Aug 282008

The important thing to remember about the freedoms we all enjoy in America is that they only exist if you follow the rules.  At least, that’s what the politicians and the major media keep telling us (and my duaghter’s teachers keep telling her).  For example, here’s a rule-

“A political party is entitled to have the names of its nominees for president and vice-president placed on the ballot if before 5 p.m. of the 70th day before presidential election day, the party’s state chair signs and delivers to the secretary of state a written certification of the name’s of the party’s nominees for president and vice-president.”

That’s from Section 192.031 of the Texas Election Code and seems pretty straightforward and easy to comply wit, considering it was written by beaureucrats.   Well, the next Presidential election is scheduled for November 4, 2008 – 68 days frmo today.  Which means, of course, that Texan voters know exactly who will be on their Presidential ballots.  Checking Texas Secretary of State website we seethat the only candidate on the Presidential ballot this fall will be Bob Barr for the Libertarian Party.

Were the United States actually a nation of laws than, for the first time in history, the Libertarian party would win a state in a Presidential election.  Who wants to bet that the very people aspiring to be the ultimate law enforcement officer in America will be breaking this law in order to improve their chances of being elected?

Dec 172007

It took me six months to plan it, three months to pay for it and less than a week to cancel it entirely, losing about $650 in the process. Here was the itinerary:

  1. 12/26 – Early morning pickup of Z, heading up to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo for a day of wild rides and coaster fun followed by an evening of watching Z ooh and ahh over the Holiday in the Park decor and the World’s Largest Christmas Tree. The rest of the plan was going to be laid out to her while we sat under this 125 foot tall glowing wonder.
  2. 12/27 – Sleep in at home then head south once we’ve awoken fully rested from a wild and crazy day because there’s plenty more to come. We’d stop when we hit Valencia, home of Six Flags Magic Mountain and the most roller coaster in one location West of the Mississippi. If we made it there before closing we’d head in and catch a few rides before retiring to our motel to rest up for the next big day.
  3. 12/28 – All day at Magic Mountain using our Thrill Pass to bypass all of the lines, chow down at the free buffet, and shop to our hearts content in order to save back the cost of the passes and then some. With more than a dozen coasters (several still on my haven’t ridden list) this place is thrill ride Mecca. Plus we could add a half-dozen ride photos to our slowly growing collection.
  4. 12/29 – After staying a second night in Valencia we’d get up early and head down to Universal Studios Hollywood. We’d start the day with our traditional Saturday morning breakfast (the single event I look forward to each and every week) at the famous Saddle Ranch Chop House on Universal’s City Walk. I’ve been to Universal a few times in the past and not much really changes there, but they do have a single roller coaster, The Mummy, I need to cross off my list. The rest of the day would be up to Z. Though I was looking forward to watching her joy at experiencing her first look at the behind-the scenes action of a real movie studio. Our VIP passes even gets us backstage at the live shows as well as extra stuff beyond the standard studio tour.
  5. 12/30 – Knott’s Berry Farm is scheduled for Sunday as that’s typically a less crowded day than Saturday. Knott’s has always been my favorite theme park (as opposed to pure amusement park) and this would be Z’s first time attending. In addition to eight more roller coasters (3 on my unridden list), Knott’s is full of amazing adventures. Plus it will actually be Knott’s Merry Farm, so the evening would bring another Christmas parade and plenty of decorations to warm Z’s Santa-lovin’ heart.
  6. 12/31 – Winding things down on New Year’s Eve. After sleeping in we’d head over to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum (Z’s a big Ripley’s fan) and possibly one of the Wax Museums as well. The afternoon would bring us to Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier to add two more coasters to our trip total and for Z to experience an alternative boardwalk amusement park to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (our home park). Then we’d head home after hitting six major attractions (and more than 30 roller coasters) in six short days.

Sound exhausting? Yeah it does to me too, but I have a feeling the adrenaline and joy would pull us through and Z would have all the way to January 5th to recover before heading back to school. Everything was lined up perfectly. But now it’s gone….

I’ve mentioned Z’s brattiness and spoiled attitude here in the past, mostly in passing. Well, it’s become simply intolerable. I’ve tried rewarding her when she does well, punishing her when she does poorly, too many talks to keep track of, bribery, coercion, and just about everything else I can think of short of outright physical violence (which is not only anti-thetical to my entire belief system but ineffective as well). Nothing can get through to this girl.

