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Friday, October 24, 2014

Created a Legalization Wiki at http://legalizationwiki.org

Posted by admin on 2009 March 15

I made a wiki for legalization at http://legalizationwiki.org. Even though Obama has stated he’s not in favor of legalization, the buzz on legalization has been growing out of control since his election. In March, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a <a href=”http://legalizationwiki.org/Ammiano_Bill_AB_390″>bill proposing the legalization of marijuana</a> in his state. Since that introduction, legislators and newspapers in a number of other states have begun to call for legalization.

Though well intentioned, even the Ammiano bill is frought with language influenced by Drug War hysteria. My intention in creating the legalization wiki is to try and head off bad legislation at the pass, so to speak, and to provide a resource for those involved in creating or critiquing legislation on legalization that will appear in the near future.

My Letter To the US Fish And Wildlife Service Concerning Sea Kittens

Posted by admin on 2009 January 10

You may or may not have heard about the sea kittens campaign currently being promoted by PETA. For a more scientific take, you might want to check their Fishing Hurts site. Sometimes websites have forms to fill out with boilerplate to support a cause, and sometimes I do that, because I actually support the cause. But other times I use their own tools to play a little subversion, so here’s what I wrote to Save the Sea Kittens.

Live Up to Your Word to Conserve and Protect: Promote Responsible Fishing

The Fish and Wildlife Service is doing a heckuva job in its promotion of fishing. I like fish, fish are tasty to eat! Keep up the good work, but try to do something about that Mercury. It used to be I could chow down on some good Minke whale sashimi or a thick, char-broiled tuna steak without a worry in the world. Nowadays the threat of cumulative Mercury poisoning is always in the back of my mind when eating certain kinds of sea-going piscean creatues.

Also, I hear fish stocks are being depleted in all the world’s oceans even as we find more and more about the benefits of eating lots of fish. Please see what you can do about controlling population growth in some of these high growth countries. I hear education is probably the best way to decrease fertility.

Sincerely,

Obama Redneck

The Zero Year Curse - Only 11 Days Left

Posted by admin on 2009 January 9

After the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee prophesied that if William Henry Harrison became President of the United States, he would die in office, and that after him every President elected every twenty years after that would die in office. Elected in 1840, Harrison died of pneumonia after just one month as President. Thus began the Zero Year Curse.

Also known as Tecumseh’s curse, it held true for the President elected in 1860, Abraham Lincoln, and for James A. Garfield, elected in 1880, assassinated in 1881. McKinley was re-elected in 1900, assassinated in 1901. Elected in 1920, Warren G. Harding either had a heart attack or was poisoned in 1923. Re-elected in 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 after having been elected in 1960.

Then came Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, he was shot just months after taking office, the bullet narrowly missing his heart. Some say Reagan’s survival broke the curse, and since Bush is still around it looks like they might be right.

Of course, if you really looked at the numbers, you’d probably find that the “curse” was no better than chance. There have been 21 assassination attempts on US Presidents, and two suspicious deaths. Four out of 42 Presidents have been killed in office, almost 10%. When you consider that 5% of all election years end in zero, and that three of those who died in office had been re-elected, and that one of those was on his 4th term when he died, the “rules” for this curse start to look like simple coincidence pretty fast.

Ted Nugent to America: No more “We the Sheeple” — It’s time for “We the People” to fight for what’s right

Posted by admin on 2008 November 24

Rather than spam reddit with a direct advertisement, I decided to uh… blogspam reddit from my advertising-oriented blog with excerpts from the ad. Link is included if you still want to check out the ad.

So why post it here anyway, since most likely I don’t agree much with the Tedster’s politics? Because even so, it’s highly entertaining copy. And besides, I’m trying to get back into writing for this politically oriented blog after the main purpose for its existence had passed.

Ted Nugent to America: No more “We the Sheeple” — It’s time for “We the People” to fight for what’s right

Ted, White, and Blue

If you care about America… if you want to preserve, protect, and defend the land of the free and the home of the brave… if you’re fed up with lazy, whining, fear-mongering, government-gorging Al Gores, Michael Moores, and Barack Obamas… then you need to read Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto.

