Monday, June 4, 2012

'The Bear' Music Video Project

My good friend Jamie Parslow is garnering support for his newest project The Bear:

The Story

The music video business is a tough business to crack into. Even if you've made a few here and there, it's still hard to not only showcase the artist whom you have contstructed a film for, but it's also hard to even generate funds and get the video to be seen.

So, last year we made it our mission to find an artist we like, a musician of which we could make a wonderful little video for, and get their work viewed. We found Danielle Fricke, and from there everything just went sky-high.
Danielle wrote and performed The Bear in order to talk about the lies that each of us carry around inside. Sometimes we feed the bear and the lie grows. Often times at no control of our own. Our goal is to visually tell you this song's story, but we can't do it without your help.
We feel that songs are up to interpretation about their meanings, and we believe the same philosophy applies to music videos. We have applied our own interpretation of the song into our project, and would love to share it with the rest of the world.
This is also a great opportunity to help a young, budding artist get the attention we feel she deserves, and it would be amazing to be able to say we were there at the beginning. Danielle has a lot of potential, and if anyone can donate whatever they can to the cause, you'll know you'll not only be helping out filmmakers, but a sweet, young girl from Canada as well.

What We Need & What You Get

We're asking for 3,000 dollars to cover expenses such as location/permit fees, equipment rental, food, camera rental, boat rental and the cost of post production.
We have some great perks to offer you and would love for you to donate to our project. Every dollar you give goes toward making this music video better than it would be without your donation. Even if you can't donate, please follow along with our project on facebook and share our IndieGoGo page with a friend.

Jamie is one of my oldest friends and working hard to chase his dreams. Plus, we've had a few Facebook political battles, and I would love - love - for him to have to credit some of his support to a blog whose aim is to support free-market capitalism. If your finances are in a better state than the federal government, please consider throwing a couple bucks his way.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Death Penalty and the Limits of Government

Tampa Bay Times columnist Robyn Blumner highlighted two cases where it appears that innocent men were put to death for crimes they didn't commit:

DeLuna was put to death by a fallible system. Whatever you might think of capital punishment, at least everyone should be on the side of never executing the innocent. DeLuna is but one example of justice gone wrong. The case of Cameron Todd Willingham is another. Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for an arson that killed his three young children. An independent review indicated that the state relied on faulty fire science to convict.

Her column was outstanding, heartfelt and important. However, I feel that Blumner (like most liberals) seems to arbitrarily choose when to trust government and when not to. She regularly implores Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to right all manners of social, environmental and economic ills. In response, I wrote the following letter to the editor appearing in Sunday's Times:

Robyn Blumner's column highlighting the wrongful executions of Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Todd Willingham was a very compelling argument against the death penalty. I am a Republican who rarely agrees with Blumner, but in this case she was spot on. While I believe that there are individuals who certainly deserve to lose their lives for the crimes they commit (John Couey comes to mind), I simply do not trust the government to administer such a process fairly or accurately. This is because the government is run by human beings, who like the rest of us are motivated by narrow self-interest and restrained by limited knowledge. Because those in government rarely face the consequences of their decisions, they often make the wrong ones, even if their intent is pure.

What I find puzzling is how Blumner can so effectively articulate these failings of government when it comes to civil liberties in one column, and in the next champion its abilities and competence in economic matters. A criminal trial is a grueling and exacting process that seeks to administer justice in a very narrow, specific instance. If government doesn't deserve our faith in doing that correctly, how can we trust it to control and coordinate the countless decisions that hundreds of millions of Americans make each day in our economic lives?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Let's Put It This Way - We Better Take The Senate

Tomorrow is Florida's GOP Presidential Primary. Believe it or not, this is my first presidential primary as a Republican (last time around I was a Democrat!). Needless to say, I have put a lot of thought into who will be getting my vote. Unfortunately, the choices are... suboptimal.

