Monday, May 31, 2010

DADT measure takes heat off Obama: nothing to applaud

Don't expect me to cheer the so-called repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which Congress is busy passing. But don't get me wrong either. DADT should be repealed. Today! But this "repeal" doesn't repeal anything. It is an artfully-crafted political maneuver designed to take the heat off the Democrats. It is a fraud.

When all is said and done, and this measure is "law," nothing will change. DADT will still be official policy. All this measure does is pass this political hot potato on to the Pentagon. The politicians can pretend they did something, while the status quo remains until the Pentagon gets off its fat, bureaucratic ass and does something constructive.

This measure basically says that DADT is repealed after the military spends millions to "study" the issue, and takes, well... just about as long as they want. After they take untold amounts of time to "study" the issue, and hold countless meetings, spending millions along the way, then the measure says the Pentagon has to have time to study their studies and see what they conclude. There is no time limit for that either, and no budget cap.

After they spend unspecified, limitless amounts of time studying the issue, and then appraising their studies, they can do the same for drawing up a program of implementation. Again there is no limit to the time period they may take to draw up this third phase. And how repeal is implemented is left entirely up to the Pentagon as well. They can "phase" it in, over years if they want. One military leader mentioned that with racial integration the military took five years. And that was following a presidential order from Truman, as commander-in-chief, to the military to integrate.

By the time the military finishes all the phases of the measure that Congress has given them, Obama will most likely be out of office, perhaps having gone to his reward due to old age. By the time the measure actually comes to any conclusion Congress may be back in the hands of the Party that represents the organized forces of hate in American politics: the Republicans. With almost zero Republican support for even this fraudulent measure, the GOP may well repeal the bogus repeal and mandate continued discriminatory practices—discrimination and the GOP today go together hand-in-glove. Given that this measure actually doesn't accomplish anything even Republicans could have safely voted for the bill.

This was the perfect political measure. It gives the appearance of doing something while doing absolutely nothing. It allows politicians to pass the buck to people who don't run for office and are not subject to the will of the voters—military bureaucrats.

Here is how the typical Congressweasel can deal with the issue. If facing an angry opponent of DADT, he can say: "We passed the measure to repeal DADT in Congress. We feel your pain and share your anger, which is why we did this."

If facing a Right-wing gay hater, the Congressweasel can say: "We didn't repeal DADT, that is a media fallacy. We said that only the military can decide on this matter and we trust them to do the right thing (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). This is in the hands of our military leaders and not subject to the whims of organized pressure groups now."

What this measure does is take the heat off the politicians. It effectively kills any chance that real legislation, that will end DADT, will pass anytime soon. This was not the Obama administration fulfilling a promise. This was the Democrats sabotaging any efforts at real reform anytime soon in order to save the sorry ass of Obama—a man who is proving himself to be every bit as bad a leader as George Bush.

There is nothing to applaud in this bill. This was done to kill repeal measures precisely as the Obama administration has been wanting all along. It solves a political problem but doesn't end the discrimination.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

The limits of libertarianism.

Libertarianism is like being short. Just how tall do you have to be, in order to be short? Would a millimeter in one direction or the other be enough to move one in one direction or the other?

There is always an element of personal preferences involved in such definitions. And, it would be bad for libertarianism in general, to define the word too strictly, according to our personal preferences. Doing so could eliminate every one from this category but our individual selves. We would be similar to fundamentalist Baptists—each convinced he is a true believer, but suspicious of every other Christian he meets.

Similarly, if our definition is too loose, everyone is a libertarian. It makes libertarianism a meaningless term. To have no limits is to define libertarianism out of existence: to strip it of any substance. This is particularly dangerous since virtually everyone in Western, liberal, market-based nations is libertarian on one issue or another.

Very, very few people consistently oppose individual liberty and individual rights. As for limited government: everyone believes in limited government! Who actually says they want unlimited government? No one. Not even rampant statists such as Paul Krugman believe in the unlimited state. It might comfort my anarchist friends to know there are far more people in America (and probably most countries) who believe in no government, than who believe in unlimited government.

But I wouldn’t get too comfortable. I’m not sure the difference between “unlimited” government and the rampant statism proposed by some, albeit with some limitations, is actually all that meaningful.

What defines a libertarian? What is the core principle? Some argue that it is the principle of non-initiation of force—that no individual should be allowed to initiate force against another individual. That would encompass a violation of either their life, their liberty or their property. I do like the principle, certainly it is a good personal moral value for one to hold and should be used.

For most of everyday life, this principle will serve you well. But there are feasible situations where it wouldn’t. In libertarian bullshit sessions people invent creative scenarios to illustrate this. For instance: If you are on your 10th floor balcony and slip over the railing, grabbing the flag pole on the 9th floor balcony in order to save yourself. Are you violating the property rights of the tenant on the 9th? Are you obliged to let go in order to remain libertarian?

Very few of us are careless enough to fall over a railing, and those who are never seem to be lucky enough to land on the flagpole (except in Hollywood. But it illustrates a point. Are there times when the unusual circumstances justify a violation of the rights of another? If so, does one such incident mean you are no longer a libertarian?

I start with a relative loose definition for libertarian and then fine-tune it, hopefully reaching a place that is neither fundamentalist nor meaningless. First, a libertarian starts out with a presumption for liberty. In every situation a libertarian first assumes that the use of state coercion has to be justified on a case-by-case basis. Liberty is the default setting.

That alone removes the likes of Paul Krugman, Barack Obama and George W. Bush from the category. But, clearly having this, as a primary definition, is not sufficient. Some people would have very low thresholds for the proof necessary to justify coercive measures. But it is a good place to start.

From there I move to the three main categories of politics: economic, social and international. Economic areas of life are fairly well understood: it is all the buying, selling, exchanging that goes on in the realm of material goods, property, labor, etc. The international realm includes matters of foreign policy, international trade, and the international movement of people—though this latter category also falls into the social sphere. The social sphere is areas of individual life: matters like freedom of speech, censorship, sex laws, drug laws, prohibitionism, etc.

In the social sphere, there is almost always overlap with economic freedom. For instance, the conservative who wants to ban erotica is wanting to ban the production, distribution, sale and ownership of a product. Those are all economic activities. A social conservative, who wants to do this with things like porn or drugs, is clearly not in favor of a free market, at least in these areas. Similarly the conservative campaign to make it a crime to hire individuals who are in the U.S. without bureaucratic permission slips is a violation of labor contracts between willing buyers and willing sellers.

This is one reason that conservatives seem to endlessly betray their claims to support a free market. The free, depoliticized marketplace leads to results contrary to the centrally planned, social sphere that conservatives envision. Since depoliticized markets betray the conservative’s social goals, the conservative betrays free markets. They can’t achieve their social goals in a world with truly free, depoliticized markets. For conservatives, free markets are more rhetorical than real.

In actual existence, these three broad categories overlap constantly. Consider foreign policy: matters of war and peace. War is always accompanied by state attacks on civil liberties and economic freedom. There has never been an exception to that rule. As we saw, something like drug prohibition not only impacts civil liberties but is also a flagrant attack on free markets and property rights. The three main spheres of politics—economics, social, and international—overlap and are interrelated. Tinkering with one of them has consequences for all of them.

The libertarian, with a presumption for liberty, then would logically have to favor depoliticized markets, social freedom and a pro-peace, non-interventionist foreign policy coupled with freedom of movement for capital, labor and goods. The interrelated nature of these freedoms makes this a package deal, in this blogger’s opinion.

The two polar opposites then in politics are the authoritarian and the libertarian.

The authoritarian would have a presumption of state control. That would lead them to advocate a violation of social freedom, political control of the marketplace, and an aggressive, coercive foreign policy. Adolph Hitler comes to mind as a prime example of this sort of thinker. Similarly, so do Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mugabe, and Mussolini.

The conservative tends to support just one sphere of liberty: economic freedom, although they are forced to do so inconsistently by their other policies. Most conservatives are foreign interventionists and tend to oppose social freedom. Their support for free markets is tepid at best and usually no deeper than a campaign promise.

The progressive, often erroneously called a liberal, tends to oppose economic freedom, but claims to favor civil liberties, social freedom, and is usually pro-peace in foreign policy.

