Monday, December 31, 2007

Making matters worse.

The powers that be have no confidence in people to deal with problems well. They are convinced that they are needed to help us since we are not like them. In my experience their planning usually makes things worse. And I recently saw an example of this at a major U.S. airport.

It was late last night as we drove to the airport to pick up someone who was arriving. It was close to midnight which is not peak time at all. Yet the traffic to the pick up zone was backed up enough that it took about 15 minutes to travels two blocks. Yet when we got there the pick up zone was almost entirely empty except for the one far left lane where traffic was moving so very slowly.

There were normally three lanes in front of the terminal. The far right lane was against the curb and people would park there to load up luggage and their passenger. The center lane was typically used by individuals to drive past the terminal looking for the passenger. And the outside lane, which was useless for pick up purposes was used by people to travel past the terminal completely. No one decreed that this was how it would be but it made sense.

Now and then you’d get someone who would try to use the the curb as a parking lot but that wasn’t common. And there would be a traffic cop hanging around to either ticket a vehicle that stayed for more than 10 minutes or to tell the driver they were exceeding their time. Considering the potential chaos in a place like this things moved relatively smoothly. Most of the order was the result of drivers acting rationally with a small nudge, now and then, for those who would gum up the works. Not so last night.

The right and center lanes were almost empty. Throughout the airport there were little tyrants in uniform stationed about every 50 feet. Anyone who pulled up to the curb was immediately ordered to leave. They had cop cars blaring these fog horns at cars that stopped. If a passenger was standing at the curb with luggage in hand they could be picked up. But any sort of delay would bring immediate legal threats from these petty officials.

The cops had changed the rules of the game supposedly to make traffic move slower. In reality all they managed to do was cram all the cars into the far left lane. Individuals who would be at the curb normally were in the left lane and so were the people who would normally cruise past the terminal slowly looking for their passenger. Everyone trying to leave the terminals was in the third lane as well.

So three lanes of traffic were compressed into one lane while two lanes were basically empty. People trying to meet their passenger were intentionally driving very slowly to try to be there when their passenger exited the terminal. That resulted in huge back ups of traffic. And the huge back ups were inspired people to linger longer in order to find their passenger since no one wanted to be forced to the back of line again.

Previously you could leave the terminal and drive around to the entrance again in about five minutes. Now you had to wait about 15 minutes in line. Interference by the police had taken a system that worked relatively well and changed it into gridlock by changing the incentives. No one in the left lane previously was inspired to move at a crawl -- now they were. And since that was the only lane the combination of the extra traffic and the slower driving put the airport at almost a standstill.

As I stood there watching this I was surprised at how relentless the police were to go after anyone who dared stop for more than a few seconds. They successfully managed to keep two thirds of the space empty while cramming all the cars in the far left lane entirely screwing up the flow of traffic and creating a problem for everyone.

I told one of these cops that I thought they were making everything worse. He said they were under orders to keep the space immediately front of the terminal empty. Some faceless “they” had issued an order. I suspect the moron who issued the order neither has checked to see how it was working or had to meet a passenger. And if they did you can bet they would flash their badge and get special treatment.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

New evidence continues to point to disurptive youths causing their own attack.

Small bits of evidence in the tiger mauling incident at San Francisco Zoo continue to become public. And so far they are confirming my suspicions as outlined in yesterday's blog post. Associated Press says the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "police found a shoe and blood in an area between the gate and the edge of the animal's 25- to 30-foot-wide moat, raising the possibility that one of the victims dangled a leg or other body part over the edge of the moat."

In addition the actions of the young men involved is looking more and more antagonistic. Reports now say that they refused to even identify their dead friend and wouldn't tell police or doctors who they were.

There are also reports that sticks and pine cones were found in the enclosure and that they could not get there naturally -- that they appeared to have been thrown in.

The father of the dead youth says he intends to sue the city regardless of any role his son may have had in his own attack: "I don't think this deserves to happen to anybody -- taunting or not taunting." To me that sounds like him saying that he doesn't think there should be consequences regardless of how his son acts. My personal view is that ideas like that in families are a rot and directly lead to children who believe precisely this and thus act badly creating the very problems involved.

The zoo director said "somebody created a situation that really agitated her [the tiger] and gave her some sort of a method to break out." He also said that a "a couple of feet dangling over the edge could possible have done it."

Add that to the police report that a shoe print was found on the railing of the wall of the enclosure. This all is looking more and more suspicious.

According to the reports the dead man distracted the tiger when it was attacking one of the brothers. Supposely that helped save the life of the brother. Yet the two brothers and their family are refusing to even speak to the family of the dead man who supposedly helped save them. Why? What are they trying to hide?

I thought the preponderance of evidence released as of yesterday pointed to the youths actively doing something that caused the attack. I would have placed the percentage that this was the case around 55% to 60%. Based on the continuing behavior of the survivors and their family and based on the alleged fact that a shoe was found inside the tiger enclosure I would now move that percentage up well into the 90% range. If it is confirmed that the shoe in the enclosure belongs to one of these youths then I would say the case is closed. The shoe would not have been there any other way. The tiger didn't carry it there since it never returned to the enclosure after the attack because it was killed.

To me it is looking very much as if these young men, with a history of trouble making, were taunting, attacking and harassing the tiger. The animal involved did what any animal would do, which is to defend itself. And I don't fault the tiger for that. It acted as it ought to be expected to act. And it appears that the young men were responsible for their own attack. If this turns out to be the case and I suspect it will I hope that no compensation is received for the attack and that the two surivivors are charged for their reckless and immature behavior which contributed to the death of their friend. They are supposed to be intelligent humans beings who know better. The tiger is not. For me that says the bulk of the responsibility for this attack rests on the young men and not on the tiger or the zoo.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Tiger attack: more than meets the eye

The situation at the San Francisco Zoo had me baffled. The very idea that a tiger escaped and attacked three individuals was shocking. More so since I’ve been to the zoo on several occasions.

First accounts made it sound as if the tiger had escaped and attacked one young man and then in separate incident attacked two men at an outdoor cafe. But the more information that comes out the more I suspect that the victims were not so innocent. Make no mistake about it, I think the city zoo was very responsible for what happened. The evidence is now clear that the wall on the tiger enclosure was well below the standard height required. But I also suspect, and can’t prove, that the victims were also responsible for the attacks as well.

The two attacks apparently were continuations of the same attack. The three victims were actually good friends who had gone to the zoo together. We know the tiger attacked and that two of the young men had some sort of go at the tiger which then released the one man and attacked the other two, killing one of them. Police arrived and killed the tiger in return.

I figured that much of the mystery would be cleared up when the two young men told their side of the story. Apparently they are not co-operating and openly hostile to police investigating the matter. That strikes me as very odd indeed. If these three young men were fully innocent victims the city of San Francisco (and unfortunately the taxpayers) will be paying them hefty settlements. A police investigation ought to help them. And it would unless they were not fully innocent as originally thought.

That the three went there together made me wonder. But the refusal to co-operate looks very odd. And police say there is the imprint of a shoe on the railing on top of the wall. Tiger keepers say that if the animal was taunted it would attack. I feel, not believe but feel, that there may well be more to this case than we know. And I suspect more revelations will be coming.

Perhaps the three young male friends decided to have fun with the tiger. Perhaps they were feeling unusually macho and arrogant the way many young men of that age do. And perhaps they decided to torment the animal which retaliated and managed to get out.

There is also the strange situation of where the father of the dead man had called the two brothers who survived, shortly before the attacked and asked if they knew where his son might be. The two brothers lied to the father and said they had not seen the man in spite of him being with them at the time. The zoo closes at 5:00. Why were they still in the zoo?

And consider the layout of the zoo. Directly south of the tiger enclosure is the South Gate, the fastest way out of the zoo and the most likely location to find staff quickly to help in an emergency. The men were attacked due west of the enclosure moving away from the exit to the zoo. The zoo closes every day at 5 p.m. and the attack took place shortly after that time. So you now a mostly deserted zoo, where most people have either left or headed toward the gate to leave. If you wanted to have some fun with a tiger this is about the only time you could try.

And one tiger expert who had been quoted to say that the tiger couldn’t have jumped out on his own says that he revised that position when the actual height of the wall was revealed to be just over 12 feet and not the 20 feet he was originally told. But he also said that while a leap that high was possible it is very unlikely for a tiger to do that without provocation.

