Here's a more tongue-and-cheek,semi-serious article I wrote for SwiftEconomics on those Godawful time zones. I also wrote a similar article for Thought Catalog as well a while back.
We are currently in the middle of two wars, a major recession [Ed: Well we were when I wrote this], a mounting fiscal crisis and monstrosities such as Obamacare, the War on Drugs and the Patriot Act continue unabated. Everyday, people are murdered, raped and assaulted. There’s a lot of really bad stuff going on in the world.
All of those things are tough to fix, unfortunately, so I’m going to turn to something trivial that just came to mind and for whatever reason I want to write about it: time zones are stupid and we should do away with them.
The history of time zones sounds like some quaint artifact of the British Empire; basically Greenwich Mean Time was developed in Britain in 1675 to help mariners and then later in 1879, some Knighted Canadian dude named Sanford Fleming proposed a worldwide system of time zones and by 1929 every major country had adopted them. It’s quite boring, so if you’re interested in more detail, see here.
Anyways, time zones may have served some purpose when people rarely traveled around or communicated with people far away, but now, we do so all the time. Currently I live two time zones away from my colleague who runs this site and the majority of my business associates for my work. So are we having a conference call at 2:00 my time or 2:00 their time? Why don’t we patch in that guy from New York, 4:00 pm his time and then the guy in our Japan office at God knows what time his time is and on and on and on.
Then there’s traveling, a two hour flight sets me ahead four hours. My cell phone automatically updates, my alarm clock didn’t, my new computer did, my old computer didn’t. Oh and then add Daylights Savings in for more needless confusion. Yes it saves some daylight, but adds oversleeping and miscommunications and what not. I think we can think of another way to save daylight and adjust our schedules without artificially changing the time.
Is this all trivial? Of course it is. But hey, this guy overslept, this guy almost missed his last final in college, this guy had to deal with a computer full of hundreds of appointments scheduled two hours off and Microsoft users all over the state of Indiana had their appointments showing an hour off.
Yes, it’s nice to have the same hours everywhere you go, wake up between 6:00 to 8:00 am, go to sleep between 10:00 and 12:00 pm, etc. But even those settings are questionable. Why isn’t the time it’s dark set for am or pm and the time it’s light set for the other? Why don’t we wake up around the beginning of the day and change 6:00 or so to 12:00? Why on Earth do we have am and pm anyways? It goes to 12 and then starts over, goes to 12 again and that’s all in one day? We should switch to military time, then abolish time zones.
The only real problem is that New Year’s celebrations could be at what is now 4:00 am or something like that. But hey, at least you wouldn’t be seeing a tape delayed recording of Dick Clark showing off his awesome counting skills:
So no, time zones don’t mean much and it’s sort of embarrassing that I even spent the time to write this (and you spent the time to read it). But hey, we can make the world an infinitesimally little bit better place to live by simply abolishing them. So why not?
I really liked this article from SwiftEconomics on the Great Debate: Who is a bigger douchebag? Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann? Both really took it up a notch in 2016 (see Beck's meltdown with Cruz after he endorsed Trump and Olberman's "Russian scum" conniption fit). I still hold that Olbermann wins this competition.
Glenn Beck vs. Keith Olbermann: Watching either of their shows brings us uncomfortably near the absolute epitome of douchebag, but alas, when push comes to shove, only one can be the victor. Here I will discuss their individual merits and try to determine who can rightfully claim the throne in all of its douche-filled glory. Honorable mentions go out to Bill O’Reilly, Rachel Maddow, Lou Dobbs, Nancy Grace, Chris Mathews, Greta Van Susteren and Sean Hannity. But when the chips are down, we all know that it is either Keith Olbermann or Glenn Beck who will hold the crown of greatest douchebag in the history of the world.
Admittedly, during the Bush administration, I could enjoy Olbermann’s over-the-top rants a bit, and now with Obama, I can sometimes find Beck tolerable. I actually agree with Beck on most things domestic and with Olbermann on most foreign policy issues. Olbermann, while normally being a mouthpiece of the Obama administration, has occasionally criticized the Democrats and Beck has consistently attacked both parties. However, both Olbermann and Beck are so biased, so hyperbolic, so inconsistent and so utterly douche-baggish that merely enjoying the train wrecks that are their respective shows does not prove either to be any less of a train wreck.