However, foreign policy is always the messy issue. There are conservatives who support non-interventionism in foreign policy—often they are called the “Old Right” or paleo-conservatives. Similarly, there is a history of people on the Left advocating empire-building and aggressive foreign policies. Many of the Progressives in America, during the “Progressive Era” were rampant imperialists; similarly socialists in England were often the most vocal advocates of British imperialism.

Realizing these exceptions doesn’t disqualify the general rule of thumb that I use. We can thus conclude that the four general political positions are as follows:

Libertarian: non-interventionist foreign policy, supportive of social freedom, advocates depoliticized markets.

Authoritarian: aggressive foreign policy, opponent of social freedom, advocate of heavily politicized markets.

Conservative: aggressive foreign policy, opponent of social freedom, advocate of less regulated markets.

Progressive: less aggressive foreign policy, supports social freedoms, advocate of politicized markets.

If you attempted to outline this as a bar graph you could put the Libertarian on the far left. Moving to the Right you would find the Progressive next, then the Conservative and finally the polar opposite of the libertarian: the Authoritarian.

In my mind, one deviation does not disqualify one as a libertarian. For instance, Ron Paul’s position on abortion is not sufficient to classify him as a conservative, though it does raise warning flags. However, a convergence of issues can place one outside this category. Paul’s consistent support for socially conservative issues does place him outside the libertarian camp. For instance, he voted to keep sodomy a crime in Washington, D.C., he says separation of church and state is a “myth,” supports a state’s rights point of view over individual rights, opposes equality of rights for gay people; and opposes abortion.

Collectively, Ron Paul’s record on matters of social freedom is weak, as would be expected from conservatives. His foreign policy record is mixed. He tends to oppose war, and is well known for that. But his record on the free movement of labor, capital and goods is not as good. His voting record tends to be protectionist, even if his rhetoric is not. And while I don’t automatically assume that opposition to open immigration disqualifies one as a libertarian, I do think a general voting pattern in opposition to easier immigration, does say something important.

There are always individuals who are good on an issue, contrary to their general political sentiments. William F. Buckley was the epitome of conservatism: bad on foreign policy, bad on social policy, and fair on economic policy. Yet he came to oppose the war on drugs.

This is why I don’t tend to use single issues as a litmus test for classifying someone politically. But I do use the convergence of evidence in each category. Recognizing exceptions doesn’t change general trends. The conservative will tend to be on the wrong side of social freedom issues, especially when in matters that impact minorities. I can pick any random Republican and tell you how he will vote on matters like marriage equality or immigration, and generally be right. It’s not that I’m psychic; it is the nature of conservatives to be the way they are. Similarly, I know how the Democrats will generally vote on such matters as well. From a libertarian perspective I know that Robert Mugabe will be disgustingly bad on virtually any issue you mention.

This sort of foreknowledge, based on understanding the principles of the individual, gives one a general understanding of the person. I know that the chances are that Paul Krugman will be horrendous on most economic policy. He’s into economic S&M: he loves bondage when it comes to markets. I know the Laurel and Hardy of politics—Michael Moore and Ann Coulter—will be shrill, hysterical, dishonest whatever they are talking about, and usually wrong.

I don’t exclude someone from the libertarian camp over one issue, for the most part. Of course, there are theoretical single issues that would do so. If someone were a “pure” libertarian, however you define it, with one exception, that they favored gassing Jews, then the rest pales in comparison to the one deviation. I don’t care how pure someone is; if they advocate the wholesale violation of the rights of a body of people who are peaceful and who are not violating the rights of others, then they have moved outside the libertarian camp.

How serious must be this violation of rights in order to put one beyond the pale? That can be open to debate. I would tend to say that anyone advocating the sort of policies being used today against immigrants sans permission slips is not a libertarian. Measures like SB1070 in Arizona are an example of those policies. Laws that require businesses to get state permission to hire someone, or prevent banks from opening bank accounts for these people, or landlords from renting to them are part of a general trend. The wholesale violation of the rights of individuals in a broad range of categories is enough, in my mind, to disqualify one as a libertarian, no matter how pure they are in other areas.

Again, I am not disqualifying someone on a single “deviation” or even random deviations here or there. But when the deviations from liberty are grouped in one of the three main spheres of politics then the person is not a libertarian. And when those deviations tend to make broad exceptions that are imposed on one class of people alone, provided it is a class of people who are not guilty of violating the rights of others (such as rapists), then that sort of systematic denial of rights moves one outside the libertarian camp as well.

So, for me, a libertarian is one who has a presumption of liberty in the three main spheres of politics. He or she would support economic freedom, support social and civil liberty, and advocate a pro-peace, pro-trade foreign policy. He would apply these principles across the board to all groups of people. Making exceptions that consistently fall in one sphere of liberty does disqualify one as a libertarian. And making exceptions that fall on one group of peaceful people also disqualifies one as a libertarian.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The contrast is astounding.

Two contrasting videos for your edification and education. The first is Bryan Fischer the new head of the American Family Association, a fundamentalist Christian front-group. Comments to follow.

This sort of thing leaves me speechless. It is not only bad history but clearly inspired by irrational hatred. Having gone to a fundamentalist high school, church and seminary, I know that when you prick a fundamentalist you scratch a hate-filled bigot. My journey away from fundamentalism started because of the hatred I see from these people. Sure today they pretty much concentrate on hating gays but when I was involved they hated blacks, Jews and just about every other religion on the planet. It always surprised me to hear them preach that "God so loved the world" followed by their list of favored groups to hate in the name of that same deity.

I thank them, however, since that sort of viciousness was what gave me permission to consider that which was totally forbidden: whether a deity existed or not. Seeing precisely how their belief in a deity turned them in cruel people inspired me to challenge every belief I had about religion and a god. And I rationally concluded that none of it made sense.

In contrast we have this powerful scene from Glee, one of the most subversive shows on television—in you are one of the people who take the above video rant seriously. This is one of my current favorite shows on television. And apparently it one of the top shows with the youth crowd as well. Here is some set up for those who don't follow the show.

Kurt and Finn are both members of the Glee club. Finn was a big jock on campus and Kurt was openly gay. When Kurt's father and Finn's mother decide to move in together. Kurt decorates the room they will share in a fashion that Finn found a bit over-the-top and he says some things to Kurt.

Kurt's father, is just a working single father who has been trying to cope with having a gay son and he found he could relate with Finn in ways he couldn't with Kurt. When he walks in and hears what Finn says he offers one of the most powerful dialogues in the series. And I think it a perfect reply to the hatred you hear above.

And, I should note, that the Finn character is a decent guy who used a word he shouldn't have and realized the pain he caused by it. Holly Robinson, at Huffington Post, said "Glee is changing the world, one 12-year-old at a time." She wrote:
I'm so glad to watch Glee with my 12 year-old. Or rather, so pleased to be in the living room with him as he is prompted to talk about the different characters and issues paraded before us on Glee in ways he never could if it were just Mom lecturing him about acceptance.
Not only are the stories you get from Glee far more moral and enlightening than what you find given by people like Mr. Fischer, but the music's better as well. And that is one reason of many why the Fischers of the world are thankfully a dying breed. They are not just losing a political battle but they are losing their own kids as well. Young Christians today strongly disagree with their parents and many of them are taking the same journey I did, just at a younger age. They are embracing reason, tolerance and liberty and rejecting faith-driven, hate-filled theocracy.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Atlas surrenders: No Will for Freedom

As this blogger sees it the Atlas Society, that band of Ayn Rand aficionados, has joined the hysterics about immigration. Atlas, the mythical man that is, was strong, holding the world on his shoulders. Atlas, the society, seems to have become something else.

One of their writers, Will Thomas, has penned an essay that betrays Rand's ideas.

Background on the Arizona law.

Mr. Thomas basically says that when a law is passed which throws freedom under the bus, then Objectivists like himself must support the law. In particular he means the legislation that Arizona passed requiring anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant to provide ID to police upon demand. I had wished to gather the evidence to do a full expose of the origins of this law, but in a nutshell, it was written by a group from outside Arizona that has close ties to racist organizations. The law was actually written by a group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform—don't let the name fool you, they don't want to reform immigration they want to end it, especially for non-white immigrants.

