Florida quietly shortened yellow light standards & lengths, resulting in more red light camera tickets →
A subtle, but significant tweak to Florida’s rules regarding traffic signals has allowed local cities and counties to shorten yellow light intervals, resulting in millions of dollars in additional red light camera fines.
The 10 News Investigators discovered the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) quietly changed the state’s policy on yellow intervals in 2011, reducing the minimum below federal recommendations. The rule change was followed by engineers, both from FDOT and local municipalities, collaborating to shorten the length of yellow lights at key intersections, specifically those with red light cameras (RLCs).
While yellow light times were reduced by mere fractions of a second, research indicates a half-second reduction in the interval can double the number of RLC citations — and the revenue they create. …
Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year in approximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.
“Red light cameras are a for-profit business between cities and camera companies and the state,” said James Walker, executive director of the nonprofit National Motorists Association. “The (FDOT rule-change) was done, I believe, deliberately in order that more tickets would be given with yellows set deliberately too short.”
Now the sole remedy for the abuse of political power is to limit it; but when politics corrupt business, modern reformers invariably demand the enlargement of the political power.
— Isabel Paterson
- A few weeks ago, Department of Homeland Security purchased hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition (some estimates claim a stockpile in the billions, though exact figures are difficult to confirm)
- Last year, Department of Homeland Security purchased or attempted to purchase 7,000 fully automatic 5.56 NATO “personal defense weapons” with 30-round magazines.
- Within the last year, Department of Homeland Security purchased over 2,700 “mine resistant” armored vehicles for use within the United States.
- Less than a year ago, Department of Homeland Security began a program to “accelerate” use of domestic drones.
- A few months ago, Department of Homeland Security inked a $443 million deal to expand its domestic drone fleet.
- Just this week it was reported that recently uncovered government documents reveal that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) unmanned Predator B drone fleet has been custom designed to identify civilians carrying guns and track cell phone signals.
- Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder claimed in a letter to Senator Rand Paul on Monday: “It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.”
- Rand Paul has now passed the twelve-hour mark filibustering the nomination of John Brennan as director of the CIA until he “can no longer speak” to highlight the atrocity of this administration’s belief that it can be justified in assassinating citizens on U.S. soil.
Imagine that someone proposed that the key to establishing social justice and restraining corporate greed was to establish a very large corporation, much larger than any corporation hitherto known—one with revenues in the trillions of dollars. A corporation that held a monopoly on some extremely important market within our society. And used its monopoly in that market to extend its control into other markets. And hired men with guns to force customers to buy its product at whatever price it chose. And periodically bombed the employees and customers of corporations in other countries. By what theory would we predict that this corporation, above all others, could be trusted to serve our interests and to protect us both from criminals and from all the other corporations? If someone proposed to establish a corporation like this, would your trepidation be assuaged the moment you learned that every adult would be issued one share of stock in this corporation, entitling them to vote for members of the board of directors? If it would not, is the governmental system really so different from that scenario as to explain why we may trust a national government to selflessly serve and protect the rest of society?
Reminds me of the Hoppe quote I posted a few days ago.
Central planners cause chaos; free people create order. - Tom Woods
Start video at 7:30. Worth your time, particularly if you haven’t read Woods’ Rollback and Meltdown.
The Pentagon’s pursuit of the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter jet has been a heartbreaking one. If you’re a taxpayer, the program’s estimated $1 trillion price tag probably breaks your heart a little bit. If you’re an aviation enthusiast, the constant whittling away of the do-it-all aircraft’s features, which in many cases actually amounts to adding weight and taking away maneuverability, must hurt a little bit too.
If you’re just an everyday American, though, you should be downright shattered that after a decade and a fortune spent, the F-35 will actually be more vulnerable than the aircraft it’s replacing. At this point, the Pentagon is literally rewriting its rule book so that the dumbed-down superjet will pass muster.
The Defense Department’s annual weapons-testing report reveals that the military actually adjusted the performance specifications for the consistently underperforming line of F-35 fighter jets. In other words, they couldn’t get the jets to do what they were supposed to do, so they just changed what they were supposed to do.
Laurence Vance adds: “Hey, but it will line the pockets of Lockheed Martin and create jobs (sic) so I guess it doesn’t matter.”