Both can make ridiculous, often hypocritical claims. Olbermann defended Cash for Clunkers, probably the dumbest program ever. His evidence was that car sales went up. Wow, when the government pays people to buy cars, car sales go up. Who would have thought? The question of whether or not destroying our wealth to increase spending was a good economic policy was not addressed. (1)
He then agreed with his guest, Dan Gross, that because Republicans voted against the stimulus package, Cash for Clunkers and other government programs, “…they are heavily invested in its failure.” Of course, the same logic could be recklessly applied to Olbermann and those who opposed the war in Iraq. Since Olbermann opposed the war, is he “heavily invested” in the United States being defeated? (2)
Glenn Beck also went overboard with Cash for Clunkers, claiming that the government’s website, cars.gov, attempted to “access your computer” if you signed up. The site was however, only for car dealers. (3) And he is not above changing the past to fit a narrative of the day, once saying the “[the Iraq War] was never about Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction, I mean that was a bonus, it was always about getting to Iran.” (4) Huh? If the war was about getting to Iran, why invade Iraq? After all, Iran has been the big winner since the United States ousted Iran’s top foe. (5)
But Glenn Beck makes his strongest case for being the ultimate bag of douche with his passionate, unrestrained rants of douche-baggery. Beck is the king of over-the-top melodrama: whether it be crying on screen or putting some quote on his blackboard just in case we forget it. My personal favorite, though, is the time he decided that since “we don’t look each other in the eyes anymore” he would do a split screen, with one screen on him and another with a close up shot of his eyes (which were strangely enough, not looking at the camera). (6)
Keith Olbermann, on the other hand, goes back and forth between unbearably unfunny attempts at humor and unhinged, self-righteous outrage. In an example of his uncanny ability to not provoke laughter, I give you this bit he did in a discombobulated and extraordinarily awkward attempt at making fun of Sarah Palin for writing notes on her hand before a speech. You must watch it to understand, I cannot explain it. The English language simply lacks the words to clarify how unfunny this is when a standard instructions manual amounts to a George Carlin standup routine in comparison:
[Unfortunately, the video got taken down, but you can read about Olbermann's """"""""joke""""""" here.]
When it comes to douche-soaked, self-righteous outrage, I refer you to Olbermann’s description of then Republican Senatorial candidate, Scott Brown:
“…In Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and politicians with whom he disagrees.” (7)
Olbermann later apologized for not adding the word “sexist.” (Apparently someone can support violence against women without being sexist). Surprisingly, some people actually took offense to Olbermann’s characterization of Brown. And in fact, I did too. Olbermann forgot to mention that Scott Brown was also a fascist, war-mongering, child-abusing, corporate-controlled, Islamophobic, blood-sucking vampire who not only supports violence against women, but also men, hermaphrodites, Na’vi and every animal on the planet with the exception of nutria, termites, malaria-bearing mosquitoes, rabies-infected dogs and the infamous Man-Bear-Pig.
Back in reality though, Olbermann’s accusation that Brown is irresponsible is because he once swore in front of some high school students. Apparently, Olbermann failed to notice that he was using an explicit, sexual reference in his diatribe. Olbermann also swears on his show, while consistently bragging about how well his program does in the younger demographic (I should note that I make no claim of being ‘responsible’ myself). The accusation that Brown is in favor of violence against women—even though Brown has two young daughters—is because he said, “We can do this” after a guy at one of his rallies yelled out, “We should shove a curling iron up Martha Coakley’s butt!”
Okay Keith, aside from the fact that shoving a curling iron up someone’s butt is not really something “we can do,” it’s quite obvious that Scott Brown didn’t hear the man. And does Olbermann really expect Brown to disavow every crazy thing one of his supporters says? I mean honestly, have you ever heard what people say about politicians?
Of course, Glenn Beck is no opponent of baseless name-calling and random conjecture. From claiming he couldn’t “debunk” the theory of FEMA death camps to an assortment of other, often contradictory, conspiracy theories, Glenn Beck is all about name-calling and conjecture. (8) Perhaps the most infamous was his accusation that Barack Obama has a “…a deep seated hatred for white people.” One minute and 22 seconds later he recanted, saying “I’m not saying that he doesn’t like white people” after he was challenged by the fact that some 70% of Obama’s administration is white. Unfortunately, for consistency’s sake, five seconds later he then said again Obama is “..I think, a racist.” (9) At least Beck was able to avoid crying this time.
But baseless name-calling is secondary to outright lying. And while both are extremely biased, I have never seen Beck, nor anyone else for that matter, do what Olbermann did regarding the so-called “climategate.” Olbermann accused the show Fox and Friends of taking a clip from Jon Stewart out of context, which Olbermann himself took out of context. Honestly, I’ve seen people take others out of context, but never have I seen someone take something out of context, while accusing others of doing so.
Fox and Friends showed the first bit of a Jon Stewart segment where he jokingly says global warming is completely debunked. Then Keith Olbermann showed a little more where Jon Stewart said the leaked emails weren’t a big deal, it was just scientists talking casually. But Olbermann conveniently left out the next part, where Jon Stewart goes over a handful of the more outrageous emails. While Stewart does say the emails don’t debunks global warming, he does conclude the following about the emails:
“[The scientist] was just using a trick to hide the decline. [It’s] just scientist speak for using a standard statistical technique to recalibrate data to trick you and hide the decline.
