Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jefferson regarding majorities and the rights of minorities

"The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816.

"The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens." --Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy, "Political Economy,"

"[The] best principles [of our republic] secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights." --Thomas Jefferson: Reply to the Citizens of Wilmington, 1809.

"What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of the rights of the individuals." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.

"Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.

"No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him." --Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer, 1816.

"The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The bullet is still smashing down those doors.

My friend Amy and I went out for dinner and a movie tonight. I have to admit it was something of a strange, as well as nostalgic evening for me because of the film. And it may be difficult to explain all this here.

It is not unusual to have lived someplace, or near someplace, that appears in a film. But in this case the film takes place almost entirely in my old neighborhood. More importantly it mostly takes place on my old block. Many of the people depicted in the film were neighbors, people I would pass on the streets.

The film we saw is Gus van Sant’s Milk starring Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. I have to say that Penn captured the character of Milk almost perfectly.

My apartment in San Francisco has long topped the list of the places where I loved living. San Francisco was, and is, a city I love. I have always said that everyone should live in San Francisco once.

My flat occupied the third floor. On the first floor was a restaurant.To the left of the restaraurant was a door leading to some winding stairs to the second floor where you faced two doors. On the right was the door to some offices used by one of the local businesses. The door on the left was my door. It was deceptive; this door didn’t directly enter my apartment at all. Instead it opened up to a long staircase that made a sharp right turn at the very top. This stairway and hall at the top was just the foyer to the apartment.

At the top of the stairs there was an old large radio from the 1930s and the entire wall, from the second floor up the stairs, was a collection of old film posters which I eventually sold at auction. If you turned left at the top of the stairs you went into another foyer with the bedroom off to the right and the kitchen, pantry, bathroom and porch straight ahead. To the right of the main foyer was my lounge and next to it my library. These two rooms had massive bay windows looking onto Castro while the back faced toward Twin Peaks.

If I sat in my library I could read and watch that continuing soap opera that was Castro Street. Across the street and a bit to the right was what had been Harvey Milk’s business, Castro Camera. Above the shop, facing my side of the street was Harvey’s old apartment.

Seeing this film brought back a flood of memories of my old neighborhood and how it had been a epicenter of a social movement that is still changing America today -- I believe for the better, for the most part.

This films depicts Harvey Milks relative short political career before he was gunned down by the conservative ex-cop politician, Dan White. White snuck through a basement window into city hall and murdered the Mayor Moscone and Milk.

What I didn’t realize, until recently, what that White wanted other victims. One of whom was Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver. That surprised me. While Carol and I differed on many issues we had a strong common ground on defending Second Amendment rights which allowed us to work together on that issue.

Carol Ruth once said that for her a handgun was “a necessary piece of household equipment.” Had White run into Silver, before he killed Moscone and Milk, things may have turned out very differently. Silver was a contributer to a book edited by SF ACLU lawyer Don Kates, Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out. Kates, like Silver was another ally on self-defense issues.

Milk shows an America lurching to the Right as Anita Bryant and Senator John Briggs push their antigay agenda. Milk was a major opponent of those campaigns in California.

During this time period I was a young writer working for a publication in the Midwest. But I paid attention. And when Anita Bryant came to the area I spent the day with her, and her then husband Bob Green, for an article I was writting. It became clear to me that she and Green were not in a harmonious relationship. She spent so much “saving the family” that her own fell apart. By the way they fought in front of me I could see a divorce was coming.

Bob Green struck me as an upleasant character and Kathy Lee Gifford, who had done babysitting for Bryant, said that Green was emotionally abusive. This fit well with what I witnessed. Anita eventually left him, went bankrupt, admitted to a pill addiction and eventually remarried. That was followed by further bankruptcy filings by her and her husband. Of course all this means she is now running a fundamentalist “ministry” out of Oklahoma City.

In the film Harvey tells a rally against Bryant that the audience ought to thank Anita Bryant. He noted that Anita’s hate campaign didn’t destroy the gay community but unified it. And that was tue.

This is precisely what I’ve been saying about the short-sighted Proposition 8. The parallels are intriguing. The antigay campaign that Bryant and Briggs led, Proposition 6, did unite a lot of people and radicalized a whole generation of gay people. And this is what I believe the Mormon sponsored Proposition 8 has done.

I saw Milk in a realtively conservative state in a very conservative town. Yet the cinema had moved Milk to the largest theater they had. The show before the one I saw had a large attendance and so did the showing we attended. What I noticed was the large number of young gay people, in their teens and twenties, who had come out to see this film. Most of them were not even born when Harvey Milk was gunned down.

Yet I can assure you that this film hit them where they live. They are all aware of Prop 8 and the Mormon Church. They saw this film about the Prop 6 campaign run by fundamentalist churches. And they reacted to the message of Harvey Milk.

It is important to contrast their expectations in life to those of gay people from Harvey’s generation. Virtually all gay Americans from Harvey’s era, grew up in a country where it was a crime to be gay. They faced arrest merely for having drinks with friends. The police, even in San Francisco, didn’t mind engaging in some “fag bashing” themselves.

Many of the young people in the showing of Milk have never lived under governments that would arrest them for merely being out with other gay people. Harvey’s generation knew the constant fear of losing a job, being evicted from their apartments just because they were gay. Today’s young gays know little of that. In the time of Milk full grown adults were terrified to be open about their sexual orientation. Many of today’s young gays came out to their parents and friends in junior high school and have always been open. They haven’t always been accepted, and often faced bullies, but they don’t know the closet the way Harvey Milk did.

The gay people of the Milk era were satisfied with token acceptance. It was considered something of an accomplishment just to get the police to stop assaulting you. The idea of full legal equality was just a fantasy. When people are satisfied with “don’t hit me so much” they aren’t likely to ask, “When can I have the same rights you do?”

Today’s young gays have different expectations, so the Prop 8 vote was a real shock to them, it was a wake up call. I’m betting that hundreds of Harvey Milks were born in the Prop 8 defeat. If the Mormon theocracy thinks that they won a victory they will find out precisely how wrong they are. In just this one showing, in one town, on one night, the story of Harvey Milk energized several new young activists who won’t rest until they live in a world where they are treated as equals. That is not what the Mormon leadership intended with their campaign. The young people in the cinema were ready for the message that Harvey Milk had to give them.

There is no doubt that Harvey and I were miles apart on many issues. But neither is there any doubt that I have immense respect for what he did and appreciate his contribution toward legal equality. And while I will fight Harvey’s legacy where he was wrong, I will applaud his legacy where he was correct. And I appreciate that his message, through this film, is reaching a new generation. I fully expect to see the day, in my lifetime, when full legal equality for gay people is achieved.

Conservative victories, such as Prop 8, can not extinguish the desire for equality before the law. In truth such conservative wins may not even slow down the drive for equality but speed excelerate it. Prop 8 recreated unity in the gay community, something that had vanished in the years since Milk was campaigning. Prop 8 made lots of gay people angry. And it put a fire under young gays who were less interested in activism than their older counterparts. Satisfied with many of the gains achieved since the 60s the gay rights movement was moribund; the Mormons and the Prop 8 campaign changed that.

Days before his murder Harvey sat down and recorded his thoughts, thoughts he said he wanted made public only if he were murdered. On that tape he said:”If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” I can’t see today’s generation of gays ever accepting the closet as an acceptable place to live. They are demanding a place at the table. They aren’t asking, they aren’t requesting, they are demanding. And I believe they will succeed.

Those who fought this battle with Harvey are growing tired, weary from the journey. Many of the brave pioneers have died, some like Harvey had their life stolen from them by the very hatred they fought. Until Prop 8, these baby boomers of the gay community were watching political activism fading away. So much had been accomplished, so much had changed, that many of the young didn’t see the need to do the “Harvey Milk thing”. Now they see. In one short campaign the conservatives created tens of thousands of new activists. Tonight the cinema was filled with many of these people. One of the lines Harvey liked to use at his political rallies was: “I’m Harvey Milk. And I’m here to recruit you.” With the wake-up call conveniently provided by the Mormons I suspect that thousands of young people who watch Milk will respond to Havey’s recruitment drive.

