This is not a political site. This is an anti-political site. Our purpose is to advance civil society and the freedom philosophy and perhaps have a little fun while we're at it.

1/17/17

Shame on Me

"Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?" --- Martin Luther King, Jr. 



By Grant Davies

In April 1963, only a few days after my thirteenth birthday, Martin Luther King was sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, writing a letter to some clergymen. The letter he wrote was not on my radar screen. I was preparing to graduate from elementary school.

Looking back now I only vaguely recall hearing his name. I certainly didn't know anything about him. I remember later hearing that he was a "negro agitator." It didn't sound like a good thing to be.

But I had other things on my mind. I was alternately terrified and anxious to attend high school in a few months. I cared about girls and my paper route. As the next few years went by I became more aware of who he was but my focus was still on girls and my various jobs.

I wonder now if my outlook on life would have been somewhat different if I had read that letter and had the maturity to understand its contents back then. I'll never know.

Today, I saw a post on Facebook from a freedom advocate with whom I am acquainted. His name is Ken Prazak. He confessed: "I am a bit ashamed to say that I had never read this all the way through. I regard it as one of the greatest arguments for freedom and justice ever written. I look at it as a universal argument, not only for the "negro" but for all mankind." He was, of course, referring to that same letter written in that Birmingham jail cell.

Now I'm sixty-six years old and I guess it's never too late. I decided to follow his lead and read it in its entirety.

I agree with his comment about the letter. I read it. Shame on me for not reading it sooner.

Letter from a Birmingham jail. 

12/15/16

The Most Interesting Man in the World Has Passed Away

This is easily the best obituary I have ever read. You're not as sad that he died as you are that you didn't go with him. He was, the most interesting man in the world.




Irishman Dies from Stubbornness, Whiskey

Chris Connors died, at age 67, after trying to box his bikini-clad hospice nurse just moments earlier. Ladies man, game slayer, and outlaw Connors told his last inappropriate joke on Friday, December 9, 2016, that which cannot be printed here. Anyone else fighting ALS and stage 4 pancreatic cancer would have gone quietly into the night, but Connors was stark naked drinking Veuve in a house full of friends and family as Al Green played from the speakers. The way he died is just like he lived: he wrote his own rules, he fought authority and he paved his own way. And if you said he couldn't do it, he would make sure he could.

Most people thought he was crazy for swimming in the ocean in January; for being a skinny Irish Golden Gloves boxer from Quincy, Massachusetts; for dressing up as a priest and then proceeding to get into a fight at a Jewish deli. Many gawked at his start of a career on Wall Street without a financial background - but instead with an intelligent, impish smile, love for the spoken word, irreverent sense of humor, and stunning blue eyes that could make anyone fall in love with him.

As much as people knew hanging out with him would end in a night in jail or a killer screwdriver hangover, he was the type of man that people would drive 16 hours at the drop of a dime to come see. He lived 1000 years in the 67 calendar years we had with him because he attacked life; he grabbed it by the lapels, kissed it, and swung it back onto the dance floor. At the age of 26 he planned to circumnavigate the world - instead, he ended up spending 40 hours on a life raft off the coast of Panama. In 1974, he founded the Quincy Rugby Club. In his thirties, he sustained a knife wound after saving a woman from being mugged in New York City. He didn't slow down: at age 64, he climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest. Throughout his life, he was an accomplished hunter and birth control device tester (with some failures, notably Caitlin Connors, 33; Chris Connors, 11; and Liam Connors, 8).

He was a rare combination of someone who had a love of life and a firm understanding of what was important - the simplicity of living a life with those you love. Although he threw some of the most memorable parties during the greater half of a century, he would trade it all for a night in front of the fire with his family in Maine. His acute awareness of the importance of a life lived with the ones you love over any material possession was only handicapped by his territorial attachment to the remote control of his Sonos music.

Chris enjoyed cross dressing, a well-made fire, and mashed potatoes with lots of butter. His regrets were few, but include eating a rotisserie hot dog from an unmemorable convenience store in the summer of 1986.

Of all the people he touched, both willing and unwilling, his most proud achievement in life was marrying his wife Emily Ayer Connors who supported him in all his glory during his heyday, and lovingly supported him physically during their last days together.

Absolut vodka and Simply Orange companies are devastated by the loss of Connors. A "Celebration of Life" will be held during Happy Hour (4 p.m.) at York Harbor Inn on Monday, December 19.

In lieu of flowers, please pay open bar tab or donate to Connors' water safety fund at www.thechrisconnorsfund.com.


I'm guessing that whoever wrote this won't mind that we are sharing it. Hat tip to Mike Dixon for posting it on FaceBook.