Starting next year, the IRS will assume responsibility for telling Americans just what kind of health insurance they must buy in order to … well, breathe free air, or something. Taxpayers will have to submit proof of health-insurance coverage along with their W-2s, and that health insurance has to meet minimum guidelines, which are classified by the IRS as “bronze,” the lowest of four tiers identified for tax purposes. And the average cost of a bronze plan for a family of four? Such a family will have to fork out twenty thousand dollars in health insurance
Obama, sticking it to the middle class like the corporate shill he is.
Insurance companies are big bad scary corporations so you have to pay them at least twenty thousand dollars a year in order to not be fined by the government. Makes perfect sense.
Dr. G. Keith Smith adds: “Individuals wouldn’t buy this on their own in a free marketplace, so corporate healthcare “persuaded” enough in D.C. to make people buy what many saw as unnecessary. Ho hum.”
The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme. And the worst may be yet to come.
The lesson is clear: Internationalizing local, often ethnic, conflicts has consequences that furnish the pretext for further intervention. Inevitably, innocents are killed, while the American power elite pursues its geopolitical aims and the military-industrial complex prospers. Moreover, intervention—once again on behalf of a corrupt and brutal government—makes enemies of those who would otherwise present no threat to the American people. Nothing helps jihadi recruitment like Western occupation. As a cover for imperialism, the war on terror has worn thin.
The lesson is clear: Internationalizing local, often ethnic, conflicts has consequences that furnish the pretext for further intervention. Inevitably, innocents are killed, while the American power elite pursues its geopolitical aims and the military-industrial complex prospers.
Moreover, intervention—once again on behalf of a corrupt and brutal government—makes enemies of those who would otherwise present no threat to the American people. Nothing helps jihadi recruitment like Western occupation.
As a cover for imperialism, the war on terror has worn thin.
Hundreds of thousands of human beings were killed, and many more maimed and their lives destroyed, by the US invasion of Iraq – all in the name of finding “weapons of mass destruction” that never existed in the first place. Thousands have been killed in Afghanistan, Afghans and Americans alike, and for what? And now a coalition of foreign lobbyists and war-crazed “conservatives” is agitating for yet another war in the Middle East, this time targeting Iran – and the drumbeat coming from Washington is getting louder by the day.
These wars were and are profoundly immoral: none involved self-defense, including the war in Afghanistan – which was nothing but a war of vengeance. We aren’t any safer: quite the opposite. And, you’ll note, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan ended in victory, or even anything close to a draw: both, the honest observer will have to admit, ended in defeat. A well-deserved defeat, to be sure, and yet no “mainstream” pundit, let alone major politician, has had the courage to say this, at least in public. To do so would be “unpatriotic” – and here is the point when one knows the country has gone off the rails. Because the moment truth becomes treason you know you’re in big trouble.
So, yes, we oppose these wars because they are immoral – but that is just a starting point. Because wars, aside from being horrifically destructive of human lives and resources, are inimical to human liberty. Every war in our history has led to greater restrictions on our basic liberties, violating the humanity and dignity of our citizens. Just to take up the wars of modernity: World War I was the occasion for the massive jailing – and lynching – of war opponents, and the first efforts to mobilize the entire economic and political life of the nation in the service of the government. World War II, aside from giving the federal government unprecedented power to regulate the economic and social fabric of the country, led to the internment of Japanese-Americans, a witch-hunt against war critics, and the creation of a national security bureaucracy with an interest in permanent war. The cold war gave carte blanche to the militarist bureaucracy, dominated our domestic political discourse for a generation, led to all-pervasive surveillance and spying on US citizens – and, by the way, took us to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.
Our present war – the seemingly endless “war on terrorism” – is meant to be a permanent state of affairs. All the “emergency” and supposedly temporary measures taken to ameliorate the alleged danger posed by our enemies abroad – warrantless wiretaps, secret prisons, unchecked executive powers, confiscatory taxation – are still in place, and will remain in place until and unless the American people rise up and put a stop to them. That’s the way it’s always worked in this country: the political class declares the Republic is in mortal danger, “temporary” “emergency” measures are enacted, the danger passes (or is discovered to have never existed in the first place) – and yet these “temporary” measures are still on the books.
Our foreign policy of perpetual war also serves an important economic function – important, that is, to the maintenance and expansion of the power and prestige of the political class.
