Saturday, March 04, 2006

What happened to pulling yourself up by your bootstraps?

Be born into poverty and hunger. Get no help. Team up. Work you ass off. Never complain. Innovate. Pour thirteen years of sweat into solving your own problems. Burden no one. Finally achieve your solution. And then it gets razed and turned into a Wal-Mart.

Awesome job, America. Awesome job, you hypocritical fucks.


Editrix said...

This was an incredible article, and I'm glad you posted it.

But claiming that you are somehow outside/above America? That, THAT is hypocritical.

The Deceiver said...

"Claim?" Quit being unintentionally hilarious. It's called...ta da! Exasperated sarcasm. You should, uhm, look for subtle touches like that.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I clicked through the links and read several articles about the project, and the more I learned, the less sympathetic I felt. Here's the story as I understand it:

* Horowitz owns land which the city of L.A. wants for a municipal project involving trash and energy.

* L.A. appropriates the land, taking it away from the rightful owner who bought it and paid taxes on it.
* L.A. never follows through with the project for which it appropriated the land.

* During the time which the land is going unused for municipal purposes, L.A. allows some farmers to plant on it for private use.

* Horowitz (the original owner) and L.A. - engaged in a legal battle over the land - come to an agreement and Horowitz is allowed to repurchase his land for $5 million.

* Horowitz enters business negotiations to develop, sell, or lease his property at a profit, as is his right as the legal owner.

* The farmers, (who've had the use of the land for 13 years) want to continue to receive its benefits without having to pay for them. Instead of offering Horowitz a greater amount for his land than a competing buyer (which would no doubt get the deal in their favor), the farmers mount a legal challenge on the city and Horowitz.

* The city offers them the use of at least two different parcels of city land. However, the farmers don't want to take the city's free land because they want Horowitz's land to be given to them.

* The courts determine that neither the city of L.A. nor the squatting farmers have a right to Horowitz's land which is compelling enough to supersede Horowitz's right to his own land. This means that if someone wants Horowitz's land, they have to offer Horowitz enough money for him to decide to sell them his land, thus affirming the Constitution of the United States of America.

* Bloggers, letter-writers, urban farmers, and do-gooders everywhere are encouraged to rise up and voluntarily surrender $5 million dollars worth of their own personal property without just compensation.

* Bootstraps across America remain wherever their owners last put, pulled, or pushed them.

* I FINALLY have an answer to the question of how come people who want to give away something of value because it seems like a sympathetic thing to do, never choose their own property to give away.


The Deceiver said...

Seven years of occupancy entitle the farmers in question to make an adverse possession claim.

More importantly, though, is that right now, the innovation at work in this urban farm is undeniably of far greater value than the land. Digging it up is tantamount to setting money on fire. The means by which this food has been produced is something that needs to be studied, emulated and implemented. There's potential for investment, here, so let the aggrieved landowner--if his claim retains validity after all this time--in on the ground floor. If this is just about his five mil, he'll recoup his investment and then some.

Simply put, this is one of those cases where the law is an ass in the face of common sense. The farmers have an equitable claim, based on the labor invested and the value added by their innovation, which will potentially profit more than the people who will go hungry without the food grown there. This is clearly an instance where a compromise is in order, and if the courts reasonably balance the interests of all parties, I am sure one could be reached.

Justice is not served by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The Deceiver said...

In addition, anonymous, the thing that's most valuable about this country, about being American, is that we are a nation dedicated to ingenuity and know-how. We're a great country because as a people, we've understood that greatness lies in setting the isghts high, and committing to being the first to reach a frontier, and getting there fastest and best.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't the President issued a call for this sort of innovation as far as energy independence goes? I believe he has. This urban farming project has enormous potential to contribute in this area. So this isn't just about the farmers' interests being at stake--the entire nation has an interest in this project. Balance the interests and the project wins.

If LA has parcels of land they're willing to just hand over, why not hand them over to Mr. Horowitz? Then everyone wins, and my interest in this project is sustained.

At the very least, anonymous, you now know that whenever someone says that the poor are a lazy burden on society, you can rebut this myth by saying: "Wait. That's not true at all. Across the country there are people working their asses off to try to keep from being a tax-dolalr drag. It doesn't always work out they way we or they want, but you just can't generalize by saying that the lower class is content to feed off the government teat. They expend gallons of sweat trying to do right by everyone." So: consider yourself radicalized.

Anonymous said...

Did you read a summation of the case which I missed? I wasn't led to believe the farmers (whether poor, rich, or middle class - not that it makes any substantive difference) have been accused of either laziness or being burdensome on society. What they seem to be accused of is overstaying their welcome; i.e., trespassing on somebody else's land.

Your class-warfare tangent about governmental teats is entirely irrelevant to this case. It appears you have a chip on your shoulder rendering your objectivity suspect.

