Friday, November 30, 2007

Smoking raid attack on property rights

I am not a smoker. In fact I find the habit utterly disgusting. And, in my opinion, smokers tend to smell bad, like a week old ashtray. But the war on smoking, and the accompanying war on property rights, is absurd.

Here is a little news story that may not be picked up by any major media outlet anywhere in the world. The small town local British paper, Thanet Extra, reports on the facts. Three local pubs were raided by antismoking bureaucrats in the wee hours of the morning when the pubs were actually locked to the public. That is the pubs had locked their doors. But some snitch, eager to earn brownie points from the local health nazis had reported that when the pubs were locked up some people actually smoked inside! Horrors. Next thing you know they’ll be drinking or eating fatty foods as well.

So the health nazis went pounding on the locked doors until someone unlocked the door. In the Wheatsheaf they found one person smoking at 2:30 am. At the Eastcliff Tavern they also found one person smoking and at The Windmill they had a bonus. They found four dangerous smokers puffing away. All the smokers were fined $100 and given a stiff warning by one of the local politicians -- that disgusting species of busybodies who actually believe they are so superior to others that they have some right to run the lives of other people. Councillor Jo Gideon whined that it is “not up to individual businesses” to obey the law.

But it should be, Jo, its a thing called property rights. In this case three private establishment had locked their doors to the public and a total of 6 people were smoking in the middle of the night. For that you get political thugs out fining people and threatening to remove the permits of the pubs to operate.

The antismoking laws are not antismoking laws at the core. They are anti-property rights laws. They impinge on the right of property owners to decide the smoking policy in their own establishment. There are no “smokers rights” at issue. Smokers have no inherent right to smoke on someone else’s property without the permission of the real owner. Pub owners could ban smoking or mandate it as a term of use of their property.

I have always banned smoking in my home or in my business. But the difference between when I do it and when politicians do it is that I actually own the property where I impose the ban. And I will avoid smoky environments. I won’t give them my business -- the smoke actually can make me physically ill if I am exposed to enough of it. But I don’t have a “right” to eat at a particular restaurant.

How could I? It would mean that I have a right to require others to work for me against their will and in violation of their consent. Eating or drinking in a pub is a voluntary contract between willing buyer and willing seller. Each can set whatever terms they want and if the other doesn’t consent to them then no transaction takes place. But there is no inherent right to have a transaction with an unwilling customer or unwilling buyer.

I should be free to avoid smoky pubs if I wish to do so. No one should be able to force me to enter one unwillingly. But neither should I have the ability to force my personal choices regarding smoking on an unwilling property owner. Just as he has no right to force me to purchase from him on terms which I find unacceptable so to do I lack the right to force him to serve me on terms he finds unacceptable. Equality of rights must require equality of consent. Both parties to the transaction must be willing to participate in the trade on mutually agreeable terms.

It is immoral for the law to step in and demand that the contract be skewed to favor one party against the other. It violates the very concept of equality of rights and equality before the law.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

The logic of the anti-immigrant crowd.

There are numerous arguments that the xenophobes make against immigration -- or more precisely against certain kinds of immigrants. Rarely do I find that they want to stop all immigrants. After all no one wants to build a wall on the Canadian border -- but those people look like us so they are okay.

Some of these arguments are merely mistaken -- based on false premises. Some are just daft, moronic or stupid -- those based on false logic. Others are just mean-spirited and openly hateful.

A stupid argument is one that is just logically false. My favorite is the one that argues that the individuals grandparent or great-parent immigrated to America legally so why don’t those damn Mexicans do the same thing. It assumes that the Mexicans can do what their grandparents did. It assumes no differences in the law or the situation of the immigrants.

My great grandparents were all immigrants to the United States. And every one of them immigrated legally to the United States. How was that possible? First, let me recount what they did. They saved money up for a boat ticket. They got on the boat. They got off the boat. The filled in some forms with the immigration people and then walked out to their new life. No one can do that today. The people who come closest to doing this are, in fact, illegal immigrants.

People stupidly assume the law has not made life immensely more difficult for immigrants than it did 50 years ago or 75 years ago. My immigrant ancestors (there are no native Americans only people who immigrated sooner than others) didn’t have to queue up at a consulate and hand in massive documents that are meticulously filled out. They didn’t pay high filing fees they couldn’t afford or have to schedule “interviews” with embassy officials who couldn’t fit them into the schedule for months, if not for years.

They didn’t even need a passport -- no one did. People just traveled the world and settled where they wished -- except in a few countries that were considered dictatorships or authoritarian in nature. My ancestors merely boarded the first boat they could and got off in America. No immigrant today can do what they did under the current labyrinth of legislation.

Any legal system of immigration will allow some people into the country -- that is a given. That some get in doesn’t mean that others have the same chance of getting in if they simply follow the rules. This is particularly true for immigration since the rules are not the same for everyone. The government has created hundreds of special categories which apply to only some people. That your mother got in is not a guarantee that other immigrants could do the same thing.

To assume that all immigrants today have equal opportunities to immigrate is false. And to assume that today’s immigrants can enter legally just as easily as yesterday’s immigrants is totally false. The logic is bad. The premise is correct -- immigrants in the past did get into the U.S. but the conclusion -- that therefore immigrants today can do it just as easily -- does not follow the premise.

Another argument that is just silly is the one that says that some immigrants do something bad therefore reducing immigration is a good thing because it prevents the bad things from happening. For instance, an immigrant might kill someone therefore preventing immigration saves lives.

No doubt preventing immigration will save some lives. So would preventing births. Mandatory birth control will prevent any new murderers from being born. But of course there is a cost as well. The anti-immigrant debate tends to look only at the debit column and not the credit column. In the bridge collapse in Minnesota an immigrant rescued dozens of children from the trapped school bus. We recently outlined the case of the small child who was rescued in the desert by an illegal immigrant who sacrificed his chance to finish his journey to America by staying with the child until the authorities arrived. Not long ago a small child climbed onto a fire escape in New York City and fell several floors to the ground below. Two immigrants together caught the child saving its life.

Cutting immigration will cost some lives and save others. Unless there is some indication that immigrants are far more likely to be killers (and there isn’t) the argument is bogus. Every restriction can be justified on the basis of saving one life or preventing one crime. If every American were in prison or under constant surveillance by Homeland Security there would, no doubt, be fewer crimes. But such arguments are routinely rejected, with good cause, in areas that impact directly on most Americans. That the same rejected logic is then used against immigrants is indicative that it is not the logic that persuades people.

Many of the arguments against immigration are invented statistics that the xenophobic campaigners like to spread around like manure in a field -- and the smell isn’t much different either. One argument is that immigrants don’t contribute to the economy but are a drain on it. In fact we covered that topic several times. Here is one study that looked at the question of immigrants in Arizona, a state with a large number of illegals, and found that they pay more in taxes than they consume in benefits. In other words they are subsidizing the fat welfare crowd who are mostly native born.

Other studies showed that the immigrants are paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits as well.

The tottering Social Security system is subsidized by illegal immigrants who find that social security payments are deducted from their wages but they are unable to ever collect the benefits for which they are paying. The funds collected from these immigrants goes into an “earnings suspense file” that the government keeps. And they report that these funds are growing by $50 billion year. The chief actuary for Social Security, Stephen Goss, says that “about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay payroll taxes.”

The result is that immigrants are subsidizing the social security benefits received by millions of Americans. Mr. Goss says that because the illegals don’t collect, but are paying in, they are cutting the loses the system experiences. As the New York Times reported: “without the flow of payroll taxes from wages in the suspense file, the system’s long-term funding hole over 75 years would be 10 percent deeper.”

And one tax agent who helps immigrants prepare their tax returns says that among his clients many return to Mexico when they become elderly to live off their savings. “I can’t recall anybody over 60 without papers,” he said. They work and then retire with the earnings they made during their working years while simultaneously subsidizing the retirement of native born Americans.

Then there is the bogus crime issue. The claim here is that immigrants are apparently inclined toward crime way out of proportion to their numbers --- well, technically that is true but the inclination is one against crime. Immigrants commit fewer crimes on average than do the native born.