12/13/16

Santa Claus Actually Lives In Venezuela

Editor's note: Dan Mitchell is our most well known guest contributor. Okay, that's BS. I just like to call him a guest contributor because it gives this little blog some class. 
The truth is I have Dan's express written permission to republish stuff he writes. He's a contributor in that sense. He cares more about educating people and freedom issues than he does about getting me to pay him for his stuff with money I don't have. 
Cato pays him, and I hope it's a lot.

You can get on his email list and see all his posts for free, and you ought to.  International Liberty

Venezuela and Santa Claus vs Thomas Sowell and the Little Red Hen

Earlier this year, I borrowed from Dante’s Inferno and created the Five Circles of Statist Hell. At the time, I suggested that Venezuela was on the cusp of moving from the third circle (“widespread poverty and economic misery”) to the fourth circle (“systematic and grinding poverty and deprivation”).
Since we now know that children in the country are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, I think we can safely confirm that Venezuela has made that crossing, joining the dystopian hell of North Korea (though you can make a good argument that the savage regime based in Pyongyang actually belongs in the fifth circle).
And just in case you need another piece of evidence about Venezuela, consider these excerpts from a surreal BBC report.
Venezuelan authorities have arrested two toy company executives and seized almost four million toys, which they say they will distribute to the poor. Officials accused the company of hoarding toys and hiking prices in the run-up to Christmas. Last week, the government issued an order to retailers to reduce prices on a range of goods by 30%. …Venezuela…said…”Our children are sacred, we will not let them rob you of Christmas,” it said in a tweet, along with photos and video of thousands of boxes of toys. …The agency also posted photos of the two executives being marched from the premises by a squad of heavily armed soldiers.
Here’s some additional background on the economic situation in the country.
This is not the first time Venezuela has ordered price cuts on retailers, or mobilised armed units to enforce it. In late 2013, the country introduced laws allowing the government to fix prices and dictate profit margins. …The same measures have been used to fix the prices of basic products such as flour, meat and bread – but supply is limited in a country where many people go hungry.
Before continuing, I can’t help commenting that BBC journalists apparently can’t put 2 and 2 together. The reason supply is limited and people are suffering is because of the price controls and intervention.
Sigh.
Anyhow, here are some final passages from the article.
The Venezuelan government is becoming increasingly unpopular as the country’s economic crisis grows. …The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation – the rate at which prices go up – will hit 2,000% next year.
Yup, Venezuela is a regular Shangri La. No wonder Bernie Sanders is so infatuatedwith the place.
But let’s focus today on the Venezuelan government’s attempt to play Santa Claus by seizing toys and selling them at below-market rates.
I don’t know if this move will be politically popular since that depends on whether ordinary people have some degree of economic sophistication.
But we can say with great confidence that it represents terrible economic policy. That’s because, as Thomas Sowell has wisely noted, it’s very difficult for a government to steal wealth more than one time.
The victims (both the ones who already have been looted and the ones who might be targeted in the future) quickly learn that it’s not a smart idea to accumulate assets that can be stolen by the state. In effect, the productive people of the country learn to behave like the Little Red Hen.
In the short run, though, the Venezuelan government gets to play Santa Claus. At least for 2016.
But it won’t have that option in 2017. And because the nation’s kleptocratic government is running out of victims, it’s just a matter of time before the system collapses, at which point the government either gives up power or launches a brutal crackdown.
Hopefully the former.
Though it would remain to be seen whether the leftist thugs who currently hold power are able to escape the country with all the loot they’ve stolen, or whether they get the Ceausescu treatment.
They deserve the latter.

12/2/16

Trump Saves Jobs in Indiana! Wait, What Just Happened?

By Grant Davies

This morning as I was reading the feed on my Face Book home page I came across a post written by Mark Malter, a guy who understands the number one rule in Henry Hazlitt's book Economics in One Lesson.* His short explanation of the economic impact of the recently announced deal by Donald Trump to "save 1,000 jobs in Indiana" was right on the Malter.

(The unedited post is re-published below for those who have a desire to learn what econ 101 never taught them.)

Others' observations about the claimed 1,000 jobs being saved that followed made many good points. As Dr. Walter Williams frequently says "let's look at it." Of course it's my blog and I'm a famous blogster so we will look at mine first.

My first observation/suggestion was that perhaps the country ought to lower the taxes for everyone, including Carrier (owned by UTX), as a way to stop companies from fleeing the USA.

As an aside, the media calls it "shipping jobs overseas" to confuse and manipulate the gullible. Which is what I just did by describing it as "fleeing the USA." Unfortunately for me, my readers are neither gullible or manipulable.

Next I reached for my tin foil hat and posited that it might not be a coincidence that this deal was in Indiana, home state of Mike Pence, the future VP and current Governor of the Hoosier State.

Subsequently my comment was that the whole point of the exercise was to buy votes from witless voters in Indiana with their own money. (Not like that's a very innovative idea.)

