Showing posts with label corporatocracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corporatocracy. Show all posts

Sunday, February 3, 2019

U.S. District Judge Rules Twitter is a Public Forum Setting New Precedent for Free Speech and Censorship

Sources: Duke Chronicle, Cornell Law Dictionary

Last year, several twitter critics of the sitting President sued Trump for blocking them and won. U.S. District judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the Southern district of New York, ruled that Trump had violated the plaintiffs' first amendment rights by excluding them from voicing their opinion on a 'public forum.'

We hold that portions of the @realDonaldTrump account—the 'interactive space' where Twitter users may directly engage with the content of the President’s tweets—are properly analyzed under the 'public forum' doctrines set forth by the Supreme Court, that such space is a designated public forum, and that the blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.

This ruling should have wider implications than preventing Trump from blocking prominent twitter critics like Dr. Eugene Gu, who filed the lawsuit. Besides, Trump isn't the only politician that uses twitter to communicate with his constituents. Almost every representative, senator, justice and bureaucrat uses twitter to get their message out. In this sense, the 'private' social media platform could be considered a designated public forum for political discourse, and therefore should be open to all viewpoints. Unfortunately, there is no legal definition for online public forums. The Supreme Court outlined 3 types of public forums in the 1983 case of Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators' Association and all of them are defined in terms of physical space and restrict government officials from discriminating against certain viewpoints rather than public corporations like Twitter and Facebook. This could be a major problem when it comes to twitter itself banning or suspending certain users for unpopular political opinions or selectively enforcing their nebulous terms of service. Twitter's discriminatory actions keep people form engaging with their elected representatives all the same as being directly blocked by their elected representatives; the only difference is that the censorship is done by a corporation rather than a government agency or official. However, as I pointed out in a previous post, corporations are established by governments for the benefit of the public, and have no right to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religion or any other protected class. It's only logical to add political affiliation and viewpoint, especially given the pertinence of twitter and other big social media platforms in our day and age.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Corporations Have No Right To Discriminate

Corporations are the greatest threat to freedom of speech. This is a very succinct video from the Ghettoman. I've been following his work since December when he joined Steemit (he has since left) and he doesn't seem to have taken off yet, so I do whatever I can to promote him and his work. The issue at stake here is whether corporations, specifically social media companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have a right to discriminate on the basis of political views, that is, to treat political views differently by, for instance, enforcing terms of service selectively and defining political views they disagree with as hate speech, which isn't a legal term. I say they don't based on previous civil rights legislation prohibiting discrimination on other protected bases, like religion, and the fact that these conglomerates have a virtual monopoly on online political content, which is where the vast majority of people congregate nowadays. Furthermore, as the Ghettoman points out, corporations are charted by the state for the benefit of the public, which includes everyone on the political spectrum. And as I pointed out earlier they have a virtual monopoly on online political content making their bias against certain political views no different from censorship in practice. Social media platforms should therefore be considered public forums.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Rent Motive of Campaign Funding

A little over a year ago, 60 minutes, reported that members of congress spend an average of 30 hours a week in a call center soliciting donors. The prospect of it seemed completely absurd to me. Our elected officials basically have a part time job as telemarketers on top of their neglected constitutional duties. Part of the problem is due to the fact that the 540 people that congregate on Capitol Hill are pulled from the upper echelons of society and don't reflect the SES composition of our nation. According to the Census Bureau, the median household income, as of 2015, is $55,775. Millionaires make up about 4% of the general population. In comparison, the majority of congressmen are millionaires who make a cushy 6 figure salary. People tend to sympathize more with those who are more like them than those who are less like them; that's basic human nature. So it's not hard to understand why a group of people who are well off and financially secure might have trouble sympathesizing with the average person who lives pay check to pay check with less than $1,000 in savings. The other part of the problem is that major donors, non-profits and for profits alike, aren't contributing to campaigns out of the kindness of their hearts; they expect a return on their contributions when their candidate wins. The norm of reciprocity - the universal social instinct to repay benefits with benefits and injuries with injuries governs interactions between people who aren't genetically related. The same instinct that allows us to form non-kin social organizations allows informal quid pro quo arrangements between politicians and their donors to flourish without necessarily becoming outright bribery. This unspoken and unwritten rule does not necessarily need to be acted on consciously. Behaviors that we are continually habituated to become second nature over time. Institutions that we have been familiar with since birth sink into the background and become entrenched in our thinking. For the same reason, we've come to accept some of the corruption in Washington; we've come to accept the party duopoly and along with it a government that plays favorites in the businesses world, enforces its laws selectively, and ignores its constitutional restraints. Breaking this vicious cycle requires altering the perverse incentives involved in running for office in the first place.

