Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Can we finally put this stupid rumor to rest.

One of the silliest rumors to spread around the blog, mainly from the crazies on the Left (as opposed to the crazies on the Right-- Go Ron Paul.) has the story that Sarah Palin didn't really give birth to her son, Trig.

The theory was that Palin faked her pregnancy to cover up for her daughter who was allegedly the real mother. The evidence for this nonsense was a convincing as the loony theory about Obama not really being born in the United States. Two arguments were used. One was that no photo of Palin looking pregnant could be found -- but then people pushing a wacky theory tend not to look for evidence that proves them wrong. I've seen photos of Palin where she looked pregnant to me.

The second "proof" was that after the nutters started spreading the story Palin didn't come forward with a birth certificate to prove them wrong. Sorry, but that proves NOTHING. It is not incumbent on her to prove lunatics wrong but for the lunatics to prove their case. And they gave nothing close to evidence to prove it.

But this last weekend we got some nice proof. Remember that Palin's daughter, Bristol, was pregnant. She just gave birth to a healthy, 7 lb son. Seven lbs. is clearly not premature. Pregnancy is a nine month affair. Bristol's son was just born, and that was only eight months after Trig Palin was born. It would be highly unusual for a woman to give birth even nine moths after her previous birth but giving birth eight months later just isn't in the cards.

Bristol Palin gave birth to her son eight months after her mother gave birth to her brother. That really ought to shut up the crazed conspiracists who find a plot under every bush. But, if past experience is any indication, the conspiratorially minded will find some bizarre explanation to prove that they are still right with their unfounded accusations. One reason I try not to debate with people with this mind-set is that they are simply NOT open to reasoned debate.

By the way, Bristol Palin is a born-again fundamentalist and living proof that the abstinence education program of the religious Right is relatively worthless. Picture is of Palin and the father of her child, Levi Johnston.

In addition, it should be noted that the infant's other grandmother, Sherry Johnston, was just arrested in a drug sting. She supposedly offered the pain killer OxyContin to undercover drug warriors. I despise a government that won't allow people to medicate their pain in the name of protecting them from "drug abuse". At least I can give the Palin extended family for giving us examples of why we need to end the government war on sex and the government war on drugs.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Political Correctness insanity

We blogged about this incident when it happened. Here is a short documentary about the incident. It is still ridiculous, of course.


What the hell is going on with American bladders?

I have to admit that I'm astounded. I turn on BBC America for a little tellie and what do I see: a commercial for catheters. A very straight-faced woman is speaking into the camera telling us how her previously having to "reuse" catheters caused bladder infections --- surprise, surprise! And then she urged people to call the company advertising to buy catheters that are covered by some sort of government program so that they will never have to reuse their catheters again. She says this "changed my life."

Okay. But really, are there so many individuals in need of catheters to warrant a television commercial on BBC America? Exactly how many orders could a commercial like that generate?

And it can't just be people with bladder problems that are being appealed to but very low income people with bladder problems who have a penchant for watching British television. I say low income because curiosity got the best of me and I checked; a box of 30 catheters come out at 59¢ each. And unless I accidentally stumbled upon the cheapest source in the country I would suggest that they could be found even cheaper.

The shockingly bad "Shock Doctrine" of Naomi Kline.

Naomi Klein is the Anne Coulter of the Left. Neither bother to offer substantive research, both grossly and intentionally misrepresent their targets and both invent false accusations with glee. Johan Norberg discusses some of Klines egregious examples. I found it shocking that Kline simply lied to people and claimed that Milton Friedman was a supporter of the War in Iraq. Milton had spoken out in opposition to the war numerous times before died. But Naomi doesn't let a minor detail like the truth get in the way of her politics.

She spent a lot of time misquoting Friedman and stripping comments out of context to often ascribe to Friedman positions that were the polar opposite of those he was actually taking. Klein claimed that libertarians somehow engineer a crisis, like the Iraq war, to push for changes that they get through any other way. To do this she had lie about the position most libertarians took on the war -- for instance she claimed the anti-war Cato Institute was a "neo-conservative" think tank!

Interestingly now that the economy has gone into melt-down due to policies opposed by libertarians, it is the Left, particularly Obama and Bush, who are using the crisis to push through massive "reforms" guaranteed to turn the crisis into a long-term depression. So, in fact, the Left is happily using this crisis to push through "reforms" that would never pass under other circumstances. So who is using Klein's "shock doctrine"? Just the Left.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Marxism wasn't all wrong but when they were....

The Marxists were right --- sort of. Actually it would be remarkable if they were consistently wrong. But Marxism is not consistently wrong. But, often when it is wrong, it is wrong in astoundingly gigantic ways. The clearest example of that is Marx’s labor theory of value. I don’t blame Marx too much for that error, after all he borrowed it from Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

And Smith probably got the idea from John Calvin’s theology on work. However, unlike Marx, Calvin was consistently wrong holding almost a perfect record of monstrously erroneous views.

But the Marxists did get a few things right. Marxists often discuss a situation where a powerful elite exploit the masses for the benefit of the elite. Marx saw a combination of feudal lords using state power to exploit the masses. And that was correct.

Anyone investigating the world of that time would see that there existed an aristocracy which took the wealth produced by the peasant classes for their own benefit. In these cases the productive effort of the masses was truly expropriated via the coercive apparatus of the state.

Marxism went wrong when it assumed that the same held true for any wealthy “aristocracy” including those who became wealthy by voluntary exchange. Marx missed the key difference between the two systems. The feudal lords amassed wealth through involuntary confiscation of the work of others. The entrepreneur, however, combined the various factors of production: labour, capital, resources into a product that had greater value than the individual value of the factors of production.

His value was not derived from exploiting labor by refusing to pay them the full value of their labor. In fact, his profit was derived by creating new value using existing resources and labor. He added to the economic pie, he didn’t take pieces from it. More importantly, as the Marxists entirely missed, this system of production drove up the value of labor. Labor became more and more valuable. Eventually it reached the point where the workers were considered “middle class” and living in relative comfort compared to previous generations.

But, while Marxists have been wrong about the labor theory of value and the economic process of free exchange, their basic description of the exploitation process is not that far off the facts. There always have been a class of exploiters who use state power to confiscate the wealth that others produce.

And, contrary to what the Right says, but consistent with what Marx has said, that class is a wealthy, powerful, politically-connected elite. And they continue to work pretty much the same way the feudal aristocracy worked. They use state power to strip the working many of their wealth in order to benefit themselves.

But this is not inherent in the market system. A depoliticized market is not one where this sort of wholesale plunder can take place. The method by which this exploitation is engineered is through the use of political power. The state intentionally distorts the market through various interventions. These interventions then channel wealth from the masses to the favored few.

We have seen numerous examples of this. For instance, the political elite, including Obama, have actively worked to legislate wealth away from the poor to the wealthy corporate elite who produce ethanol. Worse yet, this results in driving up food prices world-wide and condemning the world’s poor to hunger. I can’t think of another area where state intervention has been so detrimental to so many, outside the armaments industry.

There should be no surprise that a class of individuals would enrich themselves by imposing hunger on others. It has happened before.

Marx saw the businessmen as another version of the aristocracy. And he wasn’t all wrong about that. There are two kinds of businesses. There are those who produce value and voluntarily exchange it with others and there are those who use political pull in order to redistribute wealth in their favor. The aristocrats of the feudal era were what Archer Daniel Midland is today.

Consider the era of the Corn Laws in England. These laws were passed in 1813 and basically put heavy tariffs on imported grains. This, of course, drove up grain prices in England. And most grain was produced on the estates owned by the aristocracy. These individuals had political power and they used that power to drive up food prices in order to line their own pockets with extra profits.

