Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Iraq's New Government Is As Old As Time

Meet the new boss...

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The Iraqi people ought to be euphoric with anticipation of the new governing coalition, a change a lot like the one Barack Obama represents in this country. Now that the politicians have decided how to parcel out bureaucratic realms of authority, they can get to work on discharging the terminal duty within politics, apportionment of the country’s wealth and natural resources among the influential.

Party politics is a diversion, one of many like national security or some amorphous notion of the “common good” that are all subsumed within what Kevin Carson has phrased “ideological hegemony”; the dominant linguistic and cultural paradigm has succeeded in, for instance, making Americans think that someone like Nancy Pelosi, just another garden variety shill for corporatism, is situated on the far reaches of the ideological left. Notwithstanding the unsavory sport of politics, though, there are alternatives that survive, including a principled left that stands at variance with the barren, political left.


Two Scathing Dissents on the FCC's Illegal, Unnecessary & Harmful Net Neutrality Order

Federal Communications Commissioners Rob McDowell and Meredith Baker speak their minds.

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The FCC’s order still isn’t out (just a news release in .DOC form), but the Commissioner’s accompanying statements are. Anyone interested in net neutrality regulation or the coming political, legal and constitutional fights over it must read the scathing dissents by Commissioners Rob McDowell and Meredith Baker.

Commissioner McDowell summarizes his dissent beautifully:

  1. Nothing is broken in the Internet access market that needs fixing;

  2. The FCC does not have the legal authority to issue these rules;

  3. The proposed rules are likely to cause irreparable harm; and

  4. Existing law and Internet governance structures provide  ample consumer protection in the event a systemic market failure occurs.

Did societies evolve to be corrupt?

Corruption is how the privileged share their privilege (Latin for "private law") with the un-privileged. Sharing is good, right?

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Corruption is as old as human history. For as long as people have organized themselves into groups with powerful leaders, those leaders have sometimes abused their power. But evolutionary biologists say corruption might actually be holding societies together.

Their findings make a lot of intuitive sense - most people will continue to cooperate to keep their society together, in part because they don't want to be punished by law enforcers. People will tolerate a certain amount of corruption from their leaders and law enforcers as long as there isn't too much of it. Above a certain level of corruption, people stop seeing the point of cooperating and society begins to break down.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Preserving the Open Internet by Changing Everything

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It doesn’t matter how well-meaning these rules may be, but as a non-legislative body, the FCC must have been granted the authority to regulate in this area specifically from a legislative body (Congress) and it has not received such authority. As Commissioner McDowell pointed out, why would have Congress introduced legislation just a few months ago addressing this very issue if the FCC already had direct regulatory authority in this manner?


Get a Taste of Some Nutritious Freedom

Speak out on the Food Safety Modernization Act:

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Debate over the Food Safety Modernization Act reflects a broader discussion about the American food supply. While tweaks to the regulatory system could improve things, a shift away from industrial agriculture and lobbying toward a more consumer-driven approach should be the long term goal.

Government regulation of food production encourages centralization.  Government focuses on enforcing minimum standards, not encouraging best practices. It requires costly procedures that drive small producers out of the market without necessarily improving the quality of food.

Any regulatory regime will be implemented by the Food and Drug Administration, a federal bureaucracy with connections to large producers. A nice illustration of the revolving door between government and business lobbies is provided by Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, in comments on “FDA is staffed by people who come from within the industrial food system, many of whom are looking to get jobs in that food system when they leave the agency.”


Net Neutrality: A Christmas Gift for Washington Lawyers & Lobbyists

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I can’t help but to be amused by all the delightfully naive talk on Twitter and in the blogosphere about how the FCC’s move to impose Net Neutrality regulation is about “standing up for the little guy,” “putting consumers first” or “preserving Net freedom and openness.”  It all reminds me of a line from those rock-n’-roll sages Guns N’ Roses: “I’ve worked too hard for my illusions just to throw them all away.”   But I can’t help but be jaded by actual history, in which special interests and Washington insiders co-opt each and every regulatory process in this field for their own ends.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Energy at the Speed of Thought: Part I

From Alex Epstein, fellow at the Ayn Rand Center: This four-part post examines the innovation and creative destruction of the early oil market.

