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Echoes and Mirrors » government

Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Is it so Absurd? An Argument About Class and Access

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

Recently, I celebrated a birthday. What happens on my birthday every year is that I also have to renew my vehicle registration.

The Ohio BMV (Does that not sound like a child mispronouncing DMV? Ohio, you are a joke.) was within walking distance from campus. So, on my birthday, I walked from school down there to find out that they moved across town. I wasn’t upset about having to give the state money on my birthday; I’ve had to renew vehicle registration for years and I was working anyway. No big deal.

But when I got there, I found a sign informing me that they’d moved to a location clear across town. One that I couldn’t walk to. Inside the mall. Which is important because by time I got out of work, they were closed and I couldn’t drive.

Now, I’ve been trying to make time to take a bus out to the new location, which simply hasn’t worked with their hours and my work schedule being about evenly matched.

Granted, I could have done my renewal prior to the last day possible. But I drive maybe once a week and hadn’t driven anywhere in almost three weeks leading up to it. I just forgot about it. I live in town and generally walk everywhere.

And so I suppose I would be inclined to argue that moving an essential government office to a location that can only be reached by motor vehicle presupposes an ability to either spend an hour or two taking public transit or the ability to legally drive already. Having a car or other motor vehicle is really more of a necessity than a privilege outside of major metropolitan areas.

Also consider those who are simply attempting to get a valid identification card (and can’t drive, by choice or otherwise). They now have to find some sort of transportation to the office instead of being able to walk.

This strikes me as a form of class warfare. A minor blow, perhaps, but it makes assumptions about minimum ability. Specifically, it makes an assumption of what I would call a middle class ability, or middle class access. That is access to either the time to arrange for transportation or the transportation itself.

Having access and having convenient access are completely different things. Purposeful inconvenience is a method of restricting the level of access and is somewhat evil. Coincidental inconvenience, on the other hand, would simply be a form of ignorance. I’m not sure what we’re dealing with in this case but I would highly doubt any intent was had. It seems more like someone simply didn’t consider the broader consequences of moving the BMV. That is, they did not consider anyone with less than a certain level of access.


I have a blog? Oh look I have a blog.

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

I’m pretty terrible about not posting anything on here. Pretty much this is a result of being bogged down with a mountain of homework or other academic work, which is an adequate excuse for me. I was considering implementing something to produce a daily digest of interesting links from google reader with a brief comment, but google has gotten rid of shared links. Truthfully, it wouldn’t be a huge time constraint to just sit down and write a blog post every day, but lately I’ve just felt like I don’t have anything interesting to say about much of anything, especially news-wise. But I’ll whip up a few thoughts about #OWS because I’m feeling frisky tonight.

I’ve been following the #OWS movement from twitter and fark.com, where there is at least one thread a day, if not more. Oddly enough, people in those very threads claim that nobody is paying attention or talking about #OWS. This sort of movement is exactly what I think we need right now, even if it’s not organized with a clearly identifiable goal. Because what the US needs is to recognize that something is wrong before trying to figure out exactly what it is. And I think #OWS is accomplishing one thing very well: they’re making the symptoms of the problem very, very clear. But like many alcoholics who refuse to admit they even have a problem, many Americans are refusing to admit that there is anything to protest. And some of them don’t think that protesting is the right answer, but would rather the protesters play the PAC game and attempt to work the system the same way the banks have. This is silly.

The boat needs to be rocked. I’m sorry your overpriced martini was spilled.

Matt Taibbi really nails the frustration with Wall Street. But I see Wall Street’s behavior as a symptom of a bigger problem with the US. That bigger problem is the cause of other ninety-nine percenters siding with Wall Street. I’m not even sure what it is, but there is something fundamentally wrong. And like an unexplainable rash on a patient being treated by House, M.D., we’ll find out that it is something that requires more than government intervention. I suspect it will require a reevaluation of American values, not just rules.