With overwhelming enthusiasm and non-stop energy, rocker and hunter extraordinaire Ted Nugent takes on topics like taxes, welfare, health care, energy, and immigration with the same dogged determination it takes to track and hunt an elusive white-tail deer. A passionate patriot as well as a fervent supporter of individual rights, Ted encourages Americans to stand up to government control with a “We the People” attitude instead of “We the Sheeple” in all parts of their lives.

Ted takes it all on in Ted, White, and Blue, including:

  • Ted’s Take on Big Government: Here’s a commonsense idea born of freedom and liberty: Every new law passed by Congress must eliminate five other laws previously passed.
  • Ted’s Take on Energy Independence: Go ahead, nuke my day. Thirty years from now when I play my 12,000th concert, I want my amplifiers powered completely by nuclear energy.
  • Ted’s Take on Success: The only things you need in America to be successful and happy are a dream, a dedicated work ethic, and an alarm clock. Everything else is elementary.
  • Ted’s Take on Illegal Immigration: The Nugent household has never had any invaders. No unauthorized persons have ever made it through our borders or, for that matter, ever even attempted it. We give off, shall we say, a vibe that such criminal activity has, shall we say, consequences.

No one loves this country more than Ted Nugent, and he wants to put it back on track. He will lead by example, sharing the Nugent family secrets for a happy, healthy and safe household — the kind that all Americans can have if they follow Nuge’s advice in Ted, White, and Blue.

PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA!

Posted by admin on 2008 November 5

I just got back from the official Dallas County Democratic Watch Party and Victory Celebration outdoors at 7th and Bishop in Oak Cliff. The night rolled along like an unstoppable train, faster than most people believed it would. There was beer and wine and good music, I didn’t get the names of the bands, but the last one up was fronted by a good looking woman singing some Patsy Cline-type songs, a little classic rocking country, crowd pleasing music.

The numbers shot up to within two states of 270 pretty fast, though I was disappointed that my redneck brothers and sisters mostly were not able to overcome the redneck opposition in states like Georgia and Mississippi. I wore a Rednecks for Obama/Stars and Stripes t-shirt, much to the pleasure of the crowd. Dallas County went about 62% for Obama, and a several down-ticket races went Democratic although many of those had already gone that way in 2006.

And then at 10PM local time, at the moment when the polls closed on the west coast, CNN called it for Obama and there was an explosion of cheering, clapping, crying.

McCain gave an excellent concession speech, I was proud and moved by his emphasis on the significance of this event to people of color. People booed a little at some of the things he said, but there were a lot of cheers in there too.

Of course people were delirious again when Obama came on. One thing that impressed me was the sense that the crowd of people gathered around me were not Obama worshippers, as many Republicans fear, but were pretty realistic about what a President Obama means. They made it known a number of times that they were not Obama followers, but Obama supporters. They have no illusions, these people. They will hold Obama’s feet to the fire even if they did cry tears of joy this night.

I left shortly after Obama’s acceptance speech, the sounds of the still revelling crowd falling away behind me, echoing softly on this quiet, temperate night in November.

Obama comments about coal industry twisted by hard right

Posted by admin on 2008 November 3

Sarah Palin has been practicing her demagoguery again, this time with some partial fabrications from some hard right “news” sources. What Obama really said is that new coal-fired power plants will have to meet certain greenhouse gas standards, and if they are unable to avoid emitting such gases, they will probably go bankrupt from the fines. But all they have to do is find a way to not emit, either that or trade their emissions to someone else who has negative emissions.

There are companies now developing devices to remove and sequester CO2 from the air, like what living plants do only more efficient (one would assume). So basically a coal plant could pay one of these companies to absorb the equivalent of their emissions and everything would be fine.

Here’s my transcript of the relevant part of the audio. The interviewer’s name sounded like “Kai Malnar” to me, but I couldn’t find the name on Google or at the San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll just call her “Malnar” here.

Malnar: Senator, you introduced a bill promoting coal to liquid fuels, and then you said you’d only support them if they emitted fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. Now, all the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else, so how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?