Here’s Stewart’s bit and here’s Olbermann’s hack job of it.
But at least Olbermann doesn’t abuse his guests. Nothing he’s done can compare to Beck losing his mind at a caller about healthcare. Again, the written word can do no justice here. You must see it:
While that is quite damning to those who would argue Glenn Beck is actually sane, it does tell us something good about him; namely, that he is willing to at least talk (if you can call it that) to people who disagree with him. I think the problem with Beck is that his frontal lobe inhibitors aren’t functioning properly and thus he pretty much says whatever comes to mind in all of its driftless, tear-soaked, conspiratorial, stream-of-conscious, douche-baggishness. But he does debate people. I even have video evidence of Beck debating people, for example here.
I cannot say the same for Keith Olbermann. Sure, when he’s challenged, he’ll use his television show to launch a string of invective at whoever dared speak ill of him, albeit usually in the way befitting the most douche-baggish of douchebags. For example, when Ann Coulter pointed out that Olbermann didn’t graduate from the Ivy League Cornell University, but an affiliated university, Keith Olbermann decided it was a good idea to bring out his framed diploma to show his audience (I kid you not) in an attempt to prove that he did, in fact, graduate from the university that Coulter accused him of graduating from. (10)
But that doesn’t count for actual debate. It is truly a brave form of cowardice to have a “worst person in the world” segment every show without ever having anyone on who would disagree with him on anything. It’s actually quite funny to watch when someone who basically agrees with Olbermann on everything says something that may, in some way, kind of contradict his line of thinking. Take this clip, where Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean explains why it’s out of line for Republicans to call the president a fascist, even though Olbermann had called George Bush just that many times before. Of course, Olbermann sounded more dignified by calling the president a fascist in between random quotes from Bertrand Russell and Oliver Cromwell.
In the end, the willingness to debate is what makes the difference. Glenn Beck may ramble on, between sobs, about inane connections he’s written on his wholly-unnecessary chalk board, but he’s willing to talk to people he disagrees with. He’s even changed his mind on several issues, such as marijuana legalization. (11) Olbermann instead hides behind his television show to launch hypocritical and illogical vitriol at those he refuses to give a chance to respond. And for that, Keith Olbermann is victorious. Congratulations Keith, you are the biggest douchebag on the planet.
For more on Glenn Beck, see South Park’s parody.
And for Keith Olbermann see Saturday Night Live’s Take on him .
(1) “ ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ for Monday, August 3, August 3, 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32284299/
(3) For Beck’s segment see “Glenn Beck: Cars.gov allows government to takeover your computer,” uploaded July 31, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWs12ccbOiE and for what it actually means see Hugh D’Andrade, “Cars.gov Terms of Service: What Glenn Beck Gets Right and Wrong,” August 3, 2009, http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/08/cars-gov-terms-service
(4) “Beck: Iraq “was always about getting to Iran” & WMD’s bonus,” uploaded April 5, 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUbBbGVF6Q8
(5) For a good, albeit rather old, rundown of Iran winning by the Iraq War is Juan Cole, “The Iraq war is over, and the winner is… Iran,” Salon Magazine, July21, 2005, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2005/07/21/iran
(6) See “Beck Wants You to Look Deep Into His Eyes,” Uploaded February 4, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ex695VSHmSs
(7) “Olbermann’s “Apology” To Scott Brown,” Uploaded January 19, 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydNY-9xNzB0&feature=related
(8) “Glenn Beck’s FEMA Backflip,” Uploaded April 4, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izjfdfDHjWQ
(9) “Glenn Beck: Obama is a RACIST! Hates White Folks!,” Uploaded July 28, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ndc2LX2u98&feature=related
(10) For Coulter’s article, see Ann Coulter, “Olbermann’s Platic Ivy,” Townhall.com, March 4, 2009, http://townhall.com/columnists/AnnCoulter/2009/03/04/olbermanns_plastic_ivyand for Olbermann’s bit “defending himself” and the subsequent lampooning on Fox’s Red Eye, see “Olbermann is So Insecure, I Pity Him,” Uploaded March 7, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5qgQ_71M2c
(11) “Glenn Beck Legalize Marijuana & Stop The Violence,” Uploaded March 3, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFmtirw5io8
My new article for American Thinker is up. The article takes on Don Lemon, the ADL and many on the Left's contention that conservatives and particularly those evil, toxic white men are the biggest terrorists. As Don Lemon so contradictory put it,
“So we have to stop demonizing people and realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men, most of them radicalized to the right, and we have to start doing something about them.”
Good Lord Don... Good Lord...
