Monday, August 18, 2008

"Bill of Write-Ins" ...dear god I hope not!

Today, one of my roommates showed me an email her mother had sent her. It was a chain-letter sort of thing called "Bill of Write-ins" which claimed to be written by Bill Cosby (though from tone and content obviously was not, so I give that 0 credibility). The main point is that it was all stuff that my roommate's mother purportedly agreed with. Having met her a few times, we can be sure that she does. Incidentally, my other roommate's parents are both here staying with us currently - and they both seem to believe that government needs to be involved in athletics, because steroid use constitutes "fraud". That seems like a bit of a stretch to me in a lot of cases as it assumes that pro football teams managers and owners really don't know when someone is on a roid-rage. Personally, I doubt they're that naive, but whatever.

The point is... this stuff is asinine. And it's being passed around by adults as a reflection of what they claim to believe! The Who said it best... "The kids are alright". What I worry about is the "adults".

These are the ideas my future and that of my children are up against. Provincial, stupid, racist, ignorant and economically retarded. And a bleak future it is...


( 1.) Press 1 for English is immediately banned. English is the official language; speak it or wait at the border until you can.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
""Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

...etched into the Statue of Liberty.

Part of what has made America an amazing place to be is the intellectual and cultural diversity and constantly open to newcomers (more or less). This, generally unique, position has given America an amazing advantage over other nations by allowing the incorporation of multiple approaches to problems whereas other nations often rely only on the limited ability of their own culture and history. This inclusiveness also translates into a myriad of choices available to us as Americans for cuisine, architecture, art, music, interior design, clothing... just about everything that makes us happy as individuals. Collectivist, protectionist and xenophobic approaches to immigration are simply racist and stupid positions that limit our own development economically, culturally and intellectually.

Strangely, a lot of those immigrants haven't had a chance to learn English yet. Coincidentally, by the end of this week, I'll have visited Denmark three times... yet, I still don't know a lick of Danish. Sure swell of those chaps to let me come for a visit though and bumble around speaking "American".

I've got a better idea... just let everyone in.

( 4.) All retired military personnel will be required to man one of our many observation towers on the southern border. (six month tour) They will be under strict orders not to fire on SOUTHBOUND aliens.

Yes... all retired military personnel have a stipulation in their contracts that allow them to be recalled for a certain period after the end of their term of service - at least officers do. So I'm sure the best way to show them respect is to conscript them to go hang out in Southern Texas, New Mexico or California for 6 months and give them guns and tell them to shoot people who are generally trying to come find a new life, economic opportunity and an education to better themselves and their families. Clearly... those are the most dangerous people we all face. I have a feeling that my own father, a retired Colonel in the USAF/ANG wouldn't take too kindly to being involuntarily sent to point a gun at people he's never met who've never meant or done harm to him or anyone he knows... I don't want to put words in his mouth, but from what I gathered from 20 years of living with the man, he joined the military to protect and help people have a safer, better life... not to fire and M16 at impoverished people looking for some work.

The Economy/Trade Relations:

( 2.) We will immediately go into a two year isolationist posture to straighten out the country's attitude. NO imports, no exports. We will use the 'Walmart' policy, 'If we ain't got it, you don't need it.'

First off... "straighten out the country's attitude"??? What exactly does that even mean.

Secondly... the US imports nearly everything. If we stopped importing goods we would VERY quickly find out that we will produce a massive famine and the quality of our lives will revert to 1930s Russia in about a week. We export technology, ideas, a little bit of food, and entertainment. We import manufactured goods, a LOT of food and the results of our ideas.

Thirdly... the "Walmart" policy is, "If we ain't got it - who does!? How do we get it and sell it cheaper than the guys who already have it?? Quick... get that thing!" The idea that Walmart would ever tell a potential customer a phrase like "if we ain't got it, you don't need it" is absurd to say the least - and any government limiting the economic freedoms of it's people to a degree that it would utter such a moronic statement sounds an awful lot like China or Cuba (or Russia) and not much at all like the US. Imagine President Bush saying "Well hey, I'm the president, and I say that you don't need laptop computers... I don't care if you want one, we don't produce them here in Amerika, so you don't get one. Too damn bad."


