Friday, November 20, 2009

offsetting costs

A government budgets' numbers may say a lot but they certainly don't say everything. It would be disingenuous to flout a lower budget number when the costs were simply offset onto other parties.

For example, there is a guy in my nabe who was in the process of developing a six-story condo building as of right, in an area thats a mix of homes and apartment buildings. Some of the neighbors complained loudly to the local council member and had the area downzoned within a matter of months. In the interim the developer of course tried as best as he could to get his project vested to protect his interests, and so he engaged in illegal construction practices by racing the clock (working over hours) to beat the new zoning changes. In the end he was able to pour his foundation before the zoning change was made, but at the cost of quality and having to pay through the nose for the labor.

During those frantic months, the neighbors were constantly complaining to the DOB, having inspectors constantly visit and hassle the construction teams all in an effort to stop the project from getting vested. At the end when the developer thought he was vested, the neighborhood alliance complained to the DOB and he ended up having to go before the BSA which is the last authority on zoning and variance grants, and they ruled against the developer saying that his foundation wasn't to the original approved architectural/engineering specifications it was thus incomplete and any project would be subject to the new downzoning, basically making his project financially impossible to complete.

Now get this; he presumingly paid for the land based upon the allowable development rights, the city changes that while he is already underway with approved plans (which can take months to get from the city!), and he went through the trouble of obtaining financing, paying labor, architects, inspectors, permits, etc.

Now here is the best part-- it's been almost two years since the city stalled him by making it impossible for him to develop his project-- now the neighbors are bitching about the vacant construction site! So the city is now ordering this victimized developer to clean up his site, repair the construction fence that vandals have been breaking, and who do you think is being coerced to pick up the tag? The victim of course.

Government budgets never tell you the whole story. It's the same with recycling; make your victims pick up the cost of sorting trash so your budget can be that much lower.

Monday, April 20, 2009

the elephant in the room

On the topic of the USAG's silent holocaust via the FDA (which I've covered before), Thomas L. Knapp explains in his latest missive over at
"Americans die when they’re not allowed to use a drug they need because FDA says “no.” Americans die when they can’t afford a drug they need because it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to get FDA to say “yes,” and that cost is passed on to the consumer. Americans die when drugs which would save their lives never make it out of the lab because the figures say that the costs of securing FDA approval would make it unprofitable to bring to market.

The FDA’s delays in approving — or, to put it a different way, the FDA’s prohibition against prescribing until they had approved — a single drug, propranolol, were responsible for at least 30,000, and possibly as many as 100,000, avoidable deaths from heart attack and stroke."

It's truly sickening (pun *NOT* intended) that people cannot see the FDA for what it is-- a cold-blooded killer auctioneering quality of human life to a cartel of oligarchic-pharmaceutical bidders.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

red books from red beards on red men

Murray Rothbard (whose last name means "red beard") wrote about the role of the court intellectual ('red' or 'raed' is Old English for wise counsel).

"The ruling class — be it warlords, nobles, bureaucrats, feudal landlords, monopoly merchants, or a coalition of several of these groups — must employ intellectuals to convince the majority of the public that its rule is beneficent, inevitable, necessary, and even divine. The leading role of the intellectual throughout history is that of the court intellectual who, in return for a share of, a junior partnership in, the power and pelf offered by the rest of the ruling class, spins the apologias for state rule with which to convince a misguided public." --Conceived in Liberty, Vol. III, p.352

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote about the people who played the role in ancient Egypt-

"In Tanach [the bible] we find, everywhere, Machshefim [illusionists/magicians] in the service of the rulers of old, just as today we find scientists in the service of the state. If today's scientists were to attempt to solve problems such as how one can indulge in every excess and debauchery without having to fear consequences detrimental to one's health - that would be attempting a misuse of man's mastery of nature, and would be in line with the basic outlook of Kishuf. [magic]" --Commentary to the book of Exodus, Chapter 7, Verse 11

