Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Anyone who wants the office is unfit to have it.

The Constitution sets some conditions before an individual can be elected as president of the United States. I want to modify those conditions. I want to add one proviso. I think any president ought to have to prove that he or she was born on Krypton.

Krypton, you may remember, is the birth planet of Superman. So why Krypton? My first response would be because it disqualifies everybody who is running -- and wouldn’t that be lovely. But my real reason is that the voters seem to want someone with super human abilities.

The public seems to think that the president ought to do just above everything. If there is a disaster the president should be grief counselor in chief. He should assure us, comfort us, cajole us, uplift us, educate us, reform us, ad infinitum. Every flaw we have he is supposed to cure.

Apparently there is nothing the president isn’t supposed to do. The Democrats are keen to get the president to centrally direct the economy. They think he can somehow magically cure all problems of poverty, joblessness, or just about any other economic problem you can imagine. Republicans seems anxious to have the president centrally plan the world. They want him to be able to reform nations, by force, that have been screwed up for generations.

One side sees the president as our therapist and nanny combined while the other side sees him as pastor and disciplinarian. Of course the more exaggerated the titles the happier the president is about them. Many people imagine him “the leader of the free world.” Try finding that job description in the Constitution.

Hillbilly Huckabee was promising to revive “our national soul” in his campaign. Hillary wants to set the goals for the nation. King George said “that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.” Unfortunately he didn’t mean move out of the way.

When you consider the job descriptions that go with the presidency today it becomes apparent that no human being can fill the job. No one is smart enough or wise enough to wield all the power that the presidency now has. That is why the Founders never gave such powers to the presidency. If the presidency were limited to the functions outlined in the Constitution almost anyone could do it, provided he or she had a basic sense of decency. The presidency was a job that a relatively average man could perform.

That is no longer the case. Now the powers of the presidency are so far beyond anything imagined by the Constitution that it acts like a magnet attracting every power-hungry, second rate politician to the job. One reason it is so difficult to find decent candidates is that the office itself is now inherently indecent -- it is a major engine of destruction and suffering, both for the United States and the world as a whole.

The nature of the office today is such that it attracts people emotionally suited to the powers offered. That means individuals who are ego maniacs, thirsty for power, authoritarian and welling to stoop to the lowest levels possible in order to grab the things they want. When the presidency offers almost unlimited powers it attracts only the most immoral of candidates. The reason the candidates are so disgusting is that the office they are seeking can only attract the worst. Power attracts the lowest common denominator.

Any man or woman of basic decency wouldn’t want to have the sort of powers that George Bush relishes. Bush is like a pig in a mud bath. He loves the powers. In fact, he loves them so much that he keeps inventing new powers for himself. Lord Acton said that “power corrupts” and he is certainly right. But power does more than that. Power also attracts the corrupt. It appeals to those individuals who lack the sort of moral restraints that allow societies to work. The accumulation of power appeals to the ruthless and the more power that is accumulated the more ruthless the politicians attracted to the job.

Numerous people have complained that King George seems oblivious to any feedback. Not only does he ignore what people has to say, he goes out of his wan to insulate himself from contrary opinions. Staff members who disagree don’t remain staff members for long. This sort of self-centeredness, however, ought to be expected. After all, what other kind of person do you think would be attracted to the position?

In his masterful The Road To Serfdom, F.A. Hayek warned that in a totalitarian society “there is little that is likely to induce men who are good by our standards to aspire to leading positions “ but “much to deter them, there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous....” This is a sound law of politics in my opinion.

That the United States is not entirely totalitarian does not mitigate this law. There is an inverse relationship between state power and the individual character of people operating the state. As state power increases the moral character of the individuals seeking the levers of power decreases. We have reached the stage where the unconstitutional powers acquired by the presidency are so vast that I seriously doubt any moral individual would seriously seek the office. The mere desire to be president today ought to be a warning that the candidate is not fit to hold the office. The more desperate they are for the position the lower their moral character.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

The other shoe finally drops.

Now and then I do really strange things like read Federal Election Campaign reports from candidates. These reports show how much money a candidate has raised and how he is spending it. After the first report from Ron Paul, the conservative Republican, I posted to a libertarian discussion group (where many people thought Paul a libertarian) that Paul’s spending was problematic.

His finances were problematic because his spending and fund raising didn’t match. I argued he was raising funds for his alleged campaign but that his spending indicated he was trying to save money for other ventures. I thought it was a form of bait and switch My first message was meet with a credulous response from the Rondroids on the list. They assured me that as time went by we’d see Paul mounting a serious campaign. I never saw it.

In early February I wrote here:

The real question for Paul’s supporters, but one they will no doubt ignore, is what is going to happen to the millions they showered on their candidate. He spent very frugally in his race -- almost as if he wasn’t intending to give it a serious run. His financial clout could have been put to good use in the early primary states, where a few big showings would have pushed up in the pack. Instead, he spent relatively little while his surplus keep growing -- it was almost as if Paul were campaigning for president in order to raise funds for something else.

I summarized my position: “[Paul’s] donors expected [their donations] to go into the presidential campaign and I think there is a chance that a good amount of their money will end up elsewhere.”

Rondroids are a fanatically loyal bunch and they absolutely refused to believe this would happen. Some were fanatical enough that they really thought Paul would be president. I’m not religious so I don’t believe in “miracles”. But I am cynical enough to think that people often have ulterior motives very different from the ones they announce -- and this is particularly true in politics. And whatever else he be, Ron Paul is a politician.

The media pundits who watched New Hampshire were surprised. They said that the state was good territory for Paul but couldn’t understand why he never mounted a serious campaign there. They noted that he built up a substantial war chest from the Paulist congregation but he simply wasn’t spending it in a manner that would count for anything. They figured the smartest move he could make would be to spend heavily there and use that to propel himself into the top tier of candidates so he’d be taken seriously in the other states. But Paul sat on his funds and did worse in New Hampshire than he had done in Iowa. He was going backward.

Of course they thought he was running for president. I never thought that. I always suspected that Paul was running a fund raising operation for something else. I wasn’t sure what the something else was, I suspected he’d put it into his own “foundation” or that run by the author of Ron Paul’s newsletters, Lew Rockwell. You will remember the Rockwell edited newsletters caused some major embarrassment for Paul when their flagrantly racist and antigay comments were made public. Both Rockwell and Paul have “non-profit” organizations and I suspected Paul was fund-raising for them or perhaps for a new non-profit he will set up.

The Rondroids said I was wrong and that time will show how St. Paul will march into the White House in some divine miracle and that there simply won’t be millions of unspent campaign funds diverted to non-election related expenses. Now the other shoe has dropped. Paul himself has announced that he intends to channel the funds into other ventures.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Paul “may end up hitting pay dirt” from his campaign. They report that Paul is “exploring a novel way to use the millions in leftover donations: setting up a for-profit publishing company...”

A spokesman for the FEC told the paper that Paul “can use the funds for any lawful purpose, so long as it’s not personal use for the candidate.” A Paul campaign official said they are considering options including giving the money to Paul’s shell foundation, setting up a new 501(c)4 organization or something like a “for-profit corporation to produce publications.” Hopefully they won’t let Lew Rockwell ghost write those publications as well.

My view was that the Paul campaign was a carefully orchestrated fund raiser for some other venture which Paul was not revealing at the time. People thought I was just being unfair. I told them that when it came time for important primary elections we would see how Paul was spending his funds. I told them that time will tell. I admitted I could be wrong but that I didn’t think so. Now Paul’s own staff is talking about the very kind of projects which I contended were the real reason for Paul’s campaign.

As for Paul's possible publishing venture I would make the following guesses based on his actual politics. If the publishing house comes to be it will publish items that, for the most part, could be supported by Far Right types like Pat Buchanan. It won't be explicitly libertarian because Paul is not really a libertarian. He is what is known as a paleo-conservative. It will be anti-immigration, will support "state's rights" over individual rights', will expound on eccentric conspriacy theories, will have a tinge of nativist, racist, thinking. Paul's campaign was not a repeat of his 1988 Libertarian campaign. It was a repeat of Pat Buchanan's run instead. Uninformed "libertarians" might have trouble telling the difference but anyone who knows Buchanan's fringe views would know that Paul had embraced almost all of them. And that was actually a substantial rejection of libertarianism. But they don't know and they don't care. And the true believers, who said Paul wasn't raising funds for another venture will now say they approved of this all along.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

I no longer wish to be associated with the Libertarian Party.

