14 November 2012

Open letter opposing etolls

This is my letter of complaint regarding the etolls. I decided to replicate it here because I received no acknowledgement that my letter has in fact been received. Government seems hellbent on rubberstamping this bullshit through, so I am merely putting this out there so they can't act surprised when they sit with the tax revolt and the civil disobedience when they try to go through with this highway robbery.

If you'd also like to add your voice, feel free to get the details from the government gazette and email these clowns. Also please support Outa if you can. Government is a gang of thieves at large (apologies to Rothbard).





Kindly note that I am opposed to etolling and any means of tolling any public road. I feel that the fuel levy should be sufficient to maintain roads and that tolling is not an efficient nor desirable means to pay for road maintenance. The treasury should foot the bill, as we pay taxes for maintaining infrastructure. We do not pay taxes for upgrading official presidency residences like Nkandla, nor do we pay taxes for petty lawsuits to protect the 'dignity' of a certain privileged elite. Taxes should go towards the benefit of the public. Everyone benefits when government does its job of maintaining public resources.

I am opposed to the user pay principle, because many road users from as far as Durban and even Cape Town do in fact use the Gauteng roads to transfer goods into and out of the province.  Furthermore, if one would like to maintain the user pay principle, then ALL of the road users - including ministers of parliament and public transport users - should pay for the privilege of using the road. A principle is only valid if it counts for everyone. There can be no exceptions, because if there are, the principle does not hold.

Since the government has been collecting fuel levies for quite some time, from all users, by means of the national fuel levy, there should have been enough funding available to maintain the road. The fact that there may not be, is not a valid reason to fleece the public some more. Rather, it is reason enough for the powers that be to abdicate.

In addition, I feel that the government is being dishonest here. We were not given 30 days to comment on the tolls, we were given less. Also, we should have been given this opportunity BEFORE any construction on the gantries started, not AFTER they have been constructed. Most of  the costs go towards paying for toll collecting fees (85c out of each Rand according to public information sessions), so this is ridiculous. These are externalities and do not relate directly to building and maintaining the road at all. Also, the tariffs are allegedly not new, this according to the Justice Project SA.

Finally, I feel that government should be responsible with managing public resources. It was irresponsible to gamble public pensions on this 'white elephant'. The road should have been maintained already, we already paid to maintain it and this was arguably the least efficient means that government could have gone about maintaining the road. Government should foot the bill and stop fleecing the public every time it makes a mistake.

26 August 2012

Money versus 'Resource based economics'

There's still mass confusion ruling in the midst of the Zeitgeist movement and the Venus Project zealots. The Zeitgeist movement thinks we do not need money because a fraction of the monetary system we currently have is fractional reserve banking, while the Venus Project thinks it's easy to do a bit of finely tuned central planning and cater for everyone's subjective evaluation of goods and services. Here are some basic questions about money that I tried to answer:

How is money generated?

Money is a medium of exchange. It is generated by manufacturing it, just like any other product. Unlike any other product, money (as in currency) has the highest marketability and serves as the greatest store of value. Any currency has to have these 2 properties. I'll illustrate this with an egg:  Suggest that you are an egg farmer.

Highest marketability merely means that everyone is happier when you pay them in money than when you pay them in eggs. On your egg farm, your workers will be happier when you pay them in money than when you hand them a tray of eggs for a day's work. In turn, you can get eggs with money, but you can't usually trade eggs for something else in the barter or direct exchange way.

A store of value means you get a bit more time to decide what you'd like to trade. This means you aren't limited by how long your eggs stay fresh in order to make purchases in the direct exchange/barter way, but you can shove all the money under your mattress for a rainy day.

As you can see, our current system separates the basic economic principle of exchange from money entirely. In short, 'let them eat credit'. You don't exchange your eggs on your egg farm for a car with money serving as a convenient medium of exchange. Instead, your car is usually bundled with financial services, guarantees that you won't default, monthly instalments and insurance to the extent that it's more about currency than exchanging goods and services for other goods and services.