For more information on Harvey Milk you might read The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts. In another of those odd overlaps of life I worked with Randy’s brother, Gary, on some political projects of common interest. Gary Shilts is an active libertarian in Illinois.

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The Pubic Wars: Erotophobia and American culture

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “morality issues”?

It seems to me that much of our American culture immediately thinks of fornication, homosexuality, prostitution, and pornography. The American mind tends to equate “morality” with sexuality.

I find that bizarre, rather irrational and perhaps, dare I say it, immoral.

I happen to think morality is very important. But when you mention morality my mind doesn’t immediately turn toward sex. Instead I think of harm done to others

When you mention immorality to me the images my mind conjures up have little to do with people seeking pleasure and much to do with people inflicting pain.

I think of the man I saw in Washington Square in New York City who screamed at his young son for not getting his backhand right while practicing tennis against the arch. The man insulted the boy, called him worthless and degraded him constantly. I almost came to blows with the asshole because of it. I did put a stop to it, at least for that minute, but I suspect this boy faced of a lifetime of insults from this pathetic excuse for a father.

When I think of immorality the images of American officials and their underlings engaging in torture of prisoners comes to mind. There was a time when one of the features of American morality was that we didn’t lower ourselves to the level of the worst regimes in the world. George Bush certainly lowered the bar when it came to morality.

But Bush was seen as a “morality president”. Apparently denying gay couples equal rights before the law makes one moral and trumps any “problems” with torturing and murdering people.

Surveys done of the American public found that religious folk were more approving of torture than the non-believers. Apparently there is a new moral code:

Sex bad.
Waterboarding good.

Much of the opposition that we see to sex education from the Religious Right has to do with their desire that sex have negative consequences. This is an important distinction from what they say. You will hear them arguing that because sex has potentially negative consequences that their ought to be all sorts of legal proscriptions on human sexuality. But their concern is not that sex does have potentially negative consequences at all. Their concern is when sex does NOT have negative consequences.

They promote abstinence education because they fear teens using condoms. Condoms reduce negative consequences. It reduces the risk of disease and pregnancy. And the moralists want there to be a constant threat hanging over the head of the sexual. They don’t want the young learning responsible sexuality at all. Responsible sexuality reduces negative consequences and our religious moralists believe that there is something inherently sinful about sexuality. Since sexuality, outside their very narrow confines, is immoral there OUGHT to be punishment. And what offends them is anything that limits that punishment.

Crazed theocrats like Jenny Roback Morse, who chucked out her libertarian thinking for Catholic fanaticism, argues that the proper way to teach kids about sex is to get them to “take it seriously”. By that she means do what she never did herself, remain a virgin until marriage if straight, remain celibate for life, if gay since gay people, in Roback’s theocracy will not be allowed to marry. She goes so far as to say that “contraception itself contributes to the problem of not taking sex seriously.” How’s that? Contraception lowers the potential threat of pregnancy and in Roback’s theocratic mind that threat must always loom over every sexual act. The view of the fanatic is that if one engages in sex, even with one’s married spouse (no other kind is ever accepted) there must be some potential punishment or threat hanging there. If not v.d. then let them worry about whether or not a pregnancy will result.

While pregnancy can be a blessing, to those who want it, it is not a blessing to the overburdened mother of six, the unwed teen or someone with physical problems making pregnancy risky. But the Catholic Roback wouldn’t allow contraceptives even for these people.

Pregnancy, venereal disease, AIDS, these are things that the moralists welcome with open arms. They are gleeful over the idea that their hated homosexuals might come down with AIDS or that sexually active teens could become pregnant. That is the “sinners in the hands of an angry God” mentality that infects American religion.

Their opposition to sex education, birth control. safer sex practices, and similar techniques is rooted in the reality that such measures reduce the “punishment” which they believe ought to be inflicted on sinners.

This view of morality is directly related to the philosophical premises that American Christianity has tended to embrace—especially the orthodox and fundamentalist sects.

You have heard it said that “life is a vale of tears” and that death takes one “to a better place.” Jesus said “the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.”

There is a strong assumption in religious circles that the material world is evil and sinful and ought to be shunned. What is good is the spiritual. Caring for people’s material needs is not critical—only their eternal soul is important. There is an intense hatred for this life and a glorification of the alleged “after life”. The assumption has been that the flesh, the material existence, is evil.

St. Paul was adamant about the evil nature of the flesh. “Those who are in the flesh can not please God.” “For the outlook of the flesh is death but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace.” “Do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” “If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh to arouse its desires.” “The outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law God, nor is it able to do so.” “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

Christianity erected a great divide between human sexuality and spirituality. They argued that we are created in the image of God but were equally sure that their God was not a sexual being. (We will leave out the more unique views of the Mormons who believed in multiple Gods who continue to screw throughout eternity.) To be Godly then required a disdain, if not outright condemnation of sexuality. The sexuality of our species was seen as “animalistic”.

That alone tells us much about our culture. Humans consider animals to be a lesser species. Sexuality it seen as animalistic. Sexuality is thus morally suspect at the best of times. Often the moralists will use terms like “barnyard activities” to describe the human sexual impulse. God is not sexual. Animals are sexual. Humans who are sexual are therefore shunning Godliness and embracing their animalistic nature. No wonder they had to concoct a “virgin birth” to explain the birth of the God-Man they worship.

But, this view of sexuality does much more than instill fear—something it is intended to do. It also instils something more important—guilt. The Christian view of sexuality is so unrealistic that no Christian can live up to the standards that are set. No Christian escapes sexual fantasies and desires. And this includes desires for others who are not their spouses. This imposes a spiritual inferiority complex into people, and that is what it is meant to do. Individuals who are wracked with guilt and fear are more easily dictated to and controlled.

A reading of Christian articles written by, or for, teens is astounding. Even the simple act of masturbation is cause for great guilt:
...there were still other things that stimulated me sexually—and I didn't have to make any special effort to find them. It could be a model in a commercial or magazine ad. Or maybe I would stare longer than I should at a girl at school in a midriff-baring top, a short dress or low-cut shirt. I'd find myself daydreaming about what I'd seen. Sometimes those images I tucked into my brain led me to masturbate. But whether or not I masturbated, I knew I'd let myself fall into lust.
I agonized. I pleaded with God:
"God, forgive me!"
"Help me!"
"I'm so sorry. … "
But then I'd find myself giving in and letting my mind go places it shouldn't. The shame and the guilt dug in deeper and deeper.
The author of this article describes spending hours and hours trying to use the Bible to eradicate his sexual nature. He and other Christians would try to help one another escape reality. And the best he can say is: “I must be honest and say that I haven’t gained total control over lust, I don’t believe that will happen until I get to heaven. But, I’m doing much better than I was a few years ago....” Note that he is now a young adult referring back to his teenage years, so it is no surprise he has “more control” (that is less unwanted sexual attractions) than before. By the time’s he 70-years-old he’ll be convinced that God has almost answered his prayers completely by eradicating sexual desire.

One Christian adviser tells young Christians: “Imagine there’s a sign on everyone you date that reads: PROPERTY OF JESUS.”

Imagine literally believing that. Wouldn’t that apply equally to your husband or wife? If so, how anxious would you be to have sex with your spouse?

We call stores that sell erotica “dirty book stores”. Sex is “doing the nasty”. Nudity is called indecent. Sex is called obscene. Genitals are “the ugly bits.” The same word describe sex that describes being violated: getting fucked. We screw someone when we make love to them and when we cheat them. Our entire culture is permeated with two things. One, that sexual desire is unavoidable and everywhere. Two, that it is disgusting and evil.

No wonder our wacko sex laws are becoming more and more intrusive and bizarre. We are turning millions of harmless people into “sex offenders,” not because they have harmed another person but because our culture truly finds sex offensive. When a student streaking a school event is considered a sex offender, when two teens having sex on a date are sex offenders, when urinating behind a tree can make you a sex offender, then we have moved beyond sexual schizophrenia to sexual paranoia.