A few days I wrote about how the federal government is confiscating laptops and removing all the data to search through it. This is being done as people travel into the country. Individuals have no guarantees that the information found there won’t get out or be used privately by others. They simply must trust the government. No reasonable suspicion is required for the feds to do this. They can do it any time they damn well please. And they will.

The purported reason is to catch child pornography. Most people are rightfully upset by the topic and the government realizes that when people are in a moral panic it is easy to get them to surrender rights. Government uses child porn the way it uses “terrorism”. It helps whip up hysteria in order to expand federal powers. And those powers will be used mostly for entirely other purposes. These are not the reasons for the powers, they are merely the excuses.

The big government crowd will attack anyone questioning such expansive federal powers of being in league with terrorists or supporting child pornography. They know that isn’t the case but they hope it will shut them up.

One would think that o alleged libertarians would understand how government works. It uses legitimate problems, though vastly exaggerated, to justify illegitimate powers. Then those new powers are used for purposes totally unrelated to the issues which were hyped to justify their existence. Those who joined the campaigns to denounce the evils didn’t actually manage to fight the evils they wanted to get. Instead they gave government a justification for doing entirely different, entirely evil, things. Join the moral campaigns of government is the quickest way to become a collaborator with evil

Now the Libertarian Party has joined the hysteria and demanded more government. The party’s Executive Director released a statement calling for “increased communication between state and federal agencies” and demanded that “more needs to be done to track down and prosecute the twisted individuals who exploit innocent children.” This is pandering to a popular hysteria which is vastly exaggerated by government goons. That the LP has joined this hysteria is shocking.

I have to wonder if the Exeutive Director is empowered to act unilaterally like this. Or did he just assume these powers the way Bush does? Who approved a spokesman for the so-called Libertarian Party to demand “more action” by the federal government?

What is interesting about these conservatives is that they flit back and forth on the issues. When bigots like Barr justify antigay views or when neoconservative Wayne Allan Root wants to justify his postions against social freedom, they resort to “let the state’s enforce” these laws. Now the LP conservatives at head office are demanding more federal action. Where in the Constitution is the federal government given any powers over obscenity?

What the LP has effectively done is call for an expansion of federal powers beyond those in the Constitution. Or more precisely they have endorsed that expansion since the feds have moved into that field long ago. This isn’t even constitutionalism. This is big government.

And why do these Right-wing libertarians believe that the federal government will act in the limited way they say they want. They want more active federal policing but ask the feds to respect rights in the process. How stupid are these people? This is like asking a lion to not eat Springbok. It goes against the very nature of the beast.

Former LP presidential candidate, Harry Browne, made an important point on the war in Irag and Afghanistan. He said that libertarians who supported the war seemed to foolishly believe that the government would fight the war precisely the way these “liberventionists” wanted. Every advocate of expanded government power makes the same mistake. They always believe that it can done in the clean sort of way that they want.

What the morons, who took over the LP, think is that federal agents will have good evidence before they act. They seem to believe that only “perverts” will be targeted by this increased “federal action”. And they seem to think that the feds will act within the Bill of Rights. They probably believe in Santa Claus.

Government doesn’t work that way. Government is a sledgehammer swatting flies. You can bet it kills some flies but the collateral damage is massive. Libertarians used to know this. So what the hell is happening with the LP?

I fear it has been taken over by conservatives who are pissed at Bush and the GOP. It is no longer libertarian. These conservatives have run bigots for office who make my blood run cold. They ran conspiracy nuts who ranted like crazed Birchers. They invited the bigoted drug warrior Bob Barr to join the party and put him on the National Committee. Now we have the spectacle of a neocon like Wayne Allen Root in the presidential race. Two of the top three contenders in the LP presidential race are not even libertarians. And the head office morons seems fine with that.

Now these bureaucrats issue a press statement calling for “more federal action” in policing obscenity laws.

My activity in the Party goes back three decades. I’ve run for office for the Party and given hundreds of hours of my time to party activities. I’ve certainly questioned whether the LP was the best strategy but always was glad it existed. No longer is that the case. I now believe the Libertarian Party is destructive to the libertarian message. The kind of people who are running the national office, along with candidates like Root and Barr are a clear indication that some of the worst kind of conservatives are dominating the party.

As of today I no longer wish to be considered sympathetic to the Libertarian Party. It has strayed too far away from liberty toward social conservatism. It is no longer the party of social tolerance but one that promotes vile bigots like Barr. It no longer wants less govenment but puts out press releases demanding more federal action in a field not authorized by the Constitution.

My previous dismay about the state of LP had me believing that it was not worth funding simply because it wasn’t worth the resources it flushed down the electoral drain. Then my complaint was that the party was an inefficient use of resources. Now I see it very differently. The LP is not just an inefficient way of promoting libertarianism, it is actually destructive to that cause. The Libertarian Party ought to die. It is harming libertarianism.

I’m sure that when that party falls apart, and I believe there is a good chance that the campaign teams of Root and Barr will do a lot to bring about this destruction, that the fringe Right types will go back to the GOP. The party of principle sold out the principles and now it is merely seeking power. And as it seeks power it destroys the libertarian message. I have to say that at this time I consider the Libertarian Party as the enemy of libertarianism. I hope its death is quick and complete. And I urge libertarians to withdraw their membership from the party, cease funding the party or its candidates, and pledge not to vote for any LP candidates. There are plenty of good, educational campaigns that one can fund instead. But money given to the LP or its candidates helps betray the libertarian message. Boycott the LP.

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Film review: La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon)

I rarely get out to the theater these days though I watch more films per week than the average person -- I just do so from home. So it was a treat to go out with friends last night. That they took me to see La Misma Luna, or Under the Same Moon, made it a double treat.

I was attracted to this film for several reasons. First, it was a serious film tackling a serious issue. Second, the story line was compelling and interesting. Third, the story itself is informative. Fourth, it portrays the lengths to which people will go to be with those they love. Fifth, it shows the role that government plays in stifling the happiness of individuals. Sixth, the cast for the film was perfect, the acting was superb, the dialogue was believable, the plot was compelling. You get my drift. For me this film was as near to perfection as I could reasonable expect.

Filmed in Mexico and the United States La Misma Luna tells the story of a family split by the American border and circumstances. The back story is that Rosario Reyes, who is played superbly by Kate del Castillo, has a young son, Carlitos, played by Adrian Alonso. Rosario’s husband left her and she is left to provide for Carlitos by herself. She makes the difficult decision to leave the boy with her mother, Benita, while she seeks work in the United States.

Every Sunday morning at 10 am Rosario calls a pay phone where Carlitos is waiting to speak to her. Her absence of four years is breaking both their hearts. But the money Rosario earns by cleaning people’s home provides the cash which she sends to Mexico to keep her son fed, clothed and educated.

Benita’s health is obviously an issue. She is the only one who can really care for the boy, other than his mother. But her death forces the boy’s hand. He takes the money he has saved from what his mother sent him and begins a journey across the border to be with his mother.

Throughout the process the United Government stands ready to prevent the boy from being with his mother. His first obstacle is crossing the border but with the funds he has saved he finds a way. He faces the dangers of crossing illegally because he must.

But once in Texas he faces the difficulty of getting to Los Angeles while avoiding La Migra (immigration authorities) and other scoundrels. Along the way Carlitos learns the difficult plight of the immigrant worker and realizes just how much his mother must love him to endure that life.

Carlitos is forced to team up with others in order to survive. Unfortunately for him his first “friend” is a junkie who is only helping because the boy has money that he wants. But when the money is lost the junkie, in desperation for cash, decides to trade Carlitos to some unsavory individuals for the money the boy had promised him. Only the intervention of a local woman prevents the transaction and she takes it upon herself to help Carlitos get to Los Angeles to be with his mother.

Through various circumstances, again involving the hated La Migra, Carlitos finds himself in the company of Enrique. Enrique is played by Eugenio Derbez. But Derbez clearly didn’t learn the lesson about never starring in a film with dogs or children. Derbez may be one of Mexico’s most popular actors but tis Alonso who steals scene after scene.

