Saturday, January 12, 2019

Florida Couple Penalized For Growing Vegetable Garden in Their Front Yard Redeemed

Source: Miami Herald, Lawns v. Crops in the Continental U.S.

A few years ago, a story broke about a couple in Miami Shores who were penalized by their municipal government for violating an ordinance against growing edible plants in front yards and were forced to remove their garden after an 11th circuit court judge ruled that they did not have a right to grow vegetables and that the city's preoccupation with certain aesthetics took precedence over their property rights. Well it seems the pendulum has swung the other way and they may be getting the last laugh because a bill to ban municipal and county governments from banning front yard vegetable (and possibly fruit) gardens has been introduced in both chambers of the Florida Legislature: one in the state's senate community affairs committee and a verbatim version has also been filed in the state's house of representatives. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, the Republican representative that introduced the House bill articulated very good reasons for allowing residential vegetable gardening on whatever side of the fence:
Just yesterday, I toured a garden in my district that is being set up to help educate and empower its community through self-sustainability practices like gardening, Fetterhoff said. Yet in some areas of our state, local governments place arbitrary restrictions on their citizens’ right to provide for themselves using their own private property.

It is also worth mentioning that Hermine Ricketts and Tom Carroll made more efficient use of their land by using it to grow vegetables instead of simply growing grass, which consumes more water without fulfilling any basic needs (you can't eat it or sell it at a farmer's market).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Illegal Immigration is Declining Despite Trump's 'Humanitarian Crisis' Hysteria

Sources: Department of Homeland Security: Office of Immigration Statistics, Pew Research Center, Border Patrol: Total Illegal Alien Apprehensions By Fiscal Year, Employer Fined $96 million for hiring illegal aliens



What Trump was missing in this 8 minute rant was context. Illegal immigration has been declining over the past decade and is at a historic low, but you'd never know that listening to Trump's propaganda about it being a 'national emergency' and his millions of mindless followers. According to DHS, there are around 12 million illegal aliens residing in the U.S., which might seem like a lot and enough to declare a national emergency, but the vast majority of illegal aliens are not new arrivals. 80% of illegal aliens (about 9.6 million) have been here since at least the W. Bush admin when illegal immigration peaked at 470,000 people per year before rapidly dropping off during and after the recession. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration also had the highest number of illegal alien apprehensions in this millennium and was topped only by the Clinton administration in the 90's. There were 3.38 million illegal alien apprehensions between 2004 and 2006 alone. In 2001, the first year of the Bush admin, there were over 1.2 million illegal alien apprehensions. However, this pales in comparison to illegal alien apprehensions in the 1990's, under the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations, when there were over a million apprehensions every year except 1994 when apprehensions briefly dipped to 979,000 before rising back to 1.27 million in 1995. Illegal alien apprehensions dropped under 500,000 during the Obama administration and has not come close to the 1990's and early 2000's numbers since then. In 2017, Trump's first year, there were about 300,000 illegal alien apprehensions. The number of illegal aliens in the labor force has similarly declined from a peak of 8.2 million or 5.4% of the labor force in 2007 to 7.8 million or 4.8% of the labor force since the end of the Obama Admin in 2016.

If Trump is so concerned about illegal immigration, why not remove the incentive to illegally immigrant here? If you'll notice, illegal immigration follows economic trends, rising during boom periods and falling during downturns. Illegal immigration is inextricably linked to the economy, so why not penalize employers who hire illegal aliens and make e-verify, or some other system for checking work authorization, mandatory for all employers? Illegal aliens are less than 5% of the work force, but constitute 24% of agricultural workers, 24% of maids or house cleaning workers and 15% of construction workers and contractors; that should give you a rough idea of where to look first. I'm sure landscaping and lawn care also have a disproportionate percentage of illegal aliens compared to the national average; any industry where people can work under the table is going to be ripe with illegal aliens. This approach would be far more effective than any border barriers. Businesses are much more receptive to laws than illegal aliens. The story of a tree-trimming company, Asplundh, being fined $96 million for hiring illegal aliens and having one their mid-level executives sentenced to prison illustrates the possible disincentives that could be introduced to ensure U.S. companies only hire U.S. citizens, lawful residents, or foreign nationals with work visas.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Build Border Wall Only On Federal and State Land

Source: CATO Institute, USA Today, Geography of Border Wall, Reuters, Business Insider, Texas Tribune, ProPublica

However much Trump and his supporters might want the border wall to be a continuous physical barrier their fantasy will inevitably run into logistical and constitutional problems that will make it a piece meal wall at best. A continuous border wall would be feasible if the entire stretch of the southern border was nothing but flat desert land but it's not. The southern border includes mountain ranges like the Jacumba Mountains, bluffs and canyons like the Rio Grande Canyons, lakes like Lake Amistad, and Peninsular U.S. cities like Los Ebanos, which is enveloped on three sides by the Rio Grande river, that would be cut off from the rest of the country by a continuous border wall and did I mention a certain river that would erode any border wall every time it floods its banks. Of course, geography isn't the only problem for a continuous border wall. Two-thirds of the land along the southern border, mostly in Texas,is owned by private landowners, Indian tribes, and state governments. If we assume the Army Core can easily obtain permission from states, especially Texas, that still leaves unwilling private landowners and tribal governments who are almost unanimous in their unwillingness to allow a border wall.

