Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What Halloween teaches about free exchange.

Here is a quote from a new article on what Halloween can teach us about free exchange.

I craved Snickers bars and absolutely hated anything with peanut butter. My brother loved peanut butter. So he gave me his Snickers and I gave him my Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. He was happy. I was happy. Luckily our parents didn't interfere too often to make sure the trading was "fair." It was fair as far as we were concerned. Imagine some know-it-all parent pointing out that since candy X costs more than candy Y, to trade them straight up is unfair. Imagine the parent imposing not free trade but fair trade. There would have been a lot of unhappy children on Halloween who were stuck with candy they didn’t want and unable to exchange it. I wouldn't have understood if someone told me Peanut Butter Cups were more valuable than Snickers. To whom? What I knew was that I valued one and not the other, regardless of what a third party might say.

You can read the full article here.

Polls that encourage and polls that terrify

The most recent polls in Virginia are good news unless you are a big government Republican. With one week before the election the race between former Reagan official Jim Webb, the Democrat, and George Allen, a big government Republican enamoured with George Bush has not just narrowed. It’s been doing that for months. But the last poll says Webb now has a slight lead.

This is a major reversal. In March Allen, according to Rasmussen polls, had a whopping 24 point advantage over Webb. Their most recent polls had the two in a dead heat with only one point between them favoring Allen. But an poll by Opinion Research says that Webb currently has the support of 50% of the voters while Allen has support from 46%. A second poll was also done which also showed that Webb has a slight lead, this time it was 48% to 46%.

A Republican consultant has dismissed the poll because some of it was conducted over the weekend. He claimed: “Any survey conducted Fridays and Saturdays, everybody knows they’re skewed toward Democrats.” Everybody knows this? Really? I suspect not.

Another poll, however, indicates some real dangers to civil liberties from Republicans. Zogby International asked Republicans, Democrats and independents whether they would support various measures in the “war on terror”. Republicans were hard pressed to find anything they would not allow the government to do.

Public video surveillance was supported by 87% of Republicans, over two-thirds said they would support random searches of handbags, briefcases, backpacks, etc “anywhere” not just at airports. Regular roadblocks to search cars were supported by 62% of Republicans but only 38% of Democrats. Sixty percent of Republicans said they supported random searches of cars but only 37% of Democrats did. Government monitoring of phone calls was supported by 56% of Republicans but only 20% of Democrats. And even 49% of Republicans said they were fine with the government opening private mail.

The same poll shows that Republicans, by a two to one margin still believe the claims that Saddam Hussein had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. Surely this indicates they are total morons. The president said Saddam had nothing to do with it. The vice president has said Saddam was not involved. The investigations into 9/11 said Saddam was not involved. But two thirds of Republicans still believe the original lie that Bush told even though Bush himself no longer makes this claim. It is scary to think that Republicans are so out of touch with reality.

China moves in right direction on death penalty

The Chinese communists have taken a step in the right direction in regards to the death penalty. They have now said that only the top court in the country can impose a death sentence. The dictatorship kills more people than any other nation with the Theocratic Republic of Texas no doubt in second place.

Previously the Communists allowed lower courts to impose the death sentence but they have had some problems. In 1989 they executed a man for murder only to later find the alleged victim was still alive. In a second case another man was released from prison after he had been convicted of killing his wife. She too was found to be still alive.

This is a tentative step in the right direction and should reduce the number of executions. But governments, even those ruled by Jesus Christ such as Texas, still make mistakes. Innocent people are still executed. The communists are starting to figure this out. The conservatives still think of government as omniscient.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Adam Smith note to be released.

The BBC reports that a new £20 note will be released in the UK with the likeness of Adam Smith on it. The really dumb thing in the BBC report is that they say: "The economist is most famous for his book the Wealth of Nations which many regard as almost inventing the concept of competition and market forces."

This is like saying Benjamin Franklin invented electricity or Newton invented gravity. However, Smith, who explained the natural market forces and how they work deserves the honour. He is the first Scot so honoured by the Bank of England. However, I think the note itself a bit unattractive.

I never thought I'd quote Peikoff. And like it.

I have always had a low opinion of Leonard Peikoff. But he has worked hard to earn that evaluation. But he recently outlined how he thinks the followers of Ayn Rand ought to vote. And I generally think he is right. So I will quote what he said and point you to his website (so you can see I'm not making it up). I will also put in bold the comments I particularly like.

How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.

Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.

Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.

The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a “good” Republican.

In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.

If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.

Disaster tomorrow! Right, Tony, we've heard it before.

Tony “Chicken Little” Blair is at it again. He is a panic monger of the worst sort. He went on television and scared the bejesus out of the Brits with dire warning of weapons of mass destruction. The net result is that the Brits are playing second fiddle to the con man from Texas and iraq is a worse mess than it was before.

Now Blair is making dire accusations and fake claims about global warming. This con man from the UK went on television claiming that unless urgent action is taken now (ever hear of a politician suggesting anything but urgent action now) the world will face disaster next Tuesday or close to next Tuesday. “This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our lifetime.” What pure, unadulterated bullshit.

No doubt these disaster will be found right next to the weapons of mass destruction. The British politicians, second rate minds in charge of what has become a second rate country, want the world to spend 1% of global GDP every year on climate change.

Blair and the scaremongers he hires are predicting floods and water shortages and claiming that up to 40% of species will become extinct. Let us hope that lying politicians are one of them. They say there will be hundreds of millions of refugees -- yes, hundreds of millions.

Now what do we have here. First, expect that all the dire consequences are vastly exaggerated. Politicians are slime. They lie all the time. Both the Left and the Right exaggerate the issues constantly since they know that fear motivates. And since they have no ethical restraints they just make up lots and lots of bullshit and people fall for it.

What do they typically do. First, they take scientific reports and then they look for the most extreme claims. So if scientists says that there is a strong chance global temperatures will increase by 1 degree and a very unlikely chance that it will increase by 5 degrees the politicians latch on to the 5 degree claim and ignore the more likely one.

Scientists write with all sorts of provisos explaining why a theory might be wrong. Politicians take out the provisos completely and present the theory as gospel truth.

Now this we can be sure of. Weather patterns will change globally. How do I know this? Because they always have. We don’t live in a stagnant universe as much as some would wish that were the case. Temperatures globally have fluctuated considerably for as long as the planet has existed. And it won’t stop fluctuating regardless of what we do.

So weather patterns will shift as they always have. And they will cost us. In some places warmer weather will mean longer growing seasons and more rain. In other places it will be less rain and harder growing seasons. Some regions will benefit and some will suffer. Change does that and change is inevitable.

The next thing to consider is that the solution will always cost much more than the politicians claim it will. Politicians intentionally lie about costs to get people to support a project. That is as important as exaggerating the problem.

Remember what we were told about the cost of getting into Iraq. Same principle here. The difference is that the Left hated Iraq and love Green bullshit. So they choose to believe politicians on global warming while choosing to disbelieve them about Iraq. I just assume they are always lying. Sometimes I get surprised but not that often. Once the public is conned into a project getting out is much harder to do so they bear the higher and higher costs.

And the final thing. If the problem was real (and don’t assume it was) then the solution from the politicians probably didn’t help much. In fact you have a good chance they only made things worse. But chances are that their solution won’t solve anything.

If the problem is not real, and there is a good chance of that in most cases, then the solution they offer, no matter what it is, will appear to have worked since the dire consequences will have never materialised. This is one reason politicians love to solve problems that don’t exist. It’s much easier and anything will appear to work.

How Big Business Uses Greens and Leftist to Raise Profits, Reduce Competition and Screw the Poor.

Any cause that people consider worthwhile becomes an excuse for rent-seeking by special interest groups. For the economically uninformed “rent-seeking” is the attempt to use government intervention to redistribute wealth to one’s self. Usually the rent-seekers need an excuse to justify their coercive greed.

Let us be clear here. The way a business normally gets money is by selling me something I want and am willing to purchase. Rent seekers find ways of making me give them money by either confiscating it outright or by limiting my choices.