Some right-wing tirades against immigrants actually invent statistics. There is a lot of that going around especially on the internet by email. Any email claim received that is negative about immigrants, no matter how absurd or dishonest, is spread around with great delight by some. Yet these claims are false. They are lies that someone intentionally concocted knowing that the bigoted mind is prone to believe such claims simply because they confirm the prejudices of the believer. The bigot, however, never questions his own statistics but reports them as confirming what he already knew without evidence. And far too often those stats are just bogus.

The case against immigrants doesn’t stack up with the evidence. That people continue to make it, in the face of evidence to the contrary, has to cause me to wonder what their real motivation might be. And when I see some of the hateful emails that are distributed, filled with bogus statistics of the sort that Klan would disseminate I can only conclude that there is more than a hint of racism involved. When this concern never seems to materialize into actions taken to stop immigrants who are white my suspicions are aroused even further. But typically, if I read the material the anti-immigrant groups send around, all my suspicions are confirmed and rank prejudice is typically the main motivation for such beliefs.

The immigrant is prejudged and held guilty for things he has not done but for things he is assumed that he will do at some point in the future. This prejudgment is then supported with bad logic or dishonest statistics. That all looks like racism to me. Not every single opponent of immigration is a racist but every racist I’ve met has been an opponent of immigration. And more importantly, the percentage of racists among the anti-immigration crowd is far higher than among the general population. The link between racism and anti-immigration views is not 100% but it is substantial.

Photo: The illustration is of a publication from almost 90 years ago lamenting how immigration was ruining America. For most Americans that would be referring to your grandparents or their parents or grandparent. They also bought the argument that immigration then was "different" from previous waves of immigrants and thus a bigger threat. In other words you are the people the anti-immigrant crowd in 1920 was warning America about-- you are the threat they imagined.


Mohammed insulted by teddy bear -- wait till he reads this.

The pathetic basket case nation of Sudan has decided to file legal charges against a British woman who was teaching there. The children in her class decided to name a teddy bear and voted to call the bear Mohammed. The thugs in the Sudanese government say that is insulting to Mohammed, the con man who founded Islam. (Least you think I’m picking on Islam I have similar opinions regarding all the founders of any sect, cult or religion -- I am an equal opportunity blasphemer.)

How in the world calling a teddy bear Mohammed is supposed to be insulting is beyond me. How many of the butt wipes who were involved in 911 were named Mohammed? Surely that there are people named Mohammed, who murder others, ought to be far more insulting? That the Sudanese thugs are offended by the teddy bear and not by mass murderers tells you a lot.

How is calling a stuffed toy Mohammed insulting to the clown they call a prophet? It isn’t that anyone thought the name was meant to imply that Mohammed was a cuddly toy. No one would believe that. A pit viper most certainly, but never a cuddly toy.

Why the British even have diplomatic representation with the Sudan is something I don’t understand. Sudan is one of those countries that only wants representation with the West so they can stick out their grubby hands for donations. They contribute zilch to the world economically, culturally or socially. If the entire Sudan was to fall into a pit and disappear it could takes months before anyone realized that the big hole in the ground was substantially different from what is there now. This place is so bad an earthquake is considered renovation.

If the British government just made the Sudanese embassy officials pay for their parking tickets it would eat up half the Sudanese GDP. I don’t think Britain should invade the Sudan. That sort of thing should be left to private forces --- a Cub scout troop should do. Or maybe they should drop copies of Playboy on the Islamic centers. A few million copies would keep the holier-than-thou Muslim moralists occupied long enough for this poor woman to hike out of the country. And with the male population suffering from exhaustion, along with their right arms in slings, maybe the women would have a chance to beat the hell out of their husbands for a change.

The school teacher in this case is herself relatively innocent. She was stupid however. Anyone who goes to the Sudan is asking for trouble. It is a center of trouble in the world. It is about as screwed up a nation as possible without being Zimbabwe, North Korea or Cuba. Even Venezuela looks relatively sane compared to the Sudan and it is run by a certified lunatic. So while I feel sorry for the woman I still want to yell: “What the hell were you thinking woman! You went to the Sudan. What did you expect?”

The world apparently has a schizophrenic view of dung holes like Sudan. On the one hand we all know they are worthless hellholes that are nothing but trouble. On the other hand everyone tries to be nice to the jerks who run these places. I would cut off diplomatic recognition of these nations. I wouldn’t invade them -- I’d do something worse -- I’d take away their begging bowls. The dictators who run these places live off the foreign aid the West and the UN flushes down the toilet there. If the Sudanese thugs can’t shop at Harrods that will get them really upset. If they can’t afford the high price call girls of London they’ll have to go home and offer carrots to the goat again. And these days even the goats have limits.

The resources that are poured into Sudan from the West far outweighs any benefits derived. And it isn’t as if foreign aid actually ever helps the people who are suffering. It just helps the vampire elite who run the country. So close the embassies. Send the Sudanese officials packing for home. Ban visits from any government official of the Sudan on the basis that known criminals are not being admitted into the country. Turn off the aid faucet completely. No food aid, no financial aid, certainly no military aid. Put a hold on all Sudanese state bank accounts in the West pending investigation of rights violations. Use those resources to pay the victims of the Sudanese government for the pain and suffering they endured.

Now I have no love for Mohammed. He certainly was no more a prophet than Joe Smith, Moses or L. Ron Hubbard. And he was clearly less civilized than most prophets -- and the competition in that area is pretty steep. But, if I imagined myself a prophet, I’d be rather insulted when people act like complete assholes in my name. I would find their behaviour more insulting than having a teddy bear named after me.

I just can’t fathom the religious mind and its overwhelming need to be offended by something, usually by something innocuous. Cartoons in Denmark got these fanatics into the streets where they managed to kill each other protesting about how disgusted they were. A teddy bear has an entire government (loosely speaking) in a dither and ready to put a woman on trial.

Laugh as much as you want as the lunacy of the Islamists just remember that fundamentalist Christians in America are barely any more sane. You can still get arrested in the theopublican states of Texas and Georgia for selling a dildo. Apparently the only legitimate use for dildos in the Bible Belt is holding public office.

The religious mind is one that is fine tuned for offense. It takes very little to offend them. I’ve not given much thought to why that is. Perhaps the mind that imagines it is communicating with a deity also needs to feel that it holier than everyone else and the easiest way to feel morally superior is to find sin and offense where others do not. I suspect a good deal of this inclination is the result of a haunting fear that many religious people have about their own morality. They know what sort of wickedness they are capable of doing and simply imagine everyone else must be equally guilty or worse.

Certainly living among such people, of all faiths, has convinced me that the one place I don’t want to be is an afterlife filled with just these sorts of people. Life on earth is barely tolerable with them already, I can’t imagine the horrors of living in a place that was populated entirely by people sniffing about looking for something to offend them. One last word: if you are such a person and you got this far without being offended you clearly need a course in reading comprehension.

Photo: Because the Mullahs are deeply offended by the teddy bear named Mohammed I decided to post a photo of something they don't find offensive at all. That they don't find it offensive is all you need to know.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Some women shouldn't be mothers.

There is nothing better than a caring, reasonable, compassionate parent for a child. And nothing worse than a bad one. Two news articles caught my attention and both deal with crappy mothers. The kind of mothers that make me cringe when I think of them. I’m not sure these parents are legally abusive, I have no evidence that they are. But they are lousy examples of what it means to be a decent human being and they are the kind of people who shouldn’t be within 50 yards of children.

I will start with the worst of the two. This woman, in my opinion, is evil. She is immoral and rotten as a human being and decent people ought to shun her. If I had married this woman I would have divorced her. If I were her parents I would have cut out of the will. If I were the neighbors I would have nothing but contempt for her. She acted in a malicously cruel way to torment a young girl who lived down the street from her. This woman is Lori Drew of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri. The child she targeted for his campaign of emotional torture was a 13-year-old girl named Megan Meier.

Megan had trouble fitting in with the “popular” students. She was too chubby and was teased because of it. Her parents put her in a private school and things changed for Megan. She made friends, lost the excess weight and was happy. With her new friends she stopped hanging around with her old school pals including the daughter of Lori Drew.

Lori Drew knew a lot about Megan Meier. She knew she had been plagued by depression and was taking medication for it. She also knew that Megan had a page at MySpace. And she decided to use that information against the child. One friend of Drew’s recounted: “Lori laughed about it” and said that Drew and her daughter “were going to mess with Megan.”

