Why I’ll never vote for Russ Fulcher for governor, or anything else

What kind person thinks terminal patients should be forced to endure miserable, unbearable suffering through slow and painful death by being prevented from voluntarily ending their life with pain-ending medical procedures?

And what kind of human being has the gall to then go around and criticize a health care law for “getting in between the doctor-patient relationship”?

Three cheers for Citizens United v. FEC and free speech!

Today marks the four year anniversary of arguably the most controversial Supreme Court ruling of the last decade. On January 22nd 2010, in a 5 to 4 decision, the Court struck down a provision of 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, popularly known as McCain-Feingold after its two principal Senate co-sponsors, which mandated the carte blanche prohibition on corporations and unions financing independent political advertising 30 days before primary and general elections.

Right after the ruling was announced, it’s fairly safe to say that the left in America went bat shit crazy. They turned a decision that should have been praised as the greatest pro-free speech decision since New York Times v. Sullivan into “our Dred Scott,” as Keith Olbermann infamously put it, referring to the 1850’s Supreme Court decision that held upheld the forced returning of a runaway slave (that’s right, Citizens United is akin to slavery!).

In reality, Citizens United held that every American has the exact same rights as super wealthy individuals and multinational media corporations to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for the purpose of independent political speech and association.

Pre-Citizens United, a billionaire like T. Boone Pickens could take out a multi-million dollar ad buy to promote his energy plan, but any group of citizens who lacked such resources were banned from coming together to pool resources to express themselves under one banner.

Opponents of spending money on First Amendment-protected speech shrieked that now our elections would be “bought” by “the highest bidder” and mocked those who said “money is speech.” First of all, let’s never forget that voters, not contributors, determine who wins elections. Ideally, the candidate as well as independent backers should have full freedoms to raise and spend as much as they want to on trying to persuade (not “buy”) support among the voters (and his opponents are equally free to do the same), and then they vote. Period.

Second, while, true, money itself isn’t “speech,” it cannot be denied that money enables speech and by restricting the amount of money citizens can either raise and spend themselves, or give to others, for the purposes of speaking, you are engaging in de facto censorship.

Super PACs, which resulted from a later DC Court ruling that allowed for corporations and unions to raise unlimited amounts as well as spend, and activist nonprofits, have allowed for more speech and more competitive elections by allowing for more sources of money to go to more sources of speech, leading to a more informed electorate and a freer society over all.

So three cheers for Citizens United! Three cheers for free speech!

(P.S. Here is a fantastic short little video put out by the pro-First Amendment Center for Competitive Politics about all the things the anti-free speech media and activists don’t want you to know about Citizens United v. FEC)

Walter William’s “The State Against Blacks”

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I’ve been re-watching the economist Walter Williams’ 1980 documentary series “The State Against Blacks” (1980) on YouTube, which originally debuted sometime shortly after Williams’ book with that title came out in print. It really is a thorough analysis and critique of the traditional arguments attributed to the causes of black poverty and lack of advancement.

Williams, himself a black man who grew up in a Philadelphia ghetto in the 1940’s and 50’s, discusses many issues surrounding black poverty, but he mainly seeks to answer one burning question: Yes, we know racism exists in America. But how much does racism explain about Black America’s current bleak state of affairs? Williams’ diagnosis is that racism is not the main culprit–government policies that inhibit and limit the economic freedoms and rights of Blacks is. These include policies like minimum wage, monopoly state schooling, the welfare state, and general barriers the government puts up that discourage entrepreneurship and employment.

Williams backs up these claims by bringing forth sound historical evidence that suggests that even in the depths of horrible, violent, malicious white racism against blacks in late 19th, early 20th century America, the relative lack of government involvement in the economy meant that there was almost full employment for blacks and the black family structure was much more intact than even their white counterparts, which allowed for flourishing community and strong bonds with each other. This is not to look on that era with any rose-colored glasses or to minimize in anyway the day-to-day threats blacks faced to their lives, their families, their liberties, and their property, but rather merely to enunciate that there is no evidence to suggest that the amount of chronic unemployment, poverty, and broken homes we see in black communities is written in stone and can’t be undone with sound economic policies that empower rather than discourage.

