Rebirth of Reason

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Friday, March 23, 2007 - 11:40amSanction this postReply
A homeless man was given 100k by a film director, and the effects of this altruistic action was documented by a film crew and hosted on the Oprah show. The course of events that follow are not surprising: the man recklessly spends the money, buying all his friends trucks, giving the money away, and who knows what else. The man was even offered free services from financial advisors on how to manage the money for maximum profitability. What did the man do? He turned them down. It is only natural, that the man ended up back to his state of poverty:
Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth— the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started.
--Ayn Rand


Post 1

Friday, March 23, 2007 - 2:05pmSanction this postReply
Interesting article.  Weird website.  Most of the stories read as if they were written by third graders.

Post 2

Friday, March 23, 2007 - 2:41pmSanction this postReply
Laure, after looking at the website again, I did notice that there's all this "psychic stuff" everywhere. 

The site was chosen as the link for pure convenience, as it was immediately available from an acquaintance who'd found it.

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Post 3

Friday, March 23, 2007 - 7:16pmSanction this postReply
The psychic advertisements everywhere were a distraction, though I do agree with the point that the author made that when one gives money to another, they are hoping that the person will make good choices with it- and that people do tend to appreciate that which they have worked for more than that which is given, as it was their own life, effort and time that provided it. They know what goes into having what they have, how they got it, and have the satisfaction of knowing it was through their own effort and prosperity. It's a lot different when one is receiving a handout- and certainly is more often better-spent.

I suppose it does go to support the case that "need" should not be a person's claim to that of another- especially since, as this article made so clear, the homeless man didn't "need" most of what he used the money for, though he had the needs for shelter, food, etc. It seems like he was quite distracted by providing for others in a foolish manner than providing for himself in a sensible one- and all using money that had been given to him, not that he had earned through his own work.

Yet another reason why I'm still not going to give away my hard-earned dollars to that drunk guy standing on the corner every night on my way home from work. *grins*

(Edited by Sarah France on 3/23, 7:17pm)

Post 4

Friday, March 23, 2007 - 8:51pmSanction this postReply
I thought I've read that most homeless people are mentally ill.  Perhaps that was a factor here (or perhaps not).  In any case, their begging never gets as much as a penny from me. 

(Quick note to those who haven't lived around beggars- anyone who tells you that they just need 5 bucks for train fare back to a far suburb is lying.  I can't tell you how many times I got that one in my seven years living in Chicago). 

Post 5

Friday, March 23, 2007 - 11:12pmSanction this postReply
A little tangential, but get this: Last night, I got a knock on my apartment door at 1am (I'm not kidding).

It was a deaf man. He kind of looked like a Hell's Angel. He asked me to call "Junior" to tell him that he had Junior's "money." I made the call but got voice mail ("mail box full"). The deaf man -- who was writing instructions and questions down on a piece of paper -- then asks me to give him a ride somewhere (saying he'll pay me gas money)!

I didn't laugh in his face, but I was laughing on the inside when I wrote the note to him that I don't go anywhere with strangers (putting the period down extra hard so he could see my determination). Just think of the particulars ...

1) he looks like a Hell's Angel
2) it's freaking 1am
3) he owes money to a guy named "Junior" (and later, Junior called me back to ask who the hell called him -- and Junior sounded like a thug)
4) it's freaking 1am
5) he looks like a Hell's Angel
6) "Junior"

Need I go on?



Post 6

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 5:22amSanction this postReply
Good call, Ed. 

You did more than I probably would at 1 freaking AM for a scruffy deaf guy.

Post 7

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 6:32amSanction this postReply
 True that - at 1AM, I don't answer the door. period.  to stranger anyway....
[golly, Ed - and I thought MY neighborhood was on the odd side....]

Post 8

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 9:58amSanction this postReply
The story, REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, was a Showtime documentary aired in 2005.

A better write-up is here (of course):

A better commentary is here (natch):

You can get the movie on demand from the source here:

Post 9

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 10:39amSanction this postReply

I'd had a question about one of the links you provided, but the question is no longer relevant. (So I re-edited this post.)

