Tag Archives: zombies

The 90% Tax

Every American who believes in limited government, the freedom of contracts, and the protection of citizens against arbitrary government taxation, should support the 90% tax on TARP-funded bonuses

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The greatest threat we face is rent-harvesting by large companies. Large companies have begun using their political influence to survive. GM and Chrysler are welfare argencies. AIG and Citi are zombie financial institutions. These companies are now farmers of corruption, harvesters of unjust enrichment.

Some degree of political corruption, favoritism, and lobbying has always made things move smoother in Washington. This is to be expected. But in spite of this, it once was possible for large companies with political friends to go bankrupt.

Enron is gone, because Enron is bankrupt. Enron is bankrupt because, even in spite of having personal connections to President Bush, at the time we still lived in a market economy. It was once possible for large companies to go bankrupt.

That is no longer possible. Welfare agencies like GM and Chrysler, and zombie institutions like AIG and Citi, now exist to convert political influence into operating capital and stock-holder value. At least as far as these politically powerful branches of the federal government go, the market economy is completely broken. They now operate in the world of political favoritism, where their lobbyists and connections help them burn through the Treasury’s cash.

Supporters of GM, Chrysler, AIG, and Citi, private companies that can only keep operating because of generous and limitless hand-outs from the federal government, argue that these institutions are too important to fail. Very well. We have lived in a world of companies that are too important to fail all of our lives. In fact, we have a word for such companies: utilities.

Unless we want these raids on the Treasury by big business to continue, we have to turn these zombie companies into utilities. Further, we should do so in a way that prevents anyone of the corporate officers and employees whose buy-in was vital for the raid on the treasury (the CEO, the high-ranking officials, high-paid employees who, if they had left, would have crippled the company, etc.) from benefiting.

In an ideal world, we would simply pass the ‘Utilization Act of 2009,’ in which AIG, Citi, GM, Chrysler, and the rest would be turned into utilities, the common-stock zeroed-out, all contracts renegotiated, and so on. Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world. The next best thing is to so cripple the ability of these zombie utilites to operate in the free-market that they become wards of the state, utilities who cannot function independent of the government and who lose any ability to earn a profit beyond what is given to them by the government.

In other words, those welfare offices (GM and Chrysler) and post office savings institutions (AIG and Citi) should be run along the lines of the Department of Health and Human Services, where the employees and officers are public servants who are remunerated and a public scale.

The 90% tax on bonuses paid from TARP-funded companies is a good step. So would a 90% tax on salaries paid from TARP-funded companies. And a 90% tax on capital gains from TARP-funded companies. The 90% tax on AIG bonuses is as good as we can get now to a Utilization Act, and may lead to further crippling of these companies in the future.

We have had 90% tax rates before. We have these so-called ‘retroactive taxes’ (meaning taxes that are collected for the tax year they are written in) all the time. There is no constitutional objection to the 90% tax on zombie bonuses. This 90% tax is not an enemy of the free market, but a friend of the free market.

The tax on zombie companies — this de facto Utilization Act — helps protect real contracts. All contracts rely on a functioning price system, a functioning market economy, to mean anything. But AIG, Citi, GM, and Chrysler do not live in the world of contracts. They live in the world of political favoritism. If AIG/Citi/GM/Chrysler get away with this rent-harvesting of the Treasury, it will encourage others to do so. Allowing these zombie institutions to get away with it make contracts meaningless, because only the politically weak are held to them, while the politically powerful can expect bailouts to save them from any inconvenient debt.

The tax on zombie companies – this de facto Utilization Act – helps protect us against arbitrary taxation. Whatever ‘taxes’ AIG ever paid has been more than made up for in federal bailout money. Taxes, in a TARP-funded world, are a simple accounting fiction. They may drive the politically weak to bankruptcy, of course. But for the politically powerful, like AIG, Citi, GM, and Chrysler, they do not matter. If you have political friends, you make money. If you don’t, you don’t. In the world of zombie companies, taxation is always arbitrary, and what the IRS says you owe has no relationship to whether or not you will receive or send cash to the federal government at the end of the year (if you are politically powerful).

There is only the defense of limited government the power of contracts, and the protection of the citizens against arbitrary taxation. In order to protect our economy, our contracts, and our tax system, Congress must impose the 90% tax on AIG bonuses.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

This is going to be the greatest book ever:

I’ll admit it — I’m a message board stalker. Anytime I get a “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” Google Alert (any author who tells you they don’t obsessively scour the internet for the slightest mention of their books is a filthy, filthy liar) I swoop in and scroll straight down to the reader comments. As I mentioned yesterday, people’s reactions to the book’s existence (no one’s actually read it yet) tends to break one of two ways. On one side, you have the “awesome; this is full of win; I hate Jane Austen but I would totally read this” crowd. On the other, you have the “why? Why would you tamper with something as beautiful…as pure…as perfect as Pride and Prejudice?”

Well, I’ll tell you why: because it’s funny. Because the idea of uptight, early 19th Century aristocrats parading around in their finery, attending stuffy dances and taking tea in the midst of an all-out war with the undead struck me as really, really funny. And because the thought of Elizabeth Bennet striking down hordes of zombies with a Katana sword struck me as awesome. That’s the best answer I’ve got

Hopefully it will take Zombie mayhem as seriously at World War Z. Hat-tip to the Weekly Standard.

Kill Zombies

Slashdot links to two amazingly interesting posts, “Owning Kraken Zombies, a Detailed Discussion” and “Kraken Botnet Infiltration.” Kraken is a botnet, or network of infested computers, that is used for bad beeds such as password cracking and distributed denial of service attacks.

The researchers discovered a way to kill Kraken, limiting the zombie infestation. As the researchers note, “What if that target system is responsible for someones life support?”

