Nuggets of Wisdom

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hiatus In April

For the month of April, my blog will be placed on hiatus. I’m doing this in order to spend more time on writing the remainder of my Dark Stallion fanfic—time which would have otherwise gone to blogging.

I’m sorry to say that I haven’t had much progress with my fanfic, as my time and effort has been placed into other things; but I do expect to eventually finish it, as there are only three more chapters remaining. I’m not sure how long this is going to take to finish, but I expect to have at least the next chapter written by this month.

As for my hiatus, this will not mean that I will stop blogging entirely. The following will be the extent of my hiatus:

Posts That Will Be On Hold
  • Regular blog posts
  • Statist and Anarchist comics
  • Daily Bungle articles
  • This Week In Review
  • Sunday Funnies
Posts That Will Continue
  • Daily Pony and Pony Recaps
  • Daily Stevie and SU Recaps
  • Thowback Thursday

Libertarian Gun Policy: Switzerland

Even though Switzerland has not been involved in an armed conflict since a standoff between Catholics and Protestants in 1847, the Swiss are very serious not only about their right to own weapons but also to carry them around in public. Because of this general acceptance and even pride in gun ownership, nobody bats an eye at the sight of a civilian riding a bus, bike or motorcycle to the shooting range, with a rifle slung across the shoulder.

“We will never change our attitude about the responsible use of weapons by law-abiding citizens,” says Hermann Suter, vice president of Pro-Tell, the country’s gun lobby, named after legendary apple shooter William Tell, who used a crossbow to target enemies long before firearms were invented.

Switzerland trails behind only the U.S, Yemen and Serbia in the number of guns per capita; between 2.3 million and 4.5 million military and private firearms are estimated to be in circulation in a country of only 8 million people. Yet, despite the prevalence of guns, the violent-crime rate is low: government figures show about 0.5 gun homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010. By comparison, the U.S rate in the same year was about 5 firearm killings per 100,000 people, according to a 2011 U.N. report.

Unlike some other heavily armed nations, Switzerland’s gun ownership is deeply rooted in a sense of patriotic duty and national identity. Weapons are kept at home because of the long-held belief that enemies could invade tiny Switzerland quickly, so every soldier had to be able to fight his way to his regiment’s assembly point. (Switzerland was at risk of being invaded by Germany during World War II but was spared, historians say, because every Swiss man was armed and trained to shoot.)

But the “gun in every closet” tradition was challenged in 2001, after a disgruntled citizen opened fire with his army rifle inside a regional parliament, killing 14 and injuring 14 others — the only mass shooting in Switzerland’s recent history. The subsequent opposition to widespread gun ownership spearheaded a push for stricter arms legislation. The government and pro-gun groups argued, however, that the country’s existing laws regulating the sale, ownership and licensing of private guns, which includes a ban on carrying concealed weapons, are stringent enough. The law allows citizens or legal residents over the age of 18, who have obtained a permit from the government and who have no criminal record or history of mental illness, to buy up to three weapons from an authorized dealer, with the exception of automatic firearms and selective fire weapons, which are banned. Semiautomatics, which have caused havoc in the U.S., can be legally purchased.

The authorities made one concession, though: since 2008, all military — but not private — ammunition must be stored in central arsenals rather than in soldiers’ homes. The debate culminated in a nationwide referendum last year, when 56% of voters rejected the proposal initiated by anti-gun organizations to ban army rifles from homes altogether.

Although guns are responsible for between 200 and 300 suicides each year in Switzerland, Pro-Tell’s Suter says these statistics have to be put in a wider perspective. He points out that the bullets used in suicides are only a tiny fraction of the 75 million rounds of ammunition that are fired each year in Switzerland during military and civilian target practice.

One of the reasons the crime rate in Switzerland is low despite the prevalence of weapons — and also why the Swiss mentality can’t be transposed to the current American reality — is the culture of responsibility and safety that is anchored in society and passed from generation to generation. Kids as young as 12 belong to gun groups in their local communities, where they learn sharpshooting. The Swiss Shooting Sports Association runs about 3,000 clubs and has 150,000 members, including a youth section. Many members keep their guns and ammunition at home, while others choose to leave them at the club. And yet, despite such easy access to pistols and rifles, “no members have ever used their guns for criminal purposes,” says Max Flueckiger, the association’s spokesperson.

“Social conditions are fundamental in deterring crime,” says Peter Squires, professor of criminology and public policy at the University of Brighton in Great Britain, who has studied gun violence in different countries and concluded that a “culture of support” rather than focus on individualism, can deter mass killings.

“If people have a responsible, disciplined and organized introduction into an activity like shooting, there will be less risk of gun violence,” he tells TIME.

That sense of social and civic responsibility is one of the reasons the Swiss have never allowed their guns to come under fire.

- "How Switzerland Developed a Gun Culture That Works", Helena Bachmann/Geneva (TIME).

Daily Pony: Follow the Leader

The artist who drew this said this took him three months. From the looks of it, it was totally worth the effort!

Follow the Leader by Bobdude0 on DeviantArt

Monday, March 30, 2015

It's Sad To See Grown Men Cry

Remember that Salon writer who wrote about how Honduras was a “libertarian nightmare”—even though Honduras is about as libertarian as China? Well, he’s written another screed. This time, he’s crying for the wambulance over the butthurt he received from the backlash to his original screed:

Reaction was swift and personal, including widely circulated factoids that I’m both fat and bald (guilty on both counts).  Some called for my utter, personal ruin.  Fair enough.  But there were comments that went too far, such as those that addressed my parenting skills or that examined my decade-old divorce.  I was unprepared for the fire hose of rage and invective.  In fact, it’s hard to overstate just how furious—and proud of it—this segment of America seems.  I could provide links, but I’d rather not send them traffic. If you are compelled to see for yourself, feel free to take a refreshing dip into the libertarian cesspool, but try not to get any in your mouth.

I’m tempted to avoid this group altogether, but I think it would be chicken shit of me to back away because of some name-calling and an epic temper tantrum.  Every badly written blog and hysterical, spittle-flecked Internet video only further proves the point that these people have serious problems...

It was inevitable.  Rage defines all right-leaning movements in the Obama era.  The existence of this hate, vitriol and disgust is beyond dispute.  You see it on Fox News, in talk radio and permeating the internet.  When they lose, they’re angry and even when they win they’re still pretty pissed off.  Some random liberal writes a little article for Salon and libertarians release a torrent of hate articles, personal attacks, and rage filled podcasts.  What a burden it must be to walk around so furious all the time.  It’s almost a shame, because diversity of ideas in a democracy is a good thing, but when they are poisoned with hate, they can’t be taken seriously.
Sweet Celestia, this is some Anita Sarkessian-level deflection. It’s ripped straight from the professional victim’s handbook:

1) Say something blatantly stupid on the internet.
2) Watch as people call you out for your own stupidity.
3) Cry and complain about how everyone is attacking you.

That’s pretty much the gist of his article. Not once does he respond to any legit criticism to his previous article, such as how Honduras is not libertarian. Instead, he simply cries about how the big mean libertarians are ganging up on him and calling him mean, nasty names. (Again, these tactics are nearly Sarkessian!)

Look, I understand firsthand the mental trauma that can come from people constantly barraging you with troll and hate comments, and clearly any hate he received that wasn’t directly related to the insipid points he made in his insipid screed are clearly uncalled for.

But, I’m sorry, you don’t get to write for a big name political blog like Salon and complain about how people who vehemently disagree with you are vehemently disagreeing with you. You’re not some kid on the playground being picked on by school bullies: you’re one of the lackies of the bully lurking in his shadow and snickering as you watch him ruffle up one poor kid for his school money.

