Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Criminal Government Agency Steals $59K; Kidnaps an Honest Working Man.

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US government at its finest. Burglarizing and kidnapping a hard working dishwasher who worked at about $6 an hour for 11 years to save $59,000 for his family in Guatemala. His “crime”? Failing to declare to the US government that he was traveling with more than $10,000 in cash on his person. Would they have still busted his ass if that money was in the form of a traveler’s check, or a money order?

Fuck the government. Stealing and kidnapping is evil and unjustifiable, regardless of where the victim was born, and regardless of what shiny badges and official sounding titles the thieves/kidnappers possess:

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- For 11 years, Pedro Zapeta, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, lived his version of the American dream in Stuart, Florida: washing dishes and living frugally to bring money back to his home country.

Pedro Zapeta, an illegal immigrant, managed to save $59,000 while working as a dishwasher for 11 years.
1 of 2 Two years ago, Zapeta was ready to return to Guatemala, so he carried a duffel bag filled with $59,000 -- all the cash he had scrimped and saved over the years -- to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

But when Zapeta tried to go through airport security, an officer spotted the money in the bag and called U.S. customs officials.

"They asked me how much money I had," Zapeta recalled, speaking to CNN in Spanish.

He told the customs officials $59,000. At that point, U.S. customs seized his money, setting off a two-year struggle for Zapeta to get it back.

Zapeta, who speaks no English, said he didn't know he was running afoul of U.S. law by failing to declare he was carrying more than $10,000 with him. Anyone entering or leaving the country with more than $10,000 has to fill out a one-page form declaring the money to U.S. customs.

Officials initially accused Zapeta of being a courier for the drug trade, but they dropped the allegation once he produced pay stubs from restaurants where he had worked. Zapeta earned $5.50 an hour at most of the places where he washed dishes. When he learned to do more, he got a 25-cent raise.

After customs officials seized the money, they turned Zapeta over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The INS released him but began deportation proceedings. For two years, Zapeta has had two attorneys working pro bono: one on his immigration case, the other trying to get his money back.

"They are treating me like a criminal when all I am is a working man," he said.

Zapeta's story became public last year on CNN and in The Palm Beach Post newspaper, prompting well-wishers to give him nearly $10,000 -- money that now sits in a trust.

Robert Gershman, one of Zapeta's attorneys, said federal prosecutors later offered his client a deal: He could take $10,000 of the original cash seized, plus $9,000 in donations as long as he didn't talk publicly and left the country immediately.

Zapeta said, "No." He wanted all his money. He'd earned it, he said.

Now, according to Gershman, the Internal Revenue Service wants access to the donated cash to cover taxes on the donations and on the money Zapeta made as a dishwasher. Zapeta admits he never paid taxes.

CNN contacted the U.S. Attorneys office in Miami, U.S. Customs and the IRS about Zapeta's case. They all declined to comment.

Marisol Zequeira, an immigration lawyer, said illegal immigrants such as Zapeta have few options when dealing with the U.S. government.

"When you are poor, uneducated and illegal, your avenues are cut," he said.

On Wednesday, Zapeta went to immigration court and got more bad news. The judge gave the dishwasher until the end of January to leave the country on his own. He's unlikely to see a penny of his money.

"I am desperate," Zapeta said. "I no longer feel good about this country."

Zapeta said his goal in coming to the United States was to make enough money to buy land in his mountain village and build a home for his mother and sisters. He sent no money back to Guatemala over the years, he said, and planned to bring it all home at once.

At Wednesday's hearing, Zapeta was given official status in the United States -- voluntary departure -- and a signed order from a judge. For the first time, he can work legally in the U.S.

By the end of January, Zapeta may be able to earn enough money to pay for a one-way ticket home so the U.S. government, which seized his $59,000, doesn't have to do so.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Brief Defense of Individualism

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Also posted on my personal blog, The Rational Animal.

Individualism is one of those words that gets thrown around like so much confetti and is so abused that it is easy to forget its true meaning and the origins of the concept it embodies. For example, let's briefly examine the Webster's definition of individualism:

1:a : (1) a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount; also : conduct guided by such a doctrine
(2) the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals

1:b : a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests; also : conduct or practice guided by such a theory

It is my opinion that the various definitions for individualism that Webster's provides us manage to skirt around the edges of what the concept embodies without ever, in full detail, explaining the core concept that underlies all of them.

