Friday, December 29, 2006

The Scapegoat

Today, I will take you into a flight of unserious and pointless (though amusing) word-association, something that makes sense only if you lend credence to a link between ancient ritual and modern practice.

In Christianity, one of the names for Jesus is the Lamb of God. This is a reference to the yearly rite the ancient Israelites were supposed to practice to purge Israel of its sins. A lamb, pure and without defect, was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. Then the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies (an inner part of the Temple where even he was not allowed on any other day for any other purpose), and do something that would somehow get God to forgive His People. Jesus death on the cross is supposed to be the reality that the yearly sacrifice of the lamb was meant to symbolize. I'd provide references, but I just don't feel like it. :p

Many people refer to The Lamb without realizing there is a second animal involved in the ritual: a goat. A goat was chosen, and the sins of Israel were metaphorically placed upon this goat. This goat was then driven out into the wilderness, and called the "escaped goat" or "scapegoat." If Jesus is the Lamb of God, who, then, is the Scapegoat of God? Some people answer "Satan," but who the hell is Satan? Where is he? Is he here? Is he there? Is he anywhere? Jesus was a man, who came, went, and--some say--came again. He is an identifiable historical figure, and his followers, who sometimes refer to their brotherhood as "the body of Christ," are here with us today. "Satan" is nothing but a mythical figure who shows up in some stories that are so ancient we can hardly lend them literal credence. He certainly didn't show up in the New Testament, except possibly when Jesus went wandering in the desert. He simply isn't historical enough to be placed on the same field as Jesus. So who is the Scapegoat?

Irony of ironies: Who is identified by every conspiracy theorist who posits an identity to "Them?" When "They" are the cause of all the woes in the world, who are "They" in the rare instance a conspiracy theorist attempts to put a name beyond some faceless mass like "The Government?" We all know who they are: The Jews.

Irony of ironies: Judeism and Christianity came to the Temple together. First, Jesus was killed. Shortly afterward, the Jews were driven from Judea, and the temple destroyed, by the Romans. Or perhaps: First, the Lamb was sacrificed. Shortly afterward, the Scapegoat was driven out into the wilderness. People have been blaming and persecuting The Jews for everything ever since--the Ultimate Scapegoat.

Probably not much to this. I thought it up about ten minutes ago, found it amusing, and decided to post it. I accept no responsibility for idiots who find this an excuse to persecute their fellow man, Jew or otherwise.

Oh, and if you take this seriously, realize one thing. The yearly lamb, when sacrificed, was dead. Those lambs did not come back to life. The Lamb, however, did, according to the story, anyway. If the Lamb that was sacrificed can rise again, perhaps there will come a day when The Scapegoat will no longer be held guilty of the world's sins.

Monday, December 18, 2006

On Readiness for War

I've been writing about peace, writing against the administration, writing against the war, writing my belief that it would be better for both America and Iraq if we lost this war. I've been writing this so much that one might come to the conclusion that I am either against all war, or simply biased against America in favor of everybody else. I feel the need to write something less timely, something that will indicate this is simply not the case.

Actually, there is a part of me that IS against all war, that part of me that is influenced largely by biblical teaching. While I am aware that God ordered the Israelites into war from time to time, the impression I get from the new testament--particularly the gospels--is that it is no longer a time for war. "If a man strikes you on the cheak, offer him the other. If a man takes your coat, give him also your cloak. If a man forces you to march a mile with him, go with him two." This, to me, is the clearest statement ever given in the Bible regarding how followers of Christ are to react to violence. Jesus demonstrated this ideal by willingly going to the cross. I really fail to see how people, calling themselves Christians, manage to justify war, and even fight in them.

However, it is but a part of me that feels this way. I am not a churchgoer. I do not think totally according to what I read in the Bible. There are times when I wonder if I might resolve this internal inconsistancy, but for now, that is not my way.

War happens. There are always those who believe their desires might be fulfilled through the deaths of others. This conflict can be seen in the non-human world, as various organisms have evolved either the strength to frighten off predators (like the elephant, or the bison), or the appearance of strength (like the puffer fish). It is no different among men, except that we often regard one another as beings of another species: we often prey upon one another.

For this reason, individuals, communities, and states must be prepared for war. If they posess strength, or at least the appearance of strength, the expense of war goes up for any that might attack them, therefore the profit of war goes down, meaning that, at the very least, those who go to war based upon economic calculation (whether concious or otherwise) would avoid it. Those who go to war foolishly can be eliminated.

It is also good for individuals, communities, and states who are committed to peace to ally with one another for mutual defense, not necessarily formally, but in principle. This decreases the amount of preparation necessary to maintain that optimal appearance of strength against those that would attack them, a larger force being available in the event of war. All of this decreases the profitability of war for those who make war for profit, deterring them. It also makes it more likely that those that make war for the sheer hell of it will, first off, have fewer allies (the raiders having been deterred), and second off, be utterly destroyed should they decide to fight anyway.

However, you may notice that I said individuals, communities, and states should be prepared for war, not merely states, as people seem to think today. This is because the enemy can come either from without, or from within. Individuals should be armed, to keep both the individual enemy at bay, as well as a criminally overzealous community. Communities should be armed, both to keep the individual criminal at bay, as well as the criminal state. States should be armed, both to protect their communities from one another, as well as to keep warlike states at bay. Perhaps a case can be made for the arming of communities of states—provided this community does not disarm its constituants.

One must remember that any armed group has the potential to be every bit as criminal as those other groups. Indeed, the traditional model for the state, in claiming for itself the privelage of seizing anything it "lawfully" comes to the decision to seize, is nothing more than a criminal organization large enough to end the competition between criminal organizations. In a democracy, "lawful decision making" means a majority of voters approves it, which can at times degenerate into the democracy of three wolves and a sheep, voting about what they should have for dinner...

However, the State does have its useful functions, and it can be deterred from the more outrageous abuses—provided communities and individuals are also prepared for war. This fact was recognized by the America's founding generation, who wrote this guarantee into the constitution in the form of the Second Amendment. For while an army can provide security to states in general, a free state requires a militia to secure its security, not necessarily against foreign armies, but rather against the government, itself.

I fully agree America needs to be prepared for war, and willing to fight it to the finish when it is necessary to do so. However, we are placing all of our military might under the control of very few men... and I believe this is extraordinarily dangerous. It doesn't take long for the enemies of peace to figure out how to play the new game, gaining control of our armies and the power to tax... and, once again, we break up into feuding, warring powers, each seeking to seize as much as they can in the name of "self defense;" only this time, we war against each other at the ballot box, using the tax collector as our mercenary. I believe most people agree that it would be better if taxes were lower and government were smaller, but a minority that profits from this game use our fear of each other and of people abroad to continually increase their own power.

Currently, there seems to be a focus on how big and scary we can look, in an attempt to deter others. This works for animals. The best way to deal with a hungry bear is to appear as large and threatening as you can. The bear just wants a meal, and wants the easiest meal he can get. Bears engage in violence in respond to what might be called an "economic calculation;" they want to meet their dietary needs with the least risk and caloric expense. If you look big and scary, predators will generally not attack.

People are different. If something simply looks strong, we will avoid messing with it, but if it looks really scary, we arm ourselves and kill it before it can kill us. Anything that not only secures its own safety, but also appears to threaten our own safety, we will attack, and this is as true in human interactions as it is in human-animal interactions.

In other words, our big scary army actually reduces our security, from more than one angle. It frightens people in other countries, thus people who would otherwise ignore us constantly scheme for a way to bring us down... and the more actively we use that army, the more people we turn to this endevor. With so many minds dedicated to the cause of bringing us down, it is only a matter of time until someone figures out how to do it... assuming that isn't what's happening right now.

The second threat, however, is from the minority that controls the machinery of the state using that power to cow their own people. There was a time when, if taxes were raised too high or rights were infringed, there was the threat of civil war, forcing politicians to restrain themselves somewhat in the name of civil order. Indeed, both of the rebellions that have occured in this country were essentially tax revolts. The "whisky rebellion," a far more important conflict than our textbooks lead us to believe, was over a tax that benefited the eastern seaborad at the expense of westerners. The Civil War, though we are told it was about Slavery (and was, indeed, toward the end), but it started not over slavery, but over the Tarrif of Abominations, a tax that benefited the industrial North at the expense of the agricultural South. Seek to advance the interests of the one at the expense of another, and this is what you risk.

That is no longer the case, since everybody knows you can't fight City Hall, let alone Washington D.C. Control over this resource is extremely valuable; lack of control is extremely dangerous. And so, we battle for control, with no reguard for truth or justice.

I firmly believe security is best established by a balance between individual readiness, communal readiness, and state readiness. No arms should be denied to individuals. Communities should maintain forces just large enough both to give their judicial systems teeth, and to act as a first line of defense against larger invaders. The state should maintain a force just large enough both to prevent communities from subjugating one another, and to act as a first line of defense in war, giving communal and individual forces time to organize under its banner.