By opposing libertarians, you are choosing to align yourself with an oppressive and powerful institution which has no problem prying and spying into people’s personal lives, dictating what people do in their own bedrooms, shooting people down for committing petty offenses, and breaking down small businesses for the sake of large corporations—so excuse us if our “hate, vitriol and disgust” towards it makes us seem as though we can't be taken seriously, because we sure as hell take its oppression and your apologism for it very much seriously.

Jumping The Steven Universe Bandwagon

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been binge watching Steven Universe, and as a result, I’ve grown to really love the show. I’d say it’s even my favorite animated series—second only to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, of course!

Interestingly enough, it seems as though I’m not the only brony who’s fallen in love with the show. Derpy News has been regularly posting episode reviews, and Equestria Daily announced that it’s creating a SU fan site.

Other notable people have also expressed their love for the show. Mr. Coat recently did a tribute to the show, Tommy Oliver offered his two cents on it, and the Cartoon Hero announced that he’s going to review it in the future.

Since I also love the show, I’d figure I jump the Steven Universe bandwagon and start blogging about it myself.

Starting in April, I’m going to start regularly posting “Daily Stevie” posts where I share SU fan-related content. To balance this out with my “Daily Pony” posts, I’ll be alternating between the two. One day, I’ll post something MLP:FIM-related; the next, something SU-related.

Also, as with MLP, I’m also going to start posting episode recaps. I’m going to start with the first episode and continue on until I’ve caught up with the recent ones. There’s been more than 50 episodes released thus far, but since they’re all 11-minutes each, creating recaps of them won’t be as much of a hassle as my Pony Recaps. As such, I expect to create at least two to three per week.

I can’t overstate this enough: I love this show. If you like the show, hopefully, you’ll enjoying my perspective on it. If you haven’t watched it yet, hopefully, my regular posts will get you interested enough to give it a try—and then you too can believe in Steven!

30-Something Nerdy Critics

Hope you're hyped for the Nostalgia Critc/AVGN Ninja Turtles review tommorow. If not, this preview they released will get you hyped:

30-Something Nerdy Critics
30-Something Nerdy Critics
30-Something Nerdy Critics
Bitching over nothing, geeky power!

They're the world's most sheltered whiny geeks (We're really white!)
They're zeroes in a nutshell, and they're freaks (Hey! Go freak your mother!)
When the evil Bay attacks, these boys will show he's a motherfreaking hack!
30-Something Nerdy Critics
30-Something Nerdy Critics

TV taught them about their turtle teams (We wasted our lives to this thing!)
Nerd reviews games, Critic reviews bad movies (Space Jam still freaking sucks!)
That’s really all that there is, what you’re hearing now is filler there is. (Catchphrase!)

30-Something Nerdy Critics
30-Something Nerdy Critics
30-Something Nerdy Critics
Bitching over nothing, geeky power!

Libertarian Education Policy: Sweden

Those who oppose school vouchers and school choice in general tend to cite lack of positive results of voucherization...But we can learn something about when choice works by looking at Sweden’s move to vouchers.

A recent paper by Bohlmark and Lindahl uses high quality administrative data for the entire country of Swedend for students who attended compulsary school (grades 1 through 9) from 1988 to 2009. Importantly this includes data for the period prior to the 1992 voucher reform. This allows them to control for pre-reform trends...a fact that Bohlmark and Lindahl argues may have biased the results.

Sweden’s voucher policy allowed easy entry of independently run private schools which any student could attend. Prior to this policy less than 1% of Sweden’s students attended private schools, but by 2009 it had increased to 11%. The authors find that the higher percent of voucher students there are in a district the better students do on a variety of outcomes. They find a a positive effect on test scores, compulsary school grades, choosing an academic high-school track, high-school grades, probability of attending college, and average education by age 24. The study is impressive in it’s scope of data, especially in tracking later outcome variables.

Importantly, they find that the primary way that competition effects outcomes is by improving the performance of the nearby public schools, and not by outperforming the public schools. I’ve written before that focusing on static comparisons of charter/voucher and public schools is missing some of the largest gains. And it is also consistent with previous work from David Card et al on school competition in Canada. The effects of real school choice reforms are systemic and long-run. The Swedish study supports the importance of looking at the long-run: they found that positive effects of choice in Sweden didn’t occur until a decade after the reform was put in place.

The authors discuss some important characteristics of the Swedish system that may contribute to the success. First, the Swedish system does not allowing parents to pay additional fees on top of the voucher.Second, there are strong rules about how schools must accept students. They cannot use ability, socio-economic status, or ethnicity.  The authors argue that if competition on selection is prevented, schools are more likely to compete on quality:
“The conditions for school choice that are likely to generate the most positive effects on overall school productivity are discussed in MacLeod and Urquiola (2009). Their framework is a reputation model of learning. They argue that in the Chilean system (where schools can select students based on ability), the schools are more likely to compete by selecting the best students instead of with increasing productivity. In a system like the Swedish, where creamskimming is not allowed, the schools are more likely to compete by improving productivity. In fact, MacLeod and Urquiola (2009) state that if the reputation model holds for a school market, then “if schools cannot select on ability, the introduction of school choice will unambiguously raise school performance and student outcomes.”  The positive educational performance effects found in this paper and the absence of  effects found in Hsieh and Urquiola (2006) [for Chile] support their story.
This is an important lesson school choice reformers should seriously consider.

Another important factor is that for each student that attends an independent school, the school received an amount equal to a large majority of the average per-pupil cost of the students public school system, and this is paid by the student’s municipality. This means that the resources available to the local public school are decreased as more students choose independent schools. This increases the competitive pressure, which the results suggest is an important determinant of improving outcomes. In addition, any kind of organization can start a school, including for profit companies. The authors write:
“Importantly, the full financing of  the  independent schools comes from the local government in the form of a voucher for each student they attract. Hence, we expect a stronger economic pressure on the local public schools the more students that chooses to opt out and attend independent schools.
This all suggests we should not be shielding public schools from the pressure of competition, but designing reforms that ensure that competition can have it’s positive effect.

Overall this study and the case of Sweden’s voucher program have lessons that reformers and reform critics in this country should consider.

- "Lessons on School Choice from Sweden", Adam Ozimek (Forbes). (And to anyone who claims that Sweden is having an "education crisis", read this article.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Libertarian Healthcare System: Switzerland

One of the most frequently-made arguments in favor of socialized medicine is that it saves money, relative to the American system. And it is true that Europeans et al. spend less per-capita, and as a percentage of GDP, than we do.

But the pro-socialism argument has a glaring weakness: it ignores the two most significant examples of market-oriented universal coverage in the developed world, Switzerland and Singapore, where state health spending is far lower than it is in other industrialized nations. Neither Switzerland nor Singapore could be described as libertarian utopias--both systems contain aspects that conservatives wouldn't like--but they provide powerful examples of how market-oriented health care systems are more cost-efficient than socialized ones.

I've described Switzerland as having the world's best health-care system. In Switzerland, there are no government-run insurance plans, no "public options." Instead, the Swiss get subsidies, much like "premium support" proposals for Medicare reform or the PPACA exchanges, from which Swiss citizens buy health care from private insurers. The subsidies are scaled up or down based on income: poorer people get large subsidies; middle-income earners get small subsidies; upper-income earners get nothing.