But there arose another group of men who were businessmen but who operated without political favoritism. These merchants and industrialists thought that this protectionism was harmful to everyone but especially to the poor. They demanded the repeal of the Corn Laws. The socialists of the time, unable in theory to distinguish between these groups, sided with the aristocrats and argued that the merchants wanted to lower grain prices so they could pay their workers less. (It should be noted that when repeal came about these merchants did not push down wages, but as labor became more productive, labor earned vastly more, not less.)

The classical liberals of the day, men like Richard Cobden and John Bright, fought hard to repeal the Corn Laws. Of course the aristocracy fought back. The Duke of Richmond founded the Central Agricultural Protection Society in order to defend the politicization of food markets. And, as already noted, the socialists of the day ended up siding with the aristocrats.

Conservatives like Benjamin Disreali said repeal of the laws would destroy the “traditional landowners” and they were right. But classical liberalism is not conservatism.

While the Marxists dream of a working class movement, the reality is that the first successful such movement was the coalition of merchants like Cobden with the workers of England. The socialists, arguing that they were thinking of the workers, while siding with the aristocrats, were unable to attract England’s workers to their side. The working classes instead were strong supporters of the Anti-Corn Law League. They knew they were paying too much for food and knew that repeal would improve their lot.

Out of the movement to repeal the Corn Laws the Liberal Party was formed. Socialists realized that liberalism had captured the imagination of the workers and was a political force. So they decided to capture the Liberal Party for their own use. Where the liberal and the socialists disagreed was that the socialists believed that the use of state power could be used to achieve liberal goals. The liberals believed that the use of state power was inherently conservative in nature and would entrench the status quo--not change it.

Eventually the socialists took over and a series of compromises by the liberals of the day lead to the death of classical liberalism. Socialists now “owned” the term. But the liberalism they created was truly conservative in nature. An interested account of this is found in Oliver Brett’s 1921 book In Defense of Liberalism. The New York Times ran a review of the book in 1921 which captured Brett’s thesis: The Socialist as a Conservative. If you wish to read this review, which I recommend, you can get a pdf version here.

In the United States a similar perversion of liberalism took place as the Progressive gradually took over the term. It was during the Progressive Era that American liberalism was weakened by the socialist rot. And, once again, the socialists ended up in bed with the very aristocrats who were redistributing wealth to themselves. The Left historian Gabriel Kolko argued that the Progressive Era was not a time when government came to dominate business but when the business elite came to dominate government.

He documents how the corporate elite, facing declining profits and declining market share, used the Progressive movement to politicize the marketplace. Once the markets were politicized it was easy for these rich and powerful men to manipulate the political process in order to enrich themselves. And they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Progressive Left.

What the Marxists missed all along is that the problem of exploitation is a problem of political power. Be it the feudal lords of the past, the English aristocracy and the corn laws, or the Robber Barons and the regulations of the Progressive Era, the common thread was not that an elite existed but that political power was concentrated where they could get at it. In each case they used the state to transfer wealth to themselves, and in each case, the socialists, because of their economic fallacies, have been their accomplices.

Of course, the same thing is going to happen in spades with the bailout and “works” projects of Obama. The corporate elite have lined up for the biggest transfer of wealth from workers to the elite in the history of the world. And the Progressives ike Obama are, once again, their willing accomplices. The flaw in Progressive thought is not in their goals, for the most part. The fatal flaw of Progressivism is its worship of the omnipotent state coupled with an almost total lack of understanding economics. As long as Progressives continue to believe that statism is the answer to every problem faced by humanity they will repeatedly be used by the corporate elites. Progressives today have become the perfect anti-Robin Hoods. They use state power to take from the poor and give to the rich. They don’t mean to do this but their policies inevitably lead in that direction.

They do so because they support expanded state power. And, the political process is such that it will always be the rich and powerful who have access to the regulatory system, not the poor and powerless. Thus power created to help the poor ends up being held by the rich and used for their benefit. As long as Progressives believe state power is the answer they will continually be responsible for measures which plunder the very people they want to help.

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Andrew Thomas stripped of power in civil matters.

One of the more disgusting vermin crawling around modern politics is the county prosecutor for Maricopa County, AZ, Andrew Thomas. I have outlined some of the fanatical type of actions taken by this rabid Christianist previously, so I won't do so again here.

Historically one of the jobs of the county prosecutor is to defend the county in lawsuits and to provide legal advice to the County Supervisors. Andrew Thomas will no longer be fulfilling that function. In a unanimous vote the County Supervisors have stripped Thomas of the authority to act on their behalf. They, instead, voted to hire private attorneys when needed. Thomas may no longer act on behalf of Maricopa County in any civil matters. It's a good start, now the voters need to finish the job and strip him of the office.

As expected, the bigoted sheriff of the county, Joe Arpaio, issued a statement with Thomas attacking the Supervisors for their action.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Here's to Life: Eartha Kitt, 1927-2008

It was a bit shocking to check the news to discover that Eartha Kitt had died in Connecticut.

Most of us remember her from her stint as Catwoman on the old Batman series or perhaps from her song Santa Baby. I hadn’t paid much attention to Eartha as a performer until a few years ago.

A few days ago I made reference to a good friend, Frank. I did so in reference to a conversation that took place some years ago in San Francisco. Frank is a friend from my university day. And it was Frank who introduced me to Eartha Kitt’s talents.

Frank was a real fan of Eartha’s. And over the years he and Earth became friends. I still remember the Christmas card he sent with a photo of himself and Eartha on the front. And whenever I’d stop by his work office I spent time looking through all the Eartha memorabilia and photos.

Several years ago Frank gave me a copy of one of Eartha’s autobiographies which she had signed for me. Reading it changed my perception of her entirely. I became interested in who she was.

Eartha was of mixed race background and had a tough life as child but she worked her way through it and out of it to become a sought-after performer. What I liked about Eartha was her tenacity and willingness to speak out, even when it might be detrimental to her career.

The most famous incident was when President Johnson invited Kitt to the White House for a panel discussion on the plight of minority youth. Kitt, to the horror of everyone involved, discussed how the draft for the war in Vietnam was devastating to them. This candor was not appreciated by Johnson and the U.S. government began a campaign to harass Kitt. Her phone was bugged, she was investigated by the Secret Service and the FBI. The public criticism was loud as well and Kitt found herself with performances being cancelled. There is nothing as vindictive as a public tricked into a war crusade when someone dares to tell them the truth.

Eartha later said of this incident: "The thing that hurts, that became anger, was when I realized that if you tell the truth -- in a country that says you're entitled to tell the truth -- you get your face slapped and you get put out of work." As a result of the campaign against her Eartha performed almost exclusively overseas for several years. Eartha's comments remind me of something I have said repeatedly: "People will forgive anything -- but the truth."

Kitt was also vocal in supporting marriage equality for gay people: "I support it because we're asking for the same thing. If I have a partner and something happens to me, I want that partner to enjoy the benefits of what we have reaped together. It's a civil-rights things, isn't it?" Kitt, who suffered rejection in her early life because of his mixed-race heritage, identified with gay people, "because we know what it feels like to be rejected."

Later, Kitt was invited to perform in South Africa during the years when many people thought a boycott was a good idea. Kitt, however, refused to boycott the country. Yet, when she got to South Africa, during the apartheid days, she insisted that the audiences at her show be racially integrated. Either one of those positions were enough to alienate a lot of people, both together seemed guaranteed to alienate everyone. But I think she did the right thing in both cases.

After reading her biography, I came to admire her as a person and not just as a performer. Only a few days ago I was asking Frank if she was due to perform in the area and saying I’d like to go to a show with him sometime -- just one would be fine, Frank, on the other hand, tended to be at all of them.

Eartha Kitt was 81 years old. She is survived by her daugher Kitt Shapiro and grandchildren Jason and Rachel.