Obama: Well, I’ve already done it. I voted against the “Clear Skies” bill. In fact I was the deciding vote, despite the fact that I’m a coal state, and that half of my state thought I’d thoroughly betrayed them because I think clean air is critical and global warming is critical. But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion, because the fact of the matter is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal and China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then, is we have to figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon, how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives, but…

Malnar: Alternatives including coal, or…?

Obama: …let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there. That was the first call for 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there to be presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market, and the ratcheted down caps that are imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal powered plant, they can, it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they will be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.

That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is, that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying, if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. That, I think, is the right approach.

The same with respect to nuclear. Right now, we don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely, and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain, and so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy. But I’ll tell you what, if we could figure out a way to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.

The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine… and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue what’s the best approach to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking, and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.

So for one thing, he’s not saying the coal industry will be bankrupted. And for another, this is pretty much the opposite of a socialist kind of solution, because he’s saying just set the rules and let the market decide how to meet them. This is one of the reasons I’m voting for Obama, because he’s not about government dictating the economy, he’s about government setting rules and then stepping out of the way for anything but to enforce the rules. That is the appropriate role of government in economic affairs.

Saying Something Nice About the Opposition Gives You a Nice Feeling

Posted by admin on 2008 October 30

When this election year started, I looked at the candidates and thought hardly any of them were all that bad. But as an election progresses and the rhetoric gets harsher and harsher, the mind locks up and hardens to match  accusation for accusation, put down for put down, defamation for defamation, scandal for scandal.

It gets to where you can hardly recall what on Earth made you think that other guy was even a decent human being, much less capable of running the US government.

So here’s an article where Bob Greene of CNN goes around asking people to say something good about the other candidate. He asks an Obama supporter to say something good about McCain:

“Seriously?”

Yes– something genuine that you like about him.

“He seems like a nice guy,” Michel said. “And his war record, of course. The heroic aspect of him.”

Anything else?

“He seems like his own man, not so much a part of the Beltway,” Michel said. “And I think he really wants to get rid of those nefarious lobbyists.”

And he asks a McCain supporter to say something good about Obama:

She hesitated.

“Well. . . .” she said.

She paused for a few more seconds, and then said:

“He’s a dreamer. I think he probably wants to make life easier for people.”

There. Easy as that.

Greene writes:

We were noticing something as we did this: The people, whether they supported McCain or Obama, seemed to be in a little better mood– in an observably more pleasant frame of mind– after they were urged to say something nice about the other guy. During a campaign year that has consisted of so many raised voices and ugly charges, they seemed to like this.

It’s a nice, uplifting article, and notice that none of the things people said are qualified - they didn’t cheat and say “but…”. You can read the rest of it here.

Quick to Blame, Slow to Accept Responsibility

Posted by admin on 2008 October 27

As expected, Republicans were quick to condemn the 6′4″ dark-skinned negro who mutilated a young McCain campaign volunteer, carving the letter “B” into her face to teach her who to vote for. That mugger, they exclaimed, was the very epitome of the unthinking, crazed Omamabot, egged on by their smooth-voiced leader to “get in the face” of the opposition.

After Ashley Todd was exposed as a liar, someone on Freerepublic actually proposed that they should change the story’s inflammatory headline, and a few suggested that they tone down their rhetoric and not have such a knee-jerk reaction to paint all of their opponents with the same hateful brush. Those kind of Republicans are few and far between these days, however.

And now that 2 skinheads in Tennessee have been arrested in connection with a plot to assassinate Obama and kill 102 African-Americans, that same website that was so quick to pounce on an imaginary black man and condemn half the citizens of the United States, merely claims the arrest is a setup, a hoax, a new Reichstag fire to cement the “Nazi” Barack Obama into power. And of course, nothing they or their leaders have said over the course of this campaign had any effect on encouraging these would-be assassins to action.

Quick to blame, slow to accept responsibility.

Spreading the wealth - Is it moral, Or is it just the right thing to do?

Posted by admin on 2008 October 25

Obama makes an offhand comment about “spreading the wealth,” or as they say in Alaska “spreadin’ the wealth,” of which McCain is making hay as well you might expect. And not a bad argument he has, he speaking of growing opportunity instead, but of course his own health care plan requires almost the same redistribution of wealth as Obama’s tax plan.