For this reason, amongst others, the Rothbards of the world believe we should stick to an objective standard for money. The first known cases of money did this, with measures of silver equal to a certain amount of grain. Which leads us to your next question:

What conditions exist when this money is created?

It varies. Money as in a medium of exchange is usually created whenever you have something that I value and I have something you value, but we don't value them equally and we find something that has a higher marketability and serves as a store of value. This could be anything, from the Roman Empire's silver coins (which served as currency as far as India and existed side-by-side with bartering), to cowrie shells, which was the currency of choice in Africa for hundreds of years. By the way, cowrie shells also cast doubt in the notion that there is no empirical observation of currency taking root, besides the fact that debt is also currency.

The exact material used for money depends on many factors. In history, the most common denominator is usually some precious metal, like gold. This is because it is scarce, its purity can be determined objectively and it can be weighed objectively, so it serves as a standard. I still think we should use beer as our currency. Often, people were not happy with the authorities meddling with the purity of commodity money, which brings us to:

Who owns the 'right' to create money?

Everyone does. At least that's the ideal of people like Friedrich Hayek. This also happens whenever a certain currency is inflated to such an extent that its marketability is no longer more significant than something else, like the Zimbabwean Dollar that was neglected in favour of American Dollars, or mobile phone credit that is used as currency in Iraq. It's also the idea of bitcoin and other newer versions of digital currency. In reality, the authorities keep a tight grip on money creation as it's easy to launder money, in which case they lose out on taxes, or to counterfeit money, in which case we may be defrauded. 

What purpose does interest serve?

Without interest, money lenders have no incentive to lend to those who need money. This is an awkward position for many small businesses and the poorest of the poor, many of whom are women in impoverished communities building businesses with loan shark money. I'd think interest serves everyone's interests.

Without currency there is no economy!!!! So why are we not taught about currency and the creation thereof?

I'd take that one step further: Without currency, there is no civilisation. We live in the information age, where we are quite capable to teach ourselves nearly anything we'd like to know. We do have currency so going back to a stage where we no longer have currency is not progress, it's regression. If anything, we'd have to invent and embrace the next stage of our evolution. In other words, build the future.

25 June 2012

An open letter to an open letter to Mike Basson of Avastar

This is an open letter to an open letter to Mike Basson (owner of Avastar). Avastar is a new club that is built around the idea of emulating theme clubs on the Vegas strip. I haven't been there, but I couldn't help but notice how the owner did a great job at marketing his venture through social media, particularly with an Avastar Youtube video.

You would gather from this blog that I am a big fan of cheese, which is why I like heavy metal and horror films. I also like corny cheese which is why I hope to visit Avastar in the near future. But a couple of minor points came to mind while reading the open letter linked to above.

"From a Capetonian perspective... "

This is a dead give-away that this is not really a Capetonian perspective. Real Capetonians are wilfully ignorant of anywhere in the country beyond the mountains that the eye can see. It's only political refugees from Gauteng who went to Model C schools and then to UCT who feel the need to point out to the rest of the country that they are Capetonian. Real Capetonians won't speak to the rest of the country out of principle because true Capetonians are Trustafarians

The Trustafarians even put a mountain between them and the other people who live in Cape Town. Despite these measures, meeting a true Capetonian is not as hard as it sounds. If you'd like to meet a native Capetonian, you'd have to resort to these two simple steps:
  1. Find a native Capetonian.
  2. Convince them that you are not from beyond the mountains.
adolf hipster capetonian douchebag
This is a reasonable approximation of what a Capetonian looks like in the field.


 The former is not as hard as it sounds, you just need to follow that distinguished Hospice thrift shop smell. The latter is easily achieved by taking on the appearance of a recently mugged and desensitised golf enthusiast. This is to say you need a grandpa hat but be sans golf gear and sans caddy. Caddies are very Boere-Swazi and we only still keep them in Gauteng. I'm not sure why we do as they frequently make off with our golf gear.

