Category Archives: Libertarians

Who You Gonna Call?

This Libertarian tech paradise is apparently for real:

Blueseed

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before. Like the ill-fated voyage of the Gastonguays, Blueseed’s Libertarian tech paradise will be an awesome idea until a tsunami, climate change, pirates, bankruptcy or outbreaks of norovirus and Legionnaires Disease have everyone begging for Uncle Sam to come to the rescue.

Happens every damn time.

Check out the “coolness factor” quotient:

blueseed2

So a large chunk of these folks are interested in the idea, not because of the onerous Visa application problem (which is the supposed reason for Blueseed to exist in the first place) but rather the “coolness factor” and “awesome space” that is a large boat in the ocean. That’s pretty typical of these Libertarian tech types, IMHO.

17 Comments

Filed under Libertarians

Discussion Points For Your Libertarian Friends

I know y’all are sick of hearing me say how busy I’ve been lately. Sorry, broken record, yada yada.

I know I’ve been neglecting you, but this wonderful piece by R.J. Eskow, whom I’d never heard of before now, has crossed my path, and I pass it along as a peace offering. It’s the 11-question Libertarian hypocrisy test, including such gems as,

Is a libertarian willing to admit that production is the result of many forces, each of which should be recognized and rewarded?

and

Is our libertarian willing to acknowledge that workers who bargain for their services, individually and collectively, are also employing market forces?

and

Does our libertarian use wealth that wouldn’t exist without government in order to preach against the role of government?

(… the latter directed at PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel).

This is good stuff. Enjoy.

45 Comments

Filed under Libertarians

A Few Words On The Whole Foods-John Mackey Thing

God, liberals, what can I say. Sometimes we annoy the hell out of me.

This is the second time the interwebs is in high dudgeon over something said/written by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Mackey, who is hawking a book (Conscious Capitalism, and no, I haven’t read it) used the word “fascism” to describe the Affordable Care Act. This got liberals all upset, especially since they well remember his 2009 Wall Street Journal op-ed proposing eight “free market” reforms that he thought would fix our healthcare problems better than Obamacare.

Let me interject here and say, Mackey is an unabashed Libertarian. I do not agree with Libertarianism. At all. I think his “eight reforms” — stuff like tort reform, selling health insurance across state lines, and removing government coverage mandates — are horrible ideas, many already proven failures. He also wrote that if only everyone would just eat a vegetarian, low fat diet, all of our healthcare woes would magically go away. This was an astonishingly simplistic, insensitive and childish thing to say about a really complicated national issue. But hey, one of my biggest problems with Libertarians is their juvenile belief in magical thinking.

Anyway, that was around three years ago. This time, people seem to be hung up on Mackey’s use of the word “fascist.” The thing is, I said the same thing myself back in 2009. Put aside all of the totalitarian/nationalistic baggage the word carries, and consider its economic definition. Aren’t we always told that fascism is the merger of state and corporate power? So how is a government requirement that private citizens buy a product from a private, for-profit corporation without also offering a “public option” not fascism?

Mackey now admits his choice of words was poor. I watched him on CBS This Morning say we needed a new term, one that doesn’t allude to authoritarian regimes.

This made me laugh. Mr. Mackey, I believe the word you’re searching for is “corporatism.” Funny that wouldn’t occur to the CEO of a big corporation. Ah well. Libertarians, what can I say? They always wear blinders. I have to wonder: if Obamacare mandated that everyone buy organic food, would Mackey have a problem with that?

Mackey is entitled to his opinions, as are we all. I don’t agree with him on everything. But it seems a shame that he stuck his foot in his mouth on the Obamacare “fascism” stuff, because really liberals should be behind a big chunk of what he’s saying now.

Again, I haven’t read his book, but I’ve read several interviews he’s given about it. And basically what he seems to be telling his fellow corporate CEOs is, stop being such selfish, greedy dicks.

For example:

“I really don’t think shareholders should come first, I think it’s fundamentally a bad strategy,” Mackey said yesterday at a Captains of Industry series interview with Norman Pearlstine, chief content officer of Bloomberg News. “Happy team members result in happy customers, happy customers result in happy investors. If you put shareholders first, you won’t get there.”