Update: I just spoke to Frank this morning and got some more information. Eartha was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago but it was believed that she had beat it. He believes the reappearance of the disease was recent and sudden. He says that only about a week ago Kitt began canceling scheduled performances. He said: "You have to give her credit for knowing how to make an exit; what with Christmas and Santa Baby playing everywhere."

Note: The video is of Eartha performing Here's to Life, a song which she used to close out her performances. Photo: Eartha and Frank, 2005.


Big Brother Corp (BBC) is watching -- here's why.

This holiday season consider the plight of those living under tyrannical regimes run by tin-pot morons. I especially think of our friends living under the heavy hand of Gordon Brown in the United Kingdom. Brown is playing Stalin to Tony Blair's Lenin. Blair really pushed England heavily in the direction of a police state. Consider this video as some evidence. This is a government television advert informing the audience that they are all in the data base and can be found if they commit the heinous crime of not paying a permit fee to own a television.

Here is another:

Here is another:

In this case you will see a TV license thug sent around to investigate a family suspected of not having a license. One member of the family is video taping the man when he suddenly assaults the family member.

Here is another British family being harassed by a government thug over alleged non-payment of their license. The family doesn't own a television. Listen to them as they note how many hours they spent dealing with this issue yet the government TV network refuses to listen.

The BBC is an arm of the government not matter how they pretend otherwise. The original justification was that the market can't provide television -- obviously it can and does. That was a lie. Then they said it was a licensing fee so as to avoid commercials, which pay for broadcast television in other nations. But the BBC sells commercials anyway.

What I found particularly odd was that the BBC then rips off the British public with their DVDs. I'm a Torchwood fan and watched in while living in the UK. I bought the DVDs for it there. Season one was broken into three separate DVDs each cost about $40 at the time , or $120 for the set. The same set on BBC America cost $68. That set is currently "on sale" at the British BBC shop for $80, but the normal current price is $110.

While living in the UK I did some research for a UK think tank where I investigated the selling prices of BBC DVDs in both the UK and the US. The British public, who had already paid license fees to fund the production of BBC shows, were paying substantially more than the American public, who hadn't paid a cent previously to produce those shows.

I suspect the reason for this is simple. In the US the BBC has no legal power to threaten people and no law granting it near-monopoly status. In the UK the BBC is the giant in broadcasting because government regulations stifle competition and give the BBC funding taken, coercively from all viewers. TV 4, which is independent, is not subsidized by the taxpayers. And cable viewers pay for those networks directly. The BBC can take funding from viewers who don't watch the BBC -- no other broadcast station in the UK has that power. These legal privileges mean the BBC doesn't have to treat the public well.

But, in the US, it is a different matter. Lacking the privileges granted by the UK politicians, the BBC is just another vendor selling a product. So when it comes to the American market they can't charge the high fees which they routinely imposed in the UK.

The same entity, the BBC, has to act very different in two different situations. Where they must compete in the US market they can't intimidate people to pay them for the privilege of own a TV and they have to sell their products at competitive prices. In the UK, where they have political power regulating the market, allegedly for the good of the consumer, they threaten and intimidate the public, use the police to collect revenue for them, then sell adverts on the channels anyway, and finally rub salt in the wounds by selling the finished product at a higher prices than the charge for the same item in the United States.

And there are still some people who argue that having government regulate business is for the good of the consumer. Reality check: government regulation is almost always the means by which the corporate powers are able to rip off the consumers in ways they couldn't in the competitive market.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas gift I can live with.

Santas Against 1984 went around the Phoenix area handing out Christmas presents to the public. They covered up "speed cameras" that the government put into place. Of course, speed cameras aren't there to enforce safe driving, they are there to increase state revenue. I believe the evidence shows no positive benefits from speed cameras except as it lines the pockets of government -- which I consider a bad thing. I want a government so poor it can't afford to violate the constitution.

Shame that Christmas comes but once a year -- at least in this case.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The real war on Christmas

The loony bin is missing some fanatics. Apparently the members of the fundamentalist church, Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship, in Kansas City, MO are running around town dressed like Jesus. Below is a video that the church made of their exhibitionism. Please note that the man wandering around a shopping mall is not shopping. He is basically walking around in circles trying to attract attention. This is a stunt not a statement.

The Jesus ensemble includes robes and, at minimum, a crown of thorns. The church argues that they are doing this to protest the secularization of Christmas. And according to news reports they are dressing like stunt doubles from Mel Gibson’s film “at their jobs, malls and restaurants.”

Let us get something straight. There is NO evidence that Jesus was born at Christmas. And many Christian groups, and most real theologians, admit as much. This doesn’t mean that Western society was absent this winter holiday at all. Most cultures celebrated a holiday around this time of year long before the founding of Christianity.

The truth is that the Christmas holiday was not Christian to begin with. It is true that the Catholic Church invented a new take on the holiday. They redefined it away from its non-Christian roots and arbitrarily stated this as a celebration of the birth of Christ. One method by which Catholicism converted non-Catholic cultures was by incorporating non-Christian traditions into the church. So the winter solstice holiday was called by another name, the birth of Christ was imposed on it, contrary to all evidence, and voila: Christmas.

This means that “redefining” Christmas was first practiced by the Christians. If we ever did get back to “the original meaning of Christmas” they would be very upset.

In addition this sect seems to have confused the crucifixion with the birth narratives. There was no crown of thorns at the birth of Christ. And, unfortunately, we know very little about the birth of Jesus except the contradictory, and clearly inaccurate accounts of the Gospels. Most of the major incidents surrounding this event have no foundation in history.

For instance, there is zero record of King Herod attempting to kill all the babies in order to prevent Jesus from living. A slaughter of infants like that would have been recorded and it wasn’t. Even three of the four gospels make no mention of any such genocide. More problematic for the nativity legends is that Herod had died before Jesus was born. The gospel says that the alleged census, at the time of the birth, “came to pass when Quirinius was governing Syria.” And Herod died 10 years before that. This means the census took place when Archelaus was governor, after Herod had died.

While Rome did have a census now and then no census is recorded requiring everyone to return to their hometown, as the Gospels claims.

Nor are the gospels particularly clear about the order of events they do hold in common. Matthew says that Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem and went to Nazareth for the census. Luke has them living in Nazareth and then going to Bethlehem. Matthew says that after the birth the family fled to Egypt. Luke says no such thing and claims they “returned into Galilee”.

One thing in common is that none of the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus include crown of thorns. Most of them attribute that to the crucifixion story.

Oddly, the first real fundamentalist types in Western history were not fond of Christmas. They didn’t want to get “to the true meaning” of this holiday confiscated from pagans. They wanted to ban Christmas entirely -- talk about a “war on Christmas”. The Puritans, or theocratic Calvinists, actually wanted to make it a crime to celebrate Christmas. In England the religious government of Cromwell made Christmas illegal in 1647. This ban stayed in place until the fundamentalists were thrown out of power in 1660. The fundy Calvinists in the early American colonies did the same thing. They made Christmas officially illegal in 1659. And this ban was lifted by an English-appointed governor in 1681.

The Christian-imposed ban on Christmas called the holiday "festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonour of God and offense to others." And the well known fundamentalist minister, Increase Mather, complained after the ban was lifted. He said the Christmas holiday "is highly dishonourable to the name of Christ". The only people who actually tried to ban Christmas here have been individuals more closely attuned to the theology of this nutty church from Missouri. It should be noted that these theocrats were closer to the truth. They wanted Christmas banned precisely because they knew the holiday had nothing to with Jesus. They were fully aware that this was a pagan holiday redefined by Church of Rome, who they hated. So when fundamentalists thought Christmas was pagan they wanted it illegal and when they think it Christian they want it mandated. Apparently they are unable to leave people free to make their own decisions.