If you are truly perplexed about why black poverty persists, I highly recommend you watch this documentary, conveniently broken down into several parts provided below, if you want to understand these plaguing problems. The fact that much of what Williams’ discusses is a relevant now as it was then is depressing evidence that ignoring the role of economic freedom, property rights, school choice, and civil society means that these problems will continue to severely limit the freedom and opportunity of blacks, and America will be all the worse off for it as well.

The State Against Blacks: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6

Ride-sharing, private commuter buses, autonomous cars, hyperloops, and commercial space flights: Why the future of mass transit belongs to markets, not governments

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Ride-sharing, private commuter buses, autonomous cars, hyperloops, and commercial space flights: Why the future of mass transit belongs to markets, not governments 

Transportation politics in the US is the issue that never truly dies. And like their favorite music, food, career choice, spiritual faith, and college football team, Americans’ preferred method of getting from A to B is as much a statement of who you are as whether you’re a Mac or PC guy.

Urban left-liberals routinely preach the faith of sustainability, walkability, livability, and all things “-ability.” The central creed in America’s most Progressive-oriented metropolises is that cars are bad. They believe that through mass reductions in road construction and highway expansion, and increased government spending on things like high-speed rail, light-rail, and more bike lanes, Americans’ mobility future will be much more efficient and future-oriented.

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to favor the post-Eisenhower policy of spending more on road and highway building. They are more likely to favor the policies that favor the personal automobile-intensive lifestyle where almost everyone drives themselves to work, home, church, and the hardware store.

But both groups fundamentally wrong and do not see that the future of transportation in the United States will most likely not be determined in Washington planning bureaus or state capitals, but in the creative minds of radically disruptive entrepreneurs.

The proof of this revolution is all around us.

 

The guy in your college dorm who used to give people rides to the airport is killing the taxi cartels

Travis Kalanick of Uber and Logan Green of Lyft, two popular ride-sharing businesses that recruit every day drivers that pick people up via mobile apps on customers phones, may be in competition with each other, but they are aligned in a knockdown drag out battle against the against the taxicab cartels in this country that some have dubbed the Uber Wars.

In almost every major city a strictly regulated cartel of two or three cab companies have had control of the entire taxi-riding market for decades. In fact, in some cities it can cost upwards of a million dollars just to purchase a license to do business.

But with the introduction of ride-sharing amateurs who don’t have to go through restrictive regulatory processes like the traditional cabbie, everyday Americans through technology and entrepreneurship are delivering more competition, quality, and affordability for the average consumer.

 

People are no longer going to give you a sad face if you say you take the bus to work

Much has been made of protests in San Francisco over Google’s high-tech buses using public city bus stops to shuttle their employees to and from work, and how it is a sign of alleged gentrification and the pricing out of the poor and average people out of the city (though that has more do with a lot of the pro-rent control, anti-development policies the protesters most likely favor. See here and here).

But what the protesters might realize if they take a few minutes away from their bullhorns and clichéd chants is that there actually is a private commuter bus service in the Bay Area that average companies with average income employees can pick up and take to work and take home in relative comfort and swank.

RidePal allows for companies to purchase subscriptions to buses, which are actually owned by established carriers, which can then be credited toward those companies’ employees to ride. A New York Times blog post explains:

“For employers wishing to reserve a certain number of seats on specific buses at certain times, RidePal plans to sell subscriptions, starting at $250 a month for companies of up to 50 people. That subscription is credited toward fares, which start at $8 a seat for trips within a 10-mile zone and go up to $589 for a monthly pass within the largest travel zone, which extends up to 75 miles from the pickup location.

RidePal is running shuttles from a few San Francisco neighborhoods to an office park in Mountain View as part of a limited pilot program. Ms. Criou said the service would be open to all comers after the pilot ended this summer. RidePal has enrolled around 10 companies, she said, ranging from a company with a staff of 20 to a corporation employing thousands of people, to test the service and provide feedback.” 

 

Feel free to take a nap or watch the news on your morning drive to work    

While driving a convertible Ford Mustang used to the goal of every groovy Baby Boomer growing up in Suburbia, and of their parents in the 1950’s coveting every neighbor’s massive Cadillac, recent generations have fallen out of love with the internal combustion engine—and not just for alleged environmental impacts.

Millennials are putting off getting their driver’s licenses to older and older ages, and they are also engineering a reverse white flight and re-settling in cities where cars are at best a massive pain in the ass.

