Monday, April 28, 2014

Sen. Cliven Bundy: Harry Reid Owes Feds $1.1 Million

Nevada GOP Senator Cliven Bundy:
Landowner Harry Reid Owes Federal Government $1.1 Million

Nevada Senator Cliven Bundy with his wife Carol

     WASHINGTON - Yesterday in a press conference on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Cliven Bundy (R, Nevada) criticized Nevada landowner Harry Reid for collecting $1.1 million on an undisclosed 2001 land sale on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
     Bundy told reporters that “Dirty Harry” Reid and his armed supporters are “freeloaders”, adding that the federal government had title to the land long before Reid claims his ancestors settled the land. Bundy explained to the press that until 2004, Reid did not disclose to Congress his sale of the property to a company created by friend and casino lawyer Jay Brown.
     Property deeds show that as of 2004, after Brown's company sold the land to other developers, and Reid reported the sale, Reid had not personally owned the property for three years. Senator Bundy told reporters that “Reid failed to disclose the sale to the federal government until after he had taken a financial stake in the company, and transferred ownership, legal liability, and some tax consequences.”
     Sen. Bundy added, “Make no mistake; [Reid's supporters] are nothing more than domestic terrorists”, vowing that the federal government will take action to serve orders to collect the $1.1 million in lost revenues.
     “I repeat: what happened there was domestic terrorism”, he said, adding, “It's not over”.

Nevada landowner "Dirty Harry" Reid

     Harry Reid made national headlines earlier this month after a racist rant about Senator Barack Obama (D, Illinois), when he told Fox News's Sean Hannity that Obama is notably “light-skinned”, describing him as “with no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one”, suggesting that he feels that Obama is white enough to be president.
     After taking some heat for those comments – including from Senator Cliven Bundy, who said “Today, Reid revealed himself to be a hateful racist” - Reid initially told the press that “If I say 'negro'... if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive then Martin Luther King didn't do his job.”
     Reid later backed away from these comments, saying “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. … I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans, for my improper comments.”
     Journalists favorable to Reid spun his comments as meaning that he “was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate ...”.

     According to a phone poll administered last week to potential voters age 18 to 34, 91% of young Americans responded negatively to the question, "Do you support land-grabbing racists owning vast tracts of land, and using women and children as political tools and human shields?".
     However, young potential voters were divided almost 50/50 concerning which political party they feel is most responsible, with 52% blaming the Republican Party.

     This has been a satirical news story.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Bundy: Cows Better Off as Slaves?

Nevada Cattle Rancher Cliven Bundy:
Are Cows Better Off as Slaves or on Government Welfare?

     Yesterday evening, in an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity, Cliven Bundy - the Nevada cattle rancher whose recent standoff with the U.S. federal government concerning $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees made national news - turned heads yet again when he wondered aloud on national television whether the 900 head of cattle he owns are better off as chattel slaves or as “slaves to government charity”.
     According to the Bundy, 67, the undivided family life - and close relationship with their calves - which his own cattle enjoy, in addition to the productive labor which they perform, makes their condition under his private ownership better than it would be if the cows were allowed to graze on federal land as they please.
     Bundy told Fox's Hannity, “My employees have learned how to walk with ploughs attached to them, and that's a productive skill that those individuals now have. And now they can take that gardening skill, and find someone to employ them and put them to even better use. Then they can find a stable career, and pay taxes, and give something back to the economy."
     Bundy described his experiences driving through California and seeing cattle living in what he described as “government-subsidized farming operations”, adding that he could see “sadness” on their faces. He commented, "Are they happier here than they was in front of their homes, with their chickens and their gardens and their children all around them, and their bull having something to do?"
     Bundy said of his own livestock, “I'm happy to see cows be able to have the freedoms and liberty, and be able to feel like they're Americans, and be able to move and moo and choose a religion.” Echoing his earlier comments on the problems of abortion and imprisonment plaguing American blacks, Bundy added, "You have to ask yourself, are these cows slaves to me, or are they only slaves if their owners take their calves away from them, and then either kill 'em or keep 'em in veal cages?"
     Commenting on the reaction to some of his more controversial recent statements, Bundy said, "If I can't say the word 'cow', or 'cattle', or 'chattel' without people getting confused, then Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Sri Krishna didn't do their jobs."

