Saturday, September 29, 2007

Does Canadian health care really stack up so well?

A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research questions the alleged superiority of Canada’s nationalized health system in comparison to the United States.

In Health Status, Health Care and Inequality: Canada VS. the U.S., June O’Neill and Dave O’Neill, of Baruch College, look at several issues regarding the delivery of health services to the general public and what they found will not particularly please some people.

They first argue that the use of infant mortality rate and life expectancy are very poor measures of health care delivery. We explained some of those reasons here. The NBER report also noted that “infant mortality is strongly linked to low birth weight and to preterm births.” This is important because teen mothers tend to have low weight babies, and the US has the highest teen pregnancy rate of developed nations—almost 3 times that of Canada. That skews the infant mortality rate in favor of Canada, but it not related to the health system.

And, when they look the mortality rates within specific birth weights the US actually does as well, or better than Canada. Canada does better overall because fewer high risk mothers are giving birth to low weight infants. The NBER study says that if weight distribution in Canada were similar to the US the infant mortality rate there would rise to 7.06, which would actually be higher than the rate in the US, which is 6.85. Their advantage is not health care related but due to the lower rate of teen pregnancies.

Similarly, life expectancy is not a gage of health care because it includes things such an accidental deaths and homicides. And, there is the fact that Americans are fat. A third of US females are overweight, while the rate in Canada is 19%. This impacts life expectancy but obesity is not a result of poorer health care. Fewer calories, up to a point obviously, increases life expectancy.

What this paper prefers to look at are actual indicators of health. What percentage of people with a specific illness obtain treatment for that problem. And they looked at the issue of equality in health care. Does the Canadian system actually deliver the same amount of care as it does to less well off as it does to the better off, and how does Canada compare to the U.S.?

In a self reported health survey 62.5% of Canadians, ages 20 -64, said their health was very good or excellent. In the United States the number was 67.5%. For those over the age of 65 it was 38% of Canadians and 40% for Americans. And one reason could be that Canadians, regardless of the single-payer system, were less likely to actually receive treatment.

In Canada 84.1% of those with high blood pressure were receiving treatment for it. In the United States the number was 88.3%. Those with emphysema or related illnesses are far better off in the US, where 72% are receiving treatment versus 52% in Canada. In the US 69.6% of individuals with heart disease receive treatment while in Canada the rate is 67.2%. When it comes to coronary heart disease 84.8% of American sufferers receive treatment as compared to 88.9% of Canadians with the problem. Out of eight conditions investigated Americans have higher treatment ratios in six categories, with Canada leading only in asthma and angina. These were for individuals age 18 to 64.

But, these differences remain fairly consistent for individuals over the age of 65 as well. The only change was for angina, where the U.S. now has a higher treatment rate than Canada: 77.7% to 73%. The report noted that “the U.S. generally performs better with respect to treatment of all conditions except that of asthma.”

What about preventative procedures like PAP smears, mammograms and PSA tests for prostate cancer? Again higher percentages of the American public receive such tests than do Canadians. In the U.S. 88.6% of women ages 40 to 69 have had a mammogram. For Canada it was 72.3%. In the U.S. 74.9% of the woman had the test within the last two years, where only 54.7% of Canadian women had a recent test. For PAP smears the rate was, over the last three years, 86.3% for American woman, versus 88.23% for Canadian women. The men get a worse deal in both countries when it comes to testing for prostate cancer. In the same age group, 54.2% of men have been tested while in Canada the rate was an abysmal 16.4%. And testing for colorectal cancer is done, both for men and women, about six times as often in the United States as in Canada.

When the study looked at survival for cancer in both countries they also found that Americans were slightly better off. They looked at the ratio of the mortality rate to the incidence rate for cancers and found that Americans are ahead. They concluded, “in terms of the detection and treatment of cancer, the performance of the U.S. would appear to be somewhat better than Canada’s.”

The use of MRIs and CT scans are also much, much rarer in Canada. Canada has 5.5 MRI scanners per million people as of 2005. The US, in 2004, had 27 per million. When it came to CT scanners the US had 32 per million in 2004 while Canada, for 2005, had 11.3.

Considering that one of the alleged virtues of Canada’s health system is the “equality” factor it is interesting to see that more individuals in the US, with specific conditions, are receiving treatment than do their counterparts in Canada. The report also found that the poor in the United States reported as much, or more health care, than those in Canada did.

This report also noted that waiting time in Canada for care is significantly longer than in the United States. The absence of care, they contend, is more problematic than the ability to pay for the care. As they note “costs may be more easily overcome than the absence of services.” That is, it is easier to find a way to pay for care that is available than to make the care available when it doesn’t exist.

And, when patients in both countries are asked to rate their satisfaction with the care they receive, the typical American, in spite of a reputation for complaining, was happier than the typical Canadian.

The NBER report conclusions basically are these:

Americans have a slightly higher incidence of chronic health problems than Canadians, but they also have higher treatment rates.

The discrepancies between income and health care received has not disappeared in Canada and is actually steeper than in the United States.

More Americans report satisfactory health care than do Canadians.

That some are recommending the Canadian system for the United States seems odd if the NBER report holds up. Even while promoting Canadian style care for the U.S., the New York Times admitted that the “country’s publicly financed health insurance system... is gradually breaking down.” It reported waiting times growing ever longer. And in light of the inability of the Canadian system to provide the care it promised the nation’s Supreme Court ruled that bans on private medical care were unconstitutional and inhumane.

Once the court opened the way for private care Canadians were flocking to the new private alternatives. Even in Quebec, a hotbed of support for socialized care, the premier has announced that the state system will be sending patients to private care facilities for treatment that the state is incapable of providing. In spite of a severe doctors shortage in the country Quebec is still forbidding physicians who provide private care from working in the state system, yet in spite of that regulation, the province has more private clinics than any other province. The Times reported new private clinics opening in Canada at the rate of one per week.

The recently elected head of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Brian Day, actually runs one of the largest private hospitals in Canada. And, he is planning to open several more. But what started in 1996 with 30 doctors now has 120 physicians on staff. And the provincial state care system has sent them over 1,000 patients for operations that they simply couldn’t do in a timely way.

The Times reports that nationalized health care in Canada has long been “sacrosanct” and “even central to the national identity.” The explosion of private health services there marks a dramatic shift. Antonia Maioni, of McGill University says that there has “been a change in what is feasible and what is permissible in public debates” regarding nationalize health care in Canada. “Five years ago someone like Brian Day would never have been elected president of the Canadian Medical Association. Five or 10 years ago there was much more a consensus about the sustainability of the public system.” Apparently the confidence in that system is waining based on the experiences it is providing.

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Truth about Burma hard to come by.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find out what exactly is happening in Myanmar, or Burma as it was known before it was taken over, where the authoritarian military dictatorship has faced mounting protests led by Buddhist monks.

Certainly there has been a heavy military crackdown and soldiers have been sent to beat and kill the monks and other protesters. The regime has cut telephone lines ending internet connection, one of the means by which news was reaching the free world.

But the reports that are trickling out, while horrific, are encouraging. There are numerous stories of soldiers refusing to comply with orders. And there are reports of troops defending, not attacking, the protests, contrary to orders. There have even been rumors that a coup within the military has taken place and that coup leaders are seeking to end the dictatorship. One can only pray this so.

Allegedly General Maung Aye, second in command, has overthrown Than Shwe. He has supposedly sent troops to protect the home of dissident San Suu Kyi and has set up meetings with her.

There is nothing so honorable as a man who refuses to obey a government that is doing evil.