Lori Drew knew the quickest way to emotionally devastate a young teenage girl is through the romance department. So she invented a boy named Josh Evans. Josh was supposedly 16 and found Megan through her MySpace page. He became her friend and expressed interest in her. They flirted by email for weeks. And when Megan was besotted with this fictional boy Drew lowered the boom on her. Megan suddenly received an abusive tirade from “Josh” telling her that he wanted nothing to do with her because she mistreated her friends. It appears to me that Lori Drew was upset because Megan stopped hanging out with her daughter after she transferred schools. This pathetic example of a mother decided to teach her daughter how to hurt people to get revenge on them for slighting you.

Josh’s page had picked up numerous “friends” along the way who apparently also thought he was real. And they were roped into the attack on Megan. Megan was receiving vicious emails and retreated to her bedroom upset.

Her mother sensed something wasn’t right and went looking for her. She was in her closet where she had hung herself. The paramedics tried to save the young girl’s life but couldn’t. While they were trying Lori Drew was on the phone to the neighbor who knew about her harassment plan warning the woman to “keep her mouth shut”.

The police say there are no charges that can filed because no law was broken that they know of. Lori Drew claims she doesn’t feel guilty because she claims Megan had tried to kill herself before. First, that apparently isn’t true. Second, if it were true that only makes what Drew did even more contemptible. What sort of creature is this and what sort of example is she setting for her daughter?

The local city council passed an ordinance against cyber-harassment. But the mayor said it was mild compared to what the residents of the town wanted to do to Lori Drew. I can understand that.

My second example of a shitty mother is a religious bigoted shrew from Escondido, California named Joy Stutz. Before I get into the rantings of Ms. Stutz let me clarify something regarding discrimination.

I think discrimination, unless it is violent or coercive in some manner, is basically individuals choosing with whom they wish to associate. I believe that freedom of association means the freedom to not associate. On some rare occasions that make sense. In most cases it doesn’t make sense. The discriminating individual is just a bigot in my view and worthy of our displeasure and contempt but not worthy of legal sanction. I think we ought to be free to discriminate against bigots. Not only should we be free to discriminate against them but I think it is the decent thing to do -- to impose private sanctions against individuals for their viciousness.

But the right to discriminate applies only to entirely private entities and individuals. Those individuals targeted by the bigots must be free to avoid giving unwilling support to the organization or individual. If the local grocery store is owned by a Klan member I can drive to the next closest store instead.

Government is inherently coercive. It operates with a “legal” monopoly to engage in force against the citizens. You have no choice whether or not to fund it. The money is taken from you coercively. And while I happen to think that most of it ought to be abolished entirely I do believe, that while it exists, it has no right to discriminate against specific groups of people.

An apartment complex can say “no children” as far as I am concerned. But a school system can’t exclude Jews, blacks, Catholics, etc. A hair stylists ought to be free refuse to do the hair of anyone they dislike. But the police are not free to deny protection to individuals merely because they have religious beliefs which the officers dislike. The right to discriminate does not apply to any government entity.

And that is what has Joy Stutz upset. She wants government to discriminate. She wants the coercive apparatus of the state to subject students at school to differing criteria based on Stutz’s personal religious beliefs. Joy Stutz is free to believe anything she wants no matter how absurd, abhorrent, or ridiculous. It is a right which she exercises to the maximum. But her right to be a bigoted moron does not mean the school system has that right.

I say she is bigoted and a moron. The evidence speaks for itself. First, her bigotry. She is upset because in California the school system is not allowed to discriminate against students because of their sexual orientation. In other words the school can’t deny a student the same rights of all the other students merely because the student might be gay or bisexual. Because this sort of discrimination by a government body is illegal Stutz wants parents to keep their kids home for two days to protest. She wants the state to be able to discriminate against gay students. That is bigotry. That Stutz suffers from religious delusions that inspire her hatred doesn’t change the fact that she is a bigot. Motivation is irrelevant.

Now for the moronic part. Stutz says that treating gay students the same as straight students is indoctrination. “We don’t want our children to be indoctrinated in the homosexual agenda in the schools.” She says that removing bigotry from the schools means “they are taking away... the family’s right to raise their children according to their own family values.”

Ms. Stutz is free to teach her values to her unfortunate children. She can even dress them up in sheets and take them off to a family picnic where they toast marshmallows over a flaming cross. She can religiously lobotomize her own children but she has no right to impose that sort of intolerance on the educational system. Stutz is not nearly as bad as Drew but she is a crappy mother. I don’t think bigots can be good parents because what they teach their children is inhumane and indecent. But being a crappy parent doesn’t mean they have done anything criminal.

My view is easy to understand. When people express bigoted positions decent people ought to speak up and protest. We should defend the right of idiots to be idiotic. But we must not confuse defending the right to being indecent with defending the indecency. Mel Gibson has the right to hate Jews but no decent person ought to support Gibson. The League of the South has the right to engage in their promotion of a white Christian republic in the Bible-belt. But no decent individual, certainly no decent libertarian, ought to be associated with them. David Duke has the right to hate gays, Jews, blacks and whoever but no respectable individual will have anything but contempt for that old bigot.

Libertarians ought to defend the rights of the people who are fringe and disgusting and unpleasant. But defending their right to be such should never be confused with the defending their disgusting and unpleasant beliefs. The anti-immigrant crowd have the right to dislike Mexicans if they want and I have the right to give them the finger when they do. So I will defend your right to hate and I will hate you for doing so. In the meantime Lori Drew and Joy Stutz are my winners for the Britney Spears Mothering Award.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A nonPC message to the immigrant haters.

I would like to address one type of argument which I have heard, mainly from conservatives and from some self-labeled “libertarians” who I think are closet conservatives. It is normally used against undocumented immigrants. It goes along the line that they are glad when decent individuals, who are not violating the rights of others, have been arrested because “they broke the law.”

Right-wingers and faux libertarians who use this line are hypocrites and hiding their true reasoning. How do I know this?

Members of the so-called Patriot movement, where such bigots reside in large numbers, get weepy about the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence. They worship the Constitution as a god-given document. The Founding Fathers were criminals. The Declaration of Independence was an illegal rebellion The American Revolution was AGAINST the law. I’m glad they were criminals but they were criminals.

Yet they are thrilled about these illegal acts!

Consider one of the favorite sayings among the far Right -- “From my cold dead hands.” Remember when Charleston Heston held up that rifle and uttered those words. I would bet that 99% of the anti-immigrant Right cheered Heston for saying it. (And I am not making an argument for gun control, which I oppose.)

What does that statement mean? It is an act of defiance against legislation. The full context of that statement is that “They will get my gun when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.” Unpack it a bit more. What does it mean to “get my gun”? This term was in specific reference to attempts to legislate gun control.

It is a statement that says: “If you pass laws to confiscate my gun I will fight you to the death. The only way you can take my gun, no matter what the law saws, is to kill me.” It is a promise to violate the law and the Right has political orgasms over the statement.

I know some so-called libertarians who use the “against-the-law” argument against immigrants and then applaud an activist who refuses to get a driver’s license. Which of those two laws is the bigger impostion on rights? They rally around activists who won’t pay their income taxes. In each case these individuals are violating legislation.

The Constitution specifically allows the legal confiscation of private property for “public” purposes. And while some such eminent domain cases have nothing to do with “public” use ,that doesn’t matter to most on the pro-property rights Right. If a homeowner, holds out in their home against the state, a large number of individuals on the political Right will applaud them and offer them support.

Frequently these people are staunch opponents of a law to the point that they justify breaking that law. They will offer material assistance to the lawbreakers. They will rally for them, petition on their behalf. Many of these selfsame moralists will themselves break the law. And they do so happily and with a certain amount of self-satisfaction.

Yet, when it comes to immigration, these people, who are practically ready to run up the black flag and start slitting political throats, suddenly become the Hall Monitors of the State. They want to be snitches for government or cheerleaders for the law. The term “fucking hypocrite” comes to mind.

The settled issue for any advocate of human decency and morality is that there are plenty of times when one has the right, nay the moral duty, to violate a law. The question is not whether this ought to be done but when. Anyone who blindly obeys all laws, no matter how repugnant or vicious, is not being moral but evading morality.