Say I want to buy apples from New Zealand but the rent seekers, who happen to be apple producers in the US would rather coerce me into financing them. They could do this several ways. One is to get helpful Democrats and Republicans to give them subsidies. I pay involuntary taxes which are then given to the parasitical apple growers in the US (a hypothetical here though in real life this might also be the case).

Another method they use is impose taxes, called tariffs, on apples from New Zealand pushing them up in price compared to the the US apples. The net result is the same thing.

Of course the apple growers could just go out and burn down stores selling NZ apples but that is a little too obvious. They prefer the more subtle forms of coercion to get what they want.

But the really clever way of redistributing wealth to the already wealthy, which is what such measures tend to do, is to get the public into a panic and have them demand such moves. For that they need a panic.

Now the special interest, rent seeking, parasites of Europe are demanding we “save the planet”. The planet is in danger, so say the panic mongers in the Green Left (and I say they are full of the fertilisers they use on their organic farms). So the wealthy European farm community wants governments to impose air freight taxes. I should note that European consumers are harmed by this as well. Food in Europe is already expensive and quite honestly the quality sucks. I have lived and shopped on four continents and European food is the worst I've had. I suspect one reason the French have so many sauces is to cover up the low quality of the meat they eat. I suspect that the fact that European agribusiness is the most coddled and protected in the world is a major reason for this.

The Greenies have invented another bogus concept called “food miles”. It is really protectionism under a different name. They idea is to tax these “food miles” which amounts to a tariff on agricultural products from other nations. Now the whole concept is bogus. Bogus to the core in fact but then Greens know zero economics. They are economic illiterates which is necessary for them to be Greens.

So the Greenies in Europe along with the local pampered, subsidised, wealthy farmers want taxes imposed on food imported to Europe. They say this is necessary to save us from global warming. It won’t save us from global warming but it will make it easier for European farmers to spend more time on tropical beaches every year.

The new hysteria promoted by these fear mongers is that unless we destroy world trade the climate will change (it will change no matter what we do) and that will “lead to economic upheaval on the scale of the 1930s Depression.” Okay, so they don’t know the cause of the Depression either. Idiots.

See they don’t like the fact that their measures will destroy wealth. That means voters are less likely to support them. So they invent the fiction that unless we destroy the economy willingly it will be destroyed unwillingly. It’s rubbish.

One has to wonder why the Left hates the Third World so much. What exactly inspires this desire to confiscate what little wealth poor people have from exporting food to the West and give it to wealthy, white agribusiness's.

Environmentalism is movement now dominated by the rent-seekers. The environmental groups take huge sums of cash from big business and often big business hates competition. They like the Green regulations because such regulations limit competition especially from the smaller businesses who can’t afford to comply with the expensive regulatory system that big business and the Greens want.

Big business gives millions each year directly to these groups and then they also endow foundations and funds which also give to the groups. That means millions more indirectly. And one reason for this is to encourage regulatory regimes which inhibit competition and restrict the growth of potential competitors. Agribusiness will love “food miles” taxes because it directly pours millions of additional profits into their pocketbooks.

Now of course food producing nations will be hurt. The Kiwis will see a big decline in their national income and be worse off. Of course the Greens down there will blame this on the failures of capitalism and demand more welfare to solve the problem. And third world countries that rely on agriculture for most their income will be hurt again. The Greens will demand more international welfare for them and again point the figure at the evil capitalist menace.

Anyone who has studied the history of regulations of business will find that the major proponent of the regulations were the dominant players in that field. The antitrust candidates in the US in the early 1900s were funded by the very people who supposedly were going to be regulated. The Progressives got a lot of money from Wall Street.


Because the corporate interests knew that the regulations are costly and drive up the cost of doing business. But they could absorb this cost. In fact because the number of competitors, especially the smaller competitors, was dramatically reduced by the regulations the increased business they got more than compensated them for the increased costs.

The Left historian Gabriel Kolko shows how this was precisely the case during the Progressive Era in the US. His book The Triumph of Conservatism showed precisely how big business used the Left to promote restrictions on the market to secure advantages for themselves. His second book, Railroads and Regulation showed the same thing happening with rail service in the US. And remember Kolko is a Left historian.

This symbiotic relationship between special interest, big business groups and regulation was seen again when the Democrats started the deregulation of business in the US during the Carter presidency. When airlines were deregulated the moves were opposed by the airlines (and the Left). When the moves to begin deregulating trucking were made the opponents were trucking companies (and the Left). When oil prices were deregulated the opponents were Big Oil and again, the Left.

Things have not changed very much today. Big business can still afford the regulations. They know that the regulations will drive up prices hurting consumers, particularly low-income consumers. But their bottom-line is that these regulations will give them a higher share of the market and increase their profits. The reduced competition more than compensates them for the higher regulatory costs.

The corporations get higher profits. The Left politicians get the power they lust after. The consumer gets screwed. The little guy in business gets squeezed out. And poor people in the Third World... well they just die.

By the way the logo above is from a Green inspired web site promoting the “food miles” mythology. Please notice carefully that the trading pattern they show is from the poor South to the rich North. The traders they wish to restrict are the poor farmers of the South. The beneficiaries of their regualtions are will be the agribusiness corporations of the North. Keep that in mind when you next hear them sobbing about the plight of poor people in the South.

The Stupidity of Comedy Central Executives

It is official I fear. The executives at Comedy Central are a bunch of brain dead morons who will skewer their own audience. We all know YouTube and that people post lots of short clips from different shows there. What incredible publicity. I will be quite honest here. A lot of the shows that I heard about on YouTube I didn't know about before then. Really. These clips are what told me they exist and that they could be damn funny.

But the morons at Comedy Central have threatened YouTube and the clips are being removed. All the tons of free publicity is being trashed.

Now very few of the clips showed more than a minute or two of material. I thought that fell into the fair use category pretty much as quoting a paragraph or two from a book does. I've used a few clips on this site. Again all short clips. In other words I told the readers of this blog that they might enjoy this show or that show on Comedy Central. But apparently Comedy Central doesn't want me to promote their network. So I won't. The blogsphere will be a less fun place for sure and I suspect Comedy Central will eventually realize they screwed up with this one. So I do not promote Comedy Central. I do not urge you to watch these shows. I have nothing to show you that indicates these shows may be worth watching. So go back to what you doing and ignore Comedy Central. That is what I will have to do.

And by the way, if you wish to watch some of their shows via their own website then good luck. I tried and got error messages saying they don't support any of the browsers and systems I use and that I can't watch any clips they have. In other words they are once again a bunch of morons. The real shame here is that some of the clips were great and worth watching and no doubt would have increased their market share by increasing interest in their shows. But the cretins running the station woulld rather cut off their nose to spite their face.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I was slumming.

I confess. I was out slumming. I picked up and read a copy of The American Conservative published by the lunatic Buchananites. These are conservatives who only get one main issue right, which admittedly is one more than the Bushian Right manages. The Buchananites are antiwar.

But they are so atrocious on everything else. They are borderline racist and I’m being generous. They are protectionists and they don’t favour civil liberties. Free market liberals, those of us who embrace freedom across the board, don’t really have much in common with Buchanan and the nabobs of nonsense who write for his publication.

Buchanan himself never understood economics. In fact his understanding of economics is so atrocious he could be a Democrat. But even Democrats have standards.

They have a fawning review of a book that hates Wal-Mart. No surprise there. Buchananism is often infested with resentment against successful economic enterprises. They are advocates of the status quo in the market. They hate change, they hate it a lot.

But the comment that really surprised me was that even for these people they were surprisingly stupid. Consider this claim from this review. “No factor of production is more cannabalized than that of labor, because it is human labor more than any other factor that creates value.” This sort of nonsense is usually found among unreconstructed Marxists. As the great Austrian economists of the late 1800s noted value is subjective and not determined by labor.