It isn’t that Americans are any less likely to be sexual. On the contrary, the constant preaching about sex makes it more attractive to many people. People still do it and always will. That is never going to change. But, in America we have to punish it and punish ourselves. We have to satiate the guilt that we experience because the reality of our lives don’t match the theological nonsense that we preach. And, that is a very bad combination of problems.

Yes, we did have a “sexual revolution” where people were more honest about being sexual. But we didn’t have a theological revolution. Now we’re open about sex and open about feeling guilty about it, fearing it, and hating it. In other cultures adolescents have sex in similar proportion to our own, but VD rates and pregnancy rates are much lower. They don’t feel guilty about sex and thus take precautions. Our teens are all doing it but can’t plan ahead as that would indicate a planned desire to “sin against God.” So they can’t take the condom along on the date.

We inundate ourselves with sexual images and pass laws that have inflated sex crimes from those which are real and obvious to those that are absurd and cruel.

We just can’t get away from that gnawing feeling that sex is evil and should be punished. And since nature doesn’t punish us enough for our immorality, we have the law doing it instead. I find that absurd.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Equal opportunity stupidity: Looking in public illegal.

Just in case you think that only the Theopublicans can buy into the rampant sex hysteria that infects America along comes Dawn Hill, a state representative in Maine and a Democrat, to prove that even her party can be infected with this sort of stupidity.

Rep. Hill tried to create a new crime for Maine called "visual sexual agression".

Here is the origin of the law. Some concerned member of the public (read moron) thought a man at a beach was watching children too closely. There is zero indication that this man did anything. There is no claim that he touched children or even approached them, let along spoke to one. He was at the beach and he watched them. The "concerned" anonymous individual called the police who complained: "There was no violation of law that we could enforce. There was nothing we could charge him with."

The cop, upset that he couldn't merely arrest this man when he wanted to complained to this third-rate politician. She suddenly had a new cause. She said she saw this as a "loop hole" in the law. What does that mean? Apparently it means there was some activity which the government still hadn't criminalized in our over-legislated era. Remember that this "crime" has nothing to do with actually violating the life, liberty or property of another person. It is merely looking at them in public. One need not be doing anything aggressive but the act of seeing another person can be defined as aggressive -- much the way that "violent sex offender" in California is applied to cases where zero violence was involved.

One Maine newspaper describes Hill's law: "Under the bill, if someone is arrested for viewing children in a public place, it would be a Class D felony if the child is between 12 to 14 years old and a Class C felony if the child is under 12...." So "viewing children in a public place" is something the moralists consider a serious offense. Then why not lock the little bastards up behind high walls where no one can see them (and thankfully, not listen to them). This reminds me of the school in England that wanted to prevent apartments from being built near the school because balconies would overlook their playground and they were convinced that perverts would buy the apartments so they could sit on their balconies to "watch" the children at play.

The local paper says the law is a response "to ever-growing concern over sexual predators" and the local police chief says, "There is a growing outcry by the public to protect our children." Considering how "the children" are used as excuses for every moronic piece of legislation that comes along, and the ever expanding police state which criminalizes everything, I'm coming to the conclusion that giving birth is a threat to liberty. The little monsters are stripping rational adults of their liberty -- okay, they aren't doing it, but bad politicians are doing it in their name.

Originally the law limited this offense to an adult peeping on a naked child in a place where the child had the expectation of privacy. That at least makes sense. But the problem is that bad politicians extend reasonable laws until they are entirely unreasonable. Hill's revision would expand the law so that it no longer included nudity or expectations of privacy. Now watching a a fully clothed child play on the beach could be a felony if the police wanted.

Note: It appears that public fury at this stupidity got some changes through. Now Hill claims that she was merely outlawing a person staring at children while the the adult was masturbating. Of course, this was already a crime. And the incident that started this crusade had nothing to do with an adult seeking sexual gratification while viewing children. Since the law was meant to close that "loophole" it is unlikely that Hill was outlawing something that 1) didn't happen in the case which started the campaign and 2) which was already a crime. It appears, for the time being at least, that this absurdity has died. The final bill clearly now speaks of deriving sexual gratification from viewing nudity in either a public or private place.

But some have noted that this could then make strip clubs illegal. And it does appear that the original intent of the legislation was to make viewing a crime.


Teen girl sentenced to life of misery for blow job.

Wendy Whitaker is listed as a dangerous sex offender. She has lost control of her own life as politicians in Georgia created a series of laws meant to harass her for the rest of her life.

Under state law she is required to register as a sex offender. As such she is forbidden to live within 1,000 feet of any place where children may congregate. But the problem is that this requirement makes it almost impossible to find a home.

Police officials have told Whitaker that they intend to forcibly remove her from her home by Thanksgiving. Land of the free? Sure, right! Happy Thanksgiving. She and her husband bought the home not realizing that a church ran an unadvertised day care center within the l,000 foot limit.

Let us clarify what makes Whitaker this dangerous sex offender so that she is under constant state harassment. Her “offense” took place twelve years ago. She was in high school, a sophomore to be precise. She had oral sex with a boy from her own class and a teacher caught them. He was just a few days short of 16-years-of-age and she had just turned 17 a few days before herself. In the Theocratic State of Georgia that made her a pedophile and him a victim. Worse, she was guilty, according to state law, of sodomy. The boy, who instigated the act had no charges as he was defined as the “victim”.

Like most high school students Wendy saw her classmate as being her own age and she had no idea that sex was illegal. In the world of politically determined morality she was an adult and he was a mere child. So she was guilty of sodomy with a child. For that high school sex she will be harassed and face potential execution by a vigilante (her photo and address is posted on-line by the sex gestapo) for the rest of life.

Whitaker and her husband had scrupulously researched the area before purchasing the house to make sure it fit with the zealous zoning regulations imposed by the state on all “sex offenders”. While her “crime” had nothing to do with small children the state doesn’t give a damn. The purpose of the law is to inflict pain on people for having sex in ways that the moral Christian politicians find offensive. (There are 3,500 children in Washington state alone who have been forced to register a sex offenders for life.)

The God-fearing Republicans who are destroying Georgia with their big government solutions have a new law in the works. House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, a Republican of course and the former leader of “Christian Coalition”, wants to expand the zoning requirements to 10,000 feet. That would supposedly make the entire state off-limits to most registered sex offenders. And sex offenders can, as this case once again proves, be nothing more than randy teenagers violating the moral laws imposed by religious-inspired, power-hungry third-rate politicians like Keen.

One Georgia legislator admitted that the law he voted for is causing problems without solving any. But he confessed that he doesn’t care: “Sex offenders are the most reviled people in society. They’re one step above terrorists, there’s no political downside to cracking down on these folks.” That includes folk like Wendy Whitaker. Give the man credit, he admitted that his only concern is whether his vote helps his political career or not, not whether it is right or decent, just whether it is politically expedient.

Sheriff Thomas Brown of DeKalb County says these laws make it harder for him to protect the public. His office mapped the locations in the county which are pinpoints for the center of the new zoning restrictions. He says that he found that there is not a single location in his entire county where RSO’s can live. He says this law “will force people to go underground, and not because they’re dangerous sexual predators but because they have no place else to go. Thousands of these “offenders” in Georgia alone are described as “having consensual sex when they were teenagers, or for lesser crimes such as flashing, peeping through windows and sexual battery, which often translates into inappropriate touching.” One such individual was a college student who, when drunk, groped a woman at a party.

Consider also that the such “offenders” are often ordered to remain within a specific area and then equally forbidden to live anywhere within that area. The law thus restricts people to a geographic location where they are forbidden to have a residence by other laws. In some cities people are relegated to walking the streets at night since if they sleep in a location after dark that is considered a residence. So they sleep at home during the day and wander the darkened streets at night. In California 20% of the “offenders” registered under a new law have been forced to wander as “transients” because of restrictions on their living space.

In Miami “sex offenders” were forced to live under a bridge. It was the only place they could find that met local zoning restrictions for them. CNN reported: “The Florida Department of Corrections says there are fewer and fewer places in Miami-Dade Country where sex offenders can live because the county has some of the strongest restrictions against this kind of criminal in the country. Florida’s solution: house the convicted felons under a bridge that forms one part of the causeway.”