It has been reported that when soldiers have attempted to attack monestaries that residents living in the surrounding area would start banging pots and pans as a warning. Reports say that the Buddhist monks are being protected by Muslims and Christians as well. In other areas the unarmed residents, using slingshots and sticks, stood up to soldiers and forced them to retreat. Ah, the virtue of gun control have certain made sure the Burmese people are unarmed and guess who benefits from that!

If outside forces want to help the people of Burma free themselves from this repressive regime the best they could do is smuggle arms to the people. A disarmed populace is at a clear disadvantage when facing armed dictators. It certainly is possible that the people can still win, we’ve see that before. But the tipping point will be if more and soldier defect to the cause of the people and bring their arms with them.

I would also think it appropriate for nations of the world to announce that they are issuing arrest warrants for the leaders of the regime for crimes against humanity. The announcments should make it clear that the individuals named in these indictments will be arrested if they set foot in any of the countries that issue the warrants or which announce they will honor them. It is one thing to use the polite language of diplomacy and call the situation “grave” and “troubling”. It is entirely a different matter to declare the Burmese leaders to be criminals and issue warrants for their arrest.

And those nations that don’t issue the warrants will find pressure mounting to do so. Eventually even China will capitulate.

Meanwhile we wait and hope for the best for the Burmese people.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Dolphins in the Baltic NOT a sign of global warming.

A couple of dolphins were spotted in the Baltic Sea recently. So what does that mean? Global warming, of course. There are two things which seem universally true. 1.) Everything causes cancers; 2) and everything is caused by global warming.

Spiegel claims that the appearance of the dolphins “is the result of warmer temperatures due to global warming.” And that dolphins were spotted in the Baltic in 2001 as well.

DPA News doesn’t seem to be aware of the previous sighting in 2001 and claims that this appearance is the first in “more than two centuries.” But the head of Poland’s Gdansk University marine biology station, Prof. Krzysztof Sikora, says: “Our records show dolphin sightings in this area in the 17th and 19th centuries, so this really is a special event.”

A special event it may well be but that pretty much the kabash on the claim that this is due to global warming, as Spiegel reported. Considering that global warming supposedly didn’t kick in until rather recently it is a bit hard to claim global warming accounts for the sightings in the 17th century. And in the past dead dolphins were found on several occassions on the beaches. In 1998 one washed up on the beach in Latvia and this report mentioned the same thing happening in 1908.

And this report on the species range of the bottlenose dolphin says it is found “in all temperate to tropical oceans and seas worldwide, including the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the North Sea (scarce) and the Baltic Sea (this includes the Gulf of Finland).” This dolphin website says the White Beaked dolphin “is often found in the Baltic Sea as well.”

The second report, from Deutsche Presse-Agentur, also gives another explanation for the sitings: “Sightings of species have increased in recent years owning to the rise in the number of pleasure craft and the prevalence of mobile phones with cameras.” Of course when Communism controlled much of the Baltic region there were no pleasure craft from those countries allowed out on the sea -- to prevent people from fleeing the people’s paradises. With more people on the sea than ever before dolphins that might have gone unnoticed before are more likely to be seen and reported.

The original August 19 DPA report said nothing about warming. Over a month later Spiegel sexed up the story with the addition of claims that this is due to global warming. And they deleted the mention that sitings of dolphins in the Baltic go back for several hundred years, only mentioning the 2001 siting -- recent enough to blame on warming unlike the earlier appearances.

But the Convention on Migratory Species, appendix II, lists common dolphins as being present in the Baltic. And in 2003 the BBC was reporting “EU plans for dolphin-friendly Baltic” which was about bans on driftnets to prevent the accidental killing of dolphins in the Altantic, North Sea and Baltic.

Spiegel, ignoring the fact that several species of dolphins are common to the Baltic reports that “Scientists are assuming that their [the dolphins] sudden appearance is linked to global warming.” As if often the case with such media no actual scientist is named saying this. It appears the presence of dolphins in the Baltic is not sudden nor an indication of global warming.

But Spiegel wasn’t alone in reporting that dolphins in the Baltic are a sign of global warming. Monsters and Critics reported it, Expatica reported it, the Independent-on-line reported it and they all mentioned the dolphins as evidence of global warming. That several species of dolphins have been found in the Baltic Sea for centuries, if not longer, is not mentioned. Since this is a relatively new story, just appearing on news services today, I expect this false claim will find its way into more and more newspapers over the next few weeks. Once again when warming is mentioned the media shuts down their critical faculties.

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Hypocrites vote for "voter integrity" by cheating.

Texas lawmakers were voting on legislation to require all voters to present photo ID before exercising their Constitutional right to vote. They say it is necessary to prevent people from voting in the place of others, etc. Watch what happens when they themselves vote on the measure. Contrary to their own rules they run around voting on behalf of representatives who were not present to vote themselves. It was rampant. And here is the film to show it.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The mad rush to save the planet.

The mad rush to solve some perceived problem, real or imaginary, usually leads to stupid mistakes. I find it necessary to hammer home the point that every “solution” is not necessarily a solution. And when solutions are created through the political process they are almost always wrong.

Politicians have warped incentives to find politically beneficial solutions not solutions that work. Often the touch of the political hand on the brow of the fever victim doesn’t heal but kills. Government is the one entity in the world that would give a cold victim a case of bubonic plague and then announce that they successfully reduced the number of people with the sniffles.

The more an issue is deemed unworthy of debate the more likely the politicians are to make a bloody mess of the whole thing. This has been my main complaint about the cult of anthropogenic warming and their crusade to shut down debate and discussion. They are in a frenzy, demanding the world madly, and without little forethought, rush into embracing extreme solutions that they propose. Merely to question the veracity of their alleged solution is enough to get one branded genocidal. Odd thing that. They were the ones who stopped the use of DDT in malaria control programs and that directly led to increased malaria-related deaths to the tunes of million of additional victims.

After decades of that disastrous “solution” being imposed on the poor nations of the world, with real genocidal consequences, those nations started reusing DDT. And various world bodies eventually endorsed the practice. That previous environmentalist induced “solution” was abandoned. It had been embraced far too quickly and without sufficient debate. But then the scare stories the environmentalists were pushing at the time were meant to do just that. How little things have change. Or to be more precise, how little the environmentalists have changed. Outside of the dispensationalist fundamentalism they are the last of the Apocalyptic cults.

They preach a precautionary principle which applies to every advance in science and technology but never applies to themselves. When it comes to their solutions we are to ignore precaution, ignore debate, and simply accept the latest wisdom they hand down to us from on high. And they are often wrong -- spectacularly wrong.

Let us use as an example their proposal to push biofuels. This is now a multibillion dollar corporate welfare scam for agribusiness and politicians are tripping over themselves to suck up to the wealthy businessman in order to shower them with money from the taxpayers. Warming guru, Saint Al of Gore, has campaigned on behalf of these subsidies as a means to save the planet.

Of course, as we outlined here, the first result of that has been to consume vast amounts of food in order to produce fuel. Food prices have jumped dramatically because of it. And that means that food around the world is now more scarce than before and poor people in impoverished nations are going hungry because Al Gore and the environmental lobby pushed for this program. Of course the fuel that is produced is so costly that it can’t compete. So the politicians stick their grubby hands into our pockets to subsidize the price.

Here is the hilarity of it. By hilarious I mean the disgusting nature of this con. The politicians are taking food out of the mouths of hungry people, and money out of the pockets of the average worker, in order to shower millionaires and billionaires with corporate welfare. And they justify the whole damn charade my ominously whispering “global warming.”

Spiegel called biofuels “the great hope for fighting climate change” but now admits that the solution is actually worse than the fuel it is replacing. A team of scientists, led by Nobel prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen, “finds that the growth and use of biofuels produced from rapeseed and maize can produce 70 percent and 50 percent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels.”

Burning normal petrol does less harm. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developed specifically said that biofuels "offer a cure that is worse than the disease they seek to heal."

