Thoughts and Commentary by Karl Auerbach

Locus ab auctoritate .. est infirmissimus.
(The argument from authority is the weakest.)
– Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274).

Welcome to the CaveBear website, a compendium of things from Karl Auerbach.

For those of you burdened with a serious outlook, take a look at the CaveBear Blog or dredge through the accumulated documents.

If you have a silly streak - find your way over to the CaveBear Catalog where our motto is "If we have it, you don't need it!"

There are also chunks of this and chunks of this laying about here somewhere.  A lot of folks come to view the Ethernet vendor codes.  Others come by because this is one of the few websites that actually has contemporaneous content from when the Privacy Act of 1974 was enacted.  (I should probably post the letter I have from Senator Ervin who was one of the drivers behind the Act.)

There's other stuff hidden away in the nooks and crannies of this site - a goodly chunk of it is in the archives underneath the old website.  Consider it your task to dig and seek, like an archaeologist digging through layers of an ancient city.  Who knows what nuggets might have accumulated in the years since this site began in 1994.

Redressing Excess Corporate Power
Saturday, 15 October 2011 13:57

Proposed Amendment to the United States Constitution To Redress the Increasing Distortion of Elections and Political Speech by Corporations and Other Aggregate Forms

Karl Auerbach ─ October 14, 2011 ─ Version 1.04

Proposed Text:

Corporate and other aggregate forms of organization are neither Persons nor Citizens under this Constitution and shall have neither protections, rights, nor legal standing under this Constitution.

This Amendment shall not be construed to deny or disparage the power of Congress or the Several States to enact legislation that defines rights, powers, limitations, liabilities, and standing of such corporate and other aggregate forms of organization.

The Problem:

The conservative wing of the US Supreme Court has elevated several corporate rights to at least the same degree of Constitutional protection as the rights of natural (living) people.

There is little or no precedent for the creation of these rights in corporations.  The idea of the modern corporation did not arise until nearly a century after the writing and adoption of the Constitution.  And the 14th Amendment predates the rise of the modern corporation by at least a decade.

In other words, these corporate rights are the product of judicial legislation.

Corporations exist because the states of the United States found it useful to give people a legally recognized structure to coordinate large enterprises and to apportion control and liability.  A corporation is nothing more than a product of legislation intended to facilitate group liability and responsibility.  Corporations obtain their existence and their powers from state legislation.

The Supreme Court took what the states created as a form of accounting convenience and imbued it with Constitutional grade powers such as the power to engage in political activities, essentially allowing corporate management to use assets owned by corporate shareholders to pursue whatever political goals management might desire.

These Supreme Court decisions diminish the rights of natural, human people.

Corporate speech is loud speech.  Corporate speech is like a band, with amplifiers cranked up to 11, at family dinner gathering – the corporate speech drowns out all normal conversation.

The US Supreme Court's Citizens-United decision effectively replaces reasoned discussion and compromise among human citizens with corporate money expended in pursuit of corporate goals.

Because cases such as Citizens-United are based on Constitutional grounds they can not be modified or adjusted either by the US Congress or by the states under whose statutes corporations obtain their existence.  The only way to modify corporate rights of this nature is through a Constitutional amendment.

Corporations are not the only form of collective activity that is recognized by law.  There are unions, foundations, educational institutions, churches, and more.

There are many kinds of corporations and aggregate forms – News Corp and General Motors, a labor union and a non-profit theater company.  The best road for the future is one that allows for flexibility so that differences may be recognized and honored.  In this regard it is wise to remember the principle that in the United States the individual States are “laboratories" in which different approaches may be tried and tested.

The Approach

Here we propose an Amendment to the United States Constitution that declares that aggregate forms of organization – a phrase intended to encompass corporations, unions, and the like – do not receive rights from the United States Constitution.

These entities ought to have rights.  But they ought not have them from the United States Constitution.  Thus the second part of the proposed Amendment empowers Congress and the states to define appropriate rights and obligations for these aggregate forms.

Because these rights and obligations would be defined by Congress and the states they could be changed as times change or as flaws are discovered.  And these rights could be tailored and adjusted to fit each particular kind of situation.

Moreover this approach allows for the rights of natural people and corporations to follow different trajectories. Under the proposed Amendment recognition by a court of a new nuance of rights for a natural person would not automatically result in an equal new right for a corporation.  Instead the decision whether to make that extension would be in the hands of Congress and state legislatures.

