Thursday, February 17, 2005

Greenwatch: Kyoto protest beaten back by inflamed petrol traders

Looks like the militant greens got a taste of their own medicine:

WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail.
What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

“We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”

Greenpeace had hoped to paralyse oil trading at the exchange in the City near Tower Bridge on the day that the Kyoto Protocol came into force. “The Kyoto Protocol has modest aims to improve the climate and we need huge aims,” a spokesman said.

Protesters conceded that mounting the operation after lunch may not have been the best plan. “The violence was instant,” Jon Beresford, 39, an electrical engineer from Nottingham, said.

“They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.” When a trader left the building shortly before 2pm, using a security swipe card, a protester dropped some coins on the floor and, as he bent down to pick them up, put his boot in the door to keep it open.

Two minutes later, three Greenpeace vans pulled up and another 30 protesters leapt out and were let in by the others.

They made their way to the trading floor, blowing whistles and sounding fog horns, encountering little resistance from security guards. Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach. The IPE conducts “open outcry” trading where deals are shouted across the pit. By making so much noise, the protesters hoped to paralyse trading.

But they were set upon by traders, most of whom were under the age of 25. “They were kicking and punching men and women indiscriminately,” a photographer said. “It was really ugly, but Greenpeace did not fight back.”

Mr Beresford said: “They followed the guys into the lobby and kept kicking and punching them there. They literally kicked them on to the pavement.”

Last night Greenpeace said two protesters were in hospital, one with a suspected broken jaw, the other with concussion. [TimesOnline]
I don't know how to view this, but I do have to admit that a part of me laughed when I read about the Greenpeace thug talking about the "Cockney barrow boy spivs." Takes one to know one, eh?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Leave it to the Libertarians

The Ludwig von Mises Institute has reached an all time low, equating the Bush administration’s proposed increase in Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI) benefits for solders killed in combat to the money Islamic dictatorships pay out to the families of suicide bombers. According to N. Joseph Potts, a former Viet Nam-era Navy disbursing officer and contributor to the Mises Institute’s weblog:

Now, it won't just be Islamist suicide bombers whose families are limned and paid off for the death of their fighters—American warriors, too, will have a rather similar emolument, which for the economically disadvantaged families so overrepresented in the ranks of the armed forces may bulk quite as large economically as do those received by the survivors of their adversaries. If it works for Islam, maybe it will work for democracy as well. [, February 11, 2005]
Potts’ premise is appalling. The SGLI program was developed to provide insurance benefits for service members who may not be able to get insurance from private companies because of the extra risks involved in military life. SGLI is a benefit of military service, providing service members with the piece of mind that their loved ones will not be destitute in the event of their death and is no more an inducement to kill one’s self than any other form of life insurance. Yet Potts holds otherwise, claiming that since most of the fallen are without spouses or children, SGLI is little more than hush money for bereaved parents.

Potts’ view is an affront to the men and women who have fallen in combat; it impugns their act of valor as little more then death-worship and abject self-sacrifice. For all of America’s ills, only a Rothbardian-addled libertarian could claim that suicide has now become the American way.

If our nation is to have an army dedicated to protecting freedom, those who serve in it must be offered values in exchange for their service. As I observed in 2003 in a blogpost that became a letter to the Washington Times opposing calls for re-instatement of the draft:

To convince men and women to serve in the military, [y]ou need to impress upon them of the gravity of the threat today and the manner in which it impacts them. You need to convince them of the benefits of the martial lifestyle, and pay them enough so that the cost of their service is not the derailment of every other aspect of their lives. And lastly, you must keep the promise that if they are wounded or fall in battle, they and their loved ones will be cared for by a grateful nation.
If N. Joseph Potts wants to condemn statism for leading to needless warfare, he is right to do so. If he wants to condemn the low pay servicemen receive (as he attempts in his essay), he is also right to do so. But to claim that there is no justification for an increase in the death benefits offered servicemen is utterly unfounded. It blames the solder who fights and dies to protect the Constitution for the larger cultural shortcomings that prevent its more perfect interpretation. The attempt is vicious and detestable, and it serves as yet another indictment of the libertarian ideology and those who hold it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I see Paris, I see France . . .

I see that the Virginia legislature has utterly lost its marbles about people’s underpants:

Virginians who wear their pants so low their underwear shows may want to think about investing in a stronger belt.

The state's House of Delegates passed a bill Tuesday authorizing a $50 fine for anyone who displays his or her underpants in a "lewd or indecent manner."

Del. Lionell Spruill Sr., a Democrat who opposed the bill, had pleaded with his colleagues to remember their own youthful fashion follies.