There are only so many “social” programs through which the government can spread its largesse, buy political support from various constituencies, and justify a debt measured in the trillions. Short of flinging wads of bills from airplanes and showering the populace with Federal Reserve notes, when a slump occurs – as a natural result of government-created “bubbles” popping – the politicians in Washington have trouble coming up with reasonable-sounding “stimuli” to quicken the nation’s failing economic pulse. When it comes to breaking the partisan “gridlock” so bemoaned by professional “centrists” and other “good government” types, there’s nothing like a military appropriations bill to bridge the gap between the two parties. That’s because there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned war to bring “unity” to our usually fractious political class: the sum total of their disagreements is over how to divide up the spoils.
Since 2001, military spending has skyrocketed to World War II levels – and yet, even in the midst of the worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression, the political class resists every effort to cut back. The reason is simple: stratospheric levels of military spending enrich and entrench the political class. The Lockheed-Martin/Boeing/Raytheon military-industrial complex funds the politicians – and the pro-war thinktanks – who feed the war machine. And so do the bankers who sell the bonds, finance our debt, and provide our overseas proxies and client states with loans and other services. It’s an enormously lucrative business, albeit one that impoverishes the vast majority of Americans as well as oppressing and even slaughtering the unfortunate citizens of foreign countries.
It used to be that our politicians had to gin up a war every few years or so to keep the money rolling in, but no more. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, however, it’s been all war all the time – with no end in sight. Peace used to be associated with normality, but that’s just a fond memory these days: today, war is the default, and it’s peace that’s considered unusual, or even impossible.
No country can be at war indefinitely and remain free for long. The President assures us we’re bringing the wars to an end, and that America is finally coming home, and yet we are threatening Iran on a daily basis, supporting violent “regime change” from Libya to Syria, and conducting drone strikes on targets worldwide.
Nothing exemplifies the style and spirit of 21st century American imperialism better than the drone campaign. It embodies all the essential characteristics of our soul-less political class: cowardice, secrecy, ruthlessness, and the ability to evade the reality of their own moral corruption. No writer of fiction could invent such villainy: not evenTolkien, in his portrayal of the Dark Lord and his minions, comes close. Next to Washington, D.C., Mordor is the Emerald City. Our rulers have worn the Ring of Power for far too long: they are corrupted beyond redemption, and if the Republic is to be saved, it must be torn from their grasp.
At the end of 2012, like the end of many prior years, physicians faced the draconian Medicare cuts, the threat of which has served to be one of the most effective fund raisers for politicians in history. SGR. Sustainable Growth Rate. Calculation of what this cut might have been involves a complex series of factors, affecting some doctors more than others. Some specialists were anticipating cuts of as much as 23% in pay. Alas, the “Doctor Fix,” although temporary, arrived just in the nick of time, as sufficient contributions to the D.C. extortionists rolled in.
“Either we cut the doctor pay by up to 23% or the country might go broke!” ”Cuts are inevitable.” ”We will have to face this one of these days.” “There is simply no other way.”
Those of you who follow this blog know my thoughts on Medicare, indeed on any government involvement in health care at all. However…..
Keep in mind several things. Medicare pays the “not for profit” hospitals twice what is listed on our website for the same operations. Hmmm. How did this happen? Medicare pays the local teaching hospital twice what it pays the physician-owned hospital for a joint replacement. Hmmm. Now my favorite. Medicare pays hospitals for the services provided by their physician employees 40% more than for the same services provided by non-hospital employee doctors. Hmmm.
I see not only a potential for savings, but a pattern. This is without a doubt an assault on the private practice of medicine by the government, an attempt to drive physicians to be hospital employees, at once lining the pockets of the health cartel lobby and annihilating the remnant of doctors who take the patient-doctor relationship seriously, those doctors who are pushing back on further medical intrusion by Uncle Sam. The buy-electronic-health-record-systems-or-else policy by Medicare is yet another move that has cut the net pay to physicians in private practice and a move that has brought many doctors to “throw in the towel.”
What the feds and the cartel didn’t anticipate was the form which this “throw in the towel” would take. Large numbers of doctors aren’t quitting their private practice to become hospital employees. They are quitting altogether. An alarming number aren’t quitting, just opting out of Medicare, Medicaid and many are opting out of third party relationships completely.
Next time you hear that Medicare and Medicaid are going broke, remember the real purpose of these entitlement programs is to make sure that your tax money makes its way to those who have bribed their way to the trough, the players in corporate health care.