Of course, today when these fundamentalist start complaining about a “ban on Christmas” they don’t mean an actual ban, like the one their theological ancestors imposed. They mean a refusal to use tax money to push a Christian message. All the talk about a ban on Christmas by conservatives is one huge lie. They are whining about not being allowed to use government property to sell their message. Or they want to use state school systems to push their theology. No one is stopping them from promoting their own mistaken theology. And they are free to say “Merry Christmas” and celebrate the so-called true meaning of Christmas. What they aren’t allowed to do, according to our Constitution, is access state funding to spread that message. In other words, they have no right to tax you in order to spread their message. That seems fair to me.

A woman from this crazy church told reporters that: “A lot of businesses and people are saying that they have to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings’. They’re not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It makes us upset because that is the holiday and it goes against our freedom of speech.” Stupid is as stupid does.

First, this woman is flat out wrong. At this time of year Christmas is not the only holiday. Other holidays exist and some Christians don’t celebrate Christmas until January. Nor does this violate freedom of speech. An employee of a company represents the company when they are working. They are no more free to say “Merry Christmas” to anyone they wish, while working, they are free to say: “Suck eggs you heathen bastard” to customers.

An employee is being paid to work for someone else. During those hours they represent the business, not themselves. If they wish to exercise their right to spread theological ideas they are free to do so during their own time. To do so during work hours is to steal money from the employer -- to be paid to do one thing and instead to do another. Once again it seems these religious groups wants to have the right to take other people’s money and use it for their own purposes. Apparently they are not happy with having to use their own money, or their own time, to spread their ideas. They want their employers and the taxpayers to be forced to subsidize them.

Apparently other fundamentalist churches are now encouraging there members to follow the example of this church.


Rights, liberty and community.

Libertarianism, the philosophy of a free social order, is often misunderstood. Unfortunately it is often misunderstood by libertarians themselves.

The other day I was reading an article which equated libertarianism with individualism as opposed to collectivism. The definitions of the terms are often fuzzy but, strictly speaking, a free society could be either individualistic or collectivistic. All a free society requires is freedom of choice. Should the members of that society voluntarily subject themselves to collective ownership of property or the means of production, for instance, there is nothing in libertarianism to forbid it, or condemn it. What libertarianism is concerned about is whether or not the members of that collective truly were free to accept or reject it.

Libertarians recognize that each person has rights but we also accept that any of us may voluntarily restrict our own rights. For instance, we may surrender freedom of speech. A church is a collective body based on a religious or ethical system of beliefs. It may decide that some ideas are doctrinal and other heretical. And it may state that membership in the collective body requires that one forgo the expression of ideas considered heretical. Any member that violates this restriction may be expelled from the body.

Most of us voluntarily surrender wide areas of rights on a daily basis. When we go shopping for instance, we surrender our freedom to the rules that the shopping mall may outline. While we support the right to smoke that right is contextual. The right to smoke does not include, and can not include, the right to smoke on someone else’s property without their consent. A shopping mall may restrict access to individuals who are unwilling to abide by that rule.

Virtually all stores and malls that I can think have an unspoken, but widely understood, rule requiring shoppers to remain clothed. This, however, is not necessarily true in all stores in all places. The BBC reports that England has had a series of nude shopping events and the Cap A’dge community, which is quite large, in France has nude shopping on a daily basis -- and pretty much nude anything else as well.

Libertarianism doesn’t speak to the rules or regulations that voluntary communities establish for themselves provided that membership is voluntary.

The reason there is so much confusion about libertarian theories is because libertarianism arose as a theory inside involuntary communities. We are all members of involuntary communities, which we call the states. Simultaneously we are also members of voluntary communities.

Where libertarianism is weakest is that many libertarians, advocates of the pure voluntary community, can only address issues if they arise within the utopia which does not exist. Individuals who tend in this utopian direction are incapable of explaining any process by which their utopia may be achieved. Since issues are intertwined they will tend to tell you that to deal with one distortion caused by the political process you must address all the other problems simultaneously. We see this from utopian libertarians in regards to the marriage equality issue.

They will argue equal marriage rights should not be given to same-sex couples because the state should not be involved in marriage at all. When you point out the dozens of other issues of state involvement which are directly tied to marriage they then tell you how all those issues have to simultaneously solved as well. For instance, they will argue that the involuntary state should not be involved in marriage so gays should not have equal marriage rights. If you bring up the problem of allowing spouses of Americans to immigrate they will tell you they don’t want immigration laws either. So now, before justice can be done for gay couples in these circumstances, you must abolish both state marriage for everyone as well as immigration laws. Unfair tax laws that penalize gay couples are another example. While marriage rights would solve all such problems for these couples the utopians suggest waiting until all these laws can be reformed first. The absurdity is that neither marriage, immigration laws or taxes are likely to be abolished in our lifetime so the utopians are suggesting gay couples just deal with the injustices inflicted on them until they die. Then they will be shocked when they find gay people uninterested in this “solution”.

Even more bizarre is that they are wrong about whether a libertarian society would have marriage laws or not. Various private social arrangements may exist and entire communities may well be formed with voluntary membership. These communities may well have marriage laws. Just as they might have taxes or regulation of speech or other issues. And there is nothing unlibertarian with this if the community members are there voluntarily.

It is quite easy to be confused as to whether you are speaking about an involuntary community or a voluntary one. When a libertarian says that a libertarian society would not have marriage laws, or taxes, or other regulations, they are actually addressing the unethical nature of the involuntary community only. In voluntary communities, founded around common value systems, all these things might well exist and would be within the ethics of libertarianism.

The ideal libertarian society is one where were all community is voluntary. The reality is that no such society currently exists. What do exist are shadows and glimpses of that community. The countless voluntary communities that exist around speak volumes to what a truly free society might be like. We can look at the multiplicity of voluntary communities that arise in a social order of freedom and, from that, we can extrapolate what the ideal might look like.

Many on the Left speak of diversity but where we see true diversity is throughout the voluntary communal sphere not within the involuntary state. Top-down controls tend to create a gray conformity at some mediocre central point of consensus. It does not allow the true diversity which is open to humanity to exist. Where human diversity does tend to break out the bureaucrats use their little hammers to knock it back down again.

Take the example of state schooling as an example. Government controlled state institutions have a large degree of sameness everywhere. Government operatives go to great lengths to ensure that this “sameness” is imposed across the entire region where they have political control. In contrast, voluntary educational organizations are widely diverse, often with very different approaches to the same subject. For example there is light-years of difference between a Summerhill and a Bob Jones University.

One example of the state’s tendency to extinguish diversity can be seen in the European Union. As the EU centralized political power the EU bureaucrats immediately went to work regulating the most mundane things. Every aspect of life was suddenly open to their controls. They immediately started regulating what sort of sausages one can make and mandating their size, recipes, etc. Consider this highlight of EU regulations:
Now greengrocers will have to ensure that under EU regulation 2257/94 their bananas are at least 13.97cm (5.5in) long and 2.69cm (1.06in) round and do not have "abnormal curvature", as set out in an eight-page directive drawn up in 1994.
With the regulators it is all the same. Be it children or bananas or wealth, they demand conformity. They intentionally promote policies to force everyone into the moulds they create. Where the market process can adjust and accommodate differences the political process is not flexible. It is a rigid system and diversity only clogs up its gears.

In his classic book, Bureaucracy, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote, "the first step [in bureaucratic management] is to obtain the consent of old men accustomed to do things in prescribed ways, and no longer open to new ideas. No progress and no reforms can be expected in a state of affairs where the first step is to obtain the consent of old men. The pioneers of new methods are considered rebels and are treated as such. For a bureaucratic mind, law abidance, i.e., clinging to the customary and antiquated is the first of all virtues." British socialist Evan Luard noted that "collective power is also conservative because within the democratic system, political parties and leaders are obliged to converge to a point near the average views of the majority....Because the majority are rarely in favour of important or imaginative changes, this inhibits any radical challenge to the status quo."

