Monday, December 31, 2012

Ayn Rand, John Galt, and Original Sin

I just finished reading the John Galt "radio speech" from "Atlas Shrugged".
Parts of the early section are tiresome; the last half is some of the greatest stuff I've ever read.

The short section on "Original Sin" jumped out at me. For those of you who weren't raised in the Bible Belt, Original Sin is a St. Paul/St. Augustine invention which states that ever since Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we've been cursed (pre-birth) as sinners.
In the eyes of God, we're guilty as soon as the doctor cuts the cord. Here's some context from Genesis:

The Fall

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
    with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you.
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

For most of my life, I've tried to reconcile my somewhat fundamentalist religious upbringing with the reality that I saw around me. 
I've seen that Knowledge is a good thing, as opposed to being something that is the consequence of a curse. 
I believe that Knowledge keeps us warm, fed, healthy, and happy.  
I believe that people are fundamentally good, and will help each other without being forced to do so at gunpoint. 
I've noticed that a lot of kids who weren't raised in any particular religious rigmarole seem to have fewer problems than some of those who were. 
And, of course, I've noticed that people who don't believe that most foreigners are going to go to hell....well, they get along better with foreigners. 
Here's the section on Original Sin, from John Galt's infamous "radio speech" near the end of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". 

"Damnation is the start of your morality, destruction is its purpose, means and end. Your code begins by damning man as evil, then demands that he practice a good which it defines as impossible for him to practice. It demands, as his first proof of virtue, that he accepts his own depravity without proof. It demands that he start, not with a standard of value, but with a standard of evil, which is himself, by means of which he is then to define the good: the good is that which he is not.

It does not matter who then becomes the profiteer on his renounced glory and tormented soul, a mystic God with some incomprehensible design or any passer-by whose rotting sores are held as some explicable claim upon him - it does not matter, the good is not for him to understand, his duty is to crawl through years of penance, atoning for the guilt of his existence to any stray collector of unintelligible debts, his only concept of a value is a zero: the good is that which is non-man.

The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin. A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man's sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man's nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched. Yet that is the root of your code.

Do not hide behind the cowardly evasion that man is born with free will, but with a 'tendency' to evil. A free will saddled with a tendency is like a game with loaded dice. It forces man to struggle through the effort of playing, to bear responsibility and pay for the game, but the decision is weighted in favor of a tendency that he had no power to escape. If the tendency is of his choice, he cannot possess it at birth; if it is not of his choice, his will is not free.

What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they consider perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge - he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil - he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor - he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire - he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness, joy - all the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man's fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but the essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was - that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love - he was not man.

Man's fall, according to your teachers, was that he gained the virtues required to live. These virtues, by their standard, are his Sin. His evil, they charge, is that he's man. His guilt, they charge, is that he lives. They call it a morality of mercy and a doctrine of love for man."

This book, which was the Gateway Drug into Libertarianism for a lot of people, is slowly making my head explode. 
I've read plenty of excerpts, and skimmed it a few times in the past, but reading all 1200 pages cover-to-cover has been one amazing experience. 
I think I'm going to read Paul Krugman's "The Conscience Of A Liberal", just to cleanse the palate, and then read "Atlas Shrugged" again.  This time with a highlighter. 
We have a lot of problems in the U.S.   According to some, honest accounting would prove that we have more unemployed workers in 2012 than during the Great Depression.  Team Red and Team Blue are putting on Performance Art about an idiotic "Fiscal Cliff" deal.  We're 17 trillion in debt.  Obama is sending drones to kill children, and, incidentally, create more terrorists. 

This could be improved if every industrialist, business owner, and creator were to send John Galt's message to Washington:

"Get The Hell Out Of My Way." 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chronica 2012 with DFW/NORML

The good folks at DFW/NORML are letting me speak at their "Chronica 2012" year-end party. 
Here's what I plan to say....

Hello, my name is Allen Patterson, and I’m Chair of The Tarrant County Libertarian Party.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with us, the Libertarian Party is dedicated to the radical idea that other people are not your property. I’ll be glad to talk with any of you about our beliefs later on tonight.

I’m here for four reasons, and I’ll be brief…..

First, I want to say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For years and years, the Libertarian Party made small increases in its Tarrant County results. Bounced around with somewhere with a 10-15% increase every couple of years.

From 2010 to 2012, straight ticket Libertarian voting DOUBLED, from 1500 votes to 3000. Think about it, folks….there are now 3,000 people in Fort Worth and Arlington who are willing to go to the ballot box and vote for your right to be left alone. 3,000 voters willing to stand up against the Prohibitionist. And you good people at DFW/NORML are responsible for a huge part of the increase. Shaun McAlister, I love you like a brother, sir !! And in 2014, we’re going to go for 6,000 Libertarian straight ticket voters, or die trying.

The second thing I want to do tonight is piss you off. How many of you have seen the new Quentin Tarrantino movie “Django Unchained”? Slavery was a horrible system, wasn’t it???

That movie was set in 1855. It was an awful time. People did awful things to each other. But in the year 2012, 155 years later, we have more black men living in steel cages, or on probation or parole, than The Confederacy had living in steel cages in 1855. Most of those guys are in that situation because of the Drug War. 31% of Florida’s black male population can’t vote. They’re convicted felons. Convicted for owning a weed !! (And Shaun, we’ve got to get some more Brothers into the movement. Agreed?)

Since Richard Nixon started the War On Drugs in the early 1970’s, our government has spent 1.5 TRILLION dollars (that’s a fifteen with eleven zeroes) on the Drug War. That doesn’t include the amount we suffer from lost productivity, by the way. 1.5 trillion dollars !!

So how many of you have ever voted for one of these people as candidates for President or Vice President, in a primary or a general election? Bill Clinton George W. Bush Howard Dean John Edwards Newt Gingrich Al Gore John Kerry Sarah Palin Gary Johnson Barack Obama ?