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The most important and most overlooked energy issue today is the growing statist threat to global energy supply.

There is no substitute for available, affordable, and reliable supply. Cheap, industrial-scale energy is essential to building, transporting, and operating everything we use, from refrigerators to Internet server farms to hospitals. It is desperately needed in the undeveloped world, where 1.6 billion people lack electricity, which contributes to untold suffering and death. And it is needed in ever-greater, more-affordable quantities in the industrialized world: Energy usage and standard of living are directly correlated.1


Red Tape Under the Tree: FCC Plans Internet Regulation for Christmas

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

~ George Orwell's "Animal Farm"

By stealing the authority from the people who actually do the work to provide internet services and the people who pay the money for internet services, Julius Genachowski sets himself up for a long, profitable wallow in the mud pits of corruption. Usurping sole authority in the guise of "Net Neutrality" J.G. assures his FCC an endless supply of milk and apples courtesy of corporate lobbyists seeking to make their clients "more neutral" than others.

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Should regulators in Washington, D.C., set the rules for the Internet? Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), thinks so. He has crafted a plan to impose so-called “net neutrality” rules on Internet service providers, setting an FCC vote on the proposal for next Tuesday.[2]

Details of the plan are not yet known outside the commission and will likely not be released until after the commission votes. It is reportedly based on a net neutrality plan floated a month ago in Congress. That plan, however, was soundly rejected by Congress. The Genachowski plan—which would end-run Congress—should be rejected as well.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

YouTube’s Terrorism Flag

I know more than one hacktivist who's up to the task, but do we dare risk violating YouTube's Community Guidelines? >shudder<

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Well, once again Joe “kill switch” Lieberman is leading the charge on internet censorship, under yet a new offensive. My money is on LiveLeak rising to the occasion whenever a controversial video is deleted and I would be giddy if some browser plugin dude with some skills and a hankering for lulz would write a Firefox plugin that would just auto-flag everything I ever come across with with Joe Lieberman’s name as “promotes terrorism” and leaving an automated YouTube comment explaining how he really and truly is a terror upon free speech.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Lawmakers and Legal Experts Call For Restraint in Wikileaks Hearing

EFF wrap-up of the House Judiciary Committee Wikileaks' hearing.

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The House Judiciary Committee held a surprisingly subdued hearing this morning on the legal and constitutional issues surrounding Wikileaks' publication activities. Committee members repeatedly emphasized the importance of protecting First Amendment rights and cautioned against overreaction to Wikileaks. The seven legal experts called to testify agreed, almost all of them noting that:

  • Excessive government secrecy is a serious problem that needs to be fixed,
  • It's critically important to protect freedom of expression and the press, and
  • The government should be extremely cautious about pursuing any prosecutions under the Espionage Act or any legislation that would expand that law, which is already poorly written and could easily be applied in ways that would be unconstitutional.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Human Rights Organizations Worldwide Decry Attacks on Freedom of Expression

EFF provides highlights from the position statements of human rights organizations.

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It has been almost two weeks since, the website hosting leaked US diplomatic cables, was taken down, and the right of Wikileaks to publish truthful information was immediately besieged. Since then, human rights organizations around the world have condemned the attacks on WikiLeaks and have raised their voices to protect freedom of expression online.

To help illustrate what human rights and other organizations are saying internationally, we have highlighted some excerpts from their own institutional statements over this David-Goliath style battle.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WikiLeaks Contender ‘Promising’, Analysts Say

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A new transparency site being launched by WikiLeaks defectors is a promising alternative, according to media and government transparency analysts, but its true value will depend on whether it can garner the trust and interest of sources with valuable documents to leak.

The new site,, is set to launch this week and promises an equally secure and anonymous channel for leaking important documents to journalists and other recipients. However, it also aims to avoid the “cult of personality” that has arisen around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the various controversies and legal pressures that his leadership has attracted, by placing editorial control of leaks in the hands of established journalists, rather than acting as a publisher itself.


Court Rebuffs White House on Warrantless Cell-Site Tracking

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The decision (.pdf) by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one in a string of court decisions boosting Americans’ privacy in the digital age — rulings the government fought against. The most significant and recent decision came Tuesday, when a different federal appeals court said for the first time the government must obtain a court warrant for an internet service provider to grant the authorities access to a suspect’s e-mail.