During an extended monologue Monday, he talked about how they dressed or wore their hair in their teens. On Tuesday, he said the measure was an unconstitutional attack on young blacks that would force parents to take off work to accompany their children to court just for making a fashion statement.

"This is a foolish bill, Mr. Speaker, because it will hurt so many," Spruill said before the measure was approved 60-34. It now goes to the state Senate.

The bill's sponsor, Del. Algie T. Howell, has said constituents were offended by the exposed underwear. He did not speak on the floor Tuesday. [AP]
What’s next? A bill that outlaws plumber butt?

UPDATE: Thankfully, the state Senate had droped the bill today:

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia lawmakers dropped their droopy-pants bill Thursday after the whole thing became just too embarrassing.

The bill, which would have slapped a $50 fine on people who wear their pants so low that their underwear is visible in "a lewd or indecent manner," passed the state House on Tuesday but was killed by a Senate committee two days later in a unanimous vote.

Republican Sen. Thomas K. Norment said news reports implied that lawmakers were preoccupied with droopy pants.

"I find that an indignation, which dampens my humor," Norment said.

Republican Sen. Kenneth Stolle, the committee chairman, called the bill "a distraction."

The committee hearing drew a standing-room-only crowd that included about 75 government students from Surry County High School.

"If people in Florida can wear bikinis, a little underwear showing isn't going to hurt anybody," 17-year-old Elvyn Shaw said.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Delegate Algie T. Howell, declined to answer reporters' questions Thursday but issued a statement saying the bill "was in direct response to a number of my constituents who found this to be a very important issue."

He has said the constituents included customers at his barber shop who were offended by exposed underwear. [AP]

Virginia is for Lovers (Who Are Not Gay)

Welcome to the new Puritanism:

The Virginia House approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Tuesday, despite a warning from the state's first openly gay legislator that the measure will one day prove as shameful as slavery and segregation.
The House voted 78-18 in favor of a resolution similar to one easily approved in the Senate on Monday.

If negotiators can reconcile the two versions this year, and the measure passes both chambers again next year, it will be put to the voters in November 2006.

"Today is one of those moments for which we shall one day be ashamed," said Democrat Adam P. Ebbin, who is gay.

Supporters of the amendment contend it is vital to warding off court rulings such as one in Massachusetts that made gay marriage legal there.

The Family Foundation's executive director, Victoria Cobb, said Ebbin's remarks about Virginia's racist past were unseemly.

"This is not a case where there are separate drinking fountains. There are no lack of voting rights, no segregated schools," she said. []
No, it's just a case where consenting adults are barred by law from codifying their relationships under the law. Combine the proposed constitutional amendment with the recently passed Virginia statute that voids partnership contracts between persons of the same sex and it becomes all too clear just how deeply Virginia has descended into the Dark Ages.

In 1776, George Mason wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which affirmed that “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” Over the many years, Mason’s sentiments were extended, first to women and then to blacks. It is high time Virginia recognize that these rights apply to gays as well.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Microsoft's Moral Sanction II

In response to my earlier post on Microsoft, ROR reader Ryan Jensen posted a link to a seven page memo Microsoft has produced titled "The European Commission's Decision in the Microsoft Case and its Implications for Other Companies and Industries." This memo helps illustrate the deficiencies with Microsoft's defense of its rights. In a series of points illustrating the harm caused by the European Commission's antitrust enforcement efforts, Microsoft offers the following argument:

Fifth, the Decision rejects Microsoft's desire to maintain its intellectual property for its own use, adopting an impressionistic analysis that would enable the Commission to order compulsory licensing in virtually any market and in any case. The Decision pays little regard to the incentives that intellectual property rights create for a company to invest in product improvements and for a company's competitors to invest in their own innovations rather than simply copying from others. Instead, the Decision opts for compulsory licensing on the basis of an assertion that "on balance" innovation in the industry overall would be greater if the technology and IP rights were shared with competitors. (Para. 783.) Such an approach clearly creates new law and economic policy for Europe. By casting aside the exceptional circumstances test of Magill, the Decision obligates dominant firms to license their technology to competitors whenever the Commission determines that reducing a dominant firm's incentive to innovate would nonetheless be good for an industry overall. This unbounded test would have a profoundly negative effect on innovation and investment by market leaders around the world who sell their products in Europe.
Earlier and subsequent points illustrated in Microsoft's memo are:

  • The Commission's decision does not confine the use of the compulsorily licensed intellectual property to a secondary market.
  • The intellectual property rights at stake are the essence of Microsoft's business, the development of operating system software.
  • There is no basis for concluding that the use of Microsoft's proprietary communications protocols is indispensable to the creation of competing server operating systems.
  • The Commission's decision rests on a very narrow product market definition that bears little resemblance to the real world.
  • The Commission's decision ignores international treaty obligations designed expressly to prevent this type of broad-based compulsory licensing of intellectual property rights.