The article hedges the claim slightly but even the hedge is wrong. The only thing that determines value is demand relative to supply. Something produced with no labour or very little can have great value and many of the most laborious projects on the planet have negative values. The amount of labour in a project has no bearing on the value of the project. None.

From this fallacy Marx wandered off into fantasy land and the Buchananites, along with the smattering of fringe cases that associate with them, do the same thing. In fact one could take this review and plop it down in the middle of some Left-wing rag and the readers wouldn’t bat an eye over it. They would assume it was just one of their own.

Shut Up and Sing

This looks like an interesting documentary. I hope that a good number of people behind the Iron Curtian, i.e. those living under King George, will go and see the film. Certainly I will see it the first chance I get. And while I'm not a big buyer of music I hereby pledge to buy the next CD of the Dixie Chicks I come across. Hell may freeze over since I rarely buy CDs and then usually only classical. But since we are all going to die from global warming freezing over hell could be a good thing.

How low will they sink.

The new, disgusting vileness that infects the Republican Party seems to sink to lower and lower levels every day. The Washington Post lists some of the more recent disgusting tactics of the Theopublicans. What exactly is it that causes so many people to find religion and get so nasty in the process? And this is coming from the top of the Republican Party -- the National Republican Campaign Committee.

One ad has the Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives supposedly using taxpayer funds to call sex lines. What were the facts? One of his aides was trying to call the Division of Criminal Justice. Apparently the number was almost identical to the sex line. He misdialed once for a grand total of $1.25. But the Republicans distorted the facts and played dirty.

In Wisconsin the Republican Party ran ads which "linked" the Democratic candidate to a serial killer. So what was the link? The killer had an attorney and the attorney does what attorneys do -- legal work. And he did some legal work for the Democrat. That is the nefarious link that the slimy Republican ads use.

Some pretty disgusting stuff from the Theopublicans.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

He should have lied about war. They do.

The Republican Party runs some pretty awful candidates. Certainly in the Senate races I think Santorum in Pennsylvania, Harris in Florida, and Allen in Virginia are among the worst. Allen is the one who has a history of racist remarks. Allen's opponent is a former Reagan administration official who is running as a Democrat. He also, in recent years, was a novelist.

Well the Allen campaign is dragging out passages of the fiction that Webb wrote to show his values about "family". Remember "family" is Republican code for hate. Typically they drag out family when they want to attack gays to appeal to bigots. Well, in Virginia they think the bigots need some encouragement to go to the polls. And the best they can do on Allen is drag out his fiction.

Allen wrote stories that dealt with wars, the military and other adult themes. They were not porn by any means but like most contemporary fiction there would be sexual material in the novels. And what an adult reads sitting at home is a very different thing from what is read out loud in public where anyone can hear it. The Theopublicans know there is a difference but they are desparate. Allen is spending millions of dollars poured into his race by the Republicans while Webb has a very modest budget in comparison and yet the two are in a statistical tie in the polls.

So to prove that Webb is anti "family" the Republicans take racy sections of his novels and want them read out loud in public. Big government theoocrat Allen says the passages are "very disturbing". I have no doubt that Allen and his supporter are disturbed. I've been saying they are "very disturbed" for a long time. I suspect Allen and I don't mean the same thing however.

Vice President Cheney's wife wrote a novel which had lesbian sex in it. Yet if Democrats read those passages out loud during the campaign the hypocritical Republicans would howl with rage. They howl with rage a lot but in that case it would be particularly loud.

The Theopublicans want to paint themselves as being concerned about women. Right! So one weasel from the Allen campaign attacked the novels because they "show a pattern of disrespectful treatment of women." Ah, they are about war. Does this dunce think that wars are a time when women get great treatment? Wars, as history proves, are a time when women are often treated very badly especially those in the combat zone. But shame on Webb for writing a novel about war that doesn't do what the Bush Administration does in regards to wars: lie.

Friday, October 27, 2006

An offer we can't refuse.

An extremist Muslim cleric in Australia, who is actually the top Islamic cleric in the country is a fully confirmed asshole. Though I guess in Australia he’d be an arse hole. This man is a talking sphincter either way. And you know what an asshole holds in. Well, in this case it’s not holding it in. He’s verbally defecacting all over the place.

This is the man, Sheikh Taj Din al-Hilali, who compared Western women to uncovered meat and said if the cats eat the meat you blame the meat not the cats. By cats he means men and by eat he mean’s rape. So this medieval monstrosity thinks women who don’t cover up in Islamic sheets are bringing their own rapes upon themselves. He also seems to be implying that Islamic men are prone to rape women in ways that other men are not.

This is a moral midget who called the 9/11 attacks on the United States “God’s work.”

He has said that he will not step down from his position as the leading Islamic cleric in Australia. Of course the fact that he will retain his position does the Muslim community a great deal of harm over the long term. But there is one thing this clerical bigot said which I think the West should consider. He said he’d step down if the White House was cleaned out. Now that’s what I call a win-win situation.

The Republican bill of exclusions.

Once again the dishonest, corrupt and authoritarian Republicans have resorted to hate in desperation. King George, in Iowa, made gay marriage the issue again. And the congressional candidate there, Jeff Lamberti, inserted references to the topic in his speech as well. Bush said: “Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage.”

Typical Bush lie. Bush argued: “I believe it’s a sacred institution that is critical to the health of our society and the well-being of families and it must be defended.”

Now let’s look at this sort of Rovian distortion. The New Jersey court did not assault marriage. Nor did they say that gay couples ought to have the right to marry. What it said was that the New Jersey constitution guarantees equality to its citizens and that gay couples ought to have equal rights. It said whether or not this ought to be marriage or some other method was entirely up to the legislature.

Now marriage is an important institution. I would agree. Sacred? Well, that implies a religious belief behind marriage. If you want one fine. But for the US government to create a legal status based exclusively on theology is wrong.

But we can agree that good marriages make society better and improve the lives of families. Good marriages make gay society better and improves the well-being of gay families as well. I have yet to see any serious attempt by the bigots to explain why marriage is good for straights but not gays. Or why it is good for kids with straight parents but not for kids with gay parents. They don’t even try to explain what they mean.

What the Religious Right does is mouth meaningless, undefined slogans devoid of content. I have yet to hear how, if Adam and Steven are in a committed relationship and married, that this makes the marriage of King George and Queen Laura less safe for them.

The Religious Right is sounding similar to the Secular Left. The Left will argue that an economy is zero-sum game. If Bill Gates gets more then everyone else is somehow worse off. They never tell us how everyone else is worse off. If the economy grows through the efforts of Gates we are all better off. The Left will always be able to find some people or groups who experience faster growth than other groups. And they always imply that because this happens the slower growing groups are worse off.

For them every good thing that is created must come at the expense of someone else. For Gates to have more I must have less. This is pure nonsense. But so is the zero-sum marriage game. Bush the Second implies marriage is under attack and must be “defended” against evil gays.

Well, the economy is important. Agreed! And it must be defended. Agreed again. So therefore we have to stop X group from getting access to the economy. What? That sort of logic is bad economics. If more people access the economy it makes us better. Ditto for marriage.

If marriage is all the good things that the Religious Right says it is then how does more stable gay relationships make all of us worse off? No answer is ever given. Try to find one. The typical tactic of the religious bigot is to merely restate their claim in different terms. If they say marriage needs defending from gays and you ask them to clarify how gays marrying destroys marriage they respond: “Because marriage is important.”

Well, that marriage is important and must be defended is their premise. Their conclusion is that gays must be excluded from marriage. They have merely restated the premise. Over and over they reword themselves without once getting past their premise. “Marriage would be weakened if we allow gays to marry.” Again that is the premise not evidence to support it.

The Republican Senate candidate in Virginia, who has been plagued by his own mouth making racist comments, George Allen rushed over to a rally held by the religious bigots who are pushing through a clause to the state bill of rights. The amendment would actually say that unmarried people don’t have rights. This in a “bill of rights.” Imagine a bill of rights made up lists of people who don’t have rights? That would appeal to King George.