Decentralizing Twitter – And the Rest of the Web, Too

Interesting interview from Technoccult

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I just interviewed J Chris Anderson, the CFO of CouchOne, for ReadWriteWeb. CouchOne is the corporate sponsor of an open source database and programming language called CouchDB. Anderson recently started hosting a demo/proof of concept app called Twebz – a decentralized Twitter Client – built with CouchDB and node.js. Anderson explains how CouchDB could be used to decentralize not only Twitter, but most other web applications as well. It’s pretty geeky but could have big ramifications: This tech could help build a more resilient Internet in the face of disasters, cyberwarfare and censorship.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Constructive Direct Action Against Censorship

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The past few weeks have highlighted the vulnerability of centralized
information systems to censorship: online
speech is only as strong as the weakest intermediary. Sites hosting
legitimate speech were caught
up in an anti-counterfeiting raid
by the Department of Homeland
Security, EveryDNS
stopped hosting’s DNS, Amazon
refused hosting service
to WikiLeaks, and independent protesters conducted
denial-of-service attacks on businesses
refusing service to WikiLeaks.
If the Combating Online Infringements
and Counterfeits Act
(COICA; the internet censorship bill introduced in
the US Senate) or something like it passes, the threat centralization poses
to First Amendment-protected speech may be unavoidable. Corrective action — designing, implementing, and deploying robust, fault-tolerant
architectures — will improve the security and availability of the internet
infrastructure generally, to the benefit of all.

What, then, can digital activists do to protect speech on the internet?
Fortunately, there are a bunch of technical projects dedicated to reducing
centralization in the internet infrastructure. Some are in the idea stage,
some are up and running, and some are in-between. All of them could use
help: development, documentation, security review, server infrastructure,
testing, and evangelizing. EFF urges technologists of all stripes and skill
levels to work on potential solutions to the centralization problem.


Law Profs: We Need FDA-Style Approval for Laws - Let A Thousand Nations Bloom

Change technology, change incentives: Napster-Kazaa / WikiLeaks-OpenLeaks

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After Napster was shut down as a company & a service, Kazaa was quickly written to address the central point of failure weakness.  With a pure P2P system, there is no concentration of liability – the liability of any one peer is vastly less than a company and removing them doesn’t stop the system, so the benefits are far less.  On the cost side, while the cost to sue one peer is less than suing a company,  the cost to sue every peer is vastly higher than the cost to sue one central company.

While WikiLeaks may have benefited from having a known leader who could fundraise and recruit, we can now see the weakness of that system.  When the US got angry enough, Julian Assange was the obvious target.  But you can’t take vengeance without teaching a lesson, and the movement to free information for public benefit can now simply reconstitute around a model robust to the “find a guy and throw him in jail” attack.  Already, next-generation solutions are in the works:


Friday, December 10, 2010

Secure Persons and Privacy

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Like anybody else, I want to be as safe as I can reasonably expect. I certainly don’t want my loved ones to suffer a terrorist attack. But I don’t believe that sacrificing liberty is going to make anyone safer. Compare the TSA-style measures’ effectiveness in thwarting terrorist plots to the effectiveness of good intelligence, thorough investigation, and the initiative of intended victims.

Government priorities mean that security checkpoints are not mainly looking out for bombs or terrorists. Checkpoint personnel are looking for people with immigration violations, drugs the government does not approve of, weapons carried without government approval, and whatever else will boost arrest stats and criminal justice revenue. The traveler will be confronted by militarized authoritarians who aren’t totally focused on passenger safety.

It should be clear that the loss of freedom doesn’t really make us safer. But we pay for the security state in other ways too. People are made late, travel time is increased and inconvenience leads to marginally less travel. As a result the economy becomes less dynamic. If people avoid public transportation there will be more highway traffic and more car accidents. Increased spending on fuel consumption and road repair is made at the expense of things people would otherwise desire more.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Amuse Your Way Through Life's Problems

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“What we think is happening,” said Mark Beeman, a neuroscientist who conducted the study with Karuna Subramaniam, a graduate student, “is that the humor, this positive mood, is lowering the brain’s threshold for detecting weaker or more remote connections” to solve puzzles.

