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Archive for the ‘crony capitalism’ Category

The Internet and all the hardware and servers on the Internet as well as the computer you’re using to read this were created by hundreds of thousands of ordinary middle class engineers and programmers and installers and technicians who wrote the code, designed the computers and routers, and built and installed the hardware all the way out to where you’re typing this. Yet virtually none of these people own any of their work. It almost all belongs to the super-wealthy, because of the divine rights of kings. Or something.

Generations from now, people will look back upon our current gilded age with the same revulsion that people today have when they look back upon the days when kings could behead people just on whim and lived lives of luxury while their people starved in rags.

— Badtux the Democratic Socialist Penguin

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Centrally planned economies in the information age don’t work for the same reason that we don’t write computer programs that detect bombs in luggage — the problem set is so huge that there is no set of heuristics that can cover all the permutations. Instead we set up a system that learns, and some rules to let it know when it’s working right, and then train it in the real world. In the industrial age the Soviets could compete, albeit with significant inefficiencies that I’ll discuss separately if you’re interested. Once we moved into the computer age, economies became too complex to centrally plan. Training them with tokens, a.k.a. money, really is the only way that works with modern economies.

Unfortunately the set of rules has been hijacked by rich jackasses who care only about themselves and not about the health of the economy as a whole. Or as Michael Roberts says, “a rentier economy is a dying economy”. But people continue to think that the set of rules that currently exist, “natural law” rules that are actually “survival of the richest” rules, are the only ones that can exist. Our nation grew its economy best back when the government imposed a set of rules that redistributed money back to the people who actually created wealth (i.e., the workers who actually built Buicks and Chevrolets) rather than allow it to concentrate in the hands of a few rich people, because that allowed the tokens to be used to train the economy to generate wealth that benefited the common folk. Obviously now that money has become magic talismans and “market economies” have congealed rule sets that have become religious in nature rather than practical, we end up with what we observe — an economy that benefits only the few, not the many.

Rich people continue to whine that changing the rules is “Communism”. No, it’s not. They are pushing a religion that contains a rule set designed to enrich the rich, rather than upon the concepts of money and markets as a whole. I am quite capitalist, capitalism is the only proven way of actually encouraging the creation of wealth. What I’m against are rules that benefit only owners of capital, not the workers who generate capital. We’ve had rules that benefited both owners and workers before, and it worked out well for this nation. Saying that this was “Communism” is saying that the entire USA of the 1950’s was Communist — which is patently absurd in every way possible.

– Badtux the Economics Penguin

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By which I mean, Karl Marx.

May 5th was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx.

Hard-core Marxists are fond of saying “true Marxism has never been tried.” Well, there’s a reason for that. It’s because true Marxism is unworkable. That was the biggest reason why Communism arose — as it became clear that real people just don’t behave in ways that make Marxism workable, the creators of the Communist Revolution in Russia decided that what was needed was a dictatorship of the proletariat to train the people, over the generations, to behave in the ways needed for Marxism to work. In the end that dictatorship became a self-propagating mechanism that completely forgot about why it was created in the first place. After all, what dictator really wants to relinquish power?

Still, none of that changes the fact that Karl Marx correctly diagnosed the problems of the capitalist system of his era, a capitalist system that monopolized the output of workers at gunpoint into the hands of leeches who would be bankrupt if not for the output they stole from workers at gunpoint, a capitalist system that viewed workers as disposable, safety nets as dangerous weakness, and old people should just die, already, as useless eaters. His policy prescriptions for dealing with those problems were unworkable and eventually distorted into something horrific (the Communist system that killed tens of millions of people worldwide, maybe even hundreds of millions, over the roughly hundred years that it was extant), but his observations were correct — and are becoming true again. Alas.

– Badtux the History Penguin

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The guiding law regarding ownership of beaches in California is the California Constitution,, which prohibits ownership of beaches and tidelands (defined as either the high water mark or the start of vegetation, depending upon which is higher). In other words, you can’t own a beach in California, regardless of what Vinod the Vile insists.

The guiding law regarding access to beaches is the California Coastal Act of 1976. This Act was intended to protect access to the coast by maintaining, at a minimum, the amount of access that was available in 1976. The Coastal Act created a new kind of property, access rights, which are created either by use in 1976 or by signing over access rights afterwards. Access rights are similar to the concept of a right-of-way, where an entity has the right to pass through a property on a specified corridor in order to perform some public good such as, say, provide and maintain electrical lines. In the case of coastal access rights, the entity in question is the general public of the State of California, and the public good provided is the beach.

Access rights can be total, conditional, or none, based on what the situation was in 1976. The Coastal Commission was required to inventory and document by the end of 1981 access to all of the beaches of California. Once inventoried, landowners had to maintain the level of access that was provided at that point. If they provided no access, they could continue providing no access or they could voluntarily sell a right-of-way to the State if they so desired. If they provided conditional access, they had to continue providing conditional access under the exact same terms as when the Act was passed, and were required to get a permit if they wanted to change the amount of access they provided in any way. And if they provided full access… well, same deal. They had to continue doing so, and again, would have to get a permit if they wanted to change the amount of access they provided in any way.

The Act doesn’t require the Coastal Commission to grant a permit. Indeed, the Coastal Commission can deny a permit if a) it would reduce access to the beach, and b) there is no documented ecological or environmental reason or documented public safety reason for reducing access to the beach. The Act calls for maximizing access to the beach, thus is crafted such as to deny permits that would reduce access unless there is an ecological or documented public safety reason for denying access to the beach. (A bunch of unexploded artillery shells due to use as a USMC artillery firing range prior to the passage of the Act would qualify as a public safety reason, for example). The Coastal Commission cannot, however, require a landowner to provide more access than was provided in 1976 without compensating them for that access. That’s the law — the Coastal Commission cannot simply take access rights away from landowners and grant them to the general public, they can only maintain existing access rights and must buy any additional access rights that the public wants.