Guess what they have in common? They’ve all smoked weed. Just like the 1.5 million people who were arrested for non-violent drug charges in 2011, all of them, at some point in their lives, have lit up a fat one. If you get caught, you get locked up in a steel cage with violent criminals. If you don’t get caught, you can be President. Go figure. So why do all these former tokers and smokers still support the drug war?

It’s because if the War On Drugs were to end tomorrow, it would eliminate the need for approximately 1 million government jobs. Barack Obama has one million jailers, narcs, border patrollers, torturers, parole officers, probation specialists and prison contractors who are voting for the status quo.

So what do we do?

Colorado and Washington State recently passed voter referendums on marijuana legalization. HMMmmmmm….. Let’s do that. But there are still some legal hassles involving growing, possession, transportation and the like. We need some people on the inside.

That gets me to point number three. The Libertarian Party needs candidates. We want to give voters a choice between Freedom and Prohibition, instead of flipping a coin between Team Red and Team Blue. If you want to put yourself out there, we’re waiting with open arms. We’ve got three levels. You can run as a “paper” candidate, just to offer a real choice for your neighborhood. All we ask is that you fill out newspaper surveys about your campaign. Better yet, you can run as an “educational” candidate, someone who goes to candidate forums and college campuses and speaks about why freedom is better than slavery. Then there’s the third level – you go out and do some fundraising and sink some money into a campaign that will scare the crap out of the Prohibition Parties.

We need you ! If you’re interested, go to the Tarrant County Libertarian Party website. You’ll see how to contact me.

Plus, Tarrant County’s going to be doing something special in 2014. We’re going to look at this year’s results by precinct, we’re going to look at the opposition in each race, and we’re going to try to determine which part of Tarrant County already has the most freedom lovers and NORML members. Then we’re going to select one candidate for that area’s Texas House race. We’re still going to give all the other candidates some love and affection. But the big effort is going to go into that one campaign. And it could be yours. We’re going to have a winner. I’ve heard a lot of County Chairs say that they weren’t in the business of picking winners and losers among their candidates. Screw that. We’re going to pick a winner, and we need your help knocking on doors, making phone calls, putting out yard signs and stuffing envelopes. If you love freedom enough to be a part of DFW/NORML, you already one of us.

I’m looking for a Moses to come out of the wilderness. I’m looking for someone who will get elected and go down to Austin and Washington to tell Rick Perry and Barack Obama to bulldoze their steel cages, lay off their Narcs, and fire their jailers. I need someone who will look Barack Obama in the eye and say “Barack Obama……..LET YOUR PEOPLE GO!!”

That gets me to point number four, and this is the last one. I don’t smoke, so I’m gonna go have a drink. Thanks so much for your support, your future support and your attention!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Senator From Hawaii Wants To Change The Weather

The recently deceased senator Daniel Inouye was, by most accounts, a good guy.  But he also brought enough pork from Washington to Hawaii to sink the islands.  Daniel Inouye was serious about bringing home the bacon.  He wasn't ashamed of being knows as "The King Of Pork". 

I predict that Daniel Inouye (and my sympathies go out to all his contractors, bureaucrats, looters, and contributors, BTW) will soon be seen as an amatuer. 

His replacement, Brian Schatz, wants to change the weather.  Go here. 
The replacement for the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) said Wednesday that climate change is at the top of his legislative agenda.

"For me, personally, I believe global climate change is real and it is the most urgent challenge of our generation,” Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (D), whom Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) tapped for the seat, said in brief comments Wednesday.
Let me go waaaaaay out on a limb here, and say that Brian Schatz is full of shit. 
He's going to try to implement some carbon taxes, get some more money for green energy boondoggles, and hire a plague of regulators to pester the productive members of society.  He might try requiring people to purchase "carbon offsets" (LOL) from one of the Al Gore/Kleiner Perkins companies. 
Let's assume that the amount of carbon we put into the air changes the weather. 
Let's assume that the remedies listed above are helpful in some small way. 

You cannot individually undertake any green energy rituals that will offset one trip to Hawaii, unless you're willing to travel by kayak. 

I'll start believing in man-made climate change when Brian Schatz encourages people from the U.S. mainland to stay home instead of travelling to Hawaii.   Until that day, he should be viewed as a con artist.  End of story. 

Update from Friday afternoon:  Cold weather in Europe and Asia is killing hundreds of people. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Tragedy Of The Commons

I used to be in charge of a warehouse in Everman, TX.  Everything that happened in the place was my fault, for better or worse.  The warehouse usually looked good.  We had good controls on the inventory there. 

We eventually outgrew it and moved into a much bigger facility in north Fort Worth. 

In the meantime, we still had the lease for the Everman facility, and kept a few dead or slow-moving products there.  And so did everyone else at other shops in the company.  Instead of a facility devoted to shipping only, it has become a storage bin for a wood shop, a metal shop, a plastics shop, and a trade show group.    

It isn't my place any longer.  It belongs to everyone in the company who has more crap than space.  It looks like hammered shit.  I would post before and after pics if I was sure it wouldn't offend co-workers. 

Here's why the place is now a dump.  And incidentally, it's why Socialism usually doesn't work very well.  This is from the Library of Economics and Liberty, on a concept called "The Tragedy Of The Commons":

In 1974 the general public got a graphic illustration of the “tragedy of the commons” in satellite photos of the earth. Pictures of northern Africa showed an irregular dark patch 390 square miles in area. Ground-level investigation revealed a fenced area inside of which there was plenty of grass. Outside, the ground cover had been devastated.

The explanation was simple. The fenced area was private property, subdivided into five portions. Each year the owners moved their animals to a new section. Fallow periods of four years gave the pastures time to recover from the grazing. The owners did this because they had an incentive to take care of their land. But no one owned the land outside the ranch. It was open to nomads and their herds. Though knowing nothing of Karl Marx, the herdsmen followed his famous advice of 1875: “To each according to his needs.” Their needs were uncontrolled and grew with the increase in the number of animals. But supply was governed by nature and decreased drastically during the drought of the early 1970s. The herds exceeded the natural “carrying capacity” of their environment, soil was compacted and eroded, and “weedy” plants, unfit for cattle consumption, replaced good plants. Many cattle died, and so did humans.