In Tennessee the Republicans are now running ads against Harold Ford, Jr. the Democratic candidate for Senator. They are trying to tie him to the gay marriage issue. They just pulled ads they were running there that even the Republican candidate said smacked of racism.

And finally let us put to rest this exhausting canard about activist judges. Republicans don’t oppose activist judges. George Bush relied on them quiet heavily to become president. Courts have two major functions. One is to try criminal cases and see if the law is being upheld. The second is to make sure that the supreme law is upheld.

What is the supreme law? The supreme law is the constitution. And at the state level the supreme state law is the state constitution.

What Bush doesn’t like is that laws which violate the US constitution are invalid. He wants to rule by decree and signing orders. He doesn’t want the rule of law. The last thing he wants is his authoritarian measures judged by the Constitution. They would not hold up to scrutiny except with a rubber stamp court.

In New Jersey the state Supreme Court said that the state constitution guarantees equality of rights and that the state is obliged by their own constitution to grant that equality. How it did so is entirely the business of the legislature. That they do so is entirely the business of the constitution which has jurisdiction over the legislature. The court was not being activist. If that were they case they would step outside the constitution not interpret the constitution.

When governments do bad things to people. When they make some people second class citizens or deny them their rights the purpose of a bill of rights is to restrain the government. And it is the job of the courts to impose those restraints.

The advocates of limited government ought to applaud restraints on government to infringe on liberty. But then the Republicans no longer support limited government. They are the party of big, intrusive government. And they are twisting the very concept of a bill of rights into a grotesque distortion of itself. A bill of rights was meant to list important liberties which no government, at any level, ought to be able to take away. Now the Republicans are pushing the idea that a bill of rights ought to be a list of groups excluded from rights.

To say that Bush and the Republican Party are evil for doing this would be a gross understatement.

Update: According to the New York Times the sleazy racist ad against Ford in Tennessee is still on the air. They say the assurances given by the Republicans that the ads would be pulled were lies. The ads still live. The Republicans claim they funded the ads but an "indepedent" group is running them. They are merely playing games. I would guess they polled and found the ads, which imply the black Democratic candidate is "after" white women were having the impact they wanted and they are going to keep them running as long as they can before the backlash gets too big. Republicans disgust me. Democrats shouldn't get too thrilled. I'm not exactly thrilled with you guys either. But it is Republicans who really disgust me these days.

Right decision, wrong time.

The New Jersey Supreme Court made the right decision at the wrong time. I wish they had waited until after the election because the Republicans will distort, lie, twist and exaggerate the ruling the court made. To be honest and a Republican, these days, is a contradiction in terms.

Basically the Court said that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as straight couples. It did not mandate gay marriage or any particular form of granting these rights. It said that was a “matter left to the democratic process.” By which they mean the legislative process not the democratic one. But I won’t haggle over that imprecise wording.

What they most emphatically did not do was mandate gay marriage. But the American Taliban will go to the voters and lie through their eye teeth about that. They will claim that court, that activist judges (meaning judges who rule in ways they don’t like only) mandated gay marriage. The unhinged religious nuts in the fundamentalist movement are not the types who understand nuances. To them something is either marriage or it isn’t. To grant gay couples equal rights is to them, special rights, because in their world gays deserve less rights. For them making gays equal is making them special since they don’t believe they have a right to be equal.

The Court was adamant that they did not “consider whether committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry”. But the Republicans need an issue to terrorize the Bible-belt bumpkins and this is about all they have. They have tried to scare us with bin Laden, a man they have made no serious attempt to capture, and they are still losing. All they want to do now is terrorize the fundamentalists into voting.

The Court most explicitly said they “cannot find the right to same-sex marriage is a fundamental right under our constitution”. That is not how the ruling will be sold to the public by the theocrats. Now I disagree. They have the Constitution backwards. The issue is not whether a right is listed in the constitution or not. The real issue is whether the power to limit that right is given to government or not.

Seven gay couples were the litigants in this case. Five of the couples have reared children. The minimum time together for them has been 14 years and the longest term couple were together 35 years. Thirty-five years of commitment and love don’t count apparently. Yet Britney Spears can get drunk, get married on a lark. Absurd.

As long as government is in the business of creating legal coupled relationships then it should not discriminate against a couple simple on the basis of gender any more than it had the right to discriminate on the basis of race.

Apologies: I tried to post this yesterday only to find the site down again. And when I tried to post it again one day later I got another message that they are “down” for maintenance. I often have been unimpressed with blogspot.com. Frequently it can take more than an hour to post a message because the system simply is not working.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Th sick humour of an evil man

Vladimir Putin is an evil man, Stalin reincarnated, another in a long line of Russian tyrants. But his sick values came to fore when he visited Israel. The Israeli president, Mr. Katsav has been indicted for raping members of his staff. Putin found this something to laugh about. He told a delegation to give greetings to Katsav saying: "What a might man he turns out to be! He raped 10 women -- I would never have expected this from him. He surprised us all -- we all envy him!"

The Russian response on the vile comments is beaucratic nonsense. They have said that the comments were not meant to be over heard. The comment was also supposed to be a joke. And maybe the remark was mistranslated. Russia started to climb out of the mire of socialism and tyranny but Putin has been going backwards on what ever good has been done in Russia and is reasserting the evil.

America sleeps safe tonight. Thanks George!

Americans can sleep safe tonight. The border have been secured against at least one threat to mom, apple pie and the American way. A dangerous foreign invader has been stopped. Americans need not fear the rise of Vegemite.


Sounds like a cross between termites and vegetables. It tastes pretty awful too. But down under the Kiwis and Aussies seem to love the stuff.

Now Customs Agents are asking peoople if they are carrying this dangerous food item. It has been banned for importation into the US and the owner of a shop selling Australian goods said he was ordered to stop selling the spread for sandwiches six months ago.

The reason for the ban. Vegemite contains folic acid. For the scientificially illiterate that means it contains one variety of vitamin B. And the US government has decided that one can only add this vitamin to breads not to spreads. On the other hand one can purchase vitamins over the counter which contain folic acid in them. I have a multivitamin table I purchased in the US that contains 100% of the minimum daily requirement of folic acid in it.

So folic acid is okay in tablets. And it’s okay in bread. But add it to fowl tasting yeast and put in a spread that goes on top of the bread and suddenly the US federal government is all over it. Absurd. I suggest they spend more time looking for bin Laden and less time looking for Vegemite.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Did Reagan lead the Supreme Court?

Now and then I come across some really lame comment that sticks in my craw and have to comment on it. A lefty named Stirling Newberry has managed to annoy me. It’s not just that he wears a bow tie either.

Newberry is upset that some people are invoking the name of Ronald Reagan against George Bush. Not that Newberry likes Reagan or Bush for that matter. He in fact thinks Reagan was a big government conservative. Not that Newberry dislikes big government he prefers big government with people like himself running it.

But Newberry makes the following statement: “a Reagan led Supreme Court even ruled that states could pass laws against particular sex acts between consenting adults, even when the (sic) intended to enforce those laws in a discriminatory way.”

First lets get the nonsense out of the way. There was never a Reagan led Supreme Court. Presidents don’t led the court. They can only appoint a justice when a vacancy occurs and then only with the approval of the US Senate. But more on that shortly.

I want to get down to the decision in question, which Newberry refers to but doesn’t name. In Bowers v. Hardwick the Supreme Court upheld sodomy laws in Georgia. That remained in effect until the court in Lawrence v. Texas overturned itself.

The court was led, not by Reagan, but by Chief Justice Burger who was appointed by Nixon. The odious decision was written by Justice White, who was appointed by John F. Kennedy. The majority favoring the decision included Justice Powell, another Nixon appointee; Justice Rehnquist, another Nixon appointee and Justice O’Connor, a Reagan appointee.