The political process is inherently corrupted by bad incentives. The feedback loops are all screwed up and there is little that can be done to fix that problem. Almost without fail governments around the world solve problems by creating even bigger problems in their place. And the politicians don’t care. All they want is to win the next election. And if voters think something sounds good, no matter how much harm it really does, the politicians tend to go with that.

The biofuels con job was an easy one to actually pull off. First, we had all these bubble-headed Greenies lining up to endorse anything to “like, save the planet, man.” Then big agriculture chimed in and noted how this would “help the family farm” and “protect the planet from global warming.” It didn’t hurt that agribusiness lobbyists were donating to the campaigns of the politicians.

The unthinking media reports the latest fad of the environmentalists with little critical appraisal of the scare stories they push or the solutions they offer. After all, they are motivate out of “concern for the planet” not “out of greed.”

Scientists who are studying biofuels immediately chime in and support the move since this will mean massive funding for their projects. Know-nothing Hollywood film stars will run out to endorse the idea. Big Business is for it. The environmentalists are for it. The media endorses it. It’s a political windfall. Jump on board you can’t lose -- unless you are the people who can’t eat, or don’t understand why it’s so hard to pay your food bills anymore.

And here and there some damned skeptic waves his hand saying, “Excuse me! Ah, excuse me, please!” He is ignored. Called a denier, or a shill for big oil and ignored. He is only ignored because they haven’t found a way to bring back the rack and public flogging. And “big oil,” where are they? They are right up there in the front of the line showering money on politicians to support the subsidies because they have become “energy” companies, not oil companies. And if government largess means bigger corporate profits through biotechnology they are quite happy to do it. And you thought big business and the environmental left were on opposite sides of the fence, didn’t you?

But the biofuel “solution” is here now. All around the world billions and billions of dollars are being given to “energy companies” and agribusiness by the anti-corporate Greens and their allies. And the whole goal is “save the planet” by emitting fewer greenhouse gases. And then some damn scientist notes that it actually increases greenhouse gases.

This “solution” doesn’t solve the problem. It makes it worse. It wastes billions of dollars to produce a dirtier product. It starves people to death. It transfers wealth from the poorer people to the richest people. And you know what—it will keep rolling along for years and years to come. Why? Because that is how politics work.

When you want to solve a problem through political means this is the sort of bullshit you get. Get used to it. This is the only the beginning of bad solutions that will be imposed in the name of global warming. As H.L. Mencken noted: "For every problem there is a solution which is simple, clean and wrong." And if you are looking for wrong solutions the surest way to find them is to get polticians to vote on them.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

John Waters on Censorsship

About 12 minutes of a speech where John Waters defends free speech. Hilarious but spot on.

For more videos on censorship and other issues related to individual freedom go to TV Liberty.


Town that threw out immigrants reverses itself.

Aesop told the tale of a man so consumed with hatred for a neighbor that the gods granted him anything he wanted for himself, with one small proviso—anything he wished for himself would go to the neighbor twice over. If the man wanted a room full of gold the neighbor would received two rooms full of gold. The malicious man thought it over and said he wished to be blinded in one eye.

Apparently things haven’t changed much since Aesop wrote that tale. There are still people who will inflict damage on themselves in order to harm others. What sort of moron would do this? Try Charles Hilton, former mayor of Riverside, New Jersey.

Riverside is one of the towns that passed local laws regulating employment and housing rentals. Under the law the local politicians take control of these private activities by forbidding anyone from employing an illegal immigrant or renting property to them. If people did engage in private financial transactions of this kind they were penalized heavily by the central planners at city hall. And it worked. The illegals who lived in the town moved out.

The net results, said the New York Times, was that businesses closed down and others saw their income drop significantly. There are once again empty shops in town but Charles Hilton, who was voted out of office, is happy. “The business district is fairly empty now, but it’s not the legitimate businesses that are gone. It’s all the ones that were supporting the illegal immigrants, or, as I like to call them, the criminal aliens.”

There is a saying that politics is like a septic tank—the big pieces float to the top. And in Riverside Mr. Hilton was truly one of the big pieces. Any business that is not committing fraud is legitimate business but Mr. Hilton is a politician and that means he is infected with the idea that legitimate is what he says is legitimate. Of course the businesses that sold goods and services to people did so willingly and all the people of the town benefited from those choices. Even if Mr. Hilton thinks the business only caters to “criminal aliens” the reality is that increased choice in trade benefits all people in the town.

Competition pushes innovation, new services, and lower prices. Even if the business actually only sold those residents without political permit cards, everyone else in the town benefits. If there are two grocery stores, there is competition. If all the “aliens” went to one store the other store is still losing business. It will still try to win that business by being more competitive. And that benefits all customers including the ones who never went to the other store.

Riverside was poorer because they let nativistic morons like ex-Mayor Hilton push them into pushing through short-sighted laws.

Bruce Behmke was a local resident who noticed that the immigrants were carrying their laundry to a laundromat a mile away. He got the idea of opening his own. And business took off. He and his family benefited by offering a service to the immigrants. Now that they are gone he says it’s “a ghost town here.”

Who precisely is better off? No one but Mr. Hilton sure feels proud. A few more years of him running things and perhaps he could boost of having closed all the businesses in town. But is he happy? Not really. The town repealed the law.

One interesting fact that the article mentioned was that the town has long been one that attracted immigrants. Until a few decades ago the school board used to record its meeting minutes in English and German. People forget that the United States once had a thriving foreign language press with hundreds of newspapers produced in German due to the large number of immigrants in the country. The same is true for other languages as well.

As a child in Chicago I well remember entire neighborhoods where the signs were in Polish. The Dziennick Chicagoski newspaper continued publication up until 1971. And only last year the Catholic Archdiocese said they will begin publication of a monthly Polish newspaper for distribution in their churches which still say Mass in Polish. Twenty different Polish newspapers were published in Chicago between the 1880s and the 1970s. And there were around 140 such Polish publications in the US. At one point I would estimate there were 100 operating simultaneously.

And in New Jersey, where Mr. Hitlon resides, there were 20 Polish language papers published. The Nowy Dziennik, only founded in 1971, is still in operation there. The photo used to illustrate this entry is of Polak Amerykanski Press in Buffalo New York, in the early 1900s. Odd thing, America survived millions and millions of non-English speaking immigrants in the past, in spite of the Mr. Hilton’s of the day, who said it wasn’t possible. And each wave of new immigrants were attacked as being “different” from previous waves. All I can say is: Get over it!


High school streaker faces jail and sex offenders list.

In Pleasant Grove, Utah the High School was holding a Homecoming Pageant. One of the students decided to pull a prank. An old prank done for years at sport’s events, parades, or any public gathering. He streaked.

He ran across the school stage in the nude for a few fleeting seconds. People no doubt laughed. A few were shocked. And a few no doubt were horrified.

So was the student suspended? Expelled? Fined, even? No! He’s facing serious charges of lewdness in front of children. Since he did this at school many of the audience members are under 18 years of ago. He could be jailed. And worse!

Now what is lewdness? It means something preoccupied with sex or lust or something obscene. Is mere nudity now conflated with lust? It appears that the more anti sexual a society is the more it sees the human body as inherently lust provoking. Some Islamic nations are so repressed sexually that they think a woman’s bare face is lust provoking. And I suspect for the men produced by such values that may be the case.

Of course the problems for this boy are just starting. America has been in the grips of two conflicting major revolutions at the same time. On one side Americans are obsessed with sexuality. People rent porn, Senators toe tap in toilets. prostitution is all over the place. Teen pregnancy is high. VD is high and everyone preaches chastity, virginity and Jesus.

