Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Thou Shalt Not Share

Thou Shalt Not Share
But the sharing economy is winning
Conspiracy Theorist
By Mark Luedtke
Publication date: 120616

Taxi companies have declared war. In a handful of years, Uber and its ridesharing model went from nothing to the most valuable startup in history. Two and a half years ago, Uber was worth $18.2 billion. The New York Times valued Uber at $62.5 billion in December of 2015. Clearly this valuation is a product of the bubble, but there’s no arguing with Uber’s stratospheric growth.
There’s a reason for this. Uber is superior to taxi companies. That’s because taxi companies are organized and cartelized by governments. Uber’s cars tend to be cleaner, the drivers friendlier, and the service more reliable. So for government-controlled taxi companies, there’s only one thing to do: get governments worldwide to use their power of coercion to degrade and shut down the competition, harming consumers in the process.
That plan is working well in Europe. The Stack reports, “Global ride-sharing crusader Uber, which rarely passes a day without skirmish in one of its target markets worldwide, has had a particularly tough 24 hours, as France fines it for running an ‘illegal taxi service’ and German courts uphold a protested ban on running an ‘unlicensed’ service.”
Germany, France, Spain and Italy have banned Uber. France also prosecuted and fined Uber executives. But in the European Union (EU), unelected continental bureaucrats have the final say. Fortune informs, “Uber will seek to convince Europe’s top court next week that it is a digital service, not a transport company, in a case that could determine whether app-based startups should be exempt from strict laws meant for regular companies.”
That difference is at the heart of all of Uber’s legal battles which it’s also fighting all over the US. The facts are not important in any of these cases. Neither are Uber’s social benefits, like reducing drunk driving. The only thing that matters is who pays rulers the most so rulings favor the most politically-connected party which has been the taxi companies. Uber recently figured that out and responded in kind. Now it’s winning those battles at least in the US. “The success [in Colorado], says Justin Kintz, Uber’s head of public policy for North America, is ‘a tale as old as time—it’s the power of the people,’” writes Bloomberg. “It’s also a tale about the power of backroom lobbying. Although Uber promotes itself as a great disrupter, it’s quickly mastered the old art of political influence. Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn’t count municipal lobbyists.”
This illustrates how rulers drag businesses into the parasitic political economy. Rulers forced Uber to waste resources fighting coercive attacks from government that could have been used to improve the quality of life of consumers.
So far, Uber has managed to avoid being banned by major US cities except Austin, Tx. Dayton’s taxi drivers want Dayton’s rulers to do the same.
Government doesn’t just target Uber. It targets all sharing apps including Uber’s competitors and home-sharing. Home-sharing app Airbnb is under attack because it threatens the politically connected hotel companies. The Mises Institute relates, “Late last week, Governor Cuomo signed legislation which made his position on the sharing economy painfully clear to New York City residents. Capitulating to the whims of the traditional hotel industry, Cuomo made history by adopting the nation’s strictest home-sharing regulations, essentially banning the home-sharing industry from operating within city limits.”
Similarly, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shut down flight-sharing apps. Government is about protecting the status quo from improvement by shutting down innovative competitors to politically-connected businesses. That’s why Massachusetts taxes ride-sharing to fund taxis.
Despite losing numerous regulatory battles, ride-sharing companies are clearly winning the war. Uber facilitated its billionth ride last December. Like the word google entered common lexicon as a specialized substitute for the word search, the word uber has already entered common lexicon as an alternative to the word taxi, and it’s done so more rapidly.
And Uber continues to innovate. It added technology to compete with buses. Lack of regulations in Pittsburgh convinced Uber to use the city to test its self-driving fleet. Its self-driving truck recently delivered 2,000 cases of beer.
We would live in a Jetsons’ world if we would just get government out of our way.

Originally published in the Dayton City Paper.