The OECD puts Switzerland high on the league tables in terms of government health spending, but that is due to a statistical anomaly. Switzerland has an individual mandate; the OECD defines state health expenditures to include insurance premiums that the government requires individuals to pay, even if that spending is on private insurance. That is a debatable approach from the OECD, because the spending goes directly to the insurers, without the government as a redistributor. If you adjust for this anomaly, Swiss state health spending is $1,281 per person (which accounts for the taxpayer-financed premium support subsidies). I've listed both figures in the chart.

The premium support system allows the Swiss to shop for their own insurance plans, which gives them the opportunity to shop for value--something that almost no Americans do. As a result, about half of the Swiss have consumer-driven health plans, combining high-deductible insurance with health savings accounts for routine expenditures....

How could something like this come about in the United States? One could imagine a scenario in which Medicare was converted into the premium-support model, such as one of the Paul Ryan plans, with far more aggressive means-testing such that upper-income seniors would no longer be eligible for the program. In addition, the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance is phased out. The resultant savings could be used to offer subsidized private insurance to lower-income individuals, as a replacement for Medicaid. Obamacare's exchanges, though seriously flawed in their implementation, have some similarities to this approach. As these programs converge, we could have something that starts to look a lot like Switzerland...

My message to conservatives is: wake up. America's health care system has many qualities, but it is far more socialized than you think, and we can learn from the experience of other countries to make it better. My message to liberals is: if universal coverage is your goal, the possibility for bipartisan compromise exists, if you're open to considering market-oriented approaches like those in Switzerland...Let's put our heads together.

- "The Myth of the Free-Market American Health Care System", Megan McArdle (The Atlantic).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why Ghostbusters Really Is That Good

A while ago, film and media critic Bob “Moviebob” Chipman was let go from his position at The Escapist. Depending on your general feelings towards him, you either feel sorry for him or you’re glad that "the giant tub of feminazi lard" finally got the boot.

Personally, while I’ve never cared for his political opinions—and in many cases, really never cared for his political opinions—I do admire his insight in and extensive (almost encyclopedic) knowledge of film, gaming, and media in general. (It’s just a pity that he’s never applied his critical thinking skills to politics.)

Recently, he started a new film review series, Really That Good, where he examines classic beloved movie and reveals just why, as the name suggests, they’re really that good.

His first entry, which he released earlier today, is on Ghostbusters, wherein he elucidates on the movie’s overall theme about how just a little bit of courage and knowledge combined is powerful enough to overcome even the biggest and scariest of monsters:

The world of Ghostbusters is a world where big cosmic horrors are omnipresent but always just out of sight, where that creeping feeling of dread of an otherwise unfamiliar house, or something off about the benign zaniness of a hotel hallway at night, or the unsettling staleness of an old library are evidence of lurking malevolent horrors, where that rustling in the bushes at night really is something evil out to get you, and that creepy stranger is more than just creepy, where something really is going bump in the night, hiding under the bed, lurking in the shadows, and yes, where there is a monster in the closet.

But if they scare you, you're likely to be told that it's all in your head, or not really all that scary, or that you should get over it, which in turn is going to make you feel not only frightened, but alone. To children, that world is also known as the real world day-to-day. Kids don't need to make much of a logical leap to understand a movie where people live at the mercy of seemingly malevolent forces beyond their understanding or control. Most of them feel like they are already living like that day-in and day-out; but in the Ghostbusters world, there is something that can checkmate all that scary stuff: you.

The subtext that underlines and empowers the narrative of Ghostbusters is science and technology overcoming superstition and the supernatural, but the practical surface text is monsters and ghosts being overcome by cool gadgets--and not cool gadgets powered by the same indeterminate scary stuff that the bad guys are made of, or cool gadgets that are rare and hard to find, or cool gadgets that only certain special people can use--it's made unmistakably clear that the Ghostbusters thought up, made, and maintain the proton packs, traps, PKE meters, and containment units themselves, and that is all important for understanding the power of this power fantasy.

The unique powerful fantasy idea at the heart of Ghostbusters isn't that ghosts and monsters and demons and things that go bump-in-the-night are real, and it also isn't that they can simply be busted, it's that with the right equipment and a little bit of know-how, you can bust them...[and] the appeal to the mindset of kids is far more potent, more obvious, and more powerful. With cleverness and determination, you can take control of what scares you, assert your power of what lurks in the dark, and beat back the things that frighten you, and that core idea make Spengler, Stantz, Venkman, and Zeddemore more than just movie heroes, it makes them the spirit animals of every kid who ever set a trap for the monster under their bed or even stayed awake trying to catch a glimpse of the Tooth Fairy.

Is Laci Green A False Rape Apologist?

By now, I’m sure most of you are well aware about the UVA rape case. For those of you who are not, here’s the summary:

A few months ago, the Rolling Stone published an article about how a college girl (referred to as “Jackie”) was allegedly gang raped by seven men at a UVA frat party. I say allegedly because it was later revealed that the story had several discrepancies, and as such, the Rolling Stone, showcasing journalistic integrity, retracted it. The story was further investigated by the police, who recently announced that they could not find enough substantial evidence to support it.

You’d think that would be the end of the story, right? There’s no evidence to support it; therefore, it didn't happen. Does this mean that it absolutely never happened? Well, there’s a slight possibility that future evidence will be revealed to prove that it did, but until then, we can safely assume that it did not.

Sadly, the feminists who’ve been covering and following this story have not been as rational. Even with overwhelming evidence showing that this rape probably didn't happen, they still insist that it did and have been accusing anyone who thinks otherwise of being “rape apologists” who support “rape culture”—a concept that even the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization, RAINN, denies.

The feminist anti-rape hysteria has even spawned the embarrassing hashtag #IStandWithJackie, where internet feminists voice their support of Jackie’s story even in spite of all the evidence against it.

The Amazing Atheist and Thunderf00t have both recently made videos about this topic, and they did such an exceptional job that there’s really no need for me to further add my two cents.

Instead, I want to address a video by one of those delusional feminists who insists on “Standing With Jackie.” That feminist is none other than Laci Green, a contributor to MTV News—and further proof that MTV has died the way of the dinosaurs.

No less than five seconds into her video and she instigates face palms with the most loaded bad faith question:

Here’s a little question: why does everyone think that victims of rape are making it up?

You know, I really hate talking about rape. It’s a very sensitive subject that always handled the most insensitively. And I always feels as though I’m arguing on the wrong side: because unless you fully support hanging a man from the highest tree simply because one woman (or even one man) pointed at him and accused him of rape, feminists will label you a "rape apologist."

And I’d really hate to address this video, because it’s quite clear that Laci is arguing from bad faith, and thus has no interest in acknowledging any answer to her question that’s more loaded that a loaded potato at TGIFriday’s.

But, in the sake of free inquiry and open dialogue, I’ll bite the bullet.

Here’s the answer that I left on her video:
Laci, dear, I know you’re asking that question in bad faith, and thus you have no interest in acknowledging any answers to it, but for the sake of dialogue, I’ll answer your question anyway.

No, Laci, we do not believe that victims of rape are always making it up. We only believe they are making it up—and here is the important part—when there is no evidence to support their claims.

Yes, I know we should give rape victims—any victims of any crime—the benefit of the doubt, but we should also apply scrutiny to their claims and investigate them to make sure that they truly hold water.

For example, with the recent UVA rape story, there was no evidence to support the alleged victim’s story. After Rolling Stone published its article, it was later revealed that most of the events and details in the story were either wrong or did not happen, so the magazine did what any self-respecting journalistic publication would do and retracted the story. Then the police further investigated the story, and arrived to the conclusion that there was no evidence to support it. Now is it still possible that the woman was still raped? Yes. But right now, there is no evidence to corroborate her claims, so we have to assume it did not happen.