     In a press conference in New York City today, responding to a question about comments Bundy made earlier this week about “the Negro”, President Barack Obama commented that “to suggest that the condition of black people in the United States today is even remotely comparable to their condition before the formal abolition of chattel slavery is highly inappropriate.”
     He continued, “Furthermore, it is offensive to millions of African-Americans, who all too often work for next to slave wages, find themselves unable to afford the needs of daily life, and borrow excessively to the point where they become debt slaves. And that's why I'm going to keep working to pass legislation that curtails the privilege of large corporations, banks, and credit card companies.”
     Fielding a question concerning how the federal government should react to Bundy's rally of armed support to his side, the president further added that “although cattle are not yet a specifically protected class of persons deserving federal civil rights protections, the great civilization of India has made tremendous progress towards achieving legal personhood for animals as well as human beings. I believe that we should follow their example, but grant every living being corporate personhood as well.”
     President Obama continued, “As Mayor Bill de Blasio has done here in New York City with the recent ban on horse-drawn carriages, the federal government must step up to the everyday challenges of ensuring freedom. We must free every animal from the bonds of slavery, from being required to work, and from the excesses of unlimited landed property ownership.”
     Late for meetings with Interior Department officials concerning what the federal government should do with its vast wealth of land, and with the Labor Department on how to achieve full employment, the president then abruptly ended the press conference and walked to a nearby street corner. He then hailed and entered a taxicab driven by 34-year-old Anthony Howard, a black man who rents a cramped apartment in Queens.

This has been a satirical news story.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Obamacare's Constitutionality and Employer Provided Health Insurance

     I will support legislation that will repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 (ObamaCare), including the End the Mandate Act (H.R. 1101) and legislation similar to it.
     There are many reasons why the individual mandate to purchase insurance is not constitutional. It is not a tax on an activity; it is a penalty for failing to purchase health insurance. If the individual mandate were a tax, it would be an infinite percent tax on a zero-dollar item or transaction (i.e., the “act” of refraining from purchasing health insurance). Additionally, the exemptions that have been granted render this “mandate” not a mandate but rather a bundle of special favors; that they have been granted conflicts with the legal principle of equal protection under the law.
     Not only is the act of issuing a health insurance policy not commerce (as the Supreme Court ruled in 1869), refraining from purchasing health insurance does not even constitute trade. Without a constitutional amendment authorizing the federal government to be involved in the health care industry (except within the District of Columbia and the overseas territories), the federal government should have no role in regulating it.
     However, in 1944 the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the authority to regulate insurance (i.e., keep it regular and uninhibited) in pursuance of the Sherman Antitrust Act, in order to prevent unnatural monopolies in insurance sales.
     Given this authority, and the Obama Administration's admitted desire to work with Republicans to pass legislation that effectively drives down costs but doesn't resort to mandating purchases, I believe that there are many good reasons why the federal government should end the mandate and legalize the interstate purchase of health insurance (thus allowing insurers based in states with low average insurance costs to compete in states with high average costs).
     States might also wish to further cut insurance costs for patients by passing legislation providing for their health departments and bureaus – and health insurance cooperatives within them – to evolve into worker-consumer wholesale purchasing cooperatives (providing for a closer and more direct negotiation on prices and other issues between health workers and patients). Organizing bulk purchasing can, should, and must be done in order to cut costs and to create economies of scale powerful enough to balance the power of sellers, but when the State is more trusted and empowered to do so than the people and their enterprises through the markets, the results tend to be the exact opposite of what was intended.
     In order to improve the delivery of health insurance to people who need it (whether they are citizens or not), I will urge states to allow people to purchase real health insurance in the open marketplace, including affordable basic catastrophic accident and illness policies, and change of health status insurance.
     I will additionally urge states to refrain from implementing single-payer systems. Although it is not the federal government's business to order states to enact this or that policy on health insurance (besides requiring them to allow trade and competition across state lines), the monopsony which government single-payer systems wield derives from a special privilege to monopolistically compete in purchasing. Such states' purchase mandates act as regulatory barriers to interstate insurance purchase and sales, thereby driving costs up. I will support the augmentation of antitrust laws in order to apply to single-payer systems requiring universal coverage.
     Single-payer is also undesirable because it would require public taxpayer funds to subsidize the insurance of each and every health customer, including individuals who want expensive, dangerous, and/or medically unnecessary procedures. This would undoubtedly create nothing but more protracted budget battles and ideological in-fighting.
     I do not support any level of government taking steps towards prohibiting purchase of health insurance by agencies other than governmental entities; non-governmental alternatives must always exist, and government must not show preferences for any alternative through differential taxation.
     The federal government can and should close a tax loophole, by ceasing to exempt employees from paying taxes on employer-provided health insurance. This special favor has created financial incentives for leaving people without health insurance once they lose their jobs and become unemployed, because it is a benefit for people who stay employed, and a way to encourage them to refrain from purchasing outside plans. Although the federal government should eventually stop taxing earnings altogether, for the time being it should tax all compensation equally.

