Friday, March 31, 2006

Does your cat bark?

If you want a good laugh read this absurd article from the Lefty Mother Jones magazine. You can tell they lost the plot long ago when they claim that the Bush administration "has radically reduced the size of government." If by "radically reduce the size of government" you actually mean increase federal spending massively, add vast new bureaucracies, expand the powers of the state, reduce Constitution protections for civil liberties, invade two countries, spy on American citizens, institute de facto internal passports, etc., then I guess you can say that Bush has radically decreased the size of government. But then I guess you can call gaining 40lbs a "diet" as well. You can call something anything you want. But calling your cat "Fido" won't mean it will bark.


Baghdad is calm and peaceful and the GOP supports limited government.

Baghdad "is much more calm and stable than what many believe it to be" said the website of a Republican seeking election to Congress. And to prove it his site showed a picture of a peaceful, quiet neighbourhood. Only problem was the neighbourhood was part of Istanbul, Turkey. But the candidate, Howard Kaloogian, when the "error" was caught says nothing sinister was going on. It was just a mistake. Photos had become mixed up from his trip. "They used a picture that was wrong. There's nothing sinister about it," he said.

The original photo was a close up of the neighbourhood, close enough that people could see the signs were not in Arabic which is how critics of the candidate exposed the photo. The "error" has been corrected. Except the new photo, linked to above, is a very distant photo of Baghdad taken from a high vantage point --- no doubt a hotel safely inside the a ring of military protection. The original, but false, photo indicated that Kaloogian was actually in the calm, peaceful neighbourhoods. The other photo indicates he probably got no where close to them. If they were so calm and peaceful you have to wonder why that was?

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The passing of another giant.

Again it is our sad duty to report the death of another giant. Professor Bernard Siegan, 81, died from complications from a stroke he suffered. Siegan was nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Democrats blocked his nomination. Too bad, as the justice system would have been better with his presence.

Libertarian, Richard Epstein, law professor at the University of Chicago, says Siegan's "legal instincts were very good." Siegan argued that the Constitution protected economic freedom as much as freedom of speech, religion and the press. Siegan argued the Supreme Court had regularly gone beyond the Constitution and infringed the rights of individuals and businesses to be left alone. Obviously this is not a book that Justice Scalia has read.

Had the Democrats allowed him to join the federal bench we might have ultimately been spared some of the bad conservatives who now sully the court.


Justice Scalia and his obscenities

Justice Scalia is guilty of two public obscenities. One he admits and one he lies about. Recently when the Supreme Court Justice left a church service he was asked what he had to say to people who question his objectivity on the issue of separation of church and state. Scalia made a gesture widely considered obscene and said: "To my critics, I say, vaffanculo." The term is Italian and means "fuck you". If you don't believe me google it and see. Scalia is saying it didn't happen. He eventually admitted the gesture, as a photograph exists showing it, but then cited a book to claim it had a different meaning. But journalists who checked the book say it was referring to a very different gesture not the one Scalia made.

As disgusting as this is for a justice of the Surpeme Court the real obscenity was an earlier statement he made.

He was in Europe speaking at a law school and said: "Is there a constitutional right to homosexual conduct? Not a hard question for me. It's absolutely clear that nobody ever thought when the Bill of Rights was adopted that it gave a right to homosexual conduct.'

Scalia's interpretation comes directly from the extreme Left. The Bill of Rights does not grant rights, it recognises some rights, but it does not grant any rights at all. The Constitution was never meant to be a list of rights but a litany of powers. Government has the power to do that which is specifically granted by the Constitution and NOTHING else. The Founders said that it would be impossible to list all the rights which people possess. Instead, since government powers are clear and few, they would enumerate the funcitons of the state while refusing to list the rights of the people. The 9th Amendment even specifically says that the Constitution is not meant to delineate rights at all and that the absence of a right from the Bill of Rights should not be construed to mean it does not exist.

The real issue never was one about whether or not the Constitution specifically says people have a right to be homosexual. The issue is, and always was, whether the Constitution grants the power to regulate people's private lives to government. If the government is not granted such a power then the power does not exist. And I assure you that you will search the Constitution in vain looking for such an enumerated power.

Scalia's view is extremely authoritarian. He is saying that only the very few rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights reside with the people. While govenrment power is vast and expansive and only limited by the few rights mentioned. That is not the view of the Founders at all.

Scalia previously caused a ruckus when speaking to a right-wing Christian school. He had banned all recordings of his public speech. A journalist covering the talk had a tape recorder to make sure that the Justice was quoted accurately. Federal Marshals grabbed the tape recorder and erased the tape. At the time Scalia invoked the "right not to speak on radio or television when I do not wish to do so." Of course that is not one of the rights listed in the Bill of Rights either. But Scalia is willing to invoke rights not enumerated in the Constitution when it suits his purposes. Of course the question is whether a Surpreme Court justice can invoke such a right to not have his comments reported when he is making a publc speech. Scalia has a very odd view of the Constitution. I suspect, that given the current make up of the court, that he is the Justice least inclined to support individual liberty.

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Statist weasel of the week.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are pushing for more state control on migrant workers. Republicans love state control these days. They are enamoured with it. And one of the worst Republicans these days is Dana Rohrabacher. Rohrabacher claims to be a libertarian. And by most indications he once was one, many years ago. But these days he is a big government Republican. The lure of power and the baubles of office bought him off.

The US has more work than it can fill (of course this is true of almost all nations but most use legislation to ban people from working). In addition there are lots of jobs that spoiled, pampered Americans don't want to do. And there are plenty of people who would love those jobs with millions of them just over the border in Mexico. Most of these people are anxious to work, willing to work and able to work. But protectionist in Congress want to keep wages artificially high in the US. Except the jobs that this migrants are willing to do are not jobs that have lines of workers waiting to take them. So the protectiionist measures of the Republicans do not actual protect anything. They just make everyone worse off --- but that seems to be government's job.

Rohrabacher whined in Congress: "I say let the prisoners pick the fruits." Now whether involuntary labour from prisoners is good (ie, slave labour) is a different question. But this shows how far the Republicans have strayed from any respect for free markets. Rohrabacher would rather have forced government labour than allow willing employers to hire willing workers at wages acceptable to both. And this is what the Republicans pass off as libertarian these days! Compared to the Patriot Act, illegal spying on citizens, incarceration without legal representation, exploding budget deficits, massive socialised medicine plans, ad nauseum, I guess it is. But under Reagan this would have been considered the loony fringes of the Left.

One the dumbest comments came from another Republican. Dumb because it literally makes no sense. Virgil Goode from Virginia said: "I say if you are here illegally and want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag." What?? There is something pompous about anyone starting a sentence with "I say" simply because the act of saying it makes it obvious who is saying it. But to address people who are supposedly in the US illegally (without government permission) and suggest they go to Mexico to wave the American flag is just ridiculous. It makes no sense at all. It is incoherent. Rep. Goode put his mouth in drive while his brain was still in park. Any less coherent and he could write speeches for Bush.

The days when Republicans advocates small government and free markets are long gone. These people are actually making the Democrats look good.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Two girls arrested for molesting themselves.

Two teenage girls were arrested for victimizing "children" by posting alleged pornographic photos. The victims of the girls were the girls themselves. What was in the photo is not clear. But supposedly the girls were both in the same photo and each had posted them to their own web sites. The girls are both being held in various forms of prison at this time.

What is particularly ominous is that the case was brought against these girls for exploiting themselves by a police officer who is assigned to their high school and who monitors web sites of students! There is the possibility that the two girls may have to register as "sex offenders" for the rest of their lives for "exploiting" themselves. Depending on where they live this can mean that anytime one of them moves into a neighborhood that a notice will be put on the doors of surrounding homes identifying them as sex offenders who engaged in child pornography. I suspect the flyers will not mention that they were their own "victims" and that this policy will be justified to "protect the victims".

It should also be noted that the age of consent in Rhode Island is 16. So both girls were legally allowed to engage in any sexual act they wished. So to engage in such acts they are considered adults by the law. To photograph the same acts or even much milder actions they are deemed to be children. So they are victims and perpetrators at the same time and adults and children at the same time.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ticketed for anti Bush bumper sticker

A nurse in Georgia got a ticket from a police officer for having an anti Bush bumper sticker on her car. Denise Grier was driving home from work when the uniformed agent of thought control pulled her over. Grier says that he approached her car with his hand already on his gun. He told her he was ticketing her for an "obscene decal" on her car. The bumper sticker said "BUSHIT".