FAIR has received $1.2 million in funding from a little-known racist outfit known as the Pioneer Fund, founded by, and this is not hyperbole, Nazi sympathizers and advocates of racial eugenics. This may explain why the local legislator who introduced the law was caught sending out anti-Jewish articles from a neo-Nazi group. The founder of FAIR, John Tanton gave his personal papers to a library, and those papers include his correspondence with numerous racists, anti-Semites, and ne0-Nazis. Tanton introduced FAIR to the Pioneer Fund, founded to promote "race betterment." And he told one of FAIR's major funders to read the work of an anti-Semite in order to "give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life." Tanton told this woman that the book "explains a large part of the Jewish opposition to immigration reform," by reform he means restrictions.

Tanton also said for "European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." Tanton promoted a book that claims that Jews actively try to undermine cultural majorities in any country where they live in order to enhance their own power. Among the alleged tactics of "the Jews" was promotion of non-white immigration.

Tanton started a publishing house that focuses on two bugaboos: the threat of immigrants and the threat of so-called overpopulation. One book he published is America Extinguished, written by a notorious racist and anti-Semite, Samuel Frances. Another book they print is the racist rant, The Camp of the Saints, a book filled with bad economics, open racism and hysterical projections about the threat of non-white immigration. Tanton's own website says this novel "envisions the overrunning of European civilization by burgeoning Third World populations."

Ayn Rand: Illegal Immigrant?

As further background you should know that Ayn Rand was both Jewish and an immigrant herself. And we should be clear that Ayn, in order to escape communist Russia, lied to get into the United States. She basically entered the country illegally. As has been well documented, the young Ayn pretended to be coming to the U.S. in order to study the film industry so that she could return to Russia to work in the film industry there. Her first actually published writings were two booklets the Soviets published by Rand about the American film industry.

Rand, however, knew she had no intention of ever returning to Russia. Rand's biographer and friend, Barbara Branden, also an immigrant and Jewish, described Ayn's dilemma. Even though Ayn had secured Soviet permission to visit the U.S. for six months, she still had to secure a U.S. visa. Anti-immigrant hysteria in the U.S. had lead to the passing of numerous laws meant to keep out immigrants of a certain kind: and among them were Eastern Europeans, mainly Jews who were fleeing a history of pogroms against them.

Branden says Ayn could only secure a visa "if she could convince the consul that she did not plan to remain in the United States," this in spite of her having every intention of staying in the U.S. Rand had already decided that if the visa were turned down by the consulate in Latvia, where she had to travel to receive it, "she would vanish into the anonymity of Latvia, and find a way to flee to Europe." When Ayn meet with the U.S. consulate official, who would approve or deny her visa, "she thought she must tell him every reason she could invent to convince him that she wished to return to Russia."

As the official was looking over her application she read the dossier he had in front of him. She noticed it said she was engaged to marry an American. Ayn pounced, insisting that the information was wrong. And then she embellished the truth by saying that she was engaged, but to a Russian whom she would marry upon her return. She was not actually engaged to anyone. The official took a closer look and realized that her papers had been confused with another woman's and told her he was about to deny her the visa but would now approve it—after all, she was to be married in Russia, after her temporary visit to the U.S.

As far as I can see, Ayn Rand was forced to lie to U.S. officials in order to secure a visa to come to America. I am no expert on 1920 immigration law but I suspect that lying to secure a visa is itself a crime, perhaps one that would be considered severe enough to cause the cancellation of said visa. Ayn Rand secured her visa under false pretenses, but I don't fault her, legal (truthful) immigration had been closed to her. So, in order to get the papers she needed, she invented a lie. She most likely broke the law to do so and I suggest that her immigration to the United States was illegal as a result. After her arrival in the country, she did go to Hollywood and the rest is history. She met and married Frank O'Connor, and because of that marriage she became a citizen. It was also well known to O'Connor that the marriage was necessary for Ayn to remain in the United States.

A law is a law. But what about rights?

Now I want to turn to precisely what Mr. Thomas said and why I find it so objectionable from a libertarian, even an Objectivist, viewpoint. The Thomas piece starts with the premises: "illegal immigration is illegal, isn't it?" Yes, so is marijuana, so was sodomy up until a couple of years ago, and so are numerous things defended by Objectivists. Objectivists, would even argue that people have the right to engage in activities that are illegal. Rights trump the law, which was a major point of Rand's theory. She argued that individual rights limit the power of the state, not that the power of the state limits individual rights.

Thomas tries to take a middle ground by acknowledging:
People who cross the border without permission are violating no one’s rights. Ignoring the INS does violence to no one. They’re just ignoring a restriction on freedom. When their lives and well-being are at stake, they are morally justified in taking that chance.
So he recognizes a right to immigrate and that the immigrant is not violating the rights of another person. He even says that our current immigration policy is not compatible with a free society. But then he goes off into statism: "Yet the idea of a free society is even less compatible with the failure to enforce the law. The rule of law is the basis of all dependable liberty and open government."

The rule of law was never intended to mean that all laws must be obeyed. That is just a recipe for totalitarianism. Rule of law bound, not just citizens, but governments as well. The premise is that rights, as Jefferson said, exist prior to the establishment of any government. And all legitimate government is founded for the purpose of protecting the pre-existing rights of the individual. As such, the law when properly understood binds the state. In the course of protecting rights government has the obligation to do so in a clear, consistent manner with rules that are obvious, objective and consistent with the rights of the individual. Immigration law is anything but that. It is often arbitrary, and it is clearly inconsistent with individual rights. The sad reality is that illegal immigration is widespread because, for most of these people, legal immigration is not possible.

This isn't a matter of these people "getting in line" like everyone else. They aren't allowed in the line. The line is closed to them. American immigration law denies the possibility of legal immigration and that forces people to resort to illegal means.

Thomas seems to be saying that obeying all laws, regardless of how bad the law, is important for freedom. He puts the worship of law above the primacy of individual rights and liberty. Obedience to the law comes first. He writes:
So if the Arizona government will actually enforce the existing Federal laws, bully for them! Certainly, the Federal government should do more to enforce its own laws. Whatever the law is, please, let’s enforce it objectively and with due process. When the law is unjust or unwise (and so many are!), we must fight at the polls to correct them. But if we undermine the rule of law just to win the odd smidgeon of liberty, we are cutting our own throats.
Read that carefully please. "Certainly, the Federal government should do more to enforce its own laws." What the fuck! Is this what Objectivism has come to? Consider what this means. We have drug laws so, according to Thomas the Federal government should send armed DEA agents into more homes, shoot more family pets, violate more property rights, kill more innocent people. After all, the law must be enforced even more than it already is.

According to the logic of Mr. Thomas, the IRS should do more to audit tax scoffers, more to enforce onerous confiscatory tax policies, and arrest more tax evaders and imprison them. After all "the Federal government should do more to enforce its own laws." As Mr. Thomas has written his statement, the Feds should enforce all the laws on the books and enforce them good and hard—in the name of freedom. Dare I mention that if the Feds actually enforced all the laws on the books, with 100% efficiency, there would be no freedom left in this country.

But according to Thomas "the rule of law" means that government legislation trumps individual rights, something he refers to as an "odd smidgeon of liberty." Consider that in Arizona no one is allowed to work for another person without their name being on a state database giving them permission to work. Under e-verify it is a crime to enter into a private labor agreement with another person without "verifying" with state authorities that they have the "right" to work. This interferes with the rights of every single employer to enter into private contracts. But it’s just an "odd smidgeon of liberty" and so government can control every single labor contract, in the name of liberty and the rule of law.

Another thing Thomas pooh-poohs as meaningless is that government has stripped people of the right to move about without government documents on their person. He writes:
I don’t understand what the griping is about: if you have a passport with a valid visa, or a green card, or a U.S. passport, just carry them. I carry my passport every day living in a foreign country as I now do.
So, in the name of liberty every citizen can be forced to carry government identification. Eduardo Caraballo, who I mentioned yesterday, is a natural-born American citizen who looks Mexican. He was held for three days by Immigration even though he had ID on him and had his birth certificate shown to them. Mr. Thomas may think he is lily-white enough to pass inspection, so that the law never harasses him, but Mr. Caraballo knows the reality. He had ID, he was born in U.S. territory and he was still imprisoned for three days while the Immigration bureaucrats tried to verify this.

