Feb 112008
 

You may or may not remember my incredulous post back in July about the 70 year old woman who was attacked by the police for not watering her lawn. It was, after all, more than six months ago that Betty Perry was tackled by Officer James Flygare, a member of the Orem, Utah’s Neighborhood Protection Unit, while standing on her front porch. I concluded that previous post with the following-

Only after Ms. Perry was completely booked did the police supervisors become “aware of the circumstances”, release her and return to her home, after a visit to the local hospital where she was treated for her cut nose and bruises on her arms from the handcuffs.

Once again, thank God the government is out there protecting my rights and freedoms by assaulting little old ladies for not watering their lawns!

I thought that was the end of it. A cop screwed up, their ‘superiors’ realised the mistake and that was that. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. According to the Salt Lake Tribune

The city initially apologized for arresting Perry, but prosecutors pressed charges after a Utah Department of Public Safety investigation cleared Flygare of wrongdoing.

Since then there’s been plenty of activity, including famous (or infamous) Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred signing on to defend Ms. Perry. Her trial was actually scheduled to start today, but according to that same Salt Lake Tribune article-

Betty Perry, the 70-year-old great-grandmother whose scuffle with a police officer in July catapulted her into the headlines and caught a Los Angeles celebrity attorney’s attention, has quietly settled her case with the city.

Perry on Friday, three days before her trial was to begin, entered a no-contest plea in absentia to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, according to City Prosecutor Andrew Peterson.

In return, the city dropped the zoning violation charge for not watering her lawn. She has to pay a $100 fine and be on unsupervised probation for six months.

In other words, the cops cleared one of their own (surprise, surprise), the city attorney felt that this brown lawn was damaging enough to the quality of life in Orem that this great-grandmother should be prosecuted, and the same attorney then dropped the lawn charge. But Ms. Perry still has to pay $100 to the city as a fine for peacefully refusing to be arrested on a charge that both the police and the city attorney felt wasn’t important enough to convict her of anyway. Another victory for government and I feel safer already :-\

Dec 112007
 

More of your tax dollars at work in Raleigh, North Carolina

Kristin Wallace bought some very wet land as an investment. Eight acres of it, all underneath Lake Lynn.The Cary woman bought the land for $12,500 last year at a public auction of property with delinquent taxes. Now she is suing to try to force the city of Raleigh or Wake County to buy the soggy land from her or drain it.

“It’s extremely valuable to me,” Wallace said, “dry.”

City and county officials say Wallace, who started investing in real estate less than two years ago, knew the land was lake bottom when she bought it, something she doesn’t dispute.

“It’s bought as is,” said Shelley Eason with the County Attorney’s Office.

Obviously, the immediate response from most rational people will be, “this woman is an idiot.” And that’s probably an accurate description. But let’s take a look at how she was able to purchase the land (which the county intentionally flooded in 1976) in the first place-

In 1983, the 8 acres were bought by now-defunct Lake Lynn Development, which owned surrounding dry land that would become homes and apartments.

Lake Lynn Development eventually went out of business. In 2006 the county revenue department noticed that yearly property tax bills of $9 to $35 a year had gone unpaid for more than a decade on the two parcels, one of 6.68 acres in the middle of the lake and a 1.32-acre inlet, Eason said.

More as a housekeeping effort than anything else, the county decided to get rid of the property and put it up for auction in September 2006 as required by law to try to recoup unpaid taxes. Expecting no bids, government officials thought the land would be transferred to the city, which would pay off the back taxes.

Neither the city nor the county envisioned someone’s bidding for the water-logged land, Eason said.

So, if we assume for a moment that the $35 annual property tax was a legitimate claim (which it isn’t, but that’s not the point here), the county was “owed” around $350. They sold the land for $12,500. That’s already a huge profit on what is, essentially, stolen land. Of course, even when they win the lawsuit (which they will as they have pre-existing easements on the property) they’ll have wasted far more than $12,000 in dealing with the lawsuit.

The anarchist’s solution? Since there would be no government to steal the land from the rightful owner it would have been sold as part of Lake Lynn Development’s corporate divestiture. Whomever bought it then would have full rights and responsibilities to the land which they could drain or flood as they saw fit and there would be no one around for the owners to sue at that point.