But then some of the most sexually suppressed people around are also some of the most sexually obsessed around as well. So you get people passing all sorts of stupid anti-sex laws in order to prevent others from doing what they are doing themselves. Up until a few weeks ago I bet Larry Craig would have supported entrapment schemes like the one that caught him. Mark Foley could be prosecuted for sending sexy messages under legislation he proposed.

And this kid who thought he was pulling a funny stunt is now facing criminal charges for acting lewdly in front of minors. And for that, if convicted he can be forced to register as sex offender.

His name, address and photograph will become publicly available to “warn” people about the threat he poses. What threat? There is none.

The description of his crime won’t be “streaked at school”, which people will realize is harmless. It will say engaged in public lewdness in front of minors. The legal description will make it sound like he was a wank in front of some pre-schoolers. And he will be hounded for the rest of his life. He will be denied many types of jobs because of it. Every time a child is raped near his area the police will come see him about it. He will find that many parts of the country are entirely off limits to him. He won’t be allowed to live there as a registered sex offender.

When money is inflated politicians print up more money driving down the value of the money already in circulation hence causing higher prices. Politicians also inflate in other ways. The sex offender status has been inflated to such a degree as to be almost worthless.

I wrote about Matt Bandy who was convicted for showing a copy of Playboy to another boy at school. He was made to register as a sex offender but a judge, thankfully, found that so absurd he threw it out. When two kids were found to have had sex with each other they were accused of mutual molestation and would have registered as sex offenders if another court didn’t intervene. There are teens who took naughty sex photos of themselves and were arrested for exploiting a minor (them self) and forced to register as sex offenders.

If you think the sex offender list is filled with rapists and violent offenders it is. But it is also filled with people who did nothing violent and are a threat to no one. And it can be damn hard to tell the difference.

Vigilantes can’t tell. There have been a few cases of vigilantes using these public records to hunt down and murder sex offenders. I know of one case where the “offender” who was killed had been convicted for having sex with his girlfriend. She was slightly under the age of consent and he was slightly over. She didn’t want him prosecuted. But he was and had to register since he “molested” a child. She was no child except in the legal definition of the term.

But the state put his picture and home address on the internet for anyone to find. And one man who decided to randomly kill sex offenders found this information. He drove to the man’s home since the state gave him the address. He knocked on the door and asked the young man’s mother if he could see her son. He knew the name, again provided by the state. And he had a picture of the man so he cold recognize him. Again provided by the state. And he shot the man to death. The state was considered an accomplice to murder.

One “sex offender” I read about was a man who had a sexual experience years ago with his girl friend. Again she was under the magic age and he was above it though they were almost the same age. To this day he is forced to register every where he lives as a sex offender. His victim is now his wife. They have been married for years and are raising a family. His kids need to be near a school But under new anti-offender laws most of his town is off limits to him. It is a crime for him to live near a school. So his wife and kids live by the school and every night he has to retire to a rural apartment alone.

The other thing this does is make it difficult for offenders to find employment. Now contrary to a widespread myth sex offenders actually have a lower rate of reoffending that other criminals. They are more likely to get out of jail and stay out of trouble than most former prisoners. But what increases the likelihood of reoffending? Stress, is high on the list. So the government forces them to keep moving, as the laws are put into effect in more places and makes it difficult for them to find employment. In other words it increases stress levels. Real smart!

And there is also evidence that the number of offenders who are simply hiding out from the system is going up dramatically. As the social cost of being on the list goes up the reward for not telling police where you live goes up. And more and more offenders are disappearing off the radar screen. Police are saying that it has actually become hard to find the offenders which is the complete opposite of what the law was intended to do. But then so many government solutions actually make the problems worse.

The sex offender rolls are being filled with the names of people who shouldn’t be there. It is not limited to serious, violent offenders. The term has been inflated. It has lost much of its value. And more and more innocent people are filling the list.

As the public learns that the value of the list is being eroded by this inflation they lose confidence in it. That will be good the many people on the list who shouldn’t be there (and it is questionable whether this ever should have been a public list at all). But this means that people will also not take seriously the listing of some serious offenders. And that can lead to over confidence in people they shouldn’t be confident about and harm may result.

In addition with this inflated list of offenders police are going to spend more and more time tracking down harmless individuals every time a sex crime takes place. The more harmless individuals on the list the greater the odds that the really serious threats will escape notice. The true dangers to others actually benefit from a list that keeps growing like Topsy.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Is it unfair to make fun of the French?

Probably. No doubt it isn't PC either. But this is a bit amusing. Here is the French version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I will just outline the basic question for you. You can watch it and you'll pick up most of it quite easily. I'll reserve comments, which will spoil the "plot" of the video, until below the video so you are free to watch first and then read if you so desire.

The question that is under consideration is: what revolves around the earth? The four possible answers are 1) the moon; 2) the sun; 3) Mars and 4) Venus.

It is one thing to joke about this contestant who didn't know one of the basic facts of the universe. The moon revolves around the Earth. That's what moons do.

But what I found baffling is that when he polled the audience the majority of them got it wrong as well. And 2% of them apparently thought that it was Mars that revolves around the Earth. I'd like to believe most Americans would do better. While I'm sure a lot of people would get it wrong I would hope a majority got it right. Either way, as long as this floating around I hope the French tone down remarks about stupid Americans.

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England travails! Is an election weeks away?

Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after the failed and disgraced Tony Blair left office. Of course Tony was the lap dog to George Bush and Bush manages to destroy everything he touches.

One result of the close alliance between Bush and Blair was that the Labour Party was in basement poll wise. And in the recent council elections the Conservatives came back strong, capturing more seats than most people thought possible.

Yet, it appears that Mr. Brown may be able to pull off a win in spite of Blair. And it is possible he may pull it off very soon. The rumors that are floating about English political circles is that Brown is about to call a snap election. And Labour is having its annual conference now and the word is that Brown may use this conference for the announcement, and to launch the campaign.

When Brown was asked about the rumors he gave what sounded to these ears like a campaign speech. “"We had terrorism, we had the floods, we had foot and mouth, we had the financial turbulence, and I'll keep getting on with the job.” I must say I'm sorry he had a case of "foot and mouth" but it is common in political circles. Brown then went into other statements about things he will be fixing -- of course the National Health Service is at the top of the list—again. Apparently no matter how much they fix it the damn thing remains broken. It is a top priority for fixing every election year. As the saying goes: “Don’t mend it, end it.”

Brown has until May 2010 to call an election but now may be his best time. What if the US economy tanks due to the collapse of the housing market? Consumers in the US are heavily in debt, partly because of the low-interest rates the Fed has been pushing. But consumers think their home equity is sufficient to cover their debts and feel confident to spend what they don't have. But if the housing bubbles continues deflating the equity will decline in more and more houses and those debts will come back to haunt many a consumer. Add to this the collapsing dollar and that this will push up prices of consumer goods significantly. This will cause lots of problems, especially for banks. A recession, or depression, for the US economy will impact the UK. And already the Brits have had their first panics. Just days ago thousands of people lined up outside one bank to withdraw all their deposits in fear of a collapse. The price of shares in other banks dropped by as much as a third before the government rushed in and promised to pay 100% of all deposits with the money of taxpayers, if necessary.

But the fear is that this could happen again and bigger. And if the UK economy follows the US markets into the toilet no sitting Prime Minister wants to run for office under those conditions.

Brown is currently ahead of the rival Tories by 6 points in the polls. That ought not be surprising. The Tories have a new leader, if you can call him that, David Cameron. Cameron came onto the scene presenting himself as a moderate Conservative who was good on civil liberties and and on free markets. But once in the leadership he presented himself as a Labourite in Conservative drag. Since becoming party leader Cameron has been singing the tune: “Anything Labour can do, I can do better. Anything Labour spends, I can spend more.”