The officer gave her a ticket with a fine of $100 because he was offended by her sticker. In fact there is no law penalizing bumper stickers. Such a law was struck down by the George Supreme Court well over a decade ago. The same thing happened to her son in Athens, Georgia. His bumper sticker was a bit more rude however but still legal. It said:

Bush sucks. Dick
Cheney too.

In that case a police officer pulled him over and told him that unless he removed the bumper sticker immediately he would be arrested. He got out of the car and peeled the sticker off to avoid arrest.

In a recent incident a war veteran who opposes the Iraq invastion, and who works for the Federal government, was called down to the parking lot of the federal building where he is employed. Agents from the Orwellian Homeland Security department said that he was violating federal law. They claimed a bumper sticker on his car, against the war, was the same as posting a sign on federal property. They threatened him with arrest unless he removed the sticker. Instead, he parked his car a block away. The entire incident was tape recorded by a fellow employee. Bumper stickers in support of Bush were ignored. And federal law specifically allows individuals to have bumper stickers on their own cars even if parked on government property.

Another nurse, in New Mexico, who worked for the Veterans Administration has sent a letter to the editor criticizing Bush. In the letter she mentioned where she was employed since she worked with injured soldiers. She was then investigated by the feds for sedition. Her work computer was seized in the hopes of proving she wrote the letter at work and could be fired for it. She wrote it from home. When it was shown to have been written from home she asked for an apology. But Mel Hooker, the chief of human resources wrote her back refusing to apologize and justified their action becasue: "The Agency is bound by law to investigate and pursue any act which potentially represents sedition."

One of the more bizarre incidents in the hysterical crusade against freedom in the US was what happened to a student at Currituck Country High School in North Carolina. Students were assigned a project to take a photograph which illustrates something from the Bill of Rights. One student took a picture of Bush and used a thumbtack to hold it to the wall. He then held his hand in front of the picture and took a photo of him giving a "thumbs down" sign to indicate disapproval and illustrate freedom of speech. Naive to say the least.

He took the film to Wal-Mart to have the film developed and an employee there called the local police about the boy. The police turned the matter over to the Secret Service. Selina Jarvis, the boy's teacher, said he came to her very upset telling her that the Secret Service had taken his project from off her desk. She didn't believe him at first. But she said he was nervouse and appeared very scared especially as he could not reach is parents. Later in the day she was called out of class by the principle and had to meet with Secret Service agents and explain herself to them. These thugs told her they found the project "suspicious". She said it wasn't and that it represented the Bill of Rights.

The agents were not impressed and told her that the matter would be turned over to a US attorney who may decide to prosecute.

Like Katrina disaster relief the Republican version of 1984 has arrived but was late.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Emperor strikes back.

Unless people pay close attention it is possible for them to not realise that George Bush, more than any president in recent memory, holds the Constitution of the United States in utter contempt. The Constitution creates an legislative branch to write law and an executive branch to enforce it and a judicial branch to interpret and review law in light of the Constitution. Together these three equal branches form the government. In the Imperial Presidency of George Bush there is one superior branch of government not bound by the other two. George Bush believes he is a power above the Congress, above the courts and above the constitution.

You may remember the controversy over the extension of the authoritarian "Patriot Act". Congress was especially concerned when it discovered that Bush was using wire taps illegally. When Congress gave the president the right to use wire taps it specifically required court orders to be sought in advance. Bush ignored the law, an impeachable offense.

When Bush's illegal violations of rights became public Congress threatened to refuse to renew the Patriot Act. They felt that their had to be oversight over the newly expanded police powers that Congress had granted. And so they explicitly put clauses into the renewal requiring the president to inform Congress regularly as to how often the law is being used and under what circumstances. Bush signed the bill into law. He made his typical fear-mongering speech and assured Americans that this expansion of his powers, and the erosion of liberty, was a good thing.

And when the cameras were turned off and the other officials went home then Bush signed a memo which he sent to Congress. In it he said that he is not bound by the law and can ignore it whenever he thought it necessary. When the Roman Republic degenerated into an empire it practiced "compassionate conservatism" or what one author called The New Deal in Old Rome and the Emperor ignored the Senate. Welcome to the Imperial Presidency.

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People should not fear their governments.

I did not know exactly what to expect when I went to see V for Vendetta. I had a vague outline of the story. I saw reviews that praised it and others that damned it. I confess I never read the illustrated novel on which it was based.

But something in the attacks I read stirred a flicker of hope in me. The attackers seemed to fall into two categories. On one side was the theocratic Right, those rabid fear mongers, Bush worshipping, bomb-them-into-the-stoneage conservatives. They were rabid about the film. They drooled contempt all over it and castigated it in the most vile ways. I thought that anything that inspired such hatred in these people might possibly have something of value.

And then there were those mainstream critics, those who deem themselves the architects of future public opinion; those on the socialist left who dominate so many of the arts and letters pages of our publications. They too hated this film.

Unlike the Right, which doesn’t have the intellectual ability to forge skilful attacks on the film these purveyors of state worship attacked the acting, the screenplay, the plot. They did not particularly want to name the very thing that terrified them the most. They did not want to identify the core message of this film, for to identify is to admit that a view of government, so contemptible to them, so in opposition to everything they stand for, could possibly exist.

If acknowledged it would, for them, make it real. And that would be something so antagonistic to their core values that they could not—they would not—ever admit that it exists. Instead, they drone on about the “selfishness” and “greed” of any who advocate the right of the individual to exist for his own sake.

Film, like all art, is a recreation of reality. As such it establishes borders which are not so clear in life. In V the hero of the film clearly is not a “robber baron” who advocates freedom merely to exploit others. And because freedom is intimately and totally tied to liberal capitalism the Left must denigrate freedom’s advocates by appealing to 2000 years of Western mythology that we all must live for the sake of others. And to do otherwise is to be a reprobate and evil.

In life the Left has created their own “art form”, their own recreated reality, according to their own values. Those who do not advocate living for the sake of the collective are the arch villains of Left mythology. And those on the Left, intelligent enough to understand V for Vendetta know the film must be attacked. But in their attacks they must not name that which upsets them the most.

The authoritarian Right launched, instead, a full frontal attack on the film and its values. This film opposes their agenda so clearly and forcefully that they have no alternative but to hate it. Yet they lack the ability to undermine the film without giving away its core values.

V, as he is known, is the arch foe of an authoritarian government that has taken control of England. It uses fear, force and faith to keep the public in submission. It preaches the necessity for obedience to government as the only means of keeping people “safe”. It is George Bush inflated for the big screen.

And the betrayers of Reagan, and assassins of the values of Goldwater, know it. It terrifies them that people might line up at the cinema and see this film and understand what it means. If enough people see how fear is being used to manipulate submission to the subtle, and blatant, violations of human liberty their con game is over.

They will say that the film glorifies terrorism. But it does not. In fact it is quite clear that the only people terrified of V are the authorities. Terrorism is a tactic of killing the innocent. And V quite scrupulously avoids doing that. Terrorism is random and unpredictable. What V does is systematic and even his future victims know he is coming for them and why.

The film begins with an explosion but one that kills no one. It ends with another explosion, again with out taking an innocent life. There are those who die at the hands of V but each of them is guilty. Each dies because of his own actions. At the beginning of the film Old Bailey, the historic home for British justice, is destroyed. It is destroyed because it has already been destroyed from within. Criminals wear the robes of the court and the innocent are prosecuted, convicted and punished. The tactics that V uses are the only means by which justice can be done in a society run by criminals.

Nor does V attempt to inspire a violent overthrow of the regime. We only need go back to the fall of that damnable Wall in Berlin. It fell without acts of violence. It fell when sufficient numbers of people rose up and refused to submit. V makes it clear that his attack on parliament is a symbol to give the people hope that they can withdraw their consent. In the end tyranny can not survive with out the sanction of the victim.

Over four centuries ago the French liberal Étienne de La Boétie wrote his manuscript, The Politics of Obedience: A Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. At any point in history the rulers are vastly out numbered by the ruled. For any government to remain in power the people must consent.

Tyrants obtain the acquiescence of their subjects in several ways. One is to buy them off with the baubles they dangle before them, baubles stolen from others and showered on the favoured thus earning the gratitude of those who live off the productivity of others.

Other tyrants use fear. One common fear is that of an “enemy”. In 1984 Big Brother keeps the people submissive by a series of new enemies all of whom are portrayed as potent threats. And others inculcate terror into the hearts of the people, terror of the consequences of standing up to the rulers.

