Archive for January, 2010

“Football” Congressman Exposed: He’s a Big Annoying Meanie!

January 31, 2010 1 comment

My friends at the libertarian Reddit recently informed me of the Department of Justice’s bizarre letter to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) regarding restructuring of – not the economy, health care, or gay rights, no – college football. Specifically, CNN Political Ticker reports that Senator Hatch raised a complaint with the Obama administration about the lack of a national championship in college football, which he views as the result of violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act on the part of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Perhaps that sounds a little strange, as if the government is taking the Sherman Act and using it to change the policies of the private sector in a manner only tangentially related to trust-busting. Indeed, it is exactly that, as Obama was actually quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying he would “throw [his] weight around a little bit” in college football in order to get a proper playoff system established. The claim that the government is throwing its weight around in private affairs is one I expect to hear Rush Limbaugh making on a slow news day, not Obama openly stating as a bragging point.

When I read about this atrocity, I had to wonder about Senator Hatch and his political ideology. Whereas the Republican platform claims to advocate a limited federal government and interference in private affairs only when it is necessary for the public security, it seems improbable that Hatch could believe the lack of a college football championship is a threat to anyone’s security. What I found surprised me perhaps more than it should have. Although the senator has a moderate amount of respect for fiscal responsibility, repeatedly voting against economic stimulus bills and advocating a balanced budget, his honest Republicanism and regard for the Constitution ends there. On the issues, Senator Hatch is a neocon, a theocrat, and a big fat bully. He has a history of arbitrarily doing just what Obama loves – throwing his weight around – whenever he sees something that he does not like.

The senator’s concept of rights and free speech is odd, to say the least: “…we must amend the Constitution to restore the historic right to protect the flag. … We are not interested in diminishing free speech. But, by restoring the traditional power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag, we are drawing the line between legitimate free speech and destructive conduct.” Democrats and Libertarians in the audience will wince at the idea of an amendment to prohibit flag-burning. But Republicans and all rational persons should writhe in agony at the use of the phrase “right to protect the flag”, which means, “right to use violent force to protect the flag” (as that is the only way the government can enforce any law), which means, “right to use violent force to stop other people from destroying property they created and own as a public statement.” Apparently Hatch believes that just after the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness comes the right to force other people not to destroy something they own if it runs contrary to customary social values.

This arbitrary and inexplicable concept of rights may explain why, in 2004, Senator Hatch tried to outlaw the internet. Being that he was irritated with the rampant copyright violation on the internet, and obviously had never committed this crime himself, Senator Hatch proposed the INDUCE Act, which would have changed copyright legislation so that anyone who deliberately facilitates copyright violation would be tried for the violation itself. The bill qualified ‘deliberate inducement’ of violation by “whether the activity relies on infringement for its commercial viability.” What websites and services rely on copyright infringement for their commercial viability? To put it simply, all of them – or at least all of the ones you and I visit on a daily basis. The internet is a highly competitive economy, and most high-traffic sites operate on a fairly low profit margin. Cut out ten percent of their gross revenue, and they become inviable. What percentage of the page views on sites like Google, Youtube, MP3Raid, MegaVideo, and even Wikipedia derive from searches for illegitimate material? Not all or even most, but enough. Even Facebook would be dragged into court, as a common use among teenagers for the site is the redistribution of photographs of friends, which (believe it or not) is in violation of international copyright law. The point to recognize here is that relying on copyright violation for economic viability does not mean dealing explicitly in illegal transactions – it simply means benefiting from them to a significant degree. The very same network effect that makes the internet such a valuable resource also makes it impossible to completely separate oneself from the crime committed on it.

Orrin Hatch also voted in favor of federally prohibiting homosexual marriage while attempting to prohibit it Constitutionally. When Stephen Colbert and the progressives complain about the angry-white Christian-right, Senator Hatch is the sort of man they target. His inconsistent principles and inappropriate use of the term ‘rights’ to describe bullying by the government give the freedom-loving conservatives a bad name. He hangs tightly along party lines on denouncing welfare and blocking excessive spending, but party lines are his only motivation – he cannot be construed to have a philosophical understanding of the failures of government while he still views it as a morally acceptable way to force his Christian values  and personal whims on the population of the United States. As a pious Mormon, Senator Hatch ought to ask himself whether Jesus would use political power to change the game of football.


A Beginner’s How-To on Taking Over the World, Chapter 1

January 17, 2010 2 comments

Welcome philosophers, bloggers, and casual observers of politics. Welcome industrialists, entrepreneurs, artists, and thespians. I write to you today with an offer to give up your useful, productive lifestyle of such uninteresting things as building tools, growing crops, and designing software, in favor of more honorable occupations in the fields of leeching, deceiving, corrupting, and generally advancing interests contrary to those of humanity. Your reward shall be dominion over others, the ability to squander what honest men have created at will, and an interview on CNN. Sound like a dream come true? It can all be yours with this Beginner’s How-To on Taking Over the World.

Chapter One: Playing Both Ends Against the Middle

The most essential component of any strategy of world domination is the misdirection of concerned citizens with regard to critical issues. Nobody wants to hear that the man to whom they are submitting is going to destroy civilization and make everyone miserable. Yet they know, in fact, that this is exactly what is happening. Would-be dictators must use this to their advantage! Take the somewhat politically educated, the moderately concerned, and split them in half. Draw a false dichotomy between two equally reprehensible ideas and convince each side that the other’s plan is the reason the world is going to hell. While they argue Left vs. Right, take them towards Totalitarian. Use their desire to avoid corrupt politicians and bad laws to increase your own power at their expense.

