at mediating violence. Which is the point of offering it in the first place, if human decency isn’t enough of an appeal to move you.


So much bullshit in my head back then, so little time now to correct it. Be thankful I took the time to correct the former mayor’s name. The rest of this article though? Mostly smoke blown up my own ass, me pretending to be Dan Carlin or Jeff Ward with an audience of tens of thousands anxious listeners to preach to. It was amusing writing it at the time. I do remember that much.

spotifyTom Petty – Even The Losers

I will point out that my naivete concerning the motivations of the wealthy are on full display here. I fully expected them to be cognizant of the fact that there aren’t enough bullets in the world, even if you could speed load them all, to be able to kill every hungry, poor person lurking outside your window before they get you, when the payback time arrives. Apparently they think action movies are real just like everybody else does.

Hardcore History: James Burke & the K-Web

I have listened to all of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History (wish I could say the same for Common Sense. I’m still missing the first 40 or so of those) and they’ve all been good. I would have had a hard time picking the best episode…

…Until now. I know, I know, this episode was rough, it didn’t have the polished edges of the rest of the episodes.

James Burke!


I’ve been a fan of this guy since I saw Connections 1 several years ago. I just recently caught Connections 3, and I guess I’m going to have to track down Connections 2 on my own because no one seems to be airing them.

I’m apparently not the same caliber of fan that Dan Carlin is, though. I’ve never even heard of American Connections before, and I put The Day the Universe Changed on my wishlist based on Carlin’s glowing praise alone.

While all of the interview was worth listening to, I was intrigued by Mr. Burke’s latest project The Knowledge Web. While not really up and running yet, the concept sounds a lot like Connections; which was intriguing to me at first glance because it reminded me of the way I used to read the encyclopedia; not from front to back, but from reference to reference.

Can’t wait to see it finished.

The Origin of Government Corruption

Dan Carlin’s Common Sense – Show 112 – The Big Corruption Show (only 4 shows this time. He must be more on his game) The whole basis for the show’s name is a sort of miscue.

The US government is corrupt. Duh. The nature of the corruption is campaign contributions. No, it’s not.

The nature of the corruption is influence peddling; the ability of representatives to grant benefits to contributors is why the contributions occur in the first place. In the 1800’s this was predominately seen in land deals for corporate sponsors. In the 1900’s it morphed into corporate welfare schemes, and other types of wealth transfers; a function of the Monopoly money that was created in 1913.

The way to fix it is to divest the government of all property outside of those parcels of land necessary to conduct government business; and to remove the basically unconstitutional Federal Reserve. Don’t hold your breath on either of those things coming to pass.

More access for candidates at public expense (Dan’s solution) just widens the trough that the useless talking heads we already get too much of, feed at. It won’t fix anything.

Dan Carlin’s Sim-candidate

I keep meaning to blog on the subject of Dan Carlin. Of all the podcasts that I started listening to awhile back, his is virtually the only one I still go out of my way to download.

If you really want to know what Dan Carlin’s thinking politically, check out episode 110, Faux leadership. He debut’s his Sim-candidate in that episode, and runs down the list of positions that he’s outlined over the course of the previous 109 episodes (not that the 109 aren’t worth listening to as well)

One of the better episodes.

The Lure of Foreign Dragons

So, I finally had an objection to something Dan said today (shocking) For a guy who prefaces all his podcasts with warnings about how much we’ll disagree with him, I think it’s been a phenomenal run of about 37 episodes (Pat Buchanan, episode 71. He’s someone I can’t listen to or read. His willfull ignorance on specific issues never ceases to offend) since I had anything to object to in a Common Sense podcast.

So, in episode 108 The Lure of Foreign Dragons, Dan is all in a quandary because he wants on the one hand to intervene for moral reasons in all the genocidal conflicts around the world (Where are you UN? What were you chartered for? Hello? Is there anybody there?) genocides like the one going on in Burma, and on the other hand he understands the (US) founders admonition that we not go abroad in search of foreign dragons to slay.

His insistence that there is a dichotomy here is flaw in his observation. If we are free men, we can volunteer our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor, in defense of Burma; while at the same time holding that it is proper for the government not to enter into entangling alliances. There really isn’t a problem here. Before the US government decided the whole world was its protectorate, there was a long tradition of individual Americans taking the fight to the bad guys all by themselves. What was wrong with that?


2020 – Myanmar (Burma) is still a hotbed of genocidal aspirations, more than ten years later (Rohingya) I don’t know what the solution is, but military intervention by the US in someone else’s domestic squabbles is not the thing that will fix it. Setting up international bodies that keep genocides from happening might be the solution. But we’d have to be willing to see our own power struggles interfered with if we set up an authority with actual teeth to handle these kinds of crisis. I don’t think we’re that interested in fairness or human rights, myself. Not if it means we can’t lock up brown-skinned people just for being brown-skinned.