Since the government shutdown, Trump has contemplated declaring a national emergency so he could mobilize U.S. troops and use the DOD budget to build the border wall. He has even floated the insane idea of using executive power to take private land, which is on par with something a third world dictator would do, like Trump's friend Mohammed Bone Saw. In all seriousness, what Trump may be referring to is a declaration of taking, a legal tool established during the great depression to expedite public works projects. This allows the Army Corps or any other federal agency to take possession of private land on the same day that it files a declaration of taking without having to worry about negotiating a price with the private landowner.

During construction of border fencing authorized by the 2006 Secure Fence Act, about 360 private landowners refused to voluntarily sell their land to the federal government, resulting in hundreds of condemnation suits some of which took several years to settle. Many landowners were ripped off in the process receiving either no compensation or compensation that was less than the actual land value that was taken from them.

An investigation by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune shows that Homeland Security cut unfair real estate deals, secretly waived legal safeguards for property owners, and ultimately abused the government’s extraordinary power to take land from private citizens.

The major findings:
  • Homeland Security circumvented laws designed to help landowners receive fair compensation. The agency did not conduct formal appraisals of targeted parcels. Instead, it issued low-ball offers based on substandard estimates of property values.
  • Larger, wealthier property owners who could afford lawyers negotiated deals that, on average, tripled the opening bids from Homeland Security. Smaller and poorer landholders took whatever the government offered — or wrung out small increases in settlements.
  • The government conceded publicly that landowners without lawyers might wind up shortchanged, but did little to protect their interests.
  • The Justice Department bungled hundreds of condemnation cases. The agency took property without knowing the identity of the actual owners. It condemned land without researching facts as basic as property lines. Landholders spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves from the government’s mistakes.
  • The government had to redo settlements with landowners after it realized it had failed to account for the valuable water rights associated with the properties, an oversight that added months to the compensation process.
  • On occasion, Homeland Security paid people for property they did not actually own. The agency did not attempt to recover the misdirected taxpayer funds, instead paying for land a second time once it determined the correct owners.
  • Nearly a decade later, scores of landowners remain tangled in lawsuits. The government has already taken their land and built the border fence. But it has not resolved claims for its value.

In theory the 5th amendment guarantees just compensation; in practice, just compensation is a function of how much money you have. As usual, landowners who could afford an attorney to litigate for years were able to get much higher offers for their land that reflected the actual selling price, while those who couldn't were ripped off and forced to settle for the first offer.

Retired teacher Juan Cavazos was offered $21,500 for a two-acre slice of his land. He settled for that, figuring he couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer.Rollins M. Koppel, a local attorney and banker, did not make the same mistake. A high-priced Texas law firm negotiated his offer from $233,000 to almost $5 million (21x the original offer) — the highest settlement in the Rio Grande Valley.

Of course, there are also landowners who have yet to be paid for their land, having to spend tens of thousands of dollars and several years in court to get a correct appraisal. This was the case for the Los Santos family, who almost had their land stolen outright when DHS paid their ranch hand instead of them.

The Loop family spent more than $100,000 to defend their farmland from repeated government mistakes about the size, shape and value of their property. The government built a fence across Robert De Los Santos’ family land but almost a decade later has yet to reach a settlement for it. Ranch hand Roberto Pedraza was accidentally paid $20,500 for land he did not even own.

It is also exceedingly difficult to a appraise land values when the government is the only possible buyer and there are very few sales to go by. DHS found a way to circumvent this problem by adding an exception to the Uniform Act, which was supposed to protect landowners from low ball offers, that allowed them to avoid conducting formal appraisals and price negotiations for land worthless than $50,000 before suing the owner.This allowed them to take 90% of the tracts they needed to build the Rio Grande Valley fence without formal appraisals. In place of formal appraisals, the Army Corps used, in some cases, non-certified appraisers, who were not required to abide by federal standards for pricing land, or find a legal description of the property, or determine the property lines or even find the legitimate owner, which in many cases resulted in payments to people who didn't own land. To make matters worse, the Army Core left gaps in the fencing, that are still there today, where they were supposed to install gates for farmers and ranchers to access the rest of their land, making the fence practically useless expect as a water barrier.




Unlike private citizens, tribal members are protected from these same thuggish tactics by their sovereign dependent status. For starters, Indian trust land cannot be taken through eminent domain. Trump would need a bill from congress with super majority approval in the Senate and the House, which given the Democratic majority in one and the slim Republican majority in the other, would take an act of God. Many tribes that live along the border such as the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and the Tohono O’odham, whose ancestral lands occupy 62 miles of the southern border and extend into Mexico, have been vocal in their opposition to the border wall for the potential environmental and cultural damage it could cause. The Tohono O’odham tribe have the most to lose. A border wall would split their homeland in two and separate them from fellow tribal members in Mexico. They currently have low lying vehicle barriers with a gate in a middle that allows them access to their land on the other side of the border. The tribe also maintains watchtowers and helps CBP apprehend human smugglers and drug traffickers that attempt to cross their land. Given their isolation from any urban centers, a 30' wall would be completely pointless because its physically impossible for migrants to get their on foot; most would end up dying of dehydration or exposure in the desert.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

The White Genocide Hysteria and Fears of Demographic Changes Debunked

Sources: Bush's America: Roach Motel, Institute for Family Studies, Pew Research Center, 2010 Census, Pew Research Hispanic Trends, Childtrends.org, World Data on Fertility Rates, Immigration Act of 1924, Eugenic Laws Restricting Immigration, What is the Third Position?