Does this mean all rape victims are lying? No. When there is evidence to support their claims, that is when we know they are telling the truth. This was the case with the Steubenville rape case. There was more than enough evidence to prove that the girl was raped, and thus the men who raped her were convicted of the crime. There is no doubt that her rape happened, because there was enough evidence to corroborate her story.

Now, if for some chance, new evidence would come along to prove that the UVA rapes really did occur, people would be more than willing to change their minds and believe it. Feminists, on the other hand, are more than willing to “Stand With Jackie”, even after all the evidence concludes that the rape did not happen. That is the main difference between people like me and feminists like yourself: we are more than willing to change our minds when new evidence arises.
You can't say I didn't try, though you're free to wonder why I even bothered.

SF Inmates Forced To Fight Gladiatorial Games

Have you ever seen a prison flick like The Condemned or Death Race where prisoners are made to compete in to-the-death games where the victor is promised his freedom? Well, it seems as though one San Francisco prison was secretly hosting such games, though without all the Hollywood romanticization:
San Francisco’s public defender called on Thursday for an independent investigation into the Sheriff’s Department after accusations that four deputies forced prisoners to engage in “gladiator-style fights” for their own amusement.

Jeff Adachi, the public defender, said at a news conference that the deputies forced the smallest prisoner, Rico Palikiko Garcia, who weighs 150 pounds, to fight the largest prisoner, Stanly Harris, who weighs 350 pounds.

They also “appeared to delight” in taunting Mr. Harris with jokes about his weight, the public defender’s office said in a statement, and forced him to participate in “boot camp-style exercises.”

“It was a sadistic pleasure,” Mr. Adachi said in a telephone interview. “This was like something right out of ‘Game of Thrones.’ ”

The prisoners were told they would be rewarded with a hamburger if they won, but would be sprayed with Mace, severely beaten and transferred to dangerous housing quarters if they refused to fight at all, he said. Both men were injured in the fights but were told they would be beaten if they sought medical attention.
Give movies like Death Race some credit. At least in those scenarios, the prisoners volunteered to participate in those games, and they had the reward of their potential freedom as an incentive. Here, the prisoners were forced to fight each other, and their only incentive was a lousy cheeseburger. (Is prison food really that bad that a hamburger is reward enough for getting bloodied up and beaten to a pulp?)

I wouldn’t be so bothered by this if it weren’t for the fact that America’s incarceration rates have been increasing (along with prison recidivism rates), despite violent crime rates experiencing an opposite decline—in other words, despite less crime being committed, more people are being locked up.

Meanwhile, in Norway, after its crime rate began declining, the country began shutting down its prisons. Their crime rate goes down, and their prisons get shut down. Our crime rate goes down, and our prisons find excuses to continue locking people up. Remind me again why “Murica is #1”?

Libertarian Pension System: Chile

May Day — socialists’ paean to class warfare — evokes memories of Soviet tanks in Red Square and leftist radicals rioting. But Chile celebrates the actual empowerment of workers.

May 1 marks the 30 years since Chile became the first nation to privatize its social security system. By turning workers into investors, the move solved an entitlement crisis much like the one America faces today.

“I like symbols, so I chose May Day as the birth date of Chile’s ‘ownership society’ that allowed every worker to become a small capitalist,” wrote Jose Pinera, former secretary of labor and social security and the architect of this pension revolution. He is now a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

What he designed has succeeded beyond all expectations. Yet Congress remains reluctant to adopt anything like it, despite efforts by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to partially privatize an American system.

Instead of paying a 12.4% Social Security tax as we do here, Chilean workers must pay in 10% of their wages (they can send up to 20%) to one of several conservatively managed and regulated pension funds. From the accumulated savings, they get a life annuity or make programmed withdrawals (inheriting any funds left over).

Over the last three decades these accounts have averaged annual returns of 9.23% above inflation. By contrast, U.S. Social Security pays a 1% to 2% (theoretical) return, and even less for new workers.

History shows that pension funds prudently invested in a diversified portfolio appreciate significantly over long periods of consistent saving. In 1981, the Dow industrials stood at 900; today, despite three market crashes, it’s nearly 13,000.

In 2005, New York Times reporter John Tierney worked out his own Social Security contributions on the Chilean model and found that his privatized pension would have been $53,000 a year plus a one-time payout of $223,000. The same contributions paid into Social Security would have paid him $18,000.

The system is doable here, but does require citizen education and political resolve.

First, implicit debts must be made explicit, which most politicians abhor.

Chile decided to compensate workers for money already paid into the system, through “recognition bonds.” It financed this via bonds, partial diversions of existing pension taxes, sales of state assets and spending cuts.

Its road was made even easier as economic growth from a system that encourages work, saving and responsibility filled government coffers with new streams of tax revenue.

In the U.S., Social Security already is in bad shape. It’s already paying out more in benefits than it gets in payroll tax revenue.

Politicians for decades have raided excess workers’ contributions intended to cover baby boomer retirees. They left IOUs, giving the program the right to other government revenue. But that means the Treasury has to issue even more debt.

Those political raids can’t happen in Chile — private accounts are legal property, a right Pinera embedded firmly into the 1980 constitution.

As for Social Security, even the IOUs are projected to run out in 2037. If nothing is done, payouts will have to be slashed 22%.

Private accounts could generate better returns to help offset likely benefit cuts.

Thirty countries have adopted a Chilean-style system.

Yet U.S. reform efforts have been timid. Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Road Map” called for creating personal retirement accounts with one-third of Social Security funds. But his 10-year House budget did not explicitly address the retirement program.

Given what’s at stake, it’s surprising that there is no bold proposal to “take the bull by the horns,” as Pinera put it, and reform Social Security completely on the Chile model. Missing this is missing a big one.

- "Chile’s Private Social Security System Turns 30", Monica Showalter (Investors Business Daily).

No 2015 Zelda Wii U Release

Zelda fans who’ve been anticipating playing the newest Legend of Zelda game by the end of the year will have to wait a little bit longer now, as IGN reports:
Legend of Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma said meeting a 2015 release date for The Legend of Zelda for Wii U is no longer a "number one priority."

"Since I declared at The Game Awards in December that the game would launch in 2015, the directors and the many members of the development team have been working hard developing the game to make it the best it can be," Aonuma said in a video addressing Nintendo fans.

During development, the team discovered "several new possibilities" for the game, Aonuma explained, which forced a reconsideration of their timeline and priorities.

Aonuma continued, "So, I must apologize to you all that were expecting the game by year's end, but we are no longer making a 2015 release our number one priority. Instead, our priority is to make it the most complete and ultimate Zelda game."
Even a bigger bummer, Nintendo won’t even be showcasing the game at this year’s E3.

Here’s the original announcement from Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma:

While many Zelda fans may be disappointed by this, I’m not. If a longer wait means more time for the game developers to further fine-tune the game, then I’m more than willing to wait. I’d rather have a quality game that was given the proper time and effort creating it that a shoddy product that was rushed out to market to meet a deadline.

Besides, I’ve still yet to play Hyrule Warriors; so I think I'll invest in that game, which will hopefully keep me more than pre-occupied (especially with all the cool DLC!) until the real deal releases.

Daily Pony: Caught You!

Gee, you'd think that with all the strife that Rarity put them through the first time, the last thing the Diamond Dogs would do is kidnap her again.

Art by WhiteDiamondsLtd.

