Monday, September 13, 2010

Paypal and the Government

Paypal recently sent me an update to their privacy policy.  It states:
Federal and state laws allow you to restrict the sharing of your personal information in certain instances. However, these laws also state that you cannot restrict other types of sharing.
I have the right to restrict the sharing of any and all of my personal information because that is a basic human right.  If you disagree, then I can write you off as a slavish fool, so you might was well quit reading now.  How I restrict it and what that costs me is a different matter.

What I think Paypal means is that the laws require Paypal to provide tools that its members can use to prevent Paypal from sharing certain information.  They don't want to say it that way because it makes the implication too obvious: Paypal will share whatever it can without your permission as long as it isn't legally required to get your permission or provide you with a way to revoke that permission, which they may as well assume (since they aren't barred from so assuming by the federal and state laws).

Or perhaps the people (shall we call them people?  Yes, we shall) who wrote this have simply fallen prey to the idiot trap that is set up by oppressive authorities from bad parents to pimps to drug suppliers (both legal and illegal) to foolish police and horrible politicians.  That trap creates a sense of foreboding for all behaviors which have not been expressly permitted by whoever rules you.  The trap gives you the feeling that you can't do something new and unique unless you check with the authorities first.  The trap slowly but surely kills off those cultures that are aggressive enough to violate the wishes of authorities, leaving only cultures that encourage childlike dependence on authorities.  Slaves, in other words. 

The sad thing is that there is a tremendous amount of beauty in such cultures, and we lose it because oppressive authorities continue to set this trap wherever they can.  We can do something about this.  When someone tells me "It isn't done that way," I laugh at them.  If they are puzzled enough at my reaction, I will explain that using the fact that "it isn't done that way" as a reason not to do it that way is a recipe for stagnation.  It's the kind of basic instinct (like herding, a specific example of this kind of reasoning) that the human brain developed to overcome.  We have big brains because they enable us to overcome basic instincts when there is a (recognized) possibility  of a better outcome.

We can also encourage and champion experimentation, marvel at the bravery and innovation of anyone who expresses freedom by simply being different.  I have done my best to teach my children that "weird" is a compliment.  When people ask "Why change it if it works?" the simple answer is the same answer we have for bothering to get up in the morning.  It's fun.  Sometimes, it's a change for the better, and if you never change it, you'll never know.  Thomas Edison, Lewis Carrol, Einstein, Nietzsche, and even Beverly Cleary and Dr. Seuss understood this.

I don't think Paypal really will do everything against their customers' privacy that they are legally allowed to.  I think they have some writers who have fallen into and continue promulgating a horrible and subtle trap that has been destroying beauty for millenia.  I'm doing my part to expose it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reinvestment plan sparks FOMC debate

As investors, we encourage what we anticipate, even government stupidity. As humans, we discourage stupidity. As quasi-government agents, they ought to be more intelligent about seeing how every action they take blossoms into a new problem. As members of the ruling class, they probably do, and new problems mean a bigger role for them - at least until the masses catch on. But with enough TV and terrorism out there, they can prolong such a day of reckoning. Hopefully not indefinitely.

I think our best bet is to get in tight with our state legislature and start working on nullification of most federal regulation, especially the tax code, legal tender, and the central bank charter. One of the states will get this right first, and that will be a watershed moment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Compare and Contrast Critiques

There are a few very useful tools that make certain people stop and think.  I don't want to call them "bad" people, but that's how I think of them.  Usually, they aren't really bad, it's just that they put more effort into avoiding the truth when they're wrong about it than into actually figuring out that they're wrong.  Yeah, that's a lot of people.  It is unfortunate that most of them have good hearts, and so I like to try to help them.  This essay is one of my attempts.  Let's call them Flamingos, since they tend to bury their heads in the sand.

There are some people that understand the truth, but they work to hide it.  Think Big Tobacco, or Timothy Geithner, or Ben Bernanke (sorry guys, but I've seen you sweat and I've heard you grasp authoritatively at straws.  They are both convincing acts.)  I won't bother coming up with a word to describe them, and these useful tools I referred to usually won't make them stop and think because they already know their best bet is to alter the subject enough to distract you from the truth that these tools uncover.

The tool I'd like to describe here is a comparison of critiques.  The general strategy allows you to distinguish between a critique that is propaganda and one that is honest without considering the actual facts presented in the critique.  It is the style of the critique that matters. 