If there is no balance of force, the monopolist of force inevitably ends up being used immorally to fulfill to desires of those who wish to profit by violence. Only if there is a balance of forces does violence cease to be a profitable alternative, allowing people the freedom to get down to living free.

Action points: Shrink the federal military. Release the national guard from federal authority. End arms control in all forms, with the possible exception of weapons capable of destroying entire communities in a single blast.

And to those that serve in our current military in the belief that it is your role to do so to defend our country, while I question your judgement, I do not question your honor, just as I do not question those that attempt to educate children in the only manner it is currently legal to do so. We all have a way in which we are to serve society, and I do not envy the position of those whose domain is currently monopolized by the government.

And, to the Christians: You're already on the right side of the Resurrection, so why risk your salvation by participating in the wars of pagans, atheists, and psuedo-christian charletans? (I probably answered my question with that last item.) You may die in battle, and then hear the words "I do now know you." Did not Paul say it was better to suffer wrong, than to commit it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Rent and Consumer Good Prices

A few weeks ago, I spent some time manning a snack bar on behalf of my mother. The prices were outrageous... which gave much inspiration to this ramble.

When we think about Rent, the concept that generally comes to mind is the money we pay for the place we live. Some might take it a step further and realize that businesses must pay rent, as well, but may not realize the consequences of this. Those consequences are experienced quite intimately whenever we attend a sporting event, a county fair, or go to an amusement park.

Try to buy a hot dog outside the park; you'll likely not pay more than $1.50 for the hot dog... maybe $2.00 if it is somehow REALLY special. I know we charged $3.50 for a regular old misnamed "jumbo" hot dog at the football game. How about a little bag of peanut M&Ms? Probably you pay no more than $.75 at a store. If you buy it from a kid's fund raiser, you might pay a dollar. At the stadium, we charged $3.00. At a mini-mart, you'll pay maybe $.80 to $1.00 for a 24 oz soda; at the stadium, we charged at least $3.00. This is a fact of life, few people question it. I think about these things; what causes prices in the stadium (or at the fair, or Magic Mountain, or inside the movie theater...) to be so much higher than just outside?

The answer, of course, is Rent. There is a massive number of people inside the stadium, crowding around the field to see the game. Their ticket price, of course, contains an element of Rent; they are paying for the privilege of seeing the game up close, without having to push and shove to get a good view. The fact that the stadium was not full shows the effects of Speculation; seats that might otherwise be full remain empty, potential spectators being driven away by a price set according to an overestimated demand.

However, the food prices also contain a large element of rent, as well. With that crowd there, the right to sell food in proximity to the crowd, rather than someone else, is highly valuable. The food prices are inflated by the price one has to pay to the stadium owners in order to do business at that location. People are generally willing to pay these prices because the sort that can afford to attend a sporting event can generally afford to pay outrageous prices (though I recall, when growing up, that my parents absolutely refused to buy food inside Disneyland).

A general increase in rent is like a whole country becoming like the stadium, except instead of football players, you have a society's technical elite. Instead of stadium owners, you have a society's landed elite. Instead of people who are unable to afford the stadium food prices and have the option of buying outside the stadium, you have the desperately poor, who sacrifice much just to afford the basic necessities. And instead of people who have the choice to watch from outside the stadium (or not to watch at all), you have the homeless, who, unable to afford a "ticket" for one reason or another, stand at the edges of society, outcast.

That is Rent.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PRC: The "Something for Nothing" problem:

Georgism, so far as I can tell, begins with the public collection and distribution of rent, by way of a high tax on the rental value of land. How that money is distributed, what is done with it, who makes the decisions as to what shall be done with it, is where the many divisions within Georgism begin, such as Geo-Socialism, Geo-Anarchism, etc.

I have, in the past, discussed the Geo-Libertarian idea of the public collection and distribution of rent. Very simply put, the tax, rather than going to fund the usual functions of today's government, would simply be paid out as a "citizen's dividend" on a per-capita basis. The idea behind this is that individual motivations are superior to political motivations when it comes to deciding how money should be spent. Under a system in which the collecting entity (government, or PRC) simply redistributes land rent, rather than deciding how it should be spent, the benefits of Anarcho-Capitalism would be within reach of not only the upper classes of society (which would be limited by the tax), but rather would be accessible to everybody. Everybody would have the ability to pay for, for example, private police services.

Now, while I have issues with Anarcho-Capitalism in general, my main discomfort with this program has always been the simple fact that this would give to people "something for nothing." Where would be the incentive to work, under this system? What would prevent it from simply collapsing under the weight of masses of moochers? What is the difference between this idea, and massive wealth transfer programs in general? I've been thinking about it lately, and I think I may actually have an answer.

One aspect is the nature of the tax itself. While most taxes act as a punishment for wealth production (income taxes hit those with high labor values, in addition to the idle rich; sales taxes penalize people for distributing goods; excise taxes target the production of specific kinds of wealth; etc.), a tax on Land rental value is a penalty not for production, but on the monopolization of natural potential. One person who is making far better use of a piece of land than his neighbors is taxed no more than the person who is simply allowing his land to lie unused. The only relation between taxation and production would be the case of a highly productive community in which the natural potential of the Land is proximity to highly productive people... A good place to open up a store, for example. In this case, the tax would simply ensure that such valuable land not be held purely for the increasing value of the area, but rather would be continually available for use.

The fact that the dividend is distributed on a per capita basis, rather than in a means-tested fashion, means that, at the very least, the dividend does not act as a disincentive to productivity. I have been personally acquainted with a disabled man who wished to go back to school and earn the credits he needed to start teaching, but feared to leave the public dole, which he would have to do if he attempted to work again. The impact of welfare programs in discouraging people from starting to work again is well documented.

However, even if a large number of people should start mooching off the productivity of a few, those people are likely not busy driving up the value of Land. The effect is that Land value would remain low; therefore, the Land tax would remain low. In the event that, despite the low level of taxes being redistributed on a per capita basis, people still have the ability to live off the dividend alone (or the dividend plus something they enjoy doing, anyway), we would simply have reached an era of Star Trekonomics, the point where technology enables a few to be so productive that they can literally provide for the needs of thousands of others, and do so by choice. (In Star Trek, it is generally assumed that, despite everybody being provided for, The Federation's economy is still productive enough to support, not only a socialist paradise, but also a substantial fleet of starships.)

In the event that we're simply not there yet, a moocher class would still result in declining Land values, followed closely by declining Land taxes, followed by the dividend being unable to support an individual, followed by individuals increasing their productivity to supplement their dividend income, in a potentially increasing cycle. There would be no penalty for working; no portion of the dividend would be lost. However, as productivity increased, land value would increase, thus the dividend would increase. In the meantime, those who remain productive despite the apparent opportunity to live without being so would not be penalized a bit for remaining productive (and, indeed, would pay decreasing taxes until the economy hit the point where productivity could go down no further).

Personally, I think certain types of things would still need to be funded by what I am going to call the Land Corporation (as opposed to government, since its power to tax would be limited to the power to charge rent for the monopolization of land owned by the community via this corporation, and not a general ability to tax anything and everything it can achieve a majority in favor of). The tendency of people to fully utilize land when not discouraged from doing so may necessitate the public support of certain kinds of recreational areas, such as nature preserves. In the situation where there is a fairly continuous threat for a hostile foreign country, a military may be necessary, or at least a publicly funded deterrant nuclear arsenal. (In the situation where international neighbors are either neutral towards us or powerless, a publicly funded military may well be unnecessary.) Publicly funded police organizations may be necessary to keep mafia-like organizations from filling the gap. There may be other things I am not thinking of.

However, my conclusion is that, if all land were owned by a corporation which had all citizens as shareholders (one share per citizen), which distributed its entire profits as a dividend to its shareholders, the result would not be unmitigated economic disaster, or even a general malaise. The result may well be superior to what we have today.

Friday, November 03, 2006

California Propositions: Continued

Sorry about the lateness of this post. I've been extremely busy lately, and the closer the election gets, the less and less I want to think about politics.

Proposition 85: NO.

I could almost vote in favor of Proposition 85. My instinct is generally to favor parental authority over child liberty. But I prefer for that authority take shape in a state of political and economic freedom for both parties, the natural result of a child's dependence on his parents, and not the result of government mandate.

Another problem is that this proposition furthers the bueraeucratic regulatory model in which the assumption is made that professionals are guilty until proven innocent. I can understand requiring a doctor to notify the parents. I can understand futher the notion that this requirement can be delayed until after the abortion if the doctor notes in her records that to delay would be life threatening. But the doctor would also have to submit notice to a state regulatory board of any and all abortions performed on minors.

Why? What purpose does this serve? If a doctor is going to fudge his records in order to hide an illegal abortion, he's hardly going to submit the paperwork. No, this is nothing more than the continuation of our society's shift from a judicial model in which people are presumed innocent until proven guilty, to a bueraeucratic model in which people are presumed guilty until proven innocent. It would be sufficient to allow parents to take the doctor to court, and each party can provide whatever evidence they have. There is no need to subject the medical community to yet more pointless paperwork.