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Diagram of the Public, Private, and Third Sectors

"Privatize Everything?"

     Not that I've heard the phrase recently, but I'd appreciate it if self-described libertarians would stop saying "privatize everything" without making qualifications or going into more detail.

     Simply saying "privatize everything" seems to imply that government should sell-off properties, assets, and public agencies to for-profit enterprises (which are, unfortunately, nearly always supported by government in one - or ten - ways or another). This is not what a free market looks like.

     This rhetorical approach often fails to consider three things: 1) "private" can refer to non-profit or not-for-profit orgs, and at its loosest can mean any non-state or non-public org; 2) there is such a thing as "radical privatization", which is essentially getting government out of the issue completely and leaving the rest up to non-state orgs, including mutual aid orgs;

     and 3) there is such a thing as "privatization to the third sector", whereby government sells properties - or hands off control of public agencies - to non-profits, not-for-profits, voluntary associations, charities, cooperatives or ELMFs, consumer cooperatives, mutuals, or consumer-oriented orgs.

     A further distinction must be made between the "third sector" associated with the non-state actors I just described, versus the "third sector" associated with government-supported private-public partnerships (PPPs).

     Understanding this is crucial to delineating the difference between capitalism (in which government protects private property) and real free enterprise (in which, if you want to declare something your private property, you have to protect it yourself).

Written on August 10th, 2016

Image created in April 2014

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

On Labor: Offering Tax Incentives to Firms to Transition Power to Workers and Consumers