The first step toward changing the incentives for running for public office should be to change the source of funding for candidates. Ultimately, the myriad of PACs, SuperPACs, and other private fund raising organizations should be banned and replaced with one donor - the state or federal government- for each individual candidate running for any elected office, at each level. To keep every Tom, Dick, and Harry from running, we would apply the already existing 5% rule for federal funding. Each candidate that meets or exceeds this requirement, aside from the requirements enumerated in the constitution, would receive the same funding. A poll tax could be instated at either the state or federal level to generate the revenue necessary for elections at the state or federal level respectively. There are several perks to publicly funded elections. First, we would put the lower and middle class on even footing with billionaires like Tom Steyer, Jeff Bezos, George Soros, the Rockefellers, the Kochs etc. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that these people have more sway on Capitol Hill than your average Joe calling his senator's office every now and then. Second, if candidates don't have to worry about fundraising, they would have more time to work out their policy positions and instead of the constant barrage of attack ads, we might get more substantial policy orientated ads. Third, if officials didn't have to worry about raising money for re-election, they would have more time to do their jobs (term limits on members of congress would also reduce this incentive). Imagine if congressmen spent those 30 hours a week conducting the business of the U.S. instead of soliciting donors in party call centers. Fourth, putting all candidates on an even playing field would allow us to break the duopoly. Most people are not satisfied with having only two viable choices when they go to the polls. Having elections that are only publicly funded would allow third parties to gain a foothold in the electorate and eventually result in coalition governments in congress like what many European parliaments have. Imagine if the Republicans had to compromise with the Libertarians on defense spending in order to pass tax reform? Having third parties present in congress would go a long way to reducing the typical group think and would create resistance to the gradual erosion of our civil liberties (the Libertarian and Green Party are pretty solid on these issue). Fifth, without having SuperPACs that can spend an indefinite amount on ads, elections would be far cheaper. Public funding for individual campaigns would allow us to set expenditure limits on candidates.

Given the Supreme court ruling in Buckley v. Valeo and Citizen's United v FEC, a constitutional amendment would be needed for exclusive public funding of elections for both state and federal offices.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Want To Boycott the NFL? Too Bad Your Government Forces You To Support Them.

'As, on the one hand, it is certain that we all address some such request to the state, and, on the other hand, it is a well-established fact that the state cannot procure satisfaction for some without adding to the labor of others, while awaiting another definition of the state, I believe myself entitled to give my own here. Who knows if it will not carry off the prize? Here it is: The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.'
- Frederic Bastiat, The State

Yep, if you are a taxpayer, you are forced to pay for NFL teams and their stadiums at both the federal and state level. If you haven't already, please read my previous post The DOD Paid NFL Teams For Patriotic Pony Shows as it provides some context for what I'm about to tell you. It turns out that the $6M in advertising contracts is just the tip of the iceberg. Since 2000, $3.2B in federal tax-exempt municipal bonds have been used to finance the construction and renovation of 36 Sports Stadiums. Overall, NFL teams have received $7B in government aid over the past couple of decades. Just to give you a glimpse: the Patriot's Gillette stadium cost Massachusetts taxpayers $72M; the Steelers' stadium cost Pennsylvania taxpayers $171M; direct subsidies to the Colts cost Indiana taxpayers $619M, and the New Orleans Saints will cost Louisiana taxpayers $400M in direct and indirect subsidies between 2012 and 2025. Proponents of stadium subsidies claim that they are public investments, which generate additional growth in local economies, but this is simply the broken window fallacy writ large. Robbing Peter to pay Paul never creates wealth. The revenue that is redistributed to the franchise and businesses within its proximity must be taken from businesses where people would otherwise spend their money or save it and allow it to be lent out for other purposes (perhaps as loans to start a new businesses). Government redistribution is sum zero; it does not create any wealth of its own.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Bombshell Documents Reveal Collusion Between Charlestown, Indiana and a Private Developer

Source: Institute for Justice

The following story is a follow up report about the use of emeinent domain to take houses from low income residents in Charlestown, Indiana and give them over to private developer Neace Ventures at the lowest cost possible. To catch up on this developong story read The Red Tape Times (article 20).