Thanks for sharing the links.

(Edited by Erica Schulz on 3/24, 10:50am)

(Edited by Erica Schulz on 3/24, 12:37pm)

Post 10

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 3:30pmSanction this postReply
I don't know if most homeless people would qualify as mentally ill, or, alternatively, terminally lazy.  I think that it's usually a combination of things: poor health, including chronic fatigue syndrome, loss of job and home, lack of education, criminal record - often for victimless crimes such as drug use, drug and alcohol addiction, plus possible mental illness or neuroses and/or laziness, of course. 

One local homeless couple that I have known for almost a decade now are probably typical.  The wife is actually quite bright and personable, although not at all pretty, after decades of being out in the weather.  Because I've helped them out on occasion, she will sometimes drop by with flowers and a vase or some such thing for me. She even has a college degree, I believe, and was once a successful bank official.  Her husband is actually quite handsome in a raffish sort of way, but not very bright.  He is totally illiterate, due to some kind of learning disability.  Both of them are alcoholics when they can afford it, as well as users of whatever other drugs come their way.  They spend their days pushing around shopping carts and collecting sellable or recycleable trash. 

The wife could leave and make it on her own, but she is in love with her husband, and, even though he frequently beats her, when he catches her cheating on him, and occasionally goes to jail as a consequence, she always waits for him to get out, and they always make up.  My impression is that they have found a lifestyle that suits them, and have learned from sad experience that if they ever do get together enough money to rent a small business office to sleep in, as when the husband gets a part time job sweeping some liquor store for $3/hour under the table, they will then spend the rent money on booze and drugs within a couple months and be back on the street.  Overall, they seem fairly harmless. 

It takes a LOT of money to simply have an authorized permanent abode in many areas of the U.S.  The real estate interests do their best to keep prices sky high, including inventing all kinds of zoning restrictions, restrictions on how many unrelated people can live in one house, etc.  Here in Southern California (SoCal), it is fairly easy to live on the street, due to the mild climate and the overall level of wealth, but there is a competition between municipalities to drive the homeless out of their area and into the city next door.

Thus, every few months, the local libertarian newspaper will carry some story about how some OC city just lost yet another lawsuit relative to some totally unconstitutional abuse of police powers against the homeless.  Most cities in SoCal have ordinances, for example, against sleeping on public property or in a vehicle.  Many people who are down on their luck will give up an apartment they can't afford, put their belongings into storage - which itself has skyrocketed in price in recent years in the OC - and try to camp out in their cars.

Up until the '80's, there was a quite large population of "Vonuists," and a movement, with newsletters, how-to books, and a lot of networking.  These were people who typically lived in some kind of camper or motor home and traveled around the country.  Many of them were libertarians who wanted to stay invisable to the state.  Others simply liked the lifestyle.  Still others were retired - usually couples - who had money enough to live in a big motorhome and liked roaming around and exploring.  Ocean Park in Long Beach in the late '70's would typically have fifty or more such people camping out on the street in the park.  Since most such "homeless" people actually had money, jobs or other resources, and didn't cause trouble in general, there was little incentive to persecute them.

But then Reagan, as governor of California, decided to turn most of the mentally ill out of the hospitals and onto the streets, and the whole scene went to hell in a handbag from that point, as the mentally ill invaded the restaurants and any other convenient facilities for the use of the bathrooms, etc., and a whole cycle of vindictive sanctions began aimed at making life HELL for them, in order to drive them out of whatever city they wandered into.

The cops will typically wait until Friday to roust anyone they've spotted sleeping in a vehicle, throwing them in jail for the weekend, as there are no hearings on Saturdays or Sundays, and, of course, towing their cars.  The tow companies locally are often owned by retired cops, and managed by off-duty cops.  So, they charge enormous fees for a simple tow of a couple miles, and then more huge storage fees for the weekend, meaning that now the person has lost his car and is on the street for real.  A lot of the local homeless got that way via that route.