In 1960, whites were 90 percent of the country. The Census Bureau recently estimated that whites already account for less than two-thirds of the population and will be a minority by 2050. Other estimates put that day much sooner. One may assume the new majority will not be such compassionate overlords as the white majority has been. If this sort of drastic change were legally imposed on any group other than white Americans, it would be called genocide. Yet whites are called racists merely for mentioning the fact that current immigration law is intentionally designed to reduce their percentage in the population.
- Ann Coulter, Bush's America: Roach Motel (2007)

Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people and they're changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don't like.From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases, legal immigration that, of course, progressives love.
- Laura Ingraham on The ANGLE

The left says we have a moral obligation to admit the world's poor. Even if it makes our own country more like Tijuana is now, which is to say poorer and dirtier and more divided.
- Tucker Carlson

The new canard that both illegal and legal immigration from predominately non-white countries, particularly those in Central America, is genocide against White Americans is becoming more commonplace on the right. Even mainstream conservatives like Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham have adopted the talking points of the alt-right, formerly known as the third position. Opposition to illegal immigration is understandable given that it has criminal justice implications (e.g. apprehending human, drug trafficking, and social security fraud) and is theoretically nationality and race neutral (e.g. illegal aliens from Poland must also be deported). However, opposition to legal immigration from certain countries is historically rooted in much more malicious intentions. Tucker Carlson's grievances about an influx of Hispanics (mestizos) into a small Pennsylvania town and legal immigrants and refugees from developing countries making the U.S. poorer (and dirtier), which is both historically and economically illiterate for reasons I'll discuss later, highlights shifting conservative attitudes towards legal immigration. Theoretically, the conservative position would be neutral towards Hispanics (mestizos) moving into a town as long as they legally came to the U.S. and contribute to society. The Trump era has flipped this narrative on its head and made it less about work ethic and personal responsibility and more about origin. Some mainstream Trump supporters are starting to echo the biological determinism of the alt-right/third position to make sweeping assumptions about the behaviors of immigrant groups. It is thought that immigrants from Central America (mestizos) and the Caribbean (black and creole) are somehow biologically or culturally prone to vote for big government and welfare dependence, so Trump and some of his supporters want immigrants from countries like Norway, which, ironically, is more liberal and socialistic than the U.S. Given how liberal the Scandinavian countries are compared to the U.S. (e.g. much higher tax rates and more welfare spending not to mention rabid feminism), immigrants from there would likely vote for democrats or even the Green Party, yet I have never heard any third positionists or conservatives argue that Nordics are prone to vote for big government socialism. In fact, the whole of Europe is kind of a counter example to their bizarre belief that whites have an affinity for small government republicanism. That's not true outside of a handful of southern states and even then its only in rhetoric since most deep red states like Louisiana and Mississippi rely heavily on entitlement programs and federal aid. States like Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Minnesota have a much higher percentage of white people than the national average and are also some of the most liberal states in the union. Of course, the same could be said for predominately white states that are also very conservative like Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa, and Idaho, which only further illustrates that political affiliation isn't some inherit racial trait.

The most obvious fallacy in this line of reasoning is that it conflates aggregate population with percentage of population. Although the percentage of white Americans in the U.S.population shrunk from 90% to 62% since 1965(when the national origins quota system was abolished), the total population of white Americans grew by nearly 40 million from 161,750,000 in 1965 to 200 million in 2015, hardly indicative of genocide. Declining white birth rates is also not evidence of white genocide. Birth rates are declining for all ethnic and racial groups so equally absurd claims could be made about black genocide, Asian genocide, and Hispanic genocide. UN Convention 1021 defines genocide as (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. The Saudi carpet bombing and Blockade of Yemen could arguably be considered an act of genocide; the forced removal of traditional societies from their native habits, such as the various pygmy tribes from their forests homes by corrupt African governments at the behest of conservation NGOs, could also be considered an act of genocide, but declining birth rates in and of themselves is not genocide. Declining birth rates could be attributed to numerous causes such as wider availability of contraceptives, women delaying child bearing to pursue higher education, and the rising cost of living and growing student debt. None of these things are deliberately imposed on white people or anyone by their government. No one is forced to use contraceptives, no one is forced to go to college and take on student debt, and no one is forced to live in urban areas where housing and amenities are more expensive. While the average fertility rate for the U.S. (1.76 births per woman) is below replacement level (2.2 births per woman) and has declined significantly in the past decade from 2.08 births in 2007, the phenomenon isn't exclusive to white Americans. Over the last decade, the fertility rate for black women has fallen almost 10% from 2.15 to 1.9 births. The Hispanic fertility rate has fallen the most, dropping 19% from about three births per woman (2.85) a decade ago to 2.1 in 2017. The racial group with the lowest fertility rate also isn't white Americans but American Indians with a fertility rate of 1.62 births per woman (compared to 1.82 births for whites) and just 43 births per 1,000 (compared to 58 births per 1,000 for whites). So while the Hispanic fertility rate is significantly higher than the national average, it is also declining faster than the national average and even if it wasn't it still wouldn't be evidence of a Jewish conspiracy to destroy western civilization.