The rational explanation for such ruin was given more than 170 years ago. In 1832 William Forster Lloyd, a political economist at Oxford University, looking at the recurring devastation of common (i.e., not privately owned) pastures in England, asked: “Why are the cattle on a common so puny and stunted? Why is the common itself so bare-worn, and cropped so differently from the adjoining inclosures?”

Lloyd’s answer assumed that each human exploiter of the common was guided by self-interest. At the point when the carrying capacity of the commons was fully reached, a herdsman might ask himself, “Should I add another animal to my herd?” Because the herdsman owned his animals, the gain of so doing would come solely to him. But the loss incurred by overloading the pasture would be “commonized” among all the herdsmen. Because the privatized gain would exceed his share of the commonized loss, a self-seeking herdsman would add another animal to his herd. And another. And reasoning in the same way, so would all the other herdsmen. Ultimately, the common property would be ruined.

Even when herdsmen understand the long-run consequences of their actions, they generally are powerless to prevent such damage without some coercive means of controlling the actions of each individual. Idealists may appeal to individuals caught in such a system, asking them to let the long-term effects govern their actions. But each individual must first survive in the short run. If all decision makers were unselfish and idealistic calculators, a distribution governed by the rule “to each according to his needs” might work. But such is not our world. As James Madison said in 1788, “If men were angels, no Government would be necessary” (Federalist, no. 51). That is, if all men were angels. But in a world in which all resources are limited, a single nonangel in the commons spoils the environment for all.

Hit this link to read the whole thing.  I'm working to try to appoint ONE random person to be in charge of the place.  That's really all it takes - ownership and authority. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Who Was The Most Intriguing Person Of 2012?

What makes someone intriguing?

What makes you take a few minutes to swing by someone else's workspace to hear what they have to say? 

I have some employees and some co-managers that I try to contact as often as possible.  They're usually up to something different, something out of the ordinary. 

There are others who depress the living hell out of me, because when I ask them about their night, what they did with their lives, etc., they say that they went home and watched "Dancing With The Stars".  To each his own, and all that, but we have a limited amount of time on this planet to define ourselves. 

I think that former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is intriguing.  I think he has ideas about government that are different from almost anything else out there.  Get out of other countries' bidness.  Reduce the size of the military.  Cut government by 43%.  End the Drug War.  End the ban on gay marriage.  Gary Johnson will say these things in short, concise sound bites.  Try to find a recording of someone from the Obama/Boehner team saying the same things in words anyone can understand.   

I've hung out with Governor Johnson a couple of times and listened to him explain how he could have easily cut New Mexico's state government size in half, and no one woulda noticed. 

Gary Johnson climbed Everest with a broken foot.  He paraglides.  Hops on his bike and goes a hundred miles every now and then.  I sat beside him at our Joe T. Garcia's fundraiser, and they brought him a special order, one that someone had obviously arranged long ahead of time.  This platter of meat made an Atkins Plan look like something from a donut shop.  A serious carnivore, that Gary Johnson. 

On the other hand, there's Barack H. Obama. 

I swear, I think I can finish his sentences for him.  At this point, I wouldn't go out of my way to hear his opinions on the NBA draft, much less his opinions on the economy, the unemployment rate, foreign relations, or the national debt. 

He's an absolute failure on all of those issues.  Why his blather is of interest to anyone is beyond me. 

CNN just named Barack Obama the "Most Intriguing Person Of 2012".   

Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Jesus And Santa Claus

I was in the 2nd grade, working on homework at a desk in our den. It must have been close to Christmastime, because my mother was explaining something about Santa Claus to my little sister.
I don't remember my sister's question, but it probably involved the North Pole, elves, reindeer, Rudolph, or (temporal) punishments and rewards for being either naughty or nice. In one blinding moment the Santa Claus/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy Axis Of Impossibility revealed itself to me.
There are no elves. Reindeer can't fly. Old fat guys can't get down chimneys. A giant rabbit can't leave us colorful plastic eggs (from Gibson's department store) filled with coins or candy.
Any fairy with a tooth fetish must be very lonely fairy indeed.

I had figured out the conspiracy, and needed some clarification on the finer points so I looked up from my homework and asked "Hey, there can't be a Santa Claus who brings all this stuff. Is it just you and Daddy, or is it somebody else?"

My Mother went through a frantic series of shushing gestures, throat slashings, and brow-furrowings, and then said something like "Of course there's a Santa Claus", followed by a wink-wink nudge-nudge. Once my sister left the room, she explained that Santa Claus was something that parents did to make Christmas more fun for children, along with a follow-up conversation about the need to conceal this from my sisters and brother. I immediately felt like more of an adult since I was in on what was obviously a very adult secret.

I relished the conversations I could have with my parents and other adults about what other kids were getting from Santa Claus. I had access to the people behind the curtain, the ones who made the magic happen.

I had a friend named Glenn Williams who was a year younger than me. (Note to self: write a post about the day Glenn was working at The Rushing Winery and managed to bottle his thumb.) Another friend, Walt Burns, took Glenn aside one day and told him all about Santa Claus. Glenn has told me at least three times about how mad he got at Walt for doing this.

Up until the time Walt spilled the beans, Glenn had a worldview that included a benevolent old guy who paid attention to his behavior and rewarded him with great stuff every December 25th. People were killing each other in Viet Nam but Santa was watching. Elves were making toys for people who were good, even if kids our age were starving in communist China. And Walt Burns had to ruin everything. There was no magic guy in a sleigh.  It was just Pat and Guy B. Williams waiting up past their normal bedtime to bring Glenn's toys down from the attic.

Other kids claimed to believe, or pretended to believe, until they were in the 5th or 6th grade. In their families, once you stopped believing, the quality and quantity of gifts from Santa declined. Why rock the boat?