Anyways, the article takes on Don's contention and an ADL study showing that Right-Wing extremists made up 74% of domestic terrorist killings between 2007 and 2016. This means that Right-Wing extremists is the biggest problem. Aside by the problem that the ADL only counted 372 people killed, which is a very small number. But they also don't appear to know what "per capita" means.
There are a bunch of other problems with this study and the idea that extremism exists only on the Right. (Think about Antifa, James Hodgkinson and the Dallas shooting of five police officers.)
That being said, the comment section seemed to prove, once again, that polarization is increasing rapidly in this country. Alt Right extremist types are from the Left because they believe in big government. (In some ways, this is true, in others, not so much.) Many were upset that my balanced approach wasn't more along the lines of "actually, all of the extremism is on the Left!" Not that the Left is any better, of course. In fact, they're far worse. But things are looking bad if we want to actually heal the divide in this country.
P.S. I note that "a communist" killed JFK. My original draft noted that if you believe the conspiracies on JFK, you should check the conspiracy theories for Oklahoma City out. I don't really buy either, but I will note that I'm by no means confident in the so-called "official version" for either.
Anyways, check out the article here.
Another article I wrote for SwiftEconomics taking on Media Matters. And this problem is even more true today.
Few media outlets annoy me more than Media Matters. Conservatives usually accuse them of being a George Soros-backed smear organization with a pathological obsession with Fox News. On the other hand, Media Matters maintains that they’ll simply ‘quote conservatives back to themselves’ to show how absurd/racist/sexist/evil conservatives are.
Sometimes conservatives are right. I have no love for Glenn Beck, but Media Matters ran a complete smear job on him back during the whole ACORN scandal. Basically, the undercover video shows some lady talking about killing her husband. Media Matters notes that her husband is alive and well. They conveniently cut out the clip where Glenn Beck notes they hadn’t yet been able to figure that out yet. I’m sure that cut was just an accident.
The partisan critique is obvious, they certainly didn’t criticize Rachel Maddow for citing a blatantly satirical site saying Christians should urge Palin to push for an invasion of Egypt. And while they criticize Glenn Beck for calling Obama a fascist, they were mum when Keith Olbermann called Bush a fascist. Neither seems to have gotten the memo that, as George Orwell noted back in 1946, “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.'”
But there’s another, more serious problem with how they typically operate. This came to mind after re-watching Noam Chomsky’s film Manufacturing Consent. Noam Chomsky is a famous leftist, but I find him to usually be a clear thinker (on everything but economics) and worth listening to. Here’s a clip where he talks about concision:
Chomsky’s basic argument is that unconventional thoughts require more evidence and thereby more time to flesh out. But you can’t do this with concision. After all, it used to be conventional wisdom that slavery was just dandy or in some places, that Bolshevism wasn’t such a bad idea.
Now I admit, I’m guilty of this as well. So are many other conservative, liberal and libertarian groups. But no one seems to have mastered it to the degree Media Matters has. And to one degree or another, what choice do you have if you’re going to be criticizing the media (although you could still be nonpartisan or consistently honest). But it’s a problem worth fleshing out. Especially given how often the likes of Keith Olbermann, The Young Turks and Ed Shultz still take little clips, usually from Media Matters, and replay them to take some quick shot at conservatives or libertarians.
So Media Matters will take a short clip where someone says something that goes against conventional wisdom, then have some group that disagrees with said person refute it. For example, they posted this video under the scare line “Fox’s Andrew Napolitano: Obama Is ‘Wielding His Executive Power Like ‘A King."
Even the guest states this isn’t new to Obama (some credit is due for not cutting that). But Napolitano was making the same criticisms of Bush and Media Matters didn’t criticize him then. In fact, Noam Chomsky was making similar arguments. As was Keith Olbermann (whom Media Matters loves). In fact, as was Media Matters. Yet it just sounds so radical when he’s only given two minutes to flesh out his argument.
Or here’s a more blatant example: Media Matters criticized the Heritage Foundation for a project they had on over-criminalization. One part listed proposed laws that on “tackling child sex slavery, child sex trafficking, child pornography and violence against children.” Actually, that part of Heritage’s website was just naming pending legislation with no opinion given. Furthermore, what if a law sounds really nice, say like the Patriot Act. Does that mean it’s a good law? What if this law against child porn actually meant that anyone found with it on their browser’s cache would receive 20 years in prison even if they went to that site accidentally or had gotten a virus on their computer. A law’s name has nothing to do with how good or bad that law is.
Overall, I think the problem is simply that Media Matters doesn’t want to play fair. They don’t want to flesh out the other side’s argument or argue a certain point of their own. Quick clips, no debate, no response. They simply want to make their opponents look stupid by constraining them with concission, whether it be in context or out of it. It takes as much time to explain many of Chomsky’s assertions in the above video as it does to explain arguments about how president’s are becoming more king-like or why welfare institutionizes poverty or whatever. Many left and right-wing arguments go completely against common wisdom, so both can be subject to the “propaganda model” Chomsky refers to.