The juxtaposition of Carlitos and Enrique is fascinating. Enrique is the fish out of water, the adult who doesn’t how to be an adult. He lacks the self confidence that Carltio exudes. Carlitos walks into any situation and masters it through a combination of charm, intelligence and hard work. At one point it becomes unclear as to exactly who is protecting whom. Alonso never flubs his role for a moment. He is a child who plays an adult trapped in a child’s body.

Along the way Carlitos sees the plight of illegal immigrant workers. He realizes that their illegal status means they are easy victims for the unscrupulous types who prey on the vulnerability of others. As the film moves back and forth between the parallel stories of mother and son we also see what Rosario must do in order to survive. She cleans the homes of wealthy Americans for a low salary. When one employer decides to fire her Rosario asks for her back pay only to be told she can’t have it. The employer taunts her with a telephone challenging her to call the police and then saying: “Oh, that’s right. You can’t. You’re an illegal.”

This sort of exploitation, of course, is the plight of anyone who is a legal outsider. That is, someone who is not violating the rights of anyone else, but who is considered a criminal by the law. Such situations always subjects the outsider to exploitation by the unscrupulous. (Another film that portrays this reality, though in a different context, is Victim with Dirk Bogarde, 1961.)

La Misma Luna is a winner. It not only tackles a controversial topic but does so without sermonizing. The plot is believable and the dialogue avoids being cheesy or melodramatic. Each of the roles seems perfectly cast, including an appearance by America Ferrara of Ugly Betty fame. This is more than a film with a good libertarian message, it is a film that works as a film. I recommend it highly to anyone who loves good films or who cares about individual freedom. If you are passionate about both then run to theater now. See the trailer below.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

California wine industry worried over cold.

The headline on the San Francisco Chronicle said Shiver of Worry in Wine Country and was the front page story on the edition I saw.

California has a reputation of being warm and sunny. The year began pretty wet and cold. The rain eventually went its way but temperatures have, for the most part, remained unseasonably cool. And this cold weather is hurting the famous vineyards in northern California.

David Stiener, who grows grapes for the wine industry says: "This is the worst frost season I've seen since I started in this business in 1971." The executive director of the Sonoma Country Grape Growers Association, Nick Frey, said: "Usually, the frost mainly only affects the low-lying areas, but this year there are areas that haven't been frosted in 10, 30 years, maybe never."

In a typical year grape growers resort to frost-protection machinery only a couple of times. But this year growers have used the devices up to 30 times. Growers in traditionally warm areas don't even own frost-protection machinery. And they are suffering the worst.

Dennis De La Montanya has a vineyard in Petaluma and says that all new shoots on his vines were destroyed. If things improve the vines can bud again but with only a fraction of their normal growth. The end of April ought not be cold in California but temperatures went below freezing on three occassions in recent days. While De La Montanya's vineyards are in traditionally warm areas he has decided to invest in frost protection machiner to be prepared for future cold periods.

The Chronicle reports that grapes are a $1 billion dollar industry in the state and current estimates are that 10% of the crops have already been lost.

In Washington state the fruity industry is also suffering because of the frosts. On the other side of the continent unusual frosts are alos inflicting damage. In North Carolina the Childress Vineyards lost 80% of their crop. And while Georgia was also hit with frost farmers there think they managed to survive with minimal damage. In Arkansas late season frosts are also threatening fruit crops, a problem that hit Tennessee as well.

Even Australia, in the southern hemisphere, has a problem with frosts. While the north is suffering from late frosts the south is suffering from early frosts that caused "widespread damage to crops" in Queensland. One farmer there said that these are the earliest frosts in his lifetime. Similarly unusually cold weather is hitting farmers in India.

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Who is the most consistent, war mongering, neo conservative in the United States Senate? This is a man who is such a war advocate that he rushed to hug Bush during his State of the Union ramble. In fact, this Senator is so rabid about war that he deserted his party because it wasn't sufficient militaristic.

Surely that last bit gave it away. Of course the culprit is Joe Lieberman the ex-Democrat Senator for Israel He's supposed to be representing Connecticut but his loyalties lie much farther away. Old Joe is such a war fan that he has wet dreams over George Bush blowing up half the Middle East. Talk about Dr. Strangelove.

What is even stranger is that the conservative Republican Wayne Root is trying to market himself as a libertarian. But what libertarian would contribute $1000 to Lieberman's campaign? Root would. Only a short while ago he was promoting a McCain/Lieberman ticket. But when Republicans attacked gambling he got pissed --- mainly because he earns money from saps who buy his gambling tips. He's a pissed off Republican but that doesn't make him a libertarian and surely $1000 from Root to Lieberman has to count very negatively against him. You can see the documentation that Root gave this money to Lieberman here.

He's also been trying to soft-pedal his non-libertarian positions. Previously he said that gays should not be allowed to marry. Now he says it is a "state's right" position. His campaign site says the war on drugs failed but he doesn't call for ending it just experimenting with legalizing medicinal marijuana but he'd rather leave it up to the states. How does a conservative pretend to be a libertarian -- by avoiding the social issues by claiming only the states should be involved.

How this "state's right" position applies to various federal issues he avoids saying. The federal government taxes income and forbids gay couples from filing joint returns thus penalizing them. Leaving marriage to the states doesn't solve that problem. The federal government forbids gay Americans from bringing a foreign partner to the States, something it doesn't do for heterosexuals. Leaving marriage to the states won't solve that problem. The federal government prevented a man who was legally married to his same-sex partner from changing his name on his passport to reflect his marriage. How would leaving marriage to the states resolve that? It doesn't The "state's right" position is not a position at all, not for Barr and not for Root, it is an attempt to evade a position. Claim that the state's have total jurisdiction and most people stop thinking.

What Root and Barr and other conservatives need to answer us is what they think they states ought to be doing. Does Root think it is wrong for the states to deny gay couples the right to marry or not? Does Root think it is wrong for the states to wage a war on drugs or not?

These "ex" Republicans also evade another issue. When they drone on about state's rights why is it that we never hear them specifiy what limitations on powers the states ought to have. The traditional view of the conservative is that the states can practically do anything they damn well please. They will say the federal government can't establish a state religion but that the states may. They say the federal government ought not run the war on drugs but that the states should.

The Barr/Root/conservative position is saying the states have the rights to violate individual liberty in ways which they would forbid to the feds. But what powers do would they fobid the states from having? They don't tell us because they aren't trying to enlighten us as to their purported federalism. They are trying to smother inquiry into their social positions.

My questions to them are simple. Should any individual state be allowed to conduct a war on drugs? Should the individuals states grant marriage equality to gay couples or not? Should the states have the right to engage in censorship? Should the states have the right to restrict sexual acts between consenting adults? Should the states have the right to promote the Christian religion?

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The war on your privacy.

I want you to do a thought experiment. In your head list some of the things you may have on your laptop that you don’t want anybody else to see.

You might immediately think of illegal things and protest. But don’t. Surely there are entirely legal items that you have on your laptop which you wish or need to keep private. Let me list some possibilities to get you going.

Do you have bank account information on your computer? Maybe you have passwords for banking sites which would allow others to transfer your funds if they got hold of them?

You might be a businessman who has classified corporate information on your laptop which, if leaked, might give a competitor an advantage over you and do severe harm.

Maybe you sat down and wrote some highly personal thoughts about aspects of your life. You might have been depressed and wrote about some suicidal thoughts. Or perhaps you wrote about how you cheated on your partner or how they cheated on you. You might have written down fantasies that you never intend to carry out.

Maybe you have some highly personal photos of yourself or your partner.

Once you have your list go to the second part of this thought experiment. How would you feel if you discovered that someone had gone through those items? Would you feel violated? Angry? Disgusted?

Remember I have stipulated that you list items where you have done nothing wrong. With that in mind would you still have highly negative feelings about someone violating your privacy in this way?

After all what kind of low-life would do that to someone? When we discover that people have actually gone through other people’s computers in this manner we would think very poorly of the person who did it. In fact we would probably call it criminal. What kind of scum would do this?

That’s easy to answer. U.S. government border nazis. Here are the facts.

Government border “agents” regularly search the contents of laptops. Now you may remember something about “reasonable cause” being involved when it comes to government searches. Not anymore. The courts have ruled that border thugs don’t need reasonable cause. They may search your lap simply because they don’t like your face.