For the libertarian the position is simple. If an individual is not violating the rights of others they are not the proper object for legal attention. The function of law is to protect the life, liberty and property of each individual from criminals. And crimes are those actions which violate these things. If the State violates your life, your liberty or your property, then it is acting in a criminal manner and it is your right to disobey it in that regard. You are not morally obligated to cooperate with a criminal. You may choose to do so but you are not acting immorally if you disobey the State under these circumstances. That includes immigrants without bureaucratic permission slips.

I can see reasons for wanting to make sure that the individuals being admitted are not criminals or carrying bubonic plague. But the law does not spend much time about such things. The truth is that 99% of the immigration laws are meant to protect us from people who want to work and who pose no threat to anyone. The obstacles that the bigots and labor protectionists put in their way to legally immigrate strips them of legal options thus leaving only illegal options. Under such a regime I personally believe they have every right to break the law.

In addition I think there is a moral justification to help them do so. If I were to witness an immigration raid against peaceful workers, and if one of those immigrants was fleeing immigration authorities and I could hide them, I would do so. Happily!

I would not help the police arrest someone for smoking pot nor would I report someone merely for owning a firearm even if the law said that guns were illegal. I wouldn’t report you to the IRS nor would I willingly cooperate with IRS agents if they came looking for you. If I could warn you they were coming I would do so.

But beat your wife and expect the police on your doorstep and if need be I’d take a 2x4 to your head myself. If I’m in my car and see someone mugging an old lady on the street they can expect me to drive straight toward them and if I smash them against a brick wall and their life seeps out of them while they wait for the ambulance --- well tough! I won’t weep.

If you harm an innocent person you are my enemy, even if the law allows it! If you are peaceful, non-aggressive and violating the rights of no one you are my friend, even if your actions violate the law. I will do everything in my power to hinder my enemies and help my friends.

So you authoritarian “libertarians” who want to arrest immigrants. You are not libertarians. You are not friends of liberty just because you want to protect your own rights. Even the Nazis were adamant about protecting their own rights. Just because you have wet dreams over owning guns doesn’t make you a libertarians. I don’t give a damn if you hate the IRS -- if you still want to violate the liberty of peaceful workers then you are not a libertarian but an enemy of liberty. You are not quite the rapists or the robber but you aren’t that much different either. You are willing to use force against peaceful individuals and that makes you an immoral criminal in my books.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Giving up the American dream.

Jesus Cordova gave up his dream to save the life of a small boy. Mr. Cordova is an “illegal” immigrant. That means he came to America but he didn’t have permission to do so from a bureaucrat. I don’t know what this man endured in order to find his way through the desert in order to cross in America.

But I can imagine the joy he felt when this young man succeeded. He was finally in America. The first big step to a better life had been accomplished. I suppose he dreamed of finding a job and getting himself established.

At around the same time a 45-year-old woman was driving down a U.S Forest Service road after taking her young son camping. She lost control on a curve and the car plunged into a canyon. She was trapped. The nine-year-old boy crawled from the wreckage and wandered around looking for help for his mother.

And that was when Mr. Cordova, on his way to a better life, came upon the boy in the cold desert night. First he tried to help the woman out from the wreckage but was unable to free her. She was in bad shape and didn’t survive. The boy was left as an orphan lost in the desert -- his father had died two months earlier.

This “illegal” took his jacket and gave it to the boy to keep him warm. He built a fire and stayed with the boy throughout the night to protect him and comfort him. The next morning two hunters spotted them and called for help.

Of course the benevolent hand of government quickly arrived on the scene and arrested Mr. Cordova. Mr. Cordova would still be pursuing his dream of life in America if he hadn’t tried to offer help to a distressed child. If he had simply started the fire for the boy and then left the child with the corpse of his mother Mr. Cordova would not have been arrested. But he showed true compassion. He reached out and helped a child even when that compassion meant his own incarceration because he doesn’t have a stamp on a piece of paper.

I would trade Mr. Cordova for all the Minutemen in America. I would take a Mr. Cordova as a neighbor long before I would want to live next to any Representative or Senator who voted for that Wall. I would prefer a Mr. Cordova as a friend to all the Immigration officials you can muster.

This also illustrates a problem with the drive by the bigoted Right to have local police arresting people for immigration offenses. Millions of illegals not only become targets for their more criminally prone native-born neighbors but they face arrest for helping others. If you are mugged and an illegal immigrant comes to you defense he faces deportation for helping you. If he witnesses a crime about to be committed and he reports it to the police to help another person he faces deportation as a result. He can’t afford to reach out and help you. He can’t testify in court or call the police or come to your aid without facing arrest.

Millions and millions of people face criminal prosecution for helping another person. That is the perverse incentive that they face. Mr. Cordova had too much decency to leave the child wandering in the dark, cold desert. And for that decency he was forced to give up his dream.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

And then there was one.

Australia’s John Howard, who as prime minister was a staunch supporter of George Bush, has been sent packing by the electorate. Not long ago Tony Blair, another Bush lapdog was sent packing by his own party. Both men were harmed because of their close association with the Great Divider.

George Bush clearly has the Merde Touch. That’s like the Midas Touch except everything he touches turns to shit. For decades evangelical Christianity was on the rise in the United States. Two terms of a president wedded to fundamentalistic thinking apparently has turned the tide. Evangelicalism is scrambling to hold its young, more and more young people now openly embrace atheism, and evangelicals are rethinking their connections to the Republican Party.

Even Republicans are staying away from their own leader. Not one of the major Republican presidential lot, a sad and pathetic selection if I ever saw one, are getting cozy with Dubya. No one is defending the man. More and more people see his handling of Katrina as the high point of career with it being downhill from there on every other issue.

The solid national Republican majority that Ronald Reagan created has been shattered into tiny pieces. The American voters bitch-slapped Bush hard in the last election. The Republicans lost the Senate. The Republicans lost the House. The Republicans lost state assemblies around the country. The Republicans, who had a sold majority of the gubernatorial seats traded places with the minority Democrats. Bush has been such an utter disaster that even Hillary Clinton is looking good.

If Bush were a horse he’d be glue by now.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Foreign interventionism creates the imperial presidency.

One of the great underrated figures in the history of modern classical liberalism has been Felix Morley. A well known journalist, he edited the Washington Post having previously been on the editorial staff of the Baltimore Sun where he worked with that other great libertarian, H.L. Mencken. Morley eventually became president of Haverford College, a Quaker college that was the alma mater of himself and his brother, literary figure Christopher Morley, and his other brother, Frank a mathematician. In addition to his work as a college president Morley was one of the founders of Human Events.

Morley differed with the other founders of that journal, Frank Hanighen and Henry Regnery. As Morley saw it the other two “moved on to associate with the far Right of the Republican Party” while Morley “remained essentially ‘Libertarian,’ though it is with great reluctance that I yield the old terminology of ‘liberal’ to the socialists.” Morley’s position was that he opposed “centralization of political power” as deadly to the American Republic.

The conservative movement is inherently a backward looking movement, clinging to the past simply because it is the past. The oppose liberalism when it arose, preferring the feudal system of centralize power. When reactionary socialism arose and took control of Russia and China the conservatives again clung to the past though the past they now clung to was happily the liberal past which conservatives of previous days had unsuccessfully tried to stop.

During the days of Morley there was a commonality between the classical liberal and the conservative which did not exist before, or since. Conservatives today are now clinging to the past of the likes of Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt -- they cling to foreign interventionism, empire building, large, invasive government, and, their own special mixture of theocratic beliefs.

Morley understood something that conservatives of his day simply could not grasp. Foreign interventionism abroad requires the centralization of power at home. More particularly it requires the centralization of power in the presidency.

The imperial presidency of George Bush is the logical outgrowth of foreign interventionism. And, I might add, foreign interventionism is the policy of the imperialist Left. It was the “progressives” on the Left who pushed for empire building both in England and in the United States. An uncomfortable truth for today’s Left is that their ideology created the foreign policy that Bush pursues and that policy is directly linked to the imperial presidency he has established.

Morley warned Americans that you can’t “make a federal republic do an imperial job” because “our traditional institutions are specifically designed to prevent centralization of power.” Yet an empire needs centralized decision making. Interventionism around the world needs a president who can respond without the shackles of public debate. A “government subject to public opinion” can not “run an Empire.”