The cops in the OC's largest and poorest city, Santa Ana, used to simply beat up the homeless and sieze their meager possessions without recourse, until the ACLU took them into Federal Court and shut that down, as well as getting hefty compensation to some of the victims. So then Santa Ana passed an ordinance that made it illegal, not to sleep in public, but to sleep in public with a blanket or sleeping bag.  So then you would see the homeless walking about with 6 layers of clothes on.

For every successful lawsuit against some city, of course, there are probably fifty such ordinances enacted which never get challenged, as it costs money and a lot of time to go up against a city on such an issue.  Occasionally I've met homeless people who virtually live in the law library, pursueing such cases on their own, under the Federal laws that guarantee even a pauper his day in court.  They often win those cases - or the city settles quietly to avoid setting a precedent.

The problem is that there is no political incentive to create solutions on the state level. It's the same problem that you see with traffic lights.  Everyone would like to have synchronized lights, to speed traffic flow, reduce pollution, etc., but any city that does synchronize the lights becomes a thoroughfare for the neighboring cities as a consequence, so the advantage is largely lost and the street maintenance costs soar, meaning higher taxes for the locals. So, every city deliberately desychronizes the lights in order to force the traffic elsewhere.  A state policy that punished or rewarded cities for such policies might quickly solve the problem, but no local state congressperson is likely to introduce such legislation.

Similarly, if there were not the myriad of local ordinances that criminalize things like sleeping in a vehicle, then life would be much easier for the homeless, and the route back to normalcy, for those who were temporarily out of luck, would be much easier to navigate.  Note that a large proportion of homeless do in fact have jobs, just not ones that pay enough to rent an apartment - especially here in the OC., with a small apartment running $1,200 or more per month. 

But that would take an improbable set of State mandates and penalties to accomplish as well.  The hundreds of thousands of retired couples that used to roam the country in their motorhomes have dwindled from the backlash of the anti-homeless ordinances, so that constiuency - which probably were registered to vote in some other state anyway - is effectively nil, and few of the homeless vote at all.

Post 11

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 3:45pmSanction this postReply
Who make up the homeless

Just a short note: 

I remember a study done some years ago that showed approximately 2/3 of all homeless people were homeless because of serious substance abuse (a lot of it was of the very debilitating type - sniffing gasoline, for example) and an estimiated 1/3 were mentally disabled or diagnosable with one of the more disabilitating mental disorders like schizophrenia and these accounted for their being homeless.  And that there were, at any given time, a small percent that were temporarily homeless due to a sudden change in fortune and an inadequate financial safety net (savings or supportive relatives) and that there was also a small percent who were there as a way to hide from law enforcement.  This is just my recollection of a study from the early 90's - don't remember any more about it.

Post 12

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 7:22pmSanction this postReply
Note that a large proportion of homeless do in fact have jobs, just not ones that pay enough to rent an apartment - especially here in the OC., with a small apartment running $1,200 or more per month. 
Which is only 600.00 a month each for two unskilled, uneducated people working two minimum wage jobs each.  It's totally doable, they just don't wanna do it. Working two jobs can be hard, but usually it's easy. I did it for over three years.  70 hours a week, every week, for 3.5 years. I was going to school part time too.  One or two classes a week. I did all of my studying and paper writing at my night time job, and four precious days off during the month.   I even managed to have fun, going out with my friends on occasion.

Its doable if one values one's life. Its not doable if one does not. Substance abusers do not value their lives. Real estate developers and law makers are not responsible for that. 

Citizens, myself included, don't enjoy the smell of human waste wafting through the air in public parks and streets. They also don't appreciate being approached (sometimes harassed) by bums asking for money. Many of the bums around here are outright abusive. Swearing at people and threatening them.  They're all mentally ill. All of them. One insisted on loitering outside, and inside, of my workplace. I was working alone at the time, and I told him to leave.  He had all the time in the world, so I guess he thought I did too.

