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April 30, 2004

Glenn Reynolds is Wrong

[Updates below.]

ARE WE GOING TOO SOFT IN IRAQ? Some people think so. It seems that way to me, too, though I'm reluctant to make a judgment at this distance. But in my lifetime, at least, the United States has generally erred by not being violent enough, rather than by being too brutal.
My emphasis. That's the Instapundit talking this morning. I don't know where he was when he wrote it, but there's no doubt it came from the Department of Bad Timing. His statement deserves careful consideration given it's implications. This vector of more violence, more intervention, more imposed force is a direction I don't want my country going. The torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib is beyond disgraceful and is symptomatic of the very thing Mr. Reynolds wants more of. He probably doesn't want torture to occur, but given the reality on the ground, it's going to happen.

My distance from the pro-war side continues, albeit at a faster pace than before.

UPDATE(10:35am)
On the lighter side, my father forwarded an e-mail to me:

Time to re-evaluate U.S. involvement:

Every day there are news reports about more deaths. Every night on TV there are photos of death and destruction. Why are we still there?

We occupied this land, which we had to take by force, but it causes us nothing but trouble. Why are we still there?

Many of our children go there and never come back. Why are we still there?

Their government is unstable, and they have loopy leadership. Why are we still there?

Many of their people are uncivilized. Why are we still there?

The place is subject to natural disasters, to which we are supposed to bail them out. Why are we still there?

There are more than 1000 religious sects, which we do not understand. Why are we still there?

Their folkways, foods and fads are unfathomable to ordinary Americans. Why are we still there?

We can't even secure the borders. Why are we still there?

They are billions of dollars in debt and it will cost billions more to rebuild, which we can't afford. Why are we still there?

It is becoming VERY clear...

WE MUST PULL OUT OF CALIFORNIA !!!!!!!!!


UPDATE(4:49pm)
The soldiers who engaged in this torture, assuming it is true, are "assholes who deserve jail or execution," according to Mr. Reynolds. That's wonderful, but will the jail or execution be "violent enough" for him...?

UPDATE(7/23/2004 4:40pm)
He's wrong and he's also not very libertarian. Nor does he think clearly regarding Hillary Clinton or private space tourism.

UPDATE 1/20/2005 12:25pm
Glenn Reynolds is NOT a Libertarian

UPDATED 9/26/2005 2:44pm
He hasn't been paying attention to An Intellectually and Morally Serious Antiwar Movement.

April 29, 2004

Privatize the Austin Music Network!

[Updates below.]

I never sit down to watch the channel but the times I've surfed across it there were some interesting acts playing.

Media group offers to privatize Austin Music Network

The Austin Music Network (AMN) was funded mostly by the city of Austin until last fall.

Once funding was cut, the city and the network began looking for alternate financial resources. City leaders decided the network will have to look for money outside the city budget once its $150,000 contract expires in September.

A private media group, Austin Music Partners, offered Wednesday to privatize AMN. Longtime TV producer Connie Wodlinger would be in charge of programming.

Her proposal comes just two months after city leaders questioned the network's financial viability.

Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


Good news. Austin's tourists (the network's $150,000 comes from the hotel/motel bed tax) shouldn't have to pay for this. Also keep in mind that there may be a deal with TimeWarner Austin in the works:
This whole mess broke last week when AMN tipped the daily to the fact that - as both Wynn and McCracken have long suggested - the city was talking with Time Warner about the possibility of the latter taking over AMN and turning it into an arts-and-entertainment version of News 8 Austin.

Copyright 1995-2004 Austin Chronicle Corp. All rights reserved.


Which would also be neat.

Searching for "Austin Music Partners" doesn't turn up anything at all, so perhaps this private media group has just gotten together for the purposes of buying AMN. It certainly would be a good opportunity. According to AMN:

The Austin Music Network is the only independent music channel in the world. We are on the air 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and showcase the best of Austin and Texas music. Each day features original music videos and uninterrupted concert performances with a short list of national artists mixed in.

It enjoys a fair bit of support from the local indie community. The Austin Chronicle seems to love it and has stuck up for it's existence in the past.

In any event, funding arts and entertainment is something government has no business doing. This is a step in the right direction. Now, how about privatizing those homeless shelters...

UPDATE(6/24/2004 8:27am)
News8Austin: AMN reaches compromise with Austin Music Partners

After months of heated discussions and "he said-she said" disputes, the Austin Music Network and Austin Music Partners are joining together to make television.

It started at a telecommunications infrastructure meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Louis Meyers, the general manager of AMN came to the table along with Austin Music Partners TV producer Connie Wodlinger, much to the surprise of the committee.

[...]

"Whether it's private or nonprofit, I think there's a lot of advantages for the local community and at the end of the day probably affect a different group of the local community. So, our goal is to make sure we create a plan that everybody is part of," Meyers said.

Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


No, it does matter whether it's privately owned or publicly owned. It matters a lot and that crucial question shouldn't be sacrificed in order for the pandering to locals to continue.

Legal Live Concert Recordings!

Record your next concert on a USB keychain

On May 21, new digital kiosks offering the tiny drives will be installed at Maxwell's, a small indie-rock club in Hoboken, N.J. At $10 a pop for the recording, and $20 for the reusable, keychain drive, let the downloading begin.

"This is a tool that allows fans to take home and share some of the best independent music from small live venues around the country," said Daniel Stein, CEO of Dimensional Associates, a private equity firm that owns eMusic Live, which created the machines, as well as eMusic, a music file-sharing Web site, and The Orchard, a marketing firm for independent labels.

For Scott Ambrose Reilly, president of eMusic Live, the idea is to let fans have a legal copy of a live show, which gives smaller artists and their labels creative control over the quality of the recording and a commercial stake in its distribution.

The understanding is also that it is not a one-time recording. Fans can share the files with their friends, providing free word-of-mouth publicity for smaller bands.


This is a great idea and one that has been irritatingly slow to come to fruition. We've had the technology to do this for years. The form that tech has taken for this venture and the copyright permissions that have been agreed upon were the only roadblocks.
The technology is quite simple: The music fan goes up to the touch-screen kiosk after the show and buys the keychain drive with a credit card from a dispenser alongside the screen. Once that's done, the miniature drive is inserted into a slot in the kiosk, and the recording - stored as MP3 files - is loaded onto the device's 128-megabyte hard drive. That is enough space for 110 minutes of music.

A receipt for the transaction is sent to the concertgoer's e-mail address.


Of course, this means only shows in venues that have these stations installed can be "legally" copied like this.
"Admittedly this won't be for everyone," Reilly said. "But since the direction of music is increasingly going digital, I don't see why this wouldn't find its niche."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


I think this has insane potential for growth.

Why do we go to live shows? I go because:

  1. I'm a fan of the artists and I want to support their work more directly.
  2. I want to mingle with other fans.
  3. Often the artists play something new or original during live shows that won't get officially published.
  4. Just as often, the artists play remixed versions of their songs that won't get published.
  5. Musicians covering other musicians' songs are a rare treat.
  6. Artist-specific gear is sometimes available at live shows.

Among other reasons, it's the uniqueness of the event that draws me to live music. And if I can capture that uniqueness in a high quality so I can play it back again for myself, I want in on it. I'd spend money on this before I bought a T-shirt, no doubt.

There are products available now that can record sound directly to a USB drive (Creative Labs Nomad MuVo, Mercury iXA321i, ARCHOS Gmini 120, and iRiver iFP-195T...among many others), but I have little faith in their microphones' ability to accurately capture the high volume and wide range of live music. Bouncers at live venues also tend to not like bringing in these portable hard drives and solid-state MP3 recorders into their shows. Price is also a factor: I don't have the $120-$400 for these things. The cheaper ones below this range are for voice dictation, not music recording. Plopping down $30 for the one-time package and then paying $10 per live show is a fantastic deal.

I hope Austin gets a few of these!

April 28, 2004

Harriette Kelton's Mistreatment

[Updates below.]

Texas Woman, 97, Cuffed on Ticket Charge

A 97-year-old woman was handcuffed and taken to jail in a squad car for failing to pay a traffic ticket, but her son is questioning police officers' treatment of the former teacher.

Harriette "Dolly" Kelton had an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a traffic ticket when Highland Park police stopped her last week for having an expired registration and inspection sticker.

Kelton, who has lived in the northern Dallas suburb for at least 60 years, is a former teacher at The Hockaday School. She was in police custody for about two hours before her attorney arrived and was released on her own recognizance.

"A warrant begins with the words 'you are hereby commanded to arrest,' " Detective Randy Millican, Highland Park's public information officer, told The Dallas Morning News in Wednesday's editions. "How do you decide who do you arrest and who you don't? How about at age 90 but not at 91 and up? How about between 17 and 20?"

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


We can dance around all day debating how to arrest lawbreakers and accomplish nothing.

Or we can ask ourselves why we fine, arrest, and jail people for the noncrimes of not using turn signals, speeding, or not having your state licenses arranged just so. I'd rather direct my anger at the lawmakers and their constituents who asked that these laws be enacted.

UPDATE(5/14/2004 9:02am)
The cops have backed down in the face of public pressure.

Nonagenarian's Arrest Spurs Policy Change

Police guidelines calling for anyone wanted on a warrant to be arrested have been revamped following the public outcry over an officer's arrest of a 97-year-old woman.

[...]

Officers in the Dallas suburb of Highland Park now can use discretion in arrest cases if they have a supervisor's approval. Several factors will be weighed when making that decision, including physical disabilities or old age. The same criteria will be used in determining if the person needs to be handcuffed.

The department was inundated with e-mails and calls from around the country after the April 22 arrest of Dolly Kelton.

The revisions clarify the options officers have in arresting offenders, said Detective Randy Millican, public information officer for the Highland Park Department of Public Safety.

"I think it's appropriate to say we have defined some discretionary areas without placing at risk our officers," he said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Texas School Financing

[Updates below.]

Looks like there may be some movement to do something close to what I've advocated in the past: rely more on the sales tax rather than property taxes.

Several ideas buzzing around fixing school finance

Dan Branch, R-Dallas, laid out an idea that would decrease property taxes for homeowners and institute a payroll tax on businesses. Many small business would be exempt, but the idea is to get rid of certain tax loopholes while broadening the current base to pay for education.

"We're trying to get this load as low as possible, but also have a broad support from the business community for our future work force," Branch said.

[...]

Speaker Tom Craddick on Tuesday announced the House is rolling out a plan that would increase the sales tax and broadens its base.

Under the House plan:

  • Property taxes would become a statewide tax and would be reduced from the current cap of a $1.50 per $100 in appraised value, to $1 -- with a 10-cent local enrichment option.
  • The plan also would eliminate the state's franchise tax and impose a 1 percent payroll tax on businesses [or $400 per employee, whichever is lower...].
  • A $1 per pack cigarette tax and state-taxed video gambling at horse and dog race tracks also are in the House plan.
  • The state sales tax would increase 0.25 percent, to 6.5 percent.
  • The tax on motor vehicle sales would increase from 6.25 percent to 7.5 percent.
  • The House plan also imposes a $1 "amusement ticket surcharge'' for tickets to movies and other such activities.
  • The sales tax would be broadened to capture some services, including barber and beauty services, legal services, accounting services, veterinary services, interior design and others.

Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin

In the post I linked to above, I stated I'd support a greater reliance on sales taxes rather than property taxes. I no longer feel that way and I'm annoyed I ventured in that direction. Even if the legislature took up my half-assed idea...
Of course, the better idea would be to both kill the property tax and then impose a sales tax of 5% on all retail sales totalling $20 and up. I dig that idea of killing the franchise tax. Leave healthcare and grocery sales out of the tax's reach. Easy to compute, places a dramatic restraint on government spending, and doesn't impact the millions of small everyday sales people engage. Even though I have fundamental problems with taxation, such a scheme would be far, far preferable to what we have today.

...there is no guarantee the state would find a way to jack taxes back up. And such a plan wouldn't pay for public schools, the whole point of this special session. A statewide property tax is an even bigger problem. It'd be a gleaming new toy for politicians to tamper with.

The single biggest fraud built into this discussion is this, from the News8Austin article:

"First decide how do we make this the best educational system possible, first. And then once we decide what needs to be done to make us the most competitive, then we decide how to fund it. But you got to get there first in my opinion," [Richard Raymond, D-Laredo] said.

[...]

Gov. Rick Perry responded to the ideas discussed in the House committee by saying: "I will judge any bill based on whether it provides real and lasting property tax relief, improves our schools and funds education equitably without jeopardizing Texans' jobs.''


They want to build a better public education system, found it on funding equity, fund it without destroying the economy, and reduce property taxes. Why don't they realize no plan will do all of these things effectively or easily? Each goal conflicts another and won't solve the Texas public education problem. The title of this Houston Chronicle article says it all: House plan shifts Texans' tax burden
Texans would save about one-third on their property taxes but would pay higher sales taxes and face new taxes on services such as oil changes, haircuts and visits to the vet under a plan unveiled Tuesday before a House committee.

The long-awaited plan of the House leadership was surprising in its breadth, offering a comprehensive way to lower property taxes and fund $1 billion in new education spending. The plan would raise enough revenue to replace $5 billion in lost property taxes plus the new spending.

Except for provisions on video gambling and cigarette taxes, House Speaker Tom Craddick's plan is vastly different from one offered by Gov. Rick Perry, who called lawmakers into special session to devise a new school finance system and provide property tax relief.

Perry's plan offers less property tax relief and relies on revenue from "sin" taxes rather than sales and business taxes. Perry said the House proposal merits "thoughtful and thorough consideration."


Politicians discussing which areas of the economy to tax is a disgusting spectacle. It shines the light on the lie that we have decent property rights protections in this country. They see your wealth as fair game for any needs the government puts forth.
Heflin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the proposal tried to reach a balance between business and consumer taxes.

"We tried to be sensitive to the business community when they said, `We don't mind paying our share if it's fair and uniform,' " Heflin said.

Businesses would pay some of the new sales taxes on services such as management consulting, research and development, and computer programming. But other new sales taxes, including on coin-operated laundry machines and car washes, will fall heavily on consumers.


If some businesses want to contribute voluntarily, then why don't they set up a fund to donate to? Make it open for anyone who wants to toss in whatever they feel is a good amount. Make that the Public Education Fund for school districts to utilize...after they've charge students for tuition. Put the question straight to the faces of those cowardly Texas voters who say they support taxes for education but won't put up their own money voluntarily for it.
"The franchise tax is in decline anyway; more and more companies are converting out of it. You're having fewer and fewer businesses pay," said Craddick. "You need to look at a base where everybody pays on an equal basis."

The expansion of the sales tax is designed to tap into the growth in the service sector of the Texas economy.

"The idea of broadening it, that's where the growth in the economy is," said Craddick. "If you broaden it, you pick up that growth."

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau


Mr. Craddick wants to do essentially the same thing as Representative Eddie Rodriguez's income tax plan: tax a wider number of Texans at a slightly lower rate to increase revenue.

I wish more Texans would understand why I oppose things like this. HB 1 - in any incarnation - isn't going to fix the state education problem because of the nature of public education. As long as the state is providing educational services and taxing citizens to cover the costs, public education will remain immoral and ineffective.

UPDATE(4/29/2004 9:55am)
The bill in front of the House Select Committee for Public School Finance has changed slightly. It doesn't contain a statewide property tax, the payroll tax is increased to the lower of 1.25% or $500 per employee, the sales tax would increase half a percent rather than a quarter, the motor vehicle sales tax would increase 1.5% rather than 1.25%, an unspecified "tax cut" of 45 cents, and a local school property tax capped at $1.05.

This last tax proposal would allow districts to increase the rate up to 10 cents over the next five years. However, there would still be some "Robin Hood" revenue sharing.

Note that in newer plan, we'd be getting a de facto income tax in the name of a payroll tax, a bad idea all around.