So anyhow, this is the law in California — it basically freezes access at 1976 levels, and requires the State to pay if it wants to require a landowner to provide more access than at 1976, and basically prohibits a landowner from taking away access that existed in 1976. In 1976, Martins Beach was open to the public. They could walk down the Martins Beach Road from the pavement for free, or they could pay a gate-keeper a small sum of money to drive down Martins Beach Road and park at a parking lot near the beach. When Vinod Khosla bought the land surrounding Martins Beach in 2008, he was warned that he had to maintain this access at the same level as 1976. He did so for two years, then decided he didn’t want to view any of the little people anymore, and locked the gate and put armed guards to keep people out — despite the requirements of the Coastal Act.

So here we are in 2018. The California Legislature passed a law in 2014 reiterating that Martins Beach is public property and that the access rights grandfathered in 1976 continues to exist. The California Court of Appeals affirmed that law, and the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal because the law is pretty much cut and dried. Khosla continues to try to prevent access but is handicapped in that because the local Sheriff says he won’t respond to trespassing calls because the surfers who jump the gate and go down to the beach to surf have a legal right to do so. Khosla could probably hire beefy security guards to attack surfers, but the surfers aren’t exactly shrinking violets and the security guards would have to assault the surfers in order to prevent them from continuing down the right of way granted by the 1976 Act, at which point the surfers would defend themselves and beat the crap out of the security guards. Needless to say, security companies are not falling over themselves to have their security guards beat up and charged with assault on a public right-of-way.

So what’s a billionaire oligarch to do when all the courts in the state of California refuse to be bought by his billions? Well… Vinod the Vile knows what to do: Take it to the U.S. Supreme Court. He figures that the Supreme Court got bought by the election of 2016, so he can get his way there.

Will it work? We’ll see. On the other hand, the current status quo, where Vinod can’t call the sheriff to get people thrown out for trespassing and security companies are reluctant to get involved for fear of being charged with assault or having their guards beat up, means that whatever the U.S. Supreme Court decides will be mostly irrelevant. Vinod the Vile will continue to have to watch the “little people” use “his” beach — and will continue to be able to do nothing at all about it.

– Badtux the Beach Penguin
Note: My personal experience with Vinod the Vile dates back to fourteen years ago, when he was the lead investor in our startup and decided to use the company as his personal playtoy to prove out some bizarre theories of his. I left in disgust after three years and the company folded shortly afterwards after he managed to asset-strip it for his own benefit, managing to get four times more money out of it than he invested in the first place by stealing the money from the other investors with bogus loans and other means. Don’t ever, EVER go to work for a company whose lead investor is Vinod the Vile, and don’t *ever* approach him for investment. He will rape you, clear and simple. That’s what he *does*.

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I haven’t said anything about the “tax cut” plan that the Republicans passed at 1AM on a Friday evening, crayon scrawls from lobbyists on the sides and backs of pages included. The one that hikes taxes on teachers while cutting taxes for owners of private jets. Yeah, that one, the one that sociopathic lizard people wrote to cut taxes on The Richies and hike taxes on The Poors because, well, I guess they figure their base is so propagandized that they will continue to support the Republicans regardless. But that’s mostly because I don’t know all the nasty details yet. Nobody does. That crayon-scrawled atrocity has not been formally typed up and sent to a conference committee yet.

What I do know is that if I were looking for a place to invest, guillotine makers would be my first choice. Why our oligarchs think they’re immune to the same forces that have lead to necks being stretched or sliced in the past eludes me. Americans are a vindictive violent people. About the only thing that has kept them from rebelling in the past is the notion that we have free and fair elections so change can be done at the ballot box rather than via tar and feather, and given all the voter suppression going on right now, I don’t know how much longer that complacency will last.

Yeah, time to read the directions.

– Badtux the Directions-reading Penguin

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Wesa just be slaves on da massa’s plantation, dependent upon them for the very food we eat, which is provided by giant corporate entities owned by our feudal overlords. But there’s always the worry of slave uprisings. Especially in those places where that nasty “democracy” stuff has taken hold.

Thus why our massas be doing their best to subvert or eliminate democracy via, e.g., laws that restrict voting rights, un-auditable electronic machines that can be easily rigged, threats of violence if the “wrong” people show up to vote, etc. Because if democracy would outlaw feudalism, then obviously it is democracy that is the problem, not feudalism. Right?

– Badtux the “Serfin’ USA” Penguin

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Apparently so. Leading to calls for more training for trades and less emphasis on a college diploma.

But look: that shortage is on purpose. The plumbers and electricians unions got a lot of licensing laws passed that basically says the union gets to limit how many plumbers and electricians there are by deciding how many apprentices they’ll take on, you need an apprenticeship to get licensed. And the plumbers and electricians don’t want competition. So you go out to job sites and you see one master plumber getting paid $200,000+/year supervising a dozen Mexican illegals getting paid $50/day under the table, and none of those illegals qualify for licensing because none of them are citizens.

All the training in the world isn’t going to help if the experience requirement for getting a license remains the law in most states and master electricians and plumbers refuse to hire Americans eligible for licensing as apprentices.

– Badtux the Trades Penguin

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