That decline may just turnaround with the rapidly advancing development of mass produced, autonomous cars. These rolling robots not only have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives every year and billions of gallons in wasted fuel, they have the power, if given the freedom to innovate, to rekindle America’s love of the car.

Currently, Google, Apple, and a half-dozen other automobile manufactures having been making models and testing in more and more realistic situations. Even today, most of the high-to-middle end cars have some sort of autonomy in the breaks, steering, climate, etc.

But driverless cars have the ability to also open our minds up to all that we miss trying to not to hit the old guy who walks out into the middle of the street or the squirrel that thinks the crosswalk is nice place to chill.

The pictures, movies, and inspiration that will come of being free to catch up on life during the daily commute can rekindle our passion for the automotive.

 

Hyped Hyperloops?

Alright this one may be a little farfetched. Tesla-founder Elon Musk believes he has the next big thing when it comes to rapid transit, and it ain’t no bullet train. Musk and others are working on something that resembles a giant hamster tube that sucks all the air out and propels a sealed cylinder full of riders, floating on air, about 800 miles per hour to their destination at the other end of the country.

The rest is speculation since no working prototype is available to evaluate. But the future is listening.

 

You are now free to move about the solar system

Virgin CEO Richard Bransen has a dream to make private commercial travel in space a reality. To further this mission, he has launched Virgin Galactic to be added to his suit of “Virgin” companies. Many are bullish about Galactic and the prospects for private space flight in general. Some are evening predicting that 2014 will be a banner year for the commercial space industry.

This is becoming more and more plausible by the day. As government agencies become more and more concerned with maintaining high rates of funding, even if they lack any sense of purpose or direction, entrepreneurs are working constantly day and night to improve their results.

The decentralized nature and accountability of markets ensure that if we ever do consider private space travel a basic fact of human life, we’ll be able to thank these first-generation pioneers

 

The future is bright

What the gist of all this is is that we may finally be starting to be liberated from the clutches of the monopoly provision of transportation under government. Think about it. We live under a road system where around 40,000 people die every year. Why? What makes us put up with that? It can’t all be because of human error. At least some large portion must be due to the government, who is responsible for building and maintaining the roads.

We also live under a governmental system that believes rail, a 19th century technology, is the future. And unwilling accept basic realities, government continues to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into these massive boondoggles that rob taxpayers of their money and time.

In addition, we have a Federal Aviation Administration that still uses its original 1940’s technology to track the location of planes, even while its budget has gone up massively!

This cannot be the way. There must be a better one.

Fortunately, we’re seeing the beginnings of it now: A market revolution that is leaving government in the dust. It has captured the commanding heights of our imaginations as to what we can do and where we can go and how we can get there.

And after this whole revolution becomes obvious, perhaps then the transportation politics that I mentioned at the beginning will die a much deserved death once and for all.

Avoiding the net neutrality scam–consumers, not bureaucrats, should pick content winners

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I was elated when I heard that the DC Court of Appeals struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s power grab via its so-called “net neutrality” regulation that prohibits ISPs from “discriminating” (aka charging more for worthless content that doesn’t drive traffic) against websites and content creators.

The court’s opinion focused on the fact that the FCC had no statutory power to for a such a radical government takeover. ISP’s are currently considered “information carriers” by the Commission and thus exempt from most regulations that effect “telecomm carriers” like broadcast networks. The decision will likely spark an effort by the pro-regulation commissioners to reclassify ISPs as telecomm carriers in order to make the rules more feasible.

For the sake of a laissez faire internet, I sure hope we avoid this scam. As the Cato Institute’s information technology analyst Jim Harper points out, the effect of enacting net neutrality or any other quasi-government takeover scheme would be to transform a vibrant and dynamic laboratory of innovation into something resembling a public utility like your local creepy low-quality public access channel. Harper writes:

[T]he FCC has sought for years now to regulate broadband Internet service providers something like it used to regulate AT&T, with government mandated terms of service if not tarriffs and price controls. This doesn’t fit the technical environment of the Internet, which allows for diverse business models. Companies that experiment with network management, pricing, internal subsidy, and so on can find the configurations that serve widely varying consumers and their differing Internet needs the best. If government believes in fast lanes and slow lanes, surely Internet service providers could optimize service for movie delivery, video calling, and such, while email arrives a little less speedily.   