I sincerely doubt we are in the midst of any kind of minor abortion "crisis" as a result of the absence of this particular law (except insofar as one might consider permitting any abortions whatsoever a crisis). This being the case, I cannot recommend voting in favor of this proposition.

Proposition 86: NO.

This proposition is wrong on many levels.

First off, it would benefit organized crime enormously. Organized crime and terrorist organizations already benefit enormously from the opportunity to smuggle cigarettes across state lines. This proposition would raise cigarette prices by $2.16 a pack. That raises the price by over a third, assuming $4.00 a pack is a good estimate of the current price. That is a massive smuggling opportunity.

In other words, instead of honest businessmen profiting off the few people who don't care about the widely known health risks of smoking, we have cutthroats and killers profitting off this. Very likely, any gains made through the funding of hospitals and clinics would be at least offset by the extra that would have to be spent on law enforcement, not to mention the midnight gunshot wound in the emergency room. And lets not forget terrorists... you know, those guys that want to blow us up just to make a point? (Yes, for those of you who follow this blog, I do believe the exist. I just happen to believe current policies, such as this one, empower them further.)

It is also morally wrong. It amounts to the targeting of an unpopular minority as a revenue tap.

I really don't want to see this one pass.

Proposition 87: NO

As I have said earlier, I am not generally opposed to excise taxes on fossil fuels. I happen to think this the best way to reduce both the consumption of fossil fules (and thefore the production of fossil fuel wastes), as well as potentially the levels of other taxes. However, this proposition does much more than just tax fuel and throw the proceeds into the general fund. It immediately turns around to spend it, potentially in a manner counterproductive to its stated goals.

The basic idea is that the money will be funneled into a bueraucracy that will attempt to encourage the development of alternative energy sources. Now, I'm all for alternative energy sources (indeed, I can be quite enthusiastic), but I happen to think the public funding of the development of such things is ultimately counterproductive. At best, it subverts the process by favoring political connections, rather than technologies. The two can coincide, but there is hardly a guarantee of this.

At worst, it could be used by the oil industry to stifle the development of alternative energy technologies. It is political appointees who would make the decisions regarding who gets funded and who doesn't, and while elected officials make the ultimate decisons as to who get appointements, well funded lobbies exert great influence over the process... particularly in this heavily gerrymandered state. Such lobbies include the oil industry. Given that oil producers would have great interest in the activities of such an authority, it can be expected that they would seek to influence this authority. If they are successful enough, then when it wasn't sponsoring the efforts of the oil companies themselves, it could well be funding the least promising technologies.

All in all, this initiative is yet another extremely bad idea. I'm not even sure it's well intentioned, though I'm sure the intentions of many of the dupes that will vote for this on election day are good.

Proposition 88: NO

Unfortunately, I don't have too much to say about this measure I think will appeal to many. Sure, there is the issue regarding the imposition of a statewide property tax (property taxes traditionally being the purview of counties), and I don't like having more than one level of government tax anything... it can only undermine the lower level, in the long run. Then there is the matter of how the funding would probably go more to bueraucracy than to actual education... but that's a given where public education is concerned. No, my opposition to this measure is rooted in my opposition to public education in general. Such a discussion goes beyond the scope of this ramble, thus I will leave it for another time.

Proposition 89: NO

Campaign funding is such a huge, messy topic I am tempted to throw up my hands on this one and just say I'm voting no by default. There are, however, a few things I would like to say about this.

First off, for those of you thinking this is a great way to get third party cantidates a large war chest, remember that nothing comes without a cost. This proposition is a Trojan Horse. Sure, it'll start out as just a grant of money to a cantidate for public office, but money given never stays that way. Remember that the main way the federal government violates the separation of powers between itself and state governments is by way of funding specific programs. It always starts out as funding for a particular purpose, and then the rules start piling on. The danger is the same.

Secondly, do you really want a cantidate that can't raise enough money from his own supporters to have a huge amount granted by the government? I sure don't. I'm sure the sorts of campaigns we'd see would result in an outcry for new rules and regulations as to what cantidates can do with the money. Imagine if a porn star got the Libertarian nomination, for example.

Finally, all the new regulations as to who can give what to who in what form and all that would accomplish nothing. I am convinced that attempting to patch a basic flaw in our political system doesn't fix it, it merely covers it up. Shady election practices would still exist, they'd just be driven further underground, even more hidden than before. Meanwhile, perfectly legitimate interests would be prevented from having their say.

The new taxes, of course, strike at the worst possible point. Corporate taxes reduce employment. Heck, I don't even know how big a corporation would have to be in order to qualify for the increased tax rate. I know for a fact that higher taxes assessed against the company I work for would probably reduce my chances at getting a raise.

If we really want more competative elections, the thing to do is to require that election districts conform to community boundaries as much as possible. The influence of "special interests" would be much less if our districts were formed on the basis of community, and not on the basis of what's "safe" for the incumbants.

Proposition 90: NO!

I am extremely disappointed that the good version of eminant domain protection did not make the ballot. It's not surprising, though; it didn't have anything in there that would act as a payout to anyone who already has money, so it couldn't possibly get the necessary support. This one, however, does. It has a truly massive payout for its financial backers.

Basically, in addition to outlawing takings for transfer to private parties for whatver reason, it also makes it possible to sue the state for any change in regulation that a property owner can make a case that the regulation damaged the market value of the property. For example, if a zoning change reduces the value of a parcel of land, the owner could sue. If we did away with ag subsidies (something I am very much in favor of), farmers all over the state could sue on the basis of a lower market value for farmland. If a new environmental regulation made it more difficult to do business, the owner could sue. Any change in the tax code could trigger a lawsuit.

Basically, this legislation made the ballot precisely because it is broken. Either developers get a new class of lawsuit that specifically favors them, or the legislation gets rejected. It's a win-win situation, for them. Hopefully, this issue won't just die. This initiative must be rejected, but we can't just forget that eminent domain reform is needed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

California Propositions

I figured it's about time for me to post my opinions on the various ballot propositions. But before I get into specifics, let me state my first principle of ballot propositions: Vote "no" by default. In general, a proposition means another law, and probably another set of bonds. Almost universally, new laws are unnecessary, and more public debt is just plain wrong. If you don't know how you're going to vote, do yourself a favor and show up just to vote "no" on every single proposition... yes, that includes the ones I intend to vote "yes" on. Generally, it is more important for a bad proposition to be voted down than for a good one to be voted in. If it's really that important, that fact will be more evident next year, or the legislature will get themselves in gear and do their job, or some entrepreneur will solve the problem before anyone even has a chance to re-float the proposition.

So if you don't want to even think about this, just go and vote "no," and preserve your own freedom. That said, let me move onto the individual propositions.

Propositions 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, and 84:

These, collectively, shall be known as the "Taxation of Your Children Initiatives" or the "Direct Wealth Transfer from Middle Class to Rich Acts". I don't care what wonderful things the authors claim will be accomplished by these acts. First off, whether or not these things will actually occur is a crapshot; the language could well contain loopholes that allow bueraeucrats to divert spending to other purposes--most particularly to the financial backers of the proposition. Secondly, even if the language is bullet proof, we still have the issue of potentially incompetant bueraeucrats misspending the money. Either way, it's most likely a waste.

Still it may--or may not--be a good use of money. However, one thing it is guaranteed to do is bolster the continuing program of transfering wealth from the middle class and working poor to the upper class. Here's how it works. The government offers bonds for sale on the market. People who already have lots of money buy these bonds... instead of buying stock or lending money to people who are actually trying to improve our quality of life through the production of goods and services. Once they have them, our government is obligated to pay them interest on those bonds, and do you know where the money to pay that interest comes from? Tax revenues, that's where, and the majority of tax revenues come from the middle class. So, in authorizing bonds, what you're really doing is authorizing a regressive wealth transfer.

Personally, I think the ending of public debt would go much further to restore equality in this country than all the progressive taxes in the world.

Again, if something is really that important, the state legislature should set aside money from existing tax revenues... not set up an annuity for the country's wealthiest.

Proposition 1A: Maybe = No

At first glance, I thought I'd be voting in favor of this proposition. On its face, the notion that the purpose of gas taxes is to fund transportation infrastructure seems good, and--even better--the notion of hobbling the state government sounds good to me, as well.

On further reflection, I realized that I don't really believe in funding infrastructure with gas taxes. If we really want a just funding of infrastructure, a far better idea would be to charge people directly for road use in congested areas at certain times of the day. I would go so far as to charge as much as we possibly could charge while still keeping the roads at full usage--if the road usage goes down, obviously, too much is being charged. In addition to being a more justly direct charge for the use of public roads, it would have the effect of reducing congestion at certain times of the day, as well as providing a certain measure of where more infrastructure is needed: wherever the most money is brought in, that is where more infrastructure is needed (and building it would drive down the price). Of course, if we're going to go that far to mimic market incentives, I don't see why we shouldn't go all the way... but I'm just saying.