In other words, any U.S. citizen can be incarcerated on the assumption that are illegal until the bureaucrats, moving at their usual snail's pace, verify that the person is not illegal. Even carrying government ID, as Caraballo was doing, is not sufficient. Ask Mr. Caraballo if he thought three days imprisonment was merely a violation of an "odd smidgeon of liberty." What is an odd smidgeon of liberty to Mr. Thomas was three days unjust incarceration to Mr. Craballo.

Certainly Mr. Thomas does think he is white enough to be safe. He notes that the “illegals” everyone worries about "are Mexicans and Central Americans. ...So it's perfectly reasonable to check whether apparently foreign-born Latinos are in the country legally. Just as it is perfectly reasonable to check whether anyone with a non-native- accent is in the country legally." Mr. Thomas just doesn't want to get to the point where we have "check-points or conduct random checks: that would hassle everyone, and it would be pretty ineffective at finding illegals, too." See, we shouldn't be "griping" about a law that hassles only people who "look" Mexican, after all the alternative is hassling everyone, i.e. white folk like Mr. Thomas, who currently think they are, or should be, immune from harassment.

There is an interesting aspect to the wonderful Cory Doctorow novel, Little Brother, where the Homeland Security thugs take over San Francisco after a terrorist attack. They begin monitoring everyone's travel habits using RFIDs in the travel cards that people are required to carry. The "Little Brothers" who are out to tear down Big Brother use their knowledge of technology to confuse the RFIDs so that individuals appear to be making suspicious trips, which triggers an investigation by Homeland Security. As more and more people got caught up in the gvoernment's net support for the bad law falls leading to the end of the practice. Mr. Thomas thinks this is a bad law, he just wants to make sure that people who don't look Mexican, like himself, aren't hassled by it.

Try Telling that to Ayn

I also note he thinks it reasonable for government agents to demand ID from anyone they encounter who has a "non-native speaker accent." Imagine this policy being enforced while Miss Rand was alive—she with her deep, guttural Russian accent as thick as the soups from her homeland. I would not want to be the bureaucrat who demanded "papers please" from her. She would have neutered the man on the spot and been livid about the experience for months. You would be able to hear her vitriolic denunciations of this sort of intrusion by the state, merely because she had a "non-native speaker accent," from miles away. She would denounce such a policy as being entirely inconsistent with the premises on which America was founded. And she would be right.

And, if some apologist for the system dared approach her and said: "I don't understand what you are griping about: if you have a passport with a valid visa, or a green card, or a U.S. passport, just carry them. Why are you worried about the odd smidgeon of liberty when failure to obey the state is undermining the rule of law. Why, if you don't put up with this, because you have a Russian accent, we are cutting our own throats."

How do you think Miss Rand would reply to that? If she didn't reach down the weasel's throat and literally pull out his intestines, she would certainly do it metaphorically. But, if said weasel did it in the name of Rand's own philosophy, I wouldn't want to watch the carnage. On second thought, yes I would. I would love to be able to see Mr. Thomas attempt to make this argument to Rand herself. Once he uttered "odd smidgeon of liberty" he would have been out on the pavement. I think I know enough about Ayn to know she would never have tolerated this sort of bullshit from anyone, let alone from someone spreading it in the name of her own philosophy—a philosophy that wouldn't exist today if Ayn Rand had not intentionally lied to secure a visa to come to America—something which I still insist made that immigration an illegal one.

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US Citizen detained, looks Mexican

Eduardo Caraballo is a natural-born American, born in the US colony of Puerto Rico. He even had legitimate ID on him when he was arrested because police thought he was involved with a car theft, something he denies. When he was being released on bail Immigration showed up, apparently someone thought he looked "illegal." In other words, he looked Hispanic, i.e. Mexican.

Under the new presumptions of the immigration hysteria one must prove one's innocence. For instance, the Arizona law requires individuals to prove they are legal citizens any time a police officer stops them if he "suspects" they are illegal. The law says that they can't take race into account, but all that means is that police have to write their arrest records saying that they had other reasons to stop the person. Included in this category, by the way, is that the person "looks nervous." That sort of subjective definition is a blank check for cops to harass people for looking Mexican, provided the police simply lie and say they "looked nervous" instead.

How will this work? First, the cop pretends the individual they want to get failed to completely stop at a stop sign. No evidence is necessary for this. The cop will claim he pulled the person over for some minor infraction. The kind and nice officer can claim that he merely intended to give the driver a verbal warning. But, lo and behold, the driver of the vehicle acted nervous arousing the suspicions of the nice policeman who never thinks anything forbidden by the law. So the office demanded the driver "prove" his U.S. citizenship.

Of course, the authoritarians who support these laws, claim that the law allows the citizen to "prove" his innocence—a reversal of the usual requirement that the state prove one's guilt. Now Mr. Caraballo did that. He provided ID and even managed to show them his birth certificate. That didn't matter, the feds held him anyway. After all, he looked Mexican, so they assumed the documents had to be forged. It took three days, of federal incarceration, before the feds realized that the evidence showed he was actually a citizen. Until they could do that Mr. Caraballo sat in detention for looking Mexican.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How politics follows social change, and doesn't lead it.

Politicians frequently have the courage to ban a dying practice, but only when it is on its deathbed. Of course, for centuries later they will continue to claim that it was legislative fiat that killed the practice and proof that their interventions are thus proper and necessary.

Child Labor

Child labor was not created by the capitalists as a means to exploit the working classes, contrary to the deluded history of Marxists. Child labor was widespread and rampant in the millenniums prior to the first capitalist-owned factory. The work was different, but the expectation that children would work, was common. Even today in peasant farming communities children are put to work in the fields the moment they can do anything useful.

The reason for child labor was simple: the productivity of any single laborer was relatively low, making it difficult for families to survive without every member of the family laboring for the food they needed. In pre-industrial Europe standards of living were extremely low, poverty rampant and starvation not uncommon.

The introduction of new modes of production offered families a means of actually starting to make progress in their death race with poverty. The new machinery made each worker more productive and more valuable. The children who flocked to the factories, along with their mothers and fathers, didn’t leave behind some idyllic childhood, roaming green valleys and picking flowers. They left behind hunger and death.

These “free labor” child workers were watched after by their parents and for the most part their lives improved dramatically. A second class of child laborers also existed, those under the care of various government agencies, usually at the local, or parish, level. It was these parish children who were the worst off, and the worst conditions described in relatively accurate, though exaggerated, tracts of the day were descriptions of the parish children—that is those children whose labor was being exploited by the local government. With bureaucrats, not parents, watching out for them, these children did have brutish and nasty lives.

As capital was invested in new production techniques the value of individual workers rose substantially. During this period there were steady and strong improvements in the standard of living of all working people. As wages rose, the ability of parents to care for their families, through their own wages alone, became more prevalent and the number of children working alongside parents declined. Increased productivity pushed up wages and the higher wages made child labor unnecessary. By the time the politicians got around to banning child labor the practice was no longer widely practiced. Had it been, it is unlikely the political classes would have banned it.

One unfortunate result of the labor laws that were passed, and which still exist today, is that young people find it difficult to secure employment. Part-time work is possible under certain conditions, but teens, who leave school for one reason or another, find it difficult to find full-time employment. Young people who are forced to leave violent and abusive homes find themselves on the streets with few legal options open to them. One result is that many teens turn to less than legal methods to earn a living—sometimes drug dealing and sometimes prostitution, as two examples.

In the zeal to abolish a practice that had largely died out already, legislation created legal straightjackets for young workers. The restrictions are so onerous that many young people needing full-time employment are forced into illegal occupations where “working conditions” are far more dangerous than from what the legislation was meant to save them.


Consider the matter of apartheid in South Africa. By the time apartheid was officially repealed it had already been dead.

Apartheid was itself a web of regulations and laws restricting voluntary markets in order to force a result that the central planners didn’t deem possible without coercion. That result was not just segregation of whites from blacks, but the reservation of particular occupations to white workers, or more accurately to Afrikaner workers. Apartheid was seen by its architects as a temporary system of racial preferences necessary to end the problem of “poor whiteism.” Of course, with the normal nature of bureaucratic expansionism it evolved into a system that was much more than this, and much worse.