If a border agent finds a rather attractive model with her lap top coming through he might decide to see if she has any personal photos on her laptop. He can then force her to boot up the laptop and demand that she open any files he requests including information as to her where she lives, her phone number or diaries about sexual encounters if she has them there. If he finds nude photos of her that is sufficient for him to confiscate the computer for a more thorough search -- this in spite of the fact that the photos are entirely legal.

He can then walk off with her laptop and it disappears into the bureaucratic bowels of federal agents. Now nothing illegal may be found. But when our model gets her laptop back, which can be months later, she will never know who copied her photos and passed them around. And the courts say this is all legal.

The government argues that at borders the federal thugs can do anything they want and you have no right to complain. Actually, if they can do whatever they want you have no rights whatsoever. One expert, Mark Rasch, a former head of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit, described the position of the Feds:

The consequences of the government's argument would be that they could, at the border, seize your daughter's iPod and lock her up if they thought the songs were not licensed. They could copy the entire contents of your computer, read your e-mail, medical records, communications with doctors, lawyers, or priests. They could examine deleted files, create a database of your friends and associates, and provide any or all of this information to the CIA, Interpol, the NSA, the FBI, or for that matter, the Iraqi intelligence services. All without probable cause, suspicion, or warrant, because you had the unmitigated gall to cross the border with your laptop.

And don’t think encryption will necessarily help. They also take the position that they may force you to provide the keys to open any encrypted files. In fact, I would bet that they would particularly want to investigate encrypted files.

The government contends that this device called a laptop is exactly like your suitcase. Well, perhaps it would be if you routinely kept all your private correspondence, your banking account details, private photos, and reams and reams of documentation about your life, in your suitcase. Of course you would be over the weight limits so it is unlikely you would do this.

If you have a suitcase sitting out in the open you don’t fill it with you most personal information. But your expectations are that you laptop is private. The government says that all this personal information makes no difference. After all it is reasonable to “protect” the country from . (Fill in the blank with whichever bogey man is the government scare story of the day.)

Mr. Rasch, however, points out that if “protecting the country” makes all such searches reasonable then there is no limit to what the King, I mean the government, may do. But what about flying within the country, where you never cross an international border? Remember that none of the 911 hijackers grabbed an international flight -- they were all on domestic flights. Mr Rasch writes:

A search at the border is permissible because it is "reasonable." It is "reasonable" because the government has a good reason to do it -- to protect the borders. But, just try flying domestically without being patted down and having your luggage examined. Certainly such a "search" on a domestic flight is "reasonable." Oh, and on a train or bus as well. Try entering any federal property, such as a federal office building, military facility, or courthouse. You and your belongings are subject to search, but does this give carte blanche for examining, copying, or analyzing the contents of electronic devices at any of these places? I think not.

While Mr. Rasch might not think government should have such powers remember we are dealing with the Bush Administration. And the Bush team doesn’t believe that government power is limited in any way. Bush has said that he can do anything he damn well pleases just as long as his pea brain tells him that it is for “national security.”

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More Gore bore. Snore!

Folks, I’ve got bad news. Grab your vomit bags. Al Gore is going to make a sequel to his propaganda film An Inconvenient Truth. Filled with lies, exaggerations and plain old bullshit Gore’s first film was popular with the chic “we-need-a-cause” Hollywood crowd and environmental panic mongers. More importantly it made Mr. Gore millions. Fear has been very, very good to Al.

Gore knows his bread is buttered by environmental hysteria so he will give us another does of his “end is nigh” message. Hell, it costs a lot of money to heat his mansion. So St. Al will be back and he won’t change his tune. He made too much money the first time.

Gore says that the little people may do little things to “save the planet” but it won’t be enough. We need big action -- the sort of action that only really big government can provide. Changing lifestyles is not going to work. Only state control will work. “I believe that while it’s important to change light bulbs, it’s far more important to change laws.” He said that only more laws “will ultimately solve this problem.”

The average person, he says, doesn’t take his fear message seriously. Too many people don’t fear climate change because they “think, ‘It it’s never happened before maybe it won’t every happen in the future. That’s a rule that can work but the exceptions can kill you. And global warming is one of the exceptions.”

If you read that carefully you can see Gore is saying that the world has never before experience global warming or climate change. It has. Numerous times. If anything we have experienced almost perpetual climate change. The globe has warmed and cooled and warmed again. Our current period of global warming goes back to the end of the Little Ice Age. Gore is trying to make it sound as if this has NEVER happened before.

Lest you think he gave up his hysterical comments note that he said there are “exceptions [which] can kill you”. And “global warming” is one of them. Gore’s message is that global warming will kill “you”.

Gore tossed about some of his typical exaggerated bullshit: “The entire North Polar ice cap is melting....” he told the paper. Any lie will do when it comes to his panic campaign. Not only is the North Pole supposedly melting but Gore says it could vanish any day now. “If you had told me a few years ago that we would be facing a situation where the entire North Polar ice cap was going to imminently disappear, I might have thought we’d certainly get people’s attention, and yet only to a limited degree.” Got that? Gore says the entire North Pole is going to disappear “imminently”. That means “impending” or “at any moment”. We aren’t talking about in a 100 years. We are talking about in the next few years. That is pure bullshit.

In a recent interview, where this information is found, Gore was asked about some of the Hollywood celebrities who have massive “carbon footprints”. Al is now part of the celebrity set with their lavish lifestyles so this hits close to home. He was asked if the “gas-guzling lifestyles” of his celebrity crowd should be reigned in. The interviewer says that with comment, “Mr. Gore shifts uncomfortably in his seat.” Gore was told that David Beckam, individually, is supposed to have the worse “carbon footprint” in history and then asked what he would say to Beckam about his lifestyle.

Gore’s answer is rather incredible. When it comes to the celebrities types he hobnobs with, he says: “I don’t think that’s my place. I don’t want to get into personally criticizing anyone.” SWith the elite it is not Gore’s place to say anything. But when it comes to common people “there ought to be a law” and Gore knows what kinds of laws. He can’t criticize David Beckam but he has no hesitation to regulate you!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Not all asses are equal.

I don't follow soccer, or football as it is known in most the world. But the former managing director of Italian team, Luciano Moggi, gave an interview on Italian television which strikes me as rather amusing. Make no mistake about it, the man is a moronic bigot, but sometimes bigots are such morons that they make an ass of themselves in public. And Mr. Moggi appears to have done that.

His concern was that of gay men playing soccer (football). He told the press: "There are no gays in football." But if there were, he says, he wouldn't hire them. Thinking about it I haven't known any soccer players who were gay. I did know some rugby players who were and they thought soccer was for sissies.

The comment that I thought was scripted by the comedy writers at Saturday Night Live was this one: "A homosexual cannot do the job of a footballer. The football world is not designed for them, it's a special atmosphere, one in which you stand naked under the showers."

It seems odd to me that, of the various aspects of soccer he could have mentioned, the only thing he could come up with was "stand naked under the showers." Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I would think that of the things that could happen, having a gaggle of naked men standing in the showers was clearly something gay men would excel at.

Photo: I admit, I cheated. They're rugby players not football players. Don't be shocked, this isn't the first photo of an ass on the site. Remember, I did run photos of Bob Barr a couple of times.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Libertarian Party convention biased in favor of one candidate.

This blogger has had serious reservations about the Libertarian Party for some time. My concern is that it seems to run a lot of individuals for office who are clearly not libertarians. Now the Libertarian Party is holding their presidential nominating convention in Denver and it looks rather uninteresting. The speaker line up, for the most part, is rather poor.

My biggest concern is that the organizers are appearing to treat the candidates unfairly. They are giving the worst candidate a leg-up over all the others. Right-wing, social conservative Bob Barr has been given a prominent speaking slot at the convention prior to the presidential nomination.

Barr is the only presidential candidate being given a speaking slot. He is a keynote speaker and given a full hours worth of valuable time before the actual vote. The only other time that the other candidates are scheduled is a presidential debate, which they will share equally with Barr.

I suspect that the conference asked Barr to speak prior to his announcing his candidacy. And while I think it to be questionable to give Barr any speaking slot, because he is so anti-libertarian on so many issues, I can understand possibly having him speak on a topic where he actually is good -- there are a couple issues where he is a libertarian.

