Monday, October 29, 2007

A Shotgun Blast for Competition

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, has announced that all contracts between owners of apartment buildings and cable providers for exclusive service in their buildings will be nullified. The chairman's blast of his regulatory shotgun, if upheld by the courts, will shred thousands of contracts across the land.

The justification for this assault on the sanctity of contract and property rights is "competition." Somehow, by denying apartment owners the right to negotiate terms with cable companies for service in their buildings, the chairman will be enhancing competition among cable companies. Exactly how this will transpire is not clearly stated. He doesn't have to explain it, since the real justification for his action becomes clear when he says, "cable prices have risen about 93% in ten years," and adds that high cable prices disproportionately affect low income people, particularly Hispanics and blacks, who more often live in apartment buildings.

So, the real reason for this contract shredding has nothing to do with promoting an undefined "competition," but with a desire to forcefully transfer wealth from apartment owners and cable companies to politically favored pressure groups.

The doctrine of altruism states that the purpose of a man is to live for others. He does not have a right to his own life. The shredding of these cable contracts is altruism enforced by the cruel hand of regulation. To hell with property rights if it means providing HBO for less to poor people. The appeal to "competition" is an afterthought thrown in as a meager attempt to justify this action.

Unsurprisingly, not only is the FCC chairman's action immoral, but it will not "help" the poor or anyone else. The key to understanding this is the observation of the cable industry association that "cable companies were often granted exclusive rights to buildings after agreeing to make major capital investments in upgrading systems." Thus, a principal reason for these exclusive deals is so that apartment owners can negotiate with cable companies to pay for the wiring of their buildings. A wiring upgrade means higher bandwidth, and therefore more channels, faster Internet service, and enhanced telecommunications service. Strike down the exclusive deals and you cut out future wiring upgrades and the enhanced services it brings.

Unfortunately, in a literal sense the FCC chairman is correct. His action will reduce the cost of cable service, but the apartment residents will be getting exactly what they pay for: slow Internet speeds, fewer channels, fewer telecommunications options. In other words, they will get cheap service that is lousy.

In direct opposition to fostering "choice" or "competition," the FCC's action will be taking away the free choices of customers and cable companies to get the level of service that they mutually agree to and want. Instead, the FCC chairman singlehandedly interposes himself between these thousands of voluntary agreements and declares, wittingly or not, that no one shall have relatively expensive and high quality cable service.

Competition is an anti-concept. Used by the FCC chairman, it only refers to competition on price, but in an unfettered market competition exists on more dimensions than just price. There is competition in innovation, competition in quality and variety, and competition in price. The chairman of the FCC, by allegedly promoting price competition, is actually destroying competition, if that term has any meaning at all.

He does all this to hand out the goods, goods that aren't his to hand out. Such is the nature of pressure group warfare and the thinly veneered legalized lawlessness it spawns in a mixed economy.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Man Versus Mussels

The city of Atlanta, Georgia, is running out of water. Despite this, the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered that sufficient water flows be drained out of Lake Lanier, the city's main reservoir, to keep alive the fat threeridge mussel located in Florida's Apalachicola River, some 350 miles away.

While the water level of Lake Lanier is poised to fall below the lowest level it set in 1981, a mandatory 3.2 billion gallons of water are drained each day from the lake to meet the requirement of the Endangered Species Act to keep the endangered mussel alive.

Officials estimate that Atlanta will run out of water in three months unless man takes precedence over mussels, and the water flows are stopped.

To place man above the mussel is illegal under the law. The Endangered Species Act is clear. All species are to be protected at any cost. Only one species is dispensable: man.

The citizens of Atlanta (and all men) only need one idea to protect them from this deadly mussel: man's right to his own life. If man has rights, animals cannot. If man has rights, his interests always come first and this absurd battle of man versus mussel could never arise. This incident illustrates very clearly that for man to survive, he must be completely free to alter nature for his own benefit.

When man's needs conflict with nature, as it must, man must always win: for man to drink, the mussels must die. Man's life depends on his right to his own life being inviolable.

There is a secondary, albeit crucially important idea that the citizens of Atlanta also need: property rights. If profit-seeking, private companies had owned the lakes and rivers and had been supplying water to Atlanta all along, instead of the government, it is unlikely that such a large, fast-growing city would have become so dependent on the smallest watershed in Georgia for its water supply. Even without the deadly mussel, Atlanta was probably vulnerable all along to drought simply because its water supply is so small relative to the city's size. A private company makes money by supplying water and has every incentive to actively develop and maintain adequate water supplies. City politicians do not have the same incentive, thus Atlanta's precarious position.

In conclusion, remember these lessons, Atlantans (and all Americans): your right to life and your right to property are the weapons you need to protect yourselves from all external threats, foreign and domestic. Without those rights, even a tiny, inedible mussel can crush you out of existence.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Doctors and Veterinarians

Several months ago, my beloved cat started vomiting frequently and losing weight. I took him to our vet, who recommended a sonogram at the nearby animal hospital. I brought him there the next day and got the bad news. The sonogram showed that he had an enlarged small intestine. The most likely cause was lymphoma. Further tests revealed the bad and (relatively) good news. It was lymphoma, but it was the least virulent form and should respond well to treatment.