Of course, Media Matters isn’t the only example of this. As Chomsky noted, much of the U.S. media does this and many other “media watchdog sites” do as well, be it on the right or left. Media Mattersis simply the most obvious example. Furthermore, I should note that John Stossel, whom they love to criticize, gives long interviews with plenty of the debate on hour long programs dedicated to a single subject… very little concission there. Well done, John.
Photo Credit: Soda Head and The Hindu
I have just published my first piece with The Data Driven Investor on the brave new world of neuro marketing. I had previously syndicated a few articles with them on Medium, but this is the first piece directly published on their website. As I note,
The world today is far more technologically and scientifically advanced than at any time in the past. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that marketing techniques are also becoming more and more advanced.
And how exactly have they become more "technologically and scientifically advanced?" Well...
Researchers can also use electroencephalography (better known as an EEG), which is a much cheaper alternative. The fMRI usually costs $1000 per machine hour. However, the EEG has some drawbacks, most notably, it “does not grant access to deep parts of the brain where the ‘pleasure center’ is located.”
Basically, they read your mind to figure out how you react to various products and advertising. Pretty cool (or perhaps terrifying) stuff.
Check it out!
Do you remember when the Tea Party was a thing? Yeah, me ummm, kinda... Anyways, here's a piece I thought was a pretty interesting that I wrote for SwiftEconomics.com on the original Tea Party in 1773 as well as the Tea Party protests back when Obama was in office that were sort of a precursor to Trumpism. Anyways, I hope you enjoy:
There has been an awful lot of coverage lately regarding tea party protests springing up around the country. Named after the famous Boston Tea Party, hundreds of rallies took place across the country on April 15th, bringing large numbers of people together to protest taxes, reckless spending, bailouts and all the rest of our government’s recent behavior. FOX News is basically in love with these protesters. And for the most part, I sympathize with the protesters. But I’m just not a big fan of Fox’s incredible “fairness” and “balanced-ness,” which makes feeling sympathy a little tough for me.
Luckily for me, MSNBC, whom I am not a fan of either, seems to hate the tea parties about as much as FOX loves them. Maybe I should just pick a side and be a mindless cheerleader. So much less thinking involved. Regardless, Keith Olbermann, among others, has been referring to the protesters as “tea baggers.” Which is a bit graphic, especially for the prime time news. (For those of you who don’t know what tea bagging is, the act occurs when a man inserts his scrotum into… you know what, if you’re really that curious, just look up the wikipedia article on it. Wow, I just linked to the definition of tea bagging: a new low for SwiftEconomics.com. My sincerest apologies Ryan.)
Anyways, on April 16th, Keith Olbermann continued his uninterrupted streak of guests, who disagree with him on absolutely nothing, by speaking with actor and renowned political philosopher, Janeane Garofalo. She proceeded to describe the tea party protesters as follows:
“Let’s be very honest about what this is about. It’s not about bashing Democrats. It’s not about taxes. They have no idea what the Boston Tea Party was about. They don’t know their history at all. This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea bagging rednecks. There is no way around that.” (1)
Hmmm, stereotyping an entire group of people based on one thing, that reminds me of something. Damn, why can’t I put my finger on it? Regardless, Janeane Garofalo is probably right about one part, the tea party protesters almost certainly don’t know what the Boston Tea Party was actually about. Although, I sincerely doubt she has the slightest idea either.
So what was the Boston Tea Party about? Well, of course it was a tax protest that foreshadowed the glorious American Revolution, which pitted the freedom loving (and slave owning) Americans, against the ruthless and tyrannical British Empire (who we’d later become BFF’s with). Now I hate to take your 5th grade history textbook to task, but no, the Boston Tea Party was not an early call to independence. It wasn’t even a tax protest. It was in many ways, of all things, a tax-cut protest.
I’ll let historian Niall Ferguson explain:
“…most people assume [the Boston Tea Party] was a protest against a hike in the tax on tea. In fact the price of tea in question was exceptionally low, since the British government had just given the East India Company a rebate of the much higher duty the tea had incurred on entering Britain. In effect, the tea left Britain duty free and had to pay only the much lower American duty on arriving in Boston. Tea had never been cheaper in New England. The ‘Party’ was organized not by irate consumers but by Boston’s wealthy smugglers, who stood to lose out.” (2)
That isn’t to say it was just a bunch of smugglers throwing a hissy fit; it’s certainly more complicated than that. To get at the full story, let’s start by discussing the motivations behind the American Revolution.