Half a century ago Morley warned: “World leadership requires centralization of power in the the capital of the nation that seeks dominance” and such government must “be completely indifferent to the gusts of public opinion.” Not only must power be centralized in the capital but in the executive branch. “If we are going to remake the world in our image it is most irritating to have some hick Congressman raising questions about the costs involved, yet the theory of our government is that the gentleman from Podunk actually has that right.”

Congressmen from Podunk can’t manage an empire. One reason the congress has abandoned its constitutional duty to declare war is that an interventionist foreign policy must react to emergencies and emergencies are not easily debated in advance. One can’t weigh the alternatives and argue for different solutions. If the house in on fire you grab the hose and spray and worry about what gets wet later. Consider that Constitutional travesty that George Bush foisted on the American people called the Patriot Act. What debate did it have? What consideration was given to the powers it created in violation of the Bill of Rights? Congress rubber stamped it without a single member of that body having actually read the document.

The executive branch of government argues that there is information too sensitive to be made public. You can’t debate whether or not the United States should engage in secret subsidies to various political organizations overseas -- it’s secret! You can’t discuss how agents of the American government are involved in toppling governments, installing new regimes, creating new enemies for his to worry about in the future. It must be done surreptitiously.

Not even Congress can be trusted with the information necessary to engage in remaking the world. And certainly the American people can never be given such information. Debating such things only tips off the “enemy” and with an interventionist foreign policy there are endless enemies.

Foreign interventionism requires not just big government with power centralized in the presidency but it requires evasive, secret government. It requires a president who will lie to the public and the media about what is going on -- for the good of the country.

The Democrats may whine about the Imperial presidency and the dishonesty of the Bush administration. But these are the logical results of decades of bipartisan support for an aggressive policy of interventionism. This is the policy of Wilson and Roosevelt that the Democrats were so enthusiastic about.

The Progressive movement in America championed the “white man’s burden” of ruling over an Empire. The famed progressive Herbert Croly said America needed “the tonic of a serious moral adventure” by which he meant war. He proposed a military building up acknowledging that it “will be used chiefly for positive and for aggressive as opposed to merely defensive purposes.” But such posturing was necessary to make the American people accept the centralized control of life that the Progressive felt lead to utopia. Croly argued that the “promise of American life is to be fulfilled a certain measure of discipline” and “by a larger measure of individual subordination and self-denial.”

The progressives were champions of centralized control and war was the fastest road to centralization that they could conceive of. But power is not naturally democratic, though many on the Left seem unable to understand this, it is inherently autocratic. Accumulating power in Washington many be the wet dream of the socialist but as power is transferred to the central government they are failing to notice that it is accumulating even faster in the presidency.

If the Left wishes to avoid future administrations dominated by the likes of Bush & Cheney it must push to redistribute power in the opposite direction. Both the presidency and the Congress must redistribute power back to the public by surrendering powers they have been exercising for far too long. America must also return to its Constitutional foreign policy which is one of non-interventionism. The ultimate reality is that an Empire needs an Emperor. If one wishes to avoid the later one must reject the former.

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Hillbilly huckster Huckabee wants to finish the job.

Voters beware. The real dark horse in the Republican nomination is one of the worst Republicans running -- not quite the worst, that honor belongs to Tom Tancredo -- is Mike Huckabee. And Huckabee is about as far as you can get from the classical liberal values of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

He loves the idea of government being able to legally execute people for crimes. Now, I’m no fan of criminals, especially serious criminals. But I’m a realist when it comes to government -- Huckabee isn’t. Government’s screw up constantly. In fact that they manage to get anything right is probably more pure luck than anything else. But Huckabee has faith, lots of faith, in the power of of the omnipotent, omnipresent State. And he sees no issue about government executing innocent people by accident. I guess it’s collateral damage.

Killing innocent people doesn’t worry Huckabee and he’s very pro-war. He loves the U.S. involvement in Iraq and wants to stay the course. Actually staying the course, at this point may not be much worse, the ship of State has already hit the iceberg and is taking on water and listing heavily to Left because of the pathetic ship’s captain of late.

Huckabee is fan of energetic, meddling, all-intrusive government. He is anti-civil liberties, pro-war (which is ultimately anti-civil liberties and anti-economic freedom), and a theocrat to boot. He’s George Bush on steroids. And the fundamentalists, who have brought such disaster to the Republican Party, are starting to woo Huckabee. These morons aren’t finished destroying the Republican Party and exorcising the ghosts of Reagan and Goldwater. They are looking to inflict this hillbilly huckster on the party to finish the job.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Why do so many police end up killing family pets?

There are still people who make excuses for the way American police are acting. Here are two more stories that illustrate my contention that the police need to reigned in. They are dangerous and they are acting like the masters of the public instead of their servants.

Here is a story from Idaho about the Barboza family. A few days ago a Teton Country Sheriff’s Deputy arrives at the home and demands Leonel Barboza bring out the family pet, a dog named Bobby. The Deputy claimed that there was a complaint that the dog had bitten someone. When Mr. Barboza asked if there was any proof that this had happened the officer said: “I don’t need any proof.”

The deputy pulled out his rifle and shot the dog three times without any legal processes taking place. The officer then got in his car and drove away leaving the animal where it lay.

Mr. Barboza’s father-in-law, who had witnessed the shooting had a nervous breakdown as a result and was hospitalized. When the family returned home from the hospital they discovered, to their surprise, that the dog was still alive. The local television news reporter looked at court records regarding the case and could find one complaint, filed a year ago about the dog but it was dismissed. The dog is now under the care of a vet. Mr. Barboza says: “You know my kinds think all the cops are bad because an officer came and shot his dog.”

Kayla Irwin is a single mother of two children. The other day she returned home to see what appeared to be smoke billowing out of her apartment in Lawrenceville, Indiana. It was tear gas.

The police were looking for a fugitive and had somehow concluded that he must be in the apartment of Ms. Irwin, who doesn’t know the man. For hours a paramilitary outfit of cops surrounded the apartment bellowing orders in loudspeakers demanding the suspect surrender.

A neighbor, who just returned from duty in Iraq says he was astounded. Emanuel Brightwell said: “In my opinion, it looked like they were enjoying what they were doing. They did not need to do all this.” Another neighbor described the situation this way: “It looked like they were ready to go to war.”

The police officers finally decided to act when the alleged fugitive didn’t respond. So they fired canisters of CS gas into the apartment and went charging in with weapons at the ready. They then spent a period of time totally ransacking the apartment and tearing everything up in their search. Drawers were emptied on the floor, furniture overturned, etc.

The suspect did not respond because there was no suspect. The apartment was empty except for the family pets that the police had gassed when they refused to surrender. Apparently the family cat survived but police managed to kill a deadly gerbil.

All the furnishings are covered with the dust from the gas and it clear that it would take many, many hours to straighten the destruction the police left in their erroneous raid. A reporter who visited the apartment a few days later had to leave the premises because the gas residue was sufficient to burn his eyes. Ms. Irwin and her children can no longer live in the apartment due to the gas. The apartment complex manager has put her up in another apartment for the time being. But Irwin is trying to find some way to cover the bills for cleaning all her possessions.

Police have told her it is her responsibility to clean up their mess. After a local television station covered the story two police appeared and said that the department would investigate if they could find some money for Ms. Irwin so that she could have the cleaning done. Personally I think the police officers should be docked pay sufficient to cover the cleaning and to pay damages. But cops don’t believe cops should be held responsible for violating the life, liberty or property of others. They truly do believe that they are above the law.

A few days ago Pam and Frank Myers were sitting at home watching a movie. Pam describes what happens: “All of a sudden I hear bang, bang, bang ‘Open the door, police, open the door.” For the next 45 minutes the Myers were held by the police as they searched the house. She was even denied permission to use the toilet.

Then she heard gun shots outside as one of the police officers executed the family dog. He later claimed that he feared for his life. Isn’t that always the case? Over and over we read about police raids and repeatedly they execute the family pet. And the police story, from locality to locality, is always the same. They claim the dog was a threat -- of course the families, and usually reams of witnesses from the neighborhood all claim otherwise. But so far I don’t know of one police officer being disciplined for murdering family pets.

