February 16, 2016

Speculation about Obama and Iran

As those who follow the news know, a few days ago Leon Panetta said that Iran is close to getting a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. will not allow that to happen. Why has the Obama administration suddenly reversed itself? Here’s a theory: Obama is preparing the nation for a military strike against Iran, which will happen if Obama looks like he’s far behind in the polls to Mitt Romney. Nothing rallies support behind the current president like dropping bombs on a foreign country. But here’s how this might backfire on Obama. Iran counterattacks against U.S. interests, and sinks some warships in the Persian Gulf. Remember that navies are sitting ducks for anti-ship missiles, and Iran has a lot of missiles purchased from our friends in China. Iran also has submarines. Iran is far more capable in this arena of warfare than Argentina which managed to sink several British ships in the 1982 Falkland Islands War. The Argentinian navy waited out the war in port after losing a ship to a torpedo fired by a British submarine. Obama does nothing about this biggest naval defeat since Pearl Harbor, against a third world country like Iran. Obama winds up looking like the weakest President since Jimmy Carter who did nothing about the Iranians holding Americans hostage except for launching a lame rescue mission that crashed in the desert. Of course this is all just speculation, so don’t go crying to me later if none of this happens.
February 15, 2016


I suspect that most of the people who criticize Reagan in the comments (I mean from a conservative perspective, lots of liberals hated him) are under the age of 40 and therefore don’t remember the context of Ronald Reagan. Maybe they look at his record and think it’s not that “convervative” but they don’t realize how liberal the country was before he was President and that he began a conservative revolution that made conservative thought more mainstream, and that he personally remade the Supreme Court to be more conservative. They also don’t remember the low self esteem we had as Americans after our military failure in Vietnam (58,000 Americans killed and the North Vietnamese still took over), and how the country felt about Iran holding our citizens hostage and Jimmy Carter unwilling to do anything about it (except for a “rescue” mission that crashed). People don’t realize what a revelation it was when Reagan intervened in Grenada and showed that the U.S. military can do something. And of course, they forget the greatest threat to America, which was the Soviet Union. Reagan stood up to the Soviet Union. Did this have anything to do with the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, or was Reagan just in the right place at the right time? Regardless, he presided over the end of the Soviet Union, an international event which greatly enhanced U.S. security and made the world a better place. Liberals liked to call him a “warmonger” but in fact he brought peace to the word. Reagan is not a president to just be judged by what legislation he proposed to Congress or what he vetoed. He is remembered for how he inspired us, how me made us feel proud to be American, how he was respected internationally by world leaders such as Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl, and Yasuhiro Nakasone. That Reagan was the greatest President of my lifetime has little to do with his specific policy positions and a lot to do with how he handled the job of President and what was accomplished.
February 15, 2016

Utilitarian libertarianism vs. religious libertarianism

There are primary motivations of people who identify as libertarian, and I classify them as utilitarian and religious. The utilitarian libertarianism believes that only good things will come from laissez-faireism and small government. For example, the “gap” between blacks and whites will be closed because without the government coddling of minorities, the minorities will have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and thereby become self-sufficient and responsible citizens. Because all but a tiny minority actually understands the truth of HBD, everyone else, including liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, believe that their own brand of politics will solve all of our racial problems. Leaving libertarian creationism aside, the utilitarian libertarian believes that we will have the strongest economy and all citizens will benefit if all government regulations were removed and the free market will just do its thing. Now they aren’t 100% wrong, and in fact I agree that the majority of government regulations are bad regulations, designed by religious liberals who want to remake society in a liberal manner and don’t care about the economics of the regulation, or because they simply refuse to do basic cost benefit analysis and see that the cost of compliance with a regulation exceeds its benefit. But there are many examples where the libertarians are wrong. Without regulations on banking, the banks would just lend out all of their money so that they all have dangerously low reserves and a recession would trigger a big collapse of the banking system. Businesses would happily profit off of negative externalities because they only care about making money and not about whether the means in which they make money benefits society. I used to be opposed to the minimum wage in my youth, but now I realize that the minimum wage benefits the class of workers it’s designed to help. Part of the utilitarian aspect of libertarian beliefs is the idea that all money earned in a “free market” is exactly equal to the value created, and therefore Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have created more value than anyone else as demonstrated by their vast wealth. Other top value creators would have to include Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, and Al Gore (who is very rich). The religious libertarian doesn’t care about whether libertarianism causes good things to happen. They see the government as pure evil, and they are opposed to government even when government does good. They are religious like the people who would rather see a mother die than have an abortion that would save her life. But the true religious libertarians are a tiny minority; they need the utilitarian argument behind them for their position to have any support. Pointing out that the rich people didn’t earn their money by creating value, or that a government regulation can occasionally do good, creates anger and cognitive dissonance.
February 15, 2016