Happy New War

Happy New War
Conspiracy Theorist
by Mark Luedtke
publication date: 011315

With a doubt, the easiest prediction to make about 2015 is the US will continue its failed policy of perpetual war.
Recently, the press made a big deal about the US ending the war in Afghanistan. CBS News wrote: “The US Formally Ends the War in Afghanistan”. Hooray for President Obama. He’s earning his laughable Nobel Peace Prize. This sounds like a reason to celebrate. Except it’s not true. Even the propagandists at CBS were forced to admit: “The symbolic ceremony marked the end of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, which will transition to a supporting role with 13,500 soldiers, most of them American, starting Jan. 1.” The ceremony was symbolic in contrast to being real. Those 13,500 troops will continue combat.
Obama and his war profiteer allies never intended to end the war. In early December, lame duck Secretary of Defense Hagel announced the US would keep 1,000 more troops in Afghanistan than previously planned to continue the war. The Concord Monitor reports, “[Afghan President] Ghani said Afghanistan is determined to ensure that the Taliban is not able to reverse the security gains of recent years. ‘What we strive for is normalcy,’ he said.” I’m pretty sure former Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said the same thing a few years ago. I wonder if he’s still alive.
It wasn’t too long ago all US troops were committed to leaving Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But Obama didn’t want to end the war, so he negotiated an extension. MSNBC reported in May, “The U.S. intends to keep nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan after it formally ends the war later this year, Obama said. After that, the U.S. will continue an ‘advisory’ role in aiding the Afghan government, ending almost 13 years of war in the region.” “Nearly 10,000” turned into 13,500. Obama’s lies make bold headlines, and then he quietly increases the number of targets to be killed.
But the warmonger-in-chief isn’t satisfied with killing Americans and foreigners in Afghanistan. He wants to fight a third major war in Iraq. Every step he takes escalates the war as he builds support for it with reluctant Americans. While headlines proclaim Obama won’t put boots on the ground, it seems every week he quietly sends more troops to Iraq. Those US soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq know their boots are on the ground.
In November, Obama sent an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq, doubling their number. But that’s not enough. Secretary of State Kerry, who infamously voted for the last Iraq war before he voted against it, has requested funding for more troops from Congress. Our rulers intend to kill more Americans in Iraq making things worse, as if they haven’t killed enough and made things bad enough already. We can only wish for the good ol’, relatively peaceful rule of Saddam Hussein.
Obama is using the Vietnam playbook. He calls all these troops advisers. Anybody old enough to remember the Vietnam War will understand this lie. For those who haven’t learned about it - government schools won’t teach it - ask your parents. Better yet, ask a vet.
But perpetual war in the Middle East is old news. New wars are more exciting, and Obama delivers. He and his banker allies are instigating a new war against Russia on the Black Sea.
President Bush the Elder promised Mikhail Gorbachev the US would never extend NATO toward Russia. Consummate liar that he is, like all presidents are, he probably said it with a straight face. I bet he and the successive presidents have a great belly laugh together when they talk about it.
In the grand tradition of Democrat warmongers like Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton - all Democrat presidents since 1900 - Obama plans to send 150 US tanks to Russia’s border. The Straits Times reports, “The move is part of a US effort dubbed Operation Atlantic Resolve in the Baltic states and Poland to reassure allies anxious about a resurgent Russia, with American troops deploying for several months at a time to conduct joint exercises.”
The second stupidest place to fight a war after Afghanistan is the Balkans. Not satisfied with losing one war in the graveyard of empires, Obama wants to lose a second war in the next worst graveyard of empires.
And the US-backed fascist, puppet regime in Ukraine, installed by a US and European Union coup, stokes the flames while committing genocide against ethnic Russians and forcing Jews to flee. The British Broadcasting Corporation reports, “Ukraine's parliament has voted to drop the country's non-aligned status and work towards NATO membership.” Russia’s Foreign Minister called the vote counterproductive. That’s an understatement.
But the latest news says Obama secretly communicated to Russian President Putin, as he did with the Iranians to great success, I mean no avail. Putin is as susceptible to Obama’s purported charm as the oceans Obama promised to stop from rising.
But don’t despair if this isn’t enough war. Obama could invade Venezuela next.

