Friday, October 22, 2010

Defund NPR

Juan Williams wikipedia entry

I used to be a regular NPR listener. Despite its pervasive anti-capitalist motives, I enjoyed the thoughtful, intelligent programming. My favorite programs were This American Life with Ira Glass, interviews with Terry Gross (see e.g. her interview of Gene Simmons), Car Talk, and the news to some extent. My wife and I even contributed.

This all changed after the bursting of the housing bubble and the financial crisis. NPR couldn't seem to get a clue. For a few weeks (or perhaps it was months), they couldn't identify a reason to save their lives. When everyone else was citing the irrationality of homeowners, lenders, securities, government guarantees and the Fed, NPR simply wallowed in perceptual level news reports of the latest events. Then they found the cause. It was the unregulated derivatives market! They seemed to have a yureka moment when they found some element of capitalism that might have been the cause. Never mind that the securities underlying the derivatives had government guarantees, guaranteeing irrationality and bubble behavior. They ran with it. Ira Glass produced an anomalous and excellent program exposing the inner workings of the whole mess called Giant Pool of Money, but the rest of NPR programming was abysmal. I stopped listening and switched to podcasts and conservative AM talkshows.

The reason they couldn't find a clue is that they're government supported of course. Whenever a company, industry or institution becomes regulated or supported by the government, three things happen. First, the organization starts seeking special exceptions, regulations on competitors and additional handouts. Since politicians now have the power to grant these exceptions and handouts, they can be paid to pass such measures and you have widespread corruption. The corruption comes not primarily from the organization seeking special treatment, but from the politician having the power to grant that treatment. Second, the organization, with its focusing shifting off the market and towards Washington, loses its effectiveness. Third and most insiduously the organization becomes an advocate for the government. A state supported industry is a state supporting industry. They know what side of the bread is buttered. You can see this everywhere, from schools, to the pharmaceutical industry to public radio. And that's why NPR could not implicate government policies in its coverage of the housing or financial crisis.

Thats why NPR should be defunded. Its a tool of the state, supported by our tax dollars. Why should we have to support an institution that despises us?

The Juan Williams flap is an excellent catalyst for reexamining NPR. Williams was recently fired from NPR for expressing, on his own time during a Fox program, his discomfort at seeing muslims on a plane with him. He even explained the source of that discomfort, that most muslims have a primary allegience to Islam and Sharia law and very little allegience to the United States. Both his discomfort and his reasoning are perfectly valid and deserving of discussion, yet toeing the government line that "Islam means Peace," NPR chose to fire him instead. They of course kept on staff the many reporters who have paid homage to the world's worst mass murderers. Bravo to Williams for calling for NPRs defunding despite his liberal credentials.

Roger L. Simon in Pajamas Media has proposed the "Juan Williams Law":
I have a humble suggestion for a piece of legislation that I think the public would appreciate seeing enacted as quickly as possible.

This legislation would outlaw all government funding for any news organization, whether private or non-governmental in nature. This restriction would include not only National Public Radio but all domestic news outlets, whatever their ideology or bias, or even if they claim to have none. (I am not talking here, of course, of international operations such as Voice of America, which have the legitimate task of representing American interests abroad.)

The legislation would further outlaw any future stimulus funding or bailouts for news organizations, again irrespective of ideology.

It’s easy to understand that government financing of the news is at best unseemly and at worst totalitarian. The possibilities for corruption are myriad. I am not one to dwell on what the Founders intended, but I am reasonably certain they didn’t want a Fourth Estate that was bought and paid for by the government, even in part.

Additionally, the natural tendency of some of the press to ingratiate themselves to power is only exacerbated when that power has an economic lever over them. That lever must be removed. NPR, PBS and others like them should be responsible for their own financing. I’m sure they’ll be fine with Soros, et al. The American taxpayer should not be forced to pay for the delivery of news that is perforce filtered through a point of view with which they do not necessarily agree. This should not happen now in a time of economic extremis, nor should it happen in good times. It is simply not democratic and cannot be made to be.
A Juan Williams Law is long overdue. Thanks to Juan Williams (and NPR) for getting the ball rolling.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another Union Bailout in the Works

Mark Hemingway has a piece on another legislative attempt to bailout unions.
A new Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) rule taking effect in December requires greater transparency for union pension plans and threatens to bankrupt organized labor.

In order to survive, unions need a bailout and fast.
Fortunately for them, it's much cheaper for unions to buy the White House and Congress than to fund their pensions properly.
Despite being beholden, Democrats have been unable to enact the two laws unions most desire.

Democrats pushed hard but unsuccessfully for Card Check. That legislation would remove the secret ballot in union elections. By making union votes public, labor organizers would know who to target and intimidate in order to pressure them to change their vote.
The other piece of legislation is, not surprisingly, a bailout bill offered by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and co-sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill. (A similar piece of legislation is being offered in the House by Rep. Earl Pomery, D-N.D.) The bill would make failing union pension plans fully backed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government-sponsored entity.

In the plain language of the bill, "obligations of the corporation which are financed by the fund created by this subsection shall be obligations of the United States."
Rather than make union managers and businesses accountable for their pension mismanagement, these plans would have the full backing of the federal government, removing financial pressures to make the plans fiscally responsible. In the Daily Caller, a Capitol Hill Republican compares the arrangement to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's disastrous backing of the housing market.

