Monthly Archives: October 2010

Quote Of The Day

The WSJ, on the *injustice* of paperwork snafus in the process of foreclosing on squatters:

The New York Times appeared to have produced a front-page victim on Friday—a woman fighting eviction from her $75,000 home at the hands of lender GMAC. The woman has not paid her mortgage in two years while remaining in the house. Some may view this as a case of rough treatment, but we doubt New York Times subscribers can receive the paper for two years after they stop paying for it.

Yep. It’d be like someone who quit paying for the NYT complaining that they accidentally started delivering it to his neighbor after two years of receiving it for free.

Hat Tip: Irvine Housing Blog

Colorado Republican Party Could Lose More in the Governor’s Race than the Election

In an election year that seems to favor Republicans nationally, there’s a whole different story unfolding here in the Centennial State in the gubernatorial campaign. The Republican candidate Dan Maes has lost support even among the party faithful due largely to being caught in a lie about his law enforcement background in Kansas back in the ‘80s. Most of the grass roots support among conservatives has gone to former Republican congressman turned American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo.

I’m by no means a fan or supporter of Tom Tancredo but I do find this turn of events to be quite amusing. Conservatives have been pleading with Meas (the Republican) to withdraw from the race as he stands to spoil Tancredo’s (the third party candidate) chances of beating the Democrat, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (and recent polling suggests that if Tancredo takes more votes from Maes, Tancredo stands a decent chance of actually winning).

But it gets even better. The Denver Daily News reports:

A poor showing for Maes Nov. 2 could have serious implications for the Republican Party in Colorado. If the candidate fails to garner at least 10 percent of the vote, Republicans could be relegated to minor party status for the next two election cycles, meaning they would appear lower on the ballot and could only receive half as much in donations as Democrats.

The Republican Party to become a “minor party” for the next two election cycles? How great would that be: one of the two major parties having to see what life is like for third parties and their candidates? With the polling as it stands now, it appears that no candidate will win more than 50% of the vote. If Hickenlooper wins, maybe it will be conservatives who will champion the ideas that third party candidates have been championing for some time like range voting or instant runoff voting.

The article continues:

“In a telephone interview, Colorado GOP Chair Dick Wadhams said he does not believe the Colorado Legislature would allow Republicans to become a minor party.

Whether Maes makes the 10 percent mark, Wadhams said he expects Colorado leaders to change to rule.

“That’s something I’m not too worried about right now,” he said.

Isn’t that just like our two party system? When they don’t get their way they work to change the rules?

Hopefully whatever happens, third parties will be better able to compete in future elections in Colorado as a result of this wildly entertaining campaign.

James O’Keefe Highlights Alleged Voter Fraud in Jersey City Mayoral Race

Yesterday, we posted some new videos from the controversial self-described citizen journalist James O’Keefe. The videos highlighted racy footage taken at a New Jersey Education Association and the problems associated with teacher tenure.  O’Keefe has just launched a third video dealing with the NJEA, this one alleging voter fraud in a 1997 Jersey City mayoral election. The interview with NJEA Associate Director Wayne Dibofsky, combined with other details presented in the video, seems compelling enough to warrant a bit more investigation.

UPDATE: NJ Governor Chris Christie weighs in:

This is what I’ ve been talking about. This is another exhibit as to what I’ ve been talking about. The arrogance, the greed, the self-interest, the lack of introspection, the lack of standards. And it hurts the great teachers just as much as it hurts the kids.

I think that this video makes the distinction better than I ever could. This is their leadership conference where they’ re in a hotel, having this leadership conference, singing songs together about kicking the governor in his tool box. I wonder what they mean by that? But I can tell you I sense it would hurt.

They talk about the things.. I’ m not even going to say it because we have children in this audience but the things that they would have to do in order to lose tenure. And how exciting the moment is after three years when they get tenure and realize ‘ we can’ t get fired for anything’ .