The true terrorists in V for Vendetta are those who have seized power in this future England. They are the ones who keep people in submission through fear, fear of an outside enemy, and fear of the state itself. To say that V is a terrorists himself is to turn the film entirely inside out. But I submit that many of those who attack this film for “advocating terrorism” know that it does not do so. It advocates removing fear as a means of imposing submission on a nation. And that is why V speaks of how one symbol, one act alone, if enough people endow it with meaning, can give those people hope. And V seeks to do just that.

Those who love liberty should run, not walk, to see this film. They should encourage others to see it as well. I suspect that most of those who denigrate and attack this film are advocates of imposed control, order and fear. They are the precursors of the villains who rule this future society. It will not be popular in the halls of theocratic cults. It will not be popular at the White House or in the halls of Homeland Security. Nor will it appeal to those inflicted with what Hayek called a “fatal conceit”, the would be central planners of the lives of others. This film will not win their accolades and applause. Nor should it. As V says: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Thomas Jefferson would applaud this film. And so do I. As for those who attack it: draw your own conclusions.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Hell bent for war no matter what.

A previously secret memo from within the Blair government shows that Bush was hell bent on war regardless of the facts. The memo, written by Blair's top foreign policy adviser, according to The New York Times, said Bush "was determined to invade Iraq" regardless of whether or not weapons inspectors found anything amiss.

The memo shows that Bush was convinced of a quick victory followed by a transitional government that would be a cake walk compared to the reality. Bush also said it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different regions and ethic groups." The Times writes: "The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein."

Maybe I am misreading this but it seems to be saying that George Bush had determined he would go to war even if nothing justified it and even if he had to manufacture an incident to justify it. The more you know about Bush the more he looks like FDR.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Massive marches against state's heavy hand

A new piece of legislation in the United States is causing massive demonstrations there. The bill, HR 4437, would make it illegal to give assistance to an illegal immigrant.

Basically the bill forbids even private charity to “illegals” in need. It is already illegal to hire them for jobs and then, the racists pushing through such legislation, complain that one reason to stop the immigrants is because they resort to crime. One has to wonder if they are either so stupid as not to see what they are doing or so vicious that they know and are doing it intentionally.

One thing that has happened with the US conservative movement is that they are showing their true colours. For years they argued that immigrants should not be allowed on welfare because it is state funded. But now they try to push through legislation forbidding private help. They argued that gay relationships should not get state sanction and now are passing laws forbidding private recognition as well.

Like socialists they do not make a distinction between the private and public. The Left argues that if one should be privately charitable then government ought to do the same. The Right argues that if government shouldn’t sanction “immoral” behaviour then private individuals should be forbidden from doing so. True liberalism recognises the differences between the public and the private.

This legislation turned out 20,000 protesters in Phoenix, the largest demonstration that city has ever had. It was peaceful and quiet but the local Mayor, Phil Gordon, attacked it anyway. Gordon is a supercilious kind of politician. A little man too small for the job with grander visions of what he thinks he should become. In Los Angeles some 500,000 people demonstrated. Good for them.


A taxing situation

Taxes can create strange incentives and strange incidents. Take Bruintjes family in Holland as an example. They own a novelty doorbell. You push their doorbell and it barks like a dog. But Holland has a dog tax. And they send inspectors out to spy on people for owning dogs with paying the tax. One such inspector came to the house and rang the doorbell. Bark! Bark!

The inspector, apparently unable to tell the difference, writes out a fine and pushes it through the mail slot. It happened last year as well and Mrs. Bruintjes arrived home a few minutes later and was able to find the inspector down the road and bring him back to verify it was only a doorbell. Now they are trying to convince the bureaucrats that they are being taxed for a doorbell.

By the way if you wonder why architecture in Amsterdam is so irrational and uncomfortable blame it on the tax man. Houses there are notorious for being narrow, long and tall with these almost inhuman staircases that are so steep it is like climbing a ladder. One house is only door width at the front but widens at the back. Why so odd? Houses used to be taxed on their width not their size. So buiding it narrow made it cheaper but to make up for it they built them long and tall.

Every tax distorts human action. If you want to stop people from building normal width homes tax the width and people will respond by doing what the Dutch did. So what it is that government is wanting to stop when it taxes investments, employment, etc?

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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Passion of Barbara Branden

Some years ago I was reading the manuscript to Barbara Branden's biography of Ayn Rand. Rand's former assistant, Bob Hessen, called me up saying he heard I had the manuscript. He wanted to read it. I put him in touch with the publisher. At the time he was the official bookservice for the rump of Rand's Objectivist movement. A few months later, when the book was published, I brought Barbara into town to speak and to promote her book. For the first time in decades Bob Hessen saw Barbara again and even introduced her to the audience.

Of late some individuals, each with their own personal agenda, have tried to denigrate Barbara's biography. Well, Hessen has defended the biography reminding people he was there and knew the facts from first hand experience.

I remember having the manuscript sitting on a table one time at work. A woman came in off the street and saw it. She sat down and started reading. And kept on reading for over an hour. She left and in minutes was back and spent several more hours reading. And then she came up to me: "I was there," she said. She then recounted how she attended meetings in Rand's apartment and witnessed the things discussed in the book. She confirmed that the book matched her experiences and was accurate.

Ayn Rand could be brillant and frustrating. She did more to inspire people toward liberty, and turn them off from it, than any one person I can think of in recent decades. My appraisal is that Barbara's book is about as accurate as one can expect. I know Barbara to be someone deeply appreciative of Rand, and if anyone has the right to be bitter, it is she. I may not always agree with her, and have had some strong disagreements, but I believe she is a honest observer who writes as factually as possible when describing what she herself witnessed. I don't think she has an agenda. I can't say the same thing for some of her critics.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another poll confirms gay marriage trend.

A couple of days ago I posted regarding the desire by conservatives to entrench heterosexual marriage in constitutions. I argued that the urgency of these measures is not the concern that "activist judges" would impose such laws but that the American people are changing their minds and moving away from the conservative view on the subject. While couched in terms about respect for the "democratic process" the moves are really an attempt to thwart future democratic changes. I discussed the Field poll in California on the issue showing change there.

Of course the Right has nothing but contempt for California and would ignore that poll. But a new Pew poll for the whole country has come out showing the same trend. In 2004 63% of Americans opposed gay marriage. Since then opposition has dropped by 12% to 51%. That is a huge drop for such a short period of time. The numbers saying they are "strongly opposed" has also fallen from 42% to 28%.


New Friedman documentary to show.

A new documentary on the life and influence of the great Milton Friedman has been completed and is scheduled to be shown on PBS later in the year. The documentary, entitled, The Power of Choice, is by the same producer who worked with Friedman on the Free to Choose series.

Dr. Friedman is one of the best communicators of the principles of classical liberalism, he is truly a gentleman and a scholar.


Authoritarian intolerance on campus.

I don’t pretend to be a medical doctor or a biologist. So I have no position on whether HIV causes AIDS or not. But that is not important when it comes to whether or not such debate ought to be allowed.

In any area debate ought to be free. By free, I mean unhampered by government law or regulation. I do not mean that one must respect the opinions of others only respect their rights. Nor is one obligated to help them spread their ideas in any way. It is entirely one of negative obligations: that is one may NOT do things to them but there are no positive obligations to do things FOR them.

This is a foundation of classical liberal thinking. Anyone who helps, promotes or encourages the use of government sanction to punish an individual for expressing a peaceful opinion is not an advocate of human liberty.

Recently I watched the documentary, The Other Side of AIDS, which looked at this debate between respected researchers on both sides of the issue. But one man stood out. Not because of his research but because of his viciousness and authoritarianism. That was Dr. Mark Wainberg of the McGill University AIDS Center.

Wainberg is being interviewed about this debate and he immediately starts demanding to know whether or not the interviewer is a dissident or not. If a dissident then Wainberg will immediately cut off the discussion. He will refuse to answer questions. Worse yet he launches into demands that people who disagree with his view ought to be rounded up and arrested.

Wainberg asks the man if he believes HIV causes AIDS. The interviewer says that is the prevailing view. Wainberg then demands to know “Do you personally believe that HIV causes AIDS.” Now, I couldn’t answer that because I don’t know. I have no medical degree or the scientific knowledge necessary to judge the quality of research. But Wainberg sounded like a theologian, not a serious scientist. He wanted to root out heresy and damn the heretics to some undetermined penalty.