In addition, there is a second, better justification for gas taxes (if there be justification for any taxes): a charge, not for the disproportionate use of public roads, but the disproportionate use of public air. That there is currently a "tragedy of the commons" under way where the use of oxygen for combustion and the use of airspace as a dumping ground for byproducts is concerned cannot be denied... whether or not Global Warming is real. While, if we're going to go that route, I would prefer a tax that hits all fossil fuels based upon pollutant content (this much for carbon, this much for mercury, etc.) charged at the point where it enters the economy (ports of entry, wellheads, mineshafts, etc.). As a matter of fact, I'd love to see that replace some more universally applied tax, to cut down on the bureaucratic costs and invasions of privacy associated with other taxes.

Basically, the arguments in favor at least balance with arguments against, and when in doubt, I vote no.

Proposition 83: No

If there's one issue where people are more likely to vote with their emotions rather than their brains, this is it. There is truly nothing more vile than a sexual predator. There may be others that are worse; people who deliberately profit from the extermination of hundreds of thousands come to mind. But the deaths of hundreds of thousands is a statistic; the violation of a single child is a tragedy.

However, I do not believe Proposition 83 is the answer to the problem. I believe the opponents of this proposition when they say the GPS monitoring would be a waste of money, that the blanket coverage of misdemeanor offenders would be both unjust and wasteful, and that the residency requirments, applied to so many people, would have undesirable unintended consequences. We already have laws against the truly vile offenders... laws that already failed to protect Jessica Lunsford. I fail to see how tightening the law will stop people who are going to ignore the law anyway. Perhaps lifelong GPS monitoring would be good for felony offendors... but not misdemeanor offenders.

Personally, I think we should just brand them. When I saw "brand," I am referring to the procedure of heating an iron with a distinctive design upon it until it is red hot, then applying that iron to the skin of the offender--no anestheisa. Apply it to their cheek and their off hand. It'd be much cheaper, and people could detect the mark at a glance without the aid of expensive equipment... not to mention the procedure is painful. Children could be trained to run screaming from (or hurl eggs at) people who bear the mark. Threaten any doctor who surgically removes the scarring with a similar branding, and I think we'd pretty well have it covered: viscerally satisfying protection from sexual predators, on the cheap!

Other propositions will be covered at a later date.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why We Want to Lose

There can be no doubt that there is an element in this country that does not want us to win in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such people typically crow words along the lines of "I told you so," at every piece of bad news (well, bad for "us") that comes out of those places. We scoff in disbelief at official announcements of progress or optimism as to the outcomes of those conflicts.

Typically, confronted with an accusation of wanting our forces to lose, such a person will bluster defensively. "Of course I don't want us to lose. I support the troops! I just don't think we're doing the right thing out there." or "I'd like to see the goverment succeed at its publicly stated goals. I just don't think we can, and I don't think those are their actual goals."

Let me just say that I am among those that want to see us lose Iraq and Afghanistan. I want that uprising to get so big, so powerful, so cohesive (or chaotic), that our forces are literally driven from their shores. Mind you, it would be far better for us to get out before that happens (assuming it isn't already happening... and I fully support those troops who decide to get out despite orders to the contrary), but I want to see our forces exit in defeat. I want to see the current administration's policies thouroughly repudiated... every bit as thouroughly as Stalinism was when the Afghans routed the Russians.

Part of the reason for this is fear. Should the government succeed in its crusade against "Anti-Americanism" abroad, I have no doubt it would then turn its power inward, toward "Anti-Americanists" at home--such as Geo-Anarchists like myself. I wonder: could I be prosecuted for treason for opposing the government's policies? I'm probably toeing a line when I encourage soldiers to go AWOL (though I do think mass defection would be good for the country). Would prosecution even be necessary, if the President were to get everything the current adminstration wants in the way of authority to arrest and hold without charges?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

RE: Broken Law

This is a response to one of Cranky Weasel's latest, a presentation of two characters: a home-growing pot smoker who keeps his weed to himself, and a CEO who buys up a rival corporation and eliminates jobs in the interests of efficiency, showing that the law treats them in the exact opposite manner than they should be treated. Head over and read his blog, then come back to mine. My response follows:

Well, I would argue that neither Frank nor the CEO have done anything wrong. Frank isn't hurting anyone, and certainly should not be arrested for his activities. But then again, neither has the CEO, and let me tell you why. (Note that there is a flaw in the argument... before you stop reading in disgust of a capitalist fallacy, at least try to reach the second part.)

Certainly, when he removes inefficiencies from the new business conglomerate, some people lose their jobs. However, other people do better, and those people who lost their jobs don't necessarily do worse.

Think of the stockholders. Certainly, some of them are fatcats who hardly need any more, but a good many of them are likely people whose primary retirement fund includes shares of this company in their 401(k). For those who are likely to spend that money more immediately, what are they likely to spend it on? Maybe they'll go to resteraunts more often, or buy a fancy car, or go to Disneyland more regularly, or do one of many things that both require money to do, as well as employees... thus, it is very likely that, though some jobs are lost, more are generated in the process.

Now lets look at the facilities that are "liquidated" in the process. We're talking office buildings, or manufacturing facilities, or other types of commercial or industrial real estate. If they're not being used they could be sold to someone else, providing an opportunity for others to go into business for themselves. Some of the layoffs might benefit from this factor directly, while the rest likely have marketable skills; given a healthy economy, they can find other jobs... particularly considering that more jobs have been created.

Now, this argument is a classical Capitalist argument, and it would not only make sense, but would be nearly unassailable, were there not an alternate scenario that, if it's not more likely, at least does enough damage in the long run to eliminate the gains created when the previous scenario is the case. Most "liberals" would simply point out the obvious fact of poverty and class power without bothering to explore the question of why. In the following paragraphs, I will explore the question, why doesn't this scenario actually work?

The other thing the shareholders could do with their money is buy land they have no intention of using. They could buy a summer home in the mountains or on the coast, thus eliminating an opportunity for someone else to make a living there, and raising the cost of living for everyone else that's already there. They could buy some land that could be developed sooner (providing both additional housing and/or jobs, commercial, industrial, and construction), holding it and keeping it out of use in anticipation of future gain. Unlike actual capital goods--for which a demand only stimulates greater production--the demand for "investment land" does no such thing, since land is, truly, a finite resource.

Then there's the unused facilities that go with laid off workers. While the corporation could sell it off right away, it is unlikely to do so. They can count it as collateral to get better leverage when taking out loans, and, of course, as the economy develops, the value of the land will go up, making holding it alone a good opportunity, even as the community in the immediate vicinity of the property blights. The people that used to work there no longer do, and nobody else is allowed to move into the derelict facilities, renovate them, and employ people there, until the corporation is good and ready, likely at an extortionate rate.

There is no need to create onerous bueraucratic regulations to keep this scenario from happening. All that needs to be done is for existing taxes (particularly income and sales) to be replaced with a Georgist Land Tax. The result of this, to both the corporation and the wealthier beneficiaries of the takeover, is that it would be very expensive to hold land they had no intention of using. The average person would not be harmed, since what they would pay in land taxes would probably not exceed what they had already been paying in sales and income taxes (not to mention the opportunity costs of forbidding anyone from going into business who can neither deal with tax laws nor afford the services of a CPA).

The summer-homers and blight-holders, however, would have to pay a great amount to hold land out of use. The corporation would be very likely to unload the unused facilities on much more generous terms (an opportunity for others to do their own business in that location) in order to avoid paying the taxes The wealthier beneficiaries would be much more likely to spend their vacation time in hotels or rentals (providing tourism jobs or, at the very least, leaving the spot open for others at other times of the year) than to purchase a tract of land they intend to use only a few weeks out of a year.

The result would be more, better paying jobs for everyone. As Hentry George put it in his Progress and Poverty, with all that land freed up for use, "For into the labor market would have entered the greatest of all competitors for the employment of labor, a competitor whose demand cannot be satisfied until want is satisfied—the demand of labor itself."

Capitalism does work, as two-hundred years of progress clearly shows. The problem isn't Capital, it is Land--as it always has been. The creation of the "Sturdy English Poor," for example, did not begin with the Industrial Age, which employed millions, but rather with the Enclosure Movement, which booted those millions off their traditional lands in the first place. The grandest deception ever put over the world was when people started counting Land as just another kind of Capital.

It is not.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Courage to Resist

Viewing from a distance the political cartoons portion of the local news section, I was reminded of a recent issue which had some rather un-funny cartoons, a depiction of the end of the war. One of the panels included dejected troops returning home, leaving their dead behind, wondering what it was all for. I believe a similar thing happened after Vietnam, although I was born well after that, so I'm not really sure.

It got me thinking about Lt. Ethren Watada, and others who have refused to deploy. I suddenly found myself thinking that if there is any way for the nation to gracefully depart from Iraq, this is it.

Certainly, it would put the government in shambles, but we must remember that the government is not the same thing as the nation.