Originally published in the Dayton City Paper.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Oops, They Did It Again

Oops, They Did It Again
Dayton’s rulers squander other people’s money
Conspiracy Theorist
By Mark Luedtke
Publication date: 112916

For anybody who exposes the petty and not so petty, but legal, graft that permeates government at all levels, Dayton’s rulers are the gift that keeps on giving. The Dayton Daily News reports on the latest development of its former property. “The city of Dayton will spend $294,500 to finish demolishing and cleaning up a downtown property that formerly housed the Dayton Daily News operations, in the hope of setting the stage for its redevelopment,” Cornelius Frolik recently wrote.
That might sound like good news for people who’ve driven past that eyesore for years, but it’s just another cover for armed robbery. Dayton’s greedy rulers aren’t spending their own money to clean up the property. They’re stealing money from taxpayers at the point of the government’s gun and using that money to clean up the property. This is Dayton’s super-mafia at its most transparent.
The big winner is Bladecutters Inc., the company rulers hired to clean up the property. A cynical person might wonder why a lawn care company got a contract to clean up a bunch of concrete. Enriching rulers and cronies, not providing services, is the function of government. This is a naked transfer of wealth from Dayton’s poor and middle class taxpayers to the wealthy owners of Bladecutters with Dayton’s rulers taking their cut. You have to pay to do business in their town or you end up wearing shiny bracelets with chains.
It’s instructive to recall how this boondoggle began. “An $18 million student housing complex is planned for downtown Dayton at the site of the former Dayton Daily News building and adjacent property, Cox Media Group Ohio announced Wednesday,” the DDN cooed in April, 2013. “Cox Media Group Ohio said it plans to sell the property to the nonprofit United Housing and Community Services Corporation of California, which would partner with Missouri-based Student Suites to build the 350-bed facility just a few blocks from Sinclair Community College.”
The project was a giveaway to already subsidized Sinclair. The DDN continued its propaganda, “‘This takes a block that has been neglected to a shameful extent and really gives it new life,’ said City Commissioner Matt Joseph. ‘Having residents there, having investment there … you’ve seen it before where a little bit of investment in one place really starts something.”
It continued, “‘The market is unquestionably there,’ [Dayton’s director of cronyism] Sorrell said. ‘The market studies that have been done over the years have shown a huge demand for student housing. … This project of 350 beds just scratches the surface of the demand.”
So much for socialist analysis and plans.
This project was shady from the beginning, but the DDN, which hilariously claims to hold government accountable, presented no skepticism or critical analysis of the plan. Cox donated $1 million, Dayton’s rulers donated $1 million of taxpayers’ money, and $13.5 million was to be financed through tax-exempt bonds. The developers only had to put up $2.5 million. No bankers would fund this deal because of the risk. Sweetheart deals like this are available only from governments to cronies.
Despite $1.2 million spent by city government, the project never got off the ground. “Sinclair Community College students this month were supposed to move into a 350-bed housing complex near campus that Dayton officials hoped would be a cornerstone of downtown revitalization,” admitted the DDN in August 2014. “But federal rules and financing problems have delayed the $18 million Student Suites project on Fourth Street, and the site sits empty, except for debris and a few idle pieces of construction equipment.”
The project is still stalled. Rulers are supposed to be smarter, wiser and more benevolent than the rest of us, that’s why they wield government’s power of coercion against us, but the pros from Dayton aren’t so smart after all.
Imagine you worked in the private sector, you were tasked with developing some property, and the project stalled for three and a half years despite you spending over $1 million. You’d be out of a job and rightly so. The marketplace doesn’t tolerate incompetence on that scale.
Government not only tolerates such incompetence it rewards it. During this debacle voters voted to make the temporary part of Dayton’s income tax permanent then voted to increase the income tax. They’d have been better off shooting themselves in the foot. Now Dayton’s rulers will squander more taxdollars by lining their own pockets and those of their cronies.
Never trust socialists or their propagandists.