One expert on treating sex offenders, Dr. Gene Abel, is baffled by the laws. He says “It’s rather common knowledge that you want to reduce the stress on sex offenders because the greater the stress, the greater the risk.” Contrary to the claims of the sex hysterics, offenders can have very low recidivism rates especially when in treatment and in a stress free environment. What these laws do is deny them the very sort of environment they need to avoid reoffending. In other words, the Christianist politicians are actually increasing the likelihood of reoffending. Of course, these morons are doing it for the sake of the children.

You may remember the case of teacher Julie Amero, which we have blogged about. She was the teacher who opened a computer at the school where she was a substitute teacher only to find pop-up windows for porn sites filling the screen. She tried to shut them down but the more she tried the more that opened until she finally pulled the plug. Because some students caught glimpses of the screen she was being prosecuted as a potential sex offender.

Experts proved that the computer at the school was infected and that Amero had no control over the problem. Prosecutors didn’t care and continued to pursue felony charges against the woman, wanting to incarcerate her for her “offense”. In court the prosecutors only agreed to drop the felony charges if she submitted to their legal blackmail and pled guilty to a charge of “disorderly conduct”. Her disorderly conduct opening the computer the school provided her. She was also forced to surrender her teaching license. Even though it was later found that the computer was infected “local officials, police and state prosecutors were unwilling to admit that a mistake may have been made...” The New London County State’s Attorney, Michael Regan, says “I have no regrets.” He also says that he is still ready to try her again if he could. As for his poor victim, Julie Amero “has been hospitalized for stress and heart problems since her conviction.”

Amero was another victim of the same sort of hysteria pushed by Right-wing fundamentalists that almost destroyed the life of teenager Matt Bandy. Born-again Republican prosecutor Andrew Thomas, in Maricopa County, Arizona, is a crazed fanatic on morals issues. He tried to send the teen to prison for life because illegal images were found to have infected his family’s computer. Experts testified that the boy did not seek out the images or place them there but that they were stored their remotely via infections on the computer. Thomas didn’t care and only lost the case because the boy’s parents spent a vast sum of money protecting their son from the maniacal prosecutor. In the end Thomas vainly tried to force the boy to become a registered sex offender for the “crime” of having looked at a Playboy magazine with a schoolmate.

Then, after Thomas and his crew of religious fanatics, were unable to actually convict the boy for anything one of their crew, a disgusting woman named Rachel Alexander, went out of her way to publicly smear the boy by insinuating he was a pedophile. Alexander, who is associated with theocratic fundamentalist extremists, wrote a long, vicious, and deceitful attack on this boy which she published at Fox News. This disgusting woman says the only reason she and her boss lost the case was because of a “media disinformation campaign. In her article she lied about the facts of the case. For a full discussion of how Rachel Alexander dishonestly smeared this boy go here. But she is one of the most disgusting conservatives infesting the legal system today.

UPDATE: A local judge has put a halt to efforts to evict Wendy Whitaker from her home, at least for the time being. So when do the big government conservatives start bitching about "activist judges"? I suspect they think any judge who protects people from violation of their rights are "activist judges".

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fundy school blames their racism on you.

Some of you may have heard of Bob Jones University. It is primarily known as one of the most fundamentalist Christian schools in the nation. Just recently Bob Jones University has apologized for also being one of the most racist institutions of “higher learning” around. Back in my Christian days my high school, which was run by fundamentalists, took a bunch of us to visit BJU. I spent a couple of days there so I have some idea precisely what they thought and how they acted.

In their apology they blame their racism on the “segregationist ethos of American culture.” What is wrong with this? The fact is that fundamentalist Christians, who have always been bigoted and hateful throughout history, didn’t adopt their bigotry from the culture. Their bigotry came from how they interpreted the Bible not from some sort of secular ethos.

Consider how the US split over the issue of slavery as an example of this. The Northern states tended to be abolitionist while the Southern states endorsed bondage. Is it a coincidence that fundamentalism was rampant in the South but relatively weak in the North? If you look at the denominational splits that followed the slavery issue you see a split between between churches that tended toward theological liberalism and abolitionism and those that were fundamentalist and pro slavery. The Northern Baptist Church tended toward liberalism while the Southern Baptist Church was fundamentalist. Ditto for the Southern Methodists and the Southern Presbyterians.

Fundamentalist Christians in America were staunch advocates of enslaving blacks. While Quakers were fighting slavery it was the fundamentalist revivalist George Whitefield who got the Georgia legislature to legalize enslaving human beings. Within a few years Rev. Whitefield’s actions had led to a slave population of 100,000 people in that one state.

Not long before the Civil War a report was written: American Slavery: Report of a Public Meeting held at Finsbury Chapel, Moorefields to receive Frederick Douglas, the American Slave, on Friday, May 22, 1846. This report quotes Douglas saying:
I have to inform you that the religion of the southern states, at this time, is the great supporter, the great sanctioner of the bloody atrocities to which I have referred. While America is printing tracts and Bibles; sending missionaries abroad to convert the heathen; expending her money in various ways for the promotion of the Gospel in foreign lands, the slave not only lies forgotten--uncared for, but is trampled under foot by the very churches of the land. What have we in America? Why we have slavery made part of the religion of the land. Yes, the pulpit there stands up as the great defender of this cursed institution, as it is called.
Douglas said that opposing slavery was difficult because it was so closely tied to Christianity in the South. He said “because [slavery] is identified with religion” this “exposes those who denounce it to the charge of infidelity.” Douglas spared no words for the religious garbs of the slavers:
The church and the slave prison stand next to each other; the groans and cries of the heartbroken slave are often drowned in the pious devotions of his religious master. The church-going bell and the auctioneer’s bell chime in with each other; the pulpit and the auctioneers’s block stand in the same neighbourhood; while the bloodstained gold goes to support the pulpit covers the infernal business with the garb of Christianity. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support missionaries, and babies sold to buy Bibles and communion services for the churches.
In 1861 a minister at the Second Presbyterian Church of Charleston, H. Shelton Smith, denounced the “atheistic Declaration [of Independence] which had inspired the “higher law” doctrine of the radical antislavery men. If the mischievous abolitionists had only followed the Bible instead of the godless Declaration, they would have been bound to acknowledged that human bondage was divinely ordained. The mission of southerners was therefore clear; they must defend the word of God against abolitionist infidels.”

My point is not to give a history lesson but to show that the racist attitudes that BJU tries to blame on general American culture is far more strongly linked to Christian fundamentalism. These fundamentalists are being dishonest when they try to lay the blame for their racism on the greater culture.

I went to a fundamentalist school which had close ties to BJU. Many of our teachers were BJU graduates. And the top fundamentalist preachers came to our school. Almost without exception they were theological racists. They believed that the Bible taught that whites and blacks were to be separate. They did not adopt this view from the culture at all. They claimed it was Biblical and God’s will. They had pamphlets printed explaining how blacks were cursed by God. A favorite fundamentalist doctrine was that blacks were descendants of Ham, the son of Noah, who along with his descendants were cursed by God. As part of this supposed curse God turned the skin of the sons of Ham black and decreed they will be servants to the other descendants of Noah. In this view, not only did God make skin black as a curse but he ordained these people to be enslaved by those without black skin. [The Mormon sect taught a similar doctrine for over a century as well.]

Racist views were directly tied to a fundamentalist mindset. Contrary to the claims in the University’s statement, they were not racist because the culture encouraged it. The culture was racist partly because fundamentalists encouraged it. This racism held on longest in those regions of the country that, to this day, are the most fundamentalist inclined.

A second distortion that BJU presented in their “apology” is that the university was racists “in its early stages.” Technically that is true, they were racist in their early stages. But if you get the impression they weren’t racist in their middle or later stages then you have it all wrong. But that is the impression they were hoping to encourage. Bob Jones University remained racist long after the early stages and long after other universities had abandoned this view.