Flash forward about 15 years.

I briefly attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Cemetery Seminary in Fort Worth. The place seemed to operate on two levels. In some classes the professors spoke as if every word in the Bible was inspired by God, and that all of scripture hung together as a unified statement and plan. But a few other professors would sometimes imply that the book was a mishmash. It was filled with time and place-specific rants that had to be twisted and tortured into relevance. A few brave souls, usually at the doctoral level, would introduce Biblical Criticism into the mix.

No professors publicly confessed any doubts about whether the basic story was true. And by true, I mean in the sense that this event happened, not true in the sense that something is a true to life parable or narrative that can teach us something about blah blah blah....

However, I found that if I could get these professors off the clock, and they would sometimes confirm that doubt was a valid response. Some of them would go so far as to give me further reading on the subject.

But by and large, the main response to doubt went something like this: "These stories have given comfort to millions. They are the foundation of our morality, our ethics, and our hope for the future. They are the received wisdom handed down from previous generations. If they weren't true, would God have given them to us? And one last thing.... people will give 10% or more of their income to spread God's Eternal Truth. But can you imagine anyone giving 10% of his money to spread a story that's just a parable? Churches and ministers that waver in their professed beliefs have a hard time paying the light bill."

In other words, once people start thinking of Santa Claus as a metaphor, you can't rely on them to put out milk and cookies in front of the fireplace.

We now have ministers all over the U.S. who no longer truly believe what they're preaching.  They no longer have a separate "carve-out" for stories about walking on water and resurrections and hells - a separate cubbyhole for the miraculous stories that otherwise would go the way of evles, reindeer and giant magic bunnies.  So why do they continue?

They don't want to be the Walt Burns who tells Glenn Williams what they've learned. They don't want to hurt their colleagues, financially or professionally, who still claim to take it all literally instead of figuratively. In some groups, to go against the story is to go against the entire tribe, and would mean rejecting family, town, denomination, and (ahem) salary. Sometimes it's too late to re-invent yourself as an insurance salesman, retail manager, or freight broker.

Plus, the church still owes $250,000.00 on the new education wing they built 10 years ago, and somebody needs to keep paying retirement funds into the Annuity Fund. 

When I'm feeling particularly dark, I sometimes tell people that I didn't learn the truth about Santa Claus until I spent 6 years training to be an elf.

Could there be anything sadder than a 25-year old who still believed in Santa?

On the other hand, could there be anything sadder than a 50-year old minister who lives on the same planet as theologian/scholars like Marcus Borg and John Spong, but who continues to proclaim the virgin birth, angelic visitations, and the eternal damnation of dead Muslim, Chinese, and Indian teenagers?

Let's make some changes, starting with a few obvious propositions. I don't believe in hell. I don't believe that I'll die and get some wings and a harp either. What happens after we die? I don't know. Neither does anyone else. But we can all agree on what happens to a tree when it dies, can't we? Let's start there.

Here's another one. I don't believe that Jesus got his Mama pregnant with himself.

I don't believe that languages were invented when people got uppity and tried to create a tower that would reach the sky and God felt threatened and punished everybody by giving them different languages. You don't believe that either. I promise, you don't. People... Just... Don't... Believe... That...

So if you're a minister who happens to read this rant, you have the blessing and approval of a lot of people to crawl up into your pulpit Sunday and admit what you don't believe certain things anymore. You're probably a good person with some good ideas. Give your folks something new to think about. The Santa Claus guided by Rudolph/Wise Men guided by the star in the east business - those stories don't work any more.

Sunday morning, tell us what you think will make the world better, without resorting to mythology.

I think you'll feel better afterwards. I feel better just writing all of this.

Merry Christmas !

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Poverty has won the War On Poverty

Libertarians are often caricatured as uncaring bastards who would throw their grandmothers out on the street if Granny ever stops harvesting her percentage of the wheat crop.  But it really is possible to be in favor of Granny's continued existence in her old age, while opposing John Boehner and Barack Obama being her means of support.

Libertarians generally oppose wealth redistribution by force, therefore we dislike Uncle Sam’s welfare schemes.

Statists claim it’s because we’re greedy. (We are greedy. You are greedy.  We all want more than we have. Lots more. Unlike the Statists, though, we want you to have more also, so you'll spend it on what we produce. We know that your success doesn’t require our failure.) But greed isn’t the reason we oppose mandatory government welfare programs.

Here’s the real reason, folks: Government welfare isn’t an effective method for fighting poverty.  In fact, it looks like welfare is keeping poverty alive. 

Check out the chart, from Economist Daniel Mitchell’s International Liberty website.  LBJ’s War On Poverty was the equivalent of spreading top-notch fertilizer on a weed patch. Poverty was dying until Washington D.C. got involved in killing it.  Incredible, isn't it? 

Folks, poverty was disappearing !!  Dropping like VHS sales!!!  But when anti-poverty programs appeared, poverty stabilized between 11-15%.   How much would you give to learn what woulda happened if the War On Poverty had never been declared????  Think of the fifteen trillion or so that they've spent on anti-poverty programs.  Do you think that might have been better spent by producers rather than D.C. looters? 

People are poor because they can't be productive.  (Or in a few cases, won't be productive.)  Yeah, some prosper because of lotteries, and a few eventually claw their way out and prosper because of handouts. But most of the poor get stuck, generation after generation after generation, sitting by the mailbox waiting on the goodies from Uncle Sugar.

When Washington demonizes success (especially from the entrepreneurial side as opposed to the sports/arts/entertainment side) and demands an ever-increasing cut of the profits from any business or individual, the productive members of society are left with less and less to spend on other things, like employees. George Soros, Warren Buffett, and dotcom jillionaires might be political numbskulls, but their instincts on how to spend money are far superior to John Boehner’s and Barack Obama’s. Let ‘em keep more of their money and the jobs will follow.