At the end of August, the Institute for Justice leaked a series of documents which contained the correspondence among Charlestown mayor Bob Hall, city inspector Tony Jackson, city attorney Michael Gillenwater, and Neace Ventures project manager John Hampton, from last year. The documents showed that the aforementioned city officials had colluded with Neace Ventures in lowering home appraisals in their endeavor to make using eminent domain against any 'holdouts' as cheap as possible for the developer. Their scheme was to use the city's property maintenance codes to stack fines against Pleasant Ridge homeowners and allow Neace Ventures subsidiary, Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment LLC, to buy up vacant lots from the city, further driving down home values in the neighborhood. Once the accumulated fines became over burdensome for the homeowners, the city would swoop in and offer to buy their house for $10,000, well below market value, in return for voiding the fines imposed on their property. The only other option offered was to raze their houses. As reported previously, the city inspector and mayor violated municipal, state and constitutional law in the process 1) by not notifying residents beforehand to allow corrections 2) imposing immediate accumulating fines 3) taking property without just compensation and for the exclusive use of a private entity, and 4)imposing fines without allowing homeowners to appeal the fines in a civil hearing. The leaked documents reveal that mayor Bob Hall, attorney Michael Gillenwater and project manager John Hampton planned to railroad the project through as early as July 6th of last year even though Bob Hall claimed ignorance of the project to the press the next day and told WAVE3 TV, at the end of September, that eminent domain wouldn't necessarily be used. Even before the July 6th meeting between Bob Hall and John Hampton, the mayor reached an indemnification agreement with Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment LLC, promising to compensate them for any lawsuits. What's more, the city inspector, Tony Jackson, profited from the project by doing contract work on the side removing asbestos from condemned houses. It is doubtful that any of the conspirators in this robbery will ever be criminally indicted much less face prosecution. As long as the order of the day is one set of laws for us and a separate, less strigent set of laws for politicians and bureaucrats they will continue to ruthlessly prey on their own citizens.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Bushmen Genocide in Botswana: U.S. Involvement Uncovered

See Previous post for context

USAID supports 'conservation' efforts in Botswana through a little known program called the Tropical Forest Conservation Fund. The TFCF was established through the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, which Bill Clinton signed into law in 1998. The Bush Admin established the TFCF in Botswana in 2006, a year after a third wave of Bushmen were forcibly removed from Kalahari Park. The TFCA creates a debt-for-nature agreement with participating countries whereby, for instance, Botswana can have their debt to the United States reduced while USAID simultaneously provides funds for the main conservation organization in Botswana: FCB. The federal government initially contributed $7 million to the TFCF in Botswana, and its board includes U.S. representatives that oversee 'conservation' activity.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Conservation is a Pretext For Genocide (part 3): Bushmen Genocide in Botswana

The Bushmen are a group of traditional societies that have inhabited Southern Africa for millennia on end. In Botswana, Central Kalahari Park was established to protect what was left of their homeland after the country gained independence from the UK. However, re-colonization efforts on the part of the Botswana government, diamond mining companies, Conservation NGOs and the World Bank have jeopardized their homeland, culture, and their very existence. The government began forcing the Bushmen out of Kalahari Park and stationed armed guards around it in 1997, under the pretense of conservation. The government destroyed their property and personal belongings, dismantled their schools and trading posts and sealed their boreholes, which they used to obtain water. They were prohibited from hunting and obtaining water causing many of them to die from dehydration and starvation. Those who hunted or gathered food were tortured, beaten, arrested and sometimes killed by the guards. The remainder were put into resettlement camps where they live out a dismal existence plagued by poverty, alcohol addiction, and mental illness.

The government of Botswana is not the sole culprit. Incidentally, diamond deposits were discovered in Kalahari Park prior to the eviction of the Bushmen. The government leased the land to 'eco-tourist' and conservation company Wilderness Safaris, which built a luxury tourist lodge on the land, as well as a handful of diamond mining companies. The mining companies operating in the Bushmen's ancestral land are mostly based out of the UK with one Canadian and one Australian company. Gem Diamonds, based out of London, is perhaps the largest stakeholder in Kalahari Park diamonds. They own the Ghaghoo mine, which has an estimated worth of $5B and diamond deposits valued in excess of $3B. Other mining and exploration companies include Kalahari Diamonds Limited, also based out of London, BHP Billiton, from Australia, and Motapa Diamonds, from Canada. The World Bank, for their own part, provided Kalahari Diamonds Ltd with a $2 million loan to conduct exploration in the area. The World Bank subsidizes other Diamond mining companies like Tosdilo Resources Ltd and in general finances diamond mining as well as other extractive industries throughout Africa, regardless of the cost to human life.

