Sunday, December 21, 2014

Barack Obama: Friend to Mass Murder

My left-wing colleagues at Brooklyn College frequently point out that the US support in the 1970s for Augusto Pinochet and Milton Friedman's visits to Chile were a blot on our and Friedman's records. The reason, they say, is that Pinochet murdered 3,000 Chileans and was a suppressive dictator. In contrast, the Castro regime has murdered more than 100,000 Cubans, thirty-three times the death count of Pinochet's regime, and Castro's has been far more suppressive. One example is the forced labor of homosexuals in UMAP camps. Wikipedia writes this:
Cuban gays were expelled or took the opportunity to leave Cuba during the 1980 Mariel boatlift. From the early stages of the massive exodus, the government described homosexuals as part of the 'scum' that needed to be discarded so the socialist society could be purified. Some homosexuals were given the ultimatum of either imprisonment (or extended terms for those already imprisoned) or leaving the country, although Fidel Castro publicly denied that anyone was being forced to leave.[
Barack Obama, American "progressives," and the Democratic Party have a long history of apologizing for mass murderers like Fidel Castro, who makes their bogy Pinochet look like Mary Poppins. The history of "progressives' " apologies for mass murder goes back to the the New York Times's lies, written by Walter Duranty, about the forced starvation of 10 million kulaks in Ukraine in the early 1930s; the late 1930s' Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, when the far left defended Hitler (from 1937 to 1939); and the ongoing lies, including a 1972 puff piece by John Kenneth Galbraith in the Sunday Times Magazine, extolling one of the great human butchers of all time, Mao Tse Tung.
Barack Obama is an apologist for human butchery. His symbolic extension of friendship to Castro's mass murder regime makes me ashamed of this country, and I am embarrassed that enough Americans were ignorant enough to vote for Obama to elect him. Leftists who object to Nixon's supporting Pinochet, but delight in murder-apologist Obama's warming to Cuba, are conscienceless psychopaths who have long lied about the rivers of blood that their socialist ideas have built.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Federal Government Is a Bust

The premise of the American Constitution is federalism, the division of powers between the states and the federal government.  In The Federalist Papers Hamilton and Madison claimed that the powers of the federal government would be enumerated in the Constitution.  The Tenth Amendment, which Madison wrote reluctantly because he believed that it was unnecessary, limits the federal government's powers to those specifically enumerated.  It says:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

From nearly the beginning of Washington's administration, Hamilton reversed many of the claims that he had made in the Federalist Papers and that seem to be written into the Constitution.  He claimed that the federal government could establish a national bank, a power not mentioned in either the Federalist Papers or the Constitution, because of the elastic or necessary and proper clause in section eight,

The Congress shall have Power ... To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Hamilton waited to make his arguments in favor of an expansive federal government until after the Constitutional Conventions had ratified it. His expansive interpretation of the federal government's powers was, in contrast to the stories he told in the Federalist Papers, not unlike the Hegelian view of the state developed decades later and which totalitarian parties advocated  since the French revolution. Adolph Hitler's F├╝hrerprinzip, his claim that his will was law, wasn't different from Hamilton's Rousseauean claim that he can interpret the national will, a claim subsequently made by the US Supreme Court.

At the time the Constitution was ratified, the American population was under four million. In making his claim that a large country would tend to reduce faction, Madison could not possibly have envisioned a nation on the scale of today's United States.  The mean population of each state is today more than fifty percent larger than the entire population of the United States when, in 1787, Madison wrote the Federalist Number Ten.

Mancur Olson has shown that Madison was wrong:  Large populations are not good at resisting faction or special interest lobbying, and such lobbies are not countervailing because there are often no counterlobbies.  For instance, where was the counterlobby when Wall Street insisted on massive subsidies to cover its derivative losses?  Where is the counterlobby to the food industry, to the pharmaceutical industry, to the health care industry,  or to the real estate industry? The accumulation of special interest subsidies has gone furthest in states like New York, where Wall Street and real estate interests have been dominant since the days of Hamilton and Astor, but they have been even more successful in extracting rents at the federal level.