The final cog in the wheel is that you must use the Zen approach. This means using the age old reverse psychosis technique. To clarify, if you were not Capetonian, the obvious thing to do would be to look, smell and feel like a thrift shop before you approach people in an unassuming manner to meet them. 


In Gauteng, we do this mostly to show that we are unarmed. This is so we don't get shot in the face by people who assume unassuming approachers are in fact trying to take their golf gear by force. In Cape Town, you must appear like you are merely part of the scenery and you're trying to avoid Those Who Walk Behind The Mountains. Sooner or later, you would bump into a Capetonian and you'd start talking. Good locations for these chance meetings are recently gentrified neighbourhoods with a few remaining buildings on the verge of getting demolished.

The reason I'm mentioning this is that Cape Town's little known and even less frequented underbelly has scummy joints the likes of which Mike Basson can only dream of with his Avatar blue fur wet dream.


I intend on visiting Avastar in the near future. I have to try a cocktail on a goddess.

09 May 2012

Drinking doesn't solve problems?

They say that alcohol doesn't solve any problems. As a septic sceptic, I beg to differ. We've already seen how prosperous our society would be if we stopped this Occupy Wall Street nonsense, stopped polluting our minds with Zeitgeist films and just started using beer as our currency. But the problem solving solution that is alcohol is even more powerful than that.

Guinness. Because drinking Guinness is good for you.

The need for Student's t-distribution

Suggest that you work for Guinness brewery. You are in charge of monitoring the quality of the barley. Let's suggest that they're precious with their barley and do not wish for you to fill their quincunx with barley every time you are meant to evaluate the amount of blarney in the barley. 


A quincunx, or bean machine. Because flicking beans is good for you.

It appears that they're more choosy about applying one of Francis Galton's inventions to barley than they are about applying one of his others (eugenics) to the barley. They're even more choosy to allow you to sample Guinness, so you're stuck at your wits' end. What to do? Well, if your name is William Sealy Gosset, you just let your wits end a little further.


What is Student's t-distribution?

I have no idea, but that has not stopped me before. We know that Mr Gosset has to separate the good barley from the blarney barley. We also know that Mr Gosset cannot sample too much barley, let alone sample too much Guinness. We need to determine the average quality of the barley. That is, given that the barley has been sampled quite a bit so even though we do not know the standard deviation of the barley, we assume a normal distribution. And from a few samples, we estimate the average quality of the barley, or the mean.

William Sealy Gosset, who used Student as a pseudonym. He got tired of flicking barley.

Student's t-distribution estimates the mean when you do not know the standard deviation but you're fairly certain that you have a normal distribution. The more samples you take, the closer you get to the real quality of the barley. At least, that was Mr Gosset's excuse to sample more Guinness.

Student's t-distribution can also be used to determine other parameters of the population of barley, but the long and short of it is that you do not have plenty of samples to work from and you'd like to jump to conclusions so you can spend more time drinking Guinness.


How does Student's t-distribution work?

A normal distribution is what you'd get if you flicked your beans into the quincunx all day. The standard deviation is how far your beans get flicked from the centre. We assume the same bell shape for our distribution, but we do not flick any beans. No, we get Mr Gosset to rub a few beans between his fingers and Robert is your mother's brother. 

Now we have flicked enough beans to know we'd have a normal distribution and we'd like to know from sampling a few beans how high the middle bar of the bean machine gets stacked. Thanks to Student's t-distribution, we can work it out. And they say that alcohol doesn't solve problems!

02 May 2012

Pretoria is Pretoria

I don't particularly care what you want to call a street. All I know is each time the Pretoria municipality (I am uncertain of its name at this stage) tries to change names, they're upsetting enough people to such an extent that there is legal action.

