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Powers of the Purse Strings

How far do the purse strings reach?

1. Compelled speech. May Congress withhold federal grants from people who decline to engage in federally-specified speech, where that speech is incidental to, or even antithetical to, achieving the stated purposes of the grants?

Context: Congress authorized funds for over-seas anti-AIDS/HIV programs, but specified that no funds may be given to a group or organization “that does not have a policy explicitly opposing prostitution….” Parties before the Supreme Court object that 1) the policy is counterproductive, in that it impedes their ability to work with prostitutes, and 2) the policy infringes on their freedom of speech.

2. Gag order. May Congress withhold federal grants from people who decline to refrain from engaging in federally-disapproved, but otherwise legal, speech? For example, may Congress withhold anti-AIDS/HIV funds from organizations that actively promote prostitution?

3. Compelled conduct. May Congress withhold federal grants from people who decline to engage in federally-specified conduct, where that conduct is incidental to, or even antithetical to, achieving the stated purposes of the grants? For example, may Congress withhold building contracts from firms that do not have an Affirmative Action policy?

4. Compelled restraint. May Congress withhold federal grants from people who decline to refrain from engaging in federally-disapproved, but otherwise legal, conduct? For example, may Congress withhold family planning funds from agencies that provide abortions?

5. Tax exemption in lieu of grants. May Congress withhold tax exemptions from people who decline to engage in federally-specified speech/conduct, where the speech/conduct is incidental to, or even antithetical to, achieving the stated purposes of the tax exemptions? May Congress withhold tax exemptions from people who decline to refrain from engaging in federally-disapproved, but otherwise legal, speech/conduct? For example, may Congress withhold a tax exemption from a not-for-profit university that engages in racial discrimination?

p.s. The Washington Post characterizes the government’s defense of its policy as follows:

Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan said that Congress decided to renounce prostitution and sex trafficking because they contribute to the spread of diseases.

Renounce? As in, Give up? Abandon? Discontinue support for?

Will Constant start a blog?

Distrib. Repub. abbrv.

[In the interest of time, this discussion is synopsizes as follows: I offer an argument. Constant_ offers a counter-argument. The result is indeterminate. Skip to next post.

You're welcome.]

Most Americans are above average

People who are above average (think that they) are smarter and or harder working. The smartest and hardest working of all are the Libertarians. The bottom line measure of all things Americans is money. "The business of America is business," Calvin Coolidge. It would be interesting to see a study of Libertarian's personal income.

BP, "Libertarian" company

BP took a legal chance to save lots of money and lost. Now they will legally weasel out of most of the liability for the mess and stick the American workers/tax payers for the loss. Ayn Rand would be proud.

I am going to rob you, and I have the moral authority to do so!

Sometimes I come across videos on the internet that are just downright striking for various reasons. Be it aesthetics or message, the ones that really get my goat are satirical in nature.

"So, if you can have all your valuables laid out by noon tomorrow so I can see which of your stuff I want to take..."

That line in particular had me laughing pretty damn heartily.

The frightening thing is, this is essentially what the CotUS says. Now I would really like to know by what authority - other than coercive threat of violence - am I required to follow a covenant that I have not signed? What recourse does a citizen have, when the heinous grievance one wants redressed is the very existence of the government itself?

Since the criminal enterprise of malevolent jobholders have done a mighty fine job of convincing folks that theft, when government sanctioned is a "good" thing. It is obvious to me that voting wont get me relief from the multi tentacled thieves, though I must concede that it may get me an ever so slight and ludicrously temporary reprieve. As I have stated before and elsewhere this is still not incentive enough to vote.

Is thievery a moderate imperfection of government? I don't think so, I truly believe that we are under the regimen of our barbarous ancestors.

Found the embedded video here, which is another can of awesome in and of itself.

2010 LVMI Book Catalog now online!

For those of you that are interested, the Ludwig Von Mises Institute has released their new 2010 Book Catalog today. I can easily imagine spending a couple hundred on books that will be added to my own personal backlog of literary works that will eventually be read.

labor unions

Libertarians and Republicans tell me that they don't need a labor union because they work harder, smarter, and faster than the others in their shop and the boss knows it. This only works until the Libertarian converts the rest of the shop to his philosophy. Then we have a race to the bottom.

How does this come about? Everyone trying to work faster than the next guy? The shop a contract to make so many units a month. which is being met without anyone working overtime. The boss goes to a variable piece rate based on the median production rate and the desired production. When the month's production is done the boss closes the shop until the next month - or lays off the slowest worker.