Think of the message it would send to the world. The past six years--nay--the past six decades!--could instantly be erased in the minds of many. Certainly, our government has done horrible things. Certainly, the government's foreign policy has long been one of covert empire acquisition. Our government has killed, set up puppet governments, and otherwise behaved badly for nothing more than the benefit of, say, the world's richest 5%. The government invaded Iraq. The Government has been steadily eroding our liberties ever since FDR took office, and some would say it started before.

However, presented with irrefutable evidence of the designs of our ruling class, a non-violent revolt began, extending even to the troops themselves. They quit the field in droves, putting the government in an unmanagable situation: you can't court marshal them all, can you? And even if you do, what do you do with them?

Though the government is corrupt, America still has a strong, couragous moral fibre running through it. Only fools would regard it as a sign of weakness... and those fools would have little chance against the America I present in this scenario. When our "leaders" demanded evil of us, we were NOT like the Germans of World War 2. We didn't "just follow orders." Each individual made their own moral decision, and those decisions returned the world to peace.

This scenario gives me the same swelling feeling of appreciation that the old stories I used to hear about Poland's Solidarity movement gave me toward the Poles, the same feeling I got when I heard about the Ukranians taking to the streets in protest of an obviously rigged vote, the same feeling I get whenever I hear of a nation--any nation--being courageous enough to take risks in favor of overthrowing gross tyranny.

The question is: Is it only our ruling class that is corrupt, or is the very nation itself rotten to the core? Mass defection would prove the former scenario to be the case. Outside that, I can't think of any way for us to "gracefully" exit from Iraq.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Libertarians Behaving Badly (like everyone else)

Lookie what I found!

The short story: apparently, a group of libertarian digg users are being accused of conspiring to digg up any and all stories from such sites as and The accusers go further to state that many of these diggers don't even READ all the stories they digg, they are simply trying to game the system.

The issue of digg gangs has been discussed before, and I'm not even going to bother to look into the allegation that there is a digg gang which targets libertarian articles; it is sufficiently unsurprising I'm just going to assume it is true.

The irony, of course, is that all the "digg gang" phenomenon proves is that libertarians are right. It's one thing to have a news aggregator like influenced by organized parties and interest groups; it is quite another to have an entity with the power to tax, distribute, and force at will that operates under the same principle. If you don't like digg gangs, imagine how much worse it would be if digg gangs had the authority to demand money, imprison you if you refuse, and spend it to imprison or even kill anyone they pleased!

Oh, wait, we already have that. It's called The State.

Monday, September 25, 2006

RE: A Uniform Does Not Absolve You

"No one questions whether the Russian soldiers who executed 21,000 Polish Army reservists in the Katyn Forest Massacre are responsible for their actions......Why is it then that few Americans, even those opposed to the war, question whether U.S. soldiers are responsible for their actions?" Laurence M. Vance on the soldier's responsibility.

The question of whether men can be held accountable for actions taken under authority is always a difficult one. On the one hand, you have pieces like this one, which condemn any man who kills or destroys on behalf of his government, as murderers, thieves, vandals, and possibly worse. Taken to the extreme, to hold this idea consistantly is to comdemn every person who has killed while in uniform (or even intended to do so, if he didn't get the opportunity) to the same degree as one who has killed out of uniform. Heck, I'd go even further, and extend the blanket ostracism to anyone who so much as paid their taxes during an immoral war. People like this are the sort who, after the Vietnam War, booed returning soldiers, shouting such epithets as "baby killer!"

Then there is the other side, which reacts equally vociferously to such charges. Such people regard a uniform as a sort of sanctification, whether it be a police uniform or a military uniform. In their eyes, men are permitted to take acts on behalf of government that would be immoral if taken without government sanctification. Even if the motivations of the people who ultimately have the authority to make the decision as to whether to go to war or not turn out to be completely bogus--even obviously so at the time the decision is made--the actions of the troops are not their own, to these people. For while evil men may have made an evil decision, the men who risk their lives to carry out that decision, regardless of their personal opinion of said decision, are heroes if they carry it out anyway, and are traiters if they refuse, regardless of their motivations (or even legal sophistries).

While my readers know well which side I lean toward, I think there is a middle ground to this argument. Yes, I agree that, whether one is wearing a uniform or not, one is responsible for one's actions. Indeed, I believe that if a majority--or at least a significant plurality--of people in this country believed this, this country would be a better place. Many fewer people would be willing to serve the State whether for good or for ill, thus it would be much more difficult for anyone to establish the tyranny of which the seed was planted in the Progressive Era, and which is flowering today.

However, it was only recently that I managed to integrate this idea fully into my worldview. As recently as 2001, I attempted to join the United States Army (post-9/11 fervor) with the full intent of fighting in Afghanistan, or whever fighting needed in order to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice. Fortunately, I was turned away; I suffer from a bit of hearing loss, so I didn't make it past the MEPS.

Nationalism and Statism are powerfully deceptive worldviews--even more powerful when the two are joined. I had it to the following level: I still believed it was acceptable to kill a man in self-defense (I continue to believe that, though I believe a Christian should attempt to refrain from doing so (Matthew 5:39)). I believed that a police officer should be given extensive benefit of the doubt; today I doubt the wisdom of vesting a particular group of people with special authority to violate people's rights (theoretically in defense of the rights of others, but I increasingly emphasize the word "theoretically.") However, where soliders were concerned, I remained under the delusion that, somehow, just about anything can be justified under the pretense of a "Declaration of War." I also operated under the assumption that all American wars are defensive wars... despite the fact that I was quite aware that the vast majority of U.S. Military actions have been nothing of the sort. The two facts just hadn't connected as they have in the failures in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Still, it is a powerful delusion, and I regard it as a "mitigating circumstance" for soldiers returning home from the front lines. And, if the reason for pacifism is the belief that the moral rules that appy to individuals are not somehow null when individuals act as a group, we should also apply the national strategies we would prefer the nation adopt in our own lives. How can we expect those who govern us to be peacefully tolerant of differing regimes when we ourselves are intolerant of of differing opinions? How can we expect our government to be diplomatic in dealing with the representatives of other nations when we ourselves are unwilling to be diplomatic with others who hold other beliefs?

Do not ostracise the troops when they return--particularly if you discovered your pacifism within the past five years. Continue to treat them as individuals, and attempt to convince them of the wrongness of war in the same way you would anyone else. There are going to be a lot of people returning home who are confused as to the purpose of the last four years of our lives. Treat them not as willing accomplices, but as people awakening from a long period of mental compulsion. Help them to heal, and remember that love, even the Love of Christ, can cover over a multitude of sins.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In Washington, another tale of waste and fraud unpunished

"Cycle of fraud in the F-22 procurement and funding process and reluctance among news services to expose it. Contrasts the price paid in opportunity costs for other funding decisions."

I am linking this from here because I really don't want stories like this to get lost in the shuffle. Please, digg it, and digg it well.

read more | digg story

Sunday, September 17, 2006

First Amendment Violation?

I just had a thought, a very short, somewhat tenative line of reasoning.

Israel is an implicitly, if not explicitly, Jewish state. Probably the main justification for our support of Israel flows from a line of reasoning that is explicitly Zionist, both Christian and Jewish. I fail to notice any genuine strategic concerns in maintaining our support for the State of Israel, and, indeed, there are many potential strategic lines of reasoning that justify a withdrawl of military support for Israel. Thus, it seems that the primary motivation for said support is Zionist in nature.

Would our government's unwavering support for Israel qualify as "respecting an establishment of religion" as prohibited by the First Amendment?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Loose Change 2nd Edition Recut

"Dylan Avery, Korey Rowe, and Jason Bermas bring you the most powerful 9/11 Documentary yet. Updated!!!!"

All right, I've watched the video. Ironically enough, I did not discover this video by way of internet. In truth, I am generally uninterested in consipiracy theories; I don't need to hear that our leaders are the perps to believe that the event is the fault of our government. My line, of reasoning, is that a half-century of more of usupations, abuses, and provocations can only inevitably lead to an event of this sort; that the only center ever held by the so-called "conservative" movement--mindless anti-communism--lead our people to support our government in atrocious actions throughout the third world.

However, a co-worker of mine, ordinarily a highly conservative bush supporter, is visibly shaken by this documentary; he insisted I watch it. I have, and let me tell you; it is extremely convincing. The pictures of the completely not jet shaped hole in the side of the pentagon is the most convincing part of it. The "you believe me, mom?" part is doubly suspicious.

Right-handed Osama is pretty convincing, as well.

There were a few flaws I noticed. First off, they showed the complete absence of scars in the pentagon lawn. However, if the plane did, in fact, "bounce," the shot they were using was hardly wide enough to show where the scars should have been.

The blast in the hole looked orange-yellow, not silver, though that hardly proves anything.

Another major problems is this: what happened to the actual passengers of flight 73? What happened to the actual people the video suggested were impersonated for the phone-calls home? Have they all been intimidated into silence? Were they killed?