With Republicans likely to control at least one chamber of Congress after November and post-census redistricting helping the GOP retain control, a lame duck session could be the Democrats last chance to save unions and help keep their campaign coffers filled.

The question is: Will Republicans be able to stop another special-interest bailout before January? If they succeed, it could be the beginning of the end for unions as an influential political force.
This bill should be opposed. And the article presents several more reasons to defang Unions. Collective bargaining is coercive bargaining. Abolish it and start firing unions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: A Simple Koran

A Simple Koran: The Reconstructed Historical Koran edited by Bill Warner (2006) [The subtitle appears to have changed to "Readable and Understandable" and the number of pages increased from 393 to 410.] Produced by the Center for the Political Study of Islam.

I came across this version of the Koran (aka Qur'an) while cruising blogs and decided to read it. According to the editor, its goal is to make the Koran accessible to non-believers. A standard translation is difficult to follow because first, many passages concern events whose details are in separate texts (the Sira, Mohammed's biographies, and the Hadith, scholarly traditions). Second, the Koran is arranged in the order of longest chapter to shortest, i.e. neither in the order Mohammed originally recounted them nor in the order of the events they were related to! The historical order is known however and the editor(s) have attempted to make the Koran readable by reintroducing this order.

I tried to get the story of the original arrangement of the Koran straight and it appears that there are many versions of this kicking around. According to A Simple Koran, the Koran was re-arranged by Uthman (the 3rd caliph) 20 years after Mohammed's death, after which Uthman himself burned all the original materials he had gathered. According to the hadith Uthman was asked to prepare a definitive Koran after differing recitations caused arguments (while assembling Syrian and Iraqi troops for a war against Armenia and Azerbijan). There were written Korans and Korans recited from memory. The memorized ones were inconveniently disappearing in various wars. The differences among the several versions were minor (e.g. difference in word choice or in the relative importance of different prayers). This is somewhat controversial, but I think if there were more substantive differences that Uthman ultimately suppressed there would have been major Koranic schisms. Uthman gathered the written and memorized versions, had Zaid compare them and correct in Mohammed's Qurayshi dialect where conflicts existed, arrange them and send out the new official copies. Uthman then ordered any extant materials burned (omg burning Korans!) and returned at least Hafsa's original, which was later burned by her heir. I have not yet found an independent confirmation that there was a Koran with historically ordered chapters before Uthman. I don't know if Uthman re-ordered the chapters or simply maintained the already a-historical ordering from the oral tradition. The Encyclopedia Britannica online tells a version of all this and contains the following (unreferenced) statement: "According to traditional Islamic authorities, the ordering of the chapters also was revealed to the Prophet and is not an ad hoc arrangement made by later scribes, as is claimed by many Western scholars." (The longest to shortest ordering even has a plausible explanation. You could imagine that Mohammed's followers upon hearing each new revelation, simply added it to the front of the existing revelations. This would aid the task of memorization as well as give rise to the longest to shortest ordering since Mohammed's earlier revelations were shorter and later ones longer. And how could there be a doctrine of abrogation, if there wasn't at least an approximate historical order?) It seems more likely to me that Uthman didn't significantly reorder the Koran because that would have made the task of re-memorizing it a pain and given rise to other schisms. Mohammed was after all dead and the doctrine was not supposed to be altered.

This background issue aside, the motive of A Simple Koran is clear: make it readable. It attempts this by re-ordering the chapters to match the events in Mohammed's life and by including explanatory biographical chapter introductions and intervening passages. In this respect it succeeds. I found it quite readable, boring during the long repetitive sections on certain themes but fascinating when historical events were juxtaposed with Koranic declarations in rapid succession. I doubt I could have stuck it out or made sense of it without the backdrop of the events in Mohammed's life that the passages related to, like proselytizing in Mecca, caravan raids, forming alliances with Jews in Medina, marrying his daughter-in-law, etc.

With regard to the editing, I have a couple complaints. The explanatory passages explicitly reference the Sira or Hadith. At first I thought they were direct quotes, but then realized they were paraphrased. Further on I realized that some weren't even paraphrased. They were editorial opinions. So its not always clear who's speaking in the non-Koranic sections of the book. There's also the lack of clarity I discuss above regarding Uthman's reording of the Koran and how the editors ordered this one, which is not spelled out sufficiently (e.g. how is it that sura 6 first shows up on page 110 and last on page 220?). I suspect the chapters were simply separated according to whether they were revealed in Mecca or in Medina and then arranged thematically within each of those broad time periods. Lastly, I understand that the Arabic Koran is very poetic. The translation used in A Simple Koran is not. How the translation was done or selected is not discussed by the editor. Robert Spencer (in the course of defending Pamela Geller) discusses differences among translations. I quote his discussion here to give you a flavor of how different translations can be.
... the great scholars A. J. Arberry and Richard Bell. Both are indeed great scholars, and the integrity of their Qur'an translations cannot be impugned. I have loved Arberry's for many years, and wrote this about it here several years ago:

For years I have liked Arberry's for its audacious literalism and often poetic English. Compare, for example, 81:15-18:

فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالْخُنَّسِ الْجَوَارِ الْكُنَّسِ وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا عَسْعَسَ وَالصُّبْحِ إِذَا تَنَفَّسَ

...Pickthall: "Oh, but I call to witness the planets, the stars which rise and set, and the close of night, and the breath of morning..." Arberry: "No! I swear by the slinkers, the runners, the sinkers, by the night swarming, by the dawn sighing..." Shades of the Symbolists. Arberry gives a hint of how the book sounds in Arabic, in which it is full of beguiling rhymes and rhythms.