( 3.) When imports are allowed, there will be a 100% import tax on it.

...thus making the cost of living insanely expensive for all... hooray! That'd be great though... then it would be like living in Europe where a simple hamburger costs €15 (currently US$22.08). Oh man... awesome!! Can't wait...

(I'm Ignoring the blatant contradiction from saying NO imports will be allowed)

( 9.) One export will be allowed...Wheat. The world needs to eat. A bushel of wheat will be the exact price of a barrel of oil.

Because... the price of wheat isn't set by a market, and is instead just arbitrarily assigned a monetary value by the US government and is then accepted by every individual who trades with US producers.

And of course, since no other countries in the whole world are capable of producing wheat themselves (obviously no other countries, Russia, China, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia for example, have large enough tracts of viable farmland), the United States has complete control of the food market.

Thus, the US' domination of world food production clearly allows us a firm position to demand 1 barrel of oil per 1 bushel of wheat, because we say so...

...I wish I didn't feel the need to tell you all I'm being sarcastic with that comment, but if someone is economically ignorant enough to take the (9) comment seriously enough to "pass it on".

National Debt “Reduction”:

(10.) All foreign aid using American taxpayer money will immediately cease, and the saved money will pay off the national debt and ultimately lower taxes. When disasters occur around the world, we'll ask the American people if they want to donate to a disaster fund, and each citizen can make the decision whether it's a worthy cause.

I generally do agree that we shouldn't have on-going foreign aid, this should - of course - be done by individuals with their own money per disaster. American's are an incredibly generous and loving people and are always up for helping those in need. We've shown that countless times in countless countries. If people are in need, no matter how we feel about their government, our individualist mindset has always said that ultimately, when push comes to shove, people are people and we do what we can to help. It's one of the best things about us...

That said... Let's be real for a second.

The US National Debt is
$ 9 , 5 9 9 , 3 5 6 , 3 2 8 , 7 2 4 . 1 1 and counting.
The 2008 Budget for Foreign Aid is
$20.3 billion... this rate it would take us the better part of
473 years to pay off the current national debt with foreign aid - assuming NO interest or increase in the national debt (which is currently increasing by $500 Billion a year!! Largely thanks to government spending on things shockingly like parts of this list that are supported - like welfare at $400B a year, military spending at $5-600B a year - and about a trillion a year in discretionary spending and mid-year spending resolutions, and on useless/unnecessary government offices like that of the Federal Baseball Commissioner).

No, but sure... by all means, let's sink that $20B a year into paying off a faction of the interest we're accruing to the countries that now effectively own our entire currency/economy - just don't think that it's even going to scratch the surface on the actual debt.

It'd be really nice if everyone else periodically did the extremely basic math (I used... addition and division... wow!) that it takes to see how stupid these sorts of things are instead of always leaving it up to me.

Entitlement Programs:

( 5.) Social security will immediately return to its original state. If you didn't put nuttin in, you ain't gettin nuttin out. The president nor any other politician will not [sic] be able to touch it.

Ironically... compared to what people expect from Social Security now, virtually no one put anything in anyway, so that whole statement probably doesn't encompass anyone who actually thinks they agree with it.

Here's a better idea... Get rid of it entirely.

This one is going to be really painful, but the only way out of this socialist nightmare at this point is for my generation (and very likely my kids' generation too) to pay for previous ones ... so at this point, we bite the bullet. Here's how we manage:

1. Cut all future SS benefit "promises" from this point forward, set a cut off age for people to still plan on collecting. I would say everyone 40 years old and over should still be covered by the current system (because practically speaking, they probably expect to get some retirement benefit out of it) but that's it.
2. Determine a valid estimate of how much money individuals were likely to have contributed over the course of their working lives - a simple, but generous, calculator can be used for every citizen over 40 at tax time next April.
3. Balance the Social Security budget so that everyone gets something comparable to what they put in, adjusted for inflation.
4. Cut military spending and social programs to (help) make up for the difference in what Social Security should be paying out compared to the amount of money it's actually capable of... We all know that the SS fund is basically empty now, so obviously that money will have to be made up somehow. Do what we can, continue paying insane taxes for the next 100 years and just accept the fact that my parents' generation and their parents' generation basically screwed us all economically by voting themselves free money and making themselves feel like they're "helping" the poor by providing safety nets based on impossible math and bad philosophy.