And unfortunately, with the recent DHS coordinated attacks on the occupy camps, Scott Olsen, and Zucotti Park, I am only seeing things get worse. The police are doubling down on their loyalty to the system, even if they know it’s corrupt. They might even care. But I doubt it. The police have been slowly turning into paramilitary thugs armed with tanks for decades. They like the system the way it is. Any given day, a visit to The Agitator shows that the state of law enforcement in this country is only getting worse. And the plutocracy loves it. They get thugs-by-proxy from wars on drugs and invisible terrorists and the serfs run around screaming injustice, too busy to worry about the secret aristocracy.

But I shouldn’t say crazy things like that. It sounds melodramatic even to me. But I do think that there is a problem with American values and that the problem with Wall Street is merely a symptom of that. I offer no solutions, but I’m not even sure what the real problem is yet. The abuses of Wall Street can be fixed, but I suspect it will just come back in a different industry, in a different guise unless we figure what is really wrong.


Yelling at the Grass For Being The Wrong Shade of Green

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Americans Should Be Able to Sell Stuff Without a Permit

The normal mindset among U.S. officials is that prior permission should be required to sell legal goods to a willing buyer. Kids selling lemonade on the street are shut down. A Missouri man has been fined $90,000 for selling rabbits (he made about $200). In Illinois, an artisan ice cream maker is being shut down for lack of a dairy permit. Manuel Winn was arrested, handcuffed, and booked for selling magazines door-to-door without a permit. A Maryland mother of three was arrested for selling $2 phone cards without a license. Lots of municipalities are going after food trucks. A group of Louisiana monks had to go to court to win the right to sell simple wooden caskets to consumers.

Hey now, if papa government doesn’t get his cut then these so-called entrepreneurs are doing a disservice to America, obviously. And bigger companies/corporations are easier to get bigger cuts from. When it comes to forcing businesses to follow regulations all these little businesses become a burden on the bureaucracy. Government loves big-business, because big business funds campaigns and is willing to pay the government all sorts of regulatory fees to stay off their backs.

I just finished reading Milosz’s The Captive Mind, and I’m reminded of a frightening section of that book recounting the way the totalitarianism of Stalin’s communism couldn’t abide by even one person being in business for themselves. Only here we have the government insisting that every single business transaction be closely monitored and shut down if it doesn’t meet their exacting standards, not crushed/killed. This is what libertarians really mean when they say we need deregulation in business:

These needless, onerous regulations would be objectionable at any time. But they’re particularly problematic when many Americans find themselves unemployed, needful of income, and thrust into the position of doing what they can to get by. That may mean a series of garage sales, or selling fruit from a backyard tree, or making a craft to offer for sale on the street, or going door-to-door offering handyman skills, or any number of other informal businesses. We’re making things harder on the least advantaged among us, and some are forced to take more social welfare because laws prevent them from making a living on their own.

This isn’t a jeremiad against all government regulation. Should commercial airline pilots be required to have a license? Sure. Are zoning restrictions sometimes legitimate? Of course. But is society really going to suffer if lemonade vendors, casket makers and purveyors of $2 phone cards sell their wares without permission? The default should be that free citizens can engage in commerce with one another, sans any prior restraint by federal, state, or local governments. It’s time to deregulate.

It’s not a matter of everything being a total free-for-all, but nobody should have to ask permission to go into business for themselves if said business has no repercussions on others. This is one of the biggest ways people have confused libertarianism. That Salon publishes articles like “Why libertarians apologize for autocracy” doesn’t help. Of course, Roderick Long made a very concise and clear rebuttal of the bizarre misinterpretation of libertarianism by Lind:

One reason for Lind’s conflation is that he automatically translates being anti-democracy into being pro-autocracy — because he assumes that the only alternative to democracy is autocracy. But in fact there is a third option; rather than the many dictating to the few or the few dictating to the many, what libertarians seek is a world where nobody is in a position to dictate to anybody — or at least to get as close to that situation as possible. (It might be argued that such a system actually has a better claim to the term “democracy” than those regimes that typically receive that label.) For anarchist libertarians, this means replacing the state entirely with networks of voluntary association; for minarchist libertarians, it means structuring the machinery of government in such a way as to make it as difficult as possible to abuse.