When critique is propaganda, it tends to subtly (the smart authors are subtle, at least) describe its subject in a poor light, and works on generalities.  It tends to address the weakest pieces, or those most difficult to understand, or sometimes the least well-known.  It generally ignores any elements that are agreeable to the author, or agrees with them in a sentence using the word "but".  It tends to use opinions that are popular and often based on differences in belief systems (for example, some believe that legislation is the best way to increase good behavior, while others believe freedom works better) to conclude that the elements that are addressed are incorrect or bad.  Having brought together several elements and conclusions, the critique finished up by providing a feeling that the thing being critiqued is just no good.

In comparison, an honest critique will generally identify both the agreeable and the contentious elements (in the author's opinion).  When it does rely on popular opinion to judge an element, it often explains what the popular opinion is and how a person who does not share the author's belief would not have a problem with that element.  It openly identifies problems that stem from beliefs.  Of course, some honest critiques don't do this because their author isn't bright enough to recognize that there is a belief system difference.  An honest critique attacks the elements of its subject, rather than the subject itself.

Here's the nutshell version:  An honest critique will not leave you with the feeling that there's no use looking into the subject discussed.  Only a fool (or a propagandist) would spend time critiquing something they believed had no value.  When you read something that leaves you with a feeling that its subject isn't worth studying further, be sure to check for the subtle digs and denigrations, and the failure to honor the good intentions of those who support that subject.  For example, try an Internet search on Krugman and Austrian.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Helpers Who Fear Arrest

"Frustrated by red tape, some officials have been warned they'll be arrested if they take matters into their own hands."
  - Patrik Jonsson, July 1, 2010, in The Christian Science Monitor, regarding Deepwater Horizon cleanup.
In my opinion, the best strategy to handle this is PR, but it must contain names.  The same article has Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen (incident commander) saying "There is nothing standing in the governor's way from utilizing more National Guard troops," and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal relaying an instruction from the White House saying "Coast Guard and BP had to authorize individual tasks."  Is Thad Allen unaware of instructions issued by President Barack Obama?  We have the names of these two, and since Allen was directly quoted, but Obama was not even named, and there wasn't any explicit threat, this isn't a very good example of warning officials of arrest if they act responsibly.  Who warned officials of arrest if they take matters into their own hands?  Were any officials brave enough to try anyway?  Were any of them smart enough to do it in a way that helped?  Were they arrested?  If so, what are the names of the agents responsible for arresting them?

Every species swarms, and when they do so, it is generally in the best interest of the species.  The behavior is an evolved response which, evolution has proven, is beneficial.  Humans do it too, though to a lesser degree because they fear each other in addition to Mother Nature.  When that fear of each other is private, it protects the cautious from the crazies who go out and kill each other.  But when that fear is institutionalized with laws and the threat of arrest, it ceases to protect, and merely hinders.

Contrary to the foundation of most of the legislation that attempts to control us, humans are not idiots who blunder around all the time and mess everything up.  Such behavior requires centralized control and limited liability: governments and corporations.  Individuals acting in their own self-interest nearly always trump centralized control when it comes to effective solutions.  For one thing, they provide myriad competing solutions, the best of which are recognized and copied, rather than monolithic solutions that fail catastrophically when they fail.  For another, individuals have a sense of reputation to be maintained.  They have names to protect.  Adam Smith called these effects the "Invisible Hand" because they seem to bring about balance without any centralized control.

So I appeal to Mr. Jonsson and other journalists, officials, and anyone who would like to help in any situation where problems are big: Please name those who show more respect and honor for laws than they do for life.  I must admit a bias against centralized control, and if that rubs you the wrong way, please go be a mindless slave on some other planet.  This one needs real human beings.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Purvis-Ness club

Next time someone rings your bell or knocks on your door, be prepared.  There's a new club that has decided to "promote the general welfare" of the neighborhood, and this is the story of how the club got started.  You'll want your wallet.

They first decided among the five of them to pay $5/month dues so that they'd have some money to spend on the supplies they needed for their programs.  The first was to interview the neighbors about any recent thefts or vandalism, and for that, they needed some microcassettes.

In time, their membership grew and the money they collected at the beginning of each month was a sizeable sum.  As their income grew, so did their ambitions, and they were soon working on weather-hardened webcams in strategic locations around the neighborhood feeding video into their private surveillance system.  But there was a problem.  Some of the members had not paid dues for a few months, but they still showed up and still insisted on being heard when they had input to the future plans.  One of the issues on which they disagreed with everyone else was the formation of a dues squad.  This was a team of 5 members who would stay on the case of any member who failed to pay his dues on time.

One of their best ideas was the outreach group.  This was an extension of the original idea to interview residents of the neighborhood about recent crime.  The outreach team would knock on neighborhood doors to spread the word about what the club was doing and find out if the neighbors would like to help.  Many of the neighbors, after getting to see some of the positive results of the club's work, were happy to pitch in a few dollars or even sign up to provide a monthly donation and become honorary members.