So out of the five justices who voted to uphold the law only one of them was appointed by Reagan. The others were appointed by Nixon and approved by a US Senate controlled by Democrats and the author of the decision was appointed by a Democrat. How Reagan could be held responsible for this is beyond me.

In addition I doubt that any of these justices were asked how they would vote on a sodomy law. I don’t think they were appointed with this in mind nor were they confirmed with this in mind. In fact this lack of intention becomes clear if we look at the dissenting judges.

The author of the dissent was Justice Blackmun. He too was a Nixon appointee. So the author of decision in question, which Newberry is attacking, was appointed by a Democratic president while the lead dissenter in the decision was appointed by a Republican. No one said this was neat even if Newberry implies as much.

Another dissenter was Justice Brennan. He was appointed by Republican Dwight Eisenhower. Justice Thurgood, appointed by Lyndon Johnson, also dissented as did Justice Stevens who was nominated by another Republican, Gerald Ford.

So exactly how was Reagan leading or responsible for this court? No answer is given by Newberry.

But let’s look at the Reagan legacy in the decision that overturned the decision. In Lawrence v. Texas the Bowers decision was rejected by the Court and antigay sex laws were declared unconstitutional. It was a six to three decision and most the old justices were gone. So who decided what here.

The majority decision to overturn Bowers was written by Justice Kennedy, a Reagan appointee. He was supported by Justice Stevens who was still on the bench and who had been appointed by a Republican. Justice Souter also supported the decision and he was appointed by the first President Bush, also a Republican. Also supporting the decision was Justice Ginsberg, appointed by Clinton; Justice Breyer, also appointed by Clinton; and Justice O’Connor who had changed her position on the issue. So of the five Justices who overturned the Bowers decision two had been appointed by Reagan and three had been Republican appointees.

The US Supreme Court is regulated in a manner which is intended to make it difficult or impossible for any one president to determine how it decides. Justices are appointed for life and unless they die or retire no vacancy takes place. The president can appoint but without Senate approval his nominee won’t be seated.

Newberry’s comment was either silly and indicative of being uninformed or it was dishonest. I’m not sure which. There are many things for which Reagan can be justly criticized but the Bowers decision is not one of them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Family panicked by armed raid, another error.

A.J. Nuckols wrote a letter to the Star-Tribune, a local newspaper in Chatham, Virginia. So what makes the letter worthy of mention?

Mr. Nuckols recounts what happened to him and his family by the out-of-control police. He is a local farmer, his wife teaches school and he has three children. He describes his family as church going, hard working and law abiding.

“On Saturday morning, Sept. 23, 2006, many police vehicles appeared in our driveway. Men in black with flak jackets rant to and around our house. My wife was at home alone, I drove up and asked, “What’s going on?”

“Men ran at me, dropped into shooting position, double-handed semi-automatic pistols pointed at me, and made me put my hands against my truck. I was held at gunpoint, searched, taunted and led into the house. I had no idea what this was about. I was scared beyond description. I feared there had been a murder and I was a suspect.”

He and his wife were interrogated (anyone want to bet the police did not mention a thing called their Miranda rights?). This excessive show of force was not over some violent crime. Nor was it even over something as violent as pot smoking -- the usual excuse for these trigger-happy thugs. It was for “internet crime”.

Neither Nuckols or his wife really use the internet and and say they don’t even have an email address. Then the police began questioning them about their children. Nuckols says he began to doubt his own children under the barrage of questions.

Their computer, cameras, DVDs and video tapes were grabbed by the police. He and his wife were held at gunpoint for five hours until their kids came home and the police began questioning the children. “It was awful. We were accused of horrible crimes, crimes that even the mention of would ruin our reputations.”

A month later, and I think they were lucky the state moved this quickly, all their possessions were returned. They were told that the wrong IP address had been identified. Again a peaceful family had armed men pulling loaded weapons on innocent people over yet another police error. Should people this incompetent be allowed to carry weapons?

Nuckols wrote: “Pittsylvania County Sheriff's Department, Bedford County Sheriff's Department and Blue Ridge Thunder invaded our peaceful lives with military force based on one piece of wrong digital information.” The group with the military sounding awe and shock name, Blue Ridge Thunder, is a new program of “to safeguard our children from internet crime by ‘weaving a seamless web of protection’ around them, across the nation and around the globe.”

One would not think that the local sheriff’s office in Bedford County did not have the authority to weave protection “across the nation and around the globe” but I guess they have visions of grandeur. Now I have have to wonder about the ‘seamless web of protection” for the three Nuckols children? Did they feel safer coming home and having armed men holding their parents hostage and interrogating them?

(The "photo" on the right is how the Blue Ridge Thunder show their staff on their website. I presume this is to give them an air of mystery and strike terror into the hearts of criminals. Except on their media page they have photos of the same people. Maybe it was another error.)

Blue Ridge Thunder says they “apprehend perpetrators, protect potential victims, and educate parents, teachers and children...” Oh, yes. That day these armed clowns apprehended innocent people, and turned the Nuckols children into victims. But they sure made good on one thing: they gave these parents, one even a teacher, and these children an education they will never forget.

Blue Ridge Thunder even has a list of media coverage on their web site. They fail to mention any articles about the botched raid on the Nuckols home. In fact the only publicity for all of 2006 they mention was a plaque they received from the federal government. They even show a picture of one of their smiling officers holding the plaque with two men standing next to them. The three men are identified by four names in the caption. I guess the fourth is “undercover” since he’s invisible in the photo. Or perhaps they just got the wrong photo as well.

Nuckols has the right to be angry. How easily can things go wrong and someone get killed. It doesn’t take much for error prone cops in the heat of an armed attack to rush into a house, break in is usually the tactic, and mistake an innocent movement as “going for a weapon” and someone with a remote control in their hand lies on the floor dead.

Take just one such case to see how easily this happens. Erdman Bascomb was sitting at home watching television when police crashed through his apartment door. Bascomb was on the couch with the TV remote control in his hand. A police officer saw the remote and shot Bascomb to death thinking it was a weapon. Police where there on a drug raid but no drugs were found.

Nuckols writes: “The investigators did not do their jobs. They did not even know that we had children. Incompetence? Apathy? Do these computer police have too much power? No innocent United States citizen should be subjected to this based on so little evidence. Inexcusable. Civil rights laws have been established to protect the innocent. Our ancestors fought and died for these rights.”

Nuckols seems to think the Constitution matters. He even quotes it. He seems to think that the armed invasion of his home, based on “one bit of incorrect evidence was totally unreasonable.” He seems to think he still lives in what used to be called the United States of America. Those are noble ideals but the America he believes in stopped existing a long time ago. The idea of limited government, well, only lunatics believe in that anymore. This is the aqe of warrantless searchers, suspension of habeus corpus, and a Fourth Amendment that has been stripped of any recognizable features. This is George Bush’s America. Don’t expect to find any vestiges of Thomas Jefferson floating around.

Certainly giving the local Barney Fife military weapons is a major mistake. And this overwhelming show of force that police now use for the most routine of matters is going to get many more innocent people killed. Perhaps only the deaths of more cops in situations where no death should have been necessary will be the only thing to get the power-mad bureaucrats to rethink their militarization of the police. Unfortunately the police tend to go in with body armour and innocent civilians, often not even knowing that what is happening is a police raid, are the ones who end up dead. But in Bush speak that’s called “collateral damage” and no one really worries about that anymore. If you do you’re just unpatriotic.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tillman's brother speaks out.

Kevin Tillman, and his brother Pat Tillman, joined the military together and served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat Tillman was killed. Kevin is no longer in the military. His open letter regarding the state of American politics is important to read.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

When the poor don't see it that way.

Marcela Sanchez, in the Washington Post, has an interesting story on the Latino immigrants to the United States. She admits that by American standards these new immigrants are poor. But new immigrants throughout history have been poor --- something forgotten by the faux libertarians and racist Right who dislike immigration.

Sanchez notes that: “If immigrants, especially Hispanics, are card-carrying members of the U.S. underclass, society at large is having a hard time convincing them of it: Latino immigrants are too busy working, buying cars, purchasing homes, and even investing abroad.”