Maybe things would look better if we took anthropogenic climate change and the challenges of the sixth global mass extinction seriously. Here’s hoping we see policy changes soon.

9-11 Truth & Pyromaniacs in the Reichstag

Stepping back from the previous posts on the subject of 9-11 (well, other than the rebuild ’em post, that is. The effort to get the twin towers rebuilt may or may not be going anywhere, but it remains the right thing to do) The latest alert from Downsize DC says it all:

Here is the truth, with a little “t,” about 9-11: It was a day of massive government failure. No one in government, and no institution of the government, was held accountable, or paid any price, for this failure. The federal government, and the people who run it, were actually rewarded for their failure on 9-11, instead of being held accountable.

…And most importantly:

It makes zero sense that the Bush administration would have been capable of such a massive crime, but incapable, a few months later, of planting WMD’s in Iraq. On this basis alone, most of the 9-11 conspiracy theories are non-starters.

read more | digg story

Which sums up the argument against the popular conspiracy theories quite nicely, while at the same time pointing out the governments possible/probable duplicity in allowing the attacks to occur in the first place.

Day of Deceit outlines, in various forms, how the Pearl Harbor attacks were allowed to occur despite several warning signs that should have been evident; and that the attacks were even desired and encouraged, leaving the pacific fleet out as bait for the attacks, while FDR and the Naval department put it’s 8 point plan into action, luring the Japanese into committing the aggression so that we could enter the war with public support. Whether or not you buy into all of the claims in the book, these hard facts are beyond dispute.

Why then is it so hard to believe that something similar occurred on 9-11?

Which brings me to the film that I should have promoted when I instead blogged on the subject of Loose Change.

9-11 Press for Truth. I have yet to see the entire film, but if the trailer is truly an example of the film’s content, then it’s something I want to see, and most Americans need to see.

read more | digg story

This subject dovetails nicely with the latest offering from Dan Carlin. If Pearl Harbor lead the way for our entry into WWII, then 9-11 leads directly to Bush granting himself near dictatorial powers in the event of an emergency, as was discussed in Dan Carlin’s podcast.

From WorldnetDaily:

President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.
The “National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive,” with the dual designation of NSPD-51, as a National Security Presidential Directive, and HSPD-20, as a Homeland Security Presidential Directive, establishes under the office of president a new National Continuity Coordinator.
That job, as the document describes, is to make plans for “National Essential Functions” of all federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations to continue functioning under the president’s directives in the event of a national emergency.

The directive loosely defines “catastrophic emergency” as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”

Which means the sitting president can declare an emergency pretty much anytime he wants.

Don’t hold your breath, because this isn’t the end of the problem. The next terrorist attack is just around the corner (all the pundits agree on this fact) and the next terrorist attack will most likely result in the end of the US as we know it, although imperial Washington may continue stumbling along for quite some time afterwards.

At what point does freedom cease to exist? How long can we continue to insist that we are a ‘free people’, when every day some other limitation on our freedoms is established by a government that only “wants to keep us safe”?

Time to fall back on that other Franklin quote about Security and Freedom. I’m sure you’ve heard it.

I have eaten a Big Bowl of Crow since publishing this and other thoughts on many subjects.  If you didn’t come here from this post, you probably should go check that one out before drawing any conclusions. Resisting the urge to press delete on this entire post. The stupidity.  It hurts.

Libertarian and Liberty Minded Talk

I’ve been listening to Free Talk Live of late (you might have noticed I’ve blogged on the subject a few times) But I’ve also stumbled across a few other sources that bear mentioning.

CATO’s daily podcast has been quite informative, as is FMNN eradio.

I heard about Dan Carlin on Free Talk Live. I’ve enjoyed his rants on occasion; his tendency to deliver his points with emphasis, in a fashion reminiscent of Captain Kirk, can be distracting (or amusing) at times. I recommend his programs anyway. They do get the grey matter flowing.

As far as regular radio format, Jeff Ward in the afternoons on KLBJ-AM is probably the best three hours of local talk to be had on a daily basis. It’s too bad the morning show is so lackluster.

Most people will direct you to iTunes if you are looking for audio content to transfer to a handheld device for playback. I have no use for iTunes, I don’t have an iPod (it’s those pesky DRM issues that go along with iTunes purchases) although the iPod craze is to be thanked for providing a new market for the talk format. However, you don’t need iTunes (or an iPod) to download and listen to Podcasts. If you’re just looking for some new content to listen to, check out Podcast Alley. Get an RSS aggregator for your browser (I use Firefox and Sage myself) and start searching. I was able to find and download podcasts for Penn Jillette and the Mises Institute (recommended by a fellow FTL listener) within minutes using these tools. Loaded up and ready to go on the old Treo 650.

Keeping a constant stream of information going is critical for a news-talk junkie like myself.