After murdering the pet dog Pearl the police left. They had the wrong house. They didn’t apologize and just left the family to take of the dead animal they loved.

In Dyer, Tennessee a police officer says he received a call about a loose dog that was supposedly menacing. The police shot the dog, Buster, in the yard of Dale and Sherry Clark, the owners of the animal. The police officer claims that the dog was snarling and coming at him and he fired as a last resort. But according to Sherry Clark the vet who performed surgery on the dog, who had to have a leg and shoulder amputated, said “there is no way the bullet would be coming in through the back side of the leg if the dog was coming towards [the police officer].”

In Broward County an 11-year-old Dalmatian is fighting for its life after a country sheriff shot it. Allegedly the officer received a call about a barking dog. When she got to the neighborhood she heard a dog barking in the back yard of a house and entered the property. She did not try to contact the property owners at all. Instead of knocking on the front door to inform them of a complaint about barking she went into the back yard.

She alleges that the dog was inside the house and when was coming out the door. Of course she felt her life in danger and shoots the dog. The dog wears a collar that sends a shock if it leaves the property so it doesn’t leave the yard and was on the property when shot.

But another news report on the injured animal raises questions about the truthfulness of the police office. “Fred’s vet said the bullet went in his back and out his side.” That would appear to indicate the dog was running away from the officer not toward her.

As Lord Acton said -- power corrupts.

Photo: The dog in the photo is Fred.


Handgun claim by DC officials highly dubious.

The Los Angeles Times has a story about the case headed for the Supreme Court dealing with the draconian handgun laws in Washington, D.C. The District has some of the strictest antigun laws in the nation and, in a related matter, some of the worst crime in the country.

The Times reports “District of Columbia officials say their ban on easily concealed handguns dates back to 1858. And they argue handguns are involved in most violent crime...”

Interesting. Obviously that 1858 ban is what was responsible for saving the life of President Lincoln. Without it he might have been assassinated. Or perhaps I misremember.

I do wonder, however, if reporters feel any compulsion to check facts or not? It appears to me that as long as some official states something is true the reporter feels his job is done provided he attributes the claim to source, regardless of the accuracy. In this story the issue is the claim that handguns are involved in “most violent crime.”

According to the Department of Justice’s Crime Victimization Survey there were 4,718,330 violent crimes in the United States. The weapon of choice is over 67% of them was no weapon at all. In two-thirds of violent crimes no weapon is involved. So what percentage of violent crimes do involved a handgun, the weapon in question in the D.C. ban? A surprisingly low 7.8%.

Not only are handguns NOT used in the majority of all violent crimes they are not used in the majority of cases in any single type of violent crime. Based on the crime victimization survey here are some interesting facts. (Homicide is categorized differently.)

In rape cases only about 2% involve a handgun and 3% involve any gun. In other words an armed woman has about a 33 to 1 chance of being better armed than her assailant. Even in an aggravated assault an armed victim has a 3 to 1 chance of being better armed than his attacker.

The one exception to this trend is homicide. Here about half of the crimes involve handguns. And approximately 17% involved another type of firearm. But approximately one third of all homicides involve weapons other than a firearm. So how would adding these homicides to the total number of violent crimes change the statistics? Hardly at all. There were 16,692 murders in 2005 (the latest data available). Add those in with all other violent crimes and the total number of violent crimes in the United States increase to 4,735,022. There were approximately 53,000 other violent crimes commited with a firearm of some type (not just handguns). Adding in homicides committed with all firearms brings that number to 69,700. That means that under 15% of all violent crimes, including homicide, involve a firearm of some type -- less if you look at handguns alone.

If you are armed and victimized in a violent attack of all kinds, the chances are about 7 to 1 that you will be better armed than your assailant.

The most charitable interpretation I can give to this report is that D.C. officials meant that most violent crimes in the District are conducted with a handgun -- although I have heavy doubts about that as well. But if we grant them this possible reprieve their case for banning handguns is even weaker. In most the country handguns are not banned and guns are used against victims in less than 10% of all cases of violent crimes. This "reprieve" would mean that in D.C., where handguns are banned, the number of guns used against innocent people is more than five times as prevalent. That would imply the handgun ban may have actually increased the prevalence of armed attacks which is precisely the opposite of the case they are wishing to make. Either way the claims of the D.C. officials are in trouble.

Note: the chart showing the number of violent crimes associated with handguns is taken directly from the Department of Justice.

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Where the word "pig" comes from.

From what I can see this cop was sitting right at the a temporary sign changing the speed limit significantly downward. He was looking for people who didn't slow down fast enough. The driver who was being ticketed tried to point to where the sign was to show that he was not yet through that sign when the officer started chasing him. The cop shot the man with a taser demanding that everyone obey him. The wife, I understand, is pregnant. The man was trying to find out what was going on and the cop could only focus on how everyone must obey him. I'd fire the guy. I will also note that he searched the drivers area as well and that didn't look proper to me. This smacks of a speed trap with a movable sign with the cop sitting right before the sign (which also distracts drivers from seeing it).


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If you don't think the Post Office is stupid.

I had to do a double take on this myself. I went to search for a zip code for a particular address. So I went to the zip code finder that the United States Post Office has set up. Among the pieces of information they ask for, in order to locate the proper zip code for that address is the zip code. Of course if you knew the zip code in question you wouldn't need to use the zip code finder.


AIDS and the global warming connection.

There is a connection between AIDS and global warming that many people don’t quite understand.

Recently the United Nations AIDS agency is planning a big announcement this week. Basically they are saying that the AIDS epidemic has slowed down much more than they expected. But they also appear ready to reduce the official statistics regarding the number of world AIDS cases.

Previously they were saying that new HIV infections were increasing by approximately 4 million per year. The new numbers indicate that 2.5 million new infections are taking place instead. That is a decrease of 40% from what they claimed last year.

A year ago they estimated that 40 million people were infected globally. By today their estimate would have had the number at 44 million if their previous projections were correct. They now say that the total infections are 33 million. But the Washington Post notes that the critics of UN claims on AIDS are still unhappy. They believe the numbers are still being exaggerated. The Post reports:
Having millions fewer people with a lethal contagious disease is good news. Some researchers, however, contend that persistent overestimates in the widely quoted U.N. reports have long skewed funding decisions and obscured potential lessons about how to slow the spread of HIV. Critics have also said that U.N. officials overstated the extent of the epidemic to help gather political and financial support for combating AIDS. "There was a tendency toward alarmism, and that fit perhaps a certain fund-raising agenda," said Helen Epstein, author of "The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS." "I hope these new numbers will help refocus the response in a more pragmatic way."
Officials at the UN not only continued this alarmist campaign but escalated it. Dr. Peter Piot, head of UNAIDS, just last year warned the world that “the pandemic and its toll are outstripping the worst predictions.” The Post says this was in spite of “several years' worth of newer, more accurate studies already offered substantial evidence that the agency's tools for measuring and predicting the course of the epidemic were flawed.”

The UN officials had models which they designed to predict the future course of the epidemic. But such models rarely reflect reality. The knowledge to create a decent model is diffused around the world with far too many factors to be considered. At best the modelers can hope that they create something that is merely a very rough approximate of reality.

James Chin, formerly of the World Health Organization, says the estimates based on these models are probably still way off. The hacking off of 25% of the numbers isn’t enough. He thinks it ought to be reduced a further 25%, down to 25 million world wide. Chin, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, explained the reason for this alarmism in an article he wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Without a constant flow of alarming news releases warning about HIV being on the brink of spreading into general populations, AIDS activists fear that the public and policy makers will not continue to give AIDS programs the highest priority -- hence these "glorious myths," lies told for a noble cause. This alarmism goes against all the evidence. Global and regional HIV rates have remained stable or have been decreasing during the past decade (except possibly among drug users in Eastern Europe). HIV has remained concentrated in groups with the riskiest behavior. Several decades of experience support the conclusion that HIV is incapable of epidemic spread among the vast majority of heterosexuals.
Chin believes the panic-mongering is distorting the response to AIDS and causing billions of dollars to be wasted in areas where it will have little impact. Only a realistic appraisal of the problem allows one to focus attention on the proper areas of concern. Chin says the numbers were inflated “in an effort to get more and more money.”