Later:

We made the case more than five years ago that “ ‘Net neutrality” is a good engineering principle, but it shouldn’t be a legal mandate. Technology and markets surpassed any need for command-and-control regulation in this area long ago. But regulators don’t give up power without a fight. To maintain power, the FCC may try to make Internet service a public utility.

So government control would kill innovation and further erode Americans’ ability to communicate and exchange free of state interference–which I suspect is part of the real motives of many of the pro-regulation commissioners and the other interests pushing this farce.

The effort to push net neutrality is very much analogous to the imposition of anti-trust laws in the 19th and 20th centuries. Like net neutrality, anti-trust were advertised on the grounds that they were needed to fight giant alleged corporate monopolies like Standard Oil and US Steel. But in reality, they were simply protectionist laws designed to preserve the profits and market-share of inferior producers by using the state to kneecap more innovative cost-cutting firms, and in reality anti-trust does more than ever to promote monopoly and oligopoly rather than decentralized competitive markets.

The same will be true of net neutrality should it ever be instituted. The inferior content-creators who lose market share and  would traditionally be charged more of a premium for consuming bandwidth will be empowered to leverage political favor with the the commissioners and congressional committees to file suit against “discriminatory” ISPs who charge them more, and thus destroying any incentive to be entrepreneurial and invent new and better services for consumers, killing off the heart of sector entirely.

This is exactly what happened in the 19th century when Congress created the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban “discriminatory” rates against inefficient shippers and giving preferential rates to more efficient ones. The result was billions of dollars in losses in today’s dollars in economic growth since railroad industrialists had to make extreme cutbacks in order to absorb the government-mandated losses that came with charging expensive and inefficient shippers.

As economic historian Burton Folsom writes in his book The Myth of the Robber Barons, quoting the successful railroad tycoon James J. Hill, “rates vary with conditions.”

More from Hill:

[Rates] vary from day to day, almost…You’re dealing with the questions that exist today. Can you apply conditions that exist today to tomorrow or next week or next month? It is absolutely impossible…

The FCC stupidly believes that it can. Let’s hope they never get the chance.

SCOTUS should strike down Mass. state abortion clinic ‘buffer zone’ law

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on a Massachusetts law that creates a so-called “buffer zone” of 35 feet between legal abortion clinics and pro-life protestors outside that extends onto public streets and sidewalks.

At issue, POLITICO reports, is that the law gives an exemption to employees speech outside but punitively restricts the activists from their famous “sidewalk counseling” where they try to persuade, very passionately at times, potential mothers and parents that they are making a very big mistake in seeking an abortion.

POLITICO writes:

A key issue in the case, McCullen v. Coakley, is whether Massachusetts can differentiate between people who want to peaceably protest or consult people outside of the facility and those who intend to be violent or disruptive. Miller, as well as the Obama administration, argued that it is “enormously difficult” to make that distinction, so everything from loud protests to quiet conversations must be restricted.

The problem with this kind of reasoning being put forth by Massachusetts and the Obama administration, who is backing the law in the court, is that it is impermissible for the federal or state governments to restrict core political speech–or any peaceful speech–during reasonable hours on public property that is neither violent nor threatening.

Even more galling is that the law doesn’t even allow for conversational “quiet” speech. That is patently ridiculous on its face and demonstrably so when Justice Kennedy asked, “Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

This is the first major case that this writer knows of to come before the Court since the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado that created an eight foot “floating” barrier in that state between protesters and clinics, which a majority of the justices upheld.

But the composition of justices has changed since then. Neither Justice Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor, nor Kagan were on the court at that time. And with Kennedy likely going with the conservatives on this ruling, it appears that those Republican-appointed justices will strike down the law.

But this is really not a case about abortion or abortion rights. It’s more about free speech. And this court, to the pleasure of this writer, is a very pro-free speech court relative to the Rehnquist court or others that have come before.

This is the court that has struck down laws banning the watching of animal cruelty videos, the picketing of soldiers’ funerals, and the funding of independent political advertising by by corporations and unions.

In this case, McCullen v. Coakley, the court should do the right and constitutional thing and strike another blow for First Amendment political speech.