Throughout the history of apartheid, legislation was used to force results into the marketplace. Companies that hired black workers were punished. This didn’t end them from hiring black workers, but it made it much more difficult. The trade unions in South Africa, including those backed by the Communist Party, were explicitly racist. And during the ill-fated Rand Rebellion of 1922 these workers marched through the streets of Johannesburg carrying signs saying: “Workers of the World Unite and Keep South Africa White.” Note: If you look carefully in the lower left of the photo you can see this sign being carried by the revolutionary unionists during the rebellion.

Prior to the election of the first clearly “apartheid” Nationalist government in 1948, earlier attempts at government-mandated racism were being pushed by the Communist dominated trade unions. The Mines and Work Act created job reservations for whites in 1923. But these laws were soon replaced with other pieces of legislation doing the same thing. Following the Rand Rebellion, a coalition government of the communist-dominated Labour Party and the white, racialist Nationalist Party came to power.

The enemy of this system was a class of men despised by the unionists and the nationalists alike: entrepreneurs and businessmen. The business classes in South Africa were primarily made of two minorities: individuals of English descent and Jews. And the Nationalist Party despised both. Virtually all the architects of apartheid were open haters of capitalism and free markets and immediately set about to politicize markets. The purpose was simple: excluding rural blacks from moving to the cities kept wages higher in the cities, benefiting trade unionists, and it suppressed wages for farm workers, benefiting Afrikaner farmers who were the backbone of the National Party. Together these two groups politicized the marketplace in order to transfer wealth from two despised classes—businessmen and blacks—to their supporters, farmers and unionists.

By the time I first visited South Africa, well before the release of Mandela and the end of apartheid, economic reality has already eroded the laws to a large extent. The Group Areas Act, which restricted where the races could live, had collapsed and “grey” areas were thriving. Blacks were flocking to the city, begging employers to “exploit” them at double the wages they would received in the homelands—that is if they were lucky enough to find employment there. With many Afrikaners having escaped the government-created jobs and becoming businessmen themselves, the pressure was on to loosen the laws that restricted labor supplies.

When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison the laws creating apartheid were still on the books, but the actual practice of apartheid had died long before. When these laws were repealed officially they had already been repealed unofficially throughout the country, by the natural forces of marketplace transactions. (Merle Lipton’s book Capitalism and Apartheid: 1910-1986 is a must read for this history.)

Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Act

In light of the recent debate about the Civil Rights Act, and whether or not it was necessary to ban private discrimination, this sort of history has some relevance. Based on what I’ve said it could be assumed that the Civil Rights Act didn’t create the change, as the modern Left claims, but was a result of a change that already taken place. Is that true?

Ilya Somin, points out the evidence that Americans had already changed their views on race by the time the Civil Rights Act was passed. He writes:

The Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 because “the thinking of the white portion of the country” had already changed over the previous 20–30 years. As Howard Schuman and his coauthors document in their comprehensive book Racial Attitudes in America, there was an enormous liberalization in white opinion on race from the 1940s to the 1960s. By 1963, one year before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, 85% of whites polled in a National Opinion Research Center survey endorsed the view that “Negroes should have as good a chance to get any kind of job” and rejected the position that “white people should have the first chance at any kind of job” (endorsed by only 15%). This contrasts with 55% who said that “white people should have the first chance” on the same question in 1942 and 51% who said so in 1944.

Similarly, 73% whites questioned in a 1963 NORC poll embraced the view that “Negroes should have the right to use the same parks, restaurants, and hotels, as white people.” The same 1963 study also showed that 79% of whites rejected the idea that transportation in streetcars and buses should be segregated, compared to 54% who had endorsed it in 1942 (both the 1942 and 1963 questions used the same wording). The 1963 figures probably overstate the actual degree of white support for integration and equal opportunity. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that white opinion had moved strongly in an integrationist direction relative to previous years, and that discrimination against blacks in employment and public accommodations was opposed by a majority of white voters by 1964.

Schuman and his coauthors show that white racial attitudes continued to move in a more liberal direction after 1964. But the enactment of the Civil Rights Act does not seem to have accelerated the pace of change.

None of this means that the Civil Rights Act was insignificant. Although national white opinion was generally favorable to integration by 1964, southern whites were still much more hostile. Moreover, southern businesses that wanted to employ black workers on an equal basis with whites and/or serve black customers in an integrated setting were often prevented from doing so by state law and government and private violence. On these fronts, the Act really did make a major positive difference. The South probably would not have desegregated anywhere near as fast without it.
Somin is correct that violence against businesses that integrated was a possibility but it should also be noted that such violence indicates a failure of the state to fulfill its primary function: the protection of the life, liberty and property of the citizens. Discrimination existed because government in the South actively intervened in the marketplace to secure results that the politicians felt would not be possible without that intervention: in this case segregation. And for integration to fail to evolve it was necessary for government to turn a blind eye when it came to protecting the rights of businesses to act in a non-discriminatory way. For instance, Southern Streetcar companies actively fought racial segregation of their customers. Like the businessmen in South Africa, these companies preferred to act in a manner far less discriminatory than the politicians wanted.

To secure segregation Southern politicians actively politicized the labor market, without that intervention they would have found their segregationist cause severely hampered.

On unfortunate result of this debate is that everyone is concentrating on the aspect of the Civil Rights Act that criminalized private discrimination, as if that was the main thrust of the law. In reality the Civil Rights Act, for the most part, was a massive roll-back in governmental power. Law professor Richard Epstein wrote:
The primary feature of the Civil Rights Act was the removal of the formal barriers to entry that had been erected by the Jim Crow legislation. At this point the historical evidence tells a libertarian story, not a government intervention story. …The successes of the civil rights movement derived from the shrinkage, not the expansion of total government power, both state and federal.
The Civil Rights Act abolished the web of laws which Southern racists had erected in order to force people to act as if they were racists, whether or not they were.

Marriage Equality

We can again turn to one active civil rights struggle in America today—that of marriage equality for gay couples. A handful of states have ended the discrimination that existed against gay couples. But throughout the country private businesses have granted equal benefits to gay employees and their spouses—whether or not the law requires such things. The roadblock to marriage equality is NOT the private sector but the governmental sector.

Not only do laws exist which explicitly forbid the recognition of same-sex marriages but the legal system often interferes with private decisions to recognize such relationships, at least on equal terms. No private policy can remove the differential tax rates at which gay couples are taxed, nor can such policies remove the discrimination inherent in the social security system, US immigration laws, or other similar areas.

These policies will change, but they will change after the public has changed. As we already saw public opinion has shifted dramatically on this issue, and I suspect that shift will continue as the opponents to equality tend to be old and the old die out. In addition opponents tend to be strong Christians and religion, Christianity in particular, is also on the decline in the United States. This means that many of the young aren’t joining sects that would encourage them to be prejudiced.

So, reform is possible. But history seems to show that political reform rarely tips the social scales. Politicians rarely lead, they look for the trends and then try to jump in front of them, only at the last minute, and then claim credit for shifts that had already taken place. In reality, they do very little to change society, and in each of these areas the political classes actively worked to prevent the change that had taken place without them.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Death rates, gay marriage and health care

Infant Death Rates Continue to Decline

The death rates for children under 5 continues to decline around the world. Apparently the figures previously released by the UN's Children's Fund overestimated said death by 800,000. I note that the UN's figures on many of these issues seems always biased toward the bad news are and regularly revised downward some years later. I suggest this is the result of the political biasing that takes place when figures are accumulated to satisfy politicians.

It need not be said that the current estimate of 7.7 million such deaths for 2010 is far too high, but in 1990 that figure was 11.9 million. Half these deaths take place in Africa, plagued by corrupt, authoritarian governments. The role of the African state in this disaster can not be underestimated. And it should be noted more aid is not the solution as that aid is used by the vampire elite, who are causing the problems, to help cement their hold on the country.

Since 1970 child mortality rates have dropped 60 percent.

Long Term Polling Trends Indicate Gay Marriage is Coming.

The Gallup people have released their most recent figures regarding support for gay marriage. The trend lines indicate small, but relatively stead gains for marriage equality. When Gallup first asked about this issue, in 1996, 68% of Americans wanted to keep legal restrictions on same-sex marriage, and 27% favor deregulation and legal equality. Since then the opposition has declined by 15 points to 53% and support has grown by 17 points to 44%.
During that time support for marriage equality rose from 33% to 56% among Democrats (+23); from 32% to 49% among independent voters (+17) and from 16% to 28% among Republicans (+12). Even among individuals who say they are conservatives support has grown from 14% to 25%, +11 points.