“It’s imagination, it’s inference, it’s guessing; and much of it is happening subconsciously,” said Marcel Danesi, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and the author of “The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life.”

“It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos,” Dr. Danesi said. “And once you have, you can sit back and say, ‘Hey, the rest of my life may be a disaster, but at least I have a solution.’ ”


California's Pension Crisis Needs Serious Reform

Adam Summers addresses California's pension crisis.

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California needs to switch to a defined-contribution system for all new employees, as the private sector has been doing for decades. This would work just like 401(k) retirement plans do for so many nongovernment workers. The state would contribute a certain percentage of the employee's pay, and possibly match up to an additional portion, to that employee's individual retirement account.

Since contributions are essentially a fixed percentage of payroll, they do not vary widely from year to year based on pension fund performance. Contributions must be paid in full every year so there is no such thing as an unfunded pension liability in a defined-contribution plan.

Politicians can't continue to merely nibble around the edges of the state's pension crisis. It's time to admit that the 401(k)-style retirement plans that are good enough for nearly every private sector worker are going to have to be good enough for state workers, too.


Monday, December 06, 2010

The State’s Corporate Wasteland

David D'Amato continues to expose the State-Corporate con game.

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The perceived inefficiency of government is often measured against the wholly unsubstantiated myth of the well-oiled corporate machine. The state’s many modules, thought of as shiftlessly unconcerned with the bottom line, are implored by the standard conservative philippic to be “run like a business,” as if real-world businesses are models of sleek efficiency.

The binary framework of American political folklore sees business interests as hermetically sealed from state interests, with the cold orderliness of “professionalism” defining our image of the corporate world. The state, by comparison, is thought to be the sanctum of all the good-hearted, underpaid crusaders for social justice, imprudent with the dollar but well-meaning. Just a passing glance at the actual corporation (as opposed to its idealized image), however, begs for a thorough reconsideration of the prevailing narrative.

And as vast, hierarchical institutions defined by a numbness to technological and social chance, corporations seem an especially appropriate analogy to the bureaucratic mammoths of state socialism. The largest and most powerful of them, rather than being the most avant-garde or the most reactive to the wants of the humble consumer, are the most inept and incapable of competing in the tempestuous world of untrammeled exchange. In his exhaustive treatise of economics Human Action, Ludwig von Mises counseled that a “successful corporation is ultimately never controlled by hired managers,” and in a free market that may be true.

In the state-corporate society, though, where status lives in job titles and climbing the corporate ladder, managerial elites enjoy a tight grip on the power; it is no coincidence that they run their companies in much the same way that the state functions, through gradations of authority and arbitrary administrative processes. It isn’t even as though there’s a societal balance between state and corporate interests, implying some polarity between the two; they are very simply elements of the same arrangement, whereby laws like the Williams Act — a securities rule that purports to protect shareholders — regulate away challenges to indolent suits in corner offices.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Unintended Humor in Wikileaks Criticism

The humor is dark, but it's there. I'm reminded of Mel Brooks' definitions of comedy and tragedy: "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."

Monday, November 22, 2010

The LA Times vs. American Travelers

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The important thing to remember is that the weak point in American air travel safety is government.

In the long term, it’s the state that makes us targets for terrorists in the first place.

Al Qaeda didn’t hijack those planes because Osama bin Laden got an undercooked hamburger at a fast food joint, or because some big box chain store sold him a defective lawn chair.

They hijacked those planes by way of attempting to blackmail powerful politicians into doing things they don’t want to do by scaring their constituents into demanding it. Take the power away from the politicians and the tactic goes away with it.


Friday, November 05, 2010

Posterous Does What Others Can't

Posterous can post to Delicious and Live Journal, Amplify and can't. I suppose Amplify doesn't need to, auto-posting to Posterous gets the job done but used to. The rang of services can post to seems to be shrinking.

What's the big secret, Posterous?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Fed’s Latest Scam

David D'Amato of C4SS brings us play-by-play on the latest Federal Reserve shell game.

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In a press release yesterday, the Federal Reserve announced plans to undertake quantitative easing measures, “purchas[ing] … $600 billion of longer-term Treasury securities by the end of the second quarter of 2011, a pace of about $75 billion per month.” Quantitative easing is the sly euphemism used to describe a policy whereby, instead of attempting to pass another highly visible stimulus package through Congress, the central bank purchases the federal government’s debt obligations.