In other words, libertarians don’t oppose democracy (in the conventional sense) because they hanker after autocracy; they oppose democracy because it is too much like autocracy.

And even this point assumes, generously, that existing democracies really are majoritarian. As many libertarians have argued, the logic of monopoly government and special-interest capture explains why real-life “democracies” tend to be plutocratic oligarchies in democratic trappings.

There you go: criticism of democracy, in a quick youtube video. Obviously, that means I favor autocracy because I don’t think that democracy works justly. I think many naysayers of libertarianism (as Roderick points out in the linked article) are simply making an either-or fallacy. There aren’t only two options, but the one advocated by the left libertarians is so mindblowingly unheard of that most people dismiss it before they even hear an explanation.


But, but, but voting is your civic duty!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011


Also, to cut down on the cynicism and inject some wholesome idealism, check this out: ALL-Left.net.


In Which I End Up Sounding Like a Conspiracy Theorist

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

I’m not big on conspiracy theories. Some are more entertaining than others, sure. And some are right in pointing out that something isn’t right in re whatever it is they’re theorizing conspiracies about. And I have one of my own.

I’m really concerned that I haven’t heard much really about this:

Artificial Leaf Could Be More Efficient Than the Real Thing
Speaking at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in California, MIT professor Daniel Nocera claims to have created an artificial leaf made from stable and inexpensive materials that mimics nature’s photosynthesis process.

The device is an advanced solar cell, no bigger than a typical playing card, which is left floating in a pool of water. Then, much like a natural leaf, it uses sunlight to split the water into its two core components, oxygen and hydrogen, which are stored in a fuel cell to be used when producing electricity.

Nocera’s leaf is stable — operating continuously for at least 45 hours without a drop in activity in preliminary tests — and made of widely available, inexpensive materials — like silicon, electronics and chemical catalysts. It’s also powerful, as much as 10 times more efficient at carrying out photosynthesis than a natural leaf.

With a single gallon of water, Nocera says, the chip could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Provide every house on the planet with an artificial leaf and we could satisfy our 14-terrawatt need with just one gallon of water a day.

And it’s ready for production use. A gallon of water per day (probably more like 3-4 for American households, but really, that’s still not very much). In fact, they’re going to make them. And sell them in third-world countries that lack centralized power grids.

Couple it with a little wind turbine and a solar panel, and you’ll never pay for electricity again.

But we will never see this in America. Except as a niche market sold to eco-warriors and survivalists. (Not that anyone seems to have much of a problem with either group, but most of those who claim association are readily identified in some way as a nut.) Now here’s my crazy bit: it’s okay to lower your power use, but it’s impossible to cut yourself off from the power grid. I think it’s even illegal in most places (I could be wrong about that, but it seems like something a housing code would include for making a house livable).

And it’s not about electricity. It’s not about people being lazy. It’s not about economics. Or the environment.

It’s about power. Not the electrical kind. But big-industry, centralized power. As long as there is a very small number of places generating everyone’s electricity, they have America by the nutsack.

Oh, and according to the Japanese, Nuclear Power plants can get really dangerous sometimes. We have a pretty good track-record here in the US, sure. I guess that will last forever. We will never have a problem like that, right?

So it’s like this: they have figured out a way to dispose of a multi-billion dollar industry that, when faced with a natural disaster or a drunk engineer or a crack in some concrete, could irradiate huge sections of the planet. And that industry will instead continue building nuclear reactors really close to me.

And it’s not just in electricity or utilities industries – the federal government has been continually centralizing law enforcement and other things for decades. Everyone wants to do away with distributed computing that doesn’t have a centralized host (this new Cloud Computing thing is the solution to decentralized internet gibberish). There is a war against anarchism. They powers that be are insisting that for everything, somebody has to be in charge. And to that I say, no. No there doesn’t. Fuck off.