Some Boer commando that apparently never happened in South Africa. Because we all know history in South Africa started with Apartheid, right?


Nation building my lillywhite ass

This cannot possibly be indicative of 'nation building' when the municipality alienates its own people to such an extent each time. Who cares what the road is called? A rose by any other name and all that. Fact remains service delivery has not exactly improved, and isn't this what we pay rates and taxes for after all?

It appears that the municipality is fighting the law of identity. Well, good luck to them.

On another note, a list of proposed Pretoria name changes indicates the following:

All I can make of this is that there's a guy named Steve Biko who has to tie the shoes of the mayor every morning, because clearly sher is retarded (sher is my third-person, singular personal pronoun that indicates 'he or she', in case you were wondering).

What is the point of taking three distinct roads and naming them all the same name? What exactly is the point of taking another road and splitting it up into four different sections, each with its own name? Surely, you could've left that road in tact (or split it into Church and Steve Biko, for argument's sake) and then you could've named the three similar roads unique names? Goes to show, there's no rational thought behind the name changes. It's all about ideology or (idle-LOL-ogy).

Boer is beautiful too

Perhaps Steve was right: Black is beautiful. But Boer can be beautiful too, and just like people still refer to Istanbul as Constantinople colloquially, people are going to refer to Pretoria as Pretoria for centuries to come. Name changing to enforce your hegemony is not particularly effective, so why not focus on potholes and service delivery? You know, the reasons why we pay the municipality?

20 April 2012

Sexual Violence against Women in South Africa

Regular readers would know by now that feminism is somewhat of a whipping boy for me. This is part of why my knee-jerk reaction to the sophistry that rape in South Africa is perpetuated by the usual suspects of patriarchy, men's sexist attitudes and the terrible Protestant capitalist upbringing forced upon us - not to mention that age old scapegoat The Media and its photoshopped princesses - is one of disbelief.

How sexist am I? Apparently somewhere between male and female hostile sexists, but less benevolently sexist than most people who participated in the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory questionnaire.

In the nature-versus-nurture debate, I put more stock in sociobiology than in the products of society theory. Putting the knee-jerk behind me, I decided to suspend judgement and look at the data before I chop of my genitals and become a nun (or a none?). As before, regardless of what most people would have you believe about feminists and their hysteria, and regardless of what most of them rationalise lies behind the serious issues, we do have a serious problem on our hands in South Africa. We need to do something about the fear that women in South Africa live with - a realistic fear of violence and particularly rape.

How do we know that our culture produces rapists?

This statement - widely believed by feminists (their labelling, not mine) - assumes several initial points:
  1. South African cultures condone or promote rape.
  2. Rapists are mostly socially constructed. That is, a rapist is someone whose actions are instigated and controlled to such an extent by his cultural milieu that committing rape is somewhat of an inevitability.
  3. The prevalent attitude of South African men is sexist
  4. There is a link between this generally sexist attitude of men and our high incidence of rape.
Unlike what one would expect from a cultural milieu that socially constructs beasts of sexual violence, most men in South Africa are not rapists. This presents a problem to the analysis that we're merely suffering from a patriarchy hangover. Paradoxically, this fact does not fill me with joy because it means solving the problem is far more difficult than handing baby boys Barbie dolls and Cosmopolitan magazines to play with in their formative years.

 

If not for sexism, why do South African women live in fear?

I don't believe that sexism is appreciated or condoned by our culture. Of course, there are so many cultures in South Africa that such a statement - and the statement that our culture produces rapists - is essentially meaningless. I only have anecdotal evidence to go by, but believe me telling a girl to knit you a sweater and make you a sandwich will not win you many friends of either gender in my circles.

However, the high incidence of rape in South Africa is somewhat worsened by culture. In particular, there are some superstitious beliefs that hold having sex with a virgin will cure you from AIDS. There are also cases of corrective rape, designed to cure unfortunate lesbians of their preference for women. Most rapists are likely to be male and between the ages of 20 and 40. Furthermore, alcohol and spousal abuse are factors that make your chances of getting raped more.