If we didn’t know better, we might speculate that, considering its profligate spending, the Fed has a cache of wealth in a secret vault somewhere, some tangible value to back up its decision. Careful to characterize its latest move as a legitimate treatment for an ailing economy, the many voices of the Fed have stressed that the maneuver is a value-for-value exchange as opposed to a gratuitous handout to the banking/creditor class. While the Fed is paying for something — government Treasury bonds — it is acquiring that something at a price that no one in a market completely free from coercion would ever ante up for such rotten debt.

By diluting the money in our wallets, essentially dividing our dollars into parts and pretending those parts are worth as much as the original bills, the new round of quantitative easing is a veiled tax. Quantitative easing therefore operates to drain the real wealth out of productive society for sake of the banking elite, relieving their books of the debt that only an institution financed by brazen theft would buy; this is the perverse spectacle of the state-created and -backed central bank buying the state’s securities with the state’s fiat currency.

A system that allowed free market banks or credit unions to circulate their own currencies would reestablish the link between money and the things or services it is exchanged for; ratios between competing currencies would, in turn, provide the kind of price information that the state’s coercive system is so perilously lacking.

The Fed is showing the world what anarchists have always understood, that more regulation and state involvement in the marketplace and in banking are jeopardizing rather than protecting the average consumer. The free market, emancipating the working class and shattering privilege, is the lone answer to the corporate morass we’re stuck in today.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Obamacare Feeds Insurance Oligarchs

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Today, a Wall Street Journal opinion column titled Big Business, Big Medicine reports the “turn toward consolidation among insurance companies,” a “dynamic [that] is leading to much larger hospital systems and physician groups, and fewer insurers dominated by a handful of national conglomerates.” If this seems an anomalous result from an administration thought to represent a departure from the corporate cronyism of its predecessor, then the blatant and contrary writing on the wall was apparently ignored.

Like all regulations declaredly subduing Big Business predominance over consumer’s lives, the new laws synthesize “public” and “private” — both of which are ultimately meaningless is our system — boosting an already corporatist economy for health services. As we might have foreseen, the politicians’ solution nurtures a condition whereby smaller “carriers will collapse under the new mandates and higher overhead.” So in the face of everything the President said about “not accept[ing] the status quo as a solution” in health care, “Obamacare” delivered for Big Insurance, a cartel that loathes competition and welcomes impenetrable regulation. Both the state and Big Business — adversaries only in the popular imagination — are triumphant, the coordination of the two saddling us with another shakedown scheme.

The United States’ health care system, a teetering house of cards that will ultimately implode, exists through economic fallacy. Even so, by the time the elites’ scheme withers, they will have already thieved more than enough from the productive class; they will, as always, leave insolvency and beggary behind, but they’ll benefit from the presumption that their hearts were in the right place in trying to give health care to everyone. The insurance lobby is getting what it paid for with these policies and this President. We can inaccurately call this process of fraud and favoritism a free market, or we accept that such are the contours of American Capitalism and subscribe to free markets as a means of disbanding these price-fixing protection rackets.


Friday, October 22, 2010

5 Reasons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S.

Michael Moore Almost Gets It Right

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Michael Moore, writing at Alternet (“Why Republicans Are Always Worried About Their Pet Corporations Facing Any Real Free Market Competition,” Oct. 21),  makes a very acute observation:  “whenever corporate executives begin talking about how they support ‘free markets’ and ‘competition,’ check to see if you still have your wallet.”  The reason is that “nobody” — not even Marxists — “hates competition more than corporations.”

Moore was so close — but he just missed it.  Moore frames the issue as one of big corporations trying to suppress competition by weakening the antitrust laws.  “When corporate executives start pushing for ‘free market policies,’ what they mean is a government that lets them become a monopoly.”

If he’d said they want “a government that HELPS them become a monopoly,” he’d have had it just right.  The main factor behind monopoly isn’t whether government lets it exist by failing to enforce antitrust laws.  It’s whether government enables it by erecting entry barriers, suppressing competition with cartelizing regulations, and enforcing legal monopolies like “intellectual property.”  Government doesn’t “allow” monopoly.  It props it up.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How Public Employee Unions Can Halt the Pension Crisis

Brad Spangler at C4SS addresses the coming collapse of state-funded pensions.