You wanted to see my crazy: there it is. I think that corporatism is going to destroy what’s left of humanity with e-books and fucking cloud computing. We’ll all be hooked up to the same power, internet, and ‘distributed’ systems. All traffic will be monitored or be pay-per-view/use and being outside of its grasp will make you an outsider in the truest sense. It’s going to taxonomize and categorize everything until we can’t fucking breath. And we’re going to shell out cash to the big centralized machines that give us our little happiness. And don’t forget to update your fucking facebook status either, to let the marketing drones watching that you’re upset or happy.

Yes, I’m on the power grid. That doesn’t make me hypocritical. If I shunned the power grid I wouldn’t be able to do anything. There is a line between being ideological and being stupid. We can still choose quite a bit right now. And we can still be anonymous (I don’t mean Anonymous, but you can be that too, if you like) for the moment. And when that changes, I’ll be in Peru, with a leaf-powered home, drinking Ayahuasca and laughing at everyone. I hope.


I’ve been slack haven’t I? Oh bother.

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Yes, yes, I know that nobody reads my drivel anyway, but I still feel sort of bad about not having posted anything since mid-December (is that right? I didn’t even look to see when my last real post was.). I’ve been awfully busy with schoolwork. With luck I’ll actually manage to keep some kind of schedule for posting again. I need to start taking notes of shit I’d like to rant about. It’ll be rad if I can manage that. My coursework is a little lighter than it was last semester. It’s still pretty heavy though.

In the mean time, I’ll just drop off a couple things I’ve found really interesting. Well, I had more things to talk about — Wisconsin, in particular — but I sort of got frustrated with it and gave up. There’s revolution going on everywhere but here. We need some good old-fashioned late-90’s Seattle anarchist-style protests. People smashing up a Starbucks or something, you know? I digress.

This is pretty rad. I think I’m actually going to buy it. Because I’m not nerdy enough, as it is.

There is a flash doohicky of the LROC WAC mosaic of the lunar nearside. It’s like google-maps satellite view for the moon. M-O-O-N that spells fucking awesome. Yeah, so it’s just a ball of rock that creates tides, looks pretty in the sky, avoids attempts to be lassoed, was once confused with a god, and shelters moon-men who plot to take over once we’ve killed ourselves off one day, but it’s still pretty awesome. The moon doesn’t get enough credit for causing lunacy anymore, in my opinion.

I might be alone in this, but Charlie Sheen is my fucking hero. Now, I don’t have predilections towards mountains of cocaine and hookers per se, but I’ll be damned if that lifestyle doesn’t have at least a slight bit of appeal. I’m a bit envious, honestly. I know a lot of people are giving him a lot of flack for his recent shenanigans but that’s just kinda sad, really. He says, “I’m winning” and I look at it and say, “yup.” Why? He’s doing shit we all wish we could and being unapologetic for it. I’m not saying he’s doing the specific things we want to do, but he’s doing what he wants to do and not backing down. So when he called into the Alex Jones radio program and ranted for 18 minutes, it was pure gold. He does not give a flying fuck what we think. Which is sort of admirable. Oh, and don’t do cocaine. It makes you all wacky. If you don’t believe me, follow the link and listen.

The revolutions in the middle-east are going well I guess. I’m sort of interested in seeing how it all pans out. The US’s involvement and interests can only muck things up, but hopefully our el presidente has a decent head on his shoulders and won’t send the CIA in to work their nastiness. It’s never really seemed to work out for us. That whole Taliban thing sure bit us in the ass. So did a few others, I guess. These revolutions and their decision to be democratic could possible end with them simply choosing a new dictator, but I’d like to believe that wouldn’t happen. And just because a certain cretin will be favorable to us in the short-run doesn’t mean we need to help them into power. If we do something like that again, I think Canada should wait until we revolt and install a leader of their choosing into the position of US President. Maybe then we can get some decent hockey coverage on broadcast television.