This conservatism is apparent in all bureaucratic system. Ideas and individuals outside the mainstream are rejected and the system does not allocate resources for their use. A centrally planned economy is simply the bureaucratic method of management carried to its ultimate extreme. The result is the stifling of creativity and diversity. Old ways are clung to because promotions in the system are given to those who don't rock the boat. It is not necessary to meet the needs and wants of the consumer because advancement is not based on the generation of profits as it is in the profit management system. Innovations, which often appeal to small minorities, are stifled since the system ignores them.

Gordon Tullock, in his Politics of Bureaucracy, showed that a bureaucratic system has several problems. First, the structure is centralized with the older superiors having control over their subordinates and secondly, most subordinates are self-interested and thus unwilling to challenge their superiors. In the marketplace profits act as a countervailing force against conservatism. The innovative or radical, which appeals to even a small group can produce profits which reward change.

Within the state bureaucratic system there is no counter-force encouraging individuals to promote new ideas. Thus the same force, self-interest, encourages diversity in a voluntary economy but discourages it in a bureaucratic economy. In the market economy self-interested individual wants to profit and can only do so by meeting the needs of consumers. In the bureaucratic system advancement comes only by meeting the expectations of Mises' "old men."

In the democratically controlled bureaucracy, something considered ideal by democratic socialists the plight of innovators is even worse. In other versions of the involuntary, centralized state innovators had to convince the “old men”. Sometimes this was a small gang of rulers or even just one individual. Innovators, or minorities seeking access to resources, had some chance of persuading these small groups to consider their ideas or needs. In the democratic socialist community the same minorities or innovators have to persuade the majority to support them. An example of how well that works out is the repeated refusal of majorities to accept equal marriage rights for the gay minority.

Libertarians want to demonoplize the involuntary state and most of what they advocate applies to that scenario only. In the demonopolized social order we would have competing, diverse, voluntary communities which may, or may not, have rules which would be unacceptable in the involuntary community. In such a free social order a wide diversity of communal arrangements would arise and I hazard to guess that most of them will contain elements which libertarians find unacceptable in the involuntary community.

What this means is that libertarians who oppose specific policies in an involuntary community have no moral grounds to oppose them in a voluntary community. All this is true because the fundamental premise of libertarianism is consent. Individuals may consent to all sorts of things which individual libertarians might oppose. Consenting to taxation means that taxes in such a community are not theft much as consent turns rape into love making. The same act is morally different when consent is absent. And a libertarian world would have diverse communal structures where members consent to all sorts of voluntary restrictions on their liberty.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Psychic powers, poltergeists and reason.

I am not a believer in supernatural phenomena but I can understand why some people are. When I say I can understand why they are believers I don’t mean they have valid reason for doing so. I simply mean I can understand how people make the errors that they do which lead them to false conclusions.

Let me give two examples from my own life. One from tonight and one from a few years ago. Both incidents, could give those inclined to believe reasons for their beliefs. Both had other explanations which are not immediately apparent without careful observation and thought.

Tonight I was doing laundry. I had a very large load of clothes in the dryer tumbling about. The heat was off but the tumbling continued so as to prevent wrinkling. I was standing there opening the dryer, pulling out shirts, closing the dryer and then putting the shirt on a hanger. Once that was completed I did it over again. It was a simple task.

I pulled out a shirt and shut the dryer. As I was standing there hanging the shirt on a hanger I was looking down at the shirt. This also meant I was looking down at the door of the dryer. Like most dryers it was a front loader. As I was putting the shirt on the hanger the dryer door suddenly opened. That alone wasn’t particularly weird since it opens downward and there are numerous rational reasons for that to happen.

But what immediately struck me as weird was that a rapidly as the door opened it also popped back and closed turning off the dryer. I could see why a door would drop down but it was not immediately apparent why it would then fall upwards and back into place. My first inclination was to ask myself if this really just happened as I loudly said to myself: “That’s weird.”

The typical person observing this incident would find it very, very strange indeed. Those inclined to supernatural theories would probably posit such a theory for this incident. And if they were so inclined they may not have bothered to look for a rational explanation. But, no doubt, they would share their supernatural experience with all and sundry. I’m sure you want to know what really happened. And by the end of this you will know.

The second incident was not something you see as much as something that happened.

I was talking with my friend Frank. He suddenly blurted out: “Guess who I saw today?”

My instant answer was: “Dylan.”

At this point Frank had a shocked looked on his face and punched me in the arm saying: “I hate it when you do that.”

Of course, I should have allowed him to tell me. I just answered his question because that is my first inclination. With a mixture of astonishment and anger he said: “How do you do that?”

I’ll tell you how shortly but first let’s put the potential poltergeist in the dryer to rest.

Luckily, when it flipped open, I was looking directly at the dryer door. Had I been standing in a slightly different position I would not have seen something which could easily be missed.

Some of the laundry inside the dryer had become tangled into a knot. One sock had really wound itself around a bunch of other clothes as it tumbled about. The bunch was big enough that when it tumbled at a particular angle it hit the door at just the right speed, with just the right weight, to knock the door open. So down came the door about three inches before suddenly shooting back and slamming closed.

What explained the door slamming closed, however, was not immediately apparent nor visible to the naked eye. In fact I wasn’t sure, at first, how this happened. So I did an experiment. I opened the door about three to four inches, as had just happened and let go. Again it slammed shut. The door is weighted in such a way that you have to open it about two-thirds of the way before it will open the rest of the way and stay open.

There was a rational reason for the door suddenly popping open and an equally rational reason for it just as suddenly closing. I only found those reasons because 1.) I happened to see a clue that could easily be missed under most circumstances and 2.) I assumed there was a rational reason and looked for it. If I were believer I would tend to take this as confirmation that my believes were right.

When I inadvertently ruined Frank’s surprise he was rather astonished that I got the guess right. After telling me how he hated me doing that he asked: “How did you do it?”

My first inclination was to say: “I don’t know.” I could have left it there and and claimed some latent psychic power. Many people would love to have evidence that they have some undeveloped psychic abilities. But after I told Frank I wasn’t sure how I did it I said: “Let me think about it.”

I then thought out loud. Here is pretty much what I told him as I traced my thinking from his question to the answer.

“First, because you sounded surprised and said, ‘Guess who I ran into today?’, I immediately assumed it was not someone who normally lives in San Francisco. [I was living in San Francisco at this time.] That means it had to be someone from somewhere else.”

“Before you moved to San Francisco you spent your entire life living in Connecticut. You really don’t know anyone from anywhere but San Francisco or Connecticut. And your surprise at seeing them ruled out them being from San Francisco. So, it would have to be someone that you knew in Connecticut.”

“Of the people you knew in Connecticut there were family members and people you went to school with. Family members wouldn’t just show up unannounced. So it has to be a friend, probably someone from school.”

“Of the people you went to school with Dylan, at one time, had lived in San Francisco. Therefore. it makes sense that he was the person most likely to return to San Francisco. And so the most logical answer to your question was ‘Dylan’.”

If Frank had not asked me how I “did it” I would not have given it much thought. His question forced me to think it through. The answer was basically instantaneous. It took far longer to think it through consciously than it took place subconsciously. Rational thinking is often lightening-speed, going through multiple steps in almost no time at all. Only when I slowed down the thinking intentionally did I see all the steps between the question and the answer.

There is an entertaining television showed based on this very thing. Psych is about a detective who has pretends to be psychic but who actually uses his ability to notice obscure clues. Of course, this is precisely how “real psychics” actually work.

The reality is that people who are inclined toward supernaturalism don’t look for realistic explanations. If anything they may avoid seeking out explanations that wouldn’t confirm their prior held beliefs. The truth is that many believers in supernatural, or theistic, explanations for things managed to cling to their beliefs because they have intentionally avoided explanations, or evidence, that doesn’t confirm what conclusions they already held.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Other shoe drops: tear up those marriage certificates

You might remember the television ad from the anti Prop 8 campaign that got the Religious Right and their fellow travellers rather upset. They shouted with horror that the commercial showed two Mormon missionaries visiting the home of a lesbian couple and searching through it until they could find the couples marriage certificate in order to rip it up.