The main problem with it, of course, is that I hardly have the frame of reference to verify the claims of the video. There was a lot about steel melting points, composition of airplane parts, facts about demolitions, the living or dead status of 9/11 hijackers, and such, which I simply cannot verify; I lack the knowledge to do so. There are those who claim that they have done so, and much of what the film states is false; my next post will follow watching the response.

However, for those of you who are saying, "Man, it's totally true!" and turn around to say the solution is to put *different* people in a position of ultimate power (which is what it is to have the degree of wealth and political power posessed by such men), I say you miss the point. It doesn't matter who has the power. Allow people the authority to steal (tax) and kill (war) in your name, and they will do so, in your name--and YOU will ultimately reap the consequences...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

America Bless God

This is the text of an acual bumber sticker I actually saw on an SUV sitting in front of me the other day.

Has the idolatrous worship of "America" become so prevalent that someone can display such a message openly, without shame? Is America so elevated in the eyes of some that they now invoke America's blessing... upon God?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steven Haze

I have a few two-word phrases which characterize Steven Haze and his cantidacy.

Incumbant's Paradise

If there is any proof that the practice of electing people by Gerrymandered districts is a recipe for the subversion of democracy, California District 21 is it. Just look at the funding difference betwee the two! Devin Nunes (Republican) has literally raised sixty times as much for his cantidacy as Steven Haze. The vast majority of Nunes' contributions come from PACs. I'll go into more detail when I do an article about Devin Nunes, and resist the temptation to go after him, as well.

Flaming Liberal

Yes on abortion, yes on tax increases for the rich, yes on gun control in any and all forms he can find. The only nominal positive I could find were his insistance on welfare recipiants be kept in training and/or work programs. While such programs would ultimately amount to little more than a subsidy to "training companies" and/or bueraucracy which has the ability to fill out forms declaring themselves "in compliance," but at least it would also serve as a way to make welfare more trouble than it's worth for some.

Then again, it would probably serve as little more than a statist indoctrination program, so even this seems to be a bad idea. (I would prefer either eliminating welfare altogether, or simply replacing our complex of welfare, real estate tax deductions, and business subsidies with a simple, flat, citizens dividend.)

The worst part of it is he's not a "flaming liberal" where it really counts: in today's foreign policy! He isn't against the war by any means, favors our continuation in Iraq, but would like to ask for a little help from other countries. Pah!

Stay Home

No, really. He's involved in some things I support in this area, including the Sierra Foothills Nature Conservancy. These are the sorts of organizations that, if my money weren't being seized by various governments for these purposes, I'd financially support willingly. (As it is, I'll barely be able to make rent once I'm out on my own again, and a good quarter of my income goes to pay the obvious taxes--never mind the hidden ones.)

The Verdict

Given his incredibly low level of support (Devin Nunes is going to win this election, no question about that) and his incredibly weak position on the Iraq War, Steven Haze will not be getting my vote. Mind you, neither will Devin Nunes. The only other registered cantidate is the Green Party cantidate, John Roger Mills, who I'll be watching a little closer from here on.

I have got to find some way to get involved in politics in this town...

Friday, September 01, 2006


Go here.

Notice that the incorrect submission into MS Internet Explorer takes you to Microsoft's seach page, and provides a few suggestions:,, and Hilariously, the blitheringly obvious is not included among the suggestions.

Gee, I wonder why. :p

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Problem of Military Power

A commenter called stylerm over at asked the question: what is the Libertarian position on pre-emptive strikes? As I typed an answer, it got entirely too large for a comment. What I would have posted follows below:

Depends on who you talk to. Some libertarians feel that matters of national defense are one of the few legitimate functions of government. Others believe the private sector could solve even that problem. I fall somewhere in between, though as to pre-emptive strikes, I think we all agree they should not be done.

As to military policy, I am fanatically opposed to the maintenance of a peacetime federal military, possibly, though not necessarily, excluding a naval force adequate to suppress piracy. I believe our latent military capacity ought to be maintained by state-controlled (that's "state" in the US sense, not the classical sense) organizations and private organizations and individuals--militias, essentially. I believe that, in the event of an attack, these groups could be tapped for early defensive power, with the federal government able to build a professional military for use in the war in question. Once peace is concluded, the military should be disbanded completely. This would have a number of advantages.

For one, it would make the continual efforts of various government officials to "reform," "modernize," or otherwise update the military unnecessary. There would be no struggle against an entrenched officer corps because there would be no entrenched officer corps. Each and every war would be approached with a military organization specially formed for the fighting of that particular conflict. There would be no piles upon piles of legacy hardware to painstakingly replace, there would be no outdated tactical dogma to fight against, and there would be no entrenched interest groups. In the event of an unavoidable war, there would be, instead, a great variety of models to draw from, both domestic and foreign.

The other advantage, and the most attractive one to me, would be the fact that, in such a scenario, it would be nearly impossible for political leaders at the federal level to plunge the country into an avoidable war. Every diplomatic problem would be approached by the executive branch with the idea that the President does not have a military to draw on in the event that a foreign representative or people are unnecessarily insulted. There would be no attempts to coerce foreign governments into signing lopsided agreements with the tacit threat of military intervention (or withdrawal of military support), because they would have neither to offer. The most sensible path for our diplomatic corps would be a genuine path of neutrality.

It was just such a country that "saved Europe's ass back in World War 2." I fear that, in this era, it is our own country from which the world will need to be saved...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bill Lockyer

My most recent project is an intensive research program covering ALL cantidates for office I will have the opportunity to vote for this November, as well as the start of an ongoing effort to monitor the (recorded) activities of elected officials. I subscrubed to Google Alerts for every person currently serving in an elected office I can vote for, as well as every cantidate for the upcoming election. Today, I am going to tell you a bit about my findings for Bill Lockyer.

First off, Bill Lockyer is a lawyer. He currently serves as Attorney General. Now he's running for Treasurer? Now, maybe I don't know how these things work, but wouldn't it be better to have--oh, I don't know--a accountant or an economist or something for such an office? (For the record Marian V Smithson, Libertarian, is a CPA currently serving as treasurer for a city government, and Claude Parrish, Republican, has a degree in accounting.)

And now, the news.

The Good

Bill Lockyer is in favor of legal fee reimbursement for the attorney general's office. I don't know if this means he's generally in favor of reimbursement for losers in civil cases, but if it does, that's a good thing.

The Middle

Bill Lockyer is against the Supreme Court ruling in regards to medical marajuanna. I consider this "middle" because, as important as I find the actual issue to be, I am ambivalant about the court ruling. Because, when it comes right down to it, the court ruling was "constitutional," assuming having anti-drug laws on the book is constitutional in any way, shape, or form (it isn't). The only truly "constitutional" ruling would have been to slice our drug regime back, at the very list, to covering only drugs shipped across state borders. Where, exactly, the federal government derives its authority to criminalize production of a plant that is often grown, processed, and consumed in the space of a single lot, let alone a single state, I don't know.

But assuming the drug laws are constitutional, this ruling was the right ruling.

The Bad

Bill Lockyer is convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that current gas prices are due to gouging. An investigation by the California Energy Commission has found that there was no price gouging; the recent increases in prices are purely economic, and the higher rates for California gas are due to scarcity in specific compounds requred by law for California, but not for other states. Never mind the turmoil in the largest oil-producing countries in the world, or the fact that there hasn't been a new refining plant built since the seventies (if not earlier). It has GOT to be gouging that is driving our prices up, says Lockyer.
"I think the report essentially provides a lot of excuses why oil company prices ran up," Lockyer said. "They aren't excuses that make any sense to me."
Well, of course they don't. He's a complete ignoramus when it comes to economics, or, at least, he plays one on TV for the benefit of other economic ignoramuses.

Bill Lockyer wrote the first ever Thought Crime law in the United Staes--euphemistically referred to as Hate Crim legislation. As far as I'm concerned, theft is theft, murder is murder, vandilism is vandalism, assault is assault. The motivation for said crime shouldn't be an issue, except of course for the usual purpose. It is enough that being on the record as a hater provides one with a continually filled "motivation" slot to be used in any criminal trial. I believe prosecuting people for hateful thoughts is a dangerously slippery slope.

In other words, unless Google digs up something better about Mr. Lockyer, I won't be voting for him.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

1984 and the Culture of Today (Part 1)

I recently started reading 1984. I've been meaning to read it for years, and have fairly recently discovered that most culturally important older works can be read for free on the internet; the copyright has long since expired. I'll be commenting on various things as I go along.

The thing that struck me in the first chapter is the "movies" party members are expected to watch. This one in particular involved a military force destroying refugees in the Mediterranean. the viewers laughed at the whole thing, and particularly enjoyed the sight of a fat man wallowing in the mire, to be blown apart by bombs.

It reminded me of a form of entertainment I've seen people enjoy. I haven't hung around such people in a long time, so I don't know if it's just pre-teen boys who are like this, but I have often watched boys laughing at depictions of human suffering and death. Some guy gets blown up, some guy gets his head chopped off, and it's the funniest thing in the world.