Gov. Chris Christie comments on 'teachers unions gone wild'

James O’Keefe Taking Aim at NJ Teachers Union

Noted for his role in taking down ACORN, gonzo filmmaker James O’Keefe is at it again. The Daily Caller provides an overview:

O’Keefe, best known as the force behind last year’s ACORN scandal, said the first video was shot at a meeting of the New Jersey Education Association in August. Entitled Teachers Gone Wild, the tape shows people identified as teachers speaking in what appears to be a hotel lounge, as well as in a conference room. O’Keefe says the video was gathered by a “team of videographers,” whom he and his colleagues at Veritas Visuals hooked up with hidden microphones and cameras. O’Keefe says the journalists “weren’t in costumes.”

In one video, Alissa Ploshnick, who is identified as a special educator at Passaic Public Schools, seems to verify the worst suspicions of education reformers. “It’s really hard to fire a tenured teacher,” she says. “It’s really hard – like you seriously have to be in the hallway fucking somebody.”

As an example, Ploshnick said, “we had a teacher that just recently was like – you NIGGER,” adding that the teacher was demoted, but is still teaching.

O’Keefe is organizing an event Monday in front of New Jersey’s statehouse in Trenton to call for that specific teacher’s identification – and dismissal.

“The time has come to put party politics aside and put our children first,” said Darryl M. Brooks, former New Jersey Senate candidate and long time community activist, stated in a release announcing today’s news conference. “I am tired of the pandering we hear every election cycle from our elected officials that we need to improve our education system, while nothing gets done. We continue to fall further and further behind other nations around the world when it comes to education, our schools continue to crumble, and our children, especially in the inner cities are being shortchanged. To add insult to injury must we now endure teachers calling students the N word, while the NJEA stands by and does nothing but protect one of their own.”

“Their office building directly across from the Statehouse in Trenton is called ‘The Kremlin,'” added a political consultant friend of mine who has worked a lot in New Jersey.

Here’s the first video. The Liberty Papers has been informed that additional video will be released soon. Additional information located here.

UPDATE: Here’s the second video:

Which Superstition Would You Sacrifice?

I highly recommend XKCD, a webcomic devoted to romance, sarcasm, math and language. Today’s comic forces people to choose between attacking capitalism and their favorite superstition. Enjoy!

XKCD The Economic Argument Against Certain Superstitions

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

“More Expensive” Offers Alternatives to Incarceration to Break the Recidivism Cycle

Title: It’s More Expensive to do Nothing

Producer: Humane Exposures Films

Directed by: Alan Swyer

Non-violent offender is arrested, convicted, does his time, re-enters society and the cycle repeats. This is the typical cycle of recidivism in the American criminal justice system thanks largely to the “tough on crime” approach of state and federal policy. If the goal of policy makers is to put more individuals in prison, they are surely succeeding as the U.S. has 2.38 million prisoners; the highest number of reported prisoners in the world. If the goal of policy makers is to aid individuals in rehabilitation the policy makers have surely failed.

If incarceration is not the answer, does anyone have a better alternative?

Humane Exposures, the producers of the up and coming documentary It’s More Expensive to do Nothing believe they do. Their answer to this growing problem is a less costly alternative to incarceration; they say remediation is a better way. More Expensive, focusing primarily on California’s criminal justice system, interviews some 25 experts in the fields of psychiatry, law, law enforcement, corrections, policy, and healthcare as well as several individuals who themselves broke their personal cycles of recidivism and successfully turned their lives around with the aid of the very policies and programs the film advocates.

The most obvious question to answering the problem of recidivism is simply “why do 75% of California’s offenders re-offend?” Several very good answers are offered in the film but perhaps the best answer comes from Bruce Perry, MD, PhD, and Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy of Houston, Texas:

I would challenge anybody who is watching this [documentary] to be able to take 200 bucks, with no place to live really…except for a flophouse and not have a job or even job skills…

I mean, you may be a lawyer with no job. How long are you going to last?

[…]

Why do we expect somebody who has fewer skills than a professional to be able to somehow get out into the community and be successful?

We libertarians talk a lot about how individuals should be held responsible for their own actions as a consequence of living in a free society. Generally speaking, libertarians dislike government programs that are intended to help people avoid the consequences of their poor decisions. Be that as it may, I believe that Dr. Perry makes a very good point here. It’s very difficult to expect individuals to make better decisions in the future when there are few options available. With little or no social skills, little or no job skills, little or no support from family, friends, or the community, its very difficult for most individuals to resist re-offending. For those who are addicted to illicit drugs, trying to stay out of trouble is all that much more difficult.