 

Is rape a gender issue?

Of course such a statement is anathema to me. There is a difference between sex (broadly male, female and other) and gender. Gender is tied with particular social and cultural roles. Suffice to say I am not familiar with a cultural practice in South Africa that condones rape - bar the mentioned voodoo sangoma witchdoctor cures for AIDS and lesbianism. Also bar the lip service that some establishments like the church pay to condemning rape while their servants get caught in the act of child abuse a little too often to lend much weight to their official dogma.

Culturally, the official dogma is still that rape is something that is frowned upon - to say the least. Plus, many men are raped in prison too. However, for the most part, rape victims are female (of any gender) and rape perpetrators are men (who don't deserve their gender bits). I do not believe that we live in a culture whereby men's attitudes are mostly sexist. Of course such attitudes exist, but not disproportionately to the rest of the world. The rest of the world doesn't have a rape problem of our proportions, which again contrasts to the expected situation if rape were merely a result of anachronistic gender attitudes and bias. Furthermore, I couldn't find a study that measured the gender attitudes of South African men. The only stats I could find refer to rape victims and their terrible ordeals.

Whether you put stock in the whole patriarch equals rapist conjecture or not, the harsh reality is getting raped is not a realistic fear most men have to live with - not even in Cape Town's Pink Triangle. Even worse, most women in South Africa are living with a realistic fear that they could be raped. And yes, it does get worse: When women are raped, they are mostly too afraid and ashamed to report the crime to the authorities.

As ridiculous as most humanities subjects are to those of my Vulcan ilk, the concerns raised do not strike me as being ridiculous or based on hysteria. This judging by the testimony of those working in the field of sexual violence, dealing with rape victims on a daily basis, whether you buy into their ideology or not. 

 

What can we do to remedy the situation?

Even if rape in South Africa did result from our cultural milieu, fixing that requires a generation or two and it's impractical to construct a measure of the change or a measure of the results of such change. We would never know if we're socially constructing the right kinds of rape-free genders. We need something that we can do right now to make women feel safer in our society. While most men are not rapists, statistically, most of us should be familiar with a rapist. We cannot afford that rape is something other men do and we can do nothing about. Furthermore, most rape victims know their rapist fairly well. I think a good place to start is with ensuring that women who were raped are not afraid of reporting the crime and have some faith that they can talk to someone who will be able to help.

Another good place to start is to have a Designated Dave kind of character to help prevent rape. Just like Designated Dave takes care of the driving while you take care of the drinking, this character takes care of your drink when you go to the bathroom and generally ensures that whatever you get up to by means of sharing DNA samples is consensual.

What do you think?

Please feel free to leave me a comment so we can find a working solution. As someone who does not associate with feminism or any ideology except Incertitude, I would like to become familiar with working solutions. For the time being, the only such solution I have found is chemical castration.

Sources

I have linked to sources throughout the text. I did my best to sidestep the ideological landmines, but the best sources on rape I could find deserve another mention:
  • Understanding Prejudice, a site dedicated to the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory. This is a questionnaire (survey to you Merkins) designed to determine how much you hate sex. I mean, gender.
  • Violence against women, a World Health Organisation study of 2011. Yes, not something from the Middle Ages I'm afraid.

19 February 2012

For Whom the Bell Curve tolls

I've been procrastinating with debates of a rather dismal level. Some of my trolling efforts may be witnessed at the Occupy South Africa or Operation Ubuntu facebook page. It turns out there are a handful of dyed in the wool NOT reds who are spawning Occupy protest pages at a rate that would almost have gullible people believe that there's a massive uprising in the country.

What does equitable distribution mean?