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If public employee unions genuinely want to represent the interests of their members, they ought to be sounding the alarm to man the lifeboats and prepare to abandon the ship of state.

Government, at all levels, is bankrupting itself and taking the rest of the country (nay, world) with it. An equity for debt swap is relatively common in bankruptcy cases. In this case, unions can serve as advocates and midwives for a new model of worker-owned privatization that gives rank and file public employees shares of common stock in formerly public enterprises as compensation for the default on pensions that’s inevitably coming, whether they want it to or not.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sharp In Klein

Mike Gibson at "Let A Thousand Nations Bloom" follows through on Ezra Klein's "What if the government were run more like a business?" thought experiment.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An Immoral System Can Only Be Sustained By Immorality

(C4SS) Kevin Carson's comments on World War II and the Great Depression.

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I believe that Horwitz, in countering Krugman’s argument with a description of how economic growth would be achieved in a free market, ignores the point that the industrial system we’ve had over the past 150 years hasn’t even remotely resembled a free market. It has been a corporatist system built from the ground up through overwhelming state intervention and massive collusion between big business and big government.

The state has promoted the overaccumulation of capital in mass-production facilities that are only profitable when they can amortize the cost of their expensive specialized machinery by running at full capacity without regard to preexisting demand, and then find some way to dispose of the product. And the only way to dispose of that full product has been through state-aided planned obsolescence, state-aided expansion in to foreign markets, direct state purchases of surplus output and surplus capital, and–as a last resort–massive state destruction of output and capital in war.


Friday, October 01, 2010

One Human’s Taxation is a Tragedy; Three Hundred Million is a Statistic

Check out Third Way's publications here:

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An itemized receipt for taxes? How lovely and desirable!

A think tank entitled Third Way just issued a paper wherein they analzed what the $5400 in federal taxes the median taxpayer of 2009 (who earned $34,140) actually purchased. Among the reactions in the blogosphere, one recurring comment strikingly resounded.

Writers noted that everywhere else an exchange of goods occurs, a bill of transfer or receipt is produced. Why is one not given to taxpayers in the same manner? An honest and baffling question for American citizens to ponder, with a lousy answer.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Victory: Internet Censorship Bill is Delayed, For Now

The Market, Not Government, Is The Worker’s Friend

In the Center for a Stateless Society’s latest study, “Labor Struggle: A Free Market Model,” C4SS Research Associate Kevin Carson examines the role of state labor regulation in halting the progress of unionism and explores the gains made for labor by direct action and worker solidarity in the face of combined state and corporate power.

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“The predominance of the conventional strike as we know it, as the primary weapon of labor struggle,” writes Carson, “is in fact a byproduct of the labor relations regime created under the Wagner Act. … In the system of labor relations extant before Wagner, strikes were only one part of the total range of available tactics. Unionism, and the methods it normally employed, was less about strikes or excluding non-union workers from the workplace than about what workers did inside the workplace to strengthen their bargaining power against the boss.”


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fight the Copyright Trolls

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EFF is trying to help by assisting people in finding lower cost or pro bono counsel, allowing people to fight back without the costs of defense bankrupting them. But in the meantime, these lawsuits are causing tremendous collateral damage — to the individuals targeted, to due process, and to the legal profession (which doesn’t need another example of unscrupulous lawyering). To be clear, no one is arguing that copyright owners don’t have a legal right to protect their works. But it’s quite another thing to game the legal system — and waste judicial resources, i.e., your tax dollars — to make a profit.


Banned Books Week: it's back

The L.A. Times looks at the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom top 10 most-challenged books of 2009

Public vs. Private Charity

Bonnie Kristian addresses a classic false premise.

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Q. Sometimes, when I have conversations with socialists (we call them “New Democrats” in Canada), I have no idea how to counter arguments like: But what do we do about the poor and marginalized? Cutting government spending only ensures that the poor and marginalized in society become more poor and marginalized. Then the elites can grab power and exploit the poor and marginalized. We need a balance, we need more government programs.

A. The “we must save the poor and marginalized one” is certainly a sympathetic one, I must admit.  However, it’s also based on a completely false premise:  that government helps the poor and marginalized.