As difficult as it may be for most of us to imagine, several of the ex-cons featured in the film did not find the prospect of returning to prison as much of a deterrent to making bad choices. Karen Miller, Drug and Alcohol Counselor for Community Resources And Self Help (CRASH) who herself is 11 years sober and broke the recidivism cycle said that if nothing else, she saw going back to jail as “Three hots and a cot.” Another said he felt safer behind bars than on the street. The truth of the matter is that the prison system is a government program as well complete with housing, healthcare, and 3 square meals for each inmate each day.

The government program championed by the experts in the film which was a result of California Senate Bill 618 provides non-violent offenders a multi-agency approach with the goal of helping them acquire job training, treatment, and most importantly, hope for their futures. Proponents argue that this isn’t a hand out but a hand up. Each person who goes through these programs are held accountable by their councilors, their peers, and themselves. Each has to take initiative and earn their completion certificates before they reenter society.

The premise of the film is in its title: “It’s More Expensive to do Nothing.” Obviously, doing “something” also has a cost associated with it, so what does their alternative program cost and has the program shown measurable results? According to the film, the program costs California taxpayers about $5,000 per inmate per year with a 20% failure rate. Considering the size of California’s prison population, this seems like a great deal of money. But compared with the costs associated with the more traditional incarceration approach costing $75,000 per inmate, per year with a 75% failure rate, the alternative program seems like quite a bargain.

Despite the program’s success, these programs are in danger of losing funding. My question is why? While I know that California is financially a hot mess, it seems to me that if these programs are as successful as those in the film claims, even the law and order types in positions of power would do everything possible to keep this program going.

This leads me to my first of two criticisms of the film. Where are the people who represent the counterpoint? Though I am very sympathetic to the case More Expensive makes, hearing the other side’s arguments could further illuminate the debate. Even Michael Moore interviews individuals who disagree with him in his crockumentaries!

My second criticism is the failure to deal directly with the elephant in the room: the war on (some) drugs. While those interviewed in the film acknowledge that drug policy has lead to increased incarceration, has proven futile, and has contributed mightily to the recidivism problem they are trying to address, I don’t recall any mention from anyone raising the prospect of decriminalization or legalization of drugs. Portugal is a real life case study in how decriminalization there has led to less crime and fewer people suffering from drug addiction. Those who opposed decriminalization in Portugal warned of all the same dooms day consequences that drug warriors say would happen here but so far has not materialized. Bringing Portugal into the discussion may have given the film another interesting dimension.

My guess is that, provided that the producers of the film agree with the idea of decriminalization or legalization, perhaps raising this argument would turn off people who might otherwise on board with their approach. Or maybe ending the war on (some) drugs in America anytime soon is so unlikely in their minds that they want to work within the political reality we currently find ourselves. Convincing policy makers to consider remediation over punishment is quite a challenge in itself in a culture that affectionately refers to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio “the toughest sheriff in America” despite a long history of misconduct and civil rights abuses.

All criticisms aside, It’s More Expensive is a very important and very informative film that brings attention to an issue that doesn’t usually receive very much play in the media. The voices of a more common sense corrections policy deserve to be heard and It’s More Expensive to do Nothing amplifies these voices. It’s now up to us to listen and avoid the costly mistake of doing nothing to stop this vicious cycle.

A Tempest In A Teapot

Resolved, that The Powers That Be™ believe the following:

  1. Foreclosures are bad.
  2. Falling house prices are bad.
  3. Banks losing lots of money is bad.

It’s not hard to understand why. Politicians sell a version of The American Dream where it’s all lollipops and homeownership, and people getting tossed from their property or deeply underwater on their mortgage have a very personal understand that they’ve been lied to. Likewise, they’ve been selling access to Tim Geithner’s glory hole for years, and they know that if banks have no money, there’s nobody left to buy that access.

So they blow the mortgage robosign scandal WAY out of proportion, keeping supply off the market and thus prices inflated. There have been a few isolated instances of improper foreclosure, but the VAST majority have been people who are in default on their property losing them to the banks. The banks aren’t exactly the good guys here, but neither usually are many of the people who spent their housing ATM all the way up the bubble and now wonder why the party ended.