The event at the 92nd Street Y in New York was sponsored by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Mackey, 59, a self-styled “conscious” capitalist and longtime nonconformist, has written a new book in which he criticizes companies that focus solely on maximizing profit. The book, “Conscious Capitalism,” was released this week.

In the book, Mackey and his co-author, Raj Sisodia, a Bentley University marketing professor, discuss ways to create value and lift people from poverty. Mackey’s bottom line: making money need not be a zero-sum game.

I agree with that 100%. And I’m not a Libertarian. I also agree with this:

Mackey tells Inskeep that companies must have a higher purpose than just making money.

For example, when Whole Foods decided it wanted to stop selling overfished species of cod and octopus at its seafood counters, it didn’t just abruptly cut off its suppliers. Instead, the company gave its suppliers three years to come up with a better way of fishing; during that time, the seafood stayed for sale — but with a label of “unsustainable.”

In the end, Whole Foods, working with the Marine Stewardship Council (we’ll have much more on them later), was able to find one supplier of sustainable cod.

I agree with that approach. I also find it a little strange that Mackey doesn’t recognize the flaw in his magical Libertarian ideology: why aren’t all corporations like Whole Foods? Why isn’t everyone focusing on the big picture, why aren’t they all doing the right thing, instead of just focusing on profit? Does Mackey not get that a health insurance company doesn’t make money off of certain groups of people? Like, really, really sick people? That Libertarianism requires a whole set of presuppositions that don’t exist in the real world?

I guess not. But c’mon, liberals. Let’s join in the conversation here, instead of calling for boycotts over the misuse of a word like “fascism” — especially when a lot of us were saying the same thing two years ago.

So no, I’m not boycotting Whole Foods. Nor am I nominating John Mackey for sainthood. Remember this? Remember when Mackey created an online sockpuppet to bash rival Wild Oats in online stock forums? At a time when he was trying to buy that company? Hilarious. Also, not nice. John Mackey, you’re kind of a dick, too. Something else I can say about most Libertarians.

By the way, this reminds me of the one bumper sticker I want to see. It goes something like this:

Who Is John Galt? And Why Is He Such An Asshole?

Ha ha. Love that one. So, boycott Whole Foods if you want to, but I won’t. But I will ask my fellow liberals to stop reacting in such a knee-jerk way to the use of loaded words like “fascism” and whatnot. Please. This makes us no better than the Teanuts who call for the fainting couches every time a liberal says a mean joke about Sarah Palin.

21 Comments

Filed under boycotts, corporations, health insurance, healthcare, liberals, Libertarians

I’ve Seen Fire & I’ve Seen Rain

I’ve been digging through the memory hole lately and was reminded of Focus On The Family’s Stuart Shepard, who in 2008 asked the faithful to pray for rain of Biblical proportions — torrential, “umbrella-ain’t-gonna-help-you” rain — to drown out Barack Obama’s DNC nomination speech. He literally was asking for a deluge of rain. “Urban and small stream flood advisory rain!” — those were his words.

What an ass. So, fast forward four years and Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family, is engulfed in flames. Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, homes have been burned to the ground, etc. etc.

Meanwhile Tampa, FL, where the Republican National Convention will meet later this summer, is flooding. Yes, Tropical Storm Debby has spawned those torrential, “urban and small stream flood advisory rains” Shepard prayed for. Woopsies.

One might say God has a sense of humor. A sick one, at that.

I’ve wondered how the Christian, libertarian paradise of Colorado Springs is handling this disaster. Remember, this is the town that voted against a property tax increase, instead opting to severely cut city services. Trash pick-up, police protection and bus service was slashed; even streetlights were deactivated.

Anti-government zealots hailed it as a model for the future; Michelle Malkin, who lives in Colorado Springs, gushed:

“Self-reliance. Privatization. Thrift. Fiscal accountability. The liberals in Denver and Washington could learn something from our Mountain West spirit if they could just get over their Colorado Springs Derangement Syndrome.”