The popular image of the underclass is people living off welfare for generation after generation. This has not been true for Hispanic immigrants despite the racist stereotypes. Sanchez says these immigrants don’t fit this stereotype for two main reasons: “choices and attitudes”.

This means they make choices on how to cut expenses and they work hard and save. About 90 percent of what they earned is put back directly into the US economy to cover living expenses and: “Most of the rest of their incomes they invest in their homelands as remittances.”

The InterAmerican Development Bank says these hardworking immigrants will send home $45 billion in funds this year alone. They call this “one of the broadest and most effective poverty alleviation programs in the world.” And all of it done privately. Not only done privately but done in the face of active opposition by the US government and various anti-immigrant groups. One third of these immigrants have said they invested in real estate in the US.

And a survey of these “poor” people showed that they don’t see themselves “as greatly disadvantaged or victimized.” Gee, that must upset the Left as much the presences of these people upsets the Right. Not only don’t they feel exploited and victimized the majority, almost 70 percent, said that their economic situation was good or excellent.

Sanchez notes: “Those who use poverty to disparage immigration will continue to argue that immigrants -- particularly those here illegally -- hurt the U.S. economy. The reality is that rather than increasing poverty rates in this country, Hispanic immigrants are helping decrease poverty rates south of the border -- and with that they are doing more than anyone else to stem the future flow of immigration.”

She is absolutely correct but then common sense economics does not play well on the Left or the Right. “And what about that $45 billion,” ask the modern day mercantilists?

Good question. When these immigrants send a US dollar abroad it eventually has to be spent. And what do US dollars buy? US goods. At some point that dollar returns to the US and when it does it does so either by being invested in the US or purchasing goods from the US. America is not hurt by this voluntary exchange. But then voluntary exchanges, by definition, are good for the participants. Something the loony Left and racist Right just don’t comprehend.

Another light of liberty goes out.

Sad news I’m afraid. Lord Ralph Harris of High Cross has died. The London Telegraph headline for him simply said “Freedom fighter”. Harris, along with Sir Antony Fisher and Arthur Seldon, was one of the founders of the Institute for Economic Affairs in London. The Telegraph said: “He was the front man, the fixer, the journalist and academic who knew exactly how to plug away at a concept until, eventually, people sat up and listened. Thanks largely to his charisma, and the utter commitment and conviction with which he promoted the ideas of the IEA, what had until the mid-1970s been a sect had, by the early 1980s, become one of the intellectual powerhouses of British politico-economic life.”

An active member of the House of Lords, the paper says Harris’s “creed was the idea that the state was an evil to be kept at bay, and that nothing should take precedence over the freedom of the individual to be left alone within the law. His contribution to public discourse, economic thought and the idea of liberty was immense. His was, in its way, a heroic life.”

The London Times
said: “Ralph Harris was decisive in converting the British political consensus back to liberal economics.”

Of course the left-wing Guardian, always respectful in death, referred to him as a “Rightwing economist with a radical agenda.” They called him a “high priest of the libertarian right, whose creed included full-blooded monetarism, the unleashing of market forces, sharp tax cuts, unrestricted Sunday trading, the castration of trade unions and the abolition of minimum wages, nationalised industries and inflation-proof pensions.” And since they denigrate a dead man as a high priest then the Institute for Economic Affairs is called by them “his temple”.

The sneering article mentions Harris was a smoker who led a group of smokers “insisting on their ‘liberty’ to pollute the air of others” which, to say the least, distorts the actual position of Harris. Unlike so many socialist leaders Harris was actually born to a working class family in 1924 -- something true of a large number of leading free market intellectuals. His father was a tramsway inspector. Harris went on to read economics at Queens College, Cambridge.

Harris is survived by his wife of 57 years and his daughter. Two sons preceded him in death.

Couple harassed by local police

Now and then we run another article verifying the authoritarian mentality of so many American cops. We do not claim all are such. I have law enforcement employees in my own family. But many, many cops are just bullies in uniform. They are drawn to the power and the ability to torment and harm others. In other words quite a few cops are pathological.

Fran and Casey Galik discovered this when they spoke up at at town meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois. They wanted some changes in the police department and said so. That was a big mistake. To make it worse Fran organized a group to promote good government (an oxymoron I fear).

Police Sgt. Randy Mucha did not take kindly to the criticism and began a harassment campaign of the couple. Mucha was caught running unauthorized background checks on the couple and suspended with pay. (In other words he doesn’t have to work but he gets paid as if did work.) And the new police chief says he wants Mucha fired.

Apparently numerous background checks were run on the Gaiks and on their daughter by Mucha and his friends in the police. A deputy US marshal also ran such checks on them, presumeably as a favor to Mucha.

The harassment started slow and picked up. After first speaking up Fran found the mailbox at their home destroyed. Screws were spread in their driveway to puncture their car tires. Anonysmous emails, some clearly linked ot Mucha, were sent to them regulaly. A computer program or virus was introduced to the computer wiping out the data completely.

Mucha went to neighbors of the Gaiks and enlisted them to “spy” on the couple for the police. They were followed by police cars. At one such incident they were followed to a restaurant. When they went in to eat someone broke into their home setting off the alarm. When they went home two police officers were in the house saying they were responding to the alarm. But neighbors said that 3 uniformed police officers and a plainclothes officer, believed to be Mucha, entered the house earlier.

The city is denying any wrongdoing. And they are so sure that there was no wrongdoing that they are paying the couple $2 million in damages but refusing to admit guilt.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Page never received sex emails from Foley:No sex, many lies and instant messages

Now another piece of the puzzle in the so-called “Foley Scandal” falls into place. And each new piece indicates that the entire thing was exaggerated and subjected to political manipulation both by Democrats wanting to hurt the Republican Party and the Religious Right wanting to smear homosexuals.

Remember how we all learned that a “16-year-old” page working from Louisiana was subjected to “sexual” emails from Foley. That was what we all were led to believe. Then it turned out the page was an expage which means he would have been 17 at the time not 16. Now it appears he never got such emails at all!

Representative Rodney Alexander, who sponsored the page, says that the teen NEVER got such messages from Foley. The New York Times reports: “The former Congressional page ... was neither exposed to nor aware of the sexually explicit instant messages that ultimately led to Mr. Foley’s resignation, the lawmaker who sponsored the page said.”

So exactly what is going on here? Is this a manufactured hysteria that exists on innuendo, anonymous sources, lies and exaggerations? It certainly looks more and more as if that is the case every day.

So the only page mentioned who we know has received sexy emails from Foley is one Jordan Edmund. And he was almost 19 years old when this happened and the messages he sent were not exactly innocent themselves. His attorney has backed away from saying this was not a prank implying that it could have been.

Because the media relied on anonymous sources we never knew to which page they were referring. We got claims about a page working for Rep. Alexander but those claims were then mixed in with the messages between Edmunds and Foley. The media mixed this case up so encouraging such confusion. Had we been told up front that a Congressman exchanged raunchy emails with someone who had once been a page but no longer was, and was well above the age of consent, would there be any of this hysteria? No, especially when we learned there was no sex involved.

And remember all those reports about a drunken Foley allegedly turning up at the dormatory for the pages demanding to be let in. The Bay Area Reporter says the accusations are "unconfirmed" and non-specific, that is no one seems to know when it allegedly happened. And "Capitol Police have conducted a search of their records and can find no report of such an incident. Former police chief Terrance W. Gainer said he could not recall such an incident during his tenure, from 2002 to early this year."

And now the bigots are targeting Congressman Jim Kolbe who’s only sin is being gay. Once again anonymous sources made accusations that Kolbe was too friendly with a former page (again not a working page). The whispers go that Kolbe took the expage camping and was very attentive to him. All this from an anonymous source who refuses to be identified.