If Labour proposes new regulations then Cameron not only endorses those regulations but ups the ante by insisting he will regulate more than Labour does. If Tony Blair ran to the Right of John Major it appears David Cameron is intent on running to the Left of Gordon Brown.

The problem is that neither Labour voters nor Conservative voters find that particularly appealing. And Cameron comes across too slick, too driven by “focus groups”, to appeal to most voters. His lacklustre personality and lack of any principles ought to have him further behind in the polls than they do. That this hasn’t happened is not due to an innate ability on his part. It is entirely due to the utter disgust of voters over the Blair years. Cameron is a major reason that Brown is doing better than he ought to be doing.

Brown needs to figure out what risks he wants to take. He’s ahead in the polls now but Labour will still lose seats. Should he wait so that more and more voters get sick of Cameron’s Labour-lite antics? But if he waits, and the US economy tanks with England skidding downward as a result, then even a weasel like Cameron could start to look good to the voters. Brown has to bet on who is more inept at his job: George Bush or David Cameron. Neither should be where they are. If I were Brown I would probably assume that Bush is the more inept of the two. I would call a snap election within the next few days and I would hold it as quickly as possible.

Cameron will try to continue his Labour-lite positions to attract “green” voters and play down traditional Tory support for free markets (weak as that has been of late). He will probably find the voters totally underwhelmed by his stands and may try to pull some last minute flip-flops in order to shore up Tory support but by then it will be too late. Alas, it’s too late already. Cameron will have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. And hopefully Tory supporters will send him to the backbench, from which he never should have emerged in the first place.

The Conservatives will have to look for a new leader. They need someone with some principles and some resolve. Anyone know how Maggie’s feeling these days?

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Secret bankers plot takes over REASON magazine. Right!

The paranoid nut cases at the John Birch Society are outing our friends at REASON magazine as fascists! Truly. No more bizarre than the loony conspiracists theories they usually tout with such fervor, however. In fact, they are being rather mild in berating writers from REASON as only fascists. Usually they invent some plot involving bankers and the Council on Foreign Relations.

When their adrenaline is pumping they start in about the Illuminati and mysterious “Insiders”.

The Birchers, and others on the extreme Right, have been pushing a NAFTA superhighway theory that is about as bizarre as the old JBS canard that Dwight Eisenhower was a agent of the Communists and reported to his brother for instructions from Moscow. It really is difficult to emphasize how deranged the Birchers can be. And they don't even have to work hard at it. It seems to be a natural talent.

Jim Capo, at the Birch Society, is upset because the Los Angeles Times has published an article debunking their conspiracy du jour -- this Superhighway/NAFTA plot that has miscellaneous xenophobes in a dither.

Capo says that article he finds so offensive “was awarded to a pair of fascists from Reason magazine, an outfit that used to be in favor of freedom.” Which is unlike the John Birch Society that loved government control over lots of things. Debunking this paranoid theory apparently makes the authors, Shikha Dalmia and Leonard Gilroy, not just fascists but “corporatist shills” as well as “phony libertarians." Aparently the new revisionist view of libertarians, that is so popular on the far right, includes beliefs in secret plots, building walls on the borders and slamming immigration.

I was once told that if you throw a stone at a pack of wild dogs the one that yelps is the one you hit. They don’t get much wilder than the Birchers --- they are crazy and funny people. (I remember one JBS member who tried to convince me that homosexuality was caused by a vitamin deficiency.) And Capo certainly is yelping loudly. Capo makes the point that “real libertarians” like Republican Ron Paul believe in the conspiracy theories they promote. He may well do so. But he is hardly a a typical libertarian.

Regardless of the vices or virtues of Ron Paul, conspiracy theories didn’t used to be typical fare for libertarians. That is, this sort of irrationality is not one peculiar to libertarians. We may have our own craziness but hundred year secret plots to rule the world by building highways isn’t one of them. The Bircher are most welcome to that insanity—we have enough of our own.

Of course, the paranoid mind always must explain anyone who challenges them. So when someone challenges the existence of witches that challenge is proof positive that the denier is clearly a witch. So apparently REASON magazine is now a part of the secret plot to take over the world and install one-world government for the Illuminati.

Capo explains: “what the LA Times and Reason magazine are really trying to do is sell us a toll ticket on the Conspiratorial highway of their sponsors.” See, “their sponsors”. Now, we know. Reason is sponsored by the conspiracy. And clever folks that these conspirators are, they set up REASON 40 years ago so it could hire two people who would write an article that would deny the secret plot to create a North American Union with a NAFTA Superhighway.

Pretty soon we’ll discover REASON editors hired Freemasons and dance naked at the Bohemian Grove —so watch for videos on YouTube proving it. I’m just waiting to find out that editor Nick Gillespie is a member of the Skull and Bones. I have it on good authority that he possesses both a skull and bones himself. He’s never been seen in public without them.

Every time I run into the Birchers I swear I can hear the music of the Twilight Zone playing in the background.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

US dollar reaches new lows -- like this administration.

The US dollar is sinking faster than the popularity of George Bush. And coincidentally (?) for pretty much the same reason -- King George.

The Republican mismanagement of the economy has been so colossal as to defy expectations. And my expectations of King George were very, very low. I can honestly say he meet them and exceeded even the lowest of the low.

Canadians are facing the unusual circumstance of a Canadian dollar that has the same value as a U.S. dollar. I remember when it was worth about half that. As a kid I was not aware of economics and remember wondering why Americans got so upset to get a Canadian coin instead of a U.S. coin in change. Now they might not feel so bad and based on trends they ought to be clamoring for Canadian change pretty soon.

The Euro hit an all-time high against the U.S. currency. It wasn’t that long ago a Euro was worth about 90 cents. Now it is valued at $1.40.

With Bush at the helm I was warning American friends to set up foreign accounts (harder to do because of US laws but still possible) and get their savings out of dollars. I have no U.S. dollars myself. I have Euros, British Pounds and the Kiwi dollar only. Unfortunately not a lot of any of them. But at least they are generally stronger than when I got them.

When people see the price of oil they forget that the price is a two way relationship. It reflects the supply and demand for oil but it also reflects the value of the U.S. dollar. One reason oil prices are so high is because they are denominated in U.S. dollars which are rapidly losing value.

And the really bad news is that this trend is expected to continue. Most people realize this but Bush says things are just peachy and we shouldn’t worry. Bush has handled the economy the same way he handled Hurricane Katrina. His involvement took a bad situation and made it a real disaster. Look at this charts carefully. Notice where the dollar was when King George had his coronation. Notice where it is today.

Investment guru Doug Casey quotes the Daily Telegraph the Saudi reaction to the recent interest rate cuts in the U.S.. The Saudis didn’t follow suit and the Telegraph says this is “signaling that the oil-rich Gulf kingdom is preparing to break the dollar currency peg in a move that risks setting off a stampede out of the dollars across the Middle East.

The Telegraph notes that the Saudis have attempted to stay pegged to the U.S. dollar but “the link is now destabalising its own currency.” Foreign investments in the U.S. are likely to become more and more scarce. So investment in the U.S. is likely to be diverted elsewhere furthering the fall of the dollar.

Hans Redeker of BNP Paribas says “We think that a fall in the dollar to $1.50 against the euro is not out of the question at all by the first quarter of 2008.” Commodity guru Jim Rogers points to U.S. policy as the culprit. “If [Fed chief] Ben Bernanke starts running those printing presses even faster than he’s already doing, we are going to have a serious recession. The dollar’s going to collapse, the bond market’s going to collapse. There’s going to be a lot of problems.” And Alan Greenspan, former Fed chair, says that house values could drop by “double digits”.