It doesn't really matter if they were growing corn or curing the common cold - the fact of the matter is that they were doing it on somebody else's land and he wants it back. Actually, what he appears to want is to be able to profit from it for a specified price as is his right. Were they to offer him a greater price, I'll bet he'd be willing to consider it.

The suggestion that the city of L.A. should force a different parcel of land on Mr. Horowitz in some sort of exchange is utterly absurd. You can't ensure he won't undergo additional difficulties and delays in the form of applying for necessary zoning changes, assessment of its market value, and finding new buyers, all for what may or may not be an increase in value. It is already his land. He doesn't have to do a thing. On the contrary, the onus is morally and legally on anyone who wants to take it away from him to prove that such an exchange would be fair. And, even then he retains the right to say "no." That's what's known as "just compensation."

IANAL, but your assertion that the courts must "reasonably balance the interests of all parties" relies on your assumption that the farmers have legal standing. The mere fact of having used the land doesn't automatically confer legal standing: something which only occurs under specific circumstances, which do not apply in this case.

Incidentally, the fact that the city is willing to offer up some municipally owned land suggests that the farmers have developed some political capital - enough that certain elected representatives are willing to part with the taxpayers' land on their behalf. However, that hardly translates to a legal claim on Mr. Horowitz's private property.

You state "Seven years of occupancy entitle the farmers in question to make an adverse possession claim." but this isn't automatically true. By that logic anyone with, say, a 10-year commercial lease would automatically have an ownership claim on the building they were occupying.

Now, your claim that "the innovation at work in this urban farm is undeniably of far greater value than the land" is interesting for several reasons. For example, what innovations specifically would those be?

Like many people, I have a soft spot for the lost American farm. I was under the impression that most agricultural innovations anymore took place at land grant universities and/or in the laboratories of agribusiness such as Monsanto or ADM. You are talking about true innovations, I assume? Something other than hoeing and planting and harvesting? Because while those are laudable and necessary activities, they're also activities that have managed to get done successfully for millennia, and on land not already owned by Mr. Horowitz.

You further claim "This urban farming project has enormous potential to contribute in this area. So this isn't just about the farmers' interests being at stake--the entire nation has an interest in this project. Balance the interests and the project wins." That's a bold and optimistic statement (unless it's utter BS to obscure your passionate desire to improve their situation - using someone else's money). The beauty of it, however, is that if it's in fact true to the degree you suggest then they can reasonably expect to hear from someone offering to translate this interest into an actual investment. For example, I believe Davis is the largest Ag program in the UC system.

So: thanks for the effort. However, I'm sticking by my cynical, time-tested, and decidedly "unradicalized" observation that when someone can so casually give away $5 million dollars? It's never their own property to be given away.


The Deceiver said...

From what I've read, the remarkable achievement is the way this particular plot of land--not thought arable by any means--has been successfully farmed. It's possible that LA is willing to hand over two GREAT pieces of land. But that's not the point. The achievement is farming on land thought unfarmable. Widespread implementation in urban areas is a money maker for those who implement it, a money saver for taxpayers like me--these are people that are, after all, eschewing food stamps and other benefit programs.

Again, I am not suggesting that the landowner be straight up jacked--if common sense was applied here, there's no reason he couldn't come out ahead.

Besides that, you are willfully glossing over an important fact of this case. LA was supposed to mount their own energy-independence project on the site--a waste to energy plant. They apparently lacked the wherewithal to do so. These farmers, however, mounted a project that's equal to the spirit of what was intended. The farm operates on a zero fossil-fuel basis.

An innovation of this nature could have far-reaching, beneficial outcomes for the entire nation. And, I remind you, there was a crystal clear clarion call for this sort of innovation given at the State of the Union address. Widespread implementation of this farming model could bring millions of people off the government dole and teach future generations the worth of thrift and productivity. Also, people can make mad bank profiting from this idea. Mmmmm: it seems that I can't speak for you, but for my part, I love the smell of capitalism.

So, it's awfully altruistic for you to be concerned with Mr. Horowitz's money. But my question is: Why are you trying to take money from my pocket?

And, by the way, your failure to be optimistic about innovation and ingenuity--the twin pillars of this nation--marks you as quite the cynic. How sad for you.

Anonymous said...

Look, I really have no interest in highjacking your blog so this will be my last comment.

It's clear that you're concerned about the farmers, which is well-intentioned on your part, but it's also clear you have no understanding of macroeconomics. This is evident in your assertion: "The achievement is farming on land thought unfarmable. Widespread implementation in urban areas is a money maker for those who implement it, a money saver for taxpayers like me--these are people that are, after all, eschewing food stamps and other benefit programs."

Urban areas are crowded. They are crammed with people and the goods to supply those people and the infrastructure to support those people and to move it all around. The more dynamic a city is, the more people (and goods and infrastructure) want and need to be there - all competing for the same space. This creates conflict in the form of land shortage, which drives the escalation of land pricing. It explains why, for example, not only is housing so expensive in DC, but that what you can or are willing to afford feels like an insufficient amount of space for both you and all of your stuff.