If we were to cut the U.S. tax burden in half, poverty in the U.S. would die. There would be a sprinkling of unemployed disabled people who could easily be provided for by using pre-LBJ methods. In that era, we had thousands and thousands of civic, fraternal, and church benevolence funds in place that we’ve almost forgotten how to administer.

We could easily end poverty.

But we’re too compassionate to even consider doing so. 

Note to self:  Create another chart showing how Islamic Extremists were dying off until our government got involved in trying to kill them. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Case For More Guns

I read this in The Atlantic Monthly (hardly a right-wing Tea Party rag) a few days before the shooting in Connecticut. 
It's easily the most reasonable piece I've seen on the subject of guns in America.  Jeffery Goldberg is the author. 

Go here.  Kinda long, but worth it.

Here are the final paragraphs.....

But even some moderate gun-control activists, such as Dan Gross, have trouble accepting that guns in private hands can work effectively to counteract violence. When I asked him the question I posed to Stephen Barton and Tom Mauser—would you, at a moment when a stranger is shooting at you, prefer to have a gun, or not?—he answered by saying, “This is the conversation the gun lobby wants you to be having.” He pointed out some of the obvious flaws in concealed-carry laws, such as too-lax training standards and too much discretionary power on the part of local law-enforcement officials. He did say that if concealed-carry laws required background checks and training similar to what police recruits undergo, he would be slower to raise objections. But then he added: “In a fundamental way, isn’t this a question about the kind of society we want to live in?” Do we want to live in one “in which the answer to violence is more violence, where the answer to guns is more guns?”

What Gross won’t acknowledge is that in a nation of nearly 300 million guns, his question is irrelevant.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ayn Rand's Philosophy

I'm trying to plow through the complete works of Ayn Rand.  I thought "Anthem" was brilliant.  "The Fountainhead" was ok, but only redeemed by the wonderful speech at the end. 

This is probably my 3rd attempt at "Atlas Shrugged".  I think my first stab at it was in high school, where I skimmed it thinking it was a novel about railroads.  The second time was when I started working at Bookstop, almost 25 years ago, at the recommendation of a few employees (Tim Lebsack, maybe??) but life intervened.
I picked it up for the third time a few days ago.   
It's been sitting there like a time bomb. 

I've read several critiques of the novel which state that it is best appreaciated by 17-year-old boys.  That's horsecrap.  I'm about 2/3rds of the way through it, and now believe it can best be understood by 51-year-olds living under the Obama Administration. 

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  All of them.  Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.,  The Texas Department Of Transportation, The Texas Unemployment Commission, and Ayn Rand.  Rand wrote the play, and the rest are clumsily acting it out. 

When I finish this book, I'm going to instantly go back through it with a highlighter, and bore the shit out of everybody on this site and on Facebook with quotes from the book, illustrated with pics from 2013.  As events develop. 

Here's Rand's general philosophy, a set of beliefs now in opposition to everything most voters stand for or believe in.  Think of the misery all over the U.S. and the world if governments were to adopt this:

At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did as follows:
  1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
  2. Epistemology: Reason
  3. Ethics: Self-interest
  4. Politics: Capitalism
If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1.”Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”
If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot—or while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics.
My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:
Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
The Taggart Transcontinental Comet just blew up inside the mountain, killing everyone aboard including the idiot politico who demanded that they go through the tunnel.  Dagny has come back to take over the railroad.  Hank Rearden is torturing himself for putting his zipper problem ahead of his company. 

I want to find myself some Rearden Steel to make fruitstands that will last forever. 

Great book so far, and John Galt hasn't said a word yet. 

If you love the book and think that's a cool painting, go here to buy a poster

Friday, December 14, 2012

"I can't be overdrawn. I haven't run out of checks." by Paul Krugman

Here's something from Paul Krugman of the New York Holy Times, on why we aren't having a debt crisis. 

We are not having a debt crisis. 
It’s important to make this point, because I keep seeing articles about the “fiscal cliff” that do, in fact, describe it — often in the headline — as a debt crisis. But it isn’t. The U.S. government is having no trouble borrowing to cover its deficit.
There you have it, folks.  From the #1 New York Times cheerleader and apologist for The Teleprompter Jesus. 
It's a variation on the old joke/bumpersticker that says "I can't possibly be overdrawn - I haven't run out of checks". 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Tale Of The Slave - by Robert Nozick

From the Duke University Educational Society.  Robert Nozick's "Tale Of The Slave".  Think of this as a progression for one slave to experience.   
The last question is a zinger. 

"The Tale of the Slave"
from Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 290-292.

Consider the following sequence of cases, which we shall call the Tale of the Slave, and imagine it is about you.
  1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master's whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.
  2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.
  3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.
  4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.
  5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three-sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.
  6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

    Let us pause in this sequence of cases to take stock. If the master contracts this transfer of power so that he cannot withdraw it, you have a change of master. You now have 10,000 masters instead of just one; rather you have one 10,000-headed master. Perhaps the 10,000 even will be kindlier than the benevolent master in case 2. Still, they are your master. However, still more can be done. A kindly single master (as in case 2) might allow his slave(s) to speak up and try to persuade him to make a certain decision. The 10,000-headed monster can do this also.
  7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the vast range of their powers.
  8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happened; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)
  9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.
The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't congratulate Big Boi Patton on the Obama victory

A NYC radio station runs a segment called "Everyday Racism".
The guest in this clip was Big Boi Patton of Outkast.
Don't congratulate Big Boi on the Obama victory just because they're both black.  The similarities end there.  Big Boi is smart and has some talent, and had sense enough to vote Libertarian. 

Here's a fun video.  My favorite Outkast song, prob'ly because it isn't rap, and I'm too old for the other stuff.  I don't care how old you are, this is good stuff:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

People are strange

This is the desk of my freight broker/dispatcher, Linda. 
Linda is the only person who can find anything on this monstrosity. 
Linda is a "pile" person, and not a "file" person. 
She's very good at her job. 
We'd be lost without her. 
But God help us if she ever dies. 
We'll have to deal with this:

If there is any order or structure to that mess, I can't define it. 
But this is how Linda eats Skittles.  She has to sort them by color first. 