So why is this alarmism finally dying out? The AIDS numbers on the ground simply continue to fail to match the model. For a couple of decades the AIDS interest groups insisted the problem was far more pervasive and threatening than it really was. And they kept referring to their models and what they predicted would happen to scare up the resources they felt they needed to address the issue.

Having spent a large portion of the last few decades living in Africa I paid attention to the numbers and I could see problems. The population growth rates did not seem to reflect the death rates which we were supposed to be experiencing in Africa. That was something that I never saw addressed. There was also too much corruption of the local numbers. A batch of patients with TB were simply not as valuable to the government as if they were relabelled as AIDS patients. The amount of funds available to them to deal with AIDS was greater than the amount available for tuberculoses. Similarly I recently spoke to a friend in Africa who told of an orphanage that he knew of. They were having financial problems raising the funds necessary to care for the children they had. They allegedly changed their focus and told people they were helping “AIDS orphans” and found that the funds available to them increased dramatically.

There were just too many incentives in the political structure to label a death as AIDS related when it wasn’t. And that meant the models had been built on assumptions that were distorted by the incentives provided. Yet the modelers were attempting to do good. But one problem with focusing on problems is that by focusing on it you convince yourself that it is far worse than it really is. You read reports that verify what you already assume. And you write your report and throw it into the hopper with the others. Someone else comes along and analyzes the reports and announces that the consensus is that the world is facing an pandemic with mounting deaths. In fact AIDS deaths have been dropping and so have the infection rates. And it is only that reality that put the models into check.

Similar problems exist, I believe, with global warming theories. The assumed problems are based on projections from models, models that are flawed because no one on earth understands all the intricacies that create climate change. No model can accurately take these processes, be they anthropogenic or natural, in account.

The AIDS models were flawed and so were the numbers they produced. They had the material by which to prove them wrong -- that is they projected trends over the short term and the reality on the ground contradicted the trends they predicted. But this the problem with global warming models. They invariably predict the climate in a century. In other words it will take one hundreds years to prove them wrong. William Gray, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, says of the global warming modelers:
...dare not make public short-period global temperature forecasts for next season, next year, or a few years hence. This is because they know they do not have short range forecast skill. They would lose credibility if they issue forecasts hat could actually be verified. These climate modelers live largely in a ‘virtual world’ of their own making where reality and model skill is determined largely by the modelers themselves.
There was a passionate, well-intentioned (for the most part) campaign to make people aware of the problems and dangers of AIDS. I too marched in AIDS candlelight vigils. I think now of some friends who died and others who are infected but apparently thriving. The AIDS quilt project had its offices between my home and my work and I would walk past it almost daily. AIDS was, and is, certainly real. That didn’t make the models about AIDS correct nor did it make the illness as threatening to the world as it was said to be. But it did threaten people and it still does. Only a realistic appraisal of the disease allows us to prevent it and alarmism is not conducive to clear thinking.

Global warming is intensely alarmist in nature. It has all the flaws that the AIDS alarmism had. And the short term data in recent years may be indicating that the models are wrong. My problem is that I have no confidence in the ability of fallible modelers to accumulate in one equation all the complex realities that determine climate trends. IPCC author Dr. John Christy explains it this way: “Mother Nature is incredibly complex, and to think we mortals are so clever and so perceptive that we can create computer code that accurately reproduces the millions of processes that determine climate is hubris (think of predicting the complexities of clouds).”

It was the discrepancy between the hard data and the models that were behind the revision of the alarmist statements about AIDS. I suspect that given enough time discrepancies between global warming models and hard data will do the same. I also think that those warming alarmists who are politically motivated know this. And that is one reason I suspect that they will get more extreme in their projections and hysteria. If they don’t scare the world into adopting their solutions now the data may finally put an end to their campaign. So I expect the shrill pronouncements to reach higher decibel levels the longer this discrepancy between data and projections continues.

What would seem persuasive to me, regarding such models, is models that are reasonably accurate over short and moderate periods of time. Surely these models can’t exist in a vacuum and have to be tested against the actual data. And if the data and the models don’t correspond it is the models that have to be thrown out -- and I dare say the policies that are built on those models as well.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Cops are such funny people. A real laugh riot.

Cops are funny people -- a real laugh riot. They should be given their own comedy series they are so funny.

Police officer Joseph Vega, of the Tinley Park police force, dropped in to order some pizza at Guardi’s Pizza. The owner, Alexanader Mendez and his wife, were working the counter. Officer Vega ordered the pizza and Mendez went to the cooler to get it and prepare it.

While he was gone Office Vega asked Mrs. Mendez if she wanted to see him scare her husband. She told him she wasn’t interested. But this jokester had a hilarious prank up his sleeve and couldn’t wait to show it off.

He pulled out his Taser weapon and pointed it toward Mendez as he was coming out of the cooler. And then for a really funny punchline he pulled the trigger. Wait! It gets even funnier.

Mr. Mendez was hit in the head and the shoulder by the barbs and, of course, shocked by the electric charge. I hope you are sitting down because this prank will have you in stitches -- no doubt it had Mr. Mendez in stitches. After he was hit Mendez falls to the ground and goes into convulsions that causes him to bite off part of his tonque. Now isn’t that a slide splitter?

Vega rushes over and pulls out the barbs which causes profuse bleeding. And he calls the local cops to come and provide assistance. They get there and grab the bloody towels, they take Mr. Mendez’s glasses which were covered in blood. And they confiscate the restaurants surveillance camera which recorded the entire event.

As funny as that is you should hear the cop’s version of the events. According to them the officer didn’t stop in to order a pizza he was conduct “a routine check on the business” -- the thoughtful man. And he just happened to notice that his Taser had its safety deactivated. And being a diligent, fine, upstanding servant of the people he took it out in order to put the safety back on since we all know cops are so very reluctant to Taser people. And for some unknown reason the Taser just shot off and hit poor Mr. Mendez entirely accidentally since we are dealing with a diligent, concerned police officer with nothing more than the safety of the public his main concern.

The Tinley Park police department immediately announced that the Taser was obviously defective since defective cops are so very rare. So they sent all their Tasers backs to the factory to be diligently checked. All of them, including the one that shot Mr. Mendez were sent back and certified to be in perfect working order.

The local town officials refuse to speak about the matter on advise of their attorneys. A law suit has been filed against the city by the poor man and his wife.

Speaking of fine, upstanding servants of the people do you remember the story we did about the ticket trap of St. George, Missouri. It was here that office Sgt. James Kuehnlein walked up to a parked car and started threatening the young drive. The officer told him that he could invent charges against the man and have him arrested. He went ballistic acting in what can only be described as a unprofessional manner, if you like understatment. He was unhinged.

Well, the rot in St. George seems rather pervasive. We next discovered that the police chief, Scott Uhrig, was a sexual predator who used his previous job as a police officer in another town to try and force a teenaged girl into having sex with him. He was disciplined for this by the state but that was no barrier to getting hired in St. George.

Of course the top of the chain of command was the mayor, Harold Goodman. Mr. Goodman was arrested for having pot. He said it was for medicinal purposes. The pot was found while police were searching the mayor’s home. At the time they wouldn’t say why. Apparently the reason for the raid was that the good mayor was somehow involved with child pornography and he was later arrested on those charges as well.


Friday, November 16, 2007

A failure to communicate

Some people just take ever word that someone says literally. And that can lead to lots of confusion. Recently a group of people decided to have a going-away party for a fellow staff member who was leaving the company. They called up and ordered a cake for the party and were asked what they would like on the top. The answer was: "'Best Wishes Suzanne.' Underneath that: 'We will miss you.'" Here is what they got.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Barbara Branden on the 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

Barbara Branden, long-time friend of Ayn Rand and her biographer, discusses the publication of Rand's famous novel, Atlas Shrugged. The entire 16 minute talk can be viewed at TV Liberty. When you finish browse through TV Liberty for some of the other videos available. There is also an index on the right on side of the page. The blogspot software tends to sort by the first word even if that is part of a name so videos on Rand are sorted by Ayn. But once you know that the index otherwise follows the conventional rules.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pious politician prays after prognosis predicts precipitation.