I called the police, which was his cue to finally move on.

Another stood outside of our door, panhandling and accosting customers, which made our patrons pretty uncomfortable.  I told him to please leave and got a barrage of EFF-U's, and swinging fists in the air.  The word "police" is very effective with these people, I found.  They leave at the slightest hint of the police being called.  My boss at this place was a complete marshmallow, however, and would leave scrap material in the dumpsters for the bums.  It just made them hang around more.

I made the mistake of taking pity on one regular "bum" in the area, and gave him a huge garbage bag of pop cans accumulated at work.  After he left, I walked to the party store located a few doors down to buy something, and there was my little bum, buying beer with the money he got from my pop cans.

I'll never ever do that again. Ever.

Another bum around here was so bold as to climb onto my porch to steal a bag of cans I had out there. My dog chased him away.
The neighbors caught another trying to steal stuff off the porch.
Another was scaring the neighborhood children who were out playing by walking around screaming and swearing to himself.
Another stole my husband's lunch out of his car when he ran into the store to buy a soda.
Another grabbed for my handbag as I walked to my car from the grocery store. He was on a bicycle. He missed.
Another broke into my husband's work place, and was found sleeping under some machinery.

These are just my own experiences with the poor "homeless" around here. They're dangerous and a true nuisance to decent, honest people.

(Edited by Teresa Summerlee Isanhart on 3/24, 7:26pm)

Post 13

Saturday, March 24, 2007 - 11:08pmSanction this postReply
The plural of anecdote is not data.  Yet, data hides individuals, while anecdotes bring them forward.

"A homeless guy once...  I saw a homeless guy... A woman who...  "

And the data tends to be ephemeral: a study I almost remember said what I want to believe is  true.

This is not difficult.  Google "homeless" and follow the links.  Read the sites and pages, gather your data, and form your own conclusions.

We Objectivists are pretty good at forming links between abstractions.  The other day, passing an economics lecture, I heard a professor saying that laissez faire capitalism prevents government solutions to problems.  His 20 listeners accepted the statement.  After all, they had heard it -- or its variants -- all their lives.  In an ideal world, some people might choose to be homeless.  In our society, several structural problems each contributes to the population of homeless persons. 

A woman who is battered has to leave her home.  Her batterer gets to live in his.
People tend to become homeless in the community in which they last had homes.  This is a disturbing fact that wealthy suburbs cannot deal with, so they get the homeless rounded up and bused away, lest we be forced to meet our former neighbors and co-workers.

The problem with drugs is not "abuse," (so-called) but use, and that alone.  Drug use marginalizes people. Of course, you can get prescriptions for some pretty good dope.  However, people with healthcare plans are in the top echelons of society, by definition, and their drug use (or "abuse") only qualifies them for more treatment -- rather than homelessness as retribution for their irrationality.

The questions is really what make homes "normal"?   For most of human existence, the lifestyle of a modern "homeless" person would be perfectly understandable to most people. 

If you have ever read Atlas Shrugged, you might have remembered that while a handful of millionaires enjoyed new homes in Colorado, by the end of the book, thousands to millions of other productive people had become vagrants in wagon trains, rather than pay taxes to the looters in Washington...  Of course, that is because the characters in the book had not read Ayn Rand's statement that is OK to take money from the government as long as you are opposed to taking money from the government.

Post 14

Sunday, March 25, 2007 - 1:54pmSanction this postReply
As I said, there are a lot of causes for homelessness.  In addition to the battered women that Michael mentions, there are men here in the OC who had and often still have good jobs, and are living in their vehicles, sometimes with wife and kids, because some conniving women filed papers in California courts allegeing that they are the fathers of their children, waited the year out during which they had the option to challenge the claim, which was published in some obscure newspaper or legal publication, so the guy had NO excuse not to know about it, and then filed for child support, based on the income of the guy, who they had in fact never even met in most cases.  There is an organization of such men here in the OC, and occasionally they will get some kind of writeup in the OC Register, a libertarian/conservative paper.