So now that the place is on fire, how are they doing? As with any disaster, there have been remarkable stories of neighbors helping neighbors, people pitching in to lend a hand and pooling emergency donations in the face of disaster. This is as it should be: crisis brings out the best in humanity. We saw it here in Nashville during our floods. So, yay people.

And then we have finger-pointing from the usual quarters. Michelle Malkin, no longer cheering “our Mountain West spirit,” is blaming President Obama for the firefighting fleet’s declining numbers — from 44 a decade ago to just nine today. She carps:

The Obama administration’s neglect of the federal government’s aerial tanker fleet raises acrid questions about its core public safety priorities.

But she conveniently ignores the “free hand of the market” reasons for the fleet’s decline, as explained in the New York Times last week:

The contractor-owned planes, refurbished from military use and leased by the United States Forest Service, have been hobbled by accidents and mechanical problems, leading to growing safety concerns and calls for a major overhaul. A decade ago, the government had 44 large tanker planes at its command. Now, with fires raging from California to Colorado to Wyoming, the regular fleet is down to nine.

[...]

Modern airplanes are available, some able to skim up a bellyful of water from a lake without even stopping to land and thus to conduct dozens of drops a day, but these are too expensive for the private contractors who fly the forest missions. Even the supply of younger military hand-me-downs has dried up. “There are no lightweight bombers being surplused anymore,” said Vincent Ambrosia, a forest fire expert at NASA.

Wait, what? The fleet is operated by private contractors, not Uncle Sam? But conservatives are always telling us that privatization is the answer to all of our problems! So the Free Hand Of The Market has failed? Not possible!

Meanwhile, this guy blames Obama for shrinking the fleet (linking to Malkin) and blames environmentalists for fighting the use of slurry — which, despite his claims, they seem to be using, as Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn tried to take credit for the arrival of federal slurry bombers before Tuesday’s GOP primary. Of course he did.

As for the charge about environmentalists and slurry, here’s what the New York Times piece said:

But the best way to use firefighting planes is not even clear. Although firefighting planes have been used for about 50 years, experts question whether it is better to use fire retardant instead of plain old water. Should the drop be made on a fire, or in a spot in advance of where the fire has reached?

Next month, the Forest Service will begin a study to see what technique works best. A sensor-equipped aircraft will fly 10 to 15 minutes behind the water bomber, to perform the forest equivalent of a bombing damage assessment.

I have no doubt that environmentalists are worried about the use of slurry, but it doesn’t sound like such concerns have made their way into any actual policy yet. What the Times piece tells us is that firefighters are trying to determine the most effective means of fighting the super-hot, climate-change related fires we’re seeing now. These aren’t your grandpa’s forest fires.

This reminds me an awful lot of Louisiana’s argument over “berms” after the BP oil spill. Blaming environmentalists was easy and fun for the Republicans — hippie punching always is with this crowd — but the question wasn’t, are they more damaging than an oil spill? The question was always, does it work? The answer in the case of the sand berms was a definitive no. But Gov. Bobby Jindal got to look defiant and resolute and the Fox News crowd got to swoon, never mind the time and money wasted.

Same as it ever was.

20 Comments

Filed under Libertarians, politics

Glibertarian FAIL

Nobody could have anticipated the failure of greed to serve as a positive capitalistic force! And yet, I bring you the former CEO of Hewlitt-Packard, who has walked away from 11 months work with a $23 million+ golden parachute, leaving his company in tatters:

It’s hard to fault Mr. Apotheker for taking what H.P. offered. But among the many questions shareholders should be asking the board is why it approved an employment agreement for Mr. Apotheker that arguably made it more lucrative for him to fail — and the sooner the better — than to succeed.

But … but … but …. Ayn Rand told us greed was good! And self-interest rawks!

“It’s a great irony that spectacular failure is rewarded lavishly,” John J. Donohue, a professor at Stanford law school and the president of the American Law and Economics Association, told me. “It is a terrible mistake to set up a structure where the top person walks away with millions even if the company is laid waste by their poor decision-making, yet this is what’s happening. It’s a shocking departure from capitalist incentives if you lavish riches on the losers.