Oct 092007
 

I’ve been firmly in the anti-Wal-Mart camp for more than 20 years now, but it wasn’t much of an issue when I was living in San Jose and other large cities because there were so many options that few people I knew shopped at Wal-Mart. In Gilroy, Wal-Mart dominates the retail world to the extent that I frequently feel I’m the only person who doesn’t shop there. Today’s front page reported that Wal-Mart is now opening another location here in Morgan Hill, a mere 12 miles from the Supercenter in Gilroy. Ironically, they’ll be taking over the retail space recently vacated by Target moving into a larger building of their own recently in order to compete with Gilroy’s Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, the old Gilroy Wal-Mart building remains a vacant blight on the landscape as it has for several years now.

The majority of my anti-Wal-Mart sentiment has been covered elsewhere (predatory business practices, massive corporate welfare, deceptive advertising, poor customer service, etc), so I won’t get into them here. Instead, I want to talk about how the growth of Wal-Mart is an example of the benefits of of the true free market over a democratic system. I was recently asked how my local economics theory jibes with the free market, and I want to use Wal-Mart as an example.

In the so-called democracy in which we now live, Wal-Mart uses its massive resources to cut sweetheart deals with local governments hoping to bring more jobs and sales tax revenue into their towns. In fact, when they don’t believe the current “representatives” of the community will agree to subsidize their private business they simply contribute large sums of money to the political campaigns of those that will, then receive their payback from these new “friends” in government.

One of the concerns about a true free market is that predatory corporations like Wal-Mart will run rampant causing the closure and destruction of the small business. But in an anarchist free market there would be no subsidies for Wal-Mart meaning they would have to pay for their own infrastructure and not receive the sales tax refunds that other, smaller businesses do not receive. It’s certainly possible that Wal-Mart could still possibly crush the competition, but at that point they’d be fighting on a fair battleground.

This would also mean more realistic choices for consumers, such as myself, who prefer to shop with locally owned businesses. Since Wal-Mart would not be subsidized (with MY tax dollars) their prices would have to be higher and thus, more in line with the locally owned businesses who provide greater customer service and more benefits to the community that they call home. The majority of Wal-Mart shoppers I know claim that they’d rather not shop at Wal-Mart, but simply can’t afford to ignore the supposed bargains to be had there. The government has not only stolen a portion of their labor through income taxes, but is using that stolen labor to remove their choices within the marketplace.

Aug 232007
 

On Monday I received a rather frightening envelope in my bill-laden mail. The return address was-

Office of the Clerk, U.S. District Court
Northern District of California
450 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, California 94102
Official Business

Guuuulllpppp!

My mind raced through my latest activities pondering which were federal violations and which could possibly have been tracked back to me so readily. Then I tossed the envelope aside to be dealt with later. This evening I was cleaning off my daughter’s bed before her weekend visit and rediscovered the letter. Probably not a good idea to open it in her presence, so I bit the bullet and tore the paper. As I’m sure y’all have already figured out, it was a jury summons. No big deal, but full of irony and rife with opportunity for mockery.

First, the irony…

Despite being an anarchist I do vote regularly. My reasoning for doing so is complex and under regular investigation, but that’s for another post. What I find humorous here is that when I register to vote I always choose the “Other” box and write in: Anarchist. So the state is aware that I do not believe in the validity of their existence, but they still want me to judge whether or not a fellow human being should be punished for violating their “laws”. I’ve completed the form and will be sending it in despite my general policy to ignore government forms (more on this in a future post as well). I’ll surely keep y’all updated as I work through the system as well. Advice is more than welcome via comments or email.

On to the mockery…

The form I need to complete and return is one of those computer scannable forms like we used for standardized tests back in school. The only problem – you need to complete it with a No. 2 pencil. I don’t use pencils. I find them useless as they’re difficult to read, smear, etc. So I had to go to the store and buy a pencil to fill out this form – doing my “civic duty” is already costing me money.

The standard demographic questions are a bit annoying considering I already answered them on my voter registration form. If they can pull my name and address, surely they can pull my citizenship status (shouldn’t this be obvious?), age, primary residence, occupation, race/ethnicity, etc.

A word on Race/Ethnicity. I usually check “Native American”, not because I’m one of the millions of people who claim to be 1/64th Cherokee (or whatever), but because I realize that tracking race is just another form of racism – oh, and because, being born in California I am, by definition, a native American. Race is irrelevant to everything, except how other idiots treat you. I chose to always go with “Native American” because they’re the smallest ethnic group in America and I’d love to see what happened if more people adopted my strategy and the number of Native Americans actually started to grow. So next time you’re filling out some ridiculous government form, go with Native American/American Indian/Alaskan Native/Eskimo.