But a dozen or so people went on this tour of the Grand Canyon with the Park Service. Park employees escorted the Congressman and all of them say nothing improper happened and that the claims are simply false. Even the former page who was supposedly the victim of Kolbe’s attentions says that none of this is true. So one anonymous source makes the claim, numerous witnesses and the alleged victim all deny that it has validity so what happens? Of course the Congress is now going to investigate Kolbe as well.

The House committee that is conducting the Inquisition, says the New York Times, “intends to examine the conduct of Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona, the only openly gay Republican in Congress, after a request from members of the Congressional page board to include Mr. Kolbe in the inquiry because of complaints the board had received.”

Complaints from whom? No answer is given. Only one person on the trip claims he witnessed alleged attentiveness (nothing more was implied) and he has claimed the right to smear Kolbe anonymously. No one else on the trip saw such things and the “victim” says Kolbe acted properly the entire time. So the so-called victim is not complaining. The others on the trip deny it and the one alleged “witness” refuses to identify himself. So who is doing the complaining?

I would bet that if we look into who has filed complaints against Kolbe we will find that the complainants were not on the trip. I will bet we will find prominent bigots from the Religious Right filing complaints. I will bet we will find people filing complaints based on bad journalism, hysterical blogs, lying web sites and the like. What we won’t find is any “victim” of Kolbe making any such complaint. When anonymous people can make accusations and when people not present can file complaints we have moved well from the rule of law and towards a witch hunt. The more we find out the less there is.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Family time: Myths and Realities

According to critics of American capitalism the modern family is spending more and more time working and less and less time with one another. Yes, they argue, capitalism is destroying the family. Odd, actually since the old Left critique was that the family was evil and was created by capitalism. Never mind the inconsistency for now. But what about the current crop of myths spread by the Left. (Who are, as far as I can tell, as deluded as the Right.)

A group of sociologist, normally a dangerous configuration, recently did a study on how men and women today spend their time compared to the 1960s. The University of Maryland researchers were shocked to find that the typical parent today spends much more time with their children.

The New York Times reports: “At first, the authors say, “it seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother. Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families. With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.”

“But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time. The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.”

In 1965 the average woman spent 10 hours per week on “child care” while the average man spent 3 hours or 13 hours in total. By 2000 the average woman spent 13 hours per week and the average man spent 7 hours or a total of 20 hours per week. Kids today spend more than twice as much time in the care of their fathers than they did during the 1960s.

That is a rather large increase in time spent with children. And the typical family in 1965 had more children than today meaning not just more time spent on childcare but much more time spent per child.

A new trend? Apparently not. A study by Sandra Hofferth and John Sandberg, University of Michigan, says this has been going on for some time. “A study using U.S. data from the 1920s to the 1980s reports that parental time caring for children rose rather than declined over the period, in spite of increased maternal employment. Another study using recent data shows an increase in the time employed mothers spent in child care as a primary activity between 1965 and 1985 (compared with a decrease for non employed mothers).”

The time spent on housework has declined. No surprise there. Labour saving devices now mean less time doing the mundane things. Today you throw laundry into a washer and press a couple of buttons. In the 1960s washers that had to be monitored constantly with clothes being pushed through wringers by hand were not uncommon. A load of laundry could take an hour or more and not minutes. Hofferth and Sandberg noted: “The time women spend in household work has declined significantly over the past several decades.”

In some ways you would think housework ought to have increased since the average home is much larger than it was during the Rob and Laura Petrie days of the 1960s. National Public Radio reported: “The average American house size has more than doubled since the 1950s; it now stands at 2,349 square feet. Whether it's a McMansion in a wealthy neighborhood, or a bigger, cheaper house in the exurbs, the move toward ever large homes has been accelerating for years.”

Of course there are doom sayers about the increasing size of the family. John Stilgoe teaches landscape history (I am not making that up) at Harvard University. He sees the bigger houses as representing “the atomizing of the American family. Each person not only has his or her own bathroom. Some of these houses are literally designed with three playrooms for two children. This way, the family members rarely have to interact. And the notion of compromises is simply out one of the very many windows these houses sport.”

Stilgoe may wish to rain on everyone’s parade but as the old proverb goes: “He full of it.” As we have already seen the amount of time parents spend with children has dramatically increased and been increasing for sometime. I’m not sure how pertinent landscape history is to these trends but the professor obviously has not read the literature regarding actual trends.

There are other shifts as well. While the total amount of housework has declined men are doing a larger share of it. The amount of time they spend on housework, between 1965 and 2000, increased by six hours per week but the amount of time women spent decreased by 13 hours per week.

Women in 1965 spent 50 hours per week on child care, housework and employment. By 2000 they spent 55 hours per week. And men in 1965 spent 49 hours per week on the same things and now spend 54 hours. So where are they spending more time?

A good deal of the increase can be found in the time each spend with their children. Three of the five extra hours per week women spend in all three activities is in childcare. And the rest is in paid employment. In fact paid employment time has almost tripled for women going from 8 hours per week to 23 hours per week. Most of these extra hours for paid work was found because of less housework. Housework time declined by 13 hours per week while paid employment increased by 15 hours per week.

Men are spending 5 hours more per week in total on all three activities. What shifted for them? They are now spending 4 hours per week more with their kids and they are spending 6 hours a week more with housework and 5 hours less per work on paid employment.

It may be that both the feminist Left and “pro-family” Right are getting what they want. Parents are spending more time with their kids which the so-called pro-family movement should appreciate -- though I doubt they will. And the work load between men and women is more evenly distributed than it was 35 years ago. As it now stands women spend only 1 hour per week more on these three activities than do men. Men spend 10 hours a week more time engaged in housework and childcare and women spend 10 hours less per week on these two --- though they actually spend more time with their children today they are spending much less time on housework. In 1965 for ever 1 hour of paid employment for women the men worked 5.25 hours. By 2000 for ever 1 hour of female paid employment men had 1.6 hours.

So not only is the total work load between men and women almost identical but the distributions between the three main categories is more evenly spread today than in the past. For instance in childcare, in 1965 women spent 3.3 hours with the children for every hour that men spent. In 2000 women spent 1.85 hours in childcare for every hour that men spend. In 1965 women spent 8 hours in house work for every one hour that men spent. By 2000 they were spending 1.9 hours for each hour the men contributed.

So parents spend more time with their children and much less time on housework. But they are also spending more time in paid employment in total with all the extra time coming from paid work for women. Is this good or bad? Considering that even women are spending more time with the kids the paid employment did not come out of child care time. Most of it came through reduced levels of house work. But the total time did go up.

But if the size of the average home has almost tripled then one would expect that more paid employment would be required even with rising standards of living. And the number of cars owned per family have increased dramatically as well. A greater percentage of children attend university now as well. Living standards have jumped dramatically and while much of this has come from increased productivity some of it comes from a total increase in hours worked. Families could easily rectify this if they wished to do so. Instead of buying homes almost three times the size of those they lived in as children they might cut back to only twice as big.

The major culprit in the increased work load has come from government. Americans spend more and more time feeding fat bureaucrats in Washington. In 1990 the per capita tax burden was $5,523 by 2000 it was $7,718. And “A generation ago it stood at $4,832. So the per capita tax burden rose by $1,933, or almost 40 percent in a generation, and this is after adjusting for inflation.”

This would seem to imply that had government been less greedy that living standards could have increased as we’ve seen without the accompanying increase in total work hours per family. Total works hours per couple increased by 20 percent while the US government admits that taxes, adjusted for inflation, rose twice as much. Had government restrained itself, highly unlikely of course, people could still have bigger homes, more cars, more education and the rest of the good things they now enjoy without having to work more.

The Left wishes to place the blame on capitalism. But the blame lies squarely within the camp of statism. All the extra hours of work put in per family are the result of the greater levels of taxation.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The murder of habeus corpus

A very well done presentation about how George Bush has been and is destroying the Constitution.

Now, I think this is right on target. Democrats are still afraid to talk about impeachment. I say: "Impeachment! Hell, we ought to be talking treason trial."