Not only that, they keep non-paying residents in homes upon which they’ve defaulted while prudent renters that are waiting for a chance to buy calmly pay their bills every month. It’s gotten so bad that one publicity-seeking lawyer is now advising clients to break back into the foreclosed properties they once lived in and drag the legal battles out even longer. It’s a sad day when the vast majority of us realize that the country has become a place where following the rules makes you a sucker.

We have political month-from-an-election grandstanding about a full-scale moratorium on foreclosures (yay, gift to the squatters!) and banks who will gladly halt their foreclosures in order to avoid actually realizing the mortgage losses on their balance sheets.

And, of course, in what seems like a continuing effort by the political system to screw me personally, this all happens RIGHT at the time that my wife and I are looking at property, finally ready to make the jump back into home ownership. And the two places we’ve identified as desirable? Both short sales. As if short sales weren’t maddening enough, now we have to worry whether we’ll have some trepidation on the part of the bank or some nutjob lawyer advocating questionable legal tactics to muck it up.

What if the Founding Fathers could have posted to Facebook?

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds posted a link to a post over at Cool Material which, in a humorous manner, displays what might have happened if historical events had Facebook statuses. I had so much fun with the historical events graphic, I thought I’d take a stab at what some of the Founding Father’s posts might have looked like along with some of the potential comments left afterwards.

Founding Fathers on Facebook

Founding Fathers on Facebook

Government-Run Amputation Panels

For some time, we’ve been using words and sometimes charts or graphs to describe the multitude of problems with government-run health care systems. The Greeks have finally allowed us to put a face to the issue. Well, perhaps a few extremities lower. From the Daily Caller:

This Saturday, one of Greece’s most respected newspapers, To Vima, reported that the nation’s largest government health insurance provider would no longer pay for special footwear for diabetes patients. Amputation is cheaper, says the Benefits Division of the state insurance provider.

In a true free market, health insurance providers couldn’t allow this sort of imagery, as it would hurt obviously their sales. Who’d want to purchase insurance from a company with a reputation of cutting granny’s feet off instead of covering the cost for therapeutic shoes?

The photograph above is from some Civil War amputation footage. I’d like to thank Congress and the president for bringing the United States one step closer to 1865.

Aren’t You Glad To Be A Gamma?

I had a really interesting philosophical discussion with Brad Warbiany, our curator at The Liberty Papers, over a Facebook status I wrote. I had just re-listened to the CBS Radio Workshop rendition of Brave New World and had commented that it seemed like a far more livable situation than 1984.

Warbiany added that California, if Prop. 19 passes and allows the modern equivalent of soma to be freely ingested, the state really will look like Brave New World. With the state already self-organized into a caste system (Listen to someone from Northern California talk about Southern California or someone from Berkeley talk about Sacramento some time), abortion and every sort of contraceptive widely available and the domination of a vapid mass culture (seen at San Diego Comic Con or Wonder Con in San Francisco) taking precedence over civic involvement for Californians, the Golden State really resembles Huxley’s “negative utopia.”

Warbiany also handed me this great cartoon:
Orwell v. Huxley

On Twitter, alot of progressive and libertarian leaning activists tend to advocate alot for issues of freedom and emancipation in countries like Iran or China. In a way, situations in so obviously repressive countries like those are much easier for the activist. They fit into the Orwell dynamic and the villains and heroes are very clear. In his opposition to the death penalty, our own Stephen Littau does take on the American equivalent to state repression. Along with questionable foreign policy and drug policy, however, those are really the only avenues for passionate American political activism.

Beyond such clear issues of state force, however, one runs into a brick wall when faced with the mass culture, dullness and vapidity of consumer society. It seems that in this society, the majority of more normal people (myself and most people reading this strongly excepted) do not become Jeffersonians but instead “turn on, tune in and cop out,” as Gil Scott Heron once said. How does one become an activist in a society in which people freely subjugate, segregate and limit themselves?

I have a funny story that relates to this, that I didn’t even remember until I read what Brad said. While living in Alameda, California, I lost my phone. A teenage girl, around college age most likely, found it and called my mom, who e-mailed me about it. When I got the phone back, I was really grateful but had no money on hand. The only possession I had literally was a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I offered it to her.

She literally responded, “No thanks. I don’t read.”