The weather in Georgia has just been too nice -- no rain that is. Not much at least. Georgia is suffering a dry spell. Now before people say it is warming that entire region of the US is one that has actually experienced cooling for the last several years. But that isn’t my point.

The rational thing to do when a commodity, such as water, becomes scarce, is to raise the price. Higher prices mean people are more careful with it. They might wash the car less or not fill their swimming pools (not that they ought to fill them this time of year anyway). If it is a long term problem they might change the sort of vegetation they plant around their homes.

Prices are feedback loops. Scarcity drives up prices and send the message to consumers to conserve. Government doesn’t like the price mechanism. It doesn’t have any of the authority and Big Stick approach they prefer. Instead they usually demand rationing and non-price related controls -- none of which work as effectively.

In Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue decided to try something different. He decided to show his piety in public by calling for a prayer session in order to beg God for rain. This non-believer does find the idea a bit strange. I can’t see a God that would stop rain simply to force people to beg him for it. Nor does the punishment theory make sense to me from a moral perspective. If drought is meant to punish sinners why not use a method that doesn’t punish everyone else along the way?

But Governor Perdue, a Baptist, decided that television reports showing him praying outside the state house for rain would be the thing. Apparently praying on the State Capitol steps in full view of the television crews, makes the prayers more effective. I suppose the microphones were necessary in case God was hard of hearing.

They told everyone it was an interfaith service that he would be leading. But “interfaith” doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to them. The only people with speaking parts were a gaggle of Protestant ministers -- and I suspect mostly fundamentalist ministers at that. But Perdue is a Theopublican.

Perdue is bound to get rain at some point. That is a given. So praying for rain tends to be a safe bet depending on how long you are willing to wait to see your “prayers answered.” But Perdue wasn’t taking much of risk. He held his prayer session on Tuesday. But the National Weather Service had already predicted a 50/50 chance of rain for Wednesday by then. Talk about hedging your bets.

From that perspective it wasn’t much of a risk. Perdue could publicize his piety, which the Theopublic of Georgia is about as popular as pork rinds. If it rains he looks good. If it doesn’t God gets the blame.

Those who believe will believe no matter what. And no doubt, if it rains, they will credit the prayers as the cause. If it didn’t rain something else would get the blame. But certainly with seven day and ten day weather forecasts being common it is rather simple to schedule a prayer service for rain one day before rain is expected. But no doubt when rain comes some loud “Hosanna’s” will be shouted and Sonny will be feeling pleased with himself.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Laissez Faire Books will continue.

It’s official, Laissez Faire Books will not be closing. The International Society for Individual Liberty will be taking over this long-running source for libertarian oriented books. While there will be some period of transition the new Laissez Faire will have a new catalogue available in PDF format by the end of the week. Anyone who wishes to receive the pdf catalogues in the future can do so by emailing ISIL released the following statement:
The International Society for Individual Liberty is pleased to be the new sponsors of Laissez Faire Books. For three decades LFB has been a prime source for libertarian educational material. And we intended to continue, and expand, that tradition.
Your purchase from LFB does more than you may realize. Proceeds from sales allow us to sponsor new books that would never see the light of day otherwise through our Cobden Press publishing arm. In addition, we will sponsor books for libraries, schools, students and non-profit organizations around the world. And you can donate to such causes through ISIL which is a registered non-profit educational organization.
The acquisition of LFB was unexpected so we are still getting a grasp on things. There will be a period of transition. But we will deal with your orders as quickly and efficiently as possible. It may take some time to have the new web site fully functional. But you will receive a regular newsletter from us in PDF format that you should be able to open and enjoy.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Screwing the poor to secure votes.

The world food situation worsens as politicians continued to ravage agricultural markets in order to give subsidies to large energy companies and Agribusiness. This, we should note, is a bipartisan policy in the United States with Democrats among the worst offenders. One of the strongest supporters of subsidizing such large corporations, at the expense of the world’s poor and hungry, is the sainted Al Gore.

The Guardian reports:
Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico. Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products. Record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18% food price inflation in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago and rice is 20% more expensive, says the UN. Next week the FAO is expected to say that global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years and that prices will remain high for years.
Lester Brown of Worldwatch, who generally doesn’t understand markets and thus has a sad record on such matters, does correctly see the cause of this crisis. “The competition for grain between the world’s 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its 2 billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue.” Okay, so Brown is off a bit.

It is not motorists to blame, Mr. Brown, it is your saviours and saints in the halls of Congress, the White House, parliaments around the world, and those in Brussels at the EU headquarters who are to blame. Brown notes that 20% of the US corn crop went to ethanol. But motorists didn’t do this. Ethanol is a bad deal for motorists.

It was this alliance of crazy environmentalists and greedy corporatist that combined to rip off motorists, taxpayers, and the worlds poor. Hillary Clinton, who previously voted against ethanol, is now proposing boosting it -- she wants votes in the farm states. Ethanol increases the demand for grains and thus is throws money into the farm states where Hillary wants support for her bid for power. Obama has voted to starve poor blacks in Africa in order to get the votes of white people in Iowa. And I should note the Republicans are just as bad. But they don’t get all weepy about how they want to help the world’s poor the way Hillary and Barack do. Why aren’t Democrats, who pride themselves on being compassionate (provided they can use someone else’s money for it) so quiet about this assault on the poorest people in the world?

World food production was outpacing population contrary to the dire predictions of the doomsday merchants. Then these selfsame environmental interest groups started pushing for biofuels to consume food products. The corporatists, who are constantly in an alliance with the socialist left, rushed in because they were the ones who would make money off this boondoggle. Once you had the alliance of Agribusiness, Big Energy and the Greens it was a done deal. Politicians lined up to fleece taxpayers in order to subsidize these “alternative” fuels and they simply don’t give a damn about what it does to people, or the environment, in the long run.

It irritates me to no end that so many progressives and leftists simply don’t understand that power corrupts. Politics is not the solution. It is the organized use of force by elites and when that is allowed to exist the wealthy and powerful use that power in order to redistribute wealth to themselves. And the first group of people to redistribute to themselves are the politicians who you think are going to save the planet. If you want to save the planet, fire the politicians. And the so-called progressive politicians, like Hillary and Obama are among the absolute worst.

Biofuels are not just bad policy and bad economics. They are monstrously immoral. Food is literally being taken out of the mouths of the world's poor in order to buy votes for the likes of Queen Hillary. This is a prime example of the perverse incentives created by the political process.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fake facts and Nanny statism.

Here’s an example of how wrong “facts” get into the popular culture and are used to increase the levels of government regulation.

The London Times is one of the premier newspapers in the world and they recently ran an article about new things that the Nanny state will most likely ban. Included in the list was a ban on teens using tanning beds. They mentioned how one politician in Scotland has already introduced legislation to ban tanning beds -- something the UN’s World Health Organization is pushing. In this article the Times claims: “An estimated 100 people die in Scotland each year of skin cancers caused by the use of sunbeds.”

The Progressive-Vision blog notes that no source is given for this claim. And they looked at the actual numbers. It turns out that this claim is totally bogus.

The total number of skin cancer deaths in Scotland for individuals of all ages, from all causes, is 158. As they note “This would require two-thirds of all skin cancer deaths to be caused by tanning beds which is highly unlikely.” In fact most people with skin cancer are the elderly. And I can’t imagine (nor want to) the geriatric set in their bikinis and Speedos down at the tanning salon.

The truth is that most these people have skin cancer because of decades of exposure to the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that more than 90% of all skin cancer is caused “by sun exposure”. Apparently one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world repeated this “fact” without bothering to verify it. And no doubt others will repeat the claim as a result.

UPDATE: The Progressive Vision blog has updated this story. The 100 deaths due to tanning beds is clearly false. The Times reporter was not paying attention. Even the paper that this figure is from is clear that this number is for the entire United Kingdom, which is vastly larger. And it admits that this is a theory only based on simplified assumptions not hard data.

A Labour member of the Scottish Parliament is trying to impose "thorough regulations" on tanning beds and says his goal is treat them the way smoking has been treated. And he is using the 100 figure as his justification. But the actual paper this based on concludes that tanning beds are a "relatively minor self-imposed detriment to public health" and that "prohibition is not warranted as exposure to the sun, which cannot be regulated, remains the major contributory factor to the risk of melanoma." Read the full report at Progressive Vision.

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