This principle is golden, and very widely implemented! Oil companies have refined it to a science. They have worked with Congress to orchestrate a brilliant and hostile takeover of the world economy. To start, they sold high-quality products at competitive prices, causing them to accumulate substantial wealth quickly. Then, they changed tactics radically. They hopped on board a public outcry about the environmental damage done by drilling for oil, and so managed to negotiate highly agreeable legislation which made it completely impossible for start-up companies to obtain the paperwork to drill. Congress looked good for saving the whales. With potential competition eliminated, the oil companies began to raise their prices, decrease the quality of their service, and make extraordinary profits. As these prices really hurt consumers, it was no surprise what the next step would be: Congress would have to step in to give the oil companies a good thrashing. Nobody is quite sure exactly what they did or how it was supposed to help, but the result ultimately was that we have even fewer oil companies now than before and gas prices are still high. The CEOs are laughing their way to the bank, Congressmen keep getting re-elected for passing stupid laws, and no ordinary person is actually better off for it – but rest assured we all have our opinions about whether the oil companies or the regulations are at fault.

Union leaders are also experts at playing both ends against the middle. On the heels of the Industrial Revolution, Americans experienced prosperity and wealth like the world had never known. There was an explosion of job opportunities and a dramatic increase in the real value of wages. However, the rapid growth outpaced information transfer, and that left many people uninformed and unable to get the most for their labor. To ensure that every worker was well-educated on what sort of working conditions he could expect and how well he ought to be paid for his time, workers unionized, meaning that they chose to pay dues to an organization which represented them in employer-employee negotiations to argue on their behalf. Because this all makes perfect sense, cue Congress – to come in and decide things are going too damn well. Nobody needed coercion and legal battles to make the world a happier place, which conflicted with their desire to rule the world. Their response was to declare that unions and companies were incapable of negotiating fairly to agreeable conclusion, and that the only way to satisfactorily end disputes was through government intervention. Thus they created anti-trust laws while simultaneously using police forces to break up strikes, and, in doing so, they made it dangerous to be a successful company or a conscientious group of workers. This might seem like a bad PR move, but it was absolutely ingenious. The irrelevant-but-totally-binding third-party arbitration these laws created led to a deterioration of working conditions, a rise in prices as a result of inefficiencies, and a blossoming legal department in every major company. This gave the union leaders the ultimate opportunity to step up – and further their cause by declaring that industrialist malpractice, rather than Congressional interference, was the cause of the world’s problems. The unions informed the public that innocent workers were being subjected to horrible conditions and there was nothing they could do about it – except lobby Congress. Now we see the brilliance of the Congressional plan, for it is those same Congressmen that broke a working system in the first place who rushed to fix it, by tightening anti-trust laws and – you guessed it – forcing more disputes to court arbitration. The tremendous legal costs associated with arbitration roll over into prices levied against consumers, and the government sponsorship of unions makes it difficult for non-unionized workers to avoid penalties. The union leaders are laughing their way to the bank, Congressmen keep getting re-elected for passing stupid laws, and no ordinary person is actually better off for it – but rest assured we all have our opinions about whether the corporations or the unions are at fault.

One of the most profound examples of obscuring the course of action that most people want in favor of a constructed dichotomy is the alleged health care reform bill. Americans can’t agree on whether medical insurance should be nationalized or not. They can’t agree on whether mandatory 100% acceptance rate should be enforced. The interesting note, though, is that these aren’t the only issues considered – not even close. Everyone knows, for example, that there’s no sensible reason why Americans shouldn’t be able to buy insurance across state lines – but they can’t. Everyone knows that the tort system needs to be revised so that consumers can’t be forced to foot the bill for unreasonable lawsuits.  Everyone knows insurance contracts need to be enforced more rigidly so that claimants can’t be dismissed for irrelevant pre-existing conditions after they’ve already bought insurance. The consensus on this is universal among politically aware, working class or middle class citizens – which means just about everyone. But those aren’t really the issues this bill addresses! The Democrats are raving about how desperately this country needs to socialize insurance, and the Republicans are insisting that it doesn’t, and nobody seems to care enough to fix the problems that we all know are problems, that we all agree on how to fix, and that could be easily fixed pretty quickly. Nobody’s fixing those because it wouldn’t increase Congressional power. If this bill passes, Congress will have effectively granted itself a categorically new level of privacy invasion into the lives of every American citizen. If the bill fails, insurance companies will continue to deny legitimate claims with impunity and charge obscene prices because of the reduced competition and hyper-regulation. Whichever way it goes, one thing remains constant: The insurance companies are laughing their way to the bank, Congressmen keep getting re-elected for passing stupid laws, and no ordinary person is actually better off for it – but rest assured we all have our opinions about whether the Democrats or the Republicans are at fault.

In summary, the clever dictator-in-training must understand from this chapter these general principles:

1) The Left believes the government defends people from corporations, the Right believes corporations are victimized by the government, but all ordinary people lose out when the government and corporations work together.

2) The most obvious problems don’t get solved because they don’t provide anything to run against, which is to say they don’t involve a reason to increase power over others. Coercive power comes from controversy, not harmony.

3) Never let people realize what they have in common. Work constantly to prevent them from all waking up one day and not being able to remember why they hate each other. If people partially agree and partially disagree on an issue, televise the parts where they disagree, not where they agree. Turn “reduce deficit spending!” into capitalism vs. socialism. Turn “stop making useless regulations!” into Republicans vs. Democrats. Turn “let me do what I want!” into gays vs. Christians. Don’t let people live and let live – if they do that, you won’t have any excuse to take over the world.