G. Keith Smith, M.D.
Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.
Later, he clarified:
“Well, I think that was a bad choice of words on my part … that word [fascism] has an association with of course dictatorships in the 20th century like Germany and Spain, and Italy. What I know is that we no longer have free enterprise capitalism in health care, it’s not a system any longer where people are able to innovate, it’s not based on voluntary exchange. The government is directing it. So we need a new word for it. I don’t know what the right word is.”
The more appropriate term he’s looking for is probably corporatism or crony capitalism. But the thing is: he’s not wrong calling it fascism, particularly as differentiated from socialism. As I’ve previously noted: “Crony capitalism (aka ‘state capitalism’ or ‘corporatism’)… is the economic framework of fascism. Free market capitalism, on the other hand, is the economic framework of liberty.”
Almost all of the press reports on the tax increases are wildly inaccurate. Tax rates will rise much more than advertised, and not just on those making over $400,000. Here are some problems with the agreement:
1. The tax code becomes far more complex.
2. The marriage penalty becomes even worse.
3. There is no reduction in the maximum unemployment benefits, despite the recent fall in the unemployment rate. Every day that goes by a larger and larger share of the unemployed become structural, as our labor market becomes more “European.” I have heard several stories from different people I trust, who describe people they know who are enjoying a long vacation at Uncle Sam’s expense, and bragging about it. That’s not to say most unemployed are doing this, it’s just a minority. Maybe 1% of the workforce. But it is becoming an increasing problem as more and more people figure out how to game the system. Ivy league professors overlook this problem because they don’t socialize with the sort of modest income person doing a crappy job who is tempted by this option, and they can’t imagine anyone they know taking this route voluntarily.
4. There are virtually no spending cuts.
5. [Marginal Tax Rates] rise for almost all Americans, and by much more than advertised.
6. There is no “lower rates for less loopholes” deal, as had been discussed in the early stages of the negotiations.
On the “virtually no spending cuts” note, I kindly refer you to this post from yesterday.
As far as that marriage penalty, Sumner elaborates: “In fact because I am married I’m not in the 28% bracket; I’m in the 33% bracket. If I got divorced and kept living with my spouse I’d be in the lower tax bracket.”
- The top tax rate will increase to 39.6 percent for entrepreneurs, investors, small business owners, and other “rich” taxpayers making more than $400,000 ($450,000 for married couples). This is Obama’s big victory. He gets his class-warfare trophy.
- The double tax on dividends and capital gains climbs from 15 percent to 20 percent (23.8 percent if you include the Obamacare tax on investment income).
- The death tax rate is boosted from 35 percent to 40 percent (which doesn’t sound like a big step in the wrong direction until you remember it was 0 percent in 2010).
- The alternative minimum tax will still exist, though it will be “patched” to protect as many as 30 million households from being swept into this surreal parallel tax system that requires people to use a second method of calculating their taxes – with the government getting the greatest possible amount.
- Unemployment benefits are extended, ensnaring more Americans in joblessness.
- Medicare spending is increased as part of a “doc fix” to increase reimbursement payments for providers.
But don’t worry, some people are benefitting - as Bob Wenzel notes: “I’m all for tax breaks, but just know that it is those close to power that generally get them, and not the rest of us. While the payroll tax break, which impacts most of us, has not been extended in the Senate fiscal crisis bill, Obama’s Hollywood cronies do get a tax break extension.”
Section 317 of the freshly approved legislation includes an extension for “special expensing rules for certain film and television productions.” Congress first enacted production tax incentives favorable to the domestic entertainment industry in 2004, and extended them in 2008, but the deal was meant to expire in 2011.
The fiscal cliff deal extends the tax incentives through 2013—even as payroll taxes rise on ordinary Americans.The original tax incentive applied to productions costing less than $15 million to make ($20 million in low-income areas). The 2008 extension applies to all films, up to a deduction of $15 million (or $20 million in low-income areas). The incentive is especially generous to television series; it applies to each TV episode.
Hollywood players routinely beg the government to raise their taxes so they can pay their “fair share.”
Yet the industry moves new productions to places where existing tax breaks help its bottom line. That means plenty of shows and films are shot in states like New Mexico, which feature highly favorable tax rates, as well as destinations north of the border with similar perks.
Now Hollywood has used its clout to ensure that its generous tax incentives will continue in a time of fiscal crisis.