Arberry's is an outstanding and accurate translation. Arberry, however, was not a Muslim, and accordingly his translation is not often used by Muslims, and when a non-Muslim cites it or other translations written by non-Muslims (such as N. J. Dawood's excellent edition for Penguin), Islamic apologists tend to dismiss it with the palpably false mystification that a non-Muslim cannot be trusted to render the Qur'an accurately or adequately. Thus in order to take that rhetorical weapon out of their hands, I generally use translations written by Muslims and for Muslims in my work, and these are the ones generally also used and cited by Muslims themselves.

For example, the USC-MSA's popular and useful online reference site now disingenuously entitled "Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement" offers three Qur'an translations by three Muslims: Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, and M. H. Shakir. All of these are flawed in various ways. Shakir's depends heavily on Pickthall's and Ali's. Ali's is the most transparently apologetic whitewash: in Qur'an 4:34, the verse enjoining the beating of disobedient women, he has "beat them (lightly)," although "lightly" does not appear in the Arabic. Both Ali's and Pickthall's are written in a stilted pseudo-King James Bible English that frequently cloaks in obscurity passages that are hair-raising in Arabic.

...even the best, most literal translation of the Qur'an does not give the full flavor of some phrases and passages, since the general English reader will not be aware of their precise theological significance in Islam. For example, the phrase "strive in the path of Allah," which appears in numerous places and various permutations in the Qur'an, refers in Islamic theology specifically to fighting hot war, with weapons, not metaphorical verbal conflict or some other kind of conflict. But unless one is reading along with commentaries, this phrase will look more like a pious exhortation to be more religious than a call to take up arms.
A Simple Koran's translation of the passage quoted by Spencer is (from page 23):
81:15 It does not matter that I swear by the planets that rise and set, and by the night as it slips away, and by the dawn as it brightens.
Enough with the editorial and translation issues though. What about the meaning of the Koran itself? My focus in reading it was on peace and tolerance. According to George W. Bush, "Islam is peace" right? (The verse Bush quotes in the linked press conference, 30:10, means: those that reject Allah will come to an evil end. This is his support for the assertion that Islam had nothing to do with 9/11?)

The Koran has early passages from Mecca, when Mohammed was powerless and had few followers, and later passages from Medina, when Mohammed commanded a considerable army of followers ultimately expanding into all of the Arabian peninsula.

In the early Meccan chapters, Mohammed spends his time trying to gain converts, convincing them that Allah is the only god, that Mohammed is a prophet, that he's not a bad story teller, that he's not just making it all up or insane and most of all that anyone who doesn't believe Mohammed is going to burn in hell and drink boiling water for eternity.
52:7 Truly, a punishment from your Lord is coming, and no one can stop it. That day heaven will heave from side to side, and the mountains will shake to pieces. Woe on that day to those who called the messengers liars, who wasted their time in vain disputes.
52:13 On that day they will be thrown into the Fire of Hell.
52:45 Ignore them until they meet the day when they will swoon with terror
This is the tolerance of the Koran, repeated in many early and some late passages. Basically, the Kafirs (unbelievers) are going to hell, don't bother with them, god will take care of them. When people speak of tolerance, I don't think this is what they have in mind. Its akin to the tolerance of the christian fundamentalist who screams that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality. Its not an outright call for murder, but neither is it a positive affirmation of another persons right to make decisions for themselves. The 'tolerance' of the Koran is 'bide your time until they're punished.' In the later Medinan chapters, when Mohammed has significant military power, he takes matters into his own hands. The assasinations, raids, beheadings, and wars of aggression against non-believers are numerous (an incident about once every other month according to statistics in one of the appendices).

What about peace? Turns out peace is something muslims get when they reach heaven, along with the virgins there to please them. It is a greeting only among muslims. Peace as a state of mutually renounced aggression is not granted from muslims to non-muslims.
56:88 As for him that is brought near Allah, he will live in pleasure and repose in a Garden of Delights. If he is one of the people of the right hand, he will be greeted by others of the right hand with, "Peace be with you."
56:92 But those who mistakenly treat the prophets as deceivers, their entertainment will be scalding water, and the broiling of Hellfire.
This binary distinction between muslims and non-muslims, as opposed to some standard of what is moral and not moral, runs very strongly through the Koran. To believe is to be moral. To disbelieve is to be immoral. Believers, no matter how despicable, get to go to heaven. Non-believers, go to hell, period. Believers should not take friends amongst non-believers. Its better to marry a believing slave, than a non-believing free woman. A believer should never intentionally kill another believer (do U.S. military recruiters ask about this when signing up muslims?). One of Mohammed's favorite 'proofs' that Allah is the only true god is that such and such a town didn't believe it and got wiped out.

The Koran is an extremely repetitive insistence in Allah and Mohammed's status, demand to believe backed up by threats, command to wage war, with a couple stolen stories from the Old Testament poorly retold, and little moral guidance save some statements on how to treat wives, slaves and loot.