The main reason for the Revolution boiled down to two interconnected grievances. The first was that the British were centralizing control over the colonies. This was where we get the whole ‘taxation without representation’ bit. The colonists believed it was unfair for the British Parliament to tax them, since they had no say on who was elected to the British Parliament. Instead, they felt colonial officials should make these decisions. This represented what Niall Ferguson calls a “tacit tug of war between centre and periphery – between royal authority in London… and the power of the colonists’ elected assemblies.” (3)
The British had previously ruled the colonies in a lackadaisical fashion. After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the British gained a substantial amount of new territory and began to clamp down. As historian Joseph Ellis put it, ” Now, however, the sheer scale of [the British’s] recently acquired American empire, plus the sudden recognition that governance of its expanded domain required more management than a few secretaries in Whitehall could muster, forced a major overhaul in this accidental empire into something more appropriately imperial.” (4) The British became more controlling, and the method they used to control the colonies brings us to the second grievance; an inequitable economic system known as mercantilism.
Mercantilism, when the term is rarely used today, is thought of as just a synonym for protectionism. It is much more than that however; mercantilism could best be defined as a loose connection of economic and political philosophies, which conclude that a country becomes richer by exporting as much as possible and importing as little as possible. The goal is to amass gold and silver bullion, Scrooge style. This is what leads a country to enact trade barriers, grow an empire to control resources and manage its own economy in a myriad of other ways. What this means is that the host country (Britain) will try to profit at the expense of its colonies (America’s) instead of trying to cooperate with them. As my previous article shows, this makes absolutely no sense. However, it was the accepted economic philosophy of the era.
Mercantilism came under attack during the enlightenment by classical liberals (basically modern libertarians with an egalitarian streak). Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, was not, as many seem to assume, a defense of the current system, but instead, one of the first and most thorough, assaults on the mercantilist ideology. An ideology that, as Smith wrote:
“For the sake of that little enhancement of price, which this monopoly might afford our producers, the home consumers have been burdened with the whole expence of maintaining and defending that empire… It cannot be very difficult to determine who have been the contrivers of this whole mercantilist system; not the consumers, we may believe, whose interest has been entirely neglected; but the producers, whose interest has been so carefully attended to.” (5)
Oh, those Scottish Enlightenment writers, so polite all the time. Let me be a little more blunt. Mercantilism sees all nations in conflict with each other. Thus coercion, not cooperation, is necessary for economic growth. So simply put, mercantilism is an awful system. Well, I guess it’s only awful if you don’t like its main side effects, namely: hyper-protectionism, ultra-nationalism, a merger between corporate interests and the state, cronyism, colonialism, oppression, racism, slavery and near-constant war. All of which characterized that unfortunate period in our history, and are closely related to mercantilism (see here, here and here).
The American Revolution, besides being a war for political control, was also an uprising against British mercantilism, or at least certain aspects of it (Stamp Act, Navigation Acts, etc.). In fact, one indictment against King George, in the Declaration of Independence, was “For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.” (6) This referred to the East India Company getting monopoly privileges on trade, a very mercantilist policy if there ever was one, instead of letting the colonists trade of their own accord.
So mercantilism is totally weak and the colonists didn’t like it, but how does this play into the Boston Tea Party? Well simple, mercantilism creates ample opportunities for smugglers. High, protective tariffs raise the price of consumer goods and thereby create a market for cheaper, smuggled goods. Think of Al Capone during prohibition. He was the last person to want the 18thamendment repealed; his profits depended on alcohol being illegal. The same thing goes for tea smugglers just prior to the Revolutionary War.
In 1773, the British passed the Tea Act, which eliminated many duties on the East India Company, in an attempt to save the company from bankruptcy. The act also gave the company more monopoly privileges over trade with the Americas. The monopoly privileges and what amounted to corporate welfare certainly angered the colonists, and helped lay the groundwork for the revolution.
Ironically though, the smugglers benefited from the British’s mercantilistic policies in the same way that Al Capone benefited from prohibition. The tariffs allowed the smugglers to sneak in Dutch tea and sell it for less than the British. Since the new act would lower the East India Company’s costs, and thereby its prices, the smuggler’s profits would be reduced. So while it’s impossible to know exactly why, on December 16th, 1773, several dozen men (most of them smugglers), stormed aboard the Dartmouth and threw 342 chests of tea in the water; but they were presumably more upset about the British undercutting their profits, than about any sort of perceived oppression.
Even more ironically, the Boston Tea Party, while not embodying the spirit of the Revolution, was used as a rallying cry for it. While the smugglers were mostly just interested in protecting their bottom line, Samuel Adams and others defended it passionately, as a principled protest against an unjust system. This was compounded further when the British clamped down even harder on the colonies, going as far as closing Boston Harbor, which lead to more resentment among the colonists, until it boiled over in 1776.
Alright, enough with the history lesson. Well I guess all this article really is, is a history lesson. Regardless, to return to the modern protests, it is a bit ironic that they would name their protests after what was mostly just a bunch of smugglers pissed off about what amounted to a tax cut. Well if Obama is actually going to cut taxes on everyone making less than $250,000, which I highly doubt, then maybe it does make sense after all. Or as long as everyone just believes their 5th grade textbook, the protesters should be fine.