Considering the amount of debt that Bush is accumulating the American taxpayers will eventually feel the pinch. Taxes will eventually have to be raised to pay for Republican wild spending. If you go on a spending spree the bills eventually come due. But the moron in the White House figures if the bills are paid when he’s sitting on his ranch then things are just fine for him. Bush has sacrificed the nation’s economy to pursue his own agenda.

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Here is the problem with "Libertarian" politicians.

Libertarianism means some rather specific things. Libertarian politicians, or those who use that label, however, want votes and office so they compromise the values which they purport to believe in. In the end the public sees individuals who are clearly unlibertarian, or even anti-libertarian, on some issues presenting themselves as libertarians to the public.

A recent case in point is the so-called Libertarian Movement Party in Costa Rica. These people presented themselves as principled libertarians. Power, however, has set in and they seem drifting far away from libertarian values. That is what happens when people get elected and taste power.

The LMP sponsored legislation making it illegal to "an individual or pair, in which one or both people have shown a sexual orientation toward people of the same sex." To put it bluntly. This is blatantly antiLibertarian and these assholes should be drummed out respectable libertarian circles -- if there are any left.

But we have all sorts of politicians who pretend to be libertarian making bigoted statements. We have a so-called libertarian congressman who has, himself, voted to restrict legal immigration, and voted to make gay adoption illegal in the District of Columbia, where Congress can override local law. He also refused to raise his hand at the Republican debate when anyone who thought gay people should have the right to serve in the military openly, were asked to raise their hands in support. Twice they were asked and he just looked off in the distance hands firmly held to the side. Now you have this shameful action from Costa Rica.

I understand that once the Party started winning seats in the parliament that non-libertarians flooded the party seeking nomination. And they got it. Many of the real libertarians left the party, which this measure shows they should have done.

Supposedly the Party has been dropping the word libertarian from their jargon and adopting "liberal" instead. Odd choice since they are clearly aren't liberal either since a basic principle of liberalism is equality before the law. They are conservatives. That means like all conservatives they want to use state power to achieve their goals.

The hallmark of conservatism is the use of power to achieve social ends. The British author Oliver Brett explained that in his book A Defense of Liberty published in 1922. It is the reason that Brett said that socialism was inherently conservative, it was a power driven movement. And that is the problem for libertarians seeking office. They are seeking power and in seeking power they are putting themselves into a position where they end up betraying the values they originally embraced. In my view the case against a libertarian party gets stronger every day.

UPDATE: A MLP member says that the press report on which this is based is inaccurate. He says the legislation was not sponsored by the party but that one of their congressmen was involved with it and supported it. This raises an important question. How did they get a candidate like this? What is the criteria for being a candidate for Congress there that people who do things like get the nomination? He has sent a ream of email exchanges between the top party officials. I have forwarded that to our resident translator for Spanish material to look over and asked him to report on it, if he can. And I will present that.

I have minimal skills in the translation department but some of what I saw was troubling indeed while others were not so bad. One long one included misquoting literature ont he topic and even using the discredited Paul Cameron "research".

That this happened at all is problematic and indicative of the tendency of political parties to grab on to the use of power. That there is opposition within the party is expected, that it allegedly won out on this issue is good. But clearly something is wrong if this was allowed to happen in the first place.

The correspondence I received basically shows the issue was debated. So far the only press reports, including out of Costa Rica, still have the MLP congressman supporting this legislation. More and more outlets are picking up the story and I have yet to see a statement by the MLP condemning the legislation. The MLP individual who contested our statements, in our comments board, has not responded to questions sent to him directly by email and posted here. I still want to know how a Congressman like this was nominated by the MLP to hold office. And I want to know why this statist policy is even a matter to debate. Surely it is a no-brainer for libertarians. If it isn't a no-brainer then is the person really a libertarian? I await the answer.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Anyone's racism should be condemned -- even Jesse's.

Born and raised in the Chicago area I’ve had a lifetime full of the pompous, usually incoherent, rants of Jesse Jackson. This pompous windbag is typical of the political class that gave Chicago it’s nickname: the Windy City. And I bet you thought it had to do with the weather. Jackson has a history of making racist remarks. So it should be no surprise he did so again attacking Sen. Barack Obama.

Jackson, who I personally believe to be a con artist, said that Obama is “acting like he’s white.” Jackson made the remarks in a speech at Benedict College, a predominantly black school. When asked about the comments Jackson had a memory lapse and suddenly couldn’t remember that he said them. Well, that’s according to CNN.

Elsewhere Jackson said the comments were taken out of context. That would imply he knew he made the remarks. In other responses he said he didn’t make the remark which implies he remembers what he said. That is three different positions. 1) I remember what I said and I didn’t say it; 2) I don’t remember saying it; 3) I remember what I said, said it, but it is taken out context. Three contradictory positions in less than 24 hours. And that was just the beginning. In another press interview Jackson said that the phrase “acting white” is not one he uses regularly, which means he does use it sometimes, but that it doesn’t “accurately” reflect his views about Obama.

Now there has been a good deal of attention to the statement but it seems to focus on whether this was a slam at Obama. The issue, as I see it, is that this may, or may not, reflect his views of Obama, but it does reflect his views of white people.

Lost in the discussion over whether he was insulting, or slamming Obama, is the fact that the remark is inherently insulting toward whites. Jackson is no stranger to such insensitive racist remarks. For instance the shakedown king once referred to New York as Hymie Town -- an insult to Jews.

From what I can see everyone is gingerly stepping around the fact that Jackson’s remark is racially insulting to whites and focusing on whether or not it is insulting to Obama.

We have seen the argument used, that if a white person has ever used the insulting term “nigger” in any context, it is proof that the individual is racist. It may be. At best it shows them to be illiterate morons incapable of expressing themselves without resorting to gutter terminology. It may well be a strong indicator depending on context and frequency of use. Like the words “kike,” “wop,” “dago,” and so forth the word “nigger” is meant to be racially insulting. And I personally find it unacceptable.

But what does “acting white” mean? Surely this was not a compliment by Jackson. Let us change the context entirely for a second. If Mitt Romney used the phrase “acting black” about someone, as a criticism, what would happen? There would be an explosion of indignation. And rightfully so! If King George made such a remark in one of his bumbling speeches Jackson would be holding pickets, and demanding that the President apologize to him personally so he could see himself on television again.

If someone said that Senator Diane Feinstein was “acting Jewish” it would illicit condemnations regardless of whether or not it was meant as an insult to her. It would still be seen an an insult to Jews everywhere.

Racism denies individuality. It is a collectivist concept akin, in some ways, to Marx’s silly notion of class consciousness. It is the belief that one’s accidental collective affiliations trump one’s individuality. Instead of judging each person on their individual merits one lumps them into a great collective and then dismisses them, based on the perceived guilt of the group.

Certainly if similar remarks were made about anyone else or the phrase “acting black” or “acting Jewish” or “acting Arab” were used, the media would expressing moral outrage over the remark. And the outrage would be for the class of people insulted, the racial group that was denigrated by the remark.

That the focus here is only on whether this was an insult to Obama is completely different than it would be had Bush made an “acting black” comment. And there is something very wrong with that.

What is worse, in my opinion, is that this sort of silence leaves the real racists to dominate the field. The odious David Duke or the morons at Stormfront will be outraged on behalf of whites. Of course the hilarious thing about that is that these clowns are themselves advocates of the very sort of collectivist thinking.

Last June I wrote about “Pride & Prejudice” which dissected the bigoted nationalists on the Right. A semiliterate herd of white bigots had organized a tour of a museum to see art “made by white people like us.” I found this hilarious -- it was a way that these pathetic creatures could take some sort of credit for the works of others. They referred to art pieces as “some of the most amazing work done by our race.” At the time I wrote:

The great work of these artists was the result of individual effort not the work of a race or a collective. There is no collective brain. To say that this work was the work of “white people like us” is absurd. But to cover up the lack of personal ability the racist takes credit for the work of others.