I'm glad I've read it and recommend A Simple Koran if you want to read the Koran and are worried about understanding an official translation. But if I had to do it over I would have spent my time reading a good biography of Mohammed that quotes the Koran extensively (the same center has another volume translating the Sira) or perhaps even a history of Islam that covers its wars from Mohammed's day to the present. Regardless of your approach, I do recommend educating yourself about Islam.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gold in Del Mar

This is a heads up to the locals that want to buy gold. Liberty Gold has recently opened up shop in Del Mar. Their prices are a bit over a mail order outfit like Tulving or CMI (my favorite online, but they don't post all their prices, although they do post some specials). As of this instant Liberty Gold is selling Kruggerands for $52.30 (3.8%) over spot whereas Tulving has them for $19.95 (1.5%) over spot. For that extra $30 per coin you get the ability to see the merchandise before buying, avoid shipping costs, avoid the risk of postal workers stealing your stuff, and you can buy just one or two as opposed to 10 or 20 online. I should also point out that they buy as well, so regardless of where you get yours, having a local shop to sell it to makes for better liquidity.

I haven't yet purchased from them, nor do I recommending buying gold at record highs unless you know what you're doing, but wanted to let y'all know.

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Monday, October 11, 2010


Here's my understanding of Foreclosuregate in a paragraph.

One thousand homeowners bought $300k houses in different places across the country, financed by a dozen different banks. These primary lenders sold the mortgages for a fee to a secondary institution who then bundled them into securities. The income stream from the mortgage payments gave the securities their value. The securities were sold to pension funds, school districts, 401k investors, charitable organizations and little old ladies. But the mortgages were transferred without observing local laws regarding valid signatures etc. As long as the housing bubble was inflating, few noticed or cared. The income stream was steady and when the houses were sold, the principle was repaid to the secondary institutions without complaint. Now that people have stopped paying, the secondary institutions are discovering that they have no right to foreclose. The securities are worthless.

Denninger has a more colorful way of describing it:

This is NOT about "Free Houses" or anything like that. It is about EMPTY BOXES and boxes full of dogcrap - MBS that hold nothing and assets that did not meet the credit quality requirements of the trusts but were transferred in anyway. The latter we know happened for a fact because it has been testified to in front of the FCIC and is exactly like selling someone a box of chocolates - but instead of chocolate, as you represented, you took piles of used dog food, formed it into chocolate shapes, then coated it with a thin veneer of chocolate so it looked and smelled like chocolate - right up until someone decided to take a bite of one.

These events sure look like black-letter crimes to me. Selling someone crap instead of chocolate, when you tell them it's chocolate, is plain old-fashioned fraud. So is selling someone called a "Mortgage-backed security" without the mortgage backed part. In both cases, if and when this happened, you have people who took someone's money - some $6 trillion of it over the "go-go" years - and sold them crap that was certified as Grade "AAA" chocolate. In each and every case where the sellers lied, they committed a serious crime.

Who got screwed? You. Your pension fund. Your annuity company - an insurance company that might not be able to pay 10 years down the road when you're old, gray and frail.

Why would banks have gotten so sloppy? The primary banks didn't care so much because they got fully reimbursed plus a percentage for every mortgage they unloaded. The securitizing institutions didn't care so much because they had the implicit or explicit guarantee of the government. (Remember that mortgage backed securities were invented by the government and the secondary market was created by the government to support the federal housing policy.) The ratings cartel couldn't care because they'd have been kicked out of the government cartel. And in general nobody cared because if anything really bad happened, they'd all get bailed out just like when George H.W. Bush bailed out the S&Ls.

This is not to absolve the banks. At least the secondary institutions appear to have engaged in massive fraud. Nor did any of them have a right to count on taxpayer bailouts.

One more crisis to be laid at the feet of the 'common good'. All of the government policies were done in the name of the 'common good'. Funny how they always end in common disaster. Reality will not bend its laws to make altruist moralities work. If you protect people from the risk of bad investments, they'll make bad investments. And guess who'll be paying for it all?

10-10-10 Oceanside Tea Party Rally

I went to the Oceanside 10-10-10 Tea Party rally yesterday. The North County Times has a good write-up of it here, with the following picture:

I'd guess about 400 attended. Speakers were pretty good. Atmosphere was friendly. Demographics were a bit on the older side, as is typical for Tea Party events. Wasn't as much Ayn Rand presence as I'd like or as is usual. I was the only one wearing anything related to the ultimate champion of capitalism and freedom. But I did have a dozen people tell me they like my shirt, or chat with me because they thought I might be from ARI. And there were a few other Objectivists there handing out flyers and pamphlets.

I wish I could say more about the speeches, but I was having too good a time meeting and chatting with fellow San Diego Tea Party bloggers to note much more than the general themes. Still trying to mentally attach all the faces to their blogs. I met Temple of Mut, W.C.Varones, Left Coast Rebel, The Liberator Today and Beers with Demo, as well as some of their friends and family. Did I leave anyone out? (Check out their sites for better write-ups than this one.) We did manage to squeeze a beer break in late in the rally.