Under this proposed Amendment the State of Delaware might declare that a corporation chartered under the laws of Delaware may give time, people, resources, or money to political activities only if clearly disclosed to shareholders and only upon periodic consent of a super majority of its shareholders (who are, after all, the owners of the corporation.)

Or the State of New York might chose to adopt a similar rule but provide that corporations that publish news – on paper or on TV or the net – might have a rebuttable presumption of the consent of their shareholders.

Of course, many details would have to be resolved by Congress and the state legislatures.  But that's what Congress and state legislatures are supposed to be good at.  Certainly those bodies are more flexible and able to craft solutions than an inflexible Constitutional dictate of the Supreme Court.

Biodiesel Stinks
Monday, 21 April 2008 16:25

It used to be that people who drive with the windows open or the top down could identify two kinds of vehicles from their smell, even at long distances: Ford diesel pickups, both old and new, and old diesel Peugeots.

The ranks of the stinkers have been supplemented by biodiesel conversions of cars and trucks that should have been scrapped long ago.

And here in Santa Cruz, there are a lot of these things.

Way back in the late '60's and early '70's I was involved with SCCA racing.  Folks back then used castor bean oil in their engines.  One could tell from the scent which cars used bean-oil and which used normal lubrication.  Biodiesel has the same smell, but stronger.

You can't tell me that a cloud of sickeningly sweet stench coming from the tailpipe of a 30+ year old car burning biodiesel is some sort of environmental gain.

If it smells then it is polluting the air.

Perhaps a modern engine might not stink so badly when run on biodiesel fuel.  But who can tell when most conversions are done on old clunkers with motors that were worn out decades ago and that, even when new, were high polluting by today's standards.

Unanswered Questions
Sunday, 20 April 2008 17:00

So far none of the candidates for president has answered some of the questions I would like to hear answered:

  1. Will, and when, will the candidate initiate a review with the purpose of repudiating Bush's excessive signing statements?
  2. Will the candidate promise not to use signing statements except to identify ambiguities and difficulties so that Congress may provide clarifications?
  3. Will, and when, will the candidate repudiate the concept of the "unitary executive"?
  4. Will, and when, will the candidate recognize that the Constitution of the United States not only limits the powers of the United States Federal government, including the executive, within the geographic borders of the United States, but everywhere.
Citizens or Subjects?
Saturday, 09 February 2008 16:59

It's pretty obvious that the Republican party is going to try to paint Democratic candidates for US Federal offices (President, Senate, and House) as wimps who are going to hand the country over to "terrorists".

That, of course, is utter and vacuous nonsense.

The real issue for fall 2008 is this:

Are we Citizens or Subjects?

The Democrats allow us, you and me, to have opinions, to differ from one another, and to disagree with the government.  In other words, we would be citizens.

The Republican position, on the other hand, tries to make you and me subordinate to the government position.  The Republicans want us to be subjects.  If we differ on any subject from their position - whether it be on a war, on use of taxes to support "faith", or on whether the government hand is put down our wife's throat or down our pants - then we will be labelled as unpatriotic and un-American.

I chose to be a Citizen.  I hope you join me.

Wednesday, 03 October 2007 18:36

I'm getting pretty disgusted with the way that Congress does the dance of the neutered wimps around the president's increasingly egregious claims of executive power.

GWB is playing a game of chicken with Congress and Congress ought to call his bluff.

The House and Senate ought to begin by sanctioning those government contractors who refuse to turn over documents because the president told them not to.  Perhaps the Senate ought to begin by holding some executives from Blackwater and AT&T in contempt and tossing 'em into the clink until they recognize that Congress has at least as much authority in this country as does the president.

And Congress, even if it does not have the votes to pass veto proof legislation or to get past the Senate's filibuster rules, most certainly has the power to refuse to pass legislation that the president needs.

Teddy Roosevelt once sent a fleet across the seas and said that it was Congress' problem to pay to get it back home.  Perhaps Congress ought turn the tables and refuse to pass the forthcoming budget, let the Federal government go into stasis, and tell the president that it's his problem to pay for his war.

Going Solar
Sunday, 23 September 2007 18:00

I just got a new toy - We just added solar panels to our house.

Every hour or every time the sun changes I dash up to the garage to check the output and then race out to the power meter to watch it spin backwards.