The trouble started when the outreach group and the dues squad started cooperating.  In time, everyone in the neighborhood was badgered into providing some money every month.

Whether the knock on your door from someone who will eventually force you to provide their club with some of your money against your will comes from the IRS or a wiseguy, you hopefully now have an idea how it all got started, and perhaps you have an idea of how it might have gone wrong, and what we ought to be teaching our children.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Deep-Soul Knowing

"Deep-soul Knowing"

This is a term Alice Sebold attributes to her dead heroine's father in reference to the identity of her killer, George Harvey.  I believe this kind of knowing is the root cause of many horrible things, such as the Crusades, gay-bashing, the KKK, cults, and terrorism.  I think about half of what is known by humans in the "deep-soul" knowing kind of way is simply not true, and her support of the concept disturbs me.

However, it only disturbs me as much as her portrayal of the dead among us, which most will agree is something that cannot be known.  I am more open to that possibility than I am to the possibility that a person who feels "deep-soul knowledge" has a better grasp on reality than one who merely suspects an assertion's truth or is "quite certain" of it.

In fact, I think peace and goodwill are generally furthered by the idea that the dead may be among us, while "deep-soul knowing" generally diminishes them.  Will you join me in encouraging the kind of skepticism that would have made Mr. Salmon's efforts with Len Fenerman blossom into justice, instead of requiring the use of just an icicle to give us closure on the case?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why some Democrats are beginning to follow Ron Paul

Ron Paul has been considered further from the political space between Democrats and Republicans than the Republicans themselves.  How is it, then, that some Democrats have started siding with him, rather than with Republicans?  One of the reasons is Paul's promotion of the Constitution itself.  It is a sound basis for government and Democrats understand that.  Politicians on both sides of the aisle have been ignoring it for decdes, but Ron Paul has been promoting it and railing against them the whole time.  Finally, people are demanding that our leaders respect this important founding document.

Another reason a Democrat might gravitate toward Ron Paul is that Democrats enjoy a good joint as much as Republicans.  They might not inhale, but they still enjoy it.  This particular enjoyment suffers from stifling and oppressive government control, and Democrats don't like it.  Whether you belong to one of the parties or not, it's pretty easy to recognize that there are some areas of our lives in which government shouldn't interfere.

Welfare and Warfare.  Voters in the Democratic Party traditionally care more about the underprivileged than those in the Republican party.  This has always been used by rulers to justify taking money away from all citizens, regardless of their party afiiliation to be spent on helping these underprivileged.  Democrats, however, have noticed that a great portion of what they give up for this good reason ends up being spent on foreign policy - Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the messing around the US did in the middle east to foment 9/11 in the first place.  While Ron Paul argues that the state shouldn't be taking money from its citizens in the first place, he also argues that Defense Department expenditures are tremendously wasteful.  He promotes the libertarian argument that citizens should decide how their own money should be spent.

Oddly enough, the Bush tax cuts have helped Democrats realize the benefits of keeping their own money and being responsible for using it.  They are able to help the underprivileged on their own.  They find their own decisions, even as a group, are better than those of the government which is as likely or more likely to spend it on foreign wars and CIA black operations than on helping poor people.

Corporatism vs Capitalism.  As Ron Paul's campaign to Audit the Fed and eventually End the Fed goes on and on, everyone is realizing that this country is under the thumb of big business, and there's something wrong with that.  One of the deceits that people are now seeing through is the idea that this trend is a natural result of capitalism.  It has come to light that most of the big banks and insurance companies have friends in high places, and the power of government is what produced the bailouts that have kept them alive throughout the financial crisis.  As awareness of the taxpayer as support-system for corporations that are too-heavy-to-fail and the pain of carrying them spreads, Democrats feel it too.  Capitalism without the big government to support it creates goods and services that allow the underprivileged to prosper, encourages the competition that employs them, and promotes the environment that supports diversity.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fighting for taxpayers

The University of California has engaged me in an effort to lobby California legislators to spend taxpayer money on higher education.  At least in my case, their plan backfired.  They created a system through which letters could be sent, along with some sample text to use.  I edited it for the cause of freedom and independence:

I write to you today as an advocate for the taxpayers of California and the United States and to encourage you to move the UC system toward independence from the state, if that is possible.  The University is requesting that $913 million be restored to its budget in order to sustain its commitment to students and families and all the residents of California, but this is money which must be taken directly out of the pockets of taxpayers in one way or another, and that kind of thing has been destroying this country bit by bit.

It is vital that the State reinvest in the taxpayers rather than the UC System which could easily survive independently by  leveraging the intelligence of its students.