The courts have ruled that the law is constitutional, and so the men have no recourse, having failed to respond to a claim they only found out about when served with papers demanding money for someone else's kid.

Being homeless is not necessarily that bad, in comparison...  I lived in Long Beach from '76 thru the early '80's, and never found an affordable apartment that didn't come with neighbors who wanted to blast rock music through the area at all hours of the day or night.  In addition, the townhouse complex I finally found got taken over by a drug gang who trashed my pickup truck - and all the other non-gang member's vehicles, until they had the entire complex to themselves - except for me, paying the landlord reportedly several hundred bucks under the table to keep him happy.

When I tried to go to the police about the gang, it turned out that my calls were simply forwarded to the very gang itself.  Long Beach cops have a long and well-deserved reputation for corruption, but in this case, I finally discovered that several of the gang members were also Navy shore patrol, so they made an arrangement to be notified.  The cops simply turned the matter over to the very perps who were the problem.  Being naturally stubborn about my rights, I spent a couple years battling the gang,

I worked 2nd or 3rd shift, so I would be coming back in the middle of the night, often in thick fog.  I would park my other pickup truck at a random location within a couple of miles of my apartment and ride my bicycle home, wearing a kevlar lined jacket and carrying a 9mm and a .38 special handgun under the coat.  Occasionally I would run into these guys, with a shotgun in the rack behind the front seat of one of their trucks, which they could carry legally as Shore Patrol, and there would be a little standoff, while they blocked my way and I waited for them to reach for the shotgun.  They always backed down, to my regret.

Eventually the landlord realized that things were just getting too hot, and evicted everyone.  The city of Los Angeles had just passed a rent control ordinance which resulted in a zero vacancy rate in L.A., and forced tens of thousands of renters into the neighboring cities, such as Long Beach, which in turn caused rent rates to double or triple in the span of a couple of years.

So, I ended up in a cheap Korean owned weekly motel for several months while recovering from knee surgery from a work injury, but that itself was stressful, with partiers and hookers, etc., wall to wall on weekends. 

Then the Libertarian Party had a state or national conference in San Diego and I drove down in my Datsun pickup with a camper shell.  I had put a sleeping bag and some food and drinkables in the camper section, and when I found out what the rates were at the Kona Kai, and noticed several small campers parked accross from it, with the water only a little ways past, I decided to just camp out - and I had the first really blissful nights sleep that I'd had for years.

So, I ditched the motel trip and went vonu for several years thereafter.  I always had savings and generally a reasonable job.  I had a lifetime gym membership, so no problem with staying clean, and I rented several storage locations, two with power where I had an office with multiple computers and video equipment set up and my huge library and life was generally good.  But then the crackdowns on people sleeping in vehicles began, so I had to give it up and spend half my life just paying rent. 

I would personally like to go back to living mobile, with a small, fully-equiped camper.  With the savings in rent, I would probably also rent a small office or business unit for storage and better computer access, etc., and still have several hundred extra bucks per month left over.  I wouldn't be opposed to paying a reasonable fee for parking in a park or other designated location, either, but even the mobile home parks are disappearing in the OC, as the whole area gentrifies. 

Post 15

Sunday, March 25, 2007 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
     I forget just exactly when (it really doesn't matter, for those into irrelevent details) States were apparently Federally allowed (beyond Nevada) to officially sponsor 'gambling' via State-Lotteries (exempting themselves from what they dis-allow others...[other than American Natives]), but, it was a while ago. After a couple years went by with winners popping up, it became clear that most people have no idea how to rationally manage a 'windfall' of money. Many a TV-'doc' has already been made about new millionaires who went bankrupt (and worse) from that problem. A cottage-industry now exists for money-manager 'helpers' for new winners.

     This little 'experiment' re a homeless man really needed to be done?