He added that it’s especially shocking at H.P., which fired its previous two chief executives before Mr. Apotheker and had to make multimillion-dollar payments as a consequence. “After what H.P. had gone through, you’d think the board would have been on their toes rather than asleep at the switch again,” he said.

Well yes, you’d think. Furthermore, the article tells us that Apotheker came to Hewlitt-Packard after being fired after just seven months as CEO of German software company SAP. If this were the world of “Atlas Shrugged,” Hewlitt-Packard’s gross incompetence would have dragged it down into a cesspool of insolvency while some plucky start-up took its place in a great survival-of-the-fittest display of how to be king of the capitalist jungle.

But that’s not what happened. That’s why, children, we don’t let fiction serve as a guide for crafting public policy. But I digress.

It gets better for Mr. Apotheker:

In an S.E.C. filing this week, H.P. said that 424,000 of Mr. Apotheker’s performance-based rewards remained in effect, and that payment would depend on whether H.P. met certain performance goals. So Mr. Apotheker could be awarded even more as a result of someone else’s performance. H.P.’s board even kicked in some additional benefits that weren’t in his contract, like relocation expenses and up to $300,000 to cover his loss on the sale of his California residence.

Bear in mind that Mr. Apotheker had already been paid “relocation benefits” of $4.6 million and a signing bonus of $4 million on Nov. 29 of last year, so his payments — almost $10 million after he signed on and just over $13 million to leave — would total at least $23 million for 11 months of work. An H.P. spokesperson declined comment on Mr. Apotheker’s contract, but said, “We credit Léo for having made important contributions to the company’s future. We appreciate his efforts and service to H.P.”

Compensation experts say that the primary argument for such lavish termination guarantees is to lure top executives from secure, highly paid positions elsewhere.

I’m sorry, WTF? This guy sounds like a con artist, not a corporate CEO. Of course, in this day and age, is there a difference? I’m thinking … not.

These are the “fighter pilots of capitalism,” the folks claiming they are entitled to every benefit and perk and tax cut the bottom 99% trickle up their way because, by God, they keep this country humming! It’s a very small, insulated world, and you can see that incompetence is not just rewarded but perpetuated. Because no matter how badly you’ve fucked things up, you’re a member of the club. Once you’re in, they look after their own. Because they run things, they can. You have to hit full Defcon Madoff before your invitation into this rarefied world is rescinded.

If this sounds like class warfare, so be it. That’s exactly what it is. You’ve got a lot of people in this country who have been laid off from their shitty jobs, been denied an extension of their unemployment benefits, and been forced out of their homes and into bankruptcy as a result. Meanwhile, Republicans in Washington claim that more tax cuts for the Apothekers of the world will get things moving along again.

I’m just not seeing it.

9 Comments

Filed under corporations, Libertarians

Who Thinks Like This?

[UPDATE] 2:

Just looking at the comments I’m … well, stunned. I simply don’t understand people whose default position seems to be a fear that all of our nation’s problems will be solved by calling in the law. Aren’t you people the ones telling us the free hand of the market solves everything? Why do you assume the American people will call in the National Guard to fix every problem like, for example, a shortage of rural doctors? Why wouldn’t your default position be that we’d reach for market-based solutions and incentives (which is what we’ve done?) Or perhaps reach for other government solutions, such as funding doctor recruitment programs at the National Health Services Corps? I mean, it’s like your worldview is so narrow, you can only imagine the government as having a narrow police state enforcement function.

Again: what the fuck is wrong with you people?
—————————

[UPDATE]:

The headline says it all: Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care. Yes Libertarians, please run on how health care is not a “right” and health insurance is completely necessary.

—————————

Rand Paul is a nutwagon. Via Digby, who transcribed his rant equating healthcare with slavery:

With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses.

Basically, once you imply a belief in a right to someone’s services — do you have a right to plumbing? Do you have a right to water? Do you have right to food? — you’re basically saying you believe in slavery.