It’s a valid moral question, and it’s right that we should ask: is it right to take a higher fraction of a person’s income for taxes as said income grows higher and higher? In my heart I have suspected that it is right, and moral to do so, and not only because society would surely crumble in the absence of this practice. But never until now have I begun to see why it is right, now in this post-derivatives world, where we have found out what our money is really made of.

In a nutshell, people were printing money. Counterfeiting you might call it, only legally, and on a scale never imagined by small time operators like Al Capone. The irony of virtual cash, begun as a way to ease the fall of the Dotcom boom, made possible only by the tools of that boom itself, because none of these exotic financial “instruments” would be possible without computers and the Internet.

I had always suspected that extreme wealth was a kind of accident of our society and our systems, and now I have a foothold onto a theory as a result of the calamity that threatens to bring our society and our systems to a halt.

Imagine you’re a single person in the world, with no communication or contact with anyone else. How wealthy could you be? You could never be as wealthy as Bill Gates, the only wealth you could amass would be as much food as you could gather or kill for as long as you could keep it from going bad. You would have no money, money is only useful for trade, otherwise it doesn’t exist, not even in the form of gold.

You wouldn’t even have sex!

Now imagine there are two people, you and someone else, of the gender you prefer, one would hope. Now you can have a little more wealth. The two of you can help each other get food, you can have sex. You don’t need money, simple trade will suffice. Life is a bit easier than when you were one, this is the beginning of societal wealth.

Once you get up to be a tribe, everyone can be wealthier still. Division of labor means people can start focusing on what they’re good at and trading the products of their skills with others, so everyone has more spare time, more security, more sex.

At the village level, you get even more of all of that, and now you start needing a little money to keep track of transactions. The richest man may have a dozen wives and hundreds of cattle. This kind of wealth would simply be impossible if he were a single man in the wilderness, yet he often believes he owes his success to no one, that it’s all his hard work and prowess - he equates his wealth with his success, though his wealth is partly the symbol of his success.

As society grows larger, money is more and more important. It acquires rules of its own, and a life of its own. It becomes a powerful tool society uses to get things done. Some people are good at understanding and working within the rules of money, and some people learn how to use it as a proxy for war and domination.

In Ancient Roman times, noble families held most of the wealth. Their families had started Rome, and owned most of the land and wielded almost all of the power. To be in the Senate, a man had to have a certain amount of land and a certain amount of money. In the beginning, a man even had to buy his way into the Army, owning most of his own weaponry and supplies, and his own donkey or mule to transport it.

This was because the Army was used by the State to go out and take wealth from other people. Most of that wealth was in the form of gold and silver, and most of it went directly to Rome, with the rest of it going as booty to the general, who divided it among his armies according to the heirarchy of their service. The Roman Senate, in turn, stored some of the spoils of war, spent some on public works, some on maintaining stable markets for food, some on the masses to help them stay fed and entertained, and then the rest went into more conquests.

But money wasn’t the only measure of a Roman’s wealth. The Roman’s invented a cultural wealth called auctoritas, which was a measure of a man’s prestige and influence. A large portion of auctoritas came simply with family, the oldest noble families generally having the most of it, though it also depended on wisdom, judgement and works. A man could generate a great deal of auctoritas for himself and future generations by spending his wealth on public works, like roads, theaters, temples, etc. He could also lose auctoritas by not spending money on games and feasts for the People.

Men could amass huge fortunes in a number of ways. Noble families owned income generating properties, but sometimes even noble families would fall on hard times. Marriage to a noble daughter could increase a newcomer’s auctoritas, and such marriages therefore were bought for a high price. A man good at leading armies could get money by stealing it from neighboring countries, and as a governor a man could confiscate taxes for himself. Some men loaned money, but charging interest was looked down on and could cost a measure of auctoritas.

Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the richest men toward the end of the Republic, loaned money but never charged interest. He preferred to loan money for political favors, or even to have his debtors default so he could acquire collateral property to sell at a profit. Crassus invented some of the first modern fire brigade techniques to enhance his speculation in real estate. If there were a fire raging in the city, he would buy up land ahead of the fire at a cheap price, and then send in his teams of fire fighters to save the properties which he could then sell at a large profit.