Bob Jones University was founded in 1927. That makes it 81 years old. For 45 of those years, up until 1971, the university was “whites only” in practice. That is over half their lifespan, not just the early stage. Then, when they first admitted black students, only married blacks were allowed to enroll. This was to preserve the virtue of the white women on campus. Married students wouldn’t date other students thus preserving the separation of the races. In 1975, facing various legal issues over the matter the university changed their policy again and admitted single black students. However, they strictly forbade interracial dating. And then they allowed it only with signed parental permission slips.

Because of these racial policies BJU lost its tax exemption. They took the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court where they argued that their policies were religious beliefs because God intended segregation of the races and because the Scriptures forbid interracial marriage. I quote from the Court’s ruling “Bob Jones University also contends that denial of tax exemption violates the Establishment Clause by preferring religions whose tenets do not require racial discrimination over those who believe racial intermixing is forbidden.”

When BJU went before the Supreme Court. they were saying they were racist because of their religion not because of any cultural ethos in the United States.

The reality is that Bob Jones University remained racist long after official racism at other universities had died. Certainly the Christian college I attended was kept intentionally white by the church that ran it, as was its high school from which I graduated. And the truth is that the rise of fundamentalist schools in America was the direct result of the desegregation of public education. There are so many fundamentalist schools today because they were founded as a refuge for “white’s only” policies.

Apparently Bob Jones University can’t quit admit the truth even today. They are trying to blame their racism on the surrounding culture in spite of previously arguing that their racism was rooted in Biblical teaching. Instead of scapegoating the culture at large they ought to admit that their own stilted view of the Bible was the foundation of their bigotry. But since they claim the Bible is infallible they aren’t about to do that.

Their story has changed substantially since their case defending racism went to Supreme Court. At that time secular culture was forcing them to abandon Godly bigotry. Now they claim they were following the lead of secular culture. These changes are substantial and unexplained by them. I suggest they are merely lying and scapegoating in order to paint their fundamentalism in the best light possible. Of course, bigotry on race is just one of many prejudices indulged in by the fundamentalist movement. HL Mencken once noted that the believer in some absurd doctrine on one topic will tend to be a believer in absurd doctrines on many other topics as well. I find prejudice is much the same way. Scratch a racist and you tend to find a homophobe. Question a homophobe and you have a good chance of finding they despise immigrants. The great weakness of the Religious Right is that they tend to hate and that means they hate each other.

The Mormons hate all religions but their own. Fundamentalists think Mormons and Catholics are going to hell. Catholics think Mormons and fundamentalists are heretics. The only reason they worked together on Prop 8 was that they all hate gays even more than they hate each other. Hate is endemic in their belief systems. Opponents of these groups would be wise to consider strategies that magnify the disdain these sects have for one another. That would splinter their movement and weaken their campaigns allowing more rational values to win out.

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The No Spin Zone

Is this satire? How can we tell? What is scary about this is that this pretty much represents the intellectual content of today's Conservatives. Ever since the Right was infiltrated by Bible-thumping morons the level of discourse has declined noticeably. Now O'Reilly and Ann "The Screech" Coulter represent the "intellectual wing" of conservatism. Shocking. There is a reason that the few ideas the Right had that were well-though out were borrowed from people like Friedman, Hayek and Mises.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Perfect Storm: Mormonism's PR disaster

One of our readers, who is a writer for Daily Kos, posted a link to his article regarding Mormonism. Among the material he offered was this gem of a report on how Mormonism is being hurt by their involvement in the Prop 8 campaign.

Watch it.

I have found it disturbing that some conservative gays are urging that demonstrations near Mormon temples end. This is the natural conservative tendency to give religion a pass on criticism no matter what it does or says. And there is no rational reason to exempt religion and religious institutions from rational criticism or protest. In the case of the Mormons there are positive reasons to get involved.

The Mormon church, as I have pointed out, is obsessed with public relations as part of their campaign to convert the world to polytheistic theories of Joseph Smith. The Mormon leadership intentionally planned this campaign in a way which was supposed to distance the church itself from the campaign and give them plausible deniability as to their involvement. It didn't work. There fingerprints were all over the campaign and anyone who followed the money found it kept going back to Mormon pockets.

Of course, protests will not change the abomination that took place in California on election day. But only a fool thinks the question was settled in that election. It is true the California Supreme Court may still be able to overturn this vote as improperly done -- and I think there is a strong case for that. But it is also possible that this will come up future votes as well. If the Court rules that a simple majority can strip people of rights then a simple majority can restore them also. And it is only a matter of time until that happens -- all the demographics are in favor of gay marriage. Old farts who opposed the measure are dying every die.

In addition more and more people have been changing their minds about the matter. The moral Armageddon that the Religious Right pushes with such hysterical fervor is almost entirely imaginary. Their dirty minds work overtime in predicting disasters that have no basis in reality. And with each year that goes by, with disaster striking, their credibility on the issue diminishes. I think they will have a hard time winning another vote on this issue. The smartest thing the gay community can do right now is file an initiative to overturn the ban and start collecting signatures at the rallies. Experts on petitioning I know say these protests are petitioners dream.

If this matter comes to another vote the Mormon leaders will have to decide how much they wish to risk in order to rally their obedient members into action. The more protests they face today the less likely they are to do this again in the near future. The reason that protests outside Mormon temples make sense now is a preventative measure -- to send a message to the Mormons that the real cost of their campaign isn't just the millions they send to hate campaigns but the negative publicity that they face as well. Protests today make it less likely that the Mormon cult will thrust itself into future anti gay campaigns.

PS: After I posted this I saw an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune which covers the same topic. This story covers the actions of Gregory and JaLynne Prince of Washington, DC, who are active in trying recruit people to Mormonism. They report that their daughter lost friends upset over Mormon involvement in the Prop 8 campaign and that their son, who is a Mormon missionary "has had a disproportionate number of potential converts cancel appointments." The Princes teach a class on Mormonism at Wesley Theological Seminary and report that students in their classes were dismayed by the Mormon Church's involvement. Mrs. Prince says she isn't taking sides on the issue but says "the way this [their antigay campaign] was done has hurt our people and the church's image."

Particularly odd is that this article quotes Gary Lawrence, a PR type, who worked for Prop 8 on their payroll and is an active Mormon. Lawrence says: "These protests will help us. It puts a spotlight on us." This article makes no mention of how Lawrence's own son now refuses to speak to his father and has resigned his membership in the cult over it's involvement in the Prop 8 campaign. Lawrence admits: "Those who know one Mormon have a worse opinion of us than those who don't know any Mormons." Mark Silk, professor of religion at Trinity College in Hartford says that the massive amounts of money the Mormons spent to push Prop 8 is also a negative for them. It said their funding "raises the specter not just of Mormon weirdness but also Mormon power as far as cash on the barrel."

The most bizarre aspect of this report is the quote from Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the sect. Trotter actually claimed: "All in all, 2008 has been a particularly good year for the church." His evidence for his assertion is that Mormons built some new temples, have 52,000 pesky missionaries going door to door and claim a record membership. Most of this higher membership is fraudulent. The American Religion Identification Survey found that in the U.S. Mormonism gained almost as many new members as it lost. But the church has a tendency to claim people as members who, if asked, would say they are no longer Mormons.

Dishonesty is often a part of Mormon PR tactics, they will claim membership figures 3 to 4 times greater than the number of people who actually identify as members of the church. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Mormons claim 850,000 members in Mexico while only 205,000 Mexicans claim to be Mormon. In New Zealand the church says it has 91,000 members but in the national census only 40,000 Kiws claim to be Mormon. The church says it has 177,000 members in the U.K. but local statistics show only 62,000 people see themselves as Mormons.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

And so begins the Obama betrayal.

You have to give Obama credit. He isn’t even waiting to take the oath of office before he begins betraying the very people who elected him. Of course the Obamatrons worship the water he walks upon and won’t admit they were taken for a ride by this con man.