The law should allow for zombies to be lobotomized at will, and should protect those who do so. Any bad effects should be the responsibility of those who care and give support for the zombies — their system administrators — and note anti-zombie “concerned local citizens.”

That’s the 2nd Amendment applied to cyberspace. That’s the American Way.

Protect the country against Zombies

Another day gone back. Another day without a comprehensive zombie-defense plan from any of the major candidates.

Man warns City Council of possible zombie attack – Salt Lake Tribune
Wyndham-Price even paused to joke that Georgia’s saltwater taffy is better than Utah’s. “I hope that is not an ad hominem,” he shrugged.
Then he got specific and all reason helicoptered into the ether.
City Creek needs an emergency-preparedness plan, he demanded, against zombies.
Zombies are fierce,” he said as a crammed council chamber laughed nervously. “They are going to catch us in there.”
Wyndham-Price admitted he never has seen a zombie attack but is sure one is coming. And shoppers could be sitting ducks in a sky bridge.

The Zombie threat is widely recognized. An oral history of the zombie war was recently a best seller. But still our elected politicians do nothing.

Why?

Zombies!

I’m currently “reading” (on abridged audio) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. WWZ is a “look back” at a saliva-spread contagion that takes over the mind of a biologically dead host, turning them into zombies that can only be killed through the destruction of the brain. The book starts with the identification of Patient 0 near the Three Gorges Dam. Currently, I’m at the Battle of Yonkers, where a a FutureCombatSystem equipped force battles an enemy (the zombies of New York) who are biologically incapable of being disoriented. An amazing read.

While the origin of the zombies is never fully explained, one hypothesis of the oral history is that it was a Chinese military experiment gone wrong. Freakily, scientists have developed a wasp that turns cockroaches into zombies (Slashdot, Nature). Nothing can possibly go wrong.

From the more social of the sciences, back in 2001 John Bargh and some others discussed “The Automated Will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals” (14 page PDF) Across five experiments, the social scientists found evidence of sub-conscious will that “promote goal directed action [in] achievement [and] cooperation… increase in strength until acted on… promote persistence at task performance in the face of obstacles… and… favor resumption of disrupted tasks even in the presence of more attractive alternatives” (1024).

Meanwhile. Renee Friedman in Archeology weights evidence (tongue-in-cheek, we hope) of a Zombie attack in Hierkonopolis, subtitled “weighing the evidence for and dating of Solanum virus outbreaks in early Egypt.” Perhaps the PLA is off the hook?

Watch out for zombies!

The Greencine Five, Part I: Curse of the Golden Flower, Phantom India, Twin Peaks, I’m Not Afraid, They Came Back

I have a home office, but I don’t have cable. The experiment is working out quite well. To keep the TV in use, I upped my Greencine subscription from 3 DVDs at a time to 5. The first batch of DVDs arrived by Friday, and today the last of them are watched. Below are reviews, from the most recently watched to the first viewed.


To Kill a King, Queen, or Prince

A Hamletian epic of faithlessness and betrayal, Curse of the Golden Flower centers around the Chrysanthemum Festival of the late Tang Dynasty. The style shifts through the movie from the lush beauty of House of Flying Daggers to the dead beauty of the Godfather Saga. Some of costumes and choreography are reminiscent of 300. Sadly, Zhang Ziyi does not make an appearence, though Man Li is not a poor substitute.


Orientalism in its truest form

1969’s Phantom India (Disk 1), by Marxist / Cultural Relativist / French documentarian Louise Mille, is perhaps the least explanatory film possible about that country at that time. Yet its hypnotic qualities cannot be denied. From the theosophist dance academy to the Right Communists, the two themes are that a western mind absolutely cannot understand the east and that a Maoist revolution would be for the best. The best line (paraphrased): “After becoming nearly extinct decades ago, the tradition has regained popularity. Thus it is dead. What was once living now is folklore.”


The owls are not what they seem

It is impossible to describe Twin Peaks (Season 2, Disk 1) without mentioning LOST. Both are mystery-shows set in remote locations that take a deep plunge into mythology their second time around. From Bob to Dharma, Twin Peaks’ influences on ABC’s hit show are clear. But equally clear is what Twin Peaks did wrong that LOST did right: character development. The people of Twin Peaks are weird people in a weird environment. The magic of the Lostaways and Others, however, is that they were normals before they got to the island. Everyone who ever visited Twin Peaks was always weird.


Looking up and down

Kidnapping movies have never been so good. The sub-genre, which is so cliche that Ransom (1996) feels like the “scenes we forgot to shoot the first time around” to Ransom (1956), is given new life by I’m Not Scared (Io non ho paura). The coming-of-age drama is likewise hackneyed, and likewise revived, by this story of a southern Italian boy who finds another his age down a well. The two boys — one lost in comic books, the other in cotard delusion — behave in the irrational, non-introspective way of all youth.


Not brain-eating. Just slightly disoriented.

If I’m Not Scared shows how kidnapping movies can be done right, They Came Back (Les Revenants) demonstrates that they can be done… differently. While traditional zombies are slow-moving and flesh-devouring, and the hip new zombies of 28 Days Later are fast-moving and flesh-devouring, the undead of this French drama are slightly agitated by generally easy to get along with. Focusing on three zombie-human love stories (a father and son, a young couple, and an elderly couple), They Came Back is a moving metaphor for any sickness that hollows out one who depends on you. Like Phantom India this film is French, and it’s worth seeing for its ethnography alone: the French declare zombies to be internally displaced persons in keeping with UN treaties, Zombie worker protection laws make the undead a protected class, and zombie sleeping medicine (their sluggishness prevents them from being tired for long) is created by an American researcher