People are strange. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Government Cheese

"They'll turn us into beggars, cause they're easier to please...."

Give a man a free house and he'll bust out the windows
Put his family on food stamps, now he's a big spender
no food on the table and the bills ain't paid
'Cause he spent it on cigarettes and P.G.A.
They'll turn us all into beggars 'cause they're easier to please
They're feeding our people that Government Cheese

Give a man a free lunch and he'll figure out a way
To steal more than he can eat 'cause he doesn't have to pay
Give a woman free kids and you'll find them in the dirt
Learning how to carry on the family line of work
It's the man in the White House, the man under the steeple
Passing out drugs to the American people
I don't believe in anything, nothing is free
They're feeding our people the Government Cheese

Decline and fall, fall down baby
Decline and fall, said fall way down now
Decline and fall, fall down little mama
Decline and fall, decline and fall
Give a man a free ticket on a dead end ride
And he'll climb in the back even though nobody's driving
Too ******* lazy to crawl out of the wreck
And he'll rot there while he waits for the welfare check
Going to hell in a handbag, can't you see
I ain't gonna eat no Government Cheese

Hit this link before criticizing a single sentiment in this song.  Lord have mercy, what a mess. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Some updates from the Texas Libertarian Party

From Pat Dixon, State LP Chair.  Here's how the Texas Libertarian Party has done in the last three presidential election year cycles:

Average results for the last 3 presidential election years200420082012
US House races (3-way)1.70%2.40%2.60%
US House races (2-way)6.90%13.10%17.60%
Texas House (3-way)2.70%2.80%3.80%
Texas House (2-way)9.70%13.40%16.20%
Statewide Judicial races (2-way)15.10%18.10%21.70%

That's coming along nicely, don't you think? 

Give us a few more years of The Fed printing money, undeclared wars, insane spending, a former pot-smoking black man locking tens of thousands of black men in cages for smoking a plant, crony capitalism, regulatory hell, and a goofy healthcare mandate, and we'll start electing some candidates. 

Or will the voters start doing the right thing, and voting for liberty, without hitting rock bottom first? 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tom Smith And His Incredible Bread Machine

Here's an old poem about an entrepreneur and the government.  Classic stuff.  Can't believe I never posted any of it before. 
It was written by an engineer named R.W. Grant in 1966. 
I dare you to think of something besides the Hostess bankruptcy or the public abuse that the Papa John's Pizza founder is now taking....

This is a legend of success and plunder

And a man, Tom Smith,

Who squelched world hunger.

Now Smith, an inventor, has specialized in toys.

So, people were surprised

When they found that he instead

Of making toys, was BAKING BREAD!

The way to make bread he'd conceived

Cost less than people could believe.

And not just make it! This device

Could, in addition, wrap and slice!

The price per loaf, one loaf or many:

The miniscule sum of under a penny.

Can you image what this meant?

Can you comprehend the consequent?

The first time yet the world well fed!

And all because of Tom Smith's bread.

A citation from the President

For Smith's amazing bread.

This and other honors too

Were heaped upon his head.

But isn't it a wondrous thing

How quickly fame is flown?

Smith the hero of today -

Tomorrow, scarcely known.

Yes, the fickle years passed by:

Smith was a millionaire,

But Smith himself was now forgot -

Though bread was everywhere.

People, asked from where it came,

Would very seldom know.

They would simply eat and ask,

"Was not it always so?

However, Smith cared not a bit,

For millions ate his bread,

And "Everything is find," thought he,

"I am rich and they are fed!"

Everything was fine, he thought?

He reckoned not with fate.

Note the sequence of events

Starting on the date

On which the business tax went up.

Then, to a slight extent,

The price on every loaf rose too:

Up to one full cent!

"What's going on? the public cried,

"He's guilty of pure plunder.

He has no right to get so rich

On other people's hunger!"

(A prize cartoon depicted Smith

With fat and drooping jowls

Snatching bread from hungry babes

Indifferent to their howls!)

Well, since the Public does come first,

It could not be denied

That in matters such as this,

The Public must decide.

So, antitrust now took a hand.

Of course, it was appalled

At what it found was going on.

The "Bread trust," it was called.

Now this was getting serious,

So Smith felt that he must

Have a friendly interview

With the men in antitrust.

So, hat in hand, he went to them.

They'd surely been misled;

No rule of law had he defied.

But the their lawyer said:

"The rule of law, in complex times,

Has proved itself deficient.

We much prefer the rule of men!

It's vastly more efficient.

Now, let me state the present rules,"

The lawyer then went on,

"These very simple guidelines

You can rely upon"

You're gouging on your prices if

You charge more than the rest.

But it's unfair competition

If you think you can charge less.

"A second point that we would make

To help avoid confusion:

Don't try to charge the same amount:

That would be collusion!

You must compete. But not too much

For if you do, you see,

Then the market would be yours

And that's monopoly!"

Price too high? Or price too low?

Now, which charge did they make?

Well, they weren't loath to charging both

With Public Good at stake!

In fact, the went on better

They charged "monopoly!"

No muss, no fuss, oh woe is us,

Egad, they charged all three!

"Five years in jail," then the judge then said

"You're lucky it's not worse.

Robber Barons must be taught

Society Comes First!

Now, bread is baked by government.

And as might be expected,

Everything is well controlled:

The public well protected.

True, loaves cost a dollar each.

But our leaders do their best.

The selling price is half a cent.

(Taxes pay the rest!)

Brilliant little poem, isn't it? 

Can someone find Barack Obama's copy of this poem and shred it, and then explain to the dense s.o.b. that it's a Cautionary Tale and not an Instruction Manual for the economy?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There will be no spending cuts

There will be no spending cuts. 
There might be a slight decline in the increase of spending.
But there will be no spending cuts. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

This story is not true.