Part of the problem is that I can’t completely control her environment. X, her mother, is getting better but still a pushover on too many things. The kids act spoiled because they are spoiled. Neiher of us is wealthy but we’ve always done our damndest to give the kids everything we can. About six weeks ago I got so fed up with this spoiled Z that I took away everything I’d bought her in the last several months. It had all been acquired under false pretenses – she acts like a different person with me then without me. The effect – she cried and then kept on being a spoiled brat. During that time she was still serving a repeated punishment (because she violated the rules the first time) for talking back to her mother and I. The effects of that lasted a record 48 hours (the punishment went on for two months all told).

After calling off the trip yesterday (when she flat out refused to listen to me and clean her room instead of continuing to order her brother to clean his part of the mess) and leaving the house I felt I needed to have an actual discussion with her about it today. So I went to pick her up from school and talk. Unfortunately, she wasn’t interested in a discussion so it became yet another lecture. Our brief history has shown that these obviously have no effect, so I kept it relatively short – I told her the bare bones of the trip I described more fully in this post. Her response (when forced to give one) was “I’m thinking ‘what do I have to do to earn that trip back?'” She still doesn’t get it, no matter how many times or ways I explain it to her: being good for the simple sake of the reward isn’t being good at all. The key is to simply be (and do) good, and trust that good things will come of it. The work must come before the reward.

Shortly after I returned home X called to encourage me to reconsider the trip. the financial loss is a steep one, not to mention how much I’ve been looking forward to it myself. She then went on to tell me how Z walked into the house after our talk and immediately began giving her (X) attitude. (See, nothing gets through.) X is at the end of her rope and considering returning some of the (way too many) Christmas gifts she got the kids. I’m 100% behind the idea. As far as I’m concerned Z’s on the equivalent of bread and water. I’m not spending any more money on gifts, luxuries, or experiences until she can start to show some actual adjustments to her behavior. She’ll get food, rides to school, clothes. Period.

I think I could actually turn things around if I had 24 hour care of Z, but X will never allow that to happen. Even temporarily. So, since I don’t have the power to change the behavior I’m no longer going to support it in any way. I’ll keep her alive, but her happiness is entirely in Z’s hands.

Dec 102007
Part of the Anarchy Case Studies Series - Previous in series         

Criminy! It’s been almost a month again since my last case study was posted. I will apologize again, but no promises of timeliness this go around. I’m still working my way through Michael van Notten’s The Law of the Somalis: A Stable Foundation for Economic Development in the Horn of Africa. In Part Two I covered the six major prinicples of Somali Law and this time we’ll take a look at the remaining six “building blocks”-

  1. Rules of conduct in society
  2. Courts and Police
  3. Procedural rules
  4. Rules of insurance
  5. Verdicts of the law courts
  6. Doctrines developed by learned men

It is these six concepts (along with the aforementioned major principles) that define not only what the law is in anarchistic Somalia, but also show all of us how stability and order can be achieved without the unprovoked force of government. Each of these principles will be further developed in future posts as well.

1. Rules of Conduct in Society

Just because there isn’t an overriding governmental authority doesn’t mean that society doesn’t have rules. Parents have had household rules that differed from the local government’s laws for generations. Somali customary law has prohibitions against murder, assault, rape, robbery, extortion, etc. These rules stipulate sanctions for violation of the law and also authorize the use of force against the perpetrator should they refuse to honor their obligations.

The primary differences between these rules of law and the statutory laws we’re more familiar with in modern society are:

  1. These rules have been established directly by the society itself through the methods outlined in my previous post.
  2. Once found guilty the wrongdoer will be required to pay their debt to the victims of their crime rather than to “society”. Rather then simply imprison the criminal (thus burdening all of society with their care) they will be made to offer restitution to the victims (and/or the victims’ families).

2. Courts and Police
Once a conflict (or crime) occurs the only investigation that occurs is by the victim or their family and friends. Once they have discovered the perpetrator they then request that the local judge(s) form a court of law. Once they’ve found a judge (or judges) to form a court both parties are invited to present testimony and/or witnesses. Once the judges render a verdict the offending party is bound by their decision.

Should the criminal attempt to avoid the penalty then a police force of sorts will be formed from able bodied men in the community. Both the court and the police force dissolve once their specific purpose is served, leaving no standing courts or police to enact tyranny on the population.