So in a list of six key points, the right to property ranks fifth, and only in so much as property creates "incentives [f]or a company to invest in product improvements," i.e., only in so much as the right to property serves the needs of others.

If service to others is Microsoft's best argument to the public in defense of its rights, Microsoft will continue to see those rights eroded. Microsoft's arguments are dishonest; everyone knows Microsoft is a profit-making company that exists for the sake of its shareholders--welcome to capitalism. Yet once again, Microsoft is attempting to prove otherwise. I don't think it can succeed, and in even trying, the firm looks foolish.

Microsoft has already paid out billions in unjustified antitrust claims. We are told that it must take such action in accordance with its fiduciary responsibilities. Yet how many of these responsibilities will be left if Microsoft refuses to defend against those who loot the firm on the moral grounds the looters operate? If Microsoft's looters claim that the firm has an obligation to sacrifice to its competitors, why can't Microsoft, just for once, defend its right to exist for its own selfish sake?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Microsoft's Moral Sanction

This from AFX:

Bill Gates, chairman of US software giant Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ: MSFT - news) , said he is 'very responsive' to the European Commission's demands concerning the implementation of the EU's antitrust ruling against the company.
Gates was speaking to reporters after attending a session of the European Parliament. He said: 'Anything they (the commission) want us to do better, I will listen very carefully and make sure we are very responsive.'

The company is under fire for failure to implement sanctions imposed by the EU in March 2004 in a satisfactory way. The company, ruled to be abusing its dominance in the market, was ordered to disclose business secrets and sell its windows operating system and media player separately.
"Very Responsive?" How about saying that the European Commission's antitrust demands were a mountain of bull and that neither Gates nor Microsoft would lend them any credence by even attempting to comply with them.

If Microsoft is going to be looted, it should at least have the moral fiber not to pretend that the looting is legitimate.

The New Right’s Veneer of Freedom

John Lewis sees the New Right exactly for what it is:

The evidence of the past two decades is unimpeachable: the political right in America no longer stands for individual rights, limited government and capitalism. The “rightists” now advocate expanding the welfare state, increasing government intrusion into our intimate private affairs, and sacrificing American lives to foreign paupers. They call it “advancing the cause of freedom.”

This is not what the right once stood for. Fifty years ago one could recognize serious problems in their positions, but also that by and large they favored individual liberty, opposed the growth of government beyond necessity, and advocated a strong military defense. In contrast, the left wanted socialism, the welfare state, and, following Vietnam, military humility.

Historically, and in broad terms, the right often tried to uphold the virtues of productiveness, independence, self-reliance, and American self-interest. They opposed the New Deal and the Great Society, as well as foreign wars that were not in America’s interests, as assaults on freedom. It was Democrats such as Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson who brought America into such wars, and who institutionalized massive redistribution of wealth at home. The right co-opted many statist measures of the left—such as anti-trust—but they generally saw America’s proper condition as peaceful production and free enterprise.

When the socialist assault began, the right became the opposition, facing a tide of motivated leftists who claimed that science and history were on their side. But what arguments, and what moral principles, did those on the right have for their own programs? Only vague statements of American ideals and virtues, held as floating ideas rather than with secure understanding. Consequently, “normalcy” in the 1920’s was accompanied by huge increases in foreign aid, and ever larger infringements on domestic, especially economic, affairs.

They called on “Rugged Individualism” as an ideal—but could not say why this was morally right. They said “the business of America is business,” but had no answer when told this was rule by robber barons. They proclaimed that “what is good for GM is good for America,” but could not defend GM’s profits. They spoke up for “capitalism” but wilted when told that it did not make everyone equal. They often maintained that America should pursue its own interests, but could not say why those interests did not include American soldiers dying for foreigners overseas.

Implicitly, they admitted that individualism unredeemed by sacrificial handouts is selfish, and everyone knew that there was no moral goodness in that.

So the right grew shameful of its own principles. In order to be moral they said “me too” to the demands of the left, bickering over methods and degrees. The welfare state grew exponentially under both parties, since the right could not oppose it on principle, and often tried to pre-empt the proposals of the left. All the momentum was on the side of increasing redistribution and foreign sacrifices. Opposition was fleeting, and coalesced only vaguely when the Republicans were forced into opposition.