Another point I made was that this deal is straight from the Illinois playbook. So much for Indiana politicians being entirely different from "The Chicago Way" politicians. Did anyone ever believe that anyway? (Just to be clear, I didn't even though I just fled from that place to Indiana myself.)

My final comment was that Trump is taking credit (?) for a deal for which his influence was indirect. Pence made the deal, he is still governor of Indiana. Technically speaking, Trump has no power yet to make deals, particularly deals between states and the companies that do business in them. 

In reality, the fear of what he might do to UTX in regards to future defense contracts may have made the whole thing happen. That point was made by another commentator on the thread and was a valid speculation.

Finally, another poster said the idea that any of these deals could halt the trend of globalization was a delusion. I agree wholeheartedly.

However, the absolute best comment was on a different post elsewhere on Face Book. It was Julie Borowski who inspired me to make this meme with her short quip. 




So the answer to the question "Wait, what just happened?" is that nothing has changed for the people who wanted change from Trump. The government is still buying votes from the gullible with their own money. And those buyers haven't even been sworn in yet, so if you are into selling your vote to them, hold out for an all cash deal with you as the payee.



"Trump didn't save 1,000 jobs today. He cost many more jobs than that amount. Besides the $7 million taxpayer bribe to a private company, by using the power of the government to force Carrier to remain in Indiana, their costs will be higher than if they had moved to Mexico (if not, why were they moving?). That means the price of air conditioners will rise, and every homeowner and business owner in America will now have less money to spend on other goods and services, which means marginally lower production elsewhere in the economy, and far more than 1,000 jobs either lost or not created. It's just that those jobs are spread out as only a few here and a few there, too invisible to make headlines." - Mark Malter 

*  "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups." - Henry Hazlitt.



11/22/16

Election Outcome and College Students

Editor's note: This article is re-published here with the express permission of Dr. Walter Williams.

Trump and College Chaos 

By Walter E.Williams

If one needed more evidence of the steep decay in academia, Donald Trump's victory provided it. Let's begin by examining the responses to his win, not only among our wet-behind-the-ears college students, many of whom act like kindergartners, but also among college professors and administrators.

The University of Michigan's distressed students were provided with Play-Doh and coloring books, as they sought comfort and distraction. A University of Michigan professor postponed an exam after many students complained about their "serious stress" over the election results. Cornell University held a campuswide "cry-in," with officials handing out tissues and hot chocolate. One Cornell student said, "I'm looking into flights back to Bangladesh right now so I can remove myself before Trump repatriates me." The College Fix reported that "a dorm at the University of Pennsylvania ... hosted a post-election 'Breathing Space' for students stressed out by election results that included cuddling with cats and a puppy, coloring and crafting, and snacks such as tea and chocolate."

The University of Kansas reminded its stressed-out students that therapy dogs, a regular campus feature, were available. An economics professor at Yale University made his midterm exam "optional" in response to "many heartfelt notes from students who are in shock over the election returns." At Columbia University and its sister college, Barnard, students petitioned their professors to cancel classes and postpone exams because they were fearful for their lives and they couldn't take an exam while crying. Barnard's president did not entirely cave, but she said, "We are, however, leaving decisions regarding individual classes, exams, and assignments to the discretion of our faculty." She added, "The Barnard faculty is well aware that you may be struggling, and they are here for you." At Yale, it was reported that the "Trump victory (left) students reeling." Students exhibited "teary eyes, bowed heads and cries of disbelief" and had the opportunity to participate in a post-election group primal scream "to express their frustration productively."

Whether you are a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, you should be disturbed and frightened for the future of our nation based on the response of so many of our young people to an election outcome. We should also be disturbed by college administrators and professors who sanction the coddling of our youth. Here's my question to you: Does a person even belong in college if he cannot handle or tolerate differing opinions? My answer is no.

What lies at the heart of multiculturalism, diversity and political correctness is an intolerance for different opinions. At Brown University, some students claim that freedom of speech does not confer the right to express opinions they find distasteful.

A while back, a Harvard University student organization representing women's interests advised law students that they should not feel pressured to attend or participate in class sessions that focus on the law of sexual violence if they feel that it might be traumatic. Such students will be useless to rape victims and don't belong in law school.

In a previous column, I cited an article on News Forum For Lawyers titled "Study Finds College Students Remarkably Incompetent," which referenced an American Institutes for Research study that revealed that over 75 percent of two-year college students and 50 percent of four-year college students were incapable of completing everyday tasks. About 20 percent of four-year college students demonstrated only basic mathematical ability, while a steeper 30 percent of two-year college students could not progress past elementary arithmetic. NBC News reported that Fortune 500 companies spend about $3 billion annually to train employees in "basic English." Many of today's college students are not only academically incompetent but emotionally so, as well, and do not belong in college.

These college snowflakes and their professors see themselves as our betters and morally superior to ordinary people. George Orwell was absolutely right when he said, "There are notions so foolish that only an intellectual will believe them."


Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.