In fact, I completed my honors thesis on this very subject of public vs. private charity, and I can tell you that the academic literature on the subject of private charity and comparable public programs is generally in agreement:  Private organizations are more efficient and/or effective in their work.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Artificial Crisis of Contention

David D'Amato points out the dangers of collusion while the MSM moans about "gridlock" and "partisan politics."

"Next time you hear a talking head lament the unwillingness of radicals to 'play ball,' consider what cooperation between agents of subjugation and theft really means."

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The truth, that Republicans and Democrats represent the same statist orthodoxy, is decidedly more mundane and doesn’t lend itself very readily to the kinds of linguistic overkill used by the mainstream news to present the nonissues of electoral politics. Rather than the hostility-mired war zone lambasted by authoritarians rhapsodizing over the virtues of political compromise, this country’s political process is a paragon of back room collusion, of the connivance between power elites.

And, for some reason, we’re meant to prefer this to the genuine, unaffected, ideological confrontation dreamt up by the mainstream, as if the established “debate” would suffer any idea that actually was fresh or in any way subversive. In the same way that America’s civic lore spuriously pits Big Business against Big Government where the two are actually quite friendly, there is systematic denial in this country about the basic nature of the two-party system. This clueless belief in meaningful inter-party antagonism occasions another, related error, that if opposing politicians could put aside their perceived bickering their collective sage wisdom would overbear any problem society might face, the state of course possessing the magic bullets that no nonviolent institution could.


T-Mobile Claims Right to Censor Text Messages

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

One Law for the Lion, One Law for the Lamb

Kevin Carson lays down the law.

More Jobs for Kids

Minimum wage laws are a subtle form of discrimination against youth and other disenfranchised workers.

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If lawmakers want to help kids find jobs, they would have more luck fixing the flaws in their current policies, not introducing new ones. The big culprit here: the minimum wage. Minimum wage laws kill jobs by making employing workers more expensive. Youth are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon because they, of all segments of the population, are most likely to work minimum wage jobs: the economics literature is quite clear on this point. Remove the minimum wage and you remove a substantial disincentive to hire young workers. New government interventions, like a make-work program for kids, would only be the latest in a long series of misguided, if well-intentioned, plans to help struggling workers.


Monday, September 20, 2010

How to Record the Cops

Radley Balko at provides the Hows and Whys plus the Dos and Do Nots of keeping cops honest.

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A guide to the technology for keeping government accountable

This summer the issue of recording on-duty police officers has
received a great deal of media attention. Camera-wielding citizens
were arrested in Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts under
interpretations of state wiretapping laws, while others were
arrested in New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Florida, and elsewhere
based on vaguer charges related to obstructing or interfering with
a police officer.

So far Massachusetts is the only state to explicitly uphold a
conviction for recording on-duty cops, and Illinois and
Massachusetts are the only states where it is clearly illegal. The
Illinois law has yet to be considered by the state's Supreme Court,
while the Massachusetts law has yet to be upheld by a federal
appeals court. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler recently
issued an opinion concluding that arrests for recording cops are
based on a misreading of the state's wiretapping statute, but that
opinion isn't binding on local prosecutors.

In the remaining 47 states, the law is clearer: It is generally
legal to record the police, as long as you don't physically
interfere with them. You may be unfairly harassed, questioned, or
even arrested, but it's unlikely you will be charged, much less
convicted. (These are general observations and should not be
treated as legal advice.)

One reason this issue has heated up recently is that the
democratization of technology has made it easier than ever for just
about anyone to pull out a camera and quickly document an encounter
with police. So what's the best way to record cops? Here is a quick
rundown of the technology that's out there.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Developing Sofware for Activists

Entrepreneurs take note, it's a growth industry.

Amplify’d from

Writing software to protect political activists against censorship and surveillance is a tricky business. If those activists are living under the kind of authoritarian regimes where a loss of privacy may lead to the loss of life or liberty, we need to tread especially cautiously.

This post isn't going to get into the debate about the social processes that gave Haystack the kind of attention and deployment that it received, before it had been properly reviewed and tested. Instead, we want to emphasize something else: it remains possible to write software that makes activists living under authoritarian regimes safer. But the developers, funders, and distributors of that software need to remember that it isn't easy, and need to go about it the right way.