(Edited by John Dailey on 3/25, 9:34pm)

Post 16

Sunday, March 25, 2007 - 10:13pmSanction this postReply

You said,
"there are men here in the OC who had and often still have good jobs, and are living in their vehicles, sometimes with wife and kids, because some conniving women filed papers in California courts allegeing that they are the fathers of their children, waited the year out during which they had the option to challenge the claim, which was published in some obscure newspaper or legal publication, so the guy had NO excuse not to know about it, and then filed for child support, based on the income of the guy, who they had in fact never even met in most cases."
That has to be an urban myth.  Because it only takes a paternity test to kill that scam.

Post 17

Monday, March 26, 2007 - 8:14amSanction this postReply

Regarding Steve's post and the paternity issue:

If what you described actually goes on in the O.C., that's amazing. I live in  Illinois, and here, as soon as a woman points a finger at a man saying he is the father of her child, the man in question is immediately notified, even at his job, if need be, that he's been named and the court process, including paternity tests, begins very soon after. 

I mean, Damn! Is it actually possible for me to just move to California, finger some wealthy businessman I've never even met, and sit back and wait for the money to (eventually) roll in? That's actually the law in California?

I should mention that, because so many unwed women who file for child support are currently receiving, or have received at some point, some sort of public aid, the state has a vested interest in finding their babies' daddies, because the state can then try to recoup the money they have already paid in aid to these kids...this is why they will waste no time in trying to find the responsible person to (properly) shoulder the financial burden....and here in Illinois, the state uses DNA tests to make sure they have the right guy, too.

Regarding high rents and annoying neighbors:

Ever think about living on a houseboat? I have. (Personal fantasy of mine.) I've even priced them. There are some you can get for not much more than an SUV.
A boat is the ultimate "mobile home"...
You can just sail away from neighbors who are getting on your nerves...

What I wouldn't give to be able to do that...

Regarding John's post about lottery winners:

I agree with him. If you are already clueless about what to do with your money, you won't suddenly become wise after you win the 300 million dollar Powerball jackpot. (There is something a little disturbing when you read the phrase "...and he is now literally living paycheck to paycheck", and it's in a follow-up article in the paper about some guy who won the big lottery prize three years ago.)  And, like John, I've seen similar reports over and over again about these "winners". The documentary about the homeless guy probably wasn't necessary to begin with.


(Edited by Erica Schulz on 3/26, 8:17am)

Post 18

Monday, March 26, 2007 - 8:49amSanction this postReply
Steve Wolfer, this story suggests the paternity scam is real:


Another scam involves married women who cheat on their husbands and have the babies of other men.  The husbands become the de facto responsible fathers and have to pay child support whether they like it or not.  Disgusting!

Post 19

Monday, March 26, 2007 - 12:45pmSanction this postReply
There are a lot of urban myths on the Internet along with wild-eyed fanatical overstatements


There are problems in our legal system in the areas of sex, marriage, divorce and child custody.  But they are no where as extreme as that post suggests.

That link is a blog entry on a singles website and the post doesn't cite any sources or pretend to be objective about the issues. 

Look at this statement:
"In numerous instances the alleged 'father' has never seen or known either the mother or the child, has no idea where the 'child' and its mother currently are, or the child has been taken into foster care despite the pleas of the 'father' to take the child.  These are but a few of the horrors imposed on the 1.4-1.6 million men currently enslaved to support children not their own." 
A million and a half!!!  I'm just not buying it.

Look at the level of rhetoric in this statement:
"Redfems, following their Bolshevik predecessors, are generally doing their best to destroy the patriarchy and families, but are deathly afraid of losing child support for their immorality. One hardly has to watch the Maury Povich show to realize there are often multiple candidates for "father of the year" with these slatterns but they could care less what man pays the money. Actual paternity is of no interest to them."
This isn't a place to go for factual information.

Here are the titles of some of his other posts:
  • Feminism labeled a ’society killer’
  • Sluts who claim they are not skanks - 2
  • Sluts who claim they are not skanks - 1
  • Are We A Nation Of Whores?
  • How Men Get Screwed
  • Dad wasn't dad after all, but still owes child support

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