I'll start with the frontrunner Mitt Romney. Let me put this as clearly as I can:

Mitt Romney is not qualified to be President of the United States.

I will not vote for Mitt Romney tomorrow, nor will I do so in November. I would rather add another 0.00001% to the Libertarian total than lend my support to a Romney presidency.

The single biggest threat to this country is our entitlement programs - Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Combined, they make up over 40% of federal expenditures, and that figure will continue to rise. Social Security is a deeply immoral enterprise that transfers money from the young and working to the old and non-working, regardless of the abilities of the former or needs of the latter, all fueled by a fictitious "trust fund" that would make Bernie Madoff blush.

Medicare and Medicaid have trillions of dollars of unfunded long-term obligations. Their problems and disastrous impacts on healthcare economy-wide result from a simple flaw - that public provision of private goods gives the electorate an insatiable appetite for Other People's Money.

Therefore, I will make my choices at the polls based most importantly on a candidate's handling of entitlement reform. What makes Barack Obama such a terrible president is not his proclivity for bankrupt "green energy" companies or his flagrant disregard for bankruptcy laws when screwing secured creditors of Chrysler. It is his overpowering need to push the American public into dependency via Obamacare.

Willard Romney cannot effectively combat Obamacare and the entitlement status quo when he helped to propagate it in his state. Obomneycare has failed in Massachusetts for the same reasons that any iteration of the mandate-subsidy scheme will. There is nothing in Romney's record that suggests he can take on the political minefield that is entitlement reform, from his term as governor to his balking at Rick Perry's correct assertion that Social Security is a ponzi scheme.

We are Republicans. We are supposed to be the party of grownups, whether it be in the realm of personal responsibility or math. Romney's embrace of government healthcare is completely incompatible with our party's place as the voice of fiscal reason.

That being said, if a Republican congress managed to somehow put an Obamacare repeal on President Romney's desk, he might sign it. He might not. But as we have seen, Republicans can make the entitlement mess worse all on their own. Romney's record, along with his promise to raise taxes on Americans who wish to purchase goods made in China, make him an enemy of freedom, not an ally.

Big government policies will have the same predictably disastrous consequences whether enacted under a guy with an R after his name or a D. The only difference is that when the day of reckoning comes and the bond vigilantes cut us off - when our borrowing has left room in our budget only for interest on the debt and some of our promises, the results will be very tough. It may not happen in the next four or eight years. Maybe sooner, maybe later, depending on how long investors prefer our dollar and treasuries over alternatives.

The main difference between a President Romney or another four years of Obama would be which system gets the blame. Under Obama, hopefully the electorate and the financial markets will rightly associate the costs of reckless spending and endless promises to statism and the welfare state. Under Romney, I fear it will be associated with his free market rhetoric rather than his big government actions. Don't believe me? How many people today blame the mortgage crisis on "deregulation" that never even fucking happened?

In the short run, America may be better under a Romney presidency. In the long run, I'm unconvinced.

I also cannot vote for Rick Santorum. I am fundamentally a libertarian at heart, and vote for Republicans because they are the only major party that even pretends to understand individual liberty. I cannot vote for someone who would say (emphasis mine):
One of the criticisms I make is to what I refer to as more of a libertarianish right. You know, the left has gone so far left and the right in some respects has gone so far right that they touch each other. They come around in the circle. This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.
That leaves for me Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

If I had a dollar for every person who said "I like a lot of what Ron Paul says, but", I'd be a very wealthy man. But I have to count myself in that category. Ron Paul is the only candidate who I truly think believes in individual liberty and the proper role of government in a free society. Republicans and the country at large ignore Ron Paul's ideas and supporters at their own peril. I see Paul as a Barry Goldwater-like figure; someone who will not win the presidency, but whose movement will carry on with younger people to affect the GOP in significant ways.