Complete the serfdom of the US in one easy step

To make a long story short, all our owners need to do is to give the corporations a tax credit for building "free" employee housing. The suggested rules are:

1. Housing built within a half mile of the place of employment.
2. 80% of the units would be less than 1200 square feet.
3. 20 years longevity AND 65 years old (or a disability) would qualify the employee to retire and stay in the unit as deferred compensation.

This would:

1. Pragmatically kill the unions.
2. Tie the employee to the company as serfs were tied to the land.
3. Permit wages to be cut as employee would have much lower living costs.
4. An on site medical facility would cut medical cost.
5. Employees would not need cars. High rise apartments could be built on company parking lots. Company transportation could be provided.
6. Company store (modern version) would provide store - cafe - pub - whatever.
7. Replace taxpayer built low income housing, reduce tax load.
8. There would no longer be a need to send jobs off shore. Manufacturing could return to the US.
9. Personal economic security would depend upon the big Corporations' continued success which would give them continued political power. Workers would continue to vote for their national and local tax collectors.

The housing could be run by some sort of company credit union structure which would provide long term stability and security. With company housing provided a person could live on SS and and some (tax) Deferred Comp. The manor lord would be replaced by the corporation.

The Divisive Peace Blimp

Trevor Lyman has a new project.

A few days after hearing about the Peace Blimp, it occurred to me how a strong protest against the war could separate the Liberty movement from the neocon elements of the Tea Party movement. Is there a better issue at making the distinction between the two camps?

It may even have the added benefit of dividing the anti-war Democrats from the Obama administration.

It will be interesting to see how the project plays out...

"Subversive Activities Registration Act."

South Carolina, notorious for it's willful disregard of a crusty piece of parchment, is at it again.

South Carolina legislature adopts Subversive Activities Registration Act.

My take: When everything is illegal, everyone is a criminal. The purpose is clear to me, when someone is declared to be a criminal by the state, their rights can be abrogated without too much bleating from the voters.

SECTION 23-29-90. Penalties.

Any organization or person who violates any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or by both fine and imprisonment.

I am above the law.

Posted by W. Edwin Hinds IV on Jan 21, 2010 @ Fed Land

Despite what the bureaucrats and judges say, you too are above the law. The trick, is to know that you are. As the old GI Joe cartoon used to say, "...knowing is half the battle".

A character of fiction, a William Wilde Curringer, once stated:

"People - pardon me, journalists and politicians - have often accused me of believing that I'm above the law. And yet, who isn't? Everywhere you prod it, even with the shortest stick, the established system isn't simply corrupt, it's unequivocally putrescent. The law is created by demonstrable criminals, enforced by demonstrable criminals, interpreted by demonstrable criminals, all for demonstrably criminal purposes. Of course I'm above the law. And so are you."

Apparently one Zhang Xuping in China took those very same feelings to their logical conclusion of free-market justice. He stabbed the local criminal chief, Li Shiming in his heart, putting him down like the dog he is. I have absolutely no sympathy for Li, or his family.

Unfortunately Zhang was captured, and he apologized to Li's family while in court. Li's eldest son naturally rejected the apology. The good thing is, his rejection wont get his vile father back.

Screw the Shiming family. I raise a clenched fist in honor of Zhang Xuping.

Great Cthulu brings us his Constitution

Posted by W. Edwin Hinds IV on Jan 8, 2010 @ Fed Land

How do you protect yourself from great evil? Invoke the very power of the great evil and hope you get left alone.

On December 24th of '09, Roderick T Long over at Austro-Atheninan Empire informed his readers of what he called a "charming bit of theocratic statist-right propaganda". The propaganda he referred to was an artists rendition of Jesus standing amongst us lesser mortals, holding the Constitution in his right hand. The image portrayed the very false statist assumptions of war being good and a woman's right to choose what happens to her body as evil. It also unfortunately lumped people like Thomas Jefferson with the likes of Hamilton and Lincoln.

The statist jesus image depicts state power as holy. It implies that the evils of government stem solely from the wrong people being in power, politicians who do not follow the word of God. Personally I find that to be a total load of hogwash. The Constitution is far from perfect and is certainly not a divine gift from on high. As a matter of fact, it is the foundation of power that the evil use to enslave the masses. It hands over the responsibility of the individual to the aggregate of the body politic.

With that being said, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a piece of counter-propaganda that was just as rich in symbolism as statist jesus. As a matter of fact, the image is a corrupted version of former. The part that struck me as brilliant was the inclusion of the child reaching up and scrawling the Elder Sign on the blank constitution, with his own blood. The imagery itself is evocative and repulsive, calling it disturbing fails to do it justice. As for its origins, the horrible work of art was posted in the Paranormal board on 4chan. A gift from Anonymous.

If you are unfamiliar with the Elder Sign, I can do some explaining for you. The Elder Sign is a symbol that according to the Cthulu Mythos, protects the person who wields it, from the depredations of the Great Cthulu or his lesser cohorts. It doesn't always work in the literature.