The researcher responds: “I don’t have enough information either way quite honestly.” That’s not good enough for the Grand Inquisitor. “Are you one of the dissidents?” he demands to know. The interviewer says he is not a dissident. This does not satisfy this theologian. “How can you say you don’t have enough information?” Maybe because he is not trained in the fields required for him to make such a judgement. What Cardinal Wainberg is demanding is not that the man make an informed judgement at all. He is demanding that the man agree with him. He is demanding that Wainberg’s view be accepted without evidence. Wainberg tells the man he should have had an opinion formed before doing the interview.

What it means is that Wainberg will only be interviewed by people who already agree with everything he is going to say. Why such a fear? Why such intolerance? Wainberg told the man that unless he already agreed with him he may want to edit his remarks to make him, Wainberg, look foolish. Why? Wainberg was already doing that all on his own.

Then Wainberg issued his fatwa against anyone who dared disagree with him. “Anyone, those who attempts to dispel the notion that HIV is the cause of AIDS are perpetrators of death. And I, would very much, for one, like to see the Constitution of the United States and similar countries have some means in place that we can charge people who are responsible for endangering public health with charges of endangerment and bring them up on trial. I think that people like Peter Duesberg belong in jail.”

“Someone who would perpetrate the notion that HIV is not the cause of AIDS is perhaps motivated by sentiment of pure evil. That such a person may perhaps really want millions of people in Africa, and elsewhere, to become infected by this virus and go on to die of it . Who knows maybe there is a hidden agenda behind the thoughts of a madman, maybe all psychopaths everywhere have ways of getting their views across that are sometimes camouflaged in subterfuge but I suggest to you that Peter Deusberg is probably the closest thing we have in this world to a scientific psychopath.”

Wainberg is seriously unhinged here and perhaps unfit to deal with students. What is really scary here is that at this moment I’m reading How the Idea of Religious Tolerance Came to the West by Perez Zagorin. He discusses the logic of those who burned heretics at the stake and their reasoning. They sound exactly like Wainberg right down to the accusation of the heretics being “pure evil.”

The interviewer made a mistake with this scientific mullah. The interviewer had seen that Wainberg’s irrational statements were all directed at Dr. Peter Deusberg alone. So he mentioned that there are other scientists who take the same position. The mere mention that numerous researchers disagree with this Mad Doctor of McGill was enough. Wainberg gives the man a dirty look and says: “And now this interview is over” and walks out.

My inclination is to go with the scientific consensus in most cases where I don’t think I can draw my own conclusion. But when I see people like Dr. Wainberg acting in such a way, and demanding that their views be legally protected from challenge, then I have to wonder if those who disagree don’t have a real case. This sort of intolerance is so often rooted in a fear that one may be wrong. It is ripe in theology but ought not exist in the academic world. Dr. Wainberg is an embarrassment to his profession and a man with such a passionate hatred for academic freedom that he ought not hold a position at a respected university. He may be right about the medical facts. But he shames his own position when he acts like an academic Stormtrooper. The world will never be a civilized place as long as men sit in university posts who want to imprison others over intellectual differences.

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Another sad day for liberalism.

It is sad to report another death in the firmament of liberalism. Michael O’Dowd recently passed away. Mr. O’Dowd was, among other things, an author, an executive director of Anglo American and the chairman of the Anglo American and De Beers Chairman's Fund, as well as chairman of the Free Market Foundation of Southern Africa for 27 years. Leon Louw, of the FMF, writes of the many faces of Mr. O’Dowd:

“When I mentioned Michael O’Dowd the economist and the author of The Problem of Government Failure published in the Journal of Economics to members of the English Academy, they said I must have his name wrong because he was probably the brother of the Michael O’Dowd known in literary circles. Later, my mother referred to another Michael O’Dowd in the Historical Association. It turned out there were many Michael O’Dowds. There was the scientist published in the Journal of Science, the Sunday Times Business Man of the Year, and the social worker, known to social workers throughout the country, who would give guest lectures for Professor Cecile Muller in the Wits University Social Work department.”

“The best-known Michael O’Dowd was the political scientist famed for the controversial Rostowian “O’Dowd Thesis” vindicated by the role economic growth played in ending apartheid. But there were others: the jurist writing authoritatively on constitutional law and the meaning of an “open society”; the author of books on diverse topics from Dickensian literature to Marxism and the history of the industrial revolution to strategies for the new millennium; the NGO activist; the educationalist on the Councils of Universities and recipient of honorary doctorates; the social scientist chairing the HSRC, and so on. They were all, of course, one remarkable man.”

Margie Keeton, an associate of O'Dowd's said: "He believed passionately in freedom and human potential, and he was a formidable advocate of the liberal cause, politically and economically."

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Why they want to change constitutions.

Why is it that the theocratically inclined Religious Right, who control the Republican Party, are so intent on constitutional amendments enshrining discrimination against gay and lesbian couples? In state after state, especially in those states where the theological stilted fundamentalists are a majority, the Republicans are pushing through constitutional amendments against marriage rights for gays.

In some states they are actually forbidding private corporations from offering any recognition to same-sex partners of employees in regards to private benefits. So much for their supposed respect for limiting state regulation of business.

The reason given is their usual fantasy of “activist judges.” But is that the real reason? Or are they trying to push through these laws now, as constitutional amendments, to prevent legislative change later?

The fact is that the public has been becoming more liberal on the rights of gay people. The theocrats, who today talk about respecting the views of the majority (which is hardly what the founding fathers advocated) want to make sure that they shackle, as much as possible, the majority of tomorrow.

California voters, a few years ago, passed one of these “pro-family” laws. But today it is questionable whether the same law could be passed. A recent Field Poll there showed that on the marriage question alone the state is relatively split: 43% now support gay marriage, up from 38% in 1997. Opposition dropped from 56% to 51%.

Of course there are other options and when those are considered something very different emerges. The 51% opposition vanishes when civil unions are proposed as an alternative to marriage. Then we find a three way tie with 32% in favor of gay marriage, 32% in favor of civil unions and 32% opposed to either. That means that 2/3rds of the voters support some sort of legal recognition of gay relationships.

The director of the Field Poll said that this shows that, “as time passes, there is a greater acceptance of gay and lesbian rights...” And poll after poll, in state after state, have shown this same trend.

The California state legislature, not long ago, passed a bill to give marriage rights to gay couples. The Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then vetoed the law. Remember Republicans argued that such laws should be passed by legislatures and not come out of court cases. Well, not this time. Now the top Republican in the state argued that he was vetoing the bill because such measures should be decided by the courts not by legislatures. Apparently Republican principles are very flexible.

The Religious Right talks about radical minorities imposing their will on the majority. But by enshrining bigotry into the state constitutions this radical minority of theocrats is trying to impose their will on future majorities that may not agree with them.

Meanwhile, the state legislature in New Hampshire overwhelmingly voted down an amendment to the state constitution to ban gay marriage there.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What's wrong with the French?

The French government seems to attract the worst or the worst. And the French people themselves seem to follow the most idiotic policies on the planet. They seem to pride themselves on their antiquated, neo-Marxist absurdities and they take to the streets with the slightest of provocations. Of course their sad country is turning into a basketcase as a result. Too bad.

One thing the French seem to hate is success. They do their best to stifle it and stamp it out when ever they see it. Take their hatred for Apple's IPod. Here Apple invents a product that expands the ability of people to listen to music. The French hate it because it fills a niche in the market and it succeeds. And the French only have a love for failure -- which is why they are so good at it.

The spiteful French politicians wanted to force Apple to give the technology it invented to competitors so that songs downloaded from Apple can be played on other players. Apple said that they would stop selling their product in France rather than do this. So the silly little men who run the French government have decided to try to push for a law that would strip Apple of its property rights in all of Europe.

The misnamed "Minister of Culture", Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres (see the picture), says that to spite Apple France will push for these laws in all the other nations of the EU as well. That they even have a "minister of culture" indicates that they are in decay. Thriving nations don't need bureaucrats managing their culture. But the French manage everything --- badly. This is one reason the nation has some of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. France is one of the worst run nations in the West but that never seems to stop them for lecturing everyone else. Apparently they are only happy if they can impose their own errors on others. As the saying goes: Misery loves company.

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Drink and sit and go to jail.

The Islamic Republic of Texas, home of Ayatollah Bush, has cracked down on drinking. No, it's not drinking and driving that they are going after. They are arresting people for drinking in ---- bars!

Ah, you may think this was because some of them would drive later. But police made no such distinction. One bar raided by the morality police was inside a hotel. Guests at the hotel, who only planned to walk to their room, were arrested for being drunk.