     If elected to the U.S. House in 2014, I will oppose the Card Check bill, as well as the Employee Free Choice Act, and all legislation designed to empower union bosses.
     The exclusive authority to regulate organized labor occurring in the states is not an enumerated power granted to the federal government in the Constitution. The federal government should only have the exclusive authority to regulate labor which occurs in the District of Columbia and in the nation's overseas possessions, and labor in industries over which the federal government exercises duly delegated constitutional authorities to regulate. I would sponsor efforts to return the power to regulate and enforce all other areas of labor policy to the states - and to the people, the labor departments and bureaus, and the local governments within them - as soon as possible.
     I believe that all federal legislation aiming to protect the so-called rights of unions and employers alike is specific legislation affording a special privilege; the General Welfare Clause was included in the Constitution in order to prohibit legislation which does not promote the welfare of all of the people equally. Special legislation concerning unions, enterprises, business associations, and lobbyists and political action committees from both sides of the aisle has only served to empower all of these organizations to participate in the regulation and control of the people. This has resulted in diminished political power for ordinary taxpayers, diminished economic power for ordinary consumers, and a less productive economy.
     I oppose the Card Check bill and the Employee Free Choice Act not because it should be illegal or any more difficult to join or organize a union, nor easier for employers to fire people for engaging in legal union activity. I take this position because the taxpayers – as both the employers of federal workers and the consumers of the services they provide – have the responsibility to ensure that the power of organized labor does not make the delivery of such services unaffordable. Federal workers should bear in mind that they, too, are consumers and taxpayers, and therefore need affordable government just like the rest of us.
     Furthermore, I take this position in order to protect the rights of minorities; in this case, the rights of minority unions alongside those of majority unions. Gaining majority status for being the certified winner in a National Labor Relations Board election should not be the sole method of invoking bargaining obligations on the part of employers; plural and proportional representation would be legal alternatives if legislation requiring majority status were abolished.
     I believe that majority unions should have a role in such bargaining, but so should minority unions, as well as consumers and shareholders, and - in the case of labor by government employees – taxpayers. But agreements between these parties can be achieved through private arbitration (following mutual company and union agreement about which materially uninterested agency shall be deemed trustworthy to arbitrate the dispute) and liens on business properties, rather than through litigation and motivated state intervention concerning what sort of bargaining between companies and unions shall be acceptable.
     I do not support any organization that interferes with individual freedom to associate through federally protected concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, and to bargain collectively on a members-only basis. I take this position regardless of whether it is an employer or a union interfering with these freedoms, and regardless of whether there is an established majority union in the workplace.
Majority unionists should understand that their desire to be the only union in the workplace only puts all of their eggs in one basket. The federal law requiring majority status vote for a union to remain in existence only exposes unions to the risk that a future federal law could empower government to require all eligible voters to weigh in on a union election at their workplace, even if they'd rather not pick a side. I believe that compulsory union voting is one of the most significant sources of political polarization and divisiveness in America today.
     As long as majority unions are free to appeal to the federal government to either abolish minority unions or diminish their power to negotiate, the prevailing union shop / closed shop dichotomy in unionized workplaces can only serve to perpetuate an environment of monopolistic competition over the representation of labor. I oppose such uses of coercive state power to enforce unconstitutional special legislation; this is activity which should be considered in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
     Unless and until it becomes politically feasible to repeal all special federal legislation empowering unions and businesses alike, I will propose amendments to the Constitution authorizing the federal government to enjoin states against giving such illegal special privileges and monopoly representation powers to majority unions (often referred to as a “national Right to Work amendment”). I take this position because in 1985 the Supreme Court ruled that nobody may legally be required to become a full member of a union as a condition of continued employment.
     Although the federal government should not be in the business of telling people in the states how to regulate labor therein, in regards to my legislative position on the federal government's jurisdiction over labor (in the District of Columbia, overseas, and in industries it was duly delegated the authority to regulate) - and in regards to my general recommendations for the states – I believe that individual freedom to choose whether to join a union can coexist alongside workers desiring solidarity in collective bargaining.
     I also believe that each government, in its respective sphere of authority to regulate labor, should provide for a more collaborative negotiation between employers and non-employers from across a wider and more diverse set of economic organizations. I would suggest that this be done by prohibiting unions (especially pro-business majority unions known as “business unions”) from making contracts with employers in a manner which does not welcome the input of ordinary people. This includes the input of not only taxpayers, shareholders, and non-shareholding but nonetheless affected “stakeholders”, but most importantly of potential employees who are all too often underinformed about their rights as a result of such contracts.
     Unconstitutionally empowering the federal government to nationalize companies and then to award controlling stakes in them to the public and/or to labor unions with majority status is not the only way to ensure that everyone gets their fair share of influence over how our society and economy are governed. There is a way to passively – rather than actively and coercively – allow ownership and management responsibilities to transition into the hands of workers and consumers.
     Moreover, there is a way to do this while promoting economic growth, without crushing the entrepreneurial spirit of the people or causing people to work past their planned retirement ages unnecessarily, and without diminishing the freedoms of individual workers and minority unions to have meaningful influence on the workplace and in the industry of their choice.
     My recommendation would involve immediately closing all tax loopholes and taxing all corporate income (including capital gains) at a flat base rate, and from there offering tax credits in order to incentivize owners and managers of firms to take steps planning and providing for the gradual transition of ownership and management of such firms to organization modes which are more hospitable to egalitarianism and a balance of workers' rights with the interests of consumers.
     Firms in the public and private sectors alike would be offered tax incentives to essentially evolve into one of any number of types of organizations. Examples of such organizations should include open shop unions; dual and minority unions; workplaces with members-only collective bargaining agreements; autonomous unions and guilds; syndicates; egalitarian labor-managed firms; cooperative corporations; consumer-driven cooperatives; worker-consumer cooperatives (i.e., mutuals); mutual aid societies; cooperative wholesale societies; and voluntary cooperatives.
     I would additionally recommend a hybrid example, combining the functions of as many of these types of organizations as possible into one firm; that is, a voluntary worker-consumer wholesale purchasing cooperative. Such a cooperative should coordinate the planning of purchasing as tightly as possible with other cooperatives like it, and be required to serve any customer who comes to it (on the condition that he or she does not request unjustifiable quantities of the goods and services offered).
     Although coordinating their efforts would save the most money, such cooperatives should remain technically separate organizations, function in a market system, be free to accept and give charitable donations, and be free to have differing practices regarding in which circumstances additional quantities of goods and services afforded to certain individuals above the base level are justifiable.
     The main objective of such a cadre of firms would be to provide a counterbalance against the oligopoly powers of sellers and distributors of labor and capital pertaining to the relevant goods and services produced by said firms. Such firms would accomplish this by pooling wealth in order to save costs in the purchasing and delivery of the relevant goods and services, providing for the affordable organization of production.
     This would occur under the condition of regular negotiation concerning any and all potential conflict which is likely to arise between consumers' demand for low prices and workers' demand for high compensation. A worker who consumes the very good or service which he or she produces, possesses good management skills, and has constructive suggestions concerning improving the workplace, might be asked to serve as a tie-breaking vote in any leadership or management of such a firm.
     The State of Oregon can do better on labor policy without the obstructive effects of association with the federal government. The federal government's ownership of vast tracts of land in the state inhibits (in those areas) the kind of productive labor which would allow the state to afford such a relationship, if only the state had the ability to fully tax the value of the land within it, instead of resorting to taxing the production of its own taxpayers through taxes on individual income. Whether they call the compensation they desire “all the fruits” or “the full product” of their labor, I would urge people of the left and right alike to oppose the eventual abolition of the individual income tax.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Social Policies for 2012 U.S. House Candidacy

The Justice System
   Augment the rights of the accused, advocate for the cessation of enforcement of and prosecution for victimless crimes, mandate the information of prospective and active jurors about jury nullification, and oppose tort reform which limits the power of juries.