If you are ever faced with the horrors of a Great Old One, you shouldn't put much faith in symbolic gestures. The same is true for the Constitution, it wont extricate you from the corrupt bile that is spewed forth from R'lyeh on the Potomac.

Would like someone to please explain how a non-manufacturing economy

can maintain a large middle class where a blue collar/white collar hourly employee can have a 3000 sq ft house, a new car, a boat, a truck and camper . . . Small tax shelter countries like Switzerland are an obvious exception to the rule.

Have You Got a Form 27B/6?

Posted by Kevin Carson on Dec 29, 2009 @ C4SS

To me the funniest part of the novel Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson, was his description of the internal management practices of the Feds.

In the fictional world of that novel, most centralized states had collapsed, and the territory of the former United States was home to dozens of competing networked “government” franchises. The Feds, or the former federal government of the United States, was one of those competing governments (although it claimed continued jurisdiction over the former territory of the United States). Its main source of revenue was software design for private clients.

From the way the Feds organize their software design operations, they seem to have read “The Cathedral and the Bazaar,” recoiled in horror, and decided instead that “Brazil” was the way to go.

Everybody’s assigned their tiny little share of the project on a need-to-know basis, with their individual pictures of the project resembling that subcommittee of a subcommitee Winston Smith sat on to decide whether the Eleventh Edition of the Newspeak Dictionary should put braces inside brackets or vice versa. Smith’s assignment was actually a model of transparency, in comparison, because at least he knew it had something to do with the Newspeak Dictionary. The overall design of the Feds’ software, or even its basic purpose, is outside the scope of anyone’s need-to-know below the highest level. And nobody can alter a single line of code without reference to endless policy manuals in three-ring binders; what’s more, since these policy manuals are revised every few weeks with endless interdeparmental meetings, most of the new code written has to be thrown out every time the policy is changed.

The coder’s first order of business, after clearing the hurdle of urine tests and personality profiling to get to work, is to spend until noon or so reading all the interdepartmental memos on new regulations or changes to the existing rules for writing code. Most of the afternoon is spent rewriting the portions of code rendered obsolete by changes in the rules (with none of the hundreds of programmers working on any project having any idea what it’s actually for, of course—that’s classified).

Even the interdepartmental memos include suggested reading times, with the surveillance system monitoring compliance. Anyone who scrolls through in less than the suggested time lacks proper respect for the importance of policy memos, while anyone who takes too long is suspected either of incompetence or of taking an unauthorized bathroom break. And anyone who reads it in exactly the suggested time to the second is a smartass who needs attitude counseling.

I’m not sure who the customers for the Feds’ software are supposed to be, but I get the feeling the IT department at my employer (and probably yours) would be among them.

Until last week, I thought Stephenson’s farce—hysterically funny as it was—was a grossly exaggerated depiction of even the worst real-world bureaucracies.

But no more. According to an op-ed by Jonathan Vaccaro at the New York Times, it takes 96 hours after the Taliban arrive in an Afghan village for an Army commander to secure the necessary approvals to act. The company in which Vaccaro was embedded failed to interdict the Taliban in some 70 percent of cases because its commander failed to get the required eleven approvals in time. Travel in anything but a 20-ton mine resistant vehicle requires “written justification, a risk assessment and approval from a colonel, a lieutenant colonel and sometimes a major” (over half the villages in Afghanistan are inaccessible to such vehicles). The Taliban walk in or ride donkeys.

The bureaucracy runs to the highest echelons. Small aid projects require endless delays for approval (the opening of a small free health clinic was delayed eight months after it was built “while paperwork for erecting its protective fence waited in the approval queue”). While Taliban propaganda operations turn on a dime in response to events, “our messages have to inch through a press release approval pipeline, emerging 24 to 48 hours after the event…” Battlefield commanders are required to submit reports in PowerPoint, “with proper fonts, line widths and colors so that the filing system is not derailed.” So, um, if you could put the new cover sheets on the T.P.S. reports, that would be great, m’kay?

John Robb, who blogs at Global Guerrillas, makes a couple of points about the American military’s organizational model.

First, “risk mitigation trumps initiative every time.”

Second, rather than using new communications technology to “enable decentralized operation due to better informed people on the ground,” the military instead uses it to “enable more complicated and hierarchical approval processes—more sign offs/approvals, more required processes, and higher level oversight.”

Just another example of why state capitalism is doomed. Small, agile, bottom-up organizations will eat government and corporate bureaucracies alive. One of my favorite sayings is that the twentieth century was the era of the large organization; by the end of the twenty-first, there won’t be enough of them left to bury.