The Funny Thing About North Korea…

…is that there is really nothing funny about North Korea.

Dear ReaderI used to think there was, but earlier this summer I read this book, Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, and it changed my perspective.

They are not funny, they are brutal and ruthless. If I bought into the “we need to protect them” narrative that is often used to justify foreign intervention (I don’t, but if I did) North Korea would be first on the list.

The people of the PDRK have been systematically repressed for decades. Even if we were to somehow liberate them today if would generations before they could recover. The ruling family is not crazy, there is a logic and rational to everything that is done. It is evil, pure and simple.

Read the book, it is like reading a slow train wreck, too horrifying to continue reading, too fascinating to stop.

I Was Wrong About Joe Biden

Several years ago, I posted a snide comment about the fact that my wife and I donated more to charity than Vice President Joe Biden and his wife. While this has remained true for the last few years, upon further reflection I was wrong to be critical of the VP.

C_Joe_BidenThe reality is that he should not be donating anything to charity. In fact, any donations he makes are quite hypocritical. No, rather than donate, Mr. Biden should instead pay extra money in taxes. At a minimum, he should be making voluntary contributions to pay down the national debt. I have come to believe that the majority of people should do this as well.

You see, most people believe that government does a better job than charities at helping people. After all, if this were not the case they would not support expansive government programs that do just that.

My belief now is that anyone who believes that government should be the provider of “the general welfare” should not in any way support any charity through their donations of time, talent and treasure. They should not volunteer their time, instead, they should get a part time job and in addition to the tax money that gets taken out of their paycheck from this job, they should send the rest of their paycheck to the IRS.

alg-springsteen To broaden this idea, when the next natural disaster occurs, musicians, like Bruce Springsteen, should not have a concert to help the people directly, but instead, give the money to FEMA. Most of these folks think like Biden. Clearly they believe that  government is the fulfillment of society. Why they would donate a penny or a second to any charity is beyond me. To do so is to admit that private charities perform these function better than their beloved government.

Sorry, Joe. I admit, I was wrong. Please don’t give any more to these institutions.

A Legal, Perhaps, Ethical Gedanken

Disclaimer: I do not believe that the law and ethical behavior are always in alignment with each other.

Now, my thought experiment:

First, a neighbor implies to you that he would have preferred that you had never moved in next door by saying, “I wish that you were removed from the pages of time.”

Second, he purchases a gun.

Next, you have heard that he is looking to purchase a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

Assume that these are legal to possess. In fact, you have these weapons as well.

Are you within your rights to fire your weapons first? If so, why?

To Pre or Not to Pre

Fact #1 – I travel a lot for work. In the next five weeks it is unlikely that I will spend ten nights at home with my beautiful wife and kids. This is not meant as a plea, but only to emphasize the first sentence of this post.

Fact #2 – I am also a staunch Libertarian. I am running for Texas State Senate. This is not plea for money, but only to emphasize this second point.

It is these two facts which have caused me some personal conflict. Because most of my travel requires air transport, I am intimately familiar with the TSA. I am guessing that by now you see the challenge.

In any case, about three months ago I received an email from American Airlines asking me if I would like to sign up for the TSA’s Pre program. This program allows travelers to register with the TSA and undergo a background check. In exchange, travelers get to go through a lower security regimen at airport security.

If an airport has the Pre line (and my home airport of DFW does), you can cut right to the security gate where you do not have top take off your shoes or remove your computer or liquids from your travel cases. Instead, your bags are x-rayed and you walk through a metal detector only, no micro scanning (and therefore no naked pictures). Basically, this is the same security procedure as existed on September 10, 2001.

Now the dilemma:

To Pre, or not to Pre: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The pokes and prods of outrageous agents,
Or to take arms against a sea of lawyers,
And by opposing end them? To Pre: to bypass;
No more; and by a bypass to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand unnatural scans
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.  

My TSA Protest

As many of you know, I am an American Airlines Platinum level frequent flyer. As such, I am very familiar with TSA policies and procedures from a gropee passenger perspective. Honestly, it saddens me every time I have to go through security.

As a former New Yorker that lived just outside of Manhattan in September of 2001, seeing the TSA pat downs and electronic screenings is a constant reminder that the terrorists did more than damage buildings and murder almost 3,000 people. They, in a sense, have won. Our Liberties have been eroding ever since especially with the passage and continued renewal of the Orwellian-named USA PATRIOT Act.

I wanted to share with you a small act of peaceful protest that I carry out each time I am asked to go through the microscanners.

I do not opt out. Doing so would subject me to the groping and in many cases make me late for my flight. Instead I hold a bound copy of the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution that I purchased from the CATO Institute over my head. (Please note that you are allowed to hold papers in your hands. Most people hold their boarding pass or government issued ID.)