From one of the commentators:

Direct Democracy is a socio-political element, Distribution is a socio-economic concept. Distribution is a seperate concept to that of Direct Democracy. Currently the distribution of resources cannot exceed the capacity. But current distribution is far from equitable, hence some have far more and others have none. The imbalance in distribution is caused by the system deployed to bridge individuals with resources. The current system is a one size fits all system with salaried employment, or profit motive at it's core. We are proposing a new resource distribution system in which the actual requirements of individuals is the determinant, from a base of acceptance that all humans have equal claim to all resources. Don't confuse the system of distribution with the system of decision making and planning.

The obvious apprehensions are:

  1. How does one exceed distribution beyond capacity in any system?

  2. What is an equitable distribution?

  3. In what way is the current system profit-driven, when it appears that a lack of access to credit is the main concern for much of this occupy movement? Most people do not want to earn profit, they just want to share in what they perceive to be spoils.



It appears that income inequality is one of those things that causes people to yearn for a bed of Procrustes scenario whereby any loose ends are chopped off and piled on the big general resource pile to ensure a more equitable distribution. Most of the movement appears to put great stock in the labour theory of value, so why would anyone want more currency that is already decoupled from an underlying commodity like gold, beer or labour? These grievances aside, I poked some fun with a reply:

For Whom the Bell Curve Tolls


All humans do not have equal claim to all resources. For example, I do not have equal claim to the grapes growing on Rondebosch wine farm than the next bergie has.
  • For one, while I am a dipsomaniac enthusiast of their products, I still have most of my own teeth.

  • Secondly, I have not nurtured their vineyard and I haven't worked on my tan under the whip of their gentle but firm foreman.

I also have no need for kiddie seats in restaurants, wheelchair access ramps, ATMs where I have to duck or the warnings on coffee containers that the contents may be hot.

At first, this was perplexing, but I soon realised being hot is just one of those things that one could expect when one orders a drink that ordinary is served with a temperature on the tall and thin side of the thermometer. Clearly, there is a great deal of inequity in this world that goes beyond mere income distribution or access to resources.

Pray tell, which god may we thank for the greater glory of the auto-mobile seat belt and would you duct tape one to every rattling public transportation device? What if I've voted in a directly democratic system that I think seat belts are a terrible idea and we should neglect them to cull the herd so the aggregate of height increases to the point where we may lift the ATMs off the ground just far enough so it can look me in the eye while it throws money at me, because when I look down on it throwing money at me I feel like one of the ecdysiastic profession? Now, by show of hands or via the short message telegram it was determined and decreed that we shalt install seat belts everywhere, but I am not happy with this arrangement?

Furthermore, the villagers decided that I am to manufacture these seat belts, because when I was working on the vineyards a lot of wine went missing - and let's face it, everyone wants to work on the vineyards while nobody really wants to perform the grunt work like making seat belts. Now this musical chair labour union has gathered enough dirty hands to sentence me to seat belt and other safety paraphernalia construction.

Would you wear a seat belt manufactured by a disgruntled worker with an axe to grind because you've been rolling in the hay on the wine farm while I was left entirely in command of your safety precautions?


A Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. Better whole than on the dole, I say.

I do realise that you've jumped the gun into the abstract while granting the specific details none more than a cursory glance. For this reason, I implore you to grant them some further attention. While your mechanisations and imaginations may seem grand (and they are grand), ultimately you want to deploy this castle in the sky in terms of bricks and mortar on the ground. This will start with the shiny things like gold, Rolls Royce cars and a few hidden teeth, but short before long you're going to reach the point where everyone has deconstructed the Rolls into nuts and bolts and are now wearing the bling, or one person has a Rolls while another has a Volkswagen Golf and since you've taken money out of the equation, Golf boy better have a few fetching family members or he would have naught to trade for the Rolls.

Oh, and this little minor detail of private property that you've abolished too, so nobody really has any claim to ownership of anything even after they voted who gets what. What do we do now? Do we play musical chairs with the Rolls too?

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