With the insistence of Conservation International, an NGO based out of the US, the president of Botswana, Ian Khama, enacted a nationwide hunting ban in 2014. The hunting ban prohibits the Bushmen from hunting on their own homeland, but allows an exception for trophy hunters that run game ranches, so long as they pay the proper fees. Oddly enough, Ian Khama is a member of the board of directors for Conservation International. Conservation International has partnerships with USAID, the State Department, the Department of Energy, NASA, and NOAA. They receive federal funding through the Development Assistance and Global Environment Facility. The government of Botswana recieves foreign aid from USAID, so in a certain sense the US federal government is complicit in the genocide of the Bushmen.

The resettlement camps have made the Bushmen into a welfare dependent underclass. There is no doubt that the Bushmen are better off as subsistence hunters and gatherers than they are subsisting off of government handouts. Although the hunter gatherer lifestyle is brutal and taxing, it is more dignified than the life of a welfare recipient. The former keeps the senses sharp and the mind attentive while the latter leads to drug and alcohol abuse that dulls the senses and deteriorates the mind. In the former, they have the liberty and self-determination to practice their customs and traditions, while they are always under the heel of the government in the latter. Sure their ways are primitive, but they are still much better than what the government has to offer.

Monday, July 10, 2017

What No One Brings Up In The Pipeline Debates

Or at least no one in the mainstream. There the contention seems to be between the environment and jobs. What most people pass over is property rights, which are gradually being suppressed by multi-national corporations and governments at every level. In Pennsylvania, a new pipeline battle between landowners and SUNOCO, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, has arisen. The contention is over the Mariner East II Pipeline: a 350 mile natural gas pipeline running west to east from the Marcellus shale formation in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook refinery near the Delaware border. Landowners victimized by the company have voiced their grievances before the commonwealth court to no avail. The company's 'right' to rob private citizen's of their property in furtherance of their own profit, for a use that the landowners themselves will have no chance to benefit from, has been upheld as a legitimate use of eminent domain.

Ralph and Doris Blume are farmers in Newville, Pennsylvania who will lose some of their land to SUNOCO for the pipeline easement. Aside from removing trees, the company also plans to destroy their hay shed, which sits on the pipeline's projected path. The fact that one business may be allowed to rob another business of part of its capital by court order just shows how much our republic has been perverted by lobbyists and their lackeys in office. The Gerharts' land in Union Township is under a similar threat from SUNOCO although they have resisted the court ordered robbery by setting up camp and inviting protestors to occupy the projected pipeline route, which is about 200 feet from their house. They have even been arrested for trespassing on their own property.

The company claims that most landowners sold their land 'voluntarily', which is clearly a lie. If it was voluntary, landowners would have the choice not to give up their land for the pipeline easement; either way they have to sell and they don't get to negotiate compensation. The most likely explanation is that these landowners knew they couldn't win in court. The company was given the power eminent domain under the specious pretext that they would provide a public utility; of course, this like their earlier claim is also false. At least some of the natural gas liquids transported through the pipeline will be shipped to Europe through the Marcus Hook refinery, which is in fact a port on the Delaware river that eventually flows into the Atlantic ocean. A company spokesman claimed the pipeline would transport ethane to the power generation facility in Cambria County that is slated to be operational by 2019. However, that facility is the CPV Fairview Energy Center, which is a primarily methane facility that will receive gas from the Spectra/TETCO pipeline owned by a completely different company. Even if their claim to provide a 'public utility' wasn't a lie, it still wouldn't stand to reason that they should be allowed to use eminent domain in counties that won't even receive the service they are providing. The Gerharts live in Huntingdon county, Ralph and Doris Blume live in Cumberland county, and most landowners along the route also don't live in Cambria county and neither do their neighbors. At least when the state uses eminent domain to build a road or an actual utility company uses it to put in power lines the people within that county, including the landowners, receive the benefit of that service.