Police said they are protecting the patrons from being a danger to themselves. Such nice guys. The mullahs at the Texas Alcholic Beverage Commission said that they are concerned about saving lives "not individual rights". Sounds like Texas.

Justice Louis Brandeis said: "Experience should teach us to be most on guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficient... the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." And CS Lewis noted: "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

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Making Marx's Mistakes

Are today's libertarians making some of the same mistakes that Marx made. In an essay on our sister site we argue that is the case. Libertarians are making two errors. One is that they assume that all activism has value. This is a variant of Marx's labor theory of value. The second is that many think all libertarian should be involved in all aspects of activism. They forget the lessons regarding division of labor and comparative advantage. These principles can apply to political activism as well.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How Republicans plan to campaign.

The Republican Party has ended all pretentions that it is a limited government party. Conservative author Fred Barnes has written about what the GOP and the Religious Right are planning to try and win at the polls this Novemember. There is nothing about cutting federal spending. Nothing about reducing the size of government. It's all about bashing gays and promoting the fundamentalist moral agenda.

The US Taliban strikes again. Barnes says: "House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion."

Republicans are aware that Bush is now the most unpopular president since Jimmy Carter and that current polls show well under a third of Americans support him. Far more voters wants to see Democrats running Congress and that has Republicans worried. And the Republicans don't want their candidates distancing themself from Bush. So instead they prefer a moralistic campaign for old fashioned theocracy.

Right-wing pundit Barnes has no problem with this agenda. He says there is no better alternative for the Republicans. In other words he doesn't think Repubolicans should try to push the ideas of Goldwater and Reagan. Those men are the Republican past and have no role in its present life.

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The Islamic Republic of Georgia, USA

The similarities between fundamentalists of all stripes is astounding. Most fundamentalists live in the sad South. It is one part of the US that I most particularly suggesting passing up when possible. Now take this new law from the state of Georgia. If anything the fundies love laws --- lots of laws and regulations and rules and controls.

Well some elected twit, Sen. Vincet Fort, has discovered a vicious menance. He found a lolly that is supposed to taste like marijuana. The key here is that this is about "taste" and taste only. This is not an illicit drug. This is supposedly only a taste. Whether it is or not I don't know. And I have to admit I wouldn't know what marijuana tastes like. I will trust the Senator knows.

But this twit wants the taste made illegal. In a hysterical fit he calls this "dope candy" that is a "gateway product to other drugs." What has this man been smoking?

Buying into the prohibitionist fear mongering this "official" whines: "Our message is to children to be clear and unambiguous, using drugs and alcohol is not okay for people." Alcohol too! Is he a total puritan? Now I don't know anyone who wants children to use alcohol or pot. But alcohol isn't illegal for adults so I have to wonder why he's throwing this in. Though it is rhetoric that plays well on the Hallelujah Circuit.

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Freedom dies a little.

It is our sad duty to report that Dr. Chris Tame died today after a terrible bout with cancer. Only yesterday Chris emailed us saying that "amazingly" he was still here "but not much longer." But given that he made it through a bad time and was feeling better we did not expect it so soon.

Chris was the founder and president of the Libertarian Alliance in the UK. He was a prolific writer and long time activist for liberty. Kenneth Gregg has written a few paragraphs on his blog Classcial Liberal (we didn't know about the name of his site when our blog was started). I would like to quote Kenneth:

Former director of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (FOREST) he wrote extensively over the years in Britain and elsewhere. Tame edited The Bibliography of Freedom for the Centre for Policy Studies and contributed to The Case for Private Enterprise, The New Right Enlightenment and The Politics of Crime Control. His essays have appeared in such journals as The Jewish Journal of Sociology, Il Politico, Science and Public Policy, The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Werifrei and Economic Affairs.

A graduate in American Studies from Hull University, he was later awarded a PhD from Middlesex University. A public affairs professional who has worked in a variety of fields, he is one of Britain’s best known libertarian broadcasters and writers.

With his kind and generous personality, always willing to encourage young libertarians, Dr. Tame has been an inspiration to a generation of British libertarians. He will be greatly missed.

Mr. Gregg is correct. Chris was always willing to help young libertarians and recently joined the Centre for Liberal Studies advisory board which will be working to spread classical liberal ideas to university students. Chris had sent through an email on ideas regarding the Free Student Network, of which this blog will be one part. The Centre for Liberal Studies will be considering how to honour Chris, perhaps with a memorial fund to help with, what he called the "transmission" problem of passing classical liberal ideas on to the next generation.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Word association game: Bush - incompetent

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has been conducting an interesting experiment for several years now. As a substitute for a poll they have tried to see what happens when you play word association games. In this case they mention a name and ask people what word they think of when they hear this name. And the name they have been using is George W. Bush.

When they first did this three years ago positive responses outnumbered negative numbers. Last year the ratio was almost equal. This year the negative responses were 48%, positive responses were 28%.

In the past the leading answer given by people was "honest". That has since slipped to 5th place. Now the number one answer is "incompetent".

A poll conducted by Pew also shows that American voters now prefer the Democrats and that Bush is dragging down his own party in the upcoming Congressional elections. Three out of ten voters said that they consider their vote this Fall as a way of expressing their displeasure with Bush. Only 18% said it was a way of showing they are happy with Bush. Half the voters said they were planning to vote for the Democrats and 41% said they would vote Republican with 9% saying they don't know or will vote for another party.

Republicans and Democrats are standing firm with their party. The real shift is among independent voters. Just over half of them say they will vote for the Democrats. Just under one third of them say they will vote Republican. In previous elections the Republicans had the lead among independents. When asked which party they prefer to handle specific issues the Democrats are now clearly in the lead. Even on taxes voters prefer them over Republicans by 46% to 35%. Bush has lost his advantage on the invasion of Iraq as well with 41% of voters saying the Democrats will do a better job and 38% wanting it run by Republicans. Democrats still fall behind Republicans when it comes to terrorism. So if Bush wants to see his party keep or extend its power he will need a major terror scare before the election.

Distrust of government is also rising. Now 65% of Americans say they trust the government sometimes or never and 34% say they trust government most of the time or always. People with the most faith in government are Republicans with 55% saying they trust the government most of the time or always. The rise in GOP big governmentalism is obvious. Only a majority of Republicans say the government should have the power to censor news stories. Almost two-thirds of Democrats and independents oppose such measures.


Should Blair go?

The Economist magazine, one of the best publications around, had endorsed Tony Blair in the past. In the last election they supported him saying there was no better option. But they have now said that it is time for Blair to go. They suggest that Mr. Blair is unable to do much with the office anymore.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Torture revelations almost on a daily basis.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative writer, has been very unhappy of late. More and more revelations regarding the US policy of torturing people is making it to the public. He, unlike the die hard conservatives, is deeply offended that the US is being tarnished so deeply by these actions. Worse yet it is becoming more and more apparent, as if it wasn't already obvious, that this policy of torture is condoned and encouraged from the highest levels of the US government. Of course Right-wing fanatics immediately throw up terrorism. But these tactics are not being used against just terrorists but against people which the military merely suspect of having information. And, as the Inquisition found out, you kill people and you gather bad information. A suspect will confess merely to stop the pain even if he has nothing to confess. I recommend reading Sullivan's blog here


CS Lewis on tryanny.

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." CS Lewis

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The unstated racism of French students

French students continue to act like spoiled brats over labour legislation which is unlikely to impact them in any way. The students at the Sorbonne continue to whine. But what does the law do?

It basically makes it easier to fire young workers, something now very difficult to do in France. Laws that make it hard to fire make it risky to hire. So when it is risky to hire who gets shunned? Not graduates from the Sorbonne. When you raise the cost of hiring then employers are less likely to hire workers that deem as riskier. What makes someone a riskier employee?

It could be things like work history. It could be education. It could simply be basic prejudices, founded or unfounded.

The most desired young workers have nothing to fear. Only the least desired young workers get shafted. An employer faces a "risky" employee but knows he can fire them if they don't work out. If that is is the case he is more likely to hire him.

Imagine a law that made it illegal to sell a car within two years of purchasing it. What would happen? Car prices would go up. More people would buy new cars and lots of people would avoid used cars as much as possible. The same with employees. So the young unemployed child of immigrants with bad French will get turned down over and over. Not the Sorbonne elite.

These left-wing whiners are pushing for laws that harm racial minorities, immigrants and the less educated most of alll. The law has huge negative impaact on the young from these groups and no impact on the social elite at the Sorbonnes. Shame on the students. If the French people had any sense they would kick these whiners butts and send them to bed without their supper.