This is how you can explain Keynesians who magically believe that you can consume your seed cord into prosperity or otherwise turn stones into bread! Pharoah's scientists had nothing on these goys!

the plague of [boiling] frogs

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary to Exodus, Chapter 2, Verse 23--
As long as the initiators of an oppressive state project of such vast proportions as the enslavement of an entire free race are still alive, there is hope for an awakening of conscience and for the abolishment of the injustice. But once an institution - no matter how glaring the injustice that gave rise to it - has passed, along with the power of the state, into the hands of new authorities who are not aware of its origins and who accept it as traditional, legitimate prerogative of the state, the new governent will not consider itself authorized to tamper with time honored tradition. It will presume that all the institutions of the former regime have been sanctioned by the law of the land. The free people who have been enslaved by a Machiavellian tyrant will then be doomed to remain pariahs forever.

This is the curse of obsolescence inherent in time-honored state institutions. The past cultivated a field with blood and tears, and the present harvests - with a clean conscience - the fruit of the fait accompli, without considering that a curse hangs over every ear of corn that is brought home with joy.

The same applies to the New Deal, National Recovery Act, WWII and other shovel-ready infrastructure projects which 'brought us out of the last depresssion'.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


"The degree of justice in a country is measured not by the rights accorded to the native-born, the rich, and the well-connected (whose connections stand by them and represent them in their time of need), but by the justice meted out to the unprotected stranger. Complete equality of the native-born and the stranger is a basic characteristic of Jewish law. In Jewish law, the homeland does not grant human rights; rather, human rights grant the homeland! Jewish law does not distinguish between human rights and citizen's rights. Whoever accepted upon himself the moral laws of humanity- the seven Noahide laws- could claim the right of domicile in Judea."

-- Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, commentary to the book of Exodus, Chapter 1, Verse 14 [Amazon link]

I'd love to try and squeeze his statement about morality granting property rights into an argumentation ethics framework to defend not the illegitimate, incoherent concept of "homeland", but rather one of property rights. It's clear that the good rabbi didn't hold that the land of Israel is the birthright, or that it belongs in come collective manner to the tribe of Israel, but to the contrary- it's a land that is open for acquisition to potentially anyone so long that they behave toward others in a moral fashion.

According to some libertarians, the concept of property is derived via argumentation ethics [link]. Roughly speaking, a presupposition to the concept of an argument requires individuals to recognize the property rights of others to their own bodies and the use and/or possession of scarce goods, or what is then called property.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

conflicted emotions

From Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's commentary on the blessings of Yaakov (Jacob) to his sons Shimon (Simon) and Levi, Genesis Chapter 49, Verse 7--

"It is most significant that here, at the cornerstone of the Jewish people, a curse is imposed upon any violent outburst that counter to justice and morality, even if it is intended for the common good.

All other states and nations have adopted the principle that any action is legitimate as long as it serves the interest of the state. Acts of cunning and violence that would be punished by ostracism or execution if practiced by an individual for selfish gain are rewarded with laurels and civic honors if they are committed for what is alleged to be the welfare of the state. The laws of morality apply only in private life, wheras in politics and diplomancy the only recognized law is that of national self-interest.

Here, by contrast, the last will and testament on which the Jewish people was founded pronounces a curse on cunning and violence, even if they are used for the nation's most legitimate interests, and it sets down for all time the doctrine that even in public life and in the promotion if the common good, not only must the ends be pure, but so must be the means."
I truly wonder what he would say had he been around today to see the founding of the Israeli state and the various wars and conflicts since then.

Monday, January 12, 2009

a time travelers case for the 100% gold standard

Because fiat money makes it too difficult to time travel.

This point was well illustrated in Back to the Future II, in the scene where, or should I say when, Marty and Doc are in the 50's, and Doc opens up an attache case containing various denominations spanning different time periods, so as to prevent an intertemporal incident in which the errant time traveler attempts to pay a present debt with future fiat money.