Friday, March 27, 2015

No Such Thing As Bad Publicity For Video Games

Gee, you mean to tell me that when you forbid someone from doing something that you claim is evil, their first inclination is to do it? It’s almost as if this is a lesson that stretches back to the Garden of Eden—and yet politicians and moral guardians have yet to learn from it. It’s like they’ll never learn!

Libertarian Wage Policy: Finland

President Obama set the chattering classes abuzz after his recent unilateral announcement to raise the minimum wage for newly hired Federal contract workers. During his State of the Union address in January, he sang the praises for his decision, saying that “It’s good for the economy; it’s good for America.” As the worldwide economic slump drags on, the political drumbeat to either introduce minimum wage laws (read: Germany) or increase the minimums in countries where these laws exist — such as Indonesia — is becoming deafening. Yet the glowing claims about minimum wage laws don’t pass the most basic economic tests.

There are seven European Union (E.U.) countries in which no minimum wage is mandated (Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, and Sweden). If we compare the levels of unemployment in these countries with E.U. countries that impose a minimum wage, the results are clear. A minimum wage leads to higher levels of unemployment. In the 21 countries with a minimum wage, the average country has an unemployment rate of 11.8%. Whereas, the average unemployment rate in the seven countries without mandated minimum wages is about one third lower — at 7.9%.

This point is even more pronounced when we look at rates of unemployment among the E.U.’s youth — defined as those younger than 25 years of age.

In the twenty-one E.U. countries where there are minimum wage laws, 27.7% of the youth demographic — more than one in four young adults — was unemployed in 2012. This is considerably higher than the youth unemployment rate in the seven E.U. countries without minimum wage laws — 19.5% in 2012 — a gap that has only widened since the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.

So, minimum wage laws — while advertised under the banner of social justice — do not live up to the claims made by those who tout them. They do not lift low wage earners to a so-called “social minimum”. Indeed, minimum wage laws — imposed at the levels employed in Europe — push a considerable number of people into unemployment. And, unless those newly unemployed qualify for government assistance (read: welfare), they will sink below, or further below, the social minimum.

As Nobelist Milton Friedman correctly quipped, “A minimum wage law is, in reality, a law that makes it illegal for an employer to hire a person with limited skills.”

Dr. Jens Weidmann, President of Germany’s Bundesbank,must have heard Prof. Friedman and looked at these European data before he took on Chancellor Angela Merkel for proposing the introduction of a minimum wage law in Germany. In short, Dr. Weidmann said that this would damage Germany’s labor market and be a German job killer. He is right.

And, executives surveyed in the recently released Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook Survey agree, too. Indeed, Chief Financial Officers from around the world were interviewed and a significant number of them concurred: a minimum wage increase in the United States –from the current $7.25/hour to President Obama’s proposed $10.10/hour — would kill U.S. jobs. The accompanying table shows what the CFOs had to say.

Perhaps, Prof. Friedman said it best when he concluded that “The real tragedy of minimum wage laws is that they are supported by well-meaning groups who want to reduce poverty. But the people who are hurt most by high minimums are the most poverty stricken.”

High mandated minimum wages will throw people out of work and onto the welfare rolls in cases where unemployment benefits exist. When it comes to welfare payments, they obey the laws of economics, too. Indeed, if something — like unemployment — is subsidized, more of it will be produced. When the data on unemployment benefits speak, they tell us that if the unemployed receive unemployment benefits, the chances that they will become employed are reduced. Those data also show that the probability of an unemployed worker finding employment increases dramatically the closer an unemployed worker comes to the termination date for receipt of his unemployment benefits. In short, when the prospect of losing welfare benefits raises its head, unemployed workers magically tend to find work.

The most important lesson to take away from allowing the minimum wage and unemployment benefit data to talk is that abstract notions of what is right, good and just should be examined from a concrete, operational point of view. A dose of reality is most edifying.

- "Let the Data Speak: The Truth Behind Minimum Wage Laws", Steve H. Hanke (Cato Institute).

Daily Pony: The Princesses Also Work

The princesses also work by FJ-C on DeviantArt

Don't worry, Luna: if Equestria raises its minimum wage, you'll no longer have to work for peanuts--because your job will be replaced by an automated cashier! LOL! That's economics for you!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Don’t Force Stupid People To Vote!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you already know that Obama suggested making voting mandatory. Rather than rant on this myself, I’m just going to share this video by the Amazing Atheist on how forcing politically-uninterested people to vote is a bad idea:

And yes, I know, Julie Borowski recently made a video on this issue, but TJ made his video three years ago, and it’s still painfully relevant today.

Yet Another Reason I’m Not Voting For Rand Paul

I have the following litmus test for any self-proclaimed “fiscal conservative”: if they claim to support spending cuts, and yet their highest priority is not military expenditures—which we spend more on than the next eight countries combined, including China and Russia—then I know they’re not really “fiscally conservative.” In fact, if they support INCREASING our military budget, then I know they’re full of crap.

Which is why I’m never going to vote for Rand Paul, no matter how many of my fellow libertarians and libertarian-leaning Republicans have liberty boners for him:
Just weeks before announcing his 2016 presidential bid, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is completing an about-face on a longstanding pledge to curb the growth in defense spending.

In an olive branch to defense hawks hell-bent on curtailing his White House ambitions, the libertarian Senator introduced a budget amendment late Wednesday calling for a nearly $190 billion infusion to the defense budget over the next two years—a roughly 16 percent increase...

The move completes a stunning reversal for Paul, who in May 2011, after just five months in office, released his own budget that would have eliminated four agencies—Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Energy and Education—while slashing the Pentagon, a sacred cow for many Republicans. Under Paul’s original proposal, defense spending would have dropped from $553 billion in the 2011 fiscal year to $542 billion in 2016. War funding would have plummeted from $159 billion to zero. He called it the “draw-down and restructuring of the Department of Defense.”

But under Paul’s new plan, the Pentagon will see its budget authority swell by $76.5 billion to $696,776,000,000 in fiscal year 2016.
The only good thing this man has going for him is being the son of the good doctor, Ron Paul. Other than that, it seems as though the apple has fallen far from the Tree of Liberty—really far, like outside the county line far!

Throwback Thursday: The Audience Is Now Deaf

My friend was sharing with me a few Game Grumps THX parodies when I remembered this little gem from Tiny Toon Adventures (please turn down your headphones and speakers):

This is the original parody of the THX sound system promo. There is none greater than this. Well, perhaps the into to the Yu-Gi-Oh: Bonds Beyond Time abridged parody. (The audience is from Brooklyn!)

Libertarian Economic Policy: Estonia

As Greece, and now Spain and Italy, struggle with the crushing burden of debt brought on by the modern welfare state, perhaps we should shift our gaze some 1,200 miles north to see how austerity can actually work.

Exhibit #1 is Estonia. This small Baltic nation recently had a spate of notoriety when its president, Toomas Ilves, got into a Twitter debate with Paul Krugman over the country’s austerity policies. Krugman sneered at Estonia as the “poster child for austerity defenders,” remarking of the nation’s recovery from recession, “this is what passes for economic triumph?” In return, President Ilves criticized Krugman as “smug, overbearing, and patronizing.”

Twitter-borne tit-for-tat aside, here are the facts: Estonia had been one of the showcases for free-market economic policies and had been growing steadily until the 2008 economic crisis burst a debt-fueled property bubble, shut off credit flows, and curbed export demand, plunging the country into a severe economic downturn.