Various members of the fringe Right were in a dither. They argued that the commercial amounted to hate speech -- unlike the sermoms that are preached in their churches targeting specific groups of people regularly. (By the way, just because something is hate speech doesn’t mean it ought to be illegal. I’m a first amendment absolutist.) Apparently pointing out, in a rather humorous way, precisely what the Mormon sect was doing is not hate -- it’s journalism. That is what the Mormon cult was up to with this campaign.

So how unfair was the ad? After all, some argued Prop 8 merely stripped gay couples of the their right to marry. It didn’t require that anyone march into people’s homes and destroy their marriage certificates.

The Sacramento Bee reports on the most recent legal brief filed by the Yes on 8 campaign in the California Supreme Court. In practical terms it demands that the Court order the marriage certificates of gay couples to be ripped up.
The sponsors of Proposition 8 asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to nullify the marriages of the estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who exchanged vows before voters approved the ballot initiative that outlawed gay unions.

The Yes on 8 campaign filed a brief arguing that because the new law holds that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized or valid in California, the state can no longer recognize the existing same-sex unions. The document reveals for the first time that opponents of same-sex marriage will fight in court to undo those unions that already exist.
Isn’t that, in practical terms, precisely what the commercial so humorously depicted? Didn’t the Prop 8 campaign know that, all along, they were intending to try to nullify the marriages of other people? Weren’t they intentionally hiding their intentions from the voters?

Fundamentalists and cults like the Mormons are masters at deception. They hide their ambitions or beliefs from the public. The fundies hide their ambitions, the Mormons hide their bizarre beliefs, though in Prop 8 the Mormons also hide their ambitions.

I remember a seminar given by Rev. Richard Angwin, a fundamentalist Baptist who once roamed the country teaching born-again Neanderthals how to politically campaign against the rights of gay people. In one of his lectures he warned fundamentalists to hide their full agenda. He told them not to reveal all the moral laws they wished the state to put into place otherwise they would turn off voters.

For months the Yes on 8 hate-mongers were silent on what they would do the thousands of happily married couples. Now the other shoe drops. But anyone with an ounce of brains already knew that this what they intended to do.

I wish to address one further issue here. I have had some libertarians argue that opposition to equal marriage rights is not inherently bigoted. I disagree.

Opposition to a state institution of marriage is not bigoted but if such an institution exists, and they advocate a measure which strips one precise, identifiable group of people, from that institution then it is bigoted. It is especially bigoted if they themselves are, or have been married. One can oppose state education without being a bigot. One can’t argue that state schools should exclude Jews or blacks or even Mormons, without being a bigot. Opposition to state schooling is not bigoted, opposition to state schooling for one group of people is.

The Rick Warrens, the Mormon sect members, and the Catholic Bishops are antigay bigots. This is not debatable. Any campaign that targets one group of individuals, in order to strip them of rights, which are enjoyed by the rest of population, is unavoidably bigoted.

Some of the bigots, who think they are clever, argue that they want gays to have the same marriage rights as everyone else: that is the right to marry a person of the opposite sex. Imagine the howls of the Jonah Goldbergs of the Right if a campaign stripped Jews of the right to worship their god? Surely campaigners in that measure could argue they want Jews to have the equal right to worship the Jesus of their choice.

The Right is very worried about PCish legislation that regulates what people eat and strips them of their freedom of choice. They would reject a claim by health Nazis that such laws merely enforce the equal right to eat healthy food. A law that forbids eating fatty foods, or which restricts which god one may worship, can be couched in the same terms that the anti marriage campaigners use.

If the law gave everyone the right to attend the Baptist church of their choice the Mormons would be furious and argue that their rights were being violated. They would be correct. To then turn around and argue that gays have the same right to marry a member of the opposite sex, like everyone else, is just as ludicrous.

If a law were passed stripping Mormons of their right to believe in billions of Gods and gold plates, and baptism for the dead, they would be livid. They would not accept that their rights are equal if it meant only the equal right to worship the Christian god. Yet, they turn around and use precisely that kind of law, and that kind of logic, to strip another minority of their rights. No libertarian ought to give that sort effort any kind of support. You may oppose state marriage in general, but to oppose it for one group of people is not libertarian. And if you oppose it in general, but only campaign to strip one group of people of that right, and you are not a bigot, then you are doing a rather good imitation of one. Personally I’m not convinced it is an imitation, I suggest such libertarians are merely embracing their inner bigot. I am not saying they have no right to be bigots, they do, but they ought to be honest enough to admit it. And they ought to recognize that the law should not embrace their personal prejudices but grant equal rights and protection to all citizens.

PS: I am curious. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons were together for decades. Shortly before the death of Phyllis Lyons, the couple married. Can we really declare legally invalid, the legal marraige of a woman, after she has died? I guess with this weird baptism for the dead Mormon thing, they feel they can rip up marriage certficates for dead people as well.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Millions of sex offenders roam the school halls.

I have horrifying news for you. There are somewhere in the range of 5 to 10 million apparently dangerous sex offenders roaming the halls of America’s schools every day.

In America’s Christian-inspired, morally-pure sex panic we have criminalized normal sexual behavior engaged in by most teens. Our definition of “child pornography” has also been expanded to include individuals who are not children but who are sexually mature. And, in the process, we have made millions of teenagers into sex offenders.

Some of the worst sex offender laws apply to individuals who produce, own or distribute anything defined as “child pornography”. Of course the law has been expanded so much that the image in question need not be of a child and need not be pornography.

The courts in the US have recently found a cartoon character to qualify as a person and thus a sexually explicit cartoon drawing deemed to be of someone under the age of 18 is child porn. And where obscenity, which is inherently undefinable, was once the dividing line for illegality the courts have now said that images of children need not be obscene to be illegal. Add in to this mix the fact that child is a legal definition that includes all individuals under the age of 18 (including individuals who are in military training) and we have a very expansive category of crime.

The laws on so-called child porn do not distinguish between a couple of randy teenagers and a six-year-old. It all falls into the same category and it can send a teenager to jail for life. For instance, in Arizona the law is per photo. A teenage boy who has ten photos of his girlfriend, regardless if she sent them to him unsolicited, can be sent to prison for 100 years. The sentence can be ten years per photo served consecutively. In other states the penalty may be less severe but most will happily include these horny teens on the sex offender’s data base as if they were raping two-year-olds. The data base is another crude instrument of the law which doesn’t make distinctions that most rational people would make. But these are creation of a inherently irrational system: politics.

How many teens are now considered sex offenders under US law? That is a hard question but we have some ideas. There are approximately 40 million people between the ages of ten and 20 in the Unites States. If we assume the ages are fairly evenly distributed that would mean that about 20% of them are 18 years of age or older. That leaves 32 million under the age of 18 years. We can also exclude the lower 20% for being prepubescent, on average. So we end up with approximately 26 million young people who are most likely pubescent and under the age of 18.

I use 18-years-of-age as the dividing line because, when it comes to erotic images, this is the federal age of consent. On all other matters of sexuality the individual states have laws that vary. But when it comes to so-called child porn it is federal law that establishes 18 as the dividing point.

Remember that under child porn laws the production of an image is illegal. So is possession or distribution. It does not matter if the “victim” is also the photographer. We have teens who have been jailed and registered as “sex offenders” because they took photos of themselves. Nor does it matter if the recipient of the photo is a teen. Turning teens into“sex offenders” is now big business with thousands of centers collecting government funds to “treat” teens for having normal sexual urges.

In a recent survey some 22 percent of all teenage girls said that they either electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. And 18 percent of boys admit to having sent out nude photos of themselves, either online, or electronically to others.

