These are the ramblings of a young married couple in the great City of Chicago.

Archive for the 'Government' Category

The Hole is Torture

Saturday, 17 October 2009 Jacob Tomaw

The Third Coast Audio Festival recently featured a very powerful short documentary in their podcast. It is called Survivors and can be found in their archive for this year. I highly recommend it.

It is about the conditions and uses of solitary confinement in America and focuses on several former inmates of the Federal prison system. Solitary is not a punishment to which one is sentenced but a condition imposed by people working in the prison system, wardens and such. It is often explained that it is used for the prisoners own protection. However no one ever needs to be tortured, and torture is the only way of describing total isolation of a human from humanity and the environment.

The torture done by the USA abroad is often talked about in the media and Pres Obama promised to close the Guantanamo detention center because of the outrage. The torture done by the USA to those in custody in America is too often ignored.

Liberty, Property, and No Direct Rule

Tuesday, 18 August 2009 Jacob Tomaw

On Friday I suggested we imagine how Canadians might feel if Britian imposed a tax upon them and then stationed troops to collect inorder for us to better understand the reaction of revolutionary Bostonians to the Stamp Act.  Perhaps if had been keeping more abreast of world news I would have noticed that the British Empire is not dead yet.

The Governor, who is the Queens appointee, upon the direct order of the UK Foreign Office, executed powers granted by the Queen’s Privy Council to impose direct rule over Turks and Caicos.  The elected government was dissolved, the constitution was suspended, and trial by jury was suspended.  Dissolving an elected government and suspending a constitution alone would be troubling, however trial by jury is guaranteed by the Magna Carta!

The song the Empire is singing is that Turk and Caicos government was corrupt. Aren’t they all?  This seems like a pretty low bar to jump over.  The former government was a democracy, can’t the 23,000 Turks and Caicos Islanders be trusted to fix their government?  Or at least we can assume they did not think the corruption was bad enough to warrant a change.

It sounds like the former Premier is trying to rally the spirit of the Sons of Liberty.

I, also, am not a terrorist

Thursday, 13 August 2009 Jacob Tomaw

My friends know me too well as one of those people who go around terrorizing the public by shooting indiscriminately.

So when I post a picture of Hampton’s vital infrastructure,  I get a mini-wave of comments about my link to terror.  I know many of you remember my previous run in and thought I was probably pushing my luck trying to take pictures of things that can be seen.

Zach is quick to ask if anyone harassed me for being a terror planner.

Then this morning he forwarded this post on BoingBoing about a group in UK called “I’m a Photographer, not a Terrorist“.  This great site has much useful information about defending yourself on the spot when accused of trying to destroy people’s lives with your lenses.  However though it may all be relevant in the US, it is UK focused.

Finally, midday Rob sent me this PDF document that spells out the rights you have generally in American to make Americans shudder when you use your shutter.  This pamphlet also helpfully spells out your remedies if you are harassed.

Both of these documents are great; you should print out a couple coppies, and keep one with you, if you like to take photos.  However what I want, and what I wanted when I was harassed, is something that would make people stop right away and let me go.  A pocket Supreme Court would be nice for instant rulings.  Unfortunatly this does not exist, and violations of liberties can only be remedied after significant time and effort.  It is expensive to be right.

We aren’t using it

Wednesday, 24 June 2009 Jacob Tomaw

Gold that is.

Dollars are fully decoupled from gold and I don’t foresee going on a gold standard any time soon.  Anyway many (most?) proponents of a gold standard are really talking about a re-privatization of money, so our reserves are out of the question.

This being the case, right now all the gold in Fort Knox is just wasting space and probably a fare amount of housing costs.  ONN is on the right track for what should be done.

US To Trade Gold Reserves For Cash Through

Legalize Elotes

Wednesday, 3 June 2009 Jacob Tomaw

Before moving to Chicago much of my image of city life was formed by TV, with the majority being Law & Order.  There are some differences between Chicago and NYC but if L&O is to be believed, the density of street food is a big one.  On TV people in New York appear to be buying food on the street all the time.

In Chicago you can always find ice cream near a park and downtown there are some places near construction sites that sell food on the street, mostly pizza.  I have never seen a hot dog stand.  It is probably not a good idea to eat cart food every day even if it is available but more options would be nice.  I never assumed that this lack was caused by Chicagoan’s unusual desire to only eat from stationary restaurants.  My assumption was regulation.

Claire Bushey confirms my assumption in the Reader this week.  There is a license for preparing food in carts, but only in parks.  The vendors would like to see this expanded to the whole city.  As is usually the case there is a union of folks who benefit from the status quo and do-gooders, Bootleggers and Baptists if you will.

The Bootleggers:

Among the biggest critics of the street vendors are nearby restaurant owners. Fernando Muñoz, owner of El Chisme, at 26th and Christiana, says he’s concerned that the vendors have no place to wash their hands, placing their customers at risk of illness. He also notes that they can afford to sell the same products for less money because they don’t pay property taxes, rent, or utilities. “I know they have to live,” he says, “but it’s not the right way.”

“How [are customers] going to come in here if they already ate out there?” asks Natalia Pulido, owner of El Fandango, a restaurant across the street. “Your own friends comment, ‘I ate over here because I don’t have to tip the waitress,’” says Mariano Pulido, her son and business partner. “Street food is good for hard times. I understand. But it affects us too. It’s just not right.”

Yeah, it is just not right to have people eating different food.  Maybe they should not be allowed to make food at home or we should shut down every other restaurant too.