Fortunately, mainstream conservatives lamenting demographic changes have not gone completely batshit and blamed it on a global Jewish conspiracy, but the myth that minority women pump out babies non-stop continues to fuel the narrative that there is an ongoing scheme by 'liberal elites' or 'globalists' to slight white people and to some extent the common stereotype of the welfare queen. There are many benign reasons why minority groups might have higher fertility rates than white Americans. One explanation is that minority groups like Hispanics have a larger portion of young people than white Americans. The median age for non-Hispanic whites is 42.3 years old, while the median age for Hispanics (of any race) is significantly younger at 27.6 years old. Black Americans have a slightly older median age of 32.9 years and Asian/Pacific Islanders are even older at 35.9 years. Minority groups, especially Hispanics also have a larger portion of women in prime child bearing years compared to non-Hispanic white Americans. A full 25% of Hispanic women are between the ages of 20 and 34 compared to only 19% of non-Hispanic white women who are between the same ages. Differences in educational attainment might also explain some of the disparities in fertility rates since non-Hispanic white and Asian women attend college more frequently than Hispanic and black women and thus delay having children for at least four to six years.

The legal immigration of non-whites into the U.S. is also not white genocide. Historically, immigrants have come to the U.S. from poorer, mostly agrarian and often war torn or violent countries in search of better livelihoods. This was true of Irish immigrants who came here after the infamous potato famine and it was also true of Italians and Sicilians who also came to the U.S. in waves from peasant countries at the turn of the century and to a certain poles, Slavs and other Eastern Europeans. So it would not be much of a leap to assume that legal immigrants coming from poorer, mostly agrarian and often war torn or violent countries in Latin America and Asia are coming to the U.S. for reasons very similar to those that motivated third wave southern and eastern European immigrants to cross the Atlantic. Legal immigration was also opposed back then by the Eugenics movement for reasons similar to those articulated by their modern predecessors in the alt-right and Trump movement. The supposed intellectual inferiority and criminal tendencies of Italians, Sicilians, Slavs and Eastern European Jews motivated the Immigration Act of 1924 that restricted Italian and Eastern European immigration, through a quota system, to their percentage of the population in the 1890 census. The 1924 immigration law also excluded all Asian immigrants, who were similarly thought to be dull witted and have poor moral character. Fear about the 'browning of America' seems to be driven by similar sentiments about the supposed genetic quality of immigrant groups. Why else would emphasize be placed on skin complexion instead of something more meaningful like culture (Race is more distinguishable by facial morphology than complexion anyway)? If it was about culture it would be called the latinizing of America, but as we already know when people say Latino or Hispanic what they really mean is mestizo because phenotype tends to make a greater impression than country of origin or first language. The emphasize then is really racial purity, but America has never been racially pure even when it was supposedly 90% white. White Americans, especially in Southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi, like mestizo immigrants from Mexico and Central America, have some American Indian ancestry and admixtures from other races; the very origin of the one drop rule was meant to resolve centuries of miscegenation here. The only real consequence of restricting legal immigration is to limit the number of people of a certain phenotype from coming to the U.S. If non-white immigration is considered genocide, then so to should interracial marriage because it also reduces the percentage of white people (by phenotype) in the population. However, I doubt mainstream conservatives lamenting demographic changes will follow alt-right ideology to it's logical conclusion i.e. a return to racial segregation, but they are still equating a lack of authoritarianism and government control over breeding and migration with genocide.

The 90% white majority that some conservatives like to reminiscence about was not the result of lassie fair immigration from Europe. As I already mentioned, the immigration act of 1924 excluded immigrants from an entire continent and restricted Italian/Sicilian immigration (considered WOPs until the 1960s) to a mere fraction of what it was between 1900 and 1920. Prior to the 1924 immigration act, average Italian and Sicilian immigration to the U.S. had risen to 216,000 people per year, which is a lot more than the 124,000 legal immigrants that arrive from Mexico each year and has a much greater impact when we account for the fact that the U.S. population was one-third of its current size. Since the National Origins quota system was scrapped in 1965, the Asian American population has grown exponentially from 0.5% of the population in 1960 to about 6% of the population today and are projected to make up 14% of the U.S. population in the next 50 years as well as the largest immigrant group in the U.S. In fact, the rate of Asian immigration has already eclipsed Hispanic (mestizo) immigration. In 2016, more people immigrated to the U.S. from India (126,000) than Mexico (124,000), and immigrants from China (121,000) made up the third top country of origin for the year. Even though the Asian population is growing faster than the Hispanic population and is set to more than double in the next 50 years, none on the right seem to be fear mongering about the 'yellowing of America'. Perhaps prejudice against Indians and East Asians has fallen out of fashion since they cannot be used as a convenient scapegoat for crime and welfare dependency. For one, Asian Americans commit crimes at a lower rate than native whites and on average are more financially successful. However, immigrants from Asia certainly come from poorer and dirtier countries, but they do not, as Tucker's argument would have us conclude, make the U.S. poorer and dirtier as evidence by their over-representation in STEM fields and college graduates. Having a college education helps in this regard, but what Tucker and many others fail to realize is that immigrant labor is generally more productive in developed countries with better infrastructure, a better education system, stronger property rights protections, and less government corruption than it is in third world countries with worse infrastructure, a worse education system, weaker property rights protections, and more government corruption. This is why both seasonal agricultural workers from Central America and software designers from China can earn higher wages in the U.S. and accumulate more wealth than they could in their home countries.