By refusing to condemn Jackson’s remark for being racist, and concentrating only on the insult to Obama, the media is allowing racists a monopoly on the outrage. This allows white racists to get away with claiming that they are only standing up for whites the way Jackson would stand up blacks. Allowing Jackson to get away with such racism only makes it easier to the so-called “racialists” to do the same.

I say a pox on both their houses. I’m more interested in those who stand up for the individual regardless of their race or other such unimportant consequences of birth: gender, looks, skin color, sexual orientation, etc.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Police Taser wheelchair bound granny to death

This blog documented numerous cases where police use of Tasers resulted in the death of the individual. This, allegedly “safe” form of control is, in fact, dangerous and lethal.

When dealing with mentally disturbed individuals there is a problem. Police think that threatening someone with a Taser will get them to obey orders. That assumes a functioning rational process. If the person is irrational this threat rarely works. Instead of finding other means of dealing with the situation the trigger happy cops just Taser someone to make life easy for themselves, even if that leads to the unnecessary death of the person involved. Our previous article on numerous such killings is here.

Emily Delafied had mental problems. She was schizophrenic. She was also confined to a wheelchair, which certainly limited her mobility and the type of threat she could become. It wasn’t as if she could leap at someone and harm them. And to direct her chair she needed to use her hands. She couldn’t pursue someone easily and carry a weapon at the same time. In addition her family says her range of motion was very limited. And due to her medical condition she was on oxygen. Clearly this was a fragile woman who really couldn’t pose a real threat.

In April 2006 Emily didn’t take her medication and she had an episode. I knew a schizophrenic who periodically got the idea in his head that Jesus would heal him, and to show his faith he had to stop taking his pills. The result was always a pretty scary psychotic episode. And that is what happened to Emily.

That day she called the police saying her sister was going to hurt her. When police arrived they found Delafield in her chair holding two knives and a hammer. She would swing them at family who approached her believing they were going to hurt her. It appears from press reports that Delafield was hallucinating that she was under threat and was trying to protect herself. There is no indication that she was planning to harm herself.

Clearly the woman couldn't be reasoned with and threats would make the situation worse. No one else was under immediate threat. Family could vacate the premises quite easily. Delafield was in no position to pursue. The situation seems relatively easy. Vacate the area, keep Delafield confined and under surveillance, try to talk to her from a distance so she doesn’t feel threatened and wait.

If she was trying to harm herself then perhaps a different strategy would be necessary. If she was able to harm others then a different strategy would be necessary. If unable to do either then a little patience, until she calmed down, may have resolved the case. Police were clearly impatient. They used the Taser on the woman after “a 13-minute standoff” -- just 13 minutes. That was the entire amount of time they were willing to invest in trying to find a non-lethal way of solving this problem.

Police were impatient. One police officer used a Taser on Delafield nine times and a second officer used a Taser once, all in under three minutes. The repeated shocks combined with a heart condition to kill the woman. The medical examiner listed cause of death as a homicide.

Police Chief Robert Musco tried to justify the killing saying that the use of the Taser, ten times, “was utilized and the subject was disarmed.” True, she was disarmed, she was dead. It is very critical to remember what sort of threat this “armed” women posed. First, she was in her late 50s, not a spring chicken. Second, she was confined to a wheelchair. She wasn’t going to leap tall buildings in a single bound. She couldn’t even easily hold her weapons and operate her chair at the same time. She had limited range of motion and needed oxygen just to breath. This wasn’t Rambo but an older woman in a wheelchair with extremely limited ability to inflict harm on anyone.

Of course the police officers were cleared. They always are. The only way that bad cops go down is when they are taped committing the offense.


They can't find bin Laden but Granny they can arrest.

Ah, the priorities of governments.

Uploaded by krs601


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bad reporting about the Northwest Passage issue.

There is nothing that that spreads faster than a global warming scare story even when it is false. I’ve investigated several of the bogus claims here over the last year or so. Those can be found here, here, here, here and here. Now for the newest story. The famed Northwest Passage is now open, supposedly for the first time, so that a ship can actually make the journey.

The BBC dramatically reported on September 14 that: “The most direct shipping route from Europe to Asia is fully clear of ice for the first time since records began.” They are a bit dicey about when those records began or what records they are referring to. In fact it is satellite records of the passage that were started in 1978. So they mean for the first time since 1978. They leave out the date for the start of the records. Note: The report now mentions 1978, if it was there when I read it two days ago I didn't see it. However, many, many other reports have left the date out.

The first time!!!! Really? How can they say that? They actually reported on September 10, 2000 that: “A Canadian police patrol boat has completed a voyage through the fabled Northwest Passage without encountering any pack ice.”

How many “first times” are there at the BBC? Is this the environmental equivalent being a virgin, again?

National Geographic reports the Passage “is ice free for the first time since satellite records began in 1978”. Alas, the 2000 report from the BBC reports a previous first time. But at least National Geographic mentioned that the records in question only began in 1978, unlike the BBC which carefully excluded that key fact.

Slashdot announced “Impassable Northwest Passage Opens For First Time in History”. referred to the Passage as the “historically impassable maritime shortcut”. Associated Press reported that the ice melt is “raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.” Saying it eluded them is pretty clear. No one has ever been through the Northwest Passage because of heavy ice.

The Melbourne Herald-Sun called the Passage “the dreamed of yet historically impassable maritime shortcut...” The environmental site Environmental Graffiti reports that “Explorers have searched for it for centuries and failed.” The it being the Northwest Passage. But they report that now it has been discovered thanks to “our malignant little friend: global warming.” The New York Post has also told the world that until now, the Northwest Passage has “eluded explorers”. And Scientific American has called this a “historically impassable route”.

You get the drift. The world’s media is saying variations on the same theme. Google news shows almost 1,300 outlets reporting this story. The basic claim is that the Passage is passable today and this is the first time in recorded history. Some mention that the recorded history is since 1978, while others make it sound like this is the first since human history began, a much longer period and a far more dramatic claim. Either claim is false. As noted the BBC reported the exact same story in 2000.

We should also look at the claim that the ice has always been so thick that the Northwest Passage has been “historically impassable”. Most attempts by explorers to find this passage happened during the Little Ice Age. I would think they would have had great difficulty making it through the Passage under ice age conditions. But are they saying that after the Little Ice Age ended that no one has made it through the Passage? They seem to be.

The problem is that ships have sailed through the Northwest Passage before today and long before a police patrol did it in 2000. It has happened several times. The historically impassable route has been passed through numerous times for over a century now.

Here is a photo of the St. Roch. It’s a wooden ship, not some massive, metallic icebreaker. According to the Vancouver Maritime Museum web site, this 104 foot wooden ship sailed through the Northwest Passage from 1940 to 1942, that was from west to east. In 1944 it did it again from from east to west. King George VI awarded Captain Henry Larsen, and the crew, the Polar Medal for making the 1944 voyage.

The Maritime Museum also includes a little information about the Northwest Passage as well. And they specifically mention that the famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen “became the first person to sail the entire Passage from east to west” and that was in 1906.

Remember that police patrol boat that went through the Passage on the other “first” time in 2000? It was actually named the St. Roch II. It sailed the same route as the first St. Roch as a fund raiser to help preserve the original ship. They were re-enacting the previous voyage from 60 years earlier.

The USS Storis made the journey in 1957 as this US Coast Guard history of the ship mentions. They do claim, falsely, that this trip “ended a 450-year search for the Northwest Passage” neglecting to mention the St. Roch did it twice before them and Amundsen did so as well. Here is a photo of the Storis during its 1957 trip through the Northwest Passage.