After passing through I hand it to the TSA agent at the exit where they are required to flip though it. For their convenience, I have highlighted the Fourth Amendment. Most officers hand it back with saying a word. I fear, however, the sad irony is lost them.

The good news is I am hopeful that all this might be coming to an end in the near future. Texas State Senator Dan Patrick introduced a bill which would outlaw the groping. It unanimously passed through committee, but when the TSA weighed in by saying they would create a “No-Fly Zone” in Texas, it died before the end of the legislative session. All is not lost as this week, the bill seemed to make a comeback. What is needed is for Governor Rick Perry to have the courage to request it be considered during the special session of the Texas Legislature.

Here’s hoping! Until then, I have my pocket copy ready to roll.

Open Email to My Friends on the Left

(…especially Warren Buffet and Stephen King)

Hi all,

I just came across this wonderful opportunity for you. If you believe in bigger government, you can now directly help and the best part is you do not have to wait for the next election.

 

If your household makes over $88,030, you are in the top 20 percent of all households in the United States. In other words, you are certainly considered rich by the other 80 percent of your fellow citizens. And, without a doubt, you are among the super rich by world standards.

pay.gov logoSince you believe government needs to take care of those less fortunate, you have a moral obligation to go to https://www.pay.gov/paygov/forms/formInstance.html?agencyFormId=23779454 to make your voluntary contribution to reduce the public debt.

If you are not technically savvy, they will also accept a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and in the memo section, notate that it’s a Gift to reduce the Debt Held by the Public. Mail your check to:

Attn Dept G
Bureau of the Public Debt
P. O. Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

My suggestion would be to send anything you make over $88,030, because you must believe that a government bureaucrat can spend your money more wisely than you, otherwise why would you think I need to pay more.

Any questions?

On Atlas Shrugged – Part 1

It didn’t suck.

No, really, that is actually a compliment. Perhaps the biggest fear of fans of the book (of which, I am one) was that it was going to be a horror show and not in a Stephen King sort of way. It was not.

I just returned from the 8pm opening day showing of Atlas Shrugged-Part 1 at a suburban Dallas theatre and can report that the theatre was at least three-quarters full. One of my fellow Libertarians quipped, “If the all would have voted for us, we might have won.”

The acting was quite strong among all major characters, especially Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as Hank Readon. Although some of the minor roles could have better portrayed, most were very well cast. I really liked Rebecca Wisocky as Lillian Readon and Michael O’Keefe as Hugh Akston.=, but perhaps this is because they are both are Law & Order “repeat offenders.”

The pace is much faster than the book and would have to be to condense 338 pages into 1:46. Major sections of the book were sliced including all of the childhood sequences of Dagny and Francisco.

One cut I did not like was of any reference to composer Richard Halley, but perhaps this is for the best because, quite frankly, I found the musical score to be the weakest part of the production.

The best addition to the story was the device used to introduce the idea of train travel in a modern setting. (The year of the movie is 2016.) In the interest of not spoiling, I will not go into the details.

All in all for the budget, Atlas Shrugged-Part 1 did not disappoint. I am sure it will be panned by some who are both critics of Rand and fans who were wanting more. I believe however, the production is quite solid and it did leave me wanting for Atlas Shrugged-Part 2.

On Foreign Aid and Military Spending

In half a dozen places on Facebook and other online places, my mantra to many Republicans recently has been – If you don’t want to subsidize the welfare state at home, why are you willing to subsidize it abroad?

Let’s even, for the purposes of this argument, put Iraq and Afghanistan aside. Most of the countries we support with troops and cash have rich entitlement programs.

Our policy with Japan for years has been, as Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute has put it, “We agree to defend them and they agree to let us.” They can spend more on their welfare programs precisely because we provide their defense.

In Korea, I believe we are there more to keep the South from going North now than the other way around. Neocons will say, “But what if the North gets nukes?” On a Facebook post today, a friend of a friend, Warren Redlich, said this, “If North Korea uses nukes, what exactly are the US troops going to do about it other than die?”

In short, it makes no sense to say, let’s not pay for education and health programs for citizens (let’s not even discuss immigrants), yet support foreign governments who support rich welfare states.

Direct foreign aid is not smart either. I have no problem sending charitable relief to Haiti to assist temporarily the victims of a natural disaster, but to pour billions of dollars into Haiti in transfer payments does nothing to actually help the poor grow wealthy. In order for a country to increase its wealth, it must create the conditions necessary for economic freedom.

I often wonder if some people are more friends of poverty than friends of the poor.

I think I found the problem with TSA

SFO SignOn a recent return trip from the Bay Area, I snapped this photo as I was exiting the pornographic photo booth, aka the “security checkpoint.”

Aside from the general warning that your Fourth Amendment rights can be violated again at any time without your consent, the last line reads, “Your safety is our priority”.

There’s the problem! It should read, “Your rights are our priority.”