3. Procedural Rules

  • All persons are considered innocent until proven guilty, just as they are in American jurisprudence.
  • There is little, if any, written documentation though a court recorder (doodqaad) will be appointed to assure all present can hear the salient points of any testimony or the ruling. Written testimony is accepted by the court, however, should a witness be unable to attend the court.
  • Both parties state their cases directly to the judge(s). While there is neither direct nor cross examination the judges are free to ask for clarification and the witnesses are also free to consult with their family to refresh their memories.
  • For a disputed fact to be accepted as evidence it must be attested as truth by at least three witnesses.
  • Oaths of honesty may be taken to Allah, the witness’ virility, or even to one’s marriage (in which case should the testimony be proven false the marriage would be considered null and void).

4. InsuranceAll Somalis are considered to be insured by their extended family (jilib) against liabilities or punishments handed down by the customary courts. If the wrongdoer is unable to pay the compensation demanded by the court they will be forced to request assistance from their family. This can be an emotionally painful experience as though the family is socially obligated to help cover the expense they are also free to deride the wisdom, intelligence and character of the criminal both publicly and privately. Additionally, they may require that he avoid certain behaviors in the future or not carry a weapon. It is the oversight of the family that will prevent a repeat offense.

However, a family may terminate its insurance of a member who continues to violate society’s norms by publicly declaring that they absolve themselves from any obligation regarding the individual’s future actions. In this case the person so disowned becomes an outlaw and must leave not only the jilib, but the clan as well. Essentially they become an exile and must find another clan willing to insure them or no one will enter into any business with them.

5. Verdicts (gar)

There is no system of precedent in the Somali court system. Each verdict is seen only as relating the substance of the law to the particular case at hand. The law itself is seen as coming from the customs and practices of the people themselves.

6. Legal Doctrines

Whenever a verdict is rendered the people of the community discuss it at length. Should they determine that the ruling was out of line with the society’s norms they will mention this to the judge himself. Should the judge continue to disagree with the people they will lose faith in him and he will no longer be called upon to render judgments on any issue.

That covers the broad framework of both Somali customary law and a functioning anarchist legal system. Obviously, there are more details but they are easily worked out when presented with a specific set of circumstances. This case study of Somalia as a funtioning anarchy is far from done, though. In addition to further exploring the concepts in the these first few posts we’ll be sharing some real-world information about how Somali society is not only surviving, but flourishing now that the yoke of government has been removed from their collective shoulders.

Part of the Anarchy Case Studies Series - Previous in series        
Oct 112007

I’ve said it before and I’ll likely say it again…

gov-ern-ment [?gav?m?nt] noun

An organization whose primary purpose is to reward its friends while simultaneously punishing its enemies.

Sure, that’s not what the dictionary says, but we all know dictionaries, like history, are written by “the man” 😉 The latest example of this truer definition of government comes to us from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) via Wired magazine

The Government Accountability Office says the agency tips off some people with business before the commission in advance about what items are coming up for a vote, usually before the public is notified.

“Situations where some, but not all, stakeholders know what FCC is considering for an upcoming vote undermine the fairness and transparency of the process and constitute a violation of FCC’s rules,” the GAO said.

It only took the GAO a year (and untold stolen tax dollars) to come to the conclusion, once again, that the government’s primary purpose has little to do with helping “the people” and everything to do with rewarding its friends.

Sep 102007

According to Reuters, a woman in Beijing was “fired for talking back to her boss.” Why, exactly is this news? Why don’t we have news reports about the millions of other people who were fired today?

What’s that? You say, it’s a stupid reason to fire an employee? Possibly, but if that’s the case then the business will suffer for it and, ultimately, fail unless they change their ways. Hmm? It’s not fair? Why not? We’re talking about a private business voluntarily spending their money to employ this woman. She’s voluntarily accepting their money in return for doing what they ask of her. She refused to do that any more (by violating the policy against “talking back to superiors”). There is no reason she should keep her job.

You want to know why I’m not standing up for her Freedom of Speech? Of course, I support her right to Freedom of Speech, but that’s not really relevant here. Again, this is a private business. by entering their private property you agree to be bound by their rules. No one prevented her from speaking her mind, her employer just exercised their right to revoke her employment privileges.

This is really simple, people. When she accepted the position she accepted the terms of a contract. She would be paid X amount in exchange for following the rules the company laid out. She breached that contract by violating its rules. Since contract law is the only legitimate law, she’s the ‘criminal’ here.