First elected gay congressman dies

Former Congressman Gerry Studds died a short while ago. Studds was elected to the House of Representatives in 1972 and served five terms of office before acknowledging that he was gay. His heavily working class district voted him back into office and served until he retired in 1996.

Studds, married his partner Dean Hara in 2004, and was out walking his dog when he collapsed. A blood clot was discovered in his lung. He seemed to recover but apparently there was a second clot which killed him. In addition to his husband he is survived by a brother and a sister.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

This is sure to upset the Christianists

When I first heard about this video I didn't expect much. It appears to be a show for children from Holland, perhaps our Dutch visitors can confirm that for us. A young boy gets up to sing a song he dedicates to his two fathers. He was adopted when he was one year old. First he really surprised me. I hate talent shows because the talent is often so poor. But he was good. He completely carries it off. And the message he has is a good one. I would guess he is around 14 years old but he comes across as incredibly mature. I'd be curious to know more. The song is in Dutch but with English s. ubtitles. it's not a bad tune either.

PS: Since posting this I did some more research. Sure enough the fundamentalists have already attacked this video. The misnamed Americans for Truth, an antigay group, refers to the boy singing as "aggressive homosexual activism". Their line is that "it is utterly selfish of homosexual adults to intentionally put children in this position--and to subject other children to propaganda like this." I didn't know adoption was "utterly selfish" and if he is worried about propaganda for kids what does he call Sunday School? What the fundamentalist Right can't figure out is that the rest of the civilized world, and much of America, simply don't share their values.

British school punishes boy for "unhealthy" lunch

Health nazis run the Lunsford primary school in Larkfield, Kent, the People Republic of England. A small boy was humiliated and punished because his lunch from hom broke government rules regarding healthy eating. Honest, I'm not making this up.

Ryan Stupples is 10 years old. And he was banned from eating with his friends in the dinning hall because he sinned, I mean, he violated the rules. His lunch included a sandwich, fruit cheese, a piece of cake and a mini cheese cookie. When the teacher snooped through the his packed lunch, no doubt to make sure he wasn't planning to combine secret chemicals and blow up the school, the breach of government regulations was discovered. Big Brother has determined that only one snake item is allowed and the cake and mini cookies count as two.

The boy was forced to leave the dinning hall and eat in isolation in the head teacher's office. Reichfuhrer Malcom Goddard, the pious headmaster with the jackboots and whip said: "We take healthy eating very seriously and everyone is aware of our new policies." Personally I hope someone crams a chocolate chip cookies and a piece of pie down this idiots throat. In Orwellian doublespeak Goddard says that Ryan's forced isolation was given him "the chance to have his dinner outside the hall with supervision." Now when they punish a child they are giving him a chance. Gee, I hope Mr. Goddard gets lots of chances real soon.

What kind of regime dictates to parents what they are allowed to feed their children. And say a parent, an obviously evil, bad, neglectful parent dare disobey Big Brother why does a cruel school treat the child so badly. To take a 10 year old child and force him into isolation because he has a cookie in his lunch box is monstrous.

The picture is of this miniture criminal who dared to have two snacks in his lunch. Obviously he should be shot.

Mel: "I'm a victim." Right!

Even in his so-called apology Mel “My daddy is a Nazi” Gibson can’t avoid attacking Jews.

In an interview with Dianne Sawyer the actor claims that when one is drunk “the balance of how you see things comes out the wrong way.” How you see things? Is he saying that in fact he does see Jewish involvement in an alleged Jewish plot but that what he said just came out wrong? As he said: “I know that you just can’t, you know, roar about things like that.”

Read that statement again! He says he knows you can’t say things like that. He doesn’t say he doesn’t believe things like that only that you can talk “about things like that.” He is not retracting he’s just saying it is bad politics to make such comments in public. As Tim Rutten in the LA Times notes: “In other words, the problem with being drunk is that it robs you of the ability to balance your anti-Semitic convictions against the potential effect of their disclosure. It’s a novel argument for moderation, but somehow the suggestion that bigotry can be expressed sotto voce leaves one rather cold and --- more to the point --- doesn’t seem to give much evidence of a credible contrition.”

And what caused him to go into his vicious diatribe. Apparently it wasn’t really his fault it was the Jews who were responsible. This whining asshole claimed the cause of his outburst was the way he supposedly had his rights violated by Jewish critics of his anti-Semitic film The Passion of the Christ.

As Gibson put it: “The other place it [his hateful outburst] may have come from is, as you know, a couple of years ago I released the film Passion. Even before anyone saw a frame of the film, for an entire year, I was subject to a pretty brutal sort of public beating. During the course of that, I think I probably had my rights violated in many different ways as an American. You know, as an artist, as a Christian.”

Sure Mel we buy that lie. How was this anti-Semites rights violated? The content of his film was criticised. His close association and support for a known Jew-hater, his father, was criticised. But no one violated his rights. He obviously doesn’t know much about rights either. At no point was his life, liberty or property taken from him. In fact he used the opposition to his film to promote it and walked away with millions.

Gee, if that is how poor Mel had his rights violated I wish someone would violate my rights the same way. I could use the money. And Gibson even used to interview to to attack his critics because they didn’t apologise. “I never heard ... one single word of apology,” he complained. Why did anyone need to apologise?

Gibson rewrote the Gospel stories to make them even more anti-Jewish than they already were. Purely extra Biblical scenes of a Jewish looking Satan whispering into the ears of the rabbis was added. You can’t find that in the New Testament. It just isn’t there. But this didn’t stop Gibson from throwing it in and then complaining that Jews were violating his rights by complaining about such additions as this.

Joan Rivers got it right when she said: “He is an anti-Semitic son of a bitch.”

We also need to look at how Gibson very cleverly does a side step and seems to say one thing while not saying it at all. In his drunken outburst he blamed Jews for all the wars of the world. Now he says: “I don’t believe that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” What he doesn’t answer is he thinks them responsible for many of the wars, most the wars, none of the wars, etc. As long as there is one war somewhere in the history of the world which can’t be attributed to the Jews then his statement can be said quite honestly even if the thinks Jews responsible for every other war in history. Sawyer is a lightweight intellectual and Gibson can play her like a violin.

She should have said: “That’s good Mr. Gibson. So what percentage of the wars do you believe the Jews are responsible for? I mean you say it’s not 100% but that doesn’t mean you don’t think they started 99% of them. Can you actually answer the issue once and for all?” Watch him squirm.

How about asking him about specific wars. Does he think the Jews were responsible for World War II, World War I, the Civil War, etc.? She should have narrowed it down. But that wouldn’t be good for the network and it’s parent company, which happens to be distributing Gibson’s newest film. So for them to secure a profit on the deal they need to smooth over the flak Gibson got for his remarks. So a softer interview was a more profitable one.

In the past Gibson was asked if he believe in the Holocaust, I don’t think he does, and he gave an answer that anyone, such as his father, who doesn’t believe the Holocaust took place could give. Gibson said of course he knew Jews died and a great tragedy took place. Every holocaust revisionist around would say the same thing. He was not asked if he thought there were gas chambers and an attempt to gas Jews. Revisionists have their own meaning for the Holocaust and feel they can honestly say they believe in it. Even when they deny it.

Rutten summarised the situation well I think:

What any honest reader will find there is a self-pitying series of rationalizations for inexcusable conduct. This time around, we can presume only that they were soberly conveyed. So, at the end of the day, what you've got is a guy whose anti-Semitic attitudes are so deeply ingrained and unexamined that he cannot control them even when his career is on the line. If Gibson's employees and business associates really believe that nobody else is going to notice this, that these interviews "put the issue behind us," then the filmmaker is, in fact, enmeshed in a conspiracy. Its actors, however, are not Jews or Zionists or Masons or international bankers or any of the other phantoms pulled from his rat bag of paranoid bigotries. No, to the extent Mel Gibson has a problem beyond being Mel Gibson, it's that he's surrounded by a venal cabal of the clueless.