Providing a public utility isn't even requisite to use eminent domain anyway. Ever since the Kelo decision, the vague appeal to 'economic development' is all a corporation needs to take property from private citizens, even if they don't actually produce anything afterwards. The weakening of property rights is a dangerous habit that if carried to its fullest extent will lead to the decline of civilization itself, which it is fundamental too on par with language and culture. The founding fathers recognized this fact and so enshrined property right protections into the Constitution. As a matter of fact, four out of the ten amendments that make up the bill of rights deal with property rights (I,III,IV, and V amendments).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Trump's Most Deranged Tweet Yet

Not only is this comment completely asinine since it doesn't make sense, it's also fake news. The very opposite is true. In fact, Amazon paid lobbying firm Patton Boggs $500,000 to lobby congress for the enactment of the Marketplace Fairness Act in 2013, which would allow states to force out of state retail companies to collect sales taxes for them. Jeff Bezos stands to profit from internet sales taxes because it would force smaller competitors, who cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars filing monthly sales tax returns in every state, out of business. Internet sales taxes would also force consumers to pay taxes in states they do not reside in to governments they do not receive public services from. It would violate one of the very foundational principles of this country, one which emboldened Americans to throw off the chains of the British empire; no taxation without representation. The only truth Trump has revealed here is that he is an petty thug who has no principles nor concern for the common man, just grandiose promises he doesn't plan on keeping. He says he'll stand up for the middle class and cut red tape that holds small businesses back all while proposing legislation that would destroy small businesses owned by middle class people.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Non-combatant Civilian Deaths Caused By U.S. Airstrikes Spike Under Trump


Washington's coalition Has Killed 5,000 Syrian and Iraqi civilians since 2014. This is a conservative estimate calculated by Airwars, a civil society group that tracks civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria. Between 8,000 and 11,700 have been attributed to the U.S. coalition though these claims have yet to be confirmed. The 4,834 fatalities caused by Washington warplanes includes about 700 children and 400 women. Non-combatant civilian deaths caused by U.S. coalition airstrikes has drastically spiked since Trump took office. Thus far, the Trump administration has killed 245 civilian non-combatants in Iraq and 378 civilians in Syria from February till April. This only takes into account confirmed and fair reports where there is a reasonable amount of evidence from multiple sources on the ground and does not account for ongoing investigations which may inflate these numbers. The spike in civilian fatalities caused by U.S. airstrikes is due in most part to the fact that the Trump administration has taken less precautions and, as much as it pains me to say it, has done less thinking and more knee jerk reacting than Obama. Trump has ordered airstrikes at a rate of one per day since he took office while Obama averaged an airstrike every 5.4 days during his two terms. Furthermore, Trump has discarded many rules of engagement that minimize civilian fatalities in airstrikes.

Trump was never less hawkish than his predecessor or Clinton. Even Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail made Obama look dovish by comparison. He used the guilt by association fallacy to suggest that it was permissible to kill the families of ISIS fighters, a statement which, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean, among other things, bombing families in European countries as well as 'ally' Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It would also mean killing family members that may have shunned their ISIS relatives or just killing random people who Trump claims are related to ISIS fighters. As early as 2015 he suggested drastically increasing military spending which practically translates to more bombing, more boots on the ground, and more boogeymen to fight. To recall that Trump supporters thought this guy was an 'non-interventionist' is laughable on face value not only in light of his past statement on the Iraq war, which he made Howard Stern, or his past statement on the war in Afghanistan, or his flip flopping on the intervention of Libya, which is stuck in a state of perpetual anarchy, but also in light of the more probable motive that Trump simply criticized these police actions to score brownie points against his primary opponents. Trump doesn't really have any principles; his ideology is egotism. Whatever benefits Trump is good and whatever hurts his reputation is bad or FAKE NEWS! That is the extent of his rationale, and if you're too stupid to see that I feel sorry for you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trump Signs Away Your Privacy Rights As A Broadband Customer

In what could only be described as a culmination of events that began during the Bush Administration, President Trump signed Senate Joint Resolution 34 into law, which reversed an FCC rule that protects the privacy of Broadband customers. Republicans used the Congressional Review Act to reverse the rule, approved by the Obama Admin back on January 3rd, and prevent to FCC from writing a similar rule for privacy in the future. The FCC rule prohibited ISPs from selling their customers' web browsing history and location data to third parties without their customers' consent. It also prohibited them from delivering targeted ads to their customers and required them to protect their customers'data from hackers. The rule expanded the privacy requirements for telecommunications companies, already established in the Communications Act of 1934, to ISPs, and reclassified them as a telecommunications service. Established telecommunications privacy rules already prohibit telecommunications companies from disclosing individually identifiable customer proprietary network information except with the customer's consent or as required by law.