In contrast, Alex, the protagonist of Robert Heinlien's Job: A Comedy of Justice is wont to carry his lifes' savings on his person at all times in the form of gold coins. The reason for this odd behavior is in response to an especially cruel Supreme Being, who like a cat toying with a mouse, is continuously whisking Alex from one parallel universe to the next as soon as Alex is getting in the swing of things. (Apparently this malicious God is capable of remapping objects in the multiverse, but won't strip Alex of his vestments in the process.)

If there ever was a cause that fellow time-travelers and world-walkers could unite behind, this is it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

counter-historical fiction

I have just finished reading the fourth and final book in the Time's Tapestry series by Stephen Baxter. Overall, I find that the series is unlike the typical scifi novels I have read in the past and come to love. I would not say that I found the books boring, but I wouldn't recommend these to any scifi-reading friends unless I knew they had an earnest appreciation for millennia-spanning history lectures squeezed into the novel format.

The first book of the series is titled Emperor and the setting spans the course of Pre-Roman through Post-Roman historical England with fictional protagonists cast among famous historical figures. The pace of the story is that which will suddenly jump a century or two forward between chapters, and likewise, the following two books, Conqueror and Navigator follow the same breakneck speed.

Conqueror, still set in the England, follows a new group of fictional characters and recounts the invasions of the Vikings, the Normans, and the Germanic Saxons, though not necessarily in that order.

Navigator takes the reader through the Crusades, the back-and-forth conquests of Moorish Spain and the Iberian Peninsula, and culminates with the famous sea expeditions of trying to navigate the Atlantic passage to India and the far east.

Weaver slows the pace down significantly to follow a single group of main characters, who more or less make it through the entire novel and is firmly entrenched in World War II England under Nazi occupation. In this novel, we finally meet the fellows who tamper with the history of the first three books, but I will have to say I was disillusioned with this climatic element; metaphorically speaking it was more akin a bottle rocket that fizzles in disappointment than the atomic explosion of brilliance I patiently awaited.

I might add that not having read any of Harry Turtledove's alternate history novels, I can't say how Baxter stacks against this narrow category's 800-pound gorilla. My recommendation for your typical scifi reader would be to skip this series completely. But if you're anything like me, a guy who would love to have some idea of world history but never takes the opportunity to get cracking into the dryness of textbooks, you will probably enjoy having a history lesson crammed into a novel format.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the non-Copenhagen interpretation

I'm in middle of reading this intriguing book by (Rabbi) Akiva Tatz titled Letters to a Buddhist Jew, (website) which is a compilation of an exchange of letters between himself and a [now formerly] Buddhist Jew by the name of David Gottleib. Tatz artfully blends the Jewish tradition with a fresh mix of philosophy, kabbalism, and a fascinating exploration into the etymology of the Hebrew language to demonstrate to Mr. Gottleib, a seeker of spiritual fulfillment, a small taste of the richness that Judaism has to offer.

So without further ado, a favorite passage of mine.
As always, the words say it all: the Hebrew word for doubt is safek, and for certainty, vadai. Now these commonly used words are not to be found in Scripture. Nowhere does the Torah mention them; both are of Rabbinic origin. If the essence of an idea is contained in the Torah word for that idea, and we find that there is no word for a particular idea we encounter, it surely means that at the deepest level, that concept does not exist... If no word exists in the Torah corresponding to a thing we perceive in the world, that constitutes a strong suggestion that the thing we are perceiving is illusory. Someone has painted it up on the screen of reality, but it is not being projected from the source. And of course - the world as formed by its root in Torah contains no doubt: things either exist or they do not. There is nothing in the world that exists "doubtfully," tentatively; doubt is a problem of our perception, not an objective reality. (And if there is no doubt, there is no certainty either - certainty exists only where doubt is a possibility; if there can be no doubt there can be no certainty, a thing simply "is.")