I remember watching kids play games like Doom. I understood the fun of playing the game with the safeties off... The challenge of survival is always fun. But these people would turn "god mode" on and just watch blood and gore splatter on their screen. There was no challenge, no game, just watching things die, and, as the games got more graphically sophisticated, watching things like limbs going flying, blood splattering. etc.

I'm hardly innocent here. I remember well playing Lemmings and laughing my ass off after hitting the "nuke" button, hearing hundreds of lemmings cry "Oh no!" and then watching 'em pop like popcorn.

The thing is, what, exactly, is funny about watching helpless creatures die at the hands of a malefactor? From the child that derives the greatest of enjoyment from watching an insect sizzle under magnified sunlight, to the teenager who laughs giddily as Freddy Krueger or Jason slashes through yet another witless victim, to the full grown adult who still rolls on the floor for a good crotch-hit and glories in the destructive power of modern weaponry, it seems to be a pretty universal experience. It wouldn't be hard for a powerful government with skilled propagandists to turn genocide into a comedy routine.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Legalizing Marijuana - A New Republican Strategy?

Dugg up on

The Republican Party has a new voter registration project in Fresno. It involves luring people to sign a LEGALIZE MARIJUANA petition and then re-registering them as Republicans.
There's more to it than this, however. First off, the petition first looks like a ballot proposition, but if asked, they admit that it is merely a petition, which will be presented to a prominent lawmaker. When told "I do not want to re-register" they don't take no for an answer. Read the article, please.

Yet another reason to consider the Republican a despicable and corrupt party. If those folks were genuinely on the payroll of the Republican Party... I am at a lost for words. I suppose this is merely my first encounter with blatantly corrupt electoral strategies, and in my hometown, no less! But, dear Lord! What are these people thinking?!

read more | digg story

Monday, August 07, 2006

PRC: How to Challenge Value Assessments

About the PRC (or other land tax descriptions).

On a lunchtime walk, my neurons were firing like crazy about how a Georgist land tax could be implemented, and I came up with the following method for ensuring the accuracy of land-value assessments.

I described in an earlier column a process that involved recording all land sales, paying particular attention to sales of unimproved land, whether infill, the result of a natural disaster (like fire), or in cases where the owner of land and the owner of improvements are seperate entities. This process, however, could still come up in error, whether by a simple mistake, or corruptly deliberate falsification. The idea of leaving it to the courts to figure this out was unsatisfying; I couldn't figure out how to handle this issue. On my walk, I realized how amazingly simple the solution is

Simply put, when someone fails to pay his rent/tax (for whatever reason), the rent/taxing entity (such as the PRC, or a government) would create from the parcel a landholding corporation, with, at its inception, the owner of the property as 100% shareholder. If, for example, the tax rate is 5% of the sale value of the land minus improvements, the taxing entity would then take 5% of that "corporation", leaving the owner with 95%. It would immediately sell off that percentage; the proceeds would satisfy the rent bill. The recorded sale value of the site would immediately be adjusted to match the value paid for the shares.

Shareholders would have the usual rights. A majority of shareholders would have the authority to charge rent to the occupant of the site at whatever rate the majority specified. If they wished to evict the current occupant, they would still have to buy the improvements at whatever rate the occupant specified. Notice that at 5% of sale value, an occupant unable to pay his rent/tax would have a good ten years before privately collected rent even became an issue; there'd be plenty of time for him to consider his options.

Shareholders would also have the usual obligations. They would have to pay their portion of the sale value of the land to the rent/tax collecting entity. Notice that this actually relieves the occupant of some of the burden until the 50% mark is reached.

Finally, notice that this takes a rent/tax value that the occupant either cannot or will not pay and gets a second opinion from the market. If the value the rent/tax collecting entity turns out to be lower than the initial estimate, then the assessment would be adjusted downward. Of course, it could also result in it adjusting upward. This risk would likely result in most people, in most places, paying in money rather than in kind.

An issue one might raise is the potential for the occupant to charge an extortionate amount for the capital improvements when majority shareholders would like to evict him, or the ability of majority shareholders to charge extortionate rent to the occupant.

For the extortionate rent issue, such an act would be self-defeating, in my opinion. Landowners can't really charge more than the market values it at. If they chaged too much, the occupant would simply have to move (the value lowering effect of this kind of tax providing him with more affordable opportunities), and then, they'd be collecting nothing, and paying much to the rent/tax collecting entity. As to capital improvement sales, I personally prefer favoring the occupant. In the event that an occupant simply won't pay his rent (or his rent/tax), but attempts to block default via an extortionate capital sale price, they majority will eventually get the house (or other improvement) via an equally extortionate rent value.

So far as I can tell, I think this system would work well. Feel free to present me with scenarios which make this system a REALLY bad idea.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Open Letter to Democrats

Please, please please go antiwar this next election cycle. I want to vote Democratic this next election, I really do. But if you guys go and do ANOTHER election with cantidates who say "I'm just like a Republican, only better!" I'm really not sure what's going to happen to this country.

Lets take a long hard look at what voting more Republicans into office would say. With the exception of those few principled Republicans that have consistantly opposed the Bush Administration (Ron Paul, for example), most Republicans can be seen as basically a symbol of the current administration. Mr. Bush is in the process of redefining the executive branch into the position of Emperor of the World (provided it has the military means to do so). Now, I admit, the President has long had the power to do basically whatever he wants so long as he does it outside the United States themselves. This guy is formalizing it, and beginning to extend the Imperium into the home territory.

Very simply put, Caesar has crossed the Rubicon, and I cannot support any opponent who does not have as his or her goal the act of repulsing his forces, without installing just another imperial puppet. I think it can still be done electorially, but I think that window may be closing. And I think the act that will shut that window faster than anything else is another four years of Republican majority, unless said Republican majority is VERY different from the current one. And by different, I mean "willing to open Impeachment proceedings," and "Willing to actually enact the "fiscal conservatism" so many of them campaigned upon, then abandoned. Different names would help, too; fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. (Not that I voted Republican...)

So, PLEASE, Democrats, unless there is a miracle over at the Libertarian Party (and there's already been one), you guys are the only ones that can save us now (outside the LORD God Himself). Focus on anti-war and constitutionalism (whatever your horrendously shoddy record on that second issue). Stay away from abortion, stem-cells, gay rights, race-baiting, and so on. I don't even care if you actually mean it or not. Simply let it be writen upon the media records of campaigns and elections that THAT is what we voted for, and the fear-mongering imperialsm of the Republicans is what we voted against. Congress has abdicated its authority; the Supreme Court is packed with imperial supporters. Give the voters one last chance...

Please. Please.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Drug Errors and Government Medicine

I remember learning a fable in school. I don't remember whether I learned it in grade school, middle school, or high school, but by the time I was an adult, I knew this fable well. The fable went as so.

Once upon a time, there was no such thing as Medicine, or at least, not Scientific Medicine. Most people relied upon ancient superstitions, con-men, and such, for their medical treatment. Particularly scurrilious were the "snake-oil salesmen," people who would bottle esoteric substances and sell them as "miracle cures" to unsuspecting rubes. Many were injured by such villians, and the people cried out for something to be done.

Then the government created the FDA, licencing boards, etc. and everybody lived happily ever after.

So, how has the government been doing improving out medical system? Well, check this out. I can't help but wonder: is medicine in any better a state now than it was before the government got involved in medicine?

The hilarious thing about all this is that the answers to the questions are RIGHT THERE IN THE ARTICLE. For example
_The nation should invest about $100 million annually on research into drug errors and how to prevent them. Among the most-needed studies is the impact of free drug samples, which often lack proper labeling, on medication safety.
and the answer to the question...

Worse, there's too little incentive for health providers to invest in technology that could prevent some errors today, added Dr. J. Lyle Bootman, the University of Arizona's pharmacy dean, who co-chaired the IOM probe.

"We're paid whether these errors occur or not," lamented Bootman
Now, I'm not an expert, but I'd be willing to bet that under a system of medical freedom (ie. no governmen restrictions and no government funding), they WOULDN'T get paid whether the errors occured or not. Indeed, medical institutions all over the country would have a massive incentive to not make mistakes: those that did make mistakes would be fired for incompetance, and systemic problems would be fixed, or would be eliminated from the market.

How about this:

The government should speed electronic prescribing, including fostering technology improvements so that the myriad computer programs used by doctors, hospitals and drugstores are compatible.

Now, how exactly does a government do that? There's really only one power government can actually bring to bear: say, "start using electronic prescribing or else," and shut down those that don't, or can't comply. This is the main power of government.

So, have you ever heard of the law of supply and demand? Have you ever wondered why medical expenses are so high? Is it worth the money?

Personally, I don't really think so.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Non-Agression Principle: Absolute Propety Rights

I was just reading this blog over here, and I came myself thinking, once again, about the notion that we can have a civil society without any party having the right to sieze the property of another party or individual--including the government. What that means is: no taxes--none at all. There is no "public" support for things like police and military, among other things. It's straight-up anarchy, which is the way many "Libertarian Purists" like it. The market would solve all problems.