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It's getting stuffy for Tony

In the UK the Labour Party of Tony Blair is in a scandal. It appears that the party took £14 million in "loans". Under British laws donations to the party need to be disclosed but loans do not. But there is nothing to force them to pay the loans back thus meaning they could essentially be donations but donations that are not revealed as required.

What is astounding is that this money was used in the Labour campaign in the last election. But the total spending on the election was just under £18 million. This means that almost the entire Labour Party campaign was paid for by a small group of individuals who were promised that their names would not be made public.

It is believed that several individuals who loaned the money to Labour were later rewarded with peerages by Blair.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Support peace lose your job.

Deb Mayer had been a teacher for 22 years. But she lost her job for mentioning peace in her class. As part of classroom instruction she used a version of Time magazine for children. It had an article on Iraq. A student asked her if she had ever gone to a peace demonstration. She said she had not but that she had driven by one where demonstrators held signs for cars saying "Honk, if you want peace." She admitted she honked the car's horn.

That comment ended her career. One student told her father. Her father was idignant. He never wanted the word peace mentioned in class. He told the school that he is teaching his daughter the fuhrer principle although he probably doesn't know that term. But he said he was teaching his daughter to "support the president" and that having her different views "was confusing her". Mayer said the father was beligerent and rude and kept pushing his finger into her face. "He asked me what I would if I had a child in the service. I said, 'I do.'" Her son was on his way to fight in Afghanistan at the time. He was accusing me of being unpatriotic. I said, 'My sone and I believe you can be for peace and be patriotic.' That made him furus."

Every year the school had celebrate Peace Month, where they talked about how to resolve conflicts through peaceful mediation. After the parent's protest it was cancelled.

Mayer has spent most of her life's savings to fight for her job. She was dismissed because of the father's protest. Her case is only scheduled to come up in July.

A picture can say all that needs to be said.

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Czech them out!

The Czech Republic has joined the line up of enlightened nations to recognize same-sex relationships. A domestic partners law had previously passed parliament. But President Vaclav Klaus, in violation of his own liberal principles, had vetoed the legislation. That is sad as normally Klaus is pretty good.

But the good thing is that the parliament voted to overturn the veto. Klaus had first claimed that the legislations led to over regulation of the private lives of people. But his real reasoning came out when he his veto was was repealed the parliament. Klaus then reverted to the illiberal, conservative viewpoint calling this "a defear for all of us who believe that the family in our society is fundamental, unique, unrivalled." Apparently Mr. Klaus doesn't think that gay couples are families.

The Czech Republic is one of the most free nations in Eastern Europe. As an example of a nation that has adopted a more classical liberal view of things this legislation is merely an extension of that liberalism. Good for the Czechs. Let's hope that Klaus is more consistent with his liberalism in the future.

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They really are after the kids.

American school districts are starting to limit the actions of the US Military on high school campuses. Military recruiters in the US, in recent years, have resorted to strong arm methods and intimidation to try to get students to sign up for the military.

In addition military officials are intentionally trying to get to these children when the parents are not there. Recruiters have said that the biggest obstacle to getting high school kids to join the military is parental interference. So they go to the campus to do an end run around the parents.

Recruiters are attempting to go after 100 percent of high school seniors. Students who are not considered old enough to sign legal contracts can sign up for the military however. They can’t buy a car but they can obligate themselves to die. A Bush proposal hidden in “education” legislation required that the schools turn over all school records to the military so that the recruiters could go after the kids.

Parents have complained that recruiters simply refuse to stop pestering when told that the child is not interested. Repeated phone calls to the same student were common and phone blocking programs won’t allow one to block calls from the government.

Recruiters need to fill body bags and they say that if the school districts restrict their access to students they will simply shift to going after kids at the local mall.

One student has blogged about how recruiters act in the shopping malls. He was with friends at the mall when recruiters in plane clothes approached them.

“I ask the guy if it's for the Army, and he just smiles at me and says, ‘College isn't the only option out there, dudes.’ Ok, I'm done with this guy, I figure. I smile, say No thank you, sir, and motion to my friends. The head guy says he needs our names, phone numbers, and addresses, so we can be put into the ‘Not Interested Database.’ Yeah bloody right. Again, I say no thank you and move off. They block us again. The head guy says, ‘We're getting your names, kid.’ I turn around, and two more Army guys have materialized out of nowhere, undoubtedly having moved in while we were talking. It's the four of us being surrounded by five Army guys that look like they tear phonebooks in half for light exercise.”

“We stand there, surrounded and scared shitless, for about ten seconds that feel like hours. Then, one of my friends, a girl, screeches, ‘RAAAPE! GET YOUR GODDAMN HANDS OFF OF ME!,’ and screams so loud that I'm certain glass cracked somewhere nearby. This distracted the Army guys long enough for me to break between two of them with my shoulder, and we ran through the hole like bats out of hell. We ran the ENTIRE length of the mall, through the parking lot, piled into my car, and peeled out of there in one minute flat. I don't even know if they were chasing us, but I think they didn't because there is NO way that I could have outran these guys.”

Recruiters wants Axel Cobb, 17, and they wouldn’t leave him alone. At one point they showed up at this place of employment and removed him from the premises, though he was on duty, and took him to a recruitment center. They confiscated his cell phone and spent hours and hours trying to get him to sign papers. His mother suspected that the men who took him were army recruiters based on past experiences with them. But the recruiters insisted they did not know where Axel was. He was held over night by the recruiters. And it took an attorney to end the situation.

In Houston Sgt. Thomas Kelt kept calling school boys trying to persuade them to sign up for the war. After one young man hung up on him the Sergeant called back with this threat, which was left on the boy’s answering system. ““Hey Chris, this is Sgt. Kelt with the Army man. I think we got disconnected. Okay, I know you were on your cell probably and just had a bad connection of something like that. I know you didn’t hang up on me. Anyway, by federal law you got an appointment with me at 2 o’clock this afternoon at Greenpoint Mall, okay? That’s the Greenpoint Mall Army Recruiting Station at 2 o’clock. You fail to appear and we’ll have a warrant. Okay? So give me a call back.”

It was a lie. There is no legal requirement to sit through the strong arm methods of the military.

David McSwane, a high school student in Colorado, decided to test the military. He recorded his experience with them. He told them he regularly used illegal drugs, which was not the case. They told him how to hide this fact so they could sign him up in violation of the law. They had said they used this method to cover up drug use in the past. He also said that he didn’t have the required high school diploma. Recruiters instructed him on how to get a forged diploma instead.


New poll disaster for Bush.

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Bush pushing new lows in popularity.

This is the third major poll to show Bush at new lows. Previous polls were dismissed by the extreme Right who jumped on the normal provisos in any poll claiming it proved the polling firm admitted they were lying. Of course no such thing had happened and it was merely the inability of the Right to understand the issues.

But the Wall Street Journal is considered a major conservative outlet in the US. So when a poll they are involved in says Bush has hit bottom then the president is scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Only about one-third of Americans now say they approve of Bush. And 61 percent do not approve of the way Bush is handling the invasion of Iraq.

Asked about upcoming election 50 percent said they prefer the Congress to be controlled by Democrats and only 37 percent say they want Republicans. But gerrymandered districts in the US may still mean a Republican sweep even if they get a minority of the votes. Mr. Bush has experience in that as his Democratic opponent out polled him at the ballot box but Bush still won the election.


More FBI spying than previously admitted

Recent papers secured by the American Civil Liberties Unions showed that the FBI had infiltrated and conducted secret surveillance on the Thomas Merton Center. There is no indication that the Center is involved in any illegal activities but they are opponents of the Bush invasion of Iraq.

An ACLU attorney said: “These documents show that Americans are not safe from secret government surveillance, even when they are handing out fliers in the town square, an activity clearly protected by the Constitution.” During leafleting activities the FBI would photograph the individuals passing out the flyers for government records. The FBI says the photographs were later destroyed.


It's a French thing.

Students in France have gone on rampages through the streets yet again. This is a French thing. I do not know what mental diseases decimate the French population but it seems serious. And the students were joined by the most reactionary elements of French society, teachers, unions and the Communist Party.

Half the universities in France are closed down by the spoiled children of France. The Sorbonne has been closed for several days. Students have caused close to $1 million in damages at the university --- which they no doubt will think no ought to be required to pay for. And I mean literally no one. The French, more than any other nation, are suffering from the delusion that everything in life ought to be free.