UC is a powerful engine of economic growth and social advancement and will be essential in the knowledge economy of the future.  Any money spent on the University by the state of California should be viewed as a crutch that is allowing the best parts of this engine to atrophy.

I hope you appreciate the magnitude of the State's budget gap and the difficult choices you will face.  It's imperative to our long-term prosperity that you look beyond the immediate fiscal crisis and unburden taxpayers not only in CA but, as Arnold's efforts to get federal money start succeeding, across the country so they can develop new industries and spur job creation - two essential elements to our economic recovery. It's true that CA is a net exporter of tax revenue to the federal government, but that money should not be redirected to the state government, it should be sent back to the taxpayers from whom it was taken.

In addition to pushing the University to stand on its inherent strengths, I urge you to engage in serious discussions about exercising California's 10th amendment rights to nullify federal laws in the best interest of its citizens.  While I recognize that you and your colleagues in the Legislature will develop the details, I believe it is critical to establish independence from Washington DC and the IRS which are increasingly becoming tools of oppression and even slavery.

I thank you for your time and attention and appreciate your consideration of my views.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Modern Slavery

Do you think that there just aren't any powerful people who would like to have you as a slave?  You have to admit that there probably are, right?  But they don't have access to you, right?  You're just one of millions, so how could they get to you to make you a slave?

Do you think they'd let on that they're using you as a slave, if they are?  Or would they hide it?  What would be the symptoms of enslavement, and could they be masked so that even if you are a slave, you wouldn't struggle against it?  You'd do things you don't want to do because you're afraid of punishment, right?  But the agents who inflict the punishment wouldn't be slave masters.  They'd be painted to seem... legitimate, some kind of authority that you are taught to respect because they help you and protect you.

If you don't eat, you starve, and this forces you to eat.  Breathing is the same way.  Is there a slave master who forces you to eat and breathe?  In that sense, you are already a slave to biology and physics.  Does that make it ok to be a slave to other people?  What's the diffference between other people and nature?  Does nature have a choice about keeping you alive when you don't eat or you don't breathe?  Do we have any reason to believe that struggling against that enslavement would free us from having to eat and breathe?  What about other people?  If they didn't spend time punishing slaves for failing to comply with the laws of their enslavement, what would they do during that time?

I see a lot of slavery that is unintentional.  Many people spend time punishing each other for not yielding to each other's demands.  In most cases, the punisher will recognize the ugliness of his or her behavior, and work to improve it, but exploiting those creatures around you who will yield to your threats seems to be instinctual.

I see intentional and deceptive slavery too.  People in positions of power aren't all vapid thugs.  Many of them understand that spending time punishing people for not complying with their demands is a black thing to do, but they do it anyway because they feel their ugliness can be hidden well enough to maintain their happiness.  We all do that a little bit - hide our ugly choices so that people won't hate us.  Some of us try to stop making these choices, and we find the comfort of being innocent.  Even when we find ourselves punishing others for failing to comply, we retain the essence of innocence by recognizing the ugliness and trying to do better.  Others don't bother.  Which side are you on?

When the analysis of their own lives suggests that the stinking rot in their soul is not degrading their lives as much as freeing others from enslavement would, many people just leave it be.  Those in positions of power obviously have an easier time with this, especially when that bad smell is largely transferred to agents who are made to feel it is their duty to inflict punishments on those who don't comply.  This is one of the ways in which power corrupts.  Do you smell that smell yet?

Abolishing slavery is going to take more than some proclamation by a government.  The slave mentality ought to be recognized by the majority of us.  Its disgusting scent ought to be named, and each of us ought to demand freedom.  I wrote this essay in an attempt to help clear the air a bit, to give those people in power a bit more evidence that some of us know where the stench emanates from.  Perhaps they will start cleaning up their act.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hey TSA, let some planes explode.!

I know I'm heartless, but I think the fear of bankruptcy would create a much richer and more robust safety solution than the US government is capable of creating with tax revenue.  The idea is to allow airlines to decline passengers for any reason they want (can they do that now?  I don't know.)

Once this is in place, each airline that suffers a terrorist attack would bear a significant burden to stay in business.  People would blame the company for letting the nuts on the plane, rather than the nuts, who can't really be blamed because, well, they're nuts.  More importantly, people wouldn't blame whole countries or invent WMDs to justify immoral and wasteful wars against them.

We are suffering from a failure to distinguish.  Some airlines operate in a way that makes it slightly more difficult for the nuts to hurt us.  We should know which airlines they are, and, depending on how important that kind of safety is to us, their market share will adjust accordingly.  The free market is the best mechanism to calculate the portion of air-travel expense that should go toward the thwarting of terrorist attacks (as well as every other calculation of what proportion of expense should go toward what desirable outcome).