(1) Number 2 Story with guest Jeanne Garofalo, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, April 16, 2009, http://hotair.com/archives/2009/04/16/garofalo-outdoes-herself-tea-parties-all-about-white-power-says-d-lister/
(2) Niall Ferguson, Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and Lessons For Global Power, Pg. 72, Basic Books, Copyright 2002
(3) Ibid., Pg. 73
(4) Joseph Ellis, American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies At the Founding of the Republic, Pg. 23, Random House Inc., Copyright 2007
(5) Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Pg. 841, Bantam Books, Copyright 2003, Originally Published 1776
(6) “DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE,.” 2009. The History Channel website. 18 Apr 2009, 01:36 http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?articleId=207252
My new article for BiggerPockets is up on when it's right to refinance your property. Most of the time, it will boil down to run of three reasons:
As part of a strategy would be like for the BRRRR strategy, when you refinance out the private loan (or cash) you put in to the property. In this environment, you're probably not going to get better rates. But if you have a lot of equity in a property, it might be worth refinancing if you have some better opportunities.
I go into much more detail in the article, so please check it out!
With election season just having passed us by, I thought it would be a good time to repost this article about the 2008 election I wrote for SwiftEconomics. While everyone thought Barack Obama represented a major change to George W. Bush (which in some ways, he certainly did), there was an awful lot about that new boss that was the same as the old boss. Even with Trump, there's a good amount that hasn't changed (*cough* sucking up to Saudi Arabia *cough*).
The following is an excerpt from one of Barack Obama’s campaign speeches, paraphrased by yours truly:
“Change. Change, change, change. Hope. Change you can believe in. Hope. Hope you can believe in. Yes we can. Dreams. Hope and dreams. Change and hope. Dreams and change. Dreams you can change in. Change, hope and dreams. Hope, dreams and change you can believe in. Yes we can hope to change our dreams. Change.”
The theme of which, at least from what I have gathered, is that our current president believes we need to change a few things. Well, I agree with him. I thought President Bush was a disaster. Unfortunately, though, other than the ridiculous hero worship and cult of personality that Obama’s got going (see here, here, here, and of course Obama girl and yeah this one too, sorry, I can’t help myself), it really doesn’t seem like much of anything is changing.
Let’s start with economics. This is, after all, an economics website. Barack Obama’s big economic proposal, thus far, was the $787 billion dollar stimulus package. Just about every Republican opposed it. So obviously the previous Republican administration was fundamentally opposed to using tax payers money that was taxed away from tax payers to give back to tax payers to stimulate the economy (yeah it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either). Oh wait, that’s right, Bush and his administration had their own $150 billion dollar stimulus package in 2007. It was much smaller, but so were our problems back then. If he was still in office during this phase of the crisis, it seems logical to conclude his next stimulus package would have been at least close to the size of Obama’s. Of course, all the Republicans would have supported it then.
But at least Obama was opposed to Bush’s massive, wealth redistributing, bailout of failed financial firms. Uhhhhh, no, Obama voted in favor of the TARP. In fact, Democrats supported that bill at almost twice the rate the Republicans did. But hey, that was before Obama got in office; he would never support such a thing now. Except TARP II has been put on the table, by none other than Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner.
George Bush ran record deficits almost every year of his administration, a fact the Democrats hammered home to prove the Republicans weren’t a party of fiscal discipline. The Democrats are absolutely correct, however, it’s about the same as Moe telling Curly that he’s stupid and relatively mistake prone. Under Obama, the United States is expected to have a $957 billion dollar deficit in just the first half of this year! Needless to say, Obama has not exactly restored fiscal discipline.
Luckily, Obama has promised to regulate the financial industry, to make up for Bush’s wild and reckless deregulations. Unfortunately, for change’s sake, as I mentioned in my first ever article, Bush was not a deregulator. The pages in the federal registry increased by an average of 76,526 pages each year under Bush’s watch, and every regulatory agency had its budget significantly increased. So adding more regulations isn’t any different. Furthermore, the main piece of deregulation blamed for our current mess was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This, however, was passed under Bill Clinton’s administration.
If Obama thought we needed to change from both George Bush and Bill Clinton, his Secretary of State nomination seems to be an interesting choice. And speaking of change in the administration, take a look at this list of former Clinton people making up his cabinet. It’s not exactly what I would call change:
Obama even kept Bush’s appointment, Robert Gates, on as Secretary of Defense. I mean, we’re all afraid of change to one degree or another, but give me a break!