Thieves and murderers would, of course, continue to exist. What is one's recourse to coersion in such a socity? In our current one, you can call the police. If they're coming in large groups from across the border, the military is the preferred instrument. Under anarchy, the only recourse is private action: either keep up a subscription to a private security force, or get together with your fellows and take matters into your own hands... assuming you have any left (hands, or friends).

Personally, I don't think it would work. I have been working on a blog in which I attempt to demonstrate this concept, but I think that The State is an inevitability. Very simply put, it would be cheaper to pay off a group that, in echange for payment, would both protect you from thieves and murderers, and also not be such toward you (Mafia style), rather than pay a group that has to protect you from BOTH the thieves and murderers and the Mafia at the same time. The most economically advantageous system would be the one you are required to participate in--or else. In addition, this industry benefits considerably from economies of scale. Thus, were we to abolish all government today, we'd only be hitting the "reset" button. The State would regrow, as The State is embedded into the intersection of economic law and the law of force.

So Anarchism, particularly "Anarcho-Capitalism", can't really work. It's a nice idea, and people love to dream of it, but its impossible, isn't it?

Not really. I think it is entirely possible to have a social system in which propety is absolute, and in which there exists a guarantor of rights big enough to be effective, and accountable enough not to become the chief violator. Furthermore, we don't have to make any exceptions to the rules for the governing entity: it would not have the right to violate property rights AT ALL, and yet, it would have sufficient funding. All you need, is to accept two ideas:

  1. The right to property is absolute. No party has the right to violate the property of any other (not even the government).
  2. The Land is absolutely the property of the Community, and not of individuals.

Note that when I say "The Land," I am not referring to the structures built upon the land, the crops grown in carefully prepared fields, the produce of enormous investment in wells and mines, or any other form of capital improvement. These, the results of the labors of men, shall remain securely in the posession of the individuals who build them. The farmer that ploughs and sows shall reap. The miner that digs shall sell his produce. The financier who brings together enormous sums of capital to accomplish great improvements shall reap the proper rewards. The improvements will be secured for the use of those who create the improvements. However, the actual square-feet of dirt would remain, in principle, the property of the community at large.

The problem with treating Land as the absolute property of "The Community" is one of execution. The most obvious way to go about it is simply to declare that the whole Earth is now the property of a newly chartered corporation, with each and every human being equal shareholders. This corporation would rent the land out to those who are willing to pay for the right to exclude others from the use of land. This idea is nice and simple in concept, but likely hideously bureaucratic an corruptable in execution. In addition, it feels like theft, the siezing of property that previously belonged to private individuals. While many of these individuals are the lucky heirs of those who acquired and held land while it was still cheap, there are others who, in their lifetime, have sacrificed much to acquire the lot upon which they live, or where they do business.

I have written before about a way to establish such a coropration without even appearing to be stealing a thing. However, that solution has the problem, once again, of potentially being excessively bureaucratic and corruptable, particularly as it grows in size. I believe a far better solution is presented by Henry George in his book Progress and Poverty, which I am currently reading.

I would just jump to the chase on how it is done, but I think it is necessary to read what George has to say on the subject before his solution to the problem of the poverty that inevitably accompanies economic progress (the increasing divide between rich and poor, and the undeniable fact that the poorest among aboriginal peoples live far better than the poorest among our own.). Perhaps at a later date, I'll do a sort of "cliffs notes" for Progress and Poverty, for those who lack the ability to slog through the admittedly very wordy, perhaps unnecessarily wordy, writing style of Henry George. (Then again, perhaps I suffer the same deficiency.)

EDIT: Were to read but one chapter from Progress and Poverty, read this one.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Notification of Suspension

This is to announce that the Weekly Ramble is suspended until further notice. I simply do not have the time to write anything these days. Between my job and the maintenance of my household, I have little time to maintain any kind of regular schedule.

If you are a reader and you would like to be notified when I resume (and I fully intend to), please comment on this post and provide your email address. Or, if you'd rather not leave your address out there for fear of spam bots, feel free to email me directly at

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nazis and the Neoconservative Movement

A recent commentary on regarding the subject of the government's aversion to seeing the Bush Administration compared to Nazis, while they apparently have no trouble comparing other heads of state to Nazis. This got me thinking about the disturbing similarities I have noticed, and got me wondering if I could get into trouble doing the same. Mind you, I only have about five readers I know about (and I doubt even they are consistant), so I'm hardly a threat. But, you never know. Someone might decide to make me famous.

I would prefer to pepper this with links to quotes demonstrating the points I wish to make, but unfortunately, I am a slave, and only have time to do this on my lunch hour. So, instead I provide you with anecdotes from the top of my head.

So, without further ado, Neocons and Nazis.


I see traditional American Conservatism as having the following features. It has a mistrust for big government and high taxes, preferring smaller government and lower taxes. However, it also has a mistrust for people in, and from, other countries, and so it supports a large military. This military is meant to be used for defensive purposes, to deter those that would otherwise attack. It is not to be used for "nation building" or any other such nonsense. It prefers the lowest possible spending on social programs and foreign aid--none, if at all possible. And it has a great love for America, and American Freedoms.

The only portion of this the Neocons seem to honor is the nationalism part, but they change the message associated with it. For while both a traditional conservative and a neocon will stand and wave the flag with entusiasm, they do so for different reasons.

The traditional conservative sees America as the land of the free, a place with unique freedoms--the Consitution, the Declaration of Independence, and all that. American Nationalism and American Freedom go hand-in-hand; a true conservative would not sacrifice freedom for security.

For the Neocon, America is defined not by her internal traits of individual freedom, but by her external trait of international leadership. America is seen as a unique force for peace and justice in the world, never before seen on the stage of history. To them, ours is a God-granted destiny, to extend our holy system of government to every corner of the world. No cost in either treasure or freedom to our own people is too great to realize this destiny, and anything can be justified in the name of this destiny.

Nazi Germany was also founded on the notion that Germany was a nation superior to all others, destined to reign over the nations.


Recall that "Nazi" is a shortening of a longer party name that translates "National Socialism." Their greatest supporters were the middling majority. Ensuring the welfare of their people (Germans) was a prime concern for the German government of that period.

Traditional conservatives would end welfare if they could. Traditional conservatives have long called for the abolishment of the Department of Education.

Compare that to the Bush Administration, which, I have read, has increased spending on Medicare more than any president in years, and has extended the power of the Department of Education farther than any electable Democrat would have dared. Wheras traditional conservatives believe in a limited federal government, the new conservatives are engaged in an unprecedented expansion of federal power, to ensure the welfare of our citizens--something traditional conservatives don't see government as being particularly good at.

Government spending hasn't expanded so much since the Johnson administration, and the War isn't even the principal expansion (Medicare is).


Newsflash! Arabs are Semites! Muslims claim to worship the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, since he was Ishmael's God, too. And the problem old-line anti-semites had with Jews wasn't restricted to Jews; true anti-semites are opposed to any alien, invasive culture stemming from the Middle East, including both Islam and Christianity.

If you look at the rhetoric of the typical Neo-Conservative, there seems to be far greater reverance for the symbols of our Nation (the "Constitution", the flag, the dollar, etc.) than there is for the Cross. They claim the sanction of God, but which god? Jesus said "Love your enemy, and pray for those who persecute you," but the typical Bush supporter obviously follows the older dictate Jesus was responding to, "Love your Neighbor and Hate your Enemy." Love America, hate any nation that does not bow to it. Regard with suspcian any country that does not share our political systems and does not alter any and all foreign and domestic policy when Americans come to call. Hate, in particular, the French, whose nationalists are continually trying to distinguish themselves from us.

There are those who preach that our war is a great War, a Clash of Civilizations, between Islam and... something else. It depends on who you ask, but there are those who claim the opponent is Christianity, to which I say "No." Jesus preached that we should love our enemies. If a man slap us on the check, we are to turn the other to him. If a man forces us to go a mile with him, we are to go two! If a man demands our coat, we are also to give him our cloak! And I do not believe the mandate of a Christian changes any when he takes the reigns of government. For this reason, I do not believe it is possible for a genuine Christian to posess the power of the sword; few would vote for a man who would, on their behalf, turn the other cheek.

No, it is not the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob they worship, but rather the great old God of the State. In Rome, it was the Cult of The Emperor (highest of all gods). In the US, it can be seen in the idol we call the Flag, to whom the state requires we Pledge Alliegence. In the Neoconservative movement, the Cult of State, begun sometime around World War 2, reaches fruition.

The Muslims are opposed by these people with the vigour they do not because they kill in the name of their ideology (our own government does that with great frequency), but because their ideology, like that of Jews and Christians, does not regard the State in general, and America in particular, as supreme. They may be severely misguided in their assessment of the will of God (or perhaps they are not?), but that is not the reason they are opposed.

Okay, so I got it written. Understand that this is worse drivel than usual--I really had to stretch for the Anti-Semetic part. I simply don't have time to write good stuff. :( But it was fun, nonetheless. :p