The twentieth-century marks the Triumph of the Left. Everywhere socialism was tried openly it failed openly—but wherever it was smuggled in, it became the new norm. Those on the right became the most expert smugglers, for they had the most to hide.

The right failed to comprehend fully that by the time of Vietnam, the left—now the New Left—was intellectually and morally bankrupt. Outside of Berkeley and Boston, no one believed in socialism any more, and the New Leftists had only the appeal to altruism (and opposition to the “establishment”) to disarm their opponents. But this was enough, for the right agreed with this basic moral position. In the following decades the ideal of socialism died, exposed as nihilism, but the leftists achieved a Pyrrhic victory, for the right continued to accept the principles established by the left. The Republicans saw no place else to go.

Under the leadership of Ronald Reagan (once a New Deal Democrat), they equated freedom with economics, admitted their obligation to help the oppressed world-wide, and accepted Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms as institutionalized by Johnson’s Great Society. Morally, they accepted the righteousness of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” a corollary of “give unto the poor.” Coming to see the welfare state as an irrevocable fact of nature, they acted pragmatically. Ceasing to oppose it, they set out to manage it. Their gang, they said, could do a better job with the nitty-gritty of running it.

The result has been further decay of political freedom, in thought and in practice. As President Bush said in his second inaugural address, “In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time.” This is an explicit statement that the “broader” idea of freedom is not political, but economic, and that freedom is implemented by extending the scope of coerced redistribution.

Recognizing the need to defend America, they accepted the foreign policy vision of Wilson, and set out to bring freedom and prosperity to overseas peoples. “Our country has accepted obligations that are difficult to fulfill, and would be dishonorable to abandon,” Mr. Bush continued. “In America's ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another.” It means exposing the checkbooks—and the bodies—of individual Americans to foreign strangers in need, while making deals with our enemies. This, we are told, is advancing freedom across the globe.

They differentiated themselves by opposing abortion, defending prayer in government schools, advocating grants to faith-based organizations, upholding censorship of the media, and making a federal case out of personal marriage decisions. These once-marginal issues have become the issues of passion for the right. Their traditional principles—limited government, and defense of American interests—have mutated into alien forms that once gestated in the left. The clarion call of religious altruism as a principle of government policy has become the moral standard by which they now claim political superiority over the old, Marxist altruism.

Accepting the surrender terms dictated by the left, and in search of a moral center to justify them, the right focused tightly on its fundamentalist core, and redefined itself, into the New Right. This moral center is found in what can now be called civic religion: a new infusion of religious faith into American politics as an ideological principle. No longer is one’s faith—or rejection of faith—a personal matter. It is a matter of political principle, a campaign slogan and the sine qua non of a successful election strategy.

This is the New Right.

The tattered remnants of individual liberty still appear in their words—sometimes spoken with passionate eloquence—but always lying in the Procrustean bed of governmental altruism. Calling it “freedom,” they further socialize America from the inside out, under the impetus of “compassionate conservatism.” Calling it the “free market” they rip out the economic heart of capitalism—private property—and replace it with a new fascism: private “ownership” with a government subsidy. Calling it a “strong national defense,” they excise the motive of self-interest, replace it with responsibilities to others, and extend the welfare state globally.

This is the key to the Redefinition of the Right. Their language continues to pay homage to liberty, but the meanings of its concepts are now quite different. The confusion flowing from this redefinition is nothing less than an assault on our cognitive capacity to grasp the meaning of freedom.

With the collapse of the New Left and the rise of the New Right, the political scenario today is the reverse of fifty years ago. Although the Republicans are split on many issues, the New Right is in a leadership position. It has claimed the moral high road, and is setting the agenda for the next decade at least. It is now the left that seeks to co-opt the moral position of the right, and is beginning to “me-too” their mantras. Suddenly Hillary Clinton is a “praying person” who sees support for “faith-based initiatives” as a means to victory.

Looking ahead, as the left struggles to claim the moral ideal of the right—the same altruism by decree, now sold in even older bottles—it may mutate into a form sculpted by the right. If no rational alternative comes to the forefront, the twenty-first-century may mark the triumph of the New Right, wearing the cloak of freedom’s name but meaning something very different.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Take a bite out of PETA

The Center for Consumer Freedom is running a petition calling for on the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax-exempt status of the "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."