Half Sigma on drugs

Because I am no longer a pure libertarian, and I believe in HBD, I now understand the following two facts: (1) sometimes it is the proper responsibility of government to protect people from themselves; and (2) people with low IQs or addictive personalities (both inherited personality traits) are unable to look out for their own interests. But I still believe that the government has gone too far in the “war on drugs.” I think that the cost of the “war” and the collateral damage to freedom and liberty is greater than the benefit of keeping drugs out of the hands of the irresponsible. It seems to me that the “drug war” only prevents responsible middle class people from buying drugs. I wouldn’t know where to get illegal drugs if I wanted to. But somehow, all of the poor and stupid people, those who need the most protection from drugs, all know where to get the stuff despite their illegality. The drug war has also failed in that college kids commonly do drugs, and in fact there’s an aura of uncoolness among those who have actually obeyed the law and never partook of illegal drugs. Even President Obama admitted to using marijuana and cocaine. I think the acceptance that violating the law is a “cool” thing to do is indicative of our nation’s moral decay independent of drug issues, but that’s a different topic. There’s an argument to be made that our country would have been better off had there been a successfully prosecuted drug war, but I think that it’s time to admit defeat and move on. Why is it that prohibition lasted only a few years and was repealed by constitutional amendment (which requires strong super-majority support) but this war on drugs goes on forever? Clearly, government programs have a lot more inertia behind them today than they did in the 1920s and 1930s.
February 15, 2016

About Vice Presidents

As you should know, the Vice President doesn’t do anything important, and certainly has no say over policy decisions, unless the President dies while in office. Otherwise, all he does is go to funerals. According to my reading of the Constitution, the Vice President is supposed to be like a 101st Senator, but all modern VPs seem to ignore that role and only head over to the Senate if they need to break a tie. Theoretically, the VP could break a tie in the opposite direction that the President wants him to, but when was the last time that happened? The last time a President died in office was in 1963 when Kennedy was assassinated, so the Vice President doesn’t get to take over very often. Given that the Vice President’s job isn’t very important, people seem to make a big deal about who the presidential nominee selects for the job. There is one theory that a candidate should select a VP who can help carry a key state which the presidential candidate by himself would otherwise not have carried. However, there is little evidence that this has made a difference in any recent elections. In the election of 1992, Bush carried Indiana, Dan Quayle’s home state, and Clinton carried Tennessee, Al Gore’s home state. However, in 1996, Dole still carried Indiana without Dan Quayle, and in 2000, Al Gore wasn’t even able to win his own home state of Tennessee! The conclusion therefore is that Bush and Clinton would have won Indiana and Tennessee respectively even if they had different running mates. Furthermore, in both the 1992 and 1996 elections, Clinton has such a large margin of victory that he would have still clobbered his opponent even without Tennessee. Other than the key state angle, I think that the best advice for selecting a VP is to select one who will do no harm. There is a lot more evidence of VP’s hurting their ticket than there is of them bringing in extra votes. The three worst VP picks during the last thirty years were Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, Dan Quayle in 1988, and Sarah Palin in 2008. All three of these worst VP picks laced gravitas. Voters couldn’t imagine them being ready to take over in case the President died. Given the importance of Florida in the election of 2000, I strongly suspect that Mitt Romney is giving serious consideration to Marco Rubio the Jr. Senator from Florida, based on the idea that Rubio can help carry Florida which could be the key state for winning the election. I don’t like the idea of Rubio because (1) he’s not a true natural born citizen; (2) he lied about the circumstances of his family’s emigration to the United States; (3) it feels like cheap Republican pandering to the Hispanic vote (and it’s not even clear to me that any non-Cuban Hispanics really care); and (4) a young guy like Rubio without any executive experience lacks gravitas. Candidates who I like for VP include Eric Cantor, Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. Some readers may note that none of these guys are evangelical Christians. Yes, I think that an evangelical Christian VP is a really bad idea because those guys scare away the secular voter, thus violating the rule that the VP candidate should do no harm. Who do you think those evangelicals are going to vote for otherwise? The atheist/Muslim Obama? I don’t think so. * * * On the Obama side, I have heard talk about Obama dumping Biden in favor of Hillary. That’s also a really lousy idea for Obama. Obama won with Biden, and Biden has more experience in the role of VP than Hillary, so why rock the boat? Who would vote for an Obama/Hillary ticket who wouldn’t vote for an Obama/Biden ticket? No one I can think of. * * * Marco Rubio, who only became a Senator in the election of 2010, reminds me of Dan Quayle because of his youth and inexperience. Dan Quayle was also supposed to be good-looking and was going to attract the female vote, but that backfired because it was so obvious. * * * A commenter said that Edwards was a bad pick. This would have turned out bad if Kerry had actually won the election, because eventually there would have been a scandal. But none of that stuff came out during the election, and I don’t see any evidence that Edwards hurt Kerry. Edwards’ youthful energy and good looks seemed to help. Edwards proved himself by coming in second place in the presidential primaries, so he was a safe choice. If there is a good second-place finisher in the primaries, that’s often a good pick for VP, such as George Bush in 1980.