Given historical changes in who is categorized as white, white Americans may not even become a minority in the projected year 2045. Olive skinned Italians from the Mediterranean coast were once considered another race by the Anglo-Saxon majority (some still dispute their white European identity) as were Slavs, Accadians and ethnic Jews; all three are now counted as white in the census. Some Eurasians, Turks, Armenians and Iranians are also considered white by the federal government and by the general populace as long as they don't embrace Islam. The franchise could be expanded to Hispanics over the next few decades thereby nullifying the supposed white minority trajectory. 53% of Hispanics already identify as white, which explains the discrepancy between the supposed white percentage of the population (72.4%) and the non-Hispanic white percentage of the population (63%) in the census. Marriages between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites and assimilation into the Anglosphere could increase the number of Hispanics who identify as white, maintaining a white majority into the near future (who may or may not vote Republican).

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Indiana City Plans to Bulldoze Homes of Elderly Residents



Sources: Change.org petition, Downtown Redevelopment Plan

Four residents of Yorktown, Indiana are under attack for getting in the way of redevelopment plans. The city wants to demolish their homes and use the land to build a pedestrian bridge across Buck creek and build a court yard and games behind the bridge. The city has already started condemnation proceedings against Janice Ross, an elderly widow and one of the four residents in this case. In fact, all of the residents threatened with eminent domain are elderly and include a couple and two widows, one of whom is a 91 year old blind woman. Ruby Martin, the 91 year old blind woman, would probably not survive the stress of forced removal and relocation and the health of the other three residents would also be put in peril, but this is not the full extent of the injustice being committed. The city already owns an adjacent lot that could be used as the redevelopment site, which would save them the expense of litigation, but perhaps they targeted these residents knowing they are too frail and poor to fight back. It is not hard to see that preserving the homes of long time residents should be given higher priority than a pedestrian bridge and courtyard, but to the psychopaths in city hall any extra revenue is worth the lives of their own residents.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Real Life Examples of Land Value Taxes (Part 2)

Source: Vancouver expects to collect $38M from vacancy tax in first year, Vancouver Homeless Count

The city of Vancouver recently implement a vacancy tax on all unoccupied residential properties that could curb foreign land speculation and generate $38 million in annual revenue for affordable housing and other public services. The city currently has 2,538 vacant homes and 2,181 homeless residents, 659 of whom are unsheltered; this marks a 2% increase from the previous year. The $38 million could go a long way to reducing and eventually eliminating homelessness. The vacancy tax could also be an incentive to rent or lease property lowering the overall cost of housing and allowing more people to live in the city instead of commuting; however, the tax is only assessed on 1% of property values so its impact may be minimal. A much higher vacancy tax rate coupled with a reduction or elimination of the property tax assessed on buildings and improvements would go much further in making housing more affordable for everyone.

Campaign Finance Reform is a Game of Whack-a-mole

Sources: The Hidden Money Funding the Midterms, Super PAC or Super Fraud, Richest Billionaires are also top political spenders, Former Hawaii Gov. Cayetano Settles Libel Lawsuit Against Super PAC, Top Organizational Contributors

When one loophole is closed another is opened

Super PACs have figured out how to run ads without disclosing their donors until after elections. Under the Citizens United v. FEC ruling, Super PACs can spend an unlimited amount of money on political ads, but they must disclose their donors. However, a growing number of Super PACs have begun to circumvent this rule by forming the day after the deadline for reporting donors and not reporting donors until after election day. Others go into debt to buy political ads and pay it off with donations after the election. During the 2018 congressional races, 63 super PACs adopted one of these two tactics and spent a total of $21.9 million on campaign ads and mailers without revealing the source of their funding.

A major advantage of super PACs is that they allow politicians and their supporters to defame their opponents without being liable. The anonymity they provide allows the supporters of certain politicians to make false and malicious claims about their opponents without the risk of being sued for defamation. Recent examples include Roy Moore, a Republican senate candidate for a special election in Alabama who was smeared by a rival candidate’s Super PAC as a sexual predator on the basis of mere hearsay. During a 2012 mayoral race for Honolulu, Hawaii, the former governor of Hawaii, Ben Cayetano was falsely accused of taking kickbacks and illegal campaign contributions by a rival super PAC. Unfortunately, Super PACs can also be a disadvantage for the candidates they are supposed to represent. Such was the case for 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who sued a Super PAC that used his name and likeness under a false advertising statute. Super PACs make what could otherwise be intelligent debate about policy into smear campaigns and scare tactics that appeal to the lowest common denominator. But perhaps the best selling point of super PACs and the whole charade of private campaign finance laws is that they further entrench the political duopoly by making political discourse a function of the amount of money you can raise. Inevitably, this process tends to favor billionaires like Jeff Bezos and corporate interests like Amazon or, for instance, the entire defense industry, who have the most money to throw around and are heavily invested in a two party system that’s much easier to control than a political plurality. 36 of the the world’s 100 richest people are U.S. citizens and 30 of them regularly donate to political action committees. Out of the $184 million that billionaires contributed to the 2016 election cycle, 92% of it was donated to PACs and Super PACs.

The Solution

A political plurality, wherein more than two parties and independent candidates share power, can only be achieved through mandatory publicly funded elections. Every means of private campaign financing, especially Super PACs, should be made illegal and every candidate for any office who receives support from at least 5% of the electorate should be given an equal lump sum to spend directly on campaign activities. Candidates could qualify for government funds either through a petition or a preliminary poll. The details could be hashed once the country decides to abandon the inane belief that corporate propaganda and character assassinations is somehow the height of free speech. Such a plan would also require a constitutional convention, so it would be much easier to implement at the state and municipal level where constitutions are more readily amended.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Myth of Original Appropriation

The actual origin of property in land, which here is not restricted in meaning to the earth’s surface, but includes all natural resources, is not the begin mixture of labor with raw material, but in conquest and bloodshed. Landed property, as distinguishable from property in capital and consumer goods that are man made, is a creation of central governments not self-reliant homesteading. This is very obvious if we examine the historical record instead of quote mining John Locke. Much of the territory that makes up the U.S. was purchased by the federal government from other national governments. The territory of thirteen states was purchased from France in the Louisiana purchase, Florida was purchased from Spain, and Alaska was purchased from the Czar of Russia. Territory that was not purchased from other national governments was either purchased from the tribal nations inhabiting them or taken as the loot of war (e.g. treaty of guadalupe hidalgo). And of course, the original thirteen states were established by the British crown as colonies for the purpose of building the wealth of the British empire according to mercantilist theories. Furthermore, land ownership in America is based on the doctrine of discovery not homesteading. The closest thing to homesteading was when some early settlers purchased land directly from Indian tribes. However, their land rights were later deemed void by the ruling in Johnson v. M’Intosh which made it illegal for tribes to sell their land to private citizens and gave the federal government the exclusive right to negotiate land transfers with the tribes. This encoded the doctrine of discovery, the old colonial era belief that only European Christians have a right to own land in the new world while non-christian natives just have a right to occupancy, into U.S. law. Under the doctrine of discovery, or the principle of discovery as Justice Marshall called it, the U.S. inherited ownership of North America from Britain after the revolutionary war and the various European nations it purchased territory from (i.e. Spain, France, Russia). The European nations who the U.S. inherited the land from acquired the land by “discovery” i.e. by having their christian explorers set foot there and claim it for them. In many cases this was as simple as planting the flag of their monarch on the newly "discovered" land, which I guess could be construed as mixing one’s labor with the land. Historical revisionism aside, the homesteading principle may prove useful in the future when people discover newly formed islands around the pacific rim or when we colonize mars, but for now it is a tired relic of liberal mythology.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Comparison of Obama and Trump’s Leadership Styles

Introduction

Different leaders rely on different leadership styles and this is no less true of presidents. Depending on the situation they are facing, different leadership styles might serve better than others. For instance, the transformational leadership style tends to be the most suitable when groups or organizations facing uncertainty and need organizational innovation to create a better future (Dierendonck, Stam, Boersma, Windt, & Alkema, 2014). However, charismatic leadership also tends to be effective in crisis situations when people are under great stress (Robbins & Judge, 2017). The last two U.S. presidents use these leadership styles to some degree. Although both former president Obama and president Trump use charisma, they tend to differ on other leadership dimensions. The contention of this paper is that Trump relies on a charismatic leadership style to manage the presidency while Obama relied on transformational leadership strategies during his term in office.

Charismatic Leadership Style

Leaders who possess charisma create the perception of success and self-confidence among their followers and arouse strong emotions from them (Williams, Pillai, Deptula, Lowe, & Mccombs, 2018). President Trump possesses the traits associated with charismatic leadership such as high extroversion, self-confidence and social self-esteem and an achievement orientation (Robbins & Judge, 2017). Charismatic leaders unite followers behind by communicating value convergence, which influences followers to more closely identify with them, by articulating a vision that links the present with a better future, and by demonstrating a sense of power and confidence necessary to fulfill their promises (Williams et al., 2018; Robbins & Judge, 2017). Charismatic leaders communicate value convergence with their followers by focusing on shared values that encourage harmony among their followers (Williams et al., 2018). President Trump communicates value convergence through strong patriotic sentiments, Judeo-Christian beliefs, and conservative aims such as enhancing border security and decreasing bureaucracy and red tape. Charismatic leaders also communicate a vision to their followers through a vision statement that encompasses their overarching goals and purpose and sets high performance expectations that boost their followers’ confidence and self-esteem (Robbins & Judge, 2017). The vision also serves to set an example for followers to imitate and provide mutual support to their leader (Robbins & Judge, 2017). President Trump has used vision statements in both his roles in office and as a presidential candidate. For instance, his infamous slogans “Make America Great Again” and “Build the Wall” are readily recognizable and convey clear and powerful messages to his followers. Both allude to his desire to restore a nationalistic pride he believes has been lost over the years to globalization and cultural fragmentation (although whether his vision is genuine is contestable).

How Trump Exemplifies Charismatic Leadership

President Trump demonstrates charismatic leadership qualities not only by continuing to hold rallies long after his election victory, but also when it comes to negotiating international trade deals. On his first day in office, President Trump scrapped the Trans Pacific Partnership, a hallmark of Obama’s tenure, and has since renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. In this regard, Trump has used rhetorical strategies that portray him as sympathetic to working class Americans. For example, he has constantly communicated the vision of returning manufacturing and extraction industry jobs to the U.S. by negotiating trade deals that are more favorable to U.S. economic interests, and by using tariffs as a bulwark against perceived inequities in U.S. trade relations. He has also characterized himself as a deal maker who has the competence and know how to get the job done because he has years of experience in the business sector.

Transformational Leadership Style

While Obama could be described as using the same charismatic leadership that Trump uses, it would be more accurate to characterize his presidency as transformational leadership. Transformational leadership entails multiple dimensions in which leaders focus on the needs and values of the group or their organization and encourage their followers to exceed expectations for the sake of their group or organization (Dierendonck et al., 2014). The transformational leadership includes some of the dimensions of charismatic leadership such as inspirational motivation, which involves the communication of a vision, and idealized consideration (i.e. being a role model to followers), but it also adds intellectual stimulation (i.e. thinking of unconventional solutions and approaches to problems, individualized consideration for focusing on follower’s development, and personal recognition of followers’ performance (Dierendonck et al., 2014). Transformational leaders also tie their goals and expectations to higher ideals and moral values (Engbers & Fucilla, 2012). Like charismatic leaders, they tend to focus on the big picture and are confident and optimistic about their visions (Engbers & Fucilla, 2012). One way in which Obama used the transformational leadership styles is in framing political issues that could be divisive as one’s of national interest (Engbers & Fucilla, 2012). For instance, during townhalls and speeches before congress, Obama would address his group as “the American people” or “we” instead of framing issues as ones that only his democratic constituency should address (Engbers & Fucilla, 2012).

How Obama Exemplifies Transformational Leadership

Since Obama came to power during a financial crisis and subsequent recession he needed more than charisma to be an effective leader. In this regard, a transformational leadership style allowed him to not only use charisma to garner support, but also devise and execute effective strategies to spur an economic recovery. Thus, Obama not only had to communicate a vision of what he wanted America to become, he also had to devise specific policies to get there. The stimulus package passed during his first year, which included tax relief and subsidies to failing industries, is one such example. Another example is the Affordable Care Act to fulfill his vision of ensuring that every American has health insurance, although this never came to fruition.

References

Dierendonck, D. V., Stam, D., Boersma, P., Windt, N. D., & Alkema, J.(2014). Same difference? Exploring the differential mechanisms linking servant leadership and transformational leadership to follower outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(3), 544-562. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.11.014

Engbers, T., & Fucilla, L. (2012).Transforming Leadership and the Obama Presidency. Social Science Quarterly, 93(5), 1127-1145. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6237.2012.00917.x

Robbins, S., & Judge, T. (2017). Organizational Behavior (17th ed.). Pearson Publishing.

Williams, E. A., Pillai, R., Deptula, B. J., Lowe, K. B., & Mccombs, K. (2018). Did charisma “Trump” narcissism in 2016? Leader narcissism, attributed charisma, value congruence and voter choice. Personality and Individual Differences, 130, 11-17. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.03.010

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Abstinence Only Education: A Social Psychology Failure

Every decision, regardless of whether it is made by an individual or an organization, not only has an immediate, foreseeable, and desirable effect, but also several long-term, unforeseeable and unintended effects. This is especially true, and noticeable, in the production of legislation, regulations, ordinances, executive orders, and court opinions. The actions of governments seem to be the most susceptible to the law of unintended consequences. One of the first scholars to study this concept identified the causes of unintended consequences as ignorance, error in judgment, immediate gratification, rigid adherence to values, and self-defeating prophecies (Nworie & Haughton, 2008). Perhaps the failure of government actions meant to alleviate social ills can best be understood within this context. This is well exemplified in the federal government’s adoption and subsequent funding of abstinence only sexual education during the late nineteen nineties welfare reform. The idea that teaching adolescents to abstain from all sexual activity until marriage, while withholding information on safe sex practices and contraceptives, will reduce their engagement in sexual behavior and its subsequent effects seems intuitive, but social psychology often contradicts what we may consider intuitive or common sense. For instance, the bystander effect, the classic observation that we are less likely to receive help in emergency situations when there are more strangers around us, runs counter-intuitive to our notion of safety in numbers. The same thing could be said of abstinence only sexual education, which has historically either been negligible or had the opposite effect of what it intends. The research on this matter has shown that abstinence only sexual education tends to increase the risk of teen pregnancy, abortion rates, and does not decrease or delay adolescent sexual activity.

Ever since the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services brought an end to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, an evidence based adolescent health program established by congress in 2010, in late June of this year (Charo, 2017), the issue of sex education in public schools has never been more critical. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program represented an important turning point in federal sex education policy. It encompassed funding for initiatives that not only aimed to delay sexual behavior among adolescents, but also provided information on the responsible use of contraceptives and other safe sex practices (Charo, 2017). Before this Obama era program, the exclusive policy of HHS was abstinence only sex education, which has historically meant chiding teens to wait until marriage, usually by employing scare tactics about the dangers of sex, while withholding information on contraceptives and safe sex practices (Kohler, Manhart, & Lafferty, 2008). Abstinence only education also tends to provide inaccurate or exaggerated information on the risks of pregnancy and STD/HIV transmission to promote a religious view of sexuality. Comprehensive sex education, such as the initiatives funded through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program, also emphasizes the importance of delaying sexual behavior until one is responsible enough to handle the consequences, but provides accurate information on pregnancy risks, STD/HIV transmission, contraceptives and safe sex practices (Kohler et al., 2008).

Formal sex education was initially implemented in public schools across the country in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s (Hall, Sales, Komro, & Santelli, 2016). As a result, adolescents’ sex education vastly improved between 1988 and 1995; however, because of the welfare reform efforts of 1996, the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, adopted abstinence until marriage as its exclusive position on sex education (Hall et al., 2016). In 1996, congress amended Title V of the Social Security Act, adding section 510(b) to include a provision of federal grants to state sexual education initiatives promoting abstinence only until marriage (Kohler et al., 2008). Thus, to receive federal funding under Title V of the Social Security Act, state sex education programs must exclusively teach the social, psychological, and health benefits of abstaining from sexual activity and that marriage is the only acceptable situation for sexual activity (Kohler et al., 2008). Congress also funds abstinence only sex education initiatives through the Adolescent Family Life Act, Community Based Abstinence Education, and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, among other legislation that provides federal grants (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). The Teen Pregnancy Prevention program was introduced as an evidence based and value neutral alternative to abstinence only education during the Obama administration, with original appropriations of 114 million dollars in the 2010-2011 fiscal year (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). Since Trump’s HHS discontinued this program, state legislators only have one federal funding avenue for sex education. At present, thirty-seven states require abstinence information in sex education while only eighteen states require information about contraceptives and safe sex practices (Hall et al., 2016).

The common sense rationale behind abstinence only sexual education seems practical. Discouraging teens from engaging in sexual activity until they are married should have the intended effect of reducing sexual behavior among teens, which would inevitably reduce the negative outcomes associated with said behavior (i.e. teen pregnancy, abortions and STD transmission); however, it seems their hormones get the best of them. Compared to other developed countries, the United States has the highest STD, teen pregnancy, teen birth, and teen abortion rates (Kohler et al., 2008). The teens in these countries are not more prudent than teens in the US.; the difference is sex education. For instance, European countries provide greater access to sexual health information and services for adolescents than the United States and they include information about contraceptives and safe sex practices in their sexual education (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). Most systematic reviews of the effects of abstinence only education on adolescent sexual behavior have shown that it has a minimal impact on reducing it and providing information about safe sex practices does not encourage adolescents to engage in sexual behavior earlier compared to not being given that information (Kohler et al., 2008). Based on an assessment of two types of sex education programs (abstinence only and comprehensive) using National Survey of Family Growth data, Kohler et al.,(2008) found that abstinence only programs have no significant effect in delaying teens’ initial sexual activity or in reducing the risk of teen pregnancy and STD transmission (Kohler et al., 2008). One study of abstinence only virginity pledges found that most adolescents who make virginity pledges end up breaking their pledge and engaging in pre-marital sex (Kohler et al., 2008). Even worse, some studies have found that abstinence only education has the opposite effect of what it intends. Stanger-Hall and Hall (2011) found a significant positive correlation between abstinence only education and teen pregnancy and birth rates (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). States that have abstinence only education and exclude information about safe sex practices have significantly higher average teen pregnancy and birth rates than states with comprehensive sex education (Stanger-Hall & Hall, 2011). Other studies have shown that abstinence only education likely increases teen pregnancy rates compared to both comprehensive sex education and no sex education (Stanger-Hall, 2011). The most plausible explanation is that teens who receive abstinence only education engage in higher risk sexual activity (e.g. do not use contraceptives) compared to teens who receive comprehensive sex education and even teens who receive no sex education (Kohler et al., 2008).

A lack of adequate sex education is a critical issue that American society must tackle. Congress implemented abstinence only sex education in the late nineties as part of their welfare reform effort, but over time it has been proven ineffectual. Study after study has shown that abstinence only education is both ineffective at delaying adolescent sexual behavior and has the opposite effect on teen pregnancy and birth rates. Given the recurrent negative outcomes of abstinence only education and the tactics used to teach it, it must be considered an unethical policy.

References
Charo, R. A. (2017). The trump administration and the abandonment of teen pregnancy prevention programs. JAMA Internal Medicine, 177(11), 1557. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.4873

Hall, K. S., Ph.D., Sales, J. M., Ph.D., Komro, K. A., Ph.D., & Santelli, J., M.D. (2016). The state of sex education in the united states. Journal of Adolescent Health, 58(6), 595-597. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.03.032.

Kohler, P. K., Manhart, L. E., & Lafferty, W. E. (2008). Abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education and the initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(4), 344-351. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2007.08.026

Nworie, J., & Haughton, N. (2008). Good intentions and unanticipated effects: The unintended consequences of the application technology in teaching and learning environments. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 52(5), 52-58. doi:10.1007/s11528-008-0197

Stanger-Hall, K. F., & Hall, D. W. (2011). Abstinence-only education and teen pregnancy rates: Why we need comprehensive sex education in the U.S. PLoS ONE, 6(10), 1-11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0024658