It is my opinion that the core concept of individualism is this; that human beings are individual, autonomous entities with separate minds, wills, values, and needs. I believe that it is from this fact that most other definitions of individualism can be derived.

One can use human anatomy as a brief but effective way to demonstrate the validity of this concept. Can you imagine any single human organ that would be capable of behaving or even surviving autonomously from the rest of the human form? Certainly we don't look at a small portion of nerve tissue in a petri dish and conclude that it has feelings and aspirations and the ability to survive.

It is only when all of the human organs combine that they form an autonomous whole, an entity capable of providing for its own survival, having its own thoughts and values, and exercising its will.

Collectivists attempt to take this a step further. Man is a social animal, they say (and they are right), and needs others for his survival. From this they attempt to conclude that even a man himself is not an autonomous whole but instead consider him just another unit in a greater superorganism of "society".

The problem with this argument is that it lies on false premises; clearly a single human being can operate independently of other human beings. While we can all benefit greatly from social interaction, it is not a base requirement of survival. Our needs and desires and values all exist separately from the human beings around us.

While a single neuron in a petri dish does not have values and cannot behave as an autonomous whole, a single man clearly can. This is where the collectivist argument falls apart.

So I reiterate my basic concept of individualism; that human beings are individual, autonomous entities with separate minds, wills, values, and needs.

Let's examine each definition provided by Webster's, one by one, using the concept of individualism I just defined to demonstrate how it leads to the various permutations provided by Webster's.

1:a : (1) a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount

I would firstly point out that there is a false premise in this definition. By declaring that the "interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount" it is assumed that interests outside of individuals exist and can be ranked, in an ethical hierarchy, above or below the interests of individuals.

As I discussed above, only single men are autonomous wholes, not a collective of men, so in the end all interests are the interests of either individuals or nobody. The interests of a given group of men are nothing more than the shared interests of multiple individuals.

Now if we interpret "the individual" to mean "me, as opposed to other individuals" the definition becomes more clear. In this sense, this definition is roughly the definition of ethical egoism.

Let's look again at how I defined individualism; that human beings are individual, autonomous entities with separate minds, wills, values, and needs.

Once one recognizes that he is an individual human being with separate values from other human beings, it would follow that the values he should pursue are his own, derived from the application of reason to the sensory data he gathers from the world around him.

In fact, since an individual is autonomous and self-sufficient, reliance on others for one's survival rather than pursuing one's own values is an act of potential self-destruction. Once the men that such an individual is leeching off of withdraw their resources, such a man would quickly die.

Now let's look at the second definition.

1:a : (2) the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals

While is is extremely close to the definition I provided for individuals, it fails to include that this results from the existence of individuals as autonomous, self-sufficient entities. A collectivist might interpret "individual" to mean "autonomous entity" and, having already concluded that the society superorganism is the only such entity, use this as an argument in favor of his position.

This is why it is vital to explain up front why individual human beings are individuals and no group also qualifies as such (Corporate personhood anyone?).

1:b : a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests

This is almost a definition of libertarianism, but a bit too vague to really be able to say that it is libertarianism. In fact, most modern politicians would probably claim to embrace this, although none of them believe it.

Once again, though, we see how the recognition of individual human beings as autonomous entities naturally leads to the conclusion drawn in the definition. After all, if there are no such things as collectives and there are only individual needs and interests, who could logically propose any system other than one that maintains "the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests."

I think the definition of individualism is important because it is the metaphysical base from which we draw ideas like ethical egoism, voluntaryism, and libertarianism. One must recognize the individual human being, especially oneself, as an autonomous, self-sufficient entity, and if one does so consistently, the rest will follow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Least Favorite Religion

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Protecting Our Civil Libeties

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Police at their best:

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Secret is Out!

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It appears that someone suspects a bit of anarchy lurking within the Ron Paul message. Union Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper, posted an article online about the GOP debate that took place a few days ago. In the comments section of that article, we find one reader's dire warning:

Ron Paul is espousing extremely Libertarian points of view. While I have nothing against the Libertarians and I agree with them on many issues, Ron Paul goes to an extreme. In my view a vote for Ron Paul is a vote for anarchy (both here and abroad).
- Brian, Manchester, NH

God damn it, I hope he's right.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Rodeo!

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Just for fun, here is a video of me riding the mechanical bull at Saddle Ranch in Universal Studios, Hollywood.

Happy Labor Day!