This story is not true. 

Johnstown, PA (GlossyNews) – Local and state police scoured the hills

outside rural Johnstown, Pennsylvania, after reports of three animal rights activists going missing after attempting to protest the wearing of leather at a large motorcycle gang rally this weekend. Two others, previously reported missing, were discovered by fast food workers “duct taped inside fast food restaurant dumpsters,” according to police officials.

“Something just went wrong,” said a still visibly shaken organizer of the protest. “Something just went horribly, horribly, wrong.”The organizer said a group of concerned animal rights activists, “growing tired of throwing fake blood and shouting profanities at older women wearing leather or fur coats,” decided to protest the annual motorcycle club event “in a hope to show them our outrage at their wanton use of leather in their clothing and motor bike seats.” “In fact,” said the organizer, “motorcycle gangs are one of the biggest abusers of wearing leather, and we decided it was high time that we let them know that we disagree with them using it, ergo, they should stop.”

According to witnesses, protesters arrived at the event in a vintage 1960′s era Volkswagen van and began to pelt the gang members with balloons filled with red colored water, simulating blood, and shouting “you’re murderers” to passersby. This, evidently, is when the brouhaha began.

“They peed on me!!!” charged one activist. “They grabbed me, said I looked like I was French, started calling me ‘La Trene’ and duct taped me to a tree so they could pee on me all day!”

Still others claimed they were forced to eat hamburgers and hot dogs under duress. Those who resisted were allegedly held down while several bikers “farted on their heads.”

Police officials declined comments on any leads or arrests due to the ongoing nature of the investigation; however, organizers for the motorcycle club rally expressed “surprise” at the allegations.

“That’s preposterous,”said one high-ranking member of the biker organizing committee. “We were having a party, and these people showed up and were very rude to us. They threw things at us, called us names, and tried to ruin the entire event. So, what did we do? We invited them to the party!

What could be more friendly than that? You know, just because we are all members of motorcycle clubs does not mean we do not care about inclusiveness. Personally, I think it shows a lack of character for them to be saying such nasty things about us after we bent over backwards to make them feel welcome.”

When confronted with the allegations of force-feeding the activist’s meat, using them as ad hoc latrines, leaving them incapacitated in fast food restaurant dumpsters, and ‘farting on their heads,’ the organizer declined to comment in detail. “That’s just our secret hand shake,” assured the organizer. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Washington D.C. Performance Art

I first saw some Performance Art during a high school trip to Quebec.  We were going through a mega-shopping mall, and some seriously thin women and men, 7 or 8 of them, came marching down the middle of the mall.  They were wearing incredibly tight black leather outfits, with a few red bows and ribbons stuck in unlikely places. 

They were carrying two black poles, each one about 6 feet long. 

They looked morbidly grim and serious.  This woulda been about 1978, long before all the "Undertakers Of The Art World" started wearing black, while regretting that they couldn't find a darker color.  We were just a gaggle of rednecks from Mississippi, and had never imagined art like this, much less seen it on display. 

I asked a bystander something along the lines of "What the hell?"  She didn't speak much English, but explained that these were artists, and that they were protesting against the British/Canadian government. 

The "artists" grimly pivoted against the flow of traffic in the mall, lowered their poles, and required the shoppers to step or hop over them. The Canucks took it with good humor and hopped away. Eventually traffic backed up, and the artists in black raised their poles so that everyone could walk beneath them.

They occasionally lowered the poles to just a few inches over everyone's heads, lifting them quickly when a take-no-prisoners shopper approached who was in no mood for art. Or protests. Or whatever the hell this was.

After that they did some impressive stuff on the up and down escalators, leading me to believe that they'd done some practicing in the mall after hours.  They went eventually went away as silently as they appeared, leaving a mall full of shoppers mildly perplexed for about 45 seconds.  My French wasn't that good, but the general impression was...."what did that have to do with anything?"

Here's a cool pic of a performance artist covering a nekkid girl with liver and chocolate syrup.  It doesn't mean anything. 

My second exposure to Performance Art was in college.  Some hippie chick did an interpretive dance while her boyfriend made a lot of noise with reel-to-reel loops, unlikely percussion instruments, and another guy sometimes shaved a gong with an electric razor.  No idea what that was about, but it was an interesting distraction. 

Here's Wikipedia's definition of Performance Art:  A performance presented to an audience, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or via media; the performer can be present or absent. It can be any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body, or presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. Performance art can happen anywhere, in any venue or setting and for any length of time. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.

Here's a better definition, one that I can take full credit for:  Weird bullshit that serves as a distraction for the gullible members in the audience.  The con artist/creator gains credibility when viewers actually wonder what the hell it means. 

Here's a piece showing a guy kinda crucified on a Volkswagen. Probably supposed to make you think about the evils of Capitalism, but it's not about that. It's about being cool and pretending to be deep, meaningful and significant.

If you've paid attention to the news for the last month, you've been exposed to some Washington D.C. Performance Art about the "Fiscal Cliff".  John Boehner and The Teleprompter Jesus have tied themselves to a ticking time bomb.  If they don't come to an agreement about taxes and spending, the entire universe will blow up.  Or something. 

It doesn't matter.  It's Kabuki Theatre.  Performance Art.  It's fun to watch them put on their black leather outfits, dance, and recite reverse Led Zepellin lyrics in front of a Solyndra Stockholders Powerpoint presentations, but it's meaningless.  A fun distraction.  They're doing what you've elected them to do. 

Here's why this is all nothing but sound and fury and electric razors on gongs.  This is from a recent Wall Street Journal essay by two Clinton administration economists.  I hope you'll go here and read the whole thing.  They lament that Uncle Sam doesn't have to keep books the way that a private business is required to.  Uncle Sam doesn't have to show future liabilities. 