Let us begin with Obama’s alleged antiwar views. One of Obama's first appointments is Rahm Emanuel who was asked to be his chief-of-staff. When it comes to war, especially war in the Middle East, Emanuel is right up there with Dick Cheney and the neocons. One difference is that Emanuel doesn’t have the restraint of Cheney -- he is aggressive, threatening and demanding. He was also one of the people who sat on the board of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation which is partially responsible for the housing bubble that has caused so much pain to the economy, but he resigned that appointment when he decided to run for Congress.

Emanuel, who served as a civilian volunteer with the Israeli Defense Force, certainly won’t be objective when it comes to foreign policy matters. The Nation says he is “seen as a strong Israel partisan.” Emanuel’s father, who was a member of the terrorist Irgun group says: “Obviously, [Rahm] will influence the President to be pro-Israel. Why shouldn’t he do it? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to to clean the floor of the White House.” Emanuel was also a supporter of President Bush’s war policies and has said he wants the youth of America to be forced in compulsory government service. Neoconned again.

Now the scuttlebutt is that Obama has picked Eric Holder as attorney general. The Nation notes that Holder was a Department of Justice insider who, “at a point when the Bush administration was proposing to further erode barriers to governmental abuse, argued that dissenters should not be tolerated”. He also called “for the firing of any ‘petty bureaucrat’ who might suggest that proper procedures be followed and that the separation of powers be respected”. They also note: “Holder was part of the legal team that in 2005 developed strategies for securing re-authorization of the Patriot Act."

Nor can Barack Obama wait to begin imposing his Big Government solutions. No doubt it is entirely coincidental that the first new policy he announced amounts to a regressive tax on energy that will destroy jobs and reduce the wealth of all consumers. He wants to impose a tax on carbon emissions in the name of saving the planet from the global warming monster. Such taxes will be paid by consumers on the products they buy and the fuels they use. This is a particularly regressive form of taxation which hurts the poor the most. He told the poor he given them hope and what he is delivering is picking their pockets to help the fat cats.

These funds will go into Obama’s treasury so he can repay the massive amounts of contributions he received from Big Business. Say what you will, but Obama got more corporate funding than McCain, and Big Business doesn’t make investments without expecting a return on their money.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the not-yet crowned king of the United States has said he wants to give $15 billion a year of these funds to so-called alternative fuel companies. That is to major corporations who are producing fuels that consumers don’t want, some of which do more harm than the fuels they replace, and which require a subsidy to make them attractive.

Obama claims that these subsidies “will create jobs at a time of economic turmoil.” Okay, Obama is stupid or lying and I don’t think he’s stupid. These subsidies don’t create jobs anymore than the money he will be given the corporate elite is “new wealth”. He will take your wealth and give it to some rich guys. That isn’t new wealth at all. He is merely redistributing the wealth from the poor to the rich. And that is the same thing that will happen to the so-called “new jobs” which Obama is crowing about.

The higher taxes that he intends to impose on virtually every segment of the economy will destroy massive numbers of jobs. Those jobs disappear as consumers cut back in order to pay the new taxes which help Big Energy companies replace the profits lost to lower oil prices. Money is showered on the Big Energy companies and that will produce some jobs in those segments of the economy. But the process will destroy jobs everywhere else. It is highly likely Obama’s tax will destroy more jobs than it will redistribute, leading to a net loss of jobs. So not only will Mr. Obama impose a tax that hurts the poor mos,t he’ll also make sure there are more poor to be hurt by by destroying their jobs.

Obama says giving your income to wealthy energy companies will “help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating 5 million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.” The man is a bald faced, blatant liar. Yes, this will transform industries by shutting down factories, closing stores, and destroying millions of jobs. And it will create some new jobs in the industries that he favors. And no doubt, the Big Energy companies will consider their investments in the Obama campaign well worth the investment.

As for the economic crisis it will just redistribute it. The likelihood that you will lose your job due to Obama’s tax increases is much higher than the likelihood that you will be hired to work in the so-called “alternative” fuel industry. And, I’d bet you that the “new” energy that they produce will cost more than the old energy it is meant to replace. The poor will get screwed twice over. First they will be taxed to pay the subsidies to Big Energy and then they’ll be screwed again when they buy the energy.

But the worshipful Obamatrons will all stare, wide-eyed and worshipful at their New Messiah and applaud his ability to “save the planet”. Jesus only promised to save your soul. By Obama standards he was a piker.

And to show you how the media distorts what is going on the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a business run “green” group is supporting the new measure “even though many of its members -- such as oil giants BP and ConocoPhillips - emit large amounts of greenhouse gases.” This make it sound like these guys will be hurt by the measures yet are selflessly applauding them. What they aren’t telling you is that these same companies will be among the major recipients of Obama’s corporate welfare.

Just take ConocoPhillips as an example. It is well known that the largest of the companies living off of stolen tax money is Archer Daniels Midland. ADM is an excellent example of “political capitalism” where rich investors get richer by having politicians redistribute wealth to them through subsidies and other government programs and measures. But did you know that ConocoPhillips and ADM are partners in efforts to “develop renewable transportation fuels from biomass”? So ConocoPhillips will benefit from the subsidies that Obama is handing out. The Chronicle never reported that fact.

BP is another company with lots of fingers in renewable energy pies. BP knew of Obama’s plans weeks ago and had already decided to move $5 billion in investments from Europe to the US to take advantage of the Obama welfare scheme for Big Oil companies feeling the pinch of lower oil prices. The Guardian reported: “BP has dropped all plans to build wind farms and other renewable schemes in Britain and is instead concentrating the bulk of its $8bn renewables spending programme on the US WHERE GOVERNMENT INCENTIVES FOR CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS CAN PROVIDE A CONVENIENT TAX SHELTER FOR OIL AND GAS REVENUE.”

The Wall Street Journal noted “Oil companies like BP-- as well as U.S. majors-- could be well-positioned to take advantage of the subsidies, which take the form of tax breaks on U.S. income.” So while Obama is forcing new taxes on the working and non-working poor he will be giving tax breaks to Big Energy. If George Bush did this (and he would) the Left would be crying out in protest. When St. Barack does it there is nary a peep from them.

Did anyone really think these Big Energy companies are selflessly volunteering to pay higher taxes? Absolutely not. They expect that most the taxes they will pay on carbon emissions can be passed on to the suckers who voted Obama into office while they can take advantage of the subsidies created by the scheme to reduce taxes on their profits. You will pay more for energy and they will pay less taxes on their profits. This is how Obama helps the poor. Unless the poor include BP and ConocoPhillips the Obama campaign is already clearly a fraud.

This is a perfect example of the way that Big Business uses new regulations to increase their profits. The Green Left hates Big Oil so they push for subsidies on “alternative fuels” which amounts to tax breaks for Big Oil. Once again the Left has handed corporate America a new means of fleecing the poor to support the ultra-rich.

I suggest that Obama will craft a series of new measures, all of which will be sold to solve some crisis for the average worker, but which, in the end, will reward the corporations that poured hundreds of millions into his election coffers. It is so easy to dupe people that Obama isn’t really even trying to hide it.

The San Francisco Chronicle report is a perfect example of lazy reporting. The reporter, David Baker, claimed the oil companies backing Obama would be hurt by the measures -- thus given the measures credibility to readers. I would bet that the reporter himself supports the scheme. But what he didn’t bother to do was check to see if these selfsame companies would be net beneficiaries of the schemes they were endorsing. Mr. Baker played his role in helping keep this myth of wealth redistribution alive and well. The myth is that such measures hurt the rich and help the poor. The reality is that they tax the poor to subsidize the rich -- after all, who do you think paid for all those Obama television ads. It wasn’t old ladies on social security, single mothers on welfare, or minimum wage burger flippers.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What makes Big Business bad.

This blog has periodically discussed the threats to liberty and well-being posed by both Big Government and Big Business. Some well-meaning people on the left believe that Big Business is a threat and that Big Government is the cure to the problem. I disagree and will explain why here.

That a corporation is large poses, in and of itself, very little threat provided that is required to operated in a depolicitized environment. If, however, the marketplace is politicized through strings of regulations, controls, subsidies, taxes, etc., then the corporation has every incentive to use its size and wealth to buy political influence in order to skew the results in their favor. Considering that their competitors will be doing this as well any corporation would be stupid not to act in this manner.