Opponents to deregulation and legal equality remains most solid among people who consider themselves religious. Individuals who think religion is very important oppose equality 70% to 27%. If someone says religion is fairly important the opposition shifts slightly t0 60% against to 37% in favor. Individuals who are not into the mystical or theological tend to be rational about marriage as well, with 71% favoring equality and 27% opposing it.

As to be expected the American South, followed by the Midwest, tends to be most firm in opposition to equality of rights—but that's a tradition with those folks. In the South 62% oppose equality and 35% support it. In the Midwest it is 57% opposed to 40% in favor. The East supports equality of rights by 53% to 43%, as does the West, 53% to 46%.

Obamacare: As the truth seeps out the costs rise, support falls.

It was obvious to everyone, but the true believers, that the Obama White House was lying about the costs of Obamacare. Obama rammed his measure through by deceiving the public and bullying politicians, when not bribing them with taxpayer funds. The most recent figures and polls are not good news politically for the president and the Democrats who tied themselves to his coat-tails.

The most recent Congressional Budget Office estimates show that the legislation will cost at least $115 billion more than the cost that was given when the bill was passed. This means Obamacare will cost at least $1 trillion. Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institutes, says these figures are "a conservative estimate that is based upon unrealistically high assumptions about cuts in Medicare spending and unrealistically low assumptions about the cost of the new law." Actually that is par for the course in Washington. Most bills are passed by politicians who intentionally, and dishonestly, underestimate costs and overestimate benefits. Turner notes:
One reason is the billions of dollars in new fees and excise taxes the law imposes that Foster says will "generally be passed through to health consumers in the form of higher drug and devices prices and higher premiums."

These include:

• more than $20 billion in taxes on medical devices

• $60 billion in taxes on health plans

• and $27 billion in taxes on prescription drug companies.

Foster's report also highlights the shaky financial footing of the new long-term care insurance program -- the CLASS Act, which Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has described as "a Ponzi scheme of the first order."

Foster says the program faces "a significant risk of failure" and finds the program will result "in a net federal cost in the long term."

The CBO estimates that individuals and businesses also will face at least $120 billion in fines and penalties for failing to comply with the law's new health insurance mandates. And it says families purchasing health insurance in the individual market will pay $2,100 a year more for coverage by 2016 than they would had the measure not passed.
On the political front a substantial majority of Americans want Obamacare repealed. The latest Rasmussen poll on the issue finds repeal supported by 63% of the population while opposition to repeal sits at 32%. Support for repealing the measure has gained 8 points since March while support has declined by 10 points.

Even supporters of the measure don't believe the B.S. that Obama and Democrats were spreading about the measure. The public was told that the measure would actually bring down health care costs. But only 18% of the public believes that, well below the support level for the bill, indicating that a substantial number of supporters disbelieve the president—and with good reason as the CBO estimates show. Those believing the measure will raise costs include 55% of the public. Only 20% of the public think the plan will improve health care, a decline of 7 points. And only 12% believe the hype that the measure will reduce the federal deficit, a decline of 7 points.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul and Ayn Rand: not peas from the same pod

One of the tragedies from the Ron Paul movement has been the association of libertarianism with very unlibertarian sentiments. Before Rand Paul picked up his father's sullied mantle I was talking with someone who had been a top official in the Liberal Democratic Party at a dinner in London. Some of the people were libertarians who thought the Paulites were a good thing. I pointed out how our ideas were being associated with ideas that were most clearly not libertarian. The Lib Dem guy made the point about "brand contamination." When someone becomes associated with other things, a tad bit more nefarious and questionable, the good aspects of the brand become contaminated.

That is what Ron Paul did to libertarianism—associating it with anti-immigrant sentiments, neo-Confederate politics, Birch Society conspiracy nonsense, state's rights, and racism, to name a few. Ron Paul has always been a conservative, not a libertarian—as his vote to keep sodomy a crime in D.C., showed. And Rand Paul is more of the same, but worse.

So who gets blamed for Rand Paul's views? Libertarians do. Sam Tanenhaus referred to Rand Paul's controversial statements with a New York Times piece entitled: "Rand Paul and the Perils of Textbook Libertarianism." That would imply that Rand Paul is a textbook libertarian when he is no such thing. He has less right to claim libertarianism than does his father.

So I wanted to clear up a few points. Not only isn't Rand Paul a libertarian, as I have asserted before, but he isn't even named after Ayn Rand—as some of his worshippers and detractors all seem to assume. Paul has clarified it himself but that doesn't stop the morons, on both Left and Right, from saying otherwise. His full name is Randal Paul and Rand is merely an abbreviation of his first name, not homage to Ayn Rand.

And, if it had been homage to Rand, I can assure you she wouldn't have been honored. Rand refused to support candidates if they campaigned against abortion. She refused to support Reagan and stated his opposition to abortion as a reason, and Reagan was much more moderate on the issue than Paul, who wouldn't even allow a woman to abort in order to save her own life. My friend Barbara Branden reports: "When I last saw Rand in 1981, she told me that she was opposed to Reagan because she considered him a typical conservative in his attempt to link politics and religion. About his anti-abortion view, she said: 'A man who does not believe in a woman's right to her own body, does not believe in human rights.'"

Paul, according to his own site, had the endorsement of the far-Right theocratic group, Concerned Women for America, and his site says that his "socially conservative views have earned the respect and trust of church leaders across Kentucky." Consider how Rand saw Reagan and his friendly relations with the Moral Majority:
The appalling disgrace of his administration is his connection with the so-called "Moral Majority" and sundry other TV religionists, who are struggling—apparently with his approval—to take us back to the Middle Ages, via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.
Rand said Reagan was trying to "arouse the country by some sort of inspirational appeal. He is right in thinking that the country needs an inspirational element. But he will not find it in the God-Family-Tradition swamp." So while Randal Paul was sucking up to the social conservative religionists, Ayn Rand had called their ideology a "swamp" and wanted nothing to do with them.

Previously I mentioned Rand's views on the issue of state's rights, which is vastly different than Randal Paul's views. While social conservatives like the two Pauls, Wayne Allen Root, Bob Barr and others, argue for state's rights, Ayn Rand said that people don't understand what it means She argued it was merely a "division of power between local and national authorities" and did "not grant to a state government an unlimited arbitrary power over its citizens or the privilege of abrogating the citizens' individual rights." As Rand saw it state's rights would justify the violation of separation of church and state at the state level, as Ron Paul and other conservatives have said.

George Wallace used the state's right mantra to justify his racist campaigns for political office. Rand noted that Wallace was NOT "a defender of individual rights, but merely of state's rights—which is far from being the same thing." She said Wallace's denunciation of big government was one that merely wanted to replace federal tyranny with local tyranny, that all Wallace wanted was "to place the same unlimited, arbitrary power in the hands of many little governments." This is also true of the paleo-conservatives pretending to be libertarians: Randal and Ron Paul being the prime examples.

Libertarian blogger Timothy Lee noticed that Randal Paul's "libertarianism" "is curiously one-sided." Lee notes that Paul's view "is far from uncompromising" and points to Paul's rabid anti-immigration stands, his demand that anyone who is a citizen of a "rogue nation" be denied travel visas and that he supports "holding suspects indefinitely without trial at GITMO," as evidence. He also lists Paul's opposition to marriage equality, his refusal to talk about the war on drugs, or free trade as areas of concern. Lee writes:
Paul is an uncompromising defender of the rights of business owners to decide who will sit at their lunch counters. But Paul apparently sees no problem with deploying the power of the state to stop private business owners from hiring undocumented workers. Nor does he seem to care very much about business owners’ freedom to do business with the millions of non-terrorists who live in “rogue nations.” Or, for that matter, the freedom of a gay business owner to marry the person he loves. There’s a principle at work here, all right, but I don’t think it has very much to do with limited government.
Randal Paul got caught by his own position in defense of private discrimination. And while I agree with freedom of association as a right, it is very difficult, if not impossible to defend those rights if you yourself advocate violating those rights in numerous ways. Social conservatives, like Paul, are not advocates of individual rights, but proponents of social order and state control in the name of God, family, tradition, morality and religion. They are sometimes opponents of state intervention and sometimes advocates of it. Their lack of consistency means it is easy to show them up as hypocrites, advocating one set of laws for one group of people and another set for other, less favored, groups.

