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September 29, 2004

Charles Hueter is an Idiotes!

Via Hit & Run an article from the New York Times Magazine: Is Voting Worth the Trouble?

Why does voting in a presidential election feel at the same time both terribly important and utterly pointless? There is a paradox here, and it is not easy to make it go away. On the one hand, casting a ballot on Election Day strikes us as a kind of civic obligation; neglecting to do so is perhaps not so serious as neglecting to file a tax return, but it is still something you feel guilty about. On the other hand, nearly half of those Americans who are eligible to vote evidently don't think that it's worth the bother. And, in a sense, they're right.

Some nonvoters, no doubt, couldn't care less about which candidate wins. (The ancient Greeks had a word for a person who is indifferent to public affairs in this way: idiotes, or idiot.)

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


I learn something new every day! And to think I've been using this in a negative connotation my whole life!

From SearchGodsWord:

Definition
  1. a private person as opposed to a magistrate, ruler, king
  2. a common soldier, as opposed to a military officer
  3. a writer of prose as opposed to a poet
  4. in the NT, an unlearned, illiterate, man as opposed to the learned and educated: one who is unskilled in any art

Translated Words
KJV (5) - ignorant, 1; rude, 1; unlearned, 3;

NAS (5) - ungifted, 1; ungifted man, 1; ungifted men, 1; unskilled, 1; untrained, 1


From Bill Cassleman's Medical Dictionary:
Idios, Greek, of an individial, peculiar to one person; compare idiotes Greek, a private person. Idiot and idiocy obviously contain this root. They derive from idiotes which was the word for a private person, as opposed to a person of rank and influence holding public office in ancient Greece. Hence, it was supposed, an idiotes was ignorant and stupid. The ancient Greeks were rather free in their putdowns of common people.

The rest of the NYTM piece is worth reading as a generalized "why the hell do supposedly rational people vote?" exercise, not that the idea is new or anything.

Jim Holt ends with this, emphasis in the original:

The moral, if there is one, is to vote out of duty, not self-interest. Why duty? For the simple reason that (as the Marquis de Condorcet once suggested) the more people who vote, the greater the chance of a happy result -- provided that each person is more likely to vote for the superior candidate.

Dammit, now I'm afraid to use moron, imbecile, fool, and twit to describe this guy.

On the other hand, perhaps I can now feel at home being called an idiot. I certainly don't like voting: The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information...A Libertarian for Bush?...Whom to Vote For?.

The Pros and Cons of a Minimum Wage

[Updates below.]

Here is the rough draft of the paper I'm turning in today to my St. Edwards Introduction to Critical Inquiry class. The final draft will be due next Wednesday and will conclude the class.

Charles Hueter
Rene Eakins
A-NCCI 3330: Position Paper Rough Draft
September 26, 2004


SHOULD WE HAVE A MINIMUM WAGE?

In the midst of the Great Depression, the United States federal government passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). During its almost 70 year existence, the federal minimum wage has been amended several times to both expand the coverage of the law to more workers and to increase the wage floor itself. Many of the fifty states have enacted their own minimum wage laws, some of them set even higher than the federal level. Today, we see little substantive debate over the merits of these laws; rather, the focus is on the degree of their application. Given the impact these laws have on our society, I believe a return to the original debate is essential: should we impose a minimum wage on employers?


History


The 1938 enactment of the FLSA wasn't the first time a government in the United States passed a law mandating a minimum wage. In 1912, Massachusetts became the first state to enact a minimum wage. One year later, the following states created their own laws: California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin (State of Wisconsin 2).

Congress hasn't left the minimum wage alone since its enactment. Since the 1938 law, the FLSA has been amended almost every year to expand coverage of the wage floor and to increase the wage itself, with a significant change in 1978 eliminating the separate wage tracks established for farm workers (US Department of Labor A).

Currently, seven states have no minimum wage of their own. Two have rates lower than the federal level. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have rates higher than the federal wage, which is at $5.15 per hour (U.S. Department of Labor B). Both Republican President George W. Bush and the Democratic nominee for President, Senator John Kerry, endorse an expansion of the federal minimum wage, though they have differences regarding the amount (Farhi A2).


For a Minimum Wage


The arguments for a minimum wage have remained remarkably consistent over the years. Like most arguments, they can be broken down into two general parts: the ethical and the practical. I shall present the ethical case first. However, it should be noted that there are three distinct varieties of legal wage floors that people advocate these days. They are a simple low minimum wage that impacts the business world as little as possible while still providing some low-end boost to bottom-rung wages; a "living wage" that "should, with full-time work, lift [lowest wage workers] out of poverty" (Bernstein); and an even higher "good-life" wage that provides the opportunity to live independently of outside assistance and even indulge in things like vacations and higher education (Cordero 210). Regardless of these differences, they still retain several fundamental arguments at their core and can thus be addressed all together.

I found that proponents for any minimum wage believe the raw value of one's labor to a business shouldn't be the primary factor in determining that worker's wage (Bhargava). They consider a wage to be something not only owed to someone on the basis of their labor's value, but also in light of their need. This belief isn't new. In the late nineteenth century Karl Marx famously proclaimed in his Critique of the Gotha Program, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!" This philosophic undercurrent can be seen in nearly every argument for a minimum wage.

The driving force behind this line of thought is an altruistic utilitarianism. Humans should care for one another and take into consideration those affected by their actions. In addition, we should work for the benefit of all or at least as many as we can. Therefore, enacting legislation that requires wages go no lower than a certain level is a moral act; opposing such legislation is immoral (Cordero 212-213). It helps those who need it the most: the young, the unskilled, the elderly, and the disabled (Lieberman). They are the people most likely to have labor of lower value than average and would therefore need the extra money more.

Complimenting and extending this moral duty to help the needy is a consequentialist element. In the labor pool there are people who are new to the market, young, and unskilled. In order for their jobs to have significant consequence for them, those jobs need to pay an amount that matters to them. Employees earning low wages are likely to apply for and receive welfare benefits, thereby increasing the costs society must pay in order to keep them afloat (Halter 707). Therefore, we should consider a high minimum wage as an important part of a comprehensive government assistance package (Edelman 95). If this doesn't happen, the working poor will be further imperiled.

The standard free market economic complaint that minimum wages cause unemployment has come under significant attack in the last decade (Card and Krueger). Therefore, the much-trumpeted negative outcomes of a modest minimum wage are, at best, nonexistent or, at worst, minimal.


Against a Minimum Wage


The basic practical argument against minimum wages is that they don't accomplish what they set out to do and actually create more problems than they set out to solve: "...minimum-wage laws cause unemployment, a lifelong depressing effect on the earnings of many of those forced into unemployment, and harm in particular the least-skilled, most-disadvantaged members of society" (Reisman 660). There is also evidence that the very people targeted with these laws aren’t likely to benefit from them (Kersey). Since there is a given amount of labor willing to do work at a certain wage and there is a given amount of work employers are willing to hire people to do at a certain wage, involuntarily forcing the low end of those wages up will disemploy some workers (Partridge and Partridge 361). Those workers are typically the ones most employed at low wages: teenagers, African Americans, etc. (Horowitz 3-5). Though it has been mentioned the standard capitalist argument against a minimum wage has come under empirical attack lately, it must be said there is no consensus on the matter (Neumark and Wascher; Partridge and Partridge; Kennan).

There is also other practical criticism. Minimum wage laws interfere with the law of comparative advantage and monopolize the affected labor markets in favor of the higher-skilled laborers whose labor is worth the higher wage (Reisman 355-356; 382-384). Some argue that the effect that the minimum wage is merely a huge, hidden tax paid by a small minority (low-wage employers) with the proceeds going towards another small minority (low-wage employees) without any transparency or accountability (Landsburg). Interestingly, Tom Lehman was able to find evidence some businesses support a minimum wage because they might "force their larger rivals to pay higher wages" thereby compelling the government to act for their advantage and effectively burden their larger competitors.

Additionally, some employers may choose other methods than simple layoffs to offset the added costs of a more expensive workforce (Brown, Gilroy, and Kohen 489-490). They theoretically include hiring fewer employees in the future; not replacing all employees who resign, retire, or are fired; not making capital expenditures to improve their business; raising prices on the goods and services they offer; and decreasing the number of hours worked per employee. Furthermore, to the extent that these minimum wages aren't "relevant to the market" (Rothbard 133), any actual disemployment will be small enough to be simply swallowed up and absorbed by the business, thereby taking a hit to their profitability.

The moral argument against a minimum wage is based on the ideas of self-ownership and freedom, grounded in the ethical concrete of self-interest. Wage floors violate "the right of employers to freely negotiate compensation with employees" (McQuillan). The freedom for the actors in a transaction to arrive at a mutually beneficial employment deal is something that should be preserved and not infringed. More bluntly, "In truth, there is only one way to regard a minimum wage law: it is compulsory unemployment, period" (Rothbard 133, emphasis in original).

The freedom to operate your own business is also impacted. Who actually owns a business when crucial decisions such as how much employees are to be paid are made by those who don't run the company? Given that "the low-wage labor force is, by definition, a labor force lacking some combination of education, training, job experience, and social skills" (Horowitz 7), it is only fair to pay an employee what his or her labor is worth.


Conclusion


One of the most interesting things I discovered while researching this topic was the historical nature of the argument. This goes back many decades and involves age-old theories about the nature of human action. The recent empirical research that seems to prove a minimum wage increase doesn't cause unemployment shook deeply the foundations of labor economics, but I favor the explanations of the side opposing wage floors. I certainly don't consider advocating them an "attack on poor people" (Halter 706); I hold no ill will towards them.

Some empirical studies may appear to lend weight to the claim that these laws don't cause unemployment, but they aren't comprehensive enough to fully gauge the extent of the negative economic effects of such mandates. It cannot be escaped that the government causes unnecessary economic negative side effects by outlawing wages below a certain level. More importantly, it also cannot be escaped that the actions of government interference in a business's hiring practices is fundamentally at odds with the things that make the United States such a unique and important place to live: our individual liberties. These laws act as an initiation of force against an entity that has not caused harm and does not deserve the punishment. Jobs are taken and left voluntarily and it is the responsibility of the participants in that agreement to decide if the terms meet their needs.

I fail to see why every job must compensate the employee such that the employee's financial needs can be met. It seems like a mandate with little to anchor it in reality. It is easy to give in to the emotional arguments proposing any variation on the minimum wage, but if we are to value sustained economic progress and freedom, I think the minimum wage should be avoided and abolished.


WORKS CITED


Bernstein, Jared. The Living Wage Movement: Pointing the Way Toward the High Road. 17 July 2000. Economic Policy Institute http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_viewpoints_lw_movement

Bhargava, Deepak. "How Much Is Enough?" The American Prospect Sep. 2004. 27 Sep. 2004 http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww? section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=8348

Brown, Charles, Curtis Gilroy, and Andrew Kohen. "The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employment and Unemployment." Journal of Economic Literature 20 (1982): 487-528.

Card, David and Alan B. Krueger. Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997

Cordero, Ronald A. "Morality and the Minimum Wage." Journal of Social Philosophy. 31.2 (2000). 207-222.

Edelman, Peter B. "The Welfare Debate: Getting Past the Bumper Stickers." Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 27.1 2003. 93-100.

Farhi, Paul. "Kerry Backs $7-an-Hour Minimum Wage." Washington Post 19 June 2004: A02

Halter, Anthony P. "Chipping Away at General Assistance: A Matter of Economics or an Attack on Poor People?" Social Work 39.6 (1994). 705-709.

Horowitz, Carl F. "Keeping the Poor Poor: The Dark Side of the Living Wage." The Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 493. 21 Oct. 2003. 28 Sep. 2004 http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-493es.html

Kersey, Paul. "The Economic Effects of the Minimum Wage." Capitalism Magazine 15 May 2004. 27 Sep. 2004. http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?id=3675

Kennan, John. "The Elusive Effects of the Minimum Wage." Journal of Economic Literature. 33 (1995): 1949-1965.

Landsburg, Steven E. "The Sin of Wages: The real reason to oppose the minimum wage." Slate 9 Jul. 2004. 22 Sep. 2004 http://slate.msn.com//id/2103486/

Lehman, Tom. "The Wages of Sinful Economic Arguments." Ludwig von Mises Institute 5 Aug. 2004. 27 Sep. 2004 http://www.mises.org/fullstory.aspx?control=1577

Lieberman, Trudy. "Hungry in America. The Nation July 2003. 27 Sep. 2004 http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20030818&c=1&s=lieberman

Marx, Karl. Critique of the Gotha Program. New York: International Publishers, 1971.

McQuillan, Lawrence J. "Minimum of Understanding." NationalReview.com 27 May 2003. 27 Sep. 2004 http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_comment/comment-mcquillan052703.asp

Neumark, David, and William Wascher. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: Comment." The American Economic Review. 90.5 (2000): 1362-1396.

Partridge, Mark. D and Jamie S. Partridge. "Are Teen Unemployment Rates Influenced by State Minimum Wage Laws?" Growth & Change 29.4 (1998). 359-382.

Reisman, George. Capitalism: A complete and integrated understanding of the nature and value of human economic life. Ottawa, IL: Jameson Books, 1998.

Rothbard, Murray N. "Outlawing Jobs: The Minimum Wage, Once More." Making Economic Sense. Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1995. 132-135.

United States A. Department of Labor. History of Changes to the Minimum Wage Law. 22 Sep. 2004 http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/coverage.htm

United States B. Department of Labor. Minimum Wage Laws in the States. 22 Sep. 2004 http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm

State of Wisconsin. Department of Workforce Development. Historical Resume of Minimum Wage Regulations in Wisconsin. 1 Apr. 2003. 27 Sep. 2004. http://www.dwd.state.wi.us/dwd/publications/236e_28a.htm


Questions, comments, and criticism are welcome.

UPDATED 3/9/2005 8:52am
I've written another final paper for the same professor in a different class: A Conceptual Analysis of Public Goods - The Case of Nationalized Defense

UPDATED 11/13/2006 2:34am
There is new interest to increase the federal minimum wage. I've taken the opportunity to revise and extend my moral case against it.

September 27, 2004

Gun-Banning D.C. Idiots in the News

Associated Press via the Washington Post: District Residents Rally Against Repeal of Gun Ban

The D.C. Personal Protection Act would rescind existing prohibitions covering handguns and semiautomatic and automatic weapons. It would allow citizens to keep weapons in their homes and places of business. Versions of the measure pending in both the House and Senate would prohibit locally elected officials from passing future gun control legislation.

Obviously, this is a ploy by deranged gun-nut killers who want to see the bodies of innocent children piled high in the streets! Obviously, this is part of a concerted effort by fundamentalist militants absolutely determined to put a .357 Magnum in the hands of every person so they can darkly roam the streets at will, unloading pounds of lead into the perpetrator of the first slight against their warped and disturbed minds! Obviously, the people who want changes in the law like this want DEATH - and not just DEATH, but DEATH FOR ALL.
"Irresponsible extremists in Congress are trying to make the nation's capital a free fire zone," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)

Fuck you and your straw man, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
"The bill will restore the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and to defend their families against murderous predators," said a spokeswoman for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "It is time to tell the citizens of the District of Columbia that the Second Amendment of the Constitution applies to them."

If the 2nd meant anything, the need for counter-active laws like the DCPPA wouldn't exist. Furthermore, if the people who wrote and who support this law gave a damn about what the 2nd means, they would rescind all the guns laws within their power to abolish. But, no. They don't operate on principle.
However, not everyone agrees. Jocelyn N. Williams of the Washington, D.C., Central Labor Council representing 150,000 union members in the region, said a repeal of the gun ban is not in the interests of residents, commuters or visitors.

"Twenty children and youth have been lost to gun violence this year, and more have been wounded," said Lori M. Kaplan, executive director of the Latin American Youth Center in the Columbia Heights section of the city.


Hey, Miss Kaplan! Seperate the "gun" from the "violence" and perhaps you have a point. Because guns cannot act; only humans do. Guns are not the problem. It's the aggressive freedom-denying thugs (like yourself) who are.
While the city's homicide rate has declined by 55 percent over the past decade, killings among young people have escalated in recent months. "Easier access to deadly weapons is not the answer to lowering the rate of violent juvenile death," said Kaplan.

Prior restraint against peaceful gun-owners doesn't answer the fucking question, either!
"So many young children in this city are losing their lives for nothing," said Marita Michael, the mother of Devin Fowlkes, 16, who died Oct. 30 after he was shot outside of Anacostia High School. Fowlkes was not the intended target of the 15-year-old found responsible for his death.

2004 The Associated Press


If your "nothing" is supposed to mean an individual's freedom to own property, then you've lost any sympathy with me.

September 24, 2004

Congressional Pay Raises

Washington Times: Inside the Beltway:

In passing the 2005 Transportation, Treasury and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, Congress this week handed itself a pay raise - jacking up its annual salary nearly $4,000 above a current income of $158,000.

It marks the sixth straight year that Congress has accepted an automatic pay raise. Hats off to two-term Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah Democrat, who last week made a procedural attempt to prevent the annual pay increase, but his measure was voted down 235 to 170.

All site contents copyright 2004 News World Communications, Inc.


Isn't that shit just quaint? You get AUTOMATIC YEARLY PAY RAISES unless you specifically vote against them. They also don't have the balls to state what happened in the "highlights" report after the bill passed. I fucking hate these people.

Matheson donates his pay raise to local charities every time his attempt to vote against this shit fails. More here:

The congressman's remarks did little to prevent what has become almost automatic since 1989 when lawmakers opted to take politics out of pay raises. House members voted 235 to 170 Tuesday on a procedural measure that essentially endorses the pay raise and allows the annual cost-of-living allowance to take effect.

Not since 1998 has Congress turned down the raise, and it has only done so five times in the past 14 years. The base salary for members of Congress -- those in leadership positions earn more -- this year is $158,100.

Copyright 2004 The Spectrum. All rights reserved.

Here are Matheson's comments:

Mr. MATHESON. Mr. Speaker, these are difficult times for our Nation. We are fighting terrorism on numerous fronts. We have commitments to keep our troops overseas, and we struggle to meet our needs here at home. Our economy needs a boost, unemployment is high, and our future budget deficits are predicted to be the highest in the history of this great Nation.

Now is not the time for Members of Congress to be voting themselves a pay raise. We need to show the American people that we are willing to make sacrifices. We need to budget, live within our means, and make careful spending decisions based on our most pressing priorities.

Mr. Speaker, let us send a signal to the American people that we recognize their struggle in today's economy. Vote "no'' on the previous question so we can have an opportunity to block the automatic cost-of-living adjustment to Members of Congress. This vote ought to be cast in the light of day and on the record. A "no'' vote on the previous question will allow Members to vote up or down on the cost-of-living adjustment.

If the previous question is defeated, I will offer an amendment to the rule. My amendment will block the fiscal year 2005 automatic cost-of-living pay raise for Members of Congress. Because this amendment requires a waiver, the only way to get to this issue is to defeat the previous question. Therefore, I urge Members to vote "no'' on the previous question.

Here are the House Reps who voted for Matheson's measure to be defeated. Keep this list in mind the next time you hear a Rep bitch about the budget deficit, a lack of funds for programs, or loudly voicing concern for the poor. Texans are ALL CAPS; Austin reps are bolded:

Abercrombie Akin Andrews Baca Bachus BARTON (TX) Bass Berman Biggert Bilirakis Bishop (GA) Blumenauer Blunt Boehner BONILLA Bono Brady (PA) Brown (SC) Brown, Corrine Brown-Waite, Ginny Butterfield Buyer Calvert Camp Cantor Capuano Cardin --CARTER-- Clay Clyburn Cole Collins Cooper Cox Cramer Crane Crenshaw Cubin CULBERSON Cummings Cunningham Davis (AL) Davis (FL) Davis (IL) Davis, Tom Deal (GA) DeGette Delahunt DeLauro DELAY Diaz-Balart, L. Diaz-Balart, M. Dicks Dingell Dooley (CA) Doolittle Doyle Dreier Dunn Ehlers Emanuel Eshoo Everett Farr Fattah Feeney Ferguson Foley Frank (MA) Frelinghuysen FROST Gallegly Garrett (NJ) Gilchrest Gillmor GONZALEZ Goodlatte Goss GRANGER GREEN (TX) Grijalva Gutierrez Gutknecht Harman Hastings (WA) Hefley Herger Hinchey HINOJOSA Hobson Hoeffel Hoekstra Honda Houghton Hoyer Hunter Hyde Israel Issa Istook Jackson (IL) JACKSON-LEE (TX) Jefferson JOHNSON, SAM Jones (OH) Kanjorski Kennedy (RI) Kilpatrick King (IA) King (NY) Kingston Kirk Kline Knollenberg Kolbe Lantos Larsen (WA) Larson (CT) LaTourette Leach Lee Levin Lewis (CA) Lewis (GA) Linder Lipinski Lowey Lucas (OK) Maloney Manzullo Markey Matsui McCarthy (MO) McCarthy (NY) McCotter McCrery McDermott McHugh McKeon McNulty Meehan Meek (FL) Meeks (NY) Menendez Millender- McDonald Miller (MI) Miller, Gary Miller, George Mollohan Moran (VA) Murtha Myrick Nadler Neal (MA) Ney Nunes Oberstar Olver ORTIZ Osborne Otter Oxley Pallone Pascrell Pastor Payne Pelosi Pence Pickering Pombo Portman Pryce (OH) Putnam Quinn Radanovich Rangel Regula Rehberg REYES Reynolds RODRIGUEZ Rogers (KY) Rohrabacher Ros-Lehtinen Rothman Roybal-Allard Ruppersberger Rush Sabo Saxton Schakowsky Scott (GA) Scott (VA) Sessions Shadegg Shaw Sherman Simpson Skelton Smith (MI) Smith (NJ) --SMITH (TX)-- Solis Souder Spratt Stark Sweeney Tauscher Thomas Thompson (CA) Thompson (MS) THORNBERRY Tiberi Turner (OH) Van Hollen Velazquez Visclosky Walsh Waters Watson Watt Waxman Weiner Weldon (FL) Weldon (PA) Weller Wexler Wicker Wilson (NM) Wilson (SC) Wolf Woolsey Wynn Young (AK) Young (FL)

These people didn't cast a vote:

Ackerman
Baker
Ballenger
Blackburn
Boehlert
Bonner
Burton (IN)
Cannon
Conyers
Crowley
Engel
Gephardt
Greenwood
Hastings (FL)
JOHNSON, EDDIE B.
Kleczka
Langevin
McInnis
Miller (FL)
Nethercutt
Owens
Schrock
Serrano
Sherwood
Slaughter
Tauzin
Towns
Whitfield


I've got the PDF files if anyone wants to see or spread'em around.

The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information

[Updates below.]

I can't recall when this first started appearing on the front page of the Statesman's website, but it is absolutely noteworthy:

Want your voice heard? First you have to register.

This kind of thinking needs to be exposed for the dangerous sham it is.

If I want my "voice" heard, I have an uncountable number of options available to me:

  • I can make a sign and place it in my window at home.
  • I can put a bumper sticker on my car.
  • I can literally speak my mind into a voice recorder and put it online for others to download and listen to.
  • I can operate a blog (hell, any kind of website) and write as many thousands of words as I want.
  • I can go to any local pub or bar and start up conversations with strangers.
  • I can write articles to the thousands of newspapers, news magazines, periodicals, and journals around the world.
  • I can write letters to the editor of just about any publication.
  • I can start a band that focuses on what I want to say and tour the music scene.
  • I can buy or make a T-shirt that says something with which I agree.

Etcetera...

What I don't need to do is register with the state. That term alone should send chills up your spine. It should make you rethink the entire enterprise. The idea of having to register for anything should scare you, be it a car, a handgun, a marriage, or your very birth.

We are repetitively exhorted to believe that our votes are our way of "talking" to politicians in the one manner they cannot ignore. I call bullshit on that. What kind of message do you think you send with a vote? What information are you trying to convey? What data does a vote contain? And how are politicians and their staffs supposed to decipher this?

Let's say I'm a good-hearted Austinite lefty who wants Bush out of office. Let's say I think we need immediate Kyoto ratification, higher taxes on the rich and corporations, and much stronger restrictions on international trade in order to protect domestic industries and workers. So I vote for John Kerry because he's more likely to replace Bush and enact the policies I want pushed. What happens?

Living in Travis County, that means I get to record my Presidential vote on Hart InterCivic's eSlate electronic voting system. My precious few bytes of data are then recorded and tabulated with the rest of the county. The result is passed on to the Secretary of State and confirmed. Of course, since Texans will give the majority of their votes to Bush, Texas's electoral college members will very likely vote for Bush when their time comes. But my vote is still recorded in the final count.

Does John F. Kerry get my message? Does George W. Bush witness my displeasure with his actions and reconsider them? What about their respective advisors? Will they say, "Looks like Charles Hueter doesn't like Bush and wants Kerry instead. Better recalibrate a little" and tweak their campaigns in the future?

Furthermore, how would they tweak their campaigns? My vote isn't a list of things I want done. It's a statement of support for two people to become President and Vice President over other choices. It doesn't explain my positions and recommendations on welfare, taxes, the environment, workers' compensation, terrorism, Social Security, campaign finance reform, property rights, the war in Iraq, civil rights, medical marijuana, obesity, economic growth, morality, or abortion. Sure, there are general trends one can discern by picking one team over another, but you cannot tell what my actual positions are on those and hundreds of other issues. You can't tell how I rank them in importance. You can't tell the degree I want them implemented. You can't tell the specific details of what I want to happen. You can't tell if I loathe John Kerry but loathe Bush even more. You can't tell if I just barely pass Texas's standards for mental competence. You can't tell if I'm lying and doing this as a joke. You can't tell if I'm drunk and accidentally picked the wrong guy and wasn't sober enough to realize it.

*scoff*

You can't even tell if I'm alive or dead:

In essence, all the crucial information that your opinion contains on a host of political issues - the technical elements that make your voice unique among others and truly differentiate you from your opponents - is stripped bare by the voting process, leaving the candidates and public with a vague and generalized sense of what they think you want. This applies with no less magnitude towards local elections. In their case, you've got a range of problems that usually have immediate and close impact on you and your neighbors. By voting, you become another cog that simply says "yes" or "no." And then you leave all the details up to your representative...assuming you were lucky enough for that person to get elected. In the opposite case, your beliefs are simply ignored.

By voting, your voice loses it's ability to argue, to persuade, to change minds. It loses it's power. And the vote advocators end up twisting in knots trying to get an outcome that doesn't suck; an example would be a libertarian voting for Bush.

Contrariwise, all that vital information is left intact though the methods I listed above. Communicating that way allows more to be transmitted...even if it's restricted to asinine sloganeering and recklessly ignorant action. At the least, you can approach me and find out more. That is fantastically difficult for most politicians to do.

So I react with deep horror when I read something that says:

Want your voice heard? First you have to register.

To me, it doesn't matter for whom you vote. I don't need to register to be heard. I don't want to register to be heard. You can go stuff your voting fetish. I won't participate.

UPDATE 10/4/2004 8:29am
The herd handlers are getting excited.

News8Austin: Marathon voter registration rushes to beat deadline

Time is running out for non-registered voters wanting to vote in the Nov. 2 elections. Midnight Oct. 4 is the deadline to register.

September 23, 2004

Canada's Memorial for Draft Dodgers

[Updates below.]

Associated Press via News8Austin: Plan for draft dodger memorial in Canada angers U.S.

There are plans for a bronze monument and a festival in Canada to honor U.S. draft dodgers -- and many Americans aren't glad to hear it.

The project is called "Our Way Home.''

Its director says it was done to honor what he calls "the courageous legacy of Vietnam War resisters.'' He says it also pays tribute to Canadians who helped those Americans resettle in Canada when they fled the draft.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press, All rights reserved.


The byline says Nelson, British Columbia and I can't find any other news sources besides the AP talking about this. The Neslon Daily News website hasn't even been built yet and the Kootenay Weekly Express doesn't publish online. However, MSNBC has something from the AP to add: U.S. draft dodgers to be honored in Nelson, B.C.
The celebration, dubbed "Our Way Home,'' is set for July 8th and 9th, 2006. Festival director Isaac Romano says the purpose is to recognize the "legacy of Vietnam War resisters and the Canadians who helped them resettle in this country.''

Dennis Klein, a sculptor and teacher at Kootenay School of the Arts, and artist Naomi Lewis have been chosen to make a bronze memorial depicting Canadians embracing the hands of American resisters. Mayor Dave Elliott says Nelson is just the place for such a monument. The town of about ten thousand has a lively arts scene and lies at the west end of Kootenay Lake about 410 miles east of Vancouver and 150 miles north of Spokane.

2004 MSNBC.com


All that matters to me is that the military draft is slavery and anyone who resists the state's attempt to enslave them in military service is fine with me. If the government were to ever demand I enter the armed forces, I'd refuse.

UPDATE 10/2/2004 12:54pm
Looks like things have changed.

CBC: B.C. city rejects draft-dodger monument

Municipal politicians in Nelson, B.C., have decided that a controversial monument to American draft dodgers will not go up in their city.

At a special meeting on Wednesday, city council decided there would be no public money or public land for a monument unless it had broad public support in the community.


There shouldn't be "public" money for anything in the first place, but nevermind that.
A statement released by the city says the planned monument to war resisters doesn't meet that criteria. It also says such a monument would be a "misuse of public funds."

*scoff*

I wasn't aware the people wanted to erect a memorial to those who resisted government-imposed slavery by applying for taxpayer-stolen money. I doubt they find the sick irony in this that I do.

A private Nelson-based group called Our Way Home announced plans three weeks ago to build the monument somewhere in the city.

Why can't they do it with private money? What the fuck is wrong with artists these days? Why are they always pleading for our money to pay for their projects?
The planned statue depicts a Canadian reaching out to help two U.S. draft dodgers. It was to be unveiled during a July 2006 two-day festival in honour of U.S. conscientious objectors.

Copyright CBC 2004


As it stands now, it looks like they'll build the memorial in a city more receptive to it.

September 21, 2004

Zinger!

In "I'm Proud to be an American", the protagonist is proud to be an American because "I have God to watch me".

I'm surprised that the National Reconnaissance Office would mention the competition like that.

-Hit & Run Commenter "Trey"


He's referring to the discovery of this moronic pap put out by the National Reconnaissance Office as uncovered by CoolGov, a website that does what it can to uncover unusual and notable government-produced HTML for us taxpayers to see.

September 20, 2004

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago

While browsing the isles at the Saxtet Austin Gun Show, I came across the volumes of this famous book. They appear to be first editions, with no copyright information earlier than 1974-1975. They are in great condition with the dust jackets suffering only tiny tears around the edges. The seller wanted $10 each or $15 for both.

I was surrounded by firearms, survivalist gear, unbanned high-capacity magazines, some grips that I wanted for my Browning Hi-Power, and numerous other items and gadgets I found interest in. But they paled in comparison to the value I have heard so many others place in Solzhenitsyn's work. In my youth, this was one of those books that people referred to in tones reserved for something approaching holy. I had only the most general conception of what was written within and never got off my ass to read the copy my dad had in his library. This Saturday marked the first time I sat down to read.

I'm currently in the middle of the "Bluecaps" chapter (the fourth, I believe) and I'm having trouble pulling myself away. The details of the USSR's vile practices are there and I can't ignore them. Neither should anyone else. This is literature that every educated human should understand.

UPDATE 9/29/2004 9:02pm
Thanks to Billy Beck for questioning reality of what I actually have. I was mistaken that I have all three volumes. Two photos demonstrate this:


Pictures of the two covers. Click for a larger version.


Pictures of the inside pages displaying copyright info. Click for a larger version.

So it appears I have another volume to search for. Not as though I'll be done with the first two anytime soon, though. *laugh*

September 17, 2004

The Ethics of Face Transplants

Courier-Journal: Doctors prepared to do face transplant

Even as ethicists and others raise concerns, a team of doctors from Louisville and the Netherlands says it is ready to perform a face transplant.

"There arrives a point in time when the procedure should simply be done. We submit that that time is now," the researchers wrote in an article scheduled for publication today in The American Journal of Bioethics.

The article, by the team from the University of Louisville and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, explores the ethical and psychological issues, and physical risks, involved in a transplant that would attach the face of a dead donor to someone with a severely disfigured face, such as the victim of a serious burn or accident.

Although researchers will not say when such a transplant would be done, they are taking steps toward the first operation, which would be considered clinical research.


Here's all that matters to me:
"Previous research and current understanding indicate that the psychological risks are more complex and extensive than the Louisville team suggest," [Nichola Rumsey of the University of the West of England] wrote. "I have no wish to minimize the distress experienced by many people with severe disfigurements, but to my mind, the current risk/benefit ratio ... is dubious at best."

[...]

"Our position is that face transplantation could now be performed," wrote three surgeons from Henri-Mondor Hospital in Paris. "The switch from 'could' to `should' depends on the ethical conditions surrounding the procedure."

Copyright 2004 The Courier-Journal.


The only ethical considerations that truely matter are whether or not the participants in the procedure voluntarily consent to it. Everything else is secondary.

A Libertarian for Bush?

[Updates below.]

Just found this op-ed by Daniel Griswold on CATO's website: A Case for Bush

Our two-party system is like cold pizza for people who love individual liberty, free markets and limited government. The two major parties seldom nominate candidates who pursue those principles in a consistent way, and this year's presidential election is no exception. Neither the Republican, George W. Bush, nor the Democrat, John F. Kerry, would ever be mistaken for a libertarian.

No joke there.
Bush and the GOP Congress have presided over an explosion of federal spending during his term. Bush championed the 2002 farm subsidy bill, the Medicare drug benefit and huge increases in education spending. He signed the anti-free-speech campaign finance "reform" bill and imposed temporary tariffs on steel imports. And most libertarians (although not all) believe the war in Iraq is a dangerous distraction from the war on terrorism.

If President Bush was serious about his talk of limited government, he'd have more credibility to support his rhetoric. But his actions reveal what he really feels.
Meanwhile, Kerry and his party have proposed huge increases of their own in federal spending. Their chief criticism of Bush on health care, education and just about everything else but defense is that he has not been spending enough. And they want to underwrite their own spending spree with higher taxes on, you guessed it, "the rich." Kerry and much of his Democratic base want to slow the advancement of free trade and accelerate regulation of the economy. They criticize Bush for his conduct of the war in Iraq but do not challenge it on principle.

Pfft, I say anyone who calls themselves a libertarian and votes for John Kerry deserves no such label. John Edwards is a hypocrite and I've already mentioned Kerry's stupidity above. Just browse his website and you can see any number of positions he takes that should make any honest libertarian puke:
Shit, John Kerry doesn't even know what libertarianism is: he said Bush pursued an "extreme libertarian" agenda. Anyone can parse his issues page and discover far more things on their own time.

Griswold continues:

What are libertarians to do on Election Day? One option would be to wash their hands of the whole grimy system and not vote. That is a perfectly defensible option, a vote of sorts against a system that discriminates against alternative parties. But the risk of not voting is that the least libertarian of the two major-party candidates could win a narrow election.

Another option is voting for the Libertarian Party candidate, but in our stacked system, that option is akin to not voting at all. Even under the best of circumstances, the LP has failed to win more than about 1 percent of the vote.


A friend of mine asked me this question a while back and I responded:
...if you are going to vote, vote for the person who best represents you and your values. Since we can't vote for specific parts of a person's political platform, any vote for one or two ideal aspects of some candidate ends up being a vote for the things you don't like about that candidate. So pick the person who overwhelmingly represents good rather than overwhelmingly represents evil.

I don't intend on voting this election, even though I helped get the Texas Libertarians on the state ballot and even though I generally like Michael Badnarik's politics. My vote is literally, statistically, and figuratively meaningless for a multitude of reasons: Texas is going to George Bush whether I vote for him or not and Austin will vote for John Kerry whether I vote for him or not. This doesn't even address the moral problems of voting. And I reject the "lesser of two evils" argument. I choose principle over pragmatism.

Back to Mr. Griswold:

Given those unappetizing alternatives, voting for George W. Bush on Nov. 2 may be the best choice for advocates of a free society. In fact, on several issues important to libertarians, Bush has even staked out positions clearly superior to those of his Democratic opponent.

He then articulates these positions:
  1. Social Security reform and partial privatization
  2. "health care savings accounts"
  3. reduced federal regulatory impact when compared to the last thirteen years
  4. no additional gun control laws
  5. essentially a combination of nice-sounding rhetoric supporting free trade and a number of free trade pacts around the world
  6. tax code reform, potentially even scrapping the income tax and replacing it with a "consumption tax"

Well, let me address these. Mr. Griswold certainly has a point in saying Senator Kerry is utterly hopeless on the Social Security issue from a libertarian perspective and President Bush's goals are at least a step in the right direction. What is left unsaid is the fundamental fact that Social Security is a fraud and the only right thing to do is immediately stop taxing people to pay for it and dismantle the entire structure as quickly as possible. There is nothing libertarian about Social Security.

On #2, just read Beck. The idea that the government can allow us to keep some of our money as long as it's spent towards health stuff is fucking repugnant. The whole notion stinks; it's our wealth to dispose of, not theirs. If I want to salt away 10% a paycheck to cover a future emergency, fine. If I don't, fine. What matters is not taxing any of it in the first place.

On #3, hey that's great if it's true. But Mr. Griswold says, incredibly, "While Bush has been a big spender, he has not been a big regulator" ...and then says the cost of "new regulations" under Bush is roughly $1.6 billion a year verses averages of $6 billion to 8 billion. Does he understand what he's saying?

On #4, I covered this already. President Bush and his Republican honchos in Congress don't give a damn about freeing our gun-specific property rights from the law. Certainly not by judging their actions and statements.

On #5, you can't be for free trade and continue to impose and enforce taxes, tariffs, licensing regulations, barriers to market entry, barriers to market exit, a government monopoly on money, and billions of dollars in subsidies. It does not follow.

On #6, taxation is theft and no amount of fiddling with it's structure will ever change that. Eliminate the IRS and don't replace it with anything.

Granted, Mr. Griswold isn't happy he came to his conclusion:

Even with those issues in his favor, the libertarian case for George W. Bush is weak. But a libertarian could reasonably conclude that in our imperfect, unfair, messy and even maddening political system, the re-election of George W. Bush would leave our country better off than any realistic alternative.

Utilitarianism cannot override the reality of Bush's big government conservativism, his incoherent political philosophy, and his lack of principles.

Anyone who values individual freedom and personal responsibility shouldn't vote. If they do, they certainly shouldn't vote for George W. Bush.

UPDATE 9/24/2004 5:22pm
The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information

P.J. O'Rourke in Austin!

Damn it, I missed his show last night at UT's Hogg Auditorium. I had class at St. Edward's and couldn't get away. Anyone go? How did he do?

September 16, 2004

Haymarket Gets a Memorial

Associated Press via ABCNews: Haymarket Memorial Marks Ill. Labor Rally

For years, visitors at the troubled site of Haymarket Square left disappointed: Only a plaque marked the spot where a bomb thrown during an 1886 labor rally killed seven police officers and led to the executions of anarchists unjustly convicted of the crime.

Police viewed it as a place where their fellow officers died in the line of duty. Social activists went there to honor the memory of those wrongly convicted. Union supporters considered it a crucible in the labor movement's history.

Anti-labor hysteria gripped the country after the bombing, and the site's legacy in Chicago was too contentious to support a memorial. Now, a large sculpture has been dedicated there, and text on the memorial acknowledges that Haymarket's significance "touches on the issues of free speech, the right of public assembly, organized labor, the fight for the eight-hour workday, law enforcement, justice, anarchy and the right of every human being to pursue an equitable and prosperous life."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


The Haymarket affair helped ruin the reputation of anarchism and made it far more difficult for the individualist anarchists to get their arguments heard over the calls for violent overthrow and social revolution the collectivist anarchists demanded and sometimes attempted to obtain.

Chicago Sun-Times: After 138 years, Haymarket memorial to be unveiled

The story of the Haymarket Incident is rich in themes that resonate to this day.

It was a time when Americans felt threatened by terrorists. When suspicion fell heavily on certain groups of immigrants. When basic civil rights, such as free speech, were under attack in the name of national security.

On May 3, 1886, two men were killed by police outside a McCormick reaper factory on the Southwest Side, where striking workers were demanding an eight-hour day.

The following night, several thousand protesters, outraged by the killings, turned out for a rally at the Haymarket, west of today's Loop. One flier promoting the rally -- and this really alarmed the police -- called for "revenge" and encouraged workers to fight back with weapons: "To arms, we call you, to arms!"

The rhetoric at the rally was just as fiery, with anarchists calling for not just an eight-hour day, but the complete overthrow of the capitalist system. The rally was otherwise peaceful, however, so much so that Mayor Carter Harrison, who had stopped by to observe, walked home early.

But as the rally was winding down, when only a few hundred protesters were still present, about 180 police officers marched to the makeshift speaker's stand -- the bed of a Crane's Co. wagon. An officer ordered the crowd to disperse and, at that moment, somebody threw a bomb into the cops' ranks.

One officer was killed almost instantly. Gunfire and general panic broke out. At least four workers were killed. Six more officers would die of their injuries in the coming weeks.

Precisely what else happened that night remains a matter of intense disagreement, but what followed is indisputable -- a shameful travesty of justice.

Copyright 2004, Digital Chicago Inc.


The only photo I could find of the event was this from the Chicago Tribune:


(Tribune photo by Chuck Berman)


Not impressive, but then again it doesn't show much.

I do find it ironic that a memorial in part to anarchists (whom allegedly desired the absence of government) was erected in part by state action.

Chicago Tribune: Haymarket riot not forgotten

The monument was built with a $300,000 Build Illinois grant secured by state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago).

[...]

It sits near Randolph and Desplaines Streets, on the very spot where a Methodist lay minister was making a speech atop a wooden wagon to a dwindling crowd of about 200 labor protesters when someone hurled a bomb, said Bill Adelman, professor emeritus of labor history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Chicago artist Mary Brogger depicted the wagon in 3,200 pounds of rust-colored bronze. The wagon, with a faceless human figure apparently orating atop it, is coming apart. More faceless figures are beneath and beside it, holding, pushing or pulling the wagon.

"These figures are engaged with either building or dismantling the wagon," Brogger said.

"So it gives us the duality showing that the truth in any movement is complicated."

Copyright 2004, Chicago Tribune

Assumptions About Leander Davis

News8Austin: Police stop man with cache of weapons

Police claim they found not only a significant amount of methamphetamines, and Extascy, but also a lot of ammunition, including a 9 mm pistol tucked in his waistband, a .45-caliber pistol on his waist and a .38-caliber revolver strapped to his ankle.

Police say they also found a loaded shotgun and a disassembled SKS rifle in his car.

"I would have to conclude in my 27 years as a police officer having never seen anything quite like this on a single individual that we stopped this guy en route of doing something very bad. You don't carry these types of weapons and these numbers of weapons, just to have them on your person," Austin Police Department Cmdr. Harold Piatt said.

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


Never discount the possibility that the man wanted to defend himself and his property from thieves and the police. The latter reason, if true, has apparently turned out to be prescient.

Texas's School Finance System Ruled Unconstitutional

News8Austin: School finance is unconstitutional

A judge ruled the Texas school finance system is unconstitutional.

"[The] school finance system fails to provide an adequate and suitable education as required by Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution," State District Judge John Dietz said.

The decision came after six weeks of testimony in a lawsuit brought by school districts that object to the share-the-wealth finance method. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott maintained the funding system is constitutional.

But Dietz disagreed and sided with the more than 300 districts that sued.

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


Houston Chronicle: Judge overturns 'Robin Hood'
In a landmark decision that could result in sweeping changes to Texas' tax structure, Dietz ruled that the school funding law violates the Texas Constitution's requirements that the state provide sufficient and equitable funding for public schools.

The judge gave lawmakers until October 2005 to come up with a new system. If they fail to come up with a plan, he said he would halt state funding.

The existing school finance law is the result of a previous court battle over funding equity between property-rich and property-poor districts. It relies heavily on local property taxes and has been dubbed "Robin Hood" because it requires 13 percent of the state's 1,037 districts to share a portion of their revenue with less-wealthy districts.

The latest lawsuit was filed by both rich and poor districts, who criticized the state for allowing its share of education funding to drop to a historic low of 38 percent as rising local property values and higher school tax rates made up the difference.

Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau


From KVUE.com, the text of Judge Dietz's ruling and comments:
Ruling from Judge John Dietz:

Rulings

1. The Court declares that for plaintiff districts and others, the costs of meeting the constitutional mandate of adequacy and/or the statutory regime of accreditation, accountability, and assessment exceeds the maximum amount of revenues that are available under the State’s current funding formulae. Therefore, the State’s school finance system fails to provide an adequate suitable education as required by Article VII, section 1 of the Texas Constitution.

2. The Court declares that for some of plaintiff districts and others are forced to tax at the $1.50 statutory cap on the M&O tax rates to provide a general diffusion of knowledge and/or a statutory accreditation, accountability, and assessment regime. These districts have lost all meaningful discretion in setting the tax rate for their districts, thereby violating Article VIII, section 1 (e) of the Texas Constitution.

3. The Court declares that the State’s school finance system is neither financially efficient nor efficient in the sense of providing for the mandated adequate education nor the statutory regime of accreditation, accountability, and assessment.

I will enter an injunction that state funding of public schools cease unless the legislature conforms the school finance system to meet these constitutional standards. The effective date of the injunction will be one year from the date I enter the order, which will be approximately October 1, 2004.

Remarks from Judge John Dietz:

I have kept this yellow sticky on my computer monitor and it is a quote from Edgewood IV, it says: The people of Texas have themselves set the standards for their schools. The court's responsibility is to decide whether that standard has been satisfied, not to judge the wisdom of the policy choices of the Legislature, or to impose a different policy of our choosing. To the best of my ability, I have tried to follow the Supreme Court's admonition of judicial restraint.

Texas has experienced phenomenal growth of population over the past decade and a half. We are now the second most populous state in the country.

This growth has shown itself in our schools. Texas now has 4.4 million public school children and we are adding approximately 80,000 students a year to our system.

There is, in our current system, unquestionably, a significant gap of more than ten points in educational achievement between economically disadvantaged students and non-economically disadvantaged students. This is really remarkable when you consider that over half of our public education students in Texas are economically disadvantage. In other words, half of our students in Texas are significantly behind in achievement compared to the other half.

The state demographer, Steve Murdock, whose 500-page report is in evidence, has projected what happens to our Texas population if this educational achievement gap continues on into the future. If the education gap persists on into the year 2040, Texas average household income falls from about $54,000 presently to $47,000. If the gap persists to 2040, the number of adult Texans without a high school diploma will rise from 18% presently to 30%. Additionally, the population in prison, on welfare, and needing assistance will likewise rise significantly. In other words, Texas in 2040 will have a population that is larger, poorer, less educated, and more needy than today.

Who in Texas would choose this as our future? The answer is no one. Not a single Texan, from Brownsville to Dalhart or El Paso to Beaumont, would pick that as a future for Texas. Well, what can we do to keep this dismal future from becoming a reality?

The key to changing our future is to close the gap in academic achievement between the haves and the have-nots. The state demographer projects that if we could close the gap in educational achievement just half way by 2020, then Texans would be wealthier than today in real dollars spend more money for our economy pay more taxes for our government.

If the education gap were completely closed, then Texas would be wealthier and would spend less in real dollars on prisons and the needy than it does today. The solution seems obvious; Texas needs to close the education gap. But the rub is that it costs money to close the educational achievement gap. It doesn't come free. So, are Texans willing to pay the price, to make the sacrifice to close the education gap, to secure their future and their children's future?

Our willingness to make the sacrifice depends upon our vision and our leadership. Throughout our history as a state, our leaders have understood the importance of education.

Chief among the complaints of Texans, in 1836, declaring their independence from the government of Mexico, was that the government of Mexico with its boundless resources had failed to establish any public system of public education. It's there in the Texas Declaration of Independence. In our very first constitution, our founders gave the legislature a mandate to establish a system of public education, a provision that was repeated by our leaders in the 1876 Constitution.

Are we, at this present day, to turn our back on our 168 years of heritage of Texas public education and say that we aren't prepared for the sacrifice? Are we to say that to close the gap is too hard, too much money, and that we simply give up?

Are we prepared for a future in Texas that is dismally poor, needy, and ignorant? I think not.

Again I repeat it is the people of Texas who must set the standards, make the sacrifice, and give direction to their leaders. And the time to speak is now. These problems only get more difficult the longer we wait.

The lesson is this, education costs money, but ignorance costs more money.

Money invested in education benefits first the children of Texas, or in other words, our future. It also benefits our entire economy because educated people make more money, spend more money, and pay more taxes.

I have abundant optimism that the people of Texas are willing to pay the price and make the sacrifices necessary for the education of our children. As Texans, we can and must do better for our future, our children. It's the right thing to do.


I view this court spectacle as mostly useless. As long as the public education system remains public, the fundamental problems of socialized education will not be addressed and eradicated. The only moral and effective way to go is to treat education just like any other free market service.

September 15, 2004

Sullivan's Hand in Your Pocket

[Updates below.]

My own hope a year ago was that the sheer amount of reconstruction money that would be spent in Iraq would surely win over the population.

-Andrew Sullivan

That's your money he's so glibly tossing around in his mind and asking so eagerly to be spent elsewhere. Think about that the next time he bitches about rights and freedom.

ADDED LATER:

On a related note...

The increasing popularity of laws that allow doctors and pharmacists to opt out of certain practices or even certain kinds of patient is a worrying trend. It was designed in part by the religious right to prevent gay people from having access to good medical care, and also to protect doctors from being forced to perform abortions. Now, its effects are being extended to the birth control pill, which some believe can be a form of abortion. The slow and fitful attempt of the far right to control others' sex lives continues. If you approve, vote Republican.

That's him again.

Mr. Sullivan then apparently wants people within the medical profession to be forced to treat patients they don't want to treat. Why?

We reserve the right to refuse service.


Good enough for retail. Not good enough for health care. Pftt.

Of course, when Mr. Sullivan says something like "The desire to control other people's lives is a universal on both right and left. And universally deplorable." just a little while later, I have to give up and move on. He's clueless.

UPDATED 9/28/2005 9:59am
Andrew Sullivan Needs Slaves

Phat Muffler Stupidity

Everyone is familiar with the "coffee can" phat mufflers attached to small cars. These "fart pipes" don't do much for your power output, but they do make noise. Apparently making your car obnoxious is important to some folks.

I saw on my way to work this morning something that could signal a very evil trend: a Chevy Silverado with one of these damn things hooked to the end of it's tailpipe. No, the owner didn't have a full cat-back exhaust pipe replacement (an actual way to get increased performance)...just the same cheap-looking chromed crap dangling from the end of his truck that you see on so many cars.

Needless to say, the rest of his truck needed far more loving care and attention that his fucking muffler.

The End Is Nigh! Signs Of The Apocalypse Are Mounting!

September 14, 2004

What Happened to the Salad?

Why are the house salads in nice, sit-down restaurants so lame? Over and over again, I get side salads bursting with lettuce and tomatoes and some combination of

  • cheese
  • cabbage/red lettuce
  • croutons
  • lightly shredded carrots

That's 90% of your standard salad at places like Chili's, Texas Land and Cattle, Olive Garden, Applebee's, Bennigan's, and so on. Arrgh, I hate it! To me, a standard salad contains a mixture of the following:
  • lettuce
  • carrots
  • celery
  • cucumbers

That's the base and any basic salad should grow from there. Why does it seem like upscale eateries shy away from celery and cucumbers in their salads? And what happened to whole strips or cuts of carrot? The vast bulk of your average salad today is lettuce, which is OK if you want to avoid filling up before the main course, but offers little nutritional value.

Just wondering out loud.

September 13, 2004

Austin's Tax and Budget Nibbles

[Updates below.]

News8Austin: Austin City Council weighs tax and rate hikes

Austin property owners face a potential increase in their property taxes as well as hikes in utility rates and addtional fees to offset a city budget gap.

The city council will be considering these proposals this week as they spend the next several days finalizing the budget.

The city must close an almost $20 million budget gap.

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


You can view the city's proposed 2004-2005 budget here. Out of the $448.9 million in proposed spending:
  • 64.8% ($290.8 million) is for "public safety"
    Broken down (and I don't know why it doesn't add up):
    • $181.4 million for the Police Department
    • $94.2 million is for the Fire Department
    • $31.5 million is for EMS

  • 13.7% ($61.4 million) is for "transfers and other"
  • 6.2% ($27.8 million) is for "parks and recreation"
  • 6.0% ($26.9 million) is for "public health"
  • 3.8% ($17.0 million) is for "library"
  • 2.7% ($12.1 million) is for watershed protection and development review"
  • 2.0% ($8.9 million) is for "municipal court"
  • 0.8% ($3.5 million) is for "neighborhood planning and zoning"

The total appropriated revenue is estimated to be $449.1 million. Break that down, and you get:
  • $263.3 in taxes
  • $28.5 million in franchise fees
  • $16.9 million in fines, forfeitures, and penalties
  • $14.5 million in licenses, permits, and inspections
  • $22.5 million in general charges for service use
  • $8.2 million in interest
  • $94.9 million in transfer revenue from Austin Energy, etc.

The PDF file I'm getting this data from can be confusing. For example, it lists the above amount for "parks and recreation" at ober $27 million. Yet, if you dig into the "Recreation and Culture" section and read the "Budget Highlights" in it, you see a total budget of $43.4 million. You can figure it out for yourself if you have the patience.

Personally, assuming I would be allowed to just axe the whole damn city of it's funding and had to pick a few things to cut, here's what I'd slash:

  • The aforementioned Parks & Recreation budget;
  • the $17 million spent on public libraries;
  • the $51 million spent on Health and Human Services;
  • the $19 million spent on Neighborhood Housing and Community Development;
  • the $3 million spent on Neighborhood Planning and Zoning.

That comes to more than $90 million in savings that I'd immediately use to cut taxes. If we are to have government imposed upon us, it has no business engaging in those activities, as well as many others I did not mention.

As I did for the City of Austin's 2003-2004 budget priorities, I'll crudely recreate the 2004-2005 priorities here:


City of Austin, Texas
City Council Priorities
2004-05


Youth, Family, and
Neighborhood Vitality


Public Safety


Sustainable Community


Affordability

Again, not surprising "affordability" is last on the list.

UPDATE 9/15/2004 9:52am
News8Austin: Austin City Council approves new fiscal-year budget

The city of Austin has approved a $2 billion budget for the next fiscal year.

They hiked various fees and taxes.

September 11, 2004

The Third Anniversary of 9/11

[Updates below.]

Reposted from last year with some minor edits:

Austin is an hour behind NYC, so when I got in to work (five minutes late, as usual) it was 9am there.

It has always been my "system" to get into work and spend the first thirty or forty-five minutes surfing news sites and generally forcing myself awake. Right around the time the first plane hit, I noticed the Net was getting laggy--way more than usual. I checked the Drudge Report one last time, saw nothing out of the ordinary, and then bent down to check on some recently-delivered division mail. Just another Tuesday morning, one that I wished I was spending asleep in bed rather than in the office.

A few minutes later, I heard someone walking down the hallway from the section next to ours, saying something about New York, the Trade Center, and an explosion. I leaned over to listen, but that's all she was saying. Curious, I refreshed Drudge's site and got...nothing. Server error. Hrm. I checked CNN and it was down as well. Oookay... I browsed to all the major newsmedia's websites only to have the same thing happen. Really annoyed (and beginning to get worried), I checked Slashdot. And then there they were, two articles in a row, both stuffed with hundreds of posts, far above and beyond what the typical article gets.

About this time, CNN had put up a super stripped-down version of it's home page, just a blank white background and text. I began to wonder about my cousin who lived in Manhattan.

As people began to leave their cubes and talk about what was happening, I realized we had a TV with an antenna. I ran over to a supervisor's room, grabbed the set, plugged it in, and tuned the "rabbit ears" in order to pick up a local signal.

My co-workers and I gathered around the TV just after the second plane hit.
The complete confusion of the situation was enormous. No one knew what was happening, not anyone on the scene, not anyone in the air, not anyone around me. An employee kept repeating, "This is war. You know this is. Someone did this to us...this is no accident. It's a war."

Everyone watched the towers go down in shocked horror. People began to hit their cell phones, ringing friends and family. I simply sat there, unable to put myself in the places of the hundreds (thousands?) of people who had just fell 90 stories in a firey concrete maelstrom.

By now, no one was working anywhere in the building I was in. It seemed the whole floor was crowded around the TV, asking the same unanswerable questions.

I suddenly remembered how hungry I was, so I drove hell-bent to a Schlotzsky's which had a cable TV connection, ordered my food, and sat at the table nearest to it, turning up the volume. The lunch crowd grew fast, a tension I've never felt in the air. Not a single person said anything while we ate. I don't think anyone knew what to say. We just listened to the announcers and occasionally turned up the volume more for the expanding crowd.

After lunch, I drove back to work, unable to expell the mental-engraved video of the planes ramming the buildings.

The rest of the day was spent in front of the TV, switching channels in order to find something new to hear about. The Net recovered, albeit slowly, and I would walk between PC and TV in order to reconcile what I had learned.
I remember watching the news at home that night, talking to my family about the safety of my cousin (who was alright), and thinking how much this was going to change the world.

I remember that day pretty fucking well.

I'm still angry.


The picture above makes a promise that I wish would be fulfilled by something other than a government, particularly since our government can't seem to get the job done.

UPDATED 9/11/2006 10:54pm
Rethinking September 11, 2001

September 10, 2004

Stealing from Thieves

Associated Press via ABCNews: You Can Steal From City Hall

You may not be able to fight city hall, but you can steal from it at least for awhile.

John David Woods has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for stealing more than $100,000 from 24 city halls across Texas to pay off Internet gambling debts.

Prosecutors said Woods, 34, had developed a system during the three-year string of thefts: He would rent a car, drive to another town, sneak into the city hall and take all the money he could find.


Not particularly brave or clever, but apparently effective.
"He said he felt like it wasn't stealing from people because it was money possessed by the city," Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Argh.

The City = the individuals that reside within it

The City's Money = the money taken via taxes and given via fees from the individuals that reside within it

I've got to hand it to Mr. Woods, however. He's got a great start as a government official. The hard part is under his belt. Now he just needs to convince people to vote for him.

Bringing Booze Back to Lockhart

News8Austin: Lockhart's no longer dry

Hard to imagine Prohibition still lived over there until last May.

The AISD Bond Elections

[Updates below.]

Man, did the Committee for Austin's Children ever pick the wrong guy to send this mailing to!

Consider this a parent-teacher conference.

Education Austin, the association that represents over 4,000 teachers, counselors, and education professionals, has endorsed the AISD bonds.

These are Austin teachers and educational professionals who work first hand with our children... who go to work day-in and day-out at schools that are in need of repair... and who know from experience what it takes to improve and protect their educational environment.

When Education Austin endorsed all six of the AISD Bonds, they endorsed a year-long review conducted by a broad base of citizens that uncovered the need for:

  • A security upgrade for every school
  • Relief for overcrowded schools that are operating near or above 125% of capacity
  • Basic repairs to protect taxpayer investments - including new roofs, new doors, window replacements and electrical upgrades
  • A healthier and more environmental friendly learning atmosphere - with low-emission buses, reflecting roofs, and new high-efficiency heating and air conditioning units

The teachers and education professionals who make up Education Austin are also homeowners - and they appreciate that by prioritizing projects based on highest need, the AISD Bonds are respecting taxpayers too.

ALSO ENDORSED BY:
Kirk Watson
Gus Garcia
Ann Richards
Texas Environmental Democrats
Austin American-Statesman
Austin Council of PTAs


Along the right hand side of this flyer is the following info on the bonds:
Proposition 1:
Addresses overcrowding in schools by providing funds to build new schools, buy land for new schools, and expand existing facilities. [$183,698,064]

Proposition 2:
Protects our existing investment in buildings by installing new roofs, new HVAC systems and funding new environmental and energy conservation measures that will save the district badly needed operating funds. [$201,103,971]

Proposition 3:
Provides for the health and safety of all our children and funds new low emission buses. [$53,899,309]

Proposition 4:
Protects our investment in existing athletic facilities, provides safer athletic facilities for all children, equal dressing rooms for boys and girls and improvements to facilities that share costs between the city and school district. [$12,830,510]

Proposition 5:
Provides for a new Middle School in Southwest Austin where existing facilities are near or above 125% of capacity. The site for this school is not over the Edwards recharge zone, and all plans comply with Austin's stringent SOS ordinance. This proposition allows the district to leverage private funds to provide a new Performing Arts Center for use by all students in the district. If, and only if, citizens raise private funds to cover half the cost of the new Center, the bond money will be used to provide the other half of the cost. [$44,599,762]

Proposition 6:
Creates funds for classroom teacher pay-raises by refinancing short-term district debt through longer-term bonds just as homeowners can refinance high interest debt through their mortgage. [$23,495,000]

Continuing Accountability
If voters approve the bond package, a citizen oversight committee will monitor the progress of all projects. Furthermore, bond money can't be spent on projects other than those approved by the voters without a public process including public hearings.

Cost of the Bonds
If voters approve the bond package, a homeowner with a median valued home will pay an additional $6 a month in school property taxes. Even with this small increase, AISD will have the lowest tax rate of any school district in this area.

Under state law, homeowners over 65 years of age are exempt from any tax increase due to the bonds.


Well, there you go. The bond election is tomorrow, September 11th. Will it pass? I hope not, but it probably will. People are absolute suckers for government when it involves their kids.

I think education should be completely privatized and left to individuals, so there isn't anything in this bond package I like. Every one of the school financing problems public schools face are a direct result of the nature of the public school system. Since it can't (or won't, or rarely) directly charge the people using its services, it has to rely on taxes and fund raising such as bonds and bake sales. I say taxes are theft and bonds are no different. Bake sales, on the other hand, I like. Students often have great cooks as mothers, but more importantly, the bake sale is fundamentally voluntary and respects individuals even though the money raised goes towards a collectivist enterprise.

Since it can't (or won't, or rarely) turn away children in its district, it is forced to take on more capacity than can be planned for.

Education Code, CHAPTER 25. ADMISSION, TRANSFER, AND ATTENDANCE, SUBCHAPTER A. ADMISSION AND ENROLLMENT

25.001. ADMISSION. (a) A person who is at least five years of age and under 21 years of age on the first day of September of any school year is entitled to the benefits of the available school fund for that year. Any other person enrolled in a prekindergarten class under Section 29.153 is entitled to the benefits of the available school fund.
(b) The board of trustees of a school district or its designee shall admit into the public schools of the district free of tuition a person who is over five and younger than 21 years of age on the first day of September of the school year in which admission is sought if:
  • (1) the person and either parent of the person reside in the school district;
  • (2) the person does not reside in the school district but a parent of the person resides in the school district and that parent is a joint managing conservator or the sole managing conservator or possessory conservator of the person;
  • (3) the person and the person's guardian or other person having lawful control of the person under a court order reside within the school district;
  • (4) the person has established a separate residence under Subsection (d);
  • (5) the person is homeless, as defined by 42 U.S.C. Section 11302, regardless of the residence of the person, of either parent of the person, or of the person's guardian or other person having lawful control of the person;
  • (6) the person is a foreign exchange student placed with a host family that resides in the school district by a nationally recognized foreign exchange program, unless the school district has applied for and been granted a waiver by the commissioner under Subsection (e);
  • (7) the person resides at a residential facility located in the district; or
  • (8) the person resides in the school district and is 18 years of age or older or the person's disabilities of minority have been removed.

There are more sections detailing the situations where some kids can be turned away or charged for tuition, but they are unimportant for my purposes.

Truancy laws (such as found in 25.085, 25.086, and 25.094) require children to be in school, making this problem even worse. It can't be ignored that the school system now functions as both a place of learning and a place of childcare for working parents.

Many would argue that I may have a point, but we can't abandon our children now by not funding schools. First of all, I don't have any kids in Austin Independent School District. In don't have any kids at all. This is certainly the case for hundreds of other Austin residents who are forced to pay for the educations of others. Who knows if I'll have children, when that might happen, and where I decide to raise them? I don't plan on living in Austin my whole life, so any of this "investment" (honest investments aren't made under the threat of being locked up or fined) isn't likely to benefit myself or my family.

But what about an educated population? Isn't that something worth fighting for? Sure, but not when you are literally fighting against me and others who want to deal with education as an individual matter. This argument assumes a fully private system of learning would leave too great a portion of people without a formal education. Not so, I counter. The desires of businessmen to earn money and the desires of parents would drive the two together and create various levels of education services. Some entrepreneurs might want to focus on low-cost solutions for the poor that are partially supported by charity. Some might want to focus on high-quality solutions for the rich. Some could take the harder route and offer a high-quality education at a low price...which is exactly what most people want in everything they buy. Market forces would drive towards the best outcome for most people. Certainly there will be those who can't afford it, just like there are people who cannot afford cars or their own home.

But that doesn't mean they have the right to get a third party (the government) to stick a gun in my face and demand I pay up in order to cover their education bill. That's robbery by proxy. No less disgusting are the arguments that this is only a tiny bit of extra taxation from each of us and it shouldn't matter; I'm being too greedy and too heartless. Well, it isn't greed to want to hold on to what I've earned. And it isn't heartless at all to want to see the end of something that has contributed to the overall dumbing-down of this country over the last century. Consult the studies: public education sucks at educating the public at worst and does a lame job at best. Those who squeak through do so because they are determined and have greater ability.

Horribly, Texas seeks to provide an "adequate" education to all. Fuck that, I don't want people (certainly not my future children) to have "adequate" educations, I want them to be intelligent critical thinkers. You can't accomplish that unless you spend such vast amounts of money as to drive everyone outside the state due to the tax burden. Even then, the relationship between quality education and money spent in a public school system to achieve it isn't as simple as it is often assumed to be.

So, yeah. The Committee for Austin's Children is barking up the wrong tree here. I won't participate in the further looting of other people's pockets.

UPDATE 9/13/2004 3:10pm
Not unexpectedly, all six bonds passed:

Austin voters passed a $519.5 million school bond package for AISD on Saturday – the district’s largest ever.

[...]

Proposition 1 will cost $183.6 million. It will provide relief for overcrowded schools by building six elementary schools and one middle school. It also buys land for two future middle schools in South Austin. It passed 72 percent to 28 percent.

At $201.1 million, Proposition 2 is the most expensive. It calls for renovations to campuses and district facilities. $13.5 million of that is earmarked to purchase new technology. It passed 74 percent to 26 percent.

Proposition 3 is worth $53.9 million and will improve safety and environmental standards like security systems and low-emission buses. It passed 73 percent to 27 percent.

Proposition 4 is $12.8 million for athletic and physical education facilities and programs. It passed 68 percent to 32 percent.

Proposition 5 calls for $44.6 million to partially fund a performing arts center – it purchases the site. It also builds a new middle school for the rapidly growing Southwest Austin. It passed 61 percent to 39 percent.

Proposition 6 is worth $23.5 to refinance contract obligations and clear up money for teacher pay raises. It passed 70 percent to 30 percent.

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


UPDATE 9/24/2004 5:26pm
The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information

September 09, 2004

Tame This

New Statesman: How to tame capitalism

Joseph Schumpeter called it "creative destruction". Karl Marx was referring to something similar with his oft-quoted phrase "all that is solid melts into air". Observers of capitalism have long marvelled at both the energy and the turbulence that markets and profit-seekers unleash in society. But can we have one without the other?

Where Schumpeter and Marx thought that innovation and social turbulence were two sides of the same coin, new Labour believes that the disruptive effects of free enterprise can be subtly designed out. The Third Way is all about channelling the powers of the market towards social harmony: the yin without the yang, the creative without the destruction.


Capitalism's actors seek to further improve their lives through the pursuit of self-interest. Thus, those actors seek to change their lives and their surroundings. Furthermore, capitalism is fundamentally dynamic because life is fundamentally unpredictable. Attempting to legislate around this is pointless.
Next year we will see one of the definitive policy outcomes of this philosophy: the community interest company (CIC). The government describes the CIC as "an entirely new form [of company] designed to meet the needs of people seeking to pursue enterprise in the public interest, dedicating their profits to the public good". The legislation should be passed early next year, and the first CICs will be established next summer.

The invention of CICs is designed to address the legal problems that confront many social enterprises. If they are established as charities, social enterprises are financially constrained, with limited opportunities for growth, entrepreneurship or access to capital. If incorporated as private companies, they risk losing public trust - not because a private enterprise is intrinsically untrustworthy, but because outsiders do not view profit-seeking companies as fundamentally altruistic. At present, many social enterprises must choose between a charitable public image and an entrepreneurial organisational status. They want both.


This is silly. Of course profit-seeking companies aren't fundamentally altruistic. Find me a human who is, and you'll find me someone willing to give up everything - and I mean everything - he or she owns to benefit other people. Fundamental altruism is the negation of the self.

Greatly due to the ghastly ignorance of the public in matters economic, they view private business with jaded eyes. Why waste time creating an entity that gets instant respect because it can be labeled with happy-fun collectivist labels?

The CIC legislation will resolve the problem in two ways. First, in order to take advantage of the risk-taking features of a company, CICs will be able to expand through selling shares, although dividend payments will be capped at a certain rate. At the same time, an "asset lock" will be enforced on the CIC, so that donors and investors can rest assured that their money will be legally tied to the enterprise's original social goals.

*laugh*

Yep, the government will protect ya!

Second, all CICs will be subject to a community interest test, carried out by an appointed regulator. This touches on something fundamental to the identity of any enterprise: the question of whose interests managers serve. Where conventional private companies expect managers to act in the interests of shareholders wherever possible (and they develop incentives such as stock options to support this), a CIC should be run in the interests of "the community". To ensure that this is the case, the regulator will have to be convinced of the community interest at the outset. Thereafter, managers will have to produce an annual "community interest report" outlining how the CIC is acting in accordance with its status.

This seems hopelessly doomed. It attempts to harness the financial power of private business by gutting the very reason that power exists - the pursuit of selfish interests by all actors in the business.
The government is keen to assure everybody that the regulator will do very little actual regulating. As the bill puts it, he or she will intervene "only to the extent necessary to maintain confidence in CICs" - the equivalent of the "greenwashing" that is carried out by corporate social responsibility consultants in the private sector. The community interest test will seek only to ensure that a "reasonable person" would consider the CIC to have benefits to the community.

And a fist-sized snowball, once pushed down a snowy mountain, won't eventually become a monstrous consumer of all in its path. Of course they'll only have "reasonable people" running the show: why pick any other kinds? People just don't learn.
Will any of this convince the public? Anyone who was sceptical about the existence of a "third way" between socialism and neoliberalism may find it even harder to accept an organisation that is both "for profit" and "not for profit".

That's because it doesn't make sense!

Near the end, William Davies expresses concern and doubt that the law will actually have much effect because "community interest" isn't defined and that the law "underestimates how intrinsically disruptive successful entrepreneurship is." I say bring on the disruption caused by new ideas, new products, new people, new businesses, new markets, and new trends. Our lives as healthy and intelligent people depend on that disruption, but more importantly, the freedom that allows that disruption to occur.

6th Circuit Court Tries to Kill Music Sampling

[Updates below.]

MTV: Court Rules That All Musical Samples Must Be Paid For

The ruling says artists must pay for not only large samples of another artist's work, but also snippets - smaller notes, chords and beats that are not the artist's original composition - which had previously been legal, according to The Associated Press.

Three judges sitting on the panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said the same federal laws currently in place to halt music piracy will also apply to digital sampling, and explained, "If you cannot pirate the whole sound recording, can you 'lift' or 'sample' something less than the whole? Our answer to that question is in the negative."

This, of course, means horrifying things for thousands of musicians everywhere.
The case at the crux of this new ruling focuses on the 1990 N.W.A song "100 Miles and Runnin'." The track samples a three-note guitar riff from a 1975 Funkadelic track, "Get Off Your Ass and Jam." The sample, in which the pitch has been lowered, is only two seconds long but is looped to extend to 16 beats and appears five times throughout the track.

[...]

In 2002, a lower court said that although the Clinton riff was in fact entitled to copyright protection, the specific sample "did not rise to the level of legally cognizable appropriation," according to the AP. The appeals court opposed that decision, explaining that an artist who acknowledges that they made use of another artist's work may be liable, and sent the case back to the lower court.


The best part?
"Get a license or do not sample," the court said Tuesday. "We do not see this as stifling creativity in any significant way."

Someone should instruct the Court that they are fucking idiots.

The very act of forcing people to apply for a license stifles creativity primarily because it prevents an uncountable number of musicians from even bothering to make music. The very act of having to go through an approval process stifles creativity because a self-evidently important part of the music cannot be included unless a third party agrees to it.

How stupid do these judges think we are?

Unless this decision is overturned, I forsee a very significant shakeup in the music industry, particularly in electronic and hip-hop acts.

UPDATE 9/17/2004 4:51pm
Commenter "Bry" below offers a useful link: the geographic jurisdiction of the 6th Circuit Court: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Good and Bad Gun News

First, the bad.

Associated Press via ABCNews: Rifle Makers Settle in D.C. Sniper Case

The manufacturer and dealer of the rifle used in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper shootings agreed Wednesday to pay $2.5 million in a settlement with victims and victims' families.

The settlement with Bushmaster marks the first time a gun manufacturer has agreed to pay damages to settle claims of negligent distribution of weapons, said Jon Lowy, a lawyer with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. He helped argue the case. He said the settlement with Bull's Eye Shooter Supply is the largest against a gun dealer.

"These settlements send a loud and clear message that the gun industry cannot turn a blind eye to how criminals get their guns," Lowy said.

Bushmaster Firearms of Windham, Maine, agreed to pay $550,000 to eight plaintiffs. Bull's Eye Shooter Supply of Tacoma, where the snipers' Bushmaster rifle came from, agreed to pay $2 million.

Kelly Corr, the attorney representing Bushmaster, said the company made "no admission of liability whatsoever."

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Of course not, because neither the gun manufacturer nor the gun dealer are responsible for who does what with the items they sell! Only individuals act and they are responsible for their actions. I'd have thrown the entire case out. The article states that the dealer demonstrated negligent behavior in not keeping track of stolen or lost inventory. So what? That still doesn't make them responsible. It makes them dumb, dangerous, and poor businessmen.

The good news is actually mixed, but it's still better than hearing something other than GOP: Congress Won't Vote on Weapons Ban. From the Associated Press via Yahoo! News (link will rot):

Congress will not vote on an assault weapons ban due to expire Monday, Republican leaders said Wednesday, rejecting a last-ditch effort by supporters to renew it.

That's the good part of the mixed news. The bad part, however, is
"I think the will of the American people is consistent with letting it expire, so it will expire," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told reporters.

[...]

Some Democrats and several police leaders said President Bush should try to persuade Congress to renew the ban. Bush has said he would sign such a bill if Congress passed it.

"If the president asked me, it'd still be no ... because we don't have the votes to pass an assault weapons ban and it will expire Monday and that's that," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, told reporters later.

DeLay said the ban was "a feel-good piece of legislation" that does nothing to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.

However, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said he would consider allowing the House to vote on legislation only if the Senate acted first.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


You get that?

  • Senator Frist thinks your right to property and self-defense should be determined by "the will of the American people."
  • President Bush approves of a law banning guns almost entirely on the basis of what they look like.
  • Representative DeLay thinks the government just might have reason to abrogate private property rights in the name of keeping crime low.
  • Representative Hastert's comments remain in the procedural-political realm.
And conservatives want these people in power to protect the 2nd Amendment? The limited government movement is truly dead in the mainstream GOP, even on an issue as central to the identity of the party as gun rights.

September 08, 2004

Eminent Domain and Capitalism

di-ve.com: Golf course a sign of extreme capitalism - Front Against the Golf Course

"If taking the agricultural land away from the farmers and giving it to just one company is not a sign of extreme capitalism, what is extreme capitalism?" the secretary of the Progressive Farmers' Union Joseph Farrugia asked.

Mr. Farrugia is incorrect. Capitalism - let alone "extreme capitalism" - has nothing to do with this. It has everything to do with respecting private ownership and protecting that property. He's greatly mistaken if he thinks a company pushing a government entity to seize someone else's land is a hallmark of capitalism. It's the opposite: it is socialism and collectivism that abhor many if not all forms of personal ownership.

If he existed in a framework of an extremely capitalist society, he wouldn't be able to petition the various government bodies he's attempting because they wouldn't be there in the first place. This is because, as I see it, extreme capitalism is merely another term for anarcho-capitalism: the absence of the state and all it's confiscatory functions.

Assuming some state power really is forcing those farmers to give up their land for a golf course company, what's happening deserves the condemnation of all true capitalists and free-marketers. It does not matter if it's a Wal-Mart or a average families getting abused by a system supposedly set up to protect them, property seizure is wrong.

Austin Police Cracking Down on Traffic Violations

[Updates below.]

APD TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT LOCATIONS

Traffic safety is a major focus of the Austin Police Department and a substantial amount of resources is committed to traffic safety improvements and traffic enforcement. Traffic enforcement is a primary function of APD motor units and one of the main functions of patrol officers. In addition, APD schedules officers each week on overtime, funded by grants, to enforce traffic laws.

I've lived in Austin for a total of about five years. Twice, my car has been broken into and the stereos stolen. Both times I called APD and explained what happened and both times I got a case number and a promise that an officer would stop by to take a statement, collect evidence, and do whatever it is that cops do for small crimes. Both times there was zero follow-up and I was never contacted again. While my experience may not extrapolate in all other cases around the city, it told me that the Austin Police Department doesn't place much emphasis on solving personal property crimes.

Now I know why. They're being quite up front about it.

The goal of traffic enforcement is to increase citizen's voluntary compliance with traffic laws. In furtherance of this goal, APD will now publish a weekly list of traffic enforcement locations. Although this list will not be comprehensive or specific as to exact location and time, it is being distributed to increase motorist's awareness of our enforcement activities. It is believed this increased awareness will lead to safer roadways through increased compliance with traffic laws.

Translation: The goal of this increased police presence is to bully citizens into obedience with our rules. We will make it known that we intend on being particularly intimidating in a few select places around town in order to coerce you into behaving better. We believe that by doing this - cowing you into doing what we want - is in your best interests because safety is a one-size-fits-all collectivist glove with which we want to constrain you.

Don't get me wrong. I want to drive on roads that have reasonable rules the drivers are asked to follow. However, I don't want the government owning those roads and setting the rules for them. Not when it has the power to impose fines and mandatory duties for the simple act of doing 85 in a 60 zone. Not when the state can screw you by taking away your license to drive and toss your ass in jail if you piss it off.

Here is the list for this week. I'll post it as a warning when it comes out in the future.

AVOID THESE PLACES:

  1. Monday, September 6th
    • Morning -- FM 2222
    • Morning -- 1500 block of Rio Grande Street
    • Morning -- 2600 to 3200 blocks of Steck Avenue
    • Morning -- West Slaughter Lane

  2. Tuesday, September 7th
    • Morning -- 2700 block of Metcalf Road
    • Morning -- North Mopac from Town Lake to Far West Boulevard
    • Morning -- 800 to 1000 blocks of West Cesar Chavez Street
    • Morning -- 1100 block of Kramer Lane

  3. Wednesday, September 8th
    • Morning -- 1900 block of Willow Creek Drive
    • Morning -- FM 2222
    • Morning -- 2400 to 2500 blocks of Red River Street
    • Morning -- 1700 block of Rutland Drive

  4. Thursday, September 9th
    • Morning -- 700 to 900 blocks of Montopolis Drive
    • Morning -- North Mopac from Town Lake to Far West Boulevard
    • Morning -- 1800 block of West 5th Street
    • Morning -- 1200 block of Payton Gin Road

  5. Friday, September 10th
    • Morning -- 900 block of East Oltorf Street
    • Morning -- North Loop 360 from Town Lake to Spicewood Springs
    • Morning -- 1700 block of West Cesar Chavez Street
    • Morning -- Braker Lane from Metric Boulevard to North Lamar Boulevard

UPDATE 10/11/2004 4:50pm
October 11-October 15

Austin Traffic Sucks? Really???

[Updates below.]

News8Austin: 2 days wasted in traffic

Austin drivers hit the worst traffic in the nation, among medium sized cities.

A new report from the Texas Transportation Institute shows
Americans waste 3.5 billion hours a year waiting in traffic.

The report covers 20 years from 1982 to 2002.

The average urban traveler was stuck in road traffic 46 hours a year in 2002, a 187 percent increase over two decades.

[...]

Rush hour delays cost Austin drivers 49 hours in commute time in 2002; that was up from 11 hours in 1982. Austin was followed by Charlotte, N.C./S.C. at 45 hours; Nashville, Tenn. at 41 hours; Louisville, Ky. at 38.

The report makes several suggestions to ease congestion: cities should plan more road and public transportation projects, make better use of current facilities and find ways to use land that reduce the effects of growth.

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


What won't be mentioned is the reason why Austin traffic is so terrible: the costs associated with driving on these public roads are so far removed from the act of driving that we don't consider them when we travel. It's an example of a good or service that is deeply suffering from higher demand than it can provide, and that demand is driven greatly by the artificially low cost to use that service. You can't build enough roads to meet the demand of a customer base that expects those roads to be "free" to use. Meteor Blades ran into this a while back, but don't expect anyone to the left of F.A. Hayek to really understand why.

The only way to make a transportation system traffic-sane is to charge various fees for using the system and charge them directly up front so they aren't hidden within your tax bill. That means toll roads or yearly access passes with the money going towards companies that completely own and operate those roads with as much independence as any other business. The economics vary according to each owner's desires, but the basic idea is that you charge higher prices during peak hours. That way, only the people who really need to be on the roads will use them and everyone else will find alternatives. This reduces traffic load and pays for itself, because you can charge lower prices during non-peak hours. It is a perfect example of voluntary and rational resource allocation amongst a population.

But don't expect anyone to touch it with a ten-foot pole. Especially not in this city.

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

Stupid Drug Cops

Associated Press via ABCNews: Marijuana Plants Found Outside Courthouse

Sheriff's officers had marijuana growing right under their noses or at least right outside their headquarters before discovering and removing the illegal weed.

Chief Deputy John Gossage wasn't sure of the plants' identity, but a drug officer confirmed the presence of marijuana.

"Obviously, as a prank, somebody planted this or dropped some seeds into the plants," Gossage said.

The drug officer pulled the six small plants, which were to be destroyed.

"It's a good thing it was brought to our attention because someone may have realized what it was and could've taken it and used it," Gossage said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Yeah, because shit, we can't have people using independent judgment regarding their own health and well being these days, can't we? No, we need to substitute the vast and mighty wisdom of the state instead! LORDY, someone just might smoke it and mellow out for an hour or so and then go back to what they were doing previously. Bastard might even enjoy himself for a while. Can't have that. I mean, it's bad for us 'cuz it's illegal and it's illegal 'cuz it's bad for us and so things that are bad for us should be illegal! Things have always been this way so don't question our actions. Anyone who says otherwise is a filthy hippy radical loser!

I fucken hate drug laws.

September 07, 2004

Private Defense

Terry Frye protects his home against possible looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley in Port Charlotte, Florida early August 14, 2004. Frye scrawled a note on the wall behind him to protect his home and scare off looters. Rescuers raced into southwest Florida Saturday to search for victims and help survivors of Hurricane Charley, a devastating storm that leveled buildings and left up to one million without power. As a weakened but still powerful Charley headed toward the South Carolina coast, search teams with heavy equipment set out for Fort Myers, Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, the Gulf Coast towns hit hardest when the storm made an unexpected turn south and struck with 145 mph (233 kph) winds. REUTERS/Marc Serota

Don't take any shit, Mr. Frye.

September 03, 2004

Understatement of the Year

[Updates below.]

This administration is not philosophically coherent.

-Andrew Sullivan

No shit. I missed the first two-thirds of the speech, but one only needs to look at the transcript to see just how divorced from reality this president and his team are.

He mentions "free" or "freedom" twenty-two times. He mentions "liberty" or "liberation" thirteen times. Compare this series of quotes:

I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives.

[...]

The story of America is the story of expanding liberty: an ever widening circle, constantly growing to reach further and include more. Our nation's founding commitment is still our deepest commitment: In our world, and here at home, we will extend the frontiers of freedom.

[...]

Many of our most fundamental systems the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow. We will transform these systems so that all citizens are equipped, prepared and thus truly free to make your own choices and pursue your own dreams.

[...]

To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending, reducing regulation and making tax relief permanent.

[...]

Another drag on our economy is the current tax code, which is a complicated mess filled with special interest loopholes, saddling our people with more than six billion hours of paperwork and headache every year. The American people deserve and our economic future demands a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system. In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code.

[...]

In all these proposals, we seek to provide not just a government program, but a path a path to greater opportunity, more freedom and more control over your own life.

[...]

I believe in the transformational power of liberty: The wisest use of American strength is to advance freedom.

[...]

Young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming. Young men will hear the message that national progress and dignity are found in liberty, not tyranny and terror. Reformers, and political prisoners, and exiles will hear the message that their dream of freedom cannot be denied forever. And as freedom advances heart by heart, and nation by nation America will be more secure and the world more peaceful.

[...]

Yet Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of liberty to transform lives and nations. That power brought settlers on perilous journeys, inspired colonies to rebellion, ended the sin of slavery, and set our Nation against the tyrannies of the 20th century.

[...]

I believe that America is called to lead the cause of freedom in a new century. I believe that millions in the Middle East plead in silence for their liberty. I believe that given the chance, they will embrace the most honorable form of government ever devised by man. I believe all these things because freedom is not America's gift to the world, it is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world.

[...]

This young century will be liberty's century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world. By encouraging liberty at home, we will build a more hopeful America. Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom. This is the everlasting dream of America and tonight, in this place, that dream is renewed. Now we go forward grateful for our freedom, faithful to our cause, and confident in the future of the greatest nation on earth.


I have little experience with big-time political speeches (and I didn't watch any of the democratic convention), but it is dead obvious President Bush is going to use the theme of freedom and liberty as one of his central planks.

But how does that stack up to what he wants to do? More excerpts:

I believe every child can learn and every school must teach so we passed the most important federal education reform in history. Because we acted, children are making sustained progress in reading and math, America's schools are getting better, and nothing will hold us back.

[...]

In our high schools, we will fund early intervention programs to help students at risk. We will place a new focus on math and science. As we make progress, we will require a rigorous exam before graduation. By raising performance in our high schools, and expanding Pell grants for low and middle income families, we will help more Americans start their career with a college diploma.


Translation: I got the federal government more involved in our education and I intend on keeping it that way.
I believe we have a moral responsibility to honor America's seniors so I brought Republicans and Democrats together to strengthen Medicare. Now seniors are getting immediate help buying medicine. Soon every senior will be able to get prescription drug coverage and nothing will hold us back.

Translation: I pushed for the largest entitlement spending increase in recent memory and intend on following through with it. I also believe we are bound by morality to sacrifice our values for others.
Many of our most fundamental systems the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow. We will transform these systems so that all citizens are equipped, prepared and thus truly free to make your own choices and pursue your own dreams.

Translation: I won't actually eliminate the bureaucracies that control your lives and your wealth.
To create jobs, we will make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Translation: By "making" us less dependent, I actually mean I'll use the power of government to force changes in the way people act.
And we must protect small business owners and workers from the explosion of frivolous lawsuits that threaten jobs across America.

[...]

To stand with workers in poor communities and those that have lost manufacturing, textile and other jobs we will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, we'll provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America.

[...]

To make health care more affordable and accessible, we must pass medical liability reform now. And in all we do to improve health care in America, we will make sure that health decisions are made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.


Translation: I'm not fundamentally against domestic protectionism and local favoritism. I can also contradict myself in one sentence because I won't eliminate Medicare and Medicaid as well as the thousands of regulations imposed by Health and Human Services.
The American people deserve and our economic future demands a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system. In a new term, I will lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code.

Translation: I will continue supporting the institutionalized theft known as taxation.
Another priority in a new term will be to help workers take advantage of the expanding economy to find better, higher-paying jobs. In this time of change, many workers want to go back to school to learn different or higher-level skills. So we will double the number of people served by our principal job training program and increase funding for community colleges.

[...]

And we will provide low-income Americans with better access to health care: In a new term, I will ensure every poor county in America has a community or rural health center.

[...]

In a new term, we will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs.


Translation: I will continue redistributing wealth around the nation as the government sees fit.
We will offer a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase them.

Translation: I was just bullshitting about that "simplifying the tax code" thing.
In a new term, we will change outdated labor laws to offer comp time and flex time.

Translation: Government is here to grant you permission to run your business on the terms we allow, rather than letting you and the market decide.
Tonight we set a new goal: seven million more affordable homes in the next 10 years so more American families will be able to open the door and say "Welcome to my home."

Translation: I will use the force and power of the government to secure housing for the needy.
In an ownership society, more people will own their health plans and have the confidence of owning a piece of their retirement. We will always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers. With the huge Baby Boom generation approaching retirement, many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there when they need it. We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away.

Translation: You only get "a piece" of the wealth that you've earned. We will continue to steal from workers in order to provide for the needy in their old age. I won't abolish a thorough fraud forced upon the American people.
In all these proposals, we seek to provide not just a government program, but a path a path to greater opportunity, more freedom and more control over your own life.

Translation: And I will do it all while openly lying to you in your fucking faces.

Not that John Kerry is any better. He's worse.

UPDATED 9/28/2005 10:02am
Speaking of incoherency, Andrew Sullivan continues to call for slaves.

Fetus Blocks Sewer?

News8Austin: Blocked sewer shuts down campus streets

The area of 36th and San Pedro streets was invaded by city crews and emergency workers early Thursday afternoon.

Initially police responded to the call of a child stuck in a sewer line near The University of Texas campus. As crews continued to work the situation was changed to "an object stuck in the line."

By 4 p.m. crews learned that the item stuck in the sewer was approximately a 12-week old previable fetus. The investigators were unable to recover the fetus. They were hoping to examine it for forensic evidence.

But police do not suspect any foul play. They say it's common for a miscarried fetus to be lost in sewer lines because unknowing mothers can "pass" the fetus without knowing it.

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


I'm speechless.

Rich Lowry's Slip 'o the Truth

Like any good politician, [President George W. Bush] feeds off people.

-Rich Lowry, editor of National Review

He said that last night around 5:45pm central standard time while talking to C-SPAN on the Republican National Convention floor.

The context of the quote was a discussion of how President Bush would do during his acceptance speech and Mr. Lowry obviously meant the way a good speaker takes the energy from his or her audience and uses it to enhance the speech.

Of course, I hear a totally different thing and think to myself Why, yes, Mr. Lowry, that is exactly the standard by which all good politicans are judged.

As for Bush's speech itself, I caught the last third of it. The VCR recorded the rest and I'll watch it sometime later.

September 02, 2004

Government is not Your Friend

"The mind reels at such a blatant abuse of power (and at the sheer chutzpah of using national security as an excuse to censor a quotation about using national security as an excuse to stifle dissent)."

Via the Lew Rockwell blog.

Ted Evans, Not an Idiot

Sydney Morning Herald: More corporate collapses likely: Evans

Large corporations would continue to collapse due to their willful disregard for business values, Westpac director Ted Evans has warned.

In a speech Mr Evans gave to the Griffith University Business School, he warned that major collapses like Enron and HIH are bound to keep happening in the corporate world.

[...]

Mr Evans said companies were going under not because of simple incompetence but because they chose to ignore the ethical rules that bind a healthy, capitalist system.

As a result, this was steadily eroding the foundations of modern capitalism.

"... The policy response (to corporate collapse) in so many countries, most notably the United States, has been to enact highly prescriptive corporations law that of itself will greatly weaken the competitive forces that are critical to the efficient operation of a modern economy," he said.

"I believe that the solution to this type of problem can only lie in a return to corporate behaviour that has a basis in ethical values; behaviour that renders prescriptive law redundant."

2004 Australian Associated Press Pty Limited


I wasn't able to find the actual text of his remarks so I can't examine what he said in detail. But if he really means that last part about not legislating business morality, then he's got a lot more going for him than most business commentators.

No Thanks

[Updates below.]

I was just sent this in an e-mail from Peru Immersion Experience 2005:

Immerse yourself in a culture of poverty, faith, and community in Canto Grande, Peru.

I'll pass. I prefer immersion in cultures that are marked by
  1. wealth
  2. reason
  3. and individuality

However, the location looks interesting, way up in the mountains but very close to the Pacific Ocean. There's certainly a history of armed struggle to examine as well as some prison problems. We know a bit about the teeth of their young. And it seems the government had an intelligence agency problem in the 1990's.

But experiencing another nation primarily for its poverty, faith, and community isn't something I want to do.

UPDATED 7/23/2008 10:37am
More spammy-ness here.

September 01, 2004

Despicable Asshole

In the latest Get Your War On, read the third panel from the top, middle section:

...You killed a bunch of Vietcong? Good for you. You sat on your ass and got drunk in Texas? Great. I really couldn't give a fuck. You had "other priorities?" Fine. Get me some health insurance you dumb motherfuckers.

The author's emphasis.

Translation: I'm too fucking lazy, ignorant, tired, bored, inept, or stupid to acquire my own health insurance, so I want the government to steal from others and give it to me instead. Gimme gimme gimme!

For the Privatization of Education

[Updates below.]

My previous post, The Pros and Cons of Education Privatization, contained the 800-plus word rough draft of a 500-word essay due today in my Introduction to Critical Inquiry class at St. Edward's. I've since refined it and hacked it down to 599 words. Thanks to everyone who suggested changes and revisions.

The purpose of this essay was to present my side of a belief and then an opposing side. It was not intended to be a purely persuasive paper. Since I was forbidden to conduct academic citation and research my belief and since the word limit was so tight, I was unable to seriously address the objections I discussed in the latter half of the essay. Though I'd normally not let them go with such a quick dismissal, I had to in order to get a good grade.

Everything for college, I suppose.

Charles Hueter
Rene Eakins
A-NCCI 3330: Belief Paper Essay
August 31, 2004

FOR THE PRIVATIZATION OF EDUCATION

Until recently, I uncritically borrowed the common opinion that governments should shoulder at least some of our educational burden. However, upon deeper reflection, I now believe only individuals are responsible for their education and the public school system should be replaced entirely with a privatized and fully independent education system. Parents and students should pay their way through school either by spending their own money or charitable donations given to them.

Why do I believe this? A group is a social abstraction created for purposes of mental organization. However, only individuals can act. Responsibility is a function of causation and therefore only individuals can be responsible for actions. Asserting any collective is responsible for our education perverts the doctrine of responsibility.

An education is the result of a service. This service comes in the forms of home schooling or an organized effort on behalf of hundreds of strangers in exchange for compensation. As such, it's no different than delivering pizza, selling cars, or offering Internet access. The last century has shown us free markets outperform restricted or socialized markets in most - if not all - respects. Glancing at the news reveals many instances of parents vehemently disagreeing with the form and substance of their children's public education - often for very good reason. You don't have a right to any service or its results and parents should have the freedom to choose where and how their children are educated.

There is a moral case against state-funded education. Suppose I don't want to pay for Billy's teaching. I calculate the portion of my taxes that go towards it and withhold that wealth. By refusing to pay, I'd be charged with something I don't recognize as a crime. Unable to get the charges dismissed, I'd be fined, possibly jailed, and could have my wages and assets seized. Declining to pay for Billy's education results in physical violence against my person and my property. I declare that is no different than an armed robber's aggression.

This is an unpopular and controversial viewpoint. Many would object that a true laissez-faire system of education would result in a great portion of children going without an education due to an inability to pay, thereby dooming them to poverty. Most people unable to afford an education reside in the lower strata of society and they need as much help as possible. Education is a right and should not be abridged on the basis of one's class.

In a system unrestrained by government, educators would only have to follow the guidelines set by their employers, guidelines as loose as the school's owner wishes. It's feasible "corners will be cut" and kids will get a quick and cheap education designed to maximize profit at the expense of quality. Also possible is student exposure to false or invalid information and reasoning that may mar their ability to successfully integrate future data. The lack of enforced standards would hurt the nation as a whole.

In addition, opponents of a fully capitalist education system claim that a school system could go bankrupt and close its doors, leaving its students without classrooms and teachers. Business failure could happen and it wouldn't be right to leave students hanging.

Even though the arguments of those who disagree with me have merit, they are based on a faulty understanding of how free markets function. Product and service quality increase within a free system because consumers are king. More importantly, such a system would be based on the principle that aggressing against someone is morally invalid. Forcing citizens to pay for your education is wrong.

This is what I'm turning in, so feel free to comment on the substance of what I've written rather than the style.

UPDATED 3/9/2005 8:47am
I've written another final paper for my Public Finance class: A Conceptual Analysis of Public Goods - The Case of Nationalized Defense