The War on Drugs
   Repeal all federal anti-drug legislation, abolish the Drug Enforcement Administration, end the funding of the War on Drugs overseas, and urge the president and the governors of the states to pardon all non-violent drug offenders.

Civil Rights
   I believe that any morally decent society should have institutional protections against slavery and involuntary servitude. As such, I would urge people and governments at all levels to create and grow associations that promote the notion that people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.
   In our quest to eradicate discrimination from government,we must be careful to leave some segments of the social economy undisturbed, so that the civil rights movement can become as pluralistic as its original promise. Politicoeconomic pluralism is the only tool we have to determine how, whether, and to what degree societies tolerating non-institutional discrimination which does not threaten immediate or direct harm of person or property are able to improve social justice and equality of economic outcome across racial, ethnic, cultural lines.
   I would vote to oppose all institutional discrimination by agencies of any level of American government.

Immigration and Borders
   Support federal legislation prohibiting the construction of fences along our international borders, support D.R.E.A.M.-Act-type legislation if not promoted at the state level and not through executive orders, allow illegal immigrants to receive private charity, don't force employers to participate in eVerify, oppose REAL ID Act, provide an easy path to citizenship for non-violent illegal immigrants, make citizenship optional upon immigrants' 18th birthday, investigate Fast and Furious, oppose efforts to make English the sole official national language

Gender and Life
   Advocate for local governments to have the primary role in making decisions concerning abortion and contraception, invoke the Commerce Clause to prohibit states' bans on those goods, and oppose sexist hiring practices in the public sector.

Sexual Orientation
   Support prohibition of discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. Persons in public-sector hiring practices, urge companies not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or identity, and require federal recognition of all same-sex partnerships valid in the states.

   Abolish the Department of Education; permit its re-establishment only under condition of proper ratification of an amendment allowing its existence; and urge individuals, private actors, and local governments to take up the responsibilities to provide educational goods and services.

The Environment
   Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, permit its re-establishment only under condition of proper ratification of an amendment allowing its existence, and scale back federal intervention in environmental matters to only permit jurisdiction in cases of interstate lawsuits.

Health and Human Services
   Abolish the Department of Health and Human Services, and gradually phase out the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (involving means-testing for beneficiaries and other reforms), saving about $100 billion annually. Repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), saving another $94 billion annually. Eventually eliminate $700 billion from the current annual federal budget, and urge the state and local governments, unions, charity and religious organizations, and private enterprises to increase their provision of health services and insurance benefits during the process of transition away from the current system of centralized federal planning of the provision of health and human services.

Housing and Urban Development
   Abolish the Department of H.U.D., permit its re-establishment only under condition of proper ratification of an amendment allowing its existence, and urge private actors and local governments to take up the responsibilities to provide its services.

Private-Sector Labor
   In order to foster a civil society which defends the freedom of association as a basic principle of legitimate government, it is essential that no governmental agency administer legislation which impairs the obligation of contracts – whether retroactively or prospectively – unless such contracts interfere with the right to be free from coercion, or such legislation is enacted on the level of municipalities or geographically small counties. As such, I would vote to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, which would effectually invalidate the states’ Right-to-Work laws.
   I would propose legislation prohibiting the federal and state governments from mandating that all unionized workplaces within the pertinent jurisdictions have closed-shop or union-shop security provisions. Additionally – being that informed consent is necessary to ensure that contract-making is voluntary – I would urge governments at all levels to pass legislation ensuring that prospective employees become informed during their job interviews whether they will be obligated to join a union as a condition of employment.

Social Security
   Abolish the Social Security Administration, permit its re-establishment only under condition of proper ratification of an amendment allowing its existence, and urge private actors and local governments to provide old-age and retirement benefits

The Obama Administration
   Support independent investigations of the president's eligibility, and of the deaths of several deceased persons of interest who may have been targeted in response to their possible awareness of facts pertaining to various scandals involving members of the executive branch.

Written in January 2012
Originally published on January 18th, 2012
Text originally appeared at
Edited in April 2014

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