Part of the problem with Social Security (like any social welfare programs) is that it encourages people to make poor decisions about their future, always expecting government to step in like the poor grasshopper mooching off the generous and wise ants in the dead of winter. To quote our former Comptroller General, David Walker;

"...what's happened is we've gone from 16 workers paying into Social Security for every person drawing benefits in 1950 to 3.3 to one today, and we're going down to two to one by the time the boomers retire in big numbers and that's about where it will stay over the long run."

The incentive to suckle at the tax-payer funded teat of the Federal Government is what brings us to the point we're at now. Far from being a last resort fail-safe for people who maybe lost all their money in a tragic accident, a house fire, a bank collapse or even losing it all on Wall Street, so that they don't have to go hungry in their old age - Social Security has just become a part of everyone's basic retirement plan. Were I alive in the 40s, I'm sure I could have predicted this outcome, but in the heady days of FDR and J.M. Keynes, I'm sure it seemed like a great idea at the time... plus - hell, it's a sure-fire way to win elections when you promise people free stuff and more security!

...never mind if your promises screw up your nation's economic future irreparably - that's Future United States' problem!

( 6.) Welfare - Checks will be handed out on Fridays at the end of the 40 hour school week and the successful completion of urinalysis and a passing grade.

Checks should not be handed out at all. Welfare as a system is morally reprehensible - forcing producers to pay for the lives non-producers at gunpoint on the sole basis of a relative. Worse, it encourages people to not work by providing skewed incentives. The truly poor and those actually incapable of working need to be supported by voluntary, private non-profit/for-profit charities, direct aid by family and friends and help from professional unions and for-profit work placement organizations - and of course mental hospitals and what-have-you. I personally don't believe that anything beyond that would be remotely necessary in a society that promotes production and entrepreneurship over leaching off of "the rich", but if people are really still uncomfortable with trusting that humans actually do care for their fellow men and women (which empirically it's actually pretty easy to prove that private charities would do the job, looking both at history and at modern events like the Warren Buffet $40B give-away), then possibly a publicly capitalized (but not endlessly funded) and run charitable fund supported by the dividends from large-scale for-profit public investment could help as well.


( 7.) Professional Athletes - Steroids - The FIRST time you check positive you're banned for life.

Steroids are legal. Athletics are legal games which need to be 100% sponsored (admittedly now this problem is compounded by massive amounts of public funding that goes into athletics in the US) by private individuals looking to play, sell and enjoy watching the experience of an athletic spectacle. If their rules state that you can't use steroids, then you should be considered to be cheating within the rules of the game and not allowed to make your living that way - even fined for wages collected while cheating. Government has no damn business being involved at all. If you break the rules of the game when you're playing then you deserve to be banned from the game by the organizers of the game - like Pete Rose, then booed by your fans... Right now, say you're a football player who has developed the skill of face-masking your opponents - which is both cheating and dangerous to someone else - while the refs can't see you. When that is discovered, you will be booed... do it enough, you'll be thrown out of the game. Do it some more and maybe thrown out of the league. If you do steroids - which is cheating and dangerous only to you - then you face federal prosecution?? What?? No. Gun-carrying police and jails have no business being involved. This is a game. I don't care how much money people make around it... it's still. just. a. game.

If you claim to be steroid free before you start and you aren't, and you sign a contract saying that you are and that you will be permanently - and you are tested and you are not clean, then yes, that is a type of fraud - and should be punished accordingly by civil or criminal courts and financial damages be recompensed.

IT'S A GAME! Crikey.

Government Infallibility... I mean "Justice":

( 8.) Crime - We will adopt the Turkish method, the first time you steal, you lose your right hand. There is no more life sentences. If convicted, you will be put to death by the same method you chose for your victim; gun, knife, strangulation, etc.