Cheers and Many Happy Returns!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Islam Means Submission

Islam means submission. This is both true of the word and of the doctrine. I say 'doctrine' instead of 'religion' because though it is a religion it is also a doctrine of military conquest and totalitarian politics. Under Sharia law (the law of Islam) women must obtain permission for daily freedoms, disobedient women can be beaten, homosexuality is punishable by death, children can be forced into marriage, four male witnesses are required to prove rape, insulting Islam is punishable by death, adultery is punishable by stoning. And the list goes on. Oh, and forget about music and art.

Within Islam, belief in Allah and his messenger Mohammed is the primary virtue, nearly the only virtue. Disbelief of Allah or Mohammed is the primary sin, ineradicable by any other acts or qualities. To submit to Allah is to deserve heaven, even if you are a thief, rapist, murderer. To disbelieve, question, debate, criticize is to be evil, even if you are an upstanding, benevolent citizen. Period. Apostasy is punishable by death.

Mohammed preached conquest and engaged in it himself in the Arab peninsula. He gloried in killing infidels for Allah, chopping off heads, attacking strongholds and looting caravans. Islam has gone through long periods of containment but is currently expanding rapidly around the world. Much of that expansion is due to the lack of resistance it is encountering in Western societies.

Social subjectivism has its roots in Kant and Marx and is the idea that truth and value is determined by the group, differently for different groups (e.g. cultures). Social subjectivists therefore declare that judgment of a group's ideas or practices is impossible and that all cultures are equally valid. Multiculturalism (a species of social subjectivism) declares that we should therefore be tolerant, non-judgmental, and even try to preserve these alternate cultures. Multiculturalism has been rampant in the schools in my lifetime and has entirely shut down any objective discussion of the relative merits of civilization vs. savagery, science vs. superstition, freedom vs. statism and secularism vs. religion.

It has been said that multiculturalist tolerance, tolerates everyone but the intolerant (i.e. it is hypocritical). But this is not true. Multiculturalism tolerates everyone but those who claim a rational standard for truth or value. Multiculturalism is very intolerant of western civilization, science, reason, and capitalism. On the other hand multiculturalists have been extremely tolerant of Islam, despite Islam's persecution of gays, children, independent women, and other religions. Normally multiculturalists would defend the equality of gays, children and women, but they fall silent in the face of Islamic attacks on those same groups.

Fortunately (thank goodness for the internet), America is reading up on Islam and educating itself. The media and politicians have been a huge hindrance to this understanding, refusing to even use words descriptive of Islam or its practitioners. Here is a notable exception, ABC's program "Holy War: Should Americans Fear Islam". This segment deserves a lot of credit. It 1) defines its subject matter clearly 2) invited a wide range of well respected leaders from all sides and 3) asked its questions without mincing words and without giving an easy out to its participants. This might have been unintentional, but still. (The anti-Islam panelists could have been more to the point, but Choudary made it for them.) This is the kind of discussion when you can really learn things. Watch for yourself.

Transcribed here.
AMANPOUR: You have said that you think there should be Islamic domination. Why shouldn't people be afraid of that?

CHOUDARY: Well -- well, let me just say that Islam has a solution for all of the problems that mankind faces. If you want to live at peace with Muslims, we are quite willing to live at peace with you...And this idea that you have moderate Muslims and you have radical Muslims, you know, it's complete nonsense. A Muslim is the one who submits to the command of the creator. If he submits, he is a practicing Muslim. If he is not, then he should be practicing.

DAISY KHAN: I have to disagree with him, because Islam is a religion of pluralism that embraces all religions and it also embraces different interpretations. This is why we have so many schools of thought. What Anjem is talking about is an exclusivist view of Islam, which is my way or the highway. And my interpretation is the only interpretation--

CHOUDARY: It's very easy for people to justify the fact that they're not practicing. I mean, this lady in your studio, she should be covering with the hijab. She's obviously not practicing --

CHOUDARY: There are many people who are justifying -- there are many people who are justifying the inability to practice the Sharia, to say, "Well, I have a different form of religion." You know, people want to claim that they're vegetarians and they're eating big beef burgers. You can not be a non-practicing vegetarian. Therefore, similarly, if you're a Muslim, you submit to the Sharia.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM: He's telling the truth.

AMANPOUR: You see, Reverend Graham says you're telling the truth. So, do you agree with Reverend Graham and our panelists on this side that Americans should fear Islam?

CHOUDARY: we do believe, as Muslims, the East and the West will one day be governed by the Sharia. Indeed, we believe that one day, the flag of Islam will fly over the White House. Indeed, there's even an oration of the Prophet where he said, "The day of judgment will not come until a group of my ummah [possible cut?] conquer the white house."

If that doesn't send shivers down your spine or make you want to take up arms to defend yourself and your country, you're ready for the furnaces. If you value your life, I've got a few recommendations. First educate yourself about Islam. It is not a peaceful religion and its spreading very fast. Watch some clips, watch a movie, read a book, follow some blogs. Second, challenge the idea that slavery, ignorance and savagery are equivalent to freedom, science and civilization. Western civilization IS superior to primitive tribal savagery and well-worth defending. The best antidote to multiculturalism is probably Atlas Shrugged. Third, don't support public education, the only system that can support such destructively disarming ideas as multiculturalism. Competition will flush that down the toilet.

Here's a couple editorials on this segment worth reading. From a Fox News Opinion Piece:

If you laid all of the lefty/media attacks against the right end to end, they’d probably reach all the way to Mecca. Convenient that. The Tea Party people alone have been called “racist,” “crazy,” “nuts,” “unusual,” “mental” and “screwballs.” And those are the ones mild enough for print.

