Mar 192011
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Ask An Anarchist

Ask An Anarchist

Welcome back to Ask An Anarchist. The ongoing series where I respond to questions about anarchist philosophy.

Q) So some small town somewhere started to fine all of their prisoners to pay for the prisons instead of taxes. Say you make 8 dollars an hour at your job then you get put in jail and pay 16 to 20 dollars a day every day you are in jail.
I think this is good because the “criminal” pays for the jails instead of everyone paying for it.
It’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons though. For one, people can’t pay if they can’t work. Also it gives police a reason to put you in jail for 30 days instead of just a ticket. What do you think?

A) This is not nearly as unusual as you might think, and you quickly recognized the largest problems with it yourself. Continue reading »

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Dec 032008

Well, this could be filed in the “no duh” category…

As of July 1, 2008 it is now illegal to drive in the state of California while talking on a hand-held cell phone. Like most ridiculous laws this was passed in order to make us “safer”. According to my local paper

[A]s of Nov. 26 local traffic enforcement officers have issued 67 tickets for violations of the new law which went into effect July 1, making it illegal for any driver to use a hand-held cell phone while operating a vehicle. [In a town of less than 25,000 drivers]


The Gilroy Police Department did not have the most recent data available at press time, but as of Oct. 8, officers there issued the same number of tickets (67) to Gilroy drivers, according to GPD Sgt. Jim Gillio. [In a town of less than 40,000 drivers]

And the California Highway Patrol cited 150 people in Santa Clara and San Benito counties for violations of the hand-held cell phone law as of Nov. 8, according to CHP spokesman Chris Armstrong.

Those numbers seem pretty high to me, and they must be having a positive effect, right? Well then please explain the following quote from an SFGate article

Statewide, 37 people died in Labor Day weekend traffic deaths as of 6 a.m. Monday, up from 32 for the same period last year, the CHP said.

That’s a “shocking” increase of 21% in traffic fatalities!  Is it possible that the government lied to us?  Could they merely have passed this supposed “safety” measure merely to benefit their pocketbooks?  Well, returning to the Morgan hill Times article I first quoted-

Based on these numbers, the law has provided a steady stream of revenue for the state, Santa Clara County, and local police departments.

First-time offenders of the cell phone law are required to pay a $94 ticket, according to Carl Schulhof of the Santa Clara County Superior Court. While the base bail amount for the ticket is only $20, the final price tag includes a variety of state mandated penalty assessments which produce funds that are divvied up among “all kinds of revenue distribution categories,” including EMS, the court, and municipal agencies, Schulhof said.

He said the formula that determines who gets what from each fine is “fairly complex,” and he did not know how much of the revenue the MHPD would receive from each fine. However, he suggested the amount would be small after all the other agencies and departments have taken their cut.

With each subsequent violation of the hands-free cell phone requirement, the penalty assessments increase, and a second offense can result in a fine of more than $200, Schulhof added.

The citation is not considered a moving violation, so it does not automatically tarnish a motorist’s driving record.

Specifically exempted from the law are emergency service professionals who use a cell phone while operating an emergency vehicle.

Yep, sure looks like it’s all about “safety” to me. That would explain both the high level of fines and the fact that it doesn’t go on a driver’s record. And who else is completely unsurprised by the fact that government employees are exempted from yet another law that the rest of us serfs must follow?

Sep 132008

My local newspapers have been full of cops lately.  Not in the “cops shoot dog”, “cops shoot citizen”, “cops shoot other cops”, sense that I so typically write about here.  Not even in the “cops trample rights” way that is barely even news anymore here in America.  No, the Gilroy Police are wasting money, while the Morgan Hill Police are begging for money.

Eveything I have to say about the issues I wrote in those two posts linked above.  I just didn’t want the core readers of my primary blog to think that either

  1. I’d gone soft on the police, or
  2. The local cops were actually doing something useful
Sep 132008

Not surprisingly, the Morgan Hill Police Department wants more money. And they’ve decided the best way to get it is to pass a 2% tax “on the use of gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage, telecommunications and video/CATV services.”  According to the full color (read: expensive) flier I (and probably you) received in my mailbox today if Measure G does not pass “the City will not likely be in a position to add new positions such as additional police officers,”which elicited a resounding “good” from me, but may not have from you.  So let’s review-

  • In 2004 the people of Morgan hill spent roughly $10,000,000 on a new police station.
  • In June 2008 Morgan Hill Police Chief Bruce Cumming reported that “[t]he department had a productive year, [in 2007]. Among the accomplishments, Cumming told council members, is the creation of a regional SWAT team with the Gilroy Police Department and the implementation of the anti-gang GREAT program in Morgan Hill schools.”
  • At the same time Chief Cumming announced that “[s]ome of the goals for the new year, which begins July 1, include reinstating the department’s K-9 program with funding from community donations and implementing a city-wide telephone notification system.  Cumming also hopes to increase the department’s 36 sworn officers with seven more sworn officers and two more multi-service officers.”
  • In July 2008, the Morgan Hill Police Department added five new officers.
  • In August 2008, the department “hired” Pax, an 18 month old German Shepherd, thus successfully “reinstating the department’s K-9 program.”

So why, exactly do the people of Morgan Hill need to supply the police with another $1,800,000?  They seem to be doing just fine without it and have already met the majority of their goals for 2008 in just a few months!

Again, returning to the flier, here’s the section on responsibility-

Q) What controls are there that Measure G funds will be spent responsibly?

A) The UUT Ordinance includes extraordinary accountability measures.  Every two years, the City Council is required to make findings that the tax is necessary for the City’s financial health or the tax expires.  It requires two-thirds vote (i.e. four of five Council members) to continue the tax.

Excuse me?  You call this “extraordinary accountability measures”? All this means is that every two years the council needs to rubber stamp the continuation of the tax.  They’ll ask themselves the question: “do we need this money?” For government, the answer to that question is always yes.  Nothing in this measure even requires that the money be spent on the police department!  It just goes in to the general fund to be used for whatever purpose the (then current) council deems appropriate.  And it’s not exactly difficult to make the case that the police don’t need the money…

Q) Why doesn’t the City reduce services in other areas such as recreation to enhance other City services such as police?A) Public Safety is currently the City Council’s highest priority as indicated by the fact the City spends 83% of all discretionary dollars on police and fire.  Over the past several years, the City has cut back on less critical service levels and eliminated positions from Park Maintenance, Human Resources and other administrative functions.

{emphasis added}

Again, that’s from the flier. Do not be fooled, this is not a “police funding” tax, or even a “public safety” tax.  It’s simply another way for the City Council to sugar coat their latest money grab.


Aug 032008

It was just last month that Morgan Hill City Council members voted unanimously July 2 to create a ballot measure that would put a 2% utility tax, with a low-income exception, on the November ballot in order to fund nine more positions in the Morgan Hill Police Department.

Then, just last week, I read in the Morgan Hill Times that the department just added five new officers, bringing the total number of cops in Morgan hill to 38 or (roughly) one per thousand residents.  So, if we’ve got the funds already, why do we need to pay a higher utility tax?  Particularly one that is simply going directly into the general fund and is not earmarked directly for the police budget?  Or has the department simply jumped the gun and hired the officers even before the vote?  Shades of “Wag The Dog”, anyone?