Now, think of your closets as personal warehousing. Sure, you could have bigger and cheaper closets and cupboards if you put them in Dulles - but then you'd have to go out to Dulles every time you wanted to change your clothes. I won't even go into the fossil fuel waste you'd generate every time you got dressed or made a bowl of cereal. The point is that warehousing, though rarely aesthetically appealing, is necessary and important enough to the function of a city that it competes with people for scarce land. Cities seek to mitigate and manage this competition through zoning - a concept I won't delve into, but worth bearing in mind when you use a phrase such as "land thought unfarmable."

Now, few endeavors benefit from economies of scale more than agriculture. In order to be successful season after season at making a lot of food, and making it cheap enough for people to continue to buy, you are going to need a lot of land. This is why successful farming takes place out in the middle of nowhere - because that's where all the cheap land is.

If you're going to make enough food to feed cities like DC & LA, and you want to do it cheaply enough to subsidize some of the residents, then you're going to need land the size of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and the Dakotas combined.

All this conflicts fundamentally with your belief that there's some kind of money-making opportunity to found in this urban farm.

You state "The farm operates on a zero fossil-fuel basis. An innovation of this nature could have far-reaching, beneficial outcomes for the entire nation."

This is a contradiction in and of itself, as your zero fossil-fuel farm is hardly an innovation. It's known as subsistence agriculture and humans have been engaged in it since the bronze age. Not only have these techniques been mastered and surpassed for generations, but I can guarantee that they are saving the taxpayers nothing, and in fact costing them quite a bit. In other words, their harvest - on a bushels per dollar, or any other measurement of yield against investment - is far more expensive than even the most exotic organic produce you'd find at Whole Foods. And that is BEFORE you account for the fact that they're growing it on a $5 million dollar parcel of land! Hell, if I were spending that kind of money in agriculture, I'd expect a vineyard in Napa.

Finally, it ignores the fundamental point that it is not even their land!

You call me altruistic regarding Mr. Horowitz and his money, which I find laughable because I couldn't care less about him per se, leading me to believe you're not clear on the meaning of the word altruism. What I find deeply disturbing is the idea that it's okay - even somehow laudable - to rob a citizen of his rightful property, when it is in fact unjust and wrong. Not to mention, that in this case, it is financially utterly asinine.

I encourage you to rethink your assertion "Also, people can make mad bank profiting from this idea. Mmmmm: it seems that I can't speak for you, but for my part, I love the smell of capitalism." For, among other reasons, it makes you sound stupid which I don't think you are. It is heartening, however, that you love the smell of capitalism and I would strongly encourage you to take that motivation and go learn something about it. You'd be well-served to start with a course on economic theory.

One last piece of advice is that you re-think your source material, or at least balance it. We all have biases and at least is upfront about theirs. Whenever you see the phrase "peak oil" in use, recognize that there are a whole host of philosophical assumptions that go with it, and not all of your readers automatically agree with all of them.


The Deceiver said...

All of your verbiage again glosses over two points you willfully ignore.

1. There is no compelling REASON why an arrangement cannot be made to benefit all of the parties involved. The city took the land and failed to deliver on their stated purpose. These farmers stepped in and made the most of the opportunity LA failed to realize. If the city has parcels of land they are simply willing to part with, there's no reason these parcels cannot be given to Mr. Horowitz to allow him to capitalize on his lost investment. This is a case where, pure and simple, bureaucracy and procedure makes an ass of ordinary common sense, and macroeconomic mumbo jumbo just adds to the asininity. The lack of will to simply come to an equitable arrangement is the problem, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that this lack of willpower has stemmed from the pressure brought by competing interests who would rather not see the working poor successfully providing for themselves.

2. The potential of this innovation includes the possibility--indeed, the likelihood--that land masses far smaller than the ones you suggest could be feasible for this sort of urban-area agrarianism. I'd like to see more study done on the work that's been put in--if the innovation itself wasn't my chief concern, I'd simply advocate for these farmers to move their asses to the other land parcels that have been offered them! But I seem to be the only one left in America who realizes that this nation made its bacon taking big risks on bold innovations. I think we've lost our footing because don't do enough of that anymore, and I try to shine a light whereever this potential exists to retrain people to understand the great value of American ingenuity. I suppose I do so in vain.

In the end, all I support is a common sense arrangement by which equity is assured on all sides and the potential taxpayer benefit to me is fully explored. You haven't build any sort of case here that proves such an arrangement is outside the realm of possibility. You're only parroting a bunch of gobble designed to make shirking the duty to common sense sound palatable.

Anyway, as I've also stated before, you can now feel free to speak out against the great lie that the poor of this nation are lazy and unwilling to strive for their betterment.