UPDATE(4/30/2004 1:25pm)
From the Department of the Bleeding Obvious: School finance plan could be costly to consumers

UPDATE(2:15pm)
There are other bills working their way through the system and TASB's been tracking them. Not all have school finance as their main purpose.

UPDATE(5/3/2004 1:10pm)
A modified version of the bill has passed the House committee and will now go on to the full House for voting.

UPDATE(5/4/2004 9:07am)
I did some quick 'n dirty educational cost calculations of my own.

UPDATE(5/8/2004 12:28pm)
What is the Proper Way to Run a School?

UPDATE(5/10/2004 1:25pm)
Another bad idea: a universal curriculum.

UPDATE(5/18/2004 12:20pm)
The special session has ended and no bills were passed.

UPDATE(6/3/2004 12:55pm)
The Socialist Disease: More Education Money Won't Solve Problems, by the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Michael Quinn Sullivan, while not quite coming out and being honest about what needs to be done, does say this:

Consider this: we've tripled real-per-student spending in less than 30 years, and built monuments to fiscal mismanagement with athletic and administration complexes rivaling college facilities; we have superintendents with multi-year contracts valued in the millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, scores on the SAT, ACT and other national indicators of academic achievement have shown no improvement in the quality of education for kids surviving the system. Drop-out rates, especially for minorities, are an embarrassment.

[...]

Let us set aside reason and pretend more money might actually, finally, for the first time, make a positive difference. Why not prioritize state spending? Is there nothing to cut in the state budget to provide more money for education? Nothing less important?

We have a commission to encourage government employee productivity; there are at least a dozen river authorities with billions in assets. Texas has a commission on acupuncture. There is nothing to cut? Nothing to change? No way to save money?

In the religious pantheon of the left, government agencies and programs are wrathful gods to be fiscally appeased - never questioned - on a regular basis, regardless of the economic effect.


Call for the elimination of wholly unecessary government departments, much less cutting their budgets by 10% or more, and you'll be demonized and remembered as a hater of all that is needy for years.

UPDATE 1/14/2005 2:24pm
Just take a wild guess what the Texas Senate's solution to public school finance is.

April 27, 2004

Let People Work, Texas!

House committee considers video gambling at racetracks

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs said allowing video gambling at horse and dog racing tracks would create rural jobs.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press, All rights reserved.


You know what this means, right?

It means that the State of Texas has deliberately kept the unemployment level higher than it would naturally be if more forms of gambling were allowed. By outlawing jobs, more people are left out of work. It's a simple equation.

Keep this in mind every time you hear a politician wringing his or her hands about jobs. In all likelihood, that politician has voted numerous times to criminalize all manner of jobs and businesses.

UPDATE(4/30/2004 10:15am)
The proposal is taking fire:

Republicans and Democrats alike are threatening to kill a proposal to expand gambling in Texas by legalizing video lottery terminals, a move that could deal another big blow to the current House school finance plan.

The bipartisan opposition to video lottery comes from Republicans who object on moral grounds and Democrats who hope an attack on legalizing the terminals will force House leaders to drop a plan for higher sales taxes. Together, they could have the 51 votes needed to kill what has become a major part of a House committee's revenue-raising plans.

Copyright 2001-2004 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


Republicans oppose gambling on MORAL GROUNDS!? What fucking balls they must have to tell me it is wrong to want to attempt known risky ways of increasing my wealth. They have no right nor standing to prohibit me or anyone else from taking chances with our money.

No, I "bet" that the primary reason Republicans oppose this is due to religious dogma that seeped into the conventional wisdom of their communities. Since their constituents dislike gambling, they can't get elected as easily if they support the legalization bill.

Gambling. Another victim of democracy.

April 26, 2004

A Slice of Dennis Kucinich's Economic Wisdom

I was doing a search for "windfall profits oil tax" after hearing about it in the April 2 edition of Geov Parrish's This Day in Radical History. I didn't find anything because the Google search turned up only turned up 19 hits. Scanning the results, I came across this incandescent economic stupidity, posted in June of 2000, from U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich:

Gas prices soared to more than $3 a gallon in Chicago over the weekend, and one local congressman is doing everything he can to make sure that those prices don't hit Cleveland.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich says that he will introduce a three-part plan that will stop what he calls the "price gouging of Americans at the pump."


So far, everything's just as you'd expect a politician to say.
"The oil companies are making money here," Kucinich said. "We need to tax them right here at the refinery level, and a windfall profits tax at the refinery level will go a long way to showing the oil companies the American people do not have to take this lying down."

The windfall profits oil tax was first introduced in 1980. It made $40 billion off oil companies before it was repealed in 1988.

Copyright 2002 by NewsNet5. All rights reserved.


*blink*

Mr. Kucinich thinks gas prices are too high.

So...he says we should tax oil producers at the refinery level.

*pause*

And people wanted this guy to be President?! Exactly what did the hell did Mr. Kucinich think was going to happen if this occurred?

Fantasy Kucinichland:

  • Oil Producer: Man, it sure feels good jackin' up prices during these high-demand months! I'm visualizin' the typical downtrodden middle class American cursing Big Oil for chargin' him three bucks a gallon! Hoo-wee!
  • ...tax passes...
  • Oil Producer: Lawd, that tax sure cuts into my bloated profit margin like a rattler through a city slicker's designer jeans! Why, oh why did this happen to me?
  • Mr. Kucinich: You hurt consumers with your immoral gas prices and they've decided to punish you. Ha! Villain!
  • Oil Producer: I have seen the error of my ways. I'd better charge less for oil and make everyone happy again!
  • Millions of Little Guy Americans: Yay!
Whatever he might have thought would happen, what's more likely is this:

Reality:

  • Oil Producer: Since people buy more fuel during this part of the year and are willing to pay higher prices to get it, I'll charge distributors more in order to cover my higher production costs.
  • ...tax passes...
  • Oil Producer: Well, now that I'm being forced to give up 20% of my sales to the government, my revenues are lower than before. However, demand is still high and the actual costs to produce this oil haven't changed any. I didn't deserve this.
  • Mr. Kucinich: Yes you did. You charge too much for gasoline! You're screwing them!
  • Oil Producer: I charge what distributors are willing to pay and they are willing to pay from the revenues of customers who are willing to pay what those customers can afford. What's wrong with that? Now, I have to increase prices to cover these extra costs, costs that have nothing to do with producing gasoline. Who's getting screwed now?
  • Millions of Little Guy Americans: Boo!
And I thought Howard Dean was bad...

April 23, 2004

Derrick Shepherd Should Walk in MY Shoes

Louisiana May Ban Low-Slung Pants

People who wear low-slung pants that expose skin or "intimate clothing" would face a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time under a bill filed by a Jefferson Parish lawmaker.

State Rep. Derrick Shepherd said he filed the bill because he was tired of catching glimpses of boxer shorts and G-strings over the lowered belt lines of young adults.

The bill would punish anyone caught wearing low-riding pants with a fine of as much as $500 or as many as six months in jail, or both.

"I'm sick of seeing it," said Shepherd, a first-term legislator. "The community's outraged. And if parents can't do their job, if parents can't regulate what their children wear, then there should be a law."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Shit.

If this is the standard lawmakers now use to propose legislation, then I've been mistaking the velocity of the nation's descent towards Hell by a factor of five. This man and the system that supports him are menaces to freedom.

There should be a law against that. Unfortunately, the best one this country possesses has proven to be useless in preventing statist tyranny.

Hating Technology and Misunderstanding Unemployment

Capitalism and jobs - the fundamentals

Why pay low wages here or abroad if you can get away with paying no wages? The number of jobs that have been sent abroad is relatively small compared to the number of jobs lost permanently through the application of new technology. Technology impacts on every phase of the economy, from heavy industry to the service sector. All are computerized, automated and in many cases dehumanized.

Technology continually improves. Billions are spent on research, both government and private. Today's technology makes new, qualitative breakthroughs. Each application of advanced technology at the point of production brings with it new layoffs.

Should this job elimination be accepted passively? Shouldn't it arouse the same passion and anger as exporting jobs? Shouldn't technology benefit the people, not profit-hungry corporations?

Technology - that's the real crisis facing the U.S. working class. That's why more and more millions join the ranks of the long-term and permanently unemployed.


That's from Pat Barile, a member of the US Communist Party's National Board. He doesn't want the processes of production to be efficient. He's part of a long line of "thinkers" who feel that the advancement of technology hurts people. A quick glance at history is enough to refute him.

Brink Lindsey:

According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, total U.S. private-sector employment rose by 17.8 million during the decade from 1993 to 2002. To produce that healthy net increase, a breathtaking total of 327.7 million jobs were added, while 309.9 million jobs were lost. In other words, for every one new net private-sector job created during that period, 18.4 gross job additions had to offset 17.4 gross job losses.

[...]

The ongoing growth in total employment is frequently dismissed on the ground that most of the new positions being created are low-paying, deadend "McJobs." The facts, however, show otherwise.

Management and professional specialty jobs have grown rapidly during the recent era of globalization. Between 1983 and 2002, the total number of such positions climbed from 23.6 million to 42.5 million-an 80 percent increase. In other words, these challenging, high-paying positions have jumped from 23.4 percent of total employment to 31.1 percent.

[...]

Between 1980 and 2003, U.S. manufacturing output climbed a dizzying 93 percent.


And most importantly:
It is true that manufacturing's share of gross domestic product has been gradually declining over time-from 27.0 percent in 1960 to 13.9 percent in 2002. The percentage of U.S. workers employed in manufacturing has likewise been falling-from 28.4 percent to 11.7 percent over the same period. The primary cause of these trends is the superior productivity of U.S. manufacturers. As shown in Figure 3, output per hour in the overall U.S. nonfarm business sector rose 50 percent between 1980 and 2002; by contrast, manufacturing output per hour shot up 103 percent. In other words, goods are getting cheaper and cheaper relative to services. Since this faster productivity growth has not been matched by a corresponding increase in demand for manufactured goods, the result is that Americans are spending relatively less on manufactures. Accordingly, manufacturing's shrinking share of the overall U.S. economy is actually a sign of American manufacturing prowess.

Exactly the same phenomenon has played out over a longer time period with respect to agriculture. In 1870, 47.6 percent of total U.S. employment was in agriculture; by 2002, the figure had fallen to 1.7 percent. In the future, manufacturing will in all likelihood continue down the path followed by agriculture: as strong productivity growth reduces the price of manufactured goods relative to services, manufacturing's share of the overall economy will continue to fall. People who bemoan this prospect don't recognize economic progress when they see it.


Mr. Lindsey has more in his Job Losses and Trade: A Reality Check CATO briefing paper. Economic ignorance is driving these fears.

What jobs are typically done that would otherwise go to humans? It's the labor-intensive and repetitive work that gets eliminated over time, things like digging ditches, inserting Tab A into Slot A, or writing changes to the content of 782 webpages and leaving the other 218 alone. Technology takes over tasks that free up labor to do other jobs, jobs that require more of the human mind.

Humans seek to earn the greatest possible return on their investments of time and effort. Concurrently, we also want to minimize our dissatisfaction and pain. This means we attempt to reach a compromise with what we want and what we're willing to suffer to get it. This goes for all kinds of human action: riding bikes, eating out, finding a girlfriend, working a job, and running a company. Acting as if this self-interest is immoral and wrong only in the instance of employers firing workers when technology takes over is a hole in his argument. Technology gives us more power to satisfy our wishes in more inexpensive ways than ever before.

Mr. Barile would have more of a point if it could be proven that free economies don't create new kinds of jobs...but he nor anyone else could prove it. Free economies respond to the fickle and shifting demands of consumers and every economic actor is a consumer. The whole system is interlocked and flexible to new demands and desires. Technology makes much of that flexibility possible. If Mr. Barile was correct, the most capitalist countries would have ever-increasing unemployment that constantly slopes upward as technology advances. We'd have unemployment rates blowing past 20% and climbing faster than population growth. This is obviously not the case.

With unemployment, free markets aren't the problem:

  • Assuming the government doesn't subsidize the lives of the unemployed with "unemployment insurance," thereby giving them less incentive to find work quickly;
  • assuming the government doesn't price out ranges of jobs with minimum wage laws, thereby forcing companies to avoid hiring people to do work that rightly should be paid at lower wages;
  • assuming the government doesn't burden businesses with wasteful paperwork and spaghetti tangle of regulatory hurdles, thereby diverting resources that could be spent on hiring new people;
  • assuming the government doesn't eat into and steal employer savings through inflation and taxes, thereby reducing the available funds to pay for new employees;
  • assuming the government doesn't eat into and steal employee business savings through inflation and taxes, thereby reducing the cushions entities create for themselves in case of financial emergency;
  • and assuming the government doesn't use tariffs and duties to favor certain industries and companies over others, thereby increasing the difficulty in economic prediction and calculation and thus making it more risky to hire
...people will pick themselves off the ground and go out and find new work.

Mr. Barile wants technology to benefit "the people" rather than "profit-hungry corporations." This kind of thinking is absurd for a number of reasons.

First of all, "profit-hungry corporations" are made up of "the people." People with families. People with friends. Brushing aside the individuals that make up a business in order to lay convenient blame at the feet of some monolithic threat isn't a valid argument.

Secondly, profit-starved corporations...CAN'T HIRE "THE PEOPLE."

Thirdly, technology wouldn't exist if it didn't benefit us. It would be a waste of resources if it didn't produce some benefit. Being able to publish my opinions in public through an easily accessible medium is a benefit, and it costs me less than $20 a month. None of it would be possible without technology...and that technology has more uses than just the one I'm engaged in. Less than ten years ago, I'd need to either purchase or contract a printing press to publish my opinion and those opinions wouldn't be nearly as available as they are now. I'd have to spend thousands of dollars to even begin the process, supporting the jobs of dozens of people while doing so.

But why do that when I can do it myself for a fraction of a fraction of the cost? Why have those people engaged in that market when the money spent in it can be used for other, more urgent needs? If I'm busy spending $5,000 on publishing, I can't spend $5,000 on other things.

It's instructive to examine the medium Mr. Barile is using to get his opinion out. In essence, he is contradicting his own stand by using technology. The Internet rendered a terrible blow to newspaper publishing. Automated and computerized newspaper publishing knocked the typewriter industry around. The typewriter industry dealt a blow to professional handwriting instructors. They in turn took jobs away from...you get the idea. If Mr. Barile really believed in what he's talking about, he'd be furious his ideas are being disseminated on such an efficient platform.

He'd demand they be distributed through more "humanized" means.

Like with teams of horses and buggies (assuming he doesn't want to protect the Walking Courier Association's jobs) carting thousands of pounds of hand-chopped (no chainsaws!) and hand-inked (no printers!) trees around cities, coordinated by long distance yellers (no telephones or fax machines!) and drawings made in the dirt (no dry-erase boards!).

The man is a Communist, so his point of view is to be expected. But read his sentiments and compare them to mainstream opinion. They aren't that far apart.

And that's the real danger.

The Draft is Slavery

[Updates below.]

What is slavery?

  • Being forced to do what you don't want to do; especially in the form of working when others demand it.

What is the draft?
  • Being forced to join the military under threat of legal punishment.

All those stories of Representatives Charles Rangel and Pete Starks or Senators Fritz Hollings, Chuck Hagel, and Joe Biden either outright calling for a return of the draft or waffling on the idea and keeping their minds open about it demonstrate a profound rot in the respect for personal freedom. Several of those Congressmen have argued that the draft is needed because minority races, lower classes, and men bear a higher burden in the military than whites and the upper classes. That part is true - they do.

However, of all the reasons to impose a draft on this country, doing it in order to deliberately screw MORE people out of their freedom in order to ensure that horrendous screwing is roughly equal across all classes, races, and sexes...is quite possibly the most insane thing I've heard all year. These jerks, talking about "calling people to sacrifice." What arrogance.

I don't care WHAT the rationale is or who proposes it. Last year, it was a few asshole Democratic Congressmen and now it looks like a Republican here and there want to do the same. Fuck them all, especially this utterly baseless egalitarianism and anti-rich rhetoric. What to know why a disproportionate number of minorities and the poor join the military? They see it as a jobs program with fairly decent benefits. If women want to fight, let them fight. Any problems doing so causes on the battlefield are theirs to bear.

Militaries, like any form of employment, should be populated with people who want to be there. I don't want to be there. So don't ask me to go because I don't accept your offer. Threatening me with imprisonment and fines doesn't make the deal any more moral or acceptable.

UPDATE 9/23/2004 12:48pm
Nelson, British Columbia, plans a memorial for draft dodgers.

April 22, 2004

Orbital Is Calling It Quits

Click on 'News' to get the bad news:

"After 15 years working together as Orbital, Paul and Phil Hartnoll have announced that their forthcoming LP the "Blue Album" will be their last. Following the album's release on 21st of June, Orbital will play Brixton Academy on 25th of June followed by their last ever English live show, closing the second stage on Sunday June 27th at Glastonbury."

"I think we feel that Orbital has run it's course," says Paul Hartnoll. "We're both pursuing different avenues with our music. And we've been sat, as brothers, in the same room for 15 years now-and studios are always confined spaces-I think it's time for a change."

[...]

The brothers extra-mural interests have all informed the character of The Blue Album, the bands seventh, which evolved gradually over the course of 2003 with the band free from record company expectations and schedules for the first time since their career began. "If anything," says Paul "It's closer in character to our first album than our later ones, if only because we made it in our own time and for ourselves."


Orbital's "The Box" off MTV's AMP and "Halcyon + On + On" from the Hackers soundtrack were some of the first electronica songs I heard and liked. Until then, I didn't get what trance music was about and thought it was all a waste of time and electrons before then. The Brothers Hartnoll have been integral in my understanding of what trance and breaks music really is and I can't thank them enough for their work. I've seen them live in concert two times, something that I can't say for most artists I like. Along with Underworld and Prodigy, they provided the right music at the right time for me to grow deeply and quickly into the art form.

I will mourn their decision to stop making music together, but I have to give them credit for the choice as well. They'll be leaving the business after a long and productive career spanning the most important eras of electronica. They'll be leaving behind a worldwide legacy almost without taint. They'll be able to take some time off and (hopefully!) go back to release Orbital music that hasn't enlivened the ears of their fans. Even more uplifting is the chance they'll go on to produce music on their own. Double the pleasure!

I own Orbital (Green Album), Orbital 2 (Brown Album), Diversions, In Sides, Middle of Nowhere, and The Saint EP. I'll probably buy the rest as a gift to myself on my birthday to celebrate their Glastonbury show.

Because as much as I want to, going to Orbital's last concert just isn't going to happen.

Squarepusher Rocked Austin!

[Updates below.]

The show was awesome. Antone's was packed and the crowd was eager to see Squarepusher get on stage.

My friends and I got there right around 10pm and stood in line. Much to our chagrin, the ticket holder line wrapped around the corner while the "will call"/"at the door"/VIP ticket line was never more than three or four people deep. Not that we missed a whole lot for the ten or so minutes we waited outside. The openers were DJ Jonny J and Cassetteboy. The DJ playing when we entered the building was spinning breaks and drum 'n bass. I believe this is the same DJ who spun after Cassetteboy took the stage, but I can't be sure. It was alright, but there was little effort put into the mix.

I do know that Cassetteboy put on an...unorthodox...performance. It consisted of two guys running around the stage in those exaggerated George W. Bush and Tony Blair masks you see at anti-war protests. They changed clothes a few times, mainly to accentuate the physical love they portrayed the two politicians as feeling for one another. That may be the least offensive way I can put it. I think the music was prerecorded because they did no knob-twiddling and played no instruments. Then again, how you'd "play" their music live is beyond me. It was a long uninterrupted mix of speech, news, and audiobook clips hacked together to say whatever Cassetteboy wanted them to say: Harry Potter getting oral sex, Prime Minister Blair talking about hurting children, President Bush discussing the threat America poses to the world, and Michael Jackson on how he fondles kids. Among other things. It got the crowd going and was unique, but ultimately the on-stage antics got tired and I got antsy for Squarepusher to come out. I noticed a stagehand setting up two guitars while Cassetteboy was wrapping up and I wondered just how much Jenkinson was going to use them.

When he finally did walk out around 12:10am, we went nuts. He went immediately into his set. It's hard to describe his live music. I only recognized three of the "tracks" that he played, partly because he did so much live guitar work. Bass guitar work. The most amazing bass instrumentation I've ever heard. The man is a gawddamn adult prodigy. I've had an electric bass for a few years and I know the demands it places on the guitarist, especially those guitarists who "thumb-thwack" the strings to create the classic funk bass sound. As far as I could tell, Jenkinson almost exclusively thwacked the strings rather than plucked or strummed them. Additionally, it didn't seem that he used a whole lot of audio processing work on the bass signal. He had some signals processing going on, but I think he did a great deal of the processing simply by his method of playing. It was surprising how much he did live that I thought he would have done through his synths, samplers, and laptop.

His reputation as a flake and someone who may not have a solid connection with reality notwithstanding, he was upbeat the whole show, banging his arms and head around to his percussion and he thanked the audience several times. Thick English accent. He spoke infrequently, but the enthusiasm he felt was obvious. He didn't have his Ultravisitor beard even though it looked as if he stepped off the cover photo shoot and walked onstage. He ended the show with an encore, picking "Come on My Selector" as the ending song.

After witnessing this live show and experiencing the heretofore unknown progressive drill 'n bass jazz of Music is Rotted One Note, my respect for Squarepusher has skyrocketed. Good show, mate. Good show.

UPDATED 5/26/2005 8:55am
Autechre stopped by Austin and I went to check them out.

April 21, 2004

Entertainment Quickies

  • Kill Bill Vol. 2 kicks all manner of ass. It's better than Vol. 1 in most respects. Less outright violence, though.
  • I bought Pearl Jam's Ten for the first time on CD last night. It cost me $5.99 used at Waterloo. A better bargain for a must-have CD I am not aware of.
  • The Jack Bauer Hour, otherwise known as 24, has gotten decidedly current events-ish on us with the episode that aired last night. I thought Jack murdering Ryan Chappell at the request of the President (who caved to the terrorist's demand) was ugly, but Jack interrogating the Bad Guy's daughter in a style decidedly antithetical to individual freedom...that scene should be nominated for some Really Important Socio-Political Point award. It cuts straight to the heart of every security vs. liberty issue in this country.
  • Also when I bought Ten, I picked up Squarepusher's Music is Rotten One Note. Fucking brilliant. I can't wait to see him tonight.
  • Ditto the brilliance on The Cinematic Orchestra's Every Day and Man With a Movie Camera. This is the first time I've heard orchestral strings and arrangements tied to breakbeats, downtempo hip-hop, and jazz. Awesome stuff.
  • Yvonne, at the Austin downtown Marriott, is the most attractive bartending woman I have ever seen. And she actually knows her beer!!

  • April 18, 2004

    Conferencing

    I'll be busy at the TASB Risk Management Member's Conference until Wednesday. I'm the A/V Guy again, so if anyone happens to be touring the Austin Marriott downtown on Monday and Tuesday, I'll be the annoyed-looking dude running around, packhorsing a few dozen pounds of LCD projector and laptop gear.

    Hopefully, this year's socializing won't lead down the path it did last year.

    I'll try to stop in and prune the pr0n and drug spam from the comments once a day.

    UPDATE(4/20/2004 1:33pm)
    I'm back, but I have the rest of the day off. Happy 4-20!

    April 16, 2004

    Question for Those Demanding We Negotiate

    You consistently say we should be "understanding" and "learning where our enemies are coming from" in order to defeat terrorism. If this is the case, how do you feel about the wholesale rejection of this approach by Europe?

    European politicians have ruled out negotiating with Osama bin Laden after a tape the CIA says is likely to be that of the al Qaeda leader offered a truce to European nations if they pull troops out of Islamic countries.

    "It is completely unthinkable that we could start negotiations with bin Laden. Everyone understands that," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters.

    European Commission President Romano Prodi said there could be no negotiating under a "terrorist threat."

    Leaders in France and Germany also rejected any such offer.

    "I don't think we need Osama bin Laden to start telling us how to handle our political affairs," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

    [...]

    In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell called the European reaction "very direct and clear."

    "You can't make a deal with somebody like bin Laden," Powell said. "How can you make a deal with a terrorist?"

    2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

    Are Free Markets Hurting Themselves?

    ...in the income tax preparation market? Jim Henley:

    Ah, taxes. I put them off and put them off and by the time I've installed TaxCut and opened the forms, it's over in a couple of hours.

    [...]

    ... tax preparation software has gotten so good that for ordinary earners - wages, income, dividends, mortgage-plus-state-tax-plus-charity deductions - completing a return is a cinch. And from what I can tell, the programs seem to handle all sorts of contingencies I barely understand, let alone have a need for. That means that an awful lot of voters don't feel the pain of a complex tax code either - the computer handles the hard part. You can say that the code's complexity makes it hard to plan, but even there, a lot of the tax and financial management programs can help that area too.

    That means that we libertarians face a serious annoyance gap: not only are middle-class voters not feeling especially taxed, they're not feeling the pain of our bizarrely involuted tax code either...[b]ut politics favors the pissed. And we don't have a mass movement of the pissed now when it comes to taxes.


    Free people will attempt to overcome or sidestep situations when faced with annoyances, inefficiencies, and pain. That explains the rise and popularity of tax preparation software and the long-term prosperity of tax preparation companies. This market exists to rid the taxpaying individual of at least some of the irritation of dealing with his or her taxes by themselves. And of course, since free markets deal with human problems better than other means, over time the burden of arranging one's taxes will slowly drop as entrepreneurs learn better ways to serve their customers. Assuming the government doesn't dramatically change the rate at which it complexifies the tax code, this trend isn't likely to stop.

    It's conceivable to me that at some point in the future, the old anti-tax argument that the IRS is too much of a burden and needs to be reformed will steadily loose traction with voters. They'll look at the effort they put into their taxes, realize it isn't as bad as it once was, and ignore the other, much greater problems with income taxation.

    Harvard's IOP Thinks I'm a Secular Centrist

    Harvard Institute of Politics Political Personality Test

    My answers are bolded.

    As part of our spring 2004 national survey of college students we have created a short test to measure where your political beliefs fit with college students across the country.

    Please answer the questions by marking the box that best fits your belief.

    1 = Strongly disagree
    2 = Somewhat disagree
    3 = Neither agree nor disagree
    4 = Somewhat agree
    5 = Strongly agree

    1. The best way to increase economic growth and create jobs is to cut taxes. 5

    2. Our country's goal in trade policy should be to eliminate all barriers to trade and employment so that we have a truly global economy.
      5

    3. Basic health insurance is a right for all people, and if someone has no means of paying for it, the government should provide it.
      1

    4. Qualified minorities should be given special preferences in hiring and education.
      1

    5. Religious values should play a more important role in government.
      1

    6. In today's world, it is sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries, rather than waiting until we are attacked to respond.
      1

    7. Protecting the environment should be as high a priority for government as protecting jobs.
      1

    8. Homosexual relationships between consenting adults are morally wrong.
      1

    9. If parents had more freedom to choose where they could send their children to school, the education system in this country would be much better.
      5

    10. I am concerned about the moral direction of the country.
      3

    11. Recent immigration into this country has done more good than harm.
      3

    Thus netting me this designation:


    You are a Secular Centrist. Secular centrists like you tend to be:
  • Strongly supportive of gay rights.
  • Believe strongly in the separation of church and state.
  • Less supportive of affirmative action than most college students.
  • Less likely to be concerned about the environment than most college students.
  • Less likely to believe in basic health insurance as a right than most college students.

  • Full disclosure of the results of the survey can be found here.

    Am I less concerned about the environment than most college students? Probably. That's the only conclusion I really take issue with, given it's wording. It sounds as if the people who are more concerned about the environment are those who believe the government should be used to preserve it, two assertions I reject.

    April 15, 2004

    It's National Theft Day!

    [Updates below.]

    Otherwise known as the April 15 tax deadline.

    I consider taxation to be systematic and deliberate theft. My "say" in how much I'm forced to hand over to the government is laughably limited. I can:

    1. skip voting in various elections because there are no people worth voting for;
    2. vote for people who'll never win but who closely resemble my stance on the tax issue; or
    3. attempt reform through public and private persuasion.

    In any event, even if I vote, my representative (assuming he or she wins) still has to contend with the tens or hundreds of representatives from the rest of my district. And, by extension, the thousands and millions of statist idiots who voted for them. The whole process is dumb and a waste of time. Individuals who are not firmly embedded in political circles have no say over the nation's tax policy. You and I will get reamed regardless of what we want.

    Reamed and driven insane by over 300 pages of directions and regulations and exemptions and definitions and other bullshit. This is the result of a semi-organic process that hasn't been effectively checked since it's inception. It is the Porta-Potty that everyone uses to shit in and never gets cleaned out. Small distractions like Bush's tax cuts don't mean squat in the face of this out of control monster that destroys wealth, impairs production, and fuels the socialists on the Left and the Right.

    I'd rather be without all the so-called benefits of taxation. I'd rather keep my money and spend it on the things I consider necessary and the things I merely want. I'd rather not have portions of my income and my investments diverted without my permission, and certainly not at all towards things that have absolutely no relevance to the limited government ideas embodied in the US Constitution. I'd rather Americans stop begging for the money taken from others and stand up and take responsibility for themselves. Pay for your own educations. Cover your own transportation costs. Find ways to finance your own healthcare needs. Take care of your own security arrangments.

    Stop demanding that I have to sacrifice in order to support other life. You and I do not deserve to be ordered around. We are the slaves of no one as long as we understand slavery must be imposed - it isn't Man's natural state.

    UPDATE(2:21pm)
    I'm going to update this post with various articles and blogs that have something to say about the income tax.

    Best & Worst Tax-and-Spenders in 2003, from Human Events Online.

    Tax Day cartoons, from Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index on Slate. My favorites: Mike Thompson and Gary Brookins. This Mallard Filmore comic, posted by Kerry M. Kerstetter, is also good.

    CATO: Tax Code Kills Civil Liberties, by Chris Edwards

    Help may be on the way, however, with some congressional leaders planning to move ahead with reforms next year to replace the income tax with a low-rate consumption-based tax. That would go a long way toward reducing the following civil liberties abuses administered by the current tax regime:
  • Vertical Inequality
  • Horizontal Inequality
  • Complexity
  • Instability of Tax Law
  • Lack of Financial Privacy
  • Denial of Due Process
  • Shifting of the Burden of Proof
  • No Trial by Jury in Tax Court
  • Unreasonable Search and Seizure
  • Forced Self-Incrimination

  • National Review: After the File, by Brian Riedl
    Frustrated taxpayers dutifully completing their 1040s frequently ask themselves an understandable question: Where is all this money going? And they deserve an answer.

    The federal government is projected to spend $21,671 per household in 2004 - the most since World War II and $3,500 more than in 2001. Tax revenues will reach $16,981 per household through a combination of the income tax, payroll tax, gas tax, estate tax, and assorted business taxes typically passed on through higher prices and smaller investment returns. The remaining $4,690 represents the deficit per household.

    Here is a breakdown of where that $21,671 goes:

  • Social Security and Medicare: $7,165
  • Defense: $4,240
  • Low-income programs: $3,479
  • Interest on the federal debt: $1,460
  • Federal employee retirement benefits: $835
  • Health research and regulation: $619
  • Education: $583
  • Veterans benefits: $565
  • Unemployment benefits: $451
  • Highways and mass transit: $400
  • Justice administration: $389
  • International affairs: $320
  • ...the remaining $1,165 is allocated to all other federal programs

  • This roughly breaks down into the following percentages:
    • Social Security and Medicare: 33.1% of your taxes
    • Defense: 19.5% of your taxes
    • Low-income programs: 16.1% of your taxes
    • Interest on the federal debt: 6.7% of your taxes
    • Federal employee retirement benefits: 3.9% of your taxes
    • Health research and regulation: 2.9% of your taxes
    • Education: 2.7% of your taxes
    • Veterans benefits: 2.6% of your taxes
    • Unemployment benefits: 2.1% of your taxes
    • Highways and mass transit: 1.8% of your taxes
    • Justice administration: 1.7% of your taxes
    • International affairs: 1.5% of your taxes
    • All other federal programs: 5.4% of your taxes

    Nice to know. The big entitlement programs suck up the bulk of our federal taxes.

    National Review: Oh What a Relief It Is, by John W. Snow

    Americans have a healthy, historic distaste for the 15th of April - tax day. But tax day hurts less this year, for every American who pays taxes.

    Evidence of this came recently when the Tax Foundation calculated this year's "Tax Freedom Day" - the day on the calendar when Americans have earned enough to pay their taxes. This year, Tax Freedom Day was Sunday, April 11 - its earliest arrival in 37 years.


    That last bit is not necessarily true, says Spinsanity in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
    Because of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, this year's Tax Freedom Day was calculated to be April 11, the earliest in 37 years. The foundation employs a relatively simple formula that divides total tax receipts and total national income by the number of taxpayers, calculates the percentage of average income going to taxes, and figures out how many days it would take to pay that bill (assuming no other spending).

    The Tax Foundation calculates that the average American will pay 17.9 percent of income in federal taxes in 2004. But that finding is inaccurate because it fails to take into account the progressive nature of the U.S. tax system. Because a small percentage of wealthy Americans pay a disproportionately higher share of their income in taxes, their tax payments can exaggerate the average tax bill paid by middle-income families.

    [...]

    That amounts to a 22 percent exaggeration that would move Tax Freedom Day back about 11 days. And this is actually the smallest error the Tax Foundation has made in recent years.


    The Taxman's Dirtiest Secret, by Amity Shlaes
    When we struggle with taxes that come with our new prosperity -- call them "success taxes" -- we are struggling not with some peripheral tax pitfall but with the core principle of the code -- progressivity. Progressivity is a success tax, but it is also the mother of all taxes, the tax that dominates our lives like no other. Progressivity institutionalizes the class warfare that politicians tell us they are waging on our behalf.

    Yet progressivity is not an intuitive thing: As we look at our tax bills, we find we are forced to explain exactly how it works. Many of us simply fall back to assuming that progressivity is what makes rich people pay more taxes. That's not right. When the tax rate is 25 percent, a person who earns $100 pays $25. A person who earns $200 pays more. He pays $50. That's called a proportionate system, and it's not what we have.


    Chronicles Magazine: How Federal Taxation Usurped Federalism, by David Hartman
    On April 15, U.S. taxpayers will pay the last installment on their duty to government for 2003. The bill for federal, state, and local government totaled a staggering $3.3 trillion, of which one out of every seven dollars was in the form of "buy now, pay later" deficits, principally the federal one.

    Federal spending accounted for two thirds of the tax bill, nearly all of which was levied on incomes in the form of personal, corporate, and social-insurance income taxes. The remaining third, funding state and local spending, was raised primarily by indirect property and sales taxes, plus fees.

    It is difficult to put this scale of government in perspective, since Gross National Product (GNP) accounting obfuscates both the size and the proportion of government spending. Using National Income, government takes $38 out of every $100 of income. Even this is misleading, however, because income thus defined includes unproductive transfer payments for welfare and social insurance. Corrected for this, government consumes $45 out of every $100 of productive national income.


    Heritage: A Tax Code Report Card, by Daniel J. Mitchell
    About 140 million taxpayers will send tax returns to Uncle Sam this year, in a painful exercise involving 8 billion pages of paper that will help transfer about $1.8 trillion from the productive sector of the economy to government.

    [...]

    Thanks to the capital gains tax, corporate income tax, personal income tax, and death tax, it is possible for a single dollar of income to be taxed four times.

    [...]

    The aggregate tax burden in America (including state and local taxes) is about 27 percent of GDP. This compares quite favorably to the tax burden in European Union nations, where taxes consume about 42 percent of national economic output. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts improved U.S. competitiveness, but it is important to realize that the United States lags in certain areas. The United States, for instance, imposes the second-highest corporate tax rate of any developed nation. America even has higher corporate tax rates than socialist welfare states like France and Sweden.


    American Enterprise Institute: You Are What You Tax, by Charles Murray
    Take a break as you fill out your 1040 form, and play this game: suppose you could choose which government entities your tax dollars support--and in what proportion. Since it's a thought experiment, let's assume that local and state government functions are part of the list. What percentages will you assign to which departments, agencies and programs?

    [...]

    Let's expand the thought experiment. Say that those ignored boxes can advertise--but that the advertisements must meet the same standards of truthfulness as the advertisements for, say, antacids.

    What a delicious prospect: a government office having to explain itself in order to persuade taxpayers to support its existence.


    Reason: "It's So Simple, It's Ridiculous!" Taxing times for 16th Amendment rebels, by Brian Doherty
    Bob Schulz announces this in late January to a rapt crowd of 200 gathered in an auditorium in Crystal City, Virginia. It's the first national conference of the We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, a nonprofit advocacy group Schulz founded and runs.

    [...]

    Yet when his kids begged him to reconsider the path that requires him to declare publicly that he won't go to jail, his wife Judy told them, "Your father put his country before his family, and I support him."

    Schulz has stopped paying federal income tax, and he isn't afraid to let anyone, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), know it. Not only is he not paying, but he's also leading a national movement telling everyone else they shouldn't pay either.


    A Screed On Taxes, by Hoey Robbins
    I am a member of the richest 5%. I am, by most standards, rich. I make a second year attorney's salary at a big Chicago law firm, and my wife makes a pretty good salary as a public interest attorney. We just bought a nice house in an expensive neighborhood around the block from Wrigley Field. We have a new car. We have a lot of fun gadgets (TiVo, iPods, and some other gadgets with goofy capitalization). We eat out pretty much whenever we want. Life is comfortable.

    But we worked hard for our comforts. We went to college and went to graduate school. We took out loans. We studied hard for the bar exam. We go in early and come home late. We work on weekends.

    So this weekend I figured out our taxes, and discovered that we are too rich for everything. Despite paying several thousand dollars in student loan interest, our gross income level knocked us out of any kind of deduction for it. Ditto for elections to our 401(k) plans. We got the standard deduction (no mortgage interest because we moved this year), exemptions for ourselves, and that was it. The end result is that we paid close to a quarter of our income to the federal government (close to a third of our income when you count social security and medicare taxes).

    Again, I am not starving or in risk of going bankrupt. But we do have a kid on the way, we have a mortgage, and we have big student loans. We're not filling up with premium or buying 700 threadcount sheets. So when I hear politicians talk about helping the "ordinary Americans," and "taking America back for hard-working middle class Americans," it pisses me off.


    UPDATE(4/16/2004 8:35am)
    Looks like Tom DeLay wants to end the income tax as well. Good for him. I'll definitely take his stance on the tax issue over his idiotic stance on the federal budget. It's too bad he wants a national sales tax to replace it, but I can't expect a high-level Republican politician to do everything right.

    UPDATE(4:02pm)
    Then there's the problem capitalists present to themselves: Do free markets ease the pain of taxation?

    UPDATE(5/20/2004 1:13pm)
    I've just discovered the perfect term for the economic reasoning behind taxing incomes: Pagare Tutti, Pagare Meno.

    UPDATE 10/8/2004 2:04pm
    Even libertarians get confused on this: Tax cuts do not "put money" in our pockets.

    UPDATED 4/15/2005 11:00am
    Tax Day, 2005

    April 14, 2004

    Sage Capital's Economic Assessment

    I ran across Dale's ANARCHOLIBERTARIANISM while browsing through Rainbough's link section. Dale linked to a PDF published by Sage Capital Zurich AG. Read it. It is part rant, part angry Austrian. I've come across a few economic doom and gloom articles before and this one really hit home.

    The company has its own weblog as well. It seems like a devout capitalist organization, with Sean Corrigan a significant contributor to it's editorial content.

    Worth checking out.

    Profoundly Disappointing

    [Updates below.]

    I watched most of Bush's speech/press conference last night. I didn't really want to. I wanted to watch the new episode of 24. I missed the Jack Bauer Hour and when that happens I hope something worthwhile is broadcast in its place. The last few weeks, it's been American Idol. I would have taken that over the performance last night.

    The transcript is here. I feel sorry for the transcriber. Bush's cadence and shortstop delivery in the face of live questions is just ungodly bad. I'm certain I'd be more nervous than he ever was and I'd screw up as well. But it's time he took one of those vacations and spent it on professional speech coaching.

    The content let me down even more. When people say Bush is "on message," it means he won't deviate from explaining a decision of his or an opinion of his without dropping back and relying on some minor deviation of a larger set of talking points. I can't understand how anyone beyond a partisan supporter appreciated his rambling. He turned almost every question into a rehash of points he mentioned earlier.

    He wants to force the Middle East to be democratic and peaceful in order to eliminate or substantially reduce the threat of terrorism to America and the world. He thinks this is our calling as a country...our "obligation." He says the world doesn't seem to agree with him and that's too bad. Read his remarks. The specific current events issues he deals with (the bloody details of the occupation, for instance) are not relevant anymore. Iraq will be pacified, an Iraqi governing body will take power on June 30th, and we'll continue to push on those dominoes elsewhere.

    I can't agree to that. Not in the way it's formulated and not the way it's to be accomplished. More later, if I have the time.

    UPDATE(12:45pm)
    I realize now that saying Bush's performance was disappointing implies I had hopes for him. I didn't then and I don't now. The whole feeling is best summed up by this Reuters photo caption:

    President George W. Bush (news - web sites) answers a reporter's question during a nationally televised news conference at the White House April 13, 2004. Before the glare of live television cameras at his first prime time news conference in more than a year, Bush responded to many of the questions from reporters by repeating fairly stock phrases about freedom in Iraq (news - web sites) and the history-changing impact of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

    Repeating stock phrases. Stumbling over his words to questions. Openly dodging others. Refusing to say the government failed it's primary job of protecting it's citizens. Bush will not admit guilt or wrongdoing on anything, which is absurd. Be honest, man. At the very least, regret the actions of other government officials who you think made your job harder; people you have the power to influence when you didn't.

    And damn am I tired of hearing how strongly Bush feels he is doing the right thing. He made it a point to hammer this in a few places. That doesn't matter, man! At all!

    I'll be saddened if Bush wins the next election and I'll be just as saddened if Kerry wins it. Third parties have no chance to influence the outcome except to take a few percentage of votes away from the party most aligned with them politically.

    Ugh.

    April 13, 2004

    Austin Toll Roads?

    [Updates below.]

    Not too long ago, I blogged the notion of a renewal of interest in federal toll roads. Now, it appears some "authorities" in Austin are thinking the same things.

    CTRMA says toll roads needed

    Central Texas doesn't have any toll roads yet, but if transportation visionaries have their way that will change. A new plan is out showing the highways drivers might have to pay to use.

    [...]

    ...transportation officials with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority at meeting on Monday said those fees are needed.

    "If this is not approved and we fail to access that money that's being made available, it'll set us back once again behind Dallas, Houston and San Antonio," Mike Heiligenstein, with CTRMA, said.

    The proposed $2.2 billion plan would add more than 60 miles of toll roads. Loop 360, Loop 1, parts of 183, and 71 would become tolled.


    You can see those named roads here. Another map of the region with the proposed toll roads can be seen here (PDF). They compose some of the most-traveled concrete and asphalt in the city and county. If these roads were to become tolled, it would affect a huge number of people. It does not look like the central section of Loop 1/MOPAC will be a toll road; just the top segment.
    In less than two years, areas like the "Y" at Oak Hill and U.S. 183 down from I-35 to 71 would get constructed.

    "We are talking about giving people the opportunity to drive from Cedar Park from downtown Austin to the airport without stopping. You'll be able to make a loop around Austin without stopping," Heiligenstein said.

    Drivers will have to pay 12 cents to 15 cents a mile on a toll road.

    Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


    According to Texas Tollways:
    The price of a toll will depend on the distance traveled and whether a money-saving toll tag is used. The option of tax-supported roads or toll roads will allow motorists to choose the most time-saving route. In 2007, the tolls, without a toll tag, will be approximately:
  • 12.5 cents a mile for SH 130
  • 11.5 cents a mile for SH 45 North
  • 15 cents a mile for Loop 1

  • Keep in mind that's for typical passenger cars. Trucks with two or more axles should expect an average of "48 cents per mile." It's likely either TxPass or something similar to it would be used to automate toll collection.
    If the debt is paid off, the tolls may be reduced to a level that would still cover necessary operation and maintenance costs. With the growing demand for new roads and other transportation improvements, however, the chances are that tolls will not be removed. Instead, they will be used for the toll roads? continued operation and maintenance or to expand the toll system to meet transportation needs. Like the successful toll roads in Dallas and Houston, additional revenues can be used to operate, maintain, and expand the turnpike system.

    Construction on State Highway 130 already began last year. It's 49 miles (to be expanded later) would cost approximately $5.90 to traverse using the estimate of $0.12 a mile. Certainly not unreasonable.

    From the Austin-American Statesman:

    Under the plan, both of the main approaches to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport - 12.6 miles of U.S. 183 (Ed Bluestein Boulevard) and the 3.6 miles of Texas 71 heading east from Interstate 35 - would become toll roads. So would Loop 360 through its entire 13.1-mile run through West Austin from MoPac Boulevard on the south to U.S. 183 on the north.

    About 20 percent of the plan is actually old news. It includes both U.S. 183-A and Texas 45 Southeast, toll roads well along the design path that in the past have been presented as part of the first wave of toll roads in Texas.

    Like the three turnpikes already under construction - Texas 130, Texas 45 North and an extension of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) - U.S. 183-A and Texas 45 Southeast would not have continuous, nontolled frontage roads.


    So that means at its most expensive estimate, Loop 360 would cost just under $2 to drive from beginning to end. These aren't do-or-die prices at all, ones I'd be willing to pay for a service I deeply appreciate.

    Let's be clear that I don't want the government (federal or state) in the business of road construction or planning. I view it as a titanic effort that is best left to private businesses and groups to handle, from beginning to end. I'd prefer that all roads come with direct costs to the consumers who use them and I'd certainly rather not have the government taking private property in right of way proceedings if the landowners don't want to sell...whether they receive "fair market value" or not.

    That last bit has always annoyed me. How can you establish a fair value of your property when the other entity you're dealing with both engages in a widely accepted property appraisal service and has the power to enforce it's desires at great expense to you? Imagine the State knocking on your door one day, asking you to sell your home and land for $300,000. You paid a combined $200,000 for the property and house, but over the years you have turned it into exactly what you wanted your permanent home to be. You love the location, the neighbors, the environment, and have no desire to leave. Here's what happens next:

    If the property owner disagrees with the appraisal value, a written counteroffer may be submitted. It should include a specific dollar amount with information supporting the counteroffer. Only one counteroffer may be submitted. The counteroffer will be reviewed by TxDOT and the property owner will be notified of the decision.

    [...]

    If an agreed purchase price cannot be reached, condemnation proceedings are initiated.

    In condemnation hearings, the court will appoint three disinterested landowners to serve as special commissioners and a hearing will be held to determine the value of the property being acquired. During the hearing, the property owner and the state will present documentation supporting the value of the property. The commissioners will determine the value of the property and file their decision with the court.

    As soon as the state deposits the amount of the award with the court, it takes possession of the property and it is transferred to the state.

    If either party is dissatisfied with the amount, objections must be filed within the time limits prescribed by law and the case is tried in the same manner as other civil cases. The basic issue decided in eminent domain cases is just compensation for the property being acquired.


    Meaning, as long as some other person or collective decides the price being offered for your property is "just compensation," you get screwed and the state gets it's new property. Damn you, Fifth Amendment! Some "right" that is.

    Anyway, a transportation project that involves less and less government money and more voluntary consumer money is better than the older Texas way. Just keep taking those steps in the right direction...

    UPDATE(7/13/2004 9:50am)
    News8Austin:
    Area leaders vote yes on toll roads

    Area leaders voted 16-7 in favor of a $2 billion toll road plan for Central Texas. The vote by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization took place at the Thompson Conference Center on The University of Texas campus Monday night.

    The toll plan affects most major roadways in Central Texas except for I-35. The plan includes tolls on South MoPac near William Cannon, U.S. 290 West in Oak Hill and State Highway 45 northeast of Central Texas.

    It now goes to the Texas Department of Transportation and Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority for planning and construction.

    Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


    CAMPO. TxDOT. CTRMA. What a waste of time.

    UPDATE(8/13/2004 9:01am)
    Just discovered the Austin Toll Party website. For the most part, I agree with them. It's double taxation to impose both normal taxing practices on us to pay for roadways (and for roads already paved and paid) and then require us to pay a toll on top of what we already pay in property and sales taxes.

    However, I detect a certain hint of a free rider attitude among the commentary as well as pandering to majority opinion. Ideally, road construction and maintenance should be the purview of private entities operating to provide a service at a profit...just like any other business. Our transportation system shouldn't be left at the whim of democracy and government corruption. It should be in the hands of the people who would know what's most needed and where: private capitalist enterprise.

    The problem isn't the toll. The problem is who administers it. Once people have to consider the costs of using a service, they will moderate their usage of it. Charging higher prices during peak times will keep the roads less congested by giving travellers the incentive to double up, take alternate routes, or live closer to their primary destinations. But once you have the state get involved, you lose a good portion of what makes the above work so well. Since the state doesn't operate in the interest of profit and has the ability to ruin companies that do, the core reason for running a business gets corrupted. Regulatory compliance and a clean public persona become as - if not more - important than operating a legitimate business.

    UPDATE 9/8/2004 9:01am
    Austin Traffic Sucks? Really???

    UPDATE 2/22/2005 12:37pm
    News8Austin: Mayor, city council recall petition dropped

    The effort to recall Austin Mayor Will Wynn and other city leaders will change its focus.

    A group called Austin Toll Party led a petition drive for the past few months trying to force a recall election for Wynn and some Austin City Council members.


    UPDATED 7/10/2006 11:15am
    Ben Wear's Wily Hunt for Truth and the TxTag

    Only the Issues That Matter!

    Erik drops the Logic Bomb of the Ages:

    On Hackey Sack

    How the hell did stoners get so coodinated?


    Silly skeptic.

    Stoners store their unused coordinative skills and energy for the time and place of their choosing, just like everyone else. We decide when it's best to physically exert to accomplish goals.

    What everyone else does not do, of course, is engage in activities that contribute to the effectiveness of that storage effort in such a way as to still allow future physical exertions of relatively high intensity and dexterity. We sit around in living rooms all evening, conserving our energy and maintaining limber minds. We don't needlessly abuse our bodies with exercise that can hurt our joints and tendons. Other than the deleterious effects of The Munchies and spine problems induced through too much sitting down, we're ready to rock. Even the lung capacity issue can be overcome.

    So when the day that glorious Hacky Sack is unexpectedly produced for a band of potheads, they are ready and willing to purge themselves of the overabundance of calories in their systems and exploit the flexibility of the art we've honed: Doing Nothing.

    April 12, 2004

    Somalia, Anarchy, and Capitalism

    [Updates below. Bad link fixed.]

    If you travel in the same circles as I do, it is merely a matter of time before someone's political opponents (or your own political opponents) either calls you "anarchist" derisively or dismisses a pro-anarchy position with a reference to Somalia. The latter being the more common in my experience, it is usually written in a manner similar to the following:

    Hey, you hate government so bad, why not just pack up your stuff and move to Somalia? Total free market over there, man. No nasty state bothering your greedy ass for taxes and paperwork. No irritating cops. No one making sure drugs are safe to use. No one to maintain the roads. No prisons to put criminals in for there wouldn't be any laws to make criminals out of killers, rapists, or robbers. No one but yourself, all the guns you could want, and several thousand others equally well-armed and just as hungry and poor as you. Give no-government Somalia a shot! It's an anarchist's utopia!

    I consider this analogy flawed. It assumes both that this is what an anarcho-capitalist society would necessarily look like and that government is the only entity that can effectively do certain important and necessary functions.

    Do the people living in the geographic area we call Somalia exist in an anarchist society, a society without a state? If so, does the nature of that anarchist society conform to or resemble what market anarchists would ideally want society to be?

    What constitutes anarchy? You can define the same thing in many ways, but this seems the most effective for the moment:

    • A number of people voluntarily living amongst each other without an entity forcing or coercing individuals within that group into doing things they don't want to do.

    That definition, I believe, should be accepted by a broad majority of free market anarchists because it hits at the heart of the issue: the immoral, unjustified, counterproductive, and harmful initiation of force. Individualist anarchists consider this the fundamental principle at stake, and the main reason why they have trouble associating with "limited government" libertarians and Objectivists in some instances. Both groups tend to advocate state involvement in some parts of our lives, and even though it's to a dramatically reduced level compared to things as they are now in the United States, it still violates the principle.

    It doesn't help your drive to argue when folks normally on your side jump ship and join your common opponents. Briefly browsing through any market anarchist/libertarian blog or discussion forum and you'll see this very argument being played out regularly. And it's in these arguments that Somalia is often brought up. It's used as a smug means of ending all debate on that subject and should be a corollary to Godwin's Law.

    I don't really know that much about Somalia. My father was on active duty in the Army when the infamous Black Hawk Down event occurred. My family was stationed in Hawaii and getting ready to move to Kentucky. I was 13 or 14 at the time and didn't give a damn about the story, which I considered unimportant after watching Desert Storm on TV a few years before. I have little historical background to refer to and I haven't examined the situation closely.

    So it was interesting to come across this article, published April 5 by EastAfrican columnist Abdulkadir Khalif:

    Extreme Capitalism is Exciting But Dangerous

    One of these days - sooner rather than later, one fervently hopes - we will have a new Somali government to oversee the affairs of a country that has undergone a decade of social, economic and political turmoil!

    The new team, made up of a president, a 275-member parliament and executive Cabinet ministers, interim in nature though its mandate will be (currently, a 4-year transitional period is envisaged), will find a Herculean task awaiting it.

    For starters, they will have to regulate and bring order and good governance to one of the most complex economic systems on earth - part private, part underground, part unscrupulous and totally unregulated.


    Quite obviously, the author of this opinion isn't satisfied with the way things are now.
    Somalia today is the most capitalist of societies anywhere and at any time in history. Without any state to speak of, markets have run hog wild. The US, the strongest advocate of free markets, looks like communist Cuba in comparison with the freewheeling ways of Mogadishu.

    I've got to give Mr. Khalif credit for understanding the fundamental issue here. In an individualist anarchy, nothing and no service is forcefully prohibited from experiencing open market forces of supply and demand. In his mind, a full and complete application of capitalist beliefs necessarily leads to a system without a state involvement in human life. I bet more than a supermajority of alleged free market-supporting Republicans and Democrats won't remotely come close to this level of noncontradictory advocacy.
    Arms and ammunitions are sold in open-air markets known as cirtoogte. Neither buyers nor sellers show any care for the often densely inhabited neighbourhoods around them as prospective clients try out the guns by firing bursts into the air. The crackling sound of gunfire can scare newcomers, but for residents it is a background noise, most even having no trouble sleeping through the intermittent, deafening fusillades.

    Insecurity creates spikes in demand for handguns like the G3, AK47 and M16, which generally fetching higher prices whenever factions or clan militias take each other on. Middlemen representing the warlords, carrying large sums in cash, frequent the corner of the market devoted to heavier artillery, mostly anti-aircraft guns.


    Aside from the fact that the G3, AK47, and M16 aren't handguns (perhaps this is a translation problem), this seems largely right to me. I still have some questions to work out in regards to noise ordinances which would apply here, but I see no innate anarcho-libertarian disagreement with this picture.
    Oddly, enough, the men engaged in the arms trade look upon it as just another business activity designed to yield the best return on investment. It will be up to the new government to neutralise this unique market and perhaps channel the capital of these merchants of death into less destructive avenues of profit-seeking.

    Why does Mr. Khalif think it's odd that the people selling weapons and the people buying them look upon the market "as just another business activity designed to yield the best return on investment"? That's the whole point of engaging in voluntary trade.

    When I go to the grocery store to buy food, I want to spend my money on the things closest to what I want and want to do so without waste. When someone runs a grocery store, he or she want to sell items within the store at the best possible price to attract customers and still make a profit. In both cases, the two people are looking to come out ahead, even after taking into account the costs we pay to arrange and make the deal. If I felt that I would get less than what I was asked to pay for, I'd go somewhere else. If he felt that my money wasn't at least enough to make up for the costs he's already endured getting that item to his shelves, he won't do business. Yes, there are some exceptions to these ideas, but they don't affect the general relevance of voluntary trade.

    Some may consider the act of buying and selling dangerous objects - such as firearms or explosives - odd, not normal, out of the ordinary. Some may even consider it to be distasteful or disgraceful. But a market arises when there are human desires so strong they bring two people together to trade for what the other has. The act of trading shouldn't bother anyone, as all participants freely work together for mutual benefit. It results from the same driving force in all human action: the move from the status quo towards a more satisfactory environment and life.

    Should businessmen have certain opinions on the business they are involved in depending on the things they sell? A shop selling local art has products that serve far different ends than one that sells quality surface-to-air missiles. Most goods and services in a peaceful economy are not designed to kill or maim humans or destroy their property. In a society where there is no government to employ police officers and a military to enforce a single set of rules for all, people would have to contract out their defense and retaliation if they felt it necessary. Private defense agencies would spring up to offer various services. But since anyone would be free to own weapons, it seems impossible to assume a thriving market for such products wouldn't develop. So it's likely in an anarcho-capitalist society of significant size, the market for weapons would be larger than it currently is, because the demand would exist and there wouldn't be any state-enforced barriers to ownership. Keep in mind it is conceivable that some arms dealers would institute their own rules of doing business with customers, potentially setting self-imposed age and competency requirements.

    In any event, I can understand how it would seem callous and flippant to be in the gun-running business and flatly not give a damn about the purpose of your market. Human death and pain are things we wish to avoid, and it seems like arms dealers encourage them. To be honest, however, the merchant wouldn't exist without it's clientele and it's for the negative reasons his clientele may have that should be condemned: intentional murder or armed robbery for instance.

    Importers of medicines bring in containers filled with a wide range of stuff from antihistamines to antibiotics and expectorants. These drugs are sourced from all sorts of places, but their composition and shelf life are increasingly doubtful. The new rulers will have to install public analysts to ensure the safety of these drugs.

    An unregulated society like Somalia's is particularly attractive for charlatans who claim they can cure any illness including cancer and Aids (and, of course, impotence). Then there the one hundred and one lab technicians and pharmacists in each neighbourhood testing blood and stool and dispensing sophisticated drugs. One wonders where on earth are the colleges that are churning out this dynamic cohort with all the expertise it claims in medical science and technology.


    Much of what I said regarding arms dealers can be applied to this as well. People want medicines and people want to provide them in order to benefit. Some of those people engage the market for fraudulent reasons. Allow the players in the market to correct these problems. Eventually the frauds selling pressed placebos and common chemicals will earn a reputation as such and the information will spread. Reputations matter, even in restricted markets. The freer the markets, the easier that information (manifested in the form of prices) can spread.

    This isn't going to lead to utopia and I am not implying that it will. But I do believe that if left alone, there will be a general leveling tendency towards more just exchanges.

    Yes, there is a lot of dynamism in the people of Somalia as they translate everything into market opportunities. Manufactured goods, natural resources, crime, leadership, security are all, therefore, activities capable of producing profits.

    Again, I have to give Mr. Khalif credit for understanding this. Even if it was probably written sarcastically.
    Somalia, one of the few African countries self-sufficient in food at the time of independence, has now become a net importer. Food items enter the market in boxes, tins, and sachets, all claiming to contain all sorts of goodies enriched with vitamins, proteins and what not to attract consumers. No tests of their fitness for human consumption are ever done - for toxins, GM content or nutritional adequacy. So Somalia urgently needs a Bureau of Standards.

    No, the people of Somalia need to start respecting and defining their property rights. One of the things some commenters either forget or choose to ignore when arguing with anarcho-capitalists is the society they envision has a great respect for private property. This respect would necessarily transcend the respect we have in the US for property rights (already higher than in most parts of the world). To get to that point, though, the people of Somalia need to extract themselves from violent chaos. It may take a few generations to get past the emotional tar baby.

    Once that happens, most of that productive effort wasted on violence will go towards the peaceful consumer economy.

    Experts estimate that Somalia has well over 40 million heads of livestock, mainly camels, cattle, goats and sheep. The Horn of Africa's unique semi-arid ecosystem, dominated by open grassland savannah and rocky escarpments, is ideally suited to sustain such high-density livestock. The country is equally rich in fish resources, 180,000 metric tonnes of which can be exploited per annum without endangering stocks. Enlightened policies are needed to smoothen investment here and chase away the "sharks" - the hundreds of foreign trawlers that are illegally camped in Somalia's unpoliced waters, ruthlessly depleting its fish stocks and using hired militias to neutralise opposition from local fishermen.

    This fishing thing is also a property rights issue. Who owns the land those fish are on? Mr. Khalif doesn't mention this and it is crucial. If I own that land, I'd be aware of the tremendous opportunities at my fingertips. I could allow people to fish as long as they payed a fee. Poachers would be chased off because I'd value the business. The biggest problem seems to be startup capital for investment in such a business infrastructure. If no such local investors are available or willing to do business, then turn to the external banking community. If that doesn't work, then change your plans to reduce the risk that is frightening the investors off.

    Collective ownership, even with someone that appears as innocent and simple as "enlightened policies" won't solve the problem. It just socializes the costs of protecting the fish, policy that is corrosive in the long run.

    However, competition in the vibrant information technology and mass communications markets is already benefiting local people with some of the region's lowest prices for phoning, faxing, e-mailing, etc, while people everywhere can tune into local FM radios for news and entertainment. But this is Somalia, where a dash of anarchy is mandatory in each sector; here, it takes the form of multiple companies using former state telephone and electricity poles in a such a way that wires of all colours and diameters are intertwined like tricolore pasta in a cooking pot.

    Warms my cold heart, this does.
    The free market has created the most ridiculous opportunities. Gun wielding young men demanding leejo (payoffs) prey on every business under the sun. Transporters and commuter buses are favourite victims, with roadblocks being erected at random across country roads and town streets. In the towns, however, the once common "custom" of threatening drivers by pointing a gun at their heads has been phased out nowadays. Instead, harmless looking, empty-handed young men approach vehicles demanding payment. Conductors give up the cash without protest, knowing that failure to do will lead to a size 8 nail bolted to a piece of wood being slipped under their tyres, when they are not looking.

    These days, the crime market is limitless. Who has not heard the rumours of teenaged "contract" kidnappers who deliver their hostage to older hostage-takers for $500 apiece, whereupon the "professionals" take over and extort ransoms ranging from $10,000 from wealthy parents? Forgers at the Abdalaa-shideeye "documentation centre" run off state and municipal documents, including title deeds, at the snap of a finger.


    I have no easy solution to this. Perhaps a commenter would like a go at it?

    Security firms on the free market would obviously be able to provide services to those who wanted them. If the current crop of firms is too corrupt, like-minded people are likely to band together and form their own firm and protect themselves and others who wanted real service. Worries about private militias dominating the public with constant warfare are misplaced because such warfare is expensive in both human and financial terms. Security firms won't be able to conduct operations 'round the clock because it's counter-productive to their long-term business vitality.

    But I'm open to opposing argument.

    A position in the council of ministers is a market opportunity too. That is why all politically ambitious people seem to want a Cabinet made up of hundreds of ministers, each standing for one of the nearly 200 clans this nation is blessed with.

    Ah, the looters are eager to get to work. Better to remove that incentive entirely. :)
    The market mentality has affected everything. All premises belonging to the former government were "privatised" by individuals who grabbed them after they had been looted and partially destroyed. The new landlords generally found good use for the premises by leasing them to internally displaced people who had fled their home villages, towns and pastoral areas to escape the clan wars.

    Countless other private properties have been grabbed and rented out. How quickly and efficiently a new government restores property rights and repossesses grabbed properties will determine its effectiveness.


    This sounds like the normal functioning of a society's members who want to lead productive and happy lives. Once the state is gone, all it's prior property is up for grabs. The smarter people will try to make some economic use out of it since it gives them a tremendous advantage over others trying to enter the market: no up front capital costs for your building(s).

    It's the delineation and possession of the non-government property that will cause much of the problems. The fishing example above is illustrative.

    Expectations will be high in a society that has lost practically all basic infrastructure and been relegated to the 19th century by nearly two decades of bitter civil conflict. One can only urge the new rulers to stimulate and regulate the market and entrepreneurial skills of the people, if rapid progress is to be achieved.

    I say let Somalia continue on as it is and let people work out their problems and grow their society. The violence must stop before serious development can occur, I agree, but I can't see a way to quell it externally without breaking a principle or two. Perhaps outsiders could come in at the request of a group to establish a small safe area that can be widened as peaceful people migrate there.
    Otherwise, gangster capitalism will merely be replaced by multinationals and other global opportunists.

    Copyright 2003, Nation Media Group Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Otherwise, market anarchy will merely be replaced by gangster African government. People should be forced to satisfy the needs of others, directly or indirectly.

    So, do I consider Somalia to be an anarchy? From just reading this article, I'd say it might as well be. Does it exist in a form that individualist anarchists want their ideal society to be? Not quite, because private property is routinely disrespected and there is too much violence and coercion in the streets. The state is essentially gone, but that isn't the only condition anarcho-libertarians want for that society. Stronger foundations of civilization are desired before the great weight of culturally acknowledged complete personal responsibility can be allowed to happen.

    Praise be to Erik for giving me the inspiration to consider this topic in a deeper format. I invite questions, comments, and polite disagreement. I'm still gathering steam in reading anarchist background literature, so I probably could have voiced my opinions more comprehensively. I may return to this in a year or so to see how I've changed.

    UPDATE(5/31/2004 1:34pm)
    I ran across this Atlantic article published in May of 2001 that's worth reading. While the title of "Ayn Rand Comes to Somalia" isn't exactly true, it certainly describes how things have been developing.

    Just Started Michael Crichton's Prey

    After all the non-fiction and political economy reading I've done lately (Solidifying my Foundations of Capitalism, von Mises Book Bonanza!, The Individualist Anarchists: A Critique of Liberalism, Ursula le Guin's The Dispossessed, Attention Ludwig von Mises Scholars!, Quotes from The Liberty Dollar - Solution to the Federal Reserve, Back in Action; Pondering Vietnam), it's time to take a break and jump into a book that's been sitting on my shelves for too long.

    Michael Crichton's Prey is currently occupying my late night time. I've only just passed Day 6, but the narrative style is excellent.

    Got My Squarepusher Tickets

    Muah. The $16 feels well-spent. I look forward to the show.

    According to the Antone's website, Mr. Jenkinson will have Cassetteboy and DJ Jonny J opening. Never heard of them, but Pitchfork Media has a review of an album released by Cassetteboy. Sounds interesting.

    When I got my ticket, I also picked up Squarepusher's latest LP, Ultravisitor. Excellent stuff that blends his rising jazz undertones with the chaotic percussion he's known for. At this point in his career, he sounds like a proto-Amon Tobin.

    And that's a good thing. :)

    April 08, 2004

    Oppose Rep. Eddie Rodriguez's Texas Income Tax Plan

    [Updates below.]

    Via Andrew D at Burnt Orange Report, I hear of Representative Eddie Rodriguez and his plan to impose a state income tax in order to solve the Texas school funding crisis. His website, Texas for Lower Taxes spells out the details:

    The Rodriguez Plan shifts the entire burden of funding school operations from the local school districts (who collect the majority of your property taxes) to the State ... which will pick up the tab by using revenue collected through a State Education Income Tax.

    The Proposed State Education Income Tax would produce about $19 Billion in new state revenue. This money would first be used to replace the most burdensome local property tax ... the Maintenance and Operations Property Tax (sometimes referred to as "The Robin Hood Tax"). This will still leave a balance of approximately $5.1 billion for two other key objectives.

  • abolish the State's Corporate Franchise Tax, and
  • provide Uniform Group Health Insurance for Teachers (and other public school employees).

    [...]

    Only the M&O Property Tax is abolished by this plan. The M&O tax represents about 85% of most local school taxes and it is the onerous component that drives up local taxes and appraisals. It is also the basis for the state's recapture provision, which distributes taxes from "wealthy" districts to "poor" ones.


  • The other property tax, I & S (Interest and Sinking), "covers long term debt (i.e. bonds) and other long term contractual obligations", according to the Travis County website. As such, it's a different legal beast.

    The Maintenance and Operations Property Tax is a tax placed on:

    • residential real estate - houses
    • business personal property - furniture, inventory, and equipment
    • commercial real estate - buildings used for stores, dwellings, offices, warehouses, etc.; it also applies to the land they sit on

    The M & O tax has a ceiling of $1.50 per $100 of property value. Almost 500 of the more than 1,000 Texas public school districts have hit that ceiling and another 175 are within a dime of reaching that limit. In effect this establishes a statewide property tax, something forbidden under the Texas Constitution. This is why an increasing number of school districts are suing to get the current system changed: they're getting screwed from the tax wealth being redistributed from their "property-rich" districts to "property-poor" districts.

    The Rodriguez Plan's income tax rates:

    The Education Income Tax rates have been developed with the primary goal of spreading the burden of taxation fairly, based on a household's disposable income. Obviously, working families with very low incomes have very little disposable income. Their ability to pay taxes is lower than a high income family, both by dollar amount and as a percentage of their total income. For this reason, the Education Income Tax for Texas utilizes a progressive rate of taxation, based on total Adjusted Gross Income, which is sensitive to each taxpayer's disposable income.
    A Personal Exemption of $3,200.00 is allowed for every filer and for each dependent declared by that filer. This is the only exemption provided.

    On all remaining income the rate of the tax is:
    1 % on the 1st $25,000.00
    2% on the 2nd $25,000.00
    3.5% on the 3rd $25,000.00
    5% on the 4th $25,000.00
    6.5% on the next $50,000.00
    7.0% on the next $50,000.00
    7.5% on additional income (all income above $200,000.00)


    Democrats just love to fuck those people earning 200 grand and up the hardest, don't they?

    I make $30,000 a year with my current job, before federal theft taxes and voluntary deductions for various employer-offered programs. So I'd roughly pay $200+ a year in this proposed state income tax. Which I don't support. Not too far back, I did support the idea of replacing the property tax with a different sales tax, but I no longer do. No taxes and no public-funded education are my goals.

    Andrew D has this to say about the Rodriguez Plan:

    My state rep, Eddie Rodriguez has made a very gutsy move by proposing a state income tax. While he's in no danger of losing his district (in liberal, majority Hispanic East Austin), this issue is still the Third Rail of Texas politics. Nothing evokes quite the demagoguery of this issue. Eddie is trying to cut through that nonsense and fearmongering with an honest and open look at what it would really mean for Texans.

    The answer is that it would be a magic bullet- lower taxes for the vast majority of Texans with greater revenue.

    [...]

    Maybe if people learn how much they'll save, we can finally get some real revenue solutions for Texas.


    I don't oppose these taxes on the grounds that they cost me X - Y dollars rather than X dollars. I oppose them because they are a forced transfer of wealth.

    I live in an apartment, so I don't have to pay the hated property taxes directly, but I know people who do. Even if I did, I'd still be angry at being taxed to provide services to others whether I wanted to or not. An income tax plan is a giant step in the wrong direction.

    The only people exempt from the Rodriguez Plan are those who make less than $3,200 a year. It would completely socialize the costs of education for wage earners in this state. It won't matter if you have children or not. I won't matter if you send your children to private schools. It won't matter if you never intend on having children. You will be forced to pay for the education of all Texans in public schools. That is immoral.

    This plan shifts the taxation burden to a vastly larger audience. Currently, it's just imposed on homeowners and businesses. The plan expands the state's reach to practically every working adult. That's why Rep. Rodriguez and the plan's supporters can claim "tax savings."

    Andrew D:

    The website has a great little calculator on the front page that lets you find out how much you would save with the Rodriguez plan. a family of 4 earning $40,000 a year in a $120,000 that taxes at the current $1.50 per $100 value cap (which most school districts in Texas are at) would pay only $294 a year, a savings of $1,281! Even if you are a single person making $250,000 a year and living in a $1 million home, you would save $1,640 a year. Only the incredibly wealthy would see any raise in their taxes and even then, if they are paying corporate franchise taxes from their business, they would see savings there.

    This isn't a "magic bullet" at all. It's simple economics. Each person pays less because more people are paying.

    From the FAQ:

    Although this figure varies widely across the state, for every $100.00 you now pay in rent, approximately $10.00 represents the cost your landlord must recover to pay the M&O property tax on your rental home or apartment.
    That means I pay roughly $55 in extra rent to cover the M & O tax. That means I'd pay $150 more than I normally do. This is a huge Fuck You to the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of apartment dwellers and people in assisted living residencies (65,000 in nursing homes alone) in this state.

    Not only does this tax hurt more people, it also opens the door wide to future abuse. I can't think of a major government program (and this would certainly qualify) that didn't grow to screw larger and larger numbers of people over it's lifetime. "The power to tax is the power to destroy," said Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. The horribly destructive power of income taxes would be available for politicians to use for the first time in Texas. Give it a few years; perhaps a decade, and you'll have situations arise where politicians want to use the tax to pay for other things. Imagine a terrorist attack happening in the state and an investigation comes to the conclusion that first responders and emergency services needed more money to save more lives. BAM! Calls for using the income tax and for expanding it to pay for these services would increase. Any number of "reasonable" things would get tax attention. It just won't end. Skeptics should look at the federal government for affirmation of this.

    I simply do not care if support is growing for a state income tax. The popularity of an idea does not translate into validity for that idea.

    The Rodriguez Plan shifts the entire burden of funding school operations from the local school districts (who collect the majority of your property taxes) to the State ... which will pick up the tab by using revenue collected through a State Education Income Tax.

    This is a LIE. The "state" picks up nothing. TEXANS will get stuck with the bill.

    I hope this effort fails utterly, because it's a bad idea and it's packaged in dangerous clothing. If the debate is framed in the light of accomplishing tax relief for most Texans, it stands a good chance of passing. The debate shouldn't be about that. It shouldn't be about how to pay for public education.

    It should be how to extract the State of Texas from education entirely and put the burden of financing education back on the individuals who want to benefit from it. This the only honest and just way of doing it.

    UPDATE(4/9/2004 1:01pm)
    Similarly, Governor Perry's school funding plans aren't any better.

    Governor looks at variety of taxes to fund schools

    Gov. Rick Perry proposed a new education finance plan Thursday in San Antonio.

    The plan would add $2.5 billion to Texas public schools while simultaneously cutting property taxes by $6 billion.

    The plan would reduce taxes through what Perry calls a ?constitutionally linked roll'' that would reduce the residential property tax cap by 25 cents and the property tax cap on commercial property by 10 cents.

    "My plan includes a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike, fees on adult entertainment establishments, closing the franchise and auto sales tax loopholes to make them fairer and, if Texas voters agree, video lottery terminals in approved areas of this state," Perry said.

    Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


    News8Austin and the AP compiled a list of the tax changes Perry would enact:
    1. Video lottery at race tracks/lottery enhancements: $2 billion
    2. Cigarette and tobacco tax increases: $2.4 billion
    3. Surcharge increase on certain cigarette manufacturers: $134 million
    4. Adult entertainment $5 minimum admission tax: $90 million
    5. Close franchise tax loopholes: $714 million
    6. Close auto sales tax loophole: $172 million
    7. Tax revenue acceleration: $1.2 billion
    8. Improve collection of delinquent taxes: $350 million

    Some Republican you are.

    UPDATE(4/28/2004 9:24am)
    The proposed solutions for Texas school financing aren't any better.

    UPDATE(4/28/2004 9:47pm)
    Found the introductory text of the bill.

    H.J.R. No. 9

    A JOINT RESOLUTION


    proposing a constitutional amendment that provides for the approval of an income tax adopted by the legislature, requires that a deduction or exemption to the tax that redistributes the combined tax liability be approved in a statewide referendum, and allows revenue from the tax to be spent on education and any other purpose.

      BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

    SECTION 1. Section 24, Article VIII, Texas Constitution, is amended by adding Subsections (b-1), (b-2), (b-3), and (k) to read as follows:

    (b-1) A general law enacted by the legislature that establishes an exemption or deduction to the tax in a manner that results in a redistribution of the combined income tax liability among all persons subject to the tax may not take effect until approved by a majority of the registered voters voting in a statewide referendum held on the question of establishing the exemption or deduction. A determination of whether an exemption or deduction to the tax would result in a redistribution of the combined income tax liability among all persons subject to the tax must be made by comparing the provisions of the proposed change in law with the provisions of the law for the most recent year in which actual tax collections have been made. A referendum held under this subsection must specify the manner in which the proposed exemption or deduction would result in a redistribution of the combined income tax liability among all persons subject to the tax.

    (b-2) If the legislature in a bill enacts a general law that imposes a tax on the net incomes of natural persons as described by Subsection (a) of this section, and, in the same bill, repeals another tax or fee, the legislature may not reenact the other tax or fee unless the legislature repeals the tax that was imposed on the net incomes of natural persons. If the legislature in a bill enacts a general law that imposes a tax on the net incomes of natural persons as described by Subsection (a) of this section, and, in the same bill, reduces the rate or base of another tax or fee, the legislature may not increase the rate or base of the other tax or fee unless the legislature repeals the tax that was imposed on the net incomes of natural persons.

    (b-3) If the legislature in a bill enacts a general law that increases the rate of the income tax or changes the income tax as described by Subsection (b) of this section, and, in the same bill, repeals another tax or fee, the legislature may not reenact the other tax or fee unless the legislature repeals the increase in the rate of the income tax or repeals the changes to the income tax. If the legislature in a bill enacts a general law that increases the rate of the income tax or changes the income tax as described by Subsection (b) of this section, and, in the same bill, reduces the rate or base of another tax or fee, the legislature may not increase the rate or base of the other tax or fee unless the legislature repeals the increase in the rate of the income tax or repeals the changes to the income tax.

    (k) This subsection is a temporary provision that expires January 1, 2005. The approval of this subsection by the voters at an election held November 2, 2004, constitutes approval of the imposition of an income tax adopted by the legislature during a regular or special session before that date.

    SECTION 2. Sections 24(f), (g), (h), and (i), Article VIII, Texas Constitution, are repealed.

    SECTION 3. This proposed constitutional amendment shall be submitted to the voters at an election to be held November 2, 2004. The ballot shall be printed to permit voting for or against the proposition: "The constitutional amendment that approves the income tax adopted by the legislature, requires a deduction or exemption to the tax that redistributes the combined tax liability be approved in a statewide referendum, and allows revenue from the tax to be spent on education and any other purpose."

    UPDATE(5/4/2004 9:08am) I did some quick 'n dirty educational cost calculations of my own.

    UPDATE(5/10/2004 1:25pm)
    Another bad idea: a universal curriculum.

    UPDATE(5/20/2004 1:13pm)
    I've just discovered the perfect term for the economic reasoning behind taxing incomes: Pagare Tutti, Pagare Meno.

    UPDATE (7/1/2004 5:40pm)
    Having a few churches on your side doesn't change a damn thing.

    UPDATE 11/9/2004 2:28pm
    Eliminate the IRS...and Replace It with Nothing!

    Tax Cuts Do Not "put money" in Our Pockets

    I Tried Ivory Soap. I Hate Ivory Soap.

    It's one of those mundane things we have to do when we move out and live on our own. Buying the things Mom or Dad did for us. You come to regret never paying attention to the things they threw in the shopping cart other than the objects with insane amounts of sugar in them.

    I ran out of the Zest I purchased nine months ago and wanted to try something different. To me soap is soap; it cleans off the gunk and spruces up your smell. I don't give a damn if it's infused with 1,428 different herbal, animal, and vegetable extracts formulated to lift and seperate my pores to give me that fresh exfoliated feeling you get when you prance through an Amazonian rainforest. I just want to get clean.

    Based on this Simplicity Directive, I gave Ivory Soap a shot. The company makes a big deal about its "99 44/100% Pure Floating Soap" that contains "no heavy perfumes, creams, or dyes." I can't recall using it in the past, so I picked up a three-bar pack a few months ago.

    Bah!

    Ivory doesn't dry my skin out and leave it scaly. My skin feels fine after a shower. It just looks like tiny flakey Hell. It's as if each of the individual creases in on my skin get's their edges slightly fluffed, resulting in a fine patchwork of flakiness. This happens the worst on my arms.

    The soap doesn't lather as well as other soaps in the past. It find myself taking a little more time to get any decent suds ready for cleaning. And even after all this time, I'm still not used to the smell.

    So bye-bye, Ivory! I wasn't great knowing you.

    April 07, 2004

    Kinja's Libertarian Friendly!

    After asking Nick Denton about the (in my opinion) odd pairing of Unqualified Offerings and liberal bloggers, we had a pleasant e-mail back-and-forth. He didn't think libertarians needed their own section yet, but asked me to set up my own digest and pass it along to him so he could put it in the Showcase.

    So here it is, Drizz's Select List of Libertarian Blogs on Kinja. Woot! The list is comprised of the following bloggers:

    1. andrewiandodge.com
    2. areasonableman.com
    3. blog.lewrockwell.com
    4. catallarchy.net/blog
    5. classicalvalues.com
    6. colbycosh.com
    7. coldfury.com/reason/weblog.php
    8. crescatsententia.org
    9. dianahsieh.com/blog
    10. drizzten.com/blog
    11. dynamist.com/weblog
    12. highclearing.com
    13. jameslandrith.com
    14. juliansanchez.com/notes.html
    15. marginalrevolution.blogs.com
    16. mises.org/blog
    17. no-treason.com/weblog.php
    18. reason.com/hitandrun
    19. samizdata.net/blog
    20. theagitator.com
    21. two--four.net/weblog.php
    22. volokh.com
    23. yazadjal.com
    24. zetetics.com/mac

    So, um, do as you wish or something.

    Have We Lost Iraq?

    Jim Henley thinks so, in some manner, after hearing the news that our military killed a few dozen worshippers at a mosque in Falluja.

    Is this "Tilt, Game Over"? as Mr. Henley says in his title? Perhaps not. But in any event, reading his entry while listening to "Space Lion" from the first Cowboy Bebop soundtrack certain sobered my soul. This isn't just a crazy war for me any longer.

    Time to Reprioritize the DoJ

    I can't believe I'm being forced to pay for this shit to happen.

    Administration wages war on pornography

    Lam Nguyen's job is to sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography. This job, which Nguyen does earnestly from 9 to 5, surrounded by a half-dozen other "computer forensic specialists" like him, has become the focal point of the Justice Department's operation to rid the world of porn.

    In this field office in Washington, 32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.

    [...]

    Drew Oosterbaan, chief of the division in charge of obscenity prosecutions at the Justice Department, says officials are trying to send a message and halt an industry they see as growing increasingly "lawless."

    "We want to do everything we can to deter this conduct" by producers and consumers, Oosterbaan said. "Nothing is off the table as far as content."


    What the fuck is it with the Bush Administration and it's desire to regulate cultural morality? Man social conservatives piss me off.

    Give me my money back so I can spend it on brightly-lit and plotless porn DVDs filled with desperate young people having wild and crazy sex. Then, when I'm done, I'll ship them all to Ashcroft's house so he can do with them what he wants, as long as it isn't on my dime.

    Whatta bunch of assholes.

    Link via Drudge. Instapundit has more.

    Exchanging Less Money for More Goods

    It's amazing what I can buy at an Evil Grocery Chain Store for less than two hours' worth of pay:

    1. Frito Lay Baked Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream - $3.39
    2. Tostidos Bite Size Rounds - $1.99
    3. Hill Country Fare 100% Whole Wheat bread - $1.09
    4. Roman Meal hotdog buns - $1.69
    5. Zone Perfect Chocolate Mint nutrition bars 3 x $0.99 - $2.97
    6. HEB Hydrocortisone Cream w/ Aloe - $2.89
    7. 1/2lb deli Mickleberry Smoked Ham - $2.37
    8. 1/2lb deli Healthy Choice Golden Turkey - $2.59
    9. Butterball Bun Size turkey franks - $1.69
    10. Progresso Rich & Hearty Creamy Chicken Soup w/ Wild Rice - $1.26
    11. Minute Maid Fruit Punch frozen concentrate - $0.91
    12. Hill Country Fare Grape Cocktail frozen concentrate - $0.88
    13. Minute Maid Orange Tangerine frozen concentrate - $0.89
    14. Hill Country Fare Calcium-Fortified Orange Juice frozen concentrate - $0.88
    15. Progresso Rich & Hearty Steak & Potato soup - $1.26
    16. Wolfgang Puck's Hearty Vegetable Beef soup - $1.50

    That came to $28.25 and with $0.08 in sales tax added, the total was $28.33 for 16 different items. My pay is roughly $14.50 per hour.

    That list is a feast to a homeless man. Perhaps a minor blip in the mind of the grocery-buyer in a family of five. Still, I bought enough groceries to comfortably keep me out of hunger for more than a week (I don't eat breakfast, in case you didn't notice). Eating food of this nutritional quality allows me to continue working out and make gains in strength and endurance. All the food here can be prepared in short order and cleaned up with minimal fuss. And I was able to buy it all in almost perfect indirect exchange with two hours' work.

    Pretty damn amazing.

    April 06, 2004

    That Windy Sound You Hear...

    ...is the collective hawkish pundity realization that some of their guesses were wrong:

    More troops if needed: Rumsfeld

    AMERICAN military commanders in Iraq would get additional troops if they requested more soldiers to fight a growing Shi'ite uprising, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today.

    Commanders are studying ways they might increase troops in Iraq should violence spread much more widely, a senior officer said yesterday.

    Generals believe they have enough forces to handle the attacks that have been coming from various quarters, including the recent violence by a shi'ite militia group. But they want to know what is available if the situation gets worse, said the officer.

    Copyright 2004 News Limited.


    Last night, I heard more than three seperate people on two different news channels say they thought Rumsfeld wouldn't need or ask for additional soldiers. And while what's currently being reported doesn't invalidate those two guesses directly, it lays down the foundation for it in the future.

    Federal Toll Roads?

    [Updates below.]

    My enlightened colleague over at the newly-redesigned Brainville, Erik, has posted on an apparent new wave in toll roads that may sweep the United States in the future. He couldn't recall where he saw the news, but my impressive powers of external logic can:

    Legislation lifts taboo on U.S. highway tolls

    Congress and the White House are still fighting over how much to spend on highways, but they have resolved a 182-year-old dispute of more practical significance to most drivers, especially commuters stuck in traffic. The great taboo against tolls has ended.

    Like Erik, I think this is a good idea, even if it is just a big step in the right direction. Roads (like hamburgers, cars, pens, education, computers, steel, and healthcare and other goods and services) are objects that people obtain useful services from and are subject to the laws of economics like everything else. Government ownership screws it all up.
    The legislators who approved the highway bill Friday faced the same basic problem as the Congress of 1822, when the federal highway system consisted of a gravel road from Cumberland, Md., to the Ohio River that was said to be in "a ruinous state."

    To pay for repairing the National Road, Congress proposed charging tolls, but President James Monroe vetoed the bill and set an enduring precedent.


    I wasn't aware of this. My opinion of Mr. Monroe has lowered, tha bastard!

    Of course, he may have been of the mind that the United States of America shouldn't be in the business of road construction, upkeep, and administration. Maybe.

    Although some states later built toll roads, such as the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes, the federal government kept tolls off its roads through the 20th century. It required new stretches of the interstate system to be free, a policy long popular with drivers but now blamed by many transportation experts for decrepit highways and worsening traffic jams.

    In short, "free" goods and services are an incitement for popular abuse of those goods and services. I use scare quotes because those roads are not free. By any stretch of the imagination. As the Seattle Times article says:
    House leaders have proposed increasing the federal gas tax, now 18 cents, by a nickel, or at least indexing it to inflation, but the Bush administration has opposed any tax increase. Attempts to increase the tax at the state level also have proved unpopular in referendums.

    Also see this complementary New York Times article:
    The gasoline taxes that finance highways have been yielding less and less revenue because they are not indexed to inflation and because today's cars use less gasoline per mile. To bring revenues back to the inflation-adjusted levels of four decades ago, the federal and local gasoline taxes would have to be doubled - an increase of 38 cents per gallon, which is not being considered.

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


    Ouch.

    Voluntary exchange is better than wealth redistribution through taxation. Even better would be complete voluntary exchange in all aspects of the road business. Meaning, let companies build as they see fit, which must respond and conform to market demands.

    The White House now wants to relax the taboo, and the House went along Friday by passing a highway bill that encourages new express toll lanes and roads. Details of the House bill must be reconciled with the bill already passed by the Senate, but that version also encourages tolls.

    I am surprised both chambers agreed on this, specially since "Tolls also could be increased in peak times." Horrors!
    New tolls, which traffic engineers have been promoting as the cure to congestion, once were considered political suicide because of longstanding opposition from automobile associations, truckers, bus companies and other industries. Their coalition, the American Highway Users Alliance, still lobbies fiercely against tolls on existing roads, but it endorsed the legislation permitting tolls on new lanes and roads.

    This change of heart was due partly to new technology, which allows tolls to be electronically collected via transponders in cars moving at expressway speeds, eliminating the need for tollbooths. The change also was an acknowledgment of fiscal reality: There seems to be no other way to pay for new roads.


    Ah, so at least one interest group has backed off a bit. That explains a lot. *rolls eyes*
    Some critics complain that tolls create "Lexus lanes" that are used disproportionately by the affluent. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., who opposed the toll provisions passed Friday, has warned that imposing tolls "could effectively close these roads to low-income workers" and said new roads should be financed instead through increases in the gasoline tax.

    This kind of thinking comes from the assumption that everyone has a right to inexpensive transportation, a false belief. The consequentialist counter-argument is simply: Look at everything else that people have to pay directly for in order to benefit from it. The poor, just like everyone else, have to pay for the things I listed above. Mr. Oberstar, whether he wants to or acknowledges it or not, is promoting socialism as a solution to a problem a socialist policy created.
    Others favor both financing options. "I'd like to see higher gasoline taxes along with tolls," said Robert Atkinson, vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute, the research arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

    "As a Democrat, I look at tolling as a progressive tax system, because we can get higher-income people to pay tolls to build new roads, and lower-income people benefit without paying a cent because the existing free roads become less congested."


    I'll end the jackassery here with this. Allow me to rephrase Mr. Atkinson's remarks:
    As a collectivist, I look at tolling as another method of forced wealth transfer, because we can coerce certain people with too much money to pay for new road construction that the state chooses to build without regard to the most effective use of said roads. Meanwhile, America's Next-Favorite Class can live off the loot we acquire for them and grow further complacent and dependent on the state for it's livelihood.

    It's probably what went through his mind, but didn't feel comfortable saying.
    The House's highway bill would cost $275 billion, less than the $318 billion version passed by the Senate but still more than the White House's limit. President Bush threatened to veto any bill costing more than $256 billion, although both chambers appear to have enough support to override the president.

    Copyright 2004 The Seattle Times Company


    Radley Balko blogged the costs of the pork in this bill, something worth reading.

    By the way, the NYT article follows up on the Monroe Issue:

    Tolls, incidentally, ultimately resolved the 19th-century battle over the National Road, which ran roughly along the present-day path of Route 40 between Cumberland and Wheeling, W.Va. After President Monroe vetoed any federal tolls in 1822, the road continued to deteriorate until a compromise was reached in the 1830's: The federal government transferred control of the road to the states, which then erected their own tollhouses.

    Ha!

    (UPDATE 4/13/2004 1:31pm)
    Looks like the Austin and Travis County areas are looking into this as well.

    UPDATE 9/8/2004 9:01am
    Austin Traffic Sucks? Really???

    UPDATED 7/10/2006 11:15am
    Ben Wear's Wily Hunt for Truth and the TxTag

    April 05, 2004

    Wal-Mart's City-within-a-City

    [Updates below.]

    Stymied by Politicians, Wal-Mart Turns to Voters

    As Wal-Mart continues its march across the American landscape, this Los Angeles suburb of 112,000 people is the latest testing ground for the company's exercise of political and marketing muscle.

    Inglewood voters go to the polls on Tuesday to decide whether to turn over 60 acres of barren concrete adjacent to the Hollywood Park racetrack to Wal-Mart to create a megastore and a collection of chain shops and restaurants.

    The ballot initiative is sponsored by Wal-Mart, which collected more than 10,000 signatures to put the question to voters after the Inglewood City Council blocked the proposed development last year, citing environmental, traffic, labor, public safety and economic concerns.

    While Wal-Mart has turned to the ballot in a number of cities and towns to win the right to build its giant emporiums, the Inglewood initiative is significantly different. The proposal would essentially exempt Wal-Mart from all of Inglewood's planning, zoning and environmental regulations, creating a city-within-a-city subject only to its own rules. Wal-Mart has hired an advertising and public relations firm to market the initiative and is spending more than $1 million to support the measure, known as initiative 04-A.


    In case anyone wasn't aware, I'm a big fan of Wal-Mart. As long as they aren't defrauding anyone or resorting to violence.

    Back to the New York Times article:

    Company officials say that Wal-Mart adopted this aggressive new tactic only after it became clear that Inglewood officials ? backed by allies in organized labor, church groups and community organizations ? would never approve the complex. Wal-Mart is strongly anti-union.

    "We were told, basically, 'Don't waste your time,' " said Peter Kanelos, the Southern California coordinator for Wal-Mart's community affairs division.

    "But these groups are not representative of the community," he said. "Organized labor is attempting to bully Wal-Mart and its customers. If organized labor and those elected officials they put into power think they're going to attack Wal-Mart, then they better expect Wal-Mart to fight back."


    I admire the fighting spirit and using the system against it's opponents is a novel idea, but it does look real bad. I can't imagine the raving depths the left and the anti-corporate right will reach when this hits the broader opinion market.
    "This is the first time in the country they've tried to do something this extreme," said Madeline Janis-Aparicio, leader of the Coalition for a Better Inglewood, a group formed to fight the Wal-Mart project. "They are driving a Mack truck through California land use, planning and environmental law and trying to create a Wal-Mart government on this 60-acre site. If they succeed in doing this, it will be their blueprint."

    Ideally, in a social system that actually upholds property rights, Wal-Mart would be "the government" on it's own property. The principle difference, of course, would be that Wal-Mart wouldn't be free to initiate force against others at it's whim and without consequence.
    Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has announced plans to build 40 supercenters in California over the next five years, combining its usual assortment of goods with a full line of groceries. California's grocery workers and supermarket chains are trying to slow or stop the company's expansion. They have enlisted the support of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Nation of Islam and a number of elected officials and community groups opposed to Wal-Mart's employment practices and its impact on local merchants.

    This is the message these people are sending: don't you dare grow your business too big and too successful. Otherwise, we'll oppose you on every ground possible.
    The groups opposed to the Inglewood development have already gone to state court to try to block the project, but a judge ruled that any legal challenge would have to await the outcome of the April 6 vote. Ms. Janis-Aparicio said that if the measure is approved, the coalition will return to court immediately.

    This is the message this sends: democracy doesn't matter. Especially the local kind we all love and promote. Of course, I'm not that big a fan of democracy in the first place...
    A December opinion from the state attorney general indicates that the opponents may be on solid ground.

    The attorney general's letter to the Inglewood City Council states that while the initiative process may be used to adopt land-use and planning measures, the ballot cannot be used to usurp powers granted to elected bodies, like issuing building permits. The attorney general also said the initiative might be in conflict with state laws governing subdivisions and the environment.

    The initiative, which can pass by a simple majority vote, includes a provision requiring a two-thirds vote of the public to alter any of the terms of the development project. The attorney general said that provision also appeared to conflict with state law.


    This could be a delicious if otherwise ultimately disheartening display of intra-governmental bickering.
    Mr. Kanelos, the Wal-Mart official, said that the 71-page initiative spells out the project in minute detail, including building materials, traffic flows, landscaping and even plumbing fixtures. Each of these provisions "meets or exceeds every local and state building and environmental requirement," he said.

    All four members of the Inglewood City Council oppose the project, along with the area's congresswoman and state assemblyman. One Inglewood council member, Curren D. Price Jr., who is a lawyer and expert on community development, said he had researched Wal-Mart's plans across the country and had not found a single instance in which the company sought such broad exemption from local control.

    "That's what's so offensive," Mr. Price said.

    "We're talking about 60 acres and an area covering 17 football fields and they don't want to have any give and take on how this thing rolls out," he said.


    Doubtless, I'm sure the Wal-Mart execs find it offensive your crowd refuses to allow any "give and take" on this, either.
    The only city official vocally supporting the project is the mayor, Roosevelt F. Dorn. He said the complex would bring more than 1,000 new permanent jobs, add $3 million to $5 million a year to the distressed city's tax base and provide a revenue stream to finance as much as $100 million in new bonds. "We're talking about a new police station, a new community and cultural center, a new park in District 4, upgrades for every park and recreation area in Inglewood," Mr. Dorn said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a no-brainer."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


    The LA Times has a registration-required article on this as well:

    Inglewood May See a Corporate Takeover

    It's an ungodly amount of pressure for a single community to bear, but nothing less than the fate of the planet will be decided Tuesday by approximately 10,000 residents of Inglewood.

    They won't just be voting on whether they want a Wal-Mart Supercenter the size of an aircraft carrier. They will decide whether there's any role for government now that the largest company in America has taken over the world.

    [...]

    Assuming the turnout Tuesday is 10,000, Wal-Mart would need just 5,001 residents of Inglewood to say yes to Measure 4-A. That's $200 a vote, a small price to pay for the right to do virtually whatever the chain pleases without city interference.

    Routine traffic and environmental reviews will be tossed aside, and a three-point shot away from the hallowed ground where the Lakers once played, Wal-Mart will reign.

    While we're at it, why not shut down Inglewood City Hall and have Wal-Mart outsource the few remaining municipal jobs to Guatemala? In an initiative-happy state like California, we could have weekly Supercenter elections until no other store is left standing.


    The hyperbole in anti-business circles knows no bounds. But Steve Lopez does keep one important thing in mind:
    Even if Wal-Mart prevails, we can always vote with our feet.

    Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times


    UPDATE(4/7/2004 8:55am)
    The ballot initiative failed:
    Voters in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood on Tuesday rejected by a 2-1 margin a ballot measure that would have allowed Wal-Mart to build a sprawling shopping center in the heart of their town.

    In voting down the referendum, residents apparently took their cue from elected officials in working-class Inglewood, who fought bitterly to keep Wal-Mart from building a supercenter there despite the promise of 1,200 jobs and millions of dollars in sales tax revenue.

    "This was a major victory," said Jerome Horton, a state Assemblyman who represents Inglewood. "This was a test site for Wal-Mart. This would have set a national precedent and developers all over the nation were watching to see whether or not a developer could exempt themselves from complying with local laws. This was a much bigger issue than just jobs."


    So much for conventional Democratic rhetoric about wanting more jobs.
    With all 29 precincts reporting, election returns showed 33.8 percent of voters in favor of Measure 04-A and 66.1 percent opposed. Some 3,000 absentee ballots remained uncounted but a spokeswoman for the Inglewood City Clerk said those votes were unlikely to change the result.

    Copyright 2004 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved.


    Another Triumph of Democracy, I suppose.

    The Two-Party Nation

    [Updates below.]

    The schism in U.S. politics begins at home

    The assumption since the 2000 election has been that the United States is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Nationally, this is still true.

    At the local level, however, that 50-50 split disappears. In its place is a country so out of balance, so politically divided, that there is little competition in presidential contests between the parties in most U.S. counties, according to an Austin American-Statesman study of election returns since 1948.

    [...]

    Today, most Americans live in communities that are becoming more politically homogenous and, in effect, diminish dissenting views.

    [...]

    The fastest-growing kind of segregation in the United States isn't racial. It is the segregation between Republicans and Democrats.

    Copyright 2001-2004 Cox Texas Newspapers, L.P. All rights reserved.


    Bill Bishop, the author of this article, asserts five things, each with supporting statistics:
    • Voters have become less independent.
    • Voters have grown more partisan.
    • Voters cast more straight party tickets.
    • Congress compromises less often.
    • The parties have become more ideological.

    There are also three charts displaying some local presidential election data for Travis, Williamson, Hays, Burnet, Caldwell, and Bastrop counties showing the change in Republican/Democrat preference over since 1948.

    Kinda slams home the notion that third-party candidates are wasting their time trying to get elected to major office. Stick with local races where hundreds or even tens of votes can make the difference. This is one of the reasons I'm helping the Texas Libertarian Party get back on the ballot for the November elections. Local laws and regulations tend to have a greater impact on our lives, so it makes sense to focus on regional and state campaigns.

    UPDATE 9/24/2004 5:27pm
    The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information

    Levey Padocs's Haircut Belongs to Him

    Parents have child. Parents live where they have to pay taxes, some of which go to public schools. Parents choose to send their child to those public schools. Child apparently misbehaves and then cleans up his act. Parents award him by allowing him to grow an unconventional haircut. Time passes. Before the school photo is taken, some of his classmates' parents complain that the punk haircut will ruin their picture.

    So, the school's principal allegedly gets the permission of the mother and then washes the dye out of the child's hair. Except the mother and father assert no such permission was given.

    Principal Washes Dye Out of Kid's Hair

    Parents of a 6-year-old boy say they plan to consult an attorney after a school principal washed bright blue dye out of their son's punk-style haircut.

    Levey Padocs Jr.'s father said he allowed his son to get the distinctive 'do more than a month ago for behaving better in class.

    But parents of the boy's kindergarten classmates complained the haircut would spoil an upcoming class photo, so Principal Derek Cooper said he washed the boy's hair in the nurse's office after getting permission from the boy's mother.

    The boy's father said neither he nor the mother approved the washing. They plan to discuss the situation with an attorney.

    "Leave him alone. He's not a problem child. He's not hurting anyone," Levey Padocs Sr. said. "He's an individual, and that's how he's expressing his individuality."

    Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


    Multiple problems at work here, but the one that bothers me the most (and it's possible I don't have the whole story) is the principal decided to ruin this kid's haircut because those parents didn't want to have his hair in the class picture. I don't know if they wanted the principal to wash Levey's hair or ask him to get the parents to "do something" or even have the picture session photographed differently.

    All I do know is that I'd be fuckin' pissed off if a school official screwed up my son's hair to please a group of parents. I'd be angry with the principal, but especially with those other parents if they wanted something done that day. If they exerted enough pressure on Mr. Cooper to fix the situation, they'd be getting an earful from me.

    Dangling Annoyances

    Invasion of the caterpillars

    Q: How do you get rid of the caterpillars?

    A: The best thing is to just try to tolerate them a little bit longer. Yes, the trees are suffering some loss of foliage, but it is still early in the spring, they will put on some new growth. I recommend not trying to apply any kind of insecticide unless it is absolutely necessary ... Given them about two to three weeks and they'll probably all but cycle out at that time.

    Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


    These little guys make perfect battling practice with straws or pencils.

    April 02, 2004

    Liberal/Conservative in What Way, Kinja?

    [Updates below.]

    There has been some attention paid to the recent arrival of a new blog service called Kinja. What is it? It is:

    ...a weblog portal, collecting news and commentary from some of the best sites on the web. Visitors can browse items on topics, everything from food to sex. Or they can create a convenient personal digest, to track their favorite writers.

    Weblogs are much talked about, but still challenging to navigate for the average web user. Kinja is designed to bring weblog writers to a broader audience, by making it easier to explore topics, posts and writers.


    Curious, I quickly browsed around both the conservative and liberal "Editor's Digest" subsections and noticed something.

    Jim Henley is under the liberal section. His discussion of his April Fools post was linked in the "liberal" same section as these bloggers:


    There are more, several of whom I've never heard of and several of whom are not so easily categorized as liberals. But upon what grounds is that categorization made? The roster of "conservative" bloggers in the other section is populated with a few of the obvious mentions, but then again, some aren't so obvious.

    I e-mailed the service asking for clarification on their selection processes.

    UPDATE(4/5/2004 1:20pm)
    I've been talking with Nick Denton about implementing sort of a "libertarian digest" to be featured off the main page. Nothing solid or confirmed yet, but I did send him a bunch of links to libertarian blogs for consideration.

    UPDATE(4/7/2004 11:17pm)
    More here.

    April 01, 2004

    Perry Calls a Special Session for Education

    [Updates below.]

    Perry set to call special session

    Gov. Rick Perry has told the Legislature's top officials that he will call a special legislative session for the middle of April to address school financing.

    Sources told The Associated Press and that Perry told Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick that he will announce the call this week.

    The sources say April 12 or April 19 have been mentioned as possible start dates.

    The Dallas Morning News is also reporting the news of the special session.

    However, a spokesman for Perry told News 8 Austin the AP and Morning News reports are premature.

    The governor has no intention of announcing a special session either Thursday or Friday, said Robert Black.

    Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


    News8 is probably referring to this Morning News article that you'll need to register to access. Other sources are the Houston Chronicle and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

    News8Austin has a poll asking whether Governor Perry's decision was a good one. I voted "yes" and added this comment:

    Calling the session is a good thing. The current system isn't working. Of course, what needs to happen won't happen:

    The privatization of public education.

    As long as people are forced to pay for the educations of others, public education will continue to be mediocre for most and a failure for too many. Government involvement screws everything up.


    My position on the Texas educational problem is simple:
    1. An education is very important but it is not a right; it's a service.
    2. As such, it should be subject to free market forces. Meaning, if you want to partake in the service, you and the service provider should come to an agreement on the terms and conditions of that service's nature, cost, and rules.
    3. Therefore, the state should not interfere with educators and educational institutions:
      • People should pay their own way or seek help from charitable third parties.
      • The curriculum should not be imposed from above, either from the state or federal level.

    4. Etc.

    In short, get the government out of the education business.

    Will anyone in the Texas Legislature propose such a radical change? I'll keep an eye on the process and blog what pops up, from the Good to the Even Worse.

    UPDATE(4/9/2004 12:45pm)
    Oppose all state income tax plans!

    UPDATE(4/13/2004 12:30pm)
    The ball is in motion.

    Perry calls special session

    On April 20, legislators will meet in Austin to consider a new way to pay for public schools.

    The governor announced the special session on school finance at a Tuesday morning press conference.

    Although there would be partisan disagreement, Perry urged members of both legislative bodies to work together.

    A school finance reform package may not get passed in one session, Perry said, but he would call as many as necessary.

    Copyright 2004TWEAN News Channel of Austin, L.P. d.b.a. News 8 Austin


    There's a lot more at the link, including the full text of Governor Perry's prepared statement.

    UPDATE(4/28/2004 9:25am)
    The proposed solutions for Texas school financing aren't any better.

    UPDATE(5/4/2004 9:07am)
    I did some quick 'n dirty educational cost calculations of my own.

    UPDATE(5/18/2004 12:21pm)
    The special session has ended and no bills were passed.

    Drooling Over the FreedomFest

    [Updates below.]

    Via Samizdata, I learn of FreedomFest. Lesse here:

    1. It's in Las Vegas.
    2. Harry Browne, Jason Sorens, John Stossel, Ron Paul, David Friedman, Nathaniel Branden, Steve Moore, Grover Norquist, Ronald Bailey, Tibor Machan, Ben Stein, David Boaz, and numerous others will be speaking. Such as Dr. Arthur B. Laffer, creater of the famous Laffer Curve.
    3. Three days of events.
    4. Panels and debates with topics like Two Visions of Liberty: Anarchy vs Limited Government and The Civil War: Did the Right Side Win?
    5. And a large array of sponsors and exhibitors.

    Of course, there is a $250 registration fee and other expenses...but damn. That's a lot of free market brainpower in one place at once.

    UPDATE(6/3/2004 9:50am)
    The Fest has come and gone, but there are two post-Fest articles to read:


    The first, from WorldNetDaily, is far better than the second, from National Review.

    Poor Andrew Sullivan

    [Updates below.]

    He's gone bonkers and he doesn't seem to know it.

    WHY NOT A GAS TAX? Just when you think this campaign couldn't get more depressing, you have this moronic exchange on gas prices. They're Bush's fault; they'd be worse under Kerry. Etc. Now I know I just came out as a non-driver, and so full disclosure is unnecessary. But the low taxes on gas in this country surely are a bad idea. Here's an easy way to help ease the budget deficit, increase our fuel efficiency, wean us a little off Middle East petroleum and generally help the U.S. economically and in foreign policy. Yet the very idea of raising taxes on gasoline is regarded as so completely anathema you might as well propose nominating Osama bin Laden for president.

    [...]

    ...this irrational embrace of cheap gas is about as close to a national consensus as you'll ever get in this polarized country.


    He thinks "low taxes on gas" are a "bad idea."

    Egads.

    UPDATED 9/28/2005 10:04am
    Andrew Sullivan Needs Slaves

    Not an April Fool's Joke

    Sometime today, I will pass 100,000 website visits on my Sitemeter counter. As of this writing, I'm 25 hits away.

    I realize that a significant portion of that traffic came from the Internet furor surrounding the Governor Rick Perry non-scandal. But looking at the long-term stats, things have gone nowhere but up. Even better, the number of referrers showing up as "unknown" - meaning, they most likely accessed drizzten.com through a bookmark or shortcut - has greatly increased. For that, regular readers, I am grateful.

    I have no idea what's in store for myself, this website, and the issues I follow over the next year. That's part of the reason why this is so fun.