I have no comment on the Wisconsin Teacher’s union business. I’m a product of Wisconsin’s public education system and it was top-notch while I attended school there (for a public system, it’s fantastic).

Or maybe I’m not seriously paying attention anymore. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m starting to believe that anybody with any gravitas or voice in the media is simply trolling us now. Nobody can seriously believe half the stuff said on television. It’s just not possible. Bill O’Reilly is a prime example: he’s just fucking with us. Plain and simple. Or maybe not, at which point, I’ll go back to my book and pretend not to care some more.


I Want My Post-Apocalypse America, And I Want it Medium-Rare

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I was kinda gripped by this article on Helium a few days ago. It kinda struck me as panicky and sensationalistic, or in other words, crap. Doomsday: How BP Gulf disaster may have triggered a ‘world-killing’ event

Ominous reports are leaking past the BP Gulf salvage operation news blackout that the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico may be about to reach biblical proportions.

251 million years ago a mammoth undersea methane bubble caused massive explosions, poisoned the atmosphere and destroyed more than 96 percent of all life on Earth. [1] Experts agree that what is known as the Permian extinction event was the greatest mass extinction event in the history of the world. [2]

I mean, scientists don’t run around screaming ‘DOOMSDAY!!’ like chicken little. But there was the scientific basis for a glimmering hope of mass destruction. Obviously, I’m narcissistic enough to believe that I will be one of the survivors, killing and fighting for the remaining food supplies, hoarding antibiotics and generally being a post-apocalyptic badass. A post-apocalyptic badass with a degree in español (so I can barter with the surviving Mexicans).

Sadly, it was too good to be true. Well, fuckers, thanks.

I suspect that if something on the scale of a mass extinction event is even remotely possible, there should probably be contingency plans in place, right? Howabout getting that goddamn Mars colony started, Mr. President? If an asteroid destroys Earth, Mars is a nice fallback position. And it would be even more awesome than anything the SyFy channel is showing these days.

I think science and policy need to start reflecting a general need to realize our science fiction dreams. The DEA’s budget could be used for it instead of justifying a broken prohibitionist ideal.


HCR Roadmap

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

A good breakdown of the HCR bill can be found here.

I’m not going to link to any of the moonbat Tea Party crap. It just made my head spin and made me a bit sad. I’m no fan of this bill (as previously stated) but it’s not the end of the world. I’m not sure what the final outcome will be either – although I’m sure the political upheaval will be dramatic.


College tuition in GA set to rise again

Friday, February 26th, 2010


I go to a public university in GA. The comments on the Augusta Chronicle’s page are, as always, worth the read. One of the commentrs sounds suspiciously like one of my professors from last semester (and the fact that he hints at the fact that he has his doctorate).

Chapters 6 & 7 of Lonergan’s Insight has only solidified my stance on public education being one of the few responsibilities of the government outside of the minimal state proposed by the strictest of libertarian viewpoints. Yes, I’m in favor of free higher-education. I think that even ditch-diggers and janitors ought to be able to dissect Plato’s Republic, discuss literary theory, comprehend economics, do calculus or any other of the number of “useless” skills one picks up at a university. It should be their choice though – and not billed only as the means to a higher paying job.


Canaries in the coalmine

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

To borrow the analogy from John Robb over at Global Guerillas, who sees the recent Joe Stack incident as such a marker.

In addition to that, I’d point out the guy who bulldozed his own house in retaliation of forclosure:

As well as the ridiculousness of the Tea Party. These people don’t know what they want, but they are determined to get it. And I’m not sure the GOP can use Sarah Palin to destroy the Tea Party the same way they did Pat Buchanan to destroy the Reform Party. These people aren’t just pissed off – they’re desperately clinging to The American Way.

If we start seeing uncontrollable road gangs killing people and stealing gasoline ala Mad Max, we’ll really know we’re in trouble.