Moving outside of economics, we find even more similarities. Sure, Obama was against the War in Iraq. He didn’t vote to cut off funding or anything like that, but did give an inspiring one speech opposing the war, which apparently changed the course of history. He gave this speech from the very visible and scrutinized position of state senator. Just try to name your state senator right now. Go ahead, do it! You can’t. Anyway, his reasoning for opposing the war was:
“What I sensed, though, was that the threat Saddam posed was not imminent, the Administration’s rationales for war were flimsy and ideologically driven, and the war in Afghanistan was far from complete.” (2)
Well that’s at least something. And he should get credit for it. Unfortunately, his withdrawal plan is extremely slow and very similar to what Bush had already negotiated with the Iraqis. Obama is also willing to leave up to 50,000 troops in Iraq after the 2010 withdrawal. Our bases, and Vatican-sized embassy, are probably also there to stay. Well that’s certainly good; I mean we wouldn’t want the Iraqis to actually think we might NOT be occupying their country.
Then there’s Afghanistan, where Obama is planning to substantially increase our military presence in the near future. Apparently, we should throw a big fuss when Bush plans a surge, but when Obama gets his surge on, who cares, right?
But at least the Patriot Act is no more. Well, not quite. And by not quite, I mean not at all. Obama did fight against renewing the original version of the Patriot Act, but went ahead and voted in favor to reauthorize it in 2006, as long as it had a few provisions to prevent abuses. OK, that’s like a nickel of change. But when you base your entire campaign around the word “change,” I expect at least a couple of quarters.
Furthermore, there are reports that wire-tapping will continue, and in Jewel v. NSA, the Obama administration used the same “State Secrets” excuse the Bush administration had previously used, so to not release any government files on the subject. Obama did at least close Guantanamo Bay, or will in a year. However, he’s leaving the rendition program in place. So I guess torture is illegal in the United States now, but we can still ship suspected terrorists to some third world country and go medieval on them. I guess that’s a little different…I guess that’s technically change.
It’s also true that Obama has urged reform on healthcare and climate change policy. However, this is just upping the ante on Bush. Bush, after all, pushed through the ridiculously expensive Medicare Part D. In addition, he funded Hydrogen Energy research and supported John McCain, who like Obama, was trying to push through Cap and Trade.
Oh, but Obama is so likeable. He’s smart, charming and articulate (or according to his Vice President; so fresh and so clean clean). On the other hand, Bush was just awful. I mean, come on, he was just a mean, stupid, arrogant, selfish, inarticulate, greedy, racist, sexist, intolerant, conformist, prejudiced, homophobic, ageist, classist, environment hating, warmongering, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, flag waving, unpatriotic, misogynistic, misandrinistic, misanthropic, biphobic, transphobic, heterophobic, anti-intellectual, unprincipled, fundamentalist, nationalistic, America-centric America-hater. Alright, I’ll give you that. But just because one is likeable and one is not, doesn’t necessarily mean their policies are fundamentally different from each other.
So my question is simple: what exactly has Obama changed? A little bit of change here and there, on the peripheries, doesn’t matter to me and shouldn’t matter much to anyone else. In the end, I think Reason Magazine’s Michael Moynihan put it best, “…it appears that on the economy, the Obama administration will be Bush on steroids, and on the War on Terror, he’ll be Bush-Lite.” Well that’s just dandy. I guess “change you can believe in” was some sort of code for “the same old thing you’re just going to have to learn to accept. Deal with it asshole.”
(1) List provided by Reason TV, The Winds of Change, January 13, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2hwfu9KANM and Obama Picks More Clinton Officials for DOJ, Patterico’s Pontifications, January 5, 2009, http://patterico.com/2009/01/05/obama-picks-more-clinton-officials-for-doj/
(2) Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope, Pg. 347, Vintage Books, Copyright 2006
And all the hubabuloo about a "blue wave" ora "red tsunami" turned into the melodramatic bore of a Democratic House and a Republican Senate.
Or perhaps an upcoming two years of vitriolic gridlock is a better way to describe it...
This is definitely one of those "wow, just wow, I literally can't even" moments. This is what The New York Times thinks will convince the average American that Donald Trump's priorities are completely backwards:
What rebuttal is even necessary? Honestly, how can anyone think that the average American still thinks it is a good idea to keep fighting in the Middle East for God knows what reason?
Most Americans don't want to expand the war in Afghanistan and almost all don't want to go to war in Syria. Shockingly, American only believe the Iraq war was a mistake by a margin of two to one, despite the catastrophic consequences of that war. (A war The New York Times helped lie us into I should add.) But even warmongering neocon Max Boot said the Iraq War was a mistake!
But the establishment (on both sides) still believes the United States needs to have its military in every part of the world, other than our own border I guess. Our military isn't needed on the border, we have departments for that, of course. But at the very least, it would be coherent for our military to be protecting the border. Not to The New York Times I guess...
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
Consulting by RPM