But when a representative of radical Islam goes on a major network and calls for global domination, you’d think that, too, would make news. Instead, all we got was ABC chastising conservatives like the Rev. Franklin Graham for pointing out the dangers of radical Islam.

Jihad Watch has an excellent piece discussing the debate and discrediting the attempt to whitewash it.

Update: Here is another excellent segment in a similar vein as above, debating "Islam is a Religion of Peace."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Taleb Rule

At a "Washington Ideas Forum" Nassib Taleb, author of The Black Swan, spoke after Treasure Secretary Timothy Geithner, whom he didn't bother listening to (from The Atlantic).
Taleb explained his simple metric for judging whose economic opinions are worth his time: "Did someone predict the crisis before it happened? ... If the answer is no, I don't want to hear what the person says. If the person saw the crisis coming, then I want to hear what they have to say."
If the government, universities and newspapers would apply this rule, it'd really clean out the stables. The politicians, panels, economists on the federal payroll at the Fed, professors of economics, financial analysts, columnists and nobel prize winners mostly got it wrong. Not only did they get it wrong, but many still don't get it and are recommending the same government manipulations that got us in trouble in 2006/2008. Of those that got it right, many were Austrian economists. Peter Schiff is my favorite. Reading his book How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ed Cline on Our Founders Religiosity

Ed Cline has a good post discussing whether or not our founders viewed our government as religious or secular. Keep in mind that some conservatives have been vociferously arguing lately that the separation of church and state is an artifact of privately expressed opinion of Jefferson that should have never made it into law.
Without remarking on the wisdom of the Treaty of November 1796, the last year of Washington’s presidency, I offer here Article 11 of the document, with the original punctuation, which states:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, -- as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, -- and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
The Treaty was subsequently ratified by Congress on June 10, 1797, during John Adams’s first year as President. Presumably Congress then, as it is now, was populated by Christians of various stripes and varying degrees of devotion or pretences thereto. They did not object to Article 11 and raise Cain over it. It was a fact they acknowledged and implicitly enacted into law via the Treaty – that the United States was not founded on the Christian religion, and that these United States were not to be regarded as a Christian nation by any and all foreign powers – and especially not by the marauding Barbary Pirates. And particularly not by its Christian inhabitants.

Briefly, the United States is a nation many of whose citizens subscribe to a multitude of religious doctrines, and who are protected by secular law, not by any one or any combination of religious law. These citizens can coexist peacefully by virtue and grace of secular law. Secular law is this country’s defining attribute vis-à-vis its operable jurisprudence. The outstanding thing about our secular law is that it was designed and implemented by men of faith, who wisely set aside their religious differences to grasp that only secular “atheistic” law would protect them and their faith from religious strife and warfare.

In short, they were men of reason who realized that faith would not ensure the longevity of the republic, and that reason alone would guarantee its continued existence and tranquility.
That treaty is an interesting find to be sure and clarifies what our founders attitudes were towards religion in government.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halted Foreclosures

If you're wondering what's going on with the halted foreclosures there's a good explanation here.

Let’s say you have 10 mortgages at $1 million a piece, the sum total of those mortgages are $10 million. So, the banks took the 10 mortgages and bundled them together into a collateralized debt obligation or CDO with a face value of $10 million.

They then sold that new entity that they created to an investment group of some sort, a pension fund, hedge fund, etc. promising them a yield of let’s say 7%. The sales pitch would emphasize the fact that this CDO was backed by real collateral. In the event of loan defaults by the borrowers, the banks would tell the buyer of the CDO that the collateral behind the loan could be sold to recapture any potential losses on the part of the purchaser.

Everything seemed to work fine until the defaults began and the foreclosure process kicked into high gear. The foreclosure process has exposed fatal flaws in the system and the flaw is that the banks cannot prove clear ownership of the mortgage.

Consequently, they are then barred from foreclosing on the property. Because they can no longer foreclose on the properties, the CDO is now effectively worthless.

Ultimately the Federal Reserve will be asked to step in and buy up the now worthless CDO’s and put those on its balance sheet. In order to do this the Federal Reserve will have to engage in massive quantitative easing, taking onto its balance sheet the worthless CDO’s in exchange for newly issued treasuries.

This of course will have a horrific effect on the US Dollar which is why gold and silver are heading much higher.

This is the new banking/housing crisis unraveling right now. It looks to be even messier than the last because a lot of it will have to be dealt with in the courts instead of behind closed doors in Congress and at the Fed, which is probably a good thing. For a more technical explanation, check out Denninger:

The only just solution to this problem is to:

  • Halt all foreclosures and evictions that are now in-process until this is sorted out.

  • Force all who come to foreclose to produce the original wet signature note and proof that it was conveyed into the Trust by the closing date of the underlying structure (REMIC) in which it resides. If it cannot be proved that the REMIC had a valid endorsement of that note on the closing date then either the REMIC (that is, the Trust and thus Servicer) either does not have the right to foreclose or the REMIC must forfeit retroactively to creation its tax-passthrough status.

  • For each note that was not validly conveyed to the REMIC in question by the closing date (and this, I believe, will be most of them) the note does not belong to the trust - it still belongs to the originator or last-validly-endorsed intermediary. The Trust and Servicer thus cannot foreclose, as they do not have standing.