Except as required by law or with the approval of the customer, a telecommunications carrier that receives or obtains customer proprietary network information by virtue of its provision of a telecommunications service shall only use, disclose, or permit access to individually identifiable customer proprietary network information in its provision of (A) the telecommunications service from which such information is derived, or (B) services necessary to, or used in, the provision of such telecommunications service, including the publishing of directories.

A telecommunications carrier shall disclose customer proprietary network information, upon affirmative written request by the customer, to any person designated by the customer.

The FCC rule on broadband privacy extended these same requirements to ISPs:

The rules require carriers to provide privacy notices that clearly and accurately inform customers; obtain opt-in or opt-out customer approval to use and share sensitive or non-sensitive customer proprietary information, respectively; take reasonable measures to secure customer proprietary information; provide notification to customers, the Commission, and law enforcement in the event of data breaches that could result in harm; not condition provision of service on the surrender of privacy rights; and provide heightened notice and obtain affirmative consent when offering financial incentives in exchange for the right to use a customer's confidential information.

Now that Republicans have repealed this FCC rule, ISPs can sell their customers' browsing history and location data to third parties, mostly advertisers, without their knowledge or consent, which, among other problems, puts broadband customers at greater risk of identity theft.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Red Tape Times (article 25)

Proprietors in Emerson, NJ Fight A Pending Eminent Domain Seizure of Their Businesses

Source: Institute for Justice

Small scale proprietors and residents of the Central Business District in Emerson, New Jersey have formed a coalition called Stop Emerson Eminent Domain to prevent the Borough council from condemning their properties and handing them over to private developer JMF Properties. Eighty-two properties fall within block 419, which has been designated a condemnation redevelopment area, but in response to public backlash the borough council removed twenty-four properties from consideration. The Borough council claims that it has to seize these properties to meet its affordable housing obligations, but the developer’s agreement does not require JMF Properties to build affordable housing in the Central Business District, but rather explicitly says they will explore alternative sites. Furthermore, New Jersey’s Local Redevelopment and Housing Law does not include affordable housing as one of the criteria for establishing an Area in Need of Redevelopment. The current study of block 419 relies on New Jersey's vague legal definitions of ‘obsolete’ and ‘underutilized’ conditions, which are often used to simply transfer property from one private owner to another private owner (i.e. legal robbery). A few proprietors have spoken out against the pending eminent domain seizure of their property that would destroy their livelihoods; their comments are included below.

“The borough wants development at any cost, and will violate my rights as a hard-working small-business owner to get it,” said Dan O’Brien, owner of Academy Electrical Contractors, Inc. “They’re using affordable housing as a smokescreen for this development, and they’re abusing the state’s redevelopment law in the process.” Dan moved his business to Emerson five years ago and poured $150,000 into his property with hopes of one day handing it over to his children after he retires. “I’ve helped countless people in this borough with their electrical needs. I have 14 employees, half of whom are residents of this borough—if I lose my business, these Emerson residents lose their jobs. Our properties clearly aren’t blighted, and they are not for sale,” Dan continued.

“We invested heavily in Emerson at a time of economic downturn. Our property is essential for our small business, my livelihood and retirement. It’s a horror to watch eminent domain crush other small businesses, homes, and lives,” said Todd Bradbury, owner of Bradbury Landscape in Emerson. “No court ordered this—it was an elective move by the governing body. We are not going to sit back and watch the next block fall. Just imagine if this happened to you.”

“I came to Emerson in 1977, when I was 24 years old. Since then, I’ve built two buildings and renovated two on Chestnut Street, with no tax breaks, no special treatment, without a dime, nothing—I worked hard seven days a week, often until 1am,” said small-business owner Bob Petrow, who owns Star Properties. “I’ve contributed to many community causes. Now I depend on these buildings that I bought, built and maintained to sustain me. They’re my retirement. Now all that’s threatened.”
“Mayor Lamatina recently said in a media interview that ‘downtown sorely needs new blood,’” said Toni Plantamura-Rossi, who owns the Dairy Queen on Kinderkamack Road, which was built in 1952. “But they’re attempting to squeeze small-business owners out of the borough. We’re part of a small-business franchise and are proud to be blue-collar workers. We all need electricians and auto-mechanics…what’s wrong with these services if we’re helping everyone’s needs? When did building a successful local business that caters to the community become something to be looked down upon and not patted on the back?”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Escaping The False Dilemma of Mainstream Politics