However, instead of increasing government spending in hopes of stimulating the economy, as Krugman has urged, the Estonians rejected Keynesianism in favor of genuine austerity. Among other measures, the Estonian government cut public-sector wages by 10 percent, gradually raised the retirement age from 61 to 65 by 2026, reduced eligibility for health benefits, and liberalized the country’s labor market, making it easier for businesses to hire and fire workers.

Estonia did unfortunately enact a small increase in its value-added tax, but it deliberately kept taxes low on businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs, refusing to make changes to its flat 21 percent income tax. In fact, the government has put in place plans to reduce the income tax to 20 percent by 2015.

Today, Estonia is actually running a budget surplus. Its national debt is 6 percent of GDP. By comparison, Greece’s is 159 percent of GDP. Ours is 102 percent.

Economic growth has been a robust 7.6 percent, the best in the EU. And, although the unemployment rate remains too high, at 11.7 percent, that is down from 19 percent during the worst of the recession. It’s hard to see how a Krugman-style stimulus would have done much better.

- "Austerity Works", Michael Tanner (National Review).

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things!

Vox lists 7 things the government spends more money on than space exploration:

Now I’m disappointed knowing that I could’ve been hanging out at a burger joint on the moon right now had our government not squandered our taxpayer money on fancy planes for wars we’ll never fight, giant playgrounds for roided-out Neanderthals, and an antiquated communication service that’s already been replaced by the internet.

Seriously, how is this not a selling point for politicians, especially for so-called “fiscal conservatives”? They could easily win an election if they campaigned on factoids such as these. Imagine them running a television ad where they tell people, “Hey, we could be halfway to Mars on our first manned mission if we didn’t waste all our money keeping the post office on life support,” or “We could be selling real estate on the moon by now if we weren’t building stadiums for the NFL—which, by the way, is tax-exempt.” Those candidates would be guaranteed a seat in the White House.

Instead, we have the usual run-of-the-mill corporate puppets proposing that we balance our budget by either raising taxes (despite Americans paying more in taxes than other basic necessities) or cutting spending (by which, they mean making cosmetic budget cuts to anemic services such as Planned Parenthood or PBS). Sigh. I could really use a Big Mac…on the moon!

Daily Pony: How Spike Got A Dictionary For His Birthday

How spike got a dictionary for his birthday by imsokyo

Twilight should know better than to piss off the person who writes her letters to the princess.

The Critic Reveals The Plot to Frozen 2

At least I have the solace of knowing that, no matter how bad the actual Frozen sequel may be, it can never be lower than the lowest bar which the Nostalgia Critic has set for it.

Also, I’m super-duper hyped about his review next week! :D

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Libertarian Corporate Tax Policy: Scandanavia

Smallish countries are often in the vanguard when it comes to reforming government. In the 1980s Britain was out in the lead, thanks to Thatcherism and privatisation. Tiny Singapore has long been a role model for many reformers. Now the Nordic countries are likely to assume a similar role.

That is partly because the four main Nordics—Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland—are doing rather well. If you had to be reborn anywhere in the world as a person with average talents and income, you would want to be a Viking. The Nordics cluster at the top of league tables of everything from economic competitiveness to social health to happiness. They have avoided both southern Europe’s economic sclerosis and America’s extreme inequality. Development theorists have taken to calling successful modernisation “getting to Denmark”. Meanwhile a region that was once synonymous with do-it-yourself furniture and Abba has even become a cultural haven, home to “The Killing”, Noma and “Angry Birds”.

As our special report this week explains, some of this is down to lucky timing: the Nordics cleverly managed to have their debt crisis in the 1990s. But the second reason why the Nordic model is in vogue is more interesting. To politicians around the world—especially in the debt-ridden West—they offer a blueprint of how to reform the public sector, making the state far more efficient and responsive.

The idea of lean Nordic government will come as a shock both to French leftists who dream of socialist Scandinavia and to American conservatives who fear that Barack Obama is bent on “Swedenisation”. They are out of date. In the 1970s and 1980s the Nordics were indeed tax-and-spend countries. Sweden’s public spending reached 67% of GDP in 1993. Astrid Lindgren, the inventor of Pippi Longstocking, was forced to pay more than 100% of her income in taxes. But tax-and-spend did not work: Sweden fell from being the fourth-richest country in the world in 1970 to the 14th in 1993.

Since then the Nordics have changed course—mainly to the right. Government’s share of GDP in Sweden, which has dropped by around 18 percentage points, is lower than France’s and could soon be lower than Britain’s. Taxes have been cut: the corporate rate is 22%, far lower than America’s. The Nordics have focused on balancing the books. While Mr Obama and Congress dither over entitlement reform, Sweden has reformed its pension system (see Free exchange). Its budget deficit is 0.3% of GDP; America’s is 7%.

On public services the Nordics have been similarly pragmatic. So long as public services work, they do not mind who provides them. Denmark and Norway allow private firms to run public hospitals. Sweden has a universal system of school vouchers, with private for-profit schools competing with public schools. Denmark also has vouchers—but ones that you can top up. When it comes to choice, Milton Friedman would be more at home in Stockholm than in Washington, DC.

All Western politicians claim to promote transparency and technology. The Nordics can do so with more justification than most. The performance of all schools and hospitals is measured. Governments are forced to operate in the harsh light of day: Sweden gives everyone access to official records. Politicians are vilified if they get off their bicycles and into official limousines. The home of Skype and Spotify is also a leader in e-government: you can pay your taxes with an SMS message.

This may sound like enhanced Thatcherism, but the Nordics also offer something for the progressive left by proving that it is possible to combine competitive capitalism with a large state: they employ 30% of their workforce in the public sector, compared with an OECD average of 15%. They are stout free-traders who resist the temptation to intervene even to protect iconic companies: Sweden let Saab go bankrupt and Volvo is now owned by China’s Geely. But they also focus on the long term—most obviously through Norway’s $600 billion sovereign-wealth fund—and they look for ways to temper capitalism’s harsher effects. Denmark, for instance, has a system of “flexicurity” that makes it easier for employers to sack people but provides support and training for the unemployed, and Finland organises venture-capital networks.

The new Nordic model is not perfect. Public spending as a proportion of GDP in these countries is still higher than this newspaper would like, or indeed than will be sustainable. Their levels of taxation still encourage entrepreneurs to move abroad: London is full of clever young Swedes. Too many people—especially immigrants—live off benefits. The pressures that have forced their governments to cut spending, such as growing global competition, will force more change. The Nordics are bloated compared with Singapore, and they have not focused enough on means-testing benefits.

All the same, ever more countries should look to the Nordics. Western countries will hit the limits of big government, as Sweden did. When Angela Merkel worries that the European Union has 7% of the world’s population but half of its social spending, the Nordics are part of the answer. They also show that EU countries can be genuine economic successes. And as the Asians introduce welfare states they too will look to the Nordics: Norway is a particular focus of the Chinese.

The main lesson to learn from the Nordics is not ideological but practical. The state is popular not because it is big but because it works. A Swede pays tax more willingly than a Californian because he gets decent schools and free health care. The Nordics have pushed far-reaching reforms past unions and business lobbies. The proof is there. You can inject market mechanisms into the welfare state to sharpen its performance. You can put entitlement programmes on sound foundations to avoid beggaring future generations. But you need to be willing to root out corruption and vested interests. And you must be ready to abandon tired orthodoxies of the left and right and forage for good ideas across the political spectrum. The world will be studying the Nordic model for years to come.

- "The Nordic countries: the next supermodel", The Economist.

Daily Pony: What's Opera, Tia?

Whoa, there, royal sun butt, you've really let yourself go! And why are you allowing that wascally wabbit to ride you rather than banishing his furry hide to the moon? He committed the unpardonable sin of making Fluttershy cry!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Libertarian Tax Policy: Estonia

An artful taxman, according to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, treasurer to Louis XIV, so plucks the goose as to obtain the most feathers for the least hissing. Such arts are lost in America. As the April 15th deadline for filing tax returns falls due, the hissing is as audible as ever. But Americans are not alone. New Zealand's tax code instils “anger, frustration, confusion and alienation” in the islands' businessmen, according to a 2001 report to ministers. Adam Smith spoke for many when he bemoaned the “unnecessary trouble, vexation, and oppression” the people suffer at the hands of the tax-gatherers.

The White House claims to be listening. Shortly after his election victory, President George Bush set up a panel to advise him on how to reform the tax system. A report is expected this summer. Judging by the remit he has given them, Mr Bush wants to iron out some of the kinks in the tax code that distort saving and deter work, while retaining tax breaks for charity and home-ownership. But he also wants to simplify the tax code for simplicity's sake.

The Americans are talking about it. Meanwhile in Europe, east of Vienna and as far afield as Russia and Georgia, they are actually doing it. In 1994, Estonia became the first country in Europe to introduce a so-called “flat tax”, replacing three tax rates on personal income, and another on corporate profits, with one uniform rate of 26%. Simplicity itself. At the stroke of a pen, this tiny Baltic nation transformed itself from backwater to bellwether, emulated by its neighbours and envied by conservatives in America who long to flatten their own country's taxes...

...At the time of its reform, Estonia also taxed labour and capital at the same rate. After 2000, however, it chose not to tax profits at all until they are distributed to shareholders as dividends. This gives companies an incentive to retain their earnings and reinvest them. Indeed, very little of the burden of taxation in Estonia falls on corporations directly: corporate taxes accounted for only 3.6% of total tax revenues in 2003.

Estonia's economy has grown impressively since its 1994 reform. Growth reached double digits in 1997, and has since settled at around 6% annually, after a slump at the turn of the century. Repealing its high tax rate on the rich did not erode the country's tax base as some might have feared. In 1993, general government revenues were 39.4% of GDP; in 2002, they were 39.6%. Estonia now plans to cut its flat tax from 26% to 20% by 2007.

But how much do Estonia's robust revenues owe to its flat income tax? Perhaps less than is frequently advertised. In 1993, the year before its reform, Estonia's multiple personal income taxes raised revenues amounting to 8.2% of GDP. In 2002, its flat income tax raised revenues worth just 7.2%. Indeed, the flat income tax that generated so much excitement abroad seems to be carrying less weight than Estonia's old-fashioned VAT, which raised 9.4% of GDP in revenues in 2002.

VAT is, of course, the flattest tax of all. It levies a uniform rate on the goods you buy, taking a constant cut of your money when it is spent as opposed to when it is earned. Estonia's VAT is also quite broad, leaving relatively few things out (hydropower and windpower were two curious exceptions). The same point could be made about Slovakia. At 19%, it has a relatively low rate of income and corporate taxes, but one of the highest rates of VAT in Europe. It may be this high rate of VAT, not the flattening of its other taxes, that sustains the government's revenues in the future.

- "Flat Tax Revolution: The Case For Flat Taxes", The Economist.

Monday, March 23, 2015

WTF?! You Can’t Cure Autism That Way!

Folks, I don’t think I have to tell you all that it’s a bad idea to drink bleach, let along pump it up your asshole. So I really don’t think I have to say that you can’t “cure” autism with bleach enemas.

Or at least I wouldn’t have to say that if it weren’t for the fact that too many gullible parents were trying to cure their children’s autism by doing just that:
Whether you have AIDS, malaria, cancer, or autism, there is a product sold on the internet that claims it can cure you. That product, called Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), sounds a lot like other pseudoscientific remedies—but unlike many suspect forms of new age medicine that are scientifically unproven but benign, MMS can actively harm you in serious ways. That's because it's a solution of 28 percent sodium chlorite which, when mixed with citric acid as instructed, forms chlorine dioxide (ClO2), a potent form of bleach used in industrial pulp and textile bleaching.

Obviously, this is not exactly something you want to put in your body. And yet some parents are giving this dangerous substance to their children, both orally and through enemas, in the belief that it will cure their child of autism.
Now that would be bad in and of itself if it weren’t also for the fact that, like every other pseudo-scientific alternative medicine “cure”, there’s a snake oil salesman peddling this crap.

This crank is Jim Humble, and as a testament to his batshit insanity, he’s a self-appointed “archbishop” of his own “church”, Genesis II, which he formed after being kicked out of the Church of Scientology. (Yes, this guy was too crazy for even the scientologists to handle!)

Sadly, he’s not alone in this cure-all scheme, nor is his influence small:
If Humble is the pater familias of this wolfpack of chicanery, a woman named Kerri Rivera seems to be its den mother. A bishop in Humble's church, Rivera is the author of a book titled Healing the Symptoms Known as Autism, in which she recommends giving autistic children "hourly doses" of chlorine dioxide and advocates chlorine dioxide enemas as a way to "kill pathogens in the brain."

Her website,, is—like Humble's website—careful to state that it does not actually sell MMS. Instead it promotes the idea that it will cure autism, sells supporting materials like her book, and offers expensive Skype consultations on administering the "treatment" that cost over $100 per hour.

In other words, while stopping short of selling MMS (likely for legal reasons), Humble and Rivera instead advocate it as a lifestyle, thereby promoting the damaging idea that the complex neurological condition known as autism is essentially a gut problem that you can somehow power-wash out of your body by pouring industrial bleach into both ends. And their followers believe them.
Yes, you’ve read all that correctly: there are desperate parents out there gullible enough to part ways with their wallets in order to learn how to administer a deadly elixir to their children in an attempt to cure the incurable —an elixir that is sure to stop them from having autism by killing them!

I’m not sure whether to feel baffled as to how people are so scientifically-illiterate to fall for this nonsense, sorry for the unfortunate parents who fell for this blatant quackery, or unbridled anger at the two quacks who are probably laughing their way to the bank with the money they swindled.

I’m sorry. Words simply fail me at this point. I just don't know what to say. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a break to look at myself in the mirror and weep for humanity.

Libertarian Economic Policy: Hong Kong

As one of the world's leading international financial centers, Hong Kong's service-oriented economy is characterised by its low taxation, almost free port trade and well established international financial market. Its currency, called the Hong Kong dollar, is legally issued by three major international commercial banks, and pegged to the US Dollar. Interest rates are determined by the individual banks in Hong Kong to ensure it is fully market-driven. There is no central banking system in Hong Kong. When destabilising factors are hitting the financial market of Hong Kong, they will be monitored and inspected by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. Electronic finance trading is evolutionarily impacting the financial market of Hong Kong.

According to Index of Economic Freedom, Hong Kong has had the highest degree of economic freedom in the world since the inception of the Index in 1995. Its economy is governed under positive non-interventionism, and is highly dependent on international trade and finance. In 2009, Hong Kong's real economic growth fell by 2.8% as a result of the global financial turmoil.

Hong Kong's economic strengths include a sound banking system, virtually no public debt, a strong legal system, ample foreign exchange reserves, rigorous anti-corruption measures and close ties with the mainland China. Despite the downturn, these strengths enable it to quickly respond to changing circumstances. It has the most efficient and a corruption-free application procedure, the lowest income tax, the lowest corporate tax as well as an abundant and sustainable government finance. The government of Hong Kong consistently upheld the policy of encouraging and supporting activities of private businesses. Examples include the Cyberport and the Hong Kong Disneyland. This has a positive impact on the overall economic performance by removing unnecessary barriers for the private enterprises in the Special Administrative Region. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is a favourable destination for international firms and firms from the mainland China to be listed on due to Hong Kong's highly internationalised and modernised financial industry along with its capital market in Asia, its size, regulations and available financial tools, which are comparable to London and New York.