If I were an investigator here I would explore two possibilities. One is that the tiger merely attacked for no reason whatsoever, that for the first time he attempted to escape that wall in a move experts say would be usual. And that it attacked three totally innocent young men who just happened to be in the zoo after it closed because they were slow in leaving. I would consider it but it wouldn’t be where I’d be focusing my attention.

Here is the theory I would look at. That three young men, feeling macho, with a bit of a history for causing trouble, went to the zoo. They were up to no good and one indication of that is that they lied to the father of one of the young men telling him that his son was not there. Maybe they saw the tiger and realized that they had an opportunity to prove something to themselves about their macho nature and they decided to show the tiger who was boss. For some reason one of the youths stood on the railing (the shoe imprint found there would support that). They maybe taunted the tiger or harassed it. They felt confident that the wall would hold the tiger had it done for decades. But they were wrong.

The two young men are not co-operating and hostile with a reason. They may believe that if the truth is known that the tiger was being harassed by them that the result could lead to charges being filed against them. Their lack of co-operation is the result of their status as perpetrators and not as victims. Of the two theories I find the second the most appealing at this time.

I just can’t help but think how would I react if I were the victim here. I would co-operate. And even if I had some reason to mistrust the police (and there are many) I would be spilling my guts on every news program that would have me. I would want the world to know that the zoo allowed something awful to happen to me. The only reason I can think of, where I remain uncooperative and silent is if I knew the attack was actually my fault. And this would be especially true if my actions contributed to the death of a third person.

I will be interested to see how this plays itself out and what evidence turns up. I will be interested to see what we learn about these two young men. Certainly I would expect them to be hiring an attorney who will, no doubt, advise them to go public with a story meant to make a civil suit on their behalf easier to win. Please note that these are just my gut reactions to what I’ve seen. I’m not saying that there is concrete evidence to say this is factual. But I am saying that there are damn good reasons to hold these suspicions and I hope the investigators look into them.

None of this completely exonerates the zoo, after all the wall was obviously much lower than accepted norms for such a thing. But if my theory is correct I wouldn’t be giving these young men compensation and I would certainly be looking at filing charges against them if they played any role in encouraging the attack to take place.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

No good deed goes unpunished.

There is a saying that no good deed goes unpunished. Apparently this is true.

This blog broke the story of Laissez Faire Books announcing it was closing and announced that there were negotiations to keep this well known libertarian institution alive. Last month it was announced that Laissez Faire was going to shut the doors forever and that it was selling off its entire inventory.

The good people at the International Society for Individual Liberty approached LFB and began negotiating to keep Laissez Faire alive. You would think this was a good thing. But apparently some “libertarians” don’t think so. This blog can report that some individuals, instead of being glad that LFB is staying open, have simply become abusive and insulting.

Since much of the inventory was sold off prior to the transfer it has to be rebuilt. Yet some customers, when this was explained to them, demanded to know when specific titles would be in stock again. And they meant precise dates. Expansion, of course, relies upon sales which fund the new inventory. And there are always questions of supplies from the publisher and other issues as well. So precise answers are often not possible. Good sales in January could mean faster rebuilding of inventory while poor sales could slow it down. Attempts to explain this to some abusive customers apparently was impossible and only brought forth more abuse from them.

The one that takes the cake was an email we saw from Daniel C. who attacked ISIL for stopping Laissez Faire from closing down. He claimed that they were destroying Laissez Faire. How that is possible is confusing to this blog. If they wanted Laissez Faire destroyed they only needed to do nothing. Pouring in thousands and thousands of dollars to purchase it, in order to destroy it, when it was already scheduled for closure, is one of the most absurd accusations we’ve run across in a long time.

He floated the idea that it could look as if George Soros bought LFB in order to derail libertarianism. He claimed ISIL “has completely ruined” Laissez Faire and “should be ashamed for what you have done” and that “I hope you realize you are doing more bad than good by purchasing LFB” -- apparently Mr. C. preferred that it close down instead. How keeping it open is worse than closing it he does not explain.

He then wrote: “I will never buy another book from LFB and I hope your pathetic organization fails miserably. Fuck YOU!”.

There is a saying that no good deed goes unpunished. The stories that ISIL has received abusive phone calls from some so-called libertarians is difficult to understand. The email which we saw from this “long time” customer attacking them confirms that this was the case. Why some libertarians seems to find it necessary to be abusive is something I don’t understand. And to say that ISIL ruined LFB by preventing its closure is just so irrational a claim that I have to wonder if Mr. C. was compos mentas when he wrote his attack. I was actually tempted to print the full name of the person who sent this rather bizarre attack. But maybe Daniel C. will come to his senses. I wouldn’t have believed this sort of thing if I didn’t see the email myself.

As I see it George Soros doesn't need to undermine the libertarian movement as long as there are libertarians like Mr. C. attacking people for doing good things. It is this sort of abuse that actually does harm the libertarian idea.

Note: Since this was written the head of ISIL, Vince Miller, passed away. In January 2010 a new Chairman of the Board, Mary Ruwart, was elected. Even though LFB had double total income for ISIL she sold it off, perhaps looking for a quick buck. It appears to us that LFB is effectively dead because of this. It will limp along for sometime and its nature will be changed by the new owners, who have already changed the line up of titles. We understand another new book service is about to open and applaud that move. This blogger can not support LFB or ISIL any longer.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Rambling thoughts about the holidays.

I’m not a big holiday person though I do like excuses to see friends and to spend time with loved ones. And I like the December holidays. Contrary to the culture-bound Christianists in the U.S. saying Happy Holidays is quite appropriate (and respectful of others) since there are several holidays for different groups during December and we have New Years Eve and Eastern Orthodox Christians have Christmas in early January.

I don’t mind if someone says Merry Christmas to me because the Christmas holiday is more than a Christian celebration. In fact the major facets of the holiday, from the tree to the gift giving, all have their origins in non-Christian practices and holidays that were practices long before the Catholic Church adopted the holiday for the Christian faith. I’ve come to appreciate the Solstice concept which emphasizes the end of Winter and the return of warmth and the life-giving Sun.

Certainly in my days in the American Mid-West that was a good thing to celebrate. My last winter there went below freezing on Thanksgiving day and didn’t creep above that mark again until sometime in late February. We were told that our average temperature that winter had been colder than in Moscow for the same year. I believe it. From that point I tried to avoid snow as much as possible.

I’ve lived in the southern hemisphere where the holiday comes at the height of summer and we’d take a dip in the pool before having a Christmas braai (bar-b-que for the Yanks).

And I’ve done the holiday where I’m with family and others without family. I’ve had intimate holidays with just one special person in my life and I’ve done Christmas where I’ve filled the house or apartment with people I know who had no where else to go for the holidays and created my own family. And I’ve had some years where it was just me in a foreign city having a TV dinner in my flat alone.

I think the luckiest Christmas was one where I didn’t get to do what I had wanted. I wanted to take someone with me to Phuket, Thailand for a few days in the sun. But it was going to be a last minute arrangement. I called and called travel agent after travel agent trying to find the right package. But no one could get us into any of the resorts. I checked Tahiti, no luck. I checked Fiji, same story. I looked at the Gold Coast in Queensland, full up. And finally decided on four days in Sydney.

We flew in Christmas Day and checked into the hotel. One look at the tiny room and we checked right out again and transfered to a lovely hotel overlooking Darling Harbour. The room was spacious and pleasant. We had Christmas dinner on the harbor and then retired to begin exploring the next day.

Before setting out to explore the city, as we were dressing I turned on the news to see the horrific story of the Boxing Day (December 26th) Tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The tsunami had struck Phuket, which is where we would have been had I been successful. The film of the resorts in Phuket being destroyed by the massive tidal wave was something I would never forget.

This year I’ll be having Christmas in San Francisco. A friend from England, where I’ve spent about six months over the last year is coming to visit. I head out to the airport shortly and then we get straight into things. I hope she got some sleep on the plane because its a full day. First we stop for lunch and then drive to the top of Twin Peaks for the breathtaking full view of the City. And San Francisco is one city that deserves to be called The City -- as locals tend to do.