But it gets worse. Possession of these photos is also a crime and 33 percent of teen boys and 25 percent of teen girls have said that they possessed private, sexual photos of other teens at some point or another.

There are roughly 13 million girls and 13 million boys who fit in these age categories. Here is what we know. By their own admission 22 percent of teenage girls, or 2.9 million have sent out such photos. A slightly higher percentage, 25 percent, or 3.25 million, have possessed the photos. If there is 100% overlap between posters of such images and possessors that means we have a minimum of 3.25 million teen girls who qualify for the legal definition of sex offender. If there is no overlap the numbers would be 6.15 million girls who are legally qualified for sex offender status.

There are roughly 13 million teen age boys. We know that 2.3 million admit to posting erotic images of themselves. And we know that 33 percent, or 4.3 million have possessed erotic images of other teens. So the number of teenage boys who qualify as sex offenders is somewhere between 2.3 million and 6.6 million depending on the amount of overlap between the two categories.

Of course, there is not 100% overlap. In addition, we can assume that some teens who have produced, or seen, such images, won’t admit it. So, based on federal definitions of child pornography alone somewhere between a minimum of 5.2 million and 9.85 million American teens could be put on the sex offender rolls.

Most rational adults would tell teens they ought not be sending around nude photos of themselves, especially at their age. But few adults would want to put these teens in prison or on the sex offender rolls. But tough, the politicians have already passed these laws.

Of course, having consenting sex is also a sex offense for many of these teens and so millions, who wouldn’t qualify for sex offender status through the child porn laws, could be grabbed under other legal restrictions.

The politicians claimed that they were passing these laws to protect the young from exploitation. But who is going to protect the young from these politicians?

The reality is that around half of our teenagers have broken laws which could get them listed as sex offenders. America’s child protection laws are similar to the “liberation of Iraq” that George Bush produced. It might be worth it, just maybe, if you are lucky enough to survive.

Remember what the politicians will do to the young people forced onto these sex offender rolls. They have to register with the police for the rest of their lives, in most cases. Murderers who served their time don’t have to do that. These young people will be put on computerized data banks where their photos, addresses and phone numbers will be available to every lunatic with a plan for “justice”. No such data bank exists for killers.

These young people can be forbidden from living in vast stretches of the country. Zoning regulations can keep them from living anywhere remotely near a school, a church, a park, a bus stop, a playground, “anywhere where children congregate”, etc. No such restrictions exist for where released killers may live. There are restrictions as to what jobs these teens may take as adults. No such restrictions exist for the jobs that released killers may take. The real lunacy is that under federal law any "sex offender" who is 14-years-old and up has to be treated as an adult by the legal system. They are considered children when they consent to sex and considered adults when they are punished for it. To protect teens from exploitation we will incarcerate them in a situation where sexual assault is common. Apparently the law is prepared to subject teens to rape in order to prevent them from having sex voluntarily.

Our politicians, mainly Republicans I might note, have created a legal situation where a teenager who takes a photo of himself can be punished for the rest of his life and treated in a worse manner than someone who killed another person. If you want to understand the dire consequences of America’s sex panic just keep that in mind.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Police thugs confuse 12 yr old black girl for white, adult prostitute.

Our friends at Reason tipped us off to this story and it’s a dozy. Once again arrogant, violent thugs are attacking innocent people but don’t worry, the thugs are the police and they are above the law.

Apparently the Galveston police got a phone call that some white prostitutes were seen on a certain street corner. The cops love to shakedown prostitutes, prostitutes tend not to shoot back and sometimes the cops get free blow jobs to conveniently forget to finish the arrest.

Of course, the bozos in uniform went to the wrong street.

Meanwhile a peaceful family was preparing things for the kids to head to school the next morning. The circuit breaker went out and Emily Milburn asked her 12-year-old daughter to go outside and switch it back on. Dymond Milburn did as her mother requested.

But as she got outside a dark van pulled up and three men jumped out and grabbed the girl. They started pulling toward the van saying: “You’re a prostitute. You’re coming with me.”

The terrified child began screaming for her father and trying to fight back. So the men, far bigger than her, covered her mouth and started beating her in the face and in the throat to shut her up.

The police were a couple of blocks away from the address reported to them. But they have justified their attack on this child saying that she looked like a prostitute because they thought her shorts were too tight. Hey, if the cops can’t tell cap guns from real guns then I can see why the same idiots can’t tell the difference between a 12-year-old black girl and a full grown white prostitute. And, of course, the same developmentally challenged officers can’t tell the differences between the various streets in town either.

The girl was hospitalized due to the injuries she suffered at the hands of these violent cops protecting decent Americans from orgasms for cash. But the boys in blue weren’t finished. Apparently, because the family is upset about the violent, thuggish behavior of these cops, it was decided they need to be taught a lesson.

So when Dymond was released from hospital and back in school the police showed up once again -- this time at the school and arrested her. She was charged with assaulting a “public servant”. Personally, I am sorry Dymond wasn’t able to shoot the bastards. It is astounding that the morons in blue didn’t realize that a terrified child will fight back when strange men grab the child in the dark.

In fact, these idiots go around teaching children to fight back if some strange man tries to grab them off the street. This is standard procedure.

An attorney for the police officers says that the police arrest the girl fro fighting back and that they also arrested the father of the girl for trying protect his daughter from the kidnappers -- of course, when the police illegally kidnap someone they don’t see it as a crime. They are superior to the law -- just watch how they drive if you don’t believe me.

The attorney says: “The city investigated the matter and found that the conduct of the police officers was appropriate under the circumstances.” Of course, what else did you expect the city to say. Consider the reality of the situation. If the city admits the cops were moronic thugs they will have to pay out a settlement so violent cops are routinely “cleared” by the politicians trying to protect their budgets. Secondly, the police unions are major supporters of political candidates. So having their financial support is an important tool for power-hungry local politicians. Arresting police officers for acting like common criminals doesn’t sit well with the police union. Third, the law and order authoritarians tend to blindly assume the police are infallible and anyone who chastises out-of-control cops is their enemy.

I fear the only way that American police will finally be restrained and forced to obey the law themselves is going to be a series of tragedies. We have witnessed cops kill dozens and dozens of innocent people and yet the politicians refuse to do anything. I tend to think that only a pile of dead cops will get the attention of the powers that be. I am not advocating killing cops. I am saying that their behaviour invites law-abiding citizens, subjected to unannounced raids, are going to defend themselves. Since the cops are stupid enough to do all this in plain clothes and routinely refuse to identify themselves until a raid is over, then cops will get killed.

People will defend themselves and their families. And the cops are inviting this by the way they now conduct themselves. No citizen who shoots a cop in such a raid should be prosecuted, let alone convicted. All individuals have the right to defend themselves. And if the police fuck up repeatedly, then the public should not be held liable for stupid cops. If it were me I’d put on the death certificate for such officers: DBS. That means “death by stupid”.

How can the police resolve the problem? Simple: follow the law and common sense.

For non-violent offenses don’t come barging in with guns drawn playing some sort of demented Rambo. Conduct a raid with uniforms instead of dressed like goons or some sort of secret Ninja brigade -- you look as stupid as you act when you do that. Third, announce who you are before you start assaulting people and shooting. Fourth, verify the location a couple of times before you charge in, your track records at reading simple directions indicate a mental propensity to get lost. Fifth, stop lying to judges in order to secure warrants. Sixth, verify that crimes are being committed, don’t act on anonymous tips without verification.