Marcus Junius Brutus was heir to the infamous Gold of Tolosa, which had been stolen from Rome (which had in turn stolen it from the Tectosages) by Quintus Servilius Caepio. Brutus made a large fortune enormous by lending money at exorbitant rates, and also by maintaining armament factories in northen Italia (if I recall correctly). Neither of these were considered acceptable ways for a patrician to make money. And it’s a good thing they did frown on usury, because if everyone had been doing it, their monetary system would not have been able to sustain it.

The wealth of these men was only made possible by their society, and by the systems their society developed to maintain and enhance itself. And a large part of their wealth, in my opinion, was only possible because of their manipulation of the system.

Now today we have seen that kind of manipulation magnified by many orders of magnitude. The kind of money people have been making off of subprime mortgages, hedge funds, derivatives, and credit default swaps is obviously a glitch in the system. Most of it is imaginary money that never existed. Some people were able to convert that money into real goods because everyone trusted it for a while. But in the end, they were no different from counterfeiters: they printed their own money, backed by nothing.

My story has gone from zero societal money to billions of dollars of societal money, and it’s clear that people gain a financial benefit merely by being a member of society with all its rules and customs about money and property. Anyone who is a US citizen who thinks they alone are responsible for their own fortune has forgotten what the word “fortune” means. Without society, they would be just a hapless person in the wilderness.

It’s also clear, to me anyway, that there is such a thing as systemic money, money that only is available because of quirks in the system, money that some people are able to tap because they know how to game the quirks of the system, or because they are simply fortunate enough to benefit from those quirks.

In light of this, it seems right to have a progressive income tax because as a person’s income increases, so does the fraction of systemic money in that income, money that needs to be skimmed off and put back into the system for the health of society, because it comes from society.

In the absence of data or formulae, this sounds like rationalization, fitting the facts to the theory rather than finding out what’s really happening. But I think I’m onto something here. I don’t know how to go about proving it, or even how to measure this “systemic” money. I don’t even know how much of my own income is systemic compared to someone who makes half as much or twice as much as I do.

But having found the limits, we ought to be able to find a curve that fits in between those limits. It may not even be proportional to the total income, but more to where that income comes from. And there are other reasons to impose higher rates on much higher incomes. Society has an interest in fostering business creation and growth, but no society can last very long by allowing the wealth gap to increase year after year.

In the end, this is why we must have a progressive income tax, and my theory is only a tool for arriving at a just and fair equation for how to do that. If only I could turn it into an actual theory with actual equations.

Why the Confederate/Obama symbolism?

Posted by admin on 2008 October 21

I first got the idea for this site after reading an article about Rednecks for Obama, to which I have a link over there on the right. It seemed like good fodder for t-shirt sales, so I looked around in the usual places, didn’t see anything I liked, and decided to do it myself.

First I did the US flag designs, and then thought it would be cool to combine the Obama “O” symbol with “Rednecks for Obama”. And then it struck me - the “O” symbol with the Confederate flag! Subversive, absurd, controversial, aka destined to become a huge seller! Well, so far I’m breaking even, and there are only two weeks left.

After pondering on it for a while, the juxtaposition of the two seemingly incommensurable symbols began to strike me as the symbol in its own right of a deep reconciliation, of a long sought acceptance, a coming together, and possibly even a redemption.

I’ve never been a big fan of the cultural arguments in favor of the Confederate flag, those seemed like convenient rationalization to me. But then I heard a story on NPR last year, or the year before last, where they examined the cultural aspects of the Stars and Bars as a follow up to a story about the Mississippi state flag.

As near as I can recall, t was about a young black man from Mississippi who had landed some high powered analyst job in Washington, D.C. I think the gist of it was that he got tired of the constant insinuations about the backwardness of his home state, so he went out and bought himself a pickup truck and put one of those full-size, see-through Confederate flag decals in the rear window, maybe even put a gun rack back there. His point was - he was proud of where he came from, and proud of his Southern roots, and chose to turn the tables on this venerated and maligned symbol of the Old South, and renew it as a symbol of Southernness pure and simple.

So, considering all that, I figured it was okay for me to peddle my designs both with the US flag and with the Confederate one.