But Big Business becomes a threat only to the degree that it can impose its will on people. And that can only be done through the use of Big Government. The real threat that corporations pose to liberty and well-being comes about precisely when well-meaning individuals increase the powers of government to turn competitive markets into politicized markets.

The ability of a corporation to impose its will on individuals is rather limited absent a large state apparatus capable of enforcing that will. Wal-Mart doesn’t have police agents able to prevent competition. But politicians can rig markets to prevent competition. Archer Daniels Midland can’t force you to buy their ethanol. But they can buy off politicians who pass laws forcing you to buy the ethanol, and, for good measure, pass laws handing some of you tax monies over to ADM in the form of subsidies for doing so.

In the real world Big Business is like Big Religion; in order to pose a real threat to the general public they need the cooperation of Big Government, otherwise they are relatively impotent.

Consider the largest Christian sect in the world: the Roman Catholic Church. It is officially antiabortion yet Catholics have abortions all the time. It is officially antigay but it can’t even stop priests from being gay. All the Catholic Church, or any religion, can do, absent government power, is threaten sinners with damnation. Most people ignore such threats because they have to real force in this world. Many deny the Church has any force in any world. What these sects need, in order to impose their theocratic desires upon others, is Big Government.

What Catholicism would love to do is use state power to ban abortion and thus impose its will on everyone. That is what the Catholic/Mormon alliance did with marriage equality for gay couples. They used state power to prevent gay couples from marrying.

Of course, there are times when a large corporation. or powerful local business. may actually violate the rights of people without access to government power. It might even have “enforcers” who impose the corporate will by force. But such incidents in history have been rare relative to the frequent and flagrant use of state power to kill, maim and destroy.

But when Business has acted this way the problem hasn’t been that government was too small. In many such cases government was simply corrupt and bought off. It failed to use legitimate state powers (that is powers that protect life, liberty and property) at the request of a criminal. If a rich man murders, and then pays off the cops to ignore, his crime, the problem isn’t that the police don’t have enough power but that they are corrupt. When government fails to protect real rights it is due, not to a lack of power, but to a lack of will.

Making government more powerful doesn’t solve this problem because the problem was never a lack of power. A government that can be bought off when it is small is one that can be corrupted when it is large. The difference is that the large government can inflict more harm on behalf of those who have purchased its powers. Making government more powerful thus doesn’t solve the problem but makes it worse. The ability to corrupt the political process doesn’t go away. If anything, the incentives to corrupt politics is now even greater.

It is more likely that a Big Government system would become corrupted. It is much easier to hide the corruption beneath a multiplicity of laws and regulations, agencies, departments and bureaucracies. When government refuses to prosecute a criminal that action is relatively transparent. A man kills another man, hands $1 million over the sheriff and isn’t prosecuted. People tend to know that the man bought off the government in order to escape justice. But the bureaucratic maze used by Big Business is so complex that it isn’t immediately, or easily, apparent when the process has been corrupted. Small nudges in one area or another can adequately skew the final result.

And often Big Business has used their sworn enemies as their most effective foot soldiers. Socialists hate Big Business. As such they are regularly used by Big Business to push through “reforms” which politicize the marketplace. Big Business lets the socialists push through the regulations and then the Corporations step in and use their political pull to write the regulations in such a way as to skew the market in their favor. Whatever they may say about their socialist enemies in public, in private they are thankful that they provided them another tool with which to rape the pocketbooks of the public.

Big Business is mainly a threat when coupled with Big Government. In the few cases where Big Business actually acts in a criminal way, absent Big Government, it only gets away with such crimes if the political process is corrupt. And giving a corrupt political system more power doesn’t end this problem but magnifies it.

On the other hand, Big Government is a threat in and of itself. It does not need Big Business in order to harm people. Big Business basically needs Big Government but Big Government doesn’t need Big Business as the Soviet Union proved. Governmental power is always coercive. And coercion is always a threat to life, liberty and property. It is coercion that turns sex into rape and a transfer of wealth into theft. Coercion can transform a moral act into an immoral one.

It is the existence of Big Government which acts as an incentive to attract special interest groups of which Big Business is only one. When government intervenes into various aspects of human life it politicizes those aspects and that creates conflict where previously it did not exist.

Consider a government with the power to determine shoe production. If the government decided it would regulate the size, make, and design of shoes there would be conflict over this matter. As it currently stands we walk into stores and pick among thousands of different kinds of shoes. Were government to regulate all these aspects we would have conflict. Some would want sneakers while others would want high heels. If one or the other is the choice then each group of consumers would have to fight the other groups to ensure that they get what they want. In the depoliticized market each is satisfied to a relatively large degree. But in politics it is often one size fits all regulations. There are winners and there are losers, markets expand the number of winners, politics reduces them..

This is clearly seen in government schooling. Instead of schools that reflect the diversity of parental desires the government education system is one-size-fits-all. If you don’t like abstinence education tough luck. If you don’t care for evolution, tough luck. The state sets the curriculum, hires the teachers, forces the children to attend, and then confiscates your wealth to pay for it. Across the board the education system lacks choice and thus it is a major area of conflict. We, who support sex education, have to fight the abstinence moralists. We, who support scientific evolution, have to fight creationist mythology. With market-oriented schools these conflicts tend to vanish. The market provides different schools for different families allowing both to pick what they prefer.

The political process creates conflict. It is inherent in the system. When government is limited to the defense of life, liberty and property this conflict is small, almost non-existent. Criminals would prefer the government give them free reign and their victims would prefer the government arrest the bastards. But that is pretty limited as only a few are one side with the bulk of the population on the other side. But as government powers expand these political conflicts spread into more and more areas.

The so-called “Culture War” in America is not a culture war but a political war. The conflict is almost exclusively limited to areas under state control. A totally private marriage system would end the war over gay marriage. (However, I don’t think that is currently possible given the plethora of laws that are directly linked to marriage--such as immigration, tax laws, judicial rights, etc.). If all those laws were repealed, and marriage privatized, no conflict would exist. We have private schools that teach abstinence and private schools with a realistic sex education program. Since neither is able to coerce students into attending the conflict is almost totally absent.

Just as government intervention into private morals, the arts and education has generated political conflicts that divide the nation, political intervention into markets does precisely the same thing. The ever-expanding conflict that rents our nation asunder is the direct result of the ever-expanding nature of state power.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moralistic busybody grabs girls breasts.

Melvin Owen is an antiporn activist. He is part of a group of busybodies called the Jackson County Watchdogs. They hang around outside adult shops harassing customers. He and his fellow “Watchdogs” have spent the last 1,191 days outside the Lion’s Den shop in Uniontown, Indiana.

Owen, however, may not be available to help his fellow moralists after his arrest. Apparently Mr. Owen was giving a 16-year-old girl a ride when he reached over and grabbed her breasts. By Owen’s own account he grabbed the girl several times. Her reaction was not a good one. Police say she ran to the police station and was “screaming, hollering, hysterical.”

Owen claims that the girl had “been coming on to him for several months”, according to police. Owen is 71-years-old so you figure how likely it was that this 16-year-old girl couldn’t resist his manly charms.

A fellow “Watchdog” claims that Owen couldn’t possibly be guilty and says his admission to the assault must have beeen because “he was all shook up and stuff and didn’t know what he was doing.” Articulate fellows those Watchdogs.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Prop 8 fallout.

The anger over Prop 8, especially over the deceptive efforts by the Mormon Church in that campaign, continues. Protests today were held in well over 100 American cities and in at least 8 other nations as well. The Mormon sect still argues that they are being singled out unfairly, in spite of having their members provide the bulk of the funding.

The New York Times has an article: “Mormons tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage”. According to the article the Prop 8 proponents said they were ready to lose the initiative when, at the last minute, extra generous donations directed to the campaign by the Mormon Church changed their fortunes. And Michael Otterson, managing director of public affairs for the Mormon sect told the Times that while the Mormons have spoken out previously on some issues “we don’t get involved to the degree we did on this.”