As a libertarian I would say this lack of consistency plagues both Progressives and Conservatives. Which is why libertarians are neither, but hold the radical middle ground where rights are applied consistently. Randal Paul, like his father doesn't support equality of rights for gay people. So that meant he could not answer Rachel Maddow well when she nailed him on discrimination. He stuttered, stumbled, tried to evade, and basically made his position look bad. He tried to claim libertarian principles, but not being a consistent libertarian made that difficult. So how would I have responded to Maddow, in the same circumstances? Here is my answer:
Rachel, that's a good question and is the answer is more complex that a lot of people want to believe. For instance, why shouldn't a "black student's union" have the right to admit only black students? And doesn't it make sense that with the sort of sexual harassment that many women have experienced that a lesbian bar might rationally want to exclude straight men as patrons or employees?

Much of the struggle for human rights, especially for those oppressed and discriminated against, has revolved around the freedom to associate. With the right to freely associate comes the right to not associate, which is what that lesbian bar would be doing. Government is a very blunt tool, and when the law applies to private associations it does so without taking into account, nor can it take into account, the nuances which may well justify the reluctance for some people to associate with others.

Where there is private discrimination, that is irrational and prejudicial, such as the refusal of some restaurants to serve black patrons, I think it important that community leaders, people like yourself, all decent people, stand up and protest, boycott, picket, leaflet and force a change in policy. And there are many examples of that happening.

Government is such a blunt tool to use that it can't distinguish between the first kind of discrimination and the second kind. It destroys both with the same law. Thus we could get bizarre things like a gay resort, with somewhat liberal standards on nudity or public displays of sexuality, being sued for discriminating against heterosexual families with children. Government does a bad job of telling the differences and thus tends to ban both.

Most people, like yourself, clearly can see the differences. A Christian church that refused to perform Jewish weddings doesn't bother most people. A restaurant that refuses to serve black customers does. The church is only exempt because of the First Amendment, and thus safe from such laws. But the lesbian bar I mentioned is not. The community is free to distinguish between these different forms of discrimination and routinely does so. They will boycott and protest against the restaurant but no one bats an eye at religious discrimination by churches.

What is critical to remember is that state power has more often been used to force discrimination than to forbid it. The South was not a free society and had legislation mandating bigotry and prejudicial policies. When local government violates the rights of people, it is fit and proper for federal legislation to prevent that. Government is a dangerous weapon and is more likely to be used to suppress rights.

The great civil rights battle of today, Rachel, is that of marriage equality.
Look at the battle line. All across the country private businesses treat their gay employees and customers with respect, sure some don't, but they are not the dominant trend by any means, but the exception. As a gay woman you surely know this.

Gay relationships are recognized by employers who grant their gay employees the same rights as other employees. Where is the problem? Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- government mandated discrimination. The Defense of Marriage Act -- government mandated discrimination. Immigration laws exist that refuse to recognize gay couples. That is state bigotry, not private. We have state mandated discrimination in the tax codes, marriage laws, custody laws, even in hospital visitation rights.

So, Rachel, here is my offer, based on my principles. Let us abolish all government mandated discrimination, abolish those laws, reform the system to see full equality of rights for all. Compared to the nationwide massive violations of rights that government is doing today, the issue of private discrimination is tiny. Not only is the impact of state discrimination far more destructive but it is much harder to change. Many a business has suddenly switched sides due to a boycott, but you can't boycott government. In addition, much of the private prejudices collapse when government-sanctioned bigotry is abolished.

So, when it comes to my preferences, I prefer the private versus governmental approach. It is easier to wipe out bigotry when privately practiced then when enforced by law. Even with a so-called "friend" in the White House look at the meager progress gay and lesbian people have made with their just demands. It is far easier to end private discrimination than state-enforced bigotry.

A government that routinely discriminates against tens of millions of Americans, due to their sexual orientation, or gender identity, is not a trust-worthy advocate for individual rights. I would rather leave this to the common sense of the people, using proven strategies like boycotts and picket lines, to eradicate irrational prejudice while leaving the woman's bar alone, as I suspect the case would be.
My answer may not entirely satisfy Maddow, but it would go a long way toward addressing her concerns and showing the good intentions of libertarians toward minorities. So why didn't Randall Paul say this? Why didn't he defend well the libertarian position? Because he couldn't, he doesn't believe in it.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

More Immigrants, Less Crime?

The xenophobic Right, which loves to verbally bash immigrants, has repeatedly pushed the canard that immigrants cause crime. They claim that there is a crime wave hitting American due to immigrants and repeat claims that crime in border states is particularly bad. What they don't do is show crime statistics. These are the kind of people, so ignorant of evidence, that they think an anecdotal story suffices.

Let us go to ground zero is the immigration debate: Arizona. It is there that Republicans pushed through an infamous anti-immigration bill that has many people shocked and concerned. So what has happened in the Arizona border towns? Not much actually, as the Arizona Republic found when it talked the police chiefs in those towns.

Nogales, Arizona shares the border with Nogales, Mexico but the Arizona town says it doesn't know what the anti-immigration crowd is talking about. Assistant Police Chief Roy Bermudez says: "You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America."

The Republic says that they looked at the FBI Uniform Crime Report and statistics provided by local police agencies which "show that the crime rates in Nogales,Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade..." They also found: "Statewide rates of violent crime also are down."

Politicians, mainly, if not exclusively Republican, have made speeches about crime along the Arizona border. But Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, from Pima County, says: "This is a media-created event. I hear politicians on TV saying the border has gotten worse. Well, the fact of the matter is that the border has never been more secure." In Cochise County the "crime rate has been 'flat for at least 10 years, the sheriff added."

The Republic reports: "While the nation's illegal-immigrant population doubled from 1994 to 2004, according to federal records, the violent-crime rate declined 35 percent." If illegal immigrantion causes crime then shouldn't crime rates rise with more immigration,not fall? In Arizona the violent-crime rate "dropped from 512 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2005 to 447 incidents in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available."

This decrease in crime in "crime-ridden" Arizona—if you believe the hype about immigrants—continues to show up in the most recent statistics as well. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Arizona's major cities all registered declines" in crime and:
In Phoenix, police spokesman Trent Crump said, "Despite all the hype, in every single reportable crime category, we're significantly down." Mr. Crump said Phoenix's most recent data for 2010 indicated still lower crime. For the first quarter of 2010, violent crime was down 17% overall in the city, while homicides were down 38% and robberies 27%, compared with the same period in 2009.
Sure there is crime related to drug smuggling and it is growing in many ways. But that is not illegal immigrants by any means. Your typical undocumented worker can't afford cocaine to smuggle, they are lucky to afford the cost of getting themselves across the border. The violence we see is drug war related and as long as drug profits are high, which is a result of the war on drugs, then smuggling will be associated with violence. And the more violent our drug warriors become the more violent the smugglers will be. But this is not related to immigration: legal or illegal.

Sociologist Robert Sampson looked at crime trends in the US and compared them to immigration patterns. More immigrants didn't lead to more crime, which is what should have happened had there been a direc link between the two. If you look at the chart here you will see the time line shows American crime trands from 1990 to 2004 (this is from a 2006 article). You see crime rates dropping as immigration rates increased. Around 1998 crime rates stagnated for the most part, but immigration fell. So as immigration rates were increased crime fell, and when immigration fell crime rates stopped falling.

Sampson wrote:
Yet our study found that immigrants appear in general to be less violent than people born in America, particularly when they live in neighborhoods with high numbers of other immigrants. We are thus witnessing a different pattern from early 20th-century America, when growth in immigration from Europe was linked with increasing crime and formed a building block for what became known as "social disorganization" theory.

In today's world, then, it is no longer tenable to assume that immigration automatically leads to chaos and crime. New York is a magnet for immigration, yet it has for a decade ranked as one of America's safest cities. Border cities like El Paso and San Diego have made similar gains against crime. Perhaps the lesson is that if we want to continue to crack down on crime, closing the nation's doors is not the answer.
Professor Tim Wadsworth, from the University of Colorado read what Sampson wrote and decided to test it. The University press release reports what Wadsworth found:
Drawing from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports and U.S. Census data, Wadsworth analyzed 459 cities with populations of at least 50,000. Wadsworth measured immigrant populations in two ways: those who are foreign-born and those who immigrated within the previous five years.