I'm not sure a response to this bit of medieval BS is justified... but... April, 2007 marked the 200th person to be exonerated by DNA evidence for a crime he was convicted for that he did not commit. A NY Times article back in 2004 exposed a study which sampled a few hundred criminal cases and concluded that it was likely that there are literally thousands of innocent people currently in prison in the US.

Sometimes, cops plant evidence on people they don't like... sometimes judges have relationships with prosecutors... Sometimes, publicly elected DA's need to make examples of people and are willing to fudge evidence.... Sometimes state medical examiners are just incompetent and screw up the initial DNA tests... and sometimes... for whatever reason... people just plain get it wrong. So it's safe to say that the legal system isn't exactly flawless...

But sure... why not, let's not ever allow for the (strong) possibility that the legal system is run primarily by humans who can make mistakes, and just go right ahead and start making examples of people in the always-popular style of Fidel Castro, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Che Guevara... and... well... you know.

Like how I avoided Godwin's law there? Yeah... I'm a pro.

Seriously though... wouldn't it be great though if the United States of America sentenced a completely innocent person, convicted by mistake to be raped, tortured and then mutilated?? Yeah... that'd be awesome.

National Unity:

(11.) The Pledge of Allegiance will be said every day at school and every day in Congress.

(12.) The National Anthem will be played at all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc.

Huh? A quick history lesson...

In 1892,
socialist minister Francis Bellamy composed the following pledge:

"I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. America"

It was published on the 400th anniversary of Columbus' "discovery" of America in a children's magazine... it was intended to be accompanied by a salute that to a modern observer would look very conspicuously like the Nazi salute later some 40 years later. (Damn it Godwin!)

There is nothing particularly American about the specific pledge. It mentions none of our guaranteed freedoms as enumerated by the Bill of Rights, none of the implied freedoms that we were/are supposed to have which were not found in the Bill of Rights (of which there are many... reference the Federalist Papers to understand this more fully), and worse, it tramples all over the concept of "individual" by it's very nature.

America is built around the idea that all individual people have a right to pursue their own happiness in what ways suit them - and to speak and associate freely as they see fit. A required national pledge of allegiance inherently stifles that individuality and forces all who take part to conform to a group.

Likewise, forcing the National Anthem to be sung at "all appropriate ceremonies, sporting events, outings, etc." similarly destroys the very notion that Americans are a people who are free to speak and associate as to their own values and ideas.

In truth - both of (11) & (12) strike me as supremely Un-American things to do! No, indeed... it smacks of the Fatherland, and the Motherland, and Mao's China... Kim Jong-il, Kim Il-sung, Fidel, and hell... even Hugo Chavez. These governments, socialists... communists... these governments, require unity. Their authority is flimsy and based on fear - and without the constant forced reaffirmation of acquiescence from their nation's citizens reminding people who's in charge and indoctrinating them to incant the words of blind patriotism, their authority diminishes further. Individuals are no good... individuals make waves... individuals start revolutions! Placid groups - cows mooing pledges and oaths and singing patriotic songs - are fearful and weak... making them manageable and controllable.

"If there's one thing a totalitarian government cannot tolerate, it’s ambiguity. They don't care very much what you believe, as long as you're all believing it together."

-Penn Jillette (& Teller) from Flag

No, I think I (and my kids if I should have any) will be abstaining from a pledge and a national anthem unless I am moved to do so voluntarily by awe of our forefather's clairvoyance and the principles that America was built around. Forcing "national unity" is the surest way to trample on their ideas and the country that those ideas built that I can think of.


James Slater said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Slater said...

Oops. Messed that up.

I remember when I was a kid I stopped standing for the pledge. Turns out if you're a kid and you put a minute of thought into it, it seems awfully bizarre that at a certain time every day there's a bell that makes you stand a recite an oath. It's even more nonsensical to me now that I'm older.
Well I happen to live in a country where some of these things happen to be reality, in particular a variation of the "Turkish" method. Which seems to me more a method to come out of Riyadh - but that's splitting hairs.
Maybe those who really wish to live in a country where many of these things are reality.. Singapore has a very open immigration policy to western ex-pats right now...