Then we go for some driving around and head to the old Castro Theater for a concert for tonight. Tomorrow it is up into the Oakland hills for Christmas Dinner with a good friend and ex of mine. I curious to see the house itself, which I’ve read about on the internet. I hear it took 13 years to finish all the building and includes a magic theater several museum collections of fun things -- like old arcade games, and some amazing collections. There is a movie theater with 18,000 films. There are hidden doors, a haunted house and more. Yet this is residence not a theme park -- though many a theme park apparently has come here to die --- there is a lot of bits and pieces from the old Playland at the Beach, which closed in the 1970s if I remember correctly, on display here. And since they also own a circus I’m told to expect a few circus performers at the Christmas meal with us -- at one point I understand about 100 of them temporarily lived in the house. Since it’s not open to the public as a general rule having Christmas there is certainly going to be unique.

Then for Boxing Day we are back into San Francisco for the day to see the sites. There is obligatory stop at Nieman Marcus on Union Square if only to see the magnificent Christmas tree they erect every year. In my years living in The City I always had a live three, usually somewhere between 8 and 10 feet tall -- having 12 foot ceilings had an advantage. And then every New Year Day we’d dismantle the tree and cut it up and have a lovely fire in the fireplace that usually got so warm we had to open the windows.

After the first three days we’ll be winging it. The weather during the later part of the week is iffy but there is a get together of friends that we’ll probably do. And my English friend will be taken to the gun range on Saturday -- she likes to shoot and can’t do that sort of thing in Nanny-state England. It’s only a week but it should be fun.

Is there a real message here. No, not really. It’s just a discussion about holidays and friends and family and loved ones. If there is a theme it is about connecting to people. Celebrate the people in your life not the day. The tsunami incident tells me to enjoy life since you never know when it might end. And if there is one bit of advice I would give -- it is to remember those who might be alone this Christmas. I’ve been there and it can be awful. The holidays can be great when you are able to share them with others but terrible lonely when you can’t. If you aren’t able to share the holidays with a family then make your family. You won’t regret it.

Photo: The photo is something of a childhood memory. My grandmother used to take me to the Christmas Party at Marhshall Field's, the famed Chicago department store. It was always exciting though never had the appeal of the initmate gatherings I preferred later in life. But I certainly did love the Frango chocolates you could get from them and she used to send them to me regularly.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

They made an offer he couldn't refuse.

One of the great legal tragedies in recent years has been the subtle, often blatant, reversal of the burden of proof which power hungry politicians have pushed through. Burden of proof in criminal cases means you are not required to prove your innocence but that the state has to prove your guilt. Well, that along with numerous constitutional rights, has been jettisoned by the bipartisan war on liberty that has been going on for decades.

A blatant case of this is Luther Ricks Sr. and his wife Meredith, both worked at Ohio Steel Foundry. They never had a bank account. They kept a safe in the house and all their savings were deposited in the safe. Over a lifetime, between them, they saved around $400,000.

In June two men broke into the Ricks home and found Ricks and his son there. The men attacked. Ricks’ son was stabbed. Ricks managed to get free of the men and grabbed a gun he had for protection. He shot the one man killing him. Then he made a mistake. He called the police.

The police arrived on the scene to investigate. They searched the house and discovered a small amount of marijuana which Ricks says he uses periodically due to pain brought on my arthritis, shingles and hip replacement that he had. In the end no criminal charges were filed against him. The shooting was clearly self defense and the amount of pot was so trivial that it wasn’t worth worrying about (as if any amount is). But the presence of even a minute amount of pot means the police can act in criminal ways. I say criminal not because it violates the law but because it violates the rights of others.

The police had Ricks open his safe and they emptied out his life savings and walked off with it. Under the draconian, authoritarian asset forfeiture laws the police can claim that funds are the result of criminal activity. Presumably they will argue the presence of a tiny amount of pot is sufficient grounds to claim Ricks was involved with a criminal conspiracy.

The police are not required to prove it. They need not bring any charges against Mr. Ricks. They don’t have to any substantial evidence except their say so. At this point the law says to Ricks that he is required to prove that every dollar he saved was earned legitimately. Can he do it? Not likely? Who would be able to.

Ricks could show that he’s earned far more than was confiscated and so did his wife. But that doesn’t mean the money he earned and the money in the safe is the same money. In essence he will never be able to prove that the funds were honestly earned. Consider the cash in your wallet for a second. Can you provide a paper trail showing precisely where it came from?

If you kept a receipt when you cash your paycheck would that work? Not really. It might show you got $1000 and maybe you have $500 in your pocket. But couldn’t you have also have spent $2000 and have earned $1500 illegally? It’s possible. The $500 you have left could be change from illegal activities not change from legal ones. And you can’t prove otherwise.

Under asset forfeiture the police are encouraged to become common thieves. What they steal they normally get to keep for their own budget and that can mean nice pay increases for the thugs in uniform. Of course sometimes bigger thieves come along and that is what happened here. The feds got involved. The FBI showed up and claimed the money for themselves.

So the Lima, Ohio police had to give the $400,000 they stole to the big boys from The Feds gang. Of course the Limo cops can fight for the money. But what is unlikely is that Mr. Ricks will ever get his life savings back. He’d like to hire an attorney but the cops walked off with all his savings.

Now remember why we have government. It is there to protect us from criminals who would violate our lives, liberty or property. The only problem is that criminals these days are downright kind compared to The Feds. Now and then I remind myself that I was once mugged. And that is supposed to remind me that having government there to protect us is such a good idea.

The only problem is that when I compare being robbed to being governed I keep finding robbery to be the better deal. The muggers don’t come around as often. They don’t take as much. And they don’t try to persuade me that they are doing it for my own good. In the case of Mr. Ricks it was pretty much the same thing. He was attacked by robbers and he defended himself. Then his “protectors” protected him out of his life savings and there isn’t a hell of a lot he can do about it. The gang that has the money is far too big and powerful. And if he protests too loudly they will start calling his home a “compound” and eventually it will come to a tragic end.

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hillbilly Huck and His Reading Skills

Here is our Hillbilly Huck watch for the day. Rev. Huckabee went pimping for votes in Iowa and pandering himself to the public doing a passable imitation of a modern day Buzz Windrip. He tried to be a bit of everything to everyone which lead to one embarrassing incident, as we shall see shortly.

Old “Buzz” Huckabee had on his dark suit to look presidential but he made sure he was wearing cowboy boots, which don’t really go with suits, to send the message that he’s a fascist of the people, by the people, for the people. Then he told the crowds of panting faithful Theopublicans that he was going to say something “very controversial” followed by “may I say to you, Merry Christmas.” Oh, yes, individuals saying Merry Christmas is so controversial.

Outside the bang up that Fox news and fundamentalists do every year pretending there is a “war on Christmas” there simply is no controversy. Proof of that could have been found if Buzz Huckabee had simply said “Merry Christmas” which would have gotten no publicity whatsoever as no one really cares. Calling it controversial was an attempt to create controversy and to pander to the paranoid delusions of the Theopublican mobs that worship at Huck’s clay feet.

Huck was just getting the god botherers warmed up. He then told them that, at this time of year, his “presidential campaign” doesn’t matter, just the “celebration of the birth of Christ.” Notice that if the campaign doesn’t matter that he was saying this in the middle of the campaign at campaign rally as part of a campaign speech. For something that isn’t as important he’s sure is spending a lot of time and money going at it -- especially at this time of year. We won’t even mention that there is not one smidgen of evidence that Jesus was born in December and plenty of evidence that he wasn’t.

Of course what mattered for Huck was not the birth of Jesus at all but shoring up support among the rabid fundamentalists who are his core support group. His invocation of Christmas was a way of winding up the faithful, to drag out of them a stray “hallelujah” or a robust “hosanna” and an “amen” here or there. If invoking Christmas wasn’t enough he then got down to the hard core.

“What’s wrong with our country, what is wrong with our culture, is that you can’t say the name Jesus Christ without people going completely berserk.” Well, praise the Lord and pass the campaign donation bucket I feel inspired.

Again Buzz Huckabee is being a tad bit dishonest -- he does that a lot especially when it comes to covering up for his dog murdering son and the killer/rapist he released from prison so he could kill and rape again. There is no controversy if someone says Jesus. The controversy is when theocrats like Mr. Huckabee try to merge their religion with the force of law and impose it on others.

It is the politicization of religion and the theologizing of politics that is the problem. The state is a coercive engine that imposes on others. That’s bad enough but when religious views or values are imposed by force of law it is bound to be controversial. Mr. Huckabee spent his entire life shouting about Jesus from the pulpit on a regular basis. No one paid the least attention. No controversy. Merging that theology with the presidency is going to create conflict by its very nature. Then, after intentionally creating that conflict, he pretends that others are picking on him.