Hong Kong's gross domestic product has grown 180 times between 1961 and 1997. Also, the GDP per capita rose by 87 times within the same time frame. Its economy size is slightly bigger than Israel and Ireland and its GDP per capita at purchasing power parity is the sixth highest globally in 2011, higher than the United States and the Netherlands and slightly lower than the Brunei.

By the late 20th century, Hong Kong was the seventh largest port in the world and second only to New York and Rotterdam in terms of container throughput. Hong Kong is a full Member of World Trade Organization. The Kwai Chung container complex was the largest in Asia; while Hong Kong shipping owners were second only to those of Greece in terms of total tonnage holdings in the world. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the fifth largest in the world, with a market capitalisation of about US$2.63 trillion.

Hong Kong has also had an abundant supply of labour from the regions nearby. A skilled labour force coupled with the adoption of modern British/Western business methods and technology ensured that opportunities for external trade, investment, and recruitment were maximised. Prices and wages in Hong Kong are relatively flexible, depending on the performance and stability of the economy of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong raises revenues from the sale and taxation of land and through attracting international businesses to provide capital for its public finance, due to its low tax policy. According to Healy Consultants, Hong Kong has most attractive business environment within East Asia, in terms of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). This has led to Hong Kong being the third largest recipient of FDI in the world. From its revenues, the government has built roads, schools, hospitals, and other public infrastructure facilities and services. Low levels of spending relative to GDP by having no spending on armed forces, minimal outlays for foreign affairs and modest recurrent social welfare spending have allowed the accumulation of very large fiscal reserves with minimal foreign debt.

Though not conventionally regarded as a tax haven, Hong Kong ranked fourth on the Tax Justice Network's 2011 Financial Secrecy Index.

Acting as a government, Hong Kong is the second highest ranked Asian government in the World Economic Forum's Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a government's information and communication technologies. Hong Kong ranked eighth overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, up from 14 in 2013.

- "Economy of Hong Kong", Wikipedia.

Daily Pony: Steven Universe Pony Meet-Up

Steven Universe: Pony Meet-up by Shrineheart on DeviantArt

Lately, I’ve been binge-watching episodes of Steven Universe (which is much easier to do, as episodes are only 11 minutes long), and it’s quickly become my favorite series—second only to MLP:FIM, of course! The animation is awesome, the music numbers can be quite jovial, and I would even argue that the storytelling and commitment to continuity rivals that of MLP:FIM. Considering its creator used to work on Adventure Time, it only made sense that this series had the same level of quality—if not better. (And in case your wondering, Amethyst is my favorite gem!)

With all that said, I can honestly see this scene happening in the actual series—especially with Ronaldo being a brony! (He would be my favorite non-gem character!)

John Oliver On Municipal Violations: Shut Down The F*** Barrel!

I’ve never received a speeding ticket before, and I most definitely don’t want to after watching John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight segment on municipal violations, and how little people have been royally screwed over citations and fines—or as Mr. Oliver most succinctly put it, been forced into the f*** barrel:

I really hope this smacks sense into people who still insist that Ferguson was an “isolated incident.” Because it freaking isn’t. It’s a freaking systemic problem that turns law enforcement officers into profiteering racketeers.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: making a service “public” does not remove the “profit motive”: it merely turns it into a monopoly that removes any incentive to do a good job—because if people are forced to pay for what you do, it really doesn’t matter if you’re doing a good job or not.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Libertarian World Tour Starting Tomorrow

Often statists ask libertarians why there haven’t been any libertarian countries, and often libertarians are left stumped by this inquiry. While there may not have been any purely libertarian countries, there have been plenty of countries that have successfully implemented libertarian policies.

Over the next few days, I will be publishing articles and resources showcasing countries that have implemented libertarian policies ranging from economics, taxation, minimum wage, healthcare, education, drugs, and pensions—all of which have experienced exceptional success, and which serve as shining examples of libertarian policy done right.

Hopefully, this will provide much needed ammo the next time a statist tries to stump a libertarian by asking where all of the libertarian countries are.

Visit My New Imgur

As I recently placed most of my deviations in storage, I've decided to create my own imgur gallery. I used to have another one, but I lost the password to that. So I created a new one. I've already uploaded most of my old artwork on there, alond with most of my "Statist and Anarchist" comics. Check it out!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Seriously, Guys, This Isn’t Cool

Providing even more definitive proof that America isn’t wholly a “post-racial society”, a South Dakota gun show had a vendor who was selling gun targets such as these (though to their credit, they banned the vendor once word of these targets became public):

It’s bad enough that gun control advocates try to link gun ownership with racism. They don’t need crap like this to facilitate their confirmation bias. Seriously, who thought this was remotely a good idea?!

As I said before, there’s a major difference between being a social justice warrior and calling out legitimate racism. SJWs tend to grasp at straws to try to find racism where it doesn’t exist. This isn’t grasping at straws. This is grasping a dynamite fuse within a pile of dynamite in a dynamite factory!

A Preview Of Election 2016

If you don’t get what’s being spoofed here, you’ve never been on the internet before--or at least within the past year.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Cloverfield Reaction

Lately, the Nostalgia Critic has been uploading his older videos onto the Channel Awesome YouTube channel. One of those videos was his Cloverfield Reaction video.

Yeah, remember when Cloverfield was first announced? Remember when the movie trailer was first released? Remember how everyone was guessing and discussing what the monster was going to be? Then once the movie was released, we actually saw the monster, and it turned out to be no different than every other monster movie monster.

I’m beginning to wonder if the giant robotic Donkey Kong Jesus riding a puff of smoke would have been a better choice than the actual Cloverfield monster.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Starbucks Serves Social Justice With Their Coffee

Do you like your coffee with cream? Half-and-half? A sanctimonious lecture about racial relations in America? Starbucks will be serving all of that with their new "Race Together" campaign:
Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption “Shall We Overcome?” in the middle, and the words “RaceTogether” with the company logo, on the bottom right. The ad, along with a similar one on Monday in USA Today, is part of an initiative launched this week by the coffee store chain to stimulate conversation and debate about the race in America by getting employees to engage with customers about the perennially hot button subject.

Beginning on Monday, Starbucks baristas will have the option as they serve customers to hand cups on which they’ve handwritten the words “Race Together” and start a discussion about race. This Friday, each copy of USA Today — which has a daily print circulation of almost 2 million and is a partner of Starbucks in this initiative — will have the first of a series of insert with information about race relations, including a variety of perspectives on race. Starbucks coffee shops will also stock the insert.
I hate when social justice warriors suggest we need to have a “national conversation" about race. A conversation implies mutual input and output. SJWs don’t want that. They don’t want to hear input about how black children are 70 percent more likely to grow up in a home without a father, or how inner-city black men are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school (making them 70 percent more likely to go to jail), or how blacks are more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites. They don’t want to hear any of that. They only want to give output by yelling at white people about how they are responsible for everything wrong with blacks, and how they need to correct these “systematic inequalities” through “racial restitution.”

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who considers Starbucks race-baiting PR move ridonkulous. People left and right, black and white, have taken to social media to lambast Starbucks over it. So if anything, it seems as though Starbucks managed to succeed in bringing Americans together—albeit to mock and ridicule it!