Of course, the usual favored green cronies of wind energy and bio-fuel get tax breaks. Bi-partisan efforts from congress-critters help their friends among asparagus growers and electric scooter riders and rum producers. And in what is sure to surprise no one, the right gets in on the action with extensions to, among others, NASCAR:
A program that allows race track owners to deduct a total of more than $40 billion a year for their tracks, bleachers and concession stands also passed in the bill. Groups like NASCAR can continue to write off the maintenance costs of their tracks in a tax break that is similar to one amusement parks benefit from. The only catch is that the venue must have held an event on the premise sometime in the last three years.
The Tax Policy Foundation has more details here.
So what does all this new
revenue theft mean to fiscal solvency?
[T]he whole idea of the fiscal cliff was to force the federal government to put in place a long-term reduction of the national debt. And look what happened. Instead of reducing the national debt, the deal passed by Congress late Tuesday night will add $4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office [whose calculations are based on Congress’ most hopeful estimates].
Here is my comment in its entirety: “Torrents are the new radio. People who torrent tend to spend *more* on music. The industry is changing: there will always be music but the musicians themselves will have greater control.”
Clearly, I did not claim that torrents “improved” the industry. I said that people who torrent tend to spend more on music than those who do not. This massive study revealed, as Gizmodo summarized, “that on average file-sharers buy 30 percent more music than their non-sharing counterparts. That suggests that the record labels’ self-declared enemies are in fact their best customers.”
In any case, the health of an “industry” is immaterial - particularly the way you seem to define the industry’s health. It’s about music, artists, and the consumers who appreciate them - not corporate label hegemony. Labels served a crucial role for many years: they provided the upfront capital for recording, distribution, and marketing, that allowed artists who were either unable or unwilling to do so themselves to still pursue the career of their choice. The internet has allowed artists to break free of that paradigm and reach their listeners directly, circumventing the “middle-men” if they wish. While media sharing may be a curse to labels accustomed to an antiquated business model, it has been a net blessing to the musicians, music, and consumers.
Furthermore, as the modern advent of sampling can attest, the free cross-pollination of music leads the evolution of styles and tastes. In fact, had current intellectual property laws been in effect during Shakespeare’s time, he’d no doubt have been buried under a mountain of legal fees for having peppered his work with derivations of works that have come before.
You equated someone downloading music to stealing, adding: “I don’t fucking come to your house and take food out of your fucking pantry. I don’t walk into your office and jack your petty cash envelope.” Except what is being taken, in the case of downloads and as opposed to the food in your kitchen, still exists in your possession. The FBI warning before many DVDs states “You wouldn’t download a car.” Well, I’d certainly consider it… if downloading that car worked the same way as downloading a song or movie in that no actual car would be physically taken from someone who then loses use and control of it. Downloading is not zero-sum, and that which is being downloaded is not scarce. Here’s a short summation of both the moral and utilitarian shortcomings of intellectual property.
Still, it’s an admittedly difficult topic. Even libertarians and anarcho-capitalists are torn. I think the case against patents, for example, is much stronger than that against copyrights for creative works. And in a theoretical anarcho-capitalist society, some an-caps see courts emerging to offer some protections for original content creators. But in no case should downloaders simply be equated to thieves.
I worked in radio and at record labels for a number of years myself, from 1998-2004. I also helped write and produce a handful of songs during that time (short of your 22 million records, to be sure). Since 2004, I have worked in television/film. I know full well about business models drastically being altered by the internet’s dissemination of media, seeing as I’ve been in the business of producing creative content for almost 15 years. Ranting against this change is simply swinging swords at windmills. Standing athwart the free exchange of information and media is a losing battle based, perhaps, on faulty concepts of property - and using the state to further these ends only further propagates violence in society.
It’s not that so many folks lack health insurance. It’s that corporate medicine charges so much for healthcare that insurance seems more necessary than it is. Ironically, it’s the presence of insurance that renders these high prices. … It is the appearance of a third party paying for healthcare, whether [government] or corporate insurance, that represents the beginning of a price increase. …
It’s not that so many folks lack health insurance. It’s that corporate medicine charges so much for healthcare that insurance seems more necessary than it is. Ironically, it’s the presence of insurance that renders these high prices. …
It is the appearance of a third party paying for healthcare, whether [government] or corporate insurance, that represents the beginning of a price increase. …