And don’t think that the secularists created the conflict. For much of Western history worship of Jesus wasn’t only allowed but mandated. The Christian faith dominated and the controversies were even greater. Christians were slaughtering each other, not because they were mentioning Jesus, but because they couldn’t agree with one another over the finer points of theology. The reason that sane people eventually separate church and state was to prevent the churches from using the state to violate the rights of other churches. Mr. Huckabee wants to merge the two again and that eventually means that other churches, which don’t hold his theology, can be in trouble. We have already seen how the Theopublicans are trying to dismiss Mitt Romney for not believing in Jesus the same way they do. And it isn’t just the Mormons that fundamentalist dismiss as anti-Jesus. They say they same thing about Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, most mainstream Christian denominations, etc.

The conflict starts when they use the Christian dominance to merge religion and politics. Once their view dominates politics then, and only then, do they start culling the flock. At the Air Force Academy fundamentalists took control and they started denigrating people for being practicing Jews or for belonging to Christian sects that were not fundamentalists. They support a “big tent” until they are running the tent then they start cutting out others. When the Huckabees of the world talk about putting God into politics they mean their specific God and their specific God alone.

One of Huck’s pandering moments did backfire on him. A young girl, Aleya Deatsch was introduced to Huck and got to ask him a question. She wanted to know his favorite author. Like the political prostitute who tries to please the customer Buzz thought for a second and decided on the best, most politically expedient answer: “Dr. Seuss.”

Little Aleya was not impressed. When the press asked her about the answer she said that she was surprised by it because she figured he would be reading at a higher level. As for herself, she preferred C.S. Lewis, she said.

Labels: ,

Hillbilly Huck and his Theocratic friends.

This blog has argued that Hillbilly Huckabee is the most dangerous candidate running for president. Sure Giuliani has strong authoritarian tendencies but Huckabee is actually far worse. Giuliani isn’t the social authoritarian that he now pretends to be but Huckabee is. Huckabee is George Bush the Sequel: He’s Back, He Bigger and He’s Serious.

Amongst the fundamentalist community in the United States there is a lot of fringe groups. The fundamentalist mind is one attracted to an array of lunatic ideas. Often it is not merely theological delusions from which they suffer. They fall for a plethora of hoaxes, con jobs, urban legends and lies. Nonsense about conspiracies, the “North American Union”, the “Amero”, the “NAFTA Superhighway” and such intellectual bilge is quite popular with these people.

They are often attracted to “secret” knowledge of one form or another. That is they believe they have knowledge about the world that intellectuals, the educated and experts don’t have. They know how the “Illuminati” is running things and anyone who says otherwise is either part of the conspiracy or just stupid. Any straw that can be clutched to prove their delusionary fantasies is grabbed enthusiastically. And if the straws prove far too thin they announce that the lack of proof is itself proof showing how vast and powerful the conspiracy actually is. And the fundie types often link this directly to Old Nick himself. (Devils and spirits are another form of secret knowledge that they love to espouse.)

And among this circus of barbarity and raw superstitition there stands out one group, which to me, is the most dangerous and deadly of the patchwork of crazies that occupy the Bedlam of fundamentalism. That group is the Christian Reconstructionists. These are now just fundamentalist nutters but nutters with a thirst for power over others.

Born amongst the radical Calvinists these individuals hold to a very different theology than the normal fundie inmate. You’ve heard the story about how fundamentalists want the End Times so Jesus will return. A lot of people think that theology is dangerous -- and it can be. But the Reconstructionists hold a slightly different view.

They believe that Christians must take over the world and dominate it and impose a rigid Calvinist morality on everyone, by force of law. This “kingdom” must be created by the point of the gun on earth before Jesus will return. So one branch of fundamentalism does believe that chaos and destruction is necessary for the end of times to come about. But this other branch believes that they must take over the political structures and impose a theocracy on everyone before Jesus will return.

For them the return of Christ relies upon them taking control of the state and imposing theocracy.

Now if you read the Reconstructionists like Rousas Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, Gary DeMar, and others you will discover the sort of hell they intend to impose in the name of heaven. They insist that Old Testament morality must be imposed. This includes executing sinners like adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, disobedient children, followers of false gods (non Christians), worshippers of graven images (by which they mean Catholics) and so on. They may disagree among each other as to how many moral crimes deserve capital punishment but the numbers can run from just over a dozen to as many forty.

Some of these fanatics even go so far as to pretend they support libertarianism. Gary North is one of them. But as “Christian libertarian” David Chilton explained: “Laissez-faire, in the Christian sense, means that the state enforces God’s laws, and leaves men free to make choices.” Of course that first part about enforcing God’s law means that if you make the wrong choice they will execute you.

Gary North has tried to pretend this is libertarian by arguing that in a Reconstructionist theocracy it is the general public who executes you through stoning, like the Taliban did, and thus the government technically is still small and limited but the general population is now the excutioner of sinners. Hardly libertarian by any streatch of the imagination.

As Chilton writes: “The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which EVERY area of life of redeemed and placed uner the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God’s law. Rushdoony, North’s father-in-law, was the modern founder of this doctrine which became popular in Christian Right-wing circles.

Reconstructionist Mark Rushdoony said: “Parents will be required to bring their incorrigible children before the judge and if convicted have them stoned to death.” He even argued that under theocracy “the divorce problem will be solved ... because any spouse guilty of capital crimes will be swiftly executed, thus freeing the other party to remarry.” This sounds like one of the fanatical Taliban mullahs.

North is quite upfront with his desire to strip non-Christian of liberty and rights. He says that Reconstructionists will use “religious liberty” for themselves until they are able to “get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” He says this thing of “turning the other cheek” is temporary and should only be used while the Reconstructionists lack power. But “when Christians are given power in civil affairs, the situation is different and another rule is imposed.” North bragged that if secularists “fully understood the long-term threat to their civilization that our ideas pose, [they] would be wise to take steps to crush us.”

That’s just a surface view of the dangers that the Reconstructionists pose. So why is this important? Look at the following fund raiser for Mike Huckabee, the fundamentalist Baptist minister who many think will be the Theopublican nominee for the presidency. You will note that this fund raiser was paid for the Huckabee campaign and and that it was being held in the home of Dr. Steve Hotze, 5513 Russett Dr., Houston, Texas. Huckabee himself was there and Hotze was his host. Who is Steve Hotze? (Note: To enlarge the Huckabee invitation click on it.)

Other than being something of a medical con man, in my opinion, he is a Reconstructionist, and a prominent one at that. There certainly is some criticism of candidates over who donates to their campaigns. Certianly if someone donates to a candidate it is a valid question to ask what it is about the candidate that attracts certain kind of donors. Huckabee has gone much further than merely accept donations from some odious individuals. His campaign is paying to hold fund raisers in the homes of these people. That is more than an odious individual endorsing Huckabee that is Huckabee offering his own endorsement in return. If you want to hear Mr. Hotze preaching his Reconstructionist theories click here.

The Coalition on Revivial is one such outfit of Reconstructionists and Hotze is a supporter and signatory on their manifesto. They make it clear that they believe Biblical views apply to all “spheres of law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communition, medicine, psychology, and science.” Hotze is closely allied with Reconstructionist Gary DeMar and is on the board of DeMar’s “Worldview” magazine.

Another one of the sponsors of the Huckabee fundraiser, who is listed on the Huckabee invitation by name, is Rev. Rich Scarborough. Here is a film clip on Scarborough and his goals of imposing theocratic doctrines through politics.

What we are seeing is that the most fanatical, irrational, theocratically minded of the Far Right are flocking to Rev. Huckabee. And Hillybilly Huck is embracing them because he’s one of them. He is not merely an advocate of Big Government like King George has been. He is wants to go much further.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Naked shoppers and the clerk didn't care.

I have give the night clerk at a Scottsdale, Arizona, convenience store some credit. She was working the late shift when two young men opened the door and asked her if they could come in and shop. She said they could and went about her work before noticing that neither one of them had any clothes on.

CNN aired the surveillance tape (sort of ). But being America, where people don't have genitals apparently, they covered up with strategic blurs. No one wants to get the Federal Censorship Commission upset. Odd that the FCC gets so upset by some nudity but turn a blind eye when con men like Peter Popoff rip off poor people in the name of religion.