Wadsworth focused on medium and large cities because about 80 percent of violent crime takes place there. Wadsworth said distinguishing legal and illegal immigration is difficult, as the U.S. Census does not track those numbers, but he notes that immigrant citizens and non-citizens often live together in the same communities.

He tracked crime statistics for homicide and robbery because they tend to be reported more consistently than other crimes. Robberies are usually committed by strangers -- which increases the reporting rate -- and "homicides are difficult to hide," he said.
Wadsworth looked to see if crime rose as immigration rose and fell as immigration declined. Instead he found the opposite: "cities that experienced the largest growth in the population of foreign-born and newly arrived immigrant populations experienced the largest decreases in violent crime between 1990 and 2000." Wadsworth's conclusions corresponded with those of Sampson, and instead of showing a rise in crime because of immigration, the records showed that crime dropped.

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Update: Here is a recording from Team Jordan after reaching Camp 2 on their descent. At this time they are still there. Here is the report from Jordan's father.

I am following Jordan Romero's ascent to the summit of Mt. Everest using his live GPS coordinates. This is very good for showing latitude and longitude, not so great for determining altitude. It sure looks like he has reached the summit to me. Here is his recent GPS locations superimposed on Everest itself. It he isn't there yet he has literally yards or feet to go.

Halfway through typing, word has come in: Jordan is standing on the top of Mt. Everest. You little ripper you!

And the really wonderful thing is that technology allowed me to follow it so closely and allowed Team Jordan to call their base and confirm they made safely to the top. Now come home safe. Warning to 13-year-olds the world over, your parents are going to be less likely to take excuses as to why you can't do something after this. Me, I wonder what he'll do for an encore. I celebrate his dream.

The latest GPS data shows them descending, hopefully intentionally.

The kid at the top of the world - almost!

I am on pins and needles on behalf of 13-year-old Jordan Romero, actually nervous, and excited at the same time. Romero is the kid (a term I used advisedly) who is climbing Mt. Everest, something the would-be Nanny's are upset about. He's climbing with his father and his step-mother, and all three are experienced climbers.

It is now morning on the mountain and Team Jordan, as they call themselves, left Camp 2, which was at the altitude of 24,750 feet. They resumed their climb and stopped for tea and to make a phone call (isn't technology wonderful). They report that everything is going very well and that Jordan is strong and ready to move on. They report that they are ahead of schedule. They were last reported at the location known as Step 1, at 27,890 feet. , this means it is 1,185 feet to the summit. Update: Latest word I got from Team Jordan is that they are approaching the summit right now! As best as I can tell he is only a few hundred feet from summiting.

They reported that clouds on the mountain had cleared and they could see all the way to the summit. Their goal is within view. They are so confident that are seriously considering the summit today. Just writing that moves me emotionally. I some seeing dreams accomplished, even when they are the dreams of others.

I'm doing the atheist form of praying, which means thinking of someone and wishing the best for them. I want Jordan to have his dream. It reminds me of something that Ayn Rand emphasized in her novels, the achievement of dreams, the possibilities that make life exciting and inspiring.

In her semi-autobiographical novel We the Living, the main character, Kira, has been trying to escape the Soviet Union for the West. As the novel draws to a close Kira is trying to cross the border illegally. Hiding from border guards, who keep people in, she is mistaken for a rabbit and a guard shoots at her, htting her. She lies on the hillside dying and she smiles while thinking:

“She smiled. She knew she was dying. But it didn’t matter any longer. She had known something which no human words could ever tell and she knew it now. She had been awaiting it and she felt it, as if it had been, as if she had lived it. Life had been, if only because she had known it could be, and she felt it now as a hymn without sound, deep under the little hole that dripped red drops into the snow, deeper than that from which the red drops came. A moment or an eternity—did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist. “She smiled, her last smile, to so much that had been possible.”

Jordan's dream is like that, life, undefeated, exisited and could exist. It is the joy of the possible. That is why I want him to do it, I would almost say I pray for him to do it, but there is no one to hear the prayers. I rely upon Jordan's only ability and desire to reach his dream. And, if I'm a judge of human character at all, I suspect that when he reaches the summit that not only will I be crying with joy, but so will he.

Please check back. I will be watching the GPS coordinates to see when the summit is reach. And we offer a toast to Jordan and to life undefeated and to all that is possible. Thank you, Jordan.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The kids aren't just alright, they're impressive.

As I write this blog there is a 13-year-old young man climbing to the top of Mt. Everest. Really!

Jordan Romero, his father, and a small team are climbing the mountain from the Tibet side, mainly due to bureaucracy. The permit to climb the mountain is $6000 cheaper there and unlike Nepal there are no age restrictions for climbing. From Nepal, Jordan would have been forbidden by the law to climb. I could try even though it would no doubt kill me doing so, but he couldn't.

Let's put that in context for a second. Jordan was ten-years-old when he climbed to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Then in Australia he climbed to the summit of Mt. Kosciuszko, the highest mountain there, at 7,310 feet, small compared to his first climb which was 19,340 feet. When he was 11 years-old he scurried to the top of Europe's highest peak, Mt. Elbrus, a climb of 18,510. Then he went to South America, still 11, and climbed the highest summit there, Mt. Aconcagua, 22,841 feet high. And still before his twelfth birthday he climibed Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet. Apparently he rested during his twelfth year since he was 13 when the climbed Puncak Jaya in Indonesia, but it was only 16,924 feet high, so no doubt he did it during lunch.

At this point Jordan has reached Camp 2 on the climb. This location is already higher than any previous climb he has done, at 24,750 feet. He has to reach 29,035 feet to summit. And then he plans on climbing the highest peak in Antartica, a mere 16,067 feet.

Jordan says, "I really have dreamed about standing on top of the world since I was a little kid," and, "I just happen to be doing it at this age." He tells the critics, "I don't think age matters so much."

Apparently a reporter at the New York Times does, as I found her article on Jordan rather demeaning and condescending. She has to comment about "shaving feathery whiskers or discovering girls" and then finds a psychologist who refers to teens as being "like an unfinished Ferrari—raw power, without brakes, lights or the ability to maintain equal pressure on the gas pedal." Of course he makes money peddling a book telling parents how to deal with "When Things Get Crazy With Your Teen." Hmm, perhaps demeaning teens with these sorts of comments drives them crazy! I suggest that had she spoken with Dr. Richard Epstein, author of The Case Against Adolescence, she would have received a more respectful interpretation.

Epstein notes that our modern society doesn't give teens the same freedom that previous generations did. Teens went into the world and worked, raised families and did quite well for themselves. We invented "adolescence" where we continue to treat teens like children in many ways and teens become angry and act in ways that previous generations did not. Perhaps it is because we started treating them differently.

Only a short while ago, Jessica Watson, 16 finished a solo, non-stop sailing trip around the world. Jessica battled storms but persevered and finished her journey by sailing into Sydney Harbour. Her parents were soundly criticized for giving her permission to make the trip.

But, of course, Lenore Skenazy was viciously insulted for letting her 9-year-old son rid the subway in New York on his own. The boy told his mother that he wanted to see if he could find his own way home. He did, quite efficiently and his self-confidence grew because of it. He's a better kid due to what he did. Skenazy went on to write an important book about the paranoid, fear-mongering that goes on about kids, which I recommend, the book that is, not the fear mongering.

If you watched the piece from Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano that I posted, you will hear the pro-censorhip moron, Phillip Cosby, claiming that without censorship of erotic material children will be subjected to molestation, rape and kidnapping. His proof was referring to news stories where kids were snatched or molested. The facts are that crime has been steadily declining for decades now. Kids are no more at risk today than they were thirty years ago. What is different is that paranoid, deluded parents are now denying a childhood to their own children, locking them indoors out some a fear that is irrational.

We are stiffling the ability of children to learn and to mature by treating the way we do. When I was a kid there were no cellphones, no constant monitoring. We went out to play, yes, out in the real world. We crossed streets, played in woods unsupervised, went off to the mall on our own, and only returned when it got dark. Mom couldn't check up on us, technology didn't allow it.

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