America is no longer the freest, nor is it the most affluent nation.  Even if one removes the oil-subsidized countries like Qatar and Norway, the lists of nations with the highest GDP per capita and the most freedom are  comprised of mostly small states:

Countries with the Most Economic Freedom (Fraser Institute)

Country                                                               Population (millions)

1. Hong Kong                                                                7.2     
2. Singapore                                                                  5.5
3. New Zealand                                                            4.5
4. Switzerland                                                               8.2
5. Mauritius                                                                  1.3
6. United Arab Emirates                                             9.6
7. Canada                                                                    35.7
8. Australia                                                                  23.7
9. Jordan                                                                        6.7
10. Chile                                                                       18.0
10. Finland                                                                     5.5
12. United Kingdom                                                    64.1
12. United States                                                       319.3

Countries with the Highest 2013 GDP Per Capita

These are the freedom and GDP rankings of the top-ten countries in terms of population
                                                     Freedom                       GDP per Capita
                                                                                        (Purchasing Power Parity)
China                                                115                                 11.91
India                                                 110                                    5.41
United States                                    12                                  53.04
Indonesia                                           80                                    9.56
Brazil                                                103                                   15.04
Pakistan                                           124                                     4.60
Nigeria,                                            125                                     5.60
Bangladesh,                                    119                                     2.95
Russia                                                 98                                   24.11
 Japan                                                 23                                    36.4

In other words, free countries, with the exception of the United States, are small.  As well, rich countries, including the United States, are free or oil exporting.  Big countries are neither free nor rich. With the exception of the United States, free and rich countries are small.  Hence, the United States is an exception in that it is big but rich and free.  Of course, not all small countries are rich or free, but size does not encourage these outcomes.

The United States may be exceptional because of its federalist traditions.  Sadly, as federalism has given way to increasing centralization, the United States has fallen in terms of its relative wealth and relative freedom.

The Whig mentality, which holds that scale is important to economic success, is wrong.  It is likely that scale leads to political power, for the most powerful countries, the US, China, and Russia, are among the large ones.  Lincoln was the savior of American power, not of American freedom nor of American wealth.  (The relationship between Lincoln and the freeing of slaves is overstated; he did not wage war to free the slaves.)

Political power, contrary to the paranoid fantasies of both left and right, does not translate into wealth. Hamilton's, the Whig's, and the modern-day Democrats and Republicans, all of whom have favored large scale, have been dead wrong.  The rejection of federalism in favor of more corrupt centralization is a fundamental error.  The US would be better off without the federal government than with the federal government's current level of power.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Cousin Mordecai Lawner's Death

My cousin Mordecai Lawner died five days ago, and I attended his memorial service this afternoon.  He had been an acting instructor at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Carnegie Mellon University and the High School of Performing Arts for many years, and his students included hundreds of professional actors.  Jeff Goldblum sent a memorial oration from LA via video, which my cousins played as part of the memorial service. Goldblum said that when Morty taught at Carnegie Mellon he introduced Goldblum to acting and had then been his lifelong mentor.  Morty appeared with George C. Scott in Death of a Salesman and played Woody Allen’s father in Annie Hall: .  He was a wonderful guy and a veteran. 

He once talked me out of a show biz career. I  asked him whether I should consider becoming a producer, and he told me to read Elia Kazan’s autobiography.  By the time I had gotten half through it, I gave up the idea.  The Variety and Newsmax articles are here and here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why I Don't Support the Separation of Upstate from Downstate New York

Following the reelection of Andrew Cuomo as New York's governor, I began thinking hard about separating upstate New York from downstate New York.  Downstate New York includes the five counties of New York City and the four counties that surround it--Westchester, Rockland, Suffolk, and Nassau.   Upstate New York is more Republican than downstate, although it is not as Republican as it was 50 years ago because few retirees can afford to remain here, and most of the productive business--as opposed to real estate developers, Wall Street, and other businesses on public outpatient support--have fled.