Despite its deceptively warm-and-fuzzy public image, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has donated over $150,000 to criminal activists -- including those jailed for arson, burglary, and even attempted murder. In 2001, PETA donated $1,500 to the North American Earth Liberation Front, a criminal organization that the FBI classifies as "domestic terrorists." And since 2000, rank-and-file PETA activists have been arrested over 80 times for breaking various laws during PETA protests. Charges included felony obstruction of government property, criminal mischief, assaulting a cabinet official, felony vandalism, performing obscene acts in public, destruction of federal property, and burglary.
I support and have signed the petition, but I would take it one step further: if PETA is funding domestic terrorists, it should be held accountable under the laws that punish criminal conspiracy.

To sign CCF's petition, visit here.

UPDATE: Regarding some of the comments to my post, I wondered when I wrote it if it would be misconstrued as support for taxation, but I assumed most readers would recognize otherwise. Affirming an individual’s right to their wealth free from confiscation will not be achieved by allowing PETA to serve as a front group for green terrorism as an exempt organization; no one has a right to the irrational nor is the irrational the justification for freedom. Under existing law, tax exempt groups are not permitted to propagandize nor fund criminal activity. In this case, I agree with the Center for Consumer Freedom that PETA’a actions place it outside of the 501(c)(3) rubric and that PETA’s exempt status should be revoked.

The larger battle for emancipation from taxation is just that: a larger battle that will require a philosophic revolution to precede the law being made consistent with the principle of individual rights. In the interim, I support obeying the laws on the grounds that to do otherwise is an invitation for whim-worship and betrayal of the principle that the establishment of a moral government must be founded upon reason and persuasion.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Moral Basis of Mindlessness

An anonymous visitor pointed me to the following criticism of Robert W. Tracinski’s "The Moral Basis for Capitalism" by South African writer Trixy Honore at "":

[W]hat possible moral basis there actually may be for capitalism is badly let down by the author's shambolic arguments. Robert Tracinski rejects the notion that capitalism is a system we must tolerate simply because it's proved the most practical - he wants to make the far stronger claim that, far from being a necessary evil, capitalism is moral. As he does so, he bemoans the intrusions of government into the generous, life-giving projects of the all-healing market.

Simply put (though I don't think I can put it quite as simply as the original article), all the great things of our world are the product of capitalist freedom of thought and action, as Tracinski explains in his gauchely sexist language. Scientists cure us of disease, farmers grow us an abundance of food and business people create jobs and a panoply of terrific products. It's a jolly old world, isn't it?

Even better, less you suspect that this capitalist dream-world involves a nasty, immoral lust for money at any point, Tracinski hastens to point out the overarching moral of the story. Where business and the freedom of capitalism intersect, there blossoms virtue. It is the careful thought each business leader puts into their work, in order to prevent that ever morally watchful capital going elsewhere, that is the essence of this virtue.

Further more, as we learn, "The only way to respect this virtue is to leave the businessman free to act on his own judgment." And so, children, I hope now you can see the godless folly of interventionist government.
The author later goes on to attack CAC’s capitalism FAQ, particularly where we identify that the economic and technological advances made possible by the free market have reduced the ranks of those truly unable to sustain themselves, and CAC’s amicus curiae for the University of Michigan admissions cases, where we argued against the government’s use of racial proxies and for equal protection under the law.

Most ROR readers are familiar with the argument that under capitalism, there will be "market failures" that will lead to poverty, environmental degradation and "social injustice." It is interesting that Honore attacks a businessman’s right to freedom of thought as the most significant market failure. The theme of Tracisnki’s article is that an unshackled mind acting out of self-interest is necessary to produce material benefits; just as one can not expect a scientist to produce under restrains, one can not expect a businessman to produce under restrains either. Yet more than any other point, it is Tracinski’s identification of this fact that most enrages Honore.

Yet despite Honore’s flip attitude and snide tone, she never provides any evidence to refute Tracisnki; she never justifies her attack against individualism, provides evidence for her moral claim in favor of controls or shows how controls lead to greater prosperity. If an individual does not have a right to life for his own sake, just who’s sake does he live for then? If self-interest is myopic and brutal, why is it that the cultures that embrace it are prosperous and free, while the cultures that reject it are stagnant and impoverished? Honore offers no answer, but the assumption is plain: we are our bother’s keepers. If Tracinski’s article is titled "the Moral Basis of Capitalism," Honore’s article should be titled "the Moral Basis of Mindlessness."

I’ve visited three African countries: Tunisia, Senegal and Liberia. In each I witnessed a quagmire of hopeless poverty; in the case of Liberia, brutal and pointless war. We’ve already seen what tribalism and dictatorship have wrought Africa. Won’t it be a great day when we can witness what individualism and the rule of law would bring?