The Baptists:

City officials say the health risks of licensing these vendors are too great. “There are so many questions associated with these vendors,” says Tim Hadac, a spokesman for the city’s health department. “Did they make [the food] at home? Did they make it in their garage? . . . There’s so many question marks, and as a public health agency, we’re not comfortable with that.”

Yeah, there is just no way to know if food is safely prepared.  Everyone knows, food preparers tend to want to kill their customers and once those preparers have health inspections no one ever gets sick.

The only place I have ever seen these types of food carts are in the large city parks.  These parks are large enough that the vendors do not really compete with restaurant and give a charming image to tourists.

They are also then near washrooms…theoretically.  The washrooms in the parks are nice when you really need to go but mostly because urinating in public is looked down upon, not because you get a clean space to use.

I say let a million foods on a stick bloom.  Free the vendors!

One man’s Patriot is another’s Terrorist

Thursday, 16 April 2009 Jacob Tomaw

The Department of Homeland Security is worried about “groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority“.

I think we used to call these people patriots, statesmen, Mr. President, Father of the Constitution, or mores recently conservatives and libertarians.

DoHS protecting the Federal Government from threats, foreign and domestic, real and imagined, and in a way both bureaucratically and illiberally.

USA –> Zimbabwe

Wednesday, 8 April 2009 Jacob Tomaw

This video is an excellent illustration of just how large the spending has been recently to “save” the economy.

You think FDR is our role model? Try Robert Mugabe.

Is this heaven?

Friday, 3 April 2009 Jacob Tomaw

No, it’s Iowa!

Today the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously found that the states ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

As someone interested in extracting government completely from marriage the reason they found this is of interest:

We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification. There is no material fact, genuinely in dispute, that can affect this determination.

The part I marked bold makes me ask, what is the “important government objective” of marriage?

Josh Claybourn points out

I still fail to see how a court could conclude the state has insufficient justification to discriminate against homosexual marriages but does have sufficient justification to discriminate against polygamous ones. For that matter, based on the analysis provided by the Iowa Supreme Court, the justification of discriminating against incestuous couples appears equally tenuous.

I think until the several States define why they wish to regulate marriage, these barriers must fall too. I suspect we will reach the next marriage regulation equilibrium when the States are only issuing marriage licenses for revenue. If you have to let one group marry you might as well let all groups in and make some money. Plural marriages just mean return customers!

Update: I thought about this some more and my suspected equilibrium is really the previous equilibrium. The reality was that anything other than diff-sex marriage was banned, but I don’t think that was the intention. The intention was just to register and tax marriage and the only people who married were diff-sex couples.

Jonah Goldberg and the Bonuses

Wednesday, 18 March 2009 Jacob Tomaw

Jonah makes some excellent points including mine (with better metaphors):

When the federal government, on behalf of taxpayers, opted to essentially nationalize AIG — we now own 80 percent of the company — we made a choice to keep it alive. If the firm had gone out of business through bankruptcy — what the gods wanted in the first place — there would be no bonuses. But we chose not to do that. Which means those bonuses are just one more toxic debt for which we are on the hook. For good or ill, we chose to defy the natural order. And now we own this monstrous white elephant.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: When you buy an elephant, you can’t refuse to buy the manure that comes with it. You can try, but, soon enough, you’ll be knee-deep in problems anyway. And they’ll continue to pile up no matter how loudly you complain, “This isn’t what I paid for.”


Why not act normal?

Wednesday, 18 March 2009 Jacob Tomaw

Government and the public seem to be in a huff about AIG giving their employees bonuses after receiving money from government. I don’t understand why.

Typically government tries to keep things “normal”. It is not a big fan of demand shifting or preferences changing in any way. It is hard to plan when your constituents are constantly making their own decisions.

Last year and this, this inclination toward normalcy was in full display. This is when AIG went to the government and said, “Hey, something crazy has happened that we did not plan for. If we don’t get some cash we are not going to be able to operate as normal.”

The government said, “Oh crap! Really, you too! OK, here is $165 Billion. I hope that is enough to keep things normal.”

Now, AIG has done exactly that. They normally pay their employees mostly though bonuses and this year was no exception. Of the amount they were given they have spent 0.1% of it on these bonuses.

This did what they said they were going to do. Why are we surprised? I see two valid reasons.

You can be upset about this because you are new to the libertarian principle and have not gotten used to seeing how government inherently throws incentives out of whack.


You can be upset because you believe Scrooge McDuck was real and rich people mostly put their money in vaults that they like to swim in.

If you supported the bailout, then these bonuses are what you supported.

If you opposed the bailout of AIG but support the bailout of other companies or people and are upset, I have two questions for you. What upsets you about this compensation and why do you think the others would not do the same as AIG?

If you supported the stimulus then I think you have the least room to be upset because the truth is Scrooge McDuck does not exist. These guys may have created crazy investments, but they do not put their money under mattresses or in vaults. They buy things and invest. This will stimulate aggregate demand, the Keynesian principle we are working from, as much as giving the money to anyone will.

I hope you give me other options in the comments.

Yesterday I was having lunch with a groups of peers and our VP at work. Our VP was talking about how we still have a budget for training and morale boosting events. This is after having two rounds of layoffs. He said sometimes people like to draw the line from still having these budget items to being able to still have some of our colleagues. Hoever, this is not how any company or even family works.

Companies don’t lay people off or cut programs so everyone else has to scrape by in the remaining departments. They lay people off so they can continue to have a going enterprise.

Generally, you don’t cut things from your family budget so you can scrape by in all areas, but so you can live fully in most areas remaining.