The issues of guns, fracking, religion, and regulation divide the state, but views are variable. The upstate urban centers of Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse are Democratic, and the many university-and-college centers sprinkled throughout upstate also are Democratic. Woodstock and Olive, where I live, dominated by  the music, film and art businesses as well as weekend homeowners from New York City, is Democratic too.  Nearby Kingston and New Paltz, home of a state university campus, are also Democratic.  Therefore, upstate New York is variegated; nevertheless, there is a difference because the big-government philosophy dominant in New York City is less prevalent upstate.  The recent gubernatorial election saw small-government candidate Rob Astorino lose in downstate New York but win the majority of the vote and the majority of the counties in upstate New York.  Crooked, big-government advocate Andrew Cuomo, closely linked to super rich real estate developers, hedge fund managers, and other of the privileged rich on government outpatient support, handily won downstate.

I thought I'd write a piece about separating the two regions for the Lincoln Eagle, and I interviewed a leading activist in the separation movement. He told me that there is increasing support for the idea, especially following Cuomo's reelection.  Cuomo's dictatorial approach to guns and his fascistic attitude toward conservatives (he says that they don't belong in New York) stimulated strong opposition upstate.

My thought was that the values and needs of upstate differ sharply enough from New York City that government would be more representative if it were more decentralized.  I've changed my mind.  Having interviewed the separation activist and read an interesting piece in the Rochester Business Journal, I am coming to the conclusion that separation isn't worth the fight.

The decision to separate or not should not be financial; it should not be based on on net monies transferred from downstate to upstate.  First, no one is clear about the direction in which money actually flows. Second, even if money flows upstate, if the political union doesn't work, then the money isn't worth it.  Readers who posted   on the Rochester Business Journal article claim that upstate could not build roads without New York City's financial support; they might consider turning their heads toward Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire, whose roads are fine without New York City's help.

Two elements counterbalance each other.  First, New York City probably does subsidize the rest of the state because of the taxes collected from the financial industry, although the subsidization probably benefits two categories: special interests and welfare recipients.  Second, upstate suffers heavily from regulation and political mandates that emanate from the city.  These include a bloated, stupidly managed Medicaid system and heavy demands from public sector unions, to include the Service Employees International Union--which has successfully lobbied for the bloated Medicaid plan--teachers' unions, and statewide bureaucrats' unions like PEF and CSEA.  There is also the current prohibition on fracking, by which the environmental ignorance and superstitions of New York City's ideologues and cranks have deprived New York's Southern Tier of billions in revenue.

The question that remains is whether, given freedom, upstate will repeal the mandates,  regulations, and bloat that the city has imposed.  If it does not, will not, or cannot, there is no point to separation.  Having lived in Albany, Kingston, Potsdam, Binghamton, and New York City, my guess is that the people of New York are unable to overcome the lobbying of the special interests, the unions, the developers,  and crackpot green advocates, who have driven business away from the state.  The same processes of special interest brokerage will continue to dominate upstate New York, just as it has,  and I have no reason to think that upstate New Yorkers will gain 15 IQ points and start to think rationally about the costs and benefits of government policies.  North Dakota, with a population not much bigger than Buffalo's, has, but few states have.

The inner cities in upstate New York, such as the small city of Kingston, which is near me, are as backward as New York City; New Yorkers in rural areas are often co-opted by welfare and Medicaid programs that make them advocates of the bloated state, and a large share of upstate New Yorkers are public union looters.  The result will be, like the breakup of Standard Oil, two behemoth operations rather than one.  In the case of Standard Oil, the oligopoly included Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, ARCO, Sohio, and Pennzoil. In the case of New York, the oligopoly will become the bloated bureaucracy to the north and the bloated bureaucracy to the south. I don't think upstate New Yorkers have the brains to end the bloat that has deprived them of an economic future.