I’m a physician in your community and you say you have a right to health care. You have a right to beat down my door with the police, escort me away and force me to take care of you? That’s ultimately what the right to free health care would be.

Oh my God. Who thinks like this? Is he fucking nuts or what? No one is saying this at all. Free healthcare? Where? Where does he get this shit, from Aqua Buddha? Has someone been hitting the bong a little too hard lately?

What Rand Paul is really saying is: if you think you have a RIGHT to healthcare, that means you will FORCE ME TO TREAT YOU. You will HUNT ME DOWN and force me to be your monkey and give you glasses.

And trust me, I would not go near that guy, not if he were the last breathing optometrist or ophthalmologist or whatever the fuck brand of medicine it is he allegedly practices because swear to God the guy is crazy and I don’t want crazy treating me for anything. Dude you are the last physician I’d want touching me, I promise you. So put down the crack pipe, dude, and chillax. No one is forcing you to do anything.

Who the hell thinks this way?

You know what my problem with Libertarians is? They’re a bunch of whiny babies. Whaaaah! Because someone, somewhere, feels they should be allowed to access our healthcare system at the same fair price as everyone else without some insurance company flunky telling them they can’t, suddenly it’s all about Rand Paul being oppressed! His freedom has been infringed upon and the jackbooted liberal thugs are gonna come and force him to give people glasses.

Grow the fuck up, already. People are dying because of assholes like you, folks who harp on about your precious freedoms, like the freedom not to treat someone (anyone in particular, perhaps? Hey, based on your past comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s a fair question.) Why dream up crazy-assed scenarios like the police breaking down your door forcing you to treat someone? What the hell is wrong with you? People are dying, do you even get that? That’s not an abstraction either, that’s called reality. If you don’t want to do your job, fuck off, we’ll find someone else who can. You’re not the last physician on earth.

Get over your damn self. Jerk.

Here’s the video:

16 Comments

Filed under healthcare, Libertarians, Rand Paul, rants

Dude You HAVE No Fire Protection

[UPDATE]:

I think there has been some misinformation out there about this story. To my knowledge, the South Fulton, TN fire department is not privatized. However, this is a very rural area, and if they are going to provide fire protection service beyond the South Fulton community out into Obion County then they charge an additional service fee. To the best of my understanding, that is how the arrangement works. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

People from metropolitan areas need to understand that rural areas do not — can not — maintain services out into the hinterlands. There simply is not the tax base for it. When I lived in rural Kentucky we did not have trash service, for example. You either contracted with a private company or dealt with your household waste yourself. Some people were responsible and hauled stuff to the county dump once a month. Some burned it in backyard fire pits. Some people are assholes and dump their trash by the side of the road.

Similarly, people who live in Obion County are given the option of contracting with the (public) South Fulton fire department for their fire protection or dealing with fire protection themselves.

When you live out in the sticks that’s just how it is.
——————————————–

Okay, I don’t mean to be flippant, but some people need to get a freaking clue:

A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.  They wouldn’t do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton.  But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don’t pay, they’re out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn’t put it out. It wasn’t until that fire spread to a neighbor’s property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

“I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene Cranick.

Yes, that was the point of the fee.

Because guess what: things like fire departments don’t grow on trees. You don’t just add water and *poof* fire trucks and trained firefighters and gear just magically appear. These things need to be paid for and maintained in advance. So they are there when you need them. If everyone waited for their homes to catch fire and then paid the fee, that would seriously muck up the system, wouldn’t it?

Now, I don’t for a minute think the fire department did the right thing here. Once Mr. Cranick said he’d “pay anything” they should have charged him double and some kind of extra service fee, got the cash upfront and then put out his house fire. Hopefully this would deter him and others like him from not having coverage.

Alternately, they could make having fire protection mandatory, like they’re doing with our health insurance coverage. Because if you make it optional and then people don’t have it when they need it and want it, they tend to whine a lot. People don’t like being forced to buy things, but Mr. Cranick might still have a house had he done so.