But any such justification, weak as it was, for having Barr as a keynote speaker went out the window the moment he announced he wanted the LP nomination. By keeping Barr as a keynote speaker the organizers appear to be endorsing the most unlibertarian of all the candidates. Even if they aren’t intending to do that they give the appearance of having done so. At the very least they are giving him an unfair advantage. Surely any sense of honesty or fairness requires that Barr be removed as a speaker immediately.

There is nothing the organizers can do to diminish the publicity they have already given Barr. But they can rectify this bias in favor of one candidate by deleting Barr from the speakers list. No one seeking the LP nomination should be given such an advantage by the convention organizers. Nor is it possible, or wise, to offer all the candidates one hour of speaking time. Such an offer would dramatically increase the number of rather sad candidates seeking the nomination. Every wacko in the party, and there are many, will crawl out from underneath his rock and announce his candidacy for no other reason than to numb the delegates with his own idiosyncratic views on some arcane and unimportant topic.

While I question the validity of inviting Barr to speak at all, due to his incredibly bad record in in Congress and to continual statist positions, I can see no justification for the conference organizers to continue to give Barr this unfair advantage. It smacks of bias on their part, which I don’t think was there. However, if they don’t rectify the situation they will prove that the bias exists. Either that or they will show they have no concept of a fair convention.

Photo: Previously this blog has discussed the disgusting record of Bob Barr. I referred to his giving a major address to the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, which was the old White Citizen's Council under a new name. This antiblack, antiJewish organization is basically a front for Klan types. (Of course such bigotry fits well with Barr's antigay bigotry.) At the time I did not have the photo I include here. It is a bit grainy but it shows Bob Barr as he is speaking to this group of bigots -- gee won't the LP look great with him as their candidate! Bob whines that he didn't know he was dealing with racists. I would have thought the flag of the pro-slavery Confederacy behind him would have clued him in. Certainly two minutes on the groups website would have removed any doubts. Accepting Barr's excuse leaves the debate between whether he was just stupid or just bigoted. Of course, the third alternative is a bit of both. Take your pick. As for me I'd rather have a candidate who is neither.

UPDATE: We have just heard that Bob Barr will not be a keynote speaker and that he has been replaced. Conference organizers did the right thing and deserve support doing the right thing. Now let us hope the delegates do the right think and reject Barr completely.

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A zero tolerance policy that we do need.

Some years ago I watched the ACT-UP lunatics in a conflict with San Francisco police. I yelled out: “Hit ‘em.” A woman standing there asked me which side it was that I wanted hit. I told her: “I don’t care, they both deserve it.”

I mention the story because I came across a story that at first sounded like a “hit ‘em” situation. It was a conflict between a lawyer and a cop. But as I read the story it was clear to me that I was rooting for the lawyer.

Eric Bryant is the attorney and he was in the SanSai Japanese Grill in Portland when he say Chad Stensgaard driving his police vehicle. Stensgaard parked in front of the restaurant, right next to a “No Parking” sign and came inside. Bryant assumed, at first, that this must be official police business. But Stensgaard instead sat down and watched a baseball game on the television while waiting for some takeaway. Bryant had even pointed out that the parking was illegal and the cop gave him a smart-ass reply.

What the cop didn’t know what was that Bryant knew the law and that meant he knew that he could file charges for parking violations against the police officer. In fact the police officer was violating numerous laws -- as is usually the case with one offense due to over-legislation. Stensgaard was involved with illegal parking, illegal stopping, disobeying parking restrictions on state highways and illegal operation of an emergency vehicle. Total fines for all the charges could be $540.00. And Stensgaard got a summons to appear in court on the charges.

Bryant says the matter is simple: police should not be allowed to misuse their authority. Alas, police think that the purpose of police authority is so that they may misuse it. Let us take this story from the LaCrosse (Wisc.) Tribune as an example.

An anonymous blogger in Whitewater, Wisconsin has been critical of the police chief and how he runs things. He has been critical of various aspects of the town government as well. He recently criticized government roundups of alleged illegal immigrants for instance. Police chief James Coan did not take kindly to be criticized so he had city employees begin an investigation in order to try to find out who was publishing the blog.

Coan used his position in the police department to get two detectives, the director of public works, the information technology officer and the city clerk involved in searching for the identity of the blogger -- all at taxpayer’s expense. Coan had the blogger listed as a “suspect” even though he had broken no laws.

Coan tried to bullshit his way out of the mess he created by claiming that the blogger was a “potential threat” because he was “so extremely angry at me”. Police Detective Tina Winger, wrote e-mails justifying the use of tax funds for a private vendetta by the police chief because she perceived the author to be “an anti-government radical.” Oh, dear what with Frau Winger make of someone like the real John Adams or Tom Jefferson or people like that? She said that the blogger “is someone we want to keep an eye on...”

Coan and his Keystone cops went so far as to interrogate people and threaten them. All of these were people he wrongly believed to be responsible for criticizing him in the blog. One man falsely accused of writing the blog was Laird Scott. He said the police chief came to his home to interview and repeatedly told him to stop publishing the blog.

City Manager Kevin Brunner tried to excuse these illegal actions by saying it was valid and a means to “engage in some civil discourse with that person”. That the police told other people, not connected with the blog, to stop publishing doesn’t sound as they were interested in dialogue. It sounds like they were interested in intimidation. And Brunner says he doesn’t have any idea why, if the goal was dialogue, that the blogger was called a “suspect” and “person of interest”. I have an idea, Mr. Brunner. The reason is simple: your excuse is pure crap and you know it. Your cops were acting illegally and using their authority to try to intimidate someone they found annoying, but who was not violating the law.

The police also did license plate searches. Federal law says that law enforcement can’t use such information for non-law enforcement issues. Coan says he was within the law to do it anyway because criticism of himself was “a threat” and that he had “other police-related reasons” which he couldn’t divulge. So the city manager says it was done for a dialogue and the police chief says it had nothing to do with dialogue but was because criticism of himself is perceived as a threat. I guess the city manager is incredibly stupid in this case. At the very least his excuse ought to correspond with the excuse used by the police chief.

The real blogger told the local paper that his goal is to see government reformed. Mr. Scott who was falsely blamed by the police chief of being the blogger says he thinks that is wrong. He thinks the blogger is too optimistic. “John Adams wants to repair the city government. I think it’s broken and can’t be fixed.”

So reading about the attorney who laid traffic violations against the police officer in Portland gets my support. I applaud his effort. Police officers need to stay within the law. They don’t. And they get away with it most of the time. In my humble view we have a lot of criminals wearing police uniforms and using the law for their own personal agendas. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of all police officers deserved prison and another quarter deserved to be sacked.

There is a lot of talk of zero tolerance but this zero tolerance is always applied to the wrong people -- school children, the pubic, etc. If zero tolerance makes sense anywhere it makes sense when applied to cops who violate the law. Mr. Stensgaard should pay the traffic fines. In addition he should removed from duty, without pay, for some period of time as well. Police chief Coan in Whitewater, however, ought to be sacked entirely. The city employees, including the police detectives, who co-operated in his vendetta ought to be relieved of duty without pay for a period of time as well. The two police detectives should get double the time of the civilian employees since they are supposed to be “law enforcement” officers.

It is time to have zero tolerance of police officers who abuse their authority.


Hoax or inspiring tale?

I tend to think Andrew Sullivan is a rather gullible individual so when he started promoting the following video I was skeptical.

This has all the hallmarks of an urban legend. So I decided to research it. And the more I tried to verify it the more I got suspicious that this story is an invention.

Wintley Phipps is a black vocalist. He is also a Seventh Day Adventist ministet—an occupation that in my opinion indicates he is prone to believing myths. He does some good, of course, but that doesn't make this story true. In this video his claim is that all Negro spirituals can be played with just “the black notes” on the piano. That the black notes are black is not related in any way to Negro spirituals. He also claims that the song Amazing Grace is based on these notes and that the composer, John Newton, basically heard the tune from slaves.

Newton was a slaver. Phipps implies that when Newton became a Christian he wrote this song and suggests that he borrowed the music from African slaves. This is connected, in some vague way, to the idea that you can play the song with “just the black notes.” I keep getting the impression that this man believes that there is some connection between the keys on the piano being black and the slaves being black.

The black keys are known as the pentatonic scale. But Phipps insists that in early America it was called the “slave scale.” Slaves did use the pentatonic scale. But that doesn’t mean much. Pentatonic scales were also common in Celtic and English folk music, and can be found across Europe, Asia and Africa. They are not unique to Africans, or to slaves.

A lot of people on the Religious Right have pushed the idea that Newton’s conversion to Christianity turned him from slaver to abolitionist. The implication is that this double conversion was behind the song Amazing Grace. And Phipps seems to imply that Newton, in perhaps some symbolic gesture to the slaves, borrowed their own music as the tune. That interpretation of the facts is almost entirely false.

Newton did covert and he did change his life. He stopped swearing, drinking and gambling. But he didn’t stop slaving. He continued on as the captain of a slave ship for several more years. When he became sick and thought he would die he got converted all over again. He recovered and continued to work in the slave trade. It was six years after his conversion that he left the slave trade, but only to become a minister, not because he was opposed to slavery. He continued to support slavery. Newton did become an abolitionist decades after he became a Christian—clearly the new conversions were not related. His first abolitionist tract was only written 33 years after he converted to Christianity.

Now, we turn to the question of whether Newton stole the music for Amazing Grace from the slaves. It is generally believed that the music is a variant of a song entitled New Britain, which most certainly is not a slave ditty. It is believed that the music is a Celtic folk tune associated with the bagpipes. Slaves had nothing to do with the music and Newton didn’t steal the tune from them and apply it to the song. Newton didn’t even apply this music to his hymn. The music and Newton’s words were only first combined after his death. He had nothing to do with the music. Even if Newton heard the alleged ballads of the slaves he didn’t write the music associated with the hymn. It is simply not possible that the tune came from African slaves.

What about this alleged “slave scale” that Phipps talks about? Considering that the pentatonic scale was common among European cultures it strikes me as odd that a commonly used musical scale would be associated only with slaves. The white settlers in the United States, in the early years, were largely of English and Scottish origin. Since the pentatonic scale was common in their folk music I find it hard to think that they associated a musical scale they commonly used with that of slaves.

Phipps contends that the term “slave scale” was used commonly in early America. I find no evidence for this whatsoever. If it is true, I would think Mr. Phipps could provide some document, from that period of time, that uses the term “slave scale” in reference to the pentatonic scale. Attempts to do on-line searchers only bring up Mr. Phipps as the source for this claim. Nothing older backs up his story. That indicates to me that Phipps invented his story himself.

I tried Google books since they have added tens of thousands of out of print old books to their system. They have large selection of books from the period in question. There is not a single book from any period of time on Google books that uses the term “slave scale” in reference to music. I find that odd for something which Phipps says was a common reference.

My conclusion is that once again Andrew Sullivan has fallen for what Penn & Teller would call “Bullshit.”

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Our analysis of Zim election confirmed today.

A couple of weeks ago I posted several pieces about the sham election in Zimbabwe. I argued that instead of following the votes the government was trying to negotiate election results. As I said then: “Welcome to Africa where elections are negotiated not won.”

Now the BBC has reported that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change admits that they were in negotiations with Mugabe’s regime to come up with election results that would satisfy the government and the opposition. Morgan Tsvangirai said that the talks broke down after a few days. This substantiates the analysis we put on the election at the time it was taking place.

The BBC has further news that is truly troubling. Weapons and ammunition from the Communist regime in China have landed in South Africa destined for Mugabe’s regime. South Africa has said they will allow the weapons to travel through the country on the way to Zimbabwe and will do nothing to prevent their delivery.

Mr. Tsvangirai has called on South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, to step down from his role of trying to bring about reconciliation in Zimbabwe. Of course Mbeki is a horrible negotiator because he’s in Mugabe’s pocket.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Victimless crimes and the traitors to capitalism.

What is meant by a victimless crime? It is when a voluntary action between consenting adults, is made illegal. It is victimless because all individuals who are involved are consenting. Too many people, especially on the Left, think of victimless crimes only in terms of things like using drugs or hiring a prostitute.

Yet most victimless crimes are what you would call capitalist acts between consenting adults. If the law says I must pay you X dollars per hour but you offer to work for half that, and I accept, that is a victimless crime.

I’ve been party to victimless crimes of this type. I needed some painting done. So I asked someone to paint my walls in return for $10 per hour. The painter agreed. But politicians, who are not party to my contract, had decided that they wanted different terms. They demanded that I not hire the painter I wanted at all. He didn’t have a permit, called a Green Card, from the government to earn money.

In my eyes what I did was negotiate a labor contract with another human being. It was his business and it was my business. It wasn’t your business or anyone else’s. We voluntarily engaged in a capitalist act. For that the clowns in public office think we were criminals.

Of course there are real criminals involved in the labor market. For instance just yesterday hundreds of people were kidnapped by armed thugs. The armed thugs were Immigration agents of the federal government.

At Pilgrim’s Pride (misnamed as you will see) hundreds of workers were carted off by these armed gangs. What had these people done? They were cleaning chickens. There is a serious crime for you. These were people who were doing the horrible crime of working so they could feed their families. Yet somewhere between 300 and 400 of them were shackled by armed government goons.

I should note that the collaborators who helped arrest these people were the cowards who run Pilgrim’s Pride. The original Pilgrims came to America to seek freedom and a better life for themselves. They did it without the permission of the inhabitants of this continent as well. The arrested workers did nothing different from what the Pilgrims did. No charges were filed against Pilgrim’s Pride because they were the snitches involved. They said they “terminated” everyone that got arrested. I hope they had the decency to pay them what was owed them but I suspect they didn’t. By the way you can bet I won’t be buying from Pilgrim’s Pride.

These employees were called “illegal workers”. Think about that for a second. Work is supposed to be good. Nature makes it necessary for survival. We applaud people for being hard workers. Yet we have this asinine concept of “illegal work”. If work is a virtue then making it illegal is the height of folly. Would we ban honesty, criminalize charity, or outlaw compassion? There is often so damn little virtue in the world that the very idea that we make virtue illegal is beyond comprehension.

The xenophobic nativists and fear mongers argue that these workers “took” jobs from Americans. Apparently they think there are entitlements to jobs. But a job is a voluntary contract between consenting adults. No one can take a job from another person because NO ONE has a right to a job or owns a job. Jobs are not property. If I hire a so-called “illegal” to paint my walls I didn’t take a job from you. It wasn’t your job. The job only exists when I consent to hire someone and then only if they consent to work for me in return. If I didn’t offer the job to you I didn’t take it from you since you have no right to demand I enter into an involuntary contract with you. You have no more right to demand jobs from me than I have the right to demand work from you.

This is what is so baffling about modern conservatives. These hypocrites of the Right fraudulently claim that they believe in capitalism, free markets, private property, the sanctity of contract, and small government. But they propose policies, and push ideas, that entirely contradict those ideas.

The job I offer is a private contract between me and whomever I wish to hire. But the conservatives nationalize the job market and make government a partner to every transaction. They demand that I only hire people that they approve of. They think they have a right to rig my contracts according to their own wishes and desires. That sounds like bloody socialism to me.

A free market is one where people trade voluntarily. Yet these conservatives want to ban voluntary trade unless they first approve of all the participants in the exchange. That is not a free market. The modern conservative hates free markets. Sure they say they love free markets. Many a wife-beater claimed he really loved his wife as well. Actions speak louder than words.

I find it hilarious that these fake “free marketeers” whine that immigrants just “want our welfare” and then they cheer so loudly when people are arrested for working. The people working were not living off welfare. They were making a living by cleaning the damn chickens that we eat.

Conservatives prattle about the sanctity of the family. So what have they pushed for? They want harsh, cruel enforcement of laws that prevent people from finding productive jobs that enable them to feed their families. Apparently the are so pro-life that would happily force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term but then don’t give a damn if the child starves because daddy and mommy are forbidden to work people who are willing to hire them. Someone once defined a conservatives a someone who believes a fetus has rights right up until the moment it is born. Sad, but true.

The modern conservative, especially the brain-dead types that have infested the Republican Party are walking contradictions. They are so mentally screwed up that they can’t see that they are just as much statists and advocates of big government as the worst sort of socialist. The only thing that separates the Republicans from the Democrats is that Republicans want to cram Jesus down your throat while forcing you to obey them.

The biggest advocates of regulated labor markets today are Republicans. They want absolute state control over who you hire. They want to create a data base of approved workers which you must use before you hire anyone. If your employee doesn’t appear in that data base the Republicans will send thugs out to punish you. And the Republicans call that a “free market”.

The political Left may oppose free markets. But the political Right is actually worse. They are traitors to free markets. They are the kind of lowlifes who, in a battle against a tyrannical enemy, open the back door to let the enemy in because they are cowards. Conservatives are worse than the enemies of free markets because the feign a love for them while betraying them every single chance they get.

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Schools go overboard with sexual harassment concerns.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bob Barr feels the heat so he lies.

I understand that the fake libertarian, Bob Barr, is feeling some heat for his record of antigay bigotry. As a result he supposedly released a letter via his pimp, Steve Gordon. I have yet to see the letter but a source I trust quoted it as claiming that Barr authored his disgusting Defense of Marriage Act “in order to short circuit the Republican Party’s power move to ban gay marriage on the Constitutional level. My plan worked. States maintain their rights in relation to same-sex marriage and civil unions.”

Pardon my language but this is utter and complete bullshit. Let us dissect the several lies that Barr has packed into this one statement.

First, Barr did not stop a move to ban gay marriage on the Constitutional level. The reality is that the Republicans never came close to changing the federal constitution to include this hateful statement. At no point was a federal constitutional ban likely. Barr is lying about the threat that existed. True, Barr’s party used antigay rhetoric to rile up the fundamentalist nutters but Barr helped them in that. But support for a constitutional amendment never reached the level where such a measure was at all likely. Barr was not standing up to that bigotry. He was playing up to it. He was using it to further his own career by appealing to antigay bigots.

Next, Barr’s main purpose was to restrict the federal government from granting any rights of any kind to gay people. The so-called “state’s rights” issue, which is conservative not libertarian, was only one facet of the bill. Barr took the legislation much farther than protecting the alleged rights of states. His bill said: “The Federal Government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.”

Barr testified before Congress in 2004 about his legislation. He said he was “a proud conservative” worried about “basic moral norms” and “creeping ‘contextual morality’”. He says because of these concerns he authored the Defense of Marriage Act. He said: “For the purposes of federal law only, DOMA codified marriage as a heterosexual union.” True, it left the states in the same position they have always be in -- able to write their own marriage laws. But Barr’s goal was to force the federal government to recognize only straight relationships.

Please note that this was a shackle on federal recognition of the equality of rights for gay couples. We have covered how that legislation means gay couples are taxed at higher rates than straight couples with the same income. The reason is that the federal government can’t do otherwise because of Bob Barr’s bill.

We have discussed how gay Americans are forced into exile overseas if they wish to live with their foreign partner. The reason is that the federal government is forbidden to treat gay couples as they would straight couples so the gay foreign partner is not recognized as being in a relationship -- no matter how long that relationship has lasted. Barr’s law forces the federal government to treat homosexuals like second class citizens when it comes to immigration.

Recently a gay man married his partner in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal. He legally changed his name to reflect a combination of the two names reflecting his status as married. But he was denied a passport with his married name and the federal government specifically said they were doing this because of Bob Barr’s bill.

Note that all these results have NOTHING to do with the alleged rights of states. It was mandatory discrimination on the federal level that Bob Barr pushed for and got. Bob Barr is an attorney and he knows what his bill was meant to do. By focusing on one aspect of it he and ignoring the rest of the bill he is dishonestly selling a lie to libertarians.

Now let us ask about this so-called right of the states to act in a bigoted manner. What Barr is arguing, and what conservatives like him argue, is that the states have the right to violate equality before the law. Social conservatives whine about federal tyranny and then whine when they can’t have tyranny at the state level.

The state’s rights argument is bogus from a libertarian perspective. States may have constitutional powers but states don’t have rights. Governments can’t have rights. Only people have rights. And what Barr wanted was to make sure that the states could continue to violate the rights of gay people to equal protection before the law. A real libertarian says that the states don’t have legitimate authority to violate individual rights. Barr’s position is that the states do have such authority and he was acting to protect that.

Next ask yourself why Barr introduced this legislation. Social conservatives had terrified fundamentalist voters with the gay monster lurking to destroy their families. They told them that without action a judge in San Francisco or some other “liberal” haven could change the law unilaterally and “ram gay marriage” down the throats of good Christian America. To counter this so called threat Barr authored his bill. His goal was to prevent a judicial review of discriminatory marriage laws as applied to homosexuals. The whole purpose of the legislation was to stop gay marriage. Now he makes it sound as if he was trying to preserve the ability of states to allow gay marriage.

In his testimony Barr said he was protecting federalism and allowing states to make their own laws. He acknowledged that might mean they would make “bad decisions”. By that he seemed to imply gay marriage was a bad decision. I think that is precisely what he meant. He also argued that actions by local governments or by the Massachusetts Supreme Court granting rights to gay couples “were wrong because they took the decision-making process out of the hands of the people.” So his federalism doesn’t mean the political process deciding it actually means a popular vote on whether or not a minority ought to have rights. Apparently Mr. Barr thinks rights are anything the majority likes.

Mr Barr now claims that marriage ought not be a matter of government. But what he proposed was even worse. “Matters of great importance, such as marriage, need to reflect he will of the people....” So the will of the majority should determine marriage. That isn’t taking marriage out of the hands of government. That is making private relationships a matter of the will of the majority. Under Barr’s logic interracial marriages would have remained illegal and interracial couples would have faced incarceration for loving one another.

Barr laid it out clear. He does not want gay couples to have equal rights before the law. I quote his testimony: “To be clear, I am absolutely not a supporter of granting marriage rights for same-sex couples any sort of legal recognition...” That is not libertarian. He argued that marriage should be regulated by the will of the people and he argued that gay couples should not have “any sort of legal recognition” at all.

What does it mean when you say they should not have any sort of legal recognition. It would mean that gay couples couldn’t own property jointly. It would mean that if one of them were hospitalized the other could be banned from visitation because he is not a relative. It would mean that gays get taxed at higher rates. It would mean that they can’t be with their partners under many circumstances. Straight people can’t be forced to testify against their spouse in court. Gay couples can be forced to testify against each other. Barr was clear. He said he doesn’t want “any sort of legal recognition” for gay couples. That means zero recognition, nothing, nada, zilch.

Barr says, “I oppose any marriage save that between one man and one woman.” How rich. In Barr’s case that is marriage between one man and one woman, then another woman, and then another woman. Yet this hypocrite wanted to lecture the country on the moral decline of marriage.

Barr is distorting the facts about his legislation and trying to justify his bigotry. If his legislation was good enough reason to doubt his libertarian principles his lying about the legislation is reason enough to doubt his integrity. His testimony was clear. He proposed this law to make sure that gay couples have NO rights at the federal level. And he expressed his wishes for the states: that no rights, of any kind, ever be granted to any gay couple for any reason. And that is the bullshit that he and his pimp are trying to sell as libertarianism. It’s bad enough he is an antigay bigot but it is disgusting he now lying about it.

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Poor are educated well by Pakistani private schools.

Private education is for the elite. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. It is the wealthy and well-off who can “afford” private education. So private schooling is inherently elitist and destroys community cohesion by separating people into economic classes. This is the sort of rot you get from Marxists and teacher’s unions.

So it might surprise you that private education thrives in the poorest places on earth -- even more so than it does in the wealthy nations. Researchers associated with the World Bank, Harvard University and Pomona College recently studied the state of education in Pakistan. What they found is that “private schools have become a widespread presence in both urban and rural areas, providing parents another option for investing in their children’s education. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of private schools increased from 32,000 to 47,000, and by the end of 2005, one-third of enrolled children at the primary level were studying in a private school.”

In the past the typical Pakistani lived in a village with two government schools. But a survey in Punjab province found that half the population “lives in villages where parents can choose from 7 or 8 schools.” The researchers now describe the education sector in Pakistan as “an active educational marketplace with multiple schools vying for students whose parents are actively making educational decisions.”

Even though the government teachers are better paid, and have more education, they don’t seem to do as well at their main task of educating students. The World Bank reports: “Children in private schools score significantly higher than those in government schools 1.5 - 2.5 years of additional schooling to catch up to where private school children are in Class 3.”

The superior results aren’t because the private schools cost more. They actually cost less. The World Bank says “it costs half as much to educate a child in a private school (Rs. 1000 per year) compared to a government schools (Rs. 2000 per year).” The main reason for the higher state expenses is that costs are “driven by higher teacher salaries”.

The fact is that when education is provided via the political system then teachers become a special interest group with enormous clout and they will tend to redistribute educational spending toward themselves. This is less of a problem in private education because private schools are not run by politicians needing to placate special interest groups.

Even the private schools in the rural areas are affordable for the poor. “In a nationwide census of private schools in 2000, the fee in the median rural private school (50 percent of all private schools charge lower fees) was Rs.60 per month. According to household survey data from the Pakistan Integrated Household Survey, 18 percent of the poorest third sent their children to private schools in villages where they existed.”

What the poor are spending is substantial when compared to state spending. The survey found that “Out-of-pocket spending by households on children’s education is higher than what the government spends on providing education through public schools for the richest one-third” of the rural households in the survey. Even when they looked at the poorest one-third of households they spent 75% of what the state was spending. In spite of state schooling being “free” parents are investing substantial funds in the education of their children outside the state system. And apparently they are happy with the results they are receiving if growth rates in private education is any indication.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How gays are overtaxed due to bigotry.

Under current legal standards in the US gay couples are put at legal disadvantages that don’t exist for straight couples. And under Bob Barr’s Defense of Marriage Act they are incapable of resolving those difficulties no matter how many private contracts they sign. The federal government is required by Barr’s law to discriminate against gay couples. Here is one example of that applies.

CNN reports on how federal tax laws penalize gay couples in ways that don’t impact straight couples. The federal government demands tax returns from US citizens under threat of violence. Gay couples are among those threatened. But the feds give straight couples options that gay couples are forbidden under Barr’s legislation. CNN gives these examples:

Take two couples where one partner has a taxable income of $20,000 and the other makes $40,000. If they can file their federal taxes jointly, the tax bill would be $8,217.50. Filing separately, the combined bill would be $9,032.50 -- more than $800 higher.

Another disparity comes with the federal government's treatment of employer-provided health insurance, which also affects unmarried heterosexual couples.

For example, Dan Jessup is a project manager at JPMorgan Chase in Indiana. His partner, Bob Chenoweth, is self-employed, running two businesses out of the couple's Mooresville, Indiana, home. So Chenoweth gets health insurance through Chase.

But Jessup is required to count the company's cost of his partner's benefits as additional income for tax purposes.

State and federal taxes on those benefits cost about $1,800 per year, Jessup said.

"I certainly think about it every payday," when the extra withholding is taken from his paycheck, he said. "If you think about 10 years, $18,000 is a lot of money. That could buy me a pretty nice car."

The reality is that same-sex couples help subsidize the tax bills of straight couples. Gay Americans are taxed disproportionately to subsidize straight couples. This holds true for social security as well. Under Barr’s legislation the federal government is required to punish same-sex couples. These are just a few examples of how that happens. Low-class homophobes just go out and bash gays. Upper-class bigots, like Barr, just let the government due their dirty work for them. That some people have stretched the meaning of libertarian so widely as to include this bigot is beyond belief.

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Thinking through the Eldorado situation.

Can you have free will without freedom?

For the most part I would say that is impossible to totally destroy freedom. So the question is basically moot. But there are cases where such utter lack of freedom is possible.

By freedom I mean the word in the broadest sense of the term. I don’t just mean the absence of coercion. I mean the ability to think rationally, to know options and then to make choices.

What brings this up is the raid on the polygamist Mormon sect in Texas. The incident came about because a 16-year-old girl allegedly called the state welfare agency and told them she was forced to have sex with older men in the cult. This was followed by the raid.

Of course if a girl, or a boy for that matter, is forced to have sex with anyone then a crime is committed and something ought to be done. But some people are arguing that the cult members are consenting individuals and, baring force, should be left alone.

I normally would accept that most adolescents are mature enough to consent to sex -- which is not the same thing as saying they ought to consent. But are these teens even remotely normal?

From what I know of this sect I would have to say that these kids are not normal. Or more precisely I would have to argue they are not in anything close to normal circumstances. And there are cases where circumstances can destroy the ability to choose.

Most of these kids have no knowledge of the outside world. They were born into the cult and raised in the hothouse environment of the church. This means they had no contact with the world outside. They know nothing about the choices they actually do have. They don’t see television. they don’t listen to radio. They are schooled by the sect. All their friends are in the sect. All their family, at least those they are allowed to have contact with, are active in the sect.

In addition, their obedience is guaranteed by tying it into their fear of God and the afterlife. They are told that if they don’t obey the church leaders they can lose their own soul.

These kids live totally isolated from the world. They live in a knowledge vacuum. And they have been indoctrinated into believing that they will suffer eternal damnation if they don’t obey the church. The major tactic of every cult, to train people into total obedience, is to isolate them from the wider world. Authoritarian political structures and authoritarian religions act in similar ways and isolating their "members" for the rest of the world is critical to that.

Of course you get similar rubbish from Christian fundamentalist sects as well. But the difference is that no other Christian sect, that I know of, has been able to totally isolate their young from the world and from knowledge of the world.

Even those sects which put their children in fundamentalist schools fail to accomplish the total isolation that the fundamentalist Mormon sects achieve. Other fundamentalists may restrict the child's access to movies or even restrict television watching --or ban it. But they live in the wider community. Their children know how other people actually do live. They know that there are other ways to live. And they know that people who leave the church live normal, useful, productive, happy lives.

Such kids may buy into the teachings of their own church but they have knowledge of other options. But the fundamentalist Mormons live in such isolated conditions that all such knowledge if obliterated. These Mormon sects have left the world entirely. They don’t live around other people. They live in completely isolated communities. And since the kids in these communities have lived in this total isolation since birth they literally have no knowledge of other options.

Now add to this the pervasive and destructive influence of their theology. They believe that they are the only true church in the world. They believe that their “souls” are at risk outside that church. If they rebel against the church they risk losing everything they know and have.

In these communities the homes are owned by the cult. Question the cult and you lose your home.

You may think that the normal requirements of earning a living would end this isolation. But not so. Very few adults from the cult work outside the community. Income for the community is heavily reliant upon various entitlement programs. The multiple wives are breeding machines--the breeding is what keeps the sect alive--and the law sees them as “unmarried mothers” eligible for welfare due to their “unfortunate” circumstances.

In addition, the cult literally controls the polygamous cities. The federal and state governments have all sorts of programs to fund cities in need. And these cities are “needy” by most standards. A huge percentage of the community subsists on welfare. They are officially unemployed. There is rampantly high “illegitimacy” rates. The poverty levels are very high. And all this means that state and federal governments shower them with money. They get money for their roads, money for their schools, money for their police, money for everything. They literally have millions handed to them every month. To a large extent, the ability of these cults to survive is because they are creatures of the welfare state.

Much of this mess is directly attributable to the screwed up welfare system which funds these communities and the sects that establish them. Government funding programs are begging for abuse and the fundamentalist Mormons know precisely how to use the system for their own benefit.

This fact makes it hard for me to pity them as victims of an overzealous state. They rely on that overzealous state to subsidize their existence.

I have a difficult time seeing the teens raised in this community as having the ability to make choices. They lack any context for such decisions. This is not the case for most young people. But it is true in these isolated sects. If that is the case, and if these young people have been mentally incapacitated by their conditioning by the sect, then some action against the cult may be justified. But for myself, I’d cut off the funding first. But that is too libertarian for politicians.

The politicians will remain happy to shower these sects with the income necessary for survival. Remove the funding and the sect will be forced into interaction with the wider community. Paradoxically the one main justification for state intervention is the lack of free will caused by their isolation from reality. Yet the state funds that isolation and makes it possible.

If you look at how Muslims in Europe are breeding fundamentalist terrorists you find the same thing happening. These groups are insulated from the wider culture around them, and thus isolated from it. They rely on the welfare state for their existence. And that allows them to alienate themselves from the culture in which they live. That makes them more resentful of the culture and they find it easier to hate that culture. The end result is they are easier targets for recruiters for terrorism. When fundamentalists of any sect are able to isolate themselves from the world around them they become lethal. You will find that in most cases they are unable to do that without the state making it possible.

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