The first step was surgery to remove the tumorous mass centered on the lymph nodes in his small intestine. That was done the next day. Unfortunately, complications ensued and a second surgery was required three days later. Our cat is 12 years old, and the two surgeries back-to-back on his intestinal tract nearly killed him. His entire digestive tract shut down and it was touch and go whether he would make it. All told, he spent 13 days in the hospital.

Today our cat is doing fine. He is gaining weight, his old adorable behaviors have returned, and he looks cute as hell wearing little red sweaters that my girlfriend made for him from old T-shirts to hold his feeding tube in place. (He'll have that tube for a while longer to easily administer medicines, even though he is getting all his food by mouth now.) He now sees the hospital's oncologist every three weeks, and those visits should stretch out further if he continues to respond well to chemotherapy, as he is doing now.

We are hopeful that our cat will be with us for several more years. If he had not gotten treatment, the prognosis for survival was a few weeks.

I am very thankful to our veterinarians, and tell them that frequently. Our cat not only got top-flight care every step of the way from them, but also from all the hospital nurses who drew his blood, administered medicines, cleaned and petted our cat, and gave him toys and treats during his stay in the hospital. Even the receptionists were kind and thoughtful, hustling to bring our cat his special fuzzy bed that we brought him when he was in the hospital. On two occasions, our veterinarians gave us their personal cell numbers to call them if we needed help with the cat's care after he came back home.

We are so thankful to our vets and gladly paid their bill. We wanted to send them a thank you and acknowledge everyone who cared for our cat, and asked for a list of everyone who worked on our cat in some capacity. Over 50 people were on the list.

Contrast this with my visits to my personal physician. I have a great personal doctor. He is always on time, and demands that his patients show up on time. His father was a doctor. As an avid runner, he is in excellent physical shape himself. He is serious, extremely knowledgeable, thoroughly competent.

His practice is closed. No one who is not already a patient can get in to see him. It has been closed for some years. I have been seeing him for ten years.

When I see him, I pay a $10 or $20 copay (I can't remember which). It is chump change compared with the value of the services he provides. After all, it is my life.

When I see him for my annual exam, I get about ten minutes of his time. He has a pleasant office where he will briefly consult with me after he briefly gives me my examination. I am thankful for those ten minutes.

One time, my insurer screwed up its payments to him. My doctor blamed me, and I caught myself blaming the insurance company. Later, even though it was clear that the insurance company was at fault, I apologized for the mix-up. After all, I am the one responsible for paying my doctor's bills. Am I not?

I have a great doctor. I feel lucky. I value his ten minutes. Out of pocket, he is a hell of a lot cheaper than my veterinarian. He is a bargain, isn't he?

Come to think of it, he has never given me his cell number.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Convenient Falsehoods

A British judge ruled that Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," could not be presented as factual in British public schools because it contained nine material falsehoods. (In an interim ruling, he had identified eleven falsehoods, but combined several in his final decision.) Here they are:

  • The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  • The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  • The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  • The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  • The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
  • The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age. The Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
  • The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  • The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  • The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

A judge is not a scientific expert and a courtroom is not the proper place to resolve scientific disputes. However, it just takes an educated person and a little bit of research to see through Gore's propaganda. Thankfully, British standards call for checking the veracity of teaching materials used in their public schools if those materials are represented as factual. I doubt that has ever happened in the United States.

Children and adults everywhere are exposed to the blatant lies of Gore and other supporters of the view that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide must be stopped in order to "save the planet." The only danger the planet needs saving from are the global warming fear-mongers who seek to throttle man by hamstringing the industrial civilization our lives depend on.

I suggest that the Nobel Committee carefully review the judge's full decision. If the committee members have integrity, they cannot award Gore the Nobel Peace Prize unless they are able to convincingly refute with evidence the conclusion of the British High Court.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Anti-Immigrant Jackboots

The sounds of anti-immigrant jackboots can be heard in different parts of the land. In Long Island, immigration cops kick in doors and arrest 186 Hispanics. Ostensibly to look for gang members, the raids also nabbed American citizens who were forced to defend the authenticity of their citizenship papers. One woman, who is a legal resident, said that "having people burst into her home and breaking doors reminded her of when she lived in El Salvador. 'There, it's the Death Squads and here it's immigration', she said."

Earlier this year, immigration cops arrested and deported 1,297 workers at meat processing plants who were here illegally.

In Los Angeles, again partially to nab gang members, 1,327 were arrested in the largest raids of its kind, and 600 of them have already been deported.

Workers and long-term residents are being lumped in with gang members, herded off to jail, and imprisoned while they await deportation.

When a state rounds up people in mass sweeps, the innocent and "guilty" alike, it has moved closer to statism. I am not Hispanic, so the day when I have to defend my right to be here to a skeptical, orders-following immigration cop who questions the authenticity of the documents I am compelled to show him, is further away. But how much further? And what will it be like to live in a country where fellow residents, Hispanic or not, are rounded up in raids to be processed for deportation, or simply humiliated for living here?

The rights of immigrants to live in this country is parcel of the individual human right to life that all of us possesses, whether we are immigrants ourselves or merely the son or daughter or descendant further removed of immigrants. When we violate the rights of immigrants to live here peaceably who have committed no crimes other than to violate the unjust laws against immigration, we are cutting away at the right to be left alone that all of us possesses. We are empowering the state to become ever more the police state.

Respecting an immigrant's right to live here is respecting our own right to life.