However, Ron Paul will not win the nomination. And however alluring some of Paul's ideas may be, he is not without his flaws. I fundamentally disagree with his thinking on the causes of Islamic terrorism. One can criticize the cost and scope of our military machine without drawing a linear path from it to 9/11. To think that Al Qaeda will simply stop trying to kill Americans if we pull our military from the Middle East is not logical in my opinion. We have military bases in Cuba and Japan - where are those terrorists? Ultimately, Al Qaeda wants to kill Americans because we are free, somewhat secular, and frankly because they are batshit crazy.

That doesn't mean I think our wars should continue forever, or that we should have bases in Cuba and Japan and Germany, but it shouldn't be the basis for our defense policy. I would just like to see something between Dick Cheney and Ron Paul. Foreign and defense policy aren't my main issues, but I also don't think that someone who can't even run a God damned newsletter would make a good president.

What I'm getting at is that Ron Paul, at least this go around, is not my guy, regardless of the respect I have for his principles and the enthusiasm and courage of his supporters.

That leaves the candidate I will vote for today - Newt Gingrich. I will not be happily skipping to the polls to cast my vote for the former Speaker of the House. He has a dangerous fetish with fancying himself a "man of ideas" and an "historian", the latter definition of himself used to justify him taking millions from Freddie Mac when it was using the strength of the taxpayer to help fuel the financial crisis. His disgraceful attacks on Mitt Romney's former employer, Bain Capital, almost disqualified him in my eyes. His ability to keep promises to voters are in doubt when he can't keep the most sacred promises a man can make. And he wants to go the the moon.

But there are things that Newt can be proud of. He knows how to run a nationwide race, as he guided the GOP to a House Majority for the first time in 40 years in 1994 with the Contract With America. As Speaker, he helped pave the path to a balanced budget and pass welfare reform, two things I'm confident Clinton never would have done on his own. Most importantly, he has in the past been willing to speak the truth about entitlements, and in particular Social Security.

So between a socialist, a flip-flopper, a theocrat, a conspiracy theorist, and a serial adulterer, I'm reluctantly endorsing, like the Tampa Tribune, former Speaker Newt Gingrich for president.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Risk, Regulation and Consequences

The recent bankruptcy of brokerage firm MF Global, led by former Senator and Governor Jon Corzine (D-NJ), begs questions about why the firm and its creditors took on so much risk on European sovereign debt. Whatever the reason, many saw the case as a justification for more regulation. Russ Roberts wrote an excellent rebuttal to this position.

Among those calling for more regulation in light of MF Global's collapse was the editorial page of the Saint Petersburg Times. In response, they printed my letter to the editor:

The fall of MF Global under Jon Corzine's stewardship couldn't be a worse argument for more government regulation of the financial industry. More financial regulations will be written by people who are connected, smart and savvy. These are people with experience in politics and the profession — people like Jon Corzine. If these folks make such poor decisions when they could suffer direct personal consequences, why should we expect any better when they are in government with no skin in the game?

Instead of a nanny-state bureaucracy that purports to manages our lives for us and protect the bankers from themselves for their own good, I have a better idea: loss of capital. If creditors want to finance the gambling of brokerages like MF Global on investments various and sundry, let them. And if they lose their shirts doing so, let them do that too. Given a steady diet of consequences, prudence will become a lot more commonplace.

Almost everyone touched a hot stove when they were a child. How many of us did it twice?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LQ&C 10/26/11