The clerk said the two men were very polite and weren't causing any trouble or hurting anyone. So she never even thought of calling the police. That's where I give her credit. Of course the store ought to have the right to set a dress code if it wants. And it ought to be free to refuse service to anyone for any reason it deems proper. But considering it was 3 am, that the clerk was unfazed, and that there were no complaints from anyone else I suspect she did the right thing by grinning and bearing it (so to speak)

I'm sure the store didn't make much from these guys -- after all how much money could they have on them? But if the store owner is smart she'd be marketing copies of the tape. I suspect she'd sell quite a few copies to people who would be amused to watch it without the blurs.

But here is a warning for these guys. The country prosecutor, Andrew Thomas, in Maricopa County is a lunatic Theopublican of the most extreme type. I personally think he is deranged. He is a politican with power and he uses it to smash people even non-violent people who have not harmed anyone. Let us be clear. This man tried to make a teenage boy register as a sex offender for showing Playboy to others. He will have no hesitation of filing charges against these men.

Now let us be clear what that means legally. The men will be found guilty of a sex crime because the American obsession on these matters can't separate nudity from sexuality. And these men, if caught and convicted, could be forced to register as sex offenders. That means they will be harassed perpetually because their status as "sex offenders" will be publicly posted. And that means the vigilante types will be able to target them. So while it is clear they did this as a prank the law and bad politicians will turn that joke into a serious problem that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. And with lunatics stalking people on these lists it could mean that they are physically attacked or killed.


The will to believe is the will to be hoaxed.

Oh, dear the Right-wing has been playing the victimization game again. In recent years the Christianists have taken a page out of the strategy book of the far Left. They are now claiming discrimination over everything and whining about how they are victims.

If they can’t use the state schools to preach the theological doctrine of creationism they say they are being victimized. If a gay couple can marry that victimizes Christianists (the Western version of Islamists) because they hate homosexuals and granting equal rights offends them. If they can’t use state funding or property for their sectarian message they whine they are being persecuted. Meanwhile they are working to deny other people full equality before the law. They have a very warped sense of morality.

Now a group of religious conservatives at Princeton received threats by email telling them they were not welcome on campus. The first threat got intercepted by the spam filter on campus because it contained the word “fuck”. But a second one, that replaced a couple of letters with symbols, got through. And it got widely publicized.

And then it got worse. One of the Christian Right-wingers, Francisco Nava, says he was assaulted by two men. The story was a dramatic one according to Nava. He was walking along when two men dressed in black and wearing ski cap approached him. The first asked for directions while the second grabbed Nava from behind. They were alleged to have “repeatedly hit his head against the bricks” of a wall. Nava said he blacked out but when he came through he was still being assaulted. The two men repeated the statement from the email to “shut the fuck up”.

Nava’s story got picked up and spread by the Right-wing blogs and news sites. As conservative Glenn Reynolds said: “this one did involve a concussion, which probably wasn’t fake.” The Right Coast blog reported that “The student beaten into unconsciousness was a Mormon” and a conservative thus not “the right sort of minority, and one who contributed an unwelcome sort of diversity.”

This Right-wing site even made sure that you know that beating of Nava was worse than the waterboarding used by the military to torture people because “when properly administered” waterboarding is “terrifying, but causes no permanent physical damage.” See -- a compassionate conservative if there ever was one.

One conservative columnist at Princeton said that while it is “tempting to believe that this is only an isolated incident. It is not.” He claimed it is “part of a pattern” against those “who speak out against the hookup culture and sexual liberationist ideology.” Ivygateblog reported that some believe the attack is “the work of some vicious new generation of the ‘gay Mafia,’ while yet others suspect it may be the work of some hopelessly radicalized grad student....”

The Princeton columnist said that Nava had decided he would “no longer mask my views on contemporary moral issues. As if moral busybodies have ever been tempted to shut up. Nava said he was afraid and paranoid but would be brave in the face of this intimidation. The brave Mr. Nava said “I’m still committed to having the beliefs that I do, and I hope that Princeton will show these two characters that intimidation doesn’t work.”

As for being committed -- it might be a good idea. You see there was no beating and the emails were fraudulent. The individual who sent the threatening emails was Nava himself. He knew he had no reason to be afraid. Under a police investigation Nava “has admitted to fabricating an alleged assault on himself... and to sending threatening emails to himself and others...” The police are still investigating and the university will only take actions against Nava when that investigation is completed. But it appears that the case is closed, that no attack took place and that Nava was the only person issuing threatening emails. Meanwhile the Right-wing Christian blogs have egg on their face.

Yet there were clues that Mr. Nava was a committed liar. Consider that the first message was sent out but never received. So the emails were issued again. How would someone know that the first messages were never received by the small group of conservatives who were targeted? The only way to know if the emails were received by them was if the sender was also a recipient.

Fraudulent stories are rampant on the fringe Right. One merely look at the claims about the “amero” and the “NAFTA Superhighway” as an example of the paranoid, almost delusional thinking that is common there. It appears that any story that confirms their preconceived delusions is automatically assumed credible because it is so confirmatory. Another recent story was exhibited on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” television show.

According to Robertson some fundamentalists have concluded that there is a “highway to holiness” in the Unites States which is route I-35. So these churches have been conducting “purity sieges” in towns along this route. The belief is that they will “win” these towns and that a Christianist revolution will spread out from there. As part of this “crusade” they targeted some gay clubs.

James Stabile, 19-years-old, was going into one of these clubs with some friends for drinks when he meet up with these fundamentalists. He basically disappeared that night for several weeks. When next seen he was on Pat Robertson’s TV show telling how he was a “gay atheist” who was converted when one of the evangelists “barely touched me”. He claimed: “I remember staggering backward and thought I was, like, tripping on acid. And he reported that he “didn’t feel the desire to be with men like I had felt before.”

Here’s a report on this lunacy from Robertson’s show:

You can see the report itself. So what happened with Mr. Stabile? The fundies shipped him off to one of their pray-away-the-camps to get cured. But they threw him out for being a “compulsive liar”. So the “compulsive liar” was their poster boy for this campaign? After several days Stabile called his parents and told them he was moving out. His father is the pastor of the oldest church in Dallas in fact.

After he picked up his belongings he disappeared. Apparently he was told not to contact his parents by the fundamentalist cult that had “converted” him. The parents say that when James is off his medication he has a tendency to lie and that he wants lots of attention. After four months Stabile returned home, still gay by the way, and told them that the experience with these people was horrible. The camp took $2100 in fees from James along with $150 per week in order to “cure” him. But when they drummed him out as a failure they wouldn’t provide a bus ticket so he could return home.

Apparently Pat Robertson and crew were reporting something that simply turned out to be false. But then this is a man who claims that God literally talks to him and gives him weather reports -- unfortunately the prophecy of great storms hitting America that year turned out false as well.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 17, 2007

What is it about the Huckabees and dogs?

In the infamous Huckabee Christmas Card we witnessed more than just a god-awful sense of fashion, but the Mrs. seemed to be strangling the family dog in order to make it endure this assault upon good taste. Now we discover that the strangling dogs may run in the family.

The rather large Huckabee standing beyond the Reverend, his wife, and the unhappy pooch is David Huckabee. Please note that in fundamentalist circles the sin of gluttony gets almost no mention -- they are too concerned about gay couples getting married.

David was previously employed at Camp Pioneer, a camp for boy scouts, in Hatfield, Arkansas. But David was fired. The Boy Scouts of America said it was over an “unfortunate incident” where he, and others, acted in ways “not consistent with the Boy Scout mission.”

Apparently a dog strayed onto the camp ground and Mr. Huckabee and his friends formed a lynch mob. They grabbed the poor animal and hung it to death. Many people would be appalled by that. I consider it a sign of progress -- at least they stopped lynching black folk. However, I guess the new Religious Right doesn’t have need to harangue blacks -- after all they have gays and Mexicans providing them with all the fodder they need.

Lynching a dog is illegal and one group wrote the state police asking for a prosecution over the killing. But the state police refused. And the director at the time, John Bailey, said that Huckabee’s staff leaned on him big time to avoid prosecuting the governor’s son. Bailey’s reluctance on the matter lead to his dismissal from the job. According to Bailey then Governor Huckabee called him into his office and fired him saying: “I couldn’t get you to help me with my son when I had that problem.”

And the former FBI chief in Little Rock says that Huckabee “was making a conscious attempt to keep the state police from investigating his son.”

Huckabee and his loyalists say that Bailey was fired because he alienated the police. But Huckabee’s lawyer and chief of staff do admit that they called Bailey and discussed the incident.

Of course Huckabee’s personal intervention to spare his son charges for lynching a dog is nothing compared to another Huckabee intervention. In that case, which we hope to discuss later, Mr. Huckabee personally intervened to win a parole for a convicted rapist. The rapists was a popular cause among fundamentalists at the time who entertained the notion he was innocent. Huckabee went personally to the Parole Board and had an illegal meeting with them where no records were kept. Several board members said that Huckabee personally demanded that rapist be released and the board, which previously had denied parole, granted it on Huckabee’s demand. The rapist was released and in short order raped again and murdered his victim.

I guess if that didn’t bother Mr. Huckabee the lynching of some stray dog by his own son is of little concern.


Nanny state saves worms from emotional trauma

Bureaucrats the world over are a special class unto themselves. They tend to be petty, obsessed with their own importance, and always looking for ways to expand their powers over others. Everywhere they are a plague.

Now consider the actions of one such bureaucrat who is not being named by the media. Here is the story.

Coll Bell invented a new kind of septic system which he called the “wormorator”. It was a composting toilet that used worms. But the bureaucrats in the Auckland, New Zealand, city government have never dealt with this form of septic system before. And bureaucracy is inherently conservative and clings to the past and the antiquated.

For three years Bell was fighting to use his system. One of the final straws that forced him into selling was this last encounter with a government employee. A staff member of the Regional Council told Bell that she wanted an expert’s report concerning the psychological impact on the worms.

Bell said: “She felt that the worms were being unfairly treated, being expected to deal with human feces, and that it could affect them in a psychological way.”

We wouldn’t want worms with emotional trauma. Such things could turn them into serial killers. And consider the costs to the health system if worms start putting in claims for emotional disabilities! It could be astronomical. My issue is that I have no idea how to analyze the emotional state of a worm. Of course since some con artists pretend to be animal psychics I see no reason other con artists couldn’t offer psychological counseling to worms.

I would wonder, however, what the differences are between the Jungians, Freudians and Szaszians would be on the worm question. It boggles the imagination. I can see little worm couches for use during the evaluation sessions.

The bureaucrat told Bell he would “have to have someone with the necessary qualifications to say the worms are happy.” Now I had a major in psychology and journalism at university (it was a combined major under a special mentoring program) and never once did I come across something on treating the emotional state of worms. And I sincerely doubt that anyone could do this.

Bell had had Patricia Naidu, a consultant on vermiculture which uses worms for composting, attest that the worms were in good health and breeding. And that seemed to satisfy the stickler for paperwork.

When the media contacted the officials regarding this absurd escapade the official who made the demand was unavailable but her superior, Robyn Floyd did speak on the record. She said the worm concern was a valid one since the worms would be used in septic system at a campground where sewage was heavy during the summer and less during the rest of the year. She argued that they had a “valid concern with stress on a proposed worm population from huge fluctuations in flows and thus feed for the worms.”

I can see her point. The worms are chomping away at a pile of shit quite happy and boom -- they are suddenly unemployed. Do they qualify for unemployment? What about the emotional counseling they might need from the sudden stress of being unemployed? Will the worms take to drink? Perhaps turn to crime? And what about the little worms? Will the children’s services department help little worm babies during the lean times?

It is nice to know that the welfare state is always on the lookout for new clients to help.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pity the poor South African.

Pity poor South Africa. From all accounts Jacob Zuma is headed to become the next leader of the African National Congress. And in what amounts to a one party state like South Africa that means he will be the next president. Zuma will be the first of the “liberation” presidents who is clearly on the level of the corrupt, inept, immoral leaders who have plundered the African people and created so much misery, war and famine across the continent.

The first president since the collapse of apartheid, Nelson Mandela, was well-meaning. He established some policies that were relatively decent, especially by African standards, but in many areas he began the long descent into hell. Mandela concentrated the power of the state on labor issues for instance. That meant massive interventions that succeeded in raising the level of unemployment to new heights.

As the cost of labor was raised, without labor becoming more productive, the result was that more and more low paid individuals became “no paid” individuals. The labor elite, those with jobs, didn’t even really benefit by much. Many of them were already doing better than the government required. Some workers at the margin saw their income artificially raised but this was done at the expense of the least productive, poorest workers in the country.

These measures were demanded by the ANC’s partners in government: the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party. Both groups want a redistribution of wealth but the labor they push redistribute wealth from the poorest workers in the country upwards. That is the perverse result of these groups being totally ignorant about basic economics.

Where the economy did relatively well was that the government held to some reasonable monetary policies. Unlike Zimbabwe where the printing presses have been churning out so much money that it was running out of paper (the paper has more value as paper than as money) South Africa has been far more restrained. But still the net result of ANC interventions in the labor markets has been to virtually double the level of unemployment. However, they redefined how unemployment is measured and were thus able to pretend this didn’t happen.

The second policy that Mandela implemented that was highly detrimental was the use of affirmative action. The problem here was that the individuals being affirmed were mostly unable to perform in the fields where they were hired. One dramatic example was with the police. Crime skyrocketed and one reason for that was that the government hired police based on skin color. This meant they didn’t check for criminal records among the individuals hired to police crime.

The police themselves became a major source of crime. If a private criminal robbed you calling the police to investigate was compounding the problem by helping themselves to valuables the thieves left behind. Police were routinely implicated in hijacking rings, bank robberies and murders. There was a time, and perhaps this is still true, where the chances of a police officer engaging in crime were significantly higher than for private citizens.

In the numerous armed attacks that I experience in South Africa the police were utterly useless. After one such attack the police were trying to “search” the house even though they were aware that the armed attackers had never entered the premises but took aim from outside the house. Only a very loud insistence from myself prevented that search where valuables would have disappeared. In other incidents the police officers were unable to write a report because they didn’t know how to write. Officers were hired who were incapable of driving a police vehicle -- which apparently didn’t matter since the government didn’t have police cars for them anyway.

At every level the criminal justice system was put into the hands of individuals who, for the most part, were unqualified for what they were doing. And the result was an explosion in crime. And contrary to the racist verbal attacks by Mandela and others on emigrants the main reason people left South Africa was crime not prejudice.

Under Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, the nation moved closer to the sort of rule that has kept Africa poor. Mbeki turned the ANC into a personal fiefdom. He refused to condemn the antics of Robert Mugabe and government became the quickest way for the ANC elite to become millionaires. The crime situation didn’t improve but it didn’t become worse and the unemployment rate stagnated at the new levels. The main thrust of the Mbeki government was self-aggrandizement for the ANC elite. Beyond that it didn’t change things dramatically.

As they saw it there was no need to rock the boat as the boat was doing what it was meant to do. It was turning the new ruling class into millionaires at the expense of taxpayers and the poor. Unfortunately this sort of misrule and corruption opened the door for the worst sort of politicians, those in the mould of Mr. Mugabe and Jacob Zuma is one of them.

His personal life is disgusting, having father numerous children by multiple women. He was accused of rape by a young woman who is HIV+. In a he-said, she-said scenario there wasn’t enough evidence to convict but Zuma admitted to the encounter claiming it was voluntary. However, he said that he took precautions since the woman was HIV+ -- he showered after sex. Apparently this new method of AIDS prevention is unknown to the mainstream medical community. Zuma has publicly attacked gay people, taking another page from the strategy book of Mr. Mugabe.

Zuma panders to the most bigoted, most ignorant segment of the three main ruling parties. He is utterly uninformed about basic economic issues and is not above selling out the long-term prospects for the country through ill-conceived, short-term populist measures. Again this is similar to the tragic shortcomings of Mr. Mugabe.

One can only hope that the more sane elements within the ANC will hold Zuma in check. But I suspect that as he accumulates power these groups will be sidelined. Mugabe took power in 1980 and has held it as a virtual dictator since then. As the old saying goes: “One man, one vote, one time.” The rest has been sham elections with large numbers of votes already counted before the first ballot was cast. South Africa will not go that route. It will take several regime changes to happen. But each one will be a step lower on the ladder than the previous one. Mandela was saintly compared to Mbeki who will look reasonable compared to Zuma.

Zuma has split the ruling party fairly heavily and he will face some internal opposition. But the power of office will be used to stifle that. The opposition Democratic Alliance has found it difficult to make much progress. Right from the start, under Mandela, election law was manipulated in ways to reduce the vote for the opposition. Long-time DA leader, Tony Leon, has resigned and Cape Town mayor Helen Zille has taken the reins. But it remains to be seen whether she will be as strong a party leader as Tony was before her. Certainly the deck is stacked against her and over the years ANC manipulation of the electoral system will skew the results even more.

Eventually, and I hope I’m wrong, the Zimbabwe scenario will play itself out.

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

El Capitalismo es Malo

Here we have Pedo Carreno, the Interior Minister for the Marxist regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Mr. Carreno was holding a press conference and bad mouthing capitalism as required for followers of Mr. Chavez. Mr. Carreno was interrupted by one reporter who noted that he was wearing expensive Gucci shoes and that his tie was from the pricey Louis Vuitton collection. She wanted to know if this wasn't hypocritical.

Mr. Carreno stammers a bit and then finally tries to argue that it is not contradictory because he wants Venezuela to produce these expensive goods so he doesn't have to import them. If you can figure out how that is an answer your medication is wearing off.


Petty bureaucrat centrally plans recess.

One local school principle has basically abolished recess for students. He is endowed with all sorts of theories about how to socially engineer young people and mould them into the shape he wants and recess is something he doesn’t particularly care for -- at least not the traditional recess.

He has banned students from playing tag, kickball, soccer and the like. Why? He doesn’t think students should be allowed to play anything where there are scores. It might hurt someone’s feelings. And he doesn’t like the idea that play was unstructured, that it didn’t have a central planner telling the children what to do and when to do it.

This loon is Mark Johnson of Oakdale School in Montville, Connecticut. Parents inundated him with complaints after he started his social engineering experiment with their children so he relented a bit. He will now allow kickball provided that the children do not keep score.

Johnson sounds like some chic, lame brained, trendy Lefty. He tells people that he doesn’t like games that encourage competition because competititon is conflict. The children should learn to cooperate. Of course in real life the competitve market is one of cooperation all the time. What irks the central planners is that the cooperation is done without them.

Kids play games and they play games with each other. That requires them to cooperate. A baseball game with two teams requires numerous children to cooperate. Without that cooperation they can’t form teams and play the game. What is irking this bureaucrat is not that there is no cooperation but that it is uncontrolled. He is upset because he is not directing it. This is the mindset of the bureaucrat/politicians -- the belief that others absolutely “need” them. In reality we’d be better off with them 99% of the time.

He says that when kids play on their own, without his control, “kids are made to feel badly.” His solution is to make all of them equally miserable by forbidding them from playing games they like. This man is Nanny run amok. He told the New York Times that kids can still move about -- how nice of him! For instance they “are free to walk the grounds with the school nurse” -- god forbid they walk the grounds without a nurse in tow! They can “sing in the chorus” or “pick up liter”. Pick up liter!!! His childish version of the Gulag includes having the kids labor.

Johson, with all of five years experience as a petty bureaucrat, wants to undo a tradition of hundreds of years. During their free time children play. And they play quite spontaneously. They don’t need the moronic class of petty officials to structure their play for them. If it is structured it isn’t play. Johnson just drones about how: “We’re really responsible for what kinds of people these kids will be...”

What kind? Apparently he thinks the kind of adults they should be are those who look to central authority to structure every facet of their life. His view requires people who obey and don’t think for themselves. His view pushes the idea that people are incompetent and inherently bad. They need an expert to order them about and keep them under supervision.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hoedown Huckabee: The style and the class.

Oh vey! Here was the Christmas card sent out by Mike "I love big government" Huckabee when he was the governor in Arkansas. Apparently Mr. Huckabee's fashion sense is as finely tuned as his understanding of personal liberty. I'm almost tempted to vote for the man just for the pure entertainment value of having him and his in the White House.

What is horrifyingly funny is that Huckabee thought this was presenting his family at their best -- after all this was the Christmas card he sent out as governor. You have the wife who appears to be chocking the family dog while the governor is holding the dog's paw. I guess the dog had the sense to want to flee this photo and had to be physically restrained. Would be the Huckabees were as smart as the dog. Even by Arkansas standards this has to be pretty bad.

But what family dresses the same? This looks like the uniforms at some cut rate Arkansas department store. And those stripes! Really, if you have more girth than mirth you don't go with stripes. And if the stripes aren't bad enough how about the elbow patches!

I don't think we've had this much fun since Jimmy Carter. The old peanut farmer brought us his loony brother with his "Billy Beer". Of course we had his mother, Miss Lillian who is famed for saying: "Sometimes when I look at my four children, I say to myself, Lillian, you should have stayed a virgin." And who can forget the wacky sister faith-healing evangelist, Ruth Carter Stapleton, who suggested that she could turn gays straight by getting them to imagine playing baseball with Jesus.

Huckabee would be amusing. But he's about as close to fascism as one can get in American politics these days. He's pro-war, anti-civil liberties, and thinks the federal government is best at planning the economy. Add into this wacky fundamentalist outlook and his prejudicial attitudes and you have a man who actually (and I never thought I'd say this) has the potential of being far worse than Bush. And by all indications he may actually be more brain dead as well.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sex offender lists make reoffending more likely.

The problems with sex offender lists continues to grow. The Las Vegas Sun recently ran an article about the plight of one man, Harry Berlin, 71.

Mr. Berlin moved into an apartment and was soon being harassed by various individuals. Apparently the previous occupant of the apartment was listed on the sex offenders list and there are people who get their jollies harassing (or worse) individuals they find on the list.

But when the previous occupant of the apartment left the premises he didn’t notify the state that he moved. Because the publication of these lists invites harassment more and more ex-offenders are moving without notifying the police of their new address. It is the only way they can avoid the harassment.

However, the web sites list the most recent known address of these offenders. But with more and more ex-offenders avoiding the list it means that the people living at the publicized addresses have never committed any offense. The harassers either don’t know that or don’t care. They are getting their jollies and innocent people are suffering.

Mr. Berlin found his address listed on the state list and on a county list. The state blamed the county for the problem and the county blamed the state. Each told Berlin that it wasn’t their problem and that the other agency had to resolve the matter. So far neither has.

Berlin says he now is afraid to leave his home but terrified to stay home.

The offenders registries themselves often state that they have no idea if the person living at the address listed is actually an offender or not. They know these lists are not accurate and no one knows how inaccurate such lists are. But if the states know their lists are inaccurate then what purpose do they serve?

This problem is a national one. The Dallas Morning News reports the registry “is highly inaccurate, filled with phony and outdated addresses.” The newspaper said they tried to track down offenders from the list and couldn’t locate 46% of them.

In fact, the registry makes it hard to track sex offenders. If offenders were registered with the police alone it would be much easier to track them. When the information is made public the offenders are often harassed by vigilante types. Listing them means they are forced from one residency to another. One police official said: “You’ve got sex offenders getting evicted every other week, moving, coming into to make changes and by the time we’ve forwarded the data to Austin, they’ve moved again.”

The Dallas paper reported on Robert Bhuiyan and Darren Jenkens who found a home that they loved very much. While renting it they were looking into purchasing. Doing on-line research they were horrified to discover that their address was listed on the sex offenders registry. They quickly called police, hoping to resolve the matter, only to be told “the state registry never gets updated and that it’s no one person’s job to investigate it.”

Mr. Bhuiyan is worried because the sex offender at his address had a Hispanic surname. Mr. Bhuiyan has dark hair and and is part Bengali and thus vaguely fits the description of the offender. The paper reports he “fears vigilantes will target him as he works in his garden. He’s even stopped playing in the yard with the toddler next door” for fear of being targeted. He says: “It’s scary -- the more the public is aware, the more this information is disseminated, the more of a target I am.” Yet Mr. Bhuiyan broke no law yet the sex offenders list makes him a target merely because he lives in the former home of an offender.

California has lost track of 44% of the sex offenders on its list, Wisconsin says they lost track of 29% of their list and Minnesota says that in excess of 20% from their list are missing. Many states simply say they have never verified the lists and literally have no idea how accurate their registries may be.

Many of the states are passing zoning restrictions on where individuals on the lists may or may not live. As more and more areas become legally off-limits the number of offenders registering is dropping. Remember that many of these individuals are non-violent and were arrested for relatively minor infractions. One case I read about concerned a man who literally is not allowed to live with his wife and children because he is zoned out of the area. His offense was that as a teenager he had sex with his girlfriend who was a few weeks under the age of consent. The “victim” is now his wife and has been for years.

In Maine a young man, William Elliot, 24, was on the sex offenders list. His crime was that as a teenager he had sex with his girlfriends two weeks before the law allowed. She didn’t want him prosecuted by any means. But Elliot’s name and address was published for the world to see and he was listed as a “sex offender”. Stephen Marshall saw that listing and went to Elliot’s home. When the young man came to the door Marshall shot him to death. His accomplice was the state of Maine who provided him, free of charge, with all the information he needed in order to commit the murder. We can only assume that Marshall thought, from the description on the net, that Elliot had attacked children. Marshall also killed a second person from the list and was carrying a list of names from the registry when police caught up with him. Marshall committed suicide when the police arrived. Mr. Elliott was not someone who was a “sex offender” in the way most people think of when they hear the term. Yet he died because he was added to this list.

California started keeping a registry of sex offenders in 1944 but when the database went public individuals were being listed as “sex offenders” for actions which are not considered sex offenses today. One man was put on the police list in 1944 for touching the knee of another man in a parked car. Years later the man, now married, was told he was to be put on the public data base as a sex offender. Other notorious incidents include a high school student who may have to register for streaking a school event. One man who was in jail for robbery found himself charged with sex crimes requiring registration as a sex offender because he masturbated in his own cell. In Oregon two young boys were facing registration as sex offenders for smacking the bottoms of other students. In Utah two young children faced registration for having voluntary sex with each other -- it was claimed they were “molesting” each other".

In Georgia Janet Allison had a sexually active teenaged daughter. The girl got pregnant and the father of the child moved in with the family. Charges were filed against the mother because she didn’t stop her daughter from having sex. She was charged with being a party to statutory rape. Yet none of the boys who had sex with her daughter were ever charged. Allison was convicted and was required to register as sex offender.

Human Rights Watch investigated sex registries in the United States and found that individuals could be listed as sex offenders for prostitution or urinating where someone else could see them. They say the severity of the offense is not taken into account nor is the change in behavior of the individual. Approximately three quarters of sex offenders never offend again, contrary to widespread mythology. Yet someone who has acted responsibly for decades can still be listed. They note that being listed on the registry can be devestating for individuals.
Their privacy is shattered. Many cannot get or keep jobs or find affordable housing. Registrants’ children have been harassed at school; registrants’ spouses have also been forced to leave their jobs. Former offenders included on online registries have been hounded from their homes, had rocks thrown through windows, and feces left on their doorsteps. They have been beaten, burned, stabbed, and had their homes set on fire. At least four registrants have been targeted and killed by strangers who found their names and addresses through online registries. Other registrants have been driven to suicide.
In Iowa one police official said that they used to be able to trade 95 percent of offenders. But as offenders are publicly listed and restricted to specific areas more and more of them are dropping their registrations. Now he says they can find only 70- to 75% of these people. The rest have disappeared from the listing.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma police say the same thing happened. Police say residential restrictions passed by pandering politicians means that most the city is off-limits to anyone listed on the registry. The Tulsa World reports: “Unable to find acceptable places to live, some of them eventually resort to living in areas that are prohibited by law and stop registering their residences with law enforcement agencies, police say.” Almost one-third of offenders disappeared from police records when the law kicked in. But police say they are still in the city but now the police can’t find them.

These laws are resulting in two things happening simultaneously. First, sex offenders were becoming harder to track, not easier, because the registries make the information public and the offenders were susceptible to harassment and vigilante action. The only way to avoid it was to move and no re-register at the new address. A police-only list wouldn’t have that effect. As offenders are failing to register there are innocent people moving into the last known address of offenders. Their addresses are appearing on the public lists. It is only a matter of time before one of these people is attacked or killed by vigilantes. That might wake up some people to the problem but politicians are likely to ignore it -- they rarely worry when others pay the cost for their bad decisions.

We know that sex offenders who were convicted of one crime are being attacked and murdered by individuals who mistakingly assumed they were guilty of something else. And as the politicians pander to this sort of conservative, sex hysteria the number of “offenses” that can get one registered as a sex offender is growing substantially.

Individuals who work with sex offenders to deal with their problems say the result of these laws is actually to encourage more offending. Psychologist Richard Hamill helps treat sex offenders and he says:
The risk of re-offense is much lower if (an offender) is employed, has safe housing, is in treatment and has a support system like a 12-step program or the support of families and friends.... What has happened is that ... some folks are now losing their jobs or being ostracized from their communities.
Some advocates of sex registries argue that they are necessary because offenders reoffend. Some do, many don’t. Teenage offenders are among the least likely to reoffend. Over 90% of juvenile offenders never offend again. Yet they can be listed on such registries for life. At least half the states will list juveniles on the public registry. So sex offender lists can publish the name and address of children for public consumption.

The New York Times mentions the case of one young boy who engaged in some sex play with his sister. He touched her vagina on top of her underware and she performed oral sex on him. The mother found out and told the police and the boy was placed in a sex-offender program for juveniles were “he was considered a role model in his program.” He was also put on the sex offenders registry for anyone to read.

A few years later, without him reoffending in any way, he was in high school and apparently happy and well-adjusted. He wrote a love note to a girl he was interested in and the girl’s mother found his name on the sex offender’s list. Soon the entire school was aware and the boy’s life became a living hell. As a result he was twice hospitalized for emotional problems. On one occasion he intentionally walked into on-coming traffic telling police afterwards that he simply wanted to die. Another time he was hospitalized after confessing a desire to commit suicide as well as wanting to kill some of the kids who were taunting him.

One teenage girl had touched a boy’s penis when she was a child. For that she was listed as a sex offender. She has been harassed at her school because of it and says that boys have called her anonymously demanding sex from her on the assumption that she must be willing to do such things because of the list. In this case a young girl who did something years earlier was being sexually harassed and the state was helping the harassers find her for that purpose.

As such incidents become more well known another consequence may well be that parents will simply refuse to seek counseling for children caught up in such incidents. Counselors are required to report all such incidents if they become aware of them. While a young child, who molests another child, may need counseling the result could be a life long listing that will haunt them. The counseling may be good for the child but the downside is the listing which can be deadly in some cases or severely traumatic in others. Some parents have already expressed regret that they sought counseling for their children. If parents shun counseling due to the consequences of their children being listed on the registry then the outcome may be an increased chance of reoffending -- and since some studies show that as many as 98% of juvenile offenders don’t reoffend, if they get counseling, the net result could be an increase in sex crimes as those children become adults.

The Times reporter says:
In dozens of interviews, therapists, lawyers, teenagers and their parents told me similar stories of juveniles who, after being discovered on a sex-offender registry, have been ostracized by their peers and neighbors, kicked out of extracurricular activities or physically threatened by classmates. Experts worry that these experiences stigmatize adolescents and undermine the goals of rehabilitation. “The whole world knows you did this bad thing,” notes Elizabeth Letourneau, an associate psychology professor at the Medical University of South Carolina and an expert on juveniles with sex offenses. “You could go to treatment for five years; you could be as straight as an arrow; but the message continues to be: You are a bad person. How does that affect your self-image? How does that affect your ability to improve your behaviors?”
Some of these juvenile “sex offenders” are, “are what therapists call ‘naïve experimenters’ — overly impulsive or immature adolescents who are unable to approach girls or boys their own age; instead, they engage in inappropriate sexual acts with younger children.” Others are “adjudicated for what some therapists would say is ‘playing doctor’ or normative ‘sexual experimentation.’ These are broadly considered to include sexual acts that are spontaneous, intermittent and “consensual” (legally, children under 16 usually cannot consent to sex) between youths within a couple of years age.”

Laws are sledgehammers and as the Times notes a sex offender might be someone who, as an adult, repeatedly raped children. But the list can also include individuals who as juveniles merely touched another juvenile in a sexual way. Others may include people who were just spotted taking a piss in public.

The negative results of these laws is far greater than any good. If you think they protect children they don’t. Many offenders are no longer on the lists and many of the addresses on the lists don’t contain offenders. As fewer offenders register more non-offenders are being targeted for harassment by individuals who assume they are the offender. The lists and other measures drive more and more offenders underground where the police are finding it difficult to keep track of them. As the hysterics continue more and more offenses are added to the registry which compounds the problem. The clutter of innocuous offenses helps hide the severe offenders from public scrutiny.

The sex offenders registry is a perfect example of how well-intentioned, but badly-conceived legislation can take a bad situation and make it much worse.

Labels: ,