The primal, pristine world is clear and open. We opacify and confuse it. The word for "doubt" is of human origin; it is a description of the damage we do to our own perception.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

unorthodox commentary

This [Jewish] calendar year, I began reading the commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to accompany the weekly Torah portion. While I have not able to finish even a quarter of the weekly commentary, I've learned some very fascinating insights, some of which I feel are apropos to this little blog of mine (I'm gonna let it shine!)

A few weeks ago we read Parashat Bereshit, otherwise known as Genesis. We read of the two brother Kayin (pronounced "Cain" in English) and Hevel (A.K.A. "Able"). In explaining the etymology of the name 'Kayin' which means to acquire (and so named by Eve), R' Hirsch notes that the concept of ownership derives from that of production. Thus we find from here a biblical support to the Lockean theory of original acquisition, the 'mixing of one's labor' with unowned matter to create "property".

In the following weeks reading of Noah, the Torah states that what sealed the fate of the antediluvians was that they engaged in "Cha'mas" (read that with a gutteral "kh" sound, just like 'Chumas' the famous chickpea spread). Cha'mas is etymologically related to two other words, "Cha'metz", leavened products which are forbidden on Passover, and "Cho'metz" which is vinegar. The common meaning of these three words is that they denote a gradual ruination of a substance until it is unrecoverable, as opposed to a quick-paced ruination.

In this particular case, the wicked people in those times did not steal or rob from one another in a grand fashion. Instead, they each stole in very trivial amounts that were unrecoverable via the legal process. However this trivial amount was multiplied by the actions of many people until the victim was robbed to the point of destitution.

To me, this sounds a lot like the effects of monetary inflation, in that it transfers a couple of percentage points in buying power to the first-recipients of the new money at the expense of those last receivers of money, usually those people on living on pensions or fixed incomes. As far as I know, there is no legal remedy to help the victims of monetary inflation, and so this would probably qualify as Cha'mas, as opposed to Gezel, what we call theft, which if the perpetrator were to be apprehended, we would have the opportunity of legal recourse and some chance of restitution.

This last bit is from Perashat Lech-Lecha, in which R' Hirsch notes that, and I quote verbatim (from the English translation of his original German)--
"Honesty, humanity, and love are duties incumbent upon the individual, but are regarded as folly in relations between nations and are viewed as unimportant by statesmen and politicians. Individuals are imprisoned and hanged for the crimes of fraud and murder, but countries murder and defraud on a grand scale, and those who murder and defraud "in the interest of the state" are decorated and rewarded."

Monday, November 03, 2008

meaningless noises

For those interested in Argumentation Ethics, you can find an echo of it in Steven Pinker's The Stuff of Thought in his analysis of the claims of linguisitical relativists- those who hold that there is no truth, "only competing metaphors, which are more or less apt for the purposes of the people who live by them."
"As such, Lakoff's version of relativism is vulnerable to the two standard rebuttals of relativism in general... The other rebuttal is that by their very effort to convince others of the truth of relativism, relativists are committed to the notion of objective truth. They attract supporters by persuasion — the marshaling of facts and logic — not by bribes or threats. They confront their critics using debate and reason, not by dueling with pistols or throwing chairs like the guests on a daytime talk show. And if asked whether their brand of relativism is a pack of lies, they would deny that it is, not waffle and say that the question is meaningless."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Why I'm not voting

There are a few reasons why I will not be "expressing" myself at the ballot box come this next election.

Primarily so, because the very process disgusts my sensitivity to the ideals of individual liberty. What I mean is that the gross act in playing a very small part in selecting our next overlord should make every egalitarian cringe- if equal liberty is truly their goal, this could only be realized when there are no masters lording over us any longer.

Secondly, because voting is a farce if you are given extremely limited options and no option for exit. The very concept of choice requires the ability to reject and so long that one cannot "express" this choice at the ballot box the only way to do so is to abstain from beans.

Third, because I think it borders on immorality to play even a minor a role in the perpetuity of the institution of mass enslavement. I won't argue that voting in presidential elections is per se immoral (a violation of rights), after all one may feel inclined to vote for pragmatic and strategic purposes. What I do have is a very strong preference of being averse to any situation through which my participation can be viewed as my lending moral support to such a rights-violating institution.

Some people may question my hostility to democratic institutions- I will not deny this charge. I do not see the logic in being imposed upon and having my liberty infringed by the majoritarian opinion no matter the excuse. Whether or not it is better than the alternative (monarchy, oligarchy, communism) is to limit yourself to of a determination of rulership and to not admit the possibility of self-determination.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

separated at birth?

With profuse apologies in advance, I would like to make the case that our very own J. Tucker has an hyperinflationary alter-ego... You be the judge.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Video source:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

risk and uncertainty

As the local hobbyist economist, I find myself constantly plied with questions for which I don't have readily prepared answers. The inability to predict  and recommend less risky, more sound and profitable ventures somehow impinges on that reputation, because someone who thinks himself informally educated on that subject should be overflowing with policy suggestions, right?

Yes, I can easily parrot what other notables have advised, such as Jim Rogers or Peter Schiff, but I've found that taking the role of an economic Cassandra quickly turns off people who want to hear that everything is fine and dandy in our mixed-economy.

Personally, I've been looking for "the answer" too; I'm been considering transferring my little nest egg into various non-dollar assets, be that less-volatile foreign currencies, but especially into ventures such as

My take on the U.S. 'security' markets is exactly that; a bitter joke since I've yet to profit from any of the shares I've held in mutual funds. The minor amount of amateur stock trading I've tried hasn't been encouraging and the strategy of buying "solid companies" hasn't paid off for me as there has been no appreciation on those fronts. 

The only success I've had came from investing in technology companies for which I've had early knowledge of upcoming growth. For example, prior to the introduction of the XBOX 360, there were rumors circulating in the tech circles that Microsoft was talking with ATI to handle the graphics and was going to shun Nvidia which powered the first XBOX. Seeing that there was no public announcement of this, it did me well to purchase ATI shares which greatly appreciated when the announcement came some time thereafter. I've also had success in buying shares in Apple when it was at its $19 low in early 2003  sometime before the 3G iPod was released. I was positive that this was going to be a turning point for Apple to once-again become a household name. No more than six months later Steve Jobs was profiled on the cover of Time Magazine holding the 3G iPod.

But even with those success stories, it is certainly nothing I could duplicate on a daily basis; they were one-off type of bets. The only way to reliably make money in the security markets is to collect commissions from gullible folks who think that their broker knows his stuff. A big thank you for that goes to the S.E.C. for its role in keeping the people stupidly complacent in this regard; after all if they are 'regulating' the markets, people can automatically trust anyone to look out for their best interests, right?

As for real estate ventures, I made a decision back in late 2006 to exit the field for the meanwhile, and luckily so. I still follow developments in this field, but for the most part I am disgusted with how the U.S. Imperial Government is assuming new powers to further distort the market and stem ultimate recovery.

This is the point where I hold out my hat to solicit some spare financial advice from my imaginary readership, e.g., how they've diversified their wealth. What I'm really looking for is a liquid type vehicle, something from which I would be able to regularly withdraw funds to pay for living expenses; something I'm not sure easily accomplished, say if I want pay an American Express bill with savings.

Monday, June 23, 2008

aqua regia

(Shamelessly pilfered from

Aqua regia (Latin for royal water) is a highly corrosive, fuming yellow or red solution...It is one of the few reagents that dissolves gold and platinum. It was so named because it can dissolve the so-called royal, or noble metals...

"When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck into aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar—one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving—contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation presented new medals to Laue and Franck."