The French government made cautious moves to make it easier to hire young people for jobs by making it easier to fire employees that don’t work out. The French think someone is entitled to a job no matter how incompetent they may prove to be. And if they don’t have benefits from an employer for not working they should have benefits from the state for not working.

More than any other nation I can think of the French make a past time of working hard to avoid work. Being economically illiterate the French have not figured out the reason unemployment is so high is because of stupid laws. Twenty-three percent of Frenchmen under the age of 26 are unemployed. In large cities the number can be twice that.

One brain dead Marxist, but I am redundant, Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg said: “To create discrimination based on age transgresses fundamental rights.” Press reports did not say if Mr. Schwartzenberg was drooling and babbling during the rest of the day. But there is clearly a screw loose here.

France is one of the most backward nations in Europe and a nation that drags the EU down. It needs to reform but it won’t. Perhaps the solution is that instead of following good policies they should follow a lot more bad policies until the whole thing falls apart.

I suggest they immediately implement a law which triples the salaries of all workers and increases it by five times for workers under 30 years of age. The law should also say that once hired a worker can never be fired for any reason. It should also increase fringe benefits and promise absolute security for the rest of their lives. Since the French are adverse to working, and to “create more jobs”, the law should also reduce work weeks to 20 hours with no reduction in pay.

Within a few weeks the economy will be totally decimated. Employers will not fire workers, since they can’t, they will merely go bankrupt. The French will get exactly what they have worked for. And the stupid students can protest full time demanding that the sun stop in the sky for perpetual sunshine and that rain be illegal.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Radiation, welfare and Chernobyl

When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded the world held it’s breath. We were told that a major catastrophe had taken place. Greenpeace, 10 years after the 1986 disaster said that the accident is “blamed for the deaths of some 2,500 people, has affected millions and displaced hundreds of thousands, many of whom have still not been able to return to their homes.” (1) Greenpeace called nuclear power “the most dangerous energy source yet devised by humankind”. (2)

Since that claim was made another long eight years have passed. But now the United Nations has released a new report disputing these claims. First we learn that results of the accident were not nearly as deadly as was originally projected. Second, we find that while the accident was horrific the official response made things worse for large numbers of people. Chernobyl also has some lessons on the detrimental effects of welfare.

And we will see that even after hundreds of scientists produce an exhaustive report on the matter the environmental ideologues refuse to change their tune and instead denounce the scientists.

The myth-busting report Chernobyl’s Legacy was published by the Chernobyl Forum which is a collection of supranational organisations like the World Health Organisation, the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, the governments of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and a host of other groups. It was formed in 2002 to study the effects of the disaster and the official response to it.

In 1986 when Reactor #4 exploded it was predicted that tens of thousands would die. The UN report notes that “Claims have been made that tens or even hundreds of thousands of persons have died as a result of the accident.” But, these “claims are exaggerated”. (3)

This doesn’t mean no one died. But the numbers directly attributed to the accident are much lower than most would assume. In 1986, the year of the accident, 28 people died from exposure to radiation. All of them had been emergency workers at the reactor. From 1987 until 2004 another 19 died and “long term radiation-caused illness may have led to the deaths” of additional emergency workers. (4)

The main problems found among the general population was with young children who drank milk that was produced by cows that ate contaminated grass. For them there was a clear increase in thyroid cancer. But this cancer is very treatable. The report noted: “For the 1152 thyroid cancer cases diagnosed among children in Belarus during 1986–2002 and treated, the survival rate was 98.8%.” (5)

Except for these two groups the direct medical impact of Chernobyl was minimal. The UN report says: “Among the general population affected by the Chernobyl radioactive fallout, however, the radiation doses were quite low, and ARS (acute radiation syndrome) and associated fatalities did not occur.”(6)

Chernobyl took place in 1986. The socialist system collapsed in 1989. In the years immediately following the collapse living standards dropped. The economy was a total disaster and health care had become almost non-existent. People all across the region saw life expectancy decline. And among this general increase in death rates and illnesses the results of Chernobyl have to be found. But Chernobyl’s effects were tiny in comparison to the larger picture. The 50 some deaths are firm numbers. But the projections of possible other deaths are estimates. The UN said: “the number of deaths over the past 20 years that may have been attributable to the accident are only estimates with a moderately large range of uncertainty. The reason for this uncertainty is that people who received additional doses of low-level radiation have been dying from the same causes as unaffected people. Moreover, in all the groups studied, of both emergency workers and resident populations, any increase in mortality as compared to control groups was statistically insignificant or very low. Estimates related to projected deaths in the future are even less certain, as they are subject to other major confounding factors. In reality, the actual number of deaths caused by the accident is unlikely ever to be known with precision.” (7)

The New York Times reported, “for the millions who were subjected to low levels of radioactive particles spread by the wind, health effects have proved generally minimal.”(8) They reported that there was no rise in leukaemia rates except for a small number of plant workers. Nor has any increase in birth defects been noticed nor decrease in fertility rates.

The reason for this is simple. Only people in the immediate vicinity of the accident were exposed to sufficient radiation to cause problems. Radiation is a natural phenomena and we are all exposed it through day to day living. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commissions puts it this way: “Radiation is all around us. It is naturally present in our environment and has been since the birth of this planet.”(9)

People seem mostly unaware that radiation is a natural phenomenon and that we are all exposed to low levels of radiation every day. The average American is exposed to 300 millirems of radiation per year and over 80% of that is from natural sources. But residents of Denver receive a dose of about 1000 millirems just because of the altitude of the city. A person working in a nuclear power plant is exposed to about 300 additional millirems per year while regulations limited occupational exposure per year to 5000 millirems. But pilots, airline crew members and frequent flyers can be exposed to an additional 500 to 600 millirems. That’s quite a bit when you consider that living next door to a nuclear power plant only increases exposure by 1 millirem per year. But if even that worries you then remember that the human body produces about 40 millirems per year entirely on it’s own.(10)

Levels of exposure as a result of the accident, for most, was lower than what many people experience naturally. Chernobyl’s Legacy stated, “that the average doses received by residents of the territories contaminated by Chernobyl fallout are generally lower than those received by people who live in well known areas of high natural background radiation in India, Iran, Brazil and China.” (11)
Dr. Burton Bennett, chairman of the Chernobyl Forum said: “This was a very serious accident with major health consequences, especially for thousands of workers exposed in the early days who received very high radiation doses, and for the thousands more stricken with thyroid cancer. By and large, however, we have not found profound negative health impacts to the rest of the population in surrounding areas, nor have we found widespread contamination that would continue to pose a substantial threat to human health, with a few exceptional, restricted areas." (12)

But at the time entire regions were evacuated—due more to panic than anything else. Dr. Fred Mettler, of the Chernobyl Forum, said, “People were evacuated from areas that now have dose levels lower than where I live in New Mexico.” (13) And the evacuation caused many problems and possibly harmed far more people than the accident itself.

At first the Soviet Union covered up the accident and tried to hide it from the world. This meant that people in the immediate vicinity were unnecessarily exposed to risk. This was especially true of the children who now suffer from thyroid cancer. As Bronwen Maddox of the Times of London said: “Better warnings in the first week could have averted this. But the Government’s desire at first to cover up the explosion meant that it delayed warning people or moving them to safety.” (14)

But later, when the disaster became public knowledge, the Soviets exaggerated the health effects. Maddox wrote: “The underlying level of health and nutrition [in the region] was abominable; there was every interest in exaggerating the impact to get aid money; the Soviet culture had never been shy of using science for political ends.” (15)

Of course environmental activists and antinuclear ideologues also had reasons to exaggerate the consequences hence the predictions of hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result of the accident. Add to that the natural tendency of the media to prefer the sensational aspects of any story and it is no wonder that people around the world were in an induced panic about the accident. Individuals who lived in the general vicinity suddenly found themselves being relocated, often against their will. They lost their homes and were subjected to regular medical check ups which had to raise their anxiety levels. Many of these people simple came to assume that they had been exposed and were doomed.