A Dutch businessman, Willy de Roos, 56, made a solo voyage through the Northwest Passage in 1977 and you can see a Canadian Broadcasting Network clip on the journey here. They have another report on the S.S. Manhattan making the trip through the Passage in 1969

I shouldn’t neglect to mention that a couple of Canadians, Mike Beedell and Jeffrey MacInnis, sailed through the Northwest Passage using a catamaran with wind power only. That was in 1988. And in 1985 there was a diplomatic row between the US and Canada because the ship, the Polar Sea, was setting sail through the Northwest Passage and hadn’t asked Canadian permission. The US argued it was international waters and Canada said it wasn’t.

Even tourists on the M.V. Lindblad, a Swedish ship, have traveled through the Northwest Passage. They did it with luxurious food and in comfort. The trip was a 40 day trip from Newfoundland to Japan via the Passage and cost the tourists $16,000 to $22,000 in 1984! You can even hear the captain being interviewed by Canadian radio saying that the ice is in retreat and the water is open. That was back during the time when the panic mongers were pushing the global cooling theory. The Lindblad made a second trip through the Passage in 1988.

In 1977 another Canadian ship, with four Canadians, made the trip through the Passage as well. At one point of their trip they sailed together with the Dutch businessman who was making the solo trip. So you had two different ships traveling through the “historically impassable” Passage at the same time. I guess that is the Passage’s equivalent of a rush hour.

With just a few minutes of research I have been able to compile twelve cases of vessels traveling through the Northwest Passage. Yet major media outlets from around the world are pretending that such trips have never been possible until this year. The BBC didn’t even check their own web site.

Once “global warming” is mentioned all critical faculties are shut down in the media. They don’t verify facts. They just repeat the claims that are made.

We simply don’t know if the Northwest Passage has been relatively ice free before the 1978 satellite data started being collected. But we do have two different BBC reports, in two different years, each claiming the Passage was ice free “for the first time”. Before 1978 we don’t know. It is pure guesswork. But given that the planet has been much warmer than today, in the past, it is likely the Passage has been ice free on many occasions.

Regardless of that, the history of ships traveling through the Northwest Passage has been well documented. This is not conjecture or guessing. It is a historical fact. We’ve had small wooden ships do it, luxury tourist boats, a solo voyage, and numerous other incidents, all of which I have documented here.

The only reason I can think of that explains why journalists, who repeated the false claims of this story, didn’t bother to do any research is because these claims have been linked to global warming. They don’t want to be called “deniers” by the warming alarmists. Global warming to the Left is what “terrorism” is to the Right. It is an issue that is meant to be so scary that one is supposed to close down their mind, repeat the slogans, and obey.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Why atheists, humanists and libertarians should embrace alternative schooling.

Yesterday I reported on the role of fundamentalist extremism in causing a rise in the number, and loudness, of atheists in America. This was inspired by an article in the Washington Post on the new atheists. A second article on the topic has now appeared in the Post as part of a series of article on beliefs about religion.

The growth of atheism among young people is truly astounding. I have believed, for a couple of years now, that American fundamentalists were in trouble. They have overreached for power and they were too closely identified with Bush. They were pissing off a lot of people including other Christians and they were, as the saying goes, cruising for a bruising. And they are getting it.

In the 1980s about 11% of young people, ages 18 to 25, in Pew survey identified themselves as atheists, non-believers, agnostic or as having no religion. A follow up Pew poll that would have been done toward the end of last year said that the number had risen to 20%. The Post article mentions a recent Barna survey on religious beliefs and says “one in four four adults ages 18 to 22 describes themselves as having no faith.”

If the Barna survey is correct that means the increase in self-identified atheists, among the young, is continuing at a rather astounding pace. I remember reading a New York Times piece on the social/camming network, Stickam, which is mainly occupied by young people. I read a few articles on the site and similar ones and then browsed through the site. I randomly read the “profiles” which users left for themselves. And I remember being surprised by the number of users, mostly young, who described themselves as atheists.

The article also mentioned another phenomenon based on classical liberal principles -- the rise of alternative schooling. And that is the main thrust of what I have to write about today. The Post said that “charter schools based on humanist principles have opened in New York City and Florida” in recent years along with summer camps for kids of atheists. The alternative education principle is one I have promoted here. Too many non-conservatives, mainly progressives, have seen alternative, non-state education as a means of pushing religion and other Religious Right values.

But last February, when Utah passed a state-wide voucher system (now being opposed heavily by the self-serving teacher’s unions), I wrote:
I would like to see good quality, secular, private schools teaching kids. Instead of bitching about private education mainly being run by religious groups secular liberals need to open their own schools. Consider this my friends on the Left. You can have a school where you don’t have to turn over the ID data to the military for recruitment as you do with state schools. You can have a school where you don’t have to have some fundamentalist nutter come in with his version of sex education -- as you do in the public schools. You don’t have to worry about some board of education forcing theology on you in the form of so-called Intelligent Design.
The non-believing community ought to be embracing alternative schooling. Oddly, for decades, they were the leaders in the field. Until the late 1960s alternative education in America, outside the Catholic school system, was almost entirely operated by humanists, progressives and secularists. But when racial integration became prominent thousands of “Christian” schools were created in order to continue segregation.

Unfortunately most people have notoriously short memories. They don’t remember the work of Ivan Illich in his book Deschooling Society. It goes much further back than that. Joseph Neef founded three humanist oriented schools in the US between the years 1809 and 1827. Montessori began her first school in 1907, and Rudolf Steiner started his first school in 1919. By the 50s, 60s and 70s the alternative education movement was dominated by people like Paul Goodman, John Holt, Jonathan Kozol and Illich.

All this was forgotten by the tsunami of “Christian” segregated schools that rose up almost overnight. And in reaction to that non-conservatives clung to the state education system. The problem for them is the problem for the Religious Right today. The state is a cumbersome leviathan that creates chaos and conflict wherever it goes. If there is a job to be done they will screw it up. To have one’s ideas associated with the perpetual destruction imposed by big government is the kiss of death.

Decent, humanist schools are possible. And with various voucher programs where funding follows the students good, secular schools can be created much more easily than ever before. And it can be done without the artificial conflict created by monopolistic education. In addition such schools can't be controlled centrally by some third-rate Texas politician and changed from above. Sex education, courses I would support in a private school, became abstinence courses across the US because of the now heavily centralized, and federally funded, nature of education. This couldn't happen nearly as easily with a decentralized network of humanist schools.

I suspect one of the great tragedies of libertarian politics in recent years has be the Quixotic political campaigns for candidates with little, or no, chance of winning. These campaigns act like black holes that suck up and destroy vast financial resources and activists leaving nothing in their wake to speak of. A campaign that consumes millions of dollars, and in a few times will end, eats up enough funding to open several alternative, libertarian-oriented, secular schools. That money would not only fund them but allow them to be tuition free for years. Of course if tuition is charged the schools would could go on a lot longer.

Bob LeFevre was closer to the mark than most modern libertarians when he founded Freedom School in 1957. But instead of only educating adults he should have expanded into all ages and opened an alternative schooling system. Considering that some of his teachers included Rose Wilder Lane, Milton Friedman, Leonard Reader, Gordon Tullock, Bruno Leoni, Ludwig von Mises, and Frank Chodorov -- what a school it would have been, even if they only gave guest lectures now and then.

Any group that wants to change a culture has to change minds. Political campaigns are short-term, sound bites. They reflect already existing views, they don’t create them. They follow trends, they don’t start them. What starts trends is the minds of people changing. And that is an educational process and politics is poor at educating anyone.

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Photo: Marie Montessori.

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