It is somewhat ironic that as a result we are going to have to trim the crowns of several trees that impinge on our solar horizon.

We anticipate that this will reduce our electrical bill to zero.

However, due to a Reagan era clunker in the the Byzantine US tax code, we are going to be scrod and unable to obtain the Federal Tax credit.

Being Distracted - An Outing
Tuesday, 04 September 2007 18:32

I've been rather busy of late; I've been writing a lot of code in pursuit of my long developing ideas about self-healing networks and network troubleshooting (these may seem disjoint, but they are two ends of a spectrum.)

I needed a break, so this last weekend I fired up Doda, dropped her top, and headed south for a trip over the Santa Lucia mountains, from King City to Big Sur via the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road.

The trip encompassed landscapes covered by two of California's greatest writers - Wallace Stegner and John Steinbeck.  (All married people ought to read Stegner's Angle of Repose and Crossing To Safety.)

It was a hot afternoon - it was 6pm and 101 F. when I went through the guard station at Hunter-Liggett.  I was surprised to find that station manned by a Federal police officer rather than a soldier.  I wonder whether the guard (who was quite nice and helpful yet clearly a no-nonesense type) is a Federal employee or works for a contractor.

It took about an hour to cross the mountains - it is a drive that I highly recommend; the east side is classic California chaparral - I was reminded of the Kate Wolf song about the "golden rolling hills of California" - and yes, the hills do turn brown in the summertime.

The road goes right through several of the army's training areas.  Fortunately I didn't have to interact too closely with any passing tanks.

The west side is not for flatlanders who are afraid of a narrow, steep, and twisty road with no guardrails - like Tuna Canyon in Santa Monica mountains but steeper and narrower.  You can get an idea from the photo.

Eventually I came down to California Highway 1.  This road, from Morro Bay to above Fort Bragg, is a national treasure.  (My office is only a few yards away from one of the more urban parts.)

Near Eselen I stopped to watch the sun go down and call my wife.  It was surprisingly warm - nearly 80 degrees F at some points where the sun had heated the rocks.  (Usually at this time of year the temperature is in the low 60's F and the fog makes it feel much colder.)  It was even warm enough that I could pick up the smell of jasmine near Carmel Highlands.  Wow, night blooming jasmine, my favorite scent and one that evokes many pleasant memories of things that can not be described here without triggering an avalanche of web filters.

What a great way to take a break from writing code.  The central coast of California is right up there with New Hampshire and Vermont in the late September/early October and Yosemite in the winter.

A Toast To G. W. B.
Saturday, 15 September 2007 17:02

Mr. President, I offer you a toast.

May you have a long life; may your mind remain lucid.

May you live to see the nation and history repudiate everything you have done and everything you stand for.

My you live to understand how you perverted your oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

May you live to perceive how you polluted the words "freedom" and "democracy" and so dishonored the United States and its citizens that we are ashamed to say "We are Americans".

May you live to comprehend that you cheapened religion, morality, and ethics by turning them into political tools of expediency rather than reflections of our highest aspirations.

May you live to feel shame for what you have done.

The New CaveBear Website
Saturday, 19 May 2007 14:21

The old CaveBear website was getting a bit old - it was started, I believe in 1994 and thus is officially a teenager.

The new one is based on a Joomla, a content management system.  That is a source of both flexibility and constraints.  We'll see how it works out.

One of the hardest parts of this has been the preservation of old content at the old URL's.  I did not want any pointers held by search engines to end up pointing into the void.  There are a couple of ways to do this.  I could have maintained mapping rules that would rewrite old URLs into new ones.  But I suspect that over time that would become unwieldy. So I decided to use what are called "permanent redirects" to a new, archival, location.  It may take a while, but I hope that the search engines, Wikipedia, and other repositories that contain links to materials on this site will recognize the redirections and update their links.

For example, the popular collection of Ethernet vendor codes has been moved to the archive and may be reached by either the old or new URL.

I've tried to accumulate all of my papers and documents, except for my CaveBear blog, into a single collection.

But no matter how hard I've worked, I'm sure that something will fall through the cracks, that some old material will vanish.  For that reason I chose to preserve the old website in the web accessible archive.

As for new things:

I've added an Internet Governance aggregator to collect RSS feeds from useful internet governance sites.

And I hope to add a small photo gallery.

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