As for the politicians what they need to do is simple. One, they need to repeal laws on victimless crimes. End the war on drugs and legalize prostitution. Two, impose a zero tolerance policy on police violence. Officers who act this way ought to be drummed out of the force. In many cases they ought to be in jail as criminals. Three, when forced to pay restitution to victims of police stupidity or violence do so by reducing the salaries of the police department, not by increasing taxes on the public. In addition, repeal any protection of the cops from civil suits for their own actions. If they assault people they ought to pay compensation, not the public. Fourth, refuse to take money from the police unions. Fifth, disarmed the police in regards to military style weapons. Take away their tanks and restrict so-called SWAT teams to violent situations only. Fifth, any police officer who is found to have lied to secure a warrant, or who has lied about the circumstances of an arrest, should be fired without appeal. Sixth, any police officer who acts to cover up incidents where other police officers have violated the rules, should be fired. This includes officers who know of police violations but who don’t report them.

If such reforms are not instituted more innocent members of the public will be killed. I have long ago stopped caring about whether cops die when they are acting this way. Violent assaults on peaceful people will result in a higher number of deaths of those conducting the attacks. That is an obvious result of the way the cops are acting, their own actions are the reason they get shot. But I do care about the many, innocent victims subjected to violent cops conducting yet another botched raid over such non-violent acts as having sex for money or smoking a joint. In other words, even if this girl were a prostitute it would be no excuse for the police acting as they did.

In similar news the city of Minneapolis just had to pay out $800,000 to a family that was a victim of another violent, police raid based on faulty information. Vang Khang, his wife Yee Moua, and their children were asleep when police assaulted their home in a violent SWAT attack just before Christmas a year ago. Since the family did not know it was the police attacking them they actually called 911 for help. Vang took a shotgun to defend his family and exchanged fire with the police. Luckily he was not killed. Three police officers were hit with bullets but protected by body armor.

The police said they were looking for illegal weapons held by a street gang. But the family had nothing to do with the gang and the information the police had was wrong. A police "informant", using a fake name, had made the claims. No investigation appears to have been done. Instead the police just piled into their vehicles to conduct a violent, armed raid in the wee hours of the morning.

The family abandoned the home because the children were too fearful to stay there anymore. Yee says her children are now terrified of the police -- they are smart kids.

Here is the real kicker in this story. While Minneapolis just paid out $800,000 to compensate the victims of this SWAT raid they city also gave medals to police officers involved. Apparently we now have medals for stupid, violent attacks conducted in the absence of any real evidence that a crime has taken place. Even a cursory investigation would have shown that this family with their six young children were not involved in a street gang running guns.

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How bloody generous!

The Phoenix, AZ, city council has voted to establish a domestic partners registry for gay couples. For a fee of $50 a couple can register as domestic partners. The only thing the registry does is give gay couples the right to visit each other in hospital. That is the entire ball of wax --- hospital visitation rights.

Guess what? The Christian Right is against even that. The Right-wing theocratic Alliance Defense Fund testified against the registry saying it was "unnecessary". They say it is just false that gay couples have been prevented hospital visitation rights. Please remember that during the Prop 8 campaign the fundamentalist Right said they didn't want to deny gay couples hospital visitation rights -- they only wanted to strip them of their right to marry. In reality they want to strip gay people of whatever rights they can. And many of them are honest enough to admit they want to make being gay a crime. Some of the more "literalist" Bible-beaters say they want homosexuals put to death.

While the "loving Christians" from the Alliance Defense Fund are spewing their claim that no gay couples are denied hospital visitation rights there is a legal case going on in Florida. Here are the details.

Janice Langbehn and Lisa Marie Pond were celebrating 18 years of a loving relationship. The couple, with three of their four children, were going on a cruise together, one that was set up especially for families like themselves.

Pond, 39, suffered a massive stroke on board, before the ship left port. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. For 8 hours the hospital refused to allow Langbehn to see her partner. They said she wasn't family. When Pond's sister arrived she was allowed immediate access but neither Langbehn, or the couple's children, were accepted as legitimate family by the hospital.

The Christian Right advocate, who testified in Phoenix, claimed that all gay couples have to do is pay an attorney to draft legal agreements for them. But Pond and Langbehn had crafted precisely such an agreement and a copy of it was faxed to the hospital. The hospital chose to ignore it.

It was only when the hospital decided that Pond was about to die, and a priest had been called for last rites, that Langbehn was allowed to see her partner, just minutes before Pond's death. The priest was the one who arranged for Langbehn to finally see her partner, not the hospital. Langbehn said she just wanted to be with Pond, to hold her hand and try to comfort her. But, hey, that's just one of those whinny faggots wanting to destroy marriage.

The hospital even refused to allow Langbehn to give them her partner's medical history. She was told by hospital staff that Florida was an antigay state and that she could "expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family."

Normally a spouse is allowed to be with their dying partner. But under Florida's antigay, "pro-marriage" laws the couple were not considered spouses. So Pond was allowed to suffer for 8 hours without the love of her life being there to comfort her. And clearly there was no medical reason for this since Pond's sister was granted immediate access. Even the doctors admitted there was no medical reason to exclude Langbehn. But the woman Pond considered her life partner was kept out. Groups like the Alliance Defense Fund assure us that hospital visitation rights are simply not an issue -- they aren't, for them.

To make matters more absurd, the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner both refused to give Langbehn copies of the death certificate -- something she required in regards to the life insurance policies that the couples owned.

When Patrick Atkins went to Wabash College in 1978 he met his life partner, Brett Conrad. Patrick's mother, a fanatical Catholic, was horrified. But not horrified enough to refuse Patrick's money to help her start up a bakery, and not horrified enough to prevent him from taking management of the company and making her wealthy. Brett and Patrick shared everything, including their bank accounts. But on a business trip to Atlanta Patrick had a stroke. And when his mother, Jeanne Atkins, arrived she told the hospital that Brett is to be forbidden any contact with her son.

Patrick is incapacitated and unable to express his wishes adequately. And the courts have ruled that Jeanne Atkins is his closest relative, that Brett Conrad is nobody to Patrick, at least as far as the law is concerned. Not only did the mother deny Brett hospital visitation rights but she took Patrick and moved him to her home where Brett is forbidden to visit his partner. In addition she confiscated Patrick's bank accounts and the home the two men shared. The court ruled that some of the property belonged to Brett but he had to move out of the house and sell it. The assets were turned over the mother to use as she wished.

A horrified judge said: " Brett and Patrick have spent 25 years together as life partners -- longer than Patrick lived at home with his parents -- and their future life together has been destroyed by Patrick’s tragic medical condition and by the Atkinses’ unwillingness to accept their son's lifestyle.” A doctor treating Patrick said that contact with Brett were positive for his patient. Jeanne Atkins didn't care, she had her God to worry about instead. The court found that Jeanne Atkins had told people that she would rather her son never recover from the stroke than get well and return to his "sinful" relationship. In other words she prefers a vegetable to a gay son. And the judge, horrifiied as he was by Jeanne Atkins' callous, uncaring treatment of her own son had to rule in her favor because the law says gay couples are not partners in any legal sense of the word. The bigotry of a hateful mother has more legal standing than the loving relationship of 25 years.

Below is a short video containing the story of Charlene Strong and her partner of nine years, Kate Fleming. Kate was was working in a basement recording studio when a flash flood hit their home. Charlene tried to rescue her but was unable to do so. When the fire department arrived they were unable to open the door against the water inside the basement. They cut a hole in the ceiling of the basement to rescue Kate who was then rushed to hospital. Charlene was denied access until a "relative's" permission could be secured to allow her to be with her partner. She was a legal nobody. But the Christian Right says that isn't a problem.

Of course, all this is a lie. The Christians say these cases don't exist. There is simply no need to allow gay couples hospital visitation rights because no one is denying them, well except in the cases mentioned here, and numerous others not mentioned here. Of course, such cases are well known and I suspect these Christian groups know these cases exist as well. But they are lying for the Lord so it doesn't matter. Apparently one may act as immorally as one wishes in order to preserve morality.

Photo: The photo is of the Langbehn-Pond family as they are boarding the cruise ship.