All discussion of our 17 trillion dollar debt is based on rosier-than-likely scenarios.  Because within my lifetime, the U.S. government is going to have to come up with 86 trillion dollars to cover the IOU's our elected "artists" have spread across the nation and the world.  Here are the money quotes from the article:

When the accrued expenses of the government's entitlement programs are counted, it becomes clear that to collect enough tax revenue just to avoid going deeper into debt would require over $8 trillion in tax collections annually. That is the total of the average annual accrued liabilities of just the two largest entitlement programs, plus the annual cash deficit.

Nothing like that $8 trillion amount is available for the IRS to target. According to the most recent tax data, all individuals filing tax returns in America and earning more than $66,193 per year have a total adjusted gross income of $5.1 trillion. In 2006, when corporate taxable income peaked before the recession, all corporations in the U.S. had total income for tax purposes of $1.6 trillion. That comes to $6.7 trillion available to tax from these individuals and corporations under existing tax laws.

In short, if the government confiscated the entire adjusted gross income of these American taxpayers, plus all of the corporate taxable income in the year before the recession, it wouldn't be nearly enough to fund the over $8 trillion per year in the growth of U.S. liabilities. Some public officials and pundits claim we can dig our way out through tax increases on upper-income earners, or even all taxpayers. In reality, that would amount to bailing out the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. 
In other words, they can tax the rich, the middle-class, the poor, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Wal-Mart, your Mama, Starbucks, and every other person, business and entity for 100% of their taxable income, and it won't even come close to closing the gap.  
So when you turn on your TV and see Nancy Pelosi wearing a corset made of sardine bones, holding a velvet whip in one hand and reading the works of John Maynard Keynes from a pink iPhone held in the other, it's just Performance Art.  There are no true spending cuts on the table, just reductions in future increases. 

When some Republican hack goes on Fox News via a video montage of his baby pictures, the Pakistan war dead,  and a collage of tax rate charts, all to justify his violation of the Grover Norquist pledge, it's just Performance Art.  It doesn't matter. 

Eat, drink, and be merry.  And do it in black leather.  Or put on a Yoko Ono CD and dip your head in blue wax.  Whatever you think will make an appropriate statement. 

We are all so very, very screwed. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ignorance of the law is no excuse

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

We've all heard it said hundreds of times.  Because of this basic legal principle, you can't claim that you didn't know it was illegal to kill, rob, or imprison your neighbor. 

That "Ignorance Of The Law" maxim probably came into being long before legislators were bought and sold like the branding rights on a NASCAR uniform. 

The Teleprompter Jesus administration has proposed more than 1,600 regulations in the last 30 days. 

Go here for the details on each one.  Each has a campaign contributor or a power-mad bureaucracy behind it.  Considerations of the health or well-being of the nation are secondary at best. 

If you violate any of these, you'll probably be fined or go to jail. 

Get busy.  Start reading. 

Pic came from here. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

From The Splendid Table

A professor at NYU has attempted to read the entire 2012 Farm Bill, and teach its contents to her students.
It ain't pretty. 

Go here for the whole thing

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: You decided to teach the farm bill. Why?

Marion Nestle: Well, I didn't know anything about it. I knew that I would be asked about it by reporters, because I'm asked by reporters about everything and they think I know everything. In 2006, when the previous farm bill was under discussion, I actually tried to read it. I opened up the file that was on the Internet and the table of contents was 14 pages long. The entire thing was 663 pages and it's totally incomprehensible.

So, I've decided to take it on, and I must say I've had moments when I've regretted it deeply. But it's been absolutely fascinating and the class is enormously exciting. I've got 45 students who are jumping out of their seats because what they're finding out is so absolutely amazing and none of us knew any of this before. We're learning it together.

LRK: What's making them jump out of their seats?

MN: Well, it's so astonishingly irrational it just takes your breath away. This is a bill that started in the 1930s and has been added onto incrementally without anybody sitting back and saying, "[What would we do] if we wanted to promote farm policy -- a rational farm policy we all agree would feed everybody, would make a living for farmers, would protect farm workers, would protect the environment and would promote health?"

The bill does anything but that. It is designed to protect certain parts of the food supply but not others: commodities, not fruits and vegetables. With today's concerns about obesity, the idea that the farm bill does not promote production and consumption of fruits and vegetables seems bizarre.

Some things are so completely irrational they just take your breath away. For example, if a commodity producer decides to grow vegetables, that producer will either lose all of the subsidies he's getting or will have to plow the vegetables under. They are required by the way this law works to plow them under, treat them with Roundup and kill them, or let them freeze. But they're not allowed to actually grow and sell them.

There are real discouraging things in it that actually discourage the production of fruits and vegetables. You would think that somebody in Congress would sit back and say, "OK, let's take a look at this and let's try to get agricultural policy aligned with health policy." But that is so far from the political reality that what this course is really about is the political realities and what you have to do if you want to change those realities.

LRK: Is there any way for the consumer to get any kind of say on any of this?

MN: One of the things that's most disturbing to me about the bill is that it is so absolutely incomprehensible that nobody can understand it. It is so vast and includes the most astonishing details about the most astonishing number of programs -- dozens and dozens and dozens. I've not yet been able to identify them all.

Each section of the farm bill covers different kinds of programs. These range from tiny earmark programs that affect only a few people, to things like food stamps and the SNAP program, which affects 45-50 million people.

What the food assistance programs are doing in the farm bill is another thing. Neither one of them could be looked at rationally because they're completely linked. The reason that they're linked is the senators and House members who have interest in one or another aspect say, "I'll vote for yours if you vote for mine."

So, the food assistance programs are held hostage to farm subsidies and the farm subsidies are held hostage to food assistance programs. You cannot read the farm bill because each aspect of it refers to amendments to previous bills. So unless you know the 30 different previous bills that have been passed, you really can't. It doesn't read like a text.

One more point: Nobody in Congress can understand it either.

LRK: That's ... scary.

MN: That's scary.

The Whited Sepulchre: No, having a Department Of Agriculture, with Food Bills and Farm Bills and an "Agricultural Policy", all at the mercy of political contributors....That's what's scary.