In response to a decree read to Mormon congregations tens of thousands of Mormons funded the campaign and traveled to California to donate their time. A strategist for one of the proponent groups “estimated that Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers who walked door-to-door in election precincts.”

I read a blog maintained by the a Prop 8 support group which gives instructions to regional coordinators and zip code coordinators for the campaign. The way it is written implies that virtually all the campaign workers were themselves Mormons operating out of the local churches.

This memo is written by Gary Lawrence who is described as an “area grass roots coordinator” as well as “State LDS Grassroots Director.” It is important to remember that the district for the local Mormon church is called a Stake and that a collection of stakes is called a Ward. No other sect uses these terms.

Lawrence’s instructions starts out quoting “Elder Lance Wickman” a Mormon official calling Prop 8 “the Gettysburg of the culture war.” Lawrence discusses the distribution of campaign literature and urges volunteers to pay for them directly. He suggest that if anyone is overburdened financially on this that the regional coordinators should “please find someone in your ward or stake who could help out?”

By the way, this should be seen as an encouragement to break contribution laws. Donations in excess of $50 are to be reported. It is doubtful that a cost under $50 would be too big a burden for a volunteer. So the sums must be higher and this Mormon official is suggesting that these off-the-books payments be made directly. Not only does this violate the law but it also makes the financial contributions of Mormons to Prop 8, which are known to be massive, seem smaller than they really are. This indicates that whatever estimates for Mormon contributions to the campaign we’ve seen based on donation records are too low.

In another section Lawrence asked zip code supervisors to find schedulers who will “call people in the ward and ask them to participate.” He says that the reason to not pass out requests for volunteers “in Priesthood or Relief Society” (two Mormon church organizations) is because “people respond best when directly asked by someone they know”.

Lawrence also writes that Mormon “Elder John Dalton, the Area Authority responsible for all aspects of our LDS effort to assist the coalition, is asking stake presidents and bishops to announce our Walk Saturday program in Church this Sunday.” Lawrence says that church “Bishoprics are being asked to provide that information [on training meetings for Prop 8 volunteers] as part of their regular ward announcements.”

One result of Mr. Lawrence’s actions in this campaign is that his 28-year-old son, Matt, has resigned from the Mormon church. Matt said that the was hurt when his father said “opponents of Prop 8 are akin to Lucifer’s followers” and pleaded with his father, “don’t put me and Satan in the same sentence please.”

Not worthy of a separate blog entry but worth mentioning is the absolutely absurd remark made by a prominent Prop 8 official. He very clearly said that opponents of Prop 8 “have no right boycotting” supporters of the initiative. Frank Schubert, the man hired to run the dishonest Prop 8 campaign, whines that a boycott is trampling “on other people’s civil rights.” Schubert may not be a Mormon but he is moron.

Think for a moment what he is saying? A boycott is when people voluntarily refuse to purchase goods or services from a particular individual or business. How can anyone in a free society not have the right to refuse to purchase something? Is this Prop 8 official really saying that people don’t have the right to make voluntary purchases? I know the Prop 8 officials are very weak on the issue of rights but I didn’t think they were this absurd. Clearly I was wrong.

To show how confused and inconsistent Schubert is, he also whines that he is a smoker -- good, I like it when statists shorten their lives voluntarily -- and that his rights to smoke are being violated. But I notice some hypocrisy in his “rant”. Schubert says “attacking smokers is the only remaining acceptable discrimination out there”. Some people who just got stripped of their right to marry might disagree with Frank.

How about: “If there is one thing the Constitution of the United States stands for, it’s the principle of equal protection for all. It’s not just the favored who enjoy constitution rights. Or the privileged. Or the rich. Or the popular. It’s all. Yes, even smokers.” But apparently “equal protection for all” doesn’t include gay couples. These people are shamelessly inconsistent.

And there was one other area where the Mormon-led campaign was intentionally dishonest, one of many I might add. The campaign said that they had no desire to strip gay couples of some rights. Even the Mormon church magnanimously announced that they were not opposed to gay people being allowed to visit their partners in hospital. But documents on how the Mormon Church had been planning to assault the rights of gays for over a decade show this is merely strategy and not the recognition of rights for gay people at all.

A Mormon document prepared in 1997 for Elder M. Russell Ballard mentions a “preliminary meeting at Church headquarters” to discuss strategy at how to prevent gay couples from receiving legal rights regarding their relationships. Ballard is told:

Elder Oaks was the first to recognize that in the political process that in order to win this battle, there may have to be certain legal rights recognized for unmarried people such as hospital visitation so opponents in the legislature will come away with something. This is proving to be the case.

Mormon “recognition” of the right of gay people to visit their partners in hospital has nothing to do with actual rights retained by individuals. It is clearly a strategy meant to placate “opponents in the legislature” so they will “come away with something” so that the Mormons can “win this battle”.

By the way this same document was the one recommending that the Mormons do their dirty work behind the scenes and putting Catholics at the forefront of the campaign instead. It said “the public image of the Catholic Church [is] higher than our Church. In other words, if we get into this, they are the ones with which to join.” By the way, considering the scandals that have raked the Catholic Church for years one must have a pretty low public image to be superseded by the Roman church.

Apparently even something as fundamentally decent as allowing people to visit their sick or dying partners in hospital, is not a right according to Mormons. It is only a necessary concession to prevent gays from obtaining other rights.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Prominent Mormon: Count me Out

Prominent Mormon Bill Marriott, a major shareholder in the Marriott chain of hotels has used his company blog to distance himself from his church's campaign to fund Proposition 8 to strip gay couples of the right to marry. Marriott says he is a Mormon and that some people might conclude "that our company supported the recent ballot initiative to ban same sex marriage in California." But he assures his readers: "This is simply untrue. Marriott International is a public company and is not controlled by any one individual or family. Neither I, nor the company, contributed to the campaign to pass Proposition 8."

Marriott says he is "very careful about separating my personal faith and beliefs from how we run our business" and says the company "was built on the basic principles of respect and inclusion". He wrote: "We embrace all people as our customers, associates, owners, and franchisees regardless of race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation."

Marriott wrote: "We were among the first in our industry to offer domestic partner benefits, and we've earned a perfect 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index for two years in a row. Many of our hotels have hosted LGBT community functions and events for years. "

A search of the database of contributers to the Prop 8 campaign show only four people named Marriott as contributors. Three gave to the Prop 8 campaign and one opposed it. The three supporters gave a total of $1,200 and none had links that were immediately associated in my mind with Bill Marriott or the company so he may well be telling the truth. My only question is that while he starts out speaking of his hotel and his family when it gets to the point where he states that no contributions were made he drops reference to his family and instead says that he personally didn't contribute. That might be poor wording. Or it might be very carefully considered wording. It might indicate that one of the contributors was, in fact, a family member just not Bill Marriott himself. However, I'm satisfied with Marriott's statement and don't see a reason why anyone should shun his hotels, at least not in relationship to Prop 8.

However, that said, I'm not sure this is going to placate a lot of gay travellers. The real story in the response to Prop 8 passing is that this one measure, like nothing else in history, has united and angered the gay community. Millions of gay people are enraged across the country and at the same time. If Prop 8 was meant to harm the rights of gay people, and it was, the net result, long term, may be the very opposite. Millions of gays who had previously been apolitical are pissed off and contributing and marching and this is not going to stop for some time.

If there is a slogan that captures it try this one: "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." The Mormon Church and their deceptive campaign have prodded a sleeping bear and then they kept prodding it until it woke up very angry. That may well mean the bear will sometimes pick the wrong targets but it doesn't mean the bear is going back to sleep very quickly.

For me, as a libertarian, my concern is that the gay community will go overboard and ask for things which I don't believe anyone has the right to ask for. But I can't really blame them. Marriage rights were a legitimate request and ought not be denied. Conservatives who acted to deny gays their legitimate rights may not only lose that battle but end up seeing badly crafted laws on "hate speech" and private discrimination as well. That is, in order to win a small battle the conservatives may have lost the war and, in the end, lose what little they gained in the small battle as well.

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