If you stick around this blog long enough, you will notice that there is a common theme in every entry. Yes I am anti-government for the most part and condemn every violation of Constitutional or moral law at the federal, state, county and municipal level, but government is not the only aggressor. The recent DAPL conflict and the earlier KeyStone XL Pipeline conflict demonstrated that corporations could seize private property under the false pretense of providing a public utility: an action made legal by the ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, a case in which the private developer never made good on their promises after they evicted the homeowners. The war in Afghanistan is mostly a private war, in which private contractors outnumber troops 3 to 1, or about 29,000 contractors to 9,000 troops. Chiquita hired death squads to murder labor activists in Colombia. If all governments hypothetically collapsed the next biggest entities, public corporations, would fill in the power vacuum, and we would be left with a despotism even less accountable to the people.

The common theme here is not anti-government, but opposition to the concentration of power, within any agent or corporate body, whether governmental or private. Due to the volatile nature of U.S. politics, I am constantly refining what this means. Up until 2014, the  Democratic party was the dominant contender in Washington, but the rise of populism, the election of Donald Trump, and a Republican sweep of both the House and Senate, along with a pending Supreme Court nominee, has not only shifted U.S. politics to the right, it has also split the left and right further apart. But no matter who is in charge, the concentration of power in Washington is always abused to the fullest extent tolerable by the electorate. No matter whether we have a Republican administration or a Democratic one, our constitutional rights are gradually diminished, the scope of the executive office grows, as does the overall size of the federal government, and lobbyists set their policy priorities. Their values and rhetoric may be different, but their outcomes are the same. Both share a common strategy of divide and conquer and as long as we are distracted by recycled platitudes about 'personal responsibility' and 'christian values' or 'social responsibility' and 'lgbtq rights', we are inevitably stuck in a vicious cycle of choosing lesser evils.

Expediency is the mother of despotism 

Neither party has a coherent theory of justice. No matter who is in charge, their arguments for expanding the scope of their office is usually the same; it's for 'national security', 'public safety' or 'job growth'. All are appeals to expediency. The soundness of their arguments is inconsequential; their shoddy justifications are not meant to appeal to our rationality. Fear of an external threat and anxiety over financial security is the best way to garner compliance with expedient policies. By keeping the electorate in a constant state of fear and anxiety, the political class can bypass the high road*, avoiding conscious processing, and appeal to their survival emotions (amygdala). The intended result is a collectivist mentality willing to surrender natural rights for 'security' and 'the general welfare' until the external threat or source of anxiety is removed, which is never the intention of people in power, because political power is addictive* and tends to reinforce itself. The craving for it can only be gratified by incremental power at the expense of the electorate, who will eventually find themselves under the heel of an absolutist state if they don't speak out against the early warning signs.  The electorate is being gradually conditioned to except incremental government oversight over their affairs, so that they seem commonplace.

* According to Ledoux Theory of Emotion there are two pathways for emotion: the direct pathway (low road) from thalamus to amygdala and the indirect pathway (high road) from thalamus through the cerebral cortex to the amygdala.

*Dr. Ian Robertson, in his study of baboon hierarchies, has found that feelings of power/dominance over others triggers the release of dopamine, which reinforces power grabbing behavior.

Politics is Just Another Form of Tribalism

It is a curious thing how the anti-war left went silent once Obama took over and expanded Bush's wars and continued to build his surveillance state, but now that these powers have been handed over to Trump they've completely lost their mind. The left was silent when Obama sent special forces to fight in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen without congressional approval and killed hundreds of civilians through drone warfare. The same conservatives that loudly protested Obamacare were cheering when Bush signed the largest expansion of Medicare into law. The same conservatives were silent and even dismissive when Bush turned a $120B surplus into a $1.4T deficit and added $6T to the national debt, but pretended to be deficit hawks under the Obama administration. For both sides, any policy they admonish when they don't control the White House is ok as long as it's their guy doing it. They are unprincipled men whose only precept is in-group loyalty at any cost. This is not to suggest that both parties are the same; a cursory glance at their platforms would demonstrate otherwise. What is meant here is that how party lines are drawn depends on who is in power; in particular, it depends on who controls the executive office.