Under the heading of Exemptions, there are three parts to the question “Are you employed on a full time basis as a:

  • Public official of the United States, state, or local government who is elected to public office or directly appointed by one elected to office;
  • Member of any governmental police or regular fire dpt. (not including volunteer or non-governmental departments);
  • Member in active service of the armed forces of the United States.”

Okay, the last one I get. The logistics involved in getting active military personnel back to their hometown for jury duty would likely be horrendous. But the other two make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Who should know the law better than the people whose job it is to create, debate and enforce it? Elected officials are frequently referred to as “civil servants” or “servants of the people”. How can they not have a “civic duty” to serve on a jury? Don’t most cops have the motto “protect and serve”? If jury duty is “service” for me, why not for them? And what’s with the (government only) fireman exemption? Either their jobs are too important to be called away for jury duty or they aren’t. Radio talk show host Mark Edge of Free Talk Live regularly cites a statistic that 98% 93% [edit: to correct number, see comments] of fire departments in the US are volunteer. This is simply the perfect example of the true definition of both “politics” and “government”: n. A system to reward one’s enemies while simultaneously punishing one’s enemies.

Aside from these (apparently automatic) exemptions, there are also 6 standard “Grounds For Requesting Excuse”:

  1. Over 70 years of age (wouldn’t want to have our wisest elders judging guilt or innocence, would we?);
  2. Served on jury duty within the last year (understandable);
  3. A person serving without compensation as a volunteer firefighter, member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew for a federal, state (including DC and territories of the U S), or local government agency (emphasis mine – again, reward your friends…);
  4. A person essential to the care of children under 12, or of aged or infirm persons (I could probably qualify here, but don’t want to);
  5. A person residing more than 80 miles from the place where the court will be held (a rather arbitrary number, but understandable);
  6. A person who would suffer extreme hardship or extreme inconvenience (evidence required)

Three of the questions dealt with criminal history, following the theme that those most familiar with the court system are not permitted to be jurors. To wit: “One is disqualified from jury service only for criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, but it is the maximum penalty, and not the actual sentence that controls. [sic]”

Just a little insight into who will be determining your fate should you ever face charges in a U.S. District Court. Hopefully I can make it all the way through the system and continue to report back my discoveries.

Aug 092007
 

When I was young I was taught that the police were my friends. My ex-wife works with the Highway Patrol and my daughter actually has several adult friends who are police officers. However, I refuse to teach her that police officers, as a rule, are her friends. Instead I have to keep pointing out stories like this:

Roselle Park, NJ – Monica Montoya left work early on June 20th to pick up her 6 year old daughter from her first day at summer school. On her way she saw came across an accident scene where a woman had been hit by a vehicle and was lying on the ground, bleeding. The police asked Ms. Montoya if she spoke Spanish and could help communicate with the victim. Being a kind soul, she stayed to help. Police video shows Ms. Montoya interacting with several police officers on the scene and using one of their cell phones to call the victims family. After several minutes she asked to use the phone again in order to call someone else to pick up her daughter from school. For some reason the police refused, so she walked over to the crowd to find an available phone.

At this point one of the officers apparently tackled her to the ground, causing scratches to her arms as well as a bruise on her face, handcuffed her and put her in the back of his police car. His reasoning? “Because she was out of control, and I felt that she may be a danger to herself and me, I forcefully took her to the ground to control her and then handcuffed her.” According to him, she was trying to leave the scene of an accident (to which she was neither a party nor a witness) and refusing to give her name and telephone number. Only once she is handcuffed in the back of a police car does the officer use his cell phone to call someone to pick up her daughter from school. At no point is there anything resembling a “chase” nor evidence of her trying to “flee”.

Remember, she was merely a passerby, asked by the police to help them. As a result of being honest and helpful she has now been charged with obstructing justice and resisting arrest and is due back in court on August 23rd. Further evidence that the police exist on to serve themselves. If we had private police agencies under a free market system, then concern for their clients (citizens) would be at the forefront, instead of the worship of “procedure”. When a police department is funded through coercive taxes it, ultimately has no fiscal responsibility and thus no accountability to eh people it ostensibly serves.