Originally published in the Dayton City Paper.

I Support the Rule of Law

I Support the Rule of Law
Conspiracy Theorist
by Mark Luedtke
publication date: evergreen

You can’t turn on talk radio without somebody dishonestly declaring they support the rule of law. Every time a police officer kills a peaceful individual, government’s apologists start shouting from the rooftops that they support the rule of law. Maybe they don’t know what the rule of law means, but I doubt it. I think they’re lying.
Part of the problem is people have redefined the term over the centuries to make it confusing. The Free Dictionary states: “The rule of law is an ambiguous term that can mean different things in different contexts. In one context the term means rule according to law. No individual can be ordered by the government to pay civil damages or suffer criminal punishment except in strict accordance with well-established and clearly defined laws and procedures. In a second context the term means rule under law. No branch of government is above the law, and no public official may act arbitrarily or unilaterally outside the law. In a third context the term means rule according to a higher law. No written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice that transcend human legal systems.”
Although ambiguous itself, only the last definition make sense. An exaggerated example illustrates this point: if the government passed a law saying every firstborn child must be killed, nobody would believe that law was legitimate. Nobody would believe it was consistent with the rule of law. That’s because that law violates the rights of its victims. It empowers some to legally commit crimes against others. The law is a law of aggression.
This principle extends to all laws. All laws of aggression are illegitimate and violate the rule of law. Understanding this leads to a simple, unambiguous definition of the rule of law: all laws must apply equally to every person. This is the only definition of the rule of law that makes sense. Nobody can be allowed to steal. Nobody can be allowed to threaten peaceful people. Assault and murder are illegal for everybody. The only aggression allowed would be in defense of property, self or others.
Any law that empowers some to victimize others violates the rule of law. But every government in the world violates the rule of law. The rule of law has never existed in the United States. The vaunted Constitution violates the rule of law.
The fundamental property of modern states is they fund themselves through armed robbery. Governments pass laws legalizing armed robbery from all the people by government agents. They euphemistically call this armed robbery taxation. Pay your taxes or you will be attacked by armed men, robbed, kidnapped or killed. When done by organizations other than the government, people immediately recognize this is illegitimate, but because we’ve been brainwashed by government schools and government-controlled media for generations, most people don’t recognize it’s equally illegitimate when done by government, which is the supreme criminal organization in its geographical area.
The rule of law follows from the non-aggression principle which states nobody is allowed to aggress against the property of another. Property rights follow from self-ownership. Because your body naturally responds only to you, it’s self-evident you own yourself. It follows that any good you produce belongs to you. Any good you trade for belongs to you. You can claim ownership of any unclaimed property by homesteading it. You can consume your property, invest it or save it for future use. You can give your property away. You can form any voluntary associations or contracts you like and refuse any you don’t.
But under the rule of law, nobody may steal your property or force you to do something with it against your will. Government as we know it - the aggressive, thieving state - is incompatible with the rule of law.
Note that if we enjoyed the rule of law, John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and so many others would be alive today, or at least their killers would be punished. Like all human endeavors, justice under the rule of law would not be perfect, but because only the inherently corrupt state can create massive, systematic violence and miscarriages of justice, it would be superior to what we have today.
The rule of law provides a consistent framework for resolving disputes. Because the state creates systematic conflict and violence by claiming rights to the property of others, constantly changing the rules, and becoming ever more aggressive against the people it preys upon, a society based on the non-aggression principle and the rule of law would enjoy less conflict and violence, greater justice, and therefore greater productivity and well-being for everybody.
So the next time you hear some talking head proclaim he or she supports the rule of law, check if he isn’t just apologizing for government aggression and violence. Maybe you’ll see that person in a new light.
I support the rule of law. That means I reject the state’s systematic aggression, theft and violence. If we all supported the rule of law, we’d be much better off.