I know. Alameda is not a low income area where reading should be rare, either. There are several bookstores in the area, along with hip restaurants, record stores and everything else you expect in cosmopolitan society. It even has an incredible vintage movie theatre that I rank as the best in Northern California, next to Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre. This girl was obviously more involved in other factors of modern life, all of which I can safely assume are of less consequence intellectually than the work of Huxley.

It’s especially ironic given that there is a passage in Brave New World in which infants are given books while bombarded with screeching, loud noises, in order to dissuade them from being too intellectual when they reach adulthood. With video games, television, the internet and iPhones, that seems unnecessary as modern people have been incentivized out of intellectualism.

That girl did go to extra trouble to give me my phone back, with no advantage to her, however. That means she had a decency and sense of altruism that her lack of reading hadn’t impeded. Having grown up around the hyper-educated and being on that road myself, I can also attest that we’re not the nicest group of people. Perhaps then we really are on the road to progress.

Outrage Over Corrupt Government Funded Science Prompts Resignation

Hal Lewis has resigned from the American Physical Society, disgusted by their embrace of the lucrative fraud that underlays much of the research into Anthropogenic Global Warming.

His resignation  letter is worth reading in full: » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Advanced Screenings of “Conviction” Coming to a Theater Near You

The movie “Conviction,” starring Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell will have advanced screenings of the film beginning next week in most major U.S. cities. I’ve already received my free movie pass, you can get yours here (if there are any passes available in your city).

The Innocence Project has more details about the true story of Kenny Waters and his sister Betty Anne Waters’ determination to put herself through law school to find a way to prove her brother did not commit the crime.

The most revolting political video I’ve ever seen

Here are the first two tenets (of ten) of the organization dubbed 10:10:

  1. 10:10 is a voluntary emissions reduction campaign for any person, organisation or business to commit to cutting 10% of their emissions in a 12 month period starting in 2010.
  2. 10:10 is an inclusive campaign. Every person, business and organisation is welcome to join.

The video below (the original has already been deleted from their website) depicts what they mean by the word voluntary.  Those who can’t handle graphical depictions of school children being blown apart shouldn’t watch this, and parents should be advised that this is the sort of material from which some of you may wish to shield your children.

Here’s their current explanation as to why they deleted their own video:

Sorry.

Today we put up a mini-movie about 10:10 and climate change called ‘No Pressure’.

With climate change becoming increasingly threatening, and decreasingly talked about in the media, we wanted to find a way to bring this critical issue back into the headlines whilst making people laugh. We were therefore delighted when Britain’s leading comedy writer, Richard Curtis – writer of Blackadder, Four Weddings, Notting Hill and many others – agreed to write a short film for the 10:10 campaign. Many people found the resulting film extremely funny, but unfortunately some didn’t and we sincerely apologise to anybody we have offended.

As a result of these concerns we’ve taken it off our website. We won’t be making any attempt to censor or remove other versions currently in circulation on the internet.

We’d like to thank the 50+ film professionals and 40+ actors and extras and who gave their time and equipment to the film for free. We greatly value your contributions and the tremendous enthusiasm and professionalism you brought to the project.

At 10:10 we’re all about trying new and creative ways of getting people to take action on climate change. Unfortunately in this instance we missed the mark. Oh well, we live and learn.

Onwards and upwards,

Franny, Lizzie, Eugenie and the whole 10:10 team

They may have deleted the video, but the Internet has a very long memory, indeed. I’m sure political opponents of the environmental movement will be using this footage for years to come.

Quote of the Day: No, Cops Do Not Have Any Expectation of Privacy Edition

Anthony Graber, the man who was charged for violating Maryland’s wiretapping law for recording on his motorcycle helmet cam and posting a video to YouTube of an undercover cop who pulled a gun on him during a traffic stop will not spend the next 16 years of his life in prison. Hartford County Circuit Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr. dismissed the charges explained (correctly) that the police do not have an expectation of privacy while on duty and in public.

“Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. ‘Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes’ (“Who watches the watchmen?”).” – Judge Emory A. Pitt Jr.

Just a gentle reminder to public servants that they work for us and are accountable to us, not the other way around.

Hat Tip: Hammer of Truth

Related: Cato Presents:Cops on Camera