Yet fear itself is detrimental to health. Dr. Fred Mettler who lead the UN team said: “People have developed a paralysing fatalism because they think they are at much higher risk than they are, so that leads to things like drugs and alcohol use, and unprotected sex and unemployment.”(16) The Chicago Sun-Times reported that “anxiety caused by fear of the radiation is causing serious mental health problems, and worries and ‘shows no signs of diminishing and may be even spreading,’ the International Atomic Energy Agency said...” (17) And the Washington Post noted that the report said “that lifestyle disease, such as alcoholism, among affected residents posed a much greater threat than radiation exposure.” (18)

The Guardian newspaper of Britain said that while “the accident had a severe impact ‘the situation was made even worse by conflicting information and vast exaggerations—in press coverage and pseudoscientific accounts of the accident—reporting for example, fatalities in the tens or hundreds of thousands,’ said Tomihiro Taniguchi, a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Taniguchi said that “many of the 350,000 people evacuated and resettled by authorities would have been better off staying home.” (19)

The evacuated “came to view themselves as ‘helpless, weak and lacking control over their futures, [Taniguchi] said. ‘Their circumstances were exacerbated by severe economic hardship... and the prevalence of misconceptions and myths regarding health risks.”(20) The UN report itself says “individuals in the affected population were officially given the label “Chernobyl victims”, thus frequently taking on the role of invalids. It is known that if a situation is perceived as real, it is real in its consequences. Thus rather than perceiving themselves as “survivors,” the affected individuals have been encouraged to perceive themselves as helpless, weak and lacking control over their future.” (21)

Kalman Mizsei, a director of the UN Development Programme, said that “an industry has been built on this unfortunate event” (22) which has a “vast interest in creating a false picture”. (23) Different groups, for different reasons, exaggerated the fears. The Soviet Union, after the cover up failed, exaggerated the problems because it was of way of gaining hard currency when the system was on the verge of collapse. Ideological environmentalism and antinuclear activists used the disaster to push their political agenda. And millions of people were paid benefits on the basis of being victims of Chernobyl.

Pillar and Rubin noted: “That contributed to misinformation and fear among the local population, who believed they were on the verge of being diagnosed with fatal diseases. Those countries then spent large amounts of money to help putative victims, helping to create ‘a dependency culture,’ Mizsei said.” (24)

The UN Report said that radiation tended to get the blame for any problems people experienced. Yet “it is far more likely they are due to increases in smoking, drinking, poor diet and stress, UN experts said.” The LA Times reported that Mettler “said some government programs have unwittingly exacerbated that anxiety.” (25) Mizsei said: “Fear of radiation is a far greater threat to affected individuals than radiation itself,” and that the relocations imposed by Soviet authorise was a “deeply traumatic experience.” (26)

In fact the UN says that people who defied the government and ‘remained in their villages (and even more so the ‘self-settlers,’ those who were evacuated and then returned to their homes despite restrictions) have coped better psychologically with the accident’s aftermath than have those who were resettled to less contaminated areas.” (27)

But the negative consequences of welfare for Chernobyl “victims” is real. Seven million people received various benefits from the Russian government due to their exposure. And it is destroying the economy and incentives. In Ukraine in 1991 there were 200 people who were considered permanently disabled due to Chernobyl. The effects of radiation diminish with time but the numbers claiming to be disabled are climbing. In 1997 there were 64,500 permanently disabled and by 2001 it was 91,219. The report, according to the New York Times, “says huge compensation programs for people in the Chernobyl region have become ‘a major barrier to the region’s recovery,’ by by creating a culture of dependency and by soaking up a high percentage of the region’s resources. It recommends that the compensation programs be cut back.” (28) The UN is very blunt: “The dependency culture that has developed over the past two decades is a major barrier to the region’s recovery.” (29)

"The extensive system of Chernobyl-related benefits has created expectations of long-term direct financial support and entitlement to privileges, and has undermined the capacity of the individuals and communities concerned to tackle their own economic and social problems," the report concluded. (30)

Once programs for “victims of Chernobyl” were created they grew like Topsy. “By the late 1990s, Belarusian and Russian legislation provided more than seventy, and Ukrainian legislation more than fifty, different privileges and benefits for Chernobyl victims, depending on factors such as the degree of invalidity and the level of contamination. The system also guaranteed allowances, some of which were paid in cash, while others took the form of, for example, free meals for schoolchildren. In addition, the authorities undertook to finance health holidays in sanatoria and summer camps for invalids, liquidators, people who continued to live in highly contaminated areas, children and adolescents. In Belarus, almost 500 000 people, including 400 000 children, had the right to free holidays in the early 2000s. In Ukraine, the government funded 400 000–500 000 health holiday months per year between 1994 and 2000. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the number of people claiming Chernobyl-related benefits soared over time, rather than declined. As the economic crisis of the 1990s deepened, registration as a victim of Chernobyl became for many the only means of access to an income and to vital aspects of health provision, including medicines.” (31)

In other words the disaster at Chernobyl become profitable to many people and groups. The consequences were exaggerated because they increased the rewards. More and more people found it advantageous to be a “Chernobyl victim” and so the number of victims grew each year and grew well beyond what the science shows to be the real results.

So how has the UN report been taken? The media finds it a fascinating story because it has the element of sensationalism that sell papers or boost ratings. But the beneficiaries of Chernobyl and the ideological groups that use the accident for their own agendas are furious. They refuse to accept the report and instead denounce the UN for producing it.

Greenpeace, in particular, is most upset. William Peden from the group said that the projection of maybe 4,000 deaths in total from the disaster “is ridiculous” and “many thousands more may die in the decades to come.” (32) Jan van de Putte, another Greenpeace activist says the UN was “denying the real implications” of Chernobyl and that is “insulting [to] the thousands of victims”. He also said it is dangerous because it may lead to “relocating people in contaminated areas”. (33)

But one clear example of how ideologues bend science around politics was when Greenpeace “said that the 4000 deaths only relate to a studied population of 600,000 whereas radiation was spread over most of Europe and the reports omits the impact on millions of Europeans.”(34) It omits it because there isn’t any. Most of the radiation fell within a few dozen miles of Chernobyl and the levels of radiation, to which the surrounding 600,000 people were exposed, was mostly within the range of normal exposure from natural sources. Beyond there, to the rest of Europe, exposure levels were below natural levels.

One antinuclear coalition is the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. They immediately attacked the report and repeated the Greenpeace argument. They argued that the 4000 projected deaths only take into account the 600,000 in the immediate vicinity and “given that tens of millions of people were exposed to Chernobyl radiation... [a study] among the entire affected population would be expected to find far greater casualties.” They report that there is “no safe exposure level to radiation.” (35)

So Denver is dangerous. The US Capitol Building is dangerous. In fact every human body is dangerous. Those international flights to environmental confabs around the world typically expose the activists to more radiation than they would get living next door to a nuclear power plant for a year. But it’s nuclear power they are wanting to stop so that risk gets exaggerated and blown out of proportion. And it is this type of scare-mongering that is ruining the lives of so many deemed to be “victims of Chernobyl”.

1. Chernobyl 10 Years After, Greenpeace.

2. Ibid.

3. The Chernobyl Forum, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, p. 10.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid., p. 12.

6. Ibid., p. 10.

7. Ibid., pp 10-11.

8. Elizabeth Rosenthal, “Experts Find Reduced Effects of Chernobyl”, The New York Times, September 6, 2005, posted at

9. US Nuclear Regulatory Commssion, Fact Sheet on Biological Effects of Radiation,

10. Ibid.

11. Chernobyl Forum, p. 9.

12. BBC News, “Chernobyl ‘likely to kill 4,000’, September 5, 2005,

13. Elisabeth Rosenthal, op. cit.

14. Bronwen Maddox, “Chernobyl’s fallout not as bad as first feared,” The London Times, September 7, 2005 posted at

15. Ibid.

16. Elisabeth Rosenthal, op. cit.

17. Susanna Loof, “Chernobyl deaths fewer than predicted, UN says,” Chicago Sun Times,

18. Peter Finn, “Chernobyl’s Harm Was Far Less Than Predicted, UN Report says,” Washington Post, September 6, 2005,

19. “False Information Said Worsened Chernobyl” The Guardian, September 06, 2005,

20. Ibid.

21. Chernobyl Forum, op. cit., p. 15.

22. Peoples Daily, “”Doubt cast over low death toll in Chernobyl disaster,

23. Charles Piller and Alissa J. Rubin, “A false picture of Chernobyl fallout?”, The Seattle Times posted at

24. Ibid.

25. Piller and Rubin, op. cit.

26. Gilbert Ross, The Chernobyl Catastrophe Reassessed, September 7, 2005, American Council on Science and Health .

27. Ibid.

28. Elizabeth Rosenthal, op. cit.

29. Chernobyl Forum, op. cit., p. 31.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid., p. 33)

32. People’s Daily, op cit.

33. AlJazeera, “Activists dismiss UN Chernobyl report,”

34. Ibid.

35. Statement of Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resources Service (NIRS), on UN Chernobyl Report.

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