And then there’s this:

To give you an idea of just how intense the feelings got in this situation, soon after the fire department returned to the station, the Obion County Sheriff’s Department said someone went there and assaulted one of the firefighters.

Well that’s lovely.

Look, people. Services don’t rain down out of the sky. There isn’t some great “fire protection” farm out there, just like there isn’t a “police protection tree” off in the hills. If you need the fire department or the police department, you have to pay for it. Here in Davidson County our property taxes pay for fire protection; rural areas operate a little differently but it’s the same principle.

As it happens, I know South Fulton fairly well. I used to live not too terribly far from there by rural Kentucky standards. It’s smack dab on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line, real boondocks country. We’re talking east of East Jesus. Other than some tiny little farm towns, there’s literally nothing but corn and soybean fields around there. There isn’t even a dang interstate for miles. You’re stuck in a vast expanse of farmland, and no fast way out.

This can have its charms, if you like this sort of thing; I’m not knocking it, I’m just saying, city services as we know them here in Nashville do not exist. I’m trying to be fair to Mr. Cranick; I can see how someone who lives out in the boonies like this might think fire protection is optional and perhaps not even very effective: by the time a fire truck arrives, your house might be completely gone anyway. But $75 doesn’t seem like too terribly much to pay just in case. And remember: your $75 pays to maintain a system that someone else will use.

I had to call the fire department once. It was around this time of year: fall, a breezy day, everything dry as straw. My neighbor’s lawn guy had something go wrong with the lawn mower and he was trying to fix it. Something happened and the mower coughed to life, tearing his thumb off and throwing sparks into the hedge separating our two houses. The hedge immediately caught fire. I happened to be outside at the time and heard the guy shout; I knew my hose wouldn’t reach and called 911. The fire department and ambulance came, put out the fire, found the guy’s thumb in the bushes, and packed him and his thumb off the hospital (by the way, can anyone tell me why whenever you call for an ambulance a fire truck automatically comes too?).

So as they were packing up I was chatting with one of the firefighters in my neighbor’s driveway. This was right before the 2000 election and he pointed to my Gore/Lieberman campaign sign and joked, “now, if that sign was in front of this house I might not have stopped the truck!”

Ha ha that’s so fucking funny I almost forgot to laugh. Well, we see where that Bush era brand of tax cutting and Libertarian “government is the enemy” politics got us: cities like Colorado City, laying off firefighters, police officers, shutting libraries, etc.

Last week NPR talked about the national shuttering of fire stations because of budget cuts. This is irresponsible anywhere; in California — wildfire country — it’s insane. It’s true that Gene Cranick chose not to have his fire protection, but aren’t the people of these other communities really making the same choice, by not funding their fire departments? Of course they are.

This will break your heart:

That’s just what led to a tragedy in San Diego earlier this summer, when relatives brought a choking 2-year-old to the fire station down their block. The station was closed that day for budget reasons. It took 9 1/2 minutes for a paramedic to arrive. The boy did not survive.

Since when did public safety become a luxury? I just don’t get it. Since when did people in San Jose or San Diego become like Tennessee’s Gene Cranick, deciding these services aren’t worth paying for until they need them?

I’m trying to get a handle on this idea that we don’t want to pay for crucial services that we aren’t personally using, like the fire department and police department or schools. Is it part of a growing national selfishness? Is it part of a national spirit or recklessness? Some delusional belief that bad stuff will never happen to us, and if it happens to someone else, so what?

I suspect it’s something else. I think we’ve always had the “why should my money pay for so-and-so’s X, Y or Z” crowd out there, but that argument used to be countered by sane people who could explain exactly why. Somehow there’s a lack of rational voices stepping up at city council meetings and in the op-ed pages of their local newspaper to say hell no you can’t cut the fire department budget, this stuff’s important! Public safety matters! I mean how crazy is it that we’ve had nearly 10 years of constant fear porn about how the terrorists are wanting to kill us all yet from coast to coast we’re slashing our first responders? Does this make sense to anyone?

It doesn’t make sense to me.

33 Comments

Filed under Libertarians, taxes, Tennessee