- Wendy Alexander ran a private school that eventually went bankrupt and closed 4 weeks into the current school year. Given her proclivity for running an educational establishment that is fiscally irresponsible and delivers poor results, she has decided to take her act to the professionals:
This time, Wendy Alexander wants to use $1.6 million a year in taxpayer money to operate a public charter school called the Academy for Accelerated Learning, serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
- EconLog's David Henderson asks why illegal drug suppliers are always called "cartels":
But are they? The defining characteristics of cartels are that they get together to fix the price and agree to limit production. Do these firms do that? I know that the government limits production by going after producers. But do the firms do it?
- A piece from last month by Gary Becker compares market and government failures, and points out that in cases of actual market failure, government can often make the situation worse. While I don't agree with some of Becker's conclusions, I did love his rebuttal to the liberal talking point that without government, ignorant consumers would make the wrong choices:
However, before advocating various forms of government protection of consumers, we should recognize that voters are far more ignorant of political candidates then consumers are of what they buy. The reason is that consumers directly suffer if they make bad choices out of ignorance, while individual voters have negligible influence over political outcomes. Hence voters have little incentive to be informed about different candidates and their positions, and the consequences of the mistakes they make are largely borne by others.
I brought up a similar point in a recent facebook debate with a friend, writing:
We're left with a tradeoff - freedom, with the legitimate chance that people will make poor decisions (and learn from them), or society ran by a cabal of our betters, picked by the very imperfect subjects they wish to rescue, vested with the confidence that they magically know the optimal trade-offs and decisions for millions of strangers, all with scant historical evidence that such demigods have ever existed.
- Warren Meyer appeared on Fox and Friends to explain the folly of our government subsidizing an expensive luxury car (the Fisker Karma) that gets the equivalent of 19 mpg.

- Cafe Hayek featured a letter to the editor from Steve Horwitz regarding the actions of private actors amidst government intervention, featuring one of the most effective metaphors in economics I've ever seen:
If all the traffic lights in Watertown were stuck on green, we’d hardly blame the drivers for the ensuing accidents. When government distorts the signals and incentives facing producers and consumers, the blame for the resulting disaster should fall on government not the private sector. The crisis and recession are what happens when you put “people before profits.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

9 Questions for Occupy Wall Street

1. Do you value equality over utility? If system A resulted in a higher standard of living for all, but more inequality, and system B resulted in lower living standards for all, but less inequality, which would you prefer?

2. Would you rather be a member of the top 1% in 1890 or part of the lower 50% today? Hint: only one group has penicillin, automobiles, cell phones, chemotherapy, internet, refrigeration, indoor electricity and central heating and air conditioning.

3. Statistically, there has to be somebody in the top 1%. Do you concede the possibility that these individuals change over time? Thinking more about this concept, consider that only seniors get diplomas. But does this mean they're taking anything away from freshmen, sophomores or juniors?

4. Is it greed to want more wealth through voluntary, capitalistic transactions? Is it greed to want to take money from others to pay for loans you agreed to pay back?

5. Do you believe that wealth is a fixed sum, where the only consideration is how to divvy it up, or do you think it is actively created? If the former, how do you explain the explosion of living standards (greater per capita wealth) over the last 200 years even with a greatly increased population? If the latter, what type of system do you think incentivizes people to create more wealth?

6. Do you value security over freedom? Does your answer regarding economics apply equally to national security and civil liberties or free speech? If not, why?

7. You describe yourselves as “the 99%.” Do you think that the argument of “there are more of us than there are of you” is a just and effective way to run a country? Is there anything that government may absolutely not do, even if supported by the majority?

8. If a large bulldozer were driving through your neighborhood destroying houses, would rather spend your energy trying to change who was driving the bulldozer or getting rid of it? Likewise, if the big corporations run the government, do you expect increasing government power to increase or decrease the influence of these corporations? What do you expect would be the result of campaign finance reform designed by bought-and-paid-for politicians?

9. In a capitalist society, what is to stop willing citizens from forming a commune where all possessions are shared? In a socialist society, what is to stop willing citizens from forming a capitalist, property-rights based enclave? Hint: guns.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Truthers at 'Occupy Tampa'

Who says the 'Occupy Wall Street' crowd doesn't have a serious agenda?

This photo is from the Occupy Tampa Facebook profile:

Because 9/11 and the recession were Bush's fault 'n stuff. Man.


Update: A better-quality photo:

Plus this one, which has nothing to do with Truthers, but the shirt is priceless: