Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Killing Crutch

Please critique this and I will discard or rewrite as appropriate.


This morning I heard that Michelle Obama had visited a farmer's market near the White House.  I thought it was wonderful.  However, having read a little Rothbard, I knew there was something wrong with this picture.  How could the administration be encouraging local growers and such when the big corporate interests are so threatened by them, and when local growers create such independence and strength in the citizenry?  It turns out they have a rather brilliant (albeit perverted) plan.

Google "atrophy crutch" (without quotes). Read the one at Everything2:

Atrophy is the general goal of government and explains a lot of the seemingly unnecessary "help" it provides to people, such as what Michelle said: "I want to reinforce the fact that this market and other farmers' markets around the city participate in the WIC program, the SNAP program, the Double Dollar program, and the Seniors benefits program. And each SNAP and WIC dollar equals two dollars at a farmers' market to purchase fresh produce."

What atrophies here is the farmer's markets' motivation and ability to advertise and educate people who are not on welfare. She's basically saying, look, if you're poor, be a customer of these local food growers and we'll get all the taxpayers to help pay your way.

But why would the government have atrophy as a goal? Don't worry it isn't obvious until you think about it. The weaker you are, the more likely you are to choose the brute force of a government over the hard work of finding and building trading relationships with other citizens to support yourself.  Grow weak and stupid, and see how hard it is to "just say no" when his lordship the president offers to make your neighbor give you dinner.  We wouldn't sink if they weren't trying to sink us, but they know that we wouldn't need them either.  This is the problem England faced in the late 1700s.  They tried using their brute force to keep us enslaved, but that didn't work out too well.  So now governments force support on us wherever we have strength in order to diminish it, and Farmer's Markets is an excellent example.

However, there's a whole other side to the reason government intentionally creates atrophy.  We all know that DC is a whorehouse in which corporations are the tricks, the politicians are the whores, and the taxpayers are their families – the ones who really get screwed. Atrophying the specific abilities citizens have that enable them to avoid using the services of a corporation is a natural goal of the corporation. Since the corporate-government partnership is so seedy and well supported ($2.8B lobbying industry:, we should expect to see government stealthily atrophying whatever they can, and generally that means competition from the little guy.

In any case, I learned that this goes a little deeper.  The NPR story that I heard reports that "Tom Vilsack showed up at that farmer's market, and announced $4.5 million in grants to promote farmers markets nationwide." ( So there's another $4.5M crutch that the government will be using to destroy farmer's markets while pretending to help. If they really wanted to help, domestic military schools and camps like Pendleton and Anapolis would be buying their produce from farmer's markets. Look into that and note the great void.

You may be wondering if I see any role for the money collected through taxation - because if they use it to help, I call it a crutch, and if they use it to harm, I lambast them for harming us.  True enough:  I see no role whatsoever for money collected through taxation.  Once money is taken by force, the only good use of it is to be returned to those who earned it.  The government would have to provide services that people - the people who pay the "tax" - actually wanted.  If they did this, it wouldn't be a tax - it would be a price, just like what private enterprise charges its (hard earned) customers.

This is one small example of the disease that plagues this country.  Please join me in spreading the awareness that government has grown into a deceitful parasite gorging itself with taxes and destroying our independence.  It is a wolf in sheep's clothing.  It soothes us with calming words and superficial kindness as it drains our lifeblood.  But it will be diminished, and sooner if you help.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Sword of Damocles

The versions of the story from modern times suggest that an imminent danger comes with having wealth.  I have no idea why the story would be told that way.  It seems more an injuction against the method one uses to gain the wealth rather than the actual having of it.  The wealthy person, in this case was, after all, a cruel and unjust king who was known as a tyrant.

James Baldwin wrote the version I just read, and in it, he writes that Damocles says "I now see that I was mistaken, and that the rich and powerful are not so happy as they seem."  Would he have said to King Dionysius, "King Dionysius, whatever threatens you does not threaten me.  This is why you have hung that sword there - because my use of your riches does not put me in danger of your enemies.  I did not ask for the rage and anger that you have brought upon yourself by being cruel and unjust, but only to see how the rich and powerful live.  Surely there are good kings, kind and just, who also have such power and riches.  You could show me that, but you chose to add the sword that your cruelty has created."

No, of course he wouldn't have said that.  Instead, he plays the king's game, pretending that it is his power and riches, rather than the injustice and cruelty he used to get them, that presents imminent danger.  But the story itself does this too, for it says (in Baldwin's words) "And so long as he lived, he never again wanted to be rich, or to change places, even for a moment, with the king."

Did this come through the story, or was it added by Mr. Baldwin?  Does it matter?  Does this story create a fear of being wealthy in you?  Can we, today, tell our politicians off because they use deceit and empty promises to gain power and then abuse it to gain more?  Or will the media pay more attention to the lack of decorum to which our passion drives us (Wilson), than to the unjust cruelty out of which that passion is born?  Or will they invoke the Patriot Act and silence us with threats, or use previously illegal wiretapping to spy on us and stealthily degrade our livelihood in order to prevent us from making these accusations?

The meaning of the sword has been hijacked.  I write to right this wrong.  It is not wealth that raises the sword to your necks, my friends, but cruelty, injustice, and deceit.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sorting in a Firefox extension

If you're developing a Firefox extension, and you use Javascript's Array.sort to sort an associative array, you might not like the results.  As far as I can tell, it does nothing.  I built an array keyed on a field called loc, which wasn't to be used in sorting, and another field seq, which was to be used.  Multiple rows could have the same loc, so the associative array was handy in allowing me to easily make sure only the latest seq for each loc was recorded.  Alas, it was not to be.

However, you can get around this by giving your array numeric indexes.  I needed to ensure that each loc only used one index and if it was already in sorted, I should overwrite that array element.  Here's the bit of code I used to make a sortable array:

    var sorted = new Array();
    var locKeys = new Array();
    for( var r in rows )
        var ad = rows[r];

        instance.seq = getSeq(ad);
        instance.loc = getLoc(ad);
        if( !(
instance.loc in locKeys) )
instance.loc] = sorted.length;
instance.loc]] = instance;

Now sorted will actually re-arrange itself when I call sorted.sort().

Friday, August 28, 2009

Modern Borrowing

If you let someone borrow something, you must accept the risk that they will not willingly return to you as much value as they borrowed.  Modern society allows this mistake to run rampant by providing the illusion that you can force someone to return that value.  It's an illusion because the cost of forcing them to return the value quite high.  The illusion and it's ugly consequences persist because these costs are spread so thinly across everyone.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Socialism, for or against?

BOTH, actually!

It is my hope to show all socialists the difference between encouraging socialist choices on an individual level, which has real benefits, and forcing them, which causes real harm. I have discovered that I am very socialist when it is my choice to share or contribute, but when it is imposed on me, because I value individual choice so much, I resist.

There are two negatives when socialist behavior is legislated. The first is that those who benefit from it are weakened. We have a natural fear of wasting too much of what we get, and of not doing enough to take care of ourselves, but when we have a legislated right to "social support," these fears are weakened, and the good outcomes they produce are therefore diminished. Family ties, caring for one's community, supporting your parents when they grow old, saving, and living below ones means are all good examples of things we start losing when welfare grows.

The second negative effect of legislated socialism is that the role of charitable feelings that some people have toward the less fortunate is diminished. Being charitable makes people feel good and provides them with a sense of community and solidarity with others. When socialist programs crowd out our opportunities to feel these feelings, people become more selfish and isolated.

I have discovered that I am a champion of socialism when it is encouraged as a sign of being a good person, but very much an enemy of it when it is imposed through legislation. The surest way to prevent learning is to force it on people, and the surest way to make someone selfish is by taking stuff from them and "sharing" it with others. I think we can watch this play out in Russia because it takes decades for socialism's harmful effects to get washed out by time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time to play tanks!

My daughter, Anna, wants to play tanks with me. She's playing by herself right now. My personality is quite bent on not "playing" until I've done my work. But recently "my work" has evolved in such a way that it can fill up all my time. So I have to fight against that part of my personality if I am ever to play. One way I deal with this is by doing just exactly what I want when I want to, always keeping in mind if there are new things that I want to do, such as writing. Well, writing isn't so new, but writing about myself is new. I am very very peculiar, so I think writing about myself will not only be helpfully therapeutic, but also interesting enough to possibly be valuable in the effort to re-establish the kind of freedom fought for in the American Revolution. Now I will go play tanks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Was Hobbes an idiot?

Thomas Hobbes, in Chapter 13 of Leviathan, writes:
It may seem strange to some man that has not well weighed these things that Nature should thus dissociate and render men apt to invade and destroy one another: and he may therefore, not trusting to this inference, made from the passions, desire perhaps to have the same confirmed by experience. Let him therefore consider with himself: when taking a journey, he arms himself and seeks to go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks his doors; when even in his house he locks his chests; and this when he knows there be laws and public officers, armed, to revenge all injuries shall be done him; what opinion he has of his fellow subjects, when he rides armed; of his fellow citizens, when he locks his doors; and of his children, and servants, when he locks his chests. Does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions as I do by my words? But neither of us accuse man's nature in it. The desires, and other passions of man, are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions till they know a law that forbids them; which till laws be made they cannot know, nor can any law be made till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it.
In other words, he's suggesting that I, because I feel that men are apt to cooperate, rather than destroy each other, consider why I would lock my doors at night, or travel with weapons when I travel. Yes, I do those things. He suggests my behavior is an accusation that I make against mankind. This is one of the things that makes me think him an idiot. Really, it's like saying that if I bring a jacket to the beach, I'm accusing the ocean of making it cold. Or, less anthropomorphically, that I'm expecting it to be cold. He appears to have no concept of insurance. Hence my conclusion. He's an idiot. Certainly there are a few men who are apt to destroy each other, but to suggest that protecting oneself from those few is an admission that deep down, we know everyone is out to get us... It's ridiculous!

And Leviathan is a foundational work in the creation of the state. What the hell?

Here is the conversation that inspired me to take a closer look at this buffoon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Problem with Regulation

I've come up with a little analogy to make it easier to understand the problem with regulation. A child may run quickly across dangerous rocks and the chances are good that he will fall and get seriously injured. Regulation comes along to save him, prohibiting him from running quickly across the rocks. This is the child who grows up believing he is invincible because he never had the guts to violate the rules which kept him safe. But there's always a crack, isn't there? SIVs? CDOs? Pick your random letters. What does the child do, but jump without a backup 'chute and without safety checking the one he plans to use? He has come to believe that since he is following the rules, he will be safe. Yes, I know there are rules about parachutes and airplanes, but do they apply to base jumping? He may land safely several times, and then one day, SPLAT.

What if he had broken his leg on those rocks? He could be crippled or have a nasty scar, a horrible limp, etc. But these are all better than being goo on the sidewalk. Additionally, his parents and loved ones can concentrate on teaching him and enjoying him rather than punishing him for running on the rocks. I tell my kids to be careful. I say to them "I don't think you worry enough about falling on those rocks and breaking your leg." Do I stop them? Depends on the rocks. And if I do stop them, it is not with threats and yelling. It is with distraction. I pick them up and carry them elsewhere and play there with them, the whole time expressing my worry that their injuries, should they fall on those dangerous rocks, would hurt me more than they hurt them. But that takes really dangerous rocks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Doing good doesn't cost you

If you do something other people like, chances are they will reward you for it. If it's really a good thing you've done, the cost to you should be negative. In other words, when you do a really good thing, you'll profit from it. This is a basic principle of human cooperation and one that is widely misunderstood. Everything you do to make money is an investment of something - your time and effort and maybe even your money. When the results are worth more to you than what you've invested, that's called profit. Good results mean that people like what you did. See the correlation? Doing good creates profit. Profit indicates that you have done good.

Of course there are many exceptions to this general rule: You can steal your way into profits without doing any good whatsoever. You can also give up your last efforts to save someone else's life, and though you did plenty of good, you'll be dead. Unless your life was worth more than that of the person you saved. Hmm... Yeah, think about that for a minute. Anyway, these are exceptional cases. Let's look at some more commonplace "doing good" that doesn't profit the "do-gooder."

Charity is giving some of what you have to someone who hasn't got as much. When this does not end up profiting you (mind you, profits come in forms other than money, such as happiness, friendship, etc.), I would argue that you have NOT done good. Why should we consider it good to give something to someone who doesn't appreciate it enough to make you feel good about doing it? I don't think that's good at all. I think the receivers of charity who are unable or unwilling to show natural appreciation shouldn't get it. Does this cut churches out of charitable giving? Perhaps. Does it cut welfare out? Of course. Then how are the poor to survive? Why, by doing good, of course!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm a criminal!!

It figures that a company from the island that Great Britain used to exile its criminals would figure out how to make us all into criminals. Yes, Red Flex is an Australian company. This is no reflection on the people (other than Red Flex employees/criminals) of Australia. Turning otherwise decent citizens into criminals is the business of government and a sure way to make a buck in a world where people have been taught that they are incapable of self-discipline, mean, and stupid. Perhaps that's not our world, but as Adam Smith pointed out, taxation tends to make decent citizens into criminals too, and just about every country I can think of runs entirely on taxation. He did not point out that by claiming to spend the money on protecting people from nature and from each other, governments also encourage our own abilities to protect ourselves from nature and each other to atrophy. Do you lock your car and your doors at night?

I thought my beloved city of Riverside would have figured out that the red-light systems are causing more harm than good. In Fullerton, the Superior Court of California, Orange County deemed Fullerton's contract with another company to be illegal because it provides a financial incentive to the private company (NTS) to keep the number of citations high. According to, Riverside's contract with RedFlex contains a clause similar to the one that Fullerton had. So I went to trial. Here's the transcript:

Ok, right, they put on a criminal trial and there is no transcript. They also said that I couldn't have my trial unless I paid first. They also refused to let me have my trial in my own city as CVC 40502 says I can because "There's no traffic court in the county seat."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't wait til I'm sixty-four.

Kim (my lovely wife) pointed out to me today that I am rebellious sometimes to the detriment of those I love. I know it's true. Adam (a good old friend) once suggested that my problem was that I'd test, for example, the strength of a guitar by standing on the neck and the body to see how much weight it would support. I used to break the toys that Lee (my older brother) got because... I can't remember, but I like to imagine it was because I wanted to see how they work.

So a few days ago, Jessica (CAVA Teacher) sent Kim and me an email explaining that Anna (our 4th grade daughter) would have to take a state mandated writing test on March 3rd and that there would be no make up test. State mandated??!! So I wrote back:
Hi Jessica,

I have a burning curiosity to know what will happen to those 4th and 7th graders who do not make it to the test. Can you find out? I'm sure Anna will make it, but that doesn't stop my curiosity. In fact, it makes it stronger. Is that bad?
She wrote back:
You never cease to amaze me. Both Julia and yourself have a knack for research and poking for information.
I wrote back "I hope we inspire others!" but Kim pointed out the negative part of it. It's possible that Jessica could sense and get frustrated by my rebellious nature (which wouldn't be a problem) and retaliate for it (which would be). This is why I'm asking you not to wait. Although I have put effort into being more careful with my rebellion, there might still be holes in my strategy. I'm hoping there are enough people close enough to me to tell me when I need to tone it down.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

In less than an hour, I'll be on Sue Vogan's radio show discussing the plight of a friend and fellow Litmocracy member Karim. As part of his job at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan, he was perusing some research by other students in the library. One thesis concluded that oxygen levels in a local river were so low that no fish could be living there, but there were fish. He decided to investigate the equipment used for some field measurements of dissolved oxygen because he didn't know the University had such field equipment. In fact, it didn't. This means the measurements were not taken in the field and explained the discrepancy.

He brought this to the attention of his superiors, such as Dr. Asif Khan, who promptly suspended Karim from his job for inefficiency and misconduct. Apparently, when you find an error in research published by your employer, you are supposed to ignore it. And you're wasting your time if you try instead to get it corrected. Karim also discovered that the student who wrote the paper was a student of the current acting director, Dr. Tahir Shah. These are people that received degrees from U.S. and U.K. universities. So what gives?

It seems to me that the incentive for the US universities is to have the story that they provide educated citizens to developing nations. Governments fund education so that they have a story - that they're helping educate leaders. If they turn out to be poor leaders, lucky for them, the people of the world aren't paying enough attention to blame the universities. More people need to understand the chain of incentives behind publicly funded endeavors such as higher eduation. Instead, citizens in both America and in Pakistan are paying taxes to support scholarships to make up for the poor leadership.

So I have a job for the universities: It's like the Olympics. Here you have several very good athletes competing for top honors. Originally, these honors were awarded to the fastest runners, the highest jumpers, and those who could throw the farthest. These are measurements based on science, not judgments that are open to the abuses of personal bias. The scientific measure of educational success is the success of the private companies that employ the graduates. Our educational and research organizations need to actively promote and publicize their relative value to the industries that hire their graduates or use their research findings. This completes the chain of incentives, and highlights who should be the true beneficiaries of higher education. Most private companies that hire graduates retrain them to fill in the holes left by their university education. The School of Hard Knocks is the most efficient school there is.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Get Your Own Blogger Gadget!

I found this link to a file that represents a Blogger Gadget. It was on this page that explains how to create a gadget that has access to some of the blog owner's own data. I was trying to find a page that explained how to create a gadget from scratch, but stopped when I found this one. It assumes you know something about creating a gadget: "First things first, we need to tell the gadget to use OAuth. To do that, add the element in the gadget's <moduleprefs> section..." ModulePrefs? Whatever. So I took my usual route which is start with an example and modify it in baby steps (so that when it breaks, you know why). That's how I got the gadget displayed to the right (at the bottom). If you want to help promote Litmocracy, you can add the gadget to your own blog by following these steps:
  1. Right-click the [[Gadget Link]] in my Litmocracy Gadget and copy the link.
  2. Click "Customize" on your blog (you have to be logged in).
  3. Go to the Layout tab of your blog.
  4. On the page elements sub-tab of the layout tab, click one of the "Add a Gadget" links.
  5. At the bottom on the left side, select "Add Your Own" from the gadget adding page.
  6. Paste the link you copied in step 2 into the URL field and click Add.
  7. Move the gadget wherever you want in your blog layout.
Thanks to StarLizard for the idea to make a Litmocracy Blogger Gadget!