  • If the REMIC that thinks it had the note doesn't, then it bought an empty box. The last intermediary or originator (whoever was supposed to convey it but did not) thus must be forced to refund that money to the Trust as the transaction was never legally consummated. This "clears" the REMIC/MBS Trusts and resolves that problem without violating their tax status.

  • The intermediary, funding party, wholesaler or originator who has the note and now has repaid the funds they were given (without conveying anything) now may negotiate with the Homeowner if they wish. They have the valid note, they paid good funds, and they have a valid security interest. If they wish to foreclose, they may. In many cases they will deem it more desirable to work with the homeowner to prevent the foreclosure - especially in the "go-go" states where recoveries on foreclosures are rapidly heading toward having a negative economic value.
This and the currency wars are probably why the dollar is falling and metals climbing so fast right now. Prepare yourself for some new emergency measures and more trillion dollar bailouts.

Update: Additional Links
NYT: Flawed Paperwork Aggravates a Foreclosure Crisis
Democratic Bill to Force States to Accept Flawed Paperwork

Freedom Friendly Media

I do not read the main stream media, at least insofar as I don't purchase their print media or visit their sites unless looking for a particular piece. I get most of my news from aggregators and blogs. But there are a couple primary outlets I find myself going to almost daily. I think its important to support these. I encourage you to visit them as well.

The first is Pajama's Media and PJTV. Here for example is an Allen Barton show on gold.

The second is Investors Business Daily, the editorials. Here for example is a piece in today's on the Geert Wilders trial and how Islam is suppressing freedom of speech.

Wilders has been charged for saying things such as "I've had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate."

Intolerant? Maybe. But certainly it's legitimate to question whether the Netherlands' longtime policy of encouraging large numbers of unassimilable Islamic immigrants into a country whose liberal culture and tradition of openness they don't respect is a good one.

As for Wilders, he is certainly no more intolerant than those Islamists across Europe who now intimidate Euro-politicians by threatening them with death. In the Netherlands alone, filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (2004) and Dutch sociologist and politician Pim Fortuyn (2002) were murdered by Islamists or open-borders advocates.
Check 'em out. They both have strong pro-capitalist, pro-freedom pieces more than daily.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stephen Bailey for Colorado 2nd District

There's a candidate running in the Boulder area of Colorado I'd like to bring to your attention. He's a strong pro-capitalist, for limited government, for a strict interpretation of the constitution, against bailouts...a real Tea Party type. And he's a fan of Rand too, which especially piques my interest. His website details positions on a few issues:

I hold to a strict construction of the U.S. Constitution. Congress’s powers are limited to those enumerated in Article I, Section 8. I pledge to vote against any proposed legislation that exceeds the authority of the enumerated powers.

I love capitalism! Capitalism is the only economic system compatible with freedom. Capitalism allows each individual to trade his time & production for the time & production of others and to freely associate with others in commercial transactions. Capitalism allows us, as individuals, to determine what is in our best interests and to enter into mutually beneficial transactions and contracts with others.

Go to the linked to see more.

He's signed the following pledges:
Contract From America
10th Amendment Pledge
AFP Earmarks Pledge
CUT, Candidate/Legislator Pledge
ATR, Taxpayer Protection Pledge
ATR, Repeal of Death Taxes Pledge
ATR, No VAT Pledge
Downsize DC Pledge

He was considered a long shot, but recent polling data puts him within spitting distance of his Democratic incumbent opponent, Polis.

For the first time in my life I've joined a phone bank!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Two Rallies: Individualism 1, Entitlement 0

Actually its probably more like 4 or 5 to zero now, but I haven't been keeping close enough tabs. Even with (likely) taxpayer supported busing the leftists couldn't muster much for their rally. Animated gif from Doug Ross:

See the linked for more photos, including of the trash the progressives (pro-environmentalists?) left behind. There's a good article on American Thinker. Looking at the pictures I'm also reminded of Peggy Noonan's recent piece on The Enraged vs. the Exhausted:

But it was the word Mrs. Hart used that captured everything: "exhausted." From what I see, that's how a lot of Democrats feel. They've turned silent, too, like people who witnessed a car crash and can't talk anymore about the reasons for the accident or how many were injured.

This election is more and more shaping up into a contest between the Exhausted and the Enraged.

In a contest like that, who wins? That's like asking, "Who would win a sporting event between the depressed and the anxious?" The anxious are wide awake. The wide awake win.

But Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee suggests I have the wrong word for the Republican base. The word, she says, is not enraged but "livid".

Saturday, October 2, 2010

'Collective Bargaining' is Compulsory Bargaining

Update (2/2/2012): Welcome RedState readers and thanks for the mention LaborUnionReport. LaborUnionReport is my go to newsfeed for everything union. Please check out my more posts on compulsory bargaining.  

This is my second broadside against unions. The first is here.

The right to 'Collective Bargaining' is the core of union power and at the same time widely misunderstood.

To the layman 'collective bargaining' is the process of voluntary negotiation between workers and their employer for terms of employment where the workers are represented by a union. This is to be contrasted with a situation where the workers are not organized and instead negotiate individually.

But 'collective bargaining' has legal protections that give it an opposite meaning (hence the quotation marks).

The United States (and many other countries) recognize a 'right to collective bargaining'. This is codified differently for different industries. Its defined by the Railway Labor Act (1926) for railroads and airlines and by the National Labor Relations Board Act (1935) for most other private industry. For public employees there are numerous laws, for example in California: the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act for California local public employees (signed by Gov. Reagan in 1968), the Dills Act for state employees (signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1978), and the Rodda Act for public school teachers (Brown, 1976). If that's not messy enough, there's additional legislation like the Agriculture Labor Relations Act (ALRA) for farm workers in California (Brown, 1975). (Farm workers were specifically exempted in the NLRB.)

The ALRA is illustrative of most of these laws. It encourages and protects
the right of agricultural employees to full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment, and to be free from the interference, restraint, or coercion of employers of labor, or their agents, in the designation of such representatives or in self-organization or in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.
Since 'interference' and 'restraint' includes such employer acts as firing union members, prohibiting union membership or refusing to negotiate with unions, employers are forced to deal with unions. 'Collective bargaining' comes to mean compulsory negotiation with a union. There's a pretense that employers are 'negotiating', that their rights are recognized. The wiki entry for collective bargaining defines it as "voluntary negotiation between employers and trade unions." But that's the big lie. As soon as you put 'right to' in front of 'collective bargaining', voluntary goes out the window. A 'right to collective bargaining' is compulsory negotiation.

All of the laws establishing a right to collective bargaining also specify the punishments should an employer refuse to 'negotiate'. These are principally fines, but should the employer refuse to pay, they would undoubtedly escalate to prison time. If you haven't thought of it, there's another term for negotiating under the threat of property seizure or imprisonment--Extortion. As defined by the Hobbs Act for example (which I found here):
(2) the term "extortion" means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.
And that's what the right to collective bargaining is. It is extortion on the part of unions against employers, to obtain better wages, pensions or work conditions.

Workers do have a real right to associate, to form unions, even to make demands. That is indisputable. But they have a right to do it on their own time and own expense! An employer can rightly forbid any union activities on his property. His property rights include the right to exclude whomever he wants or make conditions for entry onto his property. Furthermore his right to dispose of his property includes the right to set the terms for giving someone a paycheck, including the right to forbid certain activities. FURTHERMORE, the employer also has the right to freedom of association, the right to chose who he wishes to work with, the right to refuse to associate with union members! None of these employer rights are recognized by collective bargaining laws.

If employers rights were recognized, as they once were, there would be workers organizations. Most employers would see the value in engaging such associations as a means to communicate policies, get feedback, manage training, etc. Those organizations would not be a threat. They would not be a threat because if the workers' organization adopted a stance or made demands inimical to the companies interests, the employer would have the means to protect himself. If all else failed he could fire the employees threatening him. (This is the right employers now lack, that we all now lack as employers of teachers, firemen and policemen and that we need to recapture.)

Would the fired workers freedom of association be thereby violated? Not at all. They could still meet in someone's house and associate to their hearts content. They could still designate representatives and even make demands, for what it'd be worth. But the employer wouldn't be forced to deal with them. The employer would be free to hire other willing employees.

There are collateral victims of violating an employer's right to refuse to negotiate with unions. Non-union members, alternate unions, and disgruntled former union members can't negotiate separately with the employer, because under most collective bargaining laws this is forbidden to the employer. Decertification is an option, but if that can't be done, the individual worker is deprived of his right to associate and voluntarily negotiate with the employer. He can only do so through union representatives. Ditto for the unemployed, the potential strike-breakers ("scabs"). The employer in most cases is prevented from hiring them on better terms (better terms for himself and for the unemployed).

The 'right to collective bargaining' falls in the category of 'positive rights' invented by marxists to obliterate freedom. A right that obliges another person to supply your means of exercising it, is not a right. Its a contradiction. A 'right to a good job' that has to be supplied by someone else a the point of a gun is absurd. A 'right to healthcare' that has to be supplied by someone else at the point of a gun is absurd. A 'freedom from want' that gives someone else only the freedom to feed you, is absurd.

As Ayn Rand put it
A “right” does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort.
Rights impose a negative obligation on your neighbors: don't attack me. If they imposed a positive obligation on your neighbors, like 'feed me', they would be and attack on your neighbors. Positive rights obliterate all rights. Their implication is that anyone who has been foolish enough to acquire wealth, build something, invent something, should be compelled to give it to those who haven't. And once all the wealth has been destroyed and there are no more victims to fulfill your 'right to a job' or protect your 'freedom from want', well then there's just naked savagery -- a life nasty, brutish and short.

The 'right to collective bargaining' is the right to present your demands to someone who is compelled to listen to you and pretend to negotiate with you, under threat of fines or imprisonment. You could argue that there should be a 'freedom to bargain collectively,' something that wouldn't be compulsory, but that already existed. Setting aside the decades of the Sherman Anti-Trust suppression of unions (a topic for a separate post), workers did have the right to associate and the freedom to appoint representatives. And negotiation has been 'collective' on the employer side all along, insofar as there are often many owners and that their interests are usually represented by someone else in negotiations. There is not even a need for the term 'collective bargaining' to designate non-coercive negotiation between represented groups. Its called 'bargaining' or 'negotiation